FanstRAvaganza 2 Is Coming!

The British are coming! The British are coming!  Wait – well, one Brit is coming to a certain blog ring near you.  Yes, it’s the second annual Richard Armitage fan fest taking place March 14-21, 2011.  To my surprise and panic, I’ve been cordially invited to participate. I’ve got a banner to prove it!  While I flail around wondering how to talk about such a lovely and talented man for eight straight days, old faces and new faces are slaving behind the scenes to make this year bigger and better.  Taking part are:


And me!

So, mark your calendars and stay tuned.

Serene Sunday: John 19:41

When I was 12 years old, I went to my first musical, Jesus Christ Superstar.  My parents were non-practicing Catholics and blandly irreligious by the time I was born.  I had a general grasp of the New Testament but don’t recall any particular expectations of the outing except that it was a new and exciting experience.  My  parents later said they wondered how the crucifixion would be depicted without it being a total downer.  I quickly realized watching a live performance eclipsed listening to any recording.  It was invigorating and captivating and I found myself completed immersed.  Had I a shred of singing, dancing or instrumental talent, I might have toyed with the idea of going into the theater.

I loved the songs including the theme showstopper.  However the last instrumental at the end of the show did it for me, John 19:41.  Although it had swelling strings and flutes, there was a certain simplicity that was both beautiful and uplifting.  Afterwards, my parents bought for me the cast album which I still have.

There have been many versions of this instrumental over the years, but I think the original 1970 version is the best.  I found some YouTube videos with either distracting graphics or poor sound and had to settle for an excerpt from the 1973 film.  (I’m not a fan of the film.  For me, it failed somehow to translate the energy of the musical.)   So, turn up the volume, close your eyes, and just absorb the music.

Out of the Mouths of Babes, or How I Finally Start Talking About Fandom

[I want to preface this post by adding an addendum to the previous post regarding The King’s Speech.  I don’t want anybody to come away with the thought that my problem was severe as his.  What he did was truly heroic, as Colin Firth said in an interview.  My issue flowed from partial deafness; garbled sounds equaled garbled speech.  Once my parents and school therapists realized one caused the other, my speech impediment was basically controlled by age 11.  My comments mainly concerned experiences as child and efforts not to lose ground as an adult.  I don’t feel as badly plagued as he was, but can truly empathize and identify.  So, there is nothing brave about me.]

Anyway, believe it or not, I’ve been ramping up to talk about my first exposure to fandom, except for maybe the bits about blizzards, dogs and computers.  I actually drafted a partial post about an adult fandom experience but realized that if this was to be an introspective view, I needed to explain my thoughts.  But everytime I questioned why I behaved a certain way, it led to earlier and earlier experiences requiring more peripheral explanations.  So, I’m going to chuck it all and take things way back – before I was born.

When my mother was 16 years old she developed a fascination for a young British actor, named Laurence Olivier.  When Wuthering Heights premiered in 1939, she made her boyfriend (my father) take her to see it so many times, he finally refused.  Way before he became Sir Larry and Lord Olivier, she knew LO would be considered a great actor. In fact, she would shake her fist and exclaim, “I knew he would be great, before he was great!”  I was small child when the film was broadcast on televison for the first time.  While she squeed and exclaimed and sighed, my father would smirk, shake his head and walk out of the room.  This was my first experience with a fangrrl.  I looked forward to repeats just to see my proper mother behave so unseemingly, although my parents’ reactions signaled it was all silly and fun.

Later I paid more attention to the actors and thought they talked funny.  Then I realized I could understand every word.   Remember this was before anybody realized my hearing problem.Thus was born my love of British films.  Because of the lilting tones and crisp diction, I could hear every syllable and consonant.  When a speech therapist informed me I wasn’t talking like others’, I loosely patterned my speech after the Received Pronunciation type British accent in an effort to enunciate clearly. Pygmalion with Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller was one of my favorite films. British actors became my personal speech therapists and Laurence Olivier headed the list, spurred on by my totally smitten mother.  We watched Wuthering Heights every single time it was broadcast (along with anything else LO made).  When finally after viewing Love Among the Ruinsfor the upteenth time I admitted,  yes, LO was a great actor, she loudly cheered, “yes, he’s finally gotten to my daughter!”   Her crush continued some 47 years until her death.  Wow, that’s what I call a loyal fan.I wonder if her crush would have lasted as long in this internet age of information access.  I suspect my mother would have preferred not knowing facts disclosed about LO in recent years.  But in her time, the star system and satellite media panted rosey pictures of its actors and so, my mother managed to preserve the innocence of her fantasy.  In a way, that’s kind of sweet.

Speaking of sweet, I thought this picture is just that:

Richard Armitage realizes he has fans while on Red Carpet at BAFTAs 2007

On Kings and Speech

This weekend I finally saw The King’s Speech. It interested me for several reasons, the least of which is it’s an Oscar contender for Colin Firth as best actor and the film as best picture. It intrigued me that the premise was about King George VI’s severe stammering. (He nickname was Bertie in the movie). I wondered how it could be presented in both an entertaining and informative way, why dealing with a painful and uncomfortable subject. I was keen because I have a speech impediment too.

Mine isn’t stammering. Rather it is same as British actor Jeremy Brett’s, rhotacism, the difficulty in saying the letter “R.” I am hearing impaired (profound loss in one ear, mild-moderate in the other) caused by being given too much oxygen at birth (I was born premature). Since I couldn’t pronounce what I couldn’t hear, I had to be taught the location of sounds, like consonants at the end of words. Apparently if some sounds aren’t learned during early speech development, like the Western distinction between the letters “R” and “L” for the Japanese, the speaker has a very difficult time producing it. I learned to approximate the “R” sound through speech therapy as a child and home grown efforts as an adult. On good days, my speech sounds like an accent nobody can place. On bad days, my diction is mushy at best. Sometimes I’m just too mentally tired to enunciate clearly. Only rarely do I stammer but that occurs under great stress. However, no matter what day I’m having, speech is a conscious constant effort because I’m always aware it’s my primary visible means of communicating with other human beings and of how I’m perceived.

So I felt personally connected to Bertie’s plight. He was a public figure, born to be a ceremonial figurehead and boster the morale of his people, but speaking was the bane of his existence. Plus he had to endure the discomfort and embarrassment around him as he struggled to express the simplest thoughts. He was locked into a vicious circle of fear of others’ expectations, anxiety over his notion of duty, and reactions of listeners. However, Bertie was so determined to fulfill his duty that he was able to overcome his impediment with the help of speech therapist Lionel Logue played brilliantly by Geoffrey Rush. His stammering was never cured; he learned to compensate so that it wasn’t so apparent. Although the story took place in rarefied circles with people we commoners can never really understand, at heart it was a simple story of a man trying to overcome his personal demons, albeit on the public stage. I certainly could empathize and came away with the thought that no matter how history treats George VI, his effort in this regard was truly commendable.

Colin Firth did an exemplary job as Bertie. I can imagine how challenging it was for an actor with no speech impairment to portray a historical figure with such a severe one in an accurate and believable manner. Just as it’s difficult to enunciate proper in this context, it’s equally a linguistic effort to do the reverse. I was acutely aware of how much work Firth put into that role. I would love to ask him in an interview what techniques he used to accomplish his task. (Also, he had to use the royal accent with vowels so rounded and syllables so strangled, that it’s dialect of it’s own.)I listened to the real speech, which was also depicted at the end of the film. King George sounded as if he were employing mere pauses for dramatic effect. The movie showed the physical and mental gymastics used during those pregnant pauses. I’m sure that other people like me with speech impediments nodded along with each line, knowing our own exercises and things we do to compensate every time we open our mouths.

