Monday, November 30, 2009

Mad Memories

Just a reminder of the wit and wisdom of Donald Draper.

And Away We Go

I don't know how you fall on President Barack Obama's expected announcement to increase our troop commitment to Afghanistan in his address Tuesday, but even as my own feelings are mixed, I have to wish my President good luck, especially as the Republicans who love the idea of doubling down over there are already criticizing his expected announcement of an exit strategy.

Morons. This is exactly why we hired then Senator Obama, to strategize and execute a way out of your messes.

Good luck on the climactic Senate healthcare reform debate as well.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Monday, November 23, 2009

Superb Idea

Another great idea from the incredible shrinking regional rump party: purity test!

How perfectly Stalinesque of them. Sure to attract and keep more. Rational. Or moderate members to run.

What's next - racial purity tests as well?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Note from the Past

Chilling piece in Esquire, here on the 46th anniversary of the most recent assassination of a sitting U.S. President.

And yes, Rep.Louis Gohmert appears to be the most vile member of the House of Representatives today, no matter the quality of the competition.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Nailed It

I'm blogging from the road on my Blackberry so functionality is limited -- another argument for switching to iPhone -- but I wanted to pass on this URL for the inimitable Matt Taibbi's best and last word take on Sarah Palin, representing the crank psychographic in American politics.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Take Notice

Here's some of the billboards up in Missouri calling for armed insurrection against our nation's current democratically-elected Democratic-led federal government. At no time during the Cheney-Bush Presidency, not once despite all the intense antipathy so many of us Americans felt towards George W., did I ever see a public billboard, paid or owned by some company, lobbyist, media outlet or individual, that advocated armed insurrection if we didn't start getting our way.

This blog has been honest about its concern for the first even partially African-American President's health and the Becks and Bachmans inciting violence towards him, the droning dehumanization, just as Bill O'Reilly emotionally enabled thinking like the assassin of Dr. George Tiller on a Sunday morning in a church in front of the doctor's wife.

Arianna's dead right, so to speak:

That wingnut world isn't fun, it's dangerous, proven lethal throughout history. At least sometimes they turn on themselves. Because no matter what the agenda-driven rightwing or copy-cat mainstream media tells you, people don't like Liz Cheney's ideas, and there is consensus that Obama was right again, say, on the stimulus.

And with water now discovered, there is hope of a lunar colony.

Oh, and there will be a bong shortage this Xmas.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Moisture Action

The funniest and most original ad on TV right now is for Hally's Refresh with New Advanced Moisture Action:

MILFs are in, right on. Coincidence that it's Sarah Week?

Love the ending on this one, makes the piece -- it's what we're thinking, rarely are American ads that un-full-of-shit.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Big Stuff

None of these items may eventually play out exactly as I'd like, but all are potentially big news:
  • The Senate is moving ahead with a healthcare reform bill resulting from merging with the House version. On the face of it, it appears that key Dem concerns have been addressed, and full steam ahead to the floor. Any filibuster, hello reconciliation.
  • China appears to be ready to cooperate with President Obama and the U.S. on curbing global-warming emissions.
  • Attorney General Eric Holder goes before Congress to reiterate and explain the decision to try the 9/11 masterminds in NYC where the crime was committed, showing more spine than all the conservative fear-infected detractors put together.
And meanwhile, in the alt reality that is The Sarah Palin Network a.k.a. FNC, her book-signing crowd sizes are being inflated, once again, by using footage from other events...a.k.a. bald-faced lying.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Lest We Forget

Sure, Mad Men is the best show currently running seasons on TV. But it still has a ways to go to best The Wire. In fact, I have a co-worker looking for a Mad Men substitute (she's jonesing!) who is now going to try The Wire on my recommendation.

So this curtain call by Charlie C. is here to remind all you fans out there of the greatness:

Any favorite quotes of yours missing? I didn't catch it if it's in there, but mine is, "And I'm not even Greek!"

