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[This was my first The Man story published in August 2012 as a stand alone piece.   I wrote it in one sitting in response to a policing blow-up in the ArmitageWorld blogverse.  Sadly, the policing still goes on today, although in other media. 

The more things change, the more they stay the same.]

*****

In the plate glass window, the man watched the reflection of three girls, young women actually, arguing across the road.  His own image reflected there revealed a fit, bearded, middle-aged man, dressed in black from his sunglasses to his boots, sipping black coffee and munching brioche in front of a Pret A Manger.  From their furtive glances and head tilts, he knew they recognized him.  He really wasn’t into the whole celebrity thing and had half a mind to get up and continue on his way.  But his new PR people had warned he had better get used to it, especially once the film hit the theatres.  So here he sat, watching a curious drama unfolding.

The shortest girl spoke sharply and turned as if to cross the street towards him.  The tall, bossy one shot out a hand to stop her, while the middle looked on helplessly.  Bossy wagged a finger in clear admonishment. The man frowned.  A bit full of herself, wasn’t she?  Bossy appeared to be making points as she ticked off finger after finger. Shorty’s face drooped a bit further with each one.  The man’s brow furrowed as he pondered what the problem could be.  Maybe they didn’t want to intrude on him eating.  He stood, pushing the last bite into his mouth.  Placing a hand casually in his pocket and still sipping the coffee, he turned slightly towards the girls.

Shorty’s head dipped a bit as her shoulders sank in defeat.  The man didn’t like Bossy one bit.  Look over here, Shorty, he thought. He turned fully towards them and smiled in open invitation.  Shorty and Middle noticed and stood, rooted to the spot, while Bossy kept lording it over them. Oh hell.  He had to cross the road and pass them anyway. He would be extra sweet to Shorty just to show Bossy.  Tossing the cup in a bin, he caught the green light and crossed.  He could see Shorty and Middle tracking his every step.   He rehearsed what he might say as he strode closer.  Good morning, ladies? Nice to see the sun today, ladies? What the fuck is going on here, ladies?   But before he could get within hailing distance, Bossy whirled around and spotted him.  The three of them turned and fled into the park entrance. The man stopped at the entrance in disbelief, watching their retreating backs.  They ran away!  He knew he was tall, but he didn’t think he was scary.  He rubbed the back of his neck. Well, there was no telling what went on people’s minds.  He shook his head, chuckled and went on his way.

***

The man walked in the mist, the collar of his jacket turned up against the unusual summer chill.  He’d been a bit glum since the last project ended.  He knew this was to be expected; he’d been gone a long time, the longest in his career.  The next project did not begin for a few weeks, so he felt caught in a limbo of sorts.  Reasoning that he simply needed to get re-acclimated, he had taken to walking around the city.  He kept his head down and avoided eye contact, hoping nobody would recognize him.  Since his return, practically nobody had, except for those girls near the park, the ones who ran away.  Down Under, nobody knew him, so he blended in easily.  Here, at least one or two fans approached him weekly for an autograph or picture.  But for the past month, nobody at all had come near him, not on the Tube, on the buses, in the parks, or even here, in Leicester Square.  He relished his new-found anonymity; it would disappear soon enough in a few months.  But if he were honest, a tiny, eg0-driven part him worried that he might have been forgotten. He smirked; ah, the insecurity of actors. As if to prove the point, he lifted his head, squared his shoulders and sought to make eye contact as he walked through the square. He’d darkened the hair again and shaved the beard. This should be easy.  He thought he’d caught a few glances, but their gazes slid from his and back to their own worlds.  A tired-looking woman approaching in a sodden-looking Burberry looked his way and did a double take, her eyes widening in recognition. An instant later, he chided himself.  Feel better now?  Remember, *you* started this.  He readied a charming smile.  She stared for a few seconds before suddenly averting her gaze and striding by quickly.

The man stopped in his tracks and glanced over his shoulder to make sure she hadn’t simply lost her nerve.  Nope, still walking.  Hearing a gasp, he glanced at two young women standing by a theatre door with bored-looking boy.  They stared and whispered, clearly recognizing him, but none approached.  He took a deep breath and walked on.   He felt glum again.

