Monday, January 21, 2013

Downton Abbey Season III episode 3 review

This episode had one theme of responsibility and another of the role of women in 1920's England. In this episode, Mrs Hughes and Mrs Crawley try to help Ethel and he son, the maids like the new footman, Bates and Anna can't get each others' letters while upstairs, Edith doesn't know what to do with her free time, while Branson runs from Irish authorities leaving Sybil to escape from Ireland by herself.

This episode highlighted the plight of women in that era where Ethel got no help to raise her son, finally making the painful decision to give her son to his grandparents. Edith takes on the women's cause by writing about the discrimination against women who are not allowed to vote unless they are over 30 and a landowner. In the last 2 episodes, you can see Lady Mary being more authoritative concerning the decisions about the running of the estate and the family. Daisy likes Alfred but in the tradition of the times, women weren't supposed to be forthright about making their feelings known. She is torn about what she should do.

Branson returns to ask for refuge from the Irish police who want him for involvement in the burning down of a castle and driving out of an aristocratic family. He earns the ire and scorn of Robert and Cora for it appears that he has run away leaving his pregnant wife to fend for herself and find her way to Downton on her own. Last but certainly not least, Bates finally solves his problems in gaol and his letters find their way to his lovely Anna and vice versa.

I enjoyed this episode immensely because the balance and pacing were excellent. The episode moved from the gut wrenching trauma of Ethel giving up her son to Carson thinking the smoke from a toaster was a fire. I particularly liked the fact that one can be hooked by the simple plot device of letters not getting to their respective recipients. Can't wait for next week.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Downton Abbey Season III episode 2 review

"Upstairs", this episode focused on Edith's upcoming nuptials with Sir Anthony, the possible sale of the family home and Matthew's reusal to accept Mr. Squire's fortune. "Downstairs", the theme for the episode was gossip. Carson overhears Ms Padmore and Mrs Hughes talking about the latter's possible illness, Thomas tries to extract reveng on O'Brien by feeding the gullible Mosely a false piece of gossip and Anna finally gets to speak with a friend of Bates ex-wife.
It is finally time for Edith to be in the spotlight. Over the course of 2 seasons, we have seen Edith grow from an envious sister who reports her elder sister's scandalous indiscretion to an intelligent, independent woman who can drive, helped on a farm and supports wounded soldiers with coming to terms with their injuries. Through all this change however, one thing remains constant - her need for love and a partner. This need appears to be mad...
e more acute by the marriages of her siblings. The buildup is well paced and we are kept guessing as to whether Sir Anthony will go through with the wedding. Likewise, we are kept in suspense as to whether Mrs Hughes diagnoses will be bad. On the other hand, I felt that Matthew Crawley saving Downton was predictable, although the manner by which he was made to change his mind was interesting.
Two interesting points: Lady Mary calls her mother-in-law by her first name when speaking to her husband. I think in modern times one would say "your mother" when referring to your husband's mother when speaking to him.
The two wedding dresses were very, very different. Lady Mary's dress had a very medieval look to it, while Lady Edith's looked 20th century.
I enjoyed the episode, which as always had great balance between uplifting occurrences and emotional devastation. We are also learning more about Mr. Bates and I am eager to find out more about the circumstances of his wife's death.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Downton Abbey Season III premiere review

It is now 1920 and the winds of change are blowing through the estate. Lady Mary is to wed Matthew Crawley, Lady Sybil has scandalously eloped with the chauffeur, Branson. Lord Robert receives news that his fortune and that of his wife's have disappeared in a bad investment. Matthew receives news that he will inherit a fortune from his late almost father-in-law, but refuses to help the Grantham family because he wishes to honor a dying man's belief that he was completely in love with his daughter. Last but not least Cora's mother is comes from Newport, Rhode Island to attend Lady Mary's wedding.
This premiere devoted a lot of time to emphasize that the family's desire to hold on to tradition and English culture were at odds with the outside world. Branson had diatribes about the English oppression of the Irish and Cora's mom made many snide remarks about traditions and letting these hold power over one's life. This was further illustrated when a party degenerated into a farce when Lord Robert and Matthew did not have white collars to wear, althoug
h both looked resplendent in their evening attire while the stove broke down and guests had to eat buffet style which was thought uncouth and uncultured.
The sideplot of Anna and Mr. Bates, moved along as we saw that Anna was trying her best to help her beloved husband get acquitted for a crime he didn't commit. One scene hoewever, where Bates shows a violent side is meant to make us doubt his prveiously unquestionable innocence. these 2 characters are two of my favorites and I find myself wanting only the best for them. We will have to wait to see. 
I am found myself torn over Matthew's position and his predicament. Will he help the financially strapped family or will he stay with his conscience and the honor code of gentlemen? The question is not new but is nevertheless very interesting. It is a conundrum that plagues those of us who grow up with the concept that honor and integrity is a defining part of one's character. The question really can be distilled into: If I do this, am I the same honorable person as before, am I the same person who charmed Lady Mary?
Overall I enjoyed the show (as I almost always do). I enjoyed the usual intrigues, repartee between the women and of course romance. All were beautifully presented as usual. I think that the show does not do as well when the characters have to respond quickly to a problem (in this case the degeneration of the party) or if there is a long grandiose scheme which puts everyone in an unusual situation (tranforming the house to convalescent home for soldiers; season II). I think there is a tendency to "overdo" these situations. These are minor imperfections as the series and this episode continues to be remarkably absorbing.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Olympics 2012

I love the Olympics even though some of the spectacle and excitement it generates now is not as great as in previous editions. This is because almost all sports have professional circuits or tours and the athletes know each other well. There are very few surprises and for the most part the winners are predictable. Even in a sport like badminton, which is not particularly popular in the United States, there is a lucrative professional circuit. The top 4 players will almost certainly meet each other to decide the medals. Even here, there is some excitment because you root for the player you want to win. There are sports however which can generate a ceratin level of excitement because there are so many who could win the gold medal. Swimming is one sport in this class. There are certain events where the medals (specifically the gold medal) will be contested by a host of possible winners. Similarly, gymnastics is exciting because there are a number of teams which can win. Although there are World Championships and the gymnasts know each other well, I always feel there is an air of of the unkown in gymnastics. Then there's diving and table tennis. I watch these events because I want to witness and be in awe of the complete domination of one country. In the last Olympics (Beijing), China won every single event in table tennis, and all but one event in diving. The Chinese domination of tehse events is likely to continue. I always find it amazing that in sport of in any endeavor there are individuals who can excel so far above even the very best in the world. In the chess world, there have been 15 world champions, but 5 of them (Fischer, Kasparov, Karpov, Capablanca and Alekhine) stand head and shoulders above even the otehr world chmpions. You see this in tennis, and boxing. Even in the wolrd of music everyone has heard of Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Bach. How many non musicians have heard the beautiful music of Max Bruch or Ralph Vaughn-Williams? Some may even have heard the music but don't realize who composed it. Back to the Olympics. I love the Olympics and will be watching Usain Bolt try to win teh 100m. the Chinese dominate diving and table tennis, men's and women's volleybal (not beach volleyball), gymnastics and swimming.  Just for 2 weeks, I can wonder at how certain human beings appear to be blessed with superior coordination and ability to suppress their nerves to deliver their dreams.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Millennium trilogy

Haven't written in a long time. I am currently reading the last of the Stieg Larsson books. I must confess that I have thoroughly enjoyed the books. The main reason for my enjoyment is that it is not only an unusual mystery novel, but gives a great deal of insight ito the journalism business as well as to Swedish law and history. Another aspect I enjoyed is that Lisbeth Salander is a great creation. Very damaged bt brilliant and uncompromising. Most heroines in American mystery novels e.g. Kay Scarpetta are beautiful, with big boobs, or they are "strong" because they have to handle men in a man's world while still maintaining a "normal" personal life (think Closer). Lisbeth Salander is totally different, a vengeful misfit who Larsson hint has someting similar to Asberger's. I wil be watching the DVD as some point.
R.I.P. Stieg

Friday, June 26, 2009


In the last 30 years of pop music, there's Michael..........

Then the rest.
Rest In Peace, Michael.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Now for a little light prose..........

Then and Now
The atomic clock announces the start of my day in her usual neutral tone. Rolling out of bed, I curse her reliability. My touch-pad is blinking red - the ex reminding me that I have to pick up my son early, this weekend. Shower, shave, breakfast, then I rush to catch the bullet train. It takes me from Central Jersey to DC in fifteen minutes. Time enough to send three holo-mails.
The morning is filled with more of the same. Lunch is number C60 (chicken salad) from the automated food dispenser. After that, it’s Virtual-Court. Lawsuit against my client for erecting a statue of a twentieth century musician who wrote about blowing winds which could answer vexing questions on life. The statue, made of a mixture of Buckminsterfullerenes and graphite, allegedly casts an overly large shadow over the neighbor’s hydrangeas. Judge looks perplexed and asks “Who?” I shrug, equally mystified. Arguments take forever. Decision will be rendered tomorrow at 8:30. I disconnect. Time to pack up, catch the 5:30.
I make it with seconds to spare. Soon, I’ll be home eating dinner – unplugged for half an hour. Got to send a couple more holo-mails, stay on top of my case load, then program the vacuum-bot and reset my clock to wake me earlier tomorrow. I wonder what it was like in the twentieth century. Must have been tough.