December 29, 2005

The Truth about Kwanzaa Attackers

My third day into my mission of being a one man hit squad has yeilded some interesting insights. I can state them as the axioms of opposition.

1. Karenga is an athiest, therefore Kwanzaa is anti-Christian.
2. Karenga is a criminal, therefore Kwanzaa is illegitimate
3. Karenga is a racist, therefore Kwanzaa is racist.
4. Karenga is Marxist, therefore Kwanzaa is Anti-American.

That's it. This is basically what all the fuss boils down to. You'll notice the pattern Karenga is therefore Kwanzaa is. It's a clever little trick that really boggles the mind of someone like me. You see I would expect more cogent arguments to say something about the people who celebrate Kwanzaa, rather than the guy who kicked it off.

Secondly, you would think that people who go one step beyond the ad hominem would say something substantial about the Nguzo Saba. That is to say that they might show their reasoning that Kuumba, for example, defies one of the Ten Commandments. Not that anyone swears a sacred oath to Kawaida or the Nguzo Saba. But perhaps they think that even repeating one of those 'East African' words might send them straight to Gehenna. Who knows? There's plenty of credibility in the vaguely stated arguments that Karenga is Marxist and therefore Kwanzaa must be Anti-American in some way, but nobody has really mentioned 'Ujamaa' itself. The irony is that they'd get no quarrel from me. I think Ujamaa is provincial and that most ideas about 'recycling black dollars' are impractical and of very little use. But it's one thing to say that going to black barbershops, black car washes and putting your money in black banks is useless as a basis for economic uplift in the American context, and another altogether to say it is racist or un-American. It's simply a level of discussion these folks don't wish to pursue.

So what is unsaid give rise to speculations about the considered yet unexpressed. Perhaps there's something sinister that nobody really wants to say straight out. It's implied with the Ham story but not said much. Yes, there have been people who have said 'Happy Kwanzaa, Niggers' and such rot. But for the most part these attacks, owing primarily to Mulshin, Horowitz, Ham, Barber & Coulter are skating around the issue. What issue is that? The issue of race of course. Put plainly, only bad negroes celebrate Kwanzaa, good negroes don't. Why are they bad negroes? Because they follow Karenga, who is clearly a bad negro. Oops. Did I say negro? Let me put this politically correctly... The truth about Kwanzaa is that it was invented by Ron Everett who calls himself 'Maulana Karenga' who is a psychopathic FBI stooge and torturer..blah blah blah... So is this a truth that Kwanzaa celebrants know? Or is it a truth that good people are supposed to know? What is the point of bringing the ugly facts about Karenga front and center as they have on a regular annual basis?

Which brings us to a very interesting conundrum. What are we to make of all of the corporate and commercial and government co-sponsorhsip of Kwanzaa? When the guys at The Gap and your local PTA and Virgin Mobile stick Kwanzaa into their agendas, what does it mean? Are we to assume that they are endorsing the bad negro(es)? Do the anti-Kwanzaans expect to criminalize Kwanzaa, are they working to take Kwanzaa out of the public domain? Do they wish to make Kwanzaa an enemy of the state? Perhaps all Kwanzaa celebrants should be shipped to Gitmo? Really, what is the point?

I think there are two things going on. The first insidious but predictable, the second less obvious but equally pathetic.

1. (Insidious & Predictable) Black people should....
2. (Obvious & Pathetic) Multiculturalism sucks...

What's insidious about the 'black people should' in this equation is that it's basically a Christian Fundamentalist thing. The rest of the story is that Black People Should Dismiss Kwanzaa. There are about a thousand reasons why that is completely wrongheaded, not the least of which has to do with the regressive nature of the provincial Negro Church. I will discuss this at length, but the summary of that discussion is this: The Negro Church stands in political opposition to Black Power and Black Liberation. Kwanzaa is a little piece of Black Liberation. There are lots of ways to come at that, but I'll want to talk about the specifics in the context of black intellectuals in the 60s who wanted to break the monopoly of the Negro Church on black political organizing, cultural expression and economic habits. In other words, that kinda transformation Malcolm X went through once he broke with the Nation of Islam is what black intellectuals would have ordinary Negroes do in breaking with the Negro Church. To become citizens of the world, or at the very least an African Diaspora was the aim of such intellectuals, who in the 60s saw a bigger role for African Americans than just in the margins of society. They were making way for the Bill Cosbys of the world. To criticize the Negro Church in any context is to pick a bone with Christian Right and, via their crude calculations, make one an Enemy of Christ(mas), which is the victimology du jour for 2005. It's an interesting form of patronization that seems to work, at least for the likes of Jesse Lee Peterson and those who find him refreshing.

I am only marginally conflicted on this score as a Conservative, that is because I am a civil libertarian and I believe strongly in the idea of a global presence for African Americans. I don't think we should view the world strictly in provincial religious terms or be represented strictly through the Negro Church but through a variety of modes. But like I said, more on that later.

As for the Obvious and Pathetic whinging against Multiculturalism... well what else can you say? It's obvious and pathetic. At least with the Nguzo Saba you have something concrete to base your whining against. It's not like trying not to insult Native Americans because of some sports teams logo. What can be said for Kwanzaa unlike other squishy PC garbage is that Kwanzaa actually states what it is all about. This is something declared and principled, not something ineffable and essential. Anybody can be equally into Kuumba, just like anybody can eat Thai food. It's about something whereas a lot of PC nonsense is about nothing at all.

And this is where the enemies of Kwanzaa fall flat. I mean how could you not see that huge softball teed up and not take a swing. What is Kujichagulia and why is that Anti-American? Well, Kugjichagulia is Self-Reliance. Oops, can't go there. How about Ujimaa? Well, that's Collective Work and Responsibility. Hmmm. Can't really knock that. How about Umoja (Unity), Kuumba (Creativity). Imani (Faith), Nia (Purpose).. Damn, strike six. All anyone can really point an accusatory finger at is Ujamaa, the little Marxist problem child of Kwanzaa. But when you really look at where Marxist and socialist influence comes from in American politics, it ain't Kwanzaa. So there's a bit of a chicken and egg problem here. Simply stated, Democrats are more influential on black politics than Kwanzaa, so tearing down Ujamaa (which most Americans have never even heard of) is kind of a non-starter, propaganda-wise.

Therefore the criticism of Kwanzaa can't get most of its weight from the substance of Kwanzaa itself. Much better to go after Karenga, a convicted felon.

This year, however, the litany of complaint has got a new twist. Without really talking about the substance of the Nguzo Saba, the Korageous Kwanzaa Killers have decided to go bring up another American nightmare and use the old guilt by association trick:

Coincidentally, the seven principles of Kwanzaa are the very same seven principles of the Symbionese Liberation Army, another charming invention of the Least-Great Generation. In 1974, Patricia Hearst, kidnap victim-cum-SLA revolutionary, posed next to the banner of her alleged captors, a seven-headed cobra. Each snake head stood for one of the SLA's revolutionary principles: Umoja, Kujichagulia, Ujima, Ujamaa, Nia, Kuumba and Imani – the same seven "principles" of Kwanzaa.

I'm quite sure that this is what my local Rite Aid had in mind when they stocked the shelves with Kwanzaa cards, and what the PTA of my school was all about when they taught the kids Kwanzaa songs in Swahili. Coulter and her ilk are so lunatic on this because they can't stand the idea that the President is actually a Compassionate Conservative who does actually care about black people. Even us bad negroes who celebrate Kwanzaa.

Posted by mbowen at 10:28 AM | Comments (25) | TrackBack

My Gripe with the Religious Right

I think that a sizeable percentage of the Christian Right are under the false impression that America is on the verge of moral collapse, and that were it not for their tireless and tiresome efforts, gay men who are pro-abortion would take over the nation and Tony Kushner would replace Shakespeare in the schools. Such people are deluded, paranoid and over-exposed. I think they will discover this as soon as Karl Rove's memoirs are published, but no time soon. In the meantime, amid legitimate complaints about media bias, we are suffering the reactionary anti-bias.

One of the reasons I find this astounding is due to the credibility given to Mel Gibson, of all people, in telling the story of Christ. If people actually believe that Christianity without movies and television is a failed religion, then perhaps we ought to get rid of all these new Christians and start Christianity over again.

Religion is not supposed to be fought in the media, nor in the legislature, but in the mind and in the heart. Unfortunately for us, too many Christians know no other way. Not that the Republican Party minds one bit, because the Democrats are too stupid to make appeals to Christians.

Posted by mbowen at 09:07 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Blogospheric Kwanzaa Annex

It's always nice to have academics and sensible people around when things get hairy. I've found a swell compendium of nicely stated pieces on Kwanzaa, including some dissertation stuff that I added over at Wikipedia. Our first stop is at Rising Up where Joe puts LaShawn into context.

Kwanzaa Deserves Respect

The problem with such reasoning isn't that it's dumb; Barber makes a fine, coherent case. The problem is that critical distinctions between religion and culture simply haven't been well differentiated at the traditionalist/rationalist stage of development. At Barber's level of analysis, all religions and cultures are to be weighed against the One True Myth. Surprise, it just happens to be HERS! Yes, HER Myths. HER Church. HER Sacred Books. HER Country. HER Culture. What is reasonable is that which is in conformity with the One True Myth... and surprise! It's okay to celebrate Christmas, but not Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa is bad because it's a "made-up, anti-Christian observance." And Christmas is good because it's a "deep-rooted, historical, [and] true observance."


As a celebration of culture and diversity within a context of affirming both traditional values and development to a greater stage of Unity, Kwanzaa is a premiere holiday of the multicultural pluralistic historical stage... and derives from a truly integral expression of wisdom. In this sense, Kwanzaa is an elite cultural holiday: it's based on a vision that simply could not have arisen until the arrival of modern and postmodern intellectual expressions in the African-American community in the mid 1960s. And it is a vision that has succeeded where so many other pie in the sky ideas have failed: it has become part of the cultural mainstream. By some reckoning, Kwanzaa has been celebrated by as many as 60 million individuals. Kwanzaa-related segments are regularly featured on Oprah, Martha Stewart Living, and the HGTV cable channel.

I'm not so convinced that is or should be considered post-modern. But Joe's got a good grasp on the false dichotomy forced into the premises of Christian fundamentalist attacks on Kwanzaa.

Additionally, we find some great stuff at Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Over there I found most notably, this entry which gives a good perspective on what ought to be the discussion about Kwanzaa:

This dissertation examines the creation and early development of Kwanzaa as a response to racial and cultural oppression in the 1960s and 1970s. Though Kwanzaa was created by Maulana Karenga and the US Organization, the response in creating and celebrating a new black holiday quickly transcended Karenga, involving a broader section of black cultural nationalists, local grassroots activists, and many more attempting to raise the level of black consciousness. The dissertation also discusses the appropriation of Kwanzaa by American corporate and cultural institutions in the 1980s and 1990s. By the late 1980s and 1990s, Kwanzaa ceased being the sole property of the black nationalist community; it had been embraced by a broader segment of African-Americans, corporate and religious bodies, cultural and media institutions, and well as the Federal government. In crossing a number of historical terrains, the dissertation explores the following: Kwanzaa's place within the two-century-old black holiday tradition and the development of a black cultural calendar; the origin of Kwanzaa in Los Angeles; the growth of black cultural nationalism and Kwanzaa's diffusion within the black neighborhood public sphere in American cities; the corporate and cultural institutional commodification of Kwanzaa not only for profit, but for public relations and goodwill. In examining these areas with the use of oral histories, mainstream and community newspapers, magazines, academic periodical literature and personal collections, I have uncovered two Kwanzaas: one, the black nationalist Kwanzaa steeped in ideas about traditional Africa, the essence of race, and the absence of culturally viable representations. This Kwanzaa was designed to liberate African-Americans from white oppression by rejecting American culture. The second is the multicultural Kwanzaa-a holiday less concerned with liberation and Black Power, but more attuned to bringing people together and celebrating diversity. The multicultural Kwanzaa was a product of corporations, museums, schools, the media, and the state.

I'll continue to update this one as I find material on the subject of that is new and not covered somewhere here.

Over at Economists View is a review of the Ujamaa as the model for Cooperative Economics in Hiphop:

[T]hose who are involved in the business end of hip-hop seem to be following in Gordy’s footsteps ... These present-day entrepreneurs are not just artists, they are part owners of the labels and they produce and create distribution deals that help them build and accumulate wealth. ... The real story is who these artists are and their ability to build viable, successful businesses with friends and family as supporters. The careers of Russell Simmons and Jay-Z illustrate this point. Each has started a small business that now includes recording labels, soft drink products, and clothing lines. Russell Simmons was president of Def Jam, perhaps the most well known if not most successful hip-hop label. Simmons is currently president of Rush communications. ... Simmons has sold off his interest in many of his companies for an estimated $400 million. It is said that Simmons is more successful than Barry Gordy was during his tenure in the music industry.
Posted by mbowen at 08:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 28, 2005

Kujichagulia 2005: Do For Self

Kawanzaa2.gifOf all of the Nguzo Saba, none resonates for me as much as Kujichagulia. First of all, it's the most fun to say, and it's the one I remember above all. It's not squishy like some of the others and it resonates with talented as well as conservative folks (not that there's a necessary dichotomy there).

Of course my boy Ray Nagin got in trouble for putting together an emergency plan in advance of Katrina that employed the value of Kujichagulia. He said, we might be first responders, but your primary safety is in your own hands. That sounds like hard medicine to swallow, but should it be? In perhaps the biggest racial bombshell of the year, Kanye West said George W. Bush doesn't care about black poeple. Had Kanye a bit of common sense and some Kujichagulia he would have understood that George W. Bush's care is besides the point. Do for self means care for self. It means not putting your destiny in the hands of others who may or may not have your best interests in mind. It means having your own plan, defining your own place in the scheme of things.

In that meditation penned by the great man (the likes of whom we may never see in my lifetime) Reinhold Neibuhr he wrote:

God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the Courage to change those things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference. --(Reinhold Niebuhr 1892-1971)

We select our destiny according to our ability. We accept help when we need it, but we pick our orientation. We decide which way we must go. Doing for self doesn't mean working alone. It means defining a self and investing it with integrity. It means not letting anyone turn you 'round. it meands killing the little demons inside your head. the demons of self-doubt and inferiorty. It means being proud of determining your own fate and not being afriad to put your name and reputation behind things you believe in. It not about being solopsistic or living in your own little nasty world. It means confronting challenges and staying true to true purposes that are at the heart of yourself.

There are lots of ways of expressing this value. I like what Shakespeare said in Hamlet about being true to yourself such that you can be false to no other man. I like what Nikki Giovanni said in 'Revolutionary Dreams', and I leave it at that:

Revolutionary Dreams

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

Sounds like a plan.

Posted by mbowen at 04:21 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Rising Up

Aha. It looks as if I have found the man who might, in the end, find a way to convince me that there is some way to integrate gay marriage into my list of good things. That would be quite a feat, but Joe Perez appears to have the qualifications.

I would say that my greatest difficulty with the idea of same-sex marriage is its threat to the very sacrament of Holy Matrimony. I see the political activism of various queer nations & friends as an overproduction within our democracy which is both arrogant, deceptive and counter to the very liberating aspects of the legacy of Stonewall. I support equal rights for registered domestic partners, such as we have here in California, but I do not endorse any cross of the line between Church and State. I cannot believe that such social and political activism can be contained within a purely secular context and that congregations will force the hand of the clergy and church hierarchs.

While I am not so personally vested in the affairs of other sects, I think this is a dangerous precedent for my own Episcopal and Catholic Churches. In fact, in light of the possibility that Episcopalians might change, I have seriously considered joining the Catholic Church in some official way. This is a consequence of my fundamental belief and understanding of religious traditions as well considered and evolved moral frameworks which counter the vagueries and fashions enabled by today's ultra-fast market economies and regimes of information. I expect the internet to be fast, I don't expect it to be heavy enough to bulldoze ancient and active religions.

Clearly, however, homosexuality has endured the centuries. Has it been relegated to the proper margins? That is a question I do not know the answer to, however I find it difficult to believe that in the most libertine and free society in mankind's history, our political emphasis is in line with all human experience. As the puppeteer so concisely parodied "Everybody has AIDS' is simply not the case, nor should Rent' be canonical.

Anyway, I am looking forward to checking out Mr. Perez blog, Rising Up in the future.

Posted by mbowen at 11:06 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Peterson Disqualified

I hereby state unequivocably that Jesse Lee Peterson is a fraud and that his ministry, to the extent I can discern, is illogical and shallow. I do so based upon a letter published today which is the straw that has broken the camel's back - an attack on Fred Price. I say it is a deceptive attempt to slander Price and to tar him with the same brush that Price uses in his fight against institutional racism in Protestantism. Peterson has set himself to do this, but now I think he is in over his head.

Here's to hoping for a showdown. I'm in Price's corner.

Posted by mbowen at 10:35 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

December 27, 2005

A Kwanzaa Counterattack

Here follows an open letter to all defenders of liberty.

I have found myself in a very uncomfortable predicament. You see I celebrate Kwanzaa. I do so for all the best reasons you might imagine, including the rather unique fact that my parents and I were there at its inception. Because I am a blogger and have no mainstream media credentials, there isn't much that I have been able to do to correct the revisionism attending much of the publicity given to Kwanzaa by certain Christian activists and their defenders on the web. Yet I feel very strongly that there should be some balance given the distortions of this tradition and its meaning, and so I appeal to you.

