Would you sell your dog for $1000?

From February 2006, Tom Chiarella goes out into the world with $1000 and tries to buy your laptop, your wedding ring, your wallet, your dog. He’s hardly ever successful, I think because people think he is crazy.

Most of them would look up from their drinks or their food, and I found that I could tell right away whether they were even going to think about it. The ones who were tended to look past me first, over my shoulder, looking to see if I had a partner, I guess, or if there was a camera involved. They’d always ask me to repeat what I just said. And as I did, I could see them slip their hands down to their thighs and begin the process of weighing the offer.

Would you sell your dog for $1000?

George Washington’s whiskey

Two years after its first batch of whiskey was distilled, George Washington’s distillery was the biggest in the country. The distillery was mismanaged by Washington’s nephew and destroyed in a fire in 1814. A project to rebuild the distillery began in 1997, and in 2007, the distillery was rebuilt. They distill twice a year and sell extremely limited releases to the public.

Washington was, at first, hesitant to jump into a new business venture—after all, at 65 years old, he had wanted to spend his retired years in relative peace, but after hearing Anderson’s proposal, as well as corresponding with a friend who was involved in the rum business, Washington acquiesced. That winter, Anderson began distilling in the estate’s cooperage, using just two stills (pots used for distillation). The first distilling was so successful that Washington approved plans for construction of a full-fledged distillery, complete with five stills. The distillery finished construction in 1798, and by 1799, it was the largest whiskey distillery in the country. That year, the distillery produced 11,000 gallons of clear, un-aged whiskey, which Washington sold for a total of $1,800 ($120,000 by today’s standards).

More on the process and the whiskey in the Washington Post.

George Washington’s whiskey

West Wing oral history

The Hollywood Reporter has an oral history of the West Wing. It is long. Long long.

AARON SORKIN: I didn’t really know anything about television beyond watching a lot of it, and my plan was to come up with an idea for a new play or movie, but my agent wanted me to meet with John Wells, and I said, “Sure.” The night before the meeting, there were some friends over at my house, and at some point [Akiva Goldsman and I] slipped downstairs to sneak a cigarette. Kivi knew about the meeting and said, “Hey, you know what would make a good series? That.” He was pointing at the poster for The American President. “But this time you’d focus on the staffers.” I told him I wasn’t going to be doing a series and that I was meeting with John to meet John — I wanted to hear stories about China Beach and ER, and I especially wanted to hear about his years as stage manager for A Chorus Line. The next day I showed up for the lunch, and John was flanked by executives from Warner Bros. and agents from CAA. John got down to business and said, “What do you want to do?” And instead of saying, “I’m sorry, there’s been a misunderstanding. I don’t have anything to pitch,” I said, “I’d like to do a series about staffers at the White House.” And John said, “We’ve got a deal.”

And here’s a long profile of Sports Night, West Wing, and a fake oral history of Studio 60.

West Wing oral history

Mad Men Season 7 Episode 5 recap

Mad Men Art
Every week, Chris Piascik (@chrispiascik) illustrates a moment from the episode and I write up a recap.

Episode title: “Runaways” – The Stephanie and Sally/Bobby stories seem to fit.
Date of episode: The only clue I could pick up was a reference to Eiesnhower’s funeral which was on 3/31/1969. But… We knew last week’s episode was after April 18th, so, not super helpful.

This was my favorite episode of this short half season. A lot happened, and there was a vintage Don power pitch.

Despite a two year contract, Lou’s got his dreams of comic stardom, despite his comic being a rip off of Beatle Bailey. The gang finds his drafts, and, since they don’t respect him, they… are disrespectful. “You know who had a ridiculous dream and people laughed at him?” “You?” Some on the team think Lou wanted them to see the comic. It’s possible. The relationship between Don and Lou is toxic. Lou is so threatened by Don, he doesn’t take kindly to any of Don’s attempts at making the best of it. Don really does seem to be trying, but Lou is too insecure to do his part. “I’m not taking management advice from Don Draper.”

Anna Draper’s niece calls Don from the shadow of the Capitol Records building, pregnant, with nowhere to go. Don wants to help and sends her to Megan’s to wait for him. Initially, Megan is happy to help, calling to mind how good she is with Don’s kids. Then there’s a big change when Stephanie says she know’s all Don’s secrets. “I know all of his secrets.” “But you don’t know him very well.” It’s possible there was an underlying tone to Don and Stephanie’s call, and when Megan told Don she didn’t stay, Megan made a comment about how “she got to the money quickly” (did I make this up?). This didn’t seem to surprise Don at all. That said, I didn’t really feel like Stephanie was only after money. Also, was Stephanie’s headband was another reference to Sharon Tate, or are the Mad Men/Manson Murder conspirarists crazy?

Don and Megan seem to be better than before, don’t they? When Don calls her, Megan is happy to hear from him, and she happily agrees to help out his beautiful, pregnant niece. This, before jealously freaking out and paying her off to leave. As mentioned in the paragraph above, Megan appears to flip out when she realizes Stephanie knows Don’s secrets, too. I know Megan knew some/all of the Don/Dick Whitman story, but I don’t remember if we knew how much she knew. And I can’t remember if we knew she had Anna’s ring. Megan bringing her friend into the bed struck me as trying to do something, anything to keep/make Don happy. Was this Don’s first threesome? Doubt it.

“Things are falling apart here, too.” Betty is bored and cranky, like a tiny baby. Henry remains too good for her and trapped. Driving all over the state to take care of Sally because her and Betty can’t be within a foot of each other is stepdad of the year material. The fight this time around seems to be about Betty thinking Henry thinking Betty is stupid because she doesn’t quite understand how to be political. The company line was Nixon was looking for a way to get out of Vietnam, but maybe that hadn’t filtered down to the base yet. In any case, Bobby has “a stomach all the time” and remains the sweetest kid. “It’s a nose job, not an abortion.” Betty’s comments about Sally’s injury did sound like she was referencing an illicit abortion. Sally remains pretty disdainful of Betty, essentially saying she’s nothing without her beauty. “Where would mom be without her perfect nose?” It’s possible Betty is showing a shred of maternal concern, misguided as it is: If Sally’s not beautiful, she won’t have any options. Sally doesn’t buy it. Henry’s stuck in the middle. “I’m tired of everyone telling me to shut up. I’m not stupid.” “Let me check the sterno.” One thing I forgot to mention, did you notice how no one bothered to tell Don about Sally’s nose?

“It’s just a computer!” In Greek mythology, Cassandra had the gift of prophecy, but the curse of never being believed. “What am I, Cassandra?” Ginsberg is having a mental breakdown and he’s focusing on the computer as the main driver. The computer is making him gay. Or something. I don’t know, right now, if this was just Ginsberg being Ginsberg, or if there’s deeper meaning to him going crazy. We’ve all seen Seven, so we knew there’d be something in the box we didn’t want to see. Because cutting his own nipple was telegraphed, this wasn’t on the level of British executive getting his toe cut off with a riding lawn mower, but it was still pretty cray. I also liked the subtle hint that Peggy’s Saturday night plans consist of watching tv with her young upstairs neighbor, Julio.

Which leaves us only with Don. He’s doing the work Freddy told him to do, instead of walking out on Lou, postponing his trip. Peggy is still lording it over him, for some reason, which maybe I’ll have to rematch last season to remember out why. Once he finally shows up in LA, who should he meet but Harry Crane (whose name I’ve probably spelled 15 different ways in these recaps.) Harry’s tune toward Don has changed somewhat since last season, and as Don gets Harry drunk, and flatters him, he finds out Lou and Jim are pursuing a tobacco client… for some reason. What’s unclear is how they’d plan to get rid of Don if they did land the business. You might recall Don’s “Why I’m Quitting Tobacco” ad in the NY Times. The Philip Morris team certainly does. Somehow, after landing in NY on Sunday, Don finds out about Jim and Lou’s Monday morning breakfast at the Algonquin. It took me a second time watching that scene through to realize why I liked it so much: It’s the first of Don’t great pitches we’ve seen this season. The pitches have gotten more and more scarce over the last couple years, so when we get a good one… In any case, he was pitching himself this time around, and I think he was successful. Either SCP won’t get the business, and he’ll be fine, or they will get the business and Philip Morris will insist on him being a part of the team. It infuriates Lou and Jim because they know that, too, and part of this gambit was bringing on new business which would force Don out.

Credit music: Only Daddy That’ll Walk The Line by Waylon Jennings

Mad Men Season 7 Episode 5 recap

Marie Noe’s babies

In the 60s, a Philadelphia family became famous for losing all 10 of their children almost immediately after the babies came home from the hospital. I was surprised by the end of the story, maybe because of how it was written or because I am naive. In any case, this one takes a long time to get through, and it’s not easy. The author turned over their investigation notes to the police who reopened their case. See here conclusion.

The Noe files are remarkably rich, with personal details going back over 50 years. The material is often excruciatingly personal, including many facts the Noes could not possibly know themselves. What their relatives, friends and neighbors really thought about them. What their doctors really thought about them. There are also autopsy reports on most of the children, but they raise more questions than they answer. The early ones carry definitive causes of death that any competent pediatric pathologist would now consider unlikely, if not impossible. Most of the later autopsies simply list the cause of death as “undetermined.” But as Dapena points out, “When an adult suffocates a baby by doing this” — putting her hand over her own mouth to demonstrate — “the autopsy shows nothing, zero.”

Marie Noe’s babies

Mad Men Season 7 Episode 4

Mad Men Art
Every week, Chris Piascik (@chrispiascik) illustrates a moment from the episode and I write up a recap.

Episode title: “The Monolith.” Monoliths are either large blocks of stone or monuments, or “advanced machines built by an unseen extraterrestrial species” from Space Odyssey. Maybe Don’s the block of stone and the computer is the advanced machine?

Episode date: Around April 18th, 1969. Don was reading a newspaper with a headline alluding to Nixon’s announcement that planes surveilling North Korea would have protection. This, following North Korea shooting down a spy plane on the 15th, killing 31 crewmen. Don’s been back at SCP for 3 weeks making the timing of episode 3 around April 1st or so. I couldn’t find any clues last week. Lastly, the Mets did win the game Don wanted to go to with Freddy.

At the beginning of the episode, Pete runs into a former client/colleague from Vick’s. He found out Trudie’s father had a heart attack, illustrating how out of touch he is with his forner life. He also gets the opportunity to pitch Burger Chefs, a chain founded in the 50s that rose to 1050 locations through the 60s before starting to crumble. Something with a heyday in the 60s not doing so well against new competition? You don’t say.

Harry Crain is getting his computer, but for some reason, it doesn’t make him any less insufferable. I must have missed the episode where he did something remarkable to think so highly of himself. In any case, the computer is taking over the former creative lounge and the creative team is (rightly?) spooked. I’m not sure how a computer is supposed to take over for creative, but try telling Ginsberg that. “The other one’s full of farts.” “They’re trying to erase us.” It’s obvious the computer is a metaphor, there’s even the line of dialogue, “These machines can be a metaphor for whatever’s on people’s minds.” Later on, there’s a conversation where Lloyd is explaining the difference between his company and IBM. It’s dripping with symbolism and references to Don. IBM is selling the always new. Lloyd is more trusting of the older machines, more willing to let them hang around and keeping doing their job. “They have a great product, but they don’t trust it.” SCP used to do things the old way and Don fit in. Now they’re pushing the new, new, new, so maybe there’s no room for him anymore? There was more to the conversations between Lloyd and Don, but there was so much, so fast, it was hard to keep track. It was basically a conversation about human vs machine, art vs science (counting stars), and old vs new. Once drunk Don returns, he tells (paraphrasing) Lloyd his company doesn’t need an ad campaign because he’s got the new, what everyone wants.

Normally, I’d wait until the end to note the song used in the credits, (On a Carousel by The Hollies), but it seems extra important to me. This is the second reference in two weeks to ‘the Carousel scene,’ a Kodak pitch Don crushes. (Last week was Ken Cosgrove telling Don he always thinks of him when they go to the carousel.) I wouldn’t say this was the last time Don was on his game, but he sure was firing on all cylinders then. “Do the work.” Freddy’s pep talk sets Don right. Maybe we’re to see this as him realizing he’s got a long way to go to come back. Maybe I need to watch last season again to see how bad it got for Don and SCP, but it’s hard for me to believe Don would get knocked this far down. They clearly didn’t want him back, but I’m not sure they would have made Lou privy to that. I don’t know. My brain’s a little scrambled on this. And just to give Freddy his due. He recognizes what Don has and that he’s throwing it away. He sees the partners are messing him and he tells Don to mess with them right back by doing the work. Super short, but great scene.

“Let the man be a man.” Lou gives Peggy a raise and then makes her deal with Don. This gave us a chance to see the unlovable Peggy, the one who forgets what Don did for her. I guess she doesn’t owe him anything, but would it have killed her to be less smarmy? I don’t recall Don being unfair with her (too often anyway), so I’m not sure why she handled it the way she did. Especially because, as she discussed with Joan at the end of the episode, she clearly knew they were trying to make her deal with Don because they couldn’t. “They” being the partners in this situation. Joan’s probably right, though, in thinking the partners probably didn’t think about it at all. That said, Lou definitely did. Don’s death stare when Peggy gave him the assignment to come up with 25 tags was amazing with a capital ah.

Don finds the pennant Lane bought for his son (I think) during a visit at some point. As Bert Cooper gleefully points out, Don is back and in a dead man’s old office. Lane’s a ghost, and they expect Don to be one soon. It’s pretty messed up! Bert wants him gone so badly he’s not even interested in the opportunity of the new business Don developed. I’m still confused about the implications of Don’s partnership status and the new stipulations. Not confused, more like concerned. I know Don will be OK, it just seems crazy it would be so easy for the partners to kick him out. I shouldn’t feel sorry for him.

Lastly, Roger, Mona, and Margaret. I’m sorry, Marigold. Margaret has run off to a hippie commune. For years, we all thought it’d be Sally experiencing the late 60s for the sake of the show, but instead, it’s Margaret. She runs off to a commune leaving her son behind. It’s an interesting juxtaposition because Roger’s been expanding his own mind lately. Something flips for Roger when Margaret sneaks off in the middle of the night. Not sure exactly what the trigger was, but he tells her she needs to come home, and she says I learned it from watching you, dad, I learned it from watching you. There was something funny about the car ride with Roger and Mona where Roger mentions the last time he saw Margaret she was cruel, serene, a little bit philosophical, and Mona seems to agree, “I thought she was happy.”

Mad Men Season 7 Episode 4