Abraham Lincoln was a vampire hunter? It says so on this Blu-Ray dvd we’ve got for a curious person…

With Halloween just around the corner, vampire hype is higher than it normally is.  Is that even possible?  Anyway, here’s your chance to win your very own copy of Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter on Blu-ray DVD!  Check this out and answer the trivia question for your chance to win. (Contest closed)

Continue reading “Abraham Lincoln was a vampire hunter? It says so on this Blu-Ray dvd we’ve got for a curious person…”

The Offspring at Echo Beach and the end of summer…sort of

Echo Beach (Far away in time?)

It’s been a hot summer and the weather man predicts a “warmer than normal” fall to follow.  Aside from the soaring temperatures, it’s been a record year (already) for great concerts in Toronto as well.  With bands such as Bloc Party, The Killers, Glen Hansard, Rush and New Order pending, it could end up being downright epic!

This past long weekend, I caught The Offspring at Echo Beach, a super cool newish venue located at the now mostly derelict site of Ontario Place.  To be honest, I wasn’t really expecting much from this show.  The Offspring’s music holds more nostalgic value than anything else as I recount the many beer-fueled nights at Whiskey Saigon shouting “you gotta keep em’ separated”, or one memorable day cruising around Barrie with my pal Brad listening to the Edge play Ixnay on the Hombre in its entirety.  We had planned to go snowboarding that day, but succumbed to the urge to do nothing at all that would be exerting.  Anyway, the show on Sunday turned out to be good.  Really good in fact!  I wrote a review for Examiner.com and posted a bunch of photos, so check it out.


We loved VELD when Toronto’s own Deadmau5 ruled the land…

A beat-down but still functional Mau5head and friends, the Gods approve.

VELD Music Festival Toronto, August 4th & 5th, Downsview Park

The inaugural VELD Music Festival was held this weekend during yet another record breaking summer heatwave for Toronto (a city where residents cherish their actual “beach weather” days each summer, and regularly count them on one hand over a season). For anyone not celebrating this August long weekend at a lake, VELD was the place to be. While Saturday’s temperatures tested the fans at a site without much shade, Downsview park was well utilized offering many areas of rest and respite for those creative thinking types.

Continue reading “We loved VELD when Toronto’s own Deadmau5 ruled the land…”

Heavy T.O. will melt your face off and you will love it.

Heavy T.O.

DownsviewPark, Toronto

August 11-12, 2012

Story and photos by Dave MacIntyre

Rob Zombie at Heavy TO – Copyright: Dave MacIntyre

One week after the completion of the VELD in Toronto, DownsviewPark will host the second annual Heavy T.O. festival, and with it comes a complete transformation from the euphoric danceable electronic beats that VELD promises to offer, to some of the darkest and heaviest guitar riffs in the metal genre.

This year’s lineup is a major departure from the classic heavy metal icons of Anthrax, Slayer, Megadeth and Motorhead present at last year’s epic festival, but bands such as Slipknot, System of a Down, Marilyn Manson, Five Finger Death Punch and host of other great acts promise to deliver a heavy as all hell performance.

Continue reading “Heavy T.O. will melt your face off and you will love it.”

Pop art mashups: Le Petit Prince, junk food & Vogue

A new coterie of artists show razor wit, strong cultural critiques and point of views both sophisticated and democratic. They use  technology as well as, or, despite the rarefied world of the stark white gallery spaces of the elite.

The “Le Petit Prince” project frames itself on one original doll and his “adventures” through hand crafted costumes, props, and settings photographed by the artist. It was a deeply personal project,as Gua explains “Le Petit Prince was made late in 2011 in an attempt to cleanse myself from what I had been making and felt was becoming cynical work. I wanted to make something that made me happy.” The full motion capture of Prince in his iconic purple glory spinning atop wax suggests the potential of a short film, as well as being enjoyed as an animated gif in the casual social media world. One second of this image creates an instant cultural reference: it links our shared memories of Purple Rain with trends of “cute” that appeals to nostalgic impulses and a pre CGImemory of “real effects” and artistry;one that has attained a special status in a technological era where realness is fleeting.

Care to purify yourself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka?
Care to purify yourself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka?

Continue reading “Pop art mashups: Le Petit Prince, junk food & Vogue”

Killing Marilyn Monroe Over and Over, One Bad Wig at a Time

By Jacqueline Howell

Killing Marilyn Monroe – One Bad Wig at a Time: Whether you “love” “hate” or are “indifferent” to Marilyn Monroe ( you might be meh) please consider the overt travesties lately committed in fashion, photography and film, as well as the stunningly bad attempts to sexify flat-assed and dull-witted “starlets” of today in the broad’s name. For the choir, you can nod along, sharing the pain of a fandom that persists despite the lazy media productions that kill the poor woman over and over again – a persistent cultural migraine  throbbing since Michelle Williams made her gambit for that role that is best left to the small screen, the unknown, or someone who bears some physical resemblance beyond “female” and “white”. For the haters and the “meh” among you, I will keep it brief and pictorial.

The over-baked cliché of putting a bad white wig on a modern girl and attempting to instil nostalgia for our granddaddies’ golden age is probably a feature of the constant recycling of culture, as well as a disturbing lack of imagination among editors and photographers. Marilyn still sells, especially the cartoon version who is apparently lobotomized. Everyone from Mariah Carey (who owns Monroe’s most valuable and coolest personal item, her white piano, and named her daughter Monroe) to Megan Fox, who, until she recently began laser treatments,  flaunted a vile Marilyn tattoo down her forearm, that, while it looks like Kate Moss as Beyonce, yet sparkles with more life than its host), to the dreadful, hopelessly freckled everywhere ginge Lindsay Lohan, whose New York Magazine photo shoot one hoped would be the death knell, the final nail in the coffin, to speak in the cliches the project deserves.

In case it’s not clear where the author’s feelings lie on the matter, it must be said: your beloved It girl, sort-of widow, decent pixie cut wearer, and decent actress Michelle Williams should never have touched “My Week With Marilyn”. While technically perfectly rendered as a window to on-set dynamics (yawn) of a movie no one saw (The Prince and the Showgirl which is actually quite good), the film’s true story-ness deserves a bigger side-eye than The Amityville Horror: it’s little more than a yarn, the earliest known published work of bad fan fiction. 50 Shades of a British lad’s spank bank. On top of that, Michelle Williams looks about as much like Marilyn Monroe as your foot.

Deserves an award for something. Participant ribbon? Vogue

In some unofficial research (attempting to engage a few people in a chat about how their foot in a white wig, a beauty mark, dark glasses, and a trench coat would have been entirely as passable as Williams as Monroe) it became clear why the film was made, did alright (“meh”/Weinsteins), and why Williams strutted the awards circuit like the next queen, the poor dear deluded into thinking she ought to be given all the prizes for this role. The target audience for this film is precisely the people who don’t give a shit about Marilyn Monroe any more than they do Meryl Streep’s Margaret Thatcher- both bio pics of the season were accepted wholesale based on marketability of the lead actresses, and the general public’s indifference about history/ willingness to accept history if entertainingly told through popular film. A lot of actresses turned down this part, and most of the actual praise in print or fan comments seems to hang on Williams’ bravery to tackle an iconic part based on, a woman who, if nothing else, enjoyed a very active love affair with the still camera: Monroe seems to live on in more, and more widely seen, photographs and posters than all of her 50’s counterparts combined.

Arguably, the only acceptable Marilyn film drag performances exist in two T.V. movies- though admittedly this statement relies on memory and scarce YouTube clips. “Norma Jeane and Marilyn” offered an original, fresh point of view featuring Ashley Judd as Norma Jeane and Mira Sorvino as Marilyn, (two big film stars of the 90’s who were bigger than Michelle Williams in their day). “Blonde”, from 2001, (based on the classic book by Joyce Carol Oates, a work of fiction that stands as a definitive text, better researched and more thoughtful than scores of biographies) starred then unknown Poppy Montgomery who was perfectly cast, disappearing into the part and bringing a difficult image to  uncanny life. These small screen productions, with much less pressure than film, were each successful, attentive and respectful for their subject matter. In the 90’s and early 2000’s, fortunately the Marilyn bit was not yet done to death. Now it’s all ruined. It’s Santa Claus- we can only look to see how creepy the latest version is, how much they fail to convince. And these pretenders, the costumers at least, know this. They get the clothes so right that the mind here and there is tricked, for mere seconds.

Uma Thurman

Recently, all attempts to watch “Smash”, the 2011-12 TV show about the creation of a Broadway musical about Marilyn, resulted in shudders, imaginary pearl clutching and petticoat gathering, a fainting couch, and stiff drinks that soured in the belly. Audiences here were treated to at last count, three Marilyns on offer, all of whom sucked hardcore and the latest of which, Uma Thurman, looked and sounded like a very skinny, nervous college freshman in drag on a dare.

Was it a nightmare or was even Joe DiMaggio’s corpse made to roll over during that last number? The olive branch of  “look at that brave girl, trying. Look at that former A-list beauty, completely failing”  fell from my hand. We (royal we) shan’t watch again.

Two Out of Three…Ain’t Bad. In fact, are very good. Poppy Montgomery. Unknown credit.

As Dlisted says, most half-assed college girl’s Halloween costumes look more like Marilyn than the new crop of famous poseurs with a crew of stylists and photoshop at the ready. It might all be a joke that stylists play on the newer crop of Hollywood bitches, no more committed to a concept than when we used to dress up and humiliate our childhood cats. Only not as charming. It’s a hard look to wear, that amazing late 1950’s bleach and set. Marilyn had a masterful, lifelong make up artist who knew all the old lighting tricks and she looked good in a severe type of look, with her soft, fine boned face. The makeup ends up far too heavy in modern resolution. But there is really no excuse for the wigs, the scent of desperation, the misappropriation.

Pick your poison:

Some Like It Not 

Digital collage by life-long collage: pics- clockwise from top left: Marilyn Monroe, Michelle Williams, Nicole Kidman (one of the most awkward photographs I have ever seen), Lindsay a.k.a. kitty wig, Lady Gaga in a Happy Birthday to Marilyn twitpic, Lohan in her bare bum, Megan Fox’s tattoo (that looks like Kate Moss as Beyonce), Naomi Watts, dishearteningly announced in a remake of Blonde, Monroe, Lohan, and side by side Monroe with scarf, Monroe famous bed sitting and Angelina Jolie threatening all and sundry with a good time, Christina Aguilera selling perfume.

Cat Marnell and Jane Pratt’s Bad Breakup: On Branding, Journalism, and Drugs

By Jacqueline Howell

Raise your hand if you have ever said you would “kill” to be an editor in New York City with a legendary woman who seems unusually generous and willing to mentor. It’s a career so remote, it’s like going to the moon. But one person who has been there has decided she would rather “be on the rooftop of Le Bain looking for shooting stars and smoking angel dust”.

Whatever your gut reaction to the quote that cemented former XOJane beauty editor Cat Marnell’s micro fame and rising brand, it’s an irresistible sound bite for the press. Acting out to a degree that Page Six is following your exploits is notable – an unrealized dream to many wannabe celebs. It’s the pop culture hall of fame, of infamy. Of terrible.

And it is noteworthy to media critics. Marnell may just be brilliant – in the brutal context of our times. It’s not for the faint of heart, this game. It’s not for those who still talk to their parents. It’s freedom without a net, requiring the coldest blood and the sharpest nails and a good supply of pharmaceuticals inside last year’s “it” bag. It has existed in Manhattan long before Bret Easton Ellis dropped his first name, and now, writers like Marnell arrive to grab at a crown that may lead to infamy, posthumous fame, wealth and acclaim; or maybe just burnout.

As the resident beauty editor and enfant terrible for over a year at XOJane, Marnell seemed to enjoy a dysfunctional, if close, working relationship with EIC Jane Pratt, who once ran the revered alternative teen girl mag Sassy. Cat Marnell quit her job noisily, messily, and cruelly, burning her bridges so she could learn to swim.

Or Cat was fired.

Or it was mutual.

It was a bad break up where the person who presents an image of a broken doll, proud narcissist, Courtney Love fangirl, and quick-witted writer/ silly drug addict (writing ad nauseum about prescriptions, cocaine, and speed) is maybe, too, a sly media expert willing to shill her soul for her personal brand- who might just play the part, the controversy, the clippings, and the ideological bombing of XOJane’s image all the way to a book deal. She certainly landed on her feet at Vice.com with a new column that allows her to play her Bret Easton Ellis card all day long, now, the drug girl, the girl who fled the world of “lady bloggers”.

So what if she shit where she ate by dismissing XOJane as a site preoccupied with “fat acceptance” and vaginas in a show of her patented “amphetamine logic”? Or that she describes Pratt, in print (a woman she claims to love, in an example of this) as “Sphinx like” and “not like Slimer” but really, as like Slimer, the Ghostbusters buffoon mascot from a short-lived cartoon. Of all things. Ouch.  As Marnell is rewarded for her bad behaviour, Pratt has been cast as victim, mean girled into a corner, preyed on by a younger woman out of Sassy’s worst nightmares, a living smackdown of its frail 90’s dreams.

Cat Marnell

The confessional,  informal tone of XOJane, a bloggy version of Sassy and Jane Magazines’ successful formula is ripe for disaster in a blurry world where writers struggle to claim authority and words are devalued as just another part of content. It’s one of those sites where much of its relevance occurs in the comments; readers and writers, along with Jane herself, duke it out and define what this space is and what it means, providing lifeblood and free content along with essential blog hits. Debate, and controversy, is gold. The commenters are active, articulate, involved, exhausting.

Cat Marnell stuck out like a sore thumb at XOJane (albeit one painted in Dior Vernis Rouge Altess). Her provocative pieces played with beauty writing while weaving drug narratives and revelations about improper use of birth control, she was hotly debated at other sites: this controversy at first served XOJane very well, alerting many readers that this new site, XOJane existed. Cat was compelling, even as she used fear and manipulation and casually talked about taboo subjects with a nihilistic air. She was wickedly funny. She was a bad girl.

Marnell can write. She has a unique voice and is fearless at times, in ways that can propel some writers to greatness. In spite of her carefully (de)constructed exterior, she succeeds at times in her aim to express herself as a writer, rather than a woman writer. Her piece about drug addiction and the death of Whitney Houston was a riveting and personal analysis of a gossipy story that elevated the conversation, cutting through the often useless black and white thinking that dominates acceptable discourse about drugs in our culture. I believe in the writer’s gift for invention in times of despair. This is a talent, a tool, that is innate; it comes from somewhere deep in our survival kit.

BUT-some of Marnell’s pieces seemed like passable, if flippant, suicide notes. It would be funny if it was all drag, performance art. As a diarist, as the tormented, raw writer it was great. But the tension and the disjuncture with the rest of the site’s tone was undeniable. And she was only ironically interested in beauty, in health. Our feminism today is a P.C. minefield, where Cat was often torn apart for her opinions. Wanting to be very, very thin, and stating beauty should be aspirational was her right as much as other “normal” ideals. Cat seemed to readers to get sicker in recent months, notable for erratic behavior and long absences from the site.

Cat vs. Jane seems inevitable in the pictures of the two on the site, one that mines the staff relationships to drive its reason for being as much or more than content. See Jane, who we think we know, with her lovable, clean face, holding down her little corner of publishing: an anomaly, she seems photoshopped next to constructed Cat with her permanent smoky eyes, heavy make up and always sad smile; a Blythe doll who seems as addicted to her “dirty whites” druggy uniform as she is to drugs. Cat’s departure cemented her role  in a bizarre reverse Devil Wears Prada: as cannibalistic, acrylic hard, cold. But both images may be abstractions, projections: by-products of a shaky battleground that might exist behind the imposed family of a magazine. 


Drugs are key to the story of Cat and Jane, since Marnell made it that way. As in life, they threaten to obliterate everything else.  Over time Cat’s arguments about free will gave way to the slick con of an addict at work, lying to you all the time. Marnell’s few stabs at writing in recent months led devoted readers on a wild ride that ranged from blackest humour to razor-sharp jabs of contempt at her employer, funny/childish rants about the shallowness of writing about eyeliner (her chosen profession) and back to little gems of insight that would quickly be negated by the most immature photography: Her fridge, empty but for pill bottles (a shtick unfortunately carried on at Vice). Druggy self pics that were valueless except to shock or flaunt the impossible: Not arrested. Not fired.

The infamous quote in full reads:

“Look, I couldn’t spend another summer meeting deadlines behind a computer at night when I could be on the rooftop of Le Bain looking for shooting stars and smoking angel dust with my friends and writing a book, which is what I’m doing next.”

This represents Marnell’s image, her fledgling brand, one that has lately enjoyed unprecedented press clippings. It would be a great statement if it were a joke. Marnell has fallen up, moving swiftly to a job at Vice.com where she is finally able to express herself freely on the subjects that interest her. Curiously, for someone who talks about always being on drugs, the enjoyable, less fraught columns at Vice come regularly and coherently, with a renewed sense of pride. Marnell has a flair for descriptive prose and a fine memory (or imagination) that she ought to believe in, one that is not due to drugs (as she claims to believe, also that they make her superhuman). It’s a good fit, a woman with guts in the boys club she longed to crack. Stepping on her sister’s back. All of this noise has earned solid column inches in the New York press. Marnell must have a good publicist, or good advice. Maybe a plan, maybe even back when she started with XOJane. Before Jane and Cat became codependent faux family. Before Jane introduced Cat to Courtney Love.  

The entitled don’t know and don’t care how obnoxious they are. Certainly a woman of 29 has to spin her wheels very hard to pretend to be happy in the drugged out scene of lazy privilege and clubbing. Marnell’s scene is jaded and dried up – otherwise they wouldn’t need so many drugs. But all the nonsense that puts her ass next to Lindsay Lohan’s in a booth, friends of friends, even: now that has some currency. Marnell now writes for Vice.com with beauty product references sprinkled in absurdly, a funny Marnell signature. “Amphetamine Logic” her new column, is a welcome change from the aggregated gossip that dominates online. But yet.

Anyone can say they are writing a book. Drug addicts love to have big plans to spin over. The difference is that writers work hard and are disciplined especially with fewer real writing jobs left. Dorothy Parker and even good old Hunter S. Thompson are gone and so are their expense accounts (never trust fund babies, I think). Christopher Hitchens was famous for drinking and still producing insightful, perfectly composed work while drunk. His obit in Vanity Fair makes special mention of this. Kerouac for all his benzos worked on that goddamned manuscript for On The Road for over ten years, carefully crafting something to look spontaneous. They are all dead and lived hard, but left a legacy, too. The proof of our intentions is in who we aspire to be, our real daddies: are they writers? Or Olsens? Or Lohans? And it’s dangerous to perch too close to a Lohan. Marnell seems to forget that if she is, indeed, a writer, then she requires distance; should want to be anything but a toxic twin. Use Lohan as fodder, but don’t aspire to be. To thrive as a writer, not as a celebrity, is work and involves one set of muscles to be realized. To be devoted to drugs comes from somewhere else, it doesn’t share. It’s wishful thinking that both can happen concurrently (or ever did). They were always more truthfully one or the other.  Just ask Robert Downey Jr. :An honest survivor of the 80’s party. A grateful one.

The problem with Marnell’s departure was not censorship or abuse, she was indulged beyond all reason, and behaved ungratefully- it’s there for us all to see. And if she prefers to live her life using drugs, it’s her life. But you can’t have it both ways- one is either a functioning addict who can work and spin that shit into gold, or in a crisis and needing/accepting help. Or addicted to something else- lying? Attention? The disorder of our age. Marnell was way more committed to her brand than her paid gig and did not perform her job – she did not produce much writing at all for XOJane, but got to stay under Jane’s wing, on her masthead, for a long time. Got attention, infamy, maybe fame. Maybe a book deal. Choosing a fatalistic drug love affair and calling it a party is a risky and unsustainable brand. There might me much more to the story, or much less. It might have just been a bad fit. Leaving a job gracefully, with gratitude for a mentor, is not Cat’s color. It wouldn’t make for a swag story.

Sources: XOJane, Vice.com, Jezebel.com, New York Post Page Six, The Atlantic Wire, New York Magazine

Musical Mood Enhancers

A handy reference guide of go-to music to service your mood:

Mood One – In desperate need of an anthem:

Maybe you have crossed that threshold where sad music no longer gives you comfort, but makes you said. Maybe you listened to an illegal amount of Radiohead in the 90’s (and the 2000’s). When the sad songs and the news and the self-help books just cross each other out in a wall of static, it’s time to break out an anthem. If any of this rings a bell, best to keep a roster of them handy*:

Bruce Springsteen: Thunder Road

(It’s ok to be older, nostalgic and sad. In fact in the right lyrics it’s downright epic. See also, The Killers)

Continue reading “Musical Mood Enhancers”

MadMen: You Only Live Twice

“…Or So It Seems.
One Life For Yourself, And One For Your Dreams…”

Mad Men Season Five Wrap Up
Love, Grief, Hauntings, and The Dark Shadow of Don Draper:

“Love is a stranger who will beckon you on”. The heart doesn’t know time. You can think that you have run all the way through the acute grief of losing a loved one, have suffered it and made the uneasy peace of setting it aside on a nearby shelf, after doing your level best to compartmentalize the pain in the most necessary and healthy sense of that word. But with the changing of a season, or the turn of a phrase, there it will be. As if you never kicked the shit out of it, as if you never tenderized it to an almost palatable shape. On the satisfying Season Five finale of Mad Men, the show makes a tender and graceful return to form of its poetic best of earlier seasons by gracefully unspooling one of its most poignant themes: the isolation of unspeakable grief. And how to live with it.

Arguably the series really hit its’ stride mid series three, when audiences collectively learned the stark, measured phrase “Meditations in an Emergency”. Here the show’s protagonist lost his only real friend in the world, Anna Draper, just when their shared back story was revealed. At its heart a mystery story about identity, survival, and an interrogation of core human values (especially the notion of happiness) Don Draper’s most shocking face was revealed in flashbacks and a detour to hazy California with Anna, the only person who knew Don’s essential truth and also the only person to love him anyway.

Anna later appeared to Don in a vision upon her passing in a devastating sequence that could be easily dismissed as Soap Opera to anyone who has never experienced something eerily similar. In our cultural tropes about ghosts, whether we believe in them or not at all, there is a notion of the watchful, guiding spirit, which Anna is for Don. Then there is the malevolent, restless or fraught presence that superstitiously accompanies thoughts about people lost to suicide. In the course of the series, most recently at the end of Season Five, Don has now advised two men who sought him out in moments of desperation for guidance and the brilliant ad man failed utterly in the only two pitches that ever truly mattered on a grand scale, propelling them to fatal consequences. Don is now visited by the dark spirit of the dead brother he rejected and tried to pay off, as he appears around the office in a chillingly benign way, so unlike Anna’s spirit.

Don knows only one way to survive. He has only tool in his essential toolbox: to cut and run, and start over. Don’s code to cope with impossible pain, loss and tragedy is brutal and as precise as a knife edge: “this never happened. It will amaze you how much this never happened.” When it works, as it (sort of) has for Don and Peggy who is mentored in his ways and shares a similar survivalist streak, it is probably a life saving, critical measure. When it fails – when fragile people are unable to get crucial support in times of shame and despair – the Hobo Code Don quite literally lives by leaves first his only brother, and now, a partner in the firm, with only a Final Exit. Both men have now shown us the horrible bruises of hanging on their necks, and have made Don, by degrees fairly or unfairly, complicit in their deaths.

Goodbye (Good God, Let’s Hope) Megan?

In the final episode, most of the central characters’ stories are given a nice amount of equal time, as the story takes their temperatures and stock of where they are on their individual searches for meaningful lives juggling fantasies and realities of work and love. John Hamm’s Don, who often carries the bulk of the show on his superhero-like, impossibly suave shoulders, carries less of the finale episode , but still hits pitch perfect marks of anger, frustration, sadness, emotional fatigue and grief that we have come to know like the bags under his eyes. For his newest model bride of around a year, (Megan, given far too much screen time this season as a character spinning her wheels as a dilettante wanna be actor) we can finally check that box- Don, Megan’s brutally elegant mother, and the entire casting community of New York reach an agreement that the bitch cannot act. To put some honey on it, she, Don, and the audience has suffered so all year because “she has the artistic temperament – but is not an artist”. (A million arrows hit home for a million viewers about our own frustrated lives too, and we wonder if we relating to Don’s recent advice to Lane about the benefits of airing secrets (that light headed feeling is relief, we can drop the lie). Yet Don, perhaps (momentarily, one hopes) outmatched in his formidable skills of salesmanship, charm, and will by his immature wife’s penchant for temper tantrums (that go far beyond any displayed by his three young children), breaks a number of his own good sense rules about business and commits an act of cheapness dirtier than much of his past sexual debauchery: he shortcuts everything and gives a lie to all of Megan’s artistic talent and pulls strings to get her a part in a commercial.

The final scene of the finale episode is as impressively designed as anything in the show’s impressive history. Megan is done up in a perfectly silly sixties version of a fairy tale princess, in a room set oppressively overstuffed with more brocade and velvet than Liberace’s wildest dream, a child playing dress up, pleased she got her way. Don visits the set, which is a small blight on an otherwise massive, dark soundstage, and walks away from it and Megan while revealing a series of emotions- flickering shame, resignation, fatigue, (in a display of some fine acting) and into a familiar meat market type bar where he slips back into the only place he can go now: to his old drink of choice (Old Fashioned) and is soon surrounded by the firefly-like presence of beautiful women who he can have with a nod, or ignore with a tip of the hat. The temptation is stronger than it has been all season, the one and only season of Don’s faithfulness that has not led to happiness in his marriage.

Dedicated watchers of this show know that beyond the recent hype, it is best appreciated beyond the carefully constructed surface of its period gloss that cleverly hides home truths and meditations on life that are transformative and timeless, urgent even in our increasingly nihilistic society. Fans who like to think about their entertainment, and who like to wait, are devoted to a narrative that picks up threads slowly unspoiled over five years,  Evoking a strange modern sort of anxious happiness to be in a strange community that collectively laughed out loud, nervously, at the blackest joke in recent memory about a car’s unreliability to provide the means of a suicide. All this in the midst of the horror of watching a great actor fall on his sword for our entertainment, and gasp in human despair over a fictional character’s suicide that is haunting for the sensitive viewer, but in a way that elevates television far above the sickening ease with which countless other tv programs of all genres and qualities pile up their body counts. The best possible treatment of death in television drama makes a single life matter and remind the viewer of human frailty and strips away the collective numbness we learn too early from countless fake tv deaths, devices to move the plot forward, in many cases necessary for an entire series to exist, to give cops and doctors something to do, to coldly look on, and project their own gallows humor or chilly professionalism.

While the important character death at the end of  Mad Men Season Five will continue to drive the plot forward for the business of the firm, and for the karmic burdens that trouble Draper’s and his surviving partners worldviews, fortunes, and lives, it is one of only a very few in five years of the show, and it matters existentially and resoundingly for a community of fans who will not easily get over the naked, stark despair of seeing someone we know snap his glasses in half as a final act that is more chilling than seeing a very realistic corpse or its bruising. It touches a nerve of the real, the sense that we’ve seen too much, and feels like a violation of some real man somewhere. The snap of glasses, the most carelessly essential tool in life represents one of the most chilling details about a death I can remember in a lifetime of film and television viewing.

Questions to ponder for Season Six:

What will be the outcomes of the big changes at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce that occurred with its key players, three of whom have moved up, out, or left permanently?

Will Don Draper continue on his recent path of honest living if it means facing a dying marriage with grace and honor? Will the real Don/Dick meet the veneered surface and allow a long fractured identity to become integrated? Who is Don Draper (now?) This cutthroat survivalist with his own code is really, under it all, an unloved farmboy, a “whoreson” who can never get too far from his small dreams of indoor plumbing. Luxury, wealth, and success are measures that fail to heal the troubled and fatally lonely child within him, whose own means of survival is so specific and so brutal that it turns into a threat when applied to his wives, his estranged family, or his peers. Don Draper is dangerous. Whether hero, anti hero or blank silhouette free falling into an abstract sky, we can’t look away.

Jacqueline Howell

Twin Peaks: Damn Fine Little Miracle

By Jacqueline Howell

Twin Peaks (1990-1991) is so richly and thoroughly realized that to know it is to make it as real to the psyche as a once visited landscape. Twin Peaks should never have happened. The fact that it happened, as it did, as sublimely Lynchian as it so often was, is more incredible than the wildest plot twists and visual scenes contained within its narrative.

These stories prepared middle America for the banal horror that lies in the most common stand of Douglas Firs, a wholly original world that changed future television dramas deeply in ways that were inspired, creative and banal. From the quick arrival of the imitation/flattery of “Northern Exposure”, a good show sold and digested as a more palatable version of Twin Peaks, to “The X-Files”, to the high school soap opera drama of “Beverly Hills, 90210” which would boldly offer highly sexualized teenagers who strained credibility as 20-something actors, to the current crop of vampire lore and beyond, Twin Peaks, cancelled after two strange and beautiful seasons, hangs around in unexpected places and has left an indelible mark, much like the murderous “Bob” who roosted in Twin Peaks, its nearby towns and lakes and behind the eyes of owls and upstanding citizens. The figure of “Bob” represents an irrepressible idea of the dark waters inside all of us.

Continue reading “Twin Peaks: Damn Fine Little Miracle”

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