The difficulty with defending Kwanzaa is part of its redeeming quality. As with Christmas, there is no central authority that controls the way its celebrants behave or what they think. People come up with all kinds of reasons and ways, some good some bad, but not strictly dictated and controlled to spend Kwanzaa week. And yet the primary attack on this meek celebration presumes that very thing - that all of us who enjoy Kwanzaa are under the spell and thumb of its primary founder, Ron Karenga. There are plenty of ugly things to say about Ron Karenga, and the enemies of Kwanzaa have spared no details. I think it is sufficient to say that he was a convicted felon. But those who continue their attacks on the holiday have found no end of ways to putting their interpretations of his intent on center stage in their rants against it. To say that Karenga's definitions of Kwanzaa supercede all others is very much like saying there could be no improvements to America and those who celebrate it based on the sins of Thomas Jefferson - whatever those sins might be. Literally that the sins of Karenga should and do haunt everyone who celebrates Kwanzaa.

This is particularly distrubing and hurtful to me, not only because it indicates the depths to which people will debase themselves to smear others, but because of my personal connection to it and my relative inability to counter the onslaught. In a very real and significant way this has come to represent to me a failure of the blogosphere to live up to its promise of getting useful information to the public by people who are personally invested but not attached to some media machine. But I hold out hope.

My initial inclination is to find some blogging allies to spread the word, and I'll probably continue to do that, but my first move is going to be getting my own blog in order. There's no easy way to describe my relationship to the holiday other than mostly good, as with Christmas, and I cannot say at this moment that I'm in a charitable mood. Part of me is saying, what is the point of explaining something like this to these morons. Yet I have to recognize that people may come here with an open mind. Anyway, I'm creating a Kwanzaa category under which you'll find a bunch of related blog entries. I've left everything in it's original form including my defense of Karenga when I didn't know what had gone on years after my parents and he parted company.

So I think I may have said enough over the past two or three years to show a nuanced appreciation for the holiday, its strengths, weaknesses, origins and practices, but I hope to get some intelligent questions and maybe a trackback or two.

Posted by mbowen at 11:05 PM | Comments (72) | TrackBack

Too Many Movies: 2005 Edition

Now that it's time to review the year, I realize that I have seen far too many mediocre movies. I've probably eaten too many hamburgers as well. The thing is, you don't recognize the extent of the poisoning until you take in a full view. So here's the litany.

Jarhead, Transporter 2, Domino, Chicken Little , Unleashed, Sahara, The Interpreter, Four Brothers, Serenty, Batman Begins, Sin City, Star Wars III, Wallace & Grommit, Constant Gardener, Lord of War, The Island, Corpse Bride, The Pacifier, Harry Potter & Goblet of Fire, Rize, War of the Worlds, Madagascar, Hitchhiker's Guide,Constantine, Be Cool, Assault on Precinct 13.

There are only about four of these films that were worth seeing. So they'll be my top films of the year and remind me that I've got to leave the junk alone. Understand that I go to see big screen films that are visual and auditory experiences. I'm really not down for art flicks nor message movies, although I did go see Hotel Rwanda last year. I have grown somewhat intolerant of movie fiction in the literary cast. I used to be a big fan of them but these days I simply can't stomach any pretense in film, and it seems to me that most 'important' films are overly pretentious. Still, I'll probably go see Syriana and be disappointed anyway.

1. Serenity
This was unqualifyably my favorite flick of the year. A big surprise in plenty of good ways. I was supposed to get the Firefly boxed set for Xmas but maybe I was too naughty this year.

2. Lord of War
A textbook exercise in storytelling that takes me into a credible vision of a world I think I know but don't. That to me is perfect entertainment. This one was very grownup with no simpleminded characters. Very nicely done.

3. Sin City
This was a brilliant looking film but man was the dialog crummy. I don't know how they missed that so thoroughly. I'll probably end up with the DVD of this one simply because it's so unique.

4. War of the Worlds
This is the first movie to deal with horror appropriate to the mindblowing that was 9/11. It also confirmed that I absolutely cannot stand Tom Cruise as an actor. It should have been Willam Dafoe.

5. Madagascar.
I like to move it, move it. It was as good as it promised to be. What more could you ask for?

The worst movies?

Chicken Little was pure PC drivel from end to end, but at least the first part of it was funny. The end was horrible.
Jarhead was a complete waste of film - an insult to soldiers and citizens.
Domino was pure incoherent excess. It did look good in spots though.

Honorable Mentions:

I have a feeling that King Kong will be close to great but I haven't seen it.
Harry Potter was what it was supposed to be, so was Star Wars.
Sahara was a pleasant surprise for the kids
Rize. Yeah.

Posted by mbowen at 04:09 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

In France They're Ten Days Late

Actually, my favorite comparison to other holidays is this one about Chanukah.

The central story of Chanukah--the oil lasting eight days, yadda yadda yadda--is not only a lie, but an obvious one: it is nowhere mentioned in either of the two Books of Maccabees, which provide the central textual source for the Chanukah story. It's just made up. And by the way--where are those Books of Maccabees, anyway? Roman Catholics have included them in their Bible, and some Protestants usually append the Apocrypha (where they are found) to the back of their Bible, but Jews leave it out. It's almost as if we're embarrassed by it.
Posted by mbowen at 03:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Have Yourself a Divisive Little Kwanzaa

All married couples should learn the art of battle as they should learn the art of making love. Good battle is objective and honest - never vicious or cruel. Good battle is healthy and constructive, and brings to a marriage the principle of equal partnership.
-- Ann Landers

I'm not married to LaShawn Barber, but we used to be league mates in The Conservative Brotherhood. LaShawn, however has outgrown our smallish coterie and has become a blogging superstar on her way to media stardom. It is therefore with a bit of sadness that I fnd myself having to battle her over a matter of personal concern, which is the integrity of Kwanzaa. I've had to deal with Malkin on this before as well as some stuff written years ago by Mulshin. Now Ambra's got troops on the wrong side of this too. (sigh)

Although I didn’t ask to be, I am probably the foremost authority currently writing on the origins and meaning of Kwanzaa on the web today. That’s because I was there at the beginning. Any of you who care to get a nuanced understanding of these origins are welcome to check out my blog which has plenty of references, some serious, some lighthearted. Right now, I need to be serious.

The most important thing that I would like to stress in this post is that Kwanzaa is not anti-Christian. It has transcended its roots and has become something different than what it started as. I think what it has become depends entirely on the spirit of the people who celebrate it. Which is to say that somewhere there is someone just as evil, wicked, mean and nasty as LaShawn states who celebrates Kwanzaa just to spite people like LaShawn. I’m not sure it’s very charitable to consider them as the poster children for Kwanzaa. If anyone, I am the poster child for Kwanzaa. As I said, we started it.

When I say we, let's get one thing clear. Ron Karenga didn't go from house to house burning down Christmas trees and demanding that blackfolks substitute Kwanzaa. The people of the time, including my parents, the Ligons, brother Damu and other families took the celebration into their homes and spread love and started the tradition. So if you learn one thing from your 'What is Kwanzaa' question, keep in mind that Karenga is not the celebration, but the spark. His Kawaida philosophy made a big book and everybody didn't live their life from it like a bible, Kwanzaa was simple and good. Think of Karenga as you might think of Jefferson or Franklin, but understand that among the founders were my family. If you want to hate, know who you're hating. You're hating me and my family, and I don't appreciate being lied about.

I’m sure many of you have heard the old saw ‘religion is the opiate of the masses’, and there is no Christian of any experience who doesn’t know some fakers who are the reason the other expression ‘God helps those who help themselves’ is in existence. Just as there are fools who call themselves Christians and attend service for the wrong reasons, there are fools who celebrate Kwanzaa for the wrong reasons. That’s not who we are here to talk about.

The reason Kwanzaa was created lies fairly parallel to why the Afro was created, why ‘black is beautiful’ was created and why James Brown sang ‘Say it Loud: I’m Black and I’m Proud’. It was about evolving a mindset towards independence and liberation. It was about black people doing something for themselves for a change - not demanding that the government, or Jesus, do things for them that they ought to be doing for themselves.

Today we take it for granted that there is a level of independent mindedness among African Americans that nobody ever expected of the Negro. And in creation of that omlette, a lot of eggs needed to be broken, a lot of militant posturing, angry rhetoric and loud protests were made. That’s called mental revolution and it doesn’t come easy. Sometimes people are crucified for radical ideas. That’s the way of the world. But I think anyone with half a brain recognizes that militant posturing, angry rhetoric and loud protests are associated with Kwanzaa. It’s in Wal-Mart already - the place that can’t handle gangsta rap.

To the extent that the Negro Church was considered the only legitimate expression of African American culture in the 60s, the founders of Kwanzaa and like-minded people fought bitterly for attention. Anyone who has watched television to see the most ignorant blacks ‘represent the community’ knows exactly how intolerable that can be. Imagine that in the days where the very idea of a black journalist working on a white newspaper was unheard of. This is the proper context for understanding the antipathy between kwanzaa’s founders and the black church.

Such antipathy is no longer necessary or encouraged. Anybody who says different is just shouting to be shouting. There is plenty of room for Kwanzaa and Christmas. I celebrate both and I think I do so in the proper spirit without contradiction. But every year ignorant people come out of the woodwork the spit on Kwanzaa as racist, separatist, militant and anti-Christian. Why? Why is Osama bin Laden? Why ask why? I just have to deal with that nasty fact, and every year it gets me more and more steamed, even though I try not to be. The insults are intolerable.

I understand that there must be some orthodoxy in Christian sects which forbid the celebration of Kwanzaa or any number of other events not on the official calendar. I don’t have any problems with Jehovah’s Witnesses who find birthday cakes to be blasphemous or Southern Baptists who find Harry Potter sacreligious. That’s them, but that’s not all Christianity. But I would hardly expect to take a Jehovah’s Witness’ word on what goes on in the minds of people who celebrate birthdays. So I don’t expect that reasonable people should give anti-Kwanzaans a great deal of credibility as to what goes on in my mind when I celebrate Kwanzaa.

So here's my message to all you Christians who think they are doing the world a favor by spreading ugly ideas about who celebrates Kwanzaa and why. Stop burning your crosses on our lawns. Your ignorance and hatred is nauseating.

Posted by mbowen at 01:56 PM | Comments (28) | TrackBack

Cobblers Alert: Dap & Kwanzaa

It looks like I'm coming back around to some cultural work that needs doing in the fabric of cyberspace. These days I'm focusing on three reference sites that I think are fairly important. They are the Wikipedia, Flickr and LastFM. Black culture is what it is, but a lot of what it is hasn't been translated well into cybermedia. So I'm doing my share, and I ask Cobblers to pull a little weight too.

It turns out that nobody has really got a good definition of Dap. Now that's a damned shame. Most everybody knows what dap is, but it's kind of hard to express in writing. I mean little babies learn how to slap five before they can even talk, so dap is deep. My understanding is that dap originated among the black troops in Vietnam and made a big splash in the US when they returned. Of course there was the black power handshake as well as the black power salute that originated back then. Today everybody gives a pound and men all over give love.

It's interesting that the embrace and handshake is just a thing I call 'giving love', and until this moment, I never really thought about another name for it. I know that after the LA Riots in Los Angeles it was considered very offensive if black men didn't recognize each other with the head up or didn't give love when greeting. (excuse me, I'm tearing up, seriously). I was in Brooklyn at the time but I got the word clearly from my brothers, Deet and Doc. So there's no question that dap is deeply embedded in contemporary African American culture.

Of course dap also has verbal components. I'll only comment on one, which is the offense of 'leaving me hanging'. If I offer you five by raising my right hand to slap you and you don't offer your upturned palm, then you are leaving me hanging, which is similar to not offering a hand to shake, except sometimes with Tom connotations - a greater insult.

As for Kwanzaa, I see that Wikipedia is cleaning up its game, but on Flickr there are only 50 photos tagged with Kwanzaa. Damn. I know we can do better than that. You'll see me in both places for the week. I'm on a mission. Join me.

Posted by mbowen at 11:36 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Appliance World

There's only a very small difference between men and women. ah but vive la difference!
-- French Proverb, according to Pepe Le Peu

I just clicked on a banner ad for a Hyundai automobile. I didn't know it was a Hyundai. It looked luxurious. I'm sure you've made similar mistakes in the past few years. A lot of cars look like Mercedes. Jaguars look more pedestrian than ever. BMW goes into bizarre sharklike directions to distinguish their latest models. I hear that Chinese cars are on their way across the Pacific. (There has got to be a joke in there somewhere). What's going on here?

Not much I think. It's only something we in the advanced consumer class take a great deal of notice in. We are reading extraordinary arcane tea leaves, and we're very good at it. I am brought to mind of a dinner I bought for a cat from Finland in Long Beach a few years back. He told me he was raised on potatoes and soup, basically. So he always loved to come to the US whenever he could, so he could eat at our French and Thai restaurants. I told him that we are very addicted to money and spending, that's why we're an economic superpower. He couldn't believe it when I told him that the waiter in the restaurant would respect me more if I paid with a gold colored piece of plastic instead of a blue colored one. But it's true. We're like that.

Steve Jobs is still ranting about Objective C and the Next Cube computing club has finally called it quits. The PC is only about 20 years old and that's why Gerard is still having nightmares. But already an iPod is an iPod, unless it's a Rio or just some attachement feature in a Treo. There are fashionable computers and fashionable flash music players. That means the basic problem has been solved and now it's all about marketing. We do all the marketing over here in the US, we let our flunkies overseas do the building. That's OK. Without marketing, they're all appliances anyway. I mean, really is there a difference between a Dell desktop and a Compaq? Neither of those two companies do anything but assemble components built elsewhere and market them slickly. It's what America does best.

Marketing is an extraordinarily difficult thing. I really learned that back in 1999 and 2000 when I had one of those crazy Silicon Valley titles and wore blue shirts. Marketing is the art of convincing people that there is value in making a selection between rough commodities. It is the science of putting words in people's mouths and ideas in their heads. It's about selling concepts that contain products. Products are entiities that combine technologies. A good marketer makes people like products before they even exist. That we are capable of such magical mojo is testament to our greatness as a society, or of our credulousness, one. Still, if anybody could be a VP of Marketing, we'd all live in Lido Village.

But what's so special about Lido Village?

I would hope that I maintain a critical distance from certain marketing campaigns such that I can't be bamboozled as a consumer. But the scale of the enterprise of buying and selling is so vast that it's difficult to comprehend. There are whole economies of information out there that are difficult to parse. It's a full-time job just keeping up. And of course there's the whole economy above our heads. I mean, how could a guy like me tell the difference between a good yacht and a cheap one? For the man who cashes his paycheck at the liquor store, how could he ever distinguish between Schwab and Merrill Lynch? And yet there is marketing that I want too, because I like people like me and I want to know what they do. I'd like to know that I can be enticed by something that's good for me. And like other folks keeping up with the Joneses, I occasionally like to make jokes about people who buy goods from certain stores beneath my tastes.

But what if there was no marketing? What if we were only to get functional satisfaction from our consumables? What if products were only utilitarian, like the breakfast sludge eaten by the crew of the Neb in The Matrix? What if there were no sleek and sharklike, nor hooptie, nor mega tired, but only simply functional automobiles? What if everything simply worked and delivered no other kind of pleasure.. kind of like toothbrushes used to be? Blah. Might as well be Soviet, methinks. Furthermore, as loathe as we might be to admit it, there is an extra charge in knowing that there may someday be a new product that liberates us from the clunker we have now. That's why people are shelling out 600 bucks for a vacuum cleaner.

It's an interesting sport to check out the minute differences between products like cigarettes or shoes. There's really not a whole lot of difference between Nikes and Reeboks, but... hey, most of the time it's worth it.

Posted by mbowen at 09:23 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

December 26, 2005

On the First Day of Kwanzaa My True Love Gave To Me

Umoja, meaning unity.

I tried to buy a Charlie Brown tree this year. No such luck. I'm trying to have Kwanzaa lite this year. Maybe I'll be more successful. It's amazing that people have managed to convince themselves that Christmas itself is under attack. What a bunch of maroons. Of course I have been too busy and too happy eating all of the abundance of homemade grub to pay much attention. In fact, I think we've gone through more eggnog this year than any in memory. But I'm also tightening the belt and taking it light in multiple dimensions.

So instead of getting into yet another pointless pissing match with Michelle Malkin (although I have yet to be provoked). I'm going to change the pose on the poster child that is me and give the Official Guide to Kwanzaa Lite, A Compendium of Authentic Yet Spiritually and Intellectually Inexpensive Actvities for the Kwanzaa Season.

Today's Kwanzaa Lite Theme is Unity
That means everybody in the family has to agree to do three things together and stick it out to the bitter end. We're going to play that favorite game 'Life' by Parker Brothers. We're also going to finish watching Oliver! the musical and everybody is going to watch it all the way to the end without getting up and going to do something else. We're also going to all do the Kwanzaa thing together tonight before dinner.

Since this is the first day, we've got to get the basics in order. We've already got the old kinara and the mkeke still has some wax splatters on it from Kwanzaas past, but it's in good shape. All we have are a few ears of Kwanzaa corn. Right now, I'm going to run out to Rite Aid and see if they have all the colored candles I need. Actually, that's the hardest part. Finding the right hues of red black and green is a real pain, especially if you want to get them all in the same size. I should have done that earlier, but I am in time. So I'll check with y'all tomorrow, and I'll let you know who won in Life.

