RBOC: Emerging from the chaos edition (and obsession update)

Finished lecturing for the week today at two (students much more engaged today, thankfully). Three hours of stupor afterwards as I stare dumbly at my desk, the ordering of which has been neglected due to the holidays, the beginning of term, and the premiere of Spooks 9. Slowly getting the urge to put stuff in order and the gradually abating piles of stuff on the desktop calm me, so I will attempt to sort out the Armitage debris accumulating in my mind here and hope it has a similar effect.

Kath (Shirley Henderson) and Steven (Richard Armitage) in Frozen, as Kath gets Steven to help her view the pilfered security videotape with her sister’s image on it. Source: Richard Armitage Central Gallery. Look how clean Steven’s desk is in this cap; nothing like mine. This allows Kath to find the evidence of her sister’s relationship with him very easily later. I’m sure there’s more than one piece of incriminating evidence in my office, but good luck ever finding it!

Armitage watching since September 6:

  • Saw Malice Aforethought for the first time and just loved it! For pronunciation mavens, the diphthongs in Mr. Armitage’s long “o” vowels are so pronounced that they occasionally sound like long “a”s. He says “gaying” instead of “going.” Fantastic. Will have more to say. Armitage makes Bill Chatford so deliciously evil.
  • Read Dawn French’s autobiography, Dear Fatty. Delightful. She says she developed a real crush on Mr. Armitage. Can’t imagine why. She also includes him in a long list of “liptastic moments” and describes him as “shy, giggling, loving” as a kisser. In fact, the exact opposite of how Bill Chatford would osculate. Aside from that information, though, what I absolutely love about this book is her fearlessness and brutal honesty all the way through the narrative — something I’d like to emulate — which is what saves the rougher moments of her focus on the comedic from being mean, or rather, she puts herself under the same lens that she uses for everyone else. Wonderful summary review here, though keep in mind at the date of that writing Ms. French was still married to her husband (as of this writing they have separated with plans for a divorce).
  • Finally unpacked and watched DVD of Frozen. Intriguing film (as you can guess, I greatly enjoyed the “what is real?” elements of the plot), and very visually appealing, all of those long shots of northern landscapes. Strong performances all round; I only remember having seen Shirley Henderson in Harry Potter (Moaning Myrtle, which is blatant typecasting) and The Way We Live Now (Marie Melmotte, a truly repellent role because of the blatant antisemitism in the original book and the series’ largely unironic stance toward it); I note from her imdb page that she’s been in a lot of other stuff I’ve seen but I don’t remember her at all), and like her better here than in either of those roles; love Roshan Seth in a very troubling role, here, too. Obviously, Steven was not a huge role, but I can see what the attraction would have been here; once again, it’s “who is this person really?” Although I feel that Armitage overplays the shifty eye movements in the scene where Kath asks him whether he knew her sister (at 0:55 here), I can see why — the script doesn’t send us in that direction by any other means, and the discovery of his lie later would thus have been highly implausible for the viewer. I love films that show rather than telling, but this one, which is heavily reliant on pictures and otherwise narratively laconic, needs the tension created by our curiosity about what exactly he is hiding in order to sustain our attention to the end. He makes it up to us in that shattering scene where he tries without success to speak to Kath through the mail slot of her house door.
  • Several more watches of all of Spooks 8. Notified that the DVDs have been sent from Great Britain, so awaiting them although I’ve heard from commentators that the extras are disappointing.
  • Ordered Peter Ackroyd’s Blake biography, which arrived today. Took this step mostly because RAFrenzy did. (In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve kind of imprinted on her. Girl crush!) Hated Blake in college, leafing through the book has me hoping there is a larger purpose here. Is Mr. Armitage rehabilitating my rather philistine attitude toward certain classics in British literature? I’m really rather a curmudgeon in this regard. I like what I like. Stay tuned.
  • Rumors about Mr. Armitage’s potential role in Captain America abound. I find myself basically neutral to slightly skeptical about this as a career step — except maybe as a networking opportunity. However, if Mr. Armitage really wants to play a villain, and speaking of classic works of the English canon that I DO like, I read an intriguing report that Paradise Lost is to be filmed soon. I would LOVE to see Mr. Armitage as Lucifer. I’d definitely cast him. He could also play Mephistopheles in Goethe’s Faust if he wanted to. Could be breathtaking. Quasi-Nazi gangsters with thick fake German accents, eat your hearts out. Nobody’s as evil as the Prince of Darkness. He could also play Faust, that would be fine with me. I’m sure he could learn the German quickly enough. Lots easier than Russian. Somehow I suspect this is going nowhere. But it would be great. So many great titles for blog entires: “Justifying G-d’s Ways To Man: Armitage Theologus” (about the work of dogmatic theology Mr. Armitage will write after taking the role — wouldn’t that be great?) or “Service: Standing, or Waiting?” (about the annoyances of holding still for makeup).
  • Talked the person who infected me with Armitagemania in the first place into sending my spare postcard to the Bring North & South to Masterpiece campaign. This was actually a funny conversation, will probably blog about it separately later. It’s not too late to join your voice to ours; click link above if you’re interested for more details. All postcards now gone from my desk.
  • Spent a lot of time thinking about the implications of the portrait of Armitage in last week’s Sunday Times, but have still read very little of the Spooks 9 series opener publicity because every time I have so far I’ve learned something I wish I didn’t know.
  • Learned how to use Handbrake and iMovie to create and edit cuts from Mr. Armitage’s work. This is fantastic — will be able to create my own illustrations of points in acting posts. This should make writing them a great deal more fun. Also learned how to use iMovie to voice over video — this could also be potentially useful.
  • With help of fellow Armitagemaniac who shall remain nameless, learned what BitTorrent is and DLed Spooks 9.1. Now taking responsibility for my own illegal filesharing. After recording my initial reactions, there are two bits that I just can’t stop watching. Also had what I think is my first explicit sex dream ever involving Lucas North (till now these have been dreams involving cuddling / comfort, except for one where I dreamt I was Lucas North); is this a sign that the character has taken a decisive maturing step in 9.1 from wounded animal to whole personality? Reminder to any commentators not to discuss 9.1 plot elements in the comments — keep your responses vague. Is Lucas grown up enough to participate actively in my sex dreams yet?
  • Having mastered Radio Downloader, again thanks to RAFrenzy, now have own copies of Symphony of a City and interviews on the Greg James Show and Loose Ends. For some reason can’t bring myself to relisten to Symphony again, but will do so soon as I have a related post in mind.
  • Finally uploaded all of Convenient Marriage to my computer and hope to listen to it during upcoming grading / editing marathon.
  • Why does so much of this list read as if I’m in an entry-level course on software for media uses?
  • On one especially bad day, a greedy gulping of The Impressionists, episode 1. Needed the colors, the smiles, the panoply of expressions on Monet’s face.
  • As far as back story goes, I am now up to Spooks 2.8. I have to say that these early scripts are excellent –2.5, the EERIE training exercise, being a case in point– but I find Matthew MacFadyen’s performances alternately tedious and underwhelming. I apologize to any of his fans who are reading here. Please feel free to mobilize the comments to alert me to things I have missed. Seriously. I’d like to know what people see in him. Perhaps it’s that the Tom Quinn character is written poorly. Relieved I only have four more episodes with him to watch.
  • And on early Spooks, and the Sarah Caulfield anti-Americanism issue, and on Malice Aforethought, I finally figured out that Megan Dodds is actually American! I didn’t realize at first that Christine Dale and Madeleine Cranmere were played by the same actress, but I found her English voice in Malice completely convincing (didn’t notice she was American), while I heard Christine saying some stuff that made her sound British. I think I placed Christine as a northern Californian and gave Ms. Dodds as Christine a 95% on the American accent. That’s a disturbing error on my part! Well, Dodds is a Californian, anyway. Does she sound English to actual English people? BTW I think the scripting of Christine Dale is a lot more coherent than that of Sarah Caulfield.
  • Way behind on reading fanfic, and a lot of what I am reading at the moment is behind a password, but wanted to note that khandy updated her John Porter fic, Absolution, this week.
  • Angie has turned a joke Ann Marie and I made about sl–h fic into a new genre: sloth fic. Explanation here. Examples here. I love this stuff. I really giggled hard reading both of these. And I have never even eaten a boiled peanut myself.
  • This is the fanvid I am now watching compulsively. I even bought the music to it today. That I could pay money for a Lady G*g* CD frightens me a great deal; I do not subscribe to “baby when it’s love if it’s not rough it isn’t fun” and I do not want to list her among my collateral attractions, though recently she’s attracted the attention of my beloved New Yorker and I know people who think she’s a real artist and not just a master of pastiche. But the video is so great: delicateblossom captures and retimes so many of Mr. Armitage’s best moments in RH so that we can look at them closely, all with that relentlessly simple drum track underneath them and the vaguely melancholic refrain with the tag that drives us back to the verses. Beautiful video to a song that I reluctantly must admit I find addictive.
  • And I should mention, since it’s noteworthy, that I celebrated three religious holidays with little to no interference from Armitagemania. It’s just so hard to imagine him in that setting that even my rather forceful powers of imagination become shaky. It’s good to know that there are places where thoughts of him can’t go with me (the other one being the lecture room of the university I visited this summer to hear a long academic lecture in German. I could imagine him in the room, but figured he’d be restless and thus I liberated him in my mind to go sit in a café. But my imagination couldn’t even get him in the door of a synagogue. Don’t know why, since Harry Kennedy married a vicar, but all in all, I see this incapacity on my part as a good thing).

~ by Servetus on September 24, 2010.

83 Responses to “RBOC: Emerging from the chaos edition (and obsession update)”

  1. Why, thank you evah so kindly for showin’ some love to Sloth Fiction *grin* I really do have fun writing those. And fan fic should be fun and creative and imaginative, n’est-ce pas?

    I have a confession to make. Watching the wonderful RA vids from delicateblossom, romana55 and principessa in particular using Lady Gaga’s songs are a true guilty pleasure for me. And “Poker Face’ by DB is one that I have downloaded, too and watched repeatedly. *grin* Her stuff is s-o-o-o addictive. She actually has quite a good voice, unlike, say, Ke$ha, whose songs I also find catchy much to my immense shame.

    Well, back to packing for the cruise. I can’t board that ship fast enough.

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    • Happy packing and bon voyage — I’ll miss you. DON’T read your email from on board. 🙂

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      • Phew! Marathon day at work,it’s lasting longer than I wished, too. Just popped on to say I’ll miss you, too, and I am definitely planning to go OFF the Grid for the next few days . . . that’s why I asked Ali to post my birthday pic at RANet today, so I could ogle Lucas asking if Beth if she is OK, baby, and pretending that blonde head is mine LOL

        And never fear, ladies, sloth fiction will return . . . *giggle*

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  2. @angie,

    I have got to read the sloth fiction! Haven’t had a chance to do that yet.

    @servetus, I’m glad you’re enjoying yourself. 😀 I’m far from a novice with software (or hardware), but I’ve had to learn a few things myself, and I’m still pretty much a video virgin. I’ve only made one video, and that was for a family thang. It just about did me in, but then, I waited until the last minute to do it. Oh, and I did start another video for something completely unrelated to RA, and it remains unfinished. I should have known I had no real inspiration. LOL!

    About Lady Gaga, the Little SOs freaked out when they discovered she was on my iPod, and I LOVE that! Keeps ’em on their toes. ROFLOL! She actually has some very interesting songs despite the sometimes crude lyrics.

    And don’t you love that DelicateBlossom? She’s one of my favorites. Hope she knows that. 😀

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    • It’s not my natural mode of creating thinking / speaking, and that really intrigues me. Doubt I’ll be any good at it, either, but am going to give it a shot.

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  3. One more thing. When I was in college, I thought Blake was a goofball. I’m reading that book so I can figure out if it applies to Lucas. Unfortunately, I started it a few days ago, and only read about 75 pages. I need to finish it!

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  4. I haven’t seen “Frozen” yet but I enjoyed Shirley’s performance in “The Taming of the Shrew” on the same Shakespeare Retold DVD that Mr. Armitage plays a role in Macbeth.
    She was also a friend of Bridget Jones (of the famous Diary).
    I would love to read Dawn French’s biography! I am not surprised that she liked his kisses ** swooning**!
    I have become a fan of Lady Gaga through RA fanvids and that Poker Face one is definitely one of my most favourite of all!

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  5. Thank you for the plug on the fan fic. Spooks 9 episode one was wonderful. I wanted to say The Gruinard Project has become a featured book on Wattpad and I’m sure that is no small part to people who chat on here and have left such lovely comments.

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  6. I would love to read some slothfic! 😀 Those comments made me giggle.

    “Frozen” – I just found myself tremendously bored watching it!

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  7. I was not a fan of Frozen. I FF to the RA bits, the rest I found to be self indulgent Flim school stuff. Some days, I feel like we are a group of HS girls sitting at the same lunch table gossiping about the “hot” guy in Spanish class. And reading French’s discription of “kissing” said crush made me feel like that even more. She is one lucky girl!!! She got PAID to kiss RA!!! Love the giggling part.

    These posts always make me laugh, I like how you need to be accountable for your fandom!!!

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    • I loved those long shots of coastlines. The shots from underneath the ice were less compelling for me. But I did like it, even as I acknowledge that it is “film schooly.”

      Mr. Armitage said of the N&S as well that he and Daniela giggled a lot. It’s a nice picture.

      I’m trying to be accountable to me, too! I keep a diary like this for my real “work” as well.

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  8. I miss Guy of G!!! He was so much fun.

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  9. I really liked Matthew MacFadyen on Spooks and was gutted when he left – it felt like a different show for a while. Now everyone is used to the leads moving on, it’s not such an issue.

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    • Ditto

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      • So tell me, what is it?

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        • I don’t know if it was him or the writing. BTW, I was not a fan of his from Pride and Prejudice. I thought he was wooden in that, but I still invested in him in Spooks, which I watched after P&P. Maybe I should go back and rewatch to see what it was I liked so much about Spooks.

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          • I suppose, as we learn from the Armitage discourse on this topic, one actor’s woodenness is another’s restraint. I haven’t seen that P&P, as when I want to watch P&P I go for Colin Firth. What strikes me about MM in Spooks up to 2.8 is not so much his extremely limited emotional range (there are other actors with that problem who we see all the time), it’s that it doesn’t really extend effectively to the hardness that the script constantly forces him to display. I.e., his closed off facial expression makes it hard for me to believe that his hardness is more than an act. I found this especially problematic in the episode I just saw (Tom infiltrates the military to stop a strike), in which the contrast between him and Peter Firth couldn’t have been greater. I was truly afraid of Harry’s wrath in that last scene.

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            • There was something about Tom that I liked better than Adam Carter when he came in. Adam rubbed me the wrong way, but Tom… I could somehow relate to him? And I have seen Matthew MacFadyen in quite a few other roles and I think he’s brilliant. Death At A Funeral, Criminal Justice, Robin Hood (as the Sheriff of Nottingham), The Pillars of the Earth…

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              • I’m just getting to the Adam Carter episodes, so I guess I’ll see. And since everyone is talking about Pillars of the Earth right now, I have to put that on the list!

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              • I’ve seen him in other things as well. Death at a Funeral, Little Dorrit, In My Father’s Den and the one of my all-time favorites Maybe Baby. ROLFLOL!! If you haven’t seen that, RUN out and get it!

                If you don’t mind spoilers, here’s MM’s parts. I cannot watch this without laughing so hard there are tears in my eyes.

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                • The person who infected me with Armitagemania has been pushing Little Dorrit on me for awhile, so I’ll look at that first.

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                • I watched Little Dorrit on TV and I liked it a lot, re MM in it, I have to confess I was surprised when I saw him because he seemed rather (dare I say it) *stout* to me and I was slightly disappointed (in as much as I cared at all).

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                  • Uh Oh, we finally disagree on something. LOL! I’m just not a Dickens fan. I was forced fed Tale of Two Cities and some others when I was very young, and I hated them. I tried to go back and read some of them again, and I still wasn’t a fan, so some of my dislike for Little Dorrit might be that.

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                    • In my experience, Dickens takes on a role in American education about English literature that is completely disproportionate to his actual historical and literary significance. I think we read more Dickens in high school that we did Shakespeare. It has also left me unenthused about watching Dickens on screen.

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              • And Ewan Proclaimer (Tom Hollander) nearly made me pee my pants from laughing.

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          • I saw Spooks before P&P and when I found out he was playing Darcy I was very surprised. I don’t think that Tom in Spooks is a very easy character to like at first, but as time went by I started to really really like him. When Adam came in I was disappointed because he looked like a male model to me, not really my idea of a spy at all. I find RPJ a bit wooden as an actor, but I think he improved though somewhere in series 3-6 the series did hit a low.

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  10. I’m not a MM fan because I think he is the same in all his roles with one exception. Warriers which was about the un peacekeepers in Bosnia. Harsh brutal but brilliant.

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  11. I did like MM in P&P. He did some subtle things that worked for me and as a Collin Firth fan, I was prepared to hate it. But I ddin’t. I did love the British ver of Death At Furneral, the American ver just wasn’t as funny. I actually watch that P&P all the time. The cinametography is amazing. Joe Wright is a brillant director.

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    • I guess I’ll just have to try to open my mind further 🙂

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      • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pqidX_5ZsLg Check this out…

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        • OK, I just looked at this. I need to ask a question before I respond: will you be crushed if I say I don’t like it and why?

          (I ask because MM is way off topic for this blog. And if you’ll be crushed, it’s not worth it to me over MM, about varying interpretations of whom I care very little.)

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          • I would not be crushed at all what so ever. I am not attached to MM. I really like the cinametraphy, the way the director sets up shots, each scene is a like a painting come to life. I also like the music. The film is beautiful.

            I agree that Firtth is the semminal Darcy, I would not argue that.

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            • I really liked how he stumbles over “I love you.” It was sweet. But let’s hear why you didn’t like it.

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              • OK, here goes. To some extent this is not fair, for the following reasons: I’m looking at one scene out of context; I really like the Firth P&P, not least because of Jennifer Ehle, and this scene suggests that Keira Knightly was miscast — as she doesn’t give MM much to play back against from what I can see here; I am not familiar with MM’s oeuvre beyond Spooks. That said:
                on the positive side, he’s sexy, and he really looks shaken here. However, I don’t like: his stock lip movement. He moves his mouth back to the same position after every utterance (see this in Spooks, too) and it tends to undercut the emotionality of the scene for me; too much fluttering of eyelids. Mr. Armitage does this too, but one usually has the feeling that Armitage is doing it against his will, whereas here, it seems undertaken intentionally, and indeed, as the emotionality of the scene increases toward the end he stops doing it when one imagines it should be the other way around; I felt like the stumbling around the word “love” that you like was also performed as opposed to natural; and his other major technique for conveying emotionality, rushing the delivery of his lines, was also not appealing to me.

                fwiw, ymmv, I still like you, @Rob, and I am willing to have been wrong about this.

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            • I do agree that this is a visually beautiful scene. The staging is gorgeous.

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          • I’m not attracted at all to MM as a man but like him as an actor and he seems to be a lovely person. I think regarding recent developments it is worth asking why RA does not have the career MM has and if he will five years after he has left Spooks. Those two have so much in common and MM is even younger!

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            • I would love to hear more of what you think about this. I realize Servetus considers this off-topic, and if she would like us to take this somewhere else, I’ll be happy to put up a tangent piece.

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              • The parallels between those two are spooky to say so. Both with there roles in Spooks, both with their big period drama role that made them a ladies’ favourite. MM’s recent series The Pillars of the Earth partly filmed on the old RH set in Hungary, only to name a few.

                Yet MM has managed to make it internationally (without becoming the dreaded “Hollywood star”) whereas RA is just making the very first step with CA. MM has managed to established himself as a character actor who gets the serious parts and is often cast older than he actually is. Even if MM only has a small part you can bet that he (or the production) will get an award. RA still has to achieve this and his current roles don’t really help. I would love to see him where MM is now.

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                • Perhaps we’re forgetting that actors can have different agendas. Richard has expressed a specific wish to have many and varied roles, to stretch his acting muscles. He is also keen to stay in work in an industry where many talented actors are on the dole or in other jobs.

                  I don’t know much about MM’s career beyond Spooks, but I recently saw him in the acclaimed Little Dorrit series and stopped watching after a couple of episodes, even though I love Dickens and enjoy period dramas. Chacun á son gout!

                  Success is great, but there’s no single route to the top of the mountain.

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                  • My friend who infected me with Armitagemania just squees about Little Dorrit, but I don’t know if it’s because of MM.

                    I think MillyMe has an interesting point about the question of “being in work” — we don’t know, because we don’t know what Mr. Armitage is being offered by way of roles, but it’s true, if you look at the imdb pages, that MM does not seem to take on work just to be working. A decent chunk of what Mr. Armitage has done recently (narrations of documentaries, e.g.) seems to be mostly about continuing to work. We don’t know / have no way of knowing if this is a financial priority for him, or just that he doesn’t like not working.

                    Particularly in light of things that have happened to me in the last four years, I’d say that knowing what it is you want from your career and continuing to ask yourself about that should be a priority in the life of every professional. Otherwise, given the way work tends to consuming everything else, it’s easy to get off track.

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                • I wonder (in line with what MillyMe says below) about how eager he really is about CA. IMO the evidence about this is rather mixed. Some of his interviews (Reader’s Digest) suggest he’s eager to go; some suggest he’s ready because he think it’s time (the one that says he wants to try it now because he’s not tied down); and then the audiotape of that interview with Donald Stephenson in which he seems to be saying that if he can get the kind of roles he wants he’s happy to stay in Britain.

                  Really, how I imagine him, and this is *really* just my imagination, given his statements about wanting to get back on stage, is as most happy in London, regularly appearing on stage.

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                  • I think Richard seems keen to get back to stage work in the near future. The lovely thing about British actors is that many of the most talented retain an interest in the stage and will appear in plays from time to time, MM and Ripert Penry-Jones being recent examples. Plays do not appear on actors’ IMDb boards so it might seem that they’re working less than is the case.

                    I really want Richard to do a play, both to be able to see him live and because there is a special magic about the stage for the audience and the actors!

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                    • And I want him to get what he wants. Including staying on stage even if that effectively precludes me from seeing his work. Which in some ways might make my life easier. Again extrapolating from my own experiences I think there’d be a lot of benefit to a life lived in a setting that one liked with fulfilling work as opposed to having to jet off for three or six months to far off locations which might be interesting but also take one away from one’s “home.”

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                  • I think apart from anything else, being in CA is huge fun. RA likes his boys and their toys stuff and after having done action on a TV budget to go and see it done properly with money and time not being an issue and even being part of the action must be great.

                    I’m not sure about the stage. I think he really should do it for the sake of his reputation as a serious actor. But he has talked about stage work for ages now and never done it, I suppose because he was offered TV that was better paid. I believe that he loves live acting and would love to return to it but won’t believe that he will really do the Rover until I see an announcement.

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                    • One of the S9 publicity articles had him saying that he was going to do the Rover next year, but there were other errors in the article and so I also was suspicious of that piece of information — seemed like they just misunderstood him as they are wont to do.

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              • This is an interesting question from my perspective and touches directly on Mr. Armitage’s career. (i.e., it’s not just “why I don’t like MM’s acting much”), so I am glad to hear a lot more about this.

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              • I was watching RH the movie with russel crowe and MM played the sherif. i had google him bec he looked so diff. i not sure how i took up the MM torch. he’s ok. i just really liked him in P&P.

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  12. French and Saunders were a pivotal part of my comedy arsenal growing up. I’m both terribly fond of, and irritated by, Dawn so it would be interesting to read her take on her life and career. I like her charming description of Richard.

    Hubby and I are doing a catching up on Spooks. We both realise that we have seen the first series, so perhaps Norwegian tv has shown more of the show I’ve claimed previously. My reaction to Matthew is mixed. I keep comparing him unfavourably to Richard. He had his top off in one episode and he looked fine, but it didn’t generate much excitement for me. I find Tom Quinn sympathetic as a character and really like the Ellie and Maisie storyline which I remember from before. Matthew’s slightly taller than Richard, wears similar clothes as Tom Quinn, however his character doesn’t make an impression on me. I can go away and forget he exists, whereas Lucas haunts me until the next time I see him. When he’s on the screen I’m on red-alert to every gesture, expression or word. It’s the Armitage magic and I’m still at a loss to explain it.

    I have dreamt of Richard, but never Lucas so you inspire envy with your Lucas dream!. We record our RA-dreams on Skully’s blog and yours seems a particularly luscious one! 🙂

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    • My dreams of Mr. Armitage continue to be mostly threatening ones (he tells me he wants me to stop blogging), so I am happy not to be dreaming of him. I am starting to think that if I ever did have a dream in which he were nice to me, it would be a signal that this activity needed to stop. I’ll have to get in the habit of contributing to Scully’s dream posts — I’ve been an intermittent reader there but I am trying to do better.

      I’m trying very hard not to write anything that implies that Mr. Armitage is the only good actor in the world. Though he is the one I spend the most time watching. I also should like MM just because he’s a brunette and looks more guy next doorish — and I do like those things. I think he’s good looking, etc. “doesn’t make an impression on me” is a good description of my reaction, too — except I find myself resenting that I am not moved more by his acting in crunch situations, e.g., in the scene with Harry in 2.8, which I just watched.

      I have yet to really get into French and Saunders — mostly because I find it irritating. I think this autobio does a lot to explain her — you sort of see how brutal she is about everything. In a way it’s admirable.

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  13. Can I suggest, however gently, that unless they’re being tested with scantron sheets, students might not be at all pleased if they knew a professor was attempting to read their work while simultaneously listening to an audiobook? It’s probably a lot pleasanter, but I suspect they hope that attention will be fully focused on their work, and that’s probably reasonable on their parts.

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    • No need to be gentle. I think that’s a fair suggestion, and I absolutely agree that students have the right to have fair attention paid to their work and any evaluation I make of it. On the other hand, I suspect that “she isn’t paying enough attention to my work” is not the reaction most of my students have to my commenting and grading. 🙂 Having something “in the background” while grading slows me down, but it also keeps me from marking every single error of grammar, punctuation and syntax, which is what I do when I don’t have sound in the background, and is something that students apparently resent (according to these classes about teaching writing that we are always being sent to).

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      • I can’t agree with this. The test is, I think, whether your students, your department chair, and any parents who are helping to pay for their children’s education would be pleased to learn that a professor graded while listening to an audiobook, or whether they would feel that this isn’t what a professor is paid to do.

        If it’s irresistible to comment on grammar, spelling, construction, and so on because there are a lot of problems, pick one medium paragraph that has a lot of problems of this kind, point out all of the problems, in detail, and in your closing comment say “I found a lot of writing mistakes really distracting; it was hard to focus on your content because there were so many of them.” (“Your good content,” if that’s accurate.) “I’ve marked all of the errors of this kind on paragraph X of page 2 you will get a sense of just how often these things come up in this paper; there are similar errors straight through, though. In your next paper, I’d suggest factoring in a lot more time for proofreading and polishing your work, because the errors do contribute to your grade. I’m hoping that your next paper will have a lot fewer errors of these kinds; they count more as the semester goes along. Please let me know if you’d like to talk over a draft with me–I’d be happy to help.” Then keep track of who got this comment. In my experience that often shakes them up. They’re not happy about it when they first read the comment, but that paragraph of errors is pretty good proof that they need to do something, and you’re clearly not going to find and fix everything; that’s their job. They usually calm down and improve a good deal on that front in their next paper.

        Paste that into a final comment whenever it’s relevant and you are free to focus on the content instead of the surface level errors. Sit on your hands if you must, and if you write, write marginal comments and the rest of the final comment; you’ve pointed out to the student that there are a lot of distracting errors and what their nature is, which may be news to them, and you’ve made it clear that fixing them is more their task than yours and that it would be a very good thing to work on improving.

        Marking papers is the one part of teaching that I mostly hate, and it’s difficult to get the butt in the chair and do it, that’s for sure. But I don’t think the other people in the equation–a boss, students, and people who pay you to teach–would be at ALL pleased if they learned an instructor was grading under those circumstances. Soft music without words, maybe–but not the highly distracting tones of a hunk.

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        • And please do ignore my errors above; I re-read it and gave up in despair when I hit the second one.

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          • There are never any points off or other errors for typos on “me + richard.” 🙂 Because I am not giving grades here. Thank heavens.

            With respect: While I agree that one should not be distracted while grading, perhaps you would accept that what distracts one too heavily to be an effective grader might not be the same in every case. [Note that the information I offer here suggests that I am real.] I’ve been grading papers since 1994 (and was a peer tutor and writing tutor before that), have been given repeated instruction from professionals on how best to grade, both at this university and others, have taken courses on how to write tests and structure assignments for optimal student success, and in some semesters have graded thousands of papers (in grad school, for instance, where I graded physics classes for humanities majors and had to learn to evaluate by extremely exact standards of comparison). That doesn’t mean I couldn’t do it better; I can think of lots of ways that grading could be made a more useful pedagogical tool if I had time, for instance, to discuss grades with students before giving them. It would also help if I knew ahead of time how a student would react to a particular set of comments and/or grade; as it is I have to guess and thus risk putting my worst foot forward, which is unfortunate and happens occasionally.

            Though I am not perfect, I think I have worked out how to do it with sufficient concentration for the task involved, and if the grading serves its specified purpose (identifies errors and deficiencies but also correct information and successes, tells students how to improve their work including specific, practical suggestions that they can undertake immediately, serves as a consistent measure of their performance both in terms of comparison to the work of their peers and improvement across the semester, as well as being non-inflationary — and there’s an office at this university that watches that statistic for every instructor) it’s no one’s business what’s playing in the background while I accomplish that. I have practically zero incidence of grade disputes in my classes — and that includes earlier semesters, when I usually listened to the radio dramas and political news on Deutschlandradio, and last semester, when I was experiencing the onset of Armitagemania.

            I am often wrong. I could be grading badly all the time, or I might start grading badly this semester, and if evidence of that emerges (as it will, because this is a university where students really care a great deal about grades), I’ll think about why that might be the case and work to change it. But I honestly don’t think that parents would have any reason for complaint about what they get from me. Since I mail all papers to students’ permanent addresses at the end of the semester, presumably they have some opportunity to look if they wish to. I won’t repeat the only advice I ever got from this department chair about grading because it would reflect poorly upon him. Suffice it to say that he doesn’t worry about it anywhere near as much as I do.

            For a post that explains how I experience grading, see here: https://meandrichard.wordpress.com/2010/04/22/ot-at-least-partially-whining/

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            • Alas, we’ll have to differ here, rather than compare how long and how well we’ve been grading, the ways in which we’ve been trained to grade, the re-training we’ve been through, the TAs we’ve supervised, and so on.

              If an audiobook in the background like muzak–if you’re not really listening and it’s a soft hum–that’s one thing; but cognitive science says that it actually isn’t possible to do two things at once or think about two things at once. So in papers in which students presumably are attempting to build arguments and cumulatively prove their theses, that gradual accumulation of an argument can be broken by distractions. And RA is distracting.

              Again, I think that if you polled your classes to report anonymously whether or not they think listening to audiobooks is acceptable as you grade their papers, they’d object; and I think their parents would, too. I think they’d be right to object. I don’t think that minimal grade disputes and mailing papers to parents is proof that the practice is acceptable to others. It seems acceptable to you or you wouldn’t do it, but again, that’s not real evidence that you read and comment in the focused, concentrated manner that the students deserve. But I suspect we’ll get nowhere in continuing this.

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              • “But I suspect we’ll get nowhere in continuing this.”

                With due respect, this is my fondest hope.

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              • I just don’t think you can say anything about how I grade unless you’ve seen papers I’ve graded and asked people who’ve been graded by me how they experience my grading and what it enabled them to do. Incidentally, those are now both things this university checks up on, in the course of establishing and improving its standards on how to teach and evaluate writing courses. And every single course I teach is a writing class.

                I thought about this last night when I was away from the computer. At times you seem to be concerned that I am one of those “bad” academics: spending too much time blogging at the expense of research and writing, not concentrating enough while grading. Again, you have no way to know this, but if I am a bad academic, and I often feel that I am, it’s not for either of those reasons. I don’t neglect work; I am conscientious.

                To some extent I invited this because I suggested that you consider me for the D reading that you offer Mr. Armitage, but it’s tiring. I am not sure why I feel the need to justify myself, really, so I also consider the conversation over.

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                • Honestly, it’s not that I think you are a “bad” academic. I’d have no way to know that, and if I’m looking at you as “B,” I think there are clear indications that you care about your students a great deal and put considerable and conscientious thought into your courses. I truly mean that.

                  I worry, though–but not about whether you are doing your best to educate your students. I have a real fellow feeling there (and have a similar story about learning not to judge a student who falls asleep in class; the last time I got irritated about that, perhaps 25 years ago, I left him sitting there, asleep, on his own, at the end of class and walked out. The next meeting he came in with a clipping and said “I’m sorry I fell asleep last time. My brother burned to death the night before.” And the clipping was about a young man with the same unusual last name who had burned to death three days before. I was horrified by what my student had been through, much less his brother, and I learned a lot from that about suspending judgment and accepting that my students have complicated, sometimes painful and agonizing lives I may have no insight into.)

                  But I’m concerned. It’s none of my business, but if you’re thinking of considering a different academic job, I know how time-consuming that is; my husband didn’t get tenure and had to go through the job search, of course while teaching and trying to prove he could continue to do good research and teach well, and he barely had time to brush his teeth. (He did get another job, at a better institution, weirdly.) Or if your existential crisis is leading you to think of ditching academia–and I think being an academic has real down sides–looking at outplacement counseling might be very helpful and provide support as you explore various possibilities. But the average academic schedule makes it difficult to re-market oneself and keep up with what you are already doing: teaching well and carrying on with your other job responsibilities. Since this is not a conversation that I imagine anyone else is attending to at this point, I’ll take the risky step of saying that I worry that the very real pleasures and gratifications of blogging might tempt you away from taking care of your future. I hope you will believe me when I say that what probably seems critical is, in an odd way, an older academic women voicing some no doubt impertinent worries. I am trying to express a genuine concern for you–one that is not my business to feel, I realize. As I say, I recognize that my concern is most likely to seem impertinent; but I do have a lot of sympathy for someone in your situation, thinking about major life changes.

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  14. @servetus,

    I would LOVE to read Mr. Armitage’s character bios of Lucifer and Mephistopheles were he to play them. Wouldn’t you?

    Lucifer might go something like: Relationship issues with my Father. Dad got mad because I wasn’t happy He gave man free will (I mean really, He wasted that on MAN???), threw me out of Heaven. How to channel this anger against all of mankind……. 🙂

    Had fun doing this….thanks-

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    • This gave me a belly laugh, many thanks, esp. the point on free will (that’s an issue I’ve spent entire semester of instruction on …)

      Maybe Lucifer could throw a chair through a window. Mr. Armitage might like this role because he wouldn’t feel under pressure to apologize. [and I in turn apologize for making light of violence — just wanted to play on the Times feature of two weeks ago now]

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      • Throwing a chair through a window would be completely in character for the Prince of Darkness, no apologies necessary. Thanks for laughing at this, I gave myself a much needed chuckle…

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  15. The Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle version of P&P will always be the iconic one for me! Not a Keira Knightly fan so far. Mr. Armitage would work his usual magic with Darcy, but why bother? There are other roles awaiting his imprint.

    Happy to read commenters’ remarks on Lucifer. I keep seeing Lucas North, with Lucifer/Gisborne at his shoulder, whispering evil doubts of Sir Harry’s goodwill into Lucas’ ear…will we ever escape the pernicious seduction of Gisborne?

    Loved VoD long before the advent of Mr. A – that was just icing (chocolate, of course, on the cake) It would be lovely to have another speical with RA, happily settled in the vicarage as spouse-of. Source it from Mulubinba’s delightful Harry-Mulubinba e-mail correspondence. (With M’s permission).

    Think I’ll give Frozen a miss. Six months of the year living with ice and snow is enough. Shirley Henderson has an interesting face. But she seems as much “deer caught in the headlights”, as she did in Hamish MacBeth. Perhaps I’m unfair.

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    • We don’t need Armitage as Darcy. I’d rather see some new period dramas, maybe some Trollope, if it has to be, although it’s hard to imagine any character in the Barsetshire series who’s dangerous enough for Mr. Armitage to want to play him. Somehow I don’t read him as a churchman!

      I don’t understand, frankly, why Shirley Henderson has made it as far as she has — and Frozen is definitely a rarified taste, I think. Still, it won a lot of minor awards.

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  16. Sign in on Twitter and post a line with #Spooks. Soon enough you´ll be followed by Spooks´characters, past and present. You can interact with @Lucas_North, @SirGuyGisborne and @Porter_MI6. Be warned: don´t take posting serious, it´s an utterly rediculous time waster. Would love to read your post about this parallel world created by PR Company X. It´s a nice job if you can get it…

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    • Speaking of Lucifer, get thee behind me Satan!!! I have a hard enough time keeping up with fanvids and fanfic. I look forward to YOUR post on this topic, Violet! 🙂

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      • Ok, as in: if you throw the frisbee, you must catch it.
        #Porterneverrefuses

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        • 🙂 I’ll link it when you write it.

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          • Is there a privacy issue (about IP adresses etc.)-like undertone in your remark? I know all Tw**** (won´t write it) are stored forever in one central place in your country. If there is anything else I need to know please fill me in. Maybe your post will have that purpose. Looking forward to read what you write around my link.

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            • At this point it was more of a feeling of already being overwhelmed with everything I’m trying to process and analyze around Mr. Armitage, and I don’t have a Tw acct, but before I did get one, I would definitely be checking on privacy issues. I got habituated to FB before it started regularly changing its privacy rules, and it’s been annoying.

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  17. […] no regret about his detachment from the Charlie project, and I’ve said in a few places that I assume that the primary purpose of Captain America is networking as opposed to artistic merit or professional trajectory. Except occasionally, “me + richard […]

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  18. […] regular obsession update feature has languished, partially because the last one inadvertently provoked such an odd conversation that it made me feel uncomfortable to expose myself […]

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