The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Secret of Your Success

I love the way the "wiseLatina" comment has become such a lightning rod. People actually believe that judges of any kind don't bring their life experience to the bench? Or is it that only white males can be trusted not to filter reality with their personal perceptions? What an incredible joke. Human beings can be conscious of their prejudices, but to the degree that they claim that personal experience doesn't affect judgements, they are in denial big time. I guess those filters are all long as they all push in one straight, white, male, Christian, European direction.


Watched the firstEntrourageof the season. And yes, it is fun to watch Vince and the boys go through their growing pains--Vince, (for instance) can't be alone in that huge house of his. I'm not sure I'd like the show as much if I weren't in the business. All the insider jokes are just hysterical, and I'm sure I miss two-thirds of them. Dig the show, but yes, I notice that Lloyd,AriGold's personal assistant, is the only non-white on the show, the only Asian on HBO--and he is very very gay. And so it goes.


Michael Jackson's dermatologist has been all over the place talking about the skin color problem beingVitilago, not bleaching, and that Michael didn't want to be white.

Well, it's certainly possible, but I don't buy it.Bunchareasons.

1) Assume the doctor is telling the truth. Michael still made a decision to lighten the rest of his skin, rather than darken the patches. Saying that makeup to darken the skin would have made it impossible to performonstageis just a lie. Anyone who has seen a few Vegas shows knows that human skin can be colored in any way you want, and not stop a dancer from dancing.

2) So...he didn't want to be white. He only wanted to LOOK white? Is that the logic? I mean...the straight hair, the thinned nose, the thinned lips...actually, I could see a scenario where he decided to "get ahead of the curve" so to speak. If he was eventually going to go all white, then he figured that having white features would make him look less bizarre. Now...THAT'ssome foresight for you. But...having those white children and then claiming that they were biologically his. And lying about how much plastic surgery he'd had...if he didn't realize how transparent those lies were, he was living in a total fantasy world. And someone who lies and is deluded simply can't be trusted to be an honest witness to his own life.

3) The most interesting possibility to me is that he actually deliberately triggered the vitiligo some how. Does anyone out there know if this is even theoretically possible? It actually sounds like the plot of a fairly literary novel: black celebrity wants to be biggest in the world, doesn't believe he can get there with dark skin. Consults experts. Plot "A": a medical miracle, the deliberate triggering of an immune system disorder, with horrific consequences. Plot "B": this celebrity is one of the most evolved physical specimens on the planet, with body control most athletes could only dream of, in addition to phenomenal access to the deepest levels of his subconscious creative state. (If you disagree with my implications about Jackson's physical control, take a close look at the extended video for "Smooth Criminal." I swear to God, there are moments when his motion is as close to physically perfect as I have ever seen a human being achieve. FredAstairesaid he was the greatest dancer of his generation. To me, that implies yogic levels of control.) Anyway, can't you just see a scenario in which his sheer WILL to transform himself could create a breakdown in the specific mechanisms that controlMelanine? Hell, I could write that story in a weekend.

3) Women don't generally start out wanting to be anorexic. Or looking freakishly man-like after overdosing on growthhormons, testosterone, and weight lifting. It happens a day at a time, slowly losing touch with social norms, surrounding yourself with people who reinforce the distorted self-image. Jackson had enough money to isolate himself from anyone who tried to tell him he was taking the plastic surgery too far. He kept pushing and pushing...until he stopped looking human. Something was very, very wrong, and apparently not even his family could talk to him. My guess is that he dangled the possibility of a tour in front of them to shut them up. Again, looking at how far he ended up from reality, it's impossible for me to believe the things he said, or those who enabled him said. We know one thing about his dermatologist: he didn't make himself enough of an irritant for Jackson to ban him from the ranch. I would say that that makes him an untrustworthy witness, but that's just me.


One thing's for sure...the survivingJacksonsare undoubtedly practicing their asses off right now. Brother Michael's death has cleared the way for them to tour again, some sort of memorial event, maybe with Janet singing some of Micheal's parts. Would be a gigantic event, and Michael can't stand in the way any more. Watch for an announcement soon.


I was listening to the radio yesterday, and the talk show host was discussing marriage, and the difficulties of remaining together. He invited listeners to call in and share their stories. I think that's great, but I'd like a bit more specificity. To me, there are a thousand ways to get lost, and a dozen or so to reach your destination. If the point of a marriage is for both people, every day, to feel that they would renew their vows, and for that marriage to last (at a minimum) long enough to raise any children produced by that union...then I would want to speak only to those people who have been married at least 20 years, and are still happy. I would love for readers to

1) define what THEY think the definition of a successful marriage is.

2) Those who have one, please share the "secrets" of their success.


In other words: what is a good marriage? And how do you create and nurture one?


Marty S said...

Steve: I was with you all the way as to everybody filtering their judgments on the basis of their personal experience, up until the last sentence, when you showed your own bias. When Bush nominated conservative judges they were given just as hard a time by the left and for just as silly reasons. This is what I was complaining about in a prior post. The current mode we are in, in this country, is that the other side is evil and is completely wrong on all issues. There is no middle ground and they have no reasonable points.

On the marriage question, my wife and I are happily married for forty-two years, but other than pick the right person to start with I'm not sure what advice I could give.

Daniel Keys Moran said...

The most interesting possibility to me is that he actually deliberately triggered the vitiligo

Not possible as far as I know, and I have it. It's just on my hands at this point, and has been there for about ten years. They don't quite know what causes it, either, though people with thyroid problems are prone to it. While I don't have thyroid problems, yet, my mother has had them most of my adult life.

It's had a very minor impact on my life, but it's only on my hands. I imagine I'd feel differently if different colored patches started showing up on my face.

film feminista said...

Regarding Michael
I have to say that I didnt clue in on the vitiligo issue until much later although I know he announced it to the press.
Sounded like a lie to me.
I just thought he was brainwashed and warped from living in this country and had very low self-esteem and craved acceptance. SO- he did everything in his power to change his race- which pissed me off at the time, but like most african-americans I forgave him eventually (kinda sorta) because he could sing his a** off... you know, I think I cried when he married Lisa Marie, and I gave away my thriller doll the same week.
These past few weeks I have re-evaluated why I was so willing to excuse and overlook someone that vehemently strived to obliterate any resemblance to his family, and heritage.
Answer? he was my hero- as misguided and confused and wrecked as he was. - thats ridiculous isnt it?


Anonymous said...

Take a look here:

Christian H. said...

If MJ was yogic in his movements, I've transcended human possibility.

I guess the difference is that I won't kick anyone in the head with my moves on the dance floor.

If only I could practice the same moves over and over again for a living.

I guess you hit one of MY major problems right on the head. Michael Jackson could'nt dance. Without Michael Peters moves no one would know who MJ was. All of those moves MPs not MJs.

That's why Jermaine was "jealous" for a while because anyone who gets the Stamp of approval and the resources will blow up.(look at the CRAPSHITFART that is hip hop)

As far as him trying to be white, I couldn't care less. I don't trust any rich man that doesn't have a trainer. Entertainers especially.

Steve Perry said...

Good marriage? Helps if you realize that it takes work, and that can't ever take it for granted. You won't always agree -- and on some things, you won't ever agree -- but keeping your heart open staying willing to listen is essential.

From the vantage point of forty-two years married, last November.

I've always liked the last section on Marriage from Kahlil Gibran's masterwork, The Prophet:

" ... But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together, yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow."

Kami said...

Married only 18 years, but we were together for five years before we married including living in the same digs, so does that count? Sorry, this is going to be long.

I think picking the right person is a huge part of it. We saw the people around us getting married for the dumbest reasons.

Hormones running amock and a decision not to have sex before marriage. (Marry to have sex? Um, noble, I guess, but then the guy started sleeping around and ... there should have been many additional reasons to marry.)

People who went for the person they felt the most intense about rather than who they trusted the most and could rely upon as their partner. (Abusive relationships are intense. Should the person therefore marry their abuser? Um ... personally my answer is no.)

People in a huge hurry to get married, before they really know who the other person is about, before the barriers have come down and all the warts have been revealed.

People getting married because they're in love. Love is great! But my husband and I decided that we didn't need the stamp of a government agency to work as a team. We would just be together. Then along came the Persian Gulf and I was pregnant--if something happened to him, he wanted his child and me to have the benefits. Other reasons could have come up--to act as spouses in medical situations, for example. But when it came time we looked at the pros and cons of getting married rather than deciding to run to a church because we were in love. We could be in love without the paperwork, thank you very much.

On the things we did do (as opposed to things we didn't do): we designed our oaths ourselves and took them seriously. We had no back-out clause or ideas of divorce should things 'not work out'. Yes, stuff happens but we knew that even if we had to separate (or legally divorce) that we wouldn't be free to cut off all ties and go our separate ways. Our oaths were our bond and a divorce wouldn't end that. If one needed something and called, the other would have to answer. When we put the oaths together everything was on the table--we discussed fidelity, property, kids, jobs ... it was as much as what we excluded from our oaths as what we included. Everything was all negotiable. We had to know each other really, really well and we had to trust that both of us had the discipline and determination to stick to our words. Neither of us made promises that would be difficult to keep or went against our nature. Personally, I don't think everyone is naturally monogamous, for example, and I think it's crazy to get tied up in a relationship that has expectations of monogamy knowing that about yourself!

We're honest with each other, but honest without being hurtful. It's not strictly honest to tell your spouse that they've gained a lot of weight and look like a pig, or that they should get off their butt and get a job. Having said that, we don't let each other get away with much. We know what we're capable of and what we can achieve both together and separately. We don't hold each other back or berate each other--we cheer each other on. Full support, all around, and lots of encouragement.

I think those are the most important elements. That, and like Steve P. mentioned, we had no illusions about getting along together 100% of the time. We knew marriage would be work. We recognized that we can be angry, disappointed or upset at each other and still be in love.

Oh, and normally I try not to generalize because there are so many exceptions, but I'm always appalled by people who treat their partners with disrespect, disregard and/or constant razor-edged sarcasm. If that kind of relationship has worked long-term without clearly being an abusive dynamic I'd be interested to hear about it. For me, it's a warning sign, as strong as physical abuse. Mutual respect, and a sense of being equals has been key to our relationship. We're not both good at the same things--we complement each other. But neither of us is less or more than the other.

Pagan Topologist said...

That is truly beautiful, Kami.

Unknown said...

Twenty-one years married. My theories are:

1) On choosing right: You can't catch ahead of time everything that will drive you crazy about the other person, but you can at least have in mind what your few biggest deal breakers are, look for the signs of those, and avoid them, no matter how sexy or exciting the person may otherwise be.

2) On choosing right: At the same time, there needs to be a balance of head and heart; the person you marry doesn't have to be the one you feel most intensely about, but should be someone you're actually enthusiastic about, not just someone you're settling for, no matter how many rational checkboxes the person you'd be settling for meets.

3) Both people have to be willing to work on the marriage. It takes two people to make a marriage work, and usually it takes two to make it fail, but in a pinch one will do for the latter. This means there's no real guarantee, when you marry, that you won't get divorced, because no one has absolute control over another person and how that other person will change. But there are still things that make it more likely or less likely that your marriage will work out.

4) You need to make time for each other and be willing to talk with each other, but at the same time,

5) It's also good not to be each other's whole life (I agree with Steve about the spaces in togetherness).

Unknown said...

OK, that last was me; I accidentally picked an old Google account instead of my current one.

Steven Barnes said...

Beautiful sentiments. Jeeze, I wish I saw more people talking about their relationships in such a fashion.
Marty S: what biases are you talking about? The sentence you seem to be referencing: "I guess those filters are all long as they all push in one straight, white, male, Christian, European direction.

This doesn't mean I'm against white straight male Christians, for goodness sake. It means that the majority of those who have held power in this country have been "white straight male Christians" and the natural human tendency is to assume that what YOU are is the "norm." Note "flesh colored" band-aids and crayons. So the only thing that pushes their buttons is when something is outside that "straight white Christian male" label. The things outside it (black, gay, non-Christian, female) are not better. Nor are they worse. But humans are hierarchical, and they tend to think that what they are is higher in the hierarchy. Hence my comments.

Marty S said...

Steve: The bias I was referring too was not against white male Christians, but in the implication I took from your phraseology that all the unfounded attacks come from the right and are against minorities. Hence my reference to how conservative nominees were treated by lefties in congress.

Unknown said...

1. I agree with the Latina quote. I have a huge stake in Sotomayor, she grew up in the projects next to ours.

2. marriage, my wife and i will reach our 9th anniversary in september.
I will write back in 11 years. lol!

Scott said...

"It means that the majority of those who have held power in this country have been "white straight male Christians" and the natural human tendency is to assume that what YOU are is the "norm." Note "flesh colored" band-aids and crayons."

That's a very amusing example. I'll grant you 'white'....

Robin said...

Just a few words on Michael Jackson. Born in the late 1950s when there was nothing politically correct going on, he was a product of those times, and more.

Driven by a family who were willing to make huge sacrifices to achieve success, he became successful at an early age; too early, I think. He was singled out from his family in the manner that often occurred in Motown. I think it was here that he lost touch with the stabilizing influences of his family, and his culture.

We are now learning that his addiction to prescription drugs began with that terrible accident back in the early 1980s while filming the Pepsi commercial. I had not realized the damage had been so extensive which began or, perhaps, accelerated the extensive cosmetic surgeries responsible for the ever changing "look" from that time onward.

I am not an African American, so I cannot speak to the Black Experience in this country. But, I think, it's safe to say that the America Michael Jackson was born in, with its dominant white culture, played a role in defining for him what success looked like and explains why he made some of the choices he made in later life.

He was a gifted artist whose body of work will have the last word when defining the complex man that he was.