rules at the cumae ruins

rules at the cumae ruins

Monday, April 30, 2012

I entered another contest...

Natural Fibres Contest hopefully, this will motivate me to "bust a move" on some of my delightful silks, cotton, wool, or rayons...

Monday, April 23, 2012

Mad Men- Far Away Places

So Ginzberg is from Mars-- a concentration camp. Shades of Night and Fog, the classic French Holocaust documentary, in which Auschwitz is called another planet. Ginzo makes sense of his bizarre origins and his survivor's guilt by not just making it foreign, but other worldly. The far away place in his life is his own origins, and that far away place is something he doesn't really understand. In many ways, his past is "the unmasterable past" that Charlie Maier wrote about as he traced the Historikerstreit (a series of debates and discussions regarding German interpretations of the Holocaust). I'm a Modern European historian (with a focus on women, hence why I consider myself a women's historian as well), and I teach the Holocaust. It is something I emphasize to my students that crucial components of the event are almost impossible for us to understand. And it seems it is for Ginzberg as well. Too young to really remember, his youth becomes a far away place that he others even more than it already is. This episode defies a quick understanding, more so than most episodes of Mad Men. Dealing with space, place, and time and how changing the space contorts time and self. In the blurry space of an acid trip, Jane Sterling reverts to Jane Siegel, a Yiddish-speaking Jew. And Roger finds the clarity in his blurry space to realize his second marriage is over. Jane and Ginzo bring me to an observation dating to season. The Jews of Mad Men are not just Ashkenazic Jews but Ashkenazic Jews from Eastern Europe. Rachel Mencken's father references Tsarist ministries. Jimmy Barrett was drawn out of the insult comic tradition of Borscht Belt performers (Eastern European Jews), and his wife Bobbie mentions having been a dancer in the chorus, again a more common occupation for a girl from the Eastern European Jewish world than those from Western Europe. We can assume Jane's cousin Danny had the same family background as Jane. Faye Miller dropped Yiddish in her conversation. Ginzo's family could have come from any place in Nazi-controlled Europe, but he was raised by someone who obviously came from Eastern Europe, judging by his post-Yiddish ethnolect of English. And Abe's interest in radical politics connects him to the radical tradition of Eastern European Jewish workers, who flocked to labor unions and socialist organizations. Why are all of the Jews of Mad Men from an Eastern European world? Maybe because their story is more akin to Don Draper's. For all intents and purposes, Draper is the center of the show. His story-- unwanted and unloved illegitimate child of a prostitute and her client who grew up poor and mistreated only to excel and prosper-- mimics the story of these Eastern European Jews. Between 1881 and 1914, millions of Jews fled Russia in the wake of the May Laws, a series of laws designed to impoverish and isolate Russian Jews even more than they already were. Kicked out of many communities, restricted in education and employment, Jews left Russia in droves. Many more fled violence that came from government-promoted pogroms. These Jews tended to be poor, they were generally unassimilated, and they saw themselves as unwanted outsiders. They were, after all, fleeing policies that stipulated just that. Once in the states, most of these Jews at least partially acculturated to middle class American ways, but many did hold on to some aspects of the Old World or their old identities-- speaking Yiddish in the Jewish community or in certain organizations (or reading the Yiddish press or attending the Yiddish theater). Maybe they held on to old food ways and dishes. America offered an opportunity to be, as Jake in Hester Street said, a Person. And by and large, they took that opportunity and prospered, even as many of them maintained some element and shared memories of the Old World with their ever-more Americanized children and grandchildren. Sound familiar? Don Draper was the unwanted son of a whore, raised by his father and his wife in a poor and violent household where he experienced abuse. Eager to escape his past, he took a dead man's name and fled when the opportunity presented itself. He reinvented himself and prospered in the ad game. But he remembers his past, no matter how much he tries to forget it. And he carries with him elements of his Old World-- plumbing and violence. His far away place is also his childhood, and he can't escape it any more than Ginzo can.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Mad Men- Signal 30

Anyone else want a cigarette to help you enjoy the afterglow of seeing Pete Campbell get decked?
Even if you don't smoke, you know you want one.

The obvious theme of the episode is the ways men were emasculated in, and by, the culture of the era. But the more subtle one is that we turn into something else, especially into what we hate or what we wanted to be. Pete is turning into the Don Draper of old, and Don is turning into the Roger Sterling of his early marriage to Jane.

Be careful what you wish to be because you might become that...
In "Blowing Smoke," Cooper proclaimed they had created monster with Don when he published his famous letter. But now the monster du jour seems to be Pete, who has made Roger an irrelevancy (or at least helped make him an irrelevancy), downplayed Peggy's role in the business, and belittled Lane. We seem to be back to the box-stealing, blackmailing, au pair raping Pete of yore. What happened to the Pete who refused to laugh at blackface performances? Or laugh at protestors being water bombed? Or understood civil rights when no one else around him did ("Lassie can stay at the Waldorf, and they can't.")?

Back in season 1, Pete expressed his admiration for Don in the first episode, trying to get Don to go out with guys for his bachelor party. Even in this episode, 6 years later, Pete was almost like a giddy little girl at the prospect and reality of having Don in his home. Like Don of 6 years ago, Pete now lives in the 'burbs with a wife and baby. His wife wears her housecoat with a big pompom tie, (a visual not unlike Betty's newfound love of ball-fringe) similar to Betty's frilly white housecoats of old. Trudy's full skirted dresses look shockingly like those Betty wore back in Ossining and her party dress, with its thin straps, open neck, and full skirt, reminded me so much of Betty's party dress from the "around the world" party she and Don hosted in season 2. Pete is finding reasons to stay at work, he's learning to drive, and he has a prostitute. She isn't his first extramarital action (Peggy, the model from the bra ad, and the au pair are a part of his past), but this is the first that was so public. Only Peggy and the janitor knew about that relationship. His neighbor knew and confronted him about the au pair, and it seems he divulged that event to Trudy. But now he's looking for ways to escape, and he openly says he has nothing (even after Don tells him he has everything). I couldn't help but think of Pete's discussion with Peggy, the one where she tells him she had his baby and gave it away, that he wished he had chose her. Or his early days with Trudy, pouting over how she always gets what she wants. Pete's disappointment that Ken was published in important magazines, and all he could muster for himself was Boy's Life, and he had to pay for that. While he was surrounded by the diversions of the city, and the perks of having his name in his status conscious world, he could check some of the unhappiness he felt.

Pete might have grown up with money, but his familial home seemed almost as loveless as Don's. Like Don, he seems to hate the close ties his wife has with her parents. Now, the similarities between him and Don that have been easy to gloss over are huge. Pete is becoming the miserable suburban Don, desperate for anything to make him feel better. And Don, after the whorehouse hook-up, sees it and tries to give him advise: you have everything, don't make my mistake, don't throw it away. As much as Don does seem to blame Betty (when he said "if I'd met her (Megan) first..."), but his other comments reveal he knows he had a hand in why that marriage ended.

But Pete's suburban nightmare is more emasculating than Don's was. He can't even fix his faucet, and Don has to save the day. Of course, that will seem like nothing after Lane lays him flat. That faucet also hammers home other reasons why this 'burby life is so anathema to Pete. In the city, in his Manhattan apartment, he could ring the super for a repair. Now he's left to his devices. But those devices aren't all he'd hoped. And he needs a prostitute to call him King.

Be careful what you hate lest you become it...
Meanwhile, Don's second marriage, in its honeymoon stage, seems like sunshine and lollipops. The parallels to the second Sterling marriage have already been set. Megan sang for Don at his birthday, not unlike Roger performing for Jane at the Derby Day party. Roger looked more ridiculous in blackface than Megan did in her micro-mini black dress and black fishnets. At that Derby Day party, Roger told Don that he was angry because Roger was happy and in love, and Don rebuked him-- "no one thinks you're happy, they think you're a fool." I remember back to Jane and Roger rolling around in bed, post-sex, she reading her poetry to him. The issues they had seemed to be related to whether or not she could attend his daughter's wedding or try to befriend her step-daughter. Joan and the hooker he saw afterwards-- his affairs-- seemed to be behind him as he settled in to a new life with his young, carefree, beautiful wife.
Fast forward 3 years.

And now Roger is miserable. he can't get published. His much younger wife is vain and spends his money. She eats too little, and they both drink too much.

Is that what will happen to Don and Megan? Who are still in the throes of each other? Sex and song with a young, beautiful, carefree wife. Don proclaims his dalliances are in the past now too. Last week, he seemed to symbolically kill and then stuff away those adulterous impulses in his illness-induced dream. But tensions seem present. Megan's relationship with her parents. Her concern over his lack of friends. Betty's father proclaimed "you can't trust someone with no people," and Don still seems people-less-- related or not. We know she knows his real name-- Dick Whitman. And she seems to know he was unloved. But what DID he tell her? Did he recite the list of his partners? Tell her how he connected with the motherless Rachel? How he seemed to idolize Suzanne? How he confided in Midge? Has he really killed his appetite and needs? When problems surface (if they do) given the opportunity, will he find comfort with someone from his past, like Roger did with Joan?

ANd do you try to kill what you can't become?
Pete narcs on Ken Cosgrove and his writing. And Roger lets Ken know he has to stop. So one frustrated rejected writer tells another frustrated rejected writer about the success of a third writer. Pete's jealousy years ago had him suggest that Trudy sleep with another man to get him a top-flight publication, now he spreads his misery by reminding Roger of someone else's success at a craft that has frustrated them both. And Roger spreads his misery by letting Ken know his personal time isn't his own. Find your satisfaction on the job. What a change from years ago, when Ken's writing and publishing was a source of pride for most of the firm's leaders. Indeed, Pete and Paul Kinsey, another rejected frustrated writer, seemed to be the only people truly bothered by Ken's talent. Ken sought feedback from another artist, Sal Romano, and told Don about some of his stories. Now Pete and Roger are rejected and miserable over their lives, and Ken seems to have everything. He's happy in the city with his wife, he tries not taint that relationship by using her connections for his business gains, he's still child-free. He's successful at work; presumably he's still that guy that Lane described as account man who makes his clients think they don't have any needs, and he is successful in another endeavor too. Pete has always felt that he needed best Ken, something he thought he'd done when he became partner. And Roger certainly feels as though everyone is taking something from him or has something he wants. Misery loves company, and bitterness loves pain.

And now, the question of the season thus far-- Does Megan work? We see her at Don's desk typing or looking at papers. She did some coupons. But she leaves early and arrives late. We never see her in the creative lounge with the others. Does she spend her time in Don's office because she is uncomfortable with the others? Given her conversation with Peggy and the way Ginzo chastised everyone for poring over the Speck photos, I wouldn't be surprised if she did feel uncomfortable. And of course, most everyone else must also feel uncomfortable. She is much junior to everyone except Michael on the creative staff, but as Don's wife, her status is unclear. What has she worked on? Has she had an idea? Put together a campaign? Done a pitch? Michael's brand new at he agency (though he has experience), and he had the room enrapt-- much like Don did in his Kodak Carousel pitch-- with his vision of "Cinderella." Peggy "was discovered" by coming up with the idea for Belle Jolie, then hit another slam with the "reducing belt," both while she was still a secretary. And Megan makes a coupon? Really?

Coming soon: Peggy, get your head out of your ass. And while you're at it, burn that fugly ass outfit. Lane and fisticuffs- 2 great tastes that taste great together.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Inspired to make a gift-- for friends' daughters

So many of my friends have had little girls in the past two years... I think if I got them all together, we could make a female water polo team or at least a few ensembles of synchronized swimmers. I've been thinking for a while about making some cute things for these kids... and recently I saw this dress from MiuMiuPhotobucket, which to me is inherently youthful, even juvenile.
With the right fabrics, I can't be so crazy that this Kwik Sew pattern Photobucket doesn't seem like a good choice to re-envision that runway look! Some pretty cottons, make a tiny cape with some black fabric, and the tiny fashionistas are ready for the day!

Inspiration for the RTW Contest

I decided to enter this RTW Contest on PR. Here's my flashy button.
Ready to Wear (RTW) Contest

I'm interested in knocking off creating a dazzling re-imagining of some fabulous couture as styled in Vogue Korea.

First, this gorgeous Gucci (must end side boob...)
Guccidress-in vogue korea, Inspiration dress for PR challange, 4/12
I envision it as a top and skirt though. The silk I want to use is too delicate to support the weight of the skirt, as I think the way I'd end up constructing it would add some heft. A very light charmeuse might not be sturdy enough...

And then there is this combo...
Imagine it with a nice basic corduroy skirt and a floral, or otherwise spring-y patterned jersey. Perfect day wear! I think I even have a jacket pattern in a recent Burda magazine.

And then there's this. Chanel "jacket" (looks backless) and Stella McCartney skirt...
vogue korea, chanel top, stella skirt
This could be a very cool day combo as well...
What do you think?

Mad Men, season 5, ep. 3 on tonight...

Like many people, I was on pins and needles for the start of this season. The first episode was good. Seeing Megan Draper stand on the balcony, the whole of NYC expanding beneath her, was stunning and striking. The last time we saw her on a balcony was in California, Don proclaiming his love for her and her teeth, his jacket over her shoulders. Now she's alone, no jacket, and Don is collapsed on the bed, annoyed over the surprise party for his birthday. She blazes a trail through the office with expensive clothes (and she'd dressed beautifully all season 4) but apparently not much else, and she's isolated by the other creative staff, who don't know how to navigate the new reality, and by everyone else, who see her as little more than a verboten sex object after "Zou Bisou Bisou." Her refuge? Faux-cleaning her fabulous apartment in black lace lingerie while she chastises Don into a sexual frenzy. Floor sex and carpet burns follow.

And a week later, we get to revisit Betty Francis, now fat. There is obviously a medical component-- nodules on her thyroid-- though her couch sessions with the Bugles aren't helping her keep her svelte figure that once made her a muse in Italy. Fat Betty and the re-use of the fat suit (retired after Peggy's surprise pregnancy in season 1) have been the obsession of many commenters and critics for a week. Will Betty become a pill-addicted housewife to lose weight? Will she let go even more and just give in to Bugle-dom, leaving behind decades of being concerned with "earning her keep" by getting looks from men based on her beauty? And what about Sally? Will Sally grow even more distant and repulsed by her mother? Obviously, story and character possibilities abound, but my question is this: why did they go there? Mad Men had the "fat story" back in season 1, through Peggy's weight gain. Turns out, she was pregnant with Pete's baby, and no one, not even Peggy herself, knew she was "with child." All the while, she was the butt of jokes by the men in the office and the object of catty comments from Joan. Do we need another story line that reasserts a fat woman is unattractive? That a fat woman has little value? Even Betty's new mother in law, a large woman herself, tells her to drop the pounds and get "back in that wonderful closet of hers." Some of the comments out there have indicated that Betty has started to earn back some sympathy after last season's Sally-slapping, Carla-firing bitch-a-mania. The cancer scare and the gentle moments that followed seemed to take us back to the Betty of yore. The young mother who played dress-up with Sally while Don sat in a club listening to "Water of Babylon" with his mistress and her friends. The woman who stayed up late fretting over Don, whom she envisioned was at the hospital with Roger after his heart attack, while he was pounding on Rachel Mencken's door and then seducing the department store heiress. She seemed more like the worried wife who tucked the salt shaker away when drunk Don got into a car accident while heading to the beach with yet another woman, an accident he explained away with his blood pressure. Will this health scare bring back this Betty?

Well, I'm going to guess no. Why? Betty's character trajectory has been increasingly punctuated by her tendency to be impetuous, unreasonable, and mean. She dragged her daughter by the hair to the closet when she caught the girl smoking. Her constant anger over Sally's fear of Baby Gene. The aforementioned slapping and firing. Now, with a nagging mother in law, no parents of her own to turn to for support, a distant daughter who is approaching those difficult teenage years and may still idolize her new step-mother, and stuck in a new town without her old friends and Junior League club, it seems plausible that she will be increasingly stressed and without a support network, she'll be more unhinged.

BUT a different trajectory, and one I like very much, is Betty becomes a feminist hero. Betty was convinced by almost everything around her that being a wife and mother was all she needed-- her Bryn Mawr education be damned. Her home, husband, and children were supposed to give her happiness and satisfaction. And what did she get? An unfaithful first husband who lied about his very identity, making her brittle and bitter. Her children aren't the little adoring angels she was told she'd have. Her daughter is increasingly resentful and independent, her older son seems to have been impacted by her earlier tantrums, and that leaves only the youngest to not see her as a horrible mother. Everything that was supposed to be fulfilling hasn't been. Now she's married to a political strategist, a role that may require to develop not just her arm candy savvy (as a polite and gracious spouse) but perhaps some political savvy as well. The "I hate her" comments from Sally, the icy reception of her mother in law, and the new town and world she's in may contribute to that "click experience," that moment feminists talk about as the one that makes them aware the world and happiness they were promised was as thin and ephemeral as steam.

Entered the PR Vintage Contest!

Vintage Contest

Clever Charlotte Guest Giveaway

Clever Charlotte Guest Giveaway
Kathleen, over at is having  grand give away!