The Elephant-Sized Flaw in Large Clinical Trials

Imagine you’re like me and have a genetic variation in your D2 Dopamine receptor code which makes some aspects of “executive functioning” difficult. (I was always the last one to finish my lab work in Chemistry, Biochemistry, and General Physics — though I got the highest final score in Physics Lab, so I’m not claiming to be stupid.)

Anyway, you’ve got this D2 challenge in your brain, you do some reading and discover that organic velvet bean powder has L-dopa that might help you with things like working faster through cookbook recipes.

You buy some velvet bean powder, try it and, wow, you’re not only more efficient, your mood improves.

You should feel ecstatic, right?

But no, you’re vaguely suspicious because you’re a medical doctor. Professors and attendings have warned you that anecdotal evidence is worthless, and the placebo effect is ready and waiting to make a fool of you. 

To avoid embarrassment, you decide you need a double-blinded, prospective clinical trial with a large number of test subjects and proper randomization. Anything less would be rubbish.

Fortunately, this is not a problem. You’re also a multi-billionaire who can fund a complete drug trial.

Of course, you didn’t get rich by ignoring opportunity. You plan to make money with these velvet beans. 

Knowing that your problem starts with genetic D2 variation, common sense tells you to study a few thousand people who have the same genetic makeup.

But what about your target buyer? A businessperson looks there first.

From that perspective, you want the FDA approval to apply to as many people as possible so you can hand out genetically modified velvet bean pills to the broader public and make more money.

You therefore choose the typical mainstream experimental design: Thousands of unselected participants taken in randomly and then randomized and blinded into trial and control groups. You’ll also blind the people administering the bean pills and placebos so no one can fault your study.

Ten years and 1.2 billion dollars later, the trial ends and the stats come back from the math geeks, those rare professionals who honestly understands statistics and can manipulate them dishonestly.

Despite their efforts, they bring you bad news. There is no statistical evidence that your patented velvet bean extract improves executive functioning or mood.

Rats!

You go home and glare at your dog, then apologize with an organic carrot.

If you publish the paper, the entire world of mainstream MD’s, those smart women and men who don’t read the scientific literature or think for themselves because they’re too busy and frightened of lawsuits – those dedicated, exhausted people will hear from their educators, the drug reps, that velvet beans are rubbish. “This is just another example of the functional medicine quacks peddling snake oil.”

But you take organic velvet bean powder every day, it’s made a real difference. In the kitchen now, you’re turning out Molten Lava Cakes faster than the famous TV chefs. You feel more grounded and calm, too.

What should you do?

It’s obvious, isn’t it? Common sense tells you to go back and do a clinical trial using people with the D2 receptor issue, testing the organic velvet bean powder that works for you, not the GMO stuff your lab cooked up for megabucks.

Unfortunately, this common-sense approach rarely if ever happens in the real world. Negative studies like this are routinely published, and the mainstream fails to see the elephant-sized flaw in their assumptions: the human population is vastly more diverse than previously known at the genetic and biochemical level.

Genetic diversity is relevant to every branch of medicine because single nucleotide polymorphisms (genetic SNPs), like the one that affects my D2 receptors, create a huge diversity in disease susceptibility at the root-cause level, as well as a myriad of diversity in personal strengths and weaknesses within every system of the body.

From the central nervous system to the skin, genetic SNPs are the rule, not the exception. And science has hardly begun to uncover them all or understand their complex interplay across systems.

I have another common genetic SNP that reduces my ability to “detoxify” caffeine by about 60%.

With this knowledge, I’ve lowered my caffeine intake from several double mochas a day (at the VA Med Center years ago), to two cups of green tea per day. This reversed an unbearable sensation of vascular congestion in my legs. (n=1)

I also have a SNP that makes me inefficient at converting beta-carotene to vitamin A, a few SNPs that increase my need of several B vitamins for adequate methylation to keep my homocysteine levels down, and numerous others that I won’t bore you with. But despite all my SNPs, I’m still quite healthy for a 63-year-old man.

The thing is, genetic SNPs are so common, you yourself almost certainly have at least one, more likely a handful. So it’s irrational for researchers to lump you into a huge unselected “normal” population when they’re testing something. And it’s misinformed and lazy for MD’s, however busy they are, to ignore your SNPs and follow cookbook-official protocols when treating you. They need to read more broadly and act with integrity even if it costs them.

Genetic diversity is why functional medicine, imperfect as it is, will become central to mainstream medical care someday. The establishment will change the name from functional medicine to something they haven’t already disparaged.

Currently, they say functional medicine is not evidence-based. In some ways that’s true.

But when it comes to reversing chronic disease rather than just controlling its progression, functional medicine is more evidence-based than mainstream medicine because it uses personal genetic data that the mainstream ignores.

Moreover, it understands the elephant-sized flaw in the mainstream’s large clinical debunking trials. 

Morrill Talmage Moorehead, MD

Photo by Rafael on Unsplash


Science Morphed into a Spiritual Bully

“Remember how electrical currents and ‘unseen waves’ were laughed at? The knowledge about man is still in its infancy.” – Albert Einstein.

Slow deep breathing shunts blood to the prefrontal cortex and the subjacent pleasure center on the left. Science can tell us this much, but it cannot detect the non-physical field of free will interfacing with the brain.

When science leaps in faith beyond its self-imposed physical limitations and denies the existence of free will and all else non-physical, it is like a man who has refused to open his eyes since birth, declaring now that all vision is an illusion. He, being superior to the uneducated in intellect, insight, courage and integrity, stands alone as willing to face the difficult and oppressive truth that human vision is a false, meaningless illusion.

