MAD MEN! Season 6, episodes 1-2, and 3.


Last week I was off my game, so this week you get double summary/analysis/repeated instructions for Pete to Shut. Up. My Big Picture interpretation of the series so far is that season 1-3 were Don Draper’s Ascension, and Seasons 4-6 would be his descent to god knows where….so I kind of hope seven will turn out to be a post apocalyptic Thunderdome. But let’s burn that bridge when we come to it! 

Episode 1-2! The Doorway

This did not need to be a two-hour premiere. I think Matt Weiner resented the amount of commercials and so pushed for 1:25 of content instead of the usual 54 minutes. There were a lot of commercials and most of them would never have made it off Peggy Olsen’s desk. I only got to watch it one and a half time so my observations are in the form of a list. 

Don Draper’s Silence: Anybody else notice he didn’t say a word to Megan in Hawaii? The first time we saw them get intimate, it was like he was mad at her; and clearly Megan still hardly knows Don at all if she thinks she’s introducing him to sex things he hasn’t tried before. 

The Drunk Soldier: ….I have no idea. This was practically the first guy who Don actually spoke to, there was supposed to be some profound war symbolism intrusion something? Maybe it was all to set us up for Megan’s slideshow to be projected on The Carousel. Maybe the drunk soldier guy has Don’s lighter so he’ll steal Don Draper’s identity all over again to get out of Vietnam. Sidenote: Is Joan’s RapistExHusband dead somewhere, please? 

Dante’s Inferno: The season with Grandpa Gene was The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, so for this one we should all keep an eye out for Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Anger, Heresy, Violence, Fraud and Treachery. . .just like every other season of Mad Men. Here’s hoping Violence is the one where Pete finally falls out a window.

Somebody is definitely falling out a window: ALL THE FORESHADOWING! From the first moments of the opening credits lo these many years ago, to all the season promos with people standing looking out windows, to all the references to how high the building is and how flimsy the glass is…. Somebody is definitely falling out a window. I really hope it’s Pete. It might also be Roger. 

Don’s New Advertising Strategy: You know, how you go to the beach and take off all your clothes and drown in the ocean? You know? Totally well-adjusted and normal and everything? 

Sally Draper. Sally Draper, you are my everything. Mostly because Kiernan Shipka is amazing. I think the whole plot with Sally’s new BFF, Sandy the Violin Prodigy, was a stand-in for the rebellion Weiner really wanted to give Sally, but couldn’t because it would boil over into Don’s life too much if his daughter went missing. I also think he just wanted us to get a good look at These Kids Today and the contrast between Timeless Suburb Life and Big Time Corporate life, which is these grimy gross kids squatting on the Bowery.

Oh, and HOLY EFFING GOD, the Betty-in-bed-with-Henry-being-ghoulish moment! I have always liked Betty, liked her twistedness and her childishness and her sadness, but I think Weiner wanted to push her somewhere else and I don’t think it’s a successful or wisely chosen place. But maybe the whole “do you want to rape my daughter’s 15-year-old friend” gesture to “spice things up” followed by a real encounter with people rejecting the status quo helped Betty see that a level of subversion she’s more comfortable with is being a brunette instead of a blonde. Now she’s truly a Jackie and not a Marilyn as befits a political trophy, instead of a corporate one. 

Stan and Peggy are conference-call-pen-pals: This might have been my favorite moment – it was absolutely precious and satisfying to see that not only did Peggy win Stan’s respect by being a badass lo these many episodes ago, but they’re still keeping in touch. I also like how hard she is on her staff, and it’s both pleasing and sad to see how much of Don’s MO she internalized. I have no use for Abe or his beard. 

Don’s Neighbor Bromance: Maybe somehow this guy will wind up falling out a window. The moment of him skiing off on a crosstown voyage was so…. *shakes head* you know, man? 

Linda Cardellini: I know I should be analyzing her role as Don’s in-building mistress and not just fixating on her hair and how she looks like the human version of Betty Rubble.  Don’t you think I know that? I know that. Confidential to Matt Weiner: pleasepleaseplease do not have James Franco on your show. Please. If you want to catch up to Freaks and Geeks and have a crossover where Lindsey Weir is the illegitimate daughter of Don Draper and Silvia DoctorNeighbor, fine. 

The Director of Photography: One of the things I love about Weiner and his entire creative team is how much they’re in love with the visuals of their world. The lush shot that followed Megan walking onto the balcony in Hawaii, the stark shot that pulled back through the door as Don walked into the snow….all gorgeous. 

Circle of Hell: Limbo

 

Episode 3! The Collaborators

This episode is all about chickens coming home to roost.  I’ll try and avoid spoilers in case you’re still getting caught up, but I have to firmly reject my Gentleman Associate’s assertion that this was not a good episode. I think Weiner is deliberately evoking the soap opera tropes that Megan’s channeling into their lives, so we’re seeing adultery get more brazen, we’re seeing career/client drama, we’re seeing seeds planted episodes and seasons ago finally in bloom, and I think we’re about to see some implausible ridiculousness bust into life (Pete is becoming exactly who Don said he would become in the pilot, plus there’s NewPete dogging at his heels, Joan was right about Megan, and now we know why Don’s so into prostitutes). 

Whorechild: I know people have mixed feelings, but I love the Dick Whitman flashbacks; without this week’s scene, Don’s nausea at Roger’s mother’s funeral makes much less sense. 

TRUDY. Trudy has always known what’s up, and this episode proves it. Pete has never been so callous and oily and crude as he is now–he used to at least be excited by the way his power got women to respond to him. Now I think he’s bored. I want to think he still has some deep existential pain left, or that Rory Gilmore’s electroshock therapy had a real effect on him, but I’m just not convinced. Every time he speaks I tell him to shut up. 

Insider Baseball: I loved Don’s deliberate sabotage of the Jaguar scumbag’s misguided marketing idea, and the chaos of the Heinz client visit, but not the way Peggy told Ted Chaoueough the straight scoop. C’mon Peggy. You hid a baby from people. You can deflect an inquiry into a private phone call. I believe in you. 

Criticism: Not enough Joan, though what we did get was so angry and sharp I was happy about it. Not enough Peggy when she’s not at her desk. Not enough clarity during  the Sylvia-Megan discussion; everything was so oblique it barely felt like women having a discussion. Here at the MKP & E House of TV Judging we always have heated discussions where he doesn’t think anything happened and I’m awash in the beautiful sea of slow-paced nuance and don’t mind the shape it takes, but I will agree with E that the character-juggling is less deft than it used to be. I will also, however, argue that the “units” of Weiner’s storytelling are not always an episode. Sometimes it’s an episode and a half, or less than an episode, or several episodes to accomplish a story goal. 

Circle of Hell: Lust

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Writing on Charlotte Bronte at The American Scholar!


If you’ve got a few minutes for some literary nostalgia today, please check out my new piece online at The American Scholar! 

Charlotte’s poem, written on a scrap of an envelope

 

. . .She wrote the poem when she was only a little younger than I was when I first fell in love with Jane Eyre. Much of my life as a reader and writer stems from the moment my father gave me that book. I return to it, and the rest of the Brontë canon, whenever I need guidance or inspiration. They have never let me down. . .

It has the added benefit of being my first professional clip since undergrad 🙂

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#TheWeekly #12 (Blame Spring Break Edition)


AKSHULLY  I worked super hard on my spring break! Well, the second-fifth days of it. I got myself up on the regular, wrote, edited, and made art. Which I’m just about reconciled to the fact that I do on the regular. Make art, that is. Apparently it’s writing I don’t do anymore.

ANYHOO. If you’re the type who visits this actual blog page you may have noticed I added an Instagram link over on the right there (also Tumblr, but I’m still figuring out what belongs on Tumblr, what belongs on the blog, and everything else just goes to Twitter), where I’ve started posting the artwork I’m making as I make it. It’s exciting and inspiring to see other sketchbook artists, so if you’re interested feel free to bookmark it and check back occasionally!

This week I finally turned on the little antique books I found at the Friends of the Ithaca Library book fair last year. I know people have mixed feelings about repurposing books in artwork, but my philosophy with these particular books is that they are old and archaic and falling apart and nobody is ever going to open them for reading purposes again, so why not highlight specific pages in an artistic context, and turn what remains into art too?

I started with this birthday present for my friend Sally, who loves cupcakes, obv. Then I made one for E that’s all lovey dovey (and will not be getting a close up :P) and finally one for my mom, and since I had frames handy, I framed them.

E's, my mom's and Sally's (L-R) - if you'd like to commission one, I have tons of pages, every letter of the alphabet and plenty of musical terms to go on

E’s, my mom’s and Sally’s (L-R)                      If you’d like to commission one, I have tons of pages, every letter of the alphabet and plenty of musical terms to go on!

Sally's Cupcake

Important question: Would youse buy these if they were on say, Etsy (or a less evil/reseller prone site that you’d looove to recommend to me in the comments? Because between these watercolors, the artist’s books I’m making for my Art of the Book class, the folding books ,the sketchbook marker fests and another school-related art project I completed recently involving Shakespeare and an extended bird metaphor…. it turns out I have a body of work! This summer I’ll get my lil screenprinting press up and running too.

So. Would you buy it? Any specific images you’d like on a t-shirt or a mousepad or whatever else CafePress prints on? What else would you like to see?

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#TheWeekly #11 Folder Art edition


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The AWP 2013 Thoughts Post


I’m sure there will be a jillion of these as the 11,000 writers and writing teachers head home from the conference in Boston, but I wanted to collect mine as well. As I said in an email to my girl gang before we all headed up into the wintery wonderland:

An Introvert’s Conference Survival Strategies:

  • Find one morning thing and one afternoon thing I Definitely Want To Go To. Have 2-3 backups in case the event is crowded or in the moment I feel impulsive.
  • Have doodle supplies. Obvi. I will bring extra markers and little foldy books if you guys want them 🙂
  • The advantage of only having a morning/afternoon itinerary: Mid-day naps.
  • This is not a make-or-break-our-future type opportunity. This is, like our classes, a chance to go hear smart people say smart things that will, we hope, send us away bursting with inspiration. Or just entertained and out of NYC for a long weekend with our ladyfriends.

These would be those aforementioned lady friends:

From left to right - Meg, Jaime, Me, Becca

From left to right – Meg, Jaime, Me, Becca

And that’s what we did. We all started off together in a multiple-narrative panel, which was helpful and uplifting. Then we splintered; I bailed on whatever panel I’d selected next and went to the book fairs and promptly discovered an amazing book artist  who gave me that painfully exquisite experience of finding someone who does EXACTLY what you want to do. YAY, KINDRED SPIRIT. OH NO SOMEONE GOT THERE FIRST. But just as there can be multiple threads in a narrative there can totally be more than one person tearing pages out of old books and illustrating them, or doing other cool desecrative stuff to their outsides. I hope. I spent time visiting booths of journals that accept creative nonfiction, that accept stand-along graphic pieces, and that looked cool and/or weird.

After lunch I went to a panel on “The Post-memoir memoir” with Jaime which was dolefully led by a 3Q who began by apologizing for how misleading the panel description was; his panelists were then tasked with trying to pump some air back into the room. Hope Edelman in particular has written a flavor of memoir punctuated with outside source materials that I hope to replicate (that’s more for futureMKP’s reference than y’alls 🙂

And then I was exhausted. I went upstairs to rest, when the rest of my quartet came up I went for a swim (solo quiet time AND some exercise!), then Becca and I….we practiced some self care and went to the mall. The Hynes convention center is CREEPILY networked into an infinite series of retail centers. We got chair massage at Brookstone, and touched up our manicures at Barneys and generally connected with our tweet selves. Then we all reunited for dinner at PF Changs and I felt again that contented warmth of finding three other people who are smart, funny, and care about writing like I do. File $100K friends under “things to get out of your MFA program”.

 

Saturday I woke up with A Plan. While everyone else took a lazy morning, I started with a panel on the illustrated memoir (because OBVIOUSLY) and really enjoyed the presentations from Ron Tanner, Mira Bartok, Reif Larson, Josh Weil, and Stan Mack. Go buy all of their books. It was refreshing and reassuring to see that there are other writers hedging about calling themselves artists, and again with the “OH GREAT, I WANT TO DO THAT! DAMMIT! SOMEONE IS DOING IT ALREADY” that must be universal to creative people.

Then I powered on to “The Art and Craft of Short-Form Nonfiction” led by the seriously delightful Sarah Einstein (who in addition to winning Best Name also managing-edits Brevity where I will soon be submitting ALL THE THINGS). The contributors to the panel read excerpts and talked about the philosophy of short form nonfiction (regard it as a formal constraint like metered verse for poetry, and then go NUTS), and then Einstein gave one of the best pep talks for aspiring writers I’ve heard, describing how excited and honored she is to read all of the eleventy hundred submissions she gets every day and reassuring us that nobody in ironic plastic glasses smirks at our babies when they show up in Submittable’s inbox.

All of us but Becca reconvened for a panel on Memoir Beyond the Self, which involved using outside material/subjects (like say….the Brontes) to sneakily talk about ones self. Maybe because of the way Memoir is so inherantly naval-gazey, plus the crowd was well populated with 3Qs who were irritated so much discussion of the personal essay had gone down, but it was a fatiguing panel. I took a break for lunch, then tuned into hear one of my professor aquaintances, Elissa Schappell, and one of my twitter heroines, Meg Wolitzer, read from their work and talk more about the Vida Count, moderated by Cheryl Strayed. That was awesome. It was a soothing brain massage and an affirmation that the recollections and feelings of adolescent girls ARE worth talking about and man oh man am I not a fiction writer.

The last panel I hit before dinner (which was followed by crashing in the hotel room, too worn out to hear Cheryl Strayed read at the keynote, alas) was “Hating Your Writing: A Love Story,” which filled me with such a sense of familiar bitterness and warmth that I’m still humming a little. My favorite moment was when curmudgeonly Richard Bausch told us briefly how when he was working at NoVA and people asked him “how’s that little novel coming” he would walk outside, look at the stars in the parking lot and say

“Goddamit I am a writer, and some day you bastards are going to know it.”

That and, “When you get stuck, lower your standards and keep pushing ahead.”

 

I have lots of other thoughts about what a freelance life might or can or should look like, or how to balance teaching demands with my own writing, or what my plan for freelance attack will be. Mostly I got up today, bleary eyed and cracking jointed, and made a calendar for the rest of the semester’s work, and a list of all my projects-in-progress and the tasks that remain to them. Engine’s on, meter’s running, irons in the fire, writerly cliche generator humming in the corner like a Rube Goldberg pancake maker.

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#TheWeekly AWP Edition (#10)


So, this week was a rush of ALL THE ACTIVITIES. I attended panels on multiple narratives, on memoir beyond the self, on illustrated memoir, on hating your writing, on women’s fiction and how it’s an awful lot like human fiction, and maybe my favorite, the art and craft of short form nonfiction. And if you’ve never sat in a public place with me where I had to sit quietly and listen, you don’t know about the phonograph effect. When I doodle while I listen, when I look at the doodle, I can replay what I was hearing. It’s like an etching or a woodcut except with sharpies. So here is the progression of AWP Panels by way of my annotated program.

 

(I think the red-haired face on the left is maybe my favorite thing I’ve ever done)

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Five People Not To Be In your MFA Workshop


Nothing personal, people who have been in my various MFA workshops. You are all brilliant, and have perfect judgment about what to say and not say as, obviously, do I. 

J/K I have been all of these people too. 

5. The Late Comments-Returner

Missing workshop happens. We’ve all been there–you had a headache or the flu or you just couldn’t read all the submissions (even though there were only 3 and you had a week but whatevs!) and you didn’t do your end comments yet so you just don’t want to show your face in class.

But by the next class meeting, if not sooner, you really should have your commentary-ducks in a row. It’s disheartening and verges on disrespectful not to. We’re all reading your stuff and whether we think it’s working or not, we’re giving you feedback. In one of my workshops, a member was struggling with a variety of off-screen issues, but all we knew for the first 3 weeks is that they hadn’t responded to a single thing, though they piped up in workshop with off-the-wall comments often enough. C’mon. I’m also for showing up to class anyway, so at least you’re participating on the fly.

4. The One Who Doesn’t Get It

Can you believe [classmate] has written a hateful screen decrying the use of antibiotics in any living creature and everyone who has ever touched a z-pack is a monster?!?!?! 

Odds are the aforementioned classmate actually had an intention beyond “Be incredibly awful and offend everyone.” I think it behooves all of us (heh. Now we all have horse feet) to give our workshopmates the benefit of the doubt, even the one you’ve nicknamed “crankface” for their sour expression. We’re all trying hard, and that’s scary, and not all intentions are clearly communicated through their first attempt at artistic expression.

It’s our obligation as workshoppers to try and think our way around each piece that winds up in front of us. I once wrote a piece that started out being about summer jobs and wound up being about grief and loss…but one of my classmates thought I was being satirical all the way through and mocking parents who’d just lost a baby. No… I was not smirking at the bereaved. He had missed a tonal shift. In my current workshop we’re advised to read each piece twice, once for reading and once for note-making. Saves a lot of returning to cross out “when are you going to talk about the lizard claws?!??!” when on page 6 the lizard claws become an important feature.

3. The Repetitious Non-Listener

So you forgot what you wrote in your end note. And all your marginalia has flown out of your head under the pressure cooker of going around the table. By all means, take a few minutes to catch up by reviewing your notes. But then, before you jump right back in with both iambs, take a second to dip a toe into the conversation in progress. It drives me up the wall when someone leads off with a specific comment  and 10 minutes later, someone who tuned out the first round of discussion attempts to re-introduce the exact same point. Extra demerits if they phrase it less well.

But if this does happen, we must all resist the urge to say “Yeah…. so-and-so just said that” and wither the offender with our contemptuous sneering. Because at some point this will happen to all of us and army crawling out of the room on our knees just isn’t an option in the modern workshop classroom. Unless you remembered your elbow-patch blazer.

2. The Still Talking After Running Out Of Gas

I have sooooooo done this. We all have. The brain just gives up, sometimes. But it’s a crucial skill to be able to gracefully say “Whoops, mental hiccup, be right with you” and let someone else take a turn instead of just whooshing around the beltway again after you missed your exit. We can all practice a) jotting down a note and then reading it and b) stopping when we run out of motivation to speak. For the common good.

1. The ‘I Don’t Like It Therefore I Won’t Talk About It’ -er. 

This is the more context-specific version of the “I don’t like you therefore I won’t talk about your piece” phenomenon, and is especially irritating because it indicates a lack of engagement on several levels. First, Bob is failing to set aside personal shtick for the good of the workshop. Second, Bob is refusing to think his way around a piece enough to figure out what the author intended. Third, Bob is confusing “I like it” with “it has merit”. Fourth, shouldn’t we all be good enough writers to be analytical instead of merely gut-level subjective?

In pleasure reading (which I vaguely recall from sometime in 2011), we are free to just close a book and light it on fire if we don’t like it, and often “liking” is the primary reading criterion. But workshopping is about pooling our reading/editing skills to provide journeyperson writers with suggestions for doing what they want to do, better.

And sixth and lastly, are we not ADULTS? This isn’t middle school where you change your seat to avoid your nemesis at the lunch table. It’s also not your place to tell someone what they’re writing isn’t worth doing, because you’re only one person (this goes for workshop professors, too); if I were in E. L. James workshop or Stephanie Meyers’ listserv, I might have wanted to shriek and shout that their books were BAD –or, more workshop appropriate, that their over/undersexed characters (respectively) lacked dimension and plausibility. But clearly a large swath of the population is perfectly happy to read about them. So we none of us are the end-all-be-all of editorial approbation.

Keep in mind also that your workshop crop might love you but TO SOMEONE SOMEWHERE you are writing Fifty Shades of STUPID.  Only it’s worse if you are nonfiction because it’s not “the narrator” people won’t like, IT IS YOU.

No pressure. Happy workshopping.

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#TheWeekly #9


New jam! I found these old books in the $1 section of the Friends of the Ithaca Library book sale – commonly mispronounced words, music terms, synonyms, etiquette, and I’ve been going to town on them marker collage style.

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#TheWeekly #8


Since I’ve been in this Art of the Book class, I’ve become obsessed with folding books and letting my doodle tendencies run a little wild.

Case in point:

triangle-shaped folded book
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#TheWeekly #7 (belated but fancy!)


In honor of pitchers and catchers
And the Art of the Book class I’m in
I made a folded one sheet book
And cut off the end
And told a story
Familiar
To Baseball fans
Everywhere

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