June 30, 2003


The truth of the matter is that I only fell in love with her picture. Not Hepburn but Zadie Smith. She is the woman in the New York Library I never met. She is the perfect voice on the telephone that never materialized. She is her publicity photo. zadie.jpg

Once upon a time I wrote about falling in love with a white woman, that I never did but never felt a part of myself missing for not. At this late date it is difficult to confess that I would have loved Zadie Smith better than myself without making myself smaller, but in her details of love for Hepburn I do feel diminished. For there is no human God walking the earth for me, no symbol of perfection brought into flesh. There is only the spirit of creation and the nebulous inspiration ever so rarely made incarnate in words, colors, patterns, algorithms, movements, rhythms or tones. People, I forget.

Yet when I was young enough to care and blackify the heavens in my dreams of cultural productions and perverse public stunts, I conjured up a sepia cast for 'The Philadelphia Story', a film that hit me with its movements and words, rhythms and tones. Nothing before or since has been so yar, nor even tried. While I recall that a friend told me all of Hollywood was looking for a vehicle for Whitney Houston in that year, an image of her by the poolside made the entire picture perfect. Had it never been remade? Could I craft the words so sweetly? I despaired. The story would have to remain, as ever Hepburn's.hep.jpg

Zadie remembers and reveres. I am suddenly empty, or so it would seem. I still have yet to see Gone With the Wind; I am lacking in that department of corporeal longing. There were no posters staring down at me. There was Kate Millet's Storm and Big Boy's Homecoming and The Man Who Lived Underground. And that's all there was until Bruce Willis got on that motorcycle and called up to his girlfriend to get out of Los Angeles before Ving changed his mind.

It is comforting and disturbing to know the kind of love that inspires. Artists tease us with their perfections when the verbs and adjectives flow, when the Method embodies Spirit, when the 64th note is unslurred and unhurried. That perfection slows time and reverses gravity and floats us above ourselves momentarily. Are we dead? Comatose? Only relatively, only in that moment. And then the moment is past and the words become pedestrian and clunk up again.

I can tell that Hepburn incited Zadie to beauty and Zadie lit my fire this evening. There's something going on here I wish I lived in.

Posted by mbowen at 11:43 PM | TrackBack

June 29, 2003

Semantic Nits

Before we get off into the deep end, I think it ought to be clear that I don't see the recent SC decision over Texas sodomy laws to be a blow for 'gay rights'. There's really no such thing. There is nothing that homosexuals need or desire that the rest of us don't. It's only flavor. The right to be free of state intrusions into one's private sex life seems to be, very simply, a right of all adults. I'd say it falls more squarely in human rights than civil rights, but less so than certain other First Amendment rights. The right to sexual privacy is fundamental and any government that would infringe on such rights is very near to being terroristic.

Posted by mbowen at 10:19 PM | TrackBack


The project I've been working on is rather amazing in several ways, but the one way I want to comment on is the demand that it has put on our database servers for some very processor intensive work.

Once upon a time a company named Britton Lee did with the client server model something that has almost been forgotton, which is to make server hardware task oriented. Most computers we love and use are general purpose machines. And although the chipsets in personal computers have evolved to make their motherboards very attuned to paying attention to human needs, most chip architectures in the machines we use are not designed with certain software tasks in particular in mind.

This is odd considering how much of the business done by large databases is predictable. I am confident that the architects of DB2 and Oracle have optimized their offerings to work in highly efficient ways on every computing platform for which they are offered. But this still doesn't change the fact that more often than not, our appetite for speed in processing queries that matter to us exceeds the hardware available for the task. Wouldn't it be nice if we could just push a 'turbo' button and reroute our task to the really big iron instead of the measly $500,000 8 way box we are using?

The alternative to having a real hardware database server is to have a larger general purpose machine available to handle very large tasks on demand in a shared pool. This is the attractiveness of the promise of grid computing. In specialized areas, such as datawarehousing the market possibilities are great.

Recall that only a decade ago, most of the corporate appetite for marketing or sophisticated business intelligence data was outsourced to service bureaus. Often a consortium or industry segment would provide data collected by individual organizations and submit them to a group like MSA. MSA would then process that collected data for a fee and resell it in a digested or expanded form back to the industry.

But since the rise of client/server and UNIX in the corporate sphere, IT departments have been taking back that market, upgrading and expanding their own compute resources and building their own systems. Speaking from my own experience, most of the work in this space has been handled by high paid consultants and consulting organizations. Implementing these systems has been difficult, but the appetite remains great. Enabling companies to close their financial books and distribute results globally in 5 days instead of 45 is a common goal in large organizations. This puts enormous stress on systems at peak periods.

Handling this cyclical demand by leasing space on mammoth systems can prove to be very efficient for purchasers of IT infrastructure and grid systems providers as well. This is where we should expect to see the promise of grid computing delivered.

Posted by mbowen at 08:51 PM | TrackBack

The Empty Set

Brad Delong asks, through a proxy,

...do you support AA for... upper-class blacks whose families have been wealthy for four or more generations?

and answers himself by saying it is not inconsequential that this is almost an empty set. On the one hand it invalidates the question by suggesting that it is not one worth asking. On the other hand nobody has answered directly. Here are two answers.

The first is simple. Should Affirmative Action beneficiaries be means-tested for income? It depends upon whether you see Affirmative Action itself as a means or an end. Some see Affirmative Action is an end: the concession to a political demand which, to the chagrin of its detractors, seems to gather more ossified support as time progresses. If Affirmative Action is an end, then race is not so much a proxy for some objective condition, as a vote for self-enrichment or an expression of political will. If Affirmative Action is an end, then only the premises of its inception are important, and only the partisans for it should be questioned. If Affirmative Action was created by blacks for blacks, then black is the only qualification one requires. This is the general concensus and is often the context in which questions of non-black or rich-black beneficiaries are raised.

If Affirmative Action is seen as a means to achieving integration or economic parity, then it should be means tested to determine if people need those ends which Affirmative Actions deliver. In this case means testing is only rational, but how do you means-test racial integration under the new Supreme Court rules which say numerical methods are unacceptable? I believe it was Bill Clinton who said, "Mend it, don't end it." This is the context through which reformers ask the means-testing question.

I think that Affirmative Action has become overburdened with the wrong kind of support. I do so in recognition of it as a Black Power End, and a Middle Class Integration Means. Which brings up yet another problem with O'Connor's rosy scenario of Affirmative Action being unecessary in '25 years'. When will Black Power Politics, and those like it, cease? When will the Middle Class be racially integrated?

Posted by mbowen at 03:15 PM | TrackBack

Have You No Decency?

Somebody didn't get a job. The official reasons are under suspicion, but the applicant got a blunt and accurate reason, unofficially. Here is a case in which a pre-emptive action does not pass the sniff test of politesse, but you've got to admire the chutzpah of someone like Wilkie.

I for one think Wilkie's simple declaration to be entirely reasonable, if not pleasant or decorous. Whether or not it is an appropriate grounds for barring the door is another matter, and whether or not the fact of the applicant's prior condition of servitude under the Israeli Army merits political emnity is another entirely.

I think such forthrightness is welcome, but I also think the student should be welcome primarily because I don't see how the student's pursuit of study necessarily contributes to the Israel's abusive policies.

In my own experience with Israelis, each of them has served. You really don't have a choice. But that service has not blinded them to the realities of injustice on the ground. It doesn't make sense to scapegoat individuals who have not proven themselves to be of the intransigent political opposition.

Posted by mbowen at 01:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The National African American History Museum

Man oh man is this interesting. I was blown away by the Norton Anthology, but a national museum is going to be a staggering work.

For my time, this is very likely to be the closing statement of a generation's ambition and a capstone on the integrative direction of black power.

Posted by mbowen at 11:53 AM | TrackBack

Liberia, Again

Liberian war is in the news again. Of all the nations in the world, this is one we have a nice historical link to. It's not so nice these days because our diplomatic history with West African must be rife with horrendous mistakes. The greatest, of course, is that few Americans know or care to know our history with the state at all.

Charles Taylor, I will add without much detailed consideration, to the list of dictators we should be looking to oust as per the Least Favored Nation section of the New American Imperial Code. As of this moment, I am not so sure how brutal he is, but I do know he's been involved in more than one war and in power for more than ten years. That's enough to get me suspicious.

Next, a closer look.

Update: References

Posted by mbowen at 10:28 AM | TrackBack

June 27, 2003

The Virtual Primary

I'm so accustomed to ignoring Wes Boyds constant bleatings that I've missed the first online primary. I was a day late and a vote short. By the time I got there it was over, but apparently it was significant. Next time.

Posted by mbowen at 10:09 PM | TrackBack

BIG Research

Cringely has an interesting article this week. I wonder why he doesn't blog it all, it would be a very interesting site. At any rate, aside from his point which I agree with, I find it remarkeable to consider how much Xerox has shaped what we do.

It's probably not fair to compare PARC to the spate of internet companies, but I think it's fair to say that the only brainstorming and research that has come to fruition has come from the big companies. Intel, Cisco, Xerox, IBM. So perhaps we should rethink the assumptions that the little guys innovate. They don't innovate long enough for their ideas to live in real markets. In the end, good ideas die broke, and the world doesn't change.

Ideas live and come to reality from the massive institutions. That's what I believe today.

Posted by mbowen at 05:01 PM | TrackBack

June 26, 2003

Review: Midtown Madness 3

Race? What Race?

There's one problem with MM3, and that is you cannot get outside of your car, walk and look around. The driving play is so immersive and the environments so recognizeable that you can't help just driving around saying "Hey, I know that place!".
MM3 is silly driving and smash 'em up fun. I've been online a couple times and people are just happy to play in 'cruise' mode, with absolutely no objective to the game but to talk to each other while driving around Paris (or DC) wrecking into people, objects or each other.

The arcade style of the game is very much like Midnight Club but the controls are an order of magnitude better. I'll just say it: Midnight Club sucks as compared to Midtown Madness 3. It's fairly challenging and I'll probably get back to it, but the free roam driving is so much fun, I may not. Actually, 'free roam' is a good way to think of MM3. Think of the free roam mode of Project Gotham without the cones, add pedestrians and wreckable stuff, voila!

In MM3, if you are in the mood to go on a rampage of destruction, there are hundreds of lampposts, park benches, barriers, traffic signs, cafe umbrellas and tables and other objects to knock around. And if you're in a real Hulk mood, you can drive a garbage truck and take out some statues and kiosks.

The detail is fabulous. There's even an underground parking garage at what I believe is the Kennedy Center in DC complete with gates to crash through. There are also ramps placed at various places, like the Capitol Building so you can jump your vehicle over fountains, creeks and the like.

Now it must be said that the graphics are good, but nowhere near as good as Project Gotham. Control of your vehicle is comparable though and the layout of the controls are the same.

There's plenty more to explore in this one but it is, behind Gotham, the most laugh out loud driving game for the XBOX yet. Yes I like it better than Midnight Club 2, Crazy Taxi, Yakuza Mission, Rallisport, Sega GT 2002 but not as much as MotoGP2.

On the other hand, three cities would have been better, and people haven't really been racing with it online...

