inter alia: Further reflections on being a “Stage Mom”

Sorry for the relative silence around these parts.  Springtime is crazy busy these days.  In addition to the daily chaos of work, kids, house, volunteering, etc., this spring introduced me to the reality of having a teenager who’s found a niche and needs a ride.  People who know me in real life are probably sick to death of this topic, but I can’t help but be thrilled that my quiet loner of a son has found an outlet in theater and music.  In recent weeks, his confidence has soared from reams of positive feedback.  What’s a mother to do in cases such as these?  Well, show him off of course!  🙂

Piragua Guy singin' and servin' In the Heights!

Piragua Guy singin’ and servin’ In the Heights!

My son attends a public school, but one that is known in our area not only for exceptionally high standards in academics and athletics, but also for an excellent drama and music program.  Wisconsin practices public school “open enrollment” which basically means that parents can apply to enroll their students outside of their home district, into any public school district.  Thousands of parents take advantage of this program to place their children in specialized public charter schools, or schools with particularly strong athletic departments or the like.  Since our home school district is currently in state of flux and confusion, we decided to open enroll our son into a neighboring district that has been consistently ranked among the most challenging academic high schools in the nation and has an excellent reputation for commitment to the arts.  A lot of other parents have done the same, so there are a lot of very talented singers and actors in his school.  I had cautioned him that as a freshman, he shouldn’t be too disappointed if he was cast in a minor role, or nothing at all.

Considering the talent pool, I was very surprised in January when he won a feature role in the spring production of the Tony Award winning musical In the Heights.  He had convinced me that his audition was a disaster….mumbled discussion of tripping through dance auditions.  Evidently, despite the extensive and challenging choreography sequences (ah…he’s not much of a dancer you see) he had won the role because he was the only male who could hit and sustain the high C in the song Piragua, sung by the aptly named character, Piragua Guy.  I know only a very little about the technical aspect of music, and almost nothing about the language of vocal music, but apparently my 15-1/2 year old son is somewhat rare in that he can sing the full range of a bass, a baritone and up to five notes above the standard tenor range (I probably messed that up – but I knew I was right about requiring him to start training with a vocal coach!).   His role in the play was sort of a comic one…he didn’t have a whole lot of spoken lines, but he was on stage a lot as a comic foil to some of the other action, as well as singing several vocal solos and he really nailed the part.  (He’s become a bit of a celebrity in the parent set…several times in the past few weeks, I’ve heard one or another parent who saw the show call out, “Hey Piragua Guy!”  and wave across the school parking lot.)

Finding a community of people with common interests has been a great confidence booster for him.  It’s one thing for his mom or his grandma to tell him that he can really sing, but it is entirely another to hear it from objective third parties.  He got plenty of objective third party validation this past Saturday when he sang at the Wisconsin State Solo and Ensemble Festival.  He had qualified in a local district event about a month ago.  In fact, (here’s the bragging bit…) he qualified for the state competition with all five of the pieces he sang (2 solos, 1 duet and 2 large group ensembles)  I was only able to hear him sing one song at the local competition, so I was really looking forward to hearing the rest on Saturday, and I wasn’t disappointed.

I talked here about my new role as a “stage mom”.  I have found that I am a minor player at best.  I made sure that his musical theater costume was pressed and hung, and that his white dress shirt and black slacks were ready to go, but I didn’t go ballistic when I found him sleeping in the same.  (He woke up early, showered, put on his performance clothes and climbed back into bed!)  Wrinkled he went off to “state”.   When we arrived at the festival site, I was not entirely surprised to see any number of reluctant kids, instruments and costumes in tow, being hauled around from event to event by their schedule and granola bar toting mothers.  I was a bit mortified for them.

When we ran into the first group of kids from his school, it was clear that my presence had become de trop, so I made sure he had his schedule, gave him $20 to buy something to eat if he was hungry and told him I’d see him for each event .  “I’ll be the one in the back holding up the iPad honey!” I said, to which he replied, “Maaaaaaam!”  Yeah, yeah, yeah!  Well, I did bring the iPad to record, but only the vocals…I had promised that I wouldn’t be that parent, but I really wanted an audio record.   I’m so glad I did it.  Despite somewhat muffled quality, a couple of throat clears (my mother!) and a little unedited clapping, I have some recordings to share with my family and friends since my son is very stingy about sharing his talent with the hoi polloi!

A Bit of Earth from the musical The Secret Garden


Amarilli Mia Bella by Giulio Cuccini


In fact, he’s become a bit of a musical snob lately…I was almost hoping that a particularly stringent judge would take him down a notch, but after I heard him sing, I was once again thrilled to see that he had scored firsts again in all of his entries.  It is an interesting set of sensations to watch your child perform.  I was nervous initially…Where is he?  Should I have hauled him here with me like others did?  Is he ready?  What if he doesn’t perform well?  Then he started to sing, and suddenly the little boy with the ice cream all over his face became this incredibly poised performer…for his classical piece, after he had started, his accompanist noticed that the previous accompanist had left the digital piano transposed a full step down, so he had to start over, and he did so with seeming ease – is this the same kid who won’t go into the the grocery store to grab a gallon of milk?  He is still that kid, who is sometimes uneasy in real life situations, but who can now step outside of himself when he performs.

