Welcome to my blog. I thought I would begin with something about my playful and at times passionate engagement with popular culture, or what the once University of Texas at Austin philosophy professor, Douglas Kellner calls, “media culture,” and my winning a contest for one of my favorite television programs, Mad Men.
According to Kellner, “A media culture has emerged in which images, sounds, and spectacles help produce the fabric of everyday life, dominating leisure time, shaping political views and social behavior, and providing the materials out of which people forge their very identities. Radio, television, film, and the other products of the culture industries provide the models of what it means to be male or female, successful or a failure, powerful or powerless. Media culture also provides the materials out of which many people construct their sense of class, of ethnicity and race, of nationality, of sexuality, of ‘us’ and ‘them.’ Media culture helps shape the prevalent view of the world and deepest values: it defines what is considered good or bad, positive or negative, moral or evil. Media stories and images provide the symbols, myths, and resources which help constitute a common culture for the majority of individuals in many parts of the world today” (Media Culture: Cultural Studies, Identity and the Politics Between the Modern and the Postmodern, 1995).
The AMC television program Mad Men is a fabulously stylized and rich piece of popular culture. The show was created by Matthew Weiner, who was also a writer and producer on the last three seasons of The Sopranos, one of my top three television programs of all time, the others being Six Feet Under and The Wire.
Like The Sopranos, Mad Men is organized around a very complex and conflicted male protagonist, Don Draper. The show is set in the 1960s New York at an advertising firm, at a time when advertising was emerging as an increasingly powerful force and presence in American culture.
The show, entering it 5th season, uses this space and these characters to explore most prominently, gender and power, but also the development of advertising and its intersection with art, image making, consumer culture, and the vicissitudes of persuasion. In addition to finding the show very compelling psychologically, its also visually and aesthetically compelling, especially since I am a huge fan of mid-century modern furniture and design.
So when I saw Mad Men teamed up with Design Within Reach in their “Get the Look of Mad Men” and “A Chance to Mad Men Your Living Room” Sweepstakes, I had to enter, never thinking I would actually win. But I received an enthusiastic call from the CEO of Design Within Reach last summer asking me to call back and that his assistant would find him wherever he was. I at times joke that I need to come up with something more creative than just filling out on online entry form, but that is all I did. I then got to pick out the colors of the couch, chair, carpet and floor lamp, and they did a photo shoot at the Austin DWR which was great fun. The photographer for the photo shoot was Eric Bricker, director of Visual Accoustics, an outstanding documentary film about the architectural photographer, Julius Shulman.