Scottish Manes.

On our Star Wars podcast a few weeks ago, I was threatening that I was going to write a monograph about Ewan McGregor’s hair in films, and I’m sure Benjamin Light thought I was just joking. He probably – rightfully? – hoped that I was.

Scottish manes.I wasn’t. Thought Catalog was nice enough to publish a piece by me the other day: A Selection Of Films Rated On The Quality Of Ewan McGregor’s Hair In Them.”

Here’s the sad thing: I could have gone on and on, and in quite a big of greater detail than I did. Their might be a strange little e-book on this topic in the future so, you know, beware.

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At some point, I feel like I could write another piece (though a much shorter one) on the hair of prominent comic book writers, especially those in the Marvel bullpen. In short: They’re all bald! Sometimes they have the wall of hair on the side, a power move that I’m sure is called “The Captain Picard” in barber college. Sometimes they just go for the shave and shine, electing to try to convince us that they chose to shave their head, not that they were losing a war with genetics. (“Make it SO!”)

I can see you!

Oh well. These are the people who decide who of our favorite four color heroes will die (like Peter Parker recently) or get raped and stuffed in a refrigerator.

FYI: TV Tropes informs me that it is actually referred to as “Bald Of Awesome.”

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Benjamin Light informed me tonight that Ewan McGregor was rated as #5 on GQ‘s list of Most Stylish Men. I could tell you who was rated higher than him, but it’s bullshit. At least it wasn’t Michael Fassbender or Channing Tatum.

Men in suits.

Fucking Channing Tatum.

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The blog is just days away from ending!

And, as always, I’m going to ask and suggest that you check out our podcasts…

Podcasts!

Time Travel Murder Mystery is on a very short hiatus currently, but I imagine that you can expect new episodes again in early January. Meanwhile, Greedo Shot First, our Star Wars podcast for people who hate Star Wars fans, is still going strong. I believe that the subject of our next episode will be a rewatching of The Empire Strikes Back. The haircuts in that movie were really just so so.

I Got You Babe.

There’s no such thing as fresh starts because lives are always going on, or is there? Or are they? I don’t know, but I do know that you can always go home again, as long as your ex-wife hasn’t sold it, because it’s where the heart is (and perhaps where the head is not). That and maybe more as we talk about last night’s “Tomorrowland,” the season finale of Mad Men

August Bravo: No matter what we thought, well, maybe a little, or what we thought the writers might have thought, this episode, and season for that matter, was about Don Draper, or as some know him, Dick. Lives, businesses, relationships, friendships, and all those other ships we thought were sinking, didn’t. Like Marco told me earlier, this finale wasn’t as upbeat as last season’s. It showed slim promise and some possibilities, but didn’t leave you thinking, “What the fuck is going to happen next?”

Marco: Well, I’d definitely say it leaves you wondering what happens next, but more so than usual, I think you can guess what’s going to happen next and you’re worried that it may not be so great for the characters. Don, especially.

August: Don’s somewhat “redemption” was almost completely omitted from this episode making everyone believe that crises was averted or that it may play a role in his probably inevitable divorce with Megan. Is it Megan?

Marco: “Megan… out there?” as Roger puts it so perfectly. As Joan says, Don’s grinning like an idiot, as if he’s the first schmuck on Madison Avenue/in professional New York/the world to marry his secretary, but having Roger be surprised adds a very special symmetry, especially since Don’s pulling a Roger there, and it’s kind of weird.

Can you imagine the Don Draper version of Sterling’s Gold?

August: The somewhat reference that the rest of the cast ACTUALLY exists was finding out, which we thought we knew, but thought it might be too obvious, but I guess wasn’t, was that…

…Joan is in fact still pregnant.

Marco: I love that Mad Men is such a unique show that amongst it’s many other wonderful qualities, still has it’s own rhythms and ways of going about the rules of storytelling, counter to other popular ideas about narrative. There is a certain pattern you can expect from each season, we’ve finally learned, isn’t there?

It’s usually: The season starts with some intriguing signs of where the characters have landed since the previous season. Intriguing ideas and/or questions are brought up. Should they actually answer those questions, it’ll be in a relatively vague though still meaningful way. That question, which literally started off this season was: Who the fuck is Don Draper? We’ve gotten a multi-faceted answer to that, certainly.

From there, certain problems and dramatic conflicts will arise around mid-season. They’ll seem massive – Oh no, the government is about to discover that Don Draper is a liar and a deserter! – but will fizzle quickly, leaving you curious as to their placement at all. Certain things will pop up, which will make you suspect where the story is going – did Joan actually not get that abortion? – but you’ll think, “No, that’s far too obvious. They won’t go there.” They will, friends. Then, whatever the endgame of the season is, it won’t appear until the last two or three episodes and it will be an all consuming fire.

August: Except for Megan. That carrot was dangled in front of us and we’ve just been waiting for Don to take bite after bite after bite.

Marco: True. It’s funny how we believe certain things from this show. When Dr. Faye said to Don that he’s the kind of guy that would be married again within the year, I think we all believed that.

Though, of course, I don’t think I stand alone when I say that we hoped that it would be Dr. Faye that we hoped Don would end up with, or that she’d be the kind of partner he’d strive to find happiness with. The fact that she’s a feminist and someone who has pushed Don to accept himself, and possibly integrate his two personas as it were, didn’t hurt. She’s helped his business, helped his mind, and helped his soul, as it were, yet there’s certain things she couldn’t provide Don that seemed to really make him look elsewhere.

August: She couldn’t be a caregiver to his children while he was off doing whatever he wanted to. She’s the anti-Betty.

Marco: That and she couldn’t worship him the way Megan seemingly can. Plus, I think that as much as Don wants to be able to stop hiding and stop running from the spectre of Dick Whitman, a part of him enjoys the lies that come with the running and hiding. Don Draper is the greatest product he’s ever advertised, and with Megan, he can find a fresh start at that.

August: But Henry Francis says there are no fresh starts!

Marco: I can’t believe that Henry Francis has lingered this whole season.

Sadly, we’ve really dropped the ball this season, August and I, because there’s so much we could say about this episode, so much that needs to be said, but it all ties into this past season and that’s a dialogue that I’m incredibly sad that we haven’t had here at Counterforce. On behalf of us and directed at the three people who actually reads these Mad Men posts from us, I apologize. I had some shit going on and August didn’t have cable. And refused to buy the episodes on itunes. And couldn’t figure out megavideo.

from here.

August: You just knew where it was all going once Stephanie handed Don that engagement ring from the real Don Draper.

Marco: Oh, seriously. Chekhov might as well have come out to California with Don and the kids and fired that ring out of a gun right at Megan.

It’s funny that I posted this picture from Videogum the other day…

…and sadly it came so true, in a lot of ways, since we’re speaking of Megan and Dr. Faye and Sally and… Well, have we mentioned Sally yet? Cause if we haven’t, we should be talking about Sally this season, right?

August: We haven’t mentioned her yet.

from here.

Marco: Sally! I believe I kept mentioning in our conversations about the show last year how much I liked Sally’s character, how interesting I thought her storylines were, and I feel like that’s only been compounded on more wonderfully this season. Bobby’s still kind of useless, but I’m glad that Sally has really stepped forward and is becoming a real person, even at such a young age, though, again, it’ll be interesting to watch her grow into herself and who she’s going to be while still being the child of Don and Betty Draper.

Anyway, so that once picture: Sally telling Dr. Faye that she’s fired. Ha ha, funny. But kind of eerily prescient in a way, considering that episode, “The Beautiful Girls,” when I know that a lot of people read that one scene there, Benjamin Light included, as Sally kind of picking Megan out of the rest of the “beautiful girls” that surround her father. And maybe Don picked up on that.

I mean, we knew Don wanted to fuck Megan. That notion was exploding louder than bombs for a handful of episodes before it happened, but this picture from Videogum

…is kind of funny for how very accurate it had become.

August: I can’t write too much about this episode because in my head I’m still processing how to feel about it all. The bit I particularly enjoyed the most was Don telling Peggy that Megan(??) looked up to her, and had the same sort of spark, and Peggy being completely jealous. Maybe Peggy will be wife number 3 (or is it number 4??) Her childlike jealousy really made this episode. To see Don slowly turning into Roger (maaaaybe), or to see the evolution of Betty, and I guess Peggy’s, unhappiness/jealousy, or maybe Megan’s (yes, it is Megan) slow transition into the life of being Mrs. Draper/Whitman will be the most interesting thing to watch next season.

Marco: I don’t trust Megan. Well, no, that’s not true. But she’s very manipulative. And Jessica Paré is, I think, very good at playing that so subtly. Megan’s incredibly smart, but dumb and silly in all those ways that a 25 year old would seem or should see to a 40 year old man who should know better – though Don has two addictions in his life: women and the sauce - but it’s not hard to see the way she’s worked the situation with Don to her advantage.

That’s not particularly insidious because all stabs at romance are some form of manipulation, if you think about it, no matter how well intentioned and wholesome they seem. But she’s told Don exactly what he needs or wants to hear, especially that she doesn’t care about his past, just who he is now. For a man who’s finally started to accept that he has all his life ahead of him, what he really wants to do is live in the now. Especially with a girl like Megan, who seems to adore him, but I think will be much better at getting what she wants or deserves than Betty was.

Maybe this really will be “happily ever after” for Don, but I doubt it. But really, it’s not the happily ever after I would’ve picked for this character. I suspect that he’s traded in one “lost weekend” phase for perhaps another? But let’s face it, Don’s not a guy who will get a classical happily ever after, is he? He’s too prone to a life of solemn remorse.

That said, I would disagree with your take on Peggy. Jealousy? Maybe. But I think that was a very, very small part of that look she gave Don. I think if we could’ve heard her thoughts or seen them in a comic book word bubble floating over her head, they would’ve read as: ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? HER?! HUH? WHAT?

But Peggy’s defined her life by Don to a lot of degrees. She has, in her own small way, just saved the agency by finally signing some new business, no matter how small, and here’s Don, her mentor, running around like an idiot. And his comment to Peggy about how Megan reminds him a lot of her is the ultimate slap in the face for a great many reasons. For a season that contained the show’s best episode, “The Suitcase,” in which Don and Peggy finally bond in kind of a real way, it was kind of hard to watch their interaction this year end like this.

But, that scene with Joan and Peggy immediately after was perfect. A Joan/Peggy show? I’d watch that. I hope that next season shows those two really claiming some of the power around SCDP (or will it just be SDP?) that they more than rightfully deserve.

August: I think this season had a lot of ups and downs, but mostly ups. Overwhelmingly ups. Like I said, the storyline I’m most interested in for the next year is the stuff with Don and Megan, should Don and Megan really work out. They didn’t leave us with a lot of answers this season, but we maybe that’s because we were all asking too many questions.

Marco: I think you’re right about that. The status quo’s been changed, some things and people are gone, and some are still with us, just amplified. We think we’re ready for what tomorrow will bring, but we have no idea. Just like Don there, we’re laying awake in the dark with a near stranger sleeping beside us as stare out at the night.

Tomorrow, part one: For a better way…

“Politics is bullshit.”

The other day I completed the same ritual I do every four years: watching The Candidate, the 1972 Michael Ritchie movie starring Robert Redford and Pete Boyle about how the political machine works.

Even being over a quarter of a century old, this movie still feels relevant to me. Probably because the system hasn’t really changed all that much in the decades since it was just released, just got faster and slicker. And you could make the argument that while a lot of us got smarter and savvier, a good deal more of us let ourselves become stupid and lazier.

The plot is simple: Boyle’s character is the democratic operative who’s tasked with the unwinnable mission of unseating a popular Republican senator from California. Knowing that he absolutely can’t win, he seeks out Bill McCkay, Robert Redford’s character, the good looking son of a former governor who couldn’t care less about politics, and instead works as a lawyer for liberal causes. But Boyle’s hard sell to Redford’s character isn’t all that hard: He can’t win, everyone knows that the Republican will win, so therefore he can out there and say whatever he wants and to a much larger audience than he has now.  Mckay accepts, but on the condition that he can say whatever he wants and that he can keep his father, whom he’s had a falling out with, out of the campaign and do this on his own.

From the get go, his political staff is crafting him to be  your typical candidate with cheesy commercials designed to make their opponent look old and out of touch, and ridiculous slogans that don’t mean anything (“McKay: The Better Way”), but McKay sticks to his guns delivering speeches about things no one wants to talk about like abortion rights, welfare, and environmental regulations. He easily wins the primary (no one else is stupid enough to run in it), and then realizes through his polling projections that he’ll get destroyed in the general election. Losing is one thing, but being flat out humiliated is another and at this point, he can’t back out.

So as they get closer to election day, McKay starts playing the game. His liberal statements erode away and his speeches become nothing but the same old clichés and empty statements as everyone else. He ignores what’s in his heart and follows what he’s told to do. But then he has a new problem: Since his father has stayed out of the campaign up to this point, the media takes that as a silent endorsement of the opponent. McKay goes to his father to make a comment to the contrary, but his simple statement that he doesn’t endorse the republican only makes it worse. Regardless, McKay is still moving up in the polls, not by much, but enough that his opponent is getting concerned and agrees to a debate.

The debate itself is a pretty sad affair, with prepared answers and generic barbs being traded. But right as it’s ending, McKay’s conscience forces him to let out an outburst about how nothing was said in the debate, how none of the real issues such as race and poverty were addressed, and his campaign staff is mortified. This could cost him the election by making him look liked a hot headed nut job, but it’s saved at the last moment as his father shows up and gives him a loud and resounding endorsement, so that the media only reports the reemeergence of the father and not on McKay’s political gaffe.

The day of the election comes and the vote is gotten out. There’s a nice little montage of some of the tactics employed, such as getting the homeless to vote with the promise of free booze, and McKay is left with the fact that he’s completely sold out his values for political victory. I’m going to spoil the ending for you here and tell you that he wins. But it’s a confusing victory and in the movie’s famous last scene, McKay pulls the Peter Boyle character away from everyone else to ask him simply, “What do we do now?” But before Boyle can answer, the throngs of their overjoyous supporters and the excited media show up, hungry for celebration in the heat of their victory and McKay never gets his answer.

The movie could use a remake because of how raw and unpolished it is, but that’s part of what makes it feel so authentic. And it does feel real, with the campaign’s heavy emphasis on image and wealth and almost hated chagrin of substance. It almost feels like it’s painted out a majority of how politics has played out since then (McKay is apparently having an affair with a supporter at one point, just to show that even idealistic men all have vices, it would seem). I remember reading that Redford was considering a sequel/remake back around 2000, but sadly nothing’s come of the talk.

Oh, and Dan Quayle has been quoted as saying that this film is one of the reasons he went into politics.

But then there’s the thesis of the movie: Politics is bullshit. It’s what Redford’s character tells Peter Boyle’s character at the start of the film when he realizes what he wants from him. What do you think? Is politics bullshit? Personally, I’d say yes, it is, but only about 60% of the time. Real, honest change for the better can be accomplished by people who actually want it and strive to make it happen. And by you when you vote. Think your vote is meaningless? Frustrated because yours is just a small drop in a large pond? Well, it is. But you’re still in that pond. It’s still your fault if someone comes and takes a piss in that pond and you don’t do anything to try and stop them. Or, as William E. Simon said, “bad politicians are sent to Washington by good people who don’t vote.”