Wednesday, July 30, 2014

RICHARD ARMITAGE IN THE CRUCIBLE (an inarticulate review)

Richard Armitage

What a wonderful play.  Rich and I saw The Crucible at the Old Vic on July 14 (I think).  We had unbelievable seats - dress circle, first row, smack in the middle.  I had no idea what to expect, and was disappointed, at first, when I read on the side of the theater that it was in the round.  I hate theater in the round.  Usually I get distracted very easily - slight attention span problem there - and, I end up worrying about the actors or if they're going to fall or trip over someone's big feet.

(Actually, in this play, one had to be concerned about the sighing women in the audience with RA in the lead.  One very funny bit - when he removes his shirt to wash up - there was a drastic intake of breath causing a severe loss of breathable oxygen in the room!)

 But, I digress.  I said I hate in the round theater, but happily this was very different.  For one thing, the stage is rather foggy, so that the audience across from you looks more like other characters in the play somehow; almost as if they were sitting in judgement over the proceedings.  And the theater felt more oblong than in a round, with the rows of seats across from us facing ours, with the tiers of balcony seats reminding me of representations of the Globe theater.  Instead of sloping away, the different levels where stacked one directly over the other, giving the theater a more closed in feeling - absolutely perfect for this play.

Enough about all that! The play was wonderful, from the very first moment with the eeriness of Tituba's silent (nearly silent) walk around the stage.   Richard was really magnificent.  Even my husband, who had fallen fast asleep last year when we visited London and saw Perfect Nonsense, was captivated by the play, especially the second half which is magnificent.  The girls - oh, you just want to slap the lot of them - but, when they begin chanting in unison, it is incredibly creepy.

All of the actors were equally wonderful, with two standouts.  Richard, of course, and also Jack Ellis (I think that's his name - I was much too cheap to buy a program).  He played Deputy Governor Danforth, another person deserving a slap on the face.

The only thing that bothered me was RA's voice.  Normally it's such a soothing sound, but he sounded very hoarse here - and no wonder.  We saw the matinee show and then they did it all again for the evening show two hours after we left the theater.   Actors are wonderful.  How they can project such emotion, such heart wrenching tragedy, night after night, is amazing to me.


Anyway, what I really wanted to say was this.  At one moment during the play - don't ask me when because my mind froze up completely - RA exits the stage by walking up a staircase.  A staircase that led directly to where I was seated.  I watched his shadowed figure come up the steps, one at a time, very slowly - and he kept coming closer, and this dark figure kept getting larger and larger, until I thought he was going to jump over the dress circle wall I was grabbing onto in front of my seat.  I truly was smack dab in the middle, and there was a time in my life when that man would not have made it out of the theater alive.  As it was, the girl next to me began making strange hawking noises in the back of her throat.

Anyway, he did get almost eye level and then the steps head downward.  I don't think I took a breath the whole time.  All I remember is that my eyebrow began to twitch and get really, really itchy, but RA was walking straight toward me and I was afraid to move.   I finally went nuts and began gouging at my eyeball to scratch it during this very, very dramatic ascent.  He must have thought I was a looney bird.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

First Jobs and the havoc they wreak...part seventy-eight. And Colin Firth

Since I have written exhaustively about my days at G. D. Searle, and with the now defunct accounting firm of Brown, Coleman and Hale, we will continue with my accounting career POST college.  Since I had returned to college late in my twenties, I emerged from college in my early thirties, confident with my business degree and ready to accept any six figure salary thrown my way.

This begins the Dark Ages of my life.   I like to think of my life in eras.  There was the magnificent Roman Empire (my mother), the Era of Enlightenment (my youth), the Swinging Sixties (which I missed altogether), and then I went back to school and screwed up everything.



My biggest problem, other than having no idea how to do accounting, was that I strolled out into the workforce alongside twenty-one year old graduates.  The comparison did not bode well for me, especially when these graduates were pouring out of the universities faster than they were going in.  They were like cockroaches in suits.  And they knew what they were doing, which I didn't, but I digress.

