Archive for January, 2010

Classic J. Neil: Audience in a Skinner Box

An edited version of this article was published February 11, 2008 on! Movies under the title “A Specious Odyssey.” This is the original version of that article.

A few years back, when I was trying to find a studio to buy one of my screenplays, a producer working with me submitted my script to a major studio, and told me the studio’s buy/no buy decision would be based on a scientific analysis of how well the movie was projected to do in domestic and foreign markets. When I asked this producer how such a projection could possibly be made “scientifically” I was told that the method was considered a trade secret but almost all the studios had started using it.

The answer came back: the “scientific” analysis reported that my script would produce a movie that would do well at the box office domestically but fall short in foreign sales; and comparing the scientifically projected revenues to the film and distribution budgets, the studio decided not to buy my script.

In other words – using an image common in 1960’s Twilight Zone‘s – Univac had been loaded up with punch cards and spit out one saying, “Rejected.”

It wasn’t until May 2007, however, that I began discovering what exactly these scientific claims were, and what was behind them.

They’re based on claims in the field of neurophysiology that neurofeedback can measure viewer responses to stimuli, and proper analysis of this data can be used to accurately predict future consumer behavior.

More simply: these guys are claiming that by hooking you up to the equivalent of a lie detector while you’re looking at — for example — a movie trailer, they can accurately predict whether you’ll buy a ticket to see the movie when it hits your local theater.

I discovered a company named Cinematic Forecasts and Investor Assurance, LLC, whose website promises film acquisition executives and producers that they can predict as early as a script submitted to them — based on correct or incorrect use of what they call “archetypes” — whether a movie will make money, lose money, or break even.

As an example, they use factors such as whether an actor who’s known for playing a hero has been miscast in the role of an anti-hero, or even whether an actor has the wrong type of face to play a role. Don’t even bother telling these geniuses that actors change their appearances all the time with make-up and wardrobe. Charles Laughton didn’t have to be a hunchback in real life to play the role of Quasimodo.

Full disclosure requires me to admit some prejudice regarding this company and how dumb I think they are. I wrote them a check to do an analysis of the box-office potential of my new suspense-comedy feature, Lady Magdalene’s (which won a film-festival award last Saturday for “best cutting edge film”), and their “scientific” analysis reported to me that I did every single thing wrong and there was no possibility whatsoever that anyone, anywhere, anytime would ever buy a theater ticket or a DVD to watch my movie, even if I re-cut it. I was informed that all of the “archetypes” I used in telling my story were “contrary to the programming of the mass audience.”

Well, I guess it was just a boneheaded mistake to have cast Laurence Olivier as a Nazi in 1976’s Marathon Man then cast him as a Nazi-hunter in 1978’s The Boys from Brazil. I don’t know what they did at the box office, but I loved him in both pictures.

An article in the Hollywood Reporter informs me that even the Reporter’s own corporate parent, the Nielsen Company – long known for rating TV shows – is getting into the act by becoming the exclusive outlet for NeuroFocus, a Berkeley, CA, based research firm that “covers eye-tracking and skin-conductivity measurements, to film studios and TV networks to monitor audience responses to content as well as promos, trailers and other marketing materials.”

If right about now you can’t get out of your head the image of Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange — being strapped down with his eyelids taped open, and being forced to watch violent images while being given a drug that simulates a near-death experience – you’re on the same page I am. That’s only one step beyond.

One of the pioneers of using neurophysiology to measure audience responses—in fact he wrote his doctoral thesis on that topic at UCLA –- is David Kaiser, who writes perceptively in an article titled “Applied Social Psychophysiology” that this technology is “the end stage of deconstructionism, a movement in literary criticism in which an author’s point of view is completely eliminated from her work of art; voided, creation divorced from creator intent.”

Again, speaking less academically, Dr. Kaiser is saying that by letting audience reactions be the sole measurement of the success of a work of literature or drama, the author’s intent or viewpoint becomes less than zero.

Dr. Kaiser further understands a theory of art I, myself, propounded over twenty years ago. In this same article Kaiser writes, “When we process narratives, we seek release. Engagement is a reasonable mix of containment and release, as Shakespeare and wordsmiths realized long ago. Narratives consist of arousal-release cycles, nothing more, emotional and cognitive tension building to unbearability …. to be released. The more thorough, expansive, and all-encompassing the tension, the greater the release when it is all resolved. A story bangs our head against the wall because it feels so good to us when it stops.”

Or translated again: the hype that a movie is a thrill ride is good marketing: audiences like excitement and surprises. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure that one that.

Dr. Kaiser and his compatriots attempt to do with moment-by-moment physiological measurements of audience engagement what any stand-up comic does in between jokes: listening to whether the audience is laughing, booing, or taking out a crossword puzzle.

Anyone in theater knows you can measure how well a play is going by how much the audience is coughing or getting up to go to the bathroom. That’s why plays open out of town, not on Broadway.

Movies go through the same sort of evolution. Scripts get rewritten. Actors try out different line readings and sometimes improvise bits of business. A standard director’s request to an actor is, “Try it a different way this take.”

Movies will be test-screened, and re-cut based on the audience reactions. Jokes that don’t play will be cut; scenes that slow down getting to the plot will be shortened or eliminated.

Nothing’s wrong with any of this. If we’re in the entertainment business, we need to know when we’re not being entertaining.

The problem starts when someone comes along and starts telling the guys who buy scripts from writers like me, or buy finished independent films from producer/writer/directors like me, that they can scientifically predict how much money a script or movie will make or lose. This is entering into the realm of the racetrack tout, the stock-market tipster, or the storefront psychic Reader/Advisor.

Here’s one way I know that the idea of measuring an audience’s physiological reaction is of no use in figuring out whether a movie will be a blockbuster or a bomb.

The Fugitive is a thriller. It has a suspense plot based on action and surprises. I think I’ve watched it two dozen times, if not more, and enjoyed it every time. Now, how is it that the movie is as enjoyable to me when I know what every surprise is in advance as it was the first time I saw it?

My Cousin Vinny is a comedy. I’ve watched it so many times I can deliver the lines before the actors. Yet, when it comes on TV, I’m more likely to watch it for the umpteenth time than I am to flip to a movie I haven’t seen.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched Star Wars or Casablanca or North by Northwest. I think I’ve watched 2001: A Space Odyssey well over three hundred times … and that has to be one of the slowest-paced movies ever made.

How the heck is measuring my eye movement and galvanic skin response to see how excited I am going to tell a distribution executive whether a movie with a budget of $5 million, an unknown in the lead and no A-list stars even in cameos, that has an opening weekend of $597 thousand, won’t still be playing in movie theaters 51 weeks later and gross $356 million worldwide … which doesn’t even count revenues from video rentals, DVD sales, cable, and a TV spin-off?

Yes, if you’re in the business you already know I’m talking about My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

Look. If Woody Allen uses a gag in one of his movies that depends on an audience member knowing a Yiddish word, it’s going to play better in Brooklyn or Miami Beach than it will in Killeen, Texas or Boise, Idaho.

My 16-year-old daughter is going to react more positively to a song by The Moldy Peaches on the Juno soundtrack than will my 83-year-old mother, who regards any music more recent than Brahms as noise.

A string of F-bombs in movie dialogue will barely be noticed by a typical audience in Berkeley, California; in Ogden, Utah, some audience members will get up and walk out.

Some jokes are topical and depend on knowing what Hollywood celebrity is divorced from another Hollywood celebrity.

Then there’s the following joke William Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet four centuries ago:

HORATIO: My lord, I came to see your father’s funeral.

HAMLET: I pray thee, do not mock me, fellow-student;
I think it was to see my mother’s wedding.

HORATIO: Indeed, my lord, it follow’d hard upon.

HAMLET: Thrift, thrift, Horatio! the funeral baked meats
Did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables.

Or, as Jay Leno might deliver this joke any night in a Tonight Show monologue,

“Hey, Kevin, did you hear about that royal wedding in Denmark last week? The Queen remarried so fast after the King died, they were able to use the same food at her wedding that they used at the king’s funeral.” (Smitty gives Jay a rim-shot.)

The point is, some jokes have the shelf life of a piece of salmon; other jokes have a shelf-life as long as fruit cake.

It takes a filmmaker, not a scientist, to tell a movie executive which is which.

Postscript January 11, 2010: After hearing that both former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and former George W. Bush White House Press Secretary Dana Perino stated in the past few days that there had been no domestic terrorist attacks during George W. Bush’s administration, I have to wonder what the role of neuroscience-based political consulting — or maybe I should say “ventriloquism” — is in the talking points being handed out to political avatars these days.

My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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I Met God — God Without Religion, Scripture, or Faith: No Religion, Too

Go to book’s beginning.
Read the previous chapter Contact

I Met God — God Without Religion, Scripture, or Faith
A Book by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 4: No Religion, Too

BRAD LINAWEAVER: Okay, let’s hear that.

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: And it happens in 1995 when I went to a summer event of the C.S. Lewis Society. It happens when I meet C.S. Lewis’s stepson, Douglas Gresham. He’s come to the United States and is talking at this event that I, as a member of the C.S. Lewis Society, am attending.

After my agnostic period pretty well ends in 1988, and I pretty well consider myself a theist from that point on, I start shopping around to see: am I supposed to become a Christian?

Remember, I don’t have anybody Jewish really vying for my attention at that point.

Again, I’ve met Dennis Prager and I knew he was a practicing Jew. But I was left out of it. In other words, again, the performance aspect, the behaviorist aspect, of Judaism — the rituals, the tradition all that — these were still not things which were appealing to me. My God encounter wasn’t drawing me in that direction, and Christianity was.

And it reaches the point where I meet with Douglas Gresham. He’s giving this talk, and I really, really warm to the guy immediately. I mean, all my prejudices were in favor of him. I’d read a lot of Lewis and here’s his stepson — in essence, one of the only two sons he ever had, the other one being his brother David, who wasn’t there.

Douglas Gresham was a very fundamentalist Christian, and on this day, where I attended a C.S. Lewis event at this monastery where Douglas Gresham was the speaker, I had a long conversation with him, and I was right up to the point of thinking maybe I should convert to Christianity at this point. Maybe I should go through the whole thing and be baptized and take Communion. Maybe that’s what all of this as been leading to.

I contemplated it and bounced. I tried to take the leap into Christianity and I bounced off it as if it was a solid wall. The results of that are memorialized in the last poem in the Self Control Not Gun Control volume called “A Non-Christian’s Prayer to Christ.”

BRAD LINAWEAVER: I agree, it’s in there, more than any of your other poems.

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: The poem is dated June 29, 1995, and so this event happened June 28, 1995.

And the results of it were that I discovered in Christianity something that bothered me about individualism for the first time. That was the idea that if I were saved because I accepted Jesus the way that Christianity was being taught to me – that it demanded that as a precondition to being a Christian you had to accept Jesus as your personal Savior – it was going to be leaving behind everybody I loved. It was going to leave behind my mother and father, it was going to leave behind all of my friends, it was going to leave behind my sister – none of whom were Christians who had accepted Jesus into their heart as their personal Savior.

It seemed evil to me. It seemed wrong to me that I couldn’t do anything about that. I mean, I’m supposed to be so selfish as to save myself and leave everybody I love behind? What’s that? How could I do that? I can’t do that. I know that I’m never going to be converting all of them to Christianity. That means that I’m going to have to accept eternal life by myself.

That’s not a gift. That’s a punishment. And what god would set things up in such a way as to punish you for following him?

At that point I decided, as much as Christianity had been attracting me through C.S. Lewis and all that, if that was what Christianity actually said — if that was what the nut of it was — I wanted no part of it.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: I’ve shown your poem to “conventional” Protestants. I’ve shown your poem to “conventional” Catholics, quite a number of them. Since 1995 when this came out – we’re now in the year 2004 – so for almost a decade I’ve shown this poem to quite a number of “conventional” Christians. The reaction of most of them is exactly what you would expect.

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Well, what is the reaction that I would expect? Tell me.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: The majority are deeply bothered by your poem because it’s making them consider the very point you just raised. Therefore they have to reject what your poem is saying because that’s where their minds start. They shut down their brains. To use a phrase from Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, when you stop thinking it’s a “blank out.” In Objectivism, if you challenge an irreducible primary — this is some of the content of their faith — it’s an irreducible primary.

However, from my perspective as a lapsed Episcopalian, what I’ve discovered that’s really interesting is those Christians who understand C.S. Lewis the best, when I showed themthis poem, their reaction is not negative.

Therefore, I use your poem as one more way of reaching a conclusion I’ve been moving toward for a large part of my life, which is that C.S. Lewis is so out of step with the rest of Christianity, it’s astonishing that most of Christianity — that uses him to try to make people into converts — do not understand the deep message of C.S. Lewis.

I don’t believe the “Mere Christian Church” idea in The Rainbow Cadenza is a foolish idea at all. Even though Lewis would think that it’s foolish, and maintain there’s something to be said for the denominations, that’s not essential to his message. His message is far more radical. I believe, in earlier eras, C.S. Lewis would have been condemned by all the Christian churches you’ve ever heard of as a Gnostic heretic, and I believe that C.S. Lewis’s Christianity is totally radical, when you consider what he’s actually saying in the seventh book of the Narniaseries, which was your first positive impression of a Christian mind — when you didn’t even know it was a Christian mind — and that is that the soldier who is worshiping what everybody else thinks is a demon or an evil god —

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: His name is Emeth.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: Right. Because he thinks that he’s worshiping the God of goodness, he is in effect and in reality worshiping the God of goodness, because his intent is such. Because he thinks he’s worshiping goodness, he is worshiping goodness.

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: What Aslan says is that no worship that is vile could be directed toward me and no worship which is good could be directed to the demon, that the prayers reach their true heart’s desire.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: This point I’m making, this is a very important point. Very few Christians or Jews, or anybody else, are going to pay attention but it’s very important. If I ever do become a Christian again, I will be of the C.S. Lewis stripe. When you’re dead — in the C.S. Lewis version — you are not finished and your chance to still hear the message of Jesus, and still be saved, continues after death.

Oddly enough, the Roman Catholic Church — which should take that position with their doctrine of Purgatory, something you would think would permeate Roman Catholic teaching — does not.

And oddly enough, many Protestants believe that when you die your chances are all used up. You can see that in all the fundamentalists and all the evangelicals.

Here we have C.S. Lewis who is an Ulster Protestant, a High Church Protestant, who I think has thought this thing through further than the Roman Catholic Church which has a structural legalistic afterlife bureaucracy that might be indistinguishable from Hell, or the militant fundamentalist Protestants who just can’t wait to send you to Hell if you make the least mistake. What’s fascinating to me is the Lewis version of Christianity is not normal Christianity at all.

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: And it goes back further than the seventh book of The Narnian Chronicles, The Last Battle. It goes back to The Great Divorce where you have a bus of people from Hell who get to visit Heaven and get new chances.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: And they stay in Hell because they turn it down.

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: But one makes it through.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: I know. But why are most people in Hell? Because, in effect, Lewis is arguing, they choose to be in Hell.

Now, I’ve heard all kinds of orthodox Catholics and orthodox Protestants, of different denominations, recite those words in various forms. You hear it on the surface and I swear, underneath the surface, they don’t mean it. They say the words but they don’t believe it. I’ve heard “conventional” Christians, Catholics and Protestants, who, when I read Lewis’ comment that the sins of the spirit are worse than the sins of flesh, they nod, they agree, they say the words right back … and they continue living lives that are absolute monuments to not believing one word they just said. They live as though they don’t believe it, as though they believe the sins of the flesh are worse than the sins of the spirit. That’s how they live. Then they say, “Oh, yes, of course Lewis is right — the sins of the spirit are worse than the sins of the flesh.” And they go right back acting like the sins of the flesh are worse.

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: And you’re right. Lewis did not believe that. He literally believed that the sins of the spirit are worse. What’s more, he believed that we retain our free will even after death. That we still have the ability to turn around. It may be harder then. It’s like we talked about how the Jewish conception of original sin is that it’s harder but not impossible.

BRAD LINAWEAVER:And every fundamentalist Christian, every evangelical Christian, and all too many Catholics, actually, have used the line from Jesus Christ, from the New Testament, “No one comes to the Father but through me” but they finish the sentence as follows: “Nobody comes to the Father except through me in this lifetime, in the choices you make in this incarnation, right up to the moment of your death, in this particular fraction of space-time.”

But that’s not what it says. It says, “No one comes to the Father but through me.” It doesn’t say how many chances you have. It doesn’t say when your opportunities end. It does not say!

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Also, let me tell you something else it does not say. “No one comes to the Father except through me” does not mean that you have to say a particular recitation of words, do a Jewish sort of performance, such as “Yes, I declare that Jesus Christ is my personal Savior and I except Him into my heart!”

BRAD LINAWEAVER: Yada yada yada!

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: It’s not demanding the performance. It’s not demanding the behavior. It’s merely stating a fact like, “If you want to get to Los Angeles you have to take the I-10 Freeway. There’s no way to get to Los Angeles unless you get on the I-10.”

BRAD LINAWEAVER: You’re a guy who walked away from all that Jewish ritual and here’s your Christian alternative: Christian ritual. But the fascinating thing — and why I think that Jesus Christ is such an interesting figure to you — is you’re actually paying attention to some of the actual content that’s coming out of what he is supposed to have said, according to those gospel accounts.

And the last thing is, you are not having any of the conventional Jewish responses. You don’t have one molecule of that in you. And instead of getting rewarded by Christians for liking Jesus, your reward is, “Oh, but you’ve got to be just like us!”

You’re right back in Hebrew school.


BRAD LINAWEAVER: Do you think it’s possible that most conventionally religious people, Muslims, Christians, Jews and others — and we’ll throw in the Buddhists and the Shintoists and the Hindus — would not allow God to have a direct contact with them — would not allow a revelation from God to take place — if it interrupted one of their prayers?

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I think your question is entirely on point. I think that religion for most people — I’m not going to say for all people, because there are always the exceptions within the system — but for the vast majority of people religion is not fundamentally about seeking God at all.


Next in I Met God — God Without Religion, Scripture, or Faith is Chapter V: Escape from Heaven

I Met God — God Without Religion, Scripture, or Faith is
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.

My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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Unchaining the Human Heart — A Revolutionary Manifesto: Don’t Even Think About It!

Go to book’s beginning.
Read the previous chapter No Secrets Allowed (Except Ours)

Unchaining the Human Heart
— A Revolutionary Manifesto
A Book by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 23: Don’t Even Think About It!

“Don’t even think about it!”

How many times have you heard that line in a movie or on TV? Has it been used on you? By a parent? A teacher? A police officer?

Anyone who says that to you considers himself the boss of you.

Anyone who says this to you has in that moment expressed his unmistakable intention to treat you as his property.

Anyone who says that deserves to be told — if you have the wherewithal to say it — “How would you even know? What are you, a fucking mind reader?”

Not even think about it?

Thinking is what makes us human.

Thinking is what makes us conscious.

Thinking is what makes us — in an existence so big that even trying to think about it makes me dizzy — that we’re worth the trouble to raise us up.

Telling you not to even think is the worst thing one person can say to another person. It’s worse than all two hundred words you can’t say television put together. It’s worse than “I hate you.”

Yet parents do it. Older brothers and sisters do it. Priests and preachers do it. Teachers do it. Coaches do it. Cops do it. Marine Drill Instructors do it. Gangsters do it. Prison Guards do it. Judges do it. And TV game-show hosts pretending to be Judges do it.

“Don’t even think about it” are the definitive words used to bully. There is always an “Or else” attached to that sentence, even if it’s not said aloud.

“Don’t even think about it, or else there will be no TV for a month!” “Don’t even think about it, or I’ll tell!” “Don’t even think about it, or you’ll go to Hell!” “Don’t even think about it, or I’ll see you in Detention!” “Don’t even think about it, or you’ll spend the next game on the bench!” “Don’t even think about it, or I’ll drop you!” “Don’t even think about it, or you can clean the latrine with a toothbrush!” “Don’t even think about it, or I’ll whack you!” “Don’t even think about it, or it’s solitary for you!” “Don’t even think about it, or I’ll find you in contempt!” And “Don’t even think about it, or I’ll go to commercial!”

George Orwell — in his novel Nineteen-eighty-four — expressed “Don’t Even Think About It!” as “thought crime.” He may have made up the phrase “thought crime” but he didn’t make up the idea behind it, because “Don’t Even Think About It!” is the signature of every dictator and every cult leader.

If there’s a standard interpretation of any Biblical passage that I despise more than any other, it’s interpreting Matthew 5:7:28 — “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” — as saying if you think something you’re already guilty of it.

That interpretation is a monstrous engine for unearned guilt. That interpretation is the genesis of thought crime. I reject the notion that anyone as savvy as Jesus ever meant anything close to that. Here’s one clear reason why if I don’t consider the Bible itself full of errors, certainly many common interpretations are.

I’ll go a hard step in the other direction. If a man has never looked on a woman with lust in his heart, he’s either gay or a eunuch, and there’s no virtue whatsoever in his not trying to fuck her. You give me a man who looks on a woman and vividly imagines her naked and straddling him, in his mind smells her musk, and shudders imagining what her skin would feel like on his — then he resists fucking her because he’s made a vow to another, or she has — now you’re talking about real character, Matty boy!

So it is with multiplying the guilt for an offense on a theory of amplified mens rea. If a driver chains another man to the back of his car and drags him through the street until he’s dead, the driver is a monster. I do not need to add the idea of his bigotry — because the man he dragged had different skin color — to justify whatever will be done to him in return. Put him in a dark hole for life — strap him down and put him down like a dog — adding “hate crime” to the charge of First Degree Murder does nothing to make his crime any worse that the act itself did.

The legal concept of mens rea — the guilty mind — is about proving a person capable of forming a conscious intention to commit a crime, being capable of understanding the evil consequences and doing it anyway. Beyond that test for criminal culpability law must never be about what people think about doing. Law — both criminal and civil — must always be about what people have done.

For where would it end? Even saints have a thousand evil thoughts a day, and I doubt either of us has ever known a saint.

You ever wished someone was dead, maybe even plotted their murder? There’s a great 1965 movie written by George Axelrod called How To Murder Your Wife where Jack Lemmon plays a confirmed bachelor — a syndicated cartoonist — who wakes up one morning and finds himself married to the spectacularly beautiful Verna Lisi, a wedding performed — and a marriage consummated — while he was drunk. Now, speaking for myself, I’d be patting myself on the back for a catch like Verna Lisi when I’m not even on my best game; but this idiot doesn’t want to be married to her and starts plotting her murder with the help of his butler, played by Terry Thomas. And he tries out his plot with a dummy, using the cover that he always tries everything out for his comic strip.

The movie is 45 years old so I’m not worried about the spoiler here: no, he doesn’t kill her, and even though she figures out he was thinking about it, she forgives him and they live happily ever after.

That’s as close as you can come to committing a thought crime without going through with it — and I still say you get a complete pass.

Pointing a gun at someone is a threat, a crime in and of itself if it’s done other than in self defense. But to read someone’s mind and charge them with attempted murder if they lower the gun without being forced to would be a classic example of charging someone with a thought crime — a crime that never happened.

Much of conspiracy law today attempts to attribute an intent to commit a crime when ultimately the crime is never committed. A society can destroy respect for law, itself, if it punishes people for the crimes they thought of committing, but repented of before they did it.

And if someone will be punished for commiting a crime even if they don’t go through with it, where’s the incentive to stop?

The phrase “wannabe” refers to the desire — the fantasy — to accomplish something exalted, whether it’s to gain popularity and wealth, or accomplish some great task.

Conversely, there are all sorts of things people fantasize about doing which are not benevolent, everything from revenge plots to suicide.

Sexual fantasies — no matter how repellent you may find them — are harmless until and unless overtly acted upon in such a way as to cause harm to another.

A 1961 Twilight Zone episode written by George Clayton Johnson — “A Penny for Your Thoughts” — tells the story of a bank employee (a pre-Bewitched role for Dick York) who develops mind-reading ability, and reads the thoughts of an older bank employee whom he “hears” thinking about embezzling money from the bank. But it turns out that the older gentleman fantasizes his plot all the time, and never has any intention of doing it for real.

Even God is reported to have evil thoughts and to have drawn back from them. Jonah 3:10: “And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.”

So unless you’re going to charge God with thought crime per Matthew 5:7:28, thinking something isn’t reason to feel guilty when you ultimately don’t do it.

Anyone who has held a loaded gun in his hand with his finger inside the trigger guard knows the difference between pulling the trigger and not pulling the trigger.

