Movie Review

Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again (2018)

Cher KILLED “Fernando” in “Mama Mia: Here We Go Again.”   Fabulous. And watching Pierce Brosnan “sing” and “dance” through (my personal favorite Abba song) “Dancing Queen” was worth the price of admission. The movie is a buttermilk pancake: warm, fluffy, sugar-dusted, tasty and enjoyable without being in the least filling.   So much fun.




The movie deals with the back-story for Meryl Streep’s character Donna, who has a lovely daughter by one of three different men, no one knows who. And the question of exactly how this happened apparently hung over the original film and Broadway play.  “Here we go again” sets out to answer this question, (mostly) without the participation of Streep, or any first-tier Abba songs to punctuate the frolics.


And…the answer is actually pretty sweet.  I wasn’t sure it was going to work, but about half-way through the movie, I realized that I knew Donna.  A free-spirited, beautiful, sensual young woman in the prime of her life, leaving college and off on an adventure of travel and romance, with no idea which way life will take her.   I was kinda holding my breath–I wanted to adore her, which meant I wanted to respect her choices, to see how this could happen without intoxication or poor judgement.


And…frankly, they pulled it off.   The core of “Mamma Mia 2” is a celebration of love and life, of friendship and family, birth and death, and the primacy of song to express powerful emotion.  I’ve always loved musicals, where the characters are so filled to bursting with emotion that they MUST burst out into dance and song or they might explode.


Have you ever done that? Greeted the morning with a song?   I used to do my morning joint recovery drills to some saucy, sexy song (like “Black Velvet”.  Yum) to get the juices going first thing. Something that does that for YOU, while stretching, chanting, walking, rebounding…would be a terrific way to take another step on the road to life.


Anyway, if “Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again” sounds like fun, you will probably find it so.  I did.


And oh…did I say that Cher was great?




Celebrating Your Life

Drove back from San Diego last night, where I attended the Comic Con memorial panel for Harlan Ellison.   Remarkable man.    I might post part of the audio for that later.




Taking the week off to celebrate my 20th anniversary with Tananarive. I’ll have more thoughts about that later–so many to think about.   Eulogizing a dear friend, celebrating the love of my life.  We went to see EQUALIZER last night, which was a little disjointed in terms of tone, but very satisfying, with a last act that came out of nowhere, but still worked.


Basically, an ex-intelligence agent named McCall (Denzel Washington) seeks redemption through using his special skills to aid ordinary people.  When one of his closest friends is killed, he is set on a mission of personal revenge.    Mixed with this story is his attempt to save the soul of a street kid balanced between art school and selling drugs.  We’ve seen all of this before, but Denzel and director Antoine Fuqua make it fun.


In a LIFEWRITING sense, what can we extract from this?  Well, he’s a hero seeking healing, expiating guilt for the terrible things he did for the government by helping the helpless. Saving his own soul.   One can sense that this man is a fingernail away from damnation, and like John Wick, only his relationships, his clinging to a code of honor, provides salvation. One might almost ask why a man capable of such violence would risk his heart by caring for ANYONE.


Well…why indeed. Why love our friends, when we will only lose them? Why fall in love at all, when it makes you hostage to fortune?


Because that’s what makes life worth while.   If you could live forever sitting in a cave eating raw rice, alone, for eternity?   I would not.   My experiences, my loves, my friends make existence worth while.


But because loss is inevitable, it is CRITICAL that we celebrate as well.  Not to just wait for deaths or anniversaries or special occasions positive or negative to stand up and proclaim our gratitude for existence.


Each of us must wrestle with this, and the best way to deal with the inevitable pain, and loss, and sense of incompletion is to tell the people we love that we love them EVERY DAY.  Be grateful for our blessings EVERY DAY.   Celebrate the health and strength of our bodies while we have them EVERY DAY.


So…What is the most important thing for you to accomplish this week?  Why do you want it?  How will it empower your life?   What are you grateful for RIGHT NOW that can help you believe that if you give this outcome, this relationship, this “push” 100%, throw off your brakes, you will get more pleasure than pain?


Because…if you do, if you BELIEVE that doing this thing will creat more pleasure than pain, you will move in that direction. The MORE pleasure you will gain, and the MORE pain you will avoid, the more you will WANT to do it, the more pulled toward it.


