The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Monday, January 29, 2007

Predictions about "Black Snake Moan"

Coming soon is a rather lurid-looking piece about a black man helping to "cure" a little white nymphomaniac. I haven't seen "Black Snake Moan" yet, but I'm putting in my bets: the black guy, played by Sam Jackson, won't be sampling Christina Ricci's succulent young body. They will taunt and tease the audience, but in the end, the perennially unlaid Jackson will do another Spiritual Guide routine. More disturbing is that, if I'm not mistaken, Craig Brewer, the director, was behind "Monster's Ball" where he whored Halle Berry to Billy Bob Thornton...and he's black. I really don't know what to say about this, except there is one brother who really really knows how to play the system. He obviously has his finger on the pulse of white America. I would have no idea at all how to do that. Maybe I should be glad I don't.
When I said "last gasp of the patriarchy" I didn't mean worldwide. Absolutely, Islamofascists (especially in Afghanistan) are sexist to a level hard to even imagine here. In Bush's case, I mean the tendency to believe that if you have a hammer, it should be able to handle any "nail" and if it doesn' t work, hit it again, harder. And then harder. And we don't need to talk to our enemies. And anyone who disagrees with me is a mindless traitor or coward. This is, in my mind, all very "male" behavior (although there are certainly women with such tendencies.). the balancing overly-feminine behavior would be to open arms and just believe if we gave 'em all a hug, it would be all right. In women's political power, abortion rights, and workplace advancements, I'm seeing more female empowerment, and it seems to drive certain types of men right up the wall. Personally, when it comes to abortion and such issues, I'd love to let ONLY women vote on the question. but that's just me.

Disney's "Litterbug" Question

In 1961, the very last Donald Duck short subject was called "The Litterbug." In that short, there was a song that started "Litterbug, Litterbug, shame on you. Look at the terrible things you do..." does anyone know the rest of this song?
I really do think that most problems among human beings arise from relatively universal principles. Just had a discussion with a friend about whether "peace is impossible in the Middle East, because Muslims are culturally or genetically frozen in the past, or set into a warrior mind-set and prefer battle to peace." Brrr. This same person drops lotsa comments about "group X having this negative tendency, and group Y having this other negative tendency." Not surprisingly, they never generalize this way about white people. Sadly, this person is not white, and is of mixed blood, and in my opinion has some real confusion on these issues. At any rate, a gigantic amount of problem arises from the assumption that people who behave differently are reacting to the same stimulus with a different response. The Arab world has a pretty decent set of reasons to think the West is out to get 'em. The history of the Crusades, combined with British Imperialism, combined with the creation of Israel...I doubt seriously that we would react differently. That said, there is no EXCUSE for terrorist bombings against civilian targets, although there may well be reasons for it. I also loath dropping A-Bombs on civilian targets, but we did it. We may well have had excellent reasons, but there is no way to say that that was one of our finest MORAL moments, however tactically or strategically appropriate it may have been.
However vital it may be to hunt down and slaughter Al Queda (and I think it certainly is) to suggest that the actions of Arabs are somehow different than the rest of humanity is to blind yourself, to make an "us/them" dichotomy that leads to such absurdities as bombing cities in the name of "Christian" values, and asserting, on the one hand, that we invaded Iraq for the sake of the Iraquis, while on the other hand saying that its better for us to fight terrorists "over there" than over here. And never seeing that these positions, while fitting under the same political tent, can't really be held in the same mind without a certain degree of cognitive dissonance.
In my mind, the answer lies in a meld of Male and Female approaches: devastatingly surgical violence combined with real open-hearted understanding and compassion. The combination creates new life, new potentials, new perspectives that cannot be grasped by those frozen into either polarity. It is through uniting Ida and Pingala along the Chakra line that energy grows, rises and evolves. I suspect that what we are seeing in the Bush administration is the last gasp of the Patriarchy before a cycle of more feminine energy washes through the world. That, too, in time will become stifling and corrupt, and it'll be time for another male cycle. But I kinda suspect we're at that kind of precipice right now--and it is morbidly fascinating to watch.