BTW: If you prefer a more expensive and serious approach, then click HERE.

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December 25, 2005

Still Bonin'

moore.jpgI still can't hear very well, but I sure did party well the other night at the Knitting Factory. Fishbone was in the house.

I realize something about myself. It's hard for me to be disappointed in Fishbone. But if I didn't know the band, I would have only been moderately impressed with last night's extended jam. It's been a long time since I bought new Fishbone stuff - since Angelo became Dr. Madd Vibe, I was still expecting to see Dirty Walt in the lineup but he wasn't. Still, it's only because, like a silly kid fanboy, I expect that the world will someday recognize the genius that is Fishbone. So this is part two of the extended Fishbone rant and review. See I bought four CDs off Angelo himself after the show, so I've got more stuff to digest. This is about the show in Hollywood Friday night.

Fishbone these days are six cats onstage. That's the right size for a band. Anything less can't make much music unless they are in perfect synch - which is what one should expect from jazz and electronica - or maybe acid jazz if you have a really tight single artist. But when it comes to jamming, which is what Fishbone does well, you gotta have at least five. So they did that right.

It took a while for them to get their asses out of cruise, but by the fourth or fifth song, Y and I were down on the dance floor in front of a crowd of about 50. As soon as we finished skanking to the song after 'Shine', the band ripped the head off of 'Freddy's Dead'. It was as if all of a sudden there was just a magical convergence of tightness and they showed how they can rock the shit out of a song you think you knew. What's subtly ironic about that was up until that point I had been hearing in the band, strains of a kind of Curtis Mayfield extended groove style. One can easily see the band doing gigs at the Mandalay Bay to huge crowds of drunk dancers, and doing dark smoky funky dub. Except they were amped up pretty loud for that.

I like the dub direction the band has taken. They could use somebody with a huge fat keyboad, fatter than the one used last night. In fact, if I was the manager of Fishbone, I would get them hooked up with Adrian Sherwood, because for all of the talent he has put together with On U, none of it is 1/3 as danceable as what Fishbone does. Angelo's spooky theramin is perfect for it, so is Norwood's bass. Who could possibly be a better front man for the next groove in dance? Nobody.

There's a new kid on trumpet which is a good punctuation for the band. As soon as they find out what to do with him, things could start seriously poppin' off. Trumpets are supposed to lead and define, and that wasn't going on. He was doing a kind of Milesish Tutu stuff behind the rhythm. So here's the deal, the horn arrangements aren't jumping off yet. I mean I don't know who was the man behind the orchestration on Nuttmeg, but that was bloody brilliant and it has not yet been approached by anything I've heard in rock. This set didn't have that kind of clarity where the Fisbhone horns are carrying the energy.

When they got to 'They All Have Abandoned Their Hopes' the groove was fully baked and everybody swung into it. By this time I was pogoing a hole in the floor like a goddamed fool. So I made sure that my sunglasses stayed on, just in case. Half the audience was just on the verge of getting moshified but it didn't fully happen. I can't speak for anybody else in the room but I was getting too pooped to pop. So even though the music didn't slow down, I had too. I mean Old School ain't just a label, this grey is real.

Angelo was his usual jumpity self, but kept his shirt on. He continued to rant on in what I have now learned is 'Cencor This & That' from The Medicine Cabinet. And now that I'm listening to that (one of the 3 albums I bought), things would have to go on a different angle, because Madd Vibe is a different variation on the species altogether - a new kind of blues, but more on that later. So after about two half-spontaneous encores, the fish finally finished. It was an evening of exuberated funk with strains of the quickness and beat-change up that is classic Fishbone. Yeah I wanted to hear some old stuff, then again, everything I know about the band is old stuff. Yet I'm pleased with what they're doing - I just hope the new band gels as nicely as the old did.

Now I'm going to say two things that need to be remembered, and I will underscore them in part three. Number one is that Angelo Moore is still one of the few people out of my generation and 'hood that retains a significant amount of cool. Hmm. That didn't come out just right. Let me try it this way. Angelo is still cooler than me, and that's damned hard to be. OK. But he's also as cryptic as an author 12 novels into an apocalyptic groove, which means he has to be taken seriously. The only person who gets that kind of regard from the critics and the masses is George Clinton, who, unlike Angelo, hasn't really done butkis in the past decade. Oh. So that's the second thing. Angelo still has something to say, whereas the rest of funk is dead.

I woulda thunk that the man to put this level of party genius forward would have been Sinbad or Chappelle, but clearly ain't nobody got legs that long. So mebbe if Jay Z has a reggae nightmare or Babyface or LA decides there's some dirty on the West Coast, not just the South, then the 'bone may rise again, under more than just it's own power. But I have no idea how that industry works... but maybe somebody somewhere might trip over these verbs and get an idea.

Speaking of which, there was another genius in the house. Overton Lloyd, the man who drew the bird. What bird you say? The bird screaming at Sir Nose on the cover of Aquaboogie. Now that is some stuff from way down in your psyche ain't it?

Soon come.. part three.

Posted by mbowen at 05:16 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Merry Christmas from the Bowens

May the blessings of Almighty God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit come down upon you and remain with you for ever.

Posted by mbowen at 03:40 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

December 23, 2005

Body Parts

Now that I have a little time off, I'm going to start paying a bit more attention to other bloggers. I have been accused of erecting strawmen. I suppose it's true - I haven't been arguing against or with anyone in particular, but against theoritical objections of my proposals and arguments. That's not healthy.

I start on a light note of rational optimism and find a new blog called Body Parts, a Bear Flagger. He has a set of concepts that have weight and philosophical pedigree and determines that they are due to be disproven and excommunicated from the Western Canon. I like it. From my perspective, a number of things I criticize generally as Lefty and just plain wrong don't quite get as specific as this, and I would like to use these more handy weapons in my arsenal against wishful thinking. Of course I realize that I have to enjoin the battle, and I buy the premise that these five predictions will come true. That's wishful.

So let it be my Christmas Wish

Posted by mbowen at 09:51 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Fake ID

I am pleased with the ruling in Kitzmiller vs Dover.

To preserve the separation of church and state mandated by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and Art. I, § 3 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, we will enter an order permanently enjoining Defendants from maintaining the ID Policy in any school within the Dover Area School District, from requiring teachers to denigrate or disparage the scientific theory of evolution, and from requiring teachers to refer to a religious, alternative theory known as ID.

First of all I am a stong believer in the concept of Emergent Behavior. Emergent behavior is basically the acknowledgement that there are objectively useful and complex behaviors that emerge out of very simple interactions which are not directly explicable by simple interactions. We have a sense of this when we say that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Also when we think of an ant colony as doing something in service to the queen, even though we know that the queen doesn't have a cell phone to every soldier. These are complex behaviors that emerge out of simple interactions. Ants don't think "hey let's make a long line", they're just sniffing the butt of the ant in front of them. Think of it as the positive side of unintended consequences. Sometimes very complex systems do things that make sense even though they are comprised of random and/or very simple interactions. Think of the calming effect of watching the sun's reflection off ripples on the ocean. It's absolutely impossible to 'program' the ocean's ripples and yet we percieve a pattern of beauty in it. The ocean's ripples are random and so is the angle of the sun, and who can say with any accuracy what exact color each will be on any ocean or any time of day. Yet we understand this thing and call it lovely.

The logic in the religiousity of Intelligent Design is to posit a god, i.e. some supernatural being or force, as a Creator of this beauty. If it is beautiful, says the logic, then there must have been some intelligent designer behind it otherwise how could we percieve it as beautiful? There are problems with this logic is twofold and related to the matter of teaching the scientific method.

The first problem is found in the the variant fungibility of attribution. Perception of things such as beauty or the appropriateness of the size of human eyeballs is abstracted to have some human value only through human agency. So one could conceivably construct a worldview (or a religion for that matter) that dictates that sunshine on the water is hideous and ugly. What Intelligent Designers would attribute to God is just as easily attributed to the Devil, or natural forces of decay or chaos. Simply because some group of people see the face of the Buddha in some pattern of dirt on a street in Karachi doesn't prove or disprove the idea of God. But the fundamental impetus to direct and control that attribution and interpretation is contrary to the scientific method. That is what makes ID value laden.

The attitude of scientific inquiry is 'it is what it is' and while it attempts to explain whatever is perceptible, it encourages and incorporates skepticism and contingency. The second problem with ID is that the it goes backwards and says the answer is always an Intelligent Designer. ID is what it needs to be.

I think that it is also notable that ID proponents are trying to reverse-engineer the educational system to suit their purposes. They pretend to want to be a credible scientific theory, yet they start with public schools for children instead of research universities where their ideas would be subjected to closer scrutiny. If it were to compete as a serious theory it would have the attention of top researchers in evolutionary biology but they reject it out of hand because it simply isn't science. The only people it fools are people who aren't true scientists - they can be bamboozled.

I've heard Intelligent Designers suggest that they're not necessarily religious, after all it might have been aliens who designed us in their super-fantastic laboratories. Ok, supposing that's true, what evidence do they present? Nothing approximating that presented by a logical presentation of the fossil record vis a vis evolutionary biology.

This is a war over methodology, and the ID Fakirs are are trying the public primary and secondary schools to interject an overbroad interpretation of the scientific method. I think it's very useful for courts to give some strong, persuasive and accurate descriptions of the scientific method in order to keep what's science clear legally, because it is vitally important to the the integrity of the American system that the divide between church and state be maintained. The public school system has a hard enough time teaching real science to be burdened with the activist agenda of teaching religion as pseudo-science, or belief in aliens.

Posted by mbowen at 09:35 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 22, 2005

Fishbone, Sadness & Rebellion

In the darkness, I have found my vision
I've seen the Queen that thrives on desolation

-- Fishbone (End the Reign)

This week I burned a CD with Squarepusher and Fishbone. Listening to Fishbone is always bittersweet. They are such an awesome and musically gifted band, and they never got their due commercially. People have debated who was better between them and Living Colour. They have to be compared because they are the 'black rock bands'. Some dig Bad Brains, but I could never get into that. Still, people who know Fishbone, know.

But they are bittersweet to me also because, now that I listen to them a dozen years after the release of 'Give a Monkey a Brain', I recognize some of the differences that age and experience make with regard to one's view of the world. They say that if you're young and conservative you don't have a heart and if you're old and liberal you don't have a brain. But of course it's more than that.

When I listened to 'End the Reign' for the first time, I must have been in exactly the same state of mind as the band members. Los Angeles was in chaos in the wake of the riots. Just 3 years earlier I had shed my buppie skin in order to sensitize and acquaint myself with the flavor and feel of the city I grew to love only to be bitterly disappointed by its increasingly divisive politics. But it wasn't just the politics, it was the real dirt that had gone down and continued to go down. I had gone through the gamut of emotions around Latasha Harlins and Rodney King. I had my own videocamera and was setting up my own private stings. I followed the travails of excommunicated cop Don Jackson aka Kamau Diop. I even attended a couple meetings with Michael Zinzun in hopes that his million dollar settlement might yeild a real watchdog organization (with a BBS I might sysop). You cannot listen to the despondant glamour of the wailing tones of Fishbone without feeling all that come to the surface.

Black Flowers have lost their way
They've lost their way again
Cursed for their will to dream
Raped by mankind again
Like the auction blocks of castrated dreams

Kills the heart of love
Turned into disease
And each day I pray
Please take me away
Please take me away

Black flowers have lost their way
Black flowers have lost their way
Black flowers have lost their way

Why does this hatred linger on
Voices in my mind remind me everyday
And the passing time has healed no wounds
Deep inside my heart the pain it lingers still
And the love
Away the colors
Oh the love
Fade and blur
Has rotted away
Outside my window sill
And I can't bear this feeling anymore

No I won't give into hatred
And I'll never stop dreaming
And I'll love
Oh I'll love
Till my very last breath
Is taken away

"You have to put on your imagination
Heart glasses to see the rest!"

But not only the hopeful despondancy of Fishbone was in evidence but the face off. Which side are you on? It's not even right to put the lyrics to Servitude here. You have to hear the thrash and feel it. It's not whiney moaning about a whole symbolic planet gone to shit, it's about the here, the now and the real. They were willing to both fight the corrupt powers that be and the youth with poisoned minds. That's what set Fishbone apart from bands like U2 and REM in my mind and made them just as great if not greater. Fishbone had intellectual and musical range. I think they suffered for being too good.

But as an old conservative, not simply because I have a brain, I am a critic of the youth with poisoned and empty minds. Furthermore I am a critic of Rock for the sake of Rock. Permanent rebellion, permanent sensitivity to the injustices that plague us is not growth. And one has to ask how long is that dangling cigarette and caustic cynicism useful? Sure Mick Jaggar and Bob Dylan are in their 60s and people still come back for more. I say that there's something wrong with that - something's wrong with the person who remains a bleating sheep for a generation instead of becoming a sheepdog. Rap and Rock both are at their best when they are ragged and renegade. There is something Papa Roach has that outdoes Punk. There was something Marilyn Manson did that unseated all before him. Rock always needs a more jagged little pill. But after a while it gets hard to swallow. What good is all that rebellion?

More importantly what state of mind does it take to preside over an artform that at its best brings forth the raw emotions righteous indignation and contempt for the status quo? This manifest in a social disease of chronic dissatisfaction. There is nothing quite as sad as an old hippie whose revolution never happened. And you cannot listen to 'Give a Monkey a Brain' without feeling the strains of a grand dissolution of society. So many rock bands become the chorus of decay as if they were Nero's own fiddle. For the most part there is no greater calling for Rock and Rap. That's why there was no better rap group ever than Public Enemy and why there was no more trenchant commentary that 'Nation of Millions'. America felt like it was coming apart for those who decided to feel. But in the end it didn't. The prophets of rage were left with recordings of what now sounds almost shrill. And the music industry had to look for something new when the whole of California didn't fall into the sea after the LA Riots. Where is there to go when society itself doesn't collapse? You go to the collapse of the soul, and that's where we are in rebel music.

That is the cautionary tale I am considering in advance of the Fishbone concert I will be attending tomorrow evening. But I know Fishbone had a secret weapon: Nuttmeg. Never above bonin' in the boneyard but always above the pimp narrative, Fishbone had a soulful celebration of skin on skin. Because of that they never debased themselves. They could always sing happy even extatic songs of human hope, always wary of cynicism.

I see you setting up your shot
I'm gonna git out of your range
I'll never sing your sad sorry song
Lemon Meringue
Sour to the taste and sweet to the teeth
Death by saccharination,
And the criminal charge is the same
A chance to tell the crimes of the cruel
A chance to wave the flag of the fool
But the cross on your road is twisted
And reflects an imageless tool

So I know the world is not coming apart so long as builders build. Let the lamenters cry their chorus, let the rebels pierce their toungues, let the old rockers ripen. We cannot stay forever stunned by misfortune and tragedy. The hunger artist must ultimately eat or die. Fishbone's show is now called The Familyhood Nextperience. I predict progress, because.. well those that know Fishbone, just know.

Posted by mbowen at 03:15 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Sony Must Think We're Stupid

This is the last straw.

" is reporting that the Texas attorney general is expanding the allegations against Sony. It seems the software would install even if users declined the EULA. From the article: 'The Texas attorney general said on Wednesday that he added a new claim to a lawsuit charging Sony BMG Music Entertainment with violating the state's laws on deceptive trade practices by hiding 'spyware' on its compact discs ... The new charges brought by Abbott contend that MediaMax software used by Sony BMG to thwart illegal copying of music on CDs violated state laws because it was downloaded even if users rejected a license agreement.'"

Did they think nobody would ever find out? If you haven't heard, Sony has landed in a heap of trouble with us in the IT and software industry over its spyware. It just violates so much of the culture of us programmers. It's one thing to put in DRM but a rootkit? That's spit in the face.

It's going to be a very long time before I put any trust in Sony content or software on the computer side.

Posted by mbowen at 09:54 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


This morning, the coast was shrouded in fog. I took the Munchkins to the shore to see if the high surf predicted was still in effect. No such luck. All I saw was 1 & 2 footers. Now Redondo doesn't have great surf but surfers to hit that beach. So where's the surf? I'll look again tonight.

Posted by mbowen at 09:27 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 21, 2005


I hereby punch myself in the nose and admit that I have been taken in by viral marketing. All that Dave Chappelle business is clever marketing hype for a new Charlie Murphy movie. But now I'm not even sure that it's a real movie.

Trust no one. Especially not friends who send you IMs in the middle of the night with hot news about Dave Chappelle.

Let the record show that the last page was not there two days ago. At least that's my source's excuse. My excuse? I write too much.

If I ever see Charlie Murphy, that fool owes me a beer.

Posted by mbowen at 03:04 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Scope Creep: The Costs of Total Victory

People who care a tad bit more have certainly digested and spit out a phlemball of analysis on the recent flap over the Presidents' Thirty Authorizations. I'm going to play it like a numbers game, as I usually do, but in the end toss it back at W. I don't like it.

Anybody in Project Management knows the evils of scope creep. That's when you set out to do something and because nobody is quite sure what the beast you're building is going to look like at the end, they keep throwing in little things. If scope creep were allowed at the pizzaria, instead of a pepperoni cheese pizza, you end up with a pepperoni cheese pizza, pulled out of the oven 3 times to add anchovies, olives and chicken. But since you have to cook the chicken first, you get burnt cheese and underdone chicken. In the end the whole pizza tastes like crap, you've spent too much and pissed off the Italian guy. Fortunately most of the Italian guys I knew in Brooklyn wouldn't take all that crap, and they wouldn't take the pie out of the oven to add new stuff. Unfortunately, we've never fought a War on Terror before, and Congress and the public are meddlesome.

