F=MA: The Secret to Success

Trains are hard to stop because they have lots of mass and they go fast. (photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).

There is a simple lesson that artists of all kinds can learn from Applied Physics. Believe me when I say that, whether you are a writer, a painter, or a martial artist, the equation “F=MA” is directly relevant to you.

For those who don’t remember high school science, “F” is force, and it is equal to “M” (mass) times “A” (acceleration). A bullet is small and light, its devastating force caused by blinding speed.

If you are a martial artist, your mass is largely fixed. In competition there are weight classes. You and the person you are fighting have just about the same mass. The only way you can increase your force is by increasing your speed. Outside the ring, in self-defense, speed is still the answer to the quest for greater force. Nobody wants to put on a fifty extra pounds just to have a force advantage. Bruce Lee is remembered because of his philosophy and because he has ahead of his time, but it was his incredible speed that blew people’s hair back. If you have to slow down so that the best cameras of the day can capture your movements, you are fast. You have FORCE aplenty.

If you are a writer, think of mass as the quality of your work, acceleration is your production, and force as the impact you have on history, readers, movements, and markets. Yes, you can increase quality and have some success. But if you only write one really great book (think Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind) you may not be forgotten, but there’s a chance you’ll be remembered as a one trick pony or a fluke. Greatness, i.e. maximum force, comes with speed. Authors like Stephen King, Isaac Asimov, Alexandre Dumas, Michael Moorcock, Charles Dickens, Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Kurt Vonnegut produced dozens of excellent books and short stories. No one trick ponies on that list. That’s why I’ve set a goal to release at two books a year until I take my dirt nap (five so far). My plan is to leave behind an impressive body of work numbering over fifty books.

No matter what your field, it is consistent speed that will make you outstanding. People are impressed with savants who can quickly solve complicated math problems in their heads, not with someone who can do so with a pad and pen in fifteen minutes. Anybody can earn a million bucks in a thirty year career. Earn that much in a week and you’re a success guru. And so on.

But be prepared. There is also the formula E = mc2, a.k.a. the Theory of Relativity. What it postulates, in a nutshell, is that the closer you get to the speed of light the more energy is required and the more impossible it gets. In other words, going faster requires exponentially more work. That’s part of why it garners so much wonder, respect, awe, and admiration.

So while you’ll never reach light speed, there is every reason to try.

Getting S*** Done

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Today my lovely and supportive wife and I went all over town and took pictures.  Most of them were exercise illustrations for two upcoming books – “The Calisthenics Codex”  and “Cut : How to Lose Weight and Get the Muscle Definition you Always Wanted.” Others, like this graffiti shot, are for the blog. It’s fun to get things done. And to stop for a triple chocolate brownie and a cup of coffee when you’re done.

1.5 hour Hike w/ #25 backpack @cabal_fan

1.5 hour Hike w/ #25 backpack @cabal_fang #WOD

Brass Knuckles, Poor Folks, and Contradictions

NY Metro Police-issue brass knuckles, circa 1864 (courtesy of Hock Hochheim’s blog)

I’ve talked about brass knuckles before, and my fascination with them.  I realize that this is a contradiction, coming from a person who considers himself a very spiritual person, a mystic in fact, and that the mere mention of knuckle dusters confuses and upsets some of you.  Well, it shouldn’t.

Brass knuckles carried by Abraham Lincolns’ bodyguards (courtesy of Wikipedia)

Brass knuckles were far more prevalent and respectable in days gone by.  The knuckles above were issued to NY Police, the ones at the right were carried by Lincoln’s protection detail, and my set (see below) are replicas of ones used to fight Nazis.

They are illegal to carry, so unfortunately I can’t walk around with them in my pocket.  Why are they illegal?  Why have brass knuckles become stigmatized as the weapon of low-lifes and criminals?  How in the world can guns be legal but brass knuckles illegal?  Which is like saying, “You can shoot people but you can’t bash their face in.  And that isn’t nice.”

