November 28, 2003

I'm Sick

I've got the flu.

It's the first time I've been ill in years. I can't remember the last time I felt so miserable. The good news is that we've arranged to have the kids out for the weekend. The bad news is that the romantic weekend is ruined. Since I'm generally healthy, being ill is an odd thing. I've been abed all day, absorbing tea, honey, Day Quil and various episodes of Law & Order on TNT. I'm trying to accellerate the process of beating the germ by raising my body temperature. I don't have chills but I ache, drip and snot. I really want to kill this thing.

Anyway. That's the news from Lake Woebegone.

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November 27, 2003


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Musical Nostalgia & cetera

I'm putting together the music playlist for this afternoon. F8 was singing an old Blondie song, The Tide is High. Where did that come from? Suddenly I got a rush of old songs running through the old noggin.

Trivia Question: According to Deborah Harry, what kind of cars did the Man from Mars eat?

Then I jumped to Rod Stewart, Young Hearts Run Free Tonight. (Patty gave birth to a ten pound baby boy). I thought that I had a lot of music but I don't. I could be impulse buying myself into an early grave. But since I already have a574 songs that are entitled 'Track 1' (Curse you Gracenote, you flake), I should be organizing first.

Somebody asked the difference between Rap and Hiphop. When can rap not be hiphop? When it's 'They Might Be Giants'. When can hiphop not be rap? That's a lot easier, but the first thing that popped into my head was Propellerheads. It annoys me that they haven't had a second album and that they weren't featured in any subsequent Matrix films.

Speaking of which, I can swear that there is an extra bit of fighting in the Matrix Reloaded DVD which isn't on the bootleg (film version) when Neo takes on the multiplying Smiths for the first time. If I can get my laptop codec working, I'll check that. As predicted, the bonus reel in the 2 CD set is worth having, and I only watched the behind the scenes docu-trailer for the Freeway thing.

Cadillacs, Lincolns too, Mercuries and Subarus

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Bubble Boy Awards

The Bubble Boy Award is hereby initiated.

When in the course of human events it becomes necessary to handle humans so gently that their care and feeding requires extraordinary measures, times are desparate indeed. Our cushy bourgie democracy has created individuals of such mincing sensibilities that they are unable to sustain the merest suggestion of offense, disgrace, or physical discomfort. They are the Delicate.

But we are not without compassion. We have the technology to isolate them from all harm, and have been [ab]using it to that effect. Unfortunately we have chosen from the wrong arsenal. Instead of using the Law, we should have been using Bubble Technology. That's right, these people's distress cries out for hermetic isolation. We can put them in the perfect environment. Bubble Technology can create an antiseptic, hypoallergenic, distress-free, non-hostile work, play and living environment. No animals will be harmed. No meat will be consumed. No trees will be cut down. Nobody will be oppressed, stressed or have their hair messed. They'll be safe from us and we will be safe from them.

There are a variety of Bubbles for our candidates. For example there is a Wellness Bubble: The Wellness Bubble provides alternative/holistic/complimentary/integrative and preventative methods of healing: homeopathy, herbs, urine therapy, hydrotherapy, raw foods & juices, therapeutic fasts, healing clays, sunlight, thalassotherapy (seawater), nutrition, naturopathy, biomagnetics healing, aromatherapy, reiki healing, flower essences and more.

So let us put forth a strenuous effort to seek out those crying out for relief from the pains of the modern world and nomiate them for the Bubble Boy Award. Finalists will qualify for a gentle trip to Bubble Exile in our convenient Greenland facility.


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November 26, 2003

Driving Backwards

It's crap like this that make Californians initiative crazy. The latest news is that the original sponsor of SB 60 has 'worked out a deal' with the new S. administration in Sacramento to have his law repealed and re-introduced with some 'security' provisions.

In a victory statement, Sen. Rico Oller (R-San Andreas), author of the repeal, said the Senate "chose to do the right thing and repeal fundamentally flawed legislation that would have put California's safety at risk." Oller and others complained that the law failed to require sufficient security measures.

Earlier, Sen. Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles), the author of SB 60, set in motion the Democratic reversal when he announced his support for a Republican-crafted bill to repeal the license law, a move that Cedillo depicted as a tactical retreat rather than surrender.

"I'm placing my confidence and trust with the governor as we go through the process," Cedillo said before the Transportation Committee voted 9 to 2 to repeal the law.

The 'deal' is that the sponsor of the initiative to recall the recently passed law will drop his signature drive if the California Legislature reverses itself in a particularly spectacular way. According to the recent vote, which was unanimous to repeal the law, the Legislature apparently had no problem whatsoever in doing so.

I have a hard time accepting that the opposition to SB 60 wasn't a blood and soil thing. But it's interesting how the LAT, and probably all major media cover such matters. They talk about the strong opposition from Latino groups which is obviously a racial thing but it can't be portrayed as racial the other way. See?

At any rate, the number of documents that California drivers need to produce will presumeably increase from say 3 to 5 and the same class of immigrants will likely be covered by the renegotiated bill. What kills me is that the sponsor of the original SB 60 believes that he'll get a fair shake, because he really hasn't spoken at length with S. to preliminarily agree on what provisions should be and should not be in the new proposed bill. That's a lot of faith.

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November 25, 2003

Shelf #2

It was harder than I thought it would be to get that entire shelf in frame. So here is the second in a series. I find it interesting in looking at these books how much they are and aren't integrated into my personality. I attend them with a passion which isn't quite matched with my ability and willingness to talk about them at length. Perhaps this is the greatest problem with autodidacticism. Books end up like musical recordings, enjoyed in solitude.

On the left side is the great Cryptonomicon. This is singly the most enjoyable gifts I ever recieved. Thanks Lee. I'm so glad you told me about it. It is a book for bitheads like me. It unseated the previous chamption, Foucault's Pendulum. C'mon admit it, haven't you at one time named one of your computers Abulafia?

Third from the left is, in my opinion, the most insightful treatise on the nature of American popular and commercial culture of the 20th century. While the whole world is spitting out aphorisms of McLuhan, he really didn't understand things the way Marshall Blonsky does. American Mythologies is crucial. Unfortunately when I wrote him.. well, that's another story. Suffice it to say that between Eco and Blonsky, I was a hair's breadth away from dropping CS and studying philosophy and semiotics at the New School. Now there's your context for Boohab.

Next are the obvious, Metamagical Themas and De Lillo's Underworld. They are primarily there because this is the shelf for big books, but also because I loved those two particularly. The Norton Anthology of African American Literature is not as much fun as I thought it would be, primarily because, like its neighbor The African American Book of Values, not much of it is readable to the children. But I don't see how any black family could be without both of them. Note to self, find that Gwendolyn Brook poem about revolution.

Gore Vidal's United States used to be right next to David Halberstam's The Fifties. Suddenly, I lost interest in American History and have barely cracked the two of them. Instead Jacques Barzun has won out with his broader scope, Dawn to Decadence.

I can't remember much of anything I read from Gina Dent's Black Popular Culture when I got it back in my Brooklyn days. But Andrew Hacker's Money comes in handy quite often. Cultural Literacy, I just picked up again recently. I find it especially useful in Dad's Trivia Questions with the kids. Right next to it is Cecil Adams' classic The Straight Dope, and my invaluable reference to those Liberal Arts, An Incomplete Education. I hear there's a second edition.

Back to back are Michael Heim's Metaphysics of Virtual Reality and Howard Rheingold's The Virtual Community. I should have those next to Ed Krol's The Whole Internet, but my copy is deeply buried somewhere in the garage.

The last few volumes are very legible in the photo. The Cornel West Reader was a gift from Pops. I've taken Cornel down a notch or two and so I haven't cracked it. I really want to see his dealy with Chekov and Coltrane. Next to it however was the book of West's that set me on ear: The American Evasion of Philosophy. As Dean Esmay says, we're all Liberals if we know what we're talking about, and this book proves it.

Karen Armstrong's thin volume on Buddha is very valuable to me. The last one you can't see is Stanley Crouch's Notes of a Hanging Judge. This includes the essay where he compared Spike Lee to John Wayne Gacy. I remember my giggly enthusiasm when this book came out. I wonder if there is any more writing like this done today. Hmm.

Anyway, that's my top shelf in the big hallway bookcase.

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A Light Rant on MDX & MSAS

MSAS seems to have been designed with no applications in particular in mind. Rather as a platform to be all things to all people. A little bit of everything with an emphasis on ubiquity. I haven't had the opportunity to see it evolve, but I see what it has become and what it is.

The great difficulty in the OLAP wars is a dearth of developers. There are very few people who have learned and mastered it subtleties. What strikes me as particularly true is how mindful the Microsoft designers have been about this fact. They have designed a multidimensional query language with all the earmarks of being strictly utilitarian which is to say without the grace of having a clear purpose in mind. Therefore it is graceless and clunky. With enough force however, it appears that it can be made to do any number of things, and those things it cannot accomplish it leaves to the infinite scope of the Microsoft world.

So it is the visual basic or ASP or dot net or Transact SQL programmer who is most encouraged by this fact, not the current expert business intelligence professional. Thought we have struggled with the arcane languages and odd APIs our entire careers it is with some disdain that we approach the tortured syntax of MDX.

The learning curve of MDX is legendarily steep. Apparently it takes at least a year to master. This means that inevitably, one's first project is doomed to simplicity if not a worse fate. Even an old pro such as myself is daunted by MDX, mostly because it is overloaded.

In some ways it can be said that MDX is a developer's dream. It is not only a query language, but a procedural and control language. It can control with certain extensions, not only the content but the format of the content. It's probably larger than it needs to be and since it controls so much, the tools that employ it must.

The stalwarts at ProClarity have excelled at and mastered nothing so much as the parsing of this beastly tongue, and as such parsers struggle mightily with those of us who are sloppy with syntax. Their VP of R&D hosts a puzzle page. MDX simply invites verbose solutions to simply problems. It's codey. Therefore there is much to parse and much to learn with probably some pitfalls. We’ll see.

I’ve got Spofford’s book and am getting into these matters more closely. Let’s see how right I am a year from today.

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An Old School Reading List

Dr. Spence has been producing rather prodigiously over at Vision Circle, putting me to shame a bit. Today, he has batted one out of the park by producing a list of core texts. It's something that's needed. I'll put a few here but you should really take note of his list of Basics.

Cobb's Old School Classics (abridged)

  • Captain Blackman - John A. Williams
  • Integrity - Stephen A. Carter
  • Cane - Jean Toomer
  • A Gathering of Old Men - Ernest Gaines
  • Drylongso -John Langston Gwaltney
  • The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man - James Weldon Johnson
  • The Man Who Lived Underground - Richard Wright
  • A Raisin in the Sun - Lorraine Hansberry
  • In Search of Our Mother's Gardens - Alice Walker

I feel a little bit sheepish about going through a big list of books because I know what kinds of arguments such things bring forth. I can hardly be unbiased in such matters because my level of critical evaluation of these works is not comparitive. So I'll just say these ought to be in your library. Which reminds me that I should do my next bookshelf.

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Simplicity Itself

The Kwaku Network, AfroFuturist stream, is going through some tremors with regard to some advanced cultural production. I don't believe I've seen such dense paragraphs since I read the IBM Redbook for the LU 6.2 standard. Some people would venture to call it post-modern drivel, but I've been accused of that and I wouldn't wish such an angry barb at such high minded people no matter how much they deserve it.

I'd give you a dose, but the list is private.

Every once in a while they don't bury the lede in jargon. This is great because it saves precious minutes and several wrinkles in my forehead. A recent one went something like this "Starve the Prison Industrial Complex". See? Simple. I like it. Here's the Old School Version:

Don't Break The Law!

And here's my real world story, just in case y'all think I'm channelling Nancy Reagan.

BTW, sometimes the post-modern boo boo text sounds like nothing so much as Jon Hendricks Boppin' at the Blue Note. The verbal virtuosity is stunning, but it really doesn't mean anything.

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Whose Word of God?

Introducing the new category 'Matters of the Spirit', I will dare venture into the worlds of God. I'm kinda sick of the obsession over Iraq and all that warblog meme.

Anyway Rik provokes:

I ask you, how on earth could God so radically change his mind on this topic? most likely not because the bible repeatedly points to the eternity of God's word. Everyone knows that the bible is there partly to check on whether the spritit truely spoke to you or that you are subconsciously making something up.

I've studied the bible under different folks, so I believe that I have a materially different understanding about religion, faith, spirituality than the average bear.

I went to Catholic School with the Columbans for middle school and audited the Catechism class. I knew all the prayers and all the material as well as anyone, but I wasn't allowed to participate in First Communion. I can't say that I was entirely disappointed, but I was entirely excluded. At the same time I was a regular attendee with my mother at the Foursquare Church. I'm sure that membership had everything to do with it. These are the Holy Ghost, speaking in tongues, pentacostal evangelists. And yes I have watched my own mother hold a sign saying 'The End is Near'. I've heard more fire and brimstone preaching than most folks. I went to highschool at a Jesuit all boys prep school where courses in religion were required. We deconstructed the Pentatuch and lexically analyzed the different authors of Genesis. My favorite class however was 'Saul to Paul'. I decided, in the end, to attend Confirmation classes, be baptized and confirmed into the Episcopal Church at the age of 16, having been a page at the Episcopalian Convention, sung in the youth choir at the Cathedral (solo actually) and been a camp counselor at Episcopal Camp Stevens in San Deigo County. These days, I spend most of my time in church with Baptists (go figure).

So I have always been a thinking person when it comes to religion. I had not simply inherited something and never questioned it, or simply rejected the idea of God because of one (or fifty) bad experience(s).

That said, I think that ones experience of God is ever personal and ever evolving, and that it is altogether too simple to suggest that my experience or any sigular experience as a Christian is or should be defining. I think that is exactly where people are making mistakes about the bishop. I believe that a particular strength of Christianity is its ecumenical nature as contrasted to Judaism or Islam. But certainly there are some sects of Christians who believe entirely different, that a varying interpretation of scripture is a weakness.

Understand, however that from my perspective the major difference of Christianity is the example and the words of Christ. In the life of Christ we are 'living members'. I don't know how else to explain it other than by the understanding that Christ himself was at odds with the Scribes and the Pharisees who were the leaders of the church of the God of Abraham. What I'm saying is that Jesus himself had issues with the Bible thumping fundamentalists of His day. What he specifically didn't do in his ministry was to go around telling people how they were living in contradiction to the written word of God. And this more than anything angered the church leaders of his time, and they sought to trap him with trick questions about religious law. His commandment was about Love. Jesus wasn't a scold, and it is my belief that our calling to be Christlike does not also require us to scold, rather it calls us to Do Right.

But that's simply on the personal level. The duty of the Church is a different matter. I would simply say this. The purpose of the Christian Church is to maintain a community in Christ. It is the collective body of the living members and through its various ministries reminds us of our committments and houses us and protects us in our faithful lives. Where I take issue with the Catholic Church is in how its formalism constrains the behavior of its members. There's not an easy way to describe this, but the mechanistic way in which it deals with sin & confession presumes too much of its understanding of sin. In short, the Catholic Church has a 'banking' approach to sin, confession, repentence & redemption with I think is too easily abused and corrupted.

It's true and quite possible that any sect of Christianity could get away from the 'true message of the Bible' or the meaning of the Life of Christ. But if there is a bigger sin, surely it's the latter.

Let me say this and then I'll quit for the moment. The Bible wasn't written in English. The one man I've met who has studied the Bible harder than anyone - to the point at which in his professional life you get one drink in him and he starts in on Biblical Interpretation is my touchstone on this. He essentially taught himself Latin and finally Hebrew in order to read other translations of the Bible. Myself, I'm a King James man although I can deal with the Revised Standard Version. Neither of these satisfied my man Kevin M. So he ended up studying with a Kabbalist rabbi and said that in his entire life he never truly understood the scriptures until then. It gave him a tremendous amount of respect for Judaism and Orthodox Jews in general.

So if you are not going to go and translate the Bible for yourself, there is a great deal of lattitude you have to give your sect in its interpretation. I'm willing to do that for the Episcopal Church having attended all different kinds of Christian churches in my life.

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November 24, 2003

Quad A Intelligence

In Derrick Bell's Faces at the Bottom of the Well, Bell proposes a couple interesting ideas with respect to America and Race. One of them is the idea that there would be an underground militant organization of whitefolks dedicated to the eradication of white supremacy. Bell asks if blacks would support such an organization. It seemed to be a no-brainer for me. Of course I would. And since I read the book over a decade ago, I've met at least one individual that I know would get my back to death. He had a tatoo of John Brown on his beefy bicep and we spent a moment of silence on top of the hill where Owen Brown is buried in Altadena, CA.

Now I know that the guys over at SPLC are a great deal more modest than my homie. Hell, back in the days when all search engine queries to SPLC wound up on my website, they were having difficulty using the term 'anti-racist'. But the SPLC's web presence has definitely improved, and I'm pleased to report that they have some fairly serious intel. Check it.

Good work Noah, if you're still around.

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Foolish Banking

Do you remember me? I was the wet blanket during the dot com boom. I was the one who was saying that The Motley Fool was adept at catching fools. I was the guy who was repeating the old quote that when shoeshine boys are giving out stock tips, it was time to get out of the market. I was the guy who got booed at Amazon because I wrote the following review of Secrets of the Street: The Dark Side of Making Money:

Fortunately I read this book before dot com fever took over the world, and although I have participated in buying into a few IPOs I've done so wisely thanks to Marcial. If more people understood what appears to be common sense on Wall Street, there would be fewer investors willing to call themselves Fools with pride.

In time, this book and others like it will become the lingua franca of a sobered investing public. These days it seems like only a sober few know. I'm glad I do.

So my new pal Rob tells me a story of a business that was grown to 200 million in revenues over a ten year period that some web company paid 500 million for. The buyer, some 24 year old kid, was made CEO of the company. He convinced bankers to front the entire 500 million. He sprinkled on some dot com fairy dust and flew around to the likes of Barry Diller and others in the movie industry and says, you better buy me out or I'm going to run you into the ground.

The movie companies didn't spit in his face, they spit into a time machine that held the gob in suspended animation for six months. Apparently, the bank wanted its money back in six months. (Now how did the movie companies find that out?). In that time, the brilliant 24 year old ran the business straight into the crapper, but not before paying himself a one million dollar bonus.

There is no moral to this story other than this. If you're not a highly skilled worker, you'd better work for a publicly traded company. That's the only way you know your boss's boss's boss isn't screwing you royally. The notable exceptions being Enron, Worldcom et al. I learned that moral a decade ago when the private company I worked for got bought and my hundreds of stock options turned out to be worth dozens of Happy Meals. What's making me raise my eyebrows on this, thanks to Rob's prodding, was what were the bankers thinking?

You see a lot of piss and vinegar gets thrown into the air about corrupt companies and all that yada that disappointed Marxists tell us. And as often as I get upset that managers of all sorts demonstrate their gross incompetence time after time, what really galls me is how it is that those yokel CEOs get the banks to pony up the dough? How do you get a half billion dollar loan when you're 24 years old?

Somebody is going to explain to me someday how I can work bankers, but for the moment they seem to be a distant and incomprehensible breed. But now that I know that they are subject to enthusiasm, I feel there's hope.

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November 23, 2003

God As The Coolest

I am succumbing to the siren of the Apple Music Store. It's starting to replace Amazon as the place where I look to find the names of tracks on albums I'm interested in. The songs are sitting right there. I could buy them. Easy. I found that I can (well the pull-down says I can) convert AAC files to MP3s and not strand them in a proprietary format. So I bought an old Isley Brothers song.