After leaving Dewey, Cheatham, and Howe  I went to work at a series of the most bizarre places poor grades can offer. We will begin with "THE CROOK".  I honestly can't remember his name anymore (hardly surprising since I even forget to turn off the faucet these days).  Anyway, he was a sole proprietor, and, in my experience, it is NEVER a good idea to work for one of these.   He sold Insurance and he provided Bookkeeping, sometimes at the same time.  I should be been suspicious from the start.

There was one large room where all his employees labored, both his insurance clerks and his Accounting Division.  In the center of this room sat - and this is the honest truth - an antique barber chair.  All the desks were against the wall, in a circle, facing inward toward the chair.   The man who had just been hired to be the head (and only) Accountant (I was the entire bookkeeping department) stared at the chair, and the strange configuration of office furniture as well.  Then we looked at each other.  Finally, he asked one of the harried looking women in the room.

"Why is there are barber chair in the middle of the room?"

Before he could finish the question, she huffed out, "You'll see!"


All right, we had a job to do.  The owner had a number of bookkeeping clients who had not been serviced for a while, and the files where a sloppy mess.  The first thing the Accountant decided to do was take each and every folder out of the file cabinets, and begin going thru each item, one by one.  Right then and there I wanted to stick a pen in my eye.  Talk about boring.  And, it only made the mess worse.  We had files heaped on tables, on chairs, on the floor - by the third day, I wanted to weep.  I had no idea what I was doing, but I was doing it quickly, and trying to hide my incompetence with bullshit.

And then it happened.  Out of nowhere a tall gentleman walked to the middle of the room, a cloth draped over his shoulder.  He stood at attention and waited.  The room grew deathly still.  Suddenly our little (he was about 5'3") leader, the owner of the firm, a cocky little bantam rooster of a jerk, strode to the middle of the room, hopped onto the barber chair, (I'm certain he used a booster seat) crossed his legs and steepled his fingers.  The gentleman standing behind the chair then flicked out the cloth he had been holding and draped it over bossman.  It was grooming day.

I could not believe it.  Arnie, or Bernie, or Wally - whatever tiny man's name actually was - was getting his weekly haircut!  In the middle of the office.  Like a plantation owner amidst the slaves.  It was the strangest sight I'd ever seen.

 I was entranced, at first.  Then, abruptly, ArnieBernieWally started snapping out questions.  "Louise!  Did you follow up with Crenshaw?"  "Mr. Tiny Man, you  said that wasn't until next month."  "You do it now, or you're fired!"  He pointed to the side and the barber swung the chair around to face another victim. "Nancy, are the forms filled out for yadayadayada?"  "I'm nearly finished, Mr. Tiny Man."  "Not good enough, goddamn it!  It want them now."  "But you just handed them to me."  "You want to lose your job?"  "No, Mr. Tiny Man.  Sorry, Mr. Tiny Man." He pointed in another direction, and the barber, not missing a beat of the haircut, swung the chair in the new direction.  And the onslaught, the verbal attacks, continued until he reached the Accounting Division - me and Gus.  I freaked.

"What is that fucking goddamn mess - it looks look a fucking bomb exploded! What the fuck are you two doing?  I didn't hire you two to waste my time....yadayadayada."  I was terrified, and so was Gus.

Fortunately, my days at this combination Insurance/Accounting/Self Grooming Emporium were short lived after that.  Immediately, Gus and I plowed folders back into just about any opening we could find (don't bend over if you have a big butt and I am desperate to hide bad work), then he whispered that I should meet him outside.  He was pale as a ghost.

"What's wrong now," I whimpered.
"I'm leaving."
I gripped his lapels and hung on like grim death.  "Don't say that.  Please don't say that."
"You should too.  This is bad, Carol."
"Karen.  My name is Karen."
"Whatever.  The shit's gonna hit the fan here, and I don't want to be around."
"Maybe he was having a bad day.  The cut was good."
"It's not that.  He's Certifying reports, Carol."
I blinked my eyes rapidly.  Somewhere in my schooling I had heard that...
"He's not a CPA, Carol.  It's against the law, Carol!"
"Is that really bad?"  I really needed this job.
"YES!  I could lose my license.  I am getting the hell out of here, and so should you!"

