Monthly Archives: September 2014

Downton Abbey Revisited (but not by Evelyn Waugh)

The new season of Downton Abbey, a show that I compulsively hate-watch, debuted last Sunday night on ITV in the UK, w/an extended 90-minute episode.  Although the audience was still huge, it was down by about a million viewers compared to the Series 4 opener.

One tiny, tiny little spoiler:  We learn the name of that dog whose wagging tail introduces each DT episode.  Months ago, when the episode was filmed, no one could possibly have foreseen that there would be anything disconcerting about naming the dog  “ISIS”….

Downton Abbey will be televised in the US in January.


Sunday Morning — Victoriana of the Week

George Frank Miles - Lillie Langtry 1884a

“Lillie Langtry”, George Frank Miles

Frank Miles lived a rich and eventful life, but he’s fallen into obscurity.

It was Miles who introduced his friend Oscar Wilde to society, and to Wilde’s patron, Lord Ronald Charles Sutherland-Leveson-Gower, who became the model for Lord Henry Wotton in The Picture of Dorian Gray.   After leaving Oxford, Wilde  lived in Miles’ Chelsea house for several years.

As a painter, Miles specialised in portraits of ladies in the upper reaches of society, including Princess Victoria, Princess Maud, and Princess Louise.   He also painted Daisy Greville, Countess of Warwick, and the actress Lillie Langtry, who were both among the several mistresses of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.  (And speaking of rich and eventful lives, check out that  link to Lillie Langtry’s Wikipedia entry.  Did you know that she was the model for “Irene Adler” in A Scandal in Bohemia?)

No happy ending here:  Miles was committed to an asylum In 1887 w/symptoms that suggest syphilis-related dementia, and died four years later.   Most of his once considerable estate was gone by the time he died.  As a grim postscript, some speculated that he may have been Jack the Ripper, a theory has no basis in fact.

The Lillie Langtry portrait was sold at Christie’s in 2011 for £11,250 ($18,394).  I haven’t been able to identify the new owner.

SPARKED — The Dance of the Quadcopters

This is quite beautiful.   The remarkable thing:   This video contains No CGI.

“Cirque du Soleil, ETH Zurich, and Verity Studios have partnered to develop a short film featuring 10 quadcopters in a flying dance performance.  The collaboration resulted in a unique, interactive choreography where humans and drones move in sync.  Precise computer control allows for a large performance and movement vocabulary of the quadcopters and opens the door to many more applications in the future”.
—from the site.

And here’s a “Making of…” video that’s equally fascinating.

“So We Beat On, Boats Against the Current, Borne Back Ceaselessly into the Past”

Today is  F. Scott Fitzgerald’s birthday.  I made a little pilgrimage to his grave.

Scott and Zelda are buried in the graveyard next to St. Mary’s Church, in Rockville, Maryland.  Ignoring the usually sound advice of Michael Stipe, I took the train back to Rockville, and made the five-minute walk from the Metro station to the cemetery.

I wasn’t the only one making a birthday visit.  There were notes and a few flowers at the grave site.  In the past, visitors have left hip flasks and half-empty wine bottles.  Someone once left a bouquet of daisies.

The slab on top of the grave quotes the famous last sentence of The Great Gatsby:


David Bowie is Documentary — In Theatres Tonight Only

A documentary about that incredible David Bowie is exhibition I saw in Toronto last Fall is playing tonight at theatres around the country.  In many places, tickets sold out long ago, but some theatres—including the one here in Washington, DC—have added second showings.

The theatrical presentation is billed as “for one night only”, but I assume that the film will soon be available through various other media, since this isn’t the 1950s.

Not co-incidentally, the David Bowie is exhibition itself opens today in Chicago.

David Bowie is was created by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and the documentary was filmed on the closing night of the V&A exhibition.  The film was directed by Hamish Hamilton, who also directed the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

The David Bowie is exhibition is easily the best museum installation I’ve seen in years.  After the London opening, it traveled to Toronto, Sao Paulo, and Berlin, and it’s slated to continue touring until at least Spring of 2016.  Here’s the most recent schedule:

  •     Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, USA from 23 September 2014 – 4 January 2015
  •     Philharmonie de Paris/ Cité de la Musique, Paris, France from 2 March to 31 May 2015
  •     Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), Melbourne, Australia from 16 July to 1 November 2015
  •     Groninger Museum, Groningen, The Netherlands from 15 December 2015 to 15 March 2016