Screw both sides. I just hope our grandchildren win this one.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

"24" and racial images

Someone asked me my take on "24" and the Presidents Palmer. Hmmm. You know, I love that show, but it also disturbs me just a little bit right now. The question of the black presidents touches on the question of why they are black. Now, Keifer Sutherland implied in a "Larry King Live" interview that there was some deliberateness about this from his point of view, that he liked the interjection of that racial image into the American culture. But then, I don't believe he was part of the original casting decision for Dennis Haysbert, so the suspicion comes that Haysbert was cast initially for his gravitas, and they explored the racial aspect later.

"24's" love of killing popular characters led to a real shocker last year, when Palmer was killed. All right, I accept that. But one of the things that made it tolerable for me was the presence of the black CTU agent Curtis Manning, who had tremendous presence and physical grace, to the point where white guys on the "Aintitcoolnews" 24 talkback referred to him as "the black Bauer." Pretty funny, but on an ethnic level that gave me something to identify with. This season, Wayne Palmer, David's little brother, is introduced as the new president. Shortly afterwards, they kill Curtis.

There are a couple of things that disturb me about this. One is the sense that black characters are being manipulated SPECIFICALLY according to their race. Another is the fascinating, and even odder fact that both Palmer and Manning were killed with shots to the throat. And both episodes were broadcast on...Martin Luther King's Birthday. King, of course, was shot in the throat in a sniper hit that definitely mirrored Palmer's assassination. For the second character to die the same way, on the same day, is just too much for coincidence. No. The writers are definitely white, and they are definitely at some level thinking of these men as "black" even before they think of them as "men." Wayne Palmer is a bit of a weenie compared with his brother, although I'm quite certain he will "grow up" over the course of the season, I can't help but feel he is a black pawn being pushed around the chess board by a white finger, for the sake of evoking strong emotions from the white audience, without any real sense of how all this would feel if one had more melanin. Fair enough. I've had to deal with this my whole life, and I struggle to find a place within myself where I feel less manipulated. But frankly, it sucks a bit of my pleasure out of the show. The manipulation of racial images--and specifically the killing of powerful black men to jigger the ratings, suggests something unpleasant about the men who thought this was an appropriate way to conduct creative business. I'm sure they consider themselves racially enlightened and yada yada yada.

But meanwhile, it's getting just a little harder to ignore that this is all playing out on Fox Network, if you know what I mean.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Skin Tone and Earnings

A recent study suggests that, for immigrants from around the world, one skin shade lighter makes the same difference as one year of additional education: about 8-15% increase in salary! For goodness sakes, people: look at the utter viciousness of the last political cycle. People of the same nation, race, religion etc. were absurdly venomous to those in the opposite camp. You are, in my mind, extremely naive if you think that human prejudice doesn't leap out even more strongly when differences are visually based. Black people, gays, women, the obese, the very short--will understand instantly that this is true. White straight lean-bodied males will have much more difficulty believing--not because of any innate perceptual flaws, but because when you are on the winning team, you tend not to question the referee's calls. This is human nature down at the 3rd-chakra level. The cure is to open the heart space.
I can understand why Conservatives often rail against attempts at social engineering through the law. But considering the persistence of these apparently innate and intractable tendencies, it should be obvious why those who are at the effect of these psychological tendencies would try to use the legislative process to compensate for the negative pressures they experience just by getting out of bed in the morning with the wrong skin tone. Perhaps that isn't the way we want to run our society, but please don't think you wouldn't feel the same way, in their place.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Again, the basics...

The basics of the technology I'm looking at can be approximated by anyone who does the following:
1) 20-30 minutes of meditation, three times a week. Consider your goals in all three major arenas
2) 20-30 minutes of some progressively intense exercise that moves the body through all major planes of flexion (ashtanga yoga, Bikram yoga, Tai Chi, FlowFit, etc.) three times a week.
Goals in all three major arenas.
These need to be deepened with practise and instruction, the idea to slowly make the daily work more and more intense. Let me tell you something--this isn't a game, and it isn't for the timid. If you do this, I promise you that every negative aspect of your subconscious will rise to the conscious level, every self-destructive habit will rear its head, every negative associate will show his true colors. You will hit the dark night of the soul in ways you may not currently believe. More on this later...

DSL Finally up...

