The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Naked Selfishness

One of the great unanswered questions of the universe: why is it that children can't wake up on school days, and won't stay in bed on weekends? FIVE FORTY FIVE this morning, Jason is crawling into our bed. Seems he turned his heater all the way up in his room, turning it into a sauna. We let him stay with us until his non-stop squirming threatened to trash the final cycle of my REM sleep (which was actually pretty deep last night, after several nights of lighter, more easily disturbed rest. Yuck. But I'm getting back into the groove.)
Tananarive got him situated in the living room, watching cartoons. I sank back into sleep. Began to dream about my first best friend, Howard Kokubun. A wonderful kid--talented, smart, athletic, a nice guy in every way. Died in a motorcycle accident right out of high school. Howard and I had grown apart by then, and I didn't find out about it until my tenth high school reunion. Somehow, I never got by to convey my regrets to his parents. Drive past his old house fairly often, but still...never went there.
And last night, for the first time, I dreamed that his mother was coming out of the house as I was walking by. I called to her. She turned to me, opened her mouth--

And Jason pulled my arm. "Daddy! Look at this hat!" Sigh. Got up later, and the little munchkin was grinning up at me, totally unaware of what he had done to trash sleep cycles and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for closure. "I love you," I said, ruffling his hair. "I really love you. And you have NO idea how lucky you are that that is true."
I've made it very clear that I consider Scott Sonnon the smartest guy I've ever met in the arena of the human body/mind. Also, that he gave me the missing piece I needed to connect the Hero's Journey and the Chakras into a living, dynamic model capable of conveying truth that cannot be put into words. Also, that we had a specific request on this blog that I point you guys toward his best work, especially where it relates to intense workouts and recovery therefrom. It is with these things in mind (drum flourish) that I tell you he's got a new iron in the fire, birthed from his work with the Israeli Special Forces. I spoke to him after returning, and he had a genuine epiphany over there, a spiritual moment that went WAY beyond athletic expression...but then, that's Scott. He has framed his breakthrough into a new program, and the first sample is absolutely FREE. Scott has never, ever let me down. If you are healthy, and in decent shape already, you want to check this out. In a world of internet frauds, Scott is the real thing.
Over on Facebook, a good friend was alarmed when I said "Don't trust people. Instead, rely upon them to do what they consider to be in their own self-interest. It's up to you to determine what that is." In other words, that you could trust people to the exact degree that you can trust yourself...because your ability to see through people's lies and self-deception will be in direct proportion to your own ability to tell yourself the truth about your life. I think my friend thought I was saying no one was trustworthy, or that selfishness is the only virtue. No, I am not Gordon Gekko (and speaking of GG, have you seen the coming attraction for the sequel to Wall Street, "Money Never Sleeps"? Looks HOT.)

What I'm saying is that we are all controlled by selfishness, yes. But that shallow people think that their interests are served by lying, stealing, cheating others. Sociopaths think that everyone is this way, and just pretending to be otherwise for the sake of a mask. But the deeper you go into the search for your true Self, the more this changes. You start with the concept of Long-Term Selfishness: you deal with people not just for the moment, but as if you wanted to keep dealing with them all your life. Honestly. Value for value. I try to treat anyone at least 1% better than they treat me. As you grow up, you begin to grasp that you need friends, and loving connections. And the only way to create them deeply is to open your heart. As you dig deeper, you begin to see that the divinity you find within yourself is the same as that in other human beings (the African "Num" concept: "the divinity living within me looks out also through your eyes." Or the Hindu "Namaste": "The divinity within me recognizes and acknowledges the divinity within you.") As I have matured, it becomes clear to me that the only motivation for behavior that will survive the actual stress of life is naked Self-interest. The love I give my son, the dollar I give a homeless man, the time I spend with friends, the sacrifice of energy or resources I give to my community...all of it, every bit is because I know that living in accordance with my deepest values is the only way I can feel right within my own skin. That the only way I can expect this world to work is to realize it is insane to expect it to work better than I myself do, on a day to day basis.

