The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Friday, April 30, 2010

Poll: A Third Say Pets Listen Better Than Husbands

If your pet is more intelligent, sensitive, and understanding than your spouse, you'd better think about something: you chose him/her. That was the best you could do? Whoa.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

The Conundrum of Success and True Nobility

Both Maslow's hierarchy and the yogic chakras suggest that once survival is dealt with, we begin to address more evolved needs. Even among America's poor, the television can be on for hours a day, suggesting that the core struggle for food and shelter has been supplanted by a struggle for meaning and entertainment. If we can simultaneously address our core needs and also open our hearts to love, we root ourselves in the reality of our existence, and will grow as fast as we are capable. If, rooting in survival and keeping the open heart, we also search for an intellectual understanding of the human condition, the door opens to wisdom, and eventually the understanding that the intellect is a powerful but limited tool. And that is when our spiritual connection to the world, and each other, can grow strong.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Christine Marie and Julie Talk Authors! are interviewing me about anything and
everything from Writing, to Martial Arts, to The Hero’s Journey on Friday April
30th at 7:00pm PST/9:00pm CST/10:00pmEST. Click here for all the details.
julie-talk-authors-with-steven-barnes Christine Marie and Julie are
Mother/Daughter radio co-hosts and Certified Law of Attraction Coaches. Visit
their website to download their free eBook, “21
Days to Manifesting Your 3 Big Dreams” and sign up for their free daily Audio
Prosperity Postcards.

Beware! The Human Centipede!

Yesterday I had a coaching call where in twenty minutes I broke through a client's denial and went straight to the heart. I asked her what she wanted in a perfect partner, and she described him. Mind alone mattered, she said. This, I pointed out, simply wasn't true. She didn't care if he died of lung cancer? If he was two hundred pounds overweight? She had to back up and correct that. Then I asked her to describe her perfect partner emotionally. For three minutes she described his "deep self knowledge" and emotional equilibrium, etc. etc. How he would back her up, and support her, and so forth and so on.

I stopped her, and pointed out that no where in her list was the simple word "love" to be found. She broke just wasn't a part of her family dynamic. On a deep level, she didn't know if she was deserving of love. Rather obviously, this is the weak link in her chain. Without healing this, she will enter into a series of loveless unions with damaged people. The simple, awful truth that people will literally kill themselves to avoid facing--we attract people who are at our energy level, and below. If we are not attracted to the people who are attracted to us, we have work to do.

The good news and the bad news are the same: we attract what we are. If you yearn for the type of man or woman who is currently not attracted to us, WE CAN GROW. We can heal, change, learn, wake up. Our partners in life say more about us than almost anything else. The reason this is painful is that it can't easily be faked.

All I do in my coaching is look at those three major arenas, and see where there is a "break" in the energy chain. Survival? Check. Sexuality? Check. Physical health/fitness? Check. Self-love and love for others? Check.

Those are the root. Any problem that doesn't show up in one of these areas probably isn't much of a problem, in comparison. Heal the "weak link" and the entire organism can grow into self-expression, intellectual clarity, and spiritual harmony. Because I know what a fully functioning human being is, it is easy to see where cylinders aren't firing. Most relationships are based on "you don't call me on my bullshit and I won't call you on yours." It is critical not to fall into that trap.


I won't post the link. Can't bring myself to do it. But if you Google "Human Centipede trailer" I can promise you will see something you never dreamed of. I promise you. I hope I'm healthy enough to resist the morbid curiosity that might motivate me to seek this insanity out, just to be a cinematic completist. Dear God, I can't imagine the mind that thought this up.


Office2 allows me to download/upload stuff from Google Docs to my Ipad...pretty efficiently. So far so good, and the potential is there for a "Google Gears" style app that allows you to work online/offline with automatic cloud backup to a document that can be accessed through any computer. And that will be just too cool.


The Facebook page praying for Obama's death has topped a million people. This is so fascinating. People can carry automatic weapons at his speeches, Fox News can joke about cross hairs, Sarah Palin can talk "Lock and Load," and at every turn, people keep insisting that there is nothing unusual going on here. Fine. To me, this is another version of fat people insisting their bodies break the laws of physics, or people claiming that their relationship history has nothing to do with them.

Here's a postulate for you: the more advantage a given person would have if a situation continues, or the more advantage they would have if it changes, the more likely they are to delete information that is inconvenient to notice. In other words, if you oppose Obama's policies, or have racial animus (which I believe to be about 10% present across the board) you will simply be tone-deaf to threats, because on a deep level, just wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if something ugly happened.

You are, of course, perfectly free to disagree with this, but I have to be honest and say that that is exactly the way I regard defense of the indefensible.

Each side of the political divide tries to say that they have the superior moral position. All right--if you think that, here is a chance. Show us. Stand up and condemn this language without equivocation. If this is not the not-so-hidden heart of the Right, stop letting these troglodytes hijack your party.

Unless, of course, deep down, they are saying what you are thinking.

Facebook Group 'Praying' For President Obama's Death Passes 1 Million Members

This is dangerous as hell. By "norming" such speech, they give tacit approval for the most radical members of such groups to consider violent action acceptable, as if the collective unconscious of the Right is trolling for an assassin--while maintaining deniability. Criticize this, and you always get a few people trying to suggest that there is nothing unusual about this, no elevated threat. Shhh...go to sleep. Go to sleep. And then, if something horrible happens: "whoa! We had NO idea something like that might occur! We're SO sorry." And so they will be. Consciously.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wisdom: An Endangered Natural Resource

Wisdom comes from grasping the cycles of our past experiences, relating them to the present, and using that knowledge to prepare for the future. Taking responsibility for our actions and emotions is critical: children blame others for their feelings. Adults know that their perceptual filters control their inner world if they are not VERY careful. Knowledge is the points on a circle, wisdom is intuiting the radius and being able to project the curve beyond the point of sight. This is why children can be very smart, but only rarely wise. And also why their wisdom, when it comes, can be so startling and deep.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Just for fun...

Let's say someone came to me and asked for a solution to the immigration issue. I would agree with the idea that something needs to be done, but would want to combine ideas and approaches from both ends of the political spectrum.
The entire Immigration issue should be set up to be revenue-neutral if possible, and as non-racist as possible. Opening the door to bigotry here WILL spill out into other groups. Period. Don't you dare think it won't. My cluster of suggestions are unlikely to make anyone happy, on any side of the issue. They are intended to reduce the flow of illegals without infringing on any group's rights.

1) National I.D. card. Everyone should have to prove citizenship. Otherwise, only those illegals who "don't look Mexican" are safe. Can't have that! This should be incorporated into our driver's licenses. In that way, every traffic stop becomes a check of citizenship. Don't like that idea? Then don't ask innocent Hispanics to bear the brunt. Some of them have been here longer than YOUR ancestors.
2) A fence along the Southern border. Unfortunate, but seems neccesary.
3) Employers fined for hiring illegals. If said employers wish government assistance in determining, it will be offered. Better still: offer citizenship to illegals who turn in employers! Now THAT would be some truly efficient nastiness.
4) Property of illegals seized. This helps pay for the process of deportation, and increases the discomfort--a necessary thing.
5) Path to citizenship for those who turn themselves in within a certain period. Fines and back-taxes are used to fund the entire operation.
6) POSSIBLY: seizure of property of people sheltering illegals. Similar to laws allowing seizure of drug money and property.
7) Revamping of drug laws to reduce profit motive for Cartels. Anyone seriously implementing this would probably be assassinated.
On Facebook, there is a site praying for Obama's death. If you criticize it, you get rationalizations, justifications, and the kind of comparisons that suggest this is nothing to worry about.
Or that there is no more threat to Obama than there was to, say, Bush. Oh, really? Google "Assassinate George Bush" in quotes and you get 9700 responses. Google "Assassinate George W. Bush" and you get 50,000. Google "Assassinate Barack Obama" and you get 400,000. In a year and a half, you get EIGHT TIMES as many references to killing this man than you got toward Bush in eight years. I wouldn't suggest trying to spin that--you will make yourself look really, really bad.
I get my iPad today. Now what I have to do is find an interim way to access Google Docs through it. Apparently, the iPad browser is a version of "Mobile" that triggers a "display-only" response from Google Docs. You can read, but not edit. However, there is are already work-arounds, and Google will probably have a pristine App within a month or so, ending the problem. I've been looking for a hyper-portable method of generating text for years. My last effort was the Dana, a nice mini-slate sort of device with an LCD screen. And it worked fine until Apple updated the Mac OS, and Dana didn't keep up. Then it became a paperweight. Sigh. If I had something I could just carry in my back pack, I could get my 1000 words a day done painlessly. The iPad looks like it will fit this bill brilliantly.

But if anyone has knowledge of a better solution than Office2 Pro to create a Cloud/local solution until the Google Gears style App is ready...let me know. I LOVE the idea of being able to write offline, and automatically back up to the Cloud, for access from any computer with a browser. THAT is just cooler than hell.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Man Who Left Chelm

Honestly, some times I wonder why I do this. Why express myself in these ways, every morning? Then today over at the 101 board, someone spoke of "reverse engineering" the Soulmate process--rather than describing the desired mate, describe the current partner in terms OF the "Soulmate"--as if the person you are with already is that person. I don't know what will come of that exercise, but it sounds superb, and can't wait to see. That student also left us a parable I found extraordinary. And here it is for you.


The Man Who Left Chelm.

You may have heard of Chelm-- that little corner of the old country where the Angel of Fools tripped and spilled the souls he was supposed to spread evenly through time and space. In Chelm, they hung the poor-box from the synagogue ceiling so the thiefs couldn't steal from it, and then built a staircase up to it so people could still donate. A scholar from Chelm who finds a hayfork in the road is likely to conclude it's a giant's menorah. If you ever see a group of people calmly taking shelter under a thin tree in the pouring rain, they're from Chelm. They figure when their tree soaks through they'll just run for the next tree. It's that kind of place.

There was one young man in Chelm who could not bear the shame of living in the famous town of fools. It ate at him. "He'll settle down when he takes a wife," the gossips clucked, and they married him off, and it did no good. "He'll settle down when the children come," the family said, but even when the little ones learned to pull themselves up by his trouser legs he did not look at them but stared at the wall.

Why should he be trapped in so meaningless an existence? How could he stay trapped living out his life in a town of fools, a place fit only for ridicule? One day he reached the breaking point. "I cannot live like this another day," he cried, and seized his coat and headed for the door. "What are you doing?" asked his wife, and he could not answer, could not begin to put into words the years of frustration and helplessness. He left without a word.

He pointed himself in the direction of the sun. He walked with great, ground-eating strides, and every step he took past the boundaries of Chelm, it felt like his chest was expanding, every breath greater than the last. Dusk grew deep, and while there was still a little light he stepped off the road to sleep with a rock under his head like the Patriarch Jacob on the first night of his great destiny. He had never felt so free.

In the morning, the light of false dawn woke him, and he opened his eyes and turned his face to the light in time to see the rising of the sun on freshmade world. He watched as the sunbeams gilded every blade of grass and turned the trees to treasures. He whispered the blessing of awakening, and for the first time he tasted the words, "I give thanks before Your Face, Living and Eternal King, for You have restored my soul to me in compassion; great is Your faithfulness," and he knew he has never truly meant them before.

Then he stood, and set out again-- in the direction of the sun.

Every step seemed to bring to light a new miracle. Soon he came to the fields on the edge of a town, and his heart soared to see the workers heading out in the early morning, how they called to one another and laughed, how they sang in the rhythm of their movements. Yes, he thought, yes, this was what it was all about, this was the kind of life the sage spoke of, every human blessed and beautiful, the greatest of wisdom possible in the plainest simplicity.

He came to the town itself and continued to marvel: what stories could be read in the care with which these buildings were built, the gentle bustle of the start of the day. A group of little children ran out of nowhere to surround him, and he had to laugh out loud at the magnificence of their open, eager faces, the preciousness of their fragile, flushed beauty. They took hold of him and pulled him along to a house. He looked in the window, and there he saw... the saddest woman in the world.

He saw her with the same eyes that had watched the new sun come up, the same openess that had filled him deeper step by step into this new wonderful world, and he felt as if he could not breathe. How alone, how hopeless, how utterly forsaken she was, her eyes wild and staring at the wall. It came to him suddenly that if he could only make that woman smile, his whole life would have been worth living. He leapt from the window to the door and threw it open, strode into the room and tasted his words again as he said, "You are not alone. You need not ever be alone again. I will be here for you and with you, and it will not matter what anyone else thinks or says about what goes on in this house. Only say that you will have me."

Slowly, stiffly, the woman turned as if stunned, and when she saw him, her expresssion was like the sun coming up all over again.

He took the time to see her comforted and the children gathered in and fed, then went out to find work. A simple, hard job came first, and because he did it without complaining and he did it the best he could, more work came. His evenings were spent at the fire with the children climbing over him, in the mornings he woke alone to count his blessings, beginning with the face of the good woman beside him smiling in her sleep, and he never, ever went back to that horrible town of fools where once he'd lived.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

SF and Immigration Thoughts

I want to be very careful today, because I'm referencing a conversation with a public person. While I'll do everything I can to conceal the identity of this lady, just in case someone figures it out I want to say explicitly that I have nothing but respect for her, and have never heard a bad thing about her. In all ways I assume she is competent, intelligent, and kind. I just think that she is very wrong about something, and that that blind spot is illustrative of a core human problem.
Recently conversing casually about racial images in Steven King's "The Stand," a lady professional in the SF field spoke in his defense, claiming that his lack of black characters could be explained by his lack of contact with black people in New England. Fine. The next question was why, then, when he DID have black folks, they were 90% demon, 10% angel, with nothing in-between. This turned into what I thought was an interesting conversation about images in the SF field, and why there were so few Asians or Blacks.

Her position: disadvantaged minorities had more survival-oriented issues in mind. That seems reasonable for, let's say, a reduction in statistical representation within the field (say, from 10% to 5%?) in the case of blacks, but hardly explains Asians, who actually earn about 10% more than whites per capita. She questioned whether SF was actually common in Asian culture, citing the fact that most Japanese SF books she'd seen were translations of American books. I offered that I couldn't speak to percentages of Japanese novels that were speculative, but that Manga, Anime, and Japanese film were filled with SF images, and I'd be quite surprised if their novels didn't explore this as well.

My basic contention was that you saw very little non-white SF because of the same human tendencies we've discussed here: a "10% disconnect" toward anything that doesn't resemble "yours" that influences readers, writers, artists, and editors. She objected to this stringently, saying that images on covers have no influence on purchasing, "either you are attracted to these ideas, or you are not."

I have to admit to being slightly astonished by this reply, as it would seem to go against everything I believe about human psychology, everything known in the advertising industry, and everything I've heard from countless people over the years. Blacks got more excited about Tennis when they saw Tiger Woods. Black women got more interested in science and science fiction when they saw Nichelle Nicoles. Whites got more interested in Rap when they saw Eminem (let's not talk about Vanilla Ice, shall we?) Women for DECADES told me, or interviewers that seeing women as astronauts, politicians, scientists or whatever increased their interest in those fields. That seeing no women on S.F. books wasn't their problem...but seeing images of women who carried themselves with dignity and power, as well as images that went beyond "mere" sexualization or victimhood, opened their hearts and minds to the field.

