Lessons From…Scandal: “A Door Marked Exit”

Somehow I have not written about one of my new television obsessions, Scandal. Frankly, it is a near sin that I have yet to discuss this amazing program. There are several episodes and scenes I could choose from, but the one I really want to focus on is Season 3’s 10th episode, “A Door Marked Exit.” Specifically the scene between Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn) and Rowan Pope (Joe Morton). As usual SPOILERS ahead.

This, in my honest opinion, is one of the best scenes in television because it follows one of the golden rules of a visual medium: show don’t tell. We get the history of these two men and their relationship/connection by the words they speak, but we get their true, core character by the way they speak and sit and move and stare one another down.

Fitz (it’s the standard shortening for the show and will be easier for this post) uses Olivia, Rowan’s daughter, to try to get a rise out of Rowan because it would work on him. Throughout the entire series Olivia has been Fitz’s weakness. Anytime she is involved, his capacity for rational, intelligent thought drops immeasurably. He becomes like a whining child searching for his favorite toy or blanket. Olivia is his safety net which is why she is his weakness because he relies on her to find himself. The problem is that she is Fitz’s weakness, not Rowan’s; at least, not in the same way. Our weaknesses are personal, not universal. Just because something affects you, does not mean it will have any effect on someone else. Understanding ourselves is a strong advantage but to win a battle understanding our opponents is key.

scandal pope vs fitz 2

That smug look is going to be completely wiped off his face in a few moments.

Rowan knows people and organizations and understands power. He would have to considering that he runs the most powerful black ops organization in this world. Rowan knows why he is shackled to a chair. He knows why the president is berating and interrogating him. He knows what his situation is and he does not care. Because more importantly he knows the man before him, Fitzgerald Grant. Unlike Fitz, Rowan knows true conflict. He has fought and scraped for what he has. His struggle has changed him and influenced his character. Rowan started off low and had to rise to his position. Besides killing, which he did much of, the only way to rise in any organization, outside of power being handed to you, is to understand the people within it. Rowan could read Fitz from the moment he saw him because that is what Rowan has been doing his entire life. It is the way he survived and flourished amid the turbulence and uncertainty of his enemies. Knowing ourselves brings enlightenment; knowing others brings power. Nothing is more powerful or advantageous than knowing how our opponents, and at times allies, think, feel, knowing their desires and pains and worries.

This is the face of a man who don't have time for your shit.

This is the face of a man who don’t have time for your shit.

Of course, this confrontation is eventually resolved but not by either of these men. It is solved by Olivia because she knows both these men. She has her father’s skills and tenacity and understands how they operate. More importantly, she knows how to manipulate them because of her understanding.  It is not just enough to have the skills, but you must be willing to do what is necessary, even set aside pride, to get the mission/job/work completed. Unlike Rowan, Olivia is willing to work outside of prestige and power and humble herself to get at the core or heart of the matter. It is the key element that makes her different, and superior, to her father.

Thus endeth today’s lesson.


Lessons From…Peaky Blinders

So, I seem to be on a Netflix original kick lately and just got around to seeing Peaky Blinders. If you have yet to see this show, I highly recommend that you remedy that foolish error immediately. Here’s a taste:

Right? It’s like a perfect combination of every current television trope Americans love but with a British filter. Morally ambiguous anti-hero trying to make it big? Check. Family drama? Check. Oppressed minority fighting against oppressive system? Check. British accents? Check. Gratuitous sex and violence? Multiple checks.

Of course, this program provided insights beyond its base entertainment value, and I decided to analyze and write on some of them. As always SPOILERS ahead.

It's back after a short reprieve.

It’s back after a short reprieve.

The show focuses on the actions of Thomas Shelby (played by the incredible Cillian Murphy) as he tries to gain an upper-hand in the British criminal underground for himself and his family. Being Irish in early 1900’s Britain, Thomas is already at several disadvantages in life. However, he has clear goals of what he wants to accomplish and, unlike his family and peers, actually has the ambition and brains to make his dreams a reality, regardless of the consequences or costs.

For most of the series, Thomas’s rise and actions mirrors those of his nemesis, Inspector Chester Campbell (played by Sam Neill in an odd Irish accent). They are both ambitious, ruthless, intelligent, cunning, and dangerous individuals at opposite ends of the law (though not necessarily the moral or ethical spectrum). In fact, Campbell makes a note of their similarities later on in season 1, but Thomas remarks that unlike Campbell Thomas has his family, so he will never be alone while Campbell will most likely die so. This brings us to the first lesson of Peaky Blinders, and in many ways the rules of being the oppressed minority, when faced with impossible odds family & comrades come first.

Brothers in blood & battle.

Brothers in blood & battle.

While Thomas’s devotion and affection for his family and loved ones is exploited by Inspector Campbell, it is ultimately his saving grace and driving force. As well, it is a trait that Campbell envies in Thomas because he knows that it is something that he cannot have; family and actual love. Thomas manages to exasperate Campbell with this knowledge and understanding throughout the series to his advantage.

Thomas is trying to rewrite his stars and create a new world around him. Such actions usually require a certain level of blind naivete and sheer force of will. Everything and virtually everyone is working against him, at times even his own family. The sheer nerve of a man wanting to change his position in life; what arrogance he must hold. Yet, here he is doing what must be done to do so. It is within this miasma of uncertainty and chaos that Thomas thrives. It is probably the within these situations that the audience sees him as he truly is.

To all outsiders, he is simply an undeserving upstart unaware of his true place in life. A yelping dog that must be reigned in and reminded of his position; that is what Thomas Shelby is to all those he opposes. However, it is this notion that gives Thomas a needed advantage because unlike his idiot enemies he does not underestimate the tenacity, intelligence, or ability of his opposition. Thomas used every available resource at his disposal and never once considered himself above his foes because he knew what the results of such arrogance could be from his time in war.

Sometimes you have to bring a drunk with a machine gun to a fight.

Sometimes you have to bring a drunk with a machine gun to a fight.

Still nothing can ever be gained if nothing is ventured. Thomas is trying to build a legitimate empire that will last generations for the Shelby clan long after his demise. Ambitions of such a high nature and stake require stark choices and sacrifices. Thomas is ready to make those choices. He manipulates his family and friends and allies. He kills those who oppose him and even those who call him brother when necessary. He is perfectly able and willing to play king, crown, and the police to further his agenda.

Thomas Shelby knows who and what he is. He knows what he wants and what it will take to get there. He is even willing to surrender and give up his own heart to ensure his, and his family’s, legacy.

Love is always hard when she works for your enemy.

Love is always hard when she works for your enemy.

Thus endeth today’s lesson.

Lessons From…Salem

While catching up on backlogs of work, I “binge watched” (kind of fucking hate that term) the first season of Salem on Netflix. I have had it on my queue for a while now, but never seemed to get to it for some reason or another. I decided to finally watch it after hearing interviews of the shows stars on the Nerdist podcast, and it sounded like a program worth watching.

I was pleasantly surprised by this program and am eagerly awaiting for more episodes. C’mon, Netflix! Get your shit together. After finishing the first season, I came to a few realizations and of course had to explore them further. As always SPOILERS ahead.

Will never not be amusing.

Will never not be amusing.

So, if you are not familiar with American history, the television program is a highly dramatized telling of the infamous Salem Witch Trials in Massachusetts in the 17th century with much a lot of attractive people being suggestively naked and having simulated sex because it is on extended, not premium, cable. Yeah, that kind of sounds like a crap show, but it is actually pretty good. The major narrative revolves around a few central characters and their relationships and goals, specifically Mary Sibley (Janet Montgomery), John Alden (Shane West), Cotton Mather (Seth Gabel), and a few others. Basically, at least in the first season, Mary is trying to bring about a great plague to the Puritans as retribution for the crimes they have committed against witches, Natives, and others. Most everyone else who is not a witch is trying to stop her. A few more events occur but I’ll let you watch the show to catch the full nuances.

