OK, I’ve officially had it with “Downton Abbey,” with its parade of death and soapy excuses for plot and character development. Sorry, Julian Fellowes. You had one good season, one ridiculous one and one that was just plain bad. I don’t know how many strikes you’re allowed in cricket, but here in ‘merica, you’re out.
I could have handled Matthew Crawley’s death, the same way I’ve been handling TV character deaths in the past. Someone wants out of their contract, maybe to do a big movie or somethin’, and steps into an elevator shaft or into the path of a speeding train or whatever. Crawley had to die because he had to die, so there you were.
But did you have to telegraph it so awfully? Anyone with half a brain could have seen this coming a dozen scenes out, and once his father-in-law had another
personality transplant change of heart and decided he’d been wrong about their season-long conflict, and he was only now seeing what a fine, fine man Matthew was, and how blessed they were to have him, well — it’s as though Meg Ryan had walked onto the set and demanded that someone take her to bed or lose her forever. He was that dead.
I’m so, so with Tom & Lorenzo. When Fellowes can’t even come up with a decent subplot for Mrs. Patmore, it’s time to wipe the slate:
Little Matthew Junior will inherit the title and we find ourselves wishing that, for the next season, Fellowes just skips ahead about 16 years and we settle in to watch the nearly grown Sybil Branson and Matthew Crawley Jr. take over the reins of Downton as World War II bears down on them. The prospect of watching the family shuffle through the rest of the 1920s bores us, especially since the only interesting thing happening to a Crawley right now is Edith’s decision to become a mistress to a married man. Since Fellowes wimped out on showing anyone’s reaction to Matthew’s death, he should just skip through the whole mourning process and the dreary “raising a child on your own” story and just have teenage Matthew Jr. inherit his estate just as war breaks out again. It’s the only potential plotline with any interest to us – and it really says something that we have to jump ahead that far to find anything that might keep our attention.
And for those of you who don’t watch “Downton Abbey,” I’m sorry, but I needed to vent.
By the way, what ever happened to Mrs. Hughes’ cancer scare? Clearly she had a favorable result, but I don’t recall a single scene after the “we’ll have to wait a few weeks” one.
A speedy drive to Lansing this morning, and when I got off the freeway and into town, I wondered if there had been a bomb scare or something before remembering it was one of those holidays I’ve never, ever had off in my life, and never expect to. Good for the ski resorts up north, but not much more. Nevertheless, a quiet day is a quiet day, and probably as good a way as ever to ease into the week. So, some bloggage?
RIP, Policy Review. Will Thomas Sowell have to get a job at Wal-Mart?
A few remarkable pieces of journalism from 1968. As an accompaniment, 50 remarkable photos from 1963. We’ve changed. A lot.
Did I mention how very early it was when I left this morning? No? Well, zzzzzzz.
Dexter said on February 19, 2013 at 1:51 am
I just took a slow look at all 50 photos in The Atlantic. I lived through that time, mostly from a distance , discussing those events in current events class, which we had once a week in lieu of regular US history class. I was just starting high school.
The monk’s self-immolation was a tough one to understand for an Indiana teenager. The racism that figured in many of these pictures pained us, but as kids all we could do was to speak up in class against the wicked ways of the world. The war , well, I always felt that was crazy-wrong. My opinions were formed when I was 12, 13 years old and my step-grandmother would listen to her Zenith (the quality goes in before the name goes on) radio and shake her head and vent against the government for sending even the first advisers to Vietnam. She was a very old lady by then and she use to tell me how the French had been “kicked out of there” and the US had no business over there. She made sense to me, but my history teacher didn’t like me talking like that in his class. He was a Marine in WWII , My County Right or Wrong. Almost everybody felt that way. Duped.
Even now , and I have posted comments here at nn.c before about this, I shuddered , just a few minutes ago when I saw the photo of the Birmingham church where four little girls were murdered. I always remember the date…September 15, 1963, three days before my 14th birthday. I remember the stunned outrage I felt that night when I turned on my Crosley radio and heard the news. Well, fifty years has passed and the pattern for the USA is apparent. We invade. We kill. Poverty-stricken people stay that way. Republicans hate to see anyone making $9 per hour for unskilled work. We now set records , not for the wealth of the nation, but for how fast we can empty the treasury into ratholes like “The Region” . Goddam ’em anyway.
