The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Monday, May 26, 2008


Oddness. I have a student who has been Intermittent Fasting, and exercising...but not with the regularity that would allow her to get the real results. Over the last week, she volunteered to try the Tibetans. Seven days a week. Just three.

And in the last week she lost three pounds. Thats...very interesting. All she changed was adding about three minutes of motion a day? Huh...

Remember: the Tibetans are not "exercise". They are a ritual to be done daily, and they do have a powerful physical component, but don't substitute them for other movement.


So the woman at Fox apologized (of course) for her statements about Obama. Wow. I'm so impressed. What she said was literally the worst thing I have ever heard in public discourse. The worst. And for it to come up three times in the last ten days says that violence and fear is swimming just under the polite surface. If Hillary had no idea she was opening the door to hell, she shouldn't be President. Look at the storm the word "bitter" raised--words matter. If she were the front-runner, I KNOW that there would have been a rise in ugly, veiled jokes about sexual violence, rape, "putting a woman in her place" etc. All said "hah hah" in bad taste but without malice. That's the way the human mind works, sometimes. We have a range of motivations, many voices in our heads. Some of them are ugly. Some of that ugliness is tribal in nature. I've tried to point out a way of measuring this culturally: sexual images in film. It's like studying the sun by looking at a shadow.

What we are seeing here is a way that societies could be considered to operate like a human mind. Humor is a release of tension, and therefore what people find funny tells you things about what they fear, and who they are. They say it, disown it...but understand that the most unstable members of their clan are listening ("will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?") and if one of them does the unthinkable, the original speaker has complete deniability. But almost no one would publicly admit that this was "funny". Of COURSE it was "funny." If you understand why people laugh (a laugh and a scream are very very close, psychologically) then what was said was an absolute howler.

What Clinton said was, in all liklihood, nothing but an externalization of an ugly thought. "I'll hold on...anything could happen...his campaign could implode...he could get pneumonia..." losing sleep, watching millions of dollars flowing down the drain, watching the dream of a lifetime, for which she killed her heart, dying...

And she said the unthinkable. Now, her non-apology to Obama could actually be interpreted as an attempt to stop the meme from spreading (there I go again, trying to find the best interpretation). That's just me. Believe in the best in people, while remaining prepared to kick their asses. Strange, strange, strange. I contain multitudes...


But we do that. Another interpretation is that she is horribly tired, and wants someone, anyone, to end this. She herself cannot, like a generator with no governor on it. I understand this. Boxers have battled on after their brainstems have been severed. Champions push beyond pain, beyond reason, beyond rationality. That can be part of the mindset. Evil, I think, is unbalancing, exposing the Reptile hind brain and its love of death, and practice of cruelty (watch a cat play with a lizard some time). I think her wiring is exposed--I warned you guys that she was unbalanced, and we're seeing it right here, right now. The strain of a political campaign on this level is enough to make strong men weep. Clinton is a brilliant, accomplished woman. I would not want her marriage for my daughter.

Does she want to eclipse Bill? Certainly, her presidency would reduce his to a footnote. I don't know, and feel genuine grief about this. She is destroying herself. Please, God, someone who loves this woman hold her and help her heal. This is terrible, and nothing I would wish on anyone.


But we all have instances of shooting ourselves in the foot. Pushing ourselves too hard. Just recently, I spoke with a dear friend who was preparing the largest business presentation of his life...and pushed himself so hard his system pretty much crashed and burned. It's not for me to go into it more deeply, but if he doesn't grasp that there is a limit to how far we can push ourselves, (practically, not theoretically or apocryphally) then his subconscious will have a perfect way to slow him down, to use his ambition to screw him up. This is, in my mind, an over-reliance on the male energy: push, active, strive, etc. As opposed to heal, recover, sooth, etc. We do this.

As a culture we do this as well. WOW, our government is stuck on a Male approach to terrorism: treat it like a standing war, force force and more force. And hey, why talk to people who want to hurt us? Just bend them to our will!

Yeah, right. That doesn't work great when you're dealing with a diffuse network. You can't fix a television set with a hammer. Note the fear, and I mean REAL fear, of talking. Discussing. Communicating. A complete imbalance of the active-passive principle. Sick. Exactly as sick and ineffectual as it would be to believe that talk alone would solve it all, that you can Kum-Bah-Yah every situation. But to not trust your leaders to have the sense to have a conversation...that is profound and dysfunctional fear, a level of distrust of anything you can raise above your head and club with. The world is more than that. My guess is that the average person who feels that way sees the world as a more threatening place, has more intractable conflicts, and more enemies. The balancing disease would be someone with no enemies, many friends...but no power. Nothing anyone wants to take, really. Is blown this way and that, afraid to speak his mind or take a stand.

In-between the two is a healthy human being. One who is fully capable of killing, but would prefer to talk. I have known many such people. They are among my favorite human beings. To sit across from such a man, and say: "we can kill each other, or we can raise our children. It's up to you." And if you mean it, if you really mean it, if you are genuinely willing to kill or die, it is easier than hell to look right through the other person's bullshit.

But if you've never experienced that, I can understand why you don't believe in it. And in all honesty, I am sorry for you. I believe that such clarity is available to those who embrace both balance and the transitory nature of human existence.


But on to the question of the day. What is the most perversely timed "mistake" you have ever made, something that stopped you from progressing to the next level in your life/career/etc?


suzanne said...

Steve said:

Reptile hind brain and its love of death, and practice of cruelty (watch a cat play with a lizard some time).

now Steve as someone who hasd had over 100 cats
so far in her lifetime
let me tell you a little something

cats toying with an animal
they've caught is not "cruelty"
that's just plain old anthropomorphizing!

I've watched many a cat throw
chipmoonks, mice, cicadas
into the air after they are dead
trying to get them to move again

for my current two cats
I have a little furry toy mouse on an elastic string hanging in the doorway
they pay no attention to it
since they are out of kittenhood
unless I go and jiggle and bounce the string
then they catch it
and rub against it
and thump it

cats trying to get a lizard
or anyrthing else to move again
is all about playing
"catch the moving target"
it is NOT about cruelty!

I have also had cats who
"bring 'em home alive"

all kinds of small critters carried carefully in their mouths directly to me
and dropped into my hands
no other interest about them
shown on their parts

I startled a wildlife rehabilitator once
taking a newborn squirrel to her
the squirrel looked almost foetal
was about an inch in length
and alive and unmarked
brought to me
by one of my cats

suzanne said...

for a real example
of intentional cruelty
watch little kids teasing
another kid who exhibits some kind of difference

and of course all the other grown-up behaviors
we all know about

Steven Barnes said...

It's less anthropomorphizing than "animalizing" really, assuming that human behaviors are just more complex (and sometimes confused) versions of animal behaviors. And watching cats play with live mice reminds me quite clearly of some of the human behavior I've witnessed over the years. I don't think it's unfair to call this cruelty.

suzanne said...

its' not un fair to call what humans do,
e.g., kicking a guy more after you've beat the shit out of him,
it is not fair to call what cats do cruel
that's only cruel from the human perspective

Anonymous said...

Mice and rats are a lot more close-coupled than cats. Cats are gracile. A cat who closed in and went straight for a clean kill would get messed up bad quick.
That said, sure it's cruelty.

Anonymous said...

If I'm reading this post right your agreeing with me that solving a problem by talking is much the preferred solution, but it doesn't work all the time and you need to know when it isn't working. Given this it seems one should strive to elect a leader who is not overly committed in either direction.

Marty S

Steven Barnes said...


Certainly. I would say talk to gather information and try proposals, factoring in the past behavior of the leaders to help determine whether they are lying or bluffing. But our leaders should, I think, know each other whether they are friends or enemies. Otherwise...if they don't have the latitude to use their own judgment on such things, they aren't really leaders, are they?

Steve Perry said...

Easy to smile and make nice when you are winning and rested. Harder when you are losing. Harder still when you are losing and exhausted and desperate.

None of us are bulletproof, everybody puts a foot in it sooner or later, and that's part of being human. We all get cranky.

When I worked at a medical clinic, I got to see how illness affects people. Some, it turns into saints. Some, into demons. People with horrible diseases sometimes smile and behave well. Others with a hangnail will take your head off.

Somebody who is asking to be made leader of the USA, you want to see how they will behave at their worst, because that may be the afternoon when the shit hits the fan.

Gotta say, so far, Hillary isn't demonstrating much grace under pressure, for my money, and I was ready to vote for her six months ago.

So many times Barack could have taken the low road when attacked and didn't? That speaks well for him. Even when he was way behind, he avoided cheap shots.

It ain't about black or female here for me, it's about doing right by America if they get the job. Nobody can deliver all they promise, that's a given, but that said, at least one white cracker hillbilly Oakie is going for the black guy.

Sure looks like he's go the right stuff to me.

Josh Jasper said...

Might was well talk about tornadoes or floods as being cruel. But they're not. Only humans can exhibit real cruelty. Nature can just coincidentally look the same.

Cruelty is a function of both the actor and the object acted upon. The actor needs to be able to know better that they shouldn't be doing that, and the object acted upon needs to suffer. Neither a cat, nor a tornado can know better not to torment a mouse or flatten a village. But a human can.

Anonymous said...

I rehooked my speakers to my internet computer so I could watch that clip of trotta.

I was astounded.

I was astounded that a two second gaff by some obscure contributer could be taken so out of proportion!

So this is the excuse for the comments I've been seeing?

Fox news are hate mongers? whoever wrote that is closer to a hate monger than Fox news.

Bill O'Rielly lynched Mrs Obama? What a bald faced lie! Criticism is not the same as lynching. Putting words of hate in someone else's mouth reflects more on the attitude of the commenter than Bill O'Rielly.

I somehow doubt the people who made those comments have ever even watched Fox news other than links from Huffington post.

Oh well, I guess there's plenty of unreasoning hate to go around.

John M.

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

"Bill O'Rielly lynched Mrs Obama? What a bald faced lie! Criticism is not the same as lynching."

What are you talking about? Where did anyone say either that Bill O'Reilly lynched Michelle Obama or that criticism is the same as lynching? Bill O'Reilly used the word "lynching" while talking about Michelle Obama; he was quoted as saying "I don't want to go on a lynching party against Michelle Obama unless there's evidence." (I haven't actually looked at that clip, but, from what I've read, the phrase he uttered isn't in serious dispute.)

mjholt said...

Q of the day: not finishing my Ph.D. I was under a lot of stress not related to the degree, and receiving no (not minimal) support both from my parents and my grad school advisers. Looking back on it, I should have just gone to a couple of friendly faculty members and asked for help. In many ways, that is big mistake, not asking for help. I took an MA, which was OK, but I should have gotten an MFA. Too late now. When I am overly stressed I can make odd decisions.

I'm with Steve Perry, and Obama will get my vote.

Lynn, you are right, the quote is: "I don't want to go on a lynching party against Michelle Obama unless there's evidence." That is the quote and the sound bite will bear that out.

Anonymous said...

Let me see? Rev. Wright says goddamn America, and uses antisemitic code words, Michelle Obama makes the statement about the first time she's proud to be an American and all the Obama supporters cry foul. Post after post talked about listening to the remarks of Rev. Wright and Michelle Obama in context. They talked about looking at Rev. Wright's whole life and his other sermons. Now Bill O'Reilly spends two minutes lecturing a caller making anti Michelle Obama statements that she has no real evidence and he won't be part of an attack on her on the basis of hearsay and he is immediately attacked as a racist. The term "lynching party" is a common expression for an unfair attack O'Reilly uses it all the time. He has used it when he has felt other white persons in the news were being unfairly attacked.
If you pull one word out, of a two minute conversation, and use it to attack those you don't like while excusing all sorts of statements by those you do like this is being hypocritical . The people who heard anything from O'Reilly's two minute discussion other than a desire to be fair to Michelle Obama make my case for why you just can't "talk" to anybody. Some people already have their minds made up and anything you say when you "talk" to them will just be twisted by them to make their own case.

Marty S

Nancy Lebovitz said...

If you understand why people laugh (a laugh and a scream are very very close, psychologically) ᅠ

If you're interested in a bit of a sidetrack, what's your general theory of why people laugh?

Steven Barnes said...

I consider O'Reilly's comment tasteless and thoughtless, but not much more than that. Note the attempt to distract from what was said on Fox last Friday. It won't work. She was making a joke, and said something hideously inappropriate...something I have never heard said about another politician, that now has been said three times in eight days. Something very ugly has raised its head in this election, and you can't distract your way out of it.

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

Actually, I think that Rev. Wright has both been soundbited to look worse than he actually is (I've seen the Youtube of the full "chickens coming home to roost" sermon, and he quoted "chickens coming home to roost" as a jumping off point for a sermon about Psalm 137 and the danger of the temptation to revenge, not as the conclusion of his sermon), and also has said things that seriously deserved criticism. He's a complicated man, and I can see the elements in his career and character that draw people like Obama, but he also has some pretty vivid flaws.

I didn't see where Michelle Obama actually said anything that bad.

Bill O'Reilly was clearly trying to defend Michelle Obama, but doing so using words that have different resonance for black people than for white people. He's not the only one who uses "lynching party" routinely to mean "attacking someone without evidence." And if you mentally substitute that for "lynching," so that the tacked on "unless there's evidence" is simply a double negative, then you get O'Reilly saying nothing to get upset about.

If, on the other hand, your first thought when you hear the words "lynching party" is an actual lynching party, then the qualification "unless there's evidence," with the implication that maybe Michelle Obama would deserve a lynching party if, once we've tracked down her quote, we conclude there is evidence of anti-American sentiments or whatever, then it comes off as horrible.

Also relevant is the fact that, more than once in the past few years, there's been a lot of publicity about one or more white people "joking" about wanting to lynch some black person or black people. There was that comedian who responded to heckling with a lynching reference, and there was the incident that set off the school racial conflict that ultimately led to the Jena 6 case, for example. There may be more. These are worse, of course, than what O'Reilly said (and the Fox News woman's joke about wanting Obama assassinated is also worse than what O'Reilly said); my point is only that there's a pattern to how these lynching references get used that sets people's reaction. "Lynching" is both a word that gets used by white people metaphorically in ways that are pretty detached from the actual history of it, and also a word that gets "jokingly" directed specifically at black people, reminding them of that history.

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

And, yeah, O'Reilly's comment was at worst just thoughtless phrasing. The woman's remark about wanting Obama assassinated was much, much worse.

suzanne said...


there's more to Michelle Obama's quote
fer goddess' sake!
she was talking about being proud for the first time
of seeing Americans being energized in a campaign

she has clarified repeatedly
that she has every reason to be proud
to be an American in that she would likely not have got
where she did
someplace else

personally speaking
I am more concerned about being a good human being
than being a good American

I realize that a woman like me
would have long been dead
in some other country
but of course
had I grown up
in some particular other countries
or cultures I likely wouldn't be
independent, outspoken and educated to think

I've seen enough of O'Reilly
to know
he's no Walter Cronkite
or Edward R. Murrow
or even a "journalist"
of lesser ilk

these "personalities" who masquerade
as journalists and TV networks
that masquerade as being News
are sham and shameful

Anonymous said...

I listened to the longer version of Michelle Obama's statement and as I said in a previous post in context I agree one can interpret it such as to give her the benefit of the doubt.
If you are not a member of some minority it is very hard to understand how sensitive a minority can be to certain words or phrases. As a member of a minority I can understand that sensitivity, but I still may not be aware of each and every sensitivity of a different minority. I think to vilify someone, because they use one of these words or phrases without meaning harm is wrong.

Marty S

Steven Barnes said...

"I think to vilify someone, because they use one of these words or phrases without meaning harm is wrong."
And we know they didn't mean harm because...what? They said they didn't? I grasp what you're saying, but a member of a group that has suffered lynching isn't likely to extend the benefit of the doubt concerning a lynch joke. In a perfect world, they would--but women rarely joke about rape, and Jews don't joke about gas chambers. It is simply not a survival value not to react when a member of an overall group that has oppressed you throws violent language or imagery. One of the agreements in society is that we be careful about such things--it is the essence of courtesy. A person in the public eye is, and should be, responsible for their comments. When such a person works for a "news" outlet with the reputation of Fox, it is hard hard hard to believe that the exact same comment would have arisen from an equivalent Liberal outlet (unless it was about a Republican). There is no time in human history when murder has not been used to consolidate power, or control populations. Such a "joke" is about as inappropriate as one can possibly imagine, from my perspective. I am not entirely certain what a worse "joke" would be.

Anonymous said...

Steve: Unlike with Liz Tratta, in O'Reilly's case no joke was involved. He used a common phrase for an unjustified attack to say he wasn't going to be part of an unjustified attack on Michelle Obama. If he were the unprincipled, scurrilous person everybody here likes to claim he is then he would have climbed on the bandwagon of the caller who was anti Obama instead of telling the caller she had no sound basis for her attack.
As for Fox news reputation its only bad among liberals I find Fox news at least as fair as CNN or MSNBC. Somebody in this post gave a link to item about a CN8 corespondent who was fired for trying to get a news honor given to O'Reilly rescinded. The item asked what happened to freedom of speech. But for liberals it appears freedom of speech only applies to liberals. If a conservative news network says what they don't want to hear its horrible and should be taken off the air.

Marty S

Anonymous said...

On the issue of "news". You put "news" in quotes. Somebody else said O'Reilly was no Walter Cronkite,Edward R. Morrow, or even a "journalist" of lesser ilk. Still another poster gave a link to an article that similarly criticized all three cable networks for poor election coverage. I think your are all correct in terms of the old standard of a "news reporter" but I also think you are miss applying that standard to a new beast. The cable news networks are on 24 hours a day. If they just reported the news the way Walter Cronkite did they would end up just repeating the same stories every half hour and wouldn't get enough audience to justify their existence. So instead most of their broadcast actually consists of the equivalent of an editorial opinion column, which doesn't have the same standard as a straight news article.

Marty S

Anonymous said...

Okay I'm going on and on about this, but I just finished watching Fox news with breakfast and I felt the segment I watched really made two of my points. Apparently Obama recently brought up some uncle of his who was involved in freeing the concentration camps during WWII and got some of the details wrong. Fox had both a liberal and a conservative talk show host on to give their view on this Obama gaffe. Notice, unfair Fox had both sides opinion. Interestingly, both liberal and the conservative had the same point of view. They both essentially said no big deal. No one can campaign constantly for months without getting something wrong. They both had an excellent point. But even presidential candidates don't campaign 24/7 365 days a year. On the other cable news networks do broadcast 24/7 365 days a year. If you don't spend a lot of time watching Fox news and you ignore the air time they give to people of the liberal persuasion, but only read about the slip ups,from anti Fox people who spend all their time looking for a slip up so they can blast Fox or its newscasters then you are being unfair and showing your own one sidedness.

Marty S

Brian Wood said...

Man, oh, man. My kinda sand box. Fox lovers and hidden racism. I think I'll take this chair right here, thank you.

Concerning Michelle Obama being the focal point of O'Reilly's lynching comment, here's some links.
And trust me. I know a racist white bait tactic when I hear one. Whaite are more covert now when speaking. I stood up to officers in the AF, specifically an Equal Opportunity class where I got into a heated exchanged concerning "reverse racism". He was pissed because a buddy of his had a four point oh GPA and a black guy beat him out (with AA, he argued) with a three point six GPA. I told him there is no such thing as reverse racism. He claimed there was. Of course, I was right. I grew up around racist whites, my family was/still is comprised of racist whites, and I quit watching FOX about a decade ago for that same reason (a few years after 93 riots), although I still do, on occasion, visit their web site for research; to see if anything was in fact taken out of context. The majority of the time, no. Their (FOX) words are not taken out of context.

{you tube}

Bill O'Reilly: "I Don't Want To Go On A Lynching Party Against Michelle Obama Unless There's Evidence"

Bill O’Reilly Doesn’t Want to Lynch Michelle Obama Until He Is 100 Percent Positive She Hates America

Fox news talking about proud comment, misconstruing it.

The speech: a deaf person can hear what is really being said here:

Anonymous said...

Brian:If you truly listened to the whole two and a half minute O'Reilly video and think he was being racist we will just have to agree to disagree.
On the Liz Trotta episode what she actually said was horrible. But if my suspicion of what actually went on is true then I find myself feeling somewhat sad for her. I watched the episode and given her age, her head and facial movements and the cadence of her words, I suspect she what us older folks call a senior moment and really screwed up trying to cover it up.

Marty S

suzanne said...

given her age?

if she's that disabled -
more than a senior moment -
she should stop with her career

Althea said...

Clarity on Hillary's assassination remark:

She said it, publicly a total of three times. Once, in an interview with Time magazine in March. Second, in West Virginia on May 7. Third, in South Dakota most recently.

This means she was lying when she said "The Kennedy's were on her mind because of Senator Kennedy's brain tumor." Bunk.

And she was wrong about Bill Clinton not wrapping up the nomination until June 1992. He was the unofficial nominee when his last competitor dropped out in March. It's in Bill's book. Perhaps she should read it.

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

OK, I went for the Liz Trotta thing on Youtube:

You know what's weird about this clip? She first spends a bunch of time excoriating HRC for the RFK assassination reference, then covers her "Osama" slip with the joke about "both if we could" (in which the other guy sort of joins), and then goes right back to excoriating HRC because, even if she didn't mean to say she was still running in case Obama was assassinated, she really ought to be smart enough to know how that would play. Huh?

Anonymous said...

Lynn: the clip I watched on another site than Youtube was only about 15-20 seconds around her osama slip.Watching the whole interview on Youtube, I agree it seems pretty bizarre.

Marty S