Ah, as Sima says, "If I hear the music, I'm gonna dance."

All in the game, yo. All in the game.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Obama's Free Speech in China

It appears to be the oddest town hall yet for President Barack Obama, in China, albeit the heavily Westernized city of Shanghai:

There's the extreme language difference, although one imagines a majority of these young people have studied English, but the air of Communist repression, if not traditional/cultural, hangs over the proceedings, and is mirrored in the censorship by the Chinese government of his call for an open Internet:
President Barack Obama prodded China about Internet censorship and free speech, but the message was not widely heard in China where his words were blocked online and shown on only one regional television channel.

China has more than 250 million Internet users and employs some of the world's tightest controls over what they see. The country is often criticized for its so-called "Great Firewall of China" — technology designed to prevent unwanted traffic from entering or leaving a network.

During his town hall meeting in Shanghai on Monday, Obama responded at length to a question about the firewall — remarks that were later played down in the Chinese media and scrubbed from some Chinese Web sites.

Best quote:
“I should be honest, as president of the United States, there are times where I wish information didn’t flow so freely because then I wouldn’t have to listen to people criticizing me all the time,” he said. But, he added, “because in the United States, information is free, and I have a lot of critics in the United States who can say all kinds of things about me, I actually think that that makes our democracy stronger and it makes me a better leader because it forces me to hear opinions that I don’t want to hear.”

Having had a run in with repression on the local government level during the mere three days I spent in China back in the late 1980's, I'm no fan of their gangsterish system. However, as with Iran, I firmly believe that spreading American influence in culture and the practice of free speech is the best way to make change happen.

What Obama said will leak out. Free speech is like that. Even when odious -- and the best response to odious speech is, of course, taking advantage of the very same right to respond.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Early Oscars

While it seems to be a huge slap in the face to the winners of honorary Oscars that they will not be receiving them in front of the millions of TV viewers around the world in February, bumped off the schedule by the now infamous decision to nominate ten movies for Best Picture rather than the usual five, it seems that the party last night was kind of a blast. The relaxed setting amongst friends may have been great consolation for honorees Lauren Bacall, Roger Corman and Gordon Willis. John Calley, admired studio chief who won the Irving Thalberg Award, was too ill to attend.

Bacall, of course, is the great actress who's career began in the 1940's under the tutelage of the great director, Howard Hawks, working with Humphrey Bogart who became her husband until his death from throat cancer in 1957. Corman, the perpetual low-budget filmmaker and studio owner, is responsible for launching the careers of Oscar winners Jack Nicholson, Francis Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Jonathan Demme, James Cameron, Ron Howard (as director) and many others.

Gordon Willis is the best cinematographer never to win a competitive Oscar. As in, The Godfather (I & II), All the President's Men, Manhattan...the list goes on. He invented a form of long-shadow lighting (using his own custom light box) now used as the standard of crime dramas and NYC filmmaking. Here's a great post with some representative scenes from great movies.

Meanwhile, one has to ask, what ten pictures are worth nominating? Is this meant to provide a place at the table for such box office draws as Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen?

My bet: ratings continue to fall. Hooray for Hollywood!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

9/11 Trial NYC

I'm with Kristen Breitweiser:

Let him hang in civilian court. Despite the near-past eight years, we're at our strongest as a nation of laws.

Anything less, the terrorists have won. Besides, it's not like an L.A. trial, can't just be a show. New York has it's own brand of justice.

Welcome to the Big Apple, assholes.

Friday, November 13, 2009




A moving story by New York Daily News reporter James Gordon Meek who ran into the President unexpectedly in the Iraq/Afghanistan section of Arlington National Cemetary on Veteran's Day yesterday:

"What's your name?" a somber President asked as he extended his hand.

"James Meek, sir," I replied, struggling to pull off my wool glove and pull my hood back from my head. "I'm here visiting a friend, Pfc. David H. Sharrett II, who was killed in Iraq last year."

