Mad Men Season 6 Episode 9: The Better Half

mm609-ted-560Tonight’s episode of Mad Men was all about people being put into a position where they were forced to confront the past while looking to the future and, in some instances, choose between the two.  The prime example of that came in the opening scene, as Peggy is called into a meeting to help determine whether Ted or Don’s idea should be used for the pitch to Fleischmann’s margarine.  When Ms. Olson is unwilling to opt for one over the other, she earns a tongue-lashing from Don, who tells her that he will look over her work and give an educated opinion, as that is what professionals do and that she should try it some time. Despite this, it is Peggy’s newest mentor, Ted, who really gets under her skin, as he tells her that, despite it being a cliche, he is in love with her and every look and touch they exchanged distracted him from giving the pitch to the client, but says that nothing can happen between them since they both have someone else.

However, Olson’s relationship with Abe sours as he reveals his disdain for her after he is stabbed twice – first as he was getting off the subway by assailants he refuses to describe to the police, then accidentally by Peggy, who has fashioned a homemade bayonet to protect herself from potential home invaders, but the blade ends up in her boyfriend’s stomach – and they break up after he tells her that “your activities are offensive to my every waking moment”.  Thinking that her new single status will come as good news to Ted, Peggy is surprised when Chaough – whose previous vulnerability has evaporated now that Fleischmann’s liked his campaign idea – merely tells her that he is sad to hear the relationship ended and is sure that she will find somebody else. Continue reading

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Inconsistencies and the GOP: African Americans and the Tea Party

438037851_640In A Theory of Justice, John Rawls argues that society should be designed from behind a “veil of ignorance” –  the idea being that the person who constructs the rules, welfare system and taxation policy of a country should do so without knowing the position they will occupy within the community.  This eliminates the temptation to provide privilege to the demographic to which you belong; so no gender, race or sexuality would fare better than any other, and the least well off in the nation would still be taken care of, since it was created by somebody who had no idea where they would fit in.  This philosophical tool has long been something I have considered as an excellent way to approach building a just system of government, but the success of the Republican parties in elections in the United States makes it evident that people do not always vote according to their own interests, even when they know the position they hold in society.

As was covered in detail in my 2012 election preview, the GOP has outstanding success in garnering votes in states where federal aid outweighs the amount sent back to Washington in taxes, yet the Republicans’ core belief is for self-reliance and to decrease government handouts.  This contradiction is achieved by the selling of the American dream, convincing people that they want those earning the most in the United States to pay a lower percentage of tax on their income, as one day it might be them getting the large paycheck.  Of course, not every voter is solely motivated by economic causes, but on social issues the success of Republican candidates does not become any clearer – indeed such is the antagonism they show towards any type of diversity, the only group of the electorate the GOP appears to target is rich, white, male, straight, gun-toting Christians.  Nevertheless, even with a comfortable re-election for President Obama in November, 46% of voters still cast their ballot for Mitt Romney, far outweighing the percentage of the population that would fit into this narrow grouping.  The Republicans have done this by changing the message away from questions such as: “Do you believe in gun control?” to “Do you believe in the Second Amendment of the Constitution or are you not a Patriot?”; instead of the past two campaigns being: “Who do you think would be the best President for the country, Barack Obama or John McCain/Mitt Romney?” it is now, “Do you want to lose the substance of this nation to a Kenyan-Born, European-Socialist type, secret Muslim?”

Knowing that many are convinced for one reason or another to cast their vote in a manner contradictory to what logic would suggest, it did not completely surprise me when a former boss of mine, who is African-American, in a conversation about politics told me that he was a Republican because of his economic views.  On social issues, he admitted, he found the match less than perfect, but that was often outweighed by financial thoughts and thus the GOP often received his vote.  What did surprise me, however, was the thought that there would be black people in the Tea Party – a far-right group that essentially grew as a reaction to the election of President Obama and a section of the political landscape I have often considered (and am not alone) to be inherently racist.  This appears to be a con too far, the electoral equivalence of selling snow to the Inuits – how could the Tea Party possibly have convinced some African-Americans it was in their interest to be part of the movement?

But here-in lies the rub…I do fully understand it yet.   At the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in March, a video from a break-out session called “Trump the Race Card” – which was supposed to be about the frustrations Republicans felt about being called racists when they knew they were not – showed someone saying that a slave should have been thanking his former master for providing accommodation and food during his time of enslavement.  This footage was recorded by Kevin Dotson as part of a documentary he is making called “Black Tea – The New Civil Right” which promises to be a fascinating look at the reasons African-Americans have aligned themselves with the Tea Party.  As with all such projects, funding is of course an issue and I encourage everyone to check out his Kickstarter page for more information about the documentary and hopefully support it too.  This is a topic that I believe will be of interest to many and is important to help fully understand the current political landscape in America – not to mention, it would also enable me to finish this article.

Support Kevin Dotson’s Black Tea documentary by visiting his Kickstarter page: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1213662578/black-tea-the-new-civil-right

 

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 8: The Crash

You might need a complex vitamin superdose to appreciate Ted's jacket also
You might need a complex vitamin superdose to appreciate Ted’s jacket also

Some people say that in order to fully appreciate the music of Bob Dylan, you have to be stoned when you listen to it; or that LSD is necessary to enjoy Dark Side of the Moon or to understand the White Album.  I cannot attest to the validity of those claims – though I do think Blood on the Tracks is a great album without any herbal accompaniment and am not sure if anyone will fully comprehend Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da no matter what chemicals they ingest – but I do believe that tonight’s episode of Mad Men may well only make sense with a complex vitamin super-dose half of the creative staff of SCDPCGC (seriously, even the doctor thinks that is a mouthful and wants to know the new name…) received to help them work.  Like last season’s episode, Far Away Places which featured Roger Sterling taking LSD – there was an element of the timeline being warped but in this instance it was not parallel narratives, rather an entire day passing when it seemed to Don Draper to be no more than a few minutes.

The hour started with a strange scene showing Ken Cosgrove driving an Impala at high-speed with Chevy executives who were taunting him and firing a gun out of the window, ultimately ending in a crash that leaves the accounts man needing a cane.  The manic nature of that opening continues throughout the episode, as most of the agency are stressing out about how they can satisfy their high revenue car client and the administering of the aforementioned stimulant shot – which appears to be methamphetamine – is supposed to help them be inspired over the weekend.  In the creative team, Peggy and Ginsberg are the only two who are on the Chevy campaign but did not receive the vitamin boost – and the former is not sober as she is drinking – while Ted Chaough is unable to concentrate on work as he is too distraught over the death of his partner, Frank Gleason, who succumbed to the cancer we discovered he had two weeks ago.  In the end, much of what the group come up with is dismissed as being gibberish, but during the course of the episode, Stan and Peggy kiss, with Olson only pulling away in the end because she has a boyfriend, rather than through lack of desire.

For much of the time, it appears that Don Draper is also frantically working to find a solution to the Chevy problem, as he desperately seeks an old campaign he worked on at Sterling Cooper that he believes was about soup – but in fact was about oatmeal – and in which lies the answer to his conundrum.  However, it turns out what he seeks is not the perfect pitch for the car company, but a way of convincing Sylvia that their affair should not end.  Don’s behavior has become problematic for Mrs. Rosen, as he pines at the back door of her apartment smoking cigarettes and leaving butts that Arnold finds; and for himself, as he spends the entire weekend working on the pitch to aid his love-life, in the process ignoring both his commitment to Chevy and his children.   Continue reading

This Week In: English Football – Wigan Win FA Cup Then Relegated and An Un-Dramatic Final Day

Roberto Martinez and Dave Whelan celebrate the Cup win before the relegation storm
Roberto Martinez and Dave Whelan celebrate the Cup win before the relegation storm

Wigan Athletic did two things for the first time in their history this week: they won the FA Cup, beating Manchester City 1-0 at Wembley thanks to a 90th minute header by Ben Watson; and were then relegated from the top flight, after suffering a 4-1 loss at the Emirates, leaving them four points adrift of safety with just a single match remaining.  The cup victory over last season’s champions was an upset, but it was not a smash and grab in the style of Wimbledon beating Liverpool 1-0 in 1988, rather Roberto Martinez’s men more than deserved to claim the trophy having played the better football over the course of the game.  It will be an unwanted record for the club, but Wigan winning the FA Cup this year is also the only time in the competition’s history that a side has won it and been demoted that same season.

City’s preparations for the final had been somewhat overshadowed by a news report that came out on Saturday morning suggesting that the club was preparing to replace their manager, Roberto Mancini, with Manuel Pelligrini, who led Malaga to the Champions League quarter-finals this campaign and has previously been in charge at Real Madrid and Valencia.  The defeat to Wigan did prove to be the final straw for Manchester City’s owners, as they sacked Mancini on Monday night, as well as his assistant David Platt, with Brian Kidd picking the team for their last two Premiership encounters of the season (they won the first, 2-0 away at Reading on Tuesday) and, although it has not yet been confirmed, it is expected that Pelligrini will indeed take over this summer. Continue reading

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 7: Man With A Plan

MM_607_MY_0122_0800Imagine being a politically liberal person in 1968 America.  You are a supporter of the Civil Rights Movement and are against the war in Vietnam; you feel as though your views are not reflected by the actions of the government.  But you do have hope: Martin Luther King Jr is a powerful voice in the fight for justice for all; prominent Democrats Eugene McCarthy and Senator Robert Kennedy come out against the war and successfully oust President Johnson from the Primaries.  However, by the beginning of June, both King and Kennedy have been assassinated and the Democratic nomination appears destined to go to Vice President Hubert Humphrey who – as was mentioned here last week, then noted by Don in tonight’s episode – had the majority of the delegates sewn up.  Come November, the White House will be won by Richard Nixon and the Vietnam War will continue on for another seven years – the feeling of hope and expectation is gone; the sense that there was a swing towards a more liberal mindset in the United States, vanquished.  In the next 24 years, the Democratic Party will hold the Presidency for just one term as the country moves further and further to the right.  Over the course of tonight’s Mad Men episode, which concluded with the news that Senator Kennedy had been shot, Don Draper – who is far from a liberal, but has defined himself as being against the war  – experienced a similar fall from a feeling of power and control, to a place where he feels desperate and alone.

At the beginning of the hour, Don is heading down in his apartment building’s elevator and overhears Dr. Rosen arguing with Sylvia – his wife and Draper’s current love interest – over Arnold’s wish to move to Minnesota.  While he wants no part of this domestic quarrel, Don’s interest is piqued when Sylvia calls him at works and tells him “I need you and nothing else will do” and so arranges to meet her in a hotel, then proceeds to dominate her over the course of the next day and a half, making her stay in the room and wait for him to return.  At the same time, Draper is also engaged in a power struggle at work, as the merger between SCDP and CGC has become a reality and everyone is figuring out how they can work together and, in some cases, if they will have a job at all.  As a partner, Don does not have to worry about his employment continuing at the new company, but he is concerned about his position in comparison with Ted Chaough, as the two creative geniuses – who were the progenitors of this amalgamation – compete to be the alpha male.   Continue reading

This Week In: English Football – Moyes to United and the F.A. Cup Final

The man who soon will be hearing "No way Fergie would've messed that up" ad infinitum
The man who soon will be hearing “No way Fergie would’ve messed that up” ad infinitum

Following the announcement that Sir Alex Ferguson would retire from his role as manager at the end of the season, Manchester United acted quickly to replace him at the helm with another Glaswegian, David Moyes, whose contract with Everton is due to expire on June 30th.  While many have suggested that there are many similarities between the two men, giving the club a level of continuity, Moyes has nothing like the experience that Ferguson had when he took the job at Old Trafford in 1986.  By then, the elder Scot had led Aberdeen to three domestic league championship titles, 4 Scottish Cups, the League Cup, Cup Winners Cup and European Super Cup triumphs, whereas the Everton boss has no trophy successes on his resume.  David Moyes also has limited experience in managing in European fixtures, but the job he has done on Merseyside over the last 11 years on a limited budget – which, in comparison to Chelsea and Manchester City, he will also have at his new club – suggests that he has all of the qualities that will be needed for him to help United maintain their winning formula for the coming years.  Nevertheless, Should he falter early on, Moyes is unlikely to be given the same amount of time that his predecessor was to get things right – Ferguson did not win any trophy in his first three seasons at United and did not win the title until 7 years into his tenure – with the Glazers, the American owners of the Red Devils, requiring continued success to keep making money from the club.

With Ferguson exiting the stage, football is losing one of the greatest managers in its history and he has also been an icon of the English game – much like the F.A. Cup used to be before the turn of the century.  The final of the competition used to be played after the league campaign had finished, the showpiece that ended the season and every player, manager and supporter dreamed of walking down Wembley Way with their club.  Now, the final is slotted into the penultimate weekend, providing a distraction for clubs who might be more focused on title races, relegation battles, or even the quest to simply qualify for the Champions League.  The decline in its importance could be attributed to when Manchester United withdrew from the competition  so that they could play in the FIFA World Club Championship in 2000; or the years the final was played in Cardiff, while its traditional home was being rebuilt.  However, the principal reason its value has decreased is that clubs have put all of their focus into the money generating competitions of the Champions League and Premiership – being in Europe’s top club competition, or surviving in the top flight in England, both bring great revenues to teams and this, rather than the pursuit of trophies, has become their main aim in the 21st century.  To be fair, some still place value in the silverware – for example Chelsea, who have claimed this competition four times in the last seven years – but with so many big clubs resting players for early rounds, or fielding their second string team throughout the tournament, it is little surprise that supporters and players have more of a focus on the league and Europe, rather than the F.A. Cup.  This weekend, Manchester City will likely claim the trophy for the second time in three years, which will be great fun for their fans, but they are playing against a Wigan side who will have their attention turned to Tuesday’s crucial Premiership encounter with Arsenal instead – if the final was being played after the league season had ended, there would be no such distraction.  Continue reading

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 6: For Immediate Release

Don "concealing" his disdain for Herb
Don “concealing” his disdain for Herb

The latest installment of Mad Men felt like a throwback to some of the earlier days of the series, with Don Draper focused on trying to land a top client, having already lost another; Roger Sterling using his charm and a caper to make an important business connection; and Pete Campbell being at odds with his father-in-law.  By the end of the episode, events had led to yet another major change in the organizational structure of the agency, the fourth iteration since the series began: initially, there was Sterling Cooper; then, in the Fall of 1962, it waspurchased by the British Company, Puttnam, Powell and Lowe; in December of 1963, with McCann Erickson set to buy the parent company PPL, they broke off and started afresh as Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce; and now there is to be a merger with Cutler, Gleason and Chaough.

In order to get the two agencies to a point where their senior creative partners – Don and Ted Chaough – would be willing to end their rivalry to team up together, the show made it clear that neither was likely to survive without the other.  For CGC, the obstacle was in the form of a health scare for one of its partners, Frank Gleason, who is battling pancreatic cancer – his death would mean the other two partners would have to buy him out, something they would have been in a stronger position to do had they not resigned their Alfa Romeo account to pursue Chevrolet.  By contrast, things have never looked better for SCDP than they do at the beginning of the episode, as Bert Cooper, Pete Campbell and Joan Harris are working with an underwriter on a proposal to take the company public, which would result in a big windfall for all of the partners.

However, the public offering would have been made on the basis of existing accounts, two of which are quickly lost by Don and Pete.  Draper is the cause of Jaguar exiting the agency, as he is unable to hold his tongue when Herb Rennett suggests that he should run all of his idea by a kid who is writing fliers for him at his New Jersey dealership.  Don not only tells him that they no longer want his business, but also insults Herb by making fun of his weight when he says that he does somersaults – his animosity stemming from the Jaguar man’s insistence on getting to sleep with Joan in order to take his business to the agency last season.  While Draper announces that he has never felt better, this is dampened when he is berated by Ms. Harris for making everything she had been through mean nothing and that if she could deal with Herb, then he ought to be able to as well.  This has much more of an effect on Don than the dressing down Pete attempts to give him – perhaps because Joan did not fall down the stairs before shouting at him – but Campbell is upset because he believes that the hard work he has done in getting the agency to where it is, something that earns him praise from Bert Cooper, he believes has been undone by his partner’s inability to control his impulses.  As it turns out, Pete’s own lack of impulse control costs the agency another account, as a trip to a brothel results in an inopportune encounter with his father-in-law, who subsequently pulls the business of Vicks Chemical from SCDP.   Continue reading

Sir Alex Ferguson Retires

Ferguson's reign at Old Trafford brought many trophies
Ferguson’s reign at Old Trafford brought many trophies

There are some things I can profess to not remembering, but really I do – like a time before e-mails and internet access, or the ability to quickly settle a pub argument  by doing a quick Google search on my phone – but  I genuinely do not recall a time when Sir Alex Ferguson was not the manager of Manchester United.  He took charge at Old Trafford in November 1986 – when I was just five years old – and the thought of anyone else at the helm for United has become as alien as the prospect of them not challenging for the title every season, as the Scot has had them do almost every year since 1990/91 – finishing in the top 3 in each of those campaigns and only third on two occasions (2003/4, 2004/5).  In his nearly 27 years as manager of Manchester United, Ferguson won almost every trophy available: 13 league titles; 5 F.A. Cups; 4 League Cups; 2 European Cups; and 1 Cup Winners Cups – these triumphs included three Premiership and cup doubles and the treble of the league, cup and Champions League trophies in 1998/9.  Today, Ferguson announced that this campaign will be his last and he will retire as manager of Manchester United at the conclusion of the season.

It was nearly all so different though.  In a much storied tale, the fate of Sir Alex had rested on a third round F.A. Cup tie in 1990 against Nottingham Forest, when defeat could have seen the Scotsman sacked after inconsistent performances over his first 3+ years at the helm at Old Trafford.  However, a Mark Robins goal helped them progress in the competition and ultimately it led to the first trophy of the Ferguson era at Manchester United, as they beat Crystal Palace 1-0 in a replay of the final, having drawn the first game 3-3.  That victory also earned the Red Devils qualification to the Cup Winners Cup – a now defunct European tournament for the winners of each country’s domestic cup – the following year and that proved to be Fergie’s first continental success.  Although the 1991/2 season ultimately ended in the disappointment of losing the title to Leeds United, Ferguson ended United’s 26 year wait for a league championship the following year, as they won the Premiership in its first year of existence. Continue reading

This Week In: English Football – Reading and QPR Relegated, Watford and Hull Aim To Take Their Place

Reading and QPR will face each other again next season at a lower lever
Reading and QPR will face each other again next season at a lower lever

The goalless draw between Reading and Queens Park Rangers last Sunday was a result that confirmed both teams would be demoted back down to the Championship for next season, a fitting way for the two sides to bow out, as they have been by far the worst in the Premiership this year.  When Harry Redknapp took over as QPR’s manager in November, he was quick to point out how hopeless their chances of survival were, as they had taken just four points from their opening twelve fixtures.  Nevertheless, during his time in charge, Redknapp has achieved victories in just 19% of league matches, the lowest percentage of any QPR manager in the Premiership, despite having paid more than £20m for Loic Remy and Christopher Samba in the January transfer window, as well as bringing in other players such as Jermaine Jenas and Andros Townsend.  Reading also made a change in the dugout during the season, replacing Brian McDermott with Nigel Adkins – who had done a good job with Southampton in the first half of the campaign and was unlucky to be looking for work – but their relegation always seemed inevitable and was only delayed because of some late goalscoring heroics in several matches by Adam LeFondre.  The 0-0 bore draw between the teams was more than enough evidence that neither QPR or Reading will be missed when the Premiership returns in August.

As two of the three teams to be demoted to the Championship have been determined, alongside Manchester United’s early clinching of the title, only two races are left – the battles for fourth: from top, to qualify for the Champions League; and from bottom, to avoid being the third team relegated.  At the moment, that slot is occupied by Wigan, who were denied a much-needed win over top four chasing Tottenham last weekend, by a late Emmerson Boyce own goal, which resulted in a 2-2 scoreline.  Roberto Martinez’s men are now five points away from safety, as Aston Villa racked up a 6-1 home victory against Sunderland on Monday night, with Christian Benteke netting a second half hat-trick, moving them level with the Black Cats on 37 points.  Newcastle United now find themselves just above the drop zone on the same number of points as Villa and Sunderland, as they were beaten 6-0 at home by a Liverpool team who were without their top goalscorer, Luis Suarez, who was serving the first of his 10 game ban for biting Bratislav Ivanovic.  Stoke eased their relegation fears with a 1-0 home victory over Norwich, a defeat that leaves Chris Hughton’s side looking nervously over their shoulders as they sit six points above Wigan, but having played a game more.  At the other end of the table, both Arsenal and Chelsea remain on course to qualify for the Champions League once again: the Gunners earned a valuable point with a 1-1 draw with title winners, Manchester United, though they did have to watch their former star, Robin Van Persie, convert a penalty on his return to the Emirates; and the Blues beat Swansea 2-0 at Stamford Bridge, including a goal from the penalty spot by Frank Lampard which took his total for the club to 201, one behind the all time record holder, Bobby Tambling.

The other Premiership matches last weekend saw Everton, who still have an outside chance of qualifying for the Europa League at the expense of Tottenham, win 1-0 at home against Fulham; West Brom beat Southampton 3-0 at St. Mary’s; and Manchester City earned a victory in their first match since losing their crown of champions, as they defeated West Ham 2-1.  This weekend, the headline games were supposed to be on Sunday, but there is very little riding on the Merseyside derby between Liverpool and Everton; and, although Chelsea need three points in their chase for a top four finish, their fixture with Manchester United is less compelling now that the Red Devils have already secured the title.  At the bottom, if either Norwich or Aston Villa can emerge victorious from their encounter in Norfolk, they will be justified in feeling safe from relegation; Wigan need to beat West Brom away to keep their own hopes of survival alive; Newcastle travel to West Ham; and Sunderland, who have failed to win any of their last 17 Premiership matches played on a Monday, face Stoke on that day of the week.  The demoted duo of Reading and QPR play Fulham and Arsenal respectively, while Gareth Bale will face his former club as Tottenham take on Southampton.  In midweek fixtures, Spurs have a make-or-break away encounter with Chelsea; Wigan play their game-in-hand against Swansea; and outgoing champions, Manchester City, take on West Brom. Continue reading