January 31, 2006


(Comic) Coretta remembered. Sorta

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McWhorter Spinning on His Head

A thoughtful reader directed me to a budding academic smackdown on hiphop linguistics. Apparently, some noob declared himself the first Canadian research to recognize the double-negative in black American speech. I had that discussion with my french teacher when I was a sophomore in highschool. Apparently, the bigger mistake is studying AAVE through the lens of hiphop. That's a chicken and egg or a chicken and coq au vin problem. I mean deconstructing a lyricist like Pos is hardly going to give you insight to what's being said on the corner by Jamal 40Dog (that's Joe Sixpack at the Albee Square Mall). Nor is looking for what's being said in the Dirty South going to give you any indication of what rappers are going to say next.

Dr. Darin Howe recently contributed a book chapter that focuses on how black Americans use the negative in informal speech, citing examples from hip hop artists such as Phonte, Jay Z and Method Man. Howe is believed to be the only academic in Canada and one of the few in the world to take a scholarly look at the language of hip hop.

As Friedman remarks, a little basic fact-checking would have helped
here. There's been plenty of serious academic research on hiphop,
including linguistic research, for quite some time now. Friedman
quickly Googled up a bibliography of hiphop scholarship compiled by
John Ranck of Simmons College, to which I'd add the even more extensive
bibliography maintained at the Hiphop Archive website.

I think the subject is fairly devoid of profundity and I defer to Avery Tooley in these matters anyway, but I always find the etymology of hiphop a curious subject. To the extent I find lyrics mistranslated it's cool to understand the idioms of the 'hood. But the sociological impact of lyrics on the hood and vice versa isn't a particularly insightful meme if you ask me. While I complain about the derangement of hiphop and the vulgarity of its creations, I don't harbor any illusions that something special is going on here. Human beings are apt to be crude and even perverse for the sake of perversity. When nobody cares, there's nothing to keep that perversity in check. You can call it 'the culture of the ghetto' if you like, but it's still universal. Just because some slick American businessmen figured out a way to commoditize it doesn't make it more than what it is.

I mention McWhorter because I think his love for blackfolks gets him in trouble in this regard. He espouses, as an educator, a high standard of conduct and despairs at the conduct (and language) of the black masses. So while I might punt this football his way, even if he carries across the goal it doesn't score many points in the game of life.

See, I think all of those National Geographic specials with native folks music have been edited for television. Anywhere women don't do the equivalent of vote, all the love songs are just booty songs. You do know what 'squaw' means, don't you?

Posted by mbowen at 08:33 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

BDS Memes

I was explaining to Pops the other night what the problem with the Left is. The biggest problem is that they have no brainpower. Not that Leftist ideas are fundamentally stupid, I think that there are any number of people who could have made Socialism work in Russia better than Stalin. But that the American Left has suffered a mighty brain-drain which is not about to be reversed any time soon.

The greatest symptom of this is the Idiotarian Liberal, many of which display the classic symptoms of Bush Derangement Syndrome. They have become a mockery of themselves, and I think that's a bad thing for the nation that the opposition has just gone silly. Every other week, it seems, the grab onto a headline and launch a rabid attack meme that flies for a while and then dies. Everything in the news is a reaction to these attacks, and a great waste of political energy.

I'm going to watch this litany closely. They represent the opportunities wasted by the left that would make our democracy a bit more robust. This week, the extended BDS meme is all about 'Too Much Executive Privilege' which is basically a gripe about the domestic spying. You will note a couple things here. The first is that this has not risen to the level of a lawsuit. So nobody is actually seeking an injunction against the president's actions. Secondly, I think it has become abundantly clear (or at least I respect the arguments) that FISA, written in 1978, simply cannot deal with current technologies and the statute must be updated. Thirdly, while I have weighed in against the illegality as overreach, it is clear that action is better than inaction.

The spillover from this has been a failed attempt to convince the Senate that Alito's greatest failing is that he would accede to such executive overreach. Sorry. Better luck next time.

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The Foxx Effect

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January 30, 2006

Michael George Johnson

We say good bye to the Mike of the other Cynthia & Michael. He was taken by cancer last week. I can't ever remember this guy not working. It seemed to me that he was always busy about something. He was a good looking guy. Quiet, serious, polite, but never dorky. He and Cynthia were a great match. Both dedicated workaholics, always pursuing the dream. The news was a shock and it's still hard to believe. Mike appeared to be in perfect health, but the cancer was found much too late.

When someone I know dies, I take it upon myself to assume part of their character. That way they live on in me. So i will attempt to be more 'about it', because I knew few people who were as dedicated as Michael Johnson.

Born to Sonny an Elseta Johnson on September 14, 1961, Michael George Johnson was a father, a husband and a friend to many. Determined to reach success form a young age, Michael's journey began in London, England where he attended Tollington Park High School and graduated early to got onot Kingsway Princeton College.

Michael was an avid photographer. He worked in the heart of London for several years as a graphic artist specializing in photography and advertising. At age 38 Michael decided to take a risk and try life in America. He went on to reside in Redondo Beach, California where he met an married is wonderful wife Cynthia Moore in 2001. Michael was a very intelligent, strong and driven man. Never taking no for an answer and always striving for the best he used his artistic ability to start his own company disigning and creating hand crafted iron doors and railings.

Amongst many relatives he is survived by his mother Elseta, his sister Patsy, his brother John, his three chldrenn Jarrell, Natanya and Jasmine, and his wife Cynthia. Michale will always be remembered by his family and friends as a quiet yet ambitions, strong and determined soul.

His life journey came to a close at the tender age of 44. He will be deeply missed by all.

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January 29, 2006

The Pacifier

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On Hamas & Democracy

When you're a crusty old man, everything that comes over the airwaves is obvious. Nobody on the planet possesses enough time and talent to broadcast anything significantly substantial enough to alter any perspectives. Even with 500 channels, it's still an idiot box, IF you are well-read.

Part of the problem with this being a political blog is that most of the news I get never comes with enough detail to be a genuine surprise or learning experience for me. So I set down to write on a daily basis and it all seems like it should go into 'Obligatory Seriousness'. However the victory of Hamas in Palestine in the wake of the death of Arafat and the end of Sharon is one of those counter-intuitive blessings that I love.

I think that it is an extraordinarily great thing that Hamas has got to step up and govern. In the same way, I am pleased with what's going on in Iran. In both cases, the suppressed heinous desires of a mealy-mouthed people is coming to the fore. I suspect that within a year we will see full-blown cowardice on a scale that will shake the world out of its daydreaming. The assumptions about the motivations of the masses can be twisted and turned and second-guessed from here until the sacred cows come home. But there's nothing quite like calling the cards on the table of democracy. Here is where it finally shows up.

Very much like the war in Iraq, the opportunity for all of the crackpots, jacklegs, nutcases, suicidal rebels and other self-destructive mental cases has been made plain. Iraq became the place where all of your idiot dreams of killing American soldiers were made manifest; and where every maladjusted and misinformed conspiracy theorist in the First World had an opportunity to see exactly how significant was their Baby Bin Laden Theory. We destroyed all of the militant midget mullahs and their meatheaded mercenaries. The great armies of the Caliphate have been reduced to street gangs.

And so it will be with Hamas. They are not going to change direction. They are the investors in and inventors of the suicide bomb attack on civilians. They have had years to consider their strategies and tactics and now they have deftly and soundly defeated their political opponents. It says quite a bit that those Palestinians most invested in moderation are corrupted beyond repair, and those most single-mindedly focused on disciplined change and reform are hell-bent on the destruction of their neighbors. There is no change to be had. The will of the people has been made manifest, what lies ahead is the inevitable.

The inevitable will be an even more ragtage ethnic Palestinian minority subsumed into a single dominant Israel. The dreams of Palestinian nationalism are about to come crashing down and their inevitable dependence will be made crystal clear. All we need do now is sit back and watch the tortured dreams of the manic and the single-minded madness work its magic. There can be and there will be no Palestinian nation so long as the fundamental expression of its political will is to blame its problems on Israel. And our Secretary of State should withdraw every penny of aid until the new Palestinian government demonstrates its ability and willingness to disband the Hamas Militia. Of course Hamas will not disarm, and its soldiers will not confine themselves to quarters. This is a 'nation' whose fundamental contribution to the region is destructive suicide. We should expect nothing less.

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Defending Google

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January 28, 2006

Shout Out to Six24

There's a new aggregator in town, and it looks rather sweet. Right now there are three or four venues where you can catch syndications of Cobb. Periodically, Booker Rising will pull one of my half-way decent essays, the rest are automatic (Conservative Brotherhood, Black Bloggers Assn and Punditdrome). Add to that Six24.

Put together by Courtney Payne (NSBE, FAMU), the site is polished and performs well. He's adding features and taking feedback, so jump to it.

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Fred Johnson: Amp'd Mobile

As Vice President of Product Marketing, Fred Johnson brings a wealth of business savvy to the Amp'd marketing group, providing an acute sense of what works for the Amp'd demographic to help establish the company as a leader in wireless entertainment. Formerly with Apple Computer's Applications Marketing group, Fred was responsible for driving marketing and feature definitions for new product releases. Prior to his 3.5 successful years at Apple, Johnson served as Creative Director for Yahoo! Inc., where he oversaw the company's broadband services including streaming broadcasts, and private webcasts. He is the author of the best-selling book Global Mobile: Connecting without Walls, Wires, or Borders. Fred resides in Marina Del Rey, CA with his Fiance Elsa, and cat Baba.

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January 27, 2006


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Piling On Joel Whatshisname

I was actually in my car listening to this squirrel on the Hugh Hewitt show last Friday. It was yet another of Hewitt's masterful disembowelings, I am coming to expect. One of the things that captivated me about the interview - which is something finally I think Hewitt may come to embody - is Hugh's recognition of the value of work. I mean work in the modern sense of the word, not as his subject thinks, in the post-modern sense. A columnist at the LAT whose editor passed no contextual judgement on a weekly thousand words or so is not working in the modern sense. He is filling space.

In many ways I am coming to think of editors of newspapers like the LA Times rather like I think of the old business development blueshirts of Silicon Valley who 'monetized clicks'. Check out this dialog:

HH: Do you honor the service that their son did?

JS: To honor the service their son...now this is a dumb question, but what do you mean by honor? That's a word you keep using. I'm not entirely...maybe that's my problem. But I'm not entirely sure what you're...

HH: Honor usually means gratitude and esteem. Are you grateful for and esteem what he did? Honestly?

JS: Honestly? I admire the bravery. I don't...you know, I feel like he did something I could never do, so I'm kind of in awe on some level. Am I grateful, that I feel like he protected me? Um, no I don't.

HH: And so, do you think he died in vain?

JS: Yeah. I do. And that's why I'm so horrified by all this, and why I don't want empty sentiments prolonging the war.

Empty sentiments? This guy has a lot of nerve talking about empty sentiments considering what he calls working for a living.

Perhaps it doesn't seem fair that half the blogosphere, or at least a significant portion out here on the West Coast has gone knocking on this guy's forehead looking for evidence of a soul, but I think we all should. So I am piling on in hopes that at some point in our history we will be able to look back at people who drink whiskey and know that we're not just doing it to offend the non-smoking PC crowd. We drink because it actually hurts our heads to listen to such claptrap. Has all honest reporting gone to sportswriting? If only Frank DeFord could edit the LA Times.

I haven't really opined on the matter tangential to this which is the destiny of the Disney Company and brand under the influence of Steve Jobs. In many ways he is a great master of the post-modern. Apple Computers are great silly machines that make people millionaires, but don't do any real work. The real number crunching power in the computing world happens in software like Oracle and SAP and in databases like DB2 and Teradata. Apples play music and drive millions of colors onto large flat panel screens in service of software applications like 'Garage Band' and a hundred different i-somethings. He has monetized clicks, and his next bombshell is getting these same slack jawed audiences who find his style irresistable to put down good money in order to buy music videos from the iTunes Music Store. Yes. Now you can pay to watch Gorillaz. Just wait until U2 creates an iTunes only release of a music video that costs 2 bucks to see.

Part of me says that Joel Whatshisname is not representative of our young minds, and yet I know that kids are getting obese and that the very idea of a 'Man of Action' seems vaguely offensive to the new squirrel voiced sensibilities Gerard so aptly sees as neutered. And yet I am so acutely aware of the fact that so many 'persons' in our society are calling themselves 'guys'. I am not raising my son to be a guy, a homie, a dude, or some sort of male specimen. Can you imagine asking Joel 'what kind of man are you' and getting a straight answer? (double entendre not intended). No, you can not.

Although it was the point of Hewitt's discussion, this is not only pertinent to matters of responsible journalism and supporting troops, but to the very value of doing something substantial and getting the respect integrity deserves. It is more than simply disheartening that we live in an mediasphere populated by squirrels. Their daily mincing of words and garbling of concretes in spin is a direct threat to the level of discussion we citizens engage. If it is up to the blogs and the well connected radio personalities to fight the good fight, it won't be enough. We all need to reject the empty posturing of the Joel Whathisnames of the world, lest we lose sight of reality in a semiotic swamp.

Look at that Malcolm X video again. What you will hear is straight talk. We owe it to ourselves and our nation to bring about the change that will bring straight talk back to the center of our communications with each other. Until then, this is not America and we are not men and women.

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

Half-Assed Demography: Racial Traffic in Surveys

There is nothing that gets me quite as riled up as when I read about surveys like this one over matters of Katrina. It almost doesn't matter what the subject is, but researchers are guilty of trumping up racial differences without any proof that they are racial differences. It is a constant source of annoyance.

I understand that there are certain things that people are drawn to say when they take a boring academic subject and need to sex it up for a press release. Hell, 'Half-Assed Demography' is a hot line. But you would think that there would be some detailed breakout of the survey results available to the general public. But no, it will go out like this and the radio talkshows will take it from there, using the imprimatur of the University to back up whatever crazy racial theories they are ready to spout off.

When it came to OJ, I wrote a poem. A stanza from that:

but in the courtroom race itself
as a flashpoint ito denied
outside the courtroom pollsters pushed
a classic racialist divide.
they said those that believe in simpson
patently are black
and whites of course think otherwise
(and yes, we've got their back)
few pundits dared to bridge the rift
no pollster cared to split the diff
by education, party line
geography, zodiac sign
religion, history of crime,
orientation or other kind
of simple demographic
not age nor sex but racial traffic

(if i must name one, dominick dunne)

I'm not Ward Connorly and I'm happy that people have the nerve to consider race, but if that's all we are given to consider, what the hell difference does it make? Race can't be changed.

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Friday Fragments

Spence on NPR
Dr. Spence is getting broader coverage on NPR. Make sure that you catch the scoops at his new site.

Wilfandel Club
Kitty Felde was at a local anniversary party for the Wilfandel Club over on the top of Adams Blvd. I haven't thought about that neighborhood in months. Shame on me.

First of all, still digging on the driving videos, here is what it looks like to ride a motorcycle 200 mph. This Hyabusa is burning up the road.

Canadian BBoys
The sport is alive and well in British Columbia

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January 26, 2006

A Refreshing Breath of Malcolm X

I'm not going to say a lot here other than remark about how perfectly reasonable the old guy sounds from this distance. Particularly in this interview, I am struck by the extent to which Malcolm suggests that the cure for the black man is Religion. In fact, he doesn't strike me as political at all. Nothing quite underscores that as this clip, although who can tell what the full context might be.

