The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Friday, May 30, 2008

No "Sex" today...

A couple of months ago I finished reading all of Shakespeare's plays (some of his sonnets remain) aloud. Been looking for some comparable challenge, and have half-decided upon the King James Bible, which I have on my Kindle. This edition comes with an original note to King James, written in a similar phrasing as the Bible itself. It's interesting how incredibly servile it is. Hard to remember just how highly people considered (or had to pretend to consider) kings in those days. The praise is so high that words concerning Jesus Himself seem not much grander. Sigh. People had a very low threshold for divinity in those days...
Next week I'll be able to talk about something happening tonight. Let's just say that this weekend is a little too loaded: I have a party at 11pm this evening, two book events tomorrow, and will see Nicki at college and have another book event on Sunday. Will try to get a little rest in there.
My favorite line from a would-be author is that they have a great story, they'll share it with me, I write it and they'll split the money. I always thought people were kidding when they said people did this, but nope, I probably get one request like that every couple of weeks. People just KNOW that their lives are interesting, far more interesting than anything I could have on my plate. Of course, if it's a Grampa or something, who lived through the sinking of the Titanic, maybe there actually was something really interesting. Most of the time it's yawn city.

I wonder if I'll ever actually come across a life story I find sufficiently engaging?
So as Scott McClellan wracks up his multi-millions for spilling the beans, it's interesting watching the lines form. I personally suspect that his account is mostly true--if anyone can prove one of his facts (not suppositions) wrong, it could badly impact sales. Why did he wait until he had quit to do this? Well, I wouldn't be surprised if he was a money-grubbing scumbag...but that doesn't make him a liar. It's my impression that people very, very rarely quit administrations in protest. Whether this is a matter of honor or fear, I have no idea. But falling on your sword for your leader (which is what I think happened with Powell) is pretty common.
I probably won't see "Sex and the City" until next week. Kind of liked the show, frankly, although I consider it as much of a fantasy as "Knocked Up"--only dweeby women instead of a dweeby guy. But then, that's just me. I thought it had style, and was quite funny within it's range. You don't want to know what I thought about the entire Miranda-Blair arc, however...

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Something to think about


The only argument I'm developing is that I'm uncomfortable with assumptions and statements that I see in the national media, developed by surrogates disappointed in Hillary's performance and/or convinced of "massive" sexism dooming her campaign. I KNOW that my attitude would be "IF you could rank gender and race...then black men, etc." but I also know that I believe that is bullshit--amassing evidence is meaningless without a neutral context and perspective, which is impossible for me--or any human being-- to achieve.
The REASON it came up again is that, since the last time I spoke about it, I've heard a hundred different arguments in the media that sexism doomed Hillary's campaign, and repetition of the idea that sexism hurts more than racism. I have the perfect right to push back at what I see as a poisonous meme. In fact, it is my obligation, don't you think?
Dan--Your comparison is invalid from my POV. When someone says: "was slavery good or bad for slaves" I damned well did look at the question as dispassionately as possible. And the standards I brought to the question were not subjective. You can argue with the standards I selected, but they were Death rate/Life extension, inherited wealth, and infant mortality, standards that have long been used to measure the relative health, wealth, and standing of different ethnic groups, nations, and social tissues. On every measure--EVERY measure, slaves and the descendants of slaves suffered horribly. This just isn't true for women--they were worse on some measures, better on others. If I used those standards for blacks, and then applied them to the question of women, I can be considered rigid, but not, I think, hypocritical. (No, you were not accusing me of hypocrisy).

That said, I DO see benefits that have passed to the descendants of slaves. Furthermore, of course there is a perspective that suggests whites didn't actually benefit by slavery. I only buy into the spiritual/psychological aspect of this (and that only to a degree) but there are scholars (who I disagree with) who take this to the economic level as well, suggesting that slavery was never really profitable. I consider this absurd, but I'm sure that they can mount interesting arguments. They aren't idiots, they have the right to their opinion. My only question would be whether they are using that argument to suppress rights TODAY.
I listen if large numbers of people disagree with me about something, but that's not determinative. I've been criticized for not accepting the scholarship of feminists on this subject. There is something you guys don't seem to take into account: I am also discounting the scholarship of Afrocentrists, the majority of whom believe race is the determining factor. In fact, I've been screamed at and vilified by black people for not automatically accepting THAT point of view. Now...let me there anything in common between the people who think gender is more pressing? Yep--they're almost all white. And while I can't make a direct comparison, the majority of black people seem to think that race is more determinative. I would consider these forces equal and opposite, and that they CANCEL EACH OTHER OUT. I have no obligation to lean one way or another, or accept either set of arguments without taking the other into account. I let both sides of that argument scream at each other across a table. I can feel the part of me that would like to take the position that race is more of a burden, but both logic and intuition tell me that it isn't that simple, and that it would be selfish bullshit to go in that direction.

But that doesn't mean that when I hear white folks screaming that gender is more of a burden than race, I don't have a flinch response, a sense that the very group that enjoyed ALL of the benefits I've wanted all my life for my people is now trying to twist the facts so that they can win a contest with their fathers and brothers...and just like the Afrocentric scholars, are perfectly capable of ignoring the humanity of others to further their own interests. If Obama had lost, I would have been HORRIBLY disappointed if he did the "a black man doesn't have a chance" routine. It is interesting that anyone would expect me to buy the same bullshit coming from the other side.

All of this relate to my personal values, and the way most people have expressed theirs through action, throughout most of human history. The average person places their life, and the continuation of it, above the lives of others with the exception of immediate family or the dearest of friends. This is why we respect acts of true heroism so highly--they are rare. So I look at the most basic things, across a population: lifespan. Death by violence. Infant mortality rate. And I believe that most place these "first and second chakra" issues above everything else, on average. It should hardly be surprising that I am not willing to
1) Discount the uncountable women who have told me they think there are real advantages to being female
2) Discount a value structure that has shepherded me through uncounted mazes of social and personal illusion
3) Discount all of the Afrocentric scholars who argue that race is more crippling than gender
4) Discount the fact that virtually 100% of those who think gender is worse are themselves white

without my bullshit meters going off. I sit firmly in the "we can't know" camp, while feeling the tide toward "black has it harder." It is a hunger, similar to the one I feel on fasting days. I would like my tribe to win. I just don't care as much about the other. But my hunger isn't me, and I don't have to be controlled by it. My protection is to guide my actions by the higher principle, and invite criticism if by word or deed I act contrary to it. I don't know what else I can do, really.

But I would be very suspicious of any belief system whose adherents seem to be determined primarily by place of birth or genetics.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Wealth and Income

So a certain POTUS can't remember if he used cocaine. Hmmm. If you can't remember, you probably did.


I came across a statistic that is a perfect example of what I mean about women in America--that it is dangerous to measure women by men's standards, and conclude that they are being screwed over. In this case, it was a stat about wealth, that by 2010 women would control 60% of the wealth in America. But they only earn 78 cents for every dollar a man earns, right? Now, understand that I am 100% in favor of laws pushing to equalize this, but it is interesting that no one cares about equalizing the wealth thing for MEN. And maybe no one should. But note that this is very very different if you look at the same statistics concerning, say, black people. There, (and I don't have the stats at my fingertips) the gap between incomes is SMALLER than the gap between relative wealth. This speaks to the fact that something very different happens within groups (wealthy men leaving their money to women?) and BETWEEN groups (wealthy whites leaving their money to...other whites).

Now, then. What do we do about it? I'm not certain what the best thing to do here is. I know that I personally am in favor of doing what we can to equalize incomes, salaries, education opportunities, whatever. I think that if women end up being slightly ahead, that the human race won't suffer, and in fact benefits from movement between an emphasis on male and female energies and approaches. The hysterical fear that "talking" to an opponent equals "appeasement" is a perfect example of this, pure male-mind bullshit. Of course, the opposite position (that everything can be healed by communication) is equally blind. But I'm willing to shake things up.

But I can't get past the fact that stats like the one about who actually controls the wealth won't be considered in the equation. Maybe, just maybe it shouldn't. But I can't stop thinking that women, given the opportunity, will attempt to control the environment to their own purposes, just like men. And part of the process of doing this will include guilt, blame, and shame.

I'm especially interested that there are so many pro-feminist males who seem to believe that men are better off dominating women. This attitude would SEEM to be indicative of cognitive dissonance. Women who are programmed to believe that women are better off being dominated and passive can be swiftly identified as brainwashed. But men who believe men are better off without real intimacy...with weak partners...having to maintain ego-barriers even to their own families...defined only by their ability to crush and fight and scratch their way up a hierarchy...ignoring their physical pains, pursuing life-threatening activities and accepting death and violence as a definition of their very being....

They are just as brainwashed. And if the number of unscrupulous women is equal to the percentage of unscrupulous men, trust me...women will try to stifle dissent just as men do. As whites do. As blacks do. As gays and straights and Christians and Atheists do...if they get the power.

But again, I don't know what there is to be done about it, or even if anything should. I see no real problem with letting the pendulum swing.


I have been blessed in my martial arts instructors, there is no doubt about it. It honestly grieves me that I haven't been a student totally worthy of the opportunities that have been presented to me. Sigh. Maha Guru Cliff Stewart is a walking encyclopedia of combat, with black belts in something like 15 arts, and master level skills in about four. Pretty amazing, really. Anyway, Cliff's annual "Camp of the Masters" will be held on June 20-22nd at the Couprie Marital arts Studio at 4532 Erwin St., in Van Nuys, California 91406. I'll post more information as it comes.


And the question of the day is: in the matter of equal salaries for women, what is the significance of the fact that women already control over half the wealth? Does that matter? Why or why not?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A matter of honor...