That women editors coming into the field made it easier for women writers, in a positive spiral that has led to some of the most important and popular work in the field. That men, despite having wives, daughters, and mothers that they loved, either excluded them or created disempowered images that were simply not attractive. I listened to this for decades, and it matched what I had heard from blacks about the field.

They weren't there. When they were there in films, they died (usually protecting white people). Or were in that monster-or-saint dichotomy. That images of non-whites as heros just didn't make it past the editors often, and when they did, the race was changed on the book covers. I have heard these stories from literally every single non-white writer I've ever spoken to...(the last five years or so there seems to be a bit of change here...thank God!)

This all seems pretty obvious to me. Human beings like to reinforce the images that will improve their own chances for survival and reproduction, and to see themselves in their entertainment. Not that as a "spice" they might not like to step outside themselves, but not as meat-and-potatoes. We don't believe something is possible until we see someone do it, and the more that person resembles us, the easier it it. Same with interest in entertainment: if someone like "us" is involved, it's just more fun.

What was disappointing is that I've been down this road before. For some reason, I hope/think that white females, who have experienced oppression, will be more sensitive. Or at the very least won't fall back on the exact same arguments I used to hear white males use: women aren't interested in SF (or math, or politics) not because they have been excluded, but because, well, there's something different about women. Couldn't possibly be that men, as a group, will try to confine powerful images to their own group.

Here's what I think: white women are no more likely to be sensitive to racial prejudice than black men are to be sensitive to sexism. I know there are issues I don't see or understand (which isn't the same as "issues concerning which I will have disagreements with feminists") and I was raised by and around women, more than 50% of the people in my phone book are women, most of my friends are women, I raised a daughter, love both my wife and ex-wife, and speak with a genuine, real honest to God woman hundreds of times a day. I also discuss women's issues with T almost every day. And despite all this, I KNOW that there are things I don't see. How much more so for a white female who would be lucky to have 1/10th my experience with "the other"? It's surprising any of us get along with anyone.

But this is part of what has disenchanted me with the field: the (in my mind) totally misplaced confidence that somehow SF is more open-minded racially than society at large. But then, when one points out the paucity of images, characters, writers, readers, editors or whatever, why, it can't be the fact that human beings, as a group, will tend to exclude others and reinforce whatever validates makes their own existence. My guess is that this lady went through a process very similar to my own: feeling like an outsider, finding a genre and community that proclaimed (and on the surface seemed to be) free of bigotry, that accepts human beings on the basis of their intellect and creativity.

And there, for years--I found a home. And it was only with the greatest of discomfort that I slowly began to realize that there SF fans and editors and writers seriously needed to believe that Aliens somehow represented (blacks) or that any time a character wasn't specifically described, why maybe THAT was a black person..!

Of course, I never heard a woman suggest that Aliens represented strong, capable women, or that every time a character wasn't described naked there wasn't the chance that was actually a woman...
Because human minds don't work that way. I doubt they ever have. Or will. Is that sad? I don't know. What I do know is that when I realized (or concluded) that SF had these tendencies and that folks like me were swimming upstream (just as women believed they were swimming against the tide in a world of male editors) I had the choice of either thinking this some kind of prejudice that was exclusive to whites...or that it was something wrong with black people (that was certainly a possibility, and the very fact that I entertained the notion made me a racial traitor in some circles). I concluded that it was most likely due to universal human tendencies.

At least...that answer allowed me to look at the world with the greatest amount of love, forgiveness, and understanding. And that was critical to me, because the opposite belief seemed to increase fear, anger, and a sense of "separateness" from others. Ultimately, I understand that my automatic search for the ways we're all the same cannot be allowed to devolve to dogma. Hopefully, that is always a starting point only...there are differences in individuals and groups, but the natural human tendency is to leap to the conclusion that differences in the current status or behavior of human beings is a result of innate tendencies rather than environmental factors. It seems to me that deliberate resistance to this tendency is a little like "leaning into the wind" and results in a posture in proper perpendicularity to the earth--balanced in the middle as opposed to leaning one way or the other.
I can't think of a current arena that strains this way of looking at the world more than the immigration debate. I tend to lean more toward the conservative side than the liberal on this one. Would I if Mexicans were blacks? I sure hope so, but can't be sure. When I hear naturalized Mexicans discuss the need for conservative policies I tend to think that they are thinking the way I would in that situation...but how the hell can I be sure?
What I do know is that there is a few core conundrums here:
1) Unlike racial profiling on the basis of crime statistics, the problem of immigration along our southern borders really does deal almost exclusively with people who look a particular way, and speak a specific language. Even profiling on the basis of religion (say, Islam) isn't as specific, because Muslims have a somewhat wider spread of racial identity: some are white, some black, some Asian, and most some mixture of the three. Which means that if you cannot racially profile, you probably cannot stop people from flooding across the border.
2) There is nothing particularly "bad" in a moral sense about Mexicans coming here. It's just migration, and animals do it all the time. Europeans did it, to the detriment of the Native Americans. And you would do it too, if you were on the wrong side of the line. America has spent a hundred years using the most sophisticated advertising, cinematic, television or whatever technology to say "we're the best! Life is best here! Nothing else comes close!" No sin in this. But try to tell me with a straight face that ANYONE, any group of people (or animals for that matter) wouldn't cross a river to get that life that is supposed to be so infinitely better? Come on. But as I said before...the demonizing is common because it "stirs up the troops" and without such stirring up...well, you "lose."
And is there something to "lose"? Opinions vary, but my sense is that any country has the right to determine who enters and who does not. I always disliked Americans who believed they could behave as anything other than polite guests in foreign lands, or that they didn't have to play by local rules. It is not racist of me to judge foreigners in the same fashion.
3) What of racism? Well, it is inevitable. That 10% aversion thing...well, I'll stand by it. But while I would expect most racists to be on the anti-illegal side of the question, I would think that the vast majority of anti-illegals aren't reacting from a racist perspective. Somewhat xenophobic, perhaps, but again any state...or organism...reacts to the introduction of foreign particles or persons. The social equivalent of an immune system response. And countries have reacted the EXACT same way when the flood of "neighbors" looked exactly like them. Racism isn't a necessary element. That said, it seems unlikely as hell that the new laws in Arizona won't be misused. It would be straining human nature to expect that. Good, decent Mexican-American citizens are going to get caught up in this. Blood will flow. This isn't going to be pretty.
4) It is also inevitable that this turn into a political football. The rabble-rousing approach works just great, especially in a political climate as asinine as this one. The rather transparent "Obstruct everything the Democrats do, then blame them for not getting anything done" tactic is gonna be mirrored by similar cut-throat maneuvers on the Left. Attributing everything to racism has a nice chilling effect...while simultaneously degrading the value of the charge, making real racism easier to conceal. Nice "twofer" for white liberals, don't you think? No, I don't think this stuff is conscious. With an election year coming up, this could turn as vicious as anything America has seen since the 60's.
5) Are illegals, per capita, more likely to engage in criminal behavior? Well...I'd say yes. After all, they are ALREADY engaged in a law-breaking behavior, just by violating our laws. Add to that the poverty that likely drove them from their land. Poverty is a well-known stimulant for criminal behavior, both by increasing the lure of easy gain, and decreasing belief in the legitimacy of legal strictures. So it is legitimate to make this argument. The problem is that pesky civil rights thingie...
6) Worst of all, there is no simple answer, even if you DID want draconian measures. What do you do? Incarcerate millions? Too expensive and cruel. Deport them? Ah...and what exactly keeps them from just coming back? Make it so painful (by allowing the most radical of the anti-illegal groups to have sway. Inevitably, there will be "incidents" and "accidents" and acts of violence that are officially "disapproved of." We know that game) that they don't want to come here? Beatings and murder would do it. Of course, then Americans would be far less safe traveling south of the border, and we don't like that much, do we? Build walls? I have to admit to sympathy to this--it doesn't stop traffic, but it does slow it down. Stop manipulation of the language with which the debate is waged? Note the terms "undocumented," as if these people had just, well, missplaced their papers, or forgotten to renew a driver's license as I did in Seattle. I was "undocumented." They are here illegally.
It could be that the only solution with a chance of success is the "path to citizenship" approach--back of the line, pay a fine, back taxes. Note how opponents to this approach call it "Amnesty," when that term means "a general pardon for offenses." Paying fines is not a pardon. It is a selection of punishment--but if incarceration and/or deportation aren't effective, what is the choice? Honestly, I'm interested in suggestions.
6) How do I balance my sense that America has the right to decide who enters? The fact that without racial profiling it will be almost impossible to enforce that decision? But that that very racial profiling will damage the structure of our country. That old line from Germany about "when they came for the Jews I didn't object..." comes to mind. Creeping totalitarianism is a very real thing, and it disturbs me that the people who think Government is this great risk seem willing to give police the power to search and seizure under...questionable circumstances, circumstances that would seem to give legitimacy to some pretty unpleasant basic human tendencies. Wow. This one is just awful.
7) It also wouldn't be honest to leave the "reconquista' thing alone. Most human beings aren't particularly political...but many are. And do I think that Mexicans aren't as likely to sit around, drink Cerveza, and talk about taking the country back? Probably about the same as blacks in the 60's talking about "The Revolution" except they actually have the numbers to have an impact. Is this sedition? If formalized, yes. But it doesn't have to be formalized to impact political and economic process. Americans joke about dominating the world--whether it is economically or militarily. It is natural to try to do this, and pretending otherwise is simply dishonest. On the other hand, it would be social suicide not to resist it. And the easiest way to resist it is by stirring up the base...which deals in black and white, not shades of gray. And some members of that base will push things a little too far, leading to violent incident, more fear, and easier crack-down...
How do you guys see this? I think the solution would be a combination of fences, deportations, and a path to citizenship for those who can play by the rules. Pain on one hand, and pleasure on the other. Reform drug and economic policies to reduce the amount of our negative contributions to life in South and Central America. I see no techniques that are effective that aren't also dangerous to our civil liberties--so police actions will have to be carefully monitored.

That racial profiling thing. Damn. I can only think that, ultimately, some difference will have to be made between profiling for crimes within a population and profiling to extract aliens from among a camouflage of citizens. While such laws would inevitably be loathed by some, at least our population can vote on them in an above-board fashion. Will they be of greatest disadvantage to Latinos? I see no way to avoid that conclusion. And therefore whatever laws enacted would have to be formulated so that, under other circumstances, equal discomfort falls upon whites, blacks, men, women, whatever. I don't know how to do that, or even if it makes real sense. As I said, this one is a real ball-breaker. with no easy answers at all. Unless someone out there is smart enough to have one?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Being Naughty or Nice May Boost Willpower, Physical Endurance

Class Warfare and "Mary Poppins"

I was gonna wait a while to get an iPad, but it looks like Tananarive's delightful sister Lydia is picking one up for us. Awww. Will be using the Apple Bluetooth keyboard, methinks. The flat keyboard doesn't let you rest your fingers on them between strokes, and hey, one day I may need a little rest between strokes...
I'd go see "The Losers" except I just don't think I'm up to watching another brown woman with another white guy. Need to see a couple brown guys in love scenes first, or my reptile brain will want to rip someone's throat out with my teeth.
Oh...while reading "The Stand" I was noting to Tananarive the association between darkness and evil, and the way it seemed to affect King's attitude toward black people in general. She suggested that I look to another book for inspiration if it was disturbing me. I said: "like what?" And she suggested "World War Z" which I was actually listening to in ebook form.
MILD SPOILER: first I thought so. There was an elegant, eloquent South African voice on the tape. turns out that the apparent black "African" was actually an insane white man. An American black turned up later in the a wheelchair, the only disabled person in the book. Can't have those pesky Negroes as reproductive competition, after all...
Christ, this crap is pervasive.
Looks as if I'm actually going to be able to write a certain YA project gestating for the last five years. If so, I'll need to fly back to the NW and do some research. So those of you I missed when I was asinine enough to let my license lapse, maybe we can still get together. I'd love that.
Jason is getting some kind of award today. Academic...I seriously doubt it's Good Citizen. He still has his anger issues, and difficulty focusing attention. My view of him is that he is a hunter in a world full of farmers. I strongly suspect I would have been thought pure ADD up the wazoo. We do yoga and a bit of Om meditation in the mornings and late afternoons. It seems to help some, but we'll just have to see.
I'm juggling so many projects that my office is just a mess--a clear sign of mental disorganization on one level...or that creativity is a-poppin on another. Sigh. I'd panic if I weren't getting my 1000 words a day done. There is going to be hella work to do on the rewrite tip, though, I kid you not.
Anyone out there really believe Osama Bin Laden is still alive? I mean, he was supposedly on dialysis nine years ago. I'd expect him to look like crap under the best of circumstances. But oddly, he hardly looks to have aged a day. More and more, I think my source was absolutely right: he was dead within months of 9/11, and there is an entire cottage industry keeping him alive. It stretches belief to think Al Jazzira hasn't scored an interview with him by now. No journalist has. This feels like serious bullshit to me. Of course, if someone produces the body, or an interview, I'll have to cop to being 100% wrong. But right now...I think he sleeps with the fishes, and has for quite a while.
If I had to point to the single most important aspect of my personal evolution, it would be Anahata meditation, the "Heartbeat" form I learned from Sri Chinmoy. Wish I could have known him better. This is a guy who could lift 7000 pounds with one arm (witnessed by lotsa independent observers, as well as photographed. One reporter said that he couldn't be certain the bar was raised--he was at the wrong angle--but he COULD see that the bar BENT under the pressure Chinmoy applied. Good lord), a million paintings of birds, thousands of poems, songs and essays. At the very least, this was a man who could completely free himself of the "editor" voice/state and go into a state of flow deeper than most human beings ever even imagine. I don't think he was as evolved as, say, Scott's guru Amma, however. My brain could barely even process her presence. THAT was a genuine strangeness. But he was still a truly evolved human being. First person whose aura I ever saw (and I'm not dogmatic about what the hell THAT was about. My left and right brains fight about that one.)

But he taught me the best meditation form I've ever known. "Best" in the sense of being both powerful and safe and simple. It has made it so simple for me to do certain spiritual aspects of phone coaching...easy to "get on the wavelength" of my clients.
So GM has repaid their government loan, five years ahead of time? That's more like it. I just wish the term "bailout" had never been used at all. I mean...what exactly does that mean? A loan? A gift? An investment? Was the term deliberately chosen for its vagueness? Yeesh.

"Oh, it's a jolly holiday with you, Bert
Gentlemen like you are few
Though your just a diamond in the rough, Bert
Underneath your blood is blue!
You'd never think of pressing your advantage
Forbearance is the hallmark of your creed
Ah, Mary Poppins. For some reason these lyrics kept running through my mind as I took Jason to school this morning. And I just bet that somewhere, someone has written a paper on class warfare, images in film, and how the subtext of Mary's song is actually rather unpleasant: to wit, that "she needn't worry about being raped by a (black) faced member of the lower class, because chimney-sweeper Bert knows his place..."

How incredibly cynical. Whoever wrote that paper, if it was written, should be ASHAMED, I say. Just ashamed.

"Ben Ten" episode is about to air. Yea! Thanks to Dwayne McDuffie for giving me the opportunity. Jason will be stoked!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Will The All-Natural Celebrity Trend Last?

Men are visually triggered by certain images, which hit us on an unconscious level. Women have learned to manipulate us by emphasizing certain traits, downplaying others--its a power game. I doubt that we will ever be satisfied by the "natural" if a nip here, a tuck there, makeup, lighting, dieting, whatever, gets a more powerful unconscious reaction on the job or in relationships. As a man matures, he cares less about these things (a bit) just as when women mature they don't care about overt power symbols in their men quite so much. But most of the human race concentrates on creating bonds at peak fertility/power years (17-35?) not so much the "mature" phase of human experience (35>?). I think that rational discussion of these things is well and good, but we can't expect unconscious preference for "beauty", even exaggerated to the point of parody, to stop being a factor in human relationships any more than we can expect unconscious aversion to "the other" to stop producing racist tendencies. Human beings aren't angels--we like what we like, and men and women both manipulate this to their advantage. The immature scream that "they" make us do it. Posh. We do it to ourselves, because we believe it will get us what we want. Women who don't play the beauty game and men who don't play the "power" game are each other's natural partners.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Arizona's Immigration Reform

The Immigration Bill in Arizona has a ton of strident conversation buzzing around the internet. My thoughts:
1) Yeah, I think that racial profiling will occur. Especially in Arizona, which was the last state in the union to ratify MLK day--I don't forget things like that.
2) I think that any nation has the right to decide who enters and who does not. Just as any organism has a membrane to select which molecules enter. Does this apply to States? I would think that when it comes to aliens, that answer would be "yes." But I admit to not knowing the legal specifics.
3) I think arguments about illegals doing the work Americans don't want to do is interesting, but not totally applicable. If you wanted to make that argument and then have people vote about whether they wanted the illegals to come in...all right. But this is used as justification for people being here illegally. This is like someone saying: I'll break into your house, and it's all right because I'll also empty your ashtrays while I'm there. No. Mexico has the right to say when and how Americans enter their country. And America has the same.
These arguments remind me far too much of people who say that illegal "file sharing" is good for authors because it promotes their books. Nice theory. But the truth is that unless you have my permission, all your reasoning is nothing more than rationalization of theft. People ALWAYS rationalize theft, violation of property lines, or whatever.
4) I hate the demonization of illegals, the very clear association of them totally with negative behaviors, even in situations where they violate no more laws on average than citizens. This is necessary to create political movement, but I find it vile. The truth (to me) is that legal boundaries are broken, but not necessarily core moral principles. Humans migrate. Countries are lines on maps. This country was stolen from the Indians, and the entire question of ownership is murky, save for Might Makes Right. That is what I see as the core truth, but you can't run a country like one can. Sigh. So we are pretty stuck with what we have, and have to deal with it in such a fashion. Still, most people would go where there was greater opportunity for their families--the act of sneaking across a river doesn't make someone automatically any less moral or worthwhile than someone born on the northern side of that line. But man, you wouldn't know it from listening to the political chatter.
5) Deporting people doesn't seem to work well. Jailing people costs us too much. Dammit, I don't know what a really good answer would be (In theory, bracelets or implants that cause pain if you travel into the U.S. would be interesting...for a SF story. In reality, what a nightmare.)
5) Walls have worked for thousands of years in reducing the flow of X across Y. Doesn't work absolutely, no. But all you can do is clearly mark "this is mine" and then bring difficulty and discomfort to bear on those who try to cross. I think that this is not unreasonable.
6) There is no doubt that there are those of seditious temperament. In fact, it would be impossible for there not to be among those flowing in. Think that Americans don't talk about taking over countries in which we got a foothold? I would bet that the urge to spread, to dominate, to control resources in surrounding territory has been close to universal since human beings first realized resources increased their chance of survival. "La Reconquista" makes logical sense (for Mexicans) from that perspective. Doesn't make them evil. And we have no reason to be sanguine about it, either. We did, and do the same--although we prefer economic domination (it seems to me).

The problem is that it is difficult to get people to react unless they are hyper-emotionalized. Which probably means to demonize. Which obscures truth. But if you DON'T get masses of people moving, you can easily lose your country--it's happened to all those "nice peaceful cultures" people love to point to, without grasping that they are all either protected by mountains and/or oceans, or have been pushed into the middle of the Kalahari.

Sigh. If only men weren't warlike and expansionistic. If only women didn't churn out babies, and choose dominating men as their partners. If only we didn't tend to believe ourselves better than others, and lie to ourselves about our motivations. Whatever is happening here is made more difficult by fear and prejudice. Humans migrate to resources like other animals. And nations have the right to protect their borders...or they stop being nations.

I seriously have no answers. But I know there is lying and exaggeration going on on both sides, as well as co-opting of some of our very worst instincts. Which also happen to be some of the instincts that keep us alive.

Damn, this stuff is hard. What do you guys think? And please--let's be careful and polite with each other, shall we? This topic is controversial as hell, and both Left and Right have some valid points.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"When they attack you and you notice that you love them with all your heart, your Work is done."
Beautiful words from Byron Katie.

Cape Town ladies sing this song, Doo-Dah, Doo-Dah...

Well did the shoot for FROM CAPE TOWN WITH LOVE on Monday. Got beat up, kicked into a swimming pool--great fun. Sore on Tuesday, tell you true. But wouldn't have missed it for anything.


Been carrying on a conversation with a lady in the SF field. I started by posting a few thoughts on "The Stand" by Stephen King, and the fact that I think it quite typical of genre work, racially: blacks are either saints or sub-human monsters, nothing in-between. This lady (Call her Gail) responded pretty much as I expected, defending King on the basis that he doesn't have many black characters because he grew up in New England.

Do you catch the mistake she made? I wasn't complaining about the lack of black characters--I complained that the black characters he DID have were 90% sub-human, 10% impossibly good. Now...if I'm reading this right, Gail (and countless others) defended King's choice of imagery by suggesting that, in the absence of personal knowledge, he assumes 90% of black people are sub-human? I don't think that is quite what she meant, but wouldn't that be an interesting doorway into human psychology. Are people really saying: "in the absence of direct experience, we will tend to think negatively of others?" or was it "in the absence of direct experience, whites will tend to think negatively of blacks?"

Well...considering our national history, the second certainly exists as a possibility. Actually, going further through STAND I notice something interesting. When King actually gets into Mother Abigayle (the ultimate spiritual guide) and her history, he does it quite well. The beautiful characterization we have come to love from him. I had ZERO complaints with this section, about her girlhood, performing in a talent show, her sexual feelings for her three husbands. Quite lovely.

But if you look carefully, you'll notice something: he was trying. He was actually thinking about it. When he just flows, he goes back to the black-as-evil motif: danger, death, corruption, the unknown, the damned, the twisted. Now, this has little directly to do with race relations. This seems to have far more to do with the fact that human beings are not adapted for night-time hunting, and for most of our history, the night HAS meant danger and death. This naturally seeps into our language. Black people just happen to be at the losing end of this one, too. Sucks.
Anyway, in extended conversation, Gail and I spoke of imagery in books and film (she refuses to believe that the lack of black male sexuality in film reflects a bias on the part of white audiences, preferring an endless series of epicycles: every film with such imagery just HAPPENED to be lousy, you see. It was fascinating that she was able to look directly at a list of movies that have earned over 100 million, and not see one of them as having sex. Fish really can't see water, can they?)

This carried over to the question of black fans and writers in SF. She believes that the lack of such has nothing to do with the lack of representation on covers and in content. "You are either attracted to speculative ideas or you are not." I just loved this. It is EXACTLY the reasoning used by male editors to explain why there were so few women writers/readers in the field. Maybe women just aren't interested in the future, in speculation, in technology. It certainly can't be anything WE'RE doing.

I suppose I should totally discount everything I've ever heard from women about how desperate they were for role models of strong females. How heroines and images of female scientists and explorers are inspiring. Science Fiction isn't just "a literature of ideas." It is also an HEROIC literature. If people want ideas, they'll read non-fiction. We read fiction to help us gain perspective on our lives, to see models of people dealing with stress and pain and love and hope. And for decades, women have complained that men keep women in these little conceptual boxes, and that it limits women's entrance into the sciences, politics and art. And limits their interest in the degrading or exclusive literature.

And here was another perfect example: if someone is doing it to you, you grasp that it is damaging. ("Men excluding women diminishes female interest in the field.") On the other hand, if whites exclude blacks or Asians, lack of black or Asian participation in the field MUST be because...well, there is something different about blacks or Asians. Maybe they just aren't interested in speculation (shall I mention what this sounds like? Or can you guess?) possibly because they are so caught up in the struggle for survival. Uh...but Asians actually do BETTER than the average white family. Well, then, maybe its not in their culture. Ah...Japanese comics, television, animation and film is FILLED with SF imagery. And while the average black family has less wealth than the average white family, that leaves, let's say, half as many potential fans/writers per capita? Which explains nicely why I was the only black male SF writer in the field for twenty years.

Good one, Gail.

Can you see how this works? "They" are racist, sexist, culturally elitist, fools or knaves. When "Our" group does it, why it's totally understandable, and must be because the other group, is well..."not like us."

I can't think of an arena where this doesn't play out. Both Liberals and Conservatives love to fantacise that they are better, smarter, more American than the other. Both blacks and whites want to believe that their side has less racism or prejudice. Both men and women believe that their gender has held the world together (except for those interesting critters who hold the opposite gender higher than their own. I've always thought it would by hysterical to have a situation comedy of a marriage between a male feminist and a female masculinist [if such a word exists]. Their arguments would be a stone hoot.)

My guess about Gail is that she is a typical fan. She felt that the field was the Home she had sought for years--felt welcome and valuable. Found friends, lovers, employers. Bought into the mythology that SF readers are open to everything, less prejudiced than the outer world, existing in a world of pure intellect, incredibly tolerant. "Fans are slans," itself the exact type of prejudice and us-them thinking that they fled from the outer world.

And the idea that basic human tendencies toward tribalism might be here, in this citadel of higher thought, is disturbing as hell. The idea that SHE might be the oppressor now...that she is using the exact same logical formulations that men used to shape and control women...that is probably something she'll have quite a bit of trouble wrapping her mind around.

This is what it is to be human--to hide your unconscious beliefs (90% of the Others are monsters!) from your conscious mind (Mother Abigayle's beautiful story.) But if I'm right about this, it explains so much of human history, American history, human struggle. Men discount women's aspirations, women discount men's mortal sacrifice. Whites and blacks, deep down, each think they are better than the other, but play the conscious politically correct game of not QUITE saying it aloud. Obama's election means racism is over! Let's not notice the racial distribution in the Senate, shall we..?

This stuff is fascinating to me, it really is. And despite it all...God, I love people. Really, we're just wonderful. If only we weren't quite so afraid of each other, and ourselves.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Learning About Adoption From a Child's Perspective

My six year old son was adopted at birth. And there are STILL issues, still insecurities that arise. I could play games with my daughter that I would NEVER play with my son: threatening to "send her back to the baby store" and so forth. With my son, I can feel on a deep level that he wonders if I might reject him if he isn't perfect. We never concealed the fact that another woman "carried him in her tummy" for us. And we lave him with attention and love. Maybe I'm hallucinating that there is a special need here...but I don't think so, and would rather err on the side of caution. God, I love that little boy, and he loves me, and I'll do everything in my power to make him feel as secure as a child can be. But if he had been five or six when adopted? I wouldn't even try that without a therapist in the mix. Children are so helpless--what seems a silly fear to an adult can be mortal terror to a six year old. Never underestimate their need for love and support.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Monday, April 19, 2010

Just shot fight scene with Blair Underwood. Pre-production footage for FROM CAPETOWN WITH LOVE. I am tired, sore, and happy.

Kick Ass (2010)

This is one of the best comic book movies ever made. And the most delirious, morally reprehensible fun I've had at the movies in recent memory. "Kick Ass" asks the question "why hasn't anyone ever tried to be a superhero" the way Watchmen asked "what kind of human beings would Superheros actually be?"

And in its way, Kick Ass is as good, or better, than Watchmen, which I liked a hell of a lot. But Kick Ass, because perhaps I was not exposed to its source material, hit damned hard, with some unexpected emotional fabric that actually dropped my guard. I cared about these characters in ways I never did in "Watchmen" or even "Dark Night." "Spiderman II?" Top of the heap. "Superman II"? Similar kudos. "Blade"? You can imagine why I cut it extra slack.

But "Kick Ass" is so rude, so off-the chain and in your face, that I could hardly believe what I was watching. What you have here is a movie that moves back and forth across the line between reality and fantasy that you literally don't know in any given scene which world you're in, in a manner similar to Shane Black's "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang", where the detective (in Black's words, "touches the myth" at certain moments, suspending ordinary psychology and gun skill to become a movie hero.

Well..."Kick Ass" bends the laws of physics. The titular hero lives in the mundane world, and wonders why no one has ever tried ot be a Superhero for real. But the real star of the movie, Hit Girl, and her papa Big Daddy, are real Superheros, driven by the same kinds of tragedies that motivate the Spidermen and Bruce Waynes of the world. And they touch on the mental damage that the Bruce Waynes display. I mean, I don't care if your parents were gunned down in front of you when you were ten. That is no excuse for not allowing yourself love or a peaceful heart. Get over it, Dark Knight. Man can afford excellent therapy, and wallows in pain.

All right...but "Kick Ass" puts the dysfunction of the situation right out there for you to see, if you have the point of view to see it. And Nicolas Cage, as Big Daddy, is reprehensible, stealing his daughter's innocence in the name of vengeance. Chloe Moritz is so good as the eleven year old who just wuvs her daddy and wants him to be proud--and also as the human cuisinart, one of the best "lethal human being" images ever put on film. Female empowerment indeed: she mows down countless men, and one woman. Whatever.

Look--if you aren't a comic geek, are offended by ultraviolence, or are looking for a movie to take your kids to...stay away. But "Kick Ass"...kicks ass. I loved it.
Warning! Sambo alert!

Not really. Several black characters--all assholes, criminals, drug dealers. Presented as sub-human. One, it is implied, had sex with a white girl, so OF COURSE he has to die. Fine. All this is balanced by the fact that there is a lean-bodied, smart black cop who protects Hit Girl. See? I'm easy.
I mentioned watching "Megafault" for the fun destruction (a SfFy channel film about an impossible seismological event). It stars Brittany Murphy and Eric LeSalle. She is married. He dies protecting her. He is also the only black man in the movie. one who cannot name a film in which there was a solitary white character in the whole film...dies protecting someone black cannot begin to understand how this feels. Especially if you're like me, and have seen this trope dozens of times.
"You can't have sex, but you may die protecting my genetic investment." It's supposed to be better because the white folks mourn him? Because they vow vengeance? We know what they an affirmation of life they scurried to their bedroom and boffed in his honor. I am touched.

In that same line, I'm deeper into "The Stand" and I'm seeing King's problem. Like most of the Western World, darkness itself is evil and frightening. This isn't racial--it is a function of our senses not being adapted for nocturnal activity. Darkness IS danger. Blackness is ugly, dangerous, mysterious, death, unconsciousness and disease. It is encoded in the language, and Africans just were shit out of luck. Absent SPECIFIC counter-programming, whites are going to apply these emotional reactions to black people--they cannot help it.

Friday, April 16, 2010

"Hit Girl" ruptures the social fabric?

Kinda interesting...having a Facebook conversation with a major SF editor on the "black men's sex in Cinema" thing, and he went to IMDB, looked at the list of movies that have earned over 100 million and declared that I was wrong, that no one was having sex. I looked at the first 150 (out of 450) movies on the list, and found thirty. It is fascinating to me: when something is so common and plentiful, it must get to be like fish swimming in water. Another thing: I'm starting to suspect that this editor is Conservative. For whatever reason, Conservatives are more stubborn about this. Liberals get it in about two takes, Conservatives need about three. I have a suspicion it involves one of those perceptual lens things. It is NOT intelligence or good will (don't even go there!)

In some ways it's almost like going through the stages of dying: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. In fact, it feels almost EXACTLY like that. This is what makes me think that the Conservative mindset is based on a preassumption that racial bigotry is a thing of the past. Once this illusion is punctured, either the person becomes a little more Liberal, or they take the position that it is regrettable, but Conservative policies are still the healthiest and best approach to these issues. But never, not one single time, have I encountered a person who claimed to be a Conservative Republican who understood the implications of the "Sex in Cinema" thing before it was explained, debated, and evidenced. And that adds support to my position that Conservatives tend toward the "Nature" side of the "Nature versus Nurture" argument--they tend to believe that, in terms of social issues, we are in the best of all possible worlds, while Liberals tend to believe that that we can improve that world through social engineering.

I'm not suggesting one or the other position is true. I will say that I support the second position, since I see the inequalities as having been created by human agency. Another difference is that Conservatives tend to believe that discussions of race just create tension and violence--that if we just ignored it, we could move on with our lives and society. Liberals tend to believe that discussions are important. Again, I tend to agree with the second position, on the basis that racism seems to be hard-wired, and breeds in darkness. "All that is necessary for racism to triumph is for people of good will to pretend it will go away if we stop talking about it." But, again, that's just an opinion on my part.
"Kick-Ass" sounds like a ridiculously entertaining movie, and I can't wait. (The movie deals with the question: why aren't there real superheros, and what would they be like?) The prospect of 11-year old "Hit Girl" thrashing armies of grown men just makes me giddy. Apparently there is a scene where she is kinda whupped on, and several critics were horrified by this. Several fan boys felt this was hypocrisy--it's all right to show her whipping heads, but if SHE is hurt, well, there's something wrong with that.

Might I suspect that none of said Fan Boys have girl children? That they have no understanding at all of the depth of protectiveness that we, as a society, feel for little girls? I mean, again, you can kill an entire legion of adult men and that is perfectly fine--the acceptance of violence toward or between men is so accepted that we don't even notice. A little girl who can, well, Kick Ass is disturbing for a variety of reasons:
1) We haven't seen it.
2) Little girls are assumed to be the most vulnerable members of society. (I refuse to believe that there wouldn't be MORE ire and faster action if Catholic priests had been raping girls)
3) Women are controlled, world-wide, with threats of violence. The truth is that men are just as killable as women, and just as afraid of death. The game agreed on between men and women is: "we'll pretend to be helpless if you accept the more dangerous occupations and activities." Movies like "Kill Bill" or any Angelina Jolie film are revolutionary in the sense that the image of a powerful woman puts the lie to a fiction that underlies much of our social system, and has both benifited and oppressed men and women for all of our history.

Movies like "Kick Ass" play with one of the most sacred preassumptions of all--the helplessness of girl children. If you turn this one upside down...I'm not certain what the social consequences would be. The ripple would be unprecedented in human history.

Can anyone speculate what changes, positive and negative, would result from a perception that "Hit Girl" is the standard by which we should regard our girl children? Suspicion: Danger, Will Robinson. Here there be dragons.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Has the 100 Million Barrier Been Crossed?I

I report, you decide...


(for those who have joined us recently, and not been subjected to my ravings on the subject, I use the lack of non-white male sex in movies as a measure of unconscious cultural racism. The standard: at least a PG-level love scene: kissing, sinking out of frame to a fade is quite enough. Dissolving to an afterglow cuddle is nice too. Of course, buck-naked wild sex would be nice, but I'm not holding my breath. The film has to make above 100 million domestic. There, that about covers it...)

109 million dollars. Earned by "Couple's Retreat." actually kinda has a love scene with a black man. Now...he's not the lead, and every movie I counted in the over-100 million category WAS sex with the lead. However, it would be less than honest not to note that Frankie Faison actually got laid.

What to make of this? The rules would seem to be slightly more flexible. The following rules might be useful:

1) Make the black man fat. He cannot be reproductive competition for the white males.

2) He cannot be the lead. The lead must get laid as well.

3) The sex has to be played for laughs. It cannot be sensual and affectionate.

But despite those reservations, a bit of a threshold has been crossed. Note that, strictly speaking, "Traffic" features a scene where Michael Douglas' drug addict daughter is being (raped?) by a black drug dealer. I refuse to even acknowledge that would be too disturbing. But that means there are two films above 100 million with non-white male sex. In neither case is it the lead (that ain't Chow Yun Fat bustin' moves in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"). So while by one definition the line has been crossed, I think it's reasonable to say "The star" or "the lead" since that's the way I'm counting it in every other case. But I did want to have at least a minor celebration...hell, I'll take what I can get.

Lifewriting Talk! (724) 444-7444 Call ID: 77111 Sat., Apr. 17, 2010, 1pm PST, room opens 15 minutes before. Ask me anything you want--let's have fun!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Healthy Attitude, Healthy Life: How to Age Gracefully

While entropy is a part of life--we WILL eventually fall apart--most people are woefully ignorant about what it actually takes to be fit and healthy. Or even that "fit" and "healthy" are not the same things at all. In terms of exercise, start with caring for your joints, tendons and ligaments (careful joint rotations, chi gung, tai chi), then aligning the body and removing tension (yoga), moving from there to taxing the muscles to (but not beyond) your body's ability to rebuild and recover without excessive soreness. Yoga is wonderful for these basic steps. Moving into "performance" introduces dancing, swimming, martial arts, and other activities that can extended throughout life. And chief among all of these is an attitude of gratitude, a sense of loving yourself and the rest of the world, removing hatred and resentment from your heart, and believing that tomorrow can be better than yesterday. Hope, love, and faith (not to mention all the healthy, loving sex you can get!) are the elixir of life.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

"The Stand" and human machine language

It looks very much as if the Blair Underwood filming will happen on Monday. What fun. Hope I don't have to get knocked in the pool too many times.
My new coaching venture is a 2-3 day a week practice. The strange thing is that since I started it, a ton of things have been happening with my writing. I have three books coming out this year, three more in development (just got an offer on one yesterday), a collaboration with one of the few writers who intimidates me, three GOH Convention gigs, filming, pitching television...whoa. I have to be very very careful to center myself every day, or I'll spin out. The last two days my meditation was a little shallow. Better step it up.
In reading The Stand I was noting the confinement of racial imagery to one of two categories:
1) Subhuman monsters.
2) Spiritual guides.
There is nothing in-between. I had numerous people leap to his defense (I've met King, and consider him a good and decent man) but their defense is a little strange.

Basically, they say (and this was said about a dozen times): "He grew up in New England, where there were no black people."

All things being equal, that would explain his books having no black people. But the SELECTIVE exclusion is something different, and I think reveals a bit of the old racial "machine language" under the conscious social programming. Shall we look at this?

Sure we shall. If the reason for King's confinement of black characters to two categories (degenerate and saintly) is that he knows no black people, then defenders would SEEM to be saying the following:

"Whites, unless they know black people personally, will tend to consider them subhuman or, occassionally, transhuman spiritual guides." All right. Let's take a look at the preassumption under THAT.

"The dominant mythology of white America is that black people are subhuman, but a few are spiritual guides. The only cure is knowing black people personally." Is that right? Is that what these people are saying? I've heard variations on this theme in discussions of famous authors of all stripe. "(Author X) knew no black people...which is why there were none in his writing (or only those who were no-reproductively competitive). If they do appear, they are clearly less competent, intelligent, attractive, or survival-adaptive than their white counterparts." Which means that, in the absence of personal knowledge and experience, the tendency is to hold a degrading mythology. If this is true, it should hold true for all groups, (unless whites are unusually corrupt, which I do not believe).

Well, how much world history would be explained by saying "unless members of Group A have personal experience of Group B, they will automatically and unconsciously assume themselves to be superior."

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Yeah, I think that fits. Which is one of the reasons integration was so insanely important. Why input into cultural images was and is so important. THE DEFAULT HUMAN POSITION FOR ANY GROUP IS TO CONSIDER ITSELF SUPERIOR.

Why did I say that blacks (as a group) won't catch up? Because there's no referee, dudes and dudettes. When two equally matched sports teams play, even if they are of the same race, religion, nationality, language, and everything else, you NEED a referee or else, in the heat of competition, fouls will occur and cheating rampant. How much more would this be true if there is a difference between them? If one group outnumbers the other by a factor of ten to one? Give me a break.

There is no referee. The only way blacks, as a group, could catch up is if:
1)They are smarter and better than quite a bit.
2) If whites are almost supernaturally good and spiritual, capable of rising above the seemingly universal capacity for humans to think themselves better than others.

Now, that doesn't say that the gap won't narrow--it already has. To the degree that I have to struggle not to suspect that we actually ARE a bit superior. But that's just my monkey-mind hard-wiring, I suspect.

The point is that our lower chakras thrive on threat, fear, and the false ego of assumed superiority. Under stress, we devolve to that level...which is why it works so well in politics. George Orwell knew that perpetual war sets the perfect context for a dictatorship. Fearful, people REALLY go into that "the other side are nothing but fools and knaves" thing. Look how eager many were to demonize Muslims after 9/11--they don't worship the same God, they don't value human life, they know nothing but war, they are irrationally hateful, they have contributed nothing but violence to the world...and on, and on. I wouldn't be surprised if someone supportive of that POV posts in response to this, and in all due respect, I consider such thought to be a form of low-level insanity, caused by stress, fear, and the automatic and unconscious cultural mythologies that can only be dispelled by one of two things:
1) personal knowledge of the "other."
2) deep knowledge of the Self.

(See there? I dive into the cultural stuff, but always ultimately emerge back at the spiritual questions.)

Conservatives, bless 'em, note that Liberals reference race more frequently. They believe this to be the problem. And at times it doubtless can be. But if the reason 95% of black characters in Stephen King (or other white author) books are negative or non-reproductive (as opposed to say 30% of white characters) and the reason is attributed to ignorance, then we are discussing the basic, unconscious, automatic beliefs transmitted from generation to generation for hundreds of years, present in most literature and film, reinforced by our educational system and laws. Possibly even hard-wired into our brains. And the only cure is either communication and contact, or deep spiritual growth.

I look at this as universal, part of the human heritage. Curiously, most people can believe that "They" are prejudiced, but their own group? No! Can't be! Yeah. It's the default setting in most of humanity. Note the tiny fraction of people who won't imply that one specific race, gender, or political orientation is just a little bit...better. I'd say way less than 10%. And right there, you have isolated a disease which, if ever cured, would make this world a more peaceful, loving place.

Not to mention black and Asian men would get laid in movies more often. Yum.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Lifewriting Talk!
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Jim Carrey said Tiger Woods' wife must have suspected something, and was therefore not totally "innocent." While in NO WAY absolving Woods of guilt, does Carrey have a point? Do spouses of serial cheaters look the other way until forced to react?

Petting the Pony

What's With All the Hate..?

I've picked up an unusual amount of negative fan chatter about the new "Karate Kid" movie. And don't quite understand it. I mean, I loved the original as much as anyone, but Macchio, while probably a little better actor than Jaden Smith, was like 29 by the time he did the third one (hardly a "Kid") and blew chunks in terms of technique and athleticism. Pat Morita was wonderful, but does anyone really think he's better than Jackie Chan, even as an actor? And we won't even go into the difference in physical ability.

I can only see a few things:

1) Confusion about the title. Clearly, although the film takes place in China, it is a bald remake of the original. The title is marketing. But complaints seem to assume that the title as the exact same MEANING as the title of the original. This strikes me as displaying a lack of flexible thought. Whereas the original title referred to "a kid who learns karate over the course of the film," in this case the title refers to a kid who practiced karate in the U.S. and is mocked for it in his new home. It is a disparaging term like "oooh! A karate kid!"

2) Perception that Jaden cannot act. He did a terrific job in "Pursuit of Happyness." Not so good in "Day the Earth Stood Still." But then...NOBODY did a good job in that movie. I blame the director.

3) Anger about nepotism. Seems invalid--in every profession, parents help their children into the business. No difference here.

4) Anger about the race of the character changing. Well...I've actually seen a lot of that, white guys pissed that movies are being remade with formerly white characters portrayed by black actors. While I think this is invalid, and doubt they complain when Joel Gray, Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee, or whoever play Asians (for instance), I can understand the panic a little, and have a touch of sympathy. Did they complain as much when Hillary Swank played a "Karate Kid"? Or do they perceive race as being the most important characteristic of an actor? They often say "well, what if a white actor played Shaft?" Hardly the same, when he is very clearly defined as a "black private dick." Replacing Sidney Poitier with a white actor in a remake of "In the Heat of the Night" would be absurd. Replacing Poitier in a remake of "Shoot To Kill"--not so much. Where in "Karate Kid" was his race important to the film? Replace Tom Cruise with

Chiwetel Ejiofor in "Mission Impossible" and why not? Replace Cruise with Jamie Foxx in "Valkyrie" and Houston, we have a problem. If it doesn't change the cultural dynamics, I see no problem.

And one thing's for sure: the martial arts will be WAY better. Are there reasons I'm missing?


"I've been on a pony ride. I'm no longer excited by the smell of ponies."

I said this to Tananarive last night when she inquired why I'm not more excited by the possibility of Blair Underwood filming promotional scenes for "From Capetown With Love." Well, until this week I wasn't convinced it would happen. Not that everyone has the best intent, it's just that when it comes to Hollywood stuff, there are 99 "maybes" for every 1 "yes." I refuse to let my emotions go back on that roller-coaster ride.

But yesterday we met with Blair in his office, and actually talked through the scenes. It looks like they've scored a location, and found the actors. It looks as if he wants a fight scene, and I have some ideas that will allow him to look good with minimal rehearsal time. We meet on Friday to block this stuff out more clearly. Looks like he's going to Kempo me (easier to make look good than Silat) and kick me into a swimming pool. Hope it's warm, but as long as I only have to do one take, who cares? So...I'm petting the pony, and might even try to mount. But I refuse to get excited, just yet.

Oh, what the hell, I'm excited, damn it. Once more into the breach, dear friends...