October 19, 2009

on youth and youngmanhood

I'm sorry to bump U2 from the top of my webpage, but it had to happen at some point. Huge egos are in no short supply. Don Draper, recently named the most iconic man in America (ahead of Obama!), knows how to where a tie - so well, in fact, that he's always tangled up in an affair of some sort, whether it's a businessman looking for a new image for his company, or a girl who can resist his uber-macho charm. Are we really that shallow? I think so.
Don Draper may be a fictional character on AMC's Mad Men, but he's just as real as any other public personality you can think of. Celebrities are brands, with carefully constructed images, and most of us are just as likely to have a beer with Don Draper as with anybody else on this list. What matters is that Draper's hardass 1960s persona represents something about male identity that is enduringly captivating but has nonetheless vanished. The man that Don Draper is -- value-driven and thoroughly masculine -- is the product of a bygone era; without him, there would be no contemporary figure to represent it. Yet, as removed as his persona may be, it is also contemporary and familiar. He's a postwar archetype, both a brilliant career man and a temptation-swayed philanderer who sincerely wants to be a family man. Like most men, us and our fathers both, Draper is permanently conflicted over how to reconcile his morals and his desires.
This from a website that asks their male visitors (creepy) to rate male and female celebrities out of a hundred. I remember when jocks used to do that in high school. No wonder us guys identify with Mr. Draper.

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There are three tracks of sublime pop on the new Atlas Sound record (which comes out tomorrow! and is awesome!). "Sheila" is a catchy, guitar driven anthem about love and death, while the album's heady centrepiece, "Quick Canal," features layered vocal stylings by Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadler. Arguably the weakest of these three, the attention-grabbing "Walkabout," voices the mid-midlife crisis for those of us into our twenties: "what did you want to be when you grew up?" Does growing older have to be a disappointment? The movie everyone is talking about right now (and when I say "everyone" I mean hipster twentysomethings and the websites they visit) is Spike Jones' adaptation of Maurice Sendeck's Where the Wild Things Are. I still haven't seen it but from what I've heard its sounds like its going to appeal to those of us who want our childhood back; those of us who still feel like kids that have been prematurely catapulted into an adult culture of glossy disappointments. I can hear Arcade Fire playing, I can see the "wild" celebration ("inside all of us"), and I'll admit that it makes me nostalgic (even though Karen O and the Kids, who provide the film's soundtrack, really piss me off). It's supposed to, isn't it? Nostalgia allows you get away with anything. It's all right there in Mad Men.

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