Tag Archives: Mad Men

Podcast of the Week: Episode 1, The Intro Post

Apple iPhone 6 - PDI

Photo Credit: Public Domain Archive; click through for source


Even though they’ve been around in some form or another for decades, suddenly I’ve discovered and gotten instantly addicted to podcasts. Within the past two weeks, I’ve gone from having no clue how to listen to one to subscribing to nearly 100 of them.

I’ve been curious about them for awhile, but it wasn’t until I was reading some Facebook updates after a local writers’ get-together that I’d missed (where podcasts were apparently a hot topic) that I thought this might be something I’d be interested in. These writers are very much in the know, super-intellectual and have their collective pulse on all things hip, cool, and especially literary.

I remembered that I had downloaded a podcast-listening app on my phone (at least that’s what I thought it did) so I played around with it. So far, so good … but it seemed clunky and then a podcast started stopping in mid-stream. And then another didn’t even start. And some downloads took longer than I expected. And then Heather of Capricious Reader wrote this post about Pocket Cast. Sold on the spot. Her recommendation was good enough for me.

She also compiled this fantastic list of bookish podcasts and then I knew there was no turning back.

Now I’m a complete podcast junkie. Bam – just like that. I haven’t listened to an audiobook in two weeks. I’ll go back to them; I’m just enjoying my new toys for a little while.

I want a way to share the interesting and enlightening podcasts I’ve been listening to, and to keep track of them like I do my books. I thought about including a mention in my Sunday Salon posts, but if there are more than a few I want to talk about, that would make for a very long post.

Hence, a new feature here on the blog:

Podcast of the Week.

(Original title there, eh?)

I’ll share at least one podcast from the past week (or two … whatever) that I particularly enjoyed. It won’t necessary be a podcast that was released (is that the right word?) during that particular week; I have a huge backlist I’m interested in. I’ll try to post these on Fridays or early in the weekend. It will also be a way for me to list all the podcasts I’ve listened to that week.

NYPL Podcast logoSo, without further ado, my selection for Podcast of the Week for 5/24-5/30 comes to us from the New York Public Library. On May 26, The NYPL Podcast featured author A.M. Homes talking with Matthew Weiner, creator, director, executive producer, and writer of “Mad Men.” The result, “Matthew Weiner on Don Draper’s Inner Life,” is a fascinating conversation about the show and much, much more.

Other Podcasts I Listened to This Week:

Books on the Nightstand
BOTNS#333: What the heck is cli-fi? (5/26)  Michael and Ann discussed “cli-fi,” which is short for “climate fiction” about books featuring a dramatic shift in the climate. 

Inside the New York Times Book Review
Shakespeare in Love (5/22)

The New Yorker Fiction:  Joshua Ferris Reads Robert Coover (5/1)
Novelist Joshua Ferris discusses the work of Robert Coover and reads Coover’s short story “Going for a Beer.

The New Yorker Poetry
Ada Limon Reads Jennifer L. Knox (5/20)
Robert Pinsky Reads Elizabeth Bishop (4/16)
I listened to both of these episodes when I was sick this week and hardly able to get out of bed. Turns out, listening to poetry when you’re sick is a rather comforting thing indeed. All of these poems presented on these two podcasts are FANTASTIC (“Pimp My Ride” by Jennifer L. Knox; “State Bird” by Ada Limon; “At the Fishhouses” by Elizabeth Bishop and “Shirt” by Robert Pinsky). Now, I want to read more by all of these poets. 

The Sporkful
You Suck at Drinking: A Guide to Buzz Management (5/25)
These guys (and Matthew Latkiewicz, author of  You Suck at Drinking) made me laugh with their strategies on ways to drink more without getting a quick buzz. Even funnier were their guidelines for how many drinks (and what kind) to have during certain events, like a loud birthday party for a child. 

A few more listens from last week:

Books on the Nightstand: BOTNS#332: Summer Reading Plans, Featuring the Return of BOTNS Bingo (5/19)
The BOTNS summer reading bingo sounds like fun, so I went ahead and downloaded my card. I have a great mix of categories that are challenging for me and ones that would have likely been among my summer reading anyway.

Death, Sex, and Money: Brooklyn Left Me Broke, But I Came Back (5/6)

Dear Sugar Radio: Episode 11: The Land of the In-Law (5/18)

Slate Magazine Daily Podcast: Ask a Teacher, Episode 5: Tough Questions (5/19)

LA Review of Books (LARB) Radio Hour: McSweeney’s Crowdfunding and Tommywood (and Meghan Daum recommending Bernard Cooper’s “My Avant-Garde Education” (5/21)

The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor – May Opens Wide, by Marge Piercy (5/22)
This show – along with Merriam-Webster’s word of the day – has become a fantastic way to start my day.

Adrian Cooke – Your Daily 10 Minute Meditation, Day 5: Relax (5/22)
I need to start building meditation into my routine. I love the idea of a daily 10 minute meditation podcast. I was really tense and stressed out last week over being sick and everything I wanted to be doing and couldn’t. This helped.

The New Yorker Out Loud: What Should a Museum Look Like? (5/18)
This was relevant to me because it relates to some current projects I have going on at work.

The Light Bulb: Roger Is Always Fine (5/18)
Another recap and analysis of “Mad Men” and how no matter what, Roger will always, always be fine.

If there’s any theme from this week’s listens, it’s that I clearly cannot get enough of that show.

Or podcasts.

Do you listen to podcasts? Tell me some of your favorites so I can add to my ever-growing list. 


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Like Don Draper, We’re All Making Person-to-Person Calls

Don Draper

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t yet seen the series finale of Mad Men, WATCH IT BEFORE READING ANY FURTHER.

Spoiler Alert #2: I’m not kidding. Spoilers?  This post haz ’em. Get out while you can.

Spoiler Alert #3: All right, last chance. You’ve been warned.  And, here we go …

We are all making person-to-person calls.

We’re calling the people we love.  Our kids.  Our spouses.

Whether they accept our call is, ultimately, beyond our control.  In the end, what matters most in life are the connections we have with other people and making those connections in the first place. But it starts within, and if we don’t have that connection with ourselves – inner peace, harmony – then we have nothing.

That’s my takeaway, at least, from the series finale of “Mad Men,” which was perfectly titled “Person to Person.”

During the entire series, we’ve watched as Don has tried – and failed – to connect with nearly every single person in his life. His kids. His wives. His numerous women. His real identity as Dick Whitman. For the most part, he failed at this – except at work, where his inability to make personal connections provides a nice irony because Don is so damn good at his job. Advertising is all about connecting products with people, of that instantaneous recognition when we hear a brand name, of getting that connection (making the pitch) in the first place.

The finale reinforced the idea of connection through the characters’ disconnect to each other in a myriad of ways. We had Pete’s comment to Peggy that he has a 5-year-old, and the unspoken connection of the child they share. The lingering camera shot on the “Truth Well Told” sign in the McCann conference room during the meeting. The disconnect between Joan and Richard and that phone ringing, ringing, ringing while she is talking with him about their future.  Little Kevin being engrossed in the TV and the lack of connection with Roger, his father. Don lighting a cigarette as Sally tells him about Betty dying of lung cancer.

And of course, Don making his way back to California and reconnecting with Stephanie and his past during a hippie retreat by the sea.  I anticipated that we would see her or the ghost of Anna or that there would be some tangible reference to them during this episode because they are the connection to where the story of Don Draper started.  His whole life has been about struggling to connect Don Draper and Dick Whitman. (“I took another man’s name and made nothing of it,” Don says, in his person-to-person call to Peggy.)

As Don also said in the series finale, people just come and go and never say goodbye.

Yes, that they do, Don.

That they do.

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Book Review: Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From The Sopranos and The Wire to Mad Men and Breaking Bad, by Brett Martin

Difficult MenDifficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From The Sopranos and The Wire to Mad Men and Breaking Bad, by Brett Martin
The Penguin Press
292 pages
Audio narrated by Keith Szarabajka
10 hours, 18 minutes

Whether it’s intentional or not, the very first sentence of Difficult Men delivers an immediate jolt to the heart – that kind of bittersweet realization that happens when you hear an ironic reference to someone who is dead.

“One cold winter’s evening in January 2002, Tony Soprano went missing and a small part of the universe ground to a halt.” (Prologue, pg. 1)

Mr. Martin is writing about James Gandolfini’s abrupt departure from the set of HBO’s Emmy-awarding drama The Sopranos, but the irony is a bit eerie – for Tony Soprano is missing and has been, most sadly so, since Mr. Gandolfini’s untimely death in June 2013. (Difficult Men was written while he was still alive and published mere days after his passing.)

The Sopranos was one of my favorite shows – not just on HBO, but of all time. Six Feet Under, Rescue Me, and Mad Men are also on that list and Mr. Martin examines all of them to some varying degrees in his book. These shows were different than their predecessors in many ways. They were groundbreaking for television. They “dramatically stretched television’s narrative inventiveness, emotional resonance, and artistic ambition.” (from the book jacket)

While a major part of that had to do with the male protagonists  – Tony Soprano, Tommy Gavin, Don Draper, et al were some of the most memorable characters of an era – it had much to do with the writers, directors, and producers of the very shows themselves. The “show runner”  really ran the show in more ways than one; all of his personal baggage and therapy fodder was imprinted on the show like an epitaph.

What’s absolutely fascinating is that this isn’t the case with one show.

It’s all of them.

That’s especially true with David Chase of The Sopranos, and sometimes it can be hard to tell where Tony Soprano’s life begins and David Chase’s biography ends. That’s intentional on writer Brett Martin’s part, I think; one of the main premises of Difficult Men is that the creators of these shows were as deeply flawed and nuanced as the characters they brought into our living rooms every week. Some of this is also due in part to the writers and show runners having cut their teeth on some of the same shows. For example, it’s well known that Matthew Weiner worked on The Sopranos before Mad Men. This is a small circle and as the subtitle promises, Brett Martin gets behind the scenes and brings his reader the inside scoop on the backstories, the dramas that we viewers didn’t see, the conflicts in the writing room, and much more.

Difficult Men is a very entertaining book; however, there is one caveat. If you’re not a fan of The Sopranos, you’ll want to consider skipping this one. To a lesser degree, that’s true about The Wire, too. I haven’t seen a single episode of The Wire, but since I was listening to this on audio, I just fast-forwarded through those parts (and chapters). That would be difficult to do regarding The Sopranos‘ references because Difficult Men focuses so heavily on that show. It’s not just a chapter or two, as is the case with The Wire and Breaking Bad, another show that gets a decent amount of play in the book; it’s that The Sopranos‘ influence is woven throughout. Again, this didn’t bother me – but if you’ve never watched the show or didn’t like it, this won’t be the book for you.

I listened to Difficult Men on audio and thought it worked well in that format. It kept my attention and Keith Szarabajka’s narration is excellent.

4 stars out of 5

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Book Review: The Gift, by Cecelia Ahern

The Gift
by Cecelia Ahern
Harper Collins
302 pages

What do you get when you combine George Bailey, Ebenezer Scrooge, and Don Draper?

You get Lou Suffern. 

Lou’s the main character in this Christmas-novel-with-a-timeless-message by Irish author Cecelia Ahern, whose books I tend to enjoy.  (See my review of There’s No Place Like Here.) I’m usually not a Christmas book reader, but I was in the mood for such a novel this past week. When I saw this on display at the library, I grabbed it because Ahern’s novels tend to be light reads (guilty pleasures, a little piece of literary chocolate at midnight) and I hadn’t realized she’d written a Christmas story.

If you’ve never read Cecelia Ahern, her stories are almost in a genre all to themselves; they’re light reads, but with an element of the modern day and the fairy tale. Picture BlackBerries next to a magic wand. If you like Sarah Addison Allen, chances are you’ll like Cecelia Ahern.

From Publishers Weekly:  Lou Suffern is a busy man, and his family’s growing weary of constantly taking the backseat to his career. On a whim, he offers Gabe, a homeless man he meets outside his office, a low-level job, and the uncharacteristically kind gesture plays out in a very unexpected way when Lou learns that Gabe has the power to be in two places at once. As the holidays draw nearer, Gabe tries to make Lou realize the importance of his family, but slow-to-change Lou might not come around to Gabe’s way of thinking until it’s too late.

It’s a somewhat predictable premise, and while there are some unexpected moments in The Gift, this one didn’t seem as magical to me as Cecelia Ahern’s other novels.  I didn’t fully connect with Lou nor have much sympathy for him, and there were several elements of the plot that didn’t quite seem to fit.  There’s a secondary storyline happening at the same time (a policeman is telling Lou’s story to a juvenile delinquent in an attempt to get him to see the error of his ways). I kept thinking there was some way they were all connected … but other than a shared epiphany of “we all have the same amount of time on this Earth and none of us ever know when that time will end,” there really isn’t a connection between these characters, which makes for a bit of a disjointed story. 

As I said, I went into this one looking for a bit of a lighter read than usual and that’s what The Gift is.  Sometimes that’s OK.  Although this one wasn’t quite for me, I still think Cecelia Ahern has a literary gift.

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo’s Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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2011 Challenges … Five So Far!

Tis the season for signing up for reading challenges!  I have admittedly turned into a challenge junkie.  After not understanding them and dismissing them, I found myself signing up for something ridiculous like 13 challenges for 2010.  As of the moment, these are five (plus my own Memorable Memoir Reading Challenge, which will be returning again) that I am planning on participating in.

2nds Challenge
Dates: January 1 – December 31, 2011
Hosted by:  A Few More Pages

Description: Have you read a book by an author that you really enjoyed and felt moved to read another of the author’s works? Or are you thinking to give an author another try even if you didn’t like your first taste of their work? If yes, then this challenge is for you! You’re going to go back for seconds of an author that you’ve only read once. The great thing about this challenge is that it’s not just for your second in a series books, but the second time you’ve read an author as well.

Goal: I’m going to strive for A few more bites, which means that I plan to read 6 books that are 2nd in a series or the second time you’ve read the author.

Dates: January – December 2011
Hosted By:  Book Obsessed
Description: The goal of this challenge is to read books that are set in each of the fifty states.
Goal:  As much as I’d like to say I hope to complete this challenge, this is one that I’m doing pretty much just for fun.  I’m curious to see how many states I will actually visit through this challenge!
Dates: January 1 – December 31, 2011
Hosted by: Amanda
Description: The basic idea of this challenge is to read books about GLBT topics and/or by GLBT authors.
Goals:  We are to set our own goals for this one.  I’m planning on reading at least 5 books.  Hopefully more.  One of the books I am looking forward to is Heaven’s Coast by Mark Doty.

Dates: January 1 – December 31, 2011
Hosted by: Unruly Reader

Description:  If you’re a Mad Men person, this reading challenge is for you! The challenge: Read books related to Mad Men. And when I say “related,” the relationship can be tangential… You get to choose. Ideas include: The Mad Men Reading List (from the New York Public Library), books published in the late 1950s and early/mid-1960s; books about the early/mid-1960s (JFK, LBJ, feminism, race relations, space race, Cold War, Vietnam War, etc.); books about advertising. Anything that you can tie in to Mad Men qualifies. If you can justify it to yourself, you’re all set.

Goal:  I am most definitely a Mad Men person, and am delighted about this challenge. I’m going for the FULL-PAGE AD level, which is to read 5 books—at least 2 fiction and 2 nonfiction.

Dates: January 1 – December 31, 2011
Hosted by: Beth Fish Reads

Description: Read one book in each of the following categories:

A book with a number in the title

A book with jewelry or a gem in the title
A book with a size in the title
A book with travel or movement in the title
A book with evil in the title
A book with a life stage in the title
Goal: To complete the challenge! 🙂
And for those who have been waiting with bated breath, I will indeed be bringing back the Memorable Memoir Reading Challenge for a second year.  Florinda (she of The 3Rs Blog) is in the process of updating the Official Challenge Button (yes, even with a dislocated shoulder … isn’t she an awesome friend?!) I’m thinking of keeping it the same as last year (we had to read four memoirs) and possibly adding a dedicated blog to the challenge.  More on this later, but I wanted you to know about it so you could consider the Memorable Memoir Reading Challenge as part of your reading year.
Hope you will consider signing up for one (or all!) of these.  (C’mon, you know you can’t resist ….)
copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo’s Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.
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Thankfully Reading Weekend Recap

This year’s Thankfully Reading Weekend event is officially over for another year.  This  was such a relaxing and decadent weekend.  Before our regularly scheduled weekday chaos Monday kicks into full swing, I thought I would recap my progress over these past couple of days.  

I started and finished A Mango-Shaped Space, which is Wendy Mass’s debut young adult novel.   I’ve been wanting to read this for awhile (and have checked it out of the library two or three times), so I’m really glad that this event allowed me to finally read this one – which I really enjoyed.  (218 pages)

I read four stories (“Fiction,” “Wenlock Edge,” “Deep-Holes,” and “Free Radicals”) in Alice Munro’s latest short story collection, Too Much Happiness. When I wrote my Sunday Salon post this morning, I was a little unsure about this collection.  That was before I read “Free Radicals.”  Holy cow … now that, my friends, is a short story!  It’s my favorite thus far, and if Ms. Munro has more like that one in store for me, I’m now a fan.  (105 pages read)

My current audiobook (What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures, by Malcolm Gladwell) was already in progress when the Thankfully Reading Weekend started, but I was able to listen to an hour of this today.  (The equivalent of 33 pages in the print version.)

And I’m ending the weekend with a middle-grade novel, Saving Sky by Diane Stanley. This is downright frightening, mainly because it is so damn realistic.  (It is set in a not-so-distant future where the country is under frequent terrorist attacks and things like food rationing and gas shortages are commonplace.)  Right now, I’m up to page 49.  The book jacket says this is for ages 10 and up, but there’s a good chance this is going to be keeping me up at night …. assuming “Free Radicals” doesn’t do me in first. (Our local police apparently have a manhunt underway for an attempted murderer, and that’s hitting a bit too close to home tonight after reading that short story earlier today.)

Total pages read:  405

I also wrote a review and two additional posts, along with two updates.  (And, while it doesn’t count for Thankfully Reading, I also spent part of the weekend scrapbooking 5 pages in the kids’ baby album – it’s only been a mere 9 years since the blessed event – and watching 4 episodes of “Rescue Me” and 3 episodes of “Mad Men.”)  All in all, a fun and relaxing weekend doing the things I love most.

Many thanks to Jenn (Jenn’s Bookshelves), Beth Fish Reads, and Jen (Devourer of Books) for hosting this event once again and for all the time and hard work you put into making it such a success!

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo’s Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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All That I’m Allowed: Happy Thanksgiving!

And I’ve got all that I’m allowed
It’ll do for me, I’m thankful now
The walls get higher every day
The barriers get in the way
But I see hope in every cloud
And I’m thankful, thankful
I’m thankful, So thankful
I’m thankful, I’ve got all that I’m allowed.
~ Elton John, “All That I’m Allowed”

(If this post seems vaguely familiar, then you get a gold star for being a loyal Betty and Boo Chronicles reader.  Part of this is from a post originally published on Thanksgiving Day 2008.) 

Thanksgiving officially became my favorite holiday nine years ago when, just as most people were sitting down to their dinner, Betty and Boo graced us with their presence by being born. They are, of course, at the top of my “I’m thankful for …” list, along with The Husband and our family and friends.

We had a relaxing morning, just the four of us, watching the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day parade (it’s sacrilegious in our house to watch any other) and now football.  Not soon enough for the children, we will go over the river and through the tolls to two grandmothers’ houses. 

After dessert, The Husband and I will depart, leaving the kids that I am thankful for behind to enjoy a fun-filled weekend of decadence with the grandparents.  The Husband and I have a wild weekend of Thankfully Reading and Thankful-for-the-DVR-and-On-Demand planned. (We have quite a few episodes of Rescue Me, Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire, and In Treatment to catch up on.) We don’t plan to move too far from our respective perches on the couch, in a house that I am grateful for. 

This year more than ever, we as a people need Thanksgiving. It comes at a time when for so many, including us, the walls certainly seem to get higher everyday and barrier after barrier gets in the way. One day isn’t going to change that.

For now, for today, I’m thankful that we have all that we’re allowed.

Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving.

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo’s Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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