Retro Video Unit (5/31/13)

I've been trying to mix some memorable Boston bands into this feature, so this week we'll look at one that popped into my head recently: The Del Fuegos. Their single "Don't Run Wild" was very popular at the time of its release in 1985, and I saw the band play several times over the years.

The video is perhaps most memorable for the shots of the band playing on the Mass. Ave. bridge. The night shots are cool too; those appear to be in a parking lot on the waterfront, possibly on the Fan Pier?

The Vikings Are Coming

Vikings is a new show that every student of history should watch. It smacks of historical accuracy to me. The script is fairly well-written, too, depicting a primitive era in European history, the Dark Ages. Christianity and all the other sacred cows of Western civilization are treated in a fair, objective manner. I was skeptical at first, but the show won me over with its good characterizations, realistic action and realistic dialogue.

As a side note, I found it amusing to imagine that Vikings depicts not only our past but our future, after various calamities foreseen and unforeseen descend upon our planet. Such a thought can only amuse one who expects to be dead by such a time. I am an optimist. I expect all now living to be dead before our civilization collapses into barbarism.

Sun Clips

After my failed attempt to get new sunglasses from Warby Parker, I've been considering alternatives. I found clip-on sunglasses specifically made to fit my eyeglass frames at Ben Silver, a rather fancy men's store in Charleston, SC. Unfortunately the clip-ons alone cost $125, and for that much I might as well just go ahead and get new sunglasses made somewhere.

Some idle googling led me to a site called Western Ophthalmics in Lynwood, WA. They seem to be primarily a wholesale distributor to eye doctors and optometrists, but they do have clip-ons on their website in a shape that roughly corresponds to my eyeglass frames. The width matched my frames and they are available in different colors and cost only $12, but there was no other size information given on the site, so I sent an email with some questions.

I never received a response, so after maybe three weeks I decided to call them. The person who answered the phone, Jean, was very pleasant and helpful. She needed to find the product and measure it, but offered to call me back. It turned out that their clip-ons are not tall enough to fit my frames, which is what I was hoping to find out in order to avoid ordering them and having to return them.

As usual with my product quests, I'll have to keep searching.

Linux? I Don't Even Know What That Is

I told one of my clients today that I use Linux, and they replied, "I don't even know what that is." My client was sick of Windows 8 and wanted to dial back to Windows 7, so without thinking twice, she bought a copy from a local retail store. Of course, Microsoft wins; they sold her both Windows 8 and Windows 7, which makes for quite an expensive operating system--about $150, all told. Microsoft is being rewarded for making a turkey out of Windows 8.

In my view, she'd be better off with Linux, but how can I suggest a thing she never even heard of? Linux deserves better name recognition, but what can be done? One can point out that most of the web sites in the world run on Linux, and that mobile devices often use Linux, but that is not quite as apparent as the brand one sees on almost every laptop or desktop.

What deters me from recommending Linux even more is that mainstream Linux distros have little issues, and Linux gurus or even Linux journeymen are thin on the ground. She can't ask her friend, neighbor or nephew for help with a Linux system. That's quite a disadvantage.

Could I in good conscience recommend Kubuntu? Nope. My Kubuntu 13.04 system running KDE 4.10.3 is now booting up with two blankscrn.kss windows for no apparent reason. Do I really want her calling me on the phone asking what is wrong with Kubuntu and how did it get infected by a virus? Then there was the problem I wrestled with where Kubuntu dialed the clock back three hours. I had to use the command line to fix that problem and some pretty arcane syntax, too.

Could I recommend Open Suse 12.3? Nope. Open Suse won't install a printer for anybody but a bonafide geek. Open Suse will give an error message the minute she tries connecting to the Internet. Open Suse will give an error message on her very first update after installation, because even after all these years, the devs haven't learned to remove the dvd from the repository list. I wouldn't recommend Open Suse to anybody.

The only Linux distro I'd feel safe recommending to a low-tech individual would be Linux Mint Xfce or Cinnamon, but there again, Linux users are thin on the ground, so anybody who ventures into the Linux world has to be comfortable browsing and researching online forums and wikis in order to resolve the occasional unforeseen and the unexpected. I am comfortable and I think extremely good at performing online research, but the average user is not. The average user wants to speak to somebody on the phone or better yet, ask someone in person. At least with Windows, everybody and their brother knows a little something and the herd can help each other cope with Windows' eccentricities.

I Love Deleting Comments

Out there in Internet-land, SEO scumbags are paying a bunch of needy nerds about ten dollars an hour to leave comments on blogs like mine. I mark such comments as spam and delete them. Ha-ha, game over, wah-wah-wah.

Takes me all of five seconds to clock SEO shills. For the record, igor was not born yesterday.

I see these shady Internet jobs on E-lance all the time. E-lance was made for crap jobs like that. I may be a needy nerd myself, but there are certain jobs I don't deign to do for ethical reasons. The money is beside the point. I can't stomach the thought of ever being a spammer that promotes crap sites on the Internet. Now if the site were worth a damn, that might be another question, but I don't work for the unethical or the ignorant.

I wish more people had scruples about who they work for. The world would be a better place. Homo Sapiens 2.0 needs to have a faculty in the brain that refuses to behave like a slave--refuses to work for evil ends.

Drugstore in a Box

I get a lot of my personal care items from Target, because they tend to have lower prices than the local drugstores. What I don't get from Target I tend to order from, which doesn't usually have the best prices but is often the easiest option.

My orders are typically packed and shipped within two hours of being placed, and they frequently arrive the next day. The minimum for free shipping is $25, which is easy enough if I order several items at once. They accept PayPal, which is a huge convenience when I want to make a purchase but don't need to add another charge to my credit card.

They also operate, where I sometimes buy shaving and hair products, which tend to get me to $25 more quickly. And if your order something from that site, you get free samples of other products.

Attack-bots Hitting Wp-Login on Wordpress Sites

I've noticed in my log recently that thousands of bots have been hitting wp-login.php repeatedly, despite being served 403 pages. I am not sure of the motivation of the attackers. However, thousands of hits on a .php file certainly can be a drain on system resources.

I developed a simple method of reducing the impact of wp-login attackers. After my deny-froms, I placed the following code in my .htaccess file. It is useful for Wordpress sites that do not permit users other than the administrator to log in, and where the admin uses a static IP address, which is an ideal scenario for security purposes. I should note that wp-login is specifically disallowed in my robots.txt and that there is no link to it on the Wordpress site in question. Thus, my code will not ensnare rule-abiding bots such as Google's.

My code is not applicable to all Wordpress sites. Some WP sites let users register and log in. I opted not to go that route, because our site is such a small one that I doubt anyone would remember their password. Our users can leave a comment by logging into a popular social media site.

Rewrite Engine On
Rewrite Base /
RewriteCond %(REMOTE_ADDR) !^www\.xxx\.yyy.\zzz
RewriteCond %(REQUEST_URI) ^/wp-login [NC]
RewriteRule .* - [F,L]
Place any static IP addresses that admins use in the above code (where is). The code should exclude the IP addresses of legitimate users--admins--who log-in to the site. One could exclude multiple IP addresses by adding more conditional lines.

The first conditional statement checks the IP address. If it does not match (indicated by the exclamation mark), then if the user is requesting the wp-login page, that user is redirected to the 403 page. All of this happens without engaging the database or invoking any php code, so it is fast and efficient and minimizes the toll of the attack bots on system resources. I have banned the IP addresses of the vast majority of these attackers, but I notice a certain percentage do slip through with novel IP addresses, so this is a way of preventing them from forcing the server to load and interpret wp-login.php.

My 403 page consists of a mere 500-odd bytes with links intended to tempt bots to visit various spam-bot hells around the Internet, where they may encounter honeypots, investigators, bogus email addresses, bogus links, and in general waste a lot of their time and effort and generate no data of any use at all to them.

The Reentry

Oh, hi there. Yeah, my brain took a few days off. I guess that's what long weekends are for, right? I got my stitches out this morning, but I'm still healing.

I'm also in the midst of rewatching the three seasons of Arrested Development that aired on Fox (since I haven't seen them since they were first shown), to get ready for the new episodes on Netflix.

I'll be back soon with more fun stuff.

Mad (Wo)Men 6x09: "Why didn't you say something?"

A lot happened in the world of women on Mad Men this week. I’d equate this episode with an episode in season 4 which I thought was called “The Women” but seems to have been retitled “The Beautiful Girls”.

Peggy Olson: Stuck in the Middle Again

‘Stuck’ has multiple meanings for Peggy this week. Not only is she still stuck between Don and Ted at work, but she’s stuck in both her relationship with Ted and literally ‘sticks’ Abe. (But that comes later.)
Don, Ted, and Pete are meeting about the Fleischman’s account. Don calls Peggy in for her opinion, but poses her with a rather old-fashioned question. Don assumes Peggy is the one doing the grocery shopping and asks why she would buy margarine: purely for the taste or would she base he decision on taste and price.
Don may not think of Peggy, per se, in a typical housewife role, but it does reveal Don’s thinking as rather old-fashioned. He’s accustomed to Betty, in her housewife role, or Sylvia, also a homemaker, as opposed to the woman he’s married to: a working, successful woman, Megan. But we’ll save the Betty vs. Megan debate for later.
When Don comes by Peggy’s office to check on the boards for the presentation, it’s clearly just an excuse to give her a hard time about not picking a side when he called her in earlier. Peggy calls him out on it, saying there’s not a right or wrong answer, there’s simply Don’s approach and Ted’s approach.
“I don’t know how I became in charge of turning this into a collaboration,” she tells him. “Isn’t that your job?”
Other than being stuck in the middle at work, Peggy also has to contend with her two romantic entanglements in this episode.
Her primary being with her boyfriend, Abe, with whom she recently moved to the Upper West Side. The neighborhood is still a little rough and Peggy comes home to find Abe was attacked outside the subway by two punks. Abe won’t comment on his attackers’ race, however, claiming they live in a police state.
Abe is viewing their neighborhood as a new social experience he can write about, but Peggy is more practical, simply worrying about their safety. When he asks her to help him type, after his arm is injured, she tells him she plans to sell this ‘shithole’ of an apartment and refuses to help him, going to bed.
Peggy and Abe have held rather different worldviews since they first met and just a few episodes ago, seemed accepting of each other’s viewpoints, but the Upper West Side apartment seems to be the boiling point for Peggy.
However, she did state she hates change, and Peggy’s life is going through a lot of upheaval. Not only did things at work change when SCDP and CGC merged, but things at home changed, too, when she and Abe decided to move.
Not to mention her rather newfound feelings for her boss at CGC, Ted. Ted complimented her work and they shared a kiss. This week, Peggy and Ted finally discuss their encounter. When Ted brings it up, Peggy says she assumed they were forgetting about that. She says she did. “Well, I haven’t,” Ted confesses. Ted asks if that’s all him. Peggy says she thinks about it. Ted says they can’t and besides, they both have someone.
“I didn’t know you felt this way,” Peggy says.
“I don’t want to, that’s the point. Now I realize I never should have brought it up.” Peggy asks if he would rather she work somewhere else. He says no.
Despite her feelings for Ted, they aren’t the reason things fall apart with Abe. In fact, Abe is the one who breaks up with her. After Peggy accidentally stabs Abe in their apartment, which in and of itself might be an event of note. Peggy treated drugged Stan’s stab wound last week, before drunkenly sharing a kiss with him. This week, she stabs her boyfriend. Perhaps just a coincidence both injuries were stab wounds, but perhaps not.
In the ambulance on the way to the hospital, Abe claims Peggy is too careful and worries too much and he never knew that until they moved. Peggy, in shock from what she’s just done and what Abe is saying, asks, “Are you breaking up with me?” The scene ends before we get an answer, but when Peggy later shows up at work, she tells Ted that things are over with Abe. Ted tells Peggy she’ll find someone else.

As Peggy leaves Ted’s office to get to work, she sees Don arrive. Don asks Ted how the meeting with Fleischman’s went. Once the men fill each other in on the account, both go into their separate offices, leaving Peggy in the middle of the hall, stuck between both of them once again.

Betty (Draper) Francis
Betty has lost the weight. Although she was briefly in last week’s episode, back to her original blonde hair, during the scene where Don returned to find the apartment burgled, her weight loss wasn’t revealed until this week’s episode.

Since Betty essentially lost the weight for Henry, I did a quick calculation. Henry told Betty about his decision to run for office in April of 1968. Since Bobby is attending summer camp, we can assume this is August of 1968, meaning Betty’s weight loss occurred over the summer.
Although Joan is a sexual character, no female character places as much worth on their looks as Betty does. In earlier seasons, she talks about how her mother made her conscious of an early age about not gaining weight. Betty then worked as a model until she met Don and even after having three children, kept her slim figure.
In this episode, Betty is enjoying the attention she’s receiving from men because of her weight loss. A man who is attending a fundraiser for Henry flirts with her, saying he wants to spend all night with her, and Henry is jealous, asking Betty about it in the car later. Even Don, the ex-husband, finds his attraction to Betty has returned.
Her weight loss seems to have given Betty her gumption back, as after visiting their son at camp, Betty returns to her room and leaves the door open for Don, if he wants to come in. He does.
“What did you think when you saw me?” Betty asks as Don’s kissing her.
“That you were as beautiful as the day I met you,” Don replies.
A strange thing to notice six seasons into the show, but seeing Betty and Don together again made it clear how very Rock Hudson and Doris Day they look together. Odd how Don also has a hidden life, although much different than the lifestyle Rock Hudson was hiding.
Betty and Don seem to understand each other better now than they did when they were married. After they sleep together, they’re in bed together talking, and Betty comments on how she’s happy with her life. She says she knows she can only hold Don’s attention so long and she expresses pity for Megan. “She doesn’t know that loving you is the worst way to get to you.”
The next morning, Don wakes up alone, and when he finds Betty in the camp cafeteria, she has been joined by Henry. Don takes a table in the corner, but watches Betty with Henry. She does seem to be happy.
Megan Draper

Megan is now playing twins on her soap opera and in her first scene of the episode, she’s taking criticism from the soap opera’s director over a PA system, in front of the crew and her fellow cast mate, Arlene. The director refers to her as “honey”.
Megan worries about keeping her part on the soap opera as well as worrying about keeping her husband’s interest.
When she voices her concerns about her work to Don, he isn’t the most sympathetic ear. Instead of eating dinner with her, Don tells her he wants to lie down and watch TV instead. His only reassurance to her is: “Tomorrow’s another day.”
Since Megan doesn’t have Don to confide in, she invites over her cast mate, Arlene, when Don is away visiting Bobby at summer camp. Arlene tells Megan Don is old-fashioned and isn’t entirely comfortable with having a successful wife. “He’ll get used to it,” she advises.
“I think he did. And I think he got used to me not being around and having a bunch of problems he couldn’t solve,” Megan says. She tells Arlene she’s lonely.
When Don arrives home from the weekend, he finds Megan out on the balcony. “I missed you,” he tells her.
Megan confesses she misses him all the time. “I don’t know where you’ve gone, but I’m here. I keep trying to make things the way they used to be, but I don’t know how. And maybe that’s stupid or young to think like that, but something has to change.”
Don admits she’s right. “I haven’t been here.”
Joan Holloway
Joan seems to have gone from a sex symbol of the Sterling Cooper offices to a mothering figure. She is forever cleaning up the partners’ messes, even though she is a partner herself. It makes sense that Joan has made this transition, as she is now a mother herself. In this episode, she listens as Pete confides in her about his mother’s condition.
But Joan also struggles with the idea of a father figure for her son. While Joan’s mother is present, helping her daughter care for Kevin, Joan’s own father has never been part of the picture. It may have been mentioned in an earlier episode, but most likely he’s either deceased or left Joan and her mother when Joan was young.
Bob Benson, who escorted Joan to the doctor’s when she had stomach pains, now seems to be a frequent presence in the apartment. He is waiting, dressed in swim attire, as Joan packs up to take her son to the beach. When the doorbell rings, Bob answers it, expecting it to be Joan’s mother, but comes face to face with Roger. Roger is just as surprised to see him and doesn’t even recognize Bob outside of the office.
Roger tries to pretend he’s there on professional business and takes the hint when Joan tells him it can wait until Monday.
At the office, Roger drops by Joan’s office, giving her Lincoln Logs for Kevin. “You can’t drop in on me like that,” Joan tells him.
Joan says Kevin’s father is Greg. “But I’m here,” Roger replies.
“For now. But everyday Greg is some hero out there and I’d rather him think that is the man in his life,” Joan explains to Roger.
Joan understands that Roger wants to be around, but she knows better than to count on him. Roger only is there when it’s convenient and Joan, out of anyone, knows that from experience. Joan thanks him for the gift and opens the door for him to leave.

