“Mad Men” love.

I keep meaning to call up my old screenwriting prof and ask what he thinks of “Mad Men.” Watching Joan sadly rub the bra strap mark on her shoulder this week was a revelation of great writing — exactly the sort of detail that reveals everything about a character without a word being spoken, with the added bonus of being something I’ve never seen before. God, I love this show. I hope you do, too.

It’s hard to do even one good season of television like this, but the mark of greatness is how it flowers in its second, and I haven’t seen a second season like this since “The Wire,” and before that, “The Sopranos,” so take that however you will. The gorgeous thing about this show, set in the world of Madison Avenue ad firms in the early ’60s, is how we know what the characters don’t — that their world is about to be upended by the cultural storm of the ’60s. It’s like a disaster movie, when we can see the killer sneaking up behind the clueless sap about to be hit with an ax, only in slow motion and with all the carnage emotional. But the early breezes of the coming storm are already starting to blow. This season is focusing on the women, who have a mighty load of resentment to tote around from week to week. This week, a marriage shattered and a woman who’s been successful in the one feminine strategy that transcends eras — knowing how to work a bodacious bod — finally realized the limits of her power, and both of these events were conveyed the way they are in real life, with strained conversations, a flicker of expression across the eyes, a change in a tone of voice.

I once read some advice on playwrighting: No character needs to walk onstage and say, “I’m tired.” All he needs to say is, “Has anyone seen my magazine?” In “Mad Men,” characters love and compete, support and betray, sometimes at the same time. A few weeks ago, a woman named Peggy seemed to be having a flirtation with a young priest. He pushed her away with a gesture and comment aimed directly at the most vulnerable spot in her psyche. This week he was back, trying to coax her into confession, and his plea was 50 percent wheedle and 50 percent genuine concern. Neither acknowledged the elephant in the room, a very early-’60s thing to do. The final scene showed several characters at the end of the day — Peggy in the bathtub, Joan the bombshell rubbing her strap mark, and the priest stripping off his collar and picking up his guitar. He strums a couple of tight chords, then belts out “Early in the Morning,” which you might not know was Side 1, Track 1 of Peter, Paul & Mary’s very first album.

The song takes the form of a prayer, and the prayer says what most prayers say: Help me find the way. It’s the perfect prayer for that character at that moment in time, and it serves as distant thunder for the coming storm and — as this show is justly famed for its maniacal attention to perfect detail — the album it’s on was released in 1962, and guess what year it is in “Mad Men” this season?

You just can’t watch this show and fail to be impressed. Not if you’re paying attention.

Bloggage later. I have a busy morning tomorrow and I think I won’t be back until afternoon. Talk amongst yourselves.

Posted at 1:26 am in Television |
 

73 responses to ““Mad Men” love.”

  1. Danny said on September 16, 2008 at 1:58 am

    Yeah, we love this show too. Got hooked on it when they were having a weekend marathon last year when Robin had thrown out her back and I stayed with her to play nurse.

    I still haven’t watched this week’s episode, so I averted my eyes for part of your post.

  2. Dexter said on September 16, 2008 at 1:59 am

    The financial world as we know it may collapse if AIG goes bankrupt. Michael Lewitt, op-ed guest in today’s Times: “A.I.G. (may) be unable to meet its obligations and be forced into liquidation. A side effect: Its collapse would be as close to an extinction-level event as the financial markets have seen since the Great Depression.
    A.I.G. does business with virtually every financial institution in the world.”

    EXTINCTION-LEVEL!! And it could happen today. Yikes!

  3. moe99 said on September 16, 2008 at 2:07 am

    Nance,
    I’m watching Rosemary and Thyme for the sheer British stiff upper lip, escapist murder mysteries solved by two unlikely older women fun. Not quite as high brow as Mad Men, but I want to forget and I also want the bad guys caught, unlike real life.

  4. Danny said on September 16, 2008 at 2:43 am

    EXTINCTION-LEVEL!! And it could happen today. Yikes!

    As REM would say: Smoke ’em if you got ’em.

    Good thing I wasn’t planning on retiring this week. I joked with one of the upper brass at work that they could probably ease off of the succession planning meetings for a while. No one is going anywhere.

  5. MaryC said on September 16, 2008 at 3:11 am

    I got hooked on Mad Men sometime last season, I’m not exactly sure when. I’d watch it idly when I happened to hit it while channel surfing, thinking it’s slow, too talky, nothing happens. By the start of this season I managed to get all my friends hooked too. The bra strap scene was great but so was Joan’s face when the twerp got hired to do what she had been doing or when the fiance reminded her to get him a glass of water. Somehow I don’t see that relationship lasting any longer than the twerp does. Best part of the episode — Betty sleeping in that party dress and spending all next day in it.

  6. Colleen said on September 16, 2008 at 7:53 am

    I LOVE this show, and only discovered it about a month ago. If I were magically transported back that era, I wouldn’t get through a day without punching some stupid man, I am sure.

    It’s especially interesting to me because this was when my parents were young marrieds, just setting out in the world, only theirs was the world of the Dayton Daily News news room….so some of the obnoxious sexism was probably the same.

    Ah, but yes, at the end, when they were taking off their armor….Joan and Father Gill. Masterful.

    And John Slattery is HOT!

  7. LAMary said on September 16, 2008 at 9:12 am

    I remember those days. I was nine in 1962 and I remember a friend’s mom who looked just like Betty. People drank a lot more then, didn’t they. Betty and Don’s kitchen chairs are exactly like the ones we had. Maple was everywhere then.

  8. brian stouder said on September 16, 2008 at 9:15 am

    Say – here is some “must-watch” television, this weekend:

    http://firstread.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2008/09/15/1403219.aspx

    an excerpt:

    When one of the moderators asked Powell whether this vote was personal to him since he was the first African-American Secretary of State, his answer sparked wild applause. “I’m an American first and foremost,” he said.
    Powell explained to the audience that he told McCain he would not vote for him just because they have been friends for 25 years, and he told Obama he would not vote for him just because he is black. He said he will look at who has the best economic policies, who inspires the most confidence in the country and around the world, and who will keep America safe.

  9. Julie Robinson said on September 16, 2008 at 9:35 am

    Sigh. No cable, still waiting for Mad Men on Netflix, where it has been #1 in the queue for months but still has a “very long wait”. Yet every time I look at how much cable (or FIOS) costs, Netflix looks better and better. We did try cable a few years back, but I really didn’t find much to watch, and it turned the dear hubby into a raving lunatic who couldn’t stop flipping channels from one angry man shouting to the next. So we live behind the curve. I’ll put Rosemary and Thyme in the cue, love all those British series.

  10. moe99 said on September 16, 2008 at 9:45 am

    Colin Powell loses more lustre than I thought he had, the longer this goes on. When I met him back in 80 he was a Colonel working for SecDef Brown. He and my boss, Togo West, were buddies. But he has chosen some very sad paths since his glory days w/ Bush1.

  11. michaela said on September 16, 2008 at 9:55 am

    Gah, Nancy- you’re ahead of me on another show, thus meaning I must avert my eyes from even more posts. I guess I can accuse you of having quite excellent taste in TV, though… and being smart enough to catch it in real time. (Unlike me w/ The Wire, The Sopranos and now Mad Men.)

    We are making our way through the first season of “Mad Men” on DVD and totally loving it. The characters are so well written… even if I split my time between shouting at the TV re: the role of women and glumly contemplating the misery those women endured. For those of you here who are a bit… more “mature”… than I am, how well does the office culture depicted in the show reflect the reality of the early 60s?

  12. brian stouder said on September 16, 2008 at 9:55 am

    I read his book – which was better than I was hoping for! – and attended a talk he gave here in Ft Wayne (a double feature; both Powell and Norman Schwarzkopf – whose book I did NOT read!)

    I agree, though, moe; as Pearl Jam might say (in Nothingman), Powell’s glittering political potential was that of a man who caught a bolt of lightening, and cursed the day he let it go

  13. Bill said on September 16, 2008 at 10:18 am

    I can’t address the early 60’s, but I was an account exec in the Chicago office of a NY ad agency for several years starting in ’67. The drinking? Yep. Lots of 2 or 3 martini lunches and media-sponsored parties. The sexism? Not so much. In fact we had really top-notch female creative directors and media directors who didn’t take any crap from anyone. Office politics? Sure, but not much different from today. Sex on the job? In my experience it was either non-existent or well hidden.

  14. nancy said on September 16, 2008 at 10:24 am

    Michaela, I didn’t join the office culture until 1979, when guys like Don Draper, et al were approaching their gold-watch years, but the remnants still there. Kirk can confirm these:

    ** Two geezers who would rush into position to watch a pretty female reporter eat a banana;

    ** An aging sportswriter/entertainment writer who would openly roll his eyes and ogle the younger women, a few of whom would inevitably describe him as “sweet.” (He wasn’t. He stunk of stale cigars and always had a drool-soaked one in his mouth.)

    The ass-patting days were pretty much over by then, but I recall a fair number of unwelcome hubba-hubba comments by men to women, although these were newsrooms — rough places — and I always thought the proper response was to give it back, louder and tougher. Not everyone is made that way, however.

    I will say, though, that in some ways I prefer the old days, when it was more out in the open. The later-model newsrooms were more polite but less lively. I prefer my asshole behavior overt rather than passive. Easier to identify and deal with.

  15. Dorothy said on September 16, 2008 at 10:26 am

    I too am mesmerized by MAD MEN. I think my favorite part of this week’s show was when Betty smashed the dining room chair. Did you see that she used a kitchen chair in it’s place when she had the dinner party? And she was the one sitting in it. I tape it each Sunday but could not do so this week due to the cable being out. I got to see it at 1:30 yesterday since I was home (no power at the office).

  16. LAMary said on September 16, 2008 at 10:36 am

    We had a neighbor who worked for a magazine publishing company. He dealt with a lot of ad agency people, having them out to the summer house for the weekend and things, and from the vantage point of a kid who was running around with his kids, hearing the conversations they thought no one could hear, I’d say that show is spot on. As Nancy said, there were still vestiges of that stuff in the seventies, before sexual harrassment was something you could go to court about.

  17. Kirk said on September 16, 2008 at 10:38 am

    I can confirm that Nancy’s memory of those sexist assholes is accurate.

  18. alex said on September 16, 2008 at 11:15 am

    I don’t have premium cable and so have missed out on all the great shows like “Mad Men,” but the conceit is interesting — the ad biz in the early ’60s.

    When I was young and took advertising classes and worked in the marketing biz, I read books by several luminaries — Ogilvy is one that comes to mind — that covered this period. This was when the industry, traditionally a WASP male bastion, began hiring women and minorities. Advertising, which was stodgy and hadn’t changed substantially in a hundred years, was transformed by the new blood. It was in 1962 that the groundbreaking “Think Small” campaign was launched by VW. Suddenly the ugly little cars that nobody wanted were hot hot hot and were well on their way to becoming the cultural icon of the decade.

    The office culture of that era has pretty much vanished, although I still see vestiges of it in the legal professionk, where you’d think men would know better.

  19. brian stouder said on September 16, 2008 at 11:24 am

    …the legal profession, where you’d think men would know better.

    I expressed the very same sentiment to a colleague, regarding Kwame Kilpatrick (lawyer) and his foolishly compounded legal troubles….and when my friend was done laughing (he’s an ND graduate w/a law degree) he said I had it exactly backward!

    Or more precisely, it isn’t whether YOU’D think they know better; these folks themselves always think they know better. Better than you, better than me, better than the police and other lawyers, and certainly better than the judge….

  20. LAMary said on September 16, 2008 at 11:25 am

    I see vestiges of it right here right now. I have a boss who calls all my male peers, “buddy” and does the whole how ya doin, let’s play golf shit, but never NEVER would be that friendly with a woman employee. I don’t especially want him to be that friendly with me, but maybe he shouldn’t hang out with the guys either. By the way, I’ve been here the longest and by any measure am the most productive, but I’m paid less than every male in the same job. One of them is 24 years old and has zero experience. Yes, I have a complaint in with employee relations and compensation.

  21. paddyo' said on September 16, 2008 at 11:42 am

    Bravo, Nance, for recognizing the best show on TV right now, as good in its own way as, IMHO, the best EVER, which was “The Wire.” But I digress . . .

    OK, I’ll digress some more: May I put in an additional plug for an altogether different but compelling, can’t-NOT-watch-it companion show on AMC, “Breaking Bad,” which I’m guessing will be back not long after this second season of MM concludes . . . I’ll call it the second-best show on TV right now, and worth a separate discussion when season 2 comes around.

    Back to MM: Besides its HBO/Showtime-worthy style and substance (an odd backstory that both the premium channels passed on it when the producers first shopped it around, to the channels’ great loss and our gain), “Mad Men” has an amazing knack, thanks be to the writers, for drawing its characters in sublime ambiguity.
    I mean: Nobody in the cast is a black-and-white villain or hero. It’s much more like real life (though admittedly an ultra-stylized version) in that regard. Pick out any character, and his/her motivations, flaws, strengths and failings share equal weight. (Sounds like “The Wire” in that regard, doesn’t it?)

    Sure, they can come close to evil, and do:
    — You can dislike the sniveling young accountman Pete Campbell (who doesn’t?), but he’s not entirely without a redeeming feature or two. (Actually, as an adman, he’s ahead of most of the others . . . it’s just that he’s a know-it-all. And that bright blue suit of his? Hmmm . . . )
    — Office manager Joan seemed at first to be the queen bee with a very nasty sting, but this week we saw the utter vulnerability, that flicker of recognition, and the tired acceptance (back to that amazing bra-strap scene at the close).
    — Even Father Gill, trying to manipulate Peggy into a confession that’s all-voyeurism for him, is, in the end, alone in his tiny rectory room, with his single bed and guitar to let out his frustrations. (Well, OK, it’s non-premium cable, so we’ll see nothing so explicit as, say, choking the crosier, so to speak . . . )
    — And Don Draper himself, the main man, may be the least moral of the bunch on many days, but the tortured soul underneath has a mighty cross to bear (since we’ve got something of a religious story thread in here), and we see him bear it, good and bad, weekly.
    One more thought: Amid all the drama and seriousness, some amazingly light touches among all those excruciatingly delicious small details. Last week’s family picnic in Don’s new Coupe de Ville had priceless references to littering, pre-“Don’t Be A Litterbug” America. Don tosses his beer can off into the distance like he’s skipping rocks. Betts shakes out the picnic blanket — trash, napkins, etc., flying — and folds and turns away from the mess without a nod, a thought, a care in the world.
    Amazing. They nail it every week.

  22. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on September 16, 2008 at 11:52 am

    1985, head of the property committee (the *property* committee!) pulls me aside and asks me why i haven’t gotten my wife to use my family name. My rejoinder that she had a nice one she wasn’t done using did not cause him to crack a smile (which would have cracked his face, to be sure). I then pointed out that at least she wore a wedding ring, which annoyed him greatly (he, like most men of that generation, did not).

    He stared at me to a count of five, then said in a low rumble “You won’t last here long.” Four years, as it turned out, and he had a major stroke the next year which i swear i neither prayed for nor enjoyed. The Lovely Wife pointed out i should have invited him to ask her “why not?” which would have been interesting to watch, since she suspected that in fact he was terrified of her, half his size though she is.

    Got asked it again by a lady in 1999 when i started at a new church, and she had dropped by the parsonage to find out why my wife had taken down the peppermint stripe curtains in the living room. That i time i did invite her to ask mi esposa, which only made her eyes narrow. She was a trustee (see “property committee”), and thought it was bad for people to see the back of the sofa in the front window, and that we should put it on the other wall, like the previous pastor had. I thanked her for the input and told her when the missus would be home and she could drop by again or call to find out the answer to her question. Another long stare, but the prediction, if made, was purely internal. I stayed there five years, then went into court mediation and [koff] community organizing part-full-time.

    Bertram Coopers, if not Don Drapers, are still all over the place, they just keep a reptilian control over their forked tongues from flickering out in public. There’s quite a bit about “Mad Men” that still describes a just-below-the-surface major stratum of modern US culture.

  23. brian stouder said on September 16, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    There’s quite a bit about “Mad Men” that still describes a just-below-the-surface major stratum of modern US culture.

    And, you-know-who (and you-know-who II) appeals to them mightily

  24. Catherine said on September 16, 2008 at 12:16 pm

    Gender discrimination is alive and well. I’ll see Mary’s salary anecdote, and raise you at least two similar ones. And, I have yet to work in an industry (non-profits, entertainment and education being the ones I’ve sampled) in which the following structure does NOT exist: bottom tier: 85% female; middle tier: 60-70% female; top tier: 5% female. If that’s not structural sexism, I don’t know what is. Mad Men mores & behavior are just underground and P/A now. As Nancy says, “I prefer my asshole behavior overt rather than passive. Easier to identify and deal with.” Amen!

  25. Jeff Borden said on September 16, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    Catherine,

    I think your assessments of the gender breakdown in business is probably right on –I’ve been what they call “under employed” for the past four years and haven’t spent a lot of time in an office environment– but that is going to explode away with the next generation.

    I’m teaching at a university in Chicago a couple of days per week. In my class of 22, there are only five males. The other instructors say the overwhelming dominance of female students already is here. They are underrepresented in some of the sciences, but in business, law, journalism, health care and most other areas, they are not just a majority of students, but a substantial majority. Isn’t that the case pretty much at most universities?

    If so, the next generation of businesspeople is going to be heavily female, suggesting the next generation of middle- and upper managers will reflect that fact, right?

  26. Catherine said on September 16, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    Yes and no, Jeff. Top-tier, full-time MBA programs are still stuck at about 33% female. This number hasn’t budged since the early 90s, when it was only up moderately from 25% in the 80s (let’s not talk about the 50s). Business is actually worse off than medical and law grad programs, which I believe are about 50/50.

    And, I’m not sure that education is the determining factor in advancement. All the same, it’s good news for all of us that women have gained a measure of equality in many undergrad programs.

  27. Jim said on September 16, 2008 at 1:11 pm

    OK. I’m convinced. Like a previous commenter, I don’t do premium cable (who says public employees don’t make sacrifices!), but I’ve added Mad Men to my Netflix queue even though I haven’t finished all of the seasons of Wire yet. NN was right about that, so this should be good.

  28. moe99 said on September 16, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    Uh, Nancy, you discounted the vote suppression in Macomb County a while back, but it appears that the Obama campaign has filed suit over it? Any more information that you can come by locally?

    http://thepage.time.com/2008/09/16/obama-team-blasts-alleged-gop-disenfranchisement-plan/

  29. Joe Kobiela said on September 16, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    I wondered if anyone else caught the littering deal last week on mad men.
    A small but great piece of writing.
    Joe

  30. Danny said on September 16, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    Yeah, Joe. We did notice the littering and my comment was: “No wonder that Indian was crying in the commercial back in the early seventies!”

    My wife thought she could remember a world before “No Littering” signs even existed. She’s older. Heheh. Thankfully, she doesn’t read this blog.

  31. Dexter said on September 16, 2008 at 3:17 pm

    “I prefer my asshole behavior overt rather than passive. Easier to identify and deal with.”

    This reminds me of my businessman brother’s comments about his German clientele: ” They may be Nazis at heart but their checks never bounce.”

    I have never heard of Mad Men…had to research it to even see which channel it is on. This is what I get for having my evening-time TVs tuned into baseball every summer night. But what a year for a baseball nut…close races in three divisions.

  32. crinoidgirl said on September 16, 2008 at 3:51 pm

    ETA: And now for something completely different:

    Does anyone see Ike as Katrina for the white folks?

    Thanks, Danny 😛

  33. Danny said on September 16, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    No because it’s a little know fact that Ike’s last name was Turner.

  34. Danny said on September 16, 2008 at 3:57 pm

    Nancy, I’ve been trying to post a comment with some links to obits for Richard Wright. I’ve tried two times now. Are they going to moderation or are you even seeing them on your end?

  35. brian stouder said on September 16, 2008 at 4:03 pm

    Does anyone see Ike as Katrina for the white folks?

    No, I don’t. To make that parallel, you have to say the people who were affected by Katrina were rubes who should have done more for themselves, while the government was whirlwind of proactive action and preparation for the aftermath, before the fact.

    But in my opinion, the absolute rock-ass bottom thing about Katrina was the the government generally failed in the run-up, and completely failed in the aftermath.

    But the unfolding trauma in Texas is happening despite lots of effective, proactive government action, and lots of advanced warning to people to get out (and by the way, if I ever lose my mind and move into a house on a freakin’ BARRIER ISLAND, and then stay there when a planetary-scale storm comes swirling at me, and if I survive it, I don’t think I’ll have any room to bitch when I’m standing in line for bottled water and a camera crew approaches!).

    edit: Danny, if your links start with an “http”, knock that off there, and the site will take it (don’t ask me why)

  36. crinoidgirl said on September 16, 2008 at 4:16 pm

    Thank you Brian. I agree with you – the folks in Katrina trusted the government, who failed them.

    I’m concerned that these dumb asses in TX will ask for equivalent help.

  37. Dorothy said on September 16, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    Yeah we gasped out loud at the littering on last week’s episode, but it was historically accurate I’m sure.

  38. Danny said on September 16, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    Kirk/basset/Jeff and anyone else who loved Pink Floyd: Here are some obits for Richard Wright.

    Obit 1

    Obit 2

    Obit 3

    From the last article:

    Wright was almost the definition of a great musician, the kind any player would like to have in his band. He was not a florid virtuoso but a man who understood the values of simplicity and understatement, with an eloquence of tone and texture that hinted at deep rooted yet mathematically modern jazz, creating spacious, harmonic, almost pastoral chordal sequences which allowed his band mates to fly. Wright had, I suspect, a melancholic disposition and tended to be drawn to minor chords which he would string together in ways that shimmered with ethereal emotion. Just listen to the gorgeous Wright composed instrumental ‘The Great Gig In The Sky’ and the gently shifting Waters and Wright song ‘Us And Them’ from ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ … and surrender. This is rock music at its deepest, most beautiful and most moving.

  39. nancy said on September 16, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    Too many links makes Mr. Server think you’re a slammer, Danny. Fixed now.

  40. jcburns said on September 16, 2008 at 5:23 pm

    By the way, FYI: Mad Men is in fact on basic cable, not premium cable. Plain ol’ AMC. Which was once (few may remember) American Movie Classics.

  41. Danny said on September 16, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    Nance, can you delete the first two posts that reference the links? I think the last one with the “a href” embedded link tags looks cleaner.

    Man, am I high maintenace or what?

  42. joodyb said on September 16, 2008 at 5:37 pm

    the littering depiction was depressingly accurate, my chickens. apparently i am now officially in the older-than-dirt category, but doesn’t anyone remember it got so bad the government launched one of the broadest-ever public service campaigns, enduring at least two decades and presaging the anti-pollution ads? that’s why the america many of you grew up in was so clean! i seem to recall much of that early stuff was pro bono. interesting.
    i note a resurgence of littering behavior. expect a new wave of PSAs? funded by whom? such a politically correct thing, not to litter. post-millennials apparently claim the right to throw whatever they want wherever. it was weird and sad to see that set detail.

    another MM observation: this is a new ballgame in evocative tv videography, and i thank the gods every Sunday night for HD. same goes for Breaking Bad.

  43. Kirk said on September 16, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    Thanks for those links, Danny.

  44. nancy said on September 16, 2008 at 5:56 pm

    To whomever mentioned it upthread, I’ve already written about “Breaking Bad,” here. (Bombast alert for self-linkage!)

  45. Dexter said on September 16, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    Rick Wright wasn’t tight with David Gilmour, and Gilmour fired him (for a while, anyway) during the making of “The Wall”.
    At times, Wright was just un-plugged at live shows , at the whim of Gilmour. We all know how great a keyboard player and mood-shifter Rick was…a genius in my book….

  46. Dexter said on September 16, 2008 at 6:21 pm

    HULU secured Episode One , Season 2, of Mad Men.
    For those , like me, who never saw the show due to cable restrictions or never hearing of it, here’s the only episode AMC has let go to the web:

    http://www.hulu.com/mad-men

  47. nancy said on September 16, 2008 at 6:28 pm

    I probably should have mentioned this to you Netflixers, but the show is also available in the iTunes store.

  48. Kirk said on September 16, 2008 at 6:40 pm

    It was Roger Waters who fired Rick Wright. Gilmour got him back to his old self.

  49. alex said on September 16, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    What I remember are the smells of leaded gasoline vapors and deep-fried lard that used to permeate the atmosphere in any inhabited area. The gas fumes used to create a strange visual blur, the air was so thick with them.

    And riverbanks were buried in cascades of garbage, the occasional dead car, appliances and mattresses, and sometimes things that simply defied identification. Remember the scene in one of John Waters’ films where Divine plays himself as both a man and a high school girl (the one who’s pissed she didn’t get cha-cha heels on Christmas Day) who are having sex on the ground? That trashy backdrop showed quite authentic attention to ’60s detail.

    I think it was Lady Bird Johnson who started the big crusade to clean things up.

    Edit: Just saw Cindy McCain on TV and started imagining what her legacy will be. Perhaps she’ll be remembered for restoring the c-word to polite conversation.

  50. Danny said on September 16, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    I’m wondering is Roger has made a statement yet. I remember when Syd died two summers ago. Roger was on tour and made quite a point of dedicating performances of Wish You Were Here and Shine on You (Crazy) Diamond to “[his] friend, Syd.”

    EDIT: I have the boots of these two shows where he did so. The first one is the show right after Syd died.

    Roger Waters 2006-07-12 Piazza Napoleone, Lucca, IT [FM Broadcast]

    Roger Waters 2006-10-08 Hollywood Bowl, Hollywood, CA [Audience Recording]

    Though a statement isn’t necessary, it would be nice to know that Roger isn’t such a colossal jerk that he couldn’t bury the hatchett after all this time.

  51. Dexter said on September 16, 2008 at 9:22 pm

    Kirk, right…don’t know how I got that mixed up…it indeed was Roger Waters.

  52. Deborah said on September 16, 2008 at 10:12 pm

    I remember when Lady Bird Johnson came out with her campaign “Keep America Beautiful”. She had a slogan “where flowers bloom so does hope”. I don’t remember how old I was exactly but it was in my impressionable junior high years. I also saw Mad Men Sunday night with the picnic trashing scene and thought it was hilarious. Great show, Mad Men, I’ve been watching it since the beginning. Spot on.

  53. ellen said on September 16, 2008 at 10:19 pm

    Brian, Danny, et al: I hope that a storm like Ike or Katrina or an F5 tornado never happen to you. Until you directly experience one, you have no idea. Regards from Houston.

  54. Danny said on September 16, 2008 at 10:40 pm

    Ellen, no doubt. The worst I’ve experienced was Agnes in 1972. And my family gave me accounts of Isabel from a Maryland perspective.

    Give us some details if you can. Did your electricity go out?

    Hey, speaking of natural disasters, October is turning out to be wildfire season here in San Diego. Two times in the last four years it’s gotten to within three miles of my house. WooHoo!

  55. Dexter said on September 17, 2008 at 12:17 am

    My daughter moved to New Bern, NC just before Isabel hit in 2003. My wife had just gotten there to help with the little children. That was her first hurricane…re-enforced windows and wind and rain, flooding in their community, but not as bad as everyone had feared initially. I was back here on my computer glued to the weather channels and then I drove straight to there to help out for a while. Now the same daughter lives in Las Vegas in a new home…they just got their pool finished today….

  56. John said on September 17, 2008 at 7:53 am

    Alex,

    You are referring to Female Trouble, which featured the immortal line “Go fuck yourself!”, a feat accomplished by Divine playing both Dawn Davenport and Earl Peterson.

  57. caliban said on September 17, 2008 at 8:07 am

    We lived in Bloomfield Hills when I was a kid, and half the neighborhood were J. Walter Thompson families. Madison Avenue? The real advertising was in Detroit, and the drama took place in Pulte subdivisions. The problem with Mad Men is that every single character older than ten is despicable, except, perhaps, Peggy, who is played by the same actress that used to regularly say “penis” as a precocious tyke on Picket Fences, which was actually better than Mad Men or the Sopranos. And, The Wire, good, but not even close to the Adena Watson story on Homicide.

    Here in Hilton Head Island, the hurricanes just pass us by, thanks to God’s general disgust with Myrtle Beach.

    With regard to Pink Floyd, David Gilmour is the genius player (guitar and sax) and the best singer, and he was the only one that remained Syd Barret’s friend, through thick and thin.

  58. caliban said on September 17, 2008 at 8:22 am

    So much for free markets and the benevolent hand:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/09/16/AR2008091602174.html?hpid=topnews

    When the Republican Party decides to pay for Golden Parachutes for corporate malfeasors with somebody else’s money (well, mine, in fact,, and yours), I guess the dream is dead.

  59. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on September 17, 2008 at 8:42 am

    Happy Constitution Day!

    Sen. Robert Byrd and i agree on very little, except on this day, and its significance.

    July 4th is not only the wrong day to celebrate the Declaration of Independence (you could go with July 2 or 8 just as accurately, first reading and vote on 2nd, most signed it on the 8th), but as for the day we began to be the country that we are, we have been, and that we might just yet fulfill, Sept. 17 is THE day — the day the Constitution was officially voted into existence under the preamble: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

    Modern historiography tends to focus on the compromises and the shortcomings, which are many in the document (the 3/5th compromise the most egregious of them all, putting a lesser work on some humans while still leaving them in bondage even as you gave their owners votes based on their bleeding backs). What Catherine Drinker Bowen called it in her still readable account, now almost 50 years old itself, is a “Miracle at Philadelphia.”

    They gathered to tweak the Articles of Confederation, which were nearly unworkable from 1776 over the next ten years. Unlike the blazing talent of a Thomas Jefferson writing the whole, the group process — with leadership like Benjamin Franklin and James Madison and Edmund Randolph and Governeur Morris, to be sure — created a remarkable document that has just enough flexibility to work without being so rigid as to require constant adjustment.

    The European Union tried to write themselves a constitution starting in 2004, and they came up with an unreadable volume that to date has not been ratified (they’re starting over after a “period of reflection.”). The length and comprehensiveness of the EU draft constitution is a big part of why they can’t get it passed; our Constitution, for all its flaws, can be read in just a few minutes by anyone.

    Why don’t you read it today yourself? Or you can listen to it by clicking the buttons on the sections — either way, at this link:

    http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Constitution_of_the_United_States_of_America

    If you are a teacher or educator of any sort, here’s a slew of links at the Library of Congress for getting into the many fascinating details of this truly Founding Document:

    http://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/ourdocs/Constitution.html

  60. brian stouder said on September 17, 2008 at 8:53 am

    caliban, I gotta say – John McCain looks so uncurious and dead to me (intellectually dead, imaginitively dead, prospectively dead), and his campaign strikes me as so flatly and cynically dishonest, that if it succeeds and he and his saucey cipher get sent to the White House – I will forever after agree with your assessment of the intelligence of the American electorate in general.

    His flat-assed, flat-lined rote-response to the increasingly complex and worrisome financial sector crash (the fundamentals within our economy remain “strong”) should be enough to tip off everyone that he has no clue at all

  61. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on September 17, 2008 at 8:59 am

    Saucy cipher — i hear a Secret Service code name in the making!

    By the way, i trust y’all have seen the Sarah Palin Baby Name Generator — http://personal-space.com/script/script.php

    I would be “Log Justice Palin,” while the Lovely Wife is delighted with “Torpedo Vindicator Palin.”

  62. Jolene said on September 17, 2008 at 9:06 am

    Brian, I’ve just been looking at new campaign commercials re the recent financial events on MSNBC. The McCain commercial is much better than the Obama commercial.

    I hate to be one of the hand-wringers who are fretting about whether Obama and his campaign are going to get it together, but I am worried.

    I see Obama as a much superior president, but, at least w/ regard to these “reach out and grab you” issues, he doesn’t seem to be the superior candidate right now.

    On the other hand, Jon Meacham, who I think is terrific, just described Obama as someone who is good at “throwing the second punch”, so maybe things will shape up in the next few weeks.

    I really do not want to endure a McCain presidency.

    Meanwhile, here’s a view from abroad of our potential vice-president.

  63. coozledad said on September 17, 2008 at 9:12 am

    Republicans: Socializing risk, privatizing profit.

  64. Jolene said on September 17, 2008 at 9:12 am

    “Torpedo Vindicator” is excellent, Jeff! Mine is “Ladel Torque”, which makes no sense at all. If I need an alias, I’ll just use my porn name, Jizzy Spankalicious.

  65. brian stouder said on September 17, 2008 at 9:13 am

    Jeff – thanks! September 17 always makes me think of Antietam creek; a very beautiful place in western Maryland, but also the site where the single bloodiest day in American history unfolded, 146 years ago. In fact, at this time in the morning (9 am here) it was hitting a crescendo, in common places that are now capitalized (The Cornfield, The East Woods, The West Woods, Bloody Lane…and later on, at Burnside’s Bridge)

    I honestly would not have gotten the Constitutional connection to this date, even on a multiple choice quiz!

    On the other hand, Lincoln used the Union victory at Sharpsburg as a successful pretext for issuance the Emancipation Proclamation (itself springing from the president’s miltary power, but a critically important step toward the 13th and 14 Ammendments), making it arguably every bit as important for the present day Constitution…

  66. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on September 17, 2008 at 10:27 am

    September 22, and i put my flag out on that day, too — the Emancipation Proclamation was effective Jan. 1, but Sept. 22 was when Abe signed it. Sept. 17 is a double-flag day for me, due to Antietam.

    My gr-gr-grandfather was the drummer standing next to the colors for the II Corps, marching across the field towards the Sunken Lane where Gordon’s Georgians waited for them at about this hour. He survived the battle, and barely the war, but died of drink by 1868 — PTSD has been around since before the Punic Wars, and it looks to me like it claimed him. The 53rd PA spent the night of Sept. 17 camped, but i’m guessing not sleeping, just on the other side of now Bloody Lane, where the sunken path was filled with still warm corpses.

    I would have drunk my way through the next six years, too.

  67. LAMary said on September 17, 2008 at 10:55 am

    Brian, “flatly cynical and dishonest” describe it perfectly. Hearing McCain talk about regulating Wall St. Hearing Palin talk about regulating Wall St. and getting the government out of business in the same speech really remarkable. Phil “the deregulator” Gramm was (IS) his economic advisor. He played a huge part in creating the environment that got us into this mess.

  68. brian stouder said on September 17, 2008 at 10:56 am

    I spent the night at the Piper farm when it was a bed and breakfast (the sunken farm lane – aka Bloody Lane – is on Henry Piper’s ground); at night, it is inky black dark, and you can see every star in the sky.

    The place is as beautiful as anyplace I’ve ever seen, with the Blue Ridge mountains looming in the middle-distance to the east, farm ground that is so rolling that as you go along the pike, you crest hills and find yourself looking down on the roofs of the barns. And the old farmsteads have names like Roullette and Poffenberg and Mumma (and Piper), and they have their own family burial plots, with that funny way of listing lifespans (down to months and days).

    Walking from the North Woods back down the pike toward the West Woods and the (rebuilt) Dunker Church, one cannot help but just stop and stare; it’s all too beautiful to really be the sight of such protracted horror, no?

    edit: President McKinley was there for the battle, and has a nice monument near Burnside’s Bridge; he was a boy at the time, running coffee forward to the officers

  69. brian stouder said on September 17, 2008 at 11:01 am

    Mary – I have become more than a little angry with the pap that McCain & Co are getting away with.

    On the other hand, depending how much stock we put into polls (pardon the expression), McCain & Palin may already be impaled by events, as their numbers deflate a bit

  70. brian stouder said on September 17, 2008 at 11:39 am

    btw, my Sarah Palin name would be:

    Skunk Grunt Palin

  71. joodyb said on September 17, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    oh brian, that is the BEST!

    oh, and can i just say here that mccain has now revealed to the world that he has the WSJ read FOR him or he might know what “fundamentals” means in the biz world.

  72. Editorbill said on September 17, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    I also just caught on to Mad Men in August while fighting some weekend insomnia. I have Comcast OnDemand and watched the first three episodes of season two and now I’m hooked. Details, writing, directing. Superb. The actress who plays Joan Halloway was outstanding last week. We need to see more of her. I think you can rent the first season of MM at Blockbuster.