Posted by mbowen at 12:42 PM | TrackBack

Cows May Come and Cows May Go

..but the Bull in Palestine is a permanent resident.

The Palestinian militant group Hamas has vowed to avenge an Israel helicopter attack Wednesday in the Gaza city of Khan Younis which killed two people.

Israel says the strike was aimed at militants on their way to attack an Israeli settlement. Palestinians said the dead were innocent bystanders walking past the two vehicles that were struck by missiles fired from the helicopter.

Meanwhile, Palestinian militant groups are denying reports they have reached a deal with the Palestinian Authority on halting attacks against Israel. Hamas officials say their organization, along with Islamic Jihad and Fatah, are discussing the ceasefire with Palestinian officials but have not yet reached an agreement. Palestinian sources were quoted Wednesday as saying the three organizations had signed a ceasefire document in Damascus, Syria.

Posted by mbowen at 05:56 AM | TrackBack

Insane Reality

Keeping it real. Real stupid.

Posted by mbowen at 12:51 AM | TrackBack


The Economist speculates that IBM will lead the computer industry out of its slump. Stranger things have happened. I say don't bet against it.

IBM has indeed taken some bold steps in the right direction. By embracing Linux, avoiding enterprise software, absorbing PWC, and concentrating on infrastructure IBM may very well lead in a new direction. The question is 'if', based on 'when'. IBM knows that it is slow. Its biggest advantage is that it can outlast everyone else in a down economy and that it can take time to perfect that which others must deliver profitably in a short time.

I know that IBM has wisely decided to stay out of the enterprise applciations business. They sought to avoid precisely that stew that PeopleSoft, Oracle and JDEdwards find themselves in which is not merger hell, but bloated with a lot of people on staff who build things in a market now full of things that are already built.

1999 was the golden age of the enterprise software company. There were ERP vendors, EAI vendors, BI vendors, ETL vendors, CRM vendors, Database vendors, and SCM vendors coming out of the woodwork. The then Big Five consulting companies had sold Business Process Re-engineering and made billions for the industry through huge lengthy projects which installed ERP systems like SAP, Baan, JD Edwards and Peoplsoft. Data was moving all around corporate America like never before. All we had to do was survive Y2K and the next golden era would emerge. All that, web enabled!

It didnt.

I had long been a trooper in the BI space. The Business Intelligence crowd has found itself in a decent enough position these days as some of the few software companies that are profitable. However, BI did not become the next big thing. The next big thing (after ERP) turned out to be SAN, a hardware triumph. That market is already consolidating and a dozen smaller vendors are dropping like flies.

CRM made Siebel a quick bundle, but the wind is falling out of those sails. Why? Because the complexity of all this software was more than anyone could handle. You needed very sophisticated business people and very sophisticated technical people just to get the damned things sold into and running in a company, much less deliver on their promise of improved business.

IBM proved itself to be wise by staying clear and just saying they'd provide the hardware. The problem was, as far as the internet generation was concerned, Sun had the servers to beat. After all it was Bill Joy who said 'the network *is* the computer'. The internet bubble seemed to be a confirmation of all his predictions. But all this was taking place outside of IBM's domain, the IT center.

These days I'm working with some of IBM's infrastructure people and my experience is very good. These folks, along with PWC people who have industry experience can make a killer combination, so long as they have a large palette of products and services they can deliver. IBM can be a one-stop shop. They practically invented the term "Service Level Agreement". In short, they can guarantee. This is precisely what companies are going to require.

That's why IBM can win, again.

Posted by mbowen at 12:18 AM | TrackBack

June 25, 2003

Geo Hacking

I must confess that of late I have felt the urge to do some dumpster diving. I sort of regret not knowing somebody I could trust to go infiltrating.

Posted by mbowen at 11:32 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

One Level Closer

At this point my understanding of the SC decision on Affirmative Action is fairly straightforward. The Court likes 'individualized' decisions which take race into account, as exemplified by the U of M's Law School admissions process, but strikes down more numerically oriented processes which automatically fix some numerical value to racial identity in a preferential manner. This was the point system used by the undergraduate school.

My reaction is mixed. The most important aspect of the decisions was that they didn't break Bakke which essentially said, no quotas but race can be taken into account. Although I like the principle of not weighing race by numbers, I'm a numerical kind of guy.

One of the old standards for Affirmative Action was 'community representation' which was rather numerical but squishy. One of the reasons I mentioned Caspar, Wyoming was to express the common sense notion that if there are not 8% blacks at the local college there nobody really expects a loud complaint. But if there were not 8% blacks at Emory University in Atlanta, GA people would rightly smell a rat. I always liked the idea of the institution as a semi-permeable membrane. The inside should more or less resemble the outside, not be a fortress, even a fortress of meritocracy. While the rule for inclusion cannot be mathematical, people are still going to count noses and they are still going to compare the inside with the outside.

When it comes to university, I like the idea of 'critical mass' much more than I do 'diversity', but I do so strictly within the limits of the cultural value of a mixed race campus. I don't believe that any Supreme Court ruling should have been necessary in that regard and that universities should have been able to work within Bakke indefinitely. I acknowledge the political axe of 'colorblindness' as well as those who see any racial discrimination as racist regardless of intent to exclude. They forced the issue.

My prime objective in supporting Affirmative Action, aside from defending the political rights of African Americans to demand any concession they damn well please after bearing the burdens they have for this nation, is to reinforce the idea of racial integration as a practical matter. In that context, there is very little that I expect from integration at the college level. Integration is much more important in housing and in work, but I'll take it where I can get it. Nevertheless at college it is more important at the undergraduate level than at the level of professional schools. So the failure of the point system is a disappointment for me.

For the same reasons I think 'diversity' at university is squishy, clumsy and sometimes dead wrong, I think a point system is good and the idea of undergraduate meritocracy highly suspect. That is to say, I find the baked-in essentiality of racial identity in 18 year old freshmen to be fairly lacking in substance. People go to college to learn, to be molded and shaped. Certainly people bring a fair amount of 'baggage / authentical goodness' to the table as freshmen, but how seriously are we to take this? How many college freshmen have a good sense of the literature of their ethnicity and understand squarely their place within it? That seems to me to be something that becomes more defined at college, not something fixed before and unchanging during college. Thus the premise of diversity, that these essential qualities must be deliberately managed and finessed to deliver a finer outcome rings hollow for college. This is where the reasoning of diversity as a justification for Affirmative Action has gone awry. It has forced black students to actively represent something racial, rather than just acknowledge the general disadvantages attending black communities despite the strength of those students' ambitions.

It's important for me to say that I see race at the undergraduate level as a proxy for the economic and educational deprivations latent in the legacy of Jim Crow. It's not that college students are these racially charged ions which need the strong force of diversity to bind them into cohesive molecules of society. Rather that their achievements are all tainted by the structural advantages and disadvantages of separate and unequal neighborhoods. If one substituted zipcodes for race and awarded points that would be just fine with me.

It is precisely for that reason that I am not particularly irked at a point system such as U of M's now illegal method. I think one can be 20 points of 'athlete' and that counts as much as 20 points of 'asian' or 20 points of 'legacy' at the age of 18. That these are all positive discriminations gives these characteristics the benefit of a doubt. Fine. But now that the automatic granting of points is no good I am just as well suited to accept an essay on any such topic (pick two from "My Ethnicity", "My Athleticism", "My Religion", "My Dad's Old Boy Network"..etc) and assign points to the quality of the essay. There's nothing particularly mechanized about that.

But, that still won't stop people from counting noses. Which means in the end, people will still fret and sue if the college seems too black. Of course next time they will start investigating the essays and we Americans will really be showing our collective ass.

I still stand to say that America is standing at a stilted racial equilibrium. Integration is not complete. The semi-permeable membranes of America's institutions are still not balancing their supply of opportunity with the demand by those on the outside. This decision against point systems, while strictly sensible, has slowed down the process at the undergraduate level in one of the few places integration still takes place. I would have rather seen it go the other way, especially considering the numerical nature of the GRE, GMAT etc and the premise of professional certification. (And the certification arguments on meritocracy are fascinating in their own right). There are many reasons for that chief among them is that I would prefer the kind of society that depends far less on exceptional racial tokens, and more on neighbors. Be that as it may, I can abide the decisions as I see them. Of course, I will look closer again.

Posted by mbowen at 10:11 PM | TrackBack

Gephardt's Out

Volokh gives me a good reason to dismiss Gephardt. Thanks guys.

Update: Drum gives me another reason.

Posted by mbowen at 09:22 PM | TrackBack

Almost a Nation

In the news Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah issued a joint statement that they will suspend their militant campaign against the state of Israel. Taking the cynical view, I suppose that means when the next bus explodes, they simply won't take credit.

What is one to make of a promise such as this? If I tell you that I won't rape your sister for three months and I don't, does that make me trustworthy? Probably not. I'm not going to celebrate this, as if I celebrated any news out of that nasty little corner of the world. I'll just reiterate my most caustic advice: International Protectorate.

Go ahead Security Council, I dare ya.

Side Note: I have it on the authority of someone I trust that Hezb'Allah is not to be judged in the same breath as these three. Hezb'Allah is not such a terrorist organization in that they like Umkhonto we Sizwe are a militant wing targetting only infrastructure and military installations.

Posted by mbowen at 08:47 PM | TrackBack

It Tolls for Thee

Robert A. George writes:

The clock is ticking on the diversity industry. It's up to liberals and civil rights activists to figure out how to address minority under-achievement in education over that time.

Clearly he doesn't quite understand how diversity came to be part of the cultural ethos he recognizes. Diversity is the lubricant that converted black capitalism to blackface capitalism. While it has grafted onto the higher educational sphere with mixed results it is primarily a creature of the American Corporation. Let me shed a bit of light.

Imagine yourself as a black woman with the kind of degree your parents could never get in the bad old days. You have an MBA from Harvard. Not only that, you have a short afro. You remember all the days your mother used to complain about never being able to find the right cosmetics for her complexion. You joined a small black owned cosmetics company which had a good reputation among African Americans across the country. You rise to become head of the company and realize that more and more college graduates like you like the looks you can create. You've interned at bigger corporations and notice the huge difference in capacity. One day you make the decision to sell the company.

Your deal makes you Group VP and GM of the Ethnic Products Group, whose total revenue is now 3% of the corporation's topline. In five short years, with a new high profile marketing campaign you have tripled revenues, blown the small black companies out of the water and increased overall market share for your parent company. That's the good news. The bad news is that a lot of the people you brought with you, all competent and professional hate the new parent company culture. Your senior managers are constantly being mistaken for mail clerks, your female managers are thought to be secretaries, and you yourself always have to introduce yourself by your title and not just your name. This big company needs Diversity Training, and so you demand it.

It happens because the CEO realizes that if his Group VP who he is thinking about promoting is not happy and comfortable, he will lose a great deal. How is it that this black woman is disrespected when she has revitalized the company? Not only that, her prominence is making the company very attractive to a lot of young blacks, women, latinos, asians and others not from the old boys network. When this company markets to African Americans and Latinos, they have real credibility. The numbers prove it. He orders diversity as part of a cultural change in the corporation.

This is what has been going on in Corporate America for the past 20 years over and over. Clairol, Kraft Foods, Johnson & Johnson, every consumer products company markets an order of magnitude more smartly to non-whites. This came about because of the work of non-whites, not anthropologial focus groups in the 'hood. Not only that, diversity training keeps white managers and their corporations from being sued. Sports metaphors don't work any longer. Senior staff say 'What's up with that?'. The culture is changed.

Nobody likes to hear it, but that GVP is an example of what we in the old school call Black Power. (gasp!) Black Power is working and has long worked in the corporate corridors, the black consumer is not condescended to. Black radio stations get big media buys, etc etc. But everyone should also know that black pioneers kicked down doors for everyone. This is our legacy and America often acknowledges it in an ass-backwards way. But the reality is what it is and has become self-evident in the amicus briefs attending this Supreme Court decision.

So let's come back to George's quote:

The clock is ticking on the diversity industry. It's up to liberals and civil rights activists to figure out how to address minority under-achievement in education over that time.

So what do the conservatives do? They are fired up at O'Connor's seeming betrayal (which will make them even more energized when the next Court opening comes up). But, the truth is that they are very much alone here. While most whites oppose racial preferences—especially when nightmares like Jayson Blair pop up—in general, "diversity" is supported across society.

What George and many others fail to realize is that the heart of diversity training was born in the efforts of corporations to get their leaders to stop disrespecting 'minorites' on their payrolls and in their markets. Corporations value diversity because it was the only way to increase their market share, it was the only respectful way to sell to African Americans and to employ them. Their tip of the hat to Affirmative Action programs is a testament to the fact that they could not do it as all-white enclaves. In other words it was blacks and women working in corporate america which changed the culture of corporate america and opened up greater markets to corporate america. They couldn't have done it without them. Why else would a corporation talk about 'respecting communities'?

This is the principle that everyone seems to be missing in talking about 'fairness' without logic in O'Conner's finding for the majority. But is that any surprise when black conservatives who work in corporations, such as myself, are considered so rare as to be non-existent?

Diversity training remains for the benefit of people who still can't get over their ghetto mentality. Anyone who thinks Affirmative Action is all about getting unqualified blacks an unfair leg up is a perfect candidate and an excellent example of why it needs to continue.

Posted by mbowen at 03:14 PM | TrackBack

Diversity vs Inclusion

Andrew Sullivan cracks on supporters of Affirmative Action by endorsing a suggestion that O'Connor is moral but not logical. It seems to me he's got a lot of nerve considering he's unable to parse the distinction between racist discrimination and racial discrimination. To say that Affirmative Action is racist is tantamount to saying that arrest is equal to assault. I think he's a bit tenderheaded.

To answer Sullivan's theoretical is quite simple with the following proviso. Granted that outside of Caspar Wyoming, and some remote part of Maine, there are no all-white universities in the United States. What, then is the value of an all-white university? What would one expect to see there of value? It brings in a colostomy bag full of assumptions I would rather dialog to reveal, but the very idea of idealizing one reeks of white supremacy to these ears. Even in the abstract.

DeLong counters the upshot of Sullivan's view rather nicely. But he overlooks a singular point which should be obvious in light of other goings on in Michigan this past week. African Americans themselves through ways and means that are not racial, will collectively and individually fight back against whatever ails them. They will do it whether or not it is principled, constitional, logical or reasonable. That is because they are human beings, and human beings can be counted on to survive. America comes to its senses in principled ways on occasion, but this is not the prime mover. The prime mover is somebody screaming ouch and shoving back when somebody else steps on their toe.

To be blunt and simple-minded about it, whites desire Affirmative Action for the benefits of diversity. Beneficiaries desire Affirmative Action for the benefits of inclusion. Diversity helps whitefolks who are socially crippled get out of their own ghetto mentalities. Inclusion helps beneficiaries get access to the sources of whatever the institution offers. In the case of university, education. Both of these are legitimate reasons to support Affirmative Action and depending on your view of what's more important to America you can pick your favorite.

I think diversity is too squishy to be in the direct interst of the state, and everybody who agrees should understand that they are beating up on the white position. I think inclusion and integration are more important for both the positive reasons, principles of equal opportunity as DeLong states, and the negative reasons, people left out in the cold will beat down doors instead of politely ringing doorbells.

Affirmative Action is a political concession of the first order. It keeps the peace. Its moderation and legal framework are critical but its existence is an absolute necessity. When diversity training is no longer necessary, ie whites grow up understanding their neighbors as well as themselves; when inclusion is no longer necessary, ie non-whites needn't leave their places of origin to fulfill their potential, then Affirmative Action will no longer be necessary. Who's doing that work?

Posted by mbowen at 07:42 AM | TrackBack

Edwards on Taxes

Over at CalPundit, I just saw a peek at something Edwards has said on the stump trail. It sounds good to me. A very nice rhetorical device.

[George Bush's] economic vision has one goal: to get rid of taxes on unearned income and shift the tax burden onto people who work. This crowd wants a world where the only people who have to pay taxes are the ones who do the work.

Everybody deserves tax relief equally? That's what Howard Jarvis was saying, and he aimed his tax relief right smack at the middle class. Is it special interest lobbying that has skewed GWBush's tax relief or does he really have it in for the working class? As a Bush, he's got class issues for sure, but Edwards is not going to let him off the hook.

For my money, Edwards has to do better than wreck Bush rhetorically, which he clearly does and will. He's going to have to show me the money. It's the economy again, stupid.

Posted by mbowen at 07:11 AM | TrackBack

June 24, 2003

Dorm Hall Walls

It occurs to me that there might be some students up at the University of Michigan who grew up in St. Joe and Benton Harbor on the other side of the river. Wouldn't it be interesting to hear their opinions of the events of the past week?

Posted by mbowen at 08:12 PM | TrackBack

Moore's Treadmill

Apple announced its new G5 today. Big whoop!

The big deal about the G5 is that it's a 64bit chip built by IBM that will run at some obscenely high clock speed. If you can't guess, I'm not particularly impressed. In fact, I think the greatest thing that could happen to increase Apple's influence on the market would be for them to get off Moore's Treadmill and put that fabulous OS of theirs on cheap hardware.

So let me start the meme. Moore's Treadmill is the narrow view by the computing industry that faster chips is always better. So long as the economics are working and people keep upgrading their old machines, the Treadmill works. You could say that in the 60s and 70s, Detroit was on an equivalent treadmill for engines. The car was essentially the engine. The more the horsepower, the more attractive the car. So they thought. Of all the companies to be stuck on Moore's Treadmill, Apple provides the most irony because their marketing has always focused on usability. So it is this contradiction that strikes me as Steve Jobs announces 64bit computing.

I believe that with Jaguar, Apple has proven itself to be a great competitor to the Linux desktop. It's even fair to say that the Linux desktop won't happen in any consumer markets, and certainly not in the corporate sphere because of Apple, at least not until blade workstations become mainstream. But as long as the Mac OS is limited to Mac hardware, Linux will continue to be strong.

I don't have anything against Linux. Quite the contrary. But a Linux desktop makes no sense in corporate IT right now. Its too costly to maintain, not because of the software itself, but because of the cost of tech support for network guys. Imagine retooling the helpdesks of the Fortune 500. This is the hidden cost of the Linux desktop in business. Enabling end-user support for Linux desktops would require a substantial investment in retooling a big workforce. When blade desktops come around and PC support can be handled as nicely as some internet cafes are, that will be a different story. But today when it means a box on a desk, Linux is out of the question.

The Mac could swing the corporate desktop, and probably would have by now if they hadn't killed Power Computing, the hardware clone out of Austin. Certainly the same Dell folks who commoditized the PC and slammed manufacturing costs would have bled some influence over there. Clearly Apple revoked the Power license because Power undersold the Macs in retail. But that same low price combined with the fabulous thing the Microsoft Office Suite has become for Mac could have made a big dent in corporate business. I'm not fantasizing however. As quiet as it's kept, Microsoft wasn't the only vendor hostile to Java. There are a lot of reasons Apple hasn't gone corporate.

At home and for geeks, that's a different story. There are plenty of reasons to run OS X at home for geeks and non-geeks alike. But speaking from the geek side of the equation, the single computer home is a thing of the past. Moore's law looks very good when it applies to the reselling market. Perfectly good Pentium 3 machines can be had for $150. I've got such a Dell at my house. A revolution could be afoot if I can think about buying a machine for each of my kids at that pricepoint. Wouldn't it be nice if I could manage all of that home networking under the Apple paradigm? Yes, without question. The problem is that I have to shell out megabucks for Macs. So Apple is out of the question.

I am accustomed to Apple doing the wrong thing. It doesn't affect me half as much as it used to. Maybe I'm growing up. Yet I still admire their style, nerve and quite frankly their hardware. But it's really the OS I want. Too bad it's stuck on the treadmill.

Posted by mbowen at 06:21 PM | TrackBack

June 23, 2003

Integrating the Slamdance

Within a week or two, I will go deep into the shed over the matter of Affirmative Action now being redirected in light of the Supreme Court's decision. To that end I will be integrating my previously separate blog "Boohabian Slamdance" into this one. Since I grew weary of sparring with John over at Discriminations at the beginning of March, I let the blog go silent.

Certain of its content will probably merit the category, 'Raucous and Racial' which was the subtitle of that blog. The Boohab was an agent provocateur of a bygone era of the internet. It just so happens that I am reviewing that era of black pioneering in cyberspace in a different context, excerpts of which will land here too. Most of that won't be so raucous. So in one respect I'm glad that I don't have to be, but nothing is quite so compelling as a racial angle. The nice thing is that you'll be able to better use the search form and I'll be able to retrospectively trackback new stuff that arrives into the 'sphere.

Posted by mbowen at 06:01 PM | TrackBack

June 22, 2003

Bush Over the Edge

As a sidenote, today is the day that I decide that GWBush no longer merits the benefit of the doubt. I'm thinking that his influence is improper in that people who ought to know better are not chastized by his ability to police. In other words, he may not be a pawn of special interests but his policies are so ineffective in reigning back excess that he might as well be.

It seems to me that a very simplistic partisanship and majoritarian will has destroyed Washington's current ability to effect the kind of goverment work worthy of the United States of America. The Republic efforts to defund government, following the overblown rhetoric of Ronald Reagan ("government is the problem") has found itself intellectually suspect but politically unchallengeable. The public has been suckered and the President is to blame for setting the tone, which is no tone at all worthy of intelligent rebuttal.

I exepect and anticipate the removal of GWBush in 2004. All the better for America.

I hope too, that no Democratic Leviathan is elected, but I have had visions of a majority of Americans struck by some disaster which is only curable by an infrastructure and disciplined bulwark of understanding that is only sustainable by a government with long-term interests. Such a government is not forthcoming from the likes of GWBush. But I forsee the rude awakening. Like the Oil Shock of the 70s or the Japanese Competition of the 80s we will find ourselves facing an enemy grown strong in the wake of our inattention. The question will become what was the United States supposed to do about this, and the answer will be something to the effect of eating your oatmeal. Some government agency will be faced with a problem it cannot handle and we will wonder why. Because we didn't care.

