5 Lessons Learned From Mad Men

With hipster culture’s fascination with vintage, and of course its deep roots in the 1960s’ hippie movement, it seems only inappropriate that Ironic Poncho discusses AMC’s popular television show Mad Men. Please note this is entirely a interesting quasi-analytically extrapolative piece, and not at all an attempted justification of my watching all six and a half seasons over the course of a weekend. So while I’ve spent the week fielding questions like, “Do you have a life?” and “Did you, like, go to the bathroom at all?” you can reap the benefits of my sacrifice by reading the post to learn all the priceless items of life advice I gained from my Mad Men filled weekend. (There might be spoilers, and while I’ve been advised that a “Find the Spoilers” scavenger hunt is not the best way to find them or endear myself to you, too bad, because I ain’t gunna be part of your system!)

Disclaimer: I understand the creators of this show did not intend to present these messages, and if anything intended to promote the opposite of what I say. This is honestly more of a humorous critique of all the 1960s, with Mad Men stuck in the title to shamelessly capitalize on the show’s popularity.

1. I can’t believe I used to think women were equal, intelligent and indistinguishable from men except for certain psychologically unrelated physical characteristics! Thanks Mad Men, for reminding me that women are just like any other object–except you can have sex with them!

2. If you’re not drinking right now, you have one X chromosome too many. Cocktails, bourbon, whiskey, it doesn’t matter if you can’t taste that scotch anymore and’ve thrown up six times. You drink because that’s what men do. 

3. Why work when you have a couch in your office?

4. Taking a long draw on a cigarette before and after anything you say instantly makes what you said 100 times cooler and more intelligent. (Taking a draw on a joint before speaking makes you doubly enlightened, that is until you actually start talking.)

5. Wow, how could I forget our media’s over-dramatization of everything? I knew cigarettes weren’t dangerous. Would tobacco companies lie to me to sell cigarettes? I don’t think so! Keep on smoking kids, that lung cancer is caused by the harmful neurotoxins released by Communists or listening to the Rolling Stones.

In all honesty it’s a fantastic show you should watch, if only so you and that other person who watches it can obnoxiously summarize your favorite episodes at parties.

Why Get Into Vinyl?

Well, why the hell not?

As the aspiring hipster, the iPod or other radio is not sufficient to play your unique music tastes (or obnoxiously present them to your mainstream friends). How do you cover the gaping hole of inadequacy offered by modern music players? Obviously by going back to 1957. That is, vinyl records, LPs and turntables.

Vinyl is making a comeback. If you were born well after the CD, or can’t remember when songs weren’t available instantly on your JavaGoogles for immediate download or whatever you kids do with computers these days, “record players” (the term is turntable) are as current as flint spearheads. But trust me–just like you may see flip phones or hunting wooly mammoths in a nostalgic light (demographics research is all over the place–we’re trying to cover all our bases), many see the turntable in the same way. The sound provides a warmth removed by the sci-fi-esque dominant digital music, possesses a sound quality audiophiles will rant to you about until you question what else you were expecting when you decided to attend an audiophile convention.

Seriously, it’s a better sound. And you don’t have to go to antique stores either — Amazon has a terrific selection of affordably priced turntables and LPs (but for records I prefer Insound as it has a great selection of modern groups cheap.). And with record of the month clubs like Vinyl Me, Please, you can grow your music collection without leaving the house.

The pretentious connotations are so well entrenched that I don’t even need to go there. Although with the rising popularity of turntables, you may want to get really alternative, and get into cassettes.

You mean you still text?

Texting is good. Before its onset I often complained about having solitude. I mean, who’s ever wanted privacy? Unpopular opinion: I have. Now, of course, with everyone having phones and widespread delusions of grandeur, I can be completely alone in the woods and be included in some group message wishing Dave a happy birthday. I don’t like Dave. I came out into the woods to get away from Dave. But now I have to listen to seventeen hundred people wish him a happy birthday. Who wants that?

The other day it struck me that the plots of so many old movies wouldn’t work if set today. The characters could just call each other, whenever, wherever. They would be forced to mention things like, “oh no! I don’t have reception!” just to sustain the plot, to which the audience would groan “how convenient.” Besides from obviating the modernizing of classic movies, with cell phones I also have to hear about Dave a lot more than I would have otherwise. And while hatred of Dave is no doubt already a convincing argument to hate cell phones, I will admit I might still be stranded at Chicago’s Union Station if it weren’t for them.

Nice try, Birth of a Nation, but not only would you not work with phones, racism is also completely gone!

Nice try, Birth of a Nation, but not only would you not work with phones, racism is also completely gone!

So cell phones have their pros and cons; but you know what only has pros? Letter writing. In conjunction with email for the everyday business communications, and texting for asking Dave questions about uranium to get him flagged by the NSA, the Letter has almost no modern drawbacks. The former drawbacks of letters were mostly because it was the only option–if I need to let you know about something quickly, I would desperately wish for a technology faster than the letter. If I had to send a letter to corporate headquarters each time I needed to get authorization, that would be annoying. But if I want to have a meaningful exchange that reinforces friendship and authenticity–am I really going to send a text? or an email? Who even checks their emails anymore? No, when there is something serious to discuss, or someone serious (wink wink) to discuss even the mundane with, I will use a letter.

Thankfully the letter has not lost all its public approval. From what I’ve learned by stealing people’s mail, love letters are still a thing. So are bills. Getting a love letter, or even just seeing a handwritten address amidst those rectangles of debt, has not yet lost its appeal. People love getting letters, but they never send them.

Pictured: Me.

Pictured: Me.

Think of all those great writers whose collected letters you can buy. In an age where we no longer send letters, the famous authors of the next half century will have none of this. Will we buy compilations of their tweets?

Call me a reactionary, but I think in the letter there is something desperately needed. There is the patience lost bemoaned by every older generation, yes, but there is also a sense of the physical and the deliberate in the letter. What’s more romantic: if we’re on different coasts and a) I spend three seconds typing and send you a text that says “I love you,” or b) I spend a half hour writing out my sentiments, seal the letter, drive to a post office, mail it, and have my declaration of love travel across the entire continent and end up in your hands for you to open? Sorry, ladies, if that was too romantic. Hopefully my earlier confession of stealing mail calms your fluttering hearts. Even without love, though, a letter says that not only did I think about you, I thought enough about you to go significantly out of my way to tell you. And in your hands you can hold proof of my intention! A letter is real. A letter demands respect.

There are many who agree with me. A while back I saw this blog post which makes excellent points. Then there is also The Postal Society, whose crusade to revive the letter is truly admirable. And so I call to you, as aspiring hipsters, or even as hipster haters–write letters. If you are from the hipster camp say you’re doing it because texting is too mainstream. If you’re from the hipster-hater camp say you’re doing it to send hate mail about hipsters. But there’s one reason we can all rally behind to write letters: to spite Dave.

Freakin' Dave.

Freakin’ Dave.