Tag Archives: Writing

The Tao of Peggy Olson

With AMC’s Mad Men having recently poured its final glass of 9am bourbon, neat, I am left with a moment to reflect on the show whose legacy was always a little bit grander than its reality. And really, isn’t that sort of what we’re all aiming for in life? You’ll see a hundred op/ed pieces on the technical hits or misses of the show, but for me, even though the show was centered around Don Draper, the true protagonist of the series was Peggy Olson. Don’s was a journey that was focused on discovery on self (and probably more than a couple of STDs as well), but Peggy’s was a true battle. A David vs. Goliath struggle where sometimes her Goliath was the ultra-misogynistic corporate workplace of the 1960s and /70s, and sometimes her Goliath was herself. With that in mind, I present a handful of moments that Peggy brought us that will stick with me much longer than Don’s loose views on fidelity and identity theft. And so I present to you:

THE TAO OF PEGGY OLSON

“When I was little, my mom would take a twin pop and break it in half and give one to me and one to my sister. We were completely equal in her eyes. Beloved. Everyone does this with Popsicles, but they may not realize what it means. It has nothing to do with an ice cream truck on a hot summer day. Or the flavor. Or the color. It’s a ritual. You take it, break it, share it, and love it.” —Season 2, Episode 12
• A central theme for Peggy throughout the Mad Men series was that of love. Not just romantic love, but familial love, love in friendship, love in a professional environment, and love of self (or at least learning to accept yourself for who you are). This mini monologue (minilogue?) is a great example of Peggy romanticizing her own past (to a fault, at times) for the sake of remembering the good and the love that surrounded her, rather than focusing on the negative aspects of life. Classic Peggy.

“Every time something good happens, something bad happens.”  —s4,e11
• Peggy’s strength as a character (and as a person) isn’t that she’s blindly naive and ignorantly optimistic, it’s that she sees the world for the crappy, run down mess that it is…but chooses to hope anyway. Anyone can live a sheltered life and think the world a perfectly pleasant place, the real challenge is to continue to seek after your ideals in spite of adversity. If Peggy was a pro boxer, she wouldn’t be a one-punch wonder, she’d be the sort of marathon fighter who wears you out by taking hit after hit for twelve rounds and staying on her feet till the final bell. And in life you’re going to have a lot more knockdown, drag-out fights to endure than quick, Muhammad Ali-esque 15-second KO’s. Be built for the full twelve.

“Well, I’m fun! And I love to have…fun.” —s3,e4
• For the pitch perfect pitchman she became (pitchwoman? Pitchperson?), Peggy was always a little too humble to really sell herself, and we see that here in her awkward attempt to sound…well, fun, on a first date. Even though she struggles to really sell herself for the great gal she is in this particular instance, she manages to get to the heart of “free time Peggy,” which is that even though her work/life balance might have been a little uneven at times, at her core she’s still just a girl who wants to have fun, and be fun to be around to others. Despite how intense her career focus could be at times, you still get the idea that she found fun in her work, and wanted others to find the fun in theirs as well (as long as it didn’t compromise the quality of the final product). Remember kids: Be fun, have fun. It’s what Peggy would want.

“Don Draper: That’s how this works. I pay you for ideas.
Peggy Olson: You never say ‘Thank you.’
Don Draper: That’s what the money is for!” —s4,e7
• Despite her eventual rise to the top creative ranks in the ad agency world, Peggy was never in it for the money or the power or even the acclaim…she was in it for the respect that she knew she deserved and the recognition of her talent in a world that tried repeatedly to write her off. A recurring theme throughout the series is Peggy working out her daddy issues through Don (sometimes effectively, sometimes not), and ultimately having the revelation that we all need to have: someone else’s approval is never going to replace or validate our own self worth. I know a lot of us feel under-appreciated and even unloved in our professional and/or personal lives, but the moral of the story is that it’s up to us to know that we have value, rather than waiting for the accolades of the outside world that may or may not ever arrive. Easier said than done, perhaps, but worth the effort nonetheless.

