Watching: Downton Abbey season finale (spoiler alert!)

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Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson have the final happy scene.

I will ‘downsize’ this review and get to the point: what was all that nonsense with the stolen love letter between someone name Freda and the Baron?…slash that, I have been corrected…it was the Prince of Wales. That wasted about 45 minutes of the show. Cousin Rose had her ‘coming out’ party (why didn’t I have one of those when I came out?) in London and was presented to the king. The card shark gambler was present. A whole Agatha Christie type of whodunit charade had to be pulled off to save the Prince of Wales’ face…and keep him for Rose, with whom he is smitten. From what I could tell, the whole concocted story was set up so that Mr. Bates could solve the so-called crime, be the hero, and prevent Mary from questioning him about his whereabouts in London on the day Anna’s rapist died…and do what Mrs Hughes, who always knows the right thing, said all along: leave it alone.

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Together again, just like we knew it would be!

Now that we have Anna and Mr. Bates taken care of, we have to deal with Edith. This episode conveniently opens 8 months later than last week. Nice time traveling…Edith never had to look pregnant. Boyfriend and baby daddy, Micheal Gregson, is still missing.  We knew it! Probably captured by Nazis! Edith has made ‘an informal agreement’ with a couple in Switzerland to adopt her baby daughter (once again, no heirs for the Earl and Countess of Grantham), a decision she comes to  regret as the interminably long episode draws on.  She has an epiphany at  Rose’s party and tells Mary that one must act on (‘make a scene’) what is really important.  She rushes out and starts packing.  She convinces Drewe, the ‘pig man’, to take in her daughter, with a thinly veiled story that the child belongs to a friend of hers. That sets it up for next season when Edith and Michael will reunite with their daughter.  Or will the Nazis get him?

Mary’s story of being pursued (endlessly) was less interesting.  Now that she knows that Charles is rich, she has put both Tony and Charles in the ring with the call, “Let the battle commence!”

lady-mary-suitors-downton-abbey-season-4-tom-cullen-julian-ovendenWhich suitor will it be? Tony or Charles?

Tony is taller…that should count for something.

Charles got her dirty with the pigs…that would do it for me.

My Mt. Tam

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IMG_1593These photos, and hundreds more shot from this angle, were all taken from my back deck.

Reading: three books, briefly noted…

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I was immediately drawn into Alice McDermott’s novel, Someone. She has been nominated for the Pulitzer three times and has won the National Book Award, and you can see why in this novel.  She places her narrator-heroine, Marie, in post-WWII Brooklyn, surrounded by her Irish-Catholic neighbors and family. The story is so simple and straight-foward that you feel transported into Marie’s life with all the sensibilities and manners of the time. Marie’s uncomplicated life becomes fascinating in the hands of this writer.  There is nothing modern about this book. The language is exquisite.

Anna Quindlen’s Still Life with Breadcrumbs leaves alot to be desired. Quindlen writes in an easy, modern, magazine style…probably from the days writing her column for Newsweek. The novel has an interesting premise: a 60-something woman artist leaves NYC to live in the country for a year and is scared to death of the noises in the house on her first night. That pulled me in. It deteriorates into a predictable love story in which the capable roofer/bird watcher melts her city-fied walls of sophistication. One reviewer called this ‘harequin romance meets interesting literary style’. The love story drives the plot, but there is also the secondary theme of a woman finding her own way when she thought the best days of her life were over.

A highly original work, The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin, must be listened to in its audio format, as it is read by Meryl Streep. The story is a brief one and is told from the point of view of an aging, suffering mother whose son has died.  Mary is not a believer that her now deceased child was the son of God sent to save sinners of the world. Not only is she sad and bitter over the loss of her son, she is hostile towards the entire group of men, the apostles, who she calls ‘misfits’, whom she blames for turning her son into a guru-type person.  It is a mother’s story about how a son was taken from her, not a religious story at all.

MK sings on American Idol…wow!

The homegirl can sing! She is my favorite contestant this year…and I decided against watching the show until I heard about MK. She is like a 20 year old kd lang.  You thought Adam Lambert was outrageous on the show (he was) but he wasn’t out. She is.  Did you see her moms crying in the audience? I know them through friends of friends. Just be yourself MK…you’ve got it all inside you to be an American Idol.

