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Entries in mad men (45)


In Which I Don't Know What This Room Is For



Who knew all it would take is divorce for the Drapers to finally develop onscreen chemistry? It's a real screwball comedy figuring out who's to blame for Sally's masturbation mishap. I've never enjoyed Jon Hamm and January Jones in an episode so much as I did in this one. They're a regular Ross and Rachel now! Too bad for Don that Henry Francis is kind of that dude. The dude who is normally that dude, Roger Sterling, was very much not that dude this episode. He was more like Walter Sobchak

You know who else is that dude? Pete Campbell! Man I know he's a rapist and always acts like a snitch but he is kind of killing it on the regs this season! When he invoked his paternal responsibilities I gave him a LOL high five through the TV. Wouldn't it be cool if Pete ended up being like an awesome dad? I'm kind of thinking he will be. He's always been the most feminine friendly and forward thinking of the Mad Men men.

It's never not going to be slightly clumsy setting up new villains and love interests in an already established universe, but Mad Men is doing its damndest. I'm really starting to cotton to Focus Group Faye, who is clearly going to be Don's next romantic Donquest, especially once I realized she was the former Mrs. Christopher Moltisanti.

Cara Buono didn't get to do too much on The Sopranos, but that character never had a chance in hell following Adriana La Cerva. However, Dr. Faye might have some good odds on Rachel Menken, who let's face it wasn't even THAT great, we just think of her fondly in comparison to Bobbie Barrett and the grade school teacher.

Can't we just shut up and enjoy the sparks between Faye and Don? I mean, she's hot and smart and has a heavy New York accent and is obviously supposed to be his equal. They haven't even kissed yet, but they had a lot of heat sake bombing together. Just let it play out, okay? You know it's all going to go to hell sooner or later.

The new villain, Ted Shaw, is clearly a foil for Don meant to remind us of the "old" Don from the "old" Sterling-Cooper, the Don we are used to, the Don some people have been bemoaning the demise of this season. Brilliantly, by parodying what was annoying or has become rote about the "idea" of Don Draper the character, Shaw makes us no longer want to see Don be that guy. He's the Cy Tolliver to Don's Al Swearengen.

If anything, we now want Don to change even more because we are realizing that his greatest strength is that ability to change. No longer chained to being "Don Draper, Sixties Alpha Male" could be ultimately liberating for him, just like it will be liberating when Joan and Betty realize what Peggy already instinctively knows, that it's not that much fun to be Mrs. anybody compared to how nice it is to just be yourself.

What was more tone-deaf, those Clorox bleach ads that suggest using Clorox to get your mistress's lipstick off your collar (UR MISSING THE POINT) or the AMC in-house promos for Jerry Bruckheimer's Pearl Harbor? Who is more tone-deaf about Pearl Harbor, Jerry Bruckheimer or Roger Sterling? Wasn't Don's date with Bethenny Anna Newlin Van Nuys the best Benihana date scene since The Forty Year Old Virgin?

I can't believe Roger was such a racist dick in that Honda account meeting. It was obviously not just about Pete Campbell's chip or whatever. We know from his blackface exploits that Roger can be a racist dick but I thought he was just going to say something racist but wry (wrycist?) like "Japanese girls. Beautiful. Sideways vaginas." 

Sally overshadows Bobby, but Meadow Soprano was also always more central to Sopranos plotlines than A.J., although I loved in the last seasons when A.J. came to the forefront and whiffed spectacularly at being the kind of man Tony Soprano is.

Real Talk though, what was Sally getting off to watching "The Man From U.N.C.L.E."? That one of the dudes kind of looked like Don? Or that they were tied up together? Is she into gay slash fic? Or was it just run of the mill masturbation out of boredom and horniness? I mean her friend was ASLEEP. It's not like she was masturbating ON her. 

I enjoyed the whole Honda plot where they incepted the other ad dudes. I reference Inception so much lately that my friend tells me my references have no meaning. That's when I say "yeah exactly maaaaaaaaaaan" and hit the bong knowingly. 

Actually I spent most of Inception trying to figure out what Leonardo DiCaprio's character's name was (Dom? Tom? Thom? Rob? Bob?) much like I spent this Mad Men trying to figure out what Don's new nemesis's last name is (Chaw? Shaw? Schaw?)

The song they played at the end was "I Enjoy Being A Girl" from Flower Drum Song, a song that figures heavily into my own personal mythology since I protested having to sing it in probably 4th grade on the basis that it was sexist. I got in trouble a lot in elementary school for arguing about radical gender politics (nothing has changed).

The important thing is, Don's going to get horizontal on a couch with somebody other than the whore who slaps him around. Soon Don will be forced to talk to a therapist about himself. And you know what? It will probably be good for him.

There is no change without acknowledgement. Maybe even Don is ready to admit that the "old" Don Draper, which was Dick Whitman's conception of a sort of ideal man, kind of fucking sucks. Since that life phase is over anyway, why not let go of it completely so that a better more zen Don Draper might emerge? It's like Inception.

Molly Lambert is the managing editor of This Recording. She twitters here and tumbls here.

"About a Girl (acoustic)" - Nirvana (mp3)

"Bad Girls" - Donna Summer (mp3)

"I Enjoy Being a Girl" - Tiny Tim (mp3)


In Which Right Now My Life Is Very…

Did You Get Pears?


Who else cheered when Allison chucked the golden snitch at Don? Yes that's right, Donald "This Never Happened" Draper, "this actually happened." You can't just stick the tip in one night and then pretend you forgot about it the next day because you were so wasted! I mean, you can! Unless you have to see them all the time by necessity, but that's why you don't dip your dick in the company cold cream!

Sometimes it's more important to tell the truth than to save face. The first three seasons of Mad Men were about the social pressures and restrictions that stop people from being honest with others, let alone themselves. So far this season has been about the unassailable internal problems that override those human constructed dams.

Everyone's an expert and a hypocrite when it comes to matters of the heart. When Allison's feelings about Don start leaking out in the conference room, Peggy tells her to stuff them in a sack. Later when Peggy finds out that Pete knocked up Trudy, she is unable to do anything but bang her head on a desk. Perhaps a more subtle gesture could've been used to indicate Peggy's feelings, but I thought it was very accurate.

Often when real emotional trash goes down you'll have a visceral physical reaction that feels especially unwelcome given that you are dealing with feelings, which theoretically ought to just give you mental anguish. And yet there you are, banging your head against the wall, or doubled over in violent pain, or throwing up in the hallway.

The difference between what should happen and what does happen is another one of Mad Men's major themes, along with the differences between the person you are and the person you present yourself to the world as being. Even if you want to keep your inner feelings entirely to yourself, as Don does, your body might still sell you out.

Don criticizes Faye Faith Popcorn for sticking her finger in people's brains and getting them to talk. One of Jon Hamm's greatest skills as an actor is his ability to convey simultaneously the many different levels of Don Draper's bluffing while making it fully believable that most other people would see only the very top layer. 

Peggy's cool downtown party was perfect. I swear I went to that party last weekend. The guy with the bear head turned out to be a bear. Telling a lesbian that your boyfriend rents your vagina is the kind of flirty neg cool art dykes live for.

How many sweatshop drug parties and exhilarating dashes from the NYPD will it take Peggy's new lady friend to unlock her potential bicuriousness? Who will get Peggy to cuckold her dopey fiance first, her new lesbian buddy or her metrosexual officemate? 

This episode was directed by none other than silver fox John Slattery! Perhaps that is why it was so very wry. It's like Matthew Weiner heard the internet complaining about how season 3 focused way too much on Don and Betty's marriage breaking down and not enough on the Sterling-Cooper office, and then granted us our dream of banishing Betty to a plotless corner so that we can spend more time with Joan, Pete, and Peggy.

We all know what the ancient couple with the pears signifies for Don's new secretary. Bobbie Barrett was a gateway drug and now Don's going to start banging old ladies on the reg. The real tragedy of this episode is that my intended, that all American idiot Ken Cosgrove, has given his dowry to some betch. Farewell to thee Kenny C, my blond prince of Vermont. I'm sorry your pretty boy swag was too much for creative. 

Molly Lambert is the managing editor of This Recording. She tumbls here and twitters here. You can find last week's Mad Men review here.

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"We Shall Be Free" - Woody Guthrie (mp3)

"Oregon Trail" - Woody Guthrie (mp3)

"Springfield Mountain" - Woody Guthrie (mp3)


In Which I Have A Texas Belt Buckle And I'm Going To See Gamera

Dick + Anna '64 


"Is that what you want? Or is that what people expect of you?" Mad Men's back in the motherfuckin' house pointing out the giant distinction between those two things. There's the person everybody thinks you are and the person you really are, and the latter is impossible to keep track of. Especially these days as the signifiers traditionally used to describe and define the former fade ever steadily out of American life.

Even if you figure out who it is you're supposed to be, who it is you're going to let people think you are, the whole world can shift out from underneath you as it inevitably will anyway with the passage of time. All the things that once defined you as cool can start working against you, because aging makes LOLs of us all.

Either you wait it out until the pendulum swings back and you are rewarded for having stayed the same, or you make a hamstrung effort to change and generally get served. Even Bob Dylan got served (by Jesus no less) when he listened to his critics, the ones who started declaring him "over" the second they finished anointing him.

Don's side trip to California is also the return of Deus Ex Machin-Anna Draper, a character whose lack of interior function belies a severe bone cancer eating her polio riddled fictional bones from the inside. Seriously, what is the deal with Anna Draper? Why does she pimp out Don/Dick to her stupid proto-hippie niece so hard? What exactly does she get out of being so selflessly mothering to Don? A shitty paint job?

Why doesn't Anna Draper want to fuck Dick Whitman? He clearly owes it to her. Is she gay? I mean, I know she is a Californian, and since Californians on Mad Men fulfill all the cliches of Californians (free-spirited, potheads, kind of dumb and sexy, like to paint the interiors of their houses weird bright colors) it would only make sense. 

Like her manic pixie dream aunt, the Berkeley student serves as an avatar for meaningful statements like "Nobody knows what's wrong with themselves. Everyone else can see it right away" which is a couple of mixtapes over from Elizabethtown.

Luckily, as has been the trend this season, Dick/Don gets negged by the annoying Blake Lively/Kate Hudson hybrid undergrad from South Pasadena. Granted, "you're so beautiful and young" is the worst pick-up line ever. Dick Whitman has always been a way for Mad Men to have it both ways, for Don Draper to be an all-powerful misogynist jerk as well as a good guy who truly respects women underneath.

Anna Draper, lesbian who enjoys watching Don paint her living room in his shorts, also thinks she has seen UFOs. Although not telling somebody they have terminal cancer is a total bitch move, who can really blame Dick/Don for wanting to get the hell out of there after the crazy high lady starts talking about aliens and you've just been humiliated trying to put the moves on a girl you knew before she had front teeth. 

Don Draper was always everyone's fantasy about what a powerful alpha male should be like in the early sixties, including Dick Whitman's. A big component of the fantasy was the idea that you could somehow avoid all vulnerability if you were just cool enough. In the past, Don was always that cool, but divorce has fucked up his game.

Former Übermensch Don Draper was always able to seal the deal with women without any problems, as if it it were possible to eliminate the awkward moment that happens when you lean in to kiss someone for the first time, where you open the window for them to reject you but must feign bravado in order to even go through with it at all. 

That you could somehow completely avoid any such awkward moments was illusory. Real life is about being raw red nerves vulnerable while covering for it outwardly all the time. Watching Don get rejected is both satisfying and super secondhand embarrassing, because we've all been there. At the start of 1965 Don Draper is more confused than ever about who "Don Draper" is, let alone Dick Whitman. 

The episode takes the familiar crazy last act turn into another kind of Mad Men episode, the buddy comedy/double date. Usually these plots revolve about Don and Roger, but Roger is sadly and mysteriously absent in this episode (as is, mercifully, Bets). This time it's Lane and Don, new divorced guy BFFs acting out the plot of every major comedy of the last ten years. In the Roger role, Lane gets all the best lines.

Isn't it funny how Don's awful apartment comes pre-furnished because bachelors don't want to spend any time furnishing their apartments? All the bachelors I know LOVE furnishing their apartments, more than anything else in the world. You cannot stop those dudes from buying stuff for their places. It's all they wanna fucking do. 

Peggy's reverence for Joan's "perfect marriage" is hilarious, as is Lane's love for Joan only blossoming after he sees her belittle somebody in the office. Joan's powerful feminine façade is every bit the lie that Don Draper's masculine front was. Now that Joan is trapped in her fantasy life, her own code won't let her complain about it.

Nobody wants to be topped more than a strong top. That's why Joan's attracted to Dr. Rapist, who turns down her meals and insists on stitching up her finger himself, and may be fucking a nurse or six on the side judging from his lack of desire for Joan so close to his deployment. Or what if Dr. Rapist is struggling with his own masculinity and like many embarrassed dudes just doesn't have that intense of a libido?

If somebody paid me twenty five dollars to go out with Don Draper I'd consider it the best day of my life and probably have to commit suicide afterwards because what the hell is going to top that. Before Don's suit just hid the existential dread of a person trapped in a bad marriage, now it hides the shame of a guy who sleeps on his bare mattress. Why they didn't take the escorts to see Gamera I'll never know. Anyone who goes to a stand-up show on purpose deserves everything they get. 

Because Matthew Weiner is a sadist, we don't get to see Don fuck the fake-Joan hooker this time, since Mad Men's sex scenes only exist to impart fear and dread. Even when it goes well, it never really goes that well. Last year Sal got his first handjob of life, and look what happened to him. Likewise it is likely that Joan fakes her orgasms in addition to faking her hair color, and we now know Don Draper is nothing without the idea of "Don Draper." How do you separate the person from the idea of the person?

I certainly don't know, but I do know this. Y'all ain't never going to Catalina for Easter.

Molly Lambert is the managing editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Los Angeles. She tumbls here and twitters here. You can find last week's Mad Men review here.

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"Technocrat" - The Finkielkrauts (mp3)

"Writing a Song" - The Finkielkrauts (mp3)

"Lover Song" - The Finkielkrauts (mp3)