This morning I found myself looking for another song. I only have the Weird Al version 'What If God Smoked Cannabis', and it occured to me on this morning of recieving a polite comment in support of Gene Robinson's ordination, that I might consider that very question. What if God was the coolest person you ever met? Why wouldn't he be?

Extend your belief for a moment through the divinations and elevations of the Church. Let's take a journey. First of all, is it possible? Back up to a particular heresy resolved by the Council of Nicea:

When Constantine defeated Emperor Licinius in 323 AD he ended the persecutions against the Christian church. Shortly afterwards Christians faced a trouble from within: the Arian controversy began and threatened to divide the church. The problem began in Alexandria, it started as a debate between the bishop Alexander and the presbyter (pastor, or priest) Arius. Arius proposed that if the Father begat the Son, the latter must have had a beginning, that there was a time when he was not, and that his substance was from nothing like the rest of creation. The Council of Nicea, a gathering similar to the one described in Acts 15:4-22, condemned the beliefs of Arius and wrote the first version of the now famous creed proclaiming that the Son was "one in being with the Father" by use of the Greek word "homoousius."

So we'd have to get over the idea of Jesus as a perfect human, he wasn't. He'd be a manifestation of God, God instantiated into human form, like Agent Smith into Bane. Understanding what there was to understand about the symbology of Jesus as the perfect sacrifice, he'd be sinless. That alone would be his perfection, he needn't have perfect hair or perfectly shaped legs. He'd just need to be without sin.

If Jesus was to found a church, he'd have to be persuasive. He'd not be condescending to us, but always have something worth listening to, and most importantly on the big questions, he'd be right. If Christ was anything, he was the original man of the people. He lived among and ministered to the sick, the friendless and the needy. You do this as a cool person.

It doesn't seem concievable that a human that doesn't have sex at all would speak to the whole of our hearts. While it's certainly possible to have a religion or spiritual doctrine that is silent on sexuality per se (when you think about it, there isn't much overt discussion of sexual ethics on Sunday mornings), doesn't it make sense that we'd hear more than mere interpretation?

I'm not going to take this much further, but I think it's a good idea to consider afresh what kind of anthropomorphism we accept. Are we humans such a bad judge of human character that we are willing always and everywhere to believe in an authoritarian God? If so, this is probably not a good place and time to live in.

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A Few Facts

The CEOs of these three companies are just trying to keep up with the Waltons. Their combined operating profits have gone up 91% in the past five years...but Wal-Mart’s have gone up even more. Good lord — when is enough enough? At what price profits???

Please note that the supermarket business has some of the slimmest profit margins of any business. If the profit margin of a supermarket chain went up 91% over a space of several years, it means it probably went from 2% to 3.9%

Here are the facts for Safeway. Their profits are declining year over year.

Kroger is improving.

Albertson's profits are declining as well.

Posted by mbowen at 08:01 PM | TrackBack

The Old

I'm reading Dickens these days having just finished Dan Brown's 'The Da Vinci Code'. This particular Dickens is 'Great Expectations'.

This is part of my standard recovery process, but I am accellerating it. Having decided that nothing new under the sun is worth long watching is part of my official acknowledgement of middle age. I'm making sense of all the stuff for which I had no patience when I needed to get out and see the world. All those concertos I barely recognized, I am now really getting to know. Same with rock and now, old standards of English Lit.

What is middle age though? I'm certainly an old man by Dickensian standards, not halfway through my 40s but too gray to fake anything much younger.

Last week, I watched a great deal of MTV. More than 3 hours if I remember correctly. As Doc and I were talking this afternoon, I tried to convince him that the reason young people are so stupid with regard to cultural literacy is because they have their own culture. Scarier still, MTV's dramas are good. It is actually an interesting bit of human drama to watch some kid try to be 'made' into a drill team dancer. It's great fun saying young people are stupid but it's another thing altogether to take MTV seriously for a moment. I mean what do you say about people who get their news from somebody named Sway?

Anyway, on this astral plane over here, I find it a real blast to recognize a good 80-90% of Hirsch's Appendix. When the blogging muse gets moody and distant, I'll pop over to the bookshelf and pick a goody from Cultural Literacy. In the meantime, I'm trying to figure out what's up with Miss Havisham.

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Maxwell, Old School

Bill Maxwell over in St. Petersberg echoes some sentiments expressed over here at Cobb. I haven't paid much attention to mainstream columnists on Old School issues as columnists. So At this point I think it makes sense to start keeping score.

Now, to the essential point of this column: We - African-Americans - should strive to be admired for all the right reasons. I obsess over who we are as a people, about how we fit into a nation that continues to treat us as outsiders after all this time. I obsess over our survival. Sure, we will survive like everyone else. But what will be the status of our collective health in another 100 years, or 50 years even?

These are questions I ponder daily. I have convinced myself that the time has come for mature African-Americans to redefine black culture. Mature blacks must wrest back from the Sapps and Tupacs the values that sustained our people during the long years when de facto and de jure practices guaranteed our third-class citizenship.

Maxwell appears to have a few years on me and by this graf expresses some reasonable skepticism on black identity. I grew up black and so was given no reason to believe that any second-class status was every deserved. There was never a Negro in my head which said 'Earn your respect, boy'. It was always about pleasing my family which was tougher on me than whites (whom I didn't know growing up) were.

Be that as it may, Maxwell hits the right note in recognition of the many younger African Americans whose families were not tough enough on them to insist on working twice as hard and other Old School Values. One couldn't expect much of popular culture either, and while I'm confident that the HBCUs are doing their share, it's not quite enough. And so folks like myself and Maxwell speak up.

I am halfway to naming the holy triumvirate of the Old School in the persons of Stanley Crouch, Wynton Marsalis and Albert Murray, but I don't want to speak too soon. As I cogitate on intellectual leaders etcetera, I don't want to begin ordaining 'black leaders'. As I do the 'Old School, Not Old School' I am likely to run into several strands. But, as they said in '12 Angry Men', let's throw it out on the stoop and see if the cat licks it up.

Maxwell is Old School. That's a good thing. Who else is out there?

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Boise, The Hood

If I wasn't such an extremist, I think I'd move to Boise. You see, it has all the charm of Seattle without the traffic. It has all the snow of Denver but it stays in the mountains. It has all the seasons, the major vendors, and wireless internet access at the major hotels. What more could you ask for?

Market share.

Boise is just not large in any way other than the sky. That's not a bad thing, it just doesn't have the hook. The biggest problem with Boise seems to be should we grow it or not? Boise, as a 'big city' resembles nothing so much as Austin before the semiconductor boom. VCs are scoping it out and suggesting that the state coordinate its spending at Idaho universities so as to maximize the education & research potential needed for the phenomenal growth. Folks from Los Angeles like me come to Boise and see it as a very cool secret. All it needs is two more big businesses and then...

But Boise is fine as it is. There's a very walkable downtown with 'wheels up zones' painted on the curb ramps although I saw nobody younger than 21 all week. I got a chance to dig most of the more popular restaurants, especially Zutto the sushi joint and Cottonwood just off the river. I also had a great steak sandwich over at Bitter Creek and some excellent fried oysters at Bardenay. The Zutto sushi was only average but the ambience of the place was very West LA. Cottonwood wins the award however. Great service, a big elegant ski lodgy
feel and a truly superb seafood pasta.

In Boise, you can get 4 or 5 acres and a two story house for 250,000. In many ways, that's all that needs to be said.


It's an attractive place and I never found anything backwards about it, although one could hardly call it a multicultural mecca. But since I prefer the northwesty mountain ethic, it's a bit less neutral than any lack of racial diversity would imply. All folks who go for four wheel drives and snow sports are cool with me, OK well most folks.

If you get up there, check out the Games & Books, and have a homebrew gin martini at Bardenay. Get your butt in a seat at the fabulously restored Egyptian Theatre and have a beer at the Red Feather. After you do that, get to know some folks. I didn't have enough time.

Posted by mbowen at 08:57 AM | TrackBack

November 22, 2003


Posted by mbowen at 08:33 AM | TrackBack

Holy Smokes

The Pew Forum is a goldmine of information on the opinions of Americans. Remember those polls which showed things like half of highschool seniors couldn't identify North America on a globe? Hold on to your hats.

White evangelical Protestants are by far the most likely to believe that Israel was given to the Jews by God and that it fulfills a biblical prophesy of the second coming. Fully seven-in-ten white evangelicals (72%) say Israel was given to the Jews by God, a figure that rises to 77% among those evangelicals with a high degree of religious commitment. Fewer than half as many white Catholics (33%) and mainline Protestants (31%) agree.

My original search was about Gay Marriage, the topic of the week. There's some interesting factiodia there as well. This is much better news for civil libertarians. The opposition is softening up. 189-22GM.gif

The issue of gay marriage recently returned to the public's agenda after the Supreme Court overturned a Texas anti-sodomy law and enunciated what many observers believe is a broad prohibition against government regulation of private sexual behavior. While a majority of the public continues to oppose gay marriage, support has been gradually building over the past few years and the intensity of the opposition has been declining. Overall, 53% say they oppose allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally, while 38% favor the idea. But support is up from 27% in 1996, and strong opposition now stands at 30%, down from 41% in 1996.

There is a growing gap of opinion on this issue along racial and religious lines. Opposition to gay marriage is widespread among white evangelical Protestants and blacks, and opinion within these groups has changed little over the past seven years. White evangelicals remain the most firmly opposed on this issue: 84% opposed it in 1996, 83% do so now. And opposition among African-Americans is also unchanged (65% opposed gay marriage in 1996, 64% today).

By comparison, seculars, white Catholics, white mainline Protestants, and Hispanics have become increasingly open to the idea of legalized gay and lesbian marriage. Opposition to gay marriage among white mainline Protestants dropped from 63% seven years ago to 44% today. White Catholic opposition also dropped 19 points (from 60% to 41%) over this same time period. Even among seculars, who were more supportive of gay marriage than most other groups in 1996, there is less opposition today: 46% opposed gay marriage in 1996, compared with only 30% who do so now. And while most Hispanics (54%) oppose gay marriage, this is somewhat lower than in 1996 (64%)

Posted by mbowen at 08:18 AM | TrackBack

November 21, 2003


Right now on my headphones is 'Jam', the Michael Jackson song from the early 90s. It's still a jammin' song, and I can still see Michael Jordan and Heavy D in the video of my mind. Last week I played F6 (soon to be F7) in an XBox game of NBA 2K2. We still like to play as the Lakers and the Kobe character still sinks 3 pointers as well as ever. People everywhere still remember Ronald Reagan the way they want to, CBS be damned. What's going on here? Have we all lost our senses of dignity?


We are resisting erasure. While we witness what is effectually a blitz of questioning what was unquestioned, popular interpretation of history is being put back into the realm of subversive speculation. And yet there are emotional memories associated with these men which will not be subjected to the latest foofarah. They are part of us in a way that cannot be touched, and that's a good thing.

The mediasphere is actively edited. Like blurred logos in an MTV video, editors decide according to commercial, legal and sometimes ethical concerns what is presented and what is hidden. As popular sensibilities change.

Speaking specifically of Michael Jackson, there has never been such a moment as when he performed 'Billy Jean' at the Motown's 25th Anniversary Show in 1983. It was the introduction of the Moonwalk to the world, and the world froze with its mouth open. More than anything else, Michael Jackson danced. There has never been nor will there ever be such an electrifying dancer as he. He would demonstrate this numerous times in subsequent years, indelibly.

It's possible to forget Jackson, Bryant and Reagan in their finest moments. There will always be those who never caught the fever, those with no emotional attachment to their accomplishments, those who shared no joy at their triumphs. Such people will always be subject to the whims of those who will edit out their finest moments only to portray them in shame, incapacity and misery.

What will you remember?

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Professionally Speaking

Somebody asked me what I do to put food on the table. I answered 'BI'. They asked what's BI?

Business Intelligence is the 'connecting the dots' software & practices that companies spend many millions on annually. It represents pretty much the leading edge of the art in terms of building systems that answer common sense and not so common sense questions about the numerical data that companies have.

Imagine that poster where a monkey evolves to a man. If you have to call Joe in accounting and he says he'll mail you a spreadsheet next week, you're the monkey. If you have set of spreadsheets that are already in a folder that you can get yourself, you're a chimp. If you have some kind of system where you can have a standard report that you can get to, then you're walking upright, but still Cro-Magnon. If you have an interactive system that you can query and get an answer in a few minutes, then you're Neanderthal. If you have a web based system that can tell you about any number in any of your company's books that's as fast as Google, then you're modern. If you have all that and a system that's predictive in real-time and notifies you without having to ask, then you're state of the art.

Most of the Fortune 500 is Neanderthal. I make a living evolving these brutes. But during lean times, companies don't spend on IT, they call Joe in accounting.

I've been in the business for a long time and I am continually amazed at what companies don't know about themselves. Examples would be illustrated by the kinds of projects I've worked on in the past two years.

A. Before I worked there, Cingular Wireless could not tell you how much profit came from each of their retail stores.

B. Before I worked there, Kaiser Permanente could not tell you how many hours their 30,000 IT workers were billing before the bills arrived.

C. Before I worked there, Mattel couldn't tell you in US dollars how much revenue their overseas toy sales were until 45 days were up.

D. Before I worked there, Nissan USA took 35 days to close their international books, now it takes 6 days.

Probably the biggest impact BI has had on the public consciousness is that now, everybody knows the economic importance of how well movies do on their opening weekends. Studios are now experimenting with things like simultaneous releases of films internationally (like Matrix3) because they can now model the effect of piracy, distribution, 'ultimate' asset valuation, merchandising etc., with BI systems and tools.

Posted by mbowen at 05:53 AM | TrackBack

November 20, 2003

Big Deal

Posted by mbowen at 05:24 PM | TrackBack

No Clues for the Clueless

This article from the CS Monitor demonstrates a clear lack of common sense. I have no idea how that is, but the results are clear. You wonder what kind of rolodexes such people maintain.

Posted by mbowen at 05:17 PM | TrackBack

The Beauty of MSAS

Today's class got us into the arcane art of dimension building with MSAS. Imagine my surprise when I find that they have a dimension type of Bill of Materials. In all of the seven years I have been building databases with Essbase, that was the only aggregation problem that I couldn't solve. With Analysis Services, it's handled very sweetly as an attribute of parent-child builds. Not only that, you can eyeball aggregations just in the dev studio just to make sure.

I am also finding it rather nice to see that there aren't many features and terms which aren't easily translatable into both worlds. You really have to know something about the internals of each package to realize whether or not you are getting an equivalent feature. So I am seeing why much of the arguments for or against each gets deeply into the 'that depends' category.

What I have yet to see is how MDX plays into matters of customization, and of course I have yet to deal with any complex calculations. That comes tomorrow. So far, so good.

It is worth noting that one doesn't seem quite as much in control of what is stored vs calculated on the fly without the extensive use of partitions in MSAS. What effect partitions have on accuracy (I've heard there is some) and complexity have yet to be determined. But it is nice that one may, ahead of time, estimate the percentage of the database that is aggregated. What I've seen in laptop size databases is no indication and most everyone concedes that Essbase is a faster and more powerful aggregator but it is hard to argue with the possibilities of remote partitions accessed through OLE DB.

Posted by mbowen at 03:56 PM | TrackBack

The Agony of DTS

I've always like DTS. That's because I've only ever had to use it for fairly simple tasks. If I needed triggers and multiple conditional operations and whatnot, I've hand coded it in ksh or Perl. I've also had the protection of the Rules Editor for Essbase that allows me to visually program column joins, appends, substitutions, splits and order rearrangements. Those days are gone. I'm going to have to make DTS do some heavy lifting.

In order to manage the metadata for dimension builds and data loads into Analysis Services cubes, DTS is going to be the master of all tasks. I started some of that work yesterday in class. Can you say tedium? At first, I was just giggling at the kind of billing I'm going to be able to do because such things will take so much time. And yet I heard others griping with more experience doing certain things with SQL Stored Procedures. Is it just me or does passing parameters to a query language and then debugging it with breakpoints sound like a perversion? I suppose if it's going to be a language, one might as well, but I've been doing query stuff through APIs for the past seven years, and doing my ETL through hand coding. A double reversal.

The good news is that DTS itself is supposed to be transformed with the arrival of Yukon. They are actually going after Informatica, Sagent and Ascential. That's all good as far as I'm concerned. It can only get better.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to figure out how to encapsulate Perl into its processes, you know what I mean?

Posted by mbowen at 07:37 AM | TrackBack

The Road to Redmond

I'm embarking on a change in direction away from perfection towards the economics of the light manufacturing and mass production. Instead of crafting the biggest, best most efficient, cutting edge and brilliant products, I'm going to build things with Microsoft tools that work.

This means I have to put .NET, C# and SQL Server at the center of my universe and start learning how to use them. In some ways this is like a midlife crisis as well as a crisis of confidence in the thought processes of corporate IT. Whatever. The decision is made and I'll chronicle the journey here and over at, my technical site.

Even though the enterprises I'll be working with will be smaller, I'll still call it enterprise computing. Furthermore I'll be a bit more enterprising. Let's see if I get squashed in the process.

Posted by mbowen at 07:28 AM | TrackBack

November 19, 2003

I'm Flattered But

Posted by mbowen at 10:27 PM | TrackBack

Fox at the Bar

My new pal Rob and I have been having drinks every night this week. We meet at his hotel and swap stories. This and last evening, we have been forced to watch Fox News at the only TV in the joint. It's horrid.

Now I'm the guy who gave up watching network news when Peter Jennings replaced Max Robinson. I was a News Hour devotee until the duo split up, then I went semi-regular. By the time Cokie Roberts, Charlene Hunter-Gault and David Gergen left, there was no reason for me to watch. Which only left Brian Lamb and Charlie Rose to shoulder all the weight of TV. Now for a short time, especially while I spent time on the road I was a junkie of CNBC, specifically Squawk Box which I still watch whenever I'm on the East Coast, and Kudlow & Kramer which I watch whenever I'm too broke to watch Spectravision and there's no good book or blogging to do.

So sitting for 15 minutes in front of Fox News, especially these two nights with this wall to wall coverage of Gay Marriages and the End of America as we Know It and the Arrest of Michael Jackson and the End of America as we Know It, has been painfully unbearable. I understand what Fox does. It makes you sick and unnerved. It's the mentally upscale equivalent of the local news that leads with blood, instead Fox leads with moral outrage. Outrage sells better than Fear. While that may give the average info consumer a bit of smug satisfaction as compared to the local news, it still turns my stomach, even after two martinis.

Posted by mbowen at 09:50 PM | TrackBack

Flip It & Reverse It

In the past few weeks I've met a couple of extraordinary cats who are helping me rearrange my world.

In the big discussion with David last week vis a vis The Dirty Little Secret, one of the things that came up was the ambition of black MBA candidates. It's an old argument because it came up in the wake of the LA Riots. My generation wanted the corporate life. This is a very important thing when you consider class interests, integration and racial identity. The bottom line argument is that nobody from the hood ever wanted to earn their business degree to own a 7-11 or a grocery store. So the young, gifted and black were never interested in being measly merchants, they had their eyes on a more mainstream prize. In the 80s, Corporate America was the Promised Land. And back in those days you heard, if you were listening, hushed and reverent voices of millions of young blackfolks talking about Corporate America. When you get a chance, rent Boomerang or Strictly Business. This was what we were all hyped up on, no question. So a lot of us have been there, and done that. I know I have.

What you'll probably hear from the Jill Nelson's of the world, and I don't mean to suggest that she's wrong - just not isolated, is that there is a glass cieling and dealing with it is a royal pain. We are driven to be first blacks, but baby the thrill is gone. So there's a few ways to go. One is the way I think of my girl T who moves and shakes over at Toyota. It is the very respectable "I'm just a poor black child from the hood; look at me now - American Dream." Straight middle class integration with dignity, respect and pride. 70k/year ain't hay. So you go girl. The second way is, the the way of my boy DF. DF is what I would call a nouveau negro. He's just unleashed, globetrotting and off the hook. Too big to be contained in the corporate coop, ready to do things on his own. Nobody knows what to do with a man like DF anyway. He's either going to become fabulously rich, arrested for fraud or die broke in Costa Rica. Me, I'm on a third way.

The third way is the way my new associates are helping me discover. That is how to be a businessman. The difference? It doesn't matter what business, and whatever business it ends up being, it will be unglamorous and downscale. This is about learning how to be the guy who sells nuts to the guy who has bolts. It's about networking a dozen little things that require a $20,000 investment and yeilds $1,500 a month for three years starting six months down the line. It's about making a whole lot of little piles as contrasted to Shaft's Big Score. It's not a new idea, just new to my generation.

When I was doing my housepainting and listening to Tupac and generally getting into the downscale swing of things, I kept lamenting those things everyone in the investor class knows. Corporate spending is down and IT professionals are getting squeezed. Everybody in the investor class knows this, but what do they do about it? They do the same thing I've been doing, holding out and hoping that my world class and highly refined skills will come back into demand, meanwhile making a few milliliters of Pellegrino raspberry lemonade out of life's lemons. Hell, I should have been making regular old lemonade. And now that I've scraped for a while, I'm ready to give up the dinner party china and am content to shop at Wal-Mart. But it won't be for the way of my friend T, rather I'm going to take down scores. A little bit here, a little bit there. No grand schemes, no master plans, just raw, honest, entreprenuerial opportunism.

I know several other folks who have been thinking like this, not least of all the man who hired me to paint his house. I think I'm on to something.

Posted by mbowen at 08:41 PM | TrackBack


A close relative has come back from the doctors with a bad pap smear. Several of us in the family have jumped the gun and assumed the worst. Cervical Cancer. I'm out of town while all this drama is going down and it's messing with my head. Worse case scenarios in this arena are not even pleasant to game on a bad day, even a scenario juggler like me doesn't want to go there.

So while we've all calmed down and are waiting for a second opinion and more detailed lab work, I'm going to have to do some advance research and fill my head with a few morbid facts. Shit.

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

Obligatory Seriousness on Gay Marriage

Marriage is an institution ordained of God.

The news is that Massachusetts has said something new. I haven't had an opportunity to review the decision but I'm glad it was a court matter and not a legislative one. I'm hoping they were defending a liberty rather than creating standing. If they were evening the score that's good, if they were advancing or establishing that would be bad. In otherwords this needs to be an anti-discrimination decision to please me.

I've said what I've had to say previously:

We have common law marriages recognized by the state as regards property rights, benefits eligibility and parental rights. The state establishes, de facto civil unions which are not recognized as religious sacraments for these and other reasons, but these are entirely independent of those rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. The rights and responsibilities of partners in civil unions and common law marriages are are defended for different reasons than that of a religious rite of gay marriage. Gay domestic partners should be considered similarly to common law partners for civil purposes.

Therefore the state should not *recognize* 'Marriage' any more than it recognizes 'Extreme Unction'. The state buries unidentified bodies in the ground but that does not make it a Funeral. The state recognizes civil unions but that doesn't make them Marriages.

Nothing has changed. Gays are shacking up and calling it Marriage. If you have to get mad, get mad at the church that marries them in the name of God. The state need only protect that religious freedom. I hope it's not the Episcopal Church that gets way out in front to ordain gay Marriage, but then again, I wasn't married by an Episcopal minister.

UPDATE: I'm satisfied by these excerpts from the decision.

Posted by mbowen at 07:24 AM | TrackBack

November 18, 2003

MS Mainframe

Last night, my new pal Steve from Richmond was telling me why XML rocks and .NET will dominate. I don't believe him, but I cannot ignore his enthusiasm. In fact, enthusiasm is all I hear about .NET and despite the fact that a lot of this comes from prior VB programmers, at least one Java wizard I know has been sold as well.

I keep holding out for UNIX dominance and have over the years. But I should know better. NT works on four way boxes with screamingly fast processors. That's more than enough to build some gnarly systems. But as Cringely suggests, there may be a trick up MS' sleeve to raise that headroom even higher.

Remember, IL ultimately makes .NET and Windows hardware independent, decreasing Microsoft's dependence on Intel and increasing its power over Intel -- the power to give and to take away. There are instances where Microsoft might want to move away from Intel. Redmond has not done a very good job of putting its software on large-scale servers, for example, largely because its hardware partner doesn't scale well. We're seeing Intel-based servers now with up to eight CPUs, but that's about it: Above eight the increased overhead means it isn't worthwhile, so we do clustering, instead. But now Microsoft is flirting with IBM precisely because IBM's Power architecture scales beautifully. If Microsoft wants to grab one of the last pools of profit it doesn't currently own -- high end corporate computing -- putting .NET on IBM's Power and PowerPC are a key.

All the promise of Beowulf is real and Linux gurus have clustered cheap CPUs to build massively parallel machines. There is probably no better example of this than Google. We know MS tried to buy Google. What better way to show off their ability to handle any compute problem than to put Google on the new MS architecture? Having failed that, MS goes to IBM. Genius. See?

Posted by mbowen at 08:12 AM | TrackBack

November 17, 2003

Who Owns Black?

I do. I'm Old School. And if you want to fight about it, step out on the grass so I can kick your ass.

This is an attitude that I have found sadly lacking in my latest round of conversations with black men I respect and admire. I haven't talked to many black women about it, but I suppose that I will in time. You know who you are. Log in and speak up.

Doc mentioned a pimp that he busted last week. The pimp bounced up some assets and came up with bail or was sprung on a technicality. Who knows. But said black pimp tried to 'drop some science' on my brother about the idea that on the plantation, it was the black overseers who cracked the whip hardest. Pops underscored this observation with the problematic argument that I'm out to refute today and forever. Which is that 'we' have defaulted black culture to the lowbrow and that those, the least of my brothers, are keeping it more real and have a legitimate interpretation of race and history. In otherwords, that the pimp had a point and was within his rights to assert a racial brotherhood platform upon which he could criticize the cop who busted his lame ass.


I cannot begin to express in a one way forum how opposed to this concept I am. The black experience continues to be interpreted by whitefolks in pop culture, wrongly, exactly as the black pimp says. What's real, via the majoritarian view of black culture, is 'Whazzap my nigga' and all you might imagine follows. But most crucially and gallingly, that blacks of refinement must heed those cultural guidlines because this is the best we can expect 'America' to recognize.

'The Reality of Black Life In America', goes the folk wisdom, is that the best a black man can expect is the same that the worst black man gets. I cannot sustain such an argument in my head. It is so lightweight that I can't even come up with it as a consistent strawman to defeat in my logic. And yet I know it has weight as an arguement because species of it's own twisted logic arises when I speak about being a Black Republican.

Ignorant thugs, pimps, hoes whatever rabble lowlife within African America cannot and will not persist with any special permanence. So how this is called 'black' despite what Black Consciousness is and was can only be a matter of skin color. The problem is that there is a false brotherhood based on skin color that African Americans are giving credibility.

Again I say that blackfolks need to do two things that are critical. The first is to adhere to their family and class identity and relationships with more ferocity than that to the fraternity of physical race. The second is that blackfolks need to fight losers, and stand in opposition to the lowbrow claims of ownership of 'black'. If you believe in Nelly's brand of black instead of Wynton Marsalis' version, then you are not on the right side of history, nor truth. Furhtermore if you're on that side, I'm looking to put you down.

I cannot see it any other way, and I'll grapple with anyone who dares disagree. At the same time, it's not crucial that I rescue 'black' from the grasp of the retarded crabs in the barrel. To have black associated with the lovely things like the creation of jazz and the interactivity of the christian liturgy and all the wonderful things we celebrate in black history month is gravy. Of course it's gravy I'd rather have, but on the whole it is not necessary. What is extraordinary and beautiful about life belongs to those who live it. It doesn't need to be black; history speaks for itself. We're all modern. We all appropriate.

But my history and the history of the Old School is real and righteous and if anyone deserves the mantle of what's admirable about 'black' it is those who adhere to those values. Pimps need not apply.

BTW. Read this.

And finally, I just learned a couple things that have rocked my little world a little bit and I thought I'd mention them here. The first is that there are only two HBCUs with accredited MBA programs. One of them is run by my boy David. The other thing is that John McWhorter speaks about a dozen languages. So I'm about to cut him some slack on his stifling style of writing in English. And furthermore I think he's on my side of the fence in this issue here.

Posted by mbowen at 09:54 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Sacred Feminine

I'm more than halfway through the new book by Dan Brown 'The Da Vinci Code'. It's a fun piece of work. This is type of historical conspiracy theory is starting to be my favorite line of reading. I just finished 'Quicksilver' and I really loved 'Baudolino' and 'Foucault's Pendulum' both by Umberto Eco. Brown's is the lightest of these of course, but with the speed of Michael Crighton (I guess 'Timeline' fits in this sorta kinda), he has introduced us to the Gnostic Gospel.

What is the Gnostic Gospel? Well, Dan Brown describes it best and quite succinctly. Without ruining all of the surprises of the book, it is the greatest threat to Christianity since its inception: the idea that Jesus had sex and liked it, furthermore endorsed it. Some time ago I thought about this idea - it just rather sprung into my head when I was considering the reasons I don't take American feminism so seriously. The idea is simple, the world awaits its first great female prophet. When a woman becomes as great as Muhammed or Jesus, the entire world will change. The secret of 'The Da Vinci Code' brings all that import into a fast paced thriller and mystery. Those who have gone the length of Baudolino or Quicksilver will be disappointed, but I bought it to read on the plane and I'm very pleased with it.

Beyond all that, I am continually fascinated by the small amount of tolerance many Brights are showing towards Christianity. Books of this sort offer an abundance of the kind of intellectual goodies Brights would thrive on, it's a wonder they don't reconsider. Is Christianity spoiled by those folks who the Brights can't stand? No. Brights are simply impatient with what stands in front of them, but they make no effort to recover, nor to refine. They simply disabuse Christians because of those playground experiences they cannot get over.

The recovery of the 'sacred feminine', is ultimately a question Christians will be forced to deal with in light of the current events of sexual scandal in the Catholic and Episcopal Churches. Our inability to reconcile the yin and yang in Christianity is dangerous. I would go as far as to suggest that homosexuals are encouraged by the patriarchal nature of the Christian interpretation of the divine. Who needs women if God is a Man? What is the point of respecting women if they have no divine image - if sanctity has no concession from the male ego.

Any man who lives with a woman understands that there is a certain amount of submission we do to the ineffable. We don't know why women are as they are, we just grow to understand how to deal with it. Certainly Jesus must have known this thing as a man. If not, what was the point of his being made flesh? If Jesus said nothing, did nothing, didn't participate in a sexual relationship with a woman, what the hell does Christianity have to say to men at all? I'm not all that taken with Brown's prose. Everything he writes makes me think I could be a very good author myself. But his point is right on target and is a stunning indictment of the coverups of the Catholic Church and most of Christendom. Without sacred text about the power and divinity of women, we are way, way out of balance. That can't be right.

Posted by mbowen at 03:32 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Live From Boise

I'm here in Boise Idaho. Of course I forgot my power cable so I won't be blogging during my most productive hours. It's a cool place so far. It has the flavor of Seattle without the crowds, and the steaks are magnificent.

There's a bit of snow up in the hills behind downtown (to the north) but the weather in town is in the crisp 40s without wind. The autumn flowers are in full descent and there's a nice layer of sycamore on most of the sidewalks.

I went to see the Matrix again, this time to enjoy it as a pure sci-fi kinda deal. It worked, and I actually saw things I didn't see the first time. I can also say that I can live with this version of the Oracle.

Stay tuned.

Posted by mbowen at 07:53 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 14, 2003

There's a Man Going 'Round

Pandagon is taking names. Funny, I only recognize about half of them and I'm conservative. I think. Can I actually be a Republican if I don't bow down and worship at their feet? Certainly folks who like to claim black Republicans are idiots must think so. I'm not feeling defensive or anything, I just wanted to remind folks who I'm not. I can't stand Hannity or Coulter either. Freepers are really weird and truly gullible.

I think Tucker Carlson, now that he has moved on from the dweeb seat on CNN's Crossfire, is a bit less of a annoying drip than we have all been led to believe. Some of his confessions in Salon make be feel a bit sorry for him.

The rest of the list can burn in Hell, I suppose. Makes no difference to me.

Posted by mbowen at 10:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Just Below the Surface

I'm going to indulge a little and poke whitefolks in the eye for a minute. But I'll be more specific and poke whitefolks from St. Louis who voted during the 80s. Every once in a while blackfolks get accused of being paranoid about race. But then somebody like say, Mark Fuhrman, gets outed and blackfolks say, where the hell were all you good whitefolks whan this person got power?

There's a villian in our midst who has just outed himself. He used to be a member of the St. Louis School Board. Elected. White Supremacist. There's a hero in this story however. ArchPundit exposed Earl P. Holt III.

I'm thinking about Law & Order, one of my favorite shows, and I really love it when Lt. Green gets to take down a racist. That would be a good dramatic show in itself. Law & Order EEOC. So maybe well see some action here. But isn't interesting that I see more of it on television than reported in the news?

Anyway this busting of Holt jibes with the Low Bullshit Guide to St. Louis. I wish more bloggers would handle this kind of local stuff. That's the power of the web. So one more poke whitefolks, stop whining about Affirmative Action and turn your hardball racists over to us. We'll reward you with kudos, we promise.

Posted by mbowen at 10:08 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Old Clothes, Old Memories

I'll be heading to Boise next week. Expect light blogging. It's going to snow, so since I'm packing today the spousal unit found some warm clothes for me. (She owns the garage, not me.) One thing she brought was a jacket I haven't worn in years.

Some of you may not remember, but I remember that somewhere around 1989-90 the fashion among young black males was the big puffy nylon jacket. Complete with straight leg jeans, sneakers with fat laces and a beanie, you had what was popularly interpreted as a thug's uniform. It was in that fashion context that I bought the pig puffy black Nike jacket my wife just fished out of storage. One of my first nods to going incognegro.

I still recall that it cost about 90 bucks and I bought it from the Korean Swapmeet on King Boulevard in LA, just west of Crenshaw. It was my first trip to the Korean Swapmeet whose official name was the Crenshaw Swapmeet. But since most of the vendors were Korean, and many of them were exactly what the stereotypes suggest, it was called the Korean Swapmeet.

What now gets sold in your typical Foot Locker store with regards to sweatssuits, basketball shirts, baggy pants, numbered jerseys and cheap sunglasses wasn't always availabled in the mainstream. Now mall stores specializing in this very kind of gear for the boyz and girlz of the hood are making all kinds of dollars. Back in the day, it was Korean shopkeepers who had all these kind of downscale threads in their swapmeet stalls. I recall walking into the Swapmeet and seeing all that, trunk jewelry (especially those dolphin earrings), fake Luis Vuitton everything and the first truck boom speakers bursting from the vendors little stores.

The Korean merchants were hawking with their accents trying to approximate the ever changing local dialect. Only the young kids got the lingo right, but they had bored teenager working for my loser parents written all over their faces. Only the kids selling the stereo equipment looked happy. The hawking and haggling got downright disrespectful of course. I have vague memories of people trying to return merchandise in a heated debate, and another screaming for her daughters who were somewhere else in the store. In the bustling bazaar atmosphere the tension was palpable and loud. The traffic was steady.

I put on the jacket a few minutes ago and it all seems like so long ago. I threw on a beanie to complete the look. It doesn't work for me and it seems so ridiculous that people could be hated on just for wearing the 'wrong' clothes. But it was real and there was a lot of pain and anger around in those parts in those days. The Korean Swapmeet was burned to the ground.

Posted by mbowen at 02:36 PM | TrackBack

Old School Core Values

I used to own the domain but I have let it drop. I was dividing my attention too many ways. As it is I still haven't done justice to my XR Project. But also I had a difficult time drumming up traffic. Heaven only knows where my black republican peers disappeared to. At any rate I've got the bases covered here and at Vision Circle. Still, it's important that I publish the Old School Core Values. I found that I couldn't Google them up and that was very disturbing. So I'll put them permanently here and blog them as well.

Old School Core Values:

We are African Americans of all backgrounds and ethnicities. We are proud of our heritage, and respect the lives, triumphs and tribulations of our forebears in this country and beyond. We aim to represent their greatest hopes for us and honor their memory.

The United States of America is our home, not simply by default but by choice. We take our duty to our home seriously and we defend it. We seek to improve it by our work and values and leave it better than we found it.

We are extended families and we put family first. It is the primary organization to which our lives are dedicated. We fight for the proper upbringing of our children. We demand respect and consideration of our elders. We love and support our brothers and sisters.

We work twice as hard and sometimes get half as far, but we work with dignity and we expect and enjoy our rewards. We are not materialistic but we know the value of a dollar. We seek self-improvement through creativity, dedication and effort in our jobs, businesses and partnerships.

We have abiding faith in God and the principles of righteousness. We strive to be true to transcendent values and take the long view of our purpose on Earth. We conduct ourselves as vessels of spirit and we guard our own souls and the souls of others from corruption.

We believe in the rule of law and rights of people to be free and to determine their own fate. We fight tyranny and oppression of all kinds keeping in mind the battles of those who struggled and died that we might be free.

We believe in a tolerant and open society, and we welcome all people to enjoy its benefits and responsibilities.

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Here's a trend I would like to start. A few folks have been challenging us with surveys of the best of this and the best of that. But I think it's more interesting to talk about all the stuff you actually keep on you shelves. I know my boy Benzon would need a year to get through his shelves, but they are extraordinarily well organized. As for me, half of my stuff is in the garage and I have yet to put together a decent meatworld library. But the spousal unit has allowed me to keep two good sized bookcases in the house. This is the top shelf of the one in the bedroom.

The DW book on the left side is from the guy who put together WalMart's data warehouse, widely acknowledged as the best in the world. The next one is an old text from my second year of CS. Steal the Network is a cool book that I got halfway through when I was still employed and on a Linux security kick this summer. After a month of unemployment it got too depressing to read.

Lies My Teacher Told Me. What's that doing there? I never read this book, but Lee told me that I had to have it. There are two Tannenbaum texts and my Springer Verlag instant for Pascal by Jensen & Wirth. I can't remember whether I used P-System or UCSD Pascal, but I do remember loving the language and hating the compiler. Damn thing never worked when I needed it to. I always thought I was cursed with the ability to find every bug in every system.

I got the Oxford Concise as soon as it came out. Can you remember all the excitement that surrounded the new version of the OED in 1990? Then there's my Prentice-Hall which I look at (but don't use) whenever somebody starts bloviating about George Eliot. The next book is the most precious on the shelf, if not in the whole library. This is Teach Yourself Swahili. My dad got it in '66 and we used to speak it around the house. Nothing unnerved my mother more than me ordering breakfast in swahili. Now I know abut four phrases and 20 words. Yike.

There's Irons in the Fire by McPhee. I'm a huge McPhee fan. What has he done lately? Edge City is a constant reference. Then there's Kurzweil's fantastic predictions about human-machine co-evolution and the Agent Smithian inevitability of it all. Next are several O'Reilly books. Perl, the new Regular Expressions and Learning ksh. It's difficult for me to believe how little programming I've done in the past four months. Finally are a Sams book for JSP that I started in the Summer of 2002 and quit because NT is just too damned inconsistent, and an Addison-Wesley on Java itself.

That was fun. What's on your shelf?

Posted by mbowen at 11:24 AM | TrackBack

The Dirty Little Secret of Black Politics

I had a long rambling conversation with my good pal David Thursday. He was staying in Westwood for a short while, taking care of some business on this coast. David and I go way back. The conversation wandered over to black politics. Well actually it went a lot of directions around that subject which gave me an opportunity to review what I am thinking with a real live brain.

My thesis these days (and I am not long likely to spout off about it as I ramp back up into the old career) is that there is some inevitability that blacks in the middle class and upper middle will migrate to the Republican party. My expectation is that within 10-15 years blacks will at least triple their representation from somewhere around 3-5% up to 15%. This is a modest goal and one I'm confident will take place, but it depends entirely upon the ability of these black Americans to make sense of their class interests. That may be a bigger hurdle than anyone suspects.

The fundamental axiom is this: There is only one black interest in American public policy which is driven by race and not class. That is the principle of anti-racism in all of its manifestations. Whatever else blacks ask of politicians today, is generally subsumed into everything the Democratic Party has done since the Depression. Consequently if all the blackfolks bolted that party, Democrats would still largely do the same things they have always done, just as Howard Dean clumsily suggested in his appeal to Southern whitefolks.

The 'natural' affinity between blacks and the Democrats is strictly class-based. Since the majority of African Americans are {poor, working poor, working class, lower middle class} their 'permanent' interest lie with the Left. Importantly, the historical imperative of the Talented Tenth has been to raise all boats of the race. This coincides with the aims of the Great Society programs. Unionization plays into this as well. It's all about getting people from square one to three squares a day. This is the logical consequence of all the assertions against the wisdom of being a black Republican. In return the Democrats tend to their specifically black constituency with very marginal pork. But, get this, the major content of that pork is rhetoric.

Rhetorical Patronage
I challenge anyone to show exactly what it is that the Democrats have done for African Americans that they haven't done for everyone else. Whatever you find, I will bet my nickel that it doesn't get any larger than a quarter of a billion in any one program out of the Federal budget. But what the Democrats do that the Republicans don't is insure that they say a lot of nice things about blackfolks. The dirty little secret is that this covers a lot of what the black electorate will settle for. If you ask someone who hates the idea of Black Republicans what it is that the Democrats will give blacks that the Republicans won't, it will all come down to warm and fuzzies. Try it. Get them to name programs when they disagree. Materially, most folks are hard pressed to talk about black patronage in dollars and cents. But they know what kind of rhetoric they like. Ask how much federal money goes to support HBCUs. Nobody knows. Ask what kind of support Affirmative Action should get and you'll hear a litany of legalese words, qualifications, provisos, tests, and other verbal requirements. What a twist of fate! It's not all about the Benjamins.

The corollary to this dirty little secret is that there is a significant amount of black resentment of 'Hispanic' politics. Why? Hispanics will get the same benefits from the Democratic party as blacks do. More in fact, when there are more Latinos than blacks. And the slap across the face of racial loyalty is that the Congressional Black Caucus is delivering up that agenda. Everything they have traditionally wanted in the Democratic tradition based on the class needs of the race applies doubly to new immigrant latinos at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder.

Black Bipartisanship
I believe that since the Democratic party is going to stay its course with our without black voters, black political interests are better served throught bipartisanship. It may very well be the case that Republicans have nothing to offer blacks at all, but I find that doubtful. I think the Republican Party will serve the class interests of its traditional constituency, and since many blacks are parts of those classes they will benefit too. But this begs the question of party loyalty vs racial loyalty.

I'm going to refine and complete this over at Vision Circle, because it will sit here in draft form forever if I don't publish it soon. There's a lot more detail to this including Ideology. But the open secret is that a sizeable part of black America is conservative. They just don't like rednecks, snooty WASPs and American Gothic-type Protestants. But let me not get ahead of myself. I'll simply say that the ideological desires of African Americans are not coming from and will not come from the Parties. That is to say that black values are organically generated from their history and circumstances, not from Party thought. So the black vote should be more realpolitik than it is, but isn't because of this false fidelity to Democratic rhetoric.

The great opportunity and irony is that blacks would vote for a Republican who said the right things, but they are suspicious that the stuff that makes one a Republican renders one incapable of moral authority. They are Bush Haters like the rest of the Bush Haters. But I know other secrets too.

Posted by mbowen at 11:08 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

My Music

I haven't listened to any of my music lately, but whenever I do I find that I still like it and am not embarassed. That means it might be worth listening to. If you have a little bandwidth download an MP3 or two. Let me know what you think.

The band is Sixoseven, the form is electronic, check it out.

Posted by mbowen at 10:28 AM | TrackBack

Jazzwise, Disney Sucks


Pianist Keith Jarrett was about to start the second number of his program Wednesday night at Walt Disney Concert Hall when he was distracted by a rumbling sound — late arrivals rushing to their seats.

Frowning, he turned to his audience and asked, "Do you hear that? It must be the sound of ghost cartoon characters. Creaky boards aren't usually found in new concert halls."

Then, about to begin again, he paused a second time to add another comment. "I have news for the person who designed this room. The sound travels better this way." He pointed to indicate a direction from the audience to the stage.

This is bad news for Disney and good news for Royce Hall. Interestingly, I thought about what it would take to design a great jazz venue after having been to the Jazz Bakery the other night.

Posted by mbowen at 09:29 AM | TrackBack

The Story of My Life

Dorothy Parker
Dorothy Parker writes you, you wonderfully urbane,
witty boozehound, you.

Which Author's Fiction are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Posted by mbowen at 09:10 AM | TrackBack

White on White Crime

Cut on the Bias says these kinds of stories are very common. I grew up in a black neighborhood in Los Angeles and I never heard them. Interesting.

Posted by mbowen at 08:52 AM | TrackBack

Top of the Food Chain

Every once in a while, when I have cash in my pocket, I celebrate something too many of us don't, which is the fact that humans are at the top of the food chain. There is nothing that speaks to me of the greatness of this nation and our privilege like the fact of all our various cuisines. Any day of the week we can whip out a piece of plastic and eat Thai, Chinese, Mexican, Cajun, Cuban, Italian, Greek, Ethiopian or French dishes. This is truly a blessing.

e-Claire reminds us that our cushy life has addled a few brains.

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November 13, 2003

Merry Christmas

Christmas is almost here.

I wanted to be the first blogger to acknowledge this. It's time to start digging out the garage for all your lights. Go to Big Lots and start poking around for decorations. Organize your MP3s of Christmas music. Start looking for toys. Buy your specialty wrapping that donates money to charity. Get your addresses correct for sending cards. Buy a bunch of batteries. Find your Santa Hat and the old tree stand. Find the nearest Honeybaked Ham store and make your reservations.

Most importantly, find your Vince Gauraldi Charlie Brown record and start jamming.

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

Carmen Lundy

Pops took me out to the Jazz Bakery last night. The rain was coming down in huge torrents, streets were flooding, but I made it safe and sound to the warmth.

Carmen Lundy is a master musician. Her instrument is her voice. I don't think I've seen a jazz singer with such control and finesse not only over herself but of the combo. (Robert Galper-Piano / Jason Brown-Drums / Curtis Lundy-Bass / Mya Gonzales-Percussion).

She is a singer and there's no fudge in her delivery. Some folks get up on stage and are introduced as 'song stylists', warbling all over the place. Not so with Carmen Lundy, she has a purity that speaks of mastery of an instrument of extraordinary range and dynamism. When she sings in her lower registers, there is never a growl, and hearing her do so reminds you of how rare that is. When she gets into the high notes, she has the clarity and lightness which is somewhat reminescent of Nancy Wilson.

Where Lundy truly shines however is with her dynamic range. On songs like 'I Loves You Porgy', she sings so sweetly and plaintively at lower volumes that it is sanctifying. When she belts out a note on uptempo numbers like 'Wild Child' she's halfway to Ethel Merman and you wonder if the audio equipment can handle it. Lundy works the crowd with spirit but never cloyingly. She shakes and swivels when it's right but when the mood is for quiet and strong singing she takes a sip of tea, postures up and the music just comes out of her.

As a special guest, violinist Regina Carter stepped into the spotlight. She's pretty talented and plays with a unique style. She has some fire and with a bit of confidence she'll do some fine things. Her playing reminded me of the soloist with the Reggae Philharmonic. Carter uses the bluegrass twang which sounds so very nice to hear in jazz improv, but I have the feeling she was a bit reserved last evening in the shadow as she was of Lundy. But I'm looking forward to hearing her tear it up, she was only going down to 8th notes last night.

All said it was quite an inspirational evening. I haven't been out to a concert in a very long time and I really need to take advantage of the fact that I'm here in Los Angeles. I hear Bobby McFerrin will be performing at the Disney. Damn!

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Reversal of Fortune

For those three of you who have been vaguely aware of my destitute situation, I am pleased to prematurely announce the striking up of a business relationship which I believe will relieve me from these economic doldrums. This guy seems to be on the ball and I think we're going to make some fairly serious money together. He's taking a chance on me and that says a lot. Fingers crossed.

By the way, Michigan is out. They said I was overqualified and went with a local mushroom who had been doing the same old work. I cannot describe to you how exasperating it is to think you will be driving to Atlanta for a job one week, then the next week you think you'll be driving to Detroit. Anyway, I'm certain that I'll be flying to Boise on Sunday for a one week training class.

Stay tuned.

Posted by mbowen at 12:04 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 12, 2003

The End of Black Capitalism

What do you get when you put together the mighty resources of the most notable black entrepreneurs and collectively pool them into political action? You get less than a half million bucks in Al Sharpton's warchest. In this Washington Post article are the depressing details.

One of the permanent discussions we used to parse in the good old days of SCAA (damn, I haven't been back to that ghetto in a long time), was the issue of Ujamaa vs Black Capitalism vs Blackface Capitalism. I think it's time to acknowledge that Blackface Capitalism has won the gold medal.

Understand that a choice between styles of economic theory is political for most who bloviate about black unity. How closely those politics are to reality is up for debate, but it's not a debate held often enough. Although I am being facetious about the net influence of folks like Earl Graves, it does give one pause.

I'll simply say that this is another example of where blackfolks who put a great deal at stake in the presidential candidacies of blacks are over-investing mindshare and under-investing money. This cannot long be productive if it ever was.

Posted by mbowen at 11:11 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Democrats Handicapped

Unfogged predicts the demise of the Kerry campaign. Oh well.

Posted by mbowen at 04:59 PM | TrackBack

The Hiphop Equivalent of Xanadu

Infinite Monkeys poses and answers some hella interesting questions. What are the hiphop equivalents of rock albums.

1. The Velvet Underground - "Loaded" (i.e. the "commercial" album by a critically acclaimed band that you really liked the best, but told everybody you liked "The Velvet Underground and Nico" because it was cooler to like that record)

That's easy. Paul's Boutique by the Beastie Boys. But of course I said "Licensed to Ill".

2. The Clash - "London Calling" (i.e. album by a previously good and critically acclaimed group that was now "firing on all cylinders")

I'd say that De La Soul really hit their stride with AOI Mosaic Thump. Stakes Is High was a comeback album. The first AOI was a triumph and the second AOI borders on a masterpiece. So Mosaic Thump gets my vote.

3. R.E.M. - "Murmur" (i.e. debut album that caught everyone off-guard and effectively started a completely new "scene")

Everybody is tempted to say De La, but nobody actually followed De La lyrically. They were not pioneers because no significant portion of hiphop went in that direction. I think Wu Tang changed hiphop itself more significantly. Nas brought back one-up lyricism back to the days of LL. But what Wu Tang did was introduce the lyrics behind the beat and a surfeit of syllables, they also took rhyming in turn to a new level and changed the way people advertised and emphasized their crew. So Enter the Wu-Tang.

4. The Beatles - "Let It Be" (i.e. absolutely wretched excess that effectively ended the career of a previously magnificent group)

Muse Sick-N-Hour Mess Age by Public Enemy. Enough said; PE is dead.

5. Joy Division - "Closer" (i.e. album by a group that everybody pretended to like, but were actually complete crap, unless you were one of the five people on earth like Paul Morley who had some kind of gnostic experience causing them to worship Ian Curtis as the new messiah of rock)

Without question this would be 'To The East - Blackwards' by X-Clan. There are no cornier rappers on the planet. This is rhythm straight from 1979 and the Gary Byrd Experience. Only people who were addicted to the Afrocentric Idea coudl vibe with this album. Where are they now?

Bonus: Name the hip-hop equivalent of the "Xanadu" soundtrack, and explain why.

This is almost an impossible question. Xanadu was an attempt by mainstream pop artists to create a desexualized form of disco. So I would think of a collaborative album of pop rappers doing soft rap. The closest thing I can think of to that would be 'Back on the Block' by Quincy Jones. But Back on the Block was not a real hiphop album. On the other hand you can't consider Xanadu to be a real rock album either. I guess that's the point. Nevertheless both were very popular, masterpieces of contrivance.

Posted by mbowen at 11:50 AM | TrackBack


If I were to find a million bucks in a briefcase (OK foot locker), I would buy a nice house in Pasadena, then go and study economics. There is something about building financial information systems for almost two decades that causes me to search for principles, but I don't know what they might be in the professional argot. So it comes as a pleasant surprise to find that I am something of a Chicagoan already according to this quiz. It's a rather stellar quiz and probably the best I've taken. It really forced me to think. Thanks to Pejman.

Clearly it's biased slightly towards the Austrian School, and I can see how the phrasing of those answers for which I chose the Austrian answer made it a more attractive and detailed answer. Still, there is much to recommend about the Austrian approach to evaluating the behaviors of classes of entrepreneurs. I simply don't believe that it scales. There are also times when the Chicago School seems wishy-washy, and there's nothing attractive about the way that the Socialist answers were worded. I find it difficult to imagine that true Socialists would even agree with those grafs.

My original score was {12,7,5,1} (Chicago, Keynes, Austrian, Socialist) and a lot of them were really close. I reviewed several that were toss-ups and I saw that I could have changed several of my answers to Chicago. My adjusted score then would have been {17,5,2,1}.

Still, I believe that the Austrian School makes better sense for a microeconomic view of things. If you study entreprenuerial thinking, their explanations are more reasonable. I also think that the Chicago School is a bit too contemporary: it recognizes that empirical studies have not advanced sufficiently to make principled calls. Finally, I am attracted to the idea I've never heard expressed before of 'merit goods' and 'demerit goods' which is why my Keynesian score is high.

I'm not so convinced that a policy driven economy is a good theory. So as 'monetarists', I probably part company with the Chicagoans. I think that we have reached a psycological limit with regard to the amount of stimulus that can be achieved by lowering interest rates. (I am wondering what kind of a curve, rates to stimulus, people have in mind when you are only 200 basis points from zero).

I am also skeptical that the economic rationality expected by the Austrian School is reasonable to assume of uneducated populations, which most of the planet is. This is what turned me towards Chicago when it came to matters of pricing. Consumer behavior is predictable in consumer economies. But most people are not consumers. I think that 'investor class' behavior is important in the US but not elsewhere, and I think that the existence of an investor class is important to consider.

Posted by mbowen at 09:33 AM | TrackBack

XR Dynamic Footnote

This reference by Drezner via Pejman should be useful in expressing the value of an XR system. For my readers who don't know, XRepublic is my big project.

The XRepublic can be thought of as a virtual parliament and it is from that perspective, using the terminology and technology of web-based online conferencing, that it was originally conceived. It is designed from the ground up to take advantage of Internet technology in order to make the kinds of deliberative processes currently found in governments, universities, intelligence organizations and other deliberative bodies available to a distributed group of people connected by networked computers.

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November 11, 2003

All I Have to Say On Veteran's Day

Is Amen to this:

I almost wept as Specialist Johnson put on her game face with Wallace, insomuch as what she did not say about Lynch spoke volumes about Johnson's character, about her merit as a soldier and as a woman and as an African American. With restrained dignity, Johnson fenced through her few minutes with Wallace and then went back to cooking or whatever she's doing these days, still on duty. No book deal. No movie.

The Kwaku Network is pissed.

Posted by mbowen at 07:13 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Harder than Avoidance

This weekend I'm performing a semi-volunteer gig with the company that makes an up and coming kid's multilevel experiential multimarket phenomenon sensation. Yeah, a toy.

One of the young folks I'll be working with was at the training session last evening. As we were talking about this product, she mentioned that she keeps her four year old completely away from the television. It reminded me of the days before I had kids. I never even owned a television until I was 31, and then I only used it to watch Charlie Rose. So I understand completely the anti-television logic and sentiment. But that doesn't work with kids, and it shouldn't.

Unless you're wealthy, or you live on a farm, I don't see how any parent can come up with enough activities to keep children from missing television. There's a possibility for a stay at home mother with one child to do so, and I presume that to be my young friend's situaion. But for the virtue of saving children from the poison of toy-phenomena like Ninja Turtles, Power Rangers and Pokemon, I'd say inoculation is a better strategy than quarantine.

For quite a while I dealt with the videostore. Picking this Disney movie, rejecting that one, finding this particularly educational computer CD Rom. For a family of five this is very expensive, not to mention time consuming. Then one day I went over a friend's house and their kid was talking about Blue. Blue? My friend said, you haven't heard about Blue's Clues? No I hadn't. Within two minutes of watching the program I realized that I wasn't the only conscientious parent on the planet, and some people at Nick Jr. had obviously overheard our collective playground bench conversations.

So suddenly PBS Kids became the habit, yes including Teletubbies and Barney. After a time, I became a more critical watcher of kids television rather than writing it all off entirely. Instead of leaving long-lasting stupidity marks on the kids, they grew tired of Barney. They outgrew him sooner than I thought. I was completely relieved, maybe kids TV isn't so bad, even the stuff that gives me headaches. (No we never did Power Rangers). So the problem of commercials hit inevitably.

So I introduced the kids to the concept of Marketing. It was sufficiently complex to explain but I did. So now my kids know better than to walk around the house singing jingles from commercials. They are smart enough to sniff at commercials. They recognize the tricks of verbal small print: "Many will enter, few will win." Best of all they don't crave what's on the tube. They recognize marketing for what it is, a clever way people think of to cheat you out of your hard earned money.

I am relieved to have largely commercial-proofed my kids as well as put overall TV into perspective. I still encourage them to play video games, many of which are of similar or superior animated quality than the television programs. They become the locus of action. They also still dig CD Rom games on the computer, as well as board games (Especially Monopoly). But without question the girls favorite thing to do is play with dolls. M9 digs video games, especially Halo and Tony Hawk, with me. But there's a great variety they have and enjoy - that's in the domain of my control.

I hope to encourage my new friend to do the same. TV is inevitable. It's better to be smart about it early than to demonize it as an unbeatable monster. It's harder too, but worth the effort.

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November 10, 2003

True Crime: Streets of LA

I was prepared to hate this game. I suffered through what I thought was a pretty cheesy intro movie and started shooting at the practice target range. The bullets didn't come out fast enough and I put it down. Plus, the music was too raw for my baby ears.

So I played GTA Vice City instead. I got through several missions and played it deep into the night, and then the worst happened. The gameplay started to make me nauseous. Not aesthetically nauseous, but physically as when some combination of shaky-cam effects, frame rate and motion in the game start jangling the wrong combination of neurons and creates the kind of headache you get from reading in a car.

In Vice City, the best thing is carjacking of course, and it's always fun to whack somebody over the head with a four iron. But the difference between carjacking in Vice City and True Crime is all the difference for a gamer like me. In Vice City, you just plant yourself in the middle of the street, the car or truck or bus will stop whether you are looking or not. You press a button and yank somebody out. In LA it doesn't work like that, you get run over.

As soon as I walked into the Hotel in Vice City I said, haven't I been here before? I had. It was Max Payne minus some of the grit. But enough of Vice City. It's weak compared to True Crime: Streets of LA.

