July 31, 2005

Gay Marriage & Liberal Overproduction

Latent in my examination of Power Moms is some thought about activists for the cause of gay marriage. I haven't really done my homework at Dreadnaught, but I'll get around to it. Here's what I'm feeling today.

Gays have survived without being married through the course of history. The question of elevating the civil standing of homosexual relationships to that of Marriage is not a matter of oppression or suppression so much as it is a question of priority. Gay living is self-evidently alternative. It's not logical to give the alternative equal billing with the primary.

This is not about burning the gay flag it's about holding it lower than the straight flag. Salute who you choose, just remember what's central to society.

Conservatives like me find it disturbing that this is considered a milestone on a road to progress and ultimate equality. It is not, it is a step towards pure relativism. Liberals have perverted the concept of liberty by making everything alternative a potential political base - everyone's case is brought to bear against central mainstream values. Liberals would have us consider (just like NPR says) All Things - they are against settled consensus. Today it's gay marriage, tomorrow it's animal rights, the next day it's the rights of trees, ozone, and microbes.

The liberal cause is to make the US the locus of all rights defended. It is an understandable cause, but they actually conflating rights with privileges and social status. Conservatives like myself are more than willing to acknowledge civil unions and would certainly back away from a Constitutional Amendment if our resistance to the liberal urge towards pan-theism wasn't painted as suppressive.

As for The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Canada - I think we should keep a couple things in mind. First that if we can accept the simple premise that none of them can make an automobile worth a damn, that there may be other weaknesses in their societies. They are not necessarily models for the US. Secondly, they are all small countries. The effect of legalizing gay marriage in Canada is about the same a legalizing it in California (except of course that California has more gays, more people, and more influence than the whole of Canada). But for a Federal Statute to make it the law of the nation, that's an order of magnitude greater stake.

The fact of the matter is that there are plenty of gay friendly cities and towns in the US, and there is very little social acceptance necessary for gays where gays live. Civil unions would be icing on the cake, marriage would be sprinkles on the frosting. For us to make a national committment to Gay Marriage is not a step towards liberty, but one of liberal overproduction.

The great error is the politicization of the personal and I see this more and more as a feedstock for the liberal political base. So long as they can successfully convince people that that straight [white] male head of the household nuclear family is a model of suppression, they can attack the family as a dysfunctional model of organization. In other words, they want to move the alternative lifestyle to the center.

Note that the effect of this politicization of the personal is not greater inclusion, rather it's greater recognition. It is saying that that the bush league is the same as the big league and nobody needs to bother trying out for the big show. It is recognition of diversity without respect for consensus or shared values. It starts off with statements like "We're all racist". It presumes that the center of gravity of humanity doesn't exist - that it will shift through time and that at some point we could all be gay, or we could all be cripples, or we could all be something that we're not. The import of this is that our settled ideas should not have weight. Liberals are willing to always have everything in the air - to be open to all possibilities.

As I've said before, the great failure of classic liberalism is the assumption of unlimited potential. There are always limits on potential. Everything cannot be exploited. Everything cannot be taken into consideration. Surely everything is not zero sum, but there is a limited capacity for mankind to make sense of things. Our ability to have fallback positions is not a weakness but a strength. That's what keeps us human. It's why babies are always cute despite the fact that they are all so very much alike. There are not an infinite number of edifying human behaviors, and we need to organize our political priorities towards abetting a select limited set and leaving the majority of human expression out of the picture. Politicizing the personal, especially in a society that values the individual and independence, is a road to infinite disharmony.

Let's keep it towards the Red and Blue for a while, OK? I think we'll find that two way split very useful; we can agree to disagree and not act. By not acting on the personal, we create more freedom - freedom from consideration. That's a libertarian sentiment to be sure, but dammit if Liberals didn't push so hard, Conservatives wouldn't be so eager to push back.

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July 30, 2005

Not Black

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The Island

I was surprised that 'The Island' opened weakly last week. I had a bit of a hankering to see it based on the crash bang smash em up preview I saw. It rather amazed me that I had not seen more marketing, like I have for 'Stealth' which I truly have no desire to see. Today, after having seen it, I would say that I have something of an emotional investment in wanting it to be big.

'The Island' is a spicy mix of The Matrix, Soylent Green and Logan's Run. It's lit like a video and has one of the least contrived story lines I've seen in the action genre. I basically bought the emotional hook, which has to do with emotions of 15 year old kids. Michael Clarke Duncan has a fabulous couple of scenes.

With the best car crashes since Bad Boys II, Island delivers but good when it comes to chase scenes. Michael Bay's relatively near future Los Angeles is nicely believable although simplified, and the set design of concrete, chrome and glass come close to Speilberg's 'Minority Report'.

The concept of 'The Island' is rather simple and it is so well developed in the mystery of the narrative that it would truly be a spoiler to reveal it. Since this discovery is what basically adds kick to all the action I won't. Bay, unlike Speilberg, does not give us a set of open-ended imponderables upon which to meditate, nor does he give us great depth and resonance, but there was no time when I jumped out of the skin of the characters to a level of not caring. The thrill of survival and discovery remains to animate the action.

Second to Sahara, I'll say this is the best action flick of the season. Way better than Fantastic Four.

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Power Moms: The Wisdom of Breeders

The first time I travelled to Houston I was surprised by a number of things, but the biggest surprise was with something I discovered about myself. I didn't understand children.

I married when I was 33, relatively late, but right on my schedule. I had a ball as a single guy, and I lived in all the cool places. I can recall checking through trashcans looking for empty Haagen-Dazs & Lean Cuisine packages to see if a neighborhood was yuppy enough for me to move in. A decade of that kind of living made me oblivious to the very basics of children. A particularly lazy weekend found no seminars, gallery openings or decent movies. So I ended up wandering to, of all places, a shopping mall. As I stood relaxing over the bannister at the ice rink at the Galleria in Houston, I realized I had no idea how old the children I was looking at were.

Although I haven't made much of it here at Cobb, I can say most decidedly that raising children has made me a much wiser person than I might have otherwise been. It defies the sense that Bhudda might have brought forth, but he was a man out of his time. It's difficult to imagine in the time of Bhudda there might be so many people living a decade of 'single life' before having children. So I wonder if the enlightenment of Bhudda couldn't be matched by anyone today with access to a wealth of research and an extra decade of family-free life. The greatness of the discoveries of the ancient world was that those innovators put together their insights in the absence of clues, whereas today it all seems obvious. Yes, now that the original deed has been done.

The other day at the Bear Flag League Meetup, TCB colleague JC Phillips said something which impressed my by its simplicity. "Community is the first political entity." I've been thinking about how implementations of XRepublic can affect bottoms-up representation. I expect new dense networks to emerge as people start using computers to mediate more of their communications. In fact, this summer I intend to build a parent's networking portal for the folks in my neighborhood. So when polling organizations become disintermediated by groups like this, interesting dynamics will ensue.

As we began discussion about community over at VC, the issue of community organizing arose. My response was this:

One of the fundamental questions is the role of the mom. Having lived in So Cal for 8 years in 3 different neighborhoods, I can tell you that unless and until you have moms sharing responsibilities for each other's kids real community isn't happening.

In the first neighborhood, we had our kids interact with other kids at the public park through their various public programs. There were maybe three full-time staff, and my wife made pals with the number one woman who ran the program. We had her over for my barbecues and we wer basically tight.

In the second neighborhood, more of our kids were in school and most things were school based. There was a real friendliness among the parents at school but we weren't there long enough to establish a lot of bonds.

In the third neighborhood, where I live now, we can see things coming to a real fruition at about the fourth and fifth grade level. This is where kids really start to choose their friends, have sleepovers and parents are making the commitments to get to know each other. (You have to if it's going to be a sleepover). There are three or four families where we are close enough to spontaneously have their kids over our place or ours at theirs. This is a very different level of cooperation than just doing the 'activity based' relationships. When kids are playing sports on the same teams or scouting or going to the same church school, that's one level, but the sleepovers and family outings - that's a different level.

So for me personally there has been a progression of integration with other families that really doesn't seem to get into gear until kids are in the third grade. It becomes clear after a while, who the power moms are in the community. It's all about knowing the power moms.

Now I would say there's going to be a big difference in the quality of community based upon how many women are working. In the last two neighborhoods, there were plenty of stay at home mothers, and if you ask me, that is the single most important determining factor in the quality of community life. It's all about what's going on at 4:20, and if mom is not watching... well, you know what happens. If you shift the burden of organizing and watching children to public institutions, you will by definition get results that are not up to par. I don't believe you can invest properly without fundamentally altering the relationship between kids, the school and parents - which is to say that the school has to be greatly expanded. Where there are working or single mother families, the school has to be day care, park, babysitting, homework monitoring, communications exchange and trusted surrogate. I don't think that there is enough public money for that or that there ever will be, but I could see how making school a place where parents can pick up their kids up to 9pm at night would work.

The term 'community' gets applied to just about every group imaginable here in this country. Yglesias has been mentioning SuicideGirls as porn, but I know that there are such communities of 'pierced lesbians'. What has Conservatives behaving defensively with such things as the Defense of Marriage Act is their interpretation of how politically valid all such communities aim to be. And of course since Liberals tend to speak for everyone, they have managed to pervert, if not invert, concepts of liberty and equality to suggest that all communities are of equal value. Anyone on the outs from the central and traditional core communities are considered political allies, even and especially when those communities of interest are counter-cultural and anti-social. All I need to say is one word: 'Insurgents'.

Despite the popularity of extended childhood and bohemian living amongst our nation's youth, it is reasonable to assess their political value to society independent of their popularity. If they are given political 'voice' which is disproportionate to their contribution to society, then we end up creating democratic institutions which are caustic to the fabric of society. Let me not get to Randian here, but it is not logically consistent to have disinterested parties determining the fate of society. Equal time is not the proper principle, but balance and perspective. Mark dissent for what it is, dissent. Not an equally valid position if only society could be reconstituted.

My personal tar-baby in this discussion is that acerbic comic Janeane Garofalo. While she may or may not be a pierced lesbian, she strikes me very clearly as a chick, in otherwords the anti-mom. She appears by my eyes both intellectually and physically incapable of motherhood, but I am not shunning her for a handicap. Rather I'm saying this is a choice. She needs to be childless and has decided to be precisely that, in persuit of her happiness - the kind of hip happiness that spits at the very notion of taking her kids ice skating at the mall.

I argue for the humility of parenthood, and in fact I take not a small bit of pride from the fact that as a father of three, I am outnumbered. I cannot exercise control over my children at all times and yet I am constantly providing for their safety and upbringing. This is the humility I find directly incompatible with the hipness of American alternative culture. In other words, hippies make lousy parents. And the whole Hollywood vibe we conservatives can't stand is the self-righetousness of selfish, stylish loudmouth people who believe their politics are the substance of American life, and not the dissent from it. They believe that their alternatives are a flight from oppression, more often than not it is flight from humble responsibility. Doesn't Sally Struthers have her own children?

I am interested to see how the gap is bridged between the priorities and emergent politics of a networked suburban power mom framework and that of the dual earner or single parent framework. When these groups aggregate, howe will their direct priorities influence local politics? Moreover when they inevitably conflict with those who are antagonistic to the fundaments of straight marriage with children, how much leverage is going to be taken by the bohemians? How much will our society give?

It may take a village to raise a child, but let's make sure that the village elders are parents.

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July 29, 2005

Beat to the Punch

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July 28, 2005

Steele & The GOP

So now it has happened and the venom is flying. The bigwigs in the GOP have gotten their money and interest behind Michael Steele and that hate is just flying. Mark down the names of these guys because they sound like jilted lovers. How dare the Republicans back a black candidate!

It's almost as if the RNC and I were reading the same page. Just yesterday in the other thread I was saying how much of a no-brainer it is for the right African American candidates to walk into the open arms of the Republican Party. Of course it's no walk in the park for anyone, including Steele, but there is not, contrary to urban myth and Liberal lie, a color bar in the Republican Party. But that's hardly what Steele's ascendancy proves. What it proves is that the class of blackfolks who are Old School, and having met Steele I can attest, are natural candidates for filling in the gaps in the GOP. Steele is neither ideologue nor puppet. He's my kind of people, and I think once again, as with the debut of the Cosby Show, America is in for a pleasant surprise.

I'm going to step out on a limb and stick a big thumb in the face of all the whiners who have been saying, for as long as I've been right-blogging, that black Republicanism was both an impossibility and an oxymoron. The Party is stepping up to the [$1,000] plate and putting some energy behind a serious black candidate. This could very well be the watershed event we've been waiting for. I am very curious to see how far Steele is going to echo the 'Cosby Republican' (which is much of what we've been all about over here) rhetoric to capitalize on the buzz still surrounding that. I don't think that's much like Steele's style, but if he's got Rove behind him, you can be certain that the opportunity won't be missed.

I expect that I'm going to have to suppress a lot of 'monkey' comments that will inevitably issue from haters and idiots. Let's not forget what has been said (and drawn) about our Secretary of State when she ascended to that post. So let the flames begin.


  • Oliver Willis pays no attention to the man himself at all, and dismisses him in a skinny paragraph.

  • The Ascent Blog doesn't give as much as the benefit of the doubt but doesn't condemn. Faint praise indeed.

  • That Colored Fella dismisses Steele as well.
  • So all in all, there doesn't seem to be many folks who are willing to take Steele seriously, despite the fact that I see him as the genuine article, and right smack in the middle of the Old School. From my point of view, he is precisely the kind of candidate who can speak up for both the aggressive business blacks on the right (for lack of a better term) and blacks of the Christian Right. He is too much of neither but comfy with both.

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    Contingency Clown

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    July 27, 2005

    A Night of World Music

    You know how it is when you get a new car, or a friend gets one. Suddenly you see it all over. This is how it has been with me and blackfolks associated with China. It seems that we're popping up all over the place. The other night was no exception - except this is probably the most famous of the connections.

    At the Japan America Theatre downtown on San Pedro, the Great Wall Youth Orchestra of Oakland performed Saturday night to a packed house. It's always something of novelty to think of African Americans speaking Chinese, but even moreso of black kids singing Chinese Opera. That was hardly the point, nor the high point of a very lovely concert, but the almost parental love that came from the audience as these kids played their hearts out.

    It was a great family night out although my kids decided to act up. Pops and Dutz were there and so were a passel of the kid's cousins. So intermission was a big running and shouting affair out in the plaza, where I happened to meet Rod Wright who says he's considering running for Senate. Hmm. Maybe I should go downtown more often.

    It turns out that as we drove home there were events happening all over, although the Disney was dark, MOCA had a large crowd just down the block. As I turned past the Library, valets were handling another group of people out for some nighttime entertainment. And what did I see, but pedestrians after dark! Well, that tears it. It looks as if Downtown is turning the corner and becoming a destination. It's actually very strange seeing it. I'll enjoy seeing it more.

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    I Have A Dream

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    July 26, 2005


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    Restaurant Halie in Pasadena on Green Street is a treat.

    The spousal unit and I enjoyed a long lazy dinner at Halie the other night. It was a lovely experiment. Halie is big old converted building with a small courtyard out front. We dined in the main room with the big old fireplace and high ceilings and deep red walls. The tables are spaced out from each other and in that combination gives you a sense of intimacy in a big room.

    I realize that I'm not likely ever to become a wine snob. A crispy margarita straight up is just fine. And so I started with that. I got a bowl of seafood bisque. As you know I'm a big fan of bisques. This one was buttery on the edge of too much, and since we split it into two bowls, we spoiled the balance. I got too much cream and butter in my side. Next I had a plate of mussels. Now this was done just right, and the broth it came in was so delicious that I was mopping it up with my bread.

    For the main course, I had several medallions of caribou in creamed spinach, mushrooms and a light brown sauce with truffle mashed potatoes. It was a toss up between the hare & squab and the caribou, but relatively speaking, you can get hare anywhere. I made sure that I filled up on the mussels just in case I might not like the caribou, but it was sensational and perfect for spinach. It's got a texture somewhat lighter than beef and a taste somewhat heavier than lamb with interestingly indescribable high notes. Whatever 'gamey' is, this was not, and it works just right medium rare.

    Halie is a culinary adventure with a no nonsense attitude. Simple, classy, anti-trendy. The wine list is superb and affordable and the service is top notch. I just love how our waiter responded with 'of course' to our every request.

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    The Economics of Racial Profiling

    Several years ago I built a simple model of racial profiling to see where it might lead. My original question was basically, if you were a shopkeeper and implemented a racial profiling security strategy, would it work? Specifically, if you alienated your black customers, who were profiled because of black criminals, could you remain profitable. The answer was yes. I've updated the model just a touch since then, but the basics are all the same. Here's the spreadsheet:

    In month zero, you observe the first scenario in your store. You are setting up an experiment to determine whether or not to set up a racial profiling system for your new security guard. Your cameras roll and you don't bother any of your patrons. If they steal, they steal. You let them all walk. You have 1000 whites patronize your store. They spend an average of 12 dollars per trip and steal about 72 dollars worth of merchandise. Blacks spend less on average, are a much smaller percentage of the gross income of your store, but according to your observations, steal at double the white ratio. Others spend about on par with whites but less overall than blacks. One of the others rips you off big time, but per capita by racial group this is below both the black and white crime rate.

    So on the basis of the rate of crimes committed by race, you decide to profile only the blacks. The results are twofold. The first is that you alienate half of your black customers, still one black gets away with lifting about $5 worth of merchandise. The second is that you reduce overall crime by 40%, and normalize the rate of crimes between blacks and whites. In the end your bottom line is that you have lost only about $65 in revenue, and maintained better than 93% of your customers.

    Is that an acceptable loss?

    Part of the problem here is that by identifying crime rates by race and observing the difference, you set up a standard by which some crime is justified, in this case, 'white' crime. by such a standard some race is bound to be overly persecuted in this case, 'blacks'. the very act of initiating a crackdown on criminals *by race* even if the statistics 'justify' it, is to set up a differing standard by which individuals are judged in the justice system. this is racist even if this the actions are restricted to the class of known and observed criminals. You end up treating one race of criminals worse than another race of criminals.

    In fact, racial profiling is not restricted to a population of criminals. The effects are felt against the general population. In this case you alienate the innocent black general population as well as the criminals. By profiling the black population you are in fact treating all blacks as if they were black criminals, which we have already established are getting a worse deal than white criminals.

    However, if you are only concerned with profit, it's clear that you can maintain such a racist policy with a minimal impact on your bottom line.

    There are a number of variables which I think should be added to the analysis. Today, I'm not so interested in Korean groceries, which prompted this study, but the War on Terror. It's clear that if we were to apply racial profiling to Arabs boarding airplanes, the situation would be worse in terms of effect on innocents. Firstly, it is a whole lot less likely that an Arab would be hijacking a plane than shoplifting from a store. So the crime ratios would be a lot lower. Similarly, Arab passengers would not have so many convenient alternatives as black shoppers. So the second observation would not be too far different from the first.

    Just a little food for thought.

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    July 25, 2005

    Dem Ebonics Agin

    1n 1997, I sold my Altima for a minivan, packed the kids and a half ton of supplies into it and drove across the country from Atlanta to Los Angeles. Somewhere in Texas, having become bored out of our gourds of the radio, we purchased some old black comedy tapes at a truck stop. One of the performers was Pigmeat Markham. We put in the tape and laughed at three quarters of the jokes. The rest were incomprehensible not because there was anything wrong with the tape, but because it was spoken in a brand of English that only our African American grandparents understand.

    Is Ebonics a language? Yes. Is Ebonics a dialect? Yes.
    Is Ebonics worth learning? Yes. Is Ebonics worth teaching? Yes.

    These are upper class intellectual sentiments. And since it is my aim to be both, they are what I believe, but they are not what I recommend in the context of public elementary school education. This is for altruistic reasons. For all the sophisticated reasons Ebonics ought to be taught, write a book and teach it to graduate students. I, for one would love to hear Pigmeat Markham translated into something I can understand. English majors, have at it. But for public school kids? Forget it.

    I am not entirely opposed to a bit of culture warring or class warring. Furthermore I do not like to forget that it is ever the case that within western democracies, the surest way into the middle class is via the armed services. I hold a good deal of stock in the meritocracy of soldiering. In my hardball reasoning, there is no reason to teach Ebonics or teach via Ebonics in the military, which functions very well, and there is no reason to teach Ebonics or via Ebonics in the public schools.

    If you love Mexican food, you don't ask for one of those foldy things with meat in the bottom, you ask for a taco, and you learn how to pronounce it right. If you want the blessing of God Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth, you can pray in any language you like and he will hear you, but don't expect the mercy and forbearance of middle class Americans like me to reach anywhere near that level of grace. I'm not interested in hearing you out, and neither is anybody who actually struggled in high school cranking out double spaced essays. Nobody said English was easy. So if there is some massively significant concession to be had in the teaching in the Ebonic dialect it's not coming from over here. Of course, I can think of an exception. Show me the great Ebonic contribution to American literature and then show me how you are teaching students to write in that style, with the precision of an editor of a major publisher. Otherwise drop it.

    I am making the distinction between the written and the spoken word. Quite frankly I don't ever expect people's social expectations of diction to change. The beauty of linquistic precision is it's own reward - every two bit crab rapper knows that. But that's not what public education is in place to provide - rather it is the common stuff of what all of us Americans ought to know at base. You shouldn't establish a second track for anything other than remedial ed or honors ed. The idea that teaching Ebonics is anything but remedial is, I suspect only something that can be believed by the most liberal minds. But hey, if you can teach honors Ebonics, go 'head.

    The only thing that's got me considering this with any seriousness is wondering whether or not native Ebonic speakers are teaching English to college prep standards. If the question implies anything but that, then it is a pointless exercise. I mean are we going to have Molly from Providence take a graduate course in Ebonics at Brown so she can teach in the dialeck down in the Derty South? Is she going to have an extra credential? Am I the only one who sees what a circuitous edification of vulgar rot this is? I mean, sure, do it, but don't call it progress, and keep it out of *my* public school district.

    All the native Ebonic speakers will speak the way they do and be disrepected just like the rest of the Texas twangers, Alabama drawlers, and nasally nor'easterners. So what? So long as you can drive a truck, plumb a bob, or do what's necessary in the blue collar world, I don't care if you speak Pig-Farsi. Just understand enough so that we can make an unambiguous deal. But also don't pretend that your Ebonic track at Dukakis High School gives you license to be a writer or editor, not even at King Magazine.

    TCB Weighs In:

  • DC Thornton
  • La Shawn
  • Avery

    Interestingly enough, I didn't realize this controversy had anything to do with the reality in San Berdoo or Whizbang, I just thought it was a topic of the week. For the record, San Berdoo is off the chizain and ought to be leashed back up, and David is just being overly sensitive again.

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  • Boom

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    Breakfast with Ward

    I have not had breakfast with Ward Connorly, but the idea crossed my mind this morning in reference to the discussion at Vision Circle and a note Pops sent my way. It was about an article in the LA Times about how the GOP is gradually coming around to being successful in using demographic data to pick off new converts, some of whom are African American.

    So what if it happens? My goal was to see about 15-20% of blackfolks join the GOP by 2010, or something like that. It looks to me like a fait accompli. So suddenly a rush of images spilled forth, of all the 'non-black' blacks that I have played a part in alienating over the years. The first person that comes to mind is LeVar Burton.

    When I have been talking about 'blackfolks' in the context of race, I have generally meant African Americans who grew up in a black neighborhood. There are plenty who haven't - Tiger Woods, for example, grew up in Cerritos, in the multicultural burbs. Neither Woods nor Burton qualifies for a kind of rebellious macho which is supposedly one of the key core elements in the archtype of the 'Strong Black Man'. Some would go as far as to say they are not black or that they are 'gay'. Not gay as in homosexual, but gay as in punk. (If this is confusing to you, ask somebody who grew up in a black neighborhood - it's a black thing, I'm too pressed for time to explain).

    There was a kid who was an econ major at UCLA whose name I forget. Rumor was that he was all of those things, a punk, not really black. What was undeniable was that he was preternaturally bright. He was frat, but had managed to alienate himself from the fraternity through a combination of character flaws that I had not been able to detect. Not having been at UCLA, I had to take people's word for it. Ultimately, my aim to ensnare his mind into my black political roundup failed. He opted out. I was disappointed but cool with it. A lot of other brothers were a lot less charitable - some didn't want him associated with the frat. I am thinking of that brother today and I wish I could remember his name so I could bring up the matter with some old frat. I imagine him to be a Republican today.

    I wonder what folks will do with 20% of African Americans openly declared in the GOP. The day is coming soon.

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    July 24, 2005

    Loving God More than Loving Me

    After Cobb, where? Well, to Lucifer Jones. But that may not be until I'm in my 50s at this rate. I'm going to have to be done with a great number of family/community/political work before I can get too deeply into those matters. Getting and spending requires focus, and I don't have all that right now. Nevertheless, I was asked if I love God more than myself or my family? Hmmm...

    The priesthood has a very difficult task, which is to reconcile their interpretations of the divine with their understanding of human needs. How do you dumb down the Infinite and put human beings into the middle of it such that their core moral values are lined up with what any priest or Church says is God's Will? Very difficult indeed, especially when human knowledge ebbs and flows.

    If you take it as a given that God is indeed Infinite, then you have embodied in the mind of God, all the laws of the Universe - the very order of everything, whether or not we humans are able to understand it. God is purpose. God is the purpose of the universe. God is the source of human capacity to understand the Universe, such as we can, such as it is. So loving God is a difficult proposition. Unless you anthropomorphize God, you cannot 'love' God in anyway like you would love a human being.

    Of all the jobs the priesthood has, invoking God's name to call the people to worship seems like the easiest. What is entailed in worship... ah there's the rub. If one worships God by serving his purposes, there are certainly different abilities of humans to do so which other humans (and presumeably God) is aware. If God's purpose, as described by The New Covenant of Jesus, is transparent to humanity, then it is very unlikely that you could fool humans and decieve God at the same time. In other words, since we are commanded to love our neighbor, we could not love them falsely. Our neighbors would be able to correctly percieve our love with the same facility as God would judge our love of them. This is a very key thing. If love was embodied in the gift of a red rose, then it is important that God gave us all equal facilities to see that the rose was indeed red. Otherwise how could we spread the Gospel? My entire point here is that I am asserting that human beings must have the same facility for interpretation of love and good and evil as God would have. We couldn't arrive at different conclusions; this is utterly fundamental and the meaning of the Tree of Knowledge which kicks off Genesis. We do know.

    But certainly the love we owe God is different than the love we owe each other. Certainly we should demonstrate it in different ways. Isn't much of human love in the form of mercantilist self-sacrifice? We give to others out of our pockets, out of our own expense. We take time from our own lives and give it to others as an expression of love. But surely God doesn't need anything from our pockets. God doesn't need our time. He owns time, he is time.

    Here's where it gets ambiguous.

    I am not an evangelist, but I clearly understand that it serves the Church to give glory and honor to God in your earthly works. By loving your neighbor, by doing the God-given red rose, you are showing the kind of universally understood love that God and humans understand. Is that showing the love of God if you don't say so? If you anonymously donate a million dollars to the victims of a tsunami, is it less worthy in the eyes of God if you don't send it in an envelope that says 'In the name of Jesus, only Son of the Father'?

    Are we to be evangelists at all times? Are we press flacks for the God Corporation? Does God need marketing? Is prayer answered if silent?

    I have concluded that we know implicitly when we are serving God and when we are not, whether or not there is a Church or a priest involved. It only takes a moment's reflection - it must be something very close to our biology, the very idea of God spontaneous within us. If indeed we all have souls, then our understanding of good and evil must be like our understanding of fear, hunger, laughter and music.

    At this point in my life I have answered some questions about being selfish, in terms of knowing what I need to maintain my own integrity and spirit. The same things that keep my head up are about my existentials. Am I being the kind of person worthy of my powers and abilities? Do I have enough power and ability to achieve the kinds of goals I wish to pursue? Are those goals worthwhile? These are introspective questions against my own soul and the value of my life. I try to be conservative and pay attention to those things that I might change and I shape my ambition to get in position. I am moving towards doing greater things with and for my neighbors, to improve things. If I'm not, then all the writing I've done at Cobb is empty sophistry and matters not whether nobody reads it but God.

    So I will make the selfish and perhaps self-serving statement that God does indeed understand and bless my purposes. I do so without the assistance of the priesthood, which in fact I'd rather have and will most assuredly seek later in life. My love for myself is conditional upon my ability to achieve those goals and discipline myself to their noble purposes, but I defend myself at the expense of a more communitarian altruism. I'm not handing out red roses to everyone I meet, but engineering a Rose Bowl, and to the extent that I am not loving my neighbor on a daily basis in my garrett, I hope to compensate for with the size of my ultimate gift - or die trying.

    I am aware that this is the cop-out of every tyrant, God understands me. I'll have a better explanation when I actually do become Lucifer Jones.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    July 23, 2005

    Desert Duty

    Posted by mbowen at 03:31 PM | TrackBack

    July 22, 2005

    Executive Summary

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    July 21, 2005

    A Tap on the Shoulder

    My policy at Cobb is to talk about race when the subject presents itself, but not to aggressively pursue the agenda. I have been known to frustrate well-meaning people in search of insights I have tired of presenting, and so I endeavor to speak up when called. Today I got an interesting email from a Cal State prof who teaches a multicultural class of sorts. He graciously introduced himself and inquired into my background having come across some oddments of mdcbowen.org (and probably not the blog).

    I am always in motion and looking in several directions at once, but sometimes when I stop to explain myself (a never-ending and somewhat frustrating existential task given the necessary mobility of black identity) I say something that makes sense transcendently. Today's inquiry helps to explain my arc and why the conservative angle appeals to me:

    I spent several years, out of a sort of necessity I felt at the time, creating an online personna named 'Boohab'. As Boohab, I persued much of the traditional race man's work in a wide variety of online spaces. At mdcbowen.org, a great deal of material generated during that time is available.

    As part of a reference for the interactive work of Boohab, I created the Race Man's Home Companion, the aim of which was to become something of a reference for more than just me. Much of the inspiration and theory behind the RMHC comes from the work of Anthony Appiah, Glenn Loury, Noel Ignatiev, Cornel West and Theodore Cross.

    Some other of my inspiration for pursuing race man's work in the first place had to do with a percieved lack of any coherent political interest shared among African Americans and my longstanding recognition of cultural and class diversity within African America. Anti-racism was the single issue shared among all groups, and I was determined to see how such an agenda might be communicated online, on a subject that doesn't lend itself well to lengthy or productive face to face discussions.

    I am satisfied that a general anti-racist agenda is a low priority among the overwhelming majority of Americans. Those for whom it is a high priority are mostly incapable of disambiguating themselves from the 'Civil Rights Establishment' or advancing a generally acceptable or coherent agenda. I am not particularly disturbed by the racial attitudes of the average American considering the strengths of those who have survived more brutal days. I am convinced that such strengths and values, many from the Black Nationalist and Black Consciousness movements among others, which I call 'Old School' remain valuable though racism's threat to liberty is much attenuated.

    I suspect, depending on the arc of several developments including my book in progress and prospects for building XRepublic, that Cobb should come to a close somewhere between Christmas of this year and next Spring. It will have been a good run. And yet I suspect that Cobbian subjects will tap me on the shoulder from time to time. I will respond.

    Nevertheless as I get a bit more shrill in my frustrations with the ways and means that political ideas are communicated and developed in our democracy, I will hope to answer in the new format - through a virtual parliament.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:43 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Too Fabulous

    I was cruising through the 'hood the other day for a reason I cannot remember, and I saw something that let me know I had been gone too long to be on top of things. This shot was taken at Crenshaw and Florence going southbound into Inglewood. Check out this car. These must be 25 inch wheels at least. I know that big wheels are the thing, but I never thought I'd see the day when low-riders have turned into high-riders.

    This hooptie is way above sea level. It's a T-Top Oldsmobile and it was riding up at almost SUV height. What you can't see is the big letters stenciled into the red stripe on the bottom of homeboy's door panel which reads "Shittin' on 'em". Have I missed something here? Probly not.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:21 PM | TrackBack

    Thursday Fragments

    clinton_sanandreas.jpgHarry, Unspoiled
    Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, is by far, the most dramatic episode yet. Rowling took greater risks than I thought she would, and it has been a most entertaining few days listening to the audio recording. I was wrong; it wasn't Hagrid who died.

    Whadda Yuan?
    I'm not sure who these people think they are that they can try to force China to recalibrate their entire financial system in order that Americans with static business plans can be more profitable. The nerve. I hope this loosening of the currency shuts off their political momentum. The markets have reacted with a big jump in the bond yeild curve, which is rather expected.

    Congressional Whoring
    Clinton and Grand Theft Auto. Here's yet another nitwit trying to make a market safe for our pansy children. And what a surprise, there's a backdoor in the software. Well of course there is. There's always a backdoor, and I hope that the company gets off the hook for any legal liability. There's no deception of the ESRB here. For my dollar, I'd reissue the downgraded version with Hillary as the ho-face as an expression of free speech. On the other hand, just open it up and call it the director's cut AO rating and all. Still, I think most people will agree that we don't want any senators poking around in our videogames. Yuck!

    For some reason I feel emboldened to go hang out on lefty blogs and take potshots. Don't know why. It just feels like the right thing to do somehow. Let's see how it goes.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:16 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Doohan Rocked

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    July 20, 2005


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    July 19, 2005

    Return of the Coalition of the Damned

    The Coalition of the Damned has taken up their cause again. The last time was for Devin Brown, and the time before that for Stanley Miller. For them, this is another publicity bonanza and yet another justification for their crusade for the inevitable absolute underdog. I am not without sympathy for their grief, but I despise them for what they might do with it.

    Somebody has made the argument that the LAPD is not sensitive, that it doesn't understand all these cultures. That if the LAPD would speak more languages then this kind of tragedy would be avoided, but because they don't it is evidence of their hostility.

    What is Pena's culture? Perhaps it is the culture that says, when the father decides to wave the gun around the family business and threaten the lives of a family member, it is his right and privilege as the head of the house. When such things happen, the police should mind their business and nobody will end up dead. Put Pena didn't teach that cultural lesson well enough, because his daughter Ilsy didn't buy it. She called 911. She betrayed Pena's culture and undermined his authority and said no, this is not family business, this is police business. She rang the bell.

    I'm trying to imagine some place on the planet where there is a good deal of support for the notion that the people should win in armed conflict with the police. Hmm. Iraq, I gather, has some of that. But surely Pena realized where he was. I wonder why the Coalition doesn't. Perhaps they believe that Surrender is not an option. It is easy to know what dialing 911 means. It is similarly easy to understand that the police don't lose gun battles, and few in this country think that they should. So when the SWAT truck comes and they demand that you surrender, what should you do? Maybe Pena thought he was Scarface.

    Pena used to be one of those irregulars of the sort which go by the popular name of 'insurgent' these days. He knew how to shoot and reload and he wasn't afraid of facing down the LAPD. He also had another secret family across town. Doubtless there will be some of our best friends telling us how much of an aberration Pena is. It's only fair that we believe them but some will have their doubts. Evenhandedly, Chief Bratton will explain that SWAT doesn't generally shoot kids in the head, but surely some will have their doubts. I tend to believe both stories - this was the wrong place at the wrong time and the wrong thing happened. An aberration.

    I am intrigued by the clash of cultures which is inevitable here in Southern California, especially the imminent collapse of liberal sentiments in the face of the Second and Third World arrivals from Mexico. There are successful families from that country who have and will continue to survive in a context where six children per family is normal and college education superfluous. These are people we are all bound to live with, but the presumption that we will change them is, I think, somewhat preposterous.

    Our expectations of normality are tightly bound with our expectations of law and order. When a family member calls 911 to break up a family dispute, it becomes public business. When that bell rings, there are no guns allowed, and the bell cannot be un-rung. If there is some reason why only one person in a family of immigrants understands perhaps that is the one who should survive the grisly gauntlet Pena has chosen to lead Los Angeles through. Ilsy rung the bell and it saved her life.

    Posted by mbowen at 06:48 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


    Posted by mbowen at 12:14 AM | TrackBack

    Time the Avenger

    How on earth am I going to get through it all? I have no idea. There is so much going on that I'm about to pop.

    First of all, I just finished up at my last assignment. So now the design doc is done and we sit on our hands for several weeks while the sodbusters in procurement decide whether or not we who have done the brainwork in Research get to do the moneywork of Development. On the other hand, the whole point of this farce is to let the Indians do it cheap. I'm starting to become a red-blooded American asshole. But I'm trying not to got nativist all at once. I'll let the next contract lost push me over the edge. For the moment I am just on edge. That's one.

    The new gig has got me wheeling my hooptie all the way out to Westlake Village. Close but far, and they've got the nerve to want me out there at 8am sharp. Damn! Well, at least their spaghetti isn't so tangled as others I've seen this year. It's hands-on for a change. I'm actually building stuff. That's nice. On the other hand, they've got my sites marked as verboten by that firewall dingus, so I can't update pieces of drafts during the day. Not good. That means the 4 day forecast for blogging is dreary. Ahh well. That's why they call it work.

    I'm never going to have enough verbiage to describe all the camaraderie at the Summer BFL gathering this weekend at Cal Tech. It's a damned shame because that's at least one thing I know that will get trackbacks. Be that as it may, there are others capable of handling that action in general. Nevertheless, there are some standout moments that I absolutely must address.

    Firstly, J. Craig Williams, the fiercely sharp guy who runs the new blog May it Please the Court, helped adjust my thinking on the issues surrounding the Shield Law. I like his attitude, firm and assured. That's what does the convincing - he's not merely logical, but an advocate. What sticks is the notion that one should talk what one knows as a blogger / publisher, for we are called into account for the information we release. You need to understand the import of what communication you do on behalf of sources, whether or not one might be compelled to release their identity. You simply can't get off scott-free; nobody is 'just' a messenger. This is a responsibility that lies independent of one's right to be shielded.

    Schneier never answered my question about the self-shielded whistleblower, but I am becoming more convinced that such a thing is possible in the web. Somebody like Cryptome who has decided to be something of a secrets clearinghouse may very well prove to be a precedent sometime in the future. But there are interesting possibilities to be decided when a self-cloaked blabbermouth engages a semi-witting agent to publish news special somebodies want kept quiet. It's a tricky road, but I am more convinced now that there are real possibilities. I am also more convinced now that we may begin to tread into spycraft, and the legal stuff behind that is deadly - just ask Plame or Rove.

    Speaking of which.. naaah. Later.

    It turns out that just the very kind of guy who ought to get it, it being the future of voting, computer mediated deliberation and all, is too something of a gamer. Marc 'Armed Liberal' Danziger and I will be throwing ideas around to look at the next level of blogospheric organization. If I can manage to crawl out of bed early enough, I'll explain XRepublic to him.

    I don't know how I got it in my head that I'd be tossing bourbons back with Gerard. It just seemed like a good idea at the time. He was kind enough not to look at me strangely as I publically persisted with that notion. I simply find it odd that this guy, whom I've known in various joints on the web going back a dozen years, have not met much less had a drink. Maybe I've been watching too many Western movies. Cheers anyway. Maybe it'll be motorcycles in the end.

    In typical style, I was bursty at the joint, alternatively being extraordinarily attentive and breathing people in and then doing a ventriloquist whistle to make it sound like Miss Attila is from Brooklyn. I had a ball all in all. What a bunch.

    Now I have to go check my head at Dreadnought according to the Gay Patriot. Damn. It's midnight.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:07 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    July 18, 2005

    What do Black Conservatives Look Like?



    Posted by mbowen at 11:30 PM | TrackBack

    The Deadly Question

    George W. Bush is really not a hardass, and his Compassionate Conservatism is real, but like everything else about this Administration, it is overshadowed by larger questions. Still there are small questions that became very important in his election and the top of those small questions was something to the effect 'Do you expect George W. Bush to restore dignity to the office of the President?'

    It is a small question for me in the end I must admit. I found nothing particularly appalling about Bill Clinton except, upon retrospect, his smarmy way of being a bad boy in all our faces. It wasn't the content, it was the attitude. But I know for a lot of Republicans, the question wasn't quite so small. I think it is now fair to call all of those die-hards hypocrites. I don't think anyone can honestly ask the question about the dignity of the office of the President and see the person of Karl Rove as anything but a liability.

    Boot Rove.

    We know that Rove has mastered the art of deniability. He is the master of clean handed dirty tricks. He makes sure that the butterfly flaps its wings just so his enemy may reap the whirlwind. In the world of politics, he is untouchable. But that's the kind of person I would expect a Bill Clinton to hire for his campaign. GWBush is my War President. I don't really give a rat's ass about his political capital, now in his second term. Losing Rove does not stray us from the course in Iraq. As far as I'm concerned Rove is expendable.

    Since Rove's fingerprints are all over this Plame scandal, I have no doubt that he has calculated well enough to be exonerated from crime. That's beside the point. I see no honor in this dodgeball; it may be political genius, but that's not what I'm looking for. I'm looking for somebody to take one for the team, and I mean the United States Intelligence Services, or whatever they are called under the reorg. You don't out spies. Simple. Not for political capital, not for expedience, not for loyalty to the guy in the office. This is the issue that draws the line between partisans and patriots. Which side are you on?

    By raising the bar to a legal presumption, Bush has made this entirely a matter of politics and no longer one of honor, and in this he has demonstrated to me that he wants to play by the same rules as his immediate predecessor in the White House. That's OK by hardcore partisans, but I think I'm a bit more of a patriot than that.

    Ask the deadly question. Is Karl Rove worth it?

    Posted by mbowen at 11:05 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

    Big Doings at the Bear Flag League

    The Bear Flaggers get it. In fact, I suspect that they, like no other group of bloggers, are likely to be the source of the next set of innovations in the blogosphere. I was pleasantly surprised at the depth and breadth of their interests and knowledge. I don't read enough. More later.

    Posted by mbowen at 06:41 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    July 16, 2005

    Holiday Bowl

    I have discovered a history project about the Holiday Bowl. I've got to tell you that I'm going to have to make myself known to these people because Holiday Bowl was a very important part of who I am. Well, it seems like that today because I was going down memory lane and writing about the time in my life when it was.

    Among other things, I was one of the teenagers that hung out at Holiday Bowl in 1978 and 1979. I was also a part of the Burger King street race crowd early on and just before it broke up. Holiday Bowl was a very cool place, it was a street home and I have a few stories about the joint that I think are worth telling.

    It doesn't surprise me at all that there would be a commemoration of the Holiday Bowl. Crenshaw was a fabulous place in the 70s, even as it wound down. Holiday was the last great institution before the Riot - the place where blacks and Japanese had always gotten along, as any local fan of the band Hiroshima would tell you.

    I was recently invited to give some tours of the area, but the big plan has not emerged yet. I know that between my father and I and a guy named Donald Bernard who had a studio up behind Maranatha, there's a goodly amount of photographs of the Crenshaw District of old.

    I have a new project.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:01 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

    July 15, 2005

    Harry Potter Death Pool

    Chances are that only a few people will guess exactly under which circumstances the next Harry Potter character will die. Who is the easy question, relatively speaking.

    In order to ratchet up the drama, I think there have got has got to be a narrow set of characters whose death will highlight the central themes of the series, but I don't think Rowling would kill off one of the three.

    My first guess was McGonigal. As head of the Griffindor house, that would be a major change, but not so much of a direct influence on Harry. So what would be the best way to throw Harry's life into chaos without destroying him or the series?

    Snape has got to live. He's out. Dumbledore? Now that's a good selection, but almost too obvious. Still, I think Dumbledore is a great candidate for death, because he would be the last defense against Voldemort. Harry, now becomes the focus or more intense scrutiny, he would be called to duty outside of normal school challenges.

    Another good candidate to die would be Lucius Malfoy. This would spark up the evil in his son, Harry's antagonist. That would make for great doings on campus.

    But you know, my number one candidate has got to be Hagrid. He's been babysitting the trio all this time. If they are going to be teens, they're going to have to get out from under his big hairy wings and fly on their own. That works by keeping Dumbledore in the picture as antagonist to Voldemort who can get stronger. Plus it gives Snape, Malfoy and the rest of Harry's antagonists a bit more of an edge. It could force Harry closer to Serius Black which could have interesting implications in his coming of age. It's got to be Hagrid.

    So there it is.

    Posted by mbowen at 04:26 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Serial Monogamy

    Clearly my wife has been driving the Chevy, because this morning the radio was on Star 97, and I never listen to that station. Nevertheless, the conversation was interesting.

    I didn't realize that the guy on the phone was Michael Clarke Duncan. But he had all kinds of excuses of why he shouldn't marry his girlfriend. The hostess of the radio show was beating him down about it. A woman should know whether or not she should be married within two years. They guys in the studio where hemming and hawing about why a woman should try to nail them down to it, and finally Michael asks, what's the point of marriage anyway? If you're exclusive and you're in love, what difference does a ring make. He knows the difference, it's the legality of sharing your loot. Cobb's #1 rule of love, there is Marriage and there is everything else.

    My limit was 18 months of serial monogamy. I discovered this habit in retrospect somewhere along my 28th birthday. I had a girlfriend for 18 months it became clear that we wouldn't get married, we split up. For 6 months I juggle several chicks, I get sick of it, then I look for a good woman again.

    The only thing the radio babe could think of was, something to the effect that she was over 30 and the clock was ticking for babymaking. It sounded kinda weak to all the guys involved in the conversation, and it sounded weak to me as well. I mean I've always considered any relationship that lasted more than 3 years that didn't end up in marriage as dysfunctionally co-dependent anyway. So I was rather shocked that this wasn't perfectly obvious to everyone concerned. A discussion with the spousal unit gave me the insight that everybody doesn't really know themself well enough to make that kind of decision in 3 years, especially people in their early 20s. OK I'll buy that, especially regarding upper middle class standards. Fine, people in their early twenties aren't really grownups, I see that all the time.

    So that takes us back to the fundaments of the babymaking argument. Indeed, if you're not going to make babies, what is the point of going the extra step? I leave this as a question to the audience...

    Posted by mbowen at 01:38 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Orkut: Death by Brazilian Friend

    Noted in passing, the entire buzz and interest in Orkut is officially dead, at least in my neck of the woods.

    The last time I checked, there were a boatload of Brazilians trying to add me as a friend. And although they may very well have matched my profile, I didn't want them as friends. Back a year or so ago I wrote:

    I think Michel Foucault said something relatively profound about the nature of families and sex that had something to do with mobility. Nobody really finds anything close to the ideal mate because the ideal mate is always far away. You have sex with 50 people during your single years? Do the math, it's just a tiny fraction of the number of people you know, few of which are really good for your. But I interpret. If you're single, or remember the desparation, you know what I'm talking about. Too much parsing, too little soul satisfaction. The wider you cast your net, the weirder the fish you dredge up.

    This last observation about weird fish (and often smelly boots) is the problem I've had with Friendster. I expect the same thing to be replicated at Orkut, but I expect Orkut to scale. That means once there's ten million people in it, I'll find 10 good friends that I couldn't find on my own. Maybe.

    The good thing about Orkut is that it possesses both kinds of profiles. In fact, if I were trolling for the mother lode of demographic.... Hey that's why Google has been hiring. Damn. And I don't remember any 'we wont share' disclaimers when I signed up.

    Oh well.

    And so there had been almost nobody I've met worth meeting online through Orkut. In other words the computer has not been good about bringing people to me, I'm much better in seeking and finding them. Those it brought I didn't want. Furthermore, I think many of us will come to recognize that we don't really want any more friends. Social networks aren't persistent, and so Orkuts will rise and fall.

    Orkut is dead. Long live public parks.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:56 PM | TrackBack

    The Backhand of Merit

    My new colleague Nelson Taylor writes in my new colleague Nathan Tabor's Conservative Voice:

    There are two kinds of white republicans that are going to destroy the GOP if we let them. They are the so called “Country Club” republicans and the “fascists” or “Right Wing Socialists” who hide among us.

    I am a proud capitalist pig and advocate the use of Country Clubs (even the ones not open to black folk – it’s a freedom of association thing). The problem is that, the republican cats that would frequent a Country Club which, openly rejected qualified black applicants on the basis of race tend to bring that snobbery into the political game and our economy. The hard leftists sometimes find their political rhetoric about my GOP being validated by Country Club republicans actions and they tout this validation at every opportunity while of course, ignoring the rampant bigotry of the left.

    The right wing socialists on the other hand are far more serious. They would legislate from the bench just as quickly as an ACLU democrat would so long as; the ruling was something they wanted. Right wing socialism is simply “authoritarianism” that like its leftwing cousin it too assumes that we the individual are too stupid to handle freedom responsibly.

    I've always said that Affirmative Action puts black first basemen on first base. The corollary to that is that we shouldn't have to wait for the Jackie Robinsons among us to play the great sport of baseball. But sometimes parts of American life are late to integrate and nothing approaching a gracious invitation is forthcoming. So the best of us have to beat the door down.

    This is not a demand for a handout or Affirmative Action, this is a recognition of what inevitably happens when people have to be forced to do something through competition that good manners should have led them to do before. Good manners says you invite neighbors into your home and if they're nice you invite them back. Shallow meritocracy says you only let better people into your home, so should you be surprised that they remark loudly about your lack of taste?

    I suspect this is what is going to happen to the Republican Party, although it's a bit early to tell. Those whitefolks who think their membership and standing in the party is something of an entitlement may come to find themselves shoved aside by up and coming blacks. You can imagine who will be the first to go. If you can't, see above.

    On any day, any Republican activist will make excuses about the subject of inclusion - the good mannered version, by saying that Republicans will do for blacks when blacks do for Republicans. It's going to take votes and money. Surely there are some smug country club Republicans (think Randolph & Mortimer Duke in Eddie Murphy's 'Trading Places), who think of their standing in the party as some sort of entitlement. Surely there are some bigots as well who think their snide jabs will insulate them from black masses. These are the sort who bet for Fuzzy Zoeller against Tiger Woods. And where's Fuzzy today? Outclassed and outcast.

    My daughter likes to remind me of her favorite line from Episode One of Star Wars "There's always a bigger fish." Problem is, when the big fish is black, a lot of people wind up with hurt feelings, surprise, shock and resentment. It's a special kind of hell for some whitefolks to be beat down and realize they have been beat down by a superior. This is the kind of shock and awe some sections of the Republican Party are sure to find on the road to the future, just has been the case in just about every other aspect of American life where black ability brings white hostility.

    I don't believe that the GOP will be mired in racial conflict any time soon or that conflict will be the dominant vibe as more blackfolks join ranks. But the dynamic will not be absent, and every day that the Republican powers that be make excuses surrounding the meritocracy of votes and money just makes the beatdown that much more severe. There was a time, not long ago when a great number of people looked askance at the chances for Condi Rice to land a big job inside the White House in the shadow of Colin Powell. She hasn't been stopped. They thought perhaps an academic from the old South wouldn't know jack about $1000 a plate fundraisers.

    I'm going to lay a superfluous jab here, just to make a point. Yesterday, Colin Powell joined Kleiner Perkins, and Bernie Ebbers got a 25 year prison sentence. There's no excuse not to make the right partnership proactively. You can never have too many of the right kinds of friends.

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

    July 14, 2005

    War of the Worlds

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    Posted by mbowen at 08:23 AM | TrackBack

    July 13, 2005

    Forza Motorsport

    It has been a while since I've been XBoxing, but finally Gamefly has delivered Forza Motorsport and I'm into it again.

    I haven't had any occasion since old box broke to go online. That was primarily because of Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, which had me very intently doing the single player thing. After that KOTOR 2 took up my time, but then I got weary of it. So my old buds in Black Ricco's lobby on PGR and other shooting clans had missed me. The other night for the first time in months, I caught up to them on Forza.

    When I say I caught up to them, that only means in the lobby. On the track they dusted me. Forza is very challenging as a driving game and after about 10 hours I am just getting the hook. I just passed level 10 and I own about 5 cars and now it's starting to get interesting.

    The controller layout on FM is just like that in Project Gotham Racing 2, so that gave me a bit of a headstart in getting on the road quickly. The interface is a lot like Rallisport Challenge in the way that cars and tracks are selected. But Forza is clearly its own game.

    The driving experience is a lot more realistic and there are a great deal more subtleties in handling. But it doesn't make you feel like a complete dweeb. None of these cars, even the supercars seem super. They're all fallible and the differences between them

    Nurburgring is better on Forza than PGR2.

    Posted by mbowen at 06:26 PM | TrackBack

    I'm Glad He Wasn't Black

    I've switched off the FM for a couple days and have been bombarded with the same story. LAPD officers have shot and killed a 19 month old girl during the course of a hostage standoff. I've only heard the AM side of the story, which is to say the more conservative side. I haven't bothered to listen to the other side.

    One of the running jokes/commentaries you often hear talked about by blackfolks is the hanging on to a breaking news story about some awful crime and then trying to figure out ahead of time if that suspect is black. Some folks claim they know before it's revealed, but it's getting harder these days. In any case, when the crime is particularly revolting, a great sigh is heaved when it's not a black man. The individual involved in this shooting may become a classic case.

    Apparently, this guy named Pena used his toddler daughter as a human shield in his gun battle with police. This from the LATimes:

    An angry Police Chief William J. Bratton lashed out Tuesday against slain shootout suspect Jose Raul Peña, calling him a "coldblooded killer" who was squarely responsible for his own death and that of his 19-month-old daughter.

    Bratton, while acknowledging the likelihood that police bullets cut down Peña and the toddler, defended his officers against charges from the child's family and community activists that police haste cost Susie Lopez her life.

    Bratton said Peña engaged in an hours-long standoff with police in Watts on Sunday, threatened his entire family and took shots at his 17-year-old stepdaughter.

    "This is not a good father. He is no hero…. All of this tragedy falls on Mr. Peña," Bratton said after a news conference.

    Bratton's biting comments came on a day of escalating tensions between law enforcement officials and the toddler's family. The death of the girl, captured bright-eyed and chubby-cheeked in photos released by her family, became the focus on national attention as police conceded it was likely that she had been killed by bullets fired by the SWAT officers trying to save her.

    Bratton's remarks drew criticism from Earl Ofari Hutchinson, a commentator and community activist who attended a news conference critical of the police earlier in the day at the shootout scene. Hutchinson said that while he thought Peña did not deserve sympathy, his actions did not absolve police of responsibility.

    "The real question that dangles in the air is if the autopsy shows that the kid was killed by police bullets," Hutchinson said. "I'm not sure Chief Bratton is going to be able to tap dance around that by painting the father as a bad man."

    AM radio tells me that the man was on cocaine at the time and that there had been allegations of sexual child abuse. My bottom line is that you don't shoot at cops if you expect to walk away.

    Ofari is jerking his knee in such a way as to fulfill a prophesy of brown politics, but I think it will backfire on him. This is a good moment to consider black & brown politics in Los Angeles. But I think a lot of reasonable blackfolks are saying just that: "I'm glad he wasn't black." More on those politics later.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:38 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    July 12, 2005

    War of the Worlds: Scary As Hell

    One of the reasons that I walk some streets at night is because I have some street smarts. The reason cops are relatively fearless is because they train. All this is to say that some dangers are manageable, precisely because of experience and training. When you know what's coming, you can deal. When you have no idea what's coming or even what's possible, you freak. Steven Spielberg has freaked me out.

    What separates War of the Worlds from just about every other science fiction film in memory is that there is no science. This film is told from the point of view of a blue collar deadbeat dad who has no clue what is going on. There is no news report voiceover, there is no embattled scientist trying to prove his theory was correct, there is no government conspiracy revealed, no succession of battle plans discussed and implemented. There is just a dad, his kids, and trying to figure out how the hell to survive in a world without answers.

    When things start going boom in this film, everybody's first question is 'Is it terrorists?'. This is kind of cute and funny, and I did have that in mind as I wrote cartoons and essays today and yesterday. It has become tedious to hear what terrorists are doing these days. Terrorists are as lethal as lightning and just about as predictable. But the first thing Speilberg does is invert the predictability of lightning storms, that's a very neat trick. When the first machine stirs underground, the asphalt is not hot, but cold.

    This is a film that, if you are ready to roll with it, gives very little insight as to the nature of the threat. You want to ask what, how and why, but then the person next to you is vaporized. The film gives no time for analysis, there are simply moments of shock and awe and the adrenaline rush of deadly necessity. My nickel says that everyone who hates this movie does so because it is so short on explanation. Well, there is also Tom Cruise who is about as emotionally simpathetic as Martin Short is heroic. Was the film miscast? Yeah.. if you ask me, it should have been Bruce Willis, or better yet Willam Dafoe, but I'm not here to try to prove I know casting better than Speilberg. Rather I am particularly impressed as I was with 'Saving Private Ryan' that he has once again changed the nature of the genre by giving his film an extraordinary chaos that changes the nature of the narrative. In War of the Worlds, less science makes for more terror. This is his new verisimilitude; no way to Google a context.

    The film is full of clever and not-so-clever devices; an actual reporter shows the news face to face that she ordinarily would have broadcast from her van, if only there were a station to pick up the signal. Cool. How tired are the news voice-overs? Tom Cruise drives his minivan through the compacted debris field of a plane wreck. Uncool, I'm sorry but that was just fake. Unless one of the alien machines snatched the plane out of the air and dropped it vertically, it would have been a great deal more scattered. A train on fire runs through a crossing at 60 miles per hour. Devastatingly cool. That was pure genius. A field of blood greets Cruise as he searches for his daughter. Uh. Yuck, and well, that's a hell of a lot of blood.

    There are some very cool battlefield scenes, the sound editing and direction of this film is superb. The alien machines are as frightening as promised. I have a feeling that he spent a lot of time engineering them to be psychologically fearsome.

    I did spend some time thinking of ways to get around the enemy attacks during the film. The machines seemed to be fairly coherent in their actions, as if they were operated by a single mind. They didn't appear to coordinate their attacks. I couldn't be certain, but there appeared to be several different types of machine - they seemed to vary in size and power. They clearly only attacked frontally and seemed to pick their targets at random. Those that consumed humans appeared to move a bit slower and be single threaded in their actions, and they clearly worked with a terroristic intent giving their victims and witnesses plenty of time to be scared. Of course any and all of these characteristics might have been done for the effect of the narrative rather than to accurately depict the capabilities of such alien weapons.

    The emotional centerpiece of this film was awkward and unbalanced. I was already somewhat prepared for it and its failure left me wanting. This is, of course, the basement scene where the aliens try to find a safe place for their kids to hang out, having unsuccessfully rid it of humans who thought it was safe for themselves. In fact, it turned out so badly that I'm not sure if it's reasonable to say the film had an emotional centerpiece. It's Cruise's fault of course. His emotional distance from his kids is supposed to be central to the film, and yet he never quite seems to bridge that gap. I can't tell if Speilberg wanted it that way or if Cruise is so horrible an actor that I can't even believe he understands children. Given what Dakota Fanning did in 'Man on Fire' with Denzel Washington, I tend to believe that Cruise is deeply flawed as an actor here. I'm sure I have plenty of good company on that score.

    None of that changes the ways and means War of the Worlds does actually work. Speilberg seems to have captured the emotions of crowds perfectly, what other directors do with CGI armies on battlefields Speilberg has done with hundreds of extras, and he's nailed it. One of these days he's going to make a film about refugees that is going to destroy us emotionally. Given Schindler's List, it's just a matter of time. Despite its flaws, War of the Worlds, is a truly chilling horror flick and a real departure from your standard sci-fi.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:04 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    The Hell You Say

    Posted by mbowen at 08:57 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    We Are Not Afraid

    Posted by mbowen at 08:55 AM | TrackBack

    July 11, 2005

    Ready or Not

    Posted by mbowen at 08:37 AM | TrackBack

    July 10, 2005

    Bombs in London

    Every year in the United States of America, 5000 people die of food poisoning. There is a lot of buzz going around that about 50 people died in London from a dose of Al Qaeda madness. I'm going to keep washing my chicken and not being chicken of terrorists.

    As you've no doubt heard before, the terrorist wants the ugliness of the act to outweigh the actual seriousness of the act. In order to be successful, the terrorist must outrage and therefore twist the political system. Sure the AQ thugs want to pump up the islamofascist recruiting machine too, but really. Nobody is afraid of the irregulars. We smashed the Mahdi Army, we'll smash any new one they can come up with. In fact, I think a lot of us in the blogosphere ought to register our disgust and lack of fear of all these AQ fanatics and note their pinpricks on our civilization with little more than disdain.

    Here's my open letter to whichever of you AQ pricks can read English. We will talk among ourselves when Yet Another Wahabist Nutcase murders an innocent civilian, but... YAWN, whatever. We want all you AQ punks to know that you are less dangerous to our society than unwashed chicken. We wipe our feet on your manifestoes. We listen to talk radio discussing your bombings while we drive to work in the morning in our big fat expensive cars with automatic transmissions. We're drinking Starbucks coffee. We fall asleep to the 11 oclock news on our big plasma televisions while the newscasters tell us about your 'insurgent' attacks. We make movies about aliens from space who do more damage in 2 hours than your whole movement makes in 3 years. And we're belching on the popcorn and CocaCola.

    You sniveling wretches. Do you really think you scare us? Puhlease. Know this, we've buried legions of enemies 10 times as frightful as you and made their surviving children our best friends and trading partners. The only Islam that will survive will be the true Islam - the Islam at peace with the free world. All righteous muslims disclaim your idiotic and suicidal heresy. You want to know something else? We don't know any of your names and we don't care. We leave your body bits in the gutters and hose down our streets of your filth. YAWN. Whatever.

    I am no longer angry. I am no longer outraged. I know you for what you are, another foolish criminal gang among the world's history of crooks and crazies. You are not feared. You are a simple pest, and you will be terminated.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:26 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    A Theory of Idea Circulation

    It occured to me as I was reading P6 this the other morning tangential to the Memin Pinguin kerfuffle. (I'm going to use that word because it's just right for that level of nonsense masquerading as a serious issue.) The idea is that despite the fact that black blogs are not media powerhouses, that at this point in their maturity, they do in fact capture the vast expanse of black opinion.

    I wrote:

    I mean I agree entirely that Jackson is just the type to suck oxygen away from sites like P6, but you also have to consider the probability that everything that needs to be said is actually being said and there basically *is* no greater political interactivity in black communities. I mean even if you go to Wyatt Tee Walker's church in Harlem, Sunday is a one way discussion, and the mumbling after church isn't captured because there's no need to. What's captured in black political sites like P6 is the entirety of black opinion.

    My biggest gripe with this site is that the discussion threads are so haphazardly named that it makes it almost impossible for me to tell what subjects are being handled. But I don't doubt they are being handled at some respectable level.

    Everything else is just advocacy. And that means the same thing everywhere. Money and pressing the flesh. But there are no more ideas that need expression 'from the community' - those would just be exemplary details.

    Leave my gripe aside for the moment. What exactly is it that we expect from the community but a assent to ideas we want to attribute to them? Either 'the community' wants school vouchers or they don't. But the arguments pro and con are going to be spinning endlessly. How much do people need to think about it.

    I think we in the intellectual elite have been cowed by the notion that there is some extraordinary 'grass roots' phenomena that is not essentially captured in our debates. If there is, I would submit that it is nothing more than chaos, solopsism or force of personality. Let me stress as clearly as I can that what we pundits do is control the publicity of rationale. All the logic in the world is pretty much out there, but the reasons those charged with making the final decision is are different from our own and everyone elses. Right now, there doesn't seem to be a way to change or deal with that.

    We are not changing what people can think, we are influencing how they think by giving them paths of rationality towards our opinions and away from the opinions of our opponents. I think this is (heh) an interesting way to think about the business of all punditry, whether it be MSM or New Media. In other words we are not owners of the ideas, we are facilitators between people's emotions and their decisions. We offer a publically referenceable decision making augmentation process. This is a great value add, especially if and when people can accept and vibe with our existentials.

    I need to say that I think is one of the more profound insights I have come upon. The reason that I'm here is because of the confluence of events that have transpired for me in the past few weeks with regard to my acknowledgement of the value of progressive politics in African America, my broadcast TV debut as Cobb and my recognition of the value of porch conversations.

    Speaking of porch conversations, I may as well reference 'Rize' while I'm at it. The other thing I neglected to mention about the film is how much it works as an almost transparent proxy for the 'voices' of those 'inner city kids' with a very solid parallel to Gwaltney. This underscores my decision not to second-guess blackfolks. These krumpers know very well the value of their lives. One doesnt' need to be a social scientist to understand all that. They don't need 'leaders', and in many ways don't seem to need politics at all. I'm saying is that this is not exceptional. It wasn't so surprising for me to find the truth and beauty of their youthful energy as it was surprising for me to find how well the film captured it without editorializing into the context of a white liberal monologue on the significance.

    So let me come back up to the top and capturing the vast expanse of black or public opinion by those of us in the chatting classes. What is very valuable, as was quite well explained by Dubner to Charlie Rose last week when describing his role in the book 'Freakonomics', is the skill of a writer making ideas accessible. Yes there are some specialists who can do it - Carl Sagan could do the science and he could also explain the science - but such individuals are rare. Some politicians can are stars as well. Bill Clinton could walk the wonk walk and talk the public talk. We blog-pundits offer the same service but our audience isn't quite as well-defined yet. I believe that we are offering something to our large literate public what it has long needed, an order of magnitude more lines of rationale and existential models into the big ideas that shape our society. But let us not make the mistake about whose ideas those are or in which direction the power flows.

    In due time, there will be a new kind of arrangement of discourse with the public and the New Media which will improve on our system of press conferences, gucci shoe lobbiests, etc. I think the lowered cost of communications, the distributed nature of the future power structures and the greater diversity of the American polity make this inevitable.

    Posted by mbowen at 03:43 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack


    Posted by mbowen at 11:27 AM | TrackBack

    July 09, 2005

    Young Republicans in Las Vegas

    I'm back from my sojourn in Sin City, and I am naturally struck by the contrast of the nature of the town and the fact that the primary reason I was there was to present in a panel discussion to the Young Republicans National Conference.

    At the invitation of Nelson Taylor, I and 6 other panelists engaged a small but curious crowd about the perils and opportunities provided by the New Media. I had worked myself up quite a bit in anticipation of this, my first television appearance in many years. In the end, it was a brisk hour on the dais, with only perhaps about 15 minutes filmed for the ever-curious eye of C-SPAN. The program should be broadcast for American Perspectives sometime in the near future.

    Sitting next to me on the panel was Bob Johnson of Right Talk and Free Republic. He was a right amicable fellow who hails from the same part of SoCal where I live. We traded quips and made small talk during our off mic time. He seems like a good guy to know and one who has been around the block. Also on the panel were others interesting, CEO Ravi Singh of ElectionMall, college speaker and ex-hippie Chris Beren, young upstart Nathan Tabor of The Conservative Voice and Bob Eberle. Eberle's GOPUSA.com has a rather massive audience, of course not big enough to satisfy anyone's ambition on the panel. In addition was the very serious Don Irvine of AIM.

    The star of the show from the moment he arrived was Bob Eberle who jumped into the middle of conversations whose beginnings obviously had deep roots beyond my ken. Eberle, it turns out, is the owner of the Talon News Service whose employee was the star of one of those huge controversies the blogosphere seems to love so well - none other than Gannon-Gluckert. So it took a moment for me to put two and two together as I overheard him say something to the effect that the Left wanted to try and prove that Bush and Cheney were gay. Eberle was clearly steamed about getting the bad end of a great deal of lefty sharp sticks and I have a feeling that the bad blood left over from that unpleasantness is not going away any time soon. Such matters make me very glad for my day job, because in the end, I could hardly expect less from inside the Beltway.

    Of all the panelists, I was clearly the one with the fewest partisan axes to grind. Certainly mine is the smallest of all their websites - as these gents seemed to be angling more towards media mogul end of the business. I knew that coming in and decided to play the techie role ahead of time. I actually expected a smaller panel and a larger audience so I was a bit disappointed that I didn't get to go into more detail about the future I see. Nevertheless, knowing it was just an hour I figured I could get only a bit in edgewise anyway.

    What I didn't get a chance to say which needed saying was anything about Creative Commons when the question of copyright was raised. I got the feeling that it was something of a softball aimed at the big publishers in the group. I believe it was Eberle, although it might have been Tabor who made a very explicit point of declaring his 100% support of current copyright law. It is perfectly right and proper that any CEO of a media company should, but it rather cut to the heart of what would have been a very interesting discussion, had we the time and opportunity to do so.

    I would contend that in the bottom-up world I would like to see coming from the citizens of the United States - those of us who are the most demanding and persistent participants in democratic politics in the world - that our net output far exceeds that of the big media. And since most of us bloggers are aware of the Creative Commons, as primary sources, we can control copyright through our choices which will become ossified by convention. In other words, who cares about the 500,000 words copyrighted daily in the NYTimes when there are 1000 times that amount coming through Creative Commons in the blogosphere? Sooner or later the expensive words won't count and the cheap ones will prevail, which was a point I wanted to make by saying 'We hold these truths to be self-evident' and then mockingly adding 'TM'.

    Since I for one consider myself quite strongly in what we often call the 'reality based world' and am probably a bit more scientific than the average panelist, I'm not particularly concerned about a subset of the blogosphere's willingness to undermine copyright per se. There is value in a writer who interviews a subject matter expert and then copyrights that interview as a matter of course in doing business with his publisher, but there is perhaps greater value in the subject matter expert speaking directly through the New Media. This, in my estimation, is the whole point, and I wonder if the implications of this inherent conflict is apparent to those who would cannibalize the MSM with their New Media methods. Or as Ravi Singh put it so eloquently, do you want votes or money?

    As for myself, I'm analytical and an idea man. As I arrived early to the forum, I wandered around as the Young Republicans themselves were gnashing through the parliamentary moshpit of credentialling and standing of their member organizations and delegates. It took me back to my own college days and memories of interminable meetings seemingly tailor-made by lobbiests for the caffiene and amphetamine industry. While I hope the grinding continues, it would be much more efficient to do it online so as not to mess with the schedules of the queues of panelists who drive at breakneck speeds across the desert Southwest. Another point of XRepublic. And so while there are a host of points of orders and arcane etiquettes still very much in action in the halls of power in this nation, I am hopeful that the 60% who sit out most elections are of the same sentiment as I. Show me the bottom line and let me vote, and stop wasting my time with all the foofoo. I think the ideas will come through if we are courageous and bold enough to speak the truth and commit to be reality-based. An idealistic position which I quite well understands suffers in the face of the fact that the unwashed millions very often require direction and prodding from those of us who bother to lead. Nevertheless as for me and those like me, I'll have my freedom thank you.

    I have come to understand and respect the opacity and purposeful indirection in law. It's confusing so as to dilute and diffuse the power of those who would just as soon bull through it. But when it comes to citizens coming to concensus, I much prefer discrete clarity. Then again, that's why I studied computer and not political science. So out in this world of citizen activists, a bit of plain speaking is a damned good thing and to hell with the shackles of copyright. Take this from the great-great grandson of someone who was forbidden to read by law. Our words will be free.

    The spousal unit crossed me on this point all the way to dinner at the Luxor Steakhouse that evening. She said that if my book or my words were being used by somebody else and taking money out of the Bowen Family Trust, that I'd be running around looking for brains to splatter. She's probably right but I wouldn't let her have the moment. After all, I was paying for the steaks. Which I guess made her point after all.

    All in all I had a fabulous time in Las Vegas, whose large contingent of average-looking people on the make never ceases to amuse. It was a good weekend, and I thank Nelson for the invite - big time, as well as Bob Johnson for all the pizza.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:59 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    Rize: An Hermetic Gift

    I have finally managed to squeeze off a few hours of free time, and so I witnessed the Rize documentary first-hand. Nicely.

    For the dancer in me, I am stunned at how swiftly the articulations subdue the context. All of the 'bam' moments of which there are a good dozen in the flick - the dance floor equivalents of a basketball reject - are almost subsumed into the cuts. It's as if LaChapelle was wary of capturing moments of dance in order to leave more for the future of filming the form.

    What's nicely done about 'Rize' is that in the end it feels very much like a gift of a cinematographer to his subjects. He has understood just enough and crafted just enough of a narrative and captured just enough of the life to frame the dancing itself - for the dancers. It's as if he said 'tell me the story of your dancing, and show me your dancing, and I will tell it back to you on film'. And while it doesn't feel as though we in the audience are opening somebody else's present, it does feel like a present nonetheless. In that I mean to suggest that the documentary doesn't project so much as one might expect from the opening sequences. Here's South LA, a dangerous, impoverished place, and here are some kids in it.

    There's enough of a continuity in this dancing, though you won't hear it editorialized, that I find many aspects of it as a direct descendent of the kind of dancing I did as a kid, and into my adulthood. About one of the last times I did dance on the regular, at joints like 'Giant Step' in Los Feliz and the West Village in the early 90s, I could feel that feeling. And in recent months, with my abortive attempt at Capoeira, some of that energy was in my bones. In my chair I could feel my own interpretations taking place, starting with pieces of the Bankhead Bounce. I'll have to do some more, me and my gut, to say what more there is to say.

    What I like about the style itself, if there's much more of a distinction between clowning and krumping, is the collaborative style of krump. The yanking and the pulling right at the 'bam' moment is really arresting. The momentum that could be gotten out of these moves must certainly be some of where the form has gone since the filming, or at least one hopes.

    I hope there's more to see of this.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:18 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    July 07, 2005

    The Three Rs

    Doc says it was probably some distraught French Algerian who set off the bombs in London. A combination of losing the Olympics and losing one's sense of dignity combines into the radical insanity of a mad bomber. There's a sordid joke in there somewhere, but I've come to expect that from my brother the cop, and I definitely have that sense of humor. In the end, however, this is just the thing to shush up all the fingerpointing over the Downing Street Memo. It won't however, because there are too many people who see this kind of terrorist murder as the exact same thing as British and American 'warmongering'. More's the pity.

    If the occasion of this attack was not just coincidental with the opening of the G8 Summit, I think it is appropriate to suggest that some European balls are in order. That is to say since everyone seems to be concerned that we are not doing enough for Africa, perhaps they should simply decide which African country to help. In this, if they have the courage of their convictions, they out to take a cue from George W. Bush. That is to say they should prioritize their three Rs, their resources, their rationale and their resolve. Pick a country and do what you ought.

    The very idea that forgiving all of Africa's debt is going to solve the host of problems those many different nations face is as absurd as the radical conviction that continually cries that Western 'underfunding' is the sole cause of African misery. The ocean of African pain cannot be boiled. You simply have to drain one swamp at a time. GWBush for better or worse had the conviction to decide where to pick his battles and decided to go after Iraq. There is no question that America will be held accountable for the success or failure of Iraq from here on out.

    But who among the do-gooders on the Africa question is willing to put up their nation's reputation with such determination as their rhetoric suggests? Or is this just a payoff? I think that the EU's unwillingness to call what's going on in Sudan a genocide and put their boots on that ground demonstrates why the EU is a bad idea. There is no coalition there, it's the EU starring Great Britain, Germany, France and Belgium. In other words, it is what it always was, Western Europe.

    The G8 is not an organizing body for world peace. There is no such thing. There are simply nations with leaders who are willing to step up, and there are those others who merely who pontificate and bribe.

    I say today there is a new transatlantic alliance between these two great English speaking nations. We are bonded in spirit and courage. While others stand aside and allow tragedy after tragedy transpire irresponsibly, we have taken the unpopular but necessary actions. Maybe that means we in America have to take a pass on Sudan and Liberia (My pick would be Liberia, for sure). But which wealthy powerful nation has stepped forward in the past five years?

    Let me take a quick moment to link to Wretchard at the Belmont Club in order to underscore that I don't expect squat from the UN.

    United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan asked the United States this week to consider sending troops to Haiti to support a U.N. peacekeeping mission beset by mounting armed challenges to its authority, according to senior U.N. officials. ... He expressed hope that the United States would participate in a planned U.N. rapid reaction force, authorized by the Security Council earlier this month, that would have the firepower to intimidate armed gangs threatening the country's fragile political transition. Officials said that similar requests are being considered for other countries, including Canada and France. "We want scarier troops," one senior U.N. official said.

    We already know that the UN closed down their mission in Baghdad when they were attacked. Cowards.

    Is there a quote somewhere? Hmm. I'll make one up. "Cowardice is the natural disposition of those who lack resources, rationale and resolve. It is foolish to expect more from them, no matter how loudly they talk."

    Posted by mbowen at 11:41 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    July 06, 2005

    Public Whistleblower's Escrow

    I must confess that although most of my passion about the Plame Affair is spent, the idea that Karl Rove is the dealer of dirt makes for a healthy bashing. I say whomever did it should go down, but I won't get particularly purturbed if it doesn't happen. Part of the reason has to do with the complexity of the shield privileges and my orientation towards technology.

    I always believed that some private companies or entities (and I had always thought it would be banks until I realized how wealthy and powerful ISPs have become) would do the public a great favor by providing digital escrow accounts. The basic idea was for an individual to be able to do the 'swiss banking' thing with their digital data.

    Anyway, cut to the chase, here's what I'm looking for. I am looking for bloggers and cypherpunks to come up with a way to shield and serve whistleblowers, and I want Pajamas Media to be the place. If you don't trust Time or the MSM, trust the blogosphere.

    Now the only question is how.

    Posted by mbowen at 02:52 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

    Hiphop Lit: The Serious Question

    Chances are that if they come, they'll come through Bomani or perhaps through Negrophile. There's no direct link between Honeysoul and here and EJFlavors doesn't do links any longer. I live in the same town as Mister JT but we don't know each other. So that's why I ask a question that might not be answered.

    Who is the best hiphop author?

    What is the literature of the today's hiphoppers? There has got to be something to grab onto here. See, I'm tempted to come out the side of my neck, but I really want an honest answer - and I'll roll with that.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:46 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    The Sound of the Drum

    I've been sharing MP3s with a 70 year old man who gets bored with all the interpretations of Coltrane because right about now all the disagreements are agreed to. He's having a bit of a time distinguishing Black Sheep from Black Eyed Peas but that won't last for long because I know this man as Pops, and he doesn't sleep. You see all those MP3s are my rips of everything under iTunes under the label 'hiphop'. Every once in a while he mumbles something about a candy store, and I still don't know what he's talking about.

    So yesterday before it got dark and the fog rolled over and squashed the biggest boom the pyrotechnicians could explode, I peeped his copy of the big fat detailed book of hiphop that people been buzzin' bout.

    After skimming a good third of the book in rapid fashion, I found several things worth saying. And so I said it to Y, one of the few people who know as much about Jessye Norman as they know about Mandrill. which is to say plenty. She, like I, has that annoying habit of squirting out title, artist and year whenever the music changes within 5 seconds of the opening note. I have to confess that she's faster and more comprehensive. And so when the 80s band at Wilson Park, Night Ranger, played Bow Wow Wow, I had to shutup and give props. And the simple fact is that she is older both me and Jimi (but not put together). Still before that, I had the moment - and the better part of wisdom is knowing precisely when it's time to respond, even if you're not called - and I said that that young man Jeff Chang was entirely too quick to dismiss Malcolm McLaren and made too much of the Zulu Nation.

    Now Y and I had been commiserating all afternoon over filling in the gaps in 1975. It came down to a lot of ConFunkShun and Kool when it was time to exchange bytes, but we had also done a lot of thinking about Lonnie Liston Smith and most especially Cuba Gooding's group, The Main Ingredient. Which brings me to a confession about 1975 and my father's Webcor. I made a 7 inch reel that summer at 7.5 ips, and spent untold hours writing my own liner notes and calligraphic letters on the custom cover that I designed. The two greatest songs on that reel were 'Rolling Down a Mountainside' and Al Green's 'Take Me to the River'. I shouldn't jab but Y agrees that Luther's version got nothing on Major Harris. That was the summer of 1975 and we had just only begun to get back to it, irony of ironies that Pops wants 2005.

    When I took my daughter's braids out the other night, I decided that we'd watch a DVD together for the 90 minutes of mutual tedium, pain and love. I went to the shelf and pulled the first volume of Jeeves and Wooster. PG Wodehouse has a new 8 year old fan. I've been forgetting something about PG Wodehouse. It's his English, not the King's that makes Jeeves and Wooster all that. As dashed topping as it is to suck up that world, I have to force myself to remember that I'm watching through his brilliant eye. History belongs to the drummers.

    And so now, when I damned well ought to be sleep, I'm caught once again in the drum circle over the spirits of hiphop, that thread of blackness we are all forced to grapple with because of the insistence of that spirit and that thing it does to us with enough nerve to put bits into the ether, pen to paper, hand onto skin.

    So it occurs to me as I figure a way to leave this and catch my winks that we have to roll with the context. The long view and the interweaving is what's going to keep the beats echoing. That's about life, meaning that it's not about anybody's life in particular. That's the thing to remember when you're dealing with spirits - they pass through you like an irresitable force, and trying to make your hand remain your own hand on the drum just makes for an ideosyncracy in the rhythm. That's your moment, but your moment comes and goes. So there will always be someone to remind you that Luther was second, and maybe even third to say Love Won't Let Me Wait.

    It's always good that there are another umpdeump thousand words trying to carry the spirit of the boogie. Detail is good, it's evocative of your own dislocation. So Chang's obsession with the South Bronx brings my South Los Angeles into sharp focus (and half that story ain't never been told). Even Bam's hand only defines his moment. Give him this, Bambataa understood that he could only say 'Here's a perfect beat for you'. It wasn't the perfect beat, it was an offering.

    And so here we are still serving the spirit, trying to be a drummer for history. That's what can't stop.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:05 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    July 05, 2005

    Animal Simplicity

    Posted by mbowen at 11:52 PM | TrackBack

    Schneier's Next

    I don't often say so, but in my world some of my greatest fascinations lie with economics, the nuclear industry, and espionage. I've never really said that out loud in that order and it strikes me that the combination of the three would make for a fairly interesting airport paperback. In fact, I'm sure I've read a Marcinko like that.

    So on the heels of the last book I read 'My Life as a Quant' and while Cortazar's short stories are still open, I have started Bruce Schneier's 'Beyond Fear'. I love the way this guy thinks and I wouldn't mind studying what he's written for a long time. Even though this book is light on the geek factor, I am finding it to be one of those great books that capture something seminal about the way our society works.

    Here is a man who understands the emergent behavior or complex systems and how we make security decisions in our daily behavior. These are the true dynamics of our society and I see very broad implications in understanding these interactions, not just in how they relate to security, but all of the systems we inhabit and tweak.

    So far it's adding up to be a very good read. I think Schneier sees things as well as John McPhee.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:39 PM | TrackBack

    Wilson Park 2005


    I took about 90 pictures yesterday and it took me about that many to screw up the courage to take pictures of people face to face. There were only three moments that began to capture the spirit of the day. The third was a family picture and I've decided not to bore you with more of that.

    I found in this particular shot, among all of them, a great deal to investigate.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:30 PM | TrackBack

    Three Girls

    Posted by mbowen at 11:28 PM | TrackBack

    July 04, 2005

    It Ain't Apple Pie, but..


    Posted by mbowen at 09:46 AM | TrackBack

    For the Banger

    Lee continues with her emails and we have some hella deep discussions. She has informed me that she has referred some of her old clients toward the blog, and so I feel obligated to recognize. This one is for the ex-gangbanger.

    I am the oldest of five kids, four of us boys. I grew up in a knuckle-up neighborhood in the 70s. No knives, no guns, but on any particular day you might find yourself on the bad end of a flurry of fists. I wrote about two of my notable encounters with bangers, but it doesn't really end there. I also knew a kid named Dana, who was as far as I knew, the founder of the Gangsta Crips. Dana was scared to death, and he never wanted to be scared again.

    The reasons for banging are always as simple as anything a 7th grader can understand. Necessity. Tradition. Respect. Protection. It's the choice between being a man or a mark when the man's way is the gang. I think it is practically impossible to choose another way when you are a boy, because there is nothing a boy wants more than to be a man. Boys always follow men.

    Back about 8 years ago, I had a brief correspondance with Monster Kody Scott, LA's most famous gangbanger and late resident of Pelican Bay. He was just getting out and had been putting together his prison writing - he sent me a package for review. Reading what I did of his work and knowing what I did of his life story, I realized that he understood deeper than just about anyone the Code of the Warrior. Except he wasn't anyone's warrior but his own - the leader of an outcast tribe. But Kody's most important lesson for me was that of the affinity of boys to manly deeds and the absolute need they have for each other.

    If it was my job to tell how to keep an ex-banger straight, I would offer the same advice Kody did, in reverse. Understand the effect you have on a young man and be his leader.

    Nothing keeps a man on a path as knowing that his example is being closely followed by others who want to be just like him. Nothing dogs a man like knowing that he's being scrutinized by others who hate his guts. For us men, this is what makes us or breaks us. Our reputation, our word, what people know us for. That's what we're all about. This is a harsh and cruel world, and all you've got are your few skills and strengths, and you need a space where those count for something, where people give you a break because they understand what you're all about.

    No man wants to start from scratch, ever. It means clawing your way up, like a boy, all over again. Why? Necessity. Tradition. Respect. Protection. But if your reputation is broken and you know it, there is no other way. If and when you know you have got to change, then you have to start at the bottom of something new and work your way up. There is no such thing as conversion. You make yourself into something by doing the work. Than you become this larger being that contains the old thing but feeds itself only by the new thing. And in that you become wiser than you thought you could be.

    Anyone who gets much past the 7th grade mentality and sees more than just one 'hood, knows that the gang is the way of the mark, and not the way of the man. There are only three gangs that survive in America. The cops, the military and the CIA. They rule. Nuff said.

    And do check out Solomon.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:43 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    July 03, 2005

    It's All About the BBQ


    Posted by mbowen at 06:08 PM | TrackBack

    Why Is This Man Smiling?


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    The Black Political Spectrum

    In my unceasing efforts to distinguish and differentiate African Americans from the monolithic reductions imposed upon them, I add yet another breakout for your consideration.

    This comes after some thought about what it is about VisionCircle that I do and do not like and what is behind my finding political debate in the blogosphere increasingly tiresome. I have claimed for myself the somewhat odd lineage of the progressive side of the Old School. I have discovered that from the national perspective this makes me a Moderate Republican, a geopolitical neocon and a mainline Hayekian as well as one mostly in line with the Chicago School of economics. (Thanks Quizilla). But it doesn't explain why I continue to pay so much attention to non-conservatives, and why the Free Republic isn't in my blogroll.

    I have discovered that the reason primarily owes to my respect for the Progressive tradition in African American politics.

    We have touched on the differences between 'conservative blacks' and 'black conservatives' and while that has been useful to a certain extent, it's a bit to personal for my tastes. It leaves too much sting and ad hominem on the 'black conservative' label which inevitably leads to notions of 'race treachery'. What that evokes once more is the errant notion that black unity is destiny and that the coalition of African American interest that assembled during the 60s is not only inevitable but permanent. I think a more accurate telling of the story of the Civil Rights Movement and Black Power Movement acknowledges that many different classes of Negroes from different regions and backgrounds found common ground with themselves, whitefolks and people from around the world for a brief period. I identify three main streams of thought emerging from that period as Liberal, Progressive and Conservative.

    I will not attempt to map out an entire taxonomy of buckets and litmus tests for these groups, but there is something more than "I know 'em when I see 'em." going on here. The greatest difference between the streams, in my estimation, are their respective orientations to the mainstream of American society. I think it is especially appropriate to consider this for Independence Day. We have clearly inherited the American tradition of free political thought and as blacks, expressed it in three ways.

    The Black Liberal Tradition
    The black liberal presumption is that the mainstream of American society is largely rich and corrupt, and owes something of its redemption in tribute to blackfolks. It sees American iniquity and wealth as an annuity that should accrue to its downtrodden and oppressed, and focuses its political energy in both keeping this idea alive and finding every instance applicable. In this tradition, the core of black life is survival against an implacable System, of subversion and revolutionary triumph. It should come as no surprise that there are deeply held socialist credos at work. The patron saints of the black liberal tradition are Harriet Tubman and the pre-mecca Malcolm X its poets laureate Audre Lorde and Tupac Shakur. Their aim is to escape and fight. They insist that black America is too different, it's history too painful. It says to America, all you can do for me is shutup and fix me a sandwich.

    The Black Progressive Tradition
    The black progressive presumption is that 'there is much work to be done' to the American Mainstream to make it acceptable. Of the three traditions, it is the most pro-black and independent. To the black progressive, any idea or concept that isn't vetted by a black intellectual vanguard is suspect. It wants to design an organic vision of the future which is specifically crafted by black people for black people. It sees America as a country that has simply not been designed with blackfolks in mind, a country that requires significant reform in order to be compatible with the destiny of the African American. Their mission is to establish that reform and insure that everybody gets with the program. The patron saint of the progressives is W.E.B DuBois and its poet laureate is Carter Woodson. For the progessive, knowledge is power. They aim to be the underground hiphop, the drop squad, the boule, the nouveau Negroes, the New World Afrikans and all things cutting edge. They are creative, innovative and sophisticated. All of their ideas and terminologies change every 7 years.

    The Black Conservative Tradition
    To black conservatives, the American mainstream is no more and no less than it needs to be. The black conservatives say give me that old time religion, it's good enough for me. Their attitude is that America is just fine, and if you could put down your pride and figure out how to live in it, you'd be just fine too. Black conservatives say that everything blacks need for success is right in front of their faces and it focuses its political energy in trying to urge blackfolks to use tried and true methods. They say that the destiny of the African American is lockstep with the destiny of America and the existentials of blackness is more hindrance than help. Stop trying to make blackness more than the color of your skin, they say, and the importance of skin color will evaporate - the sooner the better. The patron saints of the conservatives are Booker T. Washington and Colin Powell. Its poet laureate is Thomas Sowell.

    I have cast my lot with the conservatives primarily owing to the fact that I have come to accept that the public we have is all the public we get. In other words, I don't see much practical use in black attempts to reform American society. The great strength of conservatism lies in its ability to make use of the status quo. The liberal looks at the status quo with contempt, sees a hopeless situation and seeks to extract a ransom which supports the only valuable pieces. The progressive looks at the status quo with condescention and seeks to create an island of advanced rationality within it. The conservative looks at the status quo with disbelief and seeks to exploit its very nature.

    The conservative's disbelief of the status quo owes to his inate understanding that things fall apart. So if things are not falling apart, there must be something people believe strongly that are holding things together - that something must be the strength of the system. Grab hold of those things and make them your advantage - defend them at all costs, otherwise everything will fall apart.

    African Americans, with respect to their history in this nation, must confront their single worst enemy, racism, (white supremacy more properly) in order to formulate political strategies. The question of the racism of the status quo is very likely the strongest determinating factor in which direction is taken. If one take the liberal route, it can be accurately inferred that the individual percieves racism as a permanent and implacable foe in American society. The best one can expect to do is get what you can in a society determined to destroy the African. This is the driving force in black liberal politics. To the progressive, racism is a symptom of the stupidity and erroneous notions that an unwashed majority posesses. The strategy is therefore to fight that ignorance and expand the ways and means of anti-racism until such point as it is the majority sentiment. The progressive thereby defeats the greatest foe of the African American. The conservative perceives racism as an enemy that defeats the weak, that the very existence of African Americans proves they possess something that survives it. Therefore their strategy is not to fight the racism of the world, but to grab ahold of the principles that guarantee survival against it.

    I believe that the primary gripes between African Americans with regard to their political affilliation can be explained along these lines. I will refer to this taxonomy in the future.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:22 AM | Comments (27) | TrackBack

    Abort! Abort!

    Posted by mbowen at 09:28 AM | TrackBack

    Empty Protest

    Once again I am compelled to speak up on the Memin Pinguin controversy. I am finding myself annoyed at African American demands for changes in Mexican policy over their exposure to a cartoon. I expect blackfolks to get upset at characters like Mugabe, not fictional ones.

    Not that I have been paying close attention to the international scene, but right about now there is a full-blown humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe.

    According to the United Nations, the destruction of shanty towns has left at least 200,000 people homeless.

    The statement from the bishops was unequivocal: "We have on our hands a complete recipe for genocide; we're witnessing a tragedy of unprecedented enormity."

    It's one of the strongest statements yet from church leaders in the region on the human rights situation in Zimbabwe.

    There is nothing remotely approaching this situation in Mexico, and yet pundit after pundit is yelping for apology and soothing statements. In fact, there is no crisis in Mexico. Listen to Ofari:

    Many Mexicans refer to dark skinned persons, both Mexican, and non-Mexican, as negritos or little black people. This is not seen as racially offensive, but rather as a term of affection even endearment. A popular afternoon telenovela has a comedian in blackface chasing madly after light-complexioned actresses in skimpy outfits. Ads have featured blacks in Afros, blackface, and distorted features. The most popular screen stars in film and on TV, and the models featured on magazines and billboards, are white or fair-skinned with sandy or blond hair. That's the standard of beauty, culture, and sophistication that's held up as the penultimate standard to emulate, and that standard is unabashedly commercialized, and peddled as top commodities in Mexico and other Latin American countries.

    Memin signifies that there are no black video hos television spokesmodels in Mexico. Awww.

    This is a situation which is generated out of a politics that has no sense of priority or perspective. It is a reaction machine working on autopilot, mindlessly looking for offense, assuming evil and lodging complaint after useless complaint. It is nothing more than the continuously operating principle of bad faith, and I urge sensible people to break from its cycle of despair and cynicism.

    Step away from the cartoon.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:52 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    July 02, 2005

    80s Party Vibe

    Once again I watched with the spousal unit PDiddy's new comedy showcase. It's almost impossible to imagine, given how he poses in this joint that he got his start as a dancer. Not that I've been watching any videos lately, but I'm fairly certain that the only rapper with any cred on the dance floor is Usher, and well, is he a rapper? If the death of R&B foreshadows the death of black dance music, we've got a bigger problem.

    So right now I am listening to Tracie Spencer and it's about one of the very last vibes of the mid and late 80s. So I'd like to take a pause for the cause and bow my head in a moment of silence for the age when being a popular black muscial star meant you were serious about dancing and making music to dance to.

  • Nocera - Summertime Summertime
  • Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam - I Wonder If You Take Me Home
  • Paula Abdul - Straight Up
  • RFTW - Oh Sheila
  • Orbit - The Beat Goes On
  • My Prerogative - Bobby Brown
  • Teddy's Jam - Teddy Riley
  • Hashim - Al Naafiysh
  • Aleem - Release Yourself
  • Twilight 22 - Electric Kingdom
  • Klymaxx - The Men All Pause
  • Cybotron - Clear
  • Zapp - I Can Make You Dance
  • Morris Day - Tricky

  • I guess I could go on and on until the break of dawn...

    Posted by mbowen at 02:01 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

    Goodbye Luther

    This time it's true, Luther Vandross is dead.

    More than anyone outside of Prince and Michael Jackson, Luther's career was studded with rumors and innuendo. His talent was just too large to ignore and his battles for health are almost as legendary as his songs were fabulous.

    I am probably one of the few for whom a Luther Vandross song means little personally. My favorite from him was his version of Stevie Wonder's 'Creepin', but unlike most folks I've talked to, there was no Vandross in my memories of love and romance. Maybe it's because I was just a dog, and Luther's music wasn't seductive enough - you just can't get a mack on talking about a chair just being a chair. 'Here and Now' is probably the most overused wedding song in African America. How many times have I known the groom for whom that song only resonates on that one day? But I'm being crass and cynical.

    Luther was one of the good guys. He was unpretentious, and acknowledged, like few others, that his was a gift from God. Oftimes he seemed not to want to be burdened with it. Like Oprah, he was blessed with a curse of talent and still was little old me, wrestling with the demons of fame. He was too sweet to have the growling masculinity of Teddy Pendergrass or the soaring sensuality of Marvin Gaye. But he was much more genuine than characters like Freddy Jackson who seemed to work the stage purely for the opportunity to catch thrown panties from the audience. Nor was Vandross a hawker like Lou Rawls who always seemed to me to be on the make.

    In this way, Vandross, no matter what was said about him, was always a class act. His example will be missed.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:26 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    Here We Go

    Posted by mbowen at 08:36 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Reforming The UN #2: Least Favored Nation

    I'm going to jump on the back of Dean Esmays raging rhino of common sense, emboldened as he and I have become because of Rummel. And since I still have some strivings of Empire, I'll consider the possibility of turning some of that authority to the new UN. So this is my opportunity to add Reform #2 - Least Favored Nation.

    I mentioned this idea a couple years ago:

    I propose that every 7 years, the United Nations and anybody else who cares about the state of the planet, elect a least favored nation. Halfway into the cycle, the international community wallops the dictator chosen last go round, or celebrates the triumph of reform. Just like the Olympics. The problem is dictatorships, this should be obvious.

    I'm clearly not the first person to suggest that dictators can be ranked. Nor does it take any great intelligence to know one when you see one. The trick is how do you get the world to sidle alongside so one isn't percieved as unilateral. Easy. Schedule the hostilies 7 years in advance. Most dictators hang around too long, and they don't listen up. Chances are when they are elected by the International Dictator's Tribunal, if they are ruthless enough, they'll still be around when the world's patience is officially scheduled to end.

    This is a kind of internationalism I can get behind. It would be a gold rush of opportunism to be sure, but what an extraordinary movement. As often as folks badger the G8 for not ending world poverty or AIDS all at once, why not simply end dictatorships one nation at a time? Is there a country that could withstand the onslaught of the United Democratic Nations' Security Forces?

    Posted by mbowen at 03:48 AM | TrackBack

    July 01, 2005

    The Other Side of Memin

    Here and there are some references to a stamp to which some African Americans took offense. Since I'm not particularly enamored with the politics of protest I've decided to take another angle. Much of that has to do with the fact that I've got a little bit of Juneteenth on my mind, but more on that later. The other has to do with my old friend Tony Gleaton.

    It is a little known fact that Mexico banned slavery before the United States. It's fairly easy to dog Vicente Fox these days, and he certainly deserves a lot of criticism, but the Mexico of old deserves a lot of recognition too. It was the first post-colonial nation, and to the extent that progressives ought to mark that with some positive regard, a postage stamp is but a drop in the bucket. Then again, that may be the only bucket some folks are holding. I've been finding it odd that there are those who would say that Texans weren't racist in holding back news that slaves should be free, when just across the Rio Grande, it was already the case. Wouldn't it be interesting to have found an underground railroad that went South from Texas? Isn't it interesting that there's one today going North to Texas?

    There was a time, in my progressive days, that I looked to Latin America for inspiration. I was an avid reader of Fuentes and Borges, although Marquez does nothing for me and my jury is out on Cortazar. Yet nothing quite brought home the affinity as hanging out with Tony Gleaton in his old studio on North Figueroa on the border of Pasadena.

    Tony's black and white photographs were stunning and still are. But these were more than just testimony, they were a bridge. Knowing Tony made the difference. He was a Vietnam vet, and for him it was all about being in the territory. So we parted ways when he decided to take another long journey south of the border to capture more of his and our heritage - that of Africans in the New World.

    It's not enough to know there are blacks in Mexico. They are not black in the way we are and there is no simple way to explain our kinship, but our willingness to do so is the first step to brotherhood and respect. It is a step most of us have not taken. It is the step I think we should take as we take this opportunity to complain about the lack of respect we get from people who have no clue about who we are and what we're like. For the truth is, almost none of us know who Afro-Mexicans are or what they are like, and without the photos of Gleaton, we'd know even less. After all, the complaint isn't so much of what Mexicans think of themselves, but of us African Americans. This isn't part of our politics.

    I'm not prepared to suggest that none of us Anglos have what it takes to put Memin in context. It is what it is whatever we think. But I wonder if we are thinking long and hard enough about our international brotherhood to make such a big issue out of such a small item. If I can have my way, let Gleaton's images of real people be to reason to think of Mexico, not a postage stamp of a fictional character.

    Posted by mbowen at 03:31 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

    A Buppie Rejoinder on the Death of R&B

    I'm reading Mark Anthony Neal's three parter and I've run over the rumblestrips of the term 'organic' once too many. So I'd like to run some commentary in parallel from the bap & buppie perspective.

    This is already inside poker, but I'm not too stingy to offer a few hints. Baps are black American princes/princesses and buppies are like yuppies, just black. These are the people I partied with in from the Dons, back in the days of which Neal speaks, and there are just some things I gotta speak on. He paints a nicely complicated history but one that doesn't shy away from dropping a conspiracy theory nor painting over-glowing portraits of pre-dirty south gutbucket blues in that way that academics chasing 'authentic voices of the people' do. I, for one, have never heard of Denise LaSalle or Archie Brownlee. The one thing that could have made his series more awesome than it is would have been some quotes from the artists and managers themselves. His presumptions about the way recording artists dealt with the forces of the industry are just that, presumptions. What we cannot see are the motivations of those other than the putatively culture stealing kingpins at the top of the heap. He wants to follow the money, I want to follow the music and the musicians.

    Let's pick-up somewhere between Wilson Pickett and Whodini.

    Out here in LA at the foot of Baldwin Hills and the edge of Culver City were the sons and daughters of first, second and third generation college graduates. During the 70s we were the bleeding edge of integration, attending private schools with the sons and daughters of white privilege. We brought our Bar Kays and Mother's Finest they brought their Foghat and Led Zep. Some of their stuff wasn't bad, and some of them thought the same. So despite their tendency to steal the basketball straight off the brothers' court and run and ours to initiate stomps without telling them the rules, our musical tastes rubbed off on each other.

    So by 1980 lots of brothers and sisters like me were not only diggin' on easy stuff like Steely Dan and Toto, but harder stuff like Pat Benetar. Our parents may not have liked Rick James' Funk & Roll but we were responding to the hard rock guitar licks not only of the Stone City Band and the Isleys, but of the original Walk This Way and AC/DC too. I have yet find a brother (not that I do surveys) who didn't feel the Doobie's China Grove or Stanley Clarke's hardest rock fusion.

    But that wasn't the only distraction from the monopoly of R&B. It was the synthesizer. Starting deep in the bowls of funk was the magnificence that was George Duke, but let us not forget the king prototype black geek: Larry Dunn of Earth Wind & Fire surrounded by keyboards and synthesizers. What would hiphop be without Kraftwerk and Bambataa? What was Donna Summer without Giorgio Moroder? It can be reasonably said in retrospect that the vibe established by Herbie Hancock's Rockit has never been eclipsed in hiphop, but the love for systhesizer music had been a long time coming and took black kids out into David Bowie territory along with a lot of the New Wave acts of the 80s.

    So between 1978 and 1988 my cohort was doing a hell of a lot of partying and hiphop was just a part of that. With the rhythm it took to live through what we had to dance to, you could dance to new wave and not get white. We were the ones who suffered through the bad old days of Midnight Star and Newcleus but broke out with the Family, The Time, Orbit, ABC and Thomas Dolby. We survived on Roger Troutman in the days when hiphop was still half-witted and half-baked. Unless you lived in the South Bronx, there was no sophistication to hiphop, nor a reason to expect much from it. And it wasn't until the debut of groups like Loose Ends, Tone Toni Tony [sic, I know], Guy that it was worth turning back to black radio stations which had developed a serious aversion to the music that worth listening and dancing to. Nothing quite said it like the two underground hits that had my crew on fire 'Irresistable Bitch' and 'Tricky'.

    The early 80s was a hectic time of transition for the tastes of black college students. We had, on one hand, Paul Hardcastle, Art of Noise, Arif Mardin and Scritti Politti with the leading edge stuff and 'commercial' hiphop idiocy like Egyptian Lover, Rockberry, Full Force and 'The Cars that Go Boom'. Nile Rodgers and Bernard Evans had suddenly been cast to the dirt - how did that happen? But still, we got 'Lets Dance'. But it was a bit too much when we had to deal with The Powerstation as an example of the new Rock. New Wave was cool but it only rarely had the slammin' beat we needed. The only consistency we had was Prince, and you couldn't love Prince if you couldn't hang with Rock. It was frustrating - made a brother want to scratch Steely Dan's 'Hey Nineteen' and so we did.

    There was a lot to love about early hiphop that wasn't getting the love it needed on the air. Since we were all supposed to be black back then it was a great deal harder to express this frustration at black radio without hearing a lot of flack. So a lot of us went underground, and underground clubs in LA were where the action was. That took us into Ska, Rap, Reggae, Punk, Funk & New Wave all blended together culminating in the scene which became 'Funky Reggae & White Trash' at the legendary Oskos disco in Beverly Hills. It was here where I danced on top of the speakers with Rosie Perez to 'Dopeman'. By then it was all about the mix. We had no patience for any musical genre. There would be no hero but the DJ, no act worthy, no genre to which we owed our allegiance. It was a new kind of freedom.

    It was costly though, especially for those like me, who put on the white shirt and yellow power tie during the day, the black tank top, boots and fingerless gloves at night.

    Hiphop in the era of the megamix just before the breakout of the New Jack Swing was interesting enough. Suddenly it wasn't all about who was the real Roxanne or whether or not 'Milk was chillin', but Salt & Pepa and Heavy D and the Boyz delivered some anti-idiot flavor into the mix. Guy was fly enough to swing with, even though Bell, Biv & Devoe were a bit too downscale for anybody's taste. Still, a taste for the underground gave them a pass. The only one worthy of superstardom was Bobby Brown. When 'New Jack City' broke, it was primetime.

    Thereafter, from my perspective, black music was no longer R&B. There were four directions for the music to take and everything else was derivative. Tracy Chapman / Soul II Soul / Public Enemy / De La Soul. I, like millions of others, was surprised by Gangsta naively thinking that there could be more like Michael Jackson's 'Remember the Time' and Arrested Development's 'Tennessee'. But I think it's also fair to say that my patience with black popular culture pretty much ended when they stopped making movies like 'Boomerang' and 'Strictly Business'.

    By the time dancing in suits had trickled down to the masses, the inevitable song played to death was 'Before I Let Go' with some clown named Woody Wood. This was the death knell and initiated a clear point in time that locked all that was great about R&B, even Frankie Beverly behind a door marked 'back in the day'. Behind that door were Anita Baker, Whitney Houston and Toni Braxton the only divas the 80s produced to these ears. We would have liked Zhane and En Vogue to have survived, but they seemed to be like Robin Givens - talented but not realizing that having layed down with hiphop brutality, that there was no escape, and poor Caron Wheeler...

    As for the brahs.. well, Eddie Levert? Keith Sweat? No self-respecting brother with a college degree could let these jokers stand in for a romantic Cyrano. For me, it fell back to jazz instrumentals. I let Clifford Brown do the talking. Luther would do in a pinch, but there were always questions about his weight and preferences. Teddy Pendergrass was a safer bet. More likely to be sophisticated in the day and let Prince do the talking in the night.

    When I found recognizing that Peabo Bryson was doing duets for Disney movies, I began to worry for the whole of society itself. Janet's album took the last gasp out of the corpse of R&B sealing its commercial fate.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:17 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Political Victory & The Rules of Engagement

    I've been thinking about the principled questions surrounding the role of women in warfare which has taken me up to questions about the political contexts of victory and how these dictate the rules of engagement.

    For example, there is no current political context for which rape would be considered a valuable weapon. The aim is not to save our bloodlines from extinction. But there is a political context in which victory could be defined as destroying the infrastructure of command and control over the enemy. That can be done with jets and missiles, instead of rape squads. How do you deploy jets and missiles? Sometimes it's just as easy to use a female as a male soldier. The answer is in the details.

    The rules of engagement are always dictated by the political terms of victory.

    I can see how liberal politics might decide to change the rules of engagement so that a war might necessarily become a 'quagmire', and what conservatives like me are constantly bitching about is how liberal opposition to the entire war in Iraq, keeps jumping on every minute opportunity to redefine victory away from the Bush policy and what makes sense to soldiers on the ground.

    First it was antiquities, then it was missing ammunition in dumps, then it was firing on mosques, then it was naked pyramids, then it was body armor... the list is as long as every liberal complaint.

    So I would like to invite my liberal and progressive friends and enemies here to outline their definitions of victory in Iraq, and speak honestly about what kinds of costs they are willing to endure appropriate to their investment in victory. Those not interested in victory need not apply.

    My challenge to you is to explain how your belief that the expenditure of 2000 or even 5000 American soldier's lives outweighs the benefit of victory in Iraq as the president has promised. I suspect that you believe Iraq's a quagmire not only because you want it to be. I believe in the minds of many Americans, opposition to Bush is more important than victory. Their objective is to politically alienate Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz but not to deliver victory in war. From this moment until the withdrawl of every last American, they will continue to scour the news for failures of every sort to retroactively call Bush's plan a failure.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:55 AM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

    Total Victory

    Posted by mbowen at 11:36 AM | TrackBack

    Roe Roe Roe Your Boat

    Posted by mbowen at 09:07 AM | TrackBack