January 31, 2005

Drop Dead

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Good News

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Grind Date: Very Good But...

The latest DeLa album is pretty slammin' but it's not fun. The demands of the business of being the age they have attained has squeezed all the humor out of their album. OK, DeLa, you're X years in the game, serious with multiple mortgages, kids and troubles. It's like they don't party any more.

This is a workman-like album working on a formula that is anti-forumula but formula nonetheless. 'Trying People' from Bionix was clearly the deepest cut they ever did and they knew that. So there's several cuts in that vein on Grind Date. And just as predictably as every other rap group on the planet speaks their producer's name over the track, DeLa says they are whack for doing so. No it's not sucka-MC talk but it is all the same.

DeLa shows the world what they are not. They are not trifling. They are not unskilled. They are not lightweights. But damn!

But what's up with Dres and Black Sheep? Why are the Natives still dragged along implied on every record?

DeLa collaboration is something they do better than any other group. In that, they are a whole section of the industry in miniscule (of course, like nobody else). Only De La could put Flava Flav on the same track which was essentially sampled from the last album where the Beastie Boys were guests. And it works. Everything DeLa does works, and that's what the Grind Date is all about, thematically.

There are enough little gritty bits of innovation and lyrical content to keep me jabbering for a while, not to mention some standout flow, although nothing reaches the levels of 'View' which I think is going to stand as Plug 1's dopest. The male backup singers from "Am I Worth y of You" are back.

My favorite cuts are 'Shopping Bags' which ought to blow up big, but how would I know considering that I don't listen to pop radio, and 'He Comes' until the other rapper comes on. But 'Verbal Clap' is the bomb cut.

The Grind Date is straight in the groove of the best of Bionix, and adds a little innovation, but less than is usual for De La. The lack of humor on this one is a disappointment but it's still very good hiphop.

Posted by mbowen at 12:27 PM | TrackBack

Glimpsing Lucifer Jones

Once I get to the point where money doesn't matter - when I resign myself to where more or less makes no difference in my self-esteem, I will work towards spritual completion. I fully expect that it will be a work of criticism, entangled as I am with the institutions of American influence and organization.

I have already given a name to that worker within me, Lucifer Jones.

I expect that his task will be that of reconciliation between a number of areas of my own sprirituality. And I see them arising from criticisms of a number of twists of faith that some see as srtaight lines. For one thing, I am profoundly resonant with the aspect of ritual. This is expressed for me in the love of the Catholic and Episcopal traditions. It's something that rather hit me like a brick when I traveled to il Duomo in Milan. The same service, the same symbols, half a world away. So I am critical of evangelicals because they are too much Jazz and not enough Standard. It gives the minister too much power, and I think this power devolved to the minister coming out of the Protestant revolution has been abused.

I am also hip, somewhat, to Karen Armstrong's observations of fundamentalists in their overreach has made their Church into a Government. When I wrote this comic, I think it really encapsulated the entire point. Taxes or Tithes.

I really rebel against the Puritanical tradition, the kind of minimalist anti-aesthetic which drives so much of this society. These people have taken all of the beauty out of religion. There are really few things as hideously unimaginative as these new ecumenical worship domes. I can't tell you how selfish it is to be a vessel of the Holy Spirit and simply jump up and down and holler, or wake people up knocking on their door. This whole, look how the Holy Spirit makes me beautiful / righteous / pure , is just wrong wrong wrong. Where is the music? Where is the architecture? It's dead, and there's the proof.

Prayer is meditation is mental discipline. It is not supplication nor public acknowledgement of an anthropomorphized divine will. I have been so polite over the years that I have almost completely sublimated my disgust for the phrase 'Heavenly Father', and other aspects of 'glorification'. I don't worship, and I think it's really difficult for me to express that as a Christian. It's something that needs working out. But I think it's best to start out with the Gospel of Thomas - understanding the difference between he an Paul, at which point we get into the reason that the Bible contains so many of these epistles of warning.

I have to believe, but for which reasons I am not sure, that religion ought to be that which fits in our lives in harmony with our other endeavors. That in fulfilling ourselves, we fulfill any notion of God's purpose for us. If I could make an analogy, that we are dogs and God wants us to fetch. And guess what, dogs like to fetch, and would fetch even if we were strays. I am particularly wary of the church that has us bear some of its burden, subtley misdirecting our boundless energies to know God. Interestingly, the consequence of this is understanding that God *is* on our side. And God is on their side too. God is on all sides, including the inside. We just need to clear up the contradictions in our lives to see that, and there is not one single way to do so.

So as you might imagine, I've got a lot of ground to cover. Money is in the way primarily because I have decided to be a man for others. It is the instrument of this world. If I were to lock myself away and flog myself into Heaven, then sure, I'd pretensiously be quoting scripture - hell even memorizing. But I have to do, and doing requires great effort, right here right now.

But as the monks and nuns told NPR, the great challenge is to deal with the overwhelming silence of God. The nothing that is there. The zero, the black hole in the center of the Galaxy. The irresistable gravity of God from which no answer ever escapes and yet tugs at us all ripping the very fabric of the Universe.

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January 30, 2005

Ozone Alert

My old buddy Jerb sent me this warning I'll pass along to you.

I almost bought one of these Living Air systems a year ago, and was just about to buy one now. I went online and started to do some research and discovered some scary things. If you own one of these (or any ozone generating air purification device like SpringAir or Biozone) or are contemplating buying one, you should read some of the following:

  • California Air Resources Board (California E.P.A.): -- this article was published on January 21, 2005.
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • American Lung Association
  • The gist of it is that ozone creates free radicals (it's the definitive "oxidant"), which many of us attempt to counteract through vitamins and minerals, etc... (anti-oxidants). Also, these devices which intentionally generate ozone are recommended against by the agencies listed above, and many others -- particularly for homes with children, elderly persons, or anyone suffering from asthma or any lung/throat/respiratory problems. If you own such a device and have been told that the "laundry/bleach smell" shows that it's working -- read up -- the smell indicates an unhealthy concentration of ozone.

    The California E.P.A. has concluded that running these devices can create a 24/7 First Stage Smog Alert condition in your home. If you do any exercise or semi-strenuous activity in close proximity to an operating ozone-generating device, you should beware of lung/throat irritations or respiratory infections. The ozone generator may be the cause.

    And the worst part is, when running in a safe (low ozone-emitting) manner, it is questionable whether the devices actually provide any beneficial air cleaning effects. If it seems too good to be true, I guess it is, right? As a final word of caution, the Living Air is only sold via Multi-Level-Marketing methods (try to find one at Home Depot or Sear's). Although negative ion producing devices (like the Sharper Image Ionic Breeze) are safer, there are still cautions regarding these, as they apparently create high ozone levels in living beings which are in close proximity to them. Several studies that attempted to prove the benefits of negative ions ended up killing rats. If you're looking for air-cleaning alternatives, the American Lung Association recommends using 3M Filtrete allergen-reducing central air filters (to be replaced every 3 months), and running your central air fan as much as possible. The filters cost about $50 - $80 a year, depending on size. I'm going to buy one at Home Depot and see if there's any noticeable air improvement.
    Posted by mbowen at 03:13 PM | TrackBack

    Dichotomies for Dummies

    If perchance we are about to enter the Chinese Century, then perhaps those grumbling about the ascendency of David Sedaris have a point. It is a point which has been made before:

    The classics, and their position of prerogative in the scheme of education to which the higher seminaries of learning cling with such a fond predilection, serve to shape the intellectual attitude and lower the economic efficiency of the new learned generation. They do this not only by holding up an archaic ideal of manhood, but also by the discrimination which they inculcate with respect to the reputable and the disreputable in knowledge. This result is accomplished in two ways: (1) by inspiring an habitual aversion to what is merely useful, as contrasted with what is merely honorific in learning, and so shaping the tastes of the novice that he comes in good faith to find gratification of his tastes solely, or almost solely, in such exercise of the intellect as normally results in no industrial or social gain; and (2) by consuming the learner's time and effort in acquiring knowledge which is of no use,except in so far as this learning has by convention become incorporated into the sum of learning required of the scholar, and has thereby affected the terminology and diction employed in the useful branches of knowledge. Except for this terminological difficulty -- which is itself a consequence of the vogue of the classics of the past -- a knowledge of the ancient languages, for instance, would have no practical bearing for any scientist or any scholar not engaged on work primarily of a linguistic character. Of course, all this has nothing to say as to the cultural value of the classics, nor is there any intention to disparage the discipline of the classics or the bent which their study gives to the student. That bent seems to be of an economically disserviceable kind, but this fact -- somewhat notorious indeed -- need disturb no one who has the good fortune to find comfort and strength in the classical lore. The fact that classical learning acts to derange the learner's workmanlike attitudes should fall lightly upon the apprehension of those who hold workmanship of small account in comparison with the cultivation of decorous ideals: Iam fides et pax et honos pudorque Priscus et neglecta redire virtus Audet.

    Now this may seem hard to believe but I sat and listened yet another screeching oddity on 'This American Life' about a woman who loves a parrot. The same parrot that bites her infant children and squawks at all hours. She has lived with it for 23 years. Anyway, you really have to listen to it to believe it. It's like a slow motion dissection of idiocy.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:46 AM | TrackBack

    Cats: Spawn of the Devil

    Oh those evangelicals. You gotta love 'em. Check this out.

    There are numerous reasons why a loyal dedicated servant of God should use his Bible-trained conscience to arrive at a proper understanding of why cats are not advisable as pets or companions for Christians. Consider, then, the following facts:

    It was a common practice in ancient Egypt to worship or idolize cats as 'gods'. Indeed, after death many cats were mummified, venerated and sacrifices were made to them. As Christians we observe not only the Mosaic Law, but also the 'necessary things,' identified by the Apostles at Jerusalem, to include the following edict: '(1) Abstain from sacrifices to idols'. We are to 'guard ourselves from idols' and 'worship no other gods'. Such feline influence could lead to idolatry and thereby 'grieve Jehovah's Spirit' with tragic consequences. May we never take for granted Jehovah's wise and generous counsel brought to you by your spiritual brothers in the pages of this magazine!

    Hmm. I always thought cat lovers were godless pagans, or at least impersonators of Dr. Evil. It seems that we have biblical confirmation.

    (Note that the last sentence should be said in a stentorian voice as if it were an engineer at NASA Houston.)

    Posted by mbowen at 09:34 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    January 28, 2005

    Eyes Only

    I still haven't made up my mind completely on what to think about the burgeoning controversy over Downhill and Eyes on the Prize, but I'm going to keep the topic alive as long as I can. So if I contradict myself here, sobeit.

    Having watched three episodes of the series, I am bowled over by the nuance of the documentary. It's an astounding revelation to see this material again, and it is becoming clear how quickly our contemporary correctness has diminished and even twisted the details of what made these hundreds of acts of courage part of America's greatest legacy.

    Even as I applauded the boldness of Downhill's move, I hedged my bet. I have been thinking this afternoon that I might want to be the one who gets this stuff distributed in China. In fact, I watched episode one thinking how a Chinese audience (and government) might respond to these stories. As I looked at Mose Wright I thought a poor peasant in China would probably relate to him very strongly. Then how would I stand up in the future and take credit as the African American who spread the word, as a bootlegger? Hell no. And it is the matter of that particular reputation that gives me pause.

    It is strong enough, especially in light of Zimmerman's argument and comment on this blog, for me to recommend against anyone being a distributor of this material. But I wouldn't go as far as I did in the case of the Nick Berg video and urge people not to download or watch it. But I can see that Blackside lawyers have already made their point and the spigot has been cut off.

    What I know however is that I, among with many untold millions would still pay $100 for the box set whenever it comes out. It's just one of those items, that I cannot see an Old School family library without, right next the Norton Anthology of African American Literature, Encyclopedia Africana and other critical materials. So I am very hopeful that whomever has been sitting on a large enough pile to get this thing done has been energized enough by this little blowup to place a bet.

    Please, make this publicity count.

    I would also disobey my own rule of not second guessing blackfolks and call on John Singleton, who just ran into a windfall at Sundance with his new pimp movie 'Hustle & Flow', to invest some of that studio cash into this effort. On the other hand, let Singleton go. Oprah could do this in a heartbeat. Somebody get her on the phone.

    Part of the way I see this has everything to do with the fact that there doesn't seem to be anybody with the wherewithal to get the appropriate people in line. And as time goes by it will become clear whether or not Downhill's action was justified. I say if the whole series isn't available on DVD by Christmas, then we will have shown a small-mindedness that justifies all the rebellion Downhill and their ilk can muster.

    I also disagree that Downhill's choice of 'Eyes on the Prize' shows a lack of respect for the Civil Rights Movement, or that the evocation is wrong. It's a brilliant choice to make the point, just as Rosa Parks was a brilliant choice for the bus boycott. We know that's how test cases are made, you pick just the right set of circumstances and press your point. This point could never be made with a Janet Jackson video. This is the right case.

    Just as Apple has proven that there are real business models that can make huge money with superdistribution, something Hollywood idiots could not muster, I have a gut feeling that there is some group of people who can make this happen.

    And while I don't think any amount of distribution is going to diminish the demand for the DVD boxed set (and no we don't need more voiceover commentary, just ship it as is, and then use the profits to get your bonus DVD or Collectors Edition later), I still recommend against Downhills flashmob distribution on February 8th. So I'll photoshop the icon to reflect that I'm against the distribution. It's clear to me that Zimmerman, Blackside and company are lighting a fire to raise the money. If they prove impotent however...

    The right money will make everybody happy. So let's see it.

    Posted by mbowen at 06:26 PM | TrackBack

    There Is No Crisis, But

    I am one of those who believes that Social Security is not in trouble and that it might be more trouble than it's worth to fix it. But I am not so sure that I am against the fundamental change in perception it would create if it were radically modified or even eliminated.

    As a backgrounder for my personal perspective, I believe that American should accomodate itself to a broader cross-section of citizens. I think there is a certain strength that America loses for not having dealt with Third World conditions within its borders. Therefore I am a proponent of liberalizing immigration and a host of other reforms I call the Internal Empire. America's ego likes to say 'We are the World', but we're not, actually. We need to get more like it and prove the robustness of our multiethnic, multicultural, pluralism. That means American shantytowns, no minimum wage and a large internal Second World. The alternative, it seems to me is dissonance - which always feels like opposition...but let's not go there right now. My point, I think, is made in posts like this called Your Competition. I am very concerned about the strength of our character, we cannot afford to bourgie our way into oblivion which is what I take the rise of Paris Hilton and Nelly to mean.

    As part and parcel of the kind of vigor I am wanting in the American psyche, is that discipline of saving one's own money. If I recall correctly, we were severly admonished during the Reagan administration that our personal savings rates were abyssmal, especially as compared to the Japanese, who were creating lovely curved cars like the Celica while we were still making crap like the Dodge Diplomat. I'm pretty clear on how increased personal savings can be a hedge against inflation, but I'm not exactly sure how it affects the bond market. And somewhere there is a link between the amount of money we owe other governments, deficit spending and trade balance and the amount of money we dole out as part of the government sponsored pension program that is Social Security.

    I intend to find out what increased personal savings outside of a government controlled pension fund means with regard to our overall national economic health. I give this idea the benefit of the doubt, and I'll be checking out with cats like Kudlow & Luskin have to say at Social Security Choice.

    So while I don't believe that we are headed for a cataclysm, and I don't necessarily believe that kicking Joe Sixpack to Wall Street's curb is a good idea, I do believe that there is some balance that can be struck that gives ordinary citizens more flexibility in planning their own retirement which leaves them economically smarter and richer.

    Now I understand that this is part of a longstanding fight by Republicans against government entitlements, much of which is visionary and some of which is actually practical. You won't hear anyone say so, but it's true. If we rid the Feds of the responsibility for Social Security, that's one way to keep Congress from phony accounting with the SS Trust Fund. But it also does something rather excitingly dangerous, which is deplete the number of deductions the government takes out of our paychecks. The effect is that it makes whatever tax increase we may need somewhere in the future look that more horrendous. And what we know here in California is that the legislature will twist itself into knots and starve every agency and break the bank twice over before voting for a tax increase. It's tax anorexia, and we're losing muscle.

    To the extent that there is a temptation to do funny accounting with Social Security funds, and I am a skeptic given the history of what we've done with Savings & Loans and other state funds (specifically Orange County), we need to thin that puppy down. To the extent that a reasonable reform, say putting 50% into the hands of the individual for investment, we need to check that possibility out.

    It's fraught with danger, but there is no crisis.

    Posted by mbowen at 01:08 PM | TrackBack

    Friday Fragments

  • House of Flying Daggers
    Everything is about China these days, even Chinese movies. The other night, I checked out the latest from the director of 'Hero'. Who knows, one day I might even remember his name.

    This particular flick can be seen as an astounding allegory for China. In my frame of mind, it is hard to be much of anything else.

  • Mac Mini
    Things just keep getting better. The new Mac Mini is going to be a hit. This is just what I could use. Take it to work, use a two port KVM and boom, you've got a really nice little system.

    Interestingly enough, I think there's one thing that's keeping me from using Mac on the regular, and that's Microsoft Outlook. If I knew a nice way to synch MS Outlook with all that iCrap on Mac, I might just go for it. What I really want is OS X, because I hear that it runs a nice WinXP emulation, and it's the sane alternative to Linux crap.

  • Error Message Generator

  • Negro Bar

  • White Supremacy Today
    I don't talk much about white supremacy these days. There's a couple reasons for that. One is that I've done it to death over at the Race Man's Home Companion. The other is that I've found it very difficult to hold a decent conversation about race once you throw Walter William's monkey wrench into the equation, which is that the significance of race is ever declining in the US.

    Most folks I've encountered (but then who am I) find it difficult to talk about race and class at the same time. It's generally either or. So that's my punishment for studying race so long, I understand the shortcomings of purely racial discussions. Be all that as it may, it's often refreshing to jump back into the moshpit of race and have at it. One of my commenters yanked me back into that reality, even though I was really heading in a completely different direction.

    As for myself personally, the constrictions of race are rather like the constrictions of face. I look in the mirror everyday and I like what I see, so I don't pay much attention to the people who don't like my face. I don't long consider who might be doing what behind my back because of what I look like.

  • Computer Words
    The most fun thing about computing are the words. Sometimes they are acronyms, sometimes they are abbreviations, sometimes they are invented words, sometimes they are old words given new meaning.

    I'm thinking of verbs in the last class:
    elided, deprecated, expunged, truncated, prefixed.

    And other stuff:
    cyc lenat etaoin

    Posted by mbowen at 11:46 AM | TrackBack
  • Overcome

    Posted by mbowen at 11:24 AM | TrackBack

    Voice Recognition: Berger & Liaw

    Two biomedical engineers at the University of Southern California, Theodore Berger and Jim-Shih Liaw, have designed a new type of voice recognition device that is capable of listening better than any set of human ears. It is a neural network that actually mimics the way the brain interprets speech-- a cybernetics concept. (See robotics-cybernetics .) To learn more, visit: www.usc.edu/ext-relations/news_service/real/real_video.html.

    This is actually old news, but every once in a while I ask myself about the state of the art in voice recognition and I tend to believe that the best stuff is being kept away from the public. So do these guys have a product yet?

    Also, I've been told that this product, The Boom, is by far the best headset on the planet. Sounds convincing.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:46 AM | TrackBack

    January 27, 2005

    My People, My Hair

    I have gotten in the habit of not second-guessing black people, even though it can be very rewarding to do so. Cruising Negrophile I found the following on 'silence'.

    I felt that I should say something. As for what, I wasn't sure. But silence is complicity, right? My silence says that these ridiculous notions that you folks are carrying around are OK. When they're not. It's a weird feeling. You're sitting among your people, and things like this come up, and it feels like you have to choose. How far out in the margin am I going to be today? You have to decide if this is even the right place and time to speak up (should you always speak up, being the fundamental question), and if it is, what you will say.

    I admit, I feel a little perverse sense of...what? laughter? Internal laughter because here I am, sitting there, listening to them talk like they have the final-say on what is normal and appropriate. I am sitting right here in the middle of them, about as heterosexual as an extended Madonna house remix. And I laugh to myself, thinking, "Man, y'all mofos don't know anything."

    But still I am torn. Because, if there is no speaking up, how else are people - Black people - going to get over this shit about "conversion," these overdramatized moments of "I just can't listen to this!" - to which I wanted to ask, "Why? Why can't you listen to it? What is so difficult about listening to something that frankly, has nothing to do with you?"

    The irony of this entire passage is that embedded in the author's internal conflict is that the desire to convert the blackfolks around her springs from the same impulse she decries. Namely, 'wouldn't it be great if more black people just...' You fill in your blank, I'll fill in mine. For now I guess my blank reads 'leave well enough alone' or 'mind their own damned business'.

    Yet I understand perfectly well how difficult it can be to come home. I've been in enough barbershops to know. Now that I've got some grey in my beard, I have decided that I have earned the privilege of telling people that they are fools. And I know that some of them think the same of me, but I like to keep it at that one to one level. It's always annoying to me when black people get the smackdown when it's just the subset that you know, in your barbershop - not that you even know all of them.

    My old buddy David Fleming is in the Nova video of James McLurkin that I showed my kids today. (He's the brother on the left with the dreads in the opening minute). And in light of this hair thing it became obvious to me about the difference between black 'being' and black 'thinking'. I believe many blackfolks 'think black' on a much higher level than they 'act black'. It is the conscious work of reorienting one's hair, clothing and mannerisms, that blackfolks use to attempt to unify those two levels. Most of the time, we're surrounded by people who don't get it. (I hereby re-introduce the term 'nons', not necessarily meaning non-black, but often so). In the company of nons, we can only 'act black' at a certain level, inferior to the place where our highminded black thought is taking place. That's why every once in a while we have to get back to where our peoples is at, and recharge our batteries. But all black peoples aint our peoples. This, we sometimes forget.

    A man who will spend the time and effort it takes to grow dreads is telling you that he 'thinks black' at a very high level, and so he expects you to engage him at that level, or not at all. I look at that video and I know those are my peoples. In fact, the similarities between McLurkin and my best friend is uncanny. In fact, I think the same people did their kitchens. It didn't surprise me at all to see Fleming in that video. Isbell and I do the baldhead black man thang, an equally demanding hair effort at unifying mind and body.

    But as sister outsider insightfully notes, everybody who does their hair the same way isn't necessarily our peoples. My recommendation, be glad. It just gives you more space to be an individual. The corollary to this is that you need to mob up with people who have got your back instead of trying to convert people who obviously do not. Get over it. You can't second-guess blackfolks.

    Posted by mbowen at 02:58 PM | TrackBack

    Tony Pierce, Asian Inscrutability & Blogging While Black

    If Tony Pierce was black like me, I would have been all over this business about African Americans sooner. As it stands, I think he is not. It's not a problem at all, but it is a real distinction. I'm trying to figure out whether anybody should be annoyed about that or not.

    Some time ago when blogging was new I got into a fairly large discussion about The Mystery of the Black Blogger. As with everything else, there was a big to do about the matter, a lot of people got involved and several myths were busted and a lot of interesting questions investigated, some even answered. Then everybody shutup and went home, until Bill Cosby shot off his mouth.

    I haven't spent much time talking about 'race relations' or racism here at Cobb, relatively speaking, but the question of identity has come around to my attention since I've taken a position with a company HQ'd in Beijing. And I think I am particularly alert to the matter with respect to Asian ethnic and racial identity these days.

    Raise Your Hand
    For a long time, especially when I was knee deep in the Affirmative Action Wars, I despaired of figuring out what Asians thought of the stereotypes applied to them over that particular issue. Try as I might, I could never get any consensus, largely due to a pretty mindblowing dearth of Asians who would write about the subject in all the places we blackfolks and whitefolks were carrying on about it. While this bothered me, especially as I was trying to make some multicultural sense about it, I gradually got over the Asian default. Asians, I reasoned, are simply not interested in joining the battle over their image in America. They are massively outgunned and have decided that it's not worth the fight. Asians don't care about the 'asian image'; It's a yellow thing that we'll never understand in a million years, so why even try?

    I've started to break through my own resentful resignation about this situation for my own selfish reasons, but I don't expect much. Still, the exchange between Tony Pierce about blogging blackness and Zulieka about Asian identification is really priceless. So much is said by what's not said. I think a great deal is not said mostly because I percieve that both bloggers understand that their popularity is driven by an audience that doesn't care about such details.

    As for Tony himself, I know that he's an LA dude, but we don't have much in common. I haven't read his blog in quite some time. I'm sure I could hang out with him if I was in a particularly vodka sloshed, loft-hangout, artsy-fartsy alternative rock mood, but I don't often hang with folks who have more tatoos than they have children, and I get the distinct feeling that Tony has a high ratio. (Not that there's anything wrong with that). From my personal perspective the Busblog is mostly good for trolling the LA underground rock scene and getting lots of pictures of sexy white chicks. That can occasionally be fascinating, but quite frankly I'd rather talk about sexy white chicks in the abstract. The topic wouldn't survive long at Cobb, nor with the blogs I frequent.

    Survival of the Trackbackiest
    In the end, the survivors define what is authentic, useful and real about a people. African Americans define more to the listening world what is black than all the blacks in Africa combined. It's not fair that Don Cheadle is the star of 'Hotel Rwanda' and not a real Hutu, but that's the way it goes. The internet and blogging by their very nature allow us to spectate right to the source. And everybody blogging is trying, to a certain extent, to represent themselves truthfully. It seems to me that the surviving representations are those which are quirky enough to remain interesting over time. But it must be remembered that the quirks of an individual are just that. You can't finish talking about a subject until it has been cross-polinated, and that's one of the reasons I have decided to hijack the topics from my own perspective.

    As with most every subject and situation, I am always more pleased to have more blackfolks where I am. It is because I grew up in an era in which we weren't often taken seriously as individuals. The more blackfolks there were, the more individual we each could afford to be. When there's only one fly in the buttermilk, you spend a lot of time telling nons who you are not. That still happens. It's still all about the burden of representation, and I want a whole lot of us to survive. So for that reason, I give props to Tony, just for blogging his little heart out, and surviving. More space for me.

    Now if I could only get three different Asians to comment...

    Posted by mbowen at 12:17 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    James McLurkin

    James McLurkin is a daring innovator who has helped to push the frontiers of microrobotics. Awarded the prestigious Lemelson-M.I.T. Student Prize, his inventions range from a tiny self-contained autonomous robot that was the smallest in the world at the time—named Goliath, it measured a little over one inch per side—to his current research project: constructing the largest fleet of autonomous robots that have ever worked together to carry out cooperative, real-world tasks.

    Called SwarmBots, McLurkin’s tiny robots (they measure 4.5 inches) are programmed to emulate the behavior of bees with the capability to cluster, disperse, follow and orbit. Equipped with bump sensors, a self-charger, a radio modem and an audio system, the robots are autonomous yet travel in a fleet. When one robot makes a discovery, it signals the group to execute the task together.

    The implications of McLurkin’s groundbreaking work are far-reaching—from clearing fields of land mines to searching for survivors in the aftermath of a natural disaster to mapping the surface of Mars. With his initiative, creativity and extraordinary inventiveness, McLurkin is a natural speaker and educator. At the podium, he discusses the possibilities of robotic research and the future of his swarm robots, and, for younger audiences, illustrates the fun in inventing and engineering.

    Inventing since the age of three, McLurkin’s inspirations came from Lego bricks, model trains, video games, BMX bicycles and his parents—who were key role models. He is now a role model to many as a teacher in The Saturday Engineering Enrichment and Discovery Academy at M.I.T. (a college preparatory program).

    A Long Island, New York native, McLurkin went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for his undergraduate studies in electrical engineering. He received his master’s degree in electical engineering from the University of California at Berkeley. He is currently working on his Ph.D. in computer science, also at M.I.T. Since 1999, McLurkin has also worked as the lead scientist and manager for the Swarm Robotics Project at iRobot in Burlington, MA, developing algorithms for large communities of autonomous robots.

    As an undergraduate at M.I.T., McLurkin built twelve cubic-inch robots and programmed them to simulate the behavior of an ant colony. His robotic ants are currently featured as part of Invention at Play, an interactive traveling exhibit that focuses on the similarities between the way children play and the creative processes used by innovators in science and technology.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:48 AM | TrackBack



    Posted by mbowen at 11:37 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    I Keep Having the Same Dream

    I hadn't griped about it this year, but for several years I used to complain fairly vociferously about the lack of publically available works by Martin Luther King Jr. I think about this in consideration over several commentaries about copyright and civil rights.

    Year in and year out the same video and the same soundbites from King. It has become tiresome. So when the Stanford Papers Project was announced several years ago, I jumped for joy. Too soon. As I looked closer, I recognized that the King heirs had put a contractual headlock on the papers. They were going to dribble them out for years to select groups, for money. So while I and other battlers on the fresh fields of the internet trying to homestead some black cultural space, we would have liked to have quoted King, citing him as relevant to the day. No such luck. We in the general unwashed public couldn't get at it. Justice delayed is justice denied.

    And so King has, in certain parts of the intenet, been dropped from the discussion. I speak specifically about the Affirmative Action debates of a few years ago. We had individuals like Ward Connorly and Clint Bolick suggesting that King would have never been a supporter of Affirmative Action. All we ever had was the same tired quote, as if King had only considered the question for the few seconds it must have taken to write it.

    "A society that has done something special against the Negro for hundreds of years must now do something special for the Negro"

    Consider Professor Randall's web page. Not much there from King. Everybody claims him, nobody knows him. And the above quote is just about as much as anyone ever heard.

    NPR has done as much, I think, is as possible to give King to the masses, but that is hardly useful for anyone who wishes to do more than tip their hat and acknowledge King. Even the Wikipedia is stifled.

    On the other hand, if King's significance to America can be reduced to the few thousand of his own words in only five speeches, then we know all we need to know. Until his life's work is liberated, the rest is just spin.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:35 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    Next Stop Tehran

    Posted by mbowen at 09:08 AM | TrackBack

    Hotel Rwanda

    Hotel Rwanda bears many of the earmarks of a Hollywood film that's ready to sucker punch you into weeping submission. As we join Cheadle, we find him to be an admirable and likeable enough fellow. We follow him home to the surburban ranch-style to find kids' toys on the lawn and loving relatives. We see his calm command of employees at the job and his admirable capacity to schmooze with the powerful. He's a good guy and we know he's headed for Hell.

    However, the descent is not so clunky, sudden nor simple as one would think, and the filmmakers have done an admirable job with a subject that could have easily been ruined. In fact, I'm not sure that much of a better job could have been done. There are a lot of opportunities for this film to have gone meta-documentary with voice overs from CNN or scenes of people watching an abstraction of the situation on a tlevision somewhere. Instead, people listen to transistor radios as the vile ethnic hatred spews in the now infamous broadcasts.

    Hotel Rwanda is a film about the very essence of the human spirit; of the courage born of desparation. I was astounded by the turns of fate and the extraordinary mix of luck, wit and finesse of the main character. But I think these are things that anyone could, and probably should see. For that alone I would give this film one of my highest recommendations, which comes rather easy after several years of ignoring serious film.

    The towering lesson I see in 'Hotel Rwanda' is the danger of isolation. It is a lesson, were I a pessimist, that I think might be the hardest lesson the Western, modern man will ever face. We are individualists, but there seems nothing our individualism can do for us when confronted with ethnic genocide. There is only safety in numbers.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:01 AM | TrackBack

    January 26, 2005

    Eyes On the Prize

    The prize is the documentary itself. It's available here. If you never downloaded anything in your life, this is the thing to download.

    At 8pm on February 8th we will celebrate the struggle and triumph of the civil rights movement with screenings of Eyes on the Prize Part 1: Awakenings. Eyes on the Prize is the most renowned civil rights documentary of all time; for many people, it is how they first learned about the Civil Rights Movement (more about the film). But this film has not been available on video or television for the past 10 years simply because of expired copyright licenses. We cannot allow copyright red tape to keep this film from the public any longer. So today we are making digital versions of the film available for download. Join us in building a new mass audience for this film: organize or attend a screening in your city, town, school or home on February 8th.

    I'm simply going to add to the chorus of right-minded people who agree that 'Eyes on the Prize' is worth taking. While I really wanted to reserve judgement and hear what Juan Williams had to say, I think that we're simply not going to hear from him. It's probably something he can't say, given his association with NPR. But I've made my decision.

    I am hoping this will be a watershed event. I expect that it will be. And you know what else? Somebody is going to put together a deal and put this out on DVD anyway. In some ways it will be too late, but I think it points to the sad fact that there's not enough of the well-heeled part of the Old School hooked into the issue. I'm glad for the initiative of the Downhillers, but I think the right entity with the right money could have done this. There's no argument about the value of the material. None whatsoever.

    So this is a ribbon I'll proudly wear, as I shuffle things around a little bit at Cobb.

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

    Off Track

    My two cents on the suicide train wreck is this. There are certain times when a crime is obvious. Here is a man who wanted to kill himself and take a trainload of passengers with him. He is going to wish he stayed in his car.

    If the sentence was death by stoning, I'd exercise my throwing arm for a week in advance.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:07 PM | TrackBack

    Advanced Math for Kids

    I'm looking for the solution to the problem that I had in the 5th grade. I got completely bored with all the math they threw at me. Pre-Algebra never made sense to me until Algebra did. For four years, there was essentially no math except for screwy word problems. I'd like to move my kids through this gap as quickly as possible. Is it reasonable to just start straight in with variables and expressions? I think so. In fact, I guess I've already made up my mind about it. I'm just looking for some validation, and the name of a good text.

    Posted by mbowen at 03:15 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    Cashing In On Division

    The new website, Retro vs Metro strikes a tone absent from the origination of MoveOn.org, which is common sense.

    Posted by mbowen at 01:25 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Nice Soldier

    I am satisfied that the implications of affirming Mr. Gonzales as our next Attorney General will nowhere as dire as many assert. Ashcroft was worse, and in the end, he didn't get away with murder. At least he didn't sue any 12 year old girls. I find the American interest in the ethics of combat at once comforting and disturbing.

    I think that anyone will agree that one of the things that annoys most people who have decided to gripe with America is that our great fault lies with our pretenses of superiority. So much of the war of words over Iraq has been of a moral tone that I have worried that Americans have forgotten or ignored the basic principles of warfare. Destroy the enemy. Make the cost of war so great that they relent. Force them to sue for peace. Instead, much of America supports the troops because it is morally appropriate to do so, not because they are interested in destroying the enemy.

    All this highmindedness is dangerous because it creates a kind of self-justifying moral superiority. If there were weapons of mass destruction, or if abuses at Abu Ghraib had not occurred, what could have possibly stopped the American onslaught? While I am certain that people principly against the war would have found any number of reasons to find fault with its morality, I'm not certain that their doing so changes the fundamentally American character as percieved by non-Americans.

    What exactly are we asserting by raising concerns about our adherance to the Geneva Conventions? We are admitting shame because our soldiers are not the best behaved soldiers in the world. We are suggesting that American misbehavior presages the descent of the world into chaos. If we don't uphold the highest standards, then God help us; we lose credibility and moral authority. We become like them.

    Perish the thought!

    Posted by mbowen at 11:19 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    The Bottom Line

    Posted by mbowen at 11:18 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


    Posted by mbowen at 10:37 AM | TrackBack

    January 25, 2005

    July 4, 1910: Reno Nevada

    If I had a time machine, that is the place where I would point it first. After I had that visit, I would come back to the present, watch another Ken Burns documentary and then pick the next trip.

    There's a kind of elegaic and beautiful inevitability in the wind-up of Ken Burns' part one of Unforgivable Blackness, the documentary of Jack Johnson's life. It has been so long since I've seen one that I had forgotten the pace, and the tingly feeling I get when the narrator says something frank about race that fits neatly into the right bucket. It's a lovely entertainment, the recieved wisdom of Burns, and it stirs up a passion for the bad old days in very much the same way a horror film makes you glad you don't live in Amityville.

    I had forgotten what a lovely character was Jack Johnson, but I recall it from watching another film in which he played a peripheral character. Perhaps the film was even about him, I don't remember. What I do remember was this vision of an immaculately dressed man who was both mentally, physically and aesthetically sharp. He was in Paris, he behaved as if the world belonged to him, so clearly it did. Burns take on Johnson was that (at least on the way up) he was a man of remarkable self-possession. Wisely taking the commentary of Burt Sugar and Gerald Early among others expert, Burns has wrapped this story with just the right flavor, so Johnson's shines through.

    Some of the quotes from this documentary are just dripping with butter. I simply cannot get this bad boy on DVD soon enough so that I can transcribe them. Many of the quotes were from Johnson himself.

    In many ways, Burns take on the intricate curiosities of race in America is redemptive. Bringing up things forgotten with his fresh eyes are a comfort, and a lesson in humanity. I find myself wanting people around the world to know this very story, just as he tells it.

    What I am liking most about this story is the curious way it circles around Johnson's life as a 'Sport'. I think it's a tale worth telling on its own.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:54 PM | TrackBack

    Iranian Invasion

    Hersch has got us all in an uproar again. Good job for a journalist. God bless him. This time his news is twofold. One, Rumsfeld is into black ops. Two, target number one is Iran.

    The structural change of putting espionage under the aegis of the Pentagon under the rhetoric of 'preparing the battlefield', is a stroke of administrative genius. It's still difficult to say if it's wise, given capabilities. Nevertheless from the gut reaction of this neocon, I think it's better than the alternative, which is CIA subversion.

    There are several huge risks here. The first is that unless we are literally softening up targets, it's difficult to see how legit this forward action is if there is no declared war. I'm saying that the handoff from the There are several huge risks here. The first is that unless we are literally softening up targets, it's difficult to see how legit this forward action is if there is no declared war. I'm saying that the handoff from the State Department is not clear. Today, Americans have a general feeling that yeah Iran is in the Axis of Evil, but we don't know how much of a diplomatic threshold they are crossing or have crossed.

    I understand the Pentagon's desire to get its own spies into the field. After all, who suffers in the eventual open war if the pre-conflict intel was bogus? The Armed Forces, not the CIA. But when is the status for a potential rogue state moved up to hostility?