It would be useful for me to get a good handle on the split between Albert Murray and Malcolm X.

Posted by mbowen at 11:03 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Tom Holsinger: The Last Word on FISA

Basically, it's outmoded and requires an overhaul.

My father was the adminstrative assistant to a Congressman on the House Intelligence Committee at the time FISA was enacted in 1978. I was and am familiar with the public and Congressional debate on FISA at that time. I was engaged in the private practice of law at that time and so able to follow the details.

My brief conversations with my father and his boss about FISA taught me that Congress was determined to head off future domestic abuses of what was then perceived as the NSA's rapidly growing eavesdropping ability. They didn't care at all about "foreign communications" - those into or out of the U.S. The Executive Branch was adamant about Congress not touching the NSA's surveillance of foreign communications, and Congress didn't care at all about that so the Executive Branch got its way there.

He has more at Volokh.

As Drezner suggests, the administration should throw this back to the Congress and get an updated statute. There's no way the President should be breaking the law, and this one is broken.

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Blacks In the West Symposium

Note the keynote. Way to go Uncle Ray!


Blacks in the West, 1100-1899
"Exploring the Black Frontier"

Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S.A.
Albuquerque Marriott
2101 Louisiana Blvd NE
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87110 U.S.A

Phone: 1.505.881.6800

June 14 - 17, 2006

Objectives for this symposium are to:
• Provide a forum for leading experts in the area of American history.

• Promote the exchange of information and resources.

• Obtain support for collecting and cataloging historical data.

• Increase national and international awareness of this chapter in our

• Encourage academics to pursue further study in this area.
Keynote Speaker:
Dr. Raymond C. Bowen, President Emeritus of LaGuardia Community College
His speech is entitled: "The Historical Significance of African American

We are thrilled that the Keynote Speaker for this event is Dr. Raymond C.
Bowen, President Emeritus of LaGuardia Community College speaking on the
topic: The Historical Significance of African American Education.

Plan on attending this one of a kind symposium, where you will enjoy four
days of presentations on topics ranging from Black Migration and Buffalo
Soldiers to Black Towns and the building of the West. Each day we will
offer up seminars by premier scholars and allow you to sign up for the
lectures of your choice.

In addition to the many and varied presenters, Historical Research Patrons
will also host the one of a kind art exhibit on “Blacks in the West”, with
pieces done by many of New Mexico’s premier artists.

On Wednesday June 14, 2006 we will have a reception that will allow you to
meet and chat with the presenters whose seminars you will be attending
over the next three days.

As part of your symposium package we will also be offering:
• Breakfast and lunch on Thursday and Friday

• A banquet Friday evening

• Breakfast on Saturday
Historical Research Patrons has arranged with the [
http://marriott.com/property/propertypage/ABQNM ]Albuquerque Marriott a
special rate for our attendees. Be sure and mention the symposium in order
to take advantage of these great rates.

Save your space at this exciting symposium by contacting HRP and

HRP, Inc.
3200 Carlisle Blvd., NE
Suite 219
Albuquerque, NM 87110

(505) 830-6005
Early Registration (through June 5, 2006):
• Non-student: $225.00

• Student: $115.00
Regular Registration (June 6-14, 2006):
• Non-student: $250.00

• Student: $125.00
Late Registration (at the door):
• Non-student: $300.00

• Student: $225.00
General Information:
For general information about the symposium, e-mail: [
mailto:symposium@blacksinthewest.org ]symposium@blacksinthewest.org

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Real Talent

Admitting my bias, there are few things that are more impressive to me than seeing young black musicians pick up the Jazz tradition. It gives me a pure unadulterated sense of pride in our people and hope for the future. I come fully prepared to give props when I hear about new talent. But none of that prepared me for this twelve year old kid, even when he dedicated his performance to Tony Williams. So here's what I'm going to say today to everyone who is concerned that my lack of enthusiasm for Jamie Foxx betrays some kind of weird grudge or self-hate.




If there is a conspiracy in Hollywood, it is to keep the idea of black clowns alive. But then again Hollywood is just doing what America wants it to do (except in the distribution business). But nothing can manipulate the pure genius of live instruments being played in classic styles. There's a big difference between star power and talent. There can be no denying Jamie Foxx's star power. He's getting the kind of exposure that a generation of black entertainers have broken barriers to achieve and he demonstrates that we're getting our cultural thing in order with less focus on race, more or less. However in terms of pure talent... well, he ain't got greatness in him, whereas this kid Royster is just oozing greatness.

Now the question about the future of black entertainment. Does black star power do right by black talent?

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Black Blogging Revisited

A few months ago, Antoinette Pole from Brown University interviewed me and several other black bloggers. She presents her results.

This paper explores the role of black bloggers in the blogosphere. Among the top political blogs, blogging has primarily been undertaken by white men, coined by Chris Nolan as the "Big Boys Club." This research assesses how bloggers of color use their blogs for purposes related to politics, and it investigates whether the blogosphere facilitates political participation among black bloggers.

The data for this paper are based on in-depth interviews with 20 black bloggers conducted in November 2005. Primarily exploratory, this paper examines the issues and topics discussed by bloggers of color, and whether and how bloggers are using their blogs to engage in political participation. In addition this research attempts to assess whether black bloggers face discrimination in the blogosphere. Findings from this research suggest that black bloggers do in fact use their blogs to encourage their readers to engage in various forms of political participation. Finally, the data also show that bloggers reported that they do not feel discriminated against or excluded by other bloggers.

Her focus on the politics of blogging and the blogging of politics tests three hypotheses:

  • Black bloggers will blog about issues related specifically to race.
  • Black bloggers will use their blogs to engage in and to encourage their readers to engage in various forms of political participation that occur both online and offline.
  • Black bloggers will report that they face discrimination by other bloggers.
  • The answer to 1 is yes, but how much? Indeed how much is too much or not enough. It's enough that we do, I suppose, but that doesn't necessarily mean that appropriate attention is paid. I think anyone who blogged primarily about race relations would go bonkers after three years if they weren't already bonkers. I say this from personal experience.

    The answer to number two isn't a surprising yes, but one that after a moment's consideration, you'd expect. But I understand that this is the kind of baseline writing that must be done in order to build up a body of academic work.

    The third answer is no. Black bloggers are, by and large, masters of their own domain. How black online writers got hounded out of public internet spaces was a function of the fact that they were squatters like everyone else. But when you control your discussion space, you can squelch the noise.

    Dr. Pole presented her paper in India in December
    . You can read the whole thing: HERE. Of course you should. She makes a lot of good observations that are definitely worth considering.

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    All On You

    Posted by mbowen at 07:23 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    50 Black Entertainers More Talented Than Jamie Foxx

    In case you wondered.

    Sinbad, Omar Epps, Cedric, Sanaa Lathan, Will Smith, Chris Rock, Busta Rhymes, Dr. Dre, Jada Pinkett, Vivica Fox, Blair Underwood, Queen Latifa, Orlando Jones, Eddie Griffin, Bernie Mac, Vanessa Williams, Marc John Jefferies, Damon Wayans, Steve White, Wendell Pierce, Mykelti Williamson, Ice Cube, André Benjamin, Mos Def, N'Bushe Wright, Wesley Snipes, CCH Pounder, Jesse Martin, Eriq LaSalle, Ving Rhames, Taye Diggs, LL Cool J, Martin Lawrence, Regina King, Angela Bassett, Dennis Haysbert, Alfre Woodard, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeffrey Wright, Lynne Thigpen, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Bill Duke, Andre Braugher, Larry Fishburn, Seal, Harold Perrineau, Chris Tucker, John Witherspoon, Mekhi Phifer, Cuba Gooding Jr & Damon Wayons.

    And people I put at around the same (marginal) level of talent.

    Gabrielle Union, Nick Cannon, Tyrese Gibson, Bill Bellamy, Larenz Tate, Morris Chestnut, Nia Long, Tisha Campbell, Michael Beach, Wood Harris, Erika Badu,Theresa Randle, Marlon Wayans.

    Who is he better than? Just about everybody else, but chances are his fans know more of those people than I do. But off the top of my head? Tiny Lister, Joe Torry, Mike Epps, Faizon Love, Lela Rochon, Charlie Murphy, Kid & Play...

    Posted by mbowen at 01:40 AM | Comments (25) | TrackBack

    January 25, 2006

    Protect Me

    Posted by mbowen at 07:31 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Defending Liberty

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    January 24, 2006


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    Axe Murdering Pervert

    Photo_012406_003.jpgSometimes spontaneity is not a good idea. I spontaneously shaved my face this Sunday. I was at home, I had nothing to do, the shaver was in my hand and I dared myself. And without a second thought I proceded to scare my children to death. I have never even taken a DMV picture this hideous.

    I turns out that I haven't been baldfaced since about 1992, and it is a fact that none of my kids have seen me without a beard or moustache of some sort. And although I rather like the shocking effect that I have been able to produce both at home and at work, I'm man enough to say that this was a terrible mistake. At my very best with this look, I look like James Earl Jones or a very, very conservative and frumpy old minister. But the rest of the time, I look like an escaped mental patient or worse, at least that's what the camera says.

    I'm rather indifferent this week because I feel pretty much like this inside. Severe. Frustrated. Capable of evil. But I'm going to grow it back and be my usual handsome self within a week or so. If you bump into me between now and then try to remember the sweet gentle person I actually am. Or, on second thought, whack me upside the head with some object of high specific gravity.

    I couldn't resist putting this picture up, because since I sat on my glasses and they are slightly twisted, it makes them look like prison-issue and it makes me look very twisted. I just took out the color on this but I could have given it a bit of a nauseous institutional green tinge. But I had better leave well enough alone. It's not as though I have too much time on my hands. I'm just wasting it. By the way, I have given up french fries and potato chips for the new year and I started doing jumping jacks again. Part of this (now I remember) was that I was embracing change. I mean if UT can beat USC, anything is possible.

    And now back to our regularly scheduled cynical cartoons.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:45 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

    Dr. Terrence Roberts

    Pops is always full of surprises. The one he dropped on me today was that he's known Terrence Roberts of the Little Rock Nine for many years. It turns out that he was one of the members of the Writer's Workshop in Pops' Institute for Black Studies back in the day. Well, of course Dr. Roberts has done well for himself and others. In recognition of same he will be honored next month.

    In observance of Black History Month, Antioch University will pay tribute to our very own national hero, Dr. Terrence Roberts Dr. Roberts will be honored for his heroism as one of “The Little Rock Nine” who confronted the Arkansas National Guard and helped desegregate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.

    6:00 p.m.
    Refreshments & Live Jazz

    7:00 p.m.
    Reminiscences by Terry Roberts and recognition by the community

    8:00 p.m.
    A Drum Circle Honoring Dr. Roberts
    (Your participation is encouraged. Drums will be provided or you can bring your own.)

    Antioch University Los Angeles Room A1000

    More info to come!
    For address and driving directions, visit our website at www.antiochla.edu

    There it is.

    Posted by mbowen at 04:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Overloading Black Politics

    I'm shutting down Vision Circle after a good run and there have been a thousand lessons learned. One of the most important is what's on my mind right now, and had a lot to do with my conclusion in converting Cobb to the new format:

    I will however be less likely to get caught up in the struggle at the blogospheric level as I am convinced there is no political forum of substance, depth and popularity here which is capable of changing the dynamic of what goes on in the greater public. I have seen the black blogosphere and it is what it is. But it is hardly the catalyst for change I might have imagined, nor is there any indication to me that may be in the offing. Practically speaking that means I will spend a whole lot less effort making writing things 'for posterity'.

    The blogosphere is about aggregation, not about change. It's about fleshing out ideas, but people still go where they go. And very few people wander out of their own comfort zones. The blogosphere is passive. Transformative politics needs to be active. The surprise of Vision Circle comes from Ed Brown, the last pundit standing. As a late-comer to the game, he was constantly reminding all sides that we were taking our arguments a bit to far - that mischaracterization of left and right dominated discussions, truces were more likely than synergies and blackfolks persist anyway.

    It is that last note that strikes me today in consideration of my first viewing of The Delany Sisters: Having Our Say. I watched it with my 10 year old daughter this morning and what I found that the film's great strength was it's simplicity. It was all about people just living their lives in hard times and the hard times were defined by a society that motivated individual whitefolks towards injustice. Like a hundred bee stings and several roundhouse kicks to the dome, a lifetime suffering from white racism could rip up anyone's character. But not those Delanys. They had an inner strength. But that inner strength was not based on politics. There was nothing in their politics that was extraordinary, and quite frankly nothing in their lives was against the standards I would hold for my daughters, or of similar people at the time. Yet they stand as a shining example, simply because out of all we consume from media, their story is exceptional. That says more about our media diet than anything.

    I am hesitant to say so, but I've known it to be a fact that people who tend to expect the most from politics often have the least from family. This is a common sense observation and it informs some of the Conservative criticism of the Welfare State. We should not, I reiterate for the boringeth time, depend upon politics or the government to give us personal gratification or bolster our self-esteem. We seem to have lost, in reaching out with identity politics, a grasp of the essence of citizenship which primarily involves sacrifice for the common good. Instead we have invoked a sort of Hobbesean deal from those who have for the benefits of the have-nots. That's fundamentally a decent idea, but not when the have-nots are getting a state-sponsored identity out of the deal. That kind of care and feeding requires family. Family is what's going to save you from the slings and arrows.

    So going back just a few months to the most recent and glaring example, our friend of great distinction Kanye West banged the needy drum once more with his observation that 'President Bush doesn't care about black people'. Is politics supposed to care? Politics is supposed to be a negotiated settlement, but there is not an active negotiation for black politics of West's sort going on. That's why it's episodic. When Jesse Jackson shows up to say the same thing at every photo op, this is a symptom of the kind of demand created for the politics of caring. But the basic contradiction is that politics is not an avenue for showing love. I think a bit too much of that thing which is popular black politics is looking for love in all the wrong places.

    I am a Republican because I expect my politics to reflect my class interests, and I am not like a limousine liberal. I recall a poster in an episode of the Simpsons that showed a man putting a necklace around a woman's neck. The caption read "Diamonds: Because money equals love". I'm not on either side of that false equation.

    Posted by mbowen at 01:38 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    They Just Don't Get LA

    "The definition of a monster according to Aristotle is too much substance and not enough form," Lévy said. "That's exactly the case of Los Angeles. It may be a European point of view. I say it with all the prudence of someone perhaps with a traditional idea of a city…. I don't say I hated it, but I was lost. 'Lost in Translation.' Perhaps it's the city of the future. But without me."

    This is probably the quote that makes this the most mailed article about LA in the LAT. A Frenchman trying to describe Los Angeles. Hmm. Maybe that's why we don't have many francophones here. Of all the zillion ethnics we do have, I cannot remember there being any significant French anywhere. How odd.

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

    We Apologize for Our President

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    January 23, 2006

    Ford Losers

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    Jamie Foxx

    So I got the following in the mail off the Kwaku Network. For those of you who don't know, the Kwaku Network is the spontaneous unofficial underground communications network for blackfolks on the email. Don't say I told you so, because it doesn't really exist. Smile and wave boys, smile and wave.

    NBC is not doing any marketing & publicity on Jamie's Music Special on NBC because he stood his ground and didn't have any white guest (performers) to perform with as they requested. To make it even worse he had two controversial guest stars that do not fit the "NBC profile" on his show. Tune in to find out who they are. They are purposely putting his show up against the second week of American Idol in hopes that it will fail. This will give them the excuse to never give another black person a music special because "it doesn't work". Let's show them that it does work, and that we support each other. Tivo Idol, and watch Jamie. I saw the taping, it is a good show.

    J Foxx making history on NBC. This is the first time NBC has ever aired an entire young urban African American cast on music special. We need to show support. This was not an easy sell for Jamie and he stood his ground to make it happen the way he saw fit.

    PST on NBC. PLEASE MAKE IT A POINT WATCH! There will be surprise special

    For what it's worth I have only been impressed with Jamie Foxx in one dimension, which is that he can sing. He's only done one movie role that I thought was worthwhile and that was in "On Any Sunday". It should be said that I didn't see 'Ray', so what do I know. But Collateral didn't impress me at all. All he did was play an ordinary scared guy, which must... well, let me not get into it BUT, I would say that the only thing special about Foxx's work in Collateral was that he defied the trend of vulgar hiphop idiocy we have come to expect from entertainers of his age and hue. But it appears that he intends to make up for that on Wednesday.

    Call me Danny Glover, but I'm getting too old for this shit. Jamie Foxx isn't making history, he's making noise, which on a good day might be called entertainment. Why oh why did I ever stop being a snob?

    Posted by mbowen at 04:30 PM | Comments (34) | TrackBack

    XDE Reborn

    For what it's worth, I could have been a famous zillionaire by now. That is because I was the network admin for what once was one of the largest LANs in the world, back in 1986. It was the Xerox ESXC16 domain and it consisted of over 150 D-Machines. I cannot remember the exact details, but it was one of the top domains in Xerox outside of PARC, OSBU-South, OSBU-North and Rochester128. We had over 900MB of file service, both a PUP Gateway and a full set of XNS servers and services including about 11 print servers, a Clearinghouse and a couple of mail servers. We had one of the first fiber optic ethernet hubs on the planet. It was the bomb.

    Over the weekend, I happened on to some interesting documents on and off the web. It has gotten me really jazzed about some Xerox nostalgia. Just this morning, I hit the mother lode. It turns out that some cat named Don Woodward has created a virtual D-Machine for Win32. On my very desktop, right now, is a copy of Dawn and a Tajo 15.3 environment. Is this mind-blowing or what?

    Every year I go through a period of depression thinking about what might have been had Xerox been successful in marketing and selling the networks, operating systems, workstations and printers that they developed. And then thinking about it today, I wonder how little it might have meant considering the death of computing kings like NCR, DEC and Silicon Graphics, not to mention Apollo, Cray, and Symbolics. Still, a small but a mighty big word is 'if'. Then I wake up and realize that there were people there at Xerox who said that there was no future in email - that business people would never trust it and managers would never learn to type.

    But while I'm still nostalgic, I'm going to bring up some historical stuff that I recall here and over at Cubegeek (which I've been neglecting). Stay tuned.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:46 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Notorious Settlement

    There was always something fishy about the lack of evidence in the murder of Biggie Smalls. A federal judge agrees:

    In a stinging rebuke, a federal judge Friday ordered the city of Los Angeles to pay $1.1 million in attorney fees and costs to the family of slain rap artist Notorious B.I.G. as sanctions for intentionally withholding evidence.

    U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper declared a mistrial last summer in the family's civil lawsuit after finding that a Los Angeles Police Department detective hid statements linking the killing to rogue LAPD Officers David A. Mack and Rafael Perez, a central figure in the Rampart police scandal.

    At the time, city attorneys protested that the statements had come from a jailhouse informant seeking special treatment, and robbery-homicide Det. Steven Katz insisted that he had overlooked the transcript of the remarks in his desk.

    But Cooper ruled that Katz and perhaps others had deliberately concealed the information and said it could have bolstered the family's contention that Mack was involved in the killing.

    This was one that the conspiracy crowd didn't have to think long about, and it may be one of the reasons that Bernard Parks couldn't walk into black LA and walk out with endorsements for Mayor. It's hard to know how much the Coalition of the Damned can make of this, but they'll try. I say this case is cold, but this judgement may warm it up. It will certainly give some hope and comfort to the Wallace family. Short of justice...

    Posted by mbowen at 08:13 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    January 22, 2006

    Google Video: First Looks

    I've been fascinated by Google Video for a couple weeks now. Finding stuff isn't so difficult, but I still am getting a handle on what to expect and how the service might be improved. It's certain to get better as time goes by, but it's already very interesting.

    Finger Breakdancing
    At first, this guy looks like a total dweeb, and then you realize after a few minutes how little you've done with your own fingers. My guess is that he's either a magician or a pianist. I think that's pretty awe inspiring - gives a new level of respectability to the phrase 'playing with yourself'.

    The very first Google Video I watched was of Dick Wolf. I watched each of the pieces of the interview and I learned more about television and the entertainment business in those few hours than in a lifetime before.

    One of my favorite shows on BBC is Top Gear, and it turns out that a good number of their shows are online at Google Video. Since I'm something of a gearhead it's with great pleasure that I can follow them in a kind of trans-media fashion. For example, there's the Wikipedia entry on them. Then there are GVs of some of their most interesting cars, like the Pagani Zonda F or the Murcielago.

    Posted by mbowen at 04:20 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    January 21, 2006

    Being Blunt

    Roy Blunt tries a Jedi Mind Trick and it pisses off Dale Franks to the height of pisstivity. It pisses me off too. I've seen this kind of behavior before and I wonder how widespread it is. It's basically the 'we're all dogs here and I'm the lead dog' attitude. I don't know how it is that some people get it in their heads that America is a country of butt sniffers.

    Rich Lowry understands that Blunt has this arrogant attitude because he's already got the votes, or so it appears. What is going unstated here is that there are more than a few Republicans who are not going to be appeased by a simple flick of an A-B switch. Some of us, including me, are thinking about changes just shy of Gingrichian proportions.

    As somebody who has been sick and tired of Tom DeLay from day one, I can't hear enough nervousness and trepidation in the complacent Congress. These guys have had a six year holiday from building real consensus and listening to constituencies with addresses outside of the Beltway. Why? Because DeLay would hardball everything to the get the slimmest majority and GW Bush never showed any cajones to make Compassionate Conservatism work domestically - except when he had bully pulpits to grace. All well, but not good.

    Roy Blunt better show some other colors because from this angle he looks like more of the same.

    Posted by mbowen at 04:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    January 20, 2006

    My Big Fat Black Wish

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    The Futures of Conservatism & Religion

    After Jeffrey Hart says this:

    Religion is an integral part of the distinctive identity of Western civilization. But this recognition is only manifest in traditional forms of religion--repeat, traditional, or intellectually and institutionally developed, not dependent upon spasms of emotion. This meant religion in its magisterial forms.

    What the time calls for is a recovery of the great structure of metaphysics, with the Resurrection as its fulcrum, established as history, and interpreted through Greek philosophy. The representation of this metaphysics through language and ritual took 10 centuries to perfect. The dome of the sacred, however, has been shattered. The act of reconstruction will require a large effort of intellect, which is never populist and certainly not grounded on emotion, an unreliable guide. Religion not based on a structure of thought always exhibits wild inspired swings and fades in a generation or two.

    It's hard to know what to say. That is perhaps because I have already spoken about my concern about gay activists' secular effect on the clargy and spasms of emotion seems to have been the subtext. I must have absorbed those sentences elsewhere in some other context. And I am in agreement.

    Yet his idea of a completely rebuilt metaphysics. Yikes. Is that the revolution of Conservative thought given by the fellow over at Body Parts? Hard to reckon. And what of this Ressurection? Is that the Ressurection of Christ? Must the empire be Holy?

    The Conservative Mind, it seems to me must have some understanding and recognition of change and improvement and the hard slog back up when chaos rules. What will it cost to reform what we know can be broken so easily? More specifically, what is it that draws us to the East, and how is it that films like 'Hero' so completely outshine films like 'Munich'. We have lost our spiritual Long Now and our sense of eternal beauty, nothing quite speaks to that as our failures in Architecture and our slavery to fashion. Our appropriation of the 'timeless' is a semiotic farce. It's a Ralph Lauren sticker, a Martha Stewart band-aid. And it's destroying the Hamptons, by the way. Those who know, know what I mean.

    I think there is certainly within me a powerful sense of dimunitive status when confronted with the austere simplicy of certain Asian aesthetics and philologies. I am embarrassed by the West's need for Feminism in its evolution. I am struck by the high-falutin' mumbo jumbo of psychoanalysis. We have mastered so much externally, and yet the Western soul is restless. It is restless because it hasn't yet crafted a home appropriate to its accomplishment. Are we just starting to understand the clues and truly integrating what we lack, or will it be a reduction?

    Those who call themselves conservative, namely Social Conservatives, are having nothing to do with a proper multiculturalism, which is actually a middling step towards global-ready diplomacy. And I think Hart nails it when he speaks of hard utopias. That is what Social Conservatives want.

    I think that Religion needs to be Catholic in the best sense of that word. There needs to be a new Cathedral built that evolves ever so slightly the wisdom of centuries - that recognizes the usefulness of wide open doors at the front and precise narrow passages at the back. I am hoping for an evolution of thought in the West, although I suspect it may have already taken place in rare places I have yet to find. What I hope to find is a disciplined rationality that does away with silly dichotomies and recognizes an ecology of thought. We should be able to see in Religion a true essence of the timeless and the transcendant, and we should build upon that wisdom of ages while we continue to reach for the stars...

    OK, do I sound more like Deepak Chopra or Carl Sagan? Enough.

    Posted by mbowen at 04:27 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack


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    The Meme of Fours

    It started with CalTechGirl.

    Four jobs you've had in your life:
    Lifeguard. Window Washer. Parade Boy. Cookie Baker.

    Four movies you could [and do] watch over and over:
    The Fifth Element, Heat, Ronin, Ran

    Four places you've lived:
    Brooklyn. Boston. Atlanta. South Pasadena.

    Four fiction books you can't live without:
    I never re-read fiction. Ever. Well, except for Einstein's Monsters by Martin Amis and Parliament of Whores by PJ ORourke, and Watchmen by Alan Moore and.. Cryptonomicon.

    Four non-fiction books you consider essential:
    Oxford Concise Dictionary. Prentice Hall Guide to English Literature. An Incomplete Education (Jones & Wilson). Norton Anthology of African American Literature.

    Four TV shows you love to watch:
    The Sheild, 24, Hustle, MXC (bonus 4 favorite shows of all time: Hill Street Blues, Moonlighting, Speed Racer, Felix the Cat)

    Four places you've been on vacation:
    Puerto Vallarta. Sydney. Kauai. Martha's Vineyard.

    Four websitesblogs you visit daily:
    Drezner. Baldilocks. Booker Rising. Dean's World.

    Four of your favorite foods:
    Eggs Benedict, Unagi, Soft Shell Crab, Cherry Garcia Ice Cream

    Four places you'd rather be:
    Polynesia. The Midlands (UK). Beijing. an alternate universe where SC won the Rose Bowl...

    Four albums you can't live without:
    Exodus (Marley). Beyond Words (McFerrin). Hallucination Engine (Material). Mondschein (Barenboim (Beethoven))

    Posted by mbowen at 01:57 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    January 19, 2006

    Thursday Fragments

    Rocketboom: Kitschy Synergy
    There's nothing that exemplifies brain spew so much as the five minutes of funk that is Rocketboom. Sometimes they forget the brain. No flies on host Amanda Cogndon though since she's prime geek babeage. Next to Morgan Webb she's probably the geek's hottest hottie - not that I would know because I'm certainly not speaking as a geek now. Quite frankly I prefer the babes of Mythbusters.

    Where was I? Oh yeah. Check it out. It's cheesy fun, sometimes. BTW, you can get it on Tivo too. It makes for extra cheesy television. So what is it? It's a video blog (I'm not Eastern European so 'vlog' comes off my tongue all wrong - don't ask me to say it.)

    Wilson Pickett is Dead

    Legendary soul singer Wilson Pickett died of a heart attack today in Virginia at the age of sixty-four.

    The singer, who earned the nickname "Wicked Pickett" due to his fiery vocals and masculine persona, was best known for such high-energy soul hits as "In the Midnight Hour," "Mustang Sally" and "Land of 1000 Dances." As a performer and interpreter, Pickett was generally considered to be the equal of such great soul men as Otis Redding and Sam Cooke. He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1991.

    Pickett's songs always remind me of parties my parents used to have in the old apartment.

    Wynton Throws Down the Gauntlet

    Yes, I always laugh when people my age complain about their college-age and teenage kids by talking about how much better we were. I laugh because I have absolutely no idea what my generation did to enrich our democracy. What movement have we been identified with that forced our elders to keep their promises…that challenged their failures or built upon their successes? For me, we dropped the ball after the Civil Rights Movement. We entered a period of complacency and closed our eyes to the very public corruption of our democracy.

    As we have seen our money squandered and stolen, our civic rights trampled, and the politics of polarity become the order of the day, we have held absolutely no one accountable. From us, you inherit an abiding helplessness.

    If you realize the unfortunate consequences of inaction, hopefully you will understand even more the importance of holding both your elders and your peers accountable when it comes to the rebuilding of New Orleans. Stay up on the facts.

    I think it goes without saying that the only thing new in black politics since the death of the Panthers is the neoconservative movement. We could talk about it for a while, but I think somebody, sooner or later is going to tell us something rather simple and elegant about the first generation of black mayors and congressmen since Reconstruction. It probably won't be fun to hear.

    Posted by mbowen at 05:38 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

    Google Masking

    The problem with me is that I've done roller disco at Venice Beach and breakdancing at an awards banquet. The rest of you might be more easily embarrassed by con-men and blackmailers. So if you think you may have surfed some porn and that Google might know something about it, you might want to anonymize your Google cookie. I find it difficult to give a gnat's gonads, but it might just be that I'm not paranoid in the proper dimensions. I worry a lot more about people finding out that I might have bad breath.

    Those of you on the inside of the bubble may have already been there, and I may adjust my habits in due time. In the meantime here's the link.

    Posted by mbowen at 01:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    The Case Against Racial Preference

    Joe Hicks challenged Colin Powell and Condi Rice to give up their support for Affirmative Action. I'm not sure either Colin or Condi were listening, but I sure heard him. The angle he took was very clever in that it actually made sense to me.

    What he said was that as the University of Michigan case was decided in favor of an Affirmative Action program, the deciding vote of Justice OConner was worth noting. She expressed a desire for colorblindness as policy but said that the school and the nation wasn't ready for it. Maybe in 25 years we might be ready for that ethos. Joe said, if it's a good idea now, why wait?

    Is institutional colorblindness a good idea in principle? Yeah. It is. Does it therefore make sense to apply that principle if you are the president of the US? How important is it that you do right and be right despite what the unwashed millions think? This is a very compelling argument and I buy it, except I feel funny when I do.

    Let's go to the quibbles for a moment then circle back. First off, there is a such thing as reasonable Affirmative Action. It's called Balanced Workforce. It's legal, it's sensible and it no more discriminates negatively than any hiring or promotion scheme. It makes sense to implement under certain circumstances and is, as far as I can see, the only self-limiting scheme of racial integration.