***

The man’s head throbbed.  On the agent’s desk in front of him sat a pile of scripts covered in post-it notes.  In his hand, he held a sheaf of paper detailing recommendations in close, cramped writing.  He had asked for the stack to be delivered to his house.  Then he had asked for his fan mail.  That’s when the headache started.  There was no mail.  Well, there were the usual requests from autograph seekers, but no long missives, no gifts, not even complaints – none of the stuff that had kept him connected to his fans for years.  He, the agent and the marketing strategist stared silently at the stylish sweater, mangled in the post, sent for his birthday as the fandom’s communal gift.  They thought his profile might require some upgrading. He was unable to follow the marketing strategist after that.

***

The man poked at the dry cake with his fork.  He glanced over at his lunch mate, an outgoing, gregarious, affable bloke with a high forehead and a wave of reddish blonde hair.  This guy was a hot property, touted as the Next Big Thing, who was beating him in entertainment polls.  They were eating in the most chic, but not appetizing, restaurant in the city, a place to be seen, according to his strategist.  Their lunch date was discreetly broadcast to arrange a casual meet and greet with photographers and fans. The bloke had already chatted up the staff and half the restaurant, all of whom seemed to adore him.  His date pushed aside his own dessert shrugged and smiled wryly.  Showtime, he sighed.

***

They rode in silence.  The photo and fan op had occurred without a hitch.  The man felt ridiculous relief as a handful of fans waited for him to approach.  He found himself trying to chat longer, but they seemed content to collect their autographs demurely and pictures and eager to leave quickly.  Meanwhile, the other bloke’s fans swarmed him; everybody chatted and laughed as if it were a small, impromptu party.  The man decided to wait in the car.   It had taken awhile for the thing to be over. The man thanked the bloke for taking him home.  The bloke waved away the thanks, saying any time.  As the man turned towards his house, the bloke rolled down his window.  Hey, I’m really sorry about your fandom, he said.

***

The man stared at the monitor, willing himself not to move again.  He’d gotten up ten times and gulped two glasses of wine.  His fans had all “defected?”   Well, yes, he had been away, engrossed in that long project he couldn’t talk about, but he’d sent a Christmas message, and a birthday message, and some other message, he was sure.  He jumped up, sloshing the glass of wine.  So those fickle bitches left me?  After all these years?  For the latest, youngest hot totty?  He wallowed in self-pity for a moment before chiding himself.     That’s the ebb and flow of things, fans come and go.  There was bound to be some attrition while I was away.  No matter what the bloke said, he still had people who liked his work.  Resolute, he sat, set the glass down none too gently, tapped at the keyboard.  He would visit his fan sites.  Years ago, he had sworn he wouldn’t, to avoid getting his feelings hurt and being swayed by opinion, but he had to know.  He had to see for himself.

Thirty minutes later, he sat back.  The three main fan sites still existed, all following his career and updating with the latest releases. He checked the membership rolls at the bottom.  Yes, they seemed troublesomely low, but they all didn’t defect, so there, red-haired bloke.  The participants in general forums chatted about his work, interviews and public appearances, all in glowing praise.  They chatted about themselves, a lot about themselves.  There was nothing remotely critical.  It was very pleasant and wonderful and well, uninteresting.  When did that happen?  He gulped more wine.  Clearly these sites would tell him nothing.  Time to google himself.

He typed in his name, leaned forward eagerly and scanned the page.  Blogs!  Yes, he’d heard about blogs and actually read a few theatre ones himself.  The bloggers were an independent, unpredictable lot.  They would tell him what he needed to know.  He eyed the top listed ones; his name appeared in the titles.  With another swallow of wine, he hesitated, then clicked.  404 page not found.  What?  He clicked the next link.  404 page not found.  The blog was gone?  He clicked a different blog link.  404 page not found.  He scrolled through several Google pages, clicking on blogs about him.  404 page not found.  He checked links on blogs not focused on him, but frequently mentioning him.  404 page not found.  He checked tumblr links.  404 page not found.

