Wow, I haven't written in this LJ for almost 2 years. Was re-watching my blu-ray of Social Network and laughing about how early-2000s LJ is. It's practically a punchline when we see Zuckerberg writing on one.
I feel compelled to write about Mad Men, having watched the first two episodes of the new season (and about to watch the third.) I don't know exactly what I want to say, or how eloquently I'll say it, but I need to put my feelings about this show down.
It's been...a long time since I've seen TV this good. TV that made me feel so much. And not neat, tidy, easy feelings, but messy and complex feelings - that's why I don't know exactly what I want to say. The show doesn't want me to be able to talk about it in an allegorical sense - like all great art, it's too smart for simplistic metaphors and morals. Summer TV doesn't offer much in the way of true emotion - it's mostly fun fluff like Burn Notice and Eureka. (Of course, I guess that's true of most television in general.) Before I even say anything, I think AMC is to be commended for allowing Matthew Weiner (who really doesn't seem like the easiest person to work with) to fully realize his vision, even when that vision is harrowing and unnerving. Or joyous, for that matter. As Don Draper says in the second episode of the season, “Let’s also say that change is neither good or bad. It simply is. It can be greeted with terror or joy. A tantrum that says, ‘I want it the way it was’ or a dance that says, ‘Look, it’s something new.’” And change is life. And life is what Mad Men documents.
It's no secret that I empathize greatly with Peggy Olson. I love watching her evolve from a young naif into a smart, successful woman. And honestly, no matter how fascinating Don Draper is, no matter how interesting the various historical-themed plots are, Peggy's story is the story I care about. I care about Don and Betty, and Joan, and even Pete, sometimes, but Peggy has my heart. But before I talk about her, I want to touch on another subject that is the focus of these episodes - the tearing down of Penn Station. I talk about this a lot with my friends, and I loved hearing Paul's line about how New Yorkers need a memory; they need to have a past. It's a little surprising how many people my age don't know anything about the original Penn Station, and more than a little sad. And it's change.
For Don, though, it almost seems that the more things change, the more they stay the same. It's obvious how much he still loves Betty, and it's just as obvious that he still feels he can be more open with a stewardess that he just met than his wife, with whom he's had two (and soon three) children. And so he beds the stewardess (or at least, he would've if he could've) while his loving wife believes he doesn't cheat on her anymore. Because he's alone; he can't open up to the people who love him.
Peggy's alone too. From the moment Ann-Margaret starts singing "Bye Bye Birdie," she feels that loneliness more keenly than ever. We've explored Peggy's...uniqueness before, in the "Maidenform" episode (Peggy: "...am I [a Marilyn or a Jackie]?" to which the boys respond, "You're more classic...like an Irene Dunn." That's not what anyone wants to hear.), but here we see exactly where this feeling takes her. As the guys are panting over Ann-Margaret, they casually dismiss and insult Peggy because she's NOT one of the girls. But she's not one of the boys either, so she can't exactly trade barbs with them. When she talks to Don about possibly taking the campaign in a different direction, he gently chides her for fighting the obvious hook - men want Ann-Margaret, and women want to be her. In a line as poetic and elusive as Don himself, he tells her, "Keep some of your tools inside the toolbox."
In order to combat these feelings of inadequacy, she goes to a local college bar after work, and manages to pick up (using one of Joan's lines, no less) a boy who seems even younger than she was when she started at Sterling-Cooper. Elisabeth Moss manages to turn inscrutability into an art form yet again, as Peggy's seduction of this boy is at turns a cathartic/happy release and a depressing low point for someone who deserves so much more. The post-coital (kind of, although they didn't actually have sex) scene between Peggy and her boy is pitch-perfect - two people saying one thing and talking about another. And what is the effect that this event has on Peggy?
Well, I think we can take any experience and take something positive away from it. I think that will happen here. Peggy's too smart for it not to.
The episode ends with Peggy and Don, but before that happens, there's another scene of great beauty that would be trite and maudlin in a lesser show. Don and Betty watch their daughter participate in a May Day dance. Don is captured by the beauty of the teacher leading the dance while softly touching a blade of grass. It is, quite literally, a dance that says, look - it's something new.
These two episodes make me want to dance. This is umbrella-shattering art here, as DH Lawrence would say. Mad Men is back, and it's still the best show on TV.
I am doing a list of kids' books as well. No commentary, just cause I don't think people care nearly as much about my favorite kids' books.
A Tale of Time City by Diana Wynne Jones Roxaboxen by Alice Mclerran No Jumping on the Bed by Tedd Arnold Teddy Bear Christmas (Not the real title but I can't remember the actual title - it's about a father bear, daughter bear, and son bear who are trying to find a Christmas gift for their mom. They can't find anything so they get themselves wrapped up and ship themselves to their mom in a package in the mail! Surreal) Big Dog, Little Dog by PD Eastman We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier I Am the Cheese by Robert Cormier The Final Battle by CS Lewis My Teacher Flunked the Planet by Bruce Coville The Night Room by EM Goldman The Marvelous Land of Oz by L. Frank Baum Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish Love You Forever (a classic) by Robert Munsch Corduroy by Dan Freeman Caps for Sale: A Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys and Their Monkey Business by Esphyr Slobodkina
I know I have two Cormier books listed. I wanted to list a dark fantasy/horror book, but honestly I can't remember the title or the author. And also Cormier did blow my mind when I was a kid.
Couple of runner-ups: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenweiler by EL Koningsburg The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin Anything by Katherine Paterson
Don't take too long to think about it. List 15 books you've read that will always stick with you -- The first 15 you can recall in 15 minutes.
This is going to include children's books. It just is. I'm also going to include commentary.
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison One of my all-time favorite books. One of those novels that charts the vast reaches of the imagination; it could never be filmed, or exist in any other medium. It's always exciting, no matter how many times I read it. And the same goes for Ellison's second, unfinished novel, posthumously published as Juneteenth. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll Two books, yes, but I'm counting them as one. I trust no one will stone me for that. I guess it's pretty obvious already that I love the fantastic. Maybe that's why I don't watch procedurals on TV - I don't care about stuff that happens in the mundane realm of the everyday. I want to live in the world of the unreal. And it's difficult to get more unreal than Alice's Wonderland. Another very good book is a "tre-quel" titled Automated Alice, written by Jeff Noon. I highly recommend it. (Those of you familiar with the original books will get the "trequel" joke.) Ulysses by James Joyce What is there to say about this book that hasn't been said? It's frustrating and infuriating and VERY slow going, but it's also like cracking a code and analyzing puzzles, which I love doing. And I got through it, which is something I cannot say for Finnegans Wake. All God's Chillun Got Wings (my one play that I just had to include on this list) by Eugene O'Neill Reading this play was an incredibly emotional experience. I read it, and then re-read it again immediately, weeping through the last scene. I've never seen it, but I want to. Fish Out of Water by Dr. Seuss's wife(!) - Helen Giesel Very few books make me think of my childhood and my grandparents as much as this one does. I always thought the wise old pet-shop owner was very like my grandfather. The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting However, this is another book that immediately makes me think of my childhood and grandparents. I love children's books. I could seriously do this for fifteen children's books (and I just might) but I had to list this one too. Full of humor and exotic adventure. It's the simple things. Perelandra by CS Lewis I love a lot of CS Lewis's books, but if I had to choose one (which I guess I don't), I'd pick this one - the perfect melding of Lewis's philosophical and theological ramblings with an intense character-driven thriller. And the ending is truly lyrical and moving. And it's also not besmirched by Lewis's infamous mother/whore thing. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte Funny that I put this right under Perelandra, since I think both are psychological thrillers - that's what draws me to them. And of course, this book has some of the greatest characters of Western literature. The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster There's another book, Tintin in the New World (which is not nearly as good as this book), which uses the tagline "...up until now, he has never charted the restless territory of his own mind." I think that's an evocative phrase, and it evokes nothing so much as the feeling that this book brings to me. I especially think City of Glass, the first part of the trilogy, is a modern masterpiece - a novella that is frightening, surreal, mysterious, and true. Sandman by Neil Gaiman So I had to put one comic on this list, and I've often said that Sandman is the greatest comic I've ever read. Alan Moore has what seems to be an endless supply of brilliant ideas, but often lacks a beauty, lyricism, warmth. Sandman has that in spades. If I had to give someone one issue to convince them of the series' brilliance, I'd give them the issue, "A Dream of a Thousand Cats." It combines a brilliant premise and great storytelling with a truly touching climax, and a chilling denouement, all in 22 pages. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolfe The first stream-of-consciousness novel I ever read. I read it when I was 13, and I remember I tried to write stream-of-consciousness stories for years after that, but the device, in my hands, always sounded forced and trite and unnatural. I still can't make my way through Remembrance of Things Past, but I love this book. Like many of the books on this list, it touches something within me that I can't quite name, and it makes me cry. Franny and Zooey by JD Salinger Salinger...is there any author whom I loved more when I was a teen? He is a master of conciseness. Every single word in this book means something. Especially in Franny, the book is all about what she doesn't say. When I was younger, I thought that it was the most brilliant character work ever. I still think it's pretty darn good. The Plague by Albert Camus Maybe cause I had such a strong Christian upbringing, I was always intrigued by existentialism. It never had the desired effect on me, because I had a moral compass, but the ideas that the existentialists stirred fascinated me. Honestly, it's probably part of being a teenager. Just most teens don't read Sartre's plays, and Camus's and Kafka's novels. (I'm guessing here. I wish I were wrong. We'd have much more literate youtube emo teens if they all followed the existentialist reading list!) A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L'Engle I think about this book maybe once a week. Another strongly moral book, another fantasy with SF undertones - is anyone detecting a pattern? (Wait till you see the last book on this list!) I also love A Swiftly Tilting Planet, which honestly might be even better, but this was my first L'Engle book, and the one I think of most frequently. I'm so sentimental. Hinds' Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard A Christian allegory! But seriously, I love allegories. They are one of my favorite genres. Just like Ulysses, they are puzzles. Usually pretty easy to figure out, but still. The trick to a good allegory is to make it work on a character and plot level, as well as on a symbolic level.
There you go. More than I've written on here in...a long time. But I love books. And this gives me a chance to share a piece of myself with you lj friends who don't really know me.
One final thought: the end of Pushing Daisies was kind of beautiful. Especially because the ending was really only the beginning.
Actually, I just have a question. For the more technology-minded of you, why can't my PC play HD video? I have four gigs of RAM and a great video card, and still it's very choppy! Shouldn't my PC be able to handle this? Do I need to reduce the number of programs running in the background?
Can anyone offer any advice or recommend any programs I should use to help me out? Thanks!!
I love The Simpsons, and tonight's episode was funny, but SO WEIRD. Seriously, sometimes The Simpsons are surreal but never as surreal as this! Did anyone else see this? Was it a parody of something that I haven't seen?
And after a year and a half, I lost my iPod/had it stolen. RIP sweet Ipod.
I have a new roommate! Say hello to June! I mean, April!
I wrote this on ATC, but I'm reposting it here for those of you who don't go on ATC. Also so I can have it for posterity.
So Katie and I saw a concert of the new musical Einstein's Dreams at Symphony Space tonight. If any of you have a bootleg or come across one, PLEASE LET ME KNOW! I was using Leslie's recorder, but I forgot to change the battery, and I managed to record four minutes of the show. :( :(
I know this journal is basically defunct, and I apologize. I do want to write about the film Notorious, which was not great, but elicited a strong emotional response from me because of my childhood connections to the subject. But I'm not feeling that right now.
What I do want to write about right now is the cartoon Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, which is rerun on Toon Disney. It's from the 70s, I think (I can't be bothered to Wikipedia it right now), and I have to say that it is the FUNNIEST, most TERRIBLE cartoon EVER!!! Seriously, I cannot stop watching them because they are laugh riots! The premise of the show is that Iceman and Firestar go to the same university that Peter Parker does, and he discovers their identities and asks them to team up with him. Then they basically go fight crime together.
The catch here is that EACH of them behaves like complete morons!!! I guess I can accept it from Iceman and Firestar, who are team players, but Spider-Man is a) supposed to be a brilliant scientist, and b) a solo act most of the time. Peter Parker is literally carrying the idiot ball throughout the entire show! It is ridiculous how stupid he acts! He swings behind a bunch of boxes in a warehouse in one episode and stands there for like half a minute while the bad guy pounds on the boxes until they topple and fall on him. Instead of swinging out of there immediately, he stands and dodges the boxes on the ground, catching one that's about to hit him. WHAT?? Iceman is on a date with Mona Osborne (apparently Norman's niece), and he hears an eerie voice ask her if he can have the next dance. He says, "If you want to, Mona," and then SEES the Green Goblin swoop in and steal her away, while calmly standing there. (The ridiculous justification is that this takes place on Halloween; apparently everyone constructs their own goblin gliders and gets into character when going out on Halloween.) But the all-time funniest scene has to be in the pilot episode. Which I will now post in its own entry, simply because I am not quite sure how to post it in this one. The hilarity starts about 7 and a half minutes into the video, and bear in mind that Peter Parker has already run into Firestar and Iceman on campus as Spider-Man, so he knows that they attend as students.