Wednesday, December 22, 2010

StoneMad Men

StoneMadMen takes a gritty look at stoneworkers and their quirky, disputably tight-fitting society as well as many of the building blocks of their culture dating back from neolithic crimes to the advent of various social blogging operations, highlighting blatant photo-self-promotion, practical masonry (and joking), drinking, status seeking, voyeurism (ie. stone-porn) hobnobbing, robo-phobia, luddite-bashing, greenism and 'anti-cementism'. Smoking dusty power tools, far more commonly used in stonework now than they were, are featured throughout the series; many characters talk about their merits (as well as those of the power tools they use ) and can be seen using modern and large equipment in the courses of wall construction.

In the pilot, representatives of the walling community across N A come to well-known stone buff Stirling Clips, looking for him to start a new website in the wake of having enjoyed so many previous symposiums and wanting to have a follow-Op for wallers and masons who couldn't get to every stone-studded event. This will lead to the formation of a web forum where Madmen (and unfortunately very few Madwomen) hangout and discuss what they do and don't like about each other's work. Various health issues are touched on including veneer-eal disease, lung cancer, proper safety wear, tooling techniques, job opportunities, and upcoming stone-related events.

The show presents a subculture in which men who are normally engaged to their own lovely work now frequently enter relationships with other masons over the internet. It also observes the stone masonry subculture as a resource for creativity, socializing, time-wasting and friction. Along with each of these examples there are hints of future structural tensions and website changes. Anxiety about standardization, feather and plug use (specifically in one episode), and talk of granite being harmful to health (because of its natural uranium content and its worrying radioactive level) and other daily news items are usually dismissed briefly and then completely ignored as they scroll off the bottom of the audiences screen.

Characters in the show see the stirrings of change in the stone industry itself, with the advent of computerized stone construction (videos are posted) and fret about different ad campaigns creeping in advocating various Non-Madman-made structures and products. The lead character (and Madminister) a well-loved stone diplomat and a chisel-toting Man's-man is the main Madbassador for true masonry, lauding the nostalgic value of older stonework and the market potential for keeping the show going and the need to keep everyone from fighting with each other.

Themes of alienation, social immobility and ruthlessness also underpin the tone of the show. Several of the characters walk narrow scaffolding planks as they contemplate their rather humble unorthadox beginnings and the critical bureaucratic stance they have taken amidst the newly formed group of impressionable young masons. Others are often in danger of being asked to clean up their act, pay their dues and stay on topic, or risk being removed from the foundation's next season. At times,the StoneMad Men who work with stones seem quite oblivious to their faults and quirky inconsistencies, which interestingly enough the audience picks up on as they sign in to catch each new episode of Stone-Mad Mania.


  1. A brilliant analysis that crystallizes the state of the stone man nation. I don't know how you come up with this stuff overnight (must be while sleeping like a rock). Good positive words provoking lots of good thoughts.

  2. Thanks Dan. I think of you as one of the good characters in the story. And yes, I do sleep well.

  3. funny and true, John. Nice to see you in Ventura. Good luck at Peter's on your continued ruination; it'll be good for some ruminations. Todd C

  4. Thanks Todd. It was indeed a pleasure to meet up with you and some of the other real stonemadders last week rather than just dealing with the virtual (not always virtuous?) ones.