An hour later, he sat back.  All the blogs and tumblrs concerning him had disappeared.  Sometime over the summer, they had all vanished.  His fan forums were decimated.  What happened?  The only bit of information he found was a farewell post remaining on a defunct tumblr: I will not abide by The Rules. I will create a new account elsewhere.  If you know me, you’ll know where to look.  Rules?  What rules?  His fandom had no set rules. He returned to the main fan sites, searching for rules.  He found something on etiquette, but nothing to cause an exodus.   Finally his eye stopped on a section: members only.  Of course! Rummaging through the desk drawer, he found the secret name and password he had used to join the site years ago.  He’d chickened out and never used it, allowing that his fans should have privacy.  But he would use it now.

Entering the logon, he clicked.   There they were — The Rules — in large bold type.  Due to the defection of old fans and expected influx of new ones, in order to promote proper respect for our actor, a reorganization of this fandom is necessary. Compliance with the following rules is necessary for membership. He groaned as he scanned the lines: 2. Our actor is a busy man.  Approach him only at approved public events designated as publicity for his work. At these events, interact with him briefly, politely and respectfully, and leave as soon as possible.  But what if I have time to stay and chat?  the man thought. Don’t chase them away!  4. Our actor is a shy, private person.  He has stated in interviews that he does not care to give autographs in the street.  So if you see him out and about, leave him strictly alone.  He moaned.  That’s not what I meant!  Now they’re running away from me.   6.  Real Person Fiction in any form or access level is forbidden. Since it involves the person of our actor, character fiction in any form or access level is also forbidden. Such works are potentially distressing to our actor, his family, and friends, and thus disrespectful.  He pistoned back in his chair.  When in the hell did he say this? His eyes fell to the last line: 10. These rules are non-negotiable and will be strictly enforced.  Violators will be brought before a tribunal of their peers for the enforcement of appropriate penalties, up to and including exclusion from the fandom.

His mind reeled, confusion and wine overtaking him.  His head sank slowly to the desk.  What’s happened to my fandom? he thought.

 

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Interlude XLVII:

Courtesy of Armitagina

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cold is cycling fast. Feeling in better spirits too. 

My psyche trio and a peeved Patty the Pomeranian are clamoring to make another appearance which demands to be written.  That is coming soon. 

In the meantime, here is another photo for your close consideration. 

What? Is the photo too big?

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Courtesy of New York Move On Magazine

 

Eventually.  But right now, I’m fighting a cold and feeling scratchy and achy and unfunny. 

So I’m leaving this photo right here. 

Discuss among yourselves.

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Just because you can remake a movie, doesn’t mean you have to.

Disney takes a second shot at its own 1991 classic animated film by the same name.  It offers what you would expect: big lavish production values, an array of stars, and a sense that this live action version must achieve parity or surpass the first mega-hit.  As I read in another review, Disney seemed to “ask themselves in every scene whether it met the original and the answer was no.” So they added new songs and subplots which served both to lengthen the story and, I suppose, justify the additional material.  Considering that Disney intends to remake its other classics like Little Mermaid in live action films, the stakes are very high. 

Unless you have never been the original, it’s impossible not to make comparisons.  In fact, several scenes are replicated line for line, frame by frame.  But there’s an inherent problem with comparing live actors to their animated counterparts.  Does Emma Watson look like Belle?  (No.)  Can you overlook it? (It depends.)  Is her voice good enough?  (That’s debatable.)  This running dialogue ran through my head all during the movie.  However, some actors rose above the chatter.  Luke Evans as Gaston has a good voice and Josh Gad is a wonderful DeFou. The scenery is beautiful.  The production is spectacular. The movie delivers on the extravaganza.  It even has some magical moments towards the end that pulled me in.

But Emma Thompson singing the title song isn’t Angela Lansbury.  Kevin Kline is miscast as Belle’s father.  Dan Stevens’s Beast needs to learn from Richard Armitage’s Thorin and use his eyes to convey emotion under all that fur.  The added songs and subplot are unnecessary and unmemorable.  The story-line changes in odd ways.  Cogsworth, Lumiere, and Mrs. Potts lose their charming animated expressions of the original.  Even though the big razzle dazzle Big Our Guest seems to strain to be as Over the Top as OTP could ever be, there is something missing.  In sum despite all the lavishness, some essential charm has been lost. 

Audiences have apparently been coming in droves to see why Disney would want to risk remaking its own classic.  Well, it’s for the usual reason: to insure that these old classics continue to make money by retreading them every generation.  That’s not to say that this Beauty and the Beast is a waste of time.  I didn’t leave wanting my money back.  Those who have never seen the original should enjoy it.  It’s just that for old-timers like me, there is a reason why a film becomes a classic after all.

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One of my favorite animated films is Disney’s Beauty and the Beast released in 1991.  Twenty-six years later, Disney decided to release a live action version.  Naturally I wonder why they would want to do that when they had already achieved perfection?  Still my curiosity is piqued, so I will go see it.  I’ll tell you what I think.

In the meantime, you can compare the two versions of the title song.  Here is the official 1991 video with Peabo Bryson and Celine Dion.

Ariana Grande and John Legend perform the new 2017 release.  It is more lushly produced.  What do you think?

 

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I don’t even know what to say.  Fascinating.

Enjoy.

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Courtesy of I have no clue. Let me know.

Well, hello class!  Yes, AGAIN.  I know I’ve been away quite a few times actually but think of it as your teacher taking sabbaticals for her – mental health.  Please know that the blog will transition away from Richard Armitage as soon as I start cranking out original stuff – but not just yet.  There are still issues I need to address about him. Let’s get on with the foolishness, shall we?

I’m as shallow as I’ve always been.  I have the uncanny tendency to pick actors starting in their mid-30’s at the height of their masculine beauty then following them until their 40’s when they reach the cusp of youthfulness.  Then it’s downhill from there and I kick him to the curb.  Well, imagine my wistfulness when I beheld this picture from a last year’s photo shoot after being away for awhile.  (This is not a great one but my source of current photos seems to have tried up.)  At first glance, he’s quite the fit, handsome, dapper man.  But look closer.  Use a magnifying glass.  The lines are more pronounced.  The softness around the eyes is disappearing.  The lips are paler.  The jawline isn’t as firm.   Yes, our Richard is aging

Well, this may not be a shock to you, but it was to me after all this time.  Now this ordinarily would not be a big deal.  I’m sure many men would love looking like this at 45.  But RA is an actor who doesn’t move in ordinary circles.  His vocation idolizes youth and the ability to project youthfulness as long as possible. Here is he is just finally achieving wide success and The Powers That Be ordain that men his age should either move on from lead roles to action parts or secondary characters.  He has reached the time when moisturizer is a given and dermabrasion is recommended.  Dare I mention a facelift on the horizon?  (Personally, male beauty care if fine, but I don’t like facelifts on men. It makes them look too artificial.)

What’s he to do class?

Class?

 

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[My mind wandered off today so I started sifting through the archives for ideas.  Then it occurred to me that there may be newcomers who might like to read some of the older posts.  Here is one written over FIVE years ago.  How time flies!  Please note that the chat room no longer meets, although you are still free to use it if you like.]

*****

I knew that would get your attention.

For the last few months, the regulars in the ArmitageWorld chat room (it’s the place to be 9PM – 1AM EST) have been asking, “Judi, when are you writing some porn? More porn! More porn!” (they are a classy bunch).  Each time I say I don’t know when I’ll write more *erotica.*   I encourage them to write their own, but they plead ignorance.

Let me start right off by saying I don’t have a clue how to write erotica either.  No, seriously.  Before posting my story over Christmas, it had been a long time since I wrote fiction, and never since writing erotica.  Since my readership is so demanding (I’m looking at you, chat room gals), I knew getting away with an erotica-free Guy story wasn’t going to happen.  No cutaway to exploding fireworks would work for them.  So I researched it.

After quickly realizing Google would take me places I really didn’t want to go, I headed to Amazon.com which turned out to be a vast depository of erotica and how-to books. I spotted one called literally How to Write Erotica and the other, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing Erotic Romance.  The latter one had me at “Idiot’s Guide.”  I purchased them both and waited.   Since one was an ebook, I didn’t have to wait long.   By page 182 of the 266 page book, I was yawning and still hadn’t gotten to the “good part” – how to write the mechanics of explicit sex- which my readership explicitly requested.  When the other honest-to-goodness-paper book arrived, I noted its thinness and made short work of it.  An hour later, I came to a realization – I’d learned nothing.  So, how do I write good erotica?

Needless to say, this was no help to me at all.   But because I was running against a self-imposed deadline, I simply dove in and started throwing sentences and paragraphs together to see what sounded good.  Then I realized the books were absolutely right in what they had been trying to tell me all along.  They could give pointers, but nobody can really teach how to write erotica.   As one book suggested, you simply have to get over your inhibitions and write it.

