Tuesday, March 22, 2016

ROBERT J SAWYER ON QUANTUM NIGHT, HIS NOVEL ON PSYCHOPATHY AND POSSIBLY HIS LAST NOVEL OF ALL (MF GALAXY 068)



DO PSYCHOPATHS COMPRISE 2/7 OF HUMANITY? DO THE MENTALLY-DEAD COMPRISE 4/7? IS INTELLIGENCE A QUANTUM EFFECT? IS ERADICATION OF THE  WORLD AS WE KNOW IT THE ONLY SOLUTION?

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The word “psychopath” strikes terror. While most people imagine psychopaths to be extremely rare serial killers, in fact, most psychopaths are not murderers, but exploitative and terrorising managers, bosses, politicians, drug dealers, pharmaceutical CEOs, family members, clergy, atheists, police, teachers, and others we’ve met and under whom we’ve suffered.

The Canadian researcher Robert Hare is one of the world’s leading experts on the subject of psychopathy; he developed a screening test called the Psychopathic Check List (Revised) or PCL-R, and estimates that approximately one percent of people, or around 70 million humans, are psychopaths.

But Robert J. Sawyer thinks otherwise. Sawyer is one of Canada’s most celebrated novelists with endless awards and accolades. His carefully-researched science fiction novels have earned acclaim across the globe. And his latest novel, Quantum Night, theorises that psychopaths aren’t one percent of humanity, but two-sevenths—that is, about two billion people.

And wait: it gets worse. That another four billion people are not figuratively, but
literally talking Sawyer’s latest novel—which I regard as his best ever—is as intellectually provocative as it is chilling, and as he revealed to me before any other media source, it may be his final one. The book is about a Canadian psychologist, Jim Marchuk, who realises that psychopathy may be a quantum mechanical event that will end the world—unless he can end it first.

Rob Sawyer spoke with me by Skype from his home outside Toronto on February 23, 2016. We discussed:

  • Why, if humanity is two-sevenths psychopathic, the world isn’t in even worse shape
  • What rights the mentally-dead should have, if any, if they actually exist, and
  • How the model for Jim Marchuk—contemporary philosopher Peter Singer—advocates against eating animals but for abortion and infanticide.
Along the way, I cite the DSM-V, or the fifth edition of the North American “bible” of psychological diagnosis, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.

We began by discussing the novel’s fascinating and disturbing central idea: that psychopathy and intelligence itself arises from a quantum-mechanical setting in the microtubules of neurons.

Full disclosure: Rob Sawyer and I have been friends for over a decade.

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sfwriter.com
Cross-Canada book tour

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ICE-T ON PRICE OF POLITICAL SPEECH, OVERTHINKING HIP HOP, AND UNCOVENTIONAL MEANS TO HELP UNCONVENTIONAL YOUTH (MF GALAXY 070)



WHOSE OPINIONS ARE IRRELEVANT TO HIM, THOUGHTS ON WILL SMITH, WHAT HE DOESN’T PUT INTO HIS BODY, BEING AT THE MILLION MAN MARCH, RELATIONSHIP WITH FEMALE CRIMINALS

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Ice-T is one of the best-known artists from what is now widely known as the golden era of hip hop—the 1986 to 1992 span that saw the widest assortment of lyrical content and the climax of political and Africentric work. West coast artist Ice-T brought a mixture of allegedly autobiographical stories and fictional ballads named “crime rhymes,” while also engaging in incisive social commentary against racism, media, and government.

In 1992, Ice-T’s musical career nearly imploded under attacks from White police, Charlton Heston, Al Gore’s wife Tipper, US vice president Dan Quayle, and President George H.W. Bush. Ice-T’s heavy metal band Body Count released the revenge fantasy ballad “Cop Killer,” about brutal and murderous racist police.

Having survived the onslaught with the support of The National Black Police Association, Ice-T continued to grow his acting career, which had begun with the 1984 US film Breakin’, grew through 1991’s New Jack City, and later hit its height on television’s Law & Order: SVU.

In the year 2000, Ice-T performed in Edmonton at club then called Red’s. In this episode you’ll hear what he had to say, including:

  • How he’d changed over the years
  • The personal price of political speech
  • How hip hop is overintellectualised
  • Whose opinions are irrelevant for him
  • His experience of the Million Man March
  • The unconventional means needed to help unconventional youth
  • His ongoing relationship with female criminals
  • His thoughts on Will Smith
  • What he doesn’t put into his body, and
  • His reflective and hilarious stories of being a touring musician.
A few of notes: I have no way of knowing what claims Ice-T made of his past are actually true; creating a fictional onstage persona is almost as much a key element of hip hop as it is of pro-wrestling. At one point Ice-T describes having been a pimp; I don’t know if his claims are true, but certainly now as a husband and father, I marvel at my failure sixteen years ago to have asked him about the inherent depravity of such a degrading and misogynistic profession. You are a grown-up, so decide for yourself if you want to listen.

