Exhibit 12.10

As part of my continued withdrawal from The Wire I've been trying to find a new television show on DVD to really take an interest in and fill my lunch hour in a way Chef Boyardee never can. So, not at all because Emmy voters told me to, I've begun to watch Mad Men just like everyone else started to 13 months ago. This way I can go back in my own mind and re-have all those conversations I ruined last year.

Last Year
You: Oh, god, are you watching Mad Men? It's great.
Me: Is that like a spinoff to Mad About You?
You: No. Not at all.
Me: Because that show was great, right? I mean, cousin Ira! Yeah!
Me: I bet Paul Reiser would be available for a spinoff. Maybe I'll post this to the message board.
You: What?
Me: So, how 'bout this September 2007 weather?

Mental Revision
You: Oh, god, are you watching Mad Men? It's great.
Me: Totes. Don Draper!
You and Me: (high five) (on the flipside) (nodding)

My initial impressions are positive. Seems smart, exceedingly well made, etc. The problems are mostly confined to the fact that its treatment of '50s-early '60s patriarchy and sexism is far more a matter of male wish fulfillment than anything else (at least through the first disc. I imagine there are some comeuppances to come up). There is also a bit of uncommitted yearning for a return to a simpler time, but my guess is that once the show complicates its boys club office the same way it complicates its portrait of domestic life that things will start to take off. We'll see.

Anyway, I only bring it up in order to work in a heavy-handed Mad About You reference and to explore my least favorite aspect of the show, a little problem I'll call The Wink Conundrum. Fair warning, there's nothing I'd call a spoiler coming but I am going to be referencing moments from the first three episodes.

The Wink Conundrum is not unique to Mad Men or in any way a conundrum. Here's an example of the type of little moments, winks if you will, which I hate in novels, stories, movies, etc. and which Mad Men has in abundance through the first few episodes: A mother calls her young children into the kitchen where she's smoking with a friend. The children have been playing and one has a plastic dry cleaning bag over his head. The mother, angry, yells for the child to come closer so she can chastise him. We all know what's coming...or not. "If the clothes that were in that bag are on the floor, you're going to be in big trouble," the mother says.


Moments like these are inevitable in a show like this to a certain degree, but it's that heavily implied wink that always ruins it for me. Yes, some pregnant women smoked and drank in 1960, but we don't have to see the most conspicuous drink order this side of a Sam Adams' commercial to get that message. Moments later we see a guy slap a young boy in front of the boy's father after the kid spills something. The father approaches angrily...he's going to attack the other guy...nope, he too is mad at the kid. Wink.

The Wink Conundrum is actually an ancillary of the Forrest Gump Problem, something which might have an actual name and certainly existed long before Mr. Gump. Still, that awful, awful movie was my first encounter with it though it's pretty much informed almost every major novel of the last fifty years that takes place in the near past. The Problem is simple to spot by its arbitrary and anti-narrative tendency to insert either historical figures into the path of the protagonist or, alternatively, insert its protagonist into specific historical events (see Ragtime, Middlesex, Against the Day, Kavalier and Clay, etc.) God, I hate it when novels do that (which is not to say I hate the novels themselves although I usually do) and the do it a lot. Thanks to this issue, I'm currently under the impression that everyone in the 1920s had the chance to meet Henry Ford and Houdini because they spent their days wandering around the country making cameos in each citizens' life.

What binds the two phenomenons together is a post-WWII/popular culture nostalgia that manifests itself as false condemnation in the case of The Wink and nudge-nudge navel gazing in the case of The Problem. I suppose at their heart both stem from an innate to desire to see one's generation (or, if one feels guilty enough, one's parent's generation) as having sprung from uncivilized chaos (The Wink) yet having succeeded to produce greatness and meaning (The Problem).

I doubt it's just a boomer issue either, but I guess we'll see when someone writes a novel wherein the protagonist meets Kurt Cobain at a basement show in Seattle, does drugs until '96, starts a search engine company which makes him wealthy, moves into a penthouse in Manhattan next door to Warren Buffett's, watches 9/11 from his balcony, is converted to Christianity by Rick Warren, and then ends up becoming the first ambassador to Space Australia (I'm guessing on that last bit).

I'd like to believe that a novel like that will never be written (or that a holographic cable show won't come out in 2050 with winking nods to eating organic food), but it's inevitable. Hopefully whatever poor soul has to write that book at least does it with a sense of humor that seems to have skipped a generation.

You didn't see where that post was going, did you? Oh well, we'll always have the Mad About You joke.

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