Category Archives: Design

Brideshead Downton Abbey ReVisited

After years of relentlessly mocking the looniness of Downton Abbey while never missing an episode of the series, there was no way that I could pass up a chance to spend an afternoon at “Downton Abbey: The Touring Exhibition” while I was in New York.

It was a treat.

Throughout the New York show, you’re greeted by some of the principal Downton actors, in costume and in character, via HD video. The exhibition covers three floors and contains hundreds—or, more likely, thousands—of props, costumes, and furnishings from the TV series. Snippets of dialog from the series play at related parts of the exhibition.  The use of technology to enrich the experience is flawless.

The first floor of the exhibition focuses on the servants and the “Downstairs” portion of the house, starting with the kitchen.

The informative signage that explained the roles and duties of the various members of the household was particularly good.

The servants’ dining table.

Mr. Carson and Mrs Hughes in Mr. Carson’s Office.

Mr. Carson’s Desk shows an attention to detail that’s typical of the exhibition.

If you looked closely at the pictures, you might have noticed something peculiar about the representation of the servants. I think that it must allude to a particularly dark episode in the Crowley family history. During the 1926 General Strike, Lady Violet was left in charge of the Abbey while the Crowley men went off to shoot some random strikers. As the hours wore on and her consumption of sherry grew apace, she became increasingly unhinged, until, fearing a violent revolution was about to bring down the Abbey and all it symbolized, she had the entire Downton underclass decapitated and stuffed.

The next morning, in the cold light of day—cold, because she’d offed the servant responsible for seeing that the rooms were warmed before the family awoke—she expressed extreme regret for her impetuous actions, once she realized there was no one left to prepare her morning tea.

Churchill helped the family cover up the incident, and the TV series tactfully ignored it.

Leaving behind the Morlocks who labour below the earth, we ascend to the golden, carefree world of the Eloi….

Oh, wait.  Wrong story,

The second floor is all about The Family and everything here—the clothes, the furniture, the people—is brighter, richer, and more colourful.

The Dining Room was a show-stopper.

Lady Violet has a little display area entirely to herself, where the audio features some of her better-known witticisms, including the one that has always seemed to me to be an excellent example of the series getting things hopelessly, unforgivably wrong.

Viewing a well-set dining table like the one in the picture above, she says, “Nothing succeeds like excess”, at which point I’ve been known to shout “No. No. No!” at the TV screen. A tacky sentiment like that would never come from Old Money. It’s something a Trump would say.

The third floor has a small display of miscellaneous costumes. After the richness of the rest of the show, it’s a bit anticlimactic.

Wedding Gowns.

So that was my afternoon at Downton. The show is beautifully put together, and I had a delightful time.


Ready Player One – “The Final Trailer”

Ready Player One opens at the end of this month, and this video was posted as “The Final Trailer”. It seems to be a fusion of two trailers, and it doesn’t appear to be an official Warner Brothers release, but it has some exciting content.

Maybe it’s just because I’m giddy about the return of the Thin White Duke these days, but doesn’t the Parzival avatar look Bowie-esque?

Here’s what I wrote after the first trailer was screened at Comic-Con last summer.

And here’s yet another trailer, this one titled “Official Trailer #5”, aka “The Clark Kent Trailer”:

Apple Makes the Most Gorgeous Commercials. For the Most Expensive Products.

Go fullscreen for this one!

The actress/dancer is British singer-songwriter FKA twigs (née Tahliah Debrett Barnett) and the director is the great Spike Jonze.

The product is the HomePod, which, according to Apple, “is a powerful speaker that sounds amazing and adapts to wherever it’s playing. It’s the ultimate music authority, bringing together Apple Music and Siri to learn your taste in music. It’s also an intelligent home assistant, capable of handling everyday tasks — and controlling your smart home. HomePod takes the listening experience to a whole new level. And that’s just the beginning.”

It sells for $349, magical apartment transformation powers and the ability to move like FKA twigs not included.

David Bowie is…in Brooklyn

Big News

I’ve been waiting for this for five years.

“David Bowie is”, the Victoria and Albert Museum’s magnificent exhibition chronicling the life of Ziggy Stardust, has returned to North America. It opened at the Brooklyn Museum last Friday, and will run through 15 July 2018.

I’ve already got my ticket.

I saw “David Bowie is” in 2013, in Toronto, the first stop of what was to be a five-year, five-continent, 10-city tour. It ran at the Art Gallery of Ontario, and it was possibly the most brilliantly staged museum exhibition I’d ever seen.

It was worthy of Bowie.

Here’s what I wrote at the time.

More Game of Thrones Goes Postal — Giants and Direwolves and Dragons, Oh My

The British Royal Mail isn’t ignoring the non-human players of the Game of Thrones. In addition to the 10 contestants in the set of postage stamps that I wrote about yesterday, the Royal Mail is also issuing a sheet of stamps featuring some of the less hominoid characters in the Game.

There are direwolves, who are friends of the good guys…

…giants and dragons, who play both sides of the field…

…and, of course, the Big Bad himself, the Night King.

At the center of it all, the Iron Throne.

The stamps will be sold at UK Post Office branches starting on 23 January 2018, and are already available for pre-ordered on the Royal Mail website.

Game of Thrones Goes Postal

Imagine this: There’s been an incident in King’s Landing. Two or three royals die of festering paper cuts, a deranged pig farmer blows up the national cathedral, the Queen announces that she’s pregnant by her six-years-dead husband, flying monkeys attack the scarecrow, the tin man, and the cowardly lion, whatever. Just another day in Westeros, really, but you feel an urgent need to get word of the event to the Watchers at the Wall.

You go to your aviary, only to discover that your fastest, most reliable raven is lying motionless at the bottom of his cage, little claws in the air, pining for the fjords. What to do?

British Royal Mail to the rescue!

On 23 January 2018, UK Post Office branches will begin selling stamps celebrating characters from the world’s most popular TV show, Game of Thrones. Even better, the stamps are available for pre-ordered on the Royal Mail website.

The stamps depict 10 characters, eight of whom are played by British actors.  Here’s are close-ups of the individual stamps:

Beautifully done, aren’t they?