May 30, 2003

XBOX is Live

I bought XBox Live yesterday and if this review seems incoherent in spots, it's because I was up all night and early this morning playing. It's better than I thought.

I have a headstart because I'm a bit techy. I knew that I'd need some RJ45 Cat 5 cable. So I got an overpriced bright blue 14 foot length at the local CompUSA for 30 bucks. That's long enough for it to reach my Netgear RP114 router which is under my desk in the next room. I plugged it into an empty slot, turned on the XBox and put in the Live disk.

It loaded XBox Live software to the XBox disk in about 45 seconds and then started playing videos. I thought they were part of the setup but they're not. Just take out the disk, power down and power up and you have a new menu on the XBox bootup. Nice.

I let it autoconfigure and it did a good job of guessing but it couldn't connect at first. I went to the website and it was easy to find the instructions for my particular router. I entered a new IP address at the Router for the XBox and started again. I made the adjustments on the XBox manual configuration and it worked like a charm.

The registration is a bit tedious - filling out addresses and personal info takes a long time with the XBox controller. But I was up and running in no time. I picked my gamertag (sixoseven) and it was available. Cool!

The disk I got has demo versions of MotoGP, the superbike race, SUPER COOL and MechAttack, AWESOME. So you don't have to buy full blown versions to play online. I didn't expect that. I had to wait until my wife gave up the big TV so I didn't get started until about 12 midnight West Coast time. Still, there were people ready to play as soon as I got hooked up. Needless to say, most of them were in Western Europe. Wow!

The voice thingy works brilliantly, but sometimes it's hard to understand French accents with the Helium voice. Which is just as well sometimes when the trash talk gets crazy. I have to say, even though some gamers get rude, the network is a step above your average chat room in civility. Plus if you really don't like someone, you can gang up on them. But you can also meet cool people - while playing Destruction in MechAttack some of us discussed the ending to Matrix Reloaded. Great!

This dimension of play is great. You will find yourself shouting, groaning, laughing and discovering personalities behind the robots (or motorcycles as the case may be). I'm really looking forward to trying a first person shooter, I'm sure it will be incredibly great. I've already made some new friends from France and the UK (since I've been playing in their daylight time zones) and I'm looking forward to building up my reputation in a bunch of game worlds.

XBox is everything it promised to be. It's worth respecting Microsoft for, and for me that's really saying something.

Posted by mbowen at 09:52 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 28, 2003

The Latest Economic Trend

When I can spare a few virtual dollars, I'm going to watch for the Euro to dip and then buy them speculating that Snow has no real control. I imagine that a bunch of nations are ready to beat up on the United States, and that a soft dollar can backfire.

The government is back to deficit spending. So we'll have to borrow money in order to pay off the debt. We'll issue bonds, which will raise interest rates. This reverses out the few gains made by dropping interest rates. That means while housing prices, especially in California, are up, the overall value of the assets will go down relatively speaking. If the stock market stays flat, then there will be two attractive investments. American real estate and American debt.

So look for real-estate speculation like we saw in the 80s, REITs will go up and you'll see a lot of corporate fire-sales in real estate. (Just like the 80s). I could be wrong, but so could everyone else.

Posted by mbowen at 01:27 AM | TrackBack

May 27, 2003

Self-Destruction Clock

I'm picking up on the story that Tom DeLay may have been involved with using Homeland Security funds and offices in trying to strongarm the redistricting of Texas.

I never liked the way that some Texas republicans, especially Phil Gramm, have colored conservatism thus far. Tom DeLay, I find, personally disagreeable. I think he has the worst kind of charisma. But I don't want to get into that so deeply as I do want to see how desparate he and Tom Ellis may have been.

Republicans are going to have to start using more braincells in gathering support to sustain their majorities. That means a number of things, including absolutely no monkey business. We may need to start with DeLay.

Posted by mbowen at 12:04 PM | TrackBack

May 25, 2003

Black People in the Matrix, Reloaded

I was asked to assay the weight of blacks and people of color in the matrix: and so i said, in lower case:

that people of color are defaulted to the function of dancers & fighters for liberation struggle & fonts of motherwit is stereotypical. it's a happy type and i don't have a problem with it - i happen to like that one nation under a groove. you put cornel west into the mix and that's pretty suggestive of some seriousness. most people don't know or care that he was the head of a left political party. all that is familiar and cool, and to the a growing part of the mainstream.

but racializing the matrix is just too much. good and evil, sun people and ice people, the cold rationalizing Architect, images of Hitler (thank goodness i didn't see gwbush, that would have ruined the whole scene for me)? that's too much freight for a movie with lines like 'some things never change, and some do'.

there *are* four poles, four folks who get to extemporize about the meaning of things: the architect, the merovingian, agent smith and morpheus. the oracle on the other hand is more socratic, she doesn't really tell you where she's coming from which is so deft, and why her character is probably the most interesting in the film. (i heard she died recently - i hope she has plenty meat in the final show). but none of all that gets to the roots of anything particularly 'people of color'. zion is just humanity, it is not a particular humanity. so you can't make it an allegory for the particular struggles of 'people of color'. not that it couldn't work, just not in an action film.

the brothers w are not doing a spike lee here. everything is going to get wrapped up, so you can't get bogged down in open ended speculation about the meaning of this or that. bot meets girl, boy dies, loses girl, boy comes back to life, gets girl, girl dies, girl comes back to life, gets boy. the next episode is all about almost losing it all before the happy ending. maybe obi wan kenobi will say 'but there is another' and make us all scratch our heads. but i think it will be more of the same n-level reality trick with even cooler effects and more devastatingly dangerous programs. i mean the agents are starting to get tired, aren't they? (we'll probably get to see neo do hand to tentacle combat against a sentinel and then he'll throw his glow in the dark frisbee into the core and all the evil red programs will turn blue)

i don't want people talking about multicultural politics within the scope of this sci-fi fantasy. haven't we had enough french pomo hermaneutics? black folks are not inconsequential in this film, just in hollywood, and that's the name of that tune.

Posted by mbowen at 07:12 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Secret Desire

Today is an excellent day for a number of reasons, but primarily because I can feel a good dose of geek pride. It may sound oxymoronic, but there is such a thing. Mine is tied to dreams of hermetic solitude and massive amounts of computing resources. On the hermetic front, there is excellent news:

Today, empty classroom seats, like the vacant offices once occupied by high-flying start-ups, are among the unmistakable repercussions of the dot-com bust.

Around 1998, I had convinced myself that I was going to get out of the software field for good. It had been taken over by hype and visual basic. I had been hoping and praying that all the slippery characters would get bored and go away, but it never happened. More and more money came into the industry. Businesses would buy anything. Ridiculous companies with retarded software were taking money away from the legitimate and serious company I worked for. I imagined that by the year 2000 it would be too crazy for a sane man.

Instead, a miracle happened late in 1999. I attended a huge event hosted by IBM at the Metreon in San Francisco called Computing at the Millenium. There, chief scientist Ivan Wladsky-Berger described n-tier computing and I was transfixed. What IBM is currently marketing as 'on demand computing' has its roots in the way they were facilitating those huge websites that we all believed were going to take over the world.

I was skeptical about a lot of things, but not that computing theory. I recall being on a shuttle bus and speaking to one of the principals of NetZero who was explaining to me the now debunked economics of free ISP service. It seemed impossible to believe that the edge of tech was funded by the whims of media buyers.

Today's news, that the industry is shrinking, is less true than it sounds. From my perspective, there's a whole lot of shaking out goin' round. It also means that I can get a great machine for a few dozen dollars. (Allow me once more to slap around defenders of the digital divide). The economics of computing are real and are bringing down the once mighty, but it also means that real geeks get power.

Stated simply, the new powers accrue to individuals. Education and technology get cheaper but organizational dynamics are still constrained by oldthink - especially in politics. So I'll create a computing splinter cell in my garage. I can run an IT empire of my own creation, or at least a Beowulf cluster. But I need time and silence. This reminds me of Winnepeg.

All I know about Winnepeg is that it's about 8 hours north of Minnesota (or is it Michigan?) There's about 600,000 people in the city and no suburbs. Winters are incredibly cold. It's the largest cold city, and it's isolated. Isolated in a city where the pace is literally glacial, one can remain in touch with the world through the net yet devote oneself to an avocation without the high overhead of a high zoot vocation. The property values will be cheap, the taxes will be low. Why? Location, location, location.

I feel a magical desire and attraction to such small towns where there is nothing to do but have a slow life, where terrorists don't bother to plot and airplanes fly over without looking down. So long as there is a decent broadband connection, electricity, fresh drinking water, supermarket and WalMart, what else do you need? The world is too much with, but we can escape and develop our flavor and present it as a gift to the world.

I felt this pull long ago, actually when Windows NT first arrived. We didn't need UNIX any more (and I didn't know much Unix) and you could build a website on a cheap Intel box. I dreamed of being the ISP for a Carribean island, or small town in Vermont. I feel it again today, and I hope I can get more time where I am. I've neglected the XRepublic and it's time to get back to it.

Posted by mbowen at 07:34 AM | TrackBack

May 24, 2003

Chuck Wood

In answer to the proverbial question.

A woodchuck would chuck as much wood as a woodchuck could chuck if a woodchuck would chuck wood. But Chuck Wood chucked a woodchuck for chucking Chuck Wood's wood, so woodchucks won't.

I just thought you'd like to know after all these years.

Posted by mbowen at 01:07 PM | TrackBack

Black Unity in 1986

The following is directly from something I wrote in about May 1986, not long before I finally gave in, read Toni Morrison for the first time and broke off from my Buppie friends. Just smell the Thomas Sowell..



Black American Unity doesnít work. There are too many different kinds of blacks in this country (even though many people deny it) for it ever to work. As long as this society is stable and wealthy, there will never be any need for it.Any modern day Americn citizen is fortunate because public school is still public and the libraries are still free. Grass roots unity is ineffective in creating wealth, and wealth is the only avenue to power in the United States.

No amount of unity will ever cure the problems of individuals without undermining their free will. Unity for Ďblack causesí isjust as powerful and oft abused as patriotism. Itís underlying strength is subjugation of self to the will of a certain segment of society. More often than not the will of that segment is at odds with the individual.

In this respect, unity undermines individual judgement, the result: proliferation of nonsence.

What has this got to do with buppies? Well, everything.

Letís take a simple defintion ofíupscaleí as an upwardly mobile professional (at any age). This then is someone who has a career (as opposed to ajob) and is actively interested in economic advancement (as opposed to just paying the bills). How blacks tend to have problems with the label, I would guess has a lot to do with the fact that some blacks canít accept socio-economic estrangement from the millions of blacks who suffer from Ďthe legacy of slaveryí. Thus, a call for Unity. If a buppie is an upscale black someone who does not heed that call, then we have one definition. I donít think thatís the whole story but it will work for starters.

In this respect, Iím a buppie. Big Deal. In fact, all of the kids next door used to call me Ďhouse niggerí whenever my mother would call me home to dinner. Today, most of them are drugged out. So according to American Middle-Class and 3 dozen other standards, I won, they lost. I rarely speak to them, yet we have a childhood in common. Itís been a matter ot choice, values and of cash that has made the differences in our lives. But I am not into any superiority complex. The world is big enough for all of us. Call me what you want, I donít seek to belong.

Anyone who compares buppies to house niggers could be right, but I canít imagine that every upscale black is some type of slave. As silly as these labels can get, I do beleive there is a difference between an legitimate upscale black and a Buppie. In short, buppies are playing games, upscale is a compliment. Still, they are only labels. Blacks that can deal with these labels have no problem.

The Greenhouse crowd, from my experience is upscale. These seem to be responsible mature folks who have worked hard to make the progress which is apparent by their mode of speach and attire. If they are snotty about it, Lam not put off. A guy like me canít get a dance at the Carolina West, so weíre even. Maybe some of them are fake, but I didnít interview the whole club.

I have found that there are certain crowd of blacks that Ijust donít fit into. The reasons are as various as the numbers of groups. There is a highly fashionable party crownd in LA that looks at my type sideways. I can never seem to get the attention of any woman who would consider Eric Dickerson a fine catch. In my own way I am casting aspersions onto these different tastes. Everybody does that; itís how we live with ourselves. I can remember when I would rather be shot than caught in a blue pinstripe suit. I can no mare say that I kiss ass by wearing a tie than a football player kisses ass by wearing cleats. Its part of the uniform.
So are we talking about appearances and tastes or are we talking about fundamental motivations and values?

An interesting place to go is the Comedy Act Theater in Leimert Park, Los Angeles. There, every Thursday and Friday, are about 6 stand-up comics per night. The crowd is mixed black (upscale and not), the comics are black, the humor varies. Jheri-Curl jokes are funny but only when the comic is addressing an individual heckler. Ugly wife jokes get more laughs. Nobody does white-folk black-folk jokes any more. Welfare jokes donít work.

I know that I tend to be tediously detailed in my responses. The reason I am so versed in this particularly narrow and bizarre subset of the study of human behaviour has everything to do with my upbringing. My parents, because of their definition of serious blackness, felt that their best contribution to society would take the form of social work. Both of them worked their ways up the Los Angeles County beauracracy of the Welfare & Public Health systems. My father knows it forwards and backwards as well as the politicians and programs it has bred. He has seen it all. Now he is getting a masterís degeree in business. He is not and never could be a callous man. He still has an I Love Watts bumper sticker. Still, his actions tell a lot about what is and is not possible in the search for the betterment of our fellow man on the unfortunate bottom of American society. A lot of what appears to be Ďselling outí on the surface (in any context-not just the Black Unity context) is really the sane alternative to work that can never be finished.

When it comes to the issues of how truly desparate people are treated, I can see a need for much concern. Frankly, everything that can be done is known and can be done. It just requires a lot of sacrifice on behalf of people that really care and are truly dedicated. That progress takes place on an individual basis from the George McKennas and the Mother Theresas of the world, NOT in the form of social programs borne on the backs of taxpaying citizens or businesses.

On the other hand, if some upper middle-class black calls some lower middle-class black some name or they avoid each otherís company for WHATEVER reason, I could care less. Iím sick and tired of listneing to pseudo-victims and advocates for pseudo-victims. Iíve seen what a eal ghetto looks like. Iíve been to Tijuana. Iíve very little sympathy for any American with any job who can speak English. That goes double for black, Italian and Irish ethnics who have made so much progress through political machinations rather than economic contributions to society.

The question appears to be is ďWho is a ĎSerious Blackí, who is a Buppieí who is a house nigger. The point is that America has room for all of them and any future variation. Black people are the stupidest in the world when they say that there is one kind of agenda for all blacks, even if what some blacks do is utterly stupid. (follow?) For some nebulous goal of unity we self-censor our fellow men and our children who look up to us. The end result is that we cannot accept some kinds of blacks and we look upon their problems as particularly Ďblackí problems.

If there are Buppies in a negative sence (ass-kissing corporate slaves) itís because there are Yuppies (ass-kissing corporate slaves). Misguided folks anywhere can always find equally misguided role models. Buppies and Yuppies alike suffer the same identity crisis, which in my view stems from a lack of character that they think an abundance of money can overcome. Since both groups tend to cluster in packs they start preaching thier own brand of exclusive unity and we are back at square one. It doesnít particularly bother me that there are people like this in the world; they are not criminal.In my mind any Ďuppyí is pathologic but not dangerous.

Really, who cares about Buppies when there are drug dealers with much more economic clout in the Black community?

Posted by mbowen at 10:29 AM | TrackBack

Adams & Crenshaw

A mystery has opened up a time portal in my life, and a figure prefiguring these days has emerged and taken me to the days before I questioned and returned, questioned and returned. He writes me from New York at midnight while I was unawares xboxing with teens from Germany and France. His name is not familiar at first. Then I read the article about him and up comes the mystical incantation: Adams and Crenshaw. A reverie ensues...

click!
i too, miss arlington doubles. but specifically of crenshaw and adams, i remember miss thang who used to wave purple scarves and blow kisses to everyone on sunday mornings. i remember the nubian queen. the taco stand is gone. i remember the original chinese laundry. hell, i even remember the windmill.

it seems like a century ago. back in the days when we realized (and this is really going to bake your noodle) that our streets were named after presidents and our telephone exchange was 'Republic' as in RE as in 73. All your phone numbers were 734 and 737. And don't forget 'Axminster', AX = 29. that's going back some, better than lauryn hill's looking back.

flip flop contests in front of dorsey pool. wading pool at vineyard. street luge on the hills between adams and the freeway before they built the bridge at west boulevard and buckingham. hama tv and tokyo aquarium. police league boxing. 'gold' zodiac medallions behind the counter at the liquor store. teen post on jefferson. the old record factories on jefferson (laff records included - redd foxx's label). smashed pennies on the exposition railroad tracks.

funny on that. i never knew that trains went more than 20 miles an hour from knowing the slow freights rolling down exposition's right of way. the who cliche of cars racing trains seemed to be an incredibly foolish thing whiteboys did. who couldn't beat a train?

anyway, i remember crenshaw before it was called the hood from which boyz sprang. i remember my home in southwest l.a. before southcentral blew up. (thanks but no thanks, mike davis).

I wrote one of my first poems about Johnnies Pastrami. Scuse me while I kiss the past.

Posted by mbowen at 10:22 AM | TrackBack

Roadmap 'Accepted'

The Instigator of Israel must have muttered the word 'accept', because credulous people around the world are giddy with glee. I wish them well of course, but don't look forward to any visas stamped 'Palestine' any time soon.

Israel is just a few years into the denoument of the assassination of their Prime Minister, just as America is just a few years matured from irrational exuberance. These things take time.

Posted by mbowen at 09:19 AM | TrackBack

May 23, 2003

The Color of the Future - Ask Your Mother

I'm not going to create a category for the Matrix Reloaded, but I'm going to continue to talk about it. The Pedant strings together some interesting paragraphs, and finally these:

And - in a turn that really deserves an award for audacity - the 'hood is the salvation of humanity, the one place free of the Matrix. It's those white folk back in the Matrix, with their big houses and office jobs, who are all screwed up. Or is it so simple? At the end of the movie, we are led to believe that Zion is not so free of the Matrix after all, just like the ghettos, where rap CD sales and Nike shoes send corporate bosses' kids to prep school and fund Republican presidential candidates.

I like that symbolism. It makes me want to reread Guy Debord's La Sociťtť du Spectacle. It's daring and honest about our world in a way that few big Hollywood names are able to manage these days. I'm sure if somebody hasn't decided that it's racist by now, they no doubt will in the next few days. But I don't care. It's a hell of a lot more interesting than the bridge of the Enterprise, where diversity means different skin colours instead of different kinds of lives.


There are ugly and there are comfortable stereotypes. These are the comfortable liberal ones. It's nice to indulge ourselves in them for a while, because as twisty as the Matrix is, life is much more complex. Such complexity, some of it dangerous, compels us to make things simple for ourselves and others by conforming to that which is simple to communicate - stereotypes.

While one is likely to regret making any predictions about a character as complicated as Cornel, what indeed could be more curious than Professor West playing a wise man on the Zion Council? Why indeed does it require a real honest-to-goodness Ivy League professor to act as a black man leading the world? Because people like me don't run Hollywood. I'm not complaining, just observing. A cameo is always nice, and who better than America's most popular philosopher? But that doesn't stop the queer feeling I get that this Matrix is overburdened with too much symbolism.

The multiculturalist movement won. The ethos is real, triumphant and mainstream in spirit if not substance. That doesn't change the fact that there are cheap imitations of multiculturalism that bear more weight than they deserve. The symbolic multiculturalism of the Matrix is such an overburdened vehicle. That is because the multicultural point is made in passing. The Matrix Reloaded is a fun and somewhat pretentious entertainment that invites dormroom bullsessions (and blog chatter), but it's not a full blown social commentary. So I don't expect it to hold up well under close scrutiny. In that regard, its archtypes, which are filled with an un-Hollywood-like variety of nonwhites are a secondary effect and not a primary point. I reserve the right to change that observation upon parsing the DVD this next winter.

In terms of coloring up the joint, the original film did quite enough with Morpheus, Tank and Dozer as key leads in a liberation struggle. But among them all, the Oracle was the topper. While it's interesting to note that her stock must have risen a great deal since the first installment given her new kung fu bodyguard, her understated yet central presence was just marvelous in both films. If someone wanted to make the case for the greatness and centrality of people of color in the Matrix, they should start with Mom, not the naked party. Although the Architect regards her with some measure of contempt she is unambiguously central not just to the plot, but to the whole of the Matrix itself. She is, after all, never wrong. She is godlike. That's saying something.

Something is not everything. In the end you should say it's nice some nice black actors got some work in an excellent film. You should also admit that even people who are full of themselves had a lot of fun watching and chatting about it, but spare us the world-historical exegesis in symbolism for the people of color.


Posted by mbowen at 11:13 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 22, 2003

Fifty Cents

Since this is the echo chamber, I am somewhat obliged to opine on the recent nigger call in Seattle. While I'm at it, I'll also note in passing the passing of a Mad Cow's herd in Canada.

While it is appropriate to exterminate the cow and the horse she rode in on, such extraordinary measures needn't apply to Brian Emanuels. But what nobody is asking, is whether or not Emanuels himself is actually gay or just part of the Gay Defense League. It seems beside the point, but I think it's rather central. Either BE was totally humiliated as a gay man by the student and lashed out, or he figured that the best way to handle niggers is let them know where they stand. See? World of difference.

But hey, niggers need education more than they need respect, and computer training is the only way they're going to get it. So make sure the white boy keeps his job, after all, we can all rest assured it wasn't an Affirmative Action job and that he was the most qualified candidate.

Hmm. Maybe this brain disease has passed to some humans already. How exactly do you kill a herd of cattle?

Posted by mbowen at 07:16 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Matrix 101

Plunk down $40 Million and what do you get? A mile or two of freeway.MatrixFwy3.jpg

Posted by mbowen at 07:04 AM | TrackBack

Reloaded Deviations

As you may have surmised, I'm enjoying the philosophical aspects of the Matrix series. My latest ruminations:

Soundtrack:
The soundtrack is uneven. For Zion's party and the first fight with Agents Smith, the music is spot on, transcendent in the first instance and not making me miss the Propellerheads in the second. But for the resurrection of [the] Trinity, it was downright hokey and for the freeway chase, utterly forgettable. Somebody is right, this film should have been full of Philip Glass. (I'm listening to my favorite cut right now, 'Pruit Igoe'). Alas the Glass was fully empty.

Turtles All The Way Down?:

the prophecy was only false because neo chose, from the architect's room, to rescue trinity instead of going to the source. the architect said that 'we already know which way you are going to choose' which suggests that in the end, neo wasn't the one, because the one's destiny is to save zion. instead he is the anamoly of choice, he believes he is the one and he therefore accepts the one's role, all the way up to the end.

the architect then says that neo is truly human because he expresses hope, neo says then you better hope i don't see you next time, the architect says you won't. this suggests that the architect is not actually protecting the source and there was really no choice at all that neo was not the one, just a human with a bit more skills than morpheus.

so i am suggesting that the matrix, by design, is unable to control the one, but there may be more than one of the One. i'm interpreting goedel by saying there is at least one of the One but that its form cannot be determined by the system or the designers of the system. every bug doesn't crash the system but One does, it is not the One until it crashes the system.

remember that the architect has pursued perfection and completeness in the system more and more each time. it is a dodge to accept the premise that the first matrix was indeed perfect - it was only perfect from the standpoint of humans. it was more full of bugs.

A splendid set of speculations can be found here.

Posted by mbowen at 06:54 AM | TrackBack

A Great Test of the CIA

The CIA is supposed to be an Oracle of truth. Even if it cannot predict the future, it is supposed never to lie, to evaluate all possibilities and give its most honest assessment of what it sees to the President. The CIA is supposed to be beyond politics. That is why it's latest assignment, a re-evaluation of the Iraqi threat assessment, is so important.

The director of central intelligence, George J. Tenet, has named a team of retired C.I.A. officers to scour the classified intelligence reports that were circulated inside the government before the war on a range of issues related to Iraq, including those concerning Bagdhad's links to terrorism and unconventional weapons, officials said. The team plans to compare those reports with what has actually been discovered in Iraq since the war ended.

Not like we're ever going to find out the results. They will be classified beyond democracy. The American public will not be able, within the period of GWBush's presidency, to evaluate the results of the most important decision of that presidency.

Wouldn't it be nice if the CIA worked for the American public?

Posted by mbowen at 06:29 AM | TrackBack

Blairing Headlines

When it comes to books about black professionals there seems to be just three types. How to, struggle to triumph, and cautionary backbite. Not that I read such books. While I was sympathetic to Jill Nelson back in the day, I didn't have the stomach for Nathan McCall. Although I really was fascinated, I was too disturbed by the prospect of learning how much of a scapegoat was Joe Jett.

Nevertheless, I am looking forward to seeing Jayson Blair's movie although I probably wouldn't buy his book. A movie is just right and Orlando Jones is just the man to play the role. Here's the drama that needs to be central:

Mr. Blair did give measured praise to metropolitan editor Jonathan
Landman, the person who repeatedly questioned Mr. Blairís reporting
and accuracy and his moves within the paper.

Mr. Blair called Mr. Landman an "honest, honorable, misguided man."

"He wants to believe that we live in a meritocracy simply because he
follows a meritocracy," Mr. Blair said. "He is unwilling to believe
that there are people who work under him who are racist. And because
he canít make that compensation or that judgment, his actions, for an
honorable man, come widely off the mark. Hewas among the people who
helped save my lifeóbut I also recognize him for what he is, and heís
misguided. Heís convinced that because Jon Landman doesnít think race
is a factor in anything, that the editors who work for him do not use
race.

"I donít want to go into the specifics of alleging X, Y or Z, but itís
not just in my regard," Mr. Blair continued. "Itís every black
reporter, except for a handful that are protected."

Informed of Mr. Blairís comments, Mr. Landman said: "For him to call
these people racist is extraordinary. These were the same people who
tried to save his life when he was as destructive as anyone Iíve ever
seen in the newsroom."


We don't get much traffic in corporate corruption flicks. It's all done for slapdash drama as in everything starring Michael Douglas. One with this angle on ambition would be a double dose worth doing right.

Here's to hope.

Posted by mbowen at 12:28 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 19, 2003

Morose is Right

That Negro makes a sterling point.

The problem is, the old battle wasn't really won. I don't get the feeling that the civil rights movement was about racially integrating an otherwise-unchanged society, and I think I lifted that phrase or that entire sentence from a much better author, so please don't quote me, and if you can find an attribution, let me know.

Attribution is for professional journalists. Fuck 'em if they can't write a joke. I take it from you, Aaron and take it from there.

The civil rights movement was successful because it didn't have the ambition of the black power movement. I'm not going to put either of them in caps because, as anthropologists will tell you 100 years from now, they my not rank high on the historical scale. That's a cynical view, but you've got to wonder how deeply this country has been struck by the import of those movements if republicans can still dominate electoral politics without bothering to chase the black vote and democrats can manage to be so lifeless and limp (like whitegirl hair without Breck) despite being chockablock with the black bloc.

The battle was elsewhere. Do I have to quote Puff Daddy here?

America is a soft place to live, and we are going to have to admit it. Domestic terror is way down, and the psy-ops don't work on blackfolks any longer. There is no more such thing as wreckless eyeballing, and those of the darker persuasion can get lapdances with any blonde they want down deep in the Scary South. Miscegenation is de riguer. Who even cares?

You want to? Then go right ahead and buy an assault weapon black man. Millions do. Why not you? You say you want a revolution? Who's stopping you? Nobody. Factoid please (Courtesy George)

Between 1975 and 1995, the number of black professionals, technicians, administrators and managers nearly tripled, and the number of black college graduates doubled, according to census figures. By 2000, more than 15 percent of black households earned more than $50,000 annually. The top one-fifth of black families earned nearly half of all black income.
Be careful what you wish for black man, you may end up being more like The Man than you think. Which leaves us all in a state approaching confusion. What do you do with a moral solar system whose bright and morning star has collapsed into a singularity? You reconsider the galaxy and aim for other stars before you get sucked into the black hole.

Engage.

Engagement in America means gird your loins. You need a tax attorney, an accountant, a lawyer, a butcher and a bodyguard. You need to understand ruthlessness because that's what kind of ass-kicking built this nation in case you forget. Don't let your kids watch the Brady Bunch. It ain't real. So why do we have Brady Bunch politics? Why do we think of the civil rights movement as a second marriage between blacks and America where all the kids get along in the new happy family?

Forget Public Enemy. Instead of 'fight the powers that be' you've got to be the powers that fight.

Posted by mbowen at 10:17 PM | TrackBack

Negros in the News

Every once in a while, somebody comes up with a website worth laughing out loud at. Er, with. These two seriously hilarious sites have earned my grudging respect, but not my admiration. I prefer being a grumpy old gramps, but one should never underestimate the power of buffoonery.

Posted by mbowen at 09:22 PM | TrackBack

World Trivia

Once again NPR lead off this morning with the story of three dead Israelis. Where is heaven's name is their perspective?

Posted by mbowen at 09:01 PM | TrackBack

May 16, 2003

Reload

I went to a sub-million dollar theatre the other night and sat way in the back. So the Matrix Reloaded didn't blow me away. Now that I've seen it properly, I've been appropriately impressed.

1. It's hard to imagine what the W Brothers are going to have to do next time to top this. As I begin to recall all the incredible effects of this film one of the things that I find remarkable is how brief many of them are. But it just takes a second for that image to brand the brain with cool.

2. On the first installment, folks complained that they didn't understand the meaning of the Matrix. Well, it doesn't get any simpler. That's satisfying in an intellectual sort of way, but the storytelling doesn't come easy. There are several monologues and one or two conversations that must be parsed astutely for one to figure out what is going on in the beloved Matrix. If the W Brothers banked on some fever for seeing this again and again, that's the only excuse worth hearing. I accept it, and I will be seeing it again.

3. It is pleasant to see, once again, the Brothers W reversing the retro Jetsons future. It ain't all white and that's all right. This has been done nicely before in Blade (and most Snipes films of late), famously in the Fifth Element, one film that never gets tiring, and of course in the original Matrix. We got a hint of the earthy beauty of Zion from the original Tank and Dozer characters who spoke of being born the old-fashioned way, and it doesn't disappoint. Heroes and villains from around the globe are enmeshed into this Matrix, and that adds a special human element of beauty to this new genre of earthbound science fiction.

4. I predict vampires and ghosts in the next episode.

5. The only product placement in the world that nobody minds is Ducati motorcycles. Bravo.

Posted by mbowen at 11:22 PM | TrackBack

Whatever to That

Race relations is the art of making serious the retarded choices white people make about people they call nonwhite. The more seriously you take race relations, the more seriously you have to take whitefolks' opinion. The good thing about being my kind of black man is that you don't have to take anyone seriously, except the wife and that tax man. Neither of them are white. So there.

Nevertheless everyone is not my kind of black man and well, it's often interesting to hear what the rest of the world has to offer. On today's menu is the ascendency of the Hispanic. Mind you that all I need to do is learn Spanish and I am as Hispanic as anyone. I've already got the accent down. I did grow up here in California. Since it doesn't take much, bear in mind that I don't take this ascendency very seriously. Why should I? This is all about race relations, after all.

Over at the Village Voice, race relations is a seminal subject if not a department unto itself. And so they have proclaimed:

For African Americans, the Latino explosion has no particular significance, except that the mere suggestion of a black-Latino rivalry deflects attention from the most entrenched conflict in American historyóthe one between blacks and whites. Better yet, Anglos prefer that blacks and Latinos fight it out, allowing them to sidestep race, and black people, altogether.

I agree, sorta. Guessing what whitefolks prefer is a task for junior race man. I'm even bored of the metadiscussion.

How about some Tim Wise on asians instead?

According to the Census Bureau, in 1996, median household income was about $35,500. But in states with disproportionate shares of Asians (NY and Hawaii, for example), median household income was $39,000 and $42,000 respectively. This means that APA median income will be skewed upward, relative to the rest of the country, but given cost of living differences, actual disposable income and living standards will be no better and often worse.

More importantly, claims of Asian success obscure the fact that the Asian American child poverty rate is nearly double the white rate, and according to a New York Times report in May of 1996, Southeast Asians as a whole have the highest rates of welfare dependence of any racial or ethnic group in the United States.

Nearly half of all Southeast Asian immigrants and refugees in the U.S. live in poverty, with annual incomes in 1990 of less than $10,000 per year. Amazingly, even those Southeast Asians with college degrees face obstacles. Two-thirds of Lao and Hmong-American college grads live below the poverty level, as do nearly half of Cambodian Americans and over a third of Vietnamese Americans with degrees.

That feels better.

Posted by mbowen at 08:33 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 15, 2003

Your Competition

The other day, some lefty weenie was bleating on NPR (hmmm. this is probably not the best way to open.) Anyway, he was complaining about something I forgot. It may have had something to do with Iraq or not. The point was that it took him just a couple sentences into his rant when he started putting forth arguments about how corporations were being anti-labor by picking places that were anti-union. A few sentences later he was back in the 20s with Eugene Debs moving forward through the depression and the Great Society. I rolled down the window, but I didn't barf.

I knew a guy who lived in San Diego, operated a drill press, was married with a couple kids, a mortgage and a new car. He was 25 and happy and used to crack jokes about my work in computer science. Since this was the early 80s, drill press operators in the union made more money than computer programmers. He had a point.

San Diego and the NPR weenie are bourgie brothers. They smirk and crack wise and invite us to be pro-labor in their bourgie brotherhood. This is what human beings ought to be able to expect, they say. Decent job, living wage, health care, mortgage if they have good credit. Raise a family, send them to public school, improve your life. Who could argue with that? Those evil corporations of course, and me.

Way out in Guangdong Province is the competition. I know about them because there are documentaries that show at midnight on one of my 500 cable channels. They are that close. These people grow their own food, they live in concrete houses, they sew their own clothes, they birth their own babies without hospitals. They live to be 60. What a shame.

Human beings don't speciate. We are not endangered. We are robust. Everybody lives past the age of procreation. Even in deepest darkest HIV infested jungle slums and favelas, people live to be 25. They have babies. Humans are built to last and we are lasting. Inevitably we all have to compete with each other. The good news is that those of us in the northwest corner of the globe still have volunteer armies who are damned good. We have physical distance, if not economic distance.

People on the radio and on the cell phone are trying to steer corporations into giving Americans the kind of salaries that allow them to work until they are 60 and then retire for the rest of their life expectancy. Need a dental plan? Of course you do. How else can you get a smiling job in the bourgie brotherhood? That's the kind of jobs we have to have here in America.

It's not going to last long.

Posted by mbowen at 07:30 PM | TrackBack

Pirates, Markets, Properties

An enterprising prosecutor might be able to convict me of theft, and at least one blogger somewhere has already.

It's because as an untraceable anonymous individual who subscribes to a fairly secret service, I pirate lots of commodity music recordings, from other untraceable anonymous individuals with their consent. I am a participant in a black market of mp3s.

Like most things I do, I have a gut feeling that what I'm doing is right and that if it's wrong, I might be able to be dissuaded but probably not. Since I am on the defensive side for a moment, I have been provoked into thinking a bit more about what I think is so right about my method of acquiring goodies for listening.

The first thing I keep in mind when discussing this kind of stuff is something that Vernon Reid is famous for saying. Your favorite song was a commodity before you ever heard it. It's ironic that I couldn't tell you what Vernon Reid is doing these days. Arguably the most popular guitarist of 1992, I've heard very little from him since his days with Living Colour. Have you? My guess is that he's jamming in little clubs and that his diehard fans know where he's at all the time. The important point to know is that musicians know the game they are playing, which is to become a profitable recording artist.

So I put myself in the shoes. Do I want to make music, or money? That gives me a choice of venues.

To be continued.

Posted by mbowen at 07:14 PM | TrackBack

May 13, 2003

Rome in a Day

People are saying the 'E' word. Yay. But Bookman looks up and believes it is a fait accompli. I say that the attitude is just the first step. Two presidencies from today, give me a call.

Posted by mbowen at 07:32 AM | TrackBack

Good News from Iraq

From Najaf, the city of the holy shrine we spared destruction, comes this good news.

The leader of the largest Shiite Muslim group that opposed Saddam Hussein said Tuesday that a democratic government should rule Iraq, days after he advocated a "modern Islamic regime."

"Neither an Islamic government nor a secular administration will work in Iraq but a democratic state that respects Islam as the religion of a majority of the population," Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim said at a news conference Tuesday.

Posted by mbowen at 07:21 AM | TrackBack

May 12, 2003

Black Journalists are Defective Trucks

Some dude named Blair is on the bad end of a witch hunt. I'm on the late freight to be sure, but then it takes some time for everyone who represents Affirmative Action, which thereby represents incompetent blackfolks to get back here to Negro Defense Central.

Kaus has figured out the connection between Utah trucks, and Affirmative Actions of all sorts. There must be something to it, since we at the NDC are responding. Whether or not it's a good connection he closes his retarded syllogism thusly:

[In] the long run, the NYT doesn't seem to have done him any favors--not to mention the effect on other African-American reporters who now have to unfairly labor under the sneaking suspicion that they are potential Blairs

That sneaking suspicion is called racial prejudice, just in case anyone forgot. Thanks for giving us all another reason to accept it, Mickey.

Posted by mbowen at 11:33 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 09, 2003

Friday Brain Stew

Link to me.

Posted by mbowen at 08:35 AM | TrackBack

May 08, 2003

It's Blackademic

Kali Tal told me about the depressing state of black academia and African American Studies several years ago. I believed her. She remarked about the old Mau Maus and the Young Bloods. The older generation were die hard Marxists who had a huge vision for the scope of Black Studies but few researching skills. The younger generation was sharper and more well disciplined, but were more like scholar squirrels. At least this is the gist I recall. In the end, the whole scene seemed rather sad, as so many things do these days.

Now, lamentably, I get this missive forwarded from a friend. It includes such dire observations as this:

Even those African Americans who are spectacularly successful on the job market are not advantaged by this within several years. Such individuals are unusually likely to be asked onto multiple committees and to accept the responsibilities of "representation" on their campuses. They also often, rather than settle down and finish their work, which they receive little collegial support to do, instead fly around being stars, and indeed applying for other jobs, at the encouragement of their micropolitical allies. The result is that the country is filled with brilliant African American scholars -- in specific cases the most brilliant people I know -- who sit on dozens of university and profession-wide committees, who appear on half a dozen or more campuses every year, who don't finish books or publish much at all. In turn their white supporters start mumbling about them, and initial difference in salary, which favored African Americans because of scarcity, will over the course of their careers disappear as white scholars who publish more and do less move into powerful positions in the profession.

It's difficult for me to understand, and worse yet, tough to imagine what it is that we can expect from African American Studies that will fall on eager ears. It has been quite some time since I was listening myself, and I wonder what I have missed. If the bad state I recall hearing about way back when hasn't improved, I regret that I won't be alone in that.

Posted by mbowen at 10:04 PM | TrackBack

May 05, 2003

Thinking About Music: Five + Ten

Responding to that Negro & Friday Five
I hate to admit that I like 'Drips' by Eminem, but I do. If there is any tolerance left in our society for misanthropy, one can heap it on sluts who give you STDs. It's a good place for rap's raunchy rigor. Who better than the black hole himself?

There's only one song that always makes me cry, and that is "Sometimes It Snows in April" by Prince. I even get weepy thinking about it. In second place, the song that almost always makes me cry is "Overjoyed" by Stevie Wonder. These two songs remind me of love lost, aw boo hoo, he said masking his true feelings. In another vein, there are two songs that remind me of the WTC collapse and that whole season of nine-eleven. The first is Phillip Glass' "Pruit Igoe" from Koyaanisqatsi. The other is none other than Al Green, singing "How Do You Mend A Broken Heart". And to think, some people didn't even know about that song until the Notting Hill soundtrack.

Three songs that turn me on? Hmm. I've pretty much limited myself to allowing myself to be turned on by Prince music. Go figure. I'd have to say "Temptation" was a fairly regular cut on the auto-erotic Friday night charge-up. Just before a trip to go... er. I'm getting beyond the scope of this.

There have got to be some better examples - I just can't think of any at the moment. Janet's "Rope Burn" is quite a thriller. I'm going to listen to it right now. And for the hell of it, let's go way back to the Old School and dig up "I Wann Do Something Freaky to You", way before Dr Dre got his gansgsta mitts on it for "The Next Episode".

Feel good songs are easy. That's what I mostly play music for. Bobby McFerrin's "Friends" always makes me feel good. So does Track 4 of the Sex Packets album. Black Eyed Peas "Joints & Jam" is a sure fire feelgood jam, except when it's the bleeped version. Most definitely an all-time favorite has to be the Kid Loco Mix of Traveller by Talvin Singh. That is just my mood.

Five Songs I Could Not Do Without

  1. Living for the Love of You - Isley Brothers
  2. Nuttmeg - Fishbone
  3. Maggot Brain - Funkadelic
  4. Pannonica - Monk
  5. Moonlight Sonata - Beethoven

The Ten Greatest Funk Bands

10. Lakeside
9. AWB
8. The Gap Band
7. Zapp
6. The Barkays
5. Bootsy's Rubber Band
4. Kool & The Gang
3. Ohio Players
2. Cameo
1. Parliament/Funkadelic

Honorable Mention
{Slave, Commodores, Mandrill, BT Express, Brass Construction, SOS Band, Steve Arrington, Brick}

Posted by mbowen at 10:57 PM | TrackBack

Xanadu

Skyscrapers are old tech and perhaps not as logical as they would seem. They are a fetish which may very well be out of style now. But that doesn't change the fact that they are marvels of brainwork and that thousands of man years have gone into their design and construction.

Fifteen years ago, long before the invention of the Pentium II, I used to wonder about whether or not people would long note or remember what programmers do. There doesn't seem to be much question these days that they will. Nevertheless, I think there is much to be learned from the lesson of the Xanadu Project. On the scale of deadness, a doornail being 5, Xanadu certainly rates a 4. But I can recall, in the days before Jaron Lanier, when Ted Nelson was considered a visionary among mortals.

When we are dead and buried, we can only hope that anthropologists bother with our scribblings in silicon. Software creations embody such beauty, effort and sophistication. They are no less than the design of our age, and yet the incredible significance of one program in one decade means nothing in the next, like so many once great, now abandoned office buildings.

Posted by mbowen at 10:31 PM | TrackBack

The Culture of Fear

I got a flyer in the maill today about my daughter's unique opportunity to go to summer school. I'm trying to decipher the language and figure out if this is good or bad news. I'll let you know.

In the meantime, I am once again lamenting the sorry state of our culture vis a vis pick up sports. We seem to be wholly incapable of producing the kinds of communities from which we sprang, where houses cost less than $100,000 and 10 year old children could be dropped off at the park and left on their own to play until dusk.

My wife reminded the kids over our house for the pre-arranged 'play date' that if they wanted to ride their scooters on the sidewalk, they had to wear their helmets or face a $25 fine. I don't know how long this is going to make me scream but there seems no end in sight.

I am beginning to believe that the only thing that stands between America and common sense is terrorism. Heaven forbid I should say so, but maybe a few more riots and bombings will deflate our senses of invulnerability and we can get real about everyday reality. Instead, we live in a dreamworld which is regulating us away from a shared ability to recognize human nature in its proper perspective and deal with it. I have created a new category for this blog entitled 'A Punch in the Nose' so I can fulminate in a more or less straight line.

Starting with me, I am learning how to humble myself and run my house on less than $5,000 a month. I realize this is going to take me smashing through any number of cherished American values as exemplified by those dweeb-ass Joneses, but this is a risk I'm going to have to take. In the meantime, I've got a Laker game to catch, I think.

Posted by mbowen at 09:23 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Axis of Greasel


Posted by mbowen at 08:02 AM | TrackBack

May 04, 2003

The New Axis

20030426-152-NewAxis.jpg

Posted by mbowen at 09:24 AM | TrackBack

Safety


Posted by mbowen at 12:37 AM | TrackBack

Queer Questions


Posted by mbowen at 12:33 AM | TrackBack

Average


Posted by mbowen at 12:32 AM | TrackBack

May 03, 2003

Grass Roots


Posted by mbowen at 06:29 PM | TrackBack

May 02, 2003

Brinnell

A friend of mine, who has yet to register at Friendster, is beating the virtual blues by becoming an expert welder. I've heard that it's quite theraputic for folks accustomed to just banging keyboards. So along my ratpack ways, I subscribed to sci.engr.joining.welding and came across 'Brinnell'. So here's the scoop.
By the way, the rest of the site is pretty cool as well.

Posted by mbowen at 04:42 PM | TrackBack

May 01, 2003

Transposition


Posted by mbowen at 06:31 PM | TrackBack

Elevate The Commons

Hearing yet another story about the gap between rich and poor led me to think about something we have been missing since the end of the Cold War; that is the notion that the American middle class is slightly but importantly better than that of the Russians.

I can recall a time when we were proud that we were an inch or so taller on average, that we lived a year or two longer on average. It was the propaganda of Wonder Bread. We all wanted to build stronger bodies 12 ways.

These days the bitterness of the Russians is palpable in their recent spying on American troops in Iraq. They used to be considered our equals, and I have little doubt that their people still are. But all their prestige is gone, we don't lose sleep any longer. We 'won'.

In celebration of all that, the well-off voted themselves largesse. The rich got way richer and the gap between them and the rest of us widened a bit. It's not so important that the average American be superior. So for my children there is no President's Physical Fitness Program at the local public elementary school.

Furthermore, you and I know what has happened to the radio since the invention of Howard Stern and Rush Limbaugh. We know what has happened to television since the retirement of Johnny Carson. We know what has happened to politics since the ascendancy of Newt Gingrich. Mr. Smith has been replaced by Michael Moore. Radio's Michael Jackson plays second fiddle to Bill O'Reilly. Here is handbasket, here is Hell. Any questions?

It occurs to me that the welfare of the middle class doesn't matter any longer, that they as an institution are not the ones considered responsible for the victory over communism, if its failure can be thought of as our victory. Since the great American Middle Class needn't be so great, we needn't have class, we needn't save ourselves from anything nor for any purpose than our own indulgence. So that is what is on the American cultural buffet. Junk food. It's a market function.

Our culture is polluted with Jerry Springerisms as a natural consequence of the upper class' perception that leaving us to our own devices is fine. The health of the nation doesn't depend on us doing anything other than feeding the great enterprises of our time. So long as we consume and spend, it doesn't matter if we get durable goods.

When we get SARS, as my paranoia suggests, it may be too late, but the lesson will be clear. We should not have let the middle sag. We should not have let the poor get too poor. We should have created millions more hundred thousandaires instead of hundreds of thousands more millionaires. The six figure club and their immediate subordinates, the upscale, could have supported that theatre. Instead we got more multiplex theatres because our middle class affords $7 movie tickets, not $250 sponsor level contributions to the Civic Light.

The Commons might have been upscale if we would have done a bit more trickling down. Instead, more of us have become cynical proles and the mainstream has become more downscale as a result.

Posted by mbowen at 01:06 AM | TrackBack