Game of Thrones Drones

Where did we get so many Game of Thrones drones? I watched the first episode and tuned out. There wasn't a single character on the show whose fate I cared about. The story seemed uninteresting and cliche-ridden. I scarcely remember what the story was about. Something about stupid people scheming and plotting to do wicked things. Yet I hear Game of Thrones and even the pathetic Borgias mentioned in the same article as masterpieces like The Tudors or Rome. And the maddening and repetitive House must be in its tenth season by now. I can't account for the chasm between my tastes and that of the general public. Seems to me that when I love a show, such as Tudors, So You Think You Can Dance, Canada? or Rome, television executives pull the plug. When I hate a show, that's when it becomes such a hit that I can't read an article anywhere without it being praised to the heavens.

For the record, I've watched the U.S. and U.K. versions of So You Think You Can Dance..., and Canada had the best version by far, but it was discontinued after season four, because the other shows were envious of how good it was. Nigel, the judge who appears on both the U.S. and U.K. version, to me is unwatchable, whereas Canada's Jean-Marc and his amiable comrades are easy on the eyes and ears.

Retro Video Unit (5/24/13)

With everything going on last week I forgot this again...

This is one of those obscure bands from the New Wave era that were really good and deserved to be more popular. They're called The Brains, they were from Atlanta, and the song is called "Money Changes Everything."

You may actually know this song, because Cyndi Lauper covered it on her 1983 album She's So Unusual, but this is the original. It's not much of a video, but it's slightly better than the ones people make with just a static picture of the band or the cover of their album.

I have a lot of bands like this filed away in my head. In many cases I have the music on vinyl. Once in a while songs like this show up on compilation albums. I found this one on an album called Gold: New Wave (but the cover says New Wave Gold) that has several other excellent obscure songs on it and is worth owning if you ever come across it.

Tie Do-Over

After the tie incident a couple of weeks back, I continued browsing eBay for a suitable replacement. It didn't take long, which was a little surprising.
This tie is very different from the other one, but it's also from Liberty and made of cotton in the USA. The background is a coral pink, which my camera represents as more red than it really is.

We don't have any summer weddings or other dress-up events on our schedule, but if we did this would be a likely candidate to wear, probably paired with my cotton suit and the chambray dress shirt I acquired back in December:
(Blame the poor lighting in this shot on my basement's fluorescents.)

Meanwhile I'll still be checking eBay to try to find another tie in the same pattern as the one that got mangled.

Suffocating Under Prescription Laws

Today, the restrictions on life-saving medicine are an obvious manifestation of Social Darwinism. Medicines such as Albuterol, the rescue inhaler for asthmatics, require a prescription by an expensive medical doctor. Readers unfamiliar with Albuterol should know that is a non-narcotic medicine that asthmatics require on occasion when their asthma acts up. It is not typically something that one takes on a daily basis, but rather as needed, such as during allergy season. Inability to obtain Albuterol can lead to death by suffocation at the utmost, or costly visits to indifferent nurse practitioners at expensive, far-away medical clinics in order to obtain a script for twenty-five doses of the common generic drug, Albuterol. A visit may cost as much as a hundred dollars, not counting the Albuterol itself, which is additional. Always the words on the label read "NO REFILL," guaranteeing another visit a few months down the line and another hundred dollars flushed down the toilet. Making Albuterol difficult to obtain is unethical, because it increases the risk that an asthmatic will die of suffocation.

Why is Albuterol a prescription drug in the first place? That's a good question that would be difficult to answer without cynicism. Almost every drug that does anything requires a prescription. The reason is the government thinks people are idiots. Some people are idiots, sure. But most people would rather be given the benefit of the doubt. I believe one should assume that people will make wise choices, given adequate information, and yet even if they do not, it is better that they should be given a choice. My belief is a natural extension of my bias toward democracy. Those who are authoritarian take the opposite view, that only an authority should decide what is best for an individual. I suppose one's stance on this issue reflects one's political affiliation. There are some that would be happier in Iran or China, being told what to do and what not to do all the time.

In my view, doctors should not have an exclusive monopoly on prescribing life-saving medicine. In order to justify such a monopoly from the ethical perspective, doctors would have to always be available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week to instantly write a script to anyone who needs it at no cost. This, of course, is impossible for anyone, let alone a doctor. Doctors are hardly available at all, and when they are seen it is at great cost and at their convenience, not the convenience of the suffering. I conclude that prescription and indeed drug laws in general will have to be revisited in a future society founded upon ethics. I doubt that any change will happen in my lifetime, but perhaps future generations will come around to a similar viewpoint as expressed here.

No Blog Writer in Linux

Today with my Muon Software Center, I explored Blog Writers in the Linux world. The first one I tried is apparently the flagship blog writer for KDE, Blogilo. Unfortunately development appears to have ended in 2010 from what I observed in the About window. Blogilo doesn't have any help screens despite having help buttons, and won't auto-config Blogger, instead reporting error messages that don't make a whole lot of sense. If Blogilo's devs haven't figured out the auto-config or help screens, but left these options in the program anyway, then maybe they haven't figured out how to keep the password safe either. I wonder whether Blogilo would save me any time at all over writing posts directly in Blogger. I suspect not.

The other apps available seem no better than Blogger itself from what I read in the reviews section on Muon. Come to think of it, using Blogger isn't half bad. The only thing I don't like about it is that Blogger sometimes will erase a line at random. I think this is some kind of bug either in Firefox or KDE. I'm not sure, but I can restore the missing line by highlighting the text, so it is not a severe bug. This problem remains in KDE 4.10.3 and cropped up while I was writing this post. I tried to take a snapshot of the window, but when Ksnapshot popped up, the text was corrected. The bug seems to me to be related to the display driver. Having an AMD/ATI kludge may be the reason I have this issue. AMD/ATI does not provide decent support to the Linux world, which is why I only buy Intel nowadays.


My recovery is proceeding; yesterday I was able to remove the bandage covering my stitches for cleaning. The area was rather swollen, but is improving.

I'm supposed to avoid physical exertion, which is never a problem for me, but I have to be careful even about things like carrying laundry down to the basement, so I'm doing smaller loads.

It has also prevented me from being able to switch my seasonal clothing, but fortunately it hasn't gotten that warm yet around here. It's a good thing, because I have no idea when we'll be able to install our air conditioners. The past two years they have gone in right around this weekend.

What's Wrong with 'Female' Directors? Part Two: Amy Pascal Speaks Out

Forbes interviewed Sony exec Amy Pascal, the only Hollywood studio head who is a woman, about the lack of women helmed movies, among other topics.

Sony's Zero Dark Thirty was the only Oscar Best Picture nominee to star a woman and be directed by a woman. It was also financed by Annapurna Pictures' Megan Ellison. Pascal is now pairing up with Nancy Meyers for her latest film.

Pascal says she considers it her responsibility to make movies that will attract women.

"Because I love movies about women. I love women. I've always cared about making movies about women my entire career. We probably hire more female directors here - if there are any- we do it because we want to and we do it because we have to.  We made lots of movies with Nora Ephron, with Nancy Meyers, with Catherine Hardwicke, with Kathryn Bigelow. That's an agenda for us," Pascal said.

While it's easy to point out Pascal doesn't have an "answer" for the lack of equality in Hollywood, it's also easy to forget that even a few years ago, there were no Amy Pascals at the head of studios.

Pascal also pointed out in the case of some directors, they are simply more choosy about their projects than their male counterparts might be.

"I have begged Kathryn Bigelow to make Spiderman, James Bond anything I can think of.  So far I haven't hooked her. I think it is about women showing up and saying that's what they want and not taking no for an answer," Pascal said.

Hollywood needs more women like Pascal. Although she may not have an answer, at least she is doing her part to get more films by women and for women made.

What's Wrong with 'Female' Directors?

Sarah Polley

We don't specify a musician as a 'female musician' or a writer as a 'female writer'. Do we really need to say 'female directors'?

In the past few weeks, there seemed to be a sudden rise in the use of the phrase by critics, entertainment reporters, and bloggers. What gives?

Yes, it's extremely important there be more women in the entertainment industry and exposure for those women getting their start is invaluable. Whenever there's a story acknowledging Hollywood has a numbers problem in terms of women produced, directed, written, acted, etc. films, people should cheer those articles. The problem continues to need to be discussed. 

But every time it becomes a topic of discussion, especially in relation to someone's work, isn't it taking away from the hard work that's already been done? 

As director Jane Campion recently said while discussing the issue at Cannes, "What's very difficult when they come to a festival like Cannes, it's always like 'oh so you're a woman director'. How many guys get 'oh so you're a male director?'. It would be lovely if people just said, 'oh you're a director, congratulations on your film'."

Jane Campion
For those working inside the industry, labeling themselves as 'female' is viewed as minimizing. Campion, Kathryn Bigelow, among others, simply want their work to be viewed in the same way one would view a film by Martin Scorsese or David Fincher, their fellow 'male' directors. They want a level playing field. 

Campion thinks the question about whether the film industry is tough for 'female directors' is a tired one. "Put all your energy into making an amazing piece of work because women can obviously make as good a film as guys. Kathryn Bigelow has shown quite clearly that, even taking on topics like action movies and war films, she can make the best films in the world," Campion advised young filmmakers.

Bigelow, too, is adamant about considering herself not as a 'female filmmaker' but a 'filmmaker'. When she won the Academy Award for Best Director in 2010, she stated in the press room: "I long for the day when the modifier can be a moot point, but I'm ever grateful if I can inspire some young, intrepid, tenacious, male or female filmmaker, and have them feel the impossible is possible." 

Kathryn Bigelow
In a Hollywood Reporter roundtable, Patricia Clarkson talked about the lack of strong roles for women, saying even female directors did not always work on projects which featured strong roles for women. While there should be more well-written parts for women (an issue discussed here), expecting the women in the industry to write and direct these films places a burden on women as artists.

