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So, Mad Men has ended with a something of a whimper rather than a big bang. The series ends with the lives of most of the major characters taking somewhat uncharacteristically positive turns.
The one exception was poor January Jones’ character who continues to die (beautifully) of lung cancer. She also continues to smoke in her final scene, but what does it matter when you have just six months to live? A cautionary tale for the rest of us, perhaps.
On the bright side, no one in Mad Men had to go rehab (except in real life) and no one had to attend gender sensitivity training classes.
Ginny had long predicted that Don Draper would jump from a New York City skyscraper, the animated open of the show. (Don did seem especially depressed in the final season. And that’s saying something.)
One of the things I will miss most about Mad Men is the music. A bit odd because throughout the series there seemed to be little or no noticeable “background” music in the show, unusual for a television drama. That is until the closing credits.
As the credits rolled and were shrunk into the corner of the screen small enough to be unreadable, we were hit with a different musical punchline each week. In just the final few episodes, Buddy Holly’s “Everyday” and Peggy Lee’s “Is That All There Is?” were heard. Little musical codas that fit the mood of each episode perfectly and that must have cost the producers a small fortune.
Thankfully there is a whole slew of Mad Men sound track collections available with titles like “Mad Men: On the Rocks” and “Mad Men: Nightcap.” They would make good souvenirs of the series, for me, anyway.
Then, of course, there’s the final scene with DD supposedly meditating with a group at a California commune. A smile comes across his face. Cut to the famous “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” Coke commercial. Who among us saw that one coming?
I like to play with scammers. You know, the ones who use Facebook messaging to do their “business.” I find their story lines to be fascinating, even if their command of the English language leaves something to be desired.
Below is an actual scammer conversation I had today. Enjoy.
Scammer: Hello, how are you doing? I am doing good and everything is going on fine with me. I have been trying to contact you on here. I have a very good important news to share with you on here. Have you gotten any notification on facebook from Miss Pamela Avey?
Me: Why no, I haven’t.
Scammer: She is the director of Dcsocial facebook promotion. which are doing promotion with facebook 10years program to benefit from the gain of the company Our name was picked randomly on Facebook here . I got $140,000.00 from them, did you get yours?
Me: Oh, my gosh!!!
Scammer: Are you serious you haven’t heard about it or got your own money cos UPS delivered the money to my door step and i did saw your name on the lucky winners list, also cos i noticed you are also entitled to get the money too,did you get yours?
Me: That’s terrific. No, I didn’t get the money. Say, did you make it to Jane’s wedding?
Scammer: wow really, i got my winner money from last week and so many people have been getting theyre winner money from them now,You need to add her on facebook here and claim your winner money from her,Her name is Pamela Avery add her or i will tell her to add you now.
Me: OK, but did you make it to Jane’s wedding?
Me: Opps, stupid me. I deleted it instead of confirming. Send it again, would you?
Scammer: no i didnt make it, This is real i got my winner money from her last week.
Me: OK, send it again.
Scammer: Have told her to add you now
Me: OK, but did you make it to Jane’s wedding?
Me: Oh, that’s too bad. Where are you messaging from, by the way?
Me: Opps! I did it again. Silly me.
Me: Opps! Now I accidentally marked it as spam. What’s wrong with me today?
Sometimes our conversations go on for a long time. I find they tend to strengthen my creative writing skills a little. One ended in a very, very naughty closing scammer salutation. Very naughty.
The following was written at the request of WDAY alum Larry Gauper for his excellent Wordchipper.com blog. Larry has been instrumental in organizing monthly WDAY-WDAZ alumni lunches in Fargo. They are a blast. I always leave them laughing.
Larry asked me to chip away at letting people know a little bit about my shady past and my current state of mind for the May issue of Mike Notes Reprise at Wordchipper.com. So, here goes:
40 YEARS IN ABOUT AS MANY SECONDS
My, how time flies! For me the last 40 years have whizzed by at warp speed. I retired from WDAZ-TV in October.