The entire first season has a running theme of choice and consequence. Every character at some point is faced with a major decision and moment that has extreme consequences for either themselves, others, or both. Mary’s choices will negatively impact everyone in Salem, John’s choices will either condemn or save various people. Cotton’s choices, particularly those concerning his father, will have immediate dire consequences. Yet, the show never really makes judgments on the choices made by the characters. In fact, many times the audience is made to sympathize and understand why they perform the actions they do which is really the first lesson present; We make choices in life and must live with the results regardless of our foreknowledge of said consequences. This is most apparent in Mary’s story arc as she loses control of her circumstances and must live with the fallout of her actions; like a plague and power hungry, tyrannical rival.

Although sometimes there can be sexy consequences.

Although sometimes there can be sexy consequences.

Interestingly, while the show does force characters to own their choices, it also makes a point to note how the characters are also the products of others’ machinations. John Alden commits treason and murder during his service in war, but he was only there because of George Sibley’s distaste of him and forced military enlistment. Mary Sibley is literally a creation of the coven in order to bring about a terrible plague. Essentially, many times we are the result of other’s interests and actions no matter how much we may not desire it or fight against them. This is best seen in the character of Anne Hale. Her entire life she tried to live righteously and help those in need purely out of the goodness of her heart only to find that she is actually a witch because of the actions and machinations of her father; a powerful elder witch in the Salem coven. The first season ends with her turning and killing her father so she should be an interesting character in season two.

What does it say about me that even demon eyed and bloody, still think she is hot?

What does it say about me that even demon eyed and bloody, still think she is hot?

Ultimately, the first season of Salem boils down to individuals and groups vying for power and control. Witches versus Puritans, John versus Salem/Mary, Mary versus men in Salem/her coven, Anne versus nearly everyone, Cotton versus his father, etc,; whichever conflict or relationship you examine in Salem, it simply is about control and power. Yet, the great truth, and laughable lie, that the show demonstrates is how much bullshit the concepts of power and control really are. Every character, or characters, who believe they are in charge are almost immediately knocked off their pedestal by other characters. And even when they are on top of the hierarchical food chain, they have to make various back handed deals and plays to keep even the facade of power and control which is the final lesson; Power and control are the illusions and stories those in charge use to keep up the appearance of power and control because in truth they have only what others allow them.

Thus endeth today’s lesson.

Lessons From Daredevil (Netflix not Affleck)

First off, if you have not yet seen the incredible Daredevil series on Netflix, what the actual fuck is wrong with you?! Now, if you do not have Netflix or for whatever cannot access the site, then yeah, okay, that makes sense. Otherwise, seriously what is wrong with you? If you have liked any Marvel property up to this point, you’ll like Daredevil. If you have become annoyed with Marvel properties getting bigger and seemingly more and more unsustainable, you’ll really like Daredevil. If you like quality television and story telling, you’ll love Daredevil. Basically, watch the show. Now. Here’s a taste:

C’mon, you know you want to see this series now, am I right? Of course, binge watching (kind of hate that this is the phrase we went with as a means of communicating watching an obsessive, possibly unhealthy, amount of television) the entire series got me thinking about a few of the interesting points and characters of the show. Thus, I decided to write on it because it is what I do. As always SPOILERS ahead.

Maybe I should've found a Deadpool pic or something for this one.

Maybe I should’ve found a Deadpool pic or something for this one.

The bulk of this post will be focusing on the last episode in the first season (S1 E13) “Daredevil.” So again, kind of major spoilers for both the episode and the series. Just so you know.

The season finale is a grand culmination of the slow burning battle between Matt Murdoch/Daredevil and Wilson Fisk (the not yet named as Kingpin of Crime). Although Fisk is never called Kingpin, his Machiavellian tendencies of playing players and events from the background are apparent throughout the series since his introduction. Furthermore, the entire series tends to focus on the dichotomy between Murdoch and Fisk. In their own way, both individuals do want to help Hell’s Kitchen, their home, to improve.

