Let’s start this with a practical joke that I collaborated on with Leonard Nimoy as the target.
In May, 1974 I was a young writer living in Manhattan, and I’d just started working on my first novel, a few years later published as Alongside Night. One of my friends was Michael Moslow, another writer who circled around the NYU Science Fiction Society and its two founders, Samuel Edward Konkin III (at that time an NYU post-graduate student in Theoretical Chemistry) and another NYU post-graduate student, Richard Friedman.
One of the advantages of hanging around NYU students and attending an on-campus club, to non-NYU-students like Mike and myself, was easy access to the many celebrities who came to lecture. One of them was 1956 Nobel laureate in Physics, William Shockley, who at the time was much more controversial for his writings outside of his field, on eugenics and comparing the intelligence of racial groups.
There were, not unexpectedly, major campus protests against Shockley speaking on the NYU campus, covered widely by all media. It was big news.
Mike and I did not attend Shockley’s lecture. But speaking in the same NYU auditorium exactly one week after Shockley (and without any protests) was Star Trek icon Leonard Nimoy, Mr. Spock … and I had a sick idea that once I told it to Mike he could not be stopped doing it. Not that I even tried.
Nimoy began his lecture to a packed house, Mike sitting near the back of the hall, me seated somewhere nowhere near Mike, because I wasn’t a complete fool.
About twenty minutes into Nimoy’s talk, Mike jumps up and shouts, “I came to hear Shockley. This isn’t Shockley! Who’s this clown?”
Everyone, including Nimoy, cracked up as Mike marched himself of the auditorium, still shouting.
At a Star Trek convention not long after that I met Leonard Nimoy and let him in on the joke, which he remembered and still thought was funny.
(This was also the convention where I first met Nichelle Nichols, who three decades later starred in my first feature film, Lady Magdalene’s.)
Look, I’m a Trekkie old enough to have watched Star Trek in its original first-run NBC broadcasts. A TV Guide description of the next episode was enough for me to convince my ninth-grade history teacher to write on the blackboard the episode “Bread and Circuses,” broadcast on the Ides of March, 1968.
In later life I’ve worked professionally with four actors from Star Trek series: Nichelle Nichols, Uhura in Star Trek: The Original Series, starred in the title role of the first feature film I wrote, produced, and directed, Lady Magdalene’s.
Tim Russ (Tuvok in Star Trek Voyager), Garrett Wang (Ensign Kim in Star Trek Voyager), and Gary Graham (Ambassador Soval in Star Trek Enterprise) all have featured roles in the second feature film I wrote, produced, and directed, Alongside Night.
When I spoke with Ayn Rand in August 1973 I asked her about Star Trek.
“She told me that she watched Star Trek and Spock was her favorite character.”
–J. Neil Schulman: “I Met Ayn Rand“
Leonard Nimoy at the 2011 Phoenix Comicon in Phoenix, Arizona. Photo by Gage Skidmore
So Star Trek has a permalink in my consciousness.
But Star Trek, and Leonard Nimoy in particular, also had a profound impact on my understanding and describing some of the most mysterious experiences in my life.
Here’s three excerpts from my book The Heartmost Desire, describing aspects of those experiences.
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?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right.
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.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right
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, The Heartmost Desire (Section 2, “I Met God — God Without Religion, Scripture, or Faith,” Chapter 3: Contact)
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Napoleon, or Jesus Christ. As you say, the asylums are full of people who claim to be Jesus Christ or Mary or something like that. But the point is they’re going around trying to convince other people of it.
The last thing I wanted to do was tell anybody about this. Because, if I thought I was crazy, certainly they would think I was crazy, too! I didn’t want to tell anybody that I was considering — inside my skull — the idea that I was God. They’d put me away!
I was pretty much back to myself after the first few weeks, when I started feeling physically stronger again, and no longer had this fear that this was an end-of-life experience. Because, by the way, people who I’ve spoken to about this experience since, say that, in some senses, it matches up with the near-death experiences of those who have had their hearts stopped or something like that and found themselves out of themselves. Because, when I would try to explain that I was out of my personality, people would hear it and think of it as an out-of-body experience.
I wasn’t out of my body. God was in my body with me. That was different.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: No, it’s definitely flipped from the normal. It’s definitely different.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. So, again, I didn’t want to go around telling anybody I was God. Not during the experience and not afterwards.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: You weren’t floating around looking at your own body. You had decided that God had invaded your body –
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: No, it wasn’t an invasion because it was welcome. The experience was entirely welcome.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I don’t know what verb to use but God had overlapped with, intruded upon…
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: How about had communed with me?
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Or double exposured, or whatever?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: How about conversation in the Biblical sense? That it was a joining? Instead of a physical joining it was a spiritual joining? Or to use the metaphor which I came up with later, it was a Mind Meld.
–J. Neil Schulman, The Heartmost Desire (Section 2, “I Met God — God Without Religion, Scripture, or Faith,” Chapter 8: Aftermath)
After the book is already published, after Escape from Heaven is in print, that’s when I start discovering what I put into the book. What God has revealed to me without my even knowing it.
And two things in particular. One is that I got ahold of Leonard Nimoy’s photographic book, Shekhina, and I had never heard the word Shekhina before then. But this is what was interesting to me, and here is the sequence of knowledge and learning here.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Back to kabbalah…
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. Leonard Nimoy was raised Jewish, in Boston, and when he was taken to the Orthodox synagogue, you had the ritual of everybody turns their back so they can’t see the Holy of Holies and I guess the Rabbi holds up his hands and does the Vulcan greeting, as we know, with the two fingers separated into a “V” in the middle.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: “Live long and prosper!”
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: The “Live long and prosper” symbol, which is a representation, Nimoy explains in his book Shekhina, of the Hebrew letter “shin,” if I’m not mistaken, which is the representation of Shekhina. Shekhina being the Holy Spirit, the feminine aspect of God.
And I am learning, when I start now researching this — having learned about it — that it’s God’s wife, the female aspect of God. And here’s the important part: the advocate of man to God.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I have to ask you a question.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: But let me, before you ask me the question. I can’t let this go by without emphasizing it too strongly.
We go back to 1988 where I had that dream, the dream that changes my life, where my attorney — my advocate — is God and she is a woman. God was a woman in my dream, okay?
I put that in Escape from Heaven and now I find out that Shekhina, the Holy Spirit in Judaism, is a central part of the hidden kabbalistic doctrines, and I’ve met her in my dream in 1988, and put her in a novel? And only now I find out who she is? That the defender of humanity before God, in essence, represented me?
This is — I’m starting to think — this is a central part of Judaism which I never knew about.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I always thought it was a hidden part of Judaism.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Hidden, but you know it’s not something I was taught in the year of Hebrew School.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: That’s what I mean, I always thought it was kind of like secretive.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: It is. It’s secretive. It is deliberately secretive.
Here is Leonard Nimoy doing a book about it, telling me about it, starting me researching about it, and what I find out is that who Shekhina is, the Holy Spirit, the defender of man before God, was in my dream, defending me in 1988, after I had the experience where I had God — the male God — having His hand on my heart.
I’m blown away when I learn this.
–J. Neil Schulman, The Heartmost Desire (Section 2, “I Met God — God Without Religion, Scripture, or Faith,” Chapter 9: Collaboration)
These experiences formed the backdrop of my 2002 third novel, Escape from Heaven, so when I first received printed copies of the novel I decided that the man who had told me about the Shekhina should be given a copy.
Living in Culver City it wasn’t far to drive to Leonard Nimoy’s house in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles.
As I drove up the gate was open, and Leonard and Susan Nimoy were outside their house. Susan approached me. “Delivery for Leonard Nimoy,” I said. “No signature needed.”
Leonard Nimoy’s eyes were on me as I handed Susan the package with the book. I don’t have any idea how well he could see me or whether there was any chance he’d recognize me from our few convention encounters. But while Leonard Nimoy was looking at me, I gave him the Vulcan split-finger salute and said, “Live long and prosper.”
Susan Nimoy smiled but Leonard Nimoy didn’t return the Vulcan salute and in true Vulcan fashion, he didn’t smile as I drove away.
Watching Citizenfour in its HBO premiere Monday evening, a day after it won the Oscar for Best Feature-Length Documentary, leaves me with the perception that I haven’t watched a documentary but a work of dramatic fiction.
This is not to criticize documentarian Laura Poitras for deliberately slanting coverage of her subject, Edward Snowden, toward the sympathetic. She’s entitled to an editorial point of view.
