Is this a good review? A bad one? In-between? I'm not sure, but thought I'd post the puppy...(p.s.--note the reviewer saying Casanegra is an "historical"! And leaving our names off. It is to laugh...)
Author: Underwood, Blair
Review Date: JUNE 01, 2007
Price (hardback): $25.00
Publication Date: 7/10/2007 0:00:00
ISBN (hardback): 978-0-7432-8731-9
Introducing Tennyson Hardwick, who is black, beautiful and—if you ask the LAPD—bad as they come.
The police like him for not one but two high-profile murders, the second a cop's no less. The first is that of gorgeous, iconic "Afrodite," world-class rapper, A-list movie star, heartthrob in the BPW (Black People's World) and millionaire several times over. Back in the day, Tennyson knew her as Serena Johnston, his first actual client. What kind of client? Well, that gets a bit complicated since Tennyson—call him Ten—leads a multifaceted professional life. He's an actor, an escort and a bodyguard, lines that can cross so confusingly that often enough Ten is hard put to isolate exactly what he's being paid for—Serena a case in point. About that, Ten, whose personal code allows for some moral ambiguity, says, defensively, "I'm not the only actor who's discovered the financial rewards of sex-for-pay." On Serena's dead body the police find Ten's business card, and willy-nilly he's tabbed leading suspect, doubled when another of his cards is discovered in the car containing the corpse of Detective Robert Jenkins. It's a cheese-cloth of a case—Ten knows he's innocent, of course, as do the cops—but political exigencies dictate a rush to judgment and the attendant need for a quick arrest. It follows, then, that catching the real killer becomes Ten's task. Failing that, he's toast.
Some of the violence borders on the sadistic and the sex can seem transparently exploitive, which is not to deny that Underwood (Before I Got Here, 2006) and his collaborators may have a bankable thing in super cool, catnip-to-the-ladies Tennyson Hardwick. Since this appears to be the debut of a series, time will tell.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Is this a good review? A bad one? In-between? I'm not sure, but thought I'd post the puppy...(p.s.--note the reviewer saying Casanegra is an "historical"! And leaving our names off. It is to laugh...)
Posted by Steven Barnes at 8:15 PM
I heard a couple of things that I cannot verify...maybe some of you can do so. The story is that the Dean of West Point flew to California to speak with the creators of the television series "24." He told them that their positive depictions of torture in a fictionalized context were influencing the moral environment at West Point. That because the infallible CTU could do these things, his students wanted to know why they couldn't, as well. This would be laughable, but didn't one of the Republican candidates, in response to the "ticking clock" scenario during a recent debate, say he'd "send for Jack Bauer"?
I've now had conversations with two people who are actually trained in interrogation techniques. One has actually been involved in torture situations. Both say pretty much the same thing:
1) that the stream of information is likely to be corrupt.
2) That psychological techniques are superior to physical coercion.
3) That the use of such techniques can be extraordinarily corrupting to those who use them.
In addition, at least one of the people asked me to pay careful attention to the TYPE of person who believes in the use of torture. That it is quite easy for sadists to slip into this sort of position,and act as if they want information, when what is really desired is the sense of total control over another human being.
Or that you have frightened people who want revenge...even if the torturee has no information.
Or to note that the same people who advocate torture are likely to consider the ones to be tortured not as fully human as they are. In other words, are more likely to be racist, sexist, or culturally elitist.
Neither of these fellows suggested that there were contexts in which torture was the ONLY way to get good information, although one did say that good information had certainly been acquired in this fashion.
here's the third installment of my "ABC of writing" thingie. Sans ad.
You know something? I didn't want to write this,
but my subconscious kept telling me I had to do it.
The reason? Comedy is my weak suit. I've written
and sold only one piece that was really intended
from the get-go to be humorous. It was an
episode of the animated 'Real Ghostbusters' and
I wouldn't consider it a Yuck-Fest. Rather like
the original film, the episode, ('Moaning Stones')
has a very serious basic structure, hidden
beneath humorous image systems.
We have to understand our limitations. This
is one of mine: I've just never learned how to
write fall-down, side-splitting hysterical. But
look again at 'Ghostbusters' and examine
the basic structure. It is NOT funny. A
woman's apartment is haunted. She goes to
a group of disgraced paranormal investigators,
asking for help. They find that her problem is
linked to the return of ancient gods, who are
bent on triggering the apocalypse.
Wow. Really funny stuff. What makes
Ghostbusters funny is the IMAGE SYSTEMS,
dialogue, and Bill Murray's absolutely
phenomenal comic timing. That is very
different from, say, Mel Brooks' 'The
Producers,' where the actual plot twists
themselves are funny, even without
singing 'Springtime For Hitler.' It is a
STRUCTURAL comedy as opposed to a
film made humorous by execution.
But however you find your way to humor,
it is critical that you learn to incorporate
it into your own work. In fact, the darker
and more serious your piece, the more
important humor becomes. An audience
simply cannot take a steadily increasing
descent into hell. The mind rebels and
revokes its suspension of disbelief. They
start noticing the special effects, and
looking for boom shots, or any other
flaws--as a means of escaping the intensity.
On the other hand, if you sprinkle in laughs
here and there, you are lessening the
tension, allowing the reader/viewer to
relax and recover before SLAMMING them
again. And they'll love you for it. Look
at the fabulous use of humor in Casablanca,
or more recently, 'Casino Royale'--easily
the darkest Bond movie ever made. It
really earns its laughs, and the audience
is instantly ready for more thrills!
This is a subject worthy of a course in itself.
I'm not the one to write it, though--like I
said, this is my weak link. So seek out the
films that have made you laugh. Study
them. Ask yourself 'why' and 'how' it
worked. Develop your own theories.
And then test them in your work!
Posted by Steven Barnes at 11:54 AM
Monday, May 28, 2007
Was in Philadelphia for three days, missing various planes and having mucho stress getting there for my event. Went off I.F. for that time. I was 174.6 when I left, and 179.4 this morning. Hah! I’m sure glad this isn’t some kind of “diet” that I’m planning to go off of. Obviously, until my set-point adjusts, the body can gain weight one HELL of a lot faster than it loses. No wonder people get discouraged! But then, it takes a lot longer to grow a forest than to burn one down, to build a building than to demolish it, to build trust than to lose it. Just the way life is…
Another weird thing about I.F...under the name "Feast/Fast", it seems to be used to overcome Jet Lag! The plan seems to be to make travel days fasting days. There is more to it, but you might want to Google the concept and see for yourself...
Here’s the second installment of my “ABC of Writing” series. Including the ad at the end. Heh heh.
'B' is for Bookcovers
As in: do you have any influence over what goes on the
covers of your books? The answer: sometimes. If you
and your editor trust each other, and you have some
leverage. Or if you negotiate it. Writers like Harlan Ellison
have a huge amount of input on such things, but newbies
can expect minimal. You can certainly make suggestions,
but be polite to your editors, understand that they have
sales departments and bosses and art departments to
interact with--you won't always get your way.
May I tell you a story? Back about 25 years ago, I
published my third novel, my first solo work, 'Streetlethal.'
The lead character was black, in fact described as
'unusually dark for an American black man.' When
the book came out, the guy on the cover was a tanned
white guy. I was furious. The editor was embarrassed,
but said that the Art department had insisted. I talked
to the art department. They in turn blamed sales. I
talked to sales. They said that the truck drivers who
end up putting the books on racks would have rejected
a black man on the cover, surmising it to be 'Shaft in
Space' or some such. Sigh. Boy oh boy, was I pissed.
But I held my temper and motored on. When the
sequel, 'Gorgon Child' was published two years later,
there on the cover was...a black man. Now, curiously
enough, the WOMAN on the cover with him was now
a blonde, where she was actually described as a
mixture of black and Polynesian.
The truth is that there was really no one in particular
to be angry with. They were doubtless correct: when
the first book came out, it WOULD have affected sales.
And probably did even with the sequels. Human
beings have these interesting, odd perceptual habits.
But if I'd freaked, I would have accomplished nothing
save cutting my own throat. No. I swallowed my bile,
and went forward. My commitment was to my career,
not my ego.
Writing is not magic. Building a career in alignment with
your values need not be a mystery. YOU CAN BE A
PUBLISHED WRITER! No question about it, for 95% of the
people reading this, if you have decent basic language
skills, and the ability to work hard and tell the truth. A
professional writer, making your living? I can't promise
you that--no one can. But I can give you the best shot
you've ever had at it. The LIFEWRITING YEAR LONG course
is simply the best in the business. Order your copy today
Posted by Steven Barnes at 8:58 AM
Thursday, May 24, 2007
I've been running a "Writer's Alphabet" series over on my Lifewriting mailing list. Thought I'd share it with you guys...
Q: How do I get an Agent?
My standard comment here is that you want to start
by writing and publishing Short stories. They don't
require an agent to sell, and your learning curve is
vastly sharper per word than with longer works.
After you've published a few stories, ask the EDITORS
who bought your work to recommend an agent. In
this way, you come to an agent's attention as a
published writer, not a wannabe. The quality of agent
you can get in this manner is much higher.
Another approach is to get an editor interested in your
book or project, and THEN approach an agent. Ask
her if she would be interested in negotiating a contract
for something you've already sold. Again, agents are
delighted to have clients like this, and you can connect
at a much higher level than those poor souls who go
from agency to agency, tattered manuscript in
metaphorical hand, begging for representation.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 8:42 AM
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
I’ve had an interesting reaction from combining two super-short workouts. I’m always looking for things I can do on the road, with no equipment, in small rooms. My first choice is Coach Sonnon’s FlowFit, for numerous reasons. But it’s emphasis is slightly different than hard-core fitness. It is an extremely sophisticated re-structuring of the Five Tibetans, adding the Six Degrees of Freedom, and capable of creating a very nice aerobic effect. There is a way in which it is unique: I’m not certain I know of another technique that will take an untrained person across the “Second Wind” (Neuro-Immuno-Endocrine response) barrier at the SAME TIME as you are maneuvering the Six Degrees of Freedom. My suspicion? That doing this allows you to access many of the same psychological effects ordinarily only available to advanced yogis and martial artists (this is per minute of practice, of course. Most FlowFit sessions last 15-20 minutes). So the potential benefits are just massive.