Brandon said on February 19, 2013 at 2:51 am
Will Thomas Sowell have to get a job at Wal-Mart?
Suzanne said on February 19, 2013 at 7:51 am
Policy Review gone. Sad that it seems to have gone away, though, apparently because the articles were too in-depth and long.
A number of years ago, I got a close relative a free 6 month subscription to National Review (when Buckley was still in charge) hoping it would move him away from the Rush Limbaugh bubble. It didn’t. He said it was too hard to read. Thoughtful conservatism left as talk radio grew. Now, National Review should go, too. It used to be an interesting, well reasoned read; now, it’s a right wing screech.
Julie Robinson said on February 19, 2013 at 8:41 am
Suzanne, you’ve nailed it on the head. Mom used to read Buckley’s newspaper columns to build her vocabulary since there was always at least one word that drove her to the dictionary. Vocabulary and dictionary are big words to the R’s of today.
DA may have lost me too. Season 4 will begin six months after Matthew’s death and they’re introducing a hunky new love interest for Mary. It smacks of desperation.
John (not McCain) said on February 19, 2013 at 9:30 am
A good season counts as a strike? You’re trying to confuse the English on purpose!
“when I saw the photo of the Birmingham church where four little girls were murdered. I always remember the date…September 15, 1963”
One day short of two months before the day I was born in Birmingham. When I was much older and read about that, and realized the nature of the place I was from, I knew that I would never be happy until I got the hell out of Dixie.
Scout said on February 19, 2013 at 9:39 am
We’ll watch DA again next season, but we definitely find ourselves kvetching about it more and more as time goes on. The Matthew exit was poorly handled. He should have been left alive at the scene so the audience could wonder in the interim whether he would survive. Although, I suppose cliff hangers like that cannot exist anymore now that we can all google the actor and find out he’s already on to bigger and better things, thereby giving it away that he’s going to expire. Still. We now call it Downerton Abbey in our house.
I never read Policy Review, but have no problem understanding why anything that tries to approach intellectualism from today’s right wing hive mind is doomed to fail. The face of the party is now The Nuge, Clint Eastwood and an empty chair, angry elf John McCain and Miss Lindsay Closetcase. No amount of reasonable indoor voices spoken (written) by smart people who really should know better, can overcome this. The R’s need a big purge, but until they disassociate with the pig ignorant base, they’re stuck with dancing with who they brung.
susan said on February 19, 2013 at 9:45 am
I think the changes in ‘merica since 1963 are superficial. One could probably find equivalent recent photos and attitudes to put side-by-side with each one of those 50 year-old photographs. Maybe the real changes have been better use of subtlety and dog-whistles.
Deborah said on February 19, 2013 at 9:45 am
True Scout, you lay down with dogs you get up with fleas.
BigHank53 said on February 19, 2013 at 9:46 am
Conservatism has precious few ideas left; they’ve been largely replaced with dogma. Tax cuts pay for themselves. The ‘free’ market can solve any problem*. The USA is entitled to be the world’s policeman, despite our demonstrated track record. 47% of the country are takers that contribute nothing. Ronald Reagan is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful President I’ve ever known in my life.
The thing about dogma is that it doesn’t need–or even bear–examination. It is to be learned and repeated, in order to identify and reinforce tribal membership. Conservatism has outgrown Policy Review. They’re not interested in improving their ideas so they work better–they want to reshape the world so it matches their preconceptions.
If they fail in that task, of course, they’d much rather sulk about the liberal media or leftist college professors or the degradation of culture. Six thousand words on educational standards and subsidies doesn’t contribute much to the self-pity party.
*It turns out that an entirely unregulated market can solve any problem; just not in a fashion that’s likely to be pleasant. Even for the survivors.
coozledad said on February 19, 2013 at 9:53 am
Here are some good photos of Dr. King from the old Durham Morning Herald.
The photographer who took the picture of King at White Rock probably drank at my neighborhood bar.
It’s an iconographic jewel, like The Oath of the Horatii- both classically informed and prescient.
coozledad said on February 19, 2013 at 10:02 am
BigHank53: It’s devolved into a goober faith- like white supremacy, or the unvarnished grandfatherly decency of Robert E. Lee. They don’t need information to back it up, and they’re not going to bother going into the back yard looking for it, because there’s a bad dog chained out there by the shithouse that’ll just about rip a leg off.
nancy said on February 19, 2013 at 10:04 am
Cooz, MLK spoke in Grosse Pointe about three weeks before his assassination. The archive is remarkable, and the audio clip of the speech — a very explicit speech, in comparison to the weak oratory of today — captures the hecklers, with whom he engaged a time or two. An interesting chapter in local history.
Prospero said on February 19, 2013 at 10:32 am
The picture of Bolton rampant on that Policy Review article reminds me of the sheer idiocy of most GOPer objections to Hagel’s appointment, I.e., in this case that he lacks the proper temperament. Same Clngressional aholes thought nothing of sending Bolton to the UN, after his intemperance had been well documented, And he had said more than once he’d like to blow up UN HQ in NYC. And I for one would like to lend a personal hand to Little Lindsey Fauntleroy in his aim of getting to the bottom of Benghazi, Or, better, to get some Syrian teriss to the bottom of Little Lindsey. Lost his fecking mind.
Must take issue with Jordan Smith’s “fluently and luminously” description of the writing in those wingnut journals. Doctrinaire writers are invariable, probably inevitably, clunky writers without original voices. What the hell, they spout shibboleths, so how they gonna write well? Just read down to the precis of the Robert Kagan article about Europe and the USA. Boy lost his senses.
A good season counts as a strike? You’re trying to confuse the English on purpose!
Thomas Sowell should get a job as a men’s room attendant. Seems to be the sort of job the jerk thinks black people are suited for.
Right, leg before wicket (LBW).
On Downton, I think his lordship is the sort of dumbass that will never learn anything unless bad things happen to him. And Mary may have brought tragedy upon herself by her grotesque compulsion to make her sister miserable.
Those shitheels that think it’s funny when there are blizzards, despite climate change?Ignorance is its very own reward. Science, straight from the pit of hell, for Dr. Paul Broun.
Jeff Borden said on February 19, 2013 at 10:42 am
I’ve always thought it ironic that right-wing pundits, with their overwhelming belief in the power and purity of free markets, have never been able to create a publication that pays for itself. National Review regularly has begging sessions, asking its readers to send donations to keep it going. . .just like the hated PBS and NPR stations they love to mock. Buckley obviously was a very bright man and he was able to change his thinking vis-a-vis race in America, though it was pretty late in his life. Now, NR publishes Jonah Goldberg, perhaps the dumbest and least articulate conservative voice out there? Rich Lowry, whose embarrassing posts about Sarah Palin weren’t worthy of a lovesick high school sophomore? Kathryn Lopez? The aging vestal virgin whose obsession with marriage and gay rights is almost sad? Yeeesh. No thanks. NR isn’t much above Glenn Beck level these days.
I suppose there are pluses and minuses to Chuck Hagel, but to me the significant thing is the man experienced combat on the ground. He was wounded twice. He was a non-com. He knows the shit that war produces in ways that Sen. Closetcase (an Air Force reservist) and even Sen. Grumpypants (whose ordeal in a North Vietnamese prison camp was heroic but who flew jets and thus never saw the blood and guts that Hagel witnessed up close). Too many of our leaders have no direct knowledge of the horrors of combat. Hagel does. I think that’s important for the secretary of defense.
Minnie said on February 19, 2013 at 10:43 am
Those photographs are vivid – and painful – in my memory. 1963 was a time of such hope and despair. I was 19 and living in a south Mississippi town of semi-acknowledged Klansmen, “good Germans”, those awakening to the reality of the culture, Civil Rights activists, and college students who might fit into any of these categories. We have made some progress, but it’s frighteningly evident that reactionary beliefs and actions are strong in some segments of the populace.
Minnie said on February 19, 2013 at 10:45 am
Mary, how did it go yesterday? Did our thoughts of justice and peace enter into the decisions? I hope so.
Charlotte said on February 19, 2013 at 10:59 am
The photo gallery was great — I just sneaked in at the tail end of 1963. My mother tells how she sort of hoped the shock of the Kennedy assassination would shake me loose, but I hid out for another three weeks or so before finally making my debut.
