Attention Deficit and Downton Abbey

I missed the memo about attention deficit and Downton Abbey.

As I begin writing this post, it’s about T-minus one hour until the finale of season 2 of Downton Abbey and I am all a-flutter as I anticipate the resolutions and cliffhangers that might be a part of this delicious bit of television.

I do love TV, but I’ve found in recent years that I’ve become a pathetic multi-slacker.  I typically can’t watch TV without my laptop and phone nearby.  I think my inability to focus is pretty symptomatic of the mixed blessing that is modern living.  The gizmology which permits such wondrous access to information and interconnection does have the side effect of taking us out of the present moment.  Often if I’m watching TV, I’m also looking up the actors on the IMDB website, or reading and posting comments about what I’m watching.  I suppose this does kinda enrich my TV watching experience, since I learn a few tidbits about the careers of the actors I’m watching and sometimes comparing reviews in real-time can be fun.  But mostly, I think, it distracts my attention to the point that I miss out on whatever really good bits there might be in whatever it is I’m watching.

I’ve been reflecting on my scatter-brained approach to my viewing habits since I’ve begun watching Downton Abbey.  In case you missed the Downton Abbey memo too, I won’t give anything away, but it really is the most fantastic TV show.  It’s on PBS, but don’t let that dissuade you.  At its core, it’s a soap opera, with all the wacky twists and machinations that make that genre so delectable.  But its setting in Edwardian England, on an unbelievably beautiful estate, elevates the upstairs-downstairs drama to new heights.

While my love of NPR is unparalleled, I’ll cop to the fact that I haven’t been a huge fan PBS, until now.  I think I’d avoided PBS programming because it doesn’t lend itself to my distracted way of watching TV.  To enjoy a show like Downton Abbey, which has a gazillion characters and lots of textures, you have to pay attention.  No tweeting, no Facebooking, no working on your blog.  Just watch.  And for watching, one is richly rewarded with zingers as delivered by the incomparable Dame Maggie Smith.

So…15 minutes to go now, and we’ll see if Cousin Matthew and Lady Mary uncross their stars and find a way to be together, and if so what might Sir Richard do to seek his revenge? And what about the beautifully stoic and recently newlywed Mr. and Mrs. Bates? Will they find their happiness destroyed by a wrongful(?) conviction? And what about Lady Sybil and Mr. Branson, and the unwed mother Ethel, and the conniving footman Thomas, and oh poor, plain Lady Edith, will she ever find a beau? These questions and more may be answered tonight…so time to put away the laptop and really tune in.   Memo received.

p.s.  The first season of Downton Abbey is available on Netflix and Hulu, and the current season can be streamed from the PBS website.  Be warned, it’s addictive!

Synthesizers, Sentiment and Salt In Old Wounds

I missed the memo about synthesizers, sentiment and salt in old wounds.

Recently, I’ve had the interesting and enjoyable experience of hearing a few new songs, and since I’m kind of stunted and dull when it comes to music, I find it totally extraordinary when I actually clue in to the particular beauty of a new (at least new to me) song.  I suppose what I’ve found really remarkable is that I’ve had a chance to experience different versions of the same songs, and it’s been interesting to reflect on the artistic and emotional punch each version packed.

Here, lemme esplain…

A few weeks ago, I was listening to KCRW, ’cause I’m cool like that, and I heard this Gotye song:

This guy’s voice snapped me out of my commuter coma because when he belted out the chorus, he sounded a bit like Peter Gabriel and I thought was cool.  Coincidentally, that very night, a friend posted a link to this video, Walk Off The Earth‘s  cover of the same song:

A very cool visual gimmick, sure.  But when I compared the two versions of the song, I found that I liked the stripped down acoustic version better.  It just seemed a bit more raw, whereas the version with the electronica, while still really good in my opinion, just doesn’t convey the same emotional intensity.

But consider the following…here’s Bruno Mars‘ impossibly sweet smash hit, Just The Way You Are (not to be confused with the Billy Joel song of the same name, which is also great, but in a different way).

Now take a listen to the Boyce Avenue cover of the same song:

Lovely, but in this instance, I think it’s the beat and the swells of synthesizers that make Bruno’s version better.  The acoustic version just doesn’t have the same energy, and when a guy is just busting at the seams to tell a girl how wonderful she is, I think the song he’d sing  would be kind of peppy.

And one more…check out these three adorable Swedish women making beautiful music with just their voices and empty cottage cheese containers:

And now Robyn’s version…

I like Robyn; she’s fun and energetic and anybody who is that blonde is probably just all kinds of awesome.  But her version of Call Your Girlfriend  leaves me a bit cold, whereas the Erato version, with its simplicity and beautifully apologetic tone, had me holding back an ugly cry.  It had me instantly remembering when I was the girlfriend who got a version of that call a long time ago.

In my case, the conversation came a little too late, as the young man in question had already fallen very hard for another girl, but couldn’t quite summon the courage, or didn’t have the compassion, to let me go.  We languished in limbo for a while and it just got kind of embarrassing.  It sucked being forsaken for another, but there was ultimately a comfort in understanding that the young man who broke my heart had done it for a good reason.  He had found his true love, his soul mate, his life partner. Last I heard, they’ve been married nearly twenty years and have a gazillion babies. This is all water which has long since flowed under the bridge, but I  appreciated the bit of painful nostalgia that this song evoked.  I considered it a bit of emotional scar revision, which can be a good thing.

So there you go.  Sometimes keyboards and a fun beat can elevate a simple song into an anthem, but sometimes the electronic bells and whistles are just distracting.  In any case, I’m glad I got the memo on all these songs…I think I’ll be humming my own versions for some time to come.  Memo received.