We've been in the new house a week, and just today got our DSL in. Wow...I am so darned happy. Wasn't really aware of how important my internet has become.
Lots of things going on, including the fact that I can finally talk openly about the new project I'm doing for Ubisoft, three novels based on their upcoming "Assassin's Creed" game. This is research on the fly, trust me, and I have to work very very hard to keep the stress from becoming strain.
My work at Moonview Sanctuary in Santa Monica is fascinating. I'm embracing the opportunity to experiment more deeply with the technologies I've been studying and teaching over the last decades. There is a simple basic premise to everything I'm doing: we are beings designed to evolve. We can heal and complete ourselves, given proper resources, and faith. The physical body is a fantastic metaphor for the entire body-mind complex, and a perfect entry point: you can't fake the body. Relaxation, balance, and focus under pressure can all be used to reveal psychological and spiritual states. Cuts through the B.S. with great speed. The professionals at this institution are absolutely top notch, and it is a profound honor to be in their presence...
Saw "Primeval" an old-fashioned monster movie dealing with a rogue crocodile in Central Africa. Actually a good deal better than I thought, even though it came within a hair of getting a rousing Sambo Alert. Ultimately, I give it a pass, although I get real, real sick of black characters dying so that white people can find love and redemption. Still, lotsa good scares, and I really, really needed to turn my brain off and just enjoy! Give it a "B-", or a solid "B" if you're into Creature Features.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Back on track...

Wow. Was moving all last week, and now in the new house. Don't have the DSL up properly yet, so communication will be a little spotty. Please bear with me!
I've been experimenting with the Lifewriting technology at a high-end wellness facility out in Santa Monica. The most important aspects for helping these super-achieving clients seems to be:
1) Self-forgiveness.
2) Heartbeat meditation
3) Linking the "child" self and the "elder" self.
4) Moving the body through the six degrees of freedom (yoga, tai chi, FlowFit, etc.)
5) Balanced goals in all three aspects.

These are people who have accomplished everything most of us think would make us happy, but have often "externalized" their "Self"--that is, created an external image that allows them to accomplish their dreams by evoking powerful responses from the public. Internally, there can be a sense of emptiness that is really quite profound.

But one thing I'm learning from them is the degree to which they are super-clear on the end results they initially desired. The flaw seemed to be that they didn't have a goal to be happy and healthy as well. Their shields are formidable--as they have to be. They are surrounded by predators. But by linking them up with their own memories of their younger selves, it is possible to help them clarify their values and true needs. It is an awesome responsibility, and I absolutely love it! What an honor...

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Letting Go

And another note from a reader:

Dear Mr. Barnes,

Just a quick note.

I don't always read this list, because I have a lot going on, and some of what you have to say doesn't really connect with me.

But then you write, and I read, a message like this one. I haven't been reading the list of late, just letting the emails accumulate. Then I decide to read today's message.

For me, it is *all about* my inability to write fiction precisely because I cannot give myself permission to let go and write crap. How does the Lifewriting course address this? Could you please elaborate on this subject (the specific one of letting go, and the general subject of your email) on this list?

Thanks for doing what you do, and for writing these messages and sending them for free. Sometimes, they hit directly home.

Mitch S.


There are a thousand ways that the LIFEWRITING YEAR LONG addresses this. Some of them are conscious and intellectual (assignments, philosophical positions, examples of other artists) some are purely emotional (working with dream diaries, meditating and journaling) and some are actually physical/kinesthetic (the constant encouragement to exercise and move the body). Fear, especially fear of not reaching our potential as human beings—or fear that our potential is not sufficient to reach our goals—is crippling, and real, and affects artists and human beings at all levels of life. It is a constant companion. Learning to separate yourself from the “voices in our heads” is one of the most important things we can do.

The LIFEWRITING YEAR LONG came out of thirty years of searching for a way to get past my own blocks. I always sensed that however high or wide the social barriers might have been, my personal demons were far more damaging to my dreams. So I searched places that most writers don’t—Shamanism, hypnosis, martial arts, psychology, mythology, yoga…I literally couldn’t list all of the places I studied and struggled. And finally, I hit a kind of “critical mass” where I just UNDERSTOOD. And I also understood that the ultimate truths of these things cannot quite be put into words. If it could, wiser men and women than I would have done so by now. But what CAN be done is the delineation of a Path…a road. No matter what your block, if you work your way through the LIFEWRITING YEAR LONG, you will find yourself a different, better, healthier, more successful writer on the other side of that journey, and you will understand yourself, and your art, on a level it may currently be difficult to believe.

Just remember: your writing is an expression of your Self, and you are an expression of the divine. Remove your ego from the equation, and all the wisdom of the universe is yours. Learn to channel your energy and intelligence through the patterns of myth that have worked for twenty thousand years, and you join the community of storytellers who have helped men and women understand themselves and their lives through the greatest struggles imaginable. “Success,” however you define it, is only a by-product of the daily commitment to discover who and what you really are, and the ultimate meaning of your life.

The LIFEWRITING YEAR LONG is my expression of this. It is as close to truth as I can get at this point in my life, after receiving the wisdom of countless teachers, writers, and role models. Unifying the artistic and personal worlds holds the promise of enormous growth and phenomenal joy. Stop waiting. Life is not a dress rehearsal, Mitch. Don’t you deserve your dreams?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Fear, again...

Here's a note from a student:

Good Afternoon Steven,
I have the question of the year for you, its right up your alley;

How do you control fear? Better; how do you get rid of fear?

All of my life I have wondered what it is that inhibits me from accomplishing great things.
It cant be just my environment and upbringing.
Gender may play a part as well as race, but in the end it is up to me to kick those aside. Logically I know this but theory and action are not melding.
I have read your topics related to fear from postings and they help, but I think I need an anti-fear injection (lol)

All joking aside, I need to get a handle on fear and make it work for me at the very least, if not eliminate it.

The most challenging and difficult part of being alive is controlling your thoughts, at least for me it is.

What do you think would help?
Thank you

Dear M—

There are numerous techniques that might work. Let’s put a little frame of reference around it first, though, shall we?

Fear is generally a sign that some aspect of your personality considers the situation or required behaviors to be dangerous or reminiscent of something dangerous—a risk to life and limb, a chance for rejection or humiliation, a reminder of some past failure or catastrophe. Remember that your subconscious is just trying to protect you.

Often, though, you are being “protected” from your own path of growth. And this is no joke. If you complete a cycle of the Hero’s Journey, your ego is in very real risk of shattering, or at the least, expanding. Going through the Dark Night of the Soul is always terrifying and humbling. The “real” you will survive it, while your self image rarely does.

With this in mind, remember that the forward path in life should be taken with deliberate speed, slowly and certainly, a jog or walk rather than a sprint. You’re in this for the long haul. It is wise to have a meditation practice to help you work through the emotional gunk that will inevitably bubble up.

Here are a couple of very specific things that you can try to deal with fear:

1) Visualize a glass tube filled with water. Glitter is suspended in the water. Watch the glitter until it settles to the bottom. Practice this for twenty minutes at a time, minimum. This may take weeks.

2) You don’t need to erase fear from your life (in fact, that is damned near impossible). Instead, get SUPER clear on the value and benefits of your desired goals. In other words—put your fear behind you, your love in front of you, and run like hell!

3) The “Godzilla” of fear-coping mechanisms is Scott Sonnon’s Fear Removal technique, sometimes called the “Spider Exercise.” You need an aerobic exercise (running, walking, rowing, etc.) where you can go into “second wind”—usually about 15-17 minutes of steady state exercise. Here’s what you do: spend 10 minutes visualizing or mentalizing the fear-inducing stimulus. Do this until you are shaking and crying. (BTW—if you are dealing with serious abuse or other issues, consult with a councilor or therapist before doing this!). The way I quantify the desired state of emotional arousal is “crying out of my nose.” Then IMMEDIATELY perform the aerobic exercise until second wind is reached. That’s all. The next time you are confronted by the stimulus, you should feel a 15-25% reduction in fear levels. You can perform this exercise about once a week—no more often than that!

Remember that fear is a normal part of life. The more important and powerful the goal, the more likely you are to experience discomfort. Forgive yourself for being human!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Oprah and other thoughts...

Read quite a few bits of praise and criticism of Oprah's school for girls in South Africa. Much of the controversy seemed to center around the supposed opulence. I just wanted to throw my two cents in. My thoughts are this:
1) its her money.
2) The woman is (financially, at least) inarguably the most successful and powerful black woman in American history. She just may know a thing or two about the mental and emotional foundations for success.
3) And success is the key word. This is specifically a school for leaders. She's not trying to create middle-class girls, or a secretarial pool. Leaders.
4) All over the world, when successful people have children, they spoil them. I suspect that, while this tendency can lead to excess, it also works in terms of creating an expectation. And that expectation drives them the rest of their lives.
5) Poverty isn't ennobling. Been there, done that. The reason we love stories of people who rise from poverty to great wealth is that they are so rare. Africa has been trying poverty for a long time. Let's try something else, shall we?
So…this morning I hit a very nice level in my meditations, and I think it was because of what I did last night going to sleep. I’m under considerable stress (moving to a new house while in crunch mode on a project. Ouch.) and three nights ago I could barely sleep. So I used a Tim Piering modification of a zen meditation technique, and with each breath repeated silently to myself “I am.”

That worked nicely, so last night I combined it with the breath and heart work I’ve been doing: heartbeat meditation at the same time that I do a subtle Be Breathed pattern (just feeling the abdominal muscles contract with each breath, and slightly pulsing the anal sphincter).

Now, when I did this at the same time as the “I am” exercise, some interesting things started happening. I found that, rather than being overwhelmed, my mind seemed to deepen, and I had additional attention left over even as my body became heavier, warmer, and unmistakably began to sink toward sleep.

So I visualized a triangle at my third eye, and concentrated the “I am” sense there. A visualization of myself, sitting in full lotus, appeared (even though I was lying down at the time) in the center of the triangle. I felt myself pulled into the triangle in the IMAGE’S head. Falling through into another “me,” each one nested in the middle of the previous one’s triangle. Strange.

And then it was like a flow, rather than a series of discrete images, and I felt the flow moving both forward from the level of my eyes, and “up” along my spine simultaneously. About this time, when I slightly contracted my anus and pelvic floor, I felt something open beneath me, and light shot up. Not the most powerful experience of this that I’ve had, but the only time its ever seemed in direct relationship to specific visualizations or efforts on my part.

Friday, January 12, 2007

End of the Week thoughts...

I've known compulsive gamblers: just one more pull, one more card. One more lottery ticket. I can get even, I can earn it back...
I've known cocaine addicts: one more line and I'll "be there." I can quit whenever I want. It's my decision. I'm not hurting my family.
I've known abused women: he needs me. I made a commitment. He loves me. He's sorry. He promised not to do it again...
Bush's speech the other night, asking to send yet more Americans into the jaws of death based on his opinion that it would be catastrophic if we pulled out.
Here's the sad thing: he might be right. But I no longer believe a damn thing he says. That is so freaking dangerous, I can't begin to tell you. Now, I'd only believe someone who WASN'T on-board from the beginning. Someone who opposed the original invasion, but now believes that we must stay--and there are such people. Needless to say, they seem to be outweighed by those who think this entire misadventure is the worst foreign policy blunder in American history. And now he wants us to double down...

So I'm asking: is there anyone out there who DISAGREED with the decision to go to Iraq, who now believes we must send 20,000 more troops..?
So far, the opinions on the "way out" of a dire economic or social circumstance revolve around:
1) Taking personal responsibility
2) Accepting the need to work long and hard to raise yourself up
3) Surrounding yourself with people who can help you reach your goal.
The above are, in my mind, absolute truths. A question might be asked: how do you attract people who are (in Dan Moran's words) "smarter than you"? Well, smart people have needs, too. You can offer them your energy, enthusiasm, honesty, friendship, emotional support.
Another implicit need: a clear goal. After all, you can't know what kind of people can help you to your goal if you don't know your goal!
Remember the "Piering Principle": to succeed you need clear written goals, and the ability to take action despite the voices in your head.

One of the reasons I harp on weight issues is that if you look at the three major arenas of life (body, career, relationships), body is the one where you have the most control. You can literally be alone in your house, never talk to another human being, and get into great shape. The other two pretty much DEMAND interaction with others, and that is when chaos creeps in. So working with the body is a great microcosm of the skills necessary to succeed anywhere else. It's simple--just physics and a bit of physiology. It ain't EASY, though--because of all the brain chatter, avoidance mechanisms, and social programming. It also doesn't have to take much time. The "Enter the Kettlebell" program over at Dragondoor has a terrific workout that takes only 34 minutes a WEEK. No joke, folks. So...what's your excuse?
"24" is about to start again. Oboy, oboy, oboy...just can't wait, and wrote another NPR piece on the subject--hopefully it will be broadcast next week. Meanwhile, in and around watching the Jack Bauer Power Hour, I'm gonna be moving. And writing 1000 words a day, minimum, on the "Assassin's Creed" project. And pitching "The Pack" at Jamie Foxx's company. Oh, and doing author photos for "Casanegra" and revving my martial arts practise back up for the New Year. I HAVE to meditate every day, or I'll tear myself apart...

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Orgasms and relationships

I have a good friend, a lady in her fifties, who is exiting a loveless, sexless marriage and beginning a new relationship. Almost accidentally, I discovered that she has never had an orgasm in her life. Needless to say, I suggested that she invest in some toys, and begin to discover her body. My question: what do you think about this situation? Guys, how does it impact you if your lover cannot or does not climax? Ladies, I would just bet that you have some thoughts on this one. Love to hear them...
One of the comments about "Children of Men" touched on the cultural difference between American and British blacks. The thought was that the average British black person is descended from people who wanted to be there. The average American black person is descended from someone who was dragged kicking and screaming...and it is easy to imagine that there is a real difference.

But the real question is one of the difference between our innate abilities and those that are programed or developed along the way. And if you look deeply enough into that question, it is an inquiry into the soul itself. What are we? How shall we make our way in the world? How can we find a path with heart? It is so terribly easy to lose our way. Here is a short list of factors I've seen damage lives massively:
1) Rape. Oh, my God. Damages future relationships, body image (lots of obesity in this group), self-worth and anger issues.
2) Sexual abuse. Very very similar. When a child is abused by a trusted adult, the result I've seen is a ferocious implosion of esteem. Despite high intelligence and energy, their efforts to move forward in their lives are often sabotaged on every side.
3) Lack of family support. People who are the butt of the family joke can be over-achievers, or drastic under-achievers.
4) Lack of community respect. Combine this one with #3, and you're sleeping on the street.

Like I said, a short, short list. Our job as adult human beings is to clearly define the path leading to a life of contribution, joy, and growth, and then to walk it. Whatever damage we have sustained, we are not alone--others have walked the Thousand Mile Road with similar, or worse, challenges. I remember a Conservative friend challenging me about the education system. What would I do if I was given the money to renovate it? I said that the first move would be to spend a year studying every example of teachers or schools that have performed above expectations, have corrected negative behaviors and grade trends. Those who have taken disadvantaged minority or poverty-challenged students, and produced unusually positive results. I would get those people in a room together, and create a list of the common elements in their successful programs. And then I would replicate that.
The same thing is true in individual human beings. What are the things in common in that group achieving beyond the average? True, some of these things are innate, probably genetic or prenatal. Others have to do with early childhood development. Well, that's too late for us adults, but we can choose our mates carefully, and give our children every advantage in the home. But some of the differences will be things we CAN control. And if you turn yourself in to a student of such differences, and then look at your own life and see where you are out of alignment with them, it is possible to change your life.

So here's another question: what have you seen to be the most important qualities or habit patterns that have helped people from negative or disadvantaged backgrounds achieve despite their environments?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

More thoughts on “Children of Men”

You know, I was really kind of stunned by the movie, truth to tell. I was expecting something a little more effects-driven (there are some excellent, subtle digital effects, but “Children” could have done without them) and perhaps more action based. Don’t get me wrong: the action scenes are absolutely superb, but it’s all so well integrated that I never found myself thinking “here’s an action scene.” I occasionally noticed that the director was showing off a bit—doing an incredibly complex scene in a single shot. This creates a sense of sustained tension that is impressive, but in terms of clarity of depiction, well, the one-take approach suffers in comparison to more traditional methods.

Still, I simply have no complaints that are as important as the message this film had. At the core of life, of society, of our mental and spiritual health, it suggests, is the continuation of life, and that continuance takes the form of our children.

A world without children’s laughter is a dying world, and the spiritual malaise infecting Cuaron’s world is palpable, infects every frame, drains the joy from scenes and lives like a force of cosmic suction. This is a horror film about the death of hope on a global scale. If I had seen it last year, it would be on a very short list of “Best ofs.”

The pregnant woman at the core of the film is black, and if this was an American film, I think my antennae would have twitched at that. Ah, another spiritual guide, an opportunity for white folks to ennoble themselves.

But this is a British film, and I have noticed that Brits seem to have a slightly different relationship with their former Colonials than Americans have with their former slaves. The 2003 film “Love Actually” has a more matter-of-fact approach to interracial relationships than I have ever seen in a U.S. film, and quite disarmed me. So I was willing to look at the plight of pregnant Kee (Claire-Hope Ashitey) as that of a woman, not a symbol. Yes, it was irritating that she didn’t know who the father was, but that actually fits with a world in which there is no pregnancy. Meaningless, anonymous sex would be the norm, bonded loving relationships the exception. And the fine, fine Nigerian actor Chiwetal Ejiofor is on hand, avoiding the horrific “John Coffey” syndrome where a single black character somehow becomes an abstraction, not a human being with hopes, dreams and needs.

No. Kee is childish, wise, weak, strong, and a whorish Madonna. She is confused about what is happening to her, and exquisitely perceptive about her own path—she wants to have her child. She wants to find someone, somewhere she can trust, and when she places her faith in Clive Owen’s dispirited civil servant Theodore Faron, we are pulled along with her decision: there seems no one else in the world more appropriate to her plight. And if he is redeemed by his efforts, by her trust, it does not diminish her.

And when other people finally are aware of what is among them (I don’t want to be too specific), the way she is saluted and regarded was one of the most powerful scenes I have ever, ever seen in a movie. Believable to an absurd degree, and in an odd way echoed “The Pursuit of Happyness” in its statement that children are our life, that we are capable to doing things for them that we could not, would not do for ourselves.

As science fiction goes, it simply doesn’t get more relevant than this. There may or may not be tremendous climatic or biological threats in our future. But the risks associated with not remembering that our grandchildren are watching us, that our descendants two hundred years from now will judge us for what we do here, in the first hundred years of the new millennium…well, they are simply too high to ignore.

“Children of Men” is a terrific piece of filmmaking, and the first great film I’ve seen in 2007. The year is off to a very, very good start indeed.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

NY Sexuality Workshop

Many of you know that I spent years studying sacred sexual traditions, partially as book research, and partially because I could sense that this was another pathway to the same energy I'd been seeking all my life.  The two ladies who are teaching this workshop in New York are among the few I would endorse heartily--their knowledge of the traditions is impeccable, and their personal energy is excellent.  If the following notice calls to you, and you live in the New York area, you wouldn't be disappointed!


Men's Night:
Cultivating Your Masculine Sexuality

Thursday, March 8: 7 – 10 pm. $35

One Spirit Learning Alliance, 330 W 38th St, Suite 1500, New York, NY 10018

With Mukee Okan and Kristin Viken
How can you transform sex from the dutiful, familiar, mundane into a potent form of expression as a man?
Sex is the strongest force within and the foundation of existence. When you block your sexual expression
you create imbalance in many forms — including depression, illness and disease.
Sex can increase your pleasure, aliveness, vitality and health, prosperity and abundance.

An evening of practical men’s sexuality teachings from the tantric traditions and shamanic ceremonial lineage.
Experience your infinite sexual energy more powerfully as a man.
The evening will encompass specific teachings on the qualities of the masculine.
And how a man can seed his vision and gift to the planet through his balance in all aspects — including his sexuality.
Both Mukee and Kristin have worked individually with many men over many years to inspire, support and encourage full sexual expression.
MUKEE Breezes Love is a sacred sexuality teacher and tantra artist. Her foundation is in the essence of Tantra, since 1984, shamanic spiritual sexuality since 1990 and as a surrogate partner therapist in the Western medical model for sexual healing since 1995. Mukee loves to share what works. <>


KRISTIN Golden Ring Snake is a sacred sexuality teacher and an international authority in dearmoring the blocks to full orgasmic expression in the body. Kristin leads recapitulated shamanic de-armoring intensives in the United States, Canada, Norway and Australia. <>
To register and for more information

Call Yael: 718-388-3382
Or Mukee: 602-482-961

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Happy Sunday!

I'm testing the new password--been hacked a couple of times recently, darn it!
"Children of Men" (2007) is the first movie I've seen this year, and it is superb. Set in England twenty years from now, after all human beings have become infertile, it deals with the collapse of hope, and the rebirth of dreams. While the performances are great, it is the direction (by Mexican auteur Alfonso Cuaron) that is astounding. There are action sequences here, done in a single take, that simply defy belief. Wow. And ultimately, the film is deeply affecting, and life-affirming in a way I haven't seen in a very long time. A superb science fiction film set in a fully realized world. Don't expect a lot of flashy effects--"Children of Men" doesn't need them.
An "A-"

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Thursday January 4th

Almost as if it knows that I’m juggling massive stress, my internet is acting funky…sorry about the spotty posts.
Let’s talk a little about the real reason I discuss racial issues.  Beside working to “clean out” my own emotional basement, a lot of this has to do with the nature of the little demons that hold us back: on the individual level it cripples relationships, keeps us from our dreams of success, damages our connection with our physical bodies.  Note that people generally blame their environment or upbringing for these troubles. And they are right—and they have to get over it if they are to live happy lives.

Note that on a social level, groups thrash around patting themselves on the back if they’ve done well, blaming others if they do poorly.  There is a flip-side to that one, though—note the recent comments by Conservative pundits that “The Democrats didn’t win—we beat ourselves.”  This is a line recognizable to anyone who ever played team sports, a coach stealing power from the other team’s efforts, shaming his players and trying to left-hand complement them at the same time.  Wow. As if the other team didn’t half-kill themselves with drills and practice into the small hours, and flay themselves on the field.  Or as if the Democrats didn’t pull out all the stops stirring up their base, and raising money.  You can ALWAYS take or deny credit or blame.  It’s a game, and people play it to what their ego considers the best advantage.

By looking at the different levels, moving back and forth between groups and individuals, seeing the excuses they use to disguise their greed, guilt, shame, or whatever—it is easier to understand the conversations in our own minds.
I’ve thought that it might be possible to condense the basic requirements of forward motion in life to just three aspects: Breath, Heart, and balance. 
1)     If you work on the thread of breath connecting mind and body, using yoga, tai chi, FlowFitor some other body-mind discipline to raise and coordinate your energy, this is great.  Twenty minutes a day minimum, three times a week.
2)     If you will spend time meditating (say, Heartbeat med, working from there to the chakras as a visualization), it helps to clear out the emotional and spiritual garbage that is stirred up as the energy begins to “move.”  (These are metaphors, not literal statements of physics).  Again, twenty minutes three times a week minimum.
3)     Balance.  Remaining aware of your three major goals for the year, month, week, day. 

It seems to me that with these as a minimum, you can begin to collect methods of refinement and intensification.  Over time, you’ll find your own way…but never back off these minimums.  It is uncomfortable, and damn near everything in the world will conspire to stop you from maintaining such a simple program---excellent evidence that something important is happening here.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Wednesday, January 3rd

Well, the post today is brief—can’t believe how much there is to do!
Irritation…someone I’d asked to read one of my projects for specific technical feedback.  This person just couldn’t make the time.  Now, they’re finally reading it, and pointing out errors with a certain “know it all” attitude, as if I hadn’t begged them for help BEFORE it was published.  Sigh…
Watching “DreamGirls” at the boxoffice.  It has an excellent chance of crossing the 100-million dollar mark.  There are a couple of mildly sexy scenes…I wonder if it should be considered to have crossed that special threshold when and if it crosses the 100-million mark.  Would anyone who has seen it please offer an opinion?  Does or does “Dreamgirls” not qualify as a blockbuster with black love scenes? 
Suggestion for the New Year: every day, 20 minutes of meditation and/or FlowFit or Yoga.  Re-commit to your goals daily, in each of the three major arenas.  Remember that as you move toward them, you will be tested in every arena of your life.  If there is internal (or external!) work you’ve been postponing, it will hit you like a ton of bricks, no kidding.
Remember  also that any conversations about race on this blog are “in the family” so to speak, observations about attitudes, and expressions of my own internal voices.  None of them are excuses to blame others for your life situation.  Conversely, it is important to understand that there are very real historical factors that influence the behaviors, emotions, and perceptions of different groups.  Not to understand this is (in my mind) willful blindness.  Our hope of creating a better world is dependant BOTH on individual responsibility, and a social commitment to provide both opportunity and safety to our citizens.  Swinging too far toward either pole is potential disaster—the only legitimate argument is “how far is too far?”  Remember that the natural tendency of people is to hold those beliefs that support their own group—whatever they perceive that to be.  And then they will try to justify that position intellectually.  Whether the person leans to Left or Right, remember this: they came to their emotional position first, and then rationalized it afterward.  While not always true, this perspective makes mucho sense  out of the frantic, vile argumentation in our political process.

Emotions first, logic second.  Of course, they won’t see it that way…