Obviously I’m no expert in erotica with only one story under my belt, but this is what I found: what eventually occurs in the story reflects how comfortable you are with the scenes and how far you want to go with them.  If you’ve never read erotica, you need to find some and read lots of it to learn different styles of prose.  Do you want to the sex to be implied or explicit?  Do want a sensuous (of the senses) tone or a more sexual (carnal) vibe or something in between?  What words do you feel comfortable using in describing the human body?  How does the scene work to move the story along?

Basically imagine what you would like to read and write it.  If you like it down and dirty and it fits in with the story line, then that’s the way to go.  If using clinical anatomical words would throw you right out of a scene, then don’t use them.  If more romance with only implied sex is your style, then that is what you should write.  If you’re uncomfortable with an action, then don’t go there because your reader will sense it immediately.

If there is one secret I’ve culled from reading, it’s this – if it doesn’t turn you on, it probably won’t turn on the reader either.

 

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The Non-Joy of Photoshop

Program cover for the upcoming Music Inspires 2017 concert.

Unless you’ve been following me on Facebook, you may not know that I have become Girl Friday for a friend who is a fine arts chairman at posh college preparatory.  I point out the poshness because it’s the only way the school can afford the many concerts and productions it has a year.  Aside from assisting in musical production (such as Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables), I’ve taken over creating programs for her musical events. 

It’s not just a matter of slapping information on a flyer.   Oh no – you know me.  Each flyer must be a production in itself, a work of art, starting with the cover.  It must have acceptable graphics.  In the past, I was content to surf the internet looking for freebies.  But since the music department has upped the ante with lavish musicals, I realized that I needed to take the covers to the next level.  In other words, create my own graphics like the one in the picture on the left.  Looks pretty simple, right?

Let’s talk about Adobe Photoshop.  I used the program for years to perform simple sharpening, cropping, etc.  Then the program became increasing exorbitant and too rich for my blood.  Now Adobe allows users to pay a monthly subscription for the software that’s always kept updated via uploads.   Okay, I thought.  I can teach myself how to slap some elements together and voila, my vision will be realized.   I downloaded Photoshop CC 2017 and opened it. 

Let me say, right out of the box, the program isn’t the least bit intuitive.  Adobe prides itself on saying there are 10 different ways to do one thing.  I had trouble discovering one.  The software has become so bloated and involved.  The drill down menus have drill down menus.  I had to google how to turn off the splash screen.  The Adobe site had tutorials but not the ones I needed, of course.  So I visited PHLEARN.com for lessons.  What was I trying to do? The music bar in the picture did not have a transparent background which meant I had to cut it out or mask it.  Masking is an action Photoshop has always done and it even has magic masking that failed to work like magic despite control tweaking.  And – you know me again – I’d picked a graphic that required detailed painstaking masking around the bars, between the lines and notes and flowers.   Then I discovered that only keyboard commands worked some of the actions, so simple clicking would not do.  Fun. Fun. Fun.  By the time I realized properly adding text to the graphic wasn’t really intuitive either, I was ready toss everything out the window (but the desktop is expensive and really heavy).  Eventually I broke down and added the text using Microsoft Publisher.  And that was just over masking. There was still the zillion other things Photoshop could do chirps Adobe.

I may have to bring my visions down a notch.  Sheesh.

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Searcharama

I’ve hardly been back any time and already weird searches are hitting my page stats.  Here are some head scratchers:

  • xxxvidoes – 5 visits – I have no idea what this even means.  And no, I have no XXX-rated videos on this blog; maybe a risque story, but nothing XXX-rated.  *Cough.* (Follow the bread crumbs, newcomers.)
  • (not provided) – 63 visits – So informative!  So many visits; I’m dying to know what this possibly could be.
  • klingon – 2 visits –  WTH?  The only time I ever mentioned the word was when…ohhhh…nevermind.

And my all time favorite:

  • how to get more beard – 1 visit – Now here’s a loaded search term if I ever I saw one.  I have some beardy posts during the Hobbit years but certainly nothing about how RA could get MORE.

Now I feel disappointed that some viewers are going away empty handed.  Hmmm.

 

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