    But Balanced Workforce was a form of Affirmative Action in that it mandated hires and firings according to numbers. It has given way to a softer form of integrative priority known as Diversity Management. I happen to think that diversity in all of its manifestations is squishy and full of contradiction, but there is something to be said about the evolution of managment ethics in American corporations. I really can't speak to a broad number of industries, but my experience with managers today is that they are a great deal more respectful and capable of managing an ethnically diverse workforce in 2005 than they were in 1985. This is due, from my perspective, in no small measure by the real experience of black women being the boss of white men, etc, etc. People recognized that companies would not fall apart, that they could even thrive and become more profitable when broadening the scope of markets and management.

    Affirmative Action was the crowbar.

    When it comes to a very specific and narrowly tailored vision and version of Affirmative Action, programs of racial preference can be very effective and Constitutional. I think this is the Supreme Court's vision and I think, without quibbling, this vision is appropriate. But when I quibble, I do so in the context of anti-racism and the progress of blackfolks in America. Those are huge and complex subjects which are far from resolution. In that context, hardball zero-sum Affirmative Action is both a drop in the bucket and a kick in the pants, which is to say it is bracing remedy that only fixes a small fraction of the problem of race in America. If I wanted Affirmative Action to be the singular government remedy to racial inequity it would be an onerous burden on both the government and the people. That is a burden Affirmative Action cannot bear. Our fundamental guarantee of racial equality is that the government make no distinction on the basis of race.

    It is in the matter of the Constitutional principle of colorblindness from which my funny feelings arise. Because people don't read the Constitution. People read the Bible. People read the newspaper. People read blogs and magazines and cereal boxes more than they read the Constitution. The Constitution is right and the people stay wrong, and there are no racial cops who are adjudicating the American mind on race. Yes the EEOC is handling the ugliest cases (at what pace nobody knows), but that's out of the spotlight. So what is desired, I beleive, by all Americans is a colorblind legal ethic and an activist politics that fights racism.

    So here's where the quibbles arise again. Where exactly should matters fo fighting racism be adjudicated? If you have a colorblind Constitution and anti-racist politics, how does that work out if racial preferences are Constitutional? That's where we are right now. And in a way it's good that all of the racial traffic is happening in society more than in law and legislation. We have a Jesse Jackson not elected because he doesn't need to be running an administration.

    While there is still wide interpretation over what the effects of drastically diminished racism might be in this country, I tend to beleive less and less in the exceptionalism of the Civil Rights Movement within the context of American history. I say that it was inevitable and that it has run its course. Furthermore I say that there is no turning back. There only remains some measure of political consensus on the declining significance of race. I predict that this will be established by the maturing and growing black middle class, and once done will be done for good. We won't be white, we'll be American and suddenly everybody will see.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:32 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

    January 18, 2006

    VPN Based P2P

    My latest crazy idea is VPN-based P2P. It looks like Hamachi may be the way to go. There are also some other possibilities.

    Hamachi is discussed here too. Leo Laporte is aware of it and has a couple podcasts about it. I'm going to try this for the time being. It's supposed to be very close to the holy grail.

    Posted by mbowen at 01:44 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Chocolate Milk

    Nice going Ray. Any time you suggest that whitefolks won't be in charge, you're going to get killed in the media. It doesn't matter what you really meant. Join Bill Bennett.

    "I don't care what people are saying Uptown or wherever they are. This city will be chocolate at the end of the day," he said. "This city will be a majority African-American city. It's the way God wants it to be."

    After the statement, he insisted he wasn't being divisive.

    "How do you make chocolate? You take dark chocolate, you mix it with white milk, and it becomes a delicious drink. That is the chocolate I am talking about," he said. "New Orleans was a chocolate city before Katrina. It is going to be a chocolate city after. How is that divisive? It is white and black working together, coming together and making something special."

    He's still my boy.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:34 AM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

    Dyson's Next Rampage

    Here follows a paragraph from Michael Eric Dyson's upcoming book on Katrina, 'Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina And the Color of Disaster'. Even the title is annoying, but dig this:

    The black-white racial paradigm was also pressured by an enduring question among social analysts that was revived in the face of Katrina: is it race or class that determines the fate of poor blacks? Critics came down on either side during the crisis, but in this case, that might equate to six in one hand, half a dozen in the other. It is true that class is often overlooked to explain social reality. Ironically, it is often a subject broached by the acid conservatives who want to avoid confronting race, and who become raging parodies of Marxists in the bargain. They are only concerned about class to deflect race; they have little interest in unpacking the dynamics of class or engaging its deforming influence in the social scene. In this instance, race becomes a marker for class, a proxy, blurring and bending the boundaries that segregate them.

    Aside from being a strawman argument, it's also insulting to black conservatives, and shows the basic flaw in Dyson's approach - that we're all crazy and in denial. I'm sure I'm going to have to track through a painful reading if the book blows up, but I'm trying not to. I have to admit that I haven't been by P6 to see the reaction (if any) to this colorizing of the disaster, but I'm very interested to see how new or relevant the complaint might be other than you generic 'America catches cold, blacks get the flu' argument. That is because the de-blackification that is happening to New Orleans (and evidently out of Nagin's hide - more on that later) is happening precisely because the social difference and distance between displaced blacks from NO and their recieving communities is minimal.

    So to state the obvious, it is both race and class that determines the fate of poor blacks. But poor blacks are more like poor whites than they are like middle-class blacks, which is why Cosby is so electrifying at all. America is really catching on to this because of the reality of middle class black social capital. Dyson will continue to rant that the rest of the world isn't paying enough attention to color, his problem is that we actually have a better perspective.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:42 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack


    Posted by mbowen at 08:05 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Are You Poor?

    I recently watched 'Millions', an enjoyable little tale about the naivete of schoolboy dreams and an interesting exercise into the unfulfilled fantasies of many an 'adult' mind.

    The cute and clever protagonist of this tale is a young English boy of about 9 who, with his 12 year old brother were recently orphaned. They move, at the beginning of the film, with their father from old row houses to a new suburban subdivision somewhere in Britain. This takes place just before the clock runs out on the British Pound Sterling and the UK is expected to convert to the Euro (which never actually happened if I remember correctly). A train taking the old bills for destuction is robbed and a Nike bag with a quarter million pounds is dropped in the lap of this young boy whilst in the midst of summoning saints in his daydreams. His conversations with a dozen Christian martyrs during the story underlines his morality and fascination with death in light of the creation of the newest saint, his mum. While taking their advice (his own), he decides to give away as much money as he can to the poor.

    For most of the film, his father and all other adults are completely out of the loop, and his brother as co-conspirator is preternaturally practical and stealthy about their newly found largesse. He goes about bribing his middle-school chums and trying to speculate in the real-estate market as his younger brother gets more and more generous, threatening to expose the whole deal.

    It's a great premise which doesn't quite go to logical enough extremes to satisfy my inner philosopher, but enough to prod me beyond the simplistic equations of charity being good and materialism being bad. Fzample. The little philanthropist is rather blunt about his intentions to give away dough, and essentially goes around asking people whether or not they are poor. He immediately tells them that he's got moola for them. The older brother manages to keep their wealth on the down low. And so in his greatest fib he manages to convince the headmaster and all adults concerned that the thousand quid dropped into an African relief bucket was stolen from neighbors. That only worked because these were the very same neighbors they had just previously stuffed with a mailbox full of cash.

    As an aside, I'm pretty enthused by British productions these days, and I've set the Tivo to hook me up with the latest AMC series called 'Hustle'. God help me, I'm turning into a stereotypical Anglophile.

    At any rate, the bad guy in the film is the only one who sees through the artifice of the boys. He stole the money first. With the boy's father they set up an interesting foursome. One boy of pure heart who wants to become a saint by giving away money he didn't earn. One boy of craft and deceipt who wants to increase the pile of money through investment and buy influence over others. One man who stole the money and is trying to steal it back without alerting anyone. One man who discovers the money and feels it is owed to him because of hard knocks.

    That pretty much covers it all, eh?

    The story clearly takes the side of the boy whose ambition, to make peace with his mother's death, is beyond any such earthly concerns as the material well being of those directly around him. And as with much of the liberal attitude towards self-aggrandizement, the foil of Africa is amply used to demonstrate unadulterated love for mankind. I cannot be sure if the filmmaker was aware of the striking illustration made by the use of the device, but I sure did pick up on the idea. And so what I've taken from this flick, along with the satisfaction of an evening well spent on family entertainment, is some of the sheer folly of philanthropy. I still love the idea of being the Kung Fu Santa Claus, but I'll need to take the kink in the idea some straightening distance before I'll be as happy about it.

    Posted by mbowen at 02:15 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    January 17, 2006

    The Predictability of the Future of Gaming

    According to a few (hardly) pregnant paragraphs, the future of gaming is bleak.

    Pachter expressed doubts that the Xbox 360 could make up for a deficit in the six-month sales total equivalent to 2005's. "We think that it is important to note that total U.S. console and handheld software sales over the first six months of 2005 were approximately $2.36 billion; the current rate of next generation software sales implies that Xbox 360 software will total less than 20% of this level over the next six months, indicating the potential for year-over-year sales declines for the foreseeable future."

    I'm really trying to understand what this guy is comparing gaming sales to. Perhaps the best comparison is to microwave ovens. My original XBox lasted about 3 years before it came apart. So I think that qualifies, at an initial price of about 200 bucks, as durable goods. The 360 is double that price, so it makes a lot of sense, in terms of cannibalization, that they're not going to duplicate the sales figures.

    As it stands, you can't go buy a 360 right yet. So this lack of availability is a real skew to what the market ought to be like. But here's where I really have difficulty with the basis of this prediction. This industry is capable of doing some remarkable things in terms of generating excitement in the market. Recall the scandals around San Andreas. You also, in some parallel to the movie industry, have fans who wait years for the content to come out. This is not like iPods, it's a very different dynamic. So if this guy sees year over year declines in the offing, I think he has no clue what he's talking about. There's a huge future out there for MMPORGs and PC crossover with the USB XBox Controller. It only gets bigger from here.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    MLK Heads

    Originally uploaded by cobb_tcb.
    Pops took a bunch of photos from the King Day Parade in LA. I thought this was an interesting selection. Click on this link to see the whole set of 67.
    Posted by mbowen at 07:50 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Tuesday Frags

    It Still Hurts
    I'm still not over the loss to UT. I'm not the only one. Here's the latest outrage to get my goat. Argh!

    Zombietown Hall of Shame
    I've been looking for this photographer's work for a while. When I first saw the Anatomy of a Photograph mini-documentary I was not so astonished as finally grateful to see how this kind of engineering is performed. As I have harped on against white liberals and commies who show up on King Day Parades in the 'hood, this is exactly what I'm talking about.

    From the Whoa Thunk Department. There are ten times as many Cherokee living in the US now than there were during the 1800s. Having never paid much attention to the tales of genocide more than your average Joe, it comes as a big surprise to me that various bands of Native Americans didn't number in the millions. I'm definitely going to look into this.

    Posted by mbowen at 02:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Happiness of a Sort

    Posted by mbowen at 08:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    January 16, 2006


    Jack's in trouble. Again.

    The most fun thing about the 24 series is its directness. There's nothing quite so satisfying as watching Jack Bauer in action because, he knows what he's doing, you know he can get the job done, you know that deep down he's the kind of man you want on your side even though he goes to extremes. The way he gets loyalty from viewers is the same way he gets loyalty from other characters on the show. He earns it by delivering. Whenever you pay attention to the many subplots in this series, half of the dramatic tension is sustained by you trying to figure out when all the other losers are going to put their heads on straight and listen to their inner Jack. But there are always complexities.

    This season has started off with a bang of a different sort. I'm hooked already. I'd have to say that the same thing is happening with The Sheild, but I'll handle that separately. This time around, we're rather prepared for the ugliness to go full scale. Which is something I think I'm taking a bit differently than last season with Marwan and company.

    For a while in 24, I watched to see how the kind of mess they get into would outstrip the prior seasons. The pure audacity of the tangos is now rather expected. Last season they kidnapped the Sec'y of State and hijacked a stealth fighter. The season before they got a nuke. This time, they've already killed an ex President, car bombed CTU agents and taken hostages at an airport (echos of Entebbe).

    This time the moles are high and deep, and the instability of the President and First Lady are making this thing a real nervewracking prospect.

    Posted by mbowen at 04:34 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Lou The Rapper

    Bring that dynamite and a crane,
    blow it up, start all over again.

    -- Lou Rawls

    If you're lucky, in these days after the death of Lou Rawls, you'll get to hear some of his raps.

    One of the coolest tapes I had in college was one in which Lou Rawls does this monologuing between songs. I'm never going to find that tape but what I remember about it was that he was a very smooth fast-talker. It's safe to say that he was a kind of rapper of his day... Well it turns out that I just found the cut. It's called Hustler's Blues / World of Trouble.

    Also, you'll probably hear Tobacco Road, which is, I imagine, the first 'bomb the ghetto' song I've heard from an Old School perspective. Hmm. You learn something new every day.

    BTW, Here's a nicely done writeup.

    Posted by mbowen at 03:37 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Boondocks' Empty Revolution

    Aaron has gone to the well and too the wall, and considering what I just read from Bomani, it seems as if he's gone as far as he can go.

    But after watching him channel Dr. Martin Luther King for the purpose of calling folks a bunch of niggaz, I have to reconsider that and seriously reconsider the cartoon. Between this and the "nigga moment" premise--one that delineated the difference between black folks and niggaz, something I absolutely refuse to stand for--I might be done with Aaron's cartoon.

    The premise of this week's Boondocks was that King lived and came out of a coma in 2000. After becoming a pariah by invoking a turn the other cheek attitude post-9/11, King finds himself lonely, confused and out of touch. So much so that Huey Freeman has to talk him into starting a black revolutionary party. The only people who show up to the inaugural are niggas and bitches who got tickets from urban contemporary radio station 'The Freak' KFRK. King calls them out and basically takes the Cosby rant up an order of magnitude. Then he moves to Canada. After which black America realizes it is actually trifling for not enjoining the Revolution; they stay in highschool now, revolt and blockade the White House. In 2020 Oprah is elected President.

    As funny as this can be, you really can't call McGruder a political sophisticate of any depth. We already knew that. What we didn't quite realize over here in the Old School was how long McGruder must have suffered in the ghetto, because he's not seeing black people at all in his cartoon. He's only seeing niggas and bitches - the Fourty Percent, the loud minority. As a creative font, that's showing signs of desparation. The only one of these knuckleheads he has given any backstory to is the pop-eyed character who wanted to shoot King himself, but believed that the white man has better aim. The rest are anonymous, ignorant crowds. In other words, there are no niggas to love for any reason. McGruder's King isn't the only one who has been in a coma for 40 years.

    It's really too bad that there's nobody in The Boondocks who is a young adult. It must be frustrating for young adults to watch. It must be frustrating to be the young adult McGruder is when any such portrayal is lacking in his artistic vehicle.

    How I miss Kyle Baker.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:40 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack


    Posted by mbowen at 08:33 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    January 14, 2006

    The Blingiest Lexus

    Originally uploaded by cobb_tcb.
    I have never seen more blingy headlights on any car, production or theoretical. This is the LF-A, the newest concept from Lexus. It was definitely one of the hits of the show.

    BTW, this is my first Flikr blog post. Let's see how it works.
    Posted by mbowen at 07:05 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    January 13, 2006

    My Christian Political Enemies Defined

    I started off last week with a rant against the Fundamentalist Christian Right, and I see myself doing it again last night at the Republican Club. I think I need to be a little bit more clear. So here follows my definition of the Fundamentalist Christian Right who is twisting the arm of the Republican Party against its better judgement.

    You are in the Fundamentalist Christian Right if you answer yes to the following questions.

    A. If given a choice between the Constitution and the Bible I choose the Bible.
    B. I am uncomfortable with the separation of church and state.
    C. I believe that Christmas is under attack.
    D. I don't like that we have a secular society.
    E. America needs to be a Christian nation.
    F. My political activity is all about building the power and influence of people who believe A through E.

    I think this makes it clear what I am talking about, and helps people understand why I jump on Karl Rove's case. To the extent that he's going to master polling to figure out if this demographic is going to be the swing vote to win elections, it does damage to the core of the Republican Party. People who are energized by such motives have demonstrated that they can be employed by the party but that's not what Goldwater and Reagan were all about. So I think the Conservative movement has to make itself clear, as Joe Hicks said, that it is about reforming America strictly from the context of what political parties are supposed to do according to the vision of the Founders. I will not accept putting Scripture in the mouth of Thomas Jefferson, and that's my direction here.

    Understand further that I bear no hostility or ill will towards Christian Fundamentalists other than as a political partisan. They are certainly free to ply their evangelical trade, and I would do nothing to hinder their free expression of religion. But I make the distinction between those people who are good for American government and those who are bad, and I'm not about to cosign any Christian Sharia for the US.

    As to whether I have other ecumenical issues with various sects... well that's a topic for another day.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:21 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

    Not Your Governor's Republicans

    Austin Dragon has a fire under him and the SoCal Republican Club is on a mission. Since the last time I was at the GOP club something of a transformation has taken place. They have moved from the abstract into the direct. And what they are directly fired up about is the future of the Republican Party in California. It's basically not good enough for them, and they are all about reform.

    This is me and Joe Hicks. Joe Hicks is the former Executive Director of the L.A. City Human Relations Commission, where he served from 1997 to 2001 under Mayor Richard Riordan. He was also the Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Multi-Cultural Collaborative, which served as an umbrella group for a diverse group of community- based leaders. In the early 1990s, Hicks was Executive Director of the Greater Los Angeles chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the well-known civil rights organization founded by Martin Luther King, Jr.

    For more than 30 years, Mr. Hicks has been an active figure in local and national issues related to civil rights and intergroup relations. His comments and opinion articles have appeared in local, national and international media. He also served a three-year term as a member of the Board of Governors for the California State Bar, and he continues to serve on numerous boards. In demand as a lecturer, Mr. Hicks is currently writing a book that chronicles his 30-year journey across the nation's racial and political landscape.

    Joe was the evening's keynote speaker but at the top of the agenda was Arnold Schwarzenegger. As soon as the invocation and pledge was done, the first order of business was to give Arnold the boot. The club is strongly considering not supporting him from now on. The membership was highly frustrated over Schwarzenegger's statements calling the special election a mistake. These were the footsoldiers who had worked so hard to support his initiatives, and he punked out on them. It didn't sit well with them at all. Furthermore, the audacity to appoint a Democrat as his chief of staff was grating on the last nerves of the officers of the club. It's bad enough that he's sleeping with one Kennedy, now he's got two. They are referring of course to Susan Kennedy whose appointment has the GOP up in arms. The SoCal Club is ready for revolt and they like many other California Republicans want to stop Kennedy.

    The resentment over this appointment runs deeply and it reminded members that the Governor did not campaign for Geoprge W. Bush. In California, the expected results for Bush by the GOP was 40%. He only got 37% and Arnold could have made that difference. Is he a Republican or not?

    The theme for the evening was backbone and core values. Leading the charge was an invigorating Joe Hicks, speaking in a mode I haven't heard before, but entirely consistent with what I expected. He covered the common ground and set the tone for what we ought to be about, which is reform. I like what I heard.

  • Strong National Defense
  • Law & Order
  • Small Government
  • Lower Taxes
  • Keep Government out of my Life
  • Secure Borders
  • Pro-Business
  • No Racial Preferences
  • Faith & Family
  • That's who we are, and in that general order of importance, he stressed that this is what everybody ought to know. But he correctly argued that Republicans are more often defined by non-Republicans than not. This is the problem that's eating us alive in California, and everybody knew it.

    I brought Y with me who occupied herself with her Treo while trying to maintain a straight face. This was her first time being surrounded by Republicans and she made a brave go at it, but had to interrupt Hicks when he ranted against the racially themed graduations at Stanford. She managed to stifle after a while but again silently freaked out when the Minutemen were mentioned. When Hicks stood in principle against the Grutter decision and against GWBush for supporting Affirmative Action it was a charged moment. As he took Rice and Powell to task, his angle made an impression on me that makes sense in the context of the reform he's talking about. More on that separately.

    Also in attendance, aside from the couple dozen who braved the half-closed parking lot at the newly renovated LAX Plaza Hotel (It'll always be the Fox Hills Ramada to me) was Jeffers Dodge who's donning the yoke and trying to win the 47th Assembly seat. This is a daunting task - but for a noble purpose: to energize the 30,000 Republicans of the 150,000 registered voters. The 47th is my home district, from where I grew up that is. One of these days I'll have the time and money to run for office, but no time soon. Jeffers can be found over at Media Drool and his newest effort, LA Republicans.

    Jeffers has worked in the music business for most of his career, and like many of us is thinking twice about if what it has become is the best legacy for our children. So he's in the Republican camp and working to make things better. I like that spirit.

    All in all it was an invigorating meeting. Oh by the way, the young sponsor of Operation Thunderstorm showed up. Adopt a Marine!

    Posted by mbowen at 07:37 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    January 12, 2006

    Do As I Say, Not As I Do

    Perusing the Last.fm rankings of artists and songs a friend has, it suddenly occurs to me that his list must be manipulated. If not, then perhaps I am more eclectic than I'd like to be - but I'm not and I know it. But what I really want to illumninate here is how much experience is actually not directly useful in describing what people are all about.

    As a little background, let's start with the brilliant premise of Last.fm. You stick this little bug into your iTunes mp3 player and every time you play a song, the bug goes and tells Last.fm. As a member of Last.fm, it cobbles together a homepage for you and creates charts of what you've been listening to. Clear? If not, just check out mine.

    Now if you were a data miner for the Department of Homeland Security, it's a damned good bet that you could say that my favorite group was De La Soul, right? Actually, no. It just so happens that I like Bobby McFerrin about 3 times as much. However, I have unchecked all of my Bobby McFerrin (and all of my Prince) records specifically because I want to listen to other things. As it turns out, I own more Prince music and more Bobby McFerrin than any other of my ripped CDs. Furthermore, I have lost about half of my collection of MP3s due to a disk crash that happened about year ago. So determining what I like even with this perfect transcription of my listening is constrained by what I actually own, and then what of that I actually play.

    Continuing on, Sixoseven is my own band. I like my own music but not nearly as much as Bill Laswell. I also love Miles Davis, but I'd much rather listen to Paul Schwartz. I have lots of Public Enemy but I'd question that I play it more than Beethoven even the objective facts are there for all to see. So we basically have the problem of frequency of playing music as an accurate indicator of preference in music. It's certainly a reasonable correlation but there's so much more objective information (ignoring the subjective for a moment) that is not captured accurately by this entirely voluntary submission of data about my listening habits.

    I think of this in consideration of various investigations and interpretations of Alito's background, as well as (obviously) my objections to the notion that data mining for national security is a good idea. Even with perfect and objective data of a persons actions, you have no real way of understanding that person's intentions or the context within which they are acting.

    While I'm bleating about this, I would like to add a personal bit of frustration that I had yesterday. I've been to London once or twice. The first time, I went via a little town in Surrey called Chertsey. I only know it's Surrey because yesterday I happened upon a railway map and a series of Wikipedia entries. Now over the course of the trips I took to London by rail, I recall several of the station stops. One was Woking, another Staines. I saw them both on the railway map, which is not in front of me at the moment, but I never found Chertsey. I downloaded a new version of Google Maps and it couldn't find Chertsey either. I kept sleuthing and found to my surprise that the Thames River runs West to East, and I had thought it went North to South. The more I looked across the train map and Wikipedia, the more frustrated I got. I have memories of Chertsey, I know I was there, I know it exists and I know there are plenty of people who have been there. Even though I learned a lot more about the geography of Southeast England, including the County of Runnymede where Chertsey is located, I was unable to find the obective location of the place, given the time I spent. On the other hand, Stratford Upon Avon was a cinch to find.

    I have come to the conclusion that people are not what they do, but what they say they want to do, and what they remember about what they have already done. It's the only thing that's consistent about them, in spite of any objective data that might be applicable to them. Even from the perspective of the fact that the body's cells are not constant thoughout one's life. You are not the physical you, but the process of staying you, and the only process that is consistent is one's sense of self - again based on the desires that people have and fulfill about themselves.

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

    Thursday Fragments

    Racial Smells
    I don't know why this sounds particularly funny, but I found it tangential to a set of searches I did this morning of the following type: "x people * too much". That came after I found this prejudice map.

    Fear Da Tigers
    There's something about the nexus of rap and hardball sports that make a powerful mix. If you could get a mix of fan enthusiasm, player spirit and rap star support, you can make irresistable mojo. The LA Raiders had it, and nobody has quite had it since them. But the Cincinnati Bengals have made a good attempt. Where did they go for inspiration? Bootsy! It didn't get them past the Steelers, but it was a good idea.

    Two Plusses for Alito
    On the first plus, he says that family members can designate relatives or friends to carry out their right-to-die wishes. Thank you. And for those who think Terri Schiavo is spinning in her grave, you're wrong. She can't spin. On the second plus, nobody can even find a mention of his name associated with CAP.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:34 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    January 11, 2006

    Obligatory Seriousness on Alito & CAP

    I don't even want to write this because, no I don't think Alito has anything to hide. The whole line of question reeks of conspiracy. Is there anyone who has a direct question on 'women and minorities'? Hardly.

    So it came to Orrin Hatch this morning to read off a litany of cases in which Alito ruled in favor of women and minorities. He weighed in against racial profiling as a 4th Amendment violation. Sounds reasonable to me. He ruled in favor of a disabled woman who had an obsolete, but real job. Sounds reasonable to me.

    You know, Disney is never going to release 'Song of the South' on DVD because Uncle Remus is offensive. Is American history so replete with such offensive stuff that it is completely suppressed? Is Princeton involved in a conspiracy to suppress the history of its organizations? So where's the beef on CAP? You know I defended MEChA when conservatives were calling it a blood and soil racist organization. Specifically, I defended it at CSUN where I attended, who knows what they did at other campuses at other times in their history? But at least the blogosphere was able to come up with some founding documents they found to be incriminating. I hope to see the same here.

    As a terminal joiner, which I suspect Alito was, I can sympathize with his testimony. I have joined elevnty dozen clubs and organizations in my life and had at least that many versions of my resume, not all of which I was personally involved in writing. Resumes are spun, period. Sometimes you try the shotgun method. Matter of fact, lets see what I have here...ahh nothing I can access at work. But I guarantee you that any real professional has a difference CV every couple years, that is if they ever accomplish anything. In high school, there were 40 people who took a picture with the Computer Club, but there were only 5 of us who actually touched the school's computers. So was CAP resume fluff? I think so. But let's see exactly how hostile CAP was.

    But beyond that, this is just another example of the incredible leaps the PC crowd must take in order to make a case for hostility to 'women and minorities'. If Alito were hostile to the aspirations of blackfolks, how is it that he's managed to escape the racial dragnet of the likes of Sharpton and Jackson all these years? And when did CAP unseat Bob Jones University, or the John Birch Society or the CCC as the root of all evil. Come on guys. This is a reach of embarrassing dimensions. It only goes to show the failure of anti-racism is complete.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:49 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    The Infinite Patience of Richard Dawkins

    I ran across this dangerous idea by Richard Dawkins this afternoon.

    Basil Fawlty, British television's hotelier from hell created by the immortal John Cleese, was at the end of his tether when his car broke down and wouldn't start. He gave it fair warning, counted to three, gave it one more chance, and then acted. "Right! I warned you. You've had this coming to you!" He got out of the car, seized a tree branch and set about thrashing the car within an inch of its life. Of course we laugh at his irrationality. Instead of beating the car, we would investigate the problem. Is the carburettor flooded? Are the sparking plugs or distributor points damp? Has it simply run out of gas? Why do we not react in the same way to a defective man: a murderer, say, or a rapist? Why don't we laugh at a judge who punishes a criminal, just as heartily as we laugh at Basil Fawlty? Or at King Xerxes who, in 480 BC, sentenced the rough sea to 300 lashes for wrecking his bridge of ships? Isn't the murderer or the rapist just a machine with a defective component? Or a defective upbringing? Defective education? Defective genes?


    Why do we vent such visceral hatred on child murderers, or on thuggish vandals, when we should simply regard them as faulty units that need fixing or replacing? Presumably because mental constructs like blame and responsibility, indeed evil and good, are built into our brains by millennia of Darwinian evolution. Assigning blame and responsibility is an aspect of the useful fiction of intentional agents that we construct in our brains as a means of short-cutting a truer analysis of what is going on in the world in which we have to live. My dangerous idea is that we shall eventually grow out of all this and even learn to laugh at it, just as we laugh at Basil Fawlty when he beats his car. But I fear it is unlikely that I shall ever reach that level of enlightenment.

    My immediate reaction is to wonder how it is that Dawkins got so spoiled that he would think others would bother studying the faults of man as one might study the mysteries of the universe. But that may be a failing on my part. I simply don't see people as so fascinating, and considering his aim for normative corrections to the presumeably congenitive failures, how this is anything more than super socialized medicine. Listen to the Alphas and deploy the Betas, it's time to correct those faulty Gammas. Serious business.

    This is truly dangerous. It means that we will become dependent on some institutions that correct us, that perfect us. By definition the budget for such an institution would have to be infinite, because the capacity of humans to be wrong, to be immoral, is practically insatiable. I think Dawkins or anyone could be quickly disabused of this notion simply by dropping them into the appropriate Third World asylum for a seven year stint.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:42 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    January 10, 2006

    Thanks To Kennedy

    Posted by mbowen at 07:49 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    January 09, 2006

    Black Sunshine

    When I was a kid there were about 12 black people on television. Among them were Ivan Dixon from Hogan's Heroes and Dihanne Carroll from Julia and the dude on Mission Impossible. I think Mannix had a black buddy too, and there was always Bill Cosby doing his I Spy thing with Robert Culp. But among those dozen characters (and nobody had more than one acting job) was hardly a scratch beneath the surface of the real black America. Naturally, we wanted more. And that complaint has grown into a predictable and multigenerational chorus. Positive Images! Right about now, that job is pretty much done, or at least it is to my satisfaction. But I'm not sure that the chorus is ready for the consequences.

    What happens when black cultural production succeeds? Last night's episode of the Boondocks is probably a good example. In case you hadn't seen it, Riley Freeman cuts a videotape and sends it to Xibit and that construction guy with the bad haircut. They win and their ride gets pimped and their house gets one half of an Extreme Makeover. This episode, taken with the sum of the others illustrates the failings of the Freeman clan. Huey's radical leftist paranoia, Riley's vulgar gangsterism and Grandpa's shallow materialism. The episode was funny and entertaining, it contains just the right amount of truth about blackfolks to show the writer's grasp on reality is firm, not phony. But what about the positive images?

