December 31, 2004


Posted by mbowen at 09:22 PM | TrackBack

White Laser

Clancy tells me that there's a new kind of high intensity laser light that is so powerful that it forces a kind of Newtonian Physics on various mediums. In the laser bath, Brownian Motion is polarized, therefore turbulence is practically neutralized. He shows me the famous video of the column of cigarette smoke.

Posted by mbowen at 10:25 AM | TrackBack

December 30, 2004

My Travels To the Future

Every once in a while I travel to the future. I'm somewhere in America pretending to be a recent African immigrant. Everybody treats me like some kind of idiot when my understanding of the technology makes me derail the conversation. Then my friend Clancy tells me what's up. Clancy is about 24 years old, and the equivalent of a small town auto mechanic. He's cool with me because I'm off the grid. There are a few people off the grid but I really have to keep a low profile. Fortunately, I only stay in the future for short periods of time, so I don't get busted.

This morning, Clancy told me that he had to go get a new t-coat. I spent the morning getting my butt whooped in a first person shooter. When he came back, his teeth were sparkling even more than usual. Clancy explains:

Basically, when you graduate from highschool, your parents buy you molars and a t-coat. The molars have batteries in 'em and the t-coat covers your teeth. Whenever you chew, the batteries come on and charge your food the same charge as your t-coat. Plus every day you rinse with Listerine and it takes a micron off your t-coat. So basically your teeth stay clean. You can brush if you want but it's basically not necessary. I just got a 180 so I don't have to go back for a new t-coat for 6 months. It's kinda expensive but what are you going to do? You can't get a chick or a job without it. That's why you're a dead giveaway for a Third. Any cop that sees your grill is going to check you out.
I will continue my journeys to the future and start a new category at Cobb.
Posted by mbowen at 10:38 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 29, 2004

Karenga, Copernicus & Kung Fu

I've been thinking briefly about what Spence mentioned yesterday about Kwanzaa. He said that nothing particular about the slandar against it warms him to the celebration although he is sympathetic in principle. But if there were to be a more real Kwanzaa, we know what it was that West Africans celebrate and we could ligitimately assimilate real African traditions into modern celebrations. I can dig that.

However on second thought it occured to me that in 1966 when this party started, that body of research didn't exist. There weren't even Black Student Unions on campuses, much less Afro-American Studies departments. Who was going to provide that research? It's as if people believing the Earth was the center of the universe upon reviewing Galileo 30 years hence was chiding him for not thinking about ellipses instead of circles. My history of science is sketchy, but you get the point. What Karenga has set in motion will inevitably be refined and changed over time.

As one commenter has pointed out, St. Patrick's Day was a holiday invented for political reasons. Today it's just an excuse to drink green beer, and among GenX, get a green dye job. But Spence's idea of incorporating some actual West African traditions into Kwanzaa might not be such a bad one after all.

In 1991 at BAM, I learned to dance the Sounou and the Koteba. It was easy. I just walked in and the instructors were patient. It was a great experience and every bit as deep as learning a martial arts form. I don't expect that West African dance studios will begin cropping up in every strip mall, but it would be a great addition to the American cultural scene.

I wonder if American students of Karate and other Eastern disciplines consider their schools to be authentic. Here too is a practice that only began taking shape in the 60s. Nobody who watches Batman really thought any of them could beat Kato, and every Western bar fight on TV now looks completely staged. In the light of Jennifer Garner of Alias, there has never been a real female superhero. And now Batman is being reloaded, centering him on Eastern martial discipline.

We evolve, apparently.

Posted by mbowen at 11:09 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

No Worries, Mate

  • Social Security is Fine.
    Well, here's one less thing to worry about. Amazing.
    Ten years ago Social Security trustees predicted that the system would become insolvent in 35 years, meaning 2029. Five years later they were still predicting that insolvency was 35 years away � doomsday had been postponed to 2034. Today, they're predicting that insolvency is 38 years away, in 2042.

    What happened? Why does the insolvency date keep getting further away? How could the trustees have been so continually wrong?

    The answer is all in the numbers. For instance, the future of Social Security is highly sensitive to predictions of economic growth, and the trustees assume a very conservative growth rate of 1.8% per year. That compares with expected growth of 3.9% this year, a fairly average year for the U.S. economy.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:01 AM | TrackBack

Jerry Orbach, RIP

Jerry Orbach is dead. Damn.

I have to say that of all the characters on television, Orbach's Lennie Briscoe was one of my all-time favorites. He was for real, and he handled himself. He's the kind of guy I'd like to pal around. You could tell that Orbach enjoyed playing the character and that he was not too far off from Orbach himself. Law & Order may not survive the loss.

And did you know this?

Posted by mbowen at 09:40 AM | TrackBack

Habari Gani

Posted by mbowen at 09:05 AM | TrackBack

Let's Not Talk About Sex

Believe it or not, my mother has a wireless G hub. How do I know? I installed the damned thing. Merry Christmas ma.

So I was by my sister's house all yesterday - that's where mom lives - and I fell into a conversation with sis, her two girlfriends and her girlfriend's brother. The subject: Why men can't just stop at being friends.

My head hurts. Why? Because I hate relationship conversations. Cobb's rule number two: There's Marriage and then there's everything else. I really have to say, though, I actually kinda went there. I got into the conversation, and I'm glad I did. But, of course, I didn't go all the way there because it's my sister and I really don't.. well, I didn't have enough drinks and I didn't feel like naming names, and all other kinds of reasons.

I have developed about five hundred theories about sex and love, and none of them count. Because it really doesn't matter - the only thing that matters is that the person you are entangled with balances to the plus column. Nothing else really matters, and there is very little objective advice to be given. Except for a few basic things. Listen closely now because I am about to give you the secret of life. Why? Because the sooner you learn it, the less the chances are that you are going to engage me in another conversation about relationships.

What Men Want.
Men want, more than anything else in the world, to be told that they are unique and not like all the rest of the guys.

What Men Hate.
Men hate having whatever it is that they are good at, dismissed.

I will elaborate on number two by noting the fact that very few women know because they've never heard a man say it. But it is a fill in the blank sentence that can allow you to know where not to go. Have your man fill in the following sentence as if the first part were true.

"I may have a little dick, but at least I can ______________ with the best of them."

Every man has a core, which may in the fullness of time prove to be absolutely insignificant. However, it is that man's core and it is the one strength that he will use to carve out his place in the world. Never, ever, ever, belittle that thing, or else you will find how deep the rabbit hole goes.

What Women Want.
What women want more than anything else in the world is to be heard out, understood and most importantly, forgiven.

What Women Hate.
Women hate the fact that there are other women who get away with it, whatever 'it' is.

Elaborating on the first secret. What a woman wants is to draw you down into the deepest darkest recesses of her psyche and for you to tell her, whatever it is, that's it's OK.

Understand, fellas, that women do not want solutions to their problems. They want understanding of their problems. Women's problems twist them up in knots and they beleive that these knots are written all over their faces. However we dumbass men are not paying attention to, and really cannot see these knots. All we see is what we want to see (and what we wish we could see). Women unknot themselves by coming to an understanding with someone else about what the problem is.

That means that when she takes you there, (which means conversation and communications) she doesn't want you to cut in and say "Look that's simple, all you need to do is just..." No. The proper response is, "Oh, I see why that makes you feel that way."

If you get her to say "Do you think I'm crazy?" or "Do you think I'm fat?", that means you are there at the end of the deep dark alley of her psyche. Affirm her and you win. Confirm her fears about herself and she doesn't need you any longer. In fact, watch your back.

OK? There it is. The secret of life. You happy now?

The problem with relationships is that they're relationships. People ought to be more honest and say that they want a lover, because that's what people really want. They want, as Pat Benetar sung, a lover who won't drive them crazy. The search for lovers boils down to the basic inability for people to be really honest about what they want the other person to do to and for them. That's what being a lover is all about, your ability to make your partner purr. (There's a really deep cat tangent here, but that's for another day). Men and women are looking for that someone who knows how to hit the spot. The problem with relationships is basically a problem with bargaining. People aren't good at negotiating things so precious to them. They put out too much too early. They misjudge the intentions of the other person. They screw up the deal a dozen different ways. Good relationships are about striking a good bargain with somebody who can deliver the goods. When it's mutual, you have a win win. But what you have is a great lover, not a great relationship. The sad fact of evolutionary biology is that it could be anybody. 'Chemistry' is luck.

The problem is that's not Marriage. Marriage is kind of a pro-forma contract. The negotiating is all done, and of course the ante is upped. That's why single people on the far side of Marriage are so utterly different from single people on the near side. Divorcees talk about getting a lover. They don't talk about relationships. Those that do, well... some people never get it.

Anyway, I have talked too much about sex again. I say it's overrated and that most talk about it is a pretext for seduction. Remember Aldous Huxley said that an intellectual is somebody who has found something more interesting than sex. Actually, it's not that so much. Talking about sex is like talking about sports. I'd much rather play.

Posted by mbowen at 08:43 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 28, 2004

Gaia Germs

Simon Winchester is jocking Lovelock and suggesting, among other things, that human beings are irresponsible with the environment. In case you haven't heard me say it before, I'll say it again. The planet is fine.

So here's a what-if. What if Agent Smith is correct? What if humanity is a virus? Or better yet, what if we were just a benevolent microbe? It seems to me that there is really no way for us to know, even given Gaia theory. Either way, humanity and all its creations are a part of the whole system. Who's to say that our purpose is not to cleanse the earth of all other mammilian species?

Whatever happens, the planet will survive us. Don't worry, be happy. Our greatest duty is human justice, not planetary stewardship.

Posted by mbowen at 12:28 PM | TrackBack

When To Worry

I just got off the phone with DP, the only guy I know who likes to talk economics and politics with me. Now that I don't owe him any money we'll probably talk more.

He seems convinced that the US economy is going to implode and maybe take the rest of the world with it. Why? Because we don't educate our people and everybody else is. I could buy it, but I think the problem is one with which Americans will live comfortably. How do I know? Because we don't make BMWs here. Daimler Chrysler notwithstanding, the overwhelming majority of Americans are quite capable of dealing with the fact that other nations are more capable at things we previously boasted about.

I had a bet with an intellectual associate. He guested that the price of gas would hit 6 bucks a gallon this past summer. I probably would have bet him that oil would not hit 60 bucks a barrel and he would have won, but tripling the price at the pump was inconcievable. But if there are inevitable shocks to the domination of the American economy on the world stage and millions of poor and middle class folks feel the big hurt, I say that they'll adjust. Sure there are millions of pampered poodles among us who will squeal and keel over in a squeeze, but the rest of us will get our hands dirty, tighten our belts and be happy to be middle class citizens of a second-class world power.

But none of this calamity will hit without warning. We'll have plenty of time to get used to it and, like boiling frogs, we won't notice it so much. Unlike boiling frogs, we won't become lunch. Even if 20% of the American economy is a bubble, it will pop in slow motion. What will we hear?

I think we'll see the Olympic gold medal count drop. People will stop going to football games. Marinas around the country will have slip rental rates drop and docks go empty. Lobster dinners will start costing even more. But here's the key. When McDonalds shrinks its menu and the 99 cent cheeseburger becomes a thing of the past, then it's time to worry. When people's light bill doubles, then it's time to worry.

When more sitcoms and romantic comedies start looking completely fantastic, we can worry. When small towns start filling up with ex-city slickers learning to hunt deer for food. When Americans really start to hate rich people. When street gangs overwhelm cops because cops don't get paid enough because tax revenues are too small because businesses are failing, in Chicago. When city people start buying cars that they can learn to repair themselves. When people stop putting swimming pools in their homes and buying aftermarket accessories in a variety of industries. When the two car family becomes a rarity.

These things are over the horizon of predictability. > 50 years.

Posted by mbowen at 12:10 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

December 27, 2004

Fragments for EOY 2004

I need to say a few things all at once to catch up on blogging business.

  • RIP Reggie I am not going to mourn the loss of Reggie White. I'm sure he was a great guy and a fine father, but his brand of leadership belongs in the Second World. Sorry, but us University types don't buy it. I heard he played football or some such...
  • Kobe Beef Speaking of which, somebody please slap the crap out of Kobe Bryant. I hear there's a line, like that scene in 'Airplane'. I hearby rescind all reprimands to Laker Haters. Hate on.
  • Apple Mac Daddy Another year has passed without the introduction of a premium Windows hardware platform. Aside from Alienware's quirky demographic and the lovely Shuttle, nobody is really paying attention. Understand this, the Apple Stores rock. Nothing else comes close. Not that they couldn't, they just don't try. What's up with that?
  • Chill on China I am finally getting chills around my toes about the prospects for me in China. I've slacked off my language lessons for two weeks, opting instead for history and contemporary studies of the place. I so desparately am going to need an assistant / valet.
  • My Terabyte My home network, with its 6 computers, Tivo, 2 game consoles and assorted peripherals now stores more than a Terabyte of data. I recall seeing last week some perspective given on the size of the searchable web in comparison to this burgeoning 'dark' area of all digital data. This glut is a staggering opportunity.
    Posted by mbowen at 11:03 AM | TrackBack

Supersize Me

Doomsaying seems to be the new favorite pastime of the dainty people. These days they are panty-bunched about this thing called the BRIC.

Today's reactionary reaction was this. Reporters around the globe are praying for Rumsfeld's departure. The reporters who commented on this matter made the point in a rather backhanded way. It was that this war in Iraq is the biggest America has been in since Vietnam, and whether or not the keepers of moral outrage like to think so or not, many Americans are looking at the numbers. I know I am. I think Rumsfeld hasn't killed enough American soldiers yet. He has to hit a Texas-sized number for his failures to resonate with the American public the way they do elsewhere. Not coincidently, I think that the numbers argument holds as well for the tortured prisoners. This occupation and house to house fighting is simply not numbing us with the sheer tonnage that usually gets our blood up. If you ask Americans if they believe that the world has suffered enough for nine-eleven, the answer is no. Forget the cockeyed aim, forget the misdirection, because these are political details. Americans by and large want to be even-handed, and we will pull back and say 'my bad' if our misstep is large enough. What I believe defenders maintain is that we may have misstep, but on the whole, we're still down and we haven't made a big enough mistake to back out.

Aside from the recent delicious detail delivered by Dexter Filkins, there has been a real dearth of reportage that gives us any apolitical perspective about what transpires on the ground. It is my opinion that we are doing ourselves a disservice by trumping up the political volume in calling for Rummy's head. It shows an America unable and unwilling to kill. That's really an important bottom line. You have to ask yourself how we get to the point of asking disingenuously if the Secretary of Defense is sensitive enough to the needs of the soldiers because he uses a machine to sign letters.

Serving the purposes of the not-so-shrill Right, I do nevertheless, feel the pain of America's besmirched reputation on the matter of torture. Yet I reserve my outrage. Outrage is not a particularly useful form of political engagement as far as my ethics are concerned. And I think that is part and parcel of the decorum of conservative ethics as I see them. Conservatives understand that the natural trend is towards entropy, so we are not surprised when the world goes to shit. We are always in one of two modes, putting on armor and backing into a corner or making dollars while the sun shines. The more sophisticated of us master the art of hedging. My view on the matter of torture remains much the same as before. Our monsters are temporary and they are on a shorter leash. I pay no attention to 'international law', and am satisfied that the Liberals among us sustain an adequate amount of outrage to keep that leash strong.

But with that comfort comes the knowledge that it is not my job as a Conservative to show outrage at the excesses of our engagement in the Middle East, rather it is to show the limits of my hawkishness, which is as I said, somewhere around Vietnam sized. By doing the Arab World a great geopolitical favor, we have also made demons of ourselves. The good deed has not gone unpunished. But I am no longer inclined to rate the outrage of Arab states on par with that of Americans. I'm beginning to see some relativity here. Instead, I am disturbed that American Liberals are taking Arab outrage at face value and defaulting to the propaganda of Al-Jazeera. It's bad enough that we don't have an adequate supply of battle-hardened American reporters, but to echo the sentiments that our cause is lost because of a single explosion that kills 60 odd combattants while they eat lunch is singularly retarded. As callous as it sounds, all of this is within the force reduction estimate.

Is it because the sweep through Falluja was a success that the attention of news crews has moved to Mosul? It's difficult for me to see otherwise given the arduous tasks described up close by Filkins. But American soldiers crying, wounded and confused make for the pictures of the year.

Posted by mbowen at 09:26 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 25, 2004

The Day Of

tree.jpg You'll notice that Santa only left half a cookie.