It has been four years and we still haven't lost as many soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan as we lost civilians on 9/11. As significant as that is, the excuse of 9/11 has provided a whole lot of cover for a massive change in the government bureacracy. You would think that by now the plan to deal with this War On Terror would have some farily specific guidelines - all strictly legal. But no. We have scope creep. Given that Bush won his second term, it's difficult to tell whether it is Bush's pigheadedness or the electorate's meddlesomeness that is driving Bush to put on whatever toppings on this strategic pizza. After all, we demanded that he connect the dots - and that meant connecting intelligence agencies. So today the FBI is connected with the NSA. Whereas the FBI's domestic spying is not a matter of concern, using the NSA to do that breaks down an interagency firewall that has been around since day one. The dorkwads on NPR had the nerve to compare this type of domestic surveillance to Nixon's dirty tricks, making me stop to wonder if their reporters are that stupid or that biased. (I think it's a hefty scoop of both faults). Still, I don't like scope creep and that's what this feels like.

Dare I say 'incompetence'? George W. Bush gets a fair amount of credit from me, but one thing he is not is a brilliant administrator. Nor do I believe that he's using his political capital to defend brilliant administrators. It's all spent on his corner of the White House. So when it comes to managing the Federal bureacracies, I know he runs roughshod all over their professions. Career government employees hate W as a boss, and I sympathize with them.W doesn't master the details and government bureaucrats live on details. These are the details that keep coming to bite him in the butt.

I'm in agreement. in principle, with the concept. If enemies of the state are in Wisconsin, then bug Wisconsin. I also think that despite all the noise some activists have made over airport security, our civil liberties have done just fine since 9/11. I still hate to take off my shoes, and I'm not even convinced that the TSA is making me safer. After all, most of the masterminds of AQ are killed or captured and yes Iraq is still the central front in the WOT. But the Bush Administration is pushing its luck, and every inch they take which pushes the boundaries of executive privilege is particularly irksome, even dangerous. I recognize that this is a particular privilege that the President ordered a long time ago, but it still feels like scope creep. What we have is a no-account Congress whose slatternly ways have not been effective in doing anything but raise pointless points against this imperial president. They keep indicting themselves for a lack of oversight in every finger they point at the President. In the end it's embarrassing to see all the things he is doing thrown back in his face. Why? Because all this sniping does nothing to make an effective policy. It just satisfies critics who take the letter of the law to be wise.

What is clear to me, having heard out a couple Constitutional scholars on the matter of FISA authorizations is that this is a matter of responsibility that Bush is going to have to take. It's not a brazen violation of the 4th Amendment, but technically it could be interpreted as such. But nobody is going to enjoin the President or impeach the president for piercing this veil. The fallout will be mostly political, and now as the resignation of Judge Robertson shows, more corrosive of the government bureacracy. Wreckless George, wreckless.

George W. Bush has to recognize that he cannot deputize everyone in this War. Surely he has to take some extraordinary measures as the imperial president, but they should be legal. We need to win, and we will if we don't break our resolve. Nothing will break our resolve more quickly than forcing people in government to choose between lawlessness and 'total victory'. We will be happy with an ordinary victory, thank you.

Posted by mbowen at 08:18 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

December 20, 2005

Obligatory Seriousness on Black History Month

The most potent argument in support of Black History Month is that it establishes a sense of knowledge of self in African Americans who would otherwise believe those idiotic and racist things said about them. In that regard and in the spirit of Carter G. Woodson the target of Black History Month is not America nor the rest of the world, but black people themselves. Somehow I think the lesson was lost, perhaps as early as the time it started being called 'Black' instead of 'Negro' History Month.

Black History Month is one of those vague traditions that's supposed to be good for everyone but ends up repeating the same thing over and over. There are only so many Ken Burns documentaries we can stomach. There are only so many times watching people attacked by dogs serves as a useful lesson. If we might have some new angle on black history, I think everyone would welcome it. Americans like new. Black History Month is a rehash. But there is so much of American history that we are discovering anew. Take the following story for example..

WILMINGTON, N.C. -- Violence in 1898 that resulted in the only known forceful overthrow of a city government in U.S. history has historically been called a race riot but actually was an insurrection that white supremacists had planned for months, a state commission concludes.

The violence in Wilmington, which resulted in the deaths of an unknown number of black people, "was part of a statewide effort to put white supremacist Democrats in office and stem the political advances of black citizens," the 1898 Wilmington Riot Commission concludes in a draft report.

Afterward, white supremacists in state office passed laws that disfranchised blacks until the civil rights movement and Voting Rights Act of the 1960s.

Now that's something I've never heard before, and I didn't have to wait for Black History Month to find out about it.

I don't have to read more than the headlines to know that Morgan Freeman's recent comments will be misinterpreted. There will always be a class of ignorant and reactionary Americans for whom a bit of unconventional wisdom rocks their world, or allows them to voice some of their baser instincts. None of that really matters. What matters is that our best and brightest come to a nuanced and thorough understanding of American history and that from time to time they publically stand up and speak to it. I am confident that they will. After all, nobody asked for Carter G. Woodson in the first place. He saw the need and he filled it, and he didn't work on it only during Februaries.

Posted by mbowen at 07:55 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

December 19, 2005

The Dark Crusade

Let's imagine that Dave Chappelle isn't crazy. Let's imagine that he is a brilliant satirist and that a great number of Americans think so. Let's imagine that he has come up with stuff that is so controversial and funny that it became a staple of comedy and because of this he has made millions of dollars. Now let's imagine that somebody somewhere said that he was doing so at the expense of the image of black people. In fact, let's imagine that that somebody was ohh, say Bill Cosby or Oprah Winfrey. What do you think would happen to Dave Chappelle?

I think that's what happened. Why? Because of this, The Chappelle Theory. This is the biggest bombshell, or the most outrageous conspiracy ever to hit pop culture. It's huge. Here's the thumbnail sketch. Sharpton, Farrahkan, Cosby, Winfrey, Jackson, the five greatest oxygen suckers in all of black America formed a joint task force to derail Chappelles Show. Why? Because of his negative portrayals of black people. It came to threats and intimidation on his family.

Now if you read the whole thing, it might seem a little outrageous, but let me give you some personal perspective as a black Republican. Do not doubt the willingness of blackfolks to destroy someone they feel is a traitor to the race. It doesn't take much to convince some people that someone is a sellout, that they hate blackness and black people and that they essentially live for the comfort of whitefolks. It's the atom bomb of blackness and it has been dropped on a lot of black heads, including this writer's head. Today, I don't have any powerful enemies, but I've stepped on enough toes to know what enemies would do if they could. Cosby can if he wants, and dirt has been done to him. So I don't doubt for a minute, given his track record with Eddie Murphy, that Chappelle has been on the bad end of Cosby's ire. You know he still thinks he's America's Dad, and dad has a bad attitude.

But if you're still not convinced, think of it this way. Chappelle is 'gangsta comedy' and like gangsta rap, it is consumed and made prosperous by millions of young white suburban males. In other words, whitefolks are making Chappelle rich and all Chappelle is doing is mocking black culture. So what's up with that?

I think Chappelle is hilarious, and I think that he's so close to black popular culture that his skewering of it is more on target than anyone else's. He has gone there, and he's paid the price. The question is whether or not black culture, or rather we should say the Dark Crusaders against Chappelle have the stomach to handle a little ribbing. Apparently not. So long as they can see Chappelle as the target of white money and he embarrasses them, he's in trouble.

This is going to get a whole lot uglier before it gets better. I'm watching closely.

Posted by mbowen at 08:07 AM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

December 18, 2005

If You Serve Them, They Will Eat

On my way to becoming KFSC, I put on my red plaid and headed downtown Saturday. I can tell you right now that there are few things that compare to the feeling of giving somebody what they want. Forget all that teaching a man to fish for a moment. Sometimes just serving a big fat fish is as good as it gets. Although it wasn't fish that we were serving up but hotdogs, hamburgers, fries, potato salad, beans and gallons of red punch, it was great.

The event was fairly disorganized strictly from the perspective of a crabby left brainer such as myself, but all in all it went off without a hitch. My job, as I took it upon myself, was to take care of the men and those who had a hard time walking.

I'm having a hard time not breaking my arm patting myself on the back having done this. I mean it really wan't a whole lot of hard work. It was Santa Claus work. We had the goodies and I made myself subservient to the needs of the many and distrubted them from the pockets of the few. For a few short hours, I was the man in the mirror. I only wished that I could have gotten some more folks to be down with the program.

Well, it turns out that I will have all kinds of opportunities because the Adams Harbor is open every Saturday at noon. I was wondering how they got 1000 people to show up just like that, but it turns out that this is a regular thing. Next time we'll keep the digital cameras to a minimum. I still have a difficult time getting in people's faces with my camera, I really do think it's rather rude.

Nevertheless, I hung out for a short time with Rerun and Beverly and several other of the characters. One of the men who said he was a Vietnam Vet exposed to Agent Orange had pockets full of everything. He made me fetch him some Saran Wrap for his third burger, and when I couldn't find salt, he was coming out of his pockets with packets. He pulled me up short and said that when you're living on the street, you have to be prepared for everything.

I understand the attraction that reporters get when they get up close and personal. I don't know how to describe the internal feeling - the transformation you have to go through when you decide ahead of time that you are going to pay deep attention to the people you generally ignore. Since they're humans, they're always bound to surprise you, especially if you have no expectations whatsoever. But then if you know what to expect, when you get familiar, then you're just another person in the game. So the entanglement comes as no surprise. When you're a sheepdog like I am, all sheep are precious. Still, I was there to do a job. That job was waiter, and prefect. It's all about service.

I'm going to have some difficulty dealing with exactly where to put this sentiment. Part of it is humility to a task that ought to be done, maybe. Part of it is not having a real army to feed. The impulse to serve. Where does it come from and why is it pleasureable? How is it a force that is complicit in my (relative) oppression? How is it self-serving bourgie brownnosing? It would be easy for me to say it's just the Spirit of Christmas and leave it at that, but I can't. you know me, always over thinking. But I'll do more cogitating on that score as time goes by and I go back, hopefully with friends.

Meantime, the one thing that sticks out in my mind is that it's so easy to get people's attention. If you give it away for free, they will come. There's a Boyle's Law of humanity at work here. Free food gets eaten, free goods get taken. And the last thing I would ever do is deny any of those folks what they deserve - they deserve exactly what we were giving away - them that came, got. But that's part of the curious thing. Once you decide to do it, charity is too easy. It's way too easy. And that's why I'm feeling that it's not particularly virtuous. That's why the whole thing feels a little self-indulgent to me. I know there's a Conservative in the back of my head prodding me along this path, but having actually experienced this experience, I know that I'm learning something about human beings - about the back patting one gets when in service for the least of your brothers.

Until I get some resolution on this matter, I'm going to continue. This was just the first time. Let's see what happens next.

Posted by mbowen at 10:58 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Music Snobbery

I had one of those rare moments when just one look at a black person takes me into a different dimension.

So I'm taking F8 now F9 into Joe's Crab Shack for a birthday luncheon and we pull into the parking lot. And there is homeboy with his date in his brand new Mustang, sitting in the driveway about to head out. And he looks at me, as I pull up in the fly 740iL as if he cannot believe that there are other black people on the planet who know about this place, much less can roll up in with a sweet whip. I saw all that in a split second. Shock & envy. Two seconds later he burns rubber and is gone. Tsk. I knew it.

So as we sing happy birthday we get through the 'traditional' go round, and then we are suprised (now it's us) by another group across the room by the Stevie Wonder version. Everybody knows it, but only the brothers in the crowd sing the long harmony in the second part. And then it all grinds to a halt because.. well the verse hasn't been adapted, only the chorus. Since my favorite pastime with the kids is drilling them on extended common sense, we continue our trivia questions. Boy, who is studying geology wants me to ask he questions about plate tectonics and shear faults. I don't know jack about that and ask him about the largest fresh water lakes. He nails that so I switch gears and ask him to describe the process of filling up a car with gas. Hmm. That's a new twist - describe a process instead of 'name 6'...

So now it's wifey and sister's turn. Name 6 record labels. They come up with some wack ones I never heard of so I give it up. So now I turn the tables and get deeply into the polymorphous thing called Black Culture. Name three record labels that Stevie Wonder recorded on. Yeah boy. Now wait. I expected that everyone would get Motown. Easy. But I expected most self-respecting black people to know Stevie's big private record label. But neither sister nor wifey knew. Damn! My response? I coulda married a white girl!

Only I was half wrong when I said the third was 'Black Bull'. It turns out the Black Bull was not a label but a publishing company which in combination with Jobete own, I guess, most of the Stevie Wonder catalog. Now not being in the music business, I don't know a whole lot of this, but I did grow up in the generation of people who stared at albums as they spun at 33 1/3. So I knew answers to questions like what was Parliament's label (hint, they shared it with the Doobie Brothers). Or was that Funkadelic? Not entirely sure. But I damned sure knew the first names of the Brothers Johnson and I knew which group recorded on T-Neck Records (speaking of brothers). That my wife and her sister were completely stumped on these matters, they attributed to the fact that I was a DJ and obsessive. Sister says she just wasn't that old and was too po' to afford all them records. Yeah right. They didn't know which Eagles album Heartache Tonight was on. Actually, they didn't know it was the Eagles till I told them.

What is my marriage coming to? These are the things I expect people who claim black culture to know. But I guess sometimes there's no accounting for taste. Which brings me to the second semi-serious point of this post, which is that today's music ain't nothing to fall in love to. And I even got Pops to admit that the only people talking 'bout love, my brother is the preacher. And it seems, nobody's interested in learning, but the teacher. Wait a minute. I've heard that somewhere before. Do you know where? No really.

If you want to fall in love to the music being written today, you need to turn to a country station. And that's what Pops actually admitted. It's true. I'm going to listen to some more starting... hmm next year. I'm still on my Cobblers Hiphop mission, and now we have 12, so the charting begins.

Posted by mbowen at 09:56 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

BJ's Elite Bike Club

This is BJ. He's got the sweet bike. He showed up at St. Johns and everybody was checking out his custom bike. He and his club are going to be in the Hollywood Christmas Parade and in the King Day Parade on Crenshaw, so make sure you check them out.

What you can't see here is his jade green jaguar handlebar neck. He's got a few battle scars on the front fender, but clearly he's put some time and love into his bike. But like an spirited horse, it has thrown him a couple times.

Posted by mbowen at 11:40 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 17, 2005

A New Jack Network

I just got a comment from somebody I'd like to get to know better, and it occurs to me that I've been sleeping on a particular aspect of Old School business. That is the business of business networking. Since I've been doing none of my own contracts in the past 9 months, I've gotten out of the day to day game of drumming up contacts and opportunities. Even though have my company on the back burner it is still alive. So where are all the black entreprenuers and small business owners? Let's look around and do some linking here folks... Maybe even set up a directory - The Black Business Blogroll...

I'll start with the Esteves Group, and then Grupo Utopia.

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

Adams Harbor

Today I will be at St. John's Episcopal Church giving away food and toys to approximately 750 folks that show up. Local fire and cops will be towing Santa in and a great time will be had by all. If you have a minute, please come down and join the Christmas celebration in the spirit of being one for others. Ask for me or Larry Young, we can use some extra hands. I realize this was late, but I was in Arizona all day yesterday and couldn't get word out.

St. John's is located at 514 West Adams, 1/2 block east of Figueroa. and 1/2 block west of the 110 Freeway. Just take the Adams exit and you're right there. Everything starts at noon, but volunteers should get there at least a half an hour early. We'll be there all day pretty much.

I'll update everyone on what's going on. It's going to be a good thing.

Check out the pictures.

Posted by mbowen at 08:28 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 15, 2005

The Death of Sixo

People who have hung around me long enough may have a clue that one of my handles is 'sixoseven'. Sixoseven is the name of my band (which is just me but my kids will be joining soon), and it is my XBox Live gamertag. But it also has a deeper significance.

One sunny day in 1989 I came across a passage in 'Beloved' that knocked me off my feet. It was the beginning of a new personal journey for me. I don't know how much or little I've written about Sixo, the character in Beloved, but I took him to be an inspiration. When I moved to Atlanta and got an email account, back when such things were a great deal more rare and important than they are now, I decided to be which over time became That superceded my first true internet email which was, a vanity domain if there ever was one. (I would think that only and would be more prestigious, but that's just me).

Anyway, I don't need Earthlink any longer and after almost a decade, I've cut sixo loose. So over the weekend I had to go find all of the places I used it so that nothing I might have gotten will bounce. I just found it in, of all places, my signature to The Cluetrain Manifesto. I can't say that I ever got squat out of signing that - it never connected me to any VC money, but that's another bit of faded glory. It's interesting company even in retrospect. I oughta look up some of those people...

Speaking of death, I'd bet a good 80% of the companies listed are dead and long forgotten. The one I was with actually more than doubled it's net worth since I signed and is still going strong today. Not bad. Now that I think about it, the homepage that I pointed to still exists in a slightly modified form, here.