My first week as a reporter was spent at WDAZ in Grand Forks in April of 1975. I had just been fired from a job in Bismarck where I was told the owner of the company didn’t like “the way I looked on television.” I was happy to be working in television again. My looks hadn’t changed that much.
At the end of that first week in Grand Forks I remember driving to Fargo see WDAY alum Peggy Lee perform at the NDSU Fieldhouse. To this day she remains one of my favorite singers.
At the time I hoped the Grand Forks job would last three or four years. Now after four decades, it can be told. I had more fun at work than anyone should be allowed to have.
Who else in North Dakota gets to meet Tony Bennett, Martin Short and the Muppets, and get paid to do it? (Don’t get me wrong. I was happy to take the money.)
There was some serious work, too. None much more serious than covering the Red River Valley flood of 1997. I’m proud to say we won a national Edward R. Murrow award for it. To paraphrase Tom Brokaw, it’s one of the awards that “matters.”
My time at WDAZ ended on a high note last fall. Our newsroom won an Upper Midwest Emmy award for Team Coverage of the search of Anthony Kuznia, a little boy living with austism who wandered away from his East Grand Forks home. His body was found about a day later.
As sad as it was, Anthony’s story ends somewhat hopefully. After months of hard work, his family was instrumental in getting Project Lifesaver implemented in the region. People with autism and other conditions can now get radio-activated bracelets to wear. Should they leave the safety of their homes, they can be located almost immediately by authorities. In some small way, I feel our continuing coverage helped the family realize its dream of seeing the project realized locally.
These days I’m writing for the AreaVoices and Unheralded.fish blogs. I do speaking engagements with topics like “The Dullum File Live.” (In some circles I’m considered reasonably amusing.) I also speak on volunteerism, stress relief and dealing with the media.
Without anything that could be considered a real hobby, I also spend time reading, walking around in circles at the gym and, in the summer months, on my version of an activity I laughingly call gardening.
The best part of the last 40 years has been the wonderful people I’ve been lucky enough to get the chance to work with. People with names like Chuck, Norm, Marv, Boyd and Dewey. Memories of them and dozens of others I carry with me always.
Congratulations to Ellen McNamara of KSTP-TV in the Twin Cities. She begins work Monday as new co-anchor of the 5, 6, 6:30, 9 and 10 p.m. newscasts on KCTV-TV in Kansas City. (That’s a lot of anchoring.)
Ellen is the daughter of legendary CBS newsman Bob McNamara. I had the pleasure of meeting and presenting with her at the Upper Midwest Emmy Gala in October in Minneapolis.
Coincidentally, former WDAZ anchor Brian Abel did his first “live shot” on KCMO-TV in Kansas City this week. Kansas City is lucky to have them both.
Saturday is Record Store Day, an annual event, begun in 2007 to recognize independent record stores around the country. Instead of downloading a piece of music or ordering a CD from Amazon, some people still get in their cars, drive to a store and buy a record album (yes, that’s what we used to call them) on vinyl.
Through cassette tapes, 8-tracks, CDs and now digital downloading, I’ve been unable to let go of my vinyl albums. I have an embarrassingly large collection which, I’ve never stopped listening to. Let’s just say it’s a closet full.
Barely a teenager, the first album I ever bought was called “Johnny & the Hurricanes Featuring Red River Rock” by Johnny & the Hurricanes, an instrumental, rock ‘n roll band from Toledo, Ohio. I redeemed myself a little with my second purchase, “Elvis’ Golden Records.”
We got many dozens of comments when we asked Facebook friends to tell us about their first vinyl album purchases. Here are a few. Don’t judge. What’s done is done. Actually, most of the choices were very classy.
