Daily Archives: March 30, 2011

12 posts

Chicks Arrive at Mom’s House

chicks in box
This is the box they traveled in from Ohio to Fairfield, CT

All dozen egg layers arrived safely and soundly.  I received a call at 7:15 a.m. from my lovely postmaster this morning who begged me to pick up the express mailed chicks because the peep peep noise was already driving her nuts.  I was happy to oblige as the chicks were overnighted to me moments after hatching, placed in a straw-lined box (8″x10″)and shipped to me.  These chicks would huddle together for warmth in their trip from Ohio to Newark to Fairfield, CT.  They needed water, food and most importantly HEAT.

They were very cold, thirsty and hungry when they arrived.   Chickens aren’t the brightest creatures.  They need to be shown how to eat and drink.  Immediately upon getting them home, I pick each one up and place her in the preheated box that will be there home for the next week or so.  I then must grab them, one by one, and literally shove their beaks into the waterer.   I only need to do it to about half of them and then the rest figure it out.  Lemmings.  Same goes for food.  I have to ‘force’ their heads into the feeder and by the time half of them figure it out, the rest join in the meal.

brooderBaby chicks need to be at 95 plus degrees for the first week.  I accomplish this by creating what is a brooder.  My initial brooder is simply a cardboard box I picked up at Trader Joe’s the day before and it is heated by an infrared bulb.  I place newspapers on the bottom and then top it with paper towels.  Eventually, I will replace the paper towels with wood shavings once the chicks get the hang of eating their chick crumble. As the weeks go on, the temperature of the brooder will go down 5 degrees each week.  I adjust the temp by moving the infrared bulb further from the brooder.  These chicks will grow rapidly and will within a week or so outgrow the box from Trader Joe’s.  I will be on the look out for a bigger box.  I probably will be heading to Bed, Bath and Beyond.

Each of the chicks are about 1.5 oz currently.  They are approximately 2 inches tall.  Here they are in the coop next to an egg carton for a point of reference.

….and this is what they will eventually do:  lay eggs.  One of my Auracanas laid this baby today.   Not sure which one did it, but I suspect she is now walking bow-legged. They have had a bit of a shock so I haven’t manhandled them too much today.  Tomorrow, each of them will be properly named and I will post pics of each chick w/her name.

Canadians Can Now Be Told by the Internet How they Feel about Politics

The CBC has released a new online tool that allows Canadians (or anyone) to answer some multiple choice questions and be told what party they should belong to. The Vote Compass tool asks how the user feels or how they would change 30 hot button issues.  The answers are tabulated and the tool assigns the user to a likely political party and shows their leanings on a graph of social and economic conservatism or liberalism.

As you can see the questions are not exactly nuanced in all cases and lean toward the blunt since they need to suss out a person’s political views in short order.  The tool is written in Adobe Flash so don’t bother using your elitist iPad to try to access it.

Once you’ve filled out all the questions in your choice of English or Français you’re told which party you need to start politely telling your friends about.

You can then tell the world where you stand with one click of the Facebook share button.


Thanks to Deadlist Sin (an actual Canadian, unlike me) we now learn that the liberal bias in the media is a real thing.  Even people who consider themselves conservative are being labeled as liberals by the CBC.

Source: El Reg.

Investing in Your Favorite Bands’ Future

As the mainstream music industry feebly attempts to hang on to some semblance of its past glory days, many bands and artists are opting to cut out the middleman and go directly to their fans to provide financial backing for their future album releases.  Using sites such as PledgeMusic or Kickstarter, musicians are able to make their case to fans and others who are interested in helping cover the costs associated with recording an album — booking studio time, distribution, promotional efforts, and so on. Beyond the financial, some bands are also reaching out to their fanbase to provide inspiration for songs in the form of words, artwork, or sound effects.

Helping an artist finance their next album usually comes with perks such as having advance access to music, bonus tracks, or having your name listed in the liner notes. Of course, there’s the simple personal gratification you’d feel in assisting a band get their music out to the masses.

Gregory Douglass:
I first learned of Gregory a few years back after seeing the video for his song, “Hang Around,” on TV one evening. I quickly downloaded the song from iTunes. Shortly thereafter, I returned to purchase the rest of his music. Back in 2009, I hosted a house concert where Gregory performed in my home for me and a group of my friends. His voice is simply amazing and I can’t help but cheer the guy on. Gregory has been holding weekly concerts streamed online and making appeals for fans to contribute to helping fund his next album, Lucid.

The Damnwells:
This is a band that needs to be heard by many more people. Their last album, One Last Century, was made available to the world for free. The band’s latest release, No One Listens to the Band Anymore, was just released on March 15, however, those who were financial backers via PledgeMusic, received early access to the album in addition to bonus songs and special access to a concert stream.

Imogen Heap:
At shows during her last world tour, Imogen Heap raised money for local charities by creating and recording a song at each show and making it available for purchase on her website. Even better, the audience was part of creating the song. At the show I attended, someone yelled out C sharp for the key and another person provided the general melody. From there, Imogen created a song.  Perhaps using that experience as inspiration, fans were able to contribute words, sounds and/or melodies that would be reviewed and used to create a new song — the first song created for her new album.

As Imogen culled through the submissions, fans were able to watch via Ustream as she reviewed them and built a song. The result is “Lifeline.” It’s also worth noting that the submissions used in the song will receive credit on her album as well as receive compensation.

The Seven Best Songs from Boston (the City)

The epicenter of  more than 50 institutions of higher learning with a population of over 150,000 college and grad students, Boston has been inspiring and incubating musicians and bands ever since the early days of rock ’n’ roll, starting with the Standells, who weren’t even really a Boston band but a Cali group who recorded what’s probably still the most emblematic Boston song of all, the 1966 classic “Dirty Water”

I’ll get the ball rolling with half-dozen of my favorites (in some cases I actually was lucky enough to meet a few of these people) but if you don’t have at least one favorite Band in Boston, you must be brain-dead. So crank up the volume, blast that first power chord. And “One two three four five six seven …”

“Roadrunner” by Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers: an iconic Boston tune, replete with shout-outs to Stop’n’Shop and Route 128. This is perfect highway music, simple yet driving rhythms overlaid with Richman’s unmistakable stuffed-sinus  voice – it’s also one of very few JR&ML songs that’s not flat-out off-the-wall: “Abominable Snowman in the Supermarket,” “I’m a Little Dinosaur,” and “Dodge Veg-o-Matic” are much more characteristic. (I met Richman a few times; to call him “fey” is to understate the effect by several orders of magnitude, but his band’s music was and remains more seminal than many people recognize.)

Interestingly, “Roadrunner” is basically lifted from the Velvets’ “Sister Ray” though in place of Lou Reed’s typically Warholian, debauched detachment, Richman achieves a weird earnestness in his paean to the Turnpike. Joan Jett, the Sex Pistols, and Yo La Tengo are among other rockers who’ve covered this propulsive song.


“Funk (All Over the Place)” by Duke and the Drivers: a legendary BU party band with a tight-knit following, DatD coalesced in the early 70’s and still play the occasional reunion concert. If you like blues, r&b, and irresistibly danceable roadhouse music and get one of the ever-rarer opportunities to catch Duke, jump at the chance. Back in the day they toured with the likes of Lou Reed, Steely Dan, the NY Dolls, and ZZ Top, among others.  (I’ve had the unlikely pleasure of meeting the shadowy Duke, whose doppelgänger in life and onstage alike is a longtime friend of your humble correspondent. The Duke is also known as André Marine, plutocrat, philosopher and bon vivant.


“Voice of America’s Sons” by the Beaver Brown Band: Fronted by John Cafferty, later the eminence grise of Creedence Clearwater Revival, Beaver Brown  isn’t strictly speaking a Boston band – they actually hailed from nearby Narragansett, Rhode Island. If you’ve ever heard of them you’re probably a fan of 1983’s cult sleeper Eddie and the Cruisers, for which Cafferty and Beaver Brown wrote the music. This particular song was used on the soundtrack of a Stallone cheesefest called Cobra — I like it for its bombast … naturally mixed with anti-war sentiments: this is New England, after all.


“My Best Friend’s Girlfriend” by The Cars: One of yours truly’s all-time favorite songs, from one of the great New Wave bands ever, Ric Ocasek’s Cars (a name suggested by former Modern Lover David Robinson, also a member of The Cars’ original lineup.) What Abba was to disco, so were The Cars to late-70s and early-80s guitar-synth garage-bands, a juggernaut of catchy, hooky, quirky songs that became hits one after another, from “Just What I Needed” to “You Are the Girl,” their last real blockbuster, in 1987. Ocasek and guitarist Benjamin Orr first met in Ohio but moved to Boston to break into the music business … by the time they were done, Cobain and Nirvana had covered this very song. Weezer too.


“Walkin’ Blues“ by Bonnie Raitt: Back in the days of which I write, Bonnie Raitt had just dropped out of Radcliffe to play blues guitar round Boston’s clubs; her father was a Broadway star, and she herself would become a pioneering woman in the boys’ club of top-flight traditional slide and bottleneck  bluesmen. “Walkin’ Blues” dates from her eponymous first album (1971); this song  was written and first performed by the legendary Robert Johnson , who sold his soul to the Devil at the “Crossroads” in return for the meteoric musical career that blazed across the blues firmament for scarcely six years in the 1930’s – and made him the guitar gods’ guitar god. The second of these videos captures not one but two guitar goddesses — Bonnie and EmmyLou Harris — singing backup for Lowell George and Little Feat.


“Centerfold” by J. Geils Band: When I tended bar in a local saloon, Peter Wolf used to come in fairly often and hang out.  Many people believe that Peter is J. Geils but he’s not – Peter was the front man, for sure, but J. Geils is actually the guitarist. [insert: JPeter.jpg] Amazingly, the band’s first sign of life was as a mid-Sixties combo called “Snoopy and the Sopwith Camels;” they hit their stride when Peter joined, and “Centerfold” is probably their biggest hit — six weeks at #1 on the Billboard Top 100. The video rocks, too.

Peter was (still is, I’m sure) a very interesting guy: a renowned, very accomplished painter who studied under Norman Rockwell as a kid; when I rubbed shoulders with him he hadn’t yet married Faye Dunaway, but at that time he had not long before been roommates with surrealist filmmaker David Lynch at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. Lynch threw him out for “being too weird,” which has gotta tell you something if David Lynch thinks that about you.


“Digging for Fire” by The Pixies: This song, especially, could be mistaken for David Byrne in the early days of Talking Heads, but the Pixies are figuratively speaking the Boston-based younger sibs of the New York New-Wave crew who made second homes at CBGB and the Mudd Club. Formed in 1986, the Pixies are a bit after my time, but no list however brief of Boston bands could omit them. Critics award them substantial influence over the alternative-rock world of the 1990s, Kurt Cobain was a fan, and … and …

Black Francis (or Frank Black or his actual original name Charles Thompson IV) is the lead singer and main songwriter. Radiohead, U2, and the Strokes cite the Pixies with admiration, and no less a figure than David Bowie declared that the Pixies made “just about the most compelling music of the entire 80s”. Since then the Pixies have broken up and reformed several times.


So there you have it, boys and girls. Let’s give it up for Boston. Or, as Jonathan Richman put it:

Already been to Paris

Already been to Rome

What did I do but miss my ho-ome?

O-oh New England!


April Fools Day Survival Guide

One of the most important days of the year is coming up soon, but enough about Amanda Bynes’ birthday. In a couple of days it will be April Fools Day, and many of you will either be looking for ideas for the next great prank or for protection from the next great prank. If you’re not, why not? Even such a cool guy as Johnny Depp is said by his co-stars to be fond of a remote-controlled fart machine on April 1. Either way, here’s some inspiration.

The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest

The benchmark April Fools prank. Highly respected British news program Panorama, in 1957, runs a full-length feature on the Swiss spaghetti harvest including “footage” of workers picking spaghetti off trees. The BBC was inundated by callers asking where they could get their own spaghetti tree. Scary thing is, if you ran the same program today, #spaghettitree would be a trending topic on Twitter within the hour. You know it’s true.

“Put stockings over your faces to protect yourselves!”

So said New Zealand radio announcer Phil Shone, solemnly telling morning commuters a huge swarm of wasps was descending and they needed to take precautions to avoid being stung. Anecdotal evidence is that hundreds if not thousands of people arrived at work with stockings dutifully pulled over their faces.

Because New Zealand is populated mostly by sheep, I have this amusing mental picture of a sheep driving a car wearing a stocking over its face, looking for all the world like an armed baaaaandit. Sorry.

The Left-Handed Whopper

In 1998, Burger King (perhaps inspired by a certain Simpsons episode… which I see aired in 1991, making me feel really old) announced the first burger designed for left-handers, with all the ingredients rotated by 180 degrees to make it easier to grasp in the left hand. Once again, people bought a whopper. Or tried to.

What makes it more interesting is the people who came in demanding to buy a RIGHT-HANDED whopper and none of this lefty crap. Yes, really.

The Office



I don’t know about you, but when I think of wacky pranks, I think of German luxury car-makers. Things like making a satnav that constantly wants to direct you over the border into Poland! Wait, no, that was Jeremy Clarkson.

Anyway, it’s true. BMW take their April Fools pranks very seriously, and run April Fools ads every year all around the world.

A couple of years ago they stuck a Mini Cooper to the wall of a skyscraper in Sydney to back up their April Fools prank of anti-gravity parking. Like I said, they take it seriously.

One of my all-time favorites was in 2006 for a hands-free car, with no wheel, driveable on either side of the road. The UK version of the ad can be found here.

Notice that BMW faithfully keep up the tradition of the joke name in their joke articles: Herr Huhr-Huhr and Uwe Vollervitt indeed.

Late for Work

Ingredients needed:
1 co-worker or subordinate in need of pranking
1 home phone number

Simple. Call co-worker at home maybe 45 minutes before they’re meant to get to work, and tell them they’re late for work, where the hell are they? All the better if they have an important meeting or presentation to do first thing.

If they have an iPhone, you can mention that an iPhone alarm bug was reported on the radio this morning and express sympathy that they’ve been screwed by it. This is particularly believable because it has really happened. Twice.

Important! Call back a few minutes later, after they’ve put their underwear on backwards out of panic, to tell them it’s a prank and they can relax. Because you’ll feel horrible if they sped to work and crashed and died, won’t you?

My High School

And finally: my love for April Fools Day began at High School, where we had something of a tradition of pranking the school. One of my favorites was the time we got a well known breakfast radio DJ to call the principal, live on air, to ask about a “breaking sex scandal” involving three of her students. The “three” was the genius touch- when dealing with a person on their guard, it’s that extra bit of hysteria which gets you over the line.

What are your favorite April Fools pranks, whether played by you or played on you?

Flames… On the Side of My Face!!!


What do you do when someone just sends you into a white-hot rage? The answer is: it depends. Sometimes you abruptly resign, file divorce papers, or toss some cash on the restaurant table and quietly but quickly leave. These can be very satisfying savers of your sanity, though divorces always make me a little sad.

Most times, though, you try to work it out. How much effort you put into this depends a lot on you and your temperament. Hotheads and angermonkeys need to put things in check, which is reinforced by our society. They blow up; get it out, sometimes leaving carnage but at least protect themselves. But what of those of us who are, say, passionate emotionally but behaviorally overcivilized? We – I’m one of these – have a tendency to let our anger build up to intolerable levels, and then snap. Sometimes we internalize it, taking it out on the wrong people, or letting it affect our health. Most insomniacs and heavy drinkers are wired this way. The snapping phase can be epic. If you are known for not raising your voice or cursing, it gets a LOT of attention when you finally do.

That’s good. No one wants to be married to Barnacle Bill. But there’s more. I’ve learned a thing or two about this subject. If you’re known as being even-keeled, and you sometimes feel like your emotional schooner is named Poseidon and Fergie is flying upside down through the ballroom, hear me.

Protect yourself. Your reputation is not worth the cost of your emotional health. Do a few healthy things to address your immediate state of mind. Take a bath, go for a run, talk it out with your kitty. (Not a loved one at this point. You will seem whiny and they will interrupt with questions. Kitties and doggies were invented because they just listen and don’t judge.) Resist the urge to self-medicate by re-creating Valley Of The Dolls or sitting alone in the dark guzzling wine. It doesn’t help.

Calm now? Good. No one expects you to be Sweet Susie Sunshine at this point – you’re still mad. Now is the time to grab a pad and list what you plan to do about the issue. Taking action restores your sense of control over the situation. Some examples:

  • The Office Bully / Underminer: Gets reported to the CEO or other management as appropriate, with documented instances and facts to back you up.  If nothing is done, it’s a trip to HR.  And if nothing is still done – you quit.  Finding another job first is best, obviously.
  • Bitchy Cousin Hazel: Ruins every family event with gossip, slander and bigotry.  It’s almost like she can’t help it.  Maybe she can’t.  But you’re sick of it, you don’t want your spouse and kids subjected to it, and it’s not a quirk you can stand anymore.  Cut her. Explain to her with specific examples why you’re taking a break from hosting her at Easter – “You know, Hazel, this is hard for me to say, but celebrating the risen Christ isn’t easy with your frequent use of the n-bomb at the table and speculating that people who aren’t there go to sex clubs.  We can’t do it anymore.”  Repeated requests should be met with “I’m so sorry, we just can’t.”
  • The Manipulator: Your friend Karen is more fun than a barrel of monkeys and sweeter than a nest of baby bluebirds.  But she never has her wallet when you go out, and her car is always in the shop.  She borrows books and clothes and doesn’t return them.  Now she’s asking for money.  Don’t, unless you consider it a gift.  You’ll never see it again, and her doe-eyed mental trips to Someplace Else when you ask about it will just get further and further away.  See above: “I’m so sorry, I just can’t.”  You don’t have to explain why.  She knows already.

So! Now you have a plan, and you’re about to implement it. Here are your biggest hurdles to get over: you want to be liked, and you hate chaos and disorder. It’s really very simple. Not everyone is going to like you. That’s just reality, babe, and you know we all love you here anyway. Plus, the chaos and disorder that result from this confrontation may not matter much in a very short time. This is where your beloved comes in. He or she should be backing you up 100%. You should always present a united front, and if this requires a weepy phone call from a stairwell or multiple hugs, you have every right to expect them. As for your friends? Wise sage Miss Manners (aka Judith Martin) spake thusly: “Your best friend is the person who convinces you that the unbearable is in fact bearable because it is also funny.” I want to buy that gal a Gibson. Now go and do what needs doing.

Aftermath: This may be slightly messy, but you may bask in the twin satisfactions of Doing The Best You Could and Not Taking Any Shit.

Repeat. Over and over, all the days of your life.  Your heart, your mind and your spouse will thank you for it.

Yes, I quit my job, and yes, I gave no notice, and yes, I told the CEO why.  It wasn’t exactly news; he was in on the joke from the outset.  The Cap’n has my back.  And I’ve got several irons in the fire from the flames on the side of my face. No worries, kittens.  And I hope this post helped some of you.

ETA: I’ve now been told by my erstwhile assistant that he is quitting also, that they can’t replace me with the salary on offer, and that “”Betty” really brought us to the next level.” is being bandied about the office.  Heh. Heh-heh-heh.

Time Machine Book Review: The Timothy Files and Timothy’s Game

The Timothy Files, Lawrence Sanders, 1987, Berkley Books
Timothy’s Game, Lawrence Sanders, 1988, Berkley Books

When the term Private Investigator comes up in conversation, everyone has a touchstone. Whether it’s Magnum P.I. or Sam Spade, the overall tradition has been of a man who is pithy, good with the ladies, drinks, smokes, and kills, albeit reluctantly and usually in self defense.

Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Timothy Cone.

Although he’s a private detective and fits the bill of stereotypes, he’s not pithy. In fact, he’s the only detective who has forced me keep a dictionary handy to translate his verbosity during the reading of Lawrence Sanders’ wonderfully funny and unfortunately too short series of 2 books containing 3 short stories each.

Timothy Cone works for Haldering & Co. a Manhattan Wall Street firm that investigates clients for buyouts and mergers. Pretty dull stuff in theory, until the murder, sex, (the stories take place in the 1980’s, so there is a lot of cocaine and some ebullient wife-swapping) and thievery of the clients make the books difficult to put down. With plots that are so realistic they can awaken the felon a reader never knew they inwardly possessed, (I know now how to commit insider trading if it was 30 years ago).  The books “The Timothy Files” and “Timothy’s Game” have intricate descriptions of Manhattan when it was still dirty and dangerous, with mind-numbingly intelligent plots that make these short stories some of the best mysteries I have ever read. And re-read. And still laughed out loud at, 16 years after I read them for the first time. But the best thing, is the is the dialogue. (And the fact that when Cone leaves his apartment he orders his cat, Cleo not to masturbate while he is gone.)

