Tangent — Helen James

Like all of us who get these Google alerts and Twitter alerts and all kinds of alerts going on, I got the update on someone named Helen James interviewing RA, and of course good lemming that I am, uh, I mean good Army member that I am, I had to go look at her Twitter account. But my anal nature wasn’t satisfied with waiting patiently for this interview to surface on the Spooks 9 DVDs (at least I think that’s what I read). I wanted to know about Helen James dammit. So I went to her site and watched her and various people who work for her, and I saw quite a few still pictures of her as well. (Man, it’s a good thing I’m a quick study or I would really feel guilty about spending too much time). I got a great vibe from her, and I would analyze her ala the idiot chick on Bill O’Reilly, but I’ll try to spare you. Suffice to say she seems like a neat person, and I can boil it down to one thing. She smiles a lot! How can we not like people who smile a lot and especially when their eyes smile as well? What a powerful tool in our communications arsenal. I’ve told the little SOs ad nauseum that smiling can cover a multitude of sins. So go forth and smile!

Looking at those videos of Helen James helped me understand my obsession with the LOL. I smile a lot in face to face interactions, but obviously, you can’t see the smile on my face 90% of the time as I’m writing this blog. I realize my lack of writing ability to convey that smile, so I frequently rely on the LOL to do it for me. It’s very important to me to get that smile across because I know it radically alters the reception of my words. But I was not always a smiler and learned the hard way how much it colors what is being said, and this has been a blessing for me and hopefully some others. I spend time day in and day out with a good number of people, and sadly, most of it is due to harsh realities of life doing them in. Much of the time is spent listening to their ills, and I am expected to respond to some degree to the terrible things I get to hear. Lucky me. Yeah, that was sarcastic, but I do consider it a privilege (not sure I would call it a pleasure yet) to listen to people who are in crisis and then try to help them. No, I never grin like the Chesire Cat or patronize when someone is pouring her heart out. God forbid I ever do that! I do try to smile appropriately, and it is often a balm — a wonderful balm only succeeded by laughing.

Oh, and that’s another thing about Helen James. She laughs a lot too. At herself and just life’s situations. God Bless her. I wonder if she realizes how much she owes her success to her upbeat demeanor. Yeah, I realize she knows the technical side of things, but hey, a lot of people know technical stuff and that didn’t get them very far. Yours truly is one of them. Thankfully, I learned early that being technical was never going to be enough. I had to know how to interact with people in a way that inspired hope in them as well. The combination of the technical knowledge and the ability to make people want to interact with me allowed me to make a crap load of money and then retire and then do what I’m doing now, which ultimately meant I could write all this fluff that hopefully makes you laugh or at least smile.

Ohmygosh, I feel a fake fan letter coming on but it’s to Helen! I guess I have another addiction.


I feel like I can address you so familiarly because of your very personable nature. You have that down! For all I know you could be a real pill to deal with, but my gut instinct (aka bs detector) tells me the people around you would willingly deal with it.

I get the sense that you generally enjoy life and love what you’re doing even if things are sometimes going to hell in a hand basket. I know I had fun just watching the promo videos on your site. If I ever need some professional videos, I’m calling you, and hang the overseas airfare. It’s not that expensive.

Oh, and I’m so glad you got to interview our guy. That is sort of a royal “our” since I have the strength of a powerful host of people behind that statement. Now I’m wondering if you asked him The Question. But hey, for you, I can forgive your curiosity about all of us, The Army. For now I can’t wait to see the interview and how much RA was smiling and laughing.

What I would love is if you could somehow interview the husband who hung the moniker on all of us. That would be something to see! Might be therapeutic for Richard to lay eyes on the chap who’s caused him so much chagrin.


RA Addict and newbie Helen James devotee

P.S. I hope you don’t freak out with all of those Army members now following your Twitter account; yeah, someone really ought to do a story about this phenomenon instead of just relegating it to a joke with RA.

For those of you who don’t know what she looks like, check out her Twitter account or her website.


  1. What you write about the need for using LOL makes a lot of sense to me. It recalls the situation I was in when learning Norwegian many moons ago. I’m considered (or like to think) that I’m witty and reasonably funny in English and manage to convey this in words, but I found that for the longest time, no-one realised when I was trying to be amusing in Norwegian. I hated being this stick-in-the-mud solemn type and developed a larger-than-life personality which signalled madly every time I tried to be funny. The day people laughed when I was witty without the exaggerated signals was the day I knew I had mastered the language!

  2. Well put!

    One of these days perhaps I will have mastered English!

  3. L O L !!
    Ok I couldn’t resist. I am known in my family to be on the slow side when it comes to getting a joke. So then to master it or get it in another language…hence I’ve learned to smile a lot. :)
    I watched the interview with Clive Owen and tried to subscribe to their podcast which was possible.

  4. Oops hit the publish button too soon. I meant it was impossible, their link useless and no listing of it in iTunes.

  5. Isn’t it great to smile!

    Bummer about the podcast, but then I’m also addicted to podcasts, so maybe it’s a good thing. LOL!

  6. @millyme, my admiration for your language mastery knows no bounds.

    I have struggled for years with French, know the language, the structure, vocab very well. Can actually speak/read/write it rather well with a good accent (so said my French-Canadian husband), but have a problem with oral analysis. It’s almost like a dyslexia (not) learning disability, which has not yet been diagnosed anywhere. “Getting a joke” in another language is, indeed, the test.

    It would involve living in a completely French-speaking environment (as with you, in Norway) to overcome this oral analysis “problem”. I have a great ear, and can parrot accents and rhythms of speech and intonation. So, there we go…but, hats off to you!

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