I was tired after traveling to Carolina…but happy to drive to San Diego to help people say goodbye to my friend.   It fed my heart.


Now…I don’t need much motivation to want to take this week with Tananarive to remember how blessed I am, and all the joy we’ve shared for two decades.  Jason is safe at camp, and all is well in the world.


It took money, and work, and shuffling the schedule to get this time…but the motivation to do it was clear, and strong.


It isn’t always so clear.  EVERY day we have to take steps, and only if we remember how finite life is, how precious our loves and enthusiasms and contributions are, can we get up in the morning, deal with our tasks, create our dreams, and go to bed at night remembering how fortunate we are.


Every morning…think of the most important thing you must do this day, this week, this month. Every morning, remember WHY this special thing (or things) will bring you health, passion, power, love, expression, knowledge, and contribution. If you can…the amount of enthusiasm and focus you experience will be extraordinary.


Don’t you deserve that?  One day, those you love will be eulogizing YOU.  What do you want them to say?  How do you want to be remembered?


Don’t you want to live life TODAY, while you can?


So..take your first few minutes of the day.   Remember your blessings.  Visualize your goals.  Take deep breaths, and move to anchor yourself into your body with your MORNING RITUAL.   And then…celebrate another 24 hours of existence.


If you don’t…who will?





My sister Joyce got re-married yesterday, and it was great.  At the reception, I met some new cousins, and we bonded over discussions of comic book mythology.   One subject was the reason DC is struggling in the cinema (but producing really good television animation).  There are a lot of layers here, but part of it is that Zach Snyder doesn’t really seem to believe in heroes and heroism, and in trying to imitate the success of “The Dark Knight” they gave the reins of their universe to a man who doesn’t share a core philosophy with the mythology that birthed it.


“The Dark Knight” works because Batman is…well, he’s a figure of fear:  “Criminals are a superstitious, cowardly lot, and my disguise must be able to strike terror into their hearts.”  Right?  He is angsty, and in class “dark” mode never got over losing his parents, which implies psychological dysfunction to ME.   The twisted world of sociopaths and warped sexuality makes total sense.


But Superman is not a figure of fear. He is a figure of INSPIRATION.   The classic character is “the Big Blue Boy Scout.”  He stands for “Truth, Justice and the American Way.”  If THAT character is angsty…we have a problem.


I mean, if a movie-star handsome being with godlike powers who, in this incarnation, can even get laid, who is adored by the planet…if THAT being is depressed, what hope is there for the rest of us?  If we accept THAT being as struggling with his emotions, we might as well give the @#$$ up.  It is a pale and terrible world IMO.    That creature is not a source of inspiration. We would spend all our time wondering when he would suicide and take us with him.


A very different being. And I suggest to you that THAT image, that hero, is NOT what we have loved for eighty years.  It is a creature from Snyder’s world, and I don’t believe he would be capable of creating an iconic hero. No…remember his work on WATCHMEN, which I loved.  He is a deconstructionist, untrusting of the notion of “heroes”, seeing in all of them a psychopathology that manifests as alienation (Dr. Manhattan), insanity (Rorshach), sexual dysfunction (Owl) and mommy issues (Silk Spectre) as well as sociopathy and self pity (The Comedian).  Alan Moore’s vision was brilliant, and if Snyder’s version was almost slavishly imitative rather than re-imagining for the screen, I still thought he did a better job than I ever expected to see.


But that is NOT Superman, I suggest to you.  And the fact that the Suits at DC brought him in suggests to me that they were not and never were comic book fans. They don’t “get” it, so they imitated the external structure of what succeeded with Dark Night, without asking themselves about the inner world of the fans.




What do we really want?  If the Dalai Lama is correct that the meaning of life is to seek joy, then every action we take in life is trying to evade pain and gain pleasure.  The degree to which maturation is the process of learning to postpone IMMEDIATE pleasure for greater long-term gain is  a factor all parents must teach their children.


Our entertainments, then, would be things that adjust our tension levels up or down into an optimal range.  Too little stress? Ride a roller coaster or watch a horror movie. Too much stress? Again…just as a hyperactive child can actually grow more relaxed and focused with doses of “uppers”, we can use suspense and even horror to make us so tense we become…relaxed.