But I recently tried alternating days of FlowFit with “Card” sessions. That is one of wrestling God Dan Gable’s favorite protocols. You take a deck of cards and shuffle it. Select four exercises that work your entire body. Designate each exercise to one suit. Deal a card. Do the number of reps of that exercises indicated. Continue for time, for the deck, or until fried. Matt Furey likes these four exercises: Hindu Pushup, Hindu Squat, “V-up” situps, and “Tablemakers” (Tibetan #4, a modified back-bend).
Nice stuff. I thought of doing something even more wicked, though. Flip a coin every morning. Heads, it’s FlowFit. Tails, it’s cards.
Now, if you choose your four exercises carefully, so that 15-20 minutes will, on the average, toast you, you can create a micro-exercise pattern that works everything in your body, and also takes you deeper and deeper into the body-mind connection (FlowFit is simply superb for this). Plus, you have double-randomizing going on, so the Muscle Confusion principle is really working for you. Of course, you could use Club Bell or Kettle Bell exercises, chin-ups, or anything else—just work your whole body.
In combination with I.F., my guess is that you could create quite an effective, short, never-boring routine. It’s kind of fun to flip a coin in the morning, and never have any idea at all what kind of misery you’re about to inflict on yourself. I’m doing FlowFit 2 these days, and believe me, it is such a sophisticated series of Body-Flow movements that I have to slow down to make certain I’m keeping my breathing in the groove. It’s almost a relief to have a “Card” day, with it’s inexorable, brutal simplicity.
Of course, if you have a routine that’s already working for you, STICK TO IT. But if you want to try something fun…hey, it’s only 15 minutes a day!
Posted by Steven Barnes at 9:52 AM
All right, I got nailed for what was in essence a chain email yesterday. Fair enough. But here's one I got today that I actually liked...(please ignore the obviously absurd parts...)
This is without a doubt one of the nicest good luck forwards I have received. Hope it
works for you -- and me!
You have 6 minutes
There's some mighty fine advice in these words, even if you're not superstitious. This
has been sent To you for good luck. It has
been sent around the world ten times so Far.
Do not keep this message.
It must leave your hands in 6 MINUTES. Otherwise you will get a very unpleasant
surprise. This is true, even if you are not superstitious, agnostic, or
otherwise faith impaired.
Give people more than they expect and do it cheerfully.
Marry a man/woman you love to talk to. As you get older, their conversational skills
will be as important as any other.
Don't believe all you hear, spend all you have or sleep all you want.
When you say, "I love you," mean it.
When you say, "I'm sorry," look the person in the eye.
Be engaged at least six months before you get married.
in love at first sight.
Never laugh at anyone's dream. People who don't have dreams don't have much.
Love deeply and passionately. You might get hurt but it's the only way to live life
In disagreements, fight fairly. No name calling.
Don't judge people by their relatives.
Talk slowly but think quickly.
When someone asks you a question you don't want to answer, smile and ask, "Why do you
want to know?"
Remember that great love and great achievements involve great risk..
Say "bless you" when you hear someone sneeze.
When you lose, don't lose the lesson
Remember the three R's: Respect for self; Respect for others; and Responsibility for all your actions.
Don't let a little dispute injure a great friendship.
When you realize you've made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct
Smile when picking up the phone. The caller will hear it in your
Spend some time alone.
here's the FUN part!
Send this to at least 5 people and your life will improve.
1-4 people: Your life will improve slightly.
5-9 people: Your life will improve to your liking.
9-14 people: You will have at least 5 surprises in the next 3 weeks
15 and above: Your life will improve drastically and everything you ever dreamed of
will begin to take shape.
A true friend is someone who reaches for your hand and touches your heart. Do not
keep this message!
Posted by Steven Barnes at 9:25 AM
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
I just received this e-mail. Kind of interesting, and I thought I'd share it for comment...
GAS WAR - an idea that WILL work
This was originally sent by a retired Coca Cola executive. It came from one of his engineer buddies who retired from Halliburton. It's worthy of your consideration.
Join the resistance! I hear we are going to hit close to $4.00 a gallon by summer and it might possibly go higher! Want gasoline prices to come down? We need to take some intelligent, united action. Phillip Hollsworth offered this good idea.
This makes MUCH MORE SENSE than the "don't buy gas on a certain day" campaign that was going around earlier! The oil companies just laughed at that because they knew we wouldn't continue to "hurt" ourselves by refusing to buy gas. It was more of an inconvenience to us than it was a problem for them.
BUT, whoever thought of this idea, has come up with a plan that can really work. Please read on and join with us! By now you're probably thinking gasoline priced at about $1.50 is super cheap. Me too! It is currently $2.79 for regular unleaded in my town. Now that the oil companies and the OPEC nations have conditioned us to think that the cost of a gallon of gas is CHEAP at $1.50 - $1.75, we need to take aggressive action to teach them that BUYERS control the marketplace..... not sellers. With the price of gasoline going up more each day, we consumers need to take action. The only way we are going to see the price of gas come down is if we hit someone in the pocketbook by not purchasing their gas! And, we can do that WITHOUT hurting ourselves. How? Since we all rely on our cars, we can't just stop buying gas. But we CAN have an impact on gas prices if we all act together to force a price war.
Here's the idea:
For the rest of 2007, DON'T purchase ANY gasoline from the two biggest companies (which now are one), EXXON and MOBIL. If they are not selling any gas, they will be inclined to reduce their prices. If they reduce their prices, the other companies will have to follow suit.
But to have an impact, we need to reach literally millions of Exxon and Mobil gas buyers. It's really simple to do! Now, don't wimp out at this point.... keep reading and I'll explain how simple it is to reach millions of people.
I am sending this note to 30 people. If each of us sends it to at least ten more (30 x 10 =3D 300) ... and those 300 send it to at least ten more (300 x 10 =3D 3,000)...and so on, by the time the message reaches the sixth group of people, we will have reached over THREE MILLION consumers. If those three million get excited and pass this on to ten friends each, then 30 million people will have been contacted! If it goes one level further, you guessed it..... THREE HUNDRED MILLION PEOPLE!!!
Again, all you have to do is send this to 10 people. That's all. (If you don't understand how we can reach 300 million and all you have to do is send this to 10 people.... Well, let's face it, you just aren't a mathematician. But I am, so trust me on this one.)
How long would all that take? If each of us sends this e-mail out to ten more people within one day of receipt, all 300 MILLION people could conceivably be contacted within the next 8 days!!!
I'll bet you didn't think you and I had that much potential, did you?
Acting together we can make a difference. If this makes sense to you, please pass this message on. I suggest that we not buy from EXXON/MOBIL UNTIL THEY LOWER THEIR PRICES TO THE $1.30 RANGE AND KEEP THEM THERE!
Posted by Steven Barnes at 10:52 AM
Friday, May 18, 2007
Because I made what could sound like a snarky comment about Conservatives (in connection with what I called The Tribal Monkey in our hindbrain) I wanted to put down something I was thinking yesterday, listening to Ed Schultz (who I tend to enjoy) yesterday, just after the announcement came down about the immigration reform package. I won't pretend to have read it, or understand all the implications. I'm sure all of that will be debated ad nauseum in the coming days. I WAS happy to hear that it contained a proviso punishing employers who hire illegals. What I noticed is that Ed, who is actually more moderate than "liberal" was calling attention to the groups that label themselves as "Immigrant Rights" groups, stating the obvious truth that they should more honestly be labeled "Illigal Immigrant Rights" groups...they never have anything to say about the rights of LEGAL immigrants. I've noticed that Liberal talk show hosts tend to let these groups get away with that very stealthy twisting of language. In my opinion, no organism can exist that does not differentiate between itself and its environment. To my knowledge, Mexico doesn't have "open borders" for Americans, and allow Americans to come down there and declare they have the right to be citizens. I know of no country that does. While the problem is certainly exacerbated by skin color, if French-Canadians were flooding across the border into Detroit, you could bet that Michigans would be howling to close the borders--that's just human nature. Hell, when I was up in Washington I had to put up with tons of nasty jokes about Californians coming up and spoiling their state, and we're all AMERICANS. This is natural. Of course, it's also natural for people to want to improve their own lives. History suggests that if Mexico had a higher standard of living than America, WE'D be flooding across the border south, Mexicans would be complaining, and Americans would scream "racism" or anything else that would provide legal/moral leverage to get what we want.
I don't have an answer for the problem of the wealth differential between America and Mexico. I understand (or at least empathize with) the plight of Mexicans wishing to build a better future for themselves. But I also empathize with Americans who, I believe, like any people on the planet, have the right to protect their borders. No one OUTSIDE the country has the right to decide who should and shouldn't come in. I know of no country that works that way, or could survive under that situation. It is unfortunate that the issue is so incredibly hot, but those heated emotions are understandable. I would like the rhetoric on the Right to be less venomous. And I'd love for those on the Left to diminish their tendency to allow special advocacy groups to twist language to their own ends. Those advocacy groups will do that--all advocacy groups play that game. But we don't have to cooperate.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 9:35 AM
Human beings are such odd creatures. I have a friend who has had an affair for some years with a married guy. The guy’s wife had a recent serious illness, he re-thought his life, and dumped my friend. She was quite upset, felt he’d been dishonest, “we had agreements” and so forth. What boggles my mind is that she KNOWS the guy is a slime-ball, but on some level is surprised when he acts…well, like a more responsible human being. Or that he didn’t dump her in a way that was convenient. It reminds me a bit of Britney Spears starting an affair with K-Fed while he’s living with the mother of his children. On what basis did she think she had the right to expect better treatment than he gave the mother?
If you are living in alignment with your values, you know what costs you pay to do so. And you recognize that when people are dishonest, they are rarely dishonest selectively—a warped map is a warped map. And you get to be “surprised” when the lover does to you what he/she does to others. Of course, the most interesting thing is that here, he seems to have done a more mature thing, and recognized that he’s been acting like a selfish child, risking his family for sexual pleasure. I think that what my friend is really upset about is that the situation is a mirror for her: she has no one in her own life who even TRIES to do for her what this man is trying to do for his wife: be a good husband. Behave as part of a mated pair. This is a good lady. I hope she will one day address the wounds that created her situation. She deserves to treat herself better.
I want to reiterate that anything I say about I.F. is in reference to my own experiences, not intended as medical advise. If it sounds interesting, do your own research, and PLEASE consult with your doctor. In no way can I be responsible for your results. This is powerful stuff, and you must be careful.
I was asked why I considered the Maryland study (http://www.newsdesk.umd.edu/pdf/finalrep.pdf )
“evidence of racism” since so few whites killed blacks. The gentleman also considered that the differential sentencing had to do with the fact that blacks killed whites in conditions of greater violence. I believe this is false, but the link is posted, and I’d love for others to look at the data. My answers:
1) There are greater penalties for killing across race lines than within them. People are more likely to be killed by members of their own group.
2) Robbery is often a motivation for murder. Robbers go where the money is. A differential in average income between whites and blacks could certainly explain why blacks are more likely to rob whites than vice versa.
3) That notwithstanding, the stats were adjusted for such factors. Given severity of violence and circumstance and so forth—when all of those factors are held steady, there was STILL a statistical blip.
Again, I don’t treat these stats as evidence of racism if you mean “white racism.” I do treat them as evidence of human tribalism, that human beings have a natural preference for their “own” group, and a 5-10% discomfort with “the other” which comes out…well, everywhere. And the less conscious people are, the more it gets to come out. I don’t think its deliberate. I DO think that you have to be deliberate to prevent its effects. (This is why the hair on the back of my neck twitches when I hear Conservatives say: can't we all just forget about race..?" The little tribal monkey in the back of our minds would LOVE for the forebrain to forget about race. Then it could go right on playing its 5-10% games, and things would slide right back where they were. The only way this wouldn't be true is if everyone was the same color. In that case, of course, the Tribal Monkey would find something else to discriminate against: height, fashion, sexual preference, gender, whatever. It thrives on finding differences, and throwing shit at them.)
The figures in this study were compiled from information from the 70’s through the 90’s. I’d bet anything that if you went further into America’s past, you’d find that the differential punishments were far more egregious. Not because whites are evil, but because human beings have certain tendencies that are cumulative when there are masses of them, and devastating when they have numerical and power advantages.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 9:01 AM
Thursday, May 17, 2007
When Nicolay Travkin over at Rmax discovered that the name “The Path” had already been registered by someone else, we searched for a name that would express what we think we’ve found. As Steve Perry so kindly (and sternly) pointed out, everything we’ve put together in that seminar was right in plain sight. Anyone who has searched diligently to see “what is true” (cosmology) and developed a means of separating wheat from chaff (epistemology) across a wide range of cultural knowledge bases would have found the same things—or even more.
The best thing I can say is that Scott and I are quite sincere, and that our struggles and searches can save you a great deal of time. It is relatively difficult to explain what that Body/Mind connection is. It is easier to experience it. If you will walk the Threshold for just 24 hours—one hour a week for 24 weeks, you’ll grasp something that most human beings only flail at. I can’t offer you an easy answer. But I can offer you a perspective on an answer that lies beyond most Western linguistics, yet is the common heritage of all mankind. Click over on the “Path” button, and follow it to the DVD page. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
I think we’ve crossed a cultural threshold, and since cultures arise from human psychological and emotional needs, it suggests that we as a country are yet another step closer to what our Founding Fathers intended. Yes, I love America, completely. No, I don’t always approve of the way she manifests her strengths and weaknesses. We’re really quite human. My own personal wounds make me hyper-sensitive to racial issues, and I like to quantify things so that there are benchmarks to be met or failed.
One of those has to do with black leads in dramatic television shows. The very first black lead (the person whose name comes first in the titles is the lead) in a successful (lasting more than two years) hour-long dramatic series was Avery Brooks in “Deep Space Nine.” It wasn’t one of the Big Three networks, and without the “Star Trek” label it could never have worked, but work it did. And if I have some real problems with Paramount for what happened to the Sisko character at the end, and the price Avery paid for refusing to die as a Sacrificial Negro (seen him lately?), still I honor them for pushing the limits, and creating images of power and intelligence that were quite inspiring. And if Sisko was considerably less powerful and masculine than, say, Hawk, well hell—who isn’t?
When President David Palmer was assassinated in the first episode of last season’s “24” it was heart-breaking. One of the only things that made it palatable was that Dennis Haysbert was getting his own series over on CBS. “The Unit.” And the Unit just got renewed for its third season.
Now, there was a series over on NBC with a black lead that lasted more than two years, something about a group of teachers. Note that the lead was quite overweight. I never watched that series, but acknowledge that it probably wins the award for first Big Three series with Non-Caucasian Lead that lasted more than two years—in other words, that America could and would embrace.
The Unit is a terrific action show. I know people who consider it too jingoistic, and anti-Muslim. It’s certainly possible I have a blind spot because I so enjoy watching Haysbert kick ass. Not certain. So I’m not all that P.C.
But don’t think I didn’t notice that Haysbert got heavy around the middle, and that the actress who played his wife was not only quite large, but dowdy to boot. And this is especially notable when EVERY OTHER ACTOR is lean and mean, and every other actress is toned and frisky. Every one. I can only think that this was a deliberate attempt to keep them from being too “threatening” to white audiences.
The last few weeks, I’d noticed that Haysbert and his co-star were…getting leaner. Interesting. And his wife’s hair was starting to look more attractive, her clothing more becoming and less matronly. Tananarive and I were both picking up on it. Something was happening. And the series has been renewed.
Hmmm. This, I think, is a good thing.
In combination with the excellent poll numbers on Barack Obama, and the existence of Oprah, and Will Smith (who has charted his career more intelligently than almost any other performer I can think of), and what the hell, a lean-bodied black male winning on Survivor, I feel that there is a gate opening. It isn’t open wide yet, but it is open. Not everyone will enter the promised land. Maybe I'm one of those who won't. But clearly, those who can touch the undamaged part of themselves, who don’t take the pain personally, and can zig and zag effectively, can enter. And that’s something I just couldn’t have said ten years ago. America in the 21st Century seems to be evolving in ways my father and grandfather prayed for. I say to every black person reading this: we have to move beyond our pain and anger and resentment, and grasp that the success and inclusion we crave are right there, if we’re strong enough to grasp it. This generation…WE…are the hope and the dream of the slave.
Another Threshold. This morning I meditated after fasting for 30 hours. Hunger at that point is not a growl in the stomach—that sensation is there, but it is a relatively minor annoyance. Real hunger is something deeper. It is feeling your body devouring its own fatty tissues. I believe that the tendency for your body to attack its own muscle tissue is a disease of civilization: what possible evolutionary benefit is there in wasting muscle tissue when your butt is well-marbled? Makes no sense to me. Maybe someone can explain it.
At any rate, I could feel my body eating itself. It’s a little like a horde of tiny ants moving under the skin…not unpleasant, but strange. Ordinary hunger peaks at about 24 hours of empty stomach. This is something else.
And I meditated. Sought the light. Jed McKenna suggests two questions to lead to Enlightenment. One is “What is True?” and the other is “Who am I?” Both are actually different versions of the same question, of course.
I asked the hunger an analogous question: “Who are you?” And this morning it said: “I am Death.” It might as well have said: “I am Shiva, the Destroyer, Death, the devourer of worlds.” It was that fricking serious.
Feed me, it said. Feed me.
I asked it what food it wanted. It said that it wanted my illusions. Ego. Lies. Self-justifications. Pain. Resentments. Fears. Everything I’ve used to withhold my true self from the world, from my family and friends.
There are aspects of myself I’ve struggled with for decades. Much of that has been discussed here in the blog. Not all. I need a certain amount of privacy. But what I will say is that the entire idea of Balance as core principle arises from the belief that if you admit to a goal but cannot directly achieve it, if you hold fast there and work on the other two arenas, whatever invisible demons plague you in the intractable area are ultimately linked to the other two, and will yield if you work long enough. That the apparent difference between “Body, Mind and Spirit” is an illusion, that illusion existing to protect an ego that desperately wants to live.
When that concept of a life lived separately from the rest of humanity…or the rest of existence…is itself another illusion.
Feed Me, it said. What are you? I asked.
I am the Way, the Truth, and the Light, it replied.
This is terrifying stuff. Intermittent Fasting combined with the clarity of Spiritual Autolysis, right in my face. The limit of ego, right there. Like sailing up to the edge of a flat earth, and watching the water falling off into nothingness.
Terrifying…but only to my ego. There is another part of me that is as calm as a crystal sea about all of this. That sighs “yes.” That knows that everything that I, or for that matter the rest of Humanity, have/has ever sought is right here. The Truth that surpasseth, that cannot be contained in words, but can be experienced by anyone willing to pay the price.
And that price? Everything.
I’m frightened this morning. And happy. And filled with love and gratitude.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 8:13 AM
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
So…Byron Halsey spent two decades in prison for the rape and murder of two children. Now DNA evidence suggests that his neighbor actually committed the crime, and the judge has thrown his conviction out. I don’t know all of the details of this one, but it is this kind of case that makes me nervous about the death penalty. It strains credulity to believe that no one has ever been executed wrongly. In theory, I don’t mind the idea of the death penalty—simply removing from the equation anyone who we’d never want on the street again? Fine.
But there are
1) too many cases where we can’t be absolutely certain.
2) Too many studies that demonstrate that poor people and people of color are more likely to be arrested, tried, convicted and/or executed for the exact same crimes that the wealthy and/or white are less frequently or harshly punished.
