Archive for December, 2009
I Met God
— God Without Religion, Scripture, or Faith
A Book by J. Neil Schulman
Author’s Note: More recent introductions to the experiences covered in this book are in Gary York’s interview with me God’s Libertarian Prophet? and my article elsewhere on these pages, I Argue God With the Atheists.
— J. Neil Schulman
To Charles Darwin, Madalyn Murray O’Hair, and Ayn Rand
If They Still Know Anything, They Know Whether I’m Right
Preface by Brad Linaweaver
Over the years many fans of J. Neil Schulman have said they want another book by him. Sometimes you get what you ask for … but it’s not always what you think you want.
Neil Schulman is one of those writers who doesn’t just write the same book over and over and over. He writes a book when he has something to say.
He has been a significant force in libertarian science fiction. But he’s also been an artist who has been recognized by mainstream critics for doing works of mainstream value.
The experiences that led to the book you are about to experience — whether it is the audio version or the print version — were life-changing experiences for J. Neil Schulman that resulted in two books: the novel, Escape from Heaven and the more personal, autobiographical, I Met God.
For Neil Schulman, who can pretty much express everything he has to say about an experience or a philosophy in one book, you can bet your bottom dollar Neil went through a lot when he produces two books — two works — out of a fundamental experience … and in this case a major motion picture may also be one of the fruits from this particular tree.
J. Neil Schulman says: “I met God.”
In addition to being the title of this book, it is also on the license plate of the vehicle he drives frequently back and forth between Nevada — which is God’s country — and California — which some people believe is territory under other control.
I would say the following regarding people who hesitate to read, or listen to, an exegesis by somebody who believes he had a personal experience with God:
I am an agnostic. I have been an agnostic for many years. I used to be a Christian. I lost my faith but I have never been an atheist. I like to say that I have too much imagination to be an atheist. So I’ve been a believer and I am an agnostic.
Neil has been an atheist, Neil has been an agnostic, and now Neil believes in God, because he has had what he claims to be first-hand experience of God.
So, this is the challenge I put forward to Neil’s fans of the past and potential new readers of Neil’s works in the future.
Take what Neil has to say in this work and compare it to what you get from adherents of orthodox, traditional religions. Take what Neil has to say and compare it to what you’ll find in the New Age section of your local bookstore.
What fascinates me about so many people who claim to be religious, or so many people who claim to have had mystical experiences, is how few ideas they get from that experience. One would think — if you have an experience of the Ultimate — a few ideas might stick to you. But you’d never know it from traditional religious people; you’d never know it from the traditional — if I may say so — mystic types, and the modern manifestation of the New Age types.
Neil is overflowing with ideas, and insights, that I find of great value, and I am an agnostic.
If you believe in God, it seems to me what Neil has to say may be of even greater value to you than it is to yours truly, doing this introduction.
I’m telling you, I’ll be thinking for a long, long time about what J. Neil Schulman said in this interview I did with him for I Met God.
By J. Neil Schulman
Although this is my tenth published book, I haven’t been on any bestsellers lists, so I’m going to assume this is the first book of mine you’ve read.
Even though I’ve been busy writing over the last thirty years; even though I’ve appeared on radio and TV more than a few times; and even though a Google search will turn up my same several thousand times, I don’t qualify as a celebrity.
“So why should I believe this fat, bearded, long-haired slob?” you might be asking yourself right about now. “Why should I take this guy seriously when he tells me that, while he was still an atheist, God started whispering to him, and one February day in 1997, God merged with him for the better part of a day and let him see the world through God’s own eyes?”
I’ll understand if you decide to put this book back on the bookstore shelf right now. If it hadn’t happened to me, I wouldn’t believe somebody who said that, either.
So, in the absence of any reasonable expectation that I’m anything other than a fraud or a psychotic, why should you waste time reading any further?
For one thing, I know how to tell a good story.
I know how to make it suspenseful and dramatic.
That’s my craft, which I’ve been learning for the last thirty years.
I’ve received enough celebrity endorsements, good reviews, and checks for writing sales, to convince me that I’m a professional writer. Being a professional writer, I can promise with some confidence that whether you end up believing my story or not, whether or not you’re an atheist who has me pegged as a nutcase or a believer who has me pegged as a heretic to your faith, I promise you a story you’ve never heard before.
Here’s the part where I tease you into reading the first chapter.
I’m about to make statements that are, on the face of them, improbable and unbelievable, foreshadowing what you’re going to read later in this book.
My obvious intent is to hook you so you’ll keep reading.
Let’s see if it works.
When I was five years old, in 1958, I decided that God wasn’t real.
In 1970, at 17 years old, I had my first experience of the supernatural, when I had precognitive knowledge of my grandfather’s impending death. He lived in a different city and had been robustly healthy the last time I’d seen him, about a month before.
At age 21, I was a back-seat passenger in an automobile accident while on a trip with three friends in 1974 when my friend’s car spun out on any icy road, totaling it, but without any of us getting hurt. At about the exact time we were calling for a tow truck, my father turned to my mother in bed and told her about the accident in detail, even though neither I nor any of my friends told anyone other than the towing service about the accident until the next morning.
While I was attending a friend’s Halloween party in 1982, at age 29, I saw a woman dancing. A voice inside my head said, “If you ask her to dance, you will marry her.”
I asked her to dance and I married her in 1985.
On April 15, 1988, the night before my 35th birthday, God put his hand on my heart and said to me, “I can take you now.”
Sorry. You’ll have to read this book to find out why I lived through the night.
Finally, the last of these teasers.
On February 18, 1997, starting at about noon, God merged into my mind for the rest of the day. During that experience I left a phone message for my sister that she should call me because I had a revelation that would change the world.
Part of that revelation came out in fictional form, when my third novel, Escape from Heaven, was published in 2002.
I’m finally going public with the rest of the revelation – or at least as much of it as I can understand – in this book – the book you’re now deciding whether or not to read all the way through.
An important part of the information God gave to me is that each of us has such strong and independent free will that God feels powerless about what we will choose to make of ourselves … and our world.
So you have the absolute, unencumbered, free will to decide to turn to the next page, or to close this book, now, quit reading it, and ignore everything I think God wants me to tell you.
What’s it going to be?
–J. Neil Schulman,
July 21, 2004
Next in I Met God — God Without Religion, Scripture, or Faith is Chapter I: Kid Atheist
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.
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!
When I started writing J. Neil Schulman @ Rational Review as a daily column, 41 days ago, I worried that I would not be able to find enough to write a new column every day.
My worries were unnecessary. I’ve done it. But I’ve cheated.
I’ve serialized the introduction and first ten chapters of my book-in-progress, Unchaining the Human Heart — A Revolutionary Manifesto, to fill up eleven of those columns; and I’ve taken several pieces I first wrote for my Facebook friends and updated them for publication here.
I’ve also uploaded into this column’s “strategic reserve” another Facebook piece, four previously published “Classic J. Neil” articles, and the forematter and first two chapters of my unpublished book manuscript, I Met God. So if I find myself unable to write a new column for any reason — travel, illness, or other pressing duties — I can maintain the daily continuity. Among print newspaper columnists this is called putting columns “on the spike.”
If I’ve found anything, since I started writing this column, it’s that on any given day there’s far more variety in what I can write about than I can cover if I stick to a rule of one topic for each day.
So, every once in a while, I’m going to do a “catch up” news commentary which I’ll be titling The Nobeus News Report. If you say “Nobeus News” aloud you’ll get the joke.
Here we go.
Al Gore and the Gangrene Movement
The East Anglia emails which show that not only has there been no global warming but that the earth has been experiencing global cooling, have barely had any impact on Oscar-winner and Nobel Peace laureate Al Gore’s continued campaign to cripple the American economy by forcing Americans to forgo cheap and domestically plentiful fossil-fuel energy in favor of solar, wind, and geothermal sources of energy that are not yet on the market.
I’m all in favor of going green, if by green you mean adding additional sources of clean energy onto the menu. I’d be off-grid in a heartbeat with my own solar and wind power if it was something I could pick up at Walmart, set out in my yard, and plug in to my house. That’s the sort of green energy that my friend Kent Hastings’ blog Permakent is all about.
But Al Gore’s carbon-jackboot on my neck isn’t Green. It’s Gangrene. It’s high time we made the distinction.
Last week David Letterman spent a half hour asking Gore leading questions about global warming and overpopulation so fawning that even Al Gore seemed embarrassed. And, of course, not a single mention of the Anglia scandal.
It reminded me of the scene in the 1967 sex comedy A Guide for the Married Man, in which Robert Morse’s philandering husband character advises a wannabe philanderer played by Walter Matthau to “Deny, deny, deny!” We’re given a comedy sketch of a husband caught by his wife in bed with another woman, who simply pretends it never happened. He answers all her accusations saying “What?” while he and his mistress dress and make the bed, and by the time the mistress is out the door and he’s seated in his chair asking his wife “What’s for dinner?” the wife doubts her own sanity and starts cooking.
Of course outright lying is not excluded from the Gore repertoire. Today he claimed that the Anglia emails are all ten years old and therefore irrelevant to the Copenhagen Conference. Bull shit. The most recent of the whistleblower-released emails is only weeks old.
I wonder how long it will take the Boston Globe‘s Ellen Goodman to write that Al Gore’s denials of the Climate Fraud are “on a par with Holocaust deniers,” as she tarred us skeptics on February 3, 2007.
I’m not holding my carbon-dioxide-polluting breath.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney was interviewed on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show yesterday, and during the course of that interview Mr. Cheney said of Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to bring Guantanamo Bay prisoners to New York City for a civilian trial, “I think it’ll give aid and comfort to the enemy.”
Now, the phrase “aid and comfort to the enemy” is not your average term of art, and it would be impossible to believe that the former Vice President isn’t aware of its origin. Article III, Section 3, of the Constitution of the United States reads, “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.”
So yesterday the former Vice President of the United States accused the current Attorney General of the United States — and by implication his boss, the President of the United States — of treason.
Historically when a former official makes a charge of treason against a current official, it’s considered an act of sedition — or at least cause for a duel to the death.
These days the reaction is: *Yawn*.
I’m not one of those who, like many of the left, thought Dick Cheney was the very devil, only because I’ve read the Constitution and noted that the only actual power a sitting Vice President of the United States has — aside from being transported to a secure location any time the President might be in danger — is to break a tie vote as President of the Senate. So anything nefarious that Dick Cheney did while he was President George W. Bush’s Vice President, as far as I’m concerned, gets blamed on President George W. Bush. Any of President Bush’s cabinet appointments had more actual authority than Dick Cheney. The average undersecretary had more actual authority under any chain of command than Cheney.
George Washington’s Vice President, John Adams, described it as “the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived.” Vice President Truman called his office, “about as useful as a cow’s fifth teat.” Humorist Finley Peter Dunne was quoted in the movie Advise and Consent for his quip, “Being vice president is not a crime exactly. You can’t be sent to jail for it, but it’s kind of a disgrace.”
One is therefore reminded of the reply William F. Buckley, Jr., made to my friend Brad Linaweaver when Brad told the practicing Roman Catholic that he was a lapsed Episcopalian. Said Buckley: “That’s not going very far, Mr. Linaweaver.”
So Dick Cheney going from the powerlessness of being Vice President to the irrelevancy of being a former Vice President — without even the comforts of former Vice President Al Gore’s Academy Award and Nobel Peace Prize — is likewise not going very far.
When it comes to his opinions being completely irrelevant, Dick Cheney must be finding out that he is uncomfortably close to being — well — me.
What If Nicole Brown Had Been Tried for O.J. Simpson’s Murder?
I wrote a book in 1999 about the O.J. Simpson case titled The Frame of the Century? In that book I dissect the evidence brought out in both trials and show that the molehill, rather than mountain, of evidence against the Heisman Trophy winner may indicate that Simpson may have walked into the crime scene before the police arrived, but there is no evidence that he was the killer. I show in my book how even this conclusion could have been part of a frame-up of Simpson by the actual murderer — and suggest an individual with the means, opportunity, and possible motive to have done it — and my friend, William C. Dear, has produced an award-winning documentary, The Overlooked Suspect, giving even stronger evidence that the Brentwood-adjacent murders might have been committed by O.J. Simpson’s oldest son from his first marriage, Jason Simpson.
The murder conviction in an Italian court of cute American blonde Amanda Knox now has Bill O’Reilly, United States Senator Maria Cantwell, CBS 48 Hours correspondent Peter Van Sant, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton all willing to consider that she might be innocent.
By contrast, O.J. Simpson, who was actually acquitted in his criminal trial, is still regarded as guilty.
This makes me think that if the Bruno Magli had been on the other foot, and the gorgeous blonde Nicole had been tried on similar evidence for her black ex-husband’s murder, Nicole Brown’s conviction would have left less of a public verdict of guilt than Simpson’s acquittal did.
Say it with me: double standard.
There is more sympathy for the convicted murderer Amanda Knox in the American media — because she’s fuckable — than there is for the Oscar-winning Polish Jew Roman Polanski, whose plea bargain in an American court for sex with an underage woman was so contaminated by judicial misconduct that even his alleged victim, Samantha Geimer, wants him freed.
Update October 3, 2011: The above few statements by me about the Amanda Knox case are among the most misguided I’ve ever written, and it shows how trial-by-media can contaminate perceptions to the point of insanity. When I wrote these statements I had no idea — because it was never reported in media I had access to — that the Italian prosecution of Knox was a frame-up by a psychotic prosecutor who choreographed the manufacture of incriminating evidence and the destruction of exculpatory evidence.
I’m ashamed of what I wrote and am happy today to repudiate my dishonorable vilification of Amanda Knox. I applaud the Italian retrial that has exonerated her.
I do believe, however, that if Texas investigator Bill Dear’s evidence were ever examined by the major media they could likewise conclude that the coverage of O.J. Simpson has been similarly mangled by the major media.
–J. Neil Schulman
You’ve Just Crossed Over To … The Gun-Free Zone
It’s now been 36 days since disarmed soldiers and civilians were massacred and wounded by a single gunman on Fort Hood, and it’s been 30 days since I revealed in my November 11th column that a Clinton Administration revision to Department of Defense Directive 5210.56 — Army Regulation 190-14, dated 12 March 1993 — removed from base commanders the power to authorize arming soldiers under their command and transferred crippled authority to the politically-appointed Secretary of the Army with standards paralleling the Clinton Administration’s civilian pro-gun-control agenda.
When I first wrote about Army Regulation 190-14 I failed to note that the document was marked “declassified.” I only recently figured out that this means when the Clinton Administration first issued that new regulation they did it in secret.
President Obama, in his only speech to the United Stated Military Academy at West Point on December 1, 2009, made no mention of Fort Hood. Nor has the White House announced any revision of Army Regulation 190-14 that would allow base commanders to arm soldiers on base to harden their vulnerability to attack.
Meanwhile, on December 4, 2009, the Faculty Council at Colorado State University recommended to CSU President Tony Frank to ban firearms on campus, over the objection of the student government which asked Frank to leave the current policy which permits holders of Concealed-Carry Firearms licenses to carry on campus. This Faculty Council joins those in 49 states — Utah being the only exception — which after repeated campus massacres still denies students and faculty the right to save their own lives.
How many more disarmed victims must die, Mr. President, before you will act?
Or is it even remotely possible you have acted to allow base commanders to arm soldiers on base but are so ashamed of doing the right thing that you ordered the new policy classified?
Catch A Tiger By Its Toe
Oh no you didn’t!
Neil, I can’t believe you used that subtitle. Don’t you remember what the original was?
Yeah, but I didn’t use the original. And the version I learned as a kid growing up in the Northeast — the one I did use — is just too perfect for what I’m about to write. So fears of political-incorrectness dealt with, let’s move on.
Why is Tiger Woods in trouble? For what reason is the private life of this sports legend subject to endless vivisection by the sewer media?
Let’s break this down.
Tiger Woods had a moving violation which cost him $164 and four points on his Florida drivers’ license. He can ditch the four points by spending another $9.95 and attending an online traffic school approved by all Florida counties. No, I’m not being compensated for the link. Tiger Woods is a billionaire. I don’t think the $173.95 matters to him.
And — let’s add this up — Tiger Woods is (a) a sports legend; (b) world famous; (c) incredibly rich; and (d) a good-looking guy in great physical shape. If there is any man alive who can spend the rest of his life fucking every beautiful woman who crosses his path, this is the guy. He actually has the possibility of leaving Hugh Hefner in his dust.
He was also smart enough to have a prenup with his wife that protects his fortune.
So — as Robin Williams asks repeatedly about subject after subject in his latest HBO special, Robin Williams: Weapons of Self Destruction, what the fuck?
It’s not like Tiger Woods needs to worry that his reputation will be so damaged by marital infidelity that any loss of commercial endorsements will lose him his mansions and send him to live in the projects. If he never made another dime he’s set for life. He could bugger Jack Nicklaus and the loss of endorsements wouldn’t affect his lifestyle.
So why doesn’t Tiger Woods bare his claws, growl, and simply go on Letterman and say, “I like having sex with a lot of women. It’s great. You know what I mean, Dave. If my wife doesn’t like it she doesn’t have to be Mrs. Tiger Woods. And the rest of you out there are just insanely jealous.”
Once — just once — couldn’t our society tolerate an ounce of self-honesty?
If you defended your right to live your life according to your own standards, Tiger Woods, then you’d really be my hero.
My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Amazon.com Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!
Let me start out by saying: I don’t do drugs.
What a fucking liar I am!
I just had a travel mug of high-grade coffee. Okay, I cut it. I mixed dark Sumatra beans with decaf French roast. I do that because if I keep the amount of caffeine down per mug of coffee, I can do two or three mugs per day. But make no mistake. I’m mainlining the maximum amount of coffee each day that my body can tolerate without giving me heart palpitations, insomnia, indigestion, lower-intestinal distress, leg and foot cramps, and bouts of hyperventilation. I take both calcium and potassium supplements daily to balance my electrolytes and counteract some of the most harmful effects of caffeine.
But make no mistake. I’m a java junkie. The Mormons have caffeine alongside alcohol on their list of prohibited stimulants. And let’s not forget George Carlin telling us that coffee is the low end of the speed spectrum.
One of the reasons I tend to believe that Native Americans may be the Lost Tribe of Israel is that we have in common not having a lot of tolerance for alcohol. I think I’ve been drunk only two or three times in my life, because my first drink makes me sleepy and a second drink just puts me out.
But I do enjoy drinking.
I like sipping twelve- or eighteen-year-old single-malt Scotch, or the better Jack Daniels called Gentleman Jack, or Tullamore Dew, or Knob Creek Bourbon Whiskey, or a decent Cognac. But this is a rare pleasure for me these days, because these are empty calories and I’m on a constant diet, and because alcohol is a contraindication for the oral Diabetes medications I take.
When I was writing my second novel, The Rainbow Cadenza, I had an almost-year-long writers’ block after completing only the first three chapters. I received a letter from my editor — who had paid me an advance and was awaiting the manuscript’s delivery — that read, “Your lateness is no longer amusing.” I knew I needed to find a way to get past this and turned to drugs. I got into the habit of beginning to write late at night, and started each night’s writing session by making myself a Kahlúa and coffee. The coffee woke me up. The Kahlúa anesthetized my fear of writing.
I finished the novel in less than three months.
When I was sixteen I was prescribed Ritalin by a doctor to help me with weight loss. All I remember is that a Ritalin and a cup of coffee was the greatest high I’ve ever had. But Ritalin also gave me excruciatingly painful leg cramps so I quit taking it pretty quickly.
Of course I’ve tried marijuana. I never bought any but I was in groups where joints were being passed around and I toked when it was handed to me. It was mildly pleasant but never really did much for me, and it gave me a hangover. I certainly don’t need any more reasons to get the munchies. So I can’t say, personally, that I’m a fan.
Years ago I was offered all the cocaine I wanted. I never tried it. I knew what drastic effects caffeine had on my metabolism and didn’t feel I needed anything that would dump noradrenaline into my system any faster.
The only opiate I have any experience with is codeine. It never got me high but I still think Terpin hydrate with codeine is the most effective cough syrup my parents ever gave me as a child.
I’ve experimented with cognitive enhancing supplements like L-Phenylalanine — and the Omega-3 fish oil I take is supposed to balance out my serotonin levels — but the effects are so mild, and onset so slow, that none of them really belong in a chapter about getting high.
And that’s all he wrote for my personal experience with mind-altering and mood-altering drugs.
Zoologists tell us that many animals consume plants and other substances that alter their behavior. Anyone who’s lived with a cat knows how catnip works. If we lived in anything approaching a sane society, alongside the book Everybody Poops in the children’s section of Barnes and Noble there would be another book called Everybody Gets High.
Getting high is, when broken down to basics, the pursuit of feeling good. There are people who either don’t want anyone to feel good, or only to feel good with their permission.
If — at no time in your life — it has never crossed your mind that you need to go to a doctor to get a permission slip in order to buy a product that you will use on your own body, then it’s my sad duty to report to you that reading this sentence, right now, is the very first time you have ever encountered the concept of freedom.
If having been awakened to that missing thought you are inclined to make excuses for that lapse of knowledge, or argue with me that it is in any way justifiable, I’d also like to suggest to you that you have been thoroughly brainwashed.
Or you may be one of the brain washers in which case, go fuck yourself.
Freedom starts with ownership of your own mind, body, and soul. Unless you are a child, incompetent, or convicted criminal who needs a keeper, anyone who stands in between you and your right to have absolute control over what does or does not go into your body is attempting to be your ruler.
Are there risks to taking drugs? Of course there are. Read back a chapter about risks and benefits. The question is not whether there are risks of bad outcomes from ingesting mind- and mood-altering chemical substances.
The question is who decides — you, or your Master.
Now, one of the things about having a mind that is subject to effects from living within a physical body is that the mind’s ability to make decisions can be chemically impaired. Decisions made while impaired may well be irrational, irresponsible, and dangerous.
So what? There are lots of people who I’d trust drunk or stoned to make decisions that might affect me before I’d trust lucidly conscious people who are simply evil. If they represent a threat I suggest self-defense, in the same way one would protect oneself against an out-of-control machine or a wild animal. But a non-specific possibility of danger is not a sufficient reason to deprive adult human beings of their self-dominion. There needs to be an actual threat.
So, yeah, I don’t have a problem with taking the car keys away from a drunk. But bringing back alcohol prohibition because there are drunk drivers isn’t a solution you get from mothers. It’s a proposal made by motherfuckers.
One shouldn’t need a permission slip from a government-board-certified physician to smoke marijuana if you think it will help you survive chemotherapy, or help with your eyesight.
If you’re in pain, the management of that pain shouldn’t be in the hands of a doctor who’s scared shitless he’ll be the one making the perp walk if he gives his patient enough narcotics to make the pain go away.
If you believe Peyote or LSD will help you see the Face of God, no Narc should stand in your way with a devil’s pitchfork.
And if meth labs were legal in industrial districts, we wouldn’t have houses igniting neighborhoods in the suburbs.
Drug prohibition is responsible for empowering organized crime domestically and a Narcocracy on the United States’ southern border so foul that the stench of corruption and death reaches hundreds of miles north. Then we wonder why Mexicans will endure unbelievable hardships just for the chance to exchange their bedeviled country for ours.
But I’m not here just to make a case for the freedom to take drugs.
I’m also here to make the case for the freedom not to take drugs.
Nobody has the right to drug you without your consent and I believe that is one human right extending even to children. We have a priest class calling themselves psychiatrists who instruct parents to drug their children with psychotropics that have never even had clinical trials on children. Of course experimenting on children would be evil — so let’s just give them the drugs untested, huh?
Then we wonder why some kids go crazy and try to kill as many people at their school as they can get in their sights.
Tyranny has at least as many dire consequences as freedom. That may be a hard comparison to make because freedom has so rarely been tried.
But that’s one clinical trial, as far as I’m concerned, which is long overdue.
Next in Unchaining the Human Heart — A Revolutionary Manifesto is Chapter XI: Man and Superman
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 Amazon.com Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!
So you’re probably thinking I’m going to start this chapter drawing wisdom from the 1983 movie Risky Business that launched Tom Cruise’s career as a film star. But no. The text medium can’t really do justice to the tighty-whitey air guitar dance Cruise did to Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock And Roll” and as hot as Rebecca de Mornay was in that movie, she really doesn’t have much to do with what I want to write about. Except for this speech: “Sometimes you gotta say ‘What the Fuck,’ make your move. Joel, every now and then, saying ‘What the Fuck,’ brings freedom. Freedom brings opportunity, opportunity makes your future.”
Okay, I guess I did start out with drawing wisdom from Risky Business.
But since I really wanted to start this chapter drawing wisdom from Albert Brooks’ 1991 movie Defending Your Life, maybe this chapter has the wrong title.
In Defending Your Life — on my short list of movies I can re-watch endlessly — Albert Brooks plays Daniel Miller, a risk-averse Yuppie executive. When he’s killed in a car accident, Daniel finds himself reborn into a cloned body in an afterlife realm called Judgment City. There Daniel finds himself having to defend himself in a life-review hearing, prosecuted for wasting his potential by being too timid to grab the opportunities offered him.
Now, if I ever find myself on trial on Judgment City, I think I’m going to be in Department B, where instead of reviewing all the times I was too afraid to say “What the fuck,” I’ll be looking at all the times I told self-important assholes who pissed me off to go fuck themselves. I’ll be the guy who asks the judges where they get off thinking they have the authority to sit in judgment on my life, patiently explaining to them that they’re too flat-headed even to start calculating what percentage of my brain I use, demanding to be taken directly to the office of my good buddy, God, and if they think I’m going to walk around in that stupid-looking robe they call a tupa they’ve got another thing coming.
Look. I’m not the bravest guy. As a kid I could never bring myself to dive into water. I never did, even though I later got a certificate in SCUBA diving with an underwater swim to a depth of fifty feet. I’ve never sky-dived or Bungee-jumped or hang-glided or driven race cars. I tried piloting a helicopter once; they don’t tell you that, unlike driving, you can get sick to your stomach. I’ve always avoided fights because I don’t like getting hit back. It hurts. I can talk about a handful of times in my life when I guess an objective observer might conclude I showed courage in the face of immediate danger, but I’m pretty sure I would have been useless in the invasion of Normandy.
Taking career risks has never been a problem for me. If I have any problem it may be that I’ve spent too much of my life on the edge of disaster. At various times in my life I’ve had my car repossessed, had all my credit cards go belly up, and been six months behind on paying the mortgage — all because I chose a career path as a self-employed free-lancer with no safety net, no unemployment insurance, no Plan B, nothing “to fall back on.” I know what it’s like to go for broke and end up broke. I know what it’s like to be “all in” and lose the pot — not literally on a gaming table, but with equivalent stakes in the Game of Life. My financial life has been a roller-coaster that makes anything at Magic Mountain look like the Tea Cups at Disneyland.
But even as I sit here writing this — wondering where I’ll find the money to make the health insurance payments this month — I wouldn’t have missed this ride for anything.
I have friends who took what they thought was the sensible and safe path — college, graduate school, working their way up the corporate ladder — only to find themselves unemployed and in debt for years, in a situation not all that different from mine.
I invested half a million dollars of my family’s money in producing and directing an independent film from my own script. After the housing market collapsed, eating our equity, this investment ended up being all the savings we would have had left. The movie hasn’t yet begun to start recouping that investment. Yet, I lost almost as much in what was considered the safe policy of putting money into primary home equity … and lots of people lost far more money for good by trusting Bernard Madoff.
I may yet sell my movie and get the money back.
Nor have I lived my life as one of those people who have been afraid to fall in love. I’ve fallen in love with several women, and married one of them.
Fear of heights is not one of my problems, and not only am I not afraid of public speaking, I get off on being in front of an audience. I used to think I was afraid of roller coasters until I realized that it wasn’t fear. I just don’t enjoy being body slammed by swift gravitational changes. You put me on a roller coaster I’d better be in earth orbit at the end of it or it’s not worth it for me.
We live in a culture that is obsessed with safety and security. People’s fears often have no relationship with the actuarial risks. I know for a fact, from years of research, that the widespread availability of privately owned and carried firearms decreases the risk of gun massacres; yet, as I write this, the “gun-free-zone” on a college campus — and incredibly even on the army base — is still the irrational, fear-based response to repeated cases where one madman with a gun can murder dozens and wound many more disarmed victims. Often in life fear makes victims and courage makes survivors.
Our society has institutionalized fear.
Many well-meaning parents advise their children not to pursue risky professions — like the arts — without having something sensible “to fall back on,” never realizing that the rigors of pursuing any risky profession almost guarantees that something to fall back on acts to undercut the courage needed to persevere and prevail. If you have something to fall back on … you’ll fall back.
Casino gambling is denigrated as a vice, even while hypocritical statists advertise Lotto tickets on bus ads and the evening local news. Nobody admits the truth that betting on a poker hand is just as much an investment as putting money down on a stock pick.
It’s only the skills you master that can reduce the risks.
TV commercials advertising cars driven in dynamic action advise viewers that they’re watching professional drivers on closed courses. The automakers are forbidden to notify their customers that it’s the dangers of speeding over interesting roads which is the only thing making these boxes on wheels look sexy.
The safe path is the one always sold by the establishment: stay in school, get a good job. Never mind that learning on your own through reading and life experience — never regarding anyone else as your boss — may be the surest formula to come up with something great that the human race never had before.
As I quoted President Kennedy in my last chapter, “We are all mortal.” Our days are the total capital we are loaned to invest, and sooner or later the banker calls in the loan. The only real risk is the possibility that we can waste our lives never using our life and liberty to pursue happiness.
Violin virtuoso Jascha Heifetz, in his master classes on TV, can be heard telling his students hesitating to strike out with originality, “Take a chance.”
The only truth about taking risks in life is summed up in the cliché: if you don’t bet, you’ll never win.
Next in Unchaining the Human Heart — A Revolutionary Manifesto is Chapter X: High Times
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 Amazon.com Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!
Thank You For Smoking is a 1994 novel by Christopher Buckley, son of National Review founder, novelist, and Firing Line host William F. Buckley, Jr.
It was made into the 2005 movie Thank You For Smoking by Jason Reitman, son of Ghost Busters director, Ivan Reitman.
But the phrase “Thank You For Smoking” didn’t originate with Jason Reitman’s screenplay or Christopher Buckley’s novel, nor did it originate with either of their famous fathers, though Christopher Buckley’s father was possibly a conduit.
“Thank You For Smoking!” was a campaign-style button made up possibly as early as the 1970′s by Samuel Edward Konkin III, publisher of New Libertarian Notes, author of The New Libertarian Manifesto, and an inveterate pipe smoker. It’s possible that he was wearing that button, or uttered the slogan as he habitually did when anyone else lit up, when he met the elder Buckley.
Now, “Thank you for smoking!” wasn’t the only button that Sam liked wearing. He also wore one made up by National Review writer, Timothy J. Wheeler, that read, “Every joyous calorie cries Yea! to life!”
So, honesty compels me to report that Sam was both still a pipe-smoker, and overweight, when in February 2004 he collapsed and died in his Beverly Hills apartment at age 56 of causes that will never be known, since there was no autopsy and since in the three decades I knew him Sam never once saw a medical doctor — not even when he was stabbed by a mugger.
I don’t know what caused Sam’s body to cease sustaining his life. I don’t know if his smoking or eating habits had anything to do with it. But I do know that Sam enjoyed smoking and eating and if you had told him with a seer’s certainty that one or the other would end his life prematurely he would have replied, “So what?”
Sam emailed a friend on his last birthday, “I never expected to live this long.”
Samuel Edward Konkin III was uncompromising when it came to living a lifestyle based on personal liberty. He was a Canadian who came to the United States on a student visa to attend graduate school … and overstayed his welcome by twenty-nine years. He easily could have satisfied any employment requirements for permanent residency — he counted dozens of American businessmen among his acquaintances, and a United States Congressman spoke at his memorial service — but complying with United States immigration law would have taken the fun out of it for him, and if Sam lived for anything, it was for fun.
Sam’s education was in science. He held a Master’s Degree in Theoretical Chemistry from New York University and completed everything needed to receive a doctorate … except for writing up his completed research into a dissertation and turning it in. So if you talked to Sam about the statistical correlations that suggested cigarette smoking increased the odds of contracting life-threatening diseases such as heart disease, various cancers, or emphysema, Sam would argue right back that correlation did not equal proof of causation; and that even if the data were correct all smoking did was increase the odds of contracting a disease. Sam had conducted a risk-benefit analysis for pipe-smoking, and he had decided that the pleasure he obtained from smoking a pipe outweighed any risks to his health.
Speaking for myself, I came to other conclusions. At age sixteen I started smoking cigarettes. I smoked cigarettes for several weeks until I was mugged in Boston Common by a man who, at knife point, robbed me of all the cash I had on me — less than three dollars — and a pack of cigarettes. I decided that if my cigarettes were worth mugging me for, it wasn’t worth it. I didn’t buy another pack.
Judging from Sam’s and my common experience of being mugged at knife-point, knife-wielding muggers represented a greater risk to our health than smoke.
I did smoke cigars and a pipe on occasion for many years — not very often because if I smoked two days in a row I got a sore throat. Nonetheless, I’ve never believed smoking outdoors — or the presence of second-hand smoke in a private restaurant, bar, hotel lobby, or office with an effective air-changing ventilation system — represented enough of threat to public health to justify smoking prohibition.
In the name of public health tobacco products are forbidden to be sold to anyone under 18, cigarettes are heavily taxed — with money from these taxes being used to produce and proliferate government anti-smoking propaganda — and despite decades of warnings to smokers about the health risks associated with cigarettes, the tobacco companies were held financially liable for their products causing smokers’ sickness and death. Authority has been given to the FDA to regulate cigarettes, on the grounds that cigarettes are a delivery system for the drug “nicotine.” Hypocritically, the government encourages smokers to ingest nicotine delivered by skin patches and chewing gum as a means of quitting smoking, which clearly demonstrates that it’s not nicotine the cigarette prohibitionists give a damn about — it’s smoking. If a nicotine-free cigarette were marketed, the FDA would still have legal authority to control it.
In the movie Thank You For Smoking a tobacco spokesman testifies before a Congressional committee that if his son chose to smoke when he turned eighteen, he’d buy him his first pack. But in a deleted alternate ending on the DVD, this same spokesman is shown knocking a cigarette out of his son’s mouth after the hearing. This scene was intended to denote if not the spokesman’s hypocrisy, at least his sense of guilt.
I’ve never understood why smokers allow themselves to be treated as second-class citizens. It’s clear that Sam’s “Thank You For Smoking!” buttons never ignited a national smokers’ rights movement. There’s never been a mass rally on the Washington Mall by cigarette smokers in defense of their right to smoke. There has never been a mass-membership organization for cigarette rights, as the four-million-member NRA is for gun owners’ rights. Of course there isn’t a constitutional amendment that reads, “A well-smoked cigarette, being necessary after sexual Congress, the right of the people to keep and smoke Tobacco, shall not be infringed.” The “pro Smoking campaign” Facebook Group has 24 members.
Let me come out solidly in favor of good health. I know it’s a controversial position to take these days, when the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement is hoping the human race would just die off, but really, I think health is preferable to sickness.
But I think this would also be a good moment to quote the opening of my 2002 novel, Escape from Heaven:
There’s an old saying that everybody wants to go to Heaven but nobody wants to die.
That’s how it was for me, anyway.
I drove a Mercedes because I was told it was the safest car in a crash. And it was a smart choice. I died of something else.
I owned a handgun so I wouldn’t die at the hands of a burglar. I was right about that, too. The burglar who broke into my bedroom ran like hell when he saw the .45 Government Model I was pointing at him … and I died of something else.
I quit smoking, did my best to keep my weight down and eat a low cholesterol diet, and practiced safe sex, because I didn’t want to die of cancer, heart disease, emphysema or AIDS, and it paid off: I died of something else.
You see, that’s the part they forget to mention. No matter what nasty ways of dying you avoid, there’s always another one waiting for you. If one thing doesn’t get you, another thing will. Everybody could have saved a lot of thought that went into bumper stickers and public service messages. All they would have had to say is, “Don’t do that. Die of something else.”
In a Cold War commencement address at American University in Washington on June 10, 1963, President John F. Kennedy said, “So, let us not be blind to our differences — but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.” Five months later, JFK showed us how mortal he was, and despite breathing the same air it wasn’t a cigarette that killed him on November 22, 1963.
I’ve seen a lot of public service announcements warning kids not to take up smoking. I’ve never seen a single public service announcement warning kids not to let their parents drive them to school or not to commit murder — auto accidents and homicide being top causes for teenage deaths. Of the top twenty causes of teen deaths, cigarettes aren’t even on the list. That’s because smoking cigarettes is of little danger to teenagers. The serious health risks take years and years to materialize. The heavily tax-subsidized ad campaigns against teenage smoking make as little sense as spending millions of bucks each year to warn teenage boys about the dangers of prostate cancer.
If you smoke heavily enough for long enough, cigarette smoking can represent a significant threat to your health.
But cigarettes are also calming and many smokers will tell you it helps them to think. And I can tell you as a non-smoker that — contrary to propaganda that kissing a smoker is like kissing an ashtray — kissing a smoker can be quite pleasant.
Anti-smoking propagandists always make fun of the old cigarette commercials showing doctors recommending cigarettes. But guess what? Cigarette smoking might actually have some health benefits after all.
Research shows that nicotine may delay the onset of both Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease. I don’t see why that little fact shouldn’t be on The O’Reilly Factor and Countdown with Keith Olbermann alongside the debates on stem cell research.
Reports suggest that nicotine may also improve symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (would passing out cigarettes to sixth graders improve their reading scores?) and Tourettes syndrome. Remember: cigarette smoking is of relatively little health risk to young people — not when a peanut butter sandwich is considered a lethal weapon in many school cafeterias. Oh, yeah. We’re supposed to figure in the risk of long-term nicotine addiction. As if addiction doesn’t mean any habitual behavior disapproved of by the power-freak using the term. As if “long-term” to Congress is further than the next election, less than two years away.
As if in the age of the Singularity anyone can make a scientific prediction about what the medical challenges will be forty years from now.
Nicotine enhances the release of neurotransmitters, enhancing a smoker’s ability to focus.
And I believe there’s an interesting correlation to be discovered between the overall reduction in rates of smoking and the overall increases in rates of obesity. But what’s the chance of discovering politically incorrect facts like that once the government has a complete monopoly on funding for health-care research?
Health issues aside, for a lot of people smoking is pleasurable. The risk-to-benefit analysis of smoking versus health needs to take that into account.
Pleasure is important.
Pleasure enhances life.
Pleasure is good.
But pleasure is not even on the map for the legions of aggressive health Nazis obsessed with controlling you.
The adverse risks that come with the pleasures of smoking is your right to calculate free of their interference and burdens … and I think any sort of personal pleasure is worth fighting for.
It’s time for smokers to stop acting like whipped dogs and start standing up for themselves as a consumer’s lobby. They’ve left the lobbying job to their suppliers — the tobacco growers and cigarette manufacturers — for too long. That’s spineless. At the very least allowing someone else to tell you you’re too stupid to calculate your own pleasures versus health risks shows no self-esteem.
If you let them get away with taking away your tobacco, the next thing you know they’ll want to take away is your alcoholic beverages and firearms.
Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. There’s a federal bureau specifically to control those three things. And alcohol used to be prohibited completely.
Now that can’t be a coincidence.
I absolutely support the right of non-smokers to have clean air to breathe. Before smoking inside was made illegal, you used to be able to find smoke-free air by walking outside.
In the next chapter, let’s talk in general about the risks we take to make life worth living.
Next in Unchaining the Human Heart — A Revolutionary Manifesto is Chapter IX: Risky Business
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.
The 1998 Nancy Meyers remake of Walt Disney’s The Parent Trap is actually one of my favorite movies.
First of all, it’s got a wonderfully clever plot device that never gets old: twins separated at birth discover each other’s existence and switch places in a conspiracy to reunite their estranged parents.
Second, it’s the movie that proves –despite all of her highly publicized problems — that Lindsay Lohan, who plays both twin roles, is a first-rate actor.
The rest of the cast is stellar. Both the comedy and the pathos work. It’s just a really, really well-crafted and enjoyable movie — on my short list — with movies like Back to the Future, My Cousin Vinny, Groundhog Day, and Defending Your Life — that I can rewatch endlessly.
But one part of the movie has always bothered the hell out of me.
Theodore Dreiser wrote An American Tragedy, a classic novel published in 1925 of a man who murders a former but nonetheless pregnant girlfriend by taking her out in a canoe and knocking her into a lake, drowning her. It was twice made into a movie — in 1931 and a 1951 remake retitled A Place in the Sun.
So when on a camping trip near the end of The Parent Trap, the twins — who see their father’s blonde bombshell fiancee Meredith Blake as an impediment to their plans — wait until she’s asleep in a sleeping bag on an air mattress after taking “one large sleeping pill,” and set her adrift on a lake, it never struck me as a cute practical joke suitable for a Disney movie.
In the movie Meredith just wakes up, stands on the air mattress, falls into the lake, and swims safely to shore. It struck me that the plot points of her drugging herself with a sleeping pill, a sleeping bag, and never establishing her as a strong swimmer, could easily have been turned by a cynical screenwriter like me into An American Tragedy.
So I did.
Back on October 11th, I went onto the IMDb message board for The Parent Trap and wrote a little cautionary tale of how the movie might have really ended:
AP (Napa Valley, August 31, 1998) — Two eleven-year-old twins were arrested by Napa County sheriff’s deputies today, charged with First Degree Murder for the premeditated drowning death of their prospective step-mother, Meredith Blake, 27, a Bay area publicist and runner up for Miss California in the Miss USA pageant.
The identical twins — Hallie Parker and Annie James — had recently been reunited after separation shortly after their birth, and conceived of the murder as part of their plan to reunite their long-estranged parents. On a camping trip with Blake and their father, Nicholas Parker, 44, a local vintner, they pushed the sleeping Blake’s air mattress into a lake. Blake, drowsy from a sleeping pill, fell off the air mattress trapped in her sleeping bag, and drowned. Her body was recovered by divers this afternoon.
The twins are currently in the custody of Child Protective Services awaiting psychiatric evaluations to determine their fitness to stand trial as adults.
AP (Chowchilla, October 9, 2009) — The notorious Parker Twins failed to make appearances again at their parole hearing held today at Valley State Prison for Women, where they are each serving life sentences for the 1998 murder of their prospective stepmother, lingerie model Meredith Blake.
Blake’s mother, Vicki, was once again present to present the parole board with a victim’s impact statement.
The twins’ parents, Nicholas and Elizabeth Parker, again flew in from their home in London to argue for their daughters’ release.
Parole was denied for the third time.
Comments from IMDb users on my little satire have been mixed. One comment was “That is so pathetic.” Another was “You really are a pathetic idiot. It was a movie so get over it. Grow up for heavens sake if that is possible for you to do. Which I highly doubt it is.”
On December 3rd I got my first IMDb compliment: “lol I thought it was pretty funny”
That was enough for me to decide to move the debate here.
Yes, I know it’s just a movie. The movie isn’t a crime against humanity. It just has one sequence that I think sends a bad message to kids.
We’re living in an era when the innocent practical jokes of Candid Camera have given way to the life-invasions of Borat.
Somewhere between politically correct intimidation of “That’s not funny!” and elaborate schemes designed actually to humiliate people to the extent of possible suicides, there needs to be some thinking about what’s a joke protected by the rights of free expression and what’s a crime that damages people for life.
I don’t think anything said by Michael Richards or Don Imus deserved punishment. It was just words. They were the ones who got punked by Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.
However, Sacha Baron Cohen might well have crossed the line.
Now go and rent (don’t watch it on The Disney Channel — they censor the hell out of it!) one of my favorite movies, The Parent Trap.
I. Top Ten Reasons Why Alongside Night is a Better Libertarian Novel Than Atlas Shrugged
Humor by the author of Alongside Night
(With acknowledgments to David Letterman.)
10. Reading the paperback of Alongside Night won’t give you eyestrain.
9. No, dammit, you don’t “drive” an airplane … and it wouldn’t have been called Rearden Metal – it would have been called “Reardenite.”
8. Ayn Rand wasn’t able to read Atlas Shrugged before she wrote Atlas Shrugged. The author of Alongside Night did.
7. Carrying Alongside Night around won’t give you back problems.
6. Jesus H. Galt – Atlas Shrugged is over a thousand pages of small type!
5. I mean, come on, romantic realism is one thing, but at least in Alongside Night, New York City has Jews.
4. Honest to God, I think John Galt had to be a virgin before he met Dagny.
3. In Alongside Night just because you’re fat doesn’t mean you’re a moocher.
2. Atlas Shrugged ends with the U.S. constitution being amended; Alongside Night ends with the Revolutionary Agorist Cadre declining diplomatic recognition as the “legitimate government of the United States.”
1. In Alongside Night, John Galt’s speech is in a German Opera … and you don’t have to listen to it.
II. Three-Decade-Old Milton-Friedman-Endorsed Novel Projecting Economic Meltdown Goes Viral on Web
(OPENPRESS) October 3, 2009 — In 1979 J. Neil Schulman’s first novel, Alongside Night, was released in hardcover by Crown Publishers, with endorsements from Nobel-laureate-in-economics, Milton Friedman and literary lion Anthony Burgess. The novel projected a future when the United States is in a final state of collapse due to the federal government overspending and hyper-inflating the dollar to pay its foreign creditors.
