B is for Beard-Love

We’re in Day Three of FanstRAvaganza 3 in the freeform tagteam chain! If you missed day Two, check out the posts at Melanie’s MusingsAn Obsessed Fanatic and Do I Have a Blog?. Also in Day Three, see my partners’ posts at FunkyBlueDandelion and I Want to Be a Pin-Up.

For the second instalment of the Armitage Alphabet we’re talking beards. A gorgeous 6”2’ man playing a valiant dwarf king undoubtably requires a good deal of make-up and prosthetics, or at least a credible beard. So, when Richard appeared at the Hobbit press conference in February 2011, he’d already started what he termed ‘a little facial hair experiment’ to try to limit the amount of artificial fuzz required to reprise the role of Thorin Oakenshield.

I must admit that I was in two minds about this new look. I’m not usually a fan of beards so when a new picture emerged some weeks later showing a wonderfully clean-shaven Richard at the Christchurch earthquake fundraising event, I secretly hoped he’d given up on the idea. I was wrong, of course, and a bearded Mr Armitage walked the red carpet at the Captain America premiere in New York. The gorgeous Recognise Magazine and Project Magazine photos that followed, not surprisingly, had fans all over the world declaring their beard-love.

So, what is it about beards that attracts women? Charles Darwin reckons it’s the actual process of sexual selection that may have led to beards and modern science seems to back this up. Modern biologists conclude there is evidence to show that a significant enough majority of women in the past have found bearded mates more attractive than smooth-skinned competitors. In other words, it was a simple game of numbers. Evolutional psychology thinks the beard developed to indicate sexual maturity and signal dominance, by making the jaw look bigger than in really was. Hmmm… I can sort of see what they mean!

Beards, of course, are imbued with meaning. On the up-side there’s wisdom, sexual virility, honour, masculinity and higher status. On the down-side, there’s lack of general cleanliness and loss of refinement. Dreaming of bearded men, apparently, is a good omen and good luck will follow! Yeah, I can definitely see that!

The bible is positively brimming with beards; Moses, Abraham, St Peter and Jesus all had beards. But although in some religions, such as Islam, beards are obligatory others prohibit the growth of facial hair.

History is full of beards too. From the pharaohs of Ancient Egypt to the princes of present day, beards have graced the faces of many a famous figure.

Beards have come in and out of fashion though. With a smooth face being regarded as a sign of effeminacy, beards were the done thing until Alexander the Great decided against them on grounds of health and safety and introduced the custom of smooth shaving. Alexander feared that beards could serve as handles for enemies to grab and hold a soldier as he was killed and thus ordered his troops to be clean-shaven. Maybe Thorin should take note!

However, philosophers retained their beard as a badge of their profession and all throughout history beards were grown in protest too. Men grew enormous beards during Queen Mary’s reign, for instance, which was a time of reaction against Protestant reform. However, the popularity of the beard declined in Western society and during the early eighteenth century most men of standing were clean-shaven… with perhaps a nice set of sideburns?

By the early twentieth century the beards fell out of fashion altogether and gave way to the moustache…

Or the goatee…

The American film industry with its clean-shaven, close cropped-haired heroes and the consequent mass marketing of the Gillette Safety Razors did for the beard until it was reintroduced to mainstream society by the counter-culture of the 1960s and ‘70s. The fashion for beards since the turn of this century was limited to the ‘two-day shadow’, no doubt inspired by Miami Vice (and, yes, I am old enough to remember being glued to the family TV set to watch that!).

I love designer stubble. Did I tell you Lucas North is my favourite RA character?

Designer stubble vs beard? Mmm, let’s see….

So, in the interest of scientific research, I thought I’d add a little poll to see what the favourite Richard Armitage facial hair style is.