And so I quit.  I had to, without Gus Grimley beside me I hadn't a clue as to what I was doing.  Besides, I had learned Tiny Man and his father had already been indicted months before for Sales Tax Fraud, and both had been featured on 60 Minutes.  Lucky me.  I worked for a celebrity.  I went home and cried like a baby, terrified we were going to starve. Who'd pay the mortgage, who'd pay for our food?  Mom, as always clueless as to how bad things were, kept saying, "Stay home with me.  We'll be all right.  I'll make spaghetti."

ARGGH!  I needed a job, and I needed it quickly.  However, I had one small problem.  My grades were pathetic and I had no experience.  And, then there were those hordes of eighteen-year-old looking accounting graduates crammed inside elevators, popping out at me each time I heard a Ding.  No, the competition for positions was thick as Oliver Platt's eyebrows.   I needed a boost, a little edge on these others.

So I began to lie - like a rug.  I falsified the very best Resume money could buy, and talked friends in other companies to verify my working years at their firms. And, I survived.


And now, without further ado, more from my good friend, Colin.  He's never forgiven me for telling him this was a good idea...

Thursday, June 26, 2014

My First Jobs - a Frightening Retrospective, part DEUX and Colin Firth

Well, since I actually had someone read AND comment on my first of a series regarding my stellar career in the big city, I thought I would continue with an actual second post.  Thereby giving legitimacy to the SERIES concept...

As I wrote before, somewhere in the murky depths of the seventies I worked at G. D. Searle & Co. in Skokie, Illinois.  Old Man Searle made his fortune discovering THE PILL.  He then went on to discover Dramamine and Aspartame.  He may have invented salt as well, but that could have been just a rumor.

When he retired and his idiot sons took over, not that there's anything wrong with that, Searle's pace slowed down to the 'Tennessee Williams July In Summer' pace I knew and loved so well.  But, this was the mid-seventies.  Computers (I worked for the head of the computer department for seven years) were morphing.  During my days at Searle I watched the evolution of the computer, from filling an entire floor to becoming just a large box (THE TOWER) and a small TV screen.  During those years our department gradually began to dematerialize, in direct proportion to the number of those small boxes popping up on desks.

It took seven years.

And then, one day, our department disappeared completely.  Poof.  Bill Gates had gotten the keys to his dad's garage, invented Microsoft, and the rest is history.

My next job was working as an Office Manager for an accounting firm.  That was another seven years of my life shot to hell.  It was a forgettable job in every aspect but one.  I was so incredibly disgusted with my life, and my job, (and nearing thirty) that I decided to return to school and finish college.

Since it was just mom and me at the time, attending school full time was out of the question - we needed my paycheck.  So I attended Mundelein Weekend College for three years to get my accounting degree.  Every weekend was full days at school, and one or two nights a week as well.  It was not a condensed version of college, believe me.  We were expected to put in all the hours we would have going full time, and it was murder.  Especially in the winter in Chicago, when the temperature was sub-zero and my car would freeze sitting for eight hours in the lake front campus parking lot.

But, I triumphed!  I received my degree.  I went to my bosses at Brown, Coleman and Hale, my little sheepskin clutched in my little fist, to give him the good news - that I was a college graduate, that I had my accounting classes and that I was ready to take that beginners job I had been promised three years before.

Well, they were not.  They had changed their mind.  They wanted me to remain as the office manager.  They were sick and tired of training people.  Poor they.  It was a blow to me, and I was angry.  If that happened to me now, I probably would have returned to work wearing Goth clothing, carrying an uzi and a thousand sounds of ammunition, with a forty page, meticulously typed manifest tucked away in my computer. But I digress.

