Archive for September, 2008


mad men.

September 29, 2008

Thanks to Netflix, I’ve started watching Mad Men. After reading all the hype from the first season, I felt it was time to check it out and see if it lived up to the rave reviews. Having watched only three episodes, I am feeling quite torn.

The opening is refreshing: a black and white figure falling against the brilliant background of gigantic Times Square-esque advertisements. Quite fitting for a show about a man in the advertising business. Credits roll in black, white and red. It’s all very clean and sharp. The characters are growing on me slowly. Each one has flaws and virtues that make them charming and awful. Unfortunately, it makes it so much harder to love them.

Set in the 1960s, the show seems to highlight major societal changes (and I mean more than just the plaid wallpaper in the kitchen). From the perfectly combed and unmoving hair to the copious amounts of alcohol and continual smoking of cigarettes, it hammers you over the head with the differences. Living in a smoke-free city, working for a company with a strict alcohol policy and almost no dress code, the comparison is ridiculous if not impossible. Even more surprising were the constant, obvious jabs at women that, in 40 years, have pretty much gone into hiding. Perhaps bringing it to the forefront makes the 21st century audience think about how the same stereotypical ideas are alive and well, if no longer discussed openly.

I predict I’ll be in love with the series by the end of season 1.


okkervil river.

September 16, 2008

Sunday night I saw Okkervil River, with The Walkmen, at Madison’s Barrymore Theater. The theater was quite small, holding less than 1,000 people (smaller than Bailey Hall at Cornell). However, the ceiling looked like the night sky, complete with flickering lights for stars, and the small audience pretty much guaranteed a good view for everyone.

As far as the music, I didn’t really know either band, beyond a few positive comments and hearing a song or two. I still don’t have much of an opinion of The Walkmen. They were fun to watch and put on a good show. Okkervil River very much exceeded my expectations. In general, I don’t prefer live music to its recorded counterpart. This show is now the exception. I had listened to a couple Okkervil River songs before, and they were decent, but not something I would consciously choose to put in a playlist. But seeing it live somehow made it much better.

And since I can’t figure out how to embed audio on WordPress, here’s a link:

Lost Coastlines – Okkervil River



September 13, 2008

(from Chuck Klosterman IV’s A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas)

Imagine a friend (not a best friend, but more than an acquaintance). This friend will be attacked by a bear. It is absolutely certain that s/he will live (100% guaranteed – and in my opinion, this means a coma is not a possibility either). But the extent of the injuries is unknown. S/he could fully recover in 24 hrs with no more than a few scratches, or they could lose a few limbs and be confined to a wheelchair. Now, magically, you can prevent this attack from happening. The catch is if you decide to stop this event from happening, it will always be raining for you. It will not necessarily be pouring, but it will at least drizzle no wherever you go (as Klosterman puts it: “it will never not be raining”). This rain does not affect the whole world, just you.

Do you stop the bear and accept a lifetime of rain?



September 8, 2008

I watched the Ironman competition in Madison this past weekend. What an amazing and inspiring event. Starting at 7am and allowing people to continue on the course until midnight, the event is much more of a personal mission than a race. Clearly I was not about to get up and watch the swimming leg at 7am, but in the afternoon I was able to watch a good bit of the transition from biking to running. What amazed me the most was that despite the age difference between the athletes (ranging mostly from mid-twenties to mid-fifties), I could hardly tell the difference when they were wearing their helmets. If only my legs could look that good when I am 50. Also quite intriguing is the amount of muscle definition in their legs, which is so visible even when doing something simple like stepping off their bike.

The marathon portion was less interesting to watch, if only because it was slower, and people look a lot worse when they run. However, the end was just incredible (obviously more incredible for them than for me, but still quite exciting). For every finisher, the crowd would cheer and the voice announced their name and hometown. Volunteers helped them walk to get water and make sure everything was OK. The number of competitors was impressive, but I was even more surprised at the number of people who were international. I never realized that it was such a big deal everywhere.



September 3, 2008

Labor Day is the first holiday for most people I know who just started working. Given the long weekend, two friends from Cornell came to Madison to visit. It was their first visit to Wisconsin, which inevitably means they get to experience as much Midwest culture as I could find. This included the farmer’s market, a brewery tour, a German bar, and a food festival.

For the brewery tour, we headed into Middleton to visit Capital Brewery. It was much smaller than I expected, which resulted in an extremely short and somewhat unsatisfying tour. I had expected more given it was 49 in the top 50 craft brewing companies (according to the Brewers Association List). Either way, the tasting they gave at the end was quite good.

We stopped by the Essen Haus after our dinner at the steakhouse. People love this restaurant/bar, and truth be told, I’ve only been in there once before. It had been a Tuesday night just before they closed, so we got cheap pints and headed into the Come Back In. This time, it was completely different. We walked into a nice crowd being entertained by a very loud polka band. To top things off, people were dancing and singing along with the music. It was beyond stereotypical Wisconsin, but quite amusing and good for a laugh. To top things off, it was my first time seeing a woman with a baby in a bar.

Last for the weekend was Taste of Madison, an annual food festival when the restaurants around the area offer “tastes” of their food. It was fun, although heat and crowds never make for the best time. While a lot of the food was pretty standard, I did get to try a couple of interesting things. Probably most interesting was the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Eggrolls and Butterfinger Wontons from Bluephies. And of course, deep fried beer battered cheese curds (from the Old Fashioned) were a must and very delicious.