The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"Lie To Me"

I really enjoy "Lie To Me" with Tim Roth. He is a very, very, interesting guy. Anyone notice the quality of his body language? He has a superlative physical control, adopting a different kinesthetic profile for almost every character he plays. Compare his body-language expert with his swordsman in "Rob Roy" for instance. You'd really think he was a shlub unless you've watched the precision of his motion. Great show, and it may have found a sustainable groove. I can hope.


Anyone know what this supposed "racist" comment Obama made on the campaign trail that Murdoch is talking about? Can't wait to be amused.


The question of "Terrorism" in the Fort Hood massacre is going to be a dicey one. The accused, if guilty (isn't that absurd that we have to talk like this?) is certainly a mass murderer. But the question is whether this was pretty much "going Postal." Terrorism (to me) is trying to send a message, specifically using terror as a weapon to try to influence future or current behavior. Making a specific point. When political, one would expect this behavior to be coordinated with others, part of a larger plan. To put it in cinematic terms, "Inglorious Bastards" starts with terrorism (hideous murder of German soldiers to induce fear and thereby reduce the efficiency of the enemy. "The German will see our cruelty, and imagine what his brothers were suffering at the point of our knives..." etc.). And straight-out strategic killing (in the movie theater) designed to disrupt the lines of command and decapitate the enemy war machine. Not "terrorism" at all.

Was Hasan's action linked to a larger pattern? Remains to be seen, but I'm open to it. Personal suspicion? Half Postal, half deluded political action with no direct connection to anyone else, but an intent to "prove" "punish" or whatever. Not that dissimilar to climbing a tower and shooting co-eds, or bringing an Uzi to the office. With an axe to grind about Muslims being sent to kill other Muslims, yeah. But my guess is that there won't be any direct connections anywhere. We'll see. Hope to God not...and the investigators, thus far, say "no."

But it would be irrational to suggest it isn't possible. OR that it is certain.


I've made a decision about how I'm going to react to the whole science fiction racism thing. On calming myself, it became clear that I've always known this...I just didn't know some of the specific names. So this is nothing new: I knew the job was dangerous when I took it. But I can't write my best stuff if I'm afraid it won't get a fair shake, and therefore my family is at risk financially. So I'm going to diversify my income stream a bit more, so that I can write without needing the writing to pay all the bills. Some of you on the other lists already know that I'm talking about making my kinda informal Life Coaching avocation into something a bit more intense and professional. I don't like using this blog to solicit clients and customers--you guys are more like friends and family, giving me a place to vent. But many of you have asked for more access to me, and I've been offering "strangers" such access, so it would make sense to say it here as well: I've got ten coaching slots, half for general life balance, and half for writing. I'll be offering the first 1/2 hour session totally free, with a mind to finding serious clients with goals that can be clearly defined and therefore supported. If you're interested in a free session, and are serious about seeking a Life Coach, drop me an email at:


Got into some serious discussions about abortion and health care. And was reminded of my basic belief: we just don't have a standard, universally accepted definition of when human life begins. I've heard several different ones, and each of them makes sense from different philosophical positions. Ultimately, it ALWAYS enters the realm of the philosophical. You can measure when the heart of a fetus starts beating--that's objective. But is that fetus a human being? If it doesn't have EEG movement? Then why do we call "brain death" the point when EEG movement ceases? Are we human when sperm meets egg? Only after the fetus would be viable outside the womb? How about only after we name the child? I've seen cultures take a dozen different points of view. Different religions with different definitions. A room full of scientists arguing about it. Sorry--about all anyone can say is that they are convinced they have the answer. And because of these difficulties, for me the abortion question is one that I have to leave between a woman and her Creator. And, of course, if there is no Creator that affects the discussion rather seriously, doesn't it. This is probably as difficult an issue as we're likely to encounter as a culture, and it ain't just a male-female thing, not at all (although I hear that kind of sexist rhetoric).

Now...if it were possible to remove a fetus and cryogenically freeze it, so that others could adopt them, you would have a form of non-lethal abortion, and I'd find the discussion to be much more fascinating. I wonder what the arguments would be then?


Mike Ralls said...