He asked how I knew Dave. I explained that his father, also named David, was my high school English teacher in nearby McLean, Va. My classmates and I knew Dave as a little boy playing at our feet.

"He became a star football player and was one of the toughest soldiers in the 101st Airborne Division," I told Obama.

I didn't tell the commander in chief that Dave was killed by friendly fire. Or that the Army bungled notifying Dave's parents of a probe that concluded his lieutenant tragically mistook him for a terrorist in the dark and shot him. Or that his family had to fight for accountability - which two battlefield commanders promised but stateside generals derailed.

That wouldn't have been appropriate, Dave's deeply grateful father later agreed.

"Well, we appreciate his service very much," Obama told me.

I then told him I'm a reporter for the Daily News - but was just there to visit friends.

"Well, James," he said, looking me in the eye, "just because you're a journalist doesn't mean you can't honor your friends here."

The whole story packs emotion -- a President who, as Meek describes in the clip below, didn't have screeners keeping him from the ordinary citizens there to honor they dead friends and family, refreshing:

More pictures here like this one:

As Meeks points out towards the end of the interview, he knew the President was at Arlington with the Afghanistan strategy and troop deployment decision weighing heavily on his mind. After all the leaks, the White House is happy to let people know that the President has rejected the four options so far offered to him because, and I know this is a shock in a President of any recent vintage -- he wants a clear endgame.

This is why we hired this guy instead of shoot-first McCain. Our Ambassador in Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, isn't buying the McChrystal line and has voiced major doubts about President Karzai, who's own brother is being paid by the CIA and runs massive heroin operations there. This is making Eikenberry unpopular around the Pentagon, but it's clearly affecting President Obama's decision.

With his sound judgment and any luck, we might just avoid another Vietnam in the country known as the place "where empires go to die."

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


After his unexpected and extraordinary Ft. Hood speech yesterday and his equally grave Veteran's Day speech today, President Barack Obama appears to be taking the risking of American military lives more seriously than any President in recent memory:
President Barack Obama does not plan to accept any of the Afghanistan war options presented by his national security team, pushing instead for revisions to clarify how and when U.S. troops would turn over responsibility to the Afghan government, a senior administration official said Wednesday.

That stance comes in the midst of forceful reservations about a possible troop buildup from the U.S. ambassador in Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, according to a second top administration official.

In strongly worded classified cables to Washington, Eikenberry said he had misgivings about sending in new troops while there are still so many questions about the leadership of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Obama is still close to announcing his revamped war strategy — most likely shortly after he returns from a trip to Asia that ends on Nov. 19.

But the president raised questions at a war council meeting Wednesday that could alter the dynamic of both how many additional troops are sent to Afghanistan and what the timeline would be for their presence in the war zone, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss Obama's thinking.

Military officials said Obama has asked for a rewrite before and resisted what one official called a one-way highway toward war commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal's recommendations for more troops. The sense that he was being rushed and railroaded has stiffened Obama's resolve to seek information and options beyond military planning, officials said, though a substantial troop increase is still likely.

The whole article is worth reading, as our President appears working hard to avoid the key mistake of America's involvement in Vietnam -- supporting a corrupt regime doing our servicemen and women no favors.

Bravo, and here's to a wise, considered, responsible and effective decision.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

War Stories

So the post-Ft. Hood violent backlash against Muslims begins...even when they're not:

TAMPA — Marine reservist Jasen Bruce was getting clothes out of the trunk of his car Monday evening when a bearded man in a robe approached him.

That man, a Greek Orthodox priest named Father Alexios Marakis, speaks little English and was lost, police said. He wanted directions.

What the priest got instead, police say, was a tire iron to the head. Then he was chased for three blocks and pinned to the ground — as the Marine kept a 911 operator on the phone, saying he had captured a terrorist.

This on the same day that more Blackwater bad actions were revealed:
WASHINGTON — Top executives at Blackwater Worldwide authorized secret payments of about $1 million to Iraqi officials that were intended to silence their criticism and buy their support after a September 2007 episode in which Blackwater security guards fatally shot 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad, according to former company officials.

Cash is king!

And, today, our President delivered a moving eulogy for the victims of the Ft. Hood attack, mentioning each one by name and telling something about their lives.

And "Taps" is the saddest song.

Monday, November 09, 2009



My favorite line in the Season Three Mad Men finale, "Shut the Door. Have a Seat," is one that doesn' t make much sense out of context, but at the point it arrives within this singularly upbeat episode, it causes a smile even upon repeat viewing. It's said by Don Draper when Lane Pryce, having been offered a partnership in the new firm if only he'll fire the first three partners, says, "I imagine it's worth considerably more than that." Don's eyes light up as he says it: "So now we're negotiating."

If, as creator Matthew Weiner says, every episode of Mad Men is meant to be a different genre, this one is the caper movie. Sure, it has it's melancholy counterpoints, most notably when Don and Betty do their typically terrible parenting job in explaining their impending divorce to the kids, certainly in the flashbacks to Don's father's farm failure and accidental death, which are much of what goads him into taking decisive action and set the caper in motion. There's a scary late night fight scene with Don returning home drunk, having just learned from Roger of Betty's new paramour, her "lifeboat," Henry Francis, is another classic of physical acting between Jon Hamm and January Jones, at her best. But most of all there's joy, and I'd put the relief of seeing Betty on an airplane to Reno in this same category.

Joy is an emotion missing from so much of Mad Men and hard-won when it comes, typically offset by tragedy, like the Season One closer when Don gave the triumphant, moving, instantly famous Kodak Carousal pitch, only to arrive home too late to spend Thanksgiving with his family. The success of Don reuniting with Betty at the end of Season Two was fraught with the tension of the Cuban Missile Crisis, playing over the a.m. radio as they reached out to hold hands across the kitchen table. But this time Don takes all the sturm und drang of the season and boils it down to his biggest move yet, leading Bert, then Roger, then Lane and ultimately four others to break away from PPL just as their fates are being sold to the huge corporate advertising factory of McCann Erickson, to take the biggest gamble of their lives and start Sterling, Cooper, Draper & Pryce.

There's the gathering of the team, like a Danny Ocean movie (most moving when Don apologizes to Peggy), the jaunty, jazzy score that kicks in as the team begins taking what they need from the old office, working quickly over the weekend to avoid getting caught or leaving behind anything important for client continuity. There's the breezy conspiratorial smiles, the sense that everyone chosen has a part to play, and the scrappy new beginnings, if one can call a suite at The Pierre hotel "scrappy."

Most of all, there's the triumphant return of Joan. She's re-introduced with the reaction shot of the team hard at work, looking up as the camera tracks in on them, then the joyful-to-tears reverse of Joan striding in, wearing black slacks, no less, list in hand, already planning all the infrastructure steals and moves they'll need to make it work. Following it up is the equally gratifying moment of Don kicking in the locked door to the Art Department, with only the continued absence of Sal making it just a little wistful.

As for where the show picks up, one guesses it will be somewhere far enough in 1964 that there will be a new office, albeit not nearly the size yet of the old place, perhaps as early as February 9, 1964, the night The Beatles first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and the 1960's began shaking off the ache of JFK and kicking into gear. There will be reversals, losses of clients, reaches for bigger fish, money pressures, renewed personality clashes, old addictions and new temptations. Maybe Betty will find Henry Francis less than she imagined and want Don back, although one hopes there that a constant retread cycle in our viewing future. Maybe Don will take Peggy for granted again, maybe Pete will feel under-rewarded again, maybe Bert will die or Roger take up with Joan and even lose the next half of his fortune in a divorce from his second wife.

If nothing else, the stage is set for SCD&L to represent the new age of advertising that succeeded the Sterling Coopers of their day, as the medium exploded with creativity, visual pleasures and a savvy wit that matched the rocketing cultural changes of the times.

It's been a great first three seasons, but if the 1960's themselves are any guide, the best is yet to come.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

D'jew eat?

Without getting into spoilers, I have the pleasure of recommending the new Coen Bros movie, A Serious Man. It's clearly their most personal film, and not just because it's about growing up Jewish in the the late 1960's in suburban Minneapolis, but because with God as a theme and the commensurate inability to discern his or her plan, it's the most clear utterance yet of the theme that runs through all their work: there is no justice.

What makes the Coens so unusual is their success with that theme. They still get to make the movies they want to make after all these years, and the box office clunkers here and there don't slow them down, usually because they bring their movies in on time and budget (thanks to their end-to-end storyboarding process). While virtually every other fictional film and about 99.9% of all Hollywood movies revolve around a morality where, no matter the second act obstacles, good is somehow rewarded and evil punished, in the Coen's world (or their take on our world) the only time that happens is by absurd accident, and usually followed by some ironic reversal, even if small.

What drew them to Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men besides the massive opportunity for suspense was undoubtedly this premise, leading to the part that seems to even disappoint some of the movie's fans, the ending with Tommy Lee Jones' sheriff recalling a dream that might as well be his fantasy of an ultimately just afterworld, but which ends with the Coen's leaving him hanging, i.e. him and the belief he clings to hung out to dry.

Likewise, in A Serious Man, for pre-tenure professor Larry Gopnick, no good deed goes unpunished. Taking their cue for centuries of internecine Jewish persecution, the Coens have even incorporated classic themes of Yiddish drama in s movie that I've already heard one non-Jew viewer refer to as "anti-Semitic," and it's easy to understand why. This film makes the Jewish satires of Woody Allen appear benign and playful. With freakish recall they paint perfectly cast pictures of the various characters reminiscent of those from my own youth in the Albany, NY Jewish community, giving the film a kind of ethnic specificity that often leads to successful crossover of an ethnic family comedy -- think Moonlighting or My Big Fat Greek Wedding. The Coens, however, have little interest in cute or endearing. I mean, has there ever been a villain as terrifyingly unctuous as Sy Adelman in movie history?

A line often repeated in our faith when faced with personal trauma: "It could be worse." In A Serious Man, it always is, hilariously so. Larry is on the verge of losing his wife, his job, his home, his sanity. Larry's narrative counterpart is his pot-smoking son, preparing for his Bar Mitzvah while trying to avoid the big kid down the street to whom he owes $20 for weed. But it's Larry who awakes from the routine of his life as he's forced to look for answers, most specifically to the meaning of God's will. And one wonders by the end if God is, in fact, a serious being, or perhaps enjoys screwing around with us.

While The Book of Job from the Torah may be seen as the inspiration for the tale, this is also a classic tale of a modern (1967) day schlimazel, i.e. born loser. This is as distinct for a schlemiel, which is a bumbling or inept person. The best way to understand the relationship between the two terms:
A schlemiel is one who always spills his soup, schlimazel is the one on whom it always lands.

Don't worry, there's a schlemiel pouring it on Larry in the form of his crackpot genius brother, but I'll leave that discovery for you to see for yourself.

In the meantime, enjoy the trailer, which gives a sense of Larry's journey and quest for understanding, if not justice:

Apocalypse coming.

It's God's will.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Still More History

I like the blurb from McJoan tonight the best in her DailyKos post, "History Made, 220-215":
This is the first time a chamber of Congress has passed healthcare reform since Medicare was enacted. There's a lot of work left to do on this, and a lot of ugly to be undone, but we made it this far against long odds. Now the really hard work: the Senate.

Here here. And NY-23 helped -- thank you, teabaggers, for getting a Democrat elected.

Obama's pitch to the Dem Reps leading up to this:
According to Representative Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, who supports the health care bill, the president asked, “Does anybody think that the teabag, anti-government people are going to support them if they bring down health care? All it will do is confuse and dispirit” Democratic voters “and it will encourage the extremists.”

Another freshman Democrat from New Mexico, Representative Martin Heinrich, said the president’s comments overall were reassuring. “If you want to see a recipe for failure,” Mr. Heinrich said, “don’t do the things you talked about in your campaigns and turn your back on your base. All the independent voters in the world don’t matter if the Democrats don’t turn out.”

“This is an opportunity to do something as big as Social Security,” he added. “And me, personally, I don’t want to be on the wrong side of history.”

Honestly, the only person in America who's health may be negatively affected by passing reform is the President's.

Friday, November 06, 2009


Nightmare unemployment numbers. Here's an interactive chart to tell you how your own demographic is doing.

As for the terror at Ft. Hood, here's to the courageous Police Officer who took down the shooter (and managed to leave him alive to stand trial or court martial), Kimberly Denise Munley.

I'm hoping her heroism will be kept separate from the ideological landgrabs on the Right, but we'll see how it plays on Faux News.

Thursday, November 05, 2009


Nothing but tragedy at Ft. Hood. The shooter suspect is still alive and, as he's a Muslim, the leading American Islamic advocacy group has come out with a statement condemning (duh!) the senseless slaughter.

Looks like the teabaggers picked the wrong day to capture the news cycle.

Oh, and I'm in agreement with George F. Will (on something other than baseball).

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Time Stands Still

This week's episode, "The Grown-Ups," is the one that will be shown in history classes deep into the future when professors want their students to understand the pivotal nature of this particular week in U.S. history, when our fresh young President was assassinated and the man accused of the crime was himself erased just a few days later.

What Mad Men did so successfully with their extensive use of archival television broadcast footage, and the backdrop of the epic story built around Dick Whitman's exhausting quest to be the best Don Draper he can be, was to contextualize the footage so we viewers could both experience what first nationwide trauma shared over mass media felt like as well as understand why it was the turning point, the end of the 1950's, the moment with all its unanswered questions that continue to haunt our nation to this day.

Kennedy's assassination puts the world in a tailspin, with all of the characters glued to the TV to try and make sense of what has happened. Back then there was no such thing as channel surfing, mainly just sitting on one of the three network channels with whichever newscaster(s) you preferred. There was no mosaic reality of current media choices, no multitudes of cable channels or infinite Internet space, no amateur video footage of planes crashing into buildings showing up scant hours after the disaster -- even the Zapruder film is yet to be developed in a film lab. We relied on the trusted newscasters, many of which had earned our trust as part of Edward Murrow's crack WWII reporting troupe, to interpret for us in black and white, replete with vertical roll, nothing so tethered as today's digital reliability. A world a-jitter, hanging on by a thread.

This was certainly the moment Mad Men has been building towards since the pilot, per the mid-century anthropological theme that is the show's foundation. Presidential assassination is perhaps the most taboo of homicides, as it not only affects individuals and families like all other murders but, in cases like Kennedy and Lincoln, can change a nation's fate. While it's an axiom of drama that true character is revealed under pressure, Mad Men shows how this impossibly momentous trauma causes several characters to make long-simmering, life-changing decisions. Veils are lifted, scales fall from eyes. Authority is ignored -- after all, as Pete points out, if we can't protect the most wanted man in America from vigilante justice while under police protection, then there is no functioning system.

What's interesting is how those making these decisions do so by connecting with a partner, while other characters do not so much change as remain boxed in.

We see a new Betty, still processing the forced revelation of her husband's terminal duplicity, now seeing the world with an adult's skepticism rather than the childish moods of the past. She no longer cares what Don knows or finds out: "He's been lying to me for years." Film director Barbet Schroeder (Reversal of Fortune, Barfly) in his first Mad Men engagement delivers a Vertigo-like moment for Betty, a vision made more dreamy by the dissolve that leads into it, as she emerges from the powder room at the end of Roger's daughter's wedding and walks towards two men at once, Don and Henry with their backs to each other, and up until she takes her husband's arm we're not exactly sure who she'll choose to leave with. The real decision comes after Oswald's assassination by Jack Ruby, which jolts her out of her chair to cry, "What the hell is going on?!?" and drives her to Henry's promising arms, as much a reaction to Don's refrain, "It's all going to be okay."

These were the two repeated refrains from the episode, beginning with Don's spooky turn around a corner in the office, all the telephones suddenly ringing and the main room empty as employees gather around Harry's television. "What's going on?" he says but quickly gets the picture. And while he's the one taking on the expected daddy role by claiming everything with be fine throughout the show, it's Peggy who has the last repetition, referring to the time they have to redo the AquaNet ad before shooting, now too reminiscent of the assassination scene to be broadcast.

Pete is the other rebel, joining with Trudi in what now appears to be a smart and solid partnership where she agrees with him that the system is broken, both in the government and at Sterling Cooper. While Pete is odious in so many other ways, he's actually the most forward-looking executive at the company, but is dealing to a corporate loss to Ken Cosgrove, ironically referred to by Pete as "Ken and his haircut," just as JFK's detractors would say America elected the haircut, not the man.

Meanwhile Don is increasingly cut off from all humanity, whether powerless at work to hire a quality Art Director due to Lane's budgeting edicts, shorn of his soul-mate elementary school teacher, estranged from Betty due to his tangle of dishonesties, unable to connect with Roger at the wedding thanks to his previous resentments. Roger is also finding himself isolated, with his young wife acting childish and denying him a grown-up partner, reaching out instead to Joan who now lives on the show's narrative margins, she the most capable adult of all.

The episode begins with Pete asleep and ends with Don anesthetizing himself yet again, having come to the office with no other place to go on the sudden National Day of Mourning. Pete wakes up over the course of the episode but Don ends it hitting the bottle, sticking with his dream state. Don finds Peggy also at the office and the two of them are kindred spirits, both alone in their own ways, survivors who can take the events of the week in greater stride than others due to their own traumatic experiences, but Don is still unable to make a complete connection. He's too full of grief from Betty's declaration of no longer loving him, too isolated by the role he's built for himself in terminal pursuit of the American Dream. Peggy goes off to watch the funeral in Bert's office while Don returns to the shadows that are the dominant visual for him this week, once again trapped visually in a doorframe, reaching for the bottle. It's obvious by now that Don is an alcoholic, and that it's as much a trap as his adopted identity, company and marriage.

The rebels, the ones more alive now, are in cells of two, a foreshadowing of the 1960's political cells to come -- the ones committed, sometimes violently, to creating change. While the Beatles will be important culturally should the next season pick up in 1964, it's five more years until the next big hits, when both Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy fall from assassin bullets within two months of each other, by which time the more festering trauma of the Vietnam War will be tearing our nation apart.

The question for the season finale is whether we'll see Don Draper somehow rising to the occasion and pulling back together the threads of his life at home and at work, as he's done with varying degrees of success in each of the previous two seasons. Is the change creator Matthew Weiner has touted all season is a permanent trajectory or simply a more sophisticated form of standard television series machinations? Will Betty discover Henry to be a fraud and return home to Don? Will Joan return as Office Manager and Sal as Art Director? Will Pete someone get over on Ken and take the top account position? Will Peggy and Don unite to become a team again?

From the very beginning the big vision and big promise has been depicting the decade of greatest, most rapid change in modern American history, at least since the Civil War one hundred years earlier. If, as Weiner has said, Mad Men is a show about "not getting what you want," then the potential for real dramatic and potentially structural change must be met. Especially the week after so convincingly depicting the historical earthquake that began on November 22, 1963 at 12:30pm CST in Dallas, Texas.