And I have to say, I sort of love Julian Fellowes for killing off blithe Matthew like that — I’d been spoiled, so it was no surprise to me and frankly, I laughed really hard. Maybe it’s because I’m a fiction writer … plus they’d been so sappy for the past couple of episodes that I was happy to see him drive his roadster into the ditch. Although I’m with T&L — I do think it would be more interesting to skip ahead to Sybil and Matthew — the teen years. (My favorite moment was Carsen and the baby … so adorable).
Catherine said on February 19, 2013 at 11:08 am
I freaking love Hilary Mantel: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v35/n04/hilary-mantel/royal-bodies
Judybusy said on February 19, 2013 at 11:09 am
The articles and photos were so moving. I recently read an account of the Birmingham civil rights movement and the bombing of the church by Carolyn Maull McKinstry, who was friends with all four girls at the church. She’d just been in the bathroom talking to them minutes before the bomb exploded. The book is by no means comprehensive, but it was a very moving account. She talks about the aftermath in her own life of those terrible times. What struck me the most was that no one talked about the bombing or the girls after it happened. There were so many bombings, and people lived in fear, but few people in her circle talked openly of it. I knew, but was appalled to learn all over that the men responsible weren’t brought to justice for decades. McKinstry was called by *the defense* for one of the trials in the early 2000s.
Prospero said on February 19, 2013 at 11:17 am
I’ve read that Pete Hammill piece about Sirhan’s murder of Bobby Kennedy before. Can’t bear to read it again. I remember the Lester Bangs review of Astral Weeks very well.
Dorothy said on February 19, 2013 at 11:23 am
I was just about to ask Mary how arbitration went too. Thanks for the reminder, Minnie.
LAMary said on February 19, 2013 at 11:32 am
Eh. Nobody’s happy. I guess that means it was not as bad as it could be.
JWfromNJ said on February 19, 2013 at 11:35 am
Very off topic but I’m really disturbed about the Chinese Army toying with trying to hack our power grid down.
I’m not sure everyone realizes that if they can take down the packet switching network essentially everything shuts down – stop lights, power plants, water, the internet (at least here), banks, railroads, trucking. Back to the middle ages in five minutes. Plus that would cripple the military, police, fire, ems, hospitals.
To quote Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott of Star Trek, “the more they overtake the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain.”
Prospero said on February 19, 2013 at 11:49 am
Damn JW. Sounds like a cruise ship.
coozledad said on February 19, 2013 at 12:29 pm
Catherine: That’s the best thing I’ve read since the last Hilary Mantel piece I read. This is jaw droppingly beautiful:
And then the queen passed close to me and I stared at her. I am ashamed now to say it but I passed my eyes over her as a cannibal views his dinner, my gaze sharp enough to pick the meat off her bones. I felt that such was the force of my devouring curiosity that the party had dematerialised and the walls melted and there were only two of us in the vast room, and such was the hard power of my stare that Her Majesty turned and looked back at me, as if she had been jabbed in the shoulder; and for a split second her face expressed not anger but hurt bewilderment. She looked young: for a moment she had turned back from a figurehead into the young woman she was, before monarchy froze her and made her a thing, a thing which only had meaning when it was exposed, a thing that existed only to be looked at.
beb said on February 19, 2013 at 12:45 pm
Freedom is awesome.
Yes, let’s defend our Second Amendment writes by abolishing our First Amendment rights…
MarkH said on February 19, 2013 at 12:47 pm
Coozledad and Prospero —
We have a rock group from one of the Carolinas appearing here in Jackson tonight and getting a lot of hype: Delta Rae.
Heard of them? Recommended?
coozledad said on February 19, 2013 at 1:03 pm
I haven’t been paying attention to local music for years. It was all Chapel Hill, and boy did that ever suck ass. Lamest head-up-its-ass town that ever was, next to Raleigh. I’m glad to hear Durham is able to field some bands, despite being surrounded by an aggregate of white-flight BMW hangars and drooling basketball man-hos. It’s a beautiful town. Racism came very close to wiping it completely out.
MarkH said on February 19, 2013 at 1:27 pm
Thanks. We all can’t know every band that may be around. This is supposed to be “Fleetwood Mac meets Mumford and Sons”(?). VH1 endorses, FWIW. Here’s a little more:
I’m going so I’ll report back.