— Ann Bailey: “The Sound of Music” (Soundtrack)
— Bev Benda: “Between the Buttons” by The Rolling Stones
— Bob Cary: “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin
— Cole Carley: “Beatles ’65” by the Beatles
— Judy DeMers: “Meet the Beatles” by the Beatles
— Ginny Eastman Dullum: “Bobby Sings & Swings” by Bobby Rydell
— Jeff Erickson: “The Stranger” by Billy Joel
— Kathy Fick: “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel
— Ron Franz: “Pete Seeger at the Village Gate” by Pete Seeger
— Betty Gard: “Something Cool” by June Christy
— Kevin Grinde: “Chicago Transit Authority” by Chicago Transit Authority
— Chuck Haga: “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel
— Nancy Hennen: “Dirty Laundry” by Don Henley
— Kevin Hentrickson: “School’s Out” by Alice Cooper
— Eric L. Johnson: “Meet the Beatles” by The Beatles
— Julie Moravchik: “Grease!” (Soundtrack)
— Erin O’Connor: “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” by Elton John
— Paulette Haupt Tobin: “Days of Future Past” by The Moody Blues
— John Wheeler: “The Partridge Family Album” by The Partridge Family
Like much of the reading public, I’m looking forward to the publication of Lee’s Go Set a Watchman in July. But July is a long time to wait, so I decided to pick up Mockingbird in the meantime. I’ve been rewarded with an reading experience so good it brought tears to my eyes.
All of which got me thinking. I haven’t re-read many books in my life. There’s so much to read for the first time. To the best of my knowledge I’ve never read anything by Marcel Proust or William Faulkner, for example. I’ve tried and failed to get through epics like Moby Dick and War and Peace. My Goodreads list is embarrassingly thin, I’m afraid. Not many classics on it.
Now that I’m not reading the news (out loud) to people on television, I have a little more time, in between cleaning up cat vomit, to re-read some of the books I’ve been missing.
Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole have been on my re-reading bucket list for a long time. But, what else?
I did what I always do in times like this. I asked my Facebook friends. They came through with a (very good) re-reading book list. Now I’m even more conflicted. Here’s just a small sample.
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein
Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 by Hunter S. Thompson
The Anarchist’s Cookbook by William Powell
Ulysses by James Joyce
The Shack by Wm. Paul Young
Giants in the Earth by Ole Edvart Rolvaag
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Hundreds of books have been written about Elvis Presley. Yes, hundreds. I’ve read quite a few, including what many consider to be the definite Elvis biography, Peter Guralnick’s two-volume Last Train to Memphis and Careless Love.
But here are some things I never knew (or had forgotten) about the King of Rock ‘n Roll, I learned from reading Joel Williamson’s well-received new biography Elvis Presley: A Southern Life.
Elvis Presley, Tennessee Williams and William Faulkner were all born within seventy-five miles of one another in northeastern Mississippi.
Elvis’ father Vernon spent the better part of nine months in a state prison for check forgery. Somehow most of the public never knew about it until after Elvis’ death. Along with his mother, as a youngster of three or four, Elvis visited his father at the Mississippi prison farm several times.
From his earlier days as a performer, Elvis wore mascara on stage and sometimes off.
I always assumed that “Colonel” Tom Parker was rather inept at managing Elvis. To the contrary, Joel Williamson maintains that, especially early on, Parker moved Elvis’ career rather brilliantly from records and personal appearances to television to movies.
After his son’s death, Vernon Presley got part of the Graceland estate legally designated a cemetery. In that by law all cemeteries in Tennessee have to be reasonably available for any interested parties, early in the morning before Graceland opens to paying customers, anyone can visit Elvis’s gravesite without charge.
Eventually Elvis would sell in the neighborhood of two billion records.
In his career, Elvis won only two Grammy awards, both for gospel albums.
Occasionally, there would be a lull as more fish was being brought out from the kitchen. That’s when I would jump in with a quick ad lib, like “There’s more fish coming. They’re catching it right now.” Or, “We’re out of food. Go home! Thanks for the money.” As you can see above, the reaction was precious.