The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Old Dogs, New Tricks

Very mixed emotions this morning. Last year Tananarive and I tried to pitch a show about a married pair of spies called LONE WOLVES. We got shot out of the water when J.J. Abrams sold his own series along a similar theme. Disappointment, for sure. Now, this:;

And it seems that he's cast black leads. This is probably a bad idea for him, but I love the sentiment. There have been so few successful dramatic shows with non-white leads that I'm surprised anyone still tries. But that is probably my cynicism talking there--Abrams is willing to put his weight behind this: sexy young black leads in a dramatic action show? Radical. I mean...they're not fat, or old, or passive...none of the neutering techniques that have been used in the past to try to make blacks more acceptable and non-threatening. I don't want to bet against its success, I really don't. It pisses me off that the average person, confronted with the statistics, will try to blame "Hollywood" for the problem. As I said a couple days back, my horrible suspicion is that whites will be slightly disconnected from the show--from directors to writers to audiences, that they won't have the level of investment that made "Alias" such incredible fun. And the quality will suffer. Is there enough black talent behind the camera to fill in that gap? I doubt it, because they can't just be "good"--they have to be great to create a series that can get enough ratings (read: white viewers) to thrive, or at least survive 2+ seasons. And as long as everyone thinks the problem is someone else's the elephant is still squatting in the living room. Keeping my fingers crossed. Would love to have a chance to pitch for them. And I'll be there on opening night.


And speaking of spies, 24 premiers in four nights! The seventh season was a redeemer after that awful season six. Let's see Jack kicking ass and keeping America safe by breaking Constitutional rights. Love it. But I hope they have a disclaimer stating that it is a fantasy, so members of our government won't use it as a guideline for interrogation techniques. That was totally disgusting, and damned near ruined my enjoyment of the show.


People are diving into deep "Avatar Depression" because their lives aren't as vivid as what they saw on the screen. The Vatacan is pissed that the movie promotes nature worship? Conservatives are pissed that it is anti-Corporate and anti-military? Liberals that it promotes the Divine White Male and his mighty penis? Wow. Now THAT is four-quadrant programming. I don't know what Cameron's got, but the man has MAD skills. I would purely love to have a conversation one day. Keeping my fingers crossed.


The 101 Program: Day Nine addresses Energy. You could do far, far worse than aiming your life at:

1) Maximizing your energy

2) Learning to use it as conservatively as possible, matching the curve of energy and attention to the task at hand. Being able to do this intuitively is a pretty decent definition of Mastery.

Without increasing energy, you cannot change entrenched behavior patterns. There are basically four major aspects to increasing energy, and they all interact:

1) Fitness. Ideal muscle/fat ratio. High aerobic endurance. Proper skeletal alignment. Grace of motion. Proper relaxation. All of this can be attained in a couple of hours a week. The payback is gigantic.

2) Rest. Over on Huffington Post, there is some kind of "sleep in" competition, where people are promising to get at least seven hours of sleep a night. This boggles my mind: never have I been able to survive on less than eight. I know people who do the 3-5 hours of sleep a night routine. Usually, their complexions are horrible, their bodies like bags of garbage. It seems to me that they are so disconnected from their own bodies that they can't feel that they are killing themselves. It is so incredibly sad.

Of course, some people legitimately have to work multiple jobs, so that between that and taking care of their families, they have no choice. To these, my heart genuinely extends. But whatever time you do have for sleep, aim at that time being as deep and restorative as possible. Who out there has trouble sleeping?

3) Food. Check your fuel. Personally, other than having adhered to Intermittent Fasting for two years now, my discipline sucks. I definitely could use some more work there, but get away with it because of I.F. and my exercise program. Get your furnace turned up high enough, and you can burn almost anything...even if it's not recommended. There are tons of different "diets" but the only thing you need to remember is that life eating plans work, and temporary changes do not. In general, eat today for how you want to feel tomorrow. Be conscious about the food you put in your mouth. An easy way: use your cell phone's camera and TAKE A PICTURE of everything you eat. Every morsel. Force yourself to be conscious. This one step will improve your diet--the problem is automatic eating. In general, as a very broad principle, eat:

3 parts Fresh Fruit and Vegetables to

2 parts complex carbs to

1 Part lean proteins

With very few fats salts or sugars. Note that the typical diet pretty much inverts this. Tinker with these percentages: for instance, reducing carbs if you are trying to lose weight. But most diet recommendations orbit this ratio more or less.

4) Focus. You have to have something to DO with the energy, or else why bother having it? And that energy can't be used against you. I've had people actually say that if they had more energy, their boss, husband, or wife would just expect more from them, so they'd rather be tired. Wow. That is incredibly childish and sad.

We must expect better from ourselves than that. Energy is the stuff of life. The reason you "can't teach an old dog new tricks" is that the old dog is exhausted. Get your energy up! There are always new and fascinating tricks to learn...


Pagan Topologist said...

I don't think this counts as "trouble sleeping" but I have never been able to sleep on a regular schedule. I am the child of an early rising father and a night-owl mother. I suspect these traits are genetic, and I sleep at different times, and for different amounts of time, on different days. But I sleep an average of 55-60 hours per week, so I do not feel sleep deprived.

Ethiopian_Infidel said...

"members of our government won't use it as a guideline for interrogation techniques"

I do recall seeing a scholarly YouTube vid that claimed GILTMO or Abu Graib "interrogators" were inspired by torture depictions in 24 and other snazzy media depictions. This is doubtless callous, but, in the immoral words of DS9's Garrik: "Farce I call it"! Consider: a nation whose Constitution prohibits "Cruel and Unusual Punishment" has consequently little torture "expertise" or "tradition". Thus when the Brass decides torture's necessary, those actually charged with performing "assisted interrogations" are utterly dumbfounded. Their solution: Prime Time!

Though gory, history and politics offer far better comedy than the best professional comics.

Kenneth said...

i've never needed more than 4.5-5.5 hours sleep per night, on average. and i'm in good shape and am healthy. i do meditate a lot though, but didn't start that till my late 20s. there have been times when i could fully function on less than two hours of sleep, but not for more than a few days at a time. and i rarely catch any sort of cold or flu either; less than once per year. this sort of runs in my family though.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

I really don't think a disclaimer on 24 is enough. IIRC, taking pleasure in seeing the bad guys tortured didn't used to be part of American popular culture.

What I want is a drama series set in a torture rehab unit.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

My sleep problem is hot flashes-- they wake me up. They're gradually becoming less frequent.

I wonder if people who force themselves to get by on less sleep than they need are more likely to talk about it than those who just don't need much sleep.

Anonymous said...

"What I want is a drama series set in a torture rehab unit"

Really? Do some reading about our guys who were captured in Vietnam and how they coped. Should satisfy that craving.

Anonymous said...

It's not cruel AND unusual if you do it to everyone...

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Nancy Lebovitz said...

Anonymous, I want people to be clearer about how very bad torture is for people rather than using it as a fun revenge fantasy.

Reluctant Lawyer said...

I have specifically boycotted torture-related shows and movies such as Dexter and the Saw moviess. Too much fantasy and in my mind contributing to the coarsening of American society. When I was in the Army, everyone knew that it was wrong and not to be done. Now, our leaders have discussed it as a legitimate policy.