We got this email from Basketcase Jorie:

I just picked up a copy of “Panati’s Parade of Fads, Follies, and Manias” by Charles Panati. It’s a book examining the last 100 years of pop culture, everything from fads to tv shows to books. There will undoubtedly be things mentioned in the book that will be mentioned in Mad Men in the coming seasons, so you might want to pick up your own copy at the library or used bookstore.

While Don Draper says that “nostalgia” means “pain from an old wound,” Panati claims that it comes from the Greek “nostos–to return home” and “algia–a painful condition.” Literally, it is “a painful yearning to return home.” That is exactly what Don tried to do at the end of “The Wheel.” Panati also goes on to say that the term was coined by Swiss physician Johannes Hofer in the late 17th century to describe a condition he was seeing among Swiss mercenaries who were working far from their homelands. Until the 1880’s, it was classified as a disease and its “symptoms” included despondency, melancholia, bouts of weeping, anorexia, and suicide attempts.

I thought you would find this interesting, since you like to go into depth about concepts on the show. Keep up the good work!

Thanks, Jorie, we definitely find it interesting. And by the way, here’s a link to Panati’s book. I bought it for myself.

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Here’s a lyrical essay on the bygone era of the department store. The author extolls the beauties of shopping circa 1950–1960, and mentions Mad Men as “an antitode to shopping nostalgia.”

Like all nostalgia, I know that mine has a strong reactionary underpinning. If there was a fantasy quality to shopping in the past, this is because it diverted women from the fact that they had nothing else to do. They were effectively barred from the workplace, and shopping was their opiate. They were obliged to think of themselves as ornamental creatures, to be corseted and festooned in ways that seem deforming and sadistic now. See the AMC series Mad Men for a good antidote to shopping nostalgia. All that cigarette smoking, daytime drinking, sexual harassment, and stultifying suburban conformity was the price paid for a great retail experience.

Still, the waning of department store culture entails a loss of beauty. That bygone experience, no matter its gender oppressiveness or its health hazards, was an esthetic one. Not just the product counted, but the experience of buying it; not just the ends, but the means. Everything contributed — from the color-coordinated restaurants and swankily snooty hair salons to the changing rooms with triptych mirrors and upholstered armchairs. I can still whiff the inimitable mix of cigarette smoke and Chanel #5 that wafted through the aisles, still recall the comforts of fawning saleswomen, still hear the spike heels clicking down the polished aisles and see the long red fingernails tapping on the glass counters. Gone is the sense that going to a department store was a peek into a magical woman’s world.

It’s a shame this author stuck to the theme of shopping as a women’s world, and didn’t branch out a little. This author has a Jewish-sounding name (Paula Marantz Cohen) and talks about her hair frizzing up. Mad Men addresses the specific “Jewish” nature of some department stores (Menken’s) as opposed to the WASPier chic of a Saks. I’d be interested in reading an article that branched into the ethnicity of the department store experience. I’m just barely old enough to remember it, and not in the kind of nuance that such a rememberance would require.