Saturday, June 27, 2015

RIP Patrick Macnee: British Agent John Steed Has Left His Earthly Ministry


What an eventful week: the Rev. Clementa Pinckney was laid to rest—after being murdered in his own church—with a deeply moving funeral service in Charleston, where Brother Obama gave a lovely eulogy, which was quite literally while the news of the Supreme Court upholding Marriage Equality in all fifty states was announced and filled social media.

And in other news, Patrick Mcnee died at 93 at his home in California on Thursday, June 25.

It turns out that the last two items are connected. And you know how I love connections.

Patrick Macnee of course created John Steed, the top British spy of the English TV series The Avengers who had vague professional allegiances (MI5? MI6? There are only occasional mentions of even a minister.)

Macnee was born in London in 1922. His father trained racehorses and drank, and his mother

"took refuge in a circle of friends that included Tallulah Bankhead and the madam Mrs Meyrick, before absconding with a wealthy lesbian, Evelyn. Young Patrick was brought up by the pair and was instructed to call Evelyn “Uncle."

From the Telegraph obit. [Bucket list confession: I want to do something in my life that merits me a Telegraph obituary. They are the most beautifully written of all obituaries.)

Uncle Evelyn paid for Macnee's education at Summer Fields, and Eton, which of course gave him the RL experience to infuse his spy with such panache. And so we all say, "Thank you Uncle Evelyn."

See, that's the thing about Marriage Equality: people have FOREVER found their way to loving and dealing with who they truly are. Now it's more institutionally fair, no small thing.

Why The Avengers . . . Still
Each generation . . .around the world . . . finds and loves this early TV show. It has an exquisite combination of style, dialogue, wit, and chemistry between John Steed and Mrs. Peel. (Cathy Gale and Tara King have their own fans, but I am not among them).

I first saw the series in reruns on Sunday afternoon when I was very young and my father was watching. Details are vague, but I remember that checkerboard. It dazzled me.

"Extraordinary crimes against the people, and the state, have to be avenged by agents extraordinary. Two such people are John Steed, top professional, and his partner Emma Peel, talented amateur. Otherwise known as The Avengers."

When I later watched reruns as a teen, it was the unique and appealing relationship between a worldly man and an independent, braniac woman who happens to be stunning that kept me watching.  Mrs. Peel is a scientist, something played out more explicitly in the black and white season than the color.

Patrick Macnee had the unique professional opportunity of projecting his own creativity into the character he was hired to play: the journey started as a very shadowy, poorly limned second banana to Ian Hendry in the earliest series called The Avengers. When Hendry left, the show focused on Steed and his "secret agentness" and a civilian partner, Cathy Gale, was introduced.

When Honor Blackman left the series, Diana Rigg stepped in after a big search and a short, false start with Elizabeth Shepherd, who did not have much on screen chemistry with Macnee.

It's the chemistry between Macnee and Rigg that allowed the production team, including Brian Clemens, Julian Wintle, and Albert Fennell to let Steed & Mrs. Peel bring a very special élan to the TV landscape along with that partnership, first messaged meeting up on the chessboard, and then so simply with legs up on a desk.



There is a delicious sexual tension between the duo, with hints that they may have been lovers in the past before Mrs. Peel married, and that they are FOBs while Peter Peel is lost in the jungle from a plane crash.

Emma Peel: You know my wavelength.
John Steed: I do indeed.

That Hour That Never Was

A Touch of Brimstone

How to Succeed . . .at Murder

Something Funny Happened on the Way to the Station
Who's Who????

The Winged Avenger

Steed has impeccable manners, a ruthless streak, English reserve, a Bentley, Savile Row then Pierre Cardin suits, the perfect incarnation of an umbrella: he was the ideal of "English to the core" for post-War TV culture. 

The stories are imaginative and sometimes crazy, tiptoeing into science fiction in The Man-Eater of Surrey Green, mind control in Too Many Christmas Trees, and a villain who wants to drown the world with a rain-making machine in Surfeit of H20 (which was the basis for the "film which will not be named.") It's the total package for a fan.

When Diana Rigg left the series, her last line of dialogue as Mrs. Peel to Steed is

"Always keep your bowler on in time of stress, and watch out for diabolical masterminds."


Sweet advice, which I hope also served Macnee well over his long life. 

Fan Tributes
This is a short, poetic look at the duo, set to Norah Jones singing "The Nearness of You."



And this is a great look at Mrs. Peel, set to The Kinks.


Monday, June 15, 2015

"Man on Wire" Becomes "Men with Parachutes": I'm Sad They Are on Trial

Update: The trial for the 3 young men who BASE-jumped from 1 WTC last year is underway. I still cannot believe the charges. From the Assistant DA's opening statement reported in the Daily News:

“This case is about the defendants' decision to exploit a New York City monument for their own selfish thrill and to turn the Freedom Tower into a crime scene before its doors were even open,” Assistant District Attorney Joseph Giovannetti.

It is exactly NOT that. They did not do it to exploit, or endanger. They did it because they are young and free. Our enemies convince teens to strap-on bombs on and blow people up. These guys CELEBRATE life by having the spirit to do something a little crazy, but harmless, if you read about their preparation. Watch the video below from the helmet-cam of one of the jumpers. You will see expert skill, and an empty roadway, as they knew it would be.

I pray that the jury embraces them, as they should. And give them community service to teach kids to always wear helmets . . . whenever they BASE-jump.

My original post:

 "The Port Authority joins the NYPD in condemning this lawless and selfish act that clearly endangered the public," Port Authority Chief Security Officer Joseph Dunne said in a statement. "It should be clear that the PAPD and NYPD will go to any length to bring those who defile the WTC site to justice."


Joseph Dunne's statement on the three men who BASE-jumped from One World Trade Center is one of the most depressing things I've read in a long time.

And competition for 'most sad and depressing things' is pretty high right now. 239 people vanish in a jumbo airplane that went wildly off course into the devouring expanse of the Indian Ocean--one of the closest realizations we have for "the middle of no where." 14 people have died horrific deaths in a mudslide in Washington, and 179 are still missing. Russia is trying to annex Crimea as though we were in the 19th century. And yet, the official condemnation of the jump from 1 World Trade Center ranks right up there.

September 2013
The topping off ceremony for 1WTC was on May 10, 2013. Four months after that, on September 30, at 3:00 am, four young guys climbed through a hole in a fence, made their way to the top of One World Trade Center, and three of them base jumped onto the West Side Highway. It was a caper. They admit to being thrill seekers, who saw a challenge.

‘It's a fair amount of free-fall time,’ said Andrew Rossig, one of the jumpers. ‘You really get to enjoy the view of the city and see it from a different perspective.’

They filmed the event, but as a private moment. At 3:00 in the morning, they knew there was almost no traffic on the West Side Highway, and as expert jumpers, no one was really endangered.

'Our intent was never for this to go public. We never posted the video footage. People didn’t know about it. We kept things quiet. As far as we were concerned, no one ever needed to know,' he added

They only posted their video after the police arrested them on Monday—six months after the jump—a week after the 16-year old kid from Jersey made his way to the top of the building too. So security is definitely something that the authorities need to look into. Right now. No question.

August 1974 . . . An Earlier Crime
On August 4, 1974, Phillipe Petite, a French high-wire artist, pulled off a stunt to walk between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. Since he first read about the building of the towers at 17 he was obsessed with the idea of walking between them, and for 45 minutes, just before his 25th birthday, he did it.

He called it "the artistic crime of the century." And yes, it was a crime. No question. He trespassed, endangered others, yadda, yadda, yadda.

The title of the documentary Man on Wire that tells the story of how he did it comes from the police report that was filed: it was the best way the cop could think of at that moment to describe the crime. Yup, a man was on a wire.

And then people started marveling. What beauty. What positive imagination. What spirit of soul. What skill.

Ultimately the district attorney dropped all formal charges of trespassing and other items relating to his walk. In exchange, Petite was required to give a free aerial show for children in Central Park and other acts of community service.

And then the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey gave Petit a lifetime pass to the Twin Towers' Observation Deck. Of course they thought it would be Petite's lifetime, not the towers.

Back to the Present
And now we have a new caper. Same beauty. Same inspiration, Same positive imagination. Same spirit of soul. Same crazy amount of skill. It's still a crime. And of course the site is changed forever since Phillipe's crime by the victims of the terrorist attacks.

These guys were not out to make a grand statement. They are thrill seekers. But life and spirit and imagination are the BEST weapons against the nihilism and death and hatred of terrorists. And to reclaim a site of such horrific death by something that makes the spirit smile is the best we who continue can do.

I LOVE seeing their film.  I love experiencing the fall vicariously, seeing the moment when the parachute opens. Seeing the landing, and running away to hide the parachute. I am so happy to have had this tiny little experience.

And this feeling of admiration sits along side the current day Port Authority guy calls it "defiling" the WTC.

So make the guys teach safe bicycling, or skateboarding, whatever to children, insisting that they wear helmets. And show them that there are consequences to actions.

But most importantly: show them that their spirits can never be destroyed by others who hate, and that they will be fine as long as they have friends who have their back.




(top photo: my copy of The New Yorker from 2006 with one of its all-time great covers.)

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Happy 150 B-day, William Butler Yeats

Of all the poets I love, Yeats is first among equals in my heart. His sensibility, the imagery, the unrequited love of Maude Gonne, founding of the Abbey Theatre, the Irish Republic Nationalism coming from a scion of the Protestant Ascendancy: Yeats is simply magical from every angle. Wiki tells us that the Nobel Prize Committee described his work as "inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation."

His phrases and imagery are instantly recognized and much beloved around the world: that "pilgrim soul" and he who "hid this face amid a crowd of stars; that is no country for old men; an aged man is but a paltry thing/a tattered coat upon a stick; wings have memory of wings; tread softly; a terrible beauty is born; I know that I shall meet my fate/Somewhere among the clouds above; Those that I fight I do not hate/Those that I guard I do not love; nearly every line of The Second Coming: Turning and turning in the widening gyre/The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere/The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity. . . And what rough beast, its hour come round at last/Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

I studied Yeats quite a bit in college and grad school, but there was one poem I had not read until a psychiatrist I was going to brought it up in a session. I never understood the dear doc's point, but I love that Yeats had some thoughts specifically for blondes.  "For Anne Gregory"


NEVER shall a young man,
Thrown into despair
By those great honey-coloured
Ramparts at your ear,
Love you for yourself alone
And not your yellow hair.'
 

'But I can get a hair-dye
And set such colour there,
Brown, or black, or carrot,
That young men in despair
May love me for myself alone
And not my yellow hair.'
 

'I heard an old religious man
But yesternight declare
That he had found a text to prove
That only God, my dear,
Could love you for yourself alone
And not your yellow hair.

Monday, June 8, 2015

TV Board Games 101: Dan Harmon Is Community's Old Soul


For some reason I started watching Community back in the day, Anno Domini 2009, aka season 1, and I was hooked. The repartee of the study group at Greendale Community College was some of the wittiest to be found. The pop culture references resonated strongly with me, making me part of its "cult following," and I was not afraid.

I will not try to summarize the élan of a series, you have to experience it for itself (try Hulu, Netflix).

But I must celebrate the tag scene of the season 6 finale--the season that streams on Yahoo--as a beautiful revelation of the old soul of Dan Harmon.

SPOILERS

As of this writing it is not known whether the season 6 finale "Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television" is the series finale, or if there will be a season 7 on Yahoo or some other streaming service.

Dan Harmon wrote the episode with the characters pitching what could happen in a season 7. And that was fun.  But it's a fake TV commerical for the Community board game, with a family playing it on the dining room table, that is one of the all-time smartest endings of a series.

Yes. A board game. Based on a TV show.

They were a staple of my childhood. But I would think the whole phenomenon was about 10 years before Harmon's time: he was born in 1973. He wouldn't have first-hand attachment to this early merchandising.

But it's as though Dan Harmon was hovering over my girlhood birthdays (and my older brother's) and our Christmas mornings and learning what these games meant to us. From a crass perspective it was all the beginnings of the movie/TV tie-in merchandizing—sometimes officially counted from the Star Wars product juggernaut that started in 1977—but for a child these Milton Bradley/Ideal games were the first real-world extension of the TV show bond.

TV watching for me as a child was family time together, either the whole family, or just with my older brother in our playroom. I didn't really follow the shows we watched in the late sixties/early seventies, but that wasn't the point. It was time together around something as powerful as narrative.

Land of the Giants; The Time Tunnel; Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea; Get Smart; the Saturday morning game show Shenanigans.

And then, when either my brother or I would get the board game as a present, it was exciting. We could use our imagination and  play at being the characters in Land of the Giants: I remember that safety pin circle card as though it were yesterday. And for Shenanigans it was like being in the TV game: I remember the Pie Eye and the tiddlywinks SO vividly. We played these games for hours and hours, and I played them with my friends for more hours and hours.









Community: the Board Game


For Harmon to end Community with a board game—a nondigital, noninteractive game— in 2015 is absolutely hysterical. The usual Community attention to the details of an homage is top-notch: the board pieces, the spinner, the action cards are all spot on.  It all works beautifully and harkens back to my childhood's simpler TV time, when the beloved tropes and semiotics of TV programming were just crawling their way out of the primordial soup. 

And then Harmon introduces the twist: the Son plays the script for Community as a ploy to take his Dad's pieces. But Dad realizes that if there's a script, then "they" don't exist. "We haven't been created by God, but by a joke."

Dad then plays the trump "snow globe" card: "We're all just a part of the universe in here."
(That's the Tommy Westphall Universe of course). This brings the family into sadness, as they contemplate their non-existence.

And so the ad voice-over comes in, as it does, with the details.

"Dice not included. Some assembly required."

(The dice were always included, so maybe it's a nod to "Remedial Chaos Theory" and the role of the die that lead to the darkest timeline?)

And then Harmon gives the perfect summation of his show, read quickly in his own"fine print don't pay attention to this" voice.

Lines between perception, desire and reality may become blurred, redundant or interchangeable.

Characters may hook up with no regard for your emotional investment. Some episodes too conceptual to be funny, some too funny to be immersive and some so immersive they still aren't funny.

Consistency between seasons may vary.

Viewers may be measured by a secretive, obsolete system based on selected participants keeping hand written journals of what they watch.

Show may be cancelled and moved to the internet where it turns out tens of millions were watching the whole time. May not matter.

Fake commercial may end with disclaimer gag which may descend into vain, Chuck Lorre-esque rant by narcissistic creator.

Creator may be unstable. Therapist may have told creator this is not how you make yourself a good person. Life may pass by while we ignore and mistreat those close to us. Those close to us may be those watching. Those people may want to know I love them but I may be incapable of saying it.


Contains pieces the size of a child's esophagus.

To capture entire imaginary worlds and systems of media in a minute ad takes a lot of talent. To also evoke an emotional component is the work of an old soul. I hope Harmon turns down any opportunity to continue on to a season 7. I don't think the fans would be well served, and it would ruin this perfect closure.  But I'm all for #andamovie.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Et in Arcadia ego: Happy Birthday, Brideshead Revisited


 I drank soda water and smoked and freted
until light began to break 
 and the rustle of a rising breeze 
turned me back to my bed.
 
The Telegraph tells us that we are upon the 70th anniversary of the publication of Evelyn Waugh's novel Brideshead Revisited last week, Anno Domini 1945. The effortless poetic cadence of this simple narration from Charles Ryder is just one of the qualities that binds me to Waugh and the story.

I came to the novel through the heralded 1981 Granada TV adaptation, which was the most lyrical, visually stunning program anyone had ever seen produced for TV.

The novel was one of many that my father picked up for me in the church thriftstore he and my mother visited every week, quietly building an impressive library for me until I was ready to partake.

The beauty of Brideshead is that it gives several of the ages of man a touchstone: I was in college when Sebastian & Charles seduced a TV generation. It was a thrill to be so young and read so young, to feel an affinity for the elan of their Oxford even in the quads of Rutgers.  Now I feel the weight and lightness of Charles's middle age, loving/understanding with a middle-age depth that the sanctuary light at the end does make all the difference.  (It's a nice touch that the first American edition of the novel was printed with a "sanctuary light" red cover. )

 ******

Several years ago I had a very visceral reaction to a freakishly cold August. Thoughts of Brideshead flooded my thinking, along with long forgotten, but very stirring memories of my own visit to Oxford during my college years.

Midautumn has descended into the beauty of our late August. No, no, I’m not ready. I long for the warmth of air and brightness of the summer sun.

The relentless rain/todrizzle/torain will not last, they say, it’s just a freak of nature.

This unnatural August coldness has a strange affect on memory, summoning long unvisited thoughts. As I put on yet another sweater, Oxford 25 years ago fill my consciousness.

It’s Eights Weeks, and visitors are teeming everywhere. I’m with friends of friends at Wadham College boathouse to watch the races, followed by an "End of the Empire" dance.






We see a musical Alice in Wonderland performed in the Christ Church Cathedral Gardens. It is a magical, site-specific event: the Dean of Christ Church in Dodgson's day was Dr. Liddell & it was his daughters that Carroll wrote for. The Dean's Garden is next to the Cathedral Garden. The chestnut tree in the Dean's Garden is the one in which the Cheshire Cat sat, and Alice's little green door joins the two gardens. I feel like I have gone beyond the looking glass.

We attend a sung Eucharist at Christ Church Cathedral, the exquisite lines of Victoria Missa O Quam Gloriosum soaring up to Heaven. It was my fist experience of an English choir, and I did not know the tradition of boy sopranos. I kept looking for the women who were singing such extraordinary notes.

Then over to the Turf for lunch. In memory there is much sunshine and warmth and beauty.




These real experience of Oxford entwine in my heart with Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited.

In the coldness of August I feel his epithet for book 1: Et in Arcadia ego: the haunting Latin phrase on the tomb in Poussin’s pastoral painting, considered to be uttered by Death, “I am also in Arcadia.” I quietly despair the mirror Ryder is for me "I'm homeless, childless, middle-aged, loveless, Hopper."

The cold days in a New York August--a memento mori in the summer of a life. Yet. I am glad to be reminded of mortality, and Waugh, but thrilled that the warmth and sun of the season are coming back. It’s not over, there is eternally more. Something Captain Charles Ryder himself "found this morning, burning anew amid the old stones." I quickened my pace to the subway . . .

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Coke. Is. It. And Mad Men Ends.


“I had a dream I was on the shelf in the refrigerator. Someone closes the door and the light goes off, and I know everybody's out there eating. And they open the door and you see everyone smiling and they are happy to see you but maybe they don't look right at you and maybe they don't pick you. And then the door closes again, the light goes off.”


This epiphany-inducing speech by Mr. Average at the Esalen-like retreat is strange, as dreams often are, until you realize that he dreamt he WAS—Kafka-like—a bottle of Coca-Cola. And he was worried that people were going to go for the Chablis on the door instead of him!

Yes, the entire Mad Men series was about Coca-Cola, pure and simple.

SPOILERS.

I appreciate that the Mad Men finale has been analyzed from every angle known to man, and a few that may be extraterrestrial in scope.

So in my week-later piece,  I'd like to start with a solecism in the all-hallowed Hilltop Coke song that everyone has blithely chosen to overlook:

And that is the bizarreness of "honey bees" and "snow white turtle doves" as direct objects of the transitive verb "grow."

"I'd like to build the world a home
And furnish it with love

Grow apple trees and honey bees
And snow white turtle doves
"

Come on people, this syntax makes no sense!
You "raise" honey bees and turtles dove, you don't "grow" them. 

And insult to injury: the the meter of the underlying jingle throws a stress on the word "snow" equal to the word "grow"--on top of the natural word rhyming-- making it seem as though it's a parallel verb construction:  "grow tress" and "snow white turtle doves."

Just wanted to put this out there. It's really has been bothering me since I was a kid.

Reverse Angles



Don's unlikely lotus position immediately brought a  reverse angle image into my head: Michael Keaton's opening scene of Birdman. For me Don chanting Ohm in Big Sur was as surreal as Riggan Thomson levitating in the same position in his dressing room.

That said, the interesting thing about the big reveal of Don as the creative genius behind "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing"--called one of the greatest commercials of all time--is that it illuminates for people their own view on advertising itself.

Me: I've never given advertising much of a thought one way or another. I accept the premise--"they" are going to try to sell me something--and I move on. I don't contemplate if they are toying with my emotions, because I don't invest enough in the ads.

People who see the finale as cynical have strong feelings about the evils of advertising. That what was a "real" moment of life as Don chanted at the Esalen-like retreat became perverted to peddle colored sugar water to the world. Hence Don has not changed, when if he had not created the ad, and stayed away from advertising, he would be changed/redeemed.

I like how Tom and Lorenzo put it in their recap:

 *Don took a week of depressed middle class white people and turned it into a minute of hopeful, ethnically diverse teenagers.

*He went from selling cancer to the American public to selling obesity to the American public and he did it using a message of brotherhood and tolerance that he himself would never experience because of his upper middle class trappings.

*This is what we mean when we say the ending is a cynical one. We don’t necessarily mean that as a bad thing. Mad Men has always been a particular combination of capitalist-fueled cynicism and family-based hope.

Matthew Weiner defended the ad at the New York Public Library event:

“I think it’s the best ad ever made,” he said. “That ad is so much of its time, so beautiful — I don’t think it’s as villainous as the snark of today thinks it is.”

So Weiner doesn't worry about the multinational corporation that is Coca-Cola and its impact on Don's soul. That they try to sell "happiness" as carbonated water in a bottle.  That they pervert the whole concept of "it's the real thing."

I don't worry either. I am Coke fan myself. I love the refreshing taste. I know it's not great for me, but I don't drink coffee and everyone picks his own poison. When I first started traveling to Europe 30 years ago it was hard to find "Coca Lite" but every once it a while you would run into it in a little epicerie in the middle of nowhere, and you bet it made me smile. And it usually made the epiciere smile too, at the American who found the Diet Coke. Commerce is not all evil.

As for the finale and the series: From a character angle,  I had trouble with Don's epiphany coming from the refrigerator speech. The dream thing is too weird except as an allusion to Coke bottles,  and I don't think it earned Don's breakthrough connection.

But then I never felt compelled by Don Draper the character. I enjoyed the artistry and style of a TV show that started with the distinct evocation of the 1950s and lead us throughout the decade.

These last episodes for me were a collection of Matthew Weiner's favorite things: particularly the enormous homage to Hitchcock.

But what Mattew seems to have loved most of all was the Coke commercial he saw when he was 6 years old. It's quite a story, especially why it's in Rome (it's because it was raining in England).  More details on Coke's own site.

I applaud people who are able to bring their passions into their work of any kind, and share it with the world, maybe even with a coke and a smile.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Mad Men: Where Hitchcock Meets Lawrence of Arabia, and We Say Goodbye to Don



In the beginning there was Alfred Hitchcock. He liked mystery, intrigue, issues of identity, Cary Grant, and cold, cool blonds.

Quite the blueprint for Matthew Weiner. 

Mad Men opened with the the intriguing "falling man" while it's Roger Thornhill in Hitchcock's North by Northwest who is the original falling man (with what I think is a much more closely matched "fall" than the oft-cited Vertigo poster) and an advertising man to boot who can't get people to believe who he is once he gets mistaken for a spy.  And so we know whence Don Draper sprang fully formed from the head of Matthew Weiner.

Much of the magnetism of the series came from the evocation of the 1950s (which the series rightfully depicts as continuing on well into the 1960s). North by Northwest opened on July 28, 1959; Mad Men debuted on July 19, 2007. Weiner brought us the great visual quotes of the NxNW cornfield scene in "Lost Horizon," and the "Thornhill at bus stop in the middle of nowhere" quote in "The Milk and Honey Route." Weiner has elegantly achieved the homage to the Master.

The Plot: Through the series we've learned a bunch about how Dick Whitman became Don Draper, taking on the identify of his lieutenant in Korea, after he accidentally killed him.

And why did he want to change his identify? He had a difficult childhood. For me, none of this was why I watched. I've watched because of the visual beauty and artfulness, a distinct place on the TV landscape to spend an hour a week, sporadically through the years.

Everybody Loves a Mystery
So how will it all end? Don has been stripping himself of the Don Draper identifiers: his beautiful wife Megan; their apartment (and furniture, which her mother took); his advertising career; his first family; his car.

And . . . we last saw him at a Thornhill-like bus stop in the middle of nowhere. (h/t Michael Beschloss for the Cary Grant screen grab.)


WITH A SMILE. A SMILE.


Hmm.  Happiness, at having little left to lose, made me think of one person . . .

T.E.Lawrence.

Thomas Edward Lawrence struggled with identity his whole life.  His father, Sir Thomas Chapman, was married with four daughters. They hired a nanny, Sarah, to help, and Tom fell madly in love with her.

He left his wife and daughters, and started a new life with Sarah, under the name Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence. He never divorced his first wife, and he had five sons with Sarah, of whom T.E. was the second.

T.E. had an enormous intellect, which is what propelled him to great heights in leading much of the war in Arabia during WWI. He idenfitied with the Arabs, and believed he was fighting for their independence.  That's not what happened: Arabia was portioned off between the English & French. He felt he had been a fraud (this is all in enormous shorthand.)

When Lawrence returned to civilian life we was given a teaching gig at Oxford. Perfect, right? But he enlisted in the R.A.F. under the name John Hume Ross, to lose himself. When it was discovered who he really was, he was thrown out. Then he enlisted in the Royal Tank Corp, as T.E. Shaw. He didn't really like that and he petitioned to be let back in to the R.A.F, which happened in 1925. He served until 1935.  Two months after he left the service, at the age of 46, he was mortally hurt in a motorcycle accident, and died.

Lawrence wrote about his time in the RAF & the Tank Corp. in The Mint, which was published after he died. It is a tortured telling of wanting to be a complete non-entity.  Shedding all identity was the only way he could find peace, dare we say happiness. That's why he popped into my head when I saw Don's smile at having nearly nothing.

I don't think this has anything to do with the actual ending, but I did find Weiner made a reference to none other than David Lean's movie in a Washington Post interview on the idea of Jewish-ness & Other-ness. . . .HA!

"So when you start making a decision to represent people, and you have Ginsberg’s father, who’s a Holocaust survivor, who is from Poland, you’re gonna have him talk like Lawrence of Arabia?"

Clues That Have Been Dropped
John Slattery is on record as saying that the ending is "Of course."  I believe that Weiner has said that he's known how it will end since he started.

I love the D.B.Cooper idea.  Such a creative exercise, to take one of the great mysteries of the 1970s, and trace it back to who D.B. was before he disappeared.

Other than that, I'll just be happy with almost anything as long as it doesn't have any completely illogical occurence: like a man who clearly is dying of frostbite, in a car enclosed in ice with a dead battery, and then miraculously turns up in a kitchen in sunny Arizona . . .