December 31, 2003

2003 Won't Get Him

My grandfather made it through over 5 hours of abdominal surgery. The next 24 hours are critical of course, but he's made it through 2003.

On to the next.

Posted by mbowen at 09:37 PM | TrackBack

Obligatory Seriousness on the Question of Israel

Israel. Middle East. Palestinian. Intifada. All keywords I shut out. Why? Because they fall below the level of one Lynch Factor. In a short time, however, it is likely to exceed a matter of 3000 deaths. But that doesn't change how many dBs the volume has been turned up on every injury sustained in that part of the world.

I am upset and I will continue to be upset at the focus maintained upon Israel and Palestine. American media coverage of their problems wildly distorts the perspective of injuries. We know, with Mad Cow precision, when every Israeli dies in this interminable conflict. But we have no equal in covering other nations. This is intolerable for me not because I believe 'jews control the media' but because it is a distortion of the priority in matters of human rights throughout the world in the interests of the American Empire and its role in global pacification. We have focused too long and a problem we have been unable to solve multilaterally, unilaterally or ass-backwards. If 100 people die in Liberia tomorrow, we won't hear about it. If 100 people die in the Gaza Strip, we'll hear about it for weeks. We will send billions to Israel and save no lives the IDF couldn't save themselves. We send nothing to Liberia where thousands of lives might have been saved. The math is simple 1 soul = 1 soul. Where are we saving souls? Certainly not in Israel or Palestine.

We used to hear about the Bakaa Valley as a harboring ground for terrorist. It used to be this way in Beirut, Lebanon. Hmm, maybe that was because Israeli forces were there.Now we don't care. My complaint is simple. The focus is undeserved and it distorts our world view.

I understand that my willingness to dismiss the prospects for Israel and Palestine will be met with fury. So I will say this once loudly, I have no reason to be anti-semitic in this stance, that is not the reason and you may conspire as many theories as you please to justify such a label. I refuse it and I barely have the patience to digifiy it here.

During my entire passive consideration of the questions of Middle East Peace it has always been the case that I believed in the appropriateness of a two state solution. Of course Israel has a right to exist. Nationalism is the paradigm and people have every right to soverienity. That right extends to the Palestinians as well.

However recently, try as I may to ignore this, I am confronted with a twofold reality. The first is in sympathy with the prosecution of occupation over lands Palestinians claim. I have few doubts that in the main, the IDF is being as reasonable and civilized as possible given their overwhelming military superiority. I think as well, that their achievement of assassinations can be justified on a strictly military basis. Politically, I think it stinks to high heaven and is an absolute disgrace. But I understand that keeping collateral damage to an absolute minimum is precisely equivalent to murder for hire. Wouldn't we like to know how the Israeli parliament picks such military targets? Ick! So on the whole, if you are at war with people, you might as well do it like the Israelis because on the whole, over the years they've killed only a few thousand Palestinians which is lightweight by any national standard.

The second part of this reality is that the Palestinians cannot, whether by attrition by the militant occupation or by inconsequential international support, or by reason of a lack of pacifist will, muster a standing government which is capable of handling diplomatic issues, controlling radical elements or a solid majority of factors necessary to move beyond (dare I say it?) tribalism. Of course it's more complicated. But what's Hamas, an NGO?

Hate me for the paragraphs OK, but it's all I can stand to think about the situation.

I hold Israel to a higher standard than the PLO. I would like to hold Israel to the standards I hold for any democracy, better yet, nuclear power. But I cannot. They don't deserve it in my eyes. I can go look for specific reasons, and something tells me that I may have to start reading all of the missives I've been getting from my subscription to Bitterlemons lo these many months. But I'm sure it will only depress me further. Perhaps it is better to be depressed and right, than willfully oblivious, especially if I'm going to have to answer to comments at Cobb.

I have said, jokingly, that I would rather have three Jewish states than one. We could aid one, bomb one and ignore the third. (I did so in a comic, and so therefore cannot find it in a text search.) But there is only one Israel and wishing it were not so doesn't help matters. So the combination of these two factors makes me think that perhaps between the Israelis and the Palestinians they could come up with one state.

Given that I have little faith that between them they would be able to negotiate a permanent peace between them as states, perhaps they might do so as citizens. It seems impossible to me that as nations they could ever resolve the property disputes between them without war, and while it is almost certain that Israeli law would give little or no recourse to nationalized Palestinians dispossessed of their properties, in the long run that may be preferable to war. If Israel were to grow up and grandfather the Palestinians what are the chances that they would continue their current course as a Civil War? On the other hands what are the chances that they would grant Palestinians full and equal civil rights?

This is something the Israelis have no impetus to do at the current moment, and it is for this reason that I heap shame upon them. But they are within their rights as a nation. Yet Arab Israelis certainly feel second-class pressures upon them as their families are split across the lines drawn and redrawn as checkpoints.

I believe a one state solution requires Israelis to be more respectful of Palestinians than they ever would be otherwise. I wonder if they could maintain their national conscription if it meant arming Palestinians. So long as there is a border, there are xenophobic excuses for civil rights abuses.

Mr. Sharon, tear down that wall.

Posted by mbowen at 05:48 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Howling At The Moon

Well, it's about time to kiss 2k3 goodbye. And good riddance.

We shall highlight the evening's festivities with a number of old and new traditions. We will have noisemakers and confetti balloons. We will burn old bad news in the fireplace. We have another Kwanzaa candle to light. I will blow the digideroo I got from Sydney and most assuredly we will howl at the moon.

Nothing like a second four day weekend. See ya next year.

Posted by mbowen at 05:34 PM | TrackBack

Heading to WebMD

Peritonitis is the word of the hour. This is the infection of the lining of the body cavity where are your vitals are. As far as I can tell, if you have a perforated bowel, sepsis can start infecting this lining. So even if you're able to clean out all the bloody cancer, there are a lot of things that need to stay put which can't afford to get sick.

These are the things you think about when news is scarce from the operating room.

Oh, and did I tell you yesterday they had the nerve to say that there was a shortage of O+ blood? I think Pops cleared that issue up quickly. At any rate, I don't need to be aggravated, I just don't like being squishy right now. The Big Bowen needs to die with dignity as befits such a man with as little attendant BS as possible. I don't want to be impatient with the doctors, but then again I'm not in direct contact with them.

I'm getting grouchy.

Posted by mbowen at 02:50 PM | TrackBack

Update on the Patriarch

From Pops:

R is in surgery right now. i got a call from the anesthesiologist at around 10:30am EST and he said they would start in about 15 minutes. he said R will be given general anes. he wanted to know if i had any questions, and i had none. he said that they would do their best, adding, "...but he's a very sick guy."

Posted by mbowen at 12:58 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


Today I found a great compression utility called 7-Zip. It's tiny. The installation executable is only 920KB. It supports a wide number of compression schemes including RAR (which is my current utility of choice - the one I licensed and paid for.) and BZIP2.

What the heck is .bz2? I've never heard of it, but apparently it's a butt-kicking format that does up to 40% better than .gz. This is news to me. According to Breton Chapin:

In general, Burrows-Wheeler isn't as fast as LZ variants.
Theoretically, it takes O(n) time to sort the input. This assumes
that strings of any length can be compared instantly. Practical
algorithms for sorting for BWT actually take n log n, or n*a, or n log
a where a is the length of the longest match, because arbitrarily long
strings cannot be compared in O(1) time. Memory requirements of these
algorithms vary considerably, but all are many times the size of the
block, whereas LZ variants get by with a relatively small fixed amount
of memory. bzip2 uses 2 algorithms. bzip2 starts with an n*a which
works great if the data is not too repetitive as then a will be small.
If it's taking too long to sort the data, bzip2 switches to an n *
log n algorithm. gzip uses an O(n) algorithm that really does run in
O(n). If you were compressing 50M in one big block (bzip2's max is
900K blocks) with an n log n algorithm, you could expect it to take
around 25 to 26 (log base 2 of 50M) times as long as an n time

Then there are implementation details. Because BWT uses so much more
memory than LZ, performance of a system's memory (caching, especially)
becomes an issue, for both compression and decompression. Also, bzip2
makes its comparisons one byte at a time, rather than one 32 (or 64
bit) word at a time. (Don't know what gzip does there.) I modified
bzip2 to do comparisons 4 bytes at a time (on little endian machines)
and got about 10% to 15% improvement in speed of compression.

If you think bzip2 is slow, try some of the older PPM implementations
from before people realized PPM could be as fast as BWT. On the other
end, the old Unix "compress" is faster than gzip, and back in the 80's
people sometimes complained about gzip's "slowness", asking if gzip's
better compression was worth it.

Wow. It's been so long since I've heard a real computer scientist speak. You learn something new every day.

Posted by mbowen at 11:35 AM | TrackBack


Posted by mbowen at 08:32 AM | TrackBack

Dean: Wisenhimer

Howard Dean seems to have a good time cracking wise on Democratic guys. William Saletan says that he needs to shut up for the good of the Party. I say he ought to keep going and be the life of the party.

Everybody gets to make jokes at the expense of the Dems, why not Dean? Of course it's not particularly useful to expose hypocrisy if you're a hypocrite, but why not have a little fun when you've got money and limelight to burn? I'm actually starting to enjoy this.

Posted by mbowen at 08:28 AM | TrackBack

Mad Cow

Posted by mbowen at 07:49 AM | TrackBack

December 30, 2003

Predictions for 2004

A bunch of predictions for 2004.

Tech IPOs will make a comeback.
Linux makes no inroads to the desktop.
Halo2 breaks all console videogame records.
Microsoft is reborn. People will say Gates has done it again.
Microsoft brands a PC.
Apple ports more Windows software.

GOP breaks ranks over spending & civil liberties.
Brokered Democratic Convention. Dean/Gephardt/Clark
Blogs break a major scandal and get tongue wagging approval from skeptics.
Term limits lose support.
Taxation comes back via 'fees'. States use clever rhetoric, fool nobody.

Arts & Culture
Hiphop sweeps the Grammys
Reality TV shows bite the dirt.
A new cult TV show is born in the tradition of Buffy
Children's fashion gets trashy.
Digital music pervades. RIAA gains a prominent political foe.
People get sick of Merlot. Shiraz gains even more ground.
Harry Potter 3 is a massive critical success.

Chargers leave San Diego
No Americans medal in Olympic gymnastics despite hype.
Tiger Woods gets the Grand Slam.
Venus Williams quits / gets injured.
The Greek Olympics are a big dud.

Assisted Suicide gains support.
A huge hack/worm gives put computer security in the headlines.
Americans invent more stupid reasons to hate France.

Single State theory gains ground in Israel/Palestine.
Most American forces leave Iraq.

SARS hits US

Business & Finance
Outsourcing backlash gets fierce.
Dow 11,000
Wal-Mart evolves the organic food business. Whole Foods moves forward.

Posted by mbowen at 09:59 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Don't Have A Cow, Man

So we found one mad cow from Canada and people are going berserk.

Listening to To The Point yesterday helped clarify a few things for me. The big gaping loophole in the current FDA rules has to do with the allowable uses of cow-brains and spinal cords, the primary location of BSE prions. The current language says that such stuff from ruminants cannot be fed to ruminants.

Yes cows eat cows, and that's not bovine porno. You can grind up cow parts down to 'protien' and add this to cow feed. Take note that 'corn fed' cows don't grow as meaty as 'cow fed' cows, although your corporate cowmonger will refer to the 'high-protein diet'. Also, cow blood products are fed to calves as milk substitutes. You can draw off the plasma, dry it and add it to some kind of powdered milk mix that baby cows suck until the cows come home.

Note the word 'ruminant'. Legally, that means cows and sheep, but not horses or other mammals that are ground up for feed. So what often happens, if you stretch your imagination a bit, is that cows are ground up to feed pigs and those pigs are ground up to feed cows. So it's possible following the current rules that a bad cow with mad cow can still get to another cow even though the law says cows can't eat the known vector parts.

What was not made entirely clear but should be is that while we process 30 million head of cattle on an annual basis, we have only found 1 American mad cow in the past ten years we have been looking. Furthermore, when the Brits had upwards of 70,000 documented cases of BSE, less than 200 people died of the mutated human CJD in contradiction to severe predictions like this one.

I for one find it remarkable that within a week all the cow parts from one cow can be identified through the food chain. It means we are greatly capable, and that somebody somewhere has a hell of a database. Among those somebodies must be the CDC. I don't happen to have any death-by-freak-accident stats, but this matter is significantly less dangerous than the flu. So don't let the excitable folks get the best of you.

Posted by mbowen at 09:02 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Games & Gamers

Adding this new pseudo-intellectual category, I will be splitting off all my gamer stuff from Critical Theory. I've just met a guy who knows something about game programming and is of an artistic persuasion. So as I delve deep into dungeons with dragons of all sorts, I'll blab about it here.

I'm strictly XBox, although I will consider stategy games for the PC.

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

Empire In Review

Back in my pre-blog days I was ranting in private forums and salons. Now that I've gone public, I've been pretty consistent in my ways. I am still firming up my ideas about the American Empire, but unlike Christopher Hitchens I have not always been so evolved in my thinking.

This morning I found an extended rant about Empire which reminded me of certain concerns I had with regard to xenophobia in our foreign policy. Surprisingly, of all the things GWBush has turned out to be, I find him singularly lacking in the ugly spirit. He might say 'crusade' but he is no crusader. I remain convinced that Rumsfeld's announcement to would-be supporters and generals in Saddam's army was a statement worthy of great honor. And I believe that the Battle for Baghdad was won because of such a backchannel of honorable surrender.

At any rate what is clearer in my thinking since October of 2001 is the potential of global Western fraternity and that the toppling of dictators is an expensive but probably necessary task. I believe the Western economies can sustain this.

the point i would make about american xenophobia is that it is fundamentally contradictory to the principle of our declaration of rights. we live in a society in which the more equal pigs determine the status of the farm whether or not the rest of the animals like it. part of the reason that we can have this huge diversity is that in the end, most of us are below the radar. there's plenty of food to go around and we often improperly call our consumption freedom. sure it's freedom from lack, but that is not the same thing as self-determination.

so when we project power on the rest of the world stage in the name of freedom, and we point to all of the variety of political opinions and ethnicities and religions here at home there is a subtle hypocrisy. and that hypocrisy is that the net consensus of all that diversity is not delivered from the ground up and that when it comes to affairs of state there is this thing called america which has little or nothing to do with the diverse interests of the common american. yet that american must stand by and be judged by the actions of a state over which he has no control.

the fundamental issue is how consistently our actions abroad enable or disable self-determination. what are we doing as a nation to enable others to have that ability?

I have a firmer belief in the benefits of market participation. A consumer economy is what fuels most of what America is. That being the case, a consumer economy can work anywhere in the world to deliver prosperity. So many people may sweat Halliburton, but Halliburton is a drop in the Wal-Mart bucket and we the American people buying socks, soap and sandwiches is what makes Wal-Mart.

The consequences of this idea is that a simple grasp of consumer economics can enable freedom in headless nations. But we shouldn't concentrate on oil wealth. That's not where it's going to come from. The oil will be cash flow for debt service anyway. It will be schools & staples that gets the economy rolling in Iraq.

I am distracted by China in all of this, because if markets are truly as powerful and fundamentally liberating as I think they are, then bourgie brotherhood has a truly awesome global future. Step one remains to clear the board of hoarding despotic regimes and let the people start being people.

We will all be shoppers in the same mall, and that's a good thing.

Posted by mbowen at 09:52 AM | TrackBack


I haven't been reading as much as I would like. My schedule's a little cramped. But I did find a few things pretty interesting. This piece on Intellectual Bondage stokes my fires of contempt for Israel again. I have discovered that the oases of Egypt may be distressed. Mannish grumbles about non-white roles in Hollywood. And here I found a hilarious fish story about civil liberties.

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

Darling Nikki

I finally found the Nikki Giovanni poem I have been looking for lo these many years. Thanks to my liberal Canuck friend PA.

Revolutionary Dreams

i used to dream militant
dreams of taking
over america to show
these white folks how it should be
i used to dream radical dreams
of blowing everyone away with my perceptive powers
of correct analysis
i even used to think i'd be the one
to stop the riot and negotiate the peace
then i awoke and dug
that if i dreamed natural
dreams of being a natural
woman doing what a woman
does when she's natural
i would have a revolution

Posted by mbowen at 07:48 AM | TrackBack

December 29, 2003

Ujamaa, The Problem Child

Kawanzaa4.gifUjamaa, cooperative economics, has given me trouble since the first time I understood it. That is primarily because I find it lacking as a strategy of liberation. So while I light the candles this evening, I'm not going to engage in any hypocrisy. Fortunately, it's the birthday of the spousal unit, so the festivities continue unabated.

There is, in my mind if not on the minds of everyone in the Kwaku Network, some measure of conflict between Ujamaa, Black Capitalism and Blackface Capitalism. It is a very difficult discussion that I have singly been unable to maintain in any forum, try as I may.

Now I have only been to a few colleges, so I don't have the last word. However, I cannot recall ever having met one black business major declaring that what they intended to do with their degree and first 50 thousand dollars was go (back?) to the ghetto and buy up the local 7-11 franchise. The emphasis is still cool. 70's cool. Integration cool. Corporate America cool. As we speak, it is not a recognizable black thang to invest 20 large into the local fruit stand. Now for the twisted critic, this brings up the dysfunctional culture question. Wrong turn. The fact is, we much prefer the black owned operated and oriented bookstore to the black grocery store. Kellogg's Corn Flakes will suffice, but not McKnowledge. In Eddie Murphy's Coming to America. Everybody laughed at John Amos' McDougals. A black capitalist, but not Ujaama.

I've made peace with the fact that Ujamaa simply doesn't scale. The cooperative economics of the small shopping village, say Leimert Park, is not ever going to work as a strategy for African Americans. As a tactic, maybe. So while I accept it as a value in the Nguzo Saba, I'd have to say that it is not a transcendent value. Aside from that, anyone who has studied Liemert Park knows that cooperative economics didn't work there either. If it did, the large theatre there would be bustling with the entertainment progeny of Marla Gibbs, The Comedy Act Theatre, birthplace of Chris Rock would be rockin' instead of quiet and The World Stage wouldn't have gotten in trouble.

There are successful businesses in Leimert Park and in Fort Greene and in various lovely black cultural & shopping districts. But I daresay cooperative economics is not a part of the business plans they are talking with their bankers.

On the whole, I believe that the appeal of Ujamaa has much to do with nostalgia for the leadership and control black elites had over the average black in the days before racial integration. When the ladies of the Links had more scholarship money for young black highschoolers than General Electric, when your neighborhood black doctor who studied at Meharry made housecalls, when you didn't worry about redlining because Golden State Mutual Life Insurance took care of that for you. Those were the good old days.

But black banks can't compete. I can remember when it was a 'black thang' to not use ATMs because black banks like Founders Savings Bank couldn't afford to join the network. And so people stood patiently in line, for a while. Now the building that was new in the 70s on the corner of Marlton & King Boulevard is now dusty, empty and for lease. Blackfolks wanted low prices more than they wanted black owned banking. Spin that four different ways iteratively substituting 'needed' for 'wanted' in the previous sentence for subtlety's sake. Pick whichever you like, but in the end, the market wins.

In the 'black mecca' of Atlanta, there are black radio stations that advertise as ebonically as they please that black car dealers are having Juneteenth sales on late model automobiles. ("Don't play like you didn't hear it") Of course you're not going to get any guarantee that Toyota was made with black hands, the paper won't be carried by a black finance company and insurance we've already covered. But you will get black customer service and marketing, and that's all good. It crystalized the idea in my head that there are limits to the amount of recourse one needs in a consumer economy. I continue to remind those who tilt at boycott's windmills that black people, by all rights, have no reason whatsoever to wear cotton. What has the cotton industry in America ever done for blackfolks but work us into early graves? Yet nobody seems to mind at all. I'm sure there are some Jews who will never, ever buy a German auto, but I don't think anyone cares about that either.

Some take this with gloom and say that it is yet another feature of our doom that there is no escaping the pervasive immorality of the Man's markets. Except the Man does not control the market and it is amoral. It's the nation of millions that holds you back (and gives you lower prices).

