New Heroes (Mike Michaud), The Proposition Returns

Last year I wrote about the fight for Marriage Equality in Maine and explained how the upcoming vote was not  merely an issue of justice but it was also about the state’s character, that tolerance and acceptance of our differences was the state’s core identity. Over the weekend, one of the state’s political sons running for governor–Mike Michaud–publicly conceded his identity as a gay man while also asserting that his sexuality is besides the point, that the state (which has certainly suffered under the leadership of the current governor) needs good leadership.

Michaud’s bravery to be who he is (and he would be the first openly gay governor) despite the fact that it shouldn’t matter at all, that whatever his personal life includes he has already shown his character through the life he lives, is not only inspiring, it is exactly the type of no-nonsense honesty that best characterizes my home state.

So, here we go again, a re-post in honor of Mike Michaud. May his campaign go well; may he always live in a world where he can be true to himself.

In the final episode of the first season of Showtime’s series Homeland, Sgt. Brody (Damien Lewis) takes his family to Gettysburg as he prepares to turn himself into a suicide bomber.  Before the battlefield, he tells them the story of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain to justify his actions (in his own mind) before they even know what he’s talking about.

Chamberlain taught himself Ancient Greek, became a Professor at Bowdoin College and led the defense of Little Round Top at the Battle of Gettysburg with an insane bayonet charge against superior numbers. (He was later awarded the Medal of Honor.)

Sickly (and meaningfully for the show), Sgt. Brody tries to claim Chamberlain’s bravery, resourcefulness and patriotism for his planned act of domestic terrorism. (Equipment failure and a change of heart alter his plans.) But his repeated praise of the bravery of a teacher from Maine stuck with me well after the end of the show

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Being Bad and Breaking Bad: Songs for the end of the Series

Breaking Bad is ending next week. It won an Emmy for Best Drama last night. My brother and I have both loved the show for a while and will be sad to see it go. This week I am taking the easy way out by listing songs that have to do with being bad (in the title or chorus) along with the hard task of trying to figure out what makes the show tick: Walter White is part Odysseus, part Faust, and part our father.

Michael Jackson wasn’t “Bad” back then. But things didn’t turn out great for him. Like the King of Pop, we all like to play at being bad.

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The Proposition: An Open Letter to Mainers

Note: This post is politically oriented and strongly felt. If you think it might help change minds, share it wherever you may–pseudonymity be damned!

(And for the politically disinclined, tune back in this weekend for our regularly scheduled programming)

In the final episode of the first season of Showtime’s series Homeland, Sgt. Brody (Damien Lewis) takes his family to Gettysburg as he prepares to turn himself into a suicide bomber.  Before the battlefield, he tells them the story of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain to justify his actions (in his own mind) before they even know what he’s talking about.

Chamberlain taught himself Ancient Greek, became a Professor at Bowdoin College and led the defense of Little Round Top at the Battle of Gettysburg with an insane bayonet charge against superior numbers. (He was later awarded the Medal of Honor.)

Sickly (and meaningfully for the show), Sgt. Brody tries to claim Chamberlain’s bravery, resourcefulness and patriotism for his planned act of domestic terrorism. (Equipment failure and a change of heart alter his plans.) But his repeated praise of the bravery of a teacher from Maine stuck with me well after the end of the show

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The Desert Island List

Popular culture is filled with lists and list-making—from top 100 (or 25 or 10) shows about sports, music and movies, to magazine articles (top 65 sex acts!) to, yes, blog entries. We can’t seem to resist making ranked lists. I don’t remember this being as ubiquitous when I was younger. Indeed, from my reading of literature and history this seems to be a peculiar mark of our age.

(That is not to say that the act of ranking or other judgment was any less important for prior generations but rather that the particular form of the rank listed seems at home and entrenched in the past 20 years or so.)

The ranked list is at once enchanting and distorting. By selecting and sorting items we create hierarchies of value. So, perhaps one influence on the ranked list may be found in the particular form of American free market capitalism (although, I wouldn’t jump to defend this point). We like the list because it is a simple, even elegant, expression of where items stand in relation to one another—essentially of how much they cost. The list, then, is a statement, a declaration of relative worth.

The list, however elegant, is also a fine way to distort value because it says nothing about the quality of items on the list in relationship to categories excluded from the list (e.g., a list of great books compared to a list of great paintings), it provides no information about the relative quality of the items on the list (is item 1 as much better than item 2 as 2 is to 3?), it indicates in its absolute form nothing about the context of the list composition or the parameters imposed upon or by the list maker.

Yet, I suspect because of this distortion, we continue to make lists. (We like the simplicity of the leveling effect.) Another feature of this may be that our world of judgment, especially when it comes to taste and choice (restaurants, music, movies, etc.), is so crowded that to make any decisions at all one must at some level ignore most options. Yes, as horrible as it is to admit, most of our consumer decisions are rendered arbitrary by the overwhelming number of our options. We can only choose by disavowing either many aspects of the choice or a plurality of options. Listing becomes a convenient way to carve a manageable set out of an endlessly replicating and expanding field.

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