“Don’t do anything stupid.” —s6,e5
• At the end of the day (one of my all-time most hated clichés, but gets the point across), we almost always know the right thing we should say or do or not do in a given situation, but the real test of mettle is whether or not we can act on that knowledge, to resist the easy path in favor of the more difficult one, even if it’s less rewarding or we won’t get any recognition for doing so. How many times in your life have you looked back on something you regret and thought, “Geez, that was stupid…I knew better”? And you’re right, you did! The difficulty lies in having the willpower to not do the stupid thing in front of you, no matter how appealing it might be in the moment. A daily battle for most of us (or at least me), but a battle worth fighting, even if the victories are more infrequent than the failures. But just know that in spite of your past mistakes, you have ability to make the right choice the next time. And the next time. And the time after that. I’m pulling for you. And so is Peggy Olson. I’ll even buy you a shot of bourbon when you get there. Good luck and God bless.
Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 2.59.45 AM

Play on,
Dustin

…Want more Mind Bullets? New posts go up every other Wednesday at noon PST (or as close to that as I feel like), and you can subscribe if you want them delivered right to your inbox! …Or if you’re too impatient to wait that long you can follow me on twitter, instagramyoutube (new videos every Monday), and my boring personal website. Whew, that’s a lot of self promotion…even I don’t like me enough to keep up with all that.

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American Idol Season 14 Changes

As you may have seen on television (that thing that kills time while your phone is charging), American Idol is about to enter its FOURTEENTH season (another year and it can get its learners driving permit), and like any show that has been on for so long, the team at Idol is implementing some changes to help attract new viewers and keep the old ones. Using my top-secret entertainment industry connections I was able to obtain a list of these changes for you, my loyal readers.

American Idol Season 14 Changes:

• American Idol’s infamously rotating cast of celebrity judges will bump up from rotating every season to now rotating every 15 minutes. Things get especially dramatic when Mark McGrath gives the approving vote to put a contestant through to Hollywood only to have the “rotate judge” alarm go off, with replacement judge Kevin Federline voting the other way for the unlucky contestant.

• In addition to searching for talent in New Orleans, Nashville, San Francisco, Minneapolis, and New York City; the show will also be holding its trademark ten-thousand-person auditions in Metropolis, Atlantis, The Emerald City, Mount Olympus, The Alternate 1985 timeline from Back to the Future 2, and The Negaverse from Sailor Moon.

• In an effort to boost ratings, American Idol will declare every show day also Opposite Day, turning their 1.7 into a 7.1 and “a 25% decrease” into “a 25% increase” and “beating a dead horse” into “entertainment.”

• Keith Urban has agreed to a cross-promotion with a hip, young clothing store, legally changing his name to Keith Urban Outfitters.

• Going to just start referring to itself in all graphics, conversations, and materials as “The Voice” and see if anyone notices.

• Taking its well-known list of mentors like Randy Jackson and Scott Borchetta and adding other legendary mentors such as The P90X Guy, Mister Miyagi, Mother Teresa, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Professor Dumbledore, Your High School English Teacher, Dina Lohan, Rafiki from Lion King, and Gandalf the Grey.

• End every show with one uncut five-minute block of lemmings mindlessly walking to their demise by the ton and see if even a single viewer picks up on the irony.

• Putting Carrie Underwood, Clay Aiken, and Taylor Hicks in fake Groucho disguise mustache-glasses and sneaking them back into the competition.

• Following up all eliminations with on-air, real-time executions of whoever is voted off that week.

• Brian Dunkleman.

• Do a Mythbusters-style special on whether or not Ryan Seacrest has ever said anything sincere with all that feigned enthusiasm in the past 13 years.

• Airing all episodes at once, Netflix style, to help induce binge watching like the kiddies enjoy so much these days.

• Regardless of what the votes say, just declaring Ruben Studdard the winner anyway.

…Should be a fun season!

Play on,
Dustin

casual pic of Brian Dunkleman, Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, and Randy Jackson

casual pic of Brian Dunkleman, Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, and Randy Jackson

…Want more Mind Bullets? New posts go up every Wednesday at noon PST (or as close to that as I feel like), and you can subscribe if you want them delivered right to your inbox! …Or if you’re too impatient to wait that long you can follow me on twitter, instagramyoutube (new videos every Monday), and my boring personal website. Whew, that’s a lot of self promotion…even I don’t like me enough to keep up with all that.

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Open Letter to Sinead O’Connor’s Open Letter to Miley Cyrus

Sinead,

First of all, know that I’m saying this with a motherly love, and that however biting the sarcasm/satire might get in the next few paragraphs, I genuinely do not wish you any negativity or duress.

Much and more has been made of the open letter that you recently wrote to Miley Cyrus, advising her on her twerking, her increasingly weird public persona, her perceived exploitation at the hands of the music/media industries, and her overall downward spiral from sanity.

“Much and more” is an expression I stole from the Game of Thrones series of books, I started using it as a subtle way to find out if people have read them. Like a verbal secret handshake. If you don’t get the reference, that’s okay, it just means you haven’t spent thousands of pages reading overly detailed descriptions of surcoats and morning meals.

Sinead (for some reason I always read that for a nanosecond as Sinbad, which, not as a diss to you, would be significantly cooler in terms of name badassery. Sinbad makes me think of a garish pirate adventurer and scoundrel, Sinead makes me think of those animal commercials where they do slow zooms on cute puppy pics and play sad music until you promise to adopt an entire wagon of dogs), in true glutton-for-punishment form, you couldn’t be happy with one open letter, so after Miley blew off your original writing with a couple snarky tweets, you wrote her THREE MORE sort of half-sane, increasingly defensive open letters and now the media is calling it a “feud” and Miley’s legions of disciples are dousing you with barrels full of haterade like you’re a coach that just won the Super Bowl. You feel hurt, attacked, betrayed…and you were only trying to help! Woe is you! …Well, not exactly.

You see, Sinead, it’s not that people hate you, it’s not that people love you. It’s that people don’t care about you. I don’t mean that in a mean way, like that nobody cares about you or that you don’t have value enough to be worth caring about, I mean People, the masses of asses (I just came up with that but you can use it if you want), generally do not have a stake or an interest in you or your life. Does that sound harsh? Well it may be, in light of what you’re used to, but keep in mind that for the 99.9999% of us in the world that aren’t world famous singers, that’s pretty much the norm. We don’t care about ourselves. We don’t care about you. I don’t care about you (or Miley for that matter). And that’s okay.

Sinead, I know exactly two facts about you: 1) you tore a picture of the Pope in half on SNL in the 90s, which was pretty controversial back before the FCC said “f*** it” and decided to allow shit, the F word, and nudity on television, and 2) you’re Irish. And to be honest I’m not even 100% sure about that second one, I just know (think?) you’re not American and your name is Sinead O’Connor, so call it a high-probability guess (read: racist stereotype). And that’s all right, because you don’t need my love, opinion, or approval to continue to be a functioning human being, a good mother, and whatever else you’re in to. You don’t need to engage in a one-way PR rivalry with a pop product whose entire existence can be traced back to a line dancing country song for your own validity. It’s nice that you wanted to help, and I don’t know you so I won’t imply that there was any ulterior motive of using someone else’s hype as a way to get a little attention for yourself (though that would certainly be the case if it were me in your shoes…in fact this very blog is meant to at least partly cash in on some of that attention floating around), but that’s the bitch of advising: it’s up to the advisee to decide if they actually want to follow your advice or not. And if you’re surprised that Miley retorted in a childish, unintelligent, and mean sort of way, well then that’s on you for not doing any research on your subject. I mean, this is a girl whose entire public relations strategy can essentially be summed up with:

;-P

…does that strike you as the sort of person looking to take thoughtful counsel from her elders, no matter how well intentioned or well known?

So hey, you took your best shot at helping someone you felt was in need, you gave us some classic Sinead anti-establishment zingers, and you got media attention without having to rip up any 8×10 glossies of the blessed father (do Catholics call him that or is that blasphemy?). Ideal outcome? No. But your fans still love and support you, you got your message out to a ton of little girls who are undoubtedly in need of more “your value isn’t a byproduct of how willing you are to undress and how good you look while undressing” than they get from the rest of society, and that’s got to count for something. And hey, it could be worse, you could be Eli Manning, who doesn’t have the pressures and exploitations of being a teen pop princess to use an excuse for his poor performance/breakdown. So there’s that. In the meantime, I hope you’re well and that this whole thing doesn’t ruin your morning meal of potato soup or make it any harder to keep the kids from getting your Lucky Charms. Buck up kid, you’re just an O, E, and Y away from being related to Sean Connery, and that’s pretty cool. (That’s how relations work, right? You’re automatically related to anyone with the same last name as you? My ancestry.com free trial expired before I could find out).

Play on,
Dustin

Why can't they kiss and make up like Miley kiss that sledgehammer?

Why can’t they kiss and make up like Miley kissed that sledgehammer?

…Want more Mind Bullets? New posts go up every Wednesday at noon PST (or as close to that as I feel like), and you can subscribe if you want them delivered right to your inbox. Or if you’re too impatient to wait that long you can follow me on twitter, instagramyoutube (new videos every Monday), and my boring personal website. Whew, that’s a lot of self promotion…even I don’t like me enough to keep up with all that.

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Fall TV Pass/Fail (Part One)

A fact that sometimes surprises people when they hear it (myself included) is that I graduated an accredited, four-year private college with honors. I say that primarily to brag, but secondarily to let you know that often times I worked very hard in college in very difficult classes that stretched me mentally, academically, and sometimes physically (Ultimate Frisbee, spring quarter senior year…hey everybody should schedule a blowoff class their senior year). And while most of those classes demanded a lot of my attention and focus so I could keep my GPA at honors levels, my favorite classes were graded on what’s known as the pass/fail system.

If you’re unfamiliar with pass/fail classes and somehow also not able to grasp exactly what a pass/fail class is just by the name, it’s a class where instead of an A-to-F grading system, there are only two grades: you either pass, or fail. No in between. That brings me to fall television’s new schedule of shows (I’m not big on segues). We’re all busy, and our leisure time is almost as valuable as our productivity time, so rather than go through and grade every new TV show on some sort of A-F, five star, ten point, etc. scale, I’m going to break it down very simply for you into shows that either pass or fail (assuming of course that the “class” objective of each show is getting you to watch).

This guide is not exhaustive, it’s basically a handful of the new shows that looked interesting enough to me to DVR (I don’t watch anything live anymore that’s not sports), so if your favorite new show didn’t make the list of ones I’ve reviewed, I kind of don’t care. But still let me know in the comments because I’ll need something to fill the void in my life once Breaking Bad ends next week. Also, this list is pretty sitcom heavy because I like comedies and because like black people to Paula Deen, all dramatic hourlong serials look the same to me.

Let’s get started.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
Brooklyn99a_8col

Andy Samberg’s first solo outing without SNL backup or his Lonely Island posse, the show’s premise is basically Reno 911 but in New York. I don’t know if a lot of you are  Samberg fans or not, but I like him, and I think his quirky brand of positive comedy is a welcome balance to darker comedies like Louie and It’s Always Sunny and cookie-cutter network fare like whatever is on CBS right now (you’ll note I included exactly zero CBS shows on this list because all CBS shows (particularly sitcoms) are absolute garbage (except The Crazy Ones). Am I generalizing? Yes. Are sweeping generalizations sometimes accurate? Also yes. Did I just use three sub-parentheses in this parenthesis? Triple yes). Two episodes in to B99, I laughed pretty consistently. Grade: PASS.

Dads.
This_is_a_poster_for_the_FOX_sitcom_%22Dads%22

I’ll say it right now: I like Seth MacFarlane. I like Family Guy (even the new seasons), I liked Ted, I loved his hosting job at the Oscars (sorry, classy friends). I already like his new movie, A Million Ways to Die in the West, and it doesn’t even come out for another year. So yeah, I was biased toward this MacFarlane-created sitcom from the start. I wanted to like it, I really did. But, I didn’t. The jokes are hit-or-miss at best (leaning more toward the “miss” side), the leads aren’t that engaging or funny to me (not a Seth Green fan, never have been), and any modern-day tv show that still uses a laugh track already starts at a deficit in my book. The premise is okay, and I appreciate the postmodernist idea of kids having to support their folks at an increasingly younger age, but none of it felt that original or funny to me. Maybe it will get funnier after it’s cancelled and brought back a few years later, ala Family Guy. Grade: FAIL.

Agents of SHIELD (ain’t nobody got time to put all those periods between letters, so just know that it’s an acronym, ok?).
marvels-agents-of-shield
Agent Phil Coulson’s Marvel/Avengers character and Clark Gregg’s acting career are both deservedly resurrected in this weekly sci-fi series that takes place in the same universe as IronMan, Captain America, Hulk, and Thor (though never close enough to get them any screen time). As someone who’s been looking for a replacement for Heroes ever since it went bad after the first few seasons, I’m excited for Agents mostly because it’s the exact same premise as Heroes was, just with a better producing team that (hopefully) learned from the sustainability mistakes of previous attempts at this sort of show (Alphas, The 4400, et al). One episode in I like, don’t love, it but if the Marvel world has taught us anything it’s that the payoff is pretty consistently worth the buildup, so I’m giving it a few more eps to convert me from cautious optimism to full on fangirl. Grade: PASS.

Sean Saves the World.
I’m going to save you the trouble of reading my summary of this show and just show you the promo poster instead and let you make your own extrapolations from there.
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Grade: FAIL.

Derek.
2derek_series_comingsoon2_500

Quickly becoming my favorite atheist (sorry Jamiroquai and Nick Caruso), Ricky Gervais’ latest offering is a show that displays deep understanding of and respect for the human soul (ironically from a man who doesn’t believe they exist). Like the UK version of The Office (if you haven’t seen it, ask your most pretentious friend for a summary, he/she will have), and his lesser-known (but far superior) show, Extras, Derek takes the ordinary (borderline pitiable) and spins it into something fascinating, extraordinary, heart-wrenching and heartwarming. All in 22 minutes. And as an added bonus, this one is a Netflix original, so there’s no killing time for an entire week between episodes. Grade: PASS.

The Goldbergs.
35814

What if there was a show just like The Wonder Years, but like, less naïve and more self-aware? Also, ‘80s references. That’s basically the premise for The Goldbergs, and if it sounds a little thin, that’s because it is. As an SNL sketch, I love it. As a television show that’s meant to last anywhere from five-to-eight seasons, I’m not on board. The pilot didn’t blow me away, and I don’t see it having a lot of room to grow from there. But if I don’t like it, that probably means the general public will love it. Because that’s the purgatory I live in where 30 Rock and Party Down are off the air but Two and a Half Men is still around and Big Bang Theory just won a handful of Emmys. I can’t sigh exasperatedly enough to describe how I feel about that. Grade: FAIL.

Hello Ladies.
blogpost-image-HBO

Stephen Merchant is a name most of you won’t know, but he’s the creative Yin to Ricky Gervais’ Yang. Except if Yin and Yang were both equally funny in the same way instead of being opposites. Okay so maybe the analogy doesn’t hold up all that well, but for years Stephen Merchant has struck me as Gervais’ wildly underrated comedic equal, and now he’ll finally get the chance to prove me right that he’s been waiting for all these years. Hello Ladies is Merchant’s vehicle and blah blah blah some pun about a sports car and/or cruise control, just watch this show already. You will like it or your money back. Worth stealing your friend’s HBOgo login if you don’t already have one. Grade: PASS.

Well that’s all the grading the FCC will legally allow me to do this week (none of that is true), but check back next week (or whenever I get around to it) for my thoughts on the next wave of TV premieres. And in the meantime don’t forget that South Park, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The League, and New Girl have have all started back up if you’re looking for a comedic safety to fall into in case none of the new shows strike your fancy.

Play on,
Dustin

…Want more Mind Bullets? New posts go up every Wednesday at noon PST (or as close to that as I feel like), and you can subscribe if you want them delivered right to your inbox. Or if you’re too impatient to wait that long you can follow me on twitter, instagramyoutube (new videos every Monday), and my boring personal website. Whew, that’s a lot of self promotion…even I don’t like me enough to keep up with all that.

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Know Thyselfie

Somewhere during my career as a writer (if, indeed, having a couple of blogs and a few minor published works can actually be considered a “career”), I missed the part where you learn to write posts or columns or anything under 500 words. Brevity, concision, or succinctness — whatever it is, I don’t have it…heck even at the beginning of this sentence I used three fancy words where one normal word probably would’ve sufficed. I think the two reasons for this are that 1) I really only write things that I am passionate about, and am therefore more likely to have lengthy, thought-out opinions on; and 2) I am constantly anxious about being misinterpreted in my writings —especially on the internet — so I go out of my way to add clarity even if it means being superfluously descriptive.

But I digress.

So anyway what’s the deal with the selfie? Is there anything more simultaneously loved and loathed than the selfie?

Kylie-Jenner-Selfie-Swag-Twitter-Winners-43

classic selfie example

 

Continue reading

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