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Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

Regrets that her mother did not smoke

Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

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Metaphors with eyes

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Not really talking about women, just Diane

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Entries in mad men (45)

Wednesday
Dec012010

In Which We Retell The Story Of Men Against Themselves

Empire State of Mind

by MOLLY LAMBERT

Humble brag time! For the past couple weeks I have been busy traipsing around the city of New York with the Gossip Girl Historical Reenactment Society, meeting the whole internet IRL and literally reenacting several Gossip Girl plot points from this season. Which ones in particular? You'll never know, XOXO.

You may remember that I called John Mayer and Taylor Swift before it even happened, or maybe after it actually happened but before the information got out, because I am a gossip batman who calls everything in advance, running around the downtown of the mind incepting people's sexual fantasies while they are floating down to earth. It is also entirely true that I have access to an alternate world internet that you get to through a special web portal (Platform 9¾) shaped like John Malkovich's brain.

I brought a printed out copy of this particular essay to read at Refresh Refresh Refresh, the event organized by Leon Neyfakh that brought me out to New York. I realized while looking for something to read that I have written Mad Men recaps almost exclusively for the past year, although they have served the double function of acting as my diary. If you play them backwards, you can find out what I did that weekend. 

I decided halfway through the reading that I would feel like a tool reading this essay out loud, because I am not actually as blowsy in real life as I am when I blog. I am also not generally ever as serious as this essay makes it seem like I am. I am 2% pretentious literary intellectual, and 98% total fucking goof.

Instead I mostly talked about Steely Dan and Taylor Swift, which if you know me you know is not at all unusual. I identify with Steely Dan and Taylor Swift because I am squinty and have curly hair and sometimes like music that other people hate (whether because too jazzy or too countrypolitan). How much Steely Dan talk is too much Steely Dan talk? Is there even such a thing?

Since I wrote this essay, men and women have continued to be much more alike than they generally think, and I continue to feel like fostering transparency about it is the best possible idea. The brain is still not a sex organ. Women are often bigger Don Drapers than men, and dudes in their heart of hearts sometimes feel like the Little Mermaid posted up on that fucking sea rock.


For every Taylor Swift there is a Miley Cyrus, and for every John Mayer there is a Jonathan Richman. Gender, like everything else in this world, is not an oppositional binary. And that is also how despite the minorly world-shattering identity crisis it has caused me I can finally accept that while Los Angeles is my birthplace and general home, New York is pretty fucking cool too. And I DO like saxophones.

Thanks to everyone who came out, hung out, and let me sleep on their couches. I'll be back, and probably sooner than later. Spread love, it's the Brooklyn way.

Men In Revolt

by MOLLY LAMBERT

This just in: according to the neurotic Jews and WASPs of the last decade's fiction, American men don't know how exactly they should be acting about sex. This is brand new information! Does masculinity focus on being too self-absorbed? Is femininity still too much about self-abnegation? Is literature self-absorbed? Did Warren Beatty tell Peter Biskind that Jane Fonda can unhinge her jaw like a python? Is Sol the cold sun?

Done are the days of Vice Magazine's tits and cocaine ethos, as are the nu-80s that were the 00s. Somebody tell John Mayer before he threatens to date rape us again. C'mon John, I'm a polymath too, there's no need to keep screaming out for approval constantly. You want to be respected as a comedian? Knock up Jennifer Aniston.

I kid, I kid. Everyone knows the problem with Jen An is that she's too submissive, and what John Mayer needs is a strong top. That's what Brad Pitt needed (also rimjobs). Maybe John Mayer should fuck Madonna? I like Madonna even more now that I know she taunted Warren Beatty at gay discos for not dancing with "hey pussy man!"

h8 u & ur aesthetic terry richardson

Meanwhile the not-a-girl, not-yet-a-woman demographic is flooded with New Moon and Taylor Swift. Transgressive as their popularity alone may be, both Twilight and Taylor ascribe to a world view that too many fourteen year girls are already inoculated with. An entirely boy-centric romatic one, where nothing is interesting unless it involves crushes and the surrounding drama. Even fifth wave feminist Megan Fox admits there's no such thing as Megan Fox. No wonder Mahnola is fucking pissed.

love ur raspberries t shirt chabon hope it's these raspberries

I read Michael Chabon's Manhood For Amateurs. The cover has a neat conceit, but it doesn't actually work, a metaphor for masculinity if ever there was one. There are essays about being a son and brother written in the kind of clean clipped front lawn style associated with Richard Ford and the dignity of restrained masculine emotions.

There are essays about fatherhood, married life, and courting his wife that seem overly tailored to the idea that his children might read them someday, which makes them read somewhat dishonestly. There are also a couple of essays about his first marriage and various youthful sexual indiscretions that are frank and detailed (which is not to say erotic) enough to give readers major secondhand embarrassment.

Maybe this is the worst kind of criticism to give these practitioners of the new earnest manhood, but god is it boring. Not that this validates the grand tradition of geniuses as tremendous bastards. One can be a tremendous bastard without being an author or a genius and vice versa. I'm not saying Chabon should go for a ride and never come back, but he should definitely at least stop over-supervising his children's playtime.

In another essay, Chabon admits his worst failing is an inability to write three dimensional female characters. Looking back, it's kinda true. While I commend his honesty, I never understand this, even though it's something I occasionally hear from men. I always say "write a male character, then give them a female name." 

As a girl you grow up seeing yourself in male characters, because (unfortunately) the cool ones are still mostly men. One of the reasons I picked Adventureland as my favorite movie of last year is that it had fully fleshed out and well written characters of both genders. Chabon recognizes that his tendency towards seeing women as mysterious is wrong, but finds it very hard to shake. There is no mystery to women. There is plenty of mystery to sex, but it's equally mysterious to everyone.

For my money, Wonder Boys is still Chabon's best book, and as much as he loves fantasy and genre, the farther away he gets from reality the less interested and invested I get in the characters. This is just a personal preference, I would rather read smaller scale character studies, but I also think that emotional observation is a core component of his talents as a writer. Besides, the genre fic thing is beyond played out. New novels by all writers starting now in 2010 are forbidden from involving the following things: comic books, detectives, baseball, magicians, the holocaust

let's talk about the giant stack of books Ayelet is resting her tiny legs on

Anyway if Katie Roiphe is underwhelmed and unoffended by the sexually neutered males of Brooklyn fiction, she should check out this vast cultural wasteland called the internet. The best writing about sex is currently being done by the people who are smart/stupid enough to date and write about it. Dating wasn't even really invented until the 1950s, it's no wonder nobody knows how to do it.

if I were a boooooooooooooooy, I'd b alec baldwin

If I were a man, which is something I've obviously spent a great deal of time thinking about, I would feel as insulted by the bulk of male culture as I am by most things steered to women. The men I know are nothing like the caricatures of "men" I see advertised to me everywhere. They are not oafs or jerks or lazy misogynists. They have more feelings than they know what to do with. They are real people, and they deserve to be insulted by what masculinity has come to represent.

The best advice I have ever heard about sex, romance, and masculinity is from porn star/P.T. Anderson muse John Holmes in Exhausted: John Holmes The Real Story.

"You don’t have to be overly macho. You don’t have to be over-complimentary. Gain her respect. And that’s treating her as an equal. Don’t bullshit her. Treat her as a human being. Treat her as you would treat yourself. As soon as you have that respect from her, she’ll treat you with the same respect that you show. Then you fuck the shit out of her." - John Curtis Holmes 

Molly Lambert is the managing editor of This Recording. She is tricoastal like Julia Allison now. She tumbls and twitters.

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"Heart and Soul (Martin Hannett mix)" - Joy Division (mp3)

"From Safety to Where (Martin Hannett mix)" - Joy Division (mp3)

"Passover (Martin Hannett mix)" - Joy Division (mp3)

Monday
Nov082010

In Which Once Jesus Leaves The Building He's Out Of Mexico For Good

Chapter Nothing: The Epilogue

by MOLLY LAMBERT

So I don't know about you, but I thought the Eastbound & Down finale was perfect. People seemed wary of this episode because the penultimate one was already so perfect it seemed mere folly to try topping it. But that's what Kenny Powers is all about; the dramatic gesture, the needlessly flamboyant exit, topping your own prior self-top.

I may have teared up slightly when we found out the baby was Kenny's. I didn't see it coming because I am very good at not jumping ahead in plots. I know everyone else figured it out the moment we saw April was pregnant, but I am kind of an idiot. Or maybe I just didn't want to think about it! Like Joan Holloway's baby being Roger's!

I don't understand anyone who didn't enjoy this season of Eastbound & Down. You will all miss Mexico secretly forever, just like Kenny. Comparisons to season 2 of The Wire are apt. Maybe it is my own personal affection for Mexico borne out of growing up in Southern California but I thought it was just as good as last season. I had no problem adjusting to the new setting and new set of characters. I miss them already. 

The best way around the sophomore slump is a curveball. And after your debut you're always a sophomore. Somebody will declare you over every time you come out. Like as much as I wish the new Kanye album were all Workout Plans I respect that his creative journey zigzags. Although seriously cool it with the guest appearances Ye. And stop trying so hard to impress the elite rich white art world. They're not worth it at all. 

Michael Peña's performance in this season of Eastbound & Down is my favorite thing of all time ever lately. His performance in Observe & Report is also a fucking tour de force, as is Danny McBride's cameo in that film. Several people whose opinions I really respect told me they hated Observe & Report, but they were ALL TOTALLY WRONG. One person who liked it a lot was Quentin Tarantino, another person is Molly Lambert.

jody hill and seth rogenI think Observe & Report is awesome. I think Seth Rogen is not totally right for the part, which seems tailor-made for Danny McBride, but that actually makes him way scarier because Rogen is so believable as a normal repressed guy who's kind of a wingnut. I think Anna Faris gives the best supporting performance in her already stellar career of supporting performances. I could write a sonnet about Jody Hill's direction.

I guess I love Jody Hill's direction so much because it's exactly what I aim for as a writer: sloppy enough that it looks like you're barely trying, but then the sloppiness is actually totally practiced and honed and purposeful. I like Jody Hill's Eastbound episodes a little more than David Gordon Green's precisely because they just fit my own aesthetic so deeply, which I kind of feel is Eastbound & Down's true aesthetic.

David Gordon Green is just more interested in traditional visual composition and nice shots and framing and other film school shit, and Jody Hill is decidedly not and always nails the tone perfectly. Tonal inconsistency is its own kind of tone. Some of the funniest things from the first season involved the complete personality shift in Principal Cutler. Fuck consistency. Fuck a direct route. Take the long way home

I am still thinking about the Mad Men finale weeks later. Mostly I am still thinking about Megan, but that is the effect she seems to have on people. I know I didn't spend this much time thinking about Mad Men after last year's finale, where Don marched into a shitty bachelor hotel on a downtown New York City set in the rain. I don't even know if it was really raining or if that is just my imagination embellishing things.

But this year's finale I have felt compelled to watch again since the moment I saw it, although for whatever sado-masochistic pleasure-delaying reason I haven't watched it yet. Maybe because it will remind me again that Mad Men is over (and now so is Eastbound) and I need to find other things to enjoy in the world in the seasonal interim and I know nothing I replace them with will compare to my two truest televisual loves.

At least there's still 30 Rock, for the time being. And in a just world Parks & Recreation will come back soon. I would like Liz Lemon's next boyfriend to be McNulty. Can you make that happen world, since you have been so decent about granting my innermost wishes lately? God already greenlit a third season of Eastbound & Down, so I'll catch you motherfuckers on the flip next year in Myrtle Beach. I'M FUCKING AUDI.

Molly Lambert is the managing editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Los Angeles. She tumbls but not all that much, twitters all the fucking time, and is our nation's foremost producer of fuego.

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Download a Kenny Powers mixtape today:

STRIKE 1: Spring Training

STRIKE 2: Regular Season

STRIKE 3: World Series

BALL 4: Extra Innings

STRIKE 5: MEXICAN BASEBALL


Monday
Oct182010

In Which There Is No Fresh Start, Lives Carry On In Mad Men's Finale

Who's Dick?

by MOLLY LAMBERT

Weird things happen when Don goes to California. We all do things on vacation we would never ever do at home. It's one of the main reasons people go on vacation. It doesn't even matter where you go, all that matters is that it's not your home. You can be whoever you want and behave however you like. It can be fun to create some expectations for yourself that people hold you to and then go dash them on the rocks out of nihilism. It can also be terrible! That's part of the fun! It's Russian roulette!

How often do we tell everyone that we would never ever do something and then turn right around and do it? We love contradicting ourselves, if only to prove that we are static beings at heart. There is no promise that can't be broken, no statement that can't be undone, no relationship that can't be ruined with the dreaded cliché "I met someone." No life is so stable it can't come unhinged with one bad snap decision.

Don told Dr. Faye he was going to miss her, but he was lying. Megan told Don she just wanted to fuck, but she was lying. Betty and Don are kind of soulmates because they are both incredibly good at lying, and concealing any remorse they may have from themselves and others. When Don told Betty he was engaged, and he just had to tell her didn't he, she put up a good poker face. Why do people tell you things that are blatantly meant to hurt your feelings like you will be proud of them for being honest?

People love to write big checks they have no idea if they can actually cash. They love to do it because it is fun, because other people love to see you do it, and because it makes you feel super good about yourself that you are the kind of person who can write such a big check. The problems only come later on. Can Don put his money where his mouth is? The chances seem prettyyyyyyy prettyyyyyyy prettyyyyyyyy slim. 

People love having secrets because it makes them feel powerful to have information and boundaries on it. Don loves Megan because he doesn't really know anything about her yet. She said as much when they were schnookling. Dr. Faye managed to get in one ice burn during The Worst Phone Call Ever about how Megan should know that Don only likes the beginning of things. True, but who the hell likes middles and ends?

Don Draper and Kenny Powers could not be more alike. In last night's episodes they both overplayed their hands, under the assumption that there was no way they could possibly cross the line from confident into creepy (MISCALC). It took Don's ridiculous engagement to get Peggy and Joan to be friends. Chalk one point up for stunts.

I thought Don said he didn't go in for stunts? Too bad it looks like the Don Draper's Midlife Crisis Stunt Spectacular is just starting and it's bound to be every bit as breathtaking and ball-draining as Jackass 3D. I guess we should know by now that Don says a lot of things but means very few of them. He has terminal narcissism.

The worst among several worsts for Don in this episode was when he told Peggy that Megan reminds him of her. NO DON. The unspoken romantic aspect of your friendship with Peggy only exists if it goes unacknowledged with words. There's an invisible line and you crossed it. You deserve all the side eyes you will be getting from boss bitches.

Recognizing out loud in any way that you would totally fuck her if she were only traditionally hot instead of just smart and awesome and cool is creepy and gross and so very condescending. Peggy's ice burn was that the nicest thing she could think to say about Megan was that she's very beautiful. Don probably took it as a compliment.

Don should know better because this already happened to Roger. I guess nobody even knows how miserable Roger really is with Jane except for Joan (and Roger), because Roger does a lot of emotional work to seem happy-go-lucky in public. Don had to do some emotion work to get into Fun Dad mode, but then he loved it, because Don loves playing a character so he doesn't have to be himself/decide who he is.

All I'm saying is that if Don Draper had seen Sex & The City, a TV show a lot of guys secretly watch the box set of in their dark bachelor apartments after their divorces/bad breakups, he would have seen what happened with Big and Natasha and he would know that it's not going to go well or smoothly no matter how awesome the wedding announcement in the NYT looks. And I mean, it will totally look awesome.

Okay so Matt Weiner hates spoilers but he also hates when we guess things like Joan's pregnancy, which I definitely did not believe in, because it seemed too obvious. So that means I was genuinely surprised? So, point Weiner? That said, I really wish Joan had gone through with her abortion because you never get to see TV characters have abortions without some kind of crazy reversal where the fetus lives. Blergh.

Kenny Powers and Don Draper both read strong negs from realistically cautious sex partners as demonstrations of much higher value. Dr. Faye's push for Don to confront his true self was probably spot on, but I mean, it kind of made me want to dump her too. Who wants to deal with your dark places when you can run away to Disneyland?

I went to Disneyland as a kid (I'm an Angeleno) and it remains my referent for everything. I compare all architecture to Disneyland and all experiences to its dark rides. Mr. Toad's Wild Ride is a metaphor for existence that ends with a literal drink-soaked descent into hell from which you emerge jarringly back into the daylight world with no real narrative closure. There is no more accurate simulacrum of life.

Have you noticed that every Kanye West album from now until forever is going to be a breakup album? Doesn't it seem like all those dudes on the "Deuces" remix should invest in therapists/blogs? I mean, you jumped on a Chris Brown remix. Look at your choices, guys. Reading Kanye's twitter is like listening to Don blather on to Megan about how she makes him feel. You made a rebel of a careless man's careful Draper!

Natasha VC and I hashed it out during the last of our Sunday night Peggy and Joan close the door in the office and talk shit all night sessions. Natasha's insight was that "Don medicates with women when booze is not around," and she is totally true. Don barely touched the stuff this episode after a long hard slide into The Lost Weekend during the bulk of the season, but he replaced booze with a desire to totally overdo it on the snugglebug tip with Megan. Don's proposal was his best pitch of the season.

We all know that what Don Draper is drunk on is oxytocin, a prescription as valuable as ecstasy. That he doesn't even realize he is totally fucked up on the stuff, bound to sober up eventually, and probably with a hard serotonin murdering comedown, is where the comedy lies. Joan and Peggy and basically every other person on the staff sees this, but Don doesn't see because he is blind drunk. She totally megged him!

We are attracted to people for what they represent, and we always have aspirations that exceed our grasp. That is the crux of the Annie Hall who wants to be in a club that would have you as a member thing, and the motor behind all conquests, both personal and professional. The finish line is always receding into the distance because the horizon is always shifting. Goals are rendered meaningless once achieved.

What you can get is easy/boring. What you can't have is hard/fun. Why bother wiring this into our infrastructures? Because sometimes you actually succeed against all odds? Carla may have been right in theory, but who else thinks Glen Bishop could totally have worn down Sally into making out with him. It's exposure theory, and it often works.

Not that our ambitions even make logical sense most of the time. You would hate Jordan Catalano if he were your actual boyfriend, because he would be terrible to you, but that doesn't make the fantasy of "Jordan Catalano" any less intense. Low risks and easy rewards are just never that satisfying. High risk/high reward/high chance of horrible consequences. Why try unless there's a chance you will die? It's liberating to face death, and one way we cheat it is by making crazy spur of the moment decisions.

Likewise Dr. Faye is chasing a Don that nobody can even prove exists, a responsible Don that is so far purely theoretical. Don is totally kissing the mask with Megan and even she kind of knows he can't possibly be attracted to her yet for the person she really is. But she's young and maybe dumb enough to buy into the fantasy of their future Don is presenting her with, because Don sells fantasies. It's his job and his life.

Faye likes Don because she likes to think she can fix anything. Don likes Megan because she makes him feel powerful and hot and (let's face it) young. Joan likes her husband Dr. Rapist because he makes her feel sexy and wanted and feminine. Roger likes Joan because she makes him feel powerful and hot. That she can make anyone feel powerful and hot is a big part of Joan's whole deal. Joan is a kingmaker and she gets off on it. Ken Cosgrove and Peggy Olson remain my secret/obvious OTP. 

Megan is fine but she is also the worst. It is every woman's nightmare that her ex that got away's next girlfriend will be an Anthropologie catalogue. She sings in French! If she were in 2010 she'd have bangs and live in a twee teepee in Brooklyn. Don likes her fucked up teeth because everyone likes a cute flaw on an otherwise physically perfect woman! Just like everyone likes a fucked up personality in a physically perfect man!

Since this is the Mad Men finale post I might as well throw in this aside about how Don Draper is the prototypical testosterone-heavy alpha male in terms of looks that women are scientifically supposedly more attracted to while ovulating, while Pete Campbell is the baby-faced boyish more androgynous kind of attractive that women are (again, supposedly) more attracted to during the rest of their cycles. Not that I believe in binaries, and there is a lot of junk science out there, especially about sex.

Peggy's lesbian buddy Joyce bagged the hottest girl, Carolyn James, and she didn't even have to propose. It reminded me of going to see WALL-E at the Sherman Oaks Galleria with my family, where we saw Snoop from The Wire in the parking lot, getting out of a Denali with the hottest chick I have ever seen, who was wearing a The Chronic baby tee. You think Carolyn James cares about your dumb little casting couch Harry? She's dating an artist. Watch Peyton Place and brush up on emotional cues.

In the S&M fashion of season 4, Matt Weiner is punishing us by giving us what we really want. We don't want Don to straighten up and fly right. We chafe against Dr. Faye's desire for Don to grow up just as much as Don does. We want our favorite characters to make the wrong choices, to do the bad things that they know better than to do. We live vicariously through them. It's a way of acknowledging the subversive impulses in our own lives that we all have daily even if we manage to quash them.

I hope you've enjoyed this final edition of Molly Draper's Secret Diary/This Recording's Mad Men reviews. I will be back next season, but your childhood will always be over!

Molly Lambert is the managing editor of This Recording. Her favorite ride at Disneyland is the Haunted Mansion tied with Pirates of the Caribbean. Tomorrowland is where OC teen goths hang out. She also tumbls and twitters.

"Transparency is the New Mystery" - Marnie Stern (mp3)

"Nothing Left" - Marnie Stern (mp3)

"For Ash" - Marnie Stern (mp3)

 

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