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Today's Inspiration

April 17, 2013

Just a Gigolo — Bing Crosby

And one more, for when you just can’t make it through the door.

5:04pm  |  31 notes   |  mad men music club |  don draper 

Norma (aria) — Bellini, Casta Diva

Sung by Maria Callas

The Mad Men Music Club proudly presents…some dramatic accompaniment for your hastily devoured steaks and illicit affair desserts.

5:02pm  |  39 notes   |  mad men music club |  maria callas 
April 12, 2013

Don’s flirtation with suicidal imagery in his botched meeting with the Pink Palace brass, reminds one of the executives of “that movie with James Mason walking into the ocean…”
He’s referring to 1954’s A Star is Born: a movie about older man with a drinking problem who sees his alcoholism deepen as his younger wife begins to come into a certain amount of celebrity.
Sound familiar?!?


In the movie, Judy Garland plays a ingenue singer who is discovered by James Mason, an aging but talented actor. He puts her in a movie to help her out and basically immediately feels she owes her life to him from then on out. He begins drinking more heavily the more popular she gets, until he crashes her Oscars speech Kanye-style and accidentally hits her in the face.
Slapstick serves for emotional epiphany and Mason goes into rehab. When he comes out, Judy Garland promises to take care of him but he soon goes off the rails again and — famously — walks into the ocean. Has anyone read Not Waving But Drowning? (“I was much too far out all my life/And not waving but drowning.” So sad!)

The film itself is your pretty standard corny “you’re a star now kid!” movie. Even the death is pretty cheesy — walking into the ocean? What are you, Virginia Woolf? It’s a very feminine death, as well, if you’ll note. Most male suicide has an active component to it and most female suicide is passive (more here on the gender dimensions of suicide). Water plays a huge role in a lot of female suicide, as well. Why did James Mason feel like submitting? And does Don Draper feel the same way? 

He certainly did a lot of submitting in last Sunday night’s premiere: to Megan on the subject of her upcoming soap opera (remember when he refused point-blank last season to let her do theater in another city because of the commitment she’d have to make?); to those photographers on the subject of where his desk should be and what make-up to wear; to Pete and Ken after he threw up at Roger’s mom’s funeral and had to be escorted home; and, of course, to his old haunts in another woman’s arms.

And of course, water is very much on Don’s subconscious after Hawaii.But lo, look how he denies his thoughts of his untimely demise to the Pink Palace ad execs when they call him out on the movie morbidity!

Watch this space for more Don Faces His Mortality: Season 6.
*Footnote by Natasha Simons

April 9, 2013
One, two, three at the most weeks and they would give M company its orders — they being those dim Olympian entities who reputedly threw cards into an IBM machine or into a hat to determine where each soldier in M would go next, which ones to stay there in the United States, which to live softly in Europe, and which to fight and to die in Vietnam.
Seminal piece by John Sack in the October, 1966 issue of Esquire. Cover Art by our ad-man-muse George Lois.

One, two, three at the most weeks and they would give M company its orders — they being those dim Olympian entities who reputedly threw cards into an IBM machine or into a hat to determine where each soldier in M would go next, which ones to stay there in the United States, which to live softly in Europe, and which to fight and to die in Vietnam.


Seminal piece by John Sack in the October, 1966 issue of Esquire. Cover Art by our ad-man-muse George Lois.

1:37pm  |  52 notes  
April 8, 2013
Though the farmers were not carrying weapons, it didn’t matter: No one was safe when the special force arrived on July 28, 1967.
No one.
Learn about Tiger Force, the ear necklaces, and the way the government lied about it. Pulitzers abound.
(You should actually read this. Do it.)
(Now.)

Though the farmers were not carrying weapons, it didn’t matter: No one was safe when the special force arrived on July 28, 1967.

No one.

Learn about Tiger Force, the ear necklaces, and the way the government lied about it. Pulitzers abound.

(You should actually read this. Do it.)

(Now.)

10:00pm  |  148 notes  
"No two people ever really enjoy the same thing."

"No two people ever really enjoy the same thing."

9:19pm  |  96 notes  
While it was uplifting, at times, during season five to see Don do good, it is so much more reassuring to witness the great anti-heroes of TV degrade themselves, betray their own promises, and plunge deeper into the inferno. What a sense of kinship it fosters, to have the horrors and fuck-ups of one’s own life beamed back through your television. Like Ray Bradbury wrote in the opening lines of Fahrenheit 451, it is a “special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed.”
Full review on New Republic, footnotes and thrilling marginalia to come! 

While it was uplifting, at times, during season five to see Don do good, it is so much more reassuring to witness the great anti-heroes of TV degrade themselves, betray their own promises, and plunge deeper into the inferno. What a sense of kinship it fosters, to have the horrors and fuck-ups of one’s own life beamed back through your television. Like Ray Bradbury wrote in the opening lines of Fahrenheit 451, it is a “special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed.”

Full review on New Republic, footnotes and thrilling marginalia to come! 

12:41am  |  255 notes  
April 5, 2013
See you Sunday?

See you Sunday?

3:05pm  |  367 notes  
June 26, 2012

One of the most famous recipients of electroconvulsive therapy: Ernest Hemingway shortly before his suicide in 1961.

The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry. — A Farewell to Arms. 

If mental health practices are Other Natasha’s cocktail topic of choice, fairy tale analysis is my particular hobbyhorse. Most people know the Disneyfied versions omit the morbidity and dark themes of the original fairy tales, but the original Beauty and the Beast, aside from some interesting quirks*, mostly remained intact from its romantic origins. (Actually, in the Disney version, the Beast is much more volatile than in the earliest version, in which he is essentially a courtly, chivalrous suitor.) This is probably the result of its feminized origin. The first version was written down by Madame de Villeneuve in 1740, as a longer version of the typical oral tale of Girl + Animal Bridegroom. (Bestiality a big topic in days of yore.) 
Since every fairy tale is not really just a cute kid’s story — indeed, Beauty and the Beast was originally written for sharing at the court with other adults and then widely circulated thereafter — there’s an underlying moral at the heart of this one. A few scholars feel the tale was intended to convince young girls that arranged marriages weren’t so bad, once you got used to the idea. Consider the elements: a father gives the hand of his daughter, the Beast cautions that the girl must “come willingly” and “of her own accord”, she has to honor both her father and new suitor’s wishes, the Beast grants the father wealth in return (essentially a dowry), and she comes to love a stranger, for which she is then rewarded with a becoming a princess and a pretty sweet marriage. He even gives her a ring at one point as a reminder of him. 
It could veer into a Bluebeard-esque cautionary tale about minding your husband, but — again possibly because of the female origin — Beauty actually gets away with a lot. The Beast grants her every wish, and takes an incredibly passive role in her life until she falls in love with him of her own volition. He even gives her lots of money and freedom to do whatever she wants with the place — should Megan buy some more white carpets, do you think?
So Don walking away from the Beauty and the Beast diorama has some interesting connotations. (First of all, the tale is French, not German, so the whole barmaid getup on Megan is rather odd.) Don lived out the Beast part of this fairy tale bargain, but he never becomes the Prince in the end. Megan married the temperamental Beast, trying to convince herself that he was the prince the whole time. And he certainly did provide for her, the way the animal bridegroom must in order to keep his young nubile bride. The reward for him (and her) is supposed to be a happy marriage; it’s one Don desperately needed, especially after failing with Betty. But she exchanges that reward for her own pride and success, and he never gets that happy ending he wanted. He went through the motions — he tried the courtly husband routine. It didn’t work. Don can’t become anything other than what he is; he walks away. He stays the Beast. And the Beast is marked by one thing: being alone. That castle gets mighty lonely, whether it be Ossining or a Manhattan suite.
*Footnote by Natasha Simons
*Three quick fucked-up things about this story, since it wouldn’t be an old-ass fairy tale without them: 1) in the first version, the Beast was cursed because he wouldn’t have sex with a fairy — they’re vindictive motherfuckers; 2) the Beast doesn’t turn into a prince until AFTER the wedding night — eek; and 3) Beauty’s sisters, who are real dicks to her in the original, are turned into statues by fairies to sit outside the castle until they recognizetheir assholery. Don’t fuck with fairies, man.