Thursday, Feb 20: MK made it into the top ten by popular vote!

Watching: First Openly Gay American Idol Contestant Raised in Bernal Heights

Resposted from my neighborhood blog, Bernalwood:

Posted on February 18, 2014 by 

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Neighbor Barbara brings the glamorous TV celebrity news that Emkay Nobilette, a contestant on the current American Idol, is an OG Bernal native:

I noticed on sfgate that an SF kid made the top 30. I sent the link to my daughter (away at college) who recognized her as her schoolmate at Buena Vista who used to live up the street from us on Treat. I haven’t seen her in almost 10 years so had no idea we knew her. Now I have a reason to tune into Idol again!

Emkay Nobilette is also the first openly gay contestant on American Idol. You can watch her sing — and come out — right here:

PHOTO: via Fox/American I

Watching: Downton Abbey and Shameless

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   Last night’s episode brought together many plot lines, all leading up to a dramatic finale, unfortunately in only two more episodes.  Mrs. Hughes, the downstairs head maid and fixer of all problems in the house (the staff therapist), has so much on her mind these days.  Mostly she is dealing with the big drama with Anna and Mr Bates due to the visiting valet/Anna’s perpetrator being present in the house. She told him off! Then there is the smaller love triangle with Ivy, Alfred and Daisy. There is no high drama with Mary this year, although she did seem very happy to see the visitor Gillingham, and to have physically conquered the pig problem…’they are my pigs!’
   Bates has had plenty of time to think through what he should do about the perpetrator of Anna’s sexual assault, and now he has the opportunity to do it. What would be the best punishment for the visiting valet?  There was no such thing as a legal consequence during those times, so it will have to be handled individually.  Bates will probably kill him. Or not…maybe permanently injure him? Please Mr. Bates, don’t do something stupid that will put you in jail again.
   Then there are the two main upstairs scandals: Cousin Rose and Edith. I think Rose’s infatuation will pass, but Edith’s pregnancy will rock Downton Abbey, as her boyfriend has disappeared and she just decided against an abortion.  The only outcome I can see  is to bring Michael back…maybe from being kidnapped, get married, and Edith will have the child of the man she loves.  That would be a fairy tale happy-ever-after, and Edith’s character and life story doesn’t seem to be going that way.
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   Shameless is Showtime’s over-the-top drama, sometimes comedy, about the dysfunctional Gallagher family from the south side of Chicago, nominally headed by father Frank, who spends his days drunk while the kids take care of themselves.  Frank steals from the cookie jar in this already broke household to buy booze…and that is only one minor crime that he has committed against his family.
   This season the show introduced two new ‘good’ characters: Fiona’s boss/boyfriend and 13 year old Debbie’s 20 year old boyfriend. Thank goodness this boyfriend called it off because of the age difference and that Debbie was not successful in her drive to have a sexual/romantic relationship. Twenty-one year old Fiona has always been the surrogate mother and stalwart of goodness in the family, but now she is in big trouble. This season 18 year old genius Lip has been facing that if he wants to succeed in college, on a scholarship, (succeed?…usually a big NO for him) that he actually has to do the school work, which is bringing out a new good side of him. Twelve year old Carl is just getting worse by becoming  Frank’s criminal right hand man.  That kid really needs help. One of the show’s  themes is  elusiveness or even absurdity of goodness in an inherently bad worldthe family! They all keep trying.  That is probably the best theme.
   In last night’s episode Fiona had to face two awful consequences to what looks like a developing sex addiction.  Her boyfriend/boss finds out that she was been having sex with his ne’er do well brother. Good boyfriend ends it with her, but lets her keep her first real job…with benefits. Bad brother stops by the house and leaves some cocaine after Fiona kicked him out and everyone starts to party.  Baby Liam gets into the coke and passes out. Everyone goes to the hospital, and the baby is OK. Watching Fiona get arrested was heartbreaking.
   It is Fiona’s fault that the coke came into her house and that Liam almost died.  Will Frank have any responsibility here? With Fiona going to jail, will Lip be able to stay in college? Will 17 year old gay brother Ian get out of the bars, where he is getting high all the time, and is AWOL from the Army, and come home to help with the family? the home he just left by joing the Army. Then there is the possibility of  crazy but lovable neighbor Sheila just taking over, which she is kind of ding already.  Or newfound Frank’s oldest daughter, Sammi, might have to introduce herself to the family and step up.
   The show is so over-the-top about sex, booze and drugs and the endless tolls it takes on this family, that it is always holding on by a thread. It is fascinating, but I still cannot decide whether I love it or hate it. It is the most outrageous soap opera ever. William Macy as Frank is unbelievable.