    On second thought, I just heard something that puts the kibosh on all this. All the Iranians have to do is send troops into Iraq. Game over.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:53 PM | TrackBack

    The Holy Spirit

    As I was browsing through Squashed Philosophers, I came upon the following, teeny tiny entry:

    GLOSSARY Jesus Christ: Jewish teacher of Nazareth
    Church: The entire world of Christ's followers
    Sin: A specific separation from God.
    Grace: Unmerited favour of God.
    Kingdom of God: Society following God's rule.
    Salvation: Utter freedom from sin.
    Holy Spirit/Paraclete/Holy Ghost: The invisible, active, spiritual energy of God.
    Trinity: The 3 ways God is evident: Creator/Father; Son/Jesus; Spiritual force/Holy Spirit.
    Saints: Those, holy in life, who now certainly dwell with God.
    Bishop: Regional church ruler, a direct ('apostolic') sucessor of Christ.
    Sacrament: Ritual sharing of Grace in Eucharist, Baptism etc.
    Paul: Formerly Saul of Tarsus (c9-c63 AD), Turkish Jew. Employed by Roman authorities to persecute Christians until himself converted after a mystical vision of Christ while on the road to Damascus.
    Baptism: Ritual bathing, sacrement of joining Christ's Church.

    It was Augustine, of course. But what struck me was this term 'Paraclete' which I've never heard. That in turn with this very simple explaination of the Trinity as expressions of God, twisted a peg deep inside. Mostly, it got me thinking about the nature of The Holy Spirit and what recognition of it does to Christianity.

    In the Old School, 'getting the Holy Spirit' means basically one thing. It's about jumping for joy in church, perhaps speaking in tongues, and then interpreting such speech. It's an extatic expression of the love of God in people, but not an expression of God.

    Back in the day at the Foursquare Church, when people got the Holy Spirit, it was acknowleged. But if that didn't happen, it was ignored. To consider that the Holy Spirit pervades the Earth, that it is unseen yet active, is something of an ignored dimension in the Christianity I've witnessed these 35 years (starting when I was 8). Certainly Catholics had no use for the Holy Spirit. 'Spiritus Sanctus' doesn't even sound like something that is a Gaia-like power, but it is the direction I take this quality.

    Again this goes back to a reconciliation of Bhuddism and Christianity that I find somewhere in the Gnostic Gospels. This becomes more and more interesting.

    As a fragmental aside, listening to the new De La Soul album, one of the rappers said something about catching up with his tithes after he paid his taxes. Hmmm. There's a comic in there somewhere.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:03 AM | TrackBack


    Posted by mbowen at 07:53 AM | TrackBack

    About That Disk Pack

    Now it can be told.

    I took one of those cute surveys over at Slashdot. It occured to me that I may have lied to myself. The question is whether I was lying then or now. Either way, there's at least one lie here, mitigated by this admission.

    I crashed Apache.

    Apache was, in its day one of the largest file servers in existence. It was one of three Tridents we had in Xerox Centre. I was doing a typical incremental backup, shifting packs and other tape ape duties. As I started spinning up the pack, I heard ticking sounds, a high pitched scratch and then something that can best be described as the sound of a small piece of aluminum banging around in a 3600 rpm clothes dryer. Then the smell filled the room and the sickening feeling of dread filled my gut. Disk Crash!

    I took responsibility. Or not. I don't recall specifically, but I didn't get whacked, or demoted or anything. I used the actuator arm for a keychain. Rite of datacenter passage.

    Posted by mbowen at 04:11 AM | TrackBack

    January 24, 2005

    Spongebob: Who's Your Daddy?

    Dobson is the target and there's not much he can do about that. He wants to be more people's daddy than he deserves.

    First of all, let me say for the record that of all the characters I've exposed my kids to, Spongebob is one of the most benign and uplifting. If there is any danger in SpongeBob Squarepants, it's that his sunny optimism, guileless demeanor and ready trustworthiness are too disarming in a world of sharks and monsters. But darn it, he's funny and I like him. If I had the wherewithal, I'd be licensing the recipe from Nickelodeon and opening Krusty Krab Restaurants to dot the landscape. In some ways, the world cannot get enough Spongebob. He radiates innocent goodness like no other character in an American child's mediasphere. Only Steve, from Blues Clues, comes close.

    For Dobson to [mis]interpret Spongebob for some perverted purpose is one of two errors. The first is the direct error, the more innocent of the two. It's just a simply misinterpretation - like foreign journalists taking a story in The Onion seriously. But it's more likely the second type of error, which is that of overreach.

    There is are several reasons, I think, for Dobson's overreach. The first, which should never be disregarded, is that he's greedy. He wants more influence and he will compete with everyone to get it. He's found the answers in his own life and he's convinced that everyone should be happy just like him. Groupthink, and he's the leader of the group.

    The second is the Dobson does have real enemies behind the moral decline of pop culture. There's no denying all the porno out there, and there's no evading the fact that somebody has got to fight it. There are a lot of people in the 'arts' who are simply there for the money, and I think the death of Johnny Carson gives us the kind of contrast which is necessary at times like this. There are more late night TV shows in his mold than ever, and I'm sure they make more money than ever. But none of them have the genuine decency that Carson possessed, and there is no way today's system could nurture another like Carson. Instead we have a cigar chomping insult sock pupped dog named Triumph. The triumph of what?

    The third reason is the one that concerns me the most, and that is the abdication of critical reasoning by the millions who focus on Focus on the Family and all other fonts of correctness. Of all the basic things on the planet we humans do, one would think that we would need no assistance in raising our own children. This whole industry of second-guessing parents 'for the sake of the children' has infantalized our entire society. Everybody wants to be family in the narrow mold, everybody wants their lover to be a Married Spouse, even if that person is of one gender in the daytime and another at night. Everybody is looking for a new Daddy to approve of their studied indecision. Understand that Nile Rodgers and the tolerance crew are playing the same game. Why do we need institutions (that pop up out of nowhere every damned week) to tell us the right way to think about each other? Because people won't make up their own minds and be responsible for their own choices. There's a lot of blame to go around here, and the result is social confusion. Enter Dobson, and see reason number one.

    Dobson's Focus on the Family is a necessary part of a complete and balanced society. But like Cheerios, you don't eat it for every meal. Just because it's good for you doesn't mean that too much isn't bad for you. This is too much.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:51 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    Jonathan Rodgers

    Rdogers.jpg“I am a child of television and for 50 years of my life, I’ve wanted there to be a channel like this. This is an idea that is long overdue…the programming will be worthy and the demand will be voracious. TV One will give the African American community something to be proud of.”
    ―Johnathan Rodgers | CEO

    Johnathan Rodgers has been named president and CEO of a new cable television network targeting adult African American and urban viewers that will be launched later this year by Comcast Corporation, the nation’s largest cable operator, and Radio One, the largest radio broadcaster primarily targeting African-American and urban listeners.

    Rodgers was president of Discovery Networks U.S. for six years, where he was responsible for the programming, marketing, research, distribution, operations and ad sales of the highly regarded television group which included the Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet, Discovery Kids and the Travel Channel.

    “Johnathan has an incredible track record in operating top-quality, financially successful television ventures,” said Alfred Liggins, president and CEO of Radio One and chairman of the to-be-named cable network. “While at the Discovery Networks he helped launch Animal Planet and re-launch the Travel Channel. That experience plus his strong programming skills will be invaluable as we move forward with this new enterprise to bring high-quality entertainment programming to the African American and urban television audience.”

    “I am delighted and honored to be a part of this historic new enterprise,” Rodgers said. “I am confident that Radio One’s marketing prowess in urban markets combined with Comcast’s tremendous resources and experience in cable operations and programming will help ensure that this network becomes a prime destination for adult television viewers,” Rodgers said.

    I'm on the late freight with regard to TV One. I had heard about it but I didn't know that it had progressed this far. I picked up some buzz about it this weekend at a birthday party. A friend of a friend is involved with the channel. I'm looking forward to seeing it in the lineup.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:23 AM | TrackBack

    Sundance Shuffle

    Posted by mbowen at 09:06 AM | TrackBack

    Black Self-Help Info

    Ed Brown, one of my colleagues at Vision Circle and a long time Internet personality is putting his time and money where everybody else's mouth seems to be at. He is gathering together an online resource directory of black self-help organizations.

    His new website, appropriately named Black Self Help, is just underway. Nothing fancy today, but you just wait.

    It's interesting that this idea is not a new one but it doesn't seem to have been fulfilled after a whole generation of Internet technology. When I first started on the net back in '93, and built The Cool Zone, I wanted to do something like this. Surely Carter Bing had the same idea when he got The Drum rolling. Ed has been around since those days and I'm sure has learned his lessons well, so I expect that his efforts will far surpass those, given the tools and technologies he will have at his disposal.

    Back in the days of The Drum, it was unthinkable that blackfolks would own their own webservers. Now it's trivial. Hmm. Maybe it's time to have a second look at some of the concepts we considered impossible a dozen years ago. Just recently over at Prometheus 6, the old impetus raised its head. So I suspect that inevitably there will be some stunning resources available to us - far beyond the realms of the old hackneyed Fedix and Molis.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:14 AM | TrackBack

    January 23, 2005

    The Five Greatest Americans

    Now here's a blog meme that I'm somewhat embarassed by. The reason is that I have never considered that America could be qualified so succinctly except by someone with an agenda. But I'll give it a shot.

    5. Muhammad Ali
    Muhammad Ali was the first American to make people with no reason to love America, love America. He did so by defying the part of America that thought this nation of people belonged to them for all time, and therefore became the kind of American champion people didn't think could arise here. A true hero, a man against all odds, full of love, a fighter who wouldn't kill.

    4. Mark Twain
    Samuel L. Clemons is our greatest storyteller and the originator of the wit we use to puncture our egos when we become full of hot air. American literature stands in the shadow of Mark Twain as does the love of country that calls for sharp political commentary. With his 'Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court' he has fueled the reveries of generations. Of him Hemingway said "All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn. ... all American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since."

    3. John Brown
    John Brown stands head and shoulders over any other figure in the Civil War, aside from Lincoln. What he represents to me has come entirely from my reading of his life in Cloudsplitter, which had a fairly profound effect on me personally. First and foremost, Brown exemplifies the rough hewn pioneering spirit of America. Here is a man who has well nigh a dozen children, who lives off the sweat of his brow, the discipline of his family and a transcendant faith in his fellow man as commanded by his devotion to the Christian commandment that one love one's neighbor as himself. Even before his crusade as one of the first militants presaging the Civil War, he served for many years as an engineer of the Underground Railroad. His willingness to sacrifice everything for the sake of his fellows and his carrying out that to death exemplifies our American belief that the work of the few in service of the many is noble.

    2. Benjamin Franklin
    Benjamin Franklin is a ceaseless inventor, a homiletic individual with a wry sense of humor. He was self-deprecating. Just for writing Poor Richard's Almanac he deserves a place. But more than that he was America's first Renaissance Man. It was the life of Franklin that invited invention and improvisation as core to the American character. He did so as an everyman, not like Jefferson, as a patrician or erudite noble. He is the godfather of every middle class engineer, scientist, and tinkerer. He embodied the public spiritedness of this country and goosed along through his Masonry, the idea that ordinary men can become learned and do well for their nation at the highest levels.

    1. Abraham Lincoln
    Lincoln went the whole nine yards for the nation. Without him holding things together we would have certainly been three nations instead of one. If not three, then Canada would have been larger. His triumph truly represents the creation of the modern America. I never believed that he toed the line all the way for Africans, but as president, he had his priorities in line. He worked tirelessly at great personal cost to keep his administration together, despite great internal strife and generals who kept losing on the battlefield. A remarkable leader, without whom... well.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:38 PM | TrackBack

    Is That What You Think?

    I am a regular reader now of Black China Hand, which I have been calling China Black Hand for some dyslexic reason. The other day he dropped a small IED on my head.

    Well today in a conversation with a colleague I learned that China has an equivalent circumstance. He told me, just as Harry told Sally, that a Chinese and non-Chinese can never be true friends or lovers or family because of cultural diferences (read: food or language.) When I pressed him on why he thought that way he finally revealed that because of the racial superiority of the Chinese people, there can never be true equality between a Chinese and non-Chinese and since any deep relationship would require that...there can be no true relationship.

    Now as an African American, this wasn't the first time I've heard comments on the racial superiority of such and such. What floored me was that it came from my colleague. This is a guy I had known for many years, I guy that worked with many Americans, spoke great English (even gave his son an English middle name) and for all intents and purposes did not seem to have much problems with non-Chinese...indeed he seemed quite comfortable in a non-Chinese setting.

    I had this a little in mind when it came to writing on Sutpidity the other day. But still I hadn't figured out a way to pre-empt this kind of situation. How should I let it affect me? How do I let a racist presumption affect me? Could it disable me? In the end I came to the conclusion that this is the kind of thing which I shouldn't despair to be inevitably crippling even if it is inevitable.

    On the one hand, I think I can expect that Chinese who learn to speak English will inevitably learn how to curse. The word 'Nigger' is taught. And I thought back to the 80s when everybody was sure that the Japanese were going to buy all the real estate in America up, including the Statue of Liberty. Yet somehow when it came to moving around the cities they were consuming, they would still somehow figure out not to go to the ghettoes or buy anything there, thereby leaving blackfolks just as poor in an overheated market. And yet I know that there are certain things that whitefolks are incapable of intermediating and twisting - so it was equally no surprise when tourbusloads of Japanese were going uptown in Harlem to suck up as many chitterlings as humanly possible. Chinese, unless they are informed by American culture, are not going to be able to do anything but ape the same racial stereotypes. I already know what American pop culture has right and wrong about blackfolks, so I cannot be insulted.

    On the other hand, Chinese' own sense of racial superiority will contain it's own peculiar baggage. It will be a laugh-filled conversation, because that's how I do. It will be like finding out a person you admired actually beats his wife. Disappointing, but not disabling. I just feel sorry for fools, but only so much. A fool is his own worst enemy. I'll just (as Sun Tsu says) let that dead body float by, instead of going upstream to kill it.

    So how, I might begin, is the rest of the world going to learn about Chinese superiority? Are you going to cause an eclipse and we're all going to bow down? Is Bruce Lee going to be reincarnated? Are we suddenly going to start dreaming in Madarin? Are you going to gather us all up in boxcars and send us off to Manchuria, or wait, didn't the Japanese already do something like that to you? Are you going to poison us with MSG?

    It's going to be a laugh riot. And then I will confide to my new confidant, that I'll keep his delusions close to the vest and not let anybody important know about it.

    Hee hee. Hoo boy. Them Chinese. Real sense of humor they have. Whooo. That's funny.

    Wait. That's not all. Did you hear the one about the Chinese manufacturer who want to call his new car the DooDoo? Oh.. I can't take it.

    Posted by mbowen at 02:11 PM | TrackBack

    What Klan?

    As I travel back down memory lane in my own archives, I find some editorial written by Pops in June of 1998 and realize that it has been that long since the KKK has been on the front page. The incident was the death of James Byrd in Jasper, TX.

    I only bring this up to be provocative in two ways. The first to repeat Pops' own provocation: Where are black gangs when you need them?

    I want to be clearly understood on this point. I am talking about more than an eye for an eye. That, oh shocked reader, would be justice. What I am calling for here is SVV: Stiff Viagra Vengeance...without explanation, apology or guilt. It has been said over the ages that there is no honor among thieves. Well, there is no shame among klansmen or white supremacists. They are the abject scum of this country's more blatant racists. And America has tolerated them and their absolute madness for entirely too long. It is both amazing and ridiculous that there is a fact-gathering Klan Watch and yet not a full fledged Klan Bomb Squad. As I write this DOWN FRONT! and eventually as you read the same, there are klansmen and their associated ilk who are drinking beer or piss (I suspect they hardly care much about the difference) in abject celebration of James Byrd's beating, death and dismemberment. They are of such a warped mentality that the blatant abuse or misuse of Black people is really no big deal. There is historical precedence for what happened in Jasper. The word describing it has gone out of favor, but not the practice itself. During more honest times, the word "lynching" was used. As noted in an earlier DOWN FRONT!, a Black man from Virginia was recently burned and then beheaded. (By the way, one of the white men accused of that crime came to court in a wheel chair and was considered to be much too sick to be tried. He was rearrested just this week after being spotted playing golf!) We're talking about 1998 not 1798 or 1898.

    The second is to note in passing that the Klan hasn't killed any black men or women since then. So who cares or talks about the Klan any more? Not me.

    Nowadays we hear more stuff like this. I think it only goes to prove my point. We are, as African Americans in the main, not all about the politics of Human Rights or Civil Rights, but of Social Power. I think it should go without saying that the advantage currently lies with the Republican Party. What's absolutely hilarious is that in 1998, nobody thought that Henry Kissinger would be asked to comment about his view of the new black female Secretary of State. We're not in Kansas anymore.

    Posted by mbowen at 01:46 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

    Class and Race, 1998

    This below is a fragmented response giving my perspective about talking about the subject of race online. It still holds together pretty well, even though it was never edited or completed. For this and more, check out Kali's Questions from Boohab's Factotum.

    (From the Archives - January 1998)

    Class complicates racial issues in cyberspace because of the relative opacity of African American culture and poltical history in the mainstream. Folks come to cyberspace to discuss racial issues from a variety of perspectives. Most black folks get together to network and they wish to do so in a space where they feel comfortable. For example, students in a far off corner of the United States, where they may not feel especially comfortable in a predominately white environment, go to 'come home'. There is a latent social nationalism aspect to why black folks get together in cyberspace - they use it to cross the boundaries of distance. They want to find out what is going on in other black communities, and they come to seek common ground with other black folks in the spirit of unity which originated in black consciousness and civil rights movements.

    Within the African America, there is some difference of opinion on matters of unity. The strong legacy of the civil rights movement as well as the successes of the black nationalist movement both concentrate on the idea of unity in struggle as a pre-requisite to overcoming racial barriers. Only recently in the past 10 years has there been a general acceptance of the diversity of African America which has been facilitated by the creation of the term 'African American'. We no longer talk about the black community, rather black communities. We are aware of a varying set of successes in different , in some ways class exists absolutely in African America where it did not before. Blacks who have the experience of relative comfort in a community of middle-class and upscale whites are more and more physically removed from the ghettoes and traditional black residential areas in work and play.

    However the presence of racism forces most black folks in the middle-class to evaluate thier relative proximity to other classes of African Americans from a different perspective than that of other Americans. Thus far, black cultural nationalist strategies have not significantly diverged across socio-economic class within African America. The black church, while not central, is still significant across class lines. Afrocentrism as practiced and understood by most black folks unites, rather than divides blacks across class lines. The perennial stress on education and 'working twice as hard' to get ahead in America holds in both affluent and poorer black families. So while there are real class issues in African America, blacks are mostly united on issues related to fighting racism and 'race raising'. And it is from this perspective of responsibility that many African Americans find themselves discussing race in cyberspace.

    So when non-blacks, in discussing race, misunderstand these class distinctions or , it is never seen as a class issue. The idea of separating class from race doesn't happen by and large in black on black discussions - even when the class differences between blacks is clear. Solving racial issues, which generally falls under the category of defeating white supremacy, calls for unity. Chances are, it is class *and* race, but that's a 'dirty laundry' issue.

    It is important for me as a black individual in cyberspace to state my class credentials straightforwardly, because of the phenomenon of black neo-conservatism. Black neocons represent a challenge to the long-standing political orthodoxy of African American leadership of the past 50 years. But the black neocons have failed to gain popular support mostly because of their lack of standing in more traditional centers of black social power. Ironic, isn't it? Thus the question of their conservatism becomes more of an ideological point which is complicated by the fact of their non-membership thus perceived lack of investment in real black communities. The instrumentality of their power often stands outside of black institutions. In view of the latent cultural nationalism within African America, it is important that I situate myself in the historical continuum of black leadership. So I will make reference to my church, my college fraternity, the city of my mother's birth. From a mainstream, or racial perspective, all blacks are equally black. But within African America, all blacks are not equally credible on racial issues.

    So any value or set of values which are presumed to be acceptable to non-blacks may be interpreted to be the right program. 'If all blacks were like Colin Powell...' So black folks immediately point to the fact that Colin Powell speaks to black folks on racial issues. Powell is part of the solution to help all African Americans. He would be, like all other blacks in cyberspace vying for a position of leadership, presumably on racial and race raising issues. But never in the history of African America has a successful leader achieved through the admonishment 'be like me'.

    This is the framework upon which to view the dynamic of class identity in cyberspace with regards to African Americans. If you begin from the perspective that all black folks are equally black, and the more valid

    Posted by mbowen at 01:40 PM | TrackBack

    Sixoseven on Mperia

    The problem with being a Renaissance Man is that you never quite know which foot to put forward first. But I flatter myself. As I move forward in my quest to fulfill the review of Cobb as 'maddeninly mercurial', I have begun to publish my musical compositions on Mperia.

    Should be interesting.

    Posted by mbowen at 01:10 PM | TrackBack

    Cranium Cadoo & Zigity

    It has been staring at me from the shelves of toystores for a long time. And it caught my attention several times. It looked cool. In fact, it was on the Christmas list for 2004, and we almost got it. This weekend we gave in, and got Zigity for good measure.


    I've been telling my kids about the multi-mind theory for a while now. And I've started to integrate meditation into their routines. Meditation is for them the mental equivalent of ginger on a sushi plate. Clear the palate of what you were doing, and load up another part of the brain. It makes sense to me that different parts of our thinking and cognitive abilities evolved at different times, and thus that different parts of our brains are acting alone for particular tasks. As well, I've been considering the implications of multiple intelligences since Minksy '88.

    Sure enough, Cranium integrates multiple forms of intelligence in its games. It's a real treat to play these. I recommend them highly.

    Zigity is a card game that's a combination of Uno and Rummy. The object is to get rid of all your cards. First player to do so wins. You get rid of your cards by making spreads. But the cards are encoded so that you spread 4 different ways, instead of just 2 ways as in Rummy. Your spreads go into the discard pile so it doesn't matter how many spreads you get, you just want to get out.

    You can spread based on playing the top discard which is one of four types {Spelling, Math, Puzzle, Matching}. Each of the Zigity cards has an attribute in each of those four dimensions, whereas an Uno deck only has two dimensions, number and color. So each card has a puzzle value (one of three puzzle pieces), a Matching value (one of 4 or 5 musical instruments), a Math value (a number) and a Spelling Value (a letter). There are also action cards, like in Uno which you can play anytime to make an opponent draw more cards, reverse play direction, etc.

    Anyway, Zigity is a great game, it plays quickly and the cards are very unique looking. Cool!

    Cadoo is a bit more involved but also uses the multiple intelligences idea. It involves the best elements of Tic Tac Toe, Treasure Hunt, Charades, Trivial Pursuit, Pictionary and a whole new thing which is making sculptures with grape scented purple clay. A 3D Pictionary with clay. This game is a ball. Both games are great to play with kids. Games go quickly. There's always a winner.

    We used to like playing Break the Safe, but it's really frustrating and exciting before you get good enough to win. After you've beaten Break the Safe, it's not so much fun any longer.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:57 PM | TrackBack

    January 22, 2005

    It Ain't Microsoft

    Posted by mbowen at 11:12 AM | TrackBack

    January 21, 2005

    That's Why They Pay Us the Big Bucks

    I'm sorry. I haven't had to punch anybody in the nose for a while, but this project deserves that and a swift kick. Actually, the kick should go to whomever is supposedly watching the budget around there.

    Since I'm in a kicking mood, I'm going to speculate that this is the kind of expanding economy champions of offshoring are talking about. What a mixed bag that is.

    Anyway, cutting to the chase, here is a solution to a problem. Open up Query Analyzer and type in the following two lines of code:


    or hire Armen to write you a wizard like this. The documentation of this project alone, while stellar and comprehensive, must have taken at least a week.

    Shocking ain't it?

    Posted by mbowen at 05:23 PM | TrackBack

    On Western Journalism

    Long ago in The Well, somebody remarked of my writing that in its finer moments there were object lessons which should be taught in J-School. The remark that brought forth this praise was a poem about OJ Simpson.

    there's nothing much to learn at all from tv murder trials
    but prosecutors faces and defense attorney styles
    and what a witness looks like when he's lying through his teeth
    proving perjury needed no tapes so where's the beef?
    the evidence admissible to television crews
    spin doctored, sliced and diced and skewered daily on the news
    for weeks on end, ubiquitous no matter where you tune
    is bound to be quite dubious and yet since back last june
    the country has sat spellbound in a simpson trial jones
    a broken family's father spills his grief into our homes
    a dozen pseudo witnesses sold their tales to feed the flame
    a million hours of advertising bankrolling the game
    but worst of all americans, despite that we've been warned
    have swallowed so much swill as truth and think that we're informed.
    and thinking all this edutainment legal evidence
    believing the renditions of this tv farce made sense
    accepting that all reason is on our side of the fence
    have made ourselves the greatest fools, with racial consequence.

    I've had gripes with TV journalism almost forever, and print journalism when I moved to New York in 1991 and began reading more than two or three daily journals. It has always been part and parcel of my prospects for the online world for there to be a new kind of communications that would surpass what I call the 'false objectivity' of journalism. One of my first efforts was called 'B: An Electronic Magazine of Black Experience'.

    In my view the editorial style and physical limitations of what we call newspapers force researchers into particular ways of seeing things that lack the authenticity of the voice of people, African Americans, especially. The very manner in which newspapers and televised journalistic reports are assembled are biased to profess the false objectivity of journalists who themselves have become a very powerful class of Americans. This bias for me has become unendurable and I find it most annoying to parse through a multiplicity of papers to get at the truth. Having done so, the truth I arrive at seems much the product of oppositional cross-examination of institutions with much to hide. Yet often there are odd spots of writing I happen upon which ring with the flavor of authentic experience. It is this type of information that gives me the confidence that the world is indeed populated by human beings who can understand and explain it and do so out of genuine curiosity and love.
    Through B, I was trying to create a countervailing stream of personal evidence about the character of people's lives. I was trying to get some texture and nuance into the air. I was so upset and offended about the generic characterizations about blackfolks regarding their 'singular' 'experiences with police', which were asserted with such regularity after the OJ verdict and trial of the cops who beat Rodney King. It's interesting in retrospect that no mainstream journal came up with any shorthand term for those four, (Koon, Powell, Wind & Brisneo) but those blacks who beat Reginald Denny became known as the 'LA Four'. As an aside, those cops got many millions for their defense funds, so there is ample precedent for the recent awards in Inglewood.

    I have more recently been parsing through some of the discussion at Dan Gillmor's joint which I discovered through the arrival of Faye Anderson to the blogosphere. Faye's history is something I think has never been quite well understood by the public and it is important, by the way. But some common themes are arising in these and other criticism of the mainstream media. Aside from bloggers' bluster, I think that as more and more professional journalists elect to blog, there will be a tipping point at which the industry will be shaken. The right story could do it, it meaning the marking of the moment when some trend when the editorial practices of major news outlets will be consciously changed to reflect a new ethics as prompted by what's going on online.

    But as I peel slowly through Kishore Mahbubani, I discover other, more borad criticisms of Western journalism from an Asian perspective, and I have found significant parallels between his attacks and my complaints. I give you his list of heresies:

    1. American journalists do not believe in the Christian rule "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you."
    2. Power corrupts. The absolute power of the Western journalist in the Third World corrupts absolutely.
    3. A free press can serve as the opiate of society.
    4. A free press does not necessarily lead to a well ordered society.
    5. Western journalist, in covering non-Western events, are conditioned by both Western prejudices and Western interests. The claim of 'objective' reporting is a major falsehood.

    He goes on to level some heavy criticisms of Western governments.

    I am particularly attuned to item number three as it relates to both 'manufactured consent' and the flatheadedness of eclecticism. I find that the idea that we can know most everything about most everything, and that our variety of news sources gives us that to be an enormous deception. I don't seek to belabor this point but merely bring it up in the context of this ongoing discussion about the ethics of journalism at Gillmor's and other joints. However there are many ramifications of this deceptive 'ability' which relates to the frame of the debate over Iraq, the character and nature of Islam and the daily lives and aspirations of Americans themselves.

    If it were not for the online world, I think we would know ourselves a lot less well. It is my sincere hope that this medium continues to challenge notions of how, why and to what extent we learn about the world.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:18 AM | TrackBack

    A Line in the Sand

    Posted by mbowen at 07:28 AM | TrackBack

    January 20, 2005

    Gaming Metadata

    In addition to the GamertagDatabase, I have signed up to Defas. Their ideas about global stats are right on time, right on target and soon, right up my alley.

    The question must be asked. Why don’t more game developers reap the benefits of this technology? A step in the right direction of tapping into the full potentiality of the Xbox Live is proliferating community developers with the tools they need. Bridging the aftermarket gap by honoring community conduits as such increases product awareness. If that’s not enough, appeasing any percentile of your fan-base is a good thing. The opportunity here for communal growth is astonishing, and the interest ridiculously prevailing.

    Their stats are fairly cool. I dig it.

    Posted by mbowen at 04:24 PM | TrackBack


    What's the most difficult thing about being a parent? Well, in my cohort, it's the amount of time we have to spend insuring that our kids do their homework.

    While we argue about whether it's better for classroom work to be intense and homework light or the other way around, there's no doubt that keeping up with all that goes on is difficult. Especially when you have 3 kids. Fortunately, web technology has enabled a simple and powerful tool to help kids, parents, teachers and schools manage the problem. Schoolnotes.com allows me to see the assignments for the week. Not bad eh?

    This is such a simple, cheap and easy thing to do. I don't see why every school everywhere doesn't.

    BTW, M10 got an A on his Social Studies test this week.

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


    Posted by mbowen at 10:21 AM | TrackBack

    On Profanity

    Nykola offers her spin on a story that's been going around about 'America being the greatest fucking country in the world', as described by a performer at a benefit including political royalty and young kids. I have been a bit shamed by the common sense dictum that there isn't really a need for profanity under any circumstances. It's tacky. Yes and no.

    I've always said that profanity is the measure of someone's robustness. If you want to know when someone is stretched to the limit, you'll know when you hear them start cursing. But you'll likely run your eyes over the occasional expletive here at Cobb. Am I stretched? Am I crude? Am I inappropriate for children?

    My two favorite characters on Lost, Michael and Locke, locked horns on last nights' episode. I believe that deep in their hearts, they are very much alike, and yet Michael threatened Locke's life if Locke came around his son. There are some adults who, even though they are fundamentally good people, are by the nature of what they do, inappropriate for children. Locke is a hunter and a philosopher. Hunting and philosophy get very ugly, and there is purpose in that. It requires some maturity to go to the 'there' of hunting and philosophy. It is something many adults lack as well as children.

    As a writer, I take literary license. I do so with purpose and discipline, and it is in the context of creativity, passion and fearlessness that I occasionally spice up this column. Then again, sometimes my shit is just shit. I can't say with a great deal of confidence that I am always so highminded when I write here, but I'm certain that I don't intend to offend so much as inform. I have a very high regard for people in general and my readers in particular, none of whom I hope are insulted by my occasional crud. I know it only takes a small amount of effort to chose a less salty phrase without any loss of comprehension or effect. And yet I choose to leave the profanities in. Time will tell.

    Part of me is weighing in against those people I call 'dainty'. And that is partially born of a well-nurtured contempt for the American middle class of a skinny black kid from the 'hood who was too big for his britches. Part of it is the lusty appeal we all occasionally feel when we remember Jack Nicholson saying "You can't handle the truth"; and part of it is genuine concern for the backbone of our bourgie nation. But I think the largest fraction of it comes from the notion that I'm a free man, and dammit who's gonna stop me?

    This is the blogosphere and while it may not be the antidote to political correctness, the false objectivity of professional journalism and the arrogant arcana of academic scholarship, it's a damned refreshing alternative. That is due in part because we are free of the conventions of.. whatever purpose those conventions serve, which ain't always Sweetness, Light and Truth. We don't always keep it real here in the blogosphere, but we do keep good company. The people shine through, and that's part of the beauty of blogging - except for law bloggers. I don't know what they're trying to pull. (heh)

    Anyway, I'm not going to change much. I'm not apologizing in advance, I'm just telling you the way I see it. Thanks for listening. And by the way, this is a pretty fuckin' great country.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:26 AM | TrackBack

    Faye Anderson Strikes

    Faye Anderson has entered the blogosphere. This changes things.

    If there is anyone capable of giving a new level of detail on things Republican & things black, it will be Faye Anderson. Her arrival on the scene is timely and she debuts with a scorcher on Armstrong Williams.

    It goes without saying that Anderson is a key figure in the public debate about the future of American politics. The proof can be found in conversations that have taken place behind her back, some of them here at Cobb. Her PolitcallyBlack.com was a pioneering website going back several years, and there is every indication she has been most everywhere black Republican activists would want or need to go, save the Promised Land.

    So mark me one as excited to hear more from this insider.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:01 AM | TrackBack

    January 19, 2005

    Quant Dreams


    I got a pang. I just found out about this book over at Slashdot. All I ever wanted to be, when I was a college student studying CS in the mid 80s, was a quant jockey. Every once in a while I still dream of doing it - that and forensic computing.

    It hurts knowing that this dream was deferred. Excuse me while I wallow in self-pity and write more VBA for my day job.

    Posted by mbowen at 02:46 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Evangelism & Politics

    Somewhere in the history of Britain that I never really studied is the story of the Roundheads. If I remember correctly, they eventually got their butts kicked out of the country. As they landed over here, they were called Puritans, derisively.

    The central tenet of Puritanism was God's supreme authority over human affairs, particularly in the church, and especially as expressed in the Bible. They believed, for example, that the worship of the church ought to be strictly regulated by what is clearly commanded in Scripture. Where their opponents defended many worship practices based on tradition alone, the Puritans considered these practices to be idolatry, regardless of their antiquity or how widespread they were among Christians. Thus, Puritan reforms were typified by a minimum of ritual and decoration, and an unambiguous emphasis on preaching.

    I think what we're just about due for is a spate of relgious intolerance, but my guess is that's it is going to come in the form of Christian on Christian violence.

    I wonder at what point Christian prosletyzing is going to get on somebody's nerves and someone smart in government is going to try to get the Constitution out of it. This deft move will get a couple sects battling each other in a circle. When you get down to it, Baptists don't really like Methodists. And there's plenty of emnity to go around.

    The questions of Christian sectarianisms are likely to be the subject after the blog after this. The blog after this is going to be my China blogging, and then we'll turn loose Lucifer Jones. Until then, I am rubbing my hands with glee at those opportunists soon to be busted by the IRS and 'fellow' Christians. This is not how the thousand points of light were supposed to go down, and the marginal benefit Republican strategists have gotten in broad electoral politics is going to blow up socially over the next 4 years.

    Here's what you can do. Ask Christians who their Bishop is.

    Suspicions Confirmed:

  • Blogcritics

    Posted by mbowen at 02:25 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
  • On Blog Addiction

    (I'm busting this one out the door - been sitting in draft too long)

    How long have you been blogging?
    I have been blogging about 28 months. I have been writing online for 11 years.

    Do you believe you're addicted to blogging? Please explain, and be honest.
    I'm a writer, and blogging is just a form of writing. I am particularly enamored of the form because of what the blogosphere has become. I wouldn't consider writing an addiction because of the negative connotation. I am no more addicted to writing than I am to working. I suppose if the world were a different place I wouldn't write, but it's not. I intend to keep writing until my fingers fall off.

    That said, blogging does enforce a kind of discipline on me that at times I feel reluctant to break. I will comment on these pressures as 'addictive' in the ways they are unique to blogging but not other forms of online writing.

    A. Oxygen
    What is singularly unique about the blogosphere is the extent to which one's contribution to the overall discussion appears to be uniquely one's own. I call this 'sucking the oxygen'. Certain individuals, because they are popular, get an inordinate amount of traffic because they are popular. Sort of like the definitioin of a celebrity: people who are famous for being famous.

    Even though people have web counters, and overall traffic goes up on the blogosphere. This is different from participation in a usenet or email discussion in that those have more of the feeling of a collective discussion. But the hits on your thread feel like they are your own. I say that it is difficult to disaggregate one's own worth or value as a writer from the value of the blogosphere at any one particular time. Some research ought to be done which could quantify that.

    There are several examples that come quickly to mind. When the Nick Berg video was released, overall traffic to the internet rose, and search engines pointed to blogs. So whatever bloggers wrote about Nick Berg, we created a kind of artificial gravity. As an individual blogger that feels like it's about what you are writing. I know that I put all kinds of keywords in my posts, rather shamelessly that week.

    Also, however, as a black blogger, I know that the recent controversy over certain comments made by Bill Cosby directed more traffic to my blog. I tend to believe that I legitimately own more of that gravity. I often also refer to popularity / issue bandwidth as 'oxygen', which is to suggest that interest in reading blogs is in short supply and certain bloggers are genuinely capable of sucking up the oxygen on a given issue, to the detriment of others.

    Part of that is due to the interactive nature of the blogosphere. However I think I am unique in a couple ways. I think it is important to say that I consider myself to be a fairly popular blogger. Nothing spectacular, believe me, but I am a Large Mammal and I take that seriously. I have international links and something of a core readership. All this goes to say that I worked for an audience and I feel a certain responsibility to them which is different from other forms of online writing.

    Firstly, ever since the advent of blog spam, I have taken certain countermeasures and despite my best efforts to be welcoming of comments, people have been put off by the lack of interactivity this has forced on the site. So


    Have you ever taken a hiatus? If so, for what reason and how long?
    Not really. I may have gone four or five days without blogging, although sometimes I think I go that long without a good idea to share. Still, I consider myself to be a fairly original contributor.

    Have you ever thought of giving up your blog? Why or why not?

    Yes. The first reason is that in blogging itself I have defined a mission. Which is to say that I started blogging to achieve a particular goal, and I believe that for the most part that goal has been achieved to my satisfaction. I have adopted a fairly particular style and range of subjects for this blog, both of which have broadened over time, perhaps to a the detriment of its original purpose.

    The second reason is that I anticipate moving to China for a couple years. I am not sure that I can blog from there. If I can, I almost certainly will create a new blog.

    The third reason is that I can see myself subsuming my writing under the auspices of a group blog.

    The final reason and most likely to affect me is the tax of actually working. I am a fairly energetic individual and my writing is more important to me than watching TV or gaming. However there are occasions when I work so hard during the day that I don't feel like doing any writing in the evening. Fortunately, or unfortunately as the case may be, since I am a genius, nobody has yet given me a job which could be so intellectually demanding that it would suck all of the oxygen out of my mind such that I had no energy to write constructively about other subjects. However if that were the case, I'd probably just blog about my job.

    Posted by mbowen at 01:35 PM | TrackBack

    You Go Girl

    I listened to a teeny tiny bit of the hearings yesterday - actually just the nasty bits excerpted for the NPR radio news. Boxer was really off her game, and is making Democratic opposition look very reactionary. In fact, I think that is basically the state of Democrat opposition these days. There's not much thought behind it. It doesn't even resemble Lefty Liberalism so much as 'Bush is Poison'.

    The Republicans can have a brilliant strategy for winning over marginal minority votes, and that is to tactically appoint blacks and latinos into positions that Leftist activists don't pay attention to. I don't believe Republican strategists are averse to dropping in an ideologue or two, or even a mediocre performer. But there is no doubt that they will continue to flummox the Dems, who have for too long been dominated by a cloying white liberal benefit of doubt when it comes to approving black & latinos. My guess is that there are dozens of significant positions that administer agencies and functions never mentioned in Democrat minority outreach.

    So, not that I have been listening very carefully, I don't expect to hear many comparitive questions about the strategies and tactics of Secretaries of State. What did Madeleine Albright do that Dems did or didn't like and are they applying even a boneheaded litmus to Rice on that basis? No they are not. It's all about FUD against Bush, and the disrespectful subordination of Rice's will to that of 'Evil Massa' Bush.

    Sad, really.

    I can't say that I am way out ahead of most folks on this matter. If anything, I think Rice was a bit more quiet as National Security Advisor than I would have liked. But as I came to understand that is mostly a coordinating activity, I understood the reasons. But during the first term, except for when she handled that other big public hearing, I didn't see Rice as a pivotal individual and therefore hadn't looked to champion or deeply understand her positions. Nevertheless, I am somewhat concerned that Richard Armitage, someone I admired, has not signed on to work under Rice. He was Powell's man.

    As Secy of State, Rice will be out front and get a lot more press. It's going to be lovely, and I am expecting a great deal of interesting press conferences to come.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:40 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Around the Way Art

    Jimi warns Kanye West that he's about live the white critical equivalent of Stevie's 'Rocket Love' with his 10 Grammy nominations. Sounds about right, and no I don't remember 'Zingalamaduni'.

    He's right about Lauryn Hill, of course.

    I wonder how long the trend is going to last that folks from outside of the well-wrapped universe of black existentials are going to keep studying the insides of our heads in order to grok the deeper lyrical meaning. It's a tough call, because nobody really likes wiggers. Even when there are those I would venture to call 'partner' tell me that they like Miles Davis, I'm like 'what?'. That ain't love of Jazz, that's a correct answer. Piker. I can't imagine that blackfolks are ever going to give whitefolks a break when it comes to music appreciation, and isn't that a snitty little turn? We arrogantly say that we *do* own Jazz and Hiphop. It's black music, dammit! The rest of the world can only approximate true love for this music, so goes the arrogant chauvinism we show for it. We're like Japanese listening to Gaijin trying to speak our language. What expresses that better than the trailer for the new Will Smith movie, when he patiently explains to the chubby white guy that he should never, under any circumstances, try to bust a move on the dance floor? Ain't we something?

    I believe that something about the music gets into other people's pants too. In fact, I'm counting on it. Because when I go abroad, I think that's going to be the only way I'm going to connect at a substantial lesson without a translator. I'm absolutely for getting the gutbucket of specifics on wax, never let it be said that I didn't groove when LL talked about Farmers thought I've never been there. BUT. Still, there's nothing like an instrumental, and I need instrumentals because it's hard to describe or talk about them, and that non-verbal has to get me a connection.

    When I made this cut last week, I wondered whom it would affect. You have to have a bit of context to understand what a simple yet profound mix this is. So it came as no surpise that the dreadlock man selling incense in front of Boys Market on Crenshaw gave me props on the cut. (The sign may say 'Ralphs' but that will always be Boys Market.) And isn't that the heart of it? Knowing something OG is always more satisfying, especially as it is transformed into something else. That fat woman is always sexy to you because you knew her when she was a cheerleader.

    Demystifying this is actually not so difficult. I think I know what it is. It's about falling in love. You see even though I know there are lots of blackfolks out there who know 'Wildflower' by New Birth, only my 8th grade class of '74 from Holy Name of Jesus School knows it to be the only slow record we were allowed to dance to at our heavily chaperoned grad party. And only Steve and Alfred and Patrick and I know what Veronica's dress felt like that night. It was cut up to here. >Hey hey hey hey!

    Sorry, I'm very distracted with that memory.

    What was I saying? Something about the dual edged sword of the particular. I think we should cut nons a break. It's not about transcendance, it's about sharing intimacy. Even if I never set foot in Asia, I have been given a chance to relearn the world. I put myself in the shoes of the outsider looking in. Let let me in.

    BTW. Nobody makes slow dance records like that any more. What's up with that?

    Posted by mbowen at 08:46 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Four Standouts

    I visually consumed scores of cars and took hundreds of pictures this past weekend at the LA Auto Show. But after all is said and done, isn't interesting that only a few stood out? There's some interesting cognition going on.

    The ultimate car on display was the Porsche Carrera GT. There is just nothing else to compare. Say what you like about Ferarris and Lambos, but the Porsche has got unbeatable style. I couldn't even fit all that beauty into one frame. Check out that thin round light just in front of the door. I've never seen anything like that. What you can't see here is the carbon fiber back bumper or the extra set of calipers on the rear brake. But what you can see are the sleek lines and that fabulous door. car1.jpg
    This Mitsubishi truck prototype shows that the Japanese may end up doing a bit better in the that market. Even though this one has no door handles, I get a feeling that it will hit the market eventually. Honda's new Ridgeline is enough proof to me of that. Watch out Avalanche. But just look at these lines. Smooth and muscular at the same time. car2.jpg
    OK maybe it's the laptop but this Maybach 62 was a huge hit. The roof is variably tinted glass with solar panels that power the A/C when you park in the sun. Those back seats are like flying first class. car3.jpg
    Now if you would have told me last year that I would find a Saturn sexy, I'd never believe it. But this car is beautiful all around and it's going to be real next year. Shocking.

    Others interesting at the show: Saleen Mustang, Dodge Charger, Spyker, Bentley & Pontiac G6.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:22 AM | TrackBack

    January 18, 2005


    On this MLK Day, I don't have much to say. What do I think he would be doing?

    I think MLK would be on the board of trustees for the World Health Organization. I think that his last big domestic agenda would have been about the Contras, and that during the 80s he would have started going abroad and done Nobel style peace work very much like Jimmy Carter.

    King would have made some stink about Florida 2000, but it would have been a press release we all would have ignored.

    When I think of MLK on a typical day, I see him chillin' with Desmond Tutu. When is the last time Americans paid attention to Desmond Tutu? Exactly.

    The most important difference King would have made in todays society is that he would have diminished the significance of all of his second fiddles, except Ralph Abernathy.

    Posted by mbowen at 01:13 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    January 17, 2005

    The Hard Case

    Are the people at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean black? If they survived the Middle Passage, would they consider us black?

    I raise this provocative question in the context of the perennial topic of The Survival of the Black Race. Presuming that this is a difficult and worthwhile outcome, who gets to decide? It sounds like an ignorant question but I think not. The answer, inevitably, is that the successful get to decide.

    I wonder these days out of genuine concern rather than partisan bluster whether or not my lefty counterparts will survive. One of the things that prompts me in this direction were three vignettes that keep playing in my mind. The first has to do with Dave Chappelle, the second with Hotel Rwanda and the third with Black History Museums.

    Part One: Chappelle
    On Tivo I watched an episode of Dave Chappelle and at the top of the show he did a skit involving some character named Lil Jon. As it stands, I just happened to guess that this was based on an actual person. The extended riff of "What?" must have something to do with a song popular with the hiphop crowd - I could be wrong. But I happen to know that Chappelle is a smart dude who is not above telling his audience that they are stupid, if they are. I also don't doubt that he has the best of hiphop's stars on his show including Common, Mos Def, De La Soul and Kanye West. I'm going to appropriate Prince and say "You eventually get the audience you deserve." I am concerned that my lefty buddies, and maybe Dave Chappelle will only have the legacy that they moderated the dysfunction of society's undesireables. I have a difficult time with that being the Black legacy. But the argument of my colleagues always hinges on the center of gravity of the black population being relatively close to destitution.

    I discount Hiphop because in the main it ain't about much. I imagine that you could split up the black population on the basis of asking them which music they could not live without {hiphop, jazz, gospel, r&b, funk}. Damn, I'd have to choose Jazz. But you and I know that the conversation these days is always about hiphop carrying the bulk of black culture. I say it doesn't and it shouldn't, but that's not an easy call. I get plenty of static about it and people think I'm ignorant of reality. OK.

    Part two: Hotel Rwanda.
    (I swear I'm going to get that review out one of these days.) As my boy Lee says, between the lion and the hunter only one gets to tell the story of conflict, the one that survives. What saved the refugees was Paul's relationship with powerful people. Without his network of power, he'd be at the mercy of the militia. Despite the fact that he felt completely abandoned and foolish for wearing the suit and tie, it was the relationship he cultivated with the Western world that made the critical difference. There is something very important and real about the connections between the powerful and the middle class that completes the cycle of humanity. If those links fail, then there can be no progress. There must be mutual trust and respect.

    This is a trust and respect I think many in the Left have lost, or never established with American power. It is clearly something many don't understand, especially those to like to toss the term 'sell out' around.

    Part Three:
    Black History museums around the nation are hanging by a thread of government funding. The museum in Detroit was recently saved from bankruptcy by an emergency rescue funding by a coalition of black millionaires in the area. I think this is a prime example of the kind of action African Americans can come to expect if we actually *do* expect it.

    I find myself conflicted at the heart of this issue. I desire to see some cogent black upperclass which embodies the spirits of black nationalism and the traditions of African American family & history. In fact, I am convinced that the future of black history depends upon its establishment. If there is a mainstream pop culture which carries the vulgar burden of ugly Americanism, it would break my heart to see that the black elite has bought into it. But I doubt that seriously given my personal experience and the obvious distance between black talent and American pop. At the same time, I know this is just my hope speaking, and I further know that there must be some very good reasons such a cogent upperclass is not in clear evidence today. I rationalize this by asserting that we simply have not reached a critical mass. But I also know that the ways of this world bring us away from the ways of our world. One establishes oneself through market values or constituencies, and the simple fact is that black wealth doesn't often owe itself directly to the black masses in the same way that black political power owes itself largely from black constituencies. The success of wealthy and influential black families may ultimately be dissapated.

    And yet the legacy of African American history is at stake. How will we appear? I wonder. I worry.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:18 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    Disowning Success

    It turns out that there's a pretty hot thread about Absolute Poverty & Black Empowerment that I started at Vision Circle which migrated over to P6. The new hot thread is called 'So What'. I weigh in again.

    Did you ever wonder why black power activists hate Nelly as much as they hate Condoleeza Rice? Because both of them have power, influence and money gained from their mastery of systems that deliver such things. Black power activists have no mastery of any systems which deliver power, influence or money. That's why they're such strident moralists - its the only realm where their rhetoric works. And so they use tools of shame and pride as stick and carrot on the black masses. They have nothing else to give. They are the enemies of competence.

    To answer the question 'So What' is to give some perspective on the size of the domain that America cedes to the black power activist. This is the default 'black vote', who unlike the rest of the country, is unable to separate issues like slavery (and whatever else) from their bread and butter issues. Why? Because 'black leaders' tell them so, they have a separate and distinct moral universe from the rest of the world. And so they continue to believe that what the rest of the world knows or has learned does not apply to them. It's a trap.

    At this point I should take a moment to pub up the activism of Ted Hayes who will be staging a rally downtown in LA in support of Condoleeza Rice tomorrow Tuesday Jan 18th. I met him this weekend at Ofari's. We got into it with another sister who can't stand Rice or her 'master', GWBush.

    Eventually, she had to turn her back on us and find a less confrontational area of the cafe. But she had nothing to say about Rice's work against AIDS in Africa or any of her other 'Black Ops'.

    I am coming to believe that many black power activists have no idea how to appeal to African Americans who are not dysfunctional. They are literally making success their enemy. For them, it is more important to network with the black man in prison than the black man in business. I understand, respect and recognize the fact that a certain aspect of our political responsibility is to the least of our brothers. Without noblesse oblige, we are savages. But when the politics of uplift have no vision of success beyond 'black survival', they need to be dismissed. That's worse than the legacy of white liberalism, because at least some of those whites had limousines.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:22 AM | TrackBack


    Posted by mbowen at 08:53 AM | TrackBack

    January 16, 2005

    Wake Up

    Posted by mbowen at 08:02 AM | TrackBack

    Face Recongition, NOT

    Don't believe the hype.

    I spoofed this analysis eight ways to Sunday. If this is the state of the art, we've got another generation to go before we can do even basic stuff. This thing is so pathetically bad, I don't even know why they bother. It may as well be random.

    Posted by mbowen at 02:34 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Self Indulgent Twenty

    I'm such a cool person that you actually want to know what's on my MP3 player, don't you?

    OK here goes.
    1. Goodbye Porkpie Hat - Stanley Clarke
    2. What's Beef - Notorious BIG
    3. Hurts So Good - John Cougar Mellencamp
    4. Hora Debcubitis - Charles Mingus
    5. Veni Creator Spiritus - Paul Schwartz
    6. Work It - Missy Elliot
    7. Away in a Manger - Sounds of Blackness
    8. Invitational - Wynton Marsalis Septet
    9. Tension 2 - Blue Man Group
    8. What is This Thing Called Love - Frank Sinatra
    9. Up On Cripple Creek - The Band
    10. Someday My Prince Will Come - Herbie Hancock & Chick Corea
    11. Casey Jones - Grateful Dead
    12. Volare - Gipsy Kings
    13. Paint - Soul Coughing
    14. The English Motorway System - Black Box Recorder
    15. Superman - Eminem
    16. Symphonie #9 IV Presto Op. 125 - Beethoven
    17. Cowboy Dan - Modest Mouse
    18. Amazing Grace - Five Blind Boys
    19. Jungle Free Bass - Axciom Funk
    20. East of the Sun - Joe Swanson Orchestra

    Damn, I've got good taste, and I only fudged once, for Halloween Sound Effects. I ought to do this more often. I have to put twenty because I'd be embarrassed at any 10. It's cool to find 'Someday..' at Crescat.

    Posted by mbowen at 01:43 AM | TrackBack

    January 15, 2005

    Renford Reese

    I had the distinct pleasure this morning of meeting Dr. Renford Reese of Cal Poly Pomona. He gave a brief accounting of some of his work in multicultural interaction at Ofari's Saturday morning roundtable. I really love his attitude.

    In 1996, Renford Reese received his doctoral degree from the University of Southern California's School of Public Administration. He conducted his doctoral research on ethnic conflict and intergroup relations at the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development in Geneva, Switzerland. He received his Master's degree in public policy from the Vanderbilt Institute for Public Policy Studies in 1990. He received his Bachelors of Arts degree in political science from Vanderbilt University in 1989. He is the founder/director of the Colorful Flags program and teaches in the political science department at Cal Poly Pomona University.

    Reese has a couple of books out and he sold every copy of American Paradox that he brought with him. Although much his talk today was about the Colorful Flags program, I'm really interested to hear what he has to say about the LAPD which is the subject of his latest book, Leadership in the LAPD: Walking the Tightrope. I took a moment to find out whether or not an old rumor that I heard was true, and Reese didn't think that there was much to it. This was that when the Christopher Commission had assembled a list of rogue cops that ought to have been fired, demoted or disciplined that Mark Fuhrman was on it. This was among the things known about Fuhrman by Marcia Clarke and Chris Darden, and while Johnnie Cochran decided to trounce him about the N-word, this was other incriminating evidence. Of course going to public events and schmoozing with folks is a great way to find out crazy stories like these, (and some like these) and it's not very often you get to check them out with people who make it their business to know better.

    Reese, by the way, is the man who was assigned to mentor Rodney G. King and has some extensive contacts with roughnecks in prison education programs. As well, he has collaborated with Jim Brown through his Amer-I-Can program. But what impressed me most about him was that he has a personal touch and a personal approach to problems of race that are simple, thoughtful and powerful. He's a great storyteller, and which is something I aim to be.

    I'm looking forward to hearing a lot more from and about Renford Reese.

    Posted by mbowen at 04:19 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Lucy Florence is Back

    I keep getting mail from Ofari which contradicts something that I heard a while ago which was the Lucy Florence lost their lease. So how as it that the National Alliance was still having their Saturday meetings? This morning I shot down to Liemert Park to see what was up, and to my surprise, Lucy Florence is back and better than before.

    The Twins have taken over the Degnan building's northeast corner. There's a lot more space and what they've done with the place is fabulous. They've got what appears to be a stage in the back room, a small gallery that doubles as a meeting room and several very comfortable meeting rooms down the hall. The place is charming and lot less claustrophobic when full due to the high cielings. There's something about this new place, probably because it is in an older building, that really soaks up the charm and radiates it much better than the old joint. That said, I have new reasons to head there when I get through the city.

    What Liemert Park needs is to become a tour bus stop. Somebody ought to figure out how to make that happen, because as one of the Twins said today, it's an excellent walking place. A steady stream of tourist dollars could work wonders for that area. Most folks I know, including me, have about as many paintings and scuptures as our walls and bookcases can handle, but there are many many others than just the folks I know, and Liemert Park deserves the business.

    So if you get the chance, do be reminded that Lucy Florence is not dead, but alive and kicking. And the breakfast was great.

    Posted by mbowen at 04:06 PM | TrackBack


    Posted by mbowen at 08:51 AM | TrackBack

    Geez. I Didn't Expect All That

    I am nerdier than 96% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

    Posted by mbowen at 08:17 AM | TrackBack

    January 14, 2005

    Which World?

    Posted by mbowen at 08:50 PM | TrackBack

    Circle of Trust

    I'm creating a Circle of Trust.

    The spousal unit as well as at least two others have expressed concern for my bumpy black butt as I take it to the Far East. As well, I will be involved in some high finance as someone close to pure capitalists and dealmakers in what is ostensibly a communist and repressive society. I like the quote I recently read that the heads of the Chinese government are 30% Communist and 70% Sopranos. So it makes sense for me to watch my back.

    But that is also true in any circumstance and it is part of a theme I will be repeating as my review of the film 'Hotel Rwanda' takes shape this week. Anonymity can be deadly.

    So I will endeavor to implement various features of, for lack of a better term, a cell-based distributive circle of confidants, starting with those of you who comment here at Cobb. You know me, literarily, and have access to my Cobbian style and voice.

    I hear tell that one of my new associates, being the scion of international wealth and power, will have access to goods of eye-popping capability. So it makes me drool a bit to be in the company of those who literally have to read science fiction in order to get excited about what is possible, because they've seen everything that actually exists in physical form on Earth. Me, I get excited about stuff like the Mac Mini, and Tivo To Go. While it still makes me feel clever that I can reasonably debug the plot devices on 24, I know there are people, John Lee, for example, who may have already been bored by cloning cellphones and hacking bluetooth linking protocols. So at some point I may have access to some real-deal executive security insights. But for now PGP will suffice. Plus it's cheap, if not free.

    Starting with you all, I'd like to update my network of PGP folks. I think PGP is a start unless you have better ideas.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:37 PM | TrackBack

    Naked Pyramid Blowback

    Here's an extensive quote from today's NYT.

    Specialist Graner, he said, was taking the fall for higher-up officers who he said knew the harsh treatment was routine - so routine that Specialist Graner felt no concern about leaving more than 1,000 photographs on a computer accessible to others.

    "They were taking pictures of what they did at work all day," he said of Specialist Graner and his friends. "The crime is that somebody leaked the photographs. It got out to the public and it embarrassed the United States government. And that's a shame. I wish it hadn't happened.

    "The tragedy here is that because of this embarrassment, now those pictures are orphans, and the United States government and the chain of command and the M.I.'s say, 'We didn't know about that,' " he said, referring to military Intelligence. "You know that was a lie.


    Somewhere in this blog, I thought I had posted the name of the higher level cat whom I thought should have been the sacrificial lamb in this matter. It's not clear that he's not going to get his, but again, I tend to believe that this is a show trial.

    In one very important way, it shows that we have the rule of law and that we bring people to justice. The system works. But in another way it demonstrates the unwillingess of Americans to deal realistically with the implications of war. I am hopeful that it closes a chapter, but I suspect that somebody a bit higher up the food chain may still get appropriately whacked. Rumsfeld is not and never was the proper target, no matter what the 14 some-odd reports said.

    What I regret at this time is that I think the credibility of other Western countries is not appropriately taken into consideration. There ought to be some understanding between the roles and capacities of Western powers that give a fairly clear picture and perspective on this matter which is not soley political posturing. And I think that our government officials are not in a position to speak out properly. This is the fault of the single-mindedness and groupthink of the White House and the highly ideological nature of the Neocon influence. I'm not losing sleep over it, but I think we're losing some sense of what criticisms of America are legitimate. The simple fact is this kind of thing happens in the world all of the time and it is not nearly as horrific as it has been made out to be.

    We're not the bluehats. Get it straight.

    Posted by mbowen at 03:46 PM | TrackBack

    On Kelley's Black Hole

    I got a a wake up call this morning on Norman Kelley's new HNIC book. Although it has been talked about at Vision Circle, I haven't seen nor heard much about the book.

    I like his broadside:

    Black America has no future-oriented vision of itself within the context of American reality. Its politics of the past 40 years has come to a halt, and the leaders of those years have offered nothing of programmatic substance. And in the face of the New Right, for the past 25 years, nothing but symbolic posturing has been offered as leadership. If professional and working middle-class African-Americans yearn for solutions to problems and a reasonable level of economic well-being, they are going to have to cast down their own buckets in the clear waters of organizational efficiency, political accountability and self-generated economic mobilization. As of this moment, there seems to be no other way.

    But I wonder how real is his view of white nationalism in the below:

    At this point in time and history, on the 76th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birth, African-Americans have no viable political agenda and economic program or platform to withstand the resurgent phenomenon of white nationalism, an aspect of the conservative movement that has been developing in the country in plain sight for the past four decades. This is due to the decline of effective black political leadership.

    While it's true that most blackfolks live in virtual segregation, I'm not sure that it is not an expression of their will. In other words, I'm starting to buy into the 'self-segregation' argument. (Note my stuff on 'selling out' for life expectancy). Because what is black politics other than a refusal of non-racial politics? (Ooh, that stings!) There is no left, nor right issue blacks might want to support that isn't already discussed in non-black settings. Remember that even the left brainwashed Black Commentator said that Howard Dean's talk about race was the most substantial progress in 40 years. But who black is talking to Howard Dean today? Nobody. There is nothing constructive going on in the old mold.

    White nationalism may be an instructive force in America as surely as black nationalism is. But a clear understanding of the economic forces in this country are not racialized. Wall Street doesn't bank on race. It may take some doing to deal with that because the bank on Main Street is more likely to. But America is going to Wall Street, not Main Street, and Wall Street is going towards the global marketplace. This may be the political leadership blackfolks need to hear: a way to get past the spectre of white nationalism, a new mountaintop to point their children towards routed in the kind of 'clear waters of organizational efficiency, political accountability and self-generated economic mobilization' Kelley speaks of.

    Let me tell you what I believe. American blacks are better off than Albanians and twenty dozen other ethnic groups around the world, and until such time as our plight raises the eyebrows of the Marxists at the UN and the humanitarian NGOs of the world, the level of political activism we need will remain at levels far below those of the Civil Rights Movement. The devolution of black leadership is a direct consequence of the fact of its earlier success, and everyone has moved on. At some point even those skeptics like Kelley are going to have to admit that the reason there is no Bayard Rustin today is because we don't need a Bayard Rustin today.

    Furthermore we'll all have to admit that King and all his associates did not collectively have any sophisticated ideas about what we should be doing in 2005 way back in 1965. If King was working on a Poor People's Campaign, and organizing strikes of service workers, he'd be right on target today in dealing with Mexican immigrants, but not the black mainstream. The Black Power movement crested by 1974: by the time the Symbionese Liberation Army (on the ass end of the late freight) recieved their smackdown, every sensible black thinker had realized that the revolution would not be televised because there would be no revolution. There would only be progress, reform, and evolution, none of it radical.

    Black America has, by and large, arrived at the middle and there is no extraordinary white political agenda to keep them from that, therefore there is no call for an extraordinary black political agenda to counter that. We may long for the days when the Ebony 100 Most Influential Blacks list was an inspiring parade of stars, but that was then. This is now.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:17 AM | TrackBack

    Randy Moss: True American

    I've only heard tell about the act, but I love its spirit. It's this conversation that wins me over. It's perfect.

    The enemies of Randy Moss are pompous, pampered, privileged, pious punks. Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:10 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    January 13, 2005

    Dusik Interlude

    I've been mixing up a storm with my new loop kit, and I came up with a slammin' mix of the intro to 'Dusic' (by Brick, not the 'Dazz Band') mixed with a piece of Orbit's 'The Beat Goes On'. It turns out that there's really not much else I can think to do with it, and it occured to me to leave it alone.

    Then I recalled this is perfectly good music as an interlude. In fact, what this particular beat is perfect for is something to blast as you are taking off in your car and you want people to notice how incredibly cool you are. Of course. Blast & Drive music!

    I'll be doing more of that.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:18 PM | TrackBack

    January 12, 2005

    Character Flaws

    Posted by mbowen at 01:36 PM | TrackBack

    River North

    KPCC has outdone me, but I was not about to go to the LA River when it was at its peak in the middle of the storm. Here are some links to video footage I took yesterday, our first day of sun in a long time.
    One. Two.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:00 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    Hollywood Work: The Subtext of Subjectivism

    After the set with Wolff last evening, I got into one of those strange situations which is the Hollywood conversation. A couple of cool dudes and several musicians were hanging back and talking with Wolff while Pops did his thing and pressed up for an autograph. Pops doing his thing is a rather unique experience, because when I'm around it means a graceful and proper introduction. It has a continuing strange and powerful effect on me even though he's done it hundreds of times throughout my life. My father always introduces me to people as if I were the most important person in the world, and he makes everyone feel it, especially me. I have yet to become deft enough to evade the implications of my introductions; I'm not sure I want to.

    But I'm a scientist at heart. I'm an explorer come to map and digitize, to survey vast areas and find their centers of gravity. I am perceptive and articulate, and I judge. Such are character strengths in my line of work although my manner of doing so makes me appear to be arrogant in just about every other endeavor. My professional demeanor is both aggressive and conservative. My job is to understand problems and deliver solutions - to take mind numbing complexity and make promises that A = A at the end of the day.

    So it is very difficult for me to talk about what music and other creative productions do, and in the company of musicians and creatives, I lack the technical vocabulary to last in any conversation about the subject at hand. My aim is not to deliver criticism, nor to be a cloying fan, but to collaborate, to clap or hoot on the backbeat at just the right time during the performance. And when I think about what a extraordinarily fine joint Catalina's is, to figure out how I could finance one in Beijing.

    But I have started to become aware of how it is that creatives talk about their work understanding that there is no objective standard for it. In contrast, when you are 'a techie' the aims of performance are clear, and what you know in every situation is that when you are presented with a piece of code or a system that it must submit to both real time and forensic examination. At the end of the day, a good system is good in the same way to everyone who can understand it and fulfills the same needs everywhere it can be appreciated. But there is no such ubiquity of appreciation in music or film. And it is because of this that I have just begun to appreciate the ways in which the Hollywood types talk about each other.

    It appears to me that for the Hollywood creative, the only constant is dedication to craft and reconciliation with self. So conversations about relationships employ references to the work in a veiled way. The overt narrative is about workmanship and relationships between working people, but only the subtext is about the work itself.

    There were several things on my mind as the introduction happened. The first was the sensation of loss I felt that I would endure in China and how do I get Jazz like this into China and what is the Chinese instrument that will bring them into World Music like the Tablas have for India? The second was whether or not the last tune they jammed was 'St. Thomas Way' because it was all I could hear (lovin' it) although the melody was never expressed. The third was how do I get this autograph without looking like a complete ass. Fortunately Wolff was multitasking in and out of a Hollywood converation and we hounds were clearly a background task. This gave me an out, so I went to talk to the drummer.

    By the time I got to his table, I had formulated what I thought was a reasonable question to address my first concern. "Where do jazz cats play in China?" As I watched Mike during the set, my mind kept saying Gene Krupa, Gene Krupa. Don't ask me why, but it was something about how his left thumb would pop back as he adjusted his grip on the sticks or flipped his grip from underhand to overhand and back. Mike surprised me with his classical jazz gravelly cool voice. He knew about Thailand and he knew about Japan but not about China. That was good. I wanna be the guy. I want to open The jazz club in Beijing. Something just like Catalina's would work perfectly.

    Several of us went through the confusion of chasing down the single Sharpie in the joint so that liner notes could get signed. By that time, I had been reduced to blubbering. There could be no cool way to find out what Wolff listened to but to ask that exact question. His kids listen to Eminem and Usher. I have no idea whatsoever what Usher is doing these days. Hopefully he's growing up, but I got the feeling that Wolff was playing a joke on a non-Hollywood person such as myself. I got caught flatfooted asking a typical idiot question. But it's true that he admitted biting the St. Thomas Way bassline - the real cut is on the disc.

    So remind me to find out who is the guy who did the film score for Solaris. There's supposed to be a single note song that's pretty cool. I guess. He too was in the house in a higher priority foreground Hollywood conversation which drifted to the status of Keepnews the younger or record production fame.

    I have no business in Hollywood conversations, and it's difficult for me to bear them, especially when I'm not wearing the Hollywood suit and I look only 1/3 as charming as I truly can be. But I do think that I'm making progress in understanding them. You can't talk about the work directly. Such opinions only matter to insiders who understand the workmanship. We consumers are simply, consumers.

    So I promised Wolff 500 words of rave in the blog, mentioned The Bad Plus and got the hell out of there. Maybe it registered, but it's hard to follow up Pops' introduction from my perspective on the world.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:59 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Impure Thoughts, In the Moment

    mikewolff.jpgMichael Wolff is the kind of jazz musician that I had presumed to be dead (or Chick Corea), somebody whose mastery of the keyboard and improvisational skill transforms Jazz into something with heart instead of something merely crafty. It turns out that his vivacity has reminded me how much more music there is, and how exciting it is to find it. His quartet, Impure Thoughts was at Catalina Bar & Grill in Hollywood last night. I showed up on a lark, or more like a coconut held between two African swallows, but boy am I glad I did.

    Wolff is in the class of improvisational genius I don't often hear. He has a brilliantly fast mind and can move nicely on top of very complex rhythms and never gets bogged down. There was so much in the group's performance last night that I kept finding delicious references sprinkled lightly throughout his work. It's something you expect to find, this being Jazz, but he does it so deftly that it all sounds original. Sebastian, the cat at the next table said that Wolff reminded him of Keith Jarrett. Me, I kept hearing the tenderness of Herbie Hancock, and then I would hear the improvisation and quickness of Chick Corea. But where Wolff is exceptional is his ear for integrating complex rhythms that have no chance of driving his melodies, and to do so against the crackalakin' drums of Mike Clark is really saying something.

    I was sitting on Clark's side, so he was occasionally drowning out Badal Roy who was working the tablas on the other side of the stage. I don't think there was anyone in the booth, but by the time the set progressed to the gentler numbers, it was clear to me that there was more than one spot of genius here. This group constitutes is a musical arrangement that isn't done yet. It is capable of doing some very impressive stuff. Impure Thoughts' rendition of 'A Love Supreme' is exstatic. So let me not understate it. It was the most comprehensively joyful expression of Coltrane I have heard since Laswell's seque into Naima on the 'Hallucination Engine' album, which is by the way one of my all time favorite records. That's going back ten years. The version on disc doesn't even catch up to it, but studio time is expensive. Somebody get these boys some time, please.

    By the middle of the set, I was thinking how fortunate I am to have this background. To understand the music. And at the same time I kept thinking to myself, how am I going to hear this in China, and how are the Chinese going to learn jazz?

    As I watched Badal Roy work the tablas it looked unimpressive. As things worked out, I needed to be closer to him because on the right, most of the time Mike Clark was bangin'. But when I got a chance to really feel him, it seemed almost miraculous. Working his left hand on his bass drum was astonishing. So I closed my eyes and bowed my head and kept time. Suddenly I started feeling it and hearing it on a different level and it instantly blew away so much of the tabla stuff I've been hearing mixed everywhere.

    I have to say something more about that, because and maybe I'm going out on a limb here, but tablas seem to be much more than just percussion. I mean you can't rightly compare Roy to Paulino DeCosta or that Escovedo cat. He's doing something different. He seems to be adding space in addition to marking time. That's the best way I can describe it. It's like he's literally splitting up time and slowing it down so you can start to hear faster. It's not so much a beat that you get into and groove with as it is something that opens up time and space. So you can get into a 7/4 time without feeling that it's something mind-bogglingly clever which is the feeling you get listening to the Lounge Lizards or Brubeck.

    Impure Thoughts works almost against being a tight quartet. They are subtle and spontaneous but not rambling into a circle of solos. They are evocative and energetic but they don't riff. As you look at them perform, you get the distinct impression of old pros effortless banging out honed skills and making music on the spot. More than any band I've seen or heard recently, these men listen to themselves play and get excited by what they hear. That's why having a song called 'In the Moment' is such a perfect metaphor for what they do. They reinvent this tabla/piano duet from scratch each time they perform.

    As for the bassman John B Williams, I have one word: Quartet, as in Herbie Hancock Quartet. Yes that one with Ron Carter. There was no piece in the set that let him run with the bass but he was bending the notes sweetly.

    So here's what they are about to do, and I can hear it in the St Thomas Way improv. They are about to connect West African kalimba chord stuff, where you can do things like One Note Samba on just a few keys, and then they are going to immerse it and highlight it with Corea-like arpeggios. They're going to do it with Caribbean speed and energy, with bending bass notes in the tabla space-time continuum, and then its going to have (man this is a great word) a crackalackin' back beat. I've already seen its potential to render Coltrane into new dimensions.

    World Jazz? Don't even say that until you hear Michael Wolff and Impure Thoughts, because they are going to open you up again and you're going to see what's possible.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:28 AM | TrackBack

    January 11, 2005

    Contesting the Standard Model

    Gladwell and Surowieki and are running an excellent dialog which is of interest to those of us in the Business Intelligence field. Even though much of what I do is considered IT, and I'm a hands-on guy, I'm always fascinated by the theory of Cognitive Science, and have long been a champion of the Doug Englebart's Augmentation theory. So every once in a while I go back to the old PARC heads like Butler Lampson et al for a fresh look. Thinking about thinking is great fun in and of itself and these two are thinking about decision making. Who does it best and how?

    Good stuff.

    Posted by mbowen at 02:54 PM | TrackBack

    Torrents of the LA River

    Now that the rain has let up for a moment, I brought my camera to see if I could get some nice shots of what LA looks like when the skies are perfectly clear. But then I remembered that there's still water coming through the city. So on my way to work this morning, I stopped by the First Street bridge and took some photos and video of the LA River. It's scary.

    The first thing you notice is the roar. As you look at this water, which must be moving along at 15 or 20 knots, judging by the bow waves made by the massive concrete feet of the bridge, you can just feel the power it must have. The longer you look, the more it seams like there ought to be more noise than you hear.

    The water itself is a muddy brown with a hint of orangish clay. It flows thickly and swiftly. There seems not to be enough whitewater for the speed at which it is going, but that must be because its thick with the accumulated mud and offal of the upstream communities.

    Stay tuned for pictures.

    Posted by mbowen at 01:45 PM | TrackBack

    Jack is Back

    I'm three hours into the new season of '24'. The best part so far is that we have not had to endure Jack turning CTU upside down on behalf of his daughter. But we are repeating several of the strengths and weaknesses of last season.

    First of all it's absurd how Jack can just take over all the protocols of the CTU on his damned hunches. The force of his personality is just obscene. If I were the head of CTU I'd shoot him my damned self. His cajoling of Chloe makes he and she a silo of action. If the writers have any insight to our real CTUs, then this ladies and gentlemen is exactly the problem with American intelligence. Any idiot could see that there ought to be 30 people watching a satellite over Jack in persuit of the kidnapper. If only 10 people at one agency was in on this, we'd deserve to lose the Secy. Of course this is done for the sake of drama..

    They've already gone straight to torture and kidnapping, and we've already seen some waffling. The reactionary son of Heller is a perfect character to throw into the CTU mix.

    The soap opera elements are already making CTU itself a hotbed of distrust. It accentuates the paranoia of the entire series and allows CTU to get away with certainty in action that it oughtn't have.

    The new female head of CTU, whose name I just can't recall, is making a monumental ass of herself. She is professionally incompetent. She 'hopes'. By following procedure she demonstrates how the best of the best can still make no progress. Just keeping the chain of command intact, she illustrates to great effect the limits of bureacracy. Although it adds to the soapyness, it's a good point to make in the series.

    CTU life is already starting to seem cheap. This season I'm counting the number of friendlies that Jack's actions kill. My guess? 40 in 24 hours.

    Three solid hours and I can't put the pieces together. The writers have done an excellent job of juggling multiple plotlines. The fact that I can't stand Jack's seemingly irrational hunches, even knowing that he will essentially solve this puzzle is just the right tension for results vs law and order.

    That stupid red code scrolling on the screen 'with arabic comments' was a big huge gob of compu-fakery.

    Jack isn't crazy or self-doubting this time. He is not a man possessed with super instincts that he's not in control of.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:43 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    Saturn Sky

    sky.jpgSaturn has just made their 'Miata'. I can't see how there can be anything but a mad dash to go after this car. It's gorgeous and extra cool. I want one.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:39 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Harold Ford Off Script

    Harold Ford is making lefies wince and moan by refusing to be yet another lockstep hater. Check out the invective:

    The black body politic has been invaded by corporate money, which seeks through its media arms to select a "new" black leadership from among a small group of compliant and corrupt Democrats. Memphis Congressman Harold Ford, Jr. is a principal vector of the disease, an eager acolyte of the corporate-funded Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), and now the point man among black Democrats in the Republican mission to destroy Social Security.

    Some days I despair of being on some mailing lists.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:25 AM | TrackBack

    January 10, 2005

    Gangsta Gangsta

    Posted by mbowen at 05:39 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Sounds Like War

    At various places in the blogosphere, folks are airing frustrations and bad news. Now the question of death squads has arisen. This from P6:

    NEGROPONTE'S NEFARIOUS NEGLIGENCE: John Negroponte, the current U.S. Ambassador in Baghdad, is no stranger to death squads. In the 1980s, Negroponte served as the U.S. Ambassador to Honduras. At the time, he was "cozy" with the chief of the Honduran national police force, Gen. Gustavo Alvarez Martinez, who also ran the infamous Battalion 316 death squad. Battalion 316 "kidnapped, tortured and murdered more than 100 people between 1981 and 1984." According to Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, "Negroponte publicly adopted a see-no-evil attitude to this army death squad."

    Entitled 'Losing in Iraq' Umansky shows what the rebel side is doing:

    ...the war [in Iraq] has degenerated to the extent that the construction sites have become nothing more than symbols of the despised American presence. For the resistance they also serve as convenient collection points for identifiable collaborators—usually laborers—who can easily be hunted down and killed as a lesson for others. There is a lot of that sort of teaching going on these days. At just one sewage project in Baghdad, for example, as many as thirty Iraqi workers were shot in only three months late last year. It is an unusual record only because someone kept count. The assassination campaign is systematic. It is decimating American projects throughout central Iraq, and has taken a particularly heavy toll among Green Zone workers. So pervasive is the threat that Iraqis still working with the occupation do not dare speak English on the phone, even at home in front of only their children, lest word leak out. When I call the Iraqis who work for me, a driver and a guard, my first question is whether they can talk. As often as not they answer by hanging up.

    There are always more than two sides to a country's situation, and I find it difficult to believe that Iraqis have satisfied themselves that all manner of law and order in their country are tainted beyond redemption with the stink of American support. So putting aside the question of death squads for a moment, there is ultimately the question of how many martyrs the rebellion can afford. Let us assume for the sake of argument that it will continue to be 500 a month indefinitely - this is something that can and will be sustained. The rest of the nation must function at some level, and if it is merely anti-American rhetoric that will satisfy rebels and unite the country then surely there will be enough of that to go around. Whether or not it satisfies war critics is a separate issue, but that is immaterial to the progress of the war on the ground. There is more than rhetoric going on here, and no matter what your criticism, the war isn't lost until Americans sue for peace.

    In the meantime, I'm not sure by what measure our sponsorship of death squads is considered a loss. If we are to kill 100 collaborators over the course of several years, as is suggested by P6, then what real difference does that make? It's fighting fire with fire at the matchstick and aerosol can level, a geopolitical negligbility. And yet it could be the right little bit that keeps the rebels understanding that their impugnity has costs.

    If I sound an extra bit hawkish today, it is because I have just returned from seeing 'Hotel Rwanda', and for what it's worth, I have had about my fill of irregulars and militias. Yet as much as I'd prefer regular army to smash rebellion, I understand that you can't always work that way, and again, for the sake of 'democracy' I am having my doubts that Iraqis and their anti-war American butt buddies are worth it.

    I continue to admire our lack of a scorched earth policy, and the tenderness with which we have conducted our investigations into monster work at Abu Ghraib. But I cannot abide the perception that there are certain wars we cannot fight or certain fights we cannot win, it only invites opportunists and forces us to 'make examples' the next time. We should be meeting the assassinations of the rebels with commensurate craftiness, nothing much more and nothing much less. If it's going to be death squads, then sobeit.

    In the mid term, the third side will emerge, which is that side of the duly elected government of national unity. Whether or not anyone cares or likes how it came to be, it will be the Iraqi government - the people with a right to sit at the table, the people with the right to Iraqi oil, the people with whom the nations of the world will ultimately meet at embassies. They will not be the rebels.

    So far, the Axis of Weasels have determined that America and Great Britain should singly take the blame for all of the chaos and destruction this low level nastiness continues to reap. I, for one, don't think John Kerry's international asslicking would have made any difference. So we're stuck with the bad rap. GW will tough it out. But one day the 'international community' is going to have to decide whether or not to open embassies in Iraq or continue mouthing off through the media. And I say that day is not going to be determined by the schedule of the rebels, but by the leaders of the new Iraq. In other words, one day The Iraqi government is going to say "We're here, we're for real, get used to it." And immediately thereafter, they are going to ask for assistance. Let's see how soon the new Iraqi flag is flying in European capitals.

    In any case, I cannot see how that government could possibly be anything but an ally to the US, because we will have been there all the way through. My recommendation to GW and the Neocons is to play both sides. We have proven our mettle for democracy. The other side is going to be some ultranationalists, and they won't blink at death squads.

    Posted by mbowen at 03:23 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    January 09, 2005

    Economic Horses, Political Carts

    I'm going to go out on a limb which makes sense for my as a conservative, but perhaps not so much as a patriot. This may be understandable in light of my new international context, although it sounds counter-intuitive.

    As I am reading a little bit at a time in Kishore Mahbubani, I find he suggests that economics is more important that politics. Well on the surface this sounds perfectly obvious, until you consider what most of us Neocons believe, which is that Western structural reforms in politics are a necessary precondition to the success of a modern nation. I'm trying to disaggregate all of that thing called 'democracy' or 'western style democracy' into component parts, because theres a real clincher when one considers the implications in Iraq.

    If indeed the Global Capitalist in me is right, then taking some cues from ubiquitous war critics, we should have paid the Iraqi Army to stay together. By completely undermining the possiblity of elections and establishing some kind of military junta in Iraq, we very well may have avoided the kind of subversion that goes on today. I don't think there's any doubt in anyone's mind that the Iraqi Army was perfectly capable of suppressing any domestic insurrection under Saddam Hussein. So what if, having routed them and decapitated their leadership, we made offers and efforts to control them via the purse strings?

    First, let me phrase this strategy as a criticism of the anti-war partisans, not that I think they have a particularly compelling case. It is the fact that we have insisted on democracy that allows the 'quagmire' to occur. It is indeed the promise of freedom and liberty as we Americans understand it, that has been primary in our approach, damn the cost. If we wanted to quickly establish control and suppress any insurgency and get American troops back home as soon as possible and save our money, then the answer would have obviously been to establish a new military regime in Iraq instead of a democratic one, which obviously needs time to develop - the very time we are taking at some expense.

    Since the average Iraqi makes something on the order of $100 per year, we could have easily financed Iraqi Contras and had our paymasters run things. There's no drug trade, no other easy way for an Iraqi military to make money, so we could have been the sole provider. This has been, to my way of thinking, the way the CIA has been doing things for the past 30 years, at least. Nothing new in this idea. One question would be whether such a move could stand domestic scrutiny.

    If there is anything that is perfectly clear about the current rebellion, it is that much of it is run by non-Iraqis and all of the so-called 'insurgents' are calling for a boycott of the upcoming election. They don't want democracy, they want power in the new Iraq. But there is no back-door way to power in the Iraq we want to see. What we want are transparent elections, a modern constitutional democracy and free markets. But that's why everything we are doing there is going to take so long, if we would have just bought and paid for it, the job would be a lot closer to finished.

    I must add that it has long been my suspicion of the quick victory over Baghdad that we paid off many senior generals in the Iraqi Army, and that they took their men out of the fight. But I think we have lost many or some of them to the rebellion once we dismantled the Army completely. Those who were too young to figure out how to graft a living in Iraq were most likely candidates for rebellion. Who could wait to be paid again?

    Our ability to carry out such a mercenary agency is not a given. But to put economics before politics would have led to this being a strongly positioned strategy. As I engage the subject henceforth I will consider that option more. Some of you may recall that I saw GWBush as an improper emperor, and that a more imperial strategy might have better served our long term interests. Hitch and I see eye to eye on that. But if GW is anything, he is sticking to his ideological guns which are the expansion of democratic rule and liberty in the American mold. He has insisted on giving the Arab world the benefit of that doubt, and taken any intransigence on that matter as ethnically chauvinist at best. Despite the obvious geopolitical advantage of ridding the Middle East of Saddam, he has wanted to go one better by doing it for the sake of politics.

    Many may continue to read other ulterior motives in this war, but I think GW of all people knows he doesn't have the economic nose for a good deal on getting oil. But for the sake of liberty, he can spend. Unfortunately he doesn't have half this country's goodwill to spend, and must rely even more on his ideological inertia.

    Democracy is very expensive. Then again, we could have done it the Contra way.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:10 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    January 08, 2005

    Obligatory Seriousness on Armstrong Williams

    I still sometimes confuse Armstrong Williams with Larry Elder, but I shouldn't. It should be easier in the future. One of them will still be on the air.

    I expect that there's going to be a fairly large number of African Americans focused in a new type of scandal and crime over the next decade. It only proves that we're still moving on up. In some ways, it could be considered an honor to be a paid shill. But I think the vote is unanimous that Williams displayed bad form. Whether or not his blunder is illegal I haven't parsed the news that closely to see, but it's clear that he wasn't getting the best advice.

    So bear witness to the new wave of black crime, the new money faux pas. You know, I think Armstrong Williams ought to have invested some of his money towards membership in the right club. If he were hobnobbing with the right kind of people, he would have never shown such bad form.

    What do you do when the Department of Education asks you to pub up something of theirs that you actually believe in? My guess would be that you do a Public Service Announcement. Is a plug on the Armstrong Williams Show worth a quarter million? Undoubtedly so. Where were his producers and legal department, hmm? Or did he thoughtlessly cut them out of the loop?

    Either way, what's done is done. No harm, no foul. It's not as if he landed himself at Betty Ford or left his wife for a 15 year old Vietnamese girl. Everybody pipe down.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:38 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    Sowell vs The Bell Curve

    I didn't know that Thomas Sowell was one of the folks weighing in against Murray and Hernstein back in the mid 90s when people were all up in arms over the Bell Curve. I would have liked to have had him at the ready when I was debating here in the second tier. It is interesting to note that I cannot detect anything horrendous that has happened as a result of the publication of the infamous book. Then again, I'm not quite the policy wonk - not that any policy wonk the web has produced has outed the name of the welfare reformers who considered TBC gospel.

    DeLong updates us nicely, and Atrios is, as usual, the comment magnet. For myself, I'll just add the following to the archives. I would like to see Atrios' archives as well.

    Herrnstein and Murray... say:

    The national averages have in fact changed by amounts that are comparable to the fifteen or so IQ points separating blacks and whites in America. To put it another way, on the average, whites today differ from whites, say, two generations ago as much as whites today differ from blacks today. Given their size and speed, the shifts in time necessarily have been due more to changes in the environment than to changes in the genes.

    ...[T]he failure to draw the logical inference seems puzzling. Blacks today are just as racially different from whites of two generations ago as they are from whites today. Yet... the number of questions that blacks answer correctly on IQ tests today is very similar to the number answered correctly by past generations of whites. If race A differs from race B in IQ, and two generations of race A differ from each other by the same amount, where is the logic in suggesting that the IQ differences are even partly racial?....

    Posted by mbowen at 04:36 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    The New Tactical

    As part and parcel of my immanent entry into the corporate stratosphere, and the jetset, I'm going to have to get my luggage thang on. Now this is an advert on the home page of Zero Halliburton, maker of breifcases that just scream 007.

    The New Tactical is the look that I'm going to try to establish. It's going to be a kind of Pacific Rim upscale look with blues, blacks, charcoals, with silver, ice blue, platinum and white. So far, there's definitely Oakley in the picture. Also there's the practicality of some Eddie Bauer. The high style is more Kenneth Cole and Claiborne, which is what I do already. But there's this Japanese dude that I like from way back I could never afford.

    I can't wait for there to be a Chinese International look. I'll definitely integrate those elements. Ahh, stylin'.

    Posted by mbowen at 03:32 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack


    smile.jpg In the process of cleaning up my closet and otherwise reorganizing stuff in My Terabyte, I came across this woodcut from my cousin. It was the opening title for his MFA thesis exhibition 6 years ago. He's doing well, thank you. Just thought I should share a little bit of the magic.

    Posted by mbowen at 03:22 PM | TrackBack

    The Impervious Zone of Happiness

    I once wrote of the chatting class:

    The issue is issues and issues issue forth.

    I have had an extraordinarily sweet Christmas and Kwanzaa this year, and I still haven't descended from the zone. I'm actually happy about football games. I'm satisfied that the world's attention is focused on a real disaster and I'm watching intelligent movies again. In other words, there's no bug up my butt forcing me to deal with issues.

    I'm satisfied and not out looking for trouble. I am not engaged. Instead, I'm holed up with the Nuke, roughhousing on the bed in our pajamas at 11 on a soggy Saturday morning.

    I drug myself to the business end of the computer because, at the moment, mixing *anything* with AWB just doesn't seem to work. Aside from that, I'm having a very difficult time feeling offended enough to assume causality.

    I mean take this social security issue. The worst case scenario is that it goes broke in 20 years. So that basically gives the loyal Bushie opposition at least four chances to elect a president who will fix it, if indeed it is this president who is breaking it. The interesting thing is that this is the only long term issue on the plate, aside from the putative rise of China and the Oracle-Peoplesoft merger. (heh). The only other long term issue of note is environmentalism, and as Michael Crighton has so deftly demonstrated, most of those woolly heads are out of their minds.

    But what has really knocked the daily grind on its ass is the still-unnamed tsunami. I mean will somebody please identify the name of the fault that slipped so we can give this thing a moniker? I think this is the longest time in modern media history that anything that has killed more than 10 people doesn't have a name. Aside from all that, Sue has put most everything else into perspective, and I think most clearly, the environment.

    So an island moves 10 meters. The planet is fine. So the ozone depletes. The planet is fine. As for the rest of us maze mice, what is there to occupy us? Differences of opinion? Yawn.

    I've never been into presidential politics much, and so I'll continue with my theory and whatnot, but a couple friends are launching groupblog / opinion sites from the black hand side. (I have a perfect name 'Ebon Flow'), and so I may very well soon be winding down the political aspect of Cobb and repurposing it to be more on the China immersion, which won't be nearly as political.

    All this is saying that 2005 is feeling distinctly different, and I'm having to invent new reasons to do the blog thing. It is sudden and surprising. Chances are that I will go deep into the Critical Theory mode and leave Domestic Affairs and Local Deeds alone. Matters of the Spirit will probably get more play.

    But right now I smell bacon from the kitchen.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:19 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Studio Gangsta

    Posted by mbowen at 12:14 PM | TrackBack

    January 07, 2005

    Friday Meme

    Last fight.
    I busted up a bar fight in Boston in 1993 and got shoved around a little.

    What makes you cry?
    When people speak up about something that's very touching and personal to them and it makes them cry. Yesterday it was the firefighter tribute on Oprah, even though it was a transparent promo for John Travolta's Ladder 49.

    Describe the moment you came closest to death.

    Back in 1999, I just came from buying the 1999 remix by Prince at Fry's in Santa Clara. I was jamming to it in the rentacar instead of watching the left turn arrow. So I missed my arrow. An 18 wheeler, one of those double trailer dirt trucks ran through the light at about 45 mph. If I had taken the arrow when it turned green I would have been dead.

    Most dangerous friend?
    That would be my brother, Doc, the LAPD officer. On the other side of the law that would be my old cigar smoking buddy, a disbarred ex-drug dealer who grew up in Nigeria and whose father was a military commander in the Biafran civil war.

    Is there anybody you miss?
    Not really. My dead brother I suppose. I make it a point to cry properly at funerals. I greive properly. I move on.

    Craziest fear.
    Small boat. Open Ocean. No Radio. Storm Coming.

    A food you're ashamed to admit that you crave.
    Shame? What's that? I'm a blogger ferchrissake. OK. Fudge covered Oreos.

    Biggest lesson learned.
    Having no ambition is OK.

    What disappoints you.
    Upper class Americans.

    Celebrities that disappoint you.
    Hmm. I expect more from George Lucas. He could be doing stuff other than his own stuff and get a lot of good sci-fi on film.

    Four Bedrooms, Den, massive kitchen, in the trees.

    Favorite song right now.
    Art of Noise: Catwalk

    Somewhere you haven't been that you'd love to go.


    One movie people would be surprised you love.
    Super Troopers.

    One book people would be surprised you read.
    That's impossible. I guess it would have to be a book that I just never finished. That would be one of Deepak Chopra's...

    Last 10 songs in your MP3

    You Don't Know What Love Is - Wynton Marsalis
    Catwalk - Art of Noise
    No No Never - Vinx
    No Hooks No Chorus - Freestyle Fellowship
    Back To Life Reloaded - Sixoseven
    Bollywood Mega Mix - Desi Funk
    Bheer - Punjabi MC
    Come On Down - De La Soul
    I Have Nothing - Whitney Houston
    I Miss You - Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes

    Posted by mbowen at 06:40 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    Back To Life Reloaded

    sixo7-thumb.gifWhat have I been doing not blogging? Well, composing music is all. I kinda went berserk this Christmas on home musical appliances, and I also got an upgrade to my composition software. What's new this time is that I am able to work better with samples from recording already made. Sweet.

    So I'll probably be making a lot of remixes of my favorite Old School hiphop. DJ Sixoseven in the house! So check out my latest, an acid jazz remix of 'Back to Life' one song that has been remixed to death, but not done proper like I do.

    Check it. And do tell me what you think. I could have done a little bit better, I know but I wanted to bust it out the door.

    Posted by mbowen at 04:20 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    I'm Hanging at Vision Circle These Days

    Join me there.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:09 AM | TrackBack

    January 05, 2005

    BCS BS

    I enjoyed the football game last night. I've always been a faithful fan of USC football, not always a big fan, but whenever they play a big game, I'm in their corner. Last night was no exception, and I take a bit of pleasure at having ribbed some Sooners last week.

    But it seems to me that it's extremely arrogant that we have a situation in which journalists are deciding who is the number one college football team in the nation. This is a horrible injustice and a slap in the face of American values. I don't want glib commentators to decide, I want the players, teams and coaches to decide. Not the bowl game sponsors. Not the college regents. It's all about the game.

    Have a playoff. Until there is a real playoff in Division one, every national champion should have an asterisk next to their name. Except USC.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:16 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    January 04, 2005

    Why Philanthropy?

    I've been wondering the past few days why it is that there is no giant organization in the world that has done all the things people who want to save the world want to do. I think part of the reason is that once the do-gooders got a snootful of their own artifice, they'd chuck it all. And perhaps that is the legacy of do-gooder organizations everywhere - they can only grow so big.

    On the other hand, Americans still seem to believe that we can cure cancer, all we need are enough... stem cells. Like UFO fanatics, people who believe in utopia believe that the answer is out there somewhere. If only we had enough... money, then the solution would be obvious. Just like those people who knew that GWBush was a total idiot, the world would be better off if only they had enough... votes.

    It must be said that the natural order of things is that things fall apart. There is never enough... whatever. Scarcity. I think we are going back to econ 101.

    On Charlie Rose last week, a UN assistant to Kofi Annan was explaining that for 100 billion per year, we could cut world poverty in half. He explained patiently that half the civilized world (outside of the US) had pledged to do a great deal towards funding some Millenial Principles on the way to ending half the world's poverty somewhere around 2015. If we only had 100 billion dollars per year.

    The poor chap was exasperated and confounded by our President's lack of following up on promises made in 1999, and offered a soundbite from Colin Powell to suggest that it all ought to make sense to our national security interests to do all those things Steve Miller sung about in 1978.

    But it hasn't happened. It might be an organizational thing.

    You see, if I have my way, smartmobs could become something of the next generation of organizing principles of global significance. We're on the verge of it. We're on the verge of philes and when the DNA stuff is done. (I'm thinking of opening a new topic 'Philes & Panoptics' but I need to read some more sci-fi first.) The point is that this new organization will be the way that humans begin to organize their interests. According to my theory, Nazi Germany was the last nation and demonstrated the end of nationalism. The US is not really a nation. So aside from transnational corporations, CIA-like proprietaries, publically funded NGOs, governments, and the Churches there are no other ways of harnessing the desires and resources of millions. Such organizations have no interest in eliminating world poverty. Regardless of whether they are capable of doing so (which I doubt, not because of capacity, but because of political logistics) the principles of hierarchical organizations require certain abstractions that constrain their ability to reach. And I have the distinct impression that the elimination of poverty works by hooking people up to the grid. But that is best accomplished one on one and hierarchical orgs don't do that well. My point is that there's a problem with institutional philanthropy and I believe it is an inherently structural one.

    These structural and response deficiencies can be overcome via new communications and organizational technologies, but will they end up reducing poverty? I don't think so. I believe that the more affluent world is going to start slumming, and that as we get more electronically connected, the importance of the metropolis will decline. Like superheroes and villians of comic lore, we will have remote underground headquarters (where the real estate is cheap) and still be able to save (or dominate) the world.

    In the meantime, I find the lack of will to solve the world's problems something of an indication of what actually is a problem. Remote suffering, so long as we are not substantially interconnected, remains remote. Out of sight, out of mind, out of funds.

    I also want to drop in a bit of propaganda against coersion in the interests of private property. Well meaning gents like the UN attache, tend to believe that doing best cannot be harmful and that any means to establish that end are worth it. Fortunately, the UN is not in a position to coerce, or we'd all be slaves to UNICEF.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:38 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    January 03, 2005

    Fundamentalists, Gay Activists & The Hegemonic Mainstream

    As usual, I did a bit of mumbling to myself on the freeway home tonight, and it occured to me, in this new year, that the chickens of domestic partnership are coming home to roost.

    As of Saturday January first in California, domestic partners now have to go to court to have their breakup recognized by the state. This is bad news for the bathhouse boys who thought they could become the new welfare queens. What percentage of the alternative lifestyle scene that is, I have no idea. But at least John Waters is on my side when he questions whether 'gay marriage' is the proper legacy of Stonewall. Bottom line is that it ain't so easy to swing, even if you swing that way.

    So in disparaging all that is to the left of me I thought to myself what is the biggest mistake 'they' make. I think that the biggest mistake lefties and progressives make is the dismissal of the work done in the Hegemonic Mainstream.

    Yes, I am in the Hegemonic Mainstream. I am the straight, conservative, father and husband, Old School Episcopalian, married to my straight, hard working stay at home wife and mother. We are a two car, suburban family, and our children have Christian names. But the incorrect lefty presumption is that because we are 'all' socialized to accept that as the dominant norm, that it's not work, or whatever work it is, the alternative is harder. I think they break their arm patting themselves on the back and otherwise drown in their own koolaid. Sure being a single mom is hard, but is it necessarily harder?

    Ooh. Taboo broken here.

    It seems to me that if one chooses to be a single mother, then one is choosing *not* to be a wife and mother. Now, by choosing to be a single mother, there are certain duties one must assume, presumeably for the love and benefit of the child which would ordinarily be handled by (or shared with) the husband & father. I'm saying that isn't necessarily more difficult than being a good wife and making a marriage work. Of course I wouldn't know, because I chose to play my part in a real marriage. But the lefties wouldn't begin to suggest they don't know. It's automatically assumed that whatever work goes into being a wife and mother, that being a single mother is harder work. The word I choose today to describe this assertion is bodewash.

    Marriage is hard work, and those who take up the cudgels for alternative lifestyles doth protest too much of their struggles for respect and recognition. Married people don't waste their time championing marriage, because those of us who have seen (or done) what it takes to keep a marriage and family working well, know damned well how much hard work and sacrifice that takes. I'm quite sure that it's nothing like battling the prejudices at children's publishing houses lobbying for books about Adam and Steve, then again what is? If the 54% divorce rate doesn't tell you something, then you maybe more than your finger is up your butt.

    Of course I can't help but think that much of the carping is at least in part based on experience with the dysfunctional up close and personal. It's difficult for me to imagine that people from strong and loving families don't want to replicate the experience, but it's easy for me to see why those who had reasons to avoid family eschew the institution altogether. I am not suggesting that gay love isn't love but rejection of family. Not at all. I'm saying those who don't know how to do it are probably wise in choosing not to try. After all, marriage is about sacrificing freedom and subordinating oneself to the good of the whole. Making marriage and family work is about aligning your happiness to the success of the marriage and family, not trying to extract benefits from being part of it. I understand and respect that everybody isn't up to that task, and that a goodly segment of the gay lifestyle is all about rejection of precisely that kind of commitment.

    That leaves, most assuredly, some segment of the gay and lesbian community that genuinely crave the cradle of marriage and family. But it's hard for me to see how it is that they reconcile those feelings. If you want your children to have what you had, then why not do that? Or did you perhaps always secretly wish your happy family had two moms instead of mom and dad? I extend the benefit of the doubt, but I'm not buying the existentials. The Hegemonic Mainstream family is what it is and nothing else. A good Marriage is a good Marriage. Man + Woman. Marriage + Family is all that plus kids, and it's damned hard work, and it's damned rewarding when done right.

    But those who advocate for gay marriage must understand that the difference is real and all their experiences getting book publishers to play their counter-hegemonic battles notwithstanding, nobody else is going to buy it. And all of their insistence that we take them seriously and that their alternative is just as legitimate is so much wasted effort. It's as fruitless a battle as Fundamentalist Christians trying to sell creationism as science. You can say it and protest that you're marginalized until you are blue in the face, when the cows come home, at Kingdom Come. But the difference is real and the work is real whether or not you care to understand or do the work yourself. Just as the science of evolution is real. You're never going to convince the people that do the work that your marginalization is a valuable currency.

    So give up.

    Don't worry. Be happy. Reap your own whirlwind. Use the freedom you have to make the life you want. Just don't expect the others to give you the honor of using the title of Marriage or Science, just because that's what you want your belief to be. We work too hard to get our thing right.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:12 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

    Fashion Fatties

    beil.jpg Plug your nostrils and put down your drink. You are about to laugh a storm. Check out these photoshopped celebrities. My favorite? Jessica Biel.

    I'm really going to have to learn how to use Photoshop like that. There are so many ideas trapped in my skull, and I do so desparately want to make you laugh. OK, not so desparate that I'd actually change my schedule and buy a book. Anyway. It's time for work. Let me quit wasting time blogging.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:21 PM | TrackBack


    The latest number dead is just about 1350.

    This is the cost in American soldiers lives for the liberation of Iraq. Not long ago, I said this was a small number. Since my comments don't work very well, I can't tell how many people wanted to call me an insenstive so and so, but I imagine it would be a significant fraction.

    This week, we Americans have been struggling with another number of dead. It is somewhere in the tens of thousands. The last time I checked, it was around 144,000 human lives. This is a tragedy of immense proportions.

    The difference is that nobody is responsible. There is no evildoer named 'Sue Nami' that we can hunt down and bring to justice, despite all the jokers who say so. It's just nature.

    It's odd that even though nobody has any precise numbers, a very clear set does arise. Every major newspaper on the planet is within 5% of the others as they do their jobs, presumeably as responsibly as possible. Somehow, despite the lack of sophisticated communications in what are putatively very primative places, the death toll is reliably reported. I bring this up for a number of reasons, none of which is particularly jolly this New Year's Eve. But it strikes me that when it has come to putting a figure on the number of civilian casualties, a particular number which the anti-war crowd finds singularly important. But there are no reliable figures.

    As readers of Michael Crighton know, this particular disaster, a huge tsunami, is precisely the kind of event that environmental terrorist had indeed planned to kick off - at least in fiction. The coincidence between the publication of this book and the actual event is one of those freak occurances that people's minds try to makes sense of. We are pattern-recognizing machines, we humans. Speaking of which, there is a real conspiracy theory out there about this tsunami being man-made. So don't doubt that people are willing to take great leaps of faith into the unknown and say there are definite answers when there are not.

    Anyway, I know this is a sloppy post. But I just wanted to smack people around a little bit, who think Rumsfeld is so bloody evil.

    BTW, here's another decent comparison.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:13 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

    Yes, I know it sounds like the name of a very bad all-girl band. But it is the now the new name of that baseball team.

    Ordinarily, I simply wouldn't care about something like this. However, this is such a preposterously bad name, I have to speak. I have heard the marketingspeak rationale for this, and it sounds like the logic of 1940s film noir bad guys -- the kind of stuff that motivated thousands of idiots. Perhaps that's what the Angels' new owner intends to do. Good frickin' luck.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:03 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    Jared Diamond Disses Richard Lynn

    "Biological differences between people plays no part in my theory."
    --Jared Diamond.

    He goes on to exemplify how the Norsemen, blonde and blue founded two civilizations, the Greenlanders and the Icelanders. Iceland is rich, the Greenlanders are no more.

    Listening to him now on KPCC with Larry Mantle, I find him a bit too swayed by environment, but I think he's got a good grasp of the high level. At this very moment, he is echoing my thoughts with regard to the collapse of civilizations due to overthrow due to events actually beyond the control of the leadership.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:28 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    January 02, 2005



    Posted by mbowen at 04:47 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack



    Posted by mbowen at 04:46 PM | TrackBack

    Ka Shr

    'Ka Shr' means but. As anyone with kids knows, it's the first word out of the kid's mouth when you crack down on her, but not her sister who was right there doing the same thing, just not as loudly. Now that I have discovered The China Black Hand, I have some expectation that I get to be the less offending sister.

    Not that CBH is particularly offensive, in fact it's damn interesting. I wish he would write more and quote less. But he's enough to the left of me that when it comes to African American Expatriate Chinese Bloggers, it won't be me that falls over first when the CCP cracks down.

    As in every other experience in my life, there was always another black person interested in doing the same thing. One of the reasons I pay little attention to sentences that start 'black people dont' is because black people do. Whatever, wherever, whenever. We have always been large enough as a nation of folks to have experience wherever. There may be a whole lot of buttermilk, but there is definitely more than one fly.

    Be all that as it may, the question of democracy in China is an interesting one. I have come to accept that in my own small way, I will inevitably be responsible for influencing people. I am convinced that there is a new and evolving kind of management style that bridges some of the gaps between what we mean when we say democracy, and the bad old days.

    I ask in something of a provocative way, because I sense that CBH would ask me the question, what indeed would be the usefulness of democracy in China. That begs a lot of questions, namely, what is it about democracy works well and is valuable in America? I think when it comes down to it, simply voting is not the answer. So as I mulled over these matters yesterday, I found myself arguing that 'democracy' is inevitable in China, but it won't change much.

    The syllogism goes a little something like this. There is a difference between power and control. If you decentralize the power of the CCP, then you will lose control, but you will not lose power. The power of the CCP, or any centralized organization, lies in its ability to command resources. But in a decentralized 'organization' it is the networker who gains power, and it is the substrate of the networking that becomes indispensible. This is just what Scott McNealy was saying forever. The network is more important than the computer.

    The great advantage to the CCP or the American Executive Branch or any such central organization to decentralizing, is that you determine exactly what it is you want to decentralize and what authority you want to keep to yourself. This way you diffuse responsibility of those things you try to control but really fail to control, and you retain responsibility for those things you truly control. This is 'democracy'. The important question is what things you retain absolute authority over as to whether your authority is deemed oppressive.

    In the US, people have a wide variety of choices when it comes to consumer goods, and even political views. But they have no choice when it comes to matters of monetary policy, foreign policy. So when the government makes certain monetary policy decisions that have broad implications, the results and broadedn or constrain the choices of consumer goods or political views that the general public has. However, since the governmnet is not in direct control of those things, only a very sophisticated analysis can draw the causal link. The masses do not and will not. Only a very expensive and well maintained revolution will allow the masses to retain the link and seek to unseat those in power. But authoritarian regimes, those who seek to control most everything, like consumer goods and political views, will always make mistakes. And since they are always seek control, they will always take the blame. This is the cause of their inevitable downfall. They are too large a target, and everything will get blamed on them.

    A smart central authority reduces the size of its control but maintains links and networks to broad areas in society. This way it decentralizes and delegates and puts a buffer between itself and the masses, which it cannot and never will control. A wise strategy is to pursue the decentralization of consumer matters and political 'correctness' and retain control over other areas, like civil infrastructure, military forces and the administration of economic policy, foreign affairs etc, on the model of the US. It isn't clear whether or not matters of health care should be public or private, but I am leaning towards public.

    As Laosan mentions, it doesn't make sense for the central Chinese government to get blamed for every insurrection in every village in China. This is where they ought to decentralize. They are going to have to learn how to tolerate a certain level of rebellion, because suppression of it is ultimately more expensive than letting fools have their way.

    What I don't know is how deeply felt are the divisions of Chinese regions. I believe that their unity is more organic and historically rooted than that established by the USSR, and that federation would work very well in China if it came to that. Even so, I would encourage every hamlet in the wider area to elect their local representatives, rather than establish any regional positions. For that to work under any circumstances, I believe very strongly is going to take at least a generation. Any reform faster than that would be revolution, and revolutions are always bloody. That's why I'm against them.

    So the question I am likely to have for my more liberal brothers in Asia is whether I represent, as a beneficiary of the Civil Rights Movement in the US, a revolutionary example of the power of democracy. I think I have a persuasive argument that ours was an evolution of reform which was enabled by a mature democracy. I mean it took 100 years. There were no beefs in 1965 which didn't exist in 1865. Even so, the state of 'managerial science' has advance considerably. We know how to speed the pace of organizational change without hitting a violent inflection. We can work at the speed of revolution and yet have it be reform, maybe. Either way, there's no need to rely on the marginal capacities of the grass roots to effect the kind of change that ultimately benefits everyone. But that takes wisdom.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:02 AM | TrackBack

    January 01, 2005

    An Ex-Bodysurfer's View of the Tsunami

    Now that I've eyeballed several of the tsunami videos, I have to say a few things.

    As a native Californian body surfer, I'd say that none of those waves looked extraordinarily high. The one that did show a big break looked to be about 8-10 foot as far as I could tell. That's a big wave, but not a huge wave. At my peak, an 8 footer was about all I could handle. Six footers I could handle for an hour or so and then I'd be exhausted, but there are a huge number of variables, most importantly the shape of the beach. The reason I mention this is that if I were on the beach and I was surprised by a good sized wave, my instinct is to swim towards it.

    This is not just a gung ho thrillseeker attitude, it's the way to survive. The massive force of the wave is in the break. If you stand still, the whitewater is going to knock you over, there's no way around that. But if you get behind the wave, you're a lot safer.

    I don't know exactly how a tsunami wave is different than a storm wave coming in, and I am not trying to downplay the force of any wave. But if there's going to be a 10 foot swell and you're on the beach, get into the water. There's no way you can tell if there's going to be shrapnel in the water when you make your decision so you'd have to depend on instinct. Sooner or later you're going to have to swim out. But I'd much rather be in the deep water offshore than in the shallow water where all kinds of lumber and glass is in the current.

    On the other hand, I've heard accounts where folks said that the beach receded about 3/4 of a mile. When I heard that people were going down where the water used to be and picking up fish I was kind of astounded. Didn't they figure out that the water was going to come back? But that would be consistent with what I saw in the Phuket video which looked like a very shallow profile. Phuket would be mush all day, no breaking waves. So when the tsunami did come in, it would look like a broad band of whitewater instead of a cresting wave. The break didn't look as if it were travelling much faster than ordinary storm waves either.

    The most dangerous scenario I can imagine would be where the beach has a medium rise, no seawall of any sort and then drops down onto relatively hard ground with small buildings. If as you go inland, the elevation drops even slightly below sea level, all that flotsam would go rushing fast. I've heard tell of a 30 to 50 foot rise in the ocean. Three or four sets of 8 to 10 foot waves on a tide that rises 50 feet in an hour would make a huge mess. So when I saw pictures of scores of dead bodies floating in broken lumber, I knew just what kind of mess that could be.

    I fear drowning more than just about anything, and I was a pretty decent swimmer. I used to bodysurf all day long back in the day, and was a certified Junior Guard. That's the 'highschool' of California beach lifeguarding, so I know a little something about reading the shore. What's very tragic about a lot of these deaths is that I'm sure a lot of them were caused by people getting caught in the break and then twisting ankles and breaking legs trying to get away. When you're running in water and don't know what the bottom is like, that's sure to happen, especially if you're panicked. Even 3 foot mush will knock a strong man over. If you're on concrete, you're screwed.

    In confined spaces, the situation would be more like whitewater on a river. Five feet of water falling 10 feet, like down a short flight of stairs, could be absolutely deadly. People caught in the doorway to a basement or the driveway to an underground parking structure would surely be in trouble. Add the random piece of furniture or tree branch; yike.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:54 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Genetic Genocide

    Why are there no Neanderthals around? They're certainly smarter than chimpanzees. You'd think they would have survived. The answer that scientists seem to agree upon is that we killed them. All of them, down to the last caveman. It's not too difficult to imagine, unfortunately. But it's pretty damned scary when you think of it.
    Homo Sapiens
    are, according to evolutionary biologists, the dominant hominids because we whooped the contenders.

    Picture this. You're out at a bar and this guy is pestering a cute girl. You see her slap him and call him a Neanderthal. He comes on to her again. If you have this overwhelming urge to beat the crap out of him and get the girl, it's only natural (selection).

    Posted by mbowen at 10:04 PM | TrackBack