a new low in topical enlightenment

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Issue #28 (January 13, 2010)

East River at the Queensboro Bridge

Photo by Joe Carducci

Experience from the Experiment: “Mad Men” (AMC), Part II
(Continued from Part I)

by Janet Lynn

Bill Clinton at a charity event last year was laying out the usual cant: health care, diversity, profiling... and then he stopped, and looked at the audience and said: “this is different than a crowd of white men that might be seen on the TV show 'Mad Men.' "

Did I hear "Mad Men"?

“You ever watch that TV series?” he asked as though he were in the living room next to you. He pointed out an episode in the early 60s-era series that portrays racism, “a painful reminder,” he says as he goes on to the number one painful reminder of the series, the plight of women back then. “If I keep watching this program… will I ever find a happy person?”

Leaving aside just what Bill's definition of a "happy person" might be, this question, as Clinton may know, hangs over the new feminist generation like a spectre. A new study compares women’s happiness since the early 70s to the present (see the full report by Wharton Professors Betsy Stevenson and Justin Wolfers). It has spawned a weekly column in the Huffington Post and various other columns and research projects. Clinton knows that, regarding "Mad Men", he is talking to both generations of women, mother and daughter, and he is addressing their common vulnerabilities.

However, despite what he calls the painful reminders, and his ringing tribute to feminists’ accomplishments, the study sees no difference (or downward trend) in the level of happiness in the modern woman compared to women four decades ago at the same age. Clinton goes on about "Mad Men" to remind us with rather unseemly excitement, “The way women were treated is appalling.”

However, if we look at two of the main characters in "Mad Men", Don and Betty Draper, in 1963 at the precipice of the changes to come, we see an ideal couple living the American dream. They are a man and a woman who have followed the cultural ideals of their genders, submissive and dominant. Don is a successful ad man, but also a ladies' man and unfaithful to Betty. Bet is a mother; educated, refined and distantly restless.

It would be rewriting history, and rewriting fiction, to justify Clinton's term “painful” because the context had not yet been tainted by politics. It is true that there were blatant sexist remarks at the ad agency where Don worked, but Clinton is also referring to the undercurrent in remarks that Don made to his wife. For example, when Bet announced she wants to leave him, Don disparaged her by assuming she was just not feeling well.

But painful? Betty still has several options. She could have agreed that she was sick and then rhapsodized about the sickness of her soul, letting him know. She could have expressed her feelings and possibly had a new start with him. Or she could have told him she wants a job, or even confessed her attraction to another man whom she hasn’t slept with, though the AMC promotional department implied as much. But Betty did nothing. She was at a standstill. The best she could do to assert
herself was to leave.

But it wasn’t "appalling" until the left labeled it "appalling", adding an element of shame. Clinton is speaking in the voice of a 60s female radical with a contempt similar to the gossip girls of that day. There was no open discussion, no elders over thirty, no religion to advise her about marriage and family. There was an undercurrent of discontent among women, a network, registering shame. And by the end of the decade, women changed. Overnight, without notice, they just walked.

What happened is that their cultural ideal changed -- from being submissive and self-effacing to being assertive and expansive. Women changed their self-concept and had a new ideal to strive for. The extreme left, in the persons of the Weathermen, arbitrarily changed partners to break up emotional attachments, that’s how much they had turned against their own compliant trends.

It is apparent Clinton doesn’t want his audience to look inward, just forward. He doesn’t want the contemporary woman to take that moment that Betty Draper did not, and just be open to possibilities. He wants her compulsive, committed, without introspection, as in the way Bet walked out on Don.

But Clinton betrays himself in his feeling-their-pain gambit, because he’s not talking to the contemporary woman as anything more than an ideologue. There is something that falls short in his appeal to feminism’s past accomplishments when there's no emotional component that he's appealing to in the contemporary woman. She is no longer that compliant woman who needs to overcome her man’s aggressiveness or change those dependency trends within herself.

And she is no longer dealing with the same kind of man. Today the ideal man is detached, neither dominant nor submissive, but removed, uninvolved on an intimate level, valuing his independence and self-sufficiency more than a relationship. Karen Horney, in her pioneering work in feminine psychology, discovered that this detachment is another distinct, more elusive cultural ideal, and not a resolution of conflict as it appears ("Our Inner Conflicts"). It is moving away from conflict, instead of engaging in it. In the detached personality, the old trends are just taken out of operation. Where those opposite trends used to be active between men and women as the war between the sexes, the new state of affairs is a pseudo-solution, appearing as objectivity or even wisdom, while instead being a depletion of the inner resources.

Kay Hymowitz has described the new detached man as the child-man. They have extended their youth without responsibilities, and are not in tune with the biological foundation of a woman’s needs.

Women, on the other side, are not quite proud of exercising their rights on behalf of their fertility (especially when on the pill), with its concomitant biological foundation of ethics. Rather, they need to pursue self-sufficiency because they have learned from their mother’s generation that they can’t depend on marriage.

The detached ideal is, above all, an androgynous ideal. The pill has put the contemporary couple on equal footing, but the contemporary woman, with the loss of her own biology as a basis for her ethics, has no guidance for handling her sexual difference. Behind the objectivity of the detached couple, the birth-controlled hookups, and the nonjudgmentalism, there is a sense that the baby has been thrown out with the bathwater.

New studies have come out proving once again how basic and unconscious the factors of attraction are, particularly the latest study, which found the highest correlation of attraction was during a woman’s ovulation. The contemporary woman on the pill has lost the need to exercise the full spectrum of her personality as she does when she is ovulating and her fertility is at stake. To say Yes and move towards another (think of Molly Bloom’s monologue by James Joyce), or to say No, to move away (think rape escape in the self-defense movement). By not keeping closer to her human nature, she has lost the ability to be what Horney calls “whole hearted” in any of her choices or moves. She has therefore lost a necessary factor in the always-elusive question of women’s happiness, if not attractiveness.

Don Draper had something to stand up to and something to submit to. And then there was the bargain he made in marriage: something to fight for, and something to believe in.

It is significant that Don Draper (actor Jon Hamm) even won the GQ Man of the Year award despite the fact that the award had never before been given to person who isn’t real. It seems Don Draper succeeds where the contemporary man fails, indicating that the modern day truce is not working. Many women are now blogging, as though a whole era hasn’t gone by, about how they could never walk out on a man like Don Draper, as though consciousness had never been raised for daughter by mother. (Maybe they are thinking of who they got for a stepfather.) Betty is giving him up just as ideas about marriage were beginning to change.

In the 60s women lost connection to their human instincts. They began to reach for definitions of happiness and the ideal for the way one should be, but the new politics never offered contentment with one's human nature. Instead, one's human nature as a woman was forever being agitated by the unacknowledged dissonance. The more alienated from their real self, their human nature, or as existential psychologists would say, the full expression of their human potential, the more they are caught in a merely politically correct, liberal world where imagining a world based on your human nature is unspeakable and isolating.

David Horowitz chronicles the roots of this alienation in the 60s in his memoir, Radical Son: “In the radical view, existing sexual norms reflected nothing about humanity’s biological experience, but were merely a social construction to preserve the privileges of a dominant group…"

The answer to why women are not happy lies, in the end, in the immutability of Don Draper’s attraction for both mother and daughter. It is not just that he’s not detached, and it is not because he overcame his macho insensitive ways, which he did not, but because he’s different. He thinks outside the pretenses of his generation and is not stuck in one way of being. From the first episode he asked the question himself: what makes women happy? His merely asking the question makes him part of the answer.

As we go off into the season’s commercial break with Betty and Don broken up, we know anything could happen. If I were there then, I, for one, would find out the name of the place he goes for that drinking problem he seems to have, and I’d introduce him, being a little younger, to some good weed. I would take him to the Piers on the West-side highway and watch the sun setting over NJ as it's starting to change. And I would try to pick up where Betty left off -- fast -- before she or that other woman comes back. And step children? children? -- I don’t know -- but there’s always that hope it will all work out and we won't have to change the channel again.

[Photo: January Jones and Jon Hamm as Betty and Don Draper (AMC); Betty Draper artwork by Dyna Moe;
Clinic photo from the Karen Horney Clinic website]

Drawing by James Fotopoulos

From the Mid-town Manhattan desk of Joe Carducci...

A lot seems changed in NYC since I was last here.  Universal News is half size over on 8th Ave, and the newer one on Lex is closed and the space for lease.  The NY Observer isn't much anymore and a double spread farewell to the movie and music stars who died last year by the still lingering Rex Reed is just too sad to actually read.  I'd rather read about the dead baby shampoo heiress in the NY Post.  It's as if the Observer and the NY Press, which used to provide roosts for old worthies and a first niche for young writers on the way up, can't find codger nor kid to fill interesting pages.  And the Village Voice is about as useful as L magazine or Time Out if you want to know what's playing when, but it used to usually be more than that.  All this has been going on for ten years but now the judgement seems final.  Only the non-profit institutions dedicated to film would keep me here, because how much longer can Universal News stay open?  Although I did just find the long-rumored Brooklyn Pilsner sitting in a 1st Ave mag-shop cooler...


Here's NYT media columnist and Soul Asylum fan David Carr and Tim Arango reporting on their interview with Roger Ailes of Fox News.  They dug deep to find out whether Roger's News Channel is really an embarrassment to Rupert Murdoch or only to his sons and his son-in-law the unfortunately named Matthew Freud.  Ailes, the NYT notes, "the son of a foreman at the Packard Electric plant in Warren, Ohio," is quoted:  "I built this channel from my life experience.  My first qualification is I didn't go to Columbia Journalism School.  There are no parties in this town that I want to go to."  Ailes is another old Nixon hand, yet with us.  It's forgotten in the Manhattan media's green-hot envy at Fox News that it was Peter Jennings who stopped ABC News's planned opt-out of the mainstream news media's political consensus.  ABC News, if had any institutional memory, would be greenest of them all over Ailes ongoing triumph because they might have capped it and wired up Disney, ESPN, conservo-news to the top.  Jennings was really a scion of the CBC with a laughable fixation on the BBC and CBS's Edward R. Murrow (but only when he was in London in a trenchcoat ducking buzzbombs), even long after the only classic BBC enunciations you'd hear were from ex-colonials whose radio dreams were formed in jungle huts listening on shortwave. Everyone else reporting the news for BBC sounds like a soccer hooligan yelling into someone else's mic.

Here Arango on his own does an oral history of the AOL-TimeWarner deal of the century, decade, moment, pfft!

NY Governor Paterson threatens Pols to their faces, or to the tops of their heads anyway.


Thomas Sowell is probably the man to explain his colleagues.  His new book, Intellectuals and Society, 1st excerpt, in the IBD.


Stanley Crouch maintains he is a negro even at this late date in these postmodern late capitalist end-times.


Science, Defence and Strategy by Adam Elkus at Open Democracy looks at what one might call the marketplace of strategy in both the military itself and the government it serves.  However, in practice you'd have to use the plural for both military and government.  The long march for Special Forces is first a bureaucratic odyssey.  The military was first the Infantry, then the Cavalry was added, and the Army's first mission became defending its connection to the state's purse against even newer Arms:  the Navy, the Air Force.  And struggles for budget within these Arms as the Marines, the Seals, Delta Force multiply as well.  In the sixties Special Forces were headed up by a two-star general -- thus they were side-tracked and given the back of the hand, no matter JFK's personal policy commitment to the Green Berets.  They could only be used in meaningless tactical, existentially absurd exercises that at best gained the force experience and exacerbated the enemy's paranoia.  Still the Military -- the one blue collar profession, and as tough a boys club as there is -- does feel pain and make corrections once it is in the field.  And the American military is uniquely responsive to pain and nimble if allowed by its civilian leadership to make adjustments.  That these discussions are so public makes a difficult job tougher, except for the less culturally nimble enemies we face.


Der Spiegel editorial on the European failure to defend a cartoonist against Islam.

"It was like listening to the blind talk about art, the deaf about music or eunuchs discussing sex based on hearsay. Because with the exception of the left-wing Die Tageszeitung, the conservative Die Welt and the centrist Die Zeit, every German newspaper and magazine followed the advice of Green Party co-leader Claudia Roth, who said "de-escalation begins at home..."

The Met hides image of Muhammad. Sure, but what are those prayer rugs doing up on the wall?


1979, Japan, P.M. Thatcher and twenty karate-ladies.


Never mind the silence of God, we can't even get the black hole at the center of our galaxy to speak up.


Steve Sailer's SoCal crime crunching.


IBD Perspective column by SMU and U. Tennessee profs:

"What climatologists are learning from economists is how to increase their importance by promoting a theory that gives politicians more power."


I'm always impressed with my brother Mark's command of economic/business/financial/monetary issues.  Here's his New Year's Day email response to a year-end Barron's column by Randall Forsyth that begins, "'RISK-FREE' IS HOW TEXTBOOKS refer to 'government securities.' After 2009, the textbooks should be rewritten."

"Dear Randall,

Nice review of debt securities for 2009.  One important note: since the Fed is always following the bond investor/trader masses, when the Fed raises the federal funds, the 10/30 year yields have already done most of their climbing.  Longer maturity bonds actually usually decline (with attendant bond price increases) by the time the belated Fed realizes it's time to hike the fed funds and does so.  In this way the smarter bond money leads the Fed's attempt at avoiding what would be worse return-erosive inflation down the line.  Of course the "undertow" now for the bond market is finding buyers for the burgeoning gov't debt without hiking their yields too such an extent they crush the economy further.

Thanks, Dr. Mark Carducci"


George Will on college football programs through history.


Helen Gahagan Douglas gets her book. The review, in the NYTBR by Thomas Mallon probably contains most of what is of interest about this actress turned New Deal pol, wife of Melvyn Douglas, paramore of LBJ God-help-her, and bug on the windshield of Richard Nixon's Buick.


The NYP reviews You Are Not a Gadget by Jaron Lanier, visiting scholar at the Dept. of Computer Science at Columbia University who coined the term "virtual reality" and warns of the young now subject to the hive-mind of web 2.0 social nets, and in danger of losing the thread of what it means to be human.


Nightmare in Chicago. How it was.  How it is.


Detroit addendum, entrepreneurs hope like hell they have started at a bottom.


Jayson Williams man!  The Mayor of nothing, unless who knows... things get even worse in our cities.

And even then Jayson fails to make the NYP's Chill Factor lists - any of them!  Gilbert Arenas hits #2 from Washington!  Without firing a shot!


The FT has lunch with Stewart Brand of the Whole Earth Catalog, WELL, and "his latest project... the Whole Earth Discipline, a book that attacks what he sees as the romantic, anti-science strain of environmentalism.  Its four themes might have been chosen as deliberate provocations to back-to-the-land hippiedom.  If the Earth is to be saved, Brand argues, it will require mass urbanisation, a shift to nuclear power, genetically modified or 'genetically engineered' foods (all foodstuffs, he says, are genetically modified), and geo-engineering: directly modifying the planet's climate.  'We are as gods', he writes again, this time followed by the exhortation 'and we have to get good at it.'"


Saint Vitus is playing Los Angeles.  Not sure when that last happened.  Dave Chandler's been living in New Orleans for years and he seems busy with Debris, his band with ex-Trouble bassist Ron Holzner.  As for Saint Vitus gigs, they've been few and far between but what there's been have occurred in Chicago, Europe, and recently the east coast.  These have been reunions of the "Born Too Late" line-up with Wino singing, but recently Armando was replaced on drums.  Not sure the story but I always liked what Armando did so subtly with all those drums in those wide open spaces the Vitus pace could put into a bar of music.  I just talked with Decibel magazine for a feature they are doing on "Born Too Late" and arranged for them to publish two Naomi Petersen photographs of the band from that period.  That should be the March issue, out Feb.

Thursday, January 28th, 7:30pm
Ultra Violet Social Club
2662 Lacy Street
Los Angeles, CA 90031
All Ages - Bar With ID
Tickets $29.50

Dave Chandler (guitar)
Scott "Wino" Weinrich (vocals)
Mark Adams (bass)
Henry Vasquez (drums)

Also Appearing:
• Saviours
• Totimoshi
• Ancestors
• Crowned By Fire

Advanced tickets are available now EXCLUSIVELY through 8thDayTix

Saint Vitus (Myspace)
Wino (Myspace)


Byron Coley, Thurston Moore, and Eva Prinz are partying around their new Ecstatic Peace issue 10 at White Columns Friday in NYC.  And check out Doug Biggert's project link too.

Night in Manhattan

Photo by Joe Carducci

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• The New Vulgate
• Joe Carducci, Chris Collins, James Fotopoulos, Mike Vann Gray, David Lightbourne
• Copyright retained by the writer, artist, or photographer

1 comment:

  1. Several years ago (early 1990's), Jaron Lanier did a speaking engagement at UC Santa Cruz, co-billed with Robert Anton Wilson. Lanier came out on the stage and played a long solo with a Thai mouth organ. Upon completing the solo, he spoke about Virtual Reality's downside, much more so than it's upside. He concluded with an admonishment to the audience to stay active in real life interactions. It was amazing. Glad to see he's stayed true to that vision.