There's not an expectation for men to write about men, why should there be the same for women? Women should be able to write films or books or sing or direct films about whatever they wish, same as men, but somehow they are burdened with the additional mantle of what they 'should' do as a woman in an industry which is already tough for women. 

Since Bigelow is a woman directing 'guy films', many reporters have tried to peg her down over the years, but Bigelow never lets herself be pigeon holed and steers the conversation away from gender, back to filmmaking. 

When asked by Charlie Rose why she's drawn to directing 'action' films, Bigelow answered, "I actually look at it from the standpoint of character. However, I often find myself drawn to characters who find themselves in extreme situations and have peak experiences. I think as a filmmaker, I believe the medium can be very experiential. I can transport you to any location where you can actually have a physiological response to that location, so I'm drawn to characters that allow me to push the medium in that direction. I suppose there's an artistic challenge there that is kind of exciting to me." 

To those who work inside the industry, it seems the 'female' label has a different resonance than it does to those who are outside the industry, looking in. Yes, Hollywood keeps proving itself as a place which still does not look upon woman as equals. There are plenty of stats to back it up--the network upfronts being the most recent incendiary--but there are plenty of artists who have fought against those odds and made it.

Looking at the industry as women, let's hope the field will continue to expand to include new artists. Looking at the industry as an artist, however, let's try not frame everything by that 'female' modifier.

Elaine May

An eBay Story

Last month I mentioned my experience with a fraudulent eBay bidder who "purchased" one of the items I had for sale but neglected to pay for it. Since then I've been more wary of the offers that buyers have submitted, and have looked at their feedback information before responding.

A couple of weekends back I got an offer on a suit that I have for sale. It was for only 40% of my asking price so I rejected it, but I also noticed that the bidder had zero feedback and his eBay user account had just been created a week or so earlier.

A couple of days later he made another offer, higher but still lower than what I was hoping for. I contacted him through eBay and told him that as a seller I was looking to protect myself, and that to be blunt, I was suspicious of him. I said that I would feel somewhat more reassured if he could confirm to me that he had a vaild Paypal account with a confirmed address.

His response was more or less "oh yes I have a paypal account," which was not at all what I had meant; I was looking for him to provide information that I could use to confirm the existence of an account. So I came up with an idea: I asked him to send me $1 via Paypal, so that I would have a transaction connected to him, with the associated verifiable details. I would then deduct the dollar from the amount I wanted for the suit, which was still higher than his second offer.

Imagine my lack of surprise when I heard nothing from him, which served to confirm my suspicions. Interestingly, he tried again this past weekend, making another offer for the same amount as his second offer. Buyers get three offers per item per auction, and as a seller I can reject any offer without having to provide an explanation, so I was able to deal with that nuisance with a click of my mouse.

eBay does protect sellers from fraud, as happened with my earlier experience, but heading off a fraud before being victimized is certainly preferable.

Mad (Wo)Men 6x08: "Because it's my job!"

This episode of Mad Men was more trippy than the episode where Roger took LSD.

While most of the guys in the office take an injection of an "energy serum" from Jim Cutler's doctor, Peggy remains 'sober' while working on the Chevy account.

Don catches a glimpse of Peggy comforting Ted over his partner's death from cancer. Ted's secretary shuts the door, so the audience doesn't really know what happens between Peggy and Ted.

Peggy's patient and listens to Don's energetic, mostly non-sensical rambling. "That was very inspiring," she replies to one of his speeches. "But do you have any idea what the idea is?" He doesn't.

The drugs make the passage of time seem lightning fast, so before Don knows it, it's Saturday. Everyone seems to change outfits a million times, so it's confusing what day it is.

Later, the creatives are goofing around in the lounge. Stan is still high from the injections and Peggy is drunk. They have the genius idea for Stan to stand under a drawing of an apple and for Ginsburg to throw Xacto knives and pencils at the drawing, over Stan's head. Peggy flinches as Ginsburg is about to throw. "Don't hit his eye." Ginsburg hits Stan in the arm with an Xacto knife.

Peggy examines Stan's wound and although he claims he can't feel anything, Peggy takes him to the bathroom to wash out his wound. She staunches the bleeding with a homemade tourniquet. Stan, still drugged, keeps kissing her cheek. "I want you to stop," Peggy tells him. Stan says she doesn't think she really does. "I have a boyfriend," Peggy offers up weakly. Stan ignores her and kisses her, a long kiss.

Stan tells Peggy his cousin was killed in action in Vietnam. Peggy clearly feels awful and they talk about it a little. She talks to him about knowing what it's like to feel loss. She tells him he can't mask it by using drugs and sex.

The chemistry between Peggy and Stan has been there since he appeared in season four and the way their friendship has developed is one of the best parts of the show. It's unclear if Peggy has ever considered Stan in a romantic way before, though. Later, when she finds him already ignoring her advice, by fucking the I Ching girl in the office, she seems pretty annoyed. "I'm going home!" She announces loudly.

Although her storyline was just as wacky as Don being on drugs, it's clear how much everyone who works with her closely respects and adores her. Even if they often express it in a physical way, like Stan, there's also a mutual respect and trust between the two of them. Ted is attracted to her physically as well, but also because she's so good at what she does. Even Ginsburg comments on her skills. The men's attraction to Peggy is different than their attraction to Joan might be, however. Joan is not respected for her work and still viewed as a sex object by most of the men at the agency. The guys find Peggy attractive because of her hard work and less to do with her physical attributes (although Stan does compliment on her ass.)

Speaking of Joan, you could say everything falls apart at the office when Joan isn't around since she was missing this week.

Despite everyone at SDCP on drugs, Sally's storyline was scarier this week. Since Don is bouncing off the walls at work, he forgets his kids are visiting that weekend. Megan watches them, but she has plans Saturday night, so she leaves Sally in charge of her brothers.

Sally is reading in bed (Rosemary's Baby) when she hears someone out in the living room. It's clearly a woman who is stealing things from the apartment, but she spins an elaborate story, and manages to convince Sally she knows Don.

By the time Don comes home and finds out about the robbery, everyone is there: Megan, the kids, Betty and Henry, and the cops. Betty, of course, flips out about Megan leaving the kids in the apartment alone. Megan apologizes to Sally, but Sally, having just been through an ordeal, snaps at Megan (who she usually adores) and Don: "I want to go home!"

The next day, Sally and Don speak on the phone. Sally comments that she doesn't know anything about her father. Don's quiet for a long moment before telling her she did everything right. He tells her he left the back door open, so it was his fault.

And it's true, he did. He left the service entrance to the apartment open, because he's been sneaking down to stand outside the service entrance at the Rosens, listening to Sylvia. While on drugs, Don thinks he's found the 'answer', not for the Chevy account, but how to win her back.

Possibly the robbery or his sobering up makes him see things more clearly, because the next morning, as he's leaving for work, Sylvia gets on the elevator at her floor, and the two ride down to the lobby in silence.

Feeling It

Today I had a follow-up to my medical procedure from last week. I received stitches, and as soon as the local anesthetic wore off, it started to hurt quite a bit. So I'm going to rest up and I'll be back tomorrow.

In the Audience

The Mrs.' graduation went just fine, though of course it had to be 80 degrees yesterday. The ceremony was indoors, in a building that is used as a hockey arena, which would lead one to think that it should be easy to keep it cool inside, but that wasn't the case.

It was just barely comfortable enough, but sitting on a flimsy plastic chair for two hours is less than ideal. To our right we had a guy who sneezed raucously through the entire ceremony, and immediately behind us we had a fussing baby that I suspect was the child of someone receiving a degree, as the people caring for it were substantially older and were probably its grandparents.

The actual issuing of diplomas took only about 35 minutes, and the enthusiasm of the graduates kept things buoyant after I almost nodded off a few times during the speeches.

Under the Weather

Yesterday I had a medical thing. Nothing serious, but it needed to be done. Meanwhile I was enduring another cold (very unusual for me to be sick twice in such a short span of time), but now it seems it may in fact be a sinus infection. Yay.

It was kind of careless of me to schedule my procedure for this week, and it's an inconvenient time to be sick, because we're pretty busy otherwise: the Mrs. has completed her graduate school program and is getting her diploma on Thursday. We have family coming in to attend who are staying with us, which means we need to clean our apartment. I don't have a ton of energy right now, and I'm not exactly thrilled about cleaning even when I'm feeling 100%, plus I'm supposed to be taking it easy for a few days, so today will be challenging.

I'm not sure how much I'll be posting this week, but there will probably be something.

Mad (Wo)Men 6x07: "I'm really glad you're here."

Even though this episode was mostly about Don controlling Sylvia, we’ll concentrate on the main female characters in the show first.
Honestly, the best thing about this episode was the Peggy and Joan reunion. As Joan shows Peggy to her new office (Harry’s old office), the two women catch up. “I’m glad you’re here,” Joan says.
“Well, I’m glad you’re here,” Peggy replies sincerely.
Olson and Holloway Agency has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?
Joan, in typical Joan fashion, is organizing the newcomers in the office due to the SDCP and CGC merger. It’s a big undertaking, but Joan doesn’t seem harried at all. She’s been through a lot of changes at Sterling Cooper and now SDCP.
Ever committed to her work, when she starts having stomach pains, she’s hesitant to leave the office during such an important transition for the company. But Bob (James Wolk) finds her ill and convinces her she needs to leave to see a doctor. He accompanies her and even tricks the nurse into allowing Joan to see the doctor sooner.
When Bob drops by Joan’s apartment the next day, her mom drops hints about Bob’s attractiveness. Joan isn’t convinced he’s interested so much as he’s worried about his job. With all the new people from CGC, a new hire would be the first to go. In fact, in a later scene, the SDCP and CGC partners are in a meeting to discuss staffing cuts. Joan saves Bob’s job by saying he works on a lot of accounts with Ken Cosgrove, so he’s already familiar with big money clients.
Peggy, meanwhile, is getting used to being back in the offices of SDCP. When she comes in, she says hi to Stan and Ginsburg, her old creative team.