In life, the movies we play in our mind until we pull the trigger are thoughts that we may or may never turn into action.

God, himself, does not judge our thoughts unless we have already used them to make a choice to commit an action. God doesn’t make the mistake Dick York’s character made in a Twilight Zone episode.

This is both the power of the free human being and our inescapable curse, for with this freedom comes responsibility for what we do.

This is not to suggest that developing wholesome thinking is unimportant. Bad thoughts — especially when you make a habit of it — can lead to bad actions, even obsessions.

But freedom of thought is what makes us human, and possibly — someday — more than that.

I promised you that by the end of this book I’d tell you what was in my left hand.

It’s this.

The left-hand path is the road of self-determination. You choose what you love. You choose what you’re passionate about. You choose what will make you happy.

You may choose wrongly and have to choose again.

We call that learning. It’s something only a free mind can do. It’s why the Biblical image of God changing his mind makes him human, and why existence has meaning.

But the right-hand path is the path of being a puppet, a chump, a slave, a draftee, a machine. Letting someone else think for you and push you around is the path to the destruction of your soul.

Let no one do it — not President, nor Pope, nor Rabbi, nor Pastor, nor Ayatollah, nor Parent, nor Brother, nor Professor, nor Scoutmaster, nor Radio or TV Pundit, nor Drill Instructor, nor Scientist, nor even Writer.

Freedom is necessary for any of your loves or passions to take wing.

Fight for your freedom as hard as you can.

And if you’re not ready to fight, you can at least think about it.

–J. Neil Schulman, January 9, 2010


Unchaining the Human Heart — A Revolutionary Manifesto is
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.

My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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Unchaining the Human Heart — A Revolutionary Manifesto: No Secrets Allowed (Except Ours)

Go to book’s beginning.
Read the previous chapter The Hand Is Quicker Than The Eye

Unchaining the Human Heart
— A Revolutionary Manifesto
A Book by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 22: No Secrets Allowed (Except Ours)

If you live in a country where you are forbidden to keep secrets from government officials but government officials are allowed to keep secrets from you, then you are living in a tyranny.

If you live in a country where your privacy is sacrosanct but what government officials do is required to be transparent, you are not necessarily living in a free society, but at least you can watch the enemies of your freedom like a hawk.

Imagine if when the IRS asked for your income tax return you could answer, “I’m sorry, but all information about my earnings is classified. If you file a Freedom of Information Act request, I’ll take it under advisement, but you should be aware that because of my backlog it will probably be a minimum of two years before I can even consider your request.”

Or, if a health-department inspector came to your buffet restaurant, and you said, “I’m more than happy to sell you all the meals you want, as long as you eat them on the premises. We don’t allow take out.”

Here’s the reality of who has privacy in this country.

A clue — it’s not you.

On Sunday January 3, 2010 I drove from my home in Nevada to Los Angeles.

On the I-15, just north of Yermo, the State of California has what they call an “Agricultural Inspection Station.” This is a roadblock that takes all southbound traffic on a major cross-country highway down from 70 miles-per-hour to a dead halt, causing a traffic jam.

This station was originally put up to prevent out-of-state grown fruit carrying the Middle Earth — excuse me, Mediterranean — Fruit Fly from entering into California in 1981, where it was threatening California’s agriculture. This is 2010 — 29 years later — and the Medfly isn’t anywhere near the problem for California agriculture that denying farmers water for their crops is. The occasional fruit fly that shows up in California is quickly eradicated by the release of sterile fruit flies.

Oh, yeah, did I mention that the State of California is having a budget crisis? The sales tax is now ten percent. What is termed “essential services” are being cut back and state employees no longer work a full work-week.

The We-Have-No-Gold State still has money to pay at least four uniformed officers, on a Sunday when presumably they receive extra pay, to stop cars for inspection of an insect that hasn’t posed a threat to crops in decades, disrupts interstate traffic, and burns untold extra gallons of gasoline and diesel. Which may be the point to this slowdown since California heavily taxes every gallon of it.

Why should any traveler put up with this invasion of privacy and inconvenience to travel? Is the Medfly now working with al Qaeda?

Oh, yeah. Flying commercial.

On Christmas Day, 2009, Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab — with visions of forty virgins dancing in his head — took Northwest Airlines Flight 253 flight to Detroit. Hell, they should have known he was suspicious when he got on a flight to Detroit since Detroit’s a ghost town these days. Anyway, Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab had the crazy idea of blowing up the plane using explosives hidden in his panties. But this incompetent mook just managed to set himself on fire, and the other passengers quickly rushed him, put out the fire, and restrained him.

You did get what I said, didn’t you? It wasn’t a Federal Air Marshal, or a CIA agent, or a General, or a Transportation Security Administration inspector, or Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, or even an airline stewardess who stopped this jackass. It was the passengers — the same passengers who are being made to surrender all weapons, take off their shoes, and now get radiation exposure from full-body scans (is this part of ObamaCare?) because most of a decade after 9/11 the government is still totally incapable of stopping terrorists from getting on airliners.

We sacrifice our privacy, security, and dignity for nothing. Nothing.

Archie Bunker had the right idea on how to stop this sort of thing. Just hand everyone who gets on a plane a gun. Archie Bunker was a genius compared to anyone working for the Department of Homeland Security, the Transportation Secuity Administration, or any of the airlines.

As I write this news and talk radio are endlessly looping speeches presidential candidate Barack Obama made in 2008 that the House-Senate conference committee writing the final health-care reform bill would be televised on C-Span instead of being held in secret. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi just laughed when she heard that. Since when does the President of the United States have authority over how Congress conducts its business? That would be D, Never, Final Answer, Regis.

Don’t trust the dollar? Why should you? It’s not backed by anything. The Red Chinese Army — which holds markers for close to a trillion dollars of American debt — could wipe out the dollar any day they choose simply by flooding the market. Then they could buy up everything in the United States at fire-sale prices.

The Federal Reserve Banking cartel — private banks exclusively entitled to issue United States currency with the signatures of the Treasurer of the United States and the Secretary of the Treasury — has total privacy. No one may conduct an independent audit of the Fed’s books which the IRS may demand of you at any time without warning.

But if you try to carry your own small stash of money outside the United States to keep it safe from these Mega-Madoffs, you will be stopped, searched, and your money confiscated on the grounds that you might be a drug lord.

If a cop pulls you over for failing to make a complete stop before turning right on red, and finds a roll of cash on you — let’s say it’s your company’s cash sales receipts for the day that you’re about to deposit in your commercial bank account — the Thin Blue Line can take the cash under asset forfeiture laws — and the money can be used to buy a cappuccino maker for the station house.

You’d have the burden of proof in court to show that it wasn’t made illegally.

Want to talk on an encrypted phone line that can’t be tapped? Or send encrypted text messages on the Internet? Government officials are allowed to do this to keep what they do secret from you. But you try doing any of that and see how long it takes for some goon to show up at your door with a badge, a gun, and an attitude.

Here’s the only tool you have to find out something the government is keeping secret: a Freedom of Information Act request. Which if they don’t feel like it, they can say no.

Here’s tools the government has to find out something it wants from you: arrest, imprisonment, endless interrogation, sleep deprivation, water deprivation, light deprivation, food deprivation, medical-care deprivation, bathroom deprivation until you wet or soil yourself, clothes deprivation, body cavity searches.

You used to be able to be protected from the police grabbing you by seeking asylum in a church. Not anymore.

There used to be a right to refuse to talk to police by invoking the Fifth Amendment. These days refusing to answer questions posed by any government official with a badge is grounds for them to shut down your business, seize your property under asset forfeiture, and maybe even throw you in jail for contempt of court, obstruction of justice, or hindering an investigation.

These days refusing any government official full transparency could be considered aiding and abetting terrorists, which could send you to prison for life or even get you a lethal injection as part of a terrorist conspiracy.

If you do talk to them — as Martha Stewart found out the hard way — and some ambitious prosecutor decides he can get away with charging you for lying to an official, you can end up in prison just like Martha Stewart when she denied to an investigator doing something that wasn’t even a crime.

You think a reporter’s sources are protected so we can have a free press?

Think again.

On December 27, 2009 — a couple of days after all officialdom failed to keep the Underwear Bomber off Flight 253 — the TSA sent an unclassified memo to all airlines informing them of new inspection policies. A travel writer for Royal Dutch Airlines, Steven Frischling, posted the memo on his blog, and the next thing he knows — while he’s home with his wife and three children — TSA goons — er, Special Agents — are at his home with guns and badges, demanding he reveal his source for publishing the memo. According to Frischling,

They’re saying it’s a security document but it was sent to every airport and airline. It was sent to Islamabad, to Riyadh and to Nigeria. So they’re looking for information about a security document sent to 10,000-plus people internationally. You can’t have a right to expect privacy after that.

The TSA agents threatened Frischling with arrest if he didn’t cooperate, said they’d get him fired from his job, and confiscated his laptop computer for inspection.

Oh, try taking photos someplace the government has decided is their turf.

On a Sunday in summer 2006, when the Las Vegas FBI office was closed, I tried to shoot video of a plaque honoring FBI agents that was posted outside the building, with open access from an empty parking lot facing the street. The parking lot wasn’t chained off and there were no signs restricting public access. I was going to use that shot of the plaque honoring FBI agents in Lady Magdalene’s.

But within seconds after I tried taking that video a security guard ran out and ordered me and my associate producer, J. Kent Hastings, to freeze. The FBI guard confiscated my video camera, kept Kent and me standing in 110 degree summer heat for over two hours, and when he returned my video camera he had confiscated my tape and memory card.

Six months later the memory card was returned by mail — they’d erased it.

Other photographers have been arrested because they were taking pictures of a bridge or a lake that’s been classified a reservoir.

Any government official may ask you anything at any time, and if you don’t answer you’re a criminal.

But if you ask them anything you’re a troublemaker and likely a terrorist.

Got that picture?

Every child looks forward to the day when he or she is old enough to be able to do what they like without having mommy or daddy looking over their shoulders. Privacy is one of the most important pleasures of growing up.

The government demands the right to search your room and make you stand in the corner until you’ll tell them anything they want to know — and to spank you if you refuse.

Remember how I started this chapter:

If you live in a country where you are forbidden to keep secrets from government officials but government officials are allowed to keep secrets from you, then you are living in a tyranny.

If you live in a country where your privacy is sacrosanct but what government officials do is required to be transparent, you are not necessarily living in a free society, but at least you can watch the enemies of your freedom like a hawk.

You need to decide how much your privacy is worth to you, how much you need your own secure space to pursue your loves, passions, and happiness — and what you’re willing to do to defend it from those creepy perverts who want to be your ruler.

Then you need to decide what you’re willing to do to get government officials to reveal what they’re keeping secret, because otherwise you’ll never know what nefarious plans they have next.

Remember, when they want to know something from you they use arrest, imprisonment, endless interrogation, sleep deprivation, water deprivation, light deprivation, food deprivation, medical-care deprivation, bathroom deprivation until you wet or soil yourself, clothes deprivation, body cavity searches.

This is a book about having fun.

Have fun!


Last in Unchaining the Human Heart — A Revolutionary Manifesto is Chapter XXIII: Don’t Even Think About It!

Unchaining the Human Heart — A Revolutionary Manifesto is
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.

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Classic J. Neil: The Ten Biggest Lies of My Lifetime

Reprinted from the September 27, 2009 issue of Rational Review

This is my short list of “Big Lies” — propaganda which is promoted by major movements, and which denying often gets one tagged as a lunatic, denier, hatemonger, or simply irrelevant.

If you’re looking for me to put the Holocaust of European Jewry or Jihadis being responsible for 9/11 on this list, look elsewhere.

I’m 56 years old, born in April 1953. So I’m limiting myself to Big Lies present in my own lifetime.

Here we go, not in any chronological order.

1. The biggest threat to the human race today is man-caused global warming.

Every assumption behind this statement is either provably false or unproven. It’s uncertain whether the long-term climate trend is towards global warming rather than global cooling. It’s false that carbon dioxide and methane are the major “greenhouse gases.” (The major greenhouse gas is water vapor.) The most reliable climate-change models on planet earth don’t track with production of greenhouse gases as closely as they do with changes in solar radiation, and measurements of climate change on other planets in this solar system tend to match up with our own planet’s climate change. Industrial particulate air pollution reduces solar radiation so would produce global cooling rather than global warming. And the global warming crowd reveal themselves as a subset of the Zero Population Growth movement when they advocate not having children as a method of reducing global warming. Which brings us to Big Lie #2.

2. Human population growth must be curbed because it is increasing faster than the availability of resources needed to sustain itself.

No human being on planet earth is starving or sick because of the technological inability of the human race to feed, clothe, or treat most of their epidemic diseases. Third-world famines and epidemics of diseases no longer epidemic in the developed world are caused by warfare, theft of private property and relief supplies by warlords who sell them for personal luxuries and weapons, and anti-capitalistic policies which exterminate all attempts to invest or entrepreneur the creation of newly existing wealth. The assumption of a zero-sum game whereby one party’s gain is assumed to be stolen from another party is one major false premise underlying this cause of endless human tragedy; another is that technological advances caused by economic growth play no part in reducing demand on finite natural resources by multiplying the efficient use of these resources and creating artificial alternatives which also reduce demand on natural resources.

Nor is there any actual “limit to growth” when you bring in the virtually unlimited space, energy, and mineral resources available starting as close as earth’s own moon and asteroids in permanent earth-moon orbit, then expanding out to the entire solar system and eventually other solar systems. Star Trek got this, at least, right. The technology to harvest these resources is off the shelf and the cost would be less than what the United States has spent on the War in Iraq.

3. Abortion is murder.

The assumptions behind this statement require religious people to substitute the concept of eternal life with a secular biological one that defines life as mortal. The statement that a new human life begins with conception is biologically true but not true according to anyone who actually believes in the existence of an immortal soul. If one believes in an immortal soul then a new human life begins the first moment that an immortal soul exists within a human body. The Hebrews believed that the soul enters the body with its birth and first breath — thus the English word “inspiration” comes from roots meaning “intake of breath.” Christianity and modern Judaism often abandon the roots of their own religions and substitute the revisionist argument that the soul is present from the moment of conception — an absurd and actually horrible idea if you look at it from the point of view of an active conscious being imprisoned within a tiny cluster of cells.

Furthermore, the idea that an embryo or fetus has human rights can only go back to the beginnings of the concept of human rights with the English Leveller’s movement in the 17th century — a decidedly modernist development. Nowadays there are attempts to extend the idea of rights beyond the human species to all other living things (including microbes) and even to inanimate objects including the earth, itself. The self-named pro-life movement which attempts to extend human rights to the unborn use the same logic and arguments as the animal rights and Gaia-rights movements. Which brings us directly to #4.

4. Animals have the same fundamental rights as humans.

The concept of opposing cruelty to animals has morphed away from this noble and purely human esthetic concept into an attempt to make the idea of human rights absurd and deniable by forgetting their origins and meaning, debasing them like fiat money replaces mediums of exchange possessing intrinsic utility.

Rights are a moral concept, and morality is meaningless if split off from the concept of moral actors. Unless one is ready to accept dogs, cattle, and fish as having the mens rea to be held accountable for their actions, the concept of animal rights is an absurdity, and the animal rights movement is a criminal racket that relies on the empathy of human beings to attack the individual property rights and civil liberties of other human beings.

5. Disarmament promotes peace and security.

From disarming the airline passengers who flew on September 11, 2001 to the disarmament by both the Nazis and Soviet Union of the Estonians, there is no policy which has directly enabled more genocide, holocausts, and mass murders than reducing the general supply of weapons that can be used to resist and combat armed and aggressive statists, gangsters, terrorists, madmen, and free-lance predators than the unilateral disarmament of civilians and defense forces. I’m not even going to argue the point. I simply challenge anyone to study history, note how disarmament universally precedes mass violence, and challenge anyone disputing this statement to find me a counter-example where a disarmed population suffered less than the armed one which preceded it.

6. Police forces are necessary to prevent crime and keep the peace.

Going back to the prefects of ancient China and the Praetorian Guard of the Roman Empire, police forces have always been extensions of imperial power, providing despots internal domestic control while traditional military forces conquered and controlled foreigners.

The framers of the American system of government were well aware of the millennia-long history of police forces and rejected the concept in favor of civilian self-defense. Local criminals were to be apprehended by raising a “hue-and-cry” whereby the civilian population formed themselves into temporary law-enforcement units under the concept of “posse comitatus” (translation from Latin is “power of the county”) to arm themselves and bring suspected criminals to a magistrate for trial. How these posses functioned can be seen in western movies and TV shows, where an elected sheriff or U.S. marshal had no forces of their own to enforce law or keep the peace, but had to rely on deputizing the local population to maintain law and order. This reliance by government officials on civilians tended to act as a brake on criminal gangs taking over frontier towns, and also prevented organized criminal gangs such as the Black Hand from extending their reach beyond the borders of cities like Chicago and Kansas City, whose police forces were agents of the local power brokers.

Today’s police forces are better trained, more professional, and less reliant on direct bribery than earlier police forces, and in private life are often good neighbors, but when on duty they are still enforcers of political power who shake down the civilian population through draconian fines for parking and minor traffic infraction (for example, $100 fines for failing to feed a parking meter 25 cents), eminent domain abuses, asset forfeiture laws, and the unconstitutional war on the individual’s right to determine one’s own self-medication, mood alteration, and state of consciousness on private property.

Common myths about police are that they have a duty to protect you (they don’t; all states immunize police for failure to protect); that police will save you when you phone 911 (if you’re being held hostage by an armed criminal the police will set up a perimeter outside and not go in until it’s safe for themselves, no matter what’s being done to you by your captor); and that violent crime rates are lower the more police there are per population unit (the opposite is true; rural areas with fewer police per population unit commonly have a lower violent crime rate per population unit than urban areas with more police per population unit).

One can’t argue that increasing legal availability of civilian firearms automatically decreases violent crime (to do that one would have to explain how one city with identical laws to another city can have five times its sister city’s violent crime rate) but one can show that increasing the cop-to-criminal ratio is no more effective than increasing the civilian-gun-to-criminal ratio — and the latter is a whole lot cheaper and far less injurious to civil liberties.

7. Gay couples should be treated exactly the same as straight couples.

Beginning in the 1930’s, Alfred Kinsey’s groundbreaking studies of human sexuality showed human sexual behavior to be almost infinitely varied. I carefully say “sexual behavior” rather than “sex,” because only human acts which have the potential of reproduction actually qualify as “sex.” Perpetuation of the species demands that all other behavior be called something else. I favor the anthropological term “pair-bonding,” the sociological term “coupling,” and the informal terms “sex play” and “love play.”

Human beings who engage in same-sex coupling have the exact same rights as human beings who engage in opposite-sex coupling: the natural fruits of their coupling. Since biology requires opposite-sex coupling to produce offspring, same-sex coupling is naturally discriminated against for this purpose, and social institutions like monogamous heterosexual marriage that have evolved to protect and encourage the perpetuation of the human species must either reflect this biological reality in custom and language or devalue human reproduction. It’s obvious to me that the agenda to equate same-sex coupling with opposite-sex-coupling in movies, television, and other mass media is at least as much to discourage human population growth as it is to oppose the hateful bigotry against same-sex couples which results in denying same-sex couples the right to enjoy their lives together in a free and tolerant society.

I am not a partisan for monogamous heterosexual marriage. I’d be perfectly happy if marriage laws and customs were entirely divorced from both state and church. I have no personal objection to norming any and all partnering or group affiliation between or among consenting adults of any sexual persuasion. Gays have no more right to pride in their sexual lifestyle than a completely heterosexual degenerate like myself, who wants only adult women to do perverted things with me. We’re still hiding in the closet, thank you very much.

But to lie about biology, history, anthropology, sociology, and all other attempts to quantify and classify the human experience in order to promote a narrow and ephemeral minority political agenda is wrong and I will continue to expose these lies when they deny that social customs, language usage, and economic institutions should reflect the biological truth that making a baby requires at least one participant from each of the two sexes.

8. The Holocaust of European Jews is unique in human history.

I’m Jewish, and I can’t think of any idea quite as absurd to me as the idea that my kin are superior to the rest of the human species. That’s an ancient Jewish meme that got turned around by the Nazis, with devastating results just before I was born.

I’m not going to argue that Jews and Judaism haven’t made unique and valuable contributions to the human experience. That would be equally false and absurd. But it’s illogical to extrapolate from this that the Jewish contributions to human history are uniquely valuable. The Greeks contributed as much. So did the Chinese. So did the Arabs. So did the English. So did the Americans. The Irish. Can I stop now before this essay turns into a roster of the ethnicities seated in the United Nations?

Nor is the Jewish experience for being discriminated against, enslaved, and massacred unique. Blacks got it as bad. So did the Estonians, the Tutsis, the Kulaks, the Gypsies, the Pariahs, the Christians, the Irish, the English, the Armenians, the Native Americans, the Sicilians, the Cherokee – again, I’d find it hard to find an ethnic group that hasn’t had the crap kicked out of them one time or another.

Having the crap kicked out of your own kind is probably the one most common bond that each of us has with everyone else.

The maximum estimate for the extermination of European Jewry by the Nazis is six million. That’s dwarfed in the twentieth century alone by mega-exterminations in the Soviet Union and China, with seven-figure ethnic genocides in Armenia, Cambodia, and Rwanda trailing not far behind.

My people: Good job. You gave the world Torah and many more non-Jews than Jews follow its teachings — and that includes our historical enemies. But enough already with the chosen people crap. It’s gotten old and pisses off others, which makes it hard to have friends.

9. America is a Christian country.

This one won’t take very long to refute at all. Draw a Venn diagram. A big circle with the population of the United States. In that circle a smaller circle with Christians. Inside the big circle another circle with everyone else — Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Wiccens, Odin-worshippers, atheists, agnostics, etc.

Doesn’t matter how large the circle containing Christians is. America is founded on the idea of individualism, not collectivism. That the majority should be able to impose its values on the minority is un-American even if it were down to half a billion Christians and a single non-believer. And Christians might consider that a turn of the wheel might make them a minority, and a record for tolerance might be useful when dealing with a new majority.

Your ancestors came here for freedom of worship. Honor them by extending the same freedom to everyone else. Keep your peanut butter away from my chocolate unless I specifically ask to make a Reese.

10. America is the last superpower and runs the world.

I’m not even sure I need to refute this one anymore, although it’s been the general assumption in most places for most of my life, both by Americans and foreigners.

By now it should be obvious this isn’t true.

Remember the Doolittle Raid in World War II? A few army planes stripped down to the bone manage to fly off an aircraft carrier and bomb Japan? It was mostly a symbolic attack because there were far too few planes to damage Japan’s war effort. But the reason for the raid was that America’s war “ally,” Josef Stalin, refused President Franklin Roosevelt permission to use Russian soil to launch a sustained bombing attack on Japan.

At the end of World War II when both the Nazis and Imperial Japan were defeated, and even though the United States had a monopoly on atomic bombs until 1949, the Soviet Union managed to occupy half of Europe and foment communist revolutions throughout the world creating a worldwide opposition to the power of the United States and its allies.

This standoff continued until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, when there was a brief illusion that the United States was the last remaining superpower. But during that period, Cuba remained communist and though any agreement President Kennedy might have made with Premier Khrushchev would have died with the USSR, the United States made no attempt to take the island.

Nor did the United States have universal success in staving off communist coups in Central and South America … or even in its own universities.

If anyone thinks that situation fundamentally changed any time since the collapse of the Soviet Union, ask yourself how Turkey got away with telling the United States to piss off when President Bush wanted to invade Iraq via Turkey.

When the United States was most influential was not when the United States was most aggressive militarily but when its goods were most craved by foreigners: when a luxury car in Japan was not a Lexus but a Pontiac, when Russians drank Pepsi and the Chinese drank Coca Cola, when the gold standard of cigarettes was Old Gold and other American brands.

The United States was once the world’s shopping mall. Not anymore. Not for a long time. The path back to the glory days is when the American people get shut of the debt its government and corporations have run up in their name, and instead use their money to invent and make new things the rest of the world wants.

My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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Avatar: A review

It was the best of movies, it was the worst of movies.

I just saw Avatar in IMAX 3D. If you haven’t seen Avatar in IMAX 3D you haven’t seen Avatar.

It’s hard for me to find a reason not to call Avatar the best science-fiction movie I’ve ever seen.

It’s almost hard for me to find a reason not to call Avatar the first movie I’ve ever seen.

The IMAX process has a 48 frame-per-second refresh rate, double that of ordinary movies. Add a film-frame ten times the area of a standard 35 millimeter frame, and a huge screen to project all that extra clarity onto. Then make it 3D as well. You now have a visual experience that would be indistinguishable from real-world eyesight except that it’s edited like a movie with changing viewpoints.

Now add in unlimited technical genius and unlimited money and the only word for what you’re sitting through for 162 minutes is breathtaking.

I giggled through the first twenty minutes of the movie just because of how real it looked.

When I saw the Na’vi — the alien race — in TV promos for the movie they looked like cartoon characters to me. They don’t look like cartoon characters in IMAX 3D.

I had two feelings while spending time visually immersed in the planet Pandora and its native people.

The first feeling was that I was really on an alien planet.

The second was that this was a very good representation of Paradise. It reminded me of the feelings I got from reading C.S. Lewis’s Out of the Silent Planet, which portrays aliens species that — unlike on Earth — never fell from grace.

The Na’vi are, in every way can think of, a race of supermen. They are naturally — physically and mentally — superior to our own species.

But because we are naturally inferior we have been clever enough to compensate with superior technology. That makes the human species dangerous to the Na’vi.

All of the above makes Avatar a must-see movie … and judging from the billion dollars it’s already earned at the box office, it’s must seen.

But one of the ways this movie has gathered such a large audience is by being inarticulately anti-business, inarticulately anti-American, and articulately misanthropic.

Avatar — possibly the technically best movie ever made — is also a clear example of what in a previous column I called “the human holocaust movement” — the idea that “the human race is doomed … and must be doomed.”

To Avatar‘s writer/director/producer, James Cameron — who is the only capitalist ever to make two movies that have earned over a billion dollars, and the only capitalist ever to make a movie to earn over two billion dollars — the profit motive as represented by “the Company” in both Aliens and now Avatar means a willingness to commit mass murder in order to have a profitable enterprise.

Show me a counter-example, please, in a movie by billions-earning James Cameron. Please show me a single person in a James Cameron movie who makes a profit in an honorable way.

These “Company” men in James Cameron movies always have American accents.

The American military personnel in James Cameron movies are always morons.

The Nazis in James Cameron movies never have German accents like the historical Nazis. They are Americans.

And the aliens in James Cameron movies are always superior to the human race.

The problem is, all the virtues James Cameron gives to the Na’vi are human virtues and historically often enough American virtues: independence, courage, and decency. They have to be because James Cameron doesn’t know any actual aliens. All his alien characters are human beings figuratively dressed in costumes.

Yes, there are heroic human beings in James Cameron movies. We are told they are the exceptions.

We are told in Avatar that human beings have doomed planet earth.

How did we do that. Mr. Cameron? Global warming? Please take your billion dollars and shove it down your windpipe so you don’t exhale any more carbon dioxide.

Yet by identifying virtues with aliens as an indictment against the human race, James Cameron makes his living by insulting his audience and making them pay him for the abuse.

James Cameron makes his living as a prostitute operating a dungeon in which masochists come to be whipped.

And with his immense skill, Cameron leaves the Marquis de Sade in his dust.

I wondered how a movie could be so anti-American and anti-business without a word about that on Fox News.

When I heard the Twentieth Century Fox anthem at the beginning of Avatar, I had my answer.

Please pay James Cameron the money he’s earned by making a fabulous movie. But when you walk out of the theater, please understand that you’ve paid to be insulted by a man who hates your guts.

My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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Unchaining the Human Heart — A Revolutionary Manifesto: The Hand Is Quicker Than The Eye

Go to book’s beginning.
Read the previous chapter Fun and Games

Unchaining the Human Heart
— A Revolutionary Manifesto
A Book by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 21: The Hand Is Quicker Than The Eye

This isn’t a chapter about stage magic, where the title of this chapter originated, even though — as with the escape artists of Chapter 12 — the talents I’m discussing have often enough been used “for entertainment purposes only.”

The final three chapters I’m writing in this manifesto for unchaining the human heart all have in common that they’re mostly about what you may or may not do with your brain. The thing is, you can’t drive very far with your heart if you’ve left your brain behind in the garage.

The hand is quicker than the eye?

In this chapter I’m asking you to focus your gaze on my right hand, where I’m fanning a deck of cards, each of which has a different skill.

Each skill painted on one of these cards is so dangerous that if you master it the government often enough makes you an offer you can’t refuse — “Work for us and follow our orders or we have a nice dungeon for you where you’ll never be heard from again.”

You’ll find out what I’m holding in my left hand by the end of this book.

On one card you see a man in a Tuxedo swinging a shiny stopwatch on a chain, and telling you in a soothing voice that your eyelids are getting heavy.

On another card there’s a man dressed in white cotton with a black belt whose hands are so fast that they might make master illusionist Chris Angel’s hands seem slow by comparison.

I start dealing the cards so you can see the jacks of a trade who can make undetectable forgeries of twenty-dollar bills, driver’s licenses, passports, or even centuries-old oil paintings by Rembrandt.

This next card is interesting because it shows a man sitting at a casino Blackjack table with a big stack of playing chips in front of him. Behind him in this picture it isn’t a police officer or a CIA agent threatening him, but there is a scary-looking goon tapping him on the shoulder. What’s that in the word balloon about “counting cards”?

Then there’s a run of black-suited cards showing men opening safes with combination locks, picking locks needing keys, bumping into men in suits and palming their wallets.

There are red cards showing men with knowledge of manufacturing and deploying any sort of explosive device or weapon’s system.

Finally, there’s an entire suit just for scientists, mathematicians, and engineers who know everything from how to hide a complex message in your iPhone’s photo of a kitten to how to refine ore into shapes of Uranium-235 that when forced together suddenly inside a suitcase-sized device can turn a shopping district into a smoldering, radioactive Hazmat-suit zone.

The cliché is that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but a lot of the time it’s when you know a lot about something — and have really, really practiced it so that you can practically do it in your sleep — that you can use it to devastating effect.

Ever wonder what the elusive definition of “cool” really is? It comes down to a deep well of having mastered useful skills, and being so comfortable about it that you don’t feel you need to show them off. So when one of them does come to light it always comes across as a surprise.

Bill Bixby played in a TV series called The Magician that ran only two seasons, 1973 and 1974. We’re talking about a short-lived TV series that I haven’t seen in a quarter of a century. I don’t remember the show being all that memorable, except for one scene, where Bixby — playing a stage magician who uses his skills off the stage to help out people in trouble — is having a conversation while casually tossing one playing card after another into a hat a couple of yards away, never missing. At the end of the conversation he’s asked, “How long it take you to learn to do that?” He answers something like, “About a year and a half.” He pauses. “Every day. For an hour.”

The reason that scene stuck with me is that I lived in the same house with that truth. My father was one of the best violinists who ever lived, and he got that way by going into a room by himself, every day, and practicing for hours. Now there have to be natural talents for all that practicing to take. Robert A. Heinlein, writing in Time Enough for Love, put it this way: “Never try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and it annoys the pig.”

Not everyone has the talent to make himself into a world-class violinist. And the talent isn’t always passed down to the next generation: my father’s only son didn’t have it. But what I did get from growing up with such a person as my role model — my hero — was the certainty that if I found something in myself that came to me more easily than it did others, by practicing it relentlessly I could make myself excellent at it.

I have spent my life sussing out my capacities and incapacities, and if I appear slothful in some areas it’s because I’ve made myself focus on developing to the greatest extent I can those capacities where nature has given me a head start.

I am not a man of very much natural faith, but if I do have one it’s this: in each of us there is something we have a natural capacity to do which — if we’re relentless about finding and developing it in ourselves, and we’re not so unlucky as to have no chance at all ever to find it — this can be a gift we can offer to the world.

Each of what appears to be a dark talent in the list above — everything from hands that can kill with a blow to committing thefts, even to the ability to murder millions — has a flip side, a way this talent can be developed for beautiful and great purposes.

That’s why it’s so important not only that we find what it is in our selves that make us cool, but that once having found it we also make certain that we never become the slave or puppet to someone who will use us as their weapons system.

Fighting, trickery, and stealth are not necessarily wrong; but when those skills are mastered they do need to be used righteously.

I think that may be why the Harry Potter books are so immensely popular, because that’s the lesson our age has desperately needed J.K. Rowling to teach us. There are always wannabe Lord Voldemorts among us — with names like Hitler, Stalin, Mao — and each of us has a Harry Potter somewhere inside waiting to be whisked away for wizard classes.

The truth is, you’re going to have to find your inner Harry Potter on your own, because there’s no Platform 9-3/4 to board the Hogwarts Express, and if you think about it, there’s really no such thing as a Muggle.


Next in Unchaining the Human Heart — A Revolutionary Manifesto will be Chapter XXII: No Secrets Allowed (Except Ours)

Unchaining the Human Heart — A Revolutionary Manifesto is
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.

My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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Unchaining the Human Heart — A Revolutionary Manifesto: Fun and Games

Go to book’s beginning.
Read the previous chapter Don’t Look Now

Unchaining the Human Heart
— A Revolutionary Manifesto
A Book by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 20: Fun and Games

This is a book about the pursuit of happiness. Children are happiest when they’re playing. Happy adults have never outgrown their childhood love of playing. They just add better games.

1 Corinthians 13:11 reads, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

Shekels to Drachmas, whoever wrote this passage — the Apostle Paul, Sosthenes, or Crispus — was pissed off because he didn’t get his donkey saddle of rich Corinthian leather.

Or maybe he just forgot Isaiah 11:6:

The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them, singing E-I-E-I-O.!

There are all kinds of adults-only fun I’ve already spent time talking about in previous chapters — sex, cursing, getting high, and outrunning the Feds, to name a few.

Maybe it doesn’t work this way anymore, what with all the “We Are the World” stuff kids these days get from the cradle onwards.

But when I was growing up the problems with having fun started the first time a kid brought home a friend his parents didn’t want him to have. Maybe it was just that his mother didn’t know this new kid’s mother. Or maybe he was too old. Or wore funny clothes. Spoke the wrong way or had trouble speaking. Or had skin of the wrong shade.

Then, when kids got to the school yard, it was no wonder all the kids already knew which kids were the ones you weren’t supposed to play with, and the ones you wouldn’t get into too much trouble for making fun of or beating up.

That kid — the one who got made fun or or beat up — was often enough me. I was the only Jewish kid in Massachusetts public schools filled with old New England Protestants and Irish Catholics.

I don’t remember the school playground — or walking home from school — being much fun … unless you happen to consider making your way through enemy lines your idea of a day’s fun. But then again, that’s a pretty good description of football, basketball, hockey, rugby, and soccer, isn’t it?

I should probably get a Heisman trophy just for all the days I made it from my school to home without getting the crap kicked out of me.

Sports is one of those areas where the truth is the more violence and mayhem there is the more fun men have historically considered it to be — and nowadays a bunch of old women have set up rules to take all the fun out of it.

It’s not childish things we’ve put away — it’s games suitable for grown ups. Sports with real risk of someone getting themselves wounded or even killed. That was how it was done for all of human history — up until a few years ago.

Come on — gladiator sword-and-shield bouts? Chariot races with horses being run into each other — sometimes fatally — for a momentary advantage? Christians versus lions?

Jousting with real lances? Fights with chains and maces?

That was the “Wild World of Sports.”

A century ago you still had bare-fisted boxing, and sometimes one of the boxers got clouted in the head hard enough to die. Nowadays — with the pillows prizefighters have wrapped around their fists — retired fighters just slowly deteriorate from Parkinson’s Disease. But then again, ballet dancers need foot surgery and football players need pins put in their joints.

Here in modern-day Estrogenia they sent Michael Vick to the slammer because he had his dogs try to bite each other while gamblers bet on the outcome. As if people don’t have dogs on their dinner plate every day in China and Vietnam. As if dog racing isn’t on ESPN.

Why shouldn’t Kentucky Fried Chicken be sponsoring Cock fights — with the loser ending up in the fryer? Just to see PETA becoming apoplectic would be reason enough to do it.

Let loose the hounds — it’s time for the fox hunt!

Not anymore. Not even if you’re the King of England.

Okay, assisted suicide is legal in Oregon and Washington State. Any reason it can’t be done with a game of Russian Roulette? Vegas casinos would probably make your last days lavish if that’s how you chose to end it all.

Remember the racing for pink slips in Rebel Without A Cause? The last driver to jump out of the clunker he’s driving before it goes over a cliff wins. Sort of leaves NASCAR in its dust, doesn’t it?

During the presidency of Thomas Jefferson dueling with pistols was still legal — and it’s a good thing, too. Aaron Burr putting a bullet into him was the only way this country was ever going to get rid of that imperial-lusting bastard, Alexander Hamilton.

When Joe Wilson called President Obama a “liar” from the floor of Congress? Come on, be honest. Don’t tell me the Obama-Wilson duel isn’t one you’d have spent big pay-per-view bucks for.

It just might bring down the number of ad hominem attacks in public policy debate if shooting off your mouth could get you shot.

I’m perfectly aware that there’s no good moral argument to be made for bringing violence and assorted cruelty back to sports, contests, and games. But there may be a robust argument for the proposition that when the sportsmanship of committing acts of violence left the human vista, the indiscriminate mass murders of millions of unwilling spectators took its place. When violence was limited to fields of contest and battle by civilized custom, sacking, murder of women and children, and rape of both men and women was the mark of the barbarian.

Moving along to less violent games.

We wonder why this country has become obese and out of shape. It begins with city playgrounds. Public playgrounds used to have things made out of metal and wood — Jungle Jims, tree houses and tunnels for kids to climb up, through, and around, slides with ladders that went up a dozen or two dozen steps.

I saw this change — while I was still taking my daughter to the playground — into plastic and foam things suitable for nobody over the age of two. Playgrounds for children were replaced with places parents and nannies could push around their infants in something other than a stroller. Lawyers worried about lawsuits did away with the public playground for children.

Then there’s the play-acting children used to do, before playing was replaced with playing electronic games designed and programmed to control the limits of experience children can have while playing.

When children play act, they play act adult roles — and I’ll use examples that show my age: G.I. Joe, Barbie, Cops and Robbers, Cowboys and Indians. When kids play act — or play with dolls and models — they don’t play at being children. They’re trying out being grown-ups.

In technical terms, this is called running a simulation.

Airline pilots learn to fly in flight simulators.

Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong practiced landing on the moon in a simulator of the Lunar Module, Eagle.

Childhood play-acting is a kid running a simulation of — practicing — being an adult.

This is discouraged because who knows what kids might want to be when they grow up? A mercenary? A bounty hunter? Aphrodite forbid — a housewife?

So it works backwards. People who want to call 911 and hide while they’re waiting for the person who broke into their house at three in the morning to rape, rob, and even kill them will give their kids toy phones, not toy guns.

But maybe killing off play-acting isn’t as easy at it looks. Reese Witherspoon told Conan O’Brien on The Tonight Show, that when she didn’t give a toy gun to her son he found something else to pretend is a gun.

There’s always sticking up your thumb, pointing your index finger, curling back the other three, and saying, “Bang!” What’s next to keep kids from simulating violent confrontations they see happening on Fox News — peace mittens and gags?

Don’t want your kids to know anything about smoking except that there’s a chance it might kill them half a century later? There go candy cigarettes. Oh, wait. Sugar is also not good for you. My bad.

There are still lots of pious homes that don’t allow card games because playing cards can be used to conjure spirits and try to read the future — the same with Ouiji boards and Magic 8 Balls.

Of course any toy or game with small parts or sharp edges can’t be given to your eight-year-old because a three-month-old baby might get hurt by it.

And what about shooting real guns? Yeah. that’s right. Schools used to have shooting ranges — and not just for ROTC. Marksmanship competitions used to be a common American sport.

Then of course there’s a ladder of games the object of which is to get to know the other sex a whole lot better. It starts with “Spin the Bottle.” It starts getting interesting with “Strip Poker.” And it gets downright frisky with “car keys in the potato-chip bowl.”

If you eliminate sex and violence, what’s the fun of growing up, anyway?


Next in Unchaining the Human Heart — A Revolutionary Manifesto is Chapter XXI: The Hand Is Quicker Than The Eye

Unchaining the Human Heart — A Revolutionary Manifesto is
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.

My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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I Met God — God Without Religion, Scripture, or Faith: Contact

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Read the previous chapter First Doubts

I Met God — God Without Religion, Scripture, or Faith
A Book by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 3: Contact

BRAD LINAWEAVER: Neil, when we left off we had just gotten to the point where you moved from atheism to agnosticism and you gave a position on agnosticism having to do with considering the possibility of more than one paradigm being true, kind of a multiple reality-tunnel approach, perhaps.

I am reading from your book Self Control Not Gun Control, where you write “How about a computer metaphor? We are Software in a PC, even if we have a modem to other PC’s or that Great Main Frame in the Sky. Oh, Lord, DeBug Me, Deliver me out of RAM and Save me to Disk, Repairing all my corrupted Sectors, Amen.”

I would like to address the issue that when you moved from atheism to agnosticism I get the impression you did not stay in agnosticism very long, because in your essay, “Why I Am Not A Jew And What I Am Instead,” you did say “I believe in God, but I would believe – and have believed -in goodness per se even in the absence of my belief in God.”

I see that as a reference back to your natural law beliefs that you had I think as far back as you were able to formulate beliefs of any kind. So my question here is: was it a pretty short step from your form of agnosticism to a belief in the God of natural law?

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Let me first try to put the limits on the timeline here, because that might be useful in helping to answer the question. As you were zeroing in yesterday, something happened to me during the writing of The Rainbow Cadenza. I had some sort of event happen to me, probably in the last month of writing, that puts it somewhere in November to December of 1981, and I would say that my atheism was pretty well done at that point because I was seriously running at least a second or third paradigm, at that point. The materialistic view that Rand had given me was in suspension along with other views at that point so I would say I was agnostic by that point. Obviously, by the time I’m writing that statement “I believe in God” – it’s dated March 24, 1992 – my agnosticism is pretty much over.

I also talk about having the experience with God, I don’t think we’ve gotten to it yet in the first part, where I had an experience in 1988 around my birthday in which, I had been praying daily The Lord’s Prayer by 1988 probably for about a year. The 1988 experience I have told you about but I’m going to be putting on the record here and this is as good a place to do it.

But first let me just say that the transition starts to happen during the writing of Rainbow Cadenza when I start playing off the arguments, in my mind, between C.S. Lewis and Ayn Rand, which is characterized in the characters of Joan Darris and the underground “Mere Christian” priest Hill Bromley in The Rainbow Cadenza.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: Right, we talked about that in a previous section.

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Joan Darris is an Objectivist, in our argumentation. Hill Bromley is arguing from the standpoint of what I was reading from C.S. Lewis and he is a priest of the “Mere Christian” Church, taken directly from the title of one of C.S. Lewis’ most famous books Mere Christianity. There is no “Mere Christian” Church. Lewis would have scoffed at the idea that there could be a “Mere Christian” Church because as far as he was concerned denominations had meaning — you just had to choose one.

So, by the end of 1981 when I’m finishing the writing of Rainbow Cadenza I’m going through this transition period. It then starts accelerating so that by 1987, I’ve decided to make the experiment. We can call that period from 1982 to 1986 — at least five years — we can call that my for-sure agnostic period.

In 1987 I decide to make a leap of faith — an experiment — and that is to pray.

During this agnostic period I was running these multiple paradigms and I had the feeling that C.S. Lewis talked about, of being pursued. He talks about this, as I said, in the first section of his autobiography Surprised by Joy. And I had the feeling that there was an active intelligence in me answering my arguments. Whenever I was thinking over the Ayn Rand/Objectivist arguments against the existence of God, I kept on coming back with images and answers and information, which confounded those arguments, which annihilated them. So much so, at the point of 1987, I decided that I was going to start praying and see if anything happened.

Lewis talks about jumping across the chasm. Interestingly, this imagery of the chasm is also used in business. Crossing the Chasmis the title of a book, which has to do with entrepreneuring a new product and going from the early adopters to the mainstream market. So in essence what I was doing was, I saw it as a scientific experiment because the idea was either I was going to find out that there was a real intelligence on the other end by praying, and that this was not simply some psychological event. Of course I was familiar with the idea of bicameral minds and subconscious, and I’d read a lot of Jung during this period. I’d always been interested in psychology, reading Freud’s A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis by the time I was fourteen.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: Oh, I have to ask you a question there. Jung has always been preferred over Freud by those who believe in God, because the archetypes and other aspects of Jung — synchronicity, all these things — tie in with the more religious viewpoint. Whereas Freud has always been a darling — or used to be — of the atheist-materialist until the feminists got so mad at him. Back when you were an atheist, where did your emotions tend to pull you, toward Freud or toward Jung? Or did you not see a conflict?

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Well, I wasn’t thinking of it in those terms. I was thinking of it in artistic terms. I started reading Jung because symbols and imagery were an important part of the artistic motif of The Rainbow Cadenza itself. So I was reading Jung as well as a lot of different writers. I mean I did an encyclopedia’s worth of research on the various fields of Rainbow Cadenza. That is a very heavily research-driven book. Probably in the same way that you had to read every book about the Nazis there was to do Moon of Ice.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: You really taught me things about music and about lasegraphy I never would have known without reading The Rainbow Cadenza

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I was trying to derive fundamental principles. I don’t want to digress too much here, but there was a fundamental principle that I learned during the writing of The Rainbow Cadenza, which I think of as the theory of everything when it comes to art. And that is the theory of dialectic. The idea that all art in one way or another comes from a collision of opposites, which creates tension and then a resolution, which really leads to release of tension. In drama, it is plot — doubt of outcome leading to resolution of outcome or doubt of intent in suspense leading to resolution of intent. In music, it is dissonance leading to consonance, or a harmonic expectation being fulfilled, such as the third note of a triad being expected and then becoming a full chord. You know things, which are set up to create expectations in drama, in music and all these forms of art, which are dynamic, which move. And I even started thinking of ways, in dancing for another example, contraction and release of the muscles.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: You’ve always agreed with Aristotle’s theory of catharsis?

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right, but what I was looking for was a universal common denominator to all of them and then having found it in the tension-and-release dialectic, I then applied it to an art form which was just starting out and was not yet using it and that was the Laserium visual light art form. And so what I was able to do was take these principles and draw examples from these various different existing art forms and then apply them, in the novel, to an art form that, in essence, did not yet exist.

But it told me something also basic about all art and that in essence, that’s when I started to think of us as a creation, an existence we were living in, as a work of art. Because I saw the same principles existed in our lives,. The very principle of creation, of procreation, for example, involved a male – or masculine – principle and a female – or feminine – principle uniting to create a synthesis, which is a unique human being.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: Neil you’re not saying kids do better with having a mother and a father are you?

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes, I think I would say that. And as a matter of fact, of course, I was way ahead of the curve in discussing that in Rainbow Cadenza, where you do have gay marriages.

But, I’m going into digression after digression after digression here and I do want to develop these points in some coherent fashion.

The very exploration of art in The Rainbow Cadenza started giving me new paradigms having to do with existence itself. I started seeing God, in the sense that Hill Bromley was talking about God, as being an artist. And this paradigm, that’s when it started running alongside in my head, these other paradigms, these purely mechanistic science paradigms. And, of course, there were the quantum paradigms, also, which I was getting from reading things like Illuminatus! and the The Schrodinger’s Cat books by Robert Anton Wilson. And of course Sam Konkin was a theoretical chemist and so I was given some, at least a Sunday supplement version of quantum mechanics and statistical mechanics. Not that I had any mathematical understanding of them, but at least that was one more of the paradigms that was starting to run in my head as I started thinking about quantum uncertainty as possibly having to do something with free will and freeing us from the mechanistic clockwork universe that seemed to be so much a part of the secularists.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: Crucial question, it’ll keep us on track. Are you saying that when you first started seriously thinking about God during this highly creative agnostic period, you first started thinking about God in esthetic terms?

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes. Yes. God as an artist, as a creator, was where it’s first coming up. And again it comes because in writing a novel you have to be honest to your characters. I never liked writing straw-man arguments for my characters, I always wanted to have the people I disagreed with having as strong arguments as they could come up with.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: You know I agree with you on that Neil.

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Why yes, Brad. So much so, that I have the villain of The Rainbow Cadenza, Burke Filcher, making arguments that I disagree with one-hundred per cent, but making them so compellingly that to this day I have readers think that those are my actual positions.

So this transition that I was going forward with, again a lot having to do with tension and release and realizing that Creation itself utilized these artistic principles, made me start at least running the paradigm of the created universe alongside the uncreated universe. Again, the contradiction in my mind was how could you have a created universe if existence exists? That existence exists was where Rand was starting out, how could you have a created universe if existence has always existed, how can something come out of nothing? That was one of the main problems that I was trying to resolve in my mind. If there has to be something which is uncreated, how could you have a created universe? Okay, so that was the unresolved problem in my mind.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: You did not like the idea of Creation ex nihilo.

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right, and to this day I reject the concept of creation ex nihilo.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: But you, of course, have discovered that is not a basis for atheism, though most people think it is, but you’ve discovered that?

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: But it took me a while to get to that point and I would say that the transition during the agnostic period was when these questions were open and unresolved in my mind, when there was all this tension of these various different paradigms bumping against each other and coming out of me and being objectified in the characters in The Rainbow Cadenza.

So, by the time I get to 1987 I’m willing to make the experiment and pray. Interestingly, I chose The Lord’s Prayer.


J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Jesus seemed cool to me, that’s the only way I can put it. Hanging around all these Christians at the C.S. Lewis Society, Jesus just seemed cool to me.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: By that point had you read C.S. Lewis’ famous remark, but I don’t remember which work it’s in, that Jesus Christ in the Gospel accounts in The New Testament, is equivalent to God writing Himself into His own novel. Had you encountered that Lewis remark by this point?

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I would say that by 1987, I had probably read the bulk of C.S. Lewis’ nonfiction theological writings.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: It is very possible that Lewis’ observation helped contribute to your choice of The Lord’s Prayer?

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes, and so that was the prayer and I started doing it.

Now here’s where I need to lead up to this by giving psychological background on one aspect of myself because it plays a part in the transition that happens in 1988. There’s two things I have to mention then, one of them is I was phobic about death. So much so that it made me a physical coward.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: When did you first discover that about yourself? Let’s go further back in time if necessary.

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: There is an old Yiddish expression which I heard growing up — “Ken dort gehargit verren” — which means you could get killed doing that. And that was pretty much my watchword for a long period of my youth. The idea of deliberately going into a situation where you could get killed was not something I wanted to do. Particularly, you know, because I had no emotional certainty of an afterlife. I was phobic about death. I was phobic about pain, but particularly death. So much so that I had to have nighttime rituals to get to sleep, to blank out almost the obsessive thinking that would happen to me in the stillness and quietness. I would start thinking about my own mortality and freak.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: About what age did this first begin?

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: It was always there. As far back as I could remember there’s always been this phobia about death.

Now something else weird. Remember that I mentioned that I had always had psychic beliefs. I’d had psychic experiences including some precognitive events of my own.

I remember a day in 1970 that I was expecting, all day, a telephone call to come in saying that my grandfather, my father’s father, was dead. That call came around two in the afternoon. I’d been expecting it. This was when we were in the process of moving from Massachusetts to New York.

Our house was for sale. The real estate agents were calling. I was going in with my father to Boston that day for testing at a school which was a tutorial academy with branches in both Boston and New York. I was going to test in Boston and complete high school at this tutorial academy in New York City.

When the phone rang that morning, it was clear in my mind they were calling to say Grandpa Schulman is dead. It wasn’t. It was a real estate agent calling to make an appointment.

I went into Boston with my father, I did the testing. After I was finished the testing they were doing grading on it — the marking on the achievement test to find out what my levels were.

The phone rang. The person who ran the branch of that school in Boston, Alexander Smith Academy, got on the phone and I again thought they’re calling to tell me that my grandfather’s dead. Why should I think that this random phone call, ringing at this academy, had anything even to do with me?

He handed me the phone. It was for me and it was my mother, calling to say that my grandfather had died about an hour before. So my first thing about it happened before he even died because that had happened around 8:30 or 9:00 o’clock that morning. And this was around 2:00 in the afternoon, and my grandfather had died around noon or something like that.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: Important question. Why wouldn’t the view that you’d had when you were fairly young, that the universe might have more going on in it than we immediately perceive with the five senses, which is what precog experiences suggest — extrasensory perception experiences suggest — which is real-time brain-to-brain communication, precog, you get the feeling you have an edge on the future, all these type of experiences. Why wouldn’t any of these experiences, and the fact that you had a number of them over the years, make you less phobic about death for the very simple reason that these experiences, if you don’t just rule them out the way Isaac Asimov would as just statistical and accidental and they don’t mean anything (the old Carl Sagan approach), if you’re drawing the other conclusion, that the universe in weirder than we think, why wouldn’t that make you less phobic about death?

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Because it was at a too deep an irrational level, it was not subject to reason. I could distract myself from it I could not defeat what was going on inside of me. It was a neurosis of some sort.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: And you have no idea where it came from you have just had it for so long?

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Well at that point I had no idea where it came from.

So, here is where I was leading up to my psychic thing. It would have to be sometime in the area of around 1987, when I learned that Robert Heinlein — whom, of course, I’d first met in September, 1973 after doing the interview with him in July, 1973 and had become friends with – when I learned in 1987 that Heinlein was dying of emphysema, which by the way was what killed my maternal grandfather, at the point where I knew that Heinlein was dying of emphysema I did something very, very strange in my own mind. I tried to psychically link my energy to his to keep him alive.

Now that sounds crazy. Why would I have even thought that I could do something like that? And here we come to a year of praying, sometimes more than once a day. Almost clinging to God in a sense “Don’t let me die,” “Don’t let me die,” “Don’t let Heinlein die,” “Don’t let Heinlein die.” I mean this really crazy neurotic mental cycles.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: And this is still when, if somebody asked you pointblank, at that moment, you’d still say you’re an agnostic but you’re running a prayer experiment, perhaps. Because in one of your interviews with Jack, you say years after you have convinced yourself or had the experience of God, years after that experience you told Jack, in one or you interviews, that you think the best way to think of God is God is an experimental scientist.


BRAD LINAWEAVER: So, God is running the experiments?


BRAD LINAWEAVER: And here you were at your end, you were running an experiment on God, the way that you could argue God runs experiments on us?


BRAD LINAWEAVER: Both ends of the microscope.


So, we get to April, 1988 and somewhere in that period, I’m not sure exactly when, I had my last telephone conversation with Heinlein. It was one in which he was talking about Jean Kirkpatrick for president. He must have known he didn’t have much time left but somewhere in the month preceding that I’d had my last telephone conversation with Heinlein, he spoke about that. He also probably shook my anarchism pretty heavily at that point by simply at a certain point he made some sort of offhand comment, “Well, Neil you know that’s crazy.” I think it was when I was telling him the reason why I didn’t vote or something like that because Heinlein, of course, believed in voting. I was coming up with the standard argument that we in The AnarchoVillage — our little libertarian group in Long Beach, California — were always talking about why we were nonvoters, quoting Jack Parr, “Don’t vote. It just encourages them.

Heinlein did something he’d never done before; he basically dissed me on this point. That had an impact on me emotionally, but nonetheless I loved the man.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: Do you remember what your response to him was?

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I don’t think I even gave him a response.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: You just thought about it.

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I started thinking about it.

BRAD LINWEAVER: He did that to make you think about it?

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes. But also, interestingly, he immediately pulled back as if he had said it unintentionally.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: Ah, because he was so polite?

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I’m not sure it was politeness, I almost had a sense it was something else.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: But he was a very polite man.

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I think it was more than being polite. I think it was almost like that he saw what was going on with me and knew that I was going to end up there where he was anyway.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: But it may have been your first helping hand to the recognition that the brilliant observation you have made, you made this in your own words I’ll just through this in here but you say it awfully well: if we say we have the right to defend ourselves with weapons like guns, we recognize — as Emma Goldman always said — that the vote is a weapon also, and why only allow your enemies to wield that weapon?

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: And of course I was taking that directly from the anarchist writers who compared ballots with bullets. So in other words, at the point, a few years later than that, that I started literally endorsing carrying guns around with bullets in them, the arguments that the anarchists made to me came back in the exact opposite direction that they wanted to. If bullets and ballots are the same thing — as you’re always saying — then why can’t I use a ballot defensively like I use a bullet defensively?

BRAD LINAWEAVER: You turn this argument on its head and I have never seen it done better. For all I know it’s an original argument with you. But whether it is or not, your expression of it is very effective and I have not seen the argument from anybody but you.

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Okay. We come to April 1988.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: The year of Heinlein’s death.

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. That’s May.

This is a month before that and I was living bicoastal at that point.

My Twilight Zone episode had been aired March 7, 1986, and I started getting pulled back out to the West Coast for work reasons because movie and television production was West Coast. But nonetheless, before that, I had gotten married in July, 1985, and was living in Jersey City, New Jersey, and I needed to return to the West Coast. And that happened at various different stages.

But by that point, in April, 1988, I had already established a second apartment back in Long Beach — not back in the AnarchoVillage but just a few blocks away from it — with a roommate, John Strang.

It was a two-bedroom apartment, and we each had our own bedroom with our own privacy, shared a common living room and kitchen, and when my wife at that time came out to the West Coast, we would stay in my room and had the use of the apartment. That’s where I was starting to run SoftServ, the publishing company out of, the electronic publishing company. So in essence I had two homes again at that point, I was bicoastal.

I need to bring up the physiological component because the physiological component is going to play an important part later on.

I was a very heavy coffee drinker. I seem to have some sort of allergy to coffee which I’ve never fully figured out. I thought for a long time that it had to do with the acid of the coffee, or the caffeine, and it doesn’t seem to be either of those, because acid by itself or caffeine by itself does not do what coffee does to me. It sends me into irregular heartbeat and hyperventilation. It seems to be almost an allergic reaction. I think that it might have something directly to do, that there is some substance in coffee — and Sam Konkin, the theoretical chemist pointed out to me that there are so many substances in coffee that if you put them in a gas chromatograph you can’t even figure out everything that’s in there. They’ve never even been able to do a full analysis of what’s in coffee. So there’s something in there which I think may directly affect the brain in the regulation of breathing and heartbeat. It goes directly to the autonomic functions in some sense.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: And it’s not just the caffeine?

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: It’s not just the caffeine. It’s not the acid. It is something else in coffee.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: And that’s why they used to call it the devil’s brew when it was first introduced into Europe.

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Well, they may be right.

But nonetheless, for the week before my birthday in 1988 — and it even took me a few days to realize that it was coffee that started it — but I had a week where I was uncontrollably and unexpectedly going into hyperventilation.

There was not such a great tension going on that these were panic attacks, although I had just taken out a lease on this apartment so I could work on the West Coast again and my guild was on strike again, was throwing us out on strike sometime in that period. I don’t remember the exact time of the strike. I do remember that it was a very long strike.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: That would be The Writer’s Guild?

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: The Writer’s Guild, yes. But nonetheless I don’t recall that this was a particularly stressful time but this week preceding my birthday in 1988 – my birthday is April 16 – I kept on going into fits of unexpected hyperventilation and they were causing panic attacks, so much so that I was having to carry around a paper bag with me to breathe into it, to try to get myself out of it. I didn’t know what was going on. I stopped drinking coffee after the first day, or something like that, when I realized it was linked. But nonetheless, even after stopping the coffee, it was not stopping and it was going on day after day after day. So by around the fifth or the sixth day I was a wreck.

And I’d started having a very strange thing happening. I’ll use a technical psychological term here. I became extremely emotionally labile. Emotional lability means that you do not have any self-control over your emotional response.

What was happening to me is that I became so emotionally sensitive to everything around me that if I watched a TV commercial with a little mini-drama, in that commercial to sell some product, it became like watching Hamlet or MacBeth. In other words, I was just responding to everything way out of proportion. I was feeling everything. In terms of sound you would think of it as 120 decibels or something like that.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: Total empathy?

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Total empathy.

Now, I had thought of myself as somebody who, if he identified with any character out of Star Trek, it was Spock. I was out of control. Suddenly my emotions were out of control. It was “Amok Time” — or something like that — without the mating ritual.

It got to the point where on the night before my birthday I lay down in bed and this feeling of uncertainty — and remember this combined with this death phobia — I was afraid I was going to die from this, that something was happening in me that was killing me. I didn’t know what it was.

I lay down in bed – and bed for me was a futon on the floor in this bedroom – and I felt a hand on my heart inside my chest. I can’t describe it any other way. I felt a physical presence of a hand, as if it was holding my heart. Not squeezing it but holding it so I could feel it. In my head I heard this voice and it said to me, “I can take you now.”

Suddenly my worst fear, death was coming, you know, God is going to take me. I’m in the middle of a Twilight Zone episode. Hand on my heart. I’m scared to death – literally. And a voice — The Voice, which I knew was God’s voice — was saying, “I can take you now.” And I was scared.

