(from the archives, November 1998)
While you are away on vacation, some hooligans break into your house and have a drug party. They trash your rooms and steal all your valuables. They draw satanic symbols on your walls in blood and they tell you that they have pictures and addresses of all your relatives, whom they intend to hunt down and slaughter.
You come home to discover this disaster and alert the proper folks. Within a week the police have captured the responsible parties, the insurance company has paid up and refurnished your home, and your relatives are all safe. However you still have an enormous sense of violation and victimization.
You have been cured, but you have not been healed.
So you speak to professional counselors, your spiritual leaders, your family and friends. You take some more time off and you read a book on the subject. 3 months later you are better than new, you have a new sense of strength and have learned from this the value of life.
So the trial date comes and you look for the first time upon the perpetrators of this crime. You are without anger, and you find it easy to forgive the defendants, and so you do.
You have been healed and cured.
The point I wish to make is that I don't believe it is appropriate to expect both healing and curing from the justice system.
So. Now what if the jury decides to acquit the defendants of all charges? Are you then not healed? Do you recant your forgiveness? Are you actually weaker than you thought? Were those counselors and spiritual leaders and books and friends all wrong?
I think of hate crimes legislation in the context of communities which are much accustomed to the miscarriage of justice. These are the people who have known this experience, and their decision to strengthen the *cure* rather than to recant the *healing* is the best evidence I can think of showing them to be exemplary people. That is why phrases like 'protected class' grate on my nerves.
What is *fair* is not necessarily that which is blind to distinction. A system of justice whose ability to cure is faulty, especially in light of people's ability to heal, desperately needs reform, not abandonment. To suggest that hate crimes cannot 'legislate morality' or introduce 'inequality' among 'protected classes' is to ignore the healing spirit of those who have demanded them.
Well that depend on who you are comparing him too. When it comes to thought leaders in the African American diaspora, it's a fair question. So I'd like to compare him to Booker T. Washington or Manning Marable. I'm not the scholarly type so I'm not going to have a definitive answer, but I think this is the right question to ask considering the kinds of answers I've seen over at Vision Circle.
So let me couch the question in the direction I would like to see discussion focused. Does Thomas Sowell give sound economic advice? I think the answer is yes, however the gripe I hear is that he is a big time basher of black culture. So the other question is what kind of economist continually belts out the same notes against poor little old black culture? Now before your knee jerks in the direction of 'Uncle Tom' rhetoric, remember this about Thomas Sowell, when half the country went berserk over that masterpiece of political propaganda known as 'The Bell Curve', Sowell was on the right side of history. Yet and still, like our friend McWhorter, Sowell seems to have it in for The Forty Percent, those African Americans on the ugly side of Cosby's verbal lickin' stick.
What I got from Sowell, way back in 82 when I first read him, was a sense of the different paths different ethnic groups took as they began their long hard slog from straight off whatever boat they came over on, to their indistinguishability from the Brady Bunch. Irish went one way, Jews went another. Sowell has made a career (well, essentially tenure) in the thesis that African Americans ought to de-emphasize the power of politics in their path to emergence. It's not really all that controversial a position, but plenty of folks have been lashed by Sowell's sharp tongue, as he has interminably flicked it on that subject for dang near 30 years now. My infatuation with him is long faded and I think he's made his point. I haven't bothered to check up on any of his new ones, but the publication of his latest book has got folks up in arms, basically I think about the same old question. Is he helpful?
The gut of the question over at Baldilocks (Fellow Conservative Brotherhood member) is whether or not race or culture is more deterministic of one's success or failure in America. Well the answer is somewhat of a no-brainer in the post Civil Rights Era, and likely a no-brainer in the post-colonial age in general. Culture is more deterministic, as much as anything can be deterministic of 'success'. But even with that non-thought in operation, clearly race has more to do with success in America than most anywhere else in the world. After all the South African Nationalists modeled Apartheid off of the Jim Crow South. So it's still a question that goes round and round in this country, despite the fact that Wilson made 'The Declining Significance of Race' point three decades ago. So long as people debate the point, Sowell's got work, which suits him and his publishers just fine, and why not?
But what I suspect is at the bottom of the hateration on Sowell is the fact that he, like so many other black academics, is not putting forth solutions for questions facing the Black Power Struggle. This remains deeply problematic for Progressives and Leftists, with whom Sowell is in an ideological battle with anyway. So this is why I bring up the question of Marable and why I said over at Vision Circle the following:
This is a self-defeating protest. Why? Because America is not a second-world nation, and socialism and left politics do not have and will not have the upper hand domestically. You can be existential partners with Nader and Fred Hampton all you like, but unless you do like Stokely and hie your ass to West Africa, you will always be in the political minority and thus relegated to the margin. The whole economic structure of the world would have to be inverted for this not to be the case, and yet those who hate on Sowell pray for that occurance.
What's ironic and indeed stupid about that hateration is that it has no better chance of attracting African American talent in the rising tide or even in a falling economic tide, nor does it have a mandate (or capability) of building economic independence from the American mainstream. So you have people who, like West, continue to rebuild blackness improvisationally, generation over generation on a premise of rebellion and resistence to the American mainstream economy who never build anything of substance capable of providing any baseline alternative, not even an all black national credit union.
Sowell dispenses economic advice at the express expense of the Black Cultural Nationalist position and therefore compromises his standing among those invested in 'The Struggle'. But his advice is not poor advice, it just doesn't have the right flavor. But to ask Sowell to be a real economist is to raise the question of who is the alternative, and this is the question Sowell's critics haven't answered.
I would appreciate somebody who argued that Sowell is bogus because Stokely Carmichael left black Americans with a far superior economic plan than does Sowell, but Stokely did not. Nor did King, X, Marable, or any dozen Hoteps you could name, especially not the Afrocentrics. So do the critics of Sowell simply not want to hear about economics or are they selling wolf tickets too?
I'm also about to crank up the volume on getting some BI & OLAP bloggers coordinated. I think it's sad to see a bunch of stragglers out there with no trackbacks or comments. I'm going to play cat herder and see what I can come up with.
Part of the problem is that there isn't a good back and forth with industry experts. Rumor has it, however, that John Kopke is a blast in front of customers. I know he understands the technology and I used to work with him at Pilot Software back in the days. And yet there are a lot of people trembling with fear at guys like Nigel Pendse. Now there's a showdown I'd like the blogosphere to witness.
I've been neglecting the dialog because I've been downmarket for a while and basically nobody's talking because smaller companies don't have time to listen. But now that I've come back to the state of the art and I see what Hyperion has been doing in terms of rolling out new products and upping the ante and expanding the scope of BI'able applications, there's plenty to say. The question is, who's saying it? I certainly would have been, but that's not what Cubegeek turned out to be. Let's give it a shot in this brave new world.
Introducing The Cubegeek Blog
Ted Hayes' website is getting slashdotted today since he's been written up in the Wall Street Journal.
I met Ted at Ofari's a couple months ago on the day that Renford Reese was the speaker. Ted is straight as advertised. Like me and a great number of other blackfolks who have been around, he has no patience for the okey-doke end of liberal agendas. What most people don't seem to understand is what black conservatives look like nor how we think. This is why a man like Ted will continue to perplex shallow people for years to come. But we clicked within minutes.
Ted's running the marathon and he's way out in front of the crowd. His is the face of black compassionate conservatism. Remember that.
I have bumped into several modes of learning the past week that are a grave threat to my blogging. According to Ambra, it is a good rule not to talk about blogging, you just do it. But there is a significant chance that I will be getting deep.
There are several reasons, they constitute my post-China Deal agenda and will be done in the spirit of The Way of the Servant.
I have begun to read that brief text by GK Chesterton and am awaiting some revelation therein. I further am extending my mutual culture hacking with Lee and will be attending an Armenian Orthodox Church. Further, I am looking to understand more deeply this matter and consider reconciliation between the African Anglican tradition, black Episcopalianism and Benedict XVI. This is likely to go on for some time without me getting any blogable insight. It is not as likely to get me flaming feedback as has Black Republicanism and so that will be the reason. It will be like going back in time to the days of the solitary journaling. We'll also have to make sense of Rudolf Steiner and Gurdjieff.
Emanuel Derman is messing with my head in a particularly nasty way. He drops all the right names and has created in himself a kind of person I imagined I might have been, had I the patience and fear of the common intellectual from a neighborhood without tough guys. Which is to say, as long as I have been reconciled to my education in the world, he is getting under my skin in revealing the details of my academic career manque. Aside from all that, it's likely that the new set of tools that I am playing with will give me some opportunity to build something relatively interesting on par with junior grade quant-ing.
I am dedicating a couple servers in my house (and will be expanding them) to building a test bed for a full suite of tools. Most importantly, I will be organizing a great deal of data and metadata I have collected over the past decade or so for a library of pro-forma analytic models across the various industries and applications of my career.
I have recieved several offers to do some guest blogging. I haven't determined whether or not I will actually have time to do so, but as (and if) I do, it will certainly drain this one a bit.
The Extended Vision Circle
A weekly podcast is the first in a series of productions coming from a currently anonymous but power-packed gang currently known as Five Guys Named Moe. This commitment will extend me into alternate media and some serious cell-based organizational progress. My angle on this multidisciplinary project will be working on a conceptual framework for identifying spheres of influcence and circles of trust. You will not hear me talking about 'grass roots' anything any longer. Especially after hearing Fred Hampton Jr on commie radio today in the Bay. Black politics is most definitely in the 21C. We are a cutting edge.
By no means least on my agenda will be the face of my current professional endeavors, which essentially consists of using all of my talents (if not time and energy) in wrestling to the ground all of the obstacles I face in dominating the BI market for the Western Region.
Concurrently with this direction will be the goal of getting down to about 185. That's 30 pounds. No mean feat, but entirely doable.
I will also stop to take pretty pictures of the flowers. Smelling them seems to be going a bit too far.
George is dangerous. Like Lee, he lets me talk. When I talk I can get an enormous amount of meditation out of my system, some of which is worth listening too. I take the cues of the listeners to make associations and we jump from subject to subject. It's a kind of love that I don't often get, and I much appreciate. Ask anyone who knows me. I can talk a blue streak. I notice this most as I am still on the edge of a conversation getting out of the car and walking up to bed and suddenly it's quiet. Like now. So now I write.
George and I had a man date. We went to Yoshi's in Oakland and had drinks, dinner and partook of the Jazz. We talked about the Pope, Lake Merritt, Wal-Mart, the Causeway, the Quik Way, the rimmers and the slot, Freyer, Bomani Jones, Lisa Jones, Greg Tate, Jerry Brown, Antonio Villaraigosa, San Diego, Brooklyn, Walnut Creek, New Orleans, New York, South Africa, Brazil, steaks, tea, katsu, tequila, Buddhist vegetarians, the inevitability of India, the New Standard, the LA Times, UPI, SWSX, sex and car wrecks on the Bay Bridge, SROs and rooftops, cars that got keyed and trainproof buildings, Jack & Miles, Galveston, prison health care, farms in Ohio, chemical plants in Kansas City, podcasting, XRepublic, Six Apart, T-Mobile, Anil Dash, Earl Dunovant, Scott Patterson, Cecily, Gerry Mulligan, Bobby McFerrin, India Irie, Erika Badu, Onyx, Wiggers, Clorox, online auctions, old neighborhoods, Al Jarreau, Emir Deodato and the beauty of eating small portions of food.
Fortunately, our gabbing was interrupted by a extraordinary sextet led by Michael O'Neill and Kenny Washington.
OK. First off they started with a number that was pedestrian and sounded a lot like Gerry Mulligan and Paul Desmond. I kept waiting for somebody to bite a riff from The Joy Spring, but it didn't happen. They're playing fairly tight. So far it sounds like it's going to be a fairly competent, if soulless affair. Then they start cutting loose a bit and Washington comes to the stage. O'Neill introduces him as the finest singer he had ever heard. Yeah right, I think to myself.
Washington is phenomenal. Right away he makes Al Jarreau sound like he's stretching and reaching and basically trying too hard. Washington is effortless and precise, but very smooth. He's a small man, and you can hear how that makes his voice unique. He's got the purity and straight-ahead sensibility of Bobby Short, he's got the playfulness of McFerrin, he's got the soulful sensibilities of Donny Hathaway and he's got the Jazz like no one else.
They say that Lush Life is one of the most difficult standards to sing because of the way it blends chord changes into off keys and back in every other phrase. Washington inserts that kind of change into his balladeering to astonishing effect. He makes every common song an adventure.
Michael O'Neill sounds as if he could improvise all night without ever repeating himself once. He hovers between mastery and greatness. His saxophone work is extraordinary. He plays with almost orchestral diction yet with classic jazz chops. It makes him a rare treat - it's almost as if he's not only playing but he's teaching saxophone on stage.
The rhythm section was superb. I was telling George how I prefer to sit on the piano side of the stage and not on the drum side, because it's rare that the bass and drum vibe so tightly and remain understated. But when the bassist broke out with swift, funky phrasing it had everybody swiveling in their seats.
I could spend the rest of my life doing just this, wine, jazz and sushi. With a friend like George, one night is enough to generate a great number of pleasant memories.
I'm one of those guys for whom all the anchors on the 6 O'Clock News are indistinguishable. Perhaps Lippman is spinning in his grave, but I really don't pay attention to the 'integrity' of journalism that follows the dictum "If it bleeds, it leads." Today, there seems to be a bit of a buzz over such trivial crimes in the blogosphere. I hearby reiterate and underscore my callous disregard for such matters by making an exception and commenting on these ugly trivialities.
The first blip under the radar involves the rape of a retarded black girl at some joint called Mifflin. Apparently, some kids decided it was a good idea to sexually assault her and called forth an audience as well. The oglers were warned not to fink or they would be beat up. The principal was notified and she decided not to call the cops or otherwise interrupt the meeting she was having. She has been sacked and her assistants have been suspended for 10 days.
Somehow this has become a black story.
The second blip under the radar involves some white girls who got beat up by some black girls at some Christian college somewhere. The black girls were yelling 'black power' and 'white crackers' and one was even heard saying 'Martin Luther King'. If I read the 6 OClock anchors properly, the beatdown was prompted by a faked email from a homesick black girl. This girl wanted to go home so bad that she spoofed a white supremacist attack on herself, and her buds reacted by throwing down on innocent white girls.
This is a much more interesting story. But already I'm bored.
I suppose that there are plenty of Americans who can take some comfort or solace or wisdom from these kinds of incidents. I consider it the background noise of the society we have become. There is little to be done that two or three good people couldn't have handled, and yet such apocrypha becomes the starting point for all kinds of discussions about Race and Crime in America.
Since I'm on Occam's side of the Razor, I dismiss all conspiracy theories and simply suggest that those who would bother to make examples of these misfit miscreants and their pathetic dramas, ought to be in the same neighborhoods with them. As for me and mine, we'll ignore the peasants.
Except this one time.
I pushed the 'buy' button last week on whatever was in my Amazon queue because I had a few extra bucks.
I have been looking for this book for about 7 years. As soon as my little ones started to read, I went back into my own memory for all the books that I remember reading as a child, and Ragged Robin was at the top of the list. Except that I could not, for the life of me, get anyone to remember it, including myself and harried librarians in Redondo, South Pasadena, and the main branch of the LA Public Library. All I could remember was 'Zachary Zed, the last man on earth'. Finally, the search engines made sense of my earliest childhood memories. They delivered when my own parents couldn't, and gave me the ISBN of this incredible book by James Reeves. It had the most profound impact on me when I finally saw its pages after 35 years - I was brought to tears.
My Life as a Quant
I'm just getting into this one and it's going to be a geeky ride. Finally, someone is writing about what has basically been my unfulfilled professional ambition - applying scientific algorithms to the business of equities. As soon as I heard the call for 'rocket scientist' programmers at Cal State back in 83, being a Wall Street programmer has been all I ever wanted to do. I never really came as close as I wanted to and I can't say that I put my whole heart and soul into it. The discipline was so extraordinarily arcane, I couldn't even find anyone who knew someone on the inside - even when I lived in NYC. I settled for the next best thing, Business Intelligence, which is pretty much what everybody outside of Wall Street does, kinda.
Most business computing specs aren't so demanding analytically but interesting nonetheless. That is, unless you're Emanuel Derman, theoretical physics grad. Just reading Derman brings out the persnickety overdisciplined manic in me. I check my fingernails for dirt, straighten out the papers on my desk and go through my full mental queue of all things done and left undone. While I'm on the subject, I have a confession. I harbor a secret admiration for the Notary Public in Redondo at the UPS Store. There is something about the meticulous way she purposfully lines up her stamp on the page. It's her fingers, the precision. That she grew up speaking another language than English only heightens the feeling for me. When I was 10 years and graduating from the 6th grade with straight As except for a C in handwriting, my father made me practice cursive for hours on end. This is the kind of appreciation I have for the world-ordering instincts and compulsions of the fastidious. The desire to be correct is very deep in us, and it is that resonance I am feeling with Derman right from the start.
He has the Jewish thing, a God above his head. He has the South African thing, a perfect ability to be oblivious to other orders. He has the American thing, a crushing desire to be the best at something. He is a brainy rube in NY looking to the brightest minds in the most demanding discipline of his day, and he has gone the whole nine yards on the geek side in the classic way I have heard countless times, of recognizing the stunning brilliance and beauty of Maxwell's equations. In other words, he is in so many ways, a hopeless romantic in thrall to the life of the precise and dominating mind. Oh the suffering that can bring. But at this stage in the book, I haven't witnessed that part yet.
The Teeth of the Tiger
It's Clancy, what can I say? This along with the latest stealth video game, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, is keeping my paranoia fed. Did I tell you that I was reading that other Dan Brown 'Digital Fortress'? Yike. What a pooter. (It stinks like your girlfriends fart, almost cute). I got halfway through that pulp in New Orleans and decided I needed to pump up the volume, and Clancy has delivered in these two forms a much superior class of fiction. I must say that I still much prefer the Splinter Cell fiction to the 'Tiger' fiction, but I haven't tossed Tiger yet.
I may never finish 'Secrets and Lies' by Schneier because it's so dated and commonsensical now. But it remains a decent reference if not a decent read. I now have 'Beyond Fear' and haven't cracked it yet. Soon come.
The other day, while watching the previews at the showing of Kung Fu Hustle, I discovered that Hollywood is bringing back the 70s, or more properly, one of the few things that were actually cool about the 70s. I don't mean John Travolta. I mean Dogtown.
I wasn't hip to much of cultural geography when I was 14, but I did know that there was some crossover that I liked and some that I didn't. Once upon a time I had a pretty cool conversation over at the Well in the GenX forum about what it was like for me to be one of the first group of black kids to get bussed to school in Pacific Palisades. Around that time was the first time I stepped out of black only environments, some kids were easier to get along with than others. I hung with the longhairs.
When I first saw the documentary Dogtown & Z-Boys a couple years ago, I was shocked into recognition of my old ethos and what it felt like to be a California teen when I was growing up in the era of crossover. I was flooded with memories of skateboarding at Paul Revere during the summer of 74.
In my own neighborhood, I was the best skater, and I got everybody on the block riding on Stokers and Chicago trucks. Me myself, I had whistling Stokers on a Bahne board that was flourescent green with rainbow tape. My brothers all had GTs with the kick lip on the back. I've always been a self-taught goofy footer but I didn't know what that meant until I started hanging at Paul Revere. The dudes at Revere skated backwards to me. I had my left foot towards the rear of the board, pushed off with the right than put that on the front. They looked at me like "what's this"? So I started skating both ways. I also did a lot of straight crazy street luge back in those days. But it was all about swooping and ending whatever you did with a sweet 360.
The surfer dudes at Revere were mellow and perhaps some of them were stoners. I didn't know or care. What I knew was that they were definitely about style, and so was I. So I was going to get a new wooded long board cut by whomever it was at Revere that did that out of wood shop. I can't remember exactly how it happened but my board got split. I just remember being heartbroken and without a board and the bright red and yellow paint from it still on my bomber jacket that shared a locker.
I ended up at a Jesuit prep school instead of Pali High where I wanted to go. This actually felt like culture shock. One of my Revere buds came to Loyola freshman year, but he was out of there after a semester. None of our cool worked at LiHi at all. But I was saved from being a complete geek by another dose of Venice.
In the Summer of 75, I was a Junior Guard at Venice Beach. The attitude resurfaced but not quite as strong. We definitely represented the 'outlaws' at the Taplans and the rivalries between Venice and the other beach's Guard programs was palpable. When our group went to Zuma or Rogers, it was our duty to dig huge holes in the sand to trap the real lifeguard trucks. So we basked in much self-made glory as Venice Locals.
Later at Episcopal Camp Stevens in East San Diego County, I hung out with some Dogtown stoners. I wish I knew whatever happened to those dudes. They were good friends, and they had the serious thai stick. Tad Drivas where are you? Dan Heffernan, where have you been? Our football team, The Roaches, won the all camp football competition. I was QB and taught everybody how to do the Hustle. Ah those crossover days.
It would be good to see the true spirit of Dogtown get its due. I was not a true rebel with noplace to go. I can't represent like I was one of them, but I was there and would have been tight with them had I continued at Pali. The fact was that I have always cleaned up nice, and with a blowout and my puka shells, I had my share of female attention. Plus I had other crossover duties in the world of upper-middle class Catholics that snatched the pure spirit of rebellion out of me. I was getting around and didn't need the loyalty. Besides, I lived in Crenshaw, not Venice, nor Palisades nor South Pasadena. Still, I hated Vals.
From my perspective, Dogtown was about aggressive style with a lighthearted sense of personal aggro. I was 'Bo' and my role in those days was to be devastating with the dozens, and I was. I could make you cry with laughter or shame depending on whether you were audience or target. That worked straight out of the hood and was righteous with the surfers, skaters and jocks at Revere and Pali, as well as the San Diego kids who puffed, spun around looking up at the stars and danced on the tables in the mess hall to the sounds of Pink Floyd's Animals. We were California teens of a new era and we were crafting our own style of expression. It was strong and natural and much of it has survived to today.
What you don't often hear is where the cool black guy was, but we were definitely a part of the flavor. There was soul in that mix. You probably won't hear in in the Hollywood version - it will all be about the personalities of the kids that made money or fit nicely into the characters that Hollywood writers understand. I just want you to know that brothers were also real brothers in the larger Dogtown story.
Need I say more? Well actually, it was for a good cause, as in Father Daughter day with the Girl Scouts. Met an interesting gent who raves over a medical records system called Practice Partner. I bowled a 93.
This week I will be on the road again. Destination: Santa Clara. It's nowhere near as picaresque or historically significant as New Orleans so you cannot count on any spectacular blogging from ground zero. However I will try to hookup with a couple legendary folks and spread the word of the new Vision Circle podcasting series, those folks being George Kelly, Art McGee and Bill Berry.
Also it will be a trip to have dinner at the Faultline again after all these years.
Yesterday Ford cut the shizzle out of my head.
I was sitting at home, minding my own business and surfing around the news when I came upon this video from the LA Times. This was about barbershop politics and according to Steve Lopez, and now me, Tolliver's is the best.
So since I'm heading up to Santa Clara next week - hey, maybe I can hang out with George and A. - I decided to get my do did. For me, that means a straight razor in the hands of a black man at least 15 years older than I. So I braved the Friday traffic and commenced to commute the necessary miles from my homey beach digs to where the homies hang at Florence and Western.
I don't know the neighborhood very well over near Horace Mann Jr. High, and it was a completely frustrating experience trying to find a real Bank of America so I could avoid some gas station ATM fees. But I managed to find the joint itself without any problems. The big American flag was right prominent on the old blue storefront on Florence just east of Western.
Now I felt a little twinge heading in, because this constitutes a betrayal of Nick at Shelton's. As it is, I only get my head professionally shaved for special occasions and including this (which isn't actually so special) it has only been twice this year. Nick has been my barber for over 15 years even if I only see him once or twice a year. It's not like the old days when I actually kept my hair nicely. Well I might as well go there. You see, blackfolks can look at me and see the redbone in me. I'm a reddish brown and my hair is straight at the roots. The hair on my arms is rather wispy. These are things that will let a good black barber know some things about how he has to approach my head. For example, I would never get BBs in the back of my head - there are no kitchens in my family even though we are not high yellow. If you don't understand this lingo, then maybe Fantastic Sams is for you, but for me, I got to go where old black men understand a few things. Nick has never cut me wrong and I was feeling him when I crossed into Tolliver's shop.
One of the things I have never finished was my guide to all the black barbershops in Los Angeles. Now is probably a good time to do it even though I started it in 1986. Odd because I just drove past Mr. Johnson's the other day hanging with Lee. Johnson was a boxer and had a 170 pounds on the bench press in the front window of his shop on 11th Avenue and Jefferson. He used to grip my head with massive hands and just rip those clippers across. Johnson was a he-man barber and he gave severe military clips that were cheap and rough around the edges. He wouldn't finesse the fade, but he was quick and you didn't have to sit around all day waiting. He had black and white pictures of famous and not so famous boxers all over his wall. I haven't been to Johnson's since 88, but I see that the salon behind him did a good business, and his building has a fairly extraordinary mural.
It's settled, I'm going to do this. Starting next week.
In the meantime, all memories of barbershops past and present are intermingled with the feeling of stepping into a new one. The thing I remember about Tollivers with the greatest intimacy however were the two long black floormats. You see six of us got into a putting contest. Rico started it. He's the big guy in the brown three piece suit who's a 25 year veteran of the Sherrifs department. He's got classic white on the sides of his head, just like all the police commissioners they put on TV, and yes he has brown shoes.
Anyway, I had a classic black barbershop time and a great cut. Next time however, I'm going to buzz myself down a little bit more so that Ford doesn't have to sharpen his blade so much next time.
One of the most exciting pieces of software to come down the pike in many years is one picked up in a recent acquisition by Hyperion Solutions. It's one of the reasons I have to be fairly jazzed about the kinds of systems I'll be able to build in the coming months. Formerly called Razza, it's Master Data Manager.
If you had asked me a month ago what was the best way to make money in the Enterprise Computing business, I would have told you Master Data Management. I wouldn't have used that precise term, I would have probably said something like this:
One of the biggest problems for me, in building systems with the tools I have is always the political problem of getting all the people talking the same language. A significant reason why DW initiatives fail is because the metadata is all over the place and everybody spends too much time chasing the data down rather than analyzing it. All I need are my tools (speaking of Essbase outlines) and then I get functional people and technical people speaking the same language, because everybody can see how the numbers and entities roll up. The reason Informatica is making all kinds of money in this space is because they promise to solve this problem.
Well here's what IDC says.
Master data management is a challenging, long-standing problem. But recent attention to business performance management and compliance represent a new opportunity to deal with the issue in a way that can improve both information accuracy and organizational agility.
With Hyperion's MDM, I believe the problem has been solved. As soon as I get a copy I'll get deep into the details, but basically this is a collaborative tool that will allow enterprises to manage all of their dimensions, whether they change slowly or quickly, back through history.
Imagining the worst spaghetti possible, a partial migration between ERP systems without the benefit of ETL, a MDM Server would get everyone on the same page. How many times have I had people squawk about the complexity of Peoplesoft Trees and complain that their reporting systems use one drill down and their interal reporting systems use another and that the Business Objects Universe was painstakingly coded with another? And how many times have I had to be the one to reverse engineer all that rot and put into my systems? Too many to count.
I'm going to have a field day with this tool. Believe that.
This is what the rumors say the new XBox 360 is supposed to look like. There's a rather amazing discussion about whether or not it's fake or just photoshopped to look good, or photoshopped to look fake or photoshopped to look photoshopped. It's an interesting conundrum for disinformationists like me. Either way it keeps all the fanboys guessing and the industry astir.
I think it looks stupid. I like the color but I'd much rather have something with a 19 inch low profile kind of thing that fits in with the rest of my home theatre electronics. The new XBox should look like a sweet 1U rackmount server with some iridescence on the faceplate. That thing looks like somebody stepped on an iPod. It's a hideous looking mess and all the proportions are wrong. I did a Malcolm Gladwell blink on it and I say it's very fake. If it's real, it's real ugly. Fix it.
You cannot achieve Servitude without having attained Mastery.
I while ago I came up with a pedagogical hierarchy for my craft, the craft of computer programming, systems building and data architecture. I have found a certain resonance in this and in life.
I have been learning lessons in humility the past couple years and many of them could be summed up in this quote by John Boyd:
"The most important thing in life is to be free to do things. There are only two ways to insure that freedom — you can be rich or you can you reduce your needs to zero."
I think that the first time I comprehended the idea of Spirit outside of the context of religious teaching was via Allen Wheelis. It had a resonance that I could see, it added a transcendent quality to the kind of writing I planned to do as a Freshman studying Computer Science. I was going to embed knowledge into the soul of a new machine. I felt demiurgic. And so I have come back to collect this matter more than twenty years later.
The Roles of Ambition
The Clueless Newbie
The Newb has no idea but he's absolutely dumbstruck by the possibilities. He knows it, and he's just ansking questions and trying not to get on anybody's nerves. He wants to get in on it because he realizes the value of this whole area of expertise. What the Newbie needs most is to get taken seriously. He needs to try something
The apprentice knows what he wants to do, but not quite how. He has skills but not experience. He has ambition and drive and he's out to prove something. He's full of 'I can do this' and he hates making mistakes. He's looking for ways to do what he knows can be done, and he sets out to find the right tools. He hates hearing that it's been done and that his thoughts have been thought before, but his callsign is determinate. He's aiming to be graceful. What the Apprentice needs most is a win.
In my craft, that of software, it takes at least two years to get to know anything about anything. Whatever the tool is (and you're lucky if you get to pick a tool that has enduring value), you're going to be using it inefficiently for at least two years. Unless you have the good fortune to get onto a very well organized project that allows you to concentrate on a decent variety of applications of a single tool, you're going to fumble around with it. The Workhorse knows his toolset. He can make it do whatever it's supposed to do. He has confidence and competence. You can throw anything at the Workhorse and he can explain it in the language of his tool. He'll make it work, and that's what he likes to do. What a Workhorse needs is a steady stream of work and a stable environment. The Workhorse stands on the brink of Mastery. He knows two or three ways to accomplish the same task. He stands in fear of the irrelevance of his toolset.
The Hotshot has achieved Mastery. He has explored the limits of his tool and has made it do things that it wasn't designed to do. He's ready to get to the engineers of the tool and tell them what they ought to do with it next. He is arrogant with his capabilities and is ready to shout down pretenders. He has done The Big Thing that his toolset was designed to do and now he's unstoppable. He is now hungry to go out and conquer.
The Roles of Mastery
At this level we reach the plateau of Mastery. When a tool stops changing, there is nowhere to go , The first step above mastery has two forms. One is the Guru and the other is the Goto Guy.
The Goto Guy
The Goto Guy is the one to you go to for results. He is the Hotshot who is now dedicated to creating others in his own image. He is all about market domination. He has earned the respect of most and the envy of Hotshots. He is the first person a Newbie wants to talk to. The Goto Guy must be approachable and gregarious. He can see the big picture but is focused on results. The Goto Guy needs resources and opportunity. He builds momentum and seeks to establish permanance through engendering real-world dependence.
At the same level of Mastery as the Goto Guy is the Guru. The Guru is like the Goto Guy but as the Goto seeks domination in the world of application, the Guru seeks perfection of the tool. He adds to Mastery, the extraordinary details and subtle refinements of technique. He is worldly but extrapolates and projects. He is the keeper of the integrity of the toolset refines its Way. He seeks to establish permanance through engendering adherence to conceptual
beauty and completeness.
Below Mastery is Ambition. At Mastery is Balance. Above Mastery is Power. The Servant moves in all these directions at once.
The Roles of Power
The Lord is a man with long arms, busy hands and a loud mouth. He is the bossman, and he knows you only too well. He makes it his business to make your business taking care of his business. The function of the Lord is to attach himself like lamprey at he base of your skull and insert himself into your thought process so that you considere your every action with respect to the Lord's business. He lords over you. The Lord employs spies and . What the Lord fears most is treachery and heroism, for these are the generators of unpredictability. The Lord is a master planner and strategic thinker, he gets his fingers into everything.
The Demiurge is the Second Soul to God. His power is the generate awe and inspriration through magnificent acts of creation. The Demiurge consumes resources and is impatient. He is visionary and seems to pass through life with a different sense of time and space. The Demiurge is equally creator and destroyer. He is urban renewal, he is revolutionary, he is dramatic. He splits the world into two, those who stand behind him and those who stand in his way. The Demiurge is already an irresitable force, the most important question is where does he get his license, for very rarely unless they play in the realm of the mind or spirit, is the Demiurge his own source of power.
The Demiurge builds the amusement park, the Lord makes you stand in line. The Primary is why you are all there. The Primary needn't exist and usually does not. The Primary is the Reason, the Idea. The Primary motivates everything. He is unquestionable and irresistable. He is not only Master of the tools but Master of the environment. He stands with his finger on the center of gravity of his domain, he balances the Tao. Everyone believes they know the Primary, and everyone thinks they know what he wants, but only the Lord and the Demiurge get that close. The Primary takes all the credit and all the blame. He is Servant of the system of his creation, he directs the creation and destruction.
The Way of the Servant
So now that you've lasted this far, we arrive at the way of Servitude, Service and Servility. I haven't decided the best term, but the concept is clear. The lessons of middle age are that Servitude is a result of power. It rather goes full circle. As Primary, Demiurge or Lord, you are subject to attack. The mistake of the Gangster is that he wants to be all three, but a Hegemon disappears into his system. He becomes at one with the process and can assume any role. He is in service to his creation, his tools, his system and at a certain point, doesn't care which role he takes. His only concern is the success and integrity of the system of which he partakes.
This is truly sublime and it is the beauty of this that attracts me. If power corrupts, it is because people forget to Serve. And it is only in absolute Service that absolute power can be borne. This applies to Kings as well as Popes, and this is the point I wanted to support about Ratzinger's humility. This is the thing that will enable him to weild power. American liberals want him to be a Demiurge but they forget that inherent in great creation and reform, is great destruction and the chaos of change. They want him to serve the ideas they have championed with no regard to the balance of the Catholic Church.
I have had in the China Deal, my opportunity to become Demiurgic, and it will be some time before I see such an opportunity to come again. And so I have returned in the mode of Service to become once again, a Goto Guy in my old domain. It's a good place to be.
The Servant is free to move no matter what his ambition. But the Servant can be false. He can feign servility and actually be self-serving or serving a false ideology or a treacherous master. But the dedicated Servant, the true Servant is brother to all in the system.
There is something greater than power in the Way of the Servant, it is the beauty of the expression of the human spirit, for our power lies not within ourselves or our actions, but in our collective shape. We are constrained from knowing our collective destiny and so it can be said that all we know for certain is the depth of our commitment. In this is found our honor, and if we achieve, our glory.
Today is the birthday of one of the coolest web designers out there. I owe him a bottle of Pinot, but somehow a combination of brain farts and negative cashflow have conspired against this gift being sent. It is in fact at least 6 months overdue and the fact of the matter is that I feel like a real schlub about it, or as PK might say, a reprehensible twat. At least we both know the feeling.
Once upon a time, I was CTO of a nascent company called xxxx. I managed to get several people excited about the possibilities of a new kind of interactive usage of web and mobile services. It's still a great idea and nobody has yet managed to pull it off, but like most of my great ideas, sooner or later it's bound to make somebody else rich. One of those folks was Patric King, web designer extraordinare and associated with the successful look of a number of very popular blogs.
I sent him pictures of my curtains, fer chrissake, because the way the spousal unit and I agree on colors and themes for the house is precisely the kind of mellow, warm and ethnic spice we wanted for the project. Before you could say 'cascading style sheets', King had come back with a very nice theme that worked. We had a good level of communication and collab going on, and then I disappeared along with the funding. It wasn't all that dramatic, but it may as well have been.
King was a good sport about it, and fortunately he hadn't spent a whole lot of hours. So I owe him one (or two), and I haven't felt right about my inability due to a number of rapid transitions in my career, to do right by him.
I'm sure he has more work than he can handle and isn't aching for a lack of activity. I only wished our thing would have worked out. So here's to the King. You're going to get yours...
To the extent that the UN is what it is, a troubled organization beset by scandal and in dire need of reform, I'm not convinced that the US should get bent out of shape over the nomination of its Ambassador to the UN. Bolton clearly doesn't have the support of enough people to get in without a struggle, the question is whether or not this is a fight worth fighting. I think I'm going to take a pass on this one.
I haven't bothered to investigate Bolton, and I'm not sure that the outcome of this battle is so very significant. In fact, it reminds me exactly of the one over Wolfowitz' appointment to the World Bank, inasmuch as it simply offers the enemies of Bush yet another pin to stick into their voodoo fetishes. If and when he gets in, what he does will disappear under the radar of the Blogosphere and the MSM, just like it has for the past big nominations, Porter Goss, Bernard Kerik / Michael Chertoff and Alberto Gonzales.
I cannot imagine exactly how much leverage the US might have over reform efforts at the UN given that Annan isn't likely to be pushed around. We're not going to strong-arm China, and while Condi has been giving Putin a nice verbal slapping recently, I just don't see any of that as useful ammo for UN reform. It begs the bigger question of what the UN should do in the future. That's a debate for another time. For the moment, I think Republicans are just walking head down into yet another burning building.
As part and parcel of my boredom with politics and lack of inspiring things like juicy battles overseas with which to occupy my mind, I will indulge a bit of the geekside. Something tells me I ought to do so elsewhere, in fact I probably will although I really am divided about all that with regard to implementation etc. I like to keep my politics and my profession in separate parts of the plate.
Anyway the reason for the excitement at the current moment is my discovery of Tableau Software. This is the sweetest front-end I've seen since I first laid eyes on Wired for OLAP. It's a pure visualization tool that has about as much wow factor as anything in BI. It could singlehandedly destroy the concept of prefab dashboards, however chances are that's not going to happen for some time.
What's best about it is that it is pretty simple to use, give dramatic presentations which are very rich and informative and it uses a the single best realtime fat client on the planet as its backbone, Microsoft Excel. Tableau hasn't wasted a bunch of time and energy on the n-tier fantasy, instead they have made use of both corporate inertia and Moore's Law. Guess what ladies and gentlemen, PCs can handle big fat clients, and this one delivers.
What I'm doing these days is ramping up my own data warehouse on the home network, which has about 9 boxes right now in various states of function. I've managed to keep various scraps of master data from a zillion clients over the years and I have a fake data generator that I built from scratch. So there's about to be a world of research I'm going to be able to accomplish here at Lab 107, (a wholly owned subsidiary of Metro Decisions).
Hell, I might even snarf some interesting data from blogs and other public data sources just to show off. Stay tuned, the geekfest is about to begin.
It's out on DVD and so the spousal unit and I watched it at home with a big deli spread and a bottle of Two Buck Chuck.
Life is rated R, in case you haven't noticed, and so is this mild-mannered comedy about the foibles and failings of two friends trying desparately to reach the fun zone in California wine country before a fateful wedding. It is a formula I would hope to see more of - a romantic comedy that is not about romance, not about coupling and the awkward dancing that comes before, but about trying to get yourself together (as a man in this case) in advance of a life-defining moment.
Miles, the middle school English teacher and Jack, the commercial hack actor are two friends who know each other's weaknesses and manage to overlook them. But you already know the plot...
What strikes me about this movie is how profoundly cynical one must be to write it, how little jay the author must have found in an ordinary life, what little respect and nobility they must find when one is not making it. The entire desparation of Miles, this insurmoutable anomie that makes him a half-drunk. He clings desparately to the signs of success and destroys himself abeyance to the one trade that might make him happy. But for him, wine appreciation is half cosmetic, half obsession. It's something he cannot do for its own satisfaction, rather something he must have as an avocation, quite frankly to pickup women. He is not embedded in his domain and therefore he is half a man. The resolution of this dilemma is not faced, but elided. He needs approval, just like his precious pinot grapes, tending so that his complex flavors might surface. But is he that, or is it just a figment of his imagination? He doesn't even know himself.
Jack is just a different flavor of the same bad vintage. In the end he is an empty shell, nothing without the hand of his princess.
I cannot help but wonder if this film could be seen by anyone as an accurate portrayal of American manhood. And yet the film has become a phenomenon as upscale consumers have gone on a binging rampage over the very bottles of wine which are the subtext of the film.
What's odd about it is that the substance of the good times in the entire film is also elided - it kind of falls into the muted set piece of laughing happy fishheads at the restaurant. Half of the movie looks like an Olive Garden commercial. Crack the right bottle of wine, and it's good times. That is if you behave happily, if you pretend that nothing's wrong.
If the movie wasn't funny, I'd think it almost an indictment. What else could you do, but follow the lead of Stephanie and beat Sideways over the head with a motorcycle helmet?
Part of this review comes from a nice warmed over slice of contempt for the American middle class, not as people, but as a people. I grew up with the sort of expectation of the upper middle class of America that I found in Neil Simon plays and Blake Edwards & Woody Allen movies. Perhaps I comsumed those at too early an age because I thought these were simple mockeries, and the real people had a bit more integrity and sense. But it turns out that they were a bit more on target, but do they take themselves seriously? Hard to tell? After all, whom is there to recieve the complaint? Do people actually watch Six Degrees of Separation or Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and modify their behavior?
I don't know. Perhaps Tony Kushner is the last moralist in the American arts and the popularity of Sideways is the proof.
Hmm. Thank God I didn't go to Haverford. I'd be like this all the time.
Aside from Million Dollar Baby, all the best movies seem to be Chinese. Kung Fu Hustle kicks it up a notch. It's like the Chinese equivalent of Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels.
Maybe I'm predisposed to seeing things this way, having long ago written of many of the sensibilities of art house movies and engorged myself on Bruce Willis and Gene Hackman, but I'm only intellectually moved by the subtext of the fine Chinese product. Kung Fu Hustle is a surprisingly delightful film with a moral as nicely done as Iron Monkey and action which is a combination of Wiley Coyote, Master of the Flying Guillotine, The Mask, Drunken Master and Sargeant Swell of the Mounties.
This movie is more than extraordinarily fun, it is a tribute to common folks and a life of humble bonhommie. I haven't seen anything as tender and respectful of the common man, without taking itself so damned seriously, since 'Stand By Me', and that hardly counts because it's easy to get kids to act like that. But when is the last time you saw.. Oh wait, I take that back. Make it 'O Brother Where Art Thou?', sorta. It's got an honesty that makes it feel rather like watching The Little Rascals with its cast of crazy characters.
This flick takes all kinds of liberties of the sort you never expect. It's a completely unpredictable show and breaks a lot of boundaries. It feels like a classic fable and an over the top spoof at the same time. I guarantee that it will become a favorite. This is top drawer entertainment, and you will split your sides laughing. I mean when have you ever seen a kung fu movie where people actually did bad kung fu? There are a couple of scenes with bad kung fu that will have you cracking up.
Is the rest of the martial arts good? Heck yeah. There's stuff in here that I've never seen before anywhere, not even in concept. For that alone it's worth the ticket. I'm actually so impressed that won't even spoil it, which is rare for me.
This is just magical. I can't wait for the DVD.
So we did get a new couch, and man is it fluffy. The spousal unit tossed our old sentimental red leather couch and brought in an olive one with a kind of corduroy texture. I actually love it. It has brought my Tivo watching to new levels of suburban comfort.
It was from that decadent position, after Oreos and milk, that I watched the latest episode of The Amazing Race last night. The ending was perfect. The black couple won, the yuppies (who were dressed like red and blue teletubbies) tied for second, the oldsters hung in there and broke a record and the gay couple got the boot. Oh they were *so* gay.
I take this to be a sign that all is right with the world.
In other news, The Shield is by far the most byzantine and intense drama to be found anywhere. Last night's episode was so frightfully delicious that it's hard to imagine that they could put any more suspense into the genre of police drama. These characters and stories are astounding, there is tension everywhere between everyone and it drips with intrigue, deception and danger. These are what you would call ripping yarns. Sometimes it's difficult to believe you are watching actors. It just resonates so closely to all of our perceptions of urban dysfunction and moral ambiguity. The cast of The Shield this season, featuring Glenn Close and Anthony Anderson has to be the finest bunch of actors to mesmerize TV audiences since the debut of Hill Street Blues.
This suburban moment brought to you by The Bowen Family Trust.
My Body Mass Index is 30.4099. It's official. I'm obese. This time next week, I will not be. I swear to God.
I figured out how to calculate this number (pounds/inches ^2)* 703 from the NYTimes article which tells us that the CDC has changed its mind about the overweight. Evidently, they have been juggling methodologies and have determined that the one they use for cancer survival rates is the best one for predicting the effects of weight on mortality.
The breakpoints (18.5, 25, 30, 35) mark their five categories, underweight, normal weight, overweight, obesity and extreme obesity. As you can see, I'm in the fourth bucket, which is not so healthy. What is interesting about these new findings is that they confirm something a I've thought true for a long time which is that when I was 168 pounds, I was too skinny. I wanted, like most young men, to be bigger, stronger, faster, sexier, and 168 just wasn't cutting it for me. Even though I cycled 70 miles a week and played at least 5 hours of beach volleyball every Saturday & Sunday I wanted to be as fit as a special forces Ranger.
When I landed my first managerial position I had just turned 31 or so, and I knew it all. But somehow I didn't think I possesed the authority I needed. So I embarked on my 'Huge Project'. The idea was simple, get big & buff. So I changed my eating habits. The first time I had this idea was with my best friend when we were about 27. We were both programmers in a highly geekified area of LA, El Segundo. (He was by far the superior programmer, but I was the better beach volleyball player). We thought it would be extremely cool idea (after drinks) to become the twin bouncers of the South Bay. We would buff up, shave our heads, wear a single hoop of gold in our ear and wear gold lame shoes with pointy toes. It would have been a great second source of income. Unfortunately we sobered up before we could get our piercing.
Jack LaLanne said something famously. You can eat double cheeseburgers every day, that doesn't matter. What matters is that you exercise. I remember him like it was yesterday, he said diets just don't work. You have to feed the body, but you also must work the body.
The Huge Project turned out to be a moderate success, but I didn't get huge, I got ripped. My basketball game rebounded and I got all kinds of twitchy nervous energy. All it took was about 20 minutes a day on that old 'Body by Jake' rig and a couple good games of hoop. Within 2 months I was done, but that was 40 pounds ago.
The last time I got in shape was about 18 months ago when I was dead broke and smokin'. I did some pretty good blogging back then too, and I went to the gym on the regular for court volleyball and cardio kickboxing. I dropped about 10 pounds and got my breath back, but I pretty much destroyed all of that during the holiday season when I got work. Since then I haven't done much exercising at all and food has become an adventure. So now I'm at an elegant yet elephantine 215, and I have to yell stop.
Today, I'm going to Payless and Champs. I'm going to get some gym shoes and some shorts. Now is the time. Plus, my XBox is broken so that will help too. The spousal unit is on notice to alter the menu and we're going to get some results. I love the pressure.
Okolo is a man, I have to confess, who puzzled me for quite some time. You see he's one of those guys that you think you know until you try to say five hundred words to and then you realize that you've embarassed yourself. At least, that's the way he made me feel one time.
When I die and go to heaven, Okolo will be my unix sysadmin. There's probably nobody on the planet this side of Kernigan and Ritchie who know it better. He knew how to build an ISP from scratch before the idea of an ISP became a commercial reality. But I didn't really go to him for unix advice back in the day.
Instead, I did one of those stupid things back in the day which was to assume that since he had this African name and his mother (if I remember correctly) was from the Continent, that he had all his afrocentric polyrhythms in full swing and that the best of them would rub off on me. Yes I actually thought maybe I could catch a bit of the flavor just hanging out with a dreadlocked brother. But like most suburban posers, I was just projecting. Fortunately, I think I was able to keep it a secret from him and he didn't kick me out of his apartment in uptown Harlem.
I'm sure I was one of those annoying black equivalent Andy Rooney types just trying to put on a show, so I have this distinct feeling of frustration that Okolo didn't help me assemble the great black cyberhall that would be the virtual equivalent of a meeting with Malcolm, Martin, WEB and Booker 24/7. Though that dream has never quite disappeared, the expectation that Okolo was on point for that did long ago. I just never wanted to impose on the brother, and this confession has remained subliminal until this moment.
What I knew then and know now to be true is that Okolo is one of those rare, individuals who is gracious first and always. There's something about him that, I don't know, struck me as healthy and pure in the way most Americans are not. I sometimes worried that the evil of the world would crack open and swallow the brother. Maybe I'm completely and totally off about this, but he always impressed me as that kind of nice guy. At least the fact that he resisted my cultural/political fanaticism of the early 90s is testament enough to his levelheadedness.
Anyway, I got an email from him for the first time in a coon's age and he turns out to have a gut! Huh? What? He's blogging a reverse-Supersize Me, in which he's going to shame all us in the pajama corps by doing some fraction of a triathalon, maybe even a whole one. Any fraction is too much for me, but his is all for a good cause, to fight leukemia.
Okolo is one of the mellowist and coolest people you'll ever meet, and you ought to support him.
For the second time in a week, I have found a reason to read some cat named GK Chesterton. Good. The latest spy stories I've picked up are a bore, and I am really looking hard for a source of new ideas to perk me up. Recently I've grown tired of today's domestic affairs. Here we have a nation of dimwits incapable of arresting the retarded regression that is the gaping mediocrity of Tom DeLay, and yet within 17 days we have seen the transition of the Catholic Church from pope to pope. It is a miracle of limited democracy, even if the smoke isn't quite the right color (and I thought Italians were fairly good pyrotechnicians).
Be that as it may I have found the most succulent tidbits of Ratzinger's ideas written by a thoughtful Amazon reviewer by the name of Nathaniel Avignon. Suddenly my admiration for the new pontiff has moved into the realm of excitement. This only prods me further to communicate my meditations on Servitude & Mastery. And so I will underscore my premonitions about his conservative philosophy as exemplified in the following:
In an age when Truth has come under unceasing brutal assault, he has become a target of attack worldwide. He is routinely caricatured in the worldwide media as the new Grand Inquisitor, unthinking and dictatorial. This book will discomfit his enemies. It shows a deeply learned man moving carefully and deliberately across all the issues of the "Canon of Criticism," forthrightly defending the Church. It shows a man with a keen understanding of our present age and the ideologies that animate it.
The Roman Church is contemptible to so many precisely because it stands in unabashed reproof of so much of what passes as wisdom today, including the central "truth" of our post-modern era: that only truth is that there is no Truth. This reminds us that the Church is now, as always, a scandal. But it is necessary, Cardinal Ratzinger reminds, us to distinguish between the "primary" scandal and the "secondary" scandal. "The secondary scandal consists in our actual mistakes, defects and over-institutionalizations . . .." (124) The Church is made up of men who are subject to all the frailties to which flesh is heir. But the Church aspires for more. That she occasionally fails should not surprise us. That she aspires for more should inspire new generations of saints. Yet the very idea that man is not naturally good and should aspire for more through self-abnegation is a deep offense to the modern mindset that man is good and is always, inexorably, getting better. This makes the Church an object of contempt and, in time, hatred.
"[T]he primary scandal consists precisely in the fact that we stand in opposition to the decline into the banal and the bourgeois and into false promises. It consists in the fact that we don't simply leave man alone in his self-made ideologies." (124) Substitution of transitory political ethics for Christian ethics leads to despotism, the exaltation of a mere man as God: Lenin, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Ho Chi Min. "We can say with a certainty backed up by empirical evidence that if the ethical power represented by Christianity were suddenly torn out of humanity, mankind would lurch to and fro like a ship rammed against an iceberg, and then the survival of humanity would be in greatest jeopardy." (227) "For this reason . . . the Catholic Church is a scandal, insofar as she sets herself in opposition to what appears to be a nascent global ideology and defends primordial values of humanity that can't be fit into this ideology . . .." (124)
"[I]f we give up the principle that every man as man is under God's protection, that as a man he is beyond the reach of arbitrary will, we really do forsake the foundation of human rights." (204) The sacred tradition of the Church is arrayed in defense of the dignity of mankind. Contrary to fashionable caricature, the Church is not an ossified tree, subject to being felled by the latest gale. It changes, but slowly, deliberately, organically. "[T]here are various degrees of importance in the tradition [of the Church] . . . not everything has the same weight . . . [but] there are . . . essentials, for example, the great conciliar decisions or what is stated in the Creed. These things are the Way and as such are vital to the Church's existence; they belong to her inner identity." (207-208) As to its essentials, its First Principles, or everlasting verities, the Church is powerless to change even in face of popular demand.
Within the past two years, I have encountered two Orthodox Christians whose thinking has impressed me. If indeed this Benedict will make some adjustments and bring Catholicism closer to Orthodox Christianity, it will be something extraordinary in the history of the world.
Here is the great clincher and it represents to me the very essence of conservatism.
Bringing to mind Edmund Burke and G.K. Chesterton, Cardinal Ratzinger reminds us that "the Church lives not only synchronically but diachronically as well. This means that it is always all - even the dead - who live and are the whole Church, that it is always all who must be considered in any majority in the Church. . . . The Church lives her life precisely from the identity of all the generations, from their identity that overarches time, and her real majority is made up of the saints." (189) Our present age cannot cavalierly discard the wisdom of this great communion of the living and the dead, of one hundred human generations of the Church, confident that it has somehow achieved superceding wisdom. Instead, it must, as must all generations, submit to the essentials of the Church, to revelation and the Church's sacred tradition. "Every generation tries to join the ranks of the saints, and each makes its contribution. But it can do that only by accepting this great continuity and entering into it in a living way." (189) The Church does not need additional "reformers" of institutions. "What we really need are people who are inwardly seized by Christianity, who experience it as joy and hope, who have thus become lovers. And these we call saints." (269)
I have heard some way out schemes in my life, but this one takes the cake. A pirate ship off the coast of Los Angeles with H1B failures coding enterprise systems? Yeah right.
The demand for highly qualified programming staff is high, but not that high. What people forget is that the trends toward the demand for highly competent software staffs is growing, and the demand for highly engineered software is diminishing. That is to say that Open Source will grow, and it doesn't matter where that comes from, but that implementing software *on site* is the toughest and most demanding job in the industry. It is the equivalent of changing a tire on a moving car. The moving car is the business of the enterprise, and they're not going to paddle off to some boat in order to get their specs.
I'm betting that the market is going to get tougher, not easier, and that the necessity of having personal contact is going to be greater, not less. For all the marvelous things we do with software, our interactions are only going to get more complex. It is with software as it is with law - even though it belongs to everyone and is sortof open source, when you need yours, it's all about intimate contact with the squad who is going to take you through it.
For software engineering, I can see that such flighty ideas might have weight. The question is, what kind of character wants to work on a rusted out ship? I think the best programmers are going to want to drive nice cars and get dates...
Joseph Ratzinger is no more. Mary is on our side.
When I first heard of Ratzinger, I figured he had a very good chance, and as I have been thinking, the idea of a conservative Catholic Church is a good one.
I am watching him live on CNN. And within just a few moments as he now reads in Latin from this large book, you can see him descend into ritual. In the moment before as the crowd yelled at the announcement, I was thinking that this pope is standing on the edge of the world's largest moshpit. And then he begins the traditional blessing, and all such ideas are banished - immediately it became Church.
Benedict XVI has been in the Vatican for 24 years. It will be fascinating to see how he comes out of that ivory tower to be Pope.
He is a humble man says Rev. David O'Connell, and considers himself an imperfect instrument working in the vineyards of Christ. This suggests to me that he is subdued to the doctrine. I like this.
I like this pope’s orientation. He certainly seems to be one who will handily answer his critics, but more importantly, I think he’ll give the faithful a rudder against the 70-foot rogue waves of reactionary criticism.
I think many Americans are taking his conservatism to be of the same variety of the politically activist Christian Right, but they are by and large mistaken. Benedict is, apparently, a theologian’s theologian and has no reason, given his prior and current influence over Church doctrine, to get into the kind of evangelical shouting matches we Yanks take to be discussion. I noticed that the tone of the discussion at CNN as the last of the cardinals left the balconies over St. Peters was a kind of astonishment that someone ‘conservative’ might also be humble and personable.
As I have noted, there is a lovely paper trail on Benedict which has been followed up nicely by a gent by the name of Nathaniel Avignon who has written some interesting reviews over at Amazon. It is much more interesting to find out what manner of thought comprises his conservatism and why such individuals such as Avignon and I would be attracted to him. It is not because of any such idea akin to fundamentalism. In fact, part of the appeal of Catholicism to me is its lack of frenzied evangelicalism. There are all kinds of sects of Christianity that appeal to relativism, and Americans of the ‘faith dome’ persuasion ought to know better than anyone. But it is is the contrast provided by the orthodoxy of the Roman Catholics that puts evangelical fundamentalism in bright relief. This is an old, old faith that understands itself very well, and Benedict will be one to set that tone - that there is indeed enduring Truth in the purposefully deliberate pace of the Catholic Church.
Here is a man of calm who in no way evinces the paranoiac fury of religious fundamentalists. I think as Americans come to understand, they will respect that aspect of his conservatism. I question the motives of those who feel that the pope’s only responsibility is to reform aspects of the Catholic Church that they feel is out of step with the liberties they have taken in their lives. It is not the job of the church to conform to the will of the people, and thus it is no surprise that those who call for it make a fetish of collective bargaining. This pope understands that is not the deal and there is no new deal to be had. He speaks for the enduring verities of Christianity, and I for one, welcome that.
You only use 10% of your brain at any one time. That's a good thing. You don't want the part of your brain that helps you solve math equations working when you should be using the part of your brain that moves your fingers out of the way of a sewing machine needle.
My brother sent me a puzzle the other day. It turns out that there are 93 English words that can be made from the letters in the word 'planets'. I found 64 in about 7 minutes. As I did it, I swear that I could feel my wordsearch brain working.
It was actually the same part of my brain that I could feel working when I played 'Bespelled'. I kind of twist and turn the words in a kind of backwards permutation. I'm sure this is the Scrabble and the Boggle brain as well. What I cannot explain is how I was able to do this and only making one repetition, the word 'at'. Although I haven't tried, I'd bet that I can't come up with any more. I think that's the same part of the brain telling me that I have exhausted that possibility.
Speaking of this, there's another part of my brain that I think is highly specialized. That's my photo repeat brain. If you give me a stack of 500 pictures that has one duplicate in it. I can parse through them serially and tell you when I get to that duplicate. I have no idea how I can do this, but I'm sure that the how has something to do with being a photographer's son and having that task.
Oh wait a minute. I only used plurals a few times, so I probably could beat 64.
This is for the [black male] youth.
What I can't do is undo what I've done. I can't go back before the age of 14 and be back in all black schools in the hood. I can't unlearn what I've learned. I can't suddenly put the fear of whitefolks back in my head, but I can try. Hanging with Lee helped remind me of all the distance I've travelled, of all the hard work that put me in my happy spot, doing what I never thought probable or even possible back in the day. So thinking about what I think is real for young black men today whose future is dicey, I'm going to come up with my best advice. For what it's worth. And I'm thinking in particular about some of my young cousins down south, whom I don't really know, but I'm just guessing.
As usual, I start with Baldwin.
All you are ever told in this country about being black is that it is a terrible, terrible thing to be. Now, in order to survive this, you have to really dig down into yourself and re-create yourself, really, according to no image which yet exists in America. You have to impose, in fact - this may sound very strange - you have to decide who you are, and force the world to deal with you, not with its idea of you.
Probably the hardest thing about being a young black man in America is that nobody believes anything you say or do that doesn't confirm some stereotype about black men. It's like you simply don't exist and nothing you say or do will make you seem real to people unless you add something typical at the end, nah mean? You don't have to say a word, and the cop thinks you're a suspect. But you can go to a job interview and talk all day about your real character and they still don't hear you. That's real. And guess what, it never ends. You are going to have to talk your way into every situation and keep reminding people honestly about what you are expecting, even if it sounds stupid - like damn, why do I keep having to explain this to you?
You have to Bogard. You have to talk your way in, even when you're not sure you have what it takes. You have to get into a situation where you can try and fail until you get it right. You have to let people believe that they're a little bit more responsible for your success than they actually are. After all, you're doing the work. But that's how people are a lot of times with black men. They don't believe we can do without their assistance because they can't just look at us and percieve our skills and potential. Bogarding means trading on your potential, never forgetting your potential, not being worried about hearing 'no', and never stopping pushing the envelope. As soon as you fail, and you will, you're going to hear the same old crap, and the moment you start to believe it, then you actually will be heading in that direction. There are 6 billion people on this planet. There are at least 1000 who have got your back and can help you. Find them. They're waiting to hear you.
#2. Listen and Learn
You're young, and you don't know anything. What you have going for you is energy, ambition, and nothing to lose. Therefore you need to soak up knowledge in every form that's related to your ambition. Be all about it. Get the magazine, watch the TV show. Read the books. Find the experts. Become a geek about it. Show your love for that thing, because this country is big enough for you to make your fortune in it, whatever it is. It's almost scary how much you can accomplish just by listening. You really have your whole life to learn it. That's why you follow your love.
#3 Get Out
Get out of your comfort zone. Get out of your old habits. Billions and billions of burgers have been sold at McDonalds, and everyone knows what's on the menu. But I bet that you order the same thing every time. Order a vanilla shake from McDonalds next time. I bet you never have. Watch a TV show you never watch. Buy a shirt you would never wear and see what happens. You are more flexible than you think. Listen to me, I sound like Morpheus. But it's true. You have to be able to think on your feet, because you already know the same stuff that's coming to you where you are. But the most important thing to do in this category is to travel. If you have a car, get a map point your finger at a place and drive there. Get out of your car and walk. Be there for a while.
I remember several years ago talking to brothers in Oakland who went to the Million Man March. One of them had never left Oakland in his entire life, he was in his 30s. They rented Ford Explorers, him and about 10 partners and drove clear across the country. He said that the trip was far more interesting than the destination. Why? Because he couldn't have, in a million years, guessed how people across the country would have treated him. He told me about stopping at a truck stop in Iowa and a conversation he got into with some white truck drivers, and he couldn't believe how easy and friendly the people were. But he needed that excuse, 'going to the MMM' to get him out of Oakland.
This is not about making friends with white truck drivers in Iowa, this is about expanding your social ability. Making friends is going to be one of the results. People trust people who feel they can handle them. And the only way to be able to handle all the strangeness about people is getting out with people different than yourself. I go to Baldwin again:
Identity would seem to be the garment with which one covers the nakedness of the self: in which case, it is best that the garment be loose, a little like the robes of the desert, through which robes one's nakedness can always be felt, and, sometimes, discerned. This trust in one's nakedness is all that gives one the power to change one's robes.
#4 Be Intimate
Everybody thinks they know who you are and what you're all about. You need to have imagination to get out of that. But you also need to be intimate with people. You have to let people into your sphere. That's difficult.
I hated people all up in my business. I liked handling my own business because almost nobody could give me what I needed. So why bother telling them about yourself? Because everybody knows somebody, and that somebody might be the key. So you should let people know what you're all about, even if you think they disrespect that, or can't help you in any way whatsoever. At the very least, you get associated with your ambition. It's better than the alternative which is they make up their own minds what you are all about without any real input from you. People talk. People can't shut up. Use that to your advantage.
#5 You Are Not The First Black Anything
And the cieling gets higher every day. What do you think blackfolks who've got it going on have been doing all this time? There are miles and miles of headroom. There is no place I've been and nothing I've studied where there haven't been blackfolks with great accomplishments. Anybody who tells you different just hasn't been out much. But you're still going to be outnumbered. That's neither here nor there. You are responsible to the people who are responsible to you. There is not a great big club out here waiting... well, there is the NBS Summit, but just take it for granted that the black race is doing just fine. You just need to get your hookup in order.
Handle your money well. Get into a relationship with your bank today. Read everything possible about money and remember this. The best feeling in the world is walking through a mall and knowing you can afford anything in it that you want, but not buying one thing. Save your money. The only way to get money is to keep money. Buy savings bonds, and live low.
#7 Don't Doubt America
America is the country where things work. Whatever it is, if it's possible, then it's happening here somewhere. If it doesn't work in your neighborhood, then you're just in the wrong part of America. The fact that you can read this is proof. If you think you can fight with 'America' and win, you've got it all wrong. Lose that attitude because America is a lot bigger than you think. You'll find your place in it.
#8 Do Not Ignore Luck
You have to learn how to handle misfortune, and good fortune. That was hard for me to learn. I wasn't prepared to take advantage of any situation that wasn't completely in my control. Why? Because I assumed that the outcome would always be bad. I wasn't prepared to be surprised either way. In the end I would just end up mad because I couldn't take all the credit. But sometimes you just have to take the leap of faith.
#9 What Goes Around Comes Around
It's true. You will pay for your mistakes with people. You need to apologize and move on. Don't try to make your enemies pay. When you are actually powerful enough to do so, others will gladly do it for you. But until that point, you need to just collect your stuff and walk away. Don't give anybody a reason to do dirt to you, because you will be in delicate situations.
#10 Find Your Chillout Zone
You must find something you can do, on your own, that chills you out. You cannot depend on somebody else for that. You need to be able to get into your chillout zone when life throws you a knuckleball. For me, it changed. When I was in college, I ran. I could run for 10 miles and just leave the whole world behind. After that it was cycling. Then it was writing all my demons out on paper. But whatever it was, I knew I could come to that thing and find peace. Nobody had to come and restrain me, I didn't find myself on my knees like Usher begging for forgiveness for my own peace of mind. It had to come from within.
If you can get half of these things right, you have a good shot. But it won't change the perception of black men in America. So you have got to do a little to recognize others who have their heads on straight. And this is more than just a head nod in passing. It's affirmation of good work or a good deed. It's not paranoid, we brothers got to stick together when you know you or this other man is wrong. It's acknowledgement of achievement, not just survival. A black man can survive in jail. That doesn't mean anything. It's not just about living, it's about living right. It's about making a social space for doing good and keeping that space clean.
Men make choices and live with their choices. These are all tools that I think can help young black men keeping in mind the specific things I had to learn as a young black man. I come from a strong family, but these things still weren't obvious. But look at these lessons closely, see how universal they are?
Brent Staples fires a warning shot across the bow of the 'Civil Rights Establishment', insisting that they are not entirely logical in their sideline position. He gets no argument from me, especially since I've been advocating for more black engagement with the GOP. But in the following three, he nails something that I alluded to when speaking about Kilson's demography:
The most complex and deep-seated objections to No Child Left Behind
are clearly emanating from teachers and school administrators, who
have come under increasing pressure to improve student performance.
They have always wielded an outsized influence in the black community,
especially in the days of segregation, when they made up that
community's largest, most visible and most respected professional
group. Members of the teacher corps have historically played powerful
roles in civic organizations, including churches, while forming the
backbone of civil rights groups like the N.A.A.C.P.
Thanks in part to the civil rights movement, which expanded job
opportunities, the teacher corps in the black community is not what it
used to be. Many black children now attend school in educational dead
zones, where teachers are two or three times more likely to be
uncredentialed or unqualified than in the suburbs. It should come as
no surprise that minority children lag behind.
The educational dead zones have become part of a vicious cycle. As
experienced teachers retire, they are replaced by people who were
themselves educated in dismal public schools and sent on to teachers'
colleges that are often little more than diploma mills. The federal
government tried to fix this problem in the late 1990's when it
encouraged teachers' colleges to beef up curriculum and student
performance in exchange for the federal dollars they get in subsidies
and student loans. This effort failed, but it spawned No Child Left
Behind, which requires the states to place highly qualified teachers
in every classroom.
It has long been my position that the ghetto needs to be bombed and that some hard slogging towards residential integration of the suburbs get under way. In cruising through New Orleans, and given my knowledge of the (rusting) industrial Northeast, that's a lot harder to do than say, and probably unlikely to happen. And yet as David Brooks astutely observed in 'Patio Man', this is why people are moving to South by Southwest. It happens quite a bit out here on the West Coast. In fact, California's Inland Empire is probably the best place to be in the nation for families on the rise towards a relatively affordable suburbia. It's certainly growing.
But what Staples says here is very interesting because it underscores the changing profile of the 'Talented Tenth'. Know that I'm with the engineers and scientists and a cadre of professionals which are the largest in the history of African America. We are new to the ranks of the leadership of black Americans. That's one of the things that puts me on the progressive edge of the Old School rather than the traditional edge.
So when it comes to matters like public education policy one needs to seriously ask whether change is more likely to come from successful political agitation from just one party or engagement with both. I tend to be cynical about a Democratic solution and dubious about a bipartisan one. So foot dragging on whatever educational reform is offered at the Federal level has very little support from me. What works - even at the simplistic black-white level of analysis is to get black kids into white schools. The politics paving that road is already done. So it boils down to a matter of money and mobility. I wonder if we are at a point of equilibrium - if all those stuck in the ghetto and the projects are permanently stuck. If so, NCLB is probably going to be the only widely supported initiative with any juice in the nation that trickles down to institutions accessible to those classes of African Americans. To the extent that education is the only way out of the ghetto and the projects, everybody better jump on board, even if it means ignoring those traditional civil rights folks from the old middle class.
I'm going to move quickly beyond the politics of this because I just read Kilson's second article on Black Elites and I want to move quickly in that direction. Still I will mention briefly that he confirms much of what I've been saying about black mobility, and in fact uses that very term.
Your Linguistic Profile:
|50% General American English|
|10% Upper Midwestern|
The Great Guys hang out in Kinshasa, practicing their American English on a regular basis.
"Freedom of the press, or, to be more precise, the benefit of freedom of the press, belongs to everyone - to the citizen as well as the publisher.. The crux is not the publisher's 'freedom to print;' it is, rather, the citizen's 'right to know'"
I am encouraged and proud of the brief filed by our Bear Flag attorneys on our behalf. Although I don't report the news on the regular, there have been several occasions which I do specifically go places to report news. The knowledge that I could be shielded from legal actions like those filed against the Apple leakers is of great import to me and I strongly believe that our folks have the case exactly right.
The fact of the matter is that every writer, every blogger is up to snuff in the particular way we have looked at journalism traditionally. But we are learning new ways of communicating, there are new values given by new content. In many ways, it can be said that blogs are the shape they are, partially owing to the shape of the rest of news reporting. In that spectrum they have unique value and so they generate different expectations from their readers. But the principle of getting news to the public is exactly the same as with any other journalistic endeavor. Blogs are journals. Thus bloggers are entitled to the same legal protections as any other professional journalist. Although the Apple case is not an example, one could clearly see that investigative actions themselves, shared by journalists and bloggers alike, generate the vulnerability which without shield protection would stifle presentation of crucial information to the public.
I've always felt a little twingy about reporting certain things, and yet I've also felt that the blogosphere would be an excellent source for more serious communications. When Sean-Paul over at the Agonist published his PGP key and began taking interviews from senior officers in Iraq during the ramp-up, I was sure I was seeing something new and exciting. The Agonist has continued to be an excellent source of news and Sean-Paul's excellent reputation is well-deserved.
Clearly the California powers that be can step up in this matter and codify blogs as 'periodicals'. I believe that should be sufficient to show that when we decide to report news, that we bloggers will have all the protections of other journalists. The public deserves it.
I've never played Legend of Zelda and I've always thought that Mario was a dweeb in every way. In fact, the only thing Nintendo ever did for me was in the arcade. You know, arcade? That place you had to go to and put quarters in the machines?
Quite frankly I couldn't really tell you which of any of the arcade games I liked were made my Nintendo. Maybe Donkey Kong, but I played it more than I liked it. Clearly none of the games I did like wound up impressing young musicians like this dude, The Video Game Pianist.
Yes I do believe it's art. I just don't recognize it. Oh except for that little thing by Liszt, the Transcendental Etude #10. That's actually one of my all time favorites.
I didn't read all of the tables in Kilson's interesting article. That's mostly because the most interesting of them didn't have any data for my father's time, let alone my generation. If there's anything I'd like Fryer to check out it would be the distribution of African American professionals, longitudinally. In other words, I'd like to see evidence documented by statistics, that indicates the extent to which the black middle and upper middle classes have diversified and expanded in the post-war and post-civil rights eras.
Meanwhile Kilson concludes:
One crucial lesson for today’s Black elite at the dawn of the 21st century can be drawn from the foregoing discussion of the formative-phase Black elite outreach-to-Black-masses-leadership pattern (from 19th century to 1940s). Namely, the formative-phase Black elite set a high-standard example of the outreach-to-Black-masses-leadership orientation, especially in light of the racist-restricted miniscule modernization resources that our White-supremacist structured American society permitted the formative-phase Black elite to acquire.
There is also a second crucial lesson to draw from the foregoing discussion. Namely, that today’s early 21st century Black elite has a tremendous obligation to bear in regard to replicating an outreach-to-Black-masses-leadership pattern that is comparable to the pattern fashioned by the formative-phase Black elite from the 19th century to 1940s.
Indeed , as I will discuss in Part II of this essay, given today’s Black elite’s new mainstream status in both the economic and political structures of early 21st century American society – providing it new economic resources and public policy influence – the future outreach-to-Black-masses-leadership pattern should be superior in quality to what the earlier Black elite could achieve. I myself believe that today’s early 21st century Black elite will fulfill its outreach-to-Black-masses-leadership obligation. Today’s Black elite confronts a situation involving 40% of today’s African-American households that suffer numerous social crises.
I have mixed opinins about Kilson's conclusions. I agree that there are Talented Tenth aspirations among us, but that Progressivism and race raising is nowhere near as important as it once was - that the relative amount of time elite blacks need to consider and dedicate themselves to their inferiors is less . Furthermore, I would argue that the social capital with which blacks are endowed allow their elites broad responsibilities in mainstream organizations which far outweigh those that can be accomplished via progressivism and aggregation. This sets up a paradox that Kilson seems to ignore. There are more things that black elites can do, but it's not entirely clear that they need to or want to.
I think that it is very difficult to establish the connectivity the black elite would require to become a self-sustaining force in American life. I am optimistic and hopeful about that becoming an eventuality, but I do have grave concerns that a great deal of energy my be dissapated in search of that Black Establishment. But I also say that it's a great mystery which I am bound to pry open and discover, not the least because I think I deserve a seat in the star chamber. But beyond my selfish reasons for wanting to be a part, I think that there are a goodly contingent of my peers who are puzzled about how this thing might come together.
As much as most of us complain about the NAACP, it's always there (like BET) and you can rely on its ability to draw attention to itself. So whatever they say cannot be ignored, nor can Sharpton or any of the other Fungibles. And yet it seems impossible to determine with any accuracy the extent to which their policy pronouncements and rationale is shared by the African American public. All we hear is criticism, but where is the consensus? This whole problem of working with a default consensus is what keeps black politics stagnant between the Rock of the Republicans and the Hard Place of the Democrats. (I don't know how to spell Schilla or Charibdis). Most of us would rather be elsewhere, but elsewhere has no permanent address.
So latent in the energy and motivation, and even egos of the black elite, is a formula for black political amplitude if not unity. And what must happen is that the content of that political desire must be made manifest through self-representation. This is central to the Black Power Imperative. It is what we want for Iraqis, it is what we want for ourselves.
Still, will we aggregate successfully? There is a paradox. America has to be open enough for successful blacks to feel as though the limits on their success is entirely their own doing and not due to latent institutional racism. Yet America has to be closed enough for them to take the burden of lifting their racial brothers seriously. Absent both conditions, there's no real reason for this elite to take its duties beyond friends and family. Cues will continue to come from the big dogs like Cosby, but it's still an iffy proposition. I agree with Kilson that the spirit is willing and the chances are good, but this cuts awfully close to home in many ways. Is it essential or is it optional?
You can sing the words to 'Amazing Grace' to the tune of 'Gilligans Island'. Try it. It works perfectly, and it kind of destroys the purity of both songs. It's completely unexpected and it stays in your head. I think that's what a black Republican is. The first time you see it, you don't believe it, because it seems wrong, and whenever you think about it, it makes you angry because it disrespects tradition. And as long as you've learned it the way you've learned it, it will seem that way.
I believe the future of this country is like that, with regard to race. We are going to have to expect the possibility that all of the different colored square pegs belong in the square hole. We have to stop mistaking color for shape. It requires an honesty that seems wrong and disrespects tradition. It requires an honesty about color and an honesty about shape. But there's still a lot of mending to do because we've all been getting bent out of shape over color.
The Existential Shape of Politics
I've talked about the mending in terms of healing and curing. Since I'm a conservative, I think that the primary burden of healing and curing lies with the self. I have come not to expect a fair society, I've always said that you cannot wish for a better public. As my new pals in the Mother Company salesforce say, 'It is what it is.' I prefer the Run DMC version myself, but the point is exactly the same. We live near the end of an awful history that has taught valuable lessons. That's good and bad. The bad speaks for itself, but the good is found in those lessons - after all, somebody succeeded. But since I believe what I do when it comes to race it puts me in a peculiar if not precarious position, with regard to whom I feel my responsibility lies. I say this understanding that it's a fair guess that most of my readers might consider themselves to be whitefolks. I'm shouting out to the public. The bottom line is that I'm trying to direct black politics into a direction that speaks honestly to self-representation that allows the truth about blacks to be said, and I'm trying to influence white politics into a direction that works in honest coalition with black interests as expressed through those black politics. We've had a liberal white coalition with left blacks and that produced the mandate for Civil Rights. Now that Civil Rights is baked that coalition is in shambles and everybody is wondering where to go next. So far they're regressing. That's why I think the progessive side of the Old School is in a unique leadership position now that Republicans control American politics, but that connection has to be done right.
You see, I am a nationalist and a globalist. I believe that I am a citizen of my nation and I inhereit its traditions and laws. I have a duty as an African American to reconcile myself to the history of my country. I make sense of it and I locate myself within a thread of its development. I am an African American raised as a black nationalist in Southern California during the 70s. When I was driving Lee around and showing her my Los Angeles, she found it remarkable that I knew so many black Catholics & Episcopalians. I really never thought much about that fact in isolation, but it's a very real part of my association with the folks in The Dons. Many attended mass at Holy Name, or Advent or with Reverend Stallings. That's part of it as well. And I also look very closely at my family. I am part of them and I am responsible to them, not just the nuclear family but my entire extended family. That's hard. My family tree is deep and wide. There's a lot to say here but the point is that there are significant contexts within which my identity is subsumed and these are the contexts I expect others to represent as we all work as citizens in the public sphere. When we talk about simple matters like Affirmative Action, I don't want to hear just 'white' or 'asian', I want to hear second-generation vietnamese whose family ran a restaurant.. and that whole nine yards.
So when we talk as Americans about race, a lot of it comes back to the personal, and I know sometimes I get upset when people say ('oh by the way I'm white') and just leave it at that. I say that's hiding. If that's all you say, that's all you can be. But I'm trying very hard to get the energy of black nationalists who led back in the 60s & 70s to work on this new politics of the 21c. I can't do that if whitefolks are just going to be 'white', because that's problematic with regard to multicultural ethics and anti-racist principles that are non-starters in the coalition of color.
There are a couple of huge conspiracy theories in operation today with regard to American politics, and one of them is that all Republicans and folks on the right are like 'Goldwater' and that Goldwater was opposed to Civil Rights for racist reasons. So while a significant number of Old School blacks have basically opted out of mainstream politics for this reason, the Republican agenda has a big gaping default. And from my perspective, all the Pat Robertsons in the world do not add up to one TD Jakes - the conservatives of color, not just blackfolks, but conservative immigrants in generation one and two are a huge flavorful coalition that ought to be the more proper multicultural coalition on the right. But you have to play whack-a-mole on a lot of knuckleheads like Phil Gramm & Tom DeLay before that message get through their thick skulls. They think we're going to assimilate and they're dead wrong. We don't have the ethics problem. They think we're going to get stronger by beating up on homos. Wrong again. They think we're going to sell out to high stakes influence politics. Nope. They just don't have their marketing right, although Christie Whitman does. I think GW Bush started off on the right track with regard to 'compassionate conservatism' but global events took over his domestic agenda, and really this Republican congress defaulted big time. I think history will show that the focus on terrorism and the war allowed a high quotient of mediocrity to set the domestic legislative agenda...
But I digress.
The American mainstream is wide open and accomodating to ethnic flavor, but the issue of race is more than just flavor. That's not anybody's choice - but it is deeply embedded in the way we talk about social justice. It's an important shape, and we shouldn't let color distract us from the content of that discussion. There will always be people who have grown up singing Amazing Grace to the tune of Gilligan's Island for whom there is no resonance of the way things were. That's not what we want. We want people who understand the effort with which things were changed who are comfortably fluent enough to put the same words into the tune of 'When the Saints Go Marching In'. So this is not about colorblindness, it's about color competency and cross-cultural fluency. It's about understanding both history and possibility. It's about knowing enough about why people made political coalitions in the past and how they view their progress from there in order to make new ones in the future. It's about living with the public we have and incorporating their aspirations into the society they would have for their children. It's all going to come together and come apart again. That's why integrity is key.
I have thrown in some Cobbian politics above, and I am negotiating some complex dynamics. I am convinced that the leadership of black political coalitions will be of a certain type of elite. You cannot dredge up the 'legacy of slavery' without the understanding that through it all, the African family persists. And you cannot talk about oppression in the world without recognizing the possibilities of Africans on the world stage. So in solving problems for a particular class of African Americans, black political leaders are going to be thrust quickly onto that world stage. The Congressional Black Coalition appears to me to not be forward thinking in that regard; they're thinking small and as such are going to be marginalized. The context of race is political and the political power one can obtain by wrangling that context well is outsized, but the end goal has little to do with race, and it is a mistake to think otherwise. So how we spend the political capital of making the ethnic vote produce is of critical import. I worry that those who believe the 'Goldwater Theory' are all too ready to pay it all back, that is a strategy which will devolve into an Israeli-Palestinian situation.
Failure is Not An Option
An enemy is somebody who doesn't mind if you fail. And since white identity and all American identity depends very highly on how well our ethnic politics go, everyone has a stake is making this work. Nobody wants to go back to the repression of the 50s, well nobody sane anyway. Neither do we want to go back to the chaos of the 60s nor the sappy accomodation of the crossover 70s. And while I don't wish to overstate the import of how black politics gets its act together in the context of the American economy and geopolitical destiny, it is at the very core of the world's experiment with democracy. We are the leading example of how democracy can empower. If it weren't for what happened to Emmitt Till and how we worked America because of it, the Minutemen at the Mexican border would be shooting first. If African Americans had failed in their demand for universal public accomodations, this society would be a great deal more closed and this nation would be unable to lead the world in any way whatsoever. Just count the American cities that burned in 1968 and imagine where we would be if it got worse instead of better.
It took 26 years to free Geronimo Pratt. Certain key things simply must happen in order to sustain our faith in law and order. One of those things is that we must be free to stake our claim in this land. We must be able to sustain our families as we believe they should be in a place we call our homeland. We cannot sacrifice ourselves into la vida sin corazon. Rather we must draw strength from a society that grows respect of its people. When it comes to American identity, that means respecting the aspirations of freedom and accomplishment for which our emergent populations struggle. It means not only, in the way Malcolm described, are we diners at the American table, but our recipies are on the menu. In that and only that way do we secure the blessings of liberty.
"Humankind still lives in prehistory everywhere, indeed everything awaits the creation of the world as a genuine one... if human beings have grasped themselves, and what is theirs, without depersonalization and alienation, founded in real democracy, then something comes into being in the world that shines into everyone's childhood and where no one has yet been -- home."
I did a lot of talking yesterday, and Lee did a lot of listening. I told her she was destroying my blog for all the things I might have said here went only to her. Lee is a protege of sorts. I'm showing her my Los Angeles. She comes from an extraordinarily sheltered world that I didn't know existed, and she wants to bloom under a different sun. She takes notes.
So we drove all over. We met yesterday afternoon at the foot of the hills of the Doheny oilfield and went first at the top of Hahn Park looking across the city. We cruised through the Jungle, to the Fox Hills Mall, up and down Crenshaw, to West Adams, up into The Dons, View Park and Ladera. We went to Farmers Market for my favorite Korean BBQ and watched the odd black woman scowl at us. She noticed how white men were looking at her, and we talked about all that. We went up into Hollywood and then down to the South Bay, to the Hermosa Pier and then up to Marina Del Rey. It was all new.
We talked and talked. The interesting thing I learned was about how men want to own women, and the rules that fathers and mothers make to conspire control of their bloodlines. It's makes for a wicked conservatism, and I can see how it had crushed a little life out of Lee. But she's gaining confidence in this world and she wants to be a part of all of it, not just her own well-wrapped universe.
She helped me realize how fortunate I have been at a young age to be exposed to a wide variety of whitefolks. Because she looks at them and she sees nothing. We didn't talk about white women more than once in 12 hours, but of white men and how they do nothing for her. Of course she's never been down South and you might imagine the sort she met at her elite New England college. "75% rich and 50% gay". So one can hardly blame her, as sheltered and protected as she has been, both by her parents and by her own mind. And while there's nothing particularly special about whitefolks, it's always useful to recognize them for the way they recognize themselves, which is what traveling among and between the various cliques can do for a young person.
But Lee only traveled from the old country in Eastern Europe to America as a child driven from oppression. And so she has remained close to her parents for all of her 2 dozen years, without much freedom at all. She said that if you took the African American out of the Conservative Brotherhood creed, you would harness 70% of her countrymen. And she knows of black men who hang with them finding much in common.
I say we are all emergent in America, and sometimes we clutch at ourselves when encountering cielings and walls against our ethnicity. Sometimes we hold our loved ones too close and create in them a fear of the unknown that is easily knowable. On the pier we stared into the cold black water. The sea is massive, powerful and all encompassing. But you can never trust the sea. All you can trust is your ability to swim.
Everybody knows how to fight. Nobody knows how to fight racism.
It could be said that in my life online I have been through three phases. In the first phase, mostly as a cat named 'mellow mike', I was primarily interested in black cultural content creation. I had honestly believed that I could transform the realm of hiphop through some kind of online interactive artform. I was also all about the writing, and so I did a lot of lower case, and spoke with flair and flavor. It was all about the culture and the existentials. It was all about the Representation I spoke of.
Then I found out that people were so stuck on race that I couldn't carve out such a space without it being attacked. The internet was a hostile environment for black creativity. I recall as I write this, the hostility a friend of mine received for proposing a black cultural forum from the editor of Boardwatch Magazine, which was very influential at the time. It is exactly parallel to the stink over TCB, the same whack logic. Like any number of new domains, you'll often find self-appointed white male guardians who require it to be 'colorblind' and are thus hostile against women and minorities who claim a spot. As if white wasn't a color and male wasn't a gender. And so faced with this racial problem in the way of my cultural expression, I became 'boohab' and fought the race man's battle.
There was a break and a breather between boohab and 'Cobb', and I'm not sure how much longer Cobb will last, but in this phase I am clearly more focused on the political. As such I am being much more personable rather than abstracted and talking about Domestic Affairs, from an Old School perspective. I don't so often pick the subjects and preach as I comment on the subjects most bloggers are commenting on. That was easy during the beginning of the war and during the campaign season, but not so easy now. At any rate, The Conservative Brotherhood and Cobb are specifically about the black Right, what it is, what it thinks, what it wants, how it operates. Simple.
I spoke to my boy Les briefly on the phone last night. He made me laugh in his own inimitable way, knowing just what to say. He said that there will always be some fool whiteboy who will want to make it all about himself. How come I can't form a white political group? How come I can't talk about white culture? How come I can't do what you do? How come I'm always made out to be the bad guy? How come I...? Yes indeed how come you? How did you come into this discussion in the first place? What's your mission? Why are you here?
Remember what Baldwin said. "To be committed is to be in danger." To come up with a handle and dedicate yourself to black culture or anti-racism or black right politics for years at a time online is dangerous work. Somebody might take you wrong. Somebody might take you as a wierdo or as a narrow minded obsessive. You might be accused of stirring up trouble and upsetting apple carts. Good.
Somebody will always demand an explanation, an executive summary that sits well with them. Something they can give a thumbs up or down to, because most people don't want to get into the details. They don't want to hear, they don't want to learn. They want to note briefly, categorize and move on.
But when it comes to rolling that boulder of race, every American's identity is at stake. So there's a lot of excuse making about why such talk is dangerous. And that poor whiteboy is wondering what we're all going to decide for him next. Because if it isn't the damned blacks, it's the damned gays. And if it's not the damned gays, it's the damned feminists, and then the damned Asians and all these damned people keep trying to redefine America under the white man's feet. The white guy bullseye. Sitting duck. Dinosaur. Nobody has any common decency any longer and things don't make sense. No they don't. And the world keeps changing and everything settled is at risk, and everybody fights with the tools they have. Can't we all just get along?
Yes we can. And when it comes to race I've been saying as boohab that yes Mr. Man you have to come up with a new name for yourself. We have. We're not coloreds any more. We're not Negroes. We're halfway done with black and still trying out our African American. Asians ain't Orientals or Celestials any more. You can't be sure if you're looking at a Hispanic or a Latino. Everybody is changing and getting better, why should you be your father's Oldsmobile?
I know there was a deal done when Moses became Morris and lots of people lost the 'stein, shave off a few grams of nose meat and married the blonde. I know there was a deal done when the lace curtains were traded in and the brogue dropped. Everybody pays their price to be called American. But it's a price that keeps getting paid, so long as we are a free country and people still want to come here all of our destinies and identities are bound together. I wish I could be at the border of Mexico this weekend with the Minutemen because I believe that we need to force our politicians to reckon with the hypocrisy in our Immigration Laws. But I know I can't do that without being considered biased against Mexicans. That's the price of the ticket. We all inherit a racial identity, but what do we do with it?
Right now we're in a muddle. Everybody has got different terms and everybody is weary of dealing with race. But we haven't really finished getting it right. A lot of people think it would be better if we just call the whole thing off.
No. We have to face off and deal. I cannot hide behind a XXXL sports jersey, a doo rag, 500 watts of bass and a sneer. You cannot hide either. You have to talk about that smelly town where you grew up. You have to talk about your roots and what was right about them and what was wrong and we have to see the common struggle and invest in the common system. There's no hiding here. With TCB and me, we show our path, our roots, our values, our aims. We can't just front as 'black'. That's not enough. And yet sometimes it just gets reduced to that. That's what got us into this mess in the first place. Oh it's just racial thinking.
I don't to the 'black Republican' thing any longer. I had to work my way through it to understand this side of the aisle. I discovered it was about *do*, not *be*. So when I did different things, my identity changed. And I don't think anyone can read Cobb and say 'typical black conservative'. That's because I don't front. I'm honest about where I'm coming from with myself and with my readers. Sometimes it gets to be strictly about race, and I have decided to deal with it as it occurs, whether or not I want to. Not because I'm defensive about it, but because I know that I have something to contribute which can draw people into this shared issue we have.
Next: The Future.
(Today and tomorrow, I'm going deep into racial territory)
The problem with learning and caring is that you can never shutup, even when you want to. Even when it's better to let people be wrong, and misinterpret, to be committed to what you know to be true forces one, in the end to add another straw to the camel's back, hoping it will balance the odd one someone else put on a moment, or a millenium before.
So it is with race in America. The conversation never stops.
What I understand about race in America is that it involves two sides, and that neither side can win. Black and white are like twin brothers wrestling on the floor. But I think the most true thing about race in America is that it inhabits all of our metaphors. There are so many stories and so many reasons and so many prayers bound up in the drama of race. For anyone who truly cares about the American condition, the state of our union, the meaning of our values, race is always intrinsic, ever puzzling, ever revealing, ever punishing.
I shake my head because I have not yet reached that time in parenthood during which my children rebel. So my instinct remains at the patient-explanation-for-your-own-good level rather than the, fine-do-it-your-way-you'll-see level. And so I am taking an hour or so to respond at length to some straws I see poking out.
Two cats respond here at Cobb on the regular. One is Dave, the other is Chap. I don't really know them. I don't really know anyone in cyberspace, and it's difficult to explain how much of an in-your-face person I am, how I am such an acute observer of people. The web and all computer mediated communications represent to me an abstract medium for the expression of (more or less) pure thought, and it is perfect for certain things, but doesn't begin to approach what I can remember when watching a man or woman walk or listen to them speak or read their faces. So I am something of a bull in a china shop of ideas out here on the web, I am an arrow on a path. I redefine and correct, and I don't listen as much as I would face to face. And it is that gap bewteen the person and the virus of an idea inhabiting their minds which may or may not express itself clearly in the digital realm, that I both recognize and obliterate. So if it sounds like I am beating up them, or whitefolks, or blackfolks, I am, but only in digital bits, only in the realm of ideas. I am a great respecter of people, but when I see a bad paragraph, I am compelled to attack. I don't know that I will find one, but don't hold your breath. This is not about you guys in particular, it's sorta about your being a part of this thing that I and the Brotherhood, and America is going through. I understand your stake as Americans in the reconciliation between all of us.
The best defense, they say, is a good offense. And I really have no need nor cause to be defensive. I'm already here, on the other side of the mountain of personal achievement that unleashes a man's spirit. I have been unleashed for a dozen years and then some. It is how I have managed to take the diary I had been writing in college, to the public - to stand in front of hungry patrons and recite poetry from the heart - to write the unspeakable memo, to correct the man who thinks he knows it all. I care deeply for people, but I only answer to God. Engagement with me is an exercise in honesty, it's about how real I think I can get with you, it's about how much truth you show that you can handle. Sooner or later we get to that place called intimacy. It's a quick jump to there when I write. And I am true to myself and therefore not false with my readers.
So what is this racial thing and why do I bother? I thought about that at the baggage claim this morning after a good 4 hours of sleep. Why is it that this black experience thing is so difficult for my white cousins to understand? Why do I appear obsessed? Why even use such a word? The first answer that passed back through my mind was that it only seems obsessive if you don't see the value in it. But like breeding sows or birthing cows, somebody has to stick their whole arm into uncomfortable places, and once you have learned to do so everything is different. I think whitefolks depend on blackfolks to stick our arms up into race, and they take our civility to be a sign of forgiveness. That's partially true. But there is also a science of husbandry in this, we bring it along generation by generation. But that is always done by engagement, and never by distance.
Speaking for myself, and I think for many in my generation, much of black culture has been about representation. We have been engaged in a struggle to be a different we. We were like stowaway children under the tarp of the horsecart of the Underground Railroad. Our parents rode shotgun with their hats down low, not speaking too loudly less they draw too much attention. And yet we were their joy and it was our brightness, sheltered within our humble homes, that gave them the courage to take that road to freedom. But my generation crawled out from under the tarp and started talking loud. Yeah! We're free, and guess what you don't really know about us? We've been representing black culture, we've been blackety blackety black black y'all. We've been painting the white house black, and we've dared you to say anything about it. And it was necessary, God knows what the world has been missing in the wake of our parents' silence. And you've been discovering it from Eddie Murphy to Joe Jett to Serena Williams to Condi Rice. The Negro is dead. Blackness is about busting out of jail, about bringing music to the Nowhere Man, about never letting anyone forget about our flavor and unlimited potential.
The success of blackness is demonstrable but its task is not complete. It will take another two generations I think. When my grandchildren purchase banks in Chile or Ghana perhaps. When there's a country club in Georgia where two black ex-presidents hang out. When the Kwaku Foundation awards it's million dollar grant for the 40th time and the networks celebrate. These are my expectations of a fulfilled African American destiny. But lots of African Americans have their own. These hopes and aspirations were forged in different fires and every family's history shapes them, but there is a direction to it, and a common kind of struggle when it comes from African American history. In our generation, it has been to represent - to come out and be loud and proud. As Rick James said, we're bustin' out of this L 7 square, done braided our hair and don't mind if you stare.
James Baldwin said:
Take no one's word for anything, including mine-but trust your experience. Know whence you came. If you know whence you came, there is really no limit to where you can go. The details and symbols of your life have been deliberately constructed to make you believe what white people say about you. Please try to remember that what they believe, as well as what they do and cause you to endure, does not testify to your inferiority but to their inhumanity and fear. Please try to be clear, dear James, through the storm which rages about your youthful head today, about the reality which lies behind the words acceptance and integration, There is no reason for you to try to become like white people and there is no basis whatever for their impertinent assumption that they must accept you. The really terrible thing, old buddy, is that you must accept them. And I mean that very seriously. You must accept them and accept them with love. For these innocent people have no other hope. They are, in effect, still trapped in a history which they do not understand; and until they understand it, they cannot be released from it. They have had to believe for many years, and for innumerable reasons, that black men are inferior to white men. Many of them, indeed, know better, but, as you will discover, people find it very difficult to act on what they know. To act is to be committed, and to be committed is to be in danger. In this case, the danger, in the minds of most white Americans, is the loss of their identity.
And so I know that American destiny is not complete until African American destiny is complete. And we keep working, we blacks and whites, we keep working each others nerves until we reach a settlement. Today the settlement is an accomodation, a compromise, a tenable peace which is both uneasy and comfortable. We still live in a society where OJ makes a difference. We still live in a society in which Colin Powell's wife fears for her husband's life. We still live in a society in which Camilla Cosby was considered crazy when she said race mattered in the murder of her son. And whitefolks know very well, as they look at their own families and friends and associates, that something about them is unfinished and unreconciled to the rest of America. It's nothing a simple as 'discrimination'. Hell, nobody I know is a racist. Everybody I know hates racism. But only few can talk about it in mixed company for more than a minute.
Online is a different story. I've proven that, because I wanted to and I paid close attention. But the fact remains, there is still dissonance, sometimes it is as clearly defined and significant as the street between a white gentrified enclave and the beat down streets of chinatown. Sometimes it's as subtle and insignificant as choosing the right beer when ordering Thai food in New Orleans while listening to reggae music. I don't mean to be cavalier, but I'm not sure that we know what to do with our Multicultural ethos or exactly what it buys us in the post 9/11 world. I'm not sure we know what to do with our new sensitivities. Today, 3000 gay couples had their marriages annulled by legal fiat in the state of Oregon. Online we can talk about all this stuff, but what do we do?
This is the last entry. I feel like one of those idiot film students walking around taking video of everything around him. It's not going to capture the flavor, especially as close to real time as this is.
I found my mother's house's in the projects at the corner of Claiborne and Orleans. My cousin took me around all this afternoon and we visited the places where they grew up over in that neighborhood. It's funny when I look at the place now as symbolic of the lowest class on the totem pole: projects. Funny because she kept telling me about the movie theatre that used to cost a nickel for all day, that's now a converted church, and the other theatre that's now a converted church and the old bowling alley which is now a converted church. Then she showed me the old church that's now a middle school, and the high school where a kid got shot not long ago. Nothing is the way it was. The streets haven't been paved and the shutters haven't been repaired. There are too many holes in the infrastructure to hold the same quantities of hope and aspiration, or so I presume.
Poverty of this sort would not work in Los Angeles. Very few parts of my hometown get as rundown as these have, and yet there's something magical about that inversion - the charm of the Drop Squad value the whole place holds. I don't get the feeling this place is dangerous, then again, my sense of dangerous is fairly different from most folks.
We visited another cousin briefly. Somewhere in my family tree file are the digital connections. It's so embarassing when you don't know and can't place the face. But now that the physical connection is made, everything makes sense. It has depth you can't get from a family reunion because it's about place as well as face.
Cousin showed me the park where they played 60 years ago at the southern end of the Laffite projects. Just as quickly, she pointed out the twin park, 'where the whites would play' on the other side of Claiborne. The Two Sisters Restaurant was closed so we headed back up to Galvez. Then over and across to Esplanade, the burb quickly transformed to exactly what you could expect - gentrification. Not so fast, Cousin said of the house at the corner of Esplanade that a white somebody has lived there all of these years. An odd thing to know, but coming with the territory of a woman born in 1940 in this part of town.
As we drove further up Esplanade we got into a stretch of nicer houses that rent for 'as much as $700'. For a three bedroom? 'No a three bedroom would be $1000'. I'm freaking out, silently. These are very nice houses. Finally we arrive at my aunt's building. She's somewhere in Europe this week, nobody quite knows where, and so I missed her tour of the city. Instead, I'm checking out her building, the Esplanade at City Park where she lives on one of the top floors with a view of the lovely park. In the distance to the left across a lagoon is a stand of magnificent homes, one of which must be the Pitot House. As we cross the lagoon towards City Park, nearly clipping a duck, Cousin explains how 'we couldn't even think about crossing those gates'.
Just around the corner is another cousin, and the sun is going down and the breezes are warm. Lovely. He chills my enthusiasm for the idyllic spot by bringing back the reality of New Orleans' own recent school shooting. Every place has it's plusses and minuses. In the end, we had a nice fish fry down at a joint called The Trolley. And I met yet another couple of young cousins.
It has been a great trip. Now I gotta sleep. I have a 5am wakeup call.
The cases brought against protesters in NYC during the Republican National Convention have had a stunning failure rate of 91% according to this story in the NYTimes.
I take this one at face value as further evidence of what the decentralization of technology will enable citizens to accomplish independent of large slow traditional organizations. This is clearly smartmobbery, which can be a good thing. On the other hand, it can start an escalation in the sophistication with which red-handed authorities handle their tech. I predict the upper hand will remain with the crowds for the forseeable future.
What's that in my eyes? Ouch, it hurts. Damned sunlight! My mouth tastes like the floor of a cheap Dominican cigar factory. I was awake at 7 but I went back to bed. Now I overslept and am going to be late to my first breakout session. Drat.
Well, it's nothing I don't know anyway. The good one is at 11. I guess I'll just use my new password and download several hundred MB of software.
Everything is boring except meeting new people. A couple of the seminars I signed up for were bogus. Well, not bogus but a little underneath my feet. So I took off and checked out the city for a bit in between the time of the last good session and now.
Poverty is the same where ever you go in America. It's instantly recognizeable. You get off the grid and suddenly people are hanging off stoops where the houses have no A/C. The day after rain, the curbs are still flooded where the pavement turns to dirt.
I took Canal up to Rampart Street and took it out to where it splits off with St. Bernard. By there I was in the heart of somebody's hood. So I took Elysian Fields north to Claiborne and flipped some circles around there and hit ghetto. It was around Derbigny that I dropped off the precipice into that 5th Ward Houston look and feel, three classes below the middle where the streets ain't paved. Sure enough the horse cart clops by.
I couldn't find the right part of town Moms pointed out to me a week or so ago. Half the problem is that I'm using three different map programs and the streets I recall go halfway across town.
So I decided to go random and headed down Dauphine because I remember it from the Quarter. But I was going in the wrong direction and ended up at some Navy yard. So I flipped around to Chartres and headed back the other way. Not long afterwards I was on the waterfront boulevard, Decatur, and there was a Hooters to let me know I had left one kind of poverty and entered another.
I'm happy to get back to my hotel room and play with my downloads, but that's partially because I let the spousal unit have the good digital camera. I'm stuck with a miserable unfocusable blurred and distorted view of New Orleans reality, and I know that's the best I can do for the moment. But I know a lot more than I did yesterday.
Schmooze. 6 Hours straight. I'm losing my mind. I didn't realize that I had such good friends in high places. It's nice to know, otherwise this whole evening would have been a total, complete, utter, bore. I'm getting old and experienced and I see this whole thing in a new light. I get a good understanding of how the schmeer is applied. So tonight it was the devil suit. Black on black on black. Sorta like the Hollywood suit but with no blue whatsoever. Streaks of red instead. My whole attitude was "I'm sick of all this and I'm going to be unique, but I'll pay attention to you". I'm full of shit. Not really, just for the moment.
I drove my car fast down the narrow streets of the Quarter. I eyeballed the hookers and spring break girls gone wild with knowing looks. I stared down every hombre in the streets. I gave a pound to all my homies in the mother corporations. I was this close to buying drinks but everyone was still talking business, even after their fifth drink. I have the insight about this but I'm not going to tell. It's too simple and embarassing for those who have pierced the veil.
You see, worlds have collided. I've been recognized by one of the young guys at the mother corporation as a blogger. It was like a splinter in his mind as I sat at his booth and watched his neighbor's demo. He caught me on the way out. Hi reader. I wanted to come back to him and ask what he'd like me to write, but I kept thinking why 'When Worlds Collide' would be such a cool, yet inappropriate title about the encounter. But I'm cool with all that. Let everyone know everything I always say.
The funny thing, which another long lost associate reminded me, was that I had a well-deserved rep as well as an undeserved rep, for speaking out. I had an infamous HR red-flag moment for a percieved use of an inappropriate metaphor in a business communication. The very idea is so fricken bourgeois it makes me choke. Nevertheless, calmer heads prevailed at the time. But I also mouthed off on a public forum under a pseud. I haven't written there in years, or so it seems, but some people remember me for that. So I have a number of reputations, most of them stellar with the old gang.
Tonight's fare was pedestrian but the best yet. Fish tacos & BBQ ribs with peanut sauce. In fact, it's probably the most imaginative buffet this company has ever produced.
Over in the Quarter, I schmoozed even more. I returned to the 544 and the waitress remembered me. I had 3 drinks and once again I missed the traditional jazz band. The flashing girls were out, but there were only two of them and I have the feeling they were paid by the local Chamber of Commerce. Cops on horses pooped up the streets. Crowds gathered around to laugh and point at suckers who stepped in it.
I am solitary.
OK if there's only one thing I'm going to talk about, it may as well be food. Dayum! But first let's dispatch with the business.
This conference is rocking and rolling. I got my proposal put together last night at about 11:30p while all my colleagues were at some club called 'Bombay'. Apparently, that's why I was fairly bushy tailed this morning and one or two others were MIA. Nevertheless I got in touch with a whole passel of folks I haven't seen in over four years. Mad, Rishi, Dan, Trevor, Rich, JP, Johnny, Jose, Kathy, Rudy, Rob, Brett.. hell I can't ever remember them all, Al, Mark... I'm wondering where big Charles is. It shouldn't be hard to find him, but yet I haven't seen him or Leah yet. But there was Eric, Jean-Paul, Allen, John, Bill.. a huge party. What's best is the chance to keep these professional relationships rolling. Straight awesome.
All the products that I stuck into the proposal actually work the way I thought, and better. The company has done a bang up job on their technology roadmap and the picture is clearly in focus. They are evolving the platform to do the impossible. I'll tell you what I think, and that's that only Teradata understands data better than we do, and that's why they're partners. We've hit some awesome scalability points.. blah blah blah.
Now embedded in this business blather is the following restaurant review:
The joint is called K-Paul's. I got a tip that it was the bomb, and since my crew had abandoned me by 6p when I was starved, I didn't wait for the dinner invite and cabbed over there just before the rain came down. I beat the rush and got a table unannounced so I decided to go spicy. Starting off with a Ketel One martini, I scarfed down their hot and fluffy jalapeno muffins. They are sweet and hot at the same time, and just irresistable.
I got a nice firm andouille sausage in dijon mustard to warm me up and switched over to the molasses muffins. Now I was really ready to go. I picked a mediocre gevertz to hang with the spices and ordered their duck & shrimp remoulade. The rice was a perfect into, kinda dirty but not too, sucking up the gravy just nice. Now this is the thing. You've got this really spicy duck, in which you can taste edges of pate, and the sauce is like a light brown gravy but watered down to boulliabase consistency. All you taste is the warmth and savory of the gravy which is like a perfectly familiar base onto which the spicy meats are dancing. The green beens had teeth squeeking texture and the carrots kept their backbone. The shrimp was light and just another texture in the mix, nice and firmly chewy but tender and succulent.
I think I ate more than I should but I didn't even care. Halfway through, my buds called and said they were heading to Antoine's around the way. By this time it was just getting dark and the rain was coming down. I spoke briefly with the proprieter (I think), a kindly woman with bright inviting eyes and I told her that I'm writing her up. I thought at the time that I would do a little hopping and compare, but I didn't really need to go there. My buds weren't even out of their hotels by the time I footed it to the front door. That joint looked like a jacket only affair, but everybody was wet-dogging it at the front door so I could have stepped in with the leather. But since the guys aren't going to be done until 10p, I decided to get back here to my lil ole room.
On the way I walked a goodly length of Bourbon, but not before checking out Buck & Pops who did a little BB King for my two bucks and the love. They were on St. Louis just before Antoine's.
The French Quarter reminds me a lot of Greenwich Village, except with better music and sweeter drinks. I'm heading back out there tonight, as soon as I belch the stress out of my gut and find my black bandana. I need to sit down. Whoo!
I did go back out and I'm not to druk t blg abot it. but t wud be bttr if i follwd up on this smtim tomroow. i cn see why popel love this place.
Seriously, it's just too bad that there aren't any people that I know here tonight to hang with, especially when I put on my bad boy gear. (See Photo). Every American man should own a black leather jacket. Most of the colleagues settled in at the overloud Famous Door or Pat OBrien's. I walked the whole quarter. The rain put a damper (ha) on most of the evening's walking but my legs do hurt.
I found all the decent jazz joints too late to enjoy a set, but The All Purpose Blues Band was rocking Club 544. I smoked my way through three stogies and had a Budweiser Select which was icy. There were lots of wet t-shirts but no flashing of any substance. I forgot that it is Spring Break. Tomorrow evening should be more enjoyable. Now I know where to go.
I'm starting to read Whizbang more and more. I have to say that it's starting to replace Dean's World on my list of big blogs. So imagine my surprise when I find that The Brotherhood is the subject of discussion.
A commenter posts:
Why not "Conservative bloggers" or blogroll, whatever. Why the racist theme, membership requirement? And, is that REALLY a characteristic anyone can be assured of as to who joins? Not like you can discern racial type by User I.D., typing, etc. Perhaps you are also suggesting that "black" conservatives display distinct communication skills? And that "white" ones do, too?
I mean, the entire premise is embarrassingly racist. Be conservatives but drop the elitist racist tags. It's embarrassing for the rest of us...conservatives of any/all racial types.
While it's clear that he flunked Race in America 101, I think he expresses a sentiment that is not uncommon. In fact, during my time as a race man I came across that fallacious logic so many times that I gave it a name: The Ugly Baby Theory.
The analogy is pretty good. One childless white couple sees a black couple with a baby and they call the baby ugly. They ask why on earth would anyone have a black baby? They ask, what if all the white people decided to have a baby, implying that the black couple would be as disgusted with white babies.
The Conservative Brotherhood is our baby. We think it's pretty smart, good looking and fun to be around. We put ourselves into it and this is what we get. We are proud and we're going to show off our baby every chance we get.
I understand that people don't get it. The impetus behind our ganging up into the Brotherhood is primarily for exposure, no different than the Bear Flag League for me. But the impetus behind the writing we do is deep and complex - it is nothing more nor less than the content of our character and it is inevitably what we would produce, whether or not we were affiliated. Such complexity is not easily explained nor contained. I have trouble explaining it myself. So hey, people who write 500 words on black conservatives have their 500 words. We've got years.
But that's really not what upsets me today, it's that David Anderson is holding a grudge, or at least smacking me en passant. It's an unintended consquence of a simple oversight on my part, one that I think I've probably not even fixed to show you how dumb I am. For no reason at all, I have failed to blogroll him, and he's taken it personally. At least I think this is the substance of his gripe.
I understand how important blog patronage is. Clearly, when I had the opportunity to help, I did not. It was a foolish mistake on my part not to take advantage of that opportunity. I respect David as an Angeleno, as a businessman and as a humanitarian, although he could have chosen a better frat. Be that as it may, I accept my smack and blogroll ISOU like I should have done many moons ago.
Jane Galt has revealed a GK Chesterton chestnut which is perfectly apt for a large number of situations. I had previously on that score referred to Ayn Rand in my mind, but I believe it shall now forever be thus:
In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, "I don't see the use of this; let us clear it away." To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: "If you don't see the use of it, I certainly won't let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it."
So now I must gather my thoughts about Gay Marriage, which I am against, into a category which will not go away. Hers is probably the most magnetic essay ever in the blogosphere, to which I add very little at this point.
I just saw the most incredible golf shot ever. Tiger's chip off the backside of the par three 16 for birdie was certainly the most awesome and dramatic moment of the Masters. How could anything get any more spine tingling?
Protien Wisdom is trolling for a scary plot. Here it is. Al Quaeda infects Columbian cocaine with smallpox.
It's actually a very simple scenario which doesn't take a whole lot of doing. The actual intel necessary doesn't seem to be insurmountable. What makes the story interesting is that it strikes countries that are currently off the map with regard to MSM coverage of the WOT. We already know that narco-nations are highly sophisticated in moving the world's supply of cocaine and heroin products. We already know that they have access into every city in the US and all over the world. We already know that they are capable of mind-boggling logistics. We know that SARS freaked everybody out when less than 500 people died.
So there it is.
The second scary story is a series of pulse bombs strategically placed by a psychotic insider at Citibank IT. Imagine all of Citibank's computer records erased. Trillions disappear overnight. The FDIC goes broke. China liquidates its American bond holdings. The full faith and credit of the US is damaged to the extent that the loonies who hate us for no good reason at all are emboldened. We are forced into a standoff daring the EU from constraining our trade as German, British and French banks buy up ours like the Japanese did with American real estate in the 80s. Red & Blue Americans start gunfights in the streets.
It's 4:20 in the morning and I can't sleep. I thought I put down enough OH to keep me knocked out, but for some strange reason, perhaps the shouting in the street below and the boomin' system, I am wide awake and parched. I dreamed about a sentence fragment, but then I had a better dream.
It was New Orleans, artificially small. I kept seeing the same people and they kept wearing the same clothes. So I couldn't be clever or snide. They would know it was me; they would see me again. I was narrating a PBS documentary about a girl named Cinnamon who worked the McDonald's drive-thru window. Except that she did it while singing rhymes on the center divider. She had a face like Halle Berry. I dreamt up my insomnia. I suddenly had the voice of Billy Ocean, or Peabo Bryson or Jeffry Osborne and so I sang a song about lost love to the apartment block. I sang that everyone was lonely and tossing uncomfortably in bed. And I could see everyone watching me out of their bedroom windows, wide awake at 2am. It started at closing time which was 1am and so I sang that song, they finished their whiskeys and beers, and marched off like zombies to the apartment block, all just as lonely as they started.
There's Aquafina on the table near my baseball cap. Maybe a swig will help me sleep. I fell asleep to Whoopi Goldberg's latest HBO Special. The first third of it was retarded. The second third of it was brilliant. The final third was excellent, but I had seen it before, and it was too sentimental. I don't like ordinary celebrations. Birthday cake in and of itself doesn't make me happy. So a story about a physically deformed woman who gets to have a disco pool party wedding doesn't do it for me. It's still an excellent bit, but I remember it from her first act which was almost 20 years ago.
The dent in my thumbnail has almost completely grown to the edge. I hammered it several months ago putting together the desk in the living room. I'm noticing the way that I age. I still have the skin of a young man, but I don't know why I can't sleep. Maybe it's this refrigerator. It's empty and loud. I am completely sober and thinking about my children who are off cruising on ships, as I tap alone in the wee hours in the city where my mother was born.
So I am in the Crescent City. I'm hungry as all get out. Just got into the Residence Inn on St. Joseph and the valet wasn't around. So I just dropped my rented Monte Carlo right on the curb and got up to my room. It's nice, meaning the broadband works and it doesn't smell funny. So I'll fill you in on all the details of getting here later on. Right now I'm in search of some fried oysters and a drugstore.
Weird. I have no idea what's going on in the news. Don't tell me. I'm actually digging the beads in the trees and people walking slow.
On the way to getting here, here being a software conference at the Morial, I had to close down a number of issues on the West Coast. You see, as everybody goes their separate ways, I have to notarize some documents to say that the parties involved have permission to be shepherding my offspring hither and yon. When it gets international, you never know. So I am taking this leap of faith and swearing oaths etcetera. Sorry Nolo Press, but I ripped off your verbiage. It would be nice to have an attorney in the family to deal with such matters, but it's just another lesson of emergence. Nobody pays attention to black things at this level, but enough of the self-pity.
Since I'm on the hook for delivering a consulting proposal for a huge company that's going to tie up a bunch of resources, I had to send out my spreadsheet on Thursday. I wanted more time, but everybody is on vaction or indisposed or otherwise out of pocket. I make my best guess, understanding that it's supposed to be a high level draft, and I make a huge mistake. Fortunately, the bossman catches my error. Somehow I calculated that we would be working 40 hours days. Aha. That's why adding bodies cost so much. Dumb spreadsheet error.
But it also turns out that I am not following protocol. Well that's to be expected, I haven't been on the job a month yet and I haven't even met more than 3 company employees face to face. I'm starting to learn the downside of the virtual and distributed corporation. No sweat really, but these are things that could be communicated instantly if it weren't for emails. What do I know about protocols? RTFM? More like download it.
So just 30 minutes before I get on the plane Saturday morning, all the stuff I did wrong Thursday afternoon comes back to haunt me. Fortunately, were' still ahead of the deadline. Unfortunately it means I have to put in work tomorrow.
Tonight, on the other hand, I was ready to party. I met two lovely ladies on the flight over here who are also going to the conference, one of whom is... OK I won't say it on the off chance that she discovers my blog-identity. I will say that she's a neck-snapper. It turns out that she happens to know some other ladies that know me. Damn. This world is too small among the young gifted and black. Anyway, I was expecting this to be the cool and casual, pre-conference chillout day. Everybody is out of touch. So it's just me in alien inspection mode, categorizing the life-forms of southern Louisiana.
My frequent flier miles have all expired and now I am at beige level. So no seat upgrades for me. No express car rental service either. I had to wait in line yet again, but I did get the silver Monte Carlo. I actually fantasized that I was driving a NASCAR auto on the 10 East to New Orleans. I suppose that a brother like me should be ambivalent about recognizing that my driving needs are fulfilled by Chevrolets. Sobeit. I'm cool. I realized, playing my time travel game, that only four years ago, one couldn't be sure that the car you rented would have a CD player. I brought some Biz Markie, so who cares about the outside of the car when the inside is bompin'?
The X calls. I haven't mentioned the X much. She's M11's biomom. She has him for Spring Break and they're cruising the Carib. She's a nervous wreck and didn't know I'd be out of town. So she's calling me on the cell for the fifth time telling me about his proper packing list. I mumble assertions. At least I hit the big thing. He's got to have new white sneakers. You have to understand that she is an ex-diva. Think Zsa-Zsa Gabor in high yellow with crinkle waves and attitude with a capital A. In truth, she used to be hotter than Lil Kim, but even Lil Kim had business sense - well until the conviction. Now she is all high maintenance attitude without the payoff. And more than a little bit batty. Not many men know what it is like to be stalked by a neck snapping psychotic. Buy me three martinis and I'll tell you the whole tragic story. Now suffice it to say that listening to her on the cell phone was quite sufficient to make me miss my exit, so where the hell am I?
I swear to God that if she cuts M11's hair just to satisfy her vanity she's going to have hell to pay, but I wouldn't put it past her.
I ended up in the Garden District 4 miles west of where I'm supposed to be. I finally grab a map. You see, my laptop has no batteries. Despite all the last minute BS I put the spousal unit through to get my boss's complaints onto the proper email address that could be retrieved on the plane, there was no way I could make use of the 3.6 hour flight for business purposes. So I ingested some Dan Brown. Decent stuff but I'm sure it would have been more powerful in 1998 when I knew less about Digital Fortresses than I do now. I'll still finish it. Just not tonight.
Tonight I'm going to watch Heat because I'm too damned drunk to make project plans on my laptop. The fault lies with the Rio Mar Restaurant on St. Peter Street which is more faboulously delicious than I expected to find wandering around the Warehouse District looking for an ATM. Well, it's also the fault of my colleagues who didn't bother to hookup with me on what I expected to be a casual night. Did I say that already?
So I'm right at the moment when the wine has entered my limbic system and the flavors are meshing just right and the cell phone finally rings. Boss Man says, have your shit ready. We have to nail this for Monday. Fine. I SMSed three colleagues for dinner plans and the worse call comes back in the middle of dinner. But nothing could spoil this meal. It's that good.
I've got this oyster etouffe that's the bomb. You know how macaroni and cheese casserole is kinda extra good when it's just a little bit crunchy on the edges? The chef at Rio Mar has taken the essence of that special flavor and turned it into a majestic assault on the senses. You've got oysters, you've got chorizo(!) and you've got spinach and cheese burnt just perfectly in this mix. Awesome. Then I've got the perfect consistency of sticky saffron rice on the side of my surgical stainless bowl of bay shrimp in boulliabase. Incredible. The apple-y chardonnay works right in, and I end it all with a martini and stagger back to my hotel. Yes ladies and gentlemen this is what it is like to be a middle-aged man, when you start thinking that sex is inferior to food.
And suddenly I'm thinking of fat people in a whole new light. You know the ones. Not the midwestern housewives who are just 30 pounds overweight, the morbidly obese ones who have made a deal with the devil. I've known the kind of dog-men that don't care if they get HIV, they just have to do chicks just to see the looks on their faces. They throw their hands in the air and boink 'em like they just don't care. Why? Because they're aesthetes of acrobatic sex. I used to be. Buy me an ounce of coke and I'll tell you the whole bloody yarn. Now I understand how people might do that for food. Like those two English birds. What's life if you can't swill the butterfat? I was like that tonight with shrimp heads and tasting the seawater in the 'base and in the salty sweat on the spinach. And I've got pornographic pictures of my food on my cell phone, so the waiter at the next station mistook me for a food critic. He actually wiped my Palm stylus for me.
I wobbled back to my hotel, a blessed five short blocks away, in one of those moods where it doesn't matter that I might get mugged. I just had a magical meal, dude you just don't understand. If I had my knife you'd be missing your bozack right about now, but today is your lucky day. Here's 93 bucks, go buy a hooker you piece of shit. I just ate my way halfway to heaven and everybody deserves a piece of happiness like that. Besides, I get to expense it.
So now I am back safe on the fourth floor listening to my suite's refrigerator make ice and coming out of the Smirnoff & Chardonnay buzz. And I'm not going to crack the frickin spreadsheet. And I'm going to go to bed early and get up tomorrow and find out how to register for this goddamned conference. We'll deal with business tomorrow. Good night dear readers. Too bad you couldn't have been with me in person.
And not a moment too soon, Eric Rudolph gets four life sentences. He joins fellow white supremacist Matt Hale. In jail.
Now would be a good time to turn back the internet clock and find defenders of these two scumbags. They can't be too far away. Hmm. There's dad of course. Then here are some folks who say he's a poltical prisoner, although that group has been a bit infliltrated by some wiseacres. Clearly the World Church of the Creator is in mourning, and a bit defensive with good reason.
Unusually, I'm going to spend some time reading other blogs that are more than two degrees of separation to the center of my universe. I hope to be pleasantly surprised. Watch this post for updates all day.
But first I need to tell you about Duane Brayboy who is the latest addition to the Conservative Brotherhood. His site, The Black Informant has a sweet cocoa design and is chock full of informative links to black organizations nationwide. His recent blogging about the role of black churches in domestic politics is just the tip of the iceburg of a blog of unusual depth covering matters of black and general concern. You get the idea that Brayboy's an advanced, yet thoughtful news junkie. I want to see what he sees.
Next on the menu is a real treat. Latigo Flint, the fastest gunslinger alive, takes you on adventures through Los Angeles and the imagination of the Old West. What with flying spiders, fake cell phone conversations, a biting sway-back steer, swinging backhands by Kid Relish and inapporiate touching of Helena Bonham Carter, what's not to like? Check him out. I guarantee a knee-slapping good time.
Brooklyn Moon Deciphered
Or you can get not just knee-deep, but totally deep:
You have to make sure your bullshit sounds better and is more concretely impregnable than anybody elses. You don't want to be in the cipher, or on stage at the open mic and say some non-sense people can call you on. NO! You want to finish with your poem (cuz deep people write, but we'll get there) and you want somebody, who obviously didn't understand anything you said but not smart enough to realize you didn't either, to say, "that was deep!" This is your goal.
McSizzle for Shizzle
Who is the best rapper for McDonalds? Hmm. Check out the live-blogging battle over at Pandagon.
Doc is back from Brazil. He was gone a month. This was the last message he sent me.
This is beach I had house on on Isle Santa Catarina. House was 250 yards futher inland from perspective of this shot. House was 2-story with a pool and jacuzzi. Cost was $30 a night. Waves were 6-8 feet. Beach is hard and flat. You can drive your car on in. Dogs are O.K., and nobody sweats you for swilling beer on dunes as you watch yet another incredible set roll in. I'm returning in 2007.
Are you game?
OK I have to confess that I remember Bobby Rivers a lot, but I only remember Byron Allen a little. Like other mellow and slightly nebbish young adults of the brown persuasion, I took my share of ribbing for liking Bobby Rivers, the old VH1 host back in the late 80s. Maybe it was his sugary and bouyant personality that both endeared him to me and made me gag, but I thought Bobby Rivers had something. It was more that your basic non-threatening negro pose, he was engaging and pushed his personality all over everything like carmel fudge.
Byron Allen, on the other hand, didn't give anybody a reason to thing 'damn, is he black at all?' There was never any question about Allen's soul credentials. Back in those days there were six young black media stars. They were Bobby Rivers, Chuck D., Arsenio Hall, Byron Allen, Ed Lover and Dr. Dre. Nobody else was close, not even Janet Jackson, although she took over shortly thereafter.
Byron Allen seemed unremarkable at the time, but you couldn't help but notice how smoothly he just did the talk show thing. He was a natural and didn't push the boundaries like Arsenio, but then he didn't tip over my little black mental crab either. He never got me into the yellow zone pushing over to red my internal 'set back the race' meter. He just did his thing, cracked corny jokes and got paid. For those of you born after 'The Empire Strikes Back' know this: Tiger Woods isn't even close to being the first surprisingly charming black man who outclasses most of his peers.
I saw Byron Allen some time later doing some standup at the old Improv in West LA after his show was cancelled, and I thought to myself, this man is talented. He's funny and intelligent, what a shame that he peaked so soon. I'm glad I was wrong. Allen was nowhere near the peak. Still, I don't think any of us had any idea how paid Byron Allen has become. In today's news his Entertainment Studios (with the pathetically clunky website) offered 2.2 Billion dollars to buy PAX. You remember PAX, well they're in trouble, and Allen is their knight in shining armor.
Everytime you read something about Lil Kim and shake your head in shame, you can read the following paragraph:
The former co-host of the hit 1980s show "Real People" said he has had preliminary discussions with Paxson as well as talks with investment bank Credit Suisse Boston and a number of private-equity firms about putting together a deal.
Allen said he also has had preliminary talks with General Electric Co.'s NBC, which bought a 32 percent stake in Paxson for $415 million in 1999 in the form of preferred stock. NBC exercised an option in 2003 requiring Paxson to buy back the stake with interest. The matter is currently in dispute.
Falls under the radar? Shame. Nobody in the NBA is ballin' like that. Byron Allen could buy a football team. Hell, $415 million is the payroll of the NY Yankees for three years, and that's just a fraction of the size of the deal that he's putting together. Now I know that deals are meant to collapse, and nothing is promised, but if he pulls this one off, it's going to be sweet.
You go, bro.
What's the scariest thing about being a conservative black? It's that you're friends with black conservatives, Republicans, Christian Conservatives, Right Wingers, Black libertarians and a host of other thoughtful, uppity and unbreakable blackfolks that everybody tries to marginalize in our democracy. But you can't put a team like that down, 'cause we've got Brotherhood.
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, The Conservative Brotherhood strikes back. This afternoon I am pleased to announce three new writers to the fold.
Young Mr. Forby knows his mind and he's not afraid to speak it. He's a Republican, an Electrical Engineer and he's straight out of Compton. An unusual combination? We think not. His precise logic, enthusiasm and straightforward attitude endeared him to the Brotherhood the minute we saw him online. We're proud to have him.
Ole Sarge Hunter's back from Iraq taking care of domestic business. He's a dad, he's a NASCAR fan, he's regular Army and he's our kinda guy. Be sure to check out his blog, I think he's finally over the Tarheels' victory. Well, maybe not.
Joseph C. Phillips
You may have heard him on NPR, you may have read his essays, or you may have seen him at the Republican National Convention in NY. But even if you didn't know of him from TV or Film, you must surely have seen him on The Cosby Show. Joe is frat, and is a constant inspiration to me. Just being around him reminds me of the kinds of men a lot of our mamas raised us to be.
And you know what? There will be more before too long. How you like us now?
I have a huge number of excellent pictures of children that I keep off the web for ethical reasons. But I found one, that was taken recently that I figured I could share with you.
I have been run ragged the past few days. I'm rather amazed just looking at myself in a state of run down disrepair. I actually have an unruly stack of papers on my desk that's been there for two days. This is obscene.
I have kids' papers to review, a sister's PC to finish upgrading and my room is a mess. I have to pay bills, do a couple loads of laundry and find my other pair of glasses. Most importantly, I have a big proposal to get out today and I'm not sure what all goes in it. It's basically a number and a promise, but there are a thousand details. I just keep running out of time.
It's the damned commute. I've got a customer in San Diego and I'm on the road from 5 to 6 hours a day just getting back and forth. It's cutting into my life like a rusty knife.
But I can tell you that a small revolution is under way. All I can say is that it should send small shockwaves through several nodes of the blogosphere. Actually, there are three bloggy dealings that should come to fruition pretty soon that are all good. Damn. I gotta do that too.
At the end of this week, we're going to do the typical family vacation thing which is head in three different directions. The boy is going with biomom on a cruise, the spousal unit and the giggle girls are also going on a separate and unequal cruise. Me, I get to go to lovely New Orleans, where it has been confirmed that everybody I'm related to will have abandoned for spring break. The good news is that I will make reunions with a bunch of old professional cronies. The bad news is that they'll all be old professional cronies, plus I don't give a rat's ass about golf these days, and I'm quite sure that I cannot crawl the French Quarter like I did 13 years and 40 pounds ago.
So what's a brother to do? Eat, I suppose. Plus I'll have some time to catch up on my writing which you can plainly see has devolved to the first person, not that I'm an unintersting subject. But I would like to know if there are any bloggers out there from New Orleans who wouldn't mind giving me a cultural geographic tour of the joint. I know that my mother's side of the family is from there, but I haven't looked at the place in the daylight of middle age or, actually in the daylight. I'll drive. I'll have a full-size National automobile, and I promise to wear deodorant and grin a lot.
Anyway, I'm sure this conference will be interesting enough, what with all the powerpoint presentations and marketing announcements. It's not like it's a hobby, this is how I make a living. On the other hand, I'd like to do a little living. It's the only spring break I get.
In some regards this whole "ThugNiggaIntellectual" stance is about black intellectual etiquette. Many of my elder black academics had to shovel Brazil nuts (what they call "nigger toes" in the south) and displace the rage of witnessing undercover, closed door name calling and credential scrutinizing. For sho', a bunch of us new-breed younguns butt heads with these cats all the time. I was a brand new, ready for the exploitin' Ph.D. when I trekked down to a little Negro school in Louisiana (nicknamed "the little engine that could" for the number of students they send on to medical schools). I was full of the belief that I would impact young black minds. As one of the youngest folks on the yard, I relished the rapport I had with my students, some of whom were less than a decade younger than me. It was my first real experience teaching classrooms filled with black students and I loved having a space where I didn't have to translate every nuance of black ghetto vernacular to audiences that on some level would never get it. It was during this time that an administrator at the university tugged my coat, yanked it really, to query me about my rather . . . hmmm, how shall I say it . . . "gleeful" use of ghetto vernacular in the classroom.
He reminds me of my boy Jim back in my first days of the corporate corridor. Jim called himself a 'nouveau nigger'. I imagine it was because nobody, including Jim, knew what to call a man with a degree in Physics, who had done two tours of duty in Vietnam, owned a Computerland store, drove a red Ferarri and dated only blondes just to see the look on everybody elses face. Jim looked like Jim Kelly in a three piece polyester suit with a 6 inch afro, in 1987.
It is some manner of etiquette between those who would claim title to HNIC as to what the existential model is going to be. I like brass rails and cigars as much as anyone, but I think I would be most impressed by someone who takes the Einstein approach. Buy 15 pairs of identical black suits and dress the same way everyday, so as not to draw attention to anything but your ideas. At the same time, as lovely as it must be for Professor Neal to hum a few bars in the dialect and have the mellifluous harmonies exude from the Young, Gifted and Black, there's something about his label that annoys me.
Part of the problem is that I've kind of experienced my own Afrolantica. There has arisen an island in my mind that has liberated me from the despair of continually measuring myself against the ever changing profiles that black and white Americans would subject me to. I don't need to declare myself in such a fashion, even though I Represent from time to time. In the end, I'm happy with the name my parents gave me. At least I know that its definition and melioration are not going to be the subject of any debate. I can be true to it without fear.
Like the people in Derrick Bell's book, the Island never fully materialized and I never actually got there, but the idea rescued me. Part of this idea was that someday I would be responsible for the well-being of people who had no idea who I was. They wouldn't understand my metaphors or my well-wrapped universe, but they would respect my wisdom nonetheless. I will have not only overcome, but become, and in becoming I had to spread the word far and wide. Wider than America's shores. Wider than America's names and terms and metaphors and mythologies and ontologies.
How do you guess what your name would be in a language you never heard before? How do you name yourself in such a way as to respect the true self before you have even become that? This is the task of someone who expects harmony at the end of the rainbow, but to be a black American is often to be embattled with an endless line of intransigents. Sometimes you gotta battle. Sometimes you gotta jump out of line.
One of the first questions out of my mouth when I attacked the Alpha brothers on the stage was why they didn't use African symbols of pyramids and ankhs and sphinxes et al instead of Greek letters and symbology they used. If you could have harnessed the energy with which they rolled their eyes, you could light up a small city. They had two answers. The first was unsatisfactory, the second made me think.
The first answer was that if I had done any freaking research, I would have known that the pledges were called 'Sphinxmen' and that there were plenty of Egyptian symbols in Alpha Phi Alpha. The second was that Alpha brotherhood was not about promoting symbols and wearing colors, but it was about the relationships formed between brothers. You could call us Men from Mars or whatever you like, but this is about lifelong friendship. Next question.
I had learned that a good friend of mine was an Alpha, and I didn't know that. When he told me that it pledging was the hardest thing he had ever done in his life, I had to do it. After all, he was a Computer Science and EE double major. I ended up pledging Alpha Phi Alpha, but not that semester. Besides, they said they weren't likely to take anyone who hadn't been in school at least three semesters because they didn't want any dropouts on line. And I discovered a lot of things the easy way and the hard way about manhood, friendship, trust, pain and nobility. It turned out to be a very different experience than I expected, filled with disappointment, surprise, and a great number of other emotions.
After I had gone through the public shame of pledging Alpha, I found myself on the stage answering the same questions. I tried not to roll my eyes so hard though. It truly was about brotherhood, and I understood that from the perspective of an insider.
So I would say that one of the great misconceptions about black frats is that they exist to be community service organizations. There is nothing about the experience that makes anyone more public spirited or community minded. You just do some community work as part and parcel of the pledge program. If you're a community minded person when you come in, you have the opportunity to leverage your ambition within the context of an established organization. There's no conversion going on.
But I think the thing that most folks understand the least is the extent to which individuals and groups of brothers are unable to change the organization to which they belong. Alpha, after all, represents a 100 year old tradition. And as loudly as one brother can say that he's in the same organization as was Martin Luther King Jr, it doesn't make him MLK (or Thurgood Marshall, or Marion Berry for that matter). That's a lot of baggage to drag around. And of course every brother pledges for different reasons, every chapter has a different reputation and every pledge program emphasizes different elements of brotherhood. It means a lot of different things to many people at once, and you really can't get booted out of the fraternity once you are a member.
I appreciate that there are folks who would like that Alpha and other black frats took a leadership role in black communities, but I don't believe that it will happen or that the organization is structurally capable of doing so. That said, I know from personal experience that there are a lot of brothers who are right on target with that mission. Now that I know that I will be in Los Angeles and not Beijing for the mid-term, I am re-establishing my roots and Alpha is going to be a part of that.
Alphas and other black frats and sororities are an excellent example of a small but important minority of middle class African Americans who demonstrate a commitment to each other. There's a lot of love and pride in that which cannot be denied. More power to them, but don't expect them to change their colors.
(I'm never going to finish all my thoughts on this)
I wonder if the Pope isn't the sort of man we globalists might all expect to be someday. Although Hitch has got his panties in a twist over the Pope's [dicey] complicity over the regime of rape in the Boston archdiocese, it's something of the level of evil we expect that slips through bureacracies as large as the Catholic Church. The Catholics were the first globalists, and in the review we are bound to witness over the next few weeks, that will be the angle I'll keep in mind.
My investment in Liberation Theology, sparked by a liberal Jesuit upbringing, the polytheism of Ishmael Reed and the progressive-minded Cornel West is a spot of contention I might have with this Pope. And according to a BBC profile I ingested a bit of last evening, JP2 never did much for Archbishop Romero who had always been something of a hero. And while he is broadly acknowledged for being a fighter of communism, it's not a mark of great distinction as a religious leader. Surely we don't love the Taliban simply because they hated the Soviets.
So it is a bit ironic that our last Pope was both a great world-traveller and yet very protective of the integrity of nations. Catholicism, with its prelates, cardinals, archbishops, bishops, priests, nuns and various other offices is an absolute hierarchy. And yet its authority is not absolute - Catholicism, like any religion, deals with whole person and yet is voluntary. When one deals with questions of identity, authority and belonging surely those of us in the West consider our citizenship to be very static but the soul to be fluid. The Church is a global phile in Neal Stephenson's (Diamond Age) sense of the word. It is a widely distributed organization which occasionally demands you perform some feat to confirm your belonging. Most of the time, however, it is a crucial but passive part of your identity. This is especially true of Catholicism which is, by definition, not evangelical. In America, the question, if it was ever real, has been answered about loyalty. Kennedy did it, but that was before my time. Clearly, national identities take priority.
So should a church which is subordinated to nation rule be more strict in enforcing its code of ethics, or more lax? John Paul II said be stricter. I think upon reflection, he was right. Membership in the church is voluntary, and as such, its precepts should be strict. But I think that it's difficult for most peasants to conceptualize that a religion is such an entity subordinated to nations. For many people, nations gain their authority from the blessing of religion, but even the Pope knows better.
If we are to have a clash of civilizations in the coming millenium, the matter of the separation of church and state will be answered with finality. I find it difficult to believe that national interests will coincide well enough for it to be a true alliance of christian states vs muslim states vs china but these are the three poles as I see them now. What has fallen off the radar is how Islam bankrolls states and vice-versa. Nor do we much talk about what real estate the Vatican controls. I think these are powerful but marginal on the world stage as compared to the larger state / trade and multinational interests.
This past week I witnessed the birth of two new Christians, my oldest two children who are 11 and 10. Their decision to be baptized was rather sudden and came about within the past 60 days.
When my daughter first spoke about it, I didn't quite know what to think. In one way I was disturbed by the idea that she had decided to do so without much input from us. Today, I am nicely reconciled to the idea that my kids like different churches for different reasons than I. My wife is a midwesterner with Southern Baptist roots, but she mostly enjoys the African Methodist Episcopal liturgy. She goes to Faithful Central on occasion but mostly attends (the famous) First AME in LA.
Me, I like the traditions of the Catholic and Episcopal Church. If I can't recite the liturgy from memory, I get uncomfortable. For me, it's all about being part of a tradition that is hundreds of years old and universal. I like the rite. As for Christian life, I have a very Jesuit orientation about being Christlike.
So my wife and I have come to a standoff when it comes to our practices. Our kids go to Awana every week at the local Baptist church which is crawling with friends and schoolmates. They attend our churches on occasion, but it's actually rare that we all will go to the same service. There's an interesting story behind that which is none of your business.
Picking them up several weeks ago, I began to ask those questions of the kids. Which church do you like and why? I expect them to make some personal and responsible decisions about their own spiritual development and growth, and this is working. But even I was in for something of a revelation when I read their essays.
You see I had been putting off the whole matter of worrying about how to deal with the fact that my kids were not going to be die-hard Episcopalians like me. I was trying to not take it personally, yet still give some weight to their decisions. Are they grown-up decisions? Of course not. Well then how seriously should I take them? Who knows? Finally, it was about time for them to commit to the training program for the Baptism, so I basically sat everyone down for a little talk. I was generous. I am glad that you guys want to make this decision, and it's yours to make, but I need to understand a little bit more about what you are thinking. So I asked them to write a 100 word essay on why they wanted to be baptized.
The answers came back within five minutes, and I tell you it was rather astonishing. My daughter, felt a lot like me. She wanted to belong to the community of Christians and she felt that she needed to make the commitment and be a part of it all. My son came from a completely different angle. He is thankful for the peace that Jesus gives him and that peace enables him to cope with the stresses of life, plus he gets the happy happy joy joy. I was rather knocked over by the clarity of it all. (sob) My babies are growing up.
Easter Sunday was the big day and the baptisms were the first part of the liturgy. They rolled up the curtain in front of the alter to reveal the elevated tank which is recessed into the wall underneath the large colorful cross. Pastor Lee, dressed in white, came to the center and introduced brother and sister. They entered from the sides. My daughter was first and then the boy. What was special about hers was that today was her birthday. What was special about his was that he recited 4 verses.
After the clapping was done, Pastor Lee who isn't the most flamboyant guy did a fairly decent job on the lecturn. It is part of my upbringing to give a critical evaluation of the delivery of the Sermon, and today was no different. Yes, I'm a second-guesser. And I have to say, even though I appreciate what these guys are doing with the structure and contemporary intepretations of the Bible, there's something about Powerpoint sermons that just rubs me wrong. But in his message, I was struck by the soundness of his lesson about Christ that I have never quite heard that way before.
It was the story of the resurrection of Lazarus. And in the telling, Lee explained how Jesus sucker-punched his apostles. Mary and Martha, weeping and moaning, complained that Lazarus had died. Martha challenged Jesus telling him straight up that he should have been there. When I was a kid, the story was told in such a way as to make us all want to slap Martha and never be her, the audacity! But this time Lee focused on Jesus' manipulation of the situation. He sandbagged. He let the bases fill up in the bottom of the 9th just to face Death, the cleanup hitter.
Jesus says that Lazarus will arise, and Martha intellectualizes with a religious fact. Sure, at the last day we will all arise in the time of Resurrection. Martha answers in the passive voice, giving agency to the idea, to the doctrine. Then Jesus goes BOOM! I AM the Resurrection. I AM the Life. Right here, right now. He embodies the prophesy and takes agency away from ideas and doctrine and brings it down to the personal. It has got to be one of the most dramatic acts in the life of Jesus, and to think that it was Pastor Lee who made me see it that way. I tell you, whoever wrote those powerpoints knows where to put the italics.
And so it is with Life. We think we know something and suddenly here are two new little Christians embodying it in a way you never quite imagined. It's a reason to be glad, and so I am. Moreover it is a reason to think about the leadership of Jesus, which is something I began considering back when Mel Gibson attempted to hijack the Gospel with his gorey vision. It is also something embedded in the Gospel of Thomas which is, in my estimation, the missing puzzle piece of Christianity in the global world.
I don't know whether to piss and moan because I have been forced to use DTS or be glad that I'm learning it. Hmm. I guess I'll just bitch. It turns out that DTS has a very clever trick. You see its scheduler only runs the versions of the DTS package that you created it with. Sensible, but counter-intuitive.
So imagine that you inherit a pile of spaghetti in which the production stream is, for some unknown reason, stretched across two machines. So half of the production run goes on one DTS package which then FTPs data over to another SQL Server and which then runs another set of DTS packages. You find a silly glitch in one of the packages, correct it, save it and you're good to go right? No. You have to disable the calling job and recreate a new job.
Of course there's no way to tell this unless logging is enabled. Is it? Hell no. So when I enable logging, I get some godawful hashed names. Well, I shouldn't be so harsh because I like hashed names, but we all know the Microsoft hashed GUIDs don't use a real secure hash. But I'll play Monty Hall and give a big blog shout out for whomever can show me the MS Hash algorithm.
And what's the deal with the internal names in the text logs? What do I care about DTSTask_DataPumpTask_43? Why do you think I put human readable text in the description box, maybe so I could read the log? Duh! I still haven't figured out why parameter passing doesn't work like it should. Something tells me that the scoping rules won't work either. And don't even get me started on notifications and operators.
Why did it take me a week to figure this out? Because there's no test environment of course. We just slam everything into production. Now you know I shave my head, there'd be too much grey.
OK here's the deal. I think social mobility in America is fairly good but that people don't necessarily respect the mobility they have. But I also believe that there is a certain arrogant humility that most Americans don't have and don't strive for that restricts their social mobility.
'Arrogant humility' sounds oxymoronic don't it? Well, it is something of an ineffable quality, but that's the best handle I can put on something real that I've noticed in people in my line of work. But let's get racial for a moment in order to undermine some political correctness taht I suspect might be lurking in everyone's thinking as I 'go there'.
A long time ago, not long after I made friends with an impressive, but rather ordinary looking white guy named John, I wondered how I would cope with America if I were an ordinary looking white guy named John. It occured to me that if that were the case, I would have nowhere to go, and nothing to distinguish me except my skills. Just like Hilary Swank in 'Million Dollar Baby', just like Richard Gere in 'An Officer and a Gentleman'; nowhere else to go. You're nobody until somebody loves you.
Since I am something of a social climber in a society whose rules and expectations I often challenge just by showing up, I pay close attention to my peers. It has been a long time since I was in that prep school where the last names actually did connect. When they said O'Melveny it was *that* O'Melveny. When they said Crosby it was *that* Crosby. And now I find myself often in the company of guys who went to Kentucky U. rather than Yale. And yet they are successful by any measure of Americans. What you do when you are in the middle is that you simply assume the position.
How arrogant humility works is that you submit yourself to the process. If there is a career path, you follow it. If there is a manual, RTFM. Call yourself a square, play fair and try your hand, always assuming what? May the best man win. That's keeping it real middle America style.
Now there's a great deal of sentiment out there that this formula only works for ordinary white guys named John. In fact, the sentiment is almost hegemonic. But it's so plainly false that I have to keep pointing out the other thing that everybody knows to. It's easy to sell out. It's easy to be a Tom, a brown-noser, a toady, a kiss ass, a bootlicker, a stooge, a flunky and a pawn. In fact it's so easy that millions of not particularly intelligent Americans get mortgages. If they were anywhere else on the planet, there's no way that they could get a loan for $200,000 just for driving a truck.
There's the second key. You have to work the system. You have to understand what you get out of it and you have to bend your life around that. Just remember this: You're just an ordinary white guy named John. You've got nowhere else to go. You are forced to be humble, you're just an American citizen and that's all you got going for you. Your parents can't help you, you can't marry into success, you've got no title. All you've got is your honest face and elbow grease. And if the bastards in your little hick two horse town won't give you a break, you move to the city. Get in where you fit in.
I don't see what Americans under the influence of the hegemony don't understand about these facts.
Ahh but there's the arrogance. There's a very definite crabby mentality in the humility of John. See, since he can't get away with anything, he doesn't want you to get away with anything either. See, he's bitten the bullet and put his big red neck on the line and he doesn't see why you should take a different path. After all, you're none of the things he wants to be when he grows up. And so John will do what he can to insure that the system that worked for him only works that same way, it's only fair right?
'Sin City' is porno. The good kind. I'd tell you more about it but I fell asleep.
Part of the reason was because I couldn't stand waiting in line for the 9:30 show. I hate crowds, and I especially hate crowds of bored youth wringing their hands in anticipation of a deluxe helping of noir blood and guts. So I went to the 10:30 show, and around midnight, I was snoring in the 8th row. Part of the reason was that Sin City is long and it completely lost momentum about 2/3rds of the way through. Imagine a dark city street with 6 deadly hookers in fishnet stockings and only one of them is talking. Exactly.
Sin City is drop dead gorgeous. It is better looking than 'Dark City', better looking than 'Mulholland Drive', and better looking than 'Devil in a Blue Dress' and 'LA Confidential' put together. Only it's about half as smart as any of them. If it weren't for the colors, nobody in their right mind would watch 'Sin City'. It's too violent to even think about. Its metaphors are apt, it's sex with the perfect woman, who turns out to be a whore to the core. It's jumping out of a three story tenement house, landing in a pile of garbage and then slamming, boot-first through the windshield of a police cruiser.
I was hoping for a lot more sex in this movie, but instead I got a whole lot more violence than I expected. There was one completely throwaway character who kept calling her mother and wasting time on the screen. I have no idea what she was all about, then again maybe I slept through that part.
I cannot determine whether it will be worth my while to see this film again. It's clearly the best Mickey Rourke flick since '9 1/2 Weeks', but it doesn't quite cut it as a Bruce Willis flick. Benecio Del Toro proves that he can even make a stock noir gritty character have character, and Clive Owen proves that he can't. Rutger Hauer has a brilliant cameo and Rosario Dawson does a bangup job being everything that every Prince girl, from Vanity to Apollonia, wishes she could've been. I'm so glad they didn't give that role to Halle Berry.
About the Yellow Bastard, I have no idea. But I can tell you that he gets hurt pretty bad, twice.
Basically, this is Mickey Rourke's movie. Once he leaves the screen, he leave a great void which is never quite replenished, or at least it wasn't for sleepy me. If you ask me, the whole flick could have been his stripped down narrative without any diversions. Rourke's Marv is an indestructable wrecking ball of a giant driven by the memory of the smell of his murdered blonde angel. He's a one man vintage 1990 Abu Ghraib careening through back alleys looking like the last man standing at Omaha Beach. Imagine the XMan Wolverine without self-consciousness or restraint out for slow methodical torturous revenge.
This is the hardest of hardboiled noir, and it gives us the appreciable shock value that ice box moms must have felt about the first Mickey Spillane. It's populated hot dames with nefarious brains, real hips and curled lips. It's so American that it sweats red dresses, whitewall tires and blue saxophones. It's as violent as the backstreets of hell, as seductive as Jezebel's jealous little sister and as corrupt as whoring bishop. This is sin, straight up and straight down, layered on thick and slavish. See it on a Saturday night, then pray for your soul on Sunday morning.
Josh Chafetz worries for the American soul. So do I, but I know that those of us with a stomach for this kind of porno are like the parasites in the belly of the nation which assist in the digestion of hard-assed molecules which would ordinarily rip a hole in our guts. Sure it's all shit, but we handle it, and that's part of our function. This is the intestine of America, not its brains. This is the muscular viscera of our nation, built on the struggle and strife of people too uncivilized and grungy to rise in the bourgie ranks of Old Europe. Everybody doesn't like it like that, but Sin City is the art that describes it.
I guess I've decided that I'm going to give it another shot, in the middle of the day. I may come to regret looking into the face of it. But I hope it is the sign of things to come from Frank Miller, because I've had about as much Spiderman as a grown American man can stand.
Some discussion is going on at Balkin and Volokh about the numbers of blacks who are failing to pass bar exams and flunking out of law schools. I'm going to take a tangent, because the tone of the discusion (as I suppose could be expected) seems to hinge on the numbers and what non-African Americans think is best for African Americans.
The purpose of Affirmative Action is to put black first basemen on first base, as opposed to waiting for Jackie Robinson to overcome presumptions of racial inferiority. It is done for the purposes of racial integration, not only for stellar individuals, but for the whole of society. One must presume that whatever the situation, Jackie Robinson will make his own way since real merit does have its merits. The real failure of society to be integrative comes not only at the expense of the best of the oppressed, but for the moderately skilled. For a racist society is a closed society, which defeats democracy. Therefore the success of Affirmative Action is not only a remedy for past discrimination, but a pathway towards openness. If we didn't care about openness, the case for Reparation would be stronger than the case of Integration. Affirmative Action is more Healing than Cure, and therefore it is most effective when aimed at the general population rather than at the most talented.
There are some differences however when it comes to credentialed professionals. Although I personally find it rather difficult to see how it is that excellently skilled and highly proficient attorneys are much more than hyper-powered avatars for the avarice of those who can afford them, I expect that there is some reasonable presumption that diminishment of the technical qualifications of lawyers does indeed damage the nation. At any rate that seems to be the aegis of this discussion - who scores the highest on tests, who graduates from professionals schools. So I have been of the opinion for some time now, that Affirmative Action needn't apply for credentialed professions. It is for this reason that I felt that the U of Michigan got its priorities backwards.
I happen to believe that in the context of American society, specifically for blacks, that Tokenism has real value. So I don't mind Affirmative Action which creates tokens. But if it only created tokens, I think it would be more harmful than good. There are many people who believe just that; I think they are misinformed. The matter of my support in Affirmative Action at the professional level hinges primarily thus, on the value of black tokens in the particular profession. I think we are at a point of relative equilibrium in the legal field - that the idea of a black attorney is not so preposterous, and the presumption that racism severely stifles the aspirations of blacks seeking the bar is not very strong. And so I believe that we do not particularly need token black lawyers in the way we need token black architects, museum curators, newspaper publishers or professors of oceanography.
There is the matter of instruction vs education which cuts very deeply into this controversy. Simultaneously there is the question of prophylaxis. Both of these bring to mind what exactly law school is good for. If the purpose of law school is instruction, one can judge the quality of the law school by the number of its graduates who successfully pass the bar. If you fail to pass the bar, then you are a failure, period. But I consistently raise the question of whether or not law school educates blacks. Because if they do, then blacks who fail at law school are still better off than those who never attend. Assuming that then, do failing black law students effectively act as a prophylaxis against white students who do not? In other words what is the cost of admitting students who fail to students who do not? While it clearly slows down the whole process of graduating successful, bar-passing attorneys, I believe it is a small cost and that cost is very measureable. I further believe that the law profession is not in any crisis of supply, wheras the medical profession is.
If on the other hand, the benefit of law school is strictly limited to instruction then it is a stricter meritocracy. Then that brings up the value of low ranking law schools and their contribution to society, but I don't want to go there right now.
My argument is that within the context of successful graduation and the numbers game, the effects of the inefficiencies introduced by a zero-sum Affirmative Actions at American law schools is minimal and has a negligible effect on the operation of the profession. This argument cuts two ways. The numbers of blacks Affirmative Action passes as a ratio to those it accepts and the total number of blacks who attend law school must similarly be considered. I believe, but I am perfectly willing to be proven wrong, that the number of black graudates of law school who are indeed Affirmative Action beneficiaries at least doubles their number, so Affirmative Action with respect to African Americans is indeed a success, in spite of the dropout rate. But again, the overall effect on the profession is small (or basically twice the negligible figure I asserted earlier depending on the ratio of beneficiary to non-beneficiary blacks).
So it seems to me that those most affected by Affirmative Action is the beneficiary class itself. Their interests are clear, and while they may exist on the periphery of the profession, their continued existence has a much larger political interest behind it. I think rightfully so, because Affirmative Action of this nature has become the sole practical instrument of racial justice in America.
The result is exactly what I think Harold Cruse, in his dissent against the Brown Decision would have predicted, a state of integration that makes black and white together but unequal rather than separate but equal.
What remains is the question of prophylaxis and 'fair play', and what we have seen consistently is that tiny number of whites who are excluded and might not pass the bar have powerful advocates. In fact, we know her name and it is Hopwood. She plays in the same margin as failing blacks, with regard to the integrity of the profession.
So we are left with the compelling irony that failing whites are more important than failing blacks with regard to the prospects for Affirmative Action in law schools. And I think it will remain that way until nobody cares whether lawyers are black or white. Ain't that something?
Count me among the Republicans who feels that Tom DeLay is more a liability than an asset to the party. End of statement.
Suddenly, I have a need to wash my hands, brush my teeth, get on my knees and pray. I have seen a vision of my personal Hell. Oh My God. I've seen these people show up in the 'hood at King Day parades, and I just want to get out my shotgun. They actually believe that they can save the black man. I'm all for calling people 'brother' but you know? What do I need to do to be saved from such a fate?
I'm sorry. That's just scary.
And as a last April Fools Day check out World Jump Day in which it is proposed that 600 million earthlings jumping simultaneously will: 'stop global warming, extend daytime hours and create a more homogenous climate'. Hoo brother.
A friend Bob nicely debunked this with a little bit of scientific reasoning.
As usual, we tend to overestimate ourselves. The mass of the earth is calculated at 6.0 x 10E24 kg. The total mass of 6 billion humans, assuming an average of, say, 65k each, is about 65x(6x10E09)=3.9x10E11. Dividing that number by the mass of the earth shows that the mass of the entire human population is about 6.5 x 10E-14 the mass of the planet. One divided by a 10 with 14 zeroes after it is a number so infinitesimally small that it is hard to even imagine, let alone describe. Probably something like the ratio between a human and a single gut bacterium. Or put another way, I imagine that the ejecta spewed from Mt. St. Helens in a few seconds probably weighed more than the entire human population.
So what I'm going to attempt to do from now on, especially when I hear about global warming is to get some estimates of the weights of spew that we're really talking about when we mumble about pollution. See, the Earth's atmosphere weighs 5.0 x 10E18 kg. So if we spewed out the equivalent of the weight of the entire human population in air pollution on a daily basis, it would take 350 years for that spew to equal 1% of the atmosphere. This assumes of course that all that spew remains airborne and doesn't react with anything.
The planet is fine.
In all seriousness and sincerity on this April first, we have begun the final period of dealing with the death of Pope John Paul II.
I heard the news not long ago, perhaps it was Wednesday, that he had recieved the Sacrament of the Sick. I can recall when this was called Extreme Unction. As kids in Catholic School, we always counted up the Sacraments that we would recieve, Extreme Unction always being the last. I had always liked the idea of Extreme Unction, as an opportunity to review your life and have a special blessing on your way out of the world. I think that it was my appreciation of this that has shaped the way I think about death in the days before I actually had to deal with it personally.
In my crusading days as a black cultural nationalist, I wondered, and to a certain extent still do, about the loss through assimilation of native African rituals. Around 1990 all of us had to consider, with some depth the premises of Afrocentricity. Having been a fan of Ishmael Reed and decidedly polytheist, it made sense to me to bring African loas and spirits into the pantheon. But even more fundamentally, what were the rites of passage in African American and American life and how seriously were we taking them? I have concluded that we do not take our traditions quite seriously enough, that on the whole we are secular in a unreflectively libertine way. It is part and parcel of our liberty and to be expected, but it is in matters of death (and recently marriage) that we tend to realize this and snap back.
I sense that in these post-multiculuralist days, Americans are trying to find out where traditional culture went, and how to recover it. There is some irony in reactionary responses in search of tradition, but this is what we are seeing in phrases like 'The Culture of Life'. It's meaningless on its face, but it is and expression of a genuine desire. I believe that the desire is to make sense of, and reconcile authentic American traditions with our ever-changing global awareness. Specifically, we need to find ways to simplify and give meaning to our own lives without sacrificing the advantages that come from where technology, global markets and geopolitics are taking us.
I think the solution lies in making more concrete investments in rites. This is indeed a religious argument as contrasted with a spiritual one. The interesting point is that there are a great number of spiritual delights within our grasp in this wealthy nation. We have a dazzling array of spiritual choices that are valid, meaningful and worthy of respect. And that's part of the problem. Many of these spiritual delights are fungible - you can buy them, you can start and stop them. Psychoanalysis. Backpacking. Scouting. Charity Work. All of these things are good for the soul, but none of them require a lifetime commitment.
So what I'm saying is that part of the mess we've gotten in over Schiavo has to do with the fact that too many Americans are expecting moral support from Government - which is a symptom of a deeper lack of commitment to their own ethnic or religious traditions.
The death and dying of a Pope or a Catholic can provide us a guide. There are well established rites which when carried out represent the essence of a sacrament, an outward sign of an inward commitment. These are what America needs, not political activism.
I've been thinking about what to do with Seven, our old black lab. He's going on 11 years and has been slowing down as of late. The vet says he's arthritic and we can tell. I mean he's just as friendly and jumps around when we get that soggy old tennis ball, but you can tell he's lost a step.
I've been telling the kids not to make him run after the ball all the time. Now he's pretty much restricted to chasing after the flashlite beam in the house. I don't know what it is about that light that gets him. Anyway, when I was last at the dog park over on 190th I spoke to the woman with Twin. Funny I don't know her name or her dog's real name, but we call him Twin because he looks just like Seven. She recommended that we put Seven out to Dog Island instead of having him put down.
There's a big development going on in El Segundo. I've been wondering what they are going to do with all the land across from the refinery. The tore down some of the oilfield stuff that seemed to by an outlier on the east side of PCH. It turns out that they're putting a Golfcross course there. Can't wait.
There's some interesting research going on at the Ova Prima foundation.
For the last twenty years, Ova Prima has been an active partner in education with professional educational organizations, schools, and teachers, working to integrate ovaprimatological studies into the curriculum of primary, secondary, and continuing education. We offer a series of prestigious Teachers' Workshops, maintain a on-line databank of lesson plans, and offer an exciting curriculum for seniors in conjunction with Olderhostel. For more information on Ova Prima educational outreach, see our Education page.
Water on Mars
Finally, incontrovertable proof.
Robert & Mary Schindler are creating of The League of Grieving Parents.
Founded in the aftermath of the death of Terri Shiavo, The League of Grieving Parents is a support group and legal defense fund. It's co-founders, Fred Goldman, Marc Klass and Robert Levy are seeking nominees. I've been able to obtain the guidlines that we at Cobb have obtained this morning from an anonymous emailer. (It's great to be a popular blogger.)
1. LGP nominees must be able to summon a nationally televised press conference wherein they cry openly. Crying at a televised funeral or trial is not sufficient. No entries will be accepted in which nominees are caught grieving in a crowd. They must be front and center in full frame of the camera.
2. LGP children may not be the victim of Acts of God or phenomena for which attorneys may not generally be involved. In general, children must be the victim of stalkers, kidnappers, rapists, celebrities, carjackers, foreign nationals, family members or gangbangers. Victims of tsunamis, hunger, AIDS or any disease generally associated with the third world are not considered. Special consideration is given however, for cancer and degenerative diseases which allow the child to be interviewed and profiled during their illness.
3. Media coverage must last longer than one week and include radio, and print. Victims in small towns and municipalities must make appropriate efforts to summon the support of townspeople and put that town on the map by gettin the attention of major media. PBS documentaries don't count. Instant qualification is given for an interview with Larry King or Barbara Walters. Jon Stewart doesn't count.
4. Bonus consideration will be given to nominees who can get resolutions passed in legislative bodies. These need not be effective or useful policy, but they must state the name of the child in question. A bill that gets a US Senate or Congressional designation is sufficient even if it is not passed.
5. Parents suspected in the demise of their child may recieve membership under the following circumstances.
A. Police are involved in an 'ongoing investigation' that does not outlast media attention.
B. Parents show evidence of shock and anger at such allegations.
C. Parents are attractive, affluent or white. (Bonus points for all three)
D. The child is recognizable by first name in the tabloid press.
The League of Grieving Parents will be setting up an internet portal and an 800 number. The Hallmark corporation will be setting up LGP sections in their nationwide chain where LGP bumper stickers, votive candles (in the wind), yellow ribbons, armbands, commemorative pins and wreaths will be available for sale.