Science must learn to admit the obvious: it has chosen materialism, to be blind to the non-physical realm and all evidence of its existence, including the most obvious, free will.

While this choice persists, science cannot claim to be informed about the realm it ignores, much less pose as an infallible anti-spiritual authority in Western textbooks and classrooms.

Morrill Talmage Moorehead, MD


The Iceman Fixed My Headaches!

The Wim Hof method of life improvement through hyperventilation, breath holding and cold exposure has gone mildly viral, but until I googled “Wim Hof and headaches,” I thought I would be the first to mention a headache connection.

Mr. Hof is no joke, by the way, though he comes across as happier and more enthusiastic than our jaundiced society allows. For this, some call him crazy.

He’s not.

But he’s not above reproach, either. Who is? He makes a few over-the-top claims. For instance, he’s made medical claims that jerk the black-and-white chains of professional skeptics whose logic casts out the baby with the ice water at the slightest provocation.

But many scientists, journal gatekeepers, and healthcare providers depend on the “incurable” adjective. And they’re human. Where would they all go if, for instance, type 2 diabetes disappeared along with a few of the most common cancer types? How can anyone expect them to be objective about feeding their children?

I’m afraid I’m not.

So let the skeptics howl while the rest of us avoid their binary thinking. We’d be nuts to write off Wim Hof for simply being as excitable and capable of exaggeration as most of the rest of us.

You probably know he’s earned many world records for things like sitting in ice water for roughly 2 hours and swimming a terrifically long distance under surface ice, once overshooting the exit hole and nearly drowning.

He recalls no fear of dying during the incident and now says he has no baseline fear of death. That’s fascinating and probably important. Who knows?

Under medical supervision, a few brave scientists injected him with toxic bacterial antigens, waited, then drew his blood for analysis. It showed a lack of the expected spike of inflammatory markers. He had no fever and felt no flu-like symptoms.

Wondering if Wim was unique in this ability to suppress inflammatory markers, they had him train a dozen new students for 2 weeks, then tested them.

The students’ bloodwork showed a low inflammatory response compared to controls, and they reported less intense flu-like symptoms.

And as if destiny wanted to remove all suspicion that Wim has “superhuman” talent, the man has an identical twin with no unusual cold tolerance.

Another group of scientists put Wim in an MRI scanner wearing a cold-immersion bodysuit. This was fascinating. They found peculiar activity in his insula and the periaqueductal gray areas of his brain. Also, he had increased glucose metabolism in his intercostal muscles.

I’d like to know if he was panting. I vaguely remember a video clip of him panting in a tub of ice, but I can’t find it now.

It’s safe to say that Wim Hof’s path to “health, strength, and happiness,” has a few credible underpinnings in physiology. And there’s also the “life-changing” effects asserted by his raving students.

Unfortunately, the body is too complex for our hyper-segregated sciences to explain the morphologic, physiologic, biochemical, epigenetic and genetic details of anything much beyond conditions like sickle-cell anemia, but an obvious feature of Wim’s achievements is human antifragility, a counterintuitive response that includes hormesis, the beneficial middle-dose of something toxic or even lethal at higher exposures.

Sulforaphane, for example, is a hormetic found in broccoli seeds and sprouts, produced ostensibly as an irritant to discourage predators from destroying the seeds. When we ingest broccoli sprouts (or seeds) with the right dose of sulforaphane, it activates dormant genes that strengthen us against certain stressors. For all the wholesome details, listen to the research scientist, Rhonda Patrick, PhD, cast a spell on the subject discussing studies that correlate sulforaphane ingestion with reduced incidences of breast and prostate cancer.

Oh dear, I hope the medical thought police don’t revile me for suggesting there’s hope of preventing such lucrative diseases through simple hormesis.

Anyway, in the Wim Hof method, the hormesis comes from hypoxia and cold exposure, either of which might kill you at too high an exposure.

What doesn’t kill us wakes us up, it seems.

Hmm…

Since my first breath-holding ocean dive (with no wetsuit) at Shell Beach, California, age 12, I’ve loved holding my breath — just for the relaxation and clarity of mind it brings. As we know, the mammalian diving response kicks in, shunting blood to the brain, lungs and heart.

What a fortunate setup for anyone living on a water planet, though! Who do I thank?

Later when I took SCUBA, I learned that by hyperventilating before breath-holding, I could stay down longer because huffing and puffing expels carbon dioxide and makes the blood less acidic. This shifts the oxygen dissociation curve to the left, allowing the red blood cells to deliver more of their oxygen to the tissues, giving us the feeling that hyperventilation supersaturates the blood with oxygen. It doesn’t as far as science can so-far determine.

It’s also true that CO2 buildup in the blood provides us with the urge to breathe. That’s why blowing it off in hyperventilation lets you stay down longer before air thirst forces you up for a breath.

This scenario is dangerous, though, because hyperventilation can make you pass out and drown — as can hypoxia.

I urge you not try hyperventilation in the water. Wim Hof says to do it lying down. (Far from a pool or bathtub, I’d add.)

And here’s another caveat: too much hypoxia causes brain damage, depression and dementia. We know this from studying sleep apnea, a common ailment that’s vastly underdiagnosed and contributes to a truckload of human misery. So “moderation in all things” is the faithful heuristic. And for the careful, swimming underwater in the cold (without hyperventilation) wakes up the mind and makes you feel sharp as a tack.

