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  • Lance Mannion
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But it's Shark Week!


A fabulous set of observations, and a good reminder to watch Mad Men tonight. Thanks! =)


A really thoughtful commentary Lance, thank you. I was especially intrigued by your overhearing the men's family mini-drama in the next booth. And interpreting it so keenly. By sheer coincidence, there's an excellent interview with Matt Weiner, creator of "Mad Men", on the Onion AV Club site today, and he says this about Don Draper:

"The other thing is, he's an incredible listener. I think because he's been this kind of cipher who's been able to go in and out of lives—you see it in the first scene in the pilot, when he's talking to the busboy in the restaurant about smoking. He really listens to other people, and he knows what to ask. And he starts to talk about the aspirational, the inner motivations, the psychology of it. "

You might be a little bit of a Don Draper, Lance, lol. Good work.


But you're a writer and have been an actor, so I'm sure you know that we all have these roles we write for ourselves from time to time, and sometimes you do sort of fake it.

Maybe I'm just sort of sympathizing with the guy who has a young kid at home. My wife's on maternity leave right now with our month-old daughter, and I feel guilty every time I leave the house. I feel especially guilty when the baby cries in the middle of the night, and she gets up to deal with it because it's Tuesday night and I have to work for 9 hours the next day.

I guess the big difference is that I'd get my wife hot chocolate because I think she's earned it, and not because I think I want to build up brownie points, which is how I interpret his "it'd be a nice gesture" comment.

Ken Muldrew

Were you up late last night re-reading Walden? You're being pretty hard on these guys for mere allocations of time between competing social interests. Comparing them to empty zombies on television just because they tailor their behavior to different social situations, applying thought and planning to that process, just seems way too much of a stretch.

When my youngest daughter and I talk to each other, we are both pretty careful to avoid rough language, even though either of us might curse freely when discussing the same subject in other company. So we're acting; playing a part and sticking to a script. Does this diminish the conversation? I don't think so. The constraint isn't terribly restricting, yet all social interactions impose the burden of some constraints. Otherwise you're into full-on Lord of the Flies behavior, whether you got the conch or not!

I bet those golfers put up a post on their own blogs about the grumpy old guy who tramped all the way into town from his shack in the woods just to complain about "society". Little did they know that they were just a literary device for explaining the asymptote opposite to Ralph and Piggy, the social cage where expected behavior overwhelms the individual totally.

After all, when the one golfer says to his buddy, "it'd be a nice gesture", that's scripted acting too.


I really enjoyed the writing here, the interspersed commentary on the show with the overheard conversation between the men.

But then I thought - hey, we all play parts to greater or lesser degrees, depending on situations, and I play parts with everyone, everywhere, except at home with hubby (perhaps even there, sometimes) - so much so, that I forget what my real self looks like.

It's less the fault of individuals and more a reflection of how hard it is to survive socially without stepping on a thousand toes unless you're really careful.

And so I thought you were being a little hard on those guys.

But. I saw something else in those two guys. I saw the American Suburban Dream, which is probably an extremely harmful convention. It leads to all kinds of people who have no desire for a certain lifestyle, falling into it because they feel they have to, or that they wouldn't be happy without it, and before they know it, there are children in the picture and they're stuck.

And that makes them very unhappy because suddenly, the script has been written for them and unless they're monstrous human beings, they better stick to that script. To unleash their "real" selves, which have been subdued in the service of this script, will be hurtful and damaging to way too many people around them. None of whom demanded their participation in their scripts, which are now sadly converging.

Well-meant insincerity is sometimes the kindest thing you can do to people with whom you're stuck.

And those guys - the fact that they exist, in millions - made me very sad. Life shouldn't be about scripts, but many of us prefer scripts to chaos. Those guys probably lack imagination and probably don't fully realize what's ailing them.

American social structures are ailing them. And that calls for more compassion than contempt, even if an outsider can say - well, they had all the choices in the world and they made these choices freely. Well, sure. Easy for you to say.


Hey Lance?

Technical note: why would anyone live blog a television drama? Isn't the point to watch undistracted so as to catch the nuance?

I give credit to Watson for giving that part of his involvement with the program up, but couldn't he wait until the re-run?

Uncle Merlin

I am trying to parse whether your observation of those two men is filtered or whether you have taken note of an old convention of social interaction.
I think apostate makes two very good points below:
"It's less the fault of individuals and more a reflection of how hard it is to survive socially without stepping on a thousand toes unless you're really careful."
"Well-meant insincerity is sometimes the kindest thing you can do to people with whom you're stuck."

Point two is the most important, it references what was called "genteele breeding" back in old England. Where and when powerful families had too keep rubbing up against one another under the court of the Crown. Actually I would substitute the word "safest" for "kindest" in that sentence.

Full on honesty would be like the other poster said "Lord of the Flies".

This is the oil of civilization and it works which is why it has become a part of human behavior. If we could select our lives and how they are supplied with Food, Shelter, Water, then we wouldn't need these behaviors.

But I think your intent was to show that sometimes these behaviors can become so instinctual that the person gets lost to their own basic natures. That is the real art to living, getting what you need from civilization and not losing yourself in the process. And I think, that takes experience; many many moons of it.
If these characters are really the good listeners you make them out to be then they will still hear that inner voice of the child and if they are smart then they will listen.

If not then Darwin is still working and these types will become extinct over time because their lives don't work as fantasies. No one's life can work as a fantasy why? Because reality always comes knocking! ie: Marie Antoinette.

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