Saturday, October 13, 2007

Television As Pure Art Direction

Well, it took most of the 13-week season, but in the end we finally got a little bit of character development to go with the art direction that has so far been the only apparent reason for the existence of Mad Men.

At times the show seemed almost to be a form of experimental television -- the TV show as pure look with almost no real story or character development. Now for me it actually worked on that level. The attention to detail in the sets and costumes is really nothing short of remarkable. It's like a full-scale version of an old home movie that rather shockingly brings to colorful life a previously black-and-white world.

By the end of the run we discovered chunks of Don Draper's misty past, Betty Draper discovered a bit of his smoky present, and Peggy discovered the mysterious reason for her ever-enlargening ass. For a while it seemed as though the show would never outlive its initial run, if only because it didn't seem to be heading anywhere in particular, but the final few episodes -- and in particular the wonderful season-ender -- leave open all kinds of possibilities for the folks at Sterling Cooper (Draper, Sterling & Cooper?) head into 1961 and the birth of Camelot.

Might Kuhn Be Proud?

I might have taken part in a paradigm shift this week.

I downloaded an album

That alone was not the paradigm shift. What's new is who got paid -- and how much.

Radiohead released In Rainbows this week. But they didn't release it in any physical form. It wasn't in stores, but it was priced to move. And that's where the paradigm shift comes in. It was priced by me -- and by everyone else who wanted a copy.

The band released an mp3 version on their own website and invited all who wanted it to take it at whatever price they were able and willing to pay. From £0 to whatever (I paid £4, or a little more than $8). By signing up for it you do add your information to their marketing database, but the choice of how much to pay for the record is up to everyone individually.

And all the proceeds proceed directly to the band. Currently without a label, this all represents a giant experiment in how a major band can thumb their noses at the traditional distribution routes and take the product directly to the fan base, cutting out the middle man in the process.

It will be interesting to see what the results are (assuming we ever get to see the results), and equally interesting to see what the impact will be on sales of a more traditionally distributed physical product down the road (a plastic CD should be available in a couple of months -- part of this week's availability was a super box set which included a two-album vinyl version, a two-CD digital version, a bunch of extra graphical material, all available in December and an immedate download).

The most important question, of course, is whether the album is any good. Unsurprisingly, it is. But more on that later.

Sunday, October 07, 2007


Well now. Lookee who's 3-0 in the Big Ten (no, I don't mean Ohio State). Lookee who's one win over a MAC team (or a bad Iowa team, or a bad Northwestern team, or a really bad Minnesota team) from being bowl eligible. Lookee who's riding a 5-game winning streak. Lookee who's riding a 2-game winning streak over ranked teams. Lookee who finally beat the arrogant Cheeseheads for the first time since 2002.

And Lookee who just got ranked (#18) for the first time since the end of 2001.

Aw hell, I'll just say it.

The F-ing Illini. And that's "F" as in "Fight, Fight, Fight."

The naysayers are still out there -- both inside and outside fan base. The "they must be cheating in recruiting" meme lives and thrives. A persistent (if shrinking) undercurrent of Zookophobia remains -- when will he pull a bonehead coaching move to lose a big game? Not yet this year, anyway.

In the end it was too much of The Chosen Person (160 yards rushing and 3 TDs for Rashard Mendenhall) and too much of the rapidly developing folk tale of Eddie McGee, who continues to do a Rollie Fingers -- creating the new position of football closer -- by running for the winning touchdown, and later adding a 3rd down run and a 4th down sneak for the game-closing first down.

The excellent new tradition of the team rushing the stands (i.e., the student section) after a big win was seen again (I wouldn't mind seeing it again and again and again). And the scene was filled out by a tremendous beauty. That's right, the wife was in the stands. Oh, yeah. I guess Erin Andrews was there as well.


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Is This A Test? Guess Not

Oddly, for someone running in order to "protect and defend the Constitution of the United States," John McCain seems to have never read it (which is also apparently the case with a majority of his fellow Americans).
Mr. McCain said in the interview that he agreed with the results of a poll that showed that a majority of Americans believe the Constitution establishes a Christian nation. “I would probably have to say yes, that the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation,” Mr. McCain said.

-- NY Times, September 30

For the record, the results of a quick Constitution word search.

"God" - 0 mentions
"Jesus - 0 mentions
"Christ" - 0 mentions
"Christian" - 0 mentions
"Church" - 0 mentions
"Religion" - 1 mention ("Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" - Amendment 1)
"Religious" - 1 mention ("no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States" - Article 6)