Since life on Earth was intelligently designed, our bodies keep us fully conscious and awake under water because the alternative tends to be fatal. Whoever wrote this planet’s genetic codes must have designed life around water and decided that we would hold our breath and spear cold-water fish during the ice ages. This would have the side effect of providing a diet rich in marine oils to supply DHA to our brains which are predominantly lipid and heavy with DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid.

Periodic ice ages awaken humanity’s epigenetic adaptations to cold, it seems, switching on genes that become dormant during warmer eras. Activating our “cold-shock” genes to produce cold-shock proteins renders us not merely cold-resistant, but antifragile to cold. We don’t merely survive the ice ages, we thrive — mentally, physically, emotionally and probably spiritually.

We’ve all seen clear evidence of this in the ancient megalithic structures on most continents — evidence the mainstream detests because it falls outside their “gradualism” dogma of all history.

Nevertheless, since the Younger-Dryas event ended the last ice age about 11,600 years ago, our species has forgotten the value of God’s latent gift of cold-adaptive epigenetics. Fortunately, Wim Hof and a few scientists are rediscovering it, uncovering what may be a human capacity for broad volitional immune regulation and substantial mood management.

Some of this magic results from the “mammalian diving response.” It’s a well-studied physiologic mechanism that shunts blood to vital organs, as I mentioned. This includes the brain’s center of higher decision making, the prefrontal cortex, which is close to a quasi-pleasure center located just below the left prefrontal region.

It would seem that Earth’s DNA Code Writer has worked to keep us alive, healthy, happy and eating cold-water fish with our broccoli sprouts.

“The God Hypothesis is now a more respected hypothesis than at any time in the last 100 years.” — Frederic Bradford Burnham, PhD.

I haven’t taken the Wim Hof course, as yet, but I’ve watched enough relevant YouTube videos to know the basics, and I’ve been doing an easy version of cold exposure and hyperventilation-with-breath-holding for five months now, several times a week. In my view, Wim Hof is onto something big with the potential to help many of us, not just my fellow headache sufferers. But let’s be careful not to over-do the hypoxia aspect.

Although I’m not quite as predisposed to euphoria now as when I was younger, I do feel exhilarated after a cold shower, and mentally sharp with temporary mood elevation after the intermittent hyperventilation and hypoxia.

By the way, if you try cold showers, consider my method. I’m careful not to let my subconscious mind learn to hate the whole experience. To me, this principle of catering to the subconscious is a key to sustaining purpose with anything that requires discomfort and ongoing effort.

Here’s how I avoid hating cold shower…

First I step back out of a hot shower, turning the knob all the way cold. Then I put one part of myself into the shower at a time. I stay in the cold spray for seven breaths, step out and warm up for a few breaths then rotate another section of me into the cold.

In the past I’ve tried cold showers by sudden immersion and wound up avoiding the whole process after a few weeks, having never consciously decided to stop. It seems that when anything is judged by the subconscious self to be too uncomfortable, we avoid it reflexively without conscious deliberation. In this way, the subconscious mind makes many decisions about survival. We see this happening with hunger avoidance, cold avoidance, pain avoidance, and the avoidance of believing things that will bring us rejection by our peers and bosses.

There’s good scientific evidence now that cold showers should improve most people’s health and well-being, but the most unexpected thing for me was the headache remedy.

I’ve had headaches all my teen and adult life, originally caused by something in fresh fruit (probably fructose) or in my 30’s by caffeine withdrawal.

Nowadays, my headaches come mainly from eating a little naturally occurring sucrose in my low-carb, circadian diet. (Sucrose or “table sugar” is half fructose, so that may be the primary cause of my headaches now.) Incidentally, the low-carb, circadian diet brings me mental clarity like nothing else ever has.

I’ve had about 12 headaches (all associated with “natural” sucrose intake) since I’ve been doing my easy version of the Wim Hof method. Each headache has vanished after hyperventilation and breath holding, usually after 4 or 5 cycles. That’s 12 our of 12!

Cold exposure doesn’t seem to affect my headaches, though at least one observant writer describe evidence that “cryotherapy” of this sort might prevent migraine headaches by reversing the low norepinephrine levels found in migraine sufferers.

Also, it may be noteworthy that at least one anecdotal report has surfaced of a headache appearing after doing the Wim Hof technique.

One size rarely fits all in biology. Perhaps it’s tangentially relevant that when I’m trying to get rid of a headache, it sometimes feels worse during the hyperventilation phase, diminishes during the breath holding, and then vanishes after several cycles.

My last headache inspired me to write this article. It woke me at 5:30 AM pounding in my skull. It felt like one of the monster headaches that lasts all day and brings nausea.

I did the usual 4 cycles of Wim Hof hyperventilation and breath holding and although the pain diminished, it quickly came back. Not willing to give up and waste the entire day in pain, I kept at it, hyperventilating more and more vigorously and holding my breath longer and longer as my heart chugged in my chest. Finally, after about 12 intense cycles, the pain vanished completely and never came back, not even a dull ache.

Dude! Thank you, Wim Hof.

I speculate that the diving reflex, while shunting blood to my central nervous system as designed, also sent blood flowing swiftly through my scalp where the nerve endings for headache are thought to reside, diluting out vicious chemicals released by mast cells. These chemicals were causing vasoconstriction and pain while signaling for inflammatory cells to rush in.