Cones’ description of his romantic interest Samantha Watling, (his boss): “an iron fist in an iron glove.”

About a briefcase full of papers he has to carry home: “I lugged the blivet down here.” *

Admiring an attractive woman: “What a dish! He suddenly remembers a gyrene** buddy of his spotting a similar woman on the street and remarking admiringly, ‘all you need with that is a spoon and a straw.'”

A sergeant he’s working a case with, who constantly bums cigarettes: “I’m trying to quit smoking by not buying cigarettes. Now I’m going to die a mooch with lung cancer.”

To a libidinous older police detective he’s eating lunch with: “Your a dirty old man.” “Well, I was a dirty young man, I haven’t changed.”

These stories are fast paced, daring, and the perfect mix of noir and humor. And I haven’t loaned one out without the person becoming a convert. A girlfriend who’s never read a mystery, a friend before he was shipped to Iraq, a theater production designer – they all came back raving and quoting the book randomly over drinks.

Timothy Cone can make friends among the most diverse groups of people.

I’m not a fan of Lawrence Sanders’ ‘Deadly Sin’ series, or any of his other books actually. They never captured my interest. But, to re-work that stupid Jerry Maguire quote into the ground in regard to Timothy Cone, “He had me at scragged.” ***

* blivet – 10 pounds of shit in a 5 pound bag
**gyrene – a member the US Marine Corps
*** scragged – killed

Mad Men: Say Goodbye to Your Favorite Cast Member?

What’s worse than hearing that one of your favorite shows is delayed for a year because of money squabbles between the “suits” that run the studio, the show creator, and the network? Well, how about the mind-boggling reasons behind the squabbles. It’s one thing to think the cause is some amorphous, “We think the show is great, now we want to figure out who gets what cut of the profit” reason. We expect this kind of behind-the-scenes dealings. And we’re willing to put up with it, since we know Hollywood is a grubby little greed-field full of hungry muskrats. But when the reasons bleed into the integrity of the show…well, that’s a whole other bag of bad.

Reports reveal that the continuing standoff between show creator Matt Weiner, AMC, and Lionsgate Television, is centered on a few main points. AMC/Lionsgate is asking for: integrating more product placement into the series, cutting 2 minutes from each episode’s running time in favor of more commercials and eliminating/reducing two regular cast members to save money. To which Weiner has basically said, “That’s some crazy shit that I’ll never agree to.” Considering what’s on the table if the deal goes through, this is an interesting position to take. He stands to make $30 million over two years and become the highest-paid showrunner on basic cable. Is he really this altruistic? Is he really putting the integrity of the show above his own desires for economic success? Well, for now it would seem that way.

And it’s not any wonder. We can tell that the show is a labor of love for Weiner. Granted the series is expensive to produce and the ratings still wouldn’t classify the show as a bonafide hit in the sense that Two and a Half Men is a bonafide hit (And I say this to make a point. Watch Mad Men folks). Invariably, the show struggles every season. But, the reason why it’s critically acclaimed and an award-winning program is the authenticity, the keen attention to detail, and the well-crafted artistic vision and workmanship Weiner has strived for. He knows that he has something worth its salt, and selling it out for cheap…well, that’s not in the cards for him at this moment. But it does make one wonder what AMC is thinking about their flagship series.

“This is their storied franchise, and they want it shorter and cheaper, with fewer actors and more product integration,” an insider said. “The negotiations are about to collapse as a result.”

Reps claim the negotiations are still underway, and Tuesday, in a bold move, AMC announced that the fifth season is slated to premiere in March of 2012 despite not having a deal with Weiner. This would be a clear deviation from the approach taken two years ago when similar negotiations occurred. AMC wanted 2 minutes of extra commercial load for the show. The two sides were able to reach a compromise and agreed to let the episodes run into the 11 PM hour so ad time could be added without having to shorten the scripts, but it looks bleak that a similar situation will unfold without some flexibility from the networks. This new deal would basically rescind the former arrangement, but would still leave Mad Men‘s running time 90% longer than most other basic cable shows. Which begs the question if basic cable is really the right place for a show like Mad Men, a show that has a sweeping storyline and relies heavily on the subtle evolving of its characters and their environment.

Personally, as a fan, I’d take two more minutes of commercials instead of haggling over more product placement, since in my opinion products can be worked into the show more seamlessly, so why negotiate? The whole fooking show is about advertising! The idea that the studio wants more advertising on a show about advertising when they do nothing but product placement in most every episode is just too meta for comprehension. What do they think stories that center around ads for Samsonite, London Fog, Honda, or Utz are? But the idea of cutting out beloved characters sounds ludicrous and empirically asinine. Who would they get rid of? Well, obviously Betty can go for a long walk off a short pier, but other than scowl-face, who else would we be willing to lose for the sake of saving a few bucks and making this show into a shilling pile of jokes between just Don and Roger like some sort of Martin and Lewis routine, eh? Yeah, I’m thinking what you’ll lose is the entire viewing audience.

Reports as of last night indicate that AMC may be walking back some of those original statements about cutting characters.

“They’re not asking Matt Weiner to change the show’s DNA, and they are not asking him to fire or cut two actors. That was part of a list of suggestions that they gave to him or to his people to monitor the budget on the show.”

Addressing the question of product integration, the source said, “[Product] integrations have been happening from season one. It’s not additional product placement, it’s basically being able to talk about the product placement in the show, it’s an issue of transparency about the product placement that has gone on since season one, so their partners can talk about it.”

However, Weiner’s camp maintains that AMC has indeed put cutting talent on the table.

Matthew Weiner told The Huffington Post that the issues of actor cuts, episode time cut and product integration were not merely suggestions, as indicated by a previous source, but instead were definite AMC demands.

“The casting is a hard and fast thing,” the source said. “They’re not making a suggestion, that’s not how these things work, that you cut your budget after you cut your deal. They said cut $1.5 million in cash expenses per year, which is the equivalent of two actors. They give you a number they want you to hit, and you have to hit it.”

The source added that the budget cut each year would require cutting two actors every year for three years, and not bit players. “Series regulars,” was how the source described the type of role that would have to be cut.

Apparently life is imitating art. Can’t you just see Campbell, Cosgrove, and Harry Crane, looking furtively at Don’s closed door hoping they don’t get called in? And since AMC has utilized their option with Lionsgate they’ve intimated that they can move forward with season 5 with or without Weiner…and that would be horrible. What would Mad Men then become? [Insert awful NBC show here.]

I just don’t know. Who do you believe? Hey, Weiner, maybe you better start answering some email from HBO!

[Top image via AMC]

Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood

“I’m just a soul whose intentions are good

Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.”

-Nina Simone

There are small understandings — bringing home the wrong thing for dinner because you misheard your significant other’s request — and there are absolutely huge misunderstandings. This post is about a major misunderstanding which occurred when I was a child that took years to properly sort out in my psyche.

When I was about seven, I attended the wake for a very elderly distant relative who had passed away. It was a big, Italian-American affair in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, filled with emotion, elaborate floral displays, copious food and flowing conversation. It was unsurprising that at certain points, I was left unattended, free to mingle and (hopefully for me) find someone else close to my own age to connect with. Unfortunately for me, that never happened.

I had already followed the adults in their Catholic ritual of passing the coffin, kneeling and crossing myself. The whole experience was creepy, but at least the old man in the coffin did seem to be at peace. I returned to my seat, turned to one side and held my breath in complete shock — the dead guy was sitting right next to me!  He was still alive!

What no one in my large extended family had remembered to tell me was that the man who died had an identical twin brother, who was in fact very much alive. Had I known that, I wouldn’t have felt the need to run from the room in absolute panic. I remember hiding in the women’s bathroom on the floor below the viewing area, trying to figure out what had just happened. Eventually, someone took pity on me and compassionately explained things to me, but I was still quite shaken by the experience.

My point here is that obviously, there is a difference between misunderstandings which are accidental and innocuous and those which are mean-spirited and malicious. Yet sometimes (as in the very odd circumstance I described above) even an innocuous misunderstanding can have far-reaching and lasting consequences.

I’d like to invite in the comments for you to share misunderstandings — small or large — that have stayed with you over the years (or maybe just ones that are fresh in your memory). If there is an ultimate lesson you learned, please share that also.