We'll all be watching.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Off Year

I want to say a quick word about the vote tonight, where three lousy candidates lost in this odd off-year election.

One was Democrat Creigh Deeds in Virginia, who ran away from Obama's policies and paid the price when 38% of those who had voted for Obama a year ago failed to show up to vote for him.

Another was former Goldman Sachs CEO and New Jersey Governor John Corzine, who lost his bid for a second term. Corzine may have made some tough decisions in economic downtimes that hurt his favorability ratings, but he's also generally disliked for personal attributes and the inherent corruption of his Goldman wealth. What I saw of Corzine this round was his campaign and him personally making fun of his opponent's girth, not even close to the dignitarian electoral practices of President Obama. And besides, he's got to be a complete egomaniac investment banker moron to think he can drive in a speeding vehicle without a seatbelt. The moment he had his serious accident, I knew he'd have to have a lot of character to get re-elected after such obscenely poor judgment. Which he did not appear to have.

PS: I believe Governor-Elect Christie will have to show a lot of character not to end up getting indicted, impeached or resigning for the corrupt behavior that's just starting to be investigated.

The worst news of the night isn't Bob McDonnell or Chris Christie. The prize for that goes to the state of Maine, particularly the fearful and the carpetbaggers, who have passed a ballot measure striking down the marriage equality law enacted this past term by the State Legislature. It wasn't close enough, not a 5 1/2 point spread, so even in upper New England gay rights remains the frontline in U.S. civil rights.

As for the beautiful counties of my native upstate New York, including Saranac Lake, a town where our family had friends we would visit coming up from Albany, and Lake Placid, home of the 1980Winter Olympics, they sent Sarah Palin and Tim Pawlenty's rogue candidate to the woodchopper:

This was the day's biggest victory against the forces of darkness. It won't be the last battle. Obama opened up this 150-year Republican or so-leaning district to a special election when he co-opted the sitting Republican Congressman into his bipartisan Administration. So this is an historic flip, and I'm betting that relatively conservative Democrat who won, Bill Owens, will serve multiple terms. He's a lawyer and retired Air Force Captain. Something tells me he'll have skills.

And how about New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in a squeaker, surprisingly tight even after spending a non-Presidential race record of $140 million. Was it the extended term limits or that he's the richest person in the city?

It's good for the off-years to get feisty, especially against the wealthy when most entrenched and entitled. It's some good changes for the Democratic Party blood, even if it means GOP victories.

It's all set-up for serious business in 2010 and 2012. And Obama is still the best strategist in the country.

Monday, November 02, 2009

It's Collegiate!

Okay, Mad Men is the show of the moment, but The Wire is enduring, and now it's a course at Harvard University:

The class will be taught by sociology professor William J. Wilson, one of the best-known African American history professors in the country, who has made no secret of the fact that he is a huge fan of the show.

"I do not hesitate to say that it has done more to enhance our understanding of the challenges of urban life and the problems of urban inequality, more than any other media event or scholarly publication," Wilson told the audience before poking fun at himself, "including studies by social scientitsts."

Nothin' new, though, per Associate Professor Jason Mittell at Middlebury College:

Mittell treats The Wire as he should, in the same league as the novels of Dostoevsky or drama of Shakespeare, at five episodes a week. And there's word of a similar course at Dartmouth.

Yep, best show cop show ever.

And arguably the finest fictional television series yet produced.

Sunday, November 01, 2009


Nettertainment friend DeRosaWorld is promising thirty count 'em thirty JFK assassination facts in 30 days, one for each day in November. I'm guessing it won't take the whole thirty to make the case for conspiracy rather than lone gunman, but follow for yourself.

This is particularly timely as the final two episodes of this Mad Men season hurtle towards that fateful day of November 22, 1963.

Today's fact has to do with Lee Harvey Oswald's contract with the American embassy during his extended stay in Russia...