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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Written Elsewhere: Frat Rap and a Final Word on Macklemore

After we posted no fewer than three entries about Macklemore and Lewis’ The Heist in a week (one review, one reaction and one fine guest-post traversing between the personal and the artistic), I swore that I was never going to write about Macklemore again (or at least not for a few weeks!). I still couldn’t quite figure out how to evaluate Macklemore fairly.

Vanilla Ice wasn’t ‘real’. And MC Hammer was?

Since the birth of hip-hop and its spread to the suburbs on the airwaves and through MTV thanks to unthreatening dance artists and, then, even later after gangtsa rap dominated the landscape, a rapper’s persona was in part defined by his color. The early pioneers, the Beastie Boys, were really just shouting. Vanilla Ice was a wannabe’s wannabe. Eminem was an exception because of his experience and his unique ability to rap at a machine gun pace and twist surprising rhymes.

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“The Content of His Character”, Album Review, Macklemore’s The Heist

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” ~ Martin Luther King

(Ok, ok. That quote is a bit heavy to start with, but it makes sense. I think. This is the first of a few posts about Macklemore. My brother writes about the song “Same Love” almost exclusively; our friend the one and only Moe writes about why he thinks The Heist is a great album.)

More than a few months ago now, my good friend and once roommate Another J asked me if I would consider reviewing the album The Heist by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. I immediately agreed (because I love to please and the childhood schoolboy in me still likes specific assignments), but then I procrastinated after listening to the album. I told myself that I didn’t have time; that I wanted to listen to the album more; and that I had other deadlines that came first. But most of that is bunk.macklemore1

The fact is that I have been trying for months to figure out a way to talk about Macklemore without talking about race, without mentioning his whiteness in a world of mostly non-white hip-hop artists and without comparing him to that other successful white rapper (you know, Eminem). In one sentence I have now acknowledged all of those things because  it is impossible to evaluate the accomplishment of this album without appreciating its (1) context and (2) the obstacles that faced it.

No one who is even half-way intelligent believes we live in a post-racial society. And no one should. The lie that we are somehow past prejudice, profiling, and systematic discrimination is the very thing that makes it possible for the heinous attack on civil rights through the recent evisceration of the Voters’ Rights Act and which perpetuates an economic and criminal system that continues to obliterate Black families and the futures of young minority men. Yet, at the same time, our hyper-consciousness of race and its possible effects also makes it nearly impossible for people of different experiences to discuss something like the death of Trayvon Martin.

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Written (Better) Elsewhere: Prince in Harper’s

Hilton Als, in the December 2012 issue of Harper’s Magazine, offers up “I am Your Conscious, Your Love: A Paean to Prince”.  The article navigates the dynamic between adoring writer and iconoclastic performer as both grow and respond to the demands of the world(s) around them. The article both educates about Prince and helps to (re)-create the world in which Prince was received and enjoyed.

Now, before I get to the article you might be wondering why I am reading Harper’s . If you don’t know the periodical, you should try it out (and if you do, you’re probably not wondering why…). It is easily one of the best written, best edited and most contemplative mainstream publications in the English language.

But, as always, my reading of this (probably elitist and left-leaning) monthly has deep roots in personal history (perhaps also anticipating my openness to this particular article). Our late father was a voracious reader. We always had subscriptions to weekly news magazines that my father referred to as rags with terrible writing, good for pictures and browsing at best. He extended this snobbery to newspapers. The local daily was rubbish. The closest acceptable newspaper was the Boston Globe.

(That still didn’t stop my father from getting in a car accident while attempting to negotiate cigarette, coffee and the local daily at an intersection. He also feared not having something to read so much that we used to get into terrible fights over merely possessing Newsweek. Eventually, we actually had to get two subscriptions.)

I never really thought much about this video. The song? Can’t forget it

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