“Nothing matters to anyone anymore but share potential”

Luke O’Neil, who seems to write pretty much every article on every site these days, calls bullshit on that stupid “How much does it cost to book your favorite band?” link that around this past week. Some acts seem way lower than they should be, some acts seem way higher than they should be, and there a lot of bands making more for one show than you made last year. O’Neil mentions a lot of sites who should know better shared the list anyway. Basically, this isn’t what your favorite band earns every night, it’s what your favorite band would charge to play at your Bar Mitzvah. Lastly, and smartly, O’Neil ties the sharing of this list to that Facebook dude cluelessly railing against viral media content.

This is exactly the sort of thing the Internet Thinking Apparatus was talking about yesterday in the wake of Facebook exec Mike Hudack’s anti viral media rant. Nothing matters to anyone anymore but share potential. Being able to affix a few famous musicians’ names and some big dollar figures to a headline under the guise of Data is a perfect recipe for viral success. It’s certainly worked here. The post is one of Priceonomics biggest traffic hits, with 1.2 million views as of this moment. Someone should put together a list of what traffic-worshipping sites charge for their integrity. A few ten thousand views seems to be about the going rate. That would be a huge viral hit.

“Nothing matters to anyone anymore but share potential”

Militia on an Army base

This story, by Nadya Labi, about an anti-government militia forming on a military base really doesn’t make the US Military look very good. Isaac Aguigui’s wife died suspiciously resulting in a cash payment of about a half million dollars to Aguigui, money he then used to buy weapons and drugs, and befriend other disaffected soldiers. Eventually, the militia’s paranoia turned on itself and murdered one of the members and his girlfriend. Before that, the Army missed several signals something was wrong.

Aguigui became close to Private Christopher Salmon, nicknamed Phish, who had been caught committing travel-voucher fraud in Iraq and was assigned extra duty as punishment. His wife, Heather, was pregnant, and she had recently been discharged from the Army for prescription-drug abuse. The two men sat together, smoking Spice and talking about their deepening antipathy toward the military and the government. At first, Heather was skeptical of Aguigui; she had met him before Deirdre died, at a beer-pong party off post, and overheard him arranging to meet a girl at the barracks. But after Deirdre’s death she felt sorry for him—and, she said, “he was my husband’s best friend.” She suggested inviting him to dinner at their home, a white four-bedroom row house on the base. “He came to my house and never really left,” she said. “One night turned into a week, a week turned into a month.” He took over the couch, and then moved into his own room.

Militia on an Army base

Chuck Klosterman on KISS

I’m not sure I would have started reading “The Definitive, One-Size-Fits- All, Accept-No Substitutes, Massively Comprehensive Guide to the Life and Times of KISS” if I’d know it was over 10K words. Who am I kidding, I would have started it and then left the tab open for half a year. In any case, I read the whole thing in 2 sittings, and it’s quite enjoyable. Klosterman is at his best writing about metal he loves more than most people. This wouldn’t be nearly as long if it didn’t include a review of each of the albums, but how are you going to skip them when they’re right there? (Also, this marks the second KISS article I read this year, which I can’t really explain. I never liked the band at all, but they’ve got a different ethos to most bands (basically $$$), making them more interesting to read about.)

Some highlights:

Kiss do not make it easy for Kiss fans. There’s never been a rock group so easy to appreciate in the abstract and so hard to love in the specific. They inoculate themselves from every avenue of revisionism, forever undercutting anything that could be reimagined as charming. They economically punish the people who care about them most: In the course of my lifetime, I’ve purchased commercial recordings of the song “Rock and Roll All Nite” at least 15 times2 (18 if you count the 13-second excerpt used in the introduction to “Detroit Rock City” on Destroyer). Considered alone, this is not unusual; there are lots of bands who capitalize on the myopic allegiance of their craziest disciples. In 2009, Pavement announced a reunion tour and asked their most dogged fans (myself included) to purchase tickets a whopping 53 weeks in advance. Every decision was premeditated for maximum fiscal impact. “Instead of one announcement mapping out the entire tour itinerary,” noted the Washington Post, “concerts have been announced one by one, in a fine-tuned sequence seemingly designed to maximize profits in every possible way.” It was savvy business (and almost no one complained). Yet Pavement would never brag about this level of calculation. They would rationalize their actions, or they’d remind the media that they never explicitly said they wouldn’t add extra shows, or they’d chuckle about the swindle only when no one else was around. Pavement would always take the money, but they’d simply (a) say nothing, (b) feel bad about it, or (c) pretend to feel bad about it.

One thing I’ve learned in my life is that — creatively — it’s better to have one person love you than to have 10 people like you. It’s very easy to like someone’s work, and it doesn’t mean that much; you can like something for a year and just as easily forget it even existed. But people remember the things they love. They psychologically invest in those things, and they use them to define their lives (and even if the love fades, its memory imprints on the mind). It creates an immersive kind of relationship that bleeds into the outside world, regardless of the motivating detail. In pop music, the most self-evident example is the Grateful Dead, although Rush and the Smiths fall into the same class. Another example is Fugazi. Two others are Bikini Kill and the Insane Clown Posse. These are artists who diametrically impact how substantial factions of people choose to think about the universe. The social footprint they leave is far deeper than their catalogue.

Chuck Klosterman on KISS

Farm-to-table is not enough

Chef Dan Barber of Blue Hill on the fallacy, or rather the inadequacy of, the farm-to-table dining ethos as a means to economic change. When done right, farms will rotate crops on different fields to be able to produce the items popular at the moment (in this case emmer wheat). Focusing on and buying only these items doesn’t give the farms much breathing room.

Standing in Klaas’s fields, I saw how single-minded I had been. Yes, I was creating a market for local emmer wheat, but I wasn’t doing anything to support the recipe behind it. Championing Klaas’s wheat and only his wheat was tantamount to treating his farm like a grocery store. I was cherry-picking what I most wanted for my menu without supporting the whole farm.

Back at the restaurant, I created a new dish called “Rotation Risotto,” a collection of all of Klaas’s lowly, soil-supporting grains and legumes, cooked and presented in the manner of a classic risotto. I used a purée of cowpea shoots and mustard greens to thicken the grains and replace the starchiness of rice. As one waiter described the idea, it was a “nose-to-tail approach to the farm” — an edible version of Klaas’s farming strategy.

Farm-to-table is not enough

Mad Men Season 7 Episode 6 recap

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

Episode title: “The Strategy.” Ostensibly, this calls to mind the strategy for Burger Chef, but I think it also refers to Bob Benson and Joan, McCann/Roger, Cutler and Phillip Morris, and ultimately Don.

I don’t know when the episode takes place, but maybe early to mid-summer based on Bonnie coveting the air conditioning and Don saying he’d be back in California at the end of July and it not seeming too far away. Let’s say mid to late June? (That said, Oh! Calcutta! the theater revue Bonnie and Pete were going to go to didn’t debut until June 17, so maybe it’s later in June?

One of the major themes of the episode was sexism, how women are treated, etc. The first scene, when Peggy was doing market research, she couldn’t get anything from the woman because the woman needed to beat her husband home. Picking up fast food was an issue because the woman was already supposed to cook.
“Bad enough I’m not making dinner.” Don was going to take Megan shopping and Pete told Bonnie he wanted her “shopping all day and screwing all night.” I don’t know why the writers would have both of them say it.
“Who gives mom’s permission? Dads.” The entire pitch of Burger Chef originally was couched in the idea that it needed to be OK for moms/families to eat there instead of a home cooked meal. Then, once they have a pitch everyone’s happy with (for the time being), Pete wants Don to do the pitch. “Don will give authority, you’ll give emotion.” While Peggy is, “Every bit as good as any woman in this business,” she’s not good enough to close the deal? On the pitch, Lou is happy to perpetuate the status quo, like a fucking chump. “It’s nice to see family happiness again.” Peggy is good enough at her job to know that while the pitch is acceptable, it’s not the best they can do.

Another storyline on the theme of a woman’s role is Bob Benson proposing to Joan. They have a great relationship, and it hasn’t been entirely clear (especially because he hasn’t been on this season) he was grooming her to be his beard. Joan reveals she knew all along Bob was into men. “Bob, put that away.” He was shocked she didn’t accept the proposal based on the fact he was offering her more than anyone else (his words). In his mind, a woman needed a husband. “I want love, and I’d rather die hoping that happens than make some arrangement.” Joan tenderly suggests Bob deserves that, too. “America needs engineers.” The smarmy Chevy VP who laid it on thick with Joan turns out to be gay and calls Bob Benson to bail him out when he gets arrested for it. I don’t know how he knew Bob Benson was gay, and I don’t know why I can’t just call him Bob or Benson, but Bob Benson. In exchange for bailing him out, the exec tells Bob SCP is going to lose Chevy, and Bob Benson will be hired at Buick.

Bonnie and Pete join the Mile High Club, “I’ve always wanted to do that.” I can’t quite understand what Bonnie saw in Pete, and Pete is clearly still tied up in Trudy. Rather, Pete doesn’t like something not going his way, and Trudy not sticking with him, despite his terrible husbandness, is Pete not getting his way. “I don’t like you in New York.” It’s true, California Pete is happy. This episode follows a series long habit of lulling the audience into sympathy for Pete for a few episodes before making him out to be a royal asshole in one episode. Getting Don to pitch instead of Peggy, being a jerk to Trudy, and then a jerk to Bonnie was asshole Pete in all his glory. Bonnie seemed interested things with Pete being more serious, but that’s not where his head was at.

“You really got to keep an eye on him.” Ken Cosgrove doesn’t disappoint.
and
Let it not be said Lou Avery’s Tiki bar went unmentioned in this recap.
and
Bonnie and Megan flying home on the same flight.
and
“Say what you will, but he’s very loyal.” So I guess Harry Crane finally got what he wanted. I should have more to say about this.
and
I suppose Bonnie reminds me of what Betty would be like if she was less of a child and more responsible.
and
Roger in the steam room with a rival exec. I was unclear if he was trying to hire Roger or Don or buy SCP. Roger seems to figure out what he wanted at the end of the episode, so that’s good. I love it when a plan comes together. Cutler’s ploy to bring in a cigarette company to force out Don is fairly savvy, but Don has a strategy? “Stop thinking about Don and start thinking about the company.”

Which leaves us with Don. Megan visits and, I must have missed an episode somewhere, I’ve never, ever understood why Peggy likes her so much. She always has and it seems very out of character to me. “I didn’t know he was married.” Oh, Marcia, are you trying to get him in trouble? Speaking of trouble, Bonnie went right to Don’s office. What was that about? Not sure I can describe this well, but remember when Pete called Bonnie to tell her to go to the show without him, and then the next scene was the phone ringing at Don’s? Didn’t you think that was going to be Bonnie on the phone? In any case, Don wakes up and wistfully sees Megan out on the balcony. (There’s that balcony again! Watch, the series is going to end and nothing will have happened on that balcony.) At another point, he’s watching her pack up her things, making her move to the West Coast more official, more permanent. Don was also looking at the newspaper from the day after JFK was killed. It was uncovered during Megan’s packing, but I’m not quite sure what the allusion was. Maybe everything’s falling apart.

At the beginning of the episode, Don’s being the good team member, supporting Peggy even when Pete puts him on the spot. Peggy’s still mad at him, and eventually I’ll re-watch last season to remember why. It’s obvious why Lou doesn’t want him in that meeting. There’s a reckoning coming, Lou, just be aware. When Don finds out he’s supposed to do the pitch, he celebrates like a kid, pumping his fist. He’s doing the work like Freddy told him to, and it’s starting to pay off. He also puts a bug in Peggy’s ear that there may be another way to do the pitch, which ruins her weekend. (Peggy tells him to mention the tag at the end of the pitch like he just thought of it. “Do I do that?” I realized just now that line reminded me of the character Jon Hamm played on 30 Rock who is oblivious to how good looking he is.) On Saturday morning, she smokes a cigarette and calls Stan from Stan’s office. Later on, she’s drinking in Lou’s office where Don finds her. “It’s poisoned because you expressed yourself!” Peggy said she never would have done that, but Don explains the not knowing, being OK with not knowing, is how to get where he got. She asks him to, “Tell me what your saves the day plan is.” She’s finally willing to forgive him and they have a pretty serious conversation. In discussing the strategy, it turns out the family they were trying to portray, the one who eats dinner together etc, doesn’t exist. “Does this family exist anymore?” Don can’t remember if his family with Betty was ever like that. “The hell do I know about being a mom?” Is there ever going to be any more acknowledgement Peggy gave her baby up, or did she block it out completely?

Somewhat unsolicited, Don tells Peggy, “I worry about a lot of things, but I don’t worry about you,” which leads to Don frankly telling Peggy his fears, “That I never did anything and I don’t have anyone.” He says it so matter of factily, it’s clear Don and Peggy are close again, and if that didn’t seal it, dancing to I Did it My Way seals the deal. This feels like Don giving up on Megan. This feels like Don hitting bottom (even though not really). Peggy and Don hit on a new strategy, making it OK to go to Burger Chef, focusing more on the restaurant than on the family. Don did the work, and now he’s repaired his relationship with Peggy. The end is nigh, Lou avery.

The last scene was interesting in that it was a visualization of Peggy’s strategy. No matter who is at the table, from outside it looks like family. Don, Pete, Peggy living the commercial. My wife commented Burger Chefs looked very 1950s (“1955 was a good year.” ahem), out of place at the end of the 60s. Pulling on that a little bit, the original strategy was out of place for the middle of 1969. It’s an interesting juxtaposition between the two decades and advertising strategies.

Mad Men Season 7 Episode 6 recap

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