The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Brad Bird: "Incredibles 2"?

So Brad Bird's next movie won't be "Incredibles 2" (sob). It's gonna be..."Mission Impossible 4." I have to admit to enjoying the way Tom Cruise switches around directors. And I still can't believe the way he re-invented himself as an action star. I've never, ever seen anyone do that after the age of 30. Makes me wonder just a bit if he really did get something powerful from Scientology. I mean...has anyone else ever seen someone SUDDENLY display the physical skills he did in "Mission Impossible 2"? Take a look at the behind-the-scenes stuff. He was doing acrobatic movements that just don't make sense without any previous skills. I really am a little boggled.

I actually asked a Scientologist about this, and the answer I got was kinda incomprehensible, something about "maybe he decided he wanted to try it." Ah...well, duh. The question is: why was he so good at it? Had he already had skills, but just never displayed them before? THAT seems bizarrely unlikely--stars tend to bring everything they have to the table. I just couldn't get an answer that I find satisfying. And maybe never will. But if I thought that Scientology had that secret, I'd go check out an e-meter tomorrow. But I don't think John Travolta or Kirstie Alley are gonna be turning backflips any time soon. So I just don't know what to think.
Anyone out there read "The Four Hour Work Week"? It was recommended to me by my coach, Andy Duncan. The entire thrust seems to be to get super-clear on the core values in your life, the things you would want most to do in a retirement, and then to do a "Travis McGee" and take your retirement in chunks, in-between short spurts of hyper-efficient work. Literally designing your life so that you are expending 10-20% of your previous time earning a living. Lots of mind-bending thoughts in the book, and they seem not just sane but some of them almost bafflingly brilliant. I have a sense that the author, Timothy Ferris, is much, and I mean MUCH smarter than the average bear, and wondered if anyone knows things about him that aren't available in Wikipedia. Anyone have an experience with Ferris or his philosophies to share?

BTW--the first step in his process is to get so indispensable to your job that you can negotiate working from home. He warns you not to try to work "4 hours a week" if other people can see what you are doing...
Good for the Hawaii birther bill, allowing state employees to refuse requests to see Obama's paperwork. Why in the world should taxpayer dollars reinforce this insanity? Just crazymakers--buy into their madness, and you'll just go down the drain with them. Yeesh.


Travis said...

I've read "4-hour work week" but don't know anything else about the guy. I enjoyed the book and found it to be a good unification of general theory and specific practical steps. From what I've seen of your work Steve I actually don't think you'll get as much out of it as the rest of us and that the biggest value for you would be seeing how someone else has come up with similiar approaches to problems. Not a dig on the book, normally I highly recommend it; it just seems like you do a lot of the things that he advocates.

etc @ said...

I've heard a lot about the 4-hour WORK WEEK and have been meaning to download it. I worry whether it will mean anything for me for two reasons:

1) I actually enjoy working more than 4hrs a week. I write 3 hours every weekday and I welcome that time to do my own thing like a flower welcomes the sun.

2) Most of my work is being a write-at-home mom. So I wonder if this advice even applies to me.

Anonymous said...

"Good for the Hawaii birther bill, allowing state employees to refuse requests to see Obama's paperwork. Why in the world should taxpayer dollars reinforce this insanity?"

For that matter, why in the world should state employees let Obama's enemies close enough to his original birth certificate to burn it?

Reluctant Lawyer said...

I've read the four hour work week and I really enjoyed it. Some of it I'd say would be applicable to everyone - getting more efficient with your work, realizing what tasks actually lead to revenue and concentrating on those tasks and customers... However, a lot of what Tim talks about isn't really applicable to being a writer - outsourcing and automating are 2 big key points. I'd still recommend reading it. Its a quick read and is very interesting. I've heard a dig on the revised version that it contained a lot of outsourced sections.

Anonymous said...

Also, speaking of the Birther movement, check this out:

Don't stop reading before you reach reason #3! ;)

Nancy Lebovitz said...

