If — and I’m pessimistically assuming when — Scott Brown wins tonight, how long will it take before a member of the Senate Democratic caucus announces his or her intention to reject “Plan A” (i.e., a quick wrap-up of negotiations and a full vote on final passage before Brown is seated) because it would presumably “flout the will” of Massachusetts voters?
As Sadly, No! and Mr. Bogg have already documented, Ben Shapiro’s latest entry at Andrew Breitbart’s Aesthetic Stalinism for Dummies is a classic. It actually starts out a little frighteningly by identifying two actually decdent candidates for such a list, but instantly removes any credibility from his Ridley Scott pick by IDing Gladiator as his best film. After that, though…wow. I particularly enjoyed:
3. Woody Allen. He’s pretentious and unbearable. His movies are like nails screeching on a chalkboard, only with less humor. He is as nerdy as Peter Orszag, but he acts out his fantasies and illuminates his insecurities in film and expects us all to watch.
Haha, Peter Orszag, nails on a chalkboard — I hope Woody calls up Shapiro for some advice on comic writing!
Raging Bull is gross. Mean Streets is gross and soporific. Taxi Driver is perhaps the most overrated film in Hollywood history — dreary, grungy, and subzero.
See, if Scorsese was a good director, his portrait of 70s Manhattan would have been clean enough to get one of those Film Advisory Board ribbons (indeed, their sense of what makes a good movie would seem to track Shapiro’s almost exactly.) And it would definitely be above zero!
Awful stuff. If Big Hollywood insists on staying in business, it should at least stick to the creatively insane, like Ben Stone’s thoughtful assessment of that well-known piece of Communist propaganda, Casablanca. Now that’s more like it! (via Edroso.)
Let me open with a quick clarification about the previous Mad Men post: as to the purview of self-fashioning, we all do it. In blog terms, you know me as this guy, i.e. the one who caught those students, made that other one extremely uncomfortable, is frequently victimized by the library, hid his cancer from his wife, etc. Those are the stories I tell about myself to explain myself to myself. To quote Gertrude Stein from Everybody’s Autobiography:
Identity is funny being yourself is funny as you are never yourself to yourself except as you remember yourself and then of course you do not believe yourself. That is really the trouble with an autobiography you do not of course really believe yourself why should you, you know so well so very well that it is not yourself, it could not be yourself because you cannot remember right and if you do remember right it does not sound right and of course it does not sound right because it is not right. You are of course never yourself.
The phrase “of course” captures the central irony of all self-fashioning: we know, of course, that we are more than the sum total of the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves, and yet we only understand ourselves, and can only be understood by others, through those stories. In case you ever wanted to know why narrative diversity is important, there you have it: the more narrative modes available, the more possible understandings of themselves the people who encounter them can have.
This is self-fashioning at its most mundane, and in terms of Mad Men, this is why Peggy Olson becomes more modern: once she understands herself in terms of the upwardly mobile career-oriented woman, the audience understands her frustrations in terms of the conflict between that meritocratic fantasy and the realities of being a woman in a male-dominated working environment. She becomes more recognizably modern not because the world she inhabits does, but because the way she responds to that changing world elicits a chorus of “of courses.”
Neither she nor Peter Campbell become “more real” as the series progresses—fictional characters, being fictional, can only aspire to escape the fictions they inhabit—but as the stories they tell themselves about themselves in order to understand themselves come to resemble ours, they’ll seem more realistic because they’re telling themselves the same stories we tell ourselves and we, of course, live in the real world. What I meant when I wrote the following, then, is that Campbell is increasingly understanding himself in reference to the same narratives we do, whereas Don Draper is not:
Campbell is, in a sense, becoming us, and we revile his behavior to the extent that we recognize our sins in his actions. Draper, however, is becoming art, and as such we hold him as responsible for his actions as we would Emma Bovary. His self-fashioning was not merely based on literary precedent, it was an act of literature, if you will, and much of the appeal of the show is based on watching an inscrutable literary character interact with actual humans.
Draper’s self-fashioning is not remotely this mundane—it is radical. He envisions himself not in the way a person envisions his or her self, but in the way an author envisions a character, which is why Joseph Kugelmass refers to it as aesthetic self-fashioning. To a certain extent, this is how my blog functions, i.e. as a stylized version of the life I actually live and the person I actually am; but because there are stories central to my conception of myself that have not and will never make it on the blog, the person you associate with my name will always feel, to me, like a persona. If withholding certain core stories so alters the warp and woof of my persona that it aestheticizes my self-fashioning, you can imagine what would happen were I to start inventing those stories whole cloth à la Draper.
The only people who know him on the show are the dead actors in his increasingly frequent hallucinations, because only they have access to his entire allotment of self-narratives—and, of course, they only have that access because they are the stories he tells himself about himself. The audience is privy to some of them, but not the entire store, which is why Draper remains ever at a remove. To the extent that Mad Men belongs to Draper, it is a story about someone will never be able to integrate his stories with the ones he wants told about him even to himself. His hallucinations bully and hector him in order to remind him “that it does not sound right and of course it does not sound right because it is not right,” because the troubled antecedent of Stein’s “it” is even more troubling when the narratives that constitute identity are the convenient inventions of an unsettled soul.
If this conception of self-fashioning seems less modern than modernist, that would be my point: the manner in which Draper is integrating his competing narratives into a semi-coherent sense of self is entirely consonant with the modernist obsession with integrating competing narratives into semi-coherent sense of self. From the unstable “I” in Samuel Beckett’s trilogy to the endless renegotiation of familial roles in Joyce’s Ulysses, literary modernists sought to explode the tidy, reducible self that had been the hallmark of literary realism. Draper is, then, something of an exploded man sifting through bits of himself in search of the core to which all these bits once belonged. However, until he accomplishes this impossibility, his self-fashioning will still be far more aesthetic than that of the other characters on Mad Men, and as such, the show’s literate audience will still be drawn to him more than them.
I keep on meaning for these Mad Men posts to move beyond Draper so I can talk about Joan or visual rhetoric, but I can’t quit Draper quite yet.
Coded references to New Testament Bible passages about Jesus Christ are inscribed on high-powered rifle sights provided to the United States military by a Michigan company, an ABC News investigation has found…
One of the citations on the gun sights, 2COR4:6, is an apparent reference to Second Corinthians 4:6 of the New Testament, which reads: “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
Other references include citations from the books of Revelation, Matthew and John dealing with Jesus as “the light of the world.” John 8:12, referred to on the gun sights as JN8:12, reads, “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Trijicon confirmed to ABCNews.com that it adds the biblical codes to the sights sold to the U.S. military. Tom Munson, director of sales and marketing for Trijicon, which is based in Wixom, Michigan, said the inscriptions “have always been there” and said there was nothing wrong or illegal with adding them.
The company claims that the inscriptions are about American values and the defense of individual freedom, which would be more plausible if the inscriptions referred to, say, constitutional amendments.
What kind of person wants to think of Jesus while he’s shooting someone?
If you are a Facebook fan or friend of Nicholas Kristof, and it happened to show up in your newsfeed (or, if you were set to “live feed” and you happened to be on at the right time of day), you saw this status update earlier:
“On Martin Luther King Day, I wish more Palestinians would absorb the lessons of King and Gandhi and use non-violent but confrontational approaches in challenging settlements, etc. Non-violence is not only morally superior to terrorism, it’s also more effective in challenging a democracy.”
The post has attracted lots of comments. I wonder how LGM readers will react to it.
Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day!
I’ll have a substantial sequel to my Mad Men post up later today or tomorrow, but for the moment, you can read two solid replies from Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon and my friend Joseph Kugelmass at The Valve. For the most part, I agree with what Amanda wrote and think Joe is as wrong as wrong can be when the discussion involves the topic of your dissertation (as this one does his).
Can turn what should be a sure thing into an angst ridden few days. The only thing more fulfilling than rooting for Celtic in European competition, or the Mariners prior to 1995, is consistently setting myself up for disappointment by supporting the Democrats.
Keith Brooking. Aww, a professional team playing another professional team in a playoff game continued to play football in the fourth quarter, boo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo.
And now the punchline:
“They get to see us (next season) so you better believe I will have that one circled on the calendar,” Brooking said.
Oooh, I’m sure that sent a massive wave of terror through the Vikings dressing room.
Aside from the utter lack of merit in Brooking’s pathetic whining, I should also note that anyone who shares a locker room with Flozell Adams should be permanently enjoined from calling any member of another organization classless.
Time for an unjustifiably general rant against the people of an entire region of the United States:
The Midwest of the United States appears utterly incapable of properly cooking a steak. To be specific, the terms “rare” and “medium rare” have no meaning in the Midwest. As far as I can tell, both “rare” and “medium rare” are interpreted as “medium,” while “medium” is interpreted as “well done.” The blame for this problem lies with the people of those states of the Midwest; I do not hold the restauranteers responsible. After hearing 531 complaints about underdone steaks after some idiot ordered “medium rare” when he meant “well done,” I’d stop trying, too. Last year at the Precinct, one of the best steakhouses in Cincinnati, the wife (seven months pregnant at the time) ordered a medium rare steak. The steak came back at what can charitably be termed medium well. Upon complaint, the waiter (apparently believing that pregnant women randomly go insane, and that dealing with crazy people was above his paygrade) summoned the manager, who immediately and with all sincerity promised to take the steak back to the kitchen in order to COOK IT LONGER. It didn’t even enter the manager’s imagination that someone might want a steak that was actually medium rare; no one, apparently, had ever expressed unhappiness about an OVERDONE steak. The wife politely declined the manager’s offer, and proceeded to eat as much of the charcoal as she could choke down.
I mention this today because the “rare side of medium rare” steak that I ordered at a Michigan steakhouse came back the medium side of medium well. Our server confirmed the extraordinarily unusual nature of my complaint; no one, it appears, ever complains about a steak that is overdone. I observed that an underdone steak could be fixed, while an overdone one could not, but this logic gained no apparent traction. It’s a ridiculous situation; you can get medium rare in Seattle, in New York, in Washington, and even (depending on where you go) in Lexington, but you can’t get it anywhere in the state of Ohio.
Midwesterners need to stop being idiots.