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Are you still Mad?

August 20, 2010

Yes, I am, and thanks for asking. I was also so thoroughly enjoying Mad Men Season 4: “Harder. . . again.” with its unshowable second floor and its missing conference table and its mind-reading call girl who can squeeze you in before her turkey dinner. I was enjoying all that and much more right up until July 31 when my television picture abruptly cut into static and white noise.

The roommate moved out and the cable was in her name.

A self-determined man of means with some foresight would have had a contingency plan. But that man is not moi. This man is roughing it without a TV signal until he moves.

I did this once before a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. I know Life does not end in the absence of the Tube. I really don’t watch it much anyway but the timing of this outage is somewhat frustrating because my raison d’blog is Mad Men after all. I want to write about it; jabber, wank and screech about it. Dissect it, deconstruct it and theorize about it. Blawg about it.

I’ve been reading the full recaps at Television Without Pity; their reviewer Couch Baron is excellent. And I’ve been reading the professional reviewers I have linked to at the right. The lack of a visual aspect compromises my opinion somewhat of course but I just read an outstanding breakdown of the final scenes of “The Rejected” by SEK at his blog Acephalous. From what I know of him, he teaches visual rhetoric and other such stuff at some Institute of Higher Learnin’ somewhere. If you like analyzing from the director’s thought processes and such, go check out his article. He’s gives first-timer John Slattery generally good marks for this past episode. And there are pictures too!

So I’m up to speed in a broad, abstract way but the full sensory experience will have to wait until I get settled into my new hovel.

In the meantime though I want to prognosticate a bit; try to predict the future. I usually ridicule this practice as generally a waste of time and pixels, especially with this type of show. I always prefer to bring no expectations to a viewing myself; I think I miss a lot of actual detail when I’m anticipating and projecting my preferences. It’s counter productive to the acts of witnessing and experiencing what is actually being presented to me. Anyhow, to foretell the future, most people would probably gaze into their crystal ball or interpret chicken entrails; I’m not that ambitious, I just scanned the episode guide at AMC and instantly began channeling Nostradamus.   “It’s your future . . . I see a cab ride.  Move out of the sticks gentlemen.”

This Sunday’s episode is “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword”. This is the title of a book by anthropolgist Ruth Benedict published after WWII.

Now,  jump into the stream here with me, the water’s fine.  The book contrasted Japanese and Western cultures, in brief, suggesting the Japanese were a mysterious people of contradictory principles and morals. Somewhat notably controversial, it highlighted a distinction between the concepts of shame and guilt. My boy Don’s depression in 1965 is all about the battle between the Shame (of who he thinks he is) and the Guilt (of what he’s done).

Let us swim now. Ruth Benedict was a friend and mentor to psychologist Abraham Maslow. Maslow based his humanist theory of the Hierarchy of Needs on how well-adjusted and successful and self-actualized people like Ruth Benedict were. Much of Don’s unhappiness is based on a feeling that there must be something more than wealth and security and love. Maslow’s Hierarchy was co-opted and assimilated by many corporate business psych professional-types in an effort to understand and motivate (and then manipulate? . . . no, no, let’s say “efficiently maximize the potential” of ) at the time, “personnel” and later “human resources”. Corporate business psych-types like Dr. Faye Miller, maybe.

Hold your breath a little longer and kick. Dr. Faye Miler who is the protege of a friend of Bertram Cooper, eccentric patriarch of SCDP, whom we know to be simultaneously a practitioner of the art of bonzai tree horticulture and an admirer of the cold, steely (perhaps Rearden-like) principles of Randian Objectivism. He simultaneously appreciates the Natural and the Man-Made. The peaceful and the blood soaked. The flower and the weapon. See what I’m sayin’? 

I’m out of time and must dry off before work. But I have more of this associative stuff rumbling around up here. The battle of the polar contradictions reminded me a classic play I think may be providing Mad Men with a over-arching (or underlying)philosophy. I need to ponder that some more before I share.

And I also have questions. For example, in a real world, after how everything has played out, could Don and Rachel ever, ever, ever possibly become a couple again? Don and Suzanne? Don and Betty? And spurred by this post by Anne B (we luv her) at the Basket, — Is Peggy really a bitch?  And more interestingly, why would we ever want to call her one?

If I read Monday that a Japanese client walks into SCDP, and leaves with both his feet, I’m pretty sure I will know at that moment I am one with the universe.

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Oooooo!! “INSIGHT” UPDATE!!How is this empty?!? (ed.– [eye roll])   How could I miss it? (ed. — because you never watched it?)  —  Peggy shares a closet with a guy named Abe!!

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