> I wonder what the arguments would be then?<

The argument would probably be, "The state does not have the right to take my genetic offspring/fetus/etc and give it to someone else if I want to abort it." Others would disagree.

Of course, there is really not much of a societal consensus on "Who owns your genetic code?" because it hasn't been an issue because we don't have the technology. Yet.

If it's 2050, and I take a hair you dropped at my house to the local Quicky-Gen and make a baby using both our genetics, have I committed a crime against you?

Interesting article on Cracked recently called;

6 Insane Laws We'll Need in the Future

that kind of touches on these scenarios;

"Mother's Day and Father's Day are already confusing affairs now, what with surrogate moms and transgendered dads.

Hell, we can even make babies with three parents (although legally only with animals thus far).

Yep, science is well on the way to reinventing the concept of family altogether. For instance we already know how to make sperm from stem cells. No need for a father at all.

Before you feminists get all cocky, women are no longer really necessary either, as artificial ova and artificial wombs are now a reality.

But wait--they'll still need DNA, right?

Wrong. We have been working on making DNA in the lab since the 70s. The only reason we're not on the cusp of a factory that can turn out parentless kids is that nobody has figured out how to make money off such an operation.

And We'll Need New Laws Because...

Still, it seems like it's just a matter of time until someone does it. So who would the kid belong to? Do they become a ward of the state?

Some of you may remember that immediately after the death of Michael Jackson there was some speculation about who exactly had guardianship of the kids, based on the fact that (rumor had it) they were carried by a mother Michael had never slept with, and was fertilized with sperm from some other dude. Meaning Michael had no more of a biological relationship to "his" children than you do. If one of the other two involved parties had asked for parental rights, on what grounds would he have objected?

Likewise, if a wealthy man or a corporation manufactures a child and claims their rights as its parent, who's to say they can't? Don't be surprised if, based on the legal confusion created by a test tube orphan, we eventually get Organic Replacement Laws--if you want to make a kid, a penis and a vagina have to be involved. No sex, no kid."

Marty S said...

"Lie To Me" is a really good show my wife and I love it and are rooting for it too.
Please don't let this racism thing stop you from writing science fiction. There are few enough writers today writing good and thoughtful science fiction.
On the abortion issue, you are right that it is a philosophical/ethical issue, not a question of scientific fact. My point of view is for limited abortion rights. My argument goes something like this. You order a table over the internet and in transit the crate containing it is stolen. Now the table comes with some assembly required. Does this mean that your table was not stolen because it wasn't assembled?
But as you point out everyone is going to see the situation differently and each person will have a different law they would like to see or not see and the way this country works is we all live with the consensus decision. By the way by my own particular ethics the house bill was too restrictive on abortion.

Curt said...

I, too, love "Lie to Me," as does my wife.

One thing that she noticed immediately is Roth's walk; just check out that amble. Wonderful!

Steve, I am very interested in your views on when personhood begins. I have proposed a paper on the issue of personhood (that is, human life) for next year's International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts. (BTW, this is a great conference, sorta like an SF con, without the people dressed as Klingons!) This year's subject is "Race." I am specifically looking into the legal tests of personhood of aliens and artificial life forms used by SF, particularly as they are metaphors for race.

Shady_Grady said...

Nat Hentoff is pro-life and is an athiest. He's explained how those two positions really have nothing to do with each other-just as morality does not require a belief in God.


I don't know idea what specific statements to which Murdoch is referring. I suspect it may be the "guns and bitter" stuff but Murdoch does not detail.

Murdoch Interview

Steve Perry said...

There's a can of worms, when life begins.

I think a more rational spot to stand and debate might be on the value of different kinds of life, including human.

Are some human lives worth keeping around more than others?

From where I sit, that's a no brainer. But even drawing the line there is tricky.

Anybody want to argue that Hitler and Gandhi were of equal value to humanity?

If a fetus has no functioning brain, then it's potential and not realized. If its body develops but the brain doesn't, it doesn't have any potential to become human, save in the most esoteric technical sense.

Is the life of the potential mother worth more than the life of the potential human that is two or four cells along?

