You Pointin' to Me?

Do I look fat?

Do I look fat?

You pointin’ to me? Then who the hell else are you pointin’…you pointin’ to me? Well I’m the only one here.

When world building, indicating or explaining, using dialogue or exposition, is necessary. One of the biggest criticisms a published author indicated to me was my world. (Why do people say published author? Like that validates my work, their advice, or me.) That I had to give more details, really go into how politics work, are there classes in society, where and how do they live, etc. All the nitty-gritty stuff that helps ground the world into reality.

However, once you get passed that, indicating too much is too much. Cause it’s too much. I think that’s what writing folk call writing on the nose. I tend not to write on the nose cause there’s not much room there. The basic premise is not to be so obvious, to dictate, to indicate story to the point where it’s not fun.

You smell

You smell

An example of this was The Lost Symbol. Part of the premise of the book was how thought helps create and manipulate our world, something that I’ve been interested in for most of my life. As I trudged through the book, I felt like I was being lectured by one of those new age preachers asking me to give my lifesavings and body to the better good. Not sure if that’s an example of on the nose writing, but Dan Brown’s overuse of italics seriously annoyed me. Not because it was italicized. But because he was trying so hard, it felt to me, to indicate what these people were thinking and feeling. Why not use expository sentences in between dialogue to do that? But who am I?

I think a great way of showing what your character is about, or how your world works is layering different things that point to a certain idea.

The martial art school I used to go to played favorites in a big way, without explicitly showing it by hiding it in meaning.

Upon entering the school, a row of black belts’ pictures lined the wall above the mirrors. The center portrait was of the owner, the master of all masters, the one. Flanking him were black belts in descending degrees. When I was there, I had noticed that my personal teacher, who was third highest rank in the school, slowly moved farther and father away from the center until, ultimately, his image mysteriously disappeared. At the same time, new black belts edged their way closer to the center. It was explained that these individuals were contributing more to the school, while others who didn’t got axed from the wall of fame.

We be cool

We be cool

Automatically, you the student in the mirror was below the instructors of the school. And those who followed remained on the wall of shame, while those who didn’t were thought to be outsiders. But it’s those outsiders who usually make the biggest marks in the universe. Bruce Lee anyone? Whoppah! Now, of course, the author should not explain what was really going on, nor lecture his thoughts on being an outsider, like I did with Bruce. That’s for the reader/audience to figure out for themselves, if they so choose. And their interpretation is a good indication of who they are. Isn’t that the fun of reading?

Turn Back!

"Out Of Service" lit up in the operators window.

Bright red warning lights.

People shuffled out of the station.

"What's going on?" a gray-haired man asked.

"Station's closed," a lady said. Makeup caked on. "There's no trains going to the city."

Oh crap, I thought.

Dozens upon dozens of commuters scurry out of the station. I could drive to the other office, but I hate that one. Bad energy.

I pull out my pass and enter the station.

Dozens more are standing around waiting for the word of God from the station operator.

The station map shows all trains have been diverted away and there's only one train facing to leave. Held up was more like it.

An inaudble announcement repeated what I feared. Service to the city has stopped is what I think it said.

I leave the crowd awaiting the word of God and stroll over to the escalators. As I rise, I'm not sure what I'll find. A train in waiting? Or an empty track.

My eyes reach over the cement railing and spot a train. Doors already open. I walk in as a puff of warm air patted my cold cheeks. I walk through the first car, searching. Why do they have cloth seats? They get dirty so fast. And they smell. I make my way to the second car and find newly upholstered seats. Like smelling new car smell. I sit down, place my bag between my feet.

The train operator announces that the stalled train has been removed and service will be restored to the city as quickly as possible.

Moments later my train dragged itself over the lonely tracks.

Follow your heart. Never let the naysayers tell you what to do.

THE ROAD to STRIPPED

Netflix.  It's totally revolutionizing how people rent movies.  And it's economical.  But this post isn't about that.  It's about The Road to Stripped.

Netflix offers a free two-week trial, and I thought I'd explore that.  Moving into my own place requires that I explore entertainment choices other than paying for cable.  And what was the first movie I watched?

Stripped

Jill Morley made a documentary about the lives of strippers, being one herself.  She's not anymore but you can check her out at www.jillmorley.com.  Her new documentary Fighting It, follows the lives of five female fighters.  That should be interesting.

So you may be asking why I chose to watch Stripped. I'd like to say that I was doing some research for a new book or character.

No.

Plainly, I wanted to watch something naughty.

Then why didn't I go to the millions of sites that hosts saltier types of media.  Been there, done that.  I also have a soft spot for strippers.  During my acting days in the city, I'd come to know and befriend a few strippers who took acting classes who wanted to break into mainstream entertainment.  And I became close to one in particular.

In talking to them, their perspective on men, strip clubs, work, children, and life is echoed in Stripped.  And unlike watching saltier types of videos, I didn't find myself fast forwarding to the good parts.  The whole documentary was interesting.

But the thing that stuck out in my mind was how each stripper felt trapped.  The money they earned seemed to outweigh the toll it was taking on their soul.  Because it was the club owners who truly benefited from the clientele, the labor of these beautiful women, and the intense hard work, both emotionally and physically, they put in.

Aside from the tragic circumstances some of these women were in, what struck me was their view of men.  Everything a stereotypical male chauvinist pig represents is what their view of men is.  I saw how desolate they felt when talking about men.

And for some reason it reminded me of the book The Road.

No, the book didn't contain any strippers.  Despite that essential element, wink wink, I loved the book.  The desolation described was incredible.  Incredible that I saw real images as I read.  Incredible that it's one of the few books to affect me, to help me realize the abundance that I have, to remind me of the unending strength of the human soul, to show me what people could and would do when dignity is gone.

There was a scene in the book where a group of cannibals had chained about a dozen prisoners, and they were herding them back to their dwelling.  This coincided with a passage McCarthy wrote about cattle.  How we use cattle as beasts of burden, then slaughter them for food.  No one is ever shocked that we do this to cattle or any other animal.  But we're totally shocked when we see people do this to other people.

Is there a difference?

Look at the owners of strip clubs.   Earning their meals on the labor of women.  Preying on men's desire for sex.

Is there a difference?

Yeah, Jimmy.  Club owners aren't eating these women.  Literally.

What about the soul?  Is that not as important?

I deeply explore the soul in my book.  I've thought about it a great deal.  I know I have one.  Art is an expression of the soul.  And because life mimics art, or art mimics life, I chose to make it important both in art and life.

In saying that, pieces of strippers' souls are being taken away each night they dance.  Each lap dance they give, a part of their soul is lost.  Each dollar they earn, they give up a part of what makes them a human being.  This is what I felt when watching Stripped, or whenever I talked to my friend who worked in that industry, or when reading about the cannibals in The Road.

Now here's a question for you.  When you work in your day job, as I do, do you feel a part of you is torn away?  At the end of the day, what is your life about?  At the end of your life was working all those extra hours worth it?

Or are you the fortunate few who've discovered your passions, your life's purpose, and truthfully love what you do?

Are Numbers Killing You?

Statistics are like bikinis.  What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital. --Aaron Levenstein stats This image has a double meaning.  Know what it is?

I told a coworker one of my ex-students had found a passion for freerunning. He turned to me, crinkled his brow, and said, "You can't make a living doing that."

I turned to him, crinkled my brow, and asked, "What if Tony Hawk came up to you and said he was going to make it big as a skateboarder. What would you say then?"

My coworker's response was interesting but represents the sentiment of most people. Would you say something like this?  "I'd tell him that the chances of making any living in that is very small. Maybe 5 out of 1000 people would make it," he said.

I don't know where he got that statistic, but his point was simple. There's so many people who'd want to make it in skateboarding that the chances are close to impossible.

The average human has one breast and one testicle.  --Des McHale

I told him that statistics mean nothing, that any reliance on those lies is a reliance on your ownlimitation.

He then countered with a really good counter. So good was his counter that I had to think hard in my counter to counter his counter. Are we counting how many times I used counter?