Instead I was still relatively young, proud and hopeful.  I could do better - much better.  The world would long remember Karen Hamrin (or, as my old computer boss used to called me - Carol Harmon)  I handed in my notice and went out into the world.  The world of accounting.  (and people wonder why the economy crashed so badly back then...)

And now a word from my dear friend, Colin Firth, as he defended my accounting abilities, or lack thereof, in a rare interview, some years ago.  AND, this was AFTER I refused his pleas to marry me.  Heartbroken as he was by that, he still stood by my side.  I was his "mama mia" and for some reason he keeps referring to me as "Michael Winterbottom".  Funny guy.  Gratzie, Colin!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Still Attempting to leave Social Media and Godwin's Law of Internet Arguments


Ok, since my last boring little blog about 'leaving social media' (as if I could) I have had two more run-ins with fruitcakes.  And I mean psychopaths - not the inexplicably inedible cake we all pass around at Christmas.  I mean nutjobs.

This is me.  I am a nice person.  I help the elderly.  Hell, I am the elderly.

twitter friends

Now, ever since my infamous brush with the criminally insane in London last November (my 'friend' from Twitter), and her nasty minions from God knows where (imps who inundated me with hate mail and slander of all sorts because I stated I didn't like standing at the stage door waiting for a favorite actor to come outside after the play.  Well, excuuuuussseee me!  Forgive me if my husband was ill, or that I had terminal diarrhea - in all fairness to Lucrecia, my IBS information was being withheld by police so that they could entrap the subsequent blog posting offenders)  Where in hell was I going with that sentence? I digress...

Anyway, since that time I have learned to block comments to the blog until I get a chance to review them, which is a good thing since the only comment I received went something like this:

"Who gives a shit what you think, someone brought this to my attention and really, who cares, you are a bitch."


There you have it - a typical social media ranter.

Anyway, most comments are wonderful, and people are gracious - only a few are like the above, but enough to discourage meaningful dialogue.  How do you respond to a comment like that?  Excuse me, but do I know you?

All I can imagine is that, perhaps, he (she) is from one of the sites I was speaking about in my post, the A***** A******, or (more likely than not) D***********. (they are nuttier than a bag of squirrels)

There's no way to know really.  Nasty bits are always posted anonymously, because (1) they are cowards and (2) they know it's loopy to be so angry over...what?  Maybe their lives are not what they hoped.  I don't know.

And, I don't care.

Me hiding and not caring

My second incident was my own fault.  I went to a known (by me at least) site frequented by a woman who absolutely hates me.  And, besides her presence, there is someone who deliberately replies angrily to everything anyone else posts.

I don't often visit this site, let alone post there any longer - but, this time I was curious so I posted a question. This was the response.

"Who gives a shit you worthless piece of blonde Florida crap who plagerises (SIC) Jane Austen."

Pretty scary since she (he) knows I live in Florida. Oops, now you do too.  Damn, I'll never get the hang of this.. She also knows about my books.

Sold on Amazon.  And on Nook.  Real cheap.

Monday, April 7, 2014

My long good bye to Social Media

I think the whole social media thing has finally beaten me.  After three years of pumping up my blog, League of British Artists, beyond a point where I ever thought it would go, tweeting and tumbling - I think I'm through.  It's been a long, dry, boring process, begun solely to sell my books. Most of the people I've encountered have been very kind and gracious, but there are some women who are downright cruel.   Those are the ones, the few and far between, that are getting to me.

It all began with a Jane Austen site called...A***** A****** (not their real name)

When I first got the book deal for "Darcy and Fitzwilliam" I was completely unprepared for it.  I am not a writer, never claimed to be.  How the book contract came to me so easily is a mystery.  It's not like I struggled through writing classes, submitting articles to magazines, facing year after year of rejections.  I never have had a burning desire to write, but I do have stories that float into my mind, fantasies like everyone else.  When Sourcebooks said they would publish my book I was stunned.  I had no knowledge of the publishing world or what would happen next.  I guess not many people do, since I was constantly asked about when I would be having the 'book launch' and when I would have a 'book signing' and just how much money would I see from the 'movie rights'.  Certainly, I was going to be rich.

I was lucky that Sourcebooks gave me $1,000 advance, and believe me, they took every penny of that back through the dozens of deductions they made to my laughably meager royalties - but, that's their business I suppose.  I had no agent, no legal representation.  I trust them, I guess.

There was very little provided by them for promotion of the book - they just sent it to stores and I had a publicist there who sent the book to some reviewers and arranged for blog interviews (I was by no means important enough for actual print interviews to be put together.)  She suggested I get into a writing group on the internet called A***** A******, so I did.  I wrote with those girls for a while, a monthly article under my name on their blog with links to my book.  I started to look around the web to find other sites where I could reach people, publicize the book (Sourcebooks certainly wasn't - it was all up to me).

What a nightmare that opened up.  A woman at A***** A****** had begun another of the sites I joined and had left them after nasty disagreements.  She told me they have a habit of going onto Amazon and Goodreads (never did get involved with Goodreads, which was a big mistake on my part) and these women would  post one star reviews on all the other Austen writers publishing with Sourcebooks (the group was setting up it's own self-publishing section and wanted to destroy my publisher).   They would set out to deliberately tank a book, and they did so with great success.   There is a stigma to writing a sequel to an Austen novel.  Among other obstacles, Austen purists absolutely hate you and will do whatever they can to ruin you.

I didn't need too much help though, at being ruined.  I had Sourcebooks.

So, a few months before my book is to come out I show the girls at A***** A****** my new book cover, proud as a peacock.  The book jacket description of  Darcy and Fitzwilliam, unfortunately, did not mention any women in it.  It read like it was about the two men alone, so one of the ladies in AA suggested it would be regarded as a 'slash' book - those are famous works turned into gay porn.  Panicky, I called my editor and told her.  She assured me she would rewrite the book jacket - which she did.  Unfortunately, the book she described on the jacket is NOTHING like the book I wrote.  Nothing.  That screw up by my publisher has caused me a lot of trouble over the years, people thinking they're getting a bodice ripper when it's not.  There was no mention of the 'wicked funny', as my editor called it, story that was within.  She just wrote a generic jacket, hinting at wild romance between Darcy and Lizzy.  I should sue her.

Well, so now I'm involved with a writing group (not AA, the other one) who deliberately tanks Austen books that are published by Sourcebooks.  Great. I got out of there and went into the fire - D******* (not the group's real name)

Here is a group that began with the idolization of Matthew Macfadyen (Darcy from 2005 Pride and Prejudice).  These days they follow any great looking Brit with a pulse, but I digress.  On D******* I met a lot of nice women - except for their leaders, two odd women whose names I can't remember.  Anyway, I became friendly with Bev (not her real name).  She seemed friendly (what did I know) and it was fun to pretend for a while that I was a kid again, swooning over an actor.  (Turns out a lot of those women are nearly my age, all pretending to be kids again.  Who knew.  The leader of the group is a doctor for heaven's sake.  She's also a fruitcake, in my humble opinion).

Well, the end came swiftly.  Macfadyen was in Germany making a film - the awful Three Musketeers - and all the girls on D****** were waiting for pictures, any pictures, of the production.  (I, on the other hand, was slipping in links to the sale of my book any chance I got)  When Bev finally expressed her annoyance in the chatroom that we weren't seeing any shots of Matthew she was severely reprimanded by our leader, Eva Braun.   I was becoming a bit tired, by this time, of the endless "squeeing" they call it, over the man, so I wrote in the post, after Il Duce's reprimand of Bev,  "Bev means no harm.  She's just excited."

Cue Shitstorm.  I got slammed into the wall for that bit of insurrection.  I learned from this that you do not disagree with moderators on social media.  In a private message to me I was informed that I didn't know the great harm I had done.  In a public message to our leaders I told them to "go to hell".  I was kicked out shortly afterward.  In her gratitude, Bev remained with D*******.

So, now I'm still with A***** A******, but things there are getting strained there as well.  A good deal was my fault, I am jealous by nature.  I don't like attention taken from me at all, and yes, I know, I never should join any group.  But, I was also desperate for publicity.  I had learned that Soucebooks was dropping all of us Austen sequelists, or reimaginists, or whatever stupid term they're using these days.  We were all on our own.

The plot thickens.  Our AA leader decided to promote a writing marathon, we were all to pick the character we wanted to be.  Immediately, I chose to Lady Catherine deBourgh, because I enjoyed writing her so much in Darcy and Fitzwilliam, and because she's pretty much a total bitch, which was how I was feeling at the time.  I informed AA though that if someone else wanted her, I would like to be Colonel Fitzwilliam, a character I found infinitely more interesting than the perfect Darcy.  Now, remember I was the first to respond about the new writing marathon.  I even exchanged e-mails that all could see with another writer and we were having a nice time talking about the new venture.

By the end of the day an e-mail came out assigning Lady Catherine to one of the lead women in the group, Colonel Fitzwilliam to the only male in the group....and on and on.  I think I was to be the butcher who sells Mrs. Bennet the  pork shank.  I went nuts.  I was also kicked out of A***** A****** by noon.

Well, I was out in the cold now.  No A***** A*******, no D*********** (this is beginning to look like Morse code).  So Bev and I began League of British Artists.  Well, actually, I set it up, I created the format, I posted nearly all the stories...and Bev wrote the introduction.  You see where this was going don't you?  Bev and I eventually fell out of favor with each other.  She wanted to change the look of the blog every week, and I wanted some help with it.  I told her that I spent nearly eight hours a day on the blog and she said 'who asked you to.'   Yada, yada, yada.

Thus ended my friendship with Bev.  Interesting aside, I only actually spoke with her once, on the phone, and it was very awkward.  There is a completely different feel to meeting (or, in this case, speaking) with a human being, than communicating with them through the anonymous print of social media.  After a year of e-mails back and forth with Bev, on the phone, it was like speaking with a stranger.

That would happen to me again, years later, when I met Meg (not her real name) - the kindly woman from Twitter.

To be continued...

Friday, February 7, 2014

THIS AND THAT FRIDAY, Beatlemania and a terrifying Canadian Police Chase (very exciting - watch with caution)

(remember kids, these girls are your grandmothers now - don't let them tell you you're not a lady...)

It was 50 years ago today (almost) that this mop-topped band began to play (in America).

The Beatles made their first appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show," America's must-see weekly variety show, on Sunday, Feb. 9, 1964. And officially kicked off Beatlemania on this side of the pond.

More than 70 million viewers were tuned to the program, airing live from the Manhattan studio now housing the "Late Show With David Letterman."

I was one of them.  I had only seen a small article about them, had heard the song a few times, but I screamed like everyone else when they came on screen.

My Beatle was Ringo, Diane's was Paul, Elena's was John and Mary's was George.  We were in fan girl heaven.


Next time you think you don't matter in the world, think of this nice gentleman.

Photo: Well...


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Men and Women - a Geography lesson

The Geography of a Woman

Between 18 and 22, a woman is like Africa...
Half discovered, half wild, fertile and naturally beautiful!

Between 23 and 30, a woman is like Europe...
Well developed and open to trade, especially for someone of real value.

Between 31 and 35, a woman is like Spain…
Very hot, relaxed and convinced of her own beauty.

Between 36 and 40, a woman is like Greece…
Gently aging, but still a warm and desirable place to visit.

Between 41 and 50, a woman is like Great Britain…
With a glorious and all conquering past.

Between 51 and 60, a woman is like Israel…
Has been through war, doesn't make the same mistakes twice,
Takes care of business.

Between 61 and 70, a woman is like Canada…
Self-preserving, but open to meeting new people.

After 70, she becomes Tibet…
Wildly beautiful, with a mysterious past and the wisdom of the ages.
An adventurous spirit and a thirst for spiritual knowledge.

And now…


Between 1 and 80, a man is like Iran…
Ruled by a pair of nuts.

 Subject: Tom Luberda: Human geography