The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Monday, May 31, 2010

Fifty Thoughts

Just back from my promotional tour. Whoa. Intense. Much, much more on it later. But today I saw someone had posted the following over on the 101 site (man, do I have catching up to do!)

Just learned about Regina Brett this morning from this video:

Then looked up her 50 lessons learned from life. I don't agree with them all, but it's strong, simple, material for me to think upon.

1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.
2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.
3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
4. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
5. Pay off your credit cards every month.
6. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.
8. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.
9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.
10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.
11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.
12. It's OK to let your children see you cry.
13. Don't compare your life to others'. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.
15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don't worry; God never blinks.
16. Life is too short for long pity parties. Get busy living, or get busy dying.
17. You can get through anything if you stay put in today.
18. A writer writes. If you want to be a writer, write.
19. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.
20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.
21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.
22. Overprepare, then go with the flow.
23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.
24. The most important sex organ is the brain.
25. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.
26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: "In five years, will this matter?"
27. Always choose life.
28. Forgive everyone everything.
29. What other people think of you is none of your business.
30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.
31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
32. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.
33. Believe in miracles.
34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do.
35. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.
36. Growing old beats the alternative - dying young.
37. Your children get only one childhood. Make it memorable.
38. Read the Psalms. They cover every human emotion.
39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.
40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.
41. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.
42. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.
43. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.
44. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
45. The best is yet to come.
46. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
47. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.
48. If you don't ask, you don't get.
49. Yield.
50. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Almost home! In Philly at the Art Sanctuary event honoring Nikki Giovanni, then home Sunday. Been two weeks...miss my own bed!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

On my way to St. Maartin for the Tom Joyner cruise. Just business, of course. It's a dirty job, but somebody has to do it.

The "From Cape Town With Love" Vook is now an app at the Apple Store! Yayyy! I've got my own app!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Watch Out for MegaPiranha!

I believe that Blair did his first television interview yesterday, so it's time to start monitoring the Amazon numbers on FROM CAPE TOWN WITH LOVE. Arrgh. Ah, the tension.
So another actress has come forward saying Roman Polanski raped her when she was 16 years old. This is one of the reasons it matters not a damn what the first girl says now about wanting the charges dropped. The only reason he didn't spend his time in jail is that he had the money and celebrity to flee. There are people doing far more time for less because they didn't have the cultural or financial resources. For him to sit in his chalet and manipulate the media into feeling sorry for the poor, persecuted multi-millionaire is just beyond sick. I understand "The Ghost Writer" is a terrific movie, and I look forward to seeing it. I also hope they drag him out of Switzerland and put him in the cell next to Phil Spector.
How many of you know what the next specific phase of your life would be? The next level of integration or accomplishment? If you know this, your goals become far easier to define, and defined goals with measured steps toward their accomplishment are EXACTLY what you need.
Mine? To completely replace my writing income, so that I can write just for the fun of it. To accomplish this, there is a huge list of skills I need to acquire, relating to the internet. I've noticed that the better I get at this, the more offers I get for my writing. Damn, that is irritating. Or fun. Not sure which. Anyone else noticed this?
My Ipad is really close to being a work machine. I've come up with a way to deal with the fact that there is no direct way to just move files on and off with real elegance. You have to email files to yourself, or upload to "Iworks." Someone needs to create a website where you can email files and they will forward your files to, say, Dropbox. There is some kind of mail utility to facilitate this, but it doesn't seem to work with Mac quite right. That's all right...I'm sure that there will be a dozen solutions within six weeks. We'll see.
All right. Bad Movie Alert. I took out a film called "MegaPiranha" because I was in the mood for an old-fashioned rotten Big Monster Movie. And boy, did I get my wish: cheesy effects, ludicrous plot, and actors who seemed as if Thesping caused them physical pain. But by the time you get to the end of this Thanksgiving bird, you'll be laughing with disbelief, watching Piranhas the size of tractor trailers leaping out of the water, biting buildings and EXPLODING. I kid you not. I was wiping tears of joy out of my eyes. Now THAT is a bad movie. Jo Bob says "check it out." '
p.s.--got a favorite giant monster bad movie?
Anyone catch Betty White on SNL? I rewatched it last night, and thought that this was one of the all-time classic episodes. I have NEVER seen SNL with their heart so on their sleeves. They LOVED Betty White. And the outpouring of affection was just infectious. What a terrific lady she must be!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

How to tell the difference between involvement and commitment. Think of ham and eggs. The chicken is involved. The pig is committed.

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.

Obama Birth Certificate Law: Hawaii Can Now Ignore Repetitive Requests

This is probably a good idea. These people are mentally disturbed. Nothing anyone can say will change their minds. Getting pulled into their delusion helps no one--not even them. Why expend taxpayer resources on insanity?
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Yoga, Flexibility, and Spirit

"How can you learn to trust the words again?"
A student asked. Believing that she is referring to trust damaged in her marriage, my answer is: "don't trust words. Trust actions. Behavior is truth. If/when actions and words come into alignment, then, very slowly, begin to trust words again."

There is no mistake in relationships to equal believing words that do not match behaviors. When Nicki was about three I used to hold her over the garbage disposal, threatening to put her in. She would giggle and laugh: "oh, Daddy!" My wife Toni, quite naturally, about what I was doing. It was all simple in my mind: I was teaching her to pay attention only to behaviors, never words.