Edward Snowden. From Citizenfour
by Laura Poitras / Praxis Films
The trouble is with Edward Snowden, himself, as much in this film as in Brian Williams’ NBC interview with Snowden that aired in May 2014.
Edward Snowden explains his actions in terms common to fictional heroes, and when non-controversial characters like these are found in real life they’re usually decorated military, police, or firemen.
What makes Edward Snowden come across as a fictional character is that he as an individual – with no institutional backing – took unilateral action with global consequences and justifed his actions on moral grounds. In real life when this happens it’s usually a terrorist – a bomber, assassin, or violent psychopath – pitting his moral claims against a society he sees as wrong. But Edward Snowden is not a nut job, rather a sane and reasonable man who found himself with an unique opportunity to act against grand institutional criminality that he saw could not be corrected within an existing institutional framework.
That makes Edward Snowden the rarest of real-life characters: a noble and effective revolutionary.
In real life it’s exceptionally uncommon to find a man like Edward Snowden, facing felony charges of violating espionage laws, and living a relatively low-profile life in exile.
Edward Snowden reminds me of no fictional character so much as Ayn Rand’s John Galt in her novel Atlas Shrugged, an engineer who decides to sabotage a state growing toward totalitarianism, by first withdrawing his personal sanction then convincing others of talent and expertise to do likewise.
But Edward Snowden is not a fictional character out of Atlas Shrugged … or my own novel and movie about a current-day rebellion against the United States government, Alongside Night. He’s a real-life current day American Revolutionary in the direct tradition of the Founding Fathers.
Edward Joseph Snowden seems to be aware of his place in history. Reacting to Oscar host Neil Patrick Harris’s joke about treason directly after Citizenfour won its Oscar, Snowden quoted Patrick Henry: “If this be treason, make the most of it.”
Patrick Henry made that statement in 1765, eight years before the Boston Tea Party, ten years before Paul Revere’s ride and the Battles of Lexington and Concord, and 11 years before the Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence triggering the American Revolutionary War.
Make no mistake: if America is not to degrade into totalitarian fascism then Edward Snowden is a harbinger of a re-upped American Revolution. His explanation in support of his having revealed what he regards as unconstitutional criminal acts by the United States government is based on the same principles as the Declaration of Independence’s explanations for refusing to obey the laws of Britain’s king and parliament.
Snowden is a hero to me because I share with him the libertarian values of the American Revolution and do not see anything short of a revolutionary refusal to abide violation of fundamental human rights under color of law as a remedy.
I don’t know what’s more frightening: that we have a real-life John Galt declaring in our own time the reasons for rebellion against a burgeoning American tyranny that betrays its Enlightenment foundations … or that we need one.
J. Neil Schulman discusses the legality, morality, and purposes of Edward Snowden’s revelations of classified government documents regarding massive government spying on American citizens in the radio podcast The Real Side with Joe Messina interview J Neil Schulman (December 16, 2014)
J Neil Schulman is the author of 12 books, including three novels, and a Twilight Zone writer. He’s writer/producer/director of the near-future suspense feature film Alongside Night (out in a limited release), which he adapted from his 1979 award-winning novel of the same name. The Prometheus Hall of Fame novel was endorsed by Nobel-laureate Milton Friedman, A Clockwork Orange author Anthony Burgess, and Dr. Ron Paul http://alongsidenightmovie.com
Best-selling Author John DeChancie posted this yesterday on his Facebook wall.
“Those who are interested in the current world economic crisis might be interested in seeing ALONGSIDE NIGHT, a film by J. Neil Schulman, starring Kevin Sorbo. It’s a handsomely produced film for its low budget. Well-acted and ingeniously directed, it has a story that resonates with the new proposed 4-trillion-dollar US budget. You might not agree with the movie’s economic philosophy, but you can’t deny the relevance of the theme. There’s only so much you can inflate the money supply before the economy blows a tire and we all have to walk home. I mean, how much can you disagree with that?”
– John DeChancie
John DeChancie is a well-known author of science fiction and fantasy. He is most famous for his Skyway Trilogy (STARRIGGER, RED LIMIT FREEWAY, PARADOX ALLEY) and his seriocomic fantasy adventure series beginning with CASTLE PERILOUS and running to nine volumes. The ninth is due out soon! His short pieces have appeared in many magazines and paperback original anthologies. Living in Los Angeles, he is at work writing more fiction in addition to screenplays and teleplays. He has a background in music, TV and film production, and was the 2005 recipient of the Forrest J. Ackerman Award for lifetime achievement Science Fiction.
The old phrase “feels like someone’s walking on my grave” came to mind in the past 48 hours when I read news about the writer/director of an indie film in production, Gray State, being found dead in his home, along with his wife and five-year-old daughter, in what local Minnesota police are calling “suspicious circumstances.” The physical circumstances in which David Crowley and his family were found dead, apparently undiscovered for weeks, suggests David Crowley of Apple Valley, MN, murdered his wife and daughter then took his own life.
David and Komel Crowley / Image credit: Instagram
For several years David Crowley’s life was focused on making an indie suspense thriller with a lot of thematic similarity to my own new indie suspense thriller, Alongside Night, of which I’m the writer/director. Both our movies focused on events following the collapse of the dollar leading to a near-future America in which constitutional rights are dead and those who resist the new fascistic order are being rounded up and sent to FEMA-run detention facilities.
Both David Crowley and myself had appeared as Skyped-in guests with Alex Jones on his radio/Internet show, and received his praise for our cinematic efforts in defense of American liberty.
Both David Crowley and myself found ourselves locked out of Hollywood studio interest for our films.
There is one difference.
David Crowley was a 20-something first-time feature filmmaker who had produced only a concept trailer meant to raise production financing. By contrast Alongside Night was my second feature film, based on a novel I wrote in my 20’s, about David Crowley’s age when he started work on Gray State. My novel was published hardcover by a major New York publisher in 1979 with major literary endorsements, positive major reviews, and several awards picked up over the succeeding decades. Consequently I found the financing to cast known stars and complete production on my movie that David Crowley, despite a successful Indiegogo campaign to raise seed money, never did before his tragic death.
The violent death of a vocal opponent to the United States government in these post-9/11 times of secret Homeland Security warrants, arrest and indefinite detention of persons who with the stroke of a pen are classified as enemy combatants, and intrusive government spying gives way to the unthinkable: what if David Crowley didn’t take his family’s and his own life but was murdered by a clandestine operation and the crime scene engineered to cover up a political murder?
I am just paranoid enough for that possibility to scare the bejeezus out of me.
On the other hand, what if David Crowley lost hope of reaching the goal of a finished movie that I had already achieved – and in his despair lost his mind?
Neither prospect makes it easier for me to sleep at night.
But when Alongside Night does achieve commercial success in its general release later this year, I now feel that I’m not doing it only for my own cast, crew, producers and other supporters, but for David Crowley’s as well.
This appeared yesterday as an opinion piece in The Daily Journal, Vineland, New Jersey.
Daily Journal Editor’s note: Federal officials say Silk Road was an online anonymous black market for buying and selling illegal drugs. The FBI shut it down in 2013.
After watching the Ross Ulbricht trial kick off last week in Manhattan over his role in Silk Road, I felt compelled to share these views. As a Hollywood/Las Vegas-based novelist and filmmaker of “Alongside Night,” this story brings up a debate over online commerce and the dangers of too much government regulation.
Whether or not Ross Ulbricht is Silk Road’s founder, the Dread Pirate Roberts (or one of the Dread Pirate Roberts, remembering that in William Goldman’s “The Princess Bride” the Dread Pirate Roberts was a title for multiple pirates), the founder of Silk Road did in real life what the Revolutionary Agorist Cadre in both my novel and movie “Alongside Night” do: create, maintain, and protect a free marketplace from coercive interference by violent criminals, cartels, and governments.
This is not a coincidence since Silk Road’s founder wrote explicitly1 that “Alongside Night” directly inspired Silk Road. As the author and filmmaker, it makes me feel that my fictional story has real-world impact, and if done within the moral and legal guidelines as portrayed in my novel and movie scenario, I could not be prouder.
Just because someone with power declares an item of commerce contraband does not make it harmful or illegal. Recently the EPA, based on the mega-fraud that the natural plant-breathing gas carbon dioxide is harmful, outlawed the manufacture of wood-burning stoves. A blacksmith who made wood-burning stoves and sold them through a Silk Road-type of marketplace would be exercising rights the American Revolution was fought to establish but that the government violates.
Is selling marijuana wrong? Several states say using marijuana is fine for recreational use and many more say it’s fine for medicinal use. Yet the federal government, which is supposed to do only things listed in the Constitution, has several massive agencies to interfere with trade in pharmaceuticals — the FDA and the DEA foremost among them. Find the word “drug” anywhere among the listed powers in the Constitution. You won’t. They’re not listed in the Constitution. Therefore any act of Congress or regulation promulgated by the Executive Branch is null and void from its passage or declaration, and any enforcement of these illegal acts and regulations is abuse of power under color of law — a federal crime in Title 18 Section 242 of the United States Code.
Add marijuana to one more thing the government shoves into underground marketplaces like Silk Road, but which it has no business prohibiting in the first place.
How about selling untaxed cigarettes? A death penalty was just meted out by New York City police for that — before even an indictment, much less a trial or conviction.
Selling lemonade without a permit?
Selling farm-fresh milk that hasn’t been boiled?
Oh, but the people are too stupid to make their own judgments about what they should put in their bodies. We the enlightened elite know better and if you don’t do exactly what we say. Well, we already have more people in prison than almost any other country on earth.
Room for one more.
“Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God.”
Who said that? Look it up.
J. Neil Schulman
Writer, director “Alongside Night”
J. Neil Schulman (based in Los Angeles and Las Vegas) is the author of 10 books, including three novels. He is the writer/producer/director of the near-future suspense feature film “Alongside Night” (out in a limited release), which he adapted from his 1979 novel of the same name.
1 footnote text
“I read everything I could to deepen my understanding of economics and liberty, but it was all intellectual, there was no call to action except to tell the people around me what I had learned and hopefully get them to see the light. That was until I read “Alongside night” and the works of Samuel Edward Konkin III. At last the missing puzzle piece!” —”Collected Quotations Of The Dread Pirate Roberts, Founder Of Underground Drug Site Silk Road And Radical Libertarian,” Forbes.com
Update February 4, 2015:
Wired Magazine: “Silk Road Mastermind Ross Ulbricht Convicted of All 7 Charges”
Photo Courtesy Ulbricht Family
Recently, inspired by police being in the news, I used my Netflix subscription to watch some first-season episodes of Dragnet 1967 and 1968′s Adam 12, both of them created. produced and directed by Dragnet‘s Sgt Joe Friday, Jack Webb.
If you’re not old enough to remember, these two cop shows are classic episodic dramas. Dragnet, which started in 1949 as a radio drama and ran for nine years on black-and-white 1950′s TV before this late-60′s “in color” return, follows two LAPD detectives, Joe Friday and Bill Gannon (Harry Morgan, later Col. Sherman Potter on M*A*S*H).
A Dragnet spin-off co-created by Webb, Adam 12, follows two LAPD patrol officers, Officer Pete Malloy played by Martin Milner (who’d earlier starred as the hip drifter Tod Stiles on Sterling Silliphant’s Jack Kerouac-inspired Route 66) and Officer Jim Reed, played by Kent McCord, his first starring role.
Jack Webb was a cold-war liberal, which in the 1960′s meant that he was a hard-drinking, chain-smoking social conservative equally against communists, racists, and drug-using hippies. He believed in law-and-order, and was both pro-police and pro-military, though he never served as either (unlike Star Trek‘s very liberal creator, Gene Roddenberry, who served as both a World War II combat pilot and an LAPD officer).
To say that Jack Webb was “by the book” described both the philosophy he imparted to his loquacious police characters and his own production methods, which were Roger-Cormanesque in their efficiency, with a lot of standing sets, minimal takes, and a stock company of character actors often re-used.
As a libertarian I find the anti-drug (especially marijuana) propaganda in Dragnet 1967 ludicrous.
Jack Webb was a drug-warrior in the tradition of Harry J. Anslinger, who headed up the U.S. Treasury Department’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics from 1930 to 1962. But when Jack Webb said he was for law and order he meant it. His shows had zero tolerance of police corruption, grandstanding, criminality under color of law, or incompetence, and when he showed police doing their job “by the book” it meant not even bending the law. In the very first episode of Dragnet 1967, “The LSD Story,” Webb’s script (credited as John Randolph), broadcast 48 years ago this week, portrays the LAPD detectives unable to make an arrest for possession or use of the drug because it was not on a schedule of illegal substances. Sgt. Friday bemoans his inability to “save” underage kids from this menace — but, ultimately, he obeys the law which says it’s legal.
Adam 12‘s Officers Malloy and Reed won’t even make an arrest when the law says it’s a misdemeanor they haven’t personally witnessed but ask the female witness to make a citizen’s arrest.
Everyone gets read their Miranda rights.
That utopian view of police wasn’t true in 1967. It’s not true today.
But, from a perspective of half a century, Jack Webb’s squeaky-clean LAPD — which doesn’t tolerate shooting unarmed children, strip-searching the elderly, or torturing a neo-Nazi suspect even when his stolen dynamite is about to go off in an elementary school about to be integrated — is a model for how police should look at their jobs.
The framers of our form of government had had quite enough of officers occupying their cities, and today’s paramilitary police departments were never what they had in mind for crime control. They literally believed that the police power was in the hands of a vigilant population who took enforcing the law into their own hands. Most police powers until recently were still in the hands of the civilian population.
But if we’re going to have occupying armies roaming our streets, I’d much rather they be honest and professional officers not scared of their own shadows, rather than the psychotic uniformed and never-liable thugs we’ve recently seen in Ferguson, Missouri, New York City, and Cleveland, Ohio.
The last showing of Alongside Night was Oct. 23, 2014 in Spokane, WA. The movie is not yet available on Blu-Ray, DVD, VOD or streaming. As of now the movie is two-and-a-half months past its last public availability, awaiting general release via wider theatrical and the above-mentioned home-entertainment media later this year.
So how is it that within the last ten days — two-and-a-half months after its last screening — there have been 75 IMDb ratings for the movie, a dozen of them posted in the last 24 hours, 22 of them from non-U.S. users — and 59 — 78.7 — of these votes are the lowest possible rating of 1 out of 10? This gives Alongside Night an IMDb rating of 2.4 out of a possible 10 and gives a false-flag impression that an audience that has seen the movie has rejected it. The intent is an attempt to discourage further distribution by giving potential vendors the impression there’s no market for it.
This trolling of Alongside Night on IMDb is nothing new for the movie’s writer/producer/director — me. It follows from the same action against my previous movie, Lady Magdalene’s, by anonymous attackers with multiple sock-puppet accounts.
I haven’t been subject to lethal terrorism such as the firebombing then shootings at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, but there are Internet-based opponents to my libertarian-themed film-making who have had me in their sights for years and they’re still at work.
I don’t have the resources to penetrate their anonymity and stop them as was done with the cyberattacks on Sony for producing The Interview.
Alongside Night portrays the Dark Net as an asset for free speech and free communications. Is there no one at Anonymous to out these anti-libertarian trolls?
Addendum January 15, 2015:
I wrote to IMDb’s Help Desk:
Spoofed IMDb ratings for Alongside Night (2014)
by – email@example.com (5 Jan 2015 12:52:16 PM)
Alongside Night is not yet in general release and has only had limited screenings via TUGG, the last of which was October 23, 2014. The movie has never been available on DVD or VOD or any streaming service. Yet, in the last week, 56 IMDb ratings have appeared, 41 of them a rating of “1″, and 8 of them from outside the United States where the movie has never been seen.
These IMDb ratings have appeared at the same time trolling of the IMDb message board for Alongside Night has resumed
If IMDb has any interest in making sure its ratings are by individuals who have seen the movie these ratings are clearly from anonymous spoof accounts from trolls who wish to launch a cyberattack on the movie to create an artificially low rating that can be quoted across the Internet.
I request that IMDb investigate the accounts posting these spoofed ratings and remove any rating that can not be linked to a real person.
J. Neil Schulman
Managing Member, Alongside Night LLC
IMDb’s Help Desk responded:
Re: Spoofed IMDb ratings for Alongside Night (2014)
by – IMDb Help Desk (7 Jan 2015 01:52:15 PM)
Thank you for contacting us.
Once we determine that a film has been completed and released (or screened at least once) we allow users to vote on it.
Based on our information, the film has been screened at least once. Therefore we can’t remove or block votes for it.
Please be aware that individual votes have different weight on the user rating, and that our voting system is design to detect attempts to stuff the ballot and adjust the rating accordingly when generating the weighted average for a title.
For more information, please refer to http://www.imdb.com/help/show_leaf?votestopfaq
The IMDb Help Desk
IMDb has zero interest in honest user ratings for movies. They defend anonymous sock-puppet trolling of their ratings. Nobody interested in accuracy in media should give IMDb’s ratings any credibility whatsoever.
– J. Neil Schulman, January 15, 2015
See my earlier articles here:
Reason Magazine editor Matt Welch, also one of the regulars on Fox Business Network’s libertarian-themed evening show The Independents, writes at Reason‘s Hit & Run Blog about those using the Twitter hashtag #JeSuisCharlie, “So no, we’re all not Charlie—few of us are that good, and none of us are that brave.”
I wrote, produced, directed, and played a comical jihadi in a suspense comedy feature film titled Lady Magdalene’s, starring Nichelle Nichols who played Lt. Uhura on Star Trek: The Original Series.
Lady Magdalene’s won three film-festival awards: “Best Cutting Edge Film” at the 2008 San Diego Black Film Festival, “Audience Choice – Feature-Length Narrative Film” at the 2008 Cinema City International Film Festival held on the Universal Hollywood Citywalk, and “Special Jury Prize for Libertarian Ideals” at the 2011 Anthem Film Festival/FreedomFest held at Bally’s Las Vegas. I accepted this last award with Rand Paul in the audience.
The movie tells the story of federal agents on the trail of a domestic al-Qaeda plot thought by Homeland Security agents as a potential nuclear attack on Hoover Dam and centered around a Nevada Brothel. In addition to Nichelle Nichols in the title role, characters in the movie include the Director of al-Qaeda, a young American jihadi working for him, and one of his agents, a beautiful Persian woman embedded as a prostitute at the brothel. The character I play, Ali the American, is played as a convert to Islam who’s a comical dupe.
Anyone think this movie might possibly be offensive to Muslims?
The movie has been trolled so badly it has an IMDb rating of 1.8 out of 10. The trolls engineered a cyberattack that trashed all Wikipedia articles about me and the movie. When Lady Magdalene’s was on sale as a DVD and streaming video on Amazon.com the user reviews were so badly trolled by sock-puppet accounts that I decided to pull the movie from sale and posted it for free on YouTube, where as of this writing it’s received 85,832 views.
The cyberattacks on me have slopped over to my new movie, Alongside Night, where sock-puppet accounts are now giving the movie lowest-possible spammed ratings with the hope of preempting the movie’s pending general release. News flash: it won’t work.
Of course Matt Welch doesn’t hold up Lady Magdalene’s as a shining example of a libertarian filmmaker not allowing himself to be daunted by possible retribution and standing up for free artistic expression, even though Nick Gillespie interviewed me at FreedomFest about the movie in 2011.
Matt Welch: I’ve been “Charlie” for years. When will the so-called libertarian media notice?
I’m neither a conservative nor a supporter of the Republican Party. I’m a non-party libertarian — and I expect to be a principled non-voter in the 2016 presidential election — either that or vote for any minor-party candidate as a protest vote against the two major parties.
In 2008 I voted for the anti-War candidate Barack Obama to defeat the apparently more pro-war John McCain. My crystal ball was apparently not working well at the time.
So when in this article I identify a PBS program I just saw as Democratic Party liberal propaganda — a question framed by its producers in such a biased way that a preordained conclusion is inescapable for anyone not seeing the method of propaganda being used — it’s not because I’m favoring an outcome of Republican or right-wing enhancement.
In the January 6, 2015 edition of PBS’s documentary series Frontline — tonight’s episode titled “Gunned Down: The Power of the NRA” — the program graphically and emotionally portrayed a problem of gun violence — dead children and grieving parents at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado and Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut — plus a severely wounded Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and surrounding fatalities in Tucson, Arizona — and the solution to this problem, increased barriers to civilian access to firearms, being stymied by the lobbying of the National Rifle Association.
Before we proceed, a question. Can you identify the source of this quote, a description of a police agency, as “jack-booted government thugs” who wear “Nazi bucket helmets and black storm trooper uniforms”?
Was it the Reverend Al Sharpton talking in 2014 about the Ferguson, Missouri or New York City police?
Uh-uh. It was the National Rifle Association’s Executive Vice President, Wayne LaPierre, writing in 1995 about the federal agents who killed unarmed women and children at Ruby Ridge, Idaho and Waco, Texas.
For which the NRA was attacked by liberals.