In addition to the massive pride and joy I feel for him (I’m welling up again)  I did wonder, as I sat down to write this post, if Margaret Armitage will feel something similar as her “little boy” takes the stage at the Old Vic this summer and steps outside of himself as John Proctor.


An innovative way to encourage literacy!

Guylty Pleasure

Fandom, Friendship and Literacy: Which one is the odd one out?

I have come to learn very quickly that fandom and friendship go together. Friendships have blossomed almost from the moment I started blogging on tumblr on April 26th, 2012. My two-year anniversary is coming up soon, and psssst, but with so many RAPSs languishing on my shelves I think I will have to organise a massive giveaway, again. Mark your calendar 😀 (Guylty on WordPress followed half a year later.) I’ll spare you my usual goody-goody extolling of how special we – and our fandom – all are. Suffice to say I am still meeting new people, particularly behind the scenes, and now that I am shrining my way through the cinematographic Armitage output.

photo (2)One such friendship has developed with the elusive, mysterious M___ who sent me lots of goodies for the shrines. Last week she did it…

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URGENT! Fat Filmmaker Being Harassed by Haters

There is Never, EVER an excuse for cyber bullying like this…whether you are interested in contributing or not, everyone needs to be aware of the activity of trolls like this one.

Dances With Fat

fight back Lindsey Averill is in the process of co-creating the documentary “Fattitude:  A Body Positive Documentary” which the kickstarter page describes as “A feature-length documentary that exposes how popular culture fosters fat prejudice, and then offers an alternative way of thinking.”  She is working to crowdfund the project and has created the Kickstarter and a trailer on YouTube and then, she told me, this happened:

It all started when I reported a YouTube user, “GODBLESSADOLFHITLER” for copyright for posting my trailer verbatim on his youtube channel – I also reported another video of his that featured my film and horrible images of 9/11 hate speech, etc. YouTube pulled down his videos and he and his followers began to torture me. They were calling our house till I changed our number. They are now calling my family, my husband’s business and the have collected all the information on my interviewees and posted…

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ὅ παῖς καλός: Richard Armitage and the Quintessence of Quadriceps

While Armitageworld has been buzzing with rumors of new projects (I have to force myself to let the rumors lie and wait for confirmed facts..the speculation kills me.) I’ve been pondering something else entirely.  Legs.  Men’s legs.  Yeah, they don’t usually make a big impression on me.  In fact, I was thinking about the subject this weekend, and it seems that I classify male legs much the same as I do wedding cakes.  For me, the majority are unremarkable, passably attractive, but mostly “meh.”  Occasionally though, I encounter one that makes me sit up and say, “Holy S%*t that is amazing cake!”

The Greeks were big fans of the “Holy S%*t” variety of legs as well, especially during the Archaic Period (~650-490 BC).  A popular sculptural form of this period is known as the KOUROSThe kouros is a free standing nude male sculpture in the round…most commonly made of marble.  They come in a variety of shapes and sizes and evolve from fairly stylized beginnings that strongly suggest Egyptian inspiration, to a much more naturalistic approach that hints at coming attractions in the Classical period.  Hundreds of them survive, many coming from sanctuaries of Apollo where they perhaps served as stand ins for the god.  My favorite example had a different function.

His inscription reads, ""Stand and mourn for Kroisos, first in line of battle and whom Ares killed." Source

His inscription reads, “”Stand and mourn for Kroisos, first in line of battle and whom Ares killed.”

From the inscription, most scholars believe that this particular kouros stood as a monument marking the grave of a youth named Kroisos who had been killed in battle.  Sculpted around 525 BC, in marble, he stands 6’4″…probably somewhat above life size for ancient Greece, but a very good example of life size for a certain someone.   He is an iconic example of a particular phase of the kouros typology, with all the component features, but what has always especially stood out to my eye is the powerful legs, especially the thighs.  He is very lean through the waist, but then broadens out, not in a hipp-y feminine  way, but through those massive quadriceps.

Profile view...

Profile view…

A view from the side show us that this is indeed sculpture in the round, and illustrates that the muscles of the back of the thigh, including the gluteals, are also well developed.  Hence the “Holy S%*t” ranking.

I was reminded of the Anavysos Kouros when a certain set of fabulous flanks recently made an appearance at Cinema Con in Las Vegas.

Oh hello there... (Sorry...I cut everyone else out of the frame - to give the thigh is due!) Source

Oh hello there…
(Sorry…I cut everyone else out of the frame – to give the thigh it’s due!)

Like the Anavysos Kouros, on the “wedding cake” scale, Richard Armitage definitely has “Holy S%*t” class legs…long and lean, but with exceptionally muscular thighs.  Yum…that is some tasty cake!   Not convinced?  Allow me to provide further evidence:

A vintage shot...eyes on the thighs please! Source

A vintage shot…eyes on the thighs please!

Oh, there’s more…

Spooks S8...I love how the light traces the curve of the quad...

Spooks S8…I love how the light traces the curve of the quad…

Lingering doubts?  Have no fear John Porter’s here…

So they're disguised in Lucas North's painted on can plainly see the point :)

OK, I’ll admit, Porter’s gams are disguised in Lucas North’s painted on jeans…but you can plainly see the thighs have it!  (I am almost sorry for the puns…almost.)

Still not convinced?  You are a tough crowd!  Or,

You're holding out for the comparative rear view!

You’re holding out for the comparative rear view!

 ὅ παῖς καλός

Runaway Train…SpReAd the Love Challenge 2

Someone with kindnesses to report asked me earlier in the week if SpReAd the Love was still going on, and I realized that it had been some time since I posted an update – almost a month in fact. Since the last update, kindness reports have slowed down a bit…I have no doubt that people are still being as kind as ever though.  Jazzy and I have been talking for awhile about what our next challenge could be, and yesterday we brainstormed what we might do to honor Richard Armitage’s new project playing Chop in Blenheim Films adaptation Urban and the Shed Crew.



I won’t go into great detail but, as many of you already know, the film is based on Urban Grimshaw and the Shed Crew, by Bernard Hare. The book is a non fiction memoir of sorts in which Hare, nicknamed Chop, recounts his experiences with a group of kids in crisis in the East End Park estate of Leeds in the 1990’s. It is an often disturbing account of children who have been neglected, abused, abandoned, exploited or some combination thereof and have either slipped through the cracks or repeatedly eluded the social welfare system.  Lives permeated by drug use and addiction, delinquency, prostitution, pregnancy and disease are “life as usual” for these kids.

This would be a sobering fictional tale, but it’s not fiction.  The shocking and heartbreaking truth is that the conditions Hare describes, and even worse,  are a brutal reality for hundred’s of thousands of children all over the world.  It occurred to Jazzy and me that it would be great if our next SpReAd the Love challenge reached out to kids at risk.  The fact that there are loads of charitable organizations dedicated to these causes, some local, some national, some international, is testimony to the severity of the problem on a global scale.

A Google search for “at risk kid donations” or “child addiction outreach donations” (or something similar) combined with your locale will show you charities in your area.   Although monetary donations are welcomed by most charities,  SpReAd the Love is all about spreading kindness in ways besides cash donation.  A lot of these organizations are  looking for donations of things like toiletries, school supplies, clothing, toys, etc. to be passed along to kids in need.  Some of them also accept volunteers to work directly with kids.  The specifics vary from charity to charity.  (This info is fairly easily accessible for the UK, US and Austrailia, but I’ve had less immediate luck in other areas…if anyone has info they’d like to share, please let me know in comments, or drop me an email at

So here’s the challenge:

  1. Find a charitable organization that reaches out to children in crisis…whether they are homeless, runaways, addicted, it doesn’t really matter, as long as a child in need receives assistance.
  2. Donate to that charity in whatever capacity you are able…whether it is volunteering your time, or donating a bar of soap or a toothbrush, the size of the donation doesn’t matter.  (Many of these organizations have “wish lists” of things that they need.)
  3. Report your kindness donations to either Jazzy or me through the regular channels and we’ll add them to the tally.

Our kindness total as of today has reached 291 kindnesses…we maxed out our first anonymous matching pledge of $200 to Richard Armitage’s JustGiving Charities earlier this year.  We are almost half way to maxing out our second matching pledge.  Our second donor has agreed to keep the offer open through the end of May – I think we can max that pledge out at $200 as well….meaning that by the end of May we will have spread kindness all over and donated $400 to worthy causes.  Armitageworld really is populated by some pretty awesome people!  If anyone is interested in being a matching donor (anonymous or otherwise) for JustGiving, we’d LOVE to talk to you!

Coincidentally (or maybe not) our challenge takes place in the year that Center of Missing and Exploited Children in the US marks its 30th Anniversary.  It’s sad that such organizations are needed, but each and every child they assist makes me grateful.  As we were looking around at this topic, one kind of neat organization popped up



For many of us it doesn’t seem like much, but for children who don’t have a home,  the possibility of “home” in a bag filled with things that belong only to them,  is probably something special.


So, there you go….SpReAd the Love Challenge #2.  We can’t wait to hear from you!!

spread the love



A real kindness story by Bernard Hare.

A little insight into author Bernard Hare

A Small Act Of Kindness Can Bring Smile On Million Faces


One act of kindness that befell British writer Bernard Hare in 1982 changed him profoundly. Then a student living just north of London, he tells the story to inspire troubled young people to help deal with their disrupted lives.

The police called at my student hovel early evening, but I didn’t answer as I thought they’d come to evict me. I hadn’t paid my rent in months.

But then I got to thinking: my mum hadn’t been too good and what if it was something about her?

We had no phone in the hovel and mobiles hadn’t been invented yet, so I had to nip down the phone box.

I rang home to Leeds to find my mother was in hospital and not expected to survive the night. “Get home, son,” my dad said.

I got to the railway station to find I’d missed the last train. A train was…

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“A house that has a library in it has a SOUL”….Plato: SpReAd the Love Children’s Book Challenge Revisited

Yesterday was March 31st, and it was a glorious day in my part of the upper Midwestern United States…approaching 60F (today it snowed!)  Weather aside, it was also the last day for me to capitalize on the Half Price Books Half Pint Library Book Drive (HPBHPL?!  Hardly an acronym that flows off the tongue is it?).  In the month of March, Half Price Books was matching all donations of new and gently used children’s books which will be distributed to qualifying local non-profit organizations this weekend.  Of course, never one to be too hasty, I let the entire month slip away from me, so MiniMe and I had to haul a** to bring our donations in yesterday afternoon.

Ready, set...DONATE!

Ready, set…DONATE! (she is her own stylist…I just man the iron!)

In addition to the books we featured here during the SpReAd the Love Challenge, Mini Me also cleaned out her bookshelves so that our total number of books donated was 24.  With Half Price Books matching us book for book, that means we helped to put 48 books into the hands of kids in our area.  Not a bad days work!


inter alia: HUGE Archaeology “news”

Gaza fisherman hooks statue of ancient Greek god Apollo

By Nic Robertson and Talal Abu Rahma , CNN
updated 7:14 AM EST, Sat February 15, 2014

Gaza (CNN) — When Jwdat Abu Ghrb spotted a dark shape last summer in the waters off Gaza, where he was diving for fish, he initially thought it was a corpse.

“I was afraid,” he told CNN. “I put on my goggles, dove underneath and still couldn’t tell what it was. I resurfaced and got some help from other people and family members and came back, and after full four hours of trying we managed to get it out of the water and I was shocked by what I found.”

It was a life-size bronze statue, believed to be a 2,500-year-old depiction of the ancient Greek god Apollo.

He described the half-ton object as “treasure pulled out of the sea.”

Gaza "Apollo" Rear View Source

Gaza “Apollo” Rear View

“I thought it was made of gold; I was going to be rich,” Ghrb said. “So I took it home to hide it.” 
But then others got involved. A local armed brigade took control of the statue, and someone listed it for sale on the online auction site eBay, with a starting price of about $500,000, according to authorities.

The posting raised suspicions among officials in the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and the Interior Ministry in Gaza, which is governed by the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas.

The antiquities authority and the Interior Ministry opened an investigation into what they said they suspected was an illegal attempt to sell the work of art.

“It is against the law to sell an artifact found in the Palestinian territories and Gaza in an illegal manner,” Ahmad Al-Burch, head of the antiquities department at the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities in Gaza, told CNN.

He said the case was being handled by the Ministry of the Interior, while the antiquities authority looks after the statue.

Authorities there asked that the statue, as a historical artifact found in Gaza, be handed over; they have hidden it from public view.

But in a Gaza gold store, a man who displayed video of the statue told CNN that he has custody of it and that it is in safe hands, but — if someone wants to buy it — that would be possible.

Government officials promise that the statue will not be sold and that they will start restoration and display it after an investigation into its discovery is completed.

“We are not denying that the statue was found in the sea — as a matter of fact, that is a very authentic and real story,” Al-Burch said.

A green spot — a sign of decay — has formed on the leg of the statue, which is exposed to the air.

“We are trying to preserve the statue to show it for the public in the near future.”

He said the antiquities authority was working on a plan for the statue to be displayed in world-class museums around the world.

Museum authorities in Geneva, Switzerland, have offered to help repair and preserve the statue, and plan for its eventual display in Gaza, he said.

For Ghrb and his family, the discovery seems unlikely to land them the financial security they had hoped for with a sale. They are instead hoping to net a reward for the find, which has excited archaeologists around the world.

CNN’s Kareem Khadder in Jerusalem and Laura Smith-Spark in London contributed to this report.

Something seems oddly familiar about this statue’s face….

What was today's date again?

What was today’s date again?

My little April Fool’s Day effort 🙂  (I had nothing to do with the  Smurf sheet he’s laying on…that is 100% part of the original photo.)