29 September 2010

My Fourth Blogaversary

Yes, it's true: I started this blog four years ago today. That's a long time--the length of a presidential term, or the interval between Olympic games (never mind the alternating winter and summer thing, you know what I mean).

When I began, I had no idea how long my motivation would last. As it's turned out, the blog has become its own source of motivation. The process of thinking, observing, and critiquing, and the writing that emerges, encourage me to do more. And I'm at the point where I actually have a small but fairly steady audience (hi!), which acts as another form of motivation and encouragement.

True to form, I debated how to spell "blogaversary." I could have gone with "blogiversary" because that's closest to "anniversary," but that "i" in the middle didn't look right. "Blogoversary" reminded me too much of "Blagojevich," and I'd rather not be reminded of that. I know that "blogaversary" has its faults, but it feels like it shares something with "bloggah," which has the right local flavor.

Each year I look back and reflect on how the blog has evolved, and I'm sure that will continue. But for now, I just want to say thanks to all of you for stopping by to visit.

28 September 2010

Mad Men Season 4, Episode 10: "Hands and Knees"

No one died this week (that would be tough for even this show to pull off two episodes in a row), but plenty of other stuff happened. It feels like the show is revving up and moving the pieces into place for whatever is going to happen in the last few episodes.

[Standard disclaimer: I have avoided reading any other recaps, writeups, or other commentary on this episode before writing this, so if I express something similar to thoughts you've read elsewhere, it's entirely a coincidence. If you have not watched the episode, assume there are spoilers ahead and act accordingly.]

Several unexpected, unwelcome surprise visitors popped up this week: Don's past, in the form of the two G-men; Lane's horror show of a father, in place of his expected son; the fetal product of Joan and Roger's tryst.

Don's panic at the possibility of being exposed was far worse than when Pete confronted him about his identity back in season one, perhaps because he feels he has more to lose now, perhaps more because he walked right into it by not paying attention. Those were the exact words Pete ended up using to explain the "loss" of the North American Aviation account. It was one thing for Pete to keep quiet all this time, but now Don has asked Pete to fall on his sword for the sake of helping Don keep his secret. That isn't going to sit well with someone as ambitious as Pete, and eventually he's going to expect Don to repay the favor somehow.

Faye handled Don's revelation pretty well, considering. She immediately began to analyze the situation, trying to find a workable solution. I got the feeling it wasn't the first time someone close to her was in a tight spot, given what she's said about her father.

Roger was not literally on hands and knees with Lee Garner, but he might as well have been: he did say "I'm begging you" twice. The agency has done well, but they are still too heavily dependent on the business from the American Tobacco account, which now looks like it's going away. Given that cigarette advertising will be banned from American television in about five more years, SCDP would be losing some business there anyway, but now the situation is much more urgent. Storywise, this could go a few different ways: a last-minute account acquisition to save the day, a merger or takeover, the failure and dissolution of the agency as we know it, or possibly some other scenario I haven't thought of.

My heart broke for Joan, again. She's had to endure so many setbacks, affronts, and indignities that I can't help but wonder if she'll ever have her share of true happiness. Her decision to abort the baby was more for Roger's benefit than her own, though surely part of her must have wanted to keep it regardless of the circumstances. Joan's in her mid-30's (we know this because of the driver's license prank from the first episode of season two) and very much wants to be a mother, but she may not have much time left, and after three abortions she may not even be able to conceive again.

When Joan lied to the woman in the doctor's waiting room, it made me wonder how old she was when she had her first abortion; when she said, "Fifteen," was it just a number she chose at random, or was it because the other woman said she had gotten pregnant at fifteen, or did Joan abort a pregnancy early enough that she would now have a fifteen-year-old child had she not had the abortion? I think Joan is the most tragic character on the show, and if we ever learn more about her background and earlier life, I have a feeling we'll find that her pain goes way, way back.

I've seen a lot of speculation (some simply because people dislike the character so much) about whether or not Joan's husband Greg is going to make it back from Vietnam; Roger even suggested that if he was killed in action, it would be a solution to the baby problem. When Greg told Joan he had enlisted I immediately pegged him as a goner, but given the way the show continues to heap suffering on Joan, I now think it may be more likely that he comes home wounded and in need of care, becoming another burden for her to bear.

Regardless of what happens between Sally and her parents, I have no doubt she will always remember seeing the Beatles. That was about the only light moment in the whole episode, save for Trudy, in her summer maternity nightgown, looking like a decorated Easter egg.

27 September 2010

Style Over Substance

In its weekend edition, the Wall Street Journal had this article about the resurgence of the traditional, outdoorsy look in men's clothing, and how high-fashion designers are either collaborating with brands like Woolrich and Barbour, or creating clothing inspired by these brands and styles.

I find this amusing for a couple of reasons. First, the Journal article makes this sound like a recent development, but it's at least a couple of years late in the trend-spotting department. Second, I have a hard time buying the conceit that men will embrace designers' versions of classic rugged clothing.

Or maybe it's more accurate to say that I find it difficult to envision much overlap between the pools of potential customers. The kind of stuff we're talking about is, and has always been, the antithesis of high fashion. People who care about the authenticity of a Filson coat or a pair of Red Wing boots are unlikely to be interested in a designer's fussy, overdone interpretations of classic American workwear. I mean, did you see the runway shots accompanying that article? Those are clothes for posers.

I may know who Daiki Suzuki is (he''s the outgoing designer of the Woolrich Woolen Mills collection, and one of the driving forces behind this re-imagining movement), but I only know because I read a lot of style coverage, and while I can appreciate his talent as a designer, I have no interest in anything from WWM precisely because it's too fashiony, esoteric, and outrageously expensive. It's American style filtered through a Japanese designer's point of view, making it much too far removed from anything I'd care about.

I suppose there's likely to be some overlap among the denizens of hipsterdom, but you already know my thoughts on that subject.

Expense Report #25

Last week I admit I was back to prowling eBay again, somewhat more vigorously than I've typically been allowing myself. But with the arrival of fall (more or less), I found that I needed to do a shoe evaluation, and several pairs need to go away for various reasons (poor fit, lack of comfort, worn appearance), leaving me at something of a shoe deficit.

I see this as an opportunity to initiate a shoe upgrade program, where I stop buying whatever is convenient and inexpensive and start investing in buying grown-up shoes, preferably ones made in America or somewhere where quality still matters, that will last me many years.

In that spirit, I bought a barely used pair of Allen Edmonds business-casual shoes for $40, including shipping. This particular model goes for about $250 new, so that's 80% off. Not a bad start to the shoe upgrade program.

25 September 2010

This Week in Awesome (9/25/10)

It's still Saturday, so I'm making progress...

If you've ever wanted to convey a message to the driver behind you, this gadget is what you need. Seems like something most Massholes would make good use of. (ThinkGeek via Jalopnik)

Some of you may know comedian Kristen Schaal from her appearances on The Daily Show or as the obsessed groupie/fan Mel on Flight of the Conchords. Well, she and her boyfriend have written a humorous book about sex, and they've made a pretty funny promo video for the book. Probably want your headphones for this one. (YouTube via Videogum)

This ad, for Diesel sneakers, is one of the strangest things I've ever seen. Presumably it's not intended for US television. (AdFreak via Jalopnik)

I'm about two weeks behind on this one, but there's a lot of internet out there to keep track of. This is a video for a song that's a nice little takedown of (British) hipsterdom. (The Daily What via Look at This Fucking Hipster)

23 September 2010

Just for Guys

Word arrived in the inbox earlier this week that J. Crew has opened a separate men's shop in Copley Place. (It must have happened fairly quickly, because I was over there about a month ago and it was still just one store.) This is their first men's-only store outside of New York, so the company must consider this a worthy market to make this move. I stopped by after work today to have a look.

The whole palette of the store's design is darker and more masculine, as you would expect. The shelving is a darker tone of wood, the tables have black top surfaces, the floor is black, and the walls that don't have shelving are a dignified green. The space isn't very large, but the tones and colors make it feel cozy. There's a free-standing set of shelves in the middle that divides the space and holds shoes.

In the past couple of years, the men's section of the other Copley store had been compressed into less space to give more space to women's clothing, so this seems like a good move. They seem to be stocking more items that were previously web-only, like all the suit-separate choices (the mini-herringbone is particularly nice) and a nice selection of shoes from Alden and Red Wing that goes well beyond the previous meager shoe offerings.

There is one drawback to having this type of store: there is no sale merchandise. I also noticed this when I visited the New York stores in Tribeca and Soho. This keeps the sales per square foot nice and high, but it means if I'm looking for an item that's on sale, I have to order it from the web site, or hit the mall stores in the suburbs.

On the plus side, this new store is carrying the Red Wing Gentleman Traveler boots I wrote about a while back, so if nothing else I can at least try them on.

22 September 2010

Watch Wednesday (9/22/10)

Yes, it's another vintage Caravelle. I had to do some rummaging around to come up with a watch for today--could I possibly be running out of watches to feature?

Back when I first got into collecting watches, there were loads of watches like this on eBay, as people started cleaning out their drawers and attics for stuff to sell, and many of those watches went for just a few dollars because they are not intrinsically valuable, and there were not as many eBay shoppers as there are now.

I bought plastic zipper bags full of old Timexes and Caravelles for a few dollars for the lot, just because they were there and they were so cheap. Most of them didn't work, and I had grand ideas about learning how to fix watches so I could start assembling working watches from the ones I had accumulated. I still have a couple dozen, and some of them even run, so a few may end up back on eBay at some point.

I do not believe this watch was part of a bulk-lot purchase, because it's condition is too good. Sure, there are scratches on the crystal, like the Timex from last time, but I think they could be buffed out (by the way, Put This On recommends Meguiar's Clear Plastic Polish for acrylic crystals; I need to get some and try it).

The strap is a plain Speidel with a fairly pronounced grain and no accent stitching on the edges. This watch dates to the mid-1960s, and this style of strap is period-accurate in its appearance, like something the elfin copywriter Danny on Mad Men might wear.

21 September 2010

T Etiquette: School's in Session

I realize that some of you just arrived here a couple of weeks ago to start college. I was in the same situation, almost 30 years ago. And I doubt anyone else is going to tell you, so let me help you out:

You cannot sit on the steps of a Green Line train obliviously reading a book, especially during rush hour. One thing that you will notice very quickly is that people around here, especially the ones taking public transportation, are in a hurry. We want to get the hell home at the end of the day, and you are in the way.

By sitting there blocking the steps, you are slowing down the process of exiting and boarding the train. You are asking to get growled at, hit in the head with someone's backpack or purse, or flat-out pushed off the steps and out of the train. I don't care if all the seats are taken; suck it up and stand, like the rest of us. You probably didn't roll out of bed until 11 am today, anyway.

Mad Men Season 4, Episode 9: "The Beautiful Girls"

I've only been able to watch this episode once so far, so I may not have picked up as much as I might otherwise have.

[Standard disclaimer: I have avoided reading any other recaps, writeups, or other commentary on this episode before writing this, so if I express something similar to thoughts you've read elsewhere, it's entirely a coincidence. If you have not watched the episode, assume there are spoilers ahead and act accordingly.]

As the title implies, the ladies were the focus of this episode. Don has decided that he's ready to be more deeply involved with Faye, and they're even sneaking away from work for nooners. Made me think of Don's fling with bohemian Midge from season one, and how different things are for him five years later.

Peggy's crusading journalist flirtation Abe from back in episode 4 returns to give it another try (dude, that was what, four months ago in show time--what took you so long?), only to blow it by basically telling her that he doesn't consider women's rights as important as civil rights. He then tries to make up for it by writing an expose of an SCDP client's hiring practices, which only makes things worse. But even so, you can see that these issues are getting under Peggy's skin, and you know that in a few more years, when the women's movement becomes a serious societal force, Peggy's going to be right in the thick of it.

Sally shows up in the middle of a presentation, having sneaked onto a commuter train--I guess things aren't going so well with Dr. Edna after all. (When Don first went out to the lobby, I thought that was Dr. Edna with Sally.) And then, as if one minor crisis in the midst of a client meeting wasn't enough, Miss Blankenship strokes out at her desk. This was a great scene, with Don sitting in the conference room watching Joan and Pete struggling to get the deceased out of sight without the clients knowing, distracted from the meeting by both that and the thought of Sally sitting in his office.

At first I thought the simultaneous occurrence of these two events was meant to be seen as parallel, the way parallel structure has been used several times this season. But after some thought, the more obvious parallel for Don is between Sally and Faye, being pulled in different directions by them, and what each of them represents and means in his life. Poor Sally is so needy right now, with good reason, and Don can't see it. Obviously having Sally live with him isn't going to happen, and I can't see Betty ever agreeing to that anyway, but if he could somehow meet Sally halfway, she would be so much the better for it. But I fear that connection is going to elude Sally, until it's too late for Don to have any sort of meaningful relationship with her.

Meanwhile, Sally's outburst gave Don (and us) the chance to see Dr. Faye's maternal instincts, or lack thereof. "I feel like that was a test, and I failed." Well yeah, you kinda did. I'm not criticizing her; like a lot of people, she just isn't comfortable with kids. But she lies and says she loves kids, and it would have been much better if she had just admitted as much. In the mid-60s she still would have been seen as unusual not being maternal, and she ends up having to defend her choice to be a professional woman rather than a wife or mother, which brings us back around to... Abe and Peggy's conversation. And how ironic that the glamorous, young, single, thoroughly un-maternal Megan is the one who ends up comforting Sally after she falls.

Viewers hoping for a Roger-Joan hookup got their wish, and in a doorway, after a mugging, no less. But Joan never would have done this while Greg was around; he's thousands of miles away, and she's scared and lonely. She is willing to accept it as a one-time thing, and reminds Roger that they are both married, but is that enough to keep him in line?

And then we had the final image of Joan, Peggy, and Faye on the elevator, each with something on her mind, all of them looking unhappy, or at least unsatisfied. What I want, vs. what is expected of me... Don does not have a monopoly on that dilemma.

French toast with rum sounds like a good idea. Remember, Sally used to be the Draper household bartender.

"My mother made that!" (Harry, in the background, about the afghan from his office they used to cover Miss Blankenship's body)

20 September 2010

Expense Report #24

I actually didn't make any discretionary purchases last week--got my father a birthday present, and I bought a $5 watch strap on eBay. That was it.

19 September 2010

This Week in Awesome (9/18/10)

What was that about getting back to Saturday for these? Oops. Hm, maybe next week...

Somehow I missed this one, because it's been around for a while: Passive Aggressive Notes. (New York Times City Room blog)

There's a movement to correct the imbalance between single women and worthy, eligible men. (Onion News Network via Put This On)

Those animated Taiwanese news stories are not limited to celebrities. A word of warning, though: this one involves obstruction of the digestive tract. (The Awl)

InfoMania continues its "Security Cam Theatre" feature with its interpretation of the recent British woman-stuffs-cat-in-trash-bin incident.

I'm sure you've noticed that Halloween candy, decorations, and costumes have already been in stores for a bit now. This blogger offers insightful and humorous commentary on the wrongness of many of the costume offerings. (Occupation: Girl via Consumerist)

16 September 2010

Home Improvements

We've had our new mattress for almost a week, and it's just the best. Most of the foam mattresses I've tried have been comfortable, but still too soft overall for my liking. This one has a couple of inches of the memory foam on top of a more dense foam, so it's pliant but ultimately more supportive. Along with the cooler nights, I've been sleeping so great, I hate to get up.

We picked up our new living room area rug the same day as the mattress was delivered, and we're very pleased with that as well. I kind of wish we had gotten the next size up, one more foot in each direction, but it isn't a big deal. I should have taken a picture; I'll try to remember to do it over the weekend.

15 September 2010

It's All in How You Say It

This morning at my workplace's weekly group breakfast, one topic discussed was slang and colloquialisms, which led to some talk of regional terms. (I'd love to go into this in more depth at some point, but it's late, so that will have to be a post for another time.)

One coworker said that lately she had found herself saying "bubbler," a word she hadn't used in a long time. She exaggerated the pronunciation on purpose, so it came out "bubblah." Another person said, "Bubalah? That's what I used to call my grandmother."

14 September 2010

Mad Men Season 4, Episode 8: "The Summer Man"

After last week's tour de force, I expected a slightly more low-key episode, and that's what we got--which isn't to say that this episode wasn't interesting or satisfying.

[Standard disclaimer: I have avoided reading any other recaps, writeups, or other commentary on this episode before writing this, so if I express something similar to thoughts you've read elsewhere, it's entirely a coincidence. If you have not watched the episode, assume there are spoilers ahead and act accordingly.]

After we saw Don so drunk that he couldn't land a punch on the equally drunk Duck Phillips, it seems he took that as a sign that he needed to get his act together. As the summer begins, Don is making a conscious effort to drink less and take better care of himself. The pool was a pretty obvious symbol of cleansing, of purification, but the use of "Satisfaction" reminded us that Don has a long way to go on his journey, and there's no guarantee he'll make it.

I don't recall Mad Men using a voiceover before, but I quickly realized it was being done in order to allow us to share Don's thoughts as he wrote them down. This raised the question: is he in some kind of therapy? That seems unlikely, but it also seems unlikely that Don would begin such a self-examination process on his own. AA? Probably even less likely, given the fact that he's still drinking, somewhat.

Joan was a bit on edge due to her husband's impending departure for basic training, and was having a rough time at work with Joey the freelancer, and with the whole class-clown boys' club in general. Perhaps the looser environment at the SCDP office lends itself to creativity, but you know this sort of behavior never would have been tolerated at the old Sterling Cooper.

Peggy tried to help Joan, and in doing so thought she was standing up for her, but Joan pointed out that firing Joey was really about trying to feel powerful, like a man, and that there were other ways of accomplishing the same thing without either of them ending up being disliked. Peggy still has a lot to learn, both about being a woman and about making it in a man's world.

Don had a good time on his cab rides, especially with Bethany. But the idea of engaging in any sort of intimate behavior in a taxi is completely unappealing to me. In a limo with tinted windows and an opaque divider, maybe.

In spite of Bethany's effort to keep Don interested, he overheard Faye break up with her boyfriend (in the lobby phone booth, just like Peggy last week) and seized the opportunity to ask her out again. It's been fairly obvious since they met that she was as attracted to him as he was to her. Not only is she closer to his age, but she's much more intellectually interesting to him. But even with her being newly available, I'm inclined to think that if Don hadn't gotten himself straightened out, Faye would not have accepted his invitation. And I think that he chose not to go home with her (or to go to his place, "right around the corner") showed that he's serious about her.

There was a nice reprise of the parallel structure used in "The Chrysanthemum and the Sword," with Betty's therapeutic conversation with Francine followed by Don's similarly insightful dinner conversation with Faye; afterward, each was able to let go of at least some of the lingering anger and resentment, and put the hurt feelings aside for the sake of Gene's birthday party. That image of Don holding Gene aloft at the end may be one of the series' most touching moments to date.

P.S. Little Gene's cake looked awfully lopsided when Betty was frosting it.

13 September 2010

Expense Report Catch-Up

I haven't abandoned this idea, but I did kind of let it slide last week...

Two weeks ago, when I had the week off, I bought a cashmere cardigan from the sale section of the J. Crew site, but I used gift cards for 75% of the purchase. I also bought last year's Beatles box set, brand new, from eBay for $85 including shipping, which is a hell of a deal considering people are attempting to sell used ones for $100 or more on half.com, and Amazon currently has the set for $188 (down from $206 on the day I bought mine).

Continuing to get ready for fall, last week I bought a couple pairs of corduroy jeans from JCPenney online for $25 each, with free shipping. (I'm going to continue to try to convince you that Penney has some decent clothes for cheap.) I also picked up a J. Crew shirt from two falls ago (that I'd been looking for off and on ever since) on Style Forum for $20 including shipping.

One other thing that's helping me control my credit card spending is that a lot of web sites now accept PayPal, which means I can pay for stuff out of my bank account, like the birthday present I ordered yesterday for my dad (spoiler alert: more Omaha Steaks goodies).

12 September 2010

This Week in Awesome (9/11/10)

I was too tired to do this when we got back from seeing Machete last night (it's a blast, go see it); I need to work on getting back to posting these on Saturday morning. Or at least midday...

Here's some crazy footage from inside a cruise ship that's being tossed around pretty violently during a storm. (The Awl via BuzzFeed)

I had never heard of the site Christwire, but I was intrigued by this article in the New York Times that explains that everything they've been posting for the past couple of years was meant as a joke. The only problem is that some people haven't realized that. (SplitSider)

Looks like The Amazing Race is more hazardous to its contestants' health than I had realized. (Videogum)

And finally, the comedy troupe Upright Citizens Brigade does a staged reading of a screenplay based on Glenn Beck's novel. (SplitSider)

10 September 2010

Watch Wednesday Thursday Friday! (9/10/10)

Well, apparently I haven't been paying attention--according to my self-imposed schedule, I was supposed to do a watch post last week, and I'm a couple of days late in getting to the make-up post. So...
This watch is about 20 years old, so it splits the difference between modern and vintage, as far as I'm concerned. Carriage was a cheapo sub-brand of Timex that was sold at discount stores; I bought this one at the late, unlamented Bradlees, probably for around $20. I guess I liked the military-inspired styling, and it's easy to read.

I had not worn this watch in a decade or so, but recently I was digging through some boxes of stuff, looking for something else, when I came across it. As you can see, I wore it pretty hard; there are numerous scrapes on the crystal around the 8 and 11 positions. I used to wear this when I was working in retail, so that probably explains the scratches. I have a feeling I could buff at least some of them out, if I set my mind to it.

Last week when I was off from work, I went downtown one day to the Watch Hospital on Bromfield Street and had them put a new battery in this, and it's been running fine since. It didn't have a strap when I found it, but the one that originally came on it was very similar to this tan one, which I took off another old Timex that isn't really keeping accurate time at the moment. I wish I could find more straps this color.

Now, the other thing about this watch is that it looks almost exactly like the one that J. Crew sells for $150 (snort). Some people are really into that watch; I think anyone who pays $150 for a modern quartz Timex is foolish. I may even buy a nylon strap for this so it looks like the J. Crew one, just to see if anyone notices and asks me about it.

09 September 2010

Some Good News for Bus Riders

Continuing the unofficial SAR "I tell you some helpful stuff, thereby justifying the existence of this blog" week: have you T-riding locals been using NextBus? Because it's pretty useful. NextBus uses the GPS data from MBTA vehicles to monitor the locations of buses along the T's routes.

I mainly use it in the morning when I'm getting ready to leave the house, to see how my bus is running and whether I need to dash out the door right at that moment if I want to make my usual bus, or if I have a couple of minutes left to calmly gather my belongings. It remembers my most recent route query from one visit to the next, which saves a few potentially valuable seconds. And it's accurate, even a bit conservative (perhaps an intentional margin of error, but I don't know).

Route information has been available for certain routes on a pilot basis for some time, but according to Universal Hub, the MBTA is now making the data for every one of its bus lines. Hopefully this will be expanded to the subway line soon.

08 September 2010


I've been using iTunes since it was introduced, and after all these years something still bugged me: I have quite a few instances where I have many albums by one artist, and I didn't know how to sort all the albums by an artist so that they appear in chronological order of release. (The default seems to be alphabetical by album title.)

My old friend Dr. Hackenbush (of the southern-central Hackenbushes) has always been a bit more under-the-hood with computers than me, so it finally occurred to me to ask him. The answer is so simple it made me feel kind of dumb, but it isn't necessarily obvious, so I thought I'd share the info.

In iTunes, if you click on the "Album" column, it will rotate through three different choices: Album, Album by Artist, and Album by Artist/Year. That third one is the one I wanted. If the metadata fields (the stuff under "Get Info") are not filled in with the correct info, those songs/albums won't be part of the sort, and will (I think) appear at the top of the artist listing, but you can fix that by going in and adding or correcting the info.

With the release of version 10, I've seen a lot of stuff online about how unhappy are with the program's appearance. It's not really an issue for me, but if you're feeling hacky and want to improve the look of iTunes 10, Cult of Mac has information on how to change the program's icon, return the window-control buttons in the top-left corner to a horizontal orientation, or just make the whole thing look like version 9 again.

07 September 2010

Masshole Moment

The other night we drove to the Station Landing complex at Wellington Circle. The parking lots there are a bit on the snug side, and just after we turned in off the road, there was a car ahead of us blocking the way, with its right turn signal on.

We waited a few moments to see if anything would happen, and then the Mrs. put up her hands with her arms out in a "what gives?" gesture, hoping the driver ahead would see it in the mirror. An arm appeared from the driver's window, waving us around. In this lot that is not always a save maneuver, but there were no cars coming in the other direction, so we pulled around the car.

As we came alongside, the driver looked at us and called, "Couldn't ya see my blinkah was on? I'm waitin' for a space!" The Mrs. looked down the row a few spots ahead of us, gestured, and said, "There's a space right there." The woman's face got red and scrunched into a scowl, and she bellowed, "I WANT THAT ONE!!" while pointing to her right, to a space occupied by another car.

We looked at each other, confused, and drove off. Later, as we were leaving, we saw the woman's car, backed into the very space she so desperately needed to park in. We wondered how many other people she had inconvenienced while waiting for that space. We wondered why that particular space was so important. The only thing we were able to come up with was the possibility that she worked in the Walgreens that faces that part of the lot, and wanted to be able to keep an eye on her car while working, but even that seemed kind of flimsy.

06 September 2010

Mad Men Season 4, Episode 7: "The Suitcase"

Hard to believe we're already at the halfway point of the season, and last night we got quite a juicy episode.

[Last week I neglected to attach my standard disclaimer: I have avoided reading any other recaps, writeups, or other commentary on this episode before writing this, so if I express something similar to thoughts you've read elsewhere, it's entirely a coincidence. If you have not watched the episode, assume there are spoilers ahead and act accordingly.]

It was interesting to realize that after working together in various capacities for five years, there's a great deal that Don and Peggy don't know about each other (and that we don't know about either of them), and though Peggy said she preferred it that way, it seemed that by the episode's end she had changed her mind. I don't think we've ever seen an episode with this much interaction between the two of them, and after some shouting and some consoling, each knows some fairly personal stuff about the other.

The Samsonite campaign that gave the episode its title and served as the focus of the story also gave us some handy metaphors. When Betty first banished Don from the house in season two (suspecting him of having an affair, but having no proof at the time), he stayed at the Roosevelt, essentially living out of a suitcase. Later, when he decided to abandon his business trip in Los Angeles to go off to Palm Springs with the beautiful people, he left his suitcase and all his belongings behind, because he no longer had to pretend to be "Don Draper" with them, or on his subsequent, revelatory visit to Anna.

During last night's scene at the Greek diner, Don talked about his uncle Max, who had a saying about how a man always needs to have a packed suitcase ready. This was still Don in season one, when he tried to get Rachel Menken to run away with him. Later that night, in the midst of his drunk-sickness, Don awakened to a ghostly vision of Anna in his office, carrying a small suitcase (no way to know whether or not it was a Samsonite) and knew that she had died.

Of course, the suitcase also represents baggage, of which Don and Peggy both have their share. When their talk at the bar turned to Peggy's pregnancy and Don asked if Peggy knew who the father was, I thought for a moment that Peggy was going to tell him, but I also got the feeling that Don was not especially interested in knowing the answer; he was more interested in whether or not Peggy ever thought about it, which makes perfect sense given his own past.

Peggy's baggage is also in the form of her family, her rather unimpressive (now ex-)boyfriend Mark, and of course, the even less impressive Duck Phillips, whose drunken late-night visit to the SCDP office in search of Peggy led to a most pathetic excuse for a fight between him and Don (and a hilarious attempt to leave a calling card, of sorts).

I think the boxing match was meant to represent Don's inner battle between his Don and Dick selves, his drunk and sober selves, his humble and proud selves. His comments about the fighters Cassius Clay and Sonny Liston could be interpreted as comments about himself, particularly in the wake of the Clio victory.

Don is at a crossroads, and clearly his life and career could go either way at this point. Now that we have seen just how deeply into the bottle Don has sunk, Duck's miserable attempt to prop himself up with the crutch of Peggy showed us very clearly where Don is headed if he is unable to straighten out. The question still remains as to whether or not Don got that message.

04 September 2010

This Week in Awesome (9/4/10)

Because I wasn't at work this week, I ended up spending less time online overall, meaning I didn't find quite as much fun stuff as I usually do. Hopefully you have other things to occupy you on this long weekend anyway, and thus the lack of TWiA fodder won't bring you down too much.

For you all-thumbs types, here's a texting accessory that aims to prevent the wrong person from seeing the wrong words. Or something. (Videogum)

This chihuahua struggles mightily to escape its human-imposed confinement. (The Daily What)

Half-scale, drivable replicas of classic sports cars with tiny lawn mower engines? Awww... I want one. (Group Harrington via Gizmodo)

03 September 2010


Yesterday I discovered the sort-of secret sale going on at Hilton's Tent City. I went there because I was interested in trying on a Filson waxed cotton coat, and Hilton's is one of the only places in the area that carries them. I wanted to try on the coats in person because I was unsure about sizing, but I hadn't planned on buying it from Hilton's, mainly because there's a place in Missouri called Crane's Country Store that sells Filson at a discount, and offers an additional discount to members of Style Forum, of which I am one.

Hm, let me back up a bit. I've had a waxed cotton coat for about eight years now. I found it at Banana Republic back when they still made some things I cared about, marked down to 1/3 of its original $225 price. It was made in England too, like a Barbour. It kind of resembled a Barbour in general, and I got a lot of wear out of it, but it's starting to look a little worn, and it's brown, which is the only color it was available in, but never a color I really wanted. I wanted dark green, which is the classic color for a waxed coat.

So last year I started thinking about getting a replacement, but I wasn't really inclined to spend $400 for a Barbour. I started looking on eBay and was able to get an older model Barbour that's no longer made for about $175. It was green, but more of an olive. When it arrived, I was crushed to discover that the sleeves were an inch too short. The seller had given all the measurements, but the only one I was really paying attention to was the chest. I was able to resell it without taking a loss, and the buyer seemed very pleased with it.

Meanwhile, I had bought another coat on eBay, this one from J. Crew from several years back, and quite a Barbour copy, but it was only $30. It was a very, very dark brown, closer to black than to my original coat, but still brown. It served me well for much of last fall, winter, and spring, but I knew it wasn't quite what I wanted. I bought another Barbour on eBay, and this one fit better, but I just didn't care for how it felt or looked on me. I had tried on other Barbour coats in stores, and those had seemed okay. Then I did something pretty dumb: I bought yet another Barbour on eBay, a different model that's cut a bit shorter. I didn't like how that one fit either.

Part of it may have been the shoulders; Barbours traditionally have raglan shoulders, which are supposed to be more comfortable, but I have always disliked the look of the angled seams coming down across the front and back of the shoulder. I probably could have thought things through a bit better before making these purchases, but I was caught up in wanting to look the part of a sophisticated city guy, the kind who eschews Gore-Tex for something more traditional. (I do have a Gore-Tex slicker that I use in summer, and it's fine for what it is.)

All this time, Filson had been in the back of my mind. It's sort of the American alternative to Barbour, used by a lot of hunters and outdoorsmen. Filson also makes things like old-fashioned wool hunting coats, and they've been around since 1897, so they know what they're doing. Filson still makes the majority of its clothing and luggage in the United States, too. And the model of coat I was interested in has regular, set-in shoulders.

The trip to Hilton's started as just a size-testing visit. I was surprised to find that a large was a bit more snug on me than I would have expected, especially since Filson claims their coats are cut for layering, but the extra large fits just right, with room for a sweater or other layering piece, but not cut so big that it looks boxy with just a shirt under it.

So, if you've been keeping track, I still have two Barbour coats, and I'm going to be selling them soon. I will probably try putting them on Style Forum first. Both are size 44; one is a sage green Beaufort, the other is a black Bedale (links for more info). The Bedale is new, never been worn (I did remove the tags, but I still have them) and the Beaufort had been very lightly used before I bought it. If anyone reading happens to be interested, please get in touch.

02 September 2010

Attention, Shoppers!

Consider this a public-service announcement for those of you who live in the Boston area: the below-the-radar clothing and gear store Hilton's Tent City near North Station and the Garden is offering 25% off everything in the store, through the weekend (I think that's what I heard, but you may want to call them to confirm: 617-227-9242).

You won't find the info on their web site, though: I only found out because I went there today to try something on, and there was a large sandwich board in front of the store with a hand-lettered sign on bright green poster board.

Now, you might be thinking that I don't seem like the camping type, and you would be 100% correct. But Hilton's sells much more than camping gear: they carry a wide selection of Barbour outerwear and clothing, Filson, Woolrich, and Carhartt; serious outdoor clothing from high-end brands that you almost never see on sale anywhere, like Marmot, Canada Goose, and Arc'Teryx (I still have no idea how to pronounce that); bags from the likes of Crumpler and Bailey Works; a selection of footwear; and, yes, just about anything camping-related that you might require. Plus the place has been around a few decades and is sort of cluttered, and it's just fun to look around.

Their site says they're open weeknights until 9 and weekends until 6. There are some excellent deals to be had; tomorrow, I'll tell you what I bought, and why.

01 September 2010

Saying Goodbye Is Always Hard

Dear TV Squad:

I don't know how to say this, so I'm just going to say it: it's over between us. We've grown apart, and I have to move on, for my own sake.

I remember when we first met, and I was immediately smitten. Almost overnight, you became my favorite site for TV news, show recaps, and thoughtful critical pieces. I dreamed of a long, happy future with us together.

Then, four or five months ago, everything changed. You started hanging around with your "business partner" AOL TV. You said it was a "merger," but it was clear that AOL TV was taking over your life, and it changed you. Within a month or so, you were filled with celebrity gossip and video clips from the previous night's talk shows--the stuff that used to be tucked away over on AOL TV, where I didn't have to see it. The features I had enjoyed so much were still there on your site, but it got harder and harder to find them amongst the other dreck.

And then, as if that wasn't bad enough, you started getting sloppy. I found mistakes in your articles. First it was just here and there, but then I started seeing more and more of them. What happened to your dignity, your self-respect? If you want to be taken seriously as a source for TV information and criticism, you have to follow the same journalistic standards as newspapers and magazines regarding grammar, spelling, punctuation, and proper usage. But I guess that AOL TV junk had gotten into your bloodstream and poisoned your ability to write properly.

I wanted to help you, but I'm only one person and there are limits to what I can do. I posted comments, hoping it might shake you up and get you back on the right track, but it didn't do any good. I heard you were bringing in Maureen Ryan as a contributor, and I know she's one of the most respected TV journalists in the country, but it's too late--I just can't let myself be involved anymore. I've removed the link to you from my blog, to show that I'm serious about this, and I'm deleting you from my bookmarks too. I hope you can understand why I have to do this.

I admit, it's going to be difficult to replace you. But there are others out there who are capable of expressing themselves in a healthy, mature, adult way, and that's where I need to focus my energy and attention. Part of me will always care about you, and who knows--maybe some day you'll find your way back to the way things used to be. But I know how these things go, and I can't wait around, hoping against hope, for something that may never happen.

Goodbye, TV Squad. I'll miss you--not as you are now, but as you used to be.