Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Baker Brick

When Robert McG. Thomas Jr. wrote about Edward Lowe and his invention of cat litter in his seminal obituary on Mr. Lowe, Mr. Thomas moved the bar so high that few have even gotten near enough to knock it off. It has remained the sine qua non obituary of all time. An anthologized obituary.

Russell Baker did the same thing for fruitcake when he shared with the world one Sunday Christmas morning in 1983 his family's attachment to a fruitcake baked by his grandmother's great-grandfather in 1794 that was a gift for President George Washington.

Mr. Baker's clan originates in Virginia, so there could easily be some truth to what he wrote for publication that day. Or, as might be suspected, he concocted a tall tale that our nation's first president would have no part of repeating. Quite honestly Scarlett, we don't give a damn, because why would you let facts get in the way of a great story?

What we have in Mr. Baker's essay is his eternal observation that fruitcake can outlive anything. And if he might have had his tongue firmly planted in his cheek when he wrote the piece, it would only be because he sampled a piece of the fruitcake as an annual rite of passage and his tongue became Gorilla Glued to the inside of his cheek. It will happen.

Stories about fruitcake generally rise up in December when the Christmas gift-giving season gets underway. This time, the subject of fruitcake is getting resuscitated by taking in a Tweet from @JustJenKing, a digital producer/journalist for an Australian news show who also has an affinity for all things connected to WWI and Australia's part in it.

Thus, we have reference to a "97-year-old-cake included in Australian War Memorial collection depicts a slice of post-war life." Twenty-first century headline writers can't resist puns either.

A link to the story is provided, but basically it shows complete ignorance of the Baker heirloom. This Australian cake was apparently "baked to mark the homecoming of Moss Valentine Brasington, a labourer from Bombala in New South Wales who returned to Australia after three years of service in the 27th Battalion of the Australian Imperial force." The cake is still wrapped, which proves that even the happiness of being home after three years at war can't overpower the urge to leave the fruitcake alone. Conquering the enemy was one thing: conquering jellied, nutty cake is another. A museum official, Ms. Rutherford, said, "it was unusual to see food still intact after so long."

This just goes to show you how far away Australia really is from the United States. They hadn't heard of the Baker Brick. But all fruitcakes are not found in the Building Supply aisle of your grocer.

This is absolutely true. There is an order of Eastern Orthodox nuns in Cambridge, New York who make a thoroughly edible fruitcake (and cheesecake). Both have been eaten in this household over the years and any order you make for a fruitcake will guarantee that it will be consumed before the next United States president is sworn in.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Inevetible

It had to happen. The Newspaper of Record has used an emoticon in the text of a quote. They did this with complete accuracy (which no doubt is why they did it) as they were quoting, or relaying what the typed text looked like in a Tweet from John W. Dean III who was expressing a RIP sentiment about the death of his lawyer Charles N. Shaffer Jr, who just passed away at 82. (An emoticon, or emotion icon is an arrangement of punctuation marks, and sometimes numbers and letters that is meant to convey the writer's emotion, e.g. sad, happy, angry...)

The names John Dean and Carl Shaffer can only mean something to those of a certain age and as yet an undiminished mental capacity. John Dean was President Nixon's chief counsel at the time of the Watergate scandal and through an immunity deal worked out by his lawyer Carl Shaffer, gave testimony against the president which in effect checkmated Richard Nixon into resigning his presidency in 1974.

Mr. Shaffer was a deft litigator and defender. At different points in his life, aside from defending John Dean, he helped prosecute James Hoffa for jury tampering, being part of the legal team that secured a conviction. He also once defended a golfer who was accused of whacking a goose with his putter after the goose was in agony from being hit by the golfer's approach shot at the 17th hole of the Congressional Country Club in Maryland. A mercy killing was advanced by the golfing doctor as the justification for the euthanasia. The ruling in the case was not disclosed in the obituary.

Through a Twitter posting, Mr. Dean posted his comments about Mr. Shaffer's passing. The obituary text using the Tweet goes: "'We lost a good one :-(,' Mr. Dean posted on Twitter last week."

Now John Dean is 76, and might be someone you'd not expect to have a Twitter account, but there you have it. He does, and he uses it, apparently. And the sentiment comes through, in the words and the emoticon. Carl was a good, guy, a good lawyer, and I'm saddened to heard of his passing.

Thrash your hands all about at the use of the emoticon to express sadness, but it is a communicative symbol that is understood my millions. Civilizations down the road from ours will struggle to decipher the hieroglyphics we leave behind, but will be enriched when they do decipher them.

And now that the Newspaper of Record has chosen to include the emoticon in its text, we have another door opening up. Usage and placement of the comma.

Twitter, being a platform open to all with an account, is easily accessible. So, I pulled up Mr. Dean's Tweet about his attorney and friend. The complete Tweet shows up as:

RIP Charles Norman Shaffer -- my friend, my attorney. We lost a good one. :-(

Certainly Mr. Roberts, in his authoritative obituary on Mr. Shaffer, is not misquoting Mr. Dean's Tweet. But once the copy editor gets through with embedding the Tweet in the text of the obituary, we see a comma has been added inside the closing quotation marks.

So, are we to believe when we read the obituary that Mr. Dean has furthered the downturned lip a bit with a comma? It's not a drool, is it? OMG.

If he hasn't, and he doesn't appear he has, then he's being misquoted in the obituary. This I'm sure is the last thing the NYT would want to be considered guilty of. But you do see the danger of adding emoticon's to formal text: you might misquote.

Commas, and in general all punctuation marks have been bedeviling writers for centuries. For myself, I think I've gotten the upper hand on most of them, but recently I've been wondering whether the comma goes inside or outside the closing quotes. 'The Chicago Manual of Style' has left me believing that inside is correct. And, I suspect, the NYT Style Guide advises the same. Thus, the copy editor is only doing their job, and doing it well. But should it remain this way if an emoticon is the last text typed in the quote? Hmmm.

We already see books written without quotation marks. There is a solid movement to abolish the apostrophe (how do you pronounce an apostrophe anyway?), and certainly if we could be rid of commas there might be some serious misunderstandings (as Lynne Truss points out), but they would probably only be about a Panda's diet or use of firearms. The line would move much faster.

There is a soon to be released book on a woman's entire adult life spent editing text at 'The New Yorker' and her struggles to get agreements on the placement of commas.  Mary Norris's 'Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen' should no doubt ignite the debate once again over the use and placement of commas.

I distinctly remember reading a quip in the 1970s, when there was so much controversy over the shape of the table at which to hold the Paris Peace Talks in an effort to end the Vietnam War, that it was suggested that a furniture maker could be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

So, just think where we could be as a global population if we could agree on the use and placement of commas. OMG.

World News...Same Old, Same Old

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany receiving Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras of Greece with Military honors in Berlin

Shortly after the ceremony the Chancellor took Mr. Tsipras shopping for a tie. And several more as gifts for the rest of the cabinet back there in Athens. Just add it to the debt.

Monday, March 23, 2015


Caught up with some friends we hadn't seen in a few years. They are now very adult offspring and their spouses and their children of a slightly older couple my wife and I were very friendly with, that have since passed away.  This took place in Red Bank, New Jersey following a performance of the Monmouth Symphony Orchestra at the Count Basie Theater in Red Bank.  Count Basie was born in Red Bank, thus the theater/performance center named after him.

A top-of-order conversation asked if "Bill-across-the-street" was still alive. Bill and his family lived on the other side of the cul-de-sac on a somewhat large, but irregularly shaped piece of property. He was an extreme do-it-your-selfer who literally dug out his own full size swimming pool umpteen years ago. Bill was also a compulsive hoarder.

Even as far back as the 1980s we would hear stories of how hard it was to walk through Bill's house. Things were stacked so there were only narrow aisles to walk through, even in the main living areas of the house. Bill's wife had died many, many years ago, and the kids were long gone. Bill was quite self-sufficient, if a little bizarre, and was last seen, at least by us--still driving a van--in his 90s. Bill was a Collyer brother-type personality, without being a complete recluse, and without the booby traps.

Well, we found out that Bill had passed away a few years ago. The family came by and emptied the house and yard, using five dumpsters before the job was done. The house is now for sale.

One of the categories of possessions was Bill's accumulation of lawn mowers. Someone thought to count, and it turned out Bill left 52 lawn mowers lying about. It is not known if some were working, or they were just projects he was going to get to and fix, but the number 52 certainly sticks in one's mind. Bill had a lawn mower for every card in a deck.

This of course meant that while Bill might certainly been thought to not be playing with a full deck himself, he certainly could offer proof that he had a full deck of lawn mowers.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

We'll Meet Again

Making fun of the last episode of Season 5 of 'Downton Abbey'--in particular the last hour devoted to Christmas--would be like shooting a puppy. A very cute puppy. So I won't.

I was bit ambushed by the two hour length of the last telecast. I was gearing myself for a one hour offering, but then toward the near expiration of the first hour I did wonder how they were going to squeeze in Christmas, 1924. When I realized I was in for a two hour jobber, I took a break, which has lasted over a week.

Say what you will, justice seems to prevail. The British legal system was beginning to look like a revolving door at Macy's. Arrest Anna. Husband confesses. Free Anna. Look to arrest Bates. Can't find him in Ireland. Will Anna go back in if husband John is found?

Well, thanks to Molesley and Baxter, who turn out to be the Nick and and Nora Charles of "Downstairs" detectives, Bates's story of being in York at the time of Mr. Green's "accident" can be corroborated by an innkeeper. And a Boer War veteran like himself. The term "unimpeachable" is not used, but you know the testimony will be, if needed.

And then there's the second guessing that the witness truly saw Anna at the scene. The witness is starting to have doubts. The Crown case is losing some jewels. So, we're treated to a Bates and Anna reunion that we're left to believe will lead to conception at the cottage. This is touchingly framed in the doorway of a closing door that brings Season 5 to a conclusion. Coming attractions remove any doubts about the plans for Season 6. The season will be afoot.

We do know that Maggie Smith will not be back. She's announced that at 80, she's bowing out. Dame Violet got in several good lines and looks in the double episode, and left all with the clear impression that she was once a young and frisky Edwardian. They just wore more clothes then, so things may have taken a little longer to reach the same visual result that network television is straining to bring us, and that cable already has.

Mrs. Hughes and Carson are going to get hitched and run a bed and breakfast after retiring from 'Downton'. It is doubtful that even Julian Fellowes can spin this one off into a replay of Bob Newhart running an inn in Vermont with his wife Mary Frann. Even if Carson could somehow be made to smile, who would play the handyman that Tom Poston played? The Spanish guy from Fawlty Towers? There are problems with this concept.

Despite experiencing Christmas in March with the folks at 'Downton', you do have to remember that it probably was Christmas time when the U.K. folks got their dose. As it should be.

I do have to say we did get another round of horses, dogs and good old double barrel grouse shooting. Thankfully, the English can shoot in those instances, and we weren't treated to a member of the executive branch shooting a lawyer in the face. If Murray were in the blind with Cheney, then poor Anna and Bates would have been deprived of legal counsel.

So, Season 6 will get to us here in the States before the next Super Bowl. One thing for certain is that Bill Belichick won't be in formal wear for dinner.

The Comma As a Curve

When Mary Norris's new book, 'Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen' is released next month, it might be met by a quiet New York literary crowd.

They might be commatose.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Most Photographed

Someone in my household upset the stacking order of the pile of newspapers I was trying to get to. The result has been that I'm making the same slow pace through them, put not getting to the older ones any faster. If this makes any sense, I'll be surprised, but it turns out I just got to the March 4th edition of the NYT the other day where it was  revealed that Bettina Graziani, 89, a super fashion model of the 1940s and 50s had just passed away.

Ms. Graziani is acknowledged by the obituary writer, Margalit Fox, as having been, in her heyday, "the most photographed woman in France." And since fashion models are wearing clothes when they are photographed, Ms. Graziani was the most photographed woman with clothes on in the country of her birth. She was thus a forerunner to Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel who, as anyone who follows this stuff well knows, is the world's most photographed woman with clothes on.

In reading Ms. Graziani's obituary I was immediately pleased to note that "most photographed" was recognized as long ago as 70 years ago. She was recognized as having a certain style as projected through her personality. And despite never having met the woman, or even having heard of her, we'd have to agree.

Anyone who can pull off a look wearing a hat that's a cross between a Brittany coast fishing net underneath an Alexander Calder mobile and not make you laugh, even 70 years later, deserved to be famous.

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Self-Help Obituary

If you read enough obituaries, or even better, read about how they are constructed (The Dead Beat, by Marilyn Johnson), you realize that the obit writer tries to insert a light note, or quote if they can. The ending is often a quip of some kind, or a quote from the deceased that sums up their life or
viewpoint. Sometimes it's a zinger that the obit writer can't resist getting in.

Advance researched obits on notables help the obit writer on deadline to produce a timely tribute. These, as we've mentioned before, are kept in the paper's morgue, awaiting updates when needed, polished up, and then sent to be published.

The writer's job is made even easier if the notable has granted an interview with the newspaper toward the twilight of their breathing, to provide some hoped for rich background that might make its way into the piece the deceased will never see.

Recently, we have three obits that were helped along immensely by the subject providing some "sound bites."

Take Wendell Ford, the longtime senator from Kentucky who passed away at 90. As anyone who knows anything about Kentucky, you should know the state's biggest day occurs on the first Saturday in May, when The Kentucky Derby is run. It's like their Mardi Gras. If you need to know what the Kentucky Derby is, I'm not going to help you.

Apparently, Mr. Ford told a joke that I've heard, so many times, the obit writer considered it fitting to close out Mr. Ford's obit.

It seems there is a gentleman at Churchill Down on Derby day who notices a rare empty seat and takes advantage of it and sits down. The woman next to the gentleman tells him her husband always sits there, but he passed away. Being considerate, the gentleman offers his condolences and wonders why the woman didn't give the ticket for the seat to someone in the family. She replies she would have, but they're all at the husband's funeral.

Then we have Donald R. Keough, 88, who was a CEO of Coca-Cola, who was notable for riding out the marketing storm that introduced "New Coke" to the world in 1985.

If anyone is old enough to remember that one, Coca-Cola introduced a new formula for their beverage. It was extensively taste tested and Coke executives thought it would help them in the "Cola Wars" with Pepsi.

People rebelled against the new product. You'd have though it was the medieval times when the calendar was adjusted and people thought they were doing to die sooner because 13 days had been eliminated.

I remember our July 4th cookout where the neighbor's son eight year old Scott voiced his displeasure with Coca-Cola. "How could they do that?" I thought to myself, if Scott thinks it was a bad idea, yikes, there must he millions of people who don't like the idea of a New Coke that will replace the old Coke and make it impossible to go back to the original formula. And there were millions.

Well, Donald Keough and his band of execs knew they made a mistake, and within 10 weeks yanked the "New Coke" and the original Coke was labeled "Coke Classic." Sales jumped, and the proof that there is no such thing as bad publicity was again produced. The "Coke Classic" name was kept for decades.

Of course, there were those who saw conspiracy and thought Coke cleverly engineered publicity that would goose their sales. Mr. Keough offered words that he said should go on his tombstone, "He's not that dumb and he's not that smart."

Mr. Keough retired from Coca-Cola in 1993, proving how adroit he was in recovering from a case study faux pas. Darryl F. Zanuck predicted that his obituary would continue after the comma and his age, that he was the producer of "Gone With the Wind." And it did.

Mr. Keough was right to assume that "New Coke" and "Classic Coke" would stay with him like the pitch that Ralph Branca threw to Bobby Thomson.

And the last one, at least for this posting, we have Arnaud de Borchgrave, a journalist who passed away at 88.

Mr. Borchgrave's life was that of cat, he must have had nine of them, because one of them was surviving being wounded on D-Day as he landed at Juno beach as he left the Canadian landing craft he was in. He was a teenager at the time, so by the time he hit 88 he managed to fill his life up with even more events.

So, we shouldn't be surprised that Mr. de Borchgrave, being a newspaper editor, throughout his life suggested what should be on his tombstone: "I knew it would come to this."

He was of course right.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Time Machine

Change reactions don't just happen in nuclear fission. They happen in the home as well.

Take replacing a toilet seat and perhaps cleaning some grout. Or maybe even replacing some shabby looking tiles. If enough time has elapsed since you took possession of that last bathroom look and you're due a tax refund, chances are in two weeks you'll be planning a new bathroom. It doesn't take much for these thoughts to detonate.

Such it was when I read Rod McKuen had passed away. This was noted in a prior posting, but there was more reaction than just absorbing the obituary. There was still that line, from a poem? from a song? of his..."too late for the beach, too early for the bars."

The Internet helped to the extent it got me to the fact that the lines are from a song of Rod's, "Times Gone By." But the Internet coughed up no lyrics. A suggestion was made to see a librarian, but this was resisted. I'd have to leave the house.

What was the next best thing to do? Get a recording of the song. Well, Rod goes back to LBJ being sworn in as president after the Kennedy assassination. His material in on iTunes, but not that song. Next, a recording might have that song. Luck is here. A double CD album that contains the album that has that track, or, a vinyl record of the album, 'Prolific Composer Rod McKuen Sings His Own.' Perfect. I still have my turntable hooked up. Not used in a few years, but Rod deserves a retro touch.

For some reason, although McKuen's work was very popular when I was on my own and adding music LPs left and right in the 60s, I never bought a Rod McKuen album. I was aware of the critical panning his work took, but I liked his lyrics. I had other people singing his work, but not him.

The LP arrives, and there's anticipation. I'm finally going to be able to hear the complete set of lyrics surrounding the line, "too late for the beach, too early for the bars."

Well, that would have been possible at the moment, except the turntable had tuned to stone. It wouldn't turn, no matter what I tried.  Great, like having tickets to the game but the car won't start.

There is was, an RCA Victor Dynagroove LP, complete with cellophane wrapping and the King Karol record store price sticker of $3.98. The LP is in great condition, nestled in the familiar paper sleeve that promotes the other RCA Victor artists: Al Hirt, Perry Como, Eddie Arnold, the Pink Panther soundtrack by Henry Mancini, Jim Reeves, Miriam Makeba, Mario Lanza, and others.

Okay, time to look into what is the state-of-the-art regarding turntables? I know artists are releasing vinyl versions of their work, so someone must still be making turntables for the home.  Of course they are.

Money can be an object, but I was willing to pay up to a certain amount to be able to get something new and be able to go back and queue up some nostalgia, LPs I hadn't bought the CD release of. Having LPs and not being able to ever play them reminded me of the New Coke.

When they came out with the New Coke in the 80s people went nuts. They wanted the old Coke. Even though the New Coke taste tasted well enough to convince Coke to launch a new formula, they neglected to realize that people weren't willing not to be able to go back to the "Old Coke."  Thus, a quick retreat was made, and 10 weeks later Coke relabeled its original formula "Coke Classic" and kept that label for a few decades. The "New Coke" disappeared.

After some shipping problems and the resolution of a missing part, the new turntable was put to use. Now I understand why there are vinyl adherents. The new turntables can be USB connected to a computer and tracks can be captured digitally, and stored and played in all the ways people play music these days. For me, an exercise to do in a few weeks. Right now, all I want to do is "play it, Sam."

Thus, lyrics emerged from "Times Gone By."

Remember when we spent the nighttime
Counting out the stars,
Too late for the beach, too early for the bars.

All of us together
Would raise our glasses high,
And drink a toast to times gone by.

I have to admit, I can't say I remember ever really paying attention to Rod McKuen singing. Perhaps because he wasn't being played where I was listening, or, he just wasn't being played. But honestly, there is a likeable sound, and likeable lyrics.

Someone I know tells the story of being in the company of poets, poets who were actually published, and therefore literary types, and telling them they liked Rod McKuen. They survived the ridicule heaped their way.

But after a few plays of the LP--having to turn it over after about 15 minutes is not something I really miss--I have to say, Rod had a decent voice, and is worth listening to. He's a talk singer, in the vein of Rex Harrison, or Charles Aznavour. His works sound better sung by him than Frank Sinatra trying to be Rod McKuen, although Frank certainly boosted Rod's appeal.

Why I never hear anything sung by him on the Sirius XM "Escape" channel (some would call it elevator music) is a wonder, given I hear John Gary every now and then. And if you remember John Gary, you might win a T-shirt. (I know someone who did.)

Rod was dismissed as being mawkishly sentimental. Well, there is a market for that. He's passed away, but Erich Segal probably didn't send the money back he made from "Love Story." He didn't gain tenure, but he paid his bills, and then some.

Robert James Waller wrote "The Bridges of Madison County", and it was sneered at as being the world's longest Hallmark greeting card. Well, Meryl Streep learned a new accent, and Clint wore jeans, and a very popular movie was made as well.

Am I going rogue? Am I going vinyl? No. But it's nice to have the time machine hooked up again.

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Bye Week

Borrowing a page from the NFL schedule makers, I figured out how to make 'Downton Abbey' last just a little bit longer. Be a week behind.

Several years ago the NFL very cleverly figured out how to make the season last longer without playing more than 16 games in the regular schedule. Allow each team to skip a week of play at some point in the season. That way, a 16 week season can be televised for 17 weeks. The beer and auto companies are happy because they get to appear in front of all those testosterone eyeballs for an extra week. To say nothing of the pharmaceutical companies who have pointed out all the ailments you never knew you had until you've "asked your doctor."

So, I watched the penultimate episode of  'Downton Abbey' last night. If there's anything these TV series have done is they have introduced the word penultimate into our consciousness and made us realize the meaning is the episode before the final episode--the season finale, or finale in some cases.

So, the grim news first. Anna's been arrested for throwing the serial rapist Mr. Green under the bus. Can this be possible? Sure she's got motive, but means? She's been identified in a lineup of similar built women all wearing those cloche hats that were so popular in the era. Will this hold up? Where's F. Lee Bailey, or even Vinny Gambini to point out the witness's bad eyesight? I guess that's to come.

As Anna in handcuffs is paraded past the assembled family and staff, Lady Mary voices her outrage. She blurts out the usual about getting a lawyer, and "do you know who I am." She reserves her highest snit when the inspector doesn't call her by her titled honorific: Lady Mary Crawley.

The inspector could care less about the proper form address and tells her he couldn't care if she was "Queen-of-the-Nile." You can hear the air come out of Lady Mary's lungs. The inspector of course was deflecting the protests from the upper class. If this were a 1930s NYC detective movie, Lady Mary would have been referred to as a dame; a sister, as in "listen sister, I don't care who you are"; or even a broad. Oh boy.

This would not have gone over as well as "Queen-of-the-Nile." That at least has a bit of history to it.  The other terms are degrading, and if Inspector Vyner uttered the New York dismissive dialog toward a woman, Lady Mary might have pulled that hat pin out and stabbed the bugger in the eye. This of course would have put two 'Downton' women in the hoosegow. One is enough.

It would have also necessitated producer Julian Fellowes turning 'Downton' into a British 'Law and Order' series and a 'CSI' iteration. This no doubt would have distracted from the overall upstairs, downstairs aspect of the show. To say nothing of having Lady Mary dressed in prison garb without a hat. No, no.

Lady Mary is musing that the whole gang seems to be breaking up. If you remember, 'Downton' opened with the news that the Titanic hit an iceberg, broke up, and sunk. That was 1912, and now were are in 1924. The shoals of passing time are exerting their force on the family and friends,

Aside from the Titanic, WWI and the Teapot Dome scandal, little of the outside world seems to creep into the Crawley household. Does anyone read a paper?

We have the expected dinner table chatter about the Jewish family Rose is marrying into. This is causing its share of friction on both parental sides. The groom's father, Lord Sinderby bears an absolute uncanny resemblance to Yul Brenner. He even sounds like Yul Brenner. If Lord Sinderby smoked a cheroot, plopped a hat on his head,  and got up on a horse and shot at Eli Wallach and his gang we'd be cheering. Even if he is Jewish.

We have some drama over an attempt to disrupt, or even have the wedding called off, when Rose's mother, Lady Flintshire, concocts a bit of a badger game, attempting to frame Atticus with salacious photos. It doesn't work.

Poor Lady Flintshire. She seems so unhappy, not yet divorced from hubby Shrimpie and having to see her daughter headed for a home with a Mezuzah on the front door frame. If you looked like Lady Flintshire you'd be unhappy too. It seems half  of her face disappears at her chin, giving her a Dorothy Kilgallen look.

I don't know what month they are in in 1924, but it could have been easy for the screenwriters to have someone bring up Harold Abrahams, the Jewish sprinter who wins the goal medal in the 100 meter dash at the Paris Olympics for England. As John Gielgud mutters from the faculty rooms at Cambridge, Harold is one of the "chosen people" isn't he? He's got to do well.

And then someone could bring up the Sabbath observing Eric Liddell, the Scottish sprinter who wins the gold in the 400 meter race. What balance! What diversity! I guess Julian Fellowes didn't want an ESPN sports conversation at the dinner table. So, instead of 'Chariots of Fire,' we get some tablespoons of Chariots of Ire. No real problem though.

Dame Violet's maid Denker adds some common touch as she gets blasted in a cellar joint, thinking she's got drinks for free for bringing pigeons in wit 'er.  Oh luv, you's in for a surprise, now ain' cha'?

And of course, the war memorial and the recognition extended to Mrs. Patmore's nephew. Lord G. is positively Churchillian, and still fitting in his Boer War uniform. He must have been hitting the gym off camera. I can't tell what rank Robert is, perhaps a major, but he is a leader, especially as he leads the family and staff back to the pile.

Lady Edith's out-of-wedlock child Marigold is attracting his Lordship's attention, so much so that he peers into her features and figures out he's got another grandchild. Lady Cora is positively the mother of charity, and gets his Lordship to keep it quiet a bit longer. It will come out. Let Edith tell everyone.
He gallantly agrees. How could he not, in that uniform? An officer and a gentleman.

So, behind a week has its plus side. I can freely speculate in what Mr. Fellowes might be up to. Is there another season in the works? I think so, since I read of an actor getting a part in the "upcoming season."

How is his New York Gilded Age project coming? Is he going to advance that era a bit and fill it with a 'Downton' cast that's made the voyage across the sea to Amer-i-kay? Branson in Massachusetts? The Irish with the Brahmins? Beacon Hill and Southies? We've already had one 'Bridget Loves Bernie' in the family, perhaps one going the other way? So much to think about.

Today's NYT has a front page teaser about what might be ahead for Mr. Fellowes and his followers. With the penultimate episode out of the way, I'll head for the season's ultimate episode.