Tuesday, August 30, 2005
Posted by Steven Barnes at 8:01 PM
Friday, August 26, 2005
Posted by Steven Barnes at 8:59 PM
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
I'm heading off to Maui tomorrow for ten days of teaching in Paradise. I'll have internet, though, so it should be fun to update you guys...
All right, just for practise, let's go back over what we're doing on this site. Maybe thirty years ago I made the decision that I wanted to be a professional writer...and not just that, but to be healthy in all major aspects of my life, because I figured that I'd be in my mid-fifties before I really hit my stride. This was due to my prceptions of the social realities of life in America, as well as other factors. So "Balance" became my obsession. As I began to learn more about my craft and art, I began to develop writing theories that dovetailed with the ideas of high performance in martial arts, yoga, and Neuro-Linguistic Programming, among other sources of info. All of this began to gel into the "Lifewriting" approach to life. This blog basically contains my rambling speculations on different aspects of life, personal philosophy, and the way they connect with my career, family life, and physical fitness. I make powerful use of the following tools...
1) The Hero's Journey. The only story structure I know of that mirrors the path of our lives, and has existed for thousands of years. Therefore, although it is not the ONLY (or possibly even the best!) structure, it is the most universal, and the one that people grasp most rapidly.
It is even possible to plan goals and general life-path stuff with the HJ, with brilliant results.
2) The Yogic Chakras. Used to understand personalities in characters and in yourself. It is a six thousand year old explanation of the way human energies manefest and evolve.
3) heartbeat Meditation. The safest and most powerful meditation I know of. Meditation can be an important tool in the arsenal of peak-performing artists.
4) Mind Reading. This is a way of applying a template to human beings, and judging them based on their divergence. This yields the principles of the Beauty-Power axis, among other thoughts. It is based on the notion that 99% of people want a healthy body, a healthy career, and a committed, loving relationship. The failures or successes in these arenas leave footprints, and tell us things about the person's behaviors, beliefs, values, and wounds. For obvious reasons, probably the most controvercial part of my philosophy.
5) The Flow State Performance Spiral. Created by Scott Sonnon, this is a doorway into human performance that makes Tai Chi and Yoga immensely less oblique. Drawing in part on Russian performance technologies, Scott (at Rmax.tv) has uncovered a thread of honest gold, a set of keys to the higher functions fo the human body-mind that I find singular. He is a good and honest man, and the Spiral and its accompanying physical principles can be used to reach Peak Performance in mental, physical, and spiritual arenas. I have, and continue to make, strong use of Scott's theories.
There are certainly other basic aspects. I talk about them repeatedly because my understanding continues to grow, and new readers pass by everyday. I'm going to start over at the beginning again...after all, sophisticated basics is the key to mastery.
and that is my goal--to give you my take on the path to mastery. Yes, I think I see it. No, I don't consider myself a fully enlightened being. Yes, I consider the higher functions of the human mind and spirit to be realities. Yes, I think one can reach them without getting lost along the way.
No, it's not easy.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 8:44 AM
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
In the middle of Steve Carrell's starring debut, I turned to my wife, sniffled and said "our little Stevie's all grown up." We'd watched Carrell on the Daily Show for years, (love that show), and to see someone we'd spotted early as a Comer make his big move, and make it successfully in this R-rated raunchy but surprisingly warm-hearted and honest sex comedy was a validation. No, it's not perfect. the movie lasts about five minutes too long. And some of the jokes fall flat. But he basic predicament, that of a man-boy who finds himself in middle age without ever having carnal knowledge of a woman, and his rather immature friends' attempts to rid him of his burden of virginity, is often a howl. Carrell is sweet, confused, intelligent, clueless, and entirely fine in a role which might have CKatherine Keener as Trish, the woman he falls in love with. the choice of Keener, (three years older than Carrell) to play a sexy grandmother (dare I say a GILF?) is inspired. Such a better option than some 25-year old popsy! I hate to say it, but Andy (Carrell) is damaged goods by my book, virtually a sexual anorexic. Trish, beginning to believe that she may have run out of good men, feeling she may have passed her sell-by date, is clearly a woman with clear enough eyes to know there is work ahead--and one who could plausibly consider him to be worth the work. 'Cause in general, girls and boys? If someone is a virgin past thirty, your antinnae should tingle like hell. At any rate, as they say in Hollywood: you'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll kiss eight bucks goodbye. I give it a B+, and look forward to Carrell's next with happy anticipation.
The Hero's journey applied to "Virgin"...
1) Character Confronted with a challenge. Andy needs to to become a sexual being.
2) Reject challenge. He is scared, feels that that aspect of life may have passed him by.
3) Accept Challenge. Motivated by his friends and a growing sense of frustration, Andy decides to accept a crash campaign to get him laid.
4) Road of trials: a series of dates and dating situations that reveal the flaws in his friends more than those in Andy. Meeting Trish, and learning how to relate to her and her family.
5) Allies and powers. His friends, and Trish, and Trish's daughter. Andy is smart, sweet, and basically a good man with some considerable psychological problems.
6) Confront Evil-defeat. His 20th-date sexual rendevouz with Trish goes sour as he is overwhelmed with fear.
7) Dark Night. Not much of one, actually--he almost "settles" for a steamy date with a blonde sexpot, needing to "get over the hump" (so to speak.) Clearly, he could have taken this option, bu the filmmakers were taking the position that Andy needs his "first time" to be not just a special, but a spiritual experience. An attitude I'd approve of--if he were nineteen. At Forty? Just get it over with, dude. This is why I cannot write comedy.
8) Leap of Faith. He finally tells Trish the truth.
9) Confront Evil--victorious. Trish and Andy marry.
10) Student becomes the teacher. Jeeze--did you see the expression on Trish's face on their wedding night? Wow! They damned near made their case. Fading out playing "let the sunshine in" from Hair is a bit "on the nose" and weak, but is still funny, and in an odd way, extremely apt and honest.
And he should have nailed the blonde.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 5:25 PM
Any thoughts on how to turn the internal editor's voice OFF? I can usually (sometimes) keep mine in check while I'm writing, but when I'm revising or just sitting around, that nasty voice whispers in my ear incessantly, denigrating what I've done.
I'm in the process of doing The Artist's Way, which is helping, but any advice would be great ...
Elsie--THANK YOU for the excellent question. Keep 'em coming, guys--THIS is why I wanted to create this blog. Right now, you guys are making me happy, happy, happy.
Apparently, the term "Drunken Monkey", which I always assumed was chinese, is actually Indian Buddhist in derivation. Whereever it comes from, the term deals with the voice in your head (what my good friend and mentor Tim Piering refers to as the "Radio Voice".) It is a compilation of negative (and, sometimes, positive) "stuff" accumulated over the course of our lives. Listen very closely. Go ahead. Close your eyes and listen to the voice for thirty seconds, andthen come back.
Did you hear the voice in your head saying "what voice? I don't hear a voice!" That was it. One of hte most important things you can do to reach your excellence as a human being is to learn to differentiate between your deep inner wisdom and your Drunken Monkey. It just chatters and leaps from idea to idea, never letting you complete the steps that would actually improve your life. here are some ideas.
1) Adapt the attitude taht the voices are not you. Begin to listen for them in different situations, especially situations that trigger fear or discomfort.
2) Meditate. One of the core values of meditation is to help you separate from the cries of your trivial wants, needs,and fears. Sit quietly, listening to your heartbeat. Thoughts will enter your mind. Just watch them--don't attach to them. Feel as if you are sitting on a riverbank watching logs float by. The logs are thoughts. No blame, don't think you are "blowing it"--that is another weapon your ego uses to keep you mired! Research other forms of meditation.
3) Study the flow state. running, dancing, making love, the "hypnogogic" state of twilight sleep , or the first few minutes after you wake up--all are doorways to Flow. In flow state, the inner voices get quiet and distant. Put "Flow" into Google and see what resrouces you can find.
4) Remember that there are two completely different states connected to writing: the "Flow" state where you create, and the "editing" state where you judge what you have done. Writer's Block is a confusion of these two states--the editor is speaking up at an inappropriate time! You might try alternating: writing one day, editing the next. AND DON'T MIX THEM. Think of is as a discipline. Believe me, this exact same "voice" devils you in other arenas of your life. Slay the dragon in ANY arena of your life, and you strengthen yourself everywhere.
Please feel free to ask more questions about this subject here, on on my bullitin board.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 9:25 AM
Monday, August 22, 2005
Question for Steve. If someone is going to follow your 52 stories per year schedule, do you have any suggestions re: generating ideas. I'm not really asking (or maybe I am) the perennial question - where do you get your ideas?
I've written 3 or 4 novels (none published yet), but I think it would benefit me to do the 52 story per year regimen for at least a year. And what I'm running into is that I feel that I tend to write and have novel-length ideas.
I start working on a short story, and it quickly becomes a novella. But, just curious if you have any method that you use for yourself if you're suddenly invited to contribute a short story, the deadline is very near, and you don't have a single idea for a story top of mind at that moment.
There are at least three different answers to your query, Jeff. But first of all, let me congratulate you on even CONSIDERING taking the 1-year challenge! You are made of stern stuff.
1) Ideas. Give yourself permission for the ideas to be lousy. Believe me, poor execution can make a great idea suck, and great execution can find gold in a pile of literary horse droppings. the point is to finish the stories, not create classics. The quality will be discovered almost incidentally, along the way. You have to learn to take your "governor" off. Keep a dream diary to get familiar with your creative flow. Write down your top fifty movies and books, find a side character, and tell a story about them that wasn't in the original work. End a favorite story differently, or begin it differently.
2) Stories have no intrinsic length. TREATMENTS of stories have intrinsic length. It's all discipline. Begin with the end of the story already known. Choose a single incident from the story world, and build your work around that. Treat this as a specific exercise--I can't say what will trigger yoru undrstanding, but the discipline of keeping the sotry under 2500 words will do you a world of good. Don't worry if the first five or ten or twenty suck!
3)You are complicating the process. Most of writing is just work. The magic is discovered along the way. Read ten times as much as you write, read one level 'up" from your intended result, and have fun. No stress. The stress will come later, believe me.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 9:32 AM
Sunday, August 21, 2005
I'm finally getting the pieces together for the new Lifewriting product, and I'm incredibly excited. The real question I've asked myself is: what would I want, what would I need, if I didn't already have my current career? I would want no-b.s. info on how EXACTLY to focus my efforts to become a published writer. There are a lot of things I can say (and have said) on this subject, but the most important thoughts are:
1) What must be defined is a path, not some formula or template. There are many plot structure workshops and books out there. Another one isn't really needed.
2) I need to concentrate on exercises, specific things that writers can do to improve their craft. I'm settling on a one-year program built around twelve stories. My original thought of 52 stories (one per week) just overwhelmed people.
3) The student needs access to me, or staff specifically and fully trained by me. That will be built into the system.
4) All basic aspects of the writing life need to be covered.
So...it's all coming together, and the good news for blog readers is that I will continue to drop as much of this stuff for free here on this page--I need this outlet as a place to jsut speak my mind. Some of the things I talk about are rather personal (you may have noticed) and I'm a bit shy about combining that stuff with increased advertising. I mean, if I speak of spiritual things, and follow that with a "buy my product!" I feel a bit queasy. So I'll be taking specific steps to increase traffic to my ads, but the blog remains what it is: Steve's core-dump. I'm having just too much fun the way I am.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 8:56 AM
Thursday, August 18, 2005
Just in case some of you out there think that "rejection nerves," the queasy feeling you get when sending off a short story or manuscript to be published or rejected, vanishes after you've been published. Hardly. I sent off five copies of "Great Sky Woman" two weeks ago, and there is definitely a part of me just dying to hear the comments back. Betsy Mitchell, my editor, left a somewhat cryptic message on my voice mail, "news about my manuscript," and I couldn't get in touch with her for a couple of days. I wondered if they'd decided not to publish me, or delayed it, or some monstrous problem with the concept, execution, or title had come to light. Ugh. It was hard to sleep those nights, and believe me, I was exhausted from the moving stuff (cleaning out two storage bins, packing 'em on a humongous truck for the trip south). I didn't need that. But ultimately, all you can do is the best you can do, which I did. Turned out that the news was that "Great Sky" will be published by the One World imprint, which handles African-American writing. Then it will also be distributed through the usual SF channels. This could be a very good thing. The point is that my stomach was just twisting into knots, and I had to be very very careful to breathe and release the tension--otherwise my appetite and general mood was pretty trashed.
Back home now, and there are a ton of things to do. Big news in a few days (I hope) and will keep everyone posted. Oops! My stomach's knotting again...
Posted by Steven Barnes at 9:26 AM
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
Just returned from ten days in the northwest. We had to pack the rest of our stroage space, and I drove it down in a 17-foot truck. Exciting. Nowhere near the nightmare last year's trip was (with a 24-foot, and an auto trailer. Yuck.). I saw guru Plinck and his family, and a buddy and business partner, Joe Daggy, and got out to see Chris Bunch's widow. Tananarive and I drove down to Gold Beach, where we did research for the television series we're pitching in a couple of weeks. That should be fun.
the manuscripts for "Great Sky Woman" went out, and as usual, I'm nervous. Only represents two years of my life!
The "Be Breathed" technique came in very useful driving over the summit of the Siskiyous. My acrophobia kicked in a bit, and some concentration on the exhalation steadied me greatly.
More tomorrow--it's good to be back!
Posted by Steven Barnes at 8:52 PM
Well, this little PG-13 horror film is actually kinda tense, and rather smarter than I'd initially thought. Kate Hudson (adorable and fierce) is a hospice nurse who suspects foul play in the bayou. Let's just say it gets entertainingly more involved than this. Tananarive and I had a great time, and both give it a strong "B"
Posted by Steven Barnes at 8:47 PM
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
This should be painfully obvious, but is not. Don't waste your time and energy. How many times do we spend great effort to accomplish something that was never worth our time to begin with? "There are battles it is not worth winning" is a great motto. Worse still is to LOSE such a battle. To that end, you have to be very careful, and to know which activities will actually lead you to your goal--and which will not. Until you have made this evaluation, it is best not to act. Measure twice, cut once. Distinguish between gain and loss. All of this leads to the idea of doing the minimum amount to get the maximum result. It would be possible to spend a lifetime mastering this single lesson.
1) Exercise: know what behaviors and attitudes actually produce results. Be clear on the results you want.
2) Relationship: Learn to communicate in the language your partner uses. There is no point in communicating in YOUR own mode, unless the other person can decode it. If she wants flowers, don't bring candy. If he needs to talk, don't suggest dancing.
3) Career. In writing, learn to use the precise language. Don't use five words if three will do. Cut all extraneous characters, scenes, whatever. Be prepared to kill your favorite scenes. Cut, Cut, Cut.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 10:05 AM
Saturday, August 06, 2005
Coincidentally, within a relatively short time-span, I've had a chance to look at Coach Sonnon's Prasara video (Rmax.tv) and Jeff martone's H2H kettlebell video (Dragondoor.com). They couldn't be more different, but both are utterly worthy of note.
"Prasara" isn't really an instructional video, although if you are already a martial artist, gymnast, yogi, or advanced pysical culturist, this is a must-have. You see, what Sonnon has done is, I believe, unlocked the code that admits one to the higher, more spiritual realms of athletic endeavor. Approachin the question of human performance from the Martial Arts side, over the last few years I've watched him refine and refine his approach, until Body Flow emerged. Now, Body Flow was a sophistication of the "Be Breathed" technique, an approach to teaching yoru body to breathe itself through motion. I would suggest this tape first. then take a very close look at the "Body Flow" book, where he lays out a complex theoretical structure relating consciousness, emotion, and movement. Not for beginners, by any means. But I encouraged him to continue down this path, to join what he was doing with yoga. Why? Because for all of his genius, Scott's just one guy, and he can't carry the burden alone. Yoga, while I think it's been somewhat emasculated of Yang aspects (even the wonderful Ashtanga) is nonetheless an incredible storehouse of knowledge, arguably the most complete lexicon of body-mind science available to the general public. Scott's "prasara" links his previous work with Yoga, and the result is, for the serious student, simply a break-through.
I'm not certain I've ever seen a move advanced series of motions captured on video in an instructional context. It is composed of five mini-forms, series of yoga poses linked together with various (highly effective) flow "intermediary motions" (Ashtanga's wonderful vinyasa jump-through is just one such motion) extracted from a variety of disciplines, and explained in the "Breathing-Movement-Structure" paradigm. It is more documentary than instructional, but it IS possible t learn from them. The two-disk set is jsut exquisitely beautiful, and Scott's demonstrations are an absolute inspiration. If someone had said this was a secret yoga practise, and Scott some old yogi's finest student, I would have believed it with only the slightest raising of an eyebrow. What he has done here is mildly miraculous, but not for everyone. If you get a copy of this, "Body Flow", "Be Breathed", and BKS Iyengar's "Light on Yoga" text you have a lifetime of amazingly valid work, as well as the door to physical exercise as spiritual path. If Scott does nothing else, he has just made the contriubtion I've been waiting for from the beginning. If you want to see the future of the transcendant athlete, check it out.
On a more mundane but still impressive level, Jeff Martone's H2H kettlebell "juggling" video is pretty darned amazing. Basically, H2H is an explosive mini-plyometric exercise protocol using a light kettlebell and passing it from hand to hand with a variety of fancy moves. Incredible fun, mildly dangerous, a challenge to hand-eye coordination, muscular endurance, CV endurance and tendon strength. It also seems to me to be a perfect MA adjunct, because of the odd-angle muscle and tendon loading that makes it "Plyometric" (a Russian technique for increasing explosive speed), and a way of adding considerable variety into your exercise program. On the Dragondoor site there is an article called the "marathon Kettlebell challenge" that is about what happens if you pick up a kettlebell and perform one exercise for a minute, then switch to another, and another, etc, without ever putting it down. touted as the ultimate Lactate Threshold pusher, as well as, due to a principle called Time Under Tension (TUT) a wonderful fat-burner, it is a genuinely grueling protocol. Doing this with a 1-pood KB for any period of time will make you want to throw up. H2H, on the other hand, once you've gotten into the Freestyle mode, strikes me as being just as efficient, more fun, and more specific for athleticism. What a "live" weight a moving KB is! This is advanced stuff, but worth working up to, and REALLY keeps you on your toes. So far I haven't dropped one on my feet, but that risk really keeps you alert. One of the few exercises I've ever seen which produces the "frying" CNS sensation of a good martial arts class. Fun, and efficient, and very, very well done.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 9:17 AM
there seems to be a cinematic time machine, enabling one to step back thirty-five years or so, to a time when grind-house theaters played triple-bills of "The Last House on the Left," "Gator" and "Black Belt Jones." The popcorn was old and nasty, drunks slept in the balcony, and kids like me ditched high school to watch the latest slaughter carnival, never asking questions about the morality of what we saw on the screen. And I seem to have stepped into it. Saw "The Devil's Rejects" yesterday, and this story of a backwoods Texas clan (what IS it with Texas, anyway?) and their violent ways is such a throwback to the 70's films such as "The Hills Have Eyes" that my jaw was about on the floor. Up to and including the Sacrificial Negro (Ken Foree from "Dawn of the Dead," dying to protect a white woman. Sigh. Every white man in the film is sexualized, especially the villains. The black guy, a pimp, apparently has no interest in women.) for the two hours of Rob Zombie's sick little masterpiece I was cringing and feeling, well, genuinely uneasy. Wow. Now, I'd never reccomend this to someone who wasn't already corrupted, this little piece of sleeze was the very definition of a Guilty Pleasure. Avoid like the plague if you have any respect for cinematic human life at all. But if you have a wistful memory for movies like "Chainsaw massacre," this is a must-see. An "F" for decent Gawd-fearin' folk. An "A" for the guys and gals who like it raw.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 8:54 AM
Thursday, August 04, 2005
"The Devil is in the Details" as they say. There are moments in the learning of a skill where the large details dominate. And then there is another point where you have mastered the larger aspects, and it is the tiny thngs that make the difference. A teacher cannot communicate in words things for which there are no shared referants (this is one of the things that makes watching a child learn to speak so wonderful--the understanding that she is actually building a map of the world, not merely memorizing sounds like a parrot. No offense to parrots.)
In many cases, it is only by imitating tiny things that a teacher does that we begin to mirror the internal states that CREATES those external effects. For swordsman Musashi, tiny adjustments in hand position or angulation could make the difference between life and death. for a writer, the precise choice of words ("the difference between the right word and the almost-right word is like the difference between lightning and a lightning bug") can spell failure or success in a career. And in relationships, well, let's say tiny cues during sex can tell you if you're on the right track toward a gloriously orgastic experience for your partner, or an "is that all there is?" expression prior to ushering you out the door.
We are working toward full human potential here, and while there are large structures (body, mind, spirit) there individual variations are almost infinite, and the refinements will take a lifetime to explore. Every day, you should be lookign for ways to be more joyful, energetic, efficient, creative, loving, sharing, powerful, honest, committed. And the way to do that is to, while keeping control of whatever large issues are easy to see, be constantly searching for those little details. Gather them unto yourself, master them, and make that 1% per week shift that will take you to the next level.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 9:16 AM
Wednesday, August 03, 2005
all right, the stuff works. It turns off the appetite, and makes you feel full, without any "speedy" sensation. It makes weight loss easier.
1)As Steve Perry said, it's not nice to fool mother nature. People who over eat generally are not over-eating the highest nutrient-per-calorie food. Therefore there are real risks of becming under-nourished.
2) It also supresses thirst.
3)ANYTHING strong enough to have the effect of a medicine IS a medicine, and will have side-effects of some kind. Be very cautious.
1) Take it after breakfast . Have a good, healthy breakfast, THEN take the Hoodia. Suppress the apetite later in the day. Or, use it to support a WARRIOR DIET-type regimin of under-eating during the day, feasting (responsibly) at night.
2) Drink PLENTY of water. That eight glasses of eight is a good idea. It may not be gospel, but I't sure won't hurt you.
3) don't take it all the time. My suggestion? Two days a week, leave it alone. Let your body rest and reset. After all, the Bushmen don't take it all the time--just while hunting.
I am still open to anyone who has comments on this subject. Within the limitations listed above, this is still an incredible help to those with uncontrolled munchies, or a lack of belief in their ability to los weight. In combination with a program of exercise and conscious eating, as well as self-image modification (psycho-cybernetics, anyone?) it just might be what you're looking for.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 10:28 AM
Why can't you see the forest for the trees? Because the forest isn't the trees. The forest is the space BETWEEN the trees. the trees GROW in the forest. In order to see the forest, you have to perceive negative space, something that we're not really programmed to do. The martial art of Aikido is all about seeing the space between--tht is (in my mind) the geat treasure of randori training. Jazz is what happens between the notes. Poetry is what happens between the words. And so it goes.
Samuel R. Delany wrote a book of literary criticism and writing instruction called, I think THE JEWEL HINGED JAW. In it, there is a great essay about writing, in which he states that every word must be chosen not for what it means, but for the mental processes that it will trigger inthe reader--in other words, where the reader's mind goes as she attempts to interpret the word. For instance:
THE (alright, we are talking about a person, place, or thing)
BOY (ah. A human being. Male. Young)
RAN (a verb. A picture forms in the mind)
AWAY (a threat? A game?)
WITH (carrying something? Does the boy have a specific attitude or expression?)
ALL (a totality. A grouping)
HIS (possessions? Relationships?)
TOYS (visualizations of drums, stuffed bears. But is he happy? Crying? Angry..?)
Each word is chosen for where the reader's mind goes IN BETWEEN the words. The invisible space is what controls the emotional content. The specific words we can react to, and filter our response. But we can't really filter our responses to the spaces "in-between"--and that is where we can nuke the readers.
the same thingis true in martial arts. Movement "off the beat" is harder to react to, because we are motor-set to continue the motion. Using broken rhythm, therefore, is a way of beating someone who is actually faster than you.
In human relationships, you HAVE to read between the lines. You are dead in the water if you don't. When you date a man or woman, as the saying goes, you are actually dealing with every person that person ever dated. I remember being crazy infatuated with a beautiful dancer we'll call Rachel. Rachel was the sexiest woman I'd ever met, let alone slept with. But the nicer I was to her, the more distanc enad nervous she became. Eventually, I realized that her personal dating history included an assortment of real predators, men who came off "nice" at first, and then devolved into true assholery. The way I was coming on triggered her caution response--and some other things as well. Like most of us, she'd done some things in relationship she wasn't proud of, and on a deep level didn't believe she was deserving of a good, loving, simple relationship. And more: since in her experience everyone wears a mask, whatever I presented myself as, underneath I had to be something different, right? (Wrong. I'm pretty much the same underneath as I am on the surface. If you don't like me at first meeting, chances are you won't like me if you get to know me better. And if you do, chances are you will. I'm pretty transparent.) All of this complication was driving me nuts until I learned to let her behaviors create my picture of her internal representations--and I saw how complicated and confused they were. I remember telling her when we started our relationship that I didn't think she had permission to be happy. And then, dazzled by her beauty and sexuality and promises, I let myself forget my instinctive hit. How had I known? Simply by taking a look at her relationship history. A long series of disasters. Look at the shadow. Look at the space between the trees. Trust your intuition. The small, quiet voice in your head is rarely wrong. The loud urgent voice in your pants, however...
Once again, it is by engaging with life on al levels that you begin to sense the patterns that go beond the obvious. Pay attention. You'll save yourself a world of hurt.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 10:19 AM
The family and I will be taking off for the Northwest this Saturday. We'll be in Longview, Washington for a week, with side trips to Gold Beach, and Seattle. we're going to fit in visits with as many friends as possible, and also see the Silat crowd. In addition, on Friday evening the 12th, we'll be having dinner at the Mongolian BBQ at 7pm:
Genghis Khan Mongolian BBQ
11600 SE Mill Plain Blvd (Just east of I-205) - map
Vancouver, WA 98684
At the Vancouver Mall. Anyone who would like to join us is welcome! Just drop me a note, or post one, and if enough people are interested, we'll even reserve a banquet room. Please spread this note to anyone you know who knows us, and lives in the area!
Posted by Steven Barnes at 9:58 AM
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
You know? I actually love that show. And I've found their attitudes on many social ills to be refreshing and bizarrely intelligent. but there is also something about South Park that hits my button, and after watching an episode last night, I thought I'd finally talk about it.
rather obviously, these guys think that they are above sexism, racism, elitism, or any "isms" at all. I'd say that their politics are rather conservative (note that they primarily attack liberal celebrities and causes, although they will lambaste the right as well, at times.) But there is one way that their social attitudes show that they probably aren't aware of. It's simply this: the creators of South Park take the position that an American human being is, by default, white. Yes, they have Chef. Yes, from time to time another black or non-white character is depicted on the show. But there is almost ALWAYS a specific reference made to the character's race. AI remember once being surprised to see a black plumber show up at Cartman's house. Nothign was made of it. Then immediately he began having anal sex with Cartman's mother. Oh--another play on a favorite degrading image from porn (Cartman's mother is a porn actress)--a specific racial joke.
When does this show the most? In crowd scenes. The boys travel to New York to see John Edwards' "psychic" show. An audience is shown. Every face is white. I've seen this many, many times--huge stadiums, filled exclusively with white faces. If they are depicting a basketball team, team members will be black. If it is a street scene that takes place anywhere in America, the faces are exclusively, or to a rediculous degree, white.
I am sure this is unconscious. Their attention is elsewhere, on some social ill or joke they are setting up. And when they do that, they are in their private la-la land, their private dream world. In which the default position for humanity is white. White people are people. Black people or Asians are not--they are black people or Asians, not just "people." I remember growing up in that world, when Hannah-Barbaera and Loony Toons and Disney made the exact same assumptions--that a human being is whtie, and if they depicted anything else, it was always to make a specific joke about it (Disney, of course, never did, in their theatrical division, during the entire 20th Centry. Not one single image of a black human being. Not even whenthey set two films in Africa.)
And that is, I think, at the core of some discomfort I have with social Conservatives. Please forgive me, but I've had the sense my whole life that if you ask them to close their eyes and imagine a picnic, or a day at the beach, or a classroom, they are likely to be imagining nothign but white people. And with socal Liberals, they are far more likely to imaginea mixed group. I'd say that from a lifetime of watchign the movies, reading the books, and reading the articles they produce. The position of "human" is by default, a white person. Others are often welcome, but only with the label attached.
The best way to watch this is the unconscious stuff, the fantasy worlds. In the privacy of their own heads, this is where people reveal who and what they are comfortable with. I am getting annoyed with this aspect of Stone and Parker. They've avoided criticism from the Right for their scabrous potty humor and sexual misconduct among children because they espouse Right-wing political positions so strongly. But in their secret nasty little hearts, they have, I think, absorbed some of the less pleasant Right-Wing aspects. Again, I'm sure this is all unconscious. That's what makes it so telling.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 10:12 AM
Monday, August 01, 2005
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Posted by Steven Barnes at 10:27 AM
Intuition, the kinesthetic flash that is deeper than thought, that goes byond calculation or conscious reckoning. I had that flash when I met Tananarive--within three days we knew we wanted to spend our lives together. How in the hell could we know? I had that flash the last time someone tried to mug me. I felt a "touch" at my Third Eye walking down the street with Toni at two in the morning. I engage intuition every day when I write. first drafts are pure intuition--I write too quickly for conscious fear and hesitation to stop me. Subsequent drafts and polishing are a matter of figuring out what the hell my instincts were up to. by the way--this is the reason why I like a "plot" structure that mimics life itself (The Hero's Journey) and a characterization structure that applies to me and everyone I encounter (the Chakras). You see, in that way literally everything I do in life applies to everything else that matters to me. Every interaction with my daughter, my wife, or my own psyche teaches me more about writing. and everythign I write teaches me about life.
The concept of Instinctive Designation of Energy and Attention is, simply, to arrange your life so that you devise simpler and simpler ways of addressing complex and complicated issues. By admitting that body, mind, and spirit are ALL important (Do Not think Dishonestly), and committing to working on each of them daily (The Way is in Training) you begin to search for the principles that will allow you to balance them with minimal effort. The best way to do that is to look for the ideas that apply in all three arenas. Day after day after day, you work to improve just 1% in the three arenas. As you do, you will begin to see that lessons learned in one arena apply to the otthers. And even more, that there are lessons that can't quite be put into words that are useful in more than one place in your life. As the subconscious learns more and more about the tasks, you penetrate deeper and deeper to the core, and there you will find something fascinating...
Take ANY life activity deep enough, and the exact same rules apply. Writing, martial arts, relationships, fitness, study, work, anything...excellence is created by the same application of daily effort, confronting fears and barriers, refining self-image. BUT IT MUST BE ALL THREE AREAS to get this effect. You can take on MORE, but not less. And you must take responsibility for the results you have gotten up until this point in your life. Do this, embrace this balance, and you will begin to "sense" things about people and events that will surprise the heck out of you. It's not magic--it is the proper use of your mind.
Living in balance in this way is calibrating your brain. Far too many intelligent people box themselves into corners, thinking that they have made their choices logically, when in actuality they made them emotionally, and cover up their fear and anger with logical B.S. don't fall into that trap. Admit it: you want a healthy, sexy body. You want a career that gives you descretionary income, doing something you enjoy. And you want someone to love and hold. Until you can speak the truth, you are lost, no matter how intelligent you are. This is, I honestly believe, the road to Mastery--and it is available to everyone, no matter where they are in their journey up until this time. Search your feelings--tell the truth. I think you'll see that, deep inside, damn near every human being on this planet wants these things. Not 100%, but close enough, friends. Close enough.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 10:20 AM
Just delightful. Possibly, the best, most unpretentious time I've had at the movies this year. I expected little, was very pleasantly surprised to find that this mix of "Mean Girls" and "The Incredibles" barely makes a misstep for its entire running length. Delivering no real surprises except solid performances, a sound psychological subtext, and cheerily cheesy special effects, this is the kind of film Disney used to know how to make in its sleep. Basically, superman and wonder woman got married, and had a kid with no powers. they send him off to superhero school, where the super and not-so-super are divided into "Heros" and "Sidekicks" (read: Cool Kids and Nerds) with the kind of results you would naturally expect. There is a little romance, the "best friend" with a crush, betrayals, mean kids, forbidden crushes, schoolyard fights (!), broken promises and hearts, and everything else a good teen movie should have. Family fun, with sly references to every superheor you've ever loved. Jeeze, I'm not sure the grin left my face for hte entire two hours. Oh, and, in general, contrary to the coming attractions, the ethnic mix looked like America. I LOVED this movie. I only ask that a film give you what it promises. "Sky High" does just that, with zoom to spare. I give it an "A." Not a blockbuster, not a classic, just good, solid family entertainment. and that is a rarer and rarer things, these days.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 10:01 AM