My brass knuckles (these are a replica of ones used by British Special Forces to smash Nazis in World War II).

My brass knuckles (replica of those used by British Special Forces to smash Nazis in World War II).

I think it might have something to do with the fact that they’re cheap.  As we know, the deck is always stacked against the poor.  In order to get a permit to conceal carry a gun, you have to be able to afford a gun, a gun safety class and the fees.  You can’t have a criminal record, you must be able to read and write well enough to navigate the paperwork and red tape, and you have to get off work to go to before the judge.  Poor folks — who have less money and are disproportionally arrested — are less likely to be able to afford or get approved for concealed carry.

Or maybe knuckles of brass and steel are illegal because they got surpassed in the arms race.  When the cops and the military got better weapons and didn’t need them any longer, it became obvious that we should stigmatize and ban them.  I guess switchblades are the exception — did you know that they are still legal for law enforcement to own and carry?  Why is that do you think?  Because people in uniform are somehow magically more trustworthy than the average citizen?

Yes, I am a spiritual man.  But I also believe in the underdog, detest bullies, and think that all people are equal regardless of race, creed, or income.  But most importantly, I believe that peaceful people, spiritual people, folks who care about nature, the environment, their neighbors, and minding their own business, should not be an endangered species.  That’s why I practice and teach martial arts.

I don’t like guns.  But I do like brass knuckles.

AMRAYC in 9 mins of: 8 Sandbag Presses,

AMRAYC in 9 mins of: 8 Sandbag Presses, 8 Jump Squats, 8 Uneven Pushups, 8 Zombie Squats @cabal_fang #WOD

Shameless Panhandler

If you like what you read here on this blog, you should maybe look at some of the books and other stuff that I sell.  Seems to me that you might like them.  Plus, my merch isn’t expensive, and the quality is good too.

  • You can check out my eBooks at Smashwords or Barnes & Noble.  I’ve got fiction and non-fiction.  The 14th Mansion is my best novel yet.  Kinda proud of it.
  • If you dig martial arts and you like actual paper books, dodge over here and get a Cabal Fang Bundle for just $6.99.
  • I have t-shirts for sale, featuring artwork by yours truly.
  • And for workout nuts, I sell PTDICE — the coolest ever tool for creating random workouts.

Also, I’m a nice guy.  So it’s okay to give me your money in exchange for my fine wares.

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Tons of Zine Reviews!

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Some of the ‘zines I picked up at DC Zinefest

Now that I’ve had a chance to sit down and actually read the zines I picked up at DC Zinefest last weekend, here are some quick reviews (clockwise from upper left in the photo).

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 Mt. Olyphant is a graphic novel in eight parts — only the first installment is available just yet — written by Zack Ziemba and illustrated by Christine Skelly.  This is the tale of Paul Tomarchio, a mythology scholar who wakes up in a mental hospital  only to find that the doctors, patients and staff are all figures from Greek mythology.  Is Paul frightfully insane, or is he seeing the machinery behind the curtain of reality?  The production value is perfect and professional, the writing is skilled and original, and the artwork is inspired.  I was blown away!  If the quality holds up until the end, this thing could and should win awards.  Buy yourself a copy here.  You won’t be disappointed!  (A+)

Felis Leon is a short story written and illustrated by Christine Skelly.  My only criticism is that the language is overblown in a few places, just a little too over the top.  But this is offset by great art and superb allegory.  Whether or not Skelly was aware of the alchemical symbolism she was using I can’t say.  But the colors of the internal illustrations — red, magenta, purple — are analogous to the rubedo phase of alchemy sometimes called “the purpling,” the final stage of transformation toward achievement of the Great Work.  And the protagonists?  The peacock and the lion?  Deeply symbolic and compelling.  Joseph Campbell could give a talk on this little gem.  Download available here.  Highly recommended.  (A)

Next we have two pieces from the G. E. Gallas collection.  The first is The Poet and the Flea which, like Mt. Olyphant, is a graphic novel being released in installments.  How in the world could you not love a graphic novelization of the life of William Blake?  Holy Urizen!  I’m no Blake scholar, but I’ve got my feet wet on the subject of England’s mad poet, and Gallas is doing a banging job.  And the courage to tackle Blake!  Are you serious?  One of the most studied poets in history?   This thing is fascinating, and she clearly loves her subject. “A tree filled with angels, their light blinding, their wings bespangling every bough like stars.”  Go and get some.  (A+).

The second piece from G. E. Gallas is The First Reich.  This teaser for a graphic novel in development is written by Shannon Brady and illustrated by Gallas.  It tackles the subject of the whacko genius Wilhelm Reich.  For those of you who are unacquainted with Reich, he was a highly educated and respected psychoanalyst who also believed in a cosmic energy known as “orgone.”  Because Reich’s writings are the only ones ever ordered to be destroyed by a U.S. court, he is a darling of the occult and conspiracy theory crowd (and how do I know this?  Back when I joined the Richmond League of Occult Research and Education they had just finished building an Orgone Cloud Buster based on Reich’s plans).  I love the subject, and both writing and artwork are solid.  Recommended (A).

FPOON skate ‘zine.  This is a skate ‘zine, which means that it is, well, a skate ‘zine.  Fragmented.  All over the place.  Funny as hell.  But what makes this one different is the high production value, the color pages, the brains, and the political savvy.  Blending fact and fiction, the serious and silly, this one was much more than I thought it would be.  Check these guys out on Tumblr.  I was impressed.  (B+)

Queer Witch #1. This is a ‘zine in the classic mold — intentionally low production value and purposely offensive — which basically means I have to give it a thumbs up.   I get the impression that issue #1 is a manifesto issue and that subsequent ones will have more actual witchcraft content.  Explicit artwork, swear-filled, transgressive, and refreshing.  It’s a little bit screamy, but if you want to shake up your perspective, buy it.   Unfortunately there is nothing in/on this ‘zine to indicate where you can get a copy.  Maybe you could tweet Kaitlin “Boomboom” Froom and find out?  (B)

One of the biggest surprises this year was the stuff I got from Kelly Chick.  I liked everything I picked up — a vertical folded booklet called Stop Having Boyfriends (“we made too much eye contact for it to ever be platonic/i always get out of the car just a little too fast”), and two quarter-sheet booklets called dear kelly…love kelly and Contextual Awareness (“you just want someone to rub your head until you fall asleep”).  She tabled next to me and she was charming.  She gave away a whole backpack full of free stuff.  People like her reinforce my belief that life is completely not pointless.  No website listed.  Maybe if you email her she’ll send you stuff.

Abraxas by Marta Lapczynski (Fat Heart Press 2013, perfect-bound, 50 pages).  The most expensive item I bought this year, and worth the $8.00 price tag.  This is classic NY stream prose poesy — grimy, gutsy, Ginsbergian, nerve-jangling shit.  Non-traditional construction sometimes hides her message rather than reveals it, and at times I wished she just wrote her story ‘straight.’  Still, Lapczynski should be very proud of what she’s done in this stunning little tome: “We’ve always been on the brink of losing our jobs.  We were born walking the line, took our first holy breaths already mid-collapse.”  She’s “swimming depths and waiting deep.” Fat Heart Press is now Elation Press.  Get yours here. (A+)

Quiet Desperation: A Zine about Heist Movies needs a better cover.  How can you put a 7th grade piece of art (no offense?) on the front of a doctoral thesis on the subject of heist movies?  Luke Stacks has produced a 28-page half-fold booklet full of real deal film criticism that’s comprehensive, educated, and professional.  At the end he promises to go even deeper in subsequent issues?  How?  This ain’t a ‘zine — it’s a reference book.  Put it on your shelf next to your Oxford English Dictionary and your Brittanica.  And he included Run Lola Run so he gets extra points.  Email Luke and I’m sure he’ll hook you up. (A+)

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That’s all my reviews for this year!