Archive for September, 2010

Mad Men

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

The three best minutes of TV I have ever seen

Summertime. Gabi and I watch one or two TV shows every night throughout the year after the kids are in bed. Our favorites (24, Lost, Fringe, Survivor, CSI) are all in reruns or canceled now. Summer is the time to find a newish show, one that has been on-air for awhile which we’ve heard about but never watched. One that we can see from the beginning of the series. We discovered 24 and House this way in previous summers.

This is the summer of Mad Men, a biography of advertising men in New York, starting in March 1960 and moving forward. It can be viewed as science fiction in reverse: everyone smokes, everyone drinks too much, no car seats or seat belts in cars, no cellphones, no computers, no internet, and dozens of other things we take for granted.

But concept and setting do not make a show. Personalities do. Writing does. And this is one of the most finely written pieces of TV I have ever witnessed. And it begs my imagination to try to describe it in any cohesive way, other than to say I like it. The clip above (linked here) is so fine and elegant and moving, but I can’t tell you why, since it requires viewing the previous 12 episodes to know why, simultaneously on four or five different levels, this presentation is so hard for Donald Draper.

Part of my attachment is, no doubt, the passing of my father this year, for this is his era. In 1960 he was 36 years old, the same age as the protagonist, Donald Draper. While the show is clearly a reflection of our time, it is my father’s world being shown. Smoke. Martinis. Scotch. And more.

Nine hours before we watch the next episode.

Melchior Steussy Passenger Manifest?

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

Click on the image to see the full-size version.

Passenger #130 here looks very much like it might be Melchior Stüßi. It was certainly the closest match in the passenger manifests kept on microfiche from that era. The age (22) is right. Date of landing (November 12, 1845) is right as well. Switzerland is the country of origin.

If so, then he appears to be traveling with a Samuel Stüssi who is 18 years old (passenger #129).

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