I’m pleased the film highlighted the difficulties of people with speech impairments. When I was a child, many tended to associate hearing/language problems with low IQ which doesn’t necessarily correlate at all. A counselor actually told my mother I should transfer to a “special school.” Until I learned to compensate, I was often treated impatiently and retreated into silence as a result. I hope that those who rooted for the Bertie at the end of the film remember that feeling when they encounter people with language difficulties, especially children. Don’t be uncomfortable or wonder where are we from, just wait and listen.By the way, after the movie I suddenly remembered a stumbling block I encounter when I listen too long to another with a speech impediment: it becomes infectious. Because proper enunciation isn’t hard wired for me but consists mostly of smoke and mirrors, my tricks slip away. This dawned on me when trying to talk about – wait for it – Richard Armitage. Bizarrely I could say his first name but could barely get out the surname, when normally I had the opposite problem. Then I noticed I dropped syllables and slurred whole words. Jeremy Brett once said he had to practice elocution daily. Very true, my man, very true.

So I shall restart my exercises by repeating “Richard Armitage.” That’s not too bad actually. And as a treat for getting this far, Dear Reader, here’s more shiney:

Guy finally gives a damn; Robin Hood S3.9;

Computer Angst Redux

Young female person called and left a message this morning saying HP was ready for pickup but oh, it had a raging fever and bad congestion (overheating and fan problems) and it should go the The Service Center.  I hesitate to call this girl a geek, because based on the chat that later transpired, if  she was actually a tech, I feared for any computer she touched.  Apparently, yes the HD had  been backed up; no, it was still crashing; no she didn’t know if it was a virus or the HD; and no it hadn’t been fixed.  I tersely agreed for HP to The Service Center (or more like Purgatory) which leaves me without a desktop for two more weeks.  I could buy a new one if it wasn’t only three years old.  Grrrr.

Meanwhile, I’m determined to resume blogging on the iPad once I return home, albeit a bit slowly and sans media (at least until I can figure that angle out).  Hmm, my friend’s computer seems to be having video problems.   Uh oh, wasn’t me!

More Computer Angst

HP is still in the hospital. The young geek said it would probably need a brain transplant ( read: new hard drive). I blanched, forked over my credit card and was $300 poorer in the bat of an eye. That was Monday; surgery was to occur in 4-5 days. I’ve yet to hear a thing. Right now I’m out of town valiantly pecking on an iPad. It has no name (yet) but likes the letter “s”. It also likes it’s own punctuation much like RA’s wandering apostrophes.So by next Wednesday I hope to get the blog rolling again by fingering the person responsible for my fangrrl ways. Watch this space.

Geek Angst

All of RA’s characters and the man himself could be parading behind me wearing nothing but smiles and bows and I would say, “Meh. Can you fix my computer?”

You see, HP, my main squeeze desktop is very sick. I’ve had others in the past 20 years, but HP has been steady for awhile (accept for that video thing last year but it can sees well now). HP gives really good internet. Oh yeah, I gotta have it.Super Bowl Sunday, HP suddenly flashed the Blue Screen of Death and crashed. Many times. An essential system file has been corrupted probably by a virus and the computer can’t boot or remain stable long enough for me to repair the file or run a scan. I have enough knowledge to diagnosis the problem but not enough to personally traverse the minefield of digital brain surgery. I certainly don’t want to risk turning it into a vegetable (read: borking the system and losing all my precious data. This is the age of storage described in terms of terabytes; that’s a lot of information to reconstruct.) Because I’m distraught, I’ll continue to beat this metaphor and say HP now sits comatose until I can get it to a specialist. Right now I’m using Toshi the laptop which has gotten so little love lately that it balked at allowing internet access but I made it see the error of its ways. At least I’m reunited with my beloved internet.

Needless to say, with the post-blizzard mess plus two more snowfalls in less than a week, an emotionally delicate pooch, and now poor sick HP, my nerves are a bit frazzled. I wish these guys would put their clothes back on and go. Not a computer savvy one in the bunch.

Surreal Saturday

I’ve been dealing with some issues in the past few days, the biggest being complete dismay over the emotional relapse of my pom, Patty.  I rescued her from the humane society over two years ago, not knowing she had been possibly abused and traumatized.  I never knew exactly what would trigger her fearful issues, but learned to avoid the obvious ones.  She changed from a snarly, growly, nervous, ball of nerves to a still sensitive but happy dog.

The blizzard, with its violent winds, set her back, big time.  She cowered in the bathroom and under the bed and kept it up after the storm was over. She jumped out of her skin at the slighted noise, quivered, bolted and basically acted as if she were in a prolonged panic attack.  She refused to eat but I could nab her for walkies the day after.  On Thursday it was worse, taking me 1/2 hour of coaxing and trickery to leash her.  It seemed as if she didn’t know me.

So instead of spending too much time directing my Muse (who has temperamentally flounced off), I’ve been showering Patty with TLC, constantly petting, hugging and talking to her while keeping escape routes closed off.  The attention has been paying off.  She’s started eating and stopped bolting.  She’s now attached to me like Velcro, which is preferable to the way she was.  Hopefully, she will be 100% soon.  Oh, just saw her energetically loving  Dolly (a stuffed meerkat) for the first time in days.

Patty the pom in calmer days.

Speaking of doggy tribulations, here’s video of a more laid back pooch.

Mother Nature, Part 2

The howling gale stopped along with the snow sometime before dawn.  In the light, it didn’t so bad all things considered.  I catnapped but was awakened by –more wind, accompanied by more snow. Mother Nature apparently wants to present this drama in several acts with short interludes.  I bundled up Patty (pink parka naturally), who refused to pee one drop in over 24 hours, and dragged out her out the door.  Could almost hear her “AHHHH!”  I walked her about to see the sights (read: dragged her around some more).  This dog, whose heritage is snow sledding, is just not that into it.  Because of the gale, the snow didn’t fall straight down and there were relatively bare-like areas.  But then there are the drifts, knee deep here, thigh deep there, or just impassible.  It’s very windy, but not disturbingly so compared yesterday.  After feeding the ravenous pooch who decided that under my bed was a good place to hide, I set forth to record all this on my iPhone.  Finding food was also an issue.

The eatery across the lane was open thank goodness.  However they had damaged seals in the floor to ceiling windows, so there was leaks.  I trekked down the middle of the street to the main thoroughfares and realized the snow was a lot deeper than it looked.  Things looked deserted except for those walking in the street.  I spotted three slow moving cars, total.  Two intrepid guys from Jimmy John’s, a deli franchise, tramped about, passing out free sandwiches; they declared they were OPEN for business and would deliver even for one.  I  instantly got a warm and fuzzy feeling.  Free lunch and possibly dinner later!   Did I know that Jewel and Dominick’s (major grocery chains) were closed across the city? I have never heard of such a thing.  How could we clean out the stores of break and milk?   Things must be truly bad.

My area wasn’t as hard it as those farther inland.  Still I wanted to record something for posterity. (I apologize for the videos.  It was my first time taping on the iPhone 4.  Apparently I should have held the thing lengthwise for landscape mode.  I was also breathless because my asthma has been playing up.

Here are pictures of what’s happening elsewhere.

According to the news, it is bad.  There are lines of abandoned cars in the middle of Lake Shore Drive and the city is frantically trying to plow that open and toll away the cars.  Drivers are still stranded at tollway oases.  Chunks of the city are without power and no clue when it will be restored.  There is no electricity to parts of the ‘el” and subway system.  Some of the bus routes are shut down.  The train system has shut down five lines and running Sunday schedules on others.  Even the MALLS are closed.Over 20 inches of snow has fallen with more expected.  The current talk concerns what could open tomorrow, but that sounds in serious doubt, especially if it doesn’t stop snowing soon.  The mayor hasn’t said but news sources all agree we’re paralyzed.