"Tony Hawk was lucky," he said.

I think if he said that to Hawk, he'd slap him. Hell. I'd slap him.

To say anyone is lucky does two things. One, the skill and hard work people put into their success means nothing. Two, people are powerless to live their lives. Take what you get, cuz you ain't gonna get any better.

To accomplish anything in life worth having, a person needs to take the first step. And many times it requires a sense of courage in the face of failure. There was a lot of talk in the nineties to the turn of the century about the fear of success. But that took away from the very real fear of failure.

Torture numbers, and they'll confess to anything.  --Gregg Easterbrook

And when you rely on statistics, which can be manipulated to represent anything that anyone wants, you give your power away to live your life the way you want.

This is the basic choice of my hero's journey in my book. Does he let someone else determine his life and the lives of his province? Or does he choose to fight for a life of freedom?

Ultimately, we all have to choose. Too often I see people choosing the "easy" way out, like relying on stats so they don't have to go out and follow their passions. Follow your passions, for they may lead to great things.

Say you were standing with one foot in the oven and one foot in an ice bucket.  According to the percentage people, you should be perfectly comfortable.  --Bobby Bragan, 1963

Brain Washed?

There's one in every organization. A devoted minion waiting to please their master. How do people gain these devotees is something I write about in my book. This past Saturday I went to a friend's black belt presentation.  Then attended an after party at an instructor's house.

If you've read mybio, you know my opinion of that.

I hadn't been back to the school for many years.  By choice mind you.  Most of the students have changed.  But nothing outside of that has.  They still teach the rigid style of martial arts, the same kind that Bruce Lee rebelled against.  But there was something more sinister going on that I'd forgotten over the years.

One of the common beliefs that the students and teachers hold is once someone gets a black belt that person is never wrong, or never questioned.  Now, they don't necessarily teach this, but that notion is enforced.

One indication is this.

One of the things students do is bow to all of the instructors when they enter and exit the school.  It's a form of respect.  It's fairly normal in all martial arts schools.  But when people started bowing to black belts at the after party, I shook my head.  It's unnecessary.  They were in someone's home, outside of the formal school setting. And no one stopped it.  Brain washed?

Many of the students also take whatever the black belts say as gospel.  They don't realize that black belts are just people with a freakin' belt colored in black.  And this is where the danger comes from.

A good student is one who follows but also thinks for himself.  And as a result, they should ask the teacher questions.  Why is this important?

A student must follow in order to learn.  This is how wisdom and knowledge is passed down.  Fair enough.  The student should then think, "Does this apply to me?"  Not all the time.

Here's an example:  If I were teaching a woman about self defense, she may not have the kind of strength and power that a man has.  So accuracy and reaction training is VERY important.  She has to be able to make every single strike count because her targets will be much more specific-eyes, nose, throat, solar plexus, groin.  Her reaction has to be instant, like avoiding a punch, because a single punch can end her day. And women have to take into account long hair if they have it.

That doesn't mean I don't focus on power or speed, which are directly related.  But I'd point out what she needs immediately in order to make her dangerous as soon as possible.  I'd teach her how men commonly attack women.  That way she knows what to look for, and what to attack if she is to be accosted.

If I were to teach a man, I'd still teach him the importance of striking the eyes, nose, throat, solar plexus and groin.  But his strength may be enough to offset the attacker without using lethal strikes.  So I would point out his physical strengths, his awareness of reach, and the common ways men are attacked.

I'd also get rid of the notion of self defense to both men and women.

As you can see, there are major differences in teaching males and females.  And the differences extend to teaching children.  They are further distilled down to individuals, depending on who they are.

A lot of these martial arts schools will teach a one-size-fits-all routine that don't take into account how a person learns, how a human body works, or even the self-worth of the student, the mental side.  Add the egos that are displayed in a lot of these schools, the bowing, the not able to question teachers, and the rigid routines, are the reasons why I left.

Bruce Lee rebelled against the gospel type of martial arts.  He was one of the first to emphasize mixing of martial arts.  There is truth in that, which is why MMA is so prevalent today.

Is Rebelling a Bad Thing?

The hero of the 7th Province has a choice.  He either rebels against his close friend and former mentor, or join him in taking over the world.  Each choice ends in war.  That's a tough place to be.  Is there a correct choice?  For the hero I'm not sure.  As a writer, the choices that each character makes, ultimately mine, is a crap shoot. I love that.

Even though I've plotted my whole novel, each day I wrote brought new discoveries and challenges that made me giddy.  I'm never sure how things were to happen.  I just know they had to happen.  As a result, writing my fantasy was a huge adventure.

Is rebelling bad?

I have a secret.  It's one of my favorite things about myself.  I don't get along well with authority figures.  That doesn't bode well since my day job is encrusted in a corporate empire.  The funny thing is they have a lot of propaganda that emphasizes their business values.  I won't get into the hypocrisy of it.

Is rebelling not a good thing?

A parent tells a child to kiss Uncle Louie.  Child scrunches her little face and shakes her head.  Parents eggs the child on, saying Uncle Louie loves the child.  Child pouts her lips, turns, runs toward her parent's leg, and grasps with all her might.  Parent gets upset, unhinges the child, pushes her to Uncle Louie, and forces her to kiss him on the cheek.  (I credit this example to my best friend.)

Is this wrong?

Hell yeah.

The parent just took the child's power away, forced her to kiss a strange man, despite her not wanting to.  If Uncle Louie were a child molester, the parent just punched a large hole in the child's ability to resist the attack.  In the child's mind love is associated with force.  And we wonder why some women stay with men who batter them.

What if the child was just being a brat?

Firm discipline should take place.  You decide what firm is.  That's different in each culture, society, family and individual.  But in the example above, the child is not being a brat.

Teaching a lot of adolescent kids made me realize one thing.  Almost every single one exerts their own independence.  Every parent exerts their control in an attempt to guide them.  It's the nature of the ocean, the ebb and flow.  Parents think their kids are being a pain in the ass.  Offsprings think their parents are being assholes.  What more could you ask for in a relationship?

Think of a pendulum searching for their own center.

Parents often ask me to infect a behavioral change.  But that's an impossible task.  All I can do is mentor them without limitation.  Tom Cruise taught me that.

He was on Inside the Actor's Studio.  A great show by the way.  He said that his mother never limited him in what he did.  She was watchful, but allowed him to explore the world.  Now he's some actor making at least twenty million dollars per movie, chump change.

As you sit in your day job, and if it's not the place you want to be, then what are you doing about it?

See part 1 to this article.

True Passion

Last post I asked how does someone know if they’ve chosen their right passion(s), be it vocation, hobby, career, etc. For everyone it’s going to be different. Some will tear up at the thought, others are ecstatic and jump right in, and when they do time flies by without notice.

For me, all of the above were true. But there was one other indication. I’m not a disciplined person. Motivation is not my specialty. What I’ve learned to do is to allow things to happen. Once I found my love of the 7th Province, I wrote an average of fifteen hours a week. It was a driving force. No matter how tired, how busy my normal life became, or what was going on in my life, it carried me. There were days I felt like a robot, driving to Borders, setting my laptop up, getting my coffee, taking a moment, and diving right in.

I was never this disciplined in school!

Ultimately, there should be a high level of happiness, content, peace, fulfillment, serenity. A certain silence or calmness can be felt mentally, physically and spiritually.  And there may even be a sense of urgency to jump right in.

Think about children at play. They think nothing of time, parents, cleanliness, safety, or anything that would get in the way of their fun. Master artists can only match the joy in children’s eyes, the pleasure in their laughter and their elation in their imagination. Have a childlike quality in life and explore.

If you’ve read my bio, I went through different passions in my life. I became aware of what worked for me and what didn't.  There were things that I did just for fun, and there were things I had to do in order to find what I loved.  It's been said many times.  Life is a marathon not a sprint.

Just be highly aware of your likes and dislikes, be aware of your fears and work through them. Humans are born with two real fears, height and predators. Any other fear is a hallucination.