Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Mad Men & Scientists

What's in a soap? Would a certain award winning American television series created by Matthew Weiner smell as sweet by any other name? What is this thing called Mad Men and have we analysed the cr*p out of it yet? Cynicism aside, as a child of the '70s, born far, far away from Madison Avenue geographically and culturally, I cannot be but fascinated/ shocked/ absorbed by Mad Men. Even now that I have looked beyond the style and the music, pondered the historical period and the fact that my parents' generation came of age in the same, strange, post-war mixture of excitement about and terror of tomorrow - even now this series continues to put its spell on me.
Christina Hendricks in Mad Men
Image from ephemerist

A note to an ex-colleague: I forgive you. In 2008, during tea break, you rolled your eyes at me when I asked "What's Madman?" to catch up with the general flurry of a conversation that was going on all around me. I forgive the eye rolling. I still resent having to go and google it later that day because you didn't answer verbally...

If you, reader, are still in the mollycoddled cave of escapist antitellyism, as I was a few years ago, you will have heard about the series by now if you read the papers, or anything, really. And you, too, may have been amazed to hear that the lifestyle Don Draper and his colleagues follow is not the slightest bit snazzed up: no, like many of the ad campaigns shown in the series, the life is for real (4real? Excuse me, I haven't quite caught up with the times yet). A book by one of the original ad men of Madison Avenue, Jerry della Femina, goes into much detail about the booze, the fags and the, er, ladies. (Read his German interview with the paper Die Zeit or the Guardian article if you're interested, but not so keen as to buy the book).

Doris Day in Lover Come Back (1961)
Image via Daily Mail

But memory is a funny creature, wriggling imperceptibly like a kitten to squeeze events and their meaning into every nook and cranny of the imagination and make them fit. If only we knew what the '60s ad machinery looked like from a closer perspective, say, the '60s... I had hankered after an alternative perspective for, oh, probably days when I came across Lover Come Back, a comedy starring Rock Hudson (woo hoo!) and Doris Day, first shown on a big screen near you in 1961. The plot is as simple as it is (I would soon discover) annoying: Rock Hudson's Jerry Webster is an ad man who lives the life (yes, indeed) we know from Mad Men: smokes, drinks, kissies and more. On his way to work on a rainy NYC day he splashes Doris Day's Carol Templeton, and out-of-work computer operator [note: the movie is worth seeing for its technicolor take on ginormous machines and the girls who work them]. Jerry sends one of his minions to apologise, mix-ups happen, and in an annoyingly "that's what we all wanted" sort of way, eventually, boy gets girl (and girl gets idiot). Twee fun for the whole family, perhaps. But read on.

Image from Wikipedia

Just like Mad Men, Lover Come Back caught my brain more than I had anticipated, thanks to the figure of a scientist hired by Jerry to develop a product; any product, in fact, that will go with an ad campaign he already created (without a product at hand) to impress a busty blonde. Its name is "VIP", and the nobel prize winning scientist is hired to create something fabulous that will go by this name. Incidentally, the '60s social perception of scientists is not far off the stereotypical media image we all have etched into our brains from countless photos and movies: white lab coats, glass vessels with colourful, steaming liquids, explosions, and of course the mad scientist himself: unkempt, uncouth, uncanny. Eventually he comes up with a mint which intoxicates three times faster than alcohol. Both Carol and Jerry try it and end up in bed together, waking up to a surprising morning - and (luckily?) married the previous night, as the certificate on the bedside table tells us viewers as we stare in disbelief. Marriage annulled and drunken love birds separated by many miles, Carol finds she is pregnant. When Jerry finally finds out she is mid-labour, and they both agree it's the best thing to get married again. Happy end? I won't drink to that.

Mad chemists in Lover Come Back
Image from dustedoff.wordpress.com

As the short closing credits crawled across the screen (of course, the movie was made when opening credits carried all vital information and reading speeds were not what they are today, or perhaps when people really bothered readint who actually made the film) I was, nevertheless, at peace with myself and the movie: just like scientists do not work chaotically amidst colourful bangs and stinks, and just like modern day ad agencies do not create genius out of cancer-inducing orgies, no woman would be happy to get the boy who splashes her, undermines her professional career, thinks he can buy her, knocks her up in drunken stupor, and marries her just because she is carrying his child. Phew. Or is it? Please don't say anything now. I think I'll go back to watching the comparatively cheerful version of the advertising industry, circa half a century ago, that is Mad Men...

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Pictures Of An Exhibition

Unsealed - The Letters of Bess of Hardwick is now open to the public at Hardwick Hall.
Join the crowds to learn more about Bess...
...and other faces familiar and unfamiliar.

And while you're at it, let me know what you think!

I'm still recovering from the birthing process, but will be back with more news this weekend. Thanks for indulging my exhibitionista side for these past few months!

Yours faithfully,

Yours Truly

Monday, 4 April 2011

The Blog Thickens

The exhibition is nearly upon us, and since exhibitions are all about experiences, excellence and excitement, this post will appeal to some senses usually neglected by ye olde blogging game.


Stop
This exhibition is on the letters of Bess of Hardwick, a formidable dynast of the 16th century whose life experiences will make anyone's brain boggle. Or, to put it into the words of the official blurb:



Dukes and spies; queens and servants; friends and lovers – all of the Elizabethan world populates the letters of Bess of Hardwick. Bess herself wrote hundreds of letters throughout her life: they were her lifeline to her travelling children and husbands, to the court at London, and to news from the world at large. And when she moved to Hardwick Hall in the final years of her life, the old countess received current news and gossip into her house through her correspondence.

Unsealed presents the world of Bess of Hardwick’s letters to the public for the first time. This exhibition lets Bess and her correspondents tell their stories in their own words. See her life, her loves, intrigue and passions unfold – visit Unsealed at Hardwick Hall.

Unsealed – The Letters of Bess of Hardwick. Coming to Hardwick Hall in April 2011.
Look




Listen
You, dear readers, are the first to have a listen to the podcasts for this exhibition. Go to www.bessofhardwick.org/listen and listen your dear little hearts out:


Unsealed: The Podcasts

1          The Many Faces of Bess of Hardwick (5:32)
2          Who’s Who in Bess’s Address Book (6:33)
3          Details on Lifestyle (3:55)
4          Stories from Bess’s Bedchamber (6:42)
5          A Peek into Bess’s Parcels (5:13)


Bonus podcast: Unsealed: A Look Behind the Scenes (11:53)

To be enjoyed with ale and mince pies. See you soon at Hardwick Hall!