Catherine said on February 19, 2013 at 2:04 pm
“Get your pink frilly frocks out, zhuzh up your platinum locks. We are all Barbara Cartland now. The pen is in our hands. A happy ending is ours to write.”
“Zhuzh” is my word of the day.
Judybusy said on February 19, 2013 at 2:25 pm
Catherine, thanks for the article. Just really fine writing. I have yet to read her, but will once I work my way through the wait list at the library.
In a DA-related note,Dan Stevens (Matthew) was on the Booker Prize committee, which of course ultimately chose Mandel’s latest book for the winner.He read 146 books, while filming DA and becoming a father for the second time. Oh, there was also a broadway play to do in 2012.
Kristen said on February 19, 2013 at 2:42 pm
Just when you thought the world couldn’t get any weirder: http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/19/motherhood-reborn-and-everlasting/
alex said on February 19, 2013 at 2:45 pm
Always wanted to know how to spell zhuzh, so thanks Catherine. I’ve heard it used by a nitsy young cosmetician who was the boyfriend of a friend. He always wanted to dress us up like twenty-somethings and zhuzh our hair and splash us with enough product to make us smell like a French whorehouse whenever we’d get together as couples and go out on the town. That was one relationship I knew wouldn’t last and I’m glad of it.
coozledad said on February 19, 2013 at 2:48 pm
Jesus. Those dolls look like the cartes-de-visites of dead infants people used to swap when there were at least three per family.
“Yup. This ‘un died of the typhoid. The girl there come down with the same diptheria that took off her ma. We thought that ‘un was going to make it until he crawled into the sorghum press. Win a few, lose a few.”
adrianne said on February 19, 2013 at 3:20 pm
One of the saddest essays I’ve ever read was Pete Hamill’s account of Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination and taking the funeral train to New York City. His description of the ethnic divides among the mourning is telling: “The Irish drank and told stories; the Jews were overcome by grief; the Protestants looked around disapprovingly every time they heard laughter.”
Dexter said on February 19, 2013 at 4:18 pm
Don’t click this link unless your name is Kristen or coozledad. It’s the dead baby from “Trainspotting”, and it’s creepy.
Brandon said on February 19, 2013 at 4:29 pm
“white-flight BMW hangars and drooling basketball man-hos. It’s a beautiful town. Racism came very close to wiping it completely out.”
Could you elaborate?
Prospero said on February 19, 2013 at 4:57 pm
the Protestants looked around disapprovingly every time they heard laughter
Irish Catholic wake and funeral the wrong place to be. My dad’s was pretty uproarious.
alex said on February 19, 2013 at 5:10 pm
Oh, Dex. I’d forgotten all about Trainspotting. I have an original doodle by that name stashed away somewhere. (It’s Thomas the Tank Engine with an embarrassing case of menses.)
coozledad said on February 19, 2013 at 5:15 pm
Brandon; The city council in Durham wasn’t restricted to city residents during the 70’s and 80’s, so the county (white, racist, recidivist) just about fucked Durham out of existence, screwing with everything from street layout (since restored to pre white trash revenge planning) to ripping up the old black commercial district of Haiti(Hay-Tie) and replacing it with HWY 147 and a marijuana/cocaine possession prison for young blacks. This was a process repeated in historically black communities throughout the south, in concert with the Reagan Administration’s essentially racist mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines. While they were at this, they ripped down as many historically significant buildings as they could, reinforcing Barbara Tuchman’s view that people of Germanic origins are natural vandals, acting out a centuries long inferiority complex.
The old guard among them kept fighting to keep restaurants and bars out of town because they promoted the values that made Durham a scary place for old white hicks. Like public restrooms, liberal arts programs, and continuing education, food and drink lead directly to that crack lockup in N-town.
Well, the hippies and communists took over Durham, built a couple of Irish pubs tapas bars and trattorias, and now you can’t walk twenty paces downtown without seeing a man in an evening gown or a dyke walking dogs and flashing her boobs*.
Love it or leave it, motherfuckers.
*Not really. I did see a girl remove her shirt and wave it around menacingly during a gay pride parade around 2002-04. My tits were bigger.
MaryRC said on February 19, 2013 at 6:01 pm
I read Mantel’s essay earlier today through Gawker’s link. I couldn’t see how her description of Kate’s “perfect plastic smile”, dead eyes and lack of character made Mantel any better than the people she described who stare at Kate and debate whether she should run in heels. I think the Duchess would be perfectly within her rights to say to Mantel as well as to those others, “You don’t know me. Don’t treat me like a blank projection screen for your own fantasies.”
As for Downton, they can kill off everyone upstairs as far as I’m concerned, as long as they don’t kill off Mrs. Hughes, Carson and the rest of the downstairs gang.
Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on February 19, 2013 at 6:28 pm
Mrs. Patmore deserved better, too. “I’m not just a pretty face!” You go, girl.
Jolene said on February 19, 2013 at 6:29 pm
Best thing I’ve read on the DA departures was a wisecrack on Twitter: Pledge, or Daisy gets it next.
MaryRC said on February 19, 2013 at 6:54 pm
Jolene, too funny! Did some PBS stations have a pledge drive after the episode? That’s not how you do it! There’s a #Pledgedrive twitter account with a couple of funny remarks:
“Here’s the corpse, now pay me the ransom”. PBS are the worst kidnappers ever.
Have they never seen CSI? Get the cash first, THEN kill the hostage.
I also liked “Downer Abbey” (and Scout’s “Downerton Abbey”, too).
brian stouder said on February 19, 2013 at 8:36 pm
I’ve been (slowly) enjoying Rachel Swarns’ book about Michelle Obama’s family history, and I confess that I did not know how new Birmingham, Alabama is. In the post-war period, lots and lots of freed Americans settled in this brand new place called Birmingham – and referred to it as “Magic City”. There were jobs and opportunities there, and the black community grew and grew, even as confederate veterans came to the place, too….
My “understanding” of that place pretty much begins with George Wallace and the crackers, and I’d not even considered that it was ever a desirable place for anyone who wasn’t white; much like Georgetown, in coastal South Carolina – where freed American blacks could vote and elect black members of Congress and black local officials…..until, 20 or 30 years further on the, rules got changed, and that was that.
It’s marvelous stuff, and must not ever be forgotten – especially as we deal with 21st century vote suppression efforts.
Deborah said on February 19, 2013 at 10:44 pm
I took a bus ride in 1964 when I was 14 the summer after my mother died with my sister who was a year older than me from Miami FL to Kansas City MO to stay with my mother’s sister awhile. We went through the south, during a time when civil rights protests were rampant. I remember riding on the buses when black people got on board and sat on the bus and sang the whole way they were on board. They were freedom riders I know now but then I found it fascinating and so outside of my normal life, I’m sure it is what has formed me partially into who I am today. I sometimes marvel that my father put me and my sister on that bus at that time and let us have those experiences on our own at that time. Am sure that I would not have let my own daughter have those experiences at that age, but am so glad I got to have them.
Dexter said on February 19, 2013 at 10:59 pm
Deborah, nice story. I grew up knowing no “Negroes” at all, but when I was eighteen in 1968 and then again in 1969 I rode in a raggedy bus , playing baseball all over the American south. We travelled with about 22 players and only four of us were Caucasian, the rest African-American. This is a re-hash for me, because I posted this story before here, but along the way I did make a pilgrimage to the Birmingham church where the 1963 bombing killed the four girls. Four of my Black teammates walked me there. That was killer for me, that visit, just walking past the church, not stopping for a second to reflect, just keep moving, man. Okay, man.
In Memphis, in our hotel, I stopped some adult Black ladies in the lobby and brashly asked them what it was like that night in Memphis, April 4, 1968…how far was the Lorraine Motel from our hotel, I asked. “It’s a long ways, and please don’t go walking down there at night” the women told me. Okay, that was all. I didn’t go see it. What the hell. In 1968 Beale Street was a real broken down mess. I was shocked to see photos of its re-birth years later. Good on Memphis.
Deborah said on February 19, 2013 at 11:31 pm
Another thing that is so interesting is that my sister and I would end up being on opposite ends of the political spectrum after we both experienced the exact same things on that 1964 trip through Georgia, Alabama and I think Mississippi. How could we see and hear the same things and yet come away with completely different opinions about it?