Monday, December 28, 2009

Single Boob Theory

If you look closely, you can see Lee Harvey Oswald standing by the dingy holding his Mannlicher-Carcano rifle.

From The Smoking Gun:

TMZ Falls For JFK Photo Hoax

Photo that "could have changed history" actually from a Playboy shoot

In a colossal screw-up, the gossip web site TMZ today published a photo purporting to show John F. Kennedy frolicking on a yacht with a harem of naked women--except that the image actually appeared as part of a November 1967 Playboy photo spread, The Smoking Gun has learned. The TMZ hoax was billed as an "exclusive" featuring a photo that "could have altered world events" had it surfaced prior to JFK's presidential campaign. "It could have torpedoed his run, and changed world history," the site added. In reality, the photo appeared in story about Playboy's "Charter Yacht Party: How to Have a Ball on the Briny with an Able-Bodied Complement of Ship's Belles."

Now that the photo has been so easily debunked, it's fun to watch TMZ's "expert" testify to its authenticity.


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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Handle With Care

This is really funny (more details below video).



From Dave Carroll's website:

In the spring of 2008, Sons of Maxwell were traveling to Nebraska for a one-week tour and my Taylor guitar was witnessed being thrown by United Airlines baggage handlers in Chicago. I discovered later that the $3500 guitar was severely damaged. They didn’t deny the experience occurred but for nine months the various people I communicated with put the responsibility for dealing with the damage on everyone other than themselves and finally said they would do nothing to compensate me for my loss. So I promised the last person to finally say “no” to compensation (Ms. Irlweg) that I would write and produce three songs about my experience with United Airlines and make videos for each to be viewed online by anyone in the world. United: Song 1 is the first of those songs. United: Song 2 has been written and video production is underway. United: Song 3 is coming. I omise.

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Mite Got Your Tongue?

A Jersey Shore joke is in here somewhere...

From Treehugger:
Bizarre Tongue-Eating Parasite Discovered Off the Jersey Coast

There's been a spate of amazing animal discoveries recently--the giant rat-eating plants found in the Philippines, a huge woolly rat discovered in a volcanic crater--and now, yet another creature has emerged that could be right out of a sci-fi film. It's a bizarre creature that survives by eating its hosts' tongue and then attaching itself inside the mouth.

The sea-dwelling parasite attacks fish, burrows into it, and then devours its tongue. After eating the tongue, the parasite proceeds to live inside the fish's mouth. There's a horror film waiting to be made about this thing. Surprisingly, the fish doesn't seem to suffer any severe impediment--just the loss of its tongue--and seems to have no trouble surviving with its new, far uglier tongue.

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Iraq, Paper, Scissors

You've got to be f'n kidding me. A billion dollar Defense project penetrated by a $26 software program available on the Internet.

One of my more high-tech coworkers remarked that what the insurgents were doing technically wasn't "hacking" since the drone feeds weren't encrypted to begin with. So, it's more like "listening in."

That's just peachy.

From The Guardian:

US drones hacked by Iraqi insurgents

One of America's most sophisticated weapons in the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, the unmanned drone, has been successfully penetrated by insurgents using software available on the internet for $26 (£16).

Insurgents in Iraq intercepted live video feeds from the drones being relayed back to a US controller and revealing potential targets. A US official said the flaw was identified and fixed in the past 12 months.

...The US air force is responsible for drones in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the CIA for those in Pakistan. The CIA video feeds are reported to have been encrypted, while some of the air forces ones were not.

The Pentagon had been aware of the problem for many years, but had assumed the insurgents would not have the technical knowledge to intercept the feeds.


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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Iconoclastic

I haven't seen Avatar yet. Nonetheless, here's my pick for the best animated battle of 2009! (click here)


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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The New Y2K Problem

Once again, we've rested on our laurels and let another Y2K bug sneak up on us. This issue could loom large over the 2010's, 2020's, 2030's. Only the 2040's seem to offer some hope.

How best to solve the problem of Happy 2010 New Year’s Eve glasses?

We have a problem, Internet. You know how on New Year’s Eve everyone walks around with Happy 2009 (or whatever) glasses? That bunk ain’t gonna fly this year. Try wearing a 2010 pair of glasses: where are you going to look through, the 1? This is a serious situation that demands the attention of our best engineers.

Think about it: these glasses mean big business. Unless you’re prepared to wear wacky glasses like these, where the 2 and 1 are extra small, and the 1 rests on the bridge of your nose. And this isn’t even very elegant: the 2 is going to tilt those glasses to the right like nobody’s business.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Sour Note

The 219th New Yorker "Cartoon Caption Contest" results seemed out of tune this week.



My entry was
"I saw these in a discount bin next to the check-out counter and just couldn't help myself. "
The winners were:
  • "Well, where did you think baby grands came from?" - lame

  • "We buy everything in bulk." - really close to mine, but less wordy

  • "I don't play. I just really hate elephants." - this sucks on so many levels

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Man's Best Friend

During the dog food focus group Sterling Cooper stages for Caldecott Farms in The Gypsy and the Hobo, Peggy says an interesting thing. When asked why the man conducting the interviews with the test subjects isn't wearing a lab coat, she states that dogs "don't like uniforms."

dogs

There had to be some other significance to the remark. I'm sure that Peggy wasn’t citing a real 1960's study which demonstrated that canines had an adverse reaction to uniforms. Okay, maybe she was. But it seems like more than a passing remark.

Following Peggy's comment, there's a quick exchange between Don and Smitty which establishes that, when describing some object (in this case their dog), people in focus groups are really describing themselves. So, in effect Peggy was saying that people don't like uniforms.

Read More at Basket of Kisses...
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Friday, December 11, 2009

Down with PC OPP

When I first heard about this, I thought it was a joke. But no. Eugene Robinson is most disappointed at Tiger Woods for not having a diverse stable of mistresses.

From the Washington Post:
Tiger's validation complex

...Here's my real question, though: What's with the whole Barbie thing?

No offense to anyone who actually looks like Barbie, but it really is striking how much the women who've been linked to Woods resemble one another. I'm talking about the long hair, the specific body type, even the facial features. Mattel could sue for trademark infringement.

This may be the most interesting aspect of the whole Tiger Woods story -- and one of the most disappointing. He seems to have been bent on proving to himself that he could have any woman he wanted. But from the evidence, his aim wasn't variety but some kind of validation.

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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Can You Hear Me Now?

From the "Who the Hell Cares" Department:
Today, while following the restitution hearing for former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, I was struck by how jury rigged the microphone set up looked. Couldn't they have at least put on some fresh duct tape?


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Monday, December 07, 2009

A Boy and His Dad: The Road

Of course, I’m stating the obvious when I point out that turning a well-known literary work into a film can be a tricky thing. There’s always a dedicated group of fans that will balk at any changes made to migrate the work from one medium to another. I tend to fall into that category. Certainly, a lengthy written piece will have to be adjusted to fit into the typical two-hour running time of a film. And this reality may result in taking artistic licenses with other aspects of the narrative. Steven Spielberg didn’t have time in include the scene in Jaws where Matt Hooper shtupps Mrs. Brody. Thus, it’s understandable why he gets a reprieve from a gory death in the shark cage. But I still struggle to discern a reasonable artistic argument for having Hobbs hit a game winning home run at the end of The Natural rather than deliberately strike out as he does in Bernard Malamud’s novel.

Granted, a willingness to judge each respective effort on its own merits is a perfectly reasonable approach too. I get it. I’m just not wired that way.

So, hearing that Charlize Theron was cast in The Road—the film version of Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel set in a post-apocalyptic society—gave me pause...

Read the full post at The House Next Door...
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Saturday, December 05, 2009

David vs. Goliath

Lil' Jimmy Norton pwn's Jesse "The Body." I think Ventura has been the victim of one too many pile-drivers.


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Friday, December 04, 2009

Tip One: Duck

Proving that timing is everything, the January 2010 issue of Gold Digest will feature Tiger Woods, who is currently going through some very volatile (and public) marital woes, and President Obama under the headline: “10 Tips Obama Can Take From Tiger.”

Tee hee.


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Thursday, December 03, 2009

Method to their Madness?

Method, the maker of natural cleaning products touted as NOT containing harsh chemicals such as ammonia or optical brighteners, had to take down it's recent viral video after receiving complaints that the piece trivialized sexual assault.

From Advertising Age :

Method Pulls 'Shiny Suds' Ad After Sexism Complaints

Household cleaner marketer Method has pulled down a viral video roundly applauded by marketers at the Association of National Advertisers annual conference last month and by most viewers who've seen it because of heated complaints from some women who view it as sexist and even condoning rape.

...The video got more than 700,000 views in a week on YouTube and a five-star rating from viewers before Method pulled the plug.


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Monday, November 30, 2009

Retro-Mail

I'm not sure that it's worth $9.95 a month, but I wish I'd thought of it.

From USA Today:

Grandma has no computer? Still send her e-mail

A mailbox containing real mail with real family pictures is about as rare these days as a day without e-mail. But for those who don't use e-mail -- like many of our non-wired grandparents -- there's now a service that sends family news and digital pictures from your e-mail account to someone's snail mailbox for $9.95 a month.

...Sunnygram collects all of the e-mails addressed to her and mails out a weekly, cheery compilation of our messages (large font is an option) with embedded pictures.

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Friday, November 27, 2009

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

The Secret Service claims that the gatecrashers to last Tuesday's White House dinner weren't a threat to the president. Whew. For a second there, I thought the lax security was a problem.

From AP News:

Secret Service: Crashers posed no danger to Obama

The Secret Service maintains that President Barack Obama was never in danger at a state dinner after an uninvited Virginia couple got through security, but it wouldn't comment on whether anyone is screened for radiological or biological weapons.

...Michaele and Tareq Salahi went through the same security screening for weapons as the 300-plus people invited to the dinner Tuesday for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Another Manic Thursday

Great list. Would these be retro-anachronisms? BTW, there's no mention of "Black Friday" either.

From Den of Geek:

Today... according to Freejack

Back in 1992, Freejack predicted what would happen on 23rd November 2009. Did it get it right?

Freejack is a 1992 sci-fi/action film that's based in the future. A future that we've arrived at today. This happens so rarely that we thought it fitting to put a microscope to the predictions that Freejack foresaw for November 23, 2009.

...contrary to all the scientific, medical and technological achievements, another look at the neon date sign shows what our 2009ers surely didn't fail to notice: that no one from the production team bothered to look up what day November 23rd 2009 actually falls on.

You'd think calendars and math were nonexistent in our Nineties.


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Monday, November 23, 2009

The 12 Scams of Christmas

To highlight the increased crime during the holidays, security company McAfee has come up with the "12 Scams of Christmas" ranging from bogus electronic greeting cards that deliver malware instead of cheer to fake charities that steal your money and your identity which are posted Larry Magid's CNET blog.

The 12 Scams of Christmas
(sung to the tune "The 12 Days of Christmas")

On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me:

Twelve malware hackers

Eleven e-mail bank scams

Ten passwords stolen

Nine auction site frauds

Eight fake "at home jobs"

Seven holiday lyric sites

Six unsecured wireless shopping sessions

Five fake Cartiers

Four holiday e-cards

Three email friend requests

Two bogus invoices

And a charitable phishing scam...

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Grey Area (Mad Men 3.13)



After the trauma of the previous week's JFK assassination, Mad Men’s finale took a much lighter approach. Consistent with its title, Shut the Door. Have a Seat offered fans a comfortable chair (or Wentworth) to cool down in after the wild ride of Season Three. That’s not to say important things didn’t happen. They did. And there’s still a lot to be resolved (Sal’s future, most notably). But a lot of loose character threads were tied up. In some cases, I felt these threads were a little too neatly mended as much about Don, Bert and Roger getting “the band” back together seemed a tad contrived.

While all season, Duck Phillips has been trying to coax Pete and Peggy (and perhaps others) to jump ship and join him at his Grey, the ad agency he now works for, it is Don, Bert, Roger and Pryce who actually accomplish this feat. So, it seems worth mentioning that at various points in Shut the Door. Have a Seat, many of the key cast members are uncharacteristically wearing grey outfits. Betty, Peggy and Joan most notably (Betty is "jumping ship" from her marriage while Joan and Peggy join in the new ad agency venture).

Connie tells Don that ad agency McCann Erickson is buying Puttnam, Powell, and Lowe -- and Sterling Cooper along with it. He's terminating his arrangement with Don. "My future is tied up in this mess because of you," Don complains, referring to the three-year contract Hilton's lawyers insisted he sign. It's just business, Connie replies.

The first shot of the episode shows Don waking up. He’ll be facing many surprises this episode: Betty’s affair, the sale of PPL, Peggy’s bitterness toward him, the fact that he really likes the advertising business. Echoing the title, Hilton invites Don to “have a seat.” That invitation will be uttered a number of times throughout the episode.

Connie releases the hold he’s had on Don in the last half of the third season. It’s notable that there will be a later reference to Bobby losing Don’s cuff links. Since these cuff links were a gift from Hilton and, at the time, symbolized Don’s servitude toward Connie, Bobby losing them would seem to show that Don is free. This also shows a parallel between Don and the father figure of Hilton and Don and his own son Bobby.

Conrad further tells Don that he’d be a “prize pig” for the new owners at McCann Erickson. Don's dislike for pork products having been established, his dislike for the new company is well ingrained. Don furthers the metaphor by describing the McCann Erickson shop as a “sausage factory.”

Entering Sterling Cooper, Don flashes back to his youth: Archie Whitman defies the other members of an agricultural cooperative after the price of wheat collapses.

For Don, the situation at Sterling Cooper directly relates watching his father’s struggles with the farm “co-op” from years earlier. As a child, Don seems to have linked the death of Archie Whitman (kicked by a horse) with his decision to give in and sell his at the deflated market rate rather than store it in a silo until the price came up. This would seem to inform Dick/Don’s subsequent efforts to, like Archie's proposed “silo,” avoid “relationships.” However, by episode’s end, Don, a smile on his face, seems to have overcome this as he surveys the new team working together.

Don informs Cooper about the sale and proposes that they buy Sterling Cooper themselves. Cooper resists at first, but then sketches out a potential scenario: Roger would have to be included because Lucky Strike is the agency's biggest account.

Continuing the motif, Bert complains to Don about being woken up for an “emergency” meeting at Sterling Cooper. When Bert expresses reluctance about buying the company back, a frustrated Don tells him to go “back to sleep.” There’s a glass of milk on Bert’s coffee table that’s echoed later when Carla gives the Draper children milk before being putting them to bed. There's clearly a link between Don's efforts to sell Bert on the idea of a new agency and Archie Whitman's attempts to bypass the agricultural co-op.

Don and Cooper reveal their plan to Roger, and Don apologizes to Roger for belittling his contributions to Sterling Cooper. Don learned from his Hilton experience that he isn't an account man, he says. Don's problem, Roger explains, is that he doesn't value relationships.

Before Bert and Don enter Roger’s office, he is on the phone (presumably with Jane) discussing the JFK assassination. There’s a subtle hint about conspiracy theories to come when Roger comments that some high government official (possibly J. Edgar Hoover) is upset that the assassination “happened on his watch.” When Bert and Don do bring up the McCann buyout, Roger echoes Hilton’s pork reference from earlier. He compares Don to “golden pork chop” under new corporate ownership.

The next day, Lane tells Roger, Don and Cooper that McCann is buying Sterling Cooper, but not PPL. Cooper names a buy-back price, but Lane says that McCann offered more.

A lawyer describes for Betty and Henry the difficulty she would have obtaining a New York divorce. "That's why people go to Reno," he says. A Nevada divorce would require Don's consent, but little else. Henry asks Betty not to request a financial settlement. "I don't want you owing him anything," he says.

There’s an interesting bit of dialog linking the action at Sterling Cooper with that at the lawyer’s office visited by Betty and Henry. Just after Roger, Don and Bert discuss why they no longer want to be compelled to join McCann Erickson, the lawyer in the next scene is pointedly discussing “grounds for divorce.” Betty, who wants to leave Don, is wearing a grey suit. In an earlier scene with Don, while informing him of her desire to leave, she is wearing a grey turtleneck. This is not unlike the turtlenecks Duck was wearing when trying to woo Pete and Peggy. The scene at the lawyer's office also echoes the clandestine meetings Duck arranged for Pete and Peggy. For Betty, the idea of getting a “Reno divorce” must seem “tawdry.”

Don has another flashback: Archie, drunk, tells Abigail that he will sell his wheat himself. He heads to the stable. A young Dick Whitman watches as Archie's horse kicks him in the face and kills him.

The Whitman money is kept in a green jar while Don is pointedly shown eating out of a blue container. This is consistent with Season Three's use of green to symbolize a yearning for change (as with Miss Farrell’s maypole dance) while blue represents the status quo. In this case, IF the Whitman’s had more reserve money, Archie wouldn’t have been forced to sell his wheat. In effect, the pragmatic need to put food on the table (blue) outweighed Archie’s desire for something more (green). Furthermore, Abigail is wearing BOTH green and blue. This corresponds to the two paths which have been presented to the characters in Season 3.

"It could be done," Lane says of the scheme to start a new agency, but they'd need Lucky Strike, plus additional accounts for cash flow. A telegram sent that day (Friday) wouldn't be read in London until Monday, giving them the weekend to secure accounts, assemble a skeleton staff and spirit away the necessary materials. "Well, gentlemen," Lane says with a smile. "I suppose you're fired."

Though it’s hard to make any predictions at this point, it would seem significant that the date of Friday the thirteenth is associated with the start of this new venture.

Don tells Peggy about the new agency and outlines what she must accomplish by Sunday evening. "You just assume I'll do whatever you say," Peggy responds. “I’m not gonna beg you,” Don says. "Beg me? You didn't even ask me," she says, declining the proposition.

As mentioned earlier, Peggy forces Don to “wake up” regarding his treatment of others in the office. This informs Don’s later decision to be part of team. Peggy’s remark about not wanting to let Don “kick” her around would seem related to Archie’s accident shown earlier.

Roger and Don visit Pete at home and offer him a role at the new agency. Roger admits that they need his accounts, but says that they also need his talent. "I want to hear it from him," says Pete, looking at Don. "You've been ahead on a lot of things," Don says. "Aeronautics, teenagers, the Negro market. We need you to keep us looking forward." A deal is struck: Pete will be made a partner if he delivers $8 million in accounts by Sunday.

Pete scrambles to find his pajamas when Don and Roger pay a surprise visit to his apartment. Ostensibly, it’s to support his claim of being sick. But, the hurried manner in which Pete throws on his robe is consistent with someone gathering themselves after being thrust awake.

Over drinks, Don tells Roger about the divorce. "So it's true," Roger says. "Henry Francis." Stunned, Don presses Roger for details. ‚ "I thought you knew," Roger says. "I’m sorry I told you, believe me."

Don wakes Betty that night and asks who Henry Francis is. "You never forgave me," Don says. "Forgave what?" she replies. "That I've never been enough?" She won't get a nickel, Don threatens, and he'll take the kids. "I'm going to Reno, and you're going to consent," she says. "You're a whore, you know that?" Don replies, grabbing her nightgown roughly.


An offhand comment by Roger forces Don to “wake up” to what’s really been going on with Betty for the last few months. And when Don does confront Betty about Henry Francis, he gets her out of bed. Also, at one point during the argument, Baby Gene wakes up crying as well.

Meanwhile, Don and Betty tell their children that Don will be moving out of the house. Sally takes the news hard. "Nobody wants to do this," Don tells a tearful Bobby.

Don is wearing an outfit (sweater over a white collared shirt) as was Lee Harvey Oswald when gunned down by Jack Ruby. Don seems to take most of the blame in delivering a damaging blow to his family. They certainly downplay the fact that the divorce is Betty's idea. Don is also being significantly hurt in the process. For this exchange, Betty is wearing a blue sweater (her usual color). In this case, she is putting up a front of normality for the sake of the children.

At Roger's behest, Joan arrives at the office, having already hired movers. She indicates what needs transporting and where to locate it. Don arrives with Peggy, and asks Joan to find him an apartment.



As mentioned earlier, Joan is wearing a grey sweater in this scene. This is an unusual color for her would seem to be linked with Grey, Duck's agency. Again, by poaching employees and clients, they are, in effect, doing what Duck had been attempting to do all season long.

"How long do you think it will take us to be in a place like this again?" Roger asks Don as they depart Sterling Cooper. "I never saw myself working in a place like this," Don replies.

At one point as the group rob the office, a box labeled "Velvetta" is shown being carried away. This could be a sly reference to the book "Who Moved My Cheese" which discusses how business people need to embrace change and be prepared to move to where the job is. The McCann deal certainly moved their cheese and they are taking it back.

"We've been robbed!" shouts Don's secretary, Allison, on Monday morning. Saint John calls and fires Lane. "Very good. Happy Christmas." Lane replies.

Following Allison’s discovery, there’s a quick bit of dialog where she expresses disappointment over the fact that Don didn’t leave a note. One usually associates “notes” with suicides not robberies. So, in a way, Allison’s remark may be linked to Mad Men’s imagery of a man falling down the side of a building. Making the act, in this case, deliberate.

The phone rings in a suite at the Pierre hotel. "Good morning, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce," answers Joan.

As mentioned earlier, the shot of the principle employees for Sterling Cooper Draper Price interacting in their new "office" is similar to the one of the co-op members in the Whitman kitchen. However, Don now reacts positively rather than negatively to this sight. Also, the hotel office HQ is quite similar to how Duck has been doing business for Grey all season.

Later, Betty sits on a plane with baby Gene on her lap and Henry Francis beside her. Sally and Bobby watch television with Carla. Don exits a cab in front of a Greenwich Village apartment building. Suitcases in hand, he enters the building.

After the heavy scene with Don and the children and what must certainly seem to her as the “tawdry” manner in which she’s dissolving her marriage, Betty sits on a plane to Reno contemplating the larger journey ahead with a less than enthusiastic expression on her face . Conversely, Henry Francis, in the seat next to her, seems fast asleep. It’s been pointed out that Francis is really awake and looking down at something. However, that his posture could be taken as sleep bookends with the first shot of Don sleeping at the episode’s beginning.

Suitcases are commonly used in Mad Men to symbolize a character's life. So, it's significant that the last shot of Don shows him carrying a suitcase as he embarks on a new chapter in his own life.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Miss Charity Umar

Does anyone reply to these emails?????

Hello,
How are you hope fine,
I Want to introduce
my self to you before
i go further,
My Name is charity Umar
from southern part of sudan.
Please i want you to write
me back Because
i will like to have
an a good relationship
with you,so that
we will know each other
very well. so will
you write me back in my
email address
(miss.charityumar@gmx.com)
i have an important
discussion that
i will like to discuss
with you urgently,
so I am look forward
to hear from you soon!
Thanks and God bless,
Miss charity Umar.

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Monday, November 09, 2009

Rude Awakenings

Just posted this to Basket of Kisses. Full recap hopefully up later.

After the trauma of the JFK assassination last week, Mad Men’s finale takes a much lighter approach. Consistent with its title, Shut the Door. Have a Seat offered viewers a comfortable chair (or Wentworth) to cool down in after the wild ride of Season Three. That’s not to say important things didn’t happen. They did. And there’s still a lot to be resolved (Sal’s future, most notably). But more loose character threads were tied up than left dangling. In some cases, I felt these threads were a little too neatly mended as Don, Bert and Roger get “the band” back together. But, perhaps more on that another time.

A common element running throughout Shut the Door. Have a Seat was the idea of losing one’s blinders of blissful ignorance to the shocking light of reality. This is done by literally depicting many of the characters being jolted out of a deep sleep.

...Read More at Basket of Kisses.
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Saturday, November 07, 2009

Good Morning Pirate Radio

Because nothing says "anti-Establishment" like a six-figure ad campaign. Is it me or does it seem like these movies were separated at birth?

Pirate Radio:


Good Morning Vietnam:

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Friday, November 06, 2009

So Shall It Be Written, So Shall It Be Wrong

The results for The New Yorker "Cartoon Caption Contest (213)" demonstrate why I don't enter much anymore.



My submission was just as good as the "winners" (if I do say so myself):

"THIS time make sure to get the film rights and TV residuals."
Two of the finalists seem to miss the point that it's MOSES doing the writing:
  • "It needs a feisty female detective." - sucks

  • "They ignored your first ten. What makes you think you'll do any better with these?" - okay, I suppose

  • "Dear ... diary ... She's ... finally ... asleep.... Oops." - me too, zzzzz

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Thursday, November 05, 2009

No More "Politricks"

I'd vote for Ms. Russell in a second! BTW, I loved her in "His Girl Friday" and "Picnic."


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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Black and White (Mad Men 3.12)



The question of how Mad Men would depict the Kennedy assassination (if at all) this season was finally answered in the The Grown-ups. Echoing their own confusion, the characters watch the breaking news while suffering the poor reception of their black and white 1960’s era television sets. In Mad Men’s universe, the JFK assassination seems to be the point at which the old and new social paradigms established in the last eleven episodes finally and violently collide throwing characters into a state of flux that forces them (Betty and Pete in particular) to make major life decisions.

Appropriately, there are a number “tantrums” presented in The Grown-ups. Roger’s daughter Margaret, whose about to be married, has a few of them. One could argue that these tantrums are part of the “growing pains” the characters endure after the JFK assassination. Because, in a very real sense, that event did force a dramatically different, more mature perspective upon a blissfully complacent American society.

The Color Blue and The Gypsy and the Hobo depicted Betty as torn between choosing to remain in her established life of domestication (represented by blue) or moving into a new one without Don (represented by green). At the end of The Grown-ups, prompted by the events in Dallas, she seems to have opted for the latter. The last shot of Betty shows her shedding her blue scarf after telling Don that she no longer loves him. Likewise, Pete Campbell, who has shed his tie for a turtleneck, will finally decide to follow a path that radically deviates from the one he had been on.

Lane informs Pete that Ken has been appointed Senior Vice President in charge of Account Services. Although Pete makes his clients feel their needs are being met, "Mr. Cosgrove," Lane explains, "has the rare gift of making them feel as if they haven't any needs."

There seems to be a concerted effort in The Grown-ups to link Pete Campbell with that of Lee Harvey Oswald. Pete’s reaction to the coverage of Jack Ruby killing Oswald’s is quite interesting. By remarking to Trudy such things as “Why even have a trial?” or “Just throw him over to the mob,” Pete seems to empathize with Oswald.

When Pete is first shown, he’s sleeping on his office couch. Because the heat isn’t working, Pete (whose eyes are closed) is cold and clutches at the front of his overcoat. This initially creates the impression of a child. However, his posture also mimics Oswald’s from the famous still photo of the shooting. More significantly, his rifle (Meditations in an Emergency) is prominently placed in the background during the exchange with his secretary. Pete angrily points out to her that the hot cocoa she’s brought him is made with water rather than milk. This sort of distinction is echoed later when an anchorman from a real period news clip repeats Oswald’s vehement claims that a Marxist is totally different than a Communist.

Just before Pete has his fateful meeting with Pryce, there’s a shot of a man entering the office wearing a red plaid hunting cap. This man carries packages into the office. On the day of the assassination, Oswald entered the Texas School Book Depository carrying a package that he told co-workers contained “curtain rods.” The man with the red hat can clearly be seen behind Pete as he makes his way to Pryce’s office. Pete makes a passing, almost angry glance at Ken who, arguably has more of the "Kennedy charisma" which sets up the Pete as Oswald parallel.

Margaret, agitated by Jane's attempts to befriend her, calls Roger and demands that Jane not attend the wedding. Mona convinces Margaret it’s just pre-wedding jitters, and gets her daughter to accept Jane's presence.

This is one of the aforementioned “tantrums” Margaret displays in the episode. She is upset that the new earrings Roger’s wife Jane bought for the wedding are also blue (as in the wedding tradition of “something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue”). Having Margaret say, in effect, that something blue cannot be “new” is consistent with the color's use as a motif throughout all of Season 3.

Mona plays the role of “grown-up” by angrily telling Margaret “go to your room!”

Margaret also alludes to an Indian custom where women whose marriage plans fall through are set on fire. In The Arrangements, Peggy’s ad for a roommate elicits a crank call from a coworker posing as a prospect whose been disfigured in a fire. Later in the same episode, Sally watches a television news story about the Vietnamese monk who famously immolated himself in protest. So, it’s worth noting that that because Margaret’s marriage ceremony is subdued by it’s proximity to the JFK assassination, one could argue that, in a sense, she isn’t truly married and thus “burned” symbolically. This may also apply to Don, who has marriage problems of his own, and complains at one point how hot it's gotten in the Sterling Cooper offices.

Also note that Margaret is wearing a blue dress for this scene. She feels trapped by having to go to the wedding and only commits reluctantly after Roger’s threats. This is consistent with the idea of blue representing confining institutions, not new ones (the institution of marriage being the ultimate confining institution in Mad Men).

"You're screwing things up," Roger tells Jane, who insists that she is just trying to be nice to Margaret. Angry that Roger won't take her side, Jane locks herself in the bathroom.

Interestingly, Roger seems to have some sort of feline fetish. Jane is wearing an outfit with a leopard-skin collar as was Annabelle Mathis (an old flame of Roger’s) from The Gypsy and the Hobo. Roger will later refers to his ex-wife Mona as a “lioness.”

Trudy arrives home at midday to find Pete, who says that he got fired and is going to call Duck. "Wait, and see how it goes," Trudy counsels.

Just as with the first scene, Pete seems childlike. The manner in which Trudy takes his bowl away seems more like a mother and son than husband and wife.

Pete visits Harry. "There's no future for me here," Pete says.

Pete and Harry are so focused on their individual situations that they’re blinded to the assassination reports occurring right under their noses. It’s as if they suddenly have to confront the wave of change that has always been out there, but never really recognized.

Don, meanwhile, argues with Lane for rejecting a potential replacement for Sal because he is too expensive.

As noted earlier, Don complains about it being too hot. With his marriage in trouble, he may be symbolically feeling the heat of a male version of the Indian custom Margaret mentioned earlier.

Pete and Harry's conversation is interrupted when their coworkers burst in to watch news of the assassination attempt.

Again, much is made in The Grown-ups about the poor reception received in the black and white televisions watched by the characters. This is certainly the case in Harry’s office. Not only is the reception grainy, the verticle hold causes the picture to jump. This serves to underscore the confusion the characters are feeling by the events in Dallas.

Betty sits at home watching television. "They just said he died," she tells Carla. The two cry.

Sally acts like the "grown up" here and consoles Betty. The JFK assassination is an emotional event that serves as a catalyst for Betty's decision regarding her marriage.

Margaret's reaction, "It's ruined" (another tantrum), refers to how the assassination has destroyed her wedding plans. However, in a way, it also applies to loss of the of innocence percipitated in American society by the event.

"Did you give me a hickey?" Peggy asks Duck. "I don't think so," he replies before switching on the television. The two learn that Kennedy is dead.

When Peggy enters the room, she comments on the smoke. This may correspond to the complaints about it being too hot at Sterling Cooper or, like the Indian custom, foreshadow problems for the Peggy/Duck relationship. Peggy is wearing a green blouse. A picture hanging over the bed is of a green field of grass. This reinforces the idea of change being forced upon the characters.

Don arrives home and hugs Betty. He asks why Sally and Bobby are watching the coverage. "Am I supposed to keep it from them?" she says. "Take a pill and lie down," Don says. Everyone will be sad for a while, he tells the kids, but it will all be OK.

On the radio in the background can be heard part of a speech by Governor Rockefeller. This is a subtle reminder about Betty’s love interest Henry Francis who works for Rockefeller.

Pete and Trudy debate whether to attend the ceremony. "It's business," Trudy reasons, but Pete convinces her staying home would be best.

Trudy still wants Pete’s job to work out even though by Pete’s own admission to Harry it’s clear that he has no future with Sterling Cooper. Nonetheless, Trudy is still convinced that Pete should maintain his ties there. She is wearing a dark blue dress. This is consistent with Mad Men’s use of blue to symbolize individuals trying to fit into a traditional construct. Visible just over her shoulder is a green vase (Mad Men's color for change). The Grown-ups forces Trudy to confront that construct.

With many no-shows at Margaret's wedding reception, Roger encourages the guests to sit wherever they please. Henry Francis arrives late. Betty watches from across the room as he receives pecks on both cheeks from a young woman who addresses him as "Daddy."

In The Color Blue, Roger Sterling quotes his ex-wife Mona comparing Don and Betty to the figures on top of a traditional wedding cake. It’s perfectly consistent with Roger and Mona’s dry, cynical, and often spot-on sense of humor. But the observation also pointedly highlights the false premise upon which Don and Betty’s marriage has been built. From that standpoint, the lack of a wedding cake at Margaret’s reception in The Grown-ups is notable. In the context of the episode, this event is depicted as part of the turmoil resulting from the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination. However, that there is no cake for this wedding would seem consistent with how the last few episodes have significantly eroded the foundation of the Draper marriage. Because of Don’s lies coming to the surface and the strong emotions evoked in Betty over JFK’s death, the balustrade of their relationship no longer exists and they aren’t the same “couple” anymore.

Roger searches for Jane and finds her in the reception hall's kitchen watching the news. He wants her present for his toast, but she refuses to join him.

Although Pete and Trudy decide to skip the wedding, many of the other Sterling Cooper staff members attend. From the reception hall’s kitchen, they watch a news report of Oswald being led into the Dallas police station. If one accepts that Pete is a stand-in for Oswald, he certainly couldn’t be in both places at once. Oswald has clearly been smacked around by the police. This is not unlike Pete’s perception of his treatment at the hands of Sterling Cooper management. Among the chatter of wedding guests at their tables can distinctly be heard the comment “He wanted attention, he didn’t fit in.” This ostensibly refers to Oswald but could just as easily apply to Pete.

Betty whose playing at being Don's wife wears a light blue outfit. On her way out, she regards Don and Henry who happen to end up standing next to each other. Betty is clearly being given a choice between the two men. Don has a confident smirk on his face that indicates how clueless he is about Betty's internal struggle regarding her marriage.

Back at their apartment, Roger deposits a drunk Jane in bed and calls Joan. "I had to talk to you," he says. They discuss the assassination. "You're really upset," she says. "What's that about?" he asks. "Because there's nothing funny about this," she replies.

Joan, reminisces about "old" times with Roger on a blue phone.

At home the next morning, Betty screams when Kennedy’s alleged assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, is shot on live television. Don tries to put his arm around her.
"Leave me alone," she says, pushing it away. "What happened?" asks Sally. "Nothing," says Don.

Don is in the kitchen making a drink (an old fashioned?) when Oswald is shot. Now it is Don and Oswald seem linked in that Don is wearing the same sweater and shirt combination that Oswald wore when killed. Betty's later revelation that she doesn't love him anymore will certainly come as a surprise blow to Don.

Later, Betty wakes a napping Don. She’s going for a drive "to clear my head," she says.

Henry and Betty meet in a parking lot. He enters her car. "Where does your husband think you are?" he asks. "I don't care," she replies. "You don't have to answer me now, but I want to marry you," Henry tells her. The two kiss.

Betty is driving her father's black Lincoln. The same type of car that Kennedy was killed in. It seems significant that Henry pulls up in a white vehicle. One could argue that the shot of the black and white cars side-by-side parallels the characters watching the history unfold on black and white TV sets. White is also the color of the car in the Aqua Net ad featuring passengers in a convertible similar to the Kennedy death car. Thus, both cars have a connnection to the assassination.

"Why even have a trial?" asks Pete as he and Trudy view a slow-motion replay of the Oswald shooting. "Just throw him over to the mob." Sterling Cooper's management doesn't care about Pete, Trudy says. His clients will follow him if he leaves the agency.

We last see Pete and Trudy in their apartment. Pete is wearing a turtle neck very similar to the one Duck wore during their brief lunch meeting from The Fog. This suggests that a bitter Pete has decided to join Duck. Also, after a news commentator has declared “Oswald dead,” Trudy suggests that Pete should gather his clients and take them to the new agency. Pete’s potential salvo against Sterling Cooper portends further disruptions in the Mad Men universe.

"I want to scream at you for ruining all this," Betty tells Don when she returns home. She's upset about the assassination, he responds. "I don't love you," she says. "I kissed you yesterday. I didn't feel a thing." She'll feel better tomorrow, Don says. "You can't even hear me right now," she says. "You're right," he replies, walking away.

Don, still wearing the same style of clothes as Oswald is further associated with the Kennedy assassination by Betty's remark blaming him for "ruining all this." Certainly, Oswald's actions contributed greatly to ruining America's innocence and forced it to "grow up." Note that Betty also uses the same word "ruin" that Margaret used to describe her wedding day plans.

As pointed out earlier, Betty very deliberately discards her blue scarf after her confrontation with Don as if to shed herself of a role she no longer desires to play.

The office is mostly dark when Don arrives. Only he and Peggy have come in. Peggy asks if Don wants to watch President Kennedy's funeral with her. He declines. Don walks into his office and pours a drink.

Don regards the photo of the white convertible in the Aqua Net ad. In the context of the scene, he and Peggy hope that the image of a moving convertible doesn't strike too familiar a cord with consumers when it airs. This is the same color as the car driven by Henry Francis. Thus, symbolically, Don is again being cast as Oswald while he regards the vehicle as did the shooter in the Texas School Book Depository. Pete is pitted against Ken and Don (though he doesn't know it yet) is being pitted against Henry Francis.

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Patsy

Posted this to Basket of Kisses yesterday. Hopefully, I'll have my complete re-cap up today.

The question of how Mad Men would depict the Kennedy assassination (if at all) was finally answered in the The Grown-ups. While I was only two in 1963, from what my parents have related to me over the years, the episode really captured the feel of those few dramatic days in November.

The scene where Don and Betty watch Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald on live television struck a particular cord with me. When my father saw it happen, he called out “They shot him!” to my mother who was in the kitchen (the reverse of Don and Betty). According to my mother, the exact quote was ”They shot the son-of-a-bitch” (but that’s a minor point).

Pete Campbell’s reaction to the event is quite interesting. By remarking to Trudy such things as “Why even have a trial?” or “Just throw him over to the mob,” Pete seems to empathize with Oswald. In fact, I detected a deliberate effort in The Grown-ups to link Pete Campbell’s story with that of Lee Harvey Oswald.

...Read more at Basket of Kisses.

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Saturday, October 31, 2009

"Aliens Aren't Scary, Dad"

When District 9 came out, I was geeked to see it opening weekend. My older daughters wanted to go but my wife was busy. So, finding a babysitter for my ten-year-old twins remained the only obstacle. Unsuccessful, I would not to be deterred. Why not just take them with me? Because of its "R" rating I was nervous that it might be too intense. Of course, they balked at any such notion. After some due diligence (don’t judge me), I determined that D9 earned its rating based on violent content. I (correctly, it turns out) assumed that the carnage was of the sci-fi/video game variety as opposed to the more visceral gore (pun intended) presented in the Hostel/Saw genre. Nonetheless, as the movie unfolded, I kept a close watch on their reaction (like I said, don’t judge me). Every fifteen minutes I’d ask if they were “doing okay.” Each time, they assured me that they were. After my fifth such inquiry, one of the twins looked up a bit irritated and whispered, “Aliens aren’t scary dad…sheesh.”

And they really weren’t scared. People and “prawns” were getting blasted right and left. Yet my youngest kids were unmoved (my oldest for too, for that matter). My guess is that the subject matter seemed so far removed from their own reality that it didn’t have the desired effect. That got me to thinking about what scared me as a child. As laid out in the pages of Famous Monsters of Filmland, the horror icons of my youth in the late '60s and early '70s were represented by Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolfman (both Lon Chaney Jr AND Oliver Reed) or the creature from the Black Lagoon. In their day, I suppose they had scared a lot of adults. But as a ten-year-old they left me unfazed. In fact, I thought they were kinda cool. As it turns out, MY kids think that the title character in Ridley Scott’s Alien is kinda cool too.

So WHAT did frighten me as a kid? Here’s a list of "scary" moments that stayed with me for a LONG time. The employment of a naturalistic approach seems to be a common thread running through all of these examples and may illuminate my child’s comment.

Read the full post at The House Next Door.
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Friday, October 30, 2009

Food, Glorious Food

One of the major motifs used in The Gypsy and the Hobo is food.

It’s introduced by former (and potential) Sterling Cooper client Annabelle Mathis of Caldecott Farms. Her company manufactures dog food out of horse meat. Caldecott Farms is trying to overcome negative public opinion after news of their product’s main ingredient becomes widely known. Mathis is mystified by that reaction because, as she points out, everyone eats something.

In Guy Walks Into An Advertising Agency, Don compared his business philosophy to a snake that can only eat “one meal at a time.” Similarly, from an emotional standpoint, Don’s approach to relationships is like that of a hobo who moves from place to place (meal to meal) without leaving any permanent roots. These last few episodes have depicted his struggle between the concept of freedom represented by Suzanne versus the satisfaction inherent in the more firmly grounded relationships Betty and the kids provide. The Gypsy and the Hobo further establishes a symbolic connection between eating and the search for personal fulfillment through countless references to meals.

Read the full post at Basket of Kisses.
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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Bewitched, Bothered and BAM'D

Melissa Joan Hart tries to get sassy with Jimmy Kimmel. This is why cowgirls should never draw on hired guns.


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Begging the Question

Here's a promotional survey I saw the other day in Facebook for the soon to be released The Fourth Kind. It asks "Do you believe in alien encounters?"

The choices are:
  • Yes, I believe
  • I have seen one,
  • Not sure
I need a fourth option: NO!


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Monday, October 26, 2009

Truth in Labeling (Mad Men 3.11)

Like many Mad Men episodes, The Gypsy and the Hobo derives its title from a minor plot point. In this case, it refers to the costumes Sally and Bobby wear for Halloween. However, in a broader context it’s arguably a metaphor for three relationships: Betty/Don, Annabelle/Roger, and Greg/Joan. In each case, the “gypsy” is a woman who selects a partner based on pragmatic considerations as much as or more than emotional ones. The male, like a “hobo,” wanders a seemingly aimless route seeking some undefined goal just around the next corner.

In Guy Walks Into An Advertising Agency, Don compared his business philosophy to a snake that can only eat "one meal at a time." Similarly, from an emotional standpoint, Don's approach to relationships is like that of an hobo who moves from place to place (meal to meal) mostly without leaving any permanent roots. These last few episodes have depicted his struggle between the concept of freedom represented by Suzanne versus the satisfaction inherent in the more firmly grounded relationships Betty and the kids provide. The Gypsy and the Hobo further establishes a symbolic connection between eating and the search for personal fulfillment through countless references to eating.

Betty and the kids are preparing to leave town for a week. She asks Don for some additional cash. He tells her to swing by the bank. "You have no more money?" Betty asks. Don pecks her on the cheek without responding.

Betty, wearing a blue overcoat, is packing to leave Don. However, he thinks that she is going away for a week to settle some of her late father's affairs. In Mad Men, blue generally represents adherence by the characters to established institutions while green symbolizes breaking free of those institutions. The final scene of The Color Blue shows Betty (who has discovered Don’s secret identity) with an expression indicating that she has emotionally (if not actually) left Don. At that moment, her blue and green dress suggests that she’s in a state of flux. The blue overcoat, she wears, instead of her usual blue blouse, at the start of The Gypsy and the Hobo seems more of an affectation to maintain the illusion for Don that she’s still with him.

Betty opens a drawer, flashing back to the dramatic moment from The Color Blue when she found Don’s secret shoebox of paperwork. She will be shown opening drawers three times in this episode.

Don, who is still wearing his "disguise," discusses Halloween costumes with Sally and Bobby. Sally says that wants to dress up as Minnie Mouse while Bobby wants to be an astronaut. They will both be other things this year.

Roger, Don, and Cooper meet with Annabelle Mathis – an old flame of Roger’s. Annabel’s company, Caldecott Farms, is losing market share because consumers have learned its dog food contains horse meat. She's challenging the big ad agencies to reverse public opinion. The ground rules: She won't change the recipe, or the product's name.

Annabelle tells Roger, Don and Bert that she got the company according to her father's will (much like Gene's will that favors Betty over William). Mathis comments that her late husband died of lung cancer followed by a cut to Don lighting a cigarette.

The food motif present throughout the episode is introduced in this scene.

It’s because of the film The Misfits that the public becomes aware of Caldecott Farm’s main ingredient for their dog food. In that film, the male characters are cowboys (who round up horses for a dog food manufacturer) and lead aimless lives (hobos) and women seeking out husbands for practical reasons (gypsies).

Mathis is mystified at how consumers reacted because, as she points out, everyone eats something. People just call it by a different name. Cow becomes “beef,” chicken becomes “poultry.” She is interrupted after saying “pig.” This seems to be a reference to Don who, who, like the foods Mathis lists, has two names and has been established as having a dislike for pork. The former Dick Whitman will later be frustrated by Annabelle’s reluctance to change the name of her product.

"What are you doing here?" Roger later asks Annabelle, a recent widow. Her business needs help, she explains, and she wanted to see him. The two arrange to have dinner.

That Roger and Annabelle arrange to meet for dinner continues the food motif mentioned earlier.

At her apartment that night, Suzanne laments that she and Don can't dine in public, but then backpedals: "I swear, I'm not talking about our future," she says, though she adds that whether she pictures herself in Don’s life or not, she sees an unhappy man. "I’m happy now," he replies.

Suzanne’s planned dinner for Don is spaghetti, butter cream, and cheese. Note that it doesn’t include meat (horse or otherwise). This would be consistent with Suzanne’s more modern sensibilities.

Interestingly, unlike Betty, Annabelle, and Joan, Suzanne is the only female character who selects a partner based primarily on the emotional connection she has with that person rather than because of pragmatic considerations for the “future.”

Joan coaches Greg for a psychiatry residency interview. He reveals a family secret -- that his father underwent psychiatric treatment -- and she encourages him to be as open with the interviewer as he was with her.

Greg practices interview techniques with Joan. In a way, this is similar to a scene from Souvenir showing Don and Betty role-playing while in Rome. Also, just as Betty discovered Don’s secret in The Color Blue, Greg reveals his own family secret to Joan (his father's mental illness).

Joan calls Roger for help finding work. "I like that you thought of me," he says.

While trying to reclaim the past, Joan calls Roger on a blue phone.

At Gene's house with their father's lawyer, Milton, William and Betty discuss selling the property. "This is ugly," William declares when told that his proposal to purchase Betty's share at a discount violates the terms of Gene's will.

Betty, seeking Milton's advice in private, describes Don's secret past. Divorce could leave her broke, Milton explains, and she could lose custody of the children. "It's a lie so big," Betty argues. After getting her to agree that Don is a good provider and wouldn’t harm her, Milton counsels Betty to try to salvage her marriage.

Again, as with Annabelle’s father’s will, Gene has written a will which is favorable to Betty. Continuing the food motif, William announces that Judy has fixed lunch. Visible on the wall is a mounted fish.

Behind a desk, Betty opens a drawer for the second time. On the desks sits a lamp with a green shade that is consistent with Betty’s desire for change.

The lawyer’s clear advice to Betty is that she should try to make her marriage to Don work for practical, not emotional reasons.

Over dinner, Annabelle reminisces about being young and in Paris with Roger, who reminds her that she dumped him for someone her father found more suitable. Roger, she counters, was adrift, walking around "like you were hoping to be a character in somebody else's novel." The two drink heavily, but when Annabelle says that she knows Roger still wants her, he replies, "So what? I'm married," and sends her away.

During this scene, Annabelle and Roger refer to Casablanca. In that movie, Rick has lead a nomadic sort of life forming no permanent affiliations. Elsa, like Betty, chooses to a partner for reasons other than love. Annabelle's husband was selected as someone who could run her father's dog food business.

Roger comments that he is on drink “number three.” This could also be a reference to the fact that he has had three loves: Annabelle, Mona and Jane.

They discuss enjoying Paris and “eating at cemeteries” while people were “jumping out of windows.” Annabelle will later comment that she “missed the window” between Roger’s two marriages. Roger is described as having hobo-like qualities as he seemed to drift aimlessly while trying to find himself. He also pointedly remarks that he never wanted her affections to be based on pity. Don will later regain Betty's affection based mostly on her pity for him.

Before Roger rebukes Annabelle’s sexual overture, there is a quick exchange about peanut butter (food). Also note that by not succumbing to his client Annabelle, Roger is guilty of the same thing he fired Sal for (not succumbing to client Lee Garner Jr).

At their apartment, Greg sulks to Joan because his interview went poorly. Referring to his surgery career, he says that she doesn't know what it's like "to want something your whole life" and not get it. Joan bashes his head with a vase.

The idea of food is again presented in this scene. When Joan returns home after Greg has bombed his interview, their refrigerator is placed at the center of the shot. Also, the voice of famous chef Julia Child can be distinctly heard on the television set Greg is watching (moments before Joan smashes a vase on his head).

Also, as with the lawn mower in Guy Walks Into An Ad Agency, the Lee Garner Jr character in Wee Small Hours, and the car scene Paul stages in The Color Blue, what may arguably be this week’s JFK assassination reference occurs when Joan crashes the vase containing red roses on the back of Greg’s head. After which Greg ironically makes his first (and last) psychiatric diagnosis by proclaiming Joan to be "crazy."

Annabelle watches behind a two-way mirror as focus-group participants become incensed when told their pets are eating samples of Caldecott Farms dog food. "The name has been poisoned," Don says. She will find another agency to solve her problem, she declares.

Mathis arrives at the focus group wearing a coat that has a leopard skin collar.

Don and the others mention the fact that people in focus groups think they are describing something else (in this case their dogs) but are actually describing themselves. Thus, the costumes that Don and Betty later get their children to wear (a gypsy and a hobo) may similiarly be a reflection of how they see themselves.

Again, Don sees no trouble with changing the name of the dog food because it's “just a label on a can.” This can also be said of his name.

"Is this about last night?" Roger asks Annabelle later. He concedes that she broke his heart years ago. "Well it was a mistake," she says. "You were the one." "You weren't," he replies softly.

Annabelle and Roger have their tense conversation in the Sterling Cooper lunchroom. An open refrigerator can be seen in the background.

Suzanne remains in the car when Don stops at his house before their trip.

Note that the location Suzanne had selected for their ill-fated trip is Norwich. This is more serendipity than design, but it’s worth pointing out in an episode laden with food references that Norwich Pharmaceuticals is the company that introduced Pepto Bismol to the world in 1919.

Discovering that Betty and the kids have returned early, he says that he left his hat in the car. "Get it later," says Betty.

Don reaches into his pocket and, for a instant, his keys can be heard jingling. This may be a sublte way to show that he is still trying to guard his secrets.

Betty orders Don to open his desk drawer. He refuses. "You know I know what's in there," she says, opening the drawer.

This is the third time Betty opens a drawer.

Unsteady, Don says that he needs a drink. Regaining some of his composure, he asks quietly, "Where do you want me to start?"

Don explains how he assumed the real Donald Draper’s identity following an accident during the Korean War. "I found out it was easier to be him than to start over," he says.

Looking at photos, Don tells Betty about his prostitute mother; his father, Archibald Whitman; and Archibald's wife, Abigail, who raised him. Don sobs over his half-brother Adam’s suicide. "I turned him away," he says. "He just wanted to be part of my life and I couldn't risk all of this."

Don and Betty's dramatic final confrontation very much incorporates a food motif. Don initially tells Betty that he only came home to "feed the dog." He tries to leave by making up imaginary "dinner" plans with a client. More pointedly, the picture of Don's deceased half-brother shows Adam sitting on a horse. In effect, an emotional Don recoils at the realization that he sacrificed Adam to maintain a manufactured life in the same way that the protesters of Caldecott Farms recoil at their use of horse meat to manufacture dog food.

Don and Betty sit at the kitchen table next to a sewing machine. Visible beneath the sewing machine are pieces of blue and green fabric. In a sense, the couple is trying to reconcile (patch together) the past and the future nature of their relationship.

Baby Gene cries and Betty reports that he has kicked off blanket. Likewise, the secret Don was hiding has been kicked away presenting the couple with a fresh start (birth) for their marriage. As mentioned earlier, Betty buys into Don’s sincere sales pitch very much out of her sympathy (pity) for his story.

Over at Joan's apartment, Greg returns with flowers, an apology for "feeling sorry for myself," and a surprise announcement: He's joined the army. He'll be able to work as a surgeon, and Joan won't have to return to work.

When Greg announces that he’s enlisted in the service, Joan is setting the dinner table. Greg tells her that they won’t have to eat soup any longer. Joan seems genuinely happy at the news. Given their history (Greg once raped her), this would suggest that Joan’s commitment to the relationship is not based on love. It also invokes a third film: 1970's M*A*S*H. A dark comedy about wartime surgeons.

Outside Don's house, Suzanne exits the car and walks away.

Like Betty earlier, Suzanne is now leaving Don while carrying a suitcase.

Don brushes his teeth, lost in thought while in front of a mirror reminiscent of the two-way mirror used for the dog food focus group. His five o’clock shadow resembles the beard Bobby will color on for his hobo costume.

Don calls Suzanne from his office the next morning to say that he can't see her anymore. "Are you okay?" she asks. "Only you would ask about me right now," he says.

The next morning, Don is again shown looking in a mirror. Also, the headboard of the Draper bedroom looks less blue and more greenish. This perhaps reflects the change which has taken place in their relationship after Don’s confession.

When Don comes into the kitchen, Baby Gene is sitting on the same table where the Draper children eat breakfast. This again equates personal fulfillment (a child) with meals. Both Don and Betty wear outfits that are black with white highlights. For the first time in a while, they are both on the same page regarding the state of their marriage.

Don surprises his secretary Allison by showing up at Sterling Cooper the next day. She asks about scheduling a meeting with "United Fruit" just he calls Suzanne to break off their relationship. Notably absent from Don's desk as he puts a to halt his new life with Suzanne is the green colored paper weight that had been there for the last few episodes. Suzanne’s wall is adorned with a piece of art that shows a rooster looking up at the sun. This is consistent with Suzanne’s association with the sun from previous episodes. Likewise, the depiction of Don as a rooster is appropriate for his personality. Note that only when the relationship is over does Suzanne express concern for more practical matters like her teaching position. Again, this distinguishes her from the other women in the episode.

That evening Don and Betty take the kids trick-or-treating. "Look at this," says Carlton, Francine's husband, to Sally and Bobby. "We've got a gypsy and a hobo."

Glancing up at Don, he asks, "And who are you supposed to be?"

Betty offers Don something to eat and he takes it. Ultimately, it is Betty's offer of food, not Suzanne’s, which Don is shown accepting. This choice does not seem a completely satisfying one. While trick-or-treating with the kids, Don is jokingly asked by Carlton who he's "supposed to be." In a way, Betty and Don are themselves disguised as a happy couple.

Don’s reaction shows that the remark hit too close to home while the song "Where is Love" from Oliver!, a musical about another hungry orphan, plays in the background.

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Master of Their Domains

I haven't seen Saw VI and doubt I ever will (either in the theatre or on DVD). The movies don't interest me all that much.

That said, I wondered just how many sequels were being planned for the series. So, for laughs, I "whois'd" some "saw" domains.

Lions Gate Entertainment has only grabbed one more; saw7film.com and saw7movie.com (which is supposed to start production in January 2010). Of course, this doesn't preclude them going after the higher numbered ones if they want to.
  • Lions Gate Entertainment (saw7film.com/saw7movie.com)

  • CEMAL DIKER (saw8film.com/saw8movie.com)

  • CEMAL DIKER (saw9film.com/saw9movie.com)

  • Maciej Schwager (saw10film.com)

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Death By Chocolate

For $120.00 (plus shipping), you too could have a genuine chocolate skull for your next Halloween event.

From The Chocoloate Skull website:

Doesn't this skull made from a blend of Cuban and Mexican Dark Chocolate look delicious? Oh it is, but trust us, you'll probably want to share it with some friends; This is a 2.5 kilo, life sized, solid cast of an ACTUAL HUMAN SKULL!

It doesn't say WHOSE skull they used.


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Think Fast!

Are these posters hanging in Downtown Detroit a) props from the new "Red Dawn" movie that's currently in production or b) left over from the Obama campaign?


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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Theeme Songs

TMZ reports that in 2005, Richard Heene (the father of "Balloon Boy") came up with theme songs for TWO proposed television shows: "The Psyience Detective" and "The Contractor."

Not sure if you need a psyience detective or a contractor? Well, make up your mind, he's got to adjust the chair.


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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Group Therapy (Mad Men 3.10)

As has been mentioned in previous posts, a motif that has been used throughout Mad Mens third season is the juxtaposition of the colors blue and green. Blue has symbolized a worldview that, in varying degrees, has a confining affect on those characters conforming to it (the blue uniform on the stewardess in Out of Town, Don’s blue Cadillac, the blue background in the anachronistic film clip from Bye Bye Birdie). Meanwhile, the depiction of a new “anti-establishment” societal paradigm gradually taking hold in the Mad Men universe is represented by deliberate placement of the color green (the grass in the Maypole dance at the end of Love Among the Ruins, Miss Farrell’s sweater, the shirt on one of the anti-social grifters in 723).

In The Color Blue, this use of color is explicitly suggested by the title. While Betty’s storyline starts out slowly, when she discovers Don’s alternate identity, her character faces what is arguably the most dramatic conflict of the episode. At the end, she will literally be wearing both blue and green as she contemplates her next move.

Don arrives early for dinner one evening but informs Betty that he won't be spending the night. "Betts, I don't have a choice," he says. "I see how hard you're working," she replies.

In the first of many uses of the color blue, Carla and Betty both wear blue outfits. Betty and Don discuss an upcoming Halloween masquerade party. This foreshadows Betty’s later discovery of Don’s “disguise.”

At various points in The Color Blue, Betty is shown reading Mary McCarthy's 1963 novel, The Group. When Betty is initially shown reading the book, she is the tub surrounded by the blue tiles of her bathroom wall (a baptism perhaps?).

From Amazon.com:

Mary McCarthy's most celebrated novel portrays the lives, and aspirations of eight Vassar graduates. "The group" meet in New York following commencement to attend the wedding of one of their members and reconvene seven years later at her funeral. The woman are complicated, compelling, vivid, and, above all, determined not to become stuffy and frightened like "Mother and Dad" but to lead fulfilling, emancipated lives. "

This would seem to correlate with two threads developed in the episode.

The motif of school ties (particularly female), like those of the women in the novel, comes up a number of times in the episode. Don asks Sally about school but not Bobby. Lane Pryce comments that Americans never ask him where he went to school.

But much more significantly, Betty's reading of the novel parallels her discovery of Don's secret life. This will be a watershed moment in Betty's own quest (conscious or not) for personal emancipation.

Don drives to Miss Farrell's apartment. "I want you to spend the whole night," she whispers. In bed, she describes a student who asked if everyone sees the color blue the same way. "People may see things differently," Don says, "but they don't really want to."

When he greets Miss Farrell, Don notices that she has a star shaped sticker adhered to her cheek from grading school work. This continues the association developed in Wee Small Hours between Miss Farrell and the sun. Don has given Conrad Hilton’s people Farrell’s phone number. When Farrell informs Don that someone from Hilton’s office had called, she adds that Hilton was probably “in the air” at that moment. This ostensibly refers to the fact that Hilton’s airplane has taken off. But, as with Miss Farrell and the sun, it continues the use of a metaphor also established in Wee Small Hours comparing Hilton to the moon.

Don and Suzanne’s discussion about seeing the same color “differently” will literally be demonstrated later by the green and blue dress Betty wears to the Sterling Cooper party.

In his office the next day, Don objects that there's "too much story" in a television commercial Paul proposes. Peggy improvises a shorter narrative that Don approves.

The scene from Farrell’s bedroom cuts directly to an exterior of the Sterling Cooper office building which is dominated by a blue hue. Don enters eating what is presumably datenut bread given to him by Miss Farrell which he carries in a blue napkin.

The Aquanet commercial Paul demonstrates for Don shows two couples. One of the women is jealous of the how firmly the other woman’s hair is held by Aquanet. In a way, this applies to Betty’s attitude when she later discovers another “Mrs. Draper.” While talking about the ad, Peggy suggests a visual where a transparent kerchief is pulled across a can of Aquanet. This may be foreshadowing Betty pulling the veil of mystery away from Don’s carefully crafted façade.

Another campaign Peggy and Paul work on in The Color Blue is for Western Union. They are trying to sell the merits of an outdated product that is losing business to the modern and more personal telephone technology. This corresponds to the societal shift shown taking place from a controlled, formal worldview (telegram) to a more relaxed, less formal paradigm (telephone).

Peggy makes a point of describing the telephone as a “cheap” mode of communication.

Lane arrives with a check: Don's signing bonus. A rare smile from Don amuses Lane, who says that Don will be the final speaker at the upcoming Sterling Cooper anniversary party. He should be prepared for "prime time."

Interestingly, the signing bonus Don gets from Lane is five thousand dollars. In a first season episode aptly titled 5G, Don’s brother Adam Whitman, comes looking for Don. Adam stays in room 5G of a hotel. Also, Don brushes Adam off by giving him five thousand dollars. The rebuke from Don ultimately leads to Adam committing suicide. The guilt Don feels over this certainly ties in later to the kindness he shows toward Suzanne Farrell’s brother Danny.

In Lane's office, Rebecca weeps, ostensibly over a cabbie cheating her, but really because she remains homesick for London. "You like it here," she accuses. "The smells and the noise and the criminals at every level."

Mrs. Pryce is wearing a blue dress when she talks to her husband. She complains about “fat ladies in furs.” Roger will remind Bert Cooper in the next scene how he discovered Don selling fur coats.

That night, Don and Miss Farrell make love but are interrupted by the arrival of her brother, Danny. Don dresses to leave, but Miss Farrell wants the two to meet. Danny says he's lost his job because he has epileptic seizures. Don wishes Danny well, but Danny calls him arrogant after he departs.

When Miss Farrell first sees her brother Danny (who turns out to be an epileptic), she looks at a bandage on his head and asks “is it bad under there.” In a symbolic sense, Miss Farrell is asking for an update on Danny’s condition. Again, Danny reminds Don of his brother Adam Whitman (who Don did not treat particularly well.)

The next day, Roger and Cooper reminisce about their careers. Neither is looking forward to their company's fortieth-anniversary party. Roger loathes the thought of watching Don achieve an award "for his humanity." Likening the event to a funeral, Cooper says he won't attend.

Don and Roger, reminisce about the Sterling Cooper "class" of '33 (a subtle school reference) and point out a past female employee ("remember her?"). Continuing the phone motif used throughout The Color Blue, the woman in the photograph is holding an old fashioned telephone.

That night, the Drapers' phone rings. Sally answers, but no one responds.

While it’s never made clear who phoned, Don and Betty both think that the call came from the respective individuals with which they have an extramarital relationship. As characterized by Peggy in a different context, this would certainly represent a “cheap” use of a phone (or “tawdry” as Betty may say).

Paul and Peggy work late in their offices on a concept for Western Union: When is a telegram more appropriate than a phone call? Paul drinks steadily as he works.

The distinction between Paul and Peggy in terms of how they work is demonstrated clearly here. Peggy’s approach to creativity seems more focused and direct than Paul’s (who doodles, listens to jazz, drinks liquor and, at one point, even masturbates behind his desk). Peggy uses a Dictaphone to record her thoughts which, in a sense, is ironic as that is the sort of technology which Western Union is trying fighting against. The difference, however, is that Peggy's Dictaphone leaves a “permanent record.” This idea will play into the solution Peggy, Paul and Don arrive at for the Western Union campaign.

At home, Don locks some cash in his desk drawer. Hearing baby Gene cry, he puts the drawer's key in his bathrobe pocket.

Don is wearing a blue robe and pajamas when he goes through his drawer. The baby crying distracts him. In Mad Men, Baby Gene represents the new world which has replaced the old one symbolized by Betty’s deceased father Gene. So, it’s worth mentioning that Baby Gene’s distraction causes Don to leave the key in his robe pocket. This leads to Betty's discovery of Don’s secret (which leads to Betty’s final transformation).

Back at Sterling Cooper, Paul has a sudden brainstorm about Western Union while chatting with a custodian. Paul celebrates with another drink.

Note that Paul’s muse, the custodian, is carrying fluorescent light bulbs when Paul gets his brainstorm. The effect is much like the sterotype of a person with a cartoon lightbulb over their head when they get an "idea." Also, that the custodian’s name is “Achilles” may be related to Paul’s “Achilles’ Heel.” In this case, it would be his lack of focus which causes him to neglect recording his thoughts (unlike Peggy).

The next morning, Miss Farrell briefly boards Don's train. He asks if she called his house, and apologizes when she says no. "I don't care about your marriage, or your work, or any of that," she says. "As long as I know you're with me." She has found her bother a job at a VA hospital in Massachusetts, she adds. He'll be gone by evening.

Noteworthy in this scene is the view from the train window. With the arrival of autumn, the leaves on the trees whizzing past are turning yellow. Since green is Miss Farrell’s color, it may suggest that Don and Miss Farrell’s relationship is starting to reach its end (though they don’t realize it yet).

At the office, Lois wakes up Paul, who becomes frantic upon realizing that he neglected to write down his brainstorm.

As usual, another Mad Men character under emotional stress is found unconscious on a couch. As Paul panics looking for his "brainstorm," the sound of office telephones ringing can be distinctly heard in the background. This is a subtle reminder of Western Union's dilemma. It also supports the symbolic use of the telephone as the deliverer of bad news in The Color Blue.

Lane's London bosses call. They're flying over for the party -- and, by the way, Sterling Cooper is for sale. Cooper's attendance is crucial, Saint John Powell says, "to encourage interest."

Once again an unexpected phone call leads to tension. As PPL, Sterling Cooper’s parent company, represents an even older version of the “establishment,” the color scheme of their London office is dominated by a dark bluish color scheme.

Just before the call, Lane is practicing his speech for the party. His remarks continue the school motif with a reference to American’s “teaching” the world about business.

Betty, doing laundry, discovers Don's key. Opening his drawer, she sees his money stash, along with the cardboard box containing Whitman family photos, the army dog tags of Richard Whitman's and the real Don Draper, the deed to Anna Draper's house, and the divorce decree dissolving her marriage to Don.

When Henry Francis made his unexpected visit in Wee Small Hours, Betty was also carrying around a laundry basket. On that occasion, she was dealing with her own "dirty laundry." With the Don’s robe prominently shown on top of the pile, now she is dealing with Don’s. Every time Betty handles the robe, a distinct “ting” sound can be heard. Of course, this creates suspense as the audience wonders when Betty will actually find the key. But the sound also ties in nicely with the longer “tings” made by the various phones ringing throughout the episode.

That evening, Danny is still present when Don arrives at Miss Farrell's. She plans to drive Danny to Massachusetts, but Don, concerned about her returning alone late at night, says he will.

On their drive, Danny tells Don he has no intention of taking yet another menial job because just people don't understand epilepsy. Don pulls to the side of the road, offers Danny money and his business card, and lets him out of the car.

That the Mad Men universe has undergone a shift is demonstrated further in this scene. Don and Danny discuss how Julius Caesar, like Danny, also suffered from epilepsy. The fall of Rome has been used as an allegory for 1960's society in season three. Before his death, Betty’s father Gene was linked with the Roman Empire. However, Gene had money and a big car. The Roman Empire is now associated with Danny who is continually broke and has no means of transportation.

At two in the morning, Betty returns the box to the drawer, places the key in Don's bathrobe, and goes to bed.

While when she first discovers Don’s secret, Betty looks as though she may swoon (perhaps onto the Wentworth purchased in 723). However, as the episode unfolds, the shock has a cathartic effect on Betty who seems to going through the final stages of a transformation that begin earlier in the season.

Before meeting with Don about Western Union, Paul confesses to Peggy that he had "something incredible" but can't remember it. He recalls a Chinese proverb: "The faintest ink is better than the best memory."

Peggy's ideas don't impress Don, who turns to Paul. Peggy encourages Paul to admit that he lost his idea. Don commiserates. Peggy gets Paul to repeat the proverb. The key to their telegram pitch is in there somewhere, she says. Don agrees. "See, it all works out," he tells Paul.

The approach the three arrive at (inspired by Paul’s experience and Peggy's creativity) for Western Union is that a telegram provides a permanent record of an event that the more informal telephone cannot. It’s noteworthy that permanent records left in a box are the root cause of Don’s current trouble with Betty.

"Look how pretty mommy is," tux-clad Don tells Sally and Bobby as the Drapers leave for the party that evening.

Don calls Betty from while pulling a fresh shirt that the drycleaners wrapped with a blue ribbon. At home just before the party, Betty is alone and lost in thought while sitting on the outside edge of the bathtub (where she was first shown reading the novel). The patterns on her dress consist of both green and blue. At that moment, the shot is lit in such a manner as to make the color green (Mad Men's color for change) seem to dominate. However, when Betty enters the bedroom seconds later and seen from Don's point of view, her dress appears more blue. In effect, the audience and Don (who doesn't realize that a change has occurred within Betty) see the same color differently.

Lane, stuck in traffic with Rebecca, tells her Sterling Cooper is being sold. She's delighted.

A blue neon sign is reflected onto the limousine window that the Pryce’s ride in. Rebecca’s happiness at Sterling Cooper's potential sale may not be as great if she realized that Lane probably won't be transferred back to London. In Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency, his new assignment was going to be India.

At the party, Roger introduces Don, alluding to his heroism in Korea and calling him a friend and "the man who will stand alongside me for the next forty years." To extended applause, Don kisses Betty and steps to the podium. "I'm very honored," he says.

As Betty regards Don, her expression is not enthusiastic at all. The shot is framed to show Don’s empty chair next to Betty as she is perhaps contemplating a future without him.


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