Long-term Selfishness, beyond the envelope of my own life. It was here before I was born, and I have cherished its fruits. I will do all in my power to leave it a better place than I found it. In that way, the final moments of my life will be their most peaceful, most satisfied. Every child I make smile is a gift to that boy within me. And he's pretty happy with me. Selfishness is great. As long as it's long-term.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Running with the right pack

Thank God for the dismantling of Don't Ask Don't Tell! I am shocked at the lameness of the counter-arguments. Let me get this right: at least a dozen times I have heard the exact same thing posted on websites, on talk radio, in casual conversations: would you want women showering with men?

And I assume sincerity on the part of the speaker, and it is disturbing as hell.'re saying that gay men make you feel like a woman? Is that right? Women have things to fear because they are on average smaller and weaker than men, and are outnumbered in the military. For there to be any equivalency here these straight men would have to fear they were smaller and weaker than gays, on the average, and therefore vulnerable to rape? But gays are probably less than 10% of the military they can't outnumber straight men, and that Fear of Rape thing would seem to go right out the window. I'm left with wondering if the men who say this are actually afraid that if they were in the showers with a gay man, they might find themselves having a physical response. What the hell?

Let me say this. If THAT is the best argument, it's horrible. I would be ashamed to call myself a "fighting man" afraid of being raped by other men whom I outnumbered, and were no stronger than I. I thought the stereotype was that gays were smaller, weaker, more effeminate. Now it would seem that the secret fear is that they are larger, stronger...and terribly attractive. This is just sick. Not exactly a Mighty Warrior attitude, now, is it?

I stopped being bothered by gay men being attracted to me when I realized, at about age 25, that they were attracted to most of the same characteristics women were attracted to. Just a complement, then.

Unless, of course, you're scared of responding in the showers. Man, that would be embarrassing, now, wouldn't it?


Who are your three closest friends? I heard a story recently that a famous speaker, a really excellent motivation guy, was on a program with Tony Robbins. Afterwards, they sat around talking until after midnight. This guy said: "I don't understand. I earned 1.5 million last year. You made almost 100 million. What am I doing wrong?"

Robbins didn't hesitate. Asked him "Who are your four closest friends?" The guy reeled them off. Robbins asked "How much money do they make?" The guy was stunned. All his friends made about the same amount of money.

Robbins said that his four closest friends were damn near billionaires. Oops. Now, before you suggest that this is materialistic, I want to quote something that one of Tananarive's Jewish friends' mothers told him. "You can fall in love with anyone. Why not someone Jewish?" Now let's paraphrase roughly: "you can be friends with all kinds of people. Why not people who are healthy and successful?"

Even if you have a problem with the idea of seeking out friends who have positive characteristics, at the very least you should be aware of two very real problems.

1) People surround themselves with those who reinforce their own prejudices, attitudes, and values. Can't count the number of lonely men and women who surround themselves with a pity-party of like-minded who will tell them "men are dogs" or "women are gold-diggers" or "there's no good X out there." Can't count the number of financially broken people who surround themselves with others who will reinforce their attitudes that "money is the root of all evil" or "it takes money to make money" or whatever. Unpublished or unsuccessful writers whose friends all agree that the publishing industry is run by monsters with low taste. Obese people who surround themselves with people even fatter than they are (makes them look slim! I kid you not.)

The "Mastermind" principle applies to so many arenas of life. Probably all of them, actually. Just two days ago, I was working with a client who wanted help raising his income from 270K. I don't know anything about his specific industry, but I don't have to. The principles of success are pretty much the same across the board. I asked: "who are three people you know in your industry who earn more than you?" He searched his memory, and found them. "What are they doing that you don't do?" This person is a type of counselor, and was instantly abashed: this is precisely what he advises his own clients. He'd forgotten it.

But, you might ask, if they are more successful than you, what can you offer them? Why not honest admiration, courageous feedback, genuine affection? If you love yourself, deeply, you can radiate this outwards to anyone. And why in the world are rich, successful, happy people in good relationships any less deserving of friendship than anyone else?

This is NOT to say I reject old friends who aren't playing the games I choose in life. One of my very best friends in all my life was Lee, a guy I went to kindergarten with. We had totally different levels of ambition and accomplishment. But Lee loved me, and I loved him. Period. We had rituals of seeing every new Bond movie. I taught his son jiu jitsu on Saturday mornings. He was a connection to an earlier, simpler time in my life. I miss him terribly...Lee smoked and had some other damaging habits, and died of cancer. Sigh.

You can keep your old friends. Celebrate them for their positive qualities, or for their connection to your heart. But why not deliberately seek out some of the wonderful people who are accomplished in the arenas where you need help? can cling to your wounds and allow them to define you. Want to know where you'll end up in life? Add up all the people you spend time with. Divide by the number of people.

You'll be right in the middle of the pack. At the very least, choose your pack consciously.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Non-Hollywood is Calling...

Here's an adaptation of the "Tabata" protocol to a workout circuit someone sent me. Looks kind of interesting.


I must be getting more popular, or something. I'm getting an increase in non-Hollywood people wanting to write and/or produce my books into screenplays and movies. No money or experience, but they have lots of enthusiasm. I try to be polite. Actually, I tell them to go ahead and write anything they want, so long as they don't represent themselves as having any legal rights to the project. Practice can be fun.


If corporations are people, should they be able to vote? And if they can, if I register a thousand corporations, does that mean I get a thousand votes? What fun we're going to have.


I came across this essay by a long-time Buddhist who said that after many many years of meditation, he was shattered to find out that his intellect wasn't the strongest arrow in his quiver. Considering the limitations of our minds, it would be nice if we could embrace this thought. It seems that those who are smart enough to have thought their way through much of their lives, and can see problems they see no solutions to, are among the most depressive human beings I've ever met. They really believe that the limit of the universe is the limit of their own perception and analytical capacity. No wonder things look hopeless.

The eighth step of the Hero's Journey is the "Leap of Faith." I feel terribly sorry for people who have not acquired this capacity. They operate on their own resources alone, and since we all know damned well that there are limits to our intelligence and energy, this can lead to a life of fear. And anger. Covered up with a smarmy false self-assurance, and a compulsive mastery of some small, trivial area of human endeavor. The trick is that the intellect can only crunch the data it is offered, and seems to work best in service to the ego. This is why it is so little use in helping us out of our genuine existential crises. After all, if we actually move through the leap of faith and transform our demons, we will move to the next level of our lives...and that is deadly to the ego.

What happens? Instead of leaping forward, we fall back and repeat old patterns that are comfortable to our sense of self. The trouble is that that is much like, as Puddochio (don't ask, if you're not an S. Clay Wilson fan) once said, "the second pressing of the grape." In other words, there is no creativity, no energy, no aliveness in covering the same territory. It is cutting the same grass. Chewing the same food again. And we begin to die. We all know people like this. I first noticed them about two years after graduating High School. Years after graduation, they have not changed at all. Playing the same games. Refusing to learn the lessons of life. Forming the same dysfunctional relationships, and still blaming life for their own actions.

Yesterday, in a conversation with one of my coaching clients, the subject of immature philosophy among MFA students arose. They have a lot of book larnin' and have heard they are supposed to represent life deeply in their work. But rather than actually examining the things they know in life, they try to prate wise about things they know little of. In other words, a ten year old can represent his own experience, if willing to tell the truth. Or he can tell wonderful stories that will inspire nine-year-olds. But the instant he tries to talk about being a teenager, he'd better have phenomenal insight, or his stuff will seem awfully flat. Imagine trying to write about post-puberty life if you've never had a wet dream.

And that's much the situation with people who hold frantically onto their belief that they "know" what's on the far side of their next natural life transformation. There is always fear and grief accompanying such change, but that's just the way it is. And the more you fight it, the greater the negative emotional load.

Three months ago I hit a wall, realizing that it would be lethal to continue defining myself as I had the last thirty years. It wasn't easy at all, but acceptance of the fact that I had mistaken a label for my Self was liberating.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Intelligence and Common Sense

"Here is a mental treatment guaranteed to cure every ill that flesh is heir to: sit for half an hour every night and mentally forgive everyone against whom you have any ill will or antipathy."
~Charles Fillmore

I think I hit some kind of wall yesterday. It was a coaching day, and I worked with four clients. And then recorded three sessions for the new Hero's Journey program. And was in the groove, man. I mean, I was in a loving, centered, powerful space the whole time. All day. And then...after Jason went to bed my mood crashed. I was irritable when it was time to play with my kid. Shook it off and put him down gently, and then did some research and by 9:30 that muddy mood was back. Took a dark turn by the time "Criminal Minds" came on, and I found myself rooting for the serial killer. Whoa. Where did THAT come from? By the time I went to bed I was fine, but that was one way strange little mental dip.


Jason and I do Tibetans every morning. A step at a time, I'm teaching him how to match the flow of his breathing to the task at hand, a core tenet of the I.D.E.A. concept. Spinning he loves, but if his mood isn't right, he develops a flood of imaginary aches and pains during the others. Everything else in the room seems fascinating. Wow! Exactly what happens when adults try to meditate! It's so revelatory to see the exact same things that devil adults operating in a child. All the self-limiting beliefs (I'm too young, too old, too small, too big, etc.) inability to focus attention, capacity for self-deception, all in the service of ego identity. We're going to get through this, I can feel it. In fact, his behavior has already improved at school...and I think a BIG part of it was Dan Moran's suggestion ("I love you forever.")

Can you see how critical it is to have a community of like-minded people, who have different strengths and experiences from you, on whom to call? This is CRITICAL. No one person has all the skills needed to make it through life. I definitely can use all the help I can get in raising a boy. Heck, my first wife Toni did much of the heavy lifting raising Nicki. My head was in writing books, making money. Sigh. This is quite an education, and I wouldn't have missed it for anything.


"From time to time you get a cubic inch of opportunity. Either you take it, grab it, or it is gone forever."

I forget where I first heard that. I know that my own "cubic inch" appeared when I asked that UCLA student to look at his life as a story he was writing, with a happy ending he just couldn't see yet. Somehow, this gave him the perspective necessary to devise his own answers to previously intractable problems. The second piece was asking "Who is the Hero in the Hero's Journey?" and using the yogic chakras to diagram a human being. Considered the HJ as the road walked between chakras. This unleashed a floodgate--thousands of stories from around the world all jelled in my mind. The countless hours I'd spent meditating or studying yogic disciplines all came to bear on my writing, and for the first time I glimpsed a sort of complete circle of the process of creating fiction.

And after years of using it, I realized that the same circle could be applied to life itself...and I grasped it, but could not teach a critical aspect of the process. There just weren't words. It was odd. I could communicate with Buddhist monks, or advanced martial artists or yogis, about some very esoteric things, but there was no way to talk to most of the people I tried to communicate with. I could conduct the light, but not teach people how to reach it themselves.

Then, Thank God, I met Scott Sonnon, and what he had devised in the Be Breathed exercise gave me an incredibly simple way to teach something that couldn't be taught. That is...if someone was willing to actually put the physical knowledge into their bodies, and willing to take responsibility for all three aspects of their lives, THEY BEGAN TO GET IT. They began to understand the connection between their behaviors and their results on a profoundly different level. But they had to DO IT, and they had to do it long enough to experience the full "Hero's Journey" cycle...weeks or months at least. But that was still phenomenal, because I don't know of any process lasting less than years that does the same thing. It isn't the full breakthrough, but it IS a vision of the path one must walk to reach it.

And I'm left with a sadness about all the people I know who have solidified their world view around things they can "understand." And are convinced that the box they live in is reality. I've watched them dying for decades, and if I love them, as I do, I have to let them go and deal with their lives in their own way. Their problem might well be understood in the following definition of the difference between intelligence and common sense:

Intelligence is the capacity to solve problems. Common sense is knowing which problems to solve.

What's your definition?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

On Mom's Weary Shoulders

I'm in the studio now, creating the new "Hero's Journey: Life Mastery for the 21st Century" course. It's been fascinating trying to "thread the needle," soliciting advice on the most important aspect of my teaching, combining that external input with my own instinct about the greatest contribution I can make at this point in my life. Sort of new territory thinking this way. I've always tried to be of service, but it was more indirect. My primary goal with my writing was to entertain and express myself, and hopefully do some good along the way. This is different: specifically culling the endless lectures, coaching, writing, blogging, etc. and seeing what people responded to the most. Looking at the 101 board and seeing which of the lessons hit hardest. And most importantly, which ones were most GENERATIVE. In other words, which ones enabled people to teach themselves? Each other?

That last is so critically important. I cannot be too emphatic about the need to share the external aspect of your journey with at least one other person. One person who will look at your plans and actions and give you feedback. This person should be at least as "'together" as you overall, and if possible, MORE successful than you in the critical arena where you most need improvement. If you need to improve your love life, associate with people in happy relationships. Improve your body, associate with people who have physical discipline and vibrancy. Improve your income, associate with people who make more money than you, doing something they love.

These people exist. If you cannot find them, the problem is you, not the world. For some reason you are wearing blinders, not letting yourself see the possibilities. Probably, this is because in order for you to change, you would have to give up deeply cherished beliefs, or forgive people who have wronged you, or face the lies you have used to protect you from your own folly. In other words, to protect yourself from ego-death. I'm warning you: you're going to dead-end if you do this. Your concept of self is so much smaller than who you really are. It is sleeping in a Procrustian bed, cutting off green shoots of new potential to fit an image you may have formed in childhood.

It is tragic to see it: people who have not changed in years or decades. They are the walking dead. Avoid them, or absorb their toxins, I kid you not.

And how can you recruit friends who have more than you? Offer them love, support, honest affection and the very best you have. The truth is that someone who gives 99% of what they are is fascinating to someone who only gives 80%--even if that 80% is of a bigger "loaf"--greater innate potential. If you actually put all you are, all you have, everything you've got into your life, the energy created is intoxicating to others. That level of engagement with life is hypnotic, and people love being around it, even if your results in the external world are not equivalent to theirs. Also, that person with greater understanding of money might need help with their physical. Or their relationships. Or with balance. You can find something to offer, sincerely.


Bless Dan Moran. What a terrific guy he is. He suggested the following phrase for use with Jason: "I will love you forever." I've tried it, and watched his eyes light up. Now I ask him, from several different directions, "How long will I love you?" And he enthusiastically answers: "forever and ever!" The last few days, his behavior has definitely improved in every way. I do believe that he was afraid we might take him back to the "baby store." How he got that notion I do not know or care. I just love the little guy so much.

Someone suggested, facetiously I hope, that more pain would "help" Jason snap out of this. That would be true if he can clearly see and feel the proper behavior--in other words, knows exactly what to do and is just too comfortable to do it. In that case, more pain (spanking, etc.) would move him in the direction of pleasure, so that he would be able to learn, on a neurological level, how to increase his pleasure in life.

Nice theory, and it works...IF he sees a clear path to improving his behavior, and thereby ending the pain and gaining pleasure. A nice positive spiral of self-possession, pride, and parental approval can follow. IF he sees the path.

But...what happens if (as I believe strongly) he is quite confused about that path? About his own emotions? Spanking then would throw him into a negative spiral of feeling helpless, hopeless, worthless, and panicked. Whatever fear he has of being "not enough" would intensify, leading to greater fear of abandonment ("if I'm not perfect, Daddy will not love me.") I see nothing good to come from that, and much, much that is bad.

This is the reason why clear goals and the plans for their accomplishment are so important. If you don't see the reward, if you don't see a clear path to that reward--even if the path is hard--you become paralyzed. It is like being in a burning house, surrounded by smoke. Better to just crouch in the closet and shiver. Without hope, we die just feet from the waterhole. We drown just feet from the shore. As long as we can see the goal, and believe it is possible to reach it, we can keep going through all kinds of hell.

The job of corporal punishment is to communicate directly with the nervous system. It works. The problem is that whatever the parent is feeling is communicated in the action. And parents are human. What parent out there hasn't felt that their lives would be easier if they had no children? Has not struggled to prevent our own fear and frustration from corrupting the flow of loving energy? Hit a child when you yourself are angry, fearful, resentful...and you are damaging that child's sense of self. Deeply. It's a delicate dance, and I understand why many people take the "you should never hit a child" attitude. I disagree with this, but can tell you, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that the day Nicki gained enough logical facility that I could actually explain myself to her was one of the happiest days of my life. Until that point, if I saw her sticking a fork in a light socket, the easiest way to communicate to her was by giving her a little pain to prevent a larger, more damaging one.

But I had to be very, very careful that I myself was not angry when I did it. Completely wrong message. And that's the wrong message if the parent is healthy, but upset. What if the parent is damaged, as so many of us are? Do you have any idea how tempting it is to take out our feelings of helplessness on someone who is more helpless than we? How tempting it is to feel powerful by manipulating and controlling the powerless? This is one of the core sicknesses of humanity. And knowing that, it is better to side with the "don't hit" people whenever possible. I've never met a human being who didn't lie to themselves about their motivations, who had processed all of their negative emotions, who could stay totally in the moment, every moment, all the time.

And our children are so precious, and so vulnerable. Love us so much, and so desperately. Whether we deserve it or not. They are an opportunity to experience pure love, the closest thing to a spiritual experience many of us ever have. The potential to corrupt that with pain and use our children as a dumping ground for our own frustrations and simply too great.

I remember my own mother's terrible frustrations, her sense that having children...and dark-skinned children at that (she was pretty much a Quadroon) had screwed her life up. And said it to our faces. By some miracle, by the age of ten I had already realized that there was a difference between the signal and the noise, and didn't take it personally when she cursed at us in a rage, or beat us. She couldn't help herself. She was doing the best she could.

I can do better. And I will. Period. I love my mother, and have the obligation to stand upon her shoulders, weary as they may have been, and see further than she could.

And what I see is love.

Monday, January 25, 2010


I was accused of thinking I'm enlightened recently, and I wanted to clarify a couple of terms that I use. Remember that my definitions might not be exactly what some particular teacher uses, and that's fine. The terms are Adult, Awake, and Enlightened.

Adult: a person who takes complete responsibility for their emotions and actions. To be recognized as a "successful" "Adult," it would be nice to make enough money to support yourself and two other people. Preferably, own your own home.

Awake: a person aware that their actions and perceptions are creating their reality. They may not have control of the "machine language" of genetically or socially encoded survival/tribal memes that determine behavior, but they are aware it is powerfully influencing them. It is totally possible to be brilliantly intelligent and Asleep. Science fiction conventions have a high percentage of such people, for instance. The trick is that your conscious mind can only crunch the data it receives. And it is only likely to crunch the data to which it has assigned positive emotional significance, or at the very least, to which there is NOT negative significance. This helps to explain why so many brilliant people are broke, lonely, and have garbage pails for bodies. They think their behavior is determined by logic, where in reality their behavior is determined by emotion, and it is simply too painful to look at the truth--so their intellect is basically kept busy re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic. This is tragic: I know many, many people who are FAR smarter than me who simply cannot make their lives work because they are, in the words of the old parable, searching where the light is, rather than where they dropped their keys.

Enlightenment. Understand something, please: I'm not enlightened, and know this. What I am is intermittently or restlessly "Awake." But in my moments of "Awakeness" I can clearly recognize those further along the path than I. And have also encountered a few beings of such clarity that they were not functioning totally on our level of reality (believe as much of that as you care to: what you think of me is really none of my business). And the consensus of these teachers and awake, aware individuals, throughout time and across cultural lines, has a remarkable parallax. And what they say corresponds with what I glimpse in my very clearest, focused, out-of-my-own-bullshit moments. And it is this: Enlightenment is a non-dualistic (not THIS, not THAT. And yes, I'm perfectly aware of the paradox of saying that a non-dualistic state is other than something else. Limitations of language, people), sustained state of egoless perception. The Awake "glimpse" this truth and can visit there in their best moments. The Enlightened LIVE there and can visit back with us if they choose. It is the state of awareness that ordinarily is available at the moment of death. The Awake attempt to enter this state before death, hence the Sufi expression to "die before you die."

What most people refer to as "Enlightenment" is really only being Awake. Most people who claim to want "Enlightenment" would be terrified if it actually approached. Moses cannot enter the promised land. The ego that wishes "Enlightenment" cannot have it. Cannot survive it. So it will side-track most seekers into philosophical and spiritual paths that create positive behaviors, good feelings, "psychic" sensations, suddhis (powers that accompany spiritual growth) and so forth. This is all well and good, and is the most most people really want.

This is as close as I can come linguistically. It is possible to take a student closer to the edge through various programmed experiences, but the aspirant must generally choose to step across the line herself. On the other hand, it is possible to begin certain spiritual/psychological processes that unravel the ego cocoon you've been weaving since birth. If done in balance, the experience is glorious, an unfolding of meaning, and a revelation of the secret of life. If done out of balance, it is absolutely terrifying, and people who die in fear experience this.

My greatest goal at this point of my life is to have a good death. That requires that I live a certain way, and give the "silk" that composes my ego cocoon back to the world. It is truly a Thousand-Mile Road, and DAMN it is fascinating.

Hope that clears things up. I stand by it, and if it sounds like bullshit, cool--this path most definitely is not for you. I hope you find your own Way, I really do. I've found mine, and it is an incredible sense to be on the downside of the "Gathering" hill. To know I have all the theoretical data I need, and that life itself will lead me the rest of the way. What a feeling.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Tooth Fairy (2010)

I actually liked this movie. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson plays a hockey player nicknamed "The Tooth Fairy." Ashley Judd plays his girlfriend, who has a couple of adorable kids Dwayne must charm to win her. The problem is that he is sour and egotistical, so the obvious arc is finding a way to open his heart. Dwayne makes the mistake of telling Judd's daughter that there is no Tooth Fairy (his own nickname...'cause he slams opponents and knocks out their...well, you get it.) And this brings him to the attention of the head Fairy herself, played impeccably by Julie Andrews. As punishment for robbing children of their fantasies, he is sentenced to two weeks of being an actual tooth fairy. And then, as they say, the fun begins.
The truth is that no, I didn't find it offensive in the slightest to see Johnson prancing around in tights. Possibly because he looks so damned good in them. Partially because I am so aware of the delicate dance Hollywood has to do in certain cultural ways, and can appreciate the fancy footwork necessary to make someone like Johnson non-threatening. He is so utterly masculine that the joke isn't on him at all. I could sit back, munch popcorn, and watch the familiar Disney-style beats unfold. Cute kids, check. Animal jokes, check. Change of heart, check. Family-friendly sensuality, check. Kid who needs a father, check. Rousing sports scene with magical tinge, check. Finding out where Mary Poppins retired, check. Closing scene with large audience applauding, check.
And check your brain at the door. And borrow a six year old to watch it with. I had a great time.
Wish that footwork wasn't necessary, but since it is, I could do worse than this. I give it a solid "B."

Friday, January 22, 2010

RIP Air America

One of the fitness "Holy Grails" I've sought for years is a workout routine that requires no intense, little time, is intense, works the abdominal girdle AND the aerobic energy systems. Lately, the CST crowd has been playing around with some very interesting ideas in this arena. While traditional aerobics requires a minimum of about twenty minutes, Tabata-style work can get it done in half the time. In fact, five minutes of real wind-sprints will make your whole body sizzle for HOURS. This, by the way, is a secret to how weight-challenged people can "work out" for hours a week and get little result: they do long slow aerobic work that burns few calories and doesn't change their set-point.

At any rate, there is a new bodyweight routine from CST Coaches Ryan Murdoch and Adam Steer that targets the abs AND fat burning, which means it will kick your butt. You can actually check it out for free at:

Called "Kevlar Core", I performed it yesterday, and woke up this morning as the finisher to an intense three sets of "Kettlebell Pukers" (I'll explain that in a bit) wondering what the heck I was thinking. Yow. Strong stuff.


Everyone who has followed this blog knows that I love experimenting with my mind and body. It's part of what has kept me fascinated for all these years--mixing it up and seeing what happens. Well, I was researching some years back, and came across the concept of the Clean and Jerk as a "total" exercise--it works everything as a unit, and produces tremendous athleticism. This movement with kettlebells done for reps is a hideously taxing aerobic drill. Do this with two kettlebells and you are taxing your core stabilization like you won't believe.

Well, I was trolling around Youtube a while back and came across the "Kettlebell Puker", an exercise that reduced a gnarly guy to jelly in only five or six reps. Basically it is a "Burpee" (down into a push-up, hop back to standing. In prison, guys often do a chin-up at the top. A body-building exercise in your pocket. Perfect for aspiring muggers. I digress). So this stalwart integrated a double kettlebell C&J at the top.

I tried it. Lord God, Billy-bob. It feels like nothing for the first couple of reps. Then...your systems "gets" the hideous joke you've played on it. And you really, deeply, truly, understand the reasoning behind the nomenclature. Three sets of this takes about five minutes, (with a minute rest between sets) and trashes your whole body. Doing "Kevlar Core" afterwards (the pushup aspect has already sent colonies of fire ants after your unsuspecting abs) is just adding insult to injury. Wow. Need me some Yoga. Soon.


Typed "The End" on the fourth Dream Park novel two days ago. Today I start making it real. I have to follow each character, individually, through the book and make certain that they are all true, that most of them have an arc, and that the environment they move through is sensorally vivid. Still working on the wonderful Buzzword. Great fun to have Larry working on one end while I'm working on the other--simultaneously.


Can anyone out there explain to me why considering Corporations human beings is good for real human beings? I'd be willing to do that under one condition: they must die in threescore and ten. I suppose that the Supreme Court's attitude is that "What's Good for General Bullmoose is good for the USA" (as L'il Abner used to say) but I think it's a gigantic step toward the Rollerball world. Which I think may be inevitable. I still don't like it, and can't quite figure why anyone would want to help it along.


I keep coming across people who see movies like "Tooth Fairy" and wonder what the hell is wrong with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. These are the same people who wonder what bug I have up my rear about Denzel's eunuch-hood. Or what in the world I'm talking about when I suggest that the SF field is no more racially enlightened than any other segment of humanity ("why, it must be that blacks and Asians just don't WANT to write SF!" Putzes.) Why can't people understand? The "Rock" CANNOT be a normal action hero. He cannot. Action heroes get the girl, and that will alienate the audience if the hero isn't the same color they are. I know people don't want to believe that this is a limiting factor for Jackie Chan, and Chow Yun-fat, and Will Smith, and Wesley. Don't believe it. All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for people of good will to pretend it doesn't exist. And the fact that if you accept and understand this it allows you to predict plot elements, or box office reception, before the film has been released means nothing. To tell the truth, I think this massive blind spot relates to a subterranean racism: in other words, we can admit that every group save "ours" has racial issues. Surely, surely not "us."

Yes. Us. Deal with it.


I'm hoping Nicki makes it down from Paso this weekend. Miss my girl, I really really do. Damn.


So...had a conference with Jason's teachers and the school psychologist yesterday. Was all ready to consider the psychologist a weenie who can't deal with an alpha kid. And he came in looking like a fullback. And we all agreed that Jason's behavior, at home and at school, is indicative of attention issues. He has too much energy for his level of control, and not enough awareness--he often still doesn't know when he has to go potty. So we're implementing a cluster of interventions, including a change in our attitudes, organized sports, and increasing his sense of security. Jason seems to think that having been adopted, we might one day take him back to the "baby store" if he isn't good. And that throws him into a negative spiral.

Dear God, I hope that nothing I have ever done or said gave him that impression. If so, I am going to reverse THAT right now. I love that boy so much. Waited my whole life to have a son. And he is healing me, I can feel it. We're going to deal with this. He did GREAT with his Tibetans this morning. And we play a game with the closing meditation where he has to remember the number of his breaths. If his attention wanders, he struggles to remember. If he can "Ommm" while simultaneously holding the number of the last breath, he can answer "what number?" without rolling his eyes and searching his memory.

Teaching him to stay calm, not get frustrated. Just sit with daddy, legs "criss-cross apple sauce" and holding my hands, gazing into my eyes. Breathing. Breathing.


RIP Air America. The individual liberal hosts are all over the radio, and now television, but the network finally went down in flames. To my knowledge, no one had tried anything like that: creating an ideologically-shaded network out of vapor. The usual way these things happen is that bunches of individuals get out there, and many of them fail, and a few succeed, and those create models of success for others. Air America seemed to want to shift the political landscape, and seemed from the beginning willing to fall on their swords: many of them were inexperienced broadcasters. I almost think they knew that the network would fail, but in the process uncover stars like Ed Schultz and Rachel Maddow. Interesting. I understand Fox News actually lost more money in the first operating years, but Air America's pockets weren't as deep. Watch for Conservative pundits screaming that it "proves" that liberal talkers don't work. Funny, but there are about ten times as many on the air now as there were a decade ago, when you couldn't find a single one. Looks like it served its purpose. Sure as hell glad I wasn't one of the investors, though.