First of all, this is LA. No bones about it. It looks just like LA and there's a huge map. You can drive all the way from the Santa Monica Pier to the Downtown, from the top of the Hollywood Hills down to Exposition Blvd. Culver City looks like itself, Santa Monica, Sunset Boulevard. It's not as slick graphically as Project Gotham which is by far the best. But the map is more detailed; It's almost as good as Midtown Madness which is damned good, considering that in True Crime you can get out and walk. If you know LA, you'll find yourself cruising around to find your old neighborhood. All the familiar landmarks are here and you get a headsup display that tells you exactly which intersection you're at.

There are three soundtracks. As soon as you pop into a car, the booming sounds start blasting. It's just like you're cruising with Denzel in Training Day. In fact, that is exactly the vibe you get playing this game.

The premise is simple. You are a cliche'd renegade cop with uncanny skills. You're chasing through an ever-increasingly dangerous hierarchy of hoods and organized criminals trying to uncover their scheme and get to the big man. You play the whole game a mission at a time through a forking path of episodes. The forking path depends upon which skills you amass and choices you make. This is very cool.

You are a cool badass. You've got vehicles. You've got hand weapons and firearms. You've got martial arts skills. And you've got a badge and a city full of street crime.

This is the most important difference between this and GTA Vice City. In Vice City, you've only got one opportunity to advance. Take down the scores you're scumball lawyer arranges. You land in the hospital and you lose all your money, and you can't get skills or weapons without money. Now if you're going to force (another limiting dimension in GTAVC) somebody to be a bad guy, the first thing he'd think about is jacking civilians for cash. In Vice City, you can steal a Porsche, but can't pay for a screwdriver. Stupid.

In TCSOLA, there's a new crime in your vicinity every 2 minutes (Every 30 seconds if you're in Hollywood at night). You can choose to engage them or continue on your mission. It's like an infinite number of minigames in the larger game. Some of these street crimes are just fistfights between a couple of women, some of them involve multiple perps with automatic weapons who've hijacked vehicles, killed cops and taken hostages. So there's a full gamut of escapades.

TCSOLA is a very well balanced game. The level of control leaves something to be desired, but because you can operate in three modes, vehicle, hand to hand, and firearm combat it's a very good compromise. And yes there is bullet-time. In fact, it out Matrixes the Matrix when it comes to automatic weapons taking big chunks out of concrete pillars. It's a very hard gangsta-style LA and the whole environment is very engrossing. Anybody who digs hardcore action flicks is going to be in heaven. I particularly dig the realism of having to deal with the limits of revolvers and still having to worry about thugs with knives or broken bottles.

OK so here's the exciting part. You get a call on the radio that there's a holdup in progress. You drive up and skid your convertible Caddy 90 degrees in the street and take cover behind it. They start shooting automatic weapons. The civilians scatter. Backup comes in. You take down one suspect. The two others scatter on foot. You run down one of them with a flying tackle and fight both of them hand to hand for 2 minutes. You defeat one, cuff him on the pavement and the other takes off running. He jacks a car and takes you on a high speed chase across the city. You try to shoot his tires out while you avoid other traffic, running red lights. You bash into other cars, you clip civilians and knock over hydrants. Sirens are wailing, a helicopter passes overhead, sparks are flying from the wheels of the getaway car, hard pumping action gangsta rap is blasting on the system. You finally T-Bone his car, it catches fire and you chase after him on foot. You fire a warning shot into the air and he throws up his hands and surrenders. You cuff him saying some snarky shit like "Crime doesn't pay, sometimes it hurts." or "You have a right to remain unconscious". Meanwhile as you're putting the perp down, bystanders are cursing you out in Spanish.

It doesn't get any better than that.

Posted by mbowen at 11:54 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Zero Tolerance: Drugs

I've been thinking about the media and community prohibitions against drug use. It is so pervasive in nice neighborhoods like mine that there seems to be more drug talk than drug use.

I can't say with any accuracy how prevalent actual drug abuse is in my community, but I can assure you two things. One, that there is no visible sign of it whatsoever. There are no dealers, no hangouts, no halfway houses, no bleary-eyed people walking the streets, no economy to speak of. The second is that every elementary school kid is in the D.A.R.E. program and half of the secular values education is directed against drug abuse. The whole theme of Halloween was co-opted into an anti-drug message by the local elementary schools. Tuesday was Red Ribbon Day and all the kids wore red ribbons with anti-drug messages. Wednesday was Hat Day "Put a Cap on Drugs". Thursday was Sports Jersey Day "Team Up Against Drugs". Friday, the Halloween Costume Parade Day was themed "March Against Drugs". My kids know more about rhetoric against drugs than they know about drugs themselves. Their entire experience with the evils of drug abuse comes not from witnessing what it is and what it does to individuals, families and communities, but from the constant drone of preaching against it. If they had any idea how much weed their own parents have smoked, they would probably faint on the spot.

This is the conundrum of zero tolerance.

Posted by mbowen at 09:55 AM | TrackBack

PETA's Red Pill

In a flash of inspired brilliance, the hyperbole of PETA strikes a humorous and truthful note.

As I was watching The Meatrix I didn't realize it was a PETA site and so I thought I might get a plug for organic farming and enterprises like Whole Foods. Not to be of course. The lesson? Destroy evil corporations: eat your veggies.

Posted by mbowen at 08:54 AM | TrackBack


Posted by mbowen at 08:26 AM | TrackBack

November 09, 2003


I haven't been micromanaging the political rhetoric of the day because I've recognized that Bush matters a bit less than everyone thinks. GWBush has already done his big thing. His future is behind him. The invasion of Iraq and the destruction of the Baath is his legacy. There is nothing better he can ever do, and practically nothing he can do to undo it. Like millions of acute yet excitable and often obsessive Americans, I will do what I can to insure that he is a one-term president, however he appears to be doing something smart. (Or smart things are being said with his mouth):

Time after time, observers have questioned whether this country, or that people, or this group, are "ready" for democracy — as if freedom were a prize you win for meeting our own Western standards of progress....It should be clear to all that Islam — the faith of one-fifth of humanity — is consistent with democratic rule.

....Yet there's a great challenge today in the Middle East. In the words of a recent report by Arab scholars, the global wave of democracy has — and I quote — "barely reached the Arab states."

....Securing democracy in Iraq is the work of many hands....This is a massive and difficult undertaking — it is worth our effort, it is worth our sacrifice, because we know the stakes. The failure of Iraqi democracy would embolden terrorists around the world, increase dangers to the American people, and extinguish the hopes of millions in the region.

This may sound to many right thinking individuals to be giving eloquent words to the obvious. Still, it does matter that the President of the United States says them. When I think of the most important speeches this president has made (though I haven't read this one completely), I must say that they are mostly correct and on target.

GWBush suffers a number of maladies, but he is shepherding a vision that is fine and proper. He is setting up a field of vision in such a way as a more able man will make it so. What GWBush evidently knows given this kind of speech gives me a sense that almost anybody can do the right thing. Elect anyone and they couldn't possibly be stupid enough to twist things around backwards.

The direction GWBush is taking geopolitically in the Middle East is proper. Hopefully our next president won't bollicks it up and be a better internal manager of the agencies that are supposed to serve the president. It is a happy accident that neocon ideologues have gotten the ear of the president, but it's too bad that they are his judgement as well.

I'm ready for a change in management, but as far as the Middle East goes; stay the course.

Posted by mbowen at 07:12 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Matrix 4

Posted by mbowen at 03:50 PM | TrackBack

The Pantywaist Problem

First of all, for those of you who have sniffed at Evelyn Wood because you read like a demon, digest Winston Smith, the Philosoraptor as he humorously masticates Kim DuToit's renowned rant and spits him into a corner.

Second, check out my battle over Affirmative Action at Discriminations in which I get riled but spare my verbs.

For those of you without the inclination nor the time, perhaps you could tell me the perfect Yiddish world for the opposite of a mensch. These are the people who are mucking up our society with their high-pitched grumbling. What's more, they think they have the moral high ground and the irony of that, not to mention the sqealing noise, is really starting to annoy those of us who know better.

My solution for a great deal of this is A Punch in the Nose which is why I have that category here in the blog. As I come across more examples of this problem, I will propagate them into that area. You heard it here first.

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November 08, 2003


(off the Kwaku Network)

Question: What is the truest definition of Globalization?

Answer: Princess Diana's death.

Question: How come?

Answer: An English princess with an Egyptian boyfriend
crashes in a French tunnel, driving a German car with
a Dutch engine, driven by a Belgian who was drunk on
Scottish whiskey, followed closely by Italian
aparazzi, on Japanese motorcycles, treated by an
American doctor, using Brazilian medicines! And this
is sent to you by a Canadian, using Bill Gates'
technology and you are probably reading this on one of
the IBM clones that use Taiwanese-made chips, and
Korean-made monitors, assembled by Bangladeshi
workers in a Singapore plant, transported by lorries
driven by Indians, hijacked by Indonesians, unloaded
by Sicilian longshoremen, trucked by Mexican illegal
aliens, and finally sold to you. That, my friend, is

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Film Review: Bamboozled

A friend saw Bamboozled on DVD recently. I bring forth a review from the archives: October 2000 (I voted it #5 of all films that year)

it's hard to see a spike lee movie without bias, they're almost not even movies so much as they are cultural events. therefore it's always hard to pass judgement on them or review them like regular movies. there's nothing regular about spike lee, and predictably there is nothing ordinary about 'bamboozled', or perhaps there is and there lies the rub...

i can imagine that this film is going to be hardest on the film industry people. because unlike 'the player', 'bowfinger' or 'get shorty' it doesn't allow them to laugh at themselves. they are enemy, straight up. david edelstein, over at slate, has been the first critic (i suspect among many) who are going to fall into the spike lee trap. he criticises spike for not drawing out his characters into objects we can feel for, and ultimately be entertained by. if you want to be entertained by 'bamboozled' you essentially have to understand black humor, for everybody else, you'll never really know when or how to laugh. because it *is* a serious flick with a serious subject and the humor is all in the interstices, but not in the subtext. there are only a few ways to laugh at 'bamboozled' and if you don't get it, then its rough sledding.

even for me, busting a gut during the first half of the flick, it got pretty dry and heavy handed. spike has generally had a touch for giving his more dramatic lines a bit of tongue in cheek. but there is no famous 'spike shot' with people moving without walking. there are short soliloquies delivered with a kind of 'don't you get it?' attitude. if spikes characters are a bit flat, it's because they don't get it, and that serves the plot. it's not that any actor is sleepwalking through this film. it's well acted. nor that it is likely that anyone in the entertainment biz as portrayed by the characters is sleepwalking through their jobs at all. but 'bamboozled' is all about showing self-conscious frogs being boiled by degrees. everybody knows that something is going to pop, but they hope against hope that they can finesse the situation. there are no heroes, just the same old unbelievable shit, and that's hella realistic.

when things finally do go pop, the film takes a tangent which seems contrived. and it is that contrivance, a life or death situation, which makes his tale all the more real. there *are* no life and death consequences for the mistrelsy that is american entertainment. hollywood, madison avenue, and where ever the captains of fashion and booze ply their trades are wading comfortably in their boiling cauldrons. they have all their excuses so well rehearsed that when spike brings out the damage control media hack scene into focus, we know what she's going to say before she even says it. any beef you have with hollywood, be it violence, sex, drugs or rock and roll, is all implied here. this is how the boat floats - the show must go on.

'bamboozled' is only controversial, in my opinion, because everything hurtful happens to blacks due to the actions of blacks. and if you are unable to universalize the lessons, it overloads the significance of blacks and all the stereotypical devices in the coon show, as grotesque as they are. so moviegoers may end up twisted in knots thinking about 'the black thing' and what they are supposed to think of spike lee now. yes 'babmoozled' exploits a very particular venality of television vis a vis blackfolks and the america vis a vis the coon show. but there is something very deep and headbangingly harsh here in lee's critique of the business. and as didactic as many critics have called 'bamboozled' you would think more people will get it, but i think many will be stewing in their own juices.


Posted by mbowen at 04:22 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


I am preparing myself mentally these days to uproot myself and ultimately the Nuke once more. In three months going on four, I have been hacking the system for a new slot in the bourgie matrix, and it appears that I am on the verge of completing a transaction. The downside is that I will have to relocate to Detroit.

As far as I know, the gig is in close proximity to Troy, Michigan, and although my wife grew up in Detroit, it was back in the day. That means she only has a passing acquaintance with the communities on the other side of 8 Mile. She understands that there are good things to be said about Oakland County, but that's about the extent of it.

So if any of you have any recommendations, I would be very glad to hear them. The most important things are good public schools and bicycle neighborhoods. I tend to be most comfortable in areas where I am never too far from a Kinko's. The real estate guys at Kinko's and I have the same vibe when it comes to amenity proximity and demographics. I don't want a mall-town but I can survive it.

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The Angry Sun

I've noticed the TV going blank every once in a while, but other than that the only static I get is verbs from the blogosphere. Surely there are astronomers in a high state of excitation, but down here in my world, the solar storms have not disturbed business as usual. You would think that at the very least all the solar flares would interrupt the telemarketing industry. No such luck.

For some reason I haven't been able to rip CDs faster than realtime lately, but that's the only inexplicable I'm dealing with, other than why people don't recognize my genius and pay me millions of dollars. One more thing. Is it just me or don't all the pictures of the sun now remind you of the Evil Thing from the Fifth Element?

Posted by mbowen at 12:10 PM | TrackBack

Random Enough?

Is the random distribution of clothes, as you put them into the washing machine, random enough to generally insure that the spin cycle won't be imbalanced? Does it matter if you are right handed or left handed? Somebody had to work out that problem.

Posted by mbowen at 12:02 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Matrix 3: First Layer

I thought that I was only going to have a few things to say about The Matrix besides thank you to George who has sponsored me in this endeavor during these days of penury. It turns out that it's going to require more than 1000 words. So since there is good news and bad news, I'll start with the bad news.

Satisfaction. Peace. Resolution. Disappointment.

Watching the Matrix is like wiping your ass with silk. It's a delightful, sensuous pleasure, but the closer you look at the results, the more you have to have to admit that there's too much crap in the fabric. So I'm going to have to first get the buttcrud out of the way so that we can meditate on the silk. In the end it all gets flushed down the toilet, but there is something to say about such contemplation isn't there?

Oracle 2.0
I'm sorry, but there is just no way that the final chapter of the Matrix Trilogy has survived the mutation of the Oracle into the new actress. This was her film and despite the admirable performance of the woman who took her place, there is a deep void. The whole soul of the Matrix world has shifted into nothingness. No, rather than nothingness a vague approximation of somethingness with wasted meaning. The Four Tentpoles of the Matrix (Oracle, Neo, Morpheus, Merovingian) have all folded into mere shadows of their former selves and formulaicly marched to their doom. When it's finally over, you're glad it's over. You can rest. All things that have a beginning, have an end. This came to a mediocre end, with a bang to be sure, but.. ah so long Matrix. No more mystery, just fatigue. And suddenly you don't have to worry about it any longer. It's over! It's over!

It is clear that the closure in this film came down to weight of the Oracle. Suddenly, everything the Merovingian said made perfect sense, and he wasn't even balanced. Morpheus became a disowned prophet. There is one scene near the beginning of the film, while it was still cool and well paced, in which the trio of Morpheus, Trinity and Seraph (The Oracle's Bodyguard) face the Merovingian. He does his sinister laugh once too many times and it breaks your concentration. Then after the world's largest Mexican standoff, the scene breaks. As they leave the Merovignian's Club, they are like Dorothy who has fronted on the Wizard, bold but desparately ignorant. They leave in their car. The look on Trinity's face in that moment as she expresses a desparate need to get guidance from the Oracle is the emotional center of the film. But there is no rescue in the Oracle. And you know salvation in the Matrix is not coming. The whole power of the Matrix Jedis is mute; there is nothing left to do but fight the machines in the real bloody world - desparately hurling a million bullets at a million metal monsters.

The change in the Oracle over-reverbrates in this film. She was more human than all of the humans. And yet she is there in a new gaunter body. Everything that comes out of the Oracle's mouth is oracular. But the smile is gone, the smoking cigarettes seem to be a painful chore. She's some other woman in your mother's kitchen and the cookies just don't taste the same. It's worse than watching the new Darrin on Bewitched. It's worse than listening to the new fake Fred Flintstone in the Fruity Pebbles commercials. It's like living with Jesse Jackson after Martin Luther King is dead. All the substance of the Oracle was left in. All the love for the woman in front of your eyes is gone. It's something I valiantly tried to deal with. Bearing the loss of Gloria Foster is more than the soul of the Trilogy can handle. And this shows how much I loved the film series, because it hurts.

Posted by mbowen at 11:43 AM | TrackBack


I am older than Adam Sessler. I am probably one of the oldest gamers who's not in the game industry itself. I have at least 25 friends online from XBox Live and I know only one of them is anywhere near my age. But he's the guy who runs the most reality type sims on MotoGP2 and I think he's an old fart. He hates crashing. Me, I dig a little hardcore.

This weekend, I've prompted a minor celebration of sorts. I'm pretty sure that I'm going to get a job. It's the exact job that I wanted 2 years ago just after nine-eleven when I was desiring to be a mushroom. More on that later. The celebration involved getting three XBox rentals from Blockbuster.

Tony Hawk Underground
This game is so very cool that it makes me want to learn how to skate for real. The wide open environments provide a definite improvement over the previous games. And as usual, the 'Create-A-Skater' is even cooler than The Sims for creating very realistic human avatars for the game. Only in Tony Hawk's world can I make somebody who looks very much like me.

You start off your adventure in 'New Jersey', a cross between the 'hood and the ghetto. You build your street cred by doing tricks completing tasks in a grungy locale. If you are successful in rescuing one of the locals from revenge from drug dealers by jumping over the bridge where the cops are and saving the bum's house... well it's a long story, but you do get to go to Manhattan.

The narrative makes for a cool adventure. The music is off the hook. I swear that I am hearing Acey Alone rapping in parts of the soundtrack, but I've been 'hearing' him in Jurassic 5 too, and I don't quite trust my ears. My avatar's voice is stupid and doesn't sound like any of the real gamer kids I play online, then again Tony Hawk had to keep his T rating.

The gameplay is faster than I recall from the other TH games, but the number of grind opportunities in this environment is crazy sweet. In that it's a lot more realistic than the other games. I've been playing about 5 hours and have yet to hit a Varial but I'm fast becoming a very good grinder. In a decent tribute to Jet Set Radio Future, you can grind telephone & power cables above street level which adds a very cool dimension of challenge to already grind rich areas.

The kids are loving it, and I have to say that Hawk did a very fine job of creating a total environment. But just starting off in 'New Jersey' says it all. This game has got soul.

Posted by mbowen at 11:18 AM | TrackBack


Posted by mbowen at 11:16 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 07, 2003

Ghetto Games: Stomp

Of the three main aggro sports of hood life, a Stomp is by far the most exciting. It is also the one most likely to end up in a real fight. It is also the one I like the least to get involved in although I've won one or two. I find stomps rather objectionable, even in retrospect, because a stomp has the fewest rules and is by far the most irrationally violent.

A stomp basically works like this. Somebody standing in a good sized crowd 6 or more, takes out a quarter, or better yet a 50 cent piece or a silver dollar, drops in into the middle of the crowd on the asphalt and yells "Stomp!". It's on. The objective: pick up the coin.

Anyone who has any hand contact with the coin can get fired on until they raise it above their head. What usually goes on is that the coin is kicked around until it rolls on its edge. You try to run parallel to it and snatch it up while it's rolling. Anyone who tries to pick up a stationary coin in the middle of the crowd usually ends up bloody, but that depends on the ferocity of the stomp. You never know.

The offensive tactic is getting one's foot on top of the coin while attempting to play it off like it's not your foot. The defensive tactic is shoving the person who has stomped the coin off of it.

As in the other games, some people stand around just waiting to get in a cheap shot. Some people really need the money. Some dare you to fire on them. Some are crazy bold. Sometimes a second coin adds to the frenzy.

Stomps are pure madness.

Posted by mbowen at 08:53 PM | TrackBack

Ghetto Games: Slapboxing

Slapboxing is the most fundamental of all skills of a kid from around the way. It is part of the traditional greeting of tougher kids. Like the other aggression games, it rewards quickness and bravery.

What is slapboxing? It is just what its name implies. You box with your opponent except you use open hands. A good slapboxing match is always spontaneous, ends in one good hit and never lasts more than a couple minutes. It's a one on one sport done among acquaintances.

Almost every time I watch nature shows and see cubs or pups wrestling and nipping at each other's faces until one rolls belly up, I am reminded of slapboxing. It establishes dominance and lets people know where you are in the chain. People who slapbox on the regular don't have to fight. You know who has the quickness. But you also know who's not afraid to get tagged. It separates those who will squab[ble] from those who won't and it shows who's likely to get whooped in a serious throw down.

Slapboxing is the only type of horseplay in which you are allowed to hit someone in the face. In fact, it is the only objective. It is not so easy as it appears to slap someone in the face who is expecting it and trying to do the same to you. So much of slapboxing resembles much bobbing, weaving, dodging and whiffing. There's also a good deal of playful trash talking involved.

Somebody who gets tagged and then truly knuckles up cannot be trusted. He crumbles under pressure. He's not in control of his temper. Somebody who slapboxes the same person he can beat all the time is a coward. The kid who is always trying to get a hit in is trying to prove something. Anyone who doesn't talk shit while slapboxing is scared. You need to be smilling while you slapbox, and you need to be stylish. The master of style was Bruce Lee. If you can do a little Jeet Kun Do move in there, or just thumb your nose or spit cooly, then you've got the rudiments of style.

Either boxer can quit at anytime with honor, but somebody ought to get tagged at least once. No biggie. Try not to scratch.

It should be noted, and I'll put it here with slapboxing, that one of the most humiliating things that can happen to any tough kid is to get slapped on the back of the head. It's rather a breach of etiquette to be able to have that happen. If you've got that much skills on your opponent, you shouldn't be seriously slapboxing with him.

Serious thugs don't slapbox, because slapboxing is play. Men over 25 don't unless its with their old homies, and then only at clownlike slow speed.

Posted by mbowen at 08:26 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Ghetto Games: Suicide

Suicide is played with the same setup as traditional handball. Small rubber ball, handball court. A tennis ball will do just fine. You need about 5 players at least to get a good game. Whoever has the ball throws it directly at the wall. Somebody else catches it on the fly or after it bounces or whatever.

Rule #1
At the very spot the ball is caught, it must be thrown back at the wall. You cannot move from the spot no matter how far you are from the wall or at what angle.

Rule #2
You cannot let the ball bounce between you and the wall. You can't drop it. However the ball touches your body or for whatever reason, you can't let it touch the ground before it hits the wall.

Simple right? With one huge psychological catch. If the ball drops, you get fired on an unlimited number of times by every other player in the game until you touch the wall. Brilliant.

So there are lots of strategies and tactics in Suicide. You need to place yourself right in the middle of the action. What counts is bravery. You want to catch the fast balls to show you've got skills. But if you are too close to the wall, they'll be too fast. If you are too far from the wall you might miss. Remember these handball courts are generally free standing walls about 20 feet high and 15 feet across, and you're a kid. Newbies generally play up close to the wall so they can get to it without being fired on. It doesn't always work. The game usually ends when somebody way in the back misses the wall and takes all the other players on a mad chase in all different directions.

A good game of 'Sui' has about 8-15 players. And really great games have two balls going at the same time. Brutal poetry.

Posted by mbowen at 08:02 PM | TrackBack

Ghetto Games

This afternoon I took my son to a joint called 8 Ball. It's the local Yugioh hangout. He's just in the 4th grade so he's just warming up to these kinds of trading games. I've got a lot to learn.

My wife and I got into the discussion about what Yugioh is all about and ended up talking about back in the day. As some of you know, I grew up in the Hood. A knuckle-up neighborhood to be sure and very dangerous by today's suburban standards, but hardly anything a mensch from Brooklyn wouldn't understand.

We played handball. Do you remember the kind of handball we played? No breakers, popups go over, you try to lay tees and slices. The ultimate is the drop. We played sockball and one-base which was a variation on sockball. Sockball, was like baseball except that there was no pitcher and you socked the ball into the outfield. You got put out by getting hit by a thrown ball if you were between bases. That was some serious pickle.

But those were the tame games. When I headed over to Catholic School, I took the public school games with me. The classic of all? Suicide. But there were the psychological games too. BB Britches and Open Chest.

BB Britches is a classic exercise in vigilance. It works simply like this. On any day at any time, somebody declares that BB Britches is On. Any word that starts with 'B', you have to say 'BB Britches' or else get fired on. The game would go on until whoever started it could get with a bunch of players and all mutually decided to quit. You can imagine what kind of confusion it causes when people didn't know the game was on, but generally it was only the stupid kids that didn't catch on.

Open Chest was simply more stupid and brutal. You walk around with your arms crossed across your chest. If you left your arms down, you get fired on. Simple, stupid, deadly.

Needless to say 'getting fired on' had it's own rules and regulations. But you would have to live in the hood to know that. Essentially, except during slapboxing (which we'll cover momentarily), 'getting fired on' meant specifically a punch to the chest. It had to be hard enough to make you go 'oof' but not hard enough to make you cry. Since none of us was older than 11 for these kinds of games, that was a broad enough range and we all understood our limits which were almost never breached. You don't hit someone in the stomach or in the ribs. You don't ever hit someone in the face. Hitting on the arm is for the b-players. When you get fired on well, it will make a deep resounding sound and 'cave in' your chest. You bend over, say 'Damn' or some such and rejoin playfully admitting your opponent's clean shot since all of these kids are your friends anyway.

"You play too much", was the remark one heard by someone who got fired on and could handle it but didn't want to play. It served as a warning. Don't hit that boy again. (Yes of course it was only boys.)

Now to the three classics of the aggression games. Suicide, Slapbox, Stomp

Posted by mbowen at 06:42 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Jesus' iPod

Posted by mbowen at 05:09 PM | TrackBack

November 06, 2003

Rocks of Race

I haven't paid much attention to Howard Dean for any reason. When there are three Democrats in the race, I'll bother to distinguish between them.

But this Confederate Flag deally has got me thinking briefly about how dangerous it has become to come incorrect on race. I am aware that Dean has made some noises about race, saying that he's going to be the only white dude to talk about race to whitefolks. Good on him for that, even if he doesn't know what he's talking about. That doesn't change the fact that David Brooks just killed Howard Brush Dean a month or so ago, showing him to be a scion of the idle rich and social register types we all ought to mistrust. It only goes to underscore the points being made that he will prove himself incompetent to garner a significant percentage of Rednecktorate. (Alan Jackson is right of course; it's alright to be a redneck, but you can't fake that funk).

For the sake of obligatory seriousness, I think Saletan has the generous and right thinking perspective. But I don't see why Slate, dedicated as it is to Bushisms, would bother coming to Dean's aid. He's bumbling the message with a symbol loaded with the political equivalent of red hot flying shrapnel.

I get the feeling that a lot of people would really like to be right on race but are horribly frustrated at their inability to defuse the time bombs out there. I think our generation would rather it went away.

Nobody wants to be a race man. You have to have a bulletproof soul and a willingness to be a crusader or provocateur. Even in the blogosphere, that's a tough burden. I know I don't want it. Imagine how it must be for politicians - professional negotiators.

Whenever I think of the sad and sorry state of disarray on racial debates, even on something as basic as agreement on terminology, I want to set up a 24/7 portal on race.


Posted by mbowen at 02:34 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

So I've Been Told: Founding Father

Which Founding Father Are You?
Posted by mbowen at 02:07 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Manly Man Talk

Kim Du Toit, rough and tumble South African expatriot and gun nut, bloviates on the pussification of the American Male. He's got a small point, but is obviously living around too many metrosexuals. Either that or he's working for a woman who just kicked his ass about something.

It's an odd thing for bourgie folks who spend dozens of hours a week behind a keyboard to complain about a lack of manly deeds to perform in manly environments. Last time I checked there were still cement trucks to be driven, hodloads to be ported, and lumber to be jacked. If that's not enough, he could certainly go work on a tuna boat out of Alaska. There are jobs for cops, firefighters, steelworkers, welders, auto mechanics and oil riggers. Hell, he could even be a rodeo clown.

Instead, Mr. Du Toit carries a gun. Which wouldn't be a bad thing if he were a private investigator or a bail bondsman or a repo man. But he's a philosopher. Oh well. I can understand his frustration. In South Africa, his name might sound very masculine, but over here in the States, he wouldn't have survived the schoolyard.

UPDATE: According to the Gender Genie, Du Toit's article was written by a whiney bitch female.

Posted by mbowen at 07:33 AM | TrackBack

Bourgie Intolerance

Folks have been blubbering uncontrollably about some white kids that got hit with a box of cookies by some black kids they insulted. The kids were all college kids which means there's an obscure point to be made about Affirmative Action and Who Deserves College and the miracle of Free Speech.

Since Balkin says Atrios was stuck with a nuisance lawsuit, it just adds to my ever expanding list of questions. After watching more blubbering today on MTV's 'Rich Girls' (yeah I know), by some kid named Michael who can't stop crying because his best friend won't let him spend the night - I mean it's really freaky how he goes from crying his eyes out and whimpering, to cursing rabidly and lashing out, it was an astounding scene. Anyway it occured to me in a patently un-radical way that rich people are running away with civility.

As you know, I am absolutely for a healthy amount of rough justice. Exactly how much that is, I don't know. But if we carried swords instead of concealed pistols, better yet if we carried a bit of martial arts skills instead of retained lawyers, we'd be a much more civilized nation.

Understand that so many sensitive souls are going to be offended by the offended blacks that they too will become offensive, and dammit somebody needs to go around and slap some faces. At the very least some martinis need to be tossed into those faces. Why? Because these limp-wristed pantywaists are mucking up the ideosphere, not to mention the courts, with their petty desires to smooth out all the bumps in life.

Imagine the following scenario. You are a provocateur who believes *totally* in free speech. In fact, you are on the verge of tenure, the accomplishment of a lifetime. Tomorrow, you decide that you are going to give a speech on the inferiority of African American women of French & India creole descent who attended Catholic Church in New Orleans during the 50s. I tell you in no uncertain terms "Don't talk about my mama, if you do, I'm going to kick your ass." You happen to be in good stead with some attorneys, I happen to be 200 pounds of pure muscle with a mean left hook.

The next day, I happen to be chillin' with my homies practicing my cardio-kickboxing when suddenly I hear "..and especially the ones that went to Dillard. What a bunch of sluts!" I not so casually stroll over to the podium, grab you by the neck and procede to give you a left handed pimp-slap with approximately 75 foot-pounds of force, an amout sufficient to bloody your nose and land you on your wobbly lard ass.

Is that honorable?

The question at bottom has to do with the propriety of fighting. So let's reverse the situation.

As I am pumping up the bass, I watch you walk by in your tweedy-elbow patchy getup. I call you a faggot. My homies laugh as you mince by a little bit faster. I log onto your blog and I write into your comments that you're just a big fag and that you just talk about my mother because you really want to freak me and you're just mad that you get no play. You call your attorney who writes me a cease and desist letter and demands a public apology or else I will be sued for libel. I tell you and your attorney to fuck off.

I recieve a summons to appear in court. I sell my car and drop out of college to pay for an attorney. After I've spent $7,000 in legal fees for retainer, filing briefs and motions, you agree to settle out of court for $1. Too late, I'm already broke. Is that honorable?

As anyone with half a brain understands, them who has, gets. But them who has also gets to fight 'fair', whereas the rest of us can only hope to frighten you to death with threats of physical violence.

If our honor is based on our willingness to submit to the law and the law presumes that the way that wealthy people fight is morally superior (i.e. legal) and the way that other people fight is not, what is to be done about honor?

Nothing. That's why we have a phrase in this society called 'going postal'. Ask any cop.

Posted by mbowen at 12:59 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Don't Sue Me Because of My Commenters

I'm assuming the following from Balkin:

What the 9th Circuit held (and what the 4th Circuit also held before them) is that section 230 of the 1996 Telecom Act protects people who run websites from being sued for republishing the libels of another person. Section 230 states that " no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."

This does not mean that bloggers are immune from libels they themselves write. It means
that they are immune from (for example) libels published in their comments section (if they have one) because these comments are written by other people and the blogger is merely providing a space for them to be published. Congress wanted to treat operators of chatrooms and other interactive computer services differently from letters to the editor columns in a local newspaper.

So if bloggers defame somebody, they can still be sued for what they say, just not for what
someone else who publishes on the blogger's site says.

Posted by mbowen at 12:13 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 05, 2003

Gary Leon Ridgway

"I killed so many women, I have a hard time keeping them straight."
-- Gary Leon Ridgway

As reported in the LAT.

King County Sheriff Dave Reichert said after the hearing that Ridgway is a suspect in several other unsolved slayings, and is a person of interest in murders in other counties. Ridgway told investigators he recalled killing as many as 54 women in King County. One source close to the investigation said Ridgway's victims list could grow by more than a dozen.

I don't have to tell you how to react to such an individual. But I think those who oppose the death penalty under all circumstances must have a hard time dealing with the fact of such people. I haven't heard of the Green River Killer and it's hard to imagine him surpassing other notorious killers in memory. On the other hand, maybe we'll learn something.

King County prosecutor Norm Maleng initially said he would never agree to a plea bargain for Ridgway. But he said he changed his mind after talking with investigators and victims' relatives who wanted the murders resolved. The plea agreement allowed authorities to close many more cases than if prosecutors had pursued a trial.

"This agreement was the avenue to the truth," Maleng said. "In the end, the search for truth is why we have a criminal justice system."

The lesson here seems to be that sometimes learning the truth is more important than shooting the messenger, even when the messenger is telling the awful truth about himself. In this case, Ridgway will live because prosecutors agreed to cut a deal that excluded the death penalty. I'm not sure that's a good lesson to be taught.

Posted by mbowen at 08:54 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Proof that Howard Dean is an Idiot

"I want people with Confederate flags on their trucks to put down those flags and vote Democratic — because the need for quality health care, jobs and a good education knows no racial boundaries."

How do you get to be credible with anyone but morons when you stuff so much spin into a sentence? What he really meant was:

"I still want to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks."

He should stick by his guns. Then again, he probably doesn't have any. Furthermore, it proves that he doesn't know anything about the southern voters he is supposedly wooing. Asshat.

Posted by mbowen at 06:09 PM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

Political Dimensions

I found myself trying to spoof the 2D political spectrum in blog news today. I simply cannot accept the label of Left Authoritarian. There's no wiggle room in a test designed to categorize people that way, so I refuse it. The only reason I took it in the first place was in hopes that I would prove an outlyer on the curve. But I suspect that the very algorithms behind the quiz have too few degrees of freedom to actually produce a good variety of responses. So I would try to prove that there are actually dead zones in the two dimensional chart - that the function is dysfunctional.

Anyway as anyone who has seen my litumus litany or understands the rudiments of XRepublic knows, I'm not expecting much more from today's tools lack of ability to capture nuance.

Posted by mbowen at 05:04 PM | TrackBack

Avoiding the Matrix

Argh! The Matrix is everywhere. If the spousal unit hadn't taken the keys to the second car, I would have had a chance to sneak out and spend 8 bucks that I don't have on the next installment. That way I wouldn't be panicking over every other news program on television that's dropping hints.

I've already heard that Smith and Neo are twins of some sort. Fortunately, that's not much of a revelation. But it mitigates against the possibility of another One who is not Neo... unless.

I've got to stop thinking about it.

Posted by mbowen at 04:26 PM | TrackBack


What is up with Rich Girls? What kind of reality is this? Scary. I'm, like ya know, really really scared to watch MTV. I mean, it's like totally wierd. Freaking me out!

Posted by mbowen at 03:59 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Hitchens & The No-Fly Zone

How can you not love a guy who wrangles out paragraphs like this:

Meanwhile, the no-fly zones managed to protect the Kurds and Shiites from a repeat performance of the mass murders of 1991 and earlier but did not prevent, for example, the planned destruction of the largest wetlands in the Middle East, home to the 5,000-year-old civilization of the Marsh Arabs. The smoke from this drain-and-burn atrocity was visible from the space shuttle. I shall leave open the question of whether "we" had any responsibility to prevent this and other mutilations and tortures of Iraqi society, except to say that the meltdown and trauma of that society, now so visible to all, were always inescapably in our future and would in any case have had consequences beyond themselves for the wider region. The continuation of this regime was indeed an imminent threat, at least in the sense that it was a permanent threat.

I find almost no anti-war partisan today who weighed in against the no-fly zones in the past. The entire argument about the inflammatory nature of an American military presence in the Middle East producing a wave of 'baby Bin Ladens' had no basis in the face of the fact of the effective grounding of the Iraqi Air Force by daily flights by US fighter jets in the region.

The no-fly zones have always been a considerable US expense and always accepted as effective in protecting ethnic Iraqis from Saddam's helicopter gunships and other aerial terror. Let's try not to forget that.

Posted by mbowen at 02:35 PM | TrackBack

PC Exclusion

I've just read about Derbyshire via Clayton Cramer. Derbyshire said something considered highly objectionable.

Again, I am seeking some enlightenment about the degree of outrage over the injustices suffered by provocateurs who lose a gig because of a pique. Quoth Cramer:

There is a new McCarthyism going on in America. If you state opinions that offend homosexuals, you are in danger of being blacklisted. There are homosexuals who can tolerate differences of opinion--but the homosexuals that matter--those that run America's universities--are remarkably intolerant of differing opinions. You will shut up, and pretend to be happy about shutting up, or there will be consequences.

How dangerous is it to run afoul of the PC Police? Isn't this just a failure of privilege? Isn't this simply turnabout, or is the rage of a homo scorned something to be seriously concerned about?

My prejudice is that these are strictly bourgie complaints which while they don't lack merit are ultimately worthy of moderate sympathy and not alarm. I doubt the ability of the PC Police to chill or supress the ideas gents such as John Derbyshire are likely to support. I doubt that this kind of firing (see Easterbrook), venal as it is, deserves any more attention than those of your ordinary locked out supermarket employee. In fact, it deserves much less.

My bottom line is that people who make a living by talking should be able to afford the righteous indignation they suffer from being fired, or else join the priesthood. The marketplace of ideas is ultimately defined by those who control the largest chunk of market share. If one is too timorous to risk investing one's own skin in such a marketplace, then one should go private and collect one's one crowd of warrant holders.

The truth does not serve you, so stop trying to profit from it.

Posted by mbowen at 02:20 PM | TrackBack

Bernstein: Anti-Discrimination vs Free Speech

There's nothing so queer as immersion in a foreign environment, which is what I did yesterday afternoon at the Loyola Law School. Hearing out law professors in the company of law students is a rather freaky situation. I can only liken it to being in a one-way conversation in which the other person never gets to the point, although they seem to be making a lot of little arguments along the way. The Federalist Society which hosted this event and graciously extended an invitation, generally organizes their guest speakers into a debate format. It would have been preferable.

Back in the old days, I used to do this all the time. This being trolling the weekly newspapers and community bulletin boards looking for seminars, discussions and other public events which gather argumentative people for good head thrashing sessions. Needless to say, the web has obviated all that, many of those reasons came rushing by as I sat in the sparsely populated lecture hall for a mere 45 minutes.

The decided lack of energy percolating is, I suppose, to be expected of a libertarian law professor speaking on matters of conflict between Fourteenth and First Amendment rights. Bernstein clearly errs on the side of the First. I could barely get up enough steam to provoke the good professor, even as I lingered for the juicy part, the discussion after the discussion. Nevertheless, I am on shaky ground, surrounded by those who consume, digest and excrete legalese. One never knows what one doesn't know when it comes to the law; that's why these guys have careers.

When it comes to ideology, however, one can be a bit more fast and loose. Despite the kind of laid-back and insidey vibe of the joint, we almost got intense. But I've saved my comments for here. Read on gentle reader.

My problems with libertarians are multiple, and what I picked up from this cat was an interesting vibe. As far as I can tell, Bernstein places a great deal of faith and agency in the 'marketplace of ideas'. He credits the liberal progress of persecuted minorities in this nation to the success of this marketplace. As Eminem says 'We're gonna have a problem here'. To discuss this opens a large can of worms, but since Bernstein is Volokhian and I am likely to get some kind of response, I'm going to go there.

As someone who treasures the 1st over the 14th, Bernstein makes, by way of a series of embarrassing and egregious examples of the absurd positions the PC patrol (which he tellingly lumps in with multicultural activists, critical legal theory nutcases and affirmative action supporters) put us as in as Americans. OK. Further, he calls for a bit of stoic tolerance rather than emotive excess of victimization. So far so good. But I missed his opening statements so I don't know where he sees this slippery slope leading us.

It's difficult for me to worship the First Amendment because my distrust of its power cuts both ways. On the one hand if one is dedicated to a moral cause in defiance of the government, one speaks out whether or not that speech is protected. The Underground Railroad didn't need the First Amendment. The effectiveness of free speech is only relevant to democratic reform in the context of bourgie brotherhood, and that is only the subset of freedom which is liberty. We are not necessarily at liberty to do things free people ought and that is sometimes the critical difference, as the necessity of the Underground Railroad demonstrates.

On the other hand the First Amendment doesn't apply to money. Money is not speech, and a great number of things are possible with sufficient amounts of money which the powerful are at liberty to do which constrain freedom despite all the free speech in the world. The anti-smoking speakers practically own every form of media in their campaign against big tobacco, yet big tobacco persists. The effect of free speech is like rubber bullets against the armored vehicles of corporate power. The marketplace of ideas - even when it lands squarely in the domain of truth - doesn't stand a chance against markets with high barriers to entry that deliver fat cash flows to a powerful few.

Consequently, it's difficult for me to see the great harm that is brought to the nation through the excess litigation and culture of victimization expressed though the weird judgements and settlements of professional whiners and supporters of speech codes. The American legal system is chock full of frivolity bent on converting complaint into cash - Bernstein ought to be a bit more bent out of shape in his admonitions to perspective attorneys. Don't do such frivolous work. I'll go him one further and say half the litigation in this country is a prodigious misdirection of GDP, but he seemed to reserve his unction towards the rabble of activists named above. But if judges are to sit in judgement of the ridiculous... Well I'll get to that later.

Since I agree with Bernstein that there is no fundamental conflict between that group of Constitutional fixes I have learned today are called the Post Civil War Amendments and the First Amendment all we have is the contention around matters of equal protection under the law as guaranteed by the 14th. In this, at the hands of the Bad Guys, some enforcement of an interpretation of 'equality' is resulting in a transfer of wealth, censorship and a police state. Oh! I've heard this argument before. Hopefully this is what the good professor was getting at, otherwise the rest of this entry will be shadowboxing.

You see anti-discrimination law can trump the might First iff there is a compelling state interest. According to the professor, I understand that compelling state interest is no mere 'important' thing. In fact, it is more important than 'very important'. In other words it deals with excruciating situations - examples given were violent crime. We should not, however, go searching around for compelling state interests nor attempt to pre-empt though state power any category of danger from human experience.

Stepping aside momentarily without knowledge or prejudice of Bernstein's position on Lochner, it seems to me that labor protections which were generated in the context of collective bargaining should not limit individual employers and laborers from coming to their own decisions about how to handle their business. In this, I am all for free market mechanisms provided that contractors and contract makers are 'informated', which goes beyond simply informed. Somebody is 'informated' if they have a sufficient amount of data to make profitable decisions. If I was in the market to purchase a 325i, I can be informated about used BMW prices by having web access to historical records of transactions which are similar to those I would make.

Bernstein makes use of the familiar refrain, "I'd prefer that racists would just be up front". The argument he would make if he were so inclined would be make a law that forces discriminators to put up signs, and he speculates that the return of such jim crow signs would produce a market failure for any such discriminator. But he only sees harm in the form of market inefficiency in the absence of such signs. Without giving any credence to cosmic justice, one wonders how he so easily dismisses what disinvestment in the mainstream might result in countenancing overt discrimination. In either case I didn't hear anything from him to suggest aggressive enforcement of 14th amendment law is appropriate. I'd wager that if those companies busted for their codewords and covert discrimination by district attorneys were disassembled a la Enron on the regular, we'd see a bit less frivolous civil action. Who sues drug dealers for lowering the value of neighborhoods? Nobody. We are satisfied with criminal prosecution. Bernstein would prefer to deal with society's ills through informed market actions. With regards to punishing racists, we disagree.

Whenever I begin parsing words over racial discrimination I try to remind people to bring into context the actual acts of discrimination we were all about ridding. I think the language of 'compelling state interest' can be useful in this matter. For my own part, I have categorized racist discrimination into three classes. The same thing that mitigates my fear of the great harm done to the First Amendment by anti-discrimination civil action is the matter of degree. When people are sued for no good reason, that's a bad thing, but I think it is worse to suggest that we were always attempting to be so delicate, and it is this attitude which allows such suits to continue. We would do well to stop overemphasizing the litigations done adjudicating Class Three type offenses and strengthen our resolve to deal with Class Two and Class One. But by dismissing the ideology that advocates for suits over Class Three, we weaken our defenses against Class Two and One. I see this as a specie of Colorblindness as a cherished political value. It should not be.

Thomas E. Wood says it this way:

However one might feel about libertarian or quasi-libertarian objections to racial data collection and private sector enforcement of anti-discrimination laws, intellectual clarity and honesty require a clear acknowledgment that the choice between these principles and meaningful enforcement of anti-discrimination laws is very stark. If one favors laws prohibiting discrimination based on race and ethnicity in the public sector, one must acknowledge that such data is needed to enforce those laws. Similarly, if one favors laws prohibiting racial discrimination in the private sector, one must acknowledge the need for racial data in the private sector to enforce those laws.

This is the crux of the matter. If one allows for racist discrimination in the private sector, as most libertarians do, then one is not really defending civil liberty. One is simply allowing a privatized racist market. Any capitalist will tell you that the power of that market far outstrips that of government spending. Absent the kind of enforced jim crow truth in advertising, such markets will continue to reward racist discrimination and for the reasons I said before about the weakness of the First Amendment, liberty will be constrained. This is a far more important matter than the creeping totalitarianism of speech codes. Bernstein properly dismisses, with stoic tolerance, any prior restraint on MEChA, because he acknowledges that neither MEChistas nor Klanners nor neo-nazis are going to take over anything in America. But what privatized racist discrimination has done and continues to do is not monitored quite as fiercely by the EEOC as the FBI monitors skinheads and street gangs. Mind you we are talking about Class Two.

It is our unfortunate history, especially when playing fast and loose in ideological debates, to throw the baby out with the bath water when it comes to repairing discrimination and employing prophylactic methods. Out of the same side of the mouth that dismisses is the cult of victimization is support for defunding defenses against the dark arts of discrimination. A clear line for the support of liberty across ideologies has not been established. I would suggest that the same sentiment that opposes the frivolity of civil causes which trump the First Amendment consider criminalization of the more serious causes. If libertarians continue to insist that Affirmative Action is a Class Two racist offense and rant against the pluralist politics of multiculturalists, they are only undercutting liberty with their bourgie claims in defense of the First.

Posted by mbowen at 01:46 PM | TrackBack

P2P Pressure

Posted by mbowen at 10:20 AM | TrackBack

November 04, 2003


DAVID BERNSTEIN AT LOYOLA LAW SCHOOL NOV. 4. The Loyola Law School Chapter of The Federalist Society is proud to present George Mason University School of Law professor David E. Bernstein on November 4, 2003 in Merrifield Hall on the Loyola Law School Campus in Downtown Los Angeles.

Professor Bernstein will be speaking and answering questions about his new book: You Can't Say That! The Growing Threat to Civil Liberties from Antidiscrimination Laws (CATO Institute 2003).

David E. Bernstein is a professor of law at George Mason University. He is the author of Only One Place of Redress: African-Americans, Labor Regulations, and the Courts from Reconstruction to the New Deal (Duke, 2001) and co-editor of Phantom Risk: Scientific Inference and the Law (MIT, 1993). He is also a frequent contributor to the The Volokh Conspiracy

Posted by mbowen at 10:50 AM | TrackBack

Baby Brains

Every once in a while, I get those pangs of guilt and envy. This happens most often when I am reading Brad DeLong's blog and he speaks of his children's exploits. As anyone who reads Brad knows, he's got some embarassingly bright kids. Embarassing for us.

I'm not a total slouch, however. Like most parents, I try to keep the denial to a minimum and on occasion I find myself very pleased with the way the genetic cookies are baking. Of the three, there is only one who is behind and only in one subject. The rest is, as they say, As and Bs and black-eyed peas. F8 is my middle child's codename. She's a third grader and although she doesn't hate math, she doesn't have the aptitude right now. But this is not about her, it's about F6.

F6 is smarter than I was when I was a kid and my IQ was 136. I think she's way smarter. How many first graders do you know who play Monopoly? In fact she's a huge Monopoly fan and beats her older brother and sister on a consistent basis. We played chess last night and she's progressing nicely. I have promised to play my kids very hardball when it comes to chess. I am teaching it as a merciless game. I was never very good but I never lost until the 10th grade and I beat my father for the first time after a year of playing. So I'm thinking of new ways to challenge the puppies and I hit upon something interesting.

I suck at dominoes. For my entire life I was at the mercy of all country cousins when it came to games of chance. Spades, tonk, spoons, crazy 8s, bid whist, blackjack and poker? Ha! I was a loser's loser. I could only play gin rummy, a sissy game. But the scariest game of all? Craps. Although I could pitch pennies with the best of them, shooting dice has its own mythology of evil that I could not overcome. My parents' puritanical injuction against gambling of any sort formed a insuperable mental block. No matter how I tried to think clearly about the rules of the game, its association with knife fights and cheating made my stomach drop. But most of all was that it was about money. How could games be about money? This underinvestment by my parents is something I am loathe to pass on.

There is perhaps nothing so subversive as a woman whose understanding of a man's game surpasses that of men. So while there are real educational advantages in having F6 grok the subtleties of craps probabilities, I'm also looking forward to her scaring men. But most of all I hope to show them that some parts of life are indeed a crapshoot, and the more comfortable you are dealing with the odds, and even putting your money where your brains are, the better off you'll be. In that, I think I will be teaching my kids something about economics and character, which is a good lesson for all baby brains.

Posted by mbowen at 09:53 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Blind Date

Posted by mbowen at 09:50 AM | TrackBack

Wussy BS

Now that we have reached a Hitler Moment, there's nothing else to say.

Some reporters were surprised at the turn of events. "If Hitler had more friends, CBS wouldn't have aired [its Hitler miniseries] either," Philadelphia Daily News TV critic Ellen Gray grumbled to The TV Column.

What a bunch of cowards.

Posted by mbowen at 09:41 AM | TrackBack

Undoing D.A.R.E

"After three decades of fueling the US war on drugs with over half a trillion tax dollars and increasingly punitive policies," says LEAP, "illicit drugs are easier to get, cheaper, and more potent than they were 30 years ago. While our court system is choked with ever-increasing drug prosecutions, our quadrupled prison population has made building prisons this nation's fastest growing industry...Meanwhile people are dying in our streets and drug barons grow richer than ever before. We must change these policies."

Reason gives us plenty of reasons to toss the War on Some Drugs into the dustbin of history once and forever. I agree that it's about time we stop building prisons for people who just want to get high and that we do some very serious thinking about replacing tobacco tax revenues with marijuana revenues. Alcohol and THC are about all the drugs we need in our society. We're not going to get rid of either of them anytime soon.

Off the back of the envelope I would suggest that no television, radio or outdoor ads be allowed for legal pot. Manufacturers would be reduced to branding, packaging and instore displays.

Posted by mbowen at 09:21 AM | TrackBack

P2P Fear

Posted by mbowen at 07:34 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 03, 2003

Black Rice

I didn't get my Splendid Table on yesterday, but I did catch a little bit of NPR Sunday morning in which the the interviewee talked about wild rice. It reminded me of Judith Carney's research. Her landmark book is called 'Black Rice'.

We're always giving thanks around this time of year for corn and turkey. But people forget how African slaves revolutionized the agrarian economy of the United States. Well, perhaps they never knew that it was intellectual work. Carver introduced crop rotation, of course, but what most people don't know is that rice is not native to the US. Most everything Americans know about rice comes from West African agriculture experts.

Or to put it in academic-speak:

Carney, J. 2001. Black Rice: The African Origins of Rice Cultivation in the Americas. Cambridge: Harvard University Press*.

Black Rice is most remarkable because it does the radical work of a postcolonial political ecology using the very traditional and rigorous tools of cultural ecology. Situated directly in the Sauerian tradition of diffusion studies, Carney offers a rigorous historical mapping of the diffusion of rice (Oryza glabberima) from the flooded fields of pre-colonial West Africa to the antebellum plantations of North America, where it became the largest cash crop of the prewar period.

In the process, the study turns Eurocentric diffusionist notions on their heads and in the spirit of Jim Blaut, shows the contributions of non-Euro-Americans to the environmental history of global knowledge and genetic exchange. Far from lacking food surpluses as has been suggested of the region, the levels of surplus from West African rice production likely supported vast populations in the region into the 1500s, a hugely successful agroecology that ironically made the region a target for slavers. So too, the success of American plantations, populated by Europeans with little or no reliable knowledge of subtropical production, depended entirely on seizing and capitalizing on African rice production knowledge - the knowledge of the enslaved. It also depended upon the transplantation of an African domesticate, which was parlayed into the major cash-earning crop of the antebellum South. The power of this story in both contributing to, and inverting, diffusionist history is profound.

Posted by mbowen at 04:50 PM | TrackBack

The Sun is God

Sasha speaks of the Sun.

Here is my theory. If you believe, as Raymond Kurzweil does that spirit is independent of hardware, then intelligence is something that can be manifest in any computing substrate. So take the million monkeys typing theory to its logical conclusion. What patterns are created by the trillion trillion nuclear reactions going on inside the sun for billions of years? Everything!

Stars communicate with each other. They are the most intelligent life in the universe. Since travel beyond the speed of light is impossible, stars have everything they need within themselves. They have billions of years to do what they do, and so they do. But the most important thing to know is that they are incredibly fast computers.

Somebody simply has to show that they exhibit emergent behavior via the cellular automata exhibited by the rules of nuclear fusion of helium. Then it's over.

Posted by mbowen at 04:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Race & SATs (Only) Again

As an advocate of racial integration, I am a supporter of well-managed academic affirmative action at the undergraduate level and have a positive regard for bold-faced tokenism at the graduate level. In my world there would be a two tier system with some very high profile universities exempted from any integration programs. My political opponents say that racial integration is a personal preference and that we should be colorblind, I say take carefully measured portions and mix vigorously. What always irks me is that when it comes down to it, the colorblind supporters of Proposition 209 always end up counting noses by color anyway. And so they are at it again.

I should also take time to remind all concerned that I am a skeptic on matters of affirmative action prophylaxis. That is to say I do not believe that high SAT scorers who are rejected for the sake of affirmative action are objectively worse off than those who are accepted despite their low scores.

Apparently, too many non-whites got into UC again. This time the focus was on 374 students who were accepted at Berkeley with SAT scores < 1000, as compared to the 10,400 who got in with scores >1000. The Oakland Tribune cites the following specs & gives the final word to Ward Connorly, just to show how objective they are.

Moores' analysis didn't include information on the ethnicity of admitted students, but an additional look at data provided by UC headquarters shows that most of the low-scoring students are minority.

In 2002, 63 -- or 19 percent -- of the students were black and 149 -- or 45 percent -- were Latino. Those are minority groups that are underrepresented at UC Berkeley and other UC campuses. Another 83 students (25 percent) were Asian, 5 (1.5 percent) were Native American and 23 (7 percent) were white. Another 9 students were categorized as "other."

In 2001, 66 -- or 17 percent -- of students admitted with scores below 1000 were black and 170 -- 44 percent -- were Latino. Asian students numbered 110 (28 percent); 25 students (6 percent) were white and 17 students (4 percent) were "other" or didn't provide the data.

The LAT on the other hand suggested that non-whites with sub-par SAT scores are being accepted at about the same rate as whites are. Their analysis goes like this:

The University of California provided data pertaining to applicants with scores of 1000 or below who sought admission to freshman classes in the fall of 2002 and 2003. The Times calculated the percentages.

Among the findings:

• Taken together, low-scoring blacks, Latinos and Native Americans were just as likely to be admitted as Asians and whites. The admission rate for both groups was 63%.

In all, 67% of low-scoring Latino applicants were admitted to at least one UC campus, compared with 65% of Asians and 60% of whites.

But only 49% of black applicants with similarly low scores were admitted.

• The picture was different at the university's two most competitive campuses, where Latinos and blacks — who make up a smaller share of the student body relative to their numbers in the state's population — were more likely to be accepted.

UC Berkeley, the original focus of the admissions debate, admitted low-scoring blacks and Latinos at twice the rate of Asians and whites with similar scores.

UCLA was about a quarter more likely to admit low-scoring African Americans and Latinos than whites and Asians.

Both campuses were much more selective than others, however. Berkeley accepted only 8% of all low-scoring applicants and UCLA 7%. In all, about 1,500 low-scoring students—a relatively small number — were admitted at the two campuses over the two-year period.

I don't expect that anyone is going to hand over any multidimensional spreadsheets any time soon. This is a particular pet peeve of mine, since multidimensional analysis is what I do. So we'll get pieces of data that suit the agendas of the partisans.

This wouldn't be half a problem if it weren't for the fact that the debate stays obssessed with race & SAT scores and does not give us anything else to talk about. I expect that the knuckleheads that follow Connorly expect nothing more, but I expect more from my newspapers.

Citizens will again focus on race and test scores. Isn't it ironic that Connorly does too?

Posted by mbowen at 03:31 PM | TrackBack

James Bovard & The Cell War

I watched Brian Lamb interview James Bovard last evening on C-SPAN. The publication of Bovard's volume 'Terrorism and Tyranny' proves that we are just beyond the Monday morning armchair and into geek-level analysis. Lamb attempted quite deliberately to show that Bovard is not a crank. Bovard would fit righteously into the blogosphere. So I give him the benefit of the doubt. The good news is that we will inevitably parse Administration words and discover how lousy a manager Bush is. The bad news is that Bovard is no ideologue, which means that he is likely to shift the debate and thinking of non-partisan intellectuals off of the superhighway and into the backroads, and so I've been inspired once again to look at the big picture.

Cells vs States
Bovard's stellar point is obvious once considered, which is that 'state sponsored terrorism' has generally been interpreted because of GWB's rhetoric, as the compliticy of governments in the harboring of terrorist cells, training camps & notorious individuals. And so a War on Terror invites nations to broad police actions in cooperation with other nations. The problem with this is that nations themselves - governments partake in terrorist operations. If you look at the sum total of people killed by 'terrorists' by the generally accepted definition, Bovard counts about 8000 since 2001. But if you choose to examine the death toll attributable to duly constituted governments (OK governments recognized by the UN) you easily exceed that figure by two orders of magnitude. Declaring war on states which are not direct threats to America in the traditional 'national interest' sense is a use of disproportionate force if you are really trying to get the cells. In the name of a war on terrorism, you have problems throwing the state out with the terrorist bathwater. And so, according to Bovard, shaky with Afghanistan and dead wrong on Iraq.

Right after nine-eleven, I was saying that the most important development in WW3 is the breakdown of the nation-state. That was premature. I do believe Powell made a good case that nations matter, tangential to the Bush Administration definition of state-sponsored terrorism, and now Bovard seconds the motion. Yet the police actions of America's War on Terror tracks closely to a paranoia about cell-based organization and asymmetrical war. The targets are smaller and more mobile than we expected, and the collateral damage is significant. As I weighed in for patience on the ground war against Iraq, I was quite willing to support an international police action against cells. I'll now refer to the latter as the Cell War as distinct from the State Wars against Iraq and Afghanistan.

The civil libertarian in me is getting riled over the notion (because it's so damned secret, nobody has facts) that the Bush Administration is desparate to hide the collateral damage in the Cell War. Bovard chronicles many sources .

Whose Intelligence?
It is also rather difficult at this point, while political accusations go back and forth, to determine how adept any international coaltion might be at gathering and employing the kind of intelligence that would abet the purposes of the Cell War. Who can be trusted? Chalabi? Tenet? The Pakistani intelligence service? The BBC? Wilson? If no reasonable intelligence can be gathered, and that which is gathered cannot be wisely used and shared amongst an internation coalition in the Cell War, then what do we do about terror?

Part of me wants to say that we react only. If Al-Aksa and Hamas, Al Qaeda and Hezb'Allah and the rest of the secret cells are responsible for only 8000 deaths, what say we give it the same press as malaria?

On the other hand, if we open up intelligence and enable citizens to work within the current system, rather than grant extraordinary powers to the same alphabet soup of government agencies who have left us vulnerable in the first place, we might find a better way to fight at the level at which cells operate. Posses of vigilantes might do a better job than armies. Our 52 card deck of Iraqi's Most Wanted proved that rather handily. No PATRIOT Act necessary.

Look Forward
The problem with parsing words on Bush's justifications is that geopolitically astute people should already have had their own reasons for toppling or appeasing Saddam Hussein. This is why the Bush Lied crowd is so annoying to me. Of course he lied, he's a democratic politician and half-assed emperor. Who are you to merit his full disclosure? The more important question is whether or not he is using the resources of the Empire properly. We won't know that until the new Iraq is done. It still makes sense to debate and discuss the proper direction and implementation of the Wars on Terror, but debating the ways and means of disclosure? Understand that it was inevitable the George W. Bush would not run a tight ship under these kind of crisis conditions, that we all should have known when he was elected. The bottom line is how much does our pacification of the Middle East cost and is it worth it? That doesn't seem to be the kind of debate we are hearing.

Posted by mbowen at 02:21 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Infinity, Hell & Hope

A really great thread over at Crooked Timber.

Is it really possible to beat the devil while in Hell? That depends upon whether or not God has given complete dominion over Hell to Satan. If God has given license to Satan to create a bizarro world, does he do so in compliance with or defiance of the laws of physics? I'm inclined to believe the former, but I also don't believe that would help us out at all.

I assert this with the assumption that free will as a gift of god allows us to fully contemplate the universe as his creation. That doesn't mean that we will understand it, but it is open to contemplation. This has direct relevance to matters of infinity. If we are perceptive as souls what does that mean vis a vis the observable universe. We can only assume that the human perspective as reified in the laws of physics are a reflection of the gift of free will, but what of physics applies to our eternal souls? The very idea that we could suffer infinitely in Hell begs questions of what life and pain actually are. How does an eternal soul percieve pain or time? Physics, mathematics and philosophy don't necessarily apply to eternal souls the way they do to finite human beings.

If, we are therefore in Hell and are offered a deal by Satan, the only thing we can be sure of is God's word and God's promise, because the very existence of Hell and the eternal soul is much better explained by God's word than by physics, mathematics and philosophy. God may very well use these tools, then again so did Euclid. The laws of the Euclidian space-time may have been suitable for those days on earth, but how well will Einstein's laws apply to Hell? Until someone could prove that our best theories of physics, mathematics and philosophy are God's own versions, it makes no sense to deal with the Devil using human terms of logic.

If we accept that we are in Hell because of God's will, then our best bet is that God will have mercy on our souls even while in Hell. Help yourself given your best estimation of physics and pray for intervention. Lean not on your own understanding.

Posted by mbowen at 02:09 PM | TrackBack

The Return of 24

I'm going to obsess over '24' for another season. I have to say that it's probably my favorite TV show. I don't like the West Wing so much these days because it reminds me that I don't have a job. But 24, hey.

So, Jack's on smack. That's brilliant. This just beats the crap out of Alias' season premise. So what you were kidnapped and lost your memory. Get over it. Take a tip from the bloody bride. Anyway, this is really good. He's already off kilter in the first ep, biting off heads and sweating bullets. He's a loaded gun. (Why is that an attractive metaphor?) I'm still worried that Jack is going to waste a whole lot of CTU blood and still get a pass. It's the big stupid in the past two seasons, but we can get over that.

I am so glad that Jack's daughter has joined CTU. It's about time she stopped traipsing around with the idiot boyfriends. It's a great transition. The president's honey is his doctor. Lovely. His new chief of staff is his brother. How Kennedy, but I can dig that too. Jack's love interest from the last show is back on board. It also looks like we are going to see some location stuff in Mexico. Good idea.

All in all, things are shaping up to be a pretty wild day this season.

Posted by mbowen at 12:27 PM | TrackBack


The reason I am antsy is because after about five weeks, I have finished Quicksilver. Now there is nothing on the side of the bed for me to fall asleep to.

Like the rest of the world who is hip to Goto Dengo and Van Eck Phreaking, I eagerly awaited Neal Stephenson's next opus. When Quicksilver hit the shelves, well even before, we plunked down our ducats for the next adventure. Having completed it, I find it a mixed bag, but I'm still waiting for the next one.

Unlike Cryptonomicon, I can't imagine ever going back to parse the pages of Q for fun. But I can see myself digging into it once again to catch the flavor of the days before science. One of the reasons I haven't gone bugger all bonkers over the flap over the one minion who says this is a war against Islam is because, having been immersed in Quicksilver, I've been accustomed to hearing characters bloviate obtusely with no idea of the implications of their utterings. To read of Bulldogs, Frogs, Clogs and Wogs all ranting their zargon over the meaning of Papistry and other Christian cults is more a testament to my obsession to minutia than to Stephenson's art. But detail is fun for obsessives. Once.

As a chronicle of the evolution of a kind of literacy, Quicksilver pales in comparison to the Neveryon Series by Samuel R. Delaney. That is because it fails to bridge the gap between the fanciful and the historical. In otherwords, true ancient history told in realtime is boring as hell - the greater the verisimilitude the more appealing it is to historians themselves. The rest of us who are depending on the context of the narrative itself to fill in the blanks are left in the dark. Especially with a wishy-washy protagonist like Daniel Waterhouse, there is no telling who is good, bad or ugly. With such a galaxy of characters, their own tales would have added richly to the book. Instead, we only know them through their inscrutable interactions with the main characters, Waterhouse, Eliza and Shaftoe. Such simple, but structurally crucial narratives are subsumed into the the rococco tapestry of an all too well documented world. And so we are left with a map of a mysterious world, and no matter how much we fuss over the details, we have no idea what might happen next. This is the kind of mystery that is engaging for about 500 pages, but not 400 after that.

Reading Q itself becomes the subtext of reading Q. We know that Liebniz will get the credit for calculus while Newton's fluxions languish into obscurity. As an ur-text, Quicksilver invites further exploration of the characters of antiquity. I don't know why I know Christopher Wren, and reading Q does not help much. I should like to find out more. The same goes for Wilkins and his universal language. There's so much to know and Q provides a spine for tracking back. As a reference book made narrative, it works. I predict that will be much of the cache of Quicksilver.

I like the idea of an immersive franchise. As I write this, I am listening to the 'Truth and Reconciliation Suite' by O'Donnell & Salvatori. Hell, I even bought Myst III. Even though this volume is the kind of disappointment that would not stand on its own (without Cryptonomicon) I find that problem does not mitigate my enthusiasm for the next installement. There is much more history to pursue in the Baroque series.

Quicksilver has huge swaths of brilliance. The adventures of Eliza and Shaftoe in the lands of the Vagabonds was quite a rollicking section. The cat & mouse with Waterhouse off the Massachussets coast was extraordinary. The escape of Shaftoe from the costume ball, the descriptions of Hooke's laboratory and work, the very letters and dialog of Liebniz all great. The working of nobility, the mercantilist economies, the dangers of womanhood, the details of clothing, the odd mix of language all combine to illustrate a time and place which have become indelible in my imagination of London and Paris.

In Stephenson's next volume I am looking forward to the Renaissence in full splendor, the American and French Revolutions. This is going to be fabulous. This time, however I'll know to bone up beforehand.

Posted by mbowen at 12:24 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Peer To Peer

Posted by mbowen at 12:01 PM | TrackBack

8 Mile

'8 Mile' is the best boys rollin' 5 deep in a hoopty movie since 'School Daze'. Good flick.

Posted by mbowen at 11:59 AM | TrackBack

November 02, 2003

Electing Stalin

P6 says:

essentially, that once you have agreed that government is a job for the full-time expert and that ''rule by the people'' is literally impossible, you need some way in which the ordinary man can stop the elite from walking off with the store.

I say:
What is it that the common man knows that is so important that he should control government? Nothing. It is not so important as the fact that the common man outnumbers the uncommon man.

If one desires a representative government one must be aware that there is a limited amount of consensus that is possible from the masses. There are the inevitable mathematics that a Greatest Common Factor among the masses won't be particularly high. The greater the actual number of diverse people, the lower that GCF will be.

The masses are all ants without a queen. They experiment and try every which way to get over. Once they succeed in finding a way, they will discipline themselves to that way and their achievement depends upon their ability to successfully negoitiate the factors that change the conditions under which their original success flourished. The better they are at this, the more they become an elite power. An elite is created by success. Achievement requires focus and discipline, such are the very things that differentiate one from the masses.

What everybody should understand is their fundamental agreement. Education of the masses to prevent their 'being complicit in their own oppression' disempowers the elite only if the elite in fact is empowered by the assent of the masses. In a market economy, this is nothing more or less than giving the public what it wants. So when the public changes its mind or if the public has its mind changed for it this same action only facilitates the creation of a new elite. Sick of violent movies, watch chick flicks. Sick of all movies? Read a book. Sick of Democrats? Vote Republican. Sick of both? Vote Green. Sick of politics? Don't vote. Sick of civil society? Go to jail.

Every choice isolates and lowers the GCF. If one is disciplined in their thoughtful choices, there are only two directions to go. One is towards the hermetic world of the Unabomber, the other is towards the responsive world of Commerce. The Unabomber needs coersion and force to rule. The 'Commercialist' needs assent and buy-in.

There is one important function that the GCF should yield and that is a hedge against tyranny. I am preparing to believe that should be the primary fact and direction of democratic action. There is a precarious balance involved, and I am not clear on how it should be struck. But I am clear about matters of elites. They are empowered by success, and it is a success that cannot be transferred arbitrarily in an open system.

To close the system, to fix goals of empowerment along predictable lines, establishes control. It will allow incumbents and permanent interests to correctly second guess the 'emergent' behavior of the 'markets' of democracy. Tyrrany will result. This is especially a danger in societies were governement does not appear to be in control over free thought. But so long as those permanent interests are not responsive a free and fair election will elect a Stalin.

Posted by mbowen at 09:06 PM | TrackBack

Malcolm & Arianna's Taxes

I've been bouncing a lot of P6's stuff in my head. His site was really cooking in early September (and still is). Reviewing the following quote of his I've arrived at something of an ethical dilemma:

There's also a difference in the way we deal with rules and laws. A common statement among Black folks is that as soon as we learn the rules, the rules change. I think it's more subtle than that. The problem is that there's a split in how they are interpreted by Blacks and whites (another subtle thought!). For white folks, the rule for applying rules is: That which is not forbidden is allowed. For Black folks, the rule for applying rules is: That which is not allowed is forbidden. White folks are punished for breaking the law; Black folks are punished for failure to follow the law. When law tells white folks what they can't do, it tells Black folks what we can do. When law tells white folks what they can do, it tells Blacks what we must do.

I think that Malcolm would probably be a Republican if he were alive today (boy I'd love to see him slapping Diane Feinstein around, but I digress). I think so because I know he would be pro-gun, pro-life, anti-government, pro-business. But on that last score I thought about the following. If Malcolm were a pro-business and presumeably anti-tax, would he do what Arianna does? That is to say if he were rich would he use tax attorneys to get him the best breaks on his taxes possible?

This is probably not a fair issue to place at the feet of those two. Huffington for her part says that it's the illegal shoving of huge deductions through already fat loopholes that is the problem, not necessarily that loopholes exist. If her miniscule tax bill were illegal, then she'd have more explaining to do than she does. And now that I think about it, I don't think Malcolm would have any problem whatsoever keeping every dime from the feds, and the state.

Still the question of black ethics stands in light of bogarding against the presumptions P6 raises about the allowable under the law. Nobody from Arianna's team is going to open a tax advisement center in the 'hood. Legal aid in the black community hasn't meant tax shelters, although I can tell you about a whole lot of blackfolks in A.L. Williams. (Heh, it became Primerica, there's a lot of blackfolks there too). My point, which I will try to emphasize more and more now that it's becoming clearer to me as it survives lines of questioning like this, is that I strongly believe that the properly interpreted impetus of black nationalism would be for blackfolks to take every advantage America offers.

Black consciousness outlived its usefulness as a consuming ideology when it failed to accomodate the religious, ethnic and class diversity of an increasingly liberated African America. Plus it had some fairly large problems with sexism. But it did overcome the Duboisian dilemma of dual consciousness. It did give the Negro a way out of his guilt trip, it did show a way around a lot of problems Carter Woodson so eloquently exposed. Black nationalist politics launched hundreds of independent organizations which retained autonomy through the integrative movements of the 70s and provided great environments for doing well. (Although too many people today probably believe it was all Affirmative Action (hmm.)).

That black nationalism and consciousness was foremost in the minds of the individuals who launched organizations like the National Association of Black Accountants and the National Black MBA Association should be self-evident. What is not so self-evident is where the line between integration and segregation is blurred. I'll simply assert that it is the in the interest of a revised black nationalism to employ mass markets for the purposes of a black elite. Furthermore it is in the long-term interests of African Americans that these black elites reach a certain level of success, whether or not they conflict directly with the class interests of ordinary blackfolks. If blacks don't sell out successfully, African Americans will only marry into wealth.

There are a number of significant questions that arise from this suggestion that need to be handled at length. I think the most important is whether or not there need be a meaning or a message embedded in the success of African American elites. I am likely to elide this question on egalitarian grounds but advocate gently that there already is a meaning which is simply a fulfillment of a dual destiny. The first is the generic destiny of the American Dream and concurrent proving true of meritocracy and equality. The second is the historically specific aspirations of African Americans in their many social and political movements of race raising. I want to avoid any suggestion that there is embedded essential meaning to the success of a race - that a Black President of the US is not a materially different kind of President in any way other than as the fulfillment of these dreams which are not in conflict with each other.

But the ways and means of black success will be different and in that way grown differently than any other because of the existentials of blackness. But these are not permanent distinctions and could not be described or predicted by those who advanced Black Nationalist aims. The Black President or elites should be like other American elites and subject to the same forces. They will only own themselves and their own unique history.

So at the top of the American mountain, the view will be the same. Malcolm's intellectual progeny will use the system like Arianna does, hopefully with better results.

Posted by mbowen at 08:48 PM | TrackBack

November 01, 2003

Courthouse Snipers

shoot.jpgFirst, shoot all the lawyers.

Last night someone tried to kill a probate lawyer. I suspect this will not be the last time. Imagine the chilling effect if courthouses became danger zones, if the litigious types of our society began to fear their day in court because they would have to travel under armed guard.

What a thought!

Posted by mbowen at 01:20 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Digital EBay

I have been ripping hundreds of my own tracks onto disk. I have something like 5500 right now. Needless to say, I'm quite a music lover. There is little question that digital is superior to disk. But the CD is an excellent medium for exchange. There are healthy markets for the buying and selling of pre-owned CDs, and it is this that has my attention right now. I can easily sell my CDs for 3 to 5 dollars online or at a neighborhood store. (at least I thought so).

Now I tend to believe that home digital stuff is actually more captive than we previously imagined. One reason has to do with the positive reasons for DR watermarks, that of quality. There is not, to my knowledge a digital exchange like This needs to be the next breakthrough.

Reference Fudging P2P here also.

Posted by mbowen at 01:09 PM | TrackBack


Any movie that should be subjected to MST3K.

Posted by mbowen at 01:00 PM | TrackBack

Instant Capitalism

Since I've been running Cubegeek, not as busily or thoroughly as I would have liked though, I've kept a money-making idea in the back of my head. Simple merchandizing. Cafepress is the place I thought it was but I didn't realize that there were no up-front costs. Needless to say, this is brilliant. Free storefronts, inventory management, cash registers and accounting. It doesn't get much easier than that.

Posted by mbowen at 12:56 PM | TrackBack

Ghost Not & Monster Zero

Xavier Moon, my new agent provocateur and a truly 4 dimensional chess player with a wicked wit challenges me with shotgun blasts of brain bomblets. As I assimilate, various blunt trauma tracks are here for the archive.

The Monster Zero and its correlate the Ghost Not are theories first expounded by Alan G. Carter and collaborators who wanted to develop methods as part of an industrial psychology project for teaching creative problem solving and programming. These are the two most powerful and IMOHO correct axioms of a more global framework. The entire framework has not been completed. Some of what was originally presented by Alan is flatly mistaken. However, if we take hegemonic culture M0 as the aggregate behaviour of neurotypical humans, and look at the effect of this culture on neuroexceptional and neuroarchaic human types, some interesting patterns begin to emerge. (fyi - I classify myself as a neuroarchaic type)

The Ghost Not - Key Points
Constantine Plotnikov

A. Ghost Not looks overcomplicated at first sight. I believe that there
should a be a simpler way of looking at it if the concept is to be refined.

B. The list of core ideas in consise form.

1. World exists.
2. It has consistent state because it exists.
3. People organize external world as maps.
4. These maps catch important - for these people - aspects of world and
allow conscious operations over world.
5. The map is not a territory.
6. People with "Ghost Not" think that their set of maps is a territory and
deny existance of anything that is not on the map.
7. People with "Ghost Not", when they are met with an incompatible Map,
dismiss any value of that map unless that map is supported by some
8. People with "Ghost Not", when they are met with incompatible phenomena,
try to explain it using their Map or dismiss the phenomena.
9. People without "Ghost Not", when they are met with an incompatible Map,
try to build a more generic map that describes phenomena that are described
by their map and the map of the other people.
10. "Ghost Not" was developed as adaptation mechanism to the Monster Zero

Posted by mbowen at 11:54 AM | TrackBack