So try as they might, black Marxists may try to paint markets in evil colors, (generally white) but they cannot explain why millions of African Americans have made the economic choices we have, which include abandoning Ujamaa for banking, employment and other roles. Well, they say that we're all brainwashed for eating potato chips instead of 'recycling black dollars', but I'm not going to dignify any black mass hysteria arguments. It's not an explaination.

While I'm on the subject, allow me to remind you that it can be argued forcefully that the greatest enemy of Ujamaa is the Diversity Industrial Complex. Think about it for a moment. Whom are they training to be sensitive to whom? Somebody is getting paid to show Joe Millionaire how to attract the attention and respect of Jamal Ordinary. That's a good thing, but it is not empowerment despite smushy rhetoric to the contrary. It may or may not take a village to raise a child but it definitely takes a crafty capitalist to beat another. So I think that Malcolm, the patron saint of steely-eyed independence would be kicking Ujamaa to the curb and owning shares of General Electric, not painting the corporate hallways in melanin-friendly earthtones and inventing a race-normed Myers-Briggs test. But I digress.

I am convinced that it will be critical masses of African American millionaires who will be the successful conservators of all that Ujamaa might have been were it capable. Black Capitalism will work in niches as big as corners of professional sports. Yeah I admit it, I'm an elitist. Then again everyone celebrates Harriet Tubman but can't name the passengers of the Underground Railroad. Ujamaa will continue for mom and pop whom I'm all behind but don't expect any more from them than I the local Pakastani owned 7-11 to help Pervez Musharraf.

Finally, I'm going to put my boy Fleming on the spot. Is he Ujamaa? Does anybody need a PhD for Ujamaa?

Ujamaa = Howard University Drama Club
Black Capitalism = Rocawear
Blackface Capitalism = Denzel Washington movies.

Blackface Capitalism rules.

Posted by mbowen at 09:47 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Patriarch in Danger

The oldest Bowen is in poor health and will be undergoing surgery this week. He fell Saturday and now we are in the process of discovering all of the shortcomings of retirement home industry. The demons of time have manifested themselves in the form of colon cancer and a perforated intestinal hernia.

After 91 years, we still don't want to say goodbye. With any luck we'll not have to.

Posted by mbowen at 09:17 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

GOP Integration: BYO Blackness

Yet again, I am getting whacked for my realpolitik. I continue to suggest that African Americans integrate the Republican Party, and last week I said those that didn't where chickenshit. Let me say it another way.

I hate analogies as much as the next guy, but they can be awfully useful sometimes. I hope this is a time, and yes I'm going to make it personal too. If the principle of what I am attempting to encourage has not been made self-evident by now, then it only proves the necessity of yet one more try.

This time I'm going to talk about the computer industry. As I mentioned on Kujichagulia to my offspring, there was a knucklehead named Kent who famously told me in 1984 that I had to choose between computers and business. Nobody could do both, they don't mix. Kent was one of the managers responsible for the Xerox computer business. You do the math. In my calculations, Kent was incompetent to decide my future, and I am certain there have been years when I bet he wishes he had my job in the computer business (in the business of business computing) despite his fervent belief that computers did not belong on the desks of business managers. But Kent wasn't the only naysayer in this matter. Legions of folks have been proven wrong.

There are no black women in computing. Do I mean it literally? Of course not. However, if you were a professional man in search of a professional wife, and you had the same tastes in women as I, chances are that during the 80s and 90s your pickings would be mighty slim. I have worked, in the past 18 years, with exactly 4 peers who were black and female in the multi-billion dollar Database and Business Intelligence segment of the computer industry. Not only that, my job as a consultant has put me in scores of different corporations from coast to coast. I'll restate the obvious, black women are scarce.

Nevertheless I have married, raised kids (one halfway to adulthood), and have not been babeless all this time. While I have not been swimmin' in women, I have been very happy and comfortable. But I've never even looked for them in the workplace. Tangentially, one of the reasons I stay bald is because when I'm on the road, I cannot count on finding the right kind of barber, and I should say that because of the French & Indian Creole side of the family my hair is very straight at the roots so even the ordinary black barber can't fade me right. In otherwords, I get what I need by providing it myself or seeking alternative sources. There would be no way I could have any pride or function properly as a black man if I depended on the computer industry to take care of my personal needs. It doesn't matter to me whether the industry is hostile or indifferent with regards to the reasons for its short supply, I bring it myself. So you will see, at industry functions, a black family when families are invited. I represent.

I am satisfied with my career because it provides the rewards I expect. But it is not a part of my expectations for them to understand and provide anything related to black culture. If I had to get support from the workplace, I would be in sorry shape. But since I do get what I need, when I am in the workplace the flow goes the other way. They get it from me. I am the provider. So everywhere I work has a little more flavor than it had before I came with it. This is your standard 'strong positive black man' stuff. I got it goin' on and everybody is better off for that. Every once in a while people want to touch my hair. Every once in a while somebody says something incredibly stupid and racist. Every once in a while there are intolerably stark reminders of the white male desolation of computer geekdom. So some days, I have to head for the hills and recharge the batteries. Nevertheless it is not difficult for me to enjoy a week in Boise, Idaho learning MDX, as Cobb readers know.

So to the Republican Party.

My home is my well-wrapped universe. But I still cannot find that poem by Nikki Giovanni that talked about a revolution. She said that when she was younger she had energy stored up to take heat to the Man so that he could never keep her down. But then she had a thought and that was that if she had a revolution in her own mind that she could be liberated from complicity in her own oppression. She didn't need to fight the Man, because she didn't need the Man. She thus accomplished her revolution without firing a shot. This revolution is what I call the sound of the drum. It is the basic operating principles of self-respect which has been maintained through African American culture for more generations than a few. This is what you keep whole and pure by any means necessary.

A man with dignity doesn't need to join a club. His membership dignifies the club.

People need to convince me that membership in an American political party cuts off the sound of the drum, because I don't believe it. What I hear, when people complain about the Republicans and African Americans is that joining deafens the sound of the drum, blanches all that was black and irreversibly corrupts the soul. I say these people have the wrong expectations of political parties in general and are probably not quite well stocked enough at home to survive hostility and indifference.

If you don't believe that good triumphs over evil. If you believe that you can be faded. If you think there can be no such thing as a righteous black Republican (or American, or Muslim, or Gay) then I would suggest you go get your Nikki Giovanni on, because deep down you have not won your own revolution.

I once wrote in my old performance poetry days that the great man keeps his own poetry with him, in rhythm. Pick up an Essence magazine and take it to work with you and leave it on the desk for everyone to see. In fact, put it in the pile in the lunch room. But I digress.

I cannot mean to suggest that there are not legitimate beefs with the Republican or any political party that are not best solved through loyal opposition. That would be pure idiocy. As I said in the beginning, my expectation is to triple black Republicans to somewhere around 10-12% by 2013. But I know that partisanship is weaker than consensus, and I know that the Democratic monopoly on black attention is already broken. Most importantly, I know that home is where the heart is and ain't nobody gonna turn me 'round.

Posted by mbowen at 10:18 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

December 28, 2003

Christian Chinese

According to this article in the CSM, there are upwards of 90 million Christians in China today. I spoke to my new big ballin' friend the other day, and he has all the appearances of a man laughing his way to the bank. The two ideas are inseperable in my head.

But there is another.

The youth choir in one of China's government sanctioned churches in the southeastern city of Xiamen sings to a crowd of 3,000. Later, they dropped their hymn books and clapped gospel style.

When, in 1989 or so when I was dating Maiko Tashida, I was surprised to find that she practically freaked out over my vinyl. It was Confunkshun in particular that made her eyes go all dewey. I have since added to my understanding that the hunger of Asians for Western culture is more inclusive and respectful of black culture than we African Americans are accustomed to getting.

Remember Patti Labelle's 88 million records.

I am prone to imagine all manner of links between African Americans and Chinese. My friend R sees it between they and Natives. As they become real, it will be a beautiful thing. Lord help me, I have visions of riches.

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Seven Times Nine Eleven

Two days ago, an earthquake measuring 6.7 destroyed an entire city in Iran. Less than a week prior to that, an earthquake measuring 6.5 disturbed my work and made me nauseous. In Iran, the count of bodies has surpassed 21,000. The earthquake in California killed 3. Within 3 minutes of the California quake, I was online, and then listening to the radio searching for news. I just found out about the Iranian disaster this morning.

The headlines this morning at Google News alert us that one US soldier and two children were killed in an attack in Baghdad. Wow.

It may be true that humans are better disposed to accept natural disasters. There is no reason and no target for revenge. Nothing we can do but cry and bury our families. We curse the indifference of God and we seek comfort and sympathy among survivors. We must only heal, for there is no cure. But when we can point a finger at a fellow human, ahh what a difference.


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Mad Cow Prediction

Have no doubt that McDonalds is going to lead the pack when it comes to anti-BSE protocols (if they haven't already). It won't take much pressure, but they've been undergoing a great deal of change. My gut tells me that they won't BS when it comes to BSE and to remain a vendor that sells meat to McDonalds, it's going to take more than a handshake and a smile.

Keep an eye out for Michael Pollan. Better than any American writer, he describes what's going on in the culture and economics of food. He is the notable author of The Botany of Desire and Behind the Organic-Industrial Complex.

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December 27, 2003

Kujichagulia 2003

Kawanzaa2.gifThis morning, I went to the African Marketplace & Kwanzaa Parade at Liemert Park, entirely by accident.

The plan was to meet Pops at Lucy Florence and talk about days past and days to come. That happened uneventfully, but I got a chance to see a bit of the K in action. Interestingly enough it was who wasn't there that got my attention.

The Muir High Alumni drum corps just blew all the recorded and amplified music everywhere away. They had the kind of beat that made you change the rhythm of your walking pace. It was powerful. While I had just been hanging around the natty dreads and their incense and t-shirt booths, it was that booming that let me know a real parade was happening. I finally got out to Crenshaw and found the Dorsey HS cheerleaders, and an incredible set of steppers whose name escapes me (all in black and gold) and finally a group of about 30 black equestrians trotting in grand style.

Something about black horsemen (and women) really impresses me. Whenever I see them in parades, whether they be the Buffallo Soldier re-enactors, part of some other equestrian group, or just trotting up the street in a horse community like Altadena, it always piques my interest. These folks were styling in white longsleeves with black pants, as their horses highstepped in black, red and silver tack.

Still and all, the sparsity of the whole affair was the most remarkable thing I noticed. There couldn't have been more than 1000 folks at Liemert Park itself. Power106 had their radio truck in the parade, so it must have been announced. Still, it's hard to judge considering I was at the very end of the parade route. Everybody who wants to get their African thing on was in force including the usual suspects, but the huge crowd that shows up for the King Day parade was conspicuously absent.

Not looking for inspiration these things don't encourage or discourage. I really wished I had a little bit more cash to spend and that I had brought the kids. But there will always be another opportunity to get into roots. While I was there I was able, finally to get some red, black and green candles. I called Rite-Aid last night, they said they had them in stock but that was not the color green nor size red I had in mind. It's great when the kind of stuff I'm talking about is right there. The vendors of African objets d'art were making their small fortunes, and that's some commercialization nobody could object to. On the whole, it was a good thing.

Kujichagulia is fun to say 80 different ways, and so the kids had a field day with the word this evening. We can do what we want, just give us room.

I'm bushed this evening and don't really want to get into the personal Kujichagulia story. Besides, all of you know that being a black Republican is about as Kukichagulia as one can get. Of course, that brings one in conflict with Ujamaa. But that's for another day.

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The Best OJ Story Yet

This morning, I met a man whose brother has some dirt on the trial of the century. It's the most cogent theory I've heard in years.

The long and short of it is this. Marcia Clark submitted to the Court some fiddled phone records. The defense, in this case Robert Shapiro, stipulated that they accepted the phone records and therefore a line of inquiry which would have changed the entire complexion of the case was dropped.

I imagine that this kind of thing happens all the time. But what if?

More of the story is that this fellow worked for or with the LA Medical Examiner's office in such a way that he had direct access to the autopsy records of Nicole Brown Simpson before they were entered into evidence. He made copies and retained them. According to this story, one of the employees of the ME's office, upon being called to the scene called the Browns and asked very specifically when was the last time they spoke to their daughter. The reply was that it was at 11pm on the previous evening. This notation was made on one of the papers filed with the autopsy report, a copy of which was held by this gentleman whose brother I spoke with this morning. This destroys the timeline presented by the prosecution which had OJ in the limo on the way to the airport at that time.

When our friend hears the testimony given on the stand by the ME's senior officer, not the individual who spoke to Brown's mother, his jaw dropped. He immediately saw the discrepancy and attempted to file a friend of the court brief. Evidently he had the wherewithal to make for his own investigation, and thus began his own personal crusade. This landed him before the State Supreme Court of Texas as judge after judge blocked his attempts to get legitimate (GTE) phone logs to Judge Ito. Shapiro's stipulation (is my guess) proved insurmoutable. The defense already changed tactics.

Most shockingly, this guy claims that he has found the perfect suspect. I believe the name is Glen Rogers. This character was arrested for murder in another state, and apparently is a serial killer. He has killed women who look like Nicole Brown, there are somewhere some pictures of him with Brown and her female friend partying at The House of Blues. Furthermore, this character painted her condo. I suppose it's easy enough to find tell of this guy and if he had killed other women by slashing their throats, it's not a good sign. But what would Cochran care? His job is finished.

I believe a lot of unproveable theories, but a friend recently helped me debunk the one about the Bali Bomb being a suitcast nuke. All that was required was some reasonable doubt. Powerful theory that, reasonable doubt.

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Kwanzaa Questions

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December 26, 2003

Dickerson on My Tits

Debra Dickerson gets on my last freakin' nerve today. I haven't even lit my first candle and already I'm getting upset defending my family tradition. Her NYT editorial is an insult that is popping the veins on my forehead.

First let's get to standing:

Until two years ago, the mere mention of Kwanzaa would have me cracking wise about kente cloth boxer shorts and artificially lengthened dreadlocks � and cultural pride as mere show and consumerism.

and with dripping condescention worthy of Chirac

Kwanzaa, like Christianity, does nothing for me but I have to respect that it does for others.
and then the blatant contradiction:
In rejecting Christmas and Christianity, blacks reject the primary force for black American sustenance and resistance.

So presuming you are black, how the hell did you make it in this world if Christianity does nothing for you?

I would suspect that Dickerson has been sustained by family, friends, wit and salary, and by some measure of bourgie brotherhood she no doubt recieves in the rarified world of published authors on black subjects. It's certainly her prerogative to reject Kwanzaa after her brief and superficial encounters, but to suggest that other black families are incapable of her level of perception is nothing but prejudice of the ugliest order.

From someone who doesn't celebrate it we get this observation.

Too often, though, Kwanzaa feels as if it is more about thumbing black noses at white America than at embracing the lost cause of resuming our Africanness.
Feels? Is this is what you feel when you watch other people celebrate Kwanzaa, or this is what you feel about black people who you interpret as having a need to celebrate Kwanzaa? What are we to make of your feelings, Debra?

I say we make a dash for the exit. Throw this baby out with the bathwater.

I've said it once and I'll say it again hopefully for the last time. There is nothing quite so annoying and wrong-headed as an atheist critic of religious practice. It is another example of Secularism Gone Wrong. I am insulted by the insinuation that anyone who celebrates Kwanzaa is rejectionist,. I think I have as much right as anyone to say so, considering that I was there at the beginning. It may be impossible for some to recover any spirit of Christmas from the din of commercialism that surrounds it, but that is their own failing, not the failing of Christmas itself. For someone who has only tolerance for Christianity, we can expect very little respect for Kwanzaa?

That said, it can be said of some afrocentrics, what I say of most hiphopers: grow up. But even I have lived in love with hiphop having nursed it through its infancy when none thought it would amount to anything, much less international commercial success and artistic influence. But just as it is intellectually dishonest to allow people who don't do much listening to be music critics or much reading to be literary critics, there's something wrong with people with no respect for popular celebrations being called to comment.

It is not with some irony that I recognize the sort of intellectuals, artists, professionals and political activists who established the context from which the ideas of Kwanzaa emerged would be among the first to deride superficiality and commercialism. But anyone with an ounce of reason would be able to research and discover such things. We were not all born yesterday.

At any rate, I'm not writing at my best because just dealing with this kind of ignorant and snotty bias gives me headaches. I've thrown away at least 7 paragraphs as it is. Piss on Dickerson, better yet lock her in a room with Coulter. They deserve each other.

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Umoja 2003

Kawanzaa1.gif You may not know it, but under ordinary circumstances, I would be a celebrity of sorts. Who knows, in time my story may make headlines. But the obscure fact of the matter is that I was something of a privileged youth. Although I don't often think or talk about it, I was the original kid cast in the role of Corey for the groundbreaking television series 'Julia' starring Dianne Carroll. I was also the fist black kid scripted to star in an episode of Gunsmoke. None of that actually happened because my parents were not stage parents. It's deeper than that, but that's a story for another day.

One thing that I mention more than those other brushes with fame is my association with the origins of Kwanzaa. So in my middle age, I feel some responsibility to the celebration and its values. In fact, a year ago I got much of my impetus to blog publicly over the venomous idiocy being spread by Ann Coulter. At the time I was rolling my own blog and then transitioned it to 'Cobb Static' at any rate. Here is the kwanzaa section of my first days of Cobb.

This year as my kids have become old enough to understand more than simple symbols, I will bear the burden of exemplifying various of the values with tales of my own youth. I cannot believe that my children will be black in the same ways I was, but as I have said on behalf of the Old School, there are certain strengths forged in the furnace of yesteryear that maintain their fortitude today. They can be admired for what they are even if they are not duplicated, as if they could be. No one need race a tortoise and a hare today to understand the moral of that story. So while I am an exponent of Kwanzaa, I am not a die-hard for strict interpretation. This is why I have no particular objections to whitefolks celebrating watered down or variant versions, multi-culti style.

On this, the first day of Kwanzaa, the theme is Umoja. Unity. It is of great value in the proper context, and nothing has demonstrated greater power for African Americans than our unanimity in opposition to those who have initiated perpetuated conditions which subjected us over the centuries. There are others who have dedicated themselves to the purple prose of all that, I'll just tell one old personal story and allow you to consider the resonance.

The first is the story of New Year's Day some year between 1975 and 1977. I was in highschool and Deet was three years younger.

My brother and I had just come back from a dance at St. John's Church on the bus. We got off at Adams and Crenshaw and were walking home at about 10:30 or 11pm. As I get to the first block south of Adams, about 6 blocks from my house, some kid approaches me with the question. 'Where's the party at?', which in the context of walking down Crenshaw at this time of night is clearly the opening dance of a jack move. He's trying to assess if I know where I am which he is defining as his turf. Sooner or later, he tells me he as a knife and all money that he finds on me, he can have. I tell my little brother to wait on the street while I have a discussion in the alley. If I'm going to be in a knife fight, I don't want my little brother to see it.

Two minutes later, my brother is calling me. Right about this time, Lonzo, Darell, Rabo and Pickens are heading to the Pastrami Stand. Deet sees them and lets me know. Meanwhile, 'Punkin' is trying to impress upon me his gangbang credentials. I head back to the 'shaw and sure enough my boys are right there. We are not in a gang, we're neighbors. But it is certain that now Punkin knows that I've got backup.

It turns out that Punkin indeed was some sort of a Crip, but lived about 12 blocks west near Vineyard Park. Pickens played ball at Vineyard and so... The issue was resolved by Punkin disappearing quietly into the night. No blows, no blood. But the lesson was clear. Numbers count.

The nuance to today's lesson in Unity is threefold. The first is that unity is useful in conflict, but needn't be established for the purposes of conflict. My boys and I played football, basketball and other ghetto games, but we weren't gangbangers. Nevertheless we cultivated a respect and friendship that survived gang threats.

Secondly, unity doesn't mean that you drag everyone you know into conflict. Some battles need to be fought alone. Not everyone needs to always have every dog in every fight, especially if it's a matter of pride and principle. There is a case for unilateralism.

Thirdly, real unity is a credible deterrent. If people understand that you have strong alliances, there are certain tricks they will not attempt. When somebody has got your back. You can walk taller than ordinarily.

I myself was being arrogant and probably a little bit foolish. Yeah I was the best wrestler in my neighborhood and I knew that once this fight got to the ground I would win, but I never fought anyone with a knife before. I had no reason to expect that Lonzo and them would be around or come to the rescue, I was just amazed at the nerve of this kid and I could not stand the idea that anyone would jack me. (I have never lost a dime to stickup kids, although I never faced a gun).

And so Unity is our principle for the day. Learn it and be wise. Practice it and be strong.

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How do you know you are middle class? You get to the point at which some significant fraction of your dishes are in the processed of getting washed. They will be spread in several places. There will be glasses in the bedrooms and living room. There will be cups, plates, pots and pans in the dishwasher and the rack. Several will be on the stove and others will be in the fridge. There will be a fraction in the sink(s), and a few will be actually cleaned and put away in the cabinet.

But they will never all be in the cabinet. They won't fit! Try it. Empty the sink, the dishwasher, the rack, the refrigerator and the stove. Clean every pot, pan, plate, fork, spoon and spatula in your house. Now try to put them where they all belong. You will be confronted with an American Middle Class Dilemma, which is that you need a bigger garage.

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All About Being Uppity

The Uppity-Negro demonstrates, perhaps unintentionally, one more good reason for African-Americans to represent in the Republican Party.

[. . .] In 1983, when he was a young congressman during the Reagan administration, Gingrich sparked a controversy when he said: "It is in the interest of the Republican Party and Ronald Reagan to invent new black leaders, so to speak. People who have a belief in discipline, hard work and patriotism, the kind of people who applauded Reagan's actions in [invading] Grenada." The idea still applies, he said.

As a black republican who defied Reagan over Grenada I agree with Gingrich in his provocation. What does it say about the African-American political sophistication when the 'evil' whiteboys can create a more popular black icon than blackfolks themselves? It says that both blacks and whites are afraid of integration. Integrated places don't need all that, proving the Republican Party isn't truly integrated. Fine. There's only one true solution and that has to come from the masses of black voters. Unless and until they do so, scams of the foolish will continue.

It should go without saying that the entire success of the Republican Party over the past two decades has been all about grass roots work coupled with top-down scheming. The bottom up stuff is what Howard Dean's supporters are all excited about, because there hasn't been a true Demoratic populist since Lawton Chiles. Hell, this is what Nader showed in 2000, but I digress. African Americans have an open invitation to feed at the Republican trough, but by and large they are chickenshit. C'est la vie.

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December 25, 2003

Annual Tradition

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Not in France

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December 24, 2003


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If Shit Gets Thick

Over at Calblog, some speculation is going on about what might happen if we suffer another terrorist attack on par with nine-eleven. I will speculate also.

After the earthquake the other day, L and I started talking about what would be the likely target. Not having heard the details of new intelligence which Jay rightly says shows progress in the assym war, we thought of the most ghastly target imaginable. The Rose Parade.

Anyone who lives anywhere near Pasadena around the first of the year knows how impossible it is to get in and out of that town when the Tournament of Roses is going on. A terrorist with a dirty bomb could probably find no better target than the Rose Bowl on New Years day.

I can only think of one or two targets that would be more appalling to Americans were it to be destroyed by an act of terror. The first would be the Statue of Liberty and the second would probably be the Lincoln Memorial. You can blow up the White House in Independence Day and not many people screw up their faces. But when Charlton Heston wept on the Planet of the Apes at the desecration of Lady Liberty, she embedded herself that much deeper in the hearts of all Americans. I could go on about Lincoln, but the human target of choice would be the Rose Bowl.

I'm having a hard time keeping tears out of my eyes just thinking about such a thing, and I can be fairly grim. But I can assure you that America would go ballistic in several dimensions were such a thing to occur.

First, we'd start slapping each other around. The chorus of "I told you so" would become deafening. When I say 'shit gets thick', believe me, people will be cursing on the air.


1. People to the militant right of GW Bush will begin coming out of the woodwork. Do not be surprised to hear from Ross Perot. Another Republican with a war record will challenge. McCain perhaps.

2. Wesley Clark will have a better chance to be a hawk. If he does so he will unite Democrats.

3. Arabs and Muslims will be beaten in American streets.

4. North Korea will slip further in our priorities.

5. The dispersion of troops in the Middle East will up the ante to tactical nuclear.

6. The French will do a 180 and back the US. Chirac will pull a right-wing rabbit out of his hat which will devour the weasel.

7. We will begin to undermine governments like we did in the bad old days. Congress will undo restrictions on gunboat diplomacy.

8. The Crusade is on. Collateral be damned.

9. National ID happens quicker.

10. PC dies, people will smoke, drink, curse and have sex.

All in all a nasty situation for enemies and percieved enemies of the US. Not much changing for the worse domestically. I think the courts will continue check and balance as they have begun to do.

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Emerson's Organic

I'm writing a longish piece on Secularism, not necessarily in the context of Chirac's charade, but in the context of how it may fail here. My basic idea is that Marketing's aim is personalization and tends toward the same direction as pluralism and multiculturalism, that is towards the individuation of products & services etc. This makes us more strangers, and less likely to create cultural products and institutions designed to serve a higherbrow populism. If we accept the premise that we don't share many values and in fact are practically atomic, then we will settle, as a democracy, for lower common denominators, rather than strive to achieve greater common factors.

In researching this phenomenon I want to bring forward some principled American ideas to show contrast, while I consider what advances in infotech and business have wrought. So in this I first went to Emerson. He is too large to swallow, so I'll dwell on him for a moment.

There is no better example of a dovetail between myself as an Organic and this by Emerson. It has been part of my angle as a 'brother outsider' for many years. I observe the raising of the race concurrent with its enfeeblement.

4. As our Religion, our Education, our Art look abroad, so does our spirit of society. All men plume themselves on the improvement of society, and no man improves.

Society never advances. It recedes as fast on one side as it gains on the other. It undergoes continual changes; it is barbarous, it is civilized, it is christianized, it is rich, it is scientific; but this change is not amelioration. For every thing that is given, something is taken. Society acquires new arts, and loses old instincts. What a contrast between the well-clad, reading, writing, thinking American, with a watch, a pencil, and a bill of exchange in his pocket, and the naked New Zealander, whose property is a club, a spear, a mat, and an undivided twentieth of a shed to sleep under! But compare the health of the two men, and you shall see that the white man has lost his aboriginal strength. If the traveller tell us truly, strike the savage with a broad axe, and in a day or two the flesh shall unite and heal as if you struck the blow into soft pitch, and the same blow shall send the white to his grave.

The civilized man has built a coach, but has lost the use of his feet. He is supported on crutches, but lacks so much support of muscle. He has a fine Geneva watch, but he fails of the skill to tell the hour by the sun. A Greenwich nautical almanac he has, and so being sure of the information when he wants it, the man in the street does not know a star in the sky. The solstice he does not observe; the equinox he knows as little; and the whole bright calendar of the year is without a dial in his mind. His note-books impair his memory; his libraries overload his wit; the insurance-office increases the number of accidents; and it may be a question whether machinery does not encumber; whether we have not lost by refinement some energy, by a Christianity entrenched in establishments and forms, some vigor of wild virtue. For every Stoic was a Stoic; but in Christendom where is the Christian?

Echoes of Heim on Heidegger! "As humans develop the ability to typify and apprehend formal realities, the loss of truth as emergent disclosure goes unnoticed."

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Top Ten Films of All Time

Norm again throws us an impossibly large bone. Either way, you catch it in your teeth. What are the ten best?

First I'll list the Best Movies of All Time

  • Ran - Akira Kurosawa
  • Koyannisqatsi - Godfrey Regio
  • Rear Window - Alfred Hitchcock
  • Lawrence of Arabia - David Lean
  • 2001: A Space Odessey - Stanley Kubrick
  • The Philadelphia Story - George Cukor
  • The Bicycle Theif - Vittorio De Sica
  • Playtime - Jacques Tati
  • Saving Private Ryan - Steven Speilberg
  • Titus - Julie Taymor

Now my Favorite Movies of All Time

  • Ran - Kurosawa
  • Heat - Michael Mann
  • Blood Simple - Coen Bros
  • Lawrence of Arabia - David Lean
  • Ronin - Frankenheimer
  • Pi - Aronofsky
  • Akira - Otomo
  • The Fifth Element - Besson
  • The Color Purple - Spielberg
  • The Matrix - The Ws

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December 23, 2003

Don Fox on a Rampage

Ever have one of those days when you need to tell the world to sod off? Don's having one right now. Don't miss it.

While we're handing them out, here's a middle finger to pseudo pacifists. You know who you are, you hobbit-loving Hobbsians.

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Ezster sets herself up for a great joke which couldn't make prime-time comedy by referring to this map comparing the size of Israel to Lake Michigan.

If you haven't heard the joke it goes a little something like this. One sunny day in Kabul around November of 2001, GWBush, Mullah Omar and Osama Bin Laden find a magic lamp. Being gracious, or not knowing what it is, Bush lets Omar and Osama go first.

Omar says: I wish for a great impenetrable wall around Afghanistan. No infidels can ever interfere with our great Islamic Republic.

BinLaden says: I wish for a great sky barrier so that no modern aircraft can enter or exit. We shall be free from terror from the sky (One track mind, this guy)

Bush scratches his head for a moment and then makes his wish to the genie.
Fill it up with water.

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Bad Luck, Good Luck

Yesterday was weird.

On the way to work, I got a flat tire. I made it to the gas station but they didn't have my size. The mechanic put on my donut, but wanted to charge me 12.50. I was going to pay it but the cash register was broken. The boss gave me a discount.

I'm late for work so I make a U turn out of the gas station. A cop pulls me over. I don't know where the papers are for the car, but my wife copied them onto yellow paper and they were easy to find. (Remember the days when your registration papers were in the visor?). The cop gives me a break.

I get to work late, but it's OK. I start to test some software, and an earthquake hits. Nothing falls over.

By lunchtime I am exasperated, what else can go wrong today? Nothing happens at work. I drive home safely. I sit down and relax having grabbed the contents of the mailbox and all of the UPS packages left on the porch. Ahh. Made it through the day without another weird thing to stress me out. Bill, Christmas Card, Card, Card, what's this?

Summons for Jury Duty.

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Return of the King

OK I finally saw it. That's the reason there were no blog entries yesterday. I'll be brief. It is definitely not a perfect flick and even if I hadn't ragged on Frodo, I have to agree with Hawkins (although not as squeamishly) that there's a bit too much hugging and loving and smush in this film.

I had been warned that I was going to leave the theatre in a sobbing pile, but it wasn't that touching. I can only get so weepy over swords and sorcery. But I must admit that the spousal unit and I have never been quite so affectionate in the theatre as we were watching all this.. this melodrama.

That said, it was an excellent entertainment and I look forward to wasting a perfectly good weekend watching all three on DVD back to back.

I felt so hurt for Samwise. I just wanted to smack the [remaining] teeth out of Gollum/Smeagol. In fact, I nearly jumped out of my seat when he finally to a rock to the noggin. There's nothing lower than a conniving traitor, except perhaps a cowardly, gluttonous father who sends his only remaining son to die out of spite. There was no shortage of truly despicable characters in this epic, and that is what makes for excellent good vs evil.

Anyway I said I'd be brief. Damnable film has already taken too much of my day. Go see it.

BTW: It must have been some time since I've been to the theatre. All the trailers were new to me. Spiderman2, Adventures of Riddick, Harry Potter 3, all looking like pretty damned good flicks. Well, Spiderman is tired, but the other two look good.

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December 22, 2003

Cambria Earthquake

So A is describing this print server that we are about to test, and all of a sudden I start feeling nauseous. I got enough sleep, so what's going on? I close my eyes and then I look down at my feet to gain composure and it's still happening. We're on the 10th floor.

The blinds are slapping against the windows. It's an earthquake for sure. I stand and leave the cube and walk over to the windows, but not too close. I say out loud that it's definitely an earthquke. Traffic down on the streets is still moving, but I don't want to get close enough to the window to see if power lines are swaying. I don't hear any car alarms going off but we are up pretty high.

Now I can't help but think of Al Qaeda and I'm a little ashamed of that. But I do want to get the hell out of the building even though nothing has fallen over.

First I hit the net to see if there's anything. Nothing. OK I'm going downstairs.

On the way down, L tells me that he used to work in the twin Arco Towers downtown. When some earthquake hit a while ago, people in a corner office looked out of the window and the other building was missing. At the top floors, they move about 15 feet. So for the moment they had swung out of synch. I start moving quicker down the stairs.

The cellphone networks are working but the Nuke isn't at home. I leave a message on the answering machine. Finally I get down to the lot. Some folks have KNX on the car radio. 6.5 north of Monterrey is what we hear. OK so we're in the clear here in LA.

Still this was the most nauseating rolling earthquake I've ever been in. It beats the other record for the one in '82 which I think was Coalinga. I was in Northridge at the time.

OK back to work. I'm still feeling dizzy though.

BTW: Here is the quake map.

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December 21, 2003

Gangsta Hobbit

Elijah Wood is being marketed as a sex symbol now. That's why you'll see more photographs like this.

I had to do a double-take at the checkout line when I saw him and his buttboys posing on the cover of some entertainment mag. Wait a minute says me. Aren't those supposed to be hobbits? Where are the big fuzzy feet? Where's the curly hair? Where are the rosy cheeks? Gone! Gone I say. They've all been taking fashion cues from David Spade.

What on middle earth are we to make of all this? It's such a perversion that I'd rather they have been animated. OK I say that now when I haven't seen the final film. Still, I don't want to see these guys in metrosexual mufti. I realize that they need to get out of being typecast, but do they honestly believe that they'll ever do anything to top this?

I dunno. Short of a sex change, I suppose this is the best thing they can do. It's part of the devil's deal. I'm not mad at ya Elijah, but stay away from my daughters, you you...

I made up a comic routine out of this guy. It went something like this. (sue me if you don't laugh I have a real job now.) What's up with Frodo Baggins and why is he walking halfway to hell with a half naked AIDS patient on a leash? I finally figured it out, LOTR is all about gay marriage. There's what? three women in the whole film, the rest are a bunch of hairy guy chasing each other around tarnation in search of a ring. They all want to wear it. They want the respect!

OK it's much better performed than written, and I probably wouldn't say 'tarnation'. But I like Frodo. And I like my Frodo to stay Frodo, just like in the old days when he was humble and honest and incorruptible. Now he's a walking advertisement for.. something I'm sure the world doesn't need.

The little bastard is having the time of his life, and I'm testing French fax software.

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What I Should Have Said

I just took the longest telephone survey in my life. It's sorta the kind of thing I've waited a very long time to do, and yet not because of one thing. The race question.

This one was unbelievably long, something like 35 minutes and 18 seconds. Well exactly that, because I have a gadget phone that tells me these things. The subjects went from cable TV to Philip Morris to Biotechnology to men's fashions and metrosexuality. My guess is that Kraft Foods is about to be a major sponsor to a new men's equivalent of the Lifetime Network. It's about time. Oh yeah and the Hallmark Channel was in this one a lot.

So we get to the end of the interview where she asks about marital status, family income and race. I say 'Black', she says 'Black?, I can usually tell these things..' and I interrupt her with some bullshit about my international business experience and having to speak clearly for people who don't understand English.

But what I should have said is "Well it's a big country and that's why polls are important because you never know until you ask, do you?"

And quite frankly if I wasn't black and proud, I probably wouldn't have taken the survey anyway, considering that I generally get paid to do research at this little marketing company I know.

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Wal-Mart Strikes Again

This time directly against those idiot music companies who didn't move when they had the chance. You can now download music for 88 cents per song at Wal-Mart. They've got the top hits and they've got the lowest prices, again.

What's interesting about this is that it's difficult to believe that this is a loss leader for Wal-Mart. In fact everything about online music pricing is arbitrary. Wal-Mart, however, understands pricing better than just about anyone - they actually run supply and demand models. So don't be surprised if the prices go lower or become individuated rather than just stick at the 'magic number'.

I love it.

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Is it just me, or are all the year end slow-motion retrospectives playing that Coldplay song in the background?

Posted by mbowen at 10:32 AM | TrackBack

So Where's the Product?

Very huge exciting news in the world of speech recognition occured several years ago when two USC professors found a solution that would be able to discern human speech from all other kinds of noise. They claimed to have solved the problem which had made all previous SR products impractical - you can't use them in noisy environments, like driving your car or walking in an airport.

So where's the product? I haven't heard anything. Have you?

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Stock Secret

It has been a long time since I've played with real money and I no longer have any bookmarks for clearstation, e-trade or even hsx on my browser. But I still have a knack for picking them, at least it would seem so.

I was skeptical during the bull run in tech stocks. I read a very good book in March of 2000 while trying to understand things like warrants and overhang and learned a valuable lesson about IPOs. That is, don't do them unless you've been invited by a principal. Nevertheless, I did make a pile on Inktomi, exactly half of which I squandered on General Magic.

Funny, now that I think back on it, I made all my money in stocks. All of my diversification failed me. My REITs crashed, my mutual funds sucked (more C Class bullshit - I hate brokers). The only thing that held up were my strips. Do trust the US Government securities and don't get greedy. It works for Greenspan; that's good enough for me. But to close that story out, most of my money was in the company where I worked, and I worked the hell out of it. Still, I got screwed.

Chastened, I vowed never to invest any real money (IE money I didn't care about pissing away) in any midcap company. I know exactly how much brains it takes to run such a contraption and believe me, these aren't people you want to invest with. Not that they're not good people, they're just not the best. So I dropped all of even my casual tracking of such promising companies. I don't want a company that promises, I want a company that delivers.

Instead, I picked a very few bigboard companies that ordinary fool investors have never heard about who were
A) doing acquisitions in industries that are proven.
B) paying dividends (maybe)
C) haven't split in the past year.

It basically came down to three. Boeing, GE and the killer stock. Since this security has done well, I'm relatively confident that when I get back into investing for fun and profit, I'll get both.

Check out Danaher. I would have made a pile since mid 2001.

Posted by mbowen at 09:47 AM | TrackBack

December 20, 2003


I've looked at more web pages than the average bear. But this is the first time I've ever seen anything like this. I think this man is a genius.

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Bovine Apathy

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The Baton, Mr. Muschamp

The wonderful thing about being a modern Westerner is the fluidity of thought and the interoperability of knowledge representation. Despite the tension between modernity and organicism, I find it lovely to not have to do everything, think everything and do everything before I can represent everything. What better expression of this than the blogosphere itself? Although I tend to take my own inspirations for most of the blogwriting (more than average, I'd say) this place would be half itself without biting a bit of the flow of other blogging MCs.

Every once in a while someone comes along with words that so completely express your opinion that you can just detach that element of your thinking world and install a permanent pointer. Well, a strong one at any rate.

Once upon a time, I was the Boohab. And I have passed those duties on to Aaron McGruder. For the architectural homonculus in my head, the pointer goes to Herbert Muschamp, the critic for the NYT. Dig these paragraphs:

The building's strongest feature is the adaptability of its structural system to different site conditions. That is why it makes no sense to parse the design for signs of which architect won this or lost that. The design we see, in its entirety, takes its cue from Mr. Libeskind's incomplete master plan. The building's irregular contours are precisely determined by the size, shape and location specified by that plan. If these specifications were to be changed, so would the architectural expression. I'd call that win-win so far.

The second major strength is the balance that the design almost achieves between delicacy and toughness. The glass skin and the cable structure create an ethereal quality that one might have thought impossible, given the prospect of fortress architecture that rose up in the aftermath of 9/11. Yet the rigor of the structure is tough, exactly as the Brooklyn Bridge and the Eiffel Tower are tough. Freedom Tower's structure is derived from bridge design, like that of the Eiffel Tower. The span connects heaven and earth.

He's nailed my thinking on the new WTC. So make sure you read him if not me.

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The Taste of Billions

Last night I put on my Hollywood suit and went out for a night of.. well, for a night. Destination: Beverly Hills.

My boy K, with whom I share similar tastes, appetites and aggressive tactics in the flirt department invited me. He had me hookup with Brooks, someone I know on the periphery of many internet conversations at a joint in Beverly Hills called the Friars Club.

As you may know, in Los Angeles there is a creeping tradition of ever more upscale beautiful blackfolks throwing parties at joints of exclusive traditions. The Friars Club is such a joint. The portraits on the wall need only one name. Jolson, Sinatra, Reagan, Martin, Hope and at the top of the stairs, Sammy. Anyway, some cat named Joe was running the joint with an over-loud Jazz quartet. Brooks and I had a ball running the old one-two on various sets of babeage. It's nice to know that the charm still works.

But just before this shindig, I found myself a bit short on actual dead presidents and went hunting up Little Santa Monica for an ATM. I should have known better than to expect one at the ultra-smooth Peninsula Hotel, but what the hey. I had on the Hollywood suit, may as well give it a workout.

Over at the bar, I fell into conversation with a gent who used to be in film financing. According to R, Beverly Hills ain't what it used to be. Fifteen years ago, quoth he, people used to spend money. But now nothing's happening. Where is the place to be? China. There is no real money left to be made in America. We are everything mediocre in the world of opportunistic capitalism - the kind engaged in by people not born rich.

He gives me an anecdote. Over here the pinnacle of recording is the platinum record. What's that, 2 million albums sold? Something like that. He says one day Patti Labelle and her manager flew over to Beijing, recorded a record and proceded to sell 88 million copies. How does that happen? Things like that happen all the time in Beijing, which is why I need to be there.

As you may know, I'm heading into the area of trade slowly but surely. If I can work the Hollywood suit and make such contacts purposefully, rather than serendipitously like last night, I may have a future after all.

I'm not the first one and certainly won't be the last to get China fever. Beijing is looking like NYC in the 30s, and there are more millionaires made every day in China than anywhere in the world. I'll take my time and do what I can. But I do have some new interesting horizons.

Posted by mbowen at 10:07 PM | TrackBack

Snarkiest Remark by a Ten Year Old

I really had to laugh out loud this afternoon when, at a birthday party the kid gets his fellow boys to engage in a chant.

What do we want?
When do we want it?

His dad is supermarket management. We live in Southern California, you do the math.

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December 19, 2003

A Hero Ain't Nothing But A Sandwich

Or a hot dog, as the case may be. One has to ask what the world is coming to every once in a while. This man is a hero to some.

Where are the Fear Factor heroes, I wonder. Somebody has got to make these guys take themselves less seriously.

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Can You Hear Me Now, Biatch?

I am so pleased with today's court decision in favor of Verizon against the RIAA in their peer networking case that I'm going to change cellphone providers at the next opportunity.

The sharply worded ruling, which underscored the role of judges in protecting privacy and civil rights, is a major setback to the record companies in their efforts to stamp out the sharing of copyrighted songs through the Internet. It overturns a decision in a federal district court that allowed the music industry to force the disclosure of individuals simply by submitting subpoenas to a court clerk without winning a judge's approval.

Big ups to Verizon for sticking up for their customers.

Posted by mbowen at 07:25 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Flu Panic

All this talk about the flu is making me angry. Every time somebody sneezes people freak. I was sick a couple weeks ago, it basically knocked me out for long weekend. That Monday I was good to go. I suppose it was flu.

Just the other day, M9 stopped playing. When this kid sits on his butt at the playground, something's wrong. Sure enough he had a fever. It got up to 101.7 that night. So I downloaded half the content of WebMD in search of answers. It turns out that kids can sustain temperatures of 102-104 for 2-3 days without cause for serious alarm. That's what a healthy body does to give virii the beat-down.

But as I looked through the chicken soup and hot lemonade recipies, I didn't find anything to confirm the broadcast dangers of this flu which is widely reported to be 'killing children'. Quoth WebMD:

At-risk people include:

  • Pregnant women who will be in their second or third trimester during flu season
  • People with underlying diseases such as diabetes, HIV infection, or heart disease
  • Children age 6-23 months
  • Adults age 65 and older

If a member of your household is in one of these groups -- or if you're a health-care worker who cares for such people -- you should get vaccinated to help insulate them from the flu.

What about kids age 2 and older?

"Overall, kids have a very low risk of developing severe complications from flu," CDC director Julie Gerberding, MD, MPH, today said in a news conference. "That doesn't mean it will never happen. Sometimes it does, and parents, of course, find that alarming. Fortunately, FluMist [nasal spray] vaccine is available for that group. Parents who are really concerned should contact their doctor and see if FluMist would be helpful for them." FluMist is not recommended in children under 5 because of the increased risk of asthma and wheezing seen in clinical trials.

I swear I'm never going to watch broadcast news again. I'm almost willing to admit that there is a digital divide. Needless to say, I do trust WebMD and not only because of C. Everett Koop, but my sister the nurse says I should.

It turns out that this is just an ordinary flu. Wash your hands, prepare the toddies and relax.

Still, F8 is coming down with the same bug and the spousal unit is miserable having tried unsuccessfully to evade it. I'm rather confident that this is the same thing I got just after Thanksgiving and I'm not surprised, having been out of the house a lot, that it took this much time to spread. On the other hand it might be something altogether different which is, as far as I'm concerned, just another good workout for the old immune systems.

We do tend to take our good health for granted in the Yellow House, but we work out at the Y and eat smart. We've built up a lot of wellness equity. So this being just an ordinary flu, we're going to sweat it out and continue. I will say that we should have gotten the shots to avoid all the headache of downtime. Other than that, we are being levelheaded amongst the panic.

I hope that helps.

PS. M9's fever went down to 100 within 24 hours, and was normal this morning. He still had a pretty bad sore throat, which isn't generally indicated with flu. F8 was playing dolls this morning too.

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Human Affairs

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Under the Jail

On crime and punishment, I want to recant my half-joking sentiment on deportation of criminals to anarchic societies. I actually do mean Gulags and desert islands. It came to me in a flash last night while listening to an Iraqi woman complaining about public safety in the wake of Saddam's release of all Iraqi prisoners during the War.

Much has been made of organized resistence in Iraq and Hussein's role in or absence from it. But it doesn't take much imagination knowing that 20,000 prisoners are in the streets as well as Saddam's money to see how chaos can and will thrive. Notably in that news, much was being made of the fact that the Baghdad cops are the slowest to the scenes of explosions and the like. American troops are there first, followed quickly by the new Iraqi civil defense forces trained by the Americans.

Anyway a lot of people need to be put back in the slammer in Iraq.

Speaking of which, Lee Malvo has been found guilty and will die in prison, with any luck sooner rather than later. This is excellent news. I think of it chauvinistically to mean that African America is stronger now having rid itself of one more ignorant fool. He actually thought he was in the Matrix? Yeah right.

I forget the name of the other monster, Muhammed or something like that. Is he dead yet?

Finally, the news the Jacko is converting to the Nation of Islam means one and only one thing to me, he's knows that he's going to jail. The NOI has basically one redeeming quality. It is a staunch defender against prison rape. Mark my words, Jacko is preparing for the worst.

Posted by mbowen at 12:40 AM | TrackBack

What Kind of Post Modernist?

revisionist historian
You are a Revisionist Historian. You are the Clark
Kent of postmodernists. You probably want to
work in a library or in social services. No
one suspects you of being a postmodernist...
until they read your publications!

What kind of postmodernist are you!?
brought to you by Quizilla

I'm really not a post-modernist at all. I just dig historical fiction. At least they got that right.

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Lost in Space: Dot Com Personified

A little early archeology. What did the dot com revolution feel like culturally? Lost in Space is a very good example, bordering on great.

One of the first DVDs I purchased was 'Lost In Space', the remake-movification of the old Irwin Allen TV series. Aside from the fact that it's got a ponderous father-fixation and a really awful script I think in many ways that it stands up as an extraordinary testament to the Dot Com Style. The DVD itself was one of the first to get all themey with the menus.

I want to say something briefly about the awful script. I viewed the film this evening with English subtitles on and I think I understand something about acting. Actors, at least these kind, work very hard at adding life to very dumb sentences. It must try one's patience to make 'Really. No kidding' into the best laugh of a movie.

Aside from all that, there are countless visuals in this film that mark it directly at the turn of the century. It is noticeable for its lack of product placements which we have almost come to expect in cheesy sci-fi action, but the big fat self-referential one in this is for Silicon Graphics. At the time, few things could be hipper. Today Silicon Graphics itself is an anachronism. (This afternoon in the test lab, I found a pathetic looking hunk of a purple Indigo2 SGI computer sitting in the corner of a stock room, under a Quadra 700)

Classic within the DVD is the Apollo 440 music video in the features. Everything about it is perfectly reminesent of the turn of the century, rivalling the Propellerheads' singlular album. The sountrack, even the script, is all about downloadable soundbiteyness. Sampled repitition, and pre-blogging video diaries are rampant throughout.

What characterizes the Dot Com style best to my mind is its metallic circularity and its organic electronic integration. The best of the technology was bent on human augmentation - away from the austere minimalist angularity of the 80s and the evolving past the organic funky retro of the early 90s. Lost in Space captures that moment when the electronic was still distinct enough to be large but trying to be small and human factored. The moment when cellphones became pocket-sized and rounded, when circles and swoops were in vogue and when it began to be ok to move past matte black everything.

Accellerated, snarkily self-mocking yet digging the coolness, Lost in Space is such a y2k flick it's embarassingly revealing of the times. Check the moment.

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December 18, 2003

Strom's New Legacy

I wrote to Earl Ofari Hutchinson last evening to remind him of how highly I think of him, even though I haven't been thinking of him recently. More than anyone I can think of, he has been an Old School contrarian who has retained integrity and a true love and respect for blackfolks. Ofari is conservative, period.

He has discovered that his granddaughters are too, related to Strom Thurmond.

It is ironic that as I breezed through his website that one of his readers has created a Republican strawman of vile proportions. I think Earl would make a good Republican and he has made the case that African Americans should play both parties, a sentiment with which I agree heartily. Nevertheless, people will continue to invent excuses why it is impossible for African Americans to admit any affinity to the Republican Party.

What would you do if you suddenly discovered that beloved members of your family were secretly related to someone you despise? Perhaps you would keep that a secret. More's the pity, because in finding something worth respecting in your opposition makes you a better person, even though it hurts to admit it. I think it is a sign of maturity, no better a sign of wisdom that we not take our partisanship to extremes. Because you never know who has done right by you if you keep it a secret.

I find it rather ghastly that Thurmond had sex with a 16 year old domestic. But his sexual appetites were the stuff of legend, at least inside the Beltway they were. I wouldn't be surprised to learn of more and more of the Thurmond gene expressing itself publicly. However, not many of us civil libertarians out here knew or cared about all that. We only knew his monumental error and his unwillingness to die.

I don't see a great contradiction in the soul of this man. I believe he dominated that young woman unfairly and unchivalrously. Arnold's gropes pale in comparison. One can hardly imagine how such a relationship could survive the light of day and of course it was the young black woman who was sacrificed. But that which doesn't kill one, makes one stronger and a family which has survived to become part of Ofari's is no doubt stong, should brook no backtalk and harbor no shame.

The NextGen will do things which surprise and inspire us, and I hold out high hopes for at least two of Thurmonds great-great-grandchildren. There is no greater testimony that King's words were prophetic, the long arc of history does indeed bend towards justice.

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Remember 1998, 1999 when everybody wondered what we would call the years of the new millenium? OK maybe it was just me. Well I think that it's clear that the colloquial way is generally accepted to be the 2ks, especially if you are a techie or a gamer. We're leading the pack anyway so get over yourselves and follow.

So now we are in 2k3 and next year will be 2k4. If you don't believe me, write 2k3 in the date field of the next check you write. The bank will honor it.

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NextGen Briefs

The next generation is doing very well thank you. I want to thank you all who nodded nicely to M9's essay. He's got a fever and a sore throat today and is missing the last day of school. Poor kid. Fortunately, the spousal unit is disposed to ministrations of care, whilst I toil afar.

The good news is that my New York neice has just been accepted to Brown University. That makes the second Browner in the family and the first in the nextgen. It seems like only yesterday that she was giggling at my wedding.

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French AND Funny

I studied French in highschool as if I were going to be a French major. Back then, I expected to spend a lot of time in West Africa, like my uncle. Plus, I was pretty good in French.

This past week, for the first time in my life, I'm actually getting paid for understanding French. I may be particularly attuned to French syntax and logical style, but I find it a great deal more straightforward and expressive language than German. You see this week and last I've been a test engineer debugging a French version of, well I don't want to go there right now.

That's not the reason I'm writing this entry. It's this guy. That's the funniest, most wholesome comedy I've seen since The Blue Man Group.

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December 17, 2003

Blackout Retrospective

I mentioned just after NYC went dark and I started sleuthing that there was a reasonable possibility that computer failure was at the heart of the problem. Bruce Schneier is looking closer and here's what he thinks.

The chain of events began at FirstEnergy, a power company in Ohio. There, a series of human and computer failures turned a small problem into a major one. And because critical alarm systems failed, workers at FirstEnergy did not stop the cascade because they did not know what was happening.

This is where I think Blaster may have been involved. The report gives a specific timeline for the failures. At 14:14 EDT, the "alarm and logging software" at FirstEnergy's control room failed. This alarm software "provided audible and visual indications when a significant piece of equipment changed from an acceptable to problematic condition." Of course, no one knew that it failed.

Six minutes later, "several" remote control consoles failed. At 14:41, the primary server computer that hosted the alarm function failed. Its functions were passed to a backup computer, which failed at 14:54.

Doesn't this sound like a computer worm wending its way through FirstEnergy's operational computers?

His speculation is backed up by some pretty unusual coincidences, such as the fact that FirstEnergy has been hit before by Slammer and the time that these alarm servers were failing was exactly the same time Blaster was knocking out machines nationwide.

I gave Gent the benefit of the doubt...

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Rutan's Rocket

FET_space_136_1.jpgOn the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers' first powered flight, Dick Rutan's SS1 has gone supersonic. Big ups to the crew!

USA Today has some verbiage:

"Our flight this morning by SpaceShipOne demonstrated that supersonic flight is now the domain of a small company doing privately funded research, without government help," the company said in a statement. "The flight also represents an important milestone in our efforts to demonstrate that truly low-cost space access is feasible."

Rutan has been in the independent aircraft design business as long as anyone can remember. He replicates the determination of the Wrights who ran hundreds of glider flights before their first powered flight.

There have been several announcements this week. Boeing is making a new midsized passenger jet, the 7E7. It doesn't sound particularly spectacular, unlike Airbus' new A380 which is a massive super jumbo which outclasses the biggest 747s by a bunch.

Powered flight has come a very long way in 100 years, and I don't doubt that unmanned fighter jets are just around the corner. What a world. What a world.

Posted by mbowen at 09:45 PM | TrackBack

Gamers & Geeks Rule

Last night, while looking for a way to get my recently decertified RP114 router to work with XBox Live, I found a very cool site called GamerTagDatabase.

I'm accustomed to searching around the world for solutions to my stupid little problems, and I was almost there having created some weird packet filters and port redirections thanks to some bloke. Alas, it didn't work. Yike, just thinking about those things make my head hurt. So I ended up playing XIII against relentless AIs instead of relentless humans. But thanks to this bloke I did find GTDB and finally could put some demographics behind the anonymous faces and voices.

I still haven't found anyone there that I know from gaming which suggests that the online gaming world is even more vast than I expected. Understand that the GTDB folks are all voluntarily seeking each other outside of the realm of gaming itself. It allows you to find gamers from California who are over 40, for example.

When I get my new router for Christmas, I'll be back online with gamers from all over the West.

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Nevermind: A Reversal on French Law

Norm was right all along.

Analogies don't work, but I have come up with one that is close enough to the French situation that makes me think I jumped the gun in supporting Chirac's idea. Plus, something has changed.

Chirac today reneged on his promise to create two religious holidays along with his outlawing of 'conspicuous religious symbols' in French public schools. Having heard Warren Olney announce this made me rethink. Additionally, I considered a parallel.

In 1984 if you were a black woman who decided to wear cornrows to work, chances are you'd hear static about it. That would be especially the case at big corporate or law office. It was considered 'unprofessional'. Reason prevailed and the idea can be laughed at now, but back then it wasn't so funny. What if things had gone worse? Say that some black women were physically assaulted because of their choice of hair. Would black America have desired a law that banned such hairstyles in order to protect women from workplace violence? Hell no. We'd have wanted to find the smelly bastards who assaulted the women and have them dragged through the ugliest part of jail before standing trial.

And so it is with that image in mind that I now decline to support Chirac's idea. Certainly religious symbolism is more important than hairstyles. Although I think compromises are necessary to integration and that everyone should show some tolerance and on second thought I think there are less hamfisted ways of handling the situation.

Countering that slightly, rules of the corporate workplace, while not law have become annoying in themselves. And certain civil judgements against companies proven to sustain hostile environments tangentially works against the interests of tolerance, but I'd rather have that than Chirac's way now that I think about it.

Is secularism threatened by religious symbols? I never thought so. Tolerance is threatened by condescending law, and I believe that to be the case in France.

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The Morning After Pill & The Economics of Carefree Sex

The approval of the new day after pill will give us yet another choice in contraception. I don't have a problem with the principle of contraception, but I think that this is a step in the wrong direction.

A certain someone I knew, living in Southern California as she did way back in '88, had a certain amount of exposure to Mexican American women. In Mexico, it is perfectly legal to have an injection of depoprovera as a long term contraceptive. Apparently, it's perfectly legal now in the US, but at the time (way back in the 80s) getting the shot was a dodgy affair. You get a shot four times a year and the rest of the year, you relax.

You may recall the scandal over Norplant when conspiracy theorists claimed its invention was part of a campaign of sterilization against blacks and latinos. I don't doubt that it was probably over prescribed in such communities which is bad enough, but I took issue with the controversy in those days.

My argument has changed however. At the time in weighing lightly against Norplant, I was on my way to becoming organic. I argued that American life was needlessly complex and that our economy should conform to the shape of human life. God doesn't make mistakes. If young women are physically capable of having babies, society should be capable of accepting them. This was a strike back at the culture war. Ultimately I expected a high school education to be enough, and I expected that young couples should be capable of raising children given that education and the proper economy. My sentiment remains with the young couples, but I see it as pushing bourgie aspirations.

Folks who love to hate single mothers sit in dark political corners now that welfare and AFDC have been savaged. They have nothing left to talk about. It is not clear to me (I haven't read 'Nickeled and Dimed') that our internal Second World is not functioning well. But it is clear that our national culture is dominated by yuppie scum who don't understand or respect that Second World properly. Howard Dean is proof. And again I say the Democratic nominee should resemble a football coach with a fat head and a bushy moustache. Because a righteous blue collar politics is not present on the big stage, our political culture dogs all the creatures of Eminem's oevre. But you and I know the people who listen to DMX or Patsy Cline and drive trucks are as red-blooded as you and me, even though their blood may be thinned by Wild Turkey. Sentiment against broken homes and youthful pregnancy is heavily cultural and slightly socio-economic.

I believe the American Second World functions as well as any other Second World, they just don't get the respect of politicians. Keep this in mind when the six-figure journalists intone morally about the dangers of youthful sex. They themselves could not imagine their bourgie life saddled with rugrats, it doesn't mean women are incapable or those who do are inferior. That is economics talking. So the political sentiment in favor of a morning after pill is harmonizing with the pseudo-feminist idea of sexual liberation as in 'Friends'.

My daughters have been raised thus far in the kind of suburban environment that teaches charity towards others and believes that there are not tall buildings in Africa. I'm willing to wager, despite biology, that they are on track for the yuppie economy if not values. So I expect that childbirthing should be delayed. So it is very likely that I will get them a five year supply of Norplant for their 13th birthdays. But this is part of a plan, not a carefree 'choice'. The day after pill is carefree.

I don't want to make any value judgements about the kind of woman who doesn't know when she's going to need such a pill, but clearly the drug companies are invested in that being a market big enough to profit from. You can hear 'This just encourages irresponsibility!' dripping from my conservative lips.

So in respecting the fact that young women are going to choose pregnancy and it puts them into the Second World economy, rightly or wrongly, it is up to us in our class to respect them nonetheless. If America can sustain both a first and second world domestic economy integrated and unequal, then it is perfectly acceptable that we have all types of contraception available. But the day after pill makes me uneasy. It represents a huge investment in an irresponsible convenience. (And it's leading our women astray). It sells the carefree lifestyle of the first world sybarite to the second world market. That doesn't sit right with me. I can't respect the chooser equally to the planner and this gives the choosers one more choice.

Still, it's better than the choice of abortion.

Posted by mbowen at 12:19 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Trial of the Century, Not

"The moment had come, I swallowed my gum
we knew that blood would be on the sand pretty soon.
The crowd held its breath, hoping that death
would brighten an otherwise dull afternoon."
-- Tom Lehrer

I cannot imagine that anyone will be interested in seeing Saddam Hussein on the witness stand. The guillotine, sure.

After his capture, it's all downhill from here. There is no drama left to squeeze out of this morality play, at least from an American point of view. If you don't believe me, consider the drama attached to the current procedings against Milosevic. Who? You know, that war criminal that Wesley Clark is testifying against in The Hague as we speak.

In two days of testimony at the United Nations tribunal in The Hague, the retired four-star general and former supreme commander of NATO sought to bolster the prosecutor's argument that Mr. Milosevic was guilty of war crimes and genocide.

In the process, he also sought to burnish his credentials as a potential commander in chief. Of the Democratic presidential contenders, he said in an interview after testifying: "I'm the only one who's ever faced a dictator down. I'm the only one who's ever testified in court against one."

A distinction to be sure. I like Clark as much as anyone. Aside from Kerry, he's the only Democrat I think I could live with as president without much discomfort. It's probably not fair, but am I the only one who is yawning?

Posted by mbowen at 07:35 AM | TrackBack

December 16, 2003

Sour CRM Grapes

I just discovered in an old Information Week magazine dated October of this year, that Seibel made $157 million in revenue from its [sucky] CRM analytics software. One month before my division at Hyperion was destroyed by [clueless] management, we were closing the deal to embed our software into that solution.

Posted by mbowen at 03:16 PM | TrackBack

December 15, 2003

The Skeptic

Posted by mbowen at 08:40 PM | TrackBack

What I'm Thankful For

My son, M9 brought home an essay. I think it's pretty impressive.

I am thankful to live in a free country. I'm thankful to be an American which means I have freedom of speech, which means I have the right to say whatever I want. I can agree with things, and I could disagree with things. I could go on strike. I could not go on strike.

I'm thankful to be free from slavery. I won't get hit with a whip. I won't have to work for others.

I'm free from kings and queens. No more judgement. I don't have to do anything a king or queen says. I don't have to obey king's or queen's rules. I don't have to serve king's or queen's needs.

I have the right to go to the church I want to go to. I have the right to go to church on Monday, Tuesday, Wendesday, Thursday, Friday and Satruday when it's supposed to be on Sunday. I have the right to pray when I'm not in church. I have the right to pray however, wherever, whenever. I have the right to pray more than one time.

I think he gets it.

Posted by mbowen at 06:45 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Wal-Mart Taking Names

As many Cobb readers know, I'm in awe of Wal-Mart and I hope it takes over the world. That is because I believe in world peace through discount shopping, seriously. Reading through an excellent article on that which Sam wrought, I see a glitch. The glitch is prosperity itself.

The ultimate power of Wal-Mart's efficiency is compounded by the fact that it sells recgonizable brands. This is absolutely key. The entire difference between Wal-Mart and Big Lots or Costco in terms of consumer acceptance has everything to do with the nature of American tastes. A watch is a watch is a watch and a credit card is a credit card. But here in America, people are willing to pay the difference between a Timex and a Bulova, and it's tangibly cooler to use a gold card rather than a blue one. This might seem silly in the eyes of our poorer neighbors around the globe, but great gobs of GDP are expended keeping up with the Jones.

Wal-Mart offers the best of both worlds - recognizeably bourgie First World name brands at Second World prices. As the name brand vendors deal with this devil, all the money is being squeezed out of the value they have built over the years in their brands. Wal-Mart doesn't give a damn. A watch is a watch to Sam, and time is on his side.

Having been a Nordstrom shopper all of my adult life, I took the plunge and began buying clothes from Wal-Mart. Truth be told, I went from Gap to Old Navy to Target before I was comfortable at Wal-Mart. Hard economic times were part of the equation too. In bad times, in poorer areas, when style doesn't count Wal-Mart wins. But understand that for both the Wal-Mart supplier and consumer, capitulation is part of the deal.

The Wal-Mart game is about commodity pricing. They push the envelope of consumerism by putting more and more goods into that bucket of commodity. This is excellent for civilization. We really shouldn't be wasteful and market mechanism really should work like this. It is capitalism in the extreme, which means it will show its ability to contradict human nature. And that contradiction will appear when people (both consumers and producers) get sick and tired of low prices and high volumes as the ultimate motivator.

By definition, Wal-Mart cannot go upmarket. It can attempt to bring down the high and mighty brands, but who is actually going to buy a business suit, a diamond engagement ring or furniture from Wal-Mart? Nobody. But nobody has yet found the formula for delivering more upscale products well. The market may end up split into two. A few high end retailers and then Wal-Mart. But stores like Kohl's and Target are ones to watch.

Unless Lileks is right about 'Samuels' , the weakness is in plain sight.

Posted by mbowen at 10:45 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 14, 2003

Reich on IT Jobs

Here's the bad news, quantified:

I.T. employment is down 20 percent since early 2001. Salaries are down too. In 2000, senior software engineers earned up to $130,000. The same job now pays no more than $100,000. In 2000, entry-level computer help desk staffers earned about $55,000; now, $35,000.

This article on jobs in my part of the industry has got me thinking. I'm glad that somebody has put some numbers on the table because our collective paranoia hasn't been especially useful.

Global outsourcing is a small factor relative to the bad economy and the productivity gains wrought by automation. The number of IT jobs sent abroad still accounts for a tiny proportion of America's 10-million-strong IT workforce. But there's no doubt that the trend is gathering steam.

While the words on everyone's lips has been 'outsourcing', how many IT jobs can actually go to India? To hear folks talk, you'd think "all of them". Acting as if this was true we've all been looking for work that we think cannot be outsourced. We've been mumbling and grumbling. But here's some perspective:
India, where the bulk of foreign IT jobs are, already has 520,000 IT professionals. It's adding 2 million college graduates a year, many of whom are attracted to the burgeoning IT sector.

Wait. Only half a million in India compared to our ten million? One out of twenty? That's a breath of fresh air, and it eases my mind. A month ago when I almost had to move to Detroit to do a one year contract with Lockheed Martin, I was told during the interview process that the financial data warehouse (my particular genius) was one of the only functions not being outsourced. Even though I didn't get the gig (they wanted somebody a lot less qualified and therefore likely to bolt if and when the market came back) I was feeling rather lucky. It's true that this is a very hard job to pull off, even when everyone is from the US, it's difficult to imagine how it could possibly be outsourced well. But folks like me are not quite as rare as I thought.

I've been thinking, especially since my partner happens to have 150 staffers on call in India, how certain jobs can or cannot be outsourced. As I am going downmarket into the Russell 2000 rather than the Fortune 500 where I had been all my career, I would like to believe that these IT managers are a lot less likely to outsource. This is primarily because they are not likely to undertake massive projects where labor costs are an obviously tempting target. At the same time, I can see that these smaller companies are more likely to need the potential cost reductions. So I'm very curious to see how manageable such outsourcing can be and what mid-cap companies think.

I think that Reich is right on the money with regards to the risks.

First the risk. Outsourcing—especially to a country 10,000 miles away—increases the possibilities of loss or theft of intellectual property, sabotage, cyberterrorism, abuse by hackers and organized crime. Not much of this has happened yet. But as more IT is shipped abroad, the risks escalate. Smart companies will keep their most important functions in-house, at home.

Second is quality control. The more complex the job order and specs, the more difficult it is to get it exactly right over large distances with subcontractors from a different culture. In a recent Gartner survey of 900 big U.S. companies that outsource IT work offshore, a majority complained of difficulty in communicating and meeting deadlines. So it's unlikely that the most complex engineering and design can be more efficiently done abroad.

Third is the competitive pressure for continuous innovation. Even as they ship out "commodity" IT work overseas—including software maintenance and support, and even infrastructure support—the best companies are simultaneously shifting their in-house IT employees to more innovative, higher value-added functions, such as invention, integration, key R&D and basic architecture. Companies need to continuously nurture these core creative activities, which are at the heart of their competitive futures.

So even though one out of five of us has lost our jobs, and I keep hearing stories about folks who are learning how to sell real-estate, there's some hope, and it depends mostly on our economy, not a threat from abroad.

Buy socks. (or SOX as the case may be)

Posted by mbowen at 05:24 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Dean's Rhetorical Patronage

I've written here in Cobb that there is a dirty little secret in black politics. Perhaps some of Dean's campaign team has taken an object lesson. Those African Americans who hold out for hope in the world of politics of all places have apparently been placated by Mr. Dean's clever rhetoric.

What is astounding about this sleight of hand is that Dean has gotten away with getting endorsements without having made one documentable campaign promise. Sensible people expect politicians to dissemble, and those things that are sacrificed first are campaign promises. So what kind of fool gives the benefit of the doubt to a politician whose not even willing to make a promise? There is nothing so irresponsible as a man who makes no promises and states no case, something most of us recognized when pressing Clarence Thomas. But if there is, then it is the voter who trusts such a man. Fools following liars.

Let us start with the gushing of the Black Commentator.

Howard Dean’s December 7 speech is the most important statement on race in American politics by a mainstream white politician in nearly 40 years. Nothing remotely comparable has been said by anyone who might become or who has been President of the United States since Lyndon Johnson’s June 4, 1965 affirmative action address to the graduating class at Howard University.

BC seems to desire nothing more than acceptance of Dean as a mainstream candidate so that his vague histrionics can give air to BC's studied radical notions. BC is clearly anti-corporate, but do they actually expect Dean to endorse that form of economic strategy?

The core of BC's economic mythology is plain.

Negro poverty is not white poverty. Many of its causes and many of its cures are the same. But there are differences – deep, corrosive, obstinate differences – radiating painful roots into the community, and into the family, and the nature of the individual.

These differences are not racial differences. They are solely and simply the consequence of ancient brutality, past injustice, and present prejudice. They are anguishing to observe. For the Negro they are a constant reminder of oppression.

If there is some sense of special failure blacks might have in their poverty, then the Black Commentator would have one believe that some measure of dignity could be recovered in the knowledge that the President 'feels you'. In this way, the black man who gets the 50k job is only half a black man when the president is a [racist, divisive] Republican, but is made whole by the [warm fuzzy Democrat] president who is sympathetic to a radical interpretation of racial history.

This is the farce at the heart of Dean's legitimacy in the eyes of the Black Commentator. They refuse to separate economics from racial politics, therefore it is not sufficient that African Americans themselves know the facts of history. There has to be a Great White Father who also sees it that way. Blacks don't recover themselves, they do so under the aegis of a friendly politically revisionist history. This is all Dean delivers: talk and promises to talk.

I said it once, and I'll say it again:

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.

Check out his speech yourself. At least six paragraphs begin "We're going to talk about..". That wouldn't be so bad if the paragraphs weren't so damned thin. But then again, Dean has to prove himself mainstream, otherwise the formula doesn't work. That means he has to sell out principles for the sake of wide acceptability. I keep telling blackfolks that this is the fundamental problem.

Yet the BC keeps hope alive:

Where does this leave Al Sharpton and Dennis Kucinich? Exactly as they are, preaching the same social democratic, anti-racist, pro-peace message as before, for as long as their energies can sustain them. Dean’s political leap would not have been possible in the absence of Sharpton’s energetic Black candidacy and Kucinich’s principled, progressive white voice from the Left. At this historic juncture they dare not go anywhere. Dean has picked up the torch that Sharpton and Kucinich have been carrying and they must stay in the race to make sure he doesn’t set it down.

If there is any mark of delusion, there it is plainly and simply. To imagine that Dean couldn't survive without Sharpton and Kucinich makes about as much sense, as my old feminist buddies used to say, as a fish without a bicycle.

I am willing to bet money that this infatuation will be short-lived. It's too bad that the Black Commentator and those who follow this rationale are so soft-headed and willing to compromise. But that is their fate, tied as they are to the ritual of hope and disappointment which is the standard fare of the African American voters and the Democratic Party.

I know George W. Bush's weaknesses, and as a hard headed Republican, I'm not afraid to call him on them because I am vested in his practical success. Practical success is the difference between Cobb and the dreamers over on the Left. Apparently everybody can have a dream. It's just a matter of time before Dean reveals his dreams to America. "I too have a dream", he'll say. I'll hold back my puke until that moment. But it's coming.

I have one last barb to pitch. Where is the Congressional Black Caucus in all this? I haven't been looking, but if their opinion mattered enough, it would make news loud enough to hear. Considering small incidents that make enough news for Jesse Jackson to be mentioned, I'm sure I hear quite enough. And my ears are telling me that the CBC's opinion doesn't matter.

Posted by mbowen at 01:06 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Death by Stick

A group of anonymous samurai destroyed Spongebob Squarepants this morning in the normally quiet community of Redondo Beach, California.

Several of the armed rebels were captured in repose by our intrepid photojournalist. They apparently showed no remorse for their brutal attack.

I'm not sure that this Mexican tradition is being carried out properly here in the US. It's frigging dangerous. You've seen America's Funniest Videos. There is slapstick aplenty in this domestic farce. As much as I enjoy seeing television bashed, I'm not so certain that it should be more than symbolic. The destroyed remains of the Spongebob effigy is all over the front yard. pinata.gif I witnessed the entire massacre. Some might say that I was partially responsible. Yes we had an injury. As much as we tried to carefully plan and execute this event, something went wrong. In this case it was a stepped-on finger during the candy scramble.

Well, nothing is without risk.

Posted by mbowen at 12:22 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Now Vote!

Posted by mbowen at 11:29 AM | TrackBack

Spider Hole - Birth of a Meme

Sometime last week, we were heard about a dozen Iraqi children injured or killed in a failed raid in search of one of the top fugitives of the Baath regime. Things were looking bleak, but such is the drudgery of war, sometimes only recognized a generation later in retrospect. But today all of the free world is giddy with glee over the discovered contents of a 'spider hole'.

If you Googled 'spider hole' yesterday, you'd probably not have found enough hits to fill a spider hole. In fact, this morning the number of Google hits is 395,000. Virtualdoug has a nice photo at the top of the Googlearchy at this moment, but he's about to be dethroned in short order. A great victory for American intel will be the spreading of this meme.

You heard it here first. You'll hear it everywhere tomorrow.

Posted by mbowen at 11:20 AM | TrackBack

Spider Hole

Posted by mbowen at 11:13 AM | TrackBack

We Got Him

14cnd-saddam.7.274.jpg I knew this day would come.

I swore that I had written somewhere that a lot of the carping would be deflated once Saddam Hussein was rotting somewhere in an American jail and forgotten five years later like Panama's Noriega. But I did not do so in Cobb, according to my search engine. Now is a critical time to watch the chatting class and find which way the loyal opposition is going to spin this.

Whatever is said, there is no question about this: Operation Red Dawn was a success at Wolverine Two, and although somebody is going to get a big fat cash reward, the biggest reward of all accrues to the Iraqi people. This is the beginning of the end.

Posted by mbowen at 10:12 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Strom Thurmond's Black Daughter

A 78-year-old retired Los Angeles schoolteacher said she is breaking a lifetime of silence to announce that she is the illegitimate mixed-race daughter of former U.S. senator James Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), once the nation's leading segregationist. In an interview, the woman said that Thurmond privately acknowledged her as his daughter and provided financial support since 1941.

For many years, I have entertained the suggestion that if black militants wanted to rise above lip service that they should assassinate Strom Thrumond. The problem with assassination, of course, is that it can never be interpreted the way you want it, and you always make a martyr out of your target. I think the Israelis do assassinations best, in the context of low level war. At any rate, if the new radical militants did so, they would have had to deal with Essie Mae Washington-Williams, Strom Thurmond's daughter, who is as African-American as anyone.

Will wonders never cease?

The impact of development such as these are at the heart of Toni Morrison's book Jazz. Most families have secret ancestors in this nation. The caste of race too great to bear. If there is anything that gives testimony to the power of race, it is the fact that it can do something like this.

Looking back, I am brought to mind of James Meredith. I knew that he had come to work for either Thurmond or Helms, but I thought it might be Thurmond. There hasn't been much support or admiration for Meredith from black political circles, but he does look rather distinguished here.

Posted by mbowen at 09:44 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

December 13, 2003

Nautical Nonsense

One of these days I'm going to cough up my guts blowing balloons for these damned kids of mine. Today is the day of Spongebob madness as F6 becomes F7. She has proven her acumen at subtraction and reminded me every day for three weeks exactly how many days until her birthday. Well, that means she does month conversions, so maybe I exaggerate.

Nevertheless, having found a wealth of Spongebob songs here and there, I have burned a CD with the inimitable 'F.U.N' and a smattering of other musical works of the twisted minds behind the absorbent yellow simpleton.
Plankton: I win!
SpongeBob: It's not about winning, it's about fun.
Plankton: What's that?
SpongeBob: Fun is when you, it's kinda, sorta like a, what is fun? Here, let me spell it for you. "F" is for freinds who do stuff together, "U" is for u and me, "N" is for nywher & nytime at all.
Clams: Down here in the deep blue sea!
Plankton: "F" is for fire burning the whole town, "U" is for uranium - bombs, "N" is for no survivers, when you...
SpongeBob: Plankton! Those aren't what fun's all about. Now, do it like this. "F" is for friends who do stuff toget...
Plankton: No way! That's completly idiotic!
SpongeBob: Here, let me help you. "F" is for friends who do stuff together, "U" is for you & me,...
Plankton: "N" is for nywhere & nytime at all!
Clams: Down here in the deep blue sea!
Plankton: Wait, I don't understand it. I feel all tingly inside. Can we stop?
SpongeBob: No. That's how you're suposed to feel.
Plankton: Well I like it. Let's do it again!
SpongeBob: Okay!
SpongeBob & Plankton: "F" is for frolic through all the flowers, "U" is for ukelele, "N" is for nose pickin', sharing gum & sand licking here with my best buddy! Ha ha ha ha ha ha, ha ha ha ha ha ha ha, ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha, ha ha ha ha ha ha.
Mr. Krabs: Ahh... mutiny.

If you don't understand this, then you're not a real parent.

Posted by mbowen at 02:44 PM | TrackBack

Hold the Onion

Is this a parody or is it not? I'm afraid it's not. I don't hate GWBush, but I think he has ruined Colin Powell.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell has named James Brown, the so-called "Godfather of Soul", to a new and unusual, but apparently fictitious, senior diplomatic position.

Spokesman Richard Boucher confirmed that Mr Powell had indeed appointed Mr Brown to be the first US "secretary of soul and foreign minister of funk" but said the job description for the post had not yet been drawn up.

What a shame.

Posted by mbowen at 01:47 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

I Should Live So Long

Mick Jagger has been knighted.

What did Groucho Marx say about belonging to a club that would let him in?

Posted by mbowen at 01:41 AM | TrackBack

Day 63

Despite the fact that I think it's fairly hopeless for the unionists, I'm not completely without sympathy. Since the spousal unit has decided not to cross picket lines, I've kept away from the struck supermarkets. Until tonight.

I've been out of work for four months myself, until Monday. In my case, misery loves company, but not miserable company. Who wants to be around such a desparate situation? Starving, grumbling strikers trying to put a brave face on standing around makeshift bonfires in the cold winter evenings; furtive and disorganized scabs in crusty civies struggling with produce codes at the register. I'd much rather be at Trader Joe's where everyone is happy, but I couldn't afford it.

I had these and other reasons not to be shopping at the overpriced and luxurious supermarkets. Instead I've been shopping at the utilitarian Smart & Final, the randy 99 Cent store and the positively Second World Food 4 Less, not to mention more 7-11s than someone raised Episcopalian is comfortable admitting. But tonight I have money in my pocket and a daughter's birthday party to supply. Nothing would keep me from Albertson's this time. So breaking this fast this evening this was quite an occasion for more than one reason.