And because I treated the headache early in its course, I postulate that the inflammatory cells that would have migrated in, set up shop and made the headache a full-day affair never had time to arrive in significant numbers.

Of course, not all headaches have the same pathophysiology. What stops mine might not touch yours, and might even make yours worse. But the Wim Hof Headache Fix is worth a try if you suffer headaches. Just promise me you won’t hyperventilate near water, pass out and drown, OK?

Eyes open, no fear, be safe everyone.

I wish I’d had the Wim Hof Headache Fix when I was a highschool boy lying in bed on Sunday afternoon in my dorm room in throbbing pain, praying to God for relief and assuring him that I understood if this wasn’t the time for a miracle.

And I wish scientists weren’t so quick to shout down everything that moves contrary to their “knowledge.”

Science has historically made quantum leaps by seeking the unexpected, the weird and impossible. It’s tragic that many scientists today express pride in their skepticism. It would serve us all if skepticism were a source of scientific shame.

And it doesn’t matter what’s new, weird, or improperly boxed, my generation of baby-boomer scientists will attack and viciously debunk it, often without studying the work they’re struggling to bury. For example…

The “fringe” evolutionist, Elaine Morgan’s theory that humans evolved from aquatic apes is rejected by mainstream evolutionists for purely emotional reasons, as best I can tell. The phrase, “aquatic apes,” doesn’t sound right to them regardless of the evidence.

The non-materialist research scientist, James Tour, makes an absolutely stunning case for intelligent design in origins theory, only to hear the materialist establishment reject his insight and expertise because they already “know” that life’s origins are mindless and meaningless.

When David Chalmers, a self-proclaimed “materialist at heart,” calls for open minds in the scientific community to consider the “crazy” possibility that consciousness (rather than matter and energy) is fundamental to the cosmos, the mainstream ridicules him because their own untestable assumptions seem patently obvious.

Scientists of the Thunderbolts Project provide evidence that electromagnetism is a more influential force than gravity in the universe, but the mainstream still struggles to ignore them.

Governmental officials team up with fighter pilots to show evidence that UFO’s are real, someone in our skies seems to have breakthrough technology, but academics remain invested in denial of anything beyond their insular, inbred boxes of narrow expertise.

I’m hoping that something will change with the next generation of scientists and thinkers.

Maybe the next team will value objectivity over skepticism.

Science could use their help right now.

Cheers,

Morrill Talmage Moorehead, MD

Please share this post with friends who suffer from headaches or chronic dogma impairments.


“The bigotry and intolerance of the scientific community…”

“The thing that we all know most directly and most certainly – that is, the existence of ourselves – is ultimately incompatible with materialism.” – Jay Richards, PhD.

When I attended a Christian university in the 1970s (now called La Sierra University) I took an upper division genetics class from Gary Bradley, my hero to this day, who subtly taught the logic of associating a Code Writer with this planet’s unfathomably complex DNA. His scientific insight was ahead of its time and became the intellectual basis of my faith in God.

Although my unbalanced version of Christianity made me a doormat in the dog-eat-dog world of pathology, the realization that God existed and, being smart enough to write genetic code, could easily understand English and undoubtedly hear my thoughts and prayers, improved my life dramatically, giving me a sense of meaning and purpose, despite my habit of not standing up for myself.

Today, more and more brave scientists and thinkers are making the connection between Earth’s code-based life and an intelligent code writer. Random mutation and natural selection don’t stand up to mathematical scrutiny when you know something of the complexity of proteins and the DNA codes that produce them.

But breaking with tradition is dangerous. Modern scientists are like preschoolers fighting to control the rules to the latest game. And they are literally religious fundamentalists who believe that their dogma alone can save the world.

The dogma is materialism: the arrogant, arbitrary, inflexible assumption that nothing could possibly exist besides matter and energy. This is a philosophical assumption that cannot be tested. Hence we should not equate it to science or let it be preached to school children as “the foundation of the scientific method.”

It’s actually the foundation of scientific fundamentalism, a religion that has quietly slipped in and taken rigid control of the minds, careers and publications of the scientific community. Materialism has become a roadblock to the funding of any project that doesn’t knuckle under to the dogma of a random, meaningless, depressing, purely material universe.

But here’s a breathtaking video that brings hope that perhaps today’s young people will rescue science from fundamentalism…

“Oddly, the [scientific] materialist has to deny the existence of the scientist.”

So true, and so ironic.

Back in the day, Gary Bradley openly questioned Neo-Darwinism in class, emphasizing the crucial importance of protecting the genetic diversity, natural order and purity of Earth’s ecosystems from the myopic intrusions of corporate science.

At the time, I did not understand how rare this part of my education was. But now I know that at least in the last fifty years, professors and textbooks have assumed without question that science is materialistic – there can be nothing but matter and energy anywhere, ever. Therefore, the mind is an illusion. Intelligence is an accident of matter, a random epiphenomenon with no meaning or higher purpose.

During their impressionable college years when objectivity writes on a clean slate, very few modern scientists have been allowed to hear both sides of the argument between materialism and intelligent design. Nevertheless, some have heard it now and are coming around, saying that there’s evidence in favor of the concept that we are genuine beings with free will.

Here’s a video touching on some of that evidence…

“No, You’re Not a Robot Made Out of Meat

In college, students are usually taught what to think not how to think. The struggle for most undergraduates is to memorize quickly for multiple-choice tests. We tacitly assume that everything we have crammed into our heads is true, including this western secular worldview disguised as the foundation of science.

But the mainstream answer to this question, “Does the Universe consist of only matter and energy or is there also something more, such as mind, identity, or a Supreme Being?” is not directly testable and therefore not capable of being the foundation of science. It’s a worldview, a philosophy, a spirituality or, if you ask me, a cultish religion that has morphed into today’s academic culture of scientific fundamentalism.

Morrill Talmage Moorehead, MD

Please share these videos with the young minds you know and love. Give them something to balance the dogmatic materialism that undermines happiness and limits science itself. Give someone a glimpse of the rational universe where depression and suicide are avoidable through the pursuit of a higher, loving purpose.

 

 


Practice Makes Perfect Villains

Fiction writers have an advantage in life that centers on the need to develop a rare skill for objectivity in creating a villain.

Memorable villains need to believe that the harm they’re causing is necessary and right. To accomplish this, their logic must be accessible and human. Villains can’t all be masochists and cardboard psychopaths. Even serial killers can believe they’re doing good work, or at least think the universe is a random place without right and wrong.

Having read, The Talent Code, by Daniel Coyle, I’m all about focused practice. But how do you practice objectivity?

Here’s an idea: select a highly controversial topic for which you have a strong personal bias, and see if you can make yourself realize that a decent, rational person could exist on the opposite side of the argument.

Personally, I might start with the war over vaccinations and this video…

The pediatrician on the left of the screen claims to be in the middle ground of this complex fight, catching hell from both sides. He has written a book he claims is pro-vaccination. He says he has given many vaccinations to his young patients and continues to. Yet because his book promotes temporal spacing of the inoculations, he says pro-vaccine people want his book banned.

The interviewer is fully in the anti-vaccination camp and says he’s devoted his professional life to the cause. Yet he seems supportive of the “pro-vaccine” pediatrician. Something is going on beneath the surface.

The offstage villain in the video is the CDC / mainstream medical community with their rigid vaccine schedules that seem to expand each decade, supporting a commercial industry that cannot be held liable in court for any mishaps or negative side effects of their product. That’s unique, isn’t it? Fortunately, our politicians didn’t grant Monsanto the same deal for their big product, RoundUp, touted as saving countless lives from starvation through the virtues of genetically modified crops that can tolerate glyphosate, the poison in their weed killer.

Since I’m highly disenchanted with mainstream medicine despite my degrees and indoctrination, my challenge here would be to give the “vaccine villain’s” logic and data a fair hearing, both intellectually and emotionally.

To do this, I would need to see the historic cause-of-death stats for all the relevant communicable diseases in the US prior to vaccinations. Then, to sense the emotional viewpoint of this villain, I would need to read historical accounts written by parents whose children suffered and died from the diseases in question.

Having done that, I would probably have enough objectivity to avoid ascribing two-dimensional evil to a pro-vaccination villain of a fictional tale.

But this superficial preparation wouldn’t be enough. I don’t write primarily to entertain. Wish I could, but it doesn’t hold my interest. I need to also teach. Because of this character flaw, I would strive to determine if I was placing my villain on the genuinely misinformed side of the vaccination war.

I’d have to read the relevant medical literature objectively and develop an informed opinion. My present opinion, though strongly biased, is weakly informed despite years of interest in autism. As a scientist and lifelong teacher, I need to know my biases and either abandon them or justify them with data. As a fiction writer not satisfied with entertainment, I have to do the same.

The side effect of realistic villain creation is a blessing to all who write fiction. The process, if we practice it, will force us to become skeptical of real-world character assassination, authoritative emotional claims we can’t verify, and the outraged black-and-white political reporting on all news outlets.

Morrill Talmage Moorehead, MD

 


Newsflash for Scriptwriters

Sorry, I bet you already know this. I didn’t because I’m not a scriptwriter, but here it is:

If you build your Hollywood script around a “paradigm,” “formula” or “set of rules,” we’re now told that nobody in Hollywood will read it.

I heard this from Corey Mandell on YouTube. He was a successful script writer for 11 years then quit the profession because he disliked the lifestyle and hated how angry it was making him. Now he teaches scriptwriting. Yeah, I know, but watch his video. This guy’s sincere, knowledgeable and authentic.

Although Corey doesn’t spell it out specifically, the “too predictable paradigm” he’s talking about has dominated Hollywood forever and is probably best delineated in Save the Cat, by the late Blake Snyder, God rest his genius soul.

Now Mr. Mandell says Hollywood is looking for “pitch-perfect, authentic” scripts. These do have a structure, but as best I can tell from listening, the new “structure” bends to the story rather than vice versa. Wish I could say more about it.

Here’s one of Corey Mandell’s videos. It’s part of a series of 15 short videos, full of wisdom and value if you write stories of any kind…

For novelists (as opposed to scriptwriters) who seek traditional publication, a gatekeeper’s trend away from rigid story structure may come soon, if it’s not already here.

I wish I knew. If you know, please tell us in a comment below.

Even for indie novelists, it’s probably worth trying to discover whether the traditional gatekeepers are now rejecting “paradigm structured” novel manuscripts. Because you never know, maybe Amazon readers are changing too.

Cheers,

Talmage

Disclosure Statement: I have no affiliation with Corey Mandel.

 


The Alicorn Who Saved the Ants

My four-year-old granddaughter drew this picture and loaned it to me so I could write her a story. On Sunday we’re celebrating her 5th birthday (two days early), so I’m posting this as a birthday surprise.