Hey, my intentions were good...
A reader wrote the following in response to the article posted on the connections between physical and mental flexibility (lightly edited):

"I've had a few yoga teachers insinuate that I'm not physically flexible b/c of some spiritual or mental failing. I don't think you're doing that, since you're talking about loss flexibility, which I never had. But I would like to say that the flexibility mind-body connect doesn't really apply to all people. I actually have a fairly narrow pelvis. It makes me really not flexible. No amount of yoga will ever change that. I won't become more flexible over time or with practice -- this is the case with a lot of not flexible people.

I do however have an incredibly flexible mind. And I also think that doing yoga though I'm not flexible at all has given me a more flexible mind. Helped me keep my ego in check and also relax by doing something I'm just not very good at. I would hesitate to say that someone who is better at yoga is actually spiritually better than me.

I think yoga is a great practice, but I don't believe flexibility makes or breaks your spiritual nature."

This note is both correct, and quite wrong. I say this with confidence from working with hundreds of students who thought that they understood the limits of their flexibility. She (I'm assuming a feminine gender just for the sake of convenience) is correct to hesitate to believe that someone more flexible is more spiritually advanced. But I'd like to take a look at what seem to be some other assumptions or conceptions. Because I don't know this person, I am certain to be off base a bit, but the following general comments have proven accurate often enough for me to speak them aloud.

"I actually have a fairly narrow pelvis. It makes me really not flexible. No amount of yoga will ever change that. I won't become more flexible over time or with practice -- this is the case with a lot of not flexible people."

Not really true. While there are certainly anatomical and genetic limits to flexibility, damned few people ever find them. The primary limit to most people's flexibility is literally not knowing their body. "Sensory motor amnesia" that literally stops them from "turning off" their stretch reflex. The Golgi Tendon Organs try to protect you from destabilizing/damaging your body by limiting how much range of motion they give you. To turn them off means approaching the edge of a "cliff" more closely--a place where you could actually tear a muscle or risk injury. Your body doesn't trust that you are smart enough to know how far you can actually go, and creates a "safety zone" denying 10 or 20% (or more!) of your actual anatomical range of motion.

The only way I'd believe you have no more range of motion is if:
1) you are a perfect genius athletically, understanding exactly how to turn off and turn off each individual muscle fiber. That is beyond the range of Kung-Fu monks or advance yogis. Don't buy it.
2) you have perfect knowledge of physical alignment, such that it would be safe to go to your edge. Again, approaching the edge of biomechanical efficiency is possible. Reaching it probably is not.
3) you have no fear, grief, guilt, or other emotional pain stored in your body. I've met a few of what might be called "human superconductors" in this sense, but boy oh boy, are they rare. And they have bodies like Gumby.
4) You have perfect knowledge of the most advanced sports science techniques, as well as the most advanced yogic disciplines. Saying "I won't become more flexible over time or with practice -- this is the case with a lot of not flexible people." Is a belief system, based on frustration with your previous experiences.

Lots of things can influence flexibility, and a BIG chunk of them are purely in our minds--our bodies exist within our minds. "Yoga" isn't stretching exercises. It is a word extracted from a Sanskrit term meaning "to yoke" or "to join" and in the sage Patanjali's explorations of the subject, the "asana" or poses are only one of eight different major "limbs." Those poses without the inner understanding are no more "spiritual" than push-ups. A cheerleader thinking about her boyfriend with her legs pretzel'd behind her head is less of a yogi than Betty White bending three inches to the side with perfect concentration. It is the integrity of the body-mind connection, not the depth of pose that is "yoga." The depth of pose comes after creating proper alignment, which allows the body weight to rest on the skeletal structure supported by tendons and ligaments, not muscles. This creates a situation where your body COULD relax into greater flexibility without risk...but won't until and unless you learn to control your breathing, turning off the panic response.

Learning to control your panic when compressing breathing while tired, shaky, etc. demands a type of breathing that cannot be taught by lecture, or observation. What the thing IS is different from what it looks like, or sounds like.

Our bodies also adapt to our behaviors: sit in a chair all day, and your body will bind up, tighten, as if you are swathed in leather straps trying to help you stay erect in your chair. People who stop moving get tighter. Whatever behavior you repeat, it tries to make more efficient: including sitting still or laying down. So these bands of tension and thickened tendons have to be approached carefully. I have a favorite demonstration showing that almost anyone, ANATOMICALLY, can perform a full split. What stops you is not your body--it is your mind. I've done this with more people than I can count, always choosing someone who considers themselves totally inflexible. And the expression on their faces when they understand, finally, that they don't know their bodies at all is quite enlightening. If we ever meet, be sure to ask me to prove my point.
But what does all of this have to do with "spirituality"? Well...that's a mighty hard word to nail down, but shall we assume that when most people use the term they are describing a state in which there is more love, less ego, more sense of connection to the world, more actions in alignment with our deepest values, more acceptance of the transient nature of life, less fear, more action for long-term as opposed to short-term benefits, more "Self"-lessness? And that the road to such things, in almost all religions, disciplines and cultures involves discipline, focus, release of negative emotions, practicing "right action", compassion toward others, forgiveness, facing/dealing with fear of death, raising of "intrinsic energy" and so forth?

Well...all eight "limbs" of yoga approach these, with different measure. To progress in asana yoga, one must steady the mind under extreme stress. Learn how to calm panic and fear. Learn to forgive ourselves our limitations and failures. Discover our true natures through movement into previously alien inner environments. Pierce our ego shells (tough, regenerative little suckers, they are, too!), live in the question, rather than believing we have the answer. Love and fear compete for the same space in our hearts--decrease fear and that love flows amazingly. Any physical activity that goes into "second wind" can aid in this IF accompanied by the proper emotional work. Asana can be perfect for this.

In other words, hatha yoga, as a spiritual discipline, is actually better for "tight" than naturally flexible people. While someone more advanced in yoga isn't automatically more spiritual than a non-yogi, they are probably more spiritual than the same person before they took that path--assuming that they have even a cursory understanding of how to "ride" their breath "in-pose" and then apply that same breathing to other aspects of their lives. That assumes a lot, I know, but I'd be willing to stand by it. They have improved themselves--not necessarily become "better" than someone illusion, anyway.

But the most important thing is that this reader has a belief that could only be true if she has perfect knowledge of self. A more accurate comment would have been "I've tried many things, and many teachers, and none of them have helped. I know no way of increasing my present flexibility." That would have been true. Saying "I won't become more flexible over time or with practice -- this is the case with a lot of not flexible people" almost certainly is not. I'd put a hundred bucks on it.

Respect Me, Respect My Birth Control

What a loathsome thing to do. Best case scenario is still terrible, some kind of juvenile risk game. But even that is beneath contempt. I've certainly known of cases where women lied about being on the pill, or guys lied about having vasectomies, but this feels particularly ugly, manipulative, and invasive. While a law suit may be beyond the question, public shaming would seem an appropriate punishment. Let future partners understand what they are dealing with. Ugh.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Flexibility of Your Body Correlates With the Flexibility of Your Arteries

A fine article. But we DO know the cause of lost flexibility: free radical damage. Yoga is the best publicly-available discipline for health, hands down. But flexibility of body seems to also relate to flexibility of mind and emotions--the benefits are simply amazing. Health is not "fitness"--it is more primary, and relates to how we feel and function on the most basic level. "Fitness" is about performance. Health is how we live.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Capetown video

My Mac problems over the last weeks seems to have been caused by a bad hard drive, which Apple is replacing now. Back up, people. Carbonite works well.
I'm also experimenting with Drop Box. So far, no one has a program that enables you to put stuff on the IPad back INTO the Drop Box, which is a dynamite cross-platform storage utility. Put a file in on one computer, and it's automatically updated across all your other computers (if you have DP installed). Very, very nice, and another step into the Clouds.
So yesterday I get a film query about CHARISMA, and also DEVIL'S WAKE. This is amusing. I'm feeling just a tiny bit like Al Pacino in GODFATHER III. "Every time I try to get out, they pull me right back in!" What fun.
All right: here's the embed for CAPETOWN!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Psst! The "From Cape Town With Love" trailer is LIVE!!! Check THIS out. PooYAH!!

"Iron Man 2" (2010)

Seen the two-minute "coming attraction" for the "From Cape Town With Love" Vook/Webisodes. Thrilling. The sound isn't all perfect, and some of the editing is still in progress. But it looks so much like a movie trailer it warms my heart. And saddens me, just a bit. There hasn't been a movie like this in something close to forty years. International scope, sex and/or romance, male lead. What was the last one I can remember? "That Man Bolt" with Fred Williamson in 1973? "Shaft In Africa" in the same year? But it's difficult to find a single week in which such a film--with a white lead--is not playing in a theater near you. We are making novelizations of movies that no one has made. Coming attractions for films Hollywood believes America won't embrace.

What is the truth? I don't know. I have beliefs about it that are backed up with forty years of observation, streaming back to the only time in American history that blacks were actually portrayed as fully human--the late sixties/early 70's, when there was still niche marketing. Doesn't make me right. I would love to be wrong. How certain am I that I'm right? Almost as certain as my belief that men landed on the moon. That's pretty sad, don't you think?
Let's see. Over the last months, I've been putting together a coaching/information product business, and it's actually done pretty well. The biggest problem is one I should have anticipated: the more successful it became, the more my writing picked up. Never "slow" it's gotten absurd. In the last two weeks, we filmed the "Tennyson: Cape Town" vignettes, I sold a YA series about teenagers struggling to survive post-Zombie Apocalypse ("Devil's Wake"), and fielded an offer to write a short film dealing with violence against women. I spoke to the film-maker honestly, because I wanted her to understand exactly where I was coming from: While completely committed to protecting and empowering women, I am no feminist in the classic sense, and she needed to understand that: that my position is that testosterone is both elixir and poison, and that both men and women have been brainwashed into believing that men are in control of the game. She liked my perspective, and wants to work with me. I'll be damned. My most important point (I think): want to change men's behaviors? Show them that educating women, treating them with full humanity and respect is good for THEM. Not just "nice" or "evolved" but actually good for them. How the hell do you do that if they believe they will LOSE if women are more powerful in society? So long as they buy that, they'll fight like hell. Only if they understand (or believe) that what benefits women benefits all humanity will change occur. I want that for my daughter, my niece, and girl-children current and unborn. I also want to reduce my son's obligation to chase power to make himself more attractive to the most attractive females. I kinda like the sound of that world...but that's another matter.

How predictable was all this activity? Well, for years I've notices that when you don't have a job, you can't get one, until you've got one, and then job offers start falling out of the woodwork. Or if you don't have a boyfriend, you can't get one, until you've got one, and then suddenly the phone is ringing off the hook. What the hell is that? Anyone noticed this one? I think there are a few basic possibilities:
1) It's all coincidence. Doesn't really happen--just my brain seeking patterns.
2)My "left brain" answer: It's the fact that for you to change your luck, you have to take specific powerful actions over time. They begin to change the fabric of your relationships and actions. Lots of things start happening simultaneously, as if you are testing multiple lines, hooks and baits in different fishing holes. Hardly surprising if one gets multiple bites when he finally gets the combination right.
3) My favorite "right brain" answer (fits my metaphysical bent): In a cosmic sense, when we stop chasing after results, and just work harder and harder on going deeper and deeper into who we are, we become more "massive" in some psychic sense. One way you can tell when you are doing the right things is that the incidence of synchronicity increases. It is as if this increased "mass" "bends the space" around you, making you more of a gravitational "well" and attracting meteors and comets and the like. Well, not "attracting" exactly, but making it more difficult for passing bodies to escape our orbit. Sort of. I'm perfectly aware that this sounds very strange and airy-fairy, but I can't help it: half my brain works that way.
If I'm right about this, there is a very very good chance that "Cape Town" will actually get made into a film. HBO? DTV? Theatrical? No slightest idea. But we didn't wait for Hollywood. We didn't chase after it. Blair is tired of the Hollywood development process--for over ten years "My Soul To Keep" has been sitting at Fox Searchlight. Maybe the development is just normal "development hell." But it is notable that there has been nothing vaguely approaching an erotic thriller with black leads. TRUST me--there has been mucho conversation about the fact that NO ONE knows how to make it. There's never been anything like it before (unless you go back to the 70's in which case you have a Blaxploitation movie called "Abby." 1974. I was stupid enough to think that that was the beginning of something, not an isolated island), and I can't count the number of times we heard, about well...about almost anything Tananarive or I have written: "if the leads were only white..."

L.L. Cool J is signed to do an erotic thriller. Stuck in development as they try to figure out how to cast it: "well, we could make the female lead Hispanic..." And everyone, everywhere, blames someone else for this problem, or denies it exists at all...or tries to say it must exist because, well, you know, black people don't WANT to make movies like that. Arrrgh.

But I'm going out on a limb. I think that we have a chance. The economy is growing. The culture has shifted massively, and may well be ready. America is getting browner, thank God. And we went out and DID IT, took our fate in our hands. And as of right now, we have a very spiffy coming attraction for the type of movie that, if not for human tribalism, would be playing in theaters every week. We'll see what happens.
Coach Sonnon's "Mass Attack" add-on to "TacFit Commando" does something unique in muscle-building programs. Instead of increasing weight, you increase neurological complexity through four levels before adding additional resistance. A very cool idea. My body seems to like it better than most muscle-building routines. We'll see how it goes...and if it goes as well as I hope, I'm gonna beg Scott to release it to the public again.
Lena Horne died over the weekend. What an incredible, beautiful woman. Another star has risen to the heavens...
Saw "Iron Man 2" over the weekend. While not quite as good as the first, it has a couple of really interesting things going for it:
1) Mickey Roarke is just about the most believable "supervillain" I've ever seen. He played it just wonderfully. And villains make the movie. That's why I yawned at "Superman Returns"--more campy Lex Luthor? More Kryptonite? Oh, please.
2) The theme of fathers and sons was nicely interlaced through the film.
3) The slow integration of the different Marvel universes has begun. This is EXACTLY what they used to do in the comic books, and I just love it.
4) Scarlett Johansson's combat choreography is exquisite. Created by old training buddy Jeff Imada, it expresses a level of fluidity I've never seen in an American film, and is simply eye-bafflingly gorgeous and sexy. Woof.
5) Robert Downy Jr. and Gweneth Paltrow. They are just marvelous together. And when overlapping dialogue works, it works BIG time. Just wonderful.
6) Don Cheadle as War Machine. Thank you. My son thanks you. Images like these are important.
7) Sam Jackson as Nick Fury. I LOVED "S.H.I.E.L.D." comics, especially when Jim Steranko took over. Amazing. And while Jackson struggles to carry a film lead, he is one of the great guest stars of all time. Adds serious pepper.
Overall, a strong "B." My wife liked it even more.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Happy Mother's Day to all mothers, step-mothers, foster mothers, and all other women who make the world a warmer, more loving place for past, present, and future children. Bless you.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Michael Jackson, trapped in the box

Iron Man Day! Can't wait. Don't expect it to be as good as the first, but I bet it's fun. I'm playin' hookie this afternoon!
My IPad is just great. It isn't a full computer, but a computer is most certainly not an iPad. The portability factor is just a game-changer. The battery life is superb, the picture wonderful, the streaming Netflix app just...unreally cool. Now I need to figure out a way to get documents FROM its word processors back to the "cloud" efficiently. Someone will figure out a way to one-step a document from Pages, Documents-to-Go or whatever into Drop Box, the killer app that might replace Buzzword in my heart if I can just get a little more functionality and flexibility. This thing is NOT a "Big Ipod." An Ipod is a small iPad.
Got an email today from a Romanian gentleman who wanted my advice about coming to America. Wow. You know, one part of my head does the "Everyone loves their country and thinks its the best" while the other part does the "America really does rock" tango. I lean toward the belief that if you are running the right mental software, this country is the absolute bomb. The trouble is that most people are running buggy software...
I really do like that model of human behavior. From the time we're born, we are absorbing rules about what we are supposed to be. Very nearly tabula rosa, with only a few basic fears: falling and loud noises. A few basic emotions: fear, anger, love. Out of those basics, we develop a vast web of associations that informs our view of reality. The trouble is that these instructions pull us in odd and conflicting directions. We get it as groups: Women are taught to repress their drive, not be aggressive, to sacrifice their dreams for their families. Men are taught to repress their emotions, to not be yielding or graceful, to sacrifice their lives for their families. Blacks are taught not to dream of surpassing whites ("equality" is as good as it gets. A losing position), gays taught that their own sexual instincts are contrary to their spiritual growth.

We get it as individuals: We are taught to seek money, but simultaneously believe it is the root of all evil. To seek love, but taught that we cannot trust our hearts. To seek health, but taught to hide our emotions in our flesh. I watch people tearing each other apart every day. The "middle way" is incredibly hard.

Just within the last week, I've spoken to a man who was a multi-millionaire who lost it all and is trying to get back on the horse. It was difficult to figure out what might be wrong until I applied the simple body-career-relationship rubric, at which point it JUMPED out that he had been in a twenty-year relationship with a woman who was described in terms he might have used for a buddy. Then a three-year relationship with a woman who pursued him until his resistance dropped...but he never felt he really wanted it. And now, thinking about the future, he doesn't want to think about relationship until he has rebuilt his fortune.

Ah...a lightbulb went on. I saw him as a man without deep love for himself--and because he does not feel it for himself, he doesn't know to demand it in a relationship. Further, he was told (as many men are) that power will win him the right woman. The trouble of course is that that "right" woman is a partner but not a Soulmate. Hell, not even love. He set out on the road of his life to make his fortune, thinking it would make him happy. He did NOT get the emotional payoff he was promised, and destroyed the "bait" that was attracting the "wrong partners." Hitting bottom, he is clawing his way back up, but making the same mistakes again. He must BEGIN with the end in mind. Must START by finding the warm and loving emotions. Then he can build his life around that emotion, rather than thinking "things" lead to feelings.

This is exactly the male version of the woman who, as a girl, was very sexually desirable, and attracted the wrong kinds of attention, and had her heart broken. She puts on weight, seeking (on an unconscious level) to decrease the lure of the "bait" hoping that someone will see her true essence, love her for who she "really is." Without realizing that she has embraced her weakness instead of her strength. Both these patterns are very familiar.

I dated a girl once who was a little heavy, and a little distant emotionally. I was willing to deal with it, because I thought that she was giving what she had. Then one day I watched her caring for her pets. And there, in front of me, was all the love, tenderness and softness that she had never shared with me. I backed away. Years later, she is married, still gives scads of energy to her animals, and ballooned to over a hundred pounds overweight. She said that she didn't really notice it. Recently, she lost a good deal of the weight, but then regained it, and was complaining about all the horrid, grueling work it will take to lose it. This is fascinating, because she works like a field hand to care for her animals. It does NOT take gigantic work to lose weight. It takes intelligent effort applied with consistency. You have to actually process the negative emotions--and THIS is what people can't handle.

For the animals she loves, no effort is too much. For her own body...which she feels has betrayed her, which earlier in her life brought the wrong kinds of engagement is small enough. She's a time bomb. Unless she processes the pain, she will die young, and I have no taste for lying to her about that. Doubtless, she will surround herself with other damaged people who won't call her on this, who buy into her lies about how busy she is, without pointing out that she created the busy-ness. In fact, she needs it to keep herself from growing silent enough to hear her own screams. It is a shame--she really does have a lovable, sweet side.

So much of this stuff relates to self-love. The rest relates to survival. If you combine the drive to love with the drive to survive, you will make choices which both nurture your heart and increase your power and security. That is a powerful combination, and will lead you to any level of growth you desire. Few will take that path.
Heard a Michael Jackson story. While shooting the "'Cape Town" video with Blair, met a lady whose husband was a musician on the "Thriller" tour. She gained a great deal of weight in her 20's--relationship pain, not wanting to be a threat to her female friends...the usual. She finally decided to wrestle with the problem, sought counseling, exercised and changed her eating patterns...and lost 100 pounds in about a year. She attended a recording session for "Thriller." Quincy Jones was there, and didn't recognize her. No one did, and she panicked a bit and left the session. But Micheal recognized her, and followed her into the hall, where she was holding back tears. She didn't know he'd followed her out until she heard a soft voice in her ear: "whatever you did to lose the weight...apply that to everything else in your life."

She has guided her life by that advice ever since. Beautiful advice. I wish he'd had someone as smart and evolved as himself to advise him. The instructions on how to get out of the box are written on the outside of the box.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

MIranda and human rights

In speaking of the Times Square bomber yesterday, the question of Mirandizing came up, and in a very reasonable series of responses, Frank suggested that this right should be extended to Americans. It was also pointed out that this was difficult in a battlefield situation, and I have to agree. But I got the sense that part of the potential disagreement comes from some core difference of pre-assumption. While my opinions about these things are only my own, I felt it might be useful to make them explicit.
1) That the basic human rights given to Americans are given not as a gift, but because they are "self evident" and intrinsic. Law is not granting privilege, but rather acknowledging the true nature of man. Attempting to guide us toward spiritual and social growth by discouraging the natural human instinct to deprive rights and tear the flesh of those who frighten us. These are not rights to be "given" to Americans but not to others.
2) The best way to protect our country is to protect the core principles that make it such an incredible, wonderful dream. An ideal of freedom and possibility that arises from human aspirations going back to the beginning of time. The idea that the maturation or humanity of a society is displayed best by the way it treats those powerless in its grasp. Again, this is not about the lives and comfort of the "enemy"--it is about the disposition of our own souls. If one takes the position that the spiritual reality has nothing to do with this--we care only about survival, then the discussion must be whether coercive tactics, or lack of Mirandizing, best contributes to that survival. A perfectly valid conversation.
3) My belief is that coercive tactics do NOT make us safer. That Mirandizing DOES. My logic works like this: it is critical for us to find and punish the actual guilty people. Critical also that we protect the innocent. I notice in discussions like this that almost never do those in favor of harsh tactics (let's lump the Miranda conversation under this umbrella just for convenience) refer to "terrorism suspects." They refer instead to "terrorists" as if they have certain knowledge that that is what these people are. Excuse me? I thought that was what the legal process was about, the determination of guilt, and the decision of appropriate punishment.

Miranda, and the various prohibitions against torture, exist at least in part because we understand the human tendency to rush to judgement, to lynch based on "everybody knows the bastard's guilty!"
"he confessed!" when we know that there has probably never been a society where the police, under killer emotional stress, have not applied force to elicit false confessions. Where the insane have not confessed to crime they did not commit. Where false witness was not a tool of vengeance (why else would it be in the 10 Commandments?). Where honest mistakes are not made by, say, soldiers trained to kill and protect, NOT to be CSI or Profilers while figuring out who was shooting at them, and why.
"Extending" rights to people is probably technically accurate. My belief that the Founders considered these rights innate and unalienable can be debated, but I think it appropriate to make my case here explicit. Protecting the rights of strangers is protecting my own rights, and the rights of my family--knowing that to many, I am the "Other" and that arguments about taking my rights have been made, and not always behind closed doors. I won't go there.
4) So that would be my position. Those on the other side would seem to believe that:
a) Torture extracts more valid and valuable information than non-coersive means.
b) That human rights are granted by the state rather than intrinsic in our existence.
c) That granting a suspect a lawyer, and reminding them of their right not to self-incriminate weakens the legal system's ability to bring the guilty to justice.
All of these things are points I have heard made by sane, honorable people. They would seem to support a different POV on the human condition, the proper course of society, and the nature of reality than that I hold. That pesky thing I've noticed where people talk about "terrorists" rather than "terrorism suspects" bothers suggests a level of assumed omniscience in government employees...but is often given by people who, under other circumstances, seem to take the position that government can't be trusted to do anything right.

This really troubles me, and would seem to be double-speak. Perhaps (and I mean this sincerely) I am missing something. But it feels like it comes out of raw fear, and that primal urge to hurt those who frighten us, and a belief that "I know a bad guy when I see one." The typical police officer or soldier might be twice as moral and wise as the average citizen--and under the daily survival stress would STILL be capable of extraordinarily inhumane behavior. "Cry havoc and loose the dogs of war." Open those gates, and you unleash the most horrific potentials of the human psyche. This isn't about soldiers and cops being bad people. This is about them being human beings. I really, really, don't want to ask them to exhibit restraint or judgement that seems beyond the ability of human beings. I don't want to give men with guns the belief that they can determine who is guilty. Inevitably, soldiers and police must make such decisions: someone shoots at them, shoot back! Someone is running down the street carrying a gun and a sack of money, it's a bank robber! Or as Dirty Harry said "I see a naked man running after a woman, with a knife and a hard-on, I shoot the bastard." I get that, under stress, you have to make snap decisions. But when that instant stress diminishes, THAT is where we have to cool down, and make the very best judgment about guilt or innocence. Understanding in the process that we have to protect ourselves not merely from the "bad guys" but from the imperfections of our own minds and spirits.

This is difficult stuff. People who think differently from me on this are still good and decent people--and tend to be the kinds of folks who actually place themselves in peril to protect our country and community. No one who has ever read a single one of my books could hallucinate that I have anything but the highest respect for them. And yet...if human beings didn't cheat under pressure, didn't make mistakes to give "their team" advantage, we wouldn't have this odd thing called referees at every damn sporting event.

We're imperfect. We are afraid. We cheat for the home team. We believe our tribe is better, and that the "Other" isn't quite as human as we. Bad combinations under stress.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Talk to you tonight!

Lifewriting Talk tonight!

My wife Tananarive Due and I will discuss all aspects of the writing life. Bring your best questions!

Wed., May 5, 2010, 6:00 PM Pacific (Daylight Savings time)
To connect via phone: (724) 444-7444
Call ID: 77111

Registering an account at is optional, but encouraged (it helps me see people's name when they call in).
So the Times Square bomber is talking. Great. But I still have serious questions about why there has been so little terrorist activity since 9/11. The answer I will not accept is "they haven't tried" or "they don't want to." I mean, a single car bomb during the Christmas shopping season in 2001 could have been disastrous to the American economy. People were suggesting that Al Queda was biding its time, making us worry...which struck me as a bunch of crap said by people who couldn't admit that maybe, just maybe, the Bush administration had done something right.

What do I think is going on? A couple of different realities, working in concert.
1) Our geographical separation really does make a difference.
2) We really do have superb intelligence services. They have been playing havoc with terrorist networks behind the scenes. Our military has accomplished far more than it sometimes appears.
3) Al Queda had one big, nasty, terrific idea, something no one else had ever done--hijack planes and fly them into buildings as missiles. Because no one had ever done it, there was a gigantic perceptual hole that conspiracy theorists fill with vast plots demanding thousands of moving parts. My very favorite: that the World Trade Center was wired for demolition while tens of thousands of witnesses were traveling back and forth through it every day. And then, in addition, they rammed planes into them as well. And not only that, but no actual terrorists were on the planes. And no passengers, either...they were deplaned at secret bases in Montana, and...oh, I just can't keep a straight face.
4) Bin Laden is dead as Bozo's nuts. Has been for nine years. The idea that this guy on dialysis has been running around, hiding in caves, and hasn't aged a day in a decade is just hysterical. Now THAT is a fun plot to think about.
Looking forward to Iron Man. Especially to the dialogue between Downy Jr. and Paltrow, which was the highlight of #1.

Lifewriting Talk tonight!

My wife Tananarive Due and I will discuss all aspects of the writing life. Bring your best questions!

Wed., May 5, 2010, 6:00 PM Pacific (Daylight Savings time)
To connect via phone: (724) 444-7444
Call ID: 77111

Registering an account at is optional, but encouraged (it helps me see people's name when they call in).

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

"Clash of the Titans" (2010)

I absolutely want terror suspects Mirandized. And not to protect THEM, either. If they did it, I could care less about them. It's about me, and you, and the rest of America. To me, those legal strictures exist to protect the society in multiple ways:

1) It is critical that, under stress, the legal system not break down. Passions run high--war time is a perfect opportunity for power grabs. Start by revoking rights to suspects, and you can end by taking them from everyone.

2) It is critical that the right people be detained, prosecuted, and convicted. Our legal system takes the inevitability of human error into account. Especially error when the "Others" don't look quite like us. History suggests that torture chambers are easy to fill with people who "look" like the public expects the enemy to "look." If they are innocent, this not only allows the actual guilty parties to escape, but alienates the very community we need to cooperate with us in providing information about radicals.

3) Police and military are high-alpha, territorial, high-testosterone types. I love them, and am honored to count many such high-alphas among my friends and teachers. The potential downside of their protective instinct is that they are more comfortable with violence--and more prone to consider it a tool. People who complain about male violence are usually perfectly happy to call those same males to protect them. The capacity to protect and the capacity to harm are two sides of the same coin. We want to protect these very specialized individuals from the ugly side of their own instincts. When there is a class of "others" it becomes very very easy for human beings to justify violence, and that can be horribly corruptive in an already dangerous situation. I would not put the souls of our warriors at risk because the citizens they protect demand blood.

4) Having been a member of a less-valued class, I am very aware that violence has been used to coerce confession in America (and everywhere else.) And also aware that those who suggest rights should be limited are more likely to wish to limit mine, as well. I cannot side with those people--I am too aware of what they say about people like me, when I'm out of the room.

If I give authorities the right to grab suspects and treat them badly, I give them permission to do that to me, or my family. I will not do that.

5) I see no evidence that physical coercion produces a higher quality of intel than other forms. And much suggestion to the contrary. When we remove legal strictures, the human drive for revenge finds it easy to burble to the top. We can never, ever forget that the natural state of mankind seems to include stripping the flesh from those who frighten us. This very urge can compromise our attempts at security by poisoning the information stream, jailing or killing the wrong people, and creating enemies where we might have had allies.


In general, then, the granting of rights to enemy combatants is NOT about protecting the enemy. It is about protecting the very fabric of society itself. When we throw those protections aside, the terrorists win. Fear shuts down the forebrain, leaving the desire for revenge and the thirst for well as a grasping for power as the weak roll over and expose their bellies: "protect me!"

Nanny state, indeed.


I saw "Clash of the Titans" on Sunday. It wasn't bad. It also wasn't the 3D version, which I understand blew chunks. Now, "Titans" was never my favorite Ray Harryhausen film anyway. It was decent, but I had the sense that he was growing uncertain of his ability to maintain a level of quality, and chose to quit while he was ahead. The most beautiful thing in the film--the Pegasus--was actually done by Jim Danforth. At any rate, the level of acting was as high as the original, the effects were "better" but less artful (there is something about the creakiness of Harryhausen's work that is endearing. He was simply an absolute master, arguably the greatest FX man in the history of cinema.) Overall forgettable. The fact that you can put a team of technicians to work to create fabulous images doesn't make it worth doing. Really, nothing to see here. A "C"

Lifewriting Talk

Wed., May 5, 2010, 6:00 PM Pacific (Daylight Savings time)
To connect via phone: (724) 444-7444
Call ID: 77111

Registering an account at is optional, but encouraged (it helps me see people's name when they call in).

Internet connection is encouraged through Skype, or X-lite, etc. (No long distance charge, clearer sound.)

Tomorrow's topic--conscious writing. I do believe Tananarive will be my guest...

Lifewriting Talk!
Wed., May 5, 2010, 6:00 PM Pacific (Daylight Savings time)
To connect via phone: (724) 444-7444
Call ID: 77111

Registering an account at is optional, but encouraged (it helps me see people's name when they call in).

Internet connection is encouraged through Skype, or X-lite, etc. (No long distance charge, clearer sound.)

Monday, May 03, 2010

Charlie Kaufman Is A Humble Genius. 'Synecdoche' At Ebertfest

"Synecdoche" also deals with an artist who is endlessly, solipsistically self-referential, who postpones his entire life until he can understand it, or place it in perspective, or "get his mind around it." The folly of this--that even with infinite resources and a fantasy level of genius, the total comprehension of our reality is simply beyond the conscious mind. That life is to be lived, and art shared--not merely dissected or frozen for understanding. A brilliant movie, but guaranteed to irritate those who think they can understand themselves, or their lives, on a conscious level.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

The Streets Are Paved With Gold...stay home!

The following are ALL things I've heard:

When pointing out the imbalance of male and female Asian television news personel: "Maybe Asian males don't want to do television." (from white males and females)

The difference between male and female Asians in love scenes in American movies: "Maybe Asian males don't want to do love scenes." (from white males)

The lack of black SF authors and readers: "Maybe black people just aren't attracted to these ideas." (from a white female editor)

The poverty and degradation of black ghetto neighborhoods: "Maybe they just like living like that." (white males and females)

The lack of women in SF: "Maybe women just aren't attracted to technology." (white males)

The lack of women in technology and math: "Maybe women just aren't mentally suited to these disciplines" (white males)

The lack of women in politics: "Maybe women aren't interested in politics as much as men." (black and white males)

Lack of black male sexuality in film: "Maybe the actors don't want to do them." (White males, some females)

Lack of Y in regard to X. "Maybe the Y just don't like X" (Said by Z's)

If the presence of Y on the cover/poster of a comic book/book/film negatively affects box office: "that just isn't true." Or if it is true, a small group of executives/exhibiters/ promoters/ comic book store owners etc. are responsible. It could NOT be the public. Of course not.

Why said executives/exhibiters/ promoters/ owners/editors should be so different than "average" Americans is never explained.


Some of these things may have some truth to them. But here is the point: note that if the "other" performs poorly in some arena controlled (or influenced) by the speaker, the problem is never within the speaker's community. It is ALWAYS in the "other." "They" aren't as evolved, engaged, intelligent, curious, whatever. It is never because of economic or social pressure.

Note that black males side with white males if the issue is women's rights. White females side with white males if the issue is racial. The exact same logical formulations are used, just fill in the blanks. The most disappointing thing about my recent conversation with a prominent white female SF editor is that she said EXACTLY the same thing about blacks and Asians that white male editors said thirty years ago about women. When it is proven that members of group X do indeed want Y, "Z" response is to attempt to encapsulate the venom. It must be (some small group of editors. Publishers. Hollywood executives. Politicians. Liberal or Conservative investors. Etc.)

It simply can't be us. Why, I KNOW that I don't have a negative reaction to blacks/women/gays whatever. Of course not. In the same way that the average person is an above-average driver or lover. Of course.

If you want to know why the world is as it is, why our politics are what they are, you need look no further than the mirror.


Again: my core solution to illegal immigration: offer citizenship to any illegal who turns in employers to hire illegals. Make the State drivers' license your citizenship papers.

That should even out the pain a little.

Again, we own some responsibility here: for a century America has been saying "we're the best in the world. The streets are paved with gold." Animals migrate to where the goodies are. Human beings are animals. Nations are lines painted on maps, social fictions--they exist at the level of fifth or sixth Chakra (communication and concept) rather than the 1st-3rd Chakra (survival and power). Man oh man...this one is going to be a bitch kitty. I see no real way to deal with this other than to equalize the pleasure and/or misery on each side of the border.

NOTE: I am not, in ANY way, saying I like the situation. Or that I don't want America to have absolute choice in who we allow in. We have the exact same right to do that as any other nation. I always loathed it when Americans thought they could behave any way they want in Mexico. Clearly, there are some in the Anti-illegal crowd who are purely racist. And some in the pro-illegal crowd who would simply like to take America back.

What is necessary is a dialogue between those closer to the middle.

Apple iPad Sales Hit 1 Million, Outdoing First iPhone

The Ipad is not perfect. It is, however, the future. A window into cloud-based computing and storage, using fingertips, it is simple enough for my six-year old, and I've already done thousands of words of serious word processing using an old bluetooth keyboard. Just a beautiful device, and the best thing is that everyone ELSE'S tablet computer will have to be better not to fail disastrously. It is a game-changer. It is also huge fun.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Sandra Bullock: 'It Was Important To Adopt From The U.S.'

The expense and energy many have expended to adopt children from overseas, when so many need mommys and/or daddys right here...I have seen beautiful results of such overseas adoptions, but can never forget the domestic orphans and children in need. My son was adopted from Florida, and the experience has been wonderful. While each adoptive parent must do what they consider closest to their heart, I beg you to consider a charity that begins at home. But whatever decision is made, just give your whole heart to that child...and automatically, the world becomes a better place.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost