The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Thursday, March 31, 2011

All the mystics and wise men of the world have tried to tell us one thing: all is well. The world is fine. The problem is in our Selves.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Only the adult you are can heal the Child you were

Yesterday I received an email from one of my 101/ TacFit Warrior students. It breaks my heart to say I've had dozens like it over the years. As with too many women she had childhood issues, and has struggled with her sexual expression and weight issues since that time. The following has been carefully redacted to protect her identity:

Dear Steve,

Hi, I hate to bug you when you're in the midst of such a huge move. I thought about posting to the 101, but there isn't really a topic this goes under and I don't know where to begin with backstory if I did try to post.

I've been giving myself permission to be pretty. I bought a few new things that look good on me and threw out some of the clothing so unflattering my friend K. makes me go home and change. I'm writing, and I even started putting up audiotracks for some of my poetry. I'm exercising (TacFit Warrior, pre-recruit) and deliberately nourishing my body. I'm losing weight, feeling good. People are noticing. I've been doing really good about not freaking out with all of my stuff. I just think of all the gorgeous women in my life who are not afraid to strut their stuff. Yeah, I can do that.

Then I get a facebook message from a total stranger who can't even keep his assumed names straight and I'm freaking out. Like I shouldn't have put up that profile pic where I feel all pretty and I shouldn't be posting audio tracks on my blog. I'm all kinds of down on myself like I should not be trying to get attention. I should slip back into the shadows where it's safe and stop putting myself out there like the weirdo magnet that I am. Yeah, I've got issues. I know I should not freak out over one message from a stranger on facebook. I mean I've had friend requests from strangers, I generally accept if we have a friend in common, but not if it doesn't feel right. I've just never been freaked out by a message before. I don't know if it's my baggage or his words, but it really got to me and I want to undo everything I've done in the past month towards allowing myself to be pretty. I'm gonna cut and paste our exchange and I'm sorry to bug you when I'm sure you're overwhelmed. I just want to know a) is he creepy or is it just my baggage setting off so many alarms? b) any suggestions on what to do about it, other than hide under a rock until I'm ninety? Any wisdom would be appreciated. It's been a long time since I've been this creeped out by someone.

Thank you,


(There followed a very obvious come-on from the "facebook friend." Yuck.)

Dear X:

Yep, he's hoping for a hook-up, but I wouldn't call it creepy. Just inappropriate. You dealt with it fine.

The other issue is the fear. You can 100% guarantee there'll be more, and you have to get ahead of it. Use the Fear Removal technique before you do TacFit, once a week ONLY.

If you don't remember:
1) be in a private space. Spend ten minutes thinking of your very worst case scenario. Really let yourself get scared, angry, guilty, whatever--do this until you are crying openly, and really feel the emotions.
2) Begin TacFit IMMEDIATELY. Just perform it. Don't think about the worst case any more. Just follow the directions. Tire yourself out enough to reach "second wind". This last part is CRITICAL. You must reach "second wind" at least once.
3) Work for flow. Follow your breaths, seek proper form, let the magic in TacFit do the rest.

Every time you do this, you should notice your fear decreasing by about 30%. This technique is absolute dynamite. Remember that you have decades of encysted emotion, hon. There is a way out, but you're going to have to process the pain. This will do the job incredibly well.

You need to figure that you'll be processing your emotions the rest of your life. It's what we all have to do, X. You have some special challenges, but nothing you can't handle.

much love,


The important things to consider about the above:

1) When you wear armor to protect your emotions, as it begins to slip away, you WILL experience the fear. And that fear WILL sabotage your efforts unless you have coping mechanisms in place BEFORE YOU REACH THE FEAR. Get ahead of the curve.

2) Any aerobic exercise that takes you through second wind will work for the "Fear Removal" technique. For several reasons, "TacFit Warrior" is perfect, but you can also use dancing, running, Bikram yoga, or hitting the heavy bag (my favorite!)

3) Fear will hide as anger, guilt, and shame. Don't be fooled. What happened to you in childhood was NOT your fault. Every child has the right to be protected from predators, bullies, and neglect. Be that as it may, it is now your responsibility to heal yourself, or your life will slip away from you.

God bless the wounded children.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Within Darkness, the Light

Moving van arrives tomorrow. Chaos abounds. Too many moving parts in my life. My only course is to go deeper within, and trust that somewhere within the clutter, pain and anger there is peace. This has always been true in the past, and that is a good reason to believe it will be true in the future as well. It is the present that must sustain me.

During meditation, made contact with a very young Stevie avatar last week...he's been elusive since, but I don't think that's a problem. What I did this morning was check into a basic three-chakra meditation, using Belly Brain, Heart Center and Head Center as my floating targets. If I can visualize a mirror image, and see the balls of light clearly, I can do a trick: float up above my head and look DOWN through the three centers, see if there is overlap, if there is a Vin Diagram style core of pure light, indicating the degree to which my physical energy, emotions and intellect are all moving in the same direction.

As a "complex equivalent", this can be hella generative, and even the effort to find them is productive and healing, reminding me that my only way through this is to take control of those things I CAN control--my emotions and perceptions--and let the rest be what it is.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

If you were judged by your actions more than your words and your words more than your intents or would you look?

Pity the poor Latvians

I find myself irritated by the suggestion that one cannot look into a work of art and make judgments about the artist. Specifically, this comment arises often when a comment is made about a writer excluding or making negative images concerning women, gays or minorities. The same defenses arise about film makers, and probably playwrights and even graphic artists.

The common defense is that "he was creating for a bigoted audience." Or "she was lampooning the attitudes of her time."

Well...maybe. Twain in "Huckleberry Finn" certainly is asking his audience to question their attitudes toward race. He does this by contrasting Huck's assumptions with Jim's actions and words. In other words, as God in the universe of his story, Twain gives Jim inwardness, a quality of humanity and intelligence separate from Huck's (and the culture's) assumptions.

Margaret Mitchell in "Gone With the Wind" does not--her slaves are pretty much exactly what their masters--and Mitchell--think they are. Potatoes, solid all the way through. Simple creatures happy with their lot in life.

This rather noxious attitude, I think, slips into the recent "Never Let Me Go," the movie about clones bred to provide organ transplants for their masters. Raised in the equivalent of English boarding schools, they are informed of this fact when about fifteen years old. Not one protests. Not one runs away. They are not supervised, really, and in later years given freedom of movement and opportunity to drive around the country and meet "normal people." Not a single one refuses the burden. Not one has to be corrected, re-programmed, brought back in chains. None. One of them goes off and screams at one point. That's it.

It is tempting to wonder if the artists, the writers and director, who are God in this world--shared attitudes with the fictional society they depict. I suspect this may be true: I've seen about two dozen comments in defense of "Never Let Me Go" and every one seemed to hold the belief that you can actually program human beings to behave this way: without hypnosis, drugs, or brain surgery. If you just "train" them properly, while, they'll jump into your oven and let you cook them like Al Capp's Shmoos. Every one. Without exception.

That means that there are LOTS of people out there who really do hold that opinion. Reasonable to suspect that the set of people who think other human beings can be conditioned like cattle (actually that's rude to cattle. Slaughter houses are set up so that the cows at the end of the line can't see what's happening to the ones at the front. Even cows, warned ahead of time, will moo and stampede.)

They believe that oppressed peoples can actually be programmed to accept and even embrace the conditions of oppression WITHOUT A SINGLE ONE REBELLING. Wow. I'll make it clear: that is one of the most poisonous, damaging, unsupportable views of humanity I've ever heard, and I've heard it all my life. It is exactly what royalty, slave masters, and the upper classes in England, Japan, India, the Old South, or men who embrace a sexist society want to believe. This goes way beyond "Trickle Down" economics or Randian supermen. "They" down at the bottom are perfectly happy. If only those outside agitators would leave "them" alone, all would be well. A place for everyone and everyone in his place...

Without one single person protesting.

Yuck. Now, I can't really determine anything for sure about the people involved with "Never Let Me Go." But I'll tell you, if I caught this popping up two more times in their work, I'd need to see contrary, balancing images to convince me that this was not their actual world view.

I've run into this with comments about writers and editors, in some cases great writers or entire genres of writing. Yeah, that one. Why, the exclusion of group X was just a matter of selling to a prejudiced audience. The derogatory images of groupY were just lampooning bigoted attitudes. The depictions of violence against group Z were just pandering to style or politics.

This seems to arise from some bizarre need to believe that artists, writers, directors, editors, or whatever are better than ordinary people. They can't be "like us." Guess again. Yes, they are like us. Exactly like us. They ARE us. They are on average no more conscious, aware, alert, humane, mature, or intelligent than average. The best of them are certainly as focused, skilled and intelligent as highly skilled professionals in other fields. But that doesn't make them less vulnerable to the diseases of ego and fear--the root of so many human ills.

Cracks me up when I hear first-time convention goers talking about "wow! Such and such writer was just a regular guy..."

Yeah, he was. A regular guy who has expended his life energy and attention to developing a very specific set of skills. The same effort and attention could have brought him success in any number of other fields. It is admirable. It does not make him or her invulnerable to the ills that have plagued mankind since the beginning.

If you never mention Latvians in your writing, they aren't on your map. If you consistently present Latvians as inferior, or you arrange events so that Latvians die disproportionately to other groups, it is fair to wonder about your attitude toward Latvians. If you love Latvians and for the sake of money consistently exclude or defame them, you are a whore. If you defend your favorite director or genre that excludes or defames Latvians, claiming that any negative images were totally driven by the audience--you are blind, and probably have difficulty understanding human motivations in other arenas as well.

If no Latvians are employed in the entertainment, communication or artistic arena of your choice, and you think this is because "Latvians aren't interested" without asking Latvians if that is true, you aren't interested in learning the truth. If you think this despite actual, real-world Latvians actually saying they would LOVE to be in this industry, you are deluded.

If you believe that Latvians are not represented in an industry do to lack of capacity, you have a specific prejudice. It may or may not be true...but disguising your true opinion (Latvians just don't have what it takes) beneath a politically correct veneer is cowardice.

What are we? As human beings, the closest an outsider can come to understanding who we are is by watching our actions. For an artist, writer, director, the art produced is action. Insisting that "I Spit On Your Grave" was a Feminist tract, despite the fact that real actual women mostly found it loathsome and sexist is probably a failure of logic.

Sexism, racism, homophobia and other stuff is so culturally condemned that people would rather consider someone a total opportunistic sociopath than a bigot. Wallace's infamous "I'll never be out-niggered again" is a classic example of this. I've actually had people offer this as a DEFENSE of Wallace. As if triggering and supporting racist beliefs that destroyed hopes dreams and lives JUST TO GET ELECTED, even if he didn't actually "hate" black people somehow makes sense. Somehow makes him...more human. Dear God. No, it doesn't. It makes him a monster instead of merely someone with a world view saying one group is better than another, something utterly typical of human beings. That would simply be a vulnerability to the nearly-universal tendency to place your group--whatever it is--above others and then collect beliefs and values that support this need, born in the infantile desire to belief your daddy is the toughest, your mommy the prettiest, your family the best.

We love our artists. We do not serve them by allowing them to express their damage without comment, or with excuses. No, you probably cannot judge an artist by a single piece of work. But the scope of it? The attitudes, images, representations and plot turns in dozens or even hundreds of works? Really?

If we cannot judge someone by their life's work...what in the world CAN we judge them by? Either they are telling their truth, or have no moral fiber at all. I say it is critical to include the artist in judgment of the art. Of course many artists don't want this--it gives them no where to hide, and we desperately want people to accept our story about ourselves, rather than actually judging our actions. And make no mistake: everyone judges everything around them. Everyone around them.

By what are we to be judged, if not our actions?

Sunday, March 06, 2011

I wonder if the % of adults who think kids' values are worthless is different from the % of kids who think the same thing of their elders.

juggling projects requires priorities, rotation, and making clean breaks between actions. Emotional and mental centering is critical.

Alien life discovered? NO JOKE.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Diamond Hour Radio!
Today, March 5, 2011 1:00 PM PST
(724) 444-7444
Subject: Flow and performance

Friday, March 04, 2011

The Bourne-Again Identity

The Adjustment Bureau (2011)

About three quarters of the way through this totally satisfying fantasy film (and make no mistake: this is Twilight Zone, not Outer Limits territory we're talking about) the filmmakers seemed to remember that this was an American film, and shifted into an action tempo, triggering the pun above.

It fits in the sense that this is a thriller that deals with existential issues that have been wrestled with since time immemorial, probably most familiar to American audiences as Christian theology concerning free will. But that is far too limited a scope.

From the moment Congressman David Norris (Matt Damon) meets VERY cute with dancer Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt) the sparks fly, and she inspires him to give a career-saving speech. He encounters her again three years later, and the romance is definitely "on" until Norris is informed by mysterious hat-wearing, unsmiling men (all members of the "Adjustment Bureau" seem to be male. Make of this what you will) that his life has been shaped by powers beyond his control, and he must never see Elise again.

What follows is a mystery, a suspense, a touching love story, an exciting chase. Beautifully acted and directed, especially by the attractive leads. Damon is the best "extraordinary everyman" since Harrison Ford, and if someone wanted to remake "Mr Smith Goes To Washington" I could absolutely see him doing it. Based on a Phillip K. Dick short story ("Adjustment Team") this is a fine piece of philosophical fantasy. Any attempts to actually make sense of this as a science fiction piece would, I think, rapidly devolve to confusion (the "Adjustment Team" knows everything and has apparently infinite technology...but can't give this guy a Roofie so he'll forget the last hour of his life, and meeting this chick? Really?) but if you go with it as a straight-faced fairy tale, it is just...just a terrific film. Heck, there is even a very obvious black Spiritual Guide aspect, and I didn't give a hoot.

I love movies like this, that ask us about love, and will, and fate. Love writers who demand that we work a little for our answers. I've already seen debates about whether "Adjustment Bureau" is SF or fantasy, yada yada.

What I think is that if they believe the original author really cared about niceties like Heinleinian definitions...they don't know Dick.

An "A", and not just for effort.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Corporations, as quasi-living "beings" have different priorities than the human beings who work for them. Forget this at your peril.

Diamond Hour Radio!
Saturday, March 5, 2011 1:00 PM Pacific
(724) 444-7444
Subject: Flow.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Pot is like a lazy, friendly dog. Cocaine is a wolf. It is waiting for you to make the mistake of thinking it is a dog. Wake up, Charlie

No one can insult you without your permission.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

An interview I did six years ago...

Set goals in all three Earthly areas of your life. As you move toward them, you'll hit walls. Map the maze, and find your way out.

59 Years ago today, my mom did me a serious solid by bringing me into the world. Anything I've ever done, or ever hope to be, I owe to her.