No prizes for the winner, I’m afraid, but to feel virtuous knowing you have contributed to the gathering of some very important consumer data which may help avoid Richard to pick a facial hairstyle like this…

Heinz Christophel, Winner of the World Beard and Moustache Championship 

I’m afraid my inner jury is still out on this beard-thing. Although I’ll admit it gives Richard a certain gravitas, I think it obscures his good looks too much. I really miss seeing that delightful little smile of his  play around those gorgeous, cupid-bow lips and much prefer having a unobscured view of that wonderful strong jaw line. But, for those of you who are totally into Richard’s new look, I’ll leave you with my favourite beard-shot from the July 2011 Project Magazine photoshoot.

For more freeform contributions to FanstRA 3, see my partners’ posts at  FunkyBlueDandelion and I Want to Be a Pin-Up. Yesterday’s posts are at Melanie’s MusingsAn Obsessed Fanatic and Do I Have a Blog?. Tomorrow, the freeform tagteam continues at Something About Love (A), Me, My Thoughts and Richard Armitage and Do I Have a Blog?. All FanstRAvaganza 3 links can be found here.

[RA screencaps courtesy of RichardArmitageNet; Heinz Christophel photo courtesy of the official World Beard and Moustache Championship website]

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A is for Action

In the beginning, Richard Armitage made scores of fans – and he keeps on making them! Welcome to the first day of FanstRAvaganza 3. A is for Armitage is proud to kick off the freeform chain in the excellent company of White Rose: Sincere and Simple Thoughts and FunkyBlueDandelion.

For my own contribution to this year’s event, I took a cue from the name of this blog and reasoned that a single letter to describe such a diverse & talented actor like Richard Armitage simply wasn’t enough. The man ought to have his own alphabet and what better occasion to launch the Armitage Alphabet than the illustrious FanstRAvaganza 3?

I’ve always enjoyed watching Richard in action, so to speak. On the small screen he wielded a sword and handled a longbow as the tragic but lusciously leather clad Sir Guy of Gisborne. Who could resist!

As the gorgeous and enigmatic MI5 agent Lucas North he kept us safe in our beds for years by chasing terrorists and other nation-threatening thugs around London, taking them out with his Glock 17 or some good old-fashioned hand-combat techniques.

As the marvelously muscular John Porter he toted some seriously big guns in Chris Ryan’s Strike Back only to come to a sticky end in Project Dawn (which I still can’t bring myself to watch!).

Richard’s move to the silver screen seems pretty action packed too. Heinz Kruger may have taken less than 5 minutes to fail in his attempt to assassinate Captain America, but he packed a lot of action in that small slot. Gun fights, a car chase, hostage taking, a submersible escape, a near drowning and a suicide. Phew! I get exhausted just thinking about it!

And as we speak, Thorin Oakenshield may well be strapping on his heavy armour and picking up his mighty blade to reclaim the treasure and his kingdom from Smaug the dragon.

I’m being slightly facetious of course, but I do think Richard plays these action parts so very well. I’m not one for gratuitous violence on screen (or in real life for that matter!) but what sets his performances apart is the fluency of his actions and the credibility of his characters. From what I can gather, he meticulously prepares for his roles and likes to do his own stunts. If it was just guns and muscle I really don’t think I would have been this impressed but by fully immersing himself into the world of his characters, Richard manages to really get his head around what makes them tick.

To prepare for the part of John Porter he trained with ex-SAS soldiers and it really shows. Not just in the physical aspect – although the muscles are indeed very impressive – but with regards to the psyche too. What makes John Porter work for me is that he really moves like a trained soldier. The fighting scenes are fluent and instinctive. When he has to kill, he doesn’t hesitate and his movements have the agility and efficiency that comes with years of training and experience.

What makes this character credible though is that Richard gets the emotional part right as well. John Porter doesn’t go back to fight for the sheer hell of it. He fights to win back his family. He fights for love. These are the things that are not directly written into a script. There is no text to tell an actor what his character is all about. He’ll have to ferret it out for himself and, more importantly, get it across to the audience in action, not words. And that’s the kind of action acting I admire so much in Richard Armitage.

All of this had me wondering though. With so many great action scenes under his belt and following the example of the ever popular Little Guy, isn’t it time Richard Armitage was given his own Action Man figure? Perhaps it could even be marketed as Armitage Man?

For more freeform contributions to FanstRA 3, see my partner’s post at White Rose: Sincere and Simple Thoughts and FunkyBlueDandelion. Tomorrow, the freeform tagteam continues at Melanie’s Musings, An Obsessed Fanatic and Do I Have a Blog?. All FanstRAvaganza 3 links can be found here.

[Screencaps courtesy of RichardArmitageNet. The ‘Armitage Man’ artwork is my own and is based on a screen cap from an Action Man review – source unknown]

FanstRAvaganza 3, 2, 1….

We’re only just over a day away from the most exciting Richard Armitage event of the year, bar the premiere of a certain film, of course! FanstRAvaganza 3 is just around the corner. For those who haven’t come across this phenomenon before, FanstRAvaganza is a yearly event that celebrates the British actor Richard Armitage through a week-long, coordinated blogging relay. It all kicks off on Monday 12 March and concludes on Sunday 18 March.

Although I’m less prepared than I’d like to be, I’m so looking forward to taking part in FanstRA3. I’m scheduled to post on the first day (yikes!) but as I’m still sworn to secrecy and can’t tell you what I’m planning to write I’d like to use this post to give a final, unashamed plug for this event using one of bccmee’s wonderful graphics. Well, any excuse to post that gorgeous picture of a smoulderingly sexy John Thornton on my blog really!

FanstRAvaganza 3 will be led by the eight anchor blogs listed on the right and will have a staggering 24 participants blogging in tag teams. With so much online cReAtivity happening, this promises to be a truly mind-blowing week! My fellow tag team bloggers are:

Last but not least (and so very last-minute!), I thought I’d test the polling facility on my blog. With such a frenzy of blogging activity about to be unleashed on us, I’m really curious if what they say about books goes for blogs as well and if there’s an RA blog inside each and every one of us. Do you already blog? Would you like to blog? Are you read-only? Please feel free to vote!

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See you all on Monday!

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Confession time!

Reading last Monday’s classic FanstRAvaganza post of ‘Funny/Embarrassing Fan Stories’ on Richard Armitage Fan Blog reminded me of a slightly embarrassing RA moment of my very own. So, in keeping with question nr 23 of the 30 day Richard Armitage Challenge, I think it’s high time I confessed.

Much as I like my day job, from time to time things get a little fraught. So, one week, when the going had gotten particularly tough and there was precious little to feel happy about, I smuggled in a picture of Mr Armitage to cheer me up. I’d printed out the new headshot from the 2009 promo on some nice glossy photo paper, to do justice to the colour of those wonderful blue eyes, and propped him up on my copy holder. My desk is in a sheltered corner of an open plan office and as my direct colleagues are a liberal bunch who are aware I’m a little fond of Richard Armitage, I thought it couldn’t do any harm. Indeed, most female colleagues who spotted the picture seemed quite appreciative.

One day soon after though, an editor with a desk at the other end of the office came to seek out my direct neighbour for some editorial advice. As she squeezed behind my chair to get to his desk, she spotted Richard’s picture and said ‘That’s a nice picture. Is that your husband?’ I was looking at the editor who has the desk next to mine when she asked this and in the split second of silence that followed I just knew that he, like me, was contemplating this wonderfully surreal idea before we both almost fell off our chairs laughing.  Obviously she’d never seen Richard Armitage on tv before and was totally unaware he’s an actor and I do actually have a picture of my husband on my desk, who as it happens is tall & handsome too, but this was an absurdly flattering and funny thought! Ever since then, however, Richard Armitage is known in our little corner of the office as ‘My husband, the famous actor’.

Although that picture is still sitting on my copy holder (well, the day job is still stressful and/or tedious at times!), rest assured I’ve never popped it into a heart-shaped frame 🙂

Richard Armitage headshot courtesy of RichardArmitageNet. With grateful thanks to Palei-Stock for providing a royalty free picture of the heart-shaped photo frame on Deviant Art.

Am I getting obsessed with Richard Armitage?

Well, both the day job and my ME/CFS conspired against me this week, so I had neither the time not the energy to contribute to the 30 Day Richard Armitage Challenge, as I had planned. I have, however, spent a little more time thinking about my FanstRAvaganza 3 contributions. Fleshing out some ideas for possible posts got me thinking about the ethics of writing so publicly about somebody else’s life and work, and, not for the first time, about that thin line between between admiration and obsession.

According to the Oxford Dictionary sitting on my shelf, obsession is ‘an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person’s mind’. It was first used in Middle English in the sense of ‘to haunt/possess’, referring to an evil spirit. The word originated from the Latin ‘obsess-’, from the verb ‘obsidere’, which means ‘besieged’. That all sounds scarily negative for both the person doing the obsessing and the person being obsessed over but as I’m not thinking about Richard Armitage every seven seconds (yet!), I consider myself still on the right side of that dividing line.

I am, however, getting to be a little bit of an addict. Sure, I fell for Richard’s looks when I first saw him in Spooks, and this is certainly still a big part of his appeal for me, but what really got me hooked on him is his energy. Here’s a talented actor who is always on the go, has bags of determination and works incredibly hard to get where he wants to be. He prepares each part he plays meticulously, jumps in there and gives it his all. Perhaps it’s got something to do with the fact that my ME/CFS leaves me feeling a little drained on most days, but I’m a sucker for energy. Seeing Richard perform inspires me to pull myself together and push myself to regain, if not all, at least some of my former active life. He made me want to return to my more creative self. It was this urge for creativity that made me launch ‘A is for Armitage’. The idea that others had said plenty about Richard Armitage but that what had been said was perhaps still not enough. I wanted to be part of it, I wanted to contribute, I wanted a bit of that fun. Ah, you see… there we go again: Me, me, me! The true addict’s creed 🙂

Talking about having a little bit of fun. As I was pondering the chances of an addiction to Richard Armitage developing into a full flung obsession, I wondered what some of Richard’s fictional characters might have to say about that. Using a little audio clip from ‘Frozen’ Bccmee shared with us some time ago, I had a play in iMovie to create a short vid – with tongue firmly planted in cheek ;-‘)

[Richard Armitage headshot courtesy of RichardArmitageNet]

FanstRAvaganza 3 is coming to this blog!

A is for Armitage is proud to announce it has been invited to participate in the third FanstRAvaganza event. I am so excited! This is a first for me, both as a Richard Armitage fan and an RA blogger, and although I feel just a teensy-weensy bit apprehensive I am thrilled to bits and really, really looking forward to it. An entire week of coordinated VirtualWall-to-VirtualWall Richard Armitage related posts, introducing me to even more wonderful RA blogs and bloggers. My idea of heaven! Of course I’d love to tell you what I’ve got planned for this event but, alas, I have been sworn to secrecy – all very Lucas North! – so I can only advise you to watch this space.

The first FanstRavaganza was organised at the Richard Armitage Fan Blog in 2010 to present a special week of blogging on Richard Armitage and his fans. It proved so successful its organisers decided to run it a second and, you guessed it, a third time! The name of this event was thought up by Servetus, who is the owner of the wonderful me + richard armitage blog. Although she herself feels it’s ‘too long and seriously hard to type’, the name stuck and I’m glad it did as it’s got quite a nice ring to it 🙂

FanstRAvaganza 3 will kick off on Monday 12 March and concludes on Sunday 18 March. This year’s event will be anchored by the following core blogs;

An RA Viewer’s Perspective from 33° 0′ South of the Equator

bccmee’s Richard Armitage Vids & Graphics

CDoart: Richard Armitage & History & Spooks

Confessions of a Watcher

me + richard armitage

RAFrenzy

Richard Armitage Fan Blog

The Squeee.

These anchor blogs will post on most of the days of this event and will feature work from ‘tag teams’ of other blogs, like this one. The tag teams will, in turn, each link to the next blog which is scheduled to post a FanstRAvaganza contribution.

Check out the anchor blogs daily during the event for updates and new posts or visit the FanstRAvaganza Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/FansRAvaganza. You can also get event updates on Twitter by following https://twitter.com/#!/FanstRAvaganza or the hashtag #fanstRA.

Only 43 more nights to go! I can’t wait!

[FanstRAvaganza graphics courtesy of bccmee]

Guns, gloves and gadgets

One of my Facebook friends re-posted the wonderful 30 day Richard Armitage challenge from http://recycledvinyl.tumblr.com/ today and the first of a long list of questions about our favourite actor is ‘What was the first role you saw Richard Armitage in?’. Well, I’m going to be brave, take a deep breath and make  a clean breast of it. I was terribly late coming to the Richard Armitage party! Richard didn’t hit my radar until he stumbled towards Harry Pearce as the somewhat undernourished MI5 agent Lucas North in season 7 of Spooks. I know! I know! How DID I manage to miss John Thornton? I really have no idea but will stick with the feeble defence that I used to be a bit of a workaholic and didn’t watch much TV at all. In fact, I’ve been without a TV altogether from time to time and most of that was during the pre-iPlayer era, so no chance of catching up with any of those wonderful BBC programmes I might have missed. It may, however, go some way to explain why Lucas North is still my favourite RA character to date. I have a real soft spot for this troubled soul. His black hair and grey-blue eyes, that designer stubble and – I never thought I’d say that – those tattoos. How long did it take to apply those and who, oh who, was the lucky lady who got to rub these on?

I know that Spooks, with its propensity for guns and gadgets, has precious little to do with the reality of how MI5 operate – yes Mr Le Carré, we’re not that naïve! –  but I  loved it no less for that. I have watched Spooks from the very first episode and it has brightened my life for ten glorious years. I loved everything about it. The somewhat larger than life characters, Harry’s witty one-liners and clever retorts, the unavoidable plot-holes and, above all, its liberal use of far-fetched technology and gadgets. Oh, what I wouldn’t give to lay my hands on the iPhone app which would enable me to download all the encrypted data from a secure network within the customary 60 seconds. Or, failing that, the app that will get me the password to said server within those same 60 seconds. I’d never have to work again! How did MI5 cope before the invention of this unintentional bit of (sp)iWare?

Skimming some old Spooks episodes for inspiration, I actually came across one such tech-crazed scene with our delectable Lucas North (in full biking leathers!) and simply couldn’t help myself. I just had to use it to try out my not-quite-so-recent iMovie video-editing software and post it onto my new ‘A is for Armitage’ YouTube channel to see if it would all work. Well, any excuse really!

Every MI5 agent needs a good set of gloves!

And then there’s the guns mentioned in the title of this piece. Is it wrong to admire a man who packs a piece with style? Probably, but  I just can’t help myself. I’m not a massive supporter of the gun culture per se but, as they say, ‘guns don’t kill, it’s the people who use them’. Lucas probably killed more than his fair share (has anyone actually kept a tally?) but up until season 9 he mostly deployed his Glock 17 for Queen and country.

There’s something about the instant justice of Spooks that can’t help but appeal. In times when too many criminals go unchallenged or get sentences that are frankly laughable we can’t help but cheer when a villain is swiftly and irrevocably dealt with. We know that’s probably not the way it works, or even how it should work, but it’s strangely satisfactory non the less. We know it’s all fiction and so we are allowed to cheer on the winning team without feeling heartless or callous.

All those killings, however justified, must have taken its toll though. And that’s another reason I loved Spooks – its MI5 agents did not have emotional immunity. They were human and had nervous breakdowns. They fell in love and craved a normal existence that was forever lost to them. They were fallible. They were as mortal as you and I and, sometimes, their luck ran out. They lose themselves to the job, as Ruth Evershed so aptly observed in the final episode of Season 10; ‘With every lie we tell, our true selves got buried that little bit deeper and I worry that one day I wake up and look for it, look for me, and I won’t be there any more.’ Or, like Lucas/John – damaged and beyond redemption – are consumed by it; ‘This job, what we do, is a machine. Good people go in, they get chewed up, they get spat out. That’s how you make sense of it.’