    It is said that sunshine is the best disinfectant. Airing dirty laundry, therefore should be a good thing. But should blackfolks be embarrassed about it? That all depends on how close to home it hits. I don't live in the 'hood any longer. It has been about 7 years since I was even close, and those two years were exceptional. So it doesn't hit home for me, nor does it bring up painful memories. I've got some critical distance. But would it be embarrassing because it's true? I think that the answer is yes, and that's what successful black cultural production does.

    Let's talk about the O word. Oppression. Why is oppression bad, Virginia? It's bad because it limits people, smashes down their future, crushes their ambition. Oppressed people are dirty and unhappy. They are not happy darkies, they are beat down. So to the extent that there is real, honest intelligent black cultural production out there, then we will percieve the truth about what oppression does to blackfolks. That is to say if blackfolks are truly oppressed. And Huey, Riley and Grandad talk about niggas and bitches because they are close to the hood in spirit. Niggas and bitches aren't a figment of Hollywood's imagination. They're real blackfolks, dirty and unhappy. But they are dirty and unhappy in a uniquely funny and accurate parody, which is the genius of McGruder, when he's not too far off the deep end. The Boondocks did that right last night, they aired some dirt.

    When it's all said and done, blackfolks are going to have to look back on the Boondocks and say, yeah that was me, a little. Or maybe a lot. It depends. So here's where it gets deep. What if a white person calls bitches bitches or niggas niggas? Well that's because we do, and if the point of black cultural production is being truthful, than the truth is going to go out to everyone who pays attention.

    Now us snobs over here aren't oppressed. When we keep it real, it's not about niggas and bitches. We don't read the booty books and we don't care about what R. Kelly is singing about, nor whose leg Marcus Vick is stepping on. We may suck our teeth because Obie Trice got shot, but we can't name his songs, because it's not about us. It's about niggas and bitches, and we don't really associate. African America is way too big for all of it to fit on the TV tube, no matter how wide the screen is. And as black cultural production advances more of us get included, warts and all. At some point it won't be necessary to call it black, because it will achieve the transcendent and speak to all people. In the meantime, so long as blackfolks are actually oppressed and suffer for it, the truth will be ugly.

    Can you handle the truth?

    Posted by mbowen at 09:43 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

    January 08, 2006

    How To Be A Black Snob

    The first thing you have to do is dismiss Erika Badu. It helps if you don't know how to spell her name, as I don't. Then all you have to do is talk about how idiotic her song about 'Darnell' or whomever it was was back in the day. Then you compare her to somebody equally skillful, say Stephanie Mills and say that Stephanie would never be so crude. There you have it. Substitute something classy for something trashy.

    The proper expression to do while expressing this dismay at the confusion of the person who suggested that whomever black is worth respecting is to peer over your reading glasses. Your expression should say 'no you didn't" without verbally expressing it. You then immediately offer something nice. The model in this matter should be the late Gloria Foster when she meets Neo for the first time as the Oracle in the Matrix. "Not too bright though.." Offer the dunce a cookie and let them come back another time.

    Since I've got years of doing this, it's kind of second-nature. The point is to be superior and gracious at once, to make erudition attractive one must be attractive and one must make one's students enthused to become more thoughtfully erudite themselves. But you must also realize as BeeJiggity has, that there are some poor souls who are beyond reclaim. Don't lose sleep over this. It's the way of the world, there have always been and will always be people who are best suited to be bad examples for the children. In fact, that is their role, like the big bad wolf. But insure that they get their verbal thrashing as a matter of course.. don't get to exercised about it. As I said, I've done this and it can be interpreted as sangfroid. Not a good thing. That's why you offer the cookie.

    However, if you feel that there are certain matters that must be attended to with the accompanying swift kick in the pants without delay, you must apologize ahead of time. A nice way to do this is to bring forth the image of someone a bit more crude though certainly no less right-minded than yourself, an Uncle Max, perhaps. It's a pity Uncle Max isn't here, you might say, because he'd - excuse my French (and then in Uncle Max's voice) "knock your ass into the middle of next week". And then with appropriate humility, express your concern that you stay as far away from such nonsense lest you become a bit more like Uncle Max than you care to be.

    After some time of working such curmudgeonly ways, you will come to a certain peace with yourself, and your friends and associates will know what to expect from you without you having to be incessantly outspoken, like us bloggers. Which brings me to the point of this discussion: Booty Books.

    As I alluded, BeeJiggity takes issue with the clustering of all things African American into a book ghetto at the B&N. I hear you B. I hear you. But you know what? I don't believe there are any more black books to be read. I mean after about the 40th one you get into overkill. So while I'm down with the spirit of the complaint, I have to say that we don't want to sound too much like Uncle Max on this one. Propriety dictates we offer a cookie, in the form of a be all, end all compendium of erudite reading material.

    So I humbly offer the following reading lists. But I know they are missing stuff. So we ought to talk about good black fiction. What is it and why?

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    Posted by mbowen at 01:31 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Sunday Fragments

    I Want To Be Your Man
    If you want to laugh your ass off for a moment. Do check out this amateur video. It's a homemade karaoke and it's hilarious. I have to say that the Dancing Baby has met its match.

    Denzel Buys a House
    While Denzel Washington was visiting BAMC, they gave him a tour of one of the Fisher Houses. He asked how much one of them would cost to build . He took his check book out and wrote a check for the full amount right there on the spot. The soldiers overseas were amazed to hear this story and want to get the word out to the American public, because it touched their hearts.

    Ratzinger on Islam

    JF: Well, the thesis that was proposed by this scholar was that Islam can enter into the modern world if the Koran is reinterpreted by taking the specific legislation, and going back to the principles, and then adapting it to our times, especially with the dignity that we ascribe to women, which has come through Christianity, of course. And immediately, the Holy Father, in his beautiful calm but clear way, said well, there's a fundamental problem with that, because he said in the Islamic tradition, God has given His word to Mohammed, but it's an eternal word. It's not Mohammed's word. It's there for eternity the way it is. There's no possibility of adapting it or interpreting it, whereas in Christianity, and Judaism, the dynamism's completely different, that God has worked through His creatures. And so, it is not just the word of God, it's the word of Isaiah, not just the word of God, but the word of Mark. He's used His human creatures, and inspired them to speak His word to the world, and therefore by establishing a Church in which he gives authority to His followers to carry on the tradition and interpret it, there's an inner logic to the Christian Bible, which permits it and requires it to be adapted and applied to new situations. I was...I mean, Hugh, I wish I could say it as clearly and as beautifully as he did, but that's why he's Pope and I'm not, okay? That's one of the reasons. One of others, but his seeing that distinction when the Koran, which is seen as something dropped out of Heaven, which cannot be adapted or applied, even, and the Bible, which is a word of God that comes through a human community, it was stunning.

    HH: And so, is it fair to describe him as a pessimist about the prospect of modernity truly engaging Islam in the way modernity has engaged Christianity?

    JF: Well, the other way around.

    HH: Yes. I meant that.

    JF: Yeah, that Christianity can engage modernity just like it did...the Jews did Egypt, or Christians did to Greece, because we can take what's good there, and we can elevate it through the revelation of Christ in the Bible. But Islam is stuck. It's stuck with a text that cannot be adapted, or even be interpreted properly.

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    January 07, 2006

    Tommie Shelby

    Once upon a time, I killed Boohab. The reason? The birth of the Boondocks. I quit being a race man and persistent pain in the ass in cyberspace because I felt a little redundant. It's more accurate to say that rather like the dynamic of the fly in the buttermilk, once there are a sufficient number of flies, no individual needs to buzz so very loudly. And with that in mind, pursuant to my Conservative Conclusion, it is a great bit of fortune and synchonicity that I happened upon this review of Tommie Shelby by Orlando Patterson. Read the whole thing. He's right where I am, almost to the letter.

    Shelby directs his most forceful criticisms at the two other main forms of black identity politics: black power and cultural particularism. He maintains that the black power call to collective action based on exclusive black organizations is now inappropriate because of the economic and regional heterogeneity of the black population. It is also, he says, politically counterproductive since it risks alienating badly needed progressive allies among the nonblack population.

    Shelby's powerful critique of black cultural particularism incorporates and supersedes all previous discussions of the subject. He identifies eight basic tenets of this tradition: blacks have a distinctive culture; they should collectively and consciously reclaim that culture; they should take pride in conserving and reproducing it; unlike white culture, it provides a valuable foundation for their individual and communal identities; it is an emancipatory tool in resisting white hegemony, providing an alternate set of ideals to live by; it should be accorded public recognition by the state; blacks, as the main producers of this culture, should benefit from it in financial and other ways; and as "owners" of this culture, blacks should be the foremost authorities and interpreters of it.

    We hear these arguments all the time, sometimes subtly, often crudely. Most non-blacks are either contemptuous of them or quietly dumbfounded. Many simply turn a blindly patronizing eye. Shelby takes the arguments seriously, and meticulously demolishes them all. He does not deny that there are distinctive forms of Afro-American culture. Far from it. His concern, rather, is with the ways black spokesmen think about this heritage and the chauvinistic claims commonly made about it, beginning with the questionable view that being black means one is, or ought to be, culturally black.

    The laudable goal of promoting the finer aspects of black cultural productions, Shelby argues, in no way implies that every black person should root his identity in them or is under any obligation to cultivate them. And the fact that blacks have had to make a special effort to undo the centuries of denigration of black cultural creations in no way implies that a common cultural identity should undergird political solidarity. Further, just because blacks created some particular cultural form is not necessarily a good reason to value it, since there is a good deal in black culture, as in all cultures, that is without value. And he nicely extends previous criticisms that the tiresome proprietary claims made of black culture risk marginalizing both black culture and intellectuals.

    My predictions are a bit harsh. I say, like with the bodies at the bottom of the Middle Passage, those who do not survive America will have no effect on its destiny and those that do will not have the patience, time, inclination nor power to properly represent or gain cosmic justice for them when all is said and done. So therefore, I'm taking Kujichagulia to its end, which is that you're on your own, brother. What's most important is that I say 'brother'. At some point in our distant histories, we went through the same things, but I cannot guarantee that for my descendants the understanding of those things will be anything more than theoretically sympathetic.

    I am more likely to conclude that it will be the traditions of Christianity that will bind us together in the future, than any political program of uplift. Where Shelby defaults on matters of self-reliance for the poor masses, I say that's all you have, and the Spirit. Won't it be hilarious to see then, how the kind of crass commercial Christianity derided in caricatures of the Right that Progressives wind up prescribing for the least of ther bretheren? You can't black politic your way into the economic mainstream, but you may be able to use faith in God, since Progressives won't allow you to have faith in America itself.

    I feel that I ought to buy his book even though as with Ellis Cose' 'Rage of a Privileged Class' I feel I already know the conclusions. But I may as well have it on hand as Shelby enters the pantheon. I wonder then what to do with Glenn Loury. Hmm.

    Posted by mbowen at 02:16 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    A Conservative Conclusion

    At Cobb, I came to represent the Old School and have done so for the past several years primarily through the personal and the political. In making a lot of noise about my conversion from the standard 'black Independent' to throwing in my lot with the GOP, I have learned a great deal. At this juncture, I can't think of anything in particular that I haven't covered or that compels me to say much more on that subject, although I'm certain that I will again from time to time.

    Over the past year, I have gone from self-employment, which began in 2001 to working for a small corporation of about 700. Consequently, I have gone from having plenty of cash and time to having less of both and from rising through the upper middle class to settling into the bottom of it more or less comfortably. Therefore my ambitions to organize GOP politics in Southern Cal and online have taken a back seat to more conventional concerns, like overtime for the bossman.

    I have gone through a generation of the blogosphere having created and witnessed the birth and maturity of my progressive group blog Vision Circle which is now hobbling on the legs of one author. I have also created The Conservative Brotherhood which ambles on with its new portal despite defections. Here at Cobb where I spend the overwhelming majority of my time I have been very pleased to join in with the Bear Flag League and attain and maintain Large Mammal status. Although I was invited, I declined membership in Pajamas Media. I don't do ads. I have benefitted greatly from the support and sponsorship of Scott Peterson's Punditdrome, frequent mentions by Shay Riley's Booker Rising and inclusion in Black Blogger's Association syndications. A considerable debt is also owed to my three greatest blogfathers, DenBeste at the late USS Clueless, Sean-Paul Kelley The Agonist and the ever mellow and indescribably warm and collegial George Kelly of Negrophile and all points sophisticated. A special shout out goes to BTD Steve too.

    I would also like to spend a moment thanking my most faithful supporters and faithless detractors. You know who you are. Temple3, Matt128, Memer, Southernxyl, Prometheus6, Spence, Brown, Anderson, Dean, Nulan, Dell, Ed, T-Steel, Liz Ditz, Caltechgirl, Brotherbrown, Unclesmrgol, XRLQ and whomever slaps me for not recognizing...

    OK stop biting your lip. This isn't an obituary. I'm just done with politics as a prime motivator. Cobb will remain and continue. But I'm probably going to change the tagline. If I deal with politics here, it will be dealt with in wry and snarky rather than arrogant and paternalistic terms, most likely through the comic. I'm still a Republican. Call me an ordinary political animal rather than a predator.

    Here's what I conclude at the end of several years of blogging more or less politics vis a vis where I'm standing regards to black politics. The consensus political sensibilities of black folk are in line with the economic positions of black folk, most of whom are blue collar folks. There is and remains no great consequence to the difference between blue collar and white collar politics, the American system is designed to work out compromise. Nor should there any great surprise about those differences.

    What remains critically important and has since the devolution of the Black Power Movement is that the failures of Nationalism to do an economic and political race raising are reconciled to American standards of class. They have been, with rare exception, those exceptions primarily being those Progressives of the white collar class who adopt the political sensibilities of the blue collar class and/or the poor and indigent. This, of course, raises the burden of proof of the legitimacy of the Progressive agenda since they work against their own class interests for collective aims, however there is ample precedent and parallels in white Liberalism.

    The primary burdens of upper middle and upper class blacks whose politics follows their class interests are mostly existential, which is to say that while their class status is not in question, their blackness is. But that is an inappropriately political question begged by the imposition of identity politics. It should be clearly self-evident that the political ambitions of socially and economically advanced blackfolks are reality-based. This question of blackness, however stems from overworked notions about the unifying ability of Progressives who intend to inherit the mantle and the following of Black Nationalist politics, long after its economic failure. The extent to which either American political party recognizes and deals constructively with the rift between Progressive and Conservative black elites, however is minimal. In the end, I have concluded that the debate is mostly between these two groups and that either party will do what they will. What remains is what to make of this rift. It's an answer that requires perhaps 300 pages I have no interest in writing. In those 300 pages each group would be reconciled to the historical development of their various political positions and everybody will stand on their square and be square, or at least they should.

    Whether or not that reconciliation happens, as a Conservative, I am greatly consoled by the reconciliation of my philosophy with the Western concept of the individual. If there be only 2% of African Americans who stand behind Bush, I'd be prefectly happy with those 600 thousand people. That I have personally met with individuals such as Michael Steele of Maryland allows me to be perfectly content in the knowledge that however small my minority is, it is not lunatic nor on any fringe. It's not about the numbers, it's about the principles. In the context of the history of African Americans I'm on more solid ground than those co-hackers of Nat Turner. I hardly need to be militantly righteous. I am perfectly willing to accept the bourgie differences between various black political positions and philosophies. I'm betting against it coming to militancy in my lifetime. In the end, I've got other things to worry about.

    I will continue to monitor the barkings and ravings of my political opponents with amusement, and I will continue to make as crystal as possible those principled differences between us. I'm not putting down the verbal sword by any measure, I'm simply not leading with it. I will however be less likely to get caught up in the struggle at the blogospheric level as I am convinced there is no political forum of substance, depth and popularity here which is capable of changing the dynamic of what goes on in the greater public. I have seen the black blogosphere and it is what it is. But it is hardly the catalyst for change I might have imagined, nor is there any indication to me that may be in the offing. Practically speaking that means I will spend a whole lot less effort making writing things 'for posterity'. With black and other politics, I will be in Popeye mode. I yam what I yam, and iffen you don't like it, prepare for an impatient ass whoopin'. So long as I have kids at home, they deserve my wisdom more than you. Bite me if you don't like it.

    What will occupy that fat end of my brain fat will be the more philosophical matters attending to the nature of Religion and ethics here and abroad. I am fully satisfied that American politics, being that it represents the art of the possible, is about as ethical as it needs to be, which is to say sufficient to keep people with pitchforks and torches off the streets and other nations from wiping their asses with our leadership. I am absolutely convinced that there is no impending crisis which makes cops question their loyalties, nor ordinary middle class folks to consider the necessity of taking up arms against the powers that be. In other words, as implied by my lack of tears attending taking up the bossman's business, I can give up studied bloviation because in the end, well it's all just studied bloviation.

    The Revolution won't be televised because there is no Revolution. What goes on in the heads of those who believe there will be is beyond my concern.

    Posted by mbowen at 01:47 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    Urinal Confessional

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    January 06, 2006

    Friday Meme Blogging

    1. What time did you get up this morning?

    2. Diamonds or pearls?

    3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema?

    4. What is your favorite TV show?
    The Sheild

    5. What did you have for breakfast?

    6. What is your middle name?
    David Cobb

    7. What is your favorite food?

    8. What is your favorite chip flavor?
    Sour Cream & Onion

    9. What is your favorite CD at the moment?
    Give a Monkey a Brain & He'll Swear He's the Center of the Universe

    10. What kind of car do you drive?
    BMW 740iL

    11. Favorite sandwich?
    Pastrami Reuben on Rye

    12. What characteristic do you despise?

    13. Favorite item of clothing?
    Baldassarini full length coat.

    14. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation?
    Dubai. Whatever.

    15. Favorite brand of clothing?

    16. Where would you retire to?
    Some Island with broadband.

    17. Favorite time of the day?
    3pm, if I can sleep.

    18. What was your most memorable birthday?

    19. Where were you born?
    On base.

    20. Favorite sport to watch?
    English Premier League

    21. Who won't send this back to you?

    22. Person you expect to send it back first?

    23. What fabric softner do you use?
    Fabric softener?

    24. Coke or Pepsi?

    25. Morning person or a night owl?
    night owl

    26. What size shoe do you wear?

    27. Do you have any pets?
    Don't tell my wife.

    28. Any new and exciting news you want to share with family and friends?
    You're not on the mailing list, so stop being so nosy.

    29. What did you want to be when you were little?

    30. Favorite Drink?
    Rye & Ginger

    31. Favorite dessert?
    Chocolate Mousse

    32. Favorite color?

    33. Favorite hobby?
    Pontification & Theorizing and saying I told you so.

    Thanks to Sixhertz of Pain

    Posted by mbowen at 07:39 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Dynamic vs Transactional Engineers

    Every once in a while I kick something over the Drezner's site. Especially when he writes on outsourcing which is one of my pet peeves. As a highly technical architecture level consultant that does hands-on work, I really don't blog about it as much as I probably ought to. I've thought that I could run multiple blogs and keep all those worlds from intermixing, but I think I may begin to blur that firewall too. So on the matter of the quality of engineering and technical talent from the emerging second world, I had this to say:

    I think that this distinction between dynamic and transactional engineers is very useful and accurately describes what I see in the software industry as well.

    Even when chinese and indian programmers are on staff in American companies, there are notable differences. You never quite know what you're getting until you sit folks in a room and start talking about the systems to be built.

    Enterprise systems that are to make a difference in the productivity of the target customers are notoriously difficult to assemble, even when using simpler standard technologies that procurement departments are demanding be offshored. That is why companies like Accenture continue to make money in the American and international markets. The skills of management consultants that can do a tight handover to technologists are in high demand, but even so these are applications that tend not to be robust. Anything that takes more than six months to build will suffer from changes in the business environment, turnover in personnel and integration with other systems that themselves are being changed.

    Again, the allure of cheap labor in this area is that SQL is SQL. Not necessarily so. It's actually getting more complicated to do these applications properly, primarily because of an attitude the 'best practices' can be built into every application. This means that a lot of abstraction of problems is done, and a number of experts who don't do hands on work are employed. All this is done at the expense of homegrown (meaning inside the client company) experience which is the great hidden expense of outsourced systems.

    It comes down, in my view, to a decades old clash between management philosophies. Deming vs Hammer. The Deming method says to evolve the way people are working with technology and business processes. That's highly integrative and evolutionary. It means you have to do a lot of listening and translating. The Hammer schools says, throw out the old and make everyone start from scratch. That's re-engineering. Companies that get re-engineered outsource and offshore better than companies that evolve. Companies that evolve are more productive because the culture of the company teaches everyone what the focus of the business is. They can be more nimble, but there's a steep learning curve.

    I'm from the Deming School (an old Xeroid from the McKinsey makeover under David Kearns) and have been in the enterprise sofware business for two decades. The Deming way is harder, and it's often against the best interests of management and technology consulting companies, not to mention software vendors, to evolve a good company to great, but the real loss is that so many American corporations are literally outsourcing their own quality improvement. They don't want to grow their own MBAs, they want somebody else's. This dependency is what both depletes American talent, and keeps consultants like me in new BMWs.

    Meanwhile over here at Nissan, things are beginning to get very interesting as deadlines start to loom. While Toyota is poised this year to make 100k more cars than General Motors, I'm finding that the systems that are being built in the wake of Sarb-Ox may have a long-term payoff for American businesses. Because over here in this Japanese company, typical of a large number of companies I've seen, the spaghetti and spontanaity of financial planning and accounting boggles the professional mind. In my close circle, we have a term called 'The Official Ass'. That's where a lot of numbers are pulled from. The number of companies that do real demand planning are few and far between. Demand planning is very difficult to do with most kinds of accounting systems that companies have, and so companies pull numbers out of a collective hole in the ground. That is particularly typical of non-financial companies - that is companies whose business is not primarily the management of money. When your financial staff is considered overhead... well.

    It's one thing to understand how to build this database and that database. Sure that stuff can be outsourced. Should it be? It really depends on whether you're building system to be building systems or building them to improve the way a company is run. The latter can only be done by dynamic engineers. I like to think of myself as one of those types, but its not very often that we are called to do all that.

    Posted by mbowen at 05:47 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    The Longhorn Torture

    Posted by mbowen at 08:41 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Pure Joy

    I have never heard Fishbone's 'Black Flowers' quite like I did last night. I heard it as a song by Radiohead. As I listened to it about three times on the drive home, and to Rite Aid and Whole Foods, I reimagined the whole thing that way. It's a perfect song for Radiohead to remake, beginning to end. If you're listening out there, Radiohead...

    Speaking of Whole Foods, I find it to be the polar opposite of Wal-Mart and yet both I think are critically interesting parts of our economy. Every time I go to the Whole Foods in Redondo Beach, I see some man or woman in the joint who looks like they're just dripping with moola. I mean why would anyone else pay 5 bucks for a loaf of bread? The place just looks delicious, and it's obviously piercing and tatoo friendly. It's ironic that people who apparently care so much about what goes into their bodies have so little respect for their skin. Nevertheless, I picked up a relatively cheap loaf of organic honey wheat and a six pack of (I kid you not) Hairy Eyeball beer. The bread was delicious. The wife fried it in butter and I ate grilled American cheese and baloney sandwiches for dinner.

    After 938 minutes and 32 seconds, or so, I completed Half-Life 2. That game was astounding, and now I see what all those people were talking about. Yes I do see how in many ways it is far superior to Halo 2. The narrative is more compelling, the interactivity with the environment is far superior and the ways in which your character plays the game is more varied. I'd have to give Halo's AI the slight nod, simply because there are so many more enemies that it manages, although I also have to recognize how HL2's AI deals with hiding its injured characters and attacking turrets you control.

    I've never been in a game that induced vertigo so well. In the Highway 17 segment with the battle against the gunship from the girders under the steel arch bridge, the effect was dizzying. Just as I realized what I was going to have to do, I said to myself that it's a good thing that I'm not afraid of heights. Two minutes later I was afraid of heights. Same thing with clinging to the edges of the hole at the foundation of The Citadel. There is really jaw-droppingly awesome stuff in this game, reminescent of the Krell Machine's core.

    I'm kinda mad at Adam Sandler and Morgan Webb for not putting enough scenes in their reviews of the game, because I definitely slept on this. Damn. Now I'm going to have to have another look at Counter-Strike.

    I still haven't finished reading Overworld, which is about three times more complicated than Syriana. Just how I like it. I think I've done my share of gaming. Plus I'm giving up french fries and potato chips this year. Honey roasted peanuts and beef jerky will have to do.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:58 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    January 05, 2006

    The Holy Ghost vs The Holy Spirit

    As an Episcopalian, we don't do faith healing, speaking in tongues or do anything having to do with the Holy Ghost as it's understood in various denominations of African American Christendom. I want to get deep into this question from a black cultural perspective starting with the following provocative statement.

    The Holy Ghost is Voodoo.

    I think that I am on pretty solid ground when I suggest that the tradition of speaking in tongues evolved from the early black Christian church as a way of communicating around slaveowners. I don't know exactly where I picked up that bit of knowledge, but I've heard it enough times to believe that it is credible. I am more certain, however, that the idea of spiritual possession, is definitely rooted in West African traditions.

    When I was a kid, and after the birth of my youngest brother, my mother started shuffling us off to the 'born again' Christian Church - specifically the Pentacostal Evangelical Foursquare Church - I was fascinated and a bit repulsed by the practice of men and women in the congregation jumping up and down and falling down convulsing on the floor as filled with the Holy Ghost. I understood it, and on occasion when the music was just right and the minister hit his rhythm, I could feel it. But it never overwhelmed me so that I put my hand up like a spiritual antenna and got struck by the lightning of the Holy Ghost. Not that kids were permitted to do so.

    As well, I witnessed my mother speaking in tongues and recognized which tongues she was speaking. I also understood, although could never confirm, that this was something that was agreed on in some way with the pastor. The ritual was basically at some part of the service, spontaneously to be sure, someone would start speaking in tongues and then somebody else would translate it into English.

    We could get into all that, but the essential question has to do with the variability of practices. What is Christian, and how is that changing? I expect a religion to get dogmatic and ritualistic about such things as the definition of the Holy Spirit. I mean, it's at least as important as God and Jesus if we believe in the Trinity. So how can this be considered worship if on church allows people to go into conniptions if another's priest would go into conniptions if some congregant had a fit?

    So what's up with that?

    Posted by mbowen at 04:43 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

    Black 2005: The Year in Review - Part One

    I thought I'd do something a little different this year and do a black year in review. Let's see what happens. I cover all of these stories and issues in Cobb. Just click on the month in the Archives section in the right column.

    January 2005
    Eyes on the Prize was briefly put up on the web for free downloads. Three episodes were made available by a group called Downhill. Hotel Rwanda made everyone cry, cheer and recognize the acting genius of Don Cheadle, finally. DeLa Soul drops 'The Grind Date'. It's pretty slammin' but. Faye Anderson starts blogging. Norman Kelley's new book blows up. Randy Moss proves that he does what he wants to do.

    February 2005
    There may have been something different about this years Black Summit. There were several reasons. Firstly, it reminded all of us that we can't remember the last time there was a 'black summit' outside of the various sub-million marches. The second was that it wasn't all preachers and academics, but a few businessmen too. Tavis Smiley brought the spotlight. Louis Farrakhan introduced 'testicular fortitude' into the argot of inspirational oratory.

    Devin Brown, juvenile car thief, was gunned down by the LAPD at the end of a car chase at 3 in the morning. This sparked the usual hand wringing and thus began my naming the Coalition of the Damned, those Americans whose primary form of politics involves dogging cops and definding crooks.

    Ossie Davis, the legend of film and theatre, died at the age of. He too, was a black shining prince. Some black people win Oscars. Morgan Freeman, I think.

    March 2005
    Harold Cruse died, passing the torch of the last black organic intellectual of world stature t.. nobody in particular. His Crisis of the Black Intellectual and Plural But Equal stand pretty much unchallenged and even unparalleled.

    Then within the same month, Johnnie Cochran died of brain cancer. Plenty of haters, incuding Ira Reiner, get their digs in over his dead body, but his legend is undeniable.

    April 2005
    Ted Hayes gets profiled in the WSJ proving once and for all that black Republicans can indeed wear dreadlocks and be down for their communities.

    I visit (antediluvian) New Orleans and take some pictures, meet some relatives and eat some food. It's a big deal. I write a huge diary of my experiences. I haven't reviewed it much, even in the aftermath of the flood, but I think it would make for some interesting reading of the experiences of a black man of my type in New Orleans.

    Martin Kilson throws down a two part essay on the black elite over at the[Marxist] Black Commentator. He raises very good points. I have mixed opinins about Kilson's conclusions. I agree that there are Talented Tenth aspirations among us, but that Progressivism and race raising is nowhere near as important as it once was - that the relative amount of time elite blacks need to consider and dedicate themselves to their inferiors is less. Furthermore, I would argue that the social capital with which blacks are endowed allow their elites broad responsibilities in mainstream organizations which far outweigh those that can be accomplished via progressivism and aggregation. This sets up a paradox that Kilson seems to ignore. There are more things that black elites can do, but it's not entirely clear that they need to or want to.

    Tiger Woods wins the Masters, again. His birdie chip on the 16th hole is the most incredible shot in the year of golf. Byron Allen buys PAX for 2.2Billion dollars. Who knew?

    May 2005
    Claude Steele's theory of Stereotype Threat is validated. Professor Kim recounts with some excruciatingly painful detail bombing of MOVE and the birth by fire of crusader Mumia Abu Jamal. What she doesn't do is give me a reason to let my heart bleed. Maybe I'm just not charitable, or maybe I am authentically pride of my blackness for orthogonal reasons.

    Now you would think that when a black man is dragged from an automobile and gets decapitated, that there would be some outcry, some noise, something. But there's a very particular reason why there wasn't in this case. That's because that black man was Tommy Edward Scott, a police officer.

    Emmitt Louis Till died about 50 years ago, but it has been decided that his body should be exhumed in order to discover new forensic evidence which might lead to others who might have participated in his killing. A conviction is gotten.

    Malcolm Gladwell's
    book 'Blink' is a huge success. Michael Eric Dyson fast talks his way into oblivion trying to dis Bill Cosby.

    June 2005

    Michael Jackson is found not guilty. Everybody knows that something weird is going on. Nobody riots. What I've been hearing is basically another species of "you're not guilty, but you're guilty". Having stayed away from the back and forth that generally surrounds these kinds of trials, I'm pretty safe in saying that I'm prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt. He may be a weirdo, but as far as the law is concerned, he's cleaner than Martha Stewart.

    Terry McMillan gets what's coming to her. Life is stranger than even her fiction. Krump hits the airwaves as the movie Rize makes a critical and popular smash.

    The Reparations issue gets another public rehash.

    Mike Tyson goes down for the last time.

    Harvard economist and wunderkind Roland Fryer is hot news all year. This time out he publishes findings on 'Acting White' in which he demonstrates "that there are large racial differences in the relationship between popularity and academic achievement; our (albeit narrow) definition of ‘acting white.’ The effect is intensified among high achievers and in schools with more interracial contact, but non-existent among students in predominantly black schools or private schools."

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    Trojans Lose!

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    January 04, 2006

    Google: Planetary IT

    Google as Berkshire Hathaway
    What if Google never split its stock? Right now, there are analysts who see it going to 600. Today it's at 442. What does Google care if it never splits the stock? What are the chances that a stock that's up around 1000 falls to 500? Does a stock price influence buying? I think so.

    I just had a thought about what Google might do. Maybe Cringely's stuff is just getting through my thick skull. What I imagine is that Google will decide to be the single huge global operating system. The more you compute, the more Google grows. Google is trying to be the best IT system on the planet. It has very strict rules about its APIs and it picks the best ones and publishes them.

    Google as planetary IT reminds me of another old idea of mine. Back in 95 or so, when online banking was first getting started, I thought it would be a great idea for banks to become data trustees. This was back in the day when disk drives were all we had, and Iomega was considered the best possibility for backup. FWB had the best drives, outside of Seagate and people were just beginning to take the word 'terabyte' seriously. How it is that I ended up with my own terabyte of data is a long story, but I am increasingly taking advantage of websites like Flickr. But I'll tell you what, as soon as I can save all my MP3s and JPGs up on a Google service, you better bet I will.

    That means my Google ID is becoming more and more important to me, even though I don't use Orkut any longer. Which brings me to another point. Yeah it's cool that I have a Pay Pal Card, but what about a Google ID card? To what extent does and will the public trust IT companies to manage things better than banks? If you think about it, banks have, in their own way had their authentication practices upstaged by those of internet and other providers. If you own a domain, for example, there is a much more complicated set of authentications than are required by banks. So will Google get into the identity business? It seems inevitable that they will. So what are the possibilities that certain transactions within a Google account are made as secure as those of say, Pay Pal? Ultimately, for people to trust Google and their Google identity, this must be guaranteed.

    I like the idea of a private company with access to the security experts in the field being responsive to such information. Sure some people will get nervous about having 'all that information about me' cross-referenceable. We may never know if Google is hacked by the Feds for this information, but we'll trust Google first.

    Google Enterprise
    I wonder if and when Google might venture into large scale computing for enterprise applications. You see this is a place that very few corporations have gone. We all know they keep outsourcing their application builders and designers, a trade-off in quality for expediency and cost savings. I believe that Google has learned lessons building general purpose super-scalable applications that no IT departments have yet learned and that the biggest DB software companies like Oracle and Teradata believe only they know. That is the top of commercial computing, and I'm thinking of ways to get there. The ease with which Google is mastering application rollouts is fairly astonishing. It's something nobody else is doing. Their partnerships with Sun and AOL could mean business, and the idea of the Google Box means that all things are possible.

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    Where Do All the Companies Go?

    I haven't been in the stock market for five years. 2001 basically killed me. So I haven't logged into eTrade or any of my other brokers for quite some time. Just updating Yahoo, I looked at what used to be some of my eBusiness portfolio and half of the companies aren't there.

    Once upon a time, you could say 'Viant' and/or 'Scient', and be considered in the know. My money was on Loudcloud, Mark Andreeson's post-Netscape company. We used to believe, those of us arms distance away from the Dotcom madness, that at least Loudcloud knew what they were talking about. They did, I suppose. Well enough to get bought out by Perot Systems. But whatever happened to those other two guys?

    Speaking of which, remember Black Rocket? That was the product by the other company I was sure knew its head from its ass, Genuity. Of course Genuity used to be GTE Internetworking which used to be Bolt, Beranek & Newman, at least that's how they marketed themselves. Somehow BBN remains and all the Genuity tykes were kicked to the curb. Which is as it should be, I reckon. At least I'm glad that BBN survived.

    I think of them also in the context of some interesting follow-up on the latest FISA evasion news. It turns out that some time ago, the precursor to the NSA used a proprietary in Florida to do some of this kind of domestic wiretapping. That was back in the old days when big name corporations like RCA and ITT were more closely connected to the intelligence businesses than they are today.

    Can a one billion dollar organization disappear? In today's global marketplace, I think the answer is hell yes. Though none of my dotcom investments had anything like that kind of money, I am constantly amazed by how fluid money is in the American economy. Somedays I think I shoulda gotten an MBA. It's still a possibility.

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    Trojans Win!

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    On Godless Evolution

    How does one believe in God and Science?

    They seem to be divergent but they are not. For me they are reconciled. So I find it disturbing that some are following a line of reasoning that will take them into battle with the scientific community of which I am a part. Over at Palos Verdes Blog I found the following:

    Among the intellectual elites in the National Academy of Sciences, 95% of biologists are materialists and therefore atheists. Those at the top of the profession have a profound influence on what is taught in the schools.

    Is there any doubt that these “proponents of evolutionary biology go well beyond science to claim that evolution both manifests and requires a materialistic philosophy that leaves no room for God, the soul or the presence of divine grace in human life.” No wonder many parents are legitimately concerned about what their children are learning.

    To many religious conservatives, Darwinists are “hell-bent on cramming atheistic materialism down the throats of impressionable children, in the guise of science, thereby robbing their children of the faith that has saved Western civilization from the fate of godless nations.”

    To answer the second paragraph, I have doubts, and these doubts are born of (what I hope to be) a sophisticated understanding of human nature and the aims of religion and science. Nobody quite put it so simply as the Dalai Lama in his 'Ethics for the New Millenium', but he didn't put it so briefly that I'd like to retype it here. I'm simply say that I believe that people inherit attitudes about Science and Religion and then gradually learn some corner of their offerings.

    For one thing, I don't believe that scientists can design away or argue away the soul. Whatever the soul is, it is inevitable. Simply because one might have an extra-relgious explanation doesn't change the materiality or nature of it. When people's souls are satisfied, that's the ticket. And people will continue to satisfy that hunger. There's another scientific explanation for not acknowledging or explaining away the soul, denial.

    Secondly, I believe for scientific and religious reasons, that we are inherently moral. My understaning of one theory of evolutionary biology, as well as hearsay from my brother Doc, the cop, is that after you beat somebody unconscious it takes a very deliberate effort to move from aggrevated assault to murder. We are instinctually averse to killing. As I have said before, I believe that we are endowed by God (in his image) and as a consequence of the fall of Adam, the very same moral capacity as God - the ability to distinguish good from evil. This corresponds to God's own sense of good and evil exactly in the same way everybody sees red as red, otherwise free will makes no sense at all. It is because of this identical correspondance that we understand religion as good beyond the personal reclamation of the soul.

    Think about it from another way. If all we were required to do is 'steal into heaven', that is to say do the very minimum that Jesus required, we all might as well be the theif on the second cross. But we understand that the Good News is useful in the affairs of mankind while we are here on Earth. That's why weighing in against atheists is considered a good thing in the first place.

    Evolution is what it is. That Christians fight it is pure silliness.

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    January 03, 2006

    Washington vs Karenga

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    Tuesday Fragments

    Ordinary Balls
    Over the break, there was a story about a 16 year old kid who took off to Iraq to see it for himself. He was apparently working on a term paper about the war, so he bought a plane ticket to Baghdad. Just like that. I like this kid. Instantly, I like this kid and it gives me inspiration to think that there are young Americans who possess the grit to face mortal danger. I suspect that everyone will call him crazy, but he's not. He's perfectly logical.

    Kwanzaa Poem
    I was going to write a long Kwanzaa Poem and after the 12th stanza I realized it wasn't worth it. Not because the poem was bad, it's just that I haven't written a poem that long since OJ, and this whole deal is really overblown. I'm at the point where I say, fuck 'em, and slap myself for playing Encyclopedia Brown. I need to stop writing down to people 'for the sake of history'. It makes me dweebish, and I'm just starting to recognize.

    Go Trojans
    The trash talk is in full swing. Today it has already begun. USC vs Texas. I don't know how to break it to Texas fans, but yall are going to go home crying. Sorry. That's the way of the world. Eat drink and be merry tonight, for tomorrow the dreams end and the nightmare begins.

    Biggest Prediction for 2006
    This is the turning point year for John McCain and for the GOP. If the Republicans get their poop together and back McCain, then they will be great. I'm trying to figure out what objections people would have to McCain-Rice because I think they are unbeatable. Short of that, I'd support Mitt from Mass, but quite frankly I don't think he's the kind of leader I want. IE I think his electability would rely too much upon a 'democratic illusion' with regard to the idea of getting a Kennedyesque fresh young face. I've had enough of that. If the GOP goes with anyone else who isn't as wonderful a surprise as was Chief Justice John Roberts, then politics will no longer be fun for this writer.

    Half Life Again
    The game has gotten even deeper and more interesting. There's a whole universe there which is, I must confess, more compelling than the Halo Universe has proven to be. I'm on the lookout for fictional dimensions and finding a lot at Wikipedia.

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    January 01, 2006

    Going To Ravenholm

    This holiday I have discovered why gamers have been raving over Half Life 2. It's a brilliant game. It's creepy. It's way interactive. It's puzzling and inventive. It's got a compelling storyline (so far) and it's got the best zombies ever. As a single player game, it's probably one of the all-time greats.

    Now this is not news for most PC gamers, but this one has got me, a console gamer pretty excited. I cannot say with any surety that as a single player game I like it more than Halo2 but I understand how Halo's hype plays into the excitement of that game. I don't particularly like switching out characters so while that was an inventive part of Halo2, I find that it reduces rather than adds to the replayability for me, although it probalby make the game overall more exciting. However the puzzles on Half Life add some real spice to an action shooter, whereas Halo puzzles are just mazes.

    I'm about 6 hours of play into this game, I guess, and what I estimate is about halfway through Ravenholm, which is by far the creepiest joint this side of Silent Hill. The

    The navigation is pretty good and very consistent. It's not as smooth and realistic as Splinter Cell or any of the Tom Clancy shooters. In fact that I can't see my character in any way is something of a weird feeling to get used to. I see no hands when climbing ladders or swimming, and the reticle action on this game is pretty low. However the shooting action is first rate. Sound effects are top notch.

    What makes this game world class are the graphics. The environments put together in Half Life 2 are absolutely superb. They have captured the industrial wasteland like no other game. There are only two that come close in showing this level and scale of depressing rust, one is Brute Force, the other is Chronicles of Riddick. There actually is one other that has this level of puzzles and inventive environments which was PsyOps: The Mindgate Conspiracy. But that game was so much fun and your character had so many different powers that you never feel quite as vulnerable as you do in Half Life 2.

    Half Life has got great geek appeal. As much as I game, I am still surprised by the goodies I get in this shooter. So add me to the chorus of ravers for the Gravity Gun. Holy smokes is that a nice one. The indestructable sawblades are just splatterific. Launching one of those babies through a crowd of zombies is one of the unique experiences in all of violent gaming. The airboat with the gattling gun is also a very inventive piece of gaming. Nowhere under any circumstances have I face a more deadly helicopter. That is one of the most relentless foes ever. I put it right up there with the UAVs in the latest Splinter Cell and Metal Gear Solid 2. I'm sure there are more interesting goodies to come.

    So there it is. I'll be in Ravenholm for a while.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


    I had a chance to go Arclight yesterday in the rain. The destination was Syriana.

    This was a thoroughly enjoyable flick. At once I very much enjoyed it and was afraid of it. Films such as this tend to remind me of my distance from the level of success I think I should be having, and yet at the same time remind me of the very real costs of stepping up to that threshhold. Watching it brought me back a year to when I was in negotiations to do a big deal. You get in the face of someone powerful and you don't mince words, and suddenly you're enmeshed in big things you can only see a very small part of. It's exhilirating and dangerous. This is the real world, where people are decieved, derailed, destroyed.

    As a propaganda film, which it may or may not be, there's a certain sense of 'so what' in it for me. Such intrigues as this are hardly surprising. But it was nicely done in that it blended a good number of memorable characters into a mix that gave a much broader view than is ordinarily done with a single character's narrative. As filmmaking it works extraordinarily well, and I would hope to see more of this kind of film in the future. It reminded me very much of the huge novel I once attempted where people of all sorts of ambitions wind up on a collision course.

    What Syriana does better than any film I can remember is puts the actions and influence of the CIA in what appears to me to be a very good perspective. Rather than an all powerful agency capable of infiltrating and turning around governments with master spies, it shows how their own internal politics put them at odds with themselves. Even though I am a big fan of espionage fiction, this is a welcome change. There are powerful multinationals involved, there are powerful lawfirms involved, there are powerful government agencies involved. These dances are more than tangos, they are political waltzes with multiple and sometimes unknown partners.

    The money scene in which the defending attorney played with muted sophistication by Jeffery Wright is lambasted as a naif struck me as a bit over the top. 'Corruption is why we win', is certainly plausible, but the reason why Syriana works is because who knows what and when is also a thing that's always in play. People decide between shades of grey all the time. It's not about what's true, it's about what can be proven as true. The truth itself, serves no one and is all but impossible to pin down. There are only facts - ie those things people and paper and computers remember as facts, and big ideas. Satisfying big appetites, the appetites of executives, law partners, congressmen, agency hierarchs, families, the public, the religious impulse; this is the subtext of Syriana. Nothing is as clean as we wish it could be.

    And so it comes as no surprise that even as America could be seen to be portrayed as the bad guy, it makes perfect sense that such matters occur as they do. You ride the horse in your stable, you love the ones you're with. Anyone can be a good man, but you can't always know whose good man you are, and you can't always know at what moment or for what reasons you become most expendable, or most valuable.

    This particular lesson, while made clear by the film, is not exploited for maximum dramatic value by a thematic opposition between radical Islam and Western capitalism. In fact, while we have probably seen the most fully fleshed out Arabs and Pakistanis in the history of American film, one cannot say with any specificity what their gripe with the West might be. The imam who weighs against the separation of church and state pontificates in abstracts and the specifics of young Pakistani man are lost. But perhaps that is part of the point the film wishes to make - that only in conflict are the differences and distances between Islam and the West best illustrated. The plot does not flesh out those themes and instead sticks, more or less, to plot.

    As twisty plots go, Syriana's is not too bad, but folks who don't think in the fahion that Soderberg films might have some serious difficulties in following the story. This is the most up-to-date mode of storytelling. Multiple perspectives, multiple characters, hidden motives, gigantic piles of unassimilatable facts, changine allegiances, public interpreteations. In that Syriana captures this mind boggling array of complexities is a tribute to the medium of film itself. I could watch these kinds of movies all day and never get bored. I hope that more of this style are made.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack