The Hydra and the HydRA

Show of hands…who knows what the Hydra is?

Source

Source

Sorry Armitage fans…not that Hydra.  Same underlying concept…different “universe.”

I’m talking about the original Hydra of Greek mythological fame (pictured above as envisioned in the 2014 film Hercules starring Dwayne Johnson – that’s right, The Rock – in the title role)  Like most of Greek mythology, there are a number of slightly differing tales of the Hydra, but they all seem to agree that it was a horrible serpent that lived in a swamp at Lerna and was ultimately killed by Hercules (Herakles) as one of his famous 12 labors.

As Hercules found out, the Hydra, a nine headed monster, was no pushover.  His usual simple brute force methods didn’t work on her (as usual, the great monster is female), since her best defense – in addition to her toxic cloud breath and fatally venomous blood – was that every time one of her heads was cut off, two more grew in its place.

I’ve been using this myth lately to sum up how I feel about the current state of my professional life.  Since I returned from Greece, it seems like everyday I figure out a solution to some thorny issue only to find out that up popped two more problems in the interim.  It’s maddening and exhausting at the same time – the undefeatable stream of minutia seems endless.

Then it occurred to me yesterday that I have another HydRA in my orbit…another thing that I just can’t keep up with…

berlin-station-1

A new television series running in Prime Time on my TV…

love-love-love

Love, Love, Love, running live off Broadway

live-tweeting

Live Tweeting?!?!?!  What the actual f….

*cough*    See what I mean?   HydRA indeed…how’s an already besieged Hercu-ME supposed to deal?!  I have a bunch of things that I want to blog about, but I don’t have time to do all of them right now, so I thought I might throw it out to the hive mind to help me prioritize…

1. The "structural" similarities of Daniel Miller and the Discobolus of Myron

1. The “structural” similarities of Daniel Miller and the Discobolus of Myron

 

2. "Go with a red lip Mom!" NYC fashion advice from offspring...

2. “You can’t go wrong with a red lip Mom!” NYC fashion advice from offspring…

What say you to a little poll?

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Domum dulce domum Armitageworld!

I can hardly believe that I’ve been back from my trip for two weeks already!  I had a fabulous time in Greece…both on the tour and on the side trip at the backend of it.  Apart from a few hiccups along the way – let’s just say that at least one person saw far more than she expected of the inside of a Greek village medical clinic – I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people.  There were twelve of us in all…ranging from mid thirties to mid sixties in age, from a variety of backgrounds.  The group ended up being about half students and alums from my university and half Armitageworld peeps.

Early on, I passed out badges, which had been generously donated by Guylty,  so that the Armitageworld peeps could identify each other without “outing” themselves to the group at large.  I’m actually not sure how this worked…I already knew who was an Armitageworld peep going in.  I’d love to hear from others if they covertly discovered each other, or proclaimed their Armitage Allegiance loud and proud!

Every time I do one of these trips, I gain a bit more insight on how to make the next one better.  One perennial issue is the amount of climbing required to access some of the sites.  There’s not a whole lot to be done about this in general as nearly everything one wants to see in Greece is uphill.   However, I think reversing the itinerary might break it up a bit…

Marching up from the Agora for lunch...at least we'd already been up to the Acropolis by this point.

Marching up from the Agora for lunch…at least we’d already been up to the Acropolis by this point.

It’s hard to avoid the march in Athens – so much to see, so little time, but I could handily lighten the workout in the next few days since in the immortal words of one group member (you know who you are  🙂  ), “You said food and culture…not Greek fat camp!” after two days climbing around sites in Athens and the Argolid.  I would note here, that the speaker was in fact one of the most intrepid cragswomen in the group.  She scaled every citadel, castle and rampart we visited…I cannot wait to see her pictures!

All in all though, people did great – they went up as far as they felt comfortable (Mystras and the Nafplion Palamidi are not for the faint of heart (or lung, knee or hip!)).  Fortunately, in the digital age, it is wonderfully easy to share photos so that even if one didn’t climb to the top *waves* one might still see the pictures of those who did.

Mystras...we cheated and entered 2/3 of the way up to the top of the fortress.

Mystras…we cheated and entered 2/3 of the way up to the top of the fortress.

One thing that I wish had been better was the tour guide.  On past trips, we’ve had a professional guide who travelled with us and guided us around the sites.  I will admit to a certain amount of impatience with this since we are sort of hostages to the guide’s schedule.  This trip, my Greek tour agent George was travelling with us, and I thought, guiding us.  Apparently, I thought wrong.  When we rolled up to the Acropolis on our first full day in Athens, George informed me that he doesn’t go into the sites and that I would guide.  Say what now?   It’s not that I lack the background, but there were two small wrinkles in this plan:

  1.  I was not aware this was the plan.  Contrary to popular belief, I don’t have instant recall of 500 years of Greek history and archaeology.  With some advance notice, I’d have jotted down a few crib notes!  (and the words to one song – all I could think to sing at Epidauros was Roll out the Barrel!)
  2. Perhaps more importantly – technically I am prohibited from guiding on sites since I don’t have a license issued by the Greek Ministry of Culture.  (I’ve since discovered that evidently, there is some wiggle room for University professors, so back to 1.)

These little details aside, I can say without a doubt, that my guy George (aided by a fantastic driver with the famous name of Leonidas) put together an amazing tour that checked a lot of different boxes.

George and Leonidas

George and Leonidas

I would love to do another one of these in the future…in fact, at dinner in Kalamata, I got the distinct impression from the 45 minutes he spent grilling me, that George would like me to do them every year…a partnership of sorts.

“Listen….you don’t understand…” he says.

I do understand, and I would totally love to lead tours more often, but until Mini Me is not so put out by my absence, (I give that another 2-3 years) I think I have to table that partnership idea for the immediate future.

Faces blurred to protect the innocent...

Faces blurred to protect the innocent…

That said, thanks to the Experience Greece Tour 2016 for a fantastic trip!!

OT: Are you ducking kidding me?!

Warning:  Irate academic rant forthcoming…

I thought I had positioned myself for this to be a good Monday – maybe really good.  Last week was all but brutal…I hit the ground running after returning from Greece and felt like I was swimming in deep water most of the week.  By Friday afternoon though, things were starting to get better.  I had word from Kos that the boxes of dental hygiene kits and school supplies I’d sent a week ago had arrived safely – good news indeed since for the extremely low shipping costs, I had thought they were travelling via donkey cart.  By Sunday afternoon, having spent several hours grading and formatting, I had the most intensive of my three active courses up to date and ready to fly.  I was in good shape for the new work week.  Was.

That all came to an end and my current state of tipping between irritation and disgust started, when I woke up around 1am (I do that often enough) and looking at my phone for the time, noticed an Outlook notification.

**Disclaimer**

I know I should have ignored it and gone back to bed, but sometimes I can’t sleep and I can get some correspondence sorted in the interim.  I’d also sent some emails to associates in Europe, so I thought I might get in front of that.

No. Such. Luck.

Instead, it was this (name redacted to protect the sender…I’m good about that even when the sender is being a complete and utter TOOL)

tool-message

Source of "Homosexual artwork"  discomfort...

Source of “Homosexual artwork” discomfort…

Given the reaction of this student – a fully grown adult student in an upper level college course on Greek History – you might wonder what kind of depraved licentiousness I assigned (in addition to the piece above) that provoked it.  Rest assured, I did not spend extra time delving through the catalog of Ancient Greece’s Most Shocking and Immoral works…the assigned piece was a YouTube video of a college production of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata.

While I will grant you that this play is certainly risque leaning heavily toward bawdy, it is also not out of place in a class week which was centered on the topic of the Peloponnesian War.  Part of what this class is doing is analyzing primary source material in an effort to better understand the history and culture of ancient Greece.  This play is a great primary source.  It was first produced 411 BCE, just two years after Athens’ cataclysmic defeat in the Sicilian Expedition, and is generally regarded as a clear commentary on the war.

The action revolves around the title character, an Athenian woman named Lysistrata (which means ‘Army Disbander’) who comes up with an ingenious plan.  She rallies all of the women of Greece – Athenian, Spartan and all points in between – to go on a sex strike until their husbands agree to end the war.  Not surprisingly, the play is full of a whole panoply of of sexual innuendo and outright dick jokes – complete with male character costumes sporting outsized erect phalluses in ancient staging.  It is also a hilariously funny commentary on gender relations in ancient Greece…undoubtedly made more funny in the original by the fact that every single female character would have been played by a male actor in drag.

This play is pretty standard fare in classical studies courses at all kinds of universities regardless of their religious affiliation, and a quick search reveals that numerous Catholic universities have run productions of the very same play over the years…it is hardly uncharted territory.  I have never, in 15 years of teaching at my current university (a Catholic institution), been asked to avoid addressing any aspect of classical culture for fear of offending a student.  In fact, part of the liberal arts mission is to challenge students to open their minds and experience other cultures without prejudice.  Epic fail in this case.

In the end, I provided this student an alternative assignment…a big, heavy passage from the historian Thucydides (Servetus may be the only person I know who doesn’t groan at the prospect), but I must confess that I am startled and dismayed that in 2016 a student, enrolled at a liberal arts institution, is comfortable relaying such a clear level of narrow mindedness and outright homophobia to me, her professor.    It bothers me as an educator, but it bothers me a lot more as a human and especially as a parent of a child whos sexual identity would apparently cause this person to be uncomfortable.  I am a professional, so I didn’t suggest that perhap a different class would suit better because I find this attitude offensive.  I’ve already come up with an alternate to this week’s film, Alexander (2004) in case it too is deemed “inappropriate” with its homoerotic undertones and all.

Alexander (Farrell) and Hephaestion (Jared Leto)

Alexander (Farrell) and Hephaestion (Jared Leto)

Hopefully I’ve purged at least a little of this annoyance so that I can get through the final two weeks of this class without completely losing my s@#t at someone!  (I’m making a case that we should earn hazard pay for teaching upper level liberal arts classes online!)