The first thing that struck me was the liquor aisle. I can't remember the last time I picked up a sixpack for no reason at all. There was Mike's Hard Lemonade, Red Dog, Grolsh, and behind me on the facing shelf were more brands of imported vodka than I could name or pronounce. It was very much like an immigrant experience; all this excess plenty.

On the way out, however, was the moment I hadn't expected to hear. The two young women with their signs didn't glare malevolently as I expected. One was saying, "I just want to get back to work. I can't hold out any longer. I guess that means the market wins."

The market wins.

Posted by mbowen at 01:09 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Wild Rumors

Posted by mbowen at 12:59 AM | TrackBack

December 12, 2003

Gang Colors

As much as I like Norm Geras, I see that he has yet to blogroll me in his new location and he doesn't seem to understand the French position on banning religious signifiers.

This is a freedom of belief issue, and for freedom of belief to mean anything people need to be able to articulate their beliefs, short of incitement to violence or other provably harmful instances of their doing so.

The French ban on religious apparel in public schools is essentially nothing more or less than a dress code. But lots of folks have jerked their knees to characterize this as suppression, and some outsized and overzealous instantiation of 'secular humanism'. Falwell couldn't have put it better.

The cost of inclusion is integration but the French rationale is not to one of assimilation. It is for the protection in public schools of those muslims who choose not to wear outward religious symbols from the intimidation of those who say they must.

If the sacrifice of such a thing as a scarf or a crucifix, in order to participate in public society is too great a burden, then the solution is obvious, separate but equal.

UPDATE: I changed my mind.

Posted by mbowen at 11:58 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Whose 18 Billion?

Will somebody please outline the shape of the trough from which international contractors can slop? I know that $18 billion is not the whole thing, I know that non-coalition oil profiteers, AKA the 'Axis of Greasel' can subcontract on Iraqi reconstruction, and I know IMF funds are open and free. So why all the pissing and moaning?

Bush is right to restrict these funds to coalition partners.

Posted by mbowen at 01:43 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Goose Creek Goose Step

Poking with a sharp stick, I am wondering what the hell is up in Goose Creek NC where police launched a full-out drug bust on a highschool campus.

I haven't seen the video but I've heard the audio and some obiter dicta from students who got whacked on the back of their heads by cops. According to the stories, about 107 kids were searched and sniffed at gunpoint, 0 were arrested. Most of the kids were black.

Since nobody else in the country cares when black kids get pushed around by cops, Jesse Jackson is about to suck all of the oxygen out of the mediasphere. Nevertheless, there are 17 suits filed as of this moment, and state Atty Gen. Henry McMaster should be starting an investigation soon. Were I an attorney, I would know how to read through the industry jargon and determine how seriously such an investigation should be taken.

In the meanwhile, considering that it's just about Christmastime, the Goose Creek officers should be gang pressed into service on the Pakastani-Afghani border for a 3 month hitch until the trial date.

UPDATE: Instapundit

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Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

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Posted by mbowen at 12:23 AM | TrackBack

Stingy MF

I am pleased to hear that McCain-Feingold passed the Supreme Court intact. They said it couldn't be done.

The fact that it has survived is testament that we can actually do things right with our system. It doesn't buck me up completely because it's clear that the best minds that money can buy are thinking ways around it. Still, I'm rather shocked at how boneheaded the anti- arguments sound. The congressman from Ohio on the radio last night, Floyd Abrams and the other guy who was speaking on behalf of 527s all sound incapable of understanding corruption.

Abrams sounded especially clueless when he suggested that free speech takes a belly blow when bogus fronts for the national parties and PACs can't buy commercials on TV at the last minute.

As annoying as Wes Boyd can be, I'm glad things are tipping towards his distributed methodology. Even if it means Howard Dean begins to sound inevitable.

Posted by mbowen at 12:19 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 11, 2003


Posted by mbowen at 07:45 AM | TrackBack

Gay Friendly

The fact of the matter is that it annoys me. You see I didn't know about the Village People or Freddy Mercury. Hell, I didn't know about the upside-down triangle, or my best friend Vance until he was dead and buried.

Like America's Funniest Videos, some people get a kick out of watching other people surprised out of their wits. But the person who gets surprised doesn't often find it so funny. Double embarrassment. You didn't see it coming, you look stupid for being angry and shocked.

What am I getting at?

I'm getting at the fact that a fair number of gay bloggers dig Cobb. It's nothing I shouldn't expect but all of a sudden I check three new links in a row and it's like blam right in my face.

Now this is the paragraph where I'm supposed to say "but there's nothing wrong with that". Instead I want to make the slim point about how difficult it is to be in the unexpected position of being responsible for something over which you have no control and being unprepared to handle it. That's not exactly how I feel, which is actually a bit more complicated, but it's not about me. It's about living in America and being prepared and graceful.

Now that I think about it, I know why I'm irked. There are two vectors. The first is that I'm feel like I'm backsliding on my conservatism as of late. I'm finding myself back at work in the company of computer programmers. They tend to be an awfully liberal group, at least the better ones, and that's where I come from. I've been extra critical about GW Bush, a man whom I have come to believe is incapable of growing facial hair.

The second vector is that I've found myself sitting a bit too long through scenes and skits on television that inevitably evoke a repulsive "That's so gay" dismissal out of me. Cases in point, some banter on 'Angels in America' that my wife was watching in which two (well dressed, new yorky, young dark haired, witty) guys who are so obviously happy in love argue about having a cat in the house. The other is the gay sitcom in which the protagonist gives Candace Bergen the Heimlich Maneuver. I've been seeing that stupid preview all week long. The third has something to do with the nauseating feeling I got reading this.

So I'm just weary and pissed that my graciousness has been challenged and I don't have any fag buddies I can jokingly curse out about it. Oh but wait, there's you. You know who you are. Stop surprising me you gay jaggoff, you make me look stupid.

OK I feel much better. Thank you for your ear. Now tell your pals to link up to Cobb, where we're up front about things.

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Under God

"There is no vice so simple but assumes
Some mark of virtue in his outward parts"
-- Wm. Shakespeare

Like most Americans, I have a great deal of respect for the Constitution, a document I could not begin to recite were it not for 'America Rock' on Saturday morning cartoons. When the issue of the phrase 'under God' came to the 9th Circuit, I pledged that I would do something about that ignorance of mine. And now that the case has come to the Supreme Court and I find that I have not. Accordingly, I deserve to suffer for my lack of diligence.

If the Pledge is a creed, then it is a pledge to support the Republic. But the Constitution says we are to be afforded equal treatment without regard to our creeds. Thus the Constitution guarantees protection those who fail to recognize the Constitution. This makes perfect sense, for the law of the land is in effect whether or not we recognize it or bow down to worship it at regular intervals. The Constitution derives its power from the consent of the governed, not the loyalty of the governed. You don't have to be a patriot to get the benefit of the law. You don't deserve or earn your rights, you just get them. What's important is whether or not those rights are defended. Inasmuch as the Pledge of Allegiance is a loyalty oath ot America and thus the Constituion, Constitutional law doesn't require that oath.

Parents of teenagers probably understand what none of the complainers are willing to admit. It doesn't matter how seriously and soberly words such as the Pledge are meant, they will go in one ear and out the other. The only punishment for listening to the pledge is discomfort and anyone moderately radical enough to be offended by the implications (which in any context are slight) needs to be more radical indeed. This is an example of being gay when one needs to be queer.

In my laziness I see clearly how guns and money are an ignorant and lazy defense. As I write this I know very well that I'm not really interested in memorizing or reading the Constitution. I am just daring someone to come and make me recite the pledge. I'll spend money to have somebody shoot them or shoot them myself if it comes to that.

One of the scariest episodes in my life happened a couple years ago. A friend and I went to the Shrine Auditorium to audit a meeting of Scientologists. Believe me, there is nothing so frightening as being in the center of a crowd of thousands on their feet shouting idiotic slogans. This counts doubly when those around you are looking at you and wondering exactly why you are sitting down with a look of disgust on your face. This counts triply when you realize you could never make it to the door if you had to.

I am inclined to believe that Americans are not so foolish that they would not persecute people for not reciting the 'proper' Pledge of Allegiance. But I should know better. The foolishness of humanity doesn't respect the Constitution by default, and those Americans bent on forcing loyalty oaths and pledges only proves that.

I'll say it simply. Constitution or Pledge of Allegiance. Pick your priority.

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December 10, 2003

Wal-Mart in the Hood

One of America's first shopping centers has become something I love again for new reasons. Wal-Mart is in the 'hood.

The Crenshaw Shopping Center was built in the art-deco style just before or after WW2. It was the first mall built in America. Although I don't have all the details now, I once did a highschool paper on Crenshaw Boulevard and I'm fairly certain of this. The original anchor tenants were the May Company and the Broadway stores. That one which was the Broadway is now a Wal-Mart. I count this as a great rebirth and notable in the history of this part of Los Angeles where I was raised. It's the most significant change since Magic Johnson opened his first movie theatres here in 1994.

Back in the days, there was a Woolworths and a Lindberg Nutrition at the Crenshaw Plaza. Lindberg's was a massive pink building just north of the May Co with a huge sign that reminded us to 'keep in the pink', and odd saying indeed for this African-American and Japanese-American neighborhood. Although much has changed, just across the street are the legendary wig shops which haven't in over 30 years.

I passed through this mall several days ago during my increasingly seldom visits to the city. Oddly enough, the first thing that struck me was the number of people cruising around the three floors of the joint in mobility devices. It may be a function of the odd locales that I frequent, but I am not accustomed to seeing 7 or 8 such folks in a day let alone in one store within the space of 20 minutes.

Unlike other developments, I get the distinct impression that the appearance of Wal-Mart at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza changes this neighborhood permanently. Anyplace where Sears goes out of business appears to be doomed, and unless and until Wal-Mart comes in, they are. Despite its wealthy enclaves and proximity and affinity to ViewPark and Ladera Heights, Crenshaw has not been the healthiest of commercial neighborhoods since the mid 70s when most of the automobile dealers moved south to Hawthorne Boulevard. The sharpest blow dealt to the district was the development of the Fox Hills Mall around 1977. It began a love-hate relationship with the CRA and Ruth Galanter that people still talk about whenever the question of inner-city development comes up.

This time around things appear to be all to Wal-Mart's and thus global capitalism's good. The LA Urban League's John Mack famously declared he'd rather have the low-wage and low-benefit jobs than no jobs at all. He's not alone in that sentiment, and I'm glad he put it that way.

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Word Gets Out

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December 09, 2003

Broken Window Backlash

I don't want to belabor the point but I think that it has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that above a certain amount of proactive, pre-emptive and otherwise overactive policing, law enforcement becomes counterproductive.

Broken Windows (B) is what got Giuliani in trouble in NYC and led to some of the friction between himself and Bratton. Before the use of 'verbal judo' NYC cops in pursuit of certain profiles where outraging targeted neighborhoods.

The entire problem with profiling is that you establish a different standard of probable cause premised on the probability of pre-emptively catching crooks. If the profile is racial, which it often is, what you are essentially saying is that it is OK to apply a racist standard of judgement to criminals. In practice this means that black criminals are subjected to greater abuse than white criminals. Is a racist criminal justice system OK simply because most of us are not criminals? No, especially when you have a situation as you did in New York City, where black police officers felt a special duty to pre-emptively instruct black youth how not to walk and talk such that they wouldn't fall victim to the PD's new rules of engagement.

The question is whether a community is willing to accept greater security in exchange for infringements upon their civil liberties. As a temporary measure, it can be acceptable, but there is a great opportunity for abuse. If the police department initiates such tactics of its own accord, that's the first clue that there is trouble coming.

American history illustrates why lots of blackfolks don't trust 'that System'. Theorists bite your tongues.

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It has been said that Canadians are getting sick and tired of being treated like Americans.

In focus groups held this fall in four U.S. cities where the [Canadian] federal government is opening consulates, Americans acknowledged they don't know much about Canadians.

"Some participants expressed a certain amount of annoyance at what is perceived as a systematic attempt by Canadians to make the statement that they are not Americans by sporting the maple leaf," said the recently released report. "This underscores the American sensitivity at feeling rejected by the rest of the world ...."

Are we Americans sensitive and feeling rejected by the rest of the world? We might be rejected by the rest of the world but I don't think we feel rejected. At least over in my corner of America we don't give a poop.

In other news, a weed-smoking California politician has been denied asylum in Vancouver. Whoda thunk? You know with a little imagination, we could all really tweak the meaning of 'perscription drug benefit' since GW is giving away the store.

I have a soft spot in my heart for the soft spot in the Canadian head. With the exception of the Meech Lake monoculturalists, Canadians generally rub me the right way. They have good manners, those Canucks, not to mention a world class government subsidized art endowment. They could teach us a thing or two about public broadcasting.

Moms spent some time up around the Bay of Fundy and got to know some Newfies. She has an espcially soft heart for simple, salt of the earth kind of people. The less sophisticated and more religious the better in her eyes. Since I find in difficult to imagine pushy Canadian evangelists I suppose they may be all good.

Now as for politics, the Canucks are entirely too ridiculously Lefty for my tastes (or anyone within 300 affinity points of me). I think they put our Leftists to shame, what with renaming the Northwest Territory and all. I hear that just east of Alaska, Canadian natives discover a new tribal right every 36 minutes. It's like fishing for steelhead used to be. But seriously, what Canadians are doing with PC has raised the ire of David Bernstein and that's sufficient to keep me warned even though I discount his alarm.

[Uhmerkin] People wonder how best to categorize Canadians without using Moose and Hockey stereotypes. I'll use cars. I think that if Canadians were cars, they would be environmentally friendly SUVs that are actually driven off road. V8s but not fuel-injected or turbocharged.

I don't get enough volume on my site yet to get quite enough verbal smackdowns, but I think I'm treading on thin ice. But let me say one more thing. I think that it is impossible for Canada to produce a RuPaul. That's the difference between lefty ambition and American ass-kicking.

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Way To Go Al

Al Gore, that fundamentally quirky guy, has given the finger to Joe Lieberman. Good.

Let the Democrats be populist and leave Lieberman in the dirt. He needs to switch parties and quit kidding himself anyway. Liberals need to be radically populist and if Dean is the best they can do, fine. Even Hillary Clinton, whom I do not love to hate, is sounding hawkish, hardheaded and sensible these days. What's up with that?

Message to Democrats. There is no triangulation left to do. It has been done. Get your cudgels, torches and pitchforks and bring your radical stuff to the streets. That's what you do best, so get to it. What's wrong with you people anyway? Where are your hemp handbags and Act Up antics? Where are your plastic inflatable rats and black balaclavas? Where are your effigies and misspelled picket signs? Where are your balls?

You're not going to let a wimp like GWBush beat you again are you? Here's a little secret. The first party to nominate a candidate with a beard will have my vote for life.

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December 08, 2003

Cover It Up

I met Glen Engel-Cox in a parallel universe and I am pleased to find him blogging about music in the blogoverse. While he's doing his thing on covers, he has neglected the most hilarious and outre of all cover artists, Weird Al Yankovic.

Weird Al has done for covers what few artists are willing to try which is make new lyrics more memorable than original ones. Who can forget 'The Saga Begins', his cover of 'American Pie'.

A long, long time ago
In a galaxy far away
Naboo was under an attack
And I thought me and Qui-Gon Jinn
Could talk the federation in
To maybe cutting them a little slack


Other favorite covers? That's difficult because I've long been a fan of Jazz Standards which is the incest-o-rama of musical performance and what is Classical but that taken to the extreme? Still, I can say that SRV's cover of Hendrix' 'Little Wing' is by far the standout in all the world of pop music. I heard an incredible acoustic rendition of 'Come Together' the other day on NPR. I think I'll never find the artist. Pshaw. Randy Crawford takes George Benson's 'Give Me The Night' to a whole new realm. Najee's tribute to Stevie Wonder's 'Songs in the Key of Life' is an unqualified triumph.

I'll say however that the best cover artist of all time was Wes Montgomery whose 'Day in the Life' album remains great.

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Let Old People Die

There are a few ugly thoughts percolating in my head. The best I can do is call them Libertarian and hope they find a following. If I were a bit more willing to put my neck on the line, I would verb out this idea something like DuToit did with his 'Pussification' essay. but I'll tone it down a mite. The simple thrust of it is this:

400 Billion dollars to artificially inflate the lifespan of Baby Boomers is not my idea of wisdom. Say what you like about Iraqis. There is a categorical difference between helping people live to be 50 without enduring torture and helping people live to be 80 without paying for their own Nexium or whatever it is drug companies are peddling the Spry Demographic.

This is a true boondoggle and I truly want to rip GW a new one for this.

I've had it in for the insurance companies ever since I was a redlined black youth trying to get coverage for my motorcycle, but I know they're not the only bad guys in this ripoff.

I don't know how we're going to undo this ridiculous hunger for idle longevity. Perhaps nature will be kind enough to buck up the next flu virus. We've got children to raise and their lives are more important. I'm 42 years old and I am sick to death of the Baby Boomers. Die already!

Isn't it ironic that Robert Nozick is dead?

UPDATE: Steve Chapman at Slate agrees.

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Because We Can Never Get Enough Thurgood

NPR has got the scoops today.

Fifty years ago today, the Supreme Court heard final arguments in the landmark desegregation case of Brown v. Board of Education. The following May, the court ruled that separate schools for black and white children were unconstitutional.

Now if I remember correctly, Harold Cruse states that the Civil Rights Movement was 50 years late and zillions of dollars short. A generation before Brown, the opportunity for Separate But Equal, was about to pass the Senate. According to Cruse, a huge difference would have been made in the advancement of the African American middle class had a particular piece of legislation passed Congress in the years immediately following the failure of Reconstruction. The kinds of gains we have seen post-Brown with respect to educational equality and all that follows would have been achieved in the days before massive European immigration. It would have meant all the difference to the complexion and character of America.

By the time Thurgood was on the case, the opportunity had been squandered and integration was the best we could do. The truer competition for the spoils of America could have been won before the World Wars and Depression. The retardation of the Southern Economy would have been... Well, it's a fascinating study.

When I moved to the South in 1995 I was studying the possibilities of rejecting the dream of integration. Like many, I entertained the ideas of Black Capitalism in the 'Black Mecca'. Those days will not come any sooner for African Americans as a whole than they have for anyone else. And while our integration has had the most profound effects on the broader culture of America, I still believe that for some, Atlanta is indeed a Black Mecca. It's more like an upper middle class Black Mecca, sometimes. Even so, there not quite enough Fuck You Money at the top end of that echelon to write Mecca in stone. It will come, and with any luck those who understand Cruse will not racialize their pluralism to the detriment of the general welfare.

The line between Cruse as a Pluralist and Marshall as an Integrationist is a tricky one to navigate. I'm not certain I understand all the implications myself. But I get the feeling that the culture club of the previously proud group formerly known as the Talented Tenth with have a tight bar, if not a paper bag test. Watch carefully which way rich blacks go and how they justify their enclaves. Marshall and Cruse are tentpoles.

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Rosa or Outkast?

I pick Outkast. Everybody isn't required to be Aaron Neville. Somebody pay her off.

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Fuilletons of the Metaverse

A good friend told me, as I was to embark on my blog-journey (approximately 1000 posts ago) that my style of writing most resembled feuilletons. As with many things from this gent, I had to look the word up in the dictionary.


\Feu`ille*ton"\ (? or ?), n. [F., from feulle leaf.] A part of a French newspaper (usually the bottom of the page), devoted to light literature, criticism, etc.; also, the article or tale itself, thus printed.

Fair enough. Much of what I write is light, but represents an evolutionary method of investigation. Anyway what brings this to mind is the work of Stephenson, Dick and Doctorow and the evolution of thought.

I am constantly aware of the difference that a massively literate population makes on intellectual production. I'm not sure that we grasp the various effects on what we think of knowledge and learning that millions of relatively intelligent people communication with each other creates. I often raise this backstory in the context of my continuing gripe with academics and the respect I have for religious traditions vis a vis pedagogical effectiveness. This time, however I am thinking of how my (own?) idea is or is not exactly what Neal Stephenson called the Metaverse in his novel Snow Crash.

I have not yet read Snow Crash, and while that seems incredible to some given my adoration of Cryptnomicon and patience with Quicksilver, I am willing to concede that my idea is not original and it is indeed the Metaverse. The man who taught me to program computers, a Jesuit priest by the name of Seliga who cannot be found on the web, once said to me that originality is the art of concealing your sources. But I think things have come around backwards. Originality is the art of proving your sources, the more lawyers the better.

I'm skeptical that ideas matter most as property. But it's clear to me that there is value in expression. So what I see as the idea of the Metaverse or any such brilliant concept of limited utility has more to do with the way in which it is presented and made accessible to people. It may seem counterintuitive to the ideas surrounding intellectual property today, but I am confident that this way of seeing things will win out. Distribution is, in this manner of thinking, more important than content. It sounds almost anti-intellectual but it not. The value of an idea is not found simply in its accuracy as a concept, but in its social reality as a practical part of humanity.

Clearly this is a rich vein for discussion, and we'll pick it up from time to time. But to circle back to the three authors and fuilletons, I am brought to mind of how valuable filmmakers are in the melioration of originality and the implication behind the educational impetus for filmmaking itself. As I think of the Metaverse, it appears as the natural heir to visual explication. The book, the blog, the journal, the written word is the intense, detailed and exploratory form. Through the medium of film with music and sound, emotional experiences are formed around narrative. In online game-space active experiences are created with other live people. It's even more impressive.

Folks complain that games are mind numbing. Games are just the first use of the technology. Ultimately all we want to do is communicate with each other. Thus the Metaverse and online game-spaces will always be interesting. They'll evolve into complex realms, no doubt. The interesting people will be those who bring the obscure fuilletons into the new medium.

I wonder if our regimes of intellectual property will prevent the contemporary from being exploited in this manner. What if only things like the Bible and the Koran remain in the public domain? What kind of Metaverse will we have then? I could live quite nicely in a Dickensian Metaverse for a while. If some publishing concern doesn't own Melville, I'll be happy sailing with Ahab in the interactive version of the future. It would probably be more fun to do Master and Commander, but the film is making too much money. It'll be locked up for a while despite the fact that very few of us knew of the book before the filmmakers did their deals.

Of course there will be bootleg Metaverses run by the Palestinians of the future. There's a thought. Moreover that's a regime of thought. What will be more powerful than the documentary Metaverse, the radical pamphlet with an entire room of virtual actors instantiating the themes of policy? This is where the real action will be. After WarTV jump into a virtual parliament, visit the virtual favellas of the disposessed of Oceania with whom we have always been at war.

Can't wait.

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Jungle Fever

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The End of Scraping

Today marks almost officially the beginning of the end. My new business partner dropped by the other morning and assured me that this contract is in the bag one way or another.

In addition I just got a call from someone who found something about me on craigslist, or some such. Bottom line is that I have a gig starting Monday doing some testing on a Lotus Notes product.

Deep Breath. Inhale. Exhale.

I have exactly $20 more than I need in the bank to pay rent. So I've timed things fairly well, considering. In my whole plan, I expected to be working full-time by December first. It has worked out.

What have I learned from this experience? I'll be thinking about it for a while, but I think the most immediate lesson is an extension of what I learned in August of 2002 reading 'Koba the Dread'. Things can swing wildly very quickly. As one of the millions, I can be forgotten and lost in a heartbeat. Things are more volatile than they appear to be. It depends on which path you take. Analogously, I think of a goal on the other side of the freeway. If you've always crossed at the light, in the crosswalk, you have no idea how violent getting through traffic can be.

I've come to appreciate my computer skills a lot more. The years I've spent doing what I do counts for a great deal. I find it very remarkable that while I know a lot of things about computing, I don't talk about computing much at all. It doesn't take nearly as much of my conversational brainspace. As much as I have learned and forgotten, I still struggle with the niched nature of this industry. It is amazingly compartmentalized and blinkered. It almost defies hierarchy and seniority.

I appreciate old beat-up automobiles a whole lot more than ever. I appreciate Carl's Jr. a lot more than ever.

I have lost some of the romance I've had for the far and out of the way. Just as nations still count the most in these days of cell warfare, big cities still count in this interneted matrix. There is just no real substitute for the connections that are only available in the metropolis. The advantages are enormous. What I've been able to do because of market research and oddjobs via craigslist would have been impossible anyplace smaller.

I worry that I'll never be able to go back to the salary world. If I am who I think I am and this business works out, then I will interpret a lot of my lack of work as something overbearing about me. Perhaps what I feel shows on my face.

I have been fortunate enough to have had some time to spend in aerobics. I took off about ten pounds and got a lot of my breath back. That's a great thing.

All in all I am exhausted but now accustomed to using new muscles of survival. The crisis seems to be past, and while I am still willing and able to work, the future is promising. I've never lived in one place for more than three years since I left home 21 years ago... well, that's another problem. It's very difficult for me to deal with the fact that I have, on several occasions in the past 2 years in general and four months in particular, just knew that I would be planning to move the family to Dallas, no Atlanta, no Detroit.

I've got to make Los Angeles work for me or I'm going to work myself into an early grave. Fingers crossed.

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December 07, 2003


A year late, I've seen the flick Drumline. All I want to know, from somebody whose lived on both sides of the fence is whether or not this conversation needs an injection of reality.

I was entertained by this film. That might be easy for somebody like me who has only visited Tennesee State U. and seen the halftime show once, and that time with the benefit of Jack Daniels. But when they were bumping and moving, I was saying Damn! We don't see that at the Rose Parade.

So somebody help me out here with my black pride. Was Dallas Austin faking the funk?

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The Rev. Dr. Lynn A. Collins

Something important has happened in Los Angeles. You wouldn't know by reading this brief announcement, but the selection of this woman to be Rector of St. John's Church heralds the beginning of something great. I know because I was at the 10 o'clock service this morning.

Rev. Lynn Collins comes to the ordained ministry after a career as a systems engineer and programmer for Chemical Bank, among other companies. She received an Associate's of Arts degree from Queensborough Community College (New York City) in 1974, a Bachelor's of Arts from Brooklyn College in 1976. She then worked at a Wall Street firm while attending New York Theological Seminary. She received her Master's degree from seminary in 1989.

During seminary and beyond, she was a youth leader at St. Augustine's Church in New York City where the Rev. Dr. Errol Harvey is Rector. Next, she was the Diocese of Ohio's Jubilee Ministries urban intern working in three parishes during a two-year stint.

Rev. Collins then became rector of St. Paul's Church in East Cleveland, Ohio, a 150-year old parish where she had been until her June 1, 1995 appointment to the Office of Black Ministries at the Episcopal Church Center.

There's a lot more to her as you can Google and see.

The first thing that came into my head when she started her sermon was that she was channeling Cornel West. It's that 'kinetic orality' of the Old School tradition of preaching that suddenly morphed into the sound of Maya Angelou or a performance poet speaking assiduously. She showed a little of that bop, heh when the preacher emphasizes by squatting an inch and then popping back up. But in a moment she started to shine through and warm up and you could feel her mind and heart in the emphasis. Any moment she'd spontaneously comment on something, right in the middle of service or during her sermon. It's more than a breath of fresh air, it's a warm breeze. saint_john_episcopal.gif

What is clear is that she is putting Love in the middle of her ministry. She is putting thenames of our bishops, and what they are doing back into the intercessions. She is offering up prayers for George our President and Arnold our Governor, and I think we'll hear more about that. She is talking diocesan politics. I heard things in this service this morning that I haven't heard since the Reverend Bill Purcell was the Rector back when St. John's used to fill every pew. She is talking about God's love and refueling the spirit and leaving your burdens at the Cross, so that we may go out into the world and fulfill God's purpose. She is talking about youth ministry and service to the elderly. And she is doing all of this in a way that makes me believe that not only will it happen, but we're all going to love being part. Her emotions are infectious and today's was the longest exchange of the Peace I have witnessed in years. What a debut!

I think this excerpt from a sermon she wrote reinterates much of what her ministry sounds like to me:

Our lives are filled with mixed messages from hyperspace, telephone calls of hopelessness, hearts of loneliness. We often wallow in despair and feel we have no choice but to sin, to lie, cheat, deceive, or compromise our faith for money. Our lives are busy, frequently too busy for family, for friends, for love. We are too busy for ourselves. It is true that we ride the tide of life bending to stay on the top of the rising crest of the wave, but soon we realize, once that crest descends that we are riding on the false promises of the world and we are without love.

Here is when God's grace is most prevalent in our lives, when we are at our weakest moment of despair. How many times have we all said, "Dear God, if you just help me this one last time"; or how many times have we tried to negotiate with God by saying "God, if you do this, I'll teach Sunday School for a season; and be good..." We almost sound like children, trying to negotiate to stay up late. God's grace brings us to a new place in life. God's grace is a gift given unconditionally. It is difficult for the human mind to comprehend "unconditional love." But God's grace can not be earned, it can not be purchased, it can not be negotiated. God's grace is a gift that refocuses our soul and enlightens our heart with an epiphany of newness. God's grace heals, inspires, is creative, and creates. God grace is a gift of love that creeps into our souls and transforms a part of our being.

Experiencing God's grace means we believe we are forgiven and forgive ourselves. Experiencing God's grace simply means we recognize a change in our attitude, our soul, and our very being. God's grace is manifested in a peace and love unknown to human kind. Today, God invites us to accept God's grace. We have experienced God's grace in this place today just by acknowledging the presence of God's love.

She is a healer. You can see it in the way she looks at people, and how she touches them. Interesting times are ahead.

Advent is here, and we are back to the front of the 1982 Hymnal. The cadences of Christmas and the optimism of the baby Jesus are back in the house. The calls have their Alleluias and so do the responses. Can you feel it? The choir at St. Johns has never seemed so strong as they did this morning. Could it be that I was in that horrible echo chamber of the 1970s built nave of St. Francis in PV several weeks ago? No. Was it the karaoke 80s backdrop to 'Contemporary Christian' that I heard at a Baptist church which shall remain nameless? No. It was that the St. John's Choir is simply magnificent and so very confident. This is a world-class choir that sings from both European and African American traditions well. Did you hear me? Well, I say. So many choirs who do the traditional European hymns have no tight bass. The men are just droning in the background. Not here, they are hearty. I cannot remember an extraordinary soprano solo in the recent past, and perhaps they can use that, but otherwise they are simply excellent. When they sing, it's holy.

St. John's Church is about to become, with any luck, the extraordinary place it has been before. I hope very much that it can fulfill its destiny. Pops and others on the search committee labored well and their choice of Lynn Collins shows brilliantly. You could just see all of the members of the Committee in the congregation beaming with pride this Sunday morning.

It's a brand new day.

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Japanese Honorifics Demystified

DenBeste makes a fascinating study of degrees. He answers the immortal question, what is the Nihongo equivalent of 'poo'.

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Rock Recovery

I'm stepping up my mission to Rock Recovery. It's true that I am a lover of all kinds of music and I do mean all kinds, but if you asked me yesterday to name 4 songs by Led Zeppelin I would have deserved a smack. So the recovery mission is all about giving names and recognition to those things I actually know, or at least recognize.

It's wonderful to discover and eyeball straightly cultural things that have always been in the peripheral vision. Well, it's wonderful when those things found are worth finding. 'Black Dog', for example is worth finding. Sure I've always known the song, but now I know that I know it. Sometimes these discoveries are embarassing. For example, I've always thought that they guy who sung 'Smooth' on the Supernatural album, Rob Thomas, ought to have a promising future. I didn't know until yesterday that he was the lead for Matchbox 20.

Sometimes the work of an artist is so large that it takes a long time to recognize what the big deal is. Googling their most notable works doesn't help. I've always known that 'Shattered' is a great rock song, but I have yet to discover what is so great about the Rolling Stones other than 'Satisfaction' and 'Start Me Up'. I still don't know what the big deal about Eric Clapton is.

The group that is surprising me the most, I must say is The Who. The first time I heard Baba O'Reilly was during a montage in Spike Lee's 'Summer of Sam'. It not only blew my mind but it made the movie for me. Now with Behind Blue Eyes, I'm feeling them.

I do rather like Matchbox 20, and I cannot stand Collective Soul. I've always known Supertramp. I'm certain there's something to The Clash I've yet to discover. I think U2 is probably too pretentious to like. I've always liked New Years Day and I suppose that's all they ever have to do - aside from Beautiful Day. I actually tried to like REM when they first came out. They do nothing for me. Same thing with X.

I really enjoy the new alternative punks. Green Day, Offspring, Rage Against the Machine, Modest Mouse, Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit. But the Stone Temple Pilots are far and away my favorites. There is Fishbone of course and Foreigner and.. we'll there's a lot of music out there. I'll be doing this for a while.

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Uh Oh

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December 06, 2003

Laughing at Academic Leadership

There's apparently some hash being made of the comments of a cat named Michael Berube about norming SAT scores. It's a good joke, but apparently defenders of the regime didn't find it so funny. What regime you ask? Why the regime of strict meritocracy as exemplified by the excruciatingly painstaking and foolproof process of undergraduate admissions.

If, like me, you take much of what goes on with undergraduate admissions with a grain of salt, a sense of humor and an appreciation for rough justice, you are not likely to get particularly bent out of shape about Affirmative Actions and other monkey business with the social determinism of the College Testing Service and their lackeys in the blovio-drome. Seriously, what most of us are learning as undergraduates are the ethics of the white collar class, which are not especially awe-inspiring these days despite the brilliance of many. It is our strange misfortune to have this education presided over by that bizarre cadre of leaders, academics. You can't have everything.

I can think of few people I'd rather have lead our society than those who lead our colleges. This is not an anti-intellectual sentiment; it is a re-affirmation of the fact that a nation as large as ours cannot be run on the same principles as an academy. I'm as fond of the disciplined search for knowledge as the next guy, probably more. But one needn't be so intellectually precise in America. And it is an insistence on such precision over the general affairs of our lives which wreaks havoc. That is what this affair is about.

Within the bowels of this obscurity, I take John's point against:

the Invidious Ubiquitous Non-Sequitur according to which racial discrimination is no different from discrimination on the basis of athletic or musical talent or where your parents went to school. If you can discriminate for any reason, according to this view, you can discriminate for every reason.

With one important exception. It's true that racial discriminations by racists are categorically different than any other garden variety discrimination. But in the context of college admissions for the purposes of inclusion, which is clearly what we are talking about (bringing duffers into a fearsome foursome as it were), there are not evil racists lurking under every bush plotting to do damage.

I would believe that the longer one is part of the academic conspiracy to brain up the American population, sooner or later one comes to some reasonable terms with the absurdiity of the proposition. We can't all be above average, not even if we seek to discriminate against and exclude the stupid, which is essentially what testing is all about. The aegis of higher education, especially given the temperament of its leadership, just doesn't scale to the whole of society. Good! So it is natural that monkeying with this overburdened KPI is going to ruffle the feathers of those who kneel at the church of collegiate meritocracy.

Those who expect the manners of academia to presage matters of social justice are mistaken and a little bit screwy. Stick it too 'em Berube.

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Indecency vs Injustice

I've stumbled across a polite discussion on decorum. If I had a better grounding in the classics, I'm sure that I could find some period piece, one excoriating the dictates of excruciating manners which aptly applies here. I'm impressed.

It's rather stunning to me that such a detailed analysis of racism takes place in an environment in which racism is so patently weak. And I think it goes to the question of the not only the bizarre directions of anti-racism (which I think is failing) but also to the inability for us to recognize the challenges of civil society. As these outrages in microcosm keep finding their way to us on a regular basis, what are we to think?

As I was learning and coming to the evaluate the finer points of developing an anti-racist ethos I dealt with a seeming contradiction. That was that as a member of the upper middle class of blackfolks and whitefolks I was more sensitive to racism than my downscale peers. A racist comment against a black judge for example, is both more egregious in its audacity and less painful in its effect than the same slur directed at a black janitor. For what we understand about the racist stereotypes against blacks, intelligence and probity said to be lacking. Since a judge, by the very nature of the work they do demonstrates such qualities regularly, we must conclude that it must certainly be a more insidious racist who would slander a judge.

It was this sensitivity that made me wrong-headed at the time. I used to brag about such sensitivity ("I'm sensitive like a mighty telescope") Yet the idea that being able to pick out the weakest singals of racism as if they were trace evidence of the big bang, attractive as it might seem, may not be particularly useful. In fact it can be counterproductive if it drowns out the noise of complaint for more consequential racist actions. This what I hear in such polite conversations.

It is a simple fact that racism is stupid and wrong. It is stupid because it is so amply evident that it is wrong, so anyone who argues from a racist position does so in contravention of the science and sociology of generations. Although there are many intelligent people who believe racist ideas, there are very few criminal masterminds using subtle strains of racism in their conspiracies. So the point of raising the charge in such situations is a questionable one. Is it racist? Yes. Racism which is subtle is costly nonetheless, but decorum is not politics. Consequently, the response to an egregious breach of manners in a business meeting should vary greatly from that of dealing with a racist police department. What is required in such situations is a good shushing, or a literal slap on the wrist (with a metal ruler, as we suffered to our benefit in Catholic School). What is not required are the trappings of politics including grand public announcements, new rules of conduct, or heaven forbid policy and speech codes.

It is the failure of the extra-sensitive to recognize that they are demanding decorum and not justice. Such offenses as the use of racial epithets either directly or indirectly are not injustices, they are lapses of tact and restraint. People who speak ugly might be racist plotters, or they might not be. So the line of inquiry one should pursue if one is indeed sensitive should determine whether or not said scofflaw is masterminding a racist conspiracy, or if they are another ordinary Joe with skidmarks on his underwear.

What certainly needn't be done is a great loudmouthing or self-congratulation as if the outing of someone who said 'nigger' is the fulfillment of MLK's prophecy. For my part, I'll suspend the Bubble Boy Awards until the world has read this essay.

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Honorary Black

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Massive Matrix Representation

I didn't know about the Castle at Edinburgh. I had no idea how massive the bridges over the Moscow River are or how impressive the Kremlin could be. If you would have told me that the Duomo in Florence is very much like the one in Milan, I wouldn't have guessed. Nor did I realize how close the hills are to downtown Hong Kong. I know these things now because of a video game.

Project Gotham Racing 2 is the hottest thing right now on XBox Live. And that's all good for its own reasons, but I want to speculate out loud about what we're going to be doing in 10 years.

We are going to have a map of the world and we are going to have Matrix-like avatars of ourselves. We are going to drive fast virtual cars and take virtual walking tours and we're going to see the world. But that's just the start.

Imagine that you take a picture of your house and then upload it to the world-map project. If you think blogging breaks it down, wait until you can talk in realtime to somebody who is giving you a virtual tour through their neighborhood. This is much more likely to propagate through the gaming classes first, but that's a lot more people than are currently blogging.

Somewhere out there are programmers who know how huge this can be. I wonder what they are thinking about building to make this happen. About the same time that I found out about Friendster, there was another experimental site going up along this concept, but I didn't have the horsepower on my laptop to support the app.

I also want to mention War TV, which is also going to be part of the new mediasphere. You guessed it. Armed conflict, 24/7. Reality TV with combatants. It won't be done by journalists as we know them, but rather by amatuers who will be able to sell video on open media markets.

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December 05, 2003

Cruising Western Culture

There seem to be several thick books to get through to understand a lot of it. If you had the right mentor, it looks like a lot of fun. What am I talking about? The original writings of Faraday, Hegel and Fourier which I was perusing this morning chez Pops. Needless to say, it is Faraday who appears to be the most fun of the three.

One of the things that strikes me as fundamental to civil society is something almost always best exemplified by those people who fall deeply in love with America. It is the ability to know and experience Western society vis a vis the open knowledge that can be gotten here even in our mediocre universities.

Pops is reviewing candidated for a new departmental chair and so while I was helping him download (through a modem straw) several megabytes of print drivers, I took a peek at some of the CVs submitted. Who knows if the University of Tehran is any better than UCLA, but some of these guys are very impressive. This is also the message of Tom Friedman this evening on Charlie Rose. Be aware of people who love what can happen here. We don't, often enough, because if we did, we'd be a lot more receptive to multiculturalism.

So browsing through Faraday has once again reminded me that my garage is too full of old clothes and sporting goods and not full enough of copper wire, giant magnets and spinning metal disks. Looking forward to the time when I can bring the brats into a home laboratory, I envision sparks flying and the same sort of discovery that had minds whirring 220 years ago and since.

I can recall the days when I was an undergrad and involved in retention efforts in addition to the whole Role Monkey job. We were knocking heads to talk about the 'beauty moment' of advanced understanding. What was it that gave engineers the real kick in the pants? Consistently, EEs would tell me that it was the first moment when they actually understood Maxwell's Equations. I think in computing, one such great beauty moment is the first time you understand recursion, although back in the early 80s we got pretty jazzed about virtual memory and paging.

We all dream of driving the Mercedes or the Porsche someday when we earn it, but how often do we think about going back to learn something fundamental about chemistry or other natural philosophick? Today I got that feeling.

Although I still look forward to reading Hegel again (sorta kinda), I was somewhat disappointed by his take on Marriage. On first glance it sounds exactly like what 18 year old muslim converts talk about - opposites attracting and intrinsic meaning. Who knows, it could be the translation. Still, there was nothing in there that gave me anything to lay at the feet of certain haters of Episcopal Bishops.

What he did say on the inevitable Dissolution of Family was very interesting however. Evidently, he spent some time considering the empty nest issue. The education of children breaks up the family he says. In his day it was very likely that the sons of paupers, blacksmiths and other illiterates would go to apprentice and learn something after a couple decades that took them quite far beyond their humble beginnings. Isn't this the story of those poor immigrants who come here, attend our universities.

Anytime someone mentions Dayton Ohio, it reminds me of a city so peaceful that it would be a model in many ways to Yugoslavia. And yet we Americans don't think much of it do we? And to think that our plains states are emptying out. Who wouldn't give a rival tribal leader's head for the peace of a small town in Kansas? I'm telling you, it's the future of America, especially if I can't get my kids out to that garage of my dreams. But that's a good thing either way, and the beauty moment of modernity. We are all equal vessels of spirit, if we apply ourselves. The books are right there. We just need a little peace and quiet.

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Bile of Sustenance & cetera

I'm really trying to concentrate these days, but I find that having been out of work for four months has done something weird to me. I'm not sure what that is, but I'll certainly blog about it someday. In the meantime, now that I'm very close to scoring a new pile of cash, I've found myself somewhat unable to maintain the steady level of outrage which is so prevalent on both arms of the blogosphere.

In that regard, it's difficult to say what kind of honor it is to be awarded a Warblogger recognition, but since people aren't dedicating their awards to some hapless indigenous tribe, I suppose all is well. Nonetheless, I am disappointed that my readership is flagging a bit, not that I'm trying to break any records. But I do have some spicy comics queued up.

Meanwhile, I expect to continue more of the cultural exposition and criticism that round me off. I did get a really snazzy compliment this past week that I'm likely to quote when my ego dips low enough to start putting congratulatory quotes on my sidebar.

I'm still an Anglophile and finding myself more up-sucking as time goes by. This week, having procured for a short time, PGR2, I've been introduced to the virtual city of Edinburgh and I'm floored by its beauty. (more details on PGR2 later). There's something decidedly perfected about the English that we ought to learn, which has something to do with grace under pressure and being good losers. We ought to be as resigned to that thing which is less than superstardom, as they appear to do so well from my perspective.

You see the more that GWBush does wrong, the less I seem to care. His latest excresence appears to be a reversal of tariffs with a $150 million kickback to the now consolidated domestic steel industry and a PeeWee Hermanish 'I meant to do that' rhetoric in his reversal soundbites. So I've been watching the front page of the NYT as well as a bit more television than any sane, civilized man should. The more I watch, the more I believe that I should be minding my own business. When Nero fiddles, sell fire insurance.

This is decidedly un-American of me. I'm not looking for a hero or a last-minute fix. I'm comfortably resigned to the decay. I'm not eager and industrious. What's up with me?

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December 04, 2003


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Bubble Boy Nominee

University President John T. Casteen, III issued a statement yesterday responding to allegations that a Medical Center employee used a racial epithet during a conversation at a recent staff meeting, calling the usage ''offensive'' and ''insulting.''
Howell reported that the offender ''said something like this: 'I can't believe in this day and age that there's a sports team in our nation's capital named the Redskins. That is as derogatory to Indians as having a team called Niggers would be to blacks.' ''
In response to the alleged remark, the Staff Union at U.Va. is sponsoring a ''Protest Against Racism at U.Va. and the U.Va. Medical Center After a Recent Racial Incident'' today at noon.
''It doesn't really matter in what context this word was used,'' Staff Union President Jan Cornell said in a statement ...

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December 03, 2003

Oh Ye

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Line of Fire: The New Patriotism

The new television show 'Line of Fire' is off to a teasing start.

After one episode I think that this program is going to annoy the hell out of me before it entertains me. It all comes down to the center of gravity of this drama, a woman who has ingratiated herself into the FBI because her husband was killed on September 11th.

Concieving that I can buy that premise, that such a headstrong loner who resists human contact and has a problem with authority could pass the drills of Quantico, there are still issues with this show that have begun to grate on my nerves.

Firstly, it's clearly a show designed to have chick appeal. Watching the good-guy bad-guy dynamics are coming up in chunks of intelligent, manicured women on the side of the law, and little better than a moll and forgotten wives on the other side.

Secondly, it's clearly a show designed to have white appeal. Only soul music plays in the environments of the organized criminals. Loudmouth lowlife 'Crazy Jazz' is brought into the witness protection plan with some of the most bloodless manipulation I've seen on TV. And finally and centrally, our hunky, bubbly black male interest is identified as a less than ethical cadet who prattles on about his mother and who comes on with lines like 'You've already made me a better man'.

We can clearly expect the heroine of the story to go there and get warmed up by this studly soul encounter, but it's going to be a long hairy ride for anyone without whitechick fantasies.

The show has got the production values, the scattershot pacing and other various earmarks of the engrossing drama. It's not stupid and thin like 'Threat Matrix', it's not implausibly situational like '24' and it doesn't have a supernatural protagonist like 'Alias' almost does. This one is headed for the arena of CSI, except the Line of Fire characters are shot through with values, ethics and loyalties rather than technical proficiencies and brainwork. This one is about a war brewing between to [dysfunctional?] surrogate families, the FBI on one side and the Mob on the other.

It started with a Mexican standoff between two men, and a lot of folks are going to get wrapped up into it, including our new patriot. Now let's take a closer look at her symbolism.

She married a guy, and apparently had no kids. He was getting promoted at the Pentagon when a plane crashed into him. She has been transformed into a person obsessed with getting even and will confront her every fear and weakness in order to make herself a vehicle for the FBI in counterterrorism. As part of her bargain, she'll fight ordinary bad guys for 4 or 5 years in preparation for the Osamas of the world. She's living for that revenge. "Tell me what you want me to do", she begs her new CO.

The writers, I hope, are preparing to shock her with some sloppy tolerance. I expect that she will learn to be a trooper, cohesive and in cahoots with some ugliness she is not prepared for. I expect that she will be a blank filled with the guts and glory of service.

This idea is diametrically different from that of CSI which is why I highlight the difference. The CSI guys fight crime as a dedication to craft. Service for them is a matter of professionalism - people who could do something else, perhaps even anything else do the moral thing. When our guy from CSI Miami interviews a suspect, he knows he's going to nail the guy in a matter of time, it's a logical puzzle.

The busts in 'Line of Fire' are likely to be of a different sort. Our heroine will learn the craft on the go, her hunger can only be satisfied in the busting. It won't be about the method for her, but for the results. This is the contrast that I see and is critical to the idea of service and patriotism.

If a patriot is someone who is dedicated to a patriotic end, then service to the FBI is really no different to Mob loyalty. The exploration of this realm is what the writers of 'Line of Fire' will put us through. How they do so will be a matter of interest to me. You better watch out.

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Dave Neiwert at Orcinus has several paragraphs worth quoting. And so I will:

In the end I realized that, when it came to everyone from personal friends to politicians, ideology mattered a great deal less than the person. The proof, in what is now my entrenched view, lies both in the personal integrity they exhibit and in the kinds of policies they promote. It came to matter less and less to me whether a person was Republican or Democrat; what counted, in a politician especially, was how straightforward and honest they were in dealing with the public, how well they balanced the needs of everyone with the rights of the individual, and most of all, how well they made better the lives of ordinary people.

But somewhere along the line, he punks out and gives up the Republican ship.

Moreover, I came distinctly to distrust ideologues -- because, I realized, ideas are more important to them than people. This observation arose first out of personal experience, because most ideologues are likely to reject friendships with those who don't think like them or fit their ideologies. I might be able to maintain a friendship with an ideologue (right or left) for awhile, but inevitably, they would reject me because I didn't fit the mold they wanted to make. Eventually this insight translated to my view of politicians and public figures as well. It has been for some time clear to me that hardened right-wing and left-wing partisans alike place their abstractions well above what happens to ordinary citizens in real life.

It's probably not fair for me, who has given up on the Democrats to razz Neiwert for his distrust of the Republican party. We see the same thing happening. Yet while he believes that it is corrupt beyond recovery, I see the infusion of new blood, The Old School, as its ticket to new life. My vision is longer term and optimistic.

I just hate to see good men give up, and isn't it ironic that he speaks of fascism?

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Calvin Clone

Back in 1988 when people were still getting used to Arsenio Hall, my best friend and I were radical integrationists. Our cadre was known as GDZ. Like most 20-something yuppies, we threw parties with a high quotients of people with law degrees and 'Fortune 100 jobs'. (What were we thinking?) Well, we were black and we did play beach volleyball, so it wasn't too typical, at least not for 1988.

Like everyone else with a sense of humor and a daily newspaper subscription, I was a vapid addict of Calvin & Hobbes, the comic strip. I can't say that much I do in 'Cobb's Neighborhood' is influenced by that, but are any of us wired that tight with regards to attribution? (Hint: say no, Big Media is watching).

As marketing director of GDZ Productions, it was my job to pull the upscale black crowd in Los Angeles to our functions. Damn. That was a fun job. For our second annual beach party, aka Bash O Rama II, I introduced the theme of Bike Shorts Snapping. Just use your imagination and think of something sexy and spandexy. You get the picture. Knowing not everyone might have a pair, I appropriated Calvin.


The cool Calvin here became our mascot. Of course he spoke the lingo and was hip to all our trips. As time went by, I noticed Calvin other places off-strip. Now he's as popular as the Jesus fish on cars.

In these days of bootlegs and intellectual property battles, it's nice to know that people use icons to communicate something new. It would be boring to see only a pure Calvin, only doing what Watterson would have him do. The Calvin Clones have life, and although I'd like to think my volleyball playing Calvin was one of the coolest, it's good to know that you never completely know.

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December 02, 2003

Positive Role Models c. 1900

I forgot how good NPR can be to unleash the imagination with a little provocation. Today, they introduced 'A Small Nation of People'. It reminds me of how influential DuBois has been all century long.

For those of us in the group previously proud group formerly known as the Talented Tenth, the gentrified pallbearers of the Race Raising Imperative, WEB was the saint and prophet. I inherited much of what I now deride as Role Monkeying but what much of America still values as Positive Role Models. PRMs are the human instantiations of Positive Images cultivated by the Talented Tenth to combat evil and pervasive racist stereotypes about our noble race.

The difficulty with all of this is that it bears the stigma of dual consciousness, that debilitating self-image that says of the Negro, I am of America, but I am not of America. Inherent in that kernel of self-doubt is a fundamental failure to deal with the following by James Baldwin:

All you are ever told in this country about being black is that it is a terrible, terrible thing to be. Now, in order to survive this, you have to really dig down into yourself and re-create yourself, really, according to no image which yet exists in America. You have to impose, in fact - this may sound very strange - you have to decide who you are, and force the world to deal with you, not with its idea of you.

--James Baldwin

DuBois, more than half a century before Baldwin, had a Victorian image in mind. Nothing particularly wrong with that, but not terribly original, and certainly not organically borne out of the full context of African American history then in its bourgie infancy.

Although we have created new forms of success, we still owe much to DuBois who had the right attitude and the right approach. A towering intellect to whom much of the entire field of sociology owes a great debt, it is easy to see in these faces the dignified future of our aspirations.

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The Thomas Scenario

My Thernstrom thread has been getting a bit of action recently, so I'm bringing it to the top. A few of my readers don't quite understand why I, as an Old School Fellow, don't find the Thernstrom's research worth pursuing. I honestly hope that the following scenario illustrates a bit.

Imagine that I were to recruit (I being J. Cobb Yoedaddy, bazillionaire founder of the [Old School] American Fellowship Institute & political eminence grise) Clarence Thomas to provide a study on the drug habits of white America. I pick Thomas because of his sharp intellect and because of his credentials as an independent thinker. I send Thomas to East Texas, South Indiana, parts of Oklahoma and Arkansas. I send him to South Boston, the Florida Panhandle and Appalachia. He goes there as well as Madison, Boise, Spokane, Providence, Bangor, Rochester, Sacramento and Boulder. All places he's never been before, all places with all sorts of whitefolks on all kinds of drugs.

Two years and 500 pages later he comes up with a stunning indictment of white culture and his own prescriptions. All of his evidence points to the fact that there is a huge problem with drugs in America and that if you look closely enough at white youth, you will find that they have maintained all across the country some culturally specific weaknesses that replicates the problem of addiction over and over and over. In fact, it is not just a stereotype that white fraternities and sororities binge drink themselves into oblivion, it is a scientifically demonstrable statistical inevitability. It's not just a racist joke that white kids are Meth-heads. There is no PC conspiracy to force them to pierce their tongues, wear flannel and tattoo their bodies. They have volunteered to drop out of society into a counterculture of degeneracy. Their families have imploded and they turn to Unsafe Sex, Illicit Drugs & Loud Obscene Music to foolishly compensate for this horrible, horrible failure in the home. Mr. Thomas is, in this matter, an unimpeachable source. He is simply outraged, and so should you be Mr. White America.

We thoughtful folks at the American Fellowship Institute have provided the proof. We didn't realize that white Americans were so pathetic and destitute. Don't they realize that their own youth are dying needlessly? Don't they understand why drugs are illegal? What is so wrong with white people that they don't recognize that we are trying to help, and why are they saying nasty things about Clarence Thomas?

Get off your lazy white asses and do something before you self-destruct, and take us with you! Oh, by the way, we're backing political candidates who back the Thomas Plan, and you will hear about the Thomas Scenario anytime white issues are discussed. Just doing our patriotic bit you know.

I suspect that most Americans, even those not fortunate enough to read Cobb on a daily basis, are aware that there exists in places all over this nation, a league of underachievers who share problems that any sufficiently competent social scientist can correlate with race. What I do not believe is that most Americans are informed enough to consistently recognize where the racial ends and where the cultural begins when speaking specifically about African American lives and values. That is one of the reasons Cobb exists, to demarcate such boundaries as exemplified by the Old School (with a bit of over the top bloviation & pontification from time to time as deemed necessary in pointing out the obvious to the uninitiated). To the extent that the Thernstroms or anyone blurs those racial/cultural distinctions and for whatever reason gets people to think that certain political agendas are unequivocably 'good' for the race of African Americans, they will find themselves challenged.

I consider the Thernstroms 'challenged'.

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Eyeballing Steers

Floyd gives us something to think about with regard to programmer productivity in the enterprise computing space. I tend to be on his side.

Way back in highschool, I was told by my geometry teacher that the Four Color Problem had been solved. He was at once dismayed and astounded that it had been done with a computer and it wasn't an 'elegant' solution. But he, like most of the math community rather grudgingly accepted that some problems just may not have elegant solutions. Such problems, while not beyond human curiosity will require dilligence beyond human capacity. Thus was the domain of computers.

I happen to believe that the problem of software programmer productivity isn't really a problem in the traditional sense of something that can have an elegant solution, but in the same sense as the Four Color Problem cannot be solved by one single and elegant line of reasoning. Peter Drucker famously said that business management has only just begun to be studied. This rather stopped the endless questions about 'which method is best' but not the effusive praise.
Business computing is what I call a 'significantly bitty problem'. It can only be solved empirically by going down each twisty alleyway. Managerial Computing (Keen, Zuboff) has only just begun to be studied.

The problem with business, just as the problem with business computing, is deceptively simple. Generate profits. Of course there are virtually infinite ways to do so. Tools that assist businesses in their aims are rightly daunting not simply because the underlying technology shifts from time to time, but because the goals and methods of business are constantly changing.

The purpose of managerial computing is to serve the purposes of management which is actually a bit more complex than the purposes of investment brokers. Whereas the data for investors vis a vis Bloomberg-type systems and models is hard, such a great deal of analysis has not been done in every sector as regards the soft tangibles which could be effective measures of business performance. It's easy to read a momentum chart for a stock which has daily prices and make predictions. It's not so easy to eyeball a herd of yearling steers and guess the price of beef. Eyeballing steers is where much of the early science of business management is: still analog. So there is a great deal of evolution before the world of enterprise managerial computing has identified the methods to assist in the majority of enterprises.

Simply because Siebel has made billions selling CRM software to all the telemarketing companies you hate, doesn't mean the state of enterprise software has significantly advanced. One of the lessons we should have learned from the dot com implosion was that there are indeed thousands of business plans and models that do lend themselves easily to digitization. But only a few of those are actually profitable. Yet there are millions and millions of others that still exist, untouched by that revolution and its software tools and methodologies.

Let us also not forget how long it took for GM to understand and then implement supply chain strategies. Decades. Such management philosophies, still not wholly explored, certainly not ubiquitously applicable across industries, will in time generate reliable and generally accepted performance metrics. Whatever state the software tools industry is in with regard to its management of programmer resource allocation, language choices and distribution of compute power, there will always be an unelegant alley to travel. That is the space between what business conditions provide, what managers see and what systems can be built efficiently to aid in supporting that vision.

This is not a technology problem.

Posted by mbowen at 09:16 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Evil Genius

Posted by mbowen at 09:00 AM | TrackBack


Posted by mbowen at 08:39 AM | TrackBack

December 01, 2003

Love, Togetherness, Devotion

ltd.jpg In 1978, I was a senior in highschool. A lot of things may have been screwy and dysfunctional in black communities during the seventies, but there was one thing I was absolutely proud of. Every time I saw it, it warmed my heart. It was a giant mural on the back of a theatre at Crenshaw and Adams in my old neighborhood. The Togetherness Album by LTD. In the center, a big red heart larger than a man.

Jeffrey Osborne was (and still is) the man. Lots of us lament the loss of songs of love and love lost. But the memory is clear and the meaning is manifest still. If you haven't heard this old R&B, do yourself a favor and recover it.

Posted by mbowen at 10:02 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

A Warning to Hyperion

I'm converting. ..taking the long hard slog up the curve of c# and MDX. I'm taking the Microsoft path more traveled, and going downscale to midmarket.

More opportunities. Decent tech. Harder work. More's possible.

In two years, me and people like me are going to be very dangerous to Hyperion's core business. Why? Because we'll have been operating at a level deeper than Hyperion is willing to open up their products. Our bailing wire and duct tape systems will be functionally equivalent to Hyperion’s shrink-wrapped stuff.

It'll be scary.

Check out these two:


Large companies are outsourcing Essbase level coding to third parties and overseas. Architects and head DW designers are the only ones safe today, the tools around MSAS will evolve to the point at which one or two folks can do the whole custom project.

The question is whether or not the enterprise software sales business, with the high overhead of direct sales, can survive. Companies like HYSL will have to make huge deals with big companies and sell ubiquity on the inside. I don't think Hyperion will be big enough to do that in two years.

As I implied, cost of ownership isn't going to be a compelling argument to companies that outsource. So if Essbase supports MDX, it better lower the price. And if HFM and planning don't support .net, they better open up a very attractive API.

Essbase consultants are starving out there. The world hasn't learned the development methodology. The labor market of Essbase developers are hedging their bets. Almost everybody I know who was an Essbase head 3 years ago has added a second technology to their toolbelt.

Six months ago if you entered 'Essbase' into, you'd get 300 jobs. Today its 102.

Integration is a huge issue, that's why there is lots to fear from Yukon.

(also Floyd)

Posted by mbowen at 08:00 AM | TrackBack