Something unusual happened at that point. The Voice, which had just said “I can take you now,” started laughing at me.

And I said, “Why are you laughing at me?”

And The Voice — God, I might as well just say God, because that’s how I identified it — God said to me then “Because I can’t believe that you’re scared.”

I said, “Why would you be surprised that I’m scared? I’ve always been scared of death. You’re surprised that I’m scared?”

It was totally inexplicable to me that while this is going on, God’s first reaction is to be astonished, and laugh, that I am scared of death. Who am I that God would be surprised that I’m scared of death? I’m not a war hero, who’s been an Audie Murphy who’s charged machine-gun nests, or anything like that. Why on Earth would God be surprised by that? This was one of the things going on while I am, in essence, scared out of my mind.

After He stopped laughing at me, God said “You have to make a choice. I can take you now. You will die now or I can let you live but here’s the thing. No more promises. No more deals. You have in your mind somewhere that you can make a deal with me and I’m going to make everything come out all right and you’re going to be safe from everything and you’re not going to die and the people around you, who you keep on praying for constantly, are not going to die. And if you stay – if I don’t take you now – all bets are off. You stay, unconditionally, with no promises, and whatever happens, you have to let happen.”

And I was more scared of death than of fate. And so I said “I’ll stay.”

And I felt The Hand leave my heart. I had accepted the contract.

I thought, at that point, I wonder if this is simply some sort of psychological event, some fantasy my body is having to tell me that I’m having a heart attack?

BRAD LINAWEAVER: While this was going on, weren’t you thinking about Heinlein’s situation as well as your own?

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Well, I was thinking in terms of everybody. Not just Heinlein, but I was praying for my parents, and my wife, and all my friends, you know, “Don’t let any of them die, don’t let me die, don’t let anybody die.”

BRAD LINAWEAVER: I just remember conversations I had with you at the time. Heinlein seemed to be very prominent in your mind.

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Very prominent, but at that particular moment I don’t know, okay? But again, it was this clinging to God, praying so tight that nobody dies, that no harm comes to everybody. You know this panicked clinging, which was what He was breaking. In essence He was telling me, “Don’t pray so much! because I’d been praying every day, constantly. Not just the Lord’s Prayer, but also the prayers for everybody to be okay – and not in the Christian sense of praying for their soul – but praying for them physically not to die, not to get hit by a truck.

So, God ended that at that moment.

Nonetheless, again, being the rationalist, I’m thinking maybe this is my science-fiction writer’s brain telling me that I’m having a heart attack. So at this point I woke up my roommate and I said, “Call the paramedics, I think I’m having a heart attack.”

The paramedics arrived and they put those sensors on me to do the electrocardiogram, which they do instantly, and they looked at me like I was crazy. They said, “Your heart is perfectly fine. What are you talking about? There’s nothing going on.” One of them asked me an interesting question. He said, “Are you going through a divorce right now?”

“No,” I said, “everything’s fine. My wife is coming out tomorrow to celebrate my birthday. Everything’s great. But I thought I was having a heart attack.”

“No, you’re not having a heart attack. Forget it, you’re fine!”

They didn’t even want to take me down to the hospital for observation. My heart must have been rock steady at that point.

They left. My roommate went back to sleep. And my panic was over.

Whatever had happened – now that I knew that I was not dying — what had been going on for a week, with this recurring hyperventilation, this emotional lability, it stopped at that instant.

It was over. The event was over.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: Now, important question. So what would have been your first contact with God — when it was over you thought it might very well be God but you weren’t one-hundred-percent certain that it was God?

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I was pretty certain that it was God.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: Ninety percent or one-hundred percent?

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Ninety-eight percent.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: But there was still two percent of doubt?


BRAD LINAWEAVER: So you thought very likely it was God but you weren’t totally convinced, just almost.

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. There was always that two percent of doubt because I might be crazy. I knew that the human body was capable of doing odd things, and the human brain was capable of doing odd things. I thought that maybe I was suffering from some toxic poisoning from coffee or something like that. Maybe this was some sort of hallucinated experience.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: Now another question. What would be your first encounter with God? Because a lot of people who have known you over the years, when they see your license plate “I met God,” or when they see the title of this book, are going to be thinking about your econd encounter — which we we’re not getting to for a while yet — which you call the Mind Meld with God, which is the most intense meeting with God. But, in fact, this is the first meeting with God?

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: This is the first direct encounter, or actually the first one which I identify as a direct encounter, because I have had experiences —

BRAD LINAWEAVER: But this is not the Mind Meld. That was a later experience?

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: That is correct. This is a frightening and entirely confronting and unpleasant experience.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: And, it’s the most unusual thing about what would be your first encounter of God. The first time you move from agnosticism to pretty damn close to the theistic position, that you now believe there is a God. You’re awful close to it now, that the first thing, in effect, you get out of your first encounter with God is?

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: God telling me to stop praying.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: Right! You don’t normally hear that from somebody who prays, prays, prays — God finally communicates and says, “Stop all that praying!”

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes. Bizarre. And also, just as bizarre, God laughing at me because he can’t believe that I’m afraid.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: Right, so there’s two things. The sense of humor, which a large part of your argument about God, you’ve argued. A large part of your novel, Escape from Heaven, and many times on Jack’s show when you’re explaining your real beliefs, your view that God has a sense of humor, is a very, very important part of everything you’ve been building out of these experiences. This was the first time you had the idea that God had a sense of humor, his laughing at your fear?

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes. You know a really rough sense of humor.

But two events happen. One of them is Heinlein dies. I let go and a few weeks after that he’s dead. Okay? I’m told that I can’t keep him alive any more and a few weeks later he’s dead. And it’s almost like what was going on with me was not, in fact, a caffeine reaction, or a coffee reaction or something like that. But in essence this link, which I have set up psychically with Heinlein, is killing me, and unless I let go I’m going to die.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: Die along with Heinlein or in place of Heinlein?

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Along with, I’ll go with him.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: Were there were links to others, too? It sounds like there were a couple of links.

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes, but the others weren’t dying. I’ve linked up with a number of people and one of them is dying and it’s going to drag me along with it. On the metaphysical level if we want to look at it in these terms, that’s what was happening.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: This psychic link with a dying person, dangerous move.

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. And then he dies, May 8th, was that the date?

Now. Something else happens, very significant. I have a dream.

In my dream I am in a courtroom and to my side is my counsel and my counsel is a woman and my counsel is God.

Not, in some same sense, the God who had his masculine hand on my heart a few weeks before that. But God as a female and God is my lawyer.

And there is a panel, a panel of judges up on the judge’s bench, and I’m at the defendant’s table. Although it’s more of a hearing, an inquiry, than a trial, I’m not on trial for having done something wrong. But it is a court of inquiry. And the question before the court, I am told by God, my lawyer who is female, is, “Why was I afraid?”

BRAD LINAWEAVER: The same question repeated?

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. What was it, why was I afraid? God is obviously surprised that I could be afraid and apparently it’s something that needs to be resolved.

Here is something very interesting, I am told by God, my lawyer who is female, “The judges need your permission to unlock the records. They are sealed. None of us are allowed to look at them without your permission. Will you give us permission to look so that we can find out why you are afraid of death?”

I said “Yes, permission granted.”

BRAD LINAWEAVER: But God is asking for permission to look at sealed records in effect.

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Not only God but all these judges in this courtroom.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: But what’s impressive is, God won’t look at these records without permission. Do I have this right?

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: That is correct. And I said, “Yes you can look.” And only a few seconds go by — it’s not like court is adjourned, we’ll be back later — a few seconds go by and they have the answer immediately after I give permission.

I am told, “We have just searched the records and what we found out was that in your immediate incarnation before this you were murdered as an infant and died not understanding what was going on, that the imprint of this carried over into your current life as fear, as an irrational fear of death.”

Now, I woke up from this dream and the phobia that had dogged me my entire life up to that moment was gone.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: The phobia was gone?

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: The phobia — something, which had dogged me my entire life – was gone. Okay?

Now what sort of dream is it that you have, that changes your life, that changes something fundamental about you? This was remarkable to me, I have a dream and then suddenly, this thing which I have never been able to go to bed without distracting myself so I wouldn’t think about death, suddenly this is gone?

BRAD LINAWEAVER: The dream reinforced the first meeting with God. You could actually argue that this dream is either an epilog to or a second encounter with God, but it’s logically tied to that first encounter. It is all of a piece with the hand on the heart and that you’ve got to let go what you are afraid of, all of that is a piece of the same experience, the same event. Therefore, at the end of what might be called this first encounter with God, you’ve had a major psychological change and you as somebody who used to be an atheist, and then have gone through this agnostic period, are wondering why the thing that would get you over the hump of such a dire problem, why you of all people ould be imagining that it’s God? Since you’ve never felt for most of your life a need for God.


BRAD LINAWEAVER: And yet God shows up in this situation and suddenly a huge life problem of yours is resolved. It’s like, what is it eight years later when you have the Mind Meld? There’s a good chunk of a decade that separates this event from the next encounter with God. Which means you’re not just having — like these people who claim they have born again experiences and God’s in their heart and they’re in communication with God all the time — you go through a long period of time from this moment to the next time you have an encounter with God.

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes. But something significant happened in between.


Next in I Met God — God Without Religion, Scripture, or Faith is Chapter IV: No Religion, Too

I Met God — God Without Religion, Scripture, or Faith is
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.

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Liner Notes: Susan Boyle’s I Dreamed A Dream — A Career Retrospective

Susan Boyle: I Dreamed A Dream — A Career Retrospective
Audio CD (November 23, 2009)
Original Release Date: November 23, 2009
Number of Discs: 1
Label: Sony Music Entertainment
ASIN: B0026P3G12
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Liner Notes

With the release of her 23rd album, I Dreamed A Dream — A Career Retrospective, it’s hard to remember a time when the magnificent Susan Boyle hasn’t been part of our lives.

Bursting onto the American scene at age ten when she appeared on the very last Ed Sullivan Show, June 6, 1971, with a powerful voice almost unthinkable in such a young girl — and at a time when America was still enmeshed in the Vietnam War — Susan Magdalane Boyle has often been called the “Second Wave of the British Invasion.” With the exception of the Academy Award — which she has been nominated for twice — there is almost no American entertainment award she has not taken home: eight Grammy Awards, nine solo albums that have gone platinum — in categories ranging from gospel to country to pop — eight Tony Awards, three Emmy Awards, and two Golden Globes.

There was hardly any American variety show she did not appear on as a child star in the 1970’s, including The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, The Dean Martin Show, Andy Williams, Donny and Marie, The Captain and Tennille, The Jacksons, and — of course — Saturday Night Live, which she has appeared on as a musical guest fifteen times since her first appearance in 1975 and has hosted eight times.

Susan Boyle toured with Bob Hope’s USO company seven times, including Hope’s last USO tour for Operation Desert Shield in 1991 — and frequently appeared as a featured guest on Bob Hope’s NBC comedy specials.

She was a favorite of Johnny Carson’s, appearing on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson 27 times.

As a stage artist her singing voice has often been compared to those of Patti LuPone and Bernadette Peters. At age 19 she originated the role of Fantine in the London West End production of Les Misérables, and generated a scandal in 1986 when Andrew Lloyd Webber cast her in the role of Christine for the London production of The Phantom of the Opera over his own wife, Sarah Brightman, causing the couple to divorce after only two years.

She has reprised both roles in long runs on Broadway.

In 1985 she appeared on the recording of USA for Africa — “We Are The World.”

In film, she has played opposite Tom Hanks twice, in 1993’s Sleepless in Seattle and 1998’s You’ve Got Mail, and won Golden Globes for both performances.

From 1993 to 2004 she played the role of Daphne Moon in the sitcom Frasier, and picked up two of her three Emmy Awards for that role, the third Emmy going to her for her 2005 HBO Special, Susan Boyle Live at the Kennedy Center.

Since 2002 Susan Boyle has also been well-known as a spokesperson for NutriSystem.

She has made frequent appearances for causes ranging from breast cancer awareness to campaigning against California’s Proposition 8, but has denied the frequent rumors that she, herself, is gay, often quipping, “What woman would want to sleep with me when Portia de Rossi is out there?”

Winner of the Special Jury Prize for Libertarian Ideals from the 2011 Anthem Film Festival! My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available free on the web linked from the official movie website. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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