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Archive for January, 2011

Monday Monday


I intended to take a break yesterday and not write anything heavy but that’s not how it turned out.  So today will be judiang lite.  I work from home on Mondays but I know many are heading out to face traffic and begin the weekly grind.

So here are two of my favorite commercials from last year that I hope will put a smile on your face.

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Serene Sunday


I don’t believe in God.

Let me rephrase that: I don’t believe in the omnipotent arbitrary supreme being advocated by Western religion.  But I’m not atheist.  I can’t empirically prove there isn’t a God any more than I can prove there is one. I think there is a life force that exists in nature which we aren’t required to praise or appease, it just is.   I call myself agnostic because people are comfortable with the label and it’s least likely to provoke a negative reaction.  To put a fine point on it, I’m a secular humanist.  However I find people have trouble grasping the notion that morality doesn’t have to flow from religion.

It has been argued that religion is man’s defense mechanism in response to awareness of his own mortality.  This is a valid point. Yet I reject the stridency of militant atheists who declaim that believers are fools and religion is the opiate of the masses.  It is religious institutions and contrived rules devised by man, which distort the message and is the source of great harm, that I distrust.  That being said, there is a place for religion in the world.  People like to believe there is a point to their lives, that all that striving isn’t for nothing, that somebody cares and watching over them. Belief can be a source of comfort because it suggests a sense of order to this chaotic world.   Most of the great religions advocate love and compassion for fellow creatures, and if people can’t find that within themselves but need belief in a higher being to motivate them, then it’s still all good.  I support people believing what they want as long as they don’t feel entitled to force their beliefs on others.

This view took years of deep soul searching.  Oddly, the first Christmas after I stopped calling myself a Christian I was in a quandary: did this mean I wouldn’t be able to enjoy my beloved carols anymore?  How could I play my 24 versions of O Holy Night without feeling a hypocrite?   The word I received from a minister turned atheist was this: do you really need to believe the words to appreciate the song?  So I listened again.  I realized the musical arrangement was still haunting.  The voices were still beautiful.  The simplicity of the lyrics were still lovely even though I didn’t subscribe to the meaning. I hummed secular songs whose words meant nothing to me. It dawned that  I didn’t have to get mystic to find the carol beautiful or any other spiritual piece.  Religious music can not only be devotional, but also powerfully soothing and serene.

So on Sundays, I would like share some of my favorite religious songs as well as any others I come across.  Here is a prime example of how a song can still be compelling, even though the singer has a different religious background: Barbara Streisand singing Ave Maria, Bach/Gounod version.

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The weekend is here.  I conclude the first week of blogging and didn’t keel over.  Stream of consciousness jotting is easy but concise, precise, introspective prose does require care and time.  I realize how I’ve done so much of the former and so little of the latter. The wheel is still very rusty but I see some bits flaking off.  The weekend is a good time for a mental break, so I’m giving myself breathing space by allowing simple jotting on these days.  Don’t worry.  I’ve got a heavy post coming next week.

I’m drawn to the unusual no matter what medium. Garden variety simply doesn’t hold my interest; I need to have something to pull me in.  I really liked Inception starring Leonardo DiCaprio. I adored the book and audio adaption of Vurt written by Jeff Noon. I’m a big fan of the British sci-fi show  Doctor Who because it’s fantastical. (However things do have to have some internal logic, so don’t start me ranting over S9 of Spooks.  Grrr.)

Jane Austen was talented and unusual woman for her time and her literature has endured through the centuries.  What best to kick off my first Silly Saturday but an off the wall mash-up of her work.

And because I know what you people come here for, here is a great video by Delicate Blossom:

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I went to bed last night feeling quite pleased with myself for actually proceeding with this experiment.  Just as I drifted off, my mind decided it wasn’t quite done and directed a few stomach flip-flops.  “Are you sure you want to talk about being in fandom?” it asked. “Because people will know.”  This touched off a bizarre feeling; you know, the one you get when you’re arguing with yourself and think you just might have finally gone around the bend.   “People will know WHAT?” I thought furiously.  This transpired in my head and not out loud, so don’t worry.

Blogging about fandom will be an official acknowledgment of being a fan.  I’ve always been the reluctant variety with only a few like-minded people aware of my particular hobby horse.  I once was a fan of a particular actor (a mystery man!) and found an outrageously expensive autographed framed photograph of him.  Anxious to break out of my careful predictable mindset, I decided to take a spontaneous risk and buy it.  (Trial and error and a lot of sleepless nights over other actions later taught me that spontaneity and risk taking did not mean what I thought it did.)   As soon the squeeing stopped, I wondered what to do because I didn’t want anybody but close friends to see it.    So this costly piece of foolishness lived in the closet, literally, for years because I might be fingered as a fan.

