Dowton Abbey, Season 5, Ep. 1: Our Hero, the Pigman

Isis, reluctantly heading back to Downton.

Isis, heading back to Downton, whether she wants to or not.

With the dawning of the new year, Downton Abbey has returned to us, or we have returned to Downton Abbey. Either way, this most beloved of asinine shows is once again taking up residence on Sunday nights on PBS, though with considerably less fanfare than in previous years. Where is our dimpled Laura Linney burbling through the introduction? Her pixie face is gone, replaced only by her voice as she soberly intones that Downton Abbey is back. Downton Abbey is an award-winning show, Laura’s voice tells us, with Golden Globes and Emmys galore. She reminds us of how much we love it, and how much it deserves to be loved.

Well, I don’t know how much it deserves to be loved, but I do know we love it. From Poor Edith to baby Marigold to Old Donk himself, it’s a great hour-and-a-half of high dollar soap opera. What puzzles me about this show — well, many things puzzle me about this show — is how the writing varies from really great to really terrible, sometimes in the same scene. I have a theory that Julian Fellowes hates or loves his characters and punishes them accordingly. Obviously, he loves the Dowager, as she gets great lines which she delivers with her trademark perfection. And then there are characters like Bad Thomas and Poor Edith and the Socialist Teacher, who are responsible for everything that is wrong in the universe. Deliberate evil, Accidental Incompetence, and Annoying Stupidity, in that order.

The show returned with a whimper, and not much has changed since we last saw our cast of characters. Everyone is back at the Abbey, hanging around on couches and in the kitchen, with the exception of Alfred and Ivy, thank heaven. Rose lingers on in her vacuous fashion. I was hoping she met with a nightclub accident in between seasons but alas, we viewers are not so lucky. We will be treated to another season of her wandering around the house and/or various locales, being inappropriate.

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Trend Alert: Dutch Doors

source: door-designs-images.bloginterior.com

Did you think dutch doors were just a relic of the past — something relegated to another time and old Mr. Ed episodes? (whenever you bemoan the current landscape of television, check out clips of the Mr Ed show. You’ll feel better immediately.) Well, if so, prepare to be pleasantly surprised by the subtle comeback of the dutch door, the door that splits into two parts, an upper and a lower half, just like the magician’s assistant. And like the girl in the magic show, you can make the door whole again whenever you like by latching it together.

Of course dutch doors will never become requisite for every home — we’re far too invested in central air and the fear of West Nile virus-carrying mosquitoes — but they do speak to a certain nostalgia. An imagined time when you might share a conversation with a neighbor as you hang over your dutch door, the lower half carefully shut to signal, I like you, but not that much. You have come far enough across my threshold. A dutch door evokes a vision of an apple pie, freshly baked and cooling on that narrow attached shelf — that is until a passing mutt tries to nab it, which necessitates a dash out the half-door with a broom. Comedy ensues.

We consider these images — the neighborly chat, the cooling apple pie, the basic stuff gleaned from Tom Sawyer and Bugs Bunny episodes — to be our own memories, even though most of us have never personally experienced living with a dutch door and have no idea what on earth it’s for. If pressed to make a guess, I’d say the dutch door came into existence to keep the chickens and pigs out of the house while letting the air in. A sort of screen door concept before screen doors existed.

So I’m not sure why dutch doors are back, unless it is just part of the current moment of sentimentalizing anything dating to the 19th century, the earnest do-it-yourself knitting and pickling and all things analog, the determined exercises in nostalgia. Now, of course, we don’t need to keep the livestock out of the kitchen and if we want to speak to our neighbors, there is no need to holler at them out of a half-open door as they pass. We can just text them to let them know the pickles are ready.

If anyone could use a dutch door to keep the critters out and menace intruders with firearms, it’s this guy. Source: aloneinthewilderness.com

Let’s Talk Retail, Eeyore-style

“That Accounts for a Good Deal,” said Eeyore gloomily. “It Explains Everything. No Wonder.”

I just heard on the news that retail sales were up this past quarter. It almost made me nostalgic for the days when my little store on Main Street was open, a tiny crumb of the vast retail pie in this country. Maybe my store could have been part of the Great Resurgence that is going to follow the Great Recession! But the news of the uptick in retail sales only almost made me nostalgic. Because, readers, retail is really, really hard.

I had a shop for 8 years, and if I had a nickel for every time someone asked me how I did it, because they’ve always wanted to open a shop — or something along those lines — I would be rich-ish today. At the very least I would have made more money answering that question than I did selling stuff. No, not really. Clearly, I exaggerate. But I’m not exaggerating the fact that retail is really, really tough. (Have I already said that? I plan on saying it several more times before I’m through with this topic.)

A few things For Your Consideration:

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