Posted by mbowen at 11:41 AM | TrackBack

December 24, 2004

Prediction Review: 2004

A reivew of my predictions. And the big thing I should have said if I really knew anything in bold.

Tech IPOs will make a comeback. (sorta)
Linux makes no inroads to the desktop. (yes)
Halo2 breaks all console videogame records. (yes)
Microsoft is reborn. People will say Gates has done it again. (not really)
Microsoft brands a PC. (no)
Apple ports more Windows software. (no)
iPod makes it big.

GOP breaks ranks over spending & civil liberties. (yes)
Brokered Democratic Convention. Dean/Gephardt/Clark (no)
Blogs break a major scandal and get tongue wagging approval from skeptics. (yes)
Term limits lose support. (no)
Taxation comes back via 'fees'. States use clever rhetoric, fool nobody. (sorta)
Bush Wins.

Arts & Culture
Hiphop sweeps the Grammys (dunno)
Reality TV shows bite the dirt. (sorta)
A new cult TV show is born in the tradition of Buffy (actually no)
Children's fashion gets trashy. (sorta)
Digital music pervades. RIAA gains a prominent political foe. (yes and no)
People get sick of Merlot. Shiraz gains even more ground. (dunno)
Harry Potter 3 is a massive critical success. (yes)

Chargers leave San Diego (no)
No Americans medal in Olympic gymnastics despite hype. (no)
Tiger Woods gets the Grand Slam. (no)
Venus Williams quits / gets injured. (sorta)
The Greek Olympics are a big dud. (yes)
The Fall of Kobe Bryant
Red Sox Win!

Assisted Suicide gains support. (no)
A huge hack/worm gives put computer security in the headlines. (no)
Americans invent more stupid reasons to hate France. (yes)
Gay Marriage proposals backfire.

Single State theory gains ground in Israel/Palestine. (no)
Most American forces leave Iraq. (hell no)
Dollar Plunges
Saddam Captured

SARS hits US (not even)
FDA Losing credibility.

Business & Finance
Outsourcing backlash gets fierce. (yes)
Dow 11,000 (very close)
NASDAQ 2100 (pretty much nailed it)

and next to another venture of folly.. 2005.

Posted by mbowen at 07:28 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

HRL, American Provinciality & The Asian Emergence

I had dinner with my brother Doc, the cop, last night high atop the Magic Johnson Building in downtown LA. We talked about the futility of the ghetto. Doc and I hold up the Right end of family politics here on the Left Coast. The subject drifted, of course, to my growing understanding and perception of things Chinese. What was new this time was the notion of the parallels between the ghetto mentality and the Asian identity crisis.

The what? Asian identity crisis? It's a subject that never was mentioned in America's most intense discussion of Asians which was over the controversy of Affirmative Action. And instantly Doc says, Americans are so provincial. Doc, by the way is narrowing down where to spend the month of March, which he has off. He has picked out a condo on the beach in Rio which goes for 1000/mo. But if I'm in Beijing, he'd love to hang out. This is his dilemma. A nice problem to have. But he's also scratching his head about the factors and forces that have the potential of expanding the Internal Third Worlds in southern LA County. He talks about the fact that crack is now just $5 a hit.

He mentioned that the political victory of southcentral politics has been the unconditional retention of incompetent medical staff at 'Killer King' hospital and rejection of Wal-Mart, the biggest capital investment in the area since the building of the 105 Freeway. How do people get it so twisted? Ghetto Mentality, provinciality. I agree.

You see, looking at Asians strictly in the terms of the battle between blackfolks and whitefolks over Affirmative Action forces them to be the 'model minority'. Most people know that's wrong but have left a great gap in their understanding of where Chinese (for one) are coming from and going to. The confluence of chatter about China now is heading towards another new reaction in the popular mind. A new Yellow Peril attached to the release of import quotas on Chinese textiles. The smart money expects China's market share in clothing the American market to go from about 15 to 50 percent over the next three years.

Doc laments that the American Way is being forgotten, that we have lost the edge of our homesteading and sharecropping forebears. He recently watched a school janitor in upscale South Pasadena belt out the National Anthem with operatic quality. Half the parents in the audience didn't bother to take off their hats. We're forgetting what it is to be American. I say that America is still only an Idea. Whomever lives it, gets it. But sometimes I wonder who is going to fight for us, who is going to volunteer for our volunteer army? (As a tangent, multinational forces and interventions are going to be more necessary in the global future, we may as well be a prime supplier.) I'm not particularly concerned if a large number of middle-class North Americans forget what's up. Events will catch up enough times. We'll feel it. Word will travel fast and we'll pay attention. Nothing sneaks up on the American public, we'll know it.

But what of the American ideal and our provinciality?

What I'm hearing is that Asians in their own countries are turning the corner of emergence. The identity crisis isn't at the individual level so much as it is at the national level. They are asking themselves how did they lose it as a people - just the way Afrocentrists freak when they think about the pyramids and the cradle of civilization. So I see a natural alliance or at least a direct parallel with the black experience. Everyone in the 20th Century assumed that America itself was the future - that the American model was what everyplace had to be recast as. But America has been pushed further than that. We are the laboratory, we are not the finished product, and I think Asians are coming to understand that our talents and resources are for appropriation, not emulation. America such as she stands is not the destiny of the character of global modernization. She is the R&D lab and the showroom. We go through all the iterations and experimentation here - we are spiritually imbalanced, introspective and a bit psychotic. We are the bleeding edge of the leading edge. We are driven to innovate and change to be irreverant and constantly dissatisfied with ourselves. Understand that, and you can make peace with America.

I happen to think that we will retain enough cohesion in a multi-culti America to remain a global destination. In fact, this may be the only place capable of voluntary federation. The fifty states are an amazing diversity in and of themselves. I can't wait to get rich and buy a town in Montana or Alabama. I'll be happy to have Belizians, Uzbeks, Somalis and Hmong living, working and schooling there.

To the title:

HRL is the acronym for Human Relations Lab. At Episcopal Camp Stevens in San Diego County, if you were to be a counselor back in the 70s, you had to endure HRL. HRL was essentially a one week psychological exercise in dealing with the agony of teenage life and insecurity. As prospective camp counselors we were give a few conceptual tools and instructions twice a day, and twice a day we would spend four hours locked in a cabin with 7 of our peers. As you can imagine, we teenagers started to stare each other down and ask questions about each other and bare our itty bitty souls. At the age of 14, for the first time in my life, white people stopped being indifferentiable. I knew what they freaked out about. I understood them better than they understood themselves. At the end of the week I had the kinds of friends you write 10 page letters to. Then again I didn't, because I still lived in LA and for the most part, I never saw them again.

Nevertheless, I still remember Coby, Bob, Gina Del Bene, Gwen, and a bunch of others whose names remain in my Outlook Contacts. I still remember the Jewish girl who was smarter and friendlier but fretted about the shape of her nose and couldn't believe she could possibly be as cool as the others. I still remember the chunky girl with black hair and brown eyes who had a fraternal twin sister who had blonde hair and blue eyes. She watched her sister, with her uncomplicated and merely sweet personality, get all the friends. I remember the boyfriend swapping, the mooning over Coby who played all the girls, Bob's convertable Mustang, the kid who could play 'Stairway to Heaven' on his guitar, Lida the Slut, the Dogtown Stoners, and me being the champion QB in the Roach Bowl.

After HRL, people were no longer mysterious to me, even the fat acne-faced kid who smoked, cursed everybody out and refused to open up. That trailer trash kid who played the role and everyone decided to hate, I understood him too, because he and I were still niggers in our own way. Except that I had already decided that I was going to get in on the fun, and he decided to maintain his cool pose. See, I didn't have a lot of confessions in HRL. I could jump on the bandwagon and say I was jealous of the attention the blonde twin from Newport Beach got, but I couldn't break down and cry about my parents not loving me or getting a divorce. My deep secret was that I was a masturbator and that I believe that I thought too much - that I could too easily withdraw from whatever people actually did and turn reality into another set of concepts to manipulate in my mind. Except these things didn't make me cry.


The provincial discussion is this. We Americans keep going back into the cabins and rehashing the same topics. The black and white dialog dominates, just like all the other familiar topics. These days the red and blue. We don't get to know the fat trailer trash kid who smokes. As Stuart Buck's quote of Chesterton states, there are no uninteresting subjects, only uninterested people. Every subject can have it's rewards for mastery. But America doesn't have to look beyond. We are in such a state of introspection and insecurity that our chaos is creative. We keep making that blonde blue girl the endpoint of all speculation; we keep making that big Negro the endpoint of all speculation. They are bookends of a Universe, overloaded symbols inapplicable to real people. We Americans masturbate and ignore reality for the fun of manipulating the ideas in our minds. We dream a world and remain insecure. Isn't it interesting that I say America's problem and strength are the same as mine? Typical, I suppose, but easy enough to undestand I hope. But the point is that we keep coming back and trying to fit the Universe between those bookends.

I said at Jimi, as he speaks about the Unbearable Whiteness of Being that we don't really want to graduate from HRL and ditch race. We want to keep re-inscribing it. On the one hand we literally shy away from all discussions that lead to the scary questions. But then when we finally get into the scary question and say it we feel like we have got to find another way to imply it. Because, just like in HRL, the real human being shows up, and cries, and bares their soul. But it's not enough. Somebody, somewhere, is still a nigger. Somebody, somewhere is still white trailer trash. Even when everybody else reveals themselves to be quirky individuals with their own hangups which are not racial, it's not enough. We have to get back to that same old tired duality. That's provincial.

For the longest time, I've had a problem with the relative silence of the Asian kid in the room. We do our blackfolks vs whitefolks routine ad infintium as if we're channeling some twisted offspring of Richard Pryor and Daniel Patrick Moynihan. And where I've been dialoging to my race man's heart's content, nobody Asian has seemed to have any skin in the game. What I've assumed, with some accuracy I think, is that our volume was too loud anyway. And I've been working off Bryan Hirota. But the idea that's emerging now has a lot to do with what an immigrant can expect. It makes even Dat Phan more sympathetic.

What I know is that in the wake of the Cultural Revolution, there are a hell of a lot of newly minted manufacturing millionaires in China. But there is no professional, 'investor' class. I think it is reasonable to think the same thing of India and much of the rest of Asia. We get the rich kids, scions of those who can afford to send theirs overseas to America for a world class education. And what is to be expected of those Gen X asian kids? Same as the New Jacks whose parents are still Ghetto, minus the cultural currency of the New Jack Swing. The English they speak is Becky English. They don't understand the blackfolks vs whitefolks racial mesh at any appreciable level. They're trying to get theirs in America and not step on anybody's toes. Some end up being twinks. It's inevitable. Not everybody rich enough to get their kids into American schools is Rich. Just like black college kids. Add what? Plane fare from Bangalore and a couple thousand more? Not everybody is bold enough to play the existential braggadocio raps like Boyz from the Hood. Some folks are here on a bounced up house note, with cousins left behind. And I think more than a few of them ain't thinking about going back.

But the Asian emergence means that more MBAs and PhDs, fresh dressed are thinking maybe they don't want to live in North Hollywood. Maybe they see a glass ceiling over here and are thinking maybe now it's time to go back and live large in the old country. So there's the parallel.

The open question is the cultural future of a modernized Asia. And that's the question I want to take to Asians here, most of whom I suspect only speak English, but some of whom with which I will be collaborating in the future.

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Kwanzaa Alert

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December 23, 2004

Holy Meal

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A Little Kwanzaa Research

Now that I've been fishing, I'm in a bit of a more charitable mood and decided to write up something new that I haven't seen compiled anywhere about Kwanzaa. Those of you that know me, know I defend Kwanzaa like I defend my parents, sorta. That is because my parents have something to do with the creation of Kwanzaa, sorta.

The man on the left is 'Brother Damu'. We kids are the Young Simbas. That's me in the front. We are marching for the cover of Look Magazine. I would guess that's the summer of 67 and we are most definitely in front of Dr. Alfred Ligon's Aquarian Center on Santa Barbara (now MLK) Blvd. in Los Angeles.

It turns out that Damu died in '95. Unless the following excerpt (which was all I could get for free) is not an obituary:

Shelia Hardwell

Los Angeles Sentinel


Sam Damu, Longtime Angeleno.

Sam Carr Damu was born Dec. 15, 1930 in Dayton Ohio. He moved to Los Angeles during the summer of 1960.

After arriving in Los Angeles he developed an interest in acting and joined a black actors ensemble while simultaneously working with various political campaigns.

These early interests introduced him to a variety of people to include Dr. and Mrs. Alfred Ligon, owners of Los Angeles' oldest black bookstore and the Aquarian Spiritual Center.

In 1964 while taking a night class in Swahili from Dr. Ron Karenga at Fremont H.S., the Afro American cultural group "US" was formed with Damu as a founding member. He was the founder of the "US" Taifa Dance troupe in California. It was a great success boasting performances at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion, several local television shows and numerous community and college events.

So Googling 'Taifa Dance' I came upon this conference program, and I'm going to see what I can get out of Scot Brown at UCLA about Damu and others influenced by the ideas behind Taifa Dance in LA. All this is part and parcel of the intellectual ferment behind Kwanzaa.

I cannot tell which came first for Damu, Taifa or US. But I think the simple fact that he saw his contribution to black society through the vehicle of dance as very significant. I would hope others stop and consider this before being cowed by the virulent diatribes against the founding of Kwanzaa.

Now that I think of it, I have another old photo which is worth mentioning. bootsy's-art-show.jpg
This shot was taken in October of 68, the year everything was burning. The fashionable woman on the left is my mother, and this was the backyard of a friend of the family just south of Liemert Park. It was a community art show organized under the auspices of my father's little group. I helped build the displays which were constructed of 2x2s and pegboard, painted white. Again, this is the kind of black cultural power we were all about.

My point in bringing this forward is, as I wrote to Dr. Brown. As an original member of the Young Simbas, I have been frustrated by the distortion of the origins of the celebration of Kwanzaa which travel around the net around this time of year. In particular I am offended by the 'legitimacy' of Kwanzaa attacked through ad hominem attacks on the person of Karenga. I find these attacks a constant source of irritation, and I am motivated to fight back with some historical precision as well as personal passion. Moreover, I seek to express some dimension of the intellectual ferment of the black cultural nationalism independent of the individuals, organizations and politics of the time.

It is not my aim to be an uncritical champion of Kwanzaa. In fact I am particularly put off by its association with the person of Karenga as if its celebrants were victims of a cult of personality. I have my own interpretation of its value and applicability as both symbol and substance. Yet there is no question in my mind that it has transcended its origins. It is that transcendent quality I seek to preserve, and if I stand as something of a heretic, sobeit.

Here are a few more links from last year:

Ujamaa: The Problem Child.
Dickerson On My Tits.

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December 22, 2004

Holy Mackerel

I have discovered today that most fishermen despise mackerel. I thought it was just me. You see, back in the day when we were poor we ate mackerel because tuna cost too much. Today, I caught two or three and tossed them all back.

We were on the bad luck boat out of San Pedro this morning. The average angler had 2.5 rigs and 15 pounds of tackle. That didn't help the boatload of 32 of us catch more than an average of 2 fish each. Our gang was originally supposed to go on the overnight trip out to where the big fish are. That trip was cancelled and we ended up on the 1/2 day joint out past the breakwater to where the rock fish are.

So the expectation was that we would be up to our neck in Calico & Sand Bass, but we just seemed to have nothing but Barracuda and Sculpin biting us up today. The Sculpin is a good eating fish I hear, despite being fairly damned poisonous if you get poked with a spine. Cuda, on the other hand are fairly slimy.

I was over-geared. I never used my nice new filet knife or cutting board. But I did learn how to grab live squid and bait 'em. That was a load of fun, not to mention the attitude of 'fish killers'. I'm hooked, and will definitely go again. Any day away from the CRT is a good day, and like with shooting, I recommend it highly to my liberal white-collar bretheren.

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Gone Fishin'

I'll be out on the water today. Wish me luck.

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December 21, 2004

All Look Same (dot com)

A self-described twink associate of mine pointed me to this site. As soon as you stop laughing, take the test. It ain't easy. I got a seven. I think I could have done better, but I was too busy cracking up. Seven is very bad, it's also average.

I'm not sure how serious they're taking the test, but it's a good diversion for a minute.

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Encryption Export Restrictions

I wonder if there are any cypherpunks out there who might be able to clarify my interpretation that Clinton took all commercially available crypto off the US Munitions List in 2000. That's what this seems to say, but I'm just looking for a quick abstract.

UPDATE: I think it's pretty obvious here...

SUMMARY: This rule amends the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) to allow the export and reexport of any encryption commodity or software to individuals, commercial firms, and other non-government end-users in all destinations. It also allows exports and reexports of retail encryption commodities and software to all end-users in all destinations. Post-export reporting requirements are streamlined, and changes are made to reflect amendments to the Wassenaar Arrangement. This rule implements the encryption policy announced by the White House on September 16 and will simplify U.S. encryption export rules. Restrictions on terrorist supporting states (Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan or Syria), their nationals and other sanctioned entities are not changed by this rule.


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December 20, 2004

Kwanzaa Defended

It's about that time of year when people with too much time on their hands and too much bile in their guts begin to spit on the celebration of Kwanzaa. I cannot abide this. I think it beneath any honorable spirit which finds reason to ridicule another's convention.

I started my blog because this issue riled me. It's difficult for me to understand what perverse pleasure people must get from their sanctimonious bleating. You'd think they'd pick something actually wrong or hurtful. It comes as no surprise that most of the barbs come in the form of questioning its legitimacy. I needn't remind you of the sort which question the purity of another's origins.

Today, I guess I'm just too old to care why people are foul. I simply call them as I see them. And like so much of the world's wrongheadedness, I'll steer clear of it until such time as I have the power to stamp it out.

In the meantime, a few references from the Archives:

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Upper Class

Actually, this one had a number of sketchy questions. I figure it was written by somebody in the American middle class.

You scored as Luxurious Upper Class. As a member of the upper class, you will always have the satisfaction that there are many underneath you to slave for your every need and want. Live the high life.

Luxurious Upper Class


Upper middle Class


Middle Class




Lower Class


What Social Status are you?
created with

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Feminists Were Right

But probably not for the reasons any of us thought. Stuart Buck parses the numbers, examining the case for opening doors. Also involved in this chain of evidence were Slithery D, a defunct lawblogger and the ever charming Crescat Sententia. Google it your damned self.

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Absorbing Heresy

Today, after I finish my annual Christmas update letter, I'm going to read Kishore Mahbubani's 'Can Asians Think'. The preface is already rather intriguing in that it takes a target's take on questioning the legitimacy of democracy.

I've long argued that what makes America special, among other things, is the fact that we're a hugely literate society. Even though we have many different literacies, multicultural literacy is indeed a fact here, 95% of our adults call out and respond to a literate society. In Iraq, they don't read maps. They don't drive cars. They don't send their kids to school. And we expect such societies to absorb democracy?

No matter how many free and fair elections can be engineered in an illiterate nation, there is no way to expect that population to be critical consumers of intellectual productions. It's not only because we Americans are free to curse out Bill O'Reilly that we enjoy democracy, it's because we know how. And so anywhere there are large portraits of the national leader with no words because even billboard texts are the equivalent of fine print legalese, we ought to think longer and harder about the prospects for robust democracy.

This is one tangent Mahbubani evokes in speaking about Western intellectual arrogance in the post-Cold War world. Maybe we truly are more evolved and need to let the rest of the world catch up before we go formulating policy which expects Thirds to enjoy democracy. Asians are his focus, and I'll read up to understand the divide between East and West.

I have a feeling this will step on the toes of the PNAC's neoconservative ambitions, or rather I should say the libertarian impulse which leavens America's military ability in our foreign affairs. Ukraine didn't need America or the UN. In Iraq, both might not be enough. That's a hell of a set of facts to deal with.

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Coolest High Tech Thrillers

OK. Here's the deal. If you were a real gearhead like me, what would you say are the top high tech thriller media of all time? This includes, basically, books and movies. The reason they include books is because nobody has yet made a film of Cryptonomicon which in my estimation is number One. Nobody has also yet made of film of Robert Littel's 'The Company' which would also have to be way up there. What remains are movies, and maybe a few more books. You tell me.

I say nothing matches Cryptonomicon for sheer scope, geek factor, and drama. It's really the top. And in a certain way, I think we must be forced to take Stephenson all of a piece, since without mentioning 'Snow Crash' and 'The Diamond Age' we're not nearly there.

Now we have to get into Gibson, Sterling, Eco, Ludlum, Burroughs, Pynchon, DeLillo, Ridley Scott, Tony Scott, Littel, et al. What are the masterpieces and what gems lie out there?

I mean take a classic like 'The Conversation' or an updated classic like Denzel's 'The Manchurian Candidate'. Don't forget stuff like '12 Monkeys', 'Strange Days', 'eXistenZ' and of course 'The Matrix'. We also have to take into consideration great comics like 'Akira' and 'Watchmen'.

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Sensory Immersion Chamber

Somehow, these Samson studio monitors that I just bought make all of my DVDs seem much more captivating.

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Steps To Risk

Subtitle: Professional To Executive To Principal, like Parents

I'm just about fed up with being a professional. I need to get kicked upstairs and I'm about to. Some of this is an echo of The Vector. But it also is a bit of a cockeyed attempt to show some continuity and parallels between these roles and that of parent and child. It's all about exposure to risk.

When I reflect back on my work in 2000 and 2001, I was really upset that there were no bosses of mine at the time who were much more than 3 or 5 years older than me. I had finally done some international work, I was a go-to guy. I recognize now that I was at the top of the professional game and needed to be booted upstairs into management. But as the division got canned, I fell victim to the decision of the principles not to fund the operation. So while I had some fairly substantial gripes about the management of our operation, they could never really come to fruition because we didn't live long enough for significant problems to materialize.

Why am I not a manager of a bigger org? Why don't people think strategically? Where's our funding? Where's our marketing? Such were my gripes as a professional. I was running at full throttle, all capability and motivation. My biggest concern was that there were shenanigans going on behind the scenes and dumb politics playing with our funding. That one group of professionals, us, would be subsumed under red tape and relatively lethargic pace of company bureaucrats. All that happened and worse, and when the hammer came down it was none of our fault. We hadn't failed because we hadn't been given an adequate time to succeed. This is the nightmare scenario for the professional. I could have done it, but they wouldn't let me.

In the wake of nine-eleven, we were all reminded that anything is possible. Aldrige Ames reminded us that CIA veterans could be working for the enemy. If that could happen, we need to readjust our understanding of human capacity for duplicity and betrayal. People have to check themselves when they preface comments with "I'd like to believe that...". Yes you would, we all would but some of us don't have the luxury of such assumptions. This is the difference between professionals and executives.

Executives get their direction from the desires around money, and the patience of principals. As my new fearless leader has told me, it's damn near impossible to get 50,000 cash. That's living money. That's gangster money. That is too fungible and too theivable a sum. But 10 million? That's easy. 10 million is nobody's money, it works in abstract terms and it mostly sits. But 50k is anybody's money. It flies. 10M can be risked, it connotes a professional operation in the hands of exectives. 50k cannot be risked, it connotes a precise action under strict control. When a 10M venture fails, there are a thousand reasons and plenty of blame to spread around. When a 50k venture fails there can only be a few reasons and suspects; an ass-kicking is just around the corner.

So in retrospect I realize that my fears as a professional of having to deal with shenanigans and nasty politics was precisely the thing that should indeed have kept me as a professional and not a manager. I didn't want the job of kicking ass and taking names. My own children were still babies, I hadn't yet learned to speak openly of bullshit and what somebody had better do if they wanted to keep the number of holes in their ass to one. In middle management you can do this on the force of personality, but ultimately authority devolves from the top - from the people with budget authority - the people who presumeably know how much it costs to get things done.

How expensive is money? It all depends upon how willing people are to expose it to risk, in other words what excuses they will accept when it's gone. What recourse is allowable to the funder? What does the investor need to see to make him happy? These are the reigns on executives. They need to know, or so it seems to me, how much they can get away with and for how long a period of time. How many professionals they can corral for what price and duration in order to create that fungible something for the principals. Execs put up with the petty brain spew of professionals and the petty politics of managers. The exec has to keep the ball rolling despite all of its flaws because in the end, the exec works for even harsher taskmasters; the people he talked out of their money.

Like parents among our children, we would like them to handle about as much as they can handle, but not too much. We've seen it, whatever it is, and we hope that they can deal with harsh reality at least as well as we did. The difference is of course, there is love. As parents we assume the risks - we are always sensitive to the fact that anything could happen and yet we establish to the best of our abilities the stability and illusion of control necessary for our children's growth.

I see the parallel.

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December 19, 2004

Gearhead Nostalgia

You remember the Maxell commercial where the guy in the black leather jacket is sitting in front of his stereo and he clicks the remote and the Wagner blasts him across the room like a hurricane? I have spent the past 3 hours incredulously ogling the stereo equipment that first blew my mind. At eBay and various places around the net I have found the objects of my first techno lusts. web4251b_sae2800_Sml_J05.jpg

It starts with the fabulous Setton RS 440 reciever. The first reciever with a midrange equalizer control. It continues with the first solenoid cassette deck, the Sony TC-K6. Then the JBL L212 was the first home stereo system with subwoofer. We used to hook them up to the big Soundcraftsmen amp and the (Oh My God) SAE Parametric Equalizer and the JBL L220s.

There has been quite a transformation in the recording industry since the advent of digital. And I spent and evening last night at the new Sam Ash store in Torrance blowing a wad of cash trying to deal with it. If I have a weakness that hits me in the pit of my gut it is for rack mounted electronics. I am surely more vulnerable to the knobs and dials and blinking lights and wires than to anything else in the universe without a throbbing uh, nevermind...

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December 18, 2004


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The odd thing about it is that I can't exactly figure out what it is about me that puts people off so much. Nor can I determine if the lack of attention I feel owes to my own offenses or the defenses of others. I only know that when I feel as though there should be someone sitting across from me telling jokes and drinking something cold, I am alone.

This is a continuation of an itch in my head begun in the past 30 hours. It has taken up residence anew with discovery. This discovery might be recovery, but I am only doing so tangentially just in case. Just in case a broken heart never mended.

I missed the end of the short story read by Russell Banks on This American Life. That's because I'm dedicated to a different set of interests at this point in my life. But many years ago when I was confirming within me, a sense of purpose in writing and gunning up my courage to go where that purpose took me, I had a muse and an inspiration. She has a name of course, LBT, but what I remember most about her was.. oh there were so many things. What I remember now is the laugh, the machine gun rapid speech, her love to tedium of Miles Davis' Sketches of Spain, her NYU sweatshirt, her leather jacket and her purple pad of truth. She was like that, of course. She gave you a lot of hooks upon which to hang memories - she bristled with mnemonics. She was a garden of forking paths upon which I stumbled and pleasantly got lost.

Time and distance are cruel to life experiences. They make you lie to fit the joke. If the time and distance are long enough, the details fuzz up just enough to produce a dissonance which makes enemies of friends. And so it's difficult to know what to say when speaking of those you never see any longer. What you remember becomes what you care to remember. Not only does truth not serve mankind, but mankind does not serve truth. We use each other when it suits our purposes. So I cannot tell you the truth about her. Chances are, only she can remind me. This is why I am treading lightly.

Cleaning up my Outlook, I found her in the snow. Google pointed me straight away and as her face downloaded, I knew. Someone could read my face, as if I were in the morgue or checking the rogues gallery. I identified her immediately, a smile of recognition unmistakable on my face.

The last time she walked away from me I cried. I cried in the way one cries for drama. Not because the thing is happening to you, but because what you are experiencing is so perfectly sad. It was the end of something remarkable and there was no going back. Our intentions and directions were permanently at odds where once they were so beautifully entwined. The sense of loss was palpable. It was Monterrey.

In recent months I have heard of her triumphs third hand. And someone who bothered to forward me the e-mail disappeared when I replied. I wanted to see the face, hear the voice, know the work and experience the results of 13 years growth from a dark anonymous corner and wonder what might have been. But it was not to be. The normal channels were readjusted and contact required an alternate path. I could have worked that way, but the dismissal I took as a sign. You are not welcome this way. I don't know, I may never know. Not knowing was prickly painful. I swallowed and moved on.

But today I think I know where she is, and the flood of names of people on her living room floor reciting Harlem Renaissance poetry is coming back into memory. The videotaping of each other writing. The manic ferocity, the tender quiet, the whole extremity of it all seeps through the ages past. See me? This is my gaze off into the mists, the inevitable twisting of my mouth into a forlorn smile of memory: the Digital Underground soundtrack, the shouting at Arlen Specter, the cuban chicken, the mental giants, the two beliefs. So I'm going to mail off this entry to that email address so she can look at me. I'll always be her ex-boyfriend and I think that's pretty damned cool.

LBT, thanks. Without you I would have never focused with precision. Without you I would have never worn a leather jacket. You embraced my rebirth and let me know I could roll like that.

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December 17, 2004


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Black as a 'Thing to Be'

Negrorage is a new blog out there which is fairly long on thought. Tagging along for the ride on the Black vs Nigger question we find ourselves deep into the existentials. I assert a thing or two, raising the stakes:

This is good stuff. But it's interesting how post-modern and abstracted it is, not that it's anyone's fault. We all suffer a bit of that. But I'm going to say two words that should kind of put all of this in perspective, and if you meditate on them long enough then they should be evocative enough to fill a stadium of proper associations. "Mahalia Jackson".

Sometimes I wonder how many black youth get all of their sense of blackness from reading the memories and fictions of black authors. As 'real' as 'Beloved' the novel is, it remains something created from the imagination of Toni Morrison. The fact of the matter is that I would prefer that such verisimilitudes become the blackground. They form a set of useful fictions. But evidently we are in a cycle in which Americans would prefer that every decade has a distinct meaning, and every generation has its own different mission. Brokaw is not far off when he asserts that his generation does not have a mission relatively speaking.

But the author has nailed a concept that I think is pretty sharp, which is looking at blackness as a 'thing-to-be'. It makes the distinction between an identity under the influence of cross-currents and redefinitions, and a placeholder for a future sense of being. It is this distinction, with an emphasis on the second part, which is really interesting to me. It relates very well to the state of ungrownupness I sense in a lot of these discussions, especially the latest one concerning the cinematic depiction of some fantastic creation of one Ursula Le Guin, named 'Ged'.

How do we get so far away from Mahalia Jackson that we need to complain about the shade of Ged? My answer is that we cannot unless we have completely dissed our parents. The very concept that America or anyplace has an endless supply of identity buckets for its youth to assume is very post-modern, weird and an enemy of the Old School. This longing for a proper black thing-to-be, this need for becoming is a little more twisted than the standard 'be-when-I-grow-up' and yet it's the same problem. There's not enough of something to anchor one in a set of circumstances that lock identity. We cannot accept the conditions (not me, we) of our nativity, so we become vulnerable to the fictions of those who would help us 'know ourselves' or be 'true to ourselves'.

So where is the black Popeye who says 'I yam what I yam'? All over. Not asking nor answering questions, I imagine.

It's true that in America we have too much space to negotiate our identity. We are not essentially anything. We are identity-mobile to the extreme. But I think we should nail that down and *add* to our basic selves some skills and abilities, rather than remake ourselves. The only glitch is that millions of Americans start off so twisted that they don't have a valuable enough self (to themselves) that they see it possible to augment that self towards nobility. They feel that they have an un-self-actualizable self. I accept that. I call such people peasants, and as far as I'm concerned that's what they are. A lot of African American fall into that peasant bucket, and those are the ones whom are especially suceptible to 50 page books: Afrocentrism, Message to the Blackman, The Isis Papers, et al. You can debate their value but the very fact that they exist at all is testimony to this craving desire to have a black thing-to-be.

Is it real, this hunger, this existential cesspool of confusion, this legacy of slavery, this native alienation? Yeah. Real enough. But it's not unique. There are peasants all over the world, and their difficulties with modernism are the same. I expect to find a great deal of it in China, which means as I have heard, that the emergent new money there is more addicted to bling than Puffy.

I suspect that people everywhere who will inevitably be empowered by new technologies will also inevitably deal with the pain of modernism and the need to become something other than what their parents expected them to be. It will be part of their struggle as individuals and as a people. If you get a chance, rent the video 'Brother' with Omar Epps. Watch what happens in the expressions of the young gangstas as they ineptly inherit power and wealth. They jump uncomfortably into the roles given to them by the man to whom they owe their lives. And they are trapped. But they were only vulnerable because they felt the need to become. It's the problem of peasants all over as they encounter the deadly liberation of the modern world.

Sometimes it's better to stay down in the piney woods and sing Precious Lord.

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Something's Got To Give

Things have been going too sweetly. I'm not paranoid enough.

Yesterday, all I did was celebrate the fact that I've got my tax business in line for the year, but in fact my accountant was a no-show. Still, I ran my own numbers and it turns out that I've got a nice pile of cash to spend. But that can't be right.

I'm still running two contracts and I'm trying to wind them down for the holidays. But they still want me working and that means more cash.

It seems all I ever talk about is China around here. Yesterday I found a supportive human being at a joint in Westwood called East Wind Books. The website may be a little cheesy, but the store is right on time. I picked up some excellent books, one geopolitical the other youth rebellion. I have been a little lazy on my lessons, but my accent is definitely improving. I need more vocab. I need more vocab. I keep resorting to French and Spanish..

So I'm in my tactical gear looking like a million bucks just dropping cash all over Westwood yesterday afternoon. All I've got on my mind is 'bluetooth headset', and I'm wondering if I possibly find one. Duh, there are mobile phone joints all over the place. The first one I find has the Motorola that I wanted and the guy sells it to me for 80 bucks. I rip it open and try to link it but it's not charged up, and I say I don't care, give it to me anyway. "Because I'm rollin'!", I say out loud. And add to that a sharp leather pouch that straps my Treo to my arm, I'm looking doubly tactical with he wide wale black turtleneck, green cargo pants, G-Shock watch and Oakley kicks. And did I tell you? I'm growing the full beard back, so right about now I've got the whole Jason Statham attitude working.

Honey, can you take my picture this morning? Yeah, I'm trying to reproduce the very cool look I had yesterday afternoon. Here in the hallway is fine. Try not to get the kid's bookcase in the frame. It's for the blog. Like what? Locutus of Borg? Ha ha very funny. Ok without the headset. Here, wait, it's stuck on my ear. How's that?

I was hungry so I dropped by some Asian themed restaurant that looked fairly swank and had six tables on the sidewalk. It's 1:30 and the maitre says 30 minutes. What? Fine, I head down the block past Scallions (ooh I remember when that was the coolest joint in Westwood, back in the days before the sidewalk vehicular manslaughter when Westwood was Westwood) to the EB Games on the corner. I pickup an old-school XBox controller and the Prima Guide to Halo2. The dude who sells it doesn't have XBox Live.

I am alone, you see. I'm a successful mid-forties black man with no particular hangups. The biggest problems I have can all be solved with money - that is while my kids are still in elementary school. They say that the perfect couple is a man with a future and a woman with a past. I'm holding up my end of the bargain, and of the spousal unit you'll hear no confessions from me. So during this ChristmaHanaKwanzakah, I'm doing great. All the news is good and I'm smiling through my middle-aged grill. But it's mid-afternoon on a Thursday and everybody I know is at work at various places around the country. I call and call on the cell phone and nobody is available. So I'm wandering around Urban Outfitters looking at myself in the mirror overhearing people talk about movies. I'm in the middle of a twilight zone of LA affluence - of upper middle-aged blonde women with unnaturally small waists and large Dior sunglasses - shopping in the middle of the day in the middle of the week. I'm going to be in the entertainment business, in China. I take off the green felt fedora and break the hell out.

Children. It's almost two. I know I have to pick them up. I call the wife. What time was I supposed to pick them up? I know they get out of class at 2:45p and there's some playground time, but how much? She's not available. I swing back by the swanky oriental joint. The maitre apologizes and seats me immediately. I cop a squat on the patio and browse Jimi Izrael on the Treo. It's true, they remember Bob Peete. The waitress shows up and apologizes for the delay. I order a Red Sun and the Lamb. I place the black napkin on my left leg. I check out the Slate article by LeGuin. Ged is dead. BFD. People who look to worlds of elves... The drink arrives, I swig. I breathe. I'm in touch with the abstract world, eating alone.

If you were with me, I could explain all of this to you. It makes perfect sense when I do. But even as I thumb responses into the ether, they come across clipped and biased. But you can't see me out there in text. You need to be sitting with me at this sidewalk cafe watching the alcohol unfocus my eyes and sharpen my wit. You see, I'm at the point where I'm supposed to be responsible for keeping people moving. I can do that, I'm ready to do that, but I need the organization full of bodies. I need to get the cadre mobilized. They need to hear my voice. I need to have the millions. Then it will all make perfect sense.

The lamb is sticky with sesame. The rice bowl is an old comfort in my left hand 5 inches from my mouth and drawing nearer. The lacquered chopsticks get increasingly fumbly as the Red Sun goes down. The meal is one of the great pleasures of life. You could ask. I could answer. But you are not here.

I head home and the 405 is a gob of steel and frustration. I finally arrive at the gap in the chainlink and whistle my kids to the car. M10 says I look like a millionaire, thus the sentence above. F8, who just graduated from F7, asks when we are moving to China. No time soon kids. F9 is all weepy for losing her charm bracelet. We head to Nordstrom to buy Mom some gifts. We find them. The kids are antsy. I feed them Hot Dogs on Sticks. I respond to Jimi's question about blacks and niggers. I thumb it in and regret the tone later. If I had a keyboard, if you were here at supper, I could explain better.

I herd the crew back to the crib. Suddenly, I am exhausted. I forget to make them do what little homework they have. I retire to my garrett. It was a good day. A very good day and my path has put me in splendid isolation. I've been downmarket, head down for three years and an afternoon in the sun has reminded me of when I bubbled and worked the rooms. I put them all to bed and begin watching Omar Epps in 'Brother'.

'Brother' is gangsta. Yakuza bow like Nazis snap their heels together. I keep thinking that when I go to Beijing dressed in my Hollywood suit, I'm going to appear like a gangsta extra in a Chow Yun Fat movie. I can't call it. How many books am I going to have to read, how many stumbling sentences am I going to have to mumble? There, the sit down at lunch isn't going to work. I'll need a third party. Somebody I pay to be patient with my ignorance. Subtlety I can't afford via Dr. Pimsleur.


Today I send M10 off to his biomom for XMas.
(to be continued)

Posted by mbowen at 08:48 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 16, 2004

The Old Vig

It's true that sunshine is the best policy. Terri Gross had a difficult time, often sounding incredulous, as she interviewed Richard Viguerie on her NPR radio show.

She tried to zing the old codger several times, even though he didn't come off very sophisticated, I would grant that he knows the difference between a homosexual and activists for the gay rights agenda. It's difficult to suspend the disbelief that most Americans don't particularly like gays or gay politics when you're talking in the today's mainstream media. But you can't really credit Vigurie for being sophisticated *and* candid. He's candid, and for that one can be grateful, but he's not a face for tv or a voice for radio. This is understandable - let Ralph Reed do that kind of stuff.

Then again, I think the dodges that Reed and some others have taken are too clever by half. You really need to drag out the rednecks and tell Blue-Americans in plain language that they have reasonable opposition.

I think Vig's problem, which gives me problems, is that he overstates the influence of his brand of conservatism. So it's a little difficult, given the lack of specifics he could reasonably state int he course of the interview whether he fits firmly into a Paleoconservative suit, although that seems clear. Whereas I am a neoconservative, vis a vis Wilsonian foreign power, actively engaged in the creation of stable global free markets and evangelical libertarianism with big government (military + diplomatic + commercial) backbone, Vig clearly longs for mythical good old days when everyone was a 'Judeo-Christian' and bread cost a nickel. I think it is patently true that most moderates and liberals are unable to disaggregate Viguerie's brand of conservatism from mine, nor make sense of our common bonds.

Viguerie didn't get deeply technical into the mechanics of his grass roots revolution of which Rove is clearly the full heir. Nor do I believe that listeners to the interview would grasp how important it is to understand how marginal / critical is the evangelical edge the Republican Party has gained. But what he said was clear. Over 20 odd years, 'conservatives' went from getting 45% to about 53%. What was new were the evangelical Christians - people who were always in our backyard, just not so actively enfranchised.

That Viguerie is not whole-heartedly behind W. demonstrates the discombobulation between conservatives and Republicans. It was CIA Bush who straightened up Reagan's budget deficit mess while trying to be as Teflon. He couldn't swing the deception but nobody cared because the smart money was happy that the deficits were getting cleaned up. Just as there were a lot of happy Wall Streeters during Clinton's career.

I'm the kind of marketeer who aims to profit no matter what the tax burden. There will always be winners under every regime. So it's odd that Vig is still playing to the middle class who like the *ideology* of tax reduction and small government but are not as likely to materially benefit as us crafty bastards at the top of the capitalist food chain. 'My tax attorney can beat up your (lack of a) tax attorney' is the name of the game no matter who occupies the Oval. It not yet clear that Republicans are carrying the torch for Vig's brand of conservatives and this is patently obvious when you look at budgets passed by Republican vs Democrat congresses. It's basically a tie.

But Vig was right on target in confirming the conspiracy of manufactured consent. If you are a liberal and have a difficult time understanding what the righties are saying when they say 'liberal media' all you have to know is that they are asserting the same thing that Chomsky is asserting about America's ecology of thought. And the discomfort of finding out the realness of cats like Viguerie is exactly the price we pay for having a more porous and decentralized mediasphere. Just as the audience of "Will and Grace" can't bear the thought that some Americans use phrases like 'homosexual agenda', discomfort with the realness of your heretofore unknown neighbors is the name of the game. Clearly those against gay marriage are uncomfortable with Will and Grace.

Vig's take on the Culture War is totally Paleo, and I think he's off his nut on this matter, not in substance but in tactics. Elected office is not a cultural bully pulpit. Everything that is wrong with the 'government sponsored political correctness' is precisely wrong with his activism to put enough fundamentalist friendly public servants into office. If you want the Church to be more central in the lives of Americans, you do it in Church, not in the Courts, the Congress, nor the White House. This is the basic error of Viguerie's brand of populism. The ends may be laudable, but the means poke a hole in the Constitution. I happen to believe that such efforts will be futile - this country is already too pluralist and multicultural to ever 'return to Judeo-Christian values'. But what Paleos like Vig don't understand like Neos like GWBush and I do understand is that despite a world dotted with AQ Jihadists, most of the non-'Judeo Christians' and totally in synch with freedom, democracy and free markets. That's why they keep coming here. But it's not the kind of experience a man Vig's age would know. I'm confident that he can't pronounce half the names in the American white collar workforce - he doesn't know what it's like to live like I do - in a truly global education & labor market.

It's absolutely true that this is what happened today at work. We had a potluck. For lunch I had pizza, spanish rice, eggrolls, taro cake, and a bowl of chili. Somebody had set up a karaoke machine and on it was playing Adam Sandler's take on a Hanukka song. The guy in front of me was Korean, next to him was Chinese. To my right were two Indians, on my left was a latino and an Irish looking cat. A black woman and a blonde woman were organizing folks to wrap Christmas presents (donated Wal-Mart) for local kids. I missed the Thai glass noodles and the vegetarian lasagna, they came after I finished. The Chinese guy and the Indian woman were making jokes to each other about leaving food on their plates, because people in the other's country were starving. This kind of thing happens every day in my America.

What Viguerie does understand is the power of alternative media and the opening up of many channels of news and communications. Mike Krempasky can be proud that his campaign in the blogosphere has influenced Vig enough to mention it many times in the interview. Even though I'm not one to advertise, its that kind of grass roots exchange that makes the difference and I've seen blogads for Vig's book several places.

On the whole, I think Vig's lessons are simple but that those who are not conservative take the margins for the center. Viguerie is caught up in Republican success but clearly wants more from his corner of the conservosphere. I expect and hope that he won't get his way in the Culture Wars, which should not be waged through the law, but his brand of populism may bring such matters standing as a matter of course. Interesting resolutions lie ahead.

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December 15, 2004

Damn! It Still Hurts

I went and did it again. I tried to watch the Blood of Heroes site without crying. Still can't do it. I didn't make it past the fifth picture.

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Wrechard's UN

I actually find this conclusion believable:

One of the shadow costs of an obsession with the United Nations is the preemptive dismissal of diplomatic structures which have historically worked. The recent crisis in the Ukraine was resolved without the United Nations. Someone may eventually remember that the diplomatic structures which defeated Hitler predated the UN. When one considers the diplomatic record of the 20th century the really striking thing is how little of consequence took place under the Baby Blue flag. Of the 50 odd wars that took place after 1945, including such humdingers as the Iraq-Iran War, the Chinese-Indian confrontations, the invasion of Tibet, etc. only two -- Korea 1950 and Kuwait 1991 -- were successfully met by collective UN action. To a large extent the UN's case for its own existence is its own existence. It's a circular argument and the strongest one it has.

Posted by mbowen at 07:46 AM | TrackBack

December 14, 2004

California Knows How To Party

Subtitle: Being & Nothingness

Continuing on the racial angle, because really today is a great day and I'm not at all purturbed at any part of the world, I'll follow up on Ambra.

One of the offhanded remarks I made at her site was that although I'm from California, one can't say I'm the same as the others who aren't black. It's a really awkward thing to say, but I was speaking French. My point, because I made it in the context of a Mandarin and a Spanish sentence immediately previous, is that we're not quite sure what we are supposed to be with regard to ethnic / racial identity..except that we do.

The way I see it is that there are the mainstream stereotypes which are half ignorant, half disrespectful and half true. There is your interpretation of the intention of those who repeat them and there is your reaction to them. This is the threefold factoring of ones place within an ethnic comfort zone. Most of us are accepting of most of that.

Fzample. Let's take the single stereotype of black male (predatory, insatiable) sexuality. It's half ignorant, half disrespectful and half true. So what should I do about it. I can reject it and say I'm not black like *that*, but black like *this*. I'm still responding as black along the same axis, so no matter where I am on the spectrum the stereotype is reinforced. So long as I respond as a definer or redefiner or blackness dealing with the stereotype of black male sexuality, I'm part of the cycle, for better or worse. But what of my sexuality? Am I predatory and insatiable? Hell if I know. Maybe, maybe not. Compared to what? Everyone is unsure about where they fit on various scales of human performance. We all will continue to be until there are web-accesible Olympic records and actuarial tables for every human endeavor, which means forever.

Oh. Think I'm a sexual predator? Well according to Google, the average sexual predator seduces a median of 27 people every year. I've only had sex with 18 different women in the past three years, that puts me in the 14th percentile of American males aged 13-35.
Such data coming soon to a WiFi hotspot near you. Thanks, Starbucks. Still, this doesn't disable the stereotype because you've got to be something, why not be black? Isn't it cool to be an American who *didn't* vote for Bush? Yes, because you understand the perversions of those Americans who did, at least you can pretend so when in the company of non-Americans. Same deal. There is always something special about being part of and yet not part of a semi-understood group.

Again. Stereotypes are half ignorant, half disrepectful and half true. You accept the premise, you define or redefine depending on your interpretation of the intentions of those repeating it. But you can't afford to walk away. Because some part of your real identity is vested in the ease with which you can wear the mask, even though you don't really know where you stand in absolute terms with the rest of your cohort. Interesting isn't it?

I think about this a little because I'm going to be representing Meiguo (America) when I go to China. But I'm not American, I'm from Cali!

What is California? We're more multi-ethnic than just about anywhere on the planet. It seems as though I'm always hearing some statistic about how there are more Xians in California than anywhere oustide of the capital of Xia. (Interestingly I always percieve that it's whitefolks who need to remeind us of all this.)

But California is athletic, more or less tolerant, imaginative, perverse (in the good way), young, affluent and mercurial. It happens first in California. We're cutting edge. People come to California because the place is plastic and accomodating. You don't have to change. We eat everything in California, we speak everything in California, we wear everything in California. We have snow, we have deserts, we have mountains, we have lakes, we have rivers, we have caves and just about every other geological feature. We're agricultural, we're industrial, we're post-industrial. We have grinding poverty and lawlessness, we have arrant manic egotism and... wait. Aren't all these stereotypes? They've got to be at least half true.

Part of the problem with dealing with race and ethnicity in America is America itself. It's too big. Bigger even than California. I've gone the whole nine yards dealing with racism and I've discovered that people are a bit too quick to jump from what's happening around the way to tha national significance of race. It's the fault of blackfolks because we invented Black Nationalism and we've been dominating the discussion of race for a half century. Even though we accomplished a great deal, we didn't really succeed in our own nationalism. But we've begged the question of what the Nation thinks of the Black Race. And everyone has been trying to figure that out and come up with adequate answers. They won't be found. It's more appropriate, I think, to ask a whole lot more smaller and more answerable questions and not try to aggregate them up.

What are the prospects for college educated children of black parents who from two different states who grow up in a third state? Damned good, I'd say. A damned sight better than the kid from Biloxi who's high school educated parents are both from Biloxi.

I think that taking regionalisms and class markers are more definitive than those of ethnicity and race. Not that I would leave the latter two out of the question. Add to that some generational stuff and you've got a handle on a mask that fits a bit better. That's what I believe.

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December 13, 2004

Palm Heaven

I finally picked up my Treo 650. Already it's better than I expected. The one thing that I didn't expect to be able to do, which is get signal in my house, I've done.

The greatest news so far is that I can drop a 1GB SD Memory card in this puppy. I'm going to pick one up tomorrow. I can get my gmail on it which already consolidates several mail accounts. It integrates pictures with contacts.


Posted by mbowen at 09:54 PM | TrackBack

Scott Peterson: Dead


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Bernard Kerik: Dead

I'm not clear on the concept here. How does it come about that nominees for public office are outed for their extra-marital affairs? Who finks? I imagine that the skill required to get this information is part and parcel of the investigative journalist's toolkit, but who are the asshats responsible for saying 'go'?

Is it just me or is this information rather difficult to find? I mean are women willfully blind? Was Kerik very sloppy? Or does national media attention literally have the ability to get the dirt on anyone? It's an ugly situation, I imagine. I wonder if anyone knows who knows what about whom, and what daggers lie waiting to be inserted into backs - if only there's a reporter to tell.

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Gary Webb: Dead

You've got to be brilliant or crazy or a bit of both to take on the CIA singlehandedly. The bigger question is whether you can survive the success or failure of such an endeavor. All in all, the odds are against you, and now another David lies dead in the shadow of Goliath.

It was a suicide according to this article, but it might be more appropriately called a collective execution. Webb long ago lost the support of the profession, despite his willingness to go the extra mile to make his case.

The publication of his book 'Dark Alliance' set a lot of tongues wagging and eyebrows raising. But in the end it didn't prove enough to be the kind of damnation CIA haters would prefer or vindication CIA suckups desired. It showed a complicated and convoluted series of events with plenty of dirt and blame to go around. In the end, I believe that his profession abandoned him.

Webb's job may someday be internalized by massive organizations. Investigations of the sort he embarked upon over continents and years are the only way anyone can find out what goes on aside from those directing operations. In a publicly funded organization we have a right to know, even if most of us would prefer not to know.

Webb's death reminds us that there remain high prices to pay for the burden of unwelcome knowledge. Truth serves no man.

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December 12, 2004


From a meme generator:

Three names you go by:
a. boohab
b. max
c. sixoseven

Three screennames you have:
What's a screen name?

Three things you like about yourself:
a. my family
b. my hands
c. my sense of humor

Three things you dislike about yourself:
a. my gut
b. my impatience
c. my snoring

Three parts of my heritage:
a. french
b. caribe
c. choctaw

Three things that scare you:
a. fanatic mobs
b. drowning
c. extortion

Three everyday essentials:
a. altoids
b. cruzer micro 256
c. pilot g-2 05 black

Three things you are wearing now:
a. nike athletic socks
b. casio g-shock g-3110
c. 'got root?' t-shirt

Three of your favorite bands (at the moment):
a. modest mouse
b. the bad plus
c. edvard grieg

Three of your favorite songs (at the moment):
a. 'numbers' by kraftwerk
b. 'the death of tybalt' by prokofiev
c. 'willow weep for me' as performed by wes montgomery

Three things you want to try in the next 12 months:
a. congee broth done right in beijing
b. krav maga
c. treo 650

Three things you want in a relationship:
a. separate bathrooms
b. motivational clarity
c. one absolutely best thing

Two truths and a lie:
a. people need love
b. god is love
c. love is forever

Three appealing physical things about the opposite sex:
a. walk
b. texture
c. eyes

Three things you just can't do:
a. juggle four balls
b. lie to myself
c. stand flaky people

Three favorite hobbies:
a. writing
b. gaming
c. carousing

Three things you want to do really badly right now:
a. martinis
b. sushi
c. interrogation

Three careers you are considering:
a. bag man
b. novelist
c. night club singer

Three places you want to go on vacation:
a. Mali
b. Bali
c. Denali

Three kids names:

Three things you want to do before you die:
a. tell my great-grandchildren about the bad old days.
b. give away millions of dollars
c. play a decent chopin etude

Posted by mbowen at 05:29 PM | TrackBack

Christmas Poetry

we sat down to tv one cold winter's night
my kids to my left and my wife to my right
feeling quite generous and ready to dote
i handed my daughter the tivo remote
i dozed off a moment then awoke with a start
a shouted profanity jump stared my heart
i opened my eyes and what should appear
but a fat porno santa dry humping a deer

Hmm. I'll wait until I'm out of a perverse mood before I start composing more poetry. But this was too hilarious to pass up. Actually what happened a couple weeks ago was I was channel surfing and went by the new series 'Drawn Together' in front of F7. Be forewarned...

Posted by mbowen at 12:38 PM | TrackBack

Cool Bob vs MathAndScience

I didn't have a good math teacher until my freshman year in college. Actually, my second freshman year, as some might know my tortured path - I was a freshman in '78 and in '82. This good math teacher actually had a degree in mathematics and he was the first math teacher I ever had who did. We called him 'Cool Bob'. He was a longhaired guitar player who dated the daughter of a judge, and he wore holey jeans and plaid flannel shirts. I would have been surprised if he didn't drive a VW Bus. His was a bonehead math class that took us all from pre-algebra up to calculus ready in a 5 unit daily class. I learned everything I was supposed to learn since arithmetic in two semesters.

As I was doing this at Cal State (the class was Math 098 an EOP class, by the way) I was getting interested in campus politics. The class was mostly black and hispanic, offered as part of the special minority program (I had to petition to get in, not because I wasn't black, but that my SAT scores were too high - but I hadn't come straight from highschool). The overwhelming success of this class was a source of pride and embarrassment and pointed to a huge failure in California public education.

Within a semester or two I was officially a BMOC. I had a 3.6GPA in the Computer Science major, I had interned with Xerox, I had my own car, off campus apartment, I was on the Dean's List, and had been elected to at least one of my many offices, all that carrying 16 units. As this kind of role-monkey, I merited a seat on the Student Advisory Council to the Minority Engineering Program. Among my duties were evangelizing the goodness and light to be associated with mathandscience.

And so while I was a geniune gearhead, having ordered Christmas toys from the Edmund Scientific Catalog since my 9th birthday (can you say 'fresnel lens' boys and girls?), most people had no use for mathandscience. Or at least they had elaborate excuses and self-conscious explanations at the ready. In my newfound appreciation of all things institutional, I easily made the connections between the makeshift state of affairs in the California teaching credential business, racial segregation of educational resources and the 'startling' success of Cool Bob's class. Bottom line, crap math teachers everywhere.

This understanding was underscored as I finally started in on Salas and Hille. My first real calculus class was taught by a Chinese guy whose English was pretty poor. I wouldn't trade places with that guy for all the coffee in Starbucks. Imagine having your ability to teach daily impugned by a horde of snot-nosed suburban white kids from the San Fernando Valley. "It's like, you know, he can't speak English. I'm so sure." So I learned (with difficulty, in a very tense and staticy class) about derivatives, mis-pronounced with three syllables.

In the mid 80s, in the middle of the Cold War, in the stirrings of the semiconductor industry, on the eve of a battle against Japan Inc, the economic reality was that if you could speak good English and you understood mathandscience, the overwhelming odds were that you were either already working in Southern California's aerospace industry or you were on your way there. The good majority of Cal State's non-tenured faculty in the School of Engineering & Computer Science were youngish to middle aged immigrants whose combination of poor English and green card status conspired against their careers in those places all the ambitious Valley parents wanted Biff & Becky to work. Mathandscience was the helpful handmaiden to the new middle class, of which I am an outstanding member, over the backs of Khalid, the graduate assistant.

Spengler was my second ever native English speaking professor with an actual degree in Mathematics. I was frickin' 23 years old! By the time I got into her Analytic Geometry section, I had started to make my own excuses about math. It was mostly out of competition for brain-space, what with my burgeoning national student political career. I really kinda wasted the opportunity and just did C work. However I did have a particular affinity for iterative math which dovetailed with computer stuff. So while double and triple integrals gave me fainting spells, those big sigmas were my friends. I could have practically lectured the class on Taylor Series, for what it's worth. I know Spengler probably wouldn't have minded, as she always made much hay over the fact that her 10 year old daughter corrected our homework.

As a matter of fact, quite frankly, I haven't used any of that math in my career. Nor have I used much of my History, French and absolutely none of my PE. But that's beside the point which is that it's damned hard to get competent math teachers who actually teach well. Despite all the volume about how desparately our precious little darlings and poor unfortunate underprivileged urchins need mathandscience, you'll rarely hear anything about Taylor Series, eigenvectors or differentials in all that blather. Good math teachers are just rare, and made more rare by the obscene political wars over putting them in front of the 'right' students.

What I believe is that there is basically no excuse for six years to pass between learning fractions and doing elementary calculus. The fact of Cool Bob's ability to do it in one year is testament to the structural deficiency in our educational system, public and private. (I did go to a private highschool which also had no degreed math instructors.) And maybe the very liberal ambitions of Cool Bob are precisely what we need. You see, he threw a wrench in everyone's agenda. He actually loved Mathematics for its own sake. Nothing could make him happier than sharing that love with students. Kids from the 'hood came out of his class ready to beat down Calculus, and they knew what they were talking about. Not because they were patriots trying to outdo Sputnik, but because they finally got the competent Math instruction they deserved.

Posted by mbowen at 10:41 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Unfree & Unfair

I've been following only lightly the hubbub in Ukraine. So while I haven't had the occasion to say anything pithy on the subject, I have been impressed with the resolution the people have developed. That they have survived the bitter clash over a rigged presidential election is rather astounding. Although I wasn't expecting a civil war, it was certainly in the offing. Today I am greeted with the news that the opposition candidate, Yushenko, had been poisoned with Dioxin. Yike.

I'm fairly convinced that this is Putin's doing. What's up with this guy? I mean, what has Vladimir Putin really done to deserve our tolerance?

Posted by mbowen at 07:55 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Image Peddling

Since I'm going into the entertainment technology business, I'm probably going to spend a lot more time thinking about what's good entertainment. In a couple discussions chez Nykola and Tooley, the age-old question of black images has resurfaced.

Part of the plan which has a lot to do with the fortune I may leave to my offspring owes its economic deliciousness from the default and incompetence of communist regimes to sufficiently entertain their masses. There is probably no greater oxymoron in the modern world than Communist Entertainment. Anywhere you are likely to find a Ministry of Culture, you're not likely to find a production of Arthur Miller's "The Crucible".

Then again, my money says you won't find anything approaching that level of edification in Western popular culture either. This is half the unspoken gripe of the positive images crews, I think. I mean even though we have great culture, it's not all very entertaining. My smackdown says only 10% of the folks who complain about Hollywood images have any Shakespeare in their DVD collection, and I'm being generous. Yes I do have more than 3 including James Earl Jones rendition of King Lear, arguably the most outstanding portrayal ever filmed. There's no shortage of excellent, erudite and uplifting material out there, but who's buying?

But specifically to their points, is there something to the sexualization of black images? Only to honkies, is my answer. I think people give Hollywood and the entertainment industry too much credit for being persuasive and constructive. Surely the high-paid flunkies who fly around the country in service of Jennifer Lopez' highly crafted hair, nails, eyebrows and ass must think of her as a goddess, but do we? Really?

I can really not think of a more perfect example of this thing, this economy that the American entertainment business wants to create than the person of JLo, the ultimate sex symbol. It's probably not on point with regards to the aesthetic of hiphop's bling & bitches theme which is probably the cause of all the drama and ire at my fellows' blogs, but I think it is what Hollywood and America want most. Even so, is it really the perverted creations of the honky mind that is making millions of hiphop fans percieve all those images as 'real'? So let's keep it real, shall we? Nobody created Lil Kim but Lil Kim. Nobody wrote Ice Cube's lyrics but Ice Cube. They are exactly what they want to be, and the unwashed millions are buying just what they want to see.

So if this is a species of the argument that millions of [African] Americans are degenerate perverts consuming swill by the buttload, then I have no gripe or disagreement whatsoever. It's absolutely true. And if you think what's on TV is disgusting, take it from me, you really are incredibly naive. You have no idea what's going on in the massive American porno industry. Furthermore, on the world scene America is a prude.

However, if this complaint is a species of the argument that the [White] Man is destroying African America through a vast conspiracy aimed at distorting the truth about the value of our souls... Well, get a life. And take a long hard look at your own DVD collection.

Posted by mbowen at 03:18 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 11, 2004


I spent too much time at the Y today.

There's something about the unmistakeable flavor of watered down fruit punch that lets you know that you are at a boring function and it's just about time to get out. If you have a paper plate in your hand as well, it had better be a picnic. But if it's indoors, you're too late.

It's that time of year again. Winter Program. The offspring did an admirable job at their school's function. M10's duet in the last piece of the evening came the closest any of the acts got to a standing ovation. F9's little speaking role got the appropriate laugh, and F7 got a chance to stand in the front row for the 2nd Grade singers. All in all the family's rep at the elementary school is in excellent standing. But the YMCA is a different story.

I complain too much but this little gong show only carried the thinnest pretenses of a real community happening. After each and every of the 12 acts, another slice of the mob of parents abandoned the chairs and prime videotaping vantage points they squabbled to get in the first place and headed off elsewhere. By the time we got to Act 12, my two daughters' Jazz/Hiphop/Modern Dance Recital (otherwise known as pre-teen booty shaking, but not too much), two thirds of the joint was deserted.

Hey, I'll admit it. I was in the second to last row of plastic fold up chairs enjoying the hell out of John King Fairbank's "China: A New History" and was too deep into making sense of the effect of Buddhism in the wake of the Early Han Dynasty. I did my back of the hand opera claps when every one else did, but I wasn't really being much of a good citizen. Why fake it?

I'm thinking about how interestingly powerful and yet shallow is our multiculturalism. I mean, I've known since I read 'Japanese by Spring' a dozen years ago that nobody is really serious about capital M Multiculturalism. And while reading about the rise and fall of Chinese empires this realization slapped me around a bit. I've stepped back and started thinking about civilizations, and it's screwing with me a bit. But now that I understand about 50 words of conversational Mandarin (pu tung hua), pardon my pinyin, the distance between us neighbors is annoyingly evident.

At my Y, there are a hefty number of Chinese families, who until about a week ago were relatively undifferentiated Asians to me. Sure I have a native Californian's ability to distinguish Japanese from Chinese from Vietnamese from Korean just by looking at folks in the face, listening to the rhythm of the language and checking their body language. But none of this registers with the smacking finality of beginning to grasp meaning in their heretofore unintelligible blathering. I had no particular reason to watch or listen intently or try to decypher their conversations until now. These days I listen to AM 1300 and hang out in the Ping Pong Room just to get familiar with the cadences.

But I broke the shell this morning and excused myself to venture out a sentence or two. You see, the Y has excused itself from providing ping pong balls. So when a table was finally free, I had to cadge one off one of the Mandarin speakers. M10 and I were there listening for him to say 'ma' at the end of his sentences so we'd know they were questions, and I had inadvertantly left my idiot 'Chinese in 10 Minutes' book out of my backpack, which I take nowhere near as seriously as the Pimsleur CD course I play in my car everyday. So while the (dweh bu chee) excuse me didn't raise an eyebrow, the (syesye ni) thank you got half the room laughing. What the hell, I did get a ping pong ball out of it.

It wasn't until 3 minutes later when he mentioned the title of the book to more laughter that I started feeling like an idiot. Surely the whole scenario made it appear as though I might have purchased the book for ping pong room conversation, then again I can't decrypt Chinese laughter. But it was the clear change in the tone of his speech from then on which was messing with my mind, plus the fact that M10 can't resist hitting the ball hard but it never stays on the table. Bottom line, I'm embarassed. Plus, the old Chinese guy that I usually talk to wasn't there at all.

I did explain to Boy that inflection is everything in Mandarin. Like most black dads, I have a series of non-verbal grunts that I use in everyday family life which are implicitly understood completely by inflection. Further I have used to fairly good effect some parallel rhythms and cadences to help me wind phrases together, my favorites being (wo shwo da bu hau) and (jr dau, wo jr dau). The Chinese also use a construction which translates almost literally to "a little somethin' ". For some reason, I almost immediately feel like I've always known how to say (ni xiang tchr yidyar dong shi ma), so if you want to eat a lil sumpn sumpn, I'm the man to ask you in Mandarin.

As confident I am in my growing yet piddling language skills, I know there is terrain I'll never navigate with much confidence. I took 4 years of French and I absolutely hated ordering in Paris restaurants. I can accept on one level that I will look as foolish as some of those 6 year old Chinese girls dancing in my daughter's hiphop recital even though the very prospect grates. Somehow I am going to have to deal with the laughter and disrespectful regard of the natives as I go hang out on their turf. It may be that I'll only make social inroads with subordinates and synchophants. I'll be a haughty misunderstood uppity negro on the other side of the planet too. I can live with that.

My attitude about solitude and isolation is becoming rich, and it is in that regard that I am finding a moral tug. I am thankful and fortunate that I reach this state of mind without regret for anti-social mistakes. I have always been goodhearted in that respect. I am just coming to understand the deeper implications of the openness with which I have lived my life, especially in my writing; it's so deeply a part of me. The necessity of recognizing interdependence is critical, otherwise old men die alone and friendless. What could be worse? I could ask Qing emperors, I suppose. They didn't see it.

In my learning Mandarin and in the efforts of millions of Chinese to learn English there is great optimism. I believe that if Multiculturalism is anything it ultimately must mature to that level, despite the difficulties. I'm not sure where it goes from there or what might not happen without it, but it clearly allows me as a middle aged man the opportunity to see the world a completely different way, which is a stunning development as far as I'm concerned.

I can't say with much certainty that the opportunity I feel personally is matched by a general optimism at the prospects for our two civilizations, despite the fact that it is indeed the theme of my new business venture. It's going to take a lot of time to find the tactical and strategic commonalities. It's harder than music appreciation. Ultimately, we're talking about managing huge amounts of power between us. Our ways and their ways are very different...

I have a feeling that I should just shut up and read Kipling. More later.

Posted by mbowen at 09:29 PM | TrackBack

Arabian Nights

Posted by mbowen at 02:55 PM | TrackBack

December 10, 2004

Blade Trinity, Gearheads & Cargo Pants

blade.jpgMy favorite pants are the fatigue green cargo pants that I got from Target a couple months ago. Since I have these, I can delay my decision to purchase that new Treo 650 I've had my eye on. I priced it out yesterday and it's over 750 bucks. Yike. But today I have all kinds of pockets, I can keep all the bulkier low tech gear in multiple pockets. I also have a fairly expensive backpack from Targus with an uncountable number of pockets, flaps and zippers.

So as I was walking from work the other day with the single strap of the Targus weighing down my right shoulder and me patting myself down to make sure I had everything it made me pause to think how it came to be that in 2004 I'm still carrying 40 pounds of gear.

Yesterday, I snuck out and saw Blade III. It was OK. The good parts were really good, and rest surely has to be a lot more fun for guys in their 20s than me. Still, it got enough under my skin to ask myself why I'm taking Capoeira instead of Krav Maga. So I think I know the answer.

It's cool to carry a bunch of high tech gear, no matter how weird i makes you walk.

Still, what have I got weighing me down that might lighten my load (and give me more room for more gear)? Definitely the laptop can be reduced in size. Chances are that I'll have a nice flat panel to plug it into whenever I work onsite so I don't need a big screen. The transformer isn't going to get any lighter. I wouldn't need all the Cat5 and the 4 port hub if my clients would bother to go wireless. I still carry Quadrille pads and a paper based calendar, but I probably would use a PDA based time tracking system if somebody did the interface nicely for under 50 bucks. I don't know how I can get much better than the data crammed on 20 DVDs in that little ballistic nylon book.

But right about now I'm really sick of my wallet. I'm considering the possiblity of keeping an alternate wallet. This is where I'm going to do a lot of research and learn - my new company is investing in smart cards big time. As an aside, I would like to believe that I started the geek fashion trend of wearing a USB flash drive on a lanyard around my neck last December. When you see a geek doing so, think of me, thank you. So this is where the confluence can work. I think lanyard fashion can catch on as well as bling.

Back in 96, the spousal unit had an all areas pass to the Olympic Village in Atlanta. She was a bit more restricted in Sydney, but there was no question that that big old badge & pass she wore around her neck was hella valuable. The trick is to get teenagers and fashionistas to jump on the bandwagon. What it's going to take is a very large and flashy card. People will wear 'em. Watch.

Right now I use Schnier's Password Safe. So even if you snatched the Cruzer off my lanyard, you're not going to get any of my secrets.

So I figure a PDA with the camera, 500MB of CF memory and the ability to transfer data back and forth with a standard XP machine, and I'll be good to go. That is, until I get a katana and a pistol with silver bullets.

UPDATE: I decided to put in the picture. That on my wrist is, what else but a Casio G-Shock.

Posted by mbowen at 07:46 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Crighton's Smackdown

I finished Michael Crighton's latest (audio) book 'State of Fear' this story yesterday afternoon. I thought I had gotten to the didactic part that morning, but he was just getting warmed up. He delivers a blistering critique of sloppy thinking and hidden agendas which borders on stentorian. By the time you get to the end of the book, it sounds like a stern lecture from Professor Bullfinch *and* Dr. Grimes. His appendix is a dramatic summary judgement on the massive errors of the Western world's romance with the deadly pseudo-science of Eugenics. It makes this book something more than I originally guessed, and it just might take America for a little controversial ride.

Crighton has basically outed academic whoredom and cults of certainty. He has called into question our motivations for seeking knowledge and free inquiry. There have been plenty of folks, like by buddy Tim, and the Invisible Adjunct, who have called into question the ethics and reasonableness of some (if not most) of what goes on in the American Academe. Crighton dramatizes the results of the madness. It's a fairly slamming broadside. Let's see what shakes loose.

Posted by mbowen at 08:56 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Power of Prayer

A little story I found. Lovely.

A voyaging ship was wrecked during a storm at sea and only
two of the men on it were able to swim to a small, desert like

The two survivors, not knowing what else to do, agreed that
they had no other recourse but to pray to God.

However, to find out whose prayer was more powerful, they
agreed to divide the territory between them and stay on opposite
sides of the island.

The first thing they prayed for was food.

The next morning, the first man saw a fruit-bearing tree on
his side of the land, and he was able to eat its fruit. The other
man's parcel of land remained barren.

After a week, the first man was lonely and he decided to
pray for a wife.

The next day, another ship was wrecked, and the only
survivor was a woman who swam to his side of the land. On the other
side of the island, there was nothing.

Soon the first man prayed for a house, clothes, more food.
The next day, like magic, all of these were given to him. However,
the second man still had nothing.

Finally, the first man prayed for a ship, so that he and
his wife could leave the island. In the morning, he found a ship
docked at his side of the island. The first man boarded the ship
with his wife and decided to leave the second man on the island. He
considered the other man unworthy to
receive God's blessings, since none of his prayers had been

As the ship was about to leave, the first man heard a voice
from heaven booming, "Why are you leaving your companion on the

"My blessings are mine alone, since I was the one who
prayed for them," the first man answered. "His prayers were all
unanswered and so he does not deserve anything."

"You are mistaken!" the voice rebuked him. "He had only one
prayer, which I answered. If not for that, you would not have
received any of my blessings."

"Tell me," the first man asked the voice, "what did he pray
for that I should owe him anything?"

"He prayed that all your prayers be answered."

For all we know, our blessings are not the fruits of our
prayers alone, but those of another praying for us.

This is too good not to share. With obedience come

My prayer for you today is that all your prayers are
answered. Be blessed.

"What you do for others is more important than what you do
for yourself"

This was shared with me by a friend...hope you will share
with yours too.

Posted by mbowen at 08:44 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 09, 2004


Posted by mbowen at 01:01 PM | TrackBack

Botox, Drag Racing & Athletic Nobility

In drag racing, you can use regular gasoline, or you can use nitro. You can use normal aspiration or you can supercharge your engine. Each modification has a class and those classed together race together. The sport is all about getting over the finish line the fastest. However, the most popular class of dragsters, top fuel dragsters, are not the fastest. The fastest dragsters are the jet cars. In this model of sport we can find answers to the ethical mind-pretzels now twisting sporstwrigeters all over this country over recent revelations about drug use in pro baseball.

My position is this. Let them take drugs.

There are two primary arguments I hear against the sanction of drug-based performance enhancement in pro sports. Only one of them makes sense to me. That is that the rules say no drugs, so all drug users are cheaters and thereby debase the game. I can live with that. But the prohibition against drugs themselves for the purpose of leaving asterisks off of records is a silly sentiment.

Part of me wants to poo the folks who sweat bullets over the 'messages' sent by drug-taking athletes, because I'm not a part of sports fandom. I have no sports heros, nor do I seek them. I appreciate a good game, just like the next guy, but rarely do I retain enough information from season to season to be a real participant in the meta-game. So I don't care if Kobe is a homewrecker or not. He's a ball player, is he any good? Yeah? Good. Is he better than Jordan? No. OK. End of discussion. That's about as far as it goes with me, unless I'm trying to make an allegorical point about something larger than sports.

But the fact of the matter is that sports heros are real and they do have social weight for many of us. People care about the demeanor of top athletes, they are real role models. So prohibitions against drug-taking by athletes makes sense for more reasons than the integrity of the game. But we should understand that which athletes we choose to idolize is somewhat arbitrary.

There seems to me nothing inherent in the values we seek to revere in sport which limit them to football or baseball. If there is a such thing as athletic nobility, surely it can't be limited to a handful of contests. The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, the human drama of athletic competition, certainly all of these are found in sports other than those we dote upon. So it seems to me that some of our ethical dilemma in picking the wrong sports heroes because we are picking the wrong sports. Think about it this way, there was once a time when boxing was considered the domain of athletic nobility. That is no longer the case. Although some would argue that we have lost something permanently as a showcase for heroism, I say it has just moved on to another sport. We are not at a loss for heroes, they just work another arena. Or maybe our society doesn't value courage, strength and speed as much as we thought.

But let's say we allowed drugs in our pro sports. Whatever the values our society places on its mastery I think it is absurd to assume that the critical elements of every sport would become threatened by generally allowing dope. I could be wrong, but I don't believe that we know so much about long distance running as we know about weightlifting. Every highschool kid knows that steroids will grow the kind of muscle mass that makes for a better weightlifter, but what kind of drug makes one a better ski jumper, a better hockey goalie, a better golfer a better video gamer?

So I think that people should admit that it's not the drugs, but the cheating that makes the difference in athletic nobility. If we allowed it, the drug regimen would become just another part of the diet and training discipline athletes use. For those who believe that a drug free purity is necessary, create another class of competition. I happen to think that the Olympic Games best suits the class of competition which should be drug free. After all, many of these are the sports which have little else going for them but the prestige of athletic nobility.

What's interesting about all this is that we already embrace the augmentation of the critical element in the realm of entertainers. Who believes that Hollywood stars are all natural beauties? Living in Los Angeles, I can tell you that the classifieds are full of ads for every kind of physical enhancement imaginable. Dermatologists and cosmetic dentists and surgeons in LA live better than royalty. But is Chris Rock any less funny because he has $40,000 worth of dental work? Is Baywatch any less watchable because some of that stuff ain't real? No. This kind of preparation just comes with the territory, and isn't it fun to see what Whitney Houston looks like without makeup? Sure it is. Just like it's fun for me to know I'm taller than Mike Tyson and Lee Majors.

I know a guy who was the captain of the lacrosse team at Ohio State in the 70s. He said they practiced without pads. There will never be another Jim Thorpe or even Bo Jackson. Time, diet and training regimens move on. Let 'em use drugs. So long as it's not cheating, it raises the bar.

Posted by mbowen at 10:41 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Wanker Benched

From Xinhua:

Iraq's Shiite Muslims led by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani on Thursday unveiled a broadly based electoral alliance which excludes radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

The alliance, called the United Iraqi Alliance, is comprised of 228 candidates and groups the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution, the Islamic Dawa Party and the Iraqi National Congress, Dawa party official Ali al-Adeeb said at a press conference.

The list of the alliance also included independent Sunni Muslims belonging to various tribal groups, he said.

However, Sadr, whose militia battled US-led forces in Baghdadand Najaf before calling a truce in August, "is not on the list," said Hussein Shahrastani, a member of the coalition's organizing committee.

Iranian-born Sistani has been overseeing the work of his to paides to compile the list for the Jan. 30 parliamentary election, in which Shiite parties are expected to perform strongly.

In the first popular vote since Saddam's ouster, Iraqis will choose a 275-member assembly that will write a permanent constitution.

Posted by mbowen at 09:40 AM | TrackBack

State of Fear

I'm listening to Crighton's latest novel on CD. Within its pages are the most devastating critique of the environmental movement you're likely to encounter. This is something of a different twist for Crighton; it feels different. There's enough swashbuckle to keep the story going, but where it really delivers is in the stunning arguments. It's precisely the kind of thing I expected from the internet, and ultimately the blogosphere - to take popular conceptions two steps deeper and reveal the fallacies and misinformation beneath them.

The plot is fairly pedestrian. Get a spectator enmeshed in a series of global events which are driven by conspiracy and throw in some characters who explain the technical details of what's actually going on. In this story, science - Crighton's usual nemisis - takes something of a backseat to pseudo-science, what I call scientific animism. This is the strong belief in scientific-sounding, professionally delivered information without the ability to understand the theory, or the proof behind it.

It's a compelling story of eco-terrorism and 'The Ecology of Thought'. Now I'm going to get back to it.

Posted by mbowen at 08:26 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 08, 2004

Appointment With Mr. Z

Not long ago, I wondered aloud what happened to all the New Jacks. Among them are LA Reid and Babyface. It turns out that Reid has done adequately well for himself at Island Records, and now he has Jay-Z working for him. It looks to me like a private kingdom in the public world and a clear triumph for (ahem) uppity negroes.

Proving yet again that he is the hardest-working retiree in the music industry, the rap star Jay-Z has agreed to become the president of Universal Music Group's Def Jam Recordings label.

The appointment, announced yesterday, puts Def Jam, the hip-hop label, in the hands of one of rap's biggest-selling artists. Universal, part of Vivendi Universal, will give Jay-Z, who has little corporate experience, the vacant top job at one of its biggest divisions, granting him authority over everything from album production to marketing strategies, and an artist roster that includes stars like LL Cool J and Ludacris.


Posted by mbowen at 02:18 PM | TrackBack

Spence on the NAACP

My man Spence has put together an amazingly concise breakdown of the structural problems of the NAACP.

In my experience, I have noticed symptoms of the problems with the organization, especially in my dealings in Boston in the early 90s. I had not, in my dismissals understood that they were structural, rather I assumed that they were the result of failed leadership. Having some history with black organizations, I was very aware with the kinds of folks most attracted to the kinds of platform an NAACP position offered. So my interpretation of 'incapable' as a description of the organization always presumed a political and philosophical roadblock. Now I see the kinds of things the organization can never address as they are constituted. Smells like opportunity.

Nevertheless, anyone who would have any expectations of the NAACP should read Spence's analysis in order to better understand its limits.

Posted by mbowen at 10:21 AM | TrackBack

December 06, 2004

Larry Kramer, Shaddap!

Patton Oswalt has gone soft. Whoda thunk? But he did have something of his old edge in his standup special last night. He hates hippies, and although he could have refined that piece, the way he ripped NPR was delicious. I'm ready to rip NPR again, because all I've heard today is bleating about 12 gay soldiers and whining by Larry Kramer.

Message to the Gay Man. America doesn't hate gays, we're just sick to death of you. Message to all combattants in the Gay Wars. Shut the hell up. Go home and get some sexual satisfaction and be happy.

I am getting the distinct feeling that I'm going to come back from China with some of the same 'Anti-American' criticism of American media that I did when I came back from Sydney in 2000. I'm going to be full of piss and vinegar, all vitriolic about the lame mindlessness of it all. Why? Because the softness and cynicism of American journalists is getting on my nerves - this is what they report, the sense that gays in America are losing their rights.

Gays in America are not losing their rights, because gays have no additional rights to protect. And perhaps I am unduly emboldened by the recent Supreme Court decision in Texas, but how much is a lifestyle a right?

Free to be Me.
Is state-mandated tolerance a Constitutional principle? Should it be? To what extent should laws lubricate the inevitable friction between people? In the coming world, I see the value of 'PC' as a personal skill, like courage or intelligence. In this nation we will cyber our way into each others lives, very carefully negotiated. And we will be surprised and somewhat astounded at the ability of others to trust without electronic verification. Why? Because we somehow have lost the ability of discernment in the main. We didn't realize that kid would grow up to be a serial killer, he was just 'challenged', remember? Too many of us have gotten so accustomed to saying "OK, I guess so" and "But there's nothing wrong with that.." and "All he needs is a little.." that we've practically forgotten how to say No. We have disabled, or perhaps I should say crippled, our ability to use the words 'superior' and 'inferior' as adjectives for people.

Understand that this has nothing to do with the suggestion that gays are either inherently or even transitively inferior or superior. It has to do with the fact that we have zoned out so far from dealing with what King would have us do, the content of character, that we have confused volume with credibility. And nothing speaks volumes like the ability to launch organizations like GMHC and ActUp.

See, I refuse to believe that Larry Kramer has a bigger heart than I do. And I don't think that anyone should buy that as a premise of his credibility. Any normal person who watches people die feels that kick in the gut. And I beleive he is invested in the kind of rhetoric which suggests that anyone who disagrees with him is a heartless hater. Understand that this is a fallacy that so undercuts his credibility that he deserves to be verbally beat down. And yet it is something that we cannot depend upon our journalists to do, at least not those at NPR. Not today.

In fact, I have Acted Up with ActUp and I have danced my feet numb at the Javits Center with the GMHC crowd. When you're at the party, you drink the Kool Aid, but you don't take the recipe as Gospel. A bit of critical thinking shows the ordinary strange people to be simply invested in hope for ill friends, neighbors and fellow Americans. But those of us who wear Eddie Bauer and keep our hair cut short have souls too, and if I may indulge in a bit of rhetoric, we probably care more for you than you care for us. After all, I don't need to rebel against society to be happy. The grudge is yours.

I'm trying to imagine how Larry Kramer calculates that on November 2, 2004 that every pharmaceutical company in the world stopped their research into finding the cure for AIDS.

Yes 13 out of 13 states have this year just said No to Gay Marriage. It is a reality check on the ambitions of activists who have, I think, been watching too many Broadway shows. The drama of AIDS activism doesn't motivate everyone, but mistaking that for the single avenue to compassion and mutual understanding is a severe error of judgement. Then again, haven't I already said that we are losing ours?

When it comes to fighting disease, we all have mutual interests in reasonable progress. (The reason I moderate this takes some understanding, follow the neonatal thread.) But when it comes to public declarations of support for our sexual choices, everybody stands in line behind Brittany Spears. We don't give a fig and you can't make us. Elope, dumbass. When we're done griping, we'll give up half a banana split, but not until the volume is turned down and the credibility is turned up.

It's time for a new poster boy. We can't expect our namby pamby media to give Kramer the thorough fisking he deserves. I am hopeful we can do better.

Posted by mbowen at 04:04 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Neonatal Tech and the Meaning of Life - Part One

In 1990 I dated a pediatric surgeon. It was one of the strangest relationships I ever had. I've never met anyone with a more twisted sense of humor. I never quite laughed along with the cracks about meconium inhalation, but I understood finally where that came from.

Now my cousin was a trauma surgeon once. So I grew accustomed to hearing things like "I can't wait to get my hands into somebody's guts." And according to those elaborate skill inventories, I've been assessed to have three perfect careers, architect, programmer and surgeon. So I truly understand the mentality of the men and women who keep their hands bloody for a living. So I finally understood that part and parcel of the professional ethos was a healthy respect for the human body. As a part of this I think it is only when you understand how incredibly complex and robust a system it is, do you begin to respect it. Still, bodies succeed and fail in inexplicable ways. You have to accept the capriciousness of the system too. It's an odd mix of temperaments.

I don't know how one can be a GP without having a healthy dose of cynicism, especially when one practices medicine in the United States. One of the first surprising things I learned was how doctors get sold by drug companies like us ordinary folks get spam. I attended a black tie event - some medical awards ceremony - and it seemed like half the people there were drug dealers, er pharmaceutical salesmen. We were plied with branded pens, post-it notes, refrigerator magnets and all sorts fo junk. I played along with the game, pretending to be a throat specialist (since it's well known that there are a healthy number of African Americans in that specialty here on the West Coast) just to see how far one of the guys would go.

Now back in that day, part of the cynicism extended to the widely reported phenomenon of the 'crack baby'. At Children's Hospital, they were spending millions, literally, to show that they could save low birthweight babies who were born addicted to crack cocaine. And they did. There was a revolution going on in being able to keep premies alive with newfangled procedures and advanced incubators that were practically synthetic wombs. Just for those pictures we all remember so well - little grey infants smaller than an adult hand, shivering weakly. That's what got the rich old codgers and dowagers out of their seats and into writing fat checks. The irony that crack babies were driving what would inevitably save thousands of premies was not lost on anyone, especially not me.

Right about that time, the culture wars were still in full swing, as were the accusations about 'black genocide'. The idea that the black man was an 'endangered species' did the rounds, not without probable cause. As well, diatribes about 'welfare queens' and teen motherhood were all anyone ever talked about in those days before The Verdict and OJ. From my perspective, I preferred to cut through the BS. How could this so called genocide be successful if all the black teenagers were having so many babies? It has long been one of my arguments about the persistence of African America - there are more of us now than there were back then, plus now we have Yo MTV Raps. We're not going back to Africa, we're doing just fine here. Part and parcel of that argument was that 'God don't make mistakes.' If a human body can get pregnant and deliver a child, then it's our economy that is out of joint if that child suffers, not 'black sex drives'.

The medical fact is that teenage mothers don't deliver as healthy a babe as a more mature woman comepletely aside from socioeconomic factors. Furthermore as a proper definition of survival of a species is concerned, all that must occur is that creatures' life expectancy gets through and beyond reproductive age. So there are almost none, if any, endangered ethnicities on the planet, strictly speaking. What we really care about is the longevity of the cultures, not the actual humans. The actual humans were doing well biologically. But then again, some were not. Enter technology.

If a couple cannot get pregnant, they had better have some money. Because if you want a baby and your own body is in the 'pathetic' category - if you swing that hammer but can't ring that bell - you had just better come out of your pocket and buy that kewpie doll. They are for sale, you know. My new partner says there is an incredibly brisk adoption business in China, the clients are all woefully out of shape Swedes, Finns and Danes. Make a note of this vis a vis Gay Marriage. But if your body can't reproduce, maybe God is trying to tell you something. We've all heard the stories of fertility clinics etc. This is all part of the equation..

I'm going to break off this piece and continue it later. The points I want to associate here have to do with the economic and professional incentives of the medical industry to get and spend on sperms, eggs, fetuses, premies and infants. Most babies in the world are born via midwifery, a cultural artifact that is all but extinct in the US of A. Go around and ask women you know about an epidural. Of course the desire to have a baby is very strong in everyone. Some folks will bear the pain, others will just shop. There is an economy here, and American values weigh in heavily. It's about race, it's about money, it's about technology, it's about culture and values and God and politics.

People want to chop each others heads off about Roe V Wade. I'm about to live somewhere where the government dictated how many children you can have. So I'm going to be particularly interested to understand what happens when you let the state that close. I'm civil libertarian on this matter, not pro-life, but anti-abortion. Where should the lines be drawn? To be continued.

Posted by mbowen at 10:15 AM | TrackBack

Virtual Revenge

I may as well be explicit.

What happened to me about 18 months ago was that I had decided to stop contracting and go for a full time job. Some really cool people at a very large entertainment company (who's logo is the whole friggin' planet) started the interview process. Everybody loved me, but there was a big boss. So while I'm turning down other contracts in anticipation of getting this gig, the interview process drags out. I had 5 interviews, all of which were great successes until the very last one, which was the boss's boss's boss.

I may come to understand how the entertainment business is unlike every other, but a manager who has no comprehension of RAD methodologies shouldn't be able to hire IT professionals. But On top of this, they did the gauntlet interview process. Which is you put a candidate in front of 20 people who can all say no (including kids 2 years out of DeVry), but only one who can say yes.

Anyway, I wasted eight weeks and turned down work that could have fed me. My mistake was not hedging the bet. But the Hollywood folks were smiling in my face and telling me how great it was going to be working with me. Finally the market dried up and I basically was out of work for 6 months. I had to borrow some figure north of $12,000 to make ends meet and not get evicted.

It turns out that there are a lot of American entertainment companies that are trying to do what we're about to do. So it is very likely that there will be a crossing of paths in the future, something I never imagined at the time. I very well may be in the superior position.

I've badmouthed this man and his company enough times. I've gotten over it. I survive, comme d'habitude. Ce n'est pas une grand chose. Still, I have enough nerve to commit some farcical practical joke, if not a brick through his window. The idea is appealing and he certainly deserves as much. Yet anything I might do now, if I were to go out of my way in order to accomplish it, would not be proper in my ethos. It is an action that belongs in the moment, and the moment has long passed.

I know some of the reasons for that man's hesitation, and the story is really not so simple. He is also a powerful and reputable enough individual to expect revenge from time to time. I have no doubt that he knows that he makes enemies, this is part and parcel of the way Hollywood works. So while the thought of revenge had only surfaced recently in the context of other entertainment companies in Hong Kong wanting in on the action...

I may very well raise this from the position of an idle threat to an ethical challenge. The problem is something like this. On a scale of 1 to 10, do I really want to do it? 2. Does it need to be done? 8. Would I be glad to see it happen? 6. Would I do it, given the chance? 7. To me it has the appearance of an opportunity to do right which by the way I have a personal stake in. I can generate the motivation to do it, but only if the body floats down the river half dead.

Posted by mbowen at 07:36 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Ching, Ni Shwo Man Yidyar

This week I'm going to get a CD to play in the car or on the computer. The spousal unit picked up a cassette from the local library but I really have poblems with analog tech. Besides, the distortion was crazy freaky. I could hear about four levels of echo, as if playing the tape so many times had shifted the magnetic substrate several times.

I clearly can recognize the language as compared to Japanese, Korean or Vietnamese. Chinese comes mostly from the front of the mouth. Spoken at something of a monotone (if the announcers on the radio are any indication) the inflection within words is very subtle. Whereas Japanese inflection and rhythm is a completely different. It's spoken more in the throat, louder it seems. French is a back of the throat language too, but all of these are easier than Arabic, which I don't think I'd ever be able to speak with any appreciable speed.

Chinese seems easy on the mouth, but the difference between a dz and a sz might give me problems. Also the way things are translated into English and English phonetics is going to trip me up a little. For example I know I've seen 'jyang' and 'jiang' spellings for the same word, as weel as 'boo' and 'bu'.

It's going to take me at least a year to be as bad with Chinese as I am with Spanish, but at least when I listen to Spanish on the radio, I can pick out enough words to know what the converstaion is about. On the other hand, it's a good excuse to get some more Jackie Chan movies.

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December 05, 2004


Muzimei, a Chinese blogger has gotten her ISP shutdown, apparently for releasing the names of the men she's slept with. Fascinating. I wonder if mentioning her name here would bring me traffic or comments. I am very interested in knowing whether or not as an American blogging in China, I would bring negative attention from the authorities, since I don't even consider what consequences might arise from my writing here.


I'm also checking a few expat sites, since I'm on the late freight with this.

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December 03, 2004

Who is Henry Bekkering?

If you don't know, now you know.

Damn! This is pure energy. He's on fire. He doesn't just defy gravity, he rips it to shreds. Most of all, he's fast.

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Bete Noir

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The Vector

In August or September of 2002 I got fired for the second or third time in my life. I'm that kind of asshole, but I didn't realize how close I was back then.

If things go as I plan, I'm going to serve up a cold dish of revenge. I have a couple people in mind. I have to make sure they know what a drag they were on my life. You see, the lesson I learned in interdependency was that, anybody who doesn't mind to see you fail is, by definition, your enemy. I didn't understand that - I thought that people had to dislike you and consciously plot against you. But in fact, all people have to do is know you, and ignore or discount those who actually do plot against you. These are those who won't let you know that the truck is about to hit you. They want to see a crash, and it doesn't matter to them that it's you. It doesn't matter how many episodes of Seinfeld you have discussed over lunch at the food court, they are your enemy nonetheless. It's a scary prospect for a guy like me, with thousands of names in my Outlook, only a half dozen which know what the DC stands for in the middle of my name.

That's ok.

The difference between liberals and conservatives is that conservatives know the truck is always coming. They're looking for ways to escape - to get away clean. The liberals are trying to set up traffic lights and warning signs so that nobody gets hit. That's why liberals are so attracted to despair. They know the feeling, while trying to be nobody's enemy, of watching a fellow human splattered. Writings of despair could be shared by liberals and conservatives. Perhaps it is the proper nexus. It was despair that changed me.

I turned Republican when I realized that catastrophe is inevitable, and the only salvation is becoming larger than life, and pre-emptively thrashing your enemies. Capitalism is a great medium for this agenda. If you don't become larger than life, then you are stuck at the mezzanine of despair, of knowing that life is a giant highway and the trucks never stop running people down. The liberal never seeks to become the truck. Instead, they endlessly warn the weak and bury the dead. It's a state of mind I cannot abide. Despair cannot be my byline. I want to be sensitive, I cannot be jaded. Burying bodies, praying for the trucks to stop, coming up with new schemes and watching them all fail... I don't have the patience for that. That's a job for Monroe.

I didn't know back then how close I was to being the mower rather than the mowee. I didn't give myself enough credit. I didn't think that I could make the leap, instead I was prepared to climb the slope one step at a time, like everybody else - like the food court lunch crowd who watched me get fired. And I realized when it happened that there was nothing they could do about it. They weren't bosses, they were employees just like me. They were just like opinions and assholes. They were commodity people with brains for hire.

So when I read about what Stalin did, I knew that my turn was inevitable.

It's not difficult to be reconciled to death. All you have to do is wander enough weary streets, and you're sure to find some population of humanity who bear greater burdens than yourself. It's easy in Houston, or wherever you might be. There are always rats self-medicating in the maze, but the problem stays. I'm a human, you say to yourself. We're all going to die, you say to yourself. Sooner or later we're going to get hit by that truck, you say to yourself. I'll just try to watch my back, you say to yourself. And then you start envying your children's naivete instead of teaching them how to win. You start putting limits on your expectations and you bog yourself down into a waking oblivion. It's easy. Everybody does it. You're doing it right now.

I think there's a difference between humility and reconciliation to death. I'm not sure I can spell it out. I'll have to wait until I get to the other side of success - that success that has the feel of inevitability to me right now. When I see the six figures cash in the bank, I'll let you know. Because then I'll hope that I'm humble but not reconciled to death. I asked my partner, the man who told me that in 5 years we'll all have mansions in Hawaii what could go wrong with our plan. He said that we could get sick or die.

The vector of my life is changing. I'm now in Chapter Ten. I realized that all those trucks are going somewhere and that I was at cross purposes. Instead of being a sheep and hoping for a good shepherd to get me across the road safely, I should have been hiking back to the garage and finding out how to build my own truck. All those trucks are going somewhere, even if I go in the opposite direction, it's better to be a driver than a pedestrian. And all this time I was an asshole pedestrian describing the trucks to all the other pedestrians. I'm surprised nobody pushed me in front of one. Maybe they did, there are lots of free hands in the crosswalk.

Have you ever been in the crowd and somebody moos as a joke? That shit's not funny. Get out. That joker is your enemy.

And through circumstance, me looking in the right direction, me running at the right speed, I've been able to grab ahold of a passing streetcar. I went back to the garage and built my own truck, this business, this corporation, this creation designed to limit my liability, to allow me to cruise the highways of commerce and to use banks instead of letting banks use me. It's my new vehicle. Yeah, I was pushed. I was that kind of asshole. An arrogant sumbitch who acted like he really knew something.

I am meeting the kind of people who tell me they will never be employees again. They've been on the other side and their head has just gotten too big. They've come to know bosses and owners and realized they could do it too. I convinced myself a long time, but I half-stepped. I admit it. I also got blindsided by the Feds, well actually I saw that truck coming - I just thought it would wing me. I remember walking around downtown Atlanta in 1995 in a new sweater on a Thursday. I was a contractor, self-employed with a few thousand in the bank. And suddenly I realized I had all the time in the world to do anything I wanted. I could hang out in the library at the Atlanta University Center and pester the librarian about Malcolm X. I could hang out in the barbershop on Sweet Auburn. I could check out the bars on the Bankhead Highway. I was free.

But I didn't prepare myself for big problems. I was straddling the fence. I wasn't corporate and going after the money and big business. I was independent and living large. I was happy being affluent, I wasn't trying to be rich. All I had to do was take care of two or three customers and I was chillin' in six figure incomeland. A nice place to be for a man with two babies and a Nissan. So when the offer to be an employee raised its head, I figured that was cool, too. As long as I got bonuses and stock options and an expense account, it would be cool. You can't complain about that, not until 2001.

I hitched my wagon to Silicon Valley, but not quite high enough. I wanted to be a top dog professional in Silicon Valley, and that was good enough. I watched the venture capitalists and Stanford Mafia with disbelief. They can't really be so apathetic about the soul of the industry, so I thought. But they sold us all out. I got fired by an economy that failed to recognize the brilliance of us six-figure professionals. I was in a different class of sheep and got run over by a bigger truck, and I took it personally. Funny. Jimmy L offered me a gig with his company near the top, but I stuck to my specialty. I was going to transform the world with the technology I had mastered, but I didn't realize that 'the world' could decide not to listen when the markets soured. I had convinced myself that the world needed products, but the world just needed money, including the world which was my division in my company. The spigot shut and I was walking the streets.

The answer to the question is undeniably this: It is always better to be the king of a small hill, than a prince at a higher elevation. That's because there are always things that princes don't know, but kings must know it all. I could be wrong. But I'll keep my little corporate castle all the same.

Now I'm going international. I've got to keep my eye on more balls. I've got multiple governments, cultures, legal systems and currencies to watch. The fish are getting bigger, and there is a new class of dangers and opportunities. I'm going beyond America. I'm sure to learn new lessons, some the hard way. But this time I know what kind of asshole I am; boss / owner asshole. Asshole LLP. Stay tuned.

Posted by mbowen at 12:32 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

The Last Temptation of the Religious Right

I don't believe that the Religious Right is the great power that many people think. Quite frankly, I think their influence is oversold and they take credit for a number of things that happen that have nothing to do with them. Like all moral graspers, like white liberals 'responsible' for black success, their greatness is more testament to their egos than their abilities.

Be that as it may, the Religious Right in all of its manifestations, has something going for it, which is principle. It will be its strength and its weakness. The way I see it, only when the Religious Right is absolutely consistent will it have credibility. Its mistakes will be amplified just as wildly as its successes.

The difference between the Religious Right and Fundamentalism has most everything to do with the supremacy of the Constitution. The difference is between those who are pursuing the 'temporal kingdom' and the 'spiritual kingdom'. A nice illustration could be found in the following analysis:

At the outset of his ministry, after God acknowledged him when he was baptized, Satan tempted him. What temptation would be worthy of divinity? Certainly it was not the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, or the vainglory of life as we have interpreted so trivially. Satan set out to defeat his purpose to seek and to save the lost which would demand the cross. What appeals could Satan offer?

First, he let Jesus feel human need. Lesser men have endured fasting longer even as did the Irish patriots who starved themselves in 1981. There would have been no sin in eating food or for the Creator to turn stones into food.

In this temptation the devil seems to be saying, "Now you know how it feels to be hungry and suffer with humanity. Millions are hungry, sick, cold, homeless, and in various other miseries. You have the power to remedy this. Make bread and earthly supplies to relieve them. Hear their cry. You can make this earth into a paradise." But Jesus is responding, "Man cannot live by the bread of earthly relief alone. He must have spiritual healing which can only come through the cross. A renewed Eden on earth is not the answer."

Then Jesus looked down from the height of the temple upon the people who would be crying out for his crucifixion within three years. He had the power to awe them into obedience by his miraculous demonstrations. In that state of submission, none would have cried out for his death; so, the cross would have been avoided, leaving man in his sin. It would have compromised sin instead of atoning for it.

In the third facet of this one great temptation, after he is shown all the kingdoms of the world in panorama, Satan seems to be saying, "If you will join forces with me with all your infinite power and wisdom, you can easily rule over all mankind. If you resist me, there will be rebellion, suffering, and sorrow in continual alienation from God." Even though an earthly, materialistic kingdom would avoid the cross, it would be a perpetual reign over a world lost in sin.

What I need to establish is some working definition that clarifies the activities of the Religious Right, its organizations and their constituents' activities. But again, I seek to do so because I believe that the association of the re-election of GWBush and the Republican majority in Congress with Evangelical Christianity is too facile. As anyone who thinks a moment could tell you, Jimmy Carter was an Evangelical Christian. Do we have a problem with evangelicals in government? It may not be a question of religious belief at all.

Notice that Satan's temptation of Jesus focuses, in one sense, on the suffering of mankind. Satan offers Jesus what amounts to the position of Philosopher-King. That position is everything that Liberals want for government to accomplish. The elimination of rebellion, suffering, and sorrow. Is that so bad? No. But the point of Jesus life, death and resurrection was to bring people to God and salvation through the acknowledgement of Jesus own grace. It wasn't to convert earthly kingdoms to righteous kingdoms. Jesus' mission was not to reform governments, change laws, elect politicians or set policy, but to be the one and only spiritual redeemer.

So what do Evangelical Christians believe that they are supposed to be doing in politics?

I think we need immediately to distinguish between the top-down and the bottom-up. Because anybody who thinks that Karl Rove is doing Christian things for the sake of Christians needs a bit of public humiliation. There is an enormous difference between spinning the image of GWBush and Republicans in general to appeal to the 'values' of Christians and the bottom-up rhetoric of this being a Christian Nation. Rove doesn't care what kind of nation this is, so long as his man gets to run it. This is the wake-up call that evangelicals in politics need to heed. You may think you have the keys to the kingdom, but it's not the US government.

So we need to try and understand where Dobson and company with their values-centered organizations are headed, or where they think they are headed given the credit they have been overgenerously been given for the re-election of the president. This moderate Republican is not about to stand by idly to give over my earthly kingdom to religious activists of any stripe, nor any other type of special interests who are out to convert the Republic. Anyone on the Religious Right needs to beware of their own ambition, and get right with God. Which way are you trying to go?

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December 02, 2004

Get Your Giftie

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An' foolish notion:
What airs in dress an' gait wad lea'e us,
An' ev'n devotion!
-- Robert Burns, 1786

We see you as a number, of course.

Posted by mbowen at 04:11 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

NAACP: Do or Die

Following up on the NAACP, Booker Rising takes issue with my position:

The moderate-conservative Republican argues that Kweisi Mfume, the outgoing head of the NAACP, didn't do the job that might save the NAACP from obsolescence. He argues that to remain relevant, the NAACP must become a multicultural organization: "That the NAACP is black and not Asian and Latino is a problem. It is a problem that the NAACP must resolve or face increased marginalization. Its byline is that it is the oldest Civil Rights organization. That's like saying the Communist Party is the oldest party in Russia. That means it's more about the past than the present. Problem."

We vociferously disagree. After all, no one is calling for the National Council of La Raza to include (non-Hispanic) blacks. And this strategy erroneously assumes that the interests of blacks, Latinos, and Asians are similar. How does one explain illegal immigration? It's in Latinos' interest for there to be lax enforcement. Strict border enforcement is in black folks' interest, as we bear the brunt of illegal immigration's effects. However, we agree that the NAACP must focus its priorities on today's pressing issues - not those of the 1960s.

There is almost no significant civil rights issue on which MALDEF, Asian groups and the NAACP disagree. This was a point I tried to drive home inthe wake of the LA Riots. The media was making the country believe that it was blacks against all asians, when the problem was specific to certain korean merchants. Blacks and Japanese, especially in Crenshaw, never had beef. Nor did blacks and Chinese or Vietnamese. But the very divisiveness that puff journalists were able to highlight could have been squashed by an NAACP under somebody other than Chavis. I thought that somebody was Mfume.

Now today MALDEF, La Raza, and all the rest are doing the same thing they were doing 20 years ago with no greater integration with the NAACP as before. That's a political fact. But on Civil Rights issues like California's prop 187, they were all on the same side against it. Meanwhile no real multicultural coalition organizations have arisen, as each group has taken their political and social capital and run their own way. Fine. but.

Civil Rights is Civil Rights. I don't think there is much work to be done. For American citizens the bar is the same, and it's reasonable to say that the Congressional Black Caucus has done all that needs to be done with regards to providing leadership, which is to say not a whole lot. I don't see what little meat on the bones is worth splitting amongst those few organizations if their concern is truly Civil Rights. Which illustrates my point, it's not. They are ethnic poltical organzations. To the extent that is true, I think it is a failure of the legacy of the NAACP, and if the IRS thinks so too, good.

So make it one civil rights organzation for everyone, or drop the pretense and be the Black Left Coalition.

Posted by mbowen at 02:40 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

The Jungle

"This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine until my children can walk the streets in freedom, in safety, inpeace of mind. So let it shine!"
-- Rev. Leonard Jackson, Dec 2004

The other day, police and clergy marched on MLK Blvd for peace. Sound familiar? It should. As Robin Harris said more than a decade ago, we're talking about the Ghetto, where the cost of living is going up and the chance of living is going down.

This time it's Eighteenth Street vs the Bloods. It's getting dark in the Jungle so get indoors behind the steel plates, lest you catch a stray bullet. Nothing new. Same as 1986. Same streets, different gangs. The speeches and calls are so familiar. Too bad. There's only one solution, it's called escape. Escape requires mobility, mobility requires skill, skill needs desire and discipline. I wonder if they are praying for these things, and yet somehow I doubt it.

Several years ago, I had wanted to bomb (tag with spraypaint) the Crenshaw Wall with the URL for my website. And someday I may yet do it. VisionCircle is ready for primetime. One or two more authors and it could be awesome - it's already growing in strength and relevance. If I put the URL on the Wall in spraypaint, how many hits would I get from around the way? Hard to say. But answers are out here, if people would stop listening to the same tired voices.

Aahh but street knowledge is irreplacable. There's no substitute for it. It's the only thing that will save you in the streets. The question is whether or not you are destined to remain there.

I drove my family through the Jungle a few weeks ago. I forgot the context of why we were there. Maybe it was just after a big dinner at the New Panda Buffet on MLK that was originally built as a Sizzler. I drove up Stevely where my girlfriend used to live in 1979 just before the dawn of the Crack Wars. We drove around to Hillcrest School and Cocoa and I recalled the beginning of the bad old days as well as the good old days before them.

See when the Jungle was first called the Jungle, it was all good. I clearly remember when those apartments were brand new and their pools sparkled. I recall how much everybody wanted them, especially those folks who had previously lived in Liemert Park when that was the spot. The difference, of course, was that Liemert Park had homes as well as apartments and that provided stability. But by the mid 80s, Liemert started to slide downhill to the point where black college students at USC began to swear off it as the premier spot for off campus housing.

Perhaps today in these post-riot, post-Gates days, relations between cops and communities can get to the level of trust necessary to hand the smackdown to the criminal element. It wasn't long ago when gang sweeps meant that basically every black and latino kid got picked up. When investigations showed something like a measly 8% criminal booking rate for these mass arrests, already hostile relations got worse. That's a lot of BS to undo, but it will have to happen, and that's why this march, as futile as I think it is, symbolizes the positive relations which must occur if gangbanging is to be made less deadly.

There's a difference of course. 18th Street is a Latino gang. Blackfolks still remaining in the Jungle and Liemert are among those left behind. Black Flight is real too. View Park may not be far enough away in the future - remember how a very popular black restauranteur was gunned down in Ladera Heights this year. My old neighborhood is growing more and more Hispanic. There's a new dynamic afoot - let's see how it goes down.

In the meantime, there's the old standby of exodus. It's a strategy that's worked since the days of Moses.

Posted by mbowen at 02:02 PM | TrackBack

Hack Verizon

Verizon is digging their own grave, but only because clever folks are speaking up.

These guys are right for setting up the attention. A couple thousand bucks might not be enough to do anything, but when it gets to 5,000 then hackers will come forward. It's an eyebrow-raising proposition.

Bluetooth hasn't really fulfilled much of its promise. I wish it would because as nice as USB is, I sure would like to get rid of all the cables behind my desk and television. Let's get it started.

Posted by mbowen at 01:40 PM | TrackBack


ses-1.jpg Identifying the people in this picture is a lot easier than with the gang of Bobbie Soxers. Auntie is on the left and Moms is on the right with me. You can't see me because there's no fancy neonatal technology in 1961. Nobody knew if I would be a he or a she. I'm there though, about to become a real boy in less than a month.

I'm pretty sure that this is the LA Zoo. Things have come a long way since then I'd say. The folks had a very difficult time getting housing on base at Pendleton, but I'm told that my immanent arrival helped soften hearts that otherwise were closed to persons of color in those days. So I was ultimately born in Oceanside, CA; a good place to be from.

Not long thereafter, we headed up to Los Angeles and I grew up in the shadow of the Dons.

Posted by mbowen at 10:42 AM | TrackBack

Bobby Soxers

Somebody asked whether I'm from Louisiana. I'm not but my mother is. This is the crew (krewe?) she used to hang with back in the day. Now the fact of the matter is that she looks so much like her sister that I'm not exactly sure which one of these young ladies she is. She's either the one in the back with the big smile or she's the one in front with the medallion.

Of course I always like finding pictures like this which seem so anomalous in the face of the propaganda of black depravity. My propaganda beats yours, so take that. Check the Wellington House series for more such photos.

Posted by mbowen at 10:33 AM | TrackBack

The Big Ten

I've picked out a few of the hundreds of pictures and hours of video that have recorded the event for Cyndi and I. These make the place look a lot more sparse than it actually was, but I didn't want to put a bunch of folks pictures out on the net for no good reason.

We all had a great time running the gamut of the best emotions.


I am being reminded of how much love I have gotten over the past 15 years she has known me and the 10 we've been married.


Lighting the unity candles. No wax burns this time.

Tony cut us some hearts. He's the man when it comes to catering.


In order to avoid the politics of proximity, we sat at our own little table.


I don't know which of the neices or nephews drew this, but it's completely adorable. Nice to know you're making a good impression.

This is the least embarassing flick of me getting jiggy that I could find. F9 still has to watch her feet when she dances. I'm so glad there's no MTV in the house.


Man we used to look really good, and slim.

Posted by mbowen at 09:42 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 01, 2004

Massive Shooters & Adhoc Clans

CNET reports that a record of sorts has been set for hosting simultaneous online gamers.

Hardware maker Unisys announced Wednesday that its ES7000 server helped set a record for the most online game players ever hosted on a single server. The feat occurred last June at DreamHack 2004, a major computer conference in Sweden.

Game enthusiasts at the conference set up a session of the popular shooting game "CounterStrike" with 1,160 simultaneous players hosted on a single Unisys server, equipped with 32 Intel Xeon 2.2GHz processors and 32GB of memory. The Guinness World of Records recognized the session as a world record earlier this week.

So let me see if I understand this correctly. There were over 1100 gamers playing at once?

If this is correct, then it opens up the possibility of huge games. Now I don't play MMORPGs like Everquest, but I have been There and on Second Life. So it's possible that this kind of stuff could actually happen. But in shooters, there is so much more going on in realtime than just chat and dance moves.

Halo2's 'proximity' feature is particularly notable in this regard. They have already breached the barrier of having what goes on around a player in more focus than what's going on in the background. I can see the game glitch occasionally enough to see objects I move towards get less jaggy. So I know that they have mastered the first person experience with regard to prioritizing events close up and deprioritizing remote ones. So this suggests to me that a 'Halo 3' could do some rather intersting things. Let's speculate.

If the user experience of the game is prioritized by proximity it means that the immediate environment 'renders itself' around the player - it's work that is piped to the client by the server given a 'gps location'. This means that there's a kind of limit to what you need to know as if you were in a Newtonian field of an Einsteinian universe. In otherwords, your playing field can be massive beyond comprehension but all you know, or need to know, you can handle with your own little compute box. A massive server however can keep track of global Einsteinian events. So where are we headed? We're headed towards shooters that have battles which last longer than individual gamer and clan sessions.

Right now the greatest thing about Halo2 is its ability to deliver the cool guts of shooting action to an individual gamer by matching them up relatively quickly with people who want to do the same thing. This is very important and I'll talk about it more later. But the fact that the Bungie folks understand this key feature menas that they will be open to the idea of adhoc clans.

So in a massive shooter served by a massive box, you can be delivered to a battlefield, get orders, and try to take positions in a battle that was going on before your arrived. Here is the nature of an adhoc clan. Halo3 could have waves of Earth fighters engage city after city in the Covenant planets. Battles that last for days can be engaged...

Posted by mbowen at 03:41 PM | TrackBack


Now here's something I like. It's called Plazes. It answers the question, where ya at?

Plazes is the first global location-aware interaction and geo-information system, connecting you with the people and Plazes in your area and all over the world. It is the navigation system for your social life.

Plaze = Location + People

A Plaze is a physical location with a local network - private or public, wired or unwired. A Plaze constitutes of the information about the actual location like pictures, comments and mapping information, as well as the people currently online at that Plaze.

This, enabled for broadband wireless is going to enable smartmobbing at a small scale. Crew hookups is what's likely to happen. It will be fairly extraordinary.

Posted by mbowen at 08:46 AM | TrackBack