Watching: Who is the best parent on Modern Family?

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You have seen it at least once even if you aren’t crazy about it; or you have seen all the reruns like I have. I have recently needed some marathon tv comedy to distract myself from my knee’s torn meniscus now awaiting surgery.  I have asked myself the question, Who is the best parent on Modern Family?  Is the answer No One?  That’s not fair.  You have to accept the premise of the show: that they are all crazy, wonderful and hilarious parents who are leading the rest of the country with their acceptance of differences into the 21st century…right?

Here is my analysis…and the eventual winner:

Phil Dunphy, husband of Claire and father to Haley, Alex and Luke, wants to be ‘cool dad’.  Claire refers to him as ‘the kid I’m married to’.  Phil calls his special brand of parenting as ‘peerenting‘.  Phil has hopes for his oldest daughter, Haley, and he feels that the sky is the limit for her. If she can dream it, she can do it! Or as Phil actually says, “Haley is so pretty. So she can meet someone who’s the best at something.” He is too much of a child for me to give him the award.

Mitchell, fiance to Cameron, and father to Lily, is an overprotective and cautious father, who becomes terrified when a pidgeon flies in the house.  Mitchell is a great dad, admitting his weaknesses and saying, “I know I’m not the handiest guy, but I’m still a man, and I want to be able to look out into my yard and say, ‘There’s a little bit of me in that princess castle.’ He is a cool brother to Claire and a calming influence on Cam, but he is not the parent of the year.

Cameron is a stay at home dad who has been known to use Lily as a prop for photos and has taught her some provocative language. He loves being a dad, but he might like costumes more:

20 Reasons "Modern Family's" Cameron Tucker Is A Total Gem
20 Reasons "Modern Family's" Cameron Tucker Is A Total Gem
20 Reasons "Modern Family's" Cameron Tucker Is A Total Gem

 

Claire is an exhausted but loving mother, competitive and freaks out easily, very strict about having a clean house, and doesn’t want to make the mistakes she made as a teen. Cameron and Mitchell see her as an experienced parent. She is the dependable one everyone relies on.  Claire tells us, “Your kids don’t need to know who you were before you had them; they need to know who you wish you were, and try to live up to that person. They’re gonna fall short, but better they fall short of the fake you than the real you.”


Maybe she’s stubborn, maybe she’s self-righteous and maybe she never lets things go, but everyone in the family knows that Claire is the one you can go to for help. She can flip a house, help you with your presentation for Career Day, bail you out of jail and slow down traffic in your neighborhood. And when she’s not around , the kids don’t know who to go to with their problems. Everyone could use a Claire in their life.

Gloria  is extremely supportive to Manny, loves the family, especially Lily because she has always wanted a daughter.  She is so cool that she forces the children to party against their will.

Whoever heard of a mom reprimanding their kids to enjoy the party?

Jay is mild mannered and sensible, has always had problems with Mitchell being gay but has gotten over that; he is occasionally compassionate especially towards Manny, and seems to love his dog Stella more than his new baby Joe.  Jay is better at talking to his kids than actually showing them affection, but when it’s pointed out that he hasn’t given his grown son Mitchell a kiss since Mitchell was 12, he lets his guard down, saying to his son (with arms wide open), “Don’t be coy. What are you waiting for, a box of chocolates? Let’s do this!”  Jay Pritchett just might take the cake when — for the zillionth time — he fills in for stepson Manny’s absentee dad (as is often the case, Manny’s deadbeat dad doesn’t show up for a planned day with his son), Jay takes the kid to Disneyland saying, “Sometimes fathers just need to show up.”

For me the votes are coming in with a close tie between Claire, Gloria and Jay.  I have polled my friends, and I have to agree… the edge goes to Jay Pritchett.  What do you think?

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