The major difference is that Murdoch believes that Hell’s Kitchen improves by helping the people within it to make their lives, homes, and circumstances better. On the other hand, Fisk believes in the gentrification ideal of improvement in the sense of improving the buildings, roads, and infrastructure (while lining his own pockets to a large degree) which, in turn, will bring a better class of people and culture to Hell’s Kitchen. Obviously, these two philosophies are diametrically opposed and lead to conflict.

Don't be fooled. Kingpin is light on his feet and punches like a world class boxer.

Don’t be fooled. Kingpin is light on his feet and punches like a world class boxer.

Now, it is rather reductive to simply place Murdoch and Fisk as opposite sides of the same coin or some other cliche, but it is very accurate in its presentation. There ideologies are different, but both characters share similar personalities particularly in their single mindedness and focus. Both their developments into the people they are informed by their relationships with their respective fathers and a major event that became a defining moment during adolescence. The finale episode in season one, along with a big battle between them, also culminates in both Murdoch and Fisk accepting their true core natures. After all both characters have dealt with internal turmoil over their desires, appetites, and willingness to obtain what they really want which brings us to the first lesson: We all succumb to our true natures, eventually.

No matter how cultured, civilized, refined, or educated we attempt to become, we never escape our true selves. This is also true and applicable to anything we might use to define ourselves or the cultures and activities we take an interest in. I can put on a suit and as much of a neutral accent as possible, but eventually my preference for jeans, love of swearing, and slight Texas twang will come through. This might seem like a simplistic example but internal, existential ideas are just as applicable. Similarly for Matt, it is finally admitting that he has the same brawler spirit his father had. As well, that while he does enjoy helping his city, part of the reason why he puts on a mask and goes out at night is simply because he really enjoys hitting people that kind of deserve it. For Fisk, it is coming to terms with the kind of man he really is. He is not meant for the light. His place is in the shadows. More importantly, he is not the savior of the city he saw himself as. Fisk realizes that he is the demon and evil he claimed he was trying to rid the city of in one of the best scenes of recent television.

Somehow Vincent D'Onofrio manages to pull off the whole smart and scary thing.

Somehow Vincent D’Onofrio manages to pull off the whole smart and scary thing.

I wish I could link a video to the short dialogue I am going to transcribe because D’Onofrio plays it beautifully.

[Wilson Fisk]: I was thinking about a story from the Bible.

[Guard 1]: Did I tell you to open your mouth?

[Guard 2]: Let him talk. Don’t mean nothin’.

[Wilson Fisk]: I’m not a religious man… but I’ve read bits and pieces over the years. Curiosity more than faith. But this one story… There was a man. He was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho… when he was set upon by men of ill intent. They stripped the traveler of his clothes, they beat him, and they left him bleeding in the dirt. And a priest happened by… saw the traveler. But he moved to the other side of the road and continued on. And then a Levite, a religious functionary, he… came to the place, saw the dying traveler. But he too moved to the other side of the road, passed him by. But then came a man from Samaria, a Samaritan, a good man. He saw the traveler bleeding in the road and he stopped to aid him without thinking of the circumstance or the difficulty it might bring him. The Samaritan tended to the traveler’s wounds, applying oil and wine. And he carried him to an inn, gave him all the money he had for the owner to take care of the traveler, as the Samaritan, he… continued on his journey. He did this simply because the traveler was his neighbor. He loved his city and all the people in it. /(sighs deeply)/ I always thought that I was the Samaritan in that story. It’s funny, isn’t it? How even the best of men can be… deceived by their true nature.

[Guard 1]: What the hell does that mean?

[Wilson Fisk]: It means that I’m not the Samaritan. That I’m not the priest, or the Levite. That I am the ill intent… who set upon the traveler on a road that he should not have been on.


