A Ben Cohen Ink Comic

SHAMEFUL STORIES, PRESENTED IN A MOST SHAMEFUL MEDIUM,
OR DOES THE SHAME LAY MERELY IN OUR PERSPECTIVE, OR PERCEPTION OF SHAME.

By Ben Cohen a “legendary master of the left field.” -BRP!


“Unintentionally misunderstood since 1975.” –Anonymous


“A big f@#k you, to the audience.” -B. Pendarvis



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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Them Crooked Vultures




Yet again another “supergroup.” Them Crooked Vultures unlike resent incarnations are just that, even if the album doesn’t quite get there. It is under normal standers an excellent album. Nevertheless, under ridicules expectations or pessimism it struggles slightly.


I would side Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters, Nirvana, Probot, Queens of the Stone Age), Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age, Kyuss, Eagles of Death Metal) and John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin)’s little project on the side of supergroup history with the likes of A Perfect Circle, perhaps not Tomahawk, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Fantomas or Cream. Well ahead of Temple of the Dog, Audioslave, Peeping Tom, Ozzy Ozborn and The Dead Weather. Thankfully not with the likes of Bad Company, Bad English, Journey (Don’t Stop Believing…aside), Don Dokken, Damn Yankees, Velvet Revolver, Oysterhead and perhaps the worst ever…Chickenfoot.


I would note that the album graphic design is top rate and builds an iconography deserving of this class. While the album certainly is dominated by the aesthetics Grohl and Homme created with QOTSA’s Songs for the Deaf there is hints of strangely a Cream or a Rolling Stones feel…not necessarily a Zepplin one with Jones presence. The harmonizing falls either in classic QOTSA or a Cream sound. The additional touches sometimes feel Stones. Over all this is a solid contemporary rock album that you would expect from these three. It is nuanced yet drives. It would make for a great show…I may have to ad them to the bucket list.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Review: Mad Men Season 3



Opening scene to AMC’s Episode Recap of Mad Men: Season One, Episode One, “Smoke Gets in Your Eye,” reads as follows:

Inside a swank New York City bar, men in suits sip martinis and throw their heads back in laughter. Don Draper,  however, sits alone at a booth and scribbles words on a cocktail napkin next to an ashtray of crumpled cigarettes. When a waiter comes by, Don - the creative director for Sterling Cooper ad agency - tries to convince him to convert from his choice of smokes, Old Gold, to his brand, Lucky Strikes.
"Reader's Digest says it will kill you," the waiter says.
"Yeah," Don pauses and looks around the room. Every hand at the bar holds a cigarette. "I heard about that."
And so we are introduced to Mr. Draper or is it Dick Whitman and a tediously accurate and nostalgic recollection of his play world. Smartly executed in this scene are basic themes that carry through the series. How Draper refreshingly engages minority interests in his culture when he seeks the opinion of the waiter, a black man.  While at the same time indulges in the white mans privilege of being served by said minority. This paradox can easily be transcribed to the role he prays on women in his life. There is certainly a sense of mystery about the man, and this hint speaks little to the secret he holds that both birthed his empathy and his weaknesses, but one can sense there is more to him.  The scene certainly speaks to the tipping point in time.  We have entered the height of American Design and Advertising, the Golden Age and the crisp attention to detail in the scene only adds to this aesthetic authenticity of historical place. This a tipping point for man and his society.  We will see the shedding of hubris and the inclusion of people who have lived in the shadows.  The real question is which of these is Draper.

Season One introduces us to a cast of characters each paradoxical, pivoting and contrasting to Draper. As Don is reveled to be perhaps someone else and his roots formed in the poverty of the depression our distain is eroded and complicated. Betty Draper contrasts Don’s slowly unveiled secret past of poverty, entrapped in the times and a fantasy she disappoints and then surprises you as she waffles.  Roger Sterling has a flawed path built in the boys will be boys mold. You see Don follow and then try to steer his friend.  Both are shaken when mortality calls. Pete Campbell is a devil of a character that contrasts directly to Don, snotty, privileged, maniacal, week.  Joan Harris exemplifies an ideal of the time that is refreshing given post-80’s slim actress obsession. However, her form simply serves as metaphor to the strength she enacts daily running the office with knowledge, fire and tact, that makes plain how lost these men would be without her. Peggy Olson swiftly moves from na├»ve girl to symbol of opportunity for women, but in a mold that resembles Campbell with actual talent. The contemporary viewer can view her with pride and distain.  As she pries herself free of tradition she is anchored down by unwanted pregnancy and weight gain. The casts’ depth goes beyond this and each character plays into this paradoxical world highlighting pivotal changes in American cloture.  All this is set daftly overlaying the Nixon and Kennedy campaigns.

As the Civil Rights Movement presses on and the Cuban Missile Crises unfolds, Season Two in the wake of Roger’s mortality, Don is increasingly steered towards focusing on his own. This and his extramarital affairs lead him on a path outside his home.  Along the way we discover the truth about the “real” Don Draper culminating in Dick/Don going rogue (abandoning Pete) in California. He transforms or reverts we are caught off guard.  Betty continues to flirt with her own extramarital activities while having moments in the high life that illustrates the quality team she and Don have been.  Betty is simultaneously abandoned by don and rejects him. She is pregnant with a third of Don’s kids, but finally acts on her own impulses, just as Don returns from California.  Roger divorces and has a new committed relationship as his former lover Joan is engaged. Joan’s prince charming turns Joan into a shockingly vulnerable character as the seasons end approaches.

Season 3 opens with Don playing the role of a partner we envision contemporary and out of place for the time and the man; he is heating milk for his new born. This is naturally short lived and interrupted by memory and then actions of the present.  This season is splattered with long over due revelations: Don’s perhaps not surprisingly cool witnessing of Sal’s first male to male kiss (I think Sal is more surprised then Don…and sorry for not mentioning Sal earlier).  There are significant plot swings involving Don’s father-in-law, Betty finding love, and sales of Sterling Cooper.  There are some spectacular moments of guts on the part of production including the very Don Draper disapproving of Roger performs in black face and one of my all time favorite TV moments utilizing a party and John Deer.  Not to mention, the introduction of Conrad Hilton (yes…Paris’s great grandfather) borders on genius.  There are still hopeful moments in Italy between Don and Betty, teasing us with what might have been.  I was truly moved by the depiction of JFK’s assassination.  Despite all this my heightened expectations begin to get the best of me in part due to a predictable and simply the most annoying of affairs Don has had…but then Betty uncover something that saves the series just as it is beginning to disappoint.  This and a brilliant business maneuver save the day and pull a storytelling maneuver used in comics to soaps.  It allows them to cut the fat just in time for Season 4.  Expect a more efficient, more exacting execution next year.

On a personal note, the world depicted rings true to my deep and broad understanding of issues regarding this times before my time.  As it illustrates my notions of 1960’s Divorce, Psychology, Social Justice, War Veterans, Women’s Issues, Graphic Design, Media Arts, Politics, Family Dynamics, the Underground, Advertising and my Grandfather.  He was a fascinating bastard.