Suppose PBS’s Frontline producers wanted to do a show about the use of automobiles in America, and showed only a Red Asphalt type of gruesome vehicular fatalities — never mentioning even for a second all the times people got where they were going safely, usefully, and conveniently. Suppose there wasn’t a single example in this documentary about the use of automobiles in getting to work or going on a family vacation. Further suppose that the documentary juxtaposed these obviously destructive automotive death traps with profiles of the American Automobile Association and their powerful Washington lobbyists? Would one reasonably conclude we were seeing a one-sided propaganda piece?
Or let’s imagine PBS’s Frontline producers did a program about Alan Turing, and focused only on his conviction for indecency as a homosexual breaking long-established British law, and never mentioned that Turing developed the computer breaking the Nazi Enigma machine code that led to an earlier defeat of Germany, saving about 14 million lives? Would this qualify as propaganda?
PBS just did a show which showed us victims of gun-related violence and tugged at our heartstrings. But there wasn’t a single example such as that of my father, violinist Julius Schulman, who on several occasions saved himself and a Guarnerius violin made 1716 in Cremona, Italy, from Boston and New York City muggers, because he was armed with a handgun that he merely had to display to fend off gang attacks late at night as he returned home after a performance.
My father’s case is not mere family anecdote but is supported by criminological statistics finding that Defensive Gun Uses vastly outnumber uses of guns producing tragedy. I’ve written about this extensively. On the website I maintain, The World Wide Web Gun Defense Clock, I support this statement, and provide a link to a free PDF copy of my book, Stopping Power: Why 70 Million Americans Own Guns.
There is nothing new or special about Frontline‘s propagandistic approach by which the good guns do in the hands of righteous people is eclipsed by the bad guns do in the hands of criminals, psychos, and terrorists.
But that’s because modern liberals on the left, like modern neocons on the right, worship absolute power to promote their totalitarian agendas, and the ability of a well-armed people to shoot back is their nemesis.
If you’re interested in a documentary that shows what Paul Harvey used to call “the rest of the story,” I strongly recommend the documentary Assaulted: Civil Rights Under Fire, narrated by Ice-T.
The Christmas Day release of Columbia/Sony Entertainment’s comedy The Interview in shows playing at over 300 sold-out theaters has demonstrated American consumers — of movies or politics — are smarter, and have more character, than comedian Bill Maher, economist Jonathan Gruber, or the major American movie theater chain’s executives believe.
In originally permitting the major theater chains contracted to show Sony’s comedy The Interview to cancel their contracts, Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton acted not as the head of a movie studio promising stockholders to maximize box-office receipts for his entertainment division but instead acted as an agent of a nanny state determined to protect adults from any possible risks about what they consume.
It may not even be Lynton’s fault.
No doubt the CEO of a company owned by the even more anal-retentive Japanese Mitsui keiretsu was surrounded by corporate executives and lawyers haranguing him about legal liability for a “foreseeable” terrorist attack, making the theaters and studio more civilly liable than Warner Bros. and Cinemark theaters were held to be for James Holmes’ unannounced 2012 attack on theater patrons seeing The Dark Knight in Aurora, Colorado.
In a country where jumbo soda pops traditionally sold in theater lobbies were attempted to be prohibited for sale in New York City; where a health warning on every pack of cigarettes sold for decades was not enough for tobacco companies not to have to recompense unhealthy smokers who decided to ignore the warnings; where a Drug Enforcement Administration and Food and Drug Administration deny adults the right to decide for themselves what substances will make life more tolerable for them, it’s not surprising that a threat from Internet trolls to attack theaters showing The Interview was enough to intimidate Sony into writing off tens of megabucks they’d already spent producing and ramping up distribution for a comedy they hoped would be a box-office bonanza.
But Sony reversed course, under criticism from such Hollywood insiders as George Clooney, President Barack Obama, and — amazingly enough — myself, being interviewed on Russia Today.
The Interview was not the first movie offensive to someone with a megaphone or a fondness for mayhem and it won’t be the last. It shouldn’t take the wagging finger of Your Hardly Humble Correspondent — much less Obama or Clooney — to convince a corporation not to back off due to threats from bullies such as Internet hackers or their own legal team.
The next “Putin’s Punishers” who threaten terrorism because of the pending theatrical release of Pussy Riot 2: Mayhem in Moscow can be ignored by the simple expedient of treating movie-goers as adults. After the MPAA rating card in the endless trailers before you can see the movie you bought the ticket to watch just put the Terrorist Rating: