kottke.org posts about Mad Men
One of my favorite movie/TV critics, Matt Zoller Seitz, is coming out with a book this fall on Mad Men called Mad Men Carousel: The Complete Critical Companion.
Mad Men Carousel, authored by Abrams’ bestselling author Matt Zoller Seitz, will gather all of Seitz’s widely read (and discussed) Mad Men essays in a single volume. Rather than simply recalling the plot through lengthy summary, Seitz’s essays dig deep into the show’s themes, performances and filmmaking, with the tone and spirit of accessible, but serious, film or literary criticism. This novel-sized volume will be designed to have a 1970s feel and will be broken into seven sections, one for each season.
Seitz wrote the dreamy The Wes Anderson Collection.
Clips of Peggy Olsen from Mad Men set to Drake’s Started From the Bottom.
(via av club)
I have been doing a poor job keeping up with my Steve Jobs-related media. I haven’t had a chance to pick up the new Becoming Steve Jobs book yet. And I had no idea that the Aaron Sorkin-penned biopic was still in the works, much less that Michael Fassbender is playing Jobs and Danny Boyle is directing. Here’s the trailer:
The trailer debuted during last night’s series finale of Mad Men, which was possibly the most appropriate venue for it. [Slight spoilers…] Draper always had a Jobs-esque sheen to him, although the final scene showed us that, yes, Don Draper actually would like to sell sugar water for the rest of his life.
Update: A proper trailer has dropped. I don’t know how much we’ll learn about the actual Steve Jobs from the movie, but it looks like it might be good.
Update: Another trailer. This is looking like a strong film.
I don’t quite know what I’m doing to myself these days. Last night was an episode of The Americans in which a marriage was ending, another family was trying to keep itself intact, and a young boy struggles to move on after his entire family dies. This morning, I watched an episode of Mad Men in which a mother tries to reconcile her differences with her daughter in the face of impending separation. And then, the absolute cake topper, a story by Matthew Teague that absolutely wrecked me. It’s about his cancer-stricken wife and the friend who comes and rescues an entire family, which is perhaps the truest and most direct thing I’ve ever read about cancer and death and love and friendship.
Since we had met, when she was still a teenager, I had loved her with my whole self. Only now can I look back on the fullness of our affection; at the time I could see nothing but one wound at a time, a hole the size of a dime, into which I needed to pack a fistful of material. Love wasn’t something I felt anymore. It was just something I did. When I finished, I would lie next to her and use sterile cotton balls to soak up her tears. When she finally slept, I would slip out of bed and go into our closet, the most isolated room in the house. Inside, I would wrap a blanket around my head, stuff it into my mouth, lie down and bury my head in a pile of dirty clothes, and scream.
There are very specific parts of all those stories that I identify with. I struggle with friendship. And with family. I worry about my children, about my relationships with them. I worry about being a good parent, about being a good parenting partner with their mom. How much of me do I really want to impart to them? I want them to be better than me, but I can’t tell them or show them how to do that because I’m me. I took my best shot at being better and me is all I came up with. What if I’m just giving them the bad parts, without even realizing it? God, this is way too much for a Monday.
Hannah Choi is making illustrations of all the women Don Draper has slept with on Mad Men in chronological order.
Vice did a nice little feature on George Lois, the kind of 1960s big-egoed ad man on which Mad Men’s Don Draper was based.
Lois created a number of iconic ad campaigns as well as dozens of fantastic Esquire covers. Or at least he says he did. ;) (via devour)
Update: Here’s the transcript for the episode of This American Life in which Sarah Koenig interviews her father Julian Koenig about George Lois taking credit for some of his best ideas.
In my instance, the greatest predator of my work was my one-time partner George Lois, who is a most heralded and talented art director/designer, and his talent is only exceeded by his omnivorous ego. So where it once would’ve been accepted that the word would be “we” did it, regardless of who originated the work, the word “we” evaporated from George’s vocabulary and it became “my.”
Of course, Koenig also claims to have invented thumb wrestling and to have popularized shrimp in America, so… (via @kevinmeyers)
Now that I’ve caught up on True Detective, I have to agree with Emily Nussbaum’s take on the show and finale: a stylish well-acted show with a “hollow center”.
To state the obvious: while the male detectives of “True Detective” are avenging women and children, and bro-bonding over “crazy pussy,” every live woman they meet is paper-thin. Wives and sluts and daughters — none with any interior life. Instead of an ensemble, “True Detective” has just two characters, the family-man adulterer Marty, who seems like a real and flawed person (and a reasonably interesting asshole, in Harrelson’s strong performance), and Rust, who is a macho fantasy straight out of Carlos Castaneda. A sinewy weirdo with a tragic past, Rust delivers arias of philosophy, a mash-up of Nietzsche, Lovecraft, and the nihilist horror writer Thomas Ligotti. At first, this buddy pairing seems like a funky dialectic: when Rust rants, Marty rolls his eyes. But, six episodes in, I’ve come to suspect that the show is dead serious about this dude. Rust is a heretic with a heart of gold. He’s our fetish object — the cop who keeps digging when everyone ignores the truth, the action hero who rescues children in the midst of violent chaos, the outsider with painful secrets and harsh truths and nice arms. McConaughey gives an exciting performance (in Grantland, Andy Greenwald aptly called him “a rubber band wrapped tight around a razor blade”), but his rap is premium baloney. And everyone around these cops, male or female, is a dark-drama cliche, from the coked-up dealers and the sinister preachers to that curvy corpse in her antlers. “True Detective” has some tangy dialogue (“You are the Michael Jordan of being a son of a bitch”) and it can whip up an ominous atmosphere, rippling with hints of psychedelia, but these strengths finally dissipate, because it’s so solipsistically focussed on the phony duet.
I enjoyed the show and am seated in the McConaissance cheering section, but True Detective is far from TV’s best thing evar. And Nussbaum hits the nail right on the head: the lack of good women characters is to blame.
Something I’ve noticed about my favorite TV shows: they are mostly testosterone fests where the women are more interesting than the men. Mad Men is the perfect example. Game of Thrones is another. And Six Feet Under. Even in Deadwood, which I am rewatching now and is loads better than True Detective, women more than hold their own against the men. It’s fun to watch the men on these series generate bullshit, but it’s much more interesting to watch the great actresses who play these women navigate and elevate through the predictable male privilege.
Looks like Don Draper may have contributed to Lucky Strike’s recent sales increase.
While the claim that Mad Men could have driven a nearly 50% (representing an additional 10 billion cigarettes) increase in Lucky Strike sounds like typical advertising puffery, it’s hard to pin down another driver. Lucky Strike did launch new flavors, update packaging and launch “capsule” cigarettes in the five years since Mad Men premiered, but so too did its competitors. The only new country the brand entered was Turkey — and that wasn’t until 2011. Even if one excluded all capsule (2010- ) and “All Natural” (2011-) cigarette sales (which would have been predominantly cannibalized, rather than net new), Lucky Strike would still have grown 12% between 2007 and 2012, five times faster than the industry overall and eight times British American Tobacco (the owner of Lucky Strike). Could it really have been Don Draper?
Sales of Canadian Club whiskey have turned around since Mad Men started as well. (via nextdraft)
[SORTA MAD MEN SPOILERS! but not really] I don’t know if Ken Crosgrove dancing on the latest episode of Mad Men is the best thing that’s ever been on the show, but it’s definitely in the top 10. And it might be even better with a little Daft Punk.
And it might be best with the Crazy in Love cover from Gatsby…just load up that this YT video while watching the animated GIF and you’re all set. (This is how Millennials watch TV, BTW…it’s all animated GIFs with YouTube video soundtracks. Civilization is gonna be juuuuuuust fine.)
If the advertising parts of Mad Men are your favorite bits of the show, might I recommend Taschen’s two-volume Mid-Century Ads (on Amazon).
It’s a beautiful set of books, tons of ads from the 50s and 60s presented in large format.
Writing for The Awl, Heather Havrilesky (who you may remember from Suck) highlights three stereotypical TV characters (The Hapless Dad, The Friend, and The Wise Old Professional) and characters on three current shows (Louie, Girls, and Mad Men) that cut right through that bullshit.
Because on “Girls,” not only is The Friend (Hannah, played by Dunham) not all that insecure (relatively speaking), but she also has more swagger and courage and heart than The Hot One (Marnie) and The Other Hot One (Jessa) and The Sort of Hot One (Shoshanna) put together. Instead of whining and weeping snottily into her hands the way The Friend would do on any other television show, Hannah gets naked and refuses to exercise but realizes that she is exactly 13 pounds overweight (this isn’t some fantasyland, after all, except for the trust funds and bad Fu Manchus). Hannah has lots of not-very-great sex. She’s sometimes timid and confused, sure, but she’s brave enough to state her feelings to people directly. She’s self-possessed. But most importantly, she is not preoccupied with not being The Hot One. She wears clothing that doesn’t compliment her body. She doesn’t appear to brush her hair regularly. She doesn’t have to, because she doesn’t believe that there is some center of the universe located somewhere other than where she is, and she’ll only get there if her hair is brushed. No. She can simply exist and do what regular people do: Eat, worry, sleep late, roll her eyes, fall on her face.
I’m gonna come out and say that I really liked Girls, due in large part (I’m realizing now) to Hannah’s (and Adam’s and Ray’s) directness and self-possession.
Prochronism analyzes word usage in shows like Mad Men and Downton Abbey to hunt down anachronisms…like “a callback for” and “pay phone” from a recent episode of Mad Men.
The big one from the charts: Megan gets “a callback for” an audition. This is, the data says, a candidate for the worst anachronism of the season. The word “callback” is about 100x more common by the 1990s, and “callback for” is even worse. The OED doesn’t have any examples of a theater-oriented use of “callback” until the 1970s; although I bet one could find some examples somewhere earlier in the New York theater scene, that may not save it. It wouldn’t really suite Megan’s generally dilettantish attitude towards the theater, or the office staff’s lack of knowledge of it, for them to be so au courant. “call-back” and “call back” don’t seem much more likely.
This is an episode of Mad Men, incompletely downloaded from BitTorrent.
The video captures an episode of the popular TV show in the act of being shared by thousands of users on bittorent. The video simultaneously acts as a visualisation of bittorrent traffic and the practice of filesharing and is an aesthetically beautiful by product of the bittorrent process as the pieces of the original file are rearranged and reconfigured into a new transitory in-between state.
Many thanks to Aaron Cohen for holding down the fort here at kottke.org for the past week. You should check out the Mad Men recap he did for last night’s episode, complete with an illustration from Chris Piascik (prints and t-shirts available).
You can also find Aaron at the helm of 2012 Boston Bacon and Beer Festival…tickets go on sale soon.
Season 5 of Mad Men starts on Sunday. It’s been on hiatus for 12 years, and it might be hard to remember season 4 without some of the Mad Men related info linked below. With such a long break, there’s been quite a bit of Mad Men news floating around. In order to cut it down a little, most of this stuff is from the last week or so. Don’t try to eat it all in one sitting you’ll get a stomach ache and have to sleep off your hangover on your office couch.
-Here’s where we left off in Season 4.
-Everything Don Draper Said in Season 4.
-Although, Matthew Weiner has asked reviewers with advanced copies of Sunday’s premier not to discuss key details in their previews, such as the year this season takes place, Weiner is changing a song featured in the episode because it wasn’t released until 6 months after the episode takes place. ‘Look of Love’ was released at the beginning of 1967 placing the episode in, or around, the summer of 1966. This is about a year after Season 4 ended. Maybe this is subterfuge?
-George Lois is still mad.
-Newsweek recently had an issue celebrating the return of Mad Men where the ads were all retro. Here are all those ads.
-The psychotherapist who consulted on Mad Men’s development talks about why the characters feel so real.
-Some (spoiler free) previews of what to expect on Sunday.
Over at Sew Weekly, Mena Trott predicts what some of the characters will be wearing in the coming season of Mad Men.
Oh, Betty. For years, she has been immaculately dressed and presented as the facade of the perfect 1950s/1960s wife. With her cinched waists and billowing skirts, she’s held onto late 1950s and early 1960s fashion the longest. In season four, she’s married to the anti-Don, the boring Henry Francis and is getting a little too familiar with the bottle. When you’re married to Henry Francis, you just don’t care any more. That should be embroidered on a pillow.
In a recent interview reported over at Grantland, Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner talked about how Man Men will end in its seventh season.
“I do know how the whole show ends,” he told us. “It came to me in the middle of last season. I always felt like it would be the experience of human life. And human life has a destination. It doesn’t mean Don’s gonna die. What I’m looking for, and how I hope to end the show, is like … It’s 2011. Don Draper would be 84 right now. I want to leave the show in a place where you have an idea of what it meant and how it’s related to you.”
Everyone has shaken hands with everyone else, so Mad Men season five can finally happen. But here’s the part you’re not going to like…the new episodes won’t air until March 2012.
With the next new season of Mad Men delayed, you’ll have to make do with the recently released season four Blu-ray and DVD to get your fix.
There’s currently no deal in place for the show, which probably means we won’t get to see the next season until late 2011 or early 2012 (instead of this summer).
People involved in the talks suggested this week that one or both deals may be imminent, but that may not be enough to ensure a summer start. Todd Gold, the editor in chief of XfinityTV.com, Comcast’s television news site, said it was becoming clear that the show was “right on the cusp of going one way or the other.”
“By now, the writing staff should be humming along, maybe about a month or more into work for a summer premiere,” he said. “Unless Weiner is secretly manufacturing outlines in preparation of some crazy all-night writing sessions with his staff, it might be time for fans to grow concerned.”
Here are a few characters from The Wire categorized by their Dungeons and Dragons alignment (good/neutral/evil and lawful/neutral/chaotic).
There are a few more alignment charts from the same source, including a Mad Men chart with Betty Draper as chaotic evil (justification). (via @juliandibbell)
Dominic West, who starred as McNutty in The Wire, will play the lead character in a six-part BBC series called The Hour. The show is set in the 1950s and will air next year.
The Hour follows the launch of a topical news show in London set against the backdrop of a mysterious murder. West will play Hector Madden, the programme’s upper-crust, charismatic front man.
The series is being called the UK version of Mad Men:
The only place with better retro fashion than New York in the 1960s is London in the 1950s.
(via unlikely words)
On Mad Men this season, Roger Sterling writes a book called Sterling’s Gold. And behold, that book is available for pre-order on Amazon in the real world.
Advertising pioneer and visionary Roger Sterling, Jr., served with distinction in the Navy during World War II, and joined Sterling Cooper Advertising as a junior account executive in 1947. He worked his way up to managing partner before leaving to found his own agency, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, in 1963.
During his long and illustrious career, Sterling has come into contact with all the luminaries and would-be luminaries of the advertising world, and he has acquired quite a reputation among his colleagues for his quips, barbs, and witticisms.
Taken as a whole, Roger Sterling’s pithy comments and observations amount to a unique window on the advertising world — a world that few among us are privileged to witness first-hand — as well as a commentary on life in New York City in the middle of the twentieth century.
Who knows what the book will actually be, and I thought it was a hoax at first, but Grove Press is putting this thing out so who knows.
I enjoyed this extensive interview with John Sculley about his time at Apple (he was CEO from 83-93) because of 1) his insight into Steve Jobs’ way of thinking, 2) his willingness to talk about his mistakes, and 3) his insights about business in general…he gives Jobs a lot of credit but Sculley is clearly no slouch. Some high points:
[Jobs] felt that the computer was going to change the world and it was going to become what he called “the bicycle for the mind.”
On the small size of teams actually building products:
Normally you will only see a handful of software engineers who are building an operating system. People think that it must be hundreds and hundreds working on an operating system. It really isn’t. It’s really just a small team of people. Think of it like the atelier of an artist.
Sculley was president of Pepsi before coming to Apple:
We did some research and we discovered that when people were going to serve soft drinks to a friend in their home, if they had Coca Cola in the fridge, they would go out to the kitchen, open the fridge, take out the Coke bottle, bring it out, put it on the table and pour a glass in front of their guests.
If it was a Pepsi, they would go out in to the kitchen, take it out of the fridge, open it, and pour it in a glass in the kitchen, and only bring the glass out. The point was people were embarrassed to have someone know that they were serving Pepsi. Maybe they would think it was Coke because Coke had a better perception. It was a better necktie. Steve was fascinated by that.
On why he should not have been hired as Apple’s CEO:
The reason why I said it was a mistake to have hired me as CEO was Steve always wanted to be CEO. It would have been much more honest if the board had said, “Let’s figure out a way for him to be CEO. You could focus on the stuff that you bring and he focuses on the stuff he brings.”
Remember, he was the chairman of the board, the largest shareholder and he ran the Macintosh division, so he was above me and below me.
After Jobs left, Sculley tried to run the company as Jobs would have:
All the design ideas were clearly Steve’s. The one who should really be given credit for all that stuff while I was there is really Steve. […] Unfortunately, I wasn’t as good at it as he was.
And finally, Sculley and Jobs probably haven’t spoken since Jobs left the company:
He won’t talk to me, so I don’t know.
Jobs is pulling a page from the Don Draper playbook here. In season two, Don tells mental hospital patient Peggy:
Peggy listen to me, get out of here and move forward. This never happened. It will shock you how much it never happened.
Maybe Jobs is still pissed at Sculley and holds a grudge or whatever, but it seems more likely that looking backwards is something that Jobs simply doesn’t do. Move forward, Steve.
The NYPL blog has compiled a list of books ripped from the scenes of Mad Men.
Some of the titles are featured prominently in the series and others are mentioned in passing. Remember the book Sally read with her grandfather at bedtime? The book on Japanese culture the agency was told to read? The scandalous book the ladies passed between each other in secret? You can find all these and more!
(via mad men unbuttoned)
Ladies and gentlemen, a friendly reminder: Pete Campbell’s happy dance.
I always liked the way poet Frank O’Hara walked up to the manifesto:
Everything is in the poems, but at the risk of sounding like the poor wealthy man’s Allen Ginsberg I will write to you because I just heard that one of my fellow poets thinks that a poem of mine that can’t be got at one reading is because I was confused too. Now, come on. I don’t believe in god, so I don’t have to make elaborately sounded structures. I hate Vachel Lindsay, always have; I don’t even like rhythm, assonance, all that stuff. You just go on your nerve. If someone’s chasing you down the street with a knife you just run, you don’t turn around and shout, “Give it up! I was a track star for Mineola Prep.”
But what do we call it, Frank? We need a name.
Personism, a movement which I recently founded and which nobody knows about… was founded by me after lunch with LeRoi Jones on August 27, 1959, a day in which I was in love with someone (not Roi, by the way, a blond). I went back to work and wrote a poem for this person. While I was writing it I was realizing that if I wanted to I could use the telephone instead of writing the poem, and so Personism was born. It’s a very exciting movement which will undoubtedly have lots of adherents. It puts the poem squarely between the poet and the person, Lucky Pierre style, and the poem is correspondingly gratified. The poem is at last between two persons instead of two pages. In all modesty, I confess that it may be the death of literature as we know it. While I have certain regrets, I am still glad I got there before Alain Robbe-Grillet did. Poetry being quicker and surer than prose, it is only just that poetry finish literature off.
LeRoi Jones eventually changed his name to Amiri Baraka. Alain Robbe-Grillet was an proto-postmodern French novelist associated with the nouveau roman, or “new novel.” It’s probably better if I let you figure out what a Lucky Pierre is for yourself.
Because O’Hara dated his poems, we know what poem he wrote between lunch with Jones and picking up the telephone; appropriately, it’s called “personal poem”:
Now when I walk around at lunchtime
I have only two charms in my pocket
an old Roman coin Mike Kanemitsu gave me
and a bolt-head that broke off a packing case
when I was in Madrid the others never
brought me too much luck though they did
help keep me in New York against coercion
but now I’m happy for a time and interested
I walk through the luminous humidity
passing the House of Seagram with its wet
and its loungers and the construction to
the left that closed the sidewalk if
I ever get to be a construction worker
I’d like to have a silver hat please
and get to Moriarty’s when I wait for
LeRol and hear who wants to be a mover and
shaker the last five years my batting average
is .016 that’s that, and LeRol comes in
and tells me Miles Davis was clubbed 12
times last night outside BIRDLAND by a cop
a lady asks us for a nickel for a terrible
disease but we don’t give her one we
don’t like terrible diseases, then
we go eat some fish and some ale it’s
cool but crowded we don’t like Lionel Trilling
we decide, we like Don Allen we don’t like
Henry James so much we like Herman Melville
we don’t want to be in the poet’s walk in
San Francisco even we just want to be rich
and walk on girders in our silver hats
I wonder if one person out of the 8,000,000 is
thinking of me as I shake hands with LeRol
and buy a strap for my wristwatch and go
back to work happy at the thought possibly so
Here is a photo of Davis after being beaten:
One reason Davis’s assault and arrest alarmed O’Hara as much as it did was the increasing police violence at bars and clubs where gay men gathered — which culminated in the Stonewall Riots, five years after his accidental death in 1964.
O’Hara’s poetry got a boost in sales and pop-culture recognition recently, when it was prominently featured in the Season Two premiere of Mad Men. Don Draper reads from Meditations In An Emergency’s “Mayakovsky”:
Now I am quietly waiting for
the catastrophe of my personality
to seem beautiful again,
and interesting, and modern.
The country is grey and
brown and white in trees,
snows and skies of laughter
always diminishing, less funny
not just darker, not just grey.
It may be the coldest day of
the year, what does he think of
that? I mean, what do I? And if I do,
perhaps I am myself again.
I don’t know why I always think of this mode of literature in terms of media history. Maybe that’s just the way I think. Or it’s O’Hara picking up the telephone, that black-and-white photo of Davis’s blood-spattered suit, Don Draper dropping his copy of a book into a suburban corner mailbox.
Elsewhere in Personism, O’Hara says, “Nobody should experience anything they don’t need to, if they don’t need poetry bully for them. I like the movies too. And after all, only Whitman and Crane and Williams, of the American poets, are better than the movies.” Maybe if he were writing today, he might say, “only ___ and ___ and ___ are better than playing video games.”
His poem “Lines for the Fortune Cookies” shows O’Hara would have completely understood (and ruled at) Twitter. Here are just three samples (all well under the character limit):
- Your walk has a musical quality which will bring you fame and fortune.
- You may be a hit uptown, but downtown you’re legendary!
- You are a prisoner in a croissant factory and you love it.