If the life of the Fort Hood assassin had been snuffed out three seconds after he pulled his gun and before he fired the first round, would that have been justified?

Was his life worth the thirteen he killed?

You aren't going to get an answer on this one Barnes. People who are adults already have their stances and I doubt many -- if any -- are going to shift their view on abortion. You can stir the pot, but you aren't going to ever get this soup done.

Brian Dunbar said...

But my guess is that there won't be any direct connections anywhere.

You have just described the Al-Qaeda strategy, Steve.

Leadership provides guidance. They encourage daughter cells to reach out and find recruits. For minor operations ideological direction may be it. For bigger operations money, expertise and command guidance will be provided.

I am not saying that Major Hasan was at any time in touch with Al-Qaeda. But if he _had_ been this would be the kind of operation that required only ideological guidance, provided by daughter cells with no direct connection.

Dude was a weak reed. He only required priming, then aim and release.

Shady_Grady said...

As far as the science fiction/racism thing, I just recently started a collection of short sci-fi/fantasy/horror stories by the author John M. Faucette. In the introduction he discusses a lot of the issues/history around race and sci-fi. He also writes that that "[he] is no Hopkinson, Delany, Butler or Barnes. But I try".

Did you ever meet John Faucette, Steve?

Ethiopian_Infidel said...

" and is an athiest. He's explained how those two positions really have nothing to do with each other.."

While Atheism doesn't necessitate any particular political or ethical stance, it's significant that the Pro-Choice ranks are predominantly filled with Atheists, Agnostics, Secularists, and moderate believers, while Antiabortionists are predominantly religious fundamentalists. I'd suggests that Atheists and moderates tend to derive their views from objective evidence, and to value freedom over doctrine. By contrast and definition, fundamentalists ground their stances in Scripture, and prize obedience to the supposed dictates of their deities as the ethical gold standard. For most Atheists and moderates, science, ethical conviction and the law determine when life begins; for all fundamentalists by necessity, scriptural interpretation does.

Shady_Grady said...

I am really leery of extrapolating any sort of moral or ethical stance from one's religion or lack of religion, especially when it comes to abortion.

In the first place I don't have the evidence.

In the second place, not every religion takes an anti-abortion view.

It is quite possible to be a "fundamentalist" depending on your religion and be completely and resolutely and militantly pro-choice. Similarly one can (as does Hentoff) a dismissive view of religion and be pro-life.

The only thing that athiests have in common is that they don't believe in a supernatural being. All other moral and ethical viewpoints will vary widely depending on the individual. There are freethinking athiests and some who are as trapped in groupthink as any stereotypical holyroller.

Ethiopian_Infidel said...

"I don't have the evidence."

In the case of Abortion Rights, the evidence surrounds us and pervades the media. Antiabortion Atheists there may be, but they're conspicuously absent from the leadership of prominent "Pro-Life" groups such as Operation Rescue, the picketers who disrupt Planned Parenthood or the penny-any demagogues who tout aborted fetal parts. Invariably, all of the above are Bible-toting Evangelicals. Dido with the terrorists who bomb abortion clinics and murder gynecologists. Antiabortion Atheists such as Hentoff are both far fewer in number than the comparatively vast numbers of Pro-Choice Atheists, and generally use saner and more civil and humane tactics than their religious comrades.

"It is quite possible to be a "fundamentalist" depending on your religion and be completely and resolutely and militantly pro-choice."

Rabid antiabortion Jews and Hindus do appear to be few in number. The The religious segments of the Antiabortion Movement appear largely to be Fundamentalist Protestants, Papally obedient Catholics and, in the Middle East, Muslims.

Ethiopian_Infidel said...

Ibn Warraq, a former Muslim and now a fierce and formidable critic of Islam, has an insightful commentary on the root cause of the Fort Hood Massacre:

Shady_Grady said...

Among the religious people, there is massive disagreement over abortion. The voting records reflect that.

Given that there are multiple religious divisions among Protestants, just because one group calls itself (or is called)"fundamentalist" doesn't tell you very much.

Muslims largely haven't taken a group position one way or the other. Even fervent Catholics are divided. Wiccans and Pagans have different values as well.