“Seagull talked to the whales,” Crow Bird said. “They told him the comet crashed into the ocean an hour ago!” Crow Bird’s dark eyes looked wild. “It’s too late to find Ronnie now.”

Sabeth, a young alicorn who was still waiting for the stump on her head to grow long and slender, stood in the bottom of the big Safe Boat and ignored Crow Bird. She stared down at Juniper, a red ant on top of an anthill next to Sabeth‘s straw bed.

Juniper had lost her best friend, Ronnie, a little black ant.

She covered her face with her ant arms and wouldn‘t stop crying and sobbing, no matter what Sabeth said to comfort her.

Explosive diarrhea had forced Ronnie off the trail when they were leaving their home in the forest to come to the old man‘s Safe Boat. Ronnie must have gotten lost searching for toilet paper, and now it seemed he would miss the boat for sure and drown in the comet‘s nasty flood.

Big raindrops pounded on the boat’s wooden roof high above. Sabeth’s mane bristled at the roaring thunder outside. Those loud deep sounds shook the boat‘s wooden hull beneath her hooves as she gave Crow Bird a look of sad desperation.

Crow Bird must have known what she was thinking. They both bent their knees and jumped into the air, flying carefully as they weaved their way up through the strong wooden rafters of the boat, and up to the top deck where they looked out at the flood.

The waters were still rising fast. Flashes of silver lightning branched across the sky and seemed to scold the gloomy clouds with their angry thunder.

Sabeth made a decision that seemed easy to make but dangerous to carry out. She clenched her teeth, steadied her pounding heart, and made ready to open her powerful wings.

“Don’t do it,” Crow Bird said. His face was stern. “Stay. In. The. Boat!”

But Sabeth knew too well the lonely sadness of her friend, Juniper, because Sabeth was now the only alicorn on Earth. All the others were dead and gone, even her parents. There was no way Sabeth would let Juniper become the last ant on Earth. Not if she could help it.

“I have to find Ronnie,” Sabeth said to Crow Bird. She opened her wings and jumped into the wet sky.

“Wait,” Crow Bird shouted.

But there was no time to wait. Sabeth flew headlong into the rain, squinting at every patch of land she could find, searching for Ronnie. He was so small though. How could she ever find him from up in the sky?

Soon Crow Bird’s little wings rattled up beside her, beating wildly in the wicked rain. His eyes were glazed over as if he didn’t quite know what he was doing or why.

“Go back to the boat,” Sabeth shouted above the rhythmic beating of her strong wings. “This is no place for a little bird.”

But Crow Bird wouldn’t listen. He stayed close to Sabeth as they flew on ahead, searching the flooded Earth for a little black ant.

Soon the water had covered almost everything. They could see only the pointed tops of mountains poking above the furious sea. In a few minutes the flood would cover the whole world. Time was running out for Ronnie.

They flew side by side in silent resolve until finally Crow Bird said, “What in the world is that?!” His eyes were wide on the western horizon.

Sabeth looked, and far away, a huge wall of water was roaring toward them. It stretched so high it brushed the clouds aside as it came. She remembered her mother warning her about giant waves that could climb out of the sea and wash everything away. They were called “tsunamis,” her mother had said.

Or was it “salamis?” Sabeth couldn’t be sure.

She told Crow Bird every detail about the horrible power of an earthquake wave. But this one looked bigger than anything her mother had described.

“Fly back to the boat,” Sabeth said. “Hurry! Little birds can‘t survive giant waves.”

Crow Bird laughed. “Oh, I’m sure I’m going back to the boat. And let you take all the glory? No way, McVay!”

Sabeth glanced over at Crow Bird and shook her head as they flew. “You’re impossible, you know.” But inside she was proud of Crow Bird‘s courageous heart. What a friend he was!

“Birds migrate long distances, after all,” Crow Bird said, making fancy circles in the air with the tips of his dark purple wings.

“I hope you‘re not suggesting that crows are migratory,” Sabeth said.

“Usually they’re not,” he replied. “But I was once a rare bird. A migratory crow, in fact, right up to the day I met a blue-footed booby. She came along and just like that…” Crow Bird snapped his toes. “She turned me into a homing pigeon.”

“A pigeon?!” Sabeth said with a dubious tone and one raised eyebrow.

“I got better,” Crow Bird said sheepishly, putting on a ridiculous accent.

Sabeth wondered if Crow Bird had eaten the wrong mushroom, but it didn’t matter now because the giant wall of water was drawing closer and closer, wiping out everything in its path. There was no time to waste on silly arguments.

Sabeth flew straight into the wind with Crow Bird by her side struggling to keep up. They swooped down together to search every rock and pebble on each mountaintop still above water, hoping to see the little black ant, Ronnie.

Suddenly, Crow Bird’s sharp eyes grew wide. “It’s an ant!” he cried. “Over there.” He pointed a crooked orange toe to the south.

Sabeth squinted hard, and there on the tip of a sharp mountain peak nearly covered with water, a tiny red ant stood waving its arms and calling for help.

Crow Bird swooped low and Sabeth followed as the icy rain seeped between the alicorn feathers of her wings.

Crow Bird landed beside the ant. “Hop on,” he said.

But the little ant was afraid of birds, ran to the other side of the peak, and bent its legs, ready to jump into the water.

Sabeth circled close to the ant and when it saw her it reached out and called, “Korn!” which was slang for alicorn.

“Oh, sure,” Crow Bird said. “Swoop in and steal the show. Be the big hero, why don’t ya?”

“Grow up,” Sabeth said to him and lowered her right front hoof to the ground for the little ant to climb on. “What’s your name?” Sabeth asked.

“Gretchen,” the red ant said and ran up Sabeth’s leg, across the side of her neck and up into her right ear, out of the rain.

“Good eye,” Sabeth said to Crow Bird. “I think your blue-footed boobie turned you into an eagle.“

Crow Bird smirked, and off they flew toward the giant wave with the wind slamming the cold rain against their faces.

Just then a huge fork of angry lightning flashed in front of them sending a spear of white static electricity across Crow Bird‘s purple wings.

“Oh sheep suds!” he cried and looked over at Sabeth with his beak wide open and his tongue hanging out for a moment. “My wings are cooked! Tell my wife I love her.” With that, his beautiful purple wings became stiff as boards and took him down into a death spiral… down, down, down toward the blue and white sea, right in the path of the relentless tsunami.

Or was it a relentless salami? Sabeth couldn’t decide.

She zoomed under Crow Bird and called out, “Grab my main.” Then she felt Crow Bird’s tiny body land on her back. His sharp claws dug into her mane and gave her the best back scratch ever. “But wow,” she thought. “I almost lost Crow Bird.” A lonely chill came over her.

“We should go find the Safe Boat,” Crow Bird said, his voice quivering in shame.

“You might be right,” Sabeth replied and stared down at the rising sea with the looming tsunami so close now it might be impossible to fly back to the boat before the wave hit them like a giant Vitamix.

“Please listen to Mr. Crow,” Gretchen whispered from inside the alicorn’s ear. The little ant was so frightened her shaking legs tickled Sabeth‘s ear.

“Hold still,” Sabeth said to her. “You don’t want to make an alicorn sneeze. It‘s very unlucky.”

But it was too late. Sabeth knew she was about to sneeze and nothing could ever stop an alicorn sneeze. She tried not to take a full breath, but she did anyway and sneezed so loud the little ant screamed in fright and bounced around inside her ear. Barely able to hold on to her back, Crow Bird squawked like a chicken and clutched her long colorful mane so tightly his toes cramped up.

Seconds later, they all laughed as Crow Bird said to Gretchen, “We rode a sneezing alicorn. Nobody’s ever going to believe this!”

Crow Bird began to brag about it some more but stopped when his sharp eyes caught sight of something new. “Over there!” he shouted. “Look, it’s Ronny! It’s gotta be!” Crow Bird placed a wing in front of Sabeth‘s right eye and pointed straight at a distant mountaintop nearly covered with water.

Sabeth raced toward it and soon she could see a tiny black ant on the mountain peak with the huge tsunami wave looming in the background and coming toward them fast. It looked like the wave would wash away the tiny ant before they could get to it.

“You can‘t save him,” Crow Bird said in grave tones. “Don’t even think about it.”

But Sabeth couldn‘t help herself. She put all her strength into her wings and raced to save the little black ant from the giant tsunami.

“We’re all going to die,” Gretchin said inside Sabeth‘s ear.

They reached the mountaintop one second ahead of the giant tsunami. Sabeth opened her mouth on the fly and scooped up the little wet ant hoping and praying it would be Ronny.

Then she flew straight up the face of the tallest wave ever seen on Earth. It tipped forward at the top as if it was ready to break onto a beach.

“Wicked lovely,” Sabeth said and powered higher with her strong wings defying the wind, the rain and the anger of the mean tsunami.

Up and up she flew with Crow Bird and Gretchen holding on. The heavy muscles on Sabeth’s back burned with lactic acid as she cleared the wave’s teetering crest with her hooves pulled up against her tummy.

She kept going. Far up into the clouds with the silver lightning flashing all around.

Still higher she flew until she was above the clouds where the sun’s warm glow could embrace her. Now the rain and thunder below seemed far away and the giant wave roared on like a herd of frightened Brontosauruses with terrible gas.

“Crow Bird,” she said, “open those sharp eyes of yours and help me find the Safe Boat.”

“Are we still alive?” Crow Bird asked.

The little black ant in Sabeth’s mouth crawled out onto her nose and shouted, “No, we’re angels, genius!” He waved his little arms in a frenzie of small circles. “Find the boat, already! I‘m dehydrated from diarrhea.”

Sabeth crossed her eyes to get a better look at her new passenger.

“What?!” he shouted, glaring back at her with his eyes crossed.

“It’s Ronny!” Sabeth shouted. “How incredibly lucky!”

Maybe alicorn sneezes were good luck after all, she thought. Or maybe there was no such thing as luck, just courage, love and sore muscles.

“The boat’s down there,” Crow Bird said and pointed down at the clouds. “I believe it’s doing the backstroke.”

Sabeth soared down toward it like a giant eagle. She relaxed her aching wings and it felt great to be gliding.

But the Safe Boat was upside down in the choppy sea with its wooden underbelly pointing to the sky. Sabeth flew down toward it and landed on its tar-covered hull.

“We can’t climb in from the bottom,” she said. “And if we could, a boat can’t float upside down for long.” She tapped on the wood with one of her hooves. “What do we do now?” she asked.

Crow Bird shrugged. “I got nothing.”

Sabeth look down her nose at Ronnie.

“Don’t ask me,” Ronnie said. He folded his two shivering ant arms and crawled on four legs up across Sabeth’s face and into her right ear, out of the rain.

Sabeth tried to ignore the chatter in her ear as Ronnie and Gretchen spoke to each other beside her right eardrum.

OK, Sabeth said to herself, it’s time for a big idea. Come on now!

She closed her eyes and took sixty slow, deep alicorn breaths that made her hooves tingle. Then she held her breath and counted until a fine idea came. It didn’t take long.

She put her mouth down against the hull of the boat and called out to the great blue whales of the sea. She made her voice musical and kind, just the way blue whales talk.

“Come,” Sabeth said in their ancient language. “Come flip our boat over and save us.”

She waited.

There was no response.

She leaned down, put her mouth to the hull and sang her call again.

Still there was no response.

Then she added the magic word “please” and sang her message a third time.

Suddenly, the voice of a great blue whale came back, “Your boat has humans onboard. They hunt whales.”

“Yes, they do,” Sabeth replied, being completely honest. “I know how your feel. These naughty humans have killed all the alicorns except me.”

There was a long pause before the whale spoke again. “Why would you want to save the creatures who killed your parents?”

That was simple. “Saving life is the right thing to do,” Sabeth said. “Alicorns do what’s right because it is right. When you love someone, you help them, no matter what. It‘s like a sneeze. You just can’t stop yourself.”

“But how can you love the ones who killed your parents?” the whale asked.

“Alicorns love their enemies,” Sabeth said.

The great whale laughed, but she must have been old and wise. “That’s the sharpest logic I’ve ever heard!” she said. “I mean, if you really think about it.” Then she and her whole family of blue whales came up under the starboard side of the Safe Boat with their gigantic noses all side by side pushing up on the dark wood. Sabeth jumped into the air and watched as the whales flipped the Safe Boat over. The sound of tumbling animals echoed inside, and Sabeth hoped everyone was OK in there, especially the elephants who were pals with the mice and might accidentally squish them.

Soon the Safe Boat was bobbing proudly upright on the water. It looked respectable again even though it had a wooden roof covering the whole upper deck. Sabeth felt as through normal boats shouldn’t have a roof that looked like a house.

“Thank you so much,” Sabeth said to the whales as happy tears fell from her eyes to join the rain.

“Tell the old man we saved him,” the smallest blue whale cried out.

“Oh, hush, Poseidon,” his mother said and brushed over his nose with her gigantic left front flipper. She looked back at Sabeth and winked, then the whole magnificent pod swam away, spitting water up through the blowholes on their enormous backs. The spray shot up high and pushed through the clouds letting a beam of sunlight shine down for a moment. Then as the whales dove and vanished into the deep, Sabeth thought she saw a rainbow above them.

“You know, those things have a blubber problem,” Crow Bird said. “The fat under their chins is, like, two feet thick, I kid you not!” He spread his damaged wings out wide to show how thick two feet of blubber was.

“Don’t be rude,” Sabeth said. “They saved your life, for crying out loud. Show some respect.”

“I’m just saying,” Crow Bird said and shrugged his shoulders. Then he faked a cough and blurted out, “Heart attack!”

Sabeth ignored him, soared down and landed on the top deck of the boat and walked over to the trapdoor. She knocked on it with her right front hoof.

“Knock, Knock.”

“Who’s there?” the old man asked from inside.

“No.”

“No who?”

“No-Ah, let us in!” she said without whining. (Alicorns almost never whine.)

The old man opened the trapdoor and look out. On his shoulder stood a little red ant, Juniper, with a hopeful face. “Did you find Ronnie?” she asked.

“We sure did!” Sabeth said and smiled.

Just then, Ronnie ran out of Sabeth‘s ear, jumped off the side of her face and landed on the old man’s shoulder next to Juniper. Then he stood on his back legs and gave Juniper a big four-legged ant hug.

“Crow Bird spotted him on a mountaintop,” Sabeth said. “I‘m telling you, this crow of ours is part eagle. Such brilliant eyesight!”

Crow Bird grinned with pride. “I found Gretchen, too,” he said.

With that, the little red ant, Gretchen, came out of Sabeth‘s ear and waved shyly at the other two ants.

“Awesome!” Juniper and Ronnie said at nearly the same time.

The old man gently picked up Gretchen and put her on his shoulder with the other two ants.

“Group Hug!” Crow Bird shouted and rolled his eyes. “You know, I do hope somebody has saved a few tarantulas. I just love those hairy little things!”

Sabeth tried to swat Crow Bird with her long tail, but he jumped out of range, landed on her head and kept right on talking. “Tarantulas are perfect for any occasion — holidays, birthdays, pizza night with the boys. I’m not saying ants don’t brighten up a picnic, but Tarantulas, boy-howdy!”

Sabeth shook her head and took a deep breath. Nobody’s best friend is perfect, she thought to herself. And besides, wouldn‘t a perfect crow be perfectly boring?

It was way past everyone’s bedtime by now. The old man rushed to tuck all the animals in as Sabeth told him how the great blue whales had come and saved everyone by turning the Safe Boat back over.

The old man’s face went pale and seemed super-serious. He lifted his oil lamp and looked at it with shame in his old eyes. Then he made a solemn promise. “If we survive this flood,” he said, “we will never burn whale oil in our lamps again. And we’ll never hunt a whale for any reason.”

“Fair enough,” Crow Bird said, closed his eyes and fell fast asleep between his wife and Sabeth who was wide awake, trying to think of a way to heal Crow Bird’s injured wings as soon as possible.

The End

Morrill Talmage Moorehead