Strange Sunday Diversions

Stress at work ramped up a bit the last week or so, resulting in my neglecting my sourdough, my reading and my blog. I’m two sessions behind in my notes for the recently completed Mythgard Academy class on Out of the Silent Planet. I was the only member of my local library book club who did not finish the book, yet I was supposed to be leading the discussion. My husband risked his life on Friday, exposing his compromised immune system to God only knows what viruses to buy me flowers and a card for Valentine’s Day, yet all I brought home was myself and my stress.

Because I got home later than normal on Friday evening, and properly baked potatoes take a minimum of ninety minutes, we opted for take out from our local Applebee’s for dinner. We also squeezed in a game of Pandemic, which we won again. We decided the next time we play, we’ll increase the number of epidemics to increase the difficulty level.

Saturday I woke early to perform an update that was long over due. As usual, I overprepped and the update applied without issues. I spent the rest of the morning running errands and shopping. I even squeezed in a visit to my dad before heading back home and prepping the Valentine’s Day dinner of a porterhouse steak (bought fresh from a butcher in KCKS during a snow storm last week), roasted brussel sprouts and baked potatoes.

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TV Series Review: Downton Abbey (Season 1) – 4 Stars

Downton Abbey (Season 1)

Masterpiece (PBS)

4 out of 5 stars

I resisted watching Downton Abbey via my local PBS station, mostly because I rarely tune in to it.  I do not take full advantage of my DVR as I should, preferring to rely on Netflix (streaming or DVD) to catch up on series of interest.  Last week, I went looking for the first series via my Netflix streaming queue.  I swear I added the series months ago, but I could no longer find it waiting for me.  Apparently, the contract expired between Netflix and that particular content provider.  My next best option came from my local library, which had the entire series sitting on the shelf waiting for me to check it out.  This has one advantage over Netflix DVD service via snail mail – I get the entire series at once, instead of dribbled to me a disc at a time.  The disadvantage is I only had one week to view the series and only two renewals allowed for a total of three weeks in which to carve out seven or eight hours.  I guess another disadvantage to watching via DVD instead of streaming, I was forced to watch it via my home theater system (not a true disadvantage as I love my setup) or on my laptop.  With streaming, I could have continued watching the series over my lunch hours on my smartphone or laptop.  And before you ask, no, I don’t want to purchase this series from iTunes or Amazon or Google Play.  It aired on PBS (ostensibly paid for with my tax dollars and donations) and I don’t fancy having this series in my collection for posterity.  I consume content as efficiently as possible and support the artists and authors I consider exceptional with my hard-earned wages.

I picked up the DVDs late on Saturday morning last while out doing my weekly errands.  The rest of Saturday was spent working on household chores and remodelling projects, both of which tuckered me out too much to settle down and watch the series.  I woke up early Sunday morning and popped in the first DVD.  I watched the first two episodes and the documentary followed by another couple of episodes on the second DVD before noon.  That evening, I watched two more episodes, this time with my husband joining in (thankfully the plot wasn’t so complicated that I could catch him up quickly with a few brief pauses).  I finished the final episode of Season 1 on Monday evening, returning the DVDs to the library Tuesday evening.  Not bad considering I didn’t think I could squeeze in that much television viewing in my crazy week schedule.

Things I liked about the Downtown Abbey:

  • Beautiful locations and costumes
  • Well acted
  • Occasional well placed humor, a bit of mystery and not too much melodrama.
  • Glimpse of technology integration from 100 years ago (automobiles, telephones)

Things I didn’t like about the show (spoilers so beware):

  • Change in Mr. Bates character with respect to his job security
  • Virile young lover dies of a nearly unbelievable heart attack in oldest daughter’s arms
  • Miscarriage cliché (overused and too predictable).

I love to watch (but not necessarily read) period dramas because when they are well done, the visuals are beautiful and engrossing.  Like a window into the past. Downton Abbey delivered those in spades.  The glimpse into the changing times (woman’s suffrage, organized labor, rise of socialism, tensions in Europe leading up to WWI) from the upper and lower classes was well done.

While the plot didn’t tax my intellect overmuch, it was a welcome balm to my otherwise hectic life.  I’m looking forward to watching Season 2, starting tomorrow, once I retrieve the next set of discs from my local library this morning.

Movie Review: The Conspirator (2011)

The Conspirator (2011)

4 out of 5 stars

At one point in my life I probably knew that the first woman executed in the United States was a member of the ring of conspirators who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln.  I’ve slept since then and forgotten all I might have known beyond remembering that John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln and that the term ‘Your name is Mudd’ has it’s origins from that event.

I did not know, however, that Mary Surrat was tried in a military court martial, where the presumption of guilt (not innocence) presides and the rules of evidence are less stringent than a civilian court of law.

The Civil War (and it’s aftermath) have never held my historical attention like 20th century wars seem to (especially World War II).  Even living in northeastern Kansas, near the legacy of John Brown and the Lawrence Massacre by Quantrill, I tend to turn a blind eye to that time period.

But I can see parallels to our own times, one hundred and fifty years later, in the aftermath of 9/11 and our treatment of the accused (presumption of innocence, imprisonment with benefit of habeas corpus and trial by a jury of your peers).  The Patriot Act is not so far removed from what Lincoln signed into law in 1863 or what Woodrow Wilson signed during World War I.  Sadly, we did this to ourselves (the Civil War and afterwards).

This film kept my interest as well as any court room drama does, regardless of what century you place it in.  Frederick Aiken’s closing statement in Mary Surrat’s defense enthralled me.

The BluRay also included a 67 minute documentary (as well as other extras) that provided further historical background about the conspiracy to assassinate President Lincoln.