Now, three decades after its original publication — and with many of the novel’s projections eerily reflecting reality — Alongside Night has become a viral phenomenon on the World Wide Web.
On June 13, 2009, the novel’s current publisher — Pulpless.com — released a new 30th Anniversary PDF eBook edition of Alongside Night as a free download on the web from http://www.alongsidenight.net. On September 30, 2009 the number of Alongside Night eBook downloads passed 50,000 copies. This number of downloads was accomplished without a dime of advertising, and with no publicity coverage whatsoever from any major media outlet — no television, talk radio, magazine, newspaper, or major media website. It was a completely viral Internet phenomenon driven by bloggers, podcasters, and one YouTube interview with the author.
In a June 22, 2009 article by Rachel Deahl on PublishersWeekly.com, Mundania Press president and publisher Daniel J. Reitz –whose publishing firm houses a number of imprints that publish romance, sci-fi, mystery and YA, among other genres, and has some 600 authors on its list– reported “that his house’s e-books sell, on average, 100 to 200 copies in their first month. There are exceptions, however. Marie Rochelle, one of Mundania’s biggest sellers, who specializes in interracial romances, moved 4,000 to 5,000 copies in her first month in the e-book format and several thousand print copies.”
The Pulpless.com PDF eBook edition of Alongside Night had, by comparison, 22,645 downloads in its first two weeks of availability from first release on June 13, 2009 through June 30, 2009 — to repeat, without any advertising or major media publicity.
A Wikipedia article on Alongside Night describes it as “a Prometheus Award winning libertarian and anarchist dystopian novel by science fiction writer J. Neil Schulman first published in 1979 by Crown Publishers. Subsequent paperback editions have been released by Ace Books in 1982, Avon Books in 1987, Pulpless.com in 1999, and Amazon Kindle in 2009. The book focuses on the character of Elliot, the son of a fictional economist and Nobel Laureate, and his experiences in a police state United States in the near future. The novel’s economic projections of the United States in economic meltdown have recently been noted as eerily reflecting current real-world developments.”
Wikipedia also reports, “The author has recently completed a screenplay adaptation and in addition to a feature film production a new graphic novel, audiobook, and Massively Multiplayer Online Game are being planned.”
Alongside Night‘s honors include being inducted into the Libertarian Futurist Society’s Prometheus Hall of Fame in 1989 — its first year of eligibility — and its selection as Freedom Book of the Month for May, 2009 by the Freedom Book Club.
No personal information from the downloader is requested by Pulpless.com’s website in order to download the novel for free. The free PDF edition of Alongside Night includes pages of display advertising in between chapters — mostly of books, films, products, and services of interest to libertarians.
Milton Friedman’s letter of endorsement on Alongside Night reads, “An absorbing novel–science fiction, yet also a cautionary tale with a disturbing resemblance to past history and future possibilities.”
Anthony Burgess’s endorsement reads, “I received Alongside Night at noon today. It is now eight in the evening and I just finished it. I think I am entitled to some dinner now as I had no lunch. The unputdownability of the book ensured that. It is a remarkable and original story, and the picture it presents of an inflation- crippled America on the verge of revolution is all too acceptable. I wish, and so will many novelists, that I, or they, had thought of the idea first. A thrilling novel, crisply written, that fires the imagination as effectively as it stimulates the feelings.”
Congressman Ron Paul endorsed Alongside Night in 2009, saying, “J. Neil Schulman’s Alongside Night may be even more relevant today than it was in 1979. Hopefully, the special thirtieth anniversary edition of this landmark work of libertarian science fiction will inspire a new generation of readers to learn more about the ideas of liberty and become active in the freedom movement.”
Full information on Alongside Night is available on its official website at http://www.alongsidenight.com. The Alongside Night Facebook Group also updates Facebook members on the novel.
Full information on J. Neil Schulman and his subsequent career as a novelist, screenwriter, journalist, publisher, and filmmaker are on his personal website at http://www.jneilschulman.com, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/jneilschulman, on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/jneilschulman, and on Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._Neil_Schulman .
Professional Free Press Release News Wire
III. Update: December 5, 2009
Our server at http://www.alongsidenight.net reports 63,551 downloads of the free 30th anniversary PDF of Alongside Night from launch at noon PDT on Saturday June 13 to my last stats check, December 4, 2009.
This was accomplished without a dime of advertising or professional publicity and solely by viral web action — mostly bloggers, a few podcasts, our Facebook group, a Motorhome Diaries interview with me. Not a single major media mention of me or the book — no TV, talk radio, magazine, newspaper, columnist, or major website — since the PDF was made available on June 13, 2009.
Over 63,000 copies of a three-decade-old novel downloaded in a little over five months without a major publisher pushing it.
Psst! Alongside Night. Pass it ON!
IV. Milton-Friedman-Endorsed Book Predicting Current Financial Crisis Adapted as Screenplay
(OPENPRESS) October 11, 2008 — Author/filmmaker, J. Neil Schulman, who in 1989 won the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award for his 1979 novel of America in financial meltdown, Alongside Night — and who on October 1, 2008, accepted the Audience Choice award from the Cinema City International Film Festival for Lady Magdalene’s, the suspense-comedy feature film he wrote, produced, and directed — has just completed a screenplay adaptation of Alongside Night that he’s been working on for 27 years.
“I don’t think I spent as much time working on this screenplay as J.R.R. Tolkien spent writing his Lord of the Rings trilogy,” Schulman said, “but it took the current world financial crisis catching up to projections I made in my novel three decades ago for me to decide that I finally needed to get my story of how our country can be rescued from government policies that take us to the brink of catastrophe as an action movie that’s at once chilling, funny, and hopeful.”
Alongside Night won high-profile praise when it was released in hardcover by Crown Publishers in 1979.
Milton Friedman, the first American to win the Nobel Prize for economics, wrote about Alongside Night, “An absorbing novel–science fiction, yet also a cautionary tale with a disturbing resemblance to past history and future possibilities.”
The Los Angeles Times Book Review wrote, “High Drama … A story of high adventure, close escapes, mistaken identities, and thrilling rescues. … A fast-moving tale of a future which is uncomfortably close at hand.”
And Anthony Burgess, author of the dystopian novel A Clockwork Orange, wrote, “I received Alongside Night at noon today. It is now eight in the evening and I just finished it. I think I am entitled to some dinner now as I had no lunch. The unputdownability of the book ensured that. It is a remarkable and original story, and the picture it presents of an inflation- crippled America on the verge of revolution is all too acceptable. I wish, and so will many novelists, that I, or they, had thought of the idea first. A thrilling novel, crisply written, that fires the imagination as effectively as it stimulates the feelings.”
As described by the Wikipedia entry on Alongside Night, “The book focuses on the character of Elliot, the son of a fictional economist and Nobel Laureate … set in a United States on the brink of economic collapse, where inflation is spiraling out of control and the government struggles to keep hold of its power. Trading in foreign currency has become illegal and many shops are subject to rationing; as a result there is a sprawling black market for almost all conceivable goods. Other nations have not fared so grimly, and organisations such as EUCOMTO (European Common Market Treaty Organization – the novel’s prophetic vision of the future EU) issue stable gold standard currencies.”
In an email of October 8, 2008, Schulman stated that it was his intent to “sell the script to a production company or get it financed so I can begin pre-production through my own company [Jesulu Productions].”
Following its 1979 Crown hardcover release, Alongside Night’s publishing history has included mass-market paperback editions from Ace Books in 1981 and from Avon Books in 1987. It’s currently available both in a Pulpless.com web-downloadable eBook edition from http://www.alongsidenight.com and in the trade-paperback edition available on Amazon.com and most other book retailers.
Professional Free Press Release News Wire
October 16, 1979 was the original publication date for the first-edition hardcover of my novel Alongside Night, and on December 10, 1979 I gave a speech to the Los Angeles Libertarian Supper Club titled, “Are We Alongside Night?” That first speech was included in both the 1982 Ace rack-size paperback and the 20th anniversary Pulpless.com trade paperback edition in 1999.
To celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of both those events, I was invited to give a new speech to the Karl Hess Club in Los Angeles, again by asking the question, “Are We Alongside Night?”
You can listen to the audio of my November 16, 2009 speech “Are We Alongside Night?” by clicking here.
Much thanks to J. Kent Hastings for recording and uploading the MP3!
You can read the transcript of the original 1979 speech here.
You can download a free copy of the 30th anniversary PDF edition of Alongside Night here.
VI. Alongside Night Can Be My Next Feature Film as Writer/Director — Here’s Info on my First
Its current Amazon.com rankings as of today are:
#11 in Amazon Video On Demand > Movies > Action & Adventure > Romantic Adventure
#22 in Amazon Video On Demand > Movies > Mystery & Thrillers > Crime
#37 in Amazon Video On Demand > Movies > Action & Adventure > Comic Action
Our first Amazon.com customer review:
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, November 30, 2009
By Bill St. Clair
Amazon Verified Purchase
I watched Lady Magdalene’s, while recovering from the flu. Amazon’s streaming player worked flawlessly on my Mac over my 150 kbyte/sec DSL line. It was entertaining, non-political, humorous, had good music, and was definitely low-budget.
I didn’t know that Nichelle Nichols could sing. She was good. And the violin playing was excellent.
I was surprised at the mainstream 9/11 theme, but it was used in a non-political, and humorous, manner.
The Star Trek references were amusing.
All-in-all a pleasant use of two hours and three dollars (Amazon’s 7-day rental price).
Start with Star Trek’s original “Uhura,” Nichelle Nichols, in the title role as a New Orleans madam who after the hurricanes moves to Pahrump, Nevada — where brothels are legal — and who — behind the camera — exec produced, wrote and performed original songs on the soundtrack, and did the film’s choreography.
Add in a plot-twisty screenplay by award-winning novelist, libertarian journalist, and Twilight Zone screenwriter, J. Neil Schulman, who not only directed the film and wrote original songs for the soundtrack but played the supporting role of an American al Qaeda terrorist.
Mix well with a fresh cast of talented actors including alumni of the Groundlings and the London Drama Centre; a gorgeous Shakespearean actress whose hobbies include collecting swords; a stunning Persian pop superstar; a Calvin Klein male model who did all his own stunts; a Miss Teen All American (a title previously held by Halle Berry), and an actual Nevada “working girl” …
And you end up with a one-of-a-kind independent film, defying all genre classification, which the producers have referred to as “a Jerry Bruckheimer tentpole made on an Ed Wood budget.”
Following its February 2008 world premiere at the San Diego Black Film Festival Lady Magdalene’s won the festival’s award for “Best Cutting Edge Film.” After its September 2008 screening at Universal City’s Cinema City International Film Festival Lady Magdalene’s producers walked away with the statuette for Audience Choice.
If you’re looking for a movie with a topsy-turvy plot you haven’t seen a million times before, dialogue you might actually have to think about before you laugh, and an eclectic musical score, this might be the movie for you.
PRAISE FOR LADY MAGDALENE’S
“Nichelle Nichols, the original Lt. Uhura from the very first Star Trek television series, was in town for the Backlot festival in Culver City. Her latest feature, entered in the Festival competition, was Lady Magdalene’s, which was directed by J. Neil Schulman, who co-produced it with Ms. Nichols. It is a blend of Comedy Sitcoms of the 50′s and 60′s, with a ‘Cold War’ aura, which has been given a ‘terrorist’ slant. Its convoluted plotline, combined with outrageous dialogue, results in a hilarious entertainment.”
–Robin Rosenzweig, Beverly Hills Outlook
“An offbeat, sexy comedy!”
“Notable entries [at the Backlot Film Festival] included J. Neil Schulman’s Lady Magdalene’s, starring the ever-beautiful Nichelle Nichols of Star Trek fame. Schulman’s first feature is an offbeat, sexy comedy set in a Nevada brothel that lampoons the IRS, Homeland Security, and Al-Qaeda, among others.”
–Lee Michael Cohn, Santa Monica Mirror
A fun, fast-paced action comedy…populated by likable characters …built like the classic comedies of the 1940s-1960s, complete with a musical number…that deserves a wide audience. If writers of the modern thrillers could come up with twists and misdirections even a quarter as clever as Schulman does here, I wouldn’t find myself wondering if the thriller is a dead genre. …[T]here are far more instances where the film is equal to counterparts with budgets ten times the size of what this movie was made for. Even at its weakest, the film is far better than most of the product in a similar budget and production-value range. [Nichelle Nichols] gives a performance that is worthy of an actress of her veteran status. She is delightful in this film … [Alexander Wraith] shows himself to be a very talented actor … Despite the high quality of the film, I fear that Schulman faces an uphill battle when it comes to placing it with a distributor, because no attempt is made to make the film “politically correct” or do anything but call a spade a spade. By simply portraying Federal law enforcement agencies and American politicians accurately (even to the point of getting details about the Internal Revenue Service’s CID correct), he points out the flaws with the domestic “war on terror.” Similarly, Schulman’s portrayal of terrorists as primarily moronic dupes or self-centered, hypocritical sociopaths who blame everyone but themselves for their own shortcomings is far closer to the truth that is acceptable to say in the current popular culture. This is not to say that Lady Magdalene’s is overtly political–in fact, I think Schulman takes steps to keep it neutral as far as that goes–but in an age where common sense and even basic facts seem to have been politicized, I’m sure there are those out there who will say that it is a political movie. Unfortunately, it’s not the kind of politics that will go ever well with many in the film biz.
–Steve Miller, Rotten Tomatoes
“Action-humor reminiscent of a Bob Hope movie …”
The casting is outstanding… The script had all the twists in the right places…powerful and so subtly written… It is purely character driven — and that’s what I loved about it. Definitely one that will etch itself into memory. I like it a lot better than Firefly. It grows on you after you finish seeing it. I was still thinking about it a week later.”
–Bestselling Author Jacqueline Lichtenberg, [...]
“I saw this film at DragonCon last year, and it is a wonderful mix of comedy, mystery, singing and dancing.”
–Graham H. Green, Director, The Man Who Spoke to Himself, The Torturer, September 19, 2008, Slice of SciFi
“What a hoot your Lady Magdalene’s movie is: Terrorists, patriotism, government stupidity, love, murder, sex, wonderful classical violin playing, a Madam singing blues jazz!” –Dave Schwartz, Lead Violist, Glenn Miller’s Army Air Force Band, Principal Violist, Cleveland Orchestra
“Thanks for inviting me to tonight’s premiere…. I really enjoyed the movie. Congratulations on getting it made. Lady Magdalene’s is a combination of humor, wit, political observation and sexiness. Nichelle Nichols provides an excellent center for all of the hijinks that swirl around her. Her performance reminded me a lot of Ruby Dee, actually – charm, wisdom, love, experience – all held together by grit, determination and professionalism. It was a nice role for her, and she did a lot with it. Ethan Keogh I thought was really solid. Deadpan – believable – strong – natural. Where’d you find him? Susan Smythe was also quite good – had a kind of Carrie Fisher/Candy Clark quality. She also looked natural handling a gun (which most actresses do not). Where did you find Claudia Lynx? Absolutely smoking hot. Plus she was good. I really bought her fear of Yassin. I enjoyed the way the whole thing came together at the end…quite funny. I hope you get good distribution for it. Congratulations again.”
–Charles Robert Carner, Writer/Director, Witless Protection, The Fixer, Louis L’Amour’s Crossfire Trail
“You gave me a DVD of your film at the Backlot Film Festival. I wanted to let you know how I enjoyed it! Great job, and I hope you have continued festival success!”
–James Kerwin, Writer/Director, Yesterday Was A Lie, Midsummer
“Lady Magdalene’s is a solid story and very entertaining.”
–Phil Bransom, Writer/Director, Train Master
“There were many funny moments of the film that made it enjoyable, coupled with the enthusiasm and passion brought to the project which is evident in almost every frame. The film is an impressive achievement.”
–Lauren Freeman, Coordinator, Acquisitions, Lionsgate
“Unique and well done.”
–David Laub, Acquisitions Manager, THINKFilm
“A very creative action-comedy.”
–Merideth Finn, VP Production & Acquisition, New Line Cinema
“Witty, inventive indy film with a sparkling cast! Lady Magdalene’s combines an inventive story with a cast and crew (and a writer – director – producer – supporting actor – composer – lyricist) who are clearly having the time and delight of their lives. It sorely deserves a theatrical distributor, cable exposure, and a DVD release. The plot of this “suspense/comedy” has an IRS investigator, on inter-agency exchange duty as a federal air marshal, being called out for making a misstep in apprehending a suspected terrorist. He’s actually right in his suspicions, though he doesn’t know that. Yet his supposed screw-up gets him sent to one of the oddest corners of IRS purgatory: He’s made the latest government receiver and manager of a legal brothel, long troubled and owing back taxes, outside Pahrump, Nevada. (Inspired by an actual case in the news.) The lovely, erhm, working women all around him may be hiding a few surprises, including links to the case that put him in career limbo. And is the pleasure-fulfillment engineer he’s falling for exactly who she seems? He’s determined to track these mysteries, and his chase goes from a shooting range to Hoover Dam to a mysterious medical research facility. Oh, and importantly, to a Pahrump casino with two-for-one dinner buffets! Nichelle Nichols is the determined, beset, but always sexy madam of this establishment, trying to clean up after her late lover (its former owner) and his losses at the craps table. She has the girls join her in a stab at gaining local respectability that’s too pleasing and unexpected – especially in their singing! – to be spoiled here. The tracing-the-terrorists action, weaving through the silken curtains of Lady Magdalene’s pleasure dome, does gets a bit too intricate in the last half-hour, though the story leaves no loose ends. Presenting all the detail without confusion finally gets somewhat beyond the acting confidence of some of the undeniably lovely working girls – though not at all for Nichols, nor for fellow leads Ethan Keogh and Susan Smythe. They’re all game for the effort, though, and their enthusiasm ends up winning the day, right up to and through the closing credits. I saw this last night at the Cinema City Film Festival in Los Angeles, after several years of hearing about it in detail from protean creator Neil Schulman himself at a local libertarian supper club. It’s not a high-polish studio production. Yet it makes far more out of a half-million dollars than most big-studio “high concepts” have done with fifty times the budget. It did save money to have Neil’s mother, his daughter, and even his late father (!) manage to take part in the proceedings, as well as some other libertarian friends who add anti-authoritarian asides that never lose the comic beat. Well worth your attention, and watch for news of occasional showings in the Los Angeles area. (To borrow from an inside Discordian joke of the movie, I’d gladly drive my “Fnord” to any of them.) If there’s any esthetic or comedic justice, of course, we’ll also soon be seeing this on, say, the Sundance Channel. (To borrow from the career-definer of the still-stunning, talented leading lady, beam it up to those satellites, Scotty.) Rating: 9/10″
–Steve Reed, IMDb user comment, October 1, 2008
“Wonderful Movie! Laugh-out-loud comedy, not in the rude sense, but in the old way it’s made — to be funny, not vulgar. With the unsurpassed talents of Nichelle Nichols this movie shines. Bravo! Miss Nichols still has got it in abundance — and I am a witness to that. Although the title might suggest something else, this movie is very family friendly. I see this movie becoming a cult classic. Those who see it will want it for their movie library. Someone who can distribute this movie needs to see it. Rating: 10/10.”
–Don Shackleford, IMDb user comment, August 11, 2008
“Funny and very entertaining! Nichelle Nichols is an international treasure. The story flowed and was logical for me to follow, yet I couldn’t predict the end. I think it will have a good run at the box office. Lady Magdalene’s reminded me of the Monty Python series blended with current-day American politics. I really liked the Star Trek references buried in the film. All of the Star Trek fans will come out to support Ms. Nichols. Technically, I found the transitions and clips smooth and easy on my eyes. The sound design and musical selections were appropriate. In summary, I can’t wait to take my wife to see it.”
–Donald L. McCoy, Program Manager, STEM Multicultural Project
Commenting on the San Diego Black Film Festival screening
“I love seeing Nichelle in a more textured role.”
–Tay Zonday, Singer/Songwriter, “Chocolate Rain”
“The film is sheer brilliance, and highlights Nichelle at her finest! In a world where a Michael Moore rant can win
a Palme d’Or, Lady Magdalene’s is too good for Cannes!” –Edward E. Kramer, Film Director, Book Editor, Founder, Dragon*Con
“Six genres in a head-on collision!”
–Brad Linaweaver, publisher, Mondo Cult
“In 2011 they’ll call it the ‘cult classic of 2008′ … If you’re looking for a conventional movie, Lady Magdalene’s isn’t it. This genre-bending film is a quirky mixture of pop culture parody, politically incorrect humor, and action adventure thriller. It’s high concept camp, with Star Trek’s Nichelle Nichols in the title role as a singing, dancing operator of a Nevada brothel who helps foil an al-Qa’ida plot. Like those films that become cult favorites, some people won’t get it but others will find Lady Magdalene’s to be more engaging and entertaining every time they see it.”
–Robert Schneider, author, Shylock the Roman
AWARD-WINNING COMIC THRILLER, LADY MAGDALENE’S, RELEASED BY AMAZON.COM VIDEO ON DEMAND
(OPENPRESS) November 28, 2009 — Lady Magdalene’s — the comic thriller starring Star Trek’s original Uhura, Nichelle Nichols, that won “Best Cutting Edge Film” and “Audience Choice” awards in its film-festival play — has just been released by Amazon.com Video On Demand.
“The decision to release Lady Magdalene’s for Video on Demand wasn’t an easy one,” said Lady Magdalene’s writer/producer/director, J. Neil Schulman. “I still feel Lady Magdalene’s has theatrical box-office potential, and after the $11,000-unknown-actors thriller Paranormal Activity’s gross of over $100 million at the box office I don’t think any quality indie feature should be written off as unreleasable, no matter how low its budget or its lack of so-called A-list stars. But I need to build audience-support for our movie and along with film festival play I see Video on Demand as another way of doing that so distributors can recognize our broad commercial potential both in theatrical release and later on DVD/Blu-Ray.”
Lady Magdalene’s tells the story of Jack Goldwater, a federal agent who gets in trouble when, on a jetliner, he searches the violin case of a young Arab-American he suspects is an al Qaeda operative, and as punishment for racial profiling is assigned to be the federal receiver in charge of running a Nevada brothel in tax default. There he meets the brothel’s colorful owner, Lady Magdalene — played by the iconic Nichelle Nichols — and his assignment takes a left turn when, with her help, they discover that one of the working girls is part of a domestic al Qaeda cell with plans to smuggle in a crate from Mexico that’s supposed to be unloaded at Hoover Dam. It’s a plot-driven suspense thriller with lots of comic relief and strong character interplay.
Why hasn’t Lady Magdalene’s found a commercial distributor to put it into brick-and-mortar venues yet?
“Some studios won’t even look at an indie film not headlined by stars on their white-list,” said Schulman. “Other studios won’t consider distributing indie films anymore, period. I think the problem is that a lot of indie films are made for specialized audiences, whereas — even with our budget limitations — I wrote, directed, and cut Lady Magdalene’s to entertain as wide an audience as we could get in front of. But studios have gotten into the mindset of thinking that if they don’t have an above the line of $20 million and a special-effects budget of $40 million then audiences won’t buy tickets. Steven Spielberg — by releasing Paranormal Activity — has once again proved why he knows more than all the rest of Hollywood’s heads put together. I’m just hoping that we’ll catch the attention of some studio execs who want to prove themselves as smart as Spielberg.”
“Then again,” Schulman says, “these days, any time you make a movie that has al Qaeda characters in it, you’re accused of being either left-wing anti-American or a right-wing NeoCon. It’s hard for a filmmaker like me to convince the studios that I was just trying to tell a good story with contemporary topics that are in the news every day.”
“Reviewers have called Lady Magdalene’s a comedy,” Schulman continues, “but it’s really more in the genre of a 50’s Hitchcock movie like North by Northwest where you have a straight suspense plot with frequent comic relief. This formula was continued in the 60’s with the Bond films. Of course I was shooting a movie for a half million instead of studio-level budgets, so I had to be particularly creative in how to give audiences the impression they’re seeing lots of action. I’ve been telling people that I made a Jerry Bruckheimer tent pole on an Ed Wood budget. It helped a lot that I had access to great Nevada locations. The point is, despite my low budget, I was trying to tell the best story I could with the best actors I could get, and use every trick in the book to make the audience forget that I couldn’t afford to crash or blow something up every five minutes. But in addition to some great performances I also think we have a kick-ass musical soundtrack — with original songs and performances, including three by Nichelle Nichols — that can rival movies made for fifty times what ours cost.”
Full information on Lady Magdalene’s — including trailer, buzz, reviews, photos, and music videos — are on the movie’s official website at http://www.ladymagdalenes.com.
Lady Magdalene’s can be found on Amazon.com Video on Demand as either a sale or rental.
If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!
As the Danish Ham, Omelette, said in his famous soliloquy, “To eat, and what to eat — that is the question.”
If Jimmy Durante thought “Everybody wants to get into the act!” when it comes to show biz, wait until it comes to what’s on your plate. Hoo boy! Everybody wants to tell you what you should and shouldn’t eat.
Muslims don’t want you to eat pork because it’s unclean. Jews say not only is bacon not kosher, but it’s a no-no to eat lobsters, and you can’t eat a cheeseburger because — and I’ll never figure out the logic in this — it’s sinful to eat baby goat meat that you boiled in its mother’s milk. And for a week every year you have to eat crackers because Moses was on the lam from the Pharoahs, and if it wasn’t for Matzoh there would still be Pharoahs enslaving us … three-thousand-odd years later. Yeah. I wake up shivering that King Tut’s gaining on me. Oh, and one whole day a year — nothing! Eat nothing for a day and God will forgive all the shenanigans you’ve been up to for the previous 365 days. (Rabbi, Rabbi, if I’m on Mars, how do I convert the Jewish calendar to Mars’ 687-day year?)
Hindus say no problem if you want to eat baby goat boiled in its mother’s milk, but cows are sacred so no roast beef for this little piggy!
When I was growing up Howard Johnsons had a 99 cent all-you-can-eat Fish Fry Day because Catholics were supposed to eat fish Friday. And being Jewish I never got the hang of Lent. You’re supposed to give up something, but who were you supposed to lend it to?
Of course there’s always your parents. “Don’t you know there are children starving in Europe? Eat everything on your plate — including the canned spinach — because there’s no chocolate pudding for you if you don’t!” Canned spinach? Haven’t you cretins ever heard of a wok?
And the vegetarians. Here it comes. Meat is murder! Didn’t you ever see Bambi? You know what they did to that chicken before it got to the supermarket? And how would you like it if you’re swimming around, minding your own business, spot a tasty-looking worm, and — Bam! — you got a hook stuck in your throat?
Mommy, mommy — how come it’s okay for a fish to eat a worm but it’s not okay for me to eat a fish?
We’re not done.
You’re fat and it’s because you’re eating all the wrong things. Saturated fat will give you high cholesterol and will kill you — so no butter. Eat margarine instead. Wait, wait, wait! We just figured out that margarine has partially hydrogenated oils that clog your arteries even worse than butter. Of course we didn’t figure this out for fifty years and we’re so very sorry for all the millions of people our dietary advice gave heart attacks to.
Fat will make you fat. What could be more obvious?
No, wait a minute! Now there’s new evidence that carbohydrates, not fat, have been the problem all along. And all the fat we’ve been forcing the food manufacturers to take out of their products — making them replace the fats with carbs — might be the reason the rates of heart disease, obesity, and Type-II Diabetes are skyrocketing.
Woody Allen got this in his 1973 science-fiction movie, Sleeper:
Dr. Melik: This morning for breakfast he requested something called “wheat germ, organic honey and tiger’s milk.”
Dr. Aragon: [chuckling] Oh, yes. Those are the charmed substances that some years ago were thought to contain life-preserving properties.
Dr. Melik: You mean there was no deep fat? No steak or cream pies or… hot fudge?
Dr. Aragon: Those were thought to be unhealthy… precisely the opposite of what we now know to be true.
When my daughter was little I made a treaty with her. If I promised not to tell her what she had to eat, she promised not to tell me what I shouldn’t.
Listen. Food is one of the great pleasures in life. The five most beautiful words in the English language are “All You Can Eat Buffet.”
It’s almost worth it to get hit by a bus if you can try out the all-you-can-eat, best-food-you’ve-ever had in Judgment City.
Forget roulette — that’s what Vegas is about, baby!
Lobster in butter sauce. Heavenly!
Spinach thrown into a wok with olive oil and garlic, and left there just long enough to crack it. Wow!
Have you ever had blueberry pie made with fresh blueberries? Peach pie made with fresh peaches?
Did you know there are experts on meat that when you get to the steak house the waitress asks you whether you want your Porterhouse aged “wet” or “dry”?
Have you ever done a search for the world’s biggest burrito? There’s this little place called El Abajeno on Inglewood Boulevard just south of Culver Boulevard in Culver City, California …
You really shouldn’t call yourself a critic of American cooking if you’ve never sampled the menu at the Publick House in Sturbridge, Massachusetts — don’t miss the Indian Pudding for dessert — or tried the Shoo-Fly Pie at the Plain & Fancy Farm House in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
The search for the world’s best hamburger. It used to be so much easier before the goddam government decided that because e coli can travel on raw beef — it can travel as easily on raw lettuce and spinach — hamburgers had to be overcooked to the consistency of shoe leather. And restauranteurs — probably on the advice of their lawyers — started lying to their customers, claiming it was illegal for them to serve you a rare hamburger.
Yes, it’s a lie. I looked it up. You should have known it was a lie when they said you could still order the sashimi and the rare steak.
Once in a while I can still find a restaurant to make me a rare hamburger.
But that’s why all the fast-food-hamburger-chains — McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s, Jack in the Box, Carl’s, Jr., In-N-Out Burger — are all traitors to the American Dream. If their kitchens truly aren’t clean enough to make a rare hamburger, their kitchens deserve to be sterilized with napalm.
Bacon-cheeseburgers with avocado are sensational. Try it, Rabbi. You’ll see the Face of God. And remember that the reason Cain slew Abel is that Cain got jealous that God preferred the smoke from Abel’s meat barbecuing to the stench of Cain’s burning vegetables.
If the only tuna you’ve had is out of a can and not served uncooked, you’ve never tried tuna at all.
The best pizza I ever had was the double-stuffed I had at a long-gone eatery called Ambrosia in the suburbs of Chicago.
My Aunt Lena’s pot roast and noodle pudding.
The Eggplant a la Russe at the Russian Tea Room, and the can’t-get-them-in-your mouth sandwiches at the Stage or Carnegie Delis.
Carvel Ice Cream.
Freihofer’s chocolate-chip cookies.
Friendlies, back when the Fribble was still called the Awful Awful — “Awful Big, Awful good!”
Howard Johnson’s Tendersweet Fried Clams or Welsh Rarebit — and their Indian Pudding with vanilla ice cream was pretty good, too.
Then there was the eatery in the 70′s/80′s on Motor Avenue in Los Angeles that served this fantastic fusion cooking — I think its name was Epiphany, or Serendipity, or something like that — and it had a signature ice-cream dessert called “the Scrunch.”
And I remember Mamma’s Buffet, corner of Wilshire and Lincoln. All their Asian food was orange.
The point is that the variety of food pleasures are near endless and every busybody wants to tell you what you must and must not eat. Some of them — not many — may actually have your health on their minds. The rest are vicious misanthropists whose palates were crippled by various dietary cults who insist they’re entitled to impose their narrow food bigotry on everyone else.
They are the very Devil.
An old friend of mine, Clive Amor — my father’s assistant concertmaster in the San Antonio Symphony Orchestra — was born in India, raised in London, and studied violin with Jascha Heifetz in the U.S. I knew him in Texas. Clive and I went out to eat a lot and he’d order far more than he could eat, leaving more than half over. I’m into doggie bags to take uneaten food home for later; Clive wasn’t. Jokingly, once, I said to him, “Don’t you know there are kids starving in India?”
And Clive said these golden words to me, God bless his soul: “I got out of India. I don’t have to eat that.”
Freedom begins when the child tells his parents to take these lima beans and shove them.
The spanking is worth it to remember the price of liberty.
A musician I know who lives in the mountains of Colorado puts it this way: “Vegetables? That’s what food eats!”
Putting it my way: I eat vegetarians.
As for PETA: I respect their right to eat or not eat whatever they like.
The problem with PETA is that they don’t respect mine.
Next in Unchaining the Human Heart — A Revolutionary Manifesto is Chapter VIII: Thank You For Smoking!
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.
I’m not a big one for practical jokes, nor am I a particularly big fan of that sub-genre of the TV game show called reality TV. My favorite shows are scripted — even if it’s just the opening monologue.
Don’t misunderstand. I’m not such a snob that I’ll claim I never watch the stuff. I do. Probably enough to be embarrassing.
I’ve watched The Apprentice, Joe Millionaire, Project Greenlight, and American Idol.
I also like more ordinary game shows. I watch Jeopardy a lot. And Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?
I watch a lot of older stuff on Game Show Network, like Hollywood Squares, Lingo, The Weakest Link, Russian Roulette and Friend or Foe. That last show — where the best liar won — you practically had to have a criminal record to have been a contestant on.
I really love the old black-and-white panel shows they occasionally show late-night on GSN from the 50′s and early 60′s — I’ve Got A Secret, To Tell the Truth, What’s My Line? My God, some of those old panel shows were what I imagine it would have been like to attend an Algonquin Club salon. What’s My Line? with Bennett Cerf sitting there in a tuxedo next to Dorothy Kilgallen in an evening gown — at other times David Niven, Woody Allen, Johnny Carson, or Steve Allen. How cool is that?
Then there are all the court shows. I love watching Marilyn Milian on The People’s Court pretending to be a real judge, sitting behind the big wooden bench in robes, swearing in the contestants, and her verbally abusing the “litigants” as if she has real power. Why, the woman is so good a method actress I think she actually believes she’s a real judge instead what she really is, Wink Martindale in black robes! They send ropers out to court house halls to recruit contestants. I don’t know if they actually tell the “litigants,” when they get them to dismiss their small-claims suits and go on the show, that win or lose they’ll make money. But you do realize that her “judgment” on each “case” is merely dividing her game show’s prize money between the competing contestants? They work hard at keeping that little fact on the down low in quickly disappearing closing credits.
In the old days the way ordinary people could get on national TV was either to have enough talent that they could make it onto the Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour or Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts, or get picked as a contestant on a quiz show, or have an unusual occupation or secret for one of the panel shows, or maybe have Allen Funt pull a gag on them on the original reality show, Candid Camera.
Maybe it’s not so different today. Instead of Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts there’s American Idol. Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? and Wheel of Fortune still need ordinary people as contestants. Instead of panels of celebrities bantering with each other in black and white we got to see celebrities bantering on The Hollywood Squares. Since that was too tame, we more recently got to see Joan Rivers and Annie Duke try to tear each other’s livers out on The Celebrity Apprentice. Then instead of Candid Camera invading someone’s privacy for a few minutes, the TV crew moved in with them for weeks or months, as they dated, or tried to lose weight, or competed to be a supermodel, or one-upped each other in what disgusting things they would swallow on some deserted island — just a few feet away from the lavish craft services and catering the crew was chowing down on.
Andy Warhol said in 1968, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.”
Reality TV is an entire genre of mass entertainment based on Warhol’s premise. Warhol’s estate should be paid royalties.
Maybe so should Jimmy Durante’s estate. Durante was famous for saying, “Everybody wants to get into the act!”
Art Linkletter had a show called Art Linkletter’s House Party in which he made famous the phrase, “Kids say the darndest things!” Still alive at 97, maybe Linkletter should be phoned up to tell us what we already know — that to get on TV, “Grown-ups will do the darndest things!
On October 15th, 2009, a Fort Collins, Colorado actor, stand-up comic, and producer named Richard Heene — who had appeared with his wife Mayumi on the ABC network reality TV series Wife Swap — attempted what he obviously thought was a brilliant publicity stunt to try to sell his own reality series, The Science Detectives, to The Learning Channel. He had a large balloon that looked like a UFO, and launched it. But Richard and Mayumi went a step too far and called 911, telling them their six-year-old son, Falcon, had climbed aboard the balloon and was adrift in the air. As a publicity stunt it worked perfectly. The cable news networks and other news shows followed the balloon’s flight live for hours, as rescue crews attempted to determine if there was a child at risk of falling to his death.
Eventually, the balloon landed. No boy aboard. Then Falcon was found safe, and Falcon offered up a cover story — he’d been hiding. Then Falcon threw up during an interview on national TV, the threads of the kid’s parentally coached cover story came apart, and a few weeks later Richard Heene pled guilty to a felony charge of attempting to influence a public servant, while Mayumi still faces a misdemeanor charge of false reporting to authorities.
Now to listen to the TV pundits and radio talk shows, the Heene’s were the Manson Family. How dare these wannabes pull a stunt that gave the networks through-the-roof ratings when it wasn’t even Sweeps Week? Excuse me, but we have our own people to come up with publicity stunts and don’t appreciate the competition from rank amateurs!
But look, if we can get our cameras into prison with you, are you interested?
Tiger Woods isn’t a celebrity wannabe but a world-class celebrity. His problem isn’t too little publicity but too much. When the golf legend recently got into a single-car accident that scraped him up — ultimately it cost him a $164 traffic ticket and four points on his driver’s license (I wonder if Tiger can dump the points by attending traffic school?) — the tabloid media treated it like the Phil Spector murder case. Then it came out that a tabloid had earlier blackmailed Tiger into giving a sister publication a cover photo of the sports great by threatening to reveal an affair. Er, isn’t that legally extortion — an actual felony? Who’s dogging them about that? Then they even broke the blackmail deal and revealed the affair anyway. But, of course, whenever anyone asks the tabloids about their moral failings they’re all, “But that’s private!” The tabloid media can get into everyone else’s private shit but their private shit is sacred. What bogus hypocrites.
Then we have the case of Michaele and Tareq Salahi, from Virginia, who allegedly gate-crashed a White House state dinner between President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on November 24, 2009. They even got onto the receiving line and got their picture taken shaking President Obama’s hand!
Michaele Salahi was a reality TV hopeful trying to get on Bravo’s The Real Housewives of D.C.. Maybe they thought this would help … or at least get them a fat check from The Inquirer. But Michaele and Tareq’s story is they showed up at the White House not knowing whether their request to be on the guest list had been granted or not, and the Secret Service let them in.
Now, of course, that it’s a big news story, the Secret Service — being shown up as somewhat less than stellar in keeping out people who aren’t supposed to get within miles of the President — are all huffy and puffy that this guy with the Arabic name should be charged with violating federal Homeland Security laws.
Hey, guys. News flash. Michaele and Tareq didn’t pull a gun on the President. Tareq wasn’t wearing a suicide belt. They got some free food. The President is reported as being pissed. Sure thing. The Democratic Party got rooked out of its usual five- or six-figure “contribution” for buying a fancy photo-op with the Prez. I’d love to see them try to collect their graft.
But a federal crime for attending a party without being on the guest list?
If this had been World War II and a well-dressed couple had crashed a reception with President Roosevelt, the only thing that would have happened is FDR asking the Secret Service if they had let in a Republican couple. Otherwise, FDR would have gotten a nice laugh out of it on an otherwise depressing day.
I’ll bet Richard Nixon, at the height of the Vietnam War protests, would have told the Secret Service to let it slide, too.
If President Obama is truly angry, he has no sense of proportion about what’s presidential-level important.
Listen, we have to lighten the fuck up. Times are tough right now. People are out of work, looking for ways to pay their bills, and will do lots of strange things to try to make a buck.
It’s an example of what’s gone wrong with this country when even the most minor infraction against the Almighty Government and its hypersensitive, arrogant, officious public servants is blown all out of proportion, and government-worshiping pundits in the tabloid media blow every minor thing up into what we used to call a Federal Case. We used to say “Don’t make a federal case out of it” because not everything was. People had a sense of proportion and some common sense. They understood the difference between a crime and people just being stupid or luckless.
As Brian Shoemake most cogently wrote at American Thinker, maybe we should just call Michaele and Tareq “undocumented guests” and put them on the welfare rolls.
And perhaps even more cogently, I’d like to suggest that there are all sorts of other things we shouldn’t make a federal case out of: car companies, health care, and the production of energy. Overall I’d like to make a whole lot fewer things federal cases.
Yes, it was bad for the Heene’s to send rescue authorities on a wild goose chase after their kid. So the reasonable response in a free society would have been for the rescue authorities whose time and resources were wasted to file a civil suit against the Heene’s for their damages, and if the Heene’s couldn’t afford to pay the bill, have Richard do his stand-up comedy act to raise money for the police and firefighters’ widows and orphans fund. But a felony conviction? That’s what you give people who rape, murder, or rob armored cars.
Michaele and Tareq should get off scot-free. Whether or not they thought they were on the guest list or whether it was a publicity stunt, it was harmless. The only thing they actually did was alert Secret Service to a hole in the security around the President.
Given that the threats on the current Oval Office inhabitant are up 400% from the previous one, maybe the President should even invite Michaele and Tareq back to the White House for a beer. Michaele and Tareq may actually have saved President Obama’s life from future gate-crashers who do have mayhem on their minds.
With his Tuesday, December 1, 2009, speech at West Point, President Barack Obama finally took the American War in Afghanistan away from the Republican side of the aisle where it’s been living for the past eight years, despite Republican Congressman Ron Paul being the only U.S. Senator or Representative to vote against the Tuesday, September 18, 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists.
One of the men I most respect on this planet, L. Neil Smith, still hasn’t forgiven me for the conditional support my writings lent to President Bush’s invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
I’ve been on the record since well before the end of the Bush administration calling for all U.S. troops to be withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan.
But tonight I came close to again giving another President of the United States my conditional support for sending more troops to Afghanistan.
Luckily I came to my senses in time.
You see, Obama sounded — in his speech at West Point tonight — almost like Ronald Reagan.
President Obama said what the mission was — to tromp down on the Taliban and round up Al Qaeda — then promised the American people what true conservatives promise when sending American troops to war: when the mission is accomplished I’ll bring the troops home.
Obama even gave a timetable for the mission and homecoming — troops back home by 2011 — as Reagan would have done.
Which of course got President Obama all the attacks from the Neocons on Fox and CNN for promising precisely what Ronald Reagan would have.
The problem is that the Afghanistan mission President Obama outlined makes no sense.
Therefore President Obama — unlike Reagan, when he sent troops into war for limited objectives — had to be lying.
While he was running for President, Barack Obama was all over John McCain for not being as strong as he was in his commitment to move the war out of Iraq and back into Afghanistan, for the purpose of catching the man responsible for the 9/11 attacks, Osama bin Laden. I liked the “hunting Osama bin Laden” section of Obama’s speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention so much that I even used it in the background of a scene in my movie, Lady Magdalene’s, where a federal agent is on the heels of an American he suspects of running an al Qaeda cell domestically in the United States.
So, of course, in Tuesday’s speech at West Point, President Obama was once again pledging to bring Osama bin Laden to justice, right?
Nope. There was no mention in the speech of Osama bin Laden.
And, of course, the Commander in Chief — speaking for the first time at the United States Military Academy since the mass shootings at Fort Hood — laid out his plans for his military audience to make sure this would never happen again.
No, there was no mention of Fort Hood in the speech.
The President did say that the object of sending an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan was to combat an insurgency by the Taliban.
Excuse me? The Taliban didn’t launch the 9/11 attacks — and President Bush punished them eight years ago for hiding Osama bin Laden. The Taliban are not still hiding Osama bin Laden, so what the fuck?
President Obama also admitted that what remaining al Qaeda there still are in Afghanistan camp out close to the border of Pakistan, and cross over into Pakistani territory our troops aren’t allowed to follow them into whenever they’re pursued.
So adding 100, or 1000, or 100,000 more American troops to this bug hunt won’t bring us any closer to capturing or killing Obama bin Laden and his merry men because they still have a safe haven: Pakistan.
Barack Obama is not willing to enforce the Bush Doctrine — he who shields a terrorist will be treated like a terrorist — on Pakistan, any more than President Bush was willing to enforce the Bush Doctrine on Pakistan. The reason is that — unlike Iran, which is just a nuclear wannabe — Pakistan actually has nukes.
So what’s the actual mission?
Afghanistan has nothing of economic value — except Opium — that the United States wants as a trade good. Is Obama’s universal health-care plan going to be to make Opium the opiate of the masses?
Afghanistan’s terrain is so rugged it’s not a good staging area for the United States to attack anywhere else.
And we’re not going to get the sons of bitches who attacked America on 9/11 by sending more troops into Afghanistan because they’ll scurry away to safer turf.
If the mission is what Senator Obama promised in the 2008 presidential campaign, he would have been talking tonight about how he would pull all American troops out of the region and send the CIA after Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.
But, of course, Obama’s Attorney General, Eric Holder, is busy pissing off the CIA rank-and-file by blaming them for following the policies of their previous commander-in-chief to use torture — excuse me, “enhanced interrogation” — on captured enemy.
If President Obama knows of a reason why a single American soldier needs to remain in Afghanistan, he did not give it to us in his Tuesday speech at West Point — nor in any other communication.
The speech — and the war — have yet to be justified to the American people in any honest way.
And since the reasons the President gave us for continuing to prosecute this war are phony, how can we believe this President when he promises to bring the troops home?