The fundamental difficulty the Republicans face is to put responsible patriotism back in the driver's seat. That means patriots pay taxes to keep American government the best in the world. But that principle doesn't make it to the polls. The Republicans have found the secret formula to winning elections, which is one of the reasons I like them, but it has become like a mutated fist on an emaciated superhero. The weighty right fist of tax abatement is making our hero susceptible to a vicious left hook. Any idiot can be against taxes. It seems as though we have elected them all.

Here in California, our Democratic governor is on his way to facing a recall election. Why? It has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that he is a Democrat and everything to with the fiscal crises over which he has presided. Our refusal to balance our budget and the Republicans policy of rejecting much needed tax increases make good sense in elections but are destroying not only the infrastructure of California government but its ability to control its own destiny. Mark my words, as states go broke and people start falling into potholes, the tide will turn. The first party to state unequivocably that it is patriotic to pay taxes will win.

Meanwhile GWBush's debacle will take years to unfold and more years to fix. He needs to get gone, and soon.

Posted by mbowen at 11:47 AM | TrackBack

The Botany of Desire

I wrote this last July and need to get it here:

michael pollan is the man i want my son to follow. he has singlehandedly for me turned science back into the direction of biology and away from math and technology. if that sounds oxymoronic it is perhaps because we so easily associated math and technology directly with hardware and the entire skew the cold war has had on american science. when i grew up, thinking about science and brains meant thinking about rockets, space, nuclear engergy, electrical, civil and mechanical engineering. the holy grail of understanding stood at the level of maxwells equations and the high priests of all were the theoretical physicists. other scientific minds like watson, crick and darwin were lesser lights whose duty was to inspire elementary-level battle against religious fundamentalists. but there was no way that studying plants could rival studying steel. pollan introduces the possibility for 4H to become more popular than the computer club, the botany of desire is the manifesto.

over the past ten years, computer geeks like me have only stopped to turn our heads toward the natural world for the occasional publication. jared diamond's guns germs and steel has been about as far as most of us have been willing to follow that path. but 'the botany of desire' has ignited a curiousity about the natural world i haven't felt since the first time i followed jacques and his sons out on the calypso. talking with dolphins and chimps has only generated a vocabulary of a few hundred words with a few dozen researchers at most, but pollan illumniates a dialog between plants and humans that goes back dozens of generations in hundreds of ways around the world. distilling it down to tulips, apples, cannibis and potatoes, pollans smoothly scientific and philosophical narrative has generated a kernel of interest that could easily go in dozens of directions. each has gotten me eager to get my hands dirty.

as i look back, i find it is pollan who has singly nabbed me in this regard. i can still recall the fascination i had with his april 1997 article in harper's magazine 'opium made easy'. as well, his recent new york time's magazine article 'this steer's life' grabbed me out of complacency. for me, he has become the james glick of the natural world. yet everything he speaks of is so much more personal. it's easy to speculate about what cellular technology might do, and so much of our admiration of scientific discovery has much to do with futurism. pollan, however uses scientific discipline to investigate what already is, which forces us to apply our minds to problems and opportunities that already exist rather than to the accelleration of anticipation on what might be if only. yes, bluetooth wireless might allow me to do x y and z in tomorrows world, but there are potatoes and apples in the market today which represent an extraordinarily complex mix (or lack thereof) of genetic science. that i can exercise intellectual judgement over this matter today excites me much more that the possibility that i might be a smart consumer tomorrow. even better, that i might become a gardener today and that there is a fight over 'open source' seeds today is far more appealing than parallel matters in software. i am what i think but even more what i eat. pollan give me so many new ways to think about what i eat.

the botany of desire is delightfully entangled in human emotions as the title suggests. there is more than science here to contemplate. there is an entire cognitive history to contemplate. in this regard, pollan becomes a medium after borges as he introduces the reader into the contingent memesphere of plants whose influence changes human destiny - a hidden world suddenly made visible. how is any boy observing a flower bound to act in the flower's interest like a bee? the flower makes us feel. the flower makes us think. the flower makes us pick it. suddenly i understand the conflict i have when my daughter picks the random dandelion to blow its seeds. it's a weed i say, but who can resist it? and in the end i let her blow. i pluck daisys and check the fidelity of my love, i cannot resist looking for the lucky clover. we have coevolved to do so and our present is the the result of the irresistable attractions of humans and plants.

there is much more than an engrossing read here. for me, a world has been offered and i eagerly anticipate engagement. by the way, the bibliography points to multiple dimensions of new knowledge. do not miss this book. it is crucial.

Posted by mbowen at 11:16 AM | TrackBack

June 21, 2003

Rage, Power and Freedom

Hulk is by far a better film than you would think possible. I have decided not to let early reviews tarnish my impressions. Expecting airheaded fun, I got a bit more from this weeks summer movie, Hulk a surprisingly well-thought out action flick.

If it could be said that a film about a comic book could be beautiful to watch, then there are two candidates. This and the Hughes Brothers take on the legend of Jack the Ripper 'From Hell' borrows from the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. Lee replicates the essence of a comic book on screen with multiple frames and angles on action shots and unusual frames within frames. When you get the Hughes Brothers film and listen to their comments, hear what they are saying about the narrative form of the comic strip. You can then realize what a unique achievment Lee has created with Hulk.

This is a movie that will stand the test of time. Even as I watched it, I could tell that it is something that I won't be loathe to watch again despite my simple attraction to the fun in it. Seeing Spiderman again this weekend left me dumbfounded at the preposterousness of the Green Goblin's constantly open mouth. Lee leaves in a great number of short scenes in the film which add to its nuance, it is clearly not a normal Hollywood film. So much of that would have been edited out were this not Ang Lee.

The pace of revelation is tantalizingly slow in this film. It shows some deft work in editing and scripting to put the obvious in context and play deliciously with the backstory. The very idea of repressed memory is done better here than in most amnesia themed films.

The performances are great. Bana's scientist is not over-nerdy, obsessed, pretentious, absentminded or any of the other stereotypes in the genre. He's a bright guy who is emotionally repressed and distant. He has a dark past he's only vaguely aware of, it all comes in dreams which he shares periodically. His girl and professional colleage, played nicely by Jennifer Connelly, too has a mysterious childhood memory. She may or may not be on his side. This ambiguity works through all of the characters in the film. There are 12 sides to the story and each character expresses them in different ways at different times. It is this complexity that makes Hulk unusually nuanced for an action film. It's part horror, part melodrama, part sci-fi.

In a classic moment in this film, you think you've had it with Bana's grunting and Nolte delivers a smashing rejoinder. It's a scene that is pregnant with meaning and yet devoid of hope. It is the fight between the predictable and the inevitable that finds a home in Hulk's story.

The special effects are the ususally remarkable stuff. It may be difficult to believe that the Hulk can leap entire counties with a single bound, but then again, that's why he was called the Incredible Hulk. But where this film really shines like no other in my memory is in its evocation of the biological. In fact I would say that it sets a new standard for popular science fiction of the genetic sort. Like Michael Pollan's Botany of Desire, it will switch in the public imagination some biological complexity into the realm of the fascinating. The Matrix has done that for the philosophical and the digital aspects of the real. You can imagine the effect on someone like me who studied Computer Science and Philosophy as an undergrad. Hulk will put the microbiologists and geneticists in the spotlight.

Ang Lee does heroes well, and Bruce Banner is a hero. As Hulk, he realizes that he has achieved a kind of purity. Yet he is tragic, overcome by a destiny he didn't desire that brings out strange desires in others that he can only meet with confused rage. And yet this rage humanizes him even more. He wrestles with his father only as a monster, he evokes the finest attention from the woman in his life only when he has gone on a rampage as the Hulk. His freedom from the dungeons of his self-made emotional imprisonment are busted wide open only when he becomes this gigantic green mutant.

The Hulk gives us a little to think about and entertains as well. There's not much more you can ask from a movie.

Posted by mbowen at 10:14 PM | TrackBack

June 18, 2003

Too Seriously

I think I did a pretty good Frederick Douglass.

As you can guess, I was one of those kids who couldn't wait to grow up and be a curmudgeon. I'd say that this picture was taken when I was about 12 or 13. I was just about to enter highschool. Speaking of which, I just missed my 25 year reunion. It's odd to think that there are some folks who haven't seen me since I looked like this.

Posted by mbowen at 11:11 PM | TrackBack

Report Card Day

I'm going to be a little short of cash over the next few days, but I couldn't be more happy about it. My kids graduated today and they are off to the next level of elementary school. So I am going to poison their little brains with the illusion of meritocracy and pay by the 'A'.

These days, schools in California don't give A's. The report cards I've been seeing the past 4 years are more skills based. That is so much better. For example, my little prodigy in Kindergarten recieved high marks in 'Reading Stages'. At stage 6 (out of 6), the student:

Understands the relationship between sounds and symbols. Reads and retells stories with accuracy. Uses illustrations, patterns, sight words and phonics to derive meaning from stories. Attempts unknown words.

Despite the fact that this sounds like a junior grade resume, it is expressive of the nature of the skills teachers are impressing on young minds and it gives a very specific detail that helps me understand (by looking at the other stages) what she is mastering, an order of magnitude more informative than '600 verbal'.

I first heard of skills-based grading several years ago when I was helping a cat named George Trudel beta test some software in Providence. I say his name specifically because George is my kind of person and I hope someday that he Googles up his own name and finds this paragraph. His daughter, I recall, played the flute and he was very concerned about how anyone who is not a musician could appreciate what went into her achievements, and so was a strong proponent of skills-based grading.

I'm something of a lout for turning those subjective achievements into the ultimate fungible, but it does convey a value in a way they understand immediately. I'm proud of my favorite people and I think they know that, so I'm putting my money where my mouth is. Plus, I know they'll brag to their friends.

What a great Father's Day present. High marks for the lil Cobbettes. Life is good. Now it's summer vacation, a whole new set of headaches await.

Posted by mbowen at 10:50 PM | TrackBack

Terrance Shurn

Terrence Shurn ran from the cops. He died. Shurn was black, the cops were white. Shurn had an ounce of weed on him. Shurn's neighbors took it to the streets. They burned a couple of buildings and cop cars. Ten to fifteen people were hurt, none seriously.

Granted, this doesn't meet my criteria of a Lynch factor for getting me concerned about what's going radically wrong in the course of human events, but I've been wondering if and when the discussions on the ground might hit the blogosphere. While lots of folks are still speculating on whether or not it was good to beat Iraq down, I've taken a moment to consider if the grass roots are still getting i-play. I'm hoping very much that Google can give us links into the unofficial versions, i.e. all bloggers and no big media.

If we take it as a foregone conclusion that the FCC's recent ruling will turn the American mediasphere into a narrowcast, then the internet may be our saving grace. Despite the fact that O'Reilly doesn't like it, bloggers on the ground may turn out to be the only source of diversity in news reporting. We won't call it that, but that's what it will be.

Jessica Lynch can't tell her own story. She forgot. It's an interesting turn of events that gives the monster media companies all good reason to elbow for rights to cash in on a singular myth-making opportunity. This being the human interest story of the entire war, there will be references back to this for decades to come. Get the footage imprinted now, milk it for ad revenues from here to kingdom come. This is exactly the reverse of how it should be. Lynch should blog her own story.

Of course there's only truth and activism in the non-journalistic impressions of actual people actually involved in that day to day activity called life that sometimes gets processed into news. But what we tell our neighbors is good enought to communicate. Let's let the ordinary folks do so.

Let's not fall for the myth of disinterest. I know there's some Randian logic in that, but it's what I am coming to believe more and more as I hear the constant barrage of the unqualifyable and marginal slyly associated with corruption. If I didn't hate commercials so much, I think I'd turn off NPR completely (except for Garrison Keillor). You cannot stand at a disinterested distance and expect to comprehend the full truth of a matter. Its the difference between the French verbs savoir and connaitre. Knowing facts is far shallower than experiencing the factors. Subjective experience is what's missing from our collective understanding, and it cannot be conjured properly with Hollywood production values. It has to come from the gut source.

So there's a story of a black riot out there. It would be more excellent than a little if we could get to the Benton Harbor blogs and hear it from the people who threw the rocks. Instead we'll get it from the reporters and their reporting apparatus. Good enough to imprint the simple story, car chase ends bad with racial overtones, but not good enough to put us in touch with Benton Harbor and Terrance Shurn, who died this week.

Posted by mbowen at 10:14 PM | TrackBack

I Guess We Just Weren't Listening

Who said of racial profiling: "It's wrong, and we will end it in America."?

GWBush said that. And he's apparently making good on his promise. According to the NYT, Bush's new policy

..lays out two distinct sets of guidelines: a broad prohibition on profiling in traditional and often routine law enforcement investigations; and a looser set of standards for national security cases.

In traditional operations like traffic stops, federal agents "may not use race or ethnicity to any degree, except that officers may rely on race and ethnicity in a specific suspect description," the policy states. Officials said this prohibition was intended to go beyond the safeguards of the Constitution and existing law.

Will wonders never cease?

Posted by mbowen at 03:00 AM | TrackBack

June 17, 2003

Neologisms & Policy

Many people, especially guilty chickenhawks and pacifists are now flogging themselves and everyone over the issue of the missing weapons of mass destruction.

I have to ask, when did 'weapons of mass destruction' enter the lexicon of foreign policy? Since when did it become a crime to possess them? I think the answer should be obvious. GWBush invented both the term and the crime. Now that people are attempting to be wiser in retrospect I find it a little ironic that they are using the same political terms which have been invented for this very geopolitical situation.

Weapons of mass destruction are not criminal in the hands of France. But machetes in the hands of Hutu are. This distinction should lead us to the heart of the issue with Saddam and Iraq. Unfortunately those who are crying the loudest now are those who never put enough weight on the most important humanitarian issues of the day. They are guilty of being seduced by the illusions of political rhetoric.

As I look back at my own decision making, I think a crucial turning point in the war of reasons and excuses was Powell's presentation to the UN. While I was skeptical from the beginning about the Bush vision, especially as regards Rumsfeld's destruction of Powell's diplomacy, I finally found good reasons to support the destruction of the Baath party.

What nobody is talking about today is the phrase 'material breach'. This was once the trigger point. That it is no longer is testimony to the ephemeral nature of political values. I imagine this should be expected. So when we talk about credibility we should remind ourselves that we are engaged in a game of rhetoric that shifts from month to month and season to season.

Is the Ituri slaughter genocide? Like most everything else we mutter, 'that depends'. Depends on what? It depends on our ability to convince people we are right and that our language is acceptable. This has a shifting dependence on what actually transpires with regard to justice or brutality on the ground and that is the key issue.

If Bush lied about "WMD's" it is because he could and the world community that balked in the face of Saddams tortures expected him to. Define what a 'WMD' is and you will produce an epistemological nightmare. By the way, where is Judith Miller these days?

Posted by mbowen at 12:43 PM | TrackBack


I'm probably going to be dealing with this for some time, so I figured I'd load it up into the blog.

International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, 660 U.N.T.S. 195, entered into force Jan. 4, 1969

Article I

1. In this Convention, the term "racial discrimination" shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.

2. This Convention shall not apply to distinctions, exclusions, restrictions or preferences made by a State Party to this Convention between citizens and non-citizens.

3. Nothing in this Convention may be interpreted as affecting in any way the legal provisions of States Parties concerning nationality, citizenship or naturalization, provided that such provisions do not discriminate against any particular nationality.

4. Special measures taken for the sole purpose of securing adequate advancement of certain racial or ethnic groups or individuals requiring such protection as may be necessary in order to ensure such groups or individuals equal enjoyment or exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms shall not be deemed racial discrimination, provided, however, that such measures do not, as a consequence, lead to the maintenance of separate rights for different racial groups and that they shall not be continued after the objectives for which they were taken have been achieved.

Posted by mbowen at 08:08 AM | TrackBack

June 16, 2003

Keyes, Redshirted but Ready

As anyone familiar with the HNIC theory understands, Alan Keyes has no future in the Republican Party as a candidate. There can only be one head negro in charge and that negro is Condi Rice. But there are other reasons as well and they have to do with political [in]competence. People who worry themselves over legitimate beefs with the Republican's hamfisted affairs with black voters don't help their case by citing Keyes as a solution. That is because, as a black conservative, he pioneered his way into one dead candidacy after another. He has expended all of his political capital and whether or not his values are shared by many or even most blacks that doesn't change the fact that he is unelectable. Keyes is as unelectable as Jack Kemp. Keyes is as unelectable as Walter Mondale. He is a proven loser. Now that has been said as clearly as possible, let me seemingly contradict myself.

Whether or not Keyes is a viable candidate, he can certainly offer a unique insight to party machinations. If he is not one to hog the spotlight, his support might prove invaluable for the next generation of black republicans. This appears to be what he is offering. From my point of view, I'm not certain he has burned quite enough bridges for that possibility to be foreclosed.

So let's look a lot closer at BAMPAC and see what it offers.

Posted by mbowen at 10:47 PM | TrackBack

Gotta Love that Euro-Spunk

Samizdata flips the EU the bird. Good on them. Every once in a while, Libertarians show that they are good for something. In fact, I can't say that I've had much beef with anything the Sammies have said (that I've read), especially since they are one of the biggest blog which has followed my lead on the Gadsden Flag. I ought to trim down my blogroll to those that I actually and truly read or otherwise indicate my respect. This will do for now.

Posted by mbowen at 08:27 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Tulia. Say it.

Let's see how many bloggers pick up this story and say 'racist'.

Posted by mbowen at 08:09 PM | TrackBack

The Shelly Long Syndrome

Comedian Colin Quinn is on NPR this afternoon. His theory is that jokes about midgets and handicaps are sublimated racial jokes. I can buy that. So on one of his shows, he asks for 5 things black people want white people to answer truthfully. You understand that the blackfolks will always have deeper questions, but that's beside the point. He's a comic.

I don't have any special questions reserved for whitefolks. Primarily because I don't give a crap about race relations, and secondarily because I see whitefolks for who they are. (It's a mystical power, I admit). But I was provoked into thinking about it for a minute. So I thought up the question "Do you believe that sheltering your children will make them better adults?" Whitefolks believe in sheltering their children, and this is what white means. I don't mean white like caucasian, I mean white like Barbie. Whitefolks believe that special privileges are reserved for people who are dainty. People who don't get their fingernails dirty rise up a chain of meritocracy populated by people who don't make jokes about midgets and retards. Up there are only folks with high SAT scores, straight teeth and zero percent financing.

Of course the dirty secret is that those who live out this fantasy find that their bosses are scumbags. Because, of course relative to the Barbie life, everybody is a scumbag. And so the BMW couples learn to live down one or two dirty secrets about corruption and power, which only makes their obsessions with sheltering more profound. They learn this late in life and it dawns on them that they could have been black all along. That is to say they could have kept it real and not sheltered themselves from the real world, and all that dirt. But that is what stupid people do, right? It's a big hangup. An upper middle class dualist dilemma.

Now you have one more clue as to why I know the secret of life.

Out here in California, the Workman's Compensation insurance framework is all blown to shit and bound to go broke within a year or two. Of course the political majority is incapable of electing politicians who can say the word 'shit' and 'responsible' in the same paragraph let alone legislative session. So there will be no reform and (read my lips) no new taxes.

But hey, we're sheltered from all that. Right?

Posted by mbowen at 08:07 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Two Crappy Flicks

As much as I enjoy Spectravision whenever I travel, I have to warn you away from two movies that blow. 'The Hunted' and 'The Core'.

Briefly, "The Hunted" is a great movie to put you to sleep because there are very long passages with nothing but movie music and Tommy Lee Jones running through the woods. The best thing you can say about that is that it's nice to know orchestra musicians can get paid. The premise was good enough but...

On the other hand The Core was so bad that I expect the acting careers of all involved to fall to the center of the Earth. There was one interesting scene. That was when the drill train landed in the middle of a giant geode and the lava broke through the ceiling. Not one joke in the whole movie. It took itself too seriously.

Posted by mbowen at 12:42 AM | TrackBack

Wedding Work

I thought that I was going on vacation. Instead, I was sweating through my best friend's wedding. I'm happy to say, however that I worked through the issue of iniquity. The answer? Volleyball.

I have recovered from a miserable flight home, middle seats, tatooed lovers, screaming infants, weak snacks, and inane videos. I have 57 photos from the wedding. (I was sure that I shot more), and I think I kept to my budget. Inside, I have a very happy feeling though.

I learned a small (small is all I'll admit) lesson in BBQ from a true master. I got a copy of pscp. I met some fine minds, one of which I expect to put some legal framing around my on-again, off-again dealing with integration and affirmative action, another who will certainly join my batcave coalition. One of these minds may even have the answer to my unanswerable multidimensional sparsity question.

What else? I DJ'd, I danced, I made flyers, I shuttled stuff. I made snack trays. I made myself useful. Still, I was immobile and that pissed me off because I couldn't visit the other folks I wanted to see in ATL. I hope they'll forgive me.

Anyway, I'm bushed. The newlyweds are off to some well-deserved rest in some tropical paradise somewhere. It was a great wedding, and a slammin' BBQ reception. It doesnt' get much better than that, but I'm glad it's over.

Posted by mbowen at 12:26 AM | TrackBack

June 13, 2003


As a former frequent flyer, I can say that my travel plans for this trip of mine have been a complete disaster. As a Buddha informed Daddy Man, I'm just happy to be here in Atlanta.

Lee's castle has taken shape since the last time I wrote about it, and like a million other spoiled Americans, he has begun to obsess over the shape, color, texture and elevative consistency of his lawn. Despite the fact that he has a king's ransom in hellacious high end electronics (one notices the embarassment of giant screens in various places and degrees of use around the house), his focus is on the relative quality of his real physical turf. The only reason I bring this up is to go back to the question of computing. I have dragged my own little laptop with me and am now connected to the blogosphere on a dialup link at 4.8 and I'm just happy as a clam. Yes you heard me right, I'm doing my do at just around 4800 baud. When is the last time you heard about baud rates?

I am connected to the world online, but I'm stuck in my hotel room. I can survive surprisingly nicely with the equivalent of 20 year old modem technology, but without as much as a bicycle I'm stranded in Atlanta. All the people I wanted to see, I probably won't. I must come up with a plan. This is killing me.

Posted by mbowen at 07:17 AM | TrackBack

June 12, 2003

Global Brain, First Licks

I just finished the prologue to Howard Bloom's Global Brain. I do this stuff called reading when on vacation. My first impression is that he's on to something. Being of a mind to relate much of it down to the first person observations, I think that group selection is a very reasonable theory. I'll let him flesh out the whole thing.

According to my Seditionist partner, Carter G. Woodson wrote that because of his education, the negro will always find the back door, and if there isn't one, he'll invent one. Certainly Woodson wasn't thinking of the Ur-Matrix world of backdoors that Bryan Alexander sees (among the many things he sees). Rather he was thinking in the black white terms of respectability and denial of same. Bloom says, him that gets gets more and them with the L on the forehead schlep off to die in the corner, voluntarily. This is the altruism of the non-type A personalities. Which, by the way I see as a reason for being gay as contrasted with simply being homosexual.

But I like the Ur interpretation of a role of blackness. More Matrixwise, consider that the Oracle is black in the Woodson via Alexander way. She offers the choice to see which ones might be the One. She is the yacc, lint and lex of the Matrix. She parses out the inevitable bugs, except that she understand that this human yang is necessary for the survival of machine yin, so she sees which one of the yang talkers understand why they have been sent like cool mau-maus to destroy. She is actively searching for those who hack the Matrix, those who would make their own backdoors, and most graciously she gives Neo the (offset) address to the Keymaker, master of all doors.

Zion is created and recreated. It is group selecting for the best One who gets to pick the next generation if he fails to save his own Zion. It is by definition a refining process.

Back to this reality and American Negroes keeping it real. Some get beat down so deeply that they don't bother. They become the resounding thud. Is the resounding thud good for society? Do the winners learn from the losers, or is subversion self-defeating? Woodson would say that the Negro must find the front door, but the Negro is only meaningful in America. Kwame Ture would have a contrasting Negritude answer. The Negro must unbecome Negro and then become Black, generating for themselves and the rest of the world a higher brighter reality. Group selection. Do it for unity.

As I get through chapters, I suppose I'll find the ways and means of communication of group selection. What it means, for example, to kill off the HNIC and how that person is determined. Blacks in America have evolved as a group nicely. I like that he puts this in the context of all biology. My intent is not to inscribe any racial lesson, but to see how the group selction might be ascribed to a group of humans identified by a set of subversive / anti-social / self-destructive behaviors.

Once upon a time I wrote that America tells itself horror stories in black. Here's another reason.

Posted by mbowen at 11:54 AM | TrackBack

More Matrix Mindbenders

Nothing like a good Thai lunch with fellow geeks to ramp up the Matrix blather. So here are some new points by new folks in my loop.

If Neo did indeed cause the EMP then there exists the distinct possibility that Zion is indeed another level of the Matrix. Is it a real possibility that he can generate EMP by holding up his hand?

(new), therefore he was in the Matrix, and the Neb did not crash and burn, but just a replica of it. The thing that makes this all a possiblity is the theoretical impossibility of Smith jacking himself into an actual human being outside of the Matrix. Could Smith transubstantiate? If so then there is magic outside the Matrix. If not, then Zion is part of the Matrix, or at least the Zion that the Neb was returning to.

There are distinct historical problems with Zion being independent of the Matrix. If the Matrix is 6 generations old, then Zion has been destroyed and rebuilt that many times. Why then would the survivors of Zion not tell this to their descendents? Why wouldn't everyone in Zion, indeed the very creed of the place not be party like it's 1999? It seems like it is if the deep house rave moves to its logical conclusion, then there's a whole lot of banging going on.

This all contradicts Morpheus' address to Zion in which he states Zion has survived so very long. If Morpheus knows better, that Zion has been destroyed and reborn several times, then that's one explaination. If he understands that Zion will be destroyed because it has been destroyed, that would explain his fanaticism about the One. But as I said, I think Neo knows that he is not the One.

On the other hand, what if Zion is a myth created by Morpheus to keep his crew loyal. Yike. If everything the Neb does 'in Zion' is simalcra.

OK enough.

Posted by mbowen at 11:25 AM | TrackBack

Fertility Rights Denied

Here in Atlanta for the wedding of a good friend. We shall see some rice fly. I don't think that it's illegal here as it is in NYC. Evidently the pigeon lobby figured out that rice expands and blows out the little pigeon bellies, and so got legislation passed.

I wonder how true this is. If indeed rice is deadly to pigeons it could put the manufacturers of those metal spikes that disgrace restaurants out of business - not to mention the guys who make plastic owls. So much the better, says me.

I haven't determined whether or not to take my batchelor bud to one of Atlanta's dancing establishments. It's an old habit that I have broken, so what is the point of introducing someone to a bad habit, especially since I know this guy doesn't even drink, much less carouse.

If the purpose of life is to reproduce and we all live past the age of reproduction, what is the point of getting married in one's thirties? It's entirely social - we need to have someone to play with our reproductive instincts safely. Expensive.

Posted by mbowen at 08:08 AM | TrackBack

June 11, 2003

On Vacation

Once again I am on vacation. That is why you are seeing so many posts in the blog. My brain, free of the harnesses of data warehousing, roams free. Just thought you should know. It's going to be a good week.

Posted by mbowen at 12:48 AM | TrackBack

Don't Look Now

The Ituri reminds me of pygmies. It was something I learned in highschool about human biodiversity. But, the pleasant memories of being called an African pygmy by my enlightened teenaged schoolmates are taking a back seat to a new genocide.

Now I know that since I am not a diplomat with international credentials I am not authorized to use such polarizing language. But hell, I heard that 14 year old boys are shooting faces off and hacking off genitalia and making necklaces with them. The death toll is something on the order of 3,000 a day if NPR commentators are to be believed. This is East Congo in the hands of several wretched militias.

The response of the 'International Community' is about on par with that of the International House of Pancakes. Everybody is invited to have a nice meal and discuss the matter. Well, it's a good thing because it's not making headlines. (I can't believe I just wrote "it's not making headlines", as if the concern of Americans who read headline has any moral force worth soliciting. Well it would if this were a proper empire, but as we know, it is not.

I think finally people with good sense are giving up on GWBush, not that he was so very brilliant in the first place. You have to admire his audacity - that is to say his willingness to step up and put a brave face on the peanut brittle diplomacy he dishes out. I can only hope that Colin Powell runs against him. Please do it. Out the bastard. He's just too slow.

Cheney-Powell '04. That'll work.

In the meantime we've got a world class disaster unfolding. Hema vs Lendu. Bastards we could stomp.

I am compelled to quote the Reverend Doctor at this moment. You know the old 'injustice anywhere' line. It is not sufficient. So I will steal a set of fundamental injunctions from a simple research paper covering King's Letter. The moment calls for the language. (Thank you Professor Draeger)

(1) Justice is not conformity to the law --- King argues that laws can be unjust and this implies that the state does not define justice. Segregation should not be considered just simply because it is the law of the land. (Notice that this is similar to the thought that justice is independent of public opinion found in the Crito. Note also that King shows respect for the law even while breaking it. This is seen in his willingness to submit to punishment.)

(2) Justice is conformity to God’s Law --- God is the source of the moral law. So, any law of human creation that agrees with God’s law is considered just and any human law that violates God’s law is unjust. Segregation is considered unjust because it violates God’s law. (Notice that this definition depends on King’s particular theological views which others may or may not share).

(3) A law is just if it uplifts the human spirit and unjust if it degrades. There are at least two ways we can think of ‘uplifting’ and ‘degrading’:

(3A) A law is uplifting if it has the effect of improving people’s lives and is degrading if people are worse off under it. In order to evaluate the law, we look to its consequences. Does it effect people positively or negatively? Here, segregation is unjust, because it doesn’t lead to human flourishing (i.e. people’s lives are decidedly worse).

(3B) A law is uplifting if it respects human dignity and is degrading if it treats people as mere objects. This is not quite the same as evaluating consequences, rather it sets limits on the sorts of laws that can be considered just. Here, segregation is unjust, because it treats people as things and as such fails to show value human dignity.

(4) A law is just if it applies to all equally and is unjust if is imposed on some but not others. The thought seems to be that justice is tied up with fairness. A law cannot be just if it treats people unfairly. People are treated unfairly when they are treated differently. Here, segregation is unjust because it gives special treatment to whites and imposes unfair restrictions on blacks.

(5) A law is just if those bound by that law are involved in its creation and unjust otherwise. The thought here seems to be that democratically constructed laws are just in ways other laws are not. Here segregation is unjust because not some are excluded from political participation. (Notice how different this version is from the one found in (2)).

There is no violation of principle in applying equal measures of justice then here and now there. The question rather is are we capable? Are we the Bull Connors or are we Arkansas National Guard? Is our international policing capability ready? The capacity is clear, the rationale for evasion is murky. We cannot continue to pose as superheroes chasing mad scientists bent on world domination with secret weapons. We need to beat down the thugs with clubs. If we don't, then we cosign the kinds of dictatorships we just put down in Iraq and the Balkans.

We need to see, but we are looking in all the wrong places. Iran is not the place needing pacification. They are not at war with their neighbors. Nor is North Korea for that matter. I'm going to suggest this once and let your mind roam on it. What if we learn that some African warlord gets his hands on a bioweapon? Charles Taylor, for example? Don't look now...

Posted by mbowen at 12:29 AM | TrackBack

Tolja So

The news today is that Israel is back in the assassination business. So as I was saying, these things take time, as in over their dead bodies time. I am so sick and tired of this pissant bullshit. When can we just let the Israelis starve?

Posted by mbowen at 12:06 AM | TrackBack

June 10, 2003

Thanks Whitey!

George throws me a straight line.

"We all knew having a black God was a choice that would be talked about," Mr. Oedekerk noted, "but I don't think we were thinking it would be as groundbreaking as it turned out being. I was personally surprised by the attention this received. For me this type of casting isn't as groundbreaking as it is overdue."

If you haven't heard, God is black. No, wait. Morgan Freeman is black. No wait. This is more confusing than the Matrix. That guy named Jim Carrey who makes more money than the black guys who launched his career gets to be God while God takes a holiday. Hell, what was the name of that show? Or was that a rock band? This has been done before hasn't it? No that was a jewish guy. Was George Burns jewish? No just touched in the head. Or was he touched by an angel? Wait that's it. Heaven Can Wait. No that was the Rock. Or wasn't he the 13th disciple? No. Wait.

I don't think whitefolks take God seriously enough to care if He's black. Hey, but thanks anyway. It's always good to know that Morgan Freeman has a job.

Posted by mbowen at 11:55 PM | TrackBack

The Semiotic Swamp

Google tells me that my phrase never quite caught on, though my pseud was 'semiotic swampist' for quite some time at the Well. Since I am being self-referential, I may as well refine some understanding about a blackness which has no end, despite the fact that many blacks don't bother to think about it much. I refer to that perennial invocation, Keep It Real. In 1997, Brother Boohab explained to a knucklehead who said blacks have nothing to be proud about:

miller genuine draft, you don't belong here. your provocation is
boring. but to answer your question directly, i direct you to the
norton anthology of african american literature, and then to the
collected works of bud powell, no better yet, art tatum, then further
to the research of dr. kenneth clark, and on the backside of that, the
adventures of matthew henson.

what there is to be proud of america hasn't taught you, and in that
lies the tragedy, but then is it so tragic if what is internationally
acclaimed lies without fame in the mind of a lamebrain whose pitiful
aim is to defame the few he can name in a the racial blame game.

more of the same...

you've mouthed off a bit about the lack of the blacks achieving
without the oversight of whites. that's simpleminded at best and only
proves you to be a blood and soil conservative without any vested
interest in the intellectual bond of americans to the principles of
american nationhood - the true invention of the colonial rebels.
isn't it interesting that i have shown pride in that, and you have

as to the semiotic swamp - it is that vast western wasteland described
and demystified by marshall blonsky (of the new school). it is that
think mcluhan thought he understood and why webmonkeys are fixated at
what they believe to be content yet only stands rootless - floating
above the heads of those without solid footing in historical fact. the
semiotic swamp is fashion, and fashion is the staple of postmodern
society, and postmodern society is run by every currency not anchored
to the gold standard. it is a rabbit pulled endlessly out of a
bottomless hat.

standing in direct contrast to the nebulous value of a castle economy
floating in midair is the black mass which through its own gravity
falls directly through the cracks and lands with an earthshattering
thud upon the floor of human reality. its hunger and pain, its shrieks
and emotion jangle the evanescent chandeliers of the cloud city even
as those lofty denizens self-consciously pepper their fashionable
speech with the questions such as 'what's up with that?' its ambition
and drive, its recreation and re-incarnation shimmies and shakes with
vibrations that rearrange texts until the only valid eternal
fashion-less statements and prophesies are ebonically rendered and
those who said 'reality bites' end up bit with reality when they
discover that 'i love the black man' who calls them to 'show me the

mona lisas and mad hatters, sons of doctors, sons of lawyers turn
around and say 'good morning' to the night. for unless they see the
sky - but they can't and that is why - they know not if it's dark
outside or light. they are the eternal denizens of the semiotic swamp.
i mock them in their mock drowning, in their mock slavery, in their
hissy fits, in their pseudo profundities, in their apologetic
innocence, in their bourgeois bragadoccio, in their minding of the
mindless mediocrities which are the essence of all their class

i am the semiotic swampist, waltzing right along side in the selfsame
swamp, humming classic rock tunes and vivaldi as well, sporting nice
pants and tapping into cyberspace.

but i am also a black man, and i can turn at any moment. in fact i
turn at every moment. i am dual consciusness, doubly informed. i am a
bipolar switch running hot at 300 gigahertz but all you see are my 1s
at 150. i am so fast in emulation you cheer me as principle - you are
just another part of me - half vast while i haul ass. you look at
clouds from both sides now but really don't know clouds at all. they
are my breath, condensed from the divine wind which was only the air's
evidence of where i used to be. i am completeness and the summation of
american yin and yang - the ghetto priest, the suburban prophet, the
rural soloist and the urban choir. i am backbeat and on the one. i am
moon and sun and light and the dark matter of the universe.

i be that i be.

Posted by mbowen at 08:01 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Rorty is Sporty, But Blonsky is the Bombsky

I am reminded of a cat named Rorty by Sugarbaker. If the Matrix is bringing back philosophy, and short films, there could be a miniature revolution going on. Since I was a philosophy minor at a state college, I see this as simply cool.

With some luck then, we might see the rise in popularity of one of the most single insightful books I've ever read: American Mythologies. It's a long shot.

I'm not particularly keen to offer a great amount of detail about it at the moment, but it can be said that I spent some significant portion of my life searching for answers to the questionableness of American life. Blonsky's book gave me a context like a big red pill. When I swallowed it, I still wrote in pomo-speak:

Marshall Blonsky, in American Mythologies, examines the symbolic discourse between the performers and the performed upon as if to examine the state of the cieling in the house whose walls have already collapsed. Yet it remains a valid work because while we all stand in the cold ruins, the ceiling remains frozen in mid-air suspended like our disbelief, while from its reflections we measure our steps. As intellectual excavator and personal ruminator par excellence, Blonsky will become the McLuhan of the 90s.

There's a lot more where that came from. You can see how crazy I was just after I took the pill.

Posted by mbowen at 07:25 AM | TrackBack

The Marketer's Upside of Tivo

If your are a marketing weenie, you must have a lot of pride and gumption about the fact that it was you and your ilk whose economics drove a fair bit of the Internet bubble. Advertising, media buying. That was the ticket. There are certainly some of you, especially in Hollywood who are confident that the world's media need to stay in its present form and damn to hell all that digital stuff. If that's your position, you are probably among those who hate Tivo.

Tivo allows guys like me who believe most Hollywood product stinks, as well as most Madison Avenue product, to fast forward through commercials automatically. Such a device could be considered digital payback. So naturally those in Advertising are hiring their slickest attorneys to recast the nature of reality for some patient judges.

But there is another argument. That is that if consumers fast forward through commercials, it is because the commercials actually do stink. Therefore the solution is not to outlaw DVRs but to make better commercials. It must seem very difficult to imagine such a thing as a good commercial, but in fact there are such creatures. This one is likely to cause a scene for some time to come.

Although I like that argument, it does ratchet up the ante for the cost of commercials. One could envision a world where only the most powerful corporations can afford to advertise on television as market research shows only high concept, big dollar ads reach target audiences.

Marketing. Consumption. Can't we just have another kind of economy?

Posted by mbowen at 07:01 AM | TrackBack

June 09, 2003


I am pleased to report that there's a kid over at Brown University, which seems to be the brownest in the Ivy League, by the name of Edward Brooke IV. I am sure I would like to meet him someday. Thinking back a day when I was speaking about the poverty of imagination in things racial, Edward probably understands this implicitly.

You see, Edward's father has breast cancer. He is also about older than 80. He is also black. He is also a New Englander, a Republican and, get this, a former Senator. Not state senator, but US Senator representing the state of Massachusetts. This configuration of imponderables is a reality unlikely to be expressed in any popular fictions. So let us offer a moment of silence on that.

Posted by mbowen at 10:59 PM | TrackBack

Hand Tools

I've been thinking about the way I learned to wire basic electric circuits in light of learning of a colleague's recent headaches on the domestic front. It turns out that his sprinkler system is dysfunctional and not amenable to his tinkering. He's also fairly bad with electrician stuff too. Me, I'm bad at plumbing and aside from fixing the toilet float, I don't even try. The both of us are, of course, computer geniuses.

I find it interesting that we are not having an intellectual block. Neither of us think we're too stupid to do the work. What I think goes without saying is that we are accustomed to a standard we know we cannot accomplish. So we don't attempt to do what we know would be shoddy work.

How I wish this were so in the computer industry.

There is a lot to be said in defense of apprenticeship and I think it's about time somebody started teaching software that way. The more I code, the more I find that structured approaches to thinking about software are necessarily compromises. I am bending towards the German philosophy of design. The acknowledged master leads, the followers follow. In time, you become a master. However, if I were to build a school of programming, I think it would follow the model of the French chefs. You start by washing dishes.

I cannot imagine that a group of programmers who had been together for a decade couldn't master a specialty of computing. But it seems so unlikely to have such a team that I believe nobody considers it. Clear your mind then for a moment and fill it with the idea of a dedication approaching that of Steinway.

My children will be sick of computing and they will reject it probably. I will continue to be fascinated by steel. But some of us ought to live and breathe as programmers working as teams over decades. Great things could happen.

Posted by mbowen at 10:31 PM | TrackBack

Poor Little Rich Girl

If my instincts are correct, we are going to hear about the resurrection of Martha Stewart in about 4 years. She will be kinder, gentler and the world will come to understand how vicious prosecutors tried to make an example of her.

Posted by mbowen at 10:23 PM | TrackBack

Baby Bin Ladens

The Weather Underground apparently carried the torch for the Left some time ago. It's difficult to understand how these folks could have been motivated to such a radically mediocre degree. It's also difficult for me to accept how simpleminded those who would consider their efforts parallel with that of the Civil Rights Movement. I suspect that rich idiot whitefolks preferred to listen to their rich idiot children rather than those blackfolks truly involved in the Struggle. Amazing.

Posted by mbowen at 02:47 PM | TrackBack

The End of Blackness, Again

I believe that the last time I wrote about the end of blackness, it was prompted by a woman who didn't feel it. Now it comes from someone who felt it but now may be tired of it. Well, at least she's not blogging about it every day. She's somewhere else now.

Arguing that "blackness" is a concept that is rapidly losing its ability to predict or manipulate the political or social behavior of African Americans, Dickerson heralds the final phase of the Civil Rights Movement.

That idea brings me here.

I hear that the best R&B comes from overseas these days. I don't listen to much and so I don't miss good R&B. I suspect that anything that gets as good at India Irie without the histrionics would be good enough to hear out, but in fact these days I'm seeking out bluegrass. That's because I'm interested in soul music, and less with the commercial shit that distorts our ideas about intellectual property.

The problem with being black lies in the impoverished imagination. People expect something positive, something negative but always something definite. Few look at blackfolks and see anything, or exactly who they are. There are standards to prove or disprove and this is the problem. What do you do with the black man who can be anything?

Mr. Cheadle sees racial bias as part of the rough magic of Hollywood. "It's so subtle that people sometimes don't even recognize it," he said. "The sergeant or the police captain roles always tend to be played by a black guy, but if you raise the question, it's always like, `No, look, he's in a position of authority.' "

The problem isn't the lack of roles, Mr. Cheadle said. There are plenty of black cops and criminals and comic foils in movies. "It's the lack of well-drawn black characters," he said. "Complex leading roles for blacks are rare because the perception is that black films don't perform internationally, which means they can't get financing, which means they won't get made. Sometimes, I feel like the business isn't skewed toward my interests. I look at most of the films being made and think, `There's no heartbeat there.' "

There's a human out there which is impossible for us to see. Only when we go to the gutbucket of our own truth can we imagine our way out of it. It's going to be very difficult for there to be anything manufactured to satisfy the need for human truth. You see there's something out there called 'creativity' which is simply the product of boredom and money. I hear it in suburban dialects of middle-aged 20-somethings who still find it interesting to make literary references to Hanna-Barbera. I hear it in the voices of journalists who are stuck in a duality of reverence-objectivity vs irreverence-opinion. It walks around with comfortable shoes and insufficient numbers of blood relatives. How else to you explain this surfiet of gratuitous liberty?

The answer for me has been various forms of liberation theology and literature. Good fictions assist us in dealing with truth. We're more prepared. Blackness is becoming commercially construed into a bad fiction, and all the stupid arguments are about who owns the property. There's something fundamentally wrong with stuff like this:

It's amazing that once again we are being blocked out of the newest media
called the Internet. We weren't allowed to get into radio, television, and cable
until the boom was over. The Internet is the media in which African Americans
can have complete anonymity and operated an online business without being
left out. This time we have left ourselves out by supporting an electronic
minstrel show. We support black sites in name only (el b.i.n.o. sites) such as
BlackVoices which is wholly owned by the Tribune Company; Black Families by Cox
Communications; BlackPlanet.com by an Asian company; Soul City HBO by
AOL-Times/Warner and B.E.T. which is owned by Viacom. These sites are the most popular
"black" sites online and make millions of dollar from us, but not even one is
black owned and operated.
We must begin truly supporting black technology efforts in the same way we
cheer on our movies and athletic stars. If we don't, they'll end up having to do
the same
as other black web sites by getting assistance from elsewhere, thereby
losing the original flavor they have. IF you have, know of, or just would
like to get new sites join here http://groups.yahoo.com/group/blacksitesproject .

I am not going to Black myself into an organic revolt against this duplicity. I'm simply going to stand against it. There's not a generation of ethnics out there who are going to pickup the proper balls and run with them. It's going to come down to survival before people wake up out of their comfortable assumptions. The truth is not Jesus, so there is no John the Baptist doing advance work. People are going to have to stumble into it. It's going to take death and disease. It's going to take poverty and pestilence. The slip, the fall, the cracked hip. This is the sequence precluding the death of denial. This weekend I am regretting that I didn't want to be a doctor.

Since I am a writer, I'm just going to have to keep coming up with better fictions, more factual irreverence and that dimension of stuff. Listening to the right music will help. Thank goodness that there's still black music out there.

Posted by mbowen at 12:06 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 08, 2003

The Cage

The Cage is reserved for criminals against humanity. It is the death sentence handed down by the International Justice Tribunal and by First Initiative in free and fair elections in the liberated country. For some, there is no reconciliation their truth will bring them, only permanent exile from the human community.

When they are sentenced, the convicts are moved into the Cage. It will be newly fashioned for them, for the old Cages are not retrieved. It will bear their name on a plate. Perhaps they will share it with their fellows, perhaps not. But they will be shackled and they will wait for the parade.

The Parade of Expulsion will be the last time the convict will see human beings. They will line the streets and throw flowers, coins and kisses at the driver of the cart carrying the convict in his Cage. They will throw rotten fruits, vegetables, foul water and excrement at the Cage. They will jeer and taunt. They will kick him goodbye.

A robotic crane will lift each Cage onto a robotic ship. At the bow will be the raised platform onto which the Cages will be placed. The ship will take the convicts out beyond the boundaries of nations into the deep. As the land disappears behind them, they will be rid of humankind for good. The open ocean will be their final home, and they will be dumped.

Posted by mbowen at 06:29 PM | TrackBack

June 06, 2003

Mugabe Briefly

I have mentioned before that we should have Least Favored Nations and that the UN ought to approve, on a regular bases, the ouster of dictators - Baghdad style. Now is the time to add Zimbabwe to the list, not because of white farmers, which complicate and distort the West's view of real injustices there.

For the moment, the web has failed me in locating what I have written on Mugabe and Zimbabwe in the past when the issue first bubbled through the haze of western journalism, borne as it was on the wings of racial interests. I will search and re-report.

Posted by mbowen at 07:51 AM | TrackBack

June 05, 2003


"That's what boys are for."

It was overheard in reference to errand boy. It's true that we send our sons to fetch things. It occurs to me that this is deeply embedded in our culture. We send boys, sometimes to do a man's job, but always away for something. We expect them to come back with something, and doing so successfully we reward them with a nickel, or a pat on the head.

We want them not to get lost or wander off. We expect them to tell the truth and a story about their trip if they take too long. We expect them to use their wits if something goes awry on the trip. We expect them to bring back the correct change.

If he comes back with a bloody nose or a dirty shirt, we admire him if he delivered and rebuke him if he did not. Such is life as a boy.

We don't send girls as readily to the store for a loaf of bread or a box of nails. They stay in the house.

Posted by mbowen at 04:36 PM | TrackBack

June 04, 2003

Suzuka & Mugello

If you've wondered where Cobb has been the past few days, the answer is Japan and Italy racing motorcycles of course. Huh? Well, only virtually. I've been up until 3 in the AM racing with XBox Live friends via MotoGP2, one of the most intense gaming experiences ever.

If you should happen to think that is a weird thing for anyone to be doing, you may be right. On the other hand, there are about 13,500 of us doing this. My current rank after about 12 hours of racing is 7138. I'll let you know when I break into the next quartile.

Posted by mbowen at 06:17 PM | TrackBack

June 01, 2003

Hubris Shared, Gamer Style

I dig Halo, and I am sure that I will be a huge fan of Halo2. But there is a limit to the amount of fanatacism I can stomach, and this just about takes the cake. I know there are limits to interactivity on the net but is this somebody's idea of community?

Posted by mbowen at 08:47 PM | TrackBack

10,000 Opinions

Musing on the foibles of journalism took me in another direction earlier today. What would be enormously useful as an internet resource would be a compendium of opinions expressed by various political leaders on subjects of importance.

Somewhere between an historian's appreciation of a subject and a newspaper's daily reporting of an ongoing story, we could use something that gives some perspective on how leaders are likely to go on an issue. Of course it can't be predictive, but it seems to me that a good journalist would know how to ask the right questions in the right way and get straight answers for attribution.

This could and should be a part of a standing resource available free to the public. Our democracy could use it.

Just a thought.

Posted by mbowen at 08:25 PM | TrackBack

Once Again and Finally

This evening I suffered through another round of hand-wringing by some NPR weenie about The Jayson Blair Scandal.

At this moment I am convinced of two striking notions. The first is a rousing assent to the idea presented by David Brooks that journalists, by their proximity to important people with stories to tell, take themselves entirely too seriously. They are messengers. Hopefully the best kind, but now more than ever, their craft seems moribund. Not so much suspect, but behind the times in their ability to deliver the kind of information people need to make sense of the information people get.

In the case of Jayson Blair, the information people get is that the legendary standards of the Ye Grande Olde Profession of Journalism have been egregiously trampled and that a New Vigilance is forthcoming. The information we need is to know how many journalists get fired in any given year. We are not likely to find out. Not that I give a rats ass.

The second notion is the audacity of those people who had the nerve to assent to the racist backlash against Affirmative Action 'justified' by Blair's failure. This is one of those instances in which the blatant obscenity of the racism is so mindnumbing that it hasn't really hit me until this moment. A younger man would scour the web, hunt down and abuse all those cretins who took leave of their senses on this matter. As for me, I'm just trying to close off this post nicely.

In the end, Blair is just another asshole who screwed up on the job. How this became a story of national and blogopheric proportions has much to do with these two factors. My mind is now closed on the matter, and I hope never to have to think about it again.


Posted by mbowen at 08:17 PM | TrackBack

It's All Flavor

Count me among those who never read 'The Declining Significance of Race'. I don't know why I never got around to it, but in light of what I'm about to say, I can think of a good excuse. I knew it was all about flavor anyway.

When I first bit into the magic pill of Multiculturalism, I understood one thing at bottom. To quote Earth Wind and Fire in 'Running', "If you don't understand me, it's your fault." So the effort to change the canon and all that cultural combat was, from my perspective, an effort to get the Other Man to relate to the Brother Man. If John Smith too knew why the caged bird sings, then it would be all good. Race was a trope which attracted and continues to attract some interesting dialecticals. It was and is a good signifyer, but there is no there there, and who better to explain that than the offspring of New Orleans?

More seriously however, one thing that I figured was doomed, was the whole idea about comparing black to white with regard to certain demographic signifyers. On one of my curious journeys I found a book about Negro Life published just after the end of WW2. In it, there were mounds of comparative statistics categorized by race. What caught my attention was a section about the percentages of Negroes who capable of driving vehicles. There were breakdowns of blacks who did and did not drive, those who drove automatics vs. stick shifts and the percentages who had gained the distinction of being able to pilot multi-axled vehicles. Yes, it might sound strage, but there was a point in our nations history during which the fate of the race was measured in terms of the numbers of black truck drivers. I cannot get that image out of my head whenever I hear tell of a 'Digital Divide'.

If you haven't heard already, I have long ago decided that the Digital Divide is a bunch of hooey. People continue to be amazed that blackfolks do or don't use computers. Whenever my father weighed in on such issues, I enjoyed telling him that the Internet is for me and people like me, the rest of y'all can take the bus. This earned me a certain elitist reputation, which I didn't deserve but gladly accepted. The elite of the correct is always a good place to be, even if it sounds snobby. But it was Gwaltney who taught me not to second-guess blackfolk. If they wanted to be digital, then they would make it so. The evidence pointed towards the fact that they didn't want to be. Besides, anyone with half a brain would realize that a revolution in hiphop was happening. The cultural production happening outside of cyberspace was where the heat was for blackfolks.

That didn't preclude the infusion of flavor into cyberspace. There have always been blackfolks on the digital edge. Hell, there have always been blackfolks everywhere, but I digress. My assumption about black cyberspace was that we would be us without recognition, because as it always is the Other Man learns about the Brother Man, not from speaking directly, but through university research studies and surveys. So here are some excerpts for convincing those who don't know enough of the right blackfolks:

- 85% of online African Americans stated that an African
American centric news source would be very or somewhat
valuable to them;

- 43% of online African Americans access the Internet using
a broadband connection compared to 36% of the general online

- Among those Internet users who are not currently using a
broadband connection, African Americans are 27% more likely
to get a broadband connection within the next year than the
general online population;

- A majority of African Americans read online ads, and 46%
find them informative compared to 26% of the general

- African Americans are active online consumers, purchasing
more clothing/apparel online (48% vs. 41%) and more
music/videos (44% vs. 39%) than the general online market;

I am not thrilled by these statistics. They are only meaningful in the context of debunking or supporting racial myths. They seem entirely reasonable to me, but I do ask what's the point? If you take the trouble to survey race, you must have certainly surveyed geography, income and age. That would suggest that regionalisms, class and generations are somewhat determinate of African American choice; too much common sense in that. But of course this is all directed to the theory of the Digital Divide as a specie of Environmental Racism, a non-starter in today's political environment.

So, let it all be flavor. I hereby declare it open season on the marketing demographic of 'African American'. 99% of what seriously has to be said has all been said, and nobody cares anyway. So hell, license it all and let AOL have the revenue. Cheers to Dick Parsons, who had 'nothing' to do with it.

Posted by mbowen at 01:16 PM | TrackBack

I'm Thinking of Something Small and Orange

Finding Nemo is an outsized phenomenon. It's certainly a triumph of multiple dimensions, not the least of which is emotional. My kids are quoting its many memorable lines. It's by far the most technically advanced film of its kind. For the first time I can recall, it takes beauty shots for their own sake, and they are superb. The storytelling is so compelling that it's only halfway through when these beauty shots take center stage that you start noticing what a stunning achievment this is.

Water used to be the be all, end all impossible task of computer graphics. It has been done.

Posted by mbowen at 11:22 AM | TrackBack