Posted by mbowen at 09:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Randal Pinkett: Overachiever du Jour

Randal Pinkett is the new Apprentice. If I watched more network television, I would have been aware of this gent some time ago. Alas. Still it's never too late to give props to a fellow NSBE alum. With any luck his high profile will give more visibility to the class of African Americans I tend to favor, those who tend to be a bit more conservative than the average bear. Yet I know nothing of Pinkett's politics, I gather that the millions of viewers of The Apprentice know more than I and can give some flavor. Considering that he won this week within days of the execution of some other butthead who shall remain nameless, I think it does show the true diversity of African America. For those of you who are as clueless as I was 15 minutes ago, here's his bio:

Randal, 34, is the founder, president and CEO of his fifth venture "BCT Partners," a multi-million dollar management, technology and policy consulting firm based in Newark, N.J., that works with corporations, government agencies, philanthropic and nonprofit organizations. Born in Philadelphia and raised in Hightstown, N.J., he holds five academic degrees in engineering, business and technology including a B.S. from Rutgers University, an M.S. from the University of Oxford in England as a Rhodes Scholar, and an M.S., M.B.A. and Ph.D. from MIT. A former college championship track and field athlete, he has received numerous awards for his accomplishments as an entrepreneur and technologist including the National Society of Black Engineers "National Member of the Year." A Leadership New Jersey Fellow and Next Generation Leadership Fellow, Randal has been featured by Black Enterprise magazine and Ebony magazine in their "30 Leaders of the Future" issue. He is a proud member of First Baptist Church in Somerset, N.J., where he resides and is happily married to his wife Zahara.

This is the kind of exposure that people in my generation worried our heads about in the 80s as we entered the corporate white collar workforce in larger numbers than ever before. In those days when Bill Cosby was chided for being 'unrealistic', we struggle in relative anonymity. Today, Pinkett should raise few eyebrows in a nation who has been schooled. His educational achievements in reality far outstrip that of the fictional Huxtable and I think it is extra cool that such a story makes for entertainment.

I realize that the traffic has subsided on my website since the fathead Crip bit the dust, but I would hope there are some straggling defenders who might perhaps recognize that there are alternative role models. Not that I am big on the role-monkey business, I think achievement and excellence ought to speak for itself, but for every loser that makes the news, there is a winner somewhere unsung. Today is Randall Pinkett's day. Let's try not to forget that. He didn't just pop out of nowhere. He came from people. Might I be so bold to suggest that they are my kind of people, and I think they're your kind of people too.

More on Pinkett (an interview, pre-TV stardom) can be found over at Ed Batista's blog.

Posted by mbowen at 09:10 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Schneier's Mortality Table


For reference, this keeps me from overly sympathizing with those who happen to be morally outraged at various transient issues of death and destruction.

Posted by mbowen at 08:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Needed: Six Hiphop Listeners

The Cobblers-Hiphop Group currently has nine members. Our sophisticated tastes in music are now being compiled but not yet published on Last FM. We need six more members for our group to be making a difference. You know who you are. You're serious about your musical taste and you know hiphop, for real. So please, bring our total up and reap the benefits.

Benefits? Let me just put it this way. Sharing is good.

Posted by mbowen at 03:02 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 14, 2005

I Was Tortured in a Secret Prison

Listening to NPR the other morning almost sounded like an exercise in conspiracy theories.

Europeans are now on a hunt for CIA secrets. And while Condi has come forward to say without equivocation that we don't torture and nobody can prove that we do, it looks like the burden of proof is on the accusers. Good luck. The CIA may be a lot of things, but I'd imagine if it has one particular strength it would be in the matter of safe houses. If there was a secret prison in my neighborhood, I'd put it in the hoity-toity gated community. Easy.

In listening to this dialog it occurs to me how much good faith matters in international relations. If George W. Bush had some measure of international grace and style, rather than just his homefolks born-again swagger, those mincing Euros would be a shade less arrogant. Nobody's wining and dining them, just the facts ma'am. But facts aren't quite enough to run a foreign policy on. International relations need spirit, and our spirit is rather poor at the moment.

It has become obvious over the past few weeks that people are available to squawk about absolutely anything an uppity person can get into a microphone. If there are people who can believe that an innocent man was executed in California, certainly there are millions more who can believe that the CIA is doing secret things behind everyone's back, including torture. Yeah I bet they are torturing people. But you can bet that nobody is ever going to get out of a safe-house alive to tell the tale.

If torture is a fate worse than death, from now on, only American torturers will bear the scars.

Posted by mbowen at 08:50 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 13, 2005

The Death Penalty Itself

I believe that human beings have every right to make life and death decisions. Sometimes we make good decisions, sometimes we make poor ones. While everyone is debating the subject I'd like to pull away from Tookie into the abstract. Do some people deserve to die? If so are we right to kill them, how about just to leave them to die?

I wrote some of this before, you should see it again:

A Gulag In Our Time

Gitmo doesn't cut it of course.

I've not been able to locate any of my previous writings on my support and qualifications on the matter of the death penalty, but I do have this brief set of axioms and corrollaries.

People have the right to make life and death decisions.

That is consistent with me being FOR legal abortion, and FOR assisted suicide, and FOR second amendment rights and FOR the raising of armies under civilian control and FOR the death penalty and FOR authorization of police to use deadly force under certain circumstance, and generally FOR a man or woman to spill their seed on the sidewalk if they damned well please.

Perfectly consistent to me.

However, I believe equally strongly two corrollaries from this. One is that people have the right to shirk this responsibility and punt it off to a proxy. That is to say, that if you feel squishy about guns, you can pay taxes to have cops carry the guns. If you feel squishy about torture, you can extradite prisoners to third countries. Everybody is not disciplined to the responsibility of their natural right to make life and death decisions. Some people I wouldn't trust to take care of a three legged dog.

Secondly, if you live by the sword, you damned well better be prepared to die by the sword. In other words, you have to have a warrior code if you're going to be a warrior. Otherwise, you're just a criminal. I'm not a warrior. I'm a writer. There are plenty of days when I feel that I should be a warrior, but that's another story.

Before I get to the core of my argument, I want to take this out onto a religious tangent. I have heard people suggest that Christians cannot take life, that this is a power reserved for God. Clearly it's not. If God didn't want man to have the power to shoot people in the head, he would have given us monkey brains. So far as I know no monkey has ever leveled a shotty at a human being and pulled the trigger. That aside, God has indeed given us the capacity, and thus the responsibility for killing. We can do so, therefore there must be some moral case for us to do so, unless biting the Apple didn't actually give us full moral capacity or maybe God forgot something when He created free will, namely a moral reason for everything we are capable of. Discussion for a later date, those sins which are unredeemable - ie something the Blood of Christ is incapable of washing away.

In the meantime, specifically, it has been suggested that a life sentence without the possibility of parole is more acceptable than a death sentence. I suppose there are some ethics which support that, but both of these punishments fulfill the same role to my way of thinking which is the permanent removal of an individual from society. I'm all for that. In fact I have dreamed up a number of Capital Punishments of that sort. We'll leave most of them for another day, what I'm thinking of right now is Permanent Exile.

Does anybody remember that gay movie 'No Escape' with Ray Liotta? Sure you do. A bunch of sweaty dirty macho men out on a prison island? Well I think that's a perfect solution for those who have some queasiness around lethal injection, electric chairs, firing squads, gas chambers and gallows. Our job? Ferry the miscreats to the prison island and make sure no females ever get there. Then we leave them there to rot, kill each other and/or otherwise create whatever sort of society a desert island full of serial killers, kidnappers, rapists, murderers and terrorists figure out for themselves.

For the record, let's talk about rehabilitation. I would rather move the whole of Palestine into East Texas than rehabilitate American criminals who have been convicted of multiple felonies. Can that be any clearer? Send us your hungry who are willing to work peacibly under the law, we'll send away those who have decided to be violent predators and flaunt the law.

Posted by mbowen at 12:01 PM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

The Tookie Files

As the debate rages on until the break of dawn, I'll provide formal documents here at Cobb.

  • District Attorney Steve Cooley's document requesting denial of clemency can be found here.

  • Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger's actual denial of clemency can be found here.
  • Posted by mbowen at 11:23 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    Lessons Learned

    Every year there are thousands more fatal car accidents, but most of us are not closely involved even though we drive every day. While we know that thousands of Americans are victims of murders every year (about 18,000) very few of us ever know of someone who was murdered, and fewer still are witnesses. There is a difference between knowing something to be true and experiencing it firsthand.

    I have watched this blog's comments get ugly for the first time. Perhaps it was inevitable. And while I have always known that there were thousands and perhaps millions of Americans who had foolish reasons to believe in Tookie, it was quite a different thing entirely to have them show up and spout off. But I welcome the disagreement, but not all of the nastiness. There's no call for that here. We can be catty and I don't pretend that we have to be 'civil', sometimes a point is best made with a slap. But there's a limit to how much verbal clap I'll allow. In the end, for the sake of history, we represent. That's what it's all about - so I'm glad that some people who sound like real bangers put their words up even though I wouldn't put up with that face to face. It's the advantage of working online. I can have people here that would never get in my house.

    It's hard to say I told you so, because I really do have empathy for people who are just so wrong. But hey, we all have our lives to lead and they have to make sense to us. People wrap of the sense of their lives one way or another with Tookie, and it's good that it has happened, because it helps us understand the distance we need to keep from each other. I don't need to see anybody with that ignorant T shirt on. Step off.

    But the problem is, no matter how far away we need to keep from each other on issues like this, we still are One Nation, Indivisible. We can debate whether or not we run our lives under God. God's cool with that. We have a choice. But when it comes to the laws of the land, we do not have a choice, and that's a good thing. The people of America won't let you have a choice. We are all invested in law and order. That means we let the cops do the arresting and the judges and juries do the judging. If it weren't for them, we'd be at each other's throats, and this very issue proves it.

    I understand that a lot of folks wanted to stay out of it - steer clear of the ugly implications of conflict in this heated issue. When it comes to online debate you have that luxury. But sooner or later you have to speak up - there damned sure will be people who are ready to speak up for you if you don't.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:59 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    December 12, 2005

    360 Supply & Demand & More

    Well it's perfectly clear now. The 360 is a hit; way bigger than anybody suspected. So let's ask some stupid demand planning questions. Who screwed up in MSFT's manufacturing orders department? I mean they've got people saying stuff like this (as of 12/8):

    Market research firm, NPD Group, the top game-statistics firm in the industry issued its November report stating Microsoft sold 320,000 systems in the month of November. That’s roughly 80,000 shy of the company’s 400,000 expected units.

    That makes no sense at all. Are they sold out? Yes. Are they not selling enough? Yes. Did they miss their target Yes? Anyway, selling more than a quarter of a million per month of anything that retails for 300-400 bucks is a pretty hefty cashflow. So get it right already guys. You have no excuses. Well. They do, and it sounds like this:

    "...I'd hate to be in the marketing department at Xbox. It's a no-win situation. If I were a marketing dude (and I'm surrounded by them every day), then every red blood cell in my body would be selling this amazing new thing called the Xbox 360. We're not talking about a Cuisenart here. This is a high-definition, next generation gaming experience. I'd be shouting from the rooftops. Except... the core audience (read: pre-sold audience) for this product is having difficulty getting their hands on one. And the more I shout about it, the more gamers (and the general public) becomes bitter about the "shortage." So instead of using my marketing degree, I've got to bite my tongue until January, or even February - when supply starts meeting demand again. Except that I don't have a marketing degree, and I don't work at Microsoft, or at Xbox

    I don't think I'd mind being that guy.. except the profile picture on his blog is too small. In fact, I think the profile pictures on most people's blogs are too small.

    Anyway, I've had a serving of Halo2 over the weekend and I'm getting re-hooked into the gaming - stuff I haven't done in a while. I don't feel left out of the early adopter stuff since not even Wal-Mart has any 360s on hand, and I can basically wait until January or so. The fact that I can play my favorite games on the 360, except for Splinter Cell (grr), is the best news.

    It turns out that there are a few bloggers who have come out as gamers. Or rather I should say more m'softies who blog as well as game. That's good news, so I'll be linking to them from time to time. At the top of the Gamer Pile would be Major Nelson.

    Here are some I find intersting:

  • Grumpy Gamer
  • Thinking With My Fingers
  • XBox (official, boring) Blog
  • Joystiq (of course)
  • Scoble has the best dialog on the supply and demand issue. I can't find where the discussion is anywhere that says Flextronics is still making them. I know I read it. Even Google Desktop missed it.

    BTW Joystiq has a fascinating little reminder that not too many years ago, the very thought of Microsoft being a leader in gaming was unthinkable. I know I killed that thought, as I pounded away on my Sega Saturn with the home version of Virtua Fighter.

    Oh and one more thing. The French have made Halo 0. A 2d side-scrolling shooter. Hee Haw!

    Wait Wait There's More!
    I cannot prove it, but I swear to God that somewhere I wrote that the thing to do in the next Splinter Cell was to let Sam Fisher go undercover. It turns out that I was prophetic. That's exactly what they're doing in Splinter Cell Four.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:27 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Richard Pryor

    About a year ago when I was rounding out my CD ripping in time for Christmas, I was fairly content that I had all of the best of the Old School music in my collection. And so as I listened to songs that would remind me of other songs, I suddenly thought about Richard Pryor. For the longest time, I had been wondering when his stuff would come out on CD. It never had. But now it's out there. For 75 bucks you get the whole thing, at least 6 albums worth. So that's on my Christmas list, if I can find it.

    Today kids memorize the lyrics to rap music. Yesterday we memorized Richard Pryor routines. Every kid I knew was a Pryor impsersonator. We were all different degrees of funny depending on our ability to imitate Mudbone, from Tupelo Mis'sippi. (Right next to Threepelo). And yet there were things that only Richard Pryor could say and make them funny. Since his departure from the scene, there has been exactly only one good joke about white people vs black people. That was delivered by Martin Lawrence in talking about how people care for their dogs. The rest is all derivative.

    He was a phenomenon. It doesn't even seem right to call him Richard or Pryor because he was always that same surprised, vulnerable man, completely honest and able to share himself with his audience. Richard Pryor. You have to say the whole name.

    We've lived with Richard Pryor for a long time - through a lot of his life. He was one of the last symbols of blackfolks that young and old both appreciated. Today, blackfolks are as pop as anyone else. Even Michael Jackson doesn't get to represent any longer. So looking back at his comedy and film career is a look back at the man who said stuff everybody used to think and never say. He got to play the joke that was only funny in one neighborhood, and by doing so made it funny everywhere.

    If you ask anybody in my generation what Richard Pryor's greatest moment was, there will be no question. It will be the concert when he said he would never use the word 'nigger' again. For him, like for Malcolm, it took a trip to Africa to see people more for who they are than by the color of their skin. But he was able to make us laugh at 'a crazy nigger' because he was willing to be all that - to go all those places and still remain humble. To know success and failure and to be straight up about it. He, like no black comic before him, revealed an inner dialog of insecurity and irreverance. Not just to prove something, but to be something. And by watching him be those things, he let everybody off the hook.

    And still, he was a genius, because nobody else could do it. Nobody.

    I'm going to be hooking up Richard Pryor on the Tivo and talking about him more this week. First stop is Silver Streak with Gene Wilder, his alter-ego.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:22 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    Sleep Tookie Sleep

    Ding Dong, Tookie's a dead man walking. Which old Tookie? The wicked Tookie.

    I never really had any serious doubts that Arnold would do the right thing. It's all over but the eternal sleeping. So our governor has tossed a cold bucket of water on the hopes of those who would try to make this character into some sort of role-model. As if anybody needed one. Oh what a world, what a world.

    Now that the inevitable is inevitable, what do you say? I say thanks to Arnold for keeping it real, and a hearty HA to those who thumb their noses at justice. Every case isn't a capital case, and every capital case isn't clear-cut. But this one was. So says the Governor and the Federal Appellate Court in San Francisco.

    In the case of the People vs Stanley Williams, the people won, finally. The arc of justice is long, but it bends towards the people.

    Posted by mbowen at 01:12 PM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

    Nissan Sinking

    I don't think I'm speaking too much out of school to say that these are troubled times for Nissan. Of all the Japanese automakers, they are alone in a downturn this past quarter. The price of gas has done them in. If that weren't enough, their move from Los Angeles is wrecking havoc on employee moral and efficiency. I know. I'm on contract with them.

    Nissan is a cool place to work, but all of the cool and talented people are finding work elsewhere. Nobody wants the one-way ticket to Palookaville Tennessee. Even though you could afford a mansion and a yacht with your California equity, most of the folks I'm talking with prefer the ethnic mix and the ocean to those incentives.

    I've had the experience of working at other automakers here in So Cal and Nissan was the better one. Although things may have changed since those days there were notable cultural differences that Nissan folks may take some getting used to. Toyota is a well-wrapped culture. It's very protective of values. Well, let me not mince words. It's a place where you don't smoke, drink or speak in sports analogies. To my sensibilities, the place was entirely too uptight. They can be extroardinarily efficient, but nobody moves. Which is to say that it's very Japanese with regard to their commitment to fulfilling promises. You cannot see a problem and react to it, rather you plan with detail who is going to do what and when, and the plan sticks. Forget new obstacles and brick walls. Forget better ways to do the right thing. Commitment is everything. Everybody knows what everybody is doing and harmony is valued over individuality. I am told that this is how women prefer to work, and there were a majority of women on my floor all up and down the hierarchy.

    Honda, I don't know. The only word that I've heard about the joint is 'weird'. I've driven past their HQ in Torrance 1000 times and I've never seen anybody come out of that building.

    When I had a short engagement at Mitsubishi, the air was filled with paranoia and pride. Mitsubishi was and still is trying desparately to be something other than a one-car company. They believe, and probably rightly so, that all of their cars are great but they are only appreciated for the Eclipse. Truth be told that Lancer Evo is pretty hot too. No matter, at the time it wasn't on the radar, so Japan had come down hard on the Americans. There didn't seem to be an English speaker in the house who could make their own decisions being approved way up the chain. So there were meetings about deciding if a meeting would be held to decide something.

    There is nothing so sad as a lack of leadership, except perhaps bad leadership. I watch human beings like an alien at times, and find it remarkable how we adapt to strange circumstances. So I know that the Nissan folks will find their feet eventually, even if it is at the odd angle, like the hideout of the badguys on Batman, of another car company. Nobody has even thought about GM or Ford, not that they have any admin stuff out here. Some are heading to Hollywood and others to aerospace. A few are retiring, and a few are actually relocating to the area around Smyrna.

    What's left is going to be a huge gap. Not only have a number of the Nissan folks hit the door, but IBM is getting shown the door for application support. Some new Indian company has got the contract. What everyone is perceiving is that nobody who knows any of the ways Nissan has done business is going to be left. The really talented folks who would rather remain in California are going to get swooped up and the relatively less ambitious / talented people are going to be left behind. This means great chunks of expertise in both staff and tech support are going to evaporate. Nissan will be left with a very few good teams. Opportunity for them, chaos in the short term.

    One can't help but be skeptical for the next couple of years as Nissan gets their feet. This is yet another bold move for them which may come to bite back. Who knew, when Nissan put their foot down and boldly put those huge trucks out there, the Titan and the Armada, that the price of gas would double? Who knows what may transpire to make Tennessee just what the company needs or a costly mistake? How will the market perceive all of this? Only time will tell.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:12 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    December 10, 2005


    Posted by mbowen at 02:56 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    December 09, 2005

    Schwartzenegger vs NAACP: Who is Dumber?

    I'm finding my anti-Tookie stuff all over the net. You never know how your writing is going to affect people.

    I'm really not stuck on Tookie so much as I am astounded at the twists in logic people put together in his defense. The NAACP head is the latest. I wonder if he might have the organization known as the National Association for Assinine Crip Protection. Or perhaps the Negroes Aiding Assassins, Crackheads & Perverts. Chief pervert would be R. Kelly, of course. I can't think of any crackheads the NAACP has assisted, can you?

    Needless to say, Joe Hicks' indignation is shared among most of us in the Old School.

    Mr. Hicks sees the NAACP's push for clemency for Williams as a recognition of its history — the organization has long opposed the death penalty — but also as an attempt to regain relevance." The NAACP is graying," he said, pointing to its declining membership, "and I can only think this is a very misguided attempt to connect with black youths in an urban culture attracted to hip-hop and a gangster element that finds Tookie Williams oddly appealing." According to a state NAACP official, the average age of a member is now more than 50. Mr. Gordon said that more than 100,000 people from around the world have signed an NAACP clemency petition, with many — including gang members from as far away as Ireland — writing about how Williams has influenced their lives.

    I wonder if I should be particularly shocked at all. I mean 9/11 taught us that anything is possible. Hell, Aldridge Ames was supposed to be recruiting double agents from the USSR and he turned out to be a double agent himself. In the course of human events, anything is possible. Most of the time they have simple explanations, but they almost always have bizarre and complex results.

    And so we are witnessing simple stupidity and pigheadedness in the defense of Tookie that will put the NAACP in a bizarre place when he dies. Yes, that's my prediction, or else I don't know Arnold Schwartzenegger. He's a man who wants a political future, so he'll get Tookie the needle he deserves. Arnold has already reaped the political benefit of appearing thoughtful and ethical in this matter, but it goes completely against his character to have mercy on a man who killed a young person. If AS can't read the public on this one, he deserves the political equivalent of lethal injection.

    Even before he decides whether Stanley "Tookie" Williams shall live or die, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is scoring badly needed gravitas points for giving clemency a hard think. It's unlikely that Schwarzenegger possesses any doubt as to whether Williams, who admits to having co-founded the Crips, is a coldblooded killer; if he stays Williams' execution, it will surely be an act of mercy rather than forgiveness.

    I'm not exactly clear on what contingencies can be made for a stay of execution, but I like Ted Hayes' idea that Tookie's, if granted, should be contingent on the disbanding and pacification of Crip gangs in LA County. First shot from the 'hood, stay recinded.

    That said, Arnold has a lot more to lose than any titular head of the rank & file National NAACP. You basically go there when you've decided that being electable isn't a goal any longer. Just ask Julian Bond and Kwesi Mfume.

    Posted by mbowen at 02:25 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

    The Razor's Edge

    There's not a single African of any sort in The Razor's Edge, except for the drummer in the raucous Parisian Jazz Club. I recently watched the 1946 rendition of this film over a few days and it holds up rather sketchily to my contemporary sensibilities. If W. Somerset Maugham's depiction of American and European society is close to accurate in the film version, it sets me to wondering how it was that Paul Robeson's head didn't explode. If I had lived in those days, I think I would be about as obsessed with race as it's humanly possible to be, and I would have been as tragic a story as any other. Then again, I can't say that I dash my head against the rocks of relative injustice today.

    There doesn't seem to be as much to say about The Razor's Edge as I thought there might be after having seen the entire film. Yet for some reason I find it reassuring to me that I understand women better for having watched. What I've never quite understood in all of my life is how much men and women's virtues depended on each other, that neither can be virtuous or debased without each other's virtue or debasement. The whole of the film turns from something of a meditation on the character of man in his quest for enlightenment to a slighly stiff melodrama. And yet simply as a view into a past America and Europe where a certain manner of deportment was mandatory it is very illustrative. What is astonishing to see is the lengths to which a woman of that age would go to maintain a certain standing of virtue. It is heartfelt and singly uncommon, I think. Not that I have had the good fortune, being a technical geek most of my life, to enjoy the company of such women. I am brought to mind of Grace Kelly's character in Rear Window - a society girl who isn't phony.

    Is there such a thing in contemporary America? Are we even capable of imagining her? Our women today are of two minds in their ambition and having abandoned the virtues of making a man honest and staying true to him, they seek to compete with men. I am coming to see how this is destructive not only of some 'old fashioned' fantasy of family, but of our very sense of the virtue of fidelity. When we seek truth and honesty from each other today we don't know which truth to reveal. Instead we only confess insecurities about ourselves and our roles in life, indeed each other's lives. That kind of soul baring not what we need - we become too delicate in our intimacies. Rather what we need is to be honest, possesed of integrity in our daily affairs. We need that thing in ourselves that encourages us to become one who might be introduced as Maugham does of his protagonist, as a man of impeccable character. We need that thing in us that allows us to speak up and protect each other from the corruptions of the soul. Instead we compete to show how well we can indulge ourselves and get away with 'respectability'.

    I fear we have lost the habits of politesse and high expectation of moral character. In our political correctness, we give it away as if nobody has to conform in any way. In that way PC is just the opposite of what it pretends to be. It is not a refined sensibility at all, but it sacrifices highmindedness in order to avoid highhandedness. It decides to slight nobody in order to raise the low. It's literally an affront to civilization. We think of civilization as a thing to live in, an address to occupy rather than an attribute of ourselves. What a shame.

    The uncle in The Razor's Edge is indeed highhanded. A first class snob he is, and yet in his own desparate yet successful way he is relentless in his every effort to perfect himself. Because of this he is utterly without duplicity. I would expect contemporary Americans to hate and mock him on sight. He has mastered the arcana of diplomatic high society in which there is a right and proper convention for every aspect of gentlemanly and ladylike demeanor. And while it is most certain that Americans and Europeans of that age made grotesqueries of themselves because of their inability to, by dint of such class barriers, put their wealth in perspective, the protagonist of The Razor's Edge walks freely across those lines. If he was to be the new man of the West, we have forgot his name.

    Maugham bears more review, but I think I'll stick to the books. This movie was a fine introduction.


    Are 'nice' and 'honest' mutually exclusive?
    Not for people who refine their manners. That is the struggle that few seem to have mastered. But we should try.

    Ambrose Bierce called politeness 'The most acceptable hypocrisy.'

    Posted by mbowen at 12:15 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    December 08, 2005

    Which Terminator?

    Posted by mbowen at 10:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    100 Songs from 1978

    It's only upon reflection at this list, picking up the meme from Professor Kim, that I realize how hard it must have been for the people who were screaming 'Disco Sucks' all those years. I didn't pay attention to the pop charts at the time. I didn't have to, I was a DJ in the 'hood. I knew all the good music that people actually danced to. I don't mean people who suddenly upped and decided to dance because of John Travolta, but people for whom dance is a fundamental part of life. If 'something about the music, got into your pants', then you know I'm talking about you.

    So I look at this top 100 from MusicOutfitters and I'm thinking, how is it that the number 100 song is about 100 times better than the number 1 song? Are these people nuts? This pop culture needs a diaper change. But I've seen it before.

    It's astounding how upside down America became because of Grease and Saturday Night Fever. It just ain't right. Now there's quite a few songs here that I actually liked, but the instructions say 'loved'. So here it is.

    1. Shadow Dancing, Andy Gibb
    2. Night Fever, Bee Gees
    3. You Light Up My Life, Debby Boone
    4. Stayin' Alive, Bee Gees
    5. Kiss You All Over, Exile
    6. How Deep Is Your Love, Bee Gees
    7. Baby Come Back, Player
    8. (Love Is) Thicker Than Water, Andy Gibb
    9. Boogie Oogie Oogie, A Taste Of Honey
    10. Three Times A Lady, Commodores
    11. Grease, Frankie Valli
    12. I Go Crazy, Paul Davis
    13. You're The One That I Want, John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John
    14. Emotion, Samantha Sang
    15. Lay Down Sally, Eric Clapton
    16. Miss You, Rolling Stones
    17. Just The Way You Are, Billy Joel
    18. With A Little Luck, Wings
    19. If I Can't Have You, Yvonne Elliman
    20. Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah), Chic
    21. Feels So Good, Chuck Mangione
    22. Hot Child In The City, Nick Gilder
    23. Love Is Like Oxygen, Sweet
    24. It's A Heartache, Bonnie Tyler
    25. We Are The Champions / We Will Rock You, Queen

    26. Baker Street, Gerry Rafferty
    27. Can't Smile Without You, Barry Manilow
    28. Too Much, Too Little, Too Late, Johnny Mathis and Deniece Williams
    29. Dance With Me, Peter Brown
    30. Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad, Meat Loaf
    31. Jack And Jill, Raydio
    32. Take A Chance On Me, Abba
    33. Sometimes When We Touch, Dan Hill
    34. Last Dance, Donna Summer
    35. Hopelessly Devoted To You, Olivia Newton-John
    36. Hot Blooded, Foreigner
    37. You're In My Heart, Rod Stewart
    38. The Closer I Get To You, Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway
    39. Dust In The Wind, Kansas

    40. Magnet And Steel, Walter Egan
    41. Short People, Randy Newman
    42. Use Ta Be My Girl, O'Jays
    43. Our Love, Natalie Cole
    44. Love Will Find A Way, Pablo Cruise
    45. An Everlasting Love, Andy Gibb
    46. Love Is In The Air, John Paul Young
    47. Goodbye Girl, David Gates
    48. Slip Slidin' Away, Paul Simon
    49. The Groove Line, Heatwave
    50. Thunder Island, Jay Ferguson
    51. Imaginary Lover, Atlanta Rhythm Section
    52. Still The Same, Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band
    53. My Angel Baby, Toby Beau
    54. Disco Inferno, Trammps
    55. On Broadway, George Benson
    56. Come Sail Away, Styx
    57. Back In Love Again, L.T.D.
    58. This Time I'm In It For Love, Player
    59. You Belong To Me, Carly Simon
    60. Here You Come Again, Dolly Parton
    61. Blue Bayou, Linda Ronstadt
    62. Peg, Steely Dan

    63. You Needed Me, Anne Murray
    64. Shame, Evelyn "Champagne" King
    65. Reminiscing, Little River Band
    66. Count On Me, Jefferson Starship
    67. Baby Hold On, Eddie Money
    68. Hey Deanie, Shaun Cassidy
    69. Summer Nights, John Travolta and Olivia Newton-john
    70. What's Your Name, Lynyrd Skynyrd
    71. Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue, Crystal Gayle
    72. Because The Night, Patti Smith
    73. Every Kinda People, Robert Palmer
    74. Copacabana, Barry Manilow
    75. Always And Forever, Heatwave
    76. You And I, Rick James
    77. Serpentine Fire, Earth, Wind and Fire

    78. Sentimental Lady, Bob Welch
    79. Falling, LeBlanc and Carr
    80. Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood, Santa Esmeralda
    81. Bluer Than Blue, Michael Johnson
    82. Running On Empty, Jackson Browne
    83. Whenever I Call You "Friend", Kenny Loggins
    84. Fool (If You Think It's Over), Chris Rea
    85. Get Off, Foxy
    86. Sweet Talking Woman, Electric Light Orchestra
    87. Life's Been Good, Joe Walsh
    88. I Love The Night Life, Alicia Bridges
    89. You Can't Turn Me Off (In The Middle Of Turning Me On), High Inergy
    90. It's So Easy, Linda Ronstadt
    91. Native New Yorker, Odyssey
    92. Flashlight, Parliament
    93. Don't Look Back, Boston
    94. Turn To Stone, Electric Light Orchestra
    95. I Can't Stand The Rain, Eruption
    96. Ebony Eyes, Bob Welch
    97. The Name Of The Game, Abba
    98. We're All Alone, Rita Coolidge
    99. Hollywood Nights, Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band
    100. Deacon Blues, Steely Dan

    Posted by mbowen at 06:44 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    Real P2P

    I've been so busy with work it has almost made me forget about politics and culture. Thus I've gotten wrapped up in the fun of tech culture. Tech politics are hideously annoying, unlike American politics which is endlessly fascinating and entertaining. So I'm trying to do a couple new things for my home system Christmas Upgrade.

    The first is getting serious about P2P. But here's the thing. Almost none of the P2P software I can find out there is real P2P. It's all kind of file swarming software for anonymous people out to get warez, porn and otherwise hijacked & contraband materials. I'm actually looking for something to use with trusted peers who can host and search. What I don't want is a whole lot of anonymous nobodies looking at my shared stuff and downloading at will. What I want is to specifically give access to my mother and my father and my cousin in New York and a half dozen other family members.

    So what's the right P2P solution for people who want to share media with known peers only? So far it looks like the Gnutella protocol is the right one because if everybody has a limited node list, then the whole thing stays private. There's only one shortcoming which is that it appears that to do direct connections, everyone has to have a fixed ip address. That can't work. I've got dialup people in my family. I like the LimeWire interface and it looks simple enough for everybody to install and use. But does it use other protocols? It's worth paying for a good commercial client, but I don't want third party servers negotiating all my stuff.

    I've heard that Webdav is a nice protocol but that's way too low level for moms. What would be a good front end for that that would let her browse thumbnails of my pictures? I've also considered FileZilla but does that give me search capabilities on MP3 files? It's just FTP, secure and nice, but I don't think so.

    What's a good brother to do?

    Posted by mbowen at 04:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Sounds Like Integrity To Me

    Laura Chick puts to rest any speculation that she might be bucking for higher office:

    As I pondered whether or not to run, my thoughts always came back to the job I have now...the job I love and the job I'm not yet finished doing. For that reason, I am announcing that I will not be a candidate for State Controller.

    I have three and a half years left on my final term as Los Angeles City Controller, and I still have a lot I want to do. First, I am focused on improving the delivery of essential services to each and every person in Los Angeles. Further, I am intent on finding efficiencies not only to save taxpayer dollars but also to find better and more effective ways to make Los Angeles the truly great city it could and should be.

    Posted by mbowen at 04:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    December 07, 2005

    A Day in the Sun

    A long time ago when I used to use Nix Check Cashing and drive a 1971 Ford Galaxy Custom (aka the FBIMobile), I recall drving north on Crenshaw Blvd. As I pulled up to the stoplight at Slauson at the foot of the hill they are now calling View Heights 90043, I peered over to the left. In the left turn lane, heading up that hill was a young woman in a brand spanking new Volvo. It had to be a Sunday because her hair was flawless, and she had two young children in the back seat who were immaculately dressed. It was one of those moments that shook my single life mentality to the core. I stared for what seemed like an eternity. I want that. I want that. I want that.

    I got that, sorta.

    This weekend, the wife went to get her do did off in Pasadena, so I had the kids all Saturday. We knocked around the house all morning, playing some videogames, watching some TV, then it was off to my buddy in PV. We hung out in the park just behind his house with his two tiny young daughters and enormous old dogs. They're like a cross between Weimeraner and Great Dane, the dogs, not the daughters. The kids had a ball with some pirated bottle of silly string and absolutely destroyed dog chew balls and we talked about nothing for a fun change. I don't know where I put the digital camera but somewhere on the chip are pictures of the most precious and precocious 17 month old I've ever met. Soon it was time for the SC game.

    We caught the first half on the HiDef and swilled Snapples while USC snapped the heads of the Bruins. At halftime it was time to jet. We piled into The Transporter and flew down the coast to Rosa in Hermosa for shrimp tacos. As we munched, UCLA continued to get crunched. The dudes catty corner from our table were wearing the new broad style of sunglasses that mask the side of the face, and were polite enough to chill on the profanity. But there was no denying that UCLA was getting the shit beat out of them.

    Next we headed out to Santa Monica. My son sitting in the front seat twiddled the GPS and my daughters snacked on Nerds in the back. Somewhere heading West on the 10 and rolling off at the Lincoln exit, I suddenly thought that people were watching me in the same way I was watching that woman. It happens to me more often when I roll up to school and drop off the kiddies. When it first lauched, I got the full tilt Turbo Beetle. People used to ask me how it handled and did it have a lot of room, when I would fill up for gas. At the gates of Arroyo Vista Elementary School, little kids would punch each other in the shoulders when I drove up. It's an LA thing. You know the effect you have socially on other people when you're driving the slammin ride. Soon I found myself in a neighborhood where I haven't had an opportunity to drive a sweet hooptie since... ever.

    Sometimes it's difficult for me to make sense of progress. There are about 3 new luxury hotels at the Santa Monica Pier that simply didn't exist back in the day. The big building used to be the West Coast HQ for Narconon or Alanon or some such drug rehab palace. Now they've got doormen and valets scrambling around the joint. I pulled past into a lot which rather complex parking instructions and no attendant. Instead there was this computer thing. I ignored it, parked the hooptie and the kids sped off to the jungle gyms in the sand. When I finally caught up to them they were climbing ropes. I don't seem to call the ropes or the nice spongy mats for tumbling when I was a kid. Harumph. Back in my teenaged youth, I used to come right down to that little spot of grass in front of the main lifeguard station and do tumbling runs for the locals and tourists. Today I completely forgot how to lock my feet on the rope and only got up about six feet.

    We headed over to the pier where there is a rather impressive construction project afoot. With a checkerboard stack of shipping containers, a museum is being architected. Meanwhile, although the tide is low, the pier was in full glory.We went out to the edge as the sun had just left its orange glow in a strip along the horizon and Venus shimmered. The kids screwed up enough courage to ride The Dragon and screamed through the whole pendulous zero gravity experience. After a few raucous games of air hockey, we were ready to hit the road again.

    This time we headed to my old neighborhood. Progress again. It looks as if it has turned the corner and people are investing in the houses. The guy that lives in my old house is an actor on The Sheild and he's adding a second storey. Old Mrs Stanley can't get over how fat I've become. The kids couldn't stop giggling. But now it was time to eat. After a trip to Denny's (kids eat free on Satuday, but you still pay for the drinks) and some classical music, they were knocked out and in a deeper sleep than the UCLA Bruins. The weather had turned cold and windy but we were warm and cozy in The Transporter. I sped down the coast highway watching the bonfires at Dockweiler slowly roll by. It had been a full day, and I felt like a great dad.

    It's days like Saturday that I hope continue to live in memory. I am thankful for the ease with which it was accomplished and the opportunity for simple pleasures. I thank God for the blessing of children and the complex ugly beauty that is LA County. Our town.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:54 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    December 06, 2005

    But That's Different

    Posted by mbowen at 08:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Devin's Advocates

    The DA has decided against pressing charges against the officer involved in the shooting death of Devin Brown. There's not much more to say about this incident than has already been said.

    It was this shooting that initiated my recognition of the Coalition of the Damned, those ragtag few who take every opportunity to bash police at the cost of their own political relevance. Their occasion champion here in Los Angeles, Earl Ofari Hutchinson, holds out hope as ever that there is some silver lining to such tragedies. I say it's just another sad day for sad people in a sad state of affairs, which is about as generous as one can be to a fatherless, 14 year old would-be car theif high on weed. Of course it ended tragically. It didn't have to but the odds weren't good.

    Today's responses:

    "Every time Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley makes a decision like this, it amounts to a tacit endorsement of police abuse, shootings and violence," said Earl Ofari Hutchinson, political commentator and South Los Angeles activist. "Chief [William J.] Bratton at least did see what a horrible, horrible shooting this was and changed the policy and procedures on shooting at cars so that there are enough checks to ensure it can't happen again."

    Minister Tony Muhammad, head of Western states for the Nation of Islam, called the decision to not file charges "another deep dagger into the heart of this already strained community," which will cause "more mistrust of the cops."

    A co-chairman of a South Los Angeles coalition formed after Devin's shooting, Muhammad immediately called for the Police Commission to decide that the shooting was outside of the department's policy on shootings. Bratton, he said, "absolutely needs to fire Garcia."

    I suppose such statements are about as responsible as any unelected member of the community has to be. It doesn't quite matter whether or not they read the DA's report because there is no recourse if they are wrong. And of course there isn't really a such thing as the Coalition of the Damned, they're not organized. We just give them a name - the people for who the dagger cuts deep, those who are bound by their sentiments and political orientation, to take opportunties like this to dog the system.

    There is a difference between criticizing the system and dogging the system, and those who might bother to read the DA's report might notice that there are better ways to address the problem than to fire a scapegoated symbolic officer. In fact, Bratton has done so in retraining the force with regards to the standard felony stop. In one scenario, officers will park their cruiser within 10 feet of the back bumper of the suspect's vehicle in such a way that the car will not have enough space to pick up enough speed to be deadly. I know this because my brother's a cop and has been retrained. But I wonder if those who dog the system know that reform has already taken place. I imagine that if they were constructively engaged with the LAPD, they would know such things, but that is not the aim of Tony Muhammad, nor any other unelected mouthpiece of the Coalition.

    It must be sad not to know how wrong you are, how politically ineffective are the desires you have been exhorted to champion. It must be frustrating to be in such a state of mind that you only feel you can gain if the police lose. But no matter how sad and frustrating things get for the Coalition of the Damned, they're simply wrong. They have picked a poor set of spokesmen and a poor set {Stanley Miller, Devin Brown, Tookie} of symbolic victims. I hope, for their sake, sooner or later they'll determine that they're on the wrong team.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    December 05, 2005


    I'm still not tired of talking about Tookie Williams, but today I heard the most brilliant solution to this whole mess. It comes from Ted Hayes. Like most brilliant solutions, it's short, sweet, to the point and it doesn't have the slightest chance of happening. But that doesn't stop it from being brilliant:

    I PROPOSE that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, rather than unequivocally deciding to save Stanley Tookie Williams or send the convicted murderer to his death next week, instead conditionally postpone his execution.

    The governor should then immediately convene a summit, including not only clergy, grass-roots leaders and elected representatives such as Maxine Waters and Diane Watson, but also current and former Bloods and Crips. The deal: He will spare Williams' life, but only as long as these leaders can keep young black men from killing each other.

    In other words, for every 30 days of peace, Tookie receives a stay of execution. Should there be any gang-related killings in L.A., Tookie's fate will be sealed — not by the governor but by the young men who have been clamoring that Williams be spared and the leaders who say they are determined to save black lives. (And those leaders should be the ones to set the murder-acceptability level — at zero tolerance or massacre levels; let it be up to them.)

    This is an opportunity to (1) empower young blacks to play a role in saving one of their own; (2) educate them on the role of nonviolent solutions to societal problems; (3) let African American leaders step up and do what they're always talking about — saving children and healing the brokenness in our community.

    Practically speaking, this is most assuredly a death sentence for Tookie. If we started counting on the 14th of December, he might make it until MLK's birthday but certainly not to Valentines day. But it would give everybody in Hollywood to make their little point, and the sensible people among us the last word. If only...

    Posted by mbowen at 09:33 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    The Meme of Seven

    Seven things to do before I die.

    Sail the Chesapeake Bay, South Pacific and Intercoastal Waterway.
    Write at least one novel.
    Play my favorite Thelonius Monk songs on piano
    Bounce grandchildren in my huge house on Thanksgiving
    Drive >175 MPH
    Master one martial art.
    Buy a Breitling Montbrilliant.

    Seven things I cannot do.

    Listen to Glide by Pleasure without bobbing my head
    Watch Million Dollar Baby without tears
    Ride a wheelie for more than 30 feet
    Understand my Ex
    Tear myself away from this damned computer
    Stay out of a good fight
    Suffer through chick flicks.

    Seven things that attract me to my best friend

    His utter lack of pretense
    His barbecue legacy
    Our mutual bald black heads
    His goddamned huge ass house, dammit. (not jealous)
    His deep understanding of the hiphop aesthetic
    His ability to hold 6 conversations at once.
    His algorithms.

    Seven Books I Love

    Mastering Regular Expressions
    Speech & Power
    Basin And Range
    Iron John

    Seven Things I Say Most Often

    "Yeah yeah, let me finish this first. I'll be there in a minute."
    "It occurs to me that..."
    "Yes, dear"
    "Bowen here."
    "You know what?"

    Seven Movies I'd watch over and over.

    "Spy Game"
    "The Transporter"
    "The Fifth Element"
    "The Matrix"
    "Deep Cover"

    Seven meme targets

    I don't know who takes my memes seriously. Fill in your own blank.

    Posted by mbowen at 05:45 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

    Poobutt Writers Rule

    In my mind, I stand with Jervey Tervalon, Wanda Coleman and Paul Beatty as a chronicler of black Los Angeles. In reality, they're published in the real world of books, and I occupy some slim corner of cyberspace. That's OK because I understand the lingo. Tervalon is in the LA Times this week reflecting on life with Tookie. Read the whole thing.

    I ALWAYS THOUGHT Stanley Tookie Williams wanted to kill me. I thought he wanted to kill all of us pootbutts who didn't gangbang, and that fear informed how I lived my life as a boy.

    Thirty years later, I don't believe in the death penalty, and I don't want the state to execute Tookie. But I do want the people who grew up in better neighborhoods and now want to lionize the gangster to understand just how hellish he made many people's lives.

    Tervalon is brilliant and funny in this piece and I feel him 98.6%. I wonder where in this place now called Jefferson Park he grew up. Having him weigh in would be a fine complement to the homies we have found. I was fortunate to be the oldest of four boys who had lots of friends. We didn't have to bang. So while I endured some calls of poohbutt (we didn't have a 't') when I was on my own on the Crenshaw bus (back when it was the 85) or the Jefferson Bus (when it was the 9), once I got home, I was safe and free. Still, I've spent more than enough time in the shoes of a tough but smart skinny kid who knew when to put his head down and pretend to be Urkel.

    He nails it on the 'Brim Here'. Crips were so pervasive that everybody knew their perversions of pop. Back in the day when KFC introduced their Extra Crispy recipe, their advertisements on the TV and the radio where everywhere. They said of their chicken that it doesn't just crunch, it goes KA-runch, in a sing songy fashion. Next thing you know, black bangers weren't just Crips, they were CA-rips. What could we say back without getting beat down? It was bad enough they already copyrighted the mean-stroll pimp walk. That was an infringement you din't want to risk. Even the LAPD had to step off.

    I was in a summer science program at USC when the Crips, in a squabble with the Bloods, shot up the community center with a machine gun. A police officer showed up and explained the LAPD's plan of action if the Crips returned: "We'll take our time getting here," he said. "We're not prepared to handle machine guns.

    The idiot world, projecting their violent fantasies on all us black men, are still biting gangsta rhymes as if that were all that flows from black SoCal, and points east. So we all know how cool it is to follow the bouncing bullet to the rhymes of Ice Cube and EZ E. But at some point you have to remember that it was us sharp kids that the gangstas emulated. In the novel I never wrote, the cops pull over my protagonist for driving with his windows down in a slammed hoop with chromed Cragars. The pretense doesn't matter, but it shocks the cop to discover an old friend from the neighborhood is the driver whom is freshly returned from law school. The cop says"'I thought you were a banger, this is how they roll". His old homie replies, "You know this is how I rolled and all of those fools were trying to be me."

    Half that story has never been told, and so people believe the reverse is true. It has become a self-fufilling prophesy to the extent that people believe black men discover their true selves and value to society in prison, not college, the armed forces or the world of work. To all that I say this. Do everyone a favor and forget Tookie's books. We're the writers you ought to be learning from.

    Posted by mbowen at 01:00 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

    December 04, 2005

    Cobblers Hiphop In Da House!

    For the next generation of Cobb we're expanding into multiple dimensions. The first, as promised is the creation of a hiphop group for the folks at They already have several, but I suspect that they are all made up of kids that listen to nothing but hiphop and hate everybody who doesn't like their favorite artists. I'm being presumptuous of course, no disrespect to those to whom it doesn't apply. But for the moment, it's all about us. So when you look at the description of the Cobblers - Hiphop group, you'll see that it's a group for people with tastes beyond hiphop. Join up and we'll take it to the next level.

    While we're at it, here's a string of hiphop that I'm interested in these days which is out of the mainstream:
    {Tackhead, Laswell, Paul Schwartz, Singers & Players, Freestyle Fellowship, some ROIR stuff}. I haven't had much time for new discoveries but I expect to next week or the week after if I get some time to actually start coding and put my head down.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:19 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Under Reconstruction

    I've discovered that my blog looks like crap in IE. Who knew? As I mentioned earlier, I'm moving to a three column format and am going to be changing to blue (probably) or red (more likely). Obviously I haven't made a whole lot of decisions, but switching back between Dreamweaver, Front Page and pure text is making this complicated job even less of a no-brainer.

    Please pardon the uglies while I redo.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:16 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

    December 02, 2005

    Wayback Machine

    I just met somebody on the blog that I went to elementary school with. Gerald Brown is another brother who stops by here every once in a while. He too grew up in my old neighborhood and incidently has no use or tolerance for Crips. But this coincidence has released a flood of memories of my old stomping grounds, well actually I had little feet, but I stomped nonetheless. In fact, we had stomps on the playground at Virginia Road. And we played suicide and open chest and bb-britches and all kinds of Tom Sawyeresque games.

    One of the biggest pastimes for a while, especially after the Symar earthquake in 71 that destroyed the cafeteria, was to stomp on the little packets of French dressing we got with our sack lunches.

    I still remember all of my teachers. In Kindergarten I had Miss Hallenan, then for first grade I had Mrs Kissick and Mrs Pleasant. In the second grade I had Mrs Pollack, the wonderful Jewish lady who said I shouldn't rub my nose side to side but pinch it so it wouldn't get flat like a..oops! Why I remember that I don't know. She was cool. Not like Mrs Hoskins that everyone hated. Her nickname was 'Bullface' because she had huge jowls. In the third grade I had evil Mrs Byers. She got fired after I left the third grade. She used to deny kids the chance to go to the bathroom during class, made us pee ourselves. She said our parents were ignorant for not sending us to school with our own pencils. In the fourth grade I had Mrs White, who was black but could pass for white. She was incredibly strict, but never unfair. In the fifth and sixth grade, I was in Miss Milliken's class. She was without question, one of the best teachers I ever had, and was the first one who told me without question that I should go to college. USC, specifically. She was the kind of teacher who would make bets with us that we couldn't do something she knew we could do. She paid us money to find mistakes in the textbooks and rewarded us with a Big Mac if we finished a color group in the SRA reading lab.

    There were a bunch of kids I remember from school. Doreen Horn, Pheobe with the big mouth, Diana White with whom I had an almost fight. The kings of the school, Ebon, Daniel, Mark Vincent, Mark 'Baby' Bavis. A kid named Danny Henderson whose ass I kicked and later really felt sorry for. Shermalyn Thompson, my first girlfriend. Pamela Pratt. Nudie, Suitcase, all of the Arnold Kids, Verdis, Derrell, Teresa, Rabo, KK. Jerry who lived right across the street from school. August Lewis and his foine sisters. Tracy the kid who made Eagle Scout. Mario Nesbit and his little badass brother Marlon. There was Chuckie McDermott and the kid who stole my bicycle whose name is blocked in memory. There was Freddie, the Japanese kid who didn't play football, and all the kids my younger brothers and sister knew. There was Margaret Chung and all the adopted kids, plus her blood sister Vivian. Mark Levi, Deet's best friend. There was Cherry Lewis the smart girl whose face got burned in a fire and her big brother. There was stupid Marcella and her even stupider brother Richard. Their father married a white woman who never came out of the house. She was so stupid that when Richard got a 8th percentile on the SAT, she thought he was in the top 90%. There was Lonzo, Frankie the pimp, the low life Chambers family. There was Caroline and the Turners, all them redhead frecklefaced blackfolks. There was nasty Anita and her sister. There was London and his brother whose dad worked at Mattel. There was Kevin 'Winky' Brooks who was my best friend who moved away. Kevin had a tall skinny sister and a big curly headed brother. His dad drove really fast. Then Tracy Caldwell who became my new best friend then he moved away to over near Sportsman's Park and then to Ohio.

    Our principal was Edna Cohen. She was also president of the Links of West Adams. She was a black woman who could pass. Her portrait hung on the wall at the Wilfandel Club up in Arlington Heights. She was part of the reason my parents chose our neighborhood which was full of every kind of fruit tree that grows in Los Angeles including the plum tree next door. Oh. I forgot Roosevelt Ivory whose grandmother grew the sweetest peaches on the planet. We called Rosy 'Tank'. He ended up coaching football in Hawaii and then at Santa Monica College. I could tell his parents thought we were all little rowdies. We were. But Tank was a real freind.

    Charles Rixter was the neighborhood Crip. He got Wanda pregnant when she was 16. I have to think, in retrospect that Pops was afraid of Rixter or that at least it came to a threat of violence that Pops was unwilling to face. We know he broke in our house once. But he wasn't around long enough to cause too much trouble. So off to jail he went. We were a neighborhood of sports roughnecks as well as dirtbike mechanics and skirt chasers. Me Tracy and Verdis thought about forming a gang - the Travermike. But when Tracy moved away that collapsed. While he remained we had our secret handshake and basically ran things around the neighborhood. But that was before Mr. Arnold died and Rixter came around. The Arnold's 8 kids came apart and poor Mrs. Arnold was overwhelmed. Verdis, who was a brilliant mechanic and always QB of our football teams, oldest boy of the Arnolds collapsed under the strain. He got caught up in the stolen cars game as far as I recall.

    The neighborhood maintained until Verdis and I and all our cohort left for college or the military. 80-82, Crips, crack, guns, boom. The place was never the same. The very thought that there would be a murder on our street was unthinkable back in the 70s. A fight? Hell, every week. A knife fight? Only if maybe some Mexicans brought them. But a gun? Never. We knew old JC, Mr. Arnold's brother had a shotgun. But he was an old cuss from Texas set in his hunting dog ways and regularly brought rabbits for Mrs. Arnold to cook up with her homegrown mustard greens. You could have thought of Kool Moe Dee's Wild Wild West as our theme song, except that nobody ever brought static. Nobody except the cops, who made us give up our homemade nunchucks and gave us tickets for riding our minibikes.

    We were skinny tough kids in sweatpants, Chucks and t-shirts with sweatbands and ankleweights, heading over to Dorsey or Vineyard for pickup ball. Football, Basketball, BMX, Skateboard, Swimming & Gymnastics. That was us. Pickens made it to the Buffalo Bills, Nudie became a BBall coach in the Valley. My late brother Scoobie played semipro football and he and Doc both played in the Inglewood Basketball League. Donald and Cragie Shane could do nohand wheelies all day long. Donald and I build a tandem dirtbike and rode it up and down Crenshaw to applause. Everybody could swim. My brother Deet and I both had full twisting back summersaults and ruled flipflop grass from Centinela to Sportsman's Park to Dorsey Pool.

    I used to think of us all as kids in the form of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. We grew up on the Three Stooges, Little Rascals and Speed Racer. We ate Cheerios for Go Go Go Power and we busted the Presidents Physical Fitness test ready to kick Russia's ass if it came to it. We always watched the Indy 500 and cheered the Miami Dolphins through their perfect season. We smoked weed out of the shoebox and got our hair braided sitting on the front porch in the late summer evenings. We wore fat leather wristbands for our Timex watches and puka shells around our necks. We slow-danced to 'Wildflower' and pretended to be Jim Kelly in Enter The Dragon. We snuck into the Baldwin Theatre to see Chinese Connection five times and stole the flashing yellow lights of the construction sawhorses and put them in our bedrooms. We ogled Angela Davis' blacklight poster and made lamps in electic shop out of 7up cans. We drew afros on all the athletes on PeeChee folders and thought Muhammad Ali was the greatest who ever lived. We watched all the moonshots, listened to 1580 KDAY and rolled six deep to KACE concerts in the park. We had chinaberry fights, played doctor in the garage and mowed the lawn with pushmowers.

    We put money under Free Parking and never paid the interest to get properties out of hock. If you landed on Go, you got $400. We slammed bones, ran Bostons and played Tonk for quarters. We ate Bomb pops and played 'intendo. We got grease and gasoline from the junkyard up the street, took apart the guts of our kickback threespeeds and put them back together with chickenwire when we lost the bolt for the brake brace. We traded Wacky Packages and peace patches for our notebooks and jean jackets. We read Mad Magazine, ate Chickosticks and spit poly seeds at each other. We popped M80s and did street luge down Arlington Doubles. We rode bikes up to the broken Baldwin Reservoir and hiked into the bowl.

    Somewhere along the way to adulthood we learned lessons that seem to defy all the poltical correctness of today's America. We were all about living as large as possible, our way, with no shame and no hesitation. We didn't know a whole lot about the world except that it better be ready for us, because we ain't backing down. People tell me 'we didn't know we were poor' and we didn't walk around making excuses about being oppressed. We sung the black national anthem and we prepared to look the white man in the eye. I don't think we realized how strong we were. I don't think the world realized either.

    Black youth in the 70s - that's my generation. There will never be another quite like it.

    Posted by mbowen at 03:35 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

    City of Quartz, Donald Bakeer & The Crips Mystique

    Back in the day, around 1986, I was a freshly minted entry level programmer in El Segundo, the aerospace capital of the Western US. From my office on the 14th floor of the Xerox Centre (home of the Golden Tale), I could see Hughes ESDG, TRW, Aerospace, Northrop and a host of other high-tech firms. Although I hung with a host of other NSBE grads, black engineers & scientists all, I had issues with uppity blackness. And so I did what comes naturally to me, I went to extremes. In my search around LA for black culture of a decidedly highbrow nature, I found myself beset by myths about Los Angeles in general.

    In the Reagan era, during the War on Drugs & the Culture Wars most blackfolks, myself especially, were very concerned about our portrayals in media. We made a big fuss about the success of the Cosby Show and of Arsenio Hall. We were wrestling with monolithic portrayals of 'the' black community on television. With blacks now infiltrating MTV with the popular Yo! and Spike Lee turning movie audiences on their ear, it was a boistrous time. My favorite of course was 'Mo Better Blues'. But where was black culture on the ground in LA? Before the release of Boyz N the Hood, Colors was just about it. Though you'd have to count Shabba-Doo in Breakin' on Venice Beach too. Sheesh. Given my history with The People of the Dons and the buppie party scene I was into in the late 80s, you could imagine my consternation. Part of my rebellion was GDZ, but that's another long buppie story that ends around 1990.

    With 1990 came a kind of alternate rebellion for me. I was sick and bored with being a Nordstrom's fashion plate and started in with grit of the city. My guidebook was Mike Davis' City of Quartz. Somewhere in the middle of that Davis makes a strong connection between gangs and political life - a fixation that has never quite been broken in the minds of millions, especially after Rodney King and the fall of CRASH. The oppositional pose of oppositing anything establishment was good leaven for my BAP upbringing. So I listened.

    During that time I started writing my Great American Novel that was going to pit the aspirations of the white collar and blue collar paradigms of black Los Angeles. In this novel, as in life, I confronted the problems arising from gangbanging and its connection to hiphop. In particular, I addressed the fate of Wild Style Grafitti, the one aspect of hiphop that has completely been submerged and abandoned by commercialization. As a novelist, I was actively engaged in trying to recoup some authenticity of black Los Angeles that was being lost and ignored by the popularization of various trendy aspects of emergent black and hiphop culture. There were two things that utterly destroyed the prospects of my book. The first was the huge success of Boyz N The Hood (and to a lesser degree 'White Men Can't Jump'). The second was the LA Riots. But while I was doing research for the book one of the people I had to talk to was Donald Bakeer.

    Bakeer, loosely speaking, is a griot. He's a man of the neighborhood, who while working in the decidely gang-plagued areas of LA, has seen hundreds of gangbangers come and go. Very little of what he knows has translated well into print, and that includes his own book 'Crips', later translated into the movie 'South Centra" The man who has done a much better job describing the black neighborhoods and kids of LA in conflict with gangs has been Jervey Tervalon, although I can only speak from the experience of one book (that made all the difference) 'Understand This'. So the controversy at the time, while I was working on my stuff, was that of the 'white interloper' Leon Bing who wrote 'Do or Die' about Monster Kody Scott. A lot has been written *since* the LA Riots and the CRASH scandal, but there was little attention in print at the time. I wanted to frame the discussion in terms of the political aspirations of black families in LA. As far as I know, it has yet to be done, and if so, it certainly hasn't changed the popular consciousness. I did Bakeer a personal favor at his request and bought and read his book instead of 'Do or Die'.

    I met Bakeer at the Aquarian Bookstore where I attended seminars on the regular for a period of time. Our family was tight with the Ligons who owned and ran the bookstore from way back in the mid 60s. Alfred Ligon may be forgotten by many, but not by me. And the surviving members of the Watts Poets, (like Quincy Troupe whose contempt for Stanley Crouch was palpable) took it upon themselves to instruct me informally about the finer points of becoming a published author. In this atmosphere of black bookstore politics (and you think barbershops get crazy?) there was much talk about gangbanging. The consensus was that the political aspects of the bangers had been lost in contemporary Cripdom, but that in the days of The Avenues it was more foreward. But it wasn't only because Crips and Bloods themselves had passed to a generation of young ignorant thugs, but because the LAPD had declared a 'low level war' against black gangs. Comparisons to the Palestinian Intifada were frequent and impassioned. It was this broadly and fiercely held sentiment that bolstered the political pretensions of LA Gangsta rap. So while everybody to a person wanted very little to do with Crips and gangs in general, the whole media blackout of the real black Los Angeles (what you talkin bout Willis?) left a desparately need for expression. Any kind of expression.

    Unlike other cities, notably New York, blacks lived all over LA, and all the black neighborhoods were not alike. While Spike Lee's Brooklyn was getting media sunshine, all we had, before Singleton's bomb, was Arsenio Hall and he was from Cleveland. So if NWA hadn't come straight outta Compton, we would have invented it. Anything to get the message out. One particular message that needed getting out was how stupid policies of Police Chief Darryl Gates had turned the black middle class against him. During the 80s, he deployed the infamous 'batterram' against crack houses, and he deployed gang sweeps against black kids who wore gang colors. Anyone who reads Streetgangs thoroughly recognizes that with over 100 different Crip sets alone in LA County, there is not a major league sports team whose colors haven't been appropriated. The result was the arrest and detention of hundreds of ordinary kids with a incredibly paltry criminal booking rate of 2%. The reaction was explosive and the resentment was thorough and long-lasting. While few people know about the 2% booking rate on gang-sweeps, everybody knows 'Fuck the Police'. Thus began the reduction of a cogent political process to the jackleg ministrations of the Coalition of the Damned today 15 years later.

    I have my doubts that better writers are still belaboring the point, there being so much more in the world, even in the black images world, to write about. Yet in those days the connection between black expression, the readiness to get any word out over the volume of glamour-puss writers like Bing, and black street life was at a high pitch. There were so many stereotypes to overcome, and during the culture wars before the triumph of multiculturalism the stakes were much higher.

    I have unburdened myself of a need and a desire to write grandiose novels as large as black Los Angeles, though I still think I might do Jordan Crossing when I retire from this computer career. Maybe I should rename it Crenshaw. But I wonder if a substantial number of writers who would write about blackfolks in Los Angeles have unburdened themselves. What I see consistently here in the blogosphere about Tookie is that some liberal white writer fell in love with Tookie and basically started the whole Tookie Movement. Was it Venise Wagner at Mother Jones who inflenced Mario Fehr? Who knows? Clearly some of the same distortions about who Crips are and what black LA is like persist through these years and have charged with myth what might otherwise be a relatively inconsequential execution.

    Hollywood is in this, and their appetite for the violent dram of gangsta life reflects America's own. That may come at the expense of the truth, or at least a likeable story of black LA. Certainly 'Devil in a Blue Dress' isn't truth, but it's a story I'd rather see about black LA than Boyz. The Mouse in that story, portrayed by Don Cheadle, is nothing like Tookie's partner Mouse, but was a killer nonetheless. Someday we might look back on some comical portrayal of Tookie in a retro movie about 70s black Los Angeles, but today it's no fantasy. Today is no time to romanticize the 'politics' of gangbanging. Gangs have stood in too long for symbols of the real people who live in 'Southcentral' that myriad area made sociopolitically fascinating by the lefty work and imagination of Mike Davis. It's time to break through the myths and the mystique.

    Once again, the victims of this mystique, or perhaps I should say the targets of this obsession, are black youth. Are we to believe that they are so preoccupied and fascinated by the media inflation of Tookie that his influence is real? Whose fault is it if Tookie's word on the futility of gang-life beats out the word of socially responsible people? I knew better than to take drugs as a kid, but the State of California insured that my classroom had a huge color poster of every kind of hallucinagenic, amphetamine, barbituate, narcotic and psychotropic agent known to mankind. If Tookie can have a positive influence, perhaps he should do it in full media post-mortem glory like Yul Brynner did. Saying 'I'm dead now, and gang life is what killed me'. But all of us who survive need to remind ourselves that our job is not to punt to the likes of Tookie, but to stand up for what we know to be right and true.

    Posted by mbowen at 02:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Oviatt Rocks

    I'm putting together a largeish piece on Crips, Bakeer and LA. I found this treasure trove. Check it out.

    Posted by mbowen at 02:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    December 01, 2005

    Are you a Cobbler?

    I'm going to spread some love and in the process of doing so, may modify the format of Cobb. But first to the love.

    A lot of people do a lot of headscratching about what I'm representing on the blog. I can be maddeningly infuriating if you're trying to figure me out. I know this. But here's what I do for a living. I get people to tell me what's the most important numbers they run their business on, and I design systems to deliver those numbers with speed, accuracy and style. In other words, I do a lot of listening, and then I structure up the best way I can to express what it is you say is so important. Since I tend to be incredibly geeky and logic oriented, I also show you the embarrassing contradictions on the way from pie in the sky to feet on the ground. So therefore I am skeptical, analytical, and possessed of a certain .. how shall I say it? Showmeism. You say you want the truth, Mr, CFO? OK, here's what systems and work you have to get there, now how much are you willing to pay? I generally find that people in all walks of life would rather have 80% of the truth told nicely than 100% of the full ugly truth.

    But the corollary to all that is that there's a hell of a lot of discovery that needs to be done in order to get the truth delivered promptly. A lot of swamps have to be drained, a lot of trees climbed to peer into the misty mists and the dusky dusks. Furhtermore, a lot of bridges need to be built. It's not enough to be one who scouts out the truth armed with a machete through the jungles of uncertainty and over the mountains of lies. You have to pave roads too. The truth is not so much revealed as cobbled together. Once you find this to be the case over and over, you are less likely to say what lies on the other side of the river. You analyze, you sniff the wind, you rely on your gut and you take precise measurements, grunt and move forward. You are a Cobbler, putting together paths towards revelation one safari at a time.

    That's the kind of environment I intent to continue fostering here at Cobb. Open inquiry, useful philosophical discipline, common sense, unabated curiousity and heartfelt passion. And none of that can happen, despite my ability to spew, without you.

    And so I'm about to change the colors at Cobb from the green I've been using to something else, and I'm seriously considering a three column format. With the third column would come more extensive blogrolling, names posted on comments and possibly even advertisements, although I'm pretty hesitant on that last score. I'd much rather shill for bloggers than sellers.

    As for the political angle, it will be retained but I'll spend more time on culture and the arts. I'll probably pull in the whole Lucifer Jones idea and just make that the primary focus - Matters of the Spirit. As for The Conservative Brotherhood and the Old School, I'm pretty much done with the philosophical groundwork. That becomes a much more practical angle over at TCB's portal. I'm not going to waste much time arguing about stuff I already know to be true - no offense to a player but I don't play.

    But that's all to make Cobb a more personal place with more of your input.

    Stay tuned.

    Posted by mbowen at 01:28 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

    USC vs Fresno State

    I generally only watch about 4 football games a year. This year has been exceptional because my boy played. I can count on one hand the times when my excitement for the game has lasted an entire season. Don't get me wrong, I'm not one of those dainty types who thinks it's all brutish dullard stumblebumdom. I have a polished appreciation for the game as a street player but not as a fanatic. I just basically get into the Olympics and the Tour de France as spectator sports - things I know I could never do in a million. But the mainstream sports coverage leaves me cold, even with the fancy graphics, beer commercials and best damned repartee. I just don't care enough nor do I know enough people who would make me put my money where my mouth and make me care.

    But I have, this summer, having purchased some USC paraphenalia - basically a couple XXL jerseys for my incognegro ventures, had to answer some tough questions posed by anonymous fans on the street. Like, hey what do you think about Lienert? I'm thinking, WTF is a Lienert, and then vaguely realize that my T Shirt is sending out fan vibes. Oops. Well, since I was a Trojan once, I ought to do a little diligence.

    Last week my boy Z tells me about the Fresno State game. He says it was better even than the Notre Dame game. Say what? So I setup the Tivo to capture a rerun.

    This has to be one of the greatest football games of all time. I swear to God, on a stack of Heisman trophies. This kid Bush, number 5 is the most exciting runner since Jim Thorpe. OK Anthony Davis. He reminds me most of Bo Jackson, with his incredible ability to see the field and just run through the defense. He jooks harder and faster than any college player I've ever seen - and I only pay attention to the biggest talent, so don't ask me to name 5. He's incredibly fast and he can put his head down and bull through a line.

    I know I'm not telling anybody with the vaguest idea of what's going on in college football anything they don't already know. But for someone who hasn't had a real woody for the sport since the days of Bob Griese's Dolphins, OK Mike Ditka's 1985 Chicago Bears, I'm paying attention. I think this kid can be as great as Emmitt Smith or Walter Payton.

    Posted by mbowen at 01:26 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    50 Cent Republicans

    First of all I want to ask a question. Is the rap star 50 Cent a Republican? True or False?

    I mean the urban myth is pretty well baked. Some black rap star throws a thousand bucks to a GOP fundraiser, like so many dollars to hoes. Except he does it anonymously with his real name that nobody knows. They then show up and proceed to freak out the whitebreads in the house, like Huey Freeman at a garden party. You can imagine Dres Titus or Eddie Griffin doing this, but is it true about Fiddy, and if so, what's the rest of the story?

    Inquiring minds want to know.

    Posted by mbowen at 01:17 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    Dream Team

    Posted by mbowen at 12:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack