Saturday, July 31, 2010


When you get homesick, what is the image that pops into your head? For me it is like the images below.

There used to be stairs like that all the way down the Atlantic coast from the Maritimes to Florida. I've walked, sat on, dreamed on, picked blueberries and raspberries and even kissed and made out on stairs like that. There aren't as many as there used to be.

Here is a lobster roll.

Look at it closely, that is an entire piece of claw meat in that roll. (Click on the picture to see it larger.) You make nice with the woman at the stand and she'll do things like that for you.

Here is where I got the lobster roll.

If you ever find yourself driving from St. Stephen to Saint John, make plans to go here. You will not have really lived if you don't.

Here is the Golden Ginger Ale I had with the lobster roll.

When we were kids, Sussex was the discount brand. It was one of hundreds of local soda companies that were crushed by television. By television? Yes, when television came along it homogenized our society. Certain soda companies won out because they could afford to buy national ads and others could not. Sussex survived by selling for less.

As kids we were sensitive to TV ads and price. We assumed that Coke and Canada Dry were better. I was fourteen—I think, about that anyway—when I realized for the first time that Sussex Golden Ginger Ale was something special. It tastes better. If you're ever here in New Brunswick, buy a can and enjoy.

Home, you can go back even if only for a week. I've been here saying goodbye to my Godfather. He died in January and the funeral was mid week so I couldn't leave work and come down. He was the greatest man I've ever known. All the images above have something to do with him.

Here is last one I think he'd love. I saw this sign and wondered what it said so I walked over close to read it. He would have laughed very hard at that. (Click the image to see it larger if you can't read it on the screen.

Friday, July 30, 2010


This will seem to come, if you will pardon the expression, right out of left field but any honest thinking about moral authority has to consider the legacy of Marxism.

Why? Because Marxism was* devoted to destroying moral authority.

Marx believed that everyone had an ideology formed by the economic system they lived under and the only true “ideology” was the one that would come to prevail after the revolution.

Think about that one a moment. In Marx’s thought there could be no true morality until after capitalism was swept away.

So, how was a good Marxist supposed to have moral arguments? The key to success was to undermine the moral basis of capitalism but it could not be done by appealing to any better morality because the better morality could not exist until after the revolution.

The answer Marx came up with was a particular kind of ad hominem—Marxists accused opponents of being hypocrites. They accused them of not living up to their own moral standards.

The problem with that, of course, is that no one lives up to their own moral standards. The best any of us can say is that we try and you can tell who is trying and who isn’t trying. But saying that you are trying only works if the person you are arguing with is also trying. And Marxists were not trying to live up to any moral standards because they didn’t believe that any worthwhile moral standards were possible yet. They were only interested in undermining the moral standards that supported capitalism and liberalism.

Marx is now in the dustbin of history but that moral legacy lives on. Moral argument nowadays does not consist of trying to defend the truth of certain moral claims. Instead we to undermine the people we don’t like through ad hominem accusations of hypocrisy or we call tem racists or sexist or whatever.

And we argue with prejudice. If someone with a moral belief I don’t like is caught embezzling or cheating on their spouse, well that just proves what is true of all people who believe that. If someone who agrees with me is caught embezzling or cheating on their spouse, well that’s just an individual case.

* My use of the past tense is intentional here. There are still Marxists out there just as there are still flat earthers, Theosophists and Unitarians but these are just eccentricities now. So too Marx is a spent force in history. But all these things used to matter a whole lot and they have left a legacy we still live with.


This is of no terribly deep significance. It’s just two photographs of a sculpture from different perspectives. And let me assure you this isn’t a trick used by manipulating the camera, the difference in perspective is also true when you are standing there looking. The effect is also intentional. The sculptor set it up so that it looks at first like the fox is chasing the rabbit. That is the view you get entering the garden. Later, when you have done the tour and you are on your way out, you see the second perspective and realize that they are really in it together.

I bring this up for two reasons. First because it is possible to have language go on holiday here and imagine that the sculpture is making a deep moral point when it’s really just a cute trick.

We could do this because we talk about moral perspective too and we could go on to say, it all depends on where you stand when you look at the problem. And suddenly a contrived illusion begins to look like it’s making a deep point.

There was a deceptive advertisement (deceptive in several senses of the word) for the Guardian back in the 1980s that used this dishonest trick. It showed a skinhead running towards a little old lady. We all assumed the worst until the last moment when the perspective changed to show us that the skinhead was pushing the little old lady out of the way of an oncoming vehicle. Very cute but does that somehow make the skinhead movement with its overt racism okay? (And this isn’t an ad hominem slur 1980s skinheads were proudly racist and violent. Which raises a troubling question: Why did the Guardian think it was okay to use a series of visual tricks to deliberately misrepresent what this movement was about?)

This, of course, also comes back to the question of moral argument and teaching. Is it really okay to say, this is one way of seeing the issue but you may decide on another? I don’t think so.

The second reason is to advertize the Kingsbrae Garden in Saint Andrews where I was yesterday afternoon. These are lovely gardens and well worth the $12 admission I paid.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

It's 8:30 PM ...

... and I am in the Bay Breeze restaurant having a delicious plate of fried scallops after about three hours of hard trout fishing. Nymphing. (I know, how hard can fishing be? Well, I came out coated in sweat.)

And yes, I did catch and release some. And I didn't fall in even once, which is unusual for me.

Afterward, I will go back to my little cabin, make and old fashioned and fall asleep listening to Lee Wiley thanking God with my last conscious thoughts.

Where I am

This is the view out my front window. (Out my back window is a road and behind the road there are balsam fir as far as the eye can see.)

What's wrong with moral neutrality?

This will be a bit unusual because I am writing from an isolated place. I have no books and, most of the time, no Internet access. I am in a nice place on the Fundy Coast. In the fog.

I can get Internet access by climbing up the hill with my laptop and logging onto a very slow WiFi. I don’t like to do that often.

Anyway, here is a bit more about why I think it’s important to present moral beliefs with authority. That is to talk about morality by taking sides. And that means by taking sides you really believe in.

This time, I want to take a different tack and ask why anybody would not do this. What are the supposed virtues of not taking a neutral stance.

Except, whoops, we can’t talk about virtues here. To say teaching morality from a neutral stance has virtues would be to make a claim that it is morally better.

But, of course, that is exactly what people defending the view do. You can see this in the very language people use to defend the idea. They attack teaching with authority as “indoctrination” or “net letting people think for themselves”. Those are moral claims and they are being made with authority.

And that is the biggest problem with the claim that we should teach without authority. It’s self-contradictory.

More later but do yourself a favour and go read this argument. Do you have an answer to that? I don’t because he is right.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

On the road

I will be driving all day today and will not be posting.

It's worse than I thought

From AskMen's Great Male Survey:

What is the ultimate man's drink?
38% A beer

28% Scotch

25% Whisky

5% A dry martini

4% An old fashioned 

Beer is the ultimate man's drink? Yikes.

Only four percent get it.

Monday, July 26, 2010

While I'm away

... I'm going to be thinking about Catholicism.

Specifically, I'll be thinking about this piece.

Short, blunt answer, I'm pretty sure that Rod Dreher is right about this BUT, as is so often the case, the issue is more complex the more you think about it.

Gone fishing

I'm on vacation for the next week. Blogging will continue as I have a laptop with me but I don't know how consistent it will be. I reserved at an old fashioned motel right out of 1964 and never even bothered to check to see if they have Wi-Fi. If they don't, who knows how often I'll be able to log on. There aren't many Starbucks where I am going.

I'm going to start the day with an old-fashioned barbershop shave and then I pick up the rental and drive out east to where I spent my pre-teen years. I've packed a computer, a bottle of Bourbon, beachcombing clothes, several flyrods, binoculars, field guides to east coast flora and fauna and have loaded iTunes with Bobby Hackett, Frank Sinatra, Bing Cosby, Annette Hanshaw, Django and Bix. I also have a novel on CD for the trip but choose not to admit which one it is.

Okay, it's ChickLit and that is all I have to say. I picked it for its location (the east coast). It's one of those books that ....

My friend Jean bought The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (I think that is what it's called). Any way, she was in this rather pretentious bookstore that specializes in feminist books and literature but also handles enough best sellers to keep the cash flow up. Anyway, she saw the book and new she'd heard of it but didn't have the slightest idea what it was about. So she asked. The salesperson said, "It's a good read but it's not literature."

Jean gathered from this that the woman thought she ought not to buy it. So she did buy it. She thinks it's a great read but she knows she'll never read it again.

Anyway, we were discussing it and we both agreed that there are lots of books like that. The Serpentine One and I had a great time with a Zane Grey novel like that a few years ago. Just awful writing but great storytelling. (Grey was a Thesaurus writer.)

The reverse is true as well. There are books that are clearly literature but are just awful reading. Pretty much anything William Faulkner wrote, for example. Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Paradise Lost, The Faerie Queen, Pale Fire, Moby Dick, all of Beckett. I could go but I won't. I have a novel on CD that I hope is good reading but not literature.

Why being authoritative matters

I'm not happy with this post but I'm going to leave it up and see if I can make myself clearer later.

Okay, you may want to sit down for this but I am going to make any argument for why all effective moral teaching must be authoritative. And, furthermore, for why this is so even if:
  1. You are wrong, or
  2. You don't live up to the standards you teach.
Then I'll go on vacation :-)

The first argument is quite simple, if you don't hold, really hold, solid moral views, no one will take you seriously. Someone who just says, here are a bunch of different moral views and here are some of the arguments pro and con without actually backing one or another is implicitly saying that this stuff doesn't matter. Morality isn't like picking your favourite colour, it really matters. If it doesn't show that it matters—and it won't if you don't take a stand and live it—no one will take you seriously and they will be right.

The second argument is that teaching is a way of living. It comes with moral standards embodied in it. Even if you claim not to take a stance your behaviour will imply standards about how people are to interact and argue and these are important points. And, whether they admit it or not, people who teach morality do unhesitatingly assume and impose these sorts of standards. And they are not minimal but they are innevitable.

And that is the quandary. You have to imply standards in your teaching behaviour even though you will inevitably fail to live up to them. Sometimes you will even fail in big ways. But, and this is crucial, trying to dodge it by saying you just want to let other people make up their mind won't do.

And I am going on vacation, as a later post will discuss. If anyone thinks I am wrong and wants to set me straight, please feel to have at it in the comments. I probably won't be responding for at least a week though.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Justifying the sixties (updated)

My rare political comment for this Friday.

This is a companion to my predictions for Season 4 of Mad Men published earlier today. If there is one good thing that can be said about the 1960s it is the giant steps forward taken in civil rights meaning Brown V. Board of Education, The Civil Rights Act of 1964, The Voting Rights Act of 1965 and The Civil Rights Act of 1968. (Update: When I mention Brown V. Board of Education, it is important to remember there was the the court ruling in the 1950s but also the efforts that had to be made to put it into place, e.g. sending troops to protect kids going into schools.)

And that is true but, there is a crucial reminder that needs to go with this. And that is that all of the above were principally the work of men and women of the world war two generation and the silent generation that immediately followed it. Baby boomers like me contributed absolutely zero to the great civil rights victories. Most of us weren't even old enough to vote at the time. These events happened in the 1960s but they had little or nothing to do with the cultural changes driven by the rising market power of the baby boom.

And that is important because one of the things you have to justify of you want to justify the sixties is definitely the baby boomers. My generation is a generation born into peace and prosperity rarely seen in this world and we are, collectively (some of us are quite nice as individuals) one of the most obsessively narcissistic generations to ever live. Unless you consider sex, drugs and rock and roll to be major achievements we have not done much with the many blessings that were showered on us.

Not unrelated: If you ever want to see a lily white world, take a glance at pictures of the crowds at the Monterrey and Woodstock musical festivals.

Changes in the land of pink and blue

Yes, blogger has given us a whole lot of new features and I have seized on the opportunity to prove that I am a writer not a designer.

How long do you think it will take us to be a in a place like this again?

The virtues of mad men
Predictions for Season 4
My title for this post is the question that Roger asks Don as they stand in the office of Sterling Cooper for the very last time. My answer; not until the early 1980s. I don't mean for them but the whole culture and what I mean by that is in the following paragraphs. It is also my explanation of why I am almost certain that Season 4 is going to be a major disappointment.

The infamous line about Mad Men is that it will explain why the sixties had to happen. Implicit in that very statement is an admission of failure. No one says they need to explain why good thing had to happen. Good eras are their own justification and we thank God they happened at all. No, the second someone says they are going to explain why something had to happen they are already apologizing for it. It's like a  divorce or an abortion, no one thinks these things are good; the most they can do is try to justify why they "had to happen".

I doubt very much that Mad Men will pull this trick off; it's hard to see how any TV show could but if they were even going to try that wonderful set had to go. More than one critic has bemoaned its loss but that style—American High Modernism—was a style of optimism and hope and the period we are about to enter from the mid sixties until the crashing failure of the Carter Administration is an era when style and optimism almost died in America. It's still on life support even now.

And it almost died at all levels. The establishment culture of the 1960s was awful and so was the anti-establishment culture. To have showed the cultural events of the 1960s  against that background would have been a cruel indictment. And that bodes ill for this show for at least half the enjoyment was being able to see that wonderful style brought back to life. God preserve us from the thought of Nehru jackets, sideburns, bell bottoms, long hair on men, waterbeds and lava lamps ruining this wonderful show.

Other reasons to expect the worst.

  1. Historically we aren't ready for it. There is a great quip (I can't remember by whom) that it is only after the fiftieth anniversary of an event that objective analysis can finally dismantle the mythology constructed by the people who see themselves as the heroes of that event have constructed. We aren't quite ready to be honest about the 1960s yet. No one is quite ready to admit just what a widespread cultural failure the 1960s were.
  2. Matt Weiner has run out of gas. The quality of most shows was way down in Season 3 and there is no reason to expect anything but worse in Season 4.
  3. Story arc is not Matt Weiner's forte. As we saw in The Sopranos, his stories don't go anywhere. Although it is often said that these new series are novelistic, his really work more like the writings of Ovid (a comparison that is far more flattering than this stuff deserves). What I mean is that Weiner's forte is not showing change but rather showing the same things happening over and over again.
  4. They don't have the new characters to pull it off. Pete Campbell is too much of a villain to keep things facing forward and I don't think anyone can pull off the reversal in his character needed to make that credible. Peggy Olson is a fine character but the actor playing her is weak and that limits what they can do. The complete failure of Kurt And Smitty suggests that bringing new blood in isn't going to help either.

No, they should have ended it with that magnificent last show of season 3. I will probably not be blogging Season 4 and may not even watch although I may make some comments.

PS: There is a bit more in an upcoming rare political comment.

Moral philosophy quiz answers (11)

Last one.
 11. ASCETIC LIFE Is ascetic living (simple life with a minimum of physical comforts) conducive to being virtuous?
    a) Yes, it is essential to live this way
    b) Pretty much, but it isn't particularly essential to live this way
   c) No, physical comforts are fine, they may even be rewarding
   d) Doesn't matter/Dislike all answer choices
      What priority do you place on your selection above? High    Medium    Low
Asceticism is a very powerful idea that people love to take up telling themselves it is the opposite of selfishness when it is usually driven by very selfish motives. Think of all these people detoxing themselves for example. South Park is very good at tackling this sort of vanity.

An ascetic life is only a simulacrum of morality.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

On a lighter note.

I took a which Austen heroine are you quiz, The result this time was exactly what I would have hoped. (Unfortunately, I cannot fix the HTML the site gave me or make that ad go away.)

You Scored as Elinor Dashwood
You're Elinor Dashwood, the "sense" of <i>Sense & Sensibility</i>! You tend to hide your emotions, but you feel deeply. You also feel obligated to carry the burden of keeping everyone in your family under control.

Elinor Dashwood
Fanny Price
Elizabeth Bennet
Catherine Morland
Emma Woodhouse
Marianne Dashwood
Anne Elliot

That Hauerwas quote from the comments (Updated)

Update: In addition to my comments below, I strongly recommend the argument made here for anyone interested in this stuff.
Here is a bit more of it:
As a way to challenge such a [liberal] view of freedom, I start my classes by telling my students that I do not teach in a manner that is meant to help them make up their own minds. Instead, I tell them that I do not believe they have minds worth making up until they have been trained by me. I realize such a statement is deeply offensive to students since it exhibits a complete lack of pedagogic sensitivities. Yet I cannot imagine any teacher who is serious who would allow students to make up their own minds.
He is obviously being deliberately provocative here and I like that.

Do I agree? Well, I'd need more context and elaboration to say for sure but there is something right about it. Which is to say, there is a straightforward Aristotelian argument underneath this.

In the Nicomachean ethics, Aristotle says, very close to the beginning, that it would be impossible to teach ethics to someone who has not been brought up correctly. I think he is right.

There is an opposing liberal view that you can teach people evaluative skills independent of any moral content and then let them make up their own minds. It is usually argued in support of this approach that it leaves students more freedom. I think that is nonsense for exactly the reasons Aristotle outlines and are repeated by others. A good moral education will always begin with moral training, that is training in being moral—not with neutral critical evaluation skills. And if that is what Hauerwas meant, I think he was correct.

Moral philosophy quiz answers (10)

10. LIBERTY Would it be ideal to maximize pleasure for all people even at the cost of liberty for some?
    a) Yes
    b) No, we need liberty
   c) No, maximization of pleasure for all people has nothing to do with morality.
   d) Doesn't matter/Dislike all answer choices
      What priority do you place on your selection above? High    Medium    Low
This is utilitarianism again.  It's a hot political issue right now but I won't go into that other than to say that utilitarianism is a bankrupt position and so is any politics derived from it. 

The people who push utilitarian ideas aren't evil but they are wrong and their policies will fail, although it can take an awful long time and do a lot of hurt before they do.

Moral philosophy quiz answers (9)

9. INDIVIDUAL & OTHERS Is the self-pleasure or self-preservation of the individual ever in conflict with the same type of interests of others?
    a) No, and virtuous living is consistently beneficial to the individual and the community.
    b) Yes, and it is wrong to be selfish, one should lean towards benevolence.
   c) Yes, and neither the interest of own self nor the interest of the other is more important.
    d) Yes, and acting in one's own self-interest is fine.
    e) Yes, and acting in one's own self-interest is morally essential.
    f) Doesn't matter/Dislike all answer choices
      What priority do you place on your selection above? High    Medium    Low
The words "selfish" and "lean towards" are vitally important here. I can think of lots of situations where one should act in self interest. If the jurisdiction you live in is spending itself into oblivion and you think financial collapse is coming you should by all means move out now if you can (That means you if you live in Illinois or California; get out while the getting is good). It's not selfish to refuse to go along with the apparently suicidal wishes of the public and its government.

Moral philosophy quiz answers (8)

 8. END, MEANS, INTENT Which is the most important, morally?
    a) The intent (the choice to do something or the will).
    b) The means (the way something is done).
    c) The ends (the results from the action).
   d) None of them are significantly more important than the others.
    e) Doesn't matter/Dislike all answer choices
      What priority do you place on your selection above? High    Medium    Low 

 Not much explanation needed here. The crucial thing is that I think moral virtue means the capacity to deliver*. The person who always means well but can't come across isn't quite morally useless but they will be if they don't change soon.

*Incidentally,  one of the most significant shifts in moral philosophy to come with the Enlightenment was the shift away from results to intent. You can see it in what are probably the two most famous lines ever written about moral goods:
“It is impossible to think of anything at all in the world, or indeed even beyond it, that could be considered good without limitation except a good will.” Immanuel Kant

“Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and pursuit, is thought to aim at some good and for this reason the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim.” Aristotle

And there you have about as important contrast as you will find in moral thinking. Lots of people didn't like Kant's answer but virtually all moral philosophy since Kant has taken his side on this. One very notable exception is Nietzsche who does good work shredding the Enlightenment view. (Interestingly enough, Nietzsche does this in an attempt to save the day for Enlightenment ideals.

Moral philosophy quiz answers (7)

 7. UNIVERSAL LAW Should I act as if the maxim (principle) with which I act were to become the universal law for all rational people?
    a) Yes, and any deviation from this rule is wrong.
    b) Yes, but in a very loose manner, evaluating the unique specifics of the situation is essential.
    c) No, there is a consistent morality that applies to all, but their methods may differ greatly.
   d) No, one's own actions are not morally equivalent to the actions of others.
    e) Doesn't matter/Dislike all answer choices.
      What priority do you place on your selection above? High    Medium    Low
This one will make anyone who has studied philosophy chuckle because it applies to one and only one philosopher: Immanuel Kant.

Kant is the Enlightenment philosopher par excellence and that alone ought to give us pause because even though everything else he wrote was of unsurpassed brilliance, Kant is responsible for some of the most stupid moral arguments ever advanced. They are the arguments of a man who is lying to himself. A man who knows you cannot build morality on rational foundations alone but is scared to face the consequences of this.

He has lots of equally deluded descendants ranging from Jean Paul Sartre to Richard Dawkins.

Moral philosophy quiz answers (6)

Ah yes, happiness.
 6. HAPPINESS Will using morality properly necessarily result in maximization of our own happiness?
    a) Yes.
   b) No, not necessarily.
   c) Doesn't matter/Dislike all answer choices
      What priority do you place on your selection above? High    Medium    Low  
 I like the word happiness. Any morality worth it's salt will be aimed at happiness. 

I'm not so fond of the word maximization. That says utilitarianism and being older than twenty-five and believing in utilitarianism is like being over twenty-five and reading comic books, It says that you are not a serious person. So I fudged the answer. Happiness yes. Maximization of happiness no.

I love testosterone; it's like gasoline

The virtues of mad men
Shut the door. Have a seat.
I think a lot of people who watch this show, especially the critics, tell themselves two kinds of lies in the name of being correct.

They pretend to like Salvatore Romano and Betty Draper when they actually dislike them and they hide just how much they like Don Draper and Roger Sterling. This show is only at its best when the latter two are together. They walk on the set and everybody is hip deep in testosterone. Testosterone is good. 

Both men and women know this even if they pretend otherwise. Anyway, this episode—the best Mad Men episode ever—is awash with testosterone. It's full of manly men solving problems in a manly way. In fact, I'd advise you to skip reading this, go to iTunes, buy the episode and watch it again instead. If Howard Hawks had written and directed an episode it just might have been a smidge better but otherwise this is as good as television can get. Brideshead Revisited is still the best TV show ever but that is only because every episode of it was brilliant and Mad Men only managed to be this good occasionally.

Part of the thrill is that we haven't seen this sort of manliness on screen since, well, since the early 1960s.  Nowadays people are liable to think manly means being brutal.

Don decides not to be one of them
Anyway, it starts with a bang as Conrad Hilton gives Don some very good advice:
You know, I got everything I have on my own. It's made me immune to those who complain and cry because they can't. I didn't take you for one of them Don. Are you?
Don decides not to be one of them. Don is also a self-made man and decides to be true not to Dick Whitman but to Don Draper. He doesn't need Betty to be Don Draper and in this episode we see him move beyond her.

And where does he turn for strength? To his past as always. It is by making and remaking his own mythology that Don faces difficulties.  I noted earlier this season that Don was now creating his past instead of simply remembering it. Several of the "flashbacks" this season were to events he could not have witnessed such as the night of his conception. They have all also tended to focus on his father instead of on Abigail. And as we watch him flashback to the failure his father was, we see him make a curious decision: he decides to be the man his father wanted to be. He sets out to be a strong, independent, individualist, laconic man of action.

That, as I say, is a guilty pleasure. We aren't supposed to admire the sorts of characters that Gary Cooper, Gregory Peck and John Wayne played anymore but here he is in all his glory, the great American hero. And I don't care who hates me for saying so but I love it. Here is how he puts it to Bert when he asks him why he cares:
Because I'm sick and tired of being battered around like a ping pong ball. Who the hell is in charge?A bunch of accountants trying to make a dollar into a dollar ten? I want to work. I want to build something of my own. How can you not understand that? You did it yourself forty years ago.
And then it's Death of a Salesman in reverse. The scene in Roger's office where they talk him into coming along is so good I couldn't even begin to do it justice. Go to iTunes and buy the episode and watch it. You don't get to see television this good every day.

The key line in the scene, the key line in the whole show is when Don admits he can't do what Roger does and Roger sums up what he is missing to be a good account man  (and you can leave the "account" in that out and it applies even better):
You're not good at relationships because you don't value them.
Don acknowledges this and we see him slowly putting the lesson into action as the episode goes on.

Then Betty comes back on board for a bit. The crucial moment is when she and Henry Francis visit a divorce attorney. The attorney asks Betty what sort of terms she wants and Henry convinces her that she needs nothing because he will provide all. Watch it for the acting. Betty's face as we see her accepting this is priceless. It's the face of a kid accepting candy not an adult wondering why a strange man is suddenly offering her gifts. Later in the episode Don will call Betty a whore but she is worse than that. A whore at least has enough self awareness to realize what she is.

And then the thing comes back to life the second Don has Bert, Roger and Lane to his office. The moment when Don says, "So we're negotiating now," is worth the price of admission all by itself. Testosterone, Vroom, vroom. Love it. It's just one beautiful scene after another. There is a classic guy scene in the bar with Roger where Don finds out about Henry Francis. Then there is wonderfully cathartic scene where Don tells Betty what she is and he is right on every point.

It's not an accident that Don tells Peggy the following when trying to win her over:
Because there are people out there who buy things. People like you and me. And something happened. Something terrible. And the way that they saw themselves. Is gone. And nobody understands that. But you do. And that is very valuable.
He isn't talking about the JFK assassination. He is talking about loss and how we can grow by letting go of that person we cannot be anymore. Really, that is what it all boils down to. If you get that, you get Mad Men. If you don't, you don't. It's a show about dealing with loss and adversity by becoming a better person. Don Draper in his very imperfect way embodies all the virtues needed to do that better than any other person on the show except for Roger Sterling.

He lies and she lies
There is a particularly important moment amongst the slow bits and one that Betty defenders need to pay close attention to. Don and Betty sit down to tell their kids that Don is moving out. They sit down with the best of intentions and then immediately start lying. Don lies first. He responds to the children saying that things will never be the same by insisting that they will be the same. Sally calls him on it.

Let's stop an analyze this for a second. Why is Don lying? Because he is in denial mode. He is trying to protect his children and probably himself from the brutal facts.

Now comes Betty's turn to lie. Sally, smart kid Sally, figures out what has really happened and accuses her mother of making Don leave. And Betty lies to her. As always Betty lies to hide the truth about her character or, to be more precise, her lack of character.

One thing for certain, Sally is going to grow up to hate her mother and rightfully so.

Looking back
If we remember the episode "Six Months Leave" from season two, there was a great line when Don and Roger are in the bar after Don has punched out Jimmy Barrett. Don describes it as "a real Archibald Whitman" manœuvre". Well, here we see that corrected a bit. There followed a magnificent moment in that magnificent episode where Roger tries to talk Don into sticking with his marriage and Don unknowingly convinces Roger to give up on his.

Now Don finally has the courage to realize that he should just let Betty go. Everything he said to her when he confronted her about Henry Francis was true but it isn't enough to realize this. When you get let a bad woman go you also have to let go of the fight because keeping that passion alive just keeps the relationship alive.

The crucial scene here is when Trudy walks into the new office of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce and Don watches what a real loving wife looks like. And that convinces him to let Betty go.

The final scene is a gem. Shot in the dark to save money as Mad Men exteriors often are (easier to hide the non period details), we see Don get out of a cab with his suitcases and walk across to the new apartment Joan has found him.

If they had any real courage, they would have ended the series right there. They'll never be able to get it that right again.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Moral philosophy quiz answers (5 and 12)

I'm going to group two together here because I think the balance between passion and reason is crucial. To my way of thinking, no one without strong passions is capable of being virtuous. So here are questions numbers five and twelve:
 5. VIRTUOUS LIFE To be virtuous/live morally, we should primarily make moral distinctions according to:
    a) our passions, desires, and sentiment.
    b) our reasoning that is used to achieve our will.
   c) our inherent knowledge (what we know without experimentation).
    d) our empirical knowledge (what we know with experimentation).
    e) our intellect in general, but not to achieve desires.
    f) religious revelation and spiritual reflection.
    g) Doesn't matter/Dislike all answer choices
      What priority do you place on your selection above? High    Medium    Low  

12. VIRTUOUS PERSON A virtuous person can be described best as:
   a) Strong, powerful and passionate
   b) Strong, powerful and rational
    c) Humble, restrained and spiritual
    d) Humble, restrained and rational
    e) Caring and loving
    f) Concerned with others, yet very rational
    g) Doesn't matter/Dislike all answer choices
      What priority do you place on your selection above? High    Medium    Low  
 There is no contradiction here. We make moral distinctions rationally but they have to be driven by our passions. Not our "natural" passions but the passions that we have cultivated in ourselves. The right passions are a lot like oysters, they are an acquired taste.


From the comments

BobinCt writes:
"Don Draper's core values are the same as Dick Whitman's because he is Dick Whitman"
"But his core values remained the same, because they were formed by the experience of growing up as Dick Whitman, you cannot separate the two."
That perfectly sums up the view I respect but disagree with. To say that Dick Whitman has core values that were formed by his upbringing is to insist that there is a part of us that is authentic; that is the realest part of us. If you believe authenticity is important—and lots of people do even though I don't—this is what you will assert. I disagree. I say that he used to be Dick Whitman he has become Don Draper. Sometimes he lapses but he stays focused on that end.

I highlight this because these issues sum up what this blog is about and what I am about. In most modern ethics—which is to say ethics since the Enlightenment—core values and our real identity are what matter. In classic virtue ethics what really matters is your ability to take on and fulfill a particular role. There is a lot more to it than that but that is enough for my purposes here.

We cannot, of course, simply choose to be other than we are—a point Matt Weiner understands and is well-illustrated in the show. Nor can we simply make up a role, we have to choose from the menu that the culture, history and, I would insist, God has presented us with. But we can choose a social role and grow into it. That is what makes Don Draper admirable even though he has serious failings.

Keep on keeping on

As is probably obvious, I have been posting the Mad Men stuff much more frequently the last two weeks to try and get Season 3 finished before the first show of Season 4, which most people (but not me) will get to see on the 25th.

The virtues of mad men
The Grown Ups
How does a virtuous person respond respond to a crisis? Last episode we left Don and Betty in a crisis. In this episode a larger crisis comes along like a steamroller and runs over everyone.

The name of the episode is always important with Mad Men. This episode divides people into grown ups and non-grown ups. The grown ups distinguish themselves by their inability to see beyond the crisis to a time when things will be okay again. They see adversity as something you go through and emerge stronger on the other side.

And the non-grown ups? What do they do? They do what Peggy's mother does:
My mother was crying and praying so hard there wasn't room for anyone else to feel anything.
Emphasis added. The adult children don't see beyond the adversity or beyond themselves. They don't pick up and deal with life.

So, in the order we see it on the screen, here they are.

Margaret Sterling: Begins a child and grows up through the events of the day. At the beginning, everything is about her and all she can do is cry and complain that everything is ruined for her. But, later, at her wedding reception, we see her listen to some idiot ranting about taking out the South and we see her begin to grow up.

Mona and Roger Sterling are grown ups. The chemistry between them is wonderful and that is perhaps not surprising as the actors playing the parts are married in real life. One quibble, the show never deals with what Mona has done wrong. We see Roger's affairs but we never see her contribution to a sexless marriage.

Betty Draper: A child and a lousy mother to boot because she is so wrapped up in her own emotions she forgets all about her children, which, I have to point out, is the way Betty always is, crisis or no crisis.

Don Draper: Grown up. For all his failings, Don has become a guy you can count on in a crisis. The growth we saw in Seasons 1 and 2 is in clear evidence here. He acts and he fulfills the role of father and leader. He, and only he, is the one who turns to his kids and assures them that things will be okay. We haven't seen a hero like this since Gregory Peck: flawed but good.

Pete Campbell: A child and, this time, dragging Trudy into similarly childish behaviour. There is some positive growth showing in Pete's character as indicated by his apology to Hildy in the opening sequence but he is still a child.

Henry Francis is an adult. After Ruby shoots Oswald, Betty runs to Henry Francis who, interestingly, gives her the very same answer Don gave her earlier: "It will be okay, we've lost a lot of presidents and we're still standing." And he is right.  There were three presidential assassinations between 1865 and 1901.

Jane Sterling, not surprisingly, is a child.

Joan has grown up. Only a season ago she was a sniveling child in response to Marylin's death. There was a gorgeous bit of dramatic when she snapped at Roger that one day he will lose someone who really matters to him and know what it feels like. This was silly because Marylin was just a celebrity—a train wreck of a  personality not unlike Lindsay Lohan is now. To wrap yourself up in an illusion like that is classic adolescent behaviour; it's fine in an adolescent but not in a woman Jaon's age. But it was also silly because she ought to have seen that someone with Roger's experience would likely know much more about loss and adversity than she does.

That has all changed now. She has faced some loss and adversity of her own and she has grown as a result.

One false note, though, she says there is nothing funny about this but Roger has, in fact, had several good funny lines just as anyone like him would have back in late November 1963 would have done. (Tom Wolfe has a great piece somewhere about how journalists at the time filtered out the gallows humour. The business of JFK myth-making started very quickly after the shooting.)

The best moment in the episode is Roger's toast:
This could have been an awful day. But here we are not watching TV but watching the two of you.
 Absolutely right. If you ever have to choose between joining the mass hysteria around some person who is, after all is said and done, is only a politician or celebrity and celebrating an important milestone for someone you know and love, take a lead from Roger. Politicians aren't that important and it is only a very sick society that thinks they are. (That the later 1960s made so much of the JFK assassination tells you a lot, and nothing good, about the culture of the day.)

The TV coverage
One bonus of this episode is that we get to see some footage of the coverage of the day and we can see just how ordinary it was. It's quite a jolt to see the tape of what Walter Cronkite was really like and realize that Cronkite was every bit as tiresomely stupid as Wolf Blitzer is today.

I like the way Sally and Bobby are both more interested in other things—reading a book and playing with a toy—than the endless stupid TV commentary. My mother used to love to tell people about the time I angrily turned the Santa Claus parade off that December because I didn't want to watch them "bury President Kennedy again".

She doesn't love him anymore
And then Betty tells Don she doesn't love him anymore. (Did she ever love him? Could she ever love anyone but herself? Based on what we have seen so far these there seasons, the answer to both those questions has to be "No!") In a very telling bit, she tells Don that she knows he will make verything alright if she lets him but she doesn't want to let him.

Like Don Draper, Henry Francis is an adult who has a weird compulsion to love children like Betty. It's not an uncommon failing and I think most men will, if honest, see this failing in themselves. I did it for more than a decade myself.

It's telling that Betty leaves Don Draper only to seek someone who will play exactly the same role in her life. This isn't going to end well. Who do you blame? I blame both the men and the woman but I blame the woman more. I know others disagree but the greater failing is Betty's for failing to grow up. Running away from Don to yet another father figure is not going to fix her problem. Staying and facing adversity together would have.

Don is not, to pick up from something in the comments, a great moral hero. No one on the show is and that is the best thing about it. But, as my Serpentine Pal always insists, the virtuous people are the ones who "keep on keeping on".  They face adversity and work through it always having hope in a future they know will just as likely bring more adversity. If you wanted to pick a moral hero from the cast, Don would be your first choice followed by Roger, Joan, Peggy and Harry.

This is drawn out in the final encounter where we learn that Peggy Olson is one of the grow ups. There is a fantastic moment where Don picks up the story board for the Aquanet commercial and we see him making the connection with the Dallas motorcade. Peggy says, "It's okay, it doesn't shoot until Thanksgiving. We'll be alright."

Perfect that. She is wrong of course. Millions of people were about to enter into years of childish hysteria about JFK because they were unable to accept the mundane truth that JFK was shot by a communist who was upset by his Cuba policy. As late as 1991 it was still possible to sell $205 million worth of tickets to a film peddling juvenile conspiracy theories about the JFK assassination. But even if Peggy is wrong on the facts, her emotional response is the correct one.

Tomorrow I discuss the greatest Mad Men episode ever. A show good they will probably never make another quite so good.

Moral philosophy quiz answers (4)

Okay, I surprised myself with this one:
4. SOCIETAL INFLUENCE Must a person be coerced/ influenced at some level by societal powers in order to live morally/virtuously?
    a) Yes, people will be good only when ruling forces of society use the power of force to make them be as such.
    b) Yes, people will try to be good when they have knowledge of the virtuous life, but societal guidance and reinforcement (sometimes forceful) is necessary.
   c) Sort of, society doesn't have to coerce a person to find morality, but the interest/rights of others in society must conveyed to a person in order for that person to determine right from wrong.
    d) No, society should be not be an influence on a person when one is trying to find virtue.
    e) No, society must be physically abandoned in all its forms in order to find virtue.
    f) Doesn't matter/Dislike all answer choices
      What priority do you place on your selection above? High    Medium    Low  
If someone had confronted me  with this answer in isolation I might well have disagreed with it. If they had asked me any time before my thirtieth birthday, I would have disagreed. But, again, my life experience tells me that we have to be taught virtue. And we have to be taught in an authoritative manner.

Moral philosophy quiz answers (3)

3. PROPER ORIGIN OF MORALITY Where does the proper distinction between "good" and "bad" come from?
    a) A moral realm that is completely unique, transcendent.
    b) Every individual, through their choice to pursue that which they desire.
    c) God's will
   d) From holistic forces of the universe (may involve divine power or not).
    e) Human nature, with the natural interests of people
    f) Human intellect, with the natural capabilities of human thought
    g) Doesn't matter/Dislike all answer choices
      What priority do you place on your selection above? High    Medium    Low
Here I will lose a lot of people and if I had been asked this question in my early twenties I would have picked "a".

Why have I changed? Because I don't think any of the other answers work. I've tried them all and they all lead to the same dead end. Nothing in nature or science could provide the foundation of an ethics that could be a real ethics. It would just be pragmatism under a another name. 

One more time with the MacGuffin

The virtues of mad men
The Gypsy and the Hobo
The thing about Don's secret identity is that it has always been there but nothing has ever turned on it. It's always looked like it might matter but in the end it has turned out not to matter. With this episode, it appears that something must turn on it and there is the problem.

As far as Don's motivation goes, the show has used his past to explain his motives for becoming Don Draper. It has never explained why that past is still there. Okay, that sounds mystical but here is a concrete example: Why does he continue to keep all the mementos of his past? It's not that it wouldn't be easy to come up with a  reason but the show never does. And why does he keep all that money in the drawer? Presumably so he can escape when he wants but the show never explores that. There is absolutely no background to justify using it as a turning point in this episode.

There is also the general problem of secrets from past lives. Everyone has them. Practically no one gets married a virgin anymore and you don't—not if you have any brains anyway—tell your spouse what it was like to be in love with someone else,

And even beyond that there are aspects of our past lives we don't share simply because they don't come up. In this episode Greg tells Joan about his father's nervous breakdown and then finds himself saying, "I can't believe I never told you that." This is a normal thing in most relationships. We all have things we do not talk about. The central question this particular episode has to answer to be credible is why exactly does Don's secret past constitute a betrayal of betty. Tellingly, it never does asnwer that question.

There are all sorts of good reasons for Betty to feel betrayed. Don has not only had affairs, he is in love with another woman. And then there is the money in the drawer. Why is that there? Was it an escape hatch so he could get out any time he wanted? If so, that is serious betryal. But how much of a betrayal is it that he used to be named Dick Whitman and now he is named Don Draper?

This gets underlined early on when Betty is talking with her family's lawyer on another matter and she asks him for advice. He gives her legal advice and then asks some blunt personal questions. Is she afraid of Don? is Don a good provider? There is nothing there so she is forced to go on and explain what the something else that is in the way might be. And there the thing breaks down. What is it about Don's past as Dick Whitman that constitutes a betrayal of Betty? The show has no answer to that.

Up until now, Don's secret past has always been a MacGuffin. It has been the thing that kept the audience focused until we could see that the real issue lies elsewhere. The show has always unconciously sided with Don's privacy. Will this episode be any different?

No it won't. It's odd because, as Ann Althouse has pointed out, no one, neither liberals nor conservatives, places a lot of value on privacy anymore. When some public figure's life is torn apart because their privacy has been exposed to all the world, we cheer. This show, however, always ends up siding with privacy. It may not even do so consciously but it always ends up coming down on the side of privacy.

The Gypsy and the Hobo
The title comes from the costumes that Sally and Bobby wear on Halloween but it has a double sense in that it also refers to Roger and Don. This is really well done because we might not have thought of Roger as a gypsy before this episode but his character takes that hue through a really great bit of retroactive context. We learn what Roger was like back in Paris before the war being romantic witha  woman who returns now to tell him that he was the only one she really loved.

It's a fantastic touch because it is pure Casablanca every inch of the way and yet it never feels false or faked. Roger denies it but we quickly see just how much he loved her and how much he was hurt by her leaving him.

She gets one very nioce line in about him, "You walked around like you were hoping to be a character in somebody else's novel." Well, a character in somebody else's TV show anyway.

In the end, Roger turns down his old lover but we can all see that it's because he really loves Joan not Jane.

The Hobo
We've known that Don was a Hobo since season one but now Betty gets to find out.

As I always say, what actually happens? When the big revelation comes, Don does not run. He's always run before and then come back. This time he doesn't even run. We have seen him develop the last few seasons. He has become Don Draper and there is no going back.

There are two challenges about Don's true history. The first is thatw e already know it. Dramatically, it won't do to have him go over all the details with Betty now that would be too boring.

The bigger problem is that it is an sad but inspiring story. Don is quite literally a self made man who has overcome personal tragedy and serious odds to succeed. His is a great American story. Does Betty have reason to feel betrayed. Yes but not in this past story. And we can see it in her face as she listens to the story.

When Don asks Betty why she needed to know, she comes back with "You don't get to ask any questions?" Well, why not?

The hypothetical underneath all this is would any of this is could a healthy marriage have survived this? The answer to that is yes. All sorts of families deal with crises like these one. There are secrets not unlike this in my family and people dealt with them. There probably are in yours too.

Betty says, You lied to me every day. I can't tust you, I don't know who you are.

Do you agree with her? You will if you believe authenticity, being who you really are, is important. I don't. I think becoming who you are supposed to be is what matters.

You could make a very solid argument that Don has failed in this. His infidelity for starters. But the authenticity doesn't relate. AUthenticity says it really matters that Don has not to his self been true. It's a compelling idea. I won't deny that. Lots of writers and intellectuals have thought authenticity mattered.

What I will say, however, is that it doesn't work here. When we look at what happens over the next few shows authenticity has nothing to do with it. It couldn't. For three seasons, Matt Weiner has had opportunity to set the ground work for authenticity to matter and has never done so. (I might note that for authenticity to be a virtue, we have to disallow any privacy. That is we have to disallow the notion that there is some private sphere where matters are just between us and God.)

Lots of people wil disagree with me and say that authenticity matters and that is why the marriage fails here. I don't think so and I think we can see that if we pay attention to what actually happens. Watch the next episodes carefully and you will see that Betty—like Rachel before her-runs and Don stays and faces his moral responsibilities. He is a long way from perfect but he is good. He shows real virue and she does not.

The turning point happens here in the dark, in the privacy of their home. n reponse to Betty's "I don't know you," Don says "yes you do," and she falters. She does know. She has revealed just how much she knows during this discussion. The ball is back in her court. That is what actually happens. And when she falters, Don takes over the control. he moves upstairs, he tells her to sit with him, he takes over the narrative.

And then they go trick or treating with the kids and neighbour Carlton says, "And who are you supposed to be?" We see it as a question for Don but it's just as much   question for everyone. Betty for example. Stick with me for the last two episodes and watch Betty run and watch Don rise to the occasion.

Major quibble: Domestic violence is not okay. It's not okay when a woman does it instead of a man. The scene where Joan smashes a vase across the back of Greg's head is repulsive. It would never, ever have been played the other way.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Moral philosophy quiz answers (2)

 2. PURPOSE TO LIFE Does each person have a moral purpose/morally ideal way to live?
    a) Yes, the ideal life exists outside of one's preferences and is the same for all people
    b) Yes, but the way to live in order to meet that purpose is unique for each individual
   c) Yes, but following moral law is the only standard that a person must meet
    d) No, yet there are ways to act that are inherently more conducive to the self-interest of the person who is acting
    e) No, yet there are logically consistent ways to act and logically inconsistent ways to act
    f) Doesn't matter/Dislike all answer choices
      What priority do you place on your selection above? High    Medium    Low  
My choice is in white. Again, nothing about my answer here took any soul searching. I believe in virtue ethics because I believe we have a purpose. This is what I was taught  by my parents at home and the Nuns at school from an early age and I agree. A half century life experience has only led me to agree more strongly.

Moral philosophy quiz answers (1)

I mentioned a while ago that I did a moral philosophy selector quiz available on line and found, to my surprise, that I lined up with Aquinas. That was a surprise because I started rebelling against Aquinas a Catholic school boy in Grade 8 and thought I'd spent my whole life repudiating the man.

So what were my answers. Well, I'm going to blog them all with explanations. Here is question 1 (my answers are in white:
1. MORAL STATEMENTS Moral statements are primarily:
   a) statements of fact or truth (e.g. "Murder is wrong" means "It is a fact that murder is wrong").
   b) statements of the speaker's desire/emotion?(e.g. "Murder is wrong" means "I hate murder").
    c) statements of command (e.g. "Murder is wrong" means "I say: don't murder").
    d) Doesn't matter/Dislike all answer choices

      What priority do you place on your selection above? High    Medium    Low  
This question determines that I am some variety of moral realist. A moral realist believes there is some standard of truth outside of us that applies in morality. The significant alternative here is emotivism, which is what you are if you picked #2. If you have been to college, you were probably subjected to some considerable amount of influence to become an emotivist.

As Raymond Chandler  once said, emotivism is a fine position if you are in a polite society where people tend to want the right things anyway. I've dealt with the huge problems of emotivism here.

I was not surprised to find myself answering as I did here. I have been a moral realist all my life. I remember getting into a  debate with a beautiful girl in Grade 11 and very strongly defending the position.

He's only a baby. We don't know who he is yet. And we don't know what he is going to be. And that is a wonderful thing.

Any time you get the notion to commit to a longer-term project, you need to remember that the day will inevitably come when all the joy goes out of it and you just want to quit.

The next five episodes did it for me. They are easily the worst Mad Men episodes ever. Each of the there is a stupid, pointless waste of time.

A man walks into an advertising agency
Well, we can't say they didn't warn us—when the title is a set up for a joke we should be surprised when that is all we get.

The episode makes two important points:
  1. Dramatic new starts amount to nothing which is not terribly important in the long run because just about every other episode tis season makes this point.
  2. Don needs Roger Sterling. He has been trying to dump him since, well since season one but especially since Roger married Jane. but he needs Roger.
This is played out not only in the interactions between the two men but also in the plot of the show. The new org chart proposed for Sterling Cooper by the proposed new manager has no place for Roger. Again, I think this supports a possible fight club interpretation in which Roger is a projection of Don's imagination.

By the way, the $500k Roger makes for Don, that is $3.5 million in today's money.

One of the dramatic new starts that comes to naught this episode is Joan's. They spend almost five minutes on the scene with her and Greg. That is a lifetime in television and they shouldn't have bothered. Joan is the female equivalent of Don and Roger, she belongs in the male world of the office and scenes of her outside just die.

Conrad Hilton is a false start for Don.

The new baby is a false start for Betty and Betty's attempts to make up with Sally are just further occasion for Betty to prove what a lousy mother she is.

And the new management from Britain is a false start for Sterling Cooper.

The only real developments are Lane Pryce and Joan Harris. He came here and he learned to love it. Why does he love it, because he is a stronger better person for the experience? Joan Harris meanwhile is becoming a stronger person more aware of her real strengths. She learns this through adversity.

Did we need a stupid, tasteless scene of a man getting his foot cut off to learn this? No we didn't.

Seven twenty three
Ah yes, the backwards narrative that starts out with a bunch of odd images and then explains them. Well, it certainly makes it self-contained and easier to skip.

"Betty gets involved in local politics," says the teaser. Well, if you consider turning to the nearest available father figure and asking him to solve your problems to be getting involved for you she does. Otherwise, she remains the spoiled petulant little brat she always is. I see one of the video clips for Season 4 features a shot of Betty and Henry having a fight. Could anyone be surprised?

Is it an accident that the dress Betty wears this episode matches the bedspread in Sally's room? It's like a billboard announcing this woman never grew up. Okay, we got that way back in season one can we just think of an excuse to get her the hell out of the show now. Maybe someone could run her over with a lawn mower?

The one thing that I think works rather well this episode is the weird little sequence with the draft dodger. I haven't found anyone else who likes it. It's easy to guess why. We see the entry of an iconic sixties hero, the draft dodger, and he turns out to be a lousy little creep on the run because he is selfish.

Of course, that is the point for Don too. Anytime things get too scary he has a tendency to to lapse back into Dick Whitman and run away. However, and this is really important, notice what actually happens. He sees what running away amounts to in the draft dodger and decides to stay and be Don Draper. Yes, his instinct is to run away but he gets better and better at not actually doing it.

There is also some stuff with Suzanne but I'll leave that til later when it gets really interesting.

BTW: Important factual mistake, fainting couches were never actually for fainting.

We do get a great nostalgia song on the way out in Sixteen tons by Tennessee Ernie Ford. Might I point out that that one song is better than the entire bob Dylan œuvre put together?

The souvenir
Betty and Don have a Roman holiday and she comes to life  just as any princess would. Does that make a feminist point that intelligent women cooped up in the home with child-raising responsibilities are stunted. Or does it make the already familiar point that the only thing Betty is good for is escapist fantasies? Well, you know what I think.

And Betty tells her daughter that kissing is, "Where you go from being a stranger to really knowing someone." Don't think about that one too long or you'll get really offended.

Pete Campbell is still a rapist but he seems to learn that he can avoid being a rapist by having his wife around. Don't think about that one too long or you'll get really offended.

And then it all ends with Don giving Betty a souvenir. fans of Henry James will recognize the significance of the souvenir:
"Would it be," Charlotte asked, "your idea to offer me something?"
"Well, why not--as a small ricordo."
"But a ricordo of what?"
"Why, of 'this'--as you yourself say. Of this little hunt."
"Oh, I say it--but hasn't my whole point been that I don't ask you to. Therefore," she demanded--but smiling at him now-- "where's the logic?"
"Oh, the logic--!" he laughed.
"But logic's everything. That, at least, is how I feel it. A ricordo from you--from you to me--is a ricordo of nothing. It has no reference."
Wee Small Hours
Lots of fun trivia in this. Don picks up Suzanne jogging in the middle of the night and they listen to part of MLK's I have a dream speech. Then he drives back past her place and slows down briefly while the news announcer says "It's Wednesday September 4," that, of course being the day that the school desegregation crisis in Birmingham exploded leading to all the church bombings.

Okay, so we know there is all sorts of significant things happening in the background but what about the foreground. Anything worth worrying about there?


Sal's secret life—so secret he hasn't quite let himself in on it yet—catches up with him and he gets fired. Think about this one too long and you'll get really offended. I mean it. Not one heterosexual male in four seasons gets as offensive as Lee Garner gets here. Does Matt Weiner think this is what gay men are like?

And then Don moves in on Suzanne. And they have this conversation:
Suzanne: What can I do for you.
Don: I don't know, I wanted to talk.
Suzanne: Right, says the man as he unbuckles his pants.
Don: What do you want me to say. You've been flirting with me for months.
Suzanne: So what?
Don: So I can't stop thinking about you.
Suzanne: Because I'm new and different. Or maybe I'm exactly the same.
Don: Tell me you've run by that stretch of highway in the past two weeks and not thought of me, not looked for me.
Suzanne: But then I have the luxury of the last half mile home where I go through every step of the future until it ends. I know exactly how it ends.
Don: So what
Suzanne: You live two miles from here. Your daughter was my student. I've seen your wife in the market. I don't think you've done this before this way.
She does know exactly how this ends. Only she doesn't because this is the scriptwriters putting their problems in the mouth of a  character. The whole series is in a trap and they need out. Oddly enough, after spending a whole season establishing that fresh new starts aren't, the writers will try and save their own bacon with a fresh new start.The way they get rid of her is so hasty and poorly thought out.

Oh yeah, naming an episode "Wee Small Hours" and then not using the great Sinatra recording as the outro is unforgivable. Let me fix that right now.

The colour blue
Don is taking bigger chances than ever this time. He even has his service forwarding messages to her place. He seems to be really in love with her. So where does it go?

Nowhere at all.

There is a scene in this episode that tells you everything (which is very little) you need to know about it. Don is taking Suzanne's brother to Bedford where she has found a job for him.  The brother convinces Don to let him go because he doesn't want the job. Don let's him out in the middle of the woods twenty miles from the nearest town.

Why there? Why not somewhere the poor guy can get a  room for the night?

Because it was cheaper to film this way. It would be very expensive to set up a town for him to drop the guy off. But a country road in the middle of the night is dirt cheap. Somewhere in the middle of writing this episode, the creative staff at Mad Men stopped caring. They decided to just get this over as fast as they could and take off on a new track.

They didn't even think it through. Look, what would the people in Bedford do when the guy didn't show up? They'd call Suzanne who would cross examine Don leading to a huge fight between them. None of that happens because the writers were trapped and they'd realized it. They needed out and they got out.

So they went back to the most obvious move possible, they have Betty find the key to the drawer and away we go. Except they haven't really thought that one through as we will see next episode. They pull something pretty damn good out in the end but this show is just lazy and hasty.

There are a  couple of nice bits around—Lane Pryce's character and we get to see that Peggy really is a fixer not a creative person, just as Don said she was. She fixes things up after others (mostly Paul Kinsey) mess them up.

Anyway, on to three good episodes starting tomorrow.