Verdict: the Blizzard of “11 has nudged out ’99 and probably passed “79,  but probably won’t beat “67, unless the paralysis extends for days.  It’s not likely because the city has sworn to never let that happen again.EDIT:  The sun peeking through and the sky is turning blue.  It’s OVER!  …Isn’t it?

EDIT: Well, Mother Nature decided to take the sun and blue sky elsewhere and give us the cold shoulder.  Fiiiiiine.  Be that way.

Mother Nature, We’ve Gotta Talk…

It’s 1AM and I can’t sleep.  The blizzard has been barreling down since 4PM with constant gales force winds 40-50 mph, even more so at the lake where I am.  It sounds like a freight train running through here.  It’s total whiteout from my windows.  The heat is up and I’m wrapped in blanket, but these new buildings aren’t airtight by design.  My pomeranian Patty is freaked out and hiding behind the toilet.  She’s confined to the bathroom because she refused to do anything just outside the service door.  Hopefully she will use the newspapers.  The firefighters are still rescuing bus passengers and motorists on Lake Shore Drive because it was closed at 8:ooPM.  The airport is closed.  All but essential businesses will be closed.  All federal offices will be closed, a first in the 22 years working in one.  State employees are being told to stay home.  Actually everybody is being told to stay home. Concern is not centered so much on the snow.  We are acquainted with blizzards, we can handle snow.  It’s the WIND.I stupidly left work a bit late thinking it didn’t look so bad.  Appearances were deceiving because once I left the buffer of the tall office buildings, moving on foot was daunting.  I walked right into the teeth of the gale.  We pedestrians had to cling to fences, posts, trees, anything handy and crossed intersections that were nothing but wind tunnels.  That was memorable and positively scary.  Just discovered some bruises from actually getting knocked over.  I’ve seen windy and very windy but nothing like this.  Forecasters are predicting 3-4 inches per hour through tomorrow morning.  This affair is giving the Blizzard of ’67 serious competition.


A blizzard is a-comin’, at least that’s what the forecasters say.  However it’s been my experience that when the word “blizzard” is invoked, it fizzles into an anti-climax.  But winds are seriously howling, the snow has started and my building has emailed high gales warnings to the residents.  And I see forecasters have swapped specific predictions for a generalized “heavy accumulation.”  Now that sounds ominous.

Being a budding old fart, I’m now afflicted with the tendency to reminisce. No, I’m not going to talk about walking every day 10 miles to school uphill both ways.   This trip down memory lane concerns the Great Blizzard of 1967.  This storm has gone down in the annals of weather history for dropping 23 inches of snow in 35 hours, totally paralyzing Chicago and northwest Indiana for days. People were trapped on overnight buses, in cars, in homes. It became the benchmark for blizzards.

That January I was six years old and already an avowed snow freak. I loved snowstorms and when I heard about this one, it was almost more than my little heart could stand.  When it passed, we were all trapped at home.  Schools were closed and it was impossible for my dad to get to work.  My parents bundled up in more clothes than I have ever seen and went outside to begin the ordeal of digging out a very long driveway buried in drifts.  They admonished me to absolutely, on pain of punishment, not come outside.  I could look out the door, but that was it.  I was utterly dismayed and angry.  They were keeping me from my snow!  So I mummified myself in coats and scarves and gloves and pulled on my little red boots.  I would show them.  I opened the door, stepped out, and my world went white and then dark as I sank into a drift.   I cried for help, my father yanked me out and that ended any notion of making snow angels for awhile.

Actually I recall hating snow the rest of the winter, especially after school reopened.  When the streets were plowed, it created huge mountains at the curbs which I had to climb, sometimes on my hands and knees, while I envisioned falling into the street and getting run over, my guts plastered for half a block.  Fortunately I survived and lived to see two more blizzards.  But they were nothing like the ole Blizzard of “67.  Yup.


Why does this look so terribly ancient?  It was only 44 years ago.  Sigh.

I’ll leave you here with an image of another snowy affair:

Richard Armitage as John Thornton in North and South;