A reminder that you can find daily my newsletter and iPhone/iPad app over at NextDraft, the Day’s Most Fascinating News.
When I say Mad Men sucks, I’m of course not talking about the excellence of the content. I’m talking about the number of people who actually watch the show, compared to the combination of its consistent quality and other-worldly media coverage. In the weeks leading up to the return of the show, Don Draper and his crew have been covered and analyzed from every conceivable angle, from the historical accuracy of the ads to the subtle linguistic errors of the characters. All the buzz from magazine covers to the Internet would make one assume Sunday’s premiere marked the return of one of television’s most-watched shows. But over the past seasons, only about 3 million people actually tune in to watch an episode of Mad Men. To put that number in perspective: Nine million people watch Jersey Shore, 8 million watch The Closer, and 7 million watch Pawn Stars.
Salon’s Willa Paskin looks at some the reasons why we’re obsessed with Mad Men in her piece, TV’s Greatest Luxury Good. The core of Paskin’s argument is that the show makes us feel “smart and stylish.” I think that’s part of it, but we’re also seeing an example of what I call the Apple Effect. Before the introduction of the iPod, not that many people in the general population used Apple computers. But even back then, every product Apple released, or even just tweaked, resulted in an enormous amount of media coverage (especially considering only about 2% of us were using the products). Why? Because a large percentage of journalists used Macs. People who wrote the news wrote it on Macs, so Macs news got a lot of coverage. That’s part of what we’re seeing with Mad Men. The media coverage is driven not by how many people are watching but by which people are watching. That, and the fact that we all sort of long for a time when it was still considered appropriate to have our young children mix us a martini.
Here’s an exchange between my five year-old son Herschel and his mom while they played a game of Twenty Questions over dinner.
Herschel: Are you blue?
Are you orange?
Are you yellow?
No, and the color is irrelevant.
Are you white?
No, and I just said the color is irrelevant.
What does irrelevant mean?
It means that it doesn’t matter. My color will not help you guess what I am, so don’t waste your questions on this topic. OK?
You get it?
I get it.
Good. So knowing my color will not help you answer the question. That’s why it’s irrelevant. OK, go ahead and ask me something else.
Are you red?
In his latest piece for Slate, Matthew Yglesias argues that cities are threatening to “kill the food truck revolution with dumb regulations.” Many of these regulations are enacted in an attempt to protect local food businesses, but Yglesias suggests that keeping food trucks away from restaurants that sell the same kind of food “would be as if Slate were allowed to complain that it should be illegal to launch a new website to compete with our offerings, and that government should take our complaint seriously.”
Of course, this analogy is completely false. It would actually be as if, after typing in Slate’s URL, you were intercepted by a site with similar content written for a tenth of the cost. I am as big a fan of food trucks as the next guy. But the threat they present to local businesses are very real and worth consideration. The deli in my office building pays rent every month. As part of their lease, they were promised that no other similar business would be allowed into the building (this is a standard term). But now, there is a food truck parked thirty feet from their front door selling some of the same foods they do. The deal they signed up for has been broken and there’s not much they can do about it. Yglesias argues that, “the fact that an existing business owner objects to the practices of a new business is a terrible reason to block a truck from operating.” That’s an oversimplification of a real issue and it’s just plain wrong.
This post first appeared in my daily newsletter, NextDraft.
This morning I asked my three year-old daughter if she’d be my Valentine. She answered: “No, I’m Jonathan’s Valentine.” And thus continued a never-ending streak of Valentine’s Days marred either by rejection or by a disappointment in my failure to mark the occasion with appropriate gusto. I’ve always assumed my love for my wife is too epic to be celebrated along with millions of others with their lesser romances and their silly need to be reminded by Hallmark and 1-800-Flowers that it’s time to be romantic. And frankly, that philosophy briefly won my wife’s approval until about year six of our marriage when she realized I’m also not all that romantic on the other 364 days of the year. Love it or hate it, there’s no escaping February 14. So let’s take a quick look at love.
Americans will spend about $4.1 billion on Valentine’s Day. Eschewing their usual dedication to conservation, parents will buy 72 million paper Valentine’s Day cards (love hurts, even trees). Divorce lawyers see about a 40% increase in business around mid-February. And ten percent of all 2012 marriage proposals will be made on this day (nothing like setting expectations for a generic romance early on). And 15% of women will send themselves flowers (proving that a duet is not required to perform, You Don’t Bring Me Flowers). Here is more of V-Day by the numbers.
+ Check out 150 Valentines from your childhood.
+ A video montage of people saying I love you (or I loaf you) in movies.
+ The Top Ten Famous Love Letters.
+ A new study indicates that many couples stay intensely in love even after ten years of marriage. They really don’t have a choice. They know they need to put up a unified front against their kids who are programed to sense weakness.
+ First, sacrifice a goat. Then, rip off its pelt and use it to drunkenly whip women in the name of increasing their fertility. As irritating at Valentine’s Day can be, at least it’s better than it was.
+ The era of women “playing dumb” is over. (I’m just hoping the era of men doing it lasts a a few more years.)
+ McSweeney’s: An online dater’s index.
+ A six year-old with a rare form of brain cancer wanted Justin Bieber to be her Valentine. So he was.
And we end with a story about the power of loving. In 1950, a white guy (appropriately) named Richard Loving went out to hear some music. Across the room, he noticed a black woman named Mildred Jeter. That meeting led to a legal case that would eventually overturn laws against interracial marriage in Virginia and 15 other states. I’m Jewish. My wife is Samoan. And tonight we’ll celebrate Valentine’s Day by telling our kids the story of the Lovings.