Yes. I know it’s long, but the whole speech is necessary to make the following two lessons make full sense. It demonstrates the strength and power of both lies and truth and shows how ideologies and beliefs and faiths and the teachings of those things can be formed for one’s intent and purpose. First off, Wilson fully believed in his self falsity of savior of city. This pushed him to actually try to help his city. His efforts and tactics were misguided but would have been effective in improvement to some degree. As well, he faced the light and become the face of reform as a means of guiding the city more effectively. Ultimately, this fails and Wilson resorts to fully embracing his identity as a villain or “ill intent”. It is also his mantra that will keep him sane and powerful in prison ready to attack and seek revenge after his incarceration ends.

The next point is more interesting, at least to me. Fisk admits that he is not a religious man nor does he seem like a scholar of theology, but this text made an impression on him. For a long time, he used it as a guiding rod. He was supposed to be the good Samaritan helping his neighbor. All his actions and deeds were justified, or at least deemed acceptable, because he saw himself through that lens. Once he can no longer delude himself, he shifts his position in the story to the villain who took from the man traveling the road and left him for dead. In a matter of minutes, Fisk shifted his personal world view while still using the exact same biblical story. Which is kind of the point of philosophical and religious teachings; their malleability and allowance for interpretation makes them applicable to whatever the hell you want to say or believe in. Thus, it is not necessarily the texts that impart wisdom, morality, beliefs, or values, but, instead, it is the people that apply their own wisdom, morality, beliefs, and values onto the texts they read.

I think this is what made the series so damn enjoyable; the full characterization and agency of the villain, and to a large extent the secondary characters like Karen and Foggy as well. Most characters, especially heroes, are defined by their conflicts and obstacle and their response to these complications. In superhero stories, your hero is only as good or interesting as his foes. In real life, we grow, evolve, and show our true potential in the face of adversity and conflict. It suck, but doesn’t make it any less true.

Thus endeth today’s lesson(s). Also, go watch Daredevil. It is so good!

Lessons From…Longmire

Like most Texans, I have an odd fascination and relationship with Westerns, in any medium. When done by an obvious outsider, they are at best pastiche or generic “cowboy” stories without really getting the nuances and subtleties of a true stoic, rugged, cowboy character. Thankfully, Longmire manages to capture this visage, and the necessary accompanying elements, without becoming cliche or kitschy.

Obviously, I marathoned the series as soon as it appeared on Netflix, still available by the way, in order to prepare for the upcoming fourth season on the the streaming service. Of course, a few episodes stood out and the desire to examine them at length would not leave my head, thus this post. As always SPOILERS ahead.

I wonder if I owe anyone money from using this image so much...

I wonder if I owe anyone money from using this image so much…

While I highly recommend a viewing of the entire series, I will be focusing on a single episode for this analysis; specifically the fifth episode of season one title “Dog Soldier.” The premise/synopsis of the episode is pretty simple, if not unfortunately tragic. Cheyenne children, stolen from their families on the Cheyenne reservation, are then taken from the orphanage/foster homes they are placed in by a man referred to as the “Dog Soldier,” the last member of a band of brave, defiant Cheyenne warriors hunted down and executed by the US government for fear of what they represented (at least in the history and narrative of the show). Although this story makes for intriguing drama, it is sadly too truthful, and not just as historical reminder but as a present problem and issue.

Been protesting since this country began and shit hasn't changed much.

Been protesting since this country began and shit hasn’t changed much.

Which brings us to the first lesson: We must wake up, face the mistakes we are complacent in, and correct them. These types of situations can’t even be considered repeating mistakes of the past as that would imply that those errors were actually fixed at one point. Honestly, Native/Indigenous people are still getting screwed over by governments at every level (google Mauna Kea & protests) as a means of acquiring what they have and converting the Native population into “civilized” individuals, i.e. carbon copies of WASP’s without the same privileges. I don’t know how long such actions will continue, but as the series, and life, demonstrates the people will never stay down and will fight back for what is theirs; as well they should.

