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First take

The Mad Men conclusion did the job, which wasn’t especially easy. It had to put some manner of conclusion on a story line that sprawled widely over a number of characters and ideas, there being no tight story spine here (in the manner of Breaking Bad or Sons of Anarchy). It also had to make some kind of commentary on a whole decade, the sixties; Mad Men began just before it and ended just after, and a statement of some sort seemed needed. (photo: “Mad Men season 5 cast photo” by Source (WP:NFCC#4).) The Sunday finale did both, giving us a clear sense of where the major characters were headed, with hints back to their trajectory over the course of the hottest an most day-glo decade we’ve ever had. Many of the things people do, their opportunities and senses of possibility, changes, the show seemed to say, but the cores of people did not. Much of the attention will go to the changing role of women (the Peggy and Joan threads), and reasonably. But don’t lose track of the final scene with Don Draper, at an oceanside meditation group, searching for answers, which had great resonance in two directions. One was the first scene in the series, when Don tried to understand the perspective of a black man working in a bar, and his motivation for smoking his brand of cigarettes; that was a mental journey too, of a sort. And the other point of resonance, the final scene: A clip from the old Coca Cola commercial “I’d like to teach the world to sing.” Was Don – who appeared to have been assigned the Coke account at the ad firm he’d abandoned – going to be implicitly using his new meditative approach for the new ad? Or is the ad a counterpoint to where Don is going? Mad Men was always a bit open-ended and, while offering a satifying finish, it stayed so to the end.

It’s been 35 years since the Mount St. Helens eruption, and news reports are looking back and, to a degree, taking stock. Apart from a change in the mountain, and a new visitor center nearby, it’s hard to point to massive changes in the area resulting from it. Most of the debris was brushed away long ago. (I still remember though walking outside my newspaper office in Pocatello, hundreds of miles east the mount, that day, and finding a clear coating of volcano dust on my car.) But the Seattle Times does have an interesting piece on its front page about how the volcano changed – in some ways for the better, economically – the small city of Castle Rock, which received a mass of sediment from the volcano, and has been making use of it since.

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