The Producer


Walking Dead was a sub for one of the interminable Mad Men hiatuses. Mad Men came onboard when the Kennedy era threatened to be forgotten. And every decade or so, middle aged men on TV need to meditate on their shrinkage and mortality, which is what Breaking Bad did. In all three AMC hits, Walkers, WASPs, and Walter served to explore modernity though funhouse mirrors, and the formula could still work.  I propose the following:

Pitch 1: The Maker: post apocalyptic robot servants and sentient automata gain their own life and society when mass produced and animated by the sole surviving maker, called One, -is he a human or a kind of Pinocchio become Gepeto? A sex worker robot, called Anastasia 7, now functions as an enforcer of One’s will, a shape shifting archangel. A vacuum cleaning robot, 6, now become the predominant life form, serves as an everyrobot. Their peace is shattered by the discovery of a valley of human survivors that have flourished, overpopulated, and seeking new lands. 

Pitch 2: The Indentured Servitude of Patrick O’Hanlon: The brutality and beauty of America as seen through the eyes of Patrick O’Hanlon, a 12 year old illegal immigrant, refugee of the famines, who stows away on a ship to antebellum Savannah. Taken in by the slaves of The Walker family, Patrick navigates the racial and socioeconomic folds of 19th century America, becoming the assistant of the head Butler, a freedman name Josiah, who chose to be employed by his former master, John Percy Walker III, who had married an abolitionist Boston Yankee, Annabelle Weld Wigglesworth. All of this while the country moves towards war.

Pitch 3: 1979 investigative journalist Eugene Greenfield finds evidence of Aliens living among us -Greys, Reptilians, Atlanteans, and struggles with the reality that his neighborhood is populated by people far weirder. The conspiracy theories pile on, as he tries to make coherent the strange events unfolding like a B-movie actor running for president, Star Wars being a true galactic history, and all set in an upper West Side that is burnt out, cheap and affordable. Basically a mushroom trip walk through the end of the Carter era. 

Pitch 4: Jamestown, 1607, and Wycliffe Southard is paterfamilias of a farming family promised land and fortune in the Jamestown colony. They must survive hunger, isolation, disease, and hostile natives in a land very much different from today, a land depopulated over a century previously by the intrusion of the great plague, smallpox. A seemingly virgin land with oak trees the width of baobabs, fish in the rivers the size of cars, and nothing but your wits and a musket. The truth of Pocahontas, the lost colony, and Viking settlers is revealed.

Pitch 5: Tree of Life -a drama of a scientist discredited by accusations of fraud seeking to redeem himself while supernatural forces battle over the implications of his discovery, immortality. Features hot angels and demons, and centers on a young post doctoral student, Evelyn Broussard, a single mother, who discovers the truth behind the false discreditation and the implications for life.

These are shows I would enjoy binge watching on one of those insomniac nights that occur frequently in my middle age.

Augmented Reality -how to tell fake boobs

Every time I watch Mad Men, I get floored by Christina Hendricks. She captures the vavoom esthetics of the late 50’s and 60’s as personified by Sophia Loren. The standards of beauty shift and change over time, but the large mammaries and the male obsession with them are unique to humans among terrestrial mammals.

Neolithic hunter-gatherers, when they figured out how to shape stone into figurines, created an industry around figures of women with curves.

Breast augmentation is a large industry driven by not only popular tastes but probably something innate in our psyche. When I was an intern, the plastic surgery clinic was an eye opener, with perfectly healthy patients willing to undergo an operation at some risk to their health to sculpt themselves.

It was a time of transition away from silicone implants which were popularly (and erroneously) believed to cause autoimmune disease, to saline implants, and the quintessential moment for me was in filling what were plastic bags to the “correct” volume which was a subjective process. The whole OR got to voice their opinion with the surgeon having veto power.

With the recent red carpet productions, Christina Hendricks came up and it hit me that she looked different from when she was on Firefly, my favorite cancelled science fiction series. In it, she is incredible as an interplanetary highway robber and grifter. Five years later, she presents an entirely different profile.

At first, I thought she achieved her transformation with girdles and a few extra doughnuts a day, but the picture at the very top convinced me that some augmentation has occurred. When I mentioned this among my Facebook friends, TW, an old buddy from high school and a physician, categorically felt that these were real.

After intensive research, I would have to disagree. The tipoff are the bald men hiding in her dress. The placement of prosthetics causes a lifting of the skin and sometimes muscle which changes the profile from the “natural” which in profile looks like a nice sledding hill to the “augmented” which looks like a bald pate. This convexity is a giveaway, and with the lift and separate presentation bras, this convexity is enhanced. Gravity flattens this top area with time and no convexity is seen in latter day images of the all natural Sophia Loren who looks like she underwent some reduction.

That said, Hendricks is amazing in bringing her character to life, a Sad Woman among Mad Men.

A Quantum of Solitude

On Douglas and 128th

On Douglas and 128th

The commute home when I lived in New York often took 20 to 30 minutes. I googled this and the distance was 4 miles. Google gives an estimate of 10 minutes, but doesn’t take into account rush hour and the bottle neck presented by the Henry Hudson Highway at that spot where everybody leaving Manhattan for New Jersey or Westchester got corralled into two lane off ramps that spiraled up the limestone cliffs. These cliffs famously collapsed several years ago, making traffic even worse. There were days when I could walk home faster. It now takes me about twenty five minutes to go 19 miles to and from work in moderate traffic, and even faster without it. Fact is, I savor this half hour of solitude. It is the same meditative loneliness that I enjoy about a round of golf spent alone.

My car is my coccoon, my space capsule, and my suit of armor. Men need time to not talk and decompress. The first thing I remember about marriage is coming home after a long day at work (we married the day after I graduated from medical school), and my beautiful, new wife wanted to talk. She would exposit about her day, about the people at work, and all the things we had to fix or do that week. Wow -I thought -that’s a lot of vocalization -I’d better tune in or I’m in big trouble. Sometimes I walked home slowly to try to catch the ten odd minutes of complete sensory deprivation -this is a New Yorker’s trick that has made the iPod a commercial success. You put on the earbuds, turn on something loud enough to blank out the street noise, put on the shades, and walk fast.

All I wanted to do was go into the bathroom, turn out the lights, and breathe deeply. I fantasized about having one of those dark dens that you saw on the movies and TV shows from the fifties and sixties where dads go off to smoke a pipe and not be bothered. My wife who was the middle daughter between two sisters, and a much younger brother, and parents who both worked, grew up not knowing the inner workings of men, and still thinks that my need to decompress in silence an antisocial behavior indicative of some deep flaw or an undiagnosed childhood psychopathology.

We were watching a Superman movie once -the ones with Steve Reeves who was Superman, and he went to his Fortress of Solitude -and I turned to my wife and said, “That’s it! You see -even Superman needs to decompress.” That got me the chinky-eyed (I can say that) rebuke that only wives, mothers, and salty scrub nurses can give. Being the marrying kind means you tuck your tail and smile if you know what’s good for you.

My son, G, now faces some of this ceaseless request for progress reports. When he arrives off the school bus, dragging his backpack, hungry, and fried in the brain, the first thing my wife says is, “What’d you do at school (work) today?” He looks up at her with his thousand yard stare, shrugs, and says, “Nothing.” Bad answer, but for a six year old, and completely truthful and honest one.

I remember as a child that my father, and my grandfather before him, got a lot of space in the afternoons and evenings. My grandfather particularly was treated with respect and a touch of fear. I’m not advocating a return to those days, but it isn’t without a twee bit of envy that I watch Mad Men, and see a world ruled by men, their constant need for decompression, and the ease in which they were able to get it.