Oh, no. Not Isis.

by Lorin Michel Friday, February 13, 2015 10:01 PM

In Egyptian mythology, the goddess Isis was worshipped as the ideal mother and wife. She embraced nature and magic and was a friend to slaves, sinners, artists and especially those down on their luck. She was also known to listen to the prayers of the wealthy, of maidens, of aristocrats and rulers. Her name means “throne” and she’s still revered. Sometimes she has wings so she can fly like the wind. She travels like a bird as she soars toward the heavens.

I’ve never thought much about Isis one way or another, but I looked her up today because of Downton Abbey.

I am an intermittent fan of the show. I enjoy it when I watch, though I’ve never been as rabid a fan as some. My mother is more so than I. It’s on Sunday night, and there are too many things on Sunday to watch. Sunday nights in the fall are usually populated by Sunday Night Football. Once football is over, we like Madam Secretary and The Good Wife. When we miss those, we catch up on-demand.

Kevin isn’t remotely interested in Downton Abbey, though when he does see some and Maggie Smith is on, he watches. He loves her one-liners. When I watch the show, it’s during the week, online while I’m doing something for work that doesn’t require a great deal of creativity. It’s hard to watch something and write.

This season, I watched the first episode of Downton and it irritated me. It seemed to be introducing too much and I didn’t care. I’m tired of Lady Edith’s heartbreak. Nothing good ever seems to happen to the woman. Lady Mary is kind of a kick. At first, I didn’t like her much but now I find her fun and sassy and the most lively of the bunch. When she’s on screen, I enjoy the show. The only other character I like is the insufferable Lord Grantham’s dog, Isis.

Isis is a white Labrador. It’s her wiggly butt that is the first thing seen on the credits of the show. Granted she has a relatively small part of the show and virtually no dialogue but she is still a presence. And Robert, also known as the insufferable Lord Grantham, absolutely adores her. In what I think was the second episode of this season, when Edith set fire to the house and Robert raced through to save everyone. But the first thing he yelled was “get the dog!”

He obviously has never watched other movies and television shows because if he did, he would know that the dog never dies. They survive earthquakes, tornadoes and volcanoes, even most killers. See Dante’s Peak and Scruffy who runs off into the burning mountain being slowly consumed by molten lava. Sure enough, as the heroes are driving across lava with their wheels on fire, there’s the dog, in the middle of a lava field, on a rock. Singed by alive.

Dogs and kids rarely die in television and movies.

But Isis is listless, and I just know the writing is on the castle. Her time is coming to an end. As I watched this last episode, I found myself dreading the next. I don’t like it when the dog dies. The first season of Downton took place in 1912. This season, we’re in 1924. That’s twelve years, which means lovely Isis, the doggess of the Abbey, is 12, 84 in people years. In the early part of the 20th century, human medicine wasn’t that advanced let alone veterinary medicine. The fact that she’s 12 does not bode well for 1924 England.

Like the Egyptian goddess, Isis was a friend to all, regardless of stature. Soon, she will become the wind and soar towards the heavens where the rainbow bridge awaits. Oh, Isis. I hate to see you go. All I can say is there better be a new puppy trotting through the halls that Grantham built and by next season or I may be done with the show once and for all.

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live out loud


by Lorin Michel Monday, January 13, 2014 11:49 PM

One of the things that happens as a person gets older is that she starts to appreciate things she previously had no use for or dismissed as boring, awful, distasteful. Food items like cheesecake and blue cheese come to mind, both of which I thoroughly love now but the thought of which made me practically gag when I was young. I’ve always loved a good story, whether it be on television or in the cinema, though what I thought were good stories when I was a child turned out to be quite terrible. Watch an old episode of Lost in Space to see what I’m talking about.

My mother was a big fan of Upstairs/Downstairs when I was a kid. I wasn’t. Everybody on the show talked funny and the old guy who introduced it every week talked funny, too. It seemed terribly dull and uneventful. Of course, I wasn’t the target audience. Most nine year olds didn’t watch the show. I doubt many nine year olds watch the current British import that’s taken America by storm. I speak of Downton Abbey.

Largely different and still very much the same in that both shows dealt and deal with the upper crust of early 20th century England and the servants who faithfully look after them, both are also part of Masterpiece Theatre, now Masterpiece. Produced out of WGBH in Boston, a PBS station, the original Masterpiece Theatre premiered on January 10, 1971 with The First Churchills hosted by the journalist Alistair Cooke, who went on to host each season of Masterpiece Theatre until 1992. The series was based on the success of a 1967 broadcast of The Forsyte Saga on National Educational Television, which was the precursor to Public Broadcasting and was on the air from May 16, 1954 to October 4, 1970.

Over the seasons – and they do think of them as seasons. Masterpiece Theatre, now Masterpiece, is the longest running television series ever – they have put out such amazing fare as I, Claudius, Bleak House, Prime Suspect (with the amazing Helen Mirren), The Fortunes and Misfortunes of Moll Flanders, and Brideshead Revisited. All British; all amazing.

That’s another thing I have come to truly appreciate of late: British television. In addition to the master works on Masterpiece (they dropped the “theatre” in 2008), Masterpiece Classic, Masterpiece Mystery! And Masterpiece Contemporary, all on PBS, there are also the amazing shows on the BBC, some of which we’ve started delving into on Netflix. We fell for The Fall. We’ve just started getting into Wallander, with Kenneth Branagh.

British productions are different than ours. They’re more cerebral, more deliberate. More careful. They’ve been putting out thoughtful, long-form television for a number of years now and we’re just finally getting the hang of it. The last few years of American television, the networks have been following the lead of cable and putting some quality programming on, shows that we are absolutely glued to, like the new True Detective on HBO, the always amazing Sons of Anarchy on FX, The Americans also on FX, The Killing on AMC (now Netflix), Homeland and Masters of Sex on Showtime. The Good Wife on CBS, The Following on Fox.

Not to be outdone, PBS has continued to put out good television outside of Masterpiece, through series like the American Experience (the recent The Poisoner’s Handbook), Great Performances (a personal favorite because I love to see my favorite artists live); anything by Ken Burns.

PBS is quality. BBC is quality. Put the two together and all I can say is pip-pip! Cheerio! And bloody hell! If you don’t know this already, you’re not living it out loud. 

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live out loud

Every coat, jacket and zip-up hoodie I own has a plastic bag in the pocket and other observances from Wednesday

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, January 23, 2013 8:15 PM

One of the many joys that come from once again being owned by a dog is the constant presence of “the bag.” As in “do you have a bag?” A regular question Kevin and I ask each other each morning and evening. It usually happens as we’re putting on a coat, or a jacket, or a hoodie, like this morning. I was walking Cooper alone since Kevin was on deadline and I started by putting on my black jacket. But I wasn’t sure of the temperature even though the day was rather gloomy, and gloomy in January usually means cold. Zipping it up, I stepped out onto the back patio, hands in my pockets. An orange bag that once housed the Los Angeles Times filled the left one. The temp was warmer than I anticipated, so back inside I went, tossed the jacket and the bag onto the bed to hang up later, and reached into the closet for my new hoodie. I slipped it on, zipped it up and stuck my hands in the pockets. Yep. A bag. Actually two. Ready for anything that might befall us.

Here’s what else I know today: There are an awful lot of blue colors of cars out on the road. Powder blue, navy blue, flat blue, metallic blue, a periwinkle Mercedes, a slate blue Range Rover, a sky blue Camry. Some clean, some dirty, some new, others old. One with a smashed-in bumper; a Honda with new dealer tags.

When the sky is heavy with clouds, condensing the sound, and a jet flies over on its way to LAX, it rumbles like thunder.

A tuna melt is better on rye bread but it’s not horrible without bread as long as there are olives, onions, fresh celery and a bit of fresh jalapeno all chopped up finely, mixed with some mayo and topped with melted Havarti.

I miss potato chips as a side dish.

I wait for the mail to come every day and yet there’s rarely anything in it that’s worthwhile. Most of it seems to be solicitations for supporting a various cause, usually animal related. As much of a sucker as I am for helping animals, I simply don’t have the money to support all of them, and sometimes it seems as if all of them are asking.

I wish I could.

As much as I like doing things online, buying postage to send a publishing contract back to London is not one of them.

I miss having a big tub of Red Vines.

I don’t miss having a big tub of Red Vines because I can’t stop eating them.

Wednesday is Prince Spaghetti day and so I’m going to make pasta for dinner. It’s not Prince sauce or spaghetti but the sentiment is the same, and hopefully the food will be even better. I could eat pasta every day of the week.

It is difficult for someone who has never had trouble with her weight to suddenly have trouble with her weight. I’m just saying.

I think Hillary Clinton is absolutely brilliant.

The lady who lives over on Evanswood who used to have a Bouvier des Flanders now has a Golden Doodle puppy named Victor Hugo and he looks like a big moppy bear rug but with infinitely more energy, very sharp puppy teeth and feet the size of coffee mugs.

I haven’t seen the Squire around lately and I’m starting to get worried.

Kevin’s debit card got hacked today and Bank of America caught it before we did. As bad as the banks can be, I’m happy they’ve all put mechanisms in place to catch this kind of stuff before it gets out of hand. Several years ago, he got torched for about $7000 and we were the ones who caught it, though the bank made good.

January is almost over. It’ll be Christmas soon.

Justin’s tuition is due. And ouch.

Argo was excellent.

My dog talks in his sleep. On a related note, I love the fact that the Earl on Downton Abbey has a dog and that the dog’s butt is the first thing we see on the opening credits. There must be a metaphor in there somewhere.

It’s supposed to rain this weekend.

There is a wine barrel in our entrance way. It does not yet have any wine inside.

I’m living it out loud. 

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live out loud

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