I have been doing a poor job keeping up with my Steve Jobs-related media. I haven't had a chance to pick up the new Becoming Steve Jobs book yet. And I had no idea that the Aaron Sorkin-penned biopic was still in the works, much less that Michael Fassbender is playing Jobs and Danny Boyle is directing. Here's the trailer:
The trailer debuted during last night's series finale of Mad Men, which was possibly the most appropriate venue for it. [Slight spoilers...] Draper always had a Jobs-esque sheen to him, although the final scene showed us that, yes, Don Draper actually would like to sell sugar water for the rest of his life.
Update: A proper trailer has dropped. I don't know how much we'll learn about the actual Steve Jobs from the movie, but it looks like it might be good.
I don't quite know what I'm doing to myself these days. Last night was an episode of The Americans in which a marriage was ending, another family was trying to keep itself intact, and a young boy struggles to move on after his entire family dies. This morning, I watched an episode of Mad Men in which a mother tries to reconcile her differences with her daughter in the face of impending separation. And then, the absolute cake topper, a story by Matthew Teague that absolutely wrecked me. It's about his cancer-stricken wife and the friend who comes and rescues an entire family, which is perhaps the truest and most direct thing I've ever read about cancer and death and love and friendship.
Since we had met, when she was still a teenager, I had loved her with my whole self. Only now can I look back on the fullness of our affection; at the time I could see nothing but one wound at a time, a hole the size of a dime, into which I needed to pack a fistful of material. Love wasn't something I felt anymore. It was just something I did. When I finished, I would lie next to her and use sterile cotton balls to soak up her tears. When she finally slept, I would slip out of bed and go into our closet, the most isolated room in the house. Inside, I would wrap a blanket around my head, stuff it into my mouth, lie down and bury my head in a pile of dirty clothes, and scream.
There are very specific parts of all those stories that I identify with. I struggle with friendship. And with family. I worry about my children, about my relationships with them. I worry about being a good parent, about being a good parenting partner with their mom. How much of me do I really want to impart to them? I want them to be better than me, but I can't tell them or show them how to do that because I'm me. I took my best shot at being better and me is all I came up with. What if I'm just giving them the bad parts, without even realizing it? God, this is way too much for a Monday.
In my instance, the greatest predator of my work was my one-time partner George Lois, who is a most heralded and talented art director/designer, and his talent is only exceeded by his omnivorous ego. So where it once would've been accepted that the word would be "we" did it, regardless of who originated the work, the word "we" evaporated from George's vocabulary and it became "my."
Of course, Koenig also claims to have invented thumb wrestling and to have popularized shrimp in America, so... (via @kevinmeyers)
To state the obvious: while the male detectives of "True Detective" are avenging women and children, and bro-bonding over "crazy pussy," every live woman they meet is paper-thin. Wives and sluts and daughters -- none with any interior life. Instead of an ensemble, "True Detective" has just two characters, the family-man adulterer Marty, who seems like a real and flawed person (and a reasonably interesting asshole, in Harrelson's strong performance), and Rust, who is a macho fantasy straight out of Carlos Castaneda. A sinewy weirdo with a tragic past, Rust delivers arias of philosophy, a mash-up of Nietzsche, Lovecraft, and the nihilist horror writer Thomas Ligotti. At first, this buddy pairing seems like a funky dialectic: when Rust rants, Marty rolls his eyes. But, six episodes in, I've come to suspect that the show is dead serious about this dude. Rust is a heretic with a heart of gold. He's our fetish object -- the cop who keeps digging when everyone ignores the truth, the action hero who rescues children in the midst of violent chaos, the outsider with painful secrets and harsh truths and nice arms. McConaughey gives an exciting performance (in Grantland, Andy Greenwald aptly called him "a rubber band wrapped tight around a razor blade"), but his rap is premium baloney. And everyone around these cops, male or female, is a dark-drama cliche, from the coked-up dealers and the sinister preachers to that curvy corpse in her antlers. "True Detective" has some tangy dialogue ("You are the Michael Jordan of being a son of a bitch") and it can whip up an ominous atmosphere, rippling with hints of psychedelia, but these strengths finally dissipate, because it's so solipsistically focussed on the phony duet.
I enjoyed the show and am seated in the McConaissance cheering section, but True Detective is far from TV's best thing evar. And Nussbaum hits the nail right on the head: the lack of good women characters is to blame.
Something I've noticed about my favorite TV shows: they are mostly testosterone fests where the women are more interesting than the men. Mad Men is the perfect example. Game of Thrones is another. And Six Feet Under. Even in Deadwood, which I am rewatching now and is loads better than True Detective, women more than hold their own against the men. It's fun to watch the men on these series generate bullshit, but it's much more interesting to watch the great actresses who play these women navigate and elevate through the predictable male privilege.
While the claim that Mad Men could have driven a nearly 50% (representing an additional 10 billion cigarettes) increase in Lucky Strike sounds like typical advertising puffery, it's hard to pin down another driver. Lucky Strike did launch new flavors, update packaging and launch "capsule" cigarettes in the five years since Mad Men premiered, but so too did its competitors. The only new country the brand entered was Turkey -- and that wasn't until 2011. Even if one excluded all capsule (2010- ) and "All Natural" (2011-) cigarette sales (which would have been predominantly cannibalized, rather than net new), Lucky Strike would still have grown 12% between 2007 and 2012, five times faster than the industry overall and eight times British American Tobacco (the owner of Lucky Strike). Could it really have been Don Draper?
Sales of Canadian Club whiskey have turned around since Mad Men started as well. (via nextdraft)
And it might be best with the Crazy in Love cover from Gatsby...just load up that this YT video while watching the animated GIF and you're all set. (This is how Millennials watch TV, BTW...it's all animated GIFs with YouTube video soundtracks. Civilization is gonna be juuuuuuust fine.)
Writing for The Awl, Heather Havrilesky (who you may remember from Suck) highlights three stereotypical TV characters (The Hapless Dad, The Friend, and The Wise Old Professional) and characters on three current shows (Louie, Girls, and Mad Men) that cut right through that bullshit.
Because on "Girls," not only is The Friend (Hannah, played by Dunham) not all that insecure (relatively speaking), but she also has more swagger and courage and heart than The Hot One (Marnie) and The Other Hot One (Jessa) and The Sort of Hot One (Shoshanna) put together. Instead of whining and weeping snottily into her hands the way The Friend would do on any other television show, Hannah gets naked and refuses to exercise but realizes that she is exactly 13 pounds overweight (this isn't some fantasyland, after all, except for the trust funds and bad Fu Manchus). Hannah has lots of not-very-great sex. She's sometimes timid and confused, sure, but she's brave enough to state her feelings to people directly. She's self-possessed. But most importantly, she is not preoccupied with not being The Hot One. She wears clothing that doesn't compliment her body. She doesn't appear to brush her hair regularly. She doesn't have to, because she doesn't believe that there is some center of the universe located somewhere other than where she is, and she'll only get there if her hair is brushed. No. She can simply exist and do what regular people do: Eat, worry, sleep late, roll her eyes, fall on her face.
I'm gonna come out and say that I really liked Girls, due in large part (I'm realizing now) to Hannah's (and Adam's and Ray's) directness and self-possession.
The big one from the charts: Megan gets "a callback for" an audition. This is, the data says, a candidate for the worst anachronism of the season. The word "callback" is about 100x more common by the 1990s, and "callback for" is even worse. The OED doesn't have any examples of a theater-oriented use of "callback" until the 1970s; although I bet one could find some examples somewhere earlier in the New York theater scene, that may not save it. It wouldn't really suite Megan's generally dilettantish attitude towards the theater, or the office staff's lack of knowledge of it, for them to be so au courant. "call-back" and "call back" don't seem much more likely.
This is an episode of Mad Men, incompletely downloaded from BitTorrent.
The video captures an episode of the popular TV show in the act of being shared by thousands of users on bittorent. The video simultaneously acts as a visualisation of bittorrent traffic and the practice of filesharing and is an aesthetically beautiful by product of the bittorrent process as the pieces of the original file are rearranged and reconfigured into a new transitory in-between state.
Season 5 of Mad Men starts on Sunday. It's been on hiatus for 12 years, and it might be hard to remember season 4 without some of the Mad Men related info linked below. With such a long break, there's been quite a bit of Mad Men news floating around. In order to cut it down a little, most of this stuff is from the last week or so. Don't try to eat it all in one sitting you'll get a stomach ache and have to sleep off your hangover on your office couch.
-Although, Matthew Weiner has asked reviewers with advanced copies of Sunday's premier not to discuss key details in their previews, such as the year this season takes place, Weiner is changing a song featured in the episode because it wasn't released until 6 months after the episode takes place. 'Look of Love' was released at the beginning of 1967 placing the episode in, or around, the summer of 1966. This is about a year after Season 4 ended. Maybe this is subterfuge?
Over at Sew Weekly, Mena Trott predicts what some of the characters will be wearing in the coming season of Mad Men.
Oh, Betty. For years, she has been immaculately dressed and presented as the facade of the perfect 1950s/1960s wife. With her cinched waists and billowing skirts, she's held onto late 1950s and early 1960s fashion the longest. In season four, she's married to the anti-Don, the boring Henry Francis and is getting a little too familiar with the bottle. When you're married to Henry Francis, you just don't care any more. That should be embroidered on a pillow.
"I do know how the whole show ends," he told us. "It came to me in the middle of last season. I always felt like it would be the experience of human life. And human life has a destination. It doesn't mean Don's gonna die. What I'm looking for, and how I hope to end the show, is like ... It's 2011. Don Draper would be 84 right now. I want to leave the show in a place where you have an idea of what it meant and how it's related to you."
People involved in the talks suggested this week that one or both deals may be imminent, but that may not be enough to ensure a summer start. Todd Gold, the editor in chief of XfinityTV.com, Comcast's television news site, said it was becoming clear that the show was "right on the cusp of going one way or the other."
"By now, the writing staff should be humming along, maybe about a month or more into work for a summer premiere," he said. "Unless Weiner is secretly manufacturing outlines in preparation of some crazy all-night writing sessions with his staff, it might be time for fans to grow concerned."
Advertising pioneer and visionary Roger Sterling, Jr., served with distinction in the Navy during World War II, and joined Sterling Cooper Advertising as a junior account executive in 1947. He worked his way up to managing partner before leaving to found his own agency, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, in 1963.
During his long and illustrious career, Sterling has come into contact with all the luminaries and would-be luminaries of the advertising world, and he has acquired quite a reputation among his colleagues for his quips, barbs, and witticisms.
Taken as a whole, Roger Sterling's pithy comments and observations amount to a unique window on the advertising world -- a world that few among us are privileged to witness first-hand -- as well as a commentary on life in New York City in the middle of the twentieth century.
I enjoyed this extensive interview with John Sculley about his time at Apple (he was CEO from 83-93) because of 1) his insight into Steve Jobs' way of thinking, 2) his willingness to talk about his mistakes, and 3) his insights about business in general...he gives Jobs a lot of credit but Sculley is clearly no slouch. Some high points:
[Jobs] felt that the computer was going to change the world and it was going to become what he called "the bicycle for the mind."
On the small size of teams actually building products:
Normally you will only see a handful of software engineers who are building an operating system. People think that it must be hundreds and hundreds working on an operating system. It really isn't. It's really just a small team of people. Think of it like the atelier of an artist.
Sculley was president of Pepsi before coming to Apple:
We did some research and we discovered that when people were going to serve soft drinks to a friend in their home, if they had Coca Cola in the fridge, they would go out to the kitchen, open the fridge, take out the Coke bottle, bring it out, put it on the table and pour a glass in front of their guests.
If it was a Pepsi, they would go out in to the kitchen, take it out of the fridge, open it, and pour it in a glass in the kitchen, and only bring the glass out. The point was people were embarrassed to have someone know that they were serving Pepsi. Maybe they would think it was Coke because Coke had a better perception. It was a better necktie. Steve was fascinated by that.
On why he should not have been hired as Apple's CEO:
The reason why I said it was a mistake to have hired me as CEO was Steve always wanted to be CEO. It would have been much more honest if the board had said, "Let's figure out a way for him to be CEO. You could focus on the stuff that you bring and he focuses on the stuff he brings."
Remember, he was the chairman of the board, the largest shareholder and he ran the Macintosh division, so he was above me and below me.
After Jobs left, Sculley tried to run the company as Jobs would have:
All the design ideas were clearly Steve's. The one who should really be given credit for all that stuff while I was there is really Steve. [...] Unfortunately, I wasn't as good at it as he was.
And finally, Sculley and Jobs probably haven't spoken since Jobs left the company:
He won't talk to me, so I don't know.
Jobs is pulling a page from the Don Draper playbook here. In season two, Don tells mental hospital patient Peggy:
Peggy listen to me, get out of here and move forward. This never happened. It will shock you how much it never happened.
Maybe Jobs is still pissed at Sculley and holds a grudge or whatever, but it seems more likely that looking backwards is something that Jobs simply doesn't do. Move forward, Steve.
Some of the titles are featured prominently in the series and others are mentioned in passing. Remember the book Sally read with her grandfather at bedtime? The book on Japanese culture the agency was told to read? The scandalous book the ladies passed between each other in secret? You can find all these and more!
I always liked the way poet Frank O'Hara walked up to the manifesto:
Everything is in the poems, but at the risk of sounding like the poor wealthy man's Allen Ginsberg I will write to you because I just heard that one of my fellow poets thinks that a poem of mine that can't be got at one reading is because I was confused too. Now, come on. I don't believe in god, so I don't have to make elaborately sounded structures. I hate Vachel Lindsay, always have; I don't even like rhythm, assonance, all that stuff. You just go on your nerve. If someone's chasing you down the street with a knife you just run, you don't turn around and shout, "Give it up! I was a track star for Mineola Prep."
But what do we call it, Frank? We need a name.
Personism, a movement which I recently founded and which nobody knows about... was founded by me after lunch with LeRoi Jones on August 27, 1959, a day in which I was in love with someone (not Roi, by the way, a blond). I went back to work and wrote a poem for this person. While I was writing it I was realizing that if I wanted to I could use the telephone instead of writing the poem, and so Personism was born. It's a very exciting movement which will undoubtedly have lots of adherents. It puts the poem squarely between the poet and the person, Lucky Pierre style, and the poem is correspondingly gratified. The poem is at last between two persons instead of two pages. In all modesty, I confess that it may be the death of literature as we know it. While I have certain regrets, I am still glad I got there before Alain Robbe-Grillet did. Poetry being quicker and surer than prose, it is only just that poetry finish literature off.
LeRoi Jones eventually changed his name to Amiri Baraka. Alain Robbe-Grillet was an proto-postmodern French novelist associated with the nouveau roman, or "new novel." It's probably better if I let you figure out what a Lucky Pierre is for yourself.
Because O'Hara dated his poems, we know what poem he wrote between lunch with Jones and picking up the telephone; appropriately, it's called "personal poem":
Now when I walk around at lunchtime
I have only two charms in my pocket
an old Roman coin Mike Kanemitsu gave me
and a bolt-head that broke off a packing case
when I was in Madrid the others never
brought me too much luck though they did
help keep me in New York against coercion
but now I'm happy for a time and interested
I walk through the luminous humidity
passing the House of Seagram with its wet
and its loungers and the construction to
the left that closed the sidewalk if
I ever get to be a construction worker
I'd like to have a silver hat please
and get to Moriarty's when I wait for
LeRol and hear who wants to be a mover and
shaker the last five years my batting average
is .016 that's that, and LeRol comes in
and tells me Miles Davis was clubbed 12
times last night outside BIRDLAND by a cop
a lady asks us for a nickel for a terrible
disease but we don't give her one we
don't like terrible diseases, then
we go eat some fish and some ale it's
cool but crowded we don't like Lionel Trilling
we decide, we like Don Allen we don't like
Henry James so much we like Herman Melville
we don't want to be in the poet's walk in
San Francisco even we just want to be rich
and walk on girders in our silver hats
I wonder if one person out of the 8,000,000 is
thinking of me as I shake hands with LeRol
and buy a strap for my wristwatch and go
back to work happy at the thought possibly so
Here is a photo of Davis after being beaten:
One reason Davis's assault and arrest alarmed O'Hara as much as it did was the increasing police violence at bars and clubs where gay men gathered -- which culminated in the Stonewall Riots, five years after his accidental death in 1964.
O'Hara's poetry got a boost in sales and pop-culture recognition recently, when it was prominently featured in the Season Two premiere of Mad Men. Don Draper reads from Meditations In An Emergency's "Mayakovsky":
Now I am quietly waiting for
the catastrophe of my personality
to seem beautiful again,
and interesting, and modern.
The country is grey and
brown and white in trees,
snows and skies of laughter
always diminishing, less funny
not just darker, not just grey.
It may be the coldest day of
the year, what does he think of
that? I mean, what do I? And if I do,
perhaps I am myself again.
I don't know why I always think of this mode of literature in terms of media history. Maybe that's just the way I think. Or it's O'Hara picking up the telephone, that black-and-white photo of Davis's blood-spattered suit, Don Draper dropping his copy of a book into a suburban corner mailbox.
Elsewhere in Personism, O'Hara says, "Nobody should experience anything they don't need to, if they don't need poetry bully for them. I like the movies too. And after all, only Whitman and Crane and Williams, of the American poets, are better than the movies." Maybe if he were writing today, he might say, "only ___ and ___ and ___ are better than playing video games."
His poem "Lines for the Fortune Cookies" shows O'Hara would have completely understood (and ruled at) Twitter. Here are just three samples (all well under the character limit):
Your walk has a musical quality which will bring you fame and fortune.
You may be a hit uptown, but downtown you're legendary!
You are a prisoner in a croissant factory and you love it.
...From the past. It doesn't take much to look at this book and imagine the pitch meeting at how Sterling Cooper Draper Price would pitch this.
In 1964 United States Steel called upon the nation's electric utility companies to reconsider the current look of our power stations and transmission towers to be both functional and beautiful. Two years later, Henry Dreyfuss and Associates were commissioned to investigate possible design alternatives, and I believe they were documented in a book entitled "Power Styling" which was produced by United States Steel in the mid-to-late 1960s.
For fans who were holding out hope that we might see the show drag on into the '70s or even '80s -- giving Don Draper a chance to try out key parties, double-knit polyester, muttonchops, and eventually cocaine and yuppie amorality in Reagan's America -- it's probably a little disappointing. But for everyone else, it's reassuring to know that Weiner is working with a specific endpoint in mind.
In the opening scene of the season finale of Mad Men last night, Betty Draper goes to visit Roger Sterling in a freshly mowed hay field wearing a huge white wedding dress and gets shot in the head with a rifle by an off-screen Jane. She was aiming for Roger, but the first bullet missed and he hit the deck like a good soldier. As the second bullet entered the back of Betty's head, the camera swung around 180-degrees in a Matrix-like way and we see the bullet exit her neck about two inches below the ear. A ray of light shines through the hole as the bullet exits, as if Betty is made of pure light.
And then I woke up. I haven't seen the actual episode yet. (Friends, don't let friends eat late Vietnamese dinners.)
Then there is the miraculous Hamm, playing the lead character, Don Draper. Here is an actor who at once projects sexual mastery and ironic intelligence, poise and vulnerability. That alchemy has created the greatest male stars, from Gable to Grant to Bogart to McQueen to Clooney, because it wins for them both the desire of women and the fondness of men.
For my money, Jones is just as good at Hamm in portraying her character's multitudes.
In last Sunday's episode of Mad Men, Grandpa Gene ate ice cream right out of the container and salted each spoonful before putting it in his mouth.
It was an odd sight...salt isn't normally the first thing you think of as an ice cream topping. After the episode, Rex Sorgatz tweeted:
WHO THE FUCK SALTS THEIR ICE CREAM?
Salt has its own flavor when it's concentrated (if you salt foods too much or eat some all by itself) but used judiciously, salt takes the natural flavor of food and enhances the intensity. To use another dairy product as an example, fresh mozzarella tastes pretty good on its own but throw a little salt on top and it's mozzarella++. Salt makes ok food taste good and good food taste great. Along with butter, salt is the restaurant world's secret weapon; chefs likely use way more salt than you do when you cook at home. It's one of the reasons why restaurant food is so good.
But back to the ice cream. As food scientist Harold McGee writes, salt probably won't make ice cream taste sweeter but will make it taste ice creamier, particularly if the ice cream is of low quality, as the store-bought variety might have been in 1963.
I'm not sure that salt makes sugar taste sweeter, but it fills out the flavor of foods, sweets included. It's an important component of taste in our foods, so if it's missing in a given dish, the dish will taste less complete or balanced. Salt also increase the volatility of some aromatic substances in food, and it enhances our perception of some aromas, so it can make the overall flavor of a food seem more intense.
So that's why the fuck someone might want to salt their ice cream.
The dialogue is almost invariably witty, but the silences, of which there are many, speak loudest: Mad Men is a series in which an episode's most memorable scene can be a single shot of a woman at the end of her day, rubbing the sore shoulder where a bra strap has been digging in. There's really nothing else like it on television.
The article mentions that the show's core group of writers are all women. The show's portrayal of women is what really drew me into the show. The first 2-3 episodes were nothing but men behaving badly and I was ready to give up on it but then came episode 4 and it was like, oh, the women are sticking it to the men now...this could be interesting.
Behind the smooth-talking, chain-smoking, misogynist advertising executives on "Mad Men" is a group of women writers, a rarity in Hollywood television. Seven of the nine members of the writing team are women. Women directed five of the 13 episodes in the third season. The writers, led by the show's creator Matthew Weiner, are drawing on their experiences and perspectives to create the show's heady mix: a world where the men are in control and the women are more complex than they seem, or than the male characters realize.
Pick out a suit, light a cigarette, slick back your hair, and download the result as a Twitter icon or desktop wallpaper: Mad Men Yourself. Here's what I would look like as a Sterling Cooper junior account executive.
Update: The season three premiere has an official date/time: August 16 at 10pm. Because of the expense of the show, AMC wanted to add two more minutes of advertising but series creator Matthew Weiner balked at cutting that time out of each show. So season three episodes will run slightly past 11pm to accommodate both parties' desires. (thx, david)
Pact will keep Weiner at the helm of "Mad Men" for the next two seasons. It also covers TV development and includes a component for Weiner to develop a feature project for Lionsgate. There's no specific idea on the table for the feature, but it won't be "Mad Men" on the bigscreen, Weiner and Lionsgate execs said.
And the big intellectual skirmish going on was "Is it great that we're so different, men and women, or is there no difference at all?" No difference at all is where is started. Let's have equality and legistlate it like that. And then it became so much more complicated when you added sex to it and biologically the relationship is always sexist in some way. What's sexist in the office is fuel in the bedroom. We're wired that way to some extent. Women become more aggressive and it becomes strange for men.
Around the TV business, the news that no plans were in place yet for a new season was greeted with surprise. "I can't believe they haven't renewed it yet," said an executive at HBO, which now sheepishly regrets it did not sign the series about Madison Avenue in the 1950s and '60s when it was offered several years ago.
Then there is the Gill Sans (c. 1930) problem. Gill is used quite a lot in the series, mainly for Sterling Cooper Advertising's logo and signage. Technically, this is not anachronistic. And the way the type is used -- metal dimensional letters, generously spaced -- looks right. The problem is that Gill was a British typeface not widely available or popular in the U.S. until the 1970s. It's a decade ahead of its time in American type fashions.
Aren't we ready for that again? For some maturity? I have to tell you, I am sick and tired of hair down to there and crotch-high hemlines. It's so obvious. For Fall I was really trying to bring back buttoned-up sexy -- think Grace Kelly. So cool, so poised. She never reveals a thing and you can't take your eyes off of her. I mean, watch "Rear Window." That's smart sexy; it's interesting sexy. And it's grown-up sexy. You want a tip on looking hot? Wear reading glasses and a fitted dress. Simple.
He's right about Grace Kelly. I watched Rear Window recently and she's something else in it.
Sterling Cooper, as every fan with a pause button knows, is at 405 Madison Ave., an address that...does not exist. If it did exist, it would be where a bank of Chase ATMs is now, not the ideal spot to spend the morning, but don't worry, soon it will be 11:30 and time for your first cocktail.
One place the article doesn't mention is Lutèce, the fancy French place frequented by the bigwigs in the show. It closed in 2004. (thx, jake)
Jesus God in heaven! Not until I know I'm not wasting my time! From the minute Don launched his this-meeting-is-over bluff, I was on the edge of my seat, and my lovely wife Dorothy will tell you that I literally clapped my hands at that line. For me, this sequence is as close to pornography as I ever get to see on basic cable.
Alright, uncle, I give, I give. I will try and find some time in my schedule to watch this show.