But with our Superheroes, we want to see ourselves, or some idealized versions of ourselves, or some exaggerated version.  The Hulk represents the anger we fear will rage out of control. Spider-Man deals with the guilt of a bad adolescent choice, choosing to dedicate himself to service. The Fantastic Four struggle to hold a family together under extraordinary circumstances.


Batman is the man who channels his personal demons into becoming a force even demons will fear, for the sake of protecting the innocent.


Wonder Woman is the outsider of pure heart, come to the world of Men to show the power of love.


Superman is the story of ultimate power combined with a clear and humane vision, a pure heart. The being who could rule the world, and instead chooses to serve.


This is primal stuff, because we all struggle with our sense of shame, or guilt, or fear.  We all feel that disconnection from the world. We wake up in the morning unsure who we are, and go to bed at night without confidence that our actions have made any difference at all.


Well…we DO make a difference. We DO matter. It IS possible to know who you are.   But we have to keep our eyes on the prize, or we’ll get lost in the small and draining tasks of life.  The thousands of demands made of us every day.


These icons represent the core problems of life, and the human qualities that can overcome them.  We NEED our heroes.  All cultures have them, so I strongly suspect that they are a vital aspect of our cultural psychology.


If you are a writer, create your characters with care, understanding what your readers really want, deep inside: movement away from pain, toward pleasure.  How does your writing serve that?


If you are a reader, then find the hero within yourself, understand their struggle, and find the resources you need to stand up and be the best you can be, every day, for the sake of your own heart, and that of your children and their children…or your nieces and nephews and neighbors.  One way or another, find the strength to give every day of your life the meaning you deserve.


If you won’t…who will?



Be the hero in the adventure of your lifetime…



(P.S….Heroes have monsters and villains to trigger their emergency powers.  You have the responsibility of finding a way to tap into your real identity, your heroic nature, even though life is more of a slow boil than a raging fire.   Learn how at:

Becoming a Superhero

“Right now everything looks so strange to me, as if I don’t belong here. It’s me that’s out of place. And the worst thing is that I feel there’s somewhere I do belong, but I just can’t find it.”–seen this morning on a thread.


My all-time favorite movie serial is “Captain Marvel”, with those wonderful practical-effect flying scenes that still look astoundingly good, and Billy Batson saying “Shazam!” and turning into (basically) Superman.  Great stuff.  The villain is “The Scorpion”, and the “who is it?” is a fun mystery as the original members of an expedition are killed one at a time, until only the bad guy remains in the last episode.   All the chaos revolves around seeking a statue with six movable arms, in the shape of (wait for it…) a scorpion.  Each arm holds a lens. If they are all lined up properly, when sunlight flows through them various mayhem results, including explosions and melting solid rock.   It is a super-weapon, but also a great metaphor: line up the elements of your life perfectly, and you release an energy unknown.


Most people are at best “focused”.  Focus can burn a hole in paper.   But when you align all the aspects of your Self, you are more like a laser. And lasers can burn holes in diamond.





I returned home last night, after flying to North Carolina, driving 500 miles roundtrip to South Carolina to spend a couple of hours with the wonderful kids at Mama G’s community center (and having a chance to play with her.  Hey, instead of zero to countless, my score was a ferocious one to six!  Vast improvement on my part…), get back to Chapel Hill to talk Afrofuturism to a roomful of brilliant students with high-level bullshit detectors, and getting to the airport for my trip home.


Home.  Where Tananarive and Jason and Django and Ginger live.   Home.  Where I wake up and go to sleep, where I recharge for another day of work and play.


It is where my heart lives.  I take it with me wherever I go, so that any time I want I can line up the energetic “lenses” of my humanity: survival, sexuality, power, emotion, communication, intellect, and spiritual commitment.   Boom.  Any time I do that, I’m totally awake, totally present.  My survival energy rises through all the ways it manifests in the world, and I’m a live wire.


The trick is to get the first four together.  Survival, sex, power, and emotion.  Do that, and the rest take care of themselves. The mistake is to try to “think” your way through your life. That ends in a ball of confusion. The Instructions on how to get out of the box are written on the outside of the box.


To get out, you either just bang your head bloody and hope a wall fractures.  You can  wait to outgrow it, and hope you don’t strangle in your own waste products before the box pops…and deposits you in a shiny new (but larger) box.  Or you can find an ally, someone who has already grown beyond a similar box, and ask them to lend you the keys.


There are two basic ways out.   One is to start with the physical.   Develop the skills to care for your body and survive in a career contributing honestly to your community.  Learn to satisfy your sexual desires with integrity, creating a “nest” that could provide for a mate and children (even if you have no intent to HAVE kids, it is wise to learn to have the adult resources to potentially provide for them.   Something the “Incels” often fail to understand).  And open your heart, so that that (potential) mate has a safe place to open THEIR heart. So that children would be safe and nurtured with you.


That’s the core survival wiring, and that path just flat works.  People who feel lost, depressed, scattered…can re-connect in one of a couple of ways.


  1. Move their bodies.   We evolved to move.  When we move enough to trigger growth responses in our bodies (by pushing through aerobic limits, mobility limits, current strength limits) we trigger a kind of focus that takes us out of “first world” problems and into the animal.  Their problem was that they weren’t in their bodies.  When you aren’t…it is easy to get lost.  They don’t know “what is true.”
  2. Connect with their hearts.   They don’t have the answer to the most basic and important question for thinking feeling beings: “who am I?” the partner to  “what is true?”  Here, meditation techniques of various kinds are wonderful.  My favorite is Heartbeat Meditation.  Second favorite is The Ancient Child, which I perform every day, centering and bringing my life back into focus.


Both of them can and should be incorporated into a daily Morning Ritual.  Just…what you do first thing in the morning.  You learn to line up all your “lenses” so that every action, every breath has meaning. THERE IS NO WASTED TIME. NO WASTED EFFORT, WHEN YOU KNOW THE MEANING AND PURPOSE BEHIND EVERY ACTION.


I am SO happy that more of you are trying this.  Blending movement with thought and feeling.   It may feel awkward at first, but you can change your entire life if you stick with it.


“Right now everything looks so strange to me, as if I don’t belong here. It’s me that’s out of place. And the worst thing is that I feel there’s somewhere I do belong, but I just can’t find it.”


We lose touch with ourselves, our hearts, our place in the world.   Love yourself.  Belong to yourself.  Own your life.   There IS somewhere you belong.  Everywhere.  But most essentially, within your own heart.  Have that, learn to focus and align it, and you can make the most out of whatever energy you have, at whatever stage of life you may be.


Billy Batson just wanted to survive, but found himself in the midst of a great adventure, everyone around him plotting and planning to master the power that controls destiny.   Killing and cheating and stealing and lying and pretending to be things they were not.


But an old wise man taught him that if he just chanted an affirmation he would have the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles, and the speed of Mercury.  He would have what all the others sought, and the power was right within him, to be unleashed by courage and commitment and the urge to help those he loved.


That power is yours. But first…love yourself. That’s where it starts.



Steven Barnes


(The Morning M.A.G.I.C. for Writers program is finally available.   For more information just go to!)

On “Breaking Bad” and how easy it is to deceive ourselves.

Skyler White: Walt, please, let’s both of us stop trying to justify this whole thing and admit you’re in danger!

Walter White: Who are you talking to right now? Who is it you think you see? Do you know how much I make a year? I mean, even if I told you, you wouldn’t believe it. Do you know what would happen if I suddenly decided to stop going into work? A business big enough that it could be listed on the NASDAQ goes belly up. Disappears! It ceases to exist without me. No, you clearly don’t know who you’re talking to, so let me clue you in. I am not in danger, Skyler. I AM the danger. A guy opens his door and gets shot and you think that of me? No. I am the one who knocks!



Let’s say you wonder why people who voted a particular way have trouble realizing they made a mistake.


I remember how aghast I was that the end of “Breaking Bad” was in sight, and people still insisted that Walter White was a victim of circumstances, that he was only doing what he had to do.  I can only think that they are telling you that, in those circumstances, they would do what he did. Or…that they would be willing to accept a murderous bastard as long as he put bread on the table.  Or…I don’t know. But what was glaringly obvious to me: he was a bad man who had the misfortune to discover it (much like my view of Michael Corleone).


We are what we are. That ultimate being-ness may be ineffable and beyond ultimate purchase, but the best indicator is WHAT WE DO.


The next best is WHAT WE SAY ABOUT WHAT WE DO.  That tells people what you think about yourself…or what you want them to think about you.


Start by assuming that the best way to be a human being is the WORST way to write: text and subtext are the same thing.  Walter White is in a life and death struggle with his alter ego, “Heisenberg”, a ruthless gangster.  At the same time he wants to think of himself as a good family man. He continues this self-deception on and off until the very end, when he manages to create utterly ruthless actions that somehow reinforce the notion that, at the core of him, he is “good.”


This is one reason why the “Sentence a day” technique works so well.  There is simply no rational reason why someone cannot write ten words in a 24 hour period. If you say you want to write…write.  It really is that simple.  If your focus is on best-selling or prize-winning writing, there are certainly things you can do to optimize your chances…but in most cases what we want is to be the best writers we can be, by our own definitions.


What do writers do?  They write. If they don’t write, they are not writers, in the sense of “to do”.  They may well be authors, in the sense of “have done writing in the past”, but you have to decide: which are you more interested in?   Money, fame, awards are for authors. So…you must have written.  But if you love it, do it. There is nothing more miserable than writers who lose their way

  1. Writing for money
  2. Writing for awards
  3. Writing for reviews
  4. Writing to please your fans


All of these things are fine IF AND ONLY IF YOU ARE ALSO WRITING TO PLEASE YOURSELF. Otherwise, you are at risk of becoming a hack.  And if you ever had the dream of being a writer for love’s sake, this is a road to hell, and some of the least happy people I’ve ever known traveled that road.


The trick to doing both is to look at two circles:

  1. Things you’d want to write
  2. Things you think the market will accept.


Where those two circles over lap…there you write.  Heck, when I wrote my first episode of BAYWATCH my question was: what is real about this?  What expresses ME?  Otherwise I get nothing but money.  And ultimately, the “kid” part of me that comes up with the ideas doesn’t give a shit about money.  Little Stevie only cares about cool ideas.  If HE is not happy…I’m in trouble.


I have to keep my path to “Little Stevie” open, and I do that by writing EVERY DAY, by clarifying my values and long-term outcomes, writing out my thoughts, and making daily progress on a primary writing project.


Today? Exchanging an email with a source of psychological expertise in the arena of serial killers for my new novel “Traveler”.


And…working on the proposal for my graphic novel with Charles Johnson. Basically, taking a successful proposal and re-writing it to fit my project.


But the trick is to remember that our behaviors lead to our outcomes. Our mental and emotional states drive our behaviors.  And the smallest building blocks, laid one at a time, create the largest and most beautiful edifices which will ultimately be a testimony to the lives we have lived.


If you can own every step, be proud of all you have done, make your peace with the reality that not every brick will be laid straight or on a perfect time-table…but continue to lay at least one every day…


In time, your palace will be built.  Once upon a time a friend told me that I not only build dream palaces, but I move into them.


This is how you do it.





“Panic Room” (2002): Jodie Foster, Action Hero

I was asked yesterday to do a book on productivity and keeping a positive mood.    Well, the next course I’m producing, the “Morning M.A.G.I.C. for Writers” is precisely that.   But if you want to know, heck, just watch “PANIC ROOM” the movie that turns Jodie Foster into an action hero.

In it, Foster is a recently divorced woman moving into a lavish Soho townhouse equipted with the eponymous hidey-hole. She and her daughter are asleep when a trio of burglars, including an excellent Forest Whittaker, break in in search of hidden money.  She manages to get herself and daughter into the armored room with a split-second to spare, and the next ninety minutes is a cat-and-mouse game of Foster trying to get help, and Whittaker trying to break into a room he designed to be unbreakable.


There are of course complications: an emotionally unstable accomplice, a diabetic daughter, unfinished telephone lines, unsecured ventilation ducts.


Watching this game is fascinating, and considering how confined the story is, every inch of that townhouse is explored, and endless  variation of possibilities exhausted.