Let's see...a couple of months back, a male newscaster got fired for saying the Clinton's were "pimping" Chelsea Clinton. Worst case scenario: he was impugning her honor. Last week, a female Fox Newscaster joked about killing Obama. Let's see what happens. She MIGHT be fired...but if she isn't, I can hardly imagine a better example of what I've been trying to tell you: the chastity of white women is considered of greater value than the lives of black men (any men, actually). I wonder if anyone will notice.


The reason I chose the Tibetans was that pesky question: what is the least exercise you can do that actually affects health and fitness? The Five Minute Miracle approach addresses this--you can't do it without engaging with the body, and learning some very interesting things about the relationship between mind, breath, and stress. While the Tibetans don't work twisting and side-leaning motions, they provide a perfectly nice spinal flexion forward and back. What is meant by "speeding up the chakras?" Well, too many different ways to look at that question. On a spiritual level, it might mean just that: if there are literally energy centers, perhaps it makes 'em spin. Personally, I put the existence of the chakras half-way between truth and analogy. In other words, if you act as if chakras exist, some very interesting results follow. Visualizing the geometric shapes embedded in the chakras turns a physical exercise into a mental one. Warming up the spine, most joints, the tendons and ligaments, providing basic strength and integrity through most sections of the body, integrating the breathing...all in about ten minutes? That's entertainment. And considering that you can learn it from a book or DVD...even better. The Tibetans are open to serious modification, as well. For instance, the "Perfect Pushup" handles work great for Tibetans 4 and 5, and can take pressure off the wrists. Stairs can be used to adjust pressure up or down. So long as the basic spinal alignments create breathing pressure in similar ways, I see no harm.

Very nice, very smart. I'm still correlating results from you guys, so please let me know.


Saw "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull." Felt in some ways less like a movie than a family reunion. In no way the huge disappointment of the "Star Wars" prequels, certainly not on the mighty level of "Raiders," I would put it pretty squarely between "Temple" and "Crusade." After all, take the stunt casting of Connery out of "Crusade" and you have a pretty unimpressive film. Set in the 50's, Skull pits Indy against psychic commies in pursuit of alien artifacts. If that doesn't sound like fun, you should stay away. Harrison Ford is wonderful, and seeing Karen Allen again was...well, it was just great. I have to admit that I had a big silly grin on my face. There were spots that dragged, and a "Tarzan" bit that really didn't work. But I've thought fondly about it for four days now, and that counts. A solid "B." And an "A" for effort: thanks for trying so damned hard, guys. And thanks even more for mostly succeeding.


I can feel the plot for the third Tennyson novel shaping in my mind. It's a doozy, if I can pull it off, one of those "nothing is as it seems" stories which can devolve into bat-shit if you're not careful. But the risk is worth it.


My favorite "surprise ending" movie may be the original "Diabolique." The question of the day is: what movie's twist ending knocked you down hardest? There are so many goodies...

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?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Fox News horror

One of the things I dreaded about Obama's candidacy is that I knew that if he lost, I'd have to hear black people moaning that it means that nothing has changed, white people are racist, all is lost, etc etc. ad nauseum. And as Clinton's candidacy founders, I hear the exact same thing from women and Clinton supporters across the web. Including whining that "it will be generations" before another viable female candidate...etc. etc. ad nauseum.

This is all so much crap. The Western world has already had Meir and Thatcher. Why exactly is America grotesquely more sexist? In precisely what way does this manifest? I suspect there may never be another presidential election cycle without a woman....or women...featured prominently. To act like Hillary represents all women is simply absurd. She was the first who went as far as she did, beating the hell out of most men in her path. If the current situation holds, she was beaten by a person who is half-black and male. To claim that this is the reason she was beaten is guessing at best, reductionist pandering or guilt-tripping at worst. Trust me: the blacks who would jump first to racism to explain the issue have always seemed to me to be the most two-dimensional in thought. And people who leap to assume that sexism is the only reason why this Goddess of a super-brilliant woman could lose strikes me as exactly the same. (And the suggestion that it was somehow a disadvantage for her to be white is just another version of the "a white man doesn't stand a chance" argument I've heard since the 60's. Jeeze.) And that two-dimensional thinking is behind all racism and sexism. By reducing the argument to such simple terms, all they're proving to me is that they would be far more likely to be racists and/or sexists themselves than those who take a more nuanced view.

Notice that even when WOMEN say things against Hillary, they are accused of sexism and misogyny? I mean, are they really the female equivilent of Uncle Ruckus on Boondocks? If they're not weak-minded, all of this is supposed to be because men have 20% more strength? But a group with a 1000% strength disadvantage (outnumbered 10 to 1) produces blacks who are self-hating, for sure, but in nothing like the numbers that would be necessary to believe that all the women who have criticized or voted against Hillary are sexist. It simply doesn't make sense. But it makes big sense to promote it as an answer: if affirms a victim position, it demonizes the opponent, it shuts-up opposition afraid of being politically incorrect. Most importantly, it allows you to excuse the flaws of your own candidate. Hillary made a long list of errors. Let the next woman avoid those errors, and she gets over the mark. Others will walk over her back, as generations of blacks have walked over the corpses of those who went before. Hell, I'm hoping for some tough young Turk of a writer to walk over mine.

I regret that this contest brought race and gender to the fore in the same election cycle. In the beginning, I would have been all for Hillary going first, with Barack as VP, taking his shot in eight years. And I took crap from black friends about that. I have zero guilt about putting the blame where it belongs here: she had tremendous advantage, and Obama beat her. How about giving credit where credit is due? Sucker is SMART.

ᅠThere is a reason why black women haven't been attracted to the Women's Movement in droves, and one of the things I've heard many times is that that reason is that White women don't listen, don't care, and put the gender agenda above everything else. That's fine--every group of human beings does just that, and discounts the misery of others. Don't make the mistake of thinking women are somehow too saintly to use the exact same trick.

I ask you to remember something: 20-25% of West Virginians said they'd never vote for a black man. What do you imagine this translates into, nationwide? 5%? 10%? Between 10 and twenty million voters, perhaps? For all practical purposes, there isn't ONE REGISTERED BLACK VOTER in this country who could say the same thing about whites. Not one. If they felt that way, there would never have been anyone to vote for at all. Ten million to...ZERO.

My honest sense is that a white person who tries to reduce this to: "feel sorry for the poor rich, powerful, white woman" would, if they were black, absolutely HATE white people, and blame them for everything wrong in their lives. I'm not kidding even a little bit.

My whole sense of human beings being equal just clarified. I used to believe that women were a little less racist than men. I now think they express it differently, and have different priorities. But it seems that everyone plays the same games: male and female, black and white. That should make me sad...but instead, I find it a bit reassuring.


Did anyone see Fox News contributer Liz Trotter talking about Hillary's gaff? She said "some are taking Clinton's words as an encouragement to knock off Osama--"

Her co-host corrected her: "Obama"

And her reply was to laugh and say: "well, both, if we could."

Both, if we could.

Is anyone listening out here? Does anyone grasp the enormity of what is happening here? The "will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?" You put your thoughts out, and surround yourself with the kind of loyal people who "get the job done." One of them will do it, while you can act horrified and claim innocence.

ᅠI do, absolutely, think that this is expressive of an unconscious current of racism, a sense that black men are a threat, and their lives less important. I've seen it play out in literature and film, in police shootings and beatings, in mortality and violence statistics of every kind. I hope that you grasp that when you do not value someone's life, it is far easier to cheat, steal from, falsely incarcerate...anything else you want.

You can see the clip yourself at:


I have never, ever seen anything like this about any other candidate. So there you have it: an uppity woman is told to stay in the kitchen or laundry room. An uppity black man is directed to the grave yard. Anyone who doesn't grasp the enormity of the difference, and how it has played out in America for 400 years, is culturally blind and deaf. If they have similar perceptual holes in other areas of their lives, I frankly fear for them.

Yeah, Race has been an advantage for Obama. In fact, it's always been an advantage for black people in America. Ask anyone.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

She said WHAT?

O.K. She's off the rails. Hillary's latest comment about why she's staying in the race is clearly nothing more than a verbalization of something people have thought about from the beginning--that a black man running for president might very well be assassinated. But for a professional public speaker, sharply aware of the impact of words on public actions, knowing that 20% of her voters in key states are racist, a week after Huckabee made his joke to the NRA about Obama fearing being absolutely bugnuts. Or Machiavellian beyond belief. She just lost whatever kind thoughts I still held about her in my heart, and feel that I was right all along. This is a woman who killed her heart, let her marriage die, for ambition. All of you who talk about the fact that women make marriages like this all the time listen closely: so do men. Men and women kill their hearts for different reasons. And it leads to lack of ability to calibrate. If she claims not to understand the impact of her words, ignore for a moment that that disqualifies her from leading a 21st Century America. More importantly, emotional fatigue and physical exhaustion have either warped her judgment, or revealed the grinning skull behind the mask. I don't know. To be honest, I have very serious sources that believe some of the rumors about the Clintons during the Arkansas days. I won't go into it, but trust me when I say this doesn't come from a Republican with an axe to grind. For a woman who knows she has been accused (or her husband has) of complicity in bespoke murder, to use the word "assassination" a week after Huckabee's remark...Jesus Christ. I feel so terribly sorry for her. And people are right: if he brought her on as VP, better have a food taster.
When ambition burns brighter than your urge to have a healthy family, it is exactly the same as that ambition causing you to neglect your body. Or your physical drives causing financial disruption. Or your obsession with family causing you to ignore physical and financial concerns. It's all sick. You lose touch with yourself, and your instincts. I completely believe there are LOTS of people who make similar deals. Just like there are lots of people who are broke, or in jobs they hate, or are morbidly obese. I see it the same way.

And I see it leading to the same result. We may be watching a melt-down here. I'm not entirely sure how you come back from this one.
By the way...I mean the following sincerely. There has been far, far more talk about literal death threats to Obama than to Clinton, or anyone else I can remember in the history of politics. Black people were literally afraid to vote for him due to this. At this point, the relative percentage of, say black people who expressed fear for Obama's life outnumbers women I've heard express fear for Clinton's by at least ten to one. Do you think he doesn't know this? And considering how important it is to his approach to politics to actually meet people, press flesh, stand live in front of you get what he has to be dealing with? If you haven't factored in the question, literally, of life and death in your reckoning of whether "race has been an Obama advantage" despite this, and 20% of some states voters claiming they'd never vote for a black man, or all the Muslim, Reverend Wright, "Obama-Osama" crap...if you believe that his being half-white isn't a gigantic advantage (you think he'd still be in this race if he was darker? Didn't have a white mother? The equivilent for Hillary would be being an Hermaphrodite. Obama isn't black. He's Half-Black. Even the very definition is racist, and a legacy of slavery). If you can discount the actual risk to his life, (ask yourself what it would take to juice yourself up to get in front of an audience day after day knowing that Hillary and Huckabee are merely expressing the unconscious thoughts of millions of Americans)...and STILL think that he's had an overall advantage, then wow, we REALLY see human nature very, very differently indeed. It feels similar to the discounting of the higher male death and violence rate--it just doesn't matter. All that matters is that there are women who get pissed if another woman is called "Sweetie." Excuse me? Yeah, that might have been in bad taste, but how in the hell could it even be considered on the same scale as death? This genuinely disturbs me. I am all, 100% for women having all the rights that any man has. But the tendency of any group to discount the misery of others for their own political gain can, in my mind, be seen very clearly here. I guess women really are completely equal after all.

Friday, May 23, 2008

What Type of Mystery? a couple of states, 20-25% of voters admitted that they wouldn't vote for a black man. And Hillary claims that there has been no racism in this campaign, but lotsa sexism. And Obama, according to her surrogates, has it easier because he is black. I consider this to be either woeful or willful ignorance...or pure politics taken to a really nasty edge. Now, nationwide, I figure the anti-black thing to be somewhere between 5-15%. That would explain the results I see in box office regarding sex. Again, I'm not saying that blacks (in America) have it worse than women. I'm saying that it is impossible to quantify the misery, and that anyone who does probably has an axe to grind, or has swallowed the Kool-Ade.


Had a great time teaching a group at the XX corporation (they run a major theater chain) yesterday. The unexpected joy was that the Aikido teachers leading the class were old friends of mine, Jim and Beth Shibata, absolutely wonderful human beings, and fine martial artists. Would have been a wonderful day, except for getting caught in some of the worst traffic I've ever driven in coming home. Rainstorms and hail just jammed the streets until nothing could move. Three hours, and for the last hour my bladder was killing me. Ouch.


Our editor has read the first half of "In The Night of the Heat" and loves it. Whew. That's a relief. It's fun to branch out to a new arena, but even better to have the hunch that things are gonna work out just fine. We'll be finished with the first draft in a week. Next up: "From Capetown With Love."


There are several different kinds of mysteries, including "Who done it?", "How did he do it?" "What will we do about it?" and "What the hell is going on?" The question for the day is: what is your favorite TYPE of mystery, why, and what is a good example of it?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Redbelt (2008)

Why Clinton Fights

I think that at the core of it, the reason that makes the most sense is (pretty much a superset of all the theories bouncing around) is that she fights because she is a fighter. I mean this in a very positive way. A champion boxer doesn't quit--he fights until the judges or cornermen throw in the towel. A marathoner doesn't quit because someone else is closer to the finish line. And the annals of sport are filled with last-minute victories, come-from-behind kids and unlikely heroes. The "a quitter never wins, and a winner never quits" thing. Yeah, it upsets the party. Yes, there is legitimate debate over whether what she is doing is for herself, her legacy, her supporters, women in general, or whatever.

My tendency is to give people the benefit of the doubt, right down to the last second. Yes, I've been wrong, but I notice that I seem to be wrong a lot less often than people who assume others have worse intentions than themselves.

On the less complementary side, I would have more respect for her if she took a look at the 20% of voters in Kentucky who said they would never vote for a black man, and said that racism has no place in her America, and she doesn't want their vote. Much more respect. Ah well--if she gets elected, Bill's presidency is a mere footnote to hers, which settles a lot of ugly debts, I suppose.

In my book she's 2/3 balanced, so I keep a careful eye there. The fact that so many women say that they understand her marriage is sad. Consider that her staying in that marriage has NOTHING to do with survival. When do you think she missed her last meal, or worried about a roof over her head? So if so many women empathize, clearly the real motivations for staying in bad marriages don't have as much to do with raw finances, survival, etc. as some would like us to think. There are other issues: power, for instance. And while hers may be a valid choice, it is certainly not one I would want for my daughter. And while Obama has been extremely genteel in not bringing up the pale side of the Clinton years, we can be damned sure that McCain would mention that her spouse was disbarred for lying...and drag all of that nastiness back into the public light. I don't want that. And I REALLY don't want thirty-two years of either a Bush or Clinton in the White House. That feels like a democracy reduced to a dual Monarchy. We need a change...

But yesterday, Tananarive said she got a twinge as she realized that the first viable female candidate was about to lose. Dammit, I really wish that it hadn't happened like this. Clearly, racial and gender rights are tightly intertwined. It is too damned easy to see how emotions can run away with supporters on either side. Especially women who see, in Hillary Clinton, a reflection of their own lives and choices.

As, of course, I see myself in Obama. This is hard stuff.


I did my Bruiser Century yesterday in eight sets of twelve. Dear God. Starting one set every two minutes means that as the number of reps climbs, the amount of recovery time diminishes. You can actually FEEL your body dealing with a different energy system. Strength and power are the 1-5 range. Hypertrophy at the 6-15 range. I'm in the middle of that now, and my body is saying evil things.

One of the advantages of this approach is that the workout is actually rather brief. Another is that you are stressing the energy systems rather than maxing out the tendons and ligaments. Using the Gama Cast, it becomes a matter of trying to get more and more perfect with every rep, maintaining breath, motion, and structure...


Saw Mamet's "Red Belt" last night, and thought it was a good, but not great, film. Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Mike Terry, a jiu-jitsu instructor who lives his life by a code so strict he can barely make a living. His in-laws would like him to fight in a MMA event that promises to make a ton of money for the family. He refuses, on ethical grounds. Then one day he accidentally saves an action star (Tim Allen) from a beat-down in a local bar, and Terry's star begins to rise...

Of course, this being Mamet, you can expect that no road will run straight. And you'd be right. I kept hoping it might soar all the way to greatness. Instead, I got a solid, emotional movie with its heart on its sleeve, superbly performed (especially by Ejiofor, who seems to be as close to a perfect actor as he can be), with a sprinkling of tightly-edited grappling fight scenes, and lotsa interesting philosophy. Not an "A", but a solid "B", especially for those of us who care about martial arts as a life path.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Staying on the downshift

Oh. O.K., I get it. Watching Sean Hannity yesterday saying Obama offered "negotiations without preconditions" made a little light go on. Fox is engaged in a game of "Telephone"-change the message just a little bit, and put the meme out there. And Obama saying "talks" turns to "negotiations" turns to "appeasement" in the public consciousness. Very clever. But MAN they have contempt for their viewers.

The same thing with Michelle Obama. So far as I've been able to see, her "more proud than I've been in my adult life" has been flattened to "first time I've ever been proud" for public consumption. Clearly, this kind of lying works just great. I'm sure that this is the way the game has been played since the beginning of time. Loathsome.

It does make me wonder about the psychology of people who feel that talking is the same as yielding. Wow. Do they live their relationships like that? Their business negotiations? I suggest that this ONLY makes sense if you believe your "enemies" to be sub-human. Less than. And while ultra-protective (and controlling) this is also the exact same thought process that leads to racism, sexism and so forth. On the other hand, it is certainly possible to go too far in the other direction, believing that "we're all just the same" or "we can't judge the cultural customs of other peoples" and so forth. To be frank, I consider either end of the spectrum to be operating on emotion without real engagement with their intellect.


Question of the day: who's excited about "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull"? I know I am. Will it be "Raiders"? Heck, no. But I think it's going to be great fun. And I dig the idea of a 65-year old Harrison Ford going for it. I completely understand Connery not wanting to do it...I suspect that he no longer likes the way he looks onscreen. Like Cary Grant, I suspect that he wants to preserve his cinematic legacy by not appearing at less than his best. This age-related judgment definitely hits women harder than men...on the other hand, I think women get a bit of advantage on the other end: young women are praised in about the same intensity that older women are criticized, so advantage still remains within the set called "women" even though the power gradient shifts. Was it Greta Garbo who retired similarly, just not wanting to spoil her legacy?


I think that there is a bit of double-talk regarding Michelle Obama. If you put your wife out as a surrogate, it is reasonable to criticize her public pronouncements. But it's fun watching Barack use "chivalry" to justify "anger" at "attacks" on his wife. Sigh. I do wish that a political contest had more room for nuance. I would read her comments as, simply, "I am prouder than I've ever been of America--politically and socially we are moving in exactly the right direction, and people are more involved than I've ever seen them."


If you meditate in the morning, note where your breathing is by the end of your session: probably deep and slow. Take that same breath into your Tibetans, yoga, Tai Chi or whatever you use to wake your body up in the morning. If you run, lift weights, or whatever, remain conscious of your breathing even as you place yourself under escalating pressure. The physiological pressure of exercise stress has many similarities to pure emotional life stress. If five times a day you will stop, whatever you are doing, and breathe with grace and power, you are creating an important link between exercise and meditation and life itself. A very strange thing happens when you learn to control your breathing in a stressful situation: you actually observe your own fight/flight response trying to upshift to anger, fear, frustration...but you remain separate from it. It's similar to my experience in a sweat lodge: if you remain calm, you can feel the heat without being broiled by it. I remember touching my own shoulder and burning my fingers. Stranger than hell. There are numerous disciplines that aim to shift you out of your ordinary relationship with your body, and they all start here, with control of breathing, then linking breath and life.

Monday, May 19, 2008

What Books Have Changed Your Life?

John McCain was quite funny on SNL Saturday. And the Clinton-Obama piece was great: Obama played as an empty cipher, Clinton as quasi-demonic. Ah, SNL is starting to feel familiar again. Welcome back!


In your daily Tibetans exercises (those of you trying them) remember that if you can't do three reps, there is nothing wrong with changing the leverage. Have stairs in your home? Experiment with putting either your hands or feet on the first or second stair. Takes weight off, and can make them much easier.

Then, of course, there's the matter that strength is not, primarily a matter of the body. It is more a matter the mind: how many muscle fibers fire, in what relation, how the skeletal structure is aligned, etc. There is a phenomenon called "Sensory Motor Amnesia" in which we literally forget how to communicate with our own bodies. From this perspective, most exercise is a matter of LEARNING HOW TO DO IT more than your body becoming "stronger." Every day, you should be concentrating on HOW to do it--make the assumption, if you cannot perform three of each, that there is a lack of understanding, rather than a lack of strength.

We are working on the CONNECTION between mind and body, not either mind or body alone.


"Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian." Went to see that on Saturday, and it felt like a kiddie version of "Lord of the Rings." Fun, but nothing mind-blowing. I never got that far into C.S. Lewis, except for "That Hideous Strength" and "Peralandra." Actually, I never read "Lord of the Rings" either. High fantasy just never appealed to me too much. I wonder how much of that is because it's all about white people, and the only dark-skinned folk are evil. Yeah, I bet there's some of that.


Jo Anne was right to remind me that it doesn't matter how little Tananarive and I interact during the day. It matters where we go to sleep at night, and awaken in the morning. I complain because I want what I want, darn it. We are working our hearts out right now, and it's bearing fruit. I just don't want to hurt our relationship in the process. No, there's not really any strain there, but having blown one marriage, I really really don' t want to risk this one as well.


I now have my Kindle righteously loaded. I couple of contemporary novels, but that's not the point. I have the complete Shakespeare, Dickens, Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allan Poe, and Mark Twain. Complete. Every word. Total cost of the works? Thirty bucks. Now THAT is entertainment: a lifetime of reading in my backpack. This is incredible fun.


Thinking back over the books that have made a difference in my life, one that stands out clearly is a minor novel by Martin Caidan, who wrote the novel that birthed "The Six Million Dollar Man." It was called "The God Machine" and dealt with that hokey old device, the super-computer that takes over the world. But the computer made one mistake: it based its defense system on the assumption that no human being would deliberately sacrifice his life to stop the machine. I remember a great scene where the hero is playing poker and an old-timer explains the real rules of life: that a man who is willing to die can do anything. That sentiment, even though it is ultimately waffled-upon by the unreasonably upbeat ending of the book, changed my life.

The question of the day is: have any of you ever read a book that changed your life? What, how, and why?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Thoughts for a new week

So if I look into the campaigns right now (or the news cycle allowing surrogates to speak for the different campaigns) the things that leap out at me are:

1) Obama claiming never to have heard the Reverend Wright rhetoric. Yeah, right. And simultaneously, he was ready to leave the church if Wright didn't retire. Arrrgh. My take: he wanted to serve the people of the community, and had heard sentiments like Wright's for years. They are sentiments for those who lack Barack's intellectual skills and philosophical perspective. To separate himself from all those who say such things would have left him without a constituancy...let alone a community. I get it. I've dealt with this my whole life. Doesn't mean I believe his answer, though...

2) Hillary saying that she and McCain are ready for office, and Obama isn't. That line was over the line politically. It was honorable if she truly believed it. But it probably cost her the Vice Presidential slot. Can't see how she comes back from that one, or spins it.

3) My favorite recent news item: in the same 24 hour news cycle, Bush makes a comment about "appeasers" which was widely considered to be a slam at Obama (I can see why, since he's said he will speak to our enemies. A large percentage of human beings see this as weakness. Personally, I see it as wisdom.) Now here's where it gets interesting. When Huckabee made the "duck and cover" joke, he was revealing his own unconscious tensions. Humor is a release of tension. Was he calling Obama a coward? Was he expressing a bit of wish fulfillment? Here's a fun game: if we consider that comments from members of a group express, in the aggregate, the unconscious wishes of that group, combining these two comments gives us something fairly disturbing: a message to "shoot him...he's an appeaser." You can count on the fact that this meme will be entering the public discourse A LOT over the next months. Always plausibly denied, and probably rarely by someone who has a specific conscious thought about doing him harm.

But any organization will fight for its survival, and its members are human, with a messy combination of conscious and unconscious wishes. Racists, for instance, DO have reason to be concerned about integration, multi-culturalism, and so forth. It DOES mean the death of the white race. And the black race. And the Asian race. It is dead to the concept of "race" across the board, and to those who are strongly coupled to race as a concept (what? Ten percent of the population?) the ascendancy of a Obama is a nightmare, a view of a future in which some of their most precious assumptions and definitions are blown totally out of the water.

I would call these two comments cultural Freudian slips. They will be discussed. Huckabee will make the talk show circuit apologizing. And every time, the meme re-enters the public arena. No matter how he disowns his "joke" remember: you can't not think of a purple cow. And from the perspective of the part of the human consciousness that clings to racial tribe, it was a plea for someone to do violence. This is pretty ugly stuff...and I've heard at least ten comments like it for every whisper of violence to be done to Hillary on the basis of her gender.

If you don't factor little things like death into the equation then sure, Obama could seem to have an advantage based on race. Personally, I find it unfortunate that Hillary supporters can't deal with the fact that as smart and tenacious as she has been, it is possible for her to be out-thought and out-fought. The fact that they leap for gender and race as answers is unfortunate. As I've said, I'm sure plenty of black Americans would have used a Clinton victory to claim that race relations are poisonous. And I would have considered them just as blind and self-serving. As some men would have grumbled that Hillary was swept into the White House on a wave of reverse discrimination or political correctness. As you'll hear some propaganda that Obama is being bouyed by secret Saudi money: he's a secret Muslim, after all. As you'll hear whites complain that "a white man doesn't stand a chance in this country..." and other brain-damaged comments. Pretty sad stuff.

But that's the heat of the battle. The blogs are filled with Hillary supporters swearing they'll support McCain. I think that that's on the level of "I hate you daddy!" when you ground your teenager (and Obama supporters would have been about as bad, I'm sure.) Be interesting to see how many of them actually vote their values, and not their hurt feelings. Unless of course, they ARE voting their values...which is another, interesting conversation.


The Moonview presentation last Saturday has led to an invitation to work with a high-powered company this week. The company seems to use Aikido as a teaching, team/building tool. I like that idea very much, and will be speaking with the CEO tomorrow to clarify things. I've spent hours this weekend trying to figure out how to relate the short version of how my teaching pedagogy evolved. It's been a long, long, odd road...


If I assume that Bush's comment was sincere, it suggests a typical Yang view that communication equals appeasement. Pardon me, but it seems to me that vast and complex systems of diplomatic etiquette have evolved over the centuries precisely because countless rulers and generals found that communication with their enemies was VITAL. The other end of the spectrum is someone who thinks that conversations and communication can solve everything. Both ends are rigid and naive.

Especially when dealing with a diffuse network (as world terrorism seems to be) such that the multi-billion dollar war machine cannot capture or even directly engage with the leader of the opposition, the idea that brute force could conceivably handle this just isn't a winner. But clearly, if one forgets for an instant that you are dealing with people willing to kill and die to accomplish their aims, that would be an equal error. The number of times I've heard Right-wingers talking about terrorists having no logical aims, not having human emotions, being cowards, or worshiping a demonic god tells me something: add up all the people who feel that way. What percentage of the Right do they compose? All right, cut off that percentage, then cut an equal percentage from the edge of the Far Left.

The attitudes of the people in the middle will be the ones I consider to be rational enough to actually solve the problem. Everyone else is frozen. There are people who are total predators, or completely insane, and cannot be reasoned with at all. The tendency for people to think that members of Group X are fanatical, insane, stupid, animalistic, etc. is normal and a survival trait in certain instances. But what is hard for them to grasp is that it is no more efficient than talking and communicating. Violence and communication have to operate in a cycle. I suspect that, deep inside, almost everyone agrees with this: the only real question is the percentage of each.

Of course, that's my perspective, based on fifty-six years of life and dealing with stress and challenge. Your experience may be different, and that experience would shape your attitudes. I honestly believe that we've been in a period of history where the more Male, hierarchical structure of worldwide power is going to yield to a more Feminine, non-hierarchical web-form. These are not "better or worse" approaches. They are different, and adherents of each approach tend to be afraid or dismissive of the other.

The future belongs to those who can hold both possibilities.


I think it comes down to what Sting said long ago: that there is nothing to fear from the Soviet Union, if the Russians love their children too. The same is true here. If the Arabs, the Muslims, and those among them who are radicalized love their own people, and their own children, then we can communicate with those among them who are sane. And I see no reason to believe that a higher percentage of US are sane than of "THEM."

Trust me: if I can understand what white people, or men, or women, or black people have done over the years, I can understand every action of the Middle Eastern conflict with the same beliefs and observations of basic human nature. And I've kept myself and my family safe in some very hairy, potentially violent situations by assuming that most human beings are motivated not by "good" or "evil" but by fear and love. And noticed that those who think they are better, or that their enemies are worse, just seem to collect more enemies over time. Slowly, the world seems a more and more dangerous place.

Of course, those who think the world is all lambs and butterflies are in for a serious awakening as well. No one becomes more cynical than the formerly open-hearted.

Again, balance.