I saw a partial debunking of the 4-hour work week which claimed that Ferris needed to put in time on publicizing what he was doing which he wasn't counting into the 4 hours.

Even so, I bet most people could benefit from analyzing how their spending their time, and being willing to be drastic about what isn't contributing to their lives.

Outsourcing your routine chores to competent people isn't going to be available so cheap forever-- I believe worldwide trade and communications is making incomes more equal.

Angie said...

It's possible Cruise did have some level of physical skill he'd never shown before. If he'd never gotten a part which required it, then it might've just hung in the background as a hobby or the method he chose to keep in shape or whatever.

A sort of similar example which comes to mind is Meryl Streep -- I never knew she could sing, at all, and yet she did wonderfully in Mama Mia. I mean, I don't think she's going to turn into a pop princess any time soon, but she was definitely right for the lead role in a musical; while watching I never had the impression that they should've cast someone known as a singer instead. Being able to sing well is demonstrably a very marketable skill, especially for someone like Streep who already has the fame to be able to capitalize on it to the max, and yet she's never (that I've seen/heard) used it professionally before. Maybe it's the same with Cruise?


Anonymous said...

"stars tend to bring everything they have to the table."

First movie I ever saw Jason Statham in was Snatch. Then I saw The Transporter without seeing any trailers first...

Bennett said...

My guess on Cruise is that it isn't a case of X (Scientology) caused Y (Physical Skills), so much as that some factor Z caused both X and Y.

In his case, I'm guessing a relentless drive to succeed and overcome obstacles. From what I've heard in interviews, he got into Scientology because it helped him overcome dyslexia and other problems. I'd be willing to bet that if playing Boggle had the same benefit for him, he'd be a world champion Boggle player.

Likewise, he realized that physical skills made him more marketable (especially after his public persona has become perceived as more volatile and offbeat), so he pursued whatever means he had to in order to sharpen and develop those skills.

It's not the most normal thing in the world to suddenly get that good this late in the game, but then... Tom ain't exactly normal either. I'm willing to bet money that he's undertaken severe, borderline obsessive means to improve himself, and that it has cost him in other areas (I don't think 'balanced' is a word most would use to describe the guy).

It's possible for sure (obvious, since it has happened), but I don't think I'd want to try whatever it took.

Marty S said...

Okay, I can't resist replying. There are crazy people called birthers who keep bothering Hawaii for proof of Obama's citizenship[p. They have the right to do this, so we pass a law to take this right away from them. The people on the left cheer the law. Taking these rights away from crazies on the right doesn't make them worry about being stripped of their rights the next time they want information and a conservative government is in power. But, they are extremely concerned about the rights of people who try to blowup innocent Americans. It seems highly inconsistent to me. If you really care about rights you should care about everybody's rights whether you agree with them or not.

Angie said...

Marty S -- I disagree that millions of idiots have the right to waste taxpayers' money (even if it belongs to Hawaiian taxpayers, a group to which I do not belong) asking for the same information over and over and over. Repeated requests aren't going to get them any new information; it's just going to clog the government agencies they're pestering, leaving them unable to do the jobs they're being paid to do.

The proper authorities have examined the relevant documents and declared that our president is indeed our president. There you go, now let's get on with real issues and actual work which needs to be done.


Anonymous said...

Dear Marty S.

Actually, birthers *don't* have the right to demand Obama's birth certificate. Hawaii is one of many states that does *not* hold birth certificates as public record; instead, you have to prove your relationship and right.

That said, I agree this is more likely to feed the conspiracy fervor, and I highly doubt the resources invested in answering "10 to 20 emails a week" adds up to that expending in passing the law.

Travis said...

"Outsourcing your routine chores to competent people isn't going to be available so cheap forever-- I believe worldwide trade and communications is making incomes more equal."

Or maybe we are just in the early stage of directional shift such that we (the US) will be the outsourcees rather then the outsourcers.

Steven said...

