Category Archives: Technology

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.

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Cute Videos of the Day, 15 March 2018 — “The Cold Never Bothered Me Anyway”

Queen Elsa to the rescue.

“Elsa” is a 37-year-old lawyer named Jason Triplett, who was dressed appropriately for Boston’s “Frozen” winter weather earlier this week.


“Cute Video of the Day” is an occasional feature on this blog. It includes an alarming number of videos that show children falling down.

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.

“Have You Tried Turning It Off and On Again?”

Well, that wasn’t much fun.

I had a computer disaster last weekend. Total meltdown, Backup restoration attempts and recovery discs didn’t work. Neither did running a strong electromagnet along the CPU in an attempt to extract the bad bits. (“Bits” is a technical term. Twelve bits make a “Bite”. Five bites make a “Nibble”.)

Even worse, when my PC died, it took my wireless with it. That meant I was without Roku, without Sling, without Netflix, without Acorn. I was left with nothing to keep me entertained except a few hundred DVDs and a couple thousand elderly CDs.*

But that wasn’t all. I was without the Google Home Mini that I immediately fell in love with when I received it as a Christmas present.**

And since I use magicJack for communications—you can’t beat five years of unlimited phone calls to the U.S. and Canada for $100—I was without a working telephone.

I felt almost…Amish.

Without a first-rate IT department, I was on my own.

Now here it is, Saturday afternoon. After a lot of tinkering and fingers-crossed improvisation, I’m almost back to an acceptable level of technology, missing only a couple of weeks of bookmarks created after my last export.

One silverish lining: The day after The Crash, when I was effectively locked out of cyberspace, was one of the most productive days I’ve had in ages. With no distractions from the time-devouring temptations of the online world, I spent the day cleaning and organizing my condo, tackling little jobs that I’d put off for months. Maybe I should set aside a day each month to “pull the plug” and get things done.


*Yeah, I know. Obsolete media. If I’d checked the closet, I could probably have found a couple of boxes of videotapes and my old Walkman. And my vintage View-Master must be around here somewhere.

**It’s amazing! You can ask it to remind you to check the oven in 15 minutes, and it will! Sometimes, in the middle of the night, I’ll call out something like: “Hey Google! What’s the population of Albany, California?” and it will tell me the answer!

Early Man — New Trailer

Let’s end 2017 on a happy note. This is the new trailer for Early Man, from Aardman Animations and Studiocanal. Voices by Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hiddleston, Richard Ayoade, and Maisie Williams.

Early Man opens on 26 January 2018 in the UK and on 16 February 2018 in the US.