Friday, 15 January 2010

You can be a winner in the Game of Race! Sarah Palin's latest pronouncement:And that double standard is—and that hypocrisy is another reason why so many Americans are quite disgusted with the political games that are played, not only on both sides of the aisle, but in this case, on the left wing, what they are playing with this game of racism and kind of letting Harry Reid's comments slide, but having crucified Trent Lott for essentially along the same lines[.] Harry Reid stated a political reality that only shocked people who are paid to feign shock: that Americans find black people with lighter skin tones who sound white are more likely to be elected than, say, Frank Pembleton, possibly the greatest character in the history of television. It's a sad truth that having dark skin and sounding different from white people impacts a candidate's electability, but it's a truth nonetheless. What Trent Lott said—what Palin believes to be "essentially along the same lines" of Reid's lamentable political truth—was that he was proud that Mississippi supported a segregationist candidate, and that the if the rest of the country had "followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either." Moreover, to this day Lott hasn't explained what exactly "all these problems" that would've been avoided had blacks been kept in their place actually are. So, for Palin, acknowledging a sad political reality is the equivalent of wishing that the Civil Rights Movement had never happened because, for Palin, racism is a game. Not only is it a game, she unwittingly confesses that she and her fellow Republicans are currently very much playing it by themselves, and are annoyed that the Democrats refuse to play along by "kind of letting Harry Reid's comments slide." She wants to play Race because just this once, she believes her team can win. Is it any wonder the large majority of non-white Americans find her and her party reprehensible?
Don Draper as an unraptured Emma Bovary As I noted in the comments to this post, it was only a matter of time before I started Mad Men; however, as I've studiously avoided reading about the show for the better part of two years now, I'm not sure my insights into it will be all that insightful. (Still, I'll soldier on, with the caveat that I'm about to watch the eighth episode of the most recent season and would rather not have it spoiled. Not, mind you, that I think it could be, as the one of the defining features of the show is the thundering predictability of its characters. That's not as an indictment of Matt Weiner or his writing staff, merely an acknowledgment of the show's central conceit: these are people who want to be left behind when the rest of the world is raptured by history—at least at first. Don Draper and his fellows at Sterling-Cooper aggressively court their own obsolescence by cultivating an aesthetic that appeals to inhabitants of a disappearing culture. In this respect, focusing the show around the Gatsby in the gray flannel suit is an inspired decision: Draper is a man at a remove both from his own history and those of archetypes that shape his character, and as such is constitutionally belated. He does not believe in free love, like his beatnik paramour Midge Daniels, he merely lacks a convincing moral objection to committing serial adultery. His persona is a fashioned response to a vanishing culture, and it appeals—both for the clients of Sterling-Cooper and viewers of the show—to the perpetually recycled nostalgia for a time in which romantic figures of powerful genius were recognized and compensated accordingly. In the decades previous, as evidenced by an article Earnest Havemann wrote for Life in 1958, it had actually been true thatmost advertising agencies were started on the strength of one man's genius and personality. These old giants of the business had an intuitive feel for advertising. Flying strictly by the seat of their pants, they made brilliant guesses as to what would put the public in the mood to buy and planned brilliant campaigns around their hunches. Yesterday's ad man used to take a look at the product, then go off in a corner to dream up his campaign. Today's ad man sends for the research on what consumers are thinking about at the moment and often goes out to size up the consumer himself. Havemann captures, in miniature, why Peter Campbell's career will inevitably eclipse Draper's: a person can only have hunches about cultures they know intimately, so the value of a Don Draper is inversely proportional to, for example, market penetration into urban black communities. This is not to say that Campbell's attempt to identify the desires of black Americans at the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement makes him any more sympathetic as a character, or to viewers, as his commitment to equality is as instrumental as Draper's is to free love. Campbell is, in a sense,...

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