The first new account they tackle is Fleischman’s margarine. Since Don is missing, Ted starts the meeting without him. Don, when he returns, isn’t too pleased about it. Don makes a peace offering of booze, which then proceeds to get Ted drunk, because no one can drink like Don Draper. When Ted wanders out to the creative bullpen, clearly intoxicated, Peggy has to mediate the incident. Don proceeds to have a creative meeting of his own, which Ted is too drunk to attend.
Already, Peggy is feeling sidelined by Don’s behavior, which placed her in an awkward position during the creative meeting where her former boss (Don) got her current boss, Ted, drunk.
The next morning when Don comes in, Peggy is waiting for him on the couch in his office. She brings up the Ted situation. “I hoped he would rub off on you,” Peggy tells Don. “Not the other way around.”
He’s getting everything he wants. And you’re obviously on his side,” Don replies.
“Why did you do it at all if there are sides? You could have just tried to hire me back. You never even asked me to lunch.”
What Don did to Ted was uncalled for, but Peggy seems to be leaping to conclusions about her importance to Don. She can’t admit she’s upset about the merger, just as Don was upset when she left. Don and Peggy have always been honest with each other, sometimes brutally so, and this is no exception. Don chides Peggy for thinking the merger was all about her, with a rather insulting comment: “…just so I could have you in this office complaining again.”
Although Don’s comment was unnecessary and Peggy’s advice for him to grow up and move forward is smart, Peggy might be a little in the wrong here. She needs to not referee Ted and Don from the sidelines. Let them get in their own pissing contests if they want to, because it will probably end in mutual self-destruction.

Mad (Wo)Men 6x06: "I don't like change."

Crossposted at Lauren C. Byrd.

Oh, Peggy, Peggy, Peggy.

Since day one, Peggy is a female character to root for (her hard work and moving up the ladder at work), but her romantic choices are questionable at best. First there was Pete, who seduced her first at her apartment and then in his office. Then there was Duck, who wanted to woo away her copywriting skills to a new company, but whose alcoholism still plagued him. Now there's Ted Chaough, Peggy's superior who hired her.

After spending the last couple weeks winking at Chaough's possible attraction to Peggy, it was unclear whether Peggy returned the sentiment. This week, there's a late night kiss in his office, and it's still unclear. But then Peggy imagines Chaough in place of her boyfriend Abe and it's clear the feelings are mutual.

Peggy and her boyfriend Abe's move to the still developing Upper West Side proved challenging for Peggy. She's used to more creature comforts and isn't as comfortable in the environment as Abe. "I don't like change. I want everything to stay the way it was," Peggy tells him. An interesting statement considering they are living in a time of change (1968) and Peggy chose to make a change in her career by moving to CGC.

It also explains her attitude towards the shift at work later. While in Detroit to pitch for Chevy, Don and Ted decide to join forces and combine their fledgling agencies, but only if the pitch for Chevy is successful. When Ted returns from Detroit, he invites Peggy to his office to hear the news, where she is surprised to find Don sitting on a couch in the corner of Ted's office. Peggy tries to wrap her head around the idea of working for Don again, but she agrees to come aboard the new endeavor.

It makes sense the show wants to bring Don and Peggy back to the same room, since their dynamic was one of the best things about the show before. But like everything else, it's changed. Don probably still holds a tiny bit of resentment about Peggy leaving SDCP, Peggy got in to pitch for Heinz without Don knowing, and now Don's basically stolen Chevy from CGC. The rivalry is heating up!

Joan Harris (Holloway) 

This episode contained storylines for the women which placed them directly in Don's orbit. Don has a dinner with Herb, the sleazy Jaguar salesman whom Joan slept with at the end of last season in order to secure Jaguar's business with SDCP (and to elevate her to partner), and rather than putting up with Herb's bullshit because he's a client, Don does what Don wants to do and fires him right then and there.

Of course, Don being a creative mind, doesn't worry about how this will effect the firm monetarily. As Pete points out, he's already rich, so Don doesn't think about money. Don's always had a very moral outlook in the advertising industry--about the only place where Don has morals--especially compared to his colleagues. In this case, it's unclear if the dinner incident with Herb is what sets Don off.

To give Don the benefit of the doubt, he knows Joan's attitude towards Herb, and then Herb comments on Megan's appearance in front of Don. Maybe Don simply wasn't turned off by Herb's need to step on creative's toes, but by Herb's attitude towards women. From a feminist perspective, this seems an odd argument to carry, since Don is in his own way disrespectful of women, including Megan.

When Joan finds out Don dropped Jaguar without considering the detriment to the company, she's personally offended. "Honestly, Don, if I could deal with him, you could deal with him. And what now? I went through all of that for nothing?"

Don tells her not to worry, he will win this. She turns back to him. "Just once I would like to hear you use the word 'we.' Because we are all rooting for you from the sidelines, hoping you'll decide whatever you think is right for our lives."

Joan felt Don was her only ally with Jaguar, because he was the only one of the SDCP partners who told her not to sleep with Herb, but it was already too late. Joan's decision to sleep with Herb has irrevocably tangled her personal and professional lives together. While Joan is mad at Don, who she thought best understood her situation, she's also mad at herself for her choice.

Megan Draper

Since it's Mother's Day, Megan's mother Marie is visiting and Megan confesses to her she doesn't know what to do about Don. "He's so far away that sometimes when we're alone, I feel like I'm making conversation." Her mother advises her that dressing sexily will fix the situation. And temporarily, it does.

But Marie also brings up the fact that Megan's life has changed. She's becoming recognized--two girls in the elevator ask for her autograph--and Don may claim he's comfortable with it, but he may feel Megan belongs more to other people than to him.

Of course, it could be argued Marie's view of Megan "belonging" to Don is rather old-fashioned. Especially considering Marie doesn't seem to "belong" to anyone.

Although Megan's acting career is burgeoning, it's odd seeing her sit by Don's side at a business dinner, polite and agreeable. In that situation, it's hard not to compare her to Betty Draper, the dutiful wife by her husband's side.