The phrase "a few good men" gets thrown around a lot. The Marine Corp's old campaign was looking for them, Flannery O'Connor had a hard time finding one and women all over America (particularly in Manhattan) lament their scarcity. The definition of what makes a "good man" is as elusive today as ever. Ambiguity of every nature (moral, aspirational, communal, historical, intellectual) makes it almost impossible to pin down what makes a man good. Maybe, like indecency, it's just something you know when you see it.
A new website (spearheaded by three successful men, Tom Matlack, James Houghton and Larry Bean) seeks to figure out what it takes to be a man, a good man, in the modern world. The website, More Than a Few Good Men (goodmenbook.org, if you feel like typing), is collecting essays about manhood (success, failure, relationships, fatherhood, violence, chest hair, you know, guy sh*t) to spin into a book (also called More Than A Few Good Men to be published in the spring of 2010).
Among the early essayists are Matt Weiner and Arthur Golden, creator of Mad Men and author of Memoirs Of A Geisha, respectively. They also have contributors who have been locked up in a federal penitentiary, who have locked horns on the NFL gridiron and who have been embedded with American troops as they locked and loaded their way across Iraqi battlefields.
But they're looking for more writers and greater diversity to fill the book and the website. To facilitate that effort they're started an essay contest (click here for the entry page). Top essays will win a cash prize and be included in the book. Other quality essays will be featured on the site (the contest ends May 1st with the winning essays selected by June 1st). The project's existence, outside of providing a looking glass into modern masculinity, is to raise money for boys and young men at risk, because a good man is nothing if not generous.
Even if you're not a writer (or have nothing to say about contemporary manhood), check the site out. The first-person essays are all engaging and the blog section is updated regularly with stuff that ranges from very funny to shrink your j-hole crazy. Maybe you'll see an essay from me about how exhausting it is being all things to all people all the time (mostly kidding).
If you're interested in getting a poster of the image above (to hang up in a highly trafficked place), shoot a note to Tom Matlack* at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Note: Like the Andy Griffith character, Tom Matlack never loses a case.
Photo: Stephen Sheffield (site is worth checking out, does a lot of cool experiments with shutter speed and exposure)