Beyond the initial narrative, the episode also introduces a favorite subject of most audiences: vigilante justice. Once the core group of protagonists learn of the description of the “Dog Soldier,” Longmire and Henry, his Indian sidekick (look the show isn’t perfect), realize it is Hector, a vigilante of the reservation. He basically gets justice/revenge for people by beating the shit out of those who did them wrong when the law is unable or unwilling to do what is right. As Henry states, “Hector is a sad necessity of rez life.” Longmire reluctantly agrees but still has to find and question Hector. Entertainment is filled with such characters that work outside the realm of law and order to fill the gaps the system has left. This inundation of such figures leads to a conclusion: We believe that the justice system we have created is flawed and wanting and we believe that a lone figure can force fair, ordered justice by sheer force and will. It is the American dream and notion that a singular person can make a difference, but it also abdicates responsibility on our part in how or why the system is broken. We can complain about the injustice of it and wait for the vigilante hero to come; all the meanwhile doing nothing to actually correct and fix what we have let be broken. Perhaps, the actual lesson should be to take action and forget complacency.

Hector is the big, scary one that can crush your head with his fist. We could all use a Hector from time to time.

Hector is the big, scary one that can crush your head with his fist. We could all use a Hector from time to time.

The episode ends pretty commonly with the children being returned to their families and the responsible parties being arrested and brought to (actual, non-vigilante) justice. However, there is an interesting, if admittedly a little heavy handed, monologue that Longmire says to the main antagonist of the episode, the social worker who took all the Cheyenne children from their families for profit (it’s explained in the episode, I swear). As I said, the whole speech is a bit long winded, but it boils down to an intimidation tactic where Longmire insinuates that all the chaos and violence and actions that occurred over the last few days may have actually been the spirit of the “Dog Soldier” working through people like Hector and Longmire to help its people in their time of need. It is not apparent if he honestly believes this (particularly considering his own visions, past, and connection with Cheyenne culture and traditions) or if he is simply trying to trick the social worker into turning herself in.

This is not metaphor. This actually happened in the show. Like I said, it's not perfect.

This is not metaphor. This actually happened in the show. Like I said, it’s not perfect.

But maybe that is not the right takeaway from Longmire’s speech. Perhaps he offers one of the best explanations of the supernatural to be given on television: maybe there is no “spirit” working but instead it is people finding strength, conviction, and purpose in the spirit and meaning of those supernatural stories. After all, the “Dog Soldier” is supposed to protect the Cheyenne from harm and evil, so does it matter if it was Hector and Longmire who did the heavy lifting as long as the Cheyenne ended up safe and righteous? If the stories inspired them, isn’t the “Dog Soldier” still, in some way, doing his duty?

Thus endeth today’s lesson(s).

Lessons From…UFC’s Top 5 Greatest Fights

Much like the appearance of my fascination with Star Wars and all things geeky/nerdy, I am not sure where or when my interest in mixed martial arts began. I used to watch cheesy “B-movie” quality kung fu and karate flicks when I was younger (and admittedly still do), but I knew, even then, that they were heavily produced and not real. Still didn’t stop from trying to emulate some of the more complicated techniques and scenes.

So while I am not clear as to how/why I began watching fighting sports, I have not been deterred by this confusion in seeking them out. I am particularly looking forward to the long awaited Pacquiao v Mayweather boxing match this weekend. Seriously, I will be glued to a screen watching that fight…possibly in Spanish. Because of this new found interest, I have been watching as much boxing and mma as I can find. This led to a spiral of several hours of UFC viewing, one program being the Top Five Greatest Fights

It was actually a pretty good rundown and made me want to see more. Now, obviously many people believe that boxing and mma are nothing more than two grown men, and now women, beating the crap out of each other for the amusement of the masses. They would argue that it is a barbaric, uncivilized sport that should be done away with. Frankly, I fully disagree with this notion and seeing the aired special only further demonstrates the absurdity of this false belief along with some lessons to take to heart. As always SPOILERS ahead.

One of the fighters may or may not end up looking like this after a fight...just saying.

One of the fighters may or may not end up looking like this after a fight…just saying.

The first fight on the list (aka #5) between Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Dan Henderson demonstrates the true importance of going the distance and keeping on until the final bell. Seriously it sounds cliche, but it is still true. This fight was the first time in UFC history that a non title fight went for more than three rounds. They were going to fight for five full rounds, and they did. For the first three rounds, Rua takes one of the worst beatings a human can possibly take. He is a bloodied mess of cuts and hits to the face. Had the fight been the standard 3 rounds, Shogun would have basically been a footnote. Instead, he survives the onslaught and makes a formidable rally against Henderson. This fight was not for a belt or title; it was solely for pride. And that was enough to keep Rua going until the fight had its natural end. Sometimes knowing we were not knocked down is enough of a victory.

Those shorts were white when the fight started.

Those shorts were white when the fight started.

The next fight, Edgar vs Maynard (#4), shows that redemption can be a great motivator. Frankie Edgar had a stellar professional record. In fact he was undefeated, except for one loss to Gray Maynard. It was the blemish on his past. A constant reminder of the one misstep Edgar had taken in his storied career. I don’t know if you have ever met an athlete, or even just a competitive person, but they don’t bask in the glory of their victories. They remember and live in their losses, analyzing them for errors, and trying to figure out what they could have done differently to win. It is an inherent trait in people to want to change their mistakes. Most will never get the chance, but when it is offered, we pounce on the opportunity. Edgar was no different. He knew what was at stake and he left nothing to chance; bleeding and fighting his way to an incredible bout. It may have ended in a decision, but Edgar still earned his redemption; a fact further proven in their next match.

That actually looks painful.

That actually looks painful.

I don’t want to spoil too much, so for the final lesson let’s focus on the Mark Hunt vs Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva (#2). These are two huge heavyweights who had never truly been tested or challenged before. They had simply been waiting for each other. A true and worthy opponent will test you beyond your limits, show what you are made of, and improve your performance and competitiveness overall. A true rival is the greatest gift you can be given. Cherish it. These two fighters forced each other to dig deep and take a fight further than either had. They beat and bloodied each other. They build to a beautiful crescendo of blows and strikes. And they were better for it. In one another, they found the truth of their abilities and potential. Their gratitude was apparent as they met and shook hands before the final round of their incredible match.

I assume their blows were like mini seismic shifts.

I assume their blows were like mini seismic shifts.

Fighting is a physical, painful, and at times deadly sport. However, these traits do not deny or devalue the beauty, honor, intelligence, and pure artistry of the sport and performances. There is a reason that martial arts have been passed down and practiced for generations. Beyond its physical benefits, there lies a plethora of lessons and morals to draw from.

Thus endeth today’s lessons. Also, go watch the entire special if you get the chance because it is worth the investment.

On Attachments (To Stories)

So I have discussed my mixed criticisms and opinion of the HBO series Girls in the past. My overall perception has not changed much, but I was given a bit of insight as to the strong connection and advocacy that people have brought to the program.

While I was visiting friends in another state, the topic of the show Girls came up and two friends were discussing how much they liked the show while I was the dissident voice. What I found most odd was that whenever I made any criticism concerning the show, my friends would take it personally. They considered my critiques of the show to be critiques of their experience and lives.

Basically, their emotional attachment and defense of the show came from the program being one of the first, and only pieces of media, that they felt depicted their particular stories and pasts. Obviously, the show is not an exact depiction of their lives and experiences, but it was similar enough for them to make a connection. Thus, any criticism, even possibly valid ones, of the program were critiques of them.

I think this was the most powerful aspect of shows like Girls. The audience and fans don’t see a television program but a friend or a part of themselves, so, of course, they would go to bat for the show regardless of the criticisms. I have had such connections with media myself and will fight to the death defending them (still love you Firefly, The Cape, Carnivale, etc.). I suppose it is important to remember that when discussing even seemingly innocuous subjects like television.

What shows, songs, and/or books do you connect with and love? Which ones would you defend to the death against any ill words? I am curious to see what people like, so please answer below in the comments.