Monthly Archives: March 2015

Mad Men exhibit at Museum of the Moving Image: first impressions

This evening, the Museum of the Moving Image held a special members-only preview of the new exhibit “Matthew Weiner’s Mad Men” before it opens tomorrow.  So here’s my unpolished impression of it.

Long before streaming made ephemeral film easy to see, the Museum was curating a full range of video obscurities.  Even the clips from the show that can be viewed any time on Netflix or iTunes are a whole different experience in context, and there’s everything from a roll of clips from movies that sum up the Space Age aesthetic to a jukebox-like touchscreen of songs that influenced the show with commentary.

But while the exhibit covers the gamut of the show from scripts to characters, most of all, the extensive array of artifacts included ensures that the most forceful impact is the sheer sense of space and tangible time and place.  With the multitudinous artifacts from the show, and even full-scale recreations of some of its environments, it conjures up the show’s trademark 1960s-before-The-Sixties as surely as an attic full of family photos, old vinyl collections, and National Geographic issues.  In an era of computer graphics and ephemeralization, when all that is solid, even the iPod clickwheel, melts into bits, it conjures up a lost world of stuff.  The focus on a meticulously created environment rather than plot is reminiscent of world-building efforts in science fiction and fantasy, including Jim Henson’s efforts in Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal. And it’s simply fortunate for those who aren’t as caught up as they would have liked (like, well, me).  Even the museum’s previous Breaking Bad exhibit, far more plot-oriented by necessity for its subject, was understandable even to a viewer who had only seen the first season, and this one is similarly accessible.

Unless you absolutely can’t stand Mad Men for some reason (and why would you?), it’s worth a look.


M. Stanton Evans, RIP

The embodiment of the contradictions in the 20th century intellectual and strategic alliance of libertarianism with mainstream conservatism, Medford Stanton Evans, passed away earlier today at age 80.  (Hat tip: Tennyson.)

He was a protégé of antiwar single-taxer Frank Chodorov who became a staunch defender of McCarthy — and we ain’t talkin’ about Gene.

I met him once, when he spoke at the Foundation for Economic Education a couple years back (at which time he seemed impossibly wizened, more Charles F. Muntz than Carl Fredricksen), and asked him about Chodorov.  (He was also a student of Ludwig von Mises — not the Institute, the person — but even that firsthand contact through the gulf of time is less of a rarity.)  Evans had warm personal memories of the man, and was appreciative that someone from my generation even knew who Chodorov was to ask about him.  Needless to say, his answer avoided going into the tensions between Chodorov’s worldview and his own.  And I can only imagine how appalled he would have been by my political views on other topics.

In his Q&A session, he did discuss Chodorov’s not-exactly McCarthyist take on McCarthyism — “The way to get rid of communists in government jobs is to abolish the jobs.” — which had impressed SDS’s Carl Oglesby (yes, that SDS) as a contrast to “the debased Republicanism” of the time.  But Evans somehow seemed to think that this was only meant to apply to domestic government, and was thus entirely consistent with a Red-fighting foreign policy.

More generally, Evans was one of the originators of the broader mid-20th century revival of uncompromising conservatism centered around National Review. He was one of the main contributors to the “fusionist” redefining of libertarianism as coterminous with political and social conservatism.  In fact, his talk repeatedly referred to the libertarian and conservative movements in the same breath.

Early movement conservatism had a surprisingly large contingent that hewed to Chodorov’s single tax views.  William F. Buckley, Jr. would patiently explain his belief in single-tax views against private property in land whenever anyone bothered to ask.  Ironically, that contingent never had a presence at FEE, even though Chodorov’s magazine The Freeman evolved into FEE’s flagship.

On top of that, conservatives occasionally simply veered in weird directions.  For instance, Reagan staffer John McClaughry’s interest in “self-managed workplaces, neighborhood empowerment, alternative currencies, and decentralized technology” (Jesse Walker’s words); or Karl Hess’s, um, being Karl Hess.  Hess might have left the conservative movement by the time he got really groovy, but he maintained that he was always driven by the same essential values. McClaughry was in the far odder position of giving a blurb, listing his then-current position of Senior Policy Advisor in the White House when Reagan was president, recommending that “Friends of cooperation, of self-sufficiency, of the household economy, of the small community, of sound money, and of a non-exploitative land tenure” read Mildred Loomis’ Alternative Americas — a book in which private interest and rent are opposed on Benjamin Tuckerite grounds.  (Loomis was a protégé of Ralph Borsodi, another maverick individualist fighting singlehandedly against the early-20th century collectivist tide, though his influence from Paul Goodman to Robert Anton Wilson was in a different direction from Chodorov’s.)  But as far as I am aware, Evans had no such funky side.

By the time Evans’ magnum opus defending McCarthy appeared in late 2007, it was so far out of sync with a libertarian movement weary of two terms of Republican crusading that its leading magazine, Reason, was scathing.  The modern equivalent of National Review as the intellectual leadership in the conservative movement is the anti-bellicose The American Conservative, whose McCarthyist tributes are indeed to Gene and not Tail-Gunner Joe. The energy at FEE itself has long since shifted to a new generation with far more socially liberal cultural views, like Sarah Skwire and Steven Horwitz.  The fading of Evans’ worldview long preceded him.