F3, Day Six! One voice to thrill them all, and Armitage to bind them!
Welcome to Day Six of FanstRAvaganza 3, with sixteen new posts planned for you to enjoy!
Some posts are scheduled to appear automatically, while others will be posted manually. Not every link may be live until the end of the event day at 23:59, London time. Links to all FanstRA 3 posts appear here at the end of each day, too!
In the tagteams, Day Six: It’s almost over, oh noes!
In fandom, Phylly3 celebrates her second blogiversary! • In the Hobbit chain, Antonia Romera compares trailers for An Unexpected Journey in three languages • CDoart‘s the King Richard Armitage blogger, writing on the relevance of the character in times of questionable justice • In fanfic, Jo Ann finishes her story of love and turmoil in the post-Civil War West • fedoralady interviews Guy of Gisborne the evolution of her “sloth fic” series • In freeform, Gratiana Lovelace rescreens her Armitage birthday vid • Fabo casts Armitage in Hollywood musical remakes • C.S. Winchester takes on Armitage in period costumes from N&S and Miss Marie Lloyd • Links to all FanstRA 3 posts appear here at the end of each day!
and in the core:
Mary guests at Richard Armitage Fan Blog with “What’s Wrong with Me?!” • Traxy on “Stayin’ Alive” and In Divine Proportion • Fanny interviews Wattpad author Womblingfree • Jonia researches the anatomy of Richard Armitage’s feet • mulubinba discusses the physical training component of Armitage’s role preparation • bccmee on “Standring Room Only” • RAFrenzy on Telling Stories • and Guy’s outbreaks at judiang’s therapy sessions come to a crashing dénoument! • Links to all FanstRA 3 posts appear here at the end of each day!
Another Kind of Creativity: Getting Your Analytical On.
I get asked a lot about how to be a better or more penetrating analytical thinker. I don’t talk about it much, since (a) I teach people to think more stringently for a living, and this blog is supposed to not be work; (b) I’m no expert on the conceptual aspect of analysis — I study history and not logic or analysis or pedagogy; (c) the stuff I write here is tempered for an audience not in the habit of reading academic writing, so I’m not sure that an explanation of how I really “do” what I do will be all that useful to readers; and (c) although I’m mostly happy with my own brain and the way it works, I’m uncertain that the average person is made a great deal happier by looking more deeply into things. The general desire in the U.S. at the moment seems to be clearly directed at achieving less complexity rather than more (something that has made me wonder more than once if we’re replaying the cultural dynamics of the late fifteenth century). And frequently the comment, “I never realized it was that complicated,” offers cover for an actual sentiment that’s more like “you’re making it (much) more complicated than it is.”
Decisive reasons point many of us to think in the other direction, however. From my standpoint, for instance, complexity explains more about the world I see around me. In particular, too, Mr. Armitage seems to be a fan of complexity — something that endears him to me no end, whether it’s his self-description as a “detailed actor” or his insistence on finding the contradictions in the personalities of the characters he plays. And if you needed any other reason: I’d pretty much take any excuse to look at what Richard Armitage is doing, and I bet you would, too. So if analyzing it lets us do that, I’m there! And, as we’ve learned with anatomy and vocabulary, mathematics and history, Armitage can be used to teach and learn a lot of things.
So, if you would like to think more analytically, about Richard Armitage or anything else, here are ten modest tips of techniques I find helpful.
The detail that sold me on Richard Armitage very early on, from episode 1 of North & South.
1. Notice things. I frequently get asked, “how did you notice that?” The answer: I was taught the habit as a child. My dad would drive down a country road at 55 mph and shout out, “Hey, kids, look at that grouse!” So I had early training in looking for small things against a big landscape. One can go about acquiring this habit in several ways, but the best of them is to be drawn in by a detail that you’ve already noticed and really love. Case in point: one of my favorite detailed acting moments from North & South happens when Margaret enters the Lyceum Hall and Thornton glimpses her from across the street. He stares down at her, and it’s not clear, from that distance, how much they can see of each other’s expressions, but it’s clear from the movement of his chin after 0:20 that he’s affected (even if the glance reminds him of his wounded pride). What slays me about this scene is the way Armitage moves Mr. Thornton’s left eye. It narrows very, very slightly at approximately 0:31. (You may need to watch in full screen mode to see it.) Impressive and beyond subtle. (Imagine how much more impressed I was when I learned that he wasn’t even looking at her while performing the scene!) That detail got me drawn into looking at all kinds of other situations where Armitage used his eyes in North & South.
The things you notice don’t need to be visual — they can be aural, or even internal: a certain emotion you feel in response to a certain gesture. The point is to look at your reactions with a view to seeing the components of it, which can be examined, discussed, analyzed. It means learning to notice the sort of thing that causes you want to unravel a particular problem. And once you get in the habit of noticing details, you’ll notice more and more of them.
It worked for Lucas: Pull your “text” into memory over and over again and watch it until you’re positive you’ve noticed everything. Then write it down. Clip from Spooks 7.2.
2. Play it again, Sam. Once you’ve established an interest in anything, the next step is becoming as familiar as possible with the data you’ll use to make your case. This familiarity can only be achieved by re-“reading” of the “texts” you’ll use. Fortunately, in the case of Richard Armitage, this isn’t onerous — we like to look at him again and again. His performances, even the very small ones, repay replaying and close attention. Look at different times of day, in different contexts, with different friends, when you’re in different moods. I found, for example, that I got a lot more from several of Mr. Armitage’s performances on a larger, television, as opposed to a smaller, laptop, screen; that certain scenes affected me more when I was happy, others when I was tired; that he used certain gestures that are common in many of his roles in different ways in each of them. I would not have noticed these things if I hadn’t taken the time to look again and again. Use all the buttons available to you: rewind, replay, slomo, frame by frame, reverse. You’ll be amazed at what you see!
3. Write it down. It pays, when something strikes your attention, even if you think, “I’ll never forget that,” to jot it down. Because you will forget it, or you’ll forget some essential aspect of it, or you’ll forget that word you had for describing it that you thought was so perfect, and you’ll always think to yourself, oh, I had that great thought — but what was it? Noting your reactions to things on paper (or on your laptop, or wherever) also makes step 6 below a lot easier.
A tiny little piece of a problem can harvest a lot of data: While masquerading as a wealthy Russian, Lucas North (Richard Armitage) replaces a computer component to bypass a bank security system in Spooks 8.6. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com
4. Think small and speak precisely. A common first impulse when thinking analytically is to take on a big question. Now: it’s not wrong to let big questions control the things you’re interested in — no one wants to analyze a theme that has no larger significance. Still, it can be really hard to come to any conclusion about a big question or to feel to that your perspective on it has anything to add. Small analytical projects are much easier to complete because it’s easier to control all the necessary data and contexts. Small frame analyses also reveal more of you as a thinker, because the small details that intrigue you are not always going to be the same ones that catch someone else’s attention — so thinking small makes it easier to be analytically original. You can create a smaller analysis by narrowing the sort of questions you use to create it. Another tip toward successful thinking small: try to use the most precise language possible when you note your reactions. Precision in language trains precision in thinking, and it makes the sort of pattern analysis I recommend in step 6 a lot easier, as well.
In case you’re worried about triviality or irrelevance: small analyses are still significant — even if they don’t directly attack big questions. The trick is to find a small issue that illuminates a larger one or serves as an example that might provide an answer to a particular question, a rhetorical strategy that relies on metaphor and carries names like synecdoche, metonymy, or (for historians) microhistory. These strategies all work by analogy — so precisely because they don’t completely dominate a topic, they spur even more discussion, further comparisons, the generation of even more perspectives.
5. Take a position. An effective analysis can’t and won’t answer every question you have about a particular matter. It can answer a limited one (see point 4, above), however. It usually does this by “factoring out” issues it won’t address. One way to simplify the process of figuring out which questions to answer (and which to neglect, at least temporarily) is by explicitly articulating your own stance in advance of your analysis. IngeD3 did this in a particularly effective way just this week for F3 when she wrote about why and how a particular image encapsulates her appreciation of Mr. Armitage. Note her effective “factoring out” at the beginning — she concedes the points about his talent and his personality as playing a role in his attractiveness at the beginning as a means of pushing them aside to concentrate on the main theme of the analysis. Then she moves to the implicit position from which she views this particular picture: the elegant visual aspects of Armitage’s appearance in the screencap. Because she clarified her stance in advance, she knows exactly which elements of the picture she needs to explain to us in order to convince. And because we as readers know where she’s standing to view the picture, we can follow every aspect of her description and explanation of it with ease.
From the files of Armitage anatomy: occipitofrontalis.
6. Trace patterns.Once you’ve got those details jotted down, put them into groups. Try different groupings, because the more systems of categories you develop, the more axes you find on which to analyze a particular issue. Something I’ve been brooding over for years: under which circumstances does Richard Armitage put his hands on his face? Data for this question can be assembled according to multiple systems — by role, for instance, or by emotion, or according to my perception of these moments, or by comparison to similar or contrasting moments when he doesn’t put his hands on his face, and so on. Putting data in groups is called making a taxonomy. Sometimes taxonomies are interesting themselves, without any further explanation. Taxonomy is the fundamental principle for many tumblr sites — Richard Armitage on the phone, Richard Armitage drinks things, and so on — that entertain and amuse us. But the taxonomies can lead us to further questions, as well.
7. Excavate the context. If you notice a pattern or a detail you really like, it makes sense to try to place it into a context. Any detail is going to have multiple contexts that influence both its presentation and our perception of it. Digging into one or more of these can be very analytically productive. For instance, one thing that fascinated me about Armitage’s appearance was the pronounced ridge at the right side of his forehead that appears in almost every photo. It turns out to be a muscle: epicranius or occipitofrontalis. Exploring this detail led me to another question (one I’m still working on — will let you know when I get there) that got me into a discussion of muscles of the face. One thing always leads to another — but a great deal can be done to explain details by integrating them into systems into which they fit. Sometimes the system explains the detail (a muscle creates that ridge), but at other times it raises other questions that are worthy of exploration (why is Armitage’s forehead so muscular?).
8. Look for explanations. All of the categories we’re discussed so far work together: details, patterns, taxonomies, contexts — to provide explanations, which tell us why or how something we are trying to explain happens. Ultimately, explaining why anything happens is going to mean prioritizing some details and some contexts over others. Some of us like certain kinds of explanations more than others — economic ones, or philosophical ones, or practical ones, or ideological ones. But once you have all your data together and organized, you’re in a better place to explain the process of anything. This task is the hardest part of analysis, however, and it’s rare that a single explanation covers every data point that you have documented. On the whole, it’s considered more sophisticated to concede problems with your explanations, rather than insisting that your explanation covers everything, or hiding things it doesn’t cover.
Lucas North (Richard Armitage) turns the army rucksack inside out to find the vital detail that explains why Dean’s being pursued, in Spooks 7.6. I put this here mostly because of the thumbshot, though. (My cap.)
9. Turn your explanation inside out. If you’re having a hard time getting your mind about something, or even if you’re not, and you’re convinced your explanation is the correct one, don’t stop either out of frustration or conviction. Look for other alternatives. This step is easier if you’ve followed rule 5 above — explicitly taking a stance in your analysis — because taking a particular position allows you also to see which position(s) you are not observing a question from — and then to ask questions about that position. Dialectic (confronting a position with the arguments against it) can be very useful in this process. If you are convinced that the explanation for anything is “a,” take a few minutes to consider that the explanation might be “not a,” or the complete opposite of your own argument. Even if you find the possibility ludicrous, the thought exercise will almost always generate details that need to be accounted for in your argument, or ideas that are worth further exploration.
10. Risk overreading. You always put yourself on the line when you analyze anything — because you could be wrong. Always. Even experts make mistakes, although they are often in a better position to offer judgments than novices. Publishing an analysis means taking the risk of being wrong in a very public way. (And analysis, like fanfic writing, is not something you can do for long without developing a thicker skin and a greater capacity to withstand disagreement or quitting.) It’s almost always the case that occasionally, when sharing an analysis you find convincing, you will establish a pattern and an explanation for it and a reader will come along with a much simpler explanation for something that you’ve complicated. Many times in the blogosphere this will happen as a result of insecurity, or a commentator’s desire to deflate an author using a misunderstanding of Occam’s Razor: why explain something in complex terms when I can do so in simple ones? It’s so tantalizing to want to be “right,” and commentators are no less immune to the temptations of this stance than bloggers. The answer to misapplications of Occam’s Razor (which doesn’t prefer simpler explanations inherently, but only simpler explanations that account for all the same data adequately) is that under certain circumstances, a complex explanation is better than a simple one, but also that a particular analysis that may be convincing to some readers does not have to exclude the validity of other alternatives. Almost every interesting problem is overdetermined, which means that multiple explanations could account for it. Most truly interesting themes have multiple explanations or multiple interpretations, and exploring the conflicts between these is, in turn, stimulating. Some of the most valuable explanations of certain phenomena have been found to be incorrect. But that hasn’t decreased their value. If incorrect conclusions bring up new data, they are valuable in themselves.
As a final encouragement to espouse analysis as a way of thinking, then, let me suggest that the point of analyzing or writing an analysis is not always or even primarily to be correct — although it is certainly gratifying when that happens. It’s to expose important perspectives, reveal important details, encourage discussion. It’s to make it easier and more productive for other people to think about things that matter to them. That’s what makes it truly creative.
My favorite of the charities Richard Armitage has raised money for on JustGiving is Childline. If you liked this post or appreciate Armitage’s work, please consider making a donation of yourself. Demand for the service in most of the UK is up, and in some places only a portion of calls can be answered. As always, many worthy causes deserve our support, but this week I’m blogging to draw attention to this one. Thanks for listening.
To continue the penultimate day of F3 reading: In fandom, Phylly3 celebrates her second blogiversary! • In the Hobbit chain, Antonia Romera compares trailers for An Unexpected Journey in three languages • CDoart‘s the King Richard Armitage blogger, writing on the relevance of the character in times of questionable justice • In fanfic, Jo Ann finishes her story of love and turmoil in the post-Civil War West • fedoralady interviews Guy of Gisborne the evolution of her “sloth fic” series • In freeform, Gratiana Lovelace rescreens her Armitage birthday vid • Fabo casts Armitage in Hollywood musical remakes • C.S. Winchester takes on Armitage in period costumes from N&S and Miss Marie Lloyd • Links to all FanstRA 3 posts appear here at the end of each day!