IF it were possible for the justice system to be completely fair, I’d go with the death penalty. But its not.
An admission: its been over a decade since I read the sociology studies that established a differential conviction/arrest rate based on race and income. Can anyone out there point me to more recent studies? If I’m wrong, I’d be glad to admit it.
Google “conviction rates race” and you’ll find this on Huffington Post:
“According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, among youths aged 12 to 17, the rate of current illicit drug use was 11.1 % among whites, and 9.3% among African Americans.  In a previous year, the same survey found that white youth aged 12 to17 are more than a third more likely to have sold drugs than African American youth.  The Monitoring the Future Survey of high school seniors shows that white students annually use cocaine at 4.6 times the rate of African Americans students, use crack cocaine at 1.5 times the rate of African Americans students, and use heroin at the same rate of African Americans students, and that white youth report annual use of marijuana at a rate 46% higher than African American youth.  However African American youth are arrested for drug offenses at about twice the rate (African American 314 per 100,000, white 175 per 100,000) times that of whites,  and African American youth represent nearly half (48%) of all the youth incarcerated for a drug offense in the juvenile justice system. ”
This would all go along with my theory that there is a 5-10% “disconnect” in perceiving the humanity of the “Other.” As a young person moves through the justice system, they would encounter this at every level—sometimes more, sometimes less, but averaging about 5%-10%. The effect would be cumulative, slowly shunting them deeper and deeper into the system. It would also be cumulative in terms of degrading their respect for the system, and therefore increasing their tendency to believe the actual rules of society are the rules of animal survival. Children must be programmed to understand why they shouldn’t steal, or hit. Only later when such programming goes so deep as to become “Right Action” is a fully mature, socialized human being created.
Again, in my opinion, the basic difference between Conservatives and Liberals is the tendency for the Right to select Nature over Nurture, and the Left to select Nurture over Nature. Ultimately, neither point of view can be “proven” but one’s orientation influences your belief in, say, social programs to prevent criminality (nurture) or building more jails to simply contain the “bad seed” (nature). Since to a degree our available tax dollars exist in a Zero Sum Game, this isn’t a joke, and is an incredibly important debate.
The problem in my mind, is that viewed from this perspective, the reason that the old saw “don’t discuss Religion or Politics” rings so true is that they are in essence the exact same thing. Both are Cosmological arguments that cannot really be resolved. Religion is more obviously a matter of “Faith”, but ultimately (from this perspective) so is Politics. But it masquerades as logic, which is a problem.
Feel a little overtrained today. Fasting day. I’m working out with Nicki later, so I think I’m going to give my personal workout a little rest. Still recovering from Arizona? Maybe. The weather was ghastly there. The combination of heat and humidity had health warnings flashing like crazy, and I may have become slightly dehydrated.
While I was there, I saw an old friend, S.D. As always, at one point he got very, very seriously into political discussion. He thinks that the Clintons are pretty much Satanic, and thought Barack Obama “a disgrace.” Curious, I asked him why. Took a bit to pin him down, but the thing he came up with most clearly was his support of Universal Health Care.
Now, I can understand someone thinking UHC is a bad idea for the country, but “disgrace” sounds a little harsh. That’s an ad hominem attack on an issue that needs to be discussed logically. My favorite fast-and-dirty measure of overall health of a society is the Infant Mortality Rate. Excuse me, but isn’t the IMR in most countries with UHC lower than it is in the United States? That ISN’T an absolute reason to have Universal Health Care—but it does suggest that an intelligent, compassionate person could have good reasons for supporting it.
Given that there are also in all probability good reasons to be wary of it, one would think that people of good will could discuss this issue calmly. Certainly no one is going to say publicly that they don’t care about the percentage of children who die. What WILL be done is debating the interpretation of the statistics, and questions about whether UHC is the best way to create a future for our children. Fine.
But the “He’s a disgrace” strikes me as a bit of reflexive and jingoistic nonsense, and automatic demonization of the political opponent. I hear this crap on Air America sometimes (Randi Rhodes is famous for it) and it suggests to me that certain issues simply make the forebrain shut down, until all that is left is sheer venom and fear.
That’s unfortunate, because what we need now is intelligent discussion. I’m reading articles and trying to listen carefully, but at this point my vote is Obama’s to lose. Part of the reason is that I think a black man who sounds and carries himself as intelligently as a white man is actually smarter. My reasoning has to do with the fact that he is straddling cultures, and in essence speaking a “second language.” Those of you who use Macs might understand this example. Remember SoftPC, the Windows emulation software? If you had a Mac that ran at the same processor speed as a given Windows machine, SoftPC ran slower than molasses. If it ran as fast as your native Windows machine, your Mac had to be MUCH faster.
It’s kind of like that with race. There are so many impediments, barriers, lacks of role models, that 5%-10% disconnect and so forth, that it’s like watching someone cross a finish line even with another runner—but carrying an anvil on his back. Who’s the stronger runner? One guess.
So I watch Obama, and grasp the magnitude of what he has accomplished, and my reaction is to believe that, had this same man been born white, he would have accomplished even more.
Now, there are those out there who think that blacks actually have advantages (there are a few these days, but I consider them inconsequential in comparison to the disadvantages), and I’ve actually had some of these folks suggest that I personally would have accomplished less, that perhaps my travails had simulated me to greater excellence.
There’s a problem with this. What, then, do they make of the fact that the average black tests, earns, and maintains higher incarceration rates than the average white? I can only think that, in their heart of hearts, they go with the “nature over nurture” position, and secretly believe that, were the average white person born into a black skin, they would out-perform the average black. I think this attitude is more common than most would admit.
To me, it’s like watching that guy with the anvil on his back cross the finish line, and then say: “gee, maybe that anvil stimulated him to greater excellence” and then looking at the majority of those with anvils, who naturally ran slower and even couldn’t finish, and saying “tsk tsk. They just didn’t have what it takes…”
But then, I’m obsessed with finding explanations that don’t require thinking group A is better or worse than group B. Whites aren’t more racist than blacks—there are just more of them, with greater institutionalized power and leverage.
I’m sure that my insistence on looking at things this way occasionally obscures real differences. Maybe blacks actually are inferior intellectually. Or maybe whites really are inferior morally and ethically. But people have been trying to prove one or the other position to me all my life, and I’m not buying.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 9:29 AM
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
"28 Weeks Later," the sequel to Danny Boyles’ terrific "28 Days Later", is a genuine horror film, probably not for casual viewers—if you aren’t into zombies and grueling tension, this one isn’t for you.
The original premise is back: a group of animal rights activists frees a lab filled with experimental animals, including one infected with the “Rage Virus.” The virus jumps species. Anyone bitten or in contact with blood or saliva transforms in seconds from victim into another blood-puking, sprinting ragaholic. The only thing that kept the world from ending was the fact that the disease was confined to an island—England.
The sequel takes place “28 Weeks Later” as citizens begin to return, to an American-maintained stronghold on the Isle of Dog, in the center of London. The main character is a man (Robert Carlyle) who was forced to abandon his wife. Watching him explain to his children what happened is one of the most heart-breaking things I’ve ever seen in a horror film. Everything is buttoned down tight. Nothing can go wrong…
And you know where things have to go from here. They do. It’s just awful. This is one exceptionally tense film, in which any soft emotion leads to disaster. The urge to embrace, to forgive, to protect, to confess…anything at all. This is REAL horror, where the better human qualities lead to disaster, and only the cruel survive. Man oh man, if you aren’t ready for this, if it doesn’t sound like your particular cut of raw steak, stay away. For hard-core horror fans, this is what you’ve been waiting for, an “A-.” For general audiences..? I just don’t know. Maybe a “B-.”
Has anyone heard of “RapeX”? It’s an anti-rape condom with little serrated teeth on the inside, to be worn by women when they think they may be at risk. Designed by (I believe) a doctor who heard a rape victim sobbing that she wishes she had “teeth down there,” it’s the very essence of a desperate measure. South Africa has phenomenally bad rape statistics—one out of 5 men in one study ADMITTED to rape. God only knows what the actual numbers are. If you ever wanted to see the soul-crushing effects of Colonialism and Apartheid, there you are. At any rate, I have mixed feelings about its potential effectiveness, but feel it’s a product that SHOULD be on the market, and available to women who feel the need. After all, if a man wears a condom, a “RapeX” won’t hurt him even if a woman has malicious motives and tries to hurt an innocent guy. In a country so ravaged by AIDS, whether to stop rape or disease, this sounds like a desperate, but fascinating, innovation.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 6:46 PM
Over the weekend in Phoenix, I pretty much ate on a normal pattern. I’ve noticed that when I’m away from home, and uncertain as to the reliability of food sources, it is MUCH harder to use an I.F. routine. I can Warrior Diet it pretty well, but trying to fast just makes my hunger scream louder. Unpleasant. I’ll have to look into this—I didn’t bring any Hoodia with me, silly boy. At any rate, I gained about three pounds in four days (!) but a single day of fasting knocked it right back off. So…that couldn’t be fat. It had to be the weight of the digested food in my system. Four pounds of fecal material? Wow, after all this time I learn it’s true. I really AM full of crap…
It’s interesting to feel so optimistic that I’ve found a major piece of the puzzle. No practice works for everyone, but in terms of the physical, I feel I’ve passed a threshold of understanding. That for the X% of people who can make I.F. work for themselves (still compiling data) they’re going to get stunning results. I’m taking another run at Coach Sonnon’s dreaded 100-rep Deathmarch with the Bruiser club bell. My body was just getting beat up before, couldn’t recover enough. Figured it was just age. But it seems to be reacting differently now.
The “Spiritual Autolysis” piece was another chunk of the puzzle. I’ve had a chance to speak to several of my advisors who I trust greatly on the issue of spirit, meditation, mysticism. And they agree that what Jed McKenna speaks of here has the ring of truth. That is: That what we call “Enlightenment” is the door of perception that opens at the moment of death, opened prior to that moment. It is slipping out of the Ego. Note that you have to put your ego shell back on to interact with other human beings, or exist in this world. So Enlightened beings will have some residual ego identity. This would explain the universal existence of rules of behavior and ethics in religions and philosophical schools.
“Enlightenment” doesn’t create good people. It creates clarity of perception of truth. Such beings would be beyond ordinary concepts of “good” and “evil.” You could have an enlightened serial killer. Ordinary thoughts of being “good” because otherwise God Will Get You or Society Will Disapprove would be meaningless. The death of a child would mean no more than the death of a distant star.
Therefore, it would be necessary to program the ego-shell so that when you slip it “back on” to function on this level, you are motivated, if not by fear or guilt, by “Right Action.” This, and the loss of ordinary human motivations (largely fear and tribalism) are what make me very cautious about proceeding. I won’t take one of the accelerated paths (the “Small Boat” in Buddhist lingo) until my son is 18 years old. He needs his daddy. But I can use my current clarity to choose between spiritual and meditative practices that provide steady processing of the mental/emotional/spiritual garbage that arises on a daily basis.
And I.F. is great for this. Every other day, I get to face some of the most basic demons that exist for human beings, demons at the base of war, crime, racism, self-control issues. I get to deal with the fact that an entirely new vista has opened up. That I am no longer at all certain who “I” is (I know how that sounds! Or should I say ! “`I’ knows how that sounds.” Man, language gets twisted when you play in this realm.)
At any rate, the Soulmate process is invaluable for guidance here. And this is NOT to criticize those without a mate, or those who choose other paths. My comments have to do with a particular path up the mountain, not the “Only” or “best” path. The “Soulmate” process assumes that, after survival, the drive to find sexual fulfillment, to build a nest, to mate and raise children is the most powerful drive. That therefore you can use this in a variety of ways (all, of course, open to healthy debate…)
1) you can look at the type of person you are attracted to, and by flipping genders (if you are hetero) tell a lot about your conscious and unconscious self-image. This saved my butt 10 years ago after the breakup of my first marriage. I didn’t know who I was, but I knew what I was attracted to. I made the list out, without compromise, and found the lady closest to the specifications. Asked her what she wanted in a man. What she described was, in essence, what I wanted to be, since what my heart yearned for was to be the kind of man who could attract and hold a woman like THAT. (And she was spectacular.) The work that I did in relation to this led DIRECTLY to my finding, courting, and marrying Tananarive.
2) You can use the mating drive to clarify financial goals. You need to build a nest within which children will be safe and secure. Without this, (especially for guys), it is damned hard to attract a mate with much on the ball. Hate to put it this bluntly, but there it is. It’s not that women are money-grubbers or gold-diggers. They have a natural urge to be secure during the months when their energy is directed toward the growth of a baby within their bodies, and the nurturance of that child after birth. Nothing else would make sense. They have a perfect right to expect support and protection. Guys, if you don’t have a “nest,” and you’ve had problems holding and keeping a good woman, I’d take care of this before looking at almost any other potential problem.
3) Honesty in communication is probably the single most important factor in keeping a relationship healthy. And this requires honesty in communication with yourself. So you can use your relationship to drive you toward honesty—one of the most basic qualities necessary for life success.
4) Self-love is necessary to extend healthy love to others.
I could go on and on. The natural human pair-bond instinct is so strong that the hair on the back of my neck goes up whenever someone says they’re not interested in a bonded relationship. Yes, I’m perfectly aware there are emotional and spiritual paths that do not include this human need. However, that ain’t the way to bet. People lie. This is the simple explanation for Alien Abduction and those who claim their bodies disobey the laws of physics. People lie. We all do. And we lie most about the things that cause us the most emotional pain, unless and until we are ready to look at them.
Looking at the Yogic Chakras, I see now that I’ve got the base chakra anchored just fine (I.F.) And the core chakra, heart/emotion, can be accessed with Heartbeat Meditation and the Soulmate process. You know what? That’s all you NEED. Everything else can be generated if you are dealing with survival, and love. You’ve rooted the tree. The natural path of human evolution is upward and onward. Root the tree in fertile soil, and it will grow.
But that DOES leave the third part of the triad. Career. Money. I’ll be damned if I know the direct path here. Can there be one, considering that money comes from other people, and therefore beyond direct manipulation? Maybe. After all, the Soulmate process suggests that when you do certain types of inner work, you (and please don’t take this too literally. Again, language has limitations) “radiate” a signal that “attracts” those on your “energetic” level. Ugh. Yeah, yeah, I know how that sounds, and the left, rational side of my brain squeals like a pig. But the right side is pure mystic, and says I’ve touched the truth.
So where is the truth of finance? Money? You can certainly control getting “better” at your chosen field…but can you control your energy, time and intent to maximize your income? To move into creative monetary flow?
There are many, many successful people who say “yes” to this, but the processes they describe often sound a little batty. But I think they’ve touched something true, and just can’t quite describe it.
Tad James’ “Time Line” system is probably as powerful here as anything. By aligning clear goals, values, beliefs, and emotional anchors, you are certainly giving yourself the best chance to perform at your highest levels. This should certainly translate into your best chance at success. But can you go further than this? I suspect so. I also suspect that you can’t quite put your conscious finger on it.
More thought definitely needed. But meanwhile, every day I’m gonna chew up more demons.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 7:59 AM
Monday, May 14, 2007
From Publisher's Weekly. I'm feeling optimistic today...
Casanegra: A Tennyson Hardwick Story
Blair Underwood with Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes. Atria, $25 (320p) ISBN 978-0-7432-8731-9
Actor Underwood (Sex and the City, etc.) teams up with accomplished authors Due and Barnes to produce a seamlessly entertaining novel. Tennyson Hardwick—semisuccessful actor, ex-gigolo and incipient sleuth—has the mixed fortune to reconnect with rap superstar Afrodite, a former client, for a night of more than just sex. The next day, she's found dead in a plastic bag with a split skull, and he's a suspect. To clear his name, Hardwick draws on all of his considerable assets: good looks and charm, a $2.5 million house inherited from a devoted client, martial arts skills (Barnes's stock in trade) and connections on both sides of the law. The authors have mixed up a cocktail of exotic elements—the sex for pay industry, the grind and glitz of Hollywood and the rap biz, a smart leavening of black film history—and topped it with a double shot of brutal murder. Handsome “Ten” Hardwick has not only a great backstory but a very promising future. 6-city author tour. (July)
Posted by Steven Barnes at 12:31 PM
I’ve been out of town for four days, visiting family in Phoenix. There’s a lot of catching up to do here…
One thing I wanted to make clear concerning any comments about I.F. NOTHING said here should be interpreted as medical advice. Do your own research, and consult with your doctor and/or therapist. I can in no way be responsible for your, or anyones, health. It’s hard enough being responsible for my own.
This blog is not about fat. It is trying to answer the question: what happens if you live your life as if all three major aspects (roughly: fitness/health, spirit/relationships, education/career) are equally important. You are watching me apply this to my own life. I’m not saying that my opinions are correct—I’m saying they are consistent with my basic values and core beliefs.
When I suggest that fat—especially when it’s enough fat to make another human being (above about 80 pounds) is, in my mind, indicative more of emotional damage than some simple physical imbalance or lifestyle choice, I’m not suggesting that fat people are more damaged than the average. I AM suggesting that EXTREMELY fat people are. But remember that I openly consider myself damaged. It amuses me that people generally don’t see it or believe it, because I have something close to an obsessive-compulsive disorder, but I’ve focused it on being balanced. So what people see they interpret as “health” rather than “sickness.” Now, the problem fat people DO have is that their wounds are visible. It’s like they’re wearing T-shirts saying “I’ve had three sticky divorces” or “I’m broke and overeducated” or “I’m an alcoholic.” I don’t know anyone without wounds. No fingers are being pointed here.
Let’s go through comments made in the last few days on el bloggo.
“I don't think you necessarily owe Nicki an apology, but you do owe her a real discussion about to what extent losing weight is your goal and to what extent it's hers, and what it's actually like for her to work on losing weight.”
Nicki and I talk seriously about every aspect of anything I’ve ever asked of her, and every aspect of our own lives, warts and all.
“You write a lot about what effect you have on Nicky and very little about hearing anything back from her, and I start twitching.”
Good for you! Thanks for caring. I don’t talk a LOT about what she says back to me because that is privileged information. My observations are slightly more public. Nicki needs to know that what she tells me isn’t going to automatically end up in Cyberspace.
“(Nicki not being comfortable with her padding) isn't surprising considering the culture, but we've already kicked that around. You put work into her being comfortable with being black. I don't know how hard that is compared with being comfortable with being non-thin, but the latter is no small job.”
There is much in common between being black and chubby, or disabled, or very short, socially. And I never said it was a small job, just that of these major issues, it’s the only one that can be changed by behavior. I’m not into “proving” to society that I’m fine as I am. I’m into getting every drop of juice from life I can, and being the best role model of happiness, success, and health I can be for my friends and family, and the most loving human being that I can be. And it ain’t just social. If Nicki’s entertainments are sedentary (which they are) and she loves carbs (which she does) she is setting herself up for serious weight gain over the next decades of her life. I don’t want her to look up one day and say: “Wow! I’m 100 pounds overweight! I’ve shoved all my pain over here, and now I’ve damaged my joints and back and slowed my metabolism to the point that it really IS a problem to lose this!” No. I won’t voluntarily let that happen any more than I would let her leave my home an illiterate, or self-loathing and incapable of relationships.
“I'm going to recommend Rethinking Thin by Kolata again--there's some choice involved in weight, but apparently *much* less than the culture wants to believe.”
I can’t be responsible for what “the culture” wants to believe. I CAN and am responsible for what I, personally believe, and that is all I will defend. My basic beliefs include the incontrovertible fact that obesity is most basically an imbalance between caloric intake and caloric output. And that diets don’t’ work, but lifestyle changes do. I never said fat people are lazy or stupid or in any way morally inferior to the thin. I also never said Nicki should aspire to being thin. I DO think she should, at at least one point in her life, have the experience of maximizing her secondary sexual characteristics, of being an absolute bombshell, within her genetic limitations. It’s FUN getting that kind of reaction from the opposite sex. We only have our bodies for a little while…why not enjoy them to the limit?
“One thing to consider--there's a least some reason to think that people's set point is apt to go up when they lose weight. Do you think this effort at weight loss is worth it if Nicki's default weight becomes 25 pounds higher?”
Nope. Which is why what I have been working on is helping her develop a sustainable lifestyle that will allow her to control her weight and appearance. SHE then gets to decide what she will look like, within the range of her genetics and bone structure, and the degree of discipline she is willing to exert. The idea that it takes hours a day is simply last-generation thinking on the subject.
“A father who mentions to his daughter that he thinks she's becoming fat (without the context of knowing her/caring about her as a person -- how are her grades? what kind of people are her friends? what does she do outside of classes?) only says to her what society already says to her every.single.day, which is "You suck because you aren't as skinny as a skeleton," and "You have no worth if you are not pleasing to look at."”
You are ABSOLUTELY CORRECT. And "skinny as a skeleton" is a straw man argument, emotional not intellectual. Why would you even mention that? But I DO ask her those other questions. And more. My concern is that:
1) She was lying to herself. Saying “I can’t” when the truth was closer to “I’m not willing to discipline myself.” In my opinion she was also hiding—it was less painful for her to feel rejected for weight than to maximize her (socially evaluated) physical attributes and THEN get rejected. That would feel like a rejection of her actual core self, and much more painful. Should we mold ourselves to be what society wants? Hell, everybody does it, especially if we want the goodies society has to offer. There are many, many things I’ve done specifically to be attractive to women. In fact, ANYTHING that makes me more attractive that is in alignment with my values, honorable, and non-damaging I will do. I think it’s healthy, natural, and in alignment with what we are both as animals, human beings and spirits. I will not do ANYTHING that is dishonorable, unhealthy or out of alignment with my values no matter what reward I am offered externally.
2) I am concerned that her behaviors were out of alignment with her stated goals. When that is true, either change your goals, or change your behaviors.
3) She was attracted to guys with ripped bodies. The biggest difference between guys with ripped bodies and those without them is BEHAVIORAL. They eat differently, exercise differently, think about themselves differently. Want one of those guys? Be the female equivalent. These guys look like they’d be great hunter-gatherers, with endurance, coordination, balance, speed, strength. What the hell is there to dislike? Why shouldn’t she drool over one of those gorgeous creatures? Most people “settle” in their romantic lives. They aren’t really married to someone who punches all of their buttons, who they would marry again in a heartbeat, who has all of the things that their hearts yearn for. Most people marry “the best they could get.” And then secretly yearn for someone who is better looking, more intelligent, more emotionally giving, whatever. You know what I think? I think that the primary attractant in human beings is “the percentage of your ultimate potential you are currently and consistently expressing.” That means that if you’re hiding out in the arena of your physical, you can attract someone who is hiding out to an equivalent degree in that or another major arena of their lives. In relationships, you get what you are. And this is an incredibly painful reality that most people can’t handle.
I want Nicki to be the most she can be, in every way she can, during this brief and wonderful life she has. I want the same for my son. And I am trying my very hardest to lead the way by example.
“So, I say encourage excercise if your daughter shows interest. At this point she knows she has extra and when she is ready (if she ever is) she will take steps to make changes. Your comments will only lead her to believe she is not living up to your expectations if she is unable to lose the weight or if it really isn't an issue for her”
1) And if she hadn’t shown interest in her homework should I have decided not to motivate her?
2) If she is not “ready” to stop, say, cutting herself (she doesn’t) should I not do all in my power to help her heal?
3) She knows that I hope she will hit the heights in all arenas. But that I also know that there are limits to what human beings can do in the world. She has watched this in my own life, and I’m not at all shy about being honest here. I encourage her to find where her edges GENUINELY are, and not to let fear, or that childish “I’m the boss of me!” b.s. get in the way of her dreams.
Please remember that once upon a time I believed it when overweight people said there was no issue, or it was their genetics or whatever. The turning point came when
1) I watched a friend who had sworn he “could not” lose weight regardless of diet lose weight when I actually controlled his food intake. As soon as he had money to buy his own food, the weight went right back on—although he swore he wasn’t eating more. In other words, he was lying. Period.
2) In a series of Women’s Self Defense workshops I used to promote, I heard woman after woman with serious weight issues talking about how that weight had gone on to defend themselves from previous abuse—and admitted that they had to lie about it to their families. I kinda said: “what the #$@!!?”
3) I’ve known dozens of men and women who have been 60-100 pounds overweight. In almost every case they swore they were doing all they could. Many of them eventually lost a lot of that weight. Most of those admitted, only afterwards, that that weight had been emotional, and that healing and changing behaviors had made the difference.
So. I’m sure that in a tiny percentage of cases, maybe 2%, there are people who really CAN’T lose the weight due to pervasive health issues. But that makes a mockery of people who claim that “fat people are just as healthy as anyone else, just bigger…” doesn’t it?
I mean, this is similar to black people who want to take the position that white racism has been devastating to our community, but we’re perfectly healthy? What? You can’t have it both ways. Note the raft of shit I’ve taken for saying THAT out loud.
To anyone who is fat and happy, I’d assume you are balanced enough to recognize that my intent is positive, even if you think me deluded. If what I’m saying makes you uncomfortable, on the other hand, I suggest you are afraid I might be right.
To anyone who genuinely CANNOT lose the weight, you have my absolute sympathy.
To those who seek an ally who sees the beauty of your spirit, and would love for your actions, values, and beliefs to all be in alignment…I offer the hand of friendship.
I was asked if I would practice a life extension technique if it made me fat. How fat? Would I have less energy (and I fail to see how gaining weight would INCREASE my available energy. But I might be convinced, given proper data.) If it was fat enough that I no longer appealed to myself in the mirror, no.
And I don’t think that we’re really homophobic enough not to use the “would you be attracted to what you see in the mirror criteria.” I’ve asked this question of hundreds of people. Men might giggle about it a bit, but they get what I mean pretty quickly. Most of “beauty” these days is behavioral. I’ve met damned few people who couldn’t be “beautiful” by their own standards, if they invested a fraction of the time the average person spends watching television.
I am not attracted to fat. I HAVE been attracted to many fat ladies. But make no mistake: it was IN SPITE OF, not because of, the additional padding. I loved their energy and spirit. And had they lost that weight, while maintaining the positive personality characteristics? I would have found them even MORE attractive.
But I think this is largely because I believe it’s unhealthy. Were I to change that opinion, I’d bet anything that my taste in physical appearance would start shifting—I’d start finding fat more attractive, because I think my hindbrain finds survival traits and excellence attractive.
An example: when I look at a sexy woman, my hind-brain goes “ping!” When I look at a sexy guy, it does not. I have no conscious control here. But you know what? If I was sentenced to life imprisonment on Devil’s Island, I’d bet anything that in a few years I’d start looking at the guys differently. I’d start feeling that “Ping!” when some good-looking, strong, animalistically graceful guy walked by. No, I wouldn’t look for some little femmie. I’d look for a guy I’d want to watch my back. But who could also discuss favorite books and movies. And could tie a cherry stem in a knot with his tongue, if you know what I mean.
Survival. The need to be touched. Loneliness. Just being honest here.
Cultural stuff is certainly strong here. I remember reading Jonathan Kellerman’s wonderful “The Butcher’s Theater.” In it there is a Palastinian who is married to a mountain of a woman. She can barely move, but in his cultural context, he considers her incredibly beautiful. They had a love scene that I simply couldn’t read. I just couldn’t. But not for a minute did I think “there’s something wrong with him!” No, I knew it was me. From MY perspective, culturally and personally, this was something that triggered the “Limbic Yuck” so hard I almost tossed my cookies. But you know what? If I found myself in a context in which fat was a survival value, in which I intellectually or experientially grasped that a fat woman was more likely to survive or be a better mother to my children, slowly I would begin to appreciate the roundness of a fat thigh, the contours of an ample waist, the heft of a well-marbled rear. And I’d start getting turned on. In this arena, the sincerest form of complement is a spontaneous erection.
Again, please remember that I’m not pointing fingers. I’ve been embarrassingly forthcoming about my own flaws and wounds. I think that we are all perfect spirits having human experiences. With respect to those spirits, I would like for the HUMAN aspect of those experiences to be powerful, beautiful, and joyous. I know that wounds in the emotional arena tend to hide themselves, that it is easier for people to believe that their bodies disobey the laws of physics than admit that their minds or emotions may be ding’d up. Their minds and hearts are “them” whereas their bodies are these alien things they drag around with them.
A last thought. Someone mentioned Tai Chi and Alexander technique in regard to activity and weight loss. I am somewhat familiar with Alexander technique (which concentrates on skeletal alignment and balance) and very, very familiar with Tai Chi. I’ve taught it for over 20 years. And this is what I’ll say: if you wanted a perfect physical discipline to increase health and grace with the absolutely minimum chance of losing weight, choose Tai Chi. The whole point of Tai Chi is to achieve maximum result with minimum effort. It is a fantastic art for health of the joints, moving synovial fluid, learning to control stress levels, etc. But ramping up your metabolism? Bottom of my list. I’ve watched many many students get really very good at Tai Chi without losing a damned ounce. Practice it, love it, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that what you do there has anything to do with whether there is an efficient and relatively easy way to lose weight. It does not.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 10:25 AM
Thursday, May 10, 2007
So…Today my morning weight was 174.6. My decision is to stay between 170-175, so it will be interesting to see how easy it is to keep my weight up that high on I.F. A note: your weight can fluctuate as much as 4 pounds from day to day. I guess that’s the weight of food traveling through your system! Must be kind of a relief when the system is empty enough for your body to rest and repair…
BTW, there is an Islamic tradition called the “Fast of David” which is I.F.—and considered the very best fast for spiritual purposes!
Did you hear about the Atlanta couple sentenced to life for feeding their baby a Vegan diet? I’m not at all sure about this. Sounds more like Manslaughter than murder. If they fed the baby similarly to the way they eat (the baby was fed Soy milk and juice) then it is reasonable that they thought, however misguidedly, that they were doing a good thing. Stupid, yeah. Malicious? I’m not at all sure. Life in prison? I’m REALLY not sure, unless they knew they were killing the child. This is sad…
Question: does a parent have the right/responsibility to do all they can to instill their own basic values in their children? I was recently questioned about my insistence that Nicki learn to control her body in the arena of weight. I don’t think anyone would have criticized me if I had insisted she do her Algebra homework. Is the difference that an external force (school or society) insists on the math? If I honestly believe that her life will be poorer if she doesn’t learn this piece, wouldn’t I be a bad parent not to beg, bribe and cajol? I have NEVER punished her for not adhering to a program, I lead the way personally, and make it very, very clear to her every single day how much I love her, would do anything for her, and am proud of her no matter what. Tananarive and I pushed her to keep her grades up and prepare for college—and trust me, we’ve pushed harder in that arena.
Comments, please: does anyone think I owe my baby girl an apology? God knows she REALLY trusts me. Tananarive once said: “I’ve never seen anything like how you guys are. She lets you ride her like Seabiscuit!” I’ve spent a lifetime developing the trust we share, and yes, on certain critical things I am willing to expend that capital. Weight has been a bugaboo because I know she’s not entirely comfortable with the extra padding (which is finally starting to leave! Thank you, I.F.) and I watched her lie to herself that she “couldn’t” take it off, when it was clearly behavioral: she plays no sports, has totally sedentary entertainments, and loves those Carbs. To DECIDE to be plush is one thing. To delude herself that this is based on something other than choice is another.
My belief is that if your reality map isn’t clear, if you don’t know
1) what you believe
2) why you believe it.
3) How to error-check it
Then you can be as educated and intelligent as you want, and still flail and fail. My entire parenting philosophy has been based around helping her see how to be “in control” academically/career-wise, emotionally, and physically. The theory is that if you have these three things, you can generate anything else you desire. I may be wrong, but I’ve been doing it myself for a long time, and she likes the results.
But EVERY day I tell her I love her, and ask if we’re doing well, and if there is anything she needs from me. Every single day. I am aware I put pressure on her. But you know what? Life kicks your ass if you can’t find the strength to stay balanced, if you can’t tell the difference between who you are, and who the world says you are. And I am completely willing to die to protect my Nicki’s dreams.
By the way: she is graduating Citrus College with a 3.78, and won the Chancellor’s Award to enter UC Irvine in September, with a full two-year scholarship. She has her first real boyfriend (a guy I actually like, named Mike. How the hell she found a black nerd is beyond me. All hail the Internet!) I am insanely proud of her.
But I am sensitive to the possibility that, in any way, I might be damaging her. It is not guilt that prompts me to write and ask your opinions: it is caution.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 7:23 AM
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Is Paris Hilton Going to Jail?
Oh, probably, but not necessarily. The wealthy and powerful do have this knack for protecting themselves, but I’m not so sure this boney little idiot's parents are really working overtime to keep her out—after all, they have to be sick of seeing her panty-less in the tabloids. If that was my daughter, I’d be thinking a little Tough Love.
But yet and still, I wonder if she’ll wiggle out. Some years ago, I heard a statistic, and I was wondering if anyone out there can give me a link to it. Apparently, several sociology studies have been done, and in every single one had the same result:
If you take a look at crimes, hold steady for severity of crime, previous record and so forth, there is an inverse correlation between amount of time served and wealth of the criminal. That it goes like this:
Poor people do more time than rich people.
Men do more time than women
Blacks do more time than whites
Again, holding completely steady for equivilent records. Does anyone have access to confirming or contradicting data?
I’ll hit my initial I.F. goal this week: 175, the weight I told my doctor I’d get down to. My family has some hypoglycemia and tendency to diabetes, and I want to be careful. Curiously, this morning Tananarive encouraged me to see just how low I could get, as if there is some value in being skinny for its own sake. Hmmm. For me, there is definitely a point I’m not interested in going below, for aesthetics sake if nothing else. I like the way my body looks with a certain amount of heft. T, on the other hand, used to be attracted to skinny guys, and I was the exception. I wonder what program is running in her head?
On the other hand, maybe it’s just idle curiosity. Or part of the social programming women get hit with that says “skinny skinny skinny.” That programming is there, all right, and people without a sense of self can get sucked into it big time. Just like people who start working 50, 60, 70 hours a week chasing some illusive sense of security or accomplishment: without a governor, you are trying to satisfy external standards that can never be satisfied, and end up hurting yourself.
This is why I’ve tried to create self-contained standards for health and happiness. Nancy wondered if my “over eighty pounds overweight and I start thinking we’ve got an emotional problem” isn’t too strict. Maybe. And maybe it’s not strict enough. I don’t know, but I’m no fairer to people in their third marriage, or people who complain about lack of money, but also say they don’t care about making more.
The trick, in my mind, is to have templates that suggest internal states without being convinced that you’re right. In other words, the “Mind Reading” technique I used to teach in Lifewriting was all about developing a sensitivity to the gap between behaviors and conscious intent or verbal explanations. I’ve found it far more accurate to assume that people want to have certain physical, emotional, and financial states, and when they diverge from them, that there is pain and damage involved. I get massive static about this, but over time I’ve come to believe that that’s because people need their privacy. So I never put it in people’s faces, or tell them “Hah! I know who or what you really are…” or anything like that. And I make it clear that I honestly know that I might well be wrong in any given case.
But I bow to no outside authority on this, or anything that has to do with cosmology or epistemology. I am responsible for the salvation of my own soul, and the degree of satisfaction I experience in my life. I’ve simply been lied to too many times, about too many things, sometimes by the very forces of society responsible for “educating” me. Fine. I’m a big boy.
I still remember when I entered 1st grade, and the kids were broken up into reading groups…ACCORDING TO RACE. That’s right, all the Asian and White kids were put in one group. All the Black kids were put into another. Without testing. I thought to myself that my best buddy, Howard Kokubun (who died shortly after high school, and whom I still miss), had been put into the slow group. I giggled. After all, I KNEW how smart I was, and wow! Won’t he be disappointed..!
Then they heard me read, and put me into the other group, and I realized what had happened. And it broke my little heart once I looked at the racial composition of the groups more closely. That’s a hell of a thing for a kid that age to deal with.
So I put my thoughts on these things out in public, where thousands of people a week can (potentially) criticize my thought patterns. Why? Because I am committed to finding truth, and the best way I know of doing that is to let smart people tear your ideas to shreds. If I can’t defend my ideas, I shouldn't hold onto them.
But for the record, because I know this is a touchy subject, I think only that people’s bodies should be a source of pleasure and power, that your appearance should match your own values and that you should find yourself—or someone analogous to you-- attractive.
Yes, there is social pressure to be thin, and that can warp a mind. Just like black people are surrounded by images that promote white beauty standards. As I’ve said before, note that, for all practical purposes, virtually no black woman in public life has unstraightened hair. And yes, this has warped the minds and damaged the emotions of uncounted black folks, and yes, I consider this an emotional problem.
Doubtless, many “fat” people have been warped similarly, to hate their bodies when there is no health reason to justify such revulsion. To feel held to an aesthetic that is unfair and unreasonable. Why the hell do you think I am so insistent on self-love, on Heartbeat and Inner Child meditation. I don’t try to change society. I work on changing myself, and then sharing that change—I’m not a political beast. I deeply appreciate those who have shared their ideas and feelings on this subject with me.
Especially considering that Intermittent Fasting can be rather obviously used as a weight-loss tool. That was not my original intent. I was just looking for another way to improve efficiency, energy, and health. But the weight loss possibilities are glaringly obvious, and that triggers discussions of a slightly different nature than I intended. I won’ t shy away from it, though.
And this brings me to something that was rolling around in my head this morning. I’m sure this is a mis-labeling, but my mind kept calling it the “Limbic `Yuck’” for some reason. It goes back to my observation that white males got uncomfortable watching black men having sex in movies. And was accelerated by the observation that black voices seemed to be more attractive to whites than black faces. The practice (in the 50’s and early 60’s) of releasing black albums with white faces on them was an example of this. The number of times I saw movies with black actors given posters that bleached out their skin color was another. James Earl Jones as “Darth” (in “Star Wars”) or Roscoe Lee Browne as the voice of “Box” (in “Logan’s Run”), films that otherwise had no black people in them, also twitched the hairs on the back of my neck. Watching light-skinned black people given preference over dark. And I remember the day that an editor friend told me point blank that the art director at Men’s Fitness refused to use black models because he simply didn’t find them attractive. At editorial insistence, he started using them, and predictably chose the very lightest-skinned models he could.
The Limbic Yuck. Literally bigots, or the bigoted part of our minds, finds the “Other” to be ugly. The “Other” is a member of the alien tribe, who wants to kill our men, enslave our children, and rape our women. That Amygdalic response of anger when presented with an image of the “Other” tied right into this theory of mine, which was why I found it so easy to believe.
Now, then. I mean no harm in this, but look at it. What else do we consider “ugly” or “disgusting”? The evidence of disease. To my knowledge, there are only a few universal beauty standards. One of them is symmetrical facial features. Another is evidence of health: clear skin, good posture, straight teeth, etc. The smell of human waste is universally avoided, due to its potential to spread disease.
This would make perfect sense. I’m sure that there are minor, isolated contradictions (coprophagics need not comment) but human beings are willing to try ANYTHING, and virtually any behavior has been tried somewhere. The fact that it is minor and isolated speaks for itself.
This applies to obesity. In early human history, clearly fat was considered desirable in women—there are simply too many chubby goddess statues dug up around Eurasia and Africa. And in many societies, fat was considered a sign of wealth and security, and therefore attractive.
The PERCEPTION today is that fat is unhealthy. I won’t debate here the question of how accurate this is. We’ve talked about that elsewhere. But to the degree that that perception is held, guess what? Our hindbrains are going to consider it unattractive. The Limbic “Yuck.” I’m not saying it’s right, and certainly that would suck if you tended to hold weight.
And I’m not suggesting that fat people therefore have to lose weight. Nope. Here’s what I’m suggesting:
That every time a fat person finishes a marathon, dances up a storm, outworks her co-workers, demonstrates that he or she is living a full, healthy, sensual life—it defuses a bit of the “Yuck” factor for the average person.
No, it’s not fair at all that that responsibility is on your shoulders. But neither was it fair that Black or Japanese men struggled to get into the army and die for their country, knowing that this was the only way to be considered full participants in the American experiment. It’s not fair. It just is.
I have never said that white folks should change the way they are, even as I point out bigotry in film audiences, etc. I say that I use those statistics (of black male sexuality in film) to informally poll white attitudes, and that until I see equal numbers, I KNOW that the unconscious prejudices will manifest in thousands of other ways, and no one can convince me otherwise. It helps me understand the territory I am traversing.
I knew what I was up against when I was a kid, and decided to perfect my enunciation, to grasp the differences in body language, to learn to pitch my voice and project myself to get the response I wanted. Was it fair for society to ask me to do these things? Hell, no. But try an experiment: go down to the ocean and tell the waves not to roll in. Scream at the top of your voice. Cry. Beg. Tell the waves they are unfair. And they keep rolling in.
Human nature is what it is: flawed, screwed-up, bigoted, selfish, fearful. And magnificent, generous, loving, and self-sacrificing. We contain multitudes.
Fat folks, when you get crap from people, know that you scare them. Anger is a mask over fear. Ask yourself what they are frightened of, and you have a key to understanding how to deal with them, and how you can get what you want from others without dishonoring your own essence. It’s not fair, but learn to communicate the symbols that disarm their reaction.
Be proud, healthy, energetic, sensual, graceful, powerful, and joyous. In other words, all the things that all of us should be. And yes, some assholes will still give you grief. But you’ll never rid the world of the last assholes, any more than we’ll ever pump the last drop of oil out of the ground.
You absolutely have the right to love yourself, and to tell anyone who says you shouldn’t to go screw themselves. Period.
That said, if for your own reasons you’d like to lose weight, I’ll be in your cheering section.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 9:35 AM
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
Finally! Rmax Productions has the PATH DVD available. Although it is now (for legal reasons) called "Threshold Training", this is my baby, the first time I've been able to put the whole package of techniques and ideas that evolved out of LIFEWRITING into one place. I tried with the Five Minute Miracle, but there is no way that my physical vitality or performance are at the level of Coach Sonnon. No way. But when we taught together--WOW! And now, for a very limited time, there is a special price for this 3 1/2 hour video set. If you have this, and a copy of FlowFit, you have a chance to experience for yourselves the very core of what I've been ranting about. Learn more at:
Posted by Steven Barnes at 9:54 AM
“Magic and mystery are part of their history…”
I’m sorry. Having a Gummi Bear flashback. Brrr.
Anyway, the "never too thin" business is, of course, utter crap. Get thin enough to minimize your secondary sexual characteristics, and you are entering Sick City, in my opinion. Too rich, on the other hand...well, hopefully, I'll let you know.
Came across one ridiculously positive Intermittent Fasting reference, and one possibly negative one.
The good news: Fasting increases intelligence. Mice on an I.F. program tested with mazes and so forth did better on fasting days. On non-fasting days they performed about the same as a control group.
The possibly bad news: one hospital (Cedars Sinai, I believe) included I.F. on a list of Bulimia symptoms. A word to the wise: do your own research. Talk to your doctor if you are uncertain. Be careful. Whatever the hell is going on, here there be dragons.
And another piece of data: My weight was 175.3 this morning. I can’t even remember the last time I was down that low. And my muscle mass has increased, so that has to represent about 12 pounds of fat loss in a little over two months. I’m not going lower than 175, I think. Let’s see what happens now!
I meditated this morning. When hunger arose (yesterday was a fasting day, so by this morning, I’d gone 30 hours or so without food. Well, not entirely true: I had a couple of small chunks of watermelon, and a navel orange. Sue me.) during meditation, I asked it: “who is hungry? Where do you come from?” And it sort of slunk away. Strange.
Visualizing my body in front of a mirror, I looked for light within the darkness. It was a little difficult to hold the image (my mind kept drifting off into odd tangents) but when it finally resolved, I took the light and shifted it into a Tad James-style Time Line. Time Line is a goal-setting visualization where you create an end point image for your goal, and then analogues for your belief systems, value hierarchies, and positive/negative emotional anchors. If all this stuff is in alignment, you can be pretty certain that your subconscious isn’t going to fight you, and you have a certain amount of laser-like focus. Now, that doesn’t guarantee you’re going to reach your goal, but you get a hell of a lot more done with less friction…and when I get the visualization just right it SEEMS like I have more luck. Take that with a grain of salt—I know it sounds wonky.
Apparently, my “Casanegra” publisher, Atria, is serious about the book. Not only are they printing 100,000 copies, but they’re doing a Youtube video with the three of us, with a promotional push behind it. Ah, viral marketing. Blair seems to be having fun with this whole thing—he just got finished directing a movie, and winding up his season on “The New Adventures of Old Christine.” So his visibility is quite high right now. This ain’t bad, by any means…
“B” is for Bookcovers
As in: do you have any influence over what goes on the covers of your books? The answer: sometimes. If you and your editor trust each other, and you have some leverage. Or if you negotiate it. Some writers have a huge amount of input on such things, but newbies can expect minimal. You can certainly make suggestions, but be polite to your editors, understand that they have sales departments and bosses and art departments to interact with—you won’t always get your way.
May I tell you a story? Back about 25 years ago, I published my third novel, my first solo work, “Streetlethal.” The lead character was black, in fact described as “unusually dark for an American black man.” When the book came out, the guy on the cover was a tanned white guy. I was furious. The editor was embarrassed, but said that the Art department had insisted. I talked to the art department. They in turn blamed sales. I talked to sales. They said that the truck drivers who end up putting the books on racks would have rejected a black man on the cover, surmising it to be “Shaft in Space” or some such. Sigh. Boy oh boy, was I pissed. But I held my temper and motored on. When the sequel, “Gorgon Child” was published two years later, there on the cover was…a black man. Now, curiously enough, the WOMAN on the cover with him was now a blonde, where she was actually described as a mixture of black and Polynesian.
The truth is that there was really no one in particular to be angry with. They were doubtless correct: when the first book came out, it WOULD have affected sales. And probably did even with the sequels. Human beings have these interesting, odd perceptual habits. But if I’d freaked, I would have accomplished nothing save cutting my own throat. No. I swallowed my bile, and went forward. My commitment was to my career, not my ego. I wanted to win, and I ain't talking a Pyrrhic victory. My goal was to change the field. MAYBE I was smart enough to do that, but I wasn't about to count on smarts and talent alone. I decided that I would be incredibly easy to work with, genuinely open-minded, and responsive to the concerns of the publisher. Should I have put my foot down? Some would say yes. I think that if I had, I'd be selling insurance, and there would have been NO black men in the field at all. The bastards win.
This is MY life, My game. This is MY house. I simply refuse to lose. Hurt me all you want. But if you don't kill me, I'm getting back up again.
Watch your ass.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 7:18 AM
Monday, May 07, 2007
Athleticism versus Health
Over on the Lifewriting forum, the following comment was posted:
“I have spoken to two people who have very little body fat (concerning Intermittent Fasting). One is 5'1" tall and weighs less than 100 pounds. The other is maybe 5' 3" and weighs about 105. They are very athletic women; ten mile runs are not unusual for either of them. Both of them have told me that they cannot function if they do not eat several times a day. They cease to be able to think clearly and their strength and stamina plummett quickly if they do not eat when they feel the need.
This makes me feel that IF may well be a very different proposition for people with little or no natural reserves of energy in their bodies.”
Excuse me, but there is little “natural” about this. Honestly, it sounds like a form of “Athletic Anorexia” where people are trained to such a razor’s edge that they are only functional within a very narrow range of behaviors and circumstances. I wonder how often these ladies get colds.
It is one thing to say that I.F. doesn’t sound like fun, or that it is insufficiently interesting. But when someone says they CAN’T function without eating every few hours, that doesn’t sound healthy at all. Exactly what natural human pattern does that follow? If you HAVE to eat every few hours, or your mental processes fall apart, that would make it mighty difficult to either hunt or gather. You’d be dead pretty quickly.
Now, athletes, especially professionals, walk the razor’s edge of performance constantly, as any fractional advantage can make the difference between Gold and Silver, or between contracts worth millions and those worth tens of millions. I get it. But Fitness is the ability to perform given tasks to a given standard: strength, speed, power, precision, etc.
Health, on the other hand, is another matter. It is waking up feeling great. Sleeping soundly. Rarely getting sick. A healthy sex drive. Clear skin and bright eyes. Plenty of energy for your life, energy so infectious that other people “light up” when they are around you. Do not confuse Fitness and Health—they overlap, but are different things.
And here, frankly, is where the “Fat Liberation” folks have a point. Too skinny is as bad as too fat. Frankly, I think that the idea of maximizing secondary sexual characteristics ain’t bad, but you can take that one too far, as well (note plastic surgery and gigantic breasts among strippers, for instance. Yucka.) So common sense has to come into it.
www.fast-5.com is a website offering a free “Warrior Diet” style approach to I.F.
That is, you fast until 5 pm every day, and eat in a five-hour window. Written by a medical doctor, this PDF download is pretty interesting, and might help fill in some gaps for those looking into the I.F. phenomenon.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 9:29 AM