This is probably a generational fear. I grew up during the heyday of the Trekkies, the biggest fandom at the time.  These followers of Star Trek had a reputation for being rabidly devoted and a bit bonkers. They were known to ask actors on the show impossible questions: “In episode 4 of season 2, when you fought that Klingon while being taken over by a Vulcan parasite, what were you thinking?”  This image was widely publicized by an infamous skit on Saturday Night Live skit where a total dork’s ridiculous questions sparked a rant by William Shatner to “Get a life!”

I dreaded being perceived as being like That Guy.  I couldn’t be taken seriously in my profession if people thought I was That Girl.  Of course over time I discovered this was a stereotype and fans ran the gamut of enthusiasm and sanity.  Now days, easy internet access has caused an explosion of fandoms.  There are many magazines, websites, and entertainment programs dedicated to celebrity watching.  The cult of celebrity is huge. People readily talk about their favorite show or person.  Nobody cares as long behavior is kept within a reasonable parameters.

So, I won the argument with, erm, myself.  It’s okay people will know.  I’ve done nothing for which I should be ashamed.  I’m not running for political office.  It’s no big deal.

Last year my sitter came to watch my dogs while I was away.  In my haste to leave, I forgot remove a picture of another actor (another mystery man!)  from my desktop and turn a large picture calendar to the wall in the den where she would be staying.  I noticed when I returned that the calendar had been turned to the wall.  ‘Oh,” I exclaimed in embarrassment.  ‘Hey,” she said.  “That’s a nice picture but I had to turn it around. Every time I looked up from the bed, there he was staring at me!”   That was the beginning and end of it.  So much for her knowing.

I’m considering leaving a picture of RA on my desktop to see what she thinks.  Notice the smooth segue.  I might become good at this.

Guy is amused

Richard Armitage as Guy of Gisbourne, Richard Armitage Central Gallery

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I’m stockpiling entries that WordPress can auto-post.  This gives my procrastinator heart new hope in achieving the goal of posting daily.  High tech, I love you.

The second question Servetus asked me which led to formation of this blog was this: if you could interview RA, what would you ask?  I asked her the same,  but she decided  to play her cards close to the chest.  I felt this was a challenge so I’m picking up the gauntlet and having a go at it.

This question stumped me for weeks.  What on earth can I ask that hasn’t already been posed?  Certainly it wouldn’t be about shoveling elephant poo, his sex symbol status, or his looks.  It occurred to me the best way think about this was to imagine a setting which would set the tone.   An informal chat in a pub wouldn’t work because of the potential for me to become too inquisitive (as in Spanish) and him deflecting questions or not answering seriously.  So it would have to be a formal setting, on stage, before a live audience, ala Actor’s Studio.  The interview would focus on his craft since I can’t see how any personal questions would be relevant unless it concerned some life changing event he had publicly discussed.

One question would definitely have to address his creative transitions.  He took dancing as a child to correct pigeon toes.  He developed a passion for playing the cello but didn’t pursue it professionally due to alleged shyness in front of audiences and instead danced professionally even though he was too tall.  When he realized he was fighting an uphill battle, he enrolled in LAMDA.  There isn’t necessarily a logical progression between these areas, especially in the context of his purported shyness.  It’s also my understanding that not anybody can get into LAMDA or RADA.  How did he make these transitions?  Why acting school and not music school? Did he think he had real acting talent or did he go on a wing and a prayer? How did he deal with the shyness issue?

Another question which has always intrigued me is this: how does he memorize all those lines?  This might seem cause a mental eyeroll, but I think a lay audience not in the business would be curious.  Seriously, how do actors do it?  David Tennant had 358 lines in Hamlet which he learned in six weeks in addition to his role in Love’s Labor’s Lost.  I know they just do it, but technically how?  Does RA use cues? Emotions? Memories? Associations? Rhythms?  Is it a technique he had to learn or does he just need a damn good memory?  How does he reach the point when remembering the lines recedes into the background, and conveying the emotion takes hold?   I would love to hear an actor talk through the process, and maybe demonstrate a scene he would be warned about ahead time.

I’m not sure if I would ask this next question during an interview; he might feel put on the spot.  I would comment on his widening fame and point blank ask about his views on privacy and expectations he has of fans and vice versa.  I’ve read comments from fans reading deep meaning into relatively innocuous comments and ascribing feelings and motives to him that basically sound like projections of their own personal issues.  I know he enjoys being teasingly cryptic with fans to add some excitement, but it would be nice to know what he actually thinks.   Maybe this question would be a good submission for a written interview when he could answer with careful and considered thought.  Not sure how I would pose such a loaded question before a studio audience.  Don’t think I would have the mettle to do it as long as I was a fan.

I can’t think of any more burning questions right now.  I imagine some minor ones like which was his favorite role and why. Don’t believe he’s actually been asked that.  Also, knowing he likes to create diaries for his characters, I would discover what story he had for Lucas in S9 of Spooks.

As a treat for getting this far, here is one of the best interviews he’s given, discussing about Lucas North in Spooks:

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It’s STARTING


So my experiment truly begins, which begs the question: what is this blog about?  Writing about the process of learning to write again doesn’t strike me as particularly interesting to anybody but me at the moment.  So what else?   Well, I joined WordPress to comment on a ring of fan blogs about British actor Richard Armitage.  These blogs are written by older highly educated women whose styles and level of fandom are fascinating.  Some make passing references to RA on the way to talking about something else.   It’s the something else part that intrigues me; it gives a window into their worlds and fleshes them out as complex people, more than the usual SQUEE! post on a forum.  The comment section discussions can be more interesting than the original post.  I imagine some blogs sprang up so the commenters can discuss further in their own space.

(Oh, WordPress says I should stop here and hold your interest with SHINEY! so how about this?

 

Prince John really liked Glamor Guy

Richard Armitage as Guy of Gisborne in Robin Hood, my cap

Ahem. As I was saying, this space will be about my experiences in fandom, fandom gone wrong, and the cult of celebrity.  This idea grew out of Servetus asking me on her blog how I arrived at my current attitude as a fan of certain celebrity hunks.  I answered it didn’t spring forth fully formed but evolved through trial and error.   I can’t link to the comment but will discuss it more later on. Having been part of different groups for almost 20 years, I’ve seen a lot up close and personal and hope I can offer some insight and humor about my journey.

As the title of the blog says, I’ve been a watcher, an observer all my life.  It stemmed from a chaotic childhood where psychological warfare was the norm.  I had to constantly watch for cues and clues to defuse situations or stay out of the fallout.  This carried over into adulthood where I spent years sorting out my own head.  But this still has left a fascination for why people do what they do.  I have another blog on LiveJournal which is basically a long version of Twitter.  Those posts were dashed off, without particular thought to composition, style or shamefully, editing.

So this blog will be dedicated to reflection and introspection while exercising that flabby creative writing muscle.  I’ll make passing waves at RA since it’s his fan blog ring that started this and we will need have some pretty and fun here.  I’ll also throw in a few other hunks as well to keep things fair.

Oh, I might be tempted to veer off at times but will try to make it worth the reading.

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Laying the Groundwork


Just realized the month is almost over and the new year’s resolution to start writing again is just about DOA.  So I’ve resolved once more to get it together.  The only way to do it is just START.  Pulling together the technical aspects for the blog is interesting; everything is now prepackaged.  I can barely know what CSS is although back in the dark ages of the early 1990’s, I could do HTML by hand.  Time has certainly marched on.

My writing skills have suffered too although ironically it’s all I do all day as a lawyer.  However that is highly specialized, dry and canned.  I fear the creative part of my brain has atrophied.  Thoughts do not easily flow from my pen (or keyboard now) anymore.  In college, I could pound out short stories fully formed on a typewriter with no editing and still get  “A’s.”   In retrospect, I realize that was pretty damn amazing and should have nurtured that skill.  I was told I had talent, so I dreamed of writing the Great American Novel.   But I went to law school where as Professor Kingsfield said in the Paper Chase,  “you come in here with a skull full of mush and you leave thinking like a lawyer”.  Well, part of that mush contains the spark of creativity needed for the mind to soar.   After over 25 years of thinking inside that legal box, the muscular analytical left side of my brain can hammer you to the ground.  The creative right side needs paddles to keep going.

I realized things had gotten very bad when a year ago I wrote a very short story for the first time in 13 years.  I couldn’t keep it simple; oh no, not me.  It was a complicated little piece of fanfic.  My mind instantly jumped to popping this baby out and it took three days to match words on paper to images in my mind.  It felt like mental labor.  I intended a follow-up story but felt so spent I could not transform a vague idea into a coherent outline.  I asked a blogger who seems to effortlessly write reams every day how she does it.  You know,  the kind who dashes off a post and you think:  “that’s EXACTLY what I was trying to say!”  She said simply, ” write every day and write some more.”

So here I am, writing.

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