What motivates Whittaker?  Money. Lots of it. Which he needs because of a desperate family situation.


What motivates Foster?  Her own life, and the life of her daughter.


The INSTANT a family is threatened, you no longer have to explain to the audience WHY a character is fighting, working, struggling.   Your life, your mate’s life.    In the natural world, threaten either, and you dial the crazy meter up to ten.  Threaten a child…and it goes up to eleven.


I LOVE stories of such struggle, and devour them endlessly, probably feeding something inside me.


If you know the WHAT (STAY SAFE/ESCAPE.  Or: GET THE MONEY), and the WHY (personal survival, genetic survival, protecting what we love) then the “HOW” is just the details.


When people ask me how I accomplish so much, it is because I have a very specific syntax: I know the ultimate lifetime “What” I am committed to (contribution, growth, family, joy), which leads to understanding the long-term (yearly), medium term (monthly and weekly) and short term (daily) goals, WITH ALL OF THEM LIKE CONCENTRIC RINGS.


I know just how this moment leads to a good day, how the day leads to a good week…to a month…to the year…to my lifetime.   EVERY MOMENT.


And by asking what the MOST IMPORTANT thing(s) I can accomplish today, using the Pareto principle (20% of your actions leads to 80% of your results) if I just accomplish that (those) most important things, I win.  I’ll refine and refine (the 20% of the 20% of the 20%…) until the critical major piece can be done in less than two hours, it gets easier.


But if I refine until that critical piece can be done in less than an hour…better.


I have the most important things refined to FIVE MINUTES.


Writing: a sentence a day.

Martial Arts: Tai Chi (done quickly)

Mental Focus: Morning Ritual

Emotional focus: Morning Ritual

Family: Five Minutes with Jason

Physical: Three reps of Five Tibetans

Financial: Check “Mint”, transfer 5% of my checking to investment every Friday


Other things are in “ZNT” (Zero Net Time) territory:


Mental input: listening to a “Teaching Company” MP3 while driving or doing chores.


Some is “Five Minute Miracle” territory:


60 seconds of Kali drills, five times a day, working the “Be Breathed”

Connecting with the Ancient Child.



MINIMUMS that get the most done.  If I only have five minutes, I can still kick ass. And you know what happens when you do that?  You lose fear. You know just where you are on the map of your life, and you KNOW that every day you are making progress toward joy.  And when you stop being driven by fear, and start being motivated more by attraction  to joy than repulsion from pain?


Life gets magical.


That’s it. It really is.  And I can’t wait to share it with you.  Hopefully next week!






What is your most important outcome this week?


Watching 1971’s   ANDROMEDA STRAIN. At the end of this very intellectual, emotionally cool film a doctor must run a gauntlet of ladders and lasers to stop a nuclear weapon from killing him and spreading an extinction-level pathogen around the world.   Seriously tense, exciting stuff.


And he barely makes it, combining puzzle-solving, physical courage, physical strength, resistance to pain, focus and clarity of intent into a final climactic action.


It’s “wow” stuff.  But LIFEWRITING suggests that we love these scenes because we know, deep inside, that WE could do such heroic things, if we ever had the motivations. If our lives, or the lives of our loved ones where at stake.


Well…guess what?  They are.




I was asked what single thing would need most to change for people to live happier healthier lives?  My answer was

  1. Clarity on the fact that it is possible.
  2. Loving themselves enough to be willing to do Whatever It Takes to have that better result.


Without the first, CLARITY, it is possible to get lost in delusion, accepting a lack of energy or aliveness without investigating the behaviors and attitudes that produce it.


Without the second, you don’t have the DISCIPLINE to move through discomfort, or allot time, to produce those results.


We will do “whatever it takes” for our kids, but often won’t get off the couch for ourselves, won’t investigate a choice like Intermittent Fasting.


Of course, the same thing is true of improving relationships, creating a writing career, or creating financial stability.


You have to know the WHAT.

You have to have the WHY

And only then do you concern yourself with HOW.


The “how” is largely: what is the most important thing for you to accomplish today?  This week? This month?


And after you identify it, just have one successful day at a time, then a series of successful weeks, and successful months, and you have your life.


Of course, the key to a successful day is identifying successful  moments.  And to do that, you can use the “Morning Ritual” concept–just 5-20 minutes a day when you align body, emotions, and focus.


That’s all it takes. What is sad is people who will complain about their energy, emotions, financial situation, fitness, or whatever…but won’t discipline themselves for five minutes to find a way out of the maze.


Would they do it for their kids?  Hell, yes.


So…start with love.





It’s not hard to be King…it’s just every day.

(The title above is a play on a comment someone once made about parentage: it isn’t hard. It’s just daily.)



Bought the Blu-Ray of Black Panther yesterday (I didn’t know DVD was a dying format.   Couldn’t even find a copy at Best Buy!) and watched it for the sixth time.   Man, that movie holds up.   On a core level, it is about a man learning to be a king, and having to define what that means to him.  To that end, his relationship to the kingdom is essential, and there is a beautiful, wide range of aspects to Wakanda that are shown or discussed.


One of my favorite moments is when he visits the Ancestral Plane, and speaks to his father’s spirit.   The situation is that he feels unprepared to be a king, specifically to go forward without the guidance of his father.  He has a Dark Night, related to his sense of guilt at not saving his father’s life in CIVIL WAR.


The truth is that life comes at us at Mach speed, and we are seldom ready. But his father, a good man (who made some bad choice…as do we all) reminds him that he prepared to be king EVERY DAY OF HIS LIFE. And that any man who does not prepare his children to go on without him has failed them.


“Have I failed you?”

“Never”, T’Challa replies.


And he gains the strength to rise and begin his reign as King of Wakanda, the titular Black Panther.




This is what all parents fear at times: that they are not prepared, not ready, not good enough, will fail our children.  And this is true even if you had a great Mom and Dad who were there for you to model every day. Living up to that example can seem daunting.


But we must try.  The voices in our head saying “you’re not enough” will always be there.   They may get quieter, but they never completely shut up.  If we are to do what we must for our families, our lives, the “child” dreamer within us, we have to prepare EVERY DAY for the life we desire, both to up our game and gain the ability to act despite the doubting voices.


Every day I get notes from people complaining about stress, and lack of focus, or context-based feelings of depression and despair. All I can do is continue to state that our moods are INFLUENCED, but not DETERMINED by what is happening around us.  That our emotions are the result of what we focus on, how we use language, and the way we move our bodies. I rejoice every time someone discovers this and uses it for themselves, but it is so sad when, a week or so later, I see the same person complain about the same stress…and no, they have done nothing I suggested.   It hurts.  But…people have to be who they are. I can only continue to speak, hoping that those who wish to be the kings and queens of their inner kingdoms will hear.


Wakanda Forever!





Happy Independence Day!




  “Good morning. In less than an hour, aircraft from here will join others from around the world. And you will be launching the largest aerial battle in this history of mankind.

Mankind — that word should have new meaning for all of us today.

We can’t be consumed by our petty differences anymore.

We will be united in our common interests.

Perhaps its fate that today is the 4th of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom, not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution — but from annihilation.

We’re fighting for our right to live, to exist.

And should we win the day, the 4th of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day when the world declared in one voice:

“We will not go quietly into the night!

We will not vanish without a fight!

We’re going to live on!

We’re going to survive!”

Today, we celebrate our Independence Day!”


I flat-out LOVE ID4.  It is the epitome of cheese, but announces its intent when it plays “It’s the end of the world as we know it” over the initial scenes.  In some senses it isn’t a movie as much as a checklist of tropes, a “greatest hits” of all the things we’ve ever loved from alien invasion movies.


But…if you think it isn’t SF, I think you’re missing something. One of the most consistent tropes in science fiction is the notion that “If the aliens attacked, all mankind would drop their differences and pull together to defend Earth.” I submit to you that ID4 is the first movie or depiction of this idea that actually believed it.


I find that a fine notion. That most of our differences are petty tribal squabbles, only important if there are no higher values on the table.


Well…we have higher values on the table. Our survival as a nation, as a planet, as moral and ethical beings capable of rising above basic animal concerns.  Our ability to rise to the heights of possibility, embrace freedom, live up to the dreams our ancestors dared to dream…even though they often could not live up to them themselves.


Today, remember the sacrifices of those who came before.

Today, honor the men and women who fought, and loved hard, and prayed their children would enjoy a world in which poverty is measured by obesity rather than starvation.

Today, hold those who are dear to you, and take some time to just…relax. Be.

Grill those burgers, watch those movies, play on that beach, kiss your sweetie, watch the sunset and relish the explosions, the bombs bursting in air that symbolize the destruction we were willing to risk to create a world worth passing to our grandchildren.


The struggle is real. And so are the rewards.  Tomorrow, it is back to the fray. Today, relax and renew.


“We will not go quietly into the night!

We will not vanish without a fight!

We’re going to live on!

We’re going to survive!”

Today, we celebrate our Independence Day!”



Steven Barnes

“The Hunger Games”: Clarity of Purpose

Watching THE HUNGER GAMES yesterday as the result of a little game: we’d seen Donald Sutherland in DISCLOSURE playing a slimy billionaire, and thought we’d follow that thread to another film, where he plays a slimy president.  He does slimy GREAT.


At any rate, I remembered enjoying these movies well enough in the theater, although I would have felt just a little silly seeing them without Nicki.  The thing about movies like this is that at the core of them, there is a vast amount of action, explosions, screaming, plotting, and so forth, but at the core is the “young person grows up” notion. The “at the end of this series Katniss Everdeen becomes the hero of her people” notion, with everything else being steps along the way.


CONFRONTED WITH CHALLENGE: To embrace her power as a hero.

REJECT THE CHALLENGE: She just wants to be left alone, to hunt and lead a meager life in a dominated township.

ACCEPTS THE CHALLENGE: When her little sister is chosen to compete in a lethal winner-take-all event, Katniss takes her first step along the Hero Path, volunteering to take her place.



O.K.–that’s the “inciting event”.  After that, Katniss only has to remember her sister, or access her own survival drive, or remember the sacrifices of her friends, or her anger at Southerland’s evil president, or her love of Peta (People for the Ethical Treatment of dewy-eyed Actors) or whatever, and she has the motivation to survive, and excel, and triumph.


The WHAT is “become the hero”.  The WHY arguably covers EVERY chakra: survival, sex, power, love, communication, learning, spiritual commitment.


The “HOW” is four movies that made a combined total of 1.45 BILLION dollars.  Every twist, turn, action, sacrifice, solution, and reward, every setback and loss or victory is a step along the road to becoming her true self, a hero of her people.


Katniss woke up every day knowing that if she didn’t move, run, fight, hunt, accomplish and problem-solve…she would DIE.


The illusion we have is that we have all the time in the world to accomplish the things we desire.  Heroes are simply people forced by internal or external motivations to ACT.   We watch her, and thrill to her clarity of purpose, thinking on some level “I wonder if I  could rise to that level, if the circumstances demanded.”


I choose to believe that I could. That YOU could.   But you would have to have clarity of purpose, have to develop skills IN ADVANCE of the emergency, and grow the emotional sinew capable of getting up again, and again, and again…


Not because there are armed enemies coming to kill us, but because we know that without that focus, we lose our way in life, and are forced to “settle” for a fraction of the love, joy, health, success, contribution and growth we could have had.


WHAT do you want?

WHY do you want it?

Only then…HOW will you do it?


That’s the syntax. And you need to hammer that in every day, at least partially by looking at the lives of people who DON’T know why they are getting out of bed in the morning (other than avoiding the pain of starvation), or even worse…don’t have any specific goals, just drift from action to action, motivated by that fear, or controlled by those who DO have clear goals.

I get emails, PMs and see posts EVERY DAY by people struggling with their lives.  Not ONE of them has the tools I’m discussing. What. Why.  How. The energy to push through barriers. A way to control their emotions.  A way to make THIS DAY a perfect step along the larger, longer life path.


This is what the MORNING RITUAL is about: every day, becoming “the hero in the adventure of your lifetime.”


You deserve nothing less.   If you have ever thrilled to these stories…it is because there is a part of you that sees itself in those actions.    Make that part happy, and you access a totally new and powerful chamber of your heart, and life will never be the same again.