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Archive for the tag “Don Draper”

Before the Election

In yesterday’s Globe( October 3)
Ian Brown conjures an interesting picture of Justin Trudeau, impressing me more than when I heard him speak. Towards the conclusion of his article Brown writes “ When everything is performance, nothing is performance: It’s all real.” This statement reminded me of Philip Roth in American Pastoral when one of his characters comments that beneath the surface, there was only more surface. This leads me to my realization that Don Draper from Mad Men, elevated advertisement and consumerism by the lies that billboards boast to make us believe something- is so much better, so idealized than what it is. And that notion has sustained us weary travellers in our desire to think the ideal presented is truth, not just concocted phrases and images to deceive. Playing with our desire for the good and beautiful, charming us into a false state so we can be persuaded and lead -in Draper’s case: so we, as the consumer, the client will buy into and for a product. 

Im not saying that is case for Trudeau.Maybe he is more than I thought. Certainly Brown probing and elegiac article makes me want to reconsider Trudeau as possible leader.( As I publish this, Trudeau has been well elected, proving to his antagonists that he was “ready”, and more than just hair).

 Still, my understanding of the performance statement in regards to any individual is that perhaps the melding of performances in real and professional lives can produce a seamless or so called “ authentic” person. My husband more darkly says , that in fact, that performance is just that, performance, a thin enactment to make us believe that there is substance when really there is none. Again, we try and sort out the meaning of words, denotation and connotation always at odds. We debated our views this morning over bagels. Me, the forever disappointed optimist persisting in my perspective; my husband more realistically , perhaps,unbending in his. Me, wanting to drink coca cola with Draper on the beach in the sun.

 I laugh to think that the words I hear and that are bandied about in 2015 are ones from my doctoral program back in 1996. We spent ages discussing what “ authentic” really meant as everyone of course wants to be  real and authentic and gee, mom, I really am a sweet, corn-husking, lovable type with no artifice.

 Back from a conference, the husband relayed that “ reflective practitioner” was the hot topic for lawyers there too. Ha. Connelly and Clandinin might wonder at why it has taken so long for such terms to be appropriated in the open. Universities and books have been telling students forever to be reflective and with that, the rise of the first person “I” to substantiate  a bias that is built on the thoughtful pondering of who I am when I write something ;and avoid the brashness of first impressions or equally as bad, the omniscient voice that like G-d seems to see, hear and know everything. For ages, journals would not accept the very “non- scientific “evidence that accrued with articles using “I” ,as if statistics and such are not skewed by the I,  the scientist, the researcher who also measures, calculates and hopes to prove his/ her certain thesis with a particular perspective.

 My husband may have also heard “ multiple intelligences” or “ diversity ” bandied about in his session too. I guffaw at how long it has taken for these phrases to enter into professional conversations. And then I lament that when they do, the meaning is warped and changed until the expressions become pieces of overchewed gum having lost their original intent along with their meaning, not to mention their flavor. So it happens when terms go public; they become public property. At least emojis are pretty clear as to their meaning! As always when a phrase or word enters a larger arena, the irony of wanting a thought to be more wide spread is to exert impact on the life of a society, but in doing so, the spin doctors spin it to pieces that have little connection to the intended idea behind it. This bothers me greatly. No longer authentic.😤

 Once -people possessed values of responsibility, hard work, truthfulness. We grew up with these notions. Now they are mere words that describe how we should be, but they are  morphed to fit a variety of molds and occasions, like applied makeup over the real visage.

 I don’t know if we can blame technology , or if it is just change that older people rebel against, wanting and desiring the authentic, the honest, the true- which we know can differ from person to person. I find it troubling. Sometimes I think we are like Alice down the rabbit hole, not being able to discern what is up and what is down, chasing the red queen around the garden.

 For me, it is the arts, the wordless beauty of art, dance and music that stands alone without someone lacquering over what is there. I can see, hear and watch with my own eyes and ears and communicate with the work directly, ferreting out a meaning intended or not by the artist. His/her performance/painting is the thing itself. I, the responder, put my own spin on it, interpreting it as I will. I am not told how to think about the thing unless I chose to read the critic. My relationship is direct. The thing stands for itself.

 But how do we know that the “performance” of a politician is in itself the thing itself, the result of belief and hard work that has not been corrupted by a desire to win, to reach, to be morphed when needed into something else? 


Stars, Emotions and What Hides Beneath the Surface

“Shabam-shibbebel-yibbam”, ( or some such expletives) shouts the Bone in The Amazing Bone by William Steig. Unexpectedly, the loathsome fox begins to shrink until he is the size of a mouse, no longer a threat to succulent Pearl the Pig whose oven was heating in wait for her. The Bone unaware how he/it had muttered the magical words, declared he did not know where he had absorbed them, maybe from living in the pocket of a witch, but who knows for sure?

When I worked on a paper for Children in Poverty in Ontario, I recall reading that what impacts most strongly on a child is having a parent, a teacher, a friend who supports that child emotionally. One person can make such a difference. Yet why is it that even some children or adults with packs of friends cannot find their way through an abyss? No magic bone appears to rescue them from their traumas. But often, there are attacks that arrive from not just outside but inside as well. This week Robin Williams took his life and I’m sure many wondered, how if a person such as Williams with all the love, concern and care from friends and family in his life could not survive the crises that plagued him, then how anyone?

Just yesterday I read Joanna Schneller in The Globe who reflected on our connection with movie stars, illusions that we extend to entwine ourselves in, imagining that we possess meaningful association with them: “… actors who come into our lives through film and tabloids whom we think we know because so much is published that we feel affinity to them.” She maintained that what we feel, our emotions, nonetheless are in deed real towards the celluloid super star and we should not dismiss or diminish how we feel. She asserted. “We are not wasting our time if we take to the internet to help us process the weight of depression that crushed Williams. We’re not even pathetic if we try to express our feelings in 140 characters or less. The feelings are real. It would be tragic not to feel them” (Aug 16, 2014.)

I disagree.

We, of course, do experience feelings for ourselves. However, we have no idea what Williams truly was , neither the deep inner thoughts of Philip Seymour Hoffman or the insights of Lauren Bacall when she was married to Humphrey Bogart. These people are mere areas for transference for us, a palimpsest that we employ to post on, then erase our thoughts and feelings. That we think we know them is perhaps saddest of all and to be given permission to grieve for them is saddest yet. The basis for our response not even real or true, often manufactured.

True enough that we don’t always own our emotions, their presence, their façade that obfuscates what lurks beneath. Providing license for grief should herald a wakeup call to look within, not without. Why listen to Jenny McCarthy when you really know so much better.?

In contrast today in The Star,( August 19), Dr. Gabor Mate, took another stance in saying that childhood conditioning can play a role in depression and that Williams was bullied as a child and found his father “ frightening”. He said “[ Williams] early in life had learned early in life to cover up his feelings, as a child does when he is emotionally alone and there is no one with whom to share”. Does this tidbit of information allow us to rationalize and psychoanalyze, pondering like Dr. Freud’s penetrating Ah-ha : that was the reason! as we smugly don our own white coats, clucking as if we knew the secret yearnings and despair that dog some members of society.

However, reading Ruth Ozecki’s book “ A Tale For the Time Being”, I could begin to understand the depth of depression a child/adolescent would face by the constant mockery by their peers. For Nao, one of the protagonists, it is life’s constant brutalities that encourages her to seek suicide as well. Fortunately for Nao, she unearths shreds of resilience and as the literature on that topic teaches, one person- a friend, a teacher, a family member can make the difference.

For Nao, it is the wisdom of her grandmother nun, the perseverance of a great uncle written in a French diary, her own purpose and project that persuade her to continue on for her own sake. Being inspired to find a glimmer of hope when all the lights are dimming is the challenge. For the heroine of Ozecki’s book, Nao may find solace;and in Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life, the reader is able to envision her heroine Ursula’s diverse trajectories, a plethora of alternate paths taken or not with varying outcomes.

Yet, as I stand outside a character such as Nao and peer into her soul and thoughts, make connections, and think I comprehend her pain, I am at a remove from the scorching mistreat by her classmates that reinforces she is worth less than her twisted underwear. The value of books is to bring us to the edge so we might peer over and try and empathize. At least a book gives us context and reason, words that convey reason. Our television glimpses or media-driven reports are not truths that can instruct the way into a tortured soul. Like the commercials created by Don Draper in Mad Men, they are snippets created to manipulate our emotions for a variety of reasons; most commercial.

When I worked at OCT, my research for the ethical standards revealed that several universities offered classes or courses to teach the values we hope our children will espouse and make their own: Care, Respect, Trust and Integrity. Coupled with the standards, these ethical incentives are what we all should strive towards in our daily actions : codes to guide our behaviour and interactions with others.

Williams’ death makes us stop and face our own mortality. I think that it was his sweetness, self-deprecation, laughter and crazy antics that endeared him- at least on screen and the zines that profiled him. At least that was how he portrayed himself in his film roles and comedy shticks. Too bad there were no magic words for Williams as in The Magic Bone to ward off his demons and shrink them to mouse size. Even nanoo- nanoo did not do the trick.

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