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On Plot Lines, Needlework, and the Unfortunate Deterioration of Eyesight April 3, 2014

I am currently in the process of re-watching the entire “Downton Abbey” series for the fifth or sixth time. As the drama plays out, I sit silently upon the couch with a tiny needle gripped between my teeth. I gaze at the diagram, searching for the row where I last left off and consider how much easier this was before I needed bifocals. Now, the tiny thread-color symbols seem to blur into a single, indistinguishable mass vaguely recognizable as “things I’ve stitched” and “things I haven’t stitched”.

Because I am hand making a large number of my Christmas gifts this year, such trials must be gracefully borne. When I was younger, such endeavors were the result of a restricted budget. (After all, how much could a kid do with $2 a week?) While I make significantly more now, the principle remains the same. Health insurance and fuel for my truck take precedence over fancy presents – even for those whom I love most dearly. So here I am, carefully stitching the first of what promises to be at least four meaningful gifts destined for the walls of my closest friends.

Of course, unlike when I was a child, these gifts are not simply glue-gunned bits of scraps. While everyone will be receiving some form of needlework, not every item is identical. Nor is each item simply a variation upon a theme. These are not mass-produced trinkets designed to save me the bother of shopping or the investment of money which might otherwise be spent on play things. These are carefully selected items designed to convey message and meaning to those who receive them.

That the creation of such gifts takes time is evident, so I had the wisdom to begin my work in January. And, since stitching is a relaxing, but not particularly stimulating task, it was incumbent upon me to find something else to captivate my mind for the many hours of labor ahead. Movies like “Indiana Jones” and “Star Wars” quickly made their way onto my list as did “The Mummy” and a few “James Bond” films. I contemplated watching the entire series of “Stargate SG1” again as well as assorted seasons of “Star Trek”, “Dr. Who”, and “M*A*S*H*”.

Doubtless my TV watching hours will seem quite extravagant by the year’s end, but I anticipate that each moment will have been well-spent. I should be able to recite all of the Dowager Countesses lines for four seasons and may even be able to hum the “Imperial March” backwards. The best part, however, will not be the knowledge that I can provide hours of entertainment at any party or even that those I love will receive genuinely meaningful gifts – it will be the delight I feel when I walk into the optometrist and explain that it’s entirely my friends’ fault that I need stronger bifocals. Then again, it may be the look on my friends’ faces when they discover that they took the blame!


On “Downton Abbey” and the Perils of Rewriting March 13, 2014

It’s a windy day today and, while I’d like to be reading a book on economic theory, I’m not. Instead, I find myself replaying last night’s episode of “Downton Abbey” in vivid detail. It’s a show that I’m shocked to discover most of my friends don’t watch and which most of my friends may be shocked to hear that I do. I’d be quick to point out, of course, that there is no need for them to feel quite so stunned. The series appears on PBS’s “Masterpiece Theater” and all of the actors have British accents. This strange confluence of “posh” factors contributes to the show’s reputation as a drama rather than a soap opera and allows me to watch it with unrestrained delight while at the same time retaining my sophisticated self-image.

It will, of course, be another two months before this post appears on my blog and by then, most of my questions will have been answered. (With the exception of the one that was so pressing that I felt forced to investigate via a series of spoiler sites. If you’re interested, the answer is “no”.) By then, I’ll know whether Carson and Mrs. Hughes finally become “an item” and whether the drama with Mary will ever end. (My guess is that it won’t). It will have been revealed whether Mr. Gregson actually does become a German citizen and, if so, whether Lord Grantham will find the act entirely deplorable. (My guess is that he will.) And we’ll know whether Molesley ends up as the Dowager’s butler… but what kind of question is that?

Sadly, this is where my problem begins. I’ve been re-writing stories far longer than I’ve been writing them. Taking pieces of plot lines and projecting them forward to create dramas and adventures of which the original writers never conceived. From Big Bird and Super Grover to Han Solo, Princess Leia, Captain Piccard, and Mr. Spock, fictional characters seem to jump off the screen and into my life, leaving themselves open to my creative reworking of their stories. Like imaginary friends, they accompany me on my journeys and I accompany them on theirs. And, in recent years, a few of the characters from other shows like “Sherlock” and “Downton Abbey” have joined them.

So here I sit, imagining grand story arcs when I ought to be studying. Yes, in my world, Violet feels such sorrow for Molesley’s condition that she takes him on as her butler and elevates him far above his previous heights. Mr. Carson does confess that he loves Mrs. Hughes. (Like viewers haven’t speculated about that for the last two seasons!) And Mr. Bates slugs Mr. Green… in the library… in front of everyone. (Mr. Carson and Lord Grantham will, of course, prevent him from doing anything which might result in further prison time.) So there you have it, a brief introduction to “Downton Abbey” season four as rewritten by me. Time will tell whether it lives up to expectations!


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