I vaguely recall that Cruise was a gymnast or something, in his college years. You can see a bit of this in one of his earlier films, The Firm, where he does some minor acrobatics during a scene when they're first visiting the city. Probably that was to establish his athleticism, for the later scenes where he's running for his life.

I also remember reading that Cruise was/is really into free climbing, and that he did a climbing scene in either the first or second Mission Impossible movie. Not the big opening scene with insanely dangerous stuff, of course, but probably the scene near the end where he sneaks onto an island by climbing up a rock face from the water.

in fact at least one of the scenes in the first Mission Impossible, probably the one where he's sneaking onto the island at the end, climbing up a rock while wearing a wet suit, he d

Marty S said...

A right was taken away in Hawaii, because they wouldn't have needed to pass a law otherwise. On the issue of wasting taxpayer money those on the right would [point out that holding a civil trial in New York for the 9/11 terrorist versus having the relevant military authorities consider the relevant documents and decide the terrorist suspect's guilt is many times more expensive to New York then the proof of birth requests are to Hawaii. All of which is irrelevant in some ways to the point I was making. That point is this. Bertrand Russell had a set of conjugations describing human behavior. My favorite is

"I am obstinate.
You are stubborn.
He is a pigheaded fool."

currently both the left and the right are labeling the others "pigheaded fools" and are unwilling to consider that the other side may have some rational points worth considering.

Travis said...

"A right was taken away in Hawaii, because they wouldn't have needed to pass a law otherwise. "

Not really, it simply closes a loophole that required a response to EVERY request. The change in thelaw doesn't change who can get what information. there is no legitimate reason to require any agency to respond to multiple requests from the same person for the same info, that's just plain silly.

Marty S said...

I'm not alone in my point of view. Advocates for an open government oppose this law. Do you feel the same law is justified in relation to people who believe Bush lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and object to repeated requested information from the government on that subject. When a reporter doggedly pursues an issue till he gets results its called good reporting and he gets awards if the story is important enough.

suzanne said...

fer cryin' out loud,Marty!
the certificate of live birth is here

checked out by a reporter
I don't know what more rightie fringe folks want

Travis said...

I advocate for open government (though I don't think we, or anyanone for that matter, will ever truly get one). I don't opposse it. I absolutly believe the same law is justified for Bush.
Remember, we are talking about the SAME people asking the SAME thing over and over. Why do you think that's a good idea?

Travis said...

DO you really think it benefits anyone for people to keep asking the SAME questions over and over again?

Travis said...

What possible benefit is there to people having a 'right' to get the same question answered multiple times?

If I did that to someone at work they would probably call it 'harrasment'.

Travis said...


Steven Barnes said...

I'm one of those people who believe that the question has been answered repeatedly, to the satisfaction of any rational person. That the repeated requests are not investigative reporting but obsessive-compulsive behavior. There are people just as obsessed about 9/11, and if they made a specific request for information already provided, yes I'd say the government has the right to say "enough."

Steven Barnes said...

The "Four Hour Work Week" says that you work to take the amount of work you HAVE to do to keep the doors open down to about four hours. Not that you can't do more, but you don't have to. That seems pretty interesting. And Ferris has definitely taken aspects of this approach way beyond what I did--I never tried to reduce my work time so drastically. That won't work for writing (if you enjoy writing, as I do) but can apply to a supplemental income stream.

Marty S said...

Susan: I'm not claiming the birthers are right, just that any law which restricts people's right to request information sets a bad legal precedent no matter who it is aimed against.
Travis: This law makes about as much sense as the birthers its aimed against. If the Hawaiian government is at all efficient without the law it handles these email requests as follow. Click Reply, click attach, attach standard we don't do this response, click send. Now with the law enter copy email salutation, enter copied salutation into database program , program searches for match, no match found program records salutation and informs agent to respond, click reply,click attach, attach standard response,click send. If as indicated the articles I've read only 15% to 20% are repeats the new law requiring the second procedure will almost certainly cost the taxpayers more. Furthermore, if the repeated requests are meant as harassment then the harassers only need to change their salutations and the law will have accomplished nothing. So either the administrators who requested the law, or the lawmakers themselves are as foolish as the birthers or they passed this law as a political statement not to reduce expenses.

Steven Barnes said...

I figure Cruise must have had those physical skills, but for some odd reason, never displayed it. This still weirds me out.
1) Streep has displayed her singing before, say in "Death Becomes Her."
2) Singing is a FAR more common skill than the kind of gymnastic motion he displayed in "M.I.2"
3) I'm sure other actors have thought it would improve their marketability to have high physical skills. Never seen anyone re-create themselves in such a fashion past 40. Not one person. I'd love a long conversation with him.

Marty S said...

Steve: My problem is that once you grant the government the right not to reply to "irrational" requests for information, who determines what requests are rational and what requests are not. Would you really want Richard Nixon and his team making that decision.

Anonymous said...

Cruise was 21-ish when he learned a backflip for The Outsiders, so he had at least some acquantance with gymnastics.

Matt Damon was over 30 for the Bourne Identity, which seems like a somewhat comparable action-star reinvention.


suzanne said...

my name is NOT Susan
it's Suzanne
and tell me
you'd be perfectly ok
with me getting your birth certificate
and let's throw in
your medical records as well

he fracking released his birth documentation
that certificate from the Hawaian Dept of Statistics
is a true certificate of birth
it's what I used when I activated social security and got my medicare card.

I bet the same is also true
of many of the birthers
who say it isn't the real deal

Marty S said...

Suzanne Sorry about the slip on the name. I was thinking about what I was going to say not about what I was typing.

Travis said...

1) if you read the actual text of the law there is nothing about 'rational' but rather 'redundant'. It's just like in court, "asked and answered" is a valid objection. Doesn't mean the question isn't admissable, just that has already been done.

2)Ease of getting around the law doesn't mean the law is neccessarily a bad idea. Laws in and of themselves can notstop behaviour; if you put your mind to it you can get around almost any law.

Ethiopian_Infidel said...

"It's just like in court, "asked and answered" is a valid objection."

More completely, the motion to deny endless re-releases of records can be analogized and rationalized through reference to Double Jeopardy. Just as justice to the acquitted is protected by shielded them from groundless retrial, and justice for all is preserved by prevented the bar from being overburdened with retrial ad nauseum, so to endless requests for record reissue. Obama's birth certificate was released and his citizenship displayed in bold black ink for all to see. Enough!!!

Robin James Burchett said...

Steve, I've found Ferriss’ 4 Hour Work Week interesting and useful. It's filled with individually useful bits of information, and a lot of shameless self promotion by the author. As someone interested in selling books and other things, it's a useful model.

However - I would take anything he says with a grain of salt, since he explicitly advocates deception and pushing ethical boundaries as far a you can get away with. He's part of a long, proud tradition of making a quick buck by telling people they can get something for nothing.

Many little things make my bullshit sensors go off. For instance, he brags that his business "makes" $70,000 a month. But he never states whether this is gross or net. He's very careful about the language, misleading without technically lying.

I've actually done many of the things he advocates - I've worked part time for years and made time to travel & pursue interests beyond the walls of my cubical. If he inspires people to follow their passions and not unconsciously follow a career path, waiting for retirement to enjoy themselves, that's all to the good. The 'get some other sucker to do the work for you' part of his philosophy is less endearing, to me at least.

I'd be interested to hear your opinion of him after you've read his account of winning the Chinese national kickboxing championship.

A much better book on escaping the rat race and letting go of the 80% of things that don't bring you real joy is Your Money or Your Life, by Joe Dominguez. Practical, wise, and it would work fine if everyone on the planet thought that way. No one is left holding the bag.

Step one of that book: How much money has come into your life, and what do you have to show for it? That’s an eye opener!

Later steps include Respecting you life energy by maximizing income and minimizing spending. Good stuff. It occurs to me that it’s time to re-read it...

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