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Tough Questions With Michael Maiello

A note - Blogging isn't free. Right now I provide gifts to my writers as a way of thanking people for writing. I would like to be able to afford to give them some sort of renumeration, even if it is small, for making this blog what it is. I'm in talks with a friend who may be able to help connect this blog, which has been in existence for one year now, with more religious communities dedicated to interfaith dialogue. Your donation will do a lot toward making that happen.

Here we go again, people!! Questions for Maiello:

Orion: This world really seems like a dark place. Every day provides some new level of fucked, with this time being provided with a madman flying an entire commercial jet in to a mountain. I asked you this after Robin Williams - how do we stay in tact in a world so dark? How do you stay optimistic?
Maiello: I like that you consider me optimistic. I don't always feel it.  The world is a dark place.  It's an unfair place.  Good does not triumph, evil is not punished and to make matters worse, people who think they are good are generally more evil than they'd like to believe and the ones who think they are evil are either poseurs (in which case, cute) or people you want to steer clear from.

In the movie "Manhattan," Woody Allen's character makes a list of things that make him happy.  It includes art works and jazz and Marx Brothers movies.  We all find certain things beautiful.  I love "Manhattan," and most of Woody Allen's movies.  I love that he's prolific and funny and profound and unstoppable.  Joan Didion, who I also love, savaged "Manhattan" in The New York Review of Books and specifically called out the scene I'm referencing as middlebrow claptrap.  But I love her, too.

For me, the idea has always been that the more you can appreciate, the better you are.  There's a lot of bad stuff in the world and it's very easy to just denounce it all (and only morons will challenge you for it).  It's actually harder to like things than to dislike things.  To really like something, you have to get to know it.  The people in life who like the most things, so long as they like in an informed way, are the most curious people in life.  I believe that "curiosity" is actually the word we're looking for when we say "intellect."

In short, try to be a dead cat.

I am 100 pages in to your boss Michael Wolraich's book Unreasonable Men. Michael left me a great little note. Both you and him have been there for me for going on four years now. What did you like about his book? What did you not like?

Wait,  I have a boss named Michael Wolraich?  I need a labor attorney.

I don't read much history and I've never been into "Great Man" biographies.  I read Michael's book on the beach last summer in Cape Cod.  I devoured it.  The best part, of course, is that he turns the "Great Man," trope around by telling the Teddy Roosevelt story through the lens of Bob La Follette, who was not only an icon who should be emulated today but who was the catalyst to Roosevelt's legendary rebellious character.  I am stunned that Michael can look back 100 years and find a new, real angle.

What didn't I like?  I'd have to say that I'm not convinced that the progressive movement of La Follette is analogous to what calls itself the progressive movement of today, so I found myself fighting, at times, while reading.  However... that would be a debate for another book.
This question is about me. It's narcissistic but since we talked about your personal life, maybe here's the chance to talk about mine. I'm pushing toward one year after Jennifer died. When it happened, the woman had stressed me out so much in a brief period that I rationalized it and tried to pretend it was just life. I can tell maybe that was premature and it's started to feel like a specter over everything. My life's on display by design, as was hers - how do you think I handled it?

First, it isn't narcissistic to ask questions about your self.  I hate this recent tendency to diagnose, or self-diagnose, narcissism.  We all have a unique experience in the universe and we shouldn't apologize for it.

Also, death is a big issue.  Death of family members is one thing.  The deaths of our friends and lovers, who are people we chose to be with, as part of our unique experience in the universe, are distinct.  The permanence of it takes a lot of time to deal with.  This is especially true is the death was a result of suicide or even a compendium of choices that amount, to the outside, as suicide.

My observation to you, rather than advice, is that there will be times when you're fine and there will be times when it haunts you and that you have to accept them both.  The death of any one individual robs the living around them of closure.  Well, that's wrong.  Life will ultimately rob us all of closure as death makes no appointments of convenience.

I think you have handled yourself with grace, and good for you.  I think that when your moments are less than graceful, you should forgive yourself and realize that despite out singular experiences with the universe, that you are not alone.  This happens to all of us.  Consciousness and mortality, together, demand it.

Maiello: Now... My questions for you (and they will be decidedly light-hearted)....

1) Agents of Shield!  You watching it?  Even if not... Disney seems to want to make the Inhumans into the new X-Men and I, as an old school comic fan, don't cry foul, but can't quite grasp it.  Obviously, this is because Fox owns the X-Men movie franchise but... the Inhumans? I remember them as B-characters. What's your take?
Orion: I tried to get in to this show and simply couldn't. It's not particularly engaging. I am not sure it's really a concept that works for an entire series. I am far, far more interested in the Daredevil show which has just premiered on Netflix. They'll be giving a Marvel hero a pretty unprecedented amount of time to demonstrate their story and the show will be based around a great deal of source material as opposed to creating new material around one side element from the Marvel Universe.

2) Okay... this isn't light... you've been on a job hunt in 2015 America.  I haven't been.  What's it really like out there right now?
I got hired at two places. I have personal challenges. I have epilepsy and so I am really scared of driving, even with access to a car. I qualify for SSI because of that. I also like non-profit work that doesn't pay well and sometimes doesn't pay at all. Epilepsy also causes me to sleep way more than most people and that obviously causes work problems. Fortunately, I don't believe I have Asperger's syndrome anymore and so I have become a rather popular person. That provides a lot when you're trying to make it in this society because in America, it's about being close to wealth and not working hard.

3) Back to lightness... You said you don't like Nirvana and Francis Bean doesn't either!  Okay, I get FB, but what's wrong with you? :)  No, seriously... I can understand not liking Nirvana... But tell me everything you think about Prince.  Because he's a real god, right?

I realize Nirvana was inspirational to a lot of people and I think Dave Grohl especially is and was really talented but I can't stand it at all. I heard it way too much in 1990s Seattle and it pisses me off whenever I hear it. Grunge sucks. Frankly I think the Smashing Pumpkins contributed way more to rock music than Nirvana. Prince is okay - 1980s R&B is much more pleasant.


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About Radical Second Things

Michael Orion is a blogger, writer, artist and photographer based in the Bay Area. Besides his maintenance and promotion of Radical Second Things, he contributes to the San Francisco newspaper SF Western Edition, where he writes about local non-profit organizations.

Mark Cappetta is a practicing Catholic and active LGBT activist. He has been instrumental in keeping Radical Second Things and updates the Facebook account almost daily.

Eva Gnostiquette is an artist, programmer, "future scientist," bi-trans girl and graphic designer. She voluntarily helped to create the first print issue Radical Second Things and designed our beautiful banners. Thanks so much, Eva!

Jordan Denato is a professional artist based out of Iowa. He took the initiative to illustrate both Jennifer Reimer's story and Michael Orion's Oscar Romero work. He has his own art studio, Tar and Feather Studios, and is a critical part of Radical Second Things.

Radical Second Things is a liberation theology themed blog that has clear cut goals - we see the structural decline of the United States and much of the west and hope to present alternatives that will offer "a preferential option for the poor" as more become vulnerable.

© 2017 Radical Second Things