That being said, for those of you who subscribe to the EXTENDED EDITION PODCAST, you’ll hear the commentaries on Ice-T’s remarks, also recorded in the year 2000, by E-Town community activists Darren Jordan and Kelly Fraser.

Also, when I recorded this interview in the year 2000, I’d never heard of Kid Rock. That’s important to know to understand the sarcasm of Ice-T’s comment and my confusion at his answer.

Finally, Ice-T let me interview him immediately after his show. There’s no question that any artist, or speaker, walking offstage after an intense performance is in a mind-state that isn’t suited to honest reflection, but to spectacle and artifice. But note while you’re listening how Ice-T slowly calms, becoming quieter and possibly more sincere. He was generous with his time, and for that I thank him.

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Monday, March 14, 2016

SIFU KISU ON MARTIAL ARTS MASTERY AND DESIGNING + CHOREOGRAPHING THE BENDING OF AVATAR THE LAST AIRBENDER (MF GALAXY 069)


CREATING BENDING STYLES, WHY HE RETURNED TO SHOWBIZ TO MAKE AVATAR AFTER SELF-IMPOSED EXILE, AND HOW HE BECAME SWORDMASTER PIANDAO


It’s one of the most innovative and best-written Western animated series ever made, Avatar: The Last Airbender. Brian Konietzko and Michael DiMartino created its three seasons, which ran from 2005 to 2008. While technically aimed at children and teens, the series had a vast adult following that continues to grow via DVD, and because of its sequel series The Legend of Korra.


Distilled to its essence, Avatar: The Last Airbender is about a Dalai Lama-style boy monk with super-powers. He’s a bender, a person who can shape the four elements to his will. In this world, each element has a nation: the Air Nomads, the Water Tribe, the Earth Kingdom, and the Fire Nation. Young Avatar Aang, born an Airbender, awakes in a world in which the Fire Nation has destroyed the balance among the nations by waging a war for global conquest.

Young Aang already knows air-bending, but if he’s to defeat the Fire Nation armies and its Fire Lord, he has less than a year to master the other elements, or face a planetary dictatorship that is now invincible. Avatar is a lushly animated and intelligently-written series with memorable and touching characters. It’s alternately deeply philosophical and hilariously slapstick.



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Sifu Kisu is the martial arts consultant for the series. He’s the man who designed the distinct bending moves for each of the four nations and all the lead characters, and choreographed all the weapons fighting, based on his own decades of training in Chinese and other East Asian fighting systems. Avatar without his enormous impact wouldn’t be the same—try imagining Star Wars without the Force and light sabres. In the show’s final season, the creators transformed Sifu Kisu into a character named Sword Master Piandao, voiced by Robert Patrick, best known for playing the T1000 in Terminator 2.

Sifu Kisu has led a fascinating life. In addition to his decades of training in and teaching of martial arts, he’s been in the US armed forces, served as a body guard to foreign dignitaries, and worked in Hollywood; as an African-American super-achiever in martial arts, he’s befriended many of the most accomplished African-American practitioners of various fighting forms.

Sifu Kisu and I discussed:

  • How Sifu Kisu came to be the fight choreographer and martial arts consultant and concept designer for Avatar: The Last Airbender, even though at the time he was on a self-imposed exile from Hollywood
  • How Sifu Kisu worked with the producers, directors, and artists to translate his martial arts moves into animation, and how he invented the multi-martial system for the series’ elemental bending
  • How Kisu used the martial arts of Jingis Khan to design the martial arts for the evil fire bender Azula
  • How Sifu Kisu ended up as a character in the series named Sword Master Pian-Dao, and the impact of Avatar on the world of martial arts
Sifu Kisu spoke with me by telephone from his home in Los Angeles on February 20, 2012, and as you’ll note by his references to The Legend of Korra, that series was still in production.

We began by discussing Sifu Kisu’s pitch to Hollywood for his own animated martial arts series, which embodies his ideals for how martial arts can improve humanity

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To hear the half-hour, patrons-only extended edition of my conversation with Sifu Kisu, become a sponsor for a dollar or more per week. By funding MF GALAXY, you get access to all extended editions of the show, plus video excerpts from selected interviews as they become available. This extended edition includes Sifu Kisu discussing:
  • How he began learning East Asian fighting arts and the discipline required to perform literally thousands of kicks per day
  • Why he believes his advanced martial arts training saved his life without him having to throw a single kick or punch
  • What martial arts taught him about the difference between his ideal self and his real self
  • Sifu Kisu’s experiences with Hollywood stars and major martial arts masters including Dr. Moses Powell and Ron Van Clief, and how he almost got the starring role in The Last Dragon
  • Overcoming Hollywood racism
  • The martial arts difference between fighting on screen and fighting on the street, and how his Northern Shao-Lin kung fu fighting system addresses grapplers and grappling, the core theory of Northern Shao-Lin, and real danger in the world of martial arts