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Entries in mad men (45)


In Which We Arch Our Backs Like Don Draper

Where Am I And Who Is This Child?


Pregnancy is a fog. Don's busy getting breathy phone calls from his daughter's teacher, and Betty Draper tells him the keys are already in his hand.

During the birth, Don fantasizes about an imaginary friend/prison guard who makes Don witness his exortation to be a better man. Somehow this guy found the time to get Don's favorite brand of liquor and offer it to him. Later, the guy doesn't even recognize Don in the hallway.

Fine, okay. Don spends more time with his children, appears more "caring" and trustworthy. He turns down Peggy's request for a raise and denigrates Duck Philips' designs on his creative team. Duck killed his wife's dog, found work at a new agency, and time to ambush Pete Campbell. How is Don supposed to live in a world where people envy what he never desired?

January Jones models an impressive new dress and demands her doctor, not the local Jew obstetrician on call. She names her son after her crazy, lecherous father, and promises the child she'll never let him jam a fat girl's head against a spigot. The child has no choice but to take the name.

The series finale of King of the Hill aired last Sunday. The rating is likely to make Mike Judge sad. The weird thing about that show is that its characters never aged; so that no matter what happened in the world Bobby was the same chuckling child as when it began its run nine years ago.

Sally Draper and Don Draper, on the other hand, have room to grow as people. A Draper has no chance of being a human being. Like her new little brother, she'll be encumbered by her father's infidelities, and probably forbidden from driving her grandfather's car.

All the while, men continue to approach Don Draper privately. Each one mutely expresses the desire of the other. Don draws on some relevant pain in his past to sympathize since he lacks a soul — who else channels his own life's tragedy better than Don Draper? Even when he's hallucinating while his wife gives birth, he's on the clock for Sterling-Cooper. I see everything, he tells the jerkwad British CFO, you've seen my ticket stubs.

There's a backlog of work you need to approve, Sterling tells Don. He's just sitting in his office having a drink, laughing off the whole thing about Lois' scarf getting stuck in the copier. Bitch out Pete Campbell and Don Draper and you've earned your salary. Fortunately he's a few years shy of the '09 recession.

Pete's been getting the short end of the stick for awhile now. He's not benefiting from the competition with Ken Cosgrove, and he's starting to go overboard by having intense moments with service people of color. Like in The Sopranos, folks of color are used as props here for white insecurities, scapegoats for profit margins, and 3/5th of a vote. With that said, I will be taking out a full page personals ad in Ebony. I'm crossing my fingers that it will pay "big" dividends.

Dream sequences were also a meaningful part of Weiner's previous show. In Betty's dream, her father pretends not to recognize her, and then she sees her prim mother with her hand on Medgar Evers' shoulder, a signifier embedded in Betty's consciousness since her parent-teacher conference. Would you believe that Evers actually played himself in the role? Why haven't they done a Martin Luther King Jr. biopic yet? Is Spike Lee that busy warming Kobe Bryant's scrotum with his breath?

Eleanor Morrow is the senior contributor to This Recording. She tumbls here.

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"Minute Till Dawn" — Ana Popovic (mp3)

"Girl of Many Worlds" — Ana Popovic (mp3)

"How Lonely Can A Woman Get" — Ana Popovic (mp3)


In Which We Plan To Advertise in Ebony

Wading Through The Fog of Mad Men


Don Draper is the Kanye West of the 1960s. They’re both creative man-children who get pissy when they don’t get their way. They also look great in shades.

Last night’s episode of Mad Men, aptly titled "The Fog" because the whole thing was a foggy mess, began with The Drapers at a parent-teacher conference in which Don takes the only available chair, leaving his pregnant wife to find her own goddamn chair. Don Draper is not a butler; he does not need to offer his chair to anyone. That’s such a slick Kanye thing to do.

Oh yeah so Sally is acting up in school and Betty has to pee. While she leaves the teacher gets all flirty with Don saying, “It’s going to be a beautiful summer.” Don gives her a look that says, “Yeah, for me to do you in.” Betty comes back in what has to be the shortest pee break in human history.

Back at Sterling Cooper Don gets pissy at a meeting and leaves, like Kanye at an awards show. The British dude tries to talk to Don and Don gets all pissy. Then Don goes home and no one is there to answer the phone and Don gets all pissy.

Don is so angry he could break his Mac Book Air!!!!

Then all of a sudden Duck Phillips appears on the screen and I gasp and do a Snoopy dance of joy. My God how I’ve missed Duck Phillips. But Pete Campbell’s being a total downer about it. If Don is the Kanye of the 60s then Pete is definitely the Pete Wentz of the 60s. Though Pete does have his share of Kanye moments, like when he threw his chicken dinner out the window. Gosh those were great times.

The teacher calls Don and tries to get him to reveal his soul or something and Don’s basically all like, “I got to return some video tapes” and shoots her down. For now, at least.

Then Betty goes into labor. God, it’s always got to be about you, Betty, doesn’t it? At the hospital the nurse is acting all Twilight Zone, being aloof and cold, but does offer Betty a complimentary enema.

Don, who looks a lot like Cary Grant in this episode, waits in the waiting room and starts talking to another expectant father. They reveal things about their lives, or something. I think this guy is a prison warden but I’m not really sure, because Dick Whitman’s Old Timey Tales are kind of dull.

In the delivery room, Betty has a drug induced Technicolor dream. Her acting is not that different from when she’s not supposed to be in a zombified dream state. Upon waking from the dream, Betty asks the nurses to leave her alone saying, "I’m just a housewife." It’s times like these when Mad Men really misses the mark on subtlety.

Then Lady Gaga won best new artist and accepted the award with her face covered in red lace. Then when I came back to Mad Men, Don Draper looked sad. I think I missed something.

This episode is more Lynchian than usual.

Betty gives birth without a hitch and wants to name their baby boy after her dead dad. Don is a dick about it but does not break his Mac Book Air!!!

Duck, meanwhile, borrows a plotline from Friends or Three’s Company in which he invites both Pete and Peggy to a business lunch without telling either one that the other one will be there. That’s so Duck Phillips!!! He’s such a rascal! Pete gets all weird and leaves. That’s so emo!

Duck tries to court Peggy into leaving Sterling Cooper for his agency and Peggy has her doubts. But Duck is wearing a slick turtleneck so it’s going to be really hard for her to turn him down. Peggy asks Don for a raise and Don gets all Kanye about it. Duck Phillips looks pretty awesome now, doesn’t he, Peggy?

Meanwhile Pete talks about "negroes" and makes an ass of himself with Hollis, the elevator operator. Pete thinks it would be a good idea to exploit the black demographic for an ad campaign, but the clients are appalled, because it’s 1963 and no one cares about black people. Roger does another blackface routine to smooth things over.

No, he doesn’t, but he does get angry at Pete and yells, "Are you aware of the number of handjobs I’m going to have to give?"! Seriously, he really says that! After that I kind of tuned out because all I could think about was Roger’s handjobs. I really wish he had gone into detail. Exactly whom would you need to give these handjobs to, Roger? And how? Could you describe it?

The episode ends with the baby waking up Betty from her sleep and she seems kind of bummed out by it. Don of course does not wake up. Don, how could you be so heartless?

Almie Rose is the senior contributor to This Recording. She writes here, and twitters here. She is a writer living in Los Angeles. She last wrote in these pages about hot places in L.A.

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"Kitchen Stove" — Henri Almond (mp3)

"Wolves and Laundry" — Henri Almond (mp3)

"Trois Ans Avec" — Henri Almond (mp3)


In Which We Enter A Mad Rage

Voices Carry


Mad Men is a drama that takes itself seriously. Even an innocent morning drive portends something more forboding. Don's daughter Sally hears the grownups laughing it up on a sad day, and the poor girl takes offense to her family's lack of grief. "He's gone, don't you understand?" she tells them, and goes into the television room to learn how to most pleasantly deal with her pain.

The implied guilt parents bestow on their children is on full display in this third season of Mad Men. Between closet homosexuality, abortion, rape, incest, World War II flashbacks, gender confusion, and jai alai, Sterling Cooper has its hands full.


Don Draper has never stopped reliving the heartbreak of that childhood. Don wakes up every night, and the dream's the same. He's basically the Terminator, who also didn't come onto the scene until the end of the world was nigh. Don stares longingly at old photographs and sobs over his lost youth. He's like the Monopoly man but even less convincing.

Mr. Weiner's show comes alive when Don runs headlong against something. The mercurial ad wizard took a leave of absence in Los Angeles last season, and when he came back he should have found a new brilliant British mind to contend with his creative loneliness. Instead it's the same old DD: Don slyly reassuring the employees he trusts by patting them on the back even when they've failed. Don follows a credo that I salute in full: when someone most expects you to destroy them, show mercy.

What exactly was wrong with Sal's Bye Bye Birdie ad for Patio? "She's not Ann-Margaret," was Roger's considered opinion. Thanks for showing up to work, Roger, that appears to be the first meeting you'd made it to where someone wasn't fired in the last year. But yet, the ad itself was off — creeping, pleading. The ad lacked the unbridled natural enthusiasm of the original. It felt like pretend.

I don't know whether to be impressed that Sal's paramour figured out her husband was a flaming homosexual, or feel bad for her. At least she knows the truth for herself. Sal's reliable and trustworthy, one of the few characters in Mad Men's milieu that we do believe.

Jude Law will soon pop up on Broadway as Hamlet, an inspired version where everything the Dane says will obviously be total horseshit. What is Hamlet if we can't be convinced the ghost is real? Mad Men is composed of moments that would be more disconcerting if Jon Hamm and Vincent Kartheiser weren't snickering in delight. Mad Men, with its 21st century tongue and tenous grasp of historical events, seems no more real than ABC's Mad Men counter-programming, Defying Gravity.

Airing in about sixteen different timeslots on ABC before it's thankfully canceled, Defying Gravity amazes me in its utter preposterousness and lack of charm. Astronauts are hurtling across the solar system, and yet all they can think about is what to wear for their interstellar vampire ball (really). This was an actual plot line from Sunday's Defying Gravity. Pitched to ABC execs as "Grey's Anatomy in space", hopefully God will smite every single person involved in the creation of this show, beginning with former Office Space drone Ron Livingston plays the strikingly handsome astronaut Maddux Donner.

Defying Gravity has taken the meaningless soap opera nonsense perfected by The Sopranos and viciously murdered it. The Sopranos proved that dozens of unlike, occasionally connected events could be a new kind of drama; Gravity takes that same formula and ruins it. Matthew Weiner (with David Chase when the latter was sober) basically invented the subtle plot twist where the wrong slip kills a man while he's standing in line at A&P...and they don't even show it. Subtlety is wasted on the young.

Sincerity in human drama staged or fake isn't easy to come by. That our most convincingly heroic actors became our statesmen is tossed over by Don, Pete and the prince of jai alai, that the son must bear the burden of the father. Later, the heads of Sterling Cooper debate whether or not to accept the money of a trust fund baby.

Things aren't so easy in the other borough. A mother demands a 27-inch television and tells her second daughter that she'll be raped in Manhattan. Peggy's reaction was remarkably understated — children always have a slight hesitance in trusting their parents' change of minds.

Last week, Christina Hendricks had to eat huge snausages and play accordion for her husband's doctor buddies. This week she's Miss Manners telling Peggy how to be exciting and fun. "When he has you on the floor," she tells Peggy, "whimper slightly." There's so much the young can learn from the old.

I fear for Bobby Draper — he's not even protected from the vicissitudes of American violence when his father sits mere feet away next to the family's frightening animatronic dog.

"My son lives in the shadow of my success," a client tells Don. He can't help but think of his own son, who barely notices that he lives in the same shadow.

Eleanor Morrow is the senior contributor to This Recording. She tumbls here. You can find Molly Lambert's review of last week's Mad Men here.

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"Stockades" — Frog Eyes (mp3)

"Bushels" — Frog Eyes (mp3)

"Reform the Countryside" — Frog Eyes (mp3)