March 02, 2006

To Spend More Time With the Family

I have about 6 posts in various forms of draft, and I'm probably not going to make them real until the weekend. Maybe.

This is about the time to retire. I am really not so much interested in the daily spew of political news, nor do I think I have left a great deal of ground uncovered. I've got to work on my XRepublic project and look at the Best of Cobb and see what might be published.

So this is the time when I say goodbye for now. I'm going to repackage everything to make it available but I don't have time for it now.

Basically I realized that when my kids get a 3.2 GPA and I think that's not good enough, then I have to spend more time with them than with you. It really boils down to that.

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February 15, 2006

Cartoon Nostalgia

My wife and I just made the ultimate podcast, except we didn't record it. But we walked all the way back down memory lane thinking about all the old TV shows and cartoons we used to watch when we were kids.

But we had to turn to the internet when I rattled off a few of my all-time favorite characters some of whom were unknown to her. The one that I have had countless controversies over was Super President. Nobody but nobody remembers Super President, who was pretty much the most invincible superhero ever. See, most of the superheroes have some weakness. When Super President got rid of his costume, he was still the President of the United States. He could change the molecular structure of his body, and even when I was a kid, I knew this was the coolest power around. I had figured out the periodic table and realized that gave him over 200 elemental powers, plus unlimited molecular powers. So if he wanted to defeat Superman, he could just turn himself into Kryptonite. If he wanted to defeat Green Lantern, he could turn himself into wood.

The other great cartoon that the Spousal Unit didn't remember was Gigantor. Gigantor, of course, had one of the three coolest theme songs in all of children's television. The other two being the theme song for the Amazing Three and the mod jazz of Hoppity Hooper. What? You don't remember Hoppity Hooper? Next to Snagglepuss, another favorite, Hoppity Hooper was one of the coolest of the hokey characters. I preferred them straight, which is why like many of my geek bretheren who grew up in Atomic America, I am in agreement that the greatest cartoon of all was Johnny Quest.

Oh but those hokey characters. Remember when cartoons went all soft? I mean we started off with cool superheroes like Thor, Hulk, Captain America, Ironman and the Flash. Then they gradually got softer. First they added sidekicks, which wasn't so bad if they were like The Mighty Mightor's flying dinosaur. But then they sprouted families with half-powers. On the one hand it could be great like with the Herculoids because most of the time even the gloopy characters could do cool things, on the other hand it could be completely ruinous. This is where I part company with the fans of Space Ghost. I say Space Ghost was lame because of his dependence on those dumb kids and their monkey. What was the point of them anyway?

It reached complete lows by the 70s when you had doofus 'heroes' like Hong Kong Phooey and Inch High Private Eye, and by the time we were beyond cartoons our poor baby brothers sucked up reprocessed French cheese like the Smurfs. But even in the early days we got goofballs like The Impossibles, who were fun to watch, but no contest to The Amazing Three or The Fantastic Four. Then finally the whole thing died at the birth of Super Friends with the Wonder Twins. Holy crap, Batman. Super Friends? You call that the Justice League of America?

Anyway, I wasn't all hardcore. I mean I could dig the irony of Jay Ward so I did like Super Chicken, Tom Slick, George of the Jungle and Roger Ramjet. Even though there was no greater whipped character this side of Pepe LePew, I actually did like Underdog. But whatever happened to the great off-beat cartoons like Winky Dink?

You realize of course that it took the Japanese to bring back power and justice to cartoons. And what did that better than Space Cruiser Yamato? Once we decided to go limp with our heroes what could top the moral clarity of Kimba the White Lion, or the upbeat grit and determination (as well as homage to hijinks) that was Speed Racer? Also, if you ask me, I'd take Marine Boy anyday over Aquaman.

I could go on and on, but I have to push the G button in my own Mach 5 and hop to work (if you didn't realize what that graphic was all about). Meanwhile, psychoanalyze yourself over at Toonopedia. I guarantee you will waste half your day.

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February 13, 2006

What Do You Mean We?

For the past several months, there have been race riots all over California inner-city highschools and jails. This is no coincidence, the link between the two is fairly well established. They are the facilities charged with the care and feeding of thousands of blacks and hispanics who have no other distinguishing characteristics as humans other than that they actually represent the ugliest stereotypes.

You would think that this is a matter of urgent concern. It's not mine. These are not 'my people'.

My people are in close proximity to millions of other Americans in the gap between mystery and understanding. The mystery and the myth are the second and third degree accounts of ultimate success in America. Understanding is defense of that ultimate success. Most of the American middle class, if not all of it, lives in that gap.

This is something of an extension of what I've written about before in 'Assume the Position' because it is that assumption we have to deal with when looking to the connection between the putative 'black community' and those African Americans now rioting with their fellow inmates in jail or ghetto highschools.

But enough of that pontification. Right now I just want to give the Biggest Bitchslap Imaginable to Bol for his completely craptastic defense of 'stop snitching'. His bottom line, in order to protect your stash of weed from the cops, it's worth it not to assist them in finding a killer.

Busta Rhymes didn't want to talk to the cops because he's smart. He knows that the hip-hop police's feigned interest in the identity of this bag handler's killer is no more than a simple ploy to glean the contents of The Bag itself and its exact whereabouts. Cooperating with the police in this case, as in most cases, would serve no purpose other than to give them the drop on your stash.

Now that you know what a load of methane has passed through his brain in defense of hiphop, go curse him out on his website and tell him I sent you. He's lost his frickin mind.

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A Daddyman Weekend

Friday my back was killing me. I slept on the sofa last Tuesday and the pain in my lower back was getting progressively worse. Friday morning I had to engineer, as if I were wrestling, some escape from bed. If I moved this leg out, then twisted that much, I could flip over without much pain and then scoot out this direction. I had to get assistance to put on my shoes and socks. It was, without question the second worse back injury I'd ever suffered. The first was gotten the same way, falling asleep on the couch. Well, it's more like crashing on the couch in a position that could only be gotten to unintentionally and sleeping so soundly that you're stuck in that position half the night.

The Sprite, aka F9 had baseball practice on Saturday, and despite my incapacity, I am assistant assistant coach. Her best friend had been over since 10 in the morning and by 1 we were supposed to show up for practice. The problem is that there are too many teams and not enough fields in town for every team to practice. But Coach Brian has a familiarity with odd spots in the community and found us a lovely diamond in a secluded part of the South Bay. I've lived there for about a total of 7 years and I've never been within half a mile of this particular neighborhood which is really stunning considering how close it is to everything. It's just a turn that nobody makes, there's no reason to drive through this area unless you live there. It's a fabulous little area. So after a few McBurgers and several wrong turns, we found the secret spot.

It turns out that F9 has a great swing and won 2nd place in the hitting derby behind the Coach Brian's own daughter who is a chatty prodigy. But she definitely needs some help on catching. It's partially the glove's fault. We're going to have to beat it to a pulp so it will close nicely. Mink oil is supposed to be the cure. I'm just going to run over it with my car, that's what we used to do back in the day and baseball is all about tradition. This is softball though, and watching the Coach teach it is reminding me of several things. One, how much we had to figure out for ourselves when we were kids. Two, how fundamental the fundamentals are. Three, how lousy my own baseball coach was when I finally got one.

F10's clarinet tutor didn't show up, so she continued working on deconstructing the life of Phyllis Wheatley for her school project. She's tooting along OK but gets rather screechy every once in a while. I was happy to not have to deal with hearing much more of that. As long as she shows interest, we continue our parently duties. We found her and the other F the avatar maker that I used to craft the face of 607 on my left sidebar so they continued to dress virtual dolls and create characters and people.

This was a big weekend for the boy. Sunday was Scout Day at the local United Methodist, and he was invited to do a couple things. First, he and his best friend did their now famous rendition of the theme from Veggie Tales on flute and trombone for the children's procession. He then led a call to prayer and then performed a solo at the end of the service. Some cat named James Swearingen is extraordinarily famous if you're in Band, but if you want to download an MP3, you're out of luck. I think this is music only public school music teachers and church musical directors know. Anyway, his rendition of 'Follow the River' was perfectly amplified in the sanctuary and got a big hand. Outside on the front grass, they continued to play for coins.

Then we had a four-way family lunch down at the retro burger cafe in the Riviera. The eight of us adults rambled for a good 90 minutes about New Orleans, international business, children and some other stuff I probably should have paid attention to but didn't while the various widescreen TVs blasted and children took up two other booths. The clam strips were perfect.

Later in the afternoon, sister came by and my dad and I hooked up. He's looking to learn to play piano, so we jetted over to Sam Ash to check out the keyboard selection. It turns out that you can get some very nice feeling Casios for 600 bucks. Makes me want to play. But maybe I ought to stick to bass guitar. Not that I have one, but I miss the fact that I used to be pretty good and now I suck completely. I can't even do 'Good Times' which is your basic staple. Then we swung by Borders to pick up my Ruby books and headed back to the pad.

When we got there, I worked for a while to help F10 plan the garden we're going to build. She's picked out several types of marigolds and sunflowers including a stunning chianti hybrid we found at Next week we head to Home Depot for the planter boxes and various tools. This should be a great project.

I got in some good ripping and added another 500 tracks or so to the collection. I've decided to up the ante and use 320 kpbs for M4a for any song I think I might burn to CD to play in the car. The difference is audible and I've got disk space to burn.

Finally, we all watched Nausicaa, which is a fabulously good tale. Miyazaki does it again. This one is a bit darker than his other works and not quite as nuanced but still excellent. These are a class of stories we simply don't approach for American kids. I don't know why not, but I do know why my kids prefer The Avatar over all other kids' programming.

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February 08, 2006

Just Another Wednesday

The Brother's Cup
This morning I've been wasting a lot of time reading and writing when I should be studying MDX so I can write some cool database extracts. And I've taken a tree-lined bourgie path amongst the black blue bloods. Namely I've been checking out the 100 Black Men websites as well as those for Jack & Jill. All of this following up on reminescences about the Wilfandel Club which I mentioned this week.

I thought about whether or not I should attempt once again to launch The Brother's Cup, a black men's social club in LA. (And I'm bending towards that considering the age of some of those 100 black men, damn I ain't that fogey yet.) There are several difficulties with this idea, most of them logistical. Most of the fellas I know who aren't married don't want anything to do with hanging out with brothers who aren't active wingmen. Most of the fellas I know who are married can not, repeat can not, get away from the wifeandkids, much less cough up 50 bucks or so for the monthly dinner. So where does that leave me? Humph. Blogging and programing the Tivo. But it's a new year and I'm going to give it another shot.

My Son the Geek
I always thought it was in him, but now that he's expressing it the effect is a bit startling. My son actually bored me stiff with his excitement over a Discovery Channel mockumentary called Supervolcano. He has been learning plate tectonics and so every time we get into a fun game of trivia, I have to answer unanswerable questions about slipstrike faults, fracture zones and harmonic tremors.

Reading Time
I have instantiated reading time chez moi. Two of the kids stay up after 9pm. So they have to read now. No idiot box, no Walkman, no phone calls. Just reading. If you don't want to read, go to bed.

All About the Bits
I've set my iTunes rip dial all the way to the max on AAC. 320 is the magic number and it's really a whole lot better. I'm going to re-rip my favorite tunes and re-reap the benefits. If you haven't tried the making M4As instead of MP3s, you ought to try it.

Fires in my Hometown

The weather out here is all bizarre. There is no reason for thousands of acres in eastern Orange County to burn and then for Malibu to catch on fire in February. This isn't fire season, but suddenly the temperature is high and the winds are blowing and crap is burning down. Just as surely as it stops being foggy and rainy, I feel like it's safe to wash The Transporter and sure enough now it's covered in ash. I live thirty miles away from all this, why should I suffer?

I haven't been so challenged with work in a mighty long time. It's really cutting into my blogging and thinking and everything else. I am accustomed to being underemployed. But all the other things I want to be doing, like keeping the TCB portal moving forward, learning Ruby so I can start building XRepublic (I have given up on building a sweat equity collective - eff y'all, I'm taking all the credit), and watching all that crap I recorded on my Tivo. It's not as if my customer is grateful for my blood... Oh well, at least it's not roofing or some other Dirty Job.

Time to listen to some Eric Sardinas.

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February 06, 2006


I don't remember if it was last year or the year before when Janet Jackson did her thing, but I do know that people are still talking about it. I sincerely hope that Gray's Anatomy got the ratings boost it deserves from all that advertising. Oh yeah, and there was a Super Bowl game yesterday too wasn't there?

The single most significant event that I can imagine coming from the victory of the Steelers is that Lynn Swann will get more votes and eventually win the election this year. All of us dark Republicans are squirming in our seats. Other that what is there to be said but trivialities?

I'm rather astounded at the pro-forma feeling that his SB had. I think it takes a lot of nerve to do the Avedon portraits of the players done with the trophy before the game is over. I wouldn't even let the players touch it before the game much less have artistic photo shoots with it. Even as Bart Starr marched the Lombardi up to the pedestal after the game, they touched it before Tagliabue awarded it. Not only that, the whole rehearsing the "I'm going to Disneyworld" thing was really 30 feet over the shark. When are we going to get tired of that?

Here's what I would do. And let the world know I said it here first. Make something really big out of the GoDaddy girl. Maybe get a third set of cheerleaders - the Go Daddy Girls. Run up to the winning quaterback and ask him what he's going to do and he'll say "I got a date with the Go Daddy Girls". Or if he's married, have his kid run up and ask him, "Where are you going to Go Daddy?", and he gives a knowing wink, and he says "Disneyworld", but you know what he's thinking.

As for me, my brother says I look like a football coach. I do. I don't understand what a little hair manipulation can do. We chilled out at his new pad way out in the boonies. He's got the big project HD DLP but dammit the Super Bowl is not presented in HD. What's up with that? Well if it was, it didn't look like HD to me. Maybe bro was lying about the HD. He wasn't lying about the 919 though. Yeah. He let me take a spin on his new Honda 919. I want one. What was amazing to me was the brakes. I almost stoppied just with a few pounds of squeeze on the right caliper. It felt amazingly light and... well I haven't been on a motorcycle in a while. The technology is stupendous these days.

Riding the 919 was definitely the highlight of the day. That and the cocktail franks. I also liked the FedEx commercial. You know you can see them all at Google Video. Cool.

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February 05, 2006

The Man Who Thinks He Can

If you think you're beaten, you are;
If you think you dare not, you don't.
If you'd like to win, but think you can't,
It's almost a cinch you won't.
If you think you'll lose, you've lost;
For out in the world we find
Success being with a fellow's will;
It's all in the state of mind.

If you think you're outclassed, you are;
You've got to think high to rise.
You've got to be sure of yourself
Before you can ever win a prize.
Life's battles don't always go
To the stronger or faster man;
But soon or late, the one who wins
Is the man who thinks he can.

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February 03, 2006

Music Marathon

Right now I am listening to my whole collection of Bobby McFerrin music. I had unchecked all of the songs in iTunes so as to somewhat skew my stats and lay off the McFerrin for a while. Now I'm back with a passionate vengeance. It's not that I had fogotten what his Medicine Music could do for me, it's just that I was in need of stress. Now that I have it in spades, Bobby is equalizing my spirit, putting me back at ease.

The bad news is that after all this time (since 2002) there has yet to be another McFerrin album. He's overdue right about now. The majority of folks have no idea what McFerrin is capable of, which is a shame.

In addition, I have discovered the genius of Keith Jarrett. Apparently, I have the patience now that I never had for that which rambles. I got about 2/3 the way through the documentary DVD about him, and I'm not surprised that some of Jarrett's early work would have turned me off. See I remember crawling through Tower Records Sunset in the bad old days desparately seeking some solo jazz piano. With my limited vocabulary I was trying to find something unboring. So the skinny geeks pointed me towards Jarrett and Cecil Taylor. Then they would throw in Don Cherry and Ornette Coleman just for kicks and I got ill. What I really wanted to hear was Bud Powell and Art Tatum. something crisp and dripping with virtuosity. What I got was some Jarrett with Charles Lloyd banging random shit and some Cecil Taylor that actually registered something on the verge of comprehensibility. And Liz Story. Ain't that a blip? The year was 1987. I went back to Starfish & Coffee. Now Jarrett's renditions of standards makes perfect sense to me and I plan to get my hands on some more.

Also on the straight up tip, I am so loving Nancy Wilson that my head hurts. There's nothing you can do but cry when you hear the purity and sweetness of her voice. I begin to think that there will never ever be another you Nancy and I weep for my country thinking she might die broke. If I were the millionaire I should have been by now, you would find Nancy singing at my club, Mr B's.

Someday. Someday in the future, in New York City, there will be a joint on 57th Street. Maybe on the very spot of the Russian Tea Room, I'll have my club.

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February 02, 2006

Link Storm

It's still the beginning of 2006 and I have not yet broken any of my resolutions. I don't miss Pringles and I haven't eaten any french fries. But what I haven't done enough of is link up to people I ought to, including blog readers and league-mates. So. On the off chance that any of you all have accounts on LinkedIn, get in touch with me via my email and we'll extend our network. There's a lot of business opportunity out there and I said I wanted to get networked for real. Now is the time and LinkedIn is the right place.

Posted by mbowen at 04:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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 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?

Posted by mbowen at 03:48 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

January 07, 2006

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.

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January 06, 2006

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.

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December 15, 2005

The Death of Sixo

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

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

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

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

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

Needed: Six Hiphop Listeners

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

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

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

December 08, 2005

100 Songs from 1978

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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December 07, 2005

A Day in the Sun

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

I got that, sorta.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 02, 2005

Wayback Machine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 24, 2005

From My Family to Yours


May God find you safe and in good health. Peace.

Posted by mbowen at 07:59 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Sisters & Daughters

Is there any question that I have a great deal to be thankful for?

Posted by mbowen at 07:57 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 23, 2005

Under A Bushel

Well it turns out that I wasn't so unpopular after all.

Suddenly my blogging has had one of those Claritin moments. What I thought I saw, had only been vaguely perceived. Whereas I thought that I was very influential but surprisingly unpopular, it turns out that I'm way more popular than I thought. About five or six times. Thanks to a cat names James Joyner, I have discovered that I really should be putting some hit counting code in more than one place on the blog. Ya think? Now I can actually count those hits that go anywhere else but the front page. It really does make sense.

I'll have to wait a few weeks to get a solid idea of what kind of traffic I actually get, but I basically doubled what I thought my avarage daily traffic was before lunch today. So even though this is something of a holiday, it's clear that I do more than 1000 hits a day. It's a sigh of relief, I guess. Now I have to seriously think about what opportunities I've been passing up because I thought my duckling was more arcane and ugly than it actually is. Namely PJ Media. (sigh) Mo' hits, mo' problems.

But it's a good problem to have.

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The Return to Saint John's

This has been an emotional month for me, and I think I've finally had the incident that's going to kill Cobb and bear Lucifer Jones. Perhaps it will find fulfillment next month as I volunteer for the Adams Harbor.

Adams Harbor will take place at St. John's Episcopal Church on December 17. There will be about 1000 children who will show up, poor and hungry looking for Santa Claus. I'll be there. At the Peace on Sunday, I went up to shake Larry's hand and he embraced me instead. I asked him how he was doing and he said he was feeling lousy because a crack addict he was expecting didn't show up for the 10 o'clock service. It hit me all at once, thinking about Ted Hayes and people on the ground, and during the announcement when Larry said we were 10 people short for the Adams Harbor, I knew I had to be there.

Not only that, I'm inviting you.

I'm going to bring a bunch of people to the Adams Harbor and I'm going to return on a more regular basis to St. John's. It has really crashed and burned as a parish. The scandalous failure of Lynn Collins has wrecked the place and I cannot allow that to continue. . Why? Because, of every church I have ever attended, St. John's goes the deepest with me. There's a lot of ways to explain that but it doesn't really require an explanation. When I returned to my pew near the front on the left where I always sit, I just had a 'Bad Lieutenant' moment. I broke down and cried like I haven't in years. It was not about anything in particular, it's just that at that moment on my knees in the house of God, I felt that I could. It just occured to me that there is no other place where I am capable of having such humility set upon me. And so I weeped for 15 minutes, coughing and snotting and snuffling like a boy who has seen his dog run over in the street.

I was confirmed into the Episcopalian faith at this parish when I was 16 years old by an archbishop. That's almost 30 years of history for me. I can still remember giggling with my best friend Richard in the Gospel Choir where I was a reluctant alto hoping my voice would break so I could sing tenor. I can remember the processions on Palm Sunday that began down the street on Adams Boulevard. I can remember counting money with the Vestry and making the deposits at Bank of America. I remember winning a 7up popcorn popper at the disco dance contest. I remember the youth group, 'The Images of the Future' with Gwen and Valerie and Kevin and Bea and all the others. Kevin still comes; he lives in Cerritos now. I have to take him to lunch. I have to hug these people.

Most of all I have to engage the my destiny as the KFSC. I said that if I had all the money in my imagination, I would become the Kung Fu Santa Claus. I need to balance the ass-kicking and start distributing largess. I'll start there and then.

Posted by mbowen at 07:58 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 13, 2005

I of the Norm

While Googling Danziger I found his Normblog interview and I realized that I'm probably not fulfilling my chatting class obligations. Nothing so reminds me of this as when I find myself in the company of charming couples who don't actually bleat on about their equity. So there are a dozen questions that nobody actually gets to ask me and so I presume that nobody knows that I care. Well, about the poetry they're probably right. I realize that I am not humble enough to wait my turn to be recognized, so I do my own Normblog interview. Sorry Norm.

Why do you blog? > I'm unable to overcome my compulsion for writing and I actually believe that I can attract Socratic dialog. Plus somebody told me that I can actually turn a phrase.

What has been your best blogging experience? > Periodically, I am able to make sense of two or three previous posts and weave them together in such a way as to confirm my own speculations in light of what has transpired. I think I'm typical in that I really enjoy when I get good comments and somebody sets me straight in a way I can understand and respect.

What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > Talk about what you see, then look for something else to see.

What are your favourite blogs? > Avery Tooley, American Digest, Dan Drezner

Who are your intellectual heroes? > Freeman Dyson, John Boyd, Borges

What are you reading at the moment? > 'Overworld' by Larry Kolb & 'Bonfire of the Humanities', by Hanson et al.

Who are your cultural heroes? > Denzel Washington, Brian Lamb, Wynton Marsalis & Desmond Tutu

What is the best novel you've ever read? > That's a tough one. After some consideration I'd say 'Cryptonomicon' not because of the writing, but because of the way it engrossed me. It's the largest book I simply could not put down, although I could say the same thing about 'Underworld' by DeLillo or Russell Banks' 'Cloudsplitter'.

What is your favourite poem? > My vocabulary in poetry is very slim. I'd have to say there is very little outside of 'Father William' from Alice in Wonderland that I can even recall.

What is your favourite movie? > My kneejerk reaction is Kurosawa's 'Ran' and it has been for years, but I think Julie Tamor's 'Titus' takes the cake. It's very nearly a perfect movie in every way.

What is your favourite song? > This is impossible. I'm going to say there's a three way tossup between Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, John McLaughlin's version of 'Django' and SRV's 'Little Wing'.

Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > Lots. I don't know what that makes me, other than scientific perhaps. But I think the major issue upon which I've changed is the sanctity and centrality of the middle-class, which is to say that I embrace it whereas I had always rejected it.

What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > Perfect is the enemy of good.

What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > Eclecticism and empowerment of the alternative.

Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > 'The Mind's I' edited by Douglas R. Hofstadter pretty much launched my own intellect in my profession. It gave me a way to think about thinking and consciousness that informs the theoretical boundaries of computing and what created intelligences are capable of imparting to us. It's literally about the thinkable.

Who are your political heroes? > I don't generally think of politics as heroic, or rather I should say that I am not particularly attuned to heroic sacrifices within politics because it seems to be little more than the persistence of simple morality against subtly powerful corruption. However given what I know of Churchill's struggles I'd have to give him the nod. I'd also say that Stephen Biko is also extraordinarily laudable as is Medgar Evers.

If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > Mandate some kind of citizen service more demanding and informative than jury duty - something that illustrates the centrality of the Constitution. Perhaps caring for the victims of extra-constitutional abuse.

What would you do with the UN? > Narrow its charter to nation building, period. Make the UN the transitional authority for the systematic dispossesion of despots. Pick a Least Favored Nation, assemble armies, and go. Make it like the Olympics on an 8 year basis.

What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > The opacity of the several classes above 'American Rich'. The good and bad that they do in the world is too much driven by personalities. The world needs a global middle-class.

Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > There are much brighter days ahead.

What do you consider the most important personal quality? > Integrity.

Do you have any prejudices you're willing to acknowledge? > I don't like dainty people. I am particularly perturbed by spoiled dainty people. Spoiled dainty people who complain are begging for a knuckle sandwich. There is nothing so annoying to me as a Mercedes-Benz parked in the handicapped zone.

What commonly enjoyed activities do you regard as a waste of time? > Gossip.

Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > This may sound strange, but I've always fantasized about having a castle / underground complex built on top of one of the great mesas in the American Southwest.

What would your ideal holiday be? > Horseback trek across a continent.

What is your most treasured possession? > An old Seiko diver's watch.

What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > Nothing would please me better than to be able to play jazz piano or roadhouse blues guitar.

How, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money? > I'd become the kung-fu Santa Claus, wandering the earth alternatively kicking ass and bestowing largess.

If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be? > Winston Churchill, Thomas Jefferson and Richard Feynman.

What animal would you most like to be? > A hunting dog with a proper master. It means I would completely understand my purpose, I would remain close to both the best of humanity and of the wild. I could meet the demands the instincts I was bred for and think I was the luckiest creature in all creation. I'd dream of chasing rabbits all during the week, and actually chase them on the weekends.

Posted by mbowen at 11:21 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Eating Nemo

The third thing that you notice about Marc Danziger is that he's older than he looks and he has probably heard that amusing anecdote you're about to tell before. The second thing you notice is that he's totally unphony and genuinely interested in holding court, and he's good at it.

Last night, court was held at Ocean Seafood, downtown in Chinatown. We expected a couple dozen but became about 10 gradually thinking we might only be five. Among the courtesans as the Moscone-Schmitz Roundtable were Flap and his better half, Dave who remained rather reserved through the evening, Pamela the Kerry Goddess, Rand of Interplanetary Musings, Juliette, my brother Doc, Marc and myself. The guy whose name I forgot set me straight on some Long Tail implications, but he was on my bad ear side and some of his wisdom was garbled in translation.

There was nothing that quite got us rollicking but it was a pleasant kind of disjointedness to the whole affair. I was in desparate need of the distraction since spent all of yesterday on a conference call from hell. And I'm sure I've repeated that enough times so that it's all anyone will remember besides my 'Republican-mobile'. BTW, I wasn't the one who said that it's the door-prize for the black republican club, that was some snarky trackbacker.

The food went from pretty damned good to excellent. My pick was the pan-fried oysters in black bean sauce. The squid in ginger and garlic was the bomb, and Nemo was delicate and crispy at the same time. In the old tradition of Chinese seafood restaurants, our host picked out a fish which was brought to our table in a ziplock bag and displayed proudly. It flopped a bit gasped for breath a couple times while the waiter held it high. Marc stared it down, eyeball to eyeball and proclaimed that it should be sacrificed for our benefit. It came back deeply tanned from the fryer. I didn't get any of the cheeks, and they left most of the head off, but there was some sweet meat near the gills.

As the lazy susan spun our jasmine tea and delicacies, and my head spun a bit after a couple Jim Beams, we loosened up and discussed a million things from strange combinations of food in exotic locales to politics and blogging. (Ya think?). I'm surprised to find that the Dems in our presence tend to believe that Hillary might actually do something. Considering that the Left is out of ideas and really just need somebody popular, she might do. Flap says some guy named Allen might be Giuliani's Veep to satiate the insatiable Christian Right. We mumbled about other causes and effects of Bush Derangement Syndrome, and Pamela reminded us poignantly that the myth of the nuclear family is a myth - so who gets the tax cuts? We mused about the electability of Angelites, who has all of the charisma of Nemo there and the inimitable weiniehood of Grey Davis. Notably Marc reminded us that indeed the Democrats have been spoiled by success and their ability to fight Vietnam over and over again is one note that is beginning to sour all of us. Amen to that.

Danziger is a walking encyclopedia of Cali politics. He's a good guy to have around because he's been around. It turns out that his wife and I have a mutual acquaintance in a Superior Court judge, and that we probably see eye to eye on some matters of technical management. One of these days I'm going to find out if they can cook. In the meantime I'll be trying to read more blogs. I know, I keep promising.

We broke up around 11, and lagged around until they threw us out. All promised to return. I'm in.

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

November 07, 2005

Things I Learned Today

Today, I learned that there is a Java packing utility in the JDK called jar. And I can use jar to create jar files - it has pretty much the same syntax as tar. If you use tar, or zip, you'll never get your application running. Why they created this weird standard is beyond me. Doesn't anyone trust zip?

I also learned that the new version of Websphere is very nice and the interface has all of the bugs worked out that I remember from 2003.

Never underestimate the power of habit embedded in bureacracy. When the problem is glaring, and the solution is obvious, but there's a very good bureacratic reason, people will pay for consultants to stay in Seattle an extra day. I'll never go broke being a consultant.

Sears kicks ass. Two Arrow sweaters for 50 bucks. I was going to go to Target but I said what the hey. I recall that Mr. Lewis was taking over the joint, so why drive all the way of to Redmond when there's a Sears right here in Bellevue? It turns out that I'm digging the new Craftsman fashion work duds. In the home of grunge, I could see this happening. Or not. The point is that there's serious competition to Target, and I'm down with that.

Prime rib at Stuart Andersons is pretty damned good, but much better after two doubles of Jim Beam.

My boy lost his flute. I'm going to strangle him.

'Family Guy' is pretty damned funny.

Axe body spray has the coolest commercials on TV, next to Scion.

Politics is not as rewarding as reading spy novels. Soon come, a review of 'Overworld'.

Posted by mbowen at 09:00 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 05, 2005

The Transporter

I deserve a break today. So I went out and bought the car from one of my favorite action flicks. This is my fourth BMW. I decided against the sportier 540, which was actually less. It had flashier rims and the tiptronic transmission, but I don't need a chick magnet at my age. This 740il is plenty roomy in the back for the little Bowens, and the stereo is adequate. Now I have to figure out the GPS and all the other knobs...

Posted by mbowen at 12:32 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

November 02, 2005

Crossing the Rubicon

I've been too blackified these past two weeks, and now I'm getting ill. The reason is because of my immersion in a shark tank of crude black liberals and wannabe progressives of dubious distinction. My fault for wandering into the cave with my conservative flashlight, like some suburban teen in a horror flick. I'm accustomed to getting dents in the dome, but I'm afraid my old age has given me too much self-respect and now I ain't havin' it.

Yet it is with some bit of surprise that I found myself writing the following bit:

let me suggest that the black man's ability to survive in America depends upon his ability to manage his affairs with dignity in the face of racial prejudice and bigotry. This facility either exists or it doesn't. Joining one party or another has no bearing on the skill. If one develops the skill in earnest, then his facility, like any other, grows sharper with use. I am coming to the point at which my own skill is more exercised by black attacks on my person simply for having joined and defended the Republicans, than by Republicans of any stripe. And it is this facility that is making me weary of you feeble attempts to paint our political ambitions in terms of some subservience to 'the white racist enemy within'.

It is with that that I have crossed the Rubicon and joined the ranks of overexposed black conservatives who speak spitefully of their alienation. It is a condition not to be envied, but edifying nonetheless. Although its liberating qualities have yet to give me peace, I anticipate this soon. Nevertheless, I intend on remaining chilled out. I know who raised me and what I'm supposed to be - I got too much family to heed those threats.

This is very much reminding me of my days of wearing the backwards baseball cap with my email address on it, back in 1993 - before the theory of the Digital Divide was invented. Liberal black professors didn't even realize the sinecure possible pimpin' that angle. So when I recognized their antipathy, I just had to come out and say the Internet was for me and people like me, the rest of yall can take the bus and thus gave up a possibly lucrative gig building websites for black American institutions.

So when the first search engines were finding my stuff on Toni Morrison before Toni Morrison's own stuff (and the SPLC and god know who else), I was off in another direction. Saying I told you so doesn't make me feel good now, I told you so over a decade ago.

And so it is today with the Republican party. I'm doing what I do because that's how I do. Haters are part of the game.

So the identity politics of some black progressives have it in their interests to assert that the normative whiteness of America is not only a fertile breeding ground for white supremacist politics, but that it is a fait accomplit, and that the Republican Party is the party of white hegemonic domination over blackfolks. This thinking is so deeply ingrained that a measured evaluation of the actual policies of the GOP is not even considered reasonable. But most importantly, black conservatives are singularly unqualified to provide that evaluation. Why, because by any number of definitions, we are unsuited to the task of racial meliorization. Speaking for myself, I'm not in it for the sake of 'brokerage politics'. I'm in it because it makes sense to me.

What the black progressives want is a capitulation by whitefolks in the GOP. They want nothing less than a host of apologies and initiatives that will wash America clean of its racist past. The very idea that blacks have to DEAL, is not part of the program. That's why black conservatives (all us Toms) get no play. Because we presumeably don't need the anti-racist mojo of the Left. And to a certain extent it's true - at least I wouldn't mind claiming this to be true of myself. I'm where Ralph Ellison was. Nobody can make me feel less of a man because of my black skin. Nobody. So I walk without fear of inferiority anywhere. Lily white doesn't bend my psyche. So I don't need apologies, nor do I need the apology extraction industry. I don't need white America to be any better than it is for me to succeed.

But I have not lost my facility to be anti-racist. I'm the one who was taking that message to predominantly white areas while others were fertilizing yet unhatched schemes in their pitch-black caves. So it shouldn't come to me as a surprise that I see through their provincial racial prejudices. That doesn't change the fact that it comes as a disappointment. And while I realize that this was the work of a half-dozen or so within an online community of a hundred or so, it's the way I learned this lesson.

As for the rest of black America - those who don't see it my way, what is their fate? I don't know. I don't second-guess blackfolks. It might be appropriate for me to say that I don't care, because I have concluded that African American destiny is bound to America's fate. To the extent that 'black' is not an organization capable of going in another direction, there is nothing to care about. There is no program with which to disagree. There are just self-identified black folks of various political stripes exercising their rights, and sometimes wearing on my nerves. But that's all good because I don't need black America to be any better than it is for me to succeed.

At other such junctures, I would say that it would be about time to write a new version of my "End of My Blackness" essay. Except that my own blackness never ends, it just fails to resonate with whatever prejudicial assessments of blackness predominate at the moment. This is no longer painful. All I need to do to endlessly confound and confuse my critics is to gather them in a room and issue the following two words: Define Black.

I can feel the peacefulness start to creep into my system

Posted by mbowen at 08:18 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 19, 2005

A Black Day

The kids are home from school. I'm on the beach. I have some expense reports to complete but otherwise I am free to indulge the braincells. So here's what I've decided to do.

I'm going to have a Fishbone marathon on the iTunes and read something from every black blog on the Negrophile blogroll. I am therefore going to create, my own instant Carnival of the Darkside.

For some reason, I have a creeping sense of claustrophobia in the black blog world. I tried to get a million people to pay attention to the fact that John Conyers was online, and nobody cared. Or so it seems. OK so let me plumb the depths and see what I come up with. In the italics will be the Fishbone song which may or may not have anything to do with the blog excerpt of the minute.

Subliminal Fascism
(damn that was quick)

Bonin' in the Boneyard
When was the president really going to fire Karl Rove, asks Blackprof.

Jai has got some kickin' gear. Portable DAT. Me like.

Mighty Long Way
Allison bemoans life in NYC. But at least there's De La Soul and Lauryn Hill.

I'm not sure what to make of Faye Anderson. Is she turning into another bitter and ineffective clone of Julianne Malveaux? This week she's full of piss and vinegar. Nobody meets with her satisfaction. She just cries out for outrage. Yeah well I have those weeks too.

Shana cracks me up with her parody of Kirk Franklin. I've had those weeks as well.

Hey Ma & Pa
Now I know what the baldheaded dude was all about when I cruised through Oprah yesterday. Thanks Rod.

Pouring Rain
The Brotha Code is dead. Don't bother.

Chippla is all over the world. Too deep for me.

Dell Gines wrestles with a moniker. I hope he keeps conservative, for a number of reasons that I won't go into. I like his stuff a lot.

Ghetto Soundwave
There's a huge group blog Global Voices which ain't black but brown. What to make of it? Too much to tell. Just know it's there.

Dare Obasanjo hipped me to Cool stuff

Love & Hate
Mz Powderpink is partying with Brey-Brey and also putting hilarious words in GWB's mouth. Damn. My eyes hurt after reading that blog.

Cool photos at Bluemoaner.

The Humanity Critic tracks the faded careers of Da Brat, Saigon and Royce da 5'9.

Somethings just defy my sense of the real. One of those things is that it might be actually possible to write down a recipe for gumbo. I'm looking at it, but I just don't believe it.

OK it doesn't matter what Honeysoul has to say, just check out the mugs on the sidebar. Damn, where was the blogosphere when I was single?

Obsidian Bear explains 'hasbiens'.

Planet Grenada is in the same place as I am. Time to review what the blogosphere is.

Wait a minute... I just realized how huge the Negrophile blogroll is. I'm never going to finish this. I guess that's going to have to suffice for the moment. Maybe I'll update some more later today. My head is starting to swim...

Posted by mbowen at 09:33 AM | TrackBack

October 11, 2005

2 Cops, 1 Night, Alright

My loyal opposition reminded me today that he has had something on the order of 21 DWBs in the 'burbs. I had one tonight, or did I?

My brother Doc, the LAPD cop, came to pick me up at 8:30 this evening. I was just indoctrinating my daughter with the Western scientific method and helping her understand which way the wind would blow on a hot day at the beach. Once she figured it out, Doc and I headed downtown to pick up the Batteram.

Pops old Dodge Ramcharger has been in the family since I don't know how long. Now it's time to cycle to me, since we are now in the unenviable position of being a one-car suburban family. How do we face the Joneses? At any rate, it hadn't been started in about three weeks so we had to jump it. The location? Top level of the police garage downtown LA.

As we pulled into the structure, I noticed the large SWAT truck parked under the bright lights over near the mechanics' bays. Doc swung the El Camino in and parked at an erratic angle, jumped out and went to get some jumper cables from the on-duty mechanic. I sat in the passengers seat of an obviously illegally parked car as officers of all descriptions rolled in and out of the garage. I suppose I'm more or less used to it, but it was an unusual situation.

On the way downtown, Doc complained about illegal immigrants, blackfolks in New Orleans, the black man whom he stopped for speeding in an AMG Mercedes who called 'DWB' although he had burned rubber at two successive intersections. He told Doc, 'they didn't hire you for your winning personality did they'. Doc replied, 'please sign the summons'. Doc vented some of his frustrations and gave me his theory about violence. Violence, he says, is the inevitable result of people who refuse to back down in arguments with people they can't stand. Makes sense to me. Crime, he says, is the result of individuals who have no skills to work within the economy. They simply use force instead of skills, then force becomes their skill, unless I do my job.

But what stuck with me most was his understanding of the problem of homelessness. The real problem is joblessness, says Doc. But there's an embedded bureacracy that provides homes and shelter for people who don't work. They therefore have no incentive to work. It's not a police problem, but a problem of political will. So around skid row, where he works, it manifests itself in a municiply sponsored permanent underclass. When the Olympics came to Los Angeles, there were no bums on Skid Row. We clean up for foreigners, but not for ourselves. Ourselves, we have no law enforcement against people who crap on the streets. You see, there is no city department chartered to clean human wasted from the sidewalk. It's classified as a biohazard, so it's illegal to hose it down the sewers. The Fire Department won't do it. So it sits. Nobody wants to be responsible for doing the right thing, and would-be educated people obfuscate and say there is no right thing to do.

These were some of my thoughts as the mechanic fashioned jumper cables out of an old battery charger.

We drove up to the top floor and found the Batteram on a clear fall evening. Doc pointed to the red lights on the top of his highrise apartment near Bunker Hill. But then he walked me over to one of the training areas. There were cones and a couple of squad cars in one corner of the roof of the parking structure. He showed me the basic changes in police policy since the Devin Brown shooting. What officers now do takes them more out of harm's way in a felony stop. They take different tactical positions around their vehicle and better understand the dynamics of what damage a stopped vehicle might do if the suspect decides to use it as a weapon. Cool stuff.

The Ram turned over on the third try, we moved the needle 1/8 of the way off E with $20 of regular and I dropped him off home. I then headed back to the beach amazed that it's going to cost me 90 bucks to fill up that beast, plus it needs a new battery, an oil change and the registration needs to be updated. Well, at least the truck itself was free. Can't complain.

I got used to the gears and found myself oddly comfortable in the behemoth 4WD beast, sitting up in the air grumbling down the Harbor Freeway at 55 mph. It was just about 10 something when I noticed a cop noticing me about a mile from my house. He took his time and then lit me up after sitting behind me in the left turn lane four blocks from my crib.

I spoke to the youngish officer through the windlet, the main windows don't roll down. So he asked me to open the door and turn off the engine. I told him I can't because then I couldn't get it started again. No registration, I know. No proof of insurance I know. I just got it from my brother and I'm taking it home. He said he pulled me over because my registration was over in March. I said I thought it was February, he said 'same difference'. I handed him my license and answered one or two other questions. I tried not to think about the fact that I couldn't see his partner although I knew he was there somewhere. Immediately it reminded me of something Doc said about officers' orientation at stops. We're predators, we keep things in our sights. Officers stay behind stopped drivers so they can see everything the suspect does, but the suspect cannot see the officers.

I got my license back and the officer told me not to park on the streets. I could get a ticket. "I'm not going to give you a ticket but somebody else might, even if it's not street cleaning day." That was the end of it. I drove home and parked it on the street. If I have to bump start it in the morning, I have some hill to roll down. Now I really have to go to Firestone.

As I told the spousal unit why I was late, it occured to me to write this blog entry. I realize that some people would think that this evening was utterly remarkable for a black man. I think that such people don't have a very good idea of what a black man is. But that's the country we live in.

Posted by mbowen at 10:39 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Triangulation & Greensboro Wrapup

This week, having spent more time in close proximity and spirited debate with liberals that I have in quite some time, I have a new way of understanding our differences. The good conservative, like the good programmer, is lazy. The good liberal is tireless. Liberals appear to us to be like dogs chasing their own tails, or visionaries on a quest for the impossible, and I find myself thinking (but not saying) when do you have time to bring up your kids? But all that is beside the point. Debating current events is always great fun, and if I like you, I like you no matter how wrong and foolish you are.

I mentioned something during introduction the other day that I suppose makes me a bit more unique, and I only got to explain it at length to George Entenman. That was the fact that I run both a Progressive blog, over at Vision Circle as well as a Conservative League. My views, are more clearly conservative and I think that conservatives have more to offer, but that takes a little explaining. You see, as far as the politics of blackfolks are concerned there is a progression from that of human rights - fighting against slavery and lynching. After those battles were won, the Negro proceded to work for Civil Rights and beyond that to Black Consciousness. I say that the battle for Civil Rights is won and needs marginal defense and now that the edge of the struggle is for social power. The politics of social power are what certain classes of African Americans are engaged in, but for the overall population, the politics are in transition. My aim here is to make the differentiation between Liberalism, Progressivism and Conservatism clear such that it shows that that what is in the interest of certain blackfolks is not in the interest of all. If we are not to accept a racist reduction of the complexity of black life, then we cannot say one size of politics fits all. Too many Americans don't understand that.

My session went very well. I had about 30 people in the studio. I didn't think that many folks were going to stick around for the last sessions on the last day, but they did. It turned out that I got a chance to cover all kinds of things that were fairly well recieved. Stewart caught me in a pose I've never seen of myself which proves something uncanny about photobloggers that I hope draws more attention to their work.

It turns out, much to my surprise, that I was on. Days before the conference, I wasn't quite sure what I was going to do. It turned out that I had a couple of evenings that rival the last time I was on. And have been in that groove, make more of an impression than I thought possible. So at this time, I'd like to explain any elbows thrown, but also clarify in general how it is that I bridge the gap between black conservatism and black progressivism.

What I think it's difficult to understand about my perspective is that I am in the business of helping people make decisions. So I first find out what is important to them and then try to find all the information relevant, then apply the necessary discipline to a sound decision-making process. Finally, I give them some perspective on what others before them have discovered, especially in the process, then I turn them loose into the undiscovered country. It's not all about me being right, it's about injecting confidence into what many percieve as a shaky system - because they haven't been using the system correctly or with the experience of a veteran. It's what I do professionally, and it's what I do in my online writing. I am a facilitator of analysis. Personally, it means I'm in the business of attacking people's conclusions based on the lack of discipline I am able to percieve in their thought process and scope of data. But since it's not all about me, I attack with subtlety, 'like a splinter in your mind'. Basically, I like to accellerate people to their destinations, wherever that destination may be. So I wish all earnest people success, I just don't always want to go there with them.

Triangulation is not really what I'm all about, I'm seeking clarity and differentiation, not so much a Third Way. Still, it's a good way to approach the subject.

Posted by mbowen at 10:58 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 08, 2005

NC Shoutouts

Here is my carnival of shoutouts to my new friends met in Greensboro.

First I have to thank Ed Cone for inviting me to Greensboro. It's clear that he's the man, and in many ways the kind of enabler I would hope to be.

Shoutouts go to my three new families, the folks that made me feel comfortable by putting up with my big head througout the weekend. Dan & Janet from down the Peninsula way. We cracked some good jokes and had some good drinks. Janet, there was nothing wrong with your eye. Dan, it's a good thing we didn't have to close down that bar, I was getting a bit wobbly. You would have had to deal with the Army Shirt, yourself. Dave & Jinni from Aycock. I'm not going to forget your hospitality and you have definitely put Greensboro on the relocation map for me. One of these days we're going to have to have a kid's concert. In the meantime I'm going to get you postage so you can get me some pork. Also David and Lisa hanging out after dinner. Good convo - I wish we could have brought it back around to Diebold code and dogs, but I imagine that we would have sooner or later. I dig you all's passion but I was getting worn out.

Other shoutouts, to my hometown homie Cutler. To Jill and Joya, more power to you. See you after victory, which is no doubt coming soon. To Mickey, thanks for your gracious offer. It turns out that I have a 10:30 flight anyway, but I look forward to the day when we can get fairly deep into our questions. Maybe before Lucifer Jones.

To Duncan & Mathew: Conquer Mexico! It's absolutely shocking to me that you got over 500 comments. It is like a strange disturbance in the force. Anyway. Death to post-modernists, and explain why you suggest VDH is not worth reading.

Shoutouts go to Tiffany for keeping a level head during a semi-hijack. You handled it like a pro. Also thanks for the plug. Christy, sorry about the mixup and thanks for the correction. A toast to real mountains. George, thanks for stopping by, it's always good to hear from engineers. To Michael, I didn't get to follow up on your Panthers theory of literature. Some people don't know when to shutup. To Chris Nolan for injecting some much needed skepticism and some historical perspective. To Stewart for the flavor of repetitive motion and to Chris for the interview. Thanks a million - hey can I get a copy of that tape? BTW, now you know that I give better soundbites than Sharpton. tsk tsk tsk.

Shoutouts also go to Arthea, Ms. Rose and the other gracious staff at NCA&T. You guys have got it going on, and your students are unsung heroes for their tech support. To Chaka for finding my schwag and to JC for the lift.

A special recgonition and thanks goes to all of you who showed up at my session. You know I could have kept talking forever... Thanks for your questions and all the directions we went. Remember to trackback!

Also shouts to Bora, Napolitano, Roch, Shu, Lex (dinner was the bomb), and a double shout out to Dave Hoggard for the hugs and hospitality. I had a blast.

The people and community of Greensboro are lucky to have all yall, and I guess I've gotten out of here with just enough reality to keep my vision of Greensboro properly romantic. Next time we'll do the full tour. Oh yeah and who called 'Miles Ahead' Blues and Jazz? Man you can keep that folksy stuff.

Posted by mbowen at 08:31 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

October 07, 2005

Greensboro NC - Day One - Afternoon

Shu is the 'Blog Hunter'. He tells me that Drupal and CivicSpace mak a good combination for a community portal. This is his platfrom for putting together some support for the VFW.

The Ethics of Blogging
Quote of the day "Big media tells you 'Trust Me', a blogger says 'Don't trust me, here's what I think, find out for yourself.' The hilarity contained in that from the POV of an ex-New Yorker, is that 'trust me' translates in yiddish to 'fuck you'.

Nothing else from the afternoon stands out particularly. My experience of Rosen's lecture was sidetracked by the burning question in my head that was deferred until the end - although it didn't dry up like a raisin in the sun.

Posted by mbowen at 10:18 AM | TrackBack

Greensboro NC - Day One - Morning

Two minutes, she said. Ten minutes later, I realized that she must have thought that I was driving. But I walked the distance from Downtown to NCAT where the conference got started. I was hoping to make it in time to get some sausages and orange juice. As it turned out, I found a nice lady, Ms Rose who was driving over to the conference center from the office of University Relations that I just happened by.

So I got here. But there were no sausages.

I caught the ending part of the opening session, and it became even clearer to me that this conference is definitely of some benefit to the NCAT students who comprised about a good third of the audience.

Voices from Iraq
Two young ladies spoke about their experiences with communicating with American soldiers. There wasn't a great deal of surprises in their stories. They were stationed in Baghdad inside the Green Zone and were decidedly about blogging about the lives of the soldiers. By avoiding the politics of the siutation, they tried to humanize the situation. Me, I need some hardball politics to get me interested, but there were some interesting revelations.

My quersion was bout the character of reporting and the contrast between American journalists vs foreign journalists. They said that they never left the Green Zone, and quite frankly I couldn't see either of these two young women wanting to even if they could. But that there were a good number of foreign correspondants who were going to the badlands.

After the sessions, a guy from the local Fox affiliate gave me a 5 minute interview. He had recorded some of my keystrokes for the audio track, and then asked me a few questions. Being the guy from Los Angeles helped, not to mention my photgenics. So watch Channel 8 tonight. You might see me.

Community Building
I know that I like Dave Hoggard for a number of reasons, but I can't remember the reasons. It doesn't matter because he's here, I'm here and we're happy to be here together. Tonight he's got the BBQ going, so I'll be happy to be there too. His was the first presentation in the Community Building forum. Dave is one of those people for whom 'guileless' applies nicely. His honesty is refreshing, and that's why he's the man giving the party. It turns out that there were people from all around who threw a party for his family to raise funds to help meet some cancer bills. Talking about a family member's cancer is not the easiest way to make friends, but one whiff of Dave's enthusiasm shows that he deserves it.

I think I finally understand Carnivals. I never even bothered to check it out. But now, thanks to a guy named Bora, I understand. I'm going to have to figure out how to get a few going.

It turns out that Bora is doing some interesting work to hookup people in the sciences through his connection to Tangled Bank. So the trick about Carnivals is that a different blogger will host a linkfest and rotate on a regular basis. You submit your best blogpost and that works anthropologically. Hmm.

Quote of the day "Glenn Reynolds is standing in the middle of the merry-go-round with his hands up."

I got into it a little bit about our conversation with each other that the blogosphere is enabling, very much in line with what I said in Las Vegas. Fortunately, Dave Winer piped up with the monkey wrench of the day. Unfortunately it happened at the end of the session just when time was about up, and then the room spilled over into his corner instead of to the dais. Since I have a bit to say on the matter, I'll take it up in a separate post. His question - "What difference does it make?"

A cat named Doug recorded a touch of our conversation. Winer's idea that died at the 'Altamont of blogging conferences' was about a couple of respectful disagreements as a blog. Left vs Right with respect. I could do that, and I believe that's what's going on at Begging to Differ. So while I grant Dave is not being disingenuous, I'm not sure what a public display of civility is going to do. Will people care?

Posted by mbowen at 09:44 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 06, 2005

Greensboro NC - Day Zero

I'm sitting ate gate C27 in Chicago belching up the last remnants of hotdog and Coke, wondering if I actually have a hotel room. It's not that Ed hasn't been organized, it's just that I don't have my normal emailed itineraries downloaded. I know the hotel is supposed to be cozy and funky, but I don't know the name of the hotel.

I'm a bit scribbleheaded but glad to be out of the ordinary grind. I won't miss that air-conditioned supercomputer center much, but at least I had fallen into a groove. Greensboro is going to be free-form, loose, give and take. I'll speak, I'll listen. It will be good. I'm into the entire improvisational mood of it already; my flight is an hour late and that's OK.

Tomorrow is the journalism part of the conference. Tonight when I get to my room, I'll sit up and blog some more and map out a strategy for my session which I think is an hour. An hour is no time at all, really. I need to come up with a distinguished soundbite and several useful anecdotes. The difficulty in the timing of all this is that I'm doing a complete review of multiculturalism in reading Hanson, Heath and Thornton. It's taking me back to my strong defense of Allan Bloom in the 80s and my original affinity for Bill Bennett. To the extent that Identity is part currency of blogging and some of the subject of my presentation, I'm going to be more provocative than persuasive. Identity and politics mix, but in the abstract they raise conflicts with classic ideas and modernism. In other words, does it matter who you are (vis a vis multiculturally privileged categories) when blogging. Yes and no. But which ways should it matter and which ways shouldn't it?

You can see this may be difficult, considering I have stopped being a black Republican and am only a Republican. There are no existential goodies left, only politics, values, principles and flux.

My seminar is entitled (something to do with branding). I am branding with my face, with my byline and through various devices. But mostly, I beleive that I am read because of the Socratic and analytic nature of my writing. Which is dead spot on with regard to Hanson et al. And yet, in fighting for and defending the Old School, I am doing a bit of identity blogging too. I am very aware of this knife edge, let's see if I get cut. Some of the branding is mechanical as well. Blogrolling, tactical trackbacking, folding in email sources, participation in surveys, blog leagueing, getting into blogstorms, and topics of the day, technorati keywording, typekey registration, RSS feeding... did I forget anything? But if you put me into a naked pyramid, I'd confess that it's all about the writing, and the fundamental relationship forced upon a conscientious person who has readers.

Tonight, I'm going to add a new entry to Cobb's Rules. "Eventually, you get the audience you deserve." Right now, it's time to get on the plane. See you in 3 hours...

Posted by mbowen at 04:56 PM | TrackBack

Holla South

If there is anybody I know, or even vaguely know out in North Carolina, won't you give me a shout. I'll be in Greensboro starting tonight through the weekend. It's always nice to put faces and bodies and narratives in place with cyber abstractions. Send me an email or text me at 310 872 7373 (which is also my mobile). I'll be liveblogging Greensboro and taking a hatload of high quality pictures - the kind I wish I had taken in New Orleans.

After this weekend, I'll be back off the road and that means the comic will return.

I'll then begin focusing on The Conservative Brotherhood, which is going through some changes as we speak.

BTW, if any of you got the LATimes yesterday and read the story about dumping indigents on Skid Row, you probably saw a picture of Doc, my brother. It was from the rear, which was a trip because although I couldn't see his face, he was clearly recognizable to me.

Posted by mbowen at 08:29 AM | TrackBack

October 04, 2005

Thinking about Greensboro

Finally, things are starting to wind down and I can begin to focus on my trip to Greensboro. I checked out the 'Ahead of the Curve' piece and the opening jazz and the easy pace of it got me in the mood to meet some fine folks, have some good food and enjoy some stimulating conversation. I'm thinking of a tree and a breeze and a smile on my face as I take a couple of days vacation from this crazy world I'm hooked into right now, to connect with some other human beings on a level not directly tied into... whatever it is I do 9-5. Or should I say 7:30 to 9, as it has been for the past 3 weeks.

I actually heard something on that video that I don't think I've ever heard before: 'Local Blogosphere'. The very idea that a city has a concept of a local blogosphere is a fairly great development. It's making me think that we're going to find out something about people power from the smaller cities and towns where 100 people can make a difference. I've been thinking about this concept for at least 20 years, or at least since the advent of the free bulletin board service and the $75 modem. I first proposed it to Theresa Hughes, who was then just about to be appointed to the California Public Utilities Commission. At the time, it must have been around 1987, I wondered if she'd mind setting up a computer and having all of her issues and schedule on it for the public to see. Little did I know at the time, there would hardly be any public to look. The idea never really got off the ground, but the City of Santa Monica did some experimenting back in those days. I suppose it wasn't until that any real online politicking got noticed, but that really skipped over the municipal. I think it's got to go back.

I want to get a flavor that when I head back east in a couple days. I'll report back.

Posted by mbowen at 09:55 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 03, 2005

100 Things I Love About America

I've never been one for starting a blogmeme, but I think I'd like to see this one grow. In no particular order. Do it and trackback!

1. Watching kids fix their bikes.
2. Gumbo.
3. Spring Break.
4. Easter Egg hunts.
5. The John Muir Trail.
6. Frequent flyer miles.
7. Johnny Cash
8. Liquor stores.
9. Magazine Racks
10. Leather furniture.
11. Malls with Ice Skating Rinks.
12. Midwestern plain spokeness.
13. Budweiser.
14. Blue lights in the basement.
15. ATM Machines
16. Blockbuster Movies
17. Public Libraries.
18. Charity car washes.
19. Farmer's Markets.
20. Chinese delivery.
21. Flavored toothpaste.
22. Six Flags.
23. Rotating restaurants.
24. Sumptuous lobbies with receptionists.
25. Wal-Mart.
26. Free seminars.
27. Science fairs.
28. Speakers on a dais.
29. Dog shows.
30. The new fall season.
31. Treehouses.
32. Trout fishing.
33. Extreme sports.
34. Elections.
35. Top Ten Lists.
36. 'New and Improved'
37. Western movies.
38. Roadhouse blues.
39. The Great Salt Lake.
40. Mt. Rainier.
41. The Pacific Coast Highway.
42. The Fort Pitt Bridge
43. American River - South Fork
44. Menemsha Bight
45. The Back Bay Fens
46. The D Train.
47. 7th Avenue Park Slope
48. South Pasadena, CA.
49. 1957 Corvette Convertible.
50. Air Shows.
51. Martin Luther King.
52. The Gentlemen's Club
53. Jim Beam Rye.
54. New York Strip.
55. Corn
56. The Bacon Cheeseburger.
57. Laptop Computers.
58. Roadside Hotels.
59. AAA
60. The Boy Scouts.
61. Harley Davidson.
62. Denim.
63. Cotton Candy.
64. John Phillip Sousa.
65. George Clinton
66. Thelonius Monk
67. Humphrey Bogart
68. Catholic School
69. The Breakfast cereal aisle.
70. Christmas
71. Picnics
72. Memorial Day Weekend.
73. The School Play.
74. The Wall Street Journal.
75. PBS
76. HBO
77. Muhammad Ali
78. Vodka Martini
79. Oysters Rockefeller.
80. Lemon Meringue
81. Fallingwater.
82. Mark Twain.
83. Tupelo Swamp.
84. Carnegie Hall
85. Ohio Stadium
86. The Rose Parade
87. The Three Stooges
88. RJ45
89. Rent a Cars.
90. REI
91. Bean Bag Chairs
92. Whiteboards
93. Hardware Stores.
94. KFC
96. Taking the family to Church on Sunday
97. Thanksgiving
98. Birthday Parties
99. Highschool Reunions
100. Leisure Time.

Posted by mbowen at 11:17 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

October 01, 2005

Of Assimilated Negroes, Cabbages and Kings

The thing that you should not first do is start reading this negro and not finish the wonderful post I am about to write. After all he did call my blog poop. Not intentionally, but he should have known that it would get back to me. Such is the uncanny claustrophobia of the Kwaku Network. Sooner or later you get to meet everyone except Zadie Smith. Oh why didn't I meet Zadie Smith?

On the other hand I can't blame you if you do want to sneak a peek over thataway because I've been a serious dorkwad for too long over here. Katrina sucked most of the humor out of me and I've been working too many 12 hour days. Plus a friend of mine has disappeared, or just kind of gone to that place where all friends who drift apart go - into the zone of civilized nonchalance. If I see my friend again, I'm sure to get a handshake. Big Whoop. And so for a plurality of reasons (Oh snap, I owe Ambra a happy birthday and an essay on pluralism) it's all coming to a close, but I don't know if it will be glorious or not. 'It' being the dreary outlook and lack of comics.

I've been thinking about my BMW again. It has been a long time since I've driven my own beemer and I'm starting to become frumpy again. I can tell. I haven't worn the Hollywood Suit in months and I haven't had a good straight razor shave in a coon's age. I can feel the biorythmic convergence coming - it's just around the corner, the day when my phone rings off the hook from people I actually want to speak to.

Yet tonight, spending the first weekend away from the crib in memory, I'm catching up on my blogging only to find myself getting sucked into discussions which are beneath me. So I wander around the 'sphere and discover that I haven't updated my Blogger profile - not that I really care, but now that I have Audioscrobbler / LastFM, I really can answer with some accuracy what my favorite music is. This time I actually remember my favorite books too, and most of them are fiction. I discover that I need the edification of a good fiction, and I haven't had one since Baudolino, which was a good two years ago. Tsk.

So there's Martin Amis, whose latest adventures left me dead flat, and there's his Wikipedia page which cite him as influencing Zadie Smith and Will Self. It turns out that Will Self's 'Great Apes' was a smashingly great book - and I felt that I would get in trouble for liking it, yet I read this for Amis:

Amis's raw material is what he sees as the absurdity of the postmodern condition and the excesses of late-capitalist Western society with its grotesque caricatures. He is the undisputed master of what the New York Times has called "the new unpleasantness."

Fuckin' A! That's where I'm at. I've gone all political and lost my sense of humor but not of the absurd. It's got me bending my ear towards Hitchens instead of Amis. And what about my old buddy T. Boyle? Maybe he's got something up his sleeve that's not entirely to cynical. But then there's Zadie. Zadie Zadie Zadie. I don't know why I wait so long. I haven't read an inch of her, I just collapsed at her photo. Well, who wouldn't? All the cretins I'm sweeping off my porch that's who. And it's no wonder Memer isn't posting here so often.

Anyway, I have the rest of this weekend to make a supercomputer jump through the appropriate hoops. As enticing as that sounds (I've time-travelled a memory of an earlier me into the present just to show me how much we've progressed) on the whole I'd rather be curled up with a good..Zadie. But that life has been cast aside. The good news is that my boy made the football team. I should be home for that but that too will come in due time.

In the meantime, we ought to spend a bit more time sending hostile subliminal messages to Hugo Chavez instead of beating up on Bill Bennett. I haven't felt rogueish enough lately, but am feeling more and more certain that my uppity elitism needs some sharpening. Perhaps I can find a good P.J. O'Rourke at Borders tomorrow before I check out the new Cronenberg. Oh wait. I've got that damned supercomputer thing to do.

I named the big one Potter and the little one Hagid. We're running benchmarks from Snape. Potter is a temperamental one, doesn't like my 32bit text editor and won't synch IDs from my database to the Deployment Server, so that when the applets go a-calling, they get rejected out of hand. But Potter hasn't given me a real fit like Hagid did this evening. Three tests. One gives 40% errors I can't explain. The next one goes flawlessly. Then I change one little parameter and the whole craptard goes zombie. This, ladies and gentlemen is why NT sucks, no matter how hefty the hardware. I've got 300 databases running simultaneously and the agent freezes. Can I kill the zombies all at once? Noooooo. NT has no such animal as a kill -9 (the lung ripper). It just sits there and divvies up the full weight of 8 3GHz Xeons burning 100% across 300 processes that I've got to kill one by frikken one. With a mouse and four clicks. Warning, killing this process may cause system instability. Are you sure?

Anyway. Next time I'll keep Load Runner throttled and not try to launch 300 databases all in the same second. Lesson learned.

Monday night I had a way-too-expensive dinner. It looked like a fairly ordinary upscale steakhouse, but I underestimated. The cheapest a la cart entree was 29 bucks, a fairly decent prime rib. And wait, they didn't even have anything as low class as Pellegrino. The waiter is doing this elaborate dance in refilling my glass with sparkling water that comes in a container that looks like a cross between a bank vacuum canister and a lava lamp. I order the oyster appetizer for 12 bucks. I get these tiny things that are the size of quarters in a chopped up bed of seaweed and tiny diced tomato on a platter the size of Venus. I must be in California.

So the rest of the week I use my suite hotel to my advantage. I went grocery shopping. I picked up a package of clams, two bottles of Powerade, some beef jerky, a couple cans of corn, some Zatarains, some Rice a Roni, a bag of frozen shrimp scampi in fettucini, frozen mixed vegetables, a bottle of Sutter Home White Zinfandel, a half gallon of whole fat milk (whoohoo!) a dozen Krispy Kreme glazed, a bowl of heat & eat clam chowder, and one box each of popcorn shrimp and breaded clam strips. I couldn't find any decent maki and I forgot to get some lox, but I did get a fourpack of Red Bull. All told $60.

It turns out that the breaded seafood shouldn't be microwaved, so I ended up at Wendy's tonight. I swear.

It took talking with my colleague to discover that I really do count Creole cuisine among my favorites. My mother didn't truly enjoy cooking for the lot of us brats, surely we made it more of an industrial chore than a gourmet experience for her. But when she did throw down the down home cooking - lookout. So I guess I'll always love red beans and rice. That's for Saturday night, if I get out of the lab before 9pm.

That's the news from 95014. See ya.

Posted by mbowen at 12:37 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 27, 2005

Cobb in the Spotlight

Dell Gines has done me the honor of an interview, and Booker Rising has covered it as well. There are some interesting comments on both sites. This is a good preparation for me as I go to speak at ConvergeSouth next week.

Of course it always seems that just before or after I'm in the spotlight, I am in a temporary blogging slump. Not much to blog early this week as I huddle over my keyboard doing overtime in yet another strange city.

Interestingly enough what I'm most proud of this week is the number of folks who have sought and/or found work through this blog using the Katrina Cleanup Jobs thread. Those three words in combination have put me at the top of Google.

Posted by mbowen at 06:46 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 24, 2005

An Old School Anthem

All My Money, by Jeffrey Osborne

(I'll bring it home to you baby)

I get out to work, every day
Because I believe in getting paid.
Got a sexy woman I want to keep
She's always waiting home for me.

I work eight days a week
Cause I want to take care of your every need.
And when my work is through
I grab my pay and run home to you.

(Chorus) And I'll bring you all of my money Bring you all my pay. Cause I want you to be happy. I will do whatever it takes.

I'm up early moring. Six AM
I'm up and ready to begin
Got me pumping iron twice a day
I've got to keep my self in shape.

I want to look good for you
Any man who works his body wants to look good too
I want you to be proud
And run to me when I get home

(Chorus) And I'll bring you all of my money Bring you all my pay. Cause I want you to be happy. I will do whatever it takes.

And I'll bring you all of my loving
Bring all that and more.
Cause I want you to be happy.
Whatever it takes girl it's yours.

(Damn, I'm bringing you all my money!)

I work eight days a week
Cause I want to take care of your every need
And when my work is through
I grab my pay and run home to you.

(Chorus) And I'll bring you all of my money Bring you all my pay. Cause I want you to be happy. I will do whatever it takes.

And I'll bring you all of my loving
Bring all that and more.
Cause I want you to be happy.
Whatever it takes girl it's yours.

(Ad lib to fin)
(I'll bring it home to you baby
And you know that I will

Oh baby, I'm gonna bring it on home

For that smile on your face
I'll do whatever it takes

And I tell you girl
I'm going to bring you all my money)

This song is one of the happiest songs I know, and I don't find it one bit corny. So until I am asked to desist, I want you to have it too. Grab the link and play it and see if you don't find yourself uplifted.


Posted by mbowen at 10:42 AM | TrackBack

September 21, 2005

Talking to People Without Looking

(from the archives: Oct 2000)

i've been told that my face betrays a great deal. i notice that it is rare that i look at people directly in the eye, which i know that i do whenever they have 100% of my attention.

sometime back in the late 80s i spent a lot of time learning to multitask. (now that i am in the mind to think of allan bloom) in my daily journal, i often would take four things that were happening at the moment i started to write and find a way to relate them all together. i would generally do this while listening to music and watching television (preferably news). i am so accustomed to working in this way - rarely does anything hold my attention in that way. i'm sure this isn't unique, but i'm told that i can be very annoying, because sometimes i actually *do* tune people out.

anyway, i'm also not afraid to let things drop. knowing myself that i am generally a very earnest person, i have no overwhelming guilt when i fail other people. it's simply a matter of bandwidth. (you can imagine what my credit rating looks like).

in general, i am very stingy with my time. i am one of those people who requires a strategy that fits with my worldview before i take step one. otherwise whatever it is doesn't get taken seriously. so when i want something done, i focus and do it. again, when people see me get off my ass for something it pains them that i don't do it for them. on the other hand, when i ask about fundamental motivating principles and intellectual frameworks excitedly, i don't get much reaction irl. this is the reason that cmc is so compelling for me, why i am having this conversation in community-time rather than in real-time. i can joots (as hofstadter says) multiple frameworks of reference and go humorous and serious as my mind goes. context can be captured at your leisure. i've always said that this is a wonderful place for people who don't rate a biographer.

on the other hand, cmc life is compartmentalized mostly. i have been a member of [an online community] for just about 18 months or so, i guess. and prior to that i had always purposely crafted personnae for all of my interactions. a significant part of the reason i write in lower case here is to distinguish it from my other writings. for me lower case represents streams of consciousness. although i would say that i am a lot closer to me, and attempting continuously to unburden my more private self in this forum (in this thread in particular), there are still limits. however i am interested in jumping out again, in the context of my dealings with and membership in the middle class, and recontextualizing that which i feel comfortable revealing about my life.

fzample: saul bellow is an interesting point in time. without fail, everytime i have decided to be patient enough to read something considred 'important', it has reached me in precisely the way i imagine i touches those folk paul fussell would call the 'x' class, one of whom i would presume to be. if you understood that i fell off the track of intellectuality somewhere around my 15th birthday for lack of the proper mentorship, you could see how being *actually* brighter than average and rebellious outside of the comfort of academia could isolate me. and although i think there is much more to be detailed in that dimension, suffice it to say that i have this personal history of 'bright moments' in which i confirm my own sense of self in certain writings and yet find those moments devastating. at times i console myself with the notion that the pain of individuality is inevitable for the western man (sophomorically eliding what i perceive to be the message of a yet unread thomas mann). at other times i anguish in the possibility that my would-be colleagues and i have fallen irreparably out of step, and while i scribble within a predictable circle all these years on the internet, they are living cozily within a respectable ghetto. if i were not making 6 figures by this my upcoming 40th birthday, i would certainly be ready for snatching myself out of america. so reading bellow is at once liberating and painful because i recognize that i am ultimately, if not consistently, shutting down the tolerance i must bear for my mediocre company everytime i receive the elevation good writing brings.

Posted by mbowen at 01:23 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Moving Up Gracefully

(from the archives: June 2000)

I met with my boss today. He is considering hiring someone between myself and him. I am disturbed.

I am stumbling a bit on my quest to become wealthy, as I have decided most definitely not to move to the Bay Area. Fuck it.

Some time ago, and I cannot pinpoint the exact moment, I woke up from the hard charging rage. Perhaps the rockslide began as I recognized my old buddy in a new light, as he changed clothes in front of me as we discussed his plans to remodel his bathroom. It was a perfectly casual and intimate conversation, the kind one expects from good friends. And I realized after a time that this guy was, in a unique way, my kind of guy. Unpretentious, smart, humorous and well-mannered in that inimitable Southern California way. In that way, he embodied his neighborhood in a way I hadn't noticed before. His neighborhood? Palos Verdes Estates, where two bedroom cottages go for 700,000. If there is old money in Cali, this kinda seems like the place, even though I know that it's more in San Marino and Pasadena on the other end of the county. Still, the entirely comfortable, friendly feel of this particular conversation, surrounded by the kind of wealth which, while not obscene, remains potent, left a punctuation mark on me. It was that somehow, I absolutely belonged.

And somehow, the work that lie between myself and that place became evermore obvious. I relaxed, took a deep breath, and measured myself. I felt good. I haven't ruined myself in my alternate paths. This, or someplace like this, is my home waiting for my arrival.

Then some weeks later, the market crashed.

The market crashed and I was nervous and yet I was at peace. I had seen the promised land. It wasn't all that, but it was comfortable - a comfort worth summoning strength and discipline for.

As time has progressed, and I settled my soul in the measures of the Dalai Lama's recent literary structures, I have exhaled. I had been holding my breath. Somewhere in a fine film, the likes of which I have been denying myself with my appetite for action, it was said that the man who makes best use of the moment is at peace in every moment of the present. Thusly, the future takes care of itself. In the moment, you can make your most important decision within 7 breaths, and it is only for this duration that you must calm yourself and suspend time. The moment is then recaptured. And since then, I have not been held breathless at the prospect of wealth. I have merely stepped forward into my discipline knowing that there is no guarantee either way. Still, I belong.

So I picked up a Linux book, a Perl manual and a spare computer hanging around the office and started back into my old habit of writing, not for people directly as I have been doing on the net since '93, but for the machine itself. I am imagining myself into the satisfying solitude of coding, of architecting a masterwork. And in doing so, I have imagined a world of dedicated mastery, not over minions who would provide legs for my march to wealth, but over myself and that subtle connection which generates trust and loyalty. How can I express it? Being a conduit of principle begins in accepting the principle as the spirit and the self as the vessel. It is only as a conduit/vessel of principle can one...

This is only one abstracted side of the story, one that I suppose could begin and end with my happiness. I am finding ways to become happy and radiate that feeling. If I can become that kind of success, then I only need live long enough and keep my wits, and my new home will present itself. In this way, there is no need for jealousy or envy - which I always considered beneath me anyway.

And so I have stopped being impatient. But then there is this meeting with my boss this afternoon. He wants to hire somebody 'seasoned'.

Just the other day, I met with the Wall Street Analyst at the Trade Show in lieu of my boss who was unavoidably detained. Even as he arrived, he deferred to my descriptions of the business as the three of us sat comfortably in the shadow of our new titanium-tinged Trade Show Structure. The Wall Street Analyst said that I spoke well, and I know he meant it the right way, that I know how to talk to Wall Street Analysts. Inside, Michael X, told me that this honky bastard was searching my teeth for spinach. The boss and I ladled out quips, laughs, facts and nearly insider info as the Wall Street Analyst listened and queried intently. I continued to dominate his time and walk him through an extraordinary demo. I expect his next dispatch to quote me word for word, then well get a nice bump on Wall Street. This is the order of things. Nevertheless, I am an 'articulate black man', an unexpected pleasure.

The New York Times' extraordinarily frank discussion of race has come at an odd moment. In one of its fascinating stories is the tale of the black man who has made his Atlanta millions with a white face man as his CEO. In his next venture, he is failing. People have referred to him as someone who 'helped found' his old company. The details of this story are annoying in a way that I transcend, yet crippling of ambition in a way that I cannot evade. Now this black cat appears from my angle to be of the sort who has a burning and dysfunctional desire to be king of a small hill. A grubber, the singnificance of whom is really only symbolic for people who really cannot see deeper than skin color. This is how I have always viewed feudal millionaires, why I continue to have more respect for career military officers, priests and philosophers. The bounder does what he must to get over, then he starts a foundation for kids. Hmm. Sounds like something I might do.

And so I need to determine whether my peace is sublimation.

The beauty of being Puff Daddy is that your greatest enemy is yourself. So I suppose that the lesson to be learned for the Atlanta Millionaire is that if you use a white man just because he's white, then you are doomed to die by the sword of a game whose rules you don't have the balls to change. Nevertheless, it is a lesson he will have the luxury of learning reading some book as he floats on his mansion's pool.

Still I have yet to determine if my easy breathing is one of denial.

Patricia J. Williams was on the radio yesterday evening. She reminded me of how I used to pull ideas from all over the place and relate them to standing. Somewhere on the web, there is a site with (perhaps) some record of her lecture to Columbia students about how NYC black cops were teaching young black males how to behave around cops: teaching them like they teach women who are raped. This is how you should dress yourself (so as not to draw improper attention). This is how you should walk (so as not to draw improper attention). This is how you should speak (so as not to draw improper attention).

So I have yet to determine if this adjustment to my comportment is proper for me.

I'm all out of paragraphs this Friday evening. It's 9pm and the sun hasn't gone down yet. Seems oddly light. I told Room Service that I spilled my wine by accident and to bring me another glassful. I figured they would see the sop towel and pick up the tab. No such luck. It's my mistake for not paying attention to the basic forces of nature. I should have known better.

Posted by mbowen at 01:14 PM | TrackBack

September 20, 2005

Understanding Phoenix

I don't understand Phoenix.

I've been there for two weeks in a row now, and I still can't figure the place out. Far more than Los Angeles, there is no there there. The major east-west highway goes north and south. Their river is a lake. The freeway loops don't loop and there are no mountains for 20 miles in any direction and they call the place 'the Valley'.

It was 97 degrees on a good day, down from 109. In the middle of a day when it's 104, there is a 15 minute thunderstorm with 30 mph winds. The only public service announcements on the radio are soundbites from the Christian Right.

I've been in the southwest of town. In Chandler, everything is new and expensive looking. The many Mimi's-sized restaurants have halos of mist spraying from the rain gutters in order to keep the temperature down for those souls brave enough to eat on the patios. There is an extraordinary variety of desert flora that grows out of well manicured dirt which looks orangish and simmers in the heat. All is stucco and tile and people drive slowly.

Posted by mbowen at 05:45 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 11, 2005

'Nola' Speaks

I don't have a nickname for my close auntie. She's my mother's sister and the one whom I've mostly be sweating about in the past week. She asked me to publish her letter to us in the family. I will but will call her my darling auntie 'Nola'.

Dear Family,

I have never felt more connected to all of you than I do at this moment. I am deeply touched by your love and generosity at this time of crisis.

My departure from New Orleans was totally spontaneous. I was not listening to my rational mind. It was on Saturday, and a day when very few people were seriously thinking of leaving. Even those of us who drove toward Baton Rouge as I did, did not find any long delays in traffic. I fully intended to be away no more than 48 hours.

I left without such essentials as telephone numbers, personal papers and not even the barest essentials. I found myself responding purely on intuition for the next six days on the road. The worst part was the endless back roads I took; especially thru Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi. I was so grateful that I am pretty proficient at reading maps and used to driving the blue lines on the map. I was surely operating on automatic for long hours.

The traffic was horrendous on all paths leading out of the Gulf States. The gasoline lines in some places stretched over a mile in both directions leading into a station. Each day at sunset came the arduous task of trying to find a room; preferably two since I was traveling with 'Cousin B' and I desperately needed the privacy to follow the news into the night as I fell asleep and the first thing in the morning as I prepared to leave. Each day I checked from one station to another trying to find a clear channel on the radio (which was difficult on the back roads).

I began to not recognize the haggard face I saw in the mirror and even more disturbing was the feeling of “being an observer” of this haggard stranger that spoke and acted in a monotone, and that the stranger was me.

One afternoon in Tennessee I went to Wal-Mart to pick up some essentials and I found myself inside of my car and totally ignorant about what had happened to my purchases. After frantically searching the parking lot for my basket, I finally checked the trunk of the car. I had loaded my purchases “on automatic” without remembering.

That feeling of disorientation continued. It was a relief when I was finally able to cry after the fourth day. I have not cried like that since I was a child. I was totally overwhelmed with grief.

All of the above said, I am well aware how blessed both [your cousin B] and I are. I am also happy that in some way, my leaving as I did inspired 'Uncle C' to convince his daughter 'GG' to leave with him and with her four children on Sunday morning.

Even in the middle of it all, my mind kept returning to an inner dialogue of how I can help. I believe that I will go back as soon as it is safe to do so. The work that I have been involved in for the past 10+ years has given shape and meaning to my life. I cannot “not go back”.

In the meantime, I’m here and I’m taking one day at a time. This is only the end of Week 1 and I already feel the effects of a “time slow down” that happens in times of crisis.

I love all of you!

I’ll stay in touch,

Milwaukee, WI

PS Please copy this letter on the web to everyone. Thanks!

We are surely blessed.

Posted by mbowen at 02:17 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 05, 2005

Heartbreak Arrives

I don't know what's wrong with me. I cannot get away from this computer. This has got to be the worst Labor Day Weekend ever. I'm emotionally drained and just really can't take it any longer. This is about the third time this weekend that I've just broken down in tears and I'm not sleeping well and I need to take a shower. I'm going to go out and get some sunshine and try to recover. I know I'll be back here tonight...

  • Rush Limbaugh gets it right on race. I'm a little bit surprised, but not entirely. I like his rant.

  • Ann Rice recalls the flavor, and shames America's slow response.

  • David Brooks says:
    Reaganite conservatism was the response to the pessimism and feebleness of the 1970's. Maybe this time there will be a progressive resurgence. Maybe we are entering an age of hardheaded law and order. (Rudy Giuliani, an unlikely G.O.P. nominee a few months ago, could now win in a walk.) Maybe there will be call for McCainist patriotism and nonpartisan independence. All we can be sure of is that the political culture is about to undergo some big change.

    Oh man I agree with that. Here's where we talk about leadership. Ask yourself in all seriousness, in New Orleans, what would you expect from a man like Tom DeLay? Nothing. Exactly.

  • Bob Herbert says what Kanye West thought he was saying. Both of their bashing is an embarrassment.
  • Posted by mbowen at 12:09 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

    September 02, 2005

    Updates and Rumors

    I've been hearing things about people on the ground from associates and friends. None of it is particularly good, nor particularly different. People have lost 'everything', job, home, car. So I'm trying to scope out a little charity budget and send a piece here and there. One of these folks is Cassandra Henry, one of the reviewers from Good writers. I'll be sending along a little something.

    I have heard that GMAC has not officially said to the victims "you don't owe us for your car". So people whose cars are under water still have to pay their car note.

    I heard that there is a guy who runs an underground ISP and has generators, He's trying to get some webcams up and running in the city.

    I think my aunt's house might not be too badly damaged, but the most recent satellite pictures confirm that there is no place in this town that was really spared. It's got to stink to high heaven out there now. Gators, dead bodies, god knows what all in that nasty water. Wednesday I kept having visions of people walking through the water barefoot and stepping on nails or wrenching their ankles in unseen potholes.

    While I still have a very hard time with the necessity for martial law, the notion that people can shoot at rescue helicopters and get away with it is crazy. If it take 1500 troops to put down that kind of insanity, do it. I heard snippets of panicky dainty journalists on the radio Wednesday talking about how they got out of Dodge and I really didn't appreciate that. (Especially considering Michael Yon). I've also made it clear that grabbing staples is justified.

    These refugees are so sorry looking it just breaks your heart. Quite frankly I think we Americans are a bit soft and I won't be surprised to see the numbers of dead approaching 2000. Clearly, there were a lot of people out there surviving before the deluge on the slim margins. What I was seeing was a visual manifestation of the poor health of many African Americans. One poor woman's grandfather couldn't survive without a steady supply of oxygen. One particularly rude cameraman got 8 seconds of footage of a little white dog without showing the faces of the two obese black women it was sitting between. There were people in the streets who looked as if they have been in death beds for a while.

    The NYT or the WaPo, I forget which, is covering the other angle on this matter which is that there are a dozen towns who haven't gotten the attention they deserve. In light of Bigfoot's story, it has become clear that people have to start misbehaving to get authorities to do. This is exactly what I was talking about two days ago when I said 'for shame'. The ridiculous media concentration on 'looting' has turned a bad situation into a distrustful one, and now people are suffering because of it. Somewhere between laying and waiting to dehydrate, breaking windows and shooting guns is what's necessary to get rescued. Let me say it plain and clear, the next reporter who tells a story about how scared people are from gunshots and looters is going to get poleaxed in this blog.

    Meanwhile out on my end, I've been tasked to find out how people from LA might get on board a volunteer train. Updates will be right here.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:23 AM | TrackBack

    August 30, 2005

    Relatives Found

    I have been on the phone with my mother on and off since about 4pm this afternoon, and we have been able to confirm that my aunt and cousin are OK. Right now they are Gonzales which is about halfway to Baton Rouge. I'm sure that I'll have stories, but for now I'm just glad that they're OK.

    More later.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:55 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    August 27, 2005

    Invisible Threat

    M11 gets back from his summer vacation today. He'll be flying into LAX when he comes. But his coming was delayed by a rather untraceable fact which was that at least one terminal was evacuated this morning at JFK. His flight was delayed almost 3 hours.

    I got the cell phone call and talked to him, so I found out in rapid succession that there was a bomb threat and that he wasn't scared. So I went online immediately to find out what I could. I found nothing. Homeland Security said nothing. The NYTimes said nothing. The site said nothing. The Port Authority of NY & NJ said nothing. The FAA said nothing. I guess they're supposed to say nothing.

    So the Spousal Unit and I had a discussion about who should say what and when. We concluded that knowing is better than not knowing, sorta.

    Posted by mbowen at 02:12 PM | TrackBack

    August 25, 2005

    Ghastly, Heavy Rain

    (from the archives - my first nightmare about September 11)

    My First Nightmare.
    I was at the ground floor of Ground Zero dodging bodies. Nothing moved in slow motion, instead it was a grisly example of cartoon physics. The people plunging towards me were warning me to get out of the way knowing themselves doomed. But no matter how fast I ran, no matter which way I dodged, there was yet another bound to hit me. I kept escaping narrowly as they slammed into the concrete just inches away from me. As soon as they hit with a sickening crunch, broken in their business wear another scream from above would alert me to look up and start running again. Nobody fell straight. I watched in horror as their wildly waving and sometimes broken limbs caught the wind and changed their direction. The women’s hair seemed to fan out wildly; I could see their necklaces whipping. They stared into my eyes as they fell or turned over backwards to avoid my stares. Then glass fell, then shoes. It was a ghastly, heavy rain.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:43 PM | TrackBack

    Got To Get Over the Hump

    (from the archives, September 1999)

    i've been thinking a little bit lately about my ability to cash in on the silicon valley thing, and having read a bit of correspondance between nora ephron and some other literate chap, kurt somebody of the new yorker, over in slate it occurs to me that i'd better make hay. people like me are not supposed to get rich, or even wealthy. if the fashion turns against conspicuous spending, all started by the wall street boom way back when, i'm going to be boxed out. these days, it's ok to be rich and black. soon 'we' may all look back on puff daddy and ask, what were we thinking?

    i say we in quotes because i've pretty much made up my mind that no matter how ugly i have to be, socially speaking, i'm going to get my goddamn share. i'll be the george jefferson of the 00s by gum, and i don't care who knows it. i'm moving on up, larry ellison style if need be. some of us may laugh at puff daddy like our laughter means something, but i hope to get up above all that, hopefully with better financial sense than hammer. i don't laugh at puffy. puffy's over the hump.

    i reckon, that and a few other character flaws will be sufficient for a number of people to judge me by the angle of my nose, especially if i do the right thing by bringing along some of those young men and women who believed in me - who just so happen to look as if they vaguely resemble me in that caste called race. i don't know how it happened that people who know how to cha cha to marvin gaye's 'give it up' groove with my soul, but it's like that. and considering the size of my hometown, it's still a bit surprising to me that there are so few who know *exactly* what i'm saying. yeaah, you remember the dj at moody's? yeah, but do you remember the second floor of dillon's? i catch a big butt and a smile at starbucks la tijera over in ladera heights and the groove is immediately rekindled. magic, that bond. i'm not going to resist it. i've been fourth man on enough golf foursomes to know every club ain't clubby. i'm taking my homies on the ride.

    but i know there's some paranoia in there. i'm not too stupid or ugly not to know how to make new friends. i just often wonder how many 'its' i don't get - things perfectly obvious to those up there somewhere who get invited to write for slate magazine. i don't have enough time to read all the articles; i can't reinsert myself into gary trudeau's yale class and remember what kind of guy g.w. bush actually was - back when he presumeably spoke his mind. i don't get to sleep with jane pauley. (and i think about how miserable it must be to be bryant gumbel, arguably the finest interviewer alive on the planet, yet for some reason untouchable by the networks, languishing on cable. what? is he too difficult to work with? did he ask for too much money? did he object to matt lauer's sex appeal? what?) i don't want to end up that way. like gregory hines. like debbie allen. like so many incredible talents left out there without a corporation behind them. like arsenio hall. i've got to find a balance so that when my time expires, i won't expire too.

    there's this window i'll have to make money in front of whatever section of the american public recognizes me. it will expire. not like pierce brosnan. pierce has love handles, but he's got something permanent. not like sean connery. sean doesn't even have a proper english gentleman's accent, but he's got something permanent. it's the uberroth factor. any day he can step out and be somebody again. i've just got a short window to dance in. i've got tighter scrutiny. i'm probably foolish just being a human being about it honestly here. some phonies are more equal than others.

    i've got to cash in on this silicon valley thing. i'd feel stupid if i didn't. some people don't want to be ugly grubby and unfashionably rich. i don't mind. i won't feel guilty about it. i'm like the biafran refugee in this. more is ok for me, i promise not to be embarrassed. i'm not likely to go off wife-swapping or pretending that sailboat racing is a true test of character. i just don't want to miss my window. i've got to get over the hump. i've got to get over the hump.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:38 PM | TrackBack

    How to Get a 'C' in Drama 101

    [from the archives - circa 1985, a letter to my theatre arts teacher]

    context - my drama teacher told us that we should pick a scene for our final, but not anything from tennessee williams, pinter, arthur miller or ibsen because the themes were too complex. i said out loud that was rediculous, snorted and walked out of the class. i only showed up 3 or 4 times in the second half of the semester after i picked my scene and was paired with a partner.

    Success has many forms.

    In the matter of my elementary theater class it appears as though i will receive a less than honorable mark. This is clear to mea and i understand the justification. Pith this is not an acting course or perhaps one in the study of drama. By your own admission, it doesn't work. Nevertheless, there exists an organized course of study - outlined in the syllabus for all to see and follow. Then there is Mr. Bowen...

    I'm certain that you don't take my attitude about the class as a personal affront, yet I recognize you as the actor - completely aware and somewhat put off during our terse exchanges. It is my failure that it is so difficult for me to shed my aggressive intellectual hat for such a general and elementary course. It is my failure that I discount attendance simply because I understand the general direction of the discussions and tend to learn very quickly. I'd rather be absent than rudely studying some other material in class. Yet these fundamental differences and the others that keep me from truly pursuing the top grad in the class are best left in a clarifying afterthought rather than a qualifying preface. It is for that reason that you should not receive this letter until the end of the semester.

    I recognized this difficulty last week when I requested to take the midterm at a rescheduled time. It was all there, we tried to act anonymously, but I knew you recognize me and I your attitude towards the dissident. It is nothing fabulously new - many times persons are opposites on issues. I must face you and your class but then I must face myself.

    Even in this letter there should not be room for criticism. It is not my responsibility to teach you to teach or to reshape your course or style. I have only the scantron of evaluations as that forum. Yet I must tell you how frustrated I have been to attempt to show my own dramatic ability within the context of this class. That I know I am capable yet have no chance to show how I am, is the conflict that did keep me enrolled. In short I felt that for me to be able to show myself acting (or anyone with real abilities) is beyond the scope of Theatre 111. But I had to be there. Attendance is not drama. This you know. Talent is not manifest in "putting childish qualities into the scene". It didn't work for me. Further, I don't believe it works at all. Further, I believe you know that it doesn't. Yet it’s in the syllabus in essence. I write this having a gut feeling that you are above this babysitting.

    My only chance then, is my scene. My five minutes. A shared five minutes actually. My choice of roles is limited as is my choice of partners. I must consider the audience, the availability of props, the absence of time for exposition. Yet whatever I do – this letter is my subtext. I recognize the futility with a smile, for you indeed will see me as the dissident.

    So, the irony of my selection comes out. I am Felix Unger. I must play absolutely pristine, neurotically so, simply to prove something basic about myself. In a comedy yet. In a failing situation that goes for laughs. Unrecognized pathos.

    Does Oscar know what good a man Felix really is as they play neatness games? The subtext there is marriage and the strategies are blurred by Simon’s characterizations so that the audience may laugh at itself. The tactics are cigarette butts, linguini, poker and slang. All comedic. Not comic but comedic; not actually funny but played for laughs.

    And so the analogy is complete, I play for your, for the class for a grade on the surface. Yet the conflict is between myself and the form. Is this the intellectual vehicle of choice? Is this class, this semester at this school in front of these people what I am? Certainly not! But even for drama is it accurately testing me? Sadly not. I’ll barely pass. I’ll learn the terms, the technicalities but the spirit does not flow there.

    It makes little sense for me to pursue the point. This paper is not graded. Nor is it type, It may not even be considered tactful. I am a scientist by profession, I take fact over tact. I should not care about drama but every day I play roles to save people the pain of horrid letters such as this. Drama is in me. I would probably like to see your face. But no. I’ll play it for laughs. I’ll be Felix and no one else. This is what will pass me. I’ll smile and ‘walk on the papers’.


    my scene got a standing ovation. the last day of classes, i dropped the letter in her her office, and i got a 'c' in the class.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:32 PM | TrackBack

    August 23, 2005

    Shy Town

    It's past 11 and all I have tomorrow are meetings, but I've had enough nightlife for one evening. I'm concentrating on doing the social thing tomorrow rather than going in my own direction.

    I can't even remember which night I wrote that, but it probably wasn't Friday. Now that I think about it, it was definitely Thursday. Here's the dilemma, and I put it to you as a question of manners and morals. You're out at a business social with a bunch of colleagues, many of who are younger than yourself. To what extent should you be honest and outgoing in the context of the situation? Should you:

    A. Be yourself?
    B. At all times act reserved?
    C. Do as the Romans do?

    The thing is, it's a nightclub. What does one do in nightclubs? What is one supposed to do? I don't know about you, but the answer for me is, drink, smoke, be merry and engage the crowd. Now when one nightclub turns into a crawl, things are getting a little out of hand. Yes or no? Hard to say.

    I found myself answering one colleague whom I find particular likeable when she asked if I smoked. "I smoke in Chicago at midnight in nightclubs", was my reply. I also chase broads in similar situations. Of course for pudgy old married me, chasing broads has a distinct hook, which is like the game of 'If'. It's satisfying enough to size up the situation and recognize whether, as they say at Cape Canaveral, "We have a Go situation." Nothing ever gets launched, of course. Nevertheless it is a rather disturbing mindset that I personally have not been able to quite shake. The problem was, that this was a nightclub whose only attraction was as a drunk tank. A very nice one, but strictly for the purpose of the hookup, or the odd out-of-town-business social. Don't blame me, I didn't pick the joint.

    Still, something about the music it got into my pants. So I found myself with another charming young lady investigating the dance possibilities. She suggested The Leg Room and so I did my best to suggest loudly that we get outta the first joint, The Grotto, and get to where dancing could be done. At the very least I could get some fresh air after my 7th drink, or was it my 9th?

    So this motley parade of professionals in khakis ambled down State Street to Rush. They headed immediately into the queue for the next bar at the corner, as if it were raining outside or there was no oxygen to be found except at the bottom of the shot glasses. I told them that I was going rogue, but I'd be back. This was my chance to smoke another half dozen cigs and check out the action on the street. As is customary on nights like these, I am very generous with the Marlboro Lights, and at least 4 beggars cadged a square off me. Believe me none of them was cute, and though their cups were out for moola, none of them refused. Cigarettes are an alternative currency for denizens of the night, and I keep it handy like cash when I'm doing the dark prowl. Alas, there was no talent in Chi-Town that night. At least not my speed.

    This is my marriage's built-in insurance policy. Not that I didn't goose it a touch by whipping out my Treo pictures of the Spousal Unit and my babies, but 98% of females leave me flat. I am both jaded and picky, which is exactly the right attitude for a man of my maturity. I never see the kind of women who seriously tempt me, and most of the time I don't look. This is a consequence of both my upbringing (Catholic), my geeky career (Software) and my compensation (Night Mastery). I told my friend that I couldnt' stand the place any longer - I've already gotten the names of all the girls I could have possibly been interested in within the hour. It was time to go.

    I rejoined the wolfpack at the door of the Leg Room. I'm pretty sure they paid for my cover but at least I saved them a few bucks at the second joint. I had been around that block and I swore I saw some dancing on the second floor. The music was loudest out of the Leg Room so I figured that was it. So I get to my spot after doing a lap and then see that this has got the right dive groove going for it, but I've definitely had too much fresh air. So I'm a bit snapped out of the prowling mood, especially considering the good casing I've given the neighborhood. There were two other joints on Rush at which I made my presence known to the bouncers, but I decided against it all. For a moment, I was envious of the guy in the convertible Bentley with the two blondes, but then I thought better of myself.

    The Leg Room seemed much more of an anything goes kind of joint, and I was digging that. The bartender at the register, after delivering the Jack & Coke and recieving a nice tip, lit my cigarette. He understands the business. The business of the nightclub is to cater to the fantasies of all these kids on the make. It was clear to me in that moment in a way it hasn't been since my cousin regaled me with stories of $500 tips when he tended bar on Wall Street in the 80s. I have the eye. I can tell who's having fun and who needs to do what to make their evening right. And I remember that there is nothing too weird. Night Mastery is about wish fulfillment. Since I'd mentally checked out, not having found the appropriate trust-funder to play bad boy with, I continued watching other people watch each other and occasionally make moves. Now it's a blur. Then it was pure enjoyment. I really love people.

    Nothing is too weird in the clubs, but that must be hedged around your colleagues. I popped over to to where the gang was to have one more shot of something profoundly citrus, like an orange Altoid crushed into an ounce of Cointreau and vodka. Then I split without goodbye. Twelve drinks is the limit, and I had to pack the next morning.

    It has been quite some time since I've had a good prowl in a strange town, and I had a riotously good time with a solid 4 hours of carousing. I only wish I had some people I knew a tad better and people who knew the town a touch better to crawl with. That and the freedom to not worry about retouching the rep. Everything I do works when I've got millions and titles, but I have neither, just.. a past colored by a certain lack of social fear.

    I've decided that I very much like Chicago and aim to return. I know I can get a good steak at the Chop House, and a decent margarita at the Grotto. I still have no idea which way the river flows, but I'm going back into Project Gotham to see what I can recognize.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:15 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    August 20, 2005

    Liveblogging the Cass Tech Reunion

    As I sit here at 11:24 Eastern, I'm surrounded by one of the coolest Old School crowds I've been around in quite some time. It's the Class of 1980 and the party is jumping off.

    These are the friends and classmates of the Spousal Unit. I extended my business swoop through Chicago to get over here to Motown and complete the weekend. Tonight was the dinner, tomorrow is the picnic. Monday is for sobering up.

    There are a remarkable number of talented people who have their roots here at Cass, and I met a good number of them. A cat name Boykin who is a senior law partner in DC was at my table. Another brother named Webb does M&A work. I met a brother who's working the number 10 furniture chain in the US whose 30 stores are all in Michigan. There was a Canadian Mountie as well as a true Echelon Van Eck Phreak specialist in the house. Then there's a bit of celebrity in the crowd too. The lovely star of Access Hollywood co-MC'd the evening's festivities. There are showbiz folks from Interscope, a cast member of the Lion King and probably Cass' most famous graduate, jazz violinist Regina Carter (who was rippin' up the floor with a suave brother in a grey suit and Prada glasses). Right next to Regina was Carla Cook. Of course our old friends the Easleys were in the house and it was good to see them after all these years. Too bad Mike Traylor didn't show up..

    Introductions went around and the crowd was full of impressive, not to mention good looking folks. The DJ cranked up the volume and the floor was packed. I'm fairly sure that people know that I'm from Cali by now because I worked up a serious sweat. I've got movies of the Cha Cha Slide that should go into the Smithsonian.

    I've got a ton of pictures and business cards, and we'll get some of those uploaded in the morning. Right now it's time for slow dancing.

    We remembered Bonnie & Clyde the security guards, the elevator operator, Miss Harper who kept saying "squeeze in". There was some character named Ed Woodruff who would 'fix' your report card, driver's license and everything else. Where is he now? Who started that food fight? Cyndi says it was probably one of the football team guys, but nobody will know for sure. Who could run from the basement to the top of the seventh floor for gym? Most of the jocks would stop on the way to smell the cookies baked in Home Ec.

    Mike Lewis, the MC (and quarterback back in the day) is now a big shot at Delco and responsible for the launch of the Pontiac G6. (I like the G6, that's a sweet ride.) He said that Coach Spivey is his neighbor. People in the crowd figured his wife was about, what 12 years old? Speaking of freaky deaky, what about Coach Fears. He finally got the boot for trying to make kids swim naked, or so it was rumored. But there were fonder memories of English teacher Shakey Shirley, and the tough love given out by Mrs. Branch. One alum recalled that she wouldn't give him his test unless he buttom up his shirt 'and cover up your bony little chest'. She also got Colleen in big trouble spotting her from the sixth floor after Skip Day. Mike recalled that you basically failed if you got under 75 at Cass Tech. His neighbors at other public schools were happy to get a 74 which meant a C. Not at Cass.

    Cyndi broke out the yearbook and people were glued. We checked out the big hair of the 70s. Areesa got a standing ovation for her efforts in pulling this thing together. But it ain't over yet.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:23 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    August 11, 2005

    Seventeen Years

    17 years plus of incomplete poems
    Bold legacy of my halfwit journal.
    Some raps in rhythms unrecognizable.
    Confessions, impressions I’d rather deny.

    Life's a complaint of itinerate storms
    Downpouring madness and leaving me soaking.
    Giving me weight so I feel myself walking
    Dripping by conscience I’d rather be dry.

    Dozens of dozens compacted with winzip
    Clutter directories deep on the drive
    Squirreled and squished away squelched in my memory
    Leaving a deepness I dropped for my babies

    Inward summations delivered to no one
    Or no one to puncture my aura for fear
    I grimace and stomach and savor my bile
    And smile as if Charlie were actually here.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:19 AM | TrackBack

    August 08, 2005

    The Almost Collective

    Something I just finished by Jimi Izrael has made me change my mind. That, and several other things have conspired to make me drop the idea I said I was going to take up in the blog - that of 'relationships'. As he was writing about Danyel Smith, which took me around the 'sphere to Mark Neal and Bomani Jones, I thought about my old buddy Sheryl Huggins and the black literary collective that never was in the New York of my dreams.

    It just so happens that I considered doing an open mic performance yesterday. So I sat for two hours in my empty house and read aloud all the poetry I had written oh so many years ago. This time, unlike times previous, I wasn't afraid to edit it and make it better. As well, with a fresh face, I wasn't afraid at all to call a great deal of it stinky. In all the time I was reading, I never once thought about Sheryl Huggins and that's a damned shame.

    You see, Sheryl was my sort-of muse in Brooklyn. She was the brains behind a magazine called Shade. It was going to be the sophisticated urban upscale fashion and culture magazine that was going to rip a chic hole in the space-time continuum of America. It didn't. You haven't heard of Shade Magazine have you? I wasn't much help. In the moments where I could have and perhaps should have made the hookups real with Greg Tate, Sekou Sundiata, Omar Wasow, Lisa Jones and others interesting, I walked on bourgie eggshells. I was writing poetry and love songs for them and people like them. People like the 22 of you who read this blog - a discerning minority on the fringes of the margin. It's not that I didn't have the heart, but that I didn't have the audience and I couldn't wish it to be any larger than it was, or is. I look at my poetry today and know what I wanted people to know and feel. It's still raw and powerful under the surface, but I ran out of motivation to polish it. I found Sheryl when Shade was failing and the bank officers were calling. That's what kept me out of it all. Shade was a debt as big as a house in California and I knew I wasn't prepared to play in that league. Not with mine or with other people's money.

    I looked around the offices of Shade. It was a PeeWee's playhouse of magazine clippings, artwork and a thousand snippets of creativity for which my vocabulary had no buckets. The office was shared with McLean Greaves who lived in some corner of nirvana unapproachable by negroes beyond arms distance. The entire setup had the aura of gorgeous futility, a tragic kind of beautiful stillborn thing. Whenever Sheryl entered the joint, her brow knit up like a crumpled lunchbag. We wanted to be the substrate of desire of new black dreams, all that and gay friendly too. Sheryl took me to upper-eastside poetry readings and cafes. We met genuine African-American Wall Street types with genuine African business connections. If we could only put it all together. But my arms were too short. The cash wasn't flowing. The audience wasn't listening. We were the hip center of a universe in which there was no gravity.

    My uncle once told me "Hollywood is like any other business, except the people are twice as flaky." That was a night we sat up waiting for a phone call from Stevie Wonder. Everything is possible but nothing is real. The reality of the failure of Shade pushed me over the edge into the punk zone of cultural production. What are the chances that I would want to mortgage half a million to build a big glossy instantiation of black high culture? It all seemed suddenly impossible. There was no chance for melioration in text and graphics - all we could do was go to the right parties and catch the vibe face to face.

    It intensified my longing for the purest literary endeavors. Serious people read, they didn't need to be seduced.

    A great deal of my vehemence against hiphop has to do with Sheryl's debt. In the days when people were still shocked about a group like Onyx, in the days when Spike Lee was about as controversial as anybody black could possibly be, there was a time when people held out hope for the enlightenment of all my folks, as Speech of Arrested Development once said. Before the New Media had names like Razorfish, when the NetNoir deal was all the rage - there was strong component of faith that those of us on the funded side of the digital divide might make a bridge. But there are always the millions who don't care, and they are always willing to drop 17 dollars worth of respect. That's 17 million we never got, and probably never will.

    I'm not going to write in this blog about boys and girls. I already know that anybody who's ready for gay marriage finds the concept of sanctity ridiculous. I'm not even trying to convince them. I'm not going into any debt to try and elevate with elegance - either we'll meet at the same party or we won't. I had felt, for a moment, a sense of obligation to the fatherless millions who are my African American brothers. But now is not the time to talk about love or high culture. I leave that for another day, perhaps for Lucifer Jones. How you get your inspiration, I'm sorry, that's your business. I bled that gallon 14 years ago.

    The last we heard from Sheryl was I hope you have landed softly Sheryl, whereever you are. I'm sorry I never had the million bucks.

    Posted by mbowen at 02:17 PM | TrackBack

    August 07, 2005

    Chicks & Dudes

    I spent a lot of time listening to Tom Leykis while I was in Seattle last week. His was one of the many shows on 100.7 The Buzz that was the basic radio oxygen sucker during my drive-times.

    What is wrong with people that they don't know this stuff? I mean this guy calls in and he says he's got this woman and her kid living in his house and what should he do? Leykis walks him through the finer points of his stupidity and sends him off with an understanding in no uncertain terms that it's her or his career. In my 20s I was so persnickety about women, some people thought I was gay, but it sure is good to this kind of flat talk on talk radio.

    Leykis is murder on single mothers and everybody who listens to his show knows it. His position is basically this: IT'S A MISTAKE. No argument here. The intellectual in me wants to second-guess him, but I know he's right. In fact, the second-guess argument in me went back to the question of abortion rights during the beginning of the Culture Wars. I had the balls to suggest, without much proof either way, that black families persist because black women are not as afraid as white women to be 'burdened' with children. So our abortion rates are much lower and our 'extended families' are more real. That was 1986, and I haven't gone there much since. Instead, I turned to more macroeconomic explanations of poverty. But I'm probably about to turn all that waffling on its head this month as I revisit Moynihan. But I can tell you confidently on the gut level, that Tom Leykis has it dead right when it comes to dating, sex and family values. I haven't heard him misspeak yet.

    Although I don't listen as often as perhaps a conservative pundit ought to, I do sense something conspicuously dysfunctional about today's relationships. Cobb's Rule #1 is that "There is marriage, and there is everything else. Everything else doesn't matter." So I don't really give spit credibility to 'relationships'. As I was saying not long ago, you would think with the diseases and trifling people out there, young folks ought to get it through their heads that it ought to be all about getting to the alter in one piece. Nevertheless, they amazingly seem to sidle half-assed into 'relationships' and wonder what's wrong.

    So I'm thinking here, as I look at Ambra's talk about what men do wrong, that I should jump onboard this meme and take it to the next phase. Because clearly, if Leykis is making money, there's not enough daddy work going on and perhaps I can be of service.

    The more I think about it, the more I need to slap myself for not doing more. Especially as I get into this gay marriage discussion, it sounds like all I am is 'against' while not saying what I'm for. Furthermore, a lot of confusion surrounds my position as conservative, as if conservative blacks have the same exact puritan hangups as our non-black cousins. And so I think I'll start a new category, Boys & Girls. I'll test it out with the readership and use the best of it for my own kids.

    Posted by mbowen at 04:03 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    The Press Kit

    Michael David Cobb Bowen is the blogger and political cartoonist 'Cobb'. He writes from the perspective of a moderate conservative Republican representing the 'Old School' of African American culture and values. In his 15 year career of writing as a poet and essayist he has been called the Ralph Ellison of his generation.

    Bowen was raised in middle-class black Los Angeles the oldest of five children by Catholic and Episcopalian parents who worked civil service jobs and engaged in grass roots political activism. He attented Catholic schools and went on to pursue his degree in Computer Science after a distinguished highschool career and a series of odd- including union jobs.

    In college he was twice elected National Finance Officer of the National Society of Black Engineers. He went on to work for the Xerox Systems Group, Pilot Executive Software, Arbor Software and his own consultancies. He is currently a Data Architect for a major US consultancy specializing in Business Intelligence and Sarb-Ox compliant systems.

    He is a free-lance writer of note in internet circles. Never far from issues of race, politics and culture he has written extensively in public online spaces since 1993 from The Well to Cafe Utne where he was host of the Society Conference. He is the author of many controversial websites including Boohab's Factotum and the Race Man's Home Companion.

    Today, he is a Large Mammal and member of the Bear Flag League of conservative California bloggers. His current projects include Vision Circle, a black progressive group blog and XRepublic, a model for a virtual parliament. Most notably, he is the founder of The Conservative Brotherhood whose 15 blogging authors have become the defacto voice of the Black Conservatism online.

    (and then Charlie Rose says: Welcome!)

    Other interesting facts:

    Bowen was an original member of the Young Simbas and still celebrates Kwanzaa.

    Bowen is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, the frat of Thurgood Marshall, MLK and others of great distinction.

    Bowen has an insider's acquaintance with the black upper-middle and upper class and their organizations such as the Links and the Boule, as well as the black private school cliques of late 70s Los Angeles.

    Bowen considers himself a Hayekian, a pragmatist, an economic Chicagoan, and a solid geopolitical neoconservative. He is a civil libertarian that supports civil unions for gays but not 'gay marriage'.

    Bowen maintains strong ties to the black progressive political tradition and is trying to influence it and reconcile the strengths of black nationalism and black consciousness with what he calls the "politics of social power". He is a strong integrationist and remains weakly positive on Affirmative Action.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:28 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Ambra & Macaroni

    I had no idea that Seattle had a monorail, and if I hadn't gotten temporarily lost with Ambra Nykol the other night, I never would have known.

    In the end we found a joint called the Ikon Grill which looked like something of a cross between a circus tent, a grandmother's living room and lamp museum. The scallops and wild rice were the bomb. She had a $12 bowl of their legendary macaroni & cheese.

    Ambra's cool. She impresses me as a wonderfully independent minded person who has time to be curious, but not time to be wasted. She'll go anywhere once. I probably spent more time shooting off my mouth than I should have, and on retrospect I would have liked to have asked her a bunch more questions - interview style. But I do know that like me, she's an east-coaster at heart, though she stays in the west. She comes from a family of over-achievers and sees through most people's BS. She knows about that crowd who used to instigate paper bag and ruler tests and like me, quickly tired of it. Well, maybe I wasn't so quick, regressive as I am becoming.

    We talked about so much of everything it's hard to remember what. A lot about blogging cliques, the future of TCB, the Blogher conference, XRepublic, my Ex (see, I should have shutup) and the philosophy at Google. I also know that I don't know Ambra's real name. Apparently, she has experienced cyberstalking headaches on occasion. She's not phased by it but, better safe than sorry. We both wonder what the Mac Diva looks like and agree that Oliver Willis is a basketcase and that EJ Flavors is cool.

    I felt the need to expound upon the lonly existence in the margin of the fringe of the fraction of the minority of upper-middle class black life on the right as we sat at the table in the front in the corner in the light. I think I turned a bit sentimental reminescing about love lost and found. How many times have I met brilliant, beautiful black women in the American diaspora? At the level of seeking company, I almost sympathize with Debra Dickerson's latest complaint. Of course it's not enough simply to be wanted, but to be wed. And while I have no doubt that Ambra will land on her feet, I couldn't help but recognize how outnumbered we are - especially earlier that evening at the bar of Wild Ginger. Perhaps I speculate too much about how much of single life is spent in the ultimate pursuit, but then again I was being a bit too much about my past instead of her future that evening.

    We must have spent a good couple of hours at the grill, I had a glass of port while she lingered over a bowl of fresh strawberries that our itchy waiter kept trying to snatch away. Time flew and soon it was time to break out. As we walked through the homeless jungle, I kept trying to switch sides to insulate her from various mumbling miscreants without seeming too obvious about it. Finally the weather was just about right for the Eddie Bauer turtleneck I was sporting, and the fresh air was getting crisper. Just right to clear the webs and alcohol.

    I met Ambra Nykol! I feel so cool now, and yes she is that smart and does look that good.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:55 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    August 06, 2005

    High & Low

    Now that my entire family is out of town and the house is clean and quiet, I am at liberty. But since I've got the the need to blog, I may as well make my phonecalls redundant by chronicling my inane activities.

    All morning I've been shooting cops in the head because they have the nerve to interrupt my mindless criminal activity. For 90 days in Los Santos, I've known where to find grenades. Today, finally I've gone buck wild. Nobody was safe, not civilians, not fellow bangers, not firetrucks putting out the first of the exploding cars. I played for 6 hours and now my thumb hurts.

    This afternoon, I'm heading downtown to MOCA and then to a chamber orchestra concert. Mladi is performing. It should be good to be downtown in the evening. I'm anxious to see glitter. Blog at 11.

    Posted by mbowen at 02:57 PM | TrackBack

    August 02, 2005


    I have been working my butt off for the past three weeks. There doesn't seem to be an end in sight, but finally I'm getting to the point where it looks like there can be some payoff.

    As I write this, I'm in some mall town called Federal Way in the glorious state of Washington. Off in the distance is Mount Rainier looking like something out of a picture of paradise. It's an astoundingly massive mountain standing alone. It locks onto your eyeballs like a campfire. You just can't help but stare at it. It gives you a sense of, if I wasn't so sophisticated I could see myself worshiping it.

    By some freakishness explained better by geographers it doesn't get dark around here until 9pm. The weather has been perfect. Everybody says that this is the best time of year to be in and around Seattle. The Blue Angels are coming to town and this weekend are the hydroplane races. With any luck, I'll be hooking up with TCB mate Ambra Nykol. I've been eating on expense money, shrimp, steak, oysters, margaritas and more shrimp. It's almost relaxing and refreshing. But I'm still not out of hell yet.

    We're competing with Microsoft for a massive contract at this rather large aircraft manufacturing company which shall remain nameless. The pressure is relentless, and as alpha geek, I can't afford to lose my touch - even though I did this morning, big time. It was one of those days when the smallest change throws everything into chaos. We've regrouped of course and are back on track, but today at lunch I wanted to flush myself down the toilet.

    It turns out, fortunately, that some of the new technology we have is astonishingly fast. Although I haven't had much occasion to use it, I engineered a database with it this evening that turned a 15 minute chore into a 7 second blink of the eye. I don't quite understand the technology, but am satisfied that it's magic. I kinda like to leave the mystery.

    Last night I fell asleep with the television on. So I dreamt that I was a fitness instructor and people around me kept saying how many pounds they lost with my amazing new method. I fell asleep face up and so I woke up this morning with a twisted ankle. The sheets at the bottom of the bed wouldn't budge and my foot was heeled over at a bizarre angle. I limped into the shower at 5:30am and found out how cold the water gets. Very. But it still didn't wake me up.

    Nothing wakes me up these days except for anxiety. I keep thinking about how I might have solved that technical problem that I still haven't fixed. Why don't those JDBC drivers work? Which instance of Tomcat is actually running on my PC? How am I going to load those rate tables? I know I'm sleepy but I can't go back to bed. It's morning, and a dozen bored engineers have to listen to me demonstrate.

    I didn't expect to demonstrate. I expected to walk people through a build. But they've got people on Webex and I've got to narrate to an agenda. I hereby create a new acronym: 'IGTOFTS'. I'm getting too old for this shit. But it pays well. Not well enough for me to raise and house three kids in Southern California, but objectively well. I don't want to live in Seattle - not right now I don't think, but I considered it once.

    I think the people up here look like small town people. That's the downside of putting away the stress. It's really not necessary for me to get that BMW 540 I'm pricing out, but it's what I ought to have in Los Angeles. Up here, it would be extravagant. Up here, I'm too good looking. I'd get too bored. At the mall food court, a kid was wearing a T-shirt that said "I make the rules because I have the dick." I kid you not. I don't mean to be uncharitable; there is surely good living up here. But part of the point of Tacoma is that it's Tacoma. The skyline is beautiful but not intimidating. I was raised to live in cities with intimidating skylines.

    No matter how many extraordinary systems I architect in my current job, the sales guys will make more money than me. They all expect to retire in 10 years. I'm not a proprietor any longer. I work hard, but not as smart as I used to. But it satisfies my inner geek. I don't have to speak up and be sparkly, I don't have to arrange the meetings. I can be crabby and not worry about all the angles.

    The spousal unit and the rest of the family have taken off to their vacation destination. When I go home Friday night, it will be me in my nice quiet house. I'm going to sleep 'til noon like Yogi Bear. I'm going to have beer for breakfast and play Green Day at -2dB. Then I'll start blogging up a storm and maybe do some work on XRepublic. It will be a nice relaxing weekend. Then I'll return here and finish up.


    Posted by mbowen at 09:42 PM | TrackBack

    July 30, 2005

    Power Moms: The Wisdom of Breeders

    The first time I travelled to Houston I was surprised by a number of things, but the biggest surprise was with something I discovered about myself. I didn't understand children.

    I married when I was 33, relatively late, but right on my schedule. I had a ball as a single guy, and I lived in all the cool places. I can recall checking through trashcans looking for empty Haagen-Dazs & Lean Cuisine packages to see if a neighborhood was yuppy enough for me to move in. A decade of that kind of living made me oblivious to the very basics of children. A particularly lazy weekend found no seminars, gallery openings or decent movies. So I ended up wandering to, of all places, a shopping mall. As I stood relaxing over the bannister at the ice rink at the Galleria in Houston, I realized I had no idea how old the children I was looking at were.

    Although I haven't made much of it here at Cobb, I can say most decidedly that raising children has made me a much wiser person than I might have otherwise been. It defies the sense that Bhudda might have brought forth, but he was a man out of his time. It's difficult to imagine in the time of Bhudda there might be so many people living a decade of 'single life' before having children. So I wonder if the enlightenment of Bhudda couldn't be matched by anyone today with access to a wealth of research and an extra decade of family-free life. The greatness of the discoveries of the ancient world was that those innovators put together their insights in the absence of clues, whereas today it all seems obvious. Yes, now that the original deed has been done.

    The other day at the Bear Flag League Meetup, TCB colleague JC Phillips said something which impressed my by its simplicity. "Community is the first political entity." I've been thinking about how implementations of XRepublic can affect bottoms-up representation. I expect new dense networks to emerge as people start using computers to mediate more of their communications. In fact, this summer I intend to build a parent's networking portal for the folks in my neighborhood. So when polling organizations become disintermediated by groups like this, interesting dynamics will ensue.

    As we began discussion about community over at VC, the issue of community organizing arose. My response was this:

    One of the fundamental questions is the role of the mom. Having lived in So Cal for 8 years in 3 different neighborhoods, I can tell you that unless and until you have moms sharing responsibilities for each other's kids real community isn't happening.

    In the first neighborhood, we had our kids interact with other kids at the public park through their various public programs. There were maybe three full-time staff, and my wife made pals with the number one woman who ran the program. We had her over for my barbecues and we wer basically tight.

    In the second neighborhood, more of our kids were in school and most things were school based. There was a real friendliness among the parents at school but we weren't there long enough to establish a lot of bonds.

    In the third neighborhood, where I live now, we can see things coming to a real fruition at about the fourth and fifth grade level. This is where kids really start to choose their friends, have sleepovers and parents are making the commitments to get to know each other. (You have to if it's going to be a sleepover). There are three or four families where we are close enough to spontaneously have their kids over our place or ours at theirs. This is a very different level of cooperation than just doing the 'activity based' relationships. When kids are playing sports on the same teams or scouting or going to the same church school, that's one level, but the sleepovers and family outings - that's a different level.

    So for me personally there has been a progression of integration with other families that really doesn't seem to get into gear until kids are in the third grade. It becomes clear after a while, who the power moms are in the community. It's all about knowing the power moms.

    Now I would say there's going to be a big difference in the quality of community based upon how many women are working. In the last two neighborhoods, there were plenty of stay at home mothers, and if you ask me, that is the single most important determining factor in the quality of community life. It's all about what's going on at 4:20, and if mom is not watching... well, you know what happens. If you shift the burden of organizing and watching children to public institutions, you will by definition get results that are not up to par. I don't believe you can invest properly without fundamentally altering the relationship between kids, the school and parents - which is to say that the school has to be greatly expanded. Where there are working or single mother families, the school has to be day care, park, babysitting, homework monitoring, communications exchange and trusted surrogate. I don't think that there is enough public money for that or that there ever will be, but I could see how making school a place where parents can pick up their kids up to 9pm at night would work.

    The term 'community' gets applied to just about every group imaginable here in this country. Yglesias has been mentioning SuicideGirls as porn, but I know that there are such communities of 'pierced lesbians'. What has Conservatives behaving defensively with such things as the Defense of Marriage Act is their interpretation of how politically valid all such communities aim to be. And of course since Liberals tend to speak for everyone, they have managed to pervert, if not invert, concepts of liberty and equality to suggest that all communities are of equal value. Anyone on the outs from the central and traditional core communities are considered political allies, even and especially when those communities of interest are counter-cultural and anti-social. All I need to say is one word: 'Insurgents'.

    Despite the popularity of extended childhood and bohemian living amongst our nation's youth, it is reasonable to assess their political value to society independent of their popularity. If they are given political 'voice' which is disproportionate to their contribution to society, then we end up creating democratic institutions which are caustic to the fabric of society. Let me not get to Randian here, but it is not logically consistent to have disinterested parties determining the fate of society. Equal time is not the proper principle, but balance and perspective. Mark dissent for what it is, dissent. Not an equally valid position if only society could be reconstituted.

    My personal tar-baby in this discussion is that acerbic comic Janeane Garofalo. While she may or may not be a pierced lesbian, she strikes me very clearly as a chick, in otherwords the anti-mom. She appears by my eyes both intellectually and physically incapable of motherhood, but I am not shunning her for a handicap. Rather I'm saying this is a choice. She needs to be childless and has decided to be precisely that, in persuit of her happiness - the kind of hip happiness that spits at the very notion of taking her kids ice skating at the mall.

    I argue for the humility of parenthood, and in fact I take not a small bit of pride from the fact that as a father of three, I am outnumbered. I cannot exercise control over my children at all times and yet I am constantly providing for their safety and upbringing. This is the humility I find directly incompatible with the hipness of American alternative culture. In other words, hippies make lousy parents. And the whole Hollywood vibe we conservatives can't stand is the self-righetousness of selfish, stylish loudmouth people who believe their politics are the substance of American life, and not the dissent from it. They believe that their alternatives are a flight from oppression, more often than not it is flight from humble responsibility. Doesn't Sally Struthers have her own children?

    I am interested to see how the gap is bridged between the priorities and emergent politics of a networked suburban power mom framework and that of the dual earner or single parent framework. When these groups aggregate, howe will their direct priorities influence local politics? Moreover when they inevitably conflict with those who are antagonistic to the fundaments of straight marriage with children, how much leverage is going to be taken by the bohemians? How much will our society give?

    It may take a village to raise a child, but let's make sure that the village elders are parents.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:28 AM | TrackBack

    July 19, 2005

    Time the Avenger

    How on earth am I going to get through it all? I have no idea. There is so much going on that I'm about to pop.

    First of all, I just finished up at my last assignment. So now the design doc is done and we sit on our hands for several weeks while the sodbusters in procurement decide whether or not we who have done the brainwork in Research get to do the moneywork of Development. On the other hand, the whole point of this farce is to let the Indians do it cheap. I'm starting to become a red-blooded American asshole. But I'm trying not to got nativist all at once. I'll let the next contract lost push me over the edge. For the moment I am just on edge. That's one.

    The new gig has got me wheeling my hooptie all the way out to Westlake Village. Close but far, and they've got the nerve to want me out there at 8am sharp. Damn! Well, at least their spaghetti isn't so tangled as others I've seen this year. It's hands-on for a change. I'm actually building stuff. That's nice. On the other hand, they've got my sites marked as verboten by that firewall dingus, so I can't update pieces of drafts during the day. Not good. That means the 4 day forecast for blogging is dreary. Ahh well. That's why they call it work.

    I'm never going to have enough verbiage to describe all the camaraderie at the Summer BFL gathering this weekend at Cal Tech. It's a damned shame because that's at least one thing I know that will get trackbacks. Be that as it may, there are others capable of handling that action in general. Nevertheless, there are some standout moments that I absolutely must address.

    Firstly, J. Craig Williams, the fiercely sharp guy who runs the new blog May it Please the Court, helped adjust my thinking on the issues surrounding the Shield Law. I like his attitude, firm and assured. That's what does the convincing - he's not merely logical, but an advocate. What sticks is the notion that one should talk what one knows as a blogger / publisher, for we are called into account for the information we release. You need to understand the import of what communication you do on behalf of sources, whether or not one might be compelled to release their identity. You simply can't get off scott-free; nobody is 'just' a messenger. This is a responsibility that lies independent of one's right to be shielded.

    Schneier never answered my question about the self-shielded whistleblower, but I am becoming more convinced that such a thing is possible in the web. Somebody like Cryptome who has decided to be something of a secrets clearinghouse may very well prove to be a precedent sometime in the future. But there are interesting possibilities to be decided when a self-cloaked blabbermouth engages a semi-witting agent to publish news special somebodies want kept quiet. It's a tricky road, but I am more convinced now that there are real possibilities. I am also more convinced now that we may begin to tread into spycraft, and the legal stuff behind that is deadly - just ask Plame or Rove.

    Speaking of which.. naaah. Later.

    It turns out that just the very kind of guy who ought to get it, it being the future of voting, computer mediated deliberation and all, is too something of a gamer. Marc 'Armed Liberal' Danziger and I will be throwing ideas around to look at the next level of blogospheric organization. If I can manage to crawl out of bed early enough, I'll explain XRepublic to him.

    I don't know how I got it in my head that I'd be tossing bourbons back with Gerard. It just seemed like a good idea at the time. He was kind enough not to look at me strangely as I publically persisted with that notion. I simply find it odd that this guy, whom I've known in various joints on the web going back a dozen years, have not met much less had a drink. Maybe I've been watching too many Western movies. Cheers anyway. Maybe it'll be motorcycles in the end.

    In typical style, I was bursty at the joint, alternatively being extraordinarily attentive and breathing people in and then doing a ventriloquist whistle to make it sound like Miss Attila is from Brooklyn. I had a ball all in all. What a bunch.

    Now I have to go check my head at Dreadnought according to the Gay Patriot. Damn. It's midnight.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:07 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    July 18, 2005

    What do Black Conservatives Look Like?



    Posted by mbowen at 11:30 PM | TrackBack

    July 09, 2005

    Young Republicans in Las Vegas

    I'm back from my sojourn in Sin City, and I am naturally struck by the contrast of the nature of the town and the fact that the primary reason I was there was to present in a panel discussion to the Young Republicans National Conference.

    At the invitation of Nelson Taylor, I and 6 other panelists engaged a small but curious crowd about the perils and opportunities provided by the New Media. I had worked myself up quite a bit in anticipation of this, my first television appearance in many years. In the end, it was a brisk hour on the dais, with only perhaps about 15 minutes filmed for the ever-curious eye of C-SPAN. The program should be broadcast for American Perspectives sometime in the near future.

    Sitting next to me on the panel was Bob Johnson of Right Talk and Free Republic. He was a right amicable fellow who hails from the same part of SoCal where I live. We traded quips and made small talk during our off mic time. He seems like a good guy to know and one who has been around the block. Also on the panel were others interesting, CEO Ravi Singh of ElectionMall, college speaker and ex-hippie Chris Beren, young upstart Nathan Tabor of The Conservative Voice and Bob Eberle. Eberle's has a rather massive audience, of course not big enough to satisfy anyone's ambition on the panel. In addition was the very serious Don Irvine of AIM.

    The star of the show from the moment he arrived was Bob Eberle who jumped into the middle of conversations whose beginnings obviously had deep roots beyond my ken. Eberle, it turns out, is the owner of the Talon News Service whose employee was the star of one of those huge controversies the blogosphere seems to love so well - none other than Gannon-Gluckert. So it took a moment for me to put two and two together as I overheard him say something to the effect that the Left wanted to try and prove that Bush and Cheney were gay. Eberle was clearly steamed about getting the bad end of a great deal of lefty sharp sticks and I have a feeling that the bad blood left over from that unpleasantness is not going away any time soon. Such matters make me very glad for my day job, because in the end, I could hardly expect less from inside the Beltway.

    Of all the panelists, I was clearly the one with the fewest partisan axes to grind. Certainly mine is the smallest of all their websites - as these gents seemed to be angling more towards media mogul end of the business. I knew that coming in and decided to play the techie role ahead of time. I actually expected a smaller panel and a larger audience so I was a bit disappointed that I didn't get to go into more detail about the future I see. Nevertheless, knowing it was just an hour I figured I could get only a bit in edgewise anyway.

    What I didn't get a chance to say which needed saying was anything about Creative Commons when the question of copyright was raised. I got the feeling that it was something of a softball aimed at the big publishers in the group. I believe it was Eberle, although it might have been Tabor who made a very explicit point of declaring his 100% support of current copyright law. It is perfectly right and proper that any CEO of a media company should, but it rather cut to the heart of what would have been a very interesting discussion, had we the time and opportunity to do so.

    I would contend that in the bottom-up world I would like to see coming from the citizens of the United States - those of us who are the most demanding and persistent participants in democratic politics in the world - that our net output far exceeds that of the big media. And since most of us bloggers are aware of the Creative Commons, as primary sources, we can control copyright through our choices which will become ossified by convention. In other words, who cares about the 500,000 words copyrighted daily in the NYTimes when there are 1000 times that amount coming through Creative Commons in the blogosphere? Sooner or later the expensive words won't count and the cheap ones will prevail, which was a point I wanted to make by saying 'We hold these truths to be self-evident' and then mockingly adding 'TM'.

    Since I for one consider myself quite strongly in what we often call the 'reality based world' and am probably a bit more scientific than the average panelist, I'm not particularly concerned about a subset of the blogosphere's willingness to undermine copyright per se. There is value in a writer who interviews a subject matter expert and then copyrights that interview as a matter of course in doing business with his publisher, but there is perhaps greater value in the subject matter expert speaking directly through the New Media. This, in my estimation, is the whole point, and I wonder if the implications of this inherent conflict is apparent to those who would cannibalize the MSM with their New Media methods. Or as Ravi Singh put it so eloquently, do you want votes or money?

    As for myself, I'm analytical and an idea man. As I arrived early to the forum, I wandered around as the Young Republicans themselves were gnashing through the parliamentary moshpit of credentialling and standing of their member organizations and delegates. It took me back to my own college days and memories of interminable meetings seemingly tailor-made by lobbiests for the caffiene and amphetamine industry. While I hope the grinding continues, it would be much more efficient to do it online so as not to mess with the schedules of the queues of panelists who drive at breakneck speeds across the desert Southwest. Another point of XRepublic. And so while there are a host of points of orders and arcane etiquettes still very much in action in the halls of power in this nation, I am hopeful that the 60% who sit out most elections are of the same sentiment as I. Show me the bottom line and let me vote, and stop wasting my time with all the foofoo. I think the ideas will come through if we are courageous and bold enough to speak the truth and commit to be reality-based. An idealistic position which I quite well understands suffers in the face of the fact that the unwashed millions very often require direction and prodding from those of us who bother to lead. Nevertheless as for me and those like me, I'll have my freedom thank you.

    I have come to understand and respect the opacity and purposeful indirection in law. It's confusing so as to dilute and diffuse the power of those who would just as soon bull through it. But when it comes to citizens coming to concensus, I much prefer discrete clarity. Then again, that's why I studied computer and not political science. So out in this world of citizen activists, a bit of plain speaking is a damned good thing and to hell with the shackles of copyright. Take this from the great-great grandson of someone who was forbidden to read by law. Our words will be free.

    The spousal unit crossed me on this point all the way to dinner at the Luxor Steakhouse that evening. She said that if my book or my words were being used by somebody else and taking money out of the Bowen Family Trust, that I'd be running around looking for brains to splatter. She's probably right but I wouldn't let her have the moment. After all, I was paying for the steaks. Which I guess made her point after all.

    All in all I had a fabulous time in Las Vegas, whose large contingent of average-looking people on the make never ceases to amuse. It was a good weekend, and I thank Nelson for the invite - big time, as well as Bob Johnson for all the pizza.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:59 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    July 04, 2005

    It Ain't Apple Pie, but..


    Posted by mbowen at 09:46 AM | TrackBack

    For the Banger

    Lee continues with her emails and we have some hella deep discussions. She has informed me that she has referred some of her old clients toward the blog, and so I feel obligated to recognize. This one is for the ex-gangbanger.

    I am the oldest of five kids, four of us boys. I grew up in a knuckle-up neighborhood in the 70s. No knives, no guns, but on any particular day you might find yourself on the bad end of a flurry of fists. I wrote about two of my notable encounters with bangers, but it doesn't really end there. I also knew a kid named Dana, who was as far as I knew, the founder of the Gangsta Crips. Dana was scared to death, and he never wanted to be scared again.

    The reasons for banging are always as simple as anything a 7th grader can understand. Necessity. Tradition. Respect. Protection. It's the choice between being a man or a mark when the man's way is the gang. I think it is practically impossible to choose another way when you are a boy, because there is nothing a boy wants more than to be a man. Boys always follow men.

    Back about 8 years ago, I had a brief correspondance with Monster Kody Scott, LA's most famous gangbanger and late resident of Pelican Bay. He was just getting out and had been putting together his prison writing - he sent me a package for review. Reading what I did of his work and knowing what I did of his life story, I realized that he understood deeper than just about anyone the Code of the Warrior. Except he wasn't anyone's warrior but his own - the leader of an outcast tribe. But Kody's most important lesson for me was that of the affinity of boys to manly deeds and the absolute need they have for each other.

    If it was my job to tell how to keep an ex-banger straight, I would offer the same advice Kody did, in reverse. Understand the effect you have on a young man and be his leader.

    Nothing keeps a man on a path as knowing that his example is being closely followed by others who want to be just like him. Nothing dogs a man like knowing that he's being scrutinized by others who hate his guts. For us men, this is what makes us or breaks us. Our reputation, our word, what people know us for. That's what we're all about. This is a harsh and cruel world, and all you've got are your few skills and strengths, and you need a space where those count for something, where people give you a break because they understand what you're all about.

    No man wants to start from scratch, ever. It means clawing your way up, like a boy, all over again. Why? Necessity. Tradition. Respect. Protection. But if your reputation is broken and you know it, there is no other way. If and when you know you have got to change, then you have to start at the bottom of something new and work your way up. There is no such thing as conversion. You make yourself into something by doing the work. Than you become this larger being that contains the old thing but feeds itself only by the new thing. And in that you become wiser than you thought you could be.

    Anyone who gets much past the 7th grade mentality and sees more than just one 'hood, knows that the gang is the way of the mark, and not the way of the man. There are only three gangs that survive in America. The cops, the military and the CIA. They rule. Nuff said.

    And do check out Solomon.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:43 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    July 03, 2005

    It's All About the BBQ


    Posted by mbowen at 06:08 PM | TrackBack

    Why Is This Man Smiling?


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    July 02, 2005

    80s Party Vibe

    Once again I watched with the spousal unit PDiddy's new comedy showcase. It's almost impossible to imagine, given how he poses in this joint that he got his start as a dancer. Not that I've been watching any videos lately, but I'm fairly certain that the only rapper with any cred on the dance floor is Usher, and well, is he a rapper? If the death of R&B foreshadows the death of black dance music, we've got a bigger problem.

    So right now I am listening to Tracie Spencer and it's about one of the very last vibes of the mid and late 80s. So I'd like to take a pause for the cause and bow my head in a moment of silence for the age when being a popular black muscial star meant you were serious about dancing and making music to dance to.

  • Nocera - Summertime Summertime
  • Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam - I Wonder If You Take Me Home
  • Paula Abdul - Straight Up
  • RFTW - Oh Sheila
  • Orbit - The Beat Goes On
  • My Prerogative - Bobby Brown
  • Teddy's Jam - Teddy Riley
  • Hashim - Al Naafiysh
  • Aleem - Release Yourself
  • Twilight 22 - Electric Kingdom
  • Klymaxx - The Men All Pause
  • Cybotron - Clear
  • Zapp - I Can Make You Dance
  • Morris Day - Tricky

  • I guess I could go on and on until the break of dawn...

    Posted by mbowen at 02:01 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

    June 26, 2005

    Critical Mass

    It occurs to me that I have compiled enough material to write a small book. I've already got the title. 'Keeping It Right: The Future of the Talented Tenth in the Post Civil Rights Era'.

    Or something like that.

    From the pages of Cobb, I'm going to assemble and repurpose 40 to 60 essays and reviews, and try to get published. I really have no excuse not to. It's time to wrap this up and create something for the non-blog universe. Especially now that I'm getting invited to conferences and whatnot, I should have an artifact.

    What should I cover?

    Posted by mbowen at 12:57 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

    Music & Books Meme

    There are a couple memes floating around about books and music. I'll bite.

    I'm reading Julio Cortazar, and that's about all.
    His collection of short stories are fairly interesting but leave me a bit cooler than I thought they might. He has a sense of existential irony which is something like that of Borges. It's been a while since Borges has intrigued me so seeing it in Cortazar makes me wonder if I might still be the same me who was so intrigued with Borges or has Borges changed me into someone who is disturbed by the sad insight that self is not self? See, I can do this stuff too, with smaller less sophisticated words. In my realm these are strengths.

    I own probably only 400 books which is something of a shock, because I thought surely I had double that. I just talked to Pops the other day and he's trying to get his library up to 1000 from 750.

    I have about 13000 mp3s but they're not all scanned. I lost half of my collection to hard drive failure and now have to re-rip. However I gave a couple crates of CDs to my sister after my last ripathon before the crash. Having survived the wake of that disaster I find myself in the zone of Not Wanting. So I get along with less.

    I find myself attracted to Jay-Z and Linkin Park's Collision Course CD which is the latest thing I purchased. Before that I bought four CDs by guitarist Paco de Lucia.

    I'm kinda into soloists these days, so I'm listening to a lot of:

  • Vladimir Horowitz
  • Marcus Roberts
  • Bill Frissell
  • I've got a feeling that I'm going to be looking for some contemporary Jazz soon. Something like Lounge Lizards, Bad Plus... Either that of Klezmeric jazz of some sort. Also for some reason I'm just stuck on Cibo Matto's 'Moonchild'.

    Oh yeah this: Last week at the Proud Bird, for Father's Day, we had a jazz quintet that had a Mexican dude on trumpet. I have now heard a new possibility in Jazz that I've never heard before, and I'm looking for anyone who knows what I'm talking about - I'm talking about a ripping stentorian trumpet leadership with the kind of blisteringly fast staccatto reminescent of Mexican troubadour bands in the cast of jazz improvization.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:09 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Too Real for Memos

    The other day I surprised myself by recalling a couple incidents in my youth that I don't often think about: two fights I had with a couple of gangbangers. Not for any good reason, though. I have very few thoughts worth supressing. But these two fights reminded me of the kind of person I am, tough. I probably haven't given myself enough credit for their influence on me, nor have I spoken much about them to anyone to see how others might reflect on them.

    The first incident took place just off Crenshaw Boulevard one block south of Adams in the mid 70s as my brother and I came back from a church dance by bus. It was about 10 or 11 at night. Some Crip named 'Punkin' or 'Pookie' tried to jack me with a knife. I told my brother to stay on Crenshaw while Pookie and I took it to the alley. I basically told Pookie that he was chickenshit for fighting with a knife, and he wasn't going to get my money. Pookie was stunned that I never heard of him. The fact was that he was in my turf, and sure enough some of my buds happened by. Pookie took off.

    The other time was at Vineyard Playground where we had supervised play. The Parks and Rec guy, having seen myself and another Crip trading blows offered to hold my glasses for me. I was a horrible puncher and wasn't doing a good job blocking blows, but the kid couldn't hurt me. He kept getting tired and asking if I quit. After a while the Parks and Rec guy got embarrassed and made us take our fight to the bathroom so we couldn't be seen. I emerged bloodied and defiant. The other kid kept talking shit but he knew he hadn't beaten me.

    I know what it's like to look at my face in the mirror and marvel at the pain I feel even though it doesn't show other than black eyes and bloody nose. After Vineyard I remembered that my friend Teedee's father taught him how to box. My father never showed us how to fight with our fists, though we were naturally gifted wrestlers. I always thought that if I didn't wear glasses, the Vineyard fight would have been more completely mine. I wonder if I should teach my son how to fight.

    I imagined that my own son might fight someone at school causing the lot of us to be lectured by a middle school vice principal. I could not forsee anything but a pseudo-intellectual drubbing including all of the dainty drivel that accompanies such conflict avoidance. And so I envisioned myself replying in kind with the following threat:

    I'm going to write an essay with your name in it that will keep you awake at night and plague you with self-doubt for the rest of your life. You have studiously avoided physical conflict your entire life and you have no concept of right and wrong when fists start flying. All violence is senseless to you because you are willfully ignorant of the dynamics of combat. You are ruled by fear and you lackadaisically punt off your responsibility to third parties who take your outrage at face value. You are the kind of people who get people like me killed.

    I imagine her face going pale and having the same sort of bewilderment as those two Crips. She is beaten in a way she never expected. This is part of that essay.

    My daughter and I spent last Saturday together hanging out. She was wearing 'baller bands' from her Awana and Score classes. She gave me one of the brightly colored rubber wristbands to wear. The blue one said 'Strength' and 'Courage'. Even though it was missing 'Wisdom', I thought it very appropriate.

    Lately, I haven't been able to get juiced up over any of the (insert insulting phrase here) that passes for political discussion these days. Especially over the Downing Street Memo, I simply cannot grasp the motivation of those who get amped over the 'smoking gun'. It's not a smoking gun, it's a memo. But like vice-principals, for these people a memo, a vitrolic essay is the currency of note. The Blogosphere self-ignites over these words and battles with words. I find myself just about as indifferent as the Cisco routers that spit and multiplex the bits across the fiber.

    They say that nobody who survives to adulthood has weaknesses, per se. They simply overuse their strengths. When there is a crisis, people respond to the crisis with their strengths. Legislators legislate. Warriors war. Whiners whine. Bloggers blog. Everything just goes a little faster, and people are just that more passionate about their own passion. Very few actually change direction. Everybody who was a baby Bin Laden before 9/11 is just a little more encouraged. As MLK said, the test of a man comes during the crisis. Everyone is a bit more true to their true selves.

    During war, people have their excuse. Somewhere on the planet there was a man who has lived all of his life in fear that his holy book would be pissed on, and when he heard the news he went out to fulfill his destiny. The Crip, the Vice Principal, the Secretary of Defense, the Memo Leaker. They are all doing what we expect them to do, and for most of their lives they will be meeting their expected opposition with their salient yet conditioned responses. How rarely are they gobsmacked with the unanticipated. It is said that you can see in 3D if your glasses are Red and Blue. I doubt it.

    On the tube last night was 'The Girl at the Cafe'. It's a pretentious romantic comedy written and produced by Hollywood people doing what they do. And yet there is that juxtaposition of destiny and the unexpected truth in the moment we are all conditioned to know and never express or acknowledge.

    In the news today is 'news' via Kelo that the Government can appropriate private property for their own ends without offering compensation. What a shock!

    How Americans stand in abeyance of the fact of Crips wanting to take you to the alley and steal your money at the point of a knife is beyond me. We have so many laws and so many movies and so many essays and so many history books and so many memos. We have so many interpreters and critics and pundits and evaluators and negotiators. Where is the Strength, Courage and Wisdom? Where are the people who turn the desk upside down and stand eyeball to eyeball with the enemy?

    There's no way to finish this essay. It was finished before I wrote it. I know the answer. I know that the answer is not a memo that keeps you awake at night riddled with self-doubt, and I defy anyone who says it is.

    Since the 70s, I've never walked the city streets at night without a knife.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:21 AM | TrackBack

    June 20, 2005

    Happy Dad


    Posted by mbowen at 08:01 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    June 19, 2005


    The best thing about having the kind of father that everybody loves and respects is knowing you can do it too, and sometimes even thinking that you can do it better. Today I'm going to think about Pops in the ways I know I will never match, because it's all about him today.

    I often think about my father not in terms of who he was or is as a man, but in terms of what he made us do. They say you've got to break down a person in order to build them up. It's not my turn to do that with my kids yet - they are still in elementary school so that's mom's job. Pops didn't wait so long or so I seem to recall.

    When I got straight As and a C in handwriting in the 6th grade, my father made me practice my handwriting every night. He made me draw precise loops on page after page. When we moved to our new house across the street, the weeds were taller than I was and the house was pink. None of those things lasted long. My father who served with the Marine Corps at Pendleton was all about discipline. And so we learned the discipline of cutting weeds and painting houses, and painting sidewalks, and trimming trees, and replacing windows, and carpentry.

    We four boys were addressed as 'The Crew', which meant working crew. On the refrigerator was the infamous 'List'. We not only had to make the house spotless, we had to clean the neighbor's side yard and the gutter. During the summer months, Pops would make an occasional 'pop call' driving home the County issued 1975 Chevy Vega to make sure we weren't just playing football and Monopoly, but actively showing off to the neighborhood how tightly the Bowen family was run.

    Our driveway consisted of two strips of concrete with a path of grass in the middle that extended back to the garage. In the front yard, the grass remained. Behind the redwood gate (that we installed) (yeah it was fun using the pole diggers and setting the 4x4s in concrete) Pops had us rip up all of the grass and have a six inch deep trench between the concrete strips. Into this trench was placed four 50lb bags of ornamental tree bark. The bark filled the spaces around a dozen geometrically shaped stepping stones like a sea of Lucky Charms. Every summer we had to wash the bark. Each piece was about the size and shape of a computer mouse. There were thousands of them. We picked them up and washed them in one of our 30 gallon trashcans, set them out to dry and then replaced them in the driveway of Hell. Then we closed the redwood gate so nobody could see it.

    This was one of many construction projects at Wellington Road. We converted the garage twice. Once into a neighborhood theatre complete with custom built seats and a stage, and then later split it in two into an office and my bedroom. We placed the studs at 18 inch intervals and braced them so that the wall would survive an earthquake. For the Bicentennial, we painted the back of the house and the garage red white and blue. We dug out the rose bush and poured a couple of tons of concrete to extend the patio. We built several basketball contraptions, none of which survived the slam dunks of the neighborhood kids. We built various fences and even a tool shed.

    Our two favorite projects were, of course, the go kart and the Two Storey. The Two Storey was our playhouse, complete with a trap door and a hangin' post. It had, of course, two stories and from the top which was a little over 8 feet off the ground (with 2x4x10s from Cooper's Lumber over next to Sears Pico) we had a nice view of things. The hangin' post was a 2x4 that overhung the concrete path that led from the patio alongside the garage to the back corner of the yard where the Two Storey stood. We arranged triple pulley rigs and jacked up objects too heavy to lift; we swung from it. The Two Storey was orange and green the first time, then dark red later. We cut geometric and puzzle shaped windows in it. It was our castle.

    The go kart was slow, converted from an old power mower. We cut the blades out and left the axle intact but didn't regear it to do much more than 5mph. Steered with ropes, even the little guys could drive it. Not that we let them often enough.

    We were a building family. We even re-creosoted the telephone pole in our backyard. The Wellington house still frequents my dreams. I lived there from 66 to 82. It was in the 'hood, but we were its creators without question. This is what Pops gave us. A home of our own creation, driven by his discipline and determination.

    There's so much more I could say about Pops, and inevitably will have to. I could talk about the Angeles National Forest, the jogging at 6 in the morning, the incessent letters, the library, and Saturday morning trips to the film library. He influenced us in so many ways. But today, I'm just thinking about Wellington House and what we made it, because he's the kind of man who leaves things better than the way he found them.

    Posted by mbowen at 04:44 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    What I Think of You

    If you ask me, I'd say that I have been a mediocre blogger for the past couple of months. I've shown some bright spots here and there. At least one or two posts per week have been something to chew on, but the fire that was once Cobb has seemed to have been put on simmer. At the moment, my writing is in something of a transitional period. I have not recently provided enough coverage of the Old School perspective on current events. I let things go to the comic that I should be writing on. I hope to turn that around and pump up the volume.

    Still, new people are finding Cobb every day and now that the comments work pretty much like I want them, I am getting real feedback. Furthermore, I am hearing from folks out of the blue (who are not actually all about Texas HoldEm). This has provided me with a great deal of encouragement, so I wanted to send an appreciation.

    I think my readers are people who want to challenge themselves to think outside of the box. They want detail and novelty but they also want me to get to the bottom line. I write for people who are constructing a vision of the world and I want to provide them with the raw materials of argument. What I often hear that gives me a great deal of satisfaction is that people don't often agree with me, but they appreciate my clarity. That's just the right balance.

    I've heard from many journalists, once. I often wonder what it is that gets them halfway to me and then throws them off the trail. I've been invited to provide material for an interview or guest write and then suddenly they disappear. Whenever such rejections occur and no reason is given, I am left to search my insecurities. I don't search long, but do have a theory which is that my novelist's sense of profanity and self-depreciation leads journalists to believe that I am some sort of rap figure (I dunno), seemingly articulate yet profoundly retarded or abrasive and rude. Or it could just be spelling. Perhaps they consider me hostile to journalists. Well who knows, because they don't say. The notable exception would be Grace Lee, who lives up to her name. It's annoying being teased and I wish you journalists would cut that out, especially since nobody has really covered what The Conservative Brotherhood is all about. I find that relatively astounding.

    Now that I think about it, this would be a good time for me to compile a 'best-of' so that people can examine my fundamental cases for conservatism and the Republican party, which is very close to the center of why Cobb was initiated. Once I tried to assess the most popular posts (by number of comments) at the blog. I'd probably be wiser just to pay my host to enable their hit counter. But my preliminary results told me that 'Mystery of the Black Blogger' was a biggie, as was 'Man on Fire'. I only remember the silly ones that blew up at the moment, but I do recall that the specifically racial stuff was a bigger draw. I don't consider Cobb a race-man's work but I don't avoid going there. Instead I prefer to focus on culture and politics from an analytical perspective. I am rather espcially proud that recently, my recommended reading list for college-bound black kids has been getting a lot of hits as well as 'Return of the Bogard' my advice to the young brothers on success in America. I very much appreciate that. I don't think that I sustain enough readers to post an open thread, but you can consider this one open. Tell me which subjects you'd like to hear pontification about, friends.

    I have successfully launched my professional websites, and like LL Cool J in that movie with Robin Williams, I like to keep my peas and potatoes in separate piles, only to mix in the stomach. I have no way of knowing who frequents both but I do know there are a few people at work who know about Cobb and Cubegeek.

    I am bouyed and sustained by my readers. I am happy to make you laugh with The Comic, associate new ideas with Critical Theory and walk you a mile in my shoes with Diary of a Black Man. I'm going to try to do a bit more with Local Deeds and Domestic Affairs in the coming months. Thanks to all of you for stopping by.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:47 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    June 17, 2005

    The Natural

    Ah the existentials of blackness. So complex. So unnegotiable.

    I'm annoyed again, this time because I hear little history in the blackness stuff. But let me say my few things then shutup.

    Blackness leapt into existence a generation or so ago. It was constructed. It was an intellectual and cultural construction, not simply a response to 'conditions'. Nor was it a part of the 'legacy of slavery'. It was an action, a project, a mission, a Struggle. It was about asserting pride, political cohesion and a new outlook on self, power, brotherhood, integration and religion. The creators of blackness were an intellectual elite. Interestingly they were not so elite then as they are now, but they were an elite. How soon we forget.

    Fortunately, I have some photographic evidence to present in the form of these covers from the Johnson Publication of Negro Digest. There was also Freedomways and The Liberator. If you were to be black in the ferment of the Black Consciousness Movement, you had to be intellectually sharp and you had to keep up.

    There is no such ferment today, and most African Americans wear blackness like an old suit. People consider themselves 'naturually black' and black can be anything anybody African American wants it to be, generally posed in defensive terms. But I say there is nothing natural about blackness and anybody who says so is ignorant, lazy or both.

    So here's the soundbite and anchor of this talking point. That thing which we now call an 'Afro' was once known to all of us who wore them in the 70s as a 'Natural'. The point of calling it a 'natural' was to distinguish it from permed and processed hair. Thoughtful decisions were made to understand the implications of accepting European standards of beauty and after this thought was born the natural. The Dashiki fit into the same framework. But if there was an existential breakthrough to be had in doing all of this, I don't think we have to consider it that much of a trek. How long does it take to 'get it'? How long? Not long? The Natural was not natural any more than dreadlocks are natural or cornrows are natural. Wearing a natural was a sacrament, on outward expression of an inward commitment. Today, the afro is just another hairdo.

    I hold, and have always held, that the Civil Rights Movement, the Black Arts, Black Consciousness, Free Speech, Gay Rights and Feminist movements were all resounding successes, and what took place in the streets and universities have changed our society for the better. We're all multiculturalists now. But like rural electrification, it's done. We're all on the grid and dependent on it. We can't take it for granted although we do, but we also can't keep pretending that it's as electrifying today as it always was. Somebody telling me today that they are proud of their blackness runs my temperature up about as much as hearing them describe the three prong outlets in their house. If you're not an electrical engineer you don't know anything about electricity worth knowing. If you're not in the intellectual elite, there's nothing about blackness you know worth knowing. OK? Blackness is no longer a revolutionary concept, it is a commodified consumer good.

    There's a reason that Amiri Baraka is not heard. He said what needed to be said when the time was right. That time has passed. Johnson Publications ain't publishing. The world is no longer interested in the plight of the American Negro. A more interesting question might be, what hasn't Toni Morrison said that needs saying in black literature? I think that no further ground needs to be broken, but that we should be building upon the foundation we know. It's not about being black or getting to blackness or even defending it. It's about moving up.

    Blackness is not over. We are not at the end of blackness. Black pride remains. But the Black Consciousness Movement is over, and blackness is not going to undergo a radical revision. There will be no new Black Nationalism, there will only be conservatism of the best of the old black nationalism. There will be no new Black Arts Movement, but there will be an auction at Sotheby's some years hence of Murray's manuscripts. There will be no new Black Consciousness Movement, we can testify that as cool as Soul II Soul, Junior and Loose Ends were, they couldn't bring British Blacks closer to American Blacks. Despite the hopes of the 90s, the New World Afrikan Diasporan Hookup did not materialize. It's just Dave Chappelle going to Durban, not them coming here (Mark Matabene notwithstanding). For all the hype of hiphop's revolutionary power, the indisputable fact is that it has brough American whites closer to black culture than it has blacks in other nations. Black culture and blackness are dispersed like pollen in the air, but that's not agriculture.

    I'm going to stick out a complaint which has been irking me for a few days and leave it. I've googled the Great Plains and found fascination in the flow of the Missouri River. And my gut tells me that I could flow along that river for days without passing any land on any side that belongs to African Americans. It takes me back to a painful subject which is how the West was Won and blacks lost out on getting land. It's a reason I am not compelled to watch whatever emotional whining is coming out of that new show on television called 'Out of the West' or some such melodramatic schmaltz. There could be great lands here in the US with African American deedholders. But there is not, and someday that bill will come due.

    It will come due because human ambition is what it is, and while some are satisfied with just human rights, some will strive for civil rights. While some will remain fixated there, some will want more. Many will be comforted by social equality, integration and acceptance, but some will continue to desire and amass power, wealth and influence.

    When I speak of the Old School I am working an intellectual patch which is itself a construction. It is a direct outgrowth of an integrationist, soft cultural nationalism of a scholarly bent. It is elitist, intellectual and literary and bears a burden that hiphop cannot carry. I tried, really I tried. It is conservative of African American patriotic traditions (like Booker's ethos) and it is also modern and integrative of the Western world, (like James Weldon Johnson's ethos). It is nationalist and conflicts with my globalism I must confess. It is also ideosynchratic and flavorful (like Jess B Semple) which conflicts with my appreciation for the classics. I haven't figured the whole thing out. But I know that it resonates with blackfolks who are on similar intellectual journeys, as well as with a class of African Americans I believe I know well.

    The Old School can be said to be a faction in an African American Culture War. On some days, I'm not entirely sure that war should be waged, and yet I believe it to be inevitable. But like the Natural, it isn't natural. It's a construct, it's a framework for understanding - a solution to a problem developed by thinking ahead and generating ferment you believe people will understand and engage. At bottom, I don't think it takes long to understand. How long? Not long. People will 'get it'. It will provide what people need, and if it works, I'll go the way of Amiri Baraka in due time.

    I want people to leave blackness alone. It cannot bear any more overloading with meaning, especially since it has been so commodified. We need to recognize new distinctions which are applicable to out contemporary lives, and simply being black and proud doesn't cut it. As long as we've known rivers, when will we control a county off the Missouri? It doesn't seem to me that talking about being black outside of the historical context will deliver.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:59 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

    June 13, 2005


    If I were working for a sane organization, I would be in London this week. But if the organization were working for a sane customer, there would be no need for me to go. As it stands, I need to go but I am not going - a victim of dueling insanities. As such, and having watched Steve Zissou, I am likely to get on people's nerves this week as I crank up the persnickety machine.

    I don't like the unpleasantness of failure, and I don't like telling people they are behaving stupidly. But I'm going to have to do the latter or suffer the former.

    Pray for me. I might not blog much this week.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:33 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    June 07, 2005

    Music in Context

    Pops dropped by the other day to give me a chocolate cake and hip me to Zocalo. I was too late to get a seat for this cat named Gary Phillips who is a writer and associate of Jervey Tervalon. Tervalon rememebers Los Angeles just like I do. He and Wanda Coleman don't get enough attention when it comes to portraits of LA. Perhaps those days will come to a close. I won't be there to edge the momentum tomorrow night, but clearly the joint is sold out.

    What suprised me about Pops this time was that he has gotten into hiphop. Now I don't know why a 70 year old man needs to be listening to Jay-Z for so I had him explain this to me. He does it because it's new. He's looking for context.

    We're a lot alike in that respect. We go sometimes on a musical tear and try to absorb some new artist or sub-genre. For us, jazz is second nature. While I had my back to the TV which was tuned to the digital cable jazz channel, I quickly identified Wayne Shorter and a couple others while I mistook somebody for Joe Zawinul. I didn't know that I didn't know Chet Baker, so at the very least I've got one more thing to learn. It's so easy, Pops said, for him to talk jazz and make all kinds of associations. All of the greats are gone and so they're easy to contextualize. Their body of work is complete, finite. Living artists, hiphop artists in particular, are in flux. It's much more mentally challenging to talk about hiphop in context.

    So basically, my pop, the New England liberal scholar likes Ice Cube. He has absolutely no patience or use for Snoop Dogg. Outside of that, he likes Common, doesn't like 50 Cent but won't turn him off completely. He likes DMX but not Jay Z. Although I didn't bring it up, he has raved in the past for Eminem so I wouldn't be surprised if that hasn't changed. He and I both think that Tupac is quite overrated. I didn't catch his opinion of Biggie. He hates Ludacris.

    We got around to discussing the 'even white kids listen to hiphop' argument. I think the 'even' is superfluous. Picking up on Jimi Izrael's milestone, even though I disagree with his theory, you basically had to drop the 'even' when the Beasties dropped 'Licensed to Ill'. By that late date, all the crossover has been done both ways. And since then every white kid that listens to hiphop is authentic, says me.

    Put it this way. Everybody who rejected black music basically made all that achey-brakey happen. Put that at an arbitrary 30% of the white listening audience who go straight for country. The other 30% went down the grunge and goth track to the exclusion of hiphop. That leaves 40% of whitefolks who, basically by the time Janet Jackson broke out in 92, were already there. Jackson's rebirth was the final straw. Now you can say that Janet Jackson isn't *real* hiphop. By that standard 'hiphop' radio stations aren't 'real' hiphop, because there ain't one of 'em that plays strickly conscious, underground stuff, with the possible exception of one or two 500 watt college stations and podcasts.

    Pops listens to KIIS 102.7, 92.3 Hot 92, the new KDAY, 100.3 The Beat. They're all 'urban contemporary' and 'hiphop' according to the Radio Locator. KIIS is Top 40, but that means mostly hiphop these days. You don't have to go far to get your hiphop.

    Pops had recently been to Seattle during their Drum Festival. He was pleasantly surprised by an African Drum ensemble comprised of a dozen white kids in West African garb, with mad skills. Their mentor was an old brother who had taught them djembe as well as lyrics in original languages. When they played, according to pops, it was serious indeed. For this reason, as well as the trees and an invitation by UW to extend their classrooms into housing projects, Pops is enchanted by Seattle. I said he could borrow my flannel.

    On the grunge note, we found that we like the same new rock, which we divided into the 'intelligent rock' and the 'gothic'. On the intelligent side, we both dig Coldplay, Modest Mouse, Radiohead & Stone Temple Pilots. On the harder side I pointed out Korn, Papa Roach, Linkin Park. He anted up Nine Inch Nails, to which I raised him a Rammstein. That took me back to Skinny Puppy and Bauhaus... whoa.

    He suggested a project 'Music in Context' because as strange as it sounds for old black men to be discussing this kind of music, much less listening to it, is because we have our reasons. The reasons oftimes, as well as the associations, are more interesting than the collection of songs. I suggested a group blog, he nodded. If we get Dutz and Deet involved, it would be the bomb, because we always have things to say about music. God knows we can't talk politics for long.

    We shall see.

    Posted by mbowen at 06:28 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    June 02, 2005

    Wanting What You Want

    I'm not going to pretend that I understand a damned thing that William S. Burroughs says, but it makes for a damned fine monologue in the music of Bill Laswell. One thing that he said in 'The Road to the Western Lands' went something like, why doesn't a man know that he can't want what he wants? I think I understand that, even though I don't want to.

    BTW, The Naked Lunch was one of those movies I used to be embarrassed to say that I was embarrassed about. Now I know it's expository crap.

    Aside from all of that, it's my birthday tomorrow. The Spousal Unit was well on her way to taking care of me, as she does so well, but we ran into a budget issue. So now she had to ask me, in lieu of the surprise she had waiting, what I want. What do I want? That's impossible to answer.

    I recall believing only one fortune cookie. It said that I will never be a millionaire, but I will be so accustomed to living low that I won't care. I think that it's coming true. I think I have found my place.... Naaah. But what do I want? There has only been one person who has ever come close to giving me exactly what I wanted, and he flaked out on me big time. If he hadn't, I'd be writing this blog from a penthouse in Beijing. Nobody can give me what I want. You can't afford me. Listen to my attitude. Who in their right mind would give me what I want?

    So I have a level of desire which is moderated, as well as a sense of humility and practicality which has to do with the Way of the Servant. I am the master of my fate, and I find myself managing and moderating, having experimental mental flirtations with the dark side. I watch the fictional character Vic Mackey and even though I want to be a crusader for justice, I let him do it. I am vicariously satiated, because I have to run in place. I am a river to my people.

    My people are my family, and they get all the rest of the chicken after I take the big piece. I don't often want chicken *and* steak. I'm cool without it, in fact I'm happier when I announce that I will be providing steak for the fam. That's more fun than eating my own.

    I know that selflessness is self-destructive. Ayn Rand wasn't wasted (or overspent) on me. I love myself in the mirror, but I'm Daddy. It's not about me.

    But what do I want?

    I want a bike, but I know that my wife knows that my kind of bike is too expensive. I'd have to have a Trek or else it wouldn't be worth it. Why? Because I had a Trek back in the day when biking was important to me, when it was what I really wanted. Do I want to relive my past? No. Been there, done that. Who cares what I do next? Nobody really. So what difference does it make what I want? I only thought about a bike because of the guy I saw on the cover of Men's Health yesterday at the drug store. I ought to look like that. It's something I want for myself, but like Neo in the Matrix, it's just my reflexive self-image. It's how I see myself even though I don't look like that. So what would I be trying to prove by looking like that? Do I want other people to see me as I see myself? I guess I'm not sure I care enough to find out.

    I have a right to be demanding. I know how to get what I want, but the fact is that I mostly do get my way, and I am satisfied enough so that I don't feel like I have to prove anything. I don't have anything to prove - there's a formula for a lack of desire. But there must be something I want.

    I want a million dollars to fall into my lap. If I wished for this and got it, it would probably be in the form of my neighbor's house in Laguna sliding down the hill. I don't engage in wishful thinking. I don't really want what I want.

    You see, I'm in transition from feeling relatively assured that I was going to get most everything I could wish for. It was right there in the palm of my hand. And it failed in the best way, in the way that I could take none of the blame for the failure. I had my moment of glory in knowing that my moment of glory was close at hand. I had the moment before capture, I was like the youth on the grecian urn with success in my grasp. And then the urn shattered but it was not my fault. I was liberated by the prospect of liberation. And now I am living that down, knowing that I am just one or two degrees of separation from my destiny - the alternate destiny, the wealthy and international me.

    I wanted it. I had it. I simply didn't realize it. Now I feel lucky and unlucky about it. But what do I want?

    I think it would be interesting to get what I want just to see what happens. I really want to be Santa Claus - a rogue philanthropist with the juice to play Mr. Rourke of Fantasy Island. But see, that's not about me, it's about me giving people what they want.

    This sounds so very uplifting and charismatic, but it makes me prone to the Dark Side. I am a prisoner of good character because I am genuinely empathetic. I like helping, and I rarely get in a mood to be destructive. Wreckless perhaps, but never purposefully destructive. I like Adam Sandler's Mr. Deeds. I like Adam Sandler - the very idea of him getting drunk and wrecking his girlfriend's new Lexus. That's funny to me. Wreckless...

    Perhaps what I want is license to be wreckless. That requires more money and time than I can afford. It would be a luxury for a responsible ass like myself. I don't mind that I can't afford it because life has luck ahead for me - good or bad, it will be a surprise, and I am confident I'll pull through. So I just want to be around to be a good example for my kids. I need the good health, that's all. It's not about me.

    On the other hand, there are always fine watches. A Hamilton Trent would be nice right about now. Eh.. maybe I'll just get the XBox fixed. No, scratch that... What I need is more socks. Socks and underwear. ..and this chair. That's all I need. But what do I want?

    I guess I'm like a reverse Hall & Oates, singing 'I could go for that'. Let's just see what happens.

    Posted by mbowen at 05:41 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

    May 24, 2005

    Wikipedia, Finally

    These days I find that I don't have much time or energy for thinking outside of my box. Everything is coming in fragments. However one thing that I find myself doing repeatedly is consulting the Wikipedia. It is easily becoming my favorite spot on the web. So I have signed up as a member and am working to add a some dimensions to it in my areas of expertise, beginning with OLAP.

    I'd also like to expand a bit on bits and pieces of Johnnie Cochran because I think it's more important for people to know the details of some of the cases that made him infamous with local law enforcement than what made him famous in the mainstream media. But I need to get a feel for how good the fact-checking is on the site and what is and is not considered relevant to post. For example, Cochran was the man who got the million dollar judgement in the case of Ron Settles, which led to taking the LAPD's infamous chokehold out of their repretoire. An unintended consequence of that is that cops were more edgy and tended to rely more on batons than before. Result? Rodney King.

    There's an interesting entry on Subhas Bose, whom I often compare to the shock and delight of many Indian friends, to Malcolm X. He's quite the controversial figure.

    As I retreat from the hash and rehash, I am finding comfort in my geek hat. Nights like this I wonder about the future of the blog and whether or not the Cobbian mission is accomoplished. I'll know for certain by the end of the summer. Right now the direction is towards more technology and research and less politics and current events. That means I'll spend a lot more time at Cubegeek and at Wikipedia.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:01 PM | TrackBack

    May 22, 2005


    Lee told me, and Lee should know as a slightly waifish Armenian woman, that men with my appearance tend to intimidate. Although I tend to notice that people seem to say 'Oh excuse me' a lot unnecessarily in supermarkets, I am completely oblivious to the Large Black Man Effect Field that I apparently generate. Nevertheless, I do recall walking my boss out to the parking lot way back in '92 and her confessing to me that every night she brought a pair of scissors for self-defense.

    I just do not have any sense of the danger that women and dweebs must feel at night in areas where bad people might be. However I've always attributed that to street smarts, which I know that I possess; I've never attributed much to my ability to appear intimidating. Sure, I have the homeboy suit and I can dress up to be perfectly at home on the set of American Chopper, but me? Threatening? I chuckle.

    Nevertheless, as Matt Yglesias mentions books that he should have read, I begin to wonder about such matters, but it wasn't until somebody mentioned Catcher in the Rye that the angle for this post hit me.

    I've always kinda not read books because of the thrill that books give me. Counter-intutitive eh? Until you realize that most of my life I've struggled with my concept of the 'noble arena'. It goes a little something like this. I'm single and I'm living in my two bedroom apartment in Park Slope. I ask myself, self, what should I do this evening? Should I head out to the city or should I stay home and read a book? This is a dilemma because I generally stay home and read the book, which only makes me want to go out to the city and find some people to talk about the book with. Except that there is no place for me to go where anyone ever talks to me about books. In my life, there have been about 12 people who have ever asked me what books am I reading. That includes every job interview, every cocktail party, every poetry reading, every co-worker, blah blah blah. I've lived with this

    As far as I'm concerned, the noble arena exists merely as a construction of like minds in cyberspace. It's why I have spent so many years here, because when I walk out that door, apparently people are too busy trying not to piss their pants much less ask me my preferences in literature. It's not as if I hadn't spent the requisite hours trolling Waterstones on Newbury Street in Boston, or Coliseum off Columbus Circle in Manhattan. Then again, I do use the term 'dweebs', so perhaps it's entirely my fault.

    There was a cat named Black who once worked for The Nation magazine. We taught Saturday school at St. Luke's up near City College, back in the day. He gave me the impression of being the kind of dweeb to whom I generally refer. I told him that the Nation should run personal ads and publish a version on the Internet. He thought that if I ever had a mind, I had lost it completely. Then again, I thought he lived in the wrong part of the Village and that perhaps his judgements were dismissible. After all, I was right and he wasn't long for The Nation.

    On the other hand, I could just shutup and answer the question in the form of, "No I haven't bother to read Dostoyevsky and I don't really think I'm missing out." But the fact of the matter is that I am still at a loss to say what society I am missing out on for not having done so. This has been the case for so long that it makes me doubt two things, firstly the value of the books themselves, and secondly the extent to which the value of those books imparts themselves onto their readers. This is problematic only if those readers are not dweebs and actually do hold court and sway some real flesh and blood places. I remember being told that it helps to know Shakespeare because your boss might drop the phrase 'There is a tide in the affairs of men..' and I should know the implication. More likely I'll hear co-workers mumble quotes from 'Office Space'. And so while I don't tend to hold people in contemtuous disdain, I have rather given up the idea that I'll be hearing from the more literate end of the spectrum outside of my cyberconnections.

    My other observation, which I've made before, is that I've never met any black man who said "I am Holden Caufield!" And while I expect that may change over time, and I don't often ask, I have also never met any white man who said "I am Bigger Thomas!". And so perhaps there is a real gap between those who would wax literate in any particular direction.

    I am not convinced that some intellectual and cultural unity is a necessity for civil society. Even the sappy Lionel Ritchie knew that everyone finds their own way, somehow, some way, some day. So I suspect we'll all zoom the points familiar and kind even though different books and dreams take us there, and what gets said in American interpretations of English translations of Russian novelists could be recognizeable as a rhymed couplet in a rap I know, or a Gospel song I grew up with. We're all human after all. Experience teaches.mike90-2.jpg

    It certainly makes sense from the point of view of academics that if we're ever going to get anywhere, knowledge needs to be codified and ranked. There are roccocos and their are efficiencies, and a troubled world needs efficiency, or so it's been said. So there may be a real sense of a missed mission in all our relatively illiterate heads. But I think we'll all float on alright.

    For the record, I wish I had come to understand Maxwell's Equations, and I still believe I could have saved myself a life of questions had I read my basic philosophers. I purchased the Decline and Fall of Rome, but never got anywhere whatsoever, and I'm sure I would like to be, on occasion, the devil quoting the Bible to suit my own ends. But hey, at least I read Ravelstein, and guess what, I'm just like those guys.

    Posted by mbowen at 06:20 PM | TrackBack

    May 14, 2005

    99 Problems

    Spence tells me that he's falling in love with Hiphop all over again. I had one of those days when it's absolutely necessary to listen to loud music and drive 90 mph. So I called him to find out what kinda beats I could buy - it being Friday and I just got paid. No answer.

    So I head down to Fry's off Edison north of Irvine and pull up my rented Pontiac G6 in the lot. I've got to get yet another hard drive for my wobbly home network. This time I'm getting a Seagate Barracuda. No more Maxtor for me, ever.

    Unfortunately, as the case may be, I have found the right music to speed to, remixes of Jay-Z and Limp Bizkit. Or is it Linkin Park? Whichever. It was loud, it was vulgar, it was rude and it was rockin'. Just what I needed at the end of a long ass day.

    This morning, 5% into the recovery of my machine, I tried to get the OS to recognize the video card. No luck. I enable the ATI drivers, it only allows it go secondary. I disable the primary, the secondary doesn't engage. Now I have a black screen. I can't RDP into the machine, I don't have a VNC server running and I can't think of another way in. If I had a S-channel or other converter, I could stick in a second monitor and fix the first. No such luck.

    I'm behind in everything except for my big proposal for Monday. I'm not getting enough sleep. I have to get on the road tomorrow. I'm losing my mind.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:02 AM | TrackBack

    May 10, 2005

    Not Having Fun

    I just finished working on a piece of a proposal that can make me a star, but I'm starting to feel like Dean Martin in the original Ocean's Eleven. Maybe I'm a little bit too old for this.

    My sales shark called me this morning and reminded me that Utah is a great place for mountain biking. And so it hit me like a ton of copper ore that I'm not really having fun on this trip and I'm not going to. The locus of my discontent which has overcome my otherwise sunny disposition is a particularly gimpy data pump created by Vignette that the mother company has decided to OEM. Why? Because you don't have to write code! Which means it's a perfectly idiotic tool for those of us who do write code.

    So I have come to discover that this gnarled piece of caca between an AS/400 and a SQL Server doesn't pay much attention to SQL code if you don't also draw the little field connector lines in it's idiot proof visual drag and drop fecal-torium. Instead of something simple like just writing a spool phrase as one would in Oracle's SQL dialect, this crap collector makes you grab a little text object from a toolbar. Try to imagine a DTS connection object with about 50 properties. IT'S A FLAT FILE FOR CHRISSAKE! I connect this monstrosity to my query object but not before I have to manually click the 'add field' button as many times as my query is bringing over columns.

    Now here's the killer. Imagine you determine, an hour and 3GB later that you'd like to make your query results a little smaller. It's not enough that you remove fields from your select statement in the gawdawful query object, you also have to pretty much destroy your flat file object and recreate it from scratch. This is something it takes a veteran like me all day to figure out.

    What a waste.

    I take that back. What's so absolutely perfect about this product is that it allows you to generate executable code that you can drop into obscure directories on your customer's servers. Only you know what they do and only you can fix them. That's evil genius.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:33 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    May 09, 2005

    The Moment of Death

    (from the archives, may 2000)

    so let me tell you a story.

    i have moved to new york and it's about 2 months into my stay. i am becoming familiar with the nabes in and around park slope brooklyn. i'm enjoying the proviciality and the crust of the people and the architecture, especially the stark desolation of the 4th avenue - 9th street F. the F is probably the most used, yet slowest and therefore most frustrating train in the mta. foggy mornings headed inbound found me staring across double sets of deserted tracks at odd individuals who for reasons known only to themselves and god were headed deeper into the bowels of brooklyn. this was an attractive mystery which i contemplated often in the piss aroma of the stairwells of the 9th street F.

    one evening i was going by train to festivities somewhere in manhattan that required my homeboy suit. the homeboy suit in early 90's brooklyn involved black silvertab levi's, tall matte black leather laceup boots fashionably splayed, a tight fitting black or stark white tee and long flowing black duster. at times the duster could be exchanged for a 3/4 length leather coat, but it was not that cold this early evening. in previous incarnations of the homeboy suit i had fingerless gloves; this occasion was lighter, yet my bowie knive was ever present. years later i would reflect on the fact that this knife made me and my homeboy suit the most dangerous man in the thames river valley, but this was 90s new york. i was considered unarmed.

    if i had ever considered arming myself more seriously, what happened that night changed my view forever. i still hadn't memorized the trains and retained a bit of anxiety about the frequent yet petty crimes i had already witnessed in my first 8 weeks; the occasional, even gracefully choreographed chain snatchings, the in-your-face threatening mendacity of panhandlers and the wicked yet almost comic squabbling between two ham-fisted nigerian watch peddlers the other day on 42nd and lex. yet my anxiety was a product of my willingness to step in and stop that violence which was still only verbal. i have a gut instinct for stepping between combatants. i don't know where it comes from, but i must fight myself to resist stopping fights between others. i'm like the fonz, believing a well place 'hey' will cool hot heads. yet i know deep down that i should know more kung fu in order to satisfy my interventionist urge. i want to be a bhuddist cop because i hate the destruction.

    so this on night, headed more or less fearlessly downtown i was shocked. a young black kid on a dirtbike heads up the ave towards my position and stops at the back door of a chinese takeout as the man steps out. the old chinese man and his old chinese bicycle are preparing their way to deliver a handlebar-bike-basket full of food somewhere in brooklyn, but they are stopped by a 9mm pistol aimed straight at his head. the dirtbike kid's heft of the glock is practiced as he pulled it from his backpack while coasting to a stop. he is as focused as any 14 year old can be, silently laughing his ass off at the terror he sees in the old man's eyes. he barks something threatening as i move slowly out towards the curb, nearly parallel to the chinaman yet still behind him enough to see over his shoulder the grinning face of his deadly teenaged adversary.

    within the space of 2 seconds i realize three things. one, the kid was paying no attention to me at all - all he wanted to do was scare that man. two, i could have gotten at least three bullets into him and used the fire hydrant for cover before he realized what was up. three, if i had my own gun there is absolutly no question that there would have been another dead black teenager in brooklyn this evening. i would have killed him without hesitation.

    the event was so clear, so perfect that it felt like a scenario described on usenet as a strawman. as the tears welled up in my eyes and the kid turned his bike and rolled back downhill, with his 'ha ha made you flinch' laughter, i asked myself if this was what i was put on earth for. my desire for peace led me to the unequivocable destruction of the kid with the deadly sick sense of humor.

    i don't know where i went on the F train that evening. i kept playing the scenario back in my mind, a prisoner of the moment. yes. yes. no doubt yes. the answers kept coming back in the affirmative - i would have shot him, i would have felt good about it. if the situation presented itself again would shoot again. the only thing that saved that boy's life was the fact that i didn't have a gun.

    some people tell me that i think too much. perhaps like a bhuddist, i am constantly refining my mind so that in every moment i can act with the discipline that my moral soul requires. i do not live in the active moment, it simply procedes from the many rehearsals in the passive hours. such is the well-considered life i hope to lead. i am never one to look back in regret - it is the great benefit i have discovered now in middle age. tears spent promptly and properly never cleanse in vain. this is one of the lessons of mourning my younger brother's death. and so in that moment, while i felt powerless, i soon realized that power was not properly mine. i didn't lose the moment, it was as it should have been and now serves as a powerful lesson to me.

    it's almost cliche to think about great efforts being worth it if their benefits changed just one life. so too must go the thinking of the assassin. the one life properly taken justifies a life of disciplined struggle. i can respect the ethics of a warrior - there are those whose duty it must be to engage battles. in my longing for kung fu intervention, i have felt the pull of that duty. but oh the mindless ranting of bourgie american voices defending deadly force at their fingertips. these are not warriors, they are cowards, afraid to even live on the same side of the bridge as places where dirtbike drug couriers are known to operate.

    god does know why people take the desolate train deep into brooklyn on foggy, lonely mornings. there are human beings there who must be cared for. it may be a complete turnabout from our standard notion of rush hour into midtown, or perhaps it's a contiunuum of the same idea of daily work. as proud as we are of our job struggles, our creativity, our productive lives, we must realize this as our great contribution. for most of us, this aggregation of work does not result in life or death of our creation outside of our own families. this is as it should be, for we are not all warriors or shaolin priests. so taking the gun in hand cannot be a part of the same rote commercial exchange as the rest of our consumer activity - because the most disciplined mind i possess or can imagine possessing will, mastering the moment, use it for it's ultimate destructive purpose, without hesitation. even if we had no such mental mastery, the gun directs all of our passion to the single end of spitting deadly projectiles. we, like the dirtbike kid, are not meant for such things. our contemplation is too shallow, the meaning in our lives would be shattered and squandered by killing. killing is simply too large a deed for us to bear. we would be rightly crushed by our own action.

    and so, almost ten years later, i have finally put these thoughts to the page. i suppose i would just be getting out of prison now, hopefully with the same wisdom. or perhaps i would have been released long ago, or perhaps never even arrested by a society eager to see me as a 'warrior'. but my mamma didn't raise me to kill black children, or any other kind of human being. so i reject such instant, fake honor. and i reject it when people tell me it is my right to bear arms. that's not what my arms are for. i could only accept the honor of being a warrior as my duty, and i know that this is not my life's duty.

    i might hope to learn a little more kung fu, but perhaps if these paragraphs can touch just one person...

    Posted by mbowen at 09:14 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    May 08, 2005

    Another Failure

    A power outage has destroyed two more of my hard drives. Blogging will be light.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:49 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    May 03, 2005

    Utah Moments

    So today I'm struggling with my diet and did something unprecedented I had a salad for lunch and a salad for dinner.

    I saw my first black person today in Utah. Now there might have been some at the airport, but that doesn't count. She was the speaker-girl at the McDonalds drive through. As I pulled up to the window, I overheard her saying to her co-worker, "I knew he was black!". That was funny.

    The nightly news is actually bearable here. The big news is that there's about 8 feet of snowpack in the mountains and farmers in the flatlands are getting flooded out. The local flood control folks didn't bother to notify people downstream that they were lifting gates on the dams and now people are snarling. They say in 6 months, they'll put together a notification system.

    The mayor of Salt Lake is increasing property taxes to pay for 15 new bicycle cops. It doesn't seem controversial.

    Some small border town has a polygamist municipal domination by the a sect of the LDS. The feds are cracking down.

    The LDS Temple, just a few blocks north of where I'm staying is a gorgeous set of buildings. But I don't have time to do much sightseeing at all. I'm working overtime.

    I'm generally unselfconscious to a fault, but I notice the hotel staff freak when I dance around naked as they bring up room service. No, wait. I'm not naked, just black. Who knows? Who cares?

    I've been noticing a number of strange germanic accents around here. I'm not sure if it's a Utah thing or if there are a number of out-of-towners. I know that there are many Basques in Boise...

    On the whole, the town has a strangely empty feeling. Main Street has empty storefronts, and those annoying chirping traffic signals. The light rail goes down the center. It's busy but not crowded. I haven't been out at night. This place is a bit too far west to be on Mountain Time, so it doesn't get dark until past 8.

    I don't suppose one could be in three more different places in a month than Salt Lake, New Orleans and Santa Clara. What a country.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:15 PM | TrackBack

    May 02, 2005

    Who Do I Know in Salt Lake City?

    I am on the road yet again. This week's work takes me to Salt Lake. I've never been out of the airport before and it just figures that I didn't bring my camera because let me tell you something, this lake is massive. If I had three wishes, one of them would be to fill up the Great Salt Lake, it would make this place one of the most stunningly beautiful places on earth. The ring of snow-capped peaks is just dramatic. It helps that I got up a bit into the hills and looked out. Wow.

    As it stands, Salt Lake City looks just like Boise, only bigger. The food is better too, or at least this time I can afford a better class of restaurant, which brings us to Bambara.

    I just had one of the best soups in my life. I am ready to say that it is number two, just behind the lobster bisque at the Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston. This was the Utah Corn Bisque. Remarkable. It has got to be the most satisfying bowl I've ever tasted, but nothing's going to outdo the smoothness and flavor of Boston. Still. What's so extraordinary about this is how it just filled my mouth with a kind of warm popcorny flavor. And it had heat. It was as spicy as anything could be without actually being spicy and this just added to the sense of fulfillment. The bisque was very smooth but not buttery so. It was filled with soup, not butter, so everything was flavor and nothing was filler. The texture was perfect, and then the bits of crab were delectable. Add a touch of sweetness with the cilantro oil and it just becomes a miracle. The whole bowl had a beautiful mustard yellow color. Considering that I was 15 years younger when I had that lobster bisque in Boston, this has got to be the better bisque to my more jaded palate. Congrats, Bambara. You are it.

    With my Sonoma-Cutrer I had their scallops which were fine, and their nicely spiced mashed potatoes with the bursty bubbles of caviar burre blanc and port wine syrup. I think I'm going to go back Wednesday for the duck.

    The service was exceptional and flawless. The attitude was cheery and attentive without being bothersome, you know like when they ostentatiously scrape the breadcrumbs off your table in other restaurants? They went out of their way to mix me up a Ceasar even though it was off the menu. Next time I'm sticking around for dessert too.

    The atmosphere was just right, bright with big windows above ground level, not too noisy. They clearly have improvised the place which was not always a restaurant. Yeah. I'm going back, which is rare when I'm out of town.

    Hmm. Doug S. is the only person I know here, but I'm stuffed. Time to watch TV and crash.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:11 PM | TrackBack

    So That's What It's All About Alfie

    From the What-I-Should-Have-Said Files in the All-Men-Are-Dogs Department.

    I have been run ragged this weekend, but I did get a quick mo' on the couch with the spousal unit. The object of observation this time out 'Alfie'. (What, you think we do anything else on the couch but watch TV?) I'm a big fan of Michael Caine, and I always knew he had a bit of the devil in him, but I had no idea how much of the in jokes about him were a result of his debut(?) performance in this drecky diary. I come to this realization admittedly late, but what a revelation. OK I'm also the guy who didn't know that Freddy Mercury was gay and kept wondering aloud why he wasn't a bigger star. But there it is.

    Not withstanding the fact that I was dead tired, I just couldn't keep watching. I wasn't in the mood to deal with the lovable scamp, and he didn't seem likeable at all, much less lovable.

    Have I been feminized or is this guy a real cad? I got up to the part where he starts playing with the kid, so I guess I didn't get to see much of the redemption of his character, if there was any later in the film. But I was just not entertained. For the first 15 or so minutes, I'm cracking up, and then it comes to his attitude with his pregnant girlfriend and I'm ready to crack him one.

    Although I'm not feeling particularly racial, I may as well go there. It's the gut again. But I recall suffering through so many what-is-wrong-with-black-men discussions that I wish I would have had this movie to shove in the faces of all those annoying people. Now I don't know how the movie wraps up, but the opening bits are enough to make any judge of character wince, even though it's all a sly joke.

    You can be sure Alfie's a seminal moment in white male dog history. I just have to make sure I rip it from my Tivo before they never show it on TV again.

    Posted by mbowen at 03:53 PM | TrackBack

    April 27, 2005

    Danger of Depth

    I have bumped into several modes of learning the past week that are a grave threat to my blogging. According to Ambra, it is a good rule not to talk about blogging, you just do it. But there is a significant chance that I will be getting deep.

    There are several reasons, they constitute my post-China Deal agenda and will be done in the spirit of The Way of the Servant.

    I have begun to read that brief text by GK Chesterton and am awaiting some revelation therein. I further am extending my mutual culture hacking with Lee and will be attending an Armenian Orthodox Church. Further, I am looking to understand more deeply this matter and consider reconciliation between the African Anglican tradition, black Episcopalianism and Benedict XVI. This is likely to go on for some time without me getting any blogable insight. It is not as likely to get me flaming feedback as has Black Republicanism and so that will be the reason. It will be like going back in time to the days of the solitary journaling. We'll also have to make sense of Rudolf Steiner and Gurdjieff.

    Quant Jockeying
    Emanuel Derman is messing with my head in a particularly nasty way. He drops all the right names and has created in himself a kind of person I imagined I might have been, had I the patience and fear of the common intellectual from a neighborhood without tough guys. Which is to say, as long as I have been reconciled to my education in the world, he is getting under my skin in revealing the details of my academic career manque. Aside from all that, it's likely that the new set of tools that I am playing with will give me some opportunity to build something relatively interesting on par with junior grade quant-ing.

    The Warehouse
    I am dedicating a couple servers in my house (and will be expanding them) to building a test bed for a full suite of tools. Most importantly, I will be organizing a great deal of data and metadata I have collected over the past decade or so for a library of pro-forma analytic models across the various industries and applications of my career.

    Guest Blogging
    I have recieved several offers to do some guest blogging. I haven't determined whether or not I will actually have time to do so, but as (and if) I do, it will certainly drain this one a bit.

    The Extended Vision Circle
    A weekly podcast is the first in a series of productions coming from a currently anonymous but power-packed gang currently known as Five Guys Named Moe. This commitment will extend me into alternate media and some serious cell-based organizational progress. My angle on this multidisciplinary project will be working on a conceptual framework for identifying spheres of influcence and circles of trust. You will not hear me talking about 'grass roots' anything any longer. Especially after hearing Fred Hampton Jr on commie radio today in the Bay. Black politics is most definitely in the 21C. We are a cutting edge.

    Analytical Domination
    By no means least on my agenda will be the face of my current professional endeavors, which essentially consists of using all of my talents (if not time and energy) in wrestling to the ground all of the obstacles I face in dominating the BI market for the Western Region.

    Retirement Weight
    Concurrently with this direction will be the goal of getting down to about 185. That's 30 pounds. No mean feat, but entirely doable.

    Pretty Pictures
    I will also stop to take pretty pictures of the flowers. Smelling them seems to be going a bit too far.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:14 PM | TrackBack

    A Journey to Oaktown

    George is dangerous. Like Lee, he lets me talk. When I talk I can get an enormous amount of meditation out of my system, some of which is worth listening too. I take the cues of the listeners to make associations and we jump from subject to subject. It's a kind of love that I don't often get, and I much appreciate. Ask anyone who knows me. I can talk a blue streak. I notice this most as I am still on the edge of a conversation getting out of the car and walking up to bed and suddenly it's quiet. Like now. So now I write.

    George and I had a man date. We went to Yoshi's in Oakland and had drinks, dinner and partook of the Jazz. We talked about the Pope, Lake Merritt, Wal-Mart, the Causeway, the Quik Way, the rimmers and the slot, Freyer, Bomani Jones, Lisa Jones, Greg Tate, Jerry Brown, Antonio Villaraigosa, San Diego, Brooklyn, Walnut Creek, New Orleans, New York, South Africa, Brazil, steaks, tea, katsu, tequila, Buddhist vegetarians, the inevitability of India, the New Standard, the LA Times, UPI, SWSX, sex and car wrecks on the Bay Bridge, SROs and rooftops, cars that got keyed and trainproof buildings, Jack & Miles, Galveston, prison health care, farms in Ohio, chemical plants in Kansas City, podcasting, XRepublic, Six Apart, T-Mobile, Anil Dash, Earl Dunovant, Scott Patterson, Cecily, Gerry Mulligan, Bobby McFerrin, India Irie, Erika Badu, Onyx, Wiggers, Clorox, online auctions, old neighborhoods, Al Jarreau, Emir Deodato and the beauty of eating small portions of food.

    Fortunately, our gabbing was interrupted by a extraordinary sextet led by Michael O'Neill and Kenny Washington.

    OK. First off they started with a number that was pedestrian and sounded a lot like Gerry Mulligan and Paul Desmond. I kept waiting for somebody to bite a riff from The Joy Spring, but it didn't happen. They're playing fairly tight. So far it sounds like it's going to be a fairly competent, if soulless affair. Then they start cutting loose a bit and Washington comes to the stage. O'Neill introduces him as the finest singer he had ever heard. Yeah right, I think to myself.

    Washington is phenomenal. Right away he makes Al Jarreau sound like he's stretching and reaching and basically trying too hard. Washington is effortless and precise, but very smooth. He's a small man, and you can hear how that makes his voice unique. He's got the purity and straight-ahead sensibility of Bobby Short, he's got the playfulness of McFerrin, he's got the soulful sensibilities of Donny Hathaway and he's got the Jazz like no one else.

    They say that Lush Life is one of the most difficult standards to sing because of the way it blends chord changes into off keys and back in every other phrase. Washington inserts that kind of change into his balladeering to astonishing effect. He makes every common song an adventure.

    Michael O'Neill sounds as if he could improvise all night without ever repeating himself once. He hovers between mastery and greatness. His saxophone work is extraordinary. He plays with almost orchestral diction yet with classic jazz chops. It makes him a rare treat - it's almost as if he's not only playing but he's teaching saxophone on stage.

    The rhythm section was superb. I was telling George how I prefer to sit on the piano side of the stage and not on the drum side, because it's rare that the bass and drum vibe so tightly and remain understated. But when the bassist broke out with swift, funky phrasing it had everybody swiveling in their seats.

    I could spend the rest of my life doing just this, wine, jazz and sushi. With a friend like George, one night is enough to generate a great number of pleasant memories.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:32 AM | TrackBack

    April 25, 2005

    The Return of Dogtown

    The other day, while watching the previews at the showing of Kung Fu Hustle, I discovered that Hollywood is bringing back the 70s, or more properly, one of the few things that were actually cool about the 70s. I don't mean John Travolta. I mean Dogtown.

    I wasn't hip to much of cultural geography when I was 14, but I did know that there was some crossover that I liked and some that I didn't. Once upon a time I had a pretty cool conversation over at the Well in the GenX forum about what it was like for me to be one of the first group of black kids to get bussed to school in Pacific Palisades. Around that time was the first time I stepped out of black only environments, some kids were easier to get along with than others. I hung with the longhairs.

    When I first saw the documentary Dogtown & Z-Boys a couple years ago, I was shocked into recognition of my old ethos and what it felt like to be a California teen when I was growing up in the era of crossover. I was flooded with memories of skateboarding at Paul Revere during the summer of 74.

    In my own neighborhood, I was the best skater, and I got everybody on the block riding on Stokers and Chicago trucks. Me myself, I had whistling Stokers on a Bahne board that was flourescent green with rainbow tape. My brothers all had GTs with the kick lip on the back. I've always been a self-taught goofy footer but I didn't know what that meant until I started hanging at Paul Revere. The dudes at Revere skated backwards to me. I had my left foot towards the rear of the board, pushed off with the right than put that on the front. They looked at me like "what's this"? So I started skating both ways. I also did a lot of straight crazy street luge back in those days. But it was all about swooping and ending whatever you did with a sweet 360.

    The surfer dudes at Revere were mellow and perhaps some of them were stoners. I didn't know or care. What I knew was that they were definitely about style, and so was I. So I was going to get a new wooded long board cut by whomever it was at Revere that did that out of wood shop. I can't remember exactly how it happened but my board got split. I just remember being heartbroken and without a board and the bright red and yellow paint from it still on my bomber jacket that shared a locker.

    I ended up at a Jesuit prep school instead of Pali High where I wanted to go. This actually felt like culture shock. One of my Revere buds came to Loyola freshman year, but he was out of there after a semester. None of our cool worked at LiHi at all. But I was saved from being a complete geek by another dose of Venice.

    In the Summer of 75, I was a Junior Guard at Venice Beach. The attitude resurfaced but not quite as strong. We definitely represented the 'outlaws' at the Taplans and the rivalries between Venice and the other beach's Guard programs was palpable. When our group went to Zuma or Rogers, it was our duty to dig huge holes in the sand to trap the real lifeguard trucks. So we basked in much self-made glory as Venice Locals.

    Later at Episcopal Camp Stevens in East San Diego County, I hung out with some Dogtown stoners. I wish I knew whatever happened to those dudes. They were good friends, and they had the serious thai stick. Tad Drivas where are you? Dan Heffernan, where have you been? Our football team, The Roaches, won the all camp football competition. I was QB and taught everybody how to do the Hustle. Ah those crossover days.

    It would be good to see the true spirit of Dogtown get its due. I was not a true rebel with noplace to go. I can't represent like I was one of them, but I was there and would have been tight with them had I continued at Pali. The fact was that I have always cleaned up nice, and with a blowout and my puka shells, I had my share of female attention. Plus I had other crossover duties in the world of upper-middle class Catholics that snatched the pure spirit of rebellion out of me. I was getting around and didn't need the loyalty. Besides, I lived in Crenshaw, not Venice, nor Palisades nor South Pasadena. Still, I hated Vals.

    From my perspective, Dogtown was about aggressive style with a lighthearted sense of personal aggro. I was 'Bo' and my role in those days was to be devastating with the dozens, and I was. I could make you cry with laughter or shame depending on whether you were audience or target. That worked straight out of the hood and was righteous with the surfers, skaters and jocks at Revere and Pali, as well as the San Diego kids who puffed, spun around looking up at the stars and danced on the tables in the mess hall to the sounds of Pink Floyd's Animals. We were California teens of a new era and we were crafting our own style of expression. It was strong and natural and much of it has survived to today.

    What you don't often hear is where the cool black guy was, but we were definitely a part of the flavor. There was soul in that mix. You probably won't hear in in the Hollywood version - it will all be about the personalities of the kids that made money or fit nicely into the characters that Hollywood writers understand. I just want you to know that brothers were also real brothers in the larger Dogtown story.

    Posted by mbowen at 05:13 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    April 24, 2005

    Blacklight 50's Bowling


    Need I say more? Well actually, it was for a good cause, as in Father Daughter day with the Girl Scouts. Met an interesting gent who raves over a medical records system called Practice Partner. I bowled a 93.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:49 PM | TrackBack

    In the Wind Again

    This week I will be on the road again. Destination: Santa Clara. It's nowhere near as picaresque or historically significant as New Orleans so you cannot count on any spectacular blogging from ground zero. However I will try to hookup with a couple legendary folks and spread the word of the new Vision Circle podcasting series, those folks being George Kelly, Art McGee and Bill Berry.

    Also it will be a trip to have dinner at the Faultline again after all these years.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:38 PM | TrackBack

    April 23, 2005

    The Smartest Barbershop in the LA

    Yesterday Ford cut the shizzle out of my head.

    I was sitting at home, minding my own business and surfing around the news when I came upon this video from the LA Times. This was about barbershop politics and according to Steve Lopez, and now me, Tolliver's is the best.

    So since I'm heading up to Santa Clara next week - hey, maybe I can hang out with George and A. - I decided to get my do did. For me, that means a straight razor in the hands of a black man at least 15 years older than I. So I braved the Friday traffic and commenced to commute the necessary miles from my homey beach digs to where the homies hang at Florence and Western.

    I don't know the neighborhood very well over near Horace Mann Jr. High, and it was a completely frustrating experience trying to find a real Bank of America so I could avoid some gas station ATM fees. But I managed to find the joint itself without any problems. The big American flag was right prominent on the old blue storefront on Florence just east of Western.

    Now I felt a little twinge heading in, because this constitutes a betrayal of Nick at Shelton's. As it is, I only get my head professionally shaved for special occasions and including this (which isn't actually so special) it has only been twice this year. Nick has been my barber for over 15 years even if I only see him once or twice a year. It's not like the old days when I actually kept my hair nicely. Well I might as well go there. You see, blackfolks can look at me and see the redbone in me. I'm a reddish brown and my hair is straight at the roots. The hair on my arms is rather wispy. These are things that will let a good black barber know some things about how he has to approach my head. For example, I would never get BBs in the back of my head - there are no kitchens in my family even though we are not high yellow. If you don't understand this lingo, then maybe Fantastic Sams is for you, but for me, I got to go where old black men understand a few things. Nick has never cut me wrong and I was feeling him when I crossed into Tolliver's shop.

    One of the things I have never finished was my guide to all the black barbershops in Los Angeles. Now is probably a good time to do it even though I started it in 1986. Odd because I just drove past Mr. Johnson's the other day hanging with Lee. Johnson was a boxer and had a 170 pounds on the bench press in the front window of his shop on 11th Avenue and Jefferson. He used to grip my head with massive hands and just rip those clippers across. Johnson was a he-man barber and he gave severe military clips that were cheap and rough around the edges. He wouldn't finesse the fade, but he was quick and you didn't have to sit around all day waiting. He had black and white pictures of famous and not so famous boxers all over his wall. I haven't been to Johnson's since 88, but I see that the salon behind him did a good business, and his building has a fairly extraordinary mural.

    It's settled, I'm going to do this. Starting next week.

    In the meantime, all memories of barbershops past and present are intermingled with the feeling of stepping into a new one. The thing I remember about Tollivers with the greatest intimacy however were the two long black floormats. You see six of us got into a putting contest. Rico started it. He's the big guy in the brown three piece suit who's a 25 year veteran of the Sherrifs department. He's got classic white on the sides of his head, just like all the police commissioners they put on TV, and yes he has brown shoes.

    Anyway, I had a classic black barbershop time and a great cut. Next time however, I'm going to buzz myself down a little bit more so that Ford doesn't have to sharpen his blade so much next time.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:52 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    April 22, 2005

    A Shout Out to the King

    Today is the birthday of one of the coolest web designers out there. I owe him a bottle of Pinot, but somehow a combination of brain farts and negative cashflow have conspired against this gift being sent. It is in fact at least 6 months overdue and the fact of the matter is that I feel like a real schlub about it, or as PK might say, a reprehensible twat. At least we both know the feeling.

    Once upon a time, I was CTO of a nascent company called xxxx. I managed to get several people excited about the possibilities of a new kind of interactive usage of web and mobile services. It's still a great idea and nobody has yet managed to pull it off, but like most of my great ideas, sooner or later it's bound to make somebody else rich. One of those folks was Patric King, web designer extraordinare and associated with the successful look of a number of very popular blogs.

    I sent him pictures of my curtains, fer chrissake, because the way the spousal unit and I agree on colors and themes for the house is precisely the kind of mellow, warm and ethnic spice we wanted for the project. Before you could say 'cascading style sheets', King had come back with a very nice theme that worked. We had a good level of communication and collab going on, and then I disappeared along with the funding. It wasn't all that dramatic, but it may as well have been.

    King was a good sport about it, and fortunately he hadn't spent a whole lot of hours. So I owe him one (or two), and I haven't felt right about my inability due to a number of rapid transitions in my career, to do right by him.

    I'm sure he has more work than he can handle and isn't aching for a lack of activity. I only wished our thing would have worked out. So here's to the King. You're going to get yours...

    Posted by mbowen at 01:52 PM | TrackBack

    April 20, 2005

    A Suburban Moment

    So we did get a new couch, and man is it fluffy. The spousal unit tossed our old sentimental red leather couch and brought in an olive one with a kind of corduroy texture. I actually love it. It has brought my Tivo watching to new levels of suburban comfort.

    It was from that decadent position, after Oreos and milk, that I watched the latest episode of The Amazing Race last night. The ending was perfect. The black couple won, the yuppies (who were dressed like red and blue teletubbies) tied for second, the oldsters hung in there and broke a record and the gay couple got the boot. Oh they were *so* gay.

    I take this to be a sign that all is right with the world.

    In other news, The Shield is by far the most byzantine and intense drama to be found anywhere. Last night's episode was so frightfully delicious that it's hard to imagine that they could put any more suspense into the genre of police drama. These characters and stories are astounding, there is tension everywhere between everyone and it drips with intrigue, deception and danger. These are what you would call ripping yarns. Sometimes it's difficult to believe you are watching actors. It just resonates so closely to all of our perceptions of urban dysfunction and moral ambiguity. The cast of The Shield this season, featuring Glenn Close and Anthony Anderson has to be the finest bunch of actors to mesmerize TV audiences since the debut of Hill Street Blues.

    This suburban moment brought to you by The Bowen Family Trust.

    Posted by mbowen at 06:04 PM | TrackBack

    Oh The Shame of It All

    My Body Mass Index is 30.4099. It's official. I'm obese. This time next week, I will not be. I swear to God.

    I figured out how to calculate this number (pounds/inches ^2)* 703 from the NYTimes article which tells us that the CDC has changed its mind about the overweight. Evidently, they have been juggling methodologies and have determined that the one they use for cancer survival rates is the best one for predicting the effects of weight on mortality.

    The breakpoints (18.5, 25, 30, 35) mark their five categories, underweight, normal weight, overweight, obesity and extreme obesity. As you can see, I'm in the fourth bucket, which is not so healthy. What is interesting about these new findings is that they confirm something a I've thought true for a long time which is that when I was 168 pounds, I was too skinny. I wanted, like most young men, to be bigger, stronger, faster, sexier, and 168 just wasn't cutting it for me. Even though I cycled 70 miles a week and played at least 5 hours of beach volleyball every Saturday & Sunday I wanted to be as fit as a special forces Ranger.

    When I landed my first managerial position I had just turned 31 or so, and I knew it all. But somehow I didn't think I possesed the authority I needed. So I embarked on my 'Huge Project'. The idea was simple, get big & buff. So I changed my eating habits. The first time I had this idea was with my best friend when we were about 27. We were both programmers in a highly geekified area of LA, El Segundo. (He was by far the superior programmer, but I was the better beach volleyball player). We thought it would be extremely cool idea (after drinks) to become the twin bouncers of the South Bay. We would buff up, shave our heads, wear a single hoop of gold in our ear and wear gold lame shoes with pointy toes. It would have been a great second source of income. Unfortunately we sobered up before we could get our piercing.

    Jack LaLanne said something famously. You can eat double cheeseburgers every day, that doesn't matter. What matters is that you exercise. I remember him like it was yesterday, he said diets just don't work. You have to feed the body, but you also must work the body.

    The Huge Project turned out to be a moderate success, but I didn't get huge, I got ripped. My basketball game rebounded and I got all kinds of twitchy nervous energy. All it took was about 20 minutes a day on that old 'Body by Jake' rig and a couple good games of hoop. Within 2 months I was done, but that was 40 pounds ago.

    The last time I got in shape was about 18 months ago when I was dead broke and smokin'. I did some pretty good blogging back then too, and I went to the gym on the regular for court volleyball and cardio kickboxing. I dropped about 10 pounds and got my breath back, but I pretty much destroyed all of that during the holiday season when I got work. Since then I haven't done much exercising at all and food has become an adventure. So now I'm at an elegant yet elephantine 215, and I have to yell stop.

    Today, I'm going to Payless and Champs. I'm going to get some gym shoes and some shorts. Now is the time. Plus, my XBox is broken so that will help too. The spousal unit is on notice to alter the menu and we're going to get some results. I love the pressure.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:43 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


    Okolo is a man, I have to confess, who puzzled me for quite some time. You see he's one of those guys that you think you know until you try to say five hundred words to and then you realize that you've embarassed yourself. At least, that's the way he made me feel one time.

    When I die and go to heaven, Okolo will be my unix sysadmin. There's probably nobody on the planet this side of Kernigan and Ritchie who know it better. He knew how to build an ISP from scratch before the idea of an ISP became a commercial reality. But I didn't really go to him for unix advice back in the day.

    Instead, I did one of those stupid things back in the day which was to assume that since he had this African name and his mother (if I remember correctly) was from the Continent, that he had all his afrocentric polyrhythms in full swing and that the best of them would rub off on me. Yes I actually thought maybe I could catch a bit of the flavor just hanging out with a dreadlocked brother. But like most suburban posers, I was just projecting. Fortunately, I think I was able to keep it a secret from him and he didn't kick me out of his apartment in uptown Harlem.

    I'm sure I was one of those annoying black equivalent Andy Rooney types just trying to put on a show, so I have this distinct feeling of frustration that Okolo didn't help me assemble the great black cyberhall that would be the virtual equivalent of a meeting with Malcolm, Martin, WEB and Booker 24/7. Though that dream has never quite disappeared, the expectation that Okolo was on point for that did long ago. I just never wanted to impose on the brother, and this confession has remained subliminal until this moment.

    What I knew then and know now to be true is that Okolo is one of those rare, individuals who is gracious first and always. There's something about him that, I don't know, struck me as healthy and pure in the way most Americans are not. I sometimes worried that the evil of the world would crack open and swallow the brother. Maybe I'm completely and totally off about this, but he always impressed me as that kind of nice guy. At least the fact that he resisted my cultural/political fanaticism of the early 90s is testament enough to his levelheadedness.

    Anyway, I got an email from him for the first time in a coon's age and he turns out to have a gut! Huh? What? He's blogging a reverse-Supersize Me, in which he's going to shame all us in the pajama corps by doing some fraction of a triathalon, maybe even a whole one. Any fraction is too much for me, but his is all for a good cause, to fight leukemia.

    Okolo is one of the mellowist and coolest people you'll ever meet, and you ought to support him.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:02 AM | TrackBack

    April 18, 2005

    Return of the Bogard

    This is for the [black male] youth.

    What I can't do is undo what I've done. I can't go back before the age of 14 and be back in all black schools in the hood. I can't unlearn what I've learned. I can't suddenly put the fear of whitefolks back in my head, but I can try. Hanging with Lee helped remind me of all the distance I've travelled, of all the hard work that put me in my happy spot, doing what I never thought probable or even possible back in the day. So thinking about what I think is real for young black men today whose future is dicey, I'm going to come up with my best advice. For what it's worth. And I'm thinking in particular about some of my young cousins down south, whom I don't really know, but I'm just guessing.

    As usual, I start with Baldwin.

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

    Probably the hardest thing about being a young black man in America is that nobody believes anything you say or do that doesn't confirm some stereotype about black men. It's like you simply don't exist and nothing you say or do will make you seem real to people unless you add something typical at the end, nah mean? You don't have to say a word, and the cop thinks you're a suspect. But you can go to a job interview and talk all day about your real character and they still don't hear you. That's real. And guess what, it never ends. You are going to have to talk your way into every situation and keep reminding people honestly about what you are expecting, even if it sounds stupid - like damn, why do I keep having to explain this to you?

    #1 Bogard
    You have to Bogard. You have to talk your way in, even when you're not sure you have what it takes. You have to get into a situation where you can try and fail until you get it right. You have to let people believe that they're a little bit more responsible for your success than they actually are. After all, you're doing the work. But that's how people are a lot of times with black men. They don't believe we can do without their assistance because they can't just look at us and percieve our skills and potential. Bogarding means trading on your potential, never forgetting your potential, not being worried about hearing 'no', and never stopping pushing the envelope. As soon as you fail, and you will, you're going to hear the same old crap, and the moment you start to believe it, then you actually will be heading in that direction. There are 6 billion people on this planet. There are at least 1000 who have got your back and can help you. Find them. They're waiting to hear you.

    #2. Listen and Learn
    You're young, and you don't know anything. What you have going for you is energy, ambition, and nothing to lose. Therefore you need to soak up knowledge in every form that's related to your ambition. Be all about it. Get the magazine, watch the TV show. Read the books. Find the experts. Become a geek about it. Show your love for that thing, because this country is big enough for you to make your fortune in it, whatever it is. It's almost scary how much you can accomplish just by listening. You really have your whole life to learn it. That's why you follow your love.

    #3 Get Out
    Get out of your comfort zone. Get out of your old habits. Billions and billions of burgers have been sold at McDonalds, and everyone knows what's on the menu. But I bet that you order the same thing every time. Order a vanilla shake from McDonalds next time. I bet you never have. Watch a TV show you never watch. Buy a shirt you would never wear and see what happens. You are more flexible than you think. Listen to me, I sound like Morpheus. But it's true. You have to be able to think on your feet, because you already know the same stuff that's coming to you where you are. But the most important thing to do in this category is to travel. If you have a car, get a map point your finger at a place and drive there. Get out of your car and walk. Be there for a while.

    I remember several years ago talking to brothers in Oakland who went to the Million Man March. One of them had never left Oakland in his entire life, he was in his 30s. They rented Ford Explorers, him and about 10 partners and drove clear across the country. He said that the trip was far more interesting than the destination. Why? Because he couldn't have, in a million years, guessed how people across the country would have treated him. He told me about stopping at a truck stop in Iowa and a conversation he got into with some white truck drivers, and he couldn't believe how easy and friendly the people were. But he needed that excuse, 'going to the MMM' to get him out of Oakland.

    This is not about making friends with white truck drivers in Iowa, this is about expanding your social ability. Making friends is going to be one of the results. People trust people who feel they can handle them. And the only way to be able to handle all the strangeness about people is getting out with people different than yourself. I go to Baldwin again:

    Identity would seem to be the garment with which one covers the nakedness of the self: in which case, it is best that the garment be loose, a little like the robes of the desert, through which robes one's nakedness can always be felt, and, sometimes, discerned. This trust in one's nakedness is all that gives one the power to change one's robes.

    #4 Be Intimate
    Everybody thinks they know who you are and what you're all about. You need to have imagination to get out of that. But you also need to be intimate with people. You have to let people into your sphere. That's difficult.

    I hated people all up in my business. I liked handling my own business because almost nobody could give me what I needed. So why bother telling them about yourself? Because everybody knows somebody, and that somebody might be the key. So you should let people know what you're all about, even if you think they disrespect that, or can't help you in any way whatsoever. At the very least, you get associated with your ambition. It's better than the alternative which is they make up their own minds what you are all about without any real input from you. People talk. People can't shut up. Use that to your advantage.

    #5 You Are Not The First Black Anything

    And the cieling gets higher every day. What do you think blackfolks who've got it going on have been doing all this time? There are miles and miles of headroom. There is no place I've been and nothing I've studied where there haven't been blackfolks with great accomplishments. Anybody who tells you different just hasn't been out much. But you're still going to be outnumbered. That's neither here nor there. You are responsible to the people who are responsible to you. There is not a great big club out here waiting... well, there is the NBS Summit, but just take it for granted that the black race is doing just fine. You just need to get your hookup in order.

    #6 Save.
    Handle your money well. Get into a relationship with your bank today. Read everything possible about money and remember this. The best feeling in the world is walking through a mall and knowing you can afford anything in it that you want, but not buying one thing. Save your money. The only way to get money is to keep money. Buy savings bonds, and live low.

    #7 Don't Doubt America
    America is the country where things work. Whatever it is, if it's possible, then it's happening here somewhere. If it doesn't work in your neighborhood, then you're just in the wrong part of America. The fact that you can read this is proof. If you think you can fight with 'America' and win, you've got it all wrong. Lose that attitude because America is a lot bigger than you think. You'll find your place in it.

    #8 Do Not Ignore Luck
    You have to learn how to handle misfortune, and good fortune. That was hard for me to learn. I wasn't prepared to take advantage of any situation that wasn't completely in my control. Why? Because I assumed that the outcome would always be bad. I wasn't prepared to be surprised either way. In the end I would just end up mad because I couldn't take all the credit. But sometimes you just have to take the leap of faith.

    #9 What Goes Around Comes Around
    It's true. You will pay for your mistakes with people. You need to apologize and move on. Don't try to make your enemies pay. When you are actually powerful enough to do so, others will gladly do it for you. But until that point, you need to just collect your stuff and walk away. Don't give anybody a reason to do dirt to you, because you will be in delicate situations.

    #10 Find Your Chillout Zone
    You must find something you can do, on your own, that chills you out. You cannot depend on somebody else for that. You need to be able to get into your chillout zone when life throws you a knuckleball. For me, it changed. When I was in college, I ran. I could run for 10 miles and just leave the whole world behind. After that it was cycling. Then it was writing all my demons out on paper. But whatever it was, I knew I could come to that thing and find peace. Nobody had to come and restrain me, I didn't find myself on my knees like Usher begging for forgiveness for my own peace of mind. It had to come from within.

    #11 Recognize
    If you can get half of these things right, you have a good shot. But it won't change the perception of black men in America. So you have got to do a little to recognize others who have their heads on straight. And this is more than just a head nod in passing. It's affirmation of good work or a good deed. It's not paranoid, we brothers got to stick together when you know you or this other man is wrong. It's acknowledgement of achievement, not just survival. A black man can survive in jail. That doesn't mean anything. It's not just about living, it's about living right. It's about making a social space for doing good and keeping that space clean.

    Men make choices and live with their choices. These are all tools that I think can help young black men keeping in mind the specific things I had to learn as a young black man. I come from a strong family, but these things still weren't obvious. But look at these lessons closely, see how universal they are?

    Posted by mbowen at 02:57 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

    April 16, 2005

    Dancing on the Third Rail: Part Three

    You can sing the words to 'Amazing Grace' to the tune of 'Gilligans Island'. Try it. It works perfectly, and it kind of destroys the purity of both songs. It's completely unexpected and it stays in your head. I think that's what a black Republican is. The first time you see it, you don't believe it, because it seems wrong, and whenever you think about it, it makes you angry because it disrespects tradition. And as long as you've learned it the way you've learned it, it will seem that way.

    I believe the future of this country is like that, with regard to race. We are going to have to expect the possibility that all of the different colored square pegs belong in the square hole. We have to stop mistaking color for shape. It requires an honesty that seems wrong and disrespects tradition. It requires an honesty about color and an honesty about shape. But there's still a lot of mending to do because we've all been getting bent out of shape over color.

    The Existential Shape of Politics
    I've talked about the mending in terms of healing and curing. Since I'm a conservative, I think that the primary burden of healing and curing lies with the self. I have come not to expect a fair society, I've always said that you cannot wish for a better public. As my new pals in the Mother Company salesforce say, 'It is what it is.' I prefer the Run DMC version myself, but the point is exactly the same. We live near the end of an awful history that has taught valuable lessons. That's good and bad. The bad speaks for itself, but the good is found in those lessons - after all, somebody succeeded. But since I believe what I do when it comes to race it puts me in a peculiar if not precarious position, with regard to whom I feel my responsibility lies. I say this understanding that it's a fair guess that most of my readers might consider themselves to be whitefolks. I'm shouting out to the public. The bottom line is that I'm trying to direct black politics into a direction that speaks honestly to self-representation that allows the truth about blacks to be said, and I'm trying to influence white politics into a direction that works in honest coalition with black interests as expressed through those black politics. We've had a liberal white coalition with left blacks and that produced the mandate for Civil Rights. Now that Civil Rights is baked that coalition is in shambles and everybody is wondering where to go next. So far they're regressing. That's why I think the progessive side of the Old School is in a unique leadership position now that Republicans control American politics, but that connection has to be done right.

    You see, I am a nationalist and a globalist. I believe that I am a citizen of my nation and I inhereit its traditions and laws. I have a duty as an African American to reconcile myself to the history of my country. I make sense of it and I locate myself within a thread of its development. I am an African American raised as a black nationalist in Southern California during the 70s. When I was driving Lee around and showing her my Los Angeles, she found it remarkable that I knew so many black Catholics & Episcopalians. I really never thought much about that fact in isolation, but it's a very real part of my association with the folks in The Dons. Many attended mass at Holy Name, or Advent or with Reverend Stallings. That's part of it as well. And I also look very closely at my family. I am part of them and I am responsible to them, not just the nuclear family but my entire extended family. That's hard. My family tree is deep and wide. There's a lot to say here but the point is that there are significant contexts within which my identity is subsumed and these are the contexts I expect others to represent as we all work as citizens in the public sphere. When we talk about simple matters like Affirmative Action, I don't want to hear just 'white' or 'asian', I want to hear second-generation vietnamese whose family ran a restaurant.. and that whole nine yards.

    So when we talk as Americans about race, a lot of it comes back to the personal, and I know sometimes I get upset when people say ('oh by the way I'm white') and just leave it at that. I say that's hiding. If that's all you say, that's all you can be. But I'm trying very hard to get the energy of black nationalists who led back in the 60s & 70s to work on this new politics of the 21c. I can't do that if whitefolks are just going to be 'white', because that's problematic with regard to multicultural ethics and anti-racist principles that are non-starters in the coalition of color.

    There are a couple of huge conspiracy theories in operation today with regard to American politics, and one of them is that all Republicans and folks on the right are like 'Goldwater' and that Goldwater was opposed to Civil Rights for racist reasons. So while a significant number of Old School blacks have basically opted out of mainstream politics for this reason, the Republican agenda has a big gaping default. And from my perspective, all the Pat Robertsons in the world do not add up to one TD Jakes - the conservatives of color, not just blackfolks, but conservative immigrants in generation one and two are a huge flavorful coalition that ought to be the more proper multicultural coalition on the right. But you have to play whack-a-mole on a lot of knuckleheads like Phil Gramm & Tom DeLay before that message get through their thick skulls. They think we're going to assimilate and they're dead wrong. We don't have the ethics problem. They think we're going to get stronger by beating up on homos. Wrong again. They think we're going to sell out to high stakes influence politics. Nope. They just don't have their marketing right, although Christie Whitman does. I think GW Bush started off on the right track with regard to 'compassionate conservatism' but global events took over his domestic agenda, and really this Republican congress defaulted big time. I think history will show that the focus on terrorism and the war allowed a high quotient of mediocrity to set the domestic legislative agenda...

    But I digress.

    The American mainstream is wide open and accomodating to ethnic flavor, but the issue of race is more than just flavor. That's not anybody's choice - but it is deeply embedded in the way we talk about social justice. It's an important shape, and we shouldn't let color distract us from the content of that discussion. There will always be people who have grown up singing Amazing Grace to the tune of Gilligan's Island for whom there is no resonance of the way things were. That's not what we want. We want people who understand the effort with which things were changed who are comfortably fluent enough to put the same words into the tune of 'When the Saints Go Marching In'. So this is not about colorblindness, it's about color competency and cross-cultural fluency. It's about understanding both history and possibility. It's about knowing enough about why people made political coalitions in the past and how they view their progress from there in order to make new ones in the future. It's about living with the public we have and incorporating their aspirations into the society they would have for their children. It's all going to come together and come apart again. That's why integrity is key.

    I have thrown in some Cobbian politics above, and I am negotiating some complex dynamics. I am convinced that the leadership of black political coalitions will be of a certain type of elite. You cannot dredge up the 'legacy of slavery' without the understanding that through it all, the African family persists. And you cannot talk about oppression in the world without recognizing the possibilities of Africans on the world stage. So in solving problems for a particular class of African Americans, black political leaders are going to be thrust quickly onto that world stage. The Congressional Black Coalition appears to me to not be forward thinking in that regard; they're thinking small and as such are going to be marginalized. The context of race is political and the political power one can obtain by wrangling that context well is outsized, but the end goal has little to do with race, and it is a mistake to think otherwise. So how we spend the political capital of making the ethnic vote produce is of critical import. I worry that those who believe the 'Goldwater Theory' are all too ready to pay it all back, that is a strategy which will devolve into an Israeli-Palestinian situation.

    Failure is Not An Option
    An enemy is somebody who doesn't mind if you fail. And since white identity and all American identity depends very highly on how well our ethnic politics go, everyone has a stake is making this work. Nobody wants to go back to the repression of the 50s, well nobody sane anyway. Neither do we want to go back to the chaos of the 60s nor the sappy accomodation of the crossover 70s. And while I don't wish to overstate the import of how black politics gets its act together in the context of the American economy and geopolitical destiny, it is at the very core of the world's experiment with democracy. We are the leading example of how democracy can empower. If it weren't for what happened to Emmitt Till and how we worked America because of it, the Minutemen at the Mexican border would be shooting first. If African Americans had failed in their demand for universal public accomodations, this society would be a great deal more closed and this nation would be unable to lead the world in any way whatsoever. Just count the American cities that burned in 1968 and imagine where we would be if it got worse instead of better.

    It took 26 years to free Geronimo Pratt. Certain key things simply must happen in order to sustain our faith in law and order. One of those things is that we must be free to stake our claim in this land. We must be able to sustain our families as we believe they should be in a place we call our homeland. We cannot sacrifice ourselves into la vida sin corazon. Rather we must draw strength from a society that grows respect of its people. When it comes to American identity, that means respecting the aspirations of freedom and accomplishment for which our emergent populations struggle. It means not only, in the way Malcolm described, are we diners at the American table, but our recipies are on the menu. In that and only that way do we secure the blessings of liberty.

    "Humankind still lives in prehistory everywhere, indeed everything awaits the creation of the world as a genuine one... if human beings have grasped themselves, and what is theirs, without depersonalization and alienation, founded in real democracy, then something comes into being in the world that shines into everyone's childhood and where no one has yet been -- home."
    --Ernest Bloch

    Posted by mbowen at 08:41 AM | TrackBack

    April 15, 2005

    Hanging With Lee

    I did a lot of talking yesterday, and Lee did a lot of listening. I told her she was destroying my blog for all the things I might have said here went only to her. Lee is a protege of sorts. I'm showing her my Los Angeles. She comes from an extraordinarily sheltered world that I didn't know existed, and she wants to bloom under a different sun. She takes notes.

    So we drove all over. We met yesterday afternoon at the foot of the hills of the Doheny oilfield and went first at the top of Hahn Park looking across the city. We cruised through the Jungle, to the Fox Hills Mall, up and down Crenshaw, to West Adams, up into The Dons, View Park and Ladera. We went to Farmers Market for my favorite Korean BBQ and watched the odd black woman scowl at us. She noticed how white men were looking at her, and we talked about all that. We went up into Hollywood and then down to the South Bay, to the Hermosa Pier and then up to Marina Del Rey. It was all new.

    We talked and talked. The interesting thing I learned was about how men want to own women, and the rules that fathers and mothers make to conspire control of their bloodlines. It's makes for a wicked conservatism, and I can see how it had crushed a little life out of Lee. But she's gaining confidence in this world and she wants to be a part of all of it, not just her own well-wrapped universe.

    She helped me realize how fortunate I have been at a young age to be exposed to a wide variety of whitefolks. Because she looks at them and she sees nothing. We didn't talk about white women more than once in 12 hours, but of white men and how they do nothing for her. Of course she's never been down South and you might imagine the sort she met at her elite New England college. "75% rich and 50% gay". So one can hardly blame her, as sheltered and protected as she has been, both by her parents and by her own mind. And while there's nothing particularly special about whitefolks, it's always useful to recognize them for the way they recognize themselves, which is what traveling among and between the various cliques can do for a young person.

    But Lee only traveled from the old country in Eastern Europe to America as a child driven from oppression. And so she has remained close to her parents for all of her 2 dozen years, without much freedom at all. She said that if you took the African American out of the Conservative Brotherhood creed, you would harness 70% of her countrymen. And she knows of black men who hang with them finding much in common.

    I say we are all emergent in America, and sometimes we clutch at ourselves when encountering cielings and walls against our ethnicity. Sometimes we hold our loved ones too close and create in them a fear of the unknown that is easily knowable. On the pier we stared into the cold black water. The sea is massive, powerful and all encompassing. But you can never trust the sea. All you can trust is your ability to swim.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:28 AM | TrackBack

    April 14, 2005

    Dancing on the Third Rail: Part One

    (Today and tomorrow, I'm going deep into racial territory)

    The problem with learning and caring is that you can never shutup, even when you want to. Even when it's better to let people be wrong, and misinterpret, to be committed to what you know to be true forces one, in the end to add another straw to the camel's back, hoping it will balance the odd one someone else put on a moment, or a millenium before.

    So it is with race in America. The conversation never stops.

    What I understand about race in America is that it involves two sides, and that neither side can win. Black and white are like twin brothers wrestling on the floor. But I think the most true thing about race in America is that it inhabits all of our metaphors. There are so many stories and so many reasons and so many prayers bound up in the drama of race. For anyone who truly cares about the American condition, the state of our union, the meaning of our values, race is always intrinsic, ever puzzling, ever revealing, ever punishing.

    I shake my head because I have not yet reached that time in parenthood during which my children rebel. So my instinct remains at the patient-explanation-for-your-own-good level rather than the, fine-do-it-your-way-you'll-see level. And so I am taking an hour or so to respond at length to some straws I see poking out.

    Two cats respond here at Cobb on the regular. One is Dave, the other is Chap. I don't really know them. I don't really know anyone in cyberspace, and it's difficult to explain how much of an in-your-face person I am, how I am such an acute observer of people. The web and all computer mediated communications represent to me an abstract medium for the expression of (more or less) pure thought, and it is perfect for certain things, but doesn't begin to approach what I can remember when watching a man or woman walk or listen to them speak or read their faces. So I am something of a bull in a china shop of ideas out here on the web, I am an arrow on a path. I redefine and correct, and I don't listen as much as I would face to face. And it is that gap bewteen the person and the virus of an idea inhabiting their minds which may or may not express itself clearly in the digital realm, that I both recognize and obliterate. So if it sounds like I am beating up them, or whitefolks, or blackfolks, I am, but only in digital bits, only in the realm of ideas. I am a great respecter of people, but when I see a bad paragraph, I am compelled to attack. I don't know that I will find one, but don't hold your breath. This is not about you guys in particular, it's sorta about your being a part of this thing that I and the Brotherhood, and America is going through. I understand your stake as Americans in the reconciliation between all of us.

    The best defense, they say, is a good offense. And I really have no need nor cause to be defensive. I'm already here, on the other side of the mountain of personal achievement that unleashes a man's spirit. I have been unleashed for a dozen years and then some. It is how I have managed to take the diary I had been writing in college, to the public - to stand in front of hungry patrons and recite poetry from the heart - to write the unspeakable memo, to correct the man who thinks he knows it all. I care deeply for people, but I only answer to God. Engagement with me is an exercise in honesty, it's about how real I think I can get with you, it's about how much truth you show that you can handle. Sooner or later we get to that place called intimacy. It's a quick jump to there when I write. And I am true to myself and therefore not false with my readers.

    So what is this racial thing and why do I bother? I thought about that at the baggage claim this morning after a good 4 hours of sleep. Why is it that this black experience thing is so difficult for my white cousins to understand? Why do I appear obsessed? Why even use such a word? The first answer that passed back through my mind was that it only seems obsessive if you don't see the value in it. But like breeding sows or birthing cows, somebody has to stick their whole arm into uncomfortable places, and once you have learned to do so everything is different. I think whitefolks depend on blackfolks to stick our arms up into race, and they take our civility to be a sign of forgiveness. That's partially true. But there is also a science of husbandry in this, we bring it along generation by generation. But that is always done by engagement, and never by distance.

    Speaking for myself, and I think for many in my generation, much of black culture has been about representation. We have been engaged in a struggle to be a different we. We were like stowaway children under the tarp of the horsecart of the Underground Railroad. Our parents rode shotgun with their hats down low, not speaking too loudly less they draw too much attention. And yet we were their joy and it was our brightness, sheltered within our humble homes, that gave them the courage to take that road to freedom. But my generation crawled out from under the tarp and started talking loud. Yeah! We're free, and guess what you don't really know about us? We've been representing black culture, we've been blackety blackety black black y'all. We've been painting the white house black, and we've dared you to say anything about it. And it was necessary, God knows what the world has been missing in the wake of our parents' silence. And you've been discovering it from Eddie Murphy to Joe Jett to Serena Williams to Condi Rice. The Negro is dead. Blackness is about busting out of jail, about bringing music to the Nowhere Man, about never letting anyone forget about our flavor and unlimited potential.

    The success of blackness is demonstrable but its task is not complete. It will take another two generations I think. When my grandchildren purchase banks in Chile or Ghana perhaps. When there's a country club in Georgia where two black ex-presidents hang out. When the Kwaku Foundation awards it's million dollar grant for the 40th time and the networks celebrate. These are my expectations of a fulfilled African American destiny. But lots of African Americans have their own. These hopes and aspirations were forged in different fires and every family's history shapes them, but there is a direction to it, and a common kind of struggle when it comes from African American history. In our generation, it has been to represent - to come out and be loud and proud. As Rick James said, we're bustin' out of this L 7 square, done braided our hair and don't mind if you stare.

    The Balance
    James Baldwin said:

    Take no one's word for anything, including mine-but trust your experience. Know whence you came. If you know whence you came, there is really no limit to where you can go. The details and symbols of your life have been deliberately constructed to make you believe what white people say about you. Please try to remember that what they believe, as well as what they do and cause you to endure, does not testify to your inferiority but to their inhumanity and fear. Please try to be clear, dear James, through the storm which rages about your youthful head today, about the reality which lies behind the words acceptance and integration, There is no reason for you to try to become like white people and there is no basis whatever for their impertinent assumption that they must accept you. The really terrible thing, old buddy, is that you must accept them. And I mean that very seriously. You must accept them and accept them with love. For these innocent people have no other hope. They are, in effect, still trapped in a history which they do not understand; and until they understand it, they cannot be released from it. They have had to believe for many years, and for innumerable reasons, that black men are inferior to white men. Many of them, indeed, know better, but, as you will discover, people find it very difficult to act on what they know. To act is to be committed, and to be committed is to be in danger. In this case, the danger, in the minds of most white Americans, is the loss of their identity.

    And so I know that American destiny is not complete until African American destiny is complete. And we keep working, we blacks and whites, we keep working each others nerves until we reach a settlement. Today the settlement is an accomodation, a compromise, a tenable peace which is both uneasy and comfortable. We still live in a society where OJ makes a difference. We still live in a society in which Colin Powell's wife fears for her husband's life. We still live in a society in which Camilla Cosby was considered crazy when she said race mattered in the murder of her son. And whitefolks know very well, as they look at their own families and friends and associates, that something about them is unfinished and unreconciled to the rest of America. It's nothing a simple as 'discrimination'. Hell, nobody I know is a racist. Everybody I know hates racism. But only few can talk about it in mixed company for more than a minute.

    Online is a different story. I've proven that, because I wanted to and I paid close attention. But the fact remains, there is still dissonance, sometimes it is as clearly defined and significant as the street between a white gentrified enclave and the beat down streets of chinatown. Sometimes it's as subtle and insignificant as choosing the right beer when ordering Thai food in New Orleans while listening to reggae music. I don't mean to be cavalier, but I'm not sure that we know what to do with our Multicultural ethos or exactly what it buys us in the post 9/11 world. I'm not sure we know what to do with our new sensitivities. Today, 3000 gay couples had their marriages annulled by legal fiat in the state of Oregon. Online we can talk about all this stuff, but what do we do?

    More later.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:54 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    April 13, 2005

    New Orleans Diary: Day Five

    This is the last entry. I feel like one of those idiot film students walking around taking video of everything around him. It's not going to capture the flavor, especially as close to real time as this is.

    I found my mother's house's in the projects at the corner of Claiborne and Orleans. My cousin took me around all this afternoon and we visited the places where they grew up over in that neighborhood. It's funny when I look at the place now as symbolic of the lowest class on the totem pole: projects. Funny because she kept telling me about the movie theatre that used to cost a nickel for all day, that's now a converted church, and the other theatre that's now a converted church and the old bowling alley which is now a converted church. Then she showed me the old church that's now a middle school, and the high school where a kid got shot not long ago. Nothing is the way it was. The streets haven't been paved and the shutters haven't been repaired. There are too many holes in the infrastructure to hold the same quantities of hope and aspiration, or so I presume.

    Poverty of this sort would not work in Los Angeles. Very few parts of my hometown get as rundown as these have, and yet there's something magical about that inversion - the charm of the Drop Squad value the whole place holds. I don't get the feeling this place is dangerous, then again, my sense of dangerous is fairly different from most folks.

    We visited another cousin briefly. Somewhere in my family tree file are the digital connections. It's so embarassing when you don't know and can't place the face. But now that the physical connection is made, everything makes sense. It has depth you can't get from a family reunion because it's about place as well as face.

    Cousin showed me the park where they played 60 years ago at the southern end of the Laffite projects. Just as quickly, she pointed out the twin park, 'where the whites would play' on the other side of Claiborne. The Two Sisters Restaurant was closed so we headed back up to Galvez. Then over and across to Esplanade, the burb quickly transformed to exactly what you could expect - gentrification. Not so fast, Cousin said of the house at the corner of Esplanade that a white somebody has lived there all of these years. An odd thing to know, but coming with the territory of a woman born in 1940 in this part of town.

    As we drove further up Esplanade we got into a stretch of nicer houses that rent for 'as much as $700'. For a three bedroom? 'No a three bedroom would be $1000'. I'm freaking out, silently. These are very nice houses. Finally we arrive at my aunt's building. She's somewhere in Europe this week, nobody quite knows where, and so I missed her tour of the city. Instead, I'm checking out her building, the Esplanade at City Park where she lives on one of the top floors with a view of the lovely park. In the distance to the left across a lagoon is a stand of magnificent homes, one of which must be the Pitot House. As we cross the lagoon towards City Park, nearly clipping a duck, Cousin explains how 'we couldn't even think about crossing those gates'.

    Just around the corner is another cousin, and the sun is going down and the breezes are warm. Lovely. He chills my enthusiasm for the idyllic spot by bringing back the reality of New Orleans' own recent school shooting. Every place has it's plusses and minuses. In the end, we had a nice fish fry down at a joint called The Trolley. And I met yet another couple of young cousins.

    It has been a great trip. Now I gotta sleep. I have a 5am wakeup call.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:32 PM | TrackBack

    April 12, 2005

    New Orleans Diary: Day Four

    What's that in my eyes? Ouch, it hurts. Damned sunlight! My mouth tastes like the floor of a cheap Dominican cigar factory. I was awake at 7 but I went back to bed. Now I overslept and am going to be late to my first breakout session. Drat.

    Well, it's nothing I don't know anyway. The good one is at 11. I guess I'll just use my new password and download several hundred MB of software.

    Everything is boring except meeting new people. A couple of the seminars I signed up for were bogus. Well, not bogus but a little underneath my feet. So I took off and checked out the city for a bit in between the time of the last good session and now.

    Poverty is the same where ever you go in America. It's instantly recognizeable. You get off the grid and suddenly people are hanging off stoops where the houses have no A/C. The day after rain, the curbs are still flooded where the pavement turns to dirt.

    I took Canal up to Rampart Street and took it out to where it splits off with St. Bernard. By there I was in the heart of somebody's hood. So I took Elysian Fields north to Claiborne and flipped some circles around there and hit ghetto. It was around Derbigny that I dropped off the precipice into that 5th Ward Houston look and feel, three classes below the middle where the streets ain't paved. Sure enough the horse cart clops by.

    I couldn't find the right part of town Moms pointed out to me a week or so ago. Half the problem is that I'm using three different map programs and the streets I recall go halfway across town.

    So I decided to go random and headed down Dauphine because I remember it from the Quarter. But I was going in the wrong direction and ended up at some Navy yard. So I flipped around to Chartres and headed back the other way. Not long afterwards I was on the waterfront boulevard, Decatur, and there was a Hooters to let me know I had left one kind of poverty and entered another.

    I'm happy to get back to my hotel room and play with my downloads, but that's partially because I let the spousal unit have the good digital camera. I'm stuck with a miserable unfocusable blurred and distorted view of New Orleans reality, and I know that's the best I can do for the moment. But I know a lot more than I did yesterday.

    Schmooze. 6 Hours straight. I'm losing my mind. I didn't realize that I had such good friends in high places. It's nice to know, otherwise this whole evening would have been a total, complete, utter, bore. I'm getting old and experienced and I see this whole thing in a new light. I get a good understanding of how the schmeer is applied. So tonight it was the devil suit. Black on black on black. Sorta like the Hollywood suit but with no blue whatsoever. Streaks of red instead. My whole attitude was "I'm sick of all this and I'm going to be unique, but I'll pay attention to you". I'm full of shit. Not really, just for the moment.

    I drove my car fast down the narrow streets of the Quarter. I eyeballed the hookers and spring break girls gone wild with knowing looks. I stared down every hombre in the streets. I gave a pound to all my homies in the mother corporations. I was this close to buying drinks but everyone was still talking business, even after their fifth drink. I have the insight about this but I'm not going to tell. It's too simple and embarassing for those who have pierced the veil.

    You see, worlds have collided. I've been recognized by one of the young guys at the mother corporation as a blogger. It was like a splinter in his mind as I sat at his booth and watched his neighbor's demo. He caught me on the way out. Hi reader. I wanted to come back to him and ask what he'd like me to write, but I kept thinking why 'When Worlds Collide' would be such a cool, yet inappropriate title about the encounter. But I'm cool with all that. Let everyone know everything I always say.

    The funny thing, which another long lost associate reminded me, was that I had a well-deserved rep as well as an undeserved rep, for speaking out. I had an infamous HR red-flag moment for a percieved use of an inappropriate metaphor in a business communication. The very idea is so fricken bourgeois it makes me choke. Nevertheless, calmer heads prevailed at the time. But I also mouthed off on a public forum under a pseud. I haven't written there in years, or so it seems, but some people remember me for that. So I have a number of reputations, most of them stellar with the old gang.

    Tonight's fare was pedestrian but the best yet. Fish tacos & BBQ ribs with peanut sauce. In fact, it's probably the most imaginative buffet this company has ever produced.

    Over in the Quarter, I schmoozed even more. I returned to the 544 and the waitress remembered me. I had 3 drinks and once again I missed the traditional jazz band. The flashing girls were out, but there were only two of them and I have the feeling they were paid by the local Chamber of Commerce. Cops on horses pooped up the streets. Crowds gathered around to laugh and point at suckers who stepped in it.

    I am solitary.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:45 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    April 11, 2005

    New Orleans Diary: Day Three

    OK if there's only one thing I'm going to talk about, it may as well be food. Dayum! But first let's dispatch with the business.

    This conference is rocking and rolling. I got my proposal put together last night at about 11:30p while all my colleagues were at some club called 'Bombay'. Apparently, that's why I was fairly bushy tailed this morning and one or two others were MIA. Nevertheless I got in touch with a whole passel of folks I haven't seen in over four years. Mad, Rishi, Dan, Trevor, Rich, JP, Johnny, Jose, Kathy, Rudy, Rob, Brett.. hell I can't ever remember them all, Al, Mark... I'm wondering where big Charles is. It shouldn't be hard to find him, but yet I haven't seen him or Leah yet. But there was Eric, Jean-Paul, Allen, John, Bill.. a huge party. What's best is the chance to keep these professional relationships rolling. Straight awesome.

    All the products that I stuck into the proposal actually work the way I thought, and better. The company has done a bang up job on their technology roadmap and the picture is clearly in focus. They are evolving the platform to do the impossible. I'll tell you what I think, and that's that only Teradata understands data better than we do, and that's why they're partners. We've hit some awesome scalability points.. blah blah blah.

    Now embedded in this business blather is the following restaurant review:

    The joint is called K-Paul's. I got a tip that it was the bomb, and since my crew had abandoned me by 6p when I was starved, I didn't wait for the dinner invite and cabbed over there just before the rain came down. I beat the rush and got a table unannounced so I decided to go spicy. Starting off with a Ketel One martini, I scarfed down their hot and fluffy jalapeno muffins. They are sweet and hot at the same time, and just irresistable.

    I got a nice firm andouille sausage in dijon mustard to warm me up and switched over to the molasses muffins. Now I was really ready to go. I picked a mediocre gevertz to hang with the spices and ordered their duck & shrimp remoulade. The rice was a perfect into, kinda dirty but not too, sucking up the gravy just nice. Now this is the thing. You've got this really spicy duck, in which you can taste edges of pate, and the sauce is like a light brown gravy but watered down to boulliabase consistency. All you taste is the warmth and savory of the gravy which is like a perfectly familiar base onto which the spicy meats are dancing. The green beens had teeth squeeking texture and the carrots kept their backbone. The shrimp was light and just another texture in the mix, nice and firmly chewy but tender and succulent.

    I think I ate more than I should but I didn't even care. Halfway through, my buds called and said they were heading to Antoine's around the way. By this time it was just getting dark and the rain was coming down. I spoke briefly with the proprieter (I think), a kindly woman with bright inviting eyes and I told her that I'm writing her up. I thought at the time that I would do a little hopping and compare, but I didn't really need to go there. My buds weren't even out of their hotels by the time I footed it to the front door. That joint looked like a jacket only affair, but everybody was wet-dogging it at the front door so I could have stepped in with the leather. But since the guys aren't going to be done until 10p, I decided to get back here to my lil ole room.

    On the way I walked a goodly length of Bourbon, but not before checking out Buck & Pops who did a little BB King for my two bucks and the love. They were on St. Louis just before Antoine's.

    The French Quarter reminds me a lot of Greenwich Village, except with better music and sweeter drinks. I'm heading back out there tonight, as soon as I belch the stress out of my gut and find my black bandana. I need to sit down. Whoo!

    I did go back out and I'm not to druk t blg abot it. but t wud be bttr if i follwd up on this smtim tomroow. i cn see why popel love this place.

    Seriously, it's just too bad that there aren't any people that I know here tonight to hang with, especially when I put on my bad boy gear. (See Photo). Every American man should own a black leather jacket. Most of the colleagues settled in at the overloud Famous Door or Pat OBrien's. I walked the whole quarter. The rain put a damper (ha) on most of the evening's walking but my legs do hurt.

    I found all the decent jazz joints too late to enjoy a set, but The All Purpose Blues Band was rocking Club 544. I smoked my way through three stogies and had a Budweiser Select which was icy. There were lots of wet t-shirts but no flashing of any substance. I forgot that it is Spring Break. Tomorrow evening should be more enjoyable. Now I know where to go.

    Ha. I see that The Donovan else has got pictures of Buck & Pops.

    Posted by mbowen at 06:08 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    April 10, 2005

    New Orleans Diary: Day Two

    It's 4:20 in the morning and I can't sleep. I thought I put down enough OH to keep me knocked out, but for some strange reason, perhaps the shouting in the street below and the boomin' system, I am wide awake and parched. I dreamed about a sentence fragment, but then I had a better dream.

    It was New Orleans, artificially small. I kept seeing the same people and they kept wearing the same clothes. So I couldn't be clever or snide. They would know it was me; they would see me again. I was narrating a PBS documentary about a girl named Cinnamon who worked the McDonald's drive-thru window. Except that she did it while singing rhymes on the center divider. She had a face like Halle Berry. I dreamt up my insomnia. I suddenly had the voice of Billy Ocean, or Peabo Bryson or Jeffry Osborne and so I sang a song about lost love to the apartment block. I sang that everyone was lonely and tossing uncomfortably in bed. And I could see everyone watching me out of their bedroom windows, wide awake at 2am. It started at closing time which was 1am and so I sang that song, they finished their whiskeys and beers, and marched off like zombies to the apartment block, all just as lonely as they started.

    There's Aquafina on the table near my baseball cap. Maybe a swig will help me sleep. I fell asleep to Whoopi Goldberg's latest HBO Special. The first third of it was retarded. The second third of it was brilliant. The final third was excellent, but I had seen it before, and it was too sentimental. I don't like ordinary celebrations. Birthday cake in and of itself doesn't make me happy. So a story about a physically deformed woman who gets to have a disco pool party wedding doesn't do it for me. It's still an excellent bit, but I remember it from her first act which was almost 20 years ago.

    The dent in my thumbnail has almost completely grown to the edge. I hammered it several months ago putting together the desk in the living room. I'm noticing the way that I age. I still have the skin of a young man, but I don't know why I can't sleep. Maybe it's this refrigerator. It's empty and loud. I am completely sober and thinking about my children who are off cruising on ships, as I tap alone in the wee hours in the city where my mother was born.

    Posted by mbowen at 02:23 AM | TrackBack

    April 09, 2005

    New Orleans Diary: Day One

    So I am in the Crescent City. I'm hungry as all get out. Just got into the Residence Inn on St. Joseph and the valet wasn't around. So I just dropped my rented Monte Carlo right on the curb and got up to my room. It's nice, meaning the broadband works and it doesn't smell funny. So I'll fill you in on all the details of getting here later on. Right now I'm in search of some fried oysters and a drugstore.

    Weird. I have no idea what's going on in the news. Don't tell me. I'm actually digging the beads in the trees and people walking slow.

    On the way to getting here, here being a software conference at the Morial, I had to close down a number of issues on the West Coast. You see, as everybody goes their separate ways, I have to notarize some documents to say that the parties involved have permission to be shepherding my offspring hither and yon. When it gets international, you never know. So I am taking this leap of faith and swearing oaths etcetera. Sorry Nolo Press, but I ripped off your verbiage. It would be nice to have an attorney in the family to deal with such matters, but it's just another lesson of emergence. Nobody pays attention to black things at this level, but enough of the self-pity.

    Since I'm on the hook for delivering a consulting proposal for a huge company that's going to tie up a bunch of resources, I had to send out my spreadsheet on Thursday. I wanted more time, but everybody is on vaction or indisposed or otherwise out of pocket. I make my best guess, understanding that it's supposed to be a high level draft, and I make a huge mistake. Fortunately, the bossman catches my error. Somehow I calculated that we would be working 40 hours days. Aha. That's why adding bodies cost so much. Dumb spreadsheet error.

    But it also turns out that I am not following protocol. Well that's to be expected, I haven't been on the job a month yet and I haven't even met more than 3 company employees face to face. I'm starting to learn the downside of the virtual and distributed corporation. No sweat really, but these are things that could be communicated instantly if it weren't for emails. What do I know about protocols? RTFM? More like download it.

    So just 30 minutes before I get on the plane Saturday morning, all the stuff I did wrong Thursday afternoon comes back to haunt me. Fortunately, were' still ahead of the deadline. Unfortunately it means I have to put in work tomorrow.

    Tonight, on the other hand, I was ready to party. I met two lovely ladies on the flight over here who are also going to the conference, one of whom is... OK I won't say it on the off chance that she discovers my blog-identity. I will say that she's a neck-snapper. It turns out that she happens to know some other ladies that know me. Damn. This world is too small among the young gifted and black. Anyway, I was expecting this to be the cool and casual, pre-conference chillout day. Everybody is out of touch. So it's just me in alien inspection mode, categorizing the life-forms of southern Louisiana.

    My frequent flier miles have all expired and now I am at beige level. So no seat upgrades for me. No express car rental service either. I had to wait in line yet again, but I did get the silver Monte Carlo. I actually fantasized that I was driving a NASCAR auto on the 10 East to New Orleans. I suppose that a brother like me should be ambivalent about recognizing that my driving needs are fulfilled by Chevrolets. Sobeit. I'm cool. I realized, playing my time travel game, that only four years ago, one couldn't be sure that the car you rented would have a CD player. I brought some Biz Markie, so who cares about the outside of the car when the inside is bompin'?

    The X calls. I haven't mentioned the X much. She's M11's biomom. She has him for Spring Break and they're cruising the Carib. She's a nervous wreck and didn't know I'd be out of town. So she's calling me on the cell for the fifth time telling me about his proper packing list. I mumble assertions. At least I hit the big thing. He's got to have new white sneakers. You have to understand that she is an ex-diva. Think Zsa-Zsa Gabor in high yellow with crinkle waves and attitude with a capital A. In truth, she used to be hotter than Lil Kim, but even Lil Kim had business sense - well until the conviction. Now she is all high maintenance attitude without the payoff. And more than a little bit batty. Not many men know what it is like to be stalked by a neck snapping psychotic. Buy me three martinis and I'll tell you the whole tragic story. Now suffice it to say that listening to her on the cell phone was quite sufficient to make me miss my exit, so where the hell am I?

    I swear to God that if she cuts M11's hair just to satisfy her vanity she's going to have hell to pay, but I wouldn't put it past her.

    I ended up in the Garden District 4 miles west of where I'm supposed to be. I finally grab a map. You see, my laptop has no batteries. Despite all the last minute BS I put the spousal unit through to get my boss's complaints onto the proper email address that could be retrieved on the plane, there was no way I could make use of the 3.6 hour flight for business purposes. So I ingested some Dan Brown. Decent stuff but I'm sure it would have been more powerful in 1998 when I knew less about Digital Fortresses than I do now. I'll still finish it. Just not tonight.

    Tonight I'm going to watch Heat because I'm too damned drunk to make project plans on my laptop. The fault lies with the Rio Mar Restaurant on St. Peter Street which is more faboulously delicious than I expected to find wandering around the Warehouse District looking for an ATM. Well, it's also the fault of my colleagues who didn't bother to hookup with me on what I expected to be a casual night. Did I say that already?

    So I'm right at the moment when the wine has entered my limbic system and the flavors are meshing just right and the cell phone finally rings. Boss Man says, have your shit ready. We have to nail this for Monday. Fine. I SMSed three colleagues for dinner plans and the worse call comes back in the middle of dinner. But nothing could spoil this meal. It's that good.

    I've got this oyster etouffe that's the bomb. You know how macaroni and cheese casserole is kinda extra good when it's just a little bit crunchy on the edges? The chef at Rio Mar has taken the essence of that special flavor and turned it into a majestic assault on the senses. You've got oysters, you've got chorizo(!) and you've got spinach and cheese burnt just perfectly in this mix. Awesome. Then I've got the perfect consistency of sticky saffron rice on the side of my surgical stainless bowl of bay shrimp in boulliabase. Incredible. The apple-y chardonnay works right in, and I end it all with a martini and stagger back to my hotel. Yes ladies and gentlemen this is what it is like to be a middle-aged man, when you start thinking that sex is inferior to food.

    And suddenly I'm thinking of fat people in a whole new light. You know the ones. Not the midwestern housewives who are just 30 pounds overweight, the morbidly obese ones who have made a deal with the devil. I've known the kind of dog-men that don't care if they get HIV, they just have to do chicks just to see the looks on their faces. They throw their hands in the air and boink 'em like they just don't care. Why? Because they're aesthetes of acrobatic sex. I used to be. Buy me an ounce of coke and I'll tell you the whole bloody yarn. Now I understand how people might do that for food. Like those two English birds. What's life if you can't swill the butterfat? I was like that tonight with shrimp heads and tasting the seawater in the 'base and in the salty sweat on the spinach. And I've got pornographic pictures of my food on my cell phone, so the waiter at the next station mistook me for a food critic. He actually wiped my Palm stylus for me.

    I wobbled back to my hotel, a blessed five short blocks away, in one of those moods where it doesn't matter that I might get mugged. I just had a magical meal, dude you just don't understand. If I had my knife you'd be missing your bozack right about now, but today is your lucky day. Here's 93 bucks, go buy a hooker you piece of shit. I just ate my way halfway to heaven and everybody deserves a piece of happiness like that. Besides, I get to expense it.

    So now I am back safe on the fourth floor listening to my suite's refrigerator make ice and coming out of the Smirnoff & Chardonnay buzz. And I'm not going to crack the frickin spreadsheet. And I'm going to go to bed early and get up tomorrow and find out how to register for this goddamned conference. We'll deal with business tomorrow. Good night dear readers. Too bad you couldn't have been with me in person.

    Posted by mbowen at 04:31 PM | TrackBack

    April 08, 2005

    Gee, I Dunno. Where's the Starbucks?

    Doc is back from Brazil. He was gone a month. This was the last message he sent me.
    This is beach I had house on on Isle Santa Catarina. House was 250 yards futher inland from perspective of this shot. House was 2-story with a pool and jacuzzi. Cost was $30 a night. Waves were 6-8 feet. Beach is hard and flat. You can drive your car on in. Dogs are O.K., and nobody sweats you for swilling beer on dunes as you watch yet another incredible set roll in. I'm returning in 2007.

    Are you game?

    Posted by mbowen at 09:57 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    April 07, 2005

    Who Do I Know in New Orleans?

    I have been run ragged the past few days. I'm rather amazed just looking at myself in a state of run down disrepair. I actually have an unruly stack of papers on my desk that's been there for two days. This is obscene.

    I have kids' papers to review, a sister's PC to finish upgrading and my room is a mess. I have to pay bills, do a couple loads of laundry and find my other pair of glasses. Most importantly, I have a big proposal to get out today and I'm not sure what all goes in it. It's basically a number and a promise, but there are a thousand details. I just keep running out of time.

    It's the damned commute. I've got a customer in San Diego and I'm on the road from 5 to 6 hours a day just getting back and forth. It's cutting into my life like a rusty knife.

    But I can tell you that a small revolution is under way. All I can say is that it should send small shockwaves through several nodes of the blogosphere. Actually, there are three bloggy dealings that should come to fruition pretty soon that are all good. Damn. I gotta do that too.

    At the end of this week, we're going to do the typical family vacation thing which is head in three different directions. The boy is going with biomom on a cruise, the spousal unit and the giggle girls are also going on a separate and unequal cruise. Me, I get to go to lovely New Orleans, where it has been confirmed that everybody I'm related to will have abandoned for spring break. The good news is that I will make reunions with a bunch of old professional cronies. The bad news is that they'll all be old professional cronies, plus I don't give a rat's ass about golf these days, and I'm quite sure that I cannot crawl the French Quarter like I did 13 years and 40 pounds ago.

    So what's a brother to do? Eat, I suppose. Plus I'll have some time to catch up on my writing which you can plainly see has devolved to the first person, not that I'm an unintersting subject. But I would like to know if there are any bloggers out there from New Orleans who wouldn't mind giving me a cultural geographic tour of the joint. I know that my mother's side of the family is from there, but I haven't looked at the place in the daylight of middle age or, actually in the daylight. I'll drive. I'll have a full-size National automobile, and I promise to wear deodorant and grin a lot.

    Anyway, I'm sure this conference will be interesting enough, what with all the powerpoint presentations and marketing announcements. It's not like it's a hobby, this is how I make a living. On the other hand, I'd like to do a little living. It's the only spring break I get.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:58 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    April 01, 2005

    My Hell

    Suddenly, I have a need to wash my hands, brush my teeth, get on my knees and pray. I have seen a vision of my personal Hell. Oh My God. I've seen these people show up in the 'hood at King Day parades, and I just want to get out my shotgun. They actually believe that they can save the black man. I'm all for calling people 'brother' but you know? What do I need to do to be saved from such a fate?

    I'm sorry. That's just scary.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:21 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    March 30, 2005

    Special Effect

    (from the archives, my poem about OJ)

    special effect

    oj was a brotherman
    whose time had come and gone
    he didn't take the witness stand
    so doubts will linger on
    but doubts it seems are all we have
    so when the jury spoke
    the vision of our certainty
    in justice quickly broke

    but what had been a spectacle
    from day one so it seems
    could scarcely prepare anyone
    not d.a. nor defense teams
    for the screams and yelps and cutting eyes
    and open mouths and speculation
    who could ever prophesy
    the racial polarization
    that swept across our nation

    do you recall the moment
    some would ask? i was at work
    my pager buzzed from reuters
    and i read it with a smirk
    'all over but the shouting'
    was my grateful comment at the time
    but when i saw the tv shows
    i knew there was another crime

    it seems someone decided or colluded
    and collided with the common sense
    of reticence and in the verdict's wake
    despite the few peanuts at stake...

    the cameras in the 'hood went click click click
    the mikes in the 'hood went stick stick stick

    of violence and of mayhem all will claim a great abhorrence
    but everyone had camera crews at normandie and florence

    the readiness for riots was the order of the day
    surprise, surprise, surprise and so it spun another way.
    i witnessed jubilation, exaltation by the black
    and white humiliation, sobbing, patting on the back.
    which ever way the verdict went the media was clear
    one race would be filmed angry
    and the other in great cheer.

    alarms went off inside my head
    they'll say ron and nicole are dead
    and all those people do is laugh and dance
    when white supremacy informs
    the public consciousness then storms
    of fear and hate will always be the stance

    way back, with koon exonerated
    i felt the sting and contemplated
    the standing of a black man's words of truth
    when knowing that a video
    could sway the public to or fro
    despite whatever blacks offered as proof

    and so instead of goldman
    or of oj or nicole
    the nation focussed harshly
    on a colored jury's soul.
    a verdict rendered thusly must be racial so they say
    for surely they just couldn't comprehend the dna
    of johnnie and the jury in the matters of the case
    there's but one theory to explain: conspiracy of race.

    and if you don't believe that's true, then just watch your tv.
    for all the negroes in the world are rowdies full of glee
    or at least most, especially the ones that don't agree
    that simpson is a killer and should never be set free.

    that much joy is overstated
    as the mainstream press related
    happiness of the black sort
    means that their view of the court
    is nothing but a racial forum
    without mention of the quorum
    who have said most everywhere
    that oj's blackness wasn't there.

    until of course time magazine
    played up the dark obsession
    and made his cover photo darker
    without much discretion

    and some forget ms. harris
    the ex-juror on the case
    who claimed that sheriffs deputies
    antagonized her race
    and people claim she faked it
    that race was *never* a factor
    until judge ito backed her up
    they called her just an actor.

    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)

    despite the fact that people vent
    that oj can't be innocent
    yet isn't that what we presume
    until those in the jury room
    have said without a doubt in fact
    the man is guilty of the act?

    but no, we watch the tv sets
    in bedrooms, streets and foyers
    we jump to place a guilty bet
    and bitch about the lawyers
    sworn to uphold defendants rights
    in these united states
    no wonder we have waco
    ruby ridge and darryl gates

    sad but true that two are dead
    but when all is done and said
    these two dead should signify
    more than simply eye for eye
    and tooth for tooth in a race war
    (fuhrman's grinning even more
    since we've chosen his world view)
    and looking back i think it's true

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

    within just days the nation has decided from tv
    not only what i'm thinking but a proper caste for me
    as a black man with doubts about d.a. garcetti's case
    (of course without the courage yet to say it to my face)
    and though my fate is trivial, it's not for me i cry
    i wonder for a moment if it's even worth a try
    to believe that in our future there remains democracy
    if everybody's thinking process hinges on tv
    for clearly what is thought of blacks without our own consent
    is taken from a broadcast of some ghetto tenement
    where some for their own reasons known inside, their mouths agape
    show happiness for a brief time, their smiles are caught on tape.
    a smile taken callously and shown as disrespect
    for bloody broken bodies...

    Posted by mbowen at 09:43 PM | TrackBack

    March 27, 2005

    A Bio

    Someone whose name I forget told me something I'll always remember: You never know what effect your writing is going to have on someone. She told me this face to face after having read what I had been writing on the net for several years. I was shy at the moment and didn't know how to respond. In fact, I don't recall her face either. It is for this reason that I find myself in the uncomfortable position of describing myself.

    I have been invited to guest blog at the Agonist, and it is only proper that upon reaching untold hundreds of new readers that I should introduce myself. I know exactly who I am, but I never know how my own self-description will effect others. And so the task is fraught with stochastic possibilities and I have no idea which tack will bear the most weight of your attention as I pick events to scribble about. That should give me some courage, after all it was I who said, in 1996: "Sooner or later, I must deal with the possibility that I am an individual, and as such should say something entirely ideosyncratic." Before I start this version you should know about these:

  • NYU Interview
  • A Casual Career Narrative
  • Interview With The Boohab
  • Cute Baby Pictures

    I am also the founder of the Conservative Brotherhood as well as Vision Circle

  • Here goes:

    Michael David Cobb Bowen, born in 1961 in Oceanside CA is the father of three and husband of Cynthia Dexter of Detroit, MI. His primary profession is a Data Architect and he has been recently hired by nationwide software & business management consulting firm. He specializes in business intelligence, data warehousing and financial reporting. Mr. Bowen studied Computer Science at Cal State and USC and founded a number of small consulting businesses. During his college career, he was twice elected National Finance Officer for the National Society of Black Engineers and was Chapter Secretary & founding line of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. He was thrice nominated and thrice declined Outstanding Young Man of America. He served on the Associated Students Senate Finance Committee and as Student Advisor to the Minority Engineering Program.

    The more I go back into my past, the more recognizable the honors become. By the third OYM nomination I tired of them all. I was one of those Young Gifted and Black pseudo prodigies from a Catholic prep school who got dressed up as the role monkey. I both fell off the fast track and jumped, but I was never prepared for the anonymity of the world.

    Having been purposefully well-rounded in the best of English old boy traditions, or whatever the liberal Jesuit ethic could be called in relatively upper crust Los Angeles, I was a decidedly 'B' student as well as a Varsity diver, president of the Computer Club and captain of my winning intramural soccer team. I sang in Gospel Choir and was a camp counselor and LA County Jr. Lifeguard. I took honors chemistry, and was Confirmed into the Episcopal Church.

    I rode my tenspeed bike to school for 7:30 physics class, oldest of five children and son of civil servants. I played street football, slapboxed, play suicide and other ghetto games. I built dirt bikes and did street luge before it had a name. I walked the ghetto streets at night with nunchucks. I cursed out white people on public transportation sometimes in sign language. I tagged the neighborhoods around USC. I was a Teamster and I had a shoulder length jheri curl that flew in the breeze as I rode 100 mph down Jefferson Boulevard towards Marina del Rey on my tricked out Suzuki. I played Bootsy Collins on my cello. I snuck into Marlborough School. I kissed a girl named Marci on the tennis courts at Westlake before it merged with Harvard. I was the first kid in line on the cover of Look Magazine when they profiled Ron Karenga back in the days when shit burned down. I smoked joints with the Dog Town Stoners and barbecued stolen ribs at Jesse Owens Park.

    I am a conservative renegade. I am a progressive Old Schooler. I write into the ether and I lease my house because I never had a mentor. Nobody ever knew what to do with me. So I have been fortunate enough, within the bounds of my ability, to be my own man.

    I started writing in order to preserve my sanity and make sense of the non-digital world. I enjoy T. Boyle and Robert Ludlum, Don DeLillo and Umberto Eco. Robert Bly, Toni Morrison. Somebody once told me that I might become the Ralph Ellison of my generation. I've always been a writer, a spinner of worlds, a spitter of ideas. I exist in thrall of creation. I am philosophical to a fault - those damned Jesuits. I have learned to be excruciatingly honest, and I owe that to Martin Amis and Will Self. There was a point in time in my life when all I wanted to be was perceptive and articulate. It's a scary enough combination, especially for someone who doesn't lie very well.

    The web has enabled me, after the poetry stage, to take my diaries public. I have striven to understand and question my country and my place in it and I have lived long enough to be considered wise, or at least 'father' and I have discovered a great deal. Everything is a project to me. Poorly funded, to be sure, but enthusiastically engaged with a clear head.

    I happened upon a quote and I think it was Voltaire or perhaps Moliere who said that having studied the sciences he was finding truths so universal that they made sense in terms of the arts and letters. Or maybe it was Moliere who studied the arts and letters first. It doesn't matter either way does it? For myself I suppose like Mishima, I am seeking the unity of pen and sword. Fortunately, the computer has been both pen and sword for me, enough at least to make a decent living in America, la vida sin corazon.

    And now you get a taste of how it's difficult for me to write a bio. I have a fondness for gardens with forking paths, for recursion and for parallel universes, for clarity in chaos and for the tao in everything and for finding a comfortable place in it, doubting and then convinced like Thomas at every turn. For what? For an anthropologist to decipher 200 years hence in trying to understand what black pride unleashed at the end of the 20th Century America when skinny black boys became men with the culmination of history to date at their disposal, and some attention in the mainstream for a brief time.

    But I've got to get up at 5:30 in the morning and drive to San Diego and repair some DTS jobs and write some Perl scripts. So I hope you'll understand if I cut you off for the moment until I return and we continue our quest. You seeing the world through my eyes and logic and language for a moment of your spare time.

    If you are crazy enough to try, go check out the sidebar of my blog Cobb and find out more. If you're truly insane, search your favorite topics, chances are I've spouted off about it. Otherwise just check out the comics, Sean-Paul says I've missed my calling. He's probably right.

    And Joe Frank and James Baldwin and John Brown and George Clinton and Sandro Chia and Adrian Piper and Franz Liszt and Eugene O'Neill and Medgar Evers and Charlie Parker and Matthew Henson and Dick Feyman and Stanley Clarke.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:32 PM | TrackBack

    March 24, 2005

    Jerry Brown

    Despite the fact that I am a Republican today, the progressive streak in all of my politics was a bit more pronounced a decade or so ago during the election that first put Bill Clinton on the map. I had recently moved to NY from LA roughly in the summer of 1992, pre-riot, pre-OJ. That fall, the man who had my attention was Jerry Brown.

    In those days, I didn't have a good enough appreciation of chaos and morality. So I thought society should be run rather like science. The people who demonstrate their ability to best understand what was going on, should be the leaders. I essentially believed that government was a good thing, so long as enough meritorious, virtuous and intelligent people were running it. Nobody demonstrated those qualities better than Jerry Brown in 1992, and although I eventually voted for Harkin.

    A big part of the reason the Brown appealed to me was his outsider status. I was still reeling over the raft of misperceptions and stereotypes applied to all Californians and I simply could not believe that such ideas had weight in, of all places, the NY Times. So when Brown showed up in NY wearing his signature leather jacket, I made a serious effort, despite the flack, to catch up to him.

    I had been, immediately previous to my journey to NY, something of a devotee to Pacifica Radio. This to requires some explaining. You see during the 80s, I was something of a die hard conservative. I proudly wore the banner of black neocon and as you might expect, Thomas Sowell was my hero. But I was also a very strong black nationalist, and I remain a strong nationalist today. So I have never had any gripes with the US military. I've always wished more power to them and have always been glad they were on our side. However the invasion of Grenada tested my faith strongly, and the escapades of John Poindexter, Richard Secord, Oliver North and Country Two, broke it completely. So I veered left in order to try and understand the nature of the secrets that nobody in the MSM would dare speak of.

    Yet in the days of Pacifica listening, there was only one or two voices that were consistently worth hearing out and one of them was Jerry Brown. (The other was Chomsky). Brown as a politician is cut out of a completely different kind of clothe. He never minces words and he really believes in politics as the art of the possible. So he spews forth all of his ideas, in public, no holds barred, and he sees how much of the electorate is going to buy it. The answer, of course, is few. That's one reason I voted for Harkin. But I think that Brown is a rare honest commodity in todays political market.

    Now that he's got a blog, I think we may see from him the straight-talk that makes him a scary figure. This is a man, who better than anyone I've seen or heard, knows how to run a town hall meeting. With folks like Jerry Brown blogging, the future of politics is going to be a very scary prospect. Think of the blogosphere four years from now, when deposed and retired politicians who have no ambition left but citizenry, start elbowing out political science grad students and amateur pundits like myself. If you think Rathergate was charged, you aint seen nothing yet. I see the entrance of Jerry Brown into this realm as the beginning of those ends.

    Posted by mbowen at 03:08 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    March 19, 2005

    The Underside of a Blogger

    pjs.jpgThis weekend, I along with a couple dozen others from Howard Rheingold's online community Brainstorms, are having a bit of photojournalistic fun as we document our lives in pictures. This is the third annual 'Daypix Weekend', and since it's the beginning of spring break I thought I'd introduce the idea to my blogpals and readers. The Brainstormers are from all around the world so that private showing should be a blast.

    My first entry reminded me of the old canard about bloggers in their pajamas. I got up early this morning because I couldn't abide the fact that my big spike in traffic coincided with a dead spot in my verbal flow. So I'm getting the big volume and haven't delivered up to my normal quality. Of course, the new job with its 250 mile commute has a lot to do with that, but also the inclusion of my comic over at Punditdrome is introducing several new wrinkles to my otherwise smooth routine. I created and am already considering the decommission of a new blog dedicated to the comic strip. So a few things are in the air, but I'll be back in swing shortly.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:52 AM | TrackBack

    March 16, 2005

    About Last Night

    c_and_s.jpgYesterday was one of those spellbindingly incredible days in which so many things happen that you don't know where to start explaining. Lordy I've got some explaining to do. Unfortunately, I've also got some driving to do because today is my first day on the new job. So here are some bullet points for you to consider and me to remember as I put together the pieces of a remarkable evening which started on the balcony of a 70 year old woman and ended up with police circling at 2am in a parking lot in Long Beach.

  • Brokerage Politics
  • The Chinese Backdoor
  • Weigers
  • The Power of the Mic
  • Lahore, Karachi, I Can't Remember Which
  • A Guy Named Julio
  • Four Black Men With Shotguns
  • That Girl's Dope
  • The Quiet Man in the Blue Blazer
  • Strata & Freakonomics
  • House
  • Bugs Bunny & Grenada, Mississippi
  • These Black Kids Don't Look Sick
  • The King & Queen
  • Charlton Heston
  • A Fistful of Chest Hair
  • April First
  • It appears that I will be expanding the Circle of Trust. Last night was rather magical. And the picture? That's me on the Right.

    UPDATE: OK I'm just a big tease, but actually all the conversation was with a gaggle of old and new academic friends, led by Spence, whom I've known for a decade and yet never met face to face. The event was out at Whittier College.

    Spence had spoken the night before, and Sharpton spoke last night. After the show (which I missed) was over, we retired for dinner across the street - we meaning the faculty sponsors of the event, friends of Spence and some folks who had apparently come with the Rev. His long table was full and he looked a bit peaked, and so I wasn't about to make a geek of myself, even though in the end I did.

    I wasn't really interested in engaging the Reverend because I don't get bent out of shape that he does what he does. I get bent out of shape because I percieve that too many Americans consider that there is no alternative.

    Now Spence is many things besides a very well-rounded individual for one who has a PhD, but one thing he has got in spades is a finely tuned bullshit detector. And he's not afraid of coming with the hardline if he thinks people don't merit political credibility. Now credibility isn't always about the science of political science, and some might call that gullibility, but when it comes to policy, I think anyone would be a fool to doubt the man. So when he said something to the effect of 'Say what you will about Sharpton, he is one of the top five orators in America', that distilled something which I've been mulling over.

    One of the bullet points above was that if you're holding the mic, everyone else is subservient. There is power in center stage. And you don't get to be the media magnet Al Sharpton is without having mastered the art of that thing called mediagenics in this country. The American media can destroy any one of us in a heartbeat. Say what you will, but Sharpton has learned all of those lessons and he is a uniquely American creature, which is one who can alter, however slightly, the national dialog through his ability to withstand that awesome beast called the mainstream media. And so my man Spence thought twice of trying to cross Sharpton, when Sharpton held the mic.

    Much of that discussion brought to mind what Jimi Israel wrote of his appearance on TV and I also think about what my blogsister LaShawn Barber and blogbrother Michael King have learned in their more frequent media appearances. We talk back to the radio and TV in our pajamas, but it surely is not easy to deal with that camera. So yeah, that's my faux pas for not coming a lot cleaner in that crappy picture at the top of the page, then again I used the cheap digicam on purpose.

    Of that I thought of simply publishing the shot with the phrase: "This is the difference between black Republicans and white Republicans." But I stopped short in recognition of Christie Todd Whitman's campaign for governor a decade ago. I was mad at Ed Rollins back in those days, but now I have a different agenda.

    Bottom line on Sharpton. I think he does, as an orator, exactly what an unelected person should do. Speak out on issues. It's clear that our system benefits from all the rhetorical monkey wrenches. That makes him a politician I'm just not sure that makes him a public servant.

    After Sharpton and the quiet man in the blue blazer (Secret Service, no doubt) left in the limo, I literally had one of those rare evenings when the conversation sparkles so lively that I didn't jump meta and fall into my 'space alien observing strange earthlings' subtext. We were a lovely bunch of coconuts and were still carrying on in the parking lot off Broadway and Pine in the LBC at two in the morning. What a great gang of folks.

    Posted by mbowen at 06:26 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

    March 14, 2005

    Good Life Good Death

    (from the archives, Dec 2001)

    for christmas, my brother deet bought a book called 'good life, good death'. it was written by the 13th nephew of the dalai lama. he discussed a bit of it with us last night. i realized that my conversational skills have declined. i don't use them at all - i just write lowercase online. nevertheless i was able to witness the transfixing effect of these eastern mysteries upon him.

    i chimed in clumsily about karen armstrong's biography of bhudda which i am 3/4 finished. the pearls of wisdom burbled out of my mouth in a slurry. one of the kids yelled, or dropped punch on the carpet and the moment was lost.

    i tried to recapture the moment by starting the conjecture that we are engaged in a clash of civilizations. how could islam beat the west? the answer had something to do with 'they don't value individual life like we do'. david got us started talking about our military policy of saving every man, and the powell doctrine, as he recounted a friend of his ability to swim 21 miles in the open ocean with combat boots on. it went on for a decent while.

    black wedenesday hasn't happened yet. so i wonder what i'll be able to say before people care to prove that america is actually always and everywhere acutely aware of any eventuality. our problem is broadcasting and capturing the attention of people whose values we will change in the moment of need.

    the buddha says that pain is unavoidable. this is also revealed in my 15 year old diary. facing pain is a universal challenge. as i embark to make myself an appropriate middle-aged middle-class existence i find this appealing. i always sought to avoid the fate of characters in martin amis' fiction. but now i am finding it in my heart to wear a jolly give a shit attitude and integrate it into my daily smile. i am almost ready to think of america as my very own little ghetto. avoiding pain is avoiding life. it is the attempt to think your way out of every problem, it is the attempt to institutionalize civilizing forces. it is the attempt to extend life. but the buddhais convincing me that life is in the moment and institutions are all vanity.

    there is no such thing as patriotism. that's why nobody agrees on what it is. patriotism is affinity to the state, and the state is an institution, a momumental edifice of artifice, a construction of theories and anonymous fidelities. it isn't what it was 20 minutes ago - it lies in the attitude of a million people trying to say what it means to them. the constitution is artifice as well, a representation of a dynamic spirit of love and respect which loses all energy once abstracted to paper. the man who drunk wine at jefferson's table might have an idea what this thing was all about, but unless you are he reincarnated, you will not know. it won't be your story, and in the end that's all you remember. you remember the man who pulled you from the burning building and the pieces of your leg hanging from the extruded aluminum spur. you pledge your life to the one who saved yours. that is because pain is universal and freedom from pain is universal and the only act of civilization is life-saving. not patriotism. not the abstract. wittgenstien fucked us all over when he said that words are deeds, and even he knew that he was full of shit, because he had to pick up the poker at the moral science club...

    i like this wooly little forum. but we too are vain. in my new neighborhood, i'm going to teach my neighbors how to chop wood. a deeds exchange will be more useful than a words exchange. that's why going to church is meaningless except for the music. you cannot just sit and recieve wisdom or blessings. you have to be blowing air through your body and heaving it out. you have to be exercising your fingers and feet and pulling out all the stops and bobbing your head and feeling the resonsances of the low notes. making music is a deed. (last night at the party, my job was to keep the music playing and the fire burning). hosting is work but also a pleasure - it is better to be the party giver than to be the fetted friend. the moment is found in alleviating the suffering of my guests. the conversation about religion and politics was dead but people actually danced.

    you have to find your own way. words are only useful inside your head. you only write them down to remember. but now every word you ever wrote is trying to own your spirit, but that was 15 years ago. google doensn't know shit. google is just like nbc, cbs, pbs all of them. it's just trying to make real a surplus of meaningless abstracts. it's trying to force its context on you. it is a haunted house jam packed with a surfeit of restless spirits trying to inhabit your body. it doesn't matter that it was 'you' that wrote it - those were 15 billion wholly other cells, not you. you are now, and the more time you try to convince yourself that you are the same you were before, the more words you need. go right ahead, try it. make a word harness. if you're crafty maybe it'll fit and lead you in some direction. but you'll go wrong because the use of words is for them to be observant not reflective. there is a reason time moves forward and not backward. you cannot be institutionalized without words. all that effort to maintain a static fiction, all those applications, all of those entry level skills, all of those poor saps trying to conform to the ways and means of old spirits, old documentation, old manuals with none of the inventor's spark. get you head rid of the ghosts of christmas past and be more mindful of the present. you'll have to find your own way. tradition is a trap.

    the job for computers is to keep bartleby free. every institution needs a million bartlebys. i struggle to take his scrivening spirit and bottle it in silicon. then he can be free of it and live in the moment. once the building is empty of humans, all laid off and the principals gone to brazil, let it crash to the ground. who cares?

    Posted by mbowen at 02:25 AM | TrackBack

    March 11, 2005

    The ANSR Man

    I have accepted an offer from Answerthink.

    After about four years of hacking the woods with my own machete, I'm joining a team. This is not the China Deal, which crashed and burned several weeks ago, but the ever tempting Plan B.

    It's a reunion of sorts. I'll be working with folks I knew from the 90s and I'll be focusing, once again, on the Hyperion suite of tools. Since I left Hyperion in 2001, they've acquired Brio and Razza, their n-tier product set has matured, their brand recognition has increased and their share price has doubled. Answerthink is the gorilla consulting partner on the West Coast, I'm going to help run things in Southern Cal.

    Now this doesn't exactly square with my entrepreneurial spirit, and it's true that I have been quoted saying things like "I'm never going to work for anyone again." In fact I believe that I made quite an impression when speaking of The Vector. Well, the Vector has been deflected, and for the time being, I'm going to be driving a big truck, I'm just not going to own it.

    What I tell myself, I believe to be true. Opportunities are forever for those who are prepared. Over the next few years, I'm going to build up this practice, and when I decide to jump at a new opportunity, it will be bigger than one I could have stumbled on with my current associations. Which brings us to that, the devolution of Plan A.

    About as much detail as I can say is this. I was to run the IT for a joint venture between some fairly rich and somewhat powerful individuals. Basically a resort in China. I was one degree away from the principal of what looked to be an opportunity to mint money. There were connections to West African gold & textiles, The Chinese Communist Party, Hiphop celebrity, New York Advertising and London International Banking. It turned out that this was not about herding cats, but herding lions, and our commander in chief was a little too much chair & whip and not enough care & feeding. The problem with such an approach is that while it might work for currency trading boiler rooms and the Russian Mafia, it doesn't work with the international Jet Set, of which the partnership was comprised. After an unfortunate series of events, people walked out in a virtual cloud of fists and lawsuits.

    The whole thing sounded to good to be true for a long time. However it wasn't. What it was, was too good to be easy, and it has been a singular proof to me that character counts a great deal more when it involves Money, Power or Influence. Corruption is little more or less than the willingness to be above caring. They say power corrupts but it is not power itself that corrupts, power simply amplifies personality. Small flaws in character become writ large. It's just like Shakespeare. The powerful or rich needn't become saints, they only need to recognize commensurately what broken promises and distrust mean when it involves so many more resources. When you have an order of magnitude more choices than the average bear, the right thing seems of fractional use. In fact, it becomes that much more important.

    So I'm chilling the international and pumping up the local and soon to be regional. It's better to be the king of a small hill than a prince halfway up a mountain. I am thrilled at the opportunity to put the blue shirt back on. I have spent most of my professional career involved with management consulting and the pure golden geekiness of BI enterprise software. Answerthink also has its own real management gurus - The Hackett Group, so it's much more than a body shop. I believe they have the right combination of tech skills and business brains to be superior, plus I know, like and respect folks in the division I'm joining which just happens to be growing at 25%.

    Hey. This means I have to redesign my professional web page... yike.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:51 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    March 07, 2005

    Damned Diaspora

    There's too damned many black people.

    How the hell are we supposed to control them if they show up everywhere at once? I mean take this jig Byron Crawford aka BC. I can't tell yet, but I think he's also Bol Guevara, MD. which is a pretty cool pseud. Clearly, he has tapped into a following - stright underground street stuff. Hiphop music reviews and shit. Anyway, I don't smoke hiphop any more so one can only take hiphop reviews so seriously. On the other hand, anybody who hates Kanye West with such delectable passion can't be all bad.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:27 AM | TrackBack

    March 06, 2005

    Being Cool

    Friday was a good day. I am exiting the funky mood that has stressed me out for the past fortnight over the collapse of the China Deal. In fact, I've got my own joke about it, which is that I'm completely over it, just don't mention the number 2.8.

    Since I am becoming immune to the heartache of debacles, I had the foresight to think of a Plan B, C and D. Yesterday afternoon I recieved word that all of those plans are looking good. So I decided to treat myself.

    My new hangout is The Grove, the insipidly happy upscale shopping village on the eastern edge of Farmers' Market in West LA. I can't tell you what a jolt I get just eyeballing the international shopping set - the people who have afternoons off during the week to shop and look downscale fabulous. I came to understand 'downscale fabulous' back in 98 in Silicon Valley.

    I was wasting an afternoon buying a new pair of slacks and Ecco shoes at the Nordstrom in Palo Alto. As I was right there in the mecca of VC money, something Mill Road, I happened to wander into a Banana Republic. I was utterly perplexed at why anybody with that kind of bling would spend money on clothes that were totally uninspiring. Banana Republic is the anti-style, it just screams mediocrity. Something about this completely boring and non-functional $200 sweater just smacked me. Then I realized that Banana Republic clothes are those that rich people wear when they don't want to look rich, but still look rich. It is the Switzerland of fashion - neutral. Uptight with goo-gobs of money, but utterly, purposefully neutral. On the other hand, if your hair, skin or teeth are in miraculous condition, wearing Banana Republic is a very sly way to show off. I get it now.

    Since the China Deal had to do with catering to this very crowd, the upscale who are still not so rich that they hang out in public, I have been having a great deal of fun thinking up market strategies that would attract them to our attraction. My job would have been wiring that place, which means I have been channelling Gizmodo and thinking a lot about what the iPod of Beijing might be. So I've especially been scoping out the fashions of swanky Asian youth and checking out what kinds of cellphones they sport. More than a few have the very same green and silver Motorola bluetooth earpiece as I, so I knew I wasn't far from the right track.

    Alas, there is no China Deal, but I can still enjoy the Apple Store. Plenty, I'd wager, has been said. I second it. Apple has done it perfectly. Their store is overstocked with young, helpful, hip people dressed in black. If you've ever stayed at the W Hotel in San Francisco, then you know how seductive it is to be serviced by young, helpful hip people dressed in black. Give them headphones with boom mic, and it's practically erotic. Greater still is the Genius Bar, with Men Over 30 (tm) who actually answer complicated questions. At least they appear to, my question about why Darwin is a piece of shit couldn't be answered before my 4:45 appointment time, and I had a date with a 4:15 show.

    But my entire excellent move began at the other end of Farmers' Market at LA Korea. This is, by far, the best Korean BBQ I've ever had. It's so good that it makes me think in cliches. I could eath that stuff forever. What kills me is that I have no idea which piece of beef that is. I simply don't understand the cut which is Kalbi, I just love what it does to me and my breath. And yes I have long developed my tastes for Kimchi. Theirs is simple, pretty mild and very fresh. By the time I got into the new massive Grove theaterplex, I was prepared to laugh at anything. Which is a good thing considering the calculated ripoff that is the new Travolta flick 'Be Cool'.

    It is perhaps with some irony that I remain positive about the Hollywood Suit. For it was in the Hollywood Suit that I met the cat who promised me the China Deal. And even though there is a slimy amount of self-referential Hollywood smirk in 'Be Cool', Travolta's Chili Palmer still looks good in the Hollywood Suit. So there's something timeless about it, but this film is pretty much forgetable. On the other hand it can be a boatload of fun if you have a little more to drink than I did.

    Everybody who wasn't in Ocean's Twelve was in Be Cool, but they were all saying the same kinds of lines. You know, the kind of deadpan double entendres that are at once kinda cool and kinda kitschy at the same time. Hold it, wait. Black hiphop-speak is the new Yiddish. I should not say 'kitschy' but 'wack'. Yeah, this was the movie with the straight wack dialog, which is most certainly the argot of the music business. I must say the wigger in this flick out wiggers Rappaport from Bamboozled, no mean feat. And Cedrick the Entertainer of all people, gets to deliver what is probably the first runner up to the best monologue before busting a cap right behind Christopher Walken's trailer scene from 'True Romance'. Yeah I know I said that last week about the Devil in Constantine, but this time I really mean it. It's going to go down in history if there's any justice in this world.

    But the rest of the film was forgettable. Well maybe not. Either way it was embarassing fun, and I'm glad I saw it. Then again I liked 'Swordfish'. Bottom line, I'm cool. I have stared the loss of great fortune down. I swear I am so glad I have family.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:17 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    March 05, 2005

    A Tribute To My Wife

    I generally talk about the Spousal Unit in passing, but I want you to know that she is saving my life right now.

    In a highly dramatic and surprising turn of events, it seems that it is unlikely that I will be going to China after all. All I'm going to say about that is that I lost the equivalent of about.. Hmm. I'm still not ready to talk about it. But let me put it this way, I was rappin' like Special Ed two weeks ago. Now like Chuck D, I'm living low, next to the bass. (Turn up the radio). And very much like the losing finalists in The Amazing Race, it had to do with the fact that I wasn't driving the taxi and one of the members on my team went ballistic.

    It is difficult for someone as brilliant as I to give up millions of dollars, and that's what this was all about, and go back to the previous mindstate. So I have been pitching an internal bitch for a fortnight.

    The other day, however, in the wake of an interview I had early Friday morning in Sacramento (hell yes I have a backup plan), the wife and I sat down to lunch at our favorite mexican restaurant, Rosa's on PCH in Hermosa Beach. We met about 17 years ago in that small town on the West Coast and used to eat their excellent machaca on the regular. So every time we go back, we are kind of plunged into that pleasant nostalgia, and now that we've been married over a decade and are not so entirely resentful of the fat and wrinkles on our faces, the smiles are wholly genuine.

    On this particular day we took a break from talking about the present and talked about the past. We realized something different about the context of my proposal to her. She realized that I was indeed a great deal more spontaneous about it than she thought. I realized that she didn't know. It happened sometime in the spring of 94 at a restaurant in Cambridge. I invited her out to Boston with not a whole lot of particulars in mind. She had basically given me an ultimatum - are we going to be just friends or what? So in what started out to be an attempt at rekindling an old flame to see where it might lead, ended up as an engagement for real. I was so taken by the moment, that, in front of the gathered crowd at the Border Grill, I proposed twice. I asked her to marry me and she said yes. I said something to the effect that it can't be that easy, and I really want you to know this is what I want, so I asked again. She said yes again.

    Cynthia grew up in the Midwest in the Baptist tradition. I wouldn't have guessed that I'd marry such a character in a million years. But what I found out the hard way is that such a practical individual would be exactly what I needed. So we discussed coulda woulda shoulda and speculated what kind of loser I would be, had I continued in my search for a trophy wife. After all, that was one of the attractions to Boston - a veritable treasure trove of grad coeds. I was not above trolling old Harvard Yearbooks and crashing alumni functions, but that was a different me. What? Did you think I just hung out at bars and clubs? You think I hung out in Edgartown for the seafood? Quite frankly I had had it up to here with American women, but fortunately that one of Schroedinger's cats is quite certainly dead.

    So I married the right girl. The girl next door, from Detroit. Never once has she ever appeared frivolous, thoughtless, careless. In many ways she is and always has been my rock. I could never think about living with anyone other than she, and I never tried. And it is in the living together that we have forged something which is extraordinary to both of us, not incidently because our lives are so very different than when we met.

    At this particular point, she's a great sounding board. I may be fairly articulate when I begin to write, but there's a lot I don't say in person. Yet I expect people to know what I mean. Listening to me can be an exercise in either frustration or futility, because I'm not one of those who likes to explain himself. I've been told that my impatience with people can be rather transparent. So griping with her offline before dealing with business has spared me many an embarrassing conversation confrontation. It's a particularly useful thing when I'm in between gigs.

    This time around, I'm going to do the full-time thing. I've been independent for almost four years since the dot com days, and it has been feast or famine. So the next [four?] years are for her. Some nice predictable hours and cashflow. I've swallowed hard and recognized that business opportunities of all sorts abound for those with the right networks, and this will be just another way to build another network - something I have gotten a lot better at over the past few years.

    Like many American women, C struggles with the choice between career and family. I'm something of a traditionalist, so when I'm not making enough money for my wife to stay home, even in these days of dual incomes barely making ends, I feel off my game. So while it makes me feel great when I bring my game, I also know the material difference it makes with the quality of our children's lives. In this, she has excelled in ways I couldn't imagine in all the years I've known her.

    In this house there are arts & crafts supplies of almost infinite varieties. Under my wife's instruction, my kids have built an extraordinary bunch of things from popsicle stick picture frames to brazilian pastries. She is the absolute master of home entertainment, our barbecues, holiday festivities and birthday parties.


    At this point I feel self-conscious and silly. Of course I love her, of course she's great. All the love songs are about her, all the warm prickly feelings I get when I see the house and pull into the driveway are about her.

    Here's to you babe.

    Posted by mbowen at 03:35 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    February 25, 2005

    I Don't Care About You

    This is the essay where I express my frustration at your inability to understand me, and my willingness to abstract that what I know to be true for the sake of the public good. In so doing, I will wrap up three itches in my head, although it probably won't buck up my spirits.

    First of all, there's the abject cynicism of my compadres over at Vision Circle. I was going to try to be serious about the Black Progress Net:

    Many years ago I read 'The Black Power Imperative' by Theodore Cross. This was the book that single-handedly proved to me that there remained a great deal of work to do in continuing the progress and reform brought about by the Civil Rights Movement. That imperative, of real representation and political power, became my imperative.

    And make the distinction between those who publish books and those like me who read 'em and critique 'em. Point being I'm never going to try to be a paid policy wonk or policy analyst. Leave it to the professionals.

    Then I read Lynn Johnson's resume and realized that she and George will be doing all the black thangs at SXSW. I don't get to represent. So I'm never going to fly around the nation speaking on panels with journalists about all this yada either.

    This morning I read Faye Anderson with despair. Niger Innis and Jesse Lee Petersen? Yike. I know this isn't the best that conservative blacks can do.

    I know where I am. I am in the bubble ahead of things. My mind and my brain run too fast, and I'm never going to slow down long enough and write enough non-caustic syllables to profit from what I know. It's inevitable, I think, that I am destined to be alone with my keyboard.

    In 1993 I spoke out at Harvard and watched the stars of black academia shrug off the entire internet. And I had bothered to wear my email address on a backwards baseball cap, because as anyone who knew could see, that was the coolest of all possible worlds.

    For the next week or so I'm going to be digging up stuff from the archives, because at this particular moment, the past is more interesting than the present, and the present just doesn't seem worth the effort of seriousness. That means the cartoons are about to jump off. But I don't care.

    I just don't care.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:11 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    February 24, 2005

    The End Of My Blackness: 1997

    (from the archives)

    every four years or so, i pierce a barrier and find that i am no longer the black man i was that many years ago. the existential issues that i found most pressing then, at the moment of clarity, have been resolved.

    the good side is that this end has always signalled a demonstrative progress. secondly, i have always discovered a new way of being black that fits me more comfortably. the bad side is that it always presents a new set of problems, and i often grow weary of the 'black' discussions i have had over the previous period.

    i have not yet reached the end of my current period, but it's coming shortly. it is signalled by my imminent return to los angeles, the publication of 'critical white studies' shown in the link, the denoument of 209, the waning of bandwidth in webchat in my favorite racial fora, the relative completion of 'boohabs factotum', and my periodic readings of the norton anthology of african american literature.

    on that last note, i have found myself utterly stymied by the phraseology and syntax of the brer rabbit stories. written in the o.g. dialect, it is almost as foreign to me as the faerie queen and the canterbury tales. i try to read it to my (light skin, good haired) children, and i feel foolish. i call them the 'old time stories', and try my best uncle remus accent. we all end up confused, me as i stumble over the text trying to make sense of the original meaning, and translating it into pre-school english, they as they try to reconcile this different storytime voice. at least it's about a rabbit, sorta.

    along with the compilation by delgado & stefanic, i recently purchased massey and denton's 'american apartheid'. i gather it will give me all the beef behind my own 'originated' theory which i based on a snippet here and there. i have been arguing for the past 5 black years that the single most unifying thing black people have is geography, and that essentially all black dysfunction stems from the ills of living in ghettoes - that our human and civil rights battles are mostly won and what we need most is to actually move to the level playing field. that without white boogie men in our heads, triumph is inevitable, as long as we are living next door to the (white) competition. unfortunately 80% of us ain't residentially integrated, and so we are mired in unique battles that outsiders do not comprehend. massey and denton have the specs.

    the last political sea changes of any note were the stacking of the supreme court by reagan, and before that the failure of the rainbow coalition. 209 by comparison is actually less severe, but more indicative of the kind of dismissal 'we' can expect in the future. it portends, in my view, the death of subtle politics, and the political meaninglessness of black middle class struggles in the eyes of the political majority. the black part of me which was dedicated to being engaged as a political progressive is ended. i am resigned to my own elitist understanding - let others negotiate. combined with my reading of nathan glazer's latest, and the relative silence greeting his well reasoned refutation of his earlier rejection of affirmative action, i will be content to be even more hardnosed. the public is wrong, the public be damned.

    all this leaves some question as to the fate of my website, which never actually got the attention i thought it deserved. maybe it was the lower case, but i'm not certain that i have the will to continue building 'the race man's home companion'. its biggest dilemma, the question of whiteness, has be adequately answered. i know where self-identified whitefolks are coming from, for the most part, and i know how far they have to come in order to make the kind of political impact the home companion sought to aid. i think ignatiev is appropriately radical and anything short of that will be ineffective (as is glazer). as for the rest of the factotum - well, now it's just something to do.

    at this end, i am walking through bookstores and record shops not quite sure what i want to buy. i'm sick of my previous tastes. despite the fact that i am who i am - irrevocably a gut-level cultural nationalist who grew up in the roughest black neighborhood that still could be called lower middle class - i don't care about what all of that has meant thus far.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:05 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Upon Reading The Recently Released Writings of Dr. King

    (from the archives)
    19970627.1805 – OKC to ATL

    “Upon Reading The Recently Released Writings of Dr. King”
    postmoderen, post-soul reflections written at 32 thousand feet.

    In 2014, it will have been 50 years since the passage of the Civil Rights Act and as I reflect on the release of Hong Kong and the fall of the Raj in 1997 I am curious about what will be asked. Today I am not certain I am asked to do anything more than vent – my feeling in the long understood of and devalued currency of Black Rage is what all expect to hear. I am tired of that dialog.

    I am like many a gangsta rapper – my allegiances to the dollar and my own power echoes in the vacuum of slain forefathers. Nothing is above mockery, in silence stand sentinels of order. I find in their quiet dignity only the simplicity and humility of those overwhelmed. I keep trying to jump – like a prophetic frog sitting in slowly boiling water. I don’t want to want to suffocate blindly, yet I don’t know what really lies beyond. So we are jumping and shouting half-afraid and half longing to be slapped into a place we know we don’t belong. Is this self-destructive? I don’t know.

    The problem with living for affluence in America is that you struggle for privilege and prominence amongst those who struggle for survival. Yet survival is so easy here – no one lives in fear of dysentery or starvation of malaria – that survivors are easily dismissed. Everyone’s suffering seems equally shallow – no one is oppressed, merely disadvantaged, disillusioned and socially dysfunctional. Yet if there are those who truly suffer, they are so out of reach – so far from our striving arena that their very existence is mythology. We conjure up the spirits of carjackers and rapists and embody them into the faces of those who are sufficiently distant. Our voodoo consciousness is so pervasive that none seem content to simply rob passersby for supper money. Crimes are outsized, spectacular and deranged. The disadvantaged watch television dramas written by paranoid millionaires, take lessons and plot.

    So there often seems no morality clear enough to grasp and shepherd the suppressed and oppressed – its all varying degrees of the same ethics of white collar crime. Smart greed and danger and brutality are the signifiers of poverty.

    In this uncivil society what are Civil Rights for? When all politics are bought and paid for, what is the purpose of free speech? I sometimes believe that our nation is too large for movements – the airwaves too full of mixed signals to maintain any significant message for any significant group. So when they ask me in 17 years, my story will sound nothing like anyone else’s I fear. I will have become a disembodied individual, subject to the same dissonance and greed as everyone else.

    Many people predict that great crises await. Something might come that humbles us to our roots or the even our own love of ourselves will destroy the mesh between us. But I wonder what that great mesh is, what is citizenship today? What indeed is holding our country together? Mortgages? Families? Employment? Religion? I think it is familiarity. We are held together by McDonalds, Sears, good roads and television networks, by interstate commerce and the ubiquity of mid-western English. We just happened to be a Christian country but we are not called to be Christian in the next state – we are called to produce a major credit card – then we may pass. It is not the content of our character but the flashing blue LEDs which say ‘approved’. If a crisis is to be, a great number of computer networks and trucking routes must fail. I can’t recall a day in my life when the sun didn’t rise or some TV somewhere didn’t draw the waves. It would take sabotage, and who would dare? Who could?

    In small cities across our nation, there are suburban conveniences and infrastructure which are all too often awe inspiring. How they are run is a secret – somehow we have the world’s best hospitals and cellular phone system. This is the land of the idiot proof, plus we get free coupons. A lifetime of transactions have already been specified. All we need do is prepare to make selections and it feels like freedom. Ask any American about their freedom and they will tell you 1000 things already dreamt 300 years ago. We have no idea how free we are not, and who is to show us any better? Dayton, Ohio is a town for Bosnian Summitry.

    Civil Rights may well have been inevitable. Perhaps they were. Back in the old days before ATM networks and KISS FM, some people were isolated enough to conceive of a different type of freedom, and others were provincial enough to deny it. Maybe it was easier in those times to get enough of a good original idea together it would fall into minds with less crowded bandwidth, find root and bear fruit. And so barriers were broken because human spirits grasped something deeply needed and deeply personal. We have been sighing ever since.

    I have imagined an historical imperative to move forward based on the wisdom of that age, and yesterday for the first time I saw a book filled with the writings of the man of two who has symbolized all that great turning point has meant. In those words perhaps I will grasp that original spirit and reconsider what freedoms are yet to be, what networks are yet to be built over which a more authentic traffic might be carried.

    We have lived, year after year with rebroadcast visions and snippets of dreamy rhetoric. And we have lived in a cynical world of privilege, contempt, deceit and bombast. If I can discover what moved one million or a bus full in the direction of greater civility and freedom then perhaps when I answer that question I may answer with and unexpectedly inspiring voice. We all need inspiration, desperately. By rights we deserve that.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:49 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    February 22, 2005

    A Weird Mood

    I'm in a weird funky mood right about now. I know exactly what's bothering me but I really can't talk about it. It has an aspect of if I coulda woulda shoulda, but it's really not my fault. Sounds obscure? Yeah. Well I'll tell you later. It's huge.

    Secondly, I'm really pissed with iTunes because it's not smart enough to review all of the tunes in the library and see if they really exist on the disk. That's no so bad; the bigger problem is that I lost so much music in my disk crash. Now all those stupid exclamation points are a sick reminder.

    What else? Actually I positively love this extreme weather. I stopped yesterday morning on the way to the office at some cement tributary on the border of Cerritos. It was a big chocolate rush of muddy water. I am enchanted by rivers in ways I can't explain. I think I'll go out today and look.

    Doc is going to Brazil next week for a month. Must be nice. I'll try to get him to write a bunch about it.

    I've got SMS spam on my cellphone.

    I can't get Darwin to boot on my old Red Hat machine. I want to roll with OS X but I can't afford a Mac Mini right now. So for the moment I've got an old copy of Mandrake (9.2) on it. I like Mandrake better than Red Hat. It's working for me. What I really want out of this is a secure machine and to start learning Kerberos and LDAP, so the next step is to get GPG working. Which brings up the annoying question: Is PGP hacked?

    The rain has my kids inside. They're driving me nuts. Do other parents play with their children? I mean how much playing are kids supposed to do anyway? I'm an order of magnitude closer to my kids than my parents were to me. Rain rain go a friken way.

    What else is on my nerves? There's nothing in the blogosphere worth writing about today. I'm over on the technical side, doing a lot of commenting over at Slashdot, and with my old private online community.


    Oh, and one more thing, if Hunter S. Thompson was so friken important, than we would all immediately know the blogger that most resembles him. I think him killing himself showed exactly... I'm uncharitable about this guy. BFD.

    And another thing, I was really feeling angry last night and I found that it really destroyed my virtual killing. I think this the first time where I really desired to hurt people by shooting their avatars in Halo2 to take out my real world frustrations. It absolutely destroyed my game, I dropped rank.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:59 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    February 11, 2005

    Driving While Black: A Personal History

    I need a new nigga, for this black cloud to follow
    Cause while it's over me it's too dark to see tomorrow

    -- Nas

    I started to write this piece yesterday afternoon as I was minding kids as a school parent. The point of it is supposed to be how 'not there' I am - 'there' meaning in the ferocious grip of the controversy over the latest tragedy of [another] black kid shot to death by the LAPD. But that would miss the point that I feel I owe, because in so many ways I have been at Ground Zero of 'there'.

    You see, my youngest brother died in jail.

    In 1991 in a holding cell in Gardena, Ca, my baby brother took off his t-shirt and hung himself in shame. I can't remember it like it was yesterday. It was a long time ago, but what I can remember is how it made me feel in light of what I had been doing at the time.

    I have probably mentioned it many times before, but somewhere around 1989 I ditched my buppie cadre and headed for the radical hinterlands. As part and parcel of these days before the Internet, I was always attending seminars and lectures, trying with the zeal of a scientist, to find out where black culture and politics would lead me. In those days of Darryl Gates, Ron Settles, LaTasha Harlins and soon Rodney King, it led me to a very cynical and oppositional state of mind.

    I really didn't realize exactly where I was until some time later in Boston over beers with my colleagues. The stories rolled around from 'the best single malt scotch' to 'the finer points of cow tipping' and finally to 'times I was so drunk and got stopped by the cops'. I had been laughing my ass off, wiping the traces of slobber and shrimp scampi from my mouth. Suddenly I was Schleprock with my own personal thundercloud over my head, only I was evil Schleprock determined to rain on everybody's fucking parade like ten tons of shit bricks. Think Gary Oldman, the pill popping cop in 'The Professional' saying 'EVERYBODY!!'. Instead, I loosened my tie, took two rapid shots of Glenfiddich and marveled at the good fortune of my colleagues' unslit throats. I slipped into what Brent Staples calls 'parallel time' where every white person becomes transmuted into the black & white realm of Mayberry or Hooterville. Where nothing, absolutely nothing they say or do can be taken any more seriously than the pronouncements of Don Knotts. Where their reality suddenly becomes a meaningless sitcom. And I laugh the soundtrack laugh over their silly little stories. You want to know what's real? Huh? Do ya? You feel lucky?

    I didn't let it show, but then how could I not? I suddenly knew my most real friend there, Tom. Because after a moment, he stopped laughing too and looked straight at me. I waved him off and shook my head looking down. I'm OK man, I gestured. Just let me breathe. I don't really know what transpired at the rest of that dinner, but I started actually counting the number of times I had been stopped or detained by the LAPD. By detained I mean forced to get out of the car while the officers do something, like come up with some bullshit story to excuse the stop. You know the pose. Cops talking into their lapels, black man sitting cuffed on the curb. The answer for me was...

    fzample, having been detained by police about 27 times before my 30th birthday (with only 3 or 4 actual citations issued), i have amassed a great deal of anecdotal evidence that my car was one of the most often stolen in the city of los angeles. and of course that changed depending on what kind of car i was driving. once it was a 68 karmann ghia, then it was a bmw 2002, then it was a bmw 318i. then i happened upon consumer reports or an insurance industry something in kiplinger's which stated that through those years the stolen cars were consistantly 2 year old camrys, cutlass cierras, and ford mustangs. for the parts! imagine my heartbreak to find how misinformed those poor police officers actually were.

    ..complicated. I have always put my own personal grief in the context of something larger than myself, and I think most blackfolks do as well. So it came as no surprise to Pops that when I did a 'call for papers' for my DWB project, I was the only one willing to speak up. Who wants to write it down? Who would speak the unspeakable outside of the mob? Of those 27 times, here are the ones I most remember:

  • Cops pull me over for 'not signalling' and run a complete check on me. I am told that there is an 'escaped convict' that fits my description. (several times)
  • An off duty officer pulls a gun on me and my date for stealing his parking space.
  • Officers push us up against a chain link fence and feel up my girlfriend. No citation is given.
  • An officer pulls me over because my brights are on, and asks me a series of idiot questions. "Most car thieves don't know how to operate BMWs"
  • Officers ask me my 'gang name', ask me if I know where 'Pookie' lives.
  • Officers detain me and ask me if I plan to blow up the 1984 Olympics. I ask if I am under arrest and if not can I go? "Are you willing to risk that I won't let this dog out after you?"
  • Officers cuff me first, run a make on my plates and then uncuff me to give me a sobriety test. The reason for the stop? "I was driving at night with my windows down."
  • Officers draw weapons because I refuse to get off a 10 speed bike. "Do you have a reciept?"
  • Most young black men in LA County know the meaning of the figure $277. This is what it costs to get a traffic warrant removed. At least that's what it cost in the 80s. But outside of LA County, in my 30s I never saw another. I have no fear at all of cops, I never got my head split. Despite all this, in the context of black manhood, I am considered fortunate. But I know a lot about how cops operate and I have extraordinary spidey senses about and around police vehicles in traffic. I know when I'm being tailed and much more.

    You see, my current youngest brother is an LAPD officer.

    One of the reasons I am not 'there' is that I went the whole 9 yards before. If I had been in Los Angeles during the riots, I would have gotten myself is a heap of trouble. I dreamed up a plot to kidnap an officer and remove his trigger finger with garden shears. I would return the hostage as soon as I got my airtime. I invented a new salute, which might still actually be useful, which is an open hand with the index finger bent over. A good cop doesn't shoot.

    My cop stories from LA are something of a bottomless pit. In the wake of Rodney King, I actually spent a lot of weekends out cruising the streets with a videocamera. I wanted to catch 'em in the act. I drove all over the city and followed cops, even ones with sirens blazing, and once through a red light. I never got them on tape once, beating or even with kids cuffed on the curb. Try as I might, I couldn't prove with video, what I knew to be my own personal experience. Not one head slammed on a hood. So during this time after the King beating and before the riots, I recognized that police work was work. I did find them assisting with traffic accidents. And the one time I thought I hit the mother lode, running into half a dozen squad cars parked outside a highschool gym, it turned out to be a charity basketball game.

    After my brother died and the family went through the various dramas (We had Johnny Cochran's law office and Maxine Waters in the mix, as well as an independent review of the Coroner's report), I had gotten my fill of Los Angeles. I knew the place was wrong, and I knew that I was wrong. I had options, so I exercised them. But I was openly sick of the place and I said so all the time. This town yeilded up nothing. No accountability to the public or by the public. It was a seething cauldron of people shouting and shooting past each other. I hated LA.

    Once outside of LA, it all stopped. NYC cops walked. They were everywhere, but never seemingly in a hurry. They were calm. They talked to people, never having to assert their dominance. Boston cops were fat joke caricatures of cops. Heaven forbid they had to run after anyone. By the time I lived in Atlanta, 5 years out of LA, I had even lost some of my peripheral vision. And then I visited LA for a weekend. Sure enough, I got pulled over. But by this time, the LA cop was in Hooterville. But hey it was true, I didn't have a front license plate. (cue laugh track).

    When my brother applied to be a cop, suddenly a million things clicked all at once. There was absolutely no question in my mind that he was exactly the kind of person I would want to be a police officer. I had moved back to LA, over it, and had been here for a couple years. Previously, Doc had been with FedEx. That fit him too. When it absolutely positively had to be done - no excuses. That's the kind of man he is. Eggs is eggs. He was from the 'hood, like all of us, with no reason to be irrational around black youth, but also no slack for knuckleheads. Gangbangers killed his best friend back in highschool.

    As he went through the academy he would call me and tell me about how things were going. How so many of the younger recruits behaved, what the training officers stressed, how the PD felt about itself, what the senior officers were like. He called me one weekend to tell me about non-lethal training. Officers have to tazed as part of learning how to use a tazer. They have to take a face full of pepper spray too. One day, long after he had been on duty, he took me shooting. So I've been getting the inside scoop for a while.

    What I know about cops, ironically, comes from my own gut. I know what it's like to step into the danger zone and try to right the wrong. Most people don't understand that's not what cops are supposed to do. They essentially are part of the system whose job it is to take dangerous people out of our midst. But since they are human, they're usually there after the fact. So what a cop learns very quickly is what the mess looks like. A cop knows what dead bodies look like, in empty homes, at the foot of tall buildings, in crack houses, and in the steel tangles of ex-automobiles. A cop knows that people are their own worst enemies, and sometimes the only way to know someone's heart in the 15 seconds it takes to end a life, is their reaction to cops. And a cop knows that they are the line over which good people don't step. That's why they exist, because you can't do it yourself. You can't fire a gun because you don't like guns, and you don't know how. You can't wrestle a violent drunk to the ground because you don't know how. You can't stop a man from slapping his wife around because you don't want to get involved and it's none of your business, plus he looks kinda scary. Men like Doc say 'no excuses', and I like that. I need that, and I'm not afraid to admit it.

    When it comes to the politics of protest, well, I've graduated from that school. That's why this is a blog and not a flyer, a picket sign or a bullshit manifesto. I believe in going the whole 9 yards in every direction and relying on your gut. So, being of sound mind and middle age, I get somewhat annoyed knowing that there is history out there as well as real cops and real families with real stories, when I hear the same old complaints. The bottom line is that we have a social contract in place, and we punt a hell of a lot of our own responsibilities off to police forces. They shoot bad guys because we are afraid to shoot bad guys. They deliver suspects to court, because we don't know how. And judges judge and jailers jail and parole officers monitor all because we have decided not to be our knuckleheaded brothers' keeper. Which is both our bourgie prerogative and our moral default. And so we have a system that handles all that mess for us, and we don't like to spend too much tax dollars on it, and we feel sorry for the poor slobs who have to be government employees in it, with their steel desks, old staplers and cardboard boxloads of papers and forms.

    Imagine living at the DMV. Not fun. Now imagine a DMV full of burglars, counterfeiters, drug dealers, fences, domestic abusers, sexual predators, hustlers, pimps, stickup men, gangbangers, vandals, hookers, drunk drivers, car thieves, suicidal nutcases, mental outpatients, brawlers, crackheads. Except they're not all at the DMV, they're distributed all over the city walking next to you and me. Hell, you can't even stand it when the guy in the car next to you is booming his sound system.

    Probably because I used to spend a fair amount of time on the subject, I quite frankly don't care enough about police reform any longer. I knew Daryl Gates was an ass for a long time, and chiefs around the state and country knew it too. I have come to understand how public pressure results in police policy, and I know very clearly how certain political forces came to regard young blacks as the enemy. I realized early on how white distrust of blacks manifest itself, nothing made that clearer than commentary surrounding the Verdict, and subsequently the OJ Simpson trial. Cops are the instrument and must exist because of the social contract, but we should all understand that the social contract between blacks and whites is broken. Tragedy is the inevitable result. So I don't think about it simply in terms of cops and me, but in terms of you and me, politically.

    So when I listen to the angry voices lamenting the loss of some kid whose face and name was brown. I know that there's still a bunch of folks out there who believe they live in a different America. They do. But that's partially their choice and it's partially ours. Still, I have to say, as one who has been 'there' as a black man, that there were too many times that I had been living under that cloud and slipping into parallel time, as if this wasn't my America too. I don't have to be eating shrimp scampi and telling jokes all the time to know this is my America, and I don't have to be looking at the face of a snarling German Shepherd to know something's wrong.

    I'm going to leave this without a personal conclusion and close with the words of James Baldwin. On good days, I'm fairly sure that I'm already there, but it hasn't been easy writing this. And of course, it's not all about me.

    Take no one's word for anything, including mine-but trust your experience. Know whence you came. If you know whence you came, there is really no limit to where you can go. The details and symbols of your life have been deliberately constructed to make you believe what white people say about you. Please try to remember that what they believe, as well as what they do and cause you to endure, does not testify to your inferiority but to their inhumanity and fear. Please try to be clear, dear James, through the storm which rages about your youthful head today, about the reality which lies behind the words acceptance and integration, There is no reason for you to try to become like white people and there is no basis whatever for their impertinent assumption that they must accept you. The really terrible thing, old buddy, is that you must accept them. And I mean that very seriously. You must accept them and accept them with love. For these innocent people have no other hope. They are, in effect, still trapped in a history which they do not understand; and until they understand it, they cannot be released from it. They have had to believe for many years, and for innumerable reasons, that black men are inferior to white men. Many of them, indeed, know better, but, as you will discover, people find it very difficult to act on what they know. To act is to be committed, and to be committed is to be in danger.
    Posted by mbowen at 08:28 AM | TrackBack

    February 09, 2005


    Cobb is a mature blog, and I am very happy with it except for one thing. It's not popular.

    Popularity is all relative, of course. I am very pleased to have made it to Large Mammal status, but I think my stats need to be goosed. In order for me to sustain interest in blogging, I'm going to have to get higher in the 'sphere. Here's what I'm going to do.

    I'm going to ask you all, especially those of you who already have, to put some nice quotes in the comments section. And like all the bloggers who have heretofore been more shameless than me, I will pick and choose the most popular of you, blogwise, and then stick your quotes somewhere near my banner with links to you. And I'll return the favor, if I like you.

    Secondly, I'm going to do more trackbacks and references to blogs that I think are making interesting points. First stop, Blogcritics.

    Thirdly, I'm going to buy advertising here and there. Why? Because I think I'm worth it.

    Fourthly, I'm going to keep writing in this same original, socratic and yet not-too-jargony style.

    I'm going to keep up the cartoons, for sure.

    What I'm not going to do is become a shameless self-promoter, although I will participate in other people's comment sections. I'm also not going to advertise on my personal blog. I'm not going to chase around for me too things to say.

    I also wanted to say thanks to new readers for your kind comments. You are the ones who have spanked me into this new direction.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:50 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

    Psychology, Bullies & Clint Eastwood

    I grew up in a black neighborhood in the 70s, so I don't need psychology.

    A black neighborhood like mine in the 70s was like an Irish, Italian and Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn in the 40s. Its one of those quintessential American places that generate real people by the crateload. But such neighborhoods possess a modicum of toughness, they either make you or destroy you. If you get out, and most people do, you have a distinct advantage over the average Joe. Imagine the average Joe to be from the San Fernando Valley in the 80s. Who'd win in a fight? Probably not the cats who identify most with Michael Anthony Hall. If the average Joe was from Compton in the 90s, that might be considered an overkill of toughness. Such places kill dreams. The Brooklynites and my crew retained all of our humanity and imagination. We'd win that fight because we knew it was not our fight.

    It has to be about a fight because we're human beings, and no matter what is said about the sophistication of our social skills, it all still comes down to dominance and submission. So this is where I pick up the ball on my my latest provocation.

    I am hoping, at this stage in my life, to understand what's truly useful about what I've learned all my life. And it is by taking a detour to the East (I'm going to live and work in Beijing), that I expect to experience what I've learned in a totally new context. That's an exciting thing to me. With that in mind, I tend to look at intelligence as knowing what not to waste time on. So it occurs to me that there is some balance of self-regard I am going to find makes for a better human being.

    I also want to say at this particular moment that I think that Islam is in bad shape as regards its ability to communicate its unique messages to the world. Certainly there is something there we lack and would want in our greed for the eclectic, but the militants and Wahabbists are screwing it up for everyone.

    The Western/Asian mindset has been progressing fairly nicely since the invention of the Pacific Rim in the mid 80s. Here in California, we couldn't imagine life without Sushi or Szechuan. We understand the Tao and we recognize Tai Chi when we see it. We can distinguish Japanese from Chinese, linguistically if not in people's faces (but that's hard even for Asians).

    So what I believe is that this mixture of cultures and outlooks is generating a new type of self-regard. As I deal with businessmen and jetsetters in my new role in international business, this is the constant I am going to be looking for. I'm more than a little displeased that the African and the Arab are left to the side, but I'll get some of the African flavor for certain. I am tending to believe that it is a disarming generousity an lack of artifice in the main - but that may just be a sterotypical attitude of a city slicker who is not so generous or plain. Even so, I got the German, French, British, Aussie and Italian tropes pretty tight. So the American and the European vibes are clear - with Asian rising.

    I'm going to throw in one more tangent, which is that the metropolis around People's Park in Shanghai's Pudong looks very much like something out of science fiction. I've Googled for pictures and they all look fake, it looks too futuristic to be real.

    Back to the main theme.

    Like many Old School folks, I am somewhat perturbed by the strident bullheadedness of folks who are unsatisfied with secularism and find it their moral duty to pursue atheism. Hitchens among them, although he has many other redeeming qualities, they find a rather convenient logical syllogism to dismiss much of religion. In propositional logic, we know that if you accept something false as a premise, you can prove anything. So, goes the argument, if God exists then anything is possible. And specifically Hitchens has a point which is that if [a non-existant] God can forgive any sin, then every sin can ultimately be justified. But generally atheists have no point, the pedagogy of religion is part of the essence of humanity itself, even Carl Sagan respected the numinous.

    Atheists however do have something going for them, or so it would seem. They are scientific to a fault. So how do they handle the nebulosity of human emotion and instinct? Psychological analysis. This is the science, more or less, of human feelings. More importantly psychological health dictates the proper sense of self-regard.

    My provocation here is that psychology is a pseudo-science inferior to and hopefully soon to be replaced by evolutionary biology and cognitive science. From my perspective, psychology is irredeemably culturally poisoned. Our definitions of sanity and mental health, at least in the realm of the bourgeios, are cultural values masquerading as science. Our commonsense notions of 'crazy' are just about as good as that state of the art theory, what we lack is the multivariate experience of hearing 300 people spill their guts over the years, but our ideas are just as good. They are fundamentally the same.

    In other words a good shrink is no better than a good priest. Furthermore a good priest is no better than a good homie from the 'hood.

    So it is this notion that causes me pain when I hear stories like that of the battling babies. Because all I can say is that the conflict is good for the babies, except the 'thoughtful' parents are sublimating their anger and assuming moral superiority in the context of psychology. Meanwhile they are getting their asses kicked face to face.

    I am hopeful that many Americans will give the appropriate props to people who grew up in situations where the good had to survive by beating down the bad. It is the kind of experience that we seem to have little tolerance for these days. You could never get Popeye on children's television these days. That's a shame. We have lost much of our warrior code in the popular culture, so it is no surprise that we like martial arts films where the moral conflict draws antagonists into single combat. We used to have that in Western movies, now there's only Clint Eastwood left. No wonder he's winning all the Oscars.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:38 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    February 04, 2005

    I Don't Just Happen To Be Republican

    Geopolitically, I'm a textbook neocon, although tending toward the cheap hawk scenario. I believe American Imperialism can be a force for post-colonial liberation. Economically, I'm for open borders, open shops, no minimum wages and pollution commodities markets.

    I'm for minimalist good government and private elistism when it comes to social policy. I think the American safety net should be infrastructural rather than personal - that is America should not guarantee free health care, rather they should guarantee the country's ability to stop polio and smallpox from ever becoming a problem here again. That safety net should be indexed to a reasonable incremental margin above Western standards moving up and down over time in line with economic performance. The idea that Roosevelt's Great Society should be a permanent endowment does not make sense to me.

    I agree with the president that borders should be open and that America should have a net immigrant growth taking advantage of the peace dividend of the 20thC. That is to say until China gets its act together, we should expect to educate Chinese immigrants and grow this country that way..on down the line to Bangladesh. Repatriation is imperial thereby guaranteeing that what works best here is ultimately implemented there - America as global incubator & VC.

    That's way more Republican than Democrat, and I think the reason has to do with principled socialism in the Democratic party, which I do not abide. I think the global business model is going to win and destroy the Democrats' economic base and discredit their political theory. The wane of Big Labor and the rise of Undocumented Labor is the indisputable evidence that socialists are on the losing side. Business American Style, complete with its 401Ks, paid maternity leave, stock options, flexible medical accounts, flatter organizations, real-time communications & computing, entrepreneurial quickness, diversity training and other first world innovations are all evolutions of capitalist corporatism and the revolution of business management ala Peter Drucker. The left had nothing to do with it. It was the rise of the Yuppie and the MBA that accounted for American business productivity over the past 25 years, now this is a real investor class. This thing GWBush calls the Ownership Society is real, and the fact that more Americans read the Wall Street Journal than ever before is no accident.

    Such things don't just 'happen to be' Republican. It is the real legacy of the Reagan Revolution in contradistinction to the Saturday Night Live vision of America. We can look to our culture and see where the lines are drawn.

    I am most impressed with GWBush's open, above board use of the regular Army (and Reserves) in dealing with Iraq. Just having watched Harrison Ford in Clancy's 'Clear and Present Danger', it is amply clear that the American Presidency has been dramatically changed and indeed liberated from hand-wringing secrecy. There is a huge difference between what GWBush had done today (and ironically what Rumsfeld sought to downsize in terms of diversifying the Powell Doctrine) and what Reagan did twenty years ago. Whether it was the nature of Saddam's national threat or the irony of using covert action against terrorist cells, the end result of marching large numbers of American troops to overturn a foreign power is tremendously beneficial for the reputation of America as a nation that does what it says, rather than as a nation that sends 'military advisors' around the globe in pursuit of secret policies. This to me is GWBush's greatest legacy, one that makes America honest and plain.

    Domestically, I believe that we should be able to sustain a broad variety of classes and that it is vital that the same old American dream be accessible to an internal Third World. I have a great deal of disdain for the necessity to legislate and otherwise regulate into existence of affordable housing. I think that the political leadership of the nation should be responsible to keep business feet to the anti-trust fire in order to sustain a diversity of mid and small cap businesses that operate on thinner margins in more downscale communities and regions. In other words, instead of small towns in the midwest emptying out because all profits have been sucked out for the sake of mega-efficiency that some lower performing businesses remain solvent and provide steady, if low income jobs.

    That means insurance reform, and restrictions on massive capital investments. It means American businesses above a certain level should aim to be globally competitive, not just use their accumulated capital to consolidate and cherry pick smaller businesses for mergers and acquisitions. I understand that this is a constraint on the road up, but it can also force a kind of efficiency downward. Again, to my way of thinking, it is simply anti-trust.

    That's all for now, I smell a new tangent coming on.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:48 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    January 27, 2005

    My People, My Hair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Posted by mbowen at 02:58 PM | TrackBack

    January 26, 2005

    Advanced Math for Kids

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

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

    January 25, 2005

    July 4, 1910: Reno Nevada

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Posted by mbowen at 07:54 PM | TrackBack

    About That Disk Pack

    Now it can be told.

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

    I crashed Apache.

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

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

    Posted by mbowen at 04:11 AM | TrackBack

    January 23, 2005

    Sixoseven on Mperia

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

    Should be interesting.

    Posted by mbowen at 01:10 PM | TrackBack

    January 20, 2005


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

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

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

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

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

    January 19, 2005

    Quant Dreams


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

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

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

    January 08, 2005

    The Impervious Zone of Happiness

    I once wrote of the chatting class:

    The issue is issues and issues issue forth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    But right now I smell bacon from the kitchen.

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

    January 07, 2005

    Back To Life Reloaded

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

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

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

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

    I'm Hanging at Vision Circle These Days

    Join me there.

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    January 02, 2005



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    January 01, 2005

    An Ex-Bodysurfer's View of the Tsunami

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    December 30, 2004

    My Travels To the Future

    Every once in a while I travel to the future. I'm somewhere in America pretending to be a recent African immigrant. Everybody treats me like some kind of idiot when my understanding of the technology makes me derail the conversation. Then my friend Clancy tells me what's up. Clancy is about 24 years old, and the equivalent of a small town auto mechanic. He's cool with me because I'm off the grid. There are a few people off the grid but I really have to keep a low profile. Fortunately, I only stay in the future for short periods of time, so I don't get busted.

    This morning, Clancy told me that he had to go get a new t-coat. I spent the morning getting my butt whooped in a first person shooter. When he came back, his teeth were sparkling even more than usual. Clancy explains:

    Basically, when you graduate from highschool, your parents buy you molars and a t-coat. The molars have batteries in 'em and the t-coat covers your teeth. Whenever you chew, the batteries come on and charge your food the same charge as your t-coat. Plus every day you rinse with Listerine and it takes a micron off your t-coat. So basically your teeth stay clean. You can brush if you want but it's basically not necessary. I just got a 180 so I don't have to go back for a new t-coat for 6 months. It's kinda expensive but what are you going to do? You can't get a chick or a job without it. That's why you're a dead giveaway for a Third. Any cop that sees your grill is going to check you out.
    I will continue my journeys to the future and start a new category at Cobb.
    Posted by mbowen at 10:38 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    December 29, 2004

    Let's Not Talk About Sex

    Believe it or not, my mother has a wireless G hub. How do I know? I installed the damned thing. Merry Christmas ma.

    So I was by my sister's house all yesterday - that's where mom lives - and I fell into a conversation with sis, her two girlfriends and her girlfriend's brother. The subject: Why men can't just stop at being friends.

    My head hurts. Why? Because I hate relationship conversations. Cobb's rule number two: There's Marriage and then there's everything else. I really have to say, though, I actually kinda went there. I got into the conversation, and I'm glad I did. But, of course, I didn't go all the way there because it's my sister and I really don't.. well, I didn't have enough drinks and I didn't feel like naming names, and all other kinds of reasons.

    I have developed about five hundred theories about sex and love, and none of them count. Because it really doesn't matter - the only thing that matters is that the person you are entangled with balances to the plus column. Nothing else really matters, and there is very little objective advice to be given. Except for a few basic things. Listen closely now because I am about to give you the secret of life. Why? Because the sooner you learn it, the less the chances are that you are going to engage me in another conversation about relationships.

    What Men Want.
    Men want, more than anything else in the world, to be told that they are unique and not like all the rest of the guys.

    What Men Hate.
    Men hate having whatever it is that they are good at, dismissed.

    I will elaborate on number two by noting the fact that very few women know because they've never heard a man say it. But it is a fill in the blank sentence that can allow you to know where not to go. Have your man fill in the following sentence as if the first part were true.

    "I may have a little dick, but at least I can ______________ with the best of them."

    Every man has a core, which may in the fullness of time prove to be absolutely insignificant. However, it is that man's core and it is the one strength that he will use to carve out his place in the world. Never, ever, ever, belittle that thing, or else you will find how deep the rabbit hole goes.

    What Women Want.
    What women want more than anything else in the world is to be heard out, understood and most importantly, forgiven.

    What Women Hate.
    Women hate the fact that there are other women who get away with it, whatever 'it' is.

    Elaborating on the first secret. What a woman wants is to draw you down into the deepest darkest recesses of her psyche and for you to tell her, whatever it is, that's it's OK.

    Understand, fellas, that women do not want solutions to their problems. They want understanding of their problems. Women's problems twist them up in knots and they beleive that these knots are written all over their faces. However we dumbass men are not paying attention to, and really cannot see these knots. All we see is what we want to see (and what we wish we could see). Women unknot themselves by coming to an understanding with someone else about what the problem is.

    That means that when she takes you there, (which means conversation and communications) she doesn't want you to cut in and say "Look that's simple, all you need to do is just..." No. The proper response is, "Oh, I see why that makes you feel that way."

    If you get her to say "Do you think I'm crazy?" or "Do you think I'm fat?", that means you are there at the end of the deep dark alley of her psyche. Affirm her and you win. Confirm her fears about herself and she doesn't need you any longer. In fact, watch your back.

    OK? There it is. The secret of life. You happy now?

    The problem with relationships is that they're relationships. People ought to be more honest and say that they want a lover, because that's what people really want. They want, as Pat Benetar sung, a lover who won't drive them crazy. The search for lovers boils down to the basic inability for people to be really honest about what they want the other person to do to and for them. That's what being a lover is all about, your ability to make your partner purr. (There's a really deep cat tangent here, but that's for another day). Men and women are looking for that someone who knows how to hit the spot. The problem with relationships is basically a problem with bargaining. People aren't good at negotiating things so precious to them. They put out too much too early. They misjudge the intentions of the other person. They screw up the deal a dozen different ways. Good relationships are about striking a good bargain with somebody who can deliver the goods. When it's mutual, you have a win win. But what you have is a great lover, not a great relationship. The sad fact of evolutionary biology is that it could be anybody. 'Chemistry' is luck.

    The problem is that's not Marriage. Marriage is kind of a pro-forma contract. The negotiating is all done, and of course the ante is upped. That's why single people on the far side of Marriage are so utterly different from single people on the near side. Divorcees talk about getting a lover. They don't talk about relationships. Those that do, well... some people never get it.

    Anyway, I have talked too much about sex again. I say it's overrated and that most talk about it is a pretext for seduction. Remember Aldous Huxley said that an intellectual is somebody who has found something more interesting than sex. Actually, it's not that so much. Talking about sex is like talking about sports. I'd much rather play.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:43 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    December 25, 2004

    The Day Of

    tree.jpg You'll notice that Santa only left half a cookie.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:41 AM | TrackBack

    December 22, 2004

    Holy Mackerel

    I have discovered today that most fishermen despise mackerel. I thought it was just me. You see, back in the day when we were poor we ate mackerel because tuna cost too much. Today, I caught two or three and tossed them all back.

    We were on the bad luck boat out of San Pedro this morning. The average angler had 2.5 rigs and 15 pounds of tackle. That didn't help the boatload of 32 of us catch more than an average of 2 fish each. Our gang was originally supposed to go on the overnight trip out to where the big fish are. That trip was cancelled and we ended up on the 1/2 day joint out past the breakwater to where the rock fish are.

    So the expectation was that we would be up to our neck in Calico & Sand Bass, but we just seemed to have nothing but Barracuda and Sculpin biting us up today. The Sculpin is a good eating fish I hear, despite being fairly damned poisonous if you get poked with a spine. Cuda, on the other hand are fairly slimy.

    I was over-geared. I never used my nice new filet knife or cutting board. But I did learn how to grab live squid and bait 'em. That was a load of fun, not to mention the attitude of 'fish killers'. I'm hooked, and will definitely go again. Any day away from the CRT is a good day, and like with shooting, I recommend it highly to my liberal white-collar bretheren.

    Posted by mbowen at 05:04 PM | TrackBack

    Gone Fishin'

    I'll be out on the water today. Wish me luck.

    Posted by mbowen at 03:47 AM | TrackBack

    December 20, 2004

    Sensory Immersion Chamber

    Somehow, these Samson studio monitors that I just bought make all of my DVDs seem much more captivating.

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

    December 19, 2004

    Gearhead Nostalgia

    You remember the Maxell commercial where the guy in the black leather jacket is sitting in front of his stereo and he clicks the remote and the Wagner blasts him across the room like a hurricane? I have spent the past 3 hours incredulously ogling the stereo equipment that first blew my mind. At eBay and various places around the net I have found the objects of my first techno lusts. web4251b_sae2800_Sml_J05.jpg

    It starts with the fabulous Setton RS 440 reciever. The first reciever with a midrange equalizer control. It continues with the first solenoid cassette deck, the Sony TC-K6. Then the JBL L212 was the first home stereo system with subwoofer. We used to hook them up to the big Soundcraftsmen amp and the (Oh My God) SAE Parametric Equalizer and the JBL L220s.

    There has been quite a transformation in the recording industry since the advent of digital. And I spent and evening last night at the new Sam Ash store in Torrance blowing a wad of cash trying to deal with it. If I have a weakness that hits me in the pit of my gut it is for rack mounted electronics. I am surely more vulnerable to the knobs and dials and blinking lights and wires than to anything else in the universe without a throbbing uh, nevermind...

    Posted by mbowen at 03:08 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    December 18, 2004


    The odd thing about it is that I can't exactly figure out what it is about me that puts people off so much. Nor can I determine if the lack of attention I feel owes to my own offenses or the defenses of others. I only know that when I feel as though there should be someone sitting across from me telling jokes and drinking something cold, I am alone.

    This is a continuation of an itch in my head begun in the past 30 hours. It has taken up residence anew with discovery. This discovery might be recovery, but I am only doing so tangentially just in case. Just in case a broken heart never mended.

    I missed the end of the short story read by Russell Banks on This American Life. That's because I'm dedicated to a different set of interests at this point in my life. But many years ago when I was confirming within me, a sense of purpose in writing and gunning up my courage to go where that purpose took me, I had a muse and an inspiration. She has a name of course, LBT, but what I remember most about her was.. oh there were so many things. What I remember now is the laugh, the machine gun rapid speech, her love to tedium of Miles Davis' Sketches of Spain, her NYU sweatshirt, her leather jacket and her purple pad of truth. She was like that, of course. She gave you a lot of hooks upon which to hang memories - she bristled with mnemonics. She was a garden of forking paths upon which I stumbled and pleasantly got lost.

    Time and distance are cruel to life experiences. They make you lie to fit the joke. If the time and distance are long enough, the details fuzz up just enough to produce a dissonance which makes enemies of friends. And so it's difficult to know what to say when speaking of those you never see any longer. What you remember becomes what you care to remember. Not only does truth not serve mankind, but mankind does not serve truth. We use each other when it suits our purposes. So I cannot tell you the truth about her. Chances are, only she can remind me. This is why I am treading lightly.

    Cleaning up my Outlook, I found her in the snow. Google pointed me straight away and as her face downloaded, I knew. Someone could read my face, as if I were in the morgue or checking the rogues gallery. I identified her immediately, a smile of recognition unmistakable on my face.

    The last time she walked away from me I cried. I cried in the way one cries for drama. Not because the thing is happening to you, but because what you are experiencing is so perfectly sad. It was the end of something remarkable and there was no going back. Our intentions and directions were permanently at odds where once they were so beautifully entwined. The sense of loss was palpable. It was Monterrey.

    In recent months I have heard of her triumphs third hand. And someone who bothered to forward me the e-mail disappeared when I replied. I wanted to see the face, hear the voice, know the work and experience the results of 13 years growth from a dark anonymous corner and wonder what might have been. But it was not to be. The normal channels were readjusted and contact required an alternate path. I could have worked that way, but the dismissal I took as a sign. You are not welcome this way. I don't know, I may never know. Not knowing was prickly painful. I swallowed and moved on.

    But today I think I know where she is, and the flood of names of people on her living room floor reciting Harlem Renaissance poetry is coming back into memory. The videotaping of each other writing. The manic ferocity, the tender quiet, the whole extremity of it all seeps through the ages past. See me? This is my gaze off into the mists, the inevitable twisting of my mouth into a forlorn smile of memory: the Digital Underground soundtrack, the shouting at Arlen Specter, the cuban chicken, the mental giants, the two beliefs. So I'm going to mail off this entry to that email address so she can look at me. I'll always be her ex-boyfriend and I think that's pretty damned cool.

    LBT, thanks. Without you I would have never focused with precision. Without you I would have never worn a leather jacket. You embraced my rebirth and let me know I could roll like that.

    Posted by mbowen at 02:31 AM | TrackBack

    December 17, 2004

    Something's Got To Give

    Things have been going too sweetly. I'm not paranoid enough.

    Yesterday, all I did was celebrate the fact that I've got my tax business in line for the year, but in fact my accountant was a no-show. Still, I ran my own numbers and it turns out that I've got a nice pile of cash to spend. But that can't be right.

    I'm still running two contracts and I'm trying to wind them down for the holidays. But they still want me working and that means more cash.

    It seems all I ever talk about is China around here. Yesterday I found a supportive human being at a joint in Westwood called East Wind Books. The website may be a little cheesy, but the store is right on time. I picked up some excellent books, one geopolitical the other youth rebellion. I have been a little lazy on my lessons, but my accent is definitely improving. I need more vocab. I need more vocab. I keep resorting to French and Spanish..

    So I'm in my tactical gear looking like a million bucks just dropping cash all over Westwood yesterday afternoon. All I've got on my mind is 'bluetooth headset', and I'm wondering if I possibly find one. Duh, there are mobile phone joints all over the place. The first one I find has the Motorola that I wanted and the guy sells it to me for 80 bucks. I rip it open and try to link it but it's not charged up, and I say I don't care, give it to me anyway. "Because I'm rollin'!", I say out loud. And add to that a sharp leather pouch that straps my Treo to my arm, I'm looking doubly tactical with he wide wale black turtleneck, green cargo pants, G-Shock watch and Oakley kicks. And did I tell you? I'm growing the full beard back, so right about now I've got the whole Jason Statham attitude working.

    Honey, can you take my picture this morning? Yeah, I'm trying to reproduce the very cool look I had yesterday afternoon. Here in the hallway is fine. Try not to get the kid's bookcase in the frame. It's for the blog. Like what? Locutus of Borg? Ha ha very funny. Ok without the headset. Here, wait, it's stuck on my ear. How's that?

    I was hungry so I dropped by some Asian themed restaurant that looked fairly swank and had six tables on the sidewalk. It's 1:30 and the maitre says 30 minutes. What? Fine, I head down the block past Scallions (ooh I remember when that was the coolest joint in Westwood, back in the days before the sidewalk vehicular manslaughter when Westwood was Westwood) to the EB Games on the corner. I pickup an old-school XBox controller and the Prima Guide to Halo2. The dude who sells it doesn't have XBox Live.

    I am alone, you see. I'm a successful mid-forties black man with no particular hangups. The biggest problems I have can all be solved with money - that is while my kids are still in elementary school. They say that the perfect couple is a man with a future and a woman with a past. I'm holding up my end of the bargain, and of the spousal unit you'll hear no confessions from me. So during this ChristmaHanaKwanzakah, I'm doing great. All the news is good and I'm smiling through my middle-aged grill. But it's mid-afternoon on a Thursday and everybody I know is at work at various places around the country. I call and call on the cell phone and nobody is available. So I'm wandering around Urban Outfitters looking at myself in the mirror overhearing people talk about movies. I'm in the middle of a twilight zone of LA affluence - of upper middle-aged blonde women with unnaturally small waists and large Dior sunglasses - shopping in the middle of the day in the middle of the week. I'm going to be in the entertainment business, in China. I take off the green felt fedora and break the hell out.

    Children. It's almost two. I know I have to pick them up. I call the wife. What time was I supposed to pick them up? I know they get out of class at 2:45p and there's some playground time, but how much? She's not available. I swing back by the swanky oriental joint. The maitre apologizes and seats me immediately. I cop a squat on the patio and browse Jimi Izrael on the Treo. It's true, they remember Bob Peete. The waitress shows up and apologizes for the delay. I order a Red Sun and the Lamb. I place the black napkin on my left leg. I check out the Slate article by LeGuin. Ged is dead. BFD. People who look to worlds of elves... The drink arrives, I swig. I breathe. I'm in touch with the abstract world, eating alone.

    If you were with me, I could explain all of this to you. It makes perfect sense when I do. But even as I thumb responses into the ether, they come across clipped and biased. But you can't see me out there in text. You need to be sitting with me at this sidewalk cafe watching the alcohol unfocus my eyes and sharpen my wit. You see, I'm at the point where I'm supposed to be responsible for keeping people moving. I can do that, I'm ready to do that, but I need the organization full of bodies. I need to get the cadre mobilized. They need to hear my voice. I need to have the millions. Then it will all make perfect sense.

    The lamb is sticky with sesame. The rice bowl is an old comfort in my left hand 5 inches from my mouth and drawing nearer. The lacquered chopsticks get increasingly fumbly as the Red Sun goes down. The meal is one of the great pleasures of life. You could ask. I could answer. But you are not here.

    I head home and the 405 is a gob of steel and frustration. I finally arrive at the gap in the chainlink and whistle my kids to the car. M10 says I look like a millionaire, thus the sentence above. F8, who just graduated from F7, asks when we are moving to China. No time soon kids. F9 is all weepy for losing her charm bracelet. We head to Nordstrom to buy Mom some gifts. We find them. The kids are antsy. I feed them Hot Dogs on Sticks. I respond to Jimi's question about blacks and niggers. I thumb it in and regret the tone later. If I had a keyboard, if you were here at supper, I could explain better.

    I herd the crew back to the crib. Suddenly, I am exhausted. I forget to make them do what little homework they have. I retire to my garrett. It was a good day. A very good day and my path has put me in splendid isolation. I've been downmarket, head down for three years and an afternoon in the sun has reminded me of when I bubbled and worked the rooms. I put them all to bed and begin watching Omar Epps in 'Brother'.

    'Brother' is gangsta. Yakuza bow like Nazis snap their heels together. I keep thinking that when I go to Beijing dressed in my Hollywood suit, I'm going to appear like a gangsta extra in a Chow Yun Fat movie. I can't call it. How many books am I going to have to read, how many stumbling sentences am I going to have to mumble? There, the sit down at lunch isn't going to work. I'll need a third party. Somebody I pay to be patient with my ignorance. Subtlety I can't afford via Dr. Pimsleur.


    Today I send M10 off to his biomom for XMas.
    (to be continued)

    Posted by mbowen at 08:48 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    December 13, 2004

    Palm Heaven

    I finally picked up my Treo 650. Already it's better than I expected. The one thing that I didn't expect to be able to do, which is get signal in my house, I've done.

    The greatest news so far is that I can drop a 1GB SD Memory card in this puppy. I'm going to pick one up tomorrow. I can get my gmail on it which already consolidates several mail accounts. It integrates pictures with contacts.


    Posted by mbowen at 09:54 PM | TrackBack

    December 12, 2004

    Cool Bob vs MathAndScience

    I didn't have a good math teacher until my freshman year in college. Actually, my second freshman year, as some might know my tortured path - I was a freshman in '78 and in '82. This good math teacher actually had a degree in mathematics and he was the first math teacher I ever had who did. We called him 'Cool Bob'. He was a longhaired guitar player who dated the daughter of a judge, and he wore holey jeans and plaid flannel shirts. I would have been surprised if he didn't drive a VW Bus. His was a bonehead math class that took us all from pre-algebra up to calculus ready in a 5 unit daily class. I learned everything I was supposed to learn since arithmetic in two semesters.

    As I was doing this at Cal State (the class was Math 098 an EOP class, by the way) I was getting interested in campus politics. The class was mostly black and hispanic, offered as part of the special minority program (I had to petition to get in, not because I wasn't black, but that my SAT scores were too high - but I hadn't come straight from highschool). The overwhelming success of this class was a source of pride and embarrassment and pointed to a huge failure in California public education.

    Within a semester or two I was officially a BMOC. I had a 3.6GPA in the Computer Science major, I had interned with Xerox, I had my own car, off campus apartment, I was on the Dean's List, and had been elected to at least one of my many offices, all that carrying 16 units. As this kind of role-monkey, I merited a seat on the Student Advisory Council to the Minority Engineering Program. Among my duties were evangelizing the goodness and light to be associated with mathandscience.

    And so while I was a geniune gearhead, having ordered Christmas toys from the Edmund Scientific Catalog since my 9th birthday (can you say 'fresnel lens' boys and girls?), most people had no use for mathandscience. Or at least they had elaborate excuses and self-conscious explanations at the ready. In my newfound appreciation of all things institutional, I easily made the connections between the makeshift state of affairs in the California teaching credential business, racial segregation of educational resources and the 'startling' success of Cool Bob's class. Bottom line, crap math teachers everywhere.

    This understanding was underscored as I finally started in on Salas and Hille. My first real calculus class was taught by a Chinese guy whose English was pretty poor. I wouldn't trade places with that guy for all the coffee in Starbucks. Imagine having your ability to teach daily impugned by a horde of snot-nosed suburban white kids from the San Fernando Valley. "It's like, you know, he can't speak English. I'm so sure." So I learned (with difficulty, in a very tense and staticy class) about derivatives, mis-pronounced with three syllables.

    In the mid 80s, in the middle of the Cold War, in the stirrings of the semiconductor industry, on the eve of a battle against Japan Inc, the economic reality was that if you could speak good English and you understood mathandscience, the overwhelming odds were that you were either already working in Southern California's aerospace industry or you were on your way there. The good majority of Cal State's non-tenured faculty in the School of Engineering & Computer Science were youngish to middle aged immigrants whose combination of poor English and green card status conspired against their careers in those places all the ambitious Valley parents wanted Biff & Becky to work. Mathandscience was the helpful handmaiden to the new middle class, of which I am an outstanding member, over the backs of Khalid, the graduate assistant.

    Spengler was my second ever native English speaking professor with an actual degree in Mathematics. I was frickin' 23 years old! By the time I got into her Analytic Geometry section, I had started to make my own excuses about math. It was mostly out of competition for brain-space, what with my burgeoning national student political career. I really kinda wasted the opportunity and just did C work. However I did have a particular affinity for iterative math which dovetailed with computer stuff. So while double and triple integrals gave me fainting spells, those big sigmas were my friends. I could have practically lectured the class on Taylor Series, for what it's worth. I know Spengler probably wouldn't have minded, as she always made much hay over the fact that her 10 year old daughter corrected our homework.

    As a matter of fact, quite frankly, I haven't used any of that math in my career. Nor have I used much of my History, French and absolutely none of my PE. But that's beside the point which is that it's damned hard to get competent math teachers who actually teach well. Despite all the volume about how desparately our precious little darlings and poor unfortunate underprivileged urchins need mathandscience, you'll rarely hear anything about Taylor Series, eigenvectors or differentials in all that blather. Good math teachers are just rare, and made more rare by the obscene political wars over putting them in front of the 'right' students.

    What I believe is that there is basically no excuse for six years to pass between learning fractions and doing elementary calculus. The fact of Cool Bob's ability to do it in one year is testament to the structural deficiency in our educational system, public and private. (I did go to a private highschool which also had no degreed math instructors.) And maybe the very liberal ambitions of Cool Bob are precisely what we need. You see, he threw a wrench in everyone's agenda. He actually loved Mathematics for its own sake. Nothing could make him happier than sharing that love with students. Kids from the 'hood came out of his class ready to beat down Calculus, and they knew what they were talking about. Not because they were patriots trying to outdo Sputnik, but because they finally got the competent Math instruction they deserved.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:41 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

    December 11, 2004


    I spent too much time at the Y today.

    There's something about the unmistakeable flavor of watered down fruit punch that lets you know that you are at a boring function and it's just about time to get out. If you have a paper plate in your hand as well, it had better be a picnic. But if it's indoors, you're too late.

    It's that time of year again. Winter Program. The offspring did an admirable job at their school's function. M10's duet in the last piece of the evening came the closest any of the acts got to a standing ovation. F9's little speaking role got the appropriate laugh, and F7 got a chance to stand in the front row for the 2nd Grade singers. All in all the family's rep at the elementary school is in excellent standing. But the YMCA is a different story.

    I complain too much but this little gong show only carried the thinnest pretenses of a real community happening. After each and every of the 12 acts, another slice of the mob of parents abandoned the chairs and prime videotaping vantage points they squabbled to get in the first place and headed off elsewhere. By the time we got to Act 12, my two daughters' Jazz/Hiphop/Modern Dance Recital (otherwise known as pre-teen booty shaking, but not too much), two thirds of the joint was deserted.

    Hey, I'll admit it. I was in the second to last row of plastic fold up chairs enjoying the hell out of John King Fairbank's "China: A New History" and was too deep into making sense of the effect of Buddhism in the wake of the Early Han Dynasty. I did my back of the hand opera claps when every one else did, but I wasn't really being much of a good citizen. Why fake it?

    I'm thinking about how interestingly powerful and yet shallow is our multiculturalism. I mean, I've known since I read 'Japanese by Spring' a dozen years ago that nobody is really serious about capital M Multiculturalism. And while reading about the rise and fall of Chinese empires this realization slapped me around a bit. I've stepped back and started thinking about civilizations, and it's screwing with me a bit. But now that I understand about 50 words of conversational Mandarin (pu tung hua), pardon my pinyin, the distance between us neighbors is annoyingly evident.

    At my Y, there are a hefty number of Chinese families, who until about a week ago were relatively undifferentiated Asians to me. Sure I have a native Californian's ability to distinguish Japanese from Chinese from Vietnamese from Korean just by looking at folks in the face, listening to the rhythm of the language and checking their body language. But none of this registers with the smacking finality of beginning to grasp meaning in their heretofore unintelligible blathering. I had no particular reason to watch or listen intently or try to decypher their conversations until now. These days I listen to AM 1300 and hang out in the Ping Pong Room just to get familiar with the cadences.

    But I broke the shell this morning and excused myself to venture out a sentence or two. You see, the Y has excused itself from providing ping pong balls. So when a table was finally free, I had to cadge one off one of the Mandarin speakers. M10 and I were there listening for him to say 'ma' at the end of his sentences so we'd know they were questions, and I had inadvertantly left my idiot 'Chinese in 10 Minutes' book out of my backpack, which I take nowhere near as seriously as the Pimsleur CD course I play in my car everyday. So while the (dweh bu chee) excuse me didn't raise an eyebrow, the (syesye ni) thank you got half the room laughing. What the hell, I did get a ping pong ball out of it.

    It wasn't until 3 minutes later when he mentioned the title of the book to more laughter that I started feeling like an idiot. Surely the whole scenario made it appear as though I might have purchased the book for ping pong room conversation, then again I can't decrypt Chinese laughter. But it was the clear change in the tone of his speech from then on which was messing with my mind, plus the fact that M10 can't resist hitting the ball hard but it never stays on the table. Bottom line, I'm embarassed. Plus, the old Chinese guy that I usually talk to wasn't there at all.

    I did explain to Boy that inflection is everything in Mandarin. Like most black dads, I have a series of non-verbal grunts that I use in everyday family life which are implicitly understood completely by inflection. Further I have used to fairly good effect some parallel rhythms and cadences to help me wind phrases together, my favorites being (wo shwo da bu hau) and (jr dau, wo jr dau). The Chinese also use a construction which translates almost literally to "a little somethin' ". For some reason, I almost immediately feel like I've always known how to say (ni xiang tchr yidyar dong shi ma), so if you want to eat a lil sumpn sumpn, I'm the man to ask you in Mandarin.

    As confident I am in my growing yet piddling language skills, I know there is terrain I'll never navigate with much confidence. I took 4 years of French and I absolutely hated ordering in Paris restaurants. I can accept on one level that I will look as foolish as some of those 6 year old Chinese girls dancing in my daughter's hiphop recital even though the very prospect grates. Somehow I am going to have to deal with the laughter and disrespectful regard of the natives as I go hang out on their turf. It may be that I'll only make social inroads with subordinates and synchophants. I'll be a haughty misunderstood uppity negro on the other side of the planet too. I can live with that.

    My attitude about solitude and isolation is becoming rich, and it is in that regard that I am finding a moral tug. I am thankful and fortunate that I reach this state of mind without regret for anti-social mistakes. I have always been goodhearted in that respect. I am just coming to understand the deeper implications of the openness with which I have lived my life, especially in my writing; it's so deeply a part of me. The necessity of recognizing interdependence is critical, otherwise old men die alone and friendless. What could be worse? I could ask Qing emperors, I suppose. They didn't see it.

    In my learning Mandarin and in the efforts of millions of Chinese to learn English there is great optimism. I believe that if Multiculturalism is anything it ultimately must mature to that level, despite the difficulties. I'm not sure where it goes from there or what might not happen without it, but it clearly allows me as a middle aged man the opportunity to see the world a completely different way, which is a stunning development as far as I'm concerned.

    I can't say with much certainty that the opportunity I feel personally is matched by a general optimism at the prospects for our two civilizations, despite the fact that it is indeed the theme of my new business venture. It's going to take a lot of time to find the tactical and strategic commonalities. It's harder than music appreciation. Ultimately, we're talking about managing huge amounts of power between us. Our ways and their ways are very different...

    I have a feeling that I should just shut up and read Kipling. More later.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:29 PM | TrackBack

    December 06, 2004

    Virtual Revenge

    I may as well be explicit.

    What happened to me about 18 months ago was that I had decided to stop contracting and go for a full time job. Some really cool people at a very large entertainment company (who's logo is the whole friggin' planet) started the interview process. Everybody loved me, but there was a big boss. So while I'm turning down other contracts in anticipation of getting this gig, the interview process drags out. I had 5 interviews, all of which were great successes until the very last one, which was the boss's boss's boss.

    I may come to understand how the entertainment business is unlike every other, but a manager who has no comprehension of RAD methodologies shouldn't be able to hire IT professionals. But On top of this, they did the gauntlet interview process. Which is you put a candidate in front of 20 people who can all say no (including kids 2 years out of DeVry), but only one who can say yes.

    Anyway, I wasted eight weeks and turned down work that could have fed me. My mistake was not hedging the bet. But the Hollywood folks were smiling in my face and telling me how great it was going to be working with me. Finally the market dried up and I basically was out of work for 6 months. I had to borrow some figure north of $12,000 to make ends meet and not get evicted.

    It turns out that there are a lot of American entertainment companies that are trying to do what we're about to do. So it is very likely that there will be a crossing of paths in the future, something I never imagined at the time. I very well may be in the superior position.

    I've badmouthed this man and his company enough times. I've gotten over it. I survive, comme d'habitude. Ce n'est pas une grand chose. Still, I have enough nerve to commit some farcical practical joke, if not a brick through his window. The idea is appealing and he certainly deserves as much. Yet anything I might do now, if I were to go out of my way in order to accomplish it, would not be proper in my ethos. It is an action that belongs in the moment, and the moment has long passed.

    I know some of the reasons for that man's hesitation, and the story is really not so simple. He is also a powerful and reputable enough individual to expect revenge from time to time. I have no doubt that he knows that he makes enemies, this is part and parcel of the way Hollywood works. So while the thought of revenge had only surfaced recently in the context of other entertainment companies in Hong Kong wanting in on the action...

    I may very well raise this from the position of an idle threat to an ethical challenge. The problem is something like this. On a scale of 1 to 10, do I really want to do it? 2. Does it need to be done? 8. Would I be glad to see it happen? 6. Would I do it, given the chance? 7. To me it has the appearance of an opportunity to do right which by the way I have a personal stake in. I can generate the motivation to do it, but only if the body floats down the river half dead.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:36 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    December 03, 2004

    The Vector

    In August or September of 2002 I got fired for the second or third time in my life. I'm that kind of asshole, but I didn't realize how close I was back then.

    If things go as I plan, I'm going to serve up a cold dish of revenge. I have a couple people in mind. I have to make sure they know what a drag they were on my life. You see, the lesson I learned in interdependency was that, anybody who doesn't mind to see you fail is, by definition, your enemy. I didn't understand that - I thought that people had to dislike you and consciously plot against you. But in fact, all people have to do is know you, and ignore or discount those who actually do plot against you. These are those who won't let you know that the truck is about to hit you. They want to see a crash, and it doesn't matter to them that it's you. It doesn't matter how many episodes of Seinfeld you have discussed over lunch at the food court, they are your enemy nonetheless. It's a scary prospect for a guy like me, with thousands of names in my Outlook, only a half dozen which know what the DC stands for in the middle of my name.

    That's ok.

    The difference between liberals and conservatives is that conservatives know the truck is always coming. They're looking for ways to escape - to get away clean. The liberals are trying to set up traffic lights and warning signs so that nobody gets hit. That's why liberals are so attracted to despair. They know the feeling, while trying to be nobody's enemy, of watching a fellow human splattered. Writings of despair could be shared by liberals and conservatives. Perhaps it is the proper nexus. It was despair that changed me.

    I turned Republican when I realized that catastrophe is inevitable, and the only salvation is becoming larger than life, and pre-emptively thrashing your enemies. Capitalism is a great medium for this agenda. If you don't become larger than life, then you are stuck at the mezzanine of despair, of knowing that life is a giant highway and the trucks never stop running people down. The liberal never seeks to become the truck. Instead, they endlessly warn the weak and bury the dead. It's a state of mind I cannot abide. Despair cannot be my byline. I want to be sensitive, I cannot be jaded. Burying bodies, praying for the trucks to stop, coming up with new schemes and watching them all fail... I don't have the patience for that. That's a job for Monroe.

    I didn't know back then how close I was to being the mower rather than the mowee. I didn't give myself enough credit. I didn't think that I could make the leap, instead I was prepared to climb the slope one step at a time, like everybody else - like the food court lunch crowd who watched me get fired. And I realized when it happened that there was nothing they could do about it. They weren't bosses, they were employees just like me. They were just like opinions and assholes. They were commodity people with brains for hire.

    So when I read about what Stalin did, I knew that my turn was inevitable.

    It's not difficult to be reconciled to death. All you have to do is wander enough weary streets, and you're sure to find some population of humanity who bear greater burdens than yourself. It's easy in Houston, or wherever you might be. There are always rats self-medicating in the maze, but the problem stays. I'm a human, you say to yourself. We're all going to die, you say to yourself. Sooner or later we're going to get hit by that truck, you say to yourself. I'll just try to watch my back, you say to yourself. And then you start envying your children's naivete instead of teaching them how to win. You start putting limits on your expectations and you bog yourself down into a waking oblivion. It's easy. Everybody does it. You're doing it right now.

    I think there's a difference between humility and reconciliation to death. I'm not sure I can spell it out. I'll have to wait until I get to the other side of success - that success that has the feel of inevitability to me right now. When I see the six figures cash in the bank, I'll let you know. Because then I'll hope that I'm humble but not reconciled to death. I asked my partner, the man who told me that in 5 years we'll all have mansions in Hawaii what could go wrong with our plan. He said that we could get sick or die.

    The vector of my life is changing. I'm now in Chapter Ten. I realized that all those trucks are going somewhere and that I was at cross purposes. Instead of being a sheep and hoping for a good shepherd to get me across the road safely, I should have been hiking back to the garage and finding out how to build my own truck. All those trucks are going somewhere, even if I go in the opposite direction, it's better to be a driver than a pedestrian. And all this time I was an asshole pedestrian describing the trucks to all the other pedestrians. I'm surprised nobody pushed me in front of one. Maybe they did, there are lots of free hands in the crosswalk.

    Have you ever been in the crowd and somebody moos as a joke? That shit's not funny. Get out. That joker is your enemy.

    And through circumstance, me looking in the right direction, me running at the right speed, I've been able to grab ahold of a passing streetcar. I went back to the garage and built my own truck, this business, this corporation, this creation designed to limit my liability, to allow me to cruise the highways of commerce and to use banks instead of letting banks use me. It's my new vehicle. Yeah, I was pushed. I was that kind of asshole. An arrogant sumbitch who acted like he really knew something.

    I am meeting the kind of people who tell me they will never be employees again. They've been on the other side and their head has just gotten too big. They've come to know bosses and owners and realized they could do it too. I convinced myself a long time, but I half-stepped. I admit it. I also got blindsided by the Feds, well actually I saw that truck coming - I just thought it would wing me. I remember walking around downtown Atlanta in 1995 in a new sweater on a Thursday. I was a contractor, self-employed with a few thousand in the bank. And suddenly I realized I had all the time in the world to do anything I wanted. I could hang out in the library at the Atlanta University Center and pester the librarian about Malcolm X. I could hang out in the barbershop on Sweet Auburn. I could check out the bars on the Bankhead Highway. I was free.

    But I didn't prepare myself for big problems. I was straddling the fence. I wasn't corporate and going after the money and big business. I was independent and living large. I was happy being affluent, I wasn't trying to be rich. All I had to do was take care of two or three customers and I was chillin' in six figure incomeland. A nice place to be for a man with two babies and a Nissan. So when the offer to be an employee raised its head, I figured that was cool, too. As long as I got bonuses and stock options and an expense account, it would be cool. You can't complain about that, not until 2001.

    I hitched my wagon to Silicon Valley, but not quite high enough. I wanted to be a top dog professional in Silicon Valley, and that was good enough. I watched the venture capitalists and Stanford Mafia with disbelief. They can't really be so apathetic about the soul of the industry, so I thought. But they sold us all out. I got fired by an economy that failed to recognize the brilliance of us six-figure professionals. I was in a different class of sheep and got run over by a bigger truck, and I took it personally. Funny. Jimmy L offered me a gig with his company near the top, but I stuck to my specialty. I was going to transform the world with the technology I had mastered, but I didn't realize that 'the world' could decide not to listen when the markets soured. I had convinced myself that the world needed products, but the world just needed money, including the world which was my division in my company. The spigot shut and I was walking the streets.

    The answer to the question is undeniably this: It is always better to be the king of a small hill, than a prince at a higher elevation. That's because there are always things that princes don't know, but kings must know it all. I could be wrong. But I'll keep my little corporate castle all the same.

    Now I'm going international. I've got to keep my eye on more balls. I've got multiple governments, cultures, legal systems and currencies to watch. The fish are getting bigger, and there is a new class of dangers and opportunities. I'm going beyond America. I'm sure to learn new lessons, some the hard way. But this time I know what kind of asshole I am; boss / owner asshole. Asshole LLP. Stay tuned.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:32 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

    December 02, 2004

    The Big Ten

    I've picked out a few of the hundreds of pictures and hours of video that have recorded the event for Cyndi and I. These make the place look a lot more sparse than it actually was, but I didn't want to put a bunch of folks pictures out on the net for no good reason.

    We all had a great time running the gamut of the best emotions.


    I am being reminded of how much love I have gotten over the past 15 years she has known me and the 10 we've been married.


    Lighting the unity candles. No wax burns this time.

    Tony cut us some hearts. He's the man when it comes to catering.


    In order to avoid the politics of proximity, we sat at our own little table.


    I don't know which of the neices or nephews drew this, but it's completely adorable. Nice to know you're making a good impression.

    This is the least embarassing flick of me getting jiggy that I could find. F9 still has to watch her feet when she dances. I'm so glad there's no MTV in the house.


    Man we used to look really good, and slim.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:42 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    November 29, 2004

    Strange Dreams

    Last night I dreamed that Jay-Z pulled a gun on my daughter and I had to shoot him. I didn't want to because we were business partners and friends. So I found myself in the bitter predicament of shooting him in front of my daughter and wanting him alive. I scrambled to get him emergency treatment. His daughter and mine were playing around his body.

    He owed me an explanation, and when I finally got the nursing staff to stop tranquilizing each other and the two little girls, the doctors got to work. When he was finally lucid, Jay was my old friend again. He said that he didn't know what made him do what he did, but he was glad that it was me that shot him. He needed that. He thanked me for shooting him, because he knew I couldn't kill him. Of course I could, he's just lucky I decided not to.

    It was this decision that gives me pause to think about self-interest.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:14 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    It's All Good

    This has been one of the best weekends in my life.

    I have a hyperbio which I have maintained more or less for 10 years. Except it hasn't really changed because it chops my life into about nine parts of about 4 years each. It's clear to me that I am finally out of part nine which included the recession, nine-eleven, the death of my grandfather and some of my awful situations, some of which has been chronicled here.

    The Wedding Renewal was most excellent. Better than I expected, mushy, the whole bit. Funny, I took no pictures. I scanned in 2500 over the past week, but took none that evening. Being nervous is good for you.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:12 AM | TrackBack

    November 26, 2004

    Easter Face


    Posted by mbowen at 10:16 PM | TrackBack

    6480 Photos

    I finally did it. I sent all 41 undeveloped rolls of film to be processed for the holiday weekend.

    As one or two of you know, today is my tenth wedding anniversary and we are having a get-together tomorrow over in Inglewood. I've been working on perfecting the A/V presentations all week, so it was part of the deal that I take care of all those celluloid memories. All told, I added more than 2400 photos to the collection including scanning in half a milk crate of snapshots.

    If any of you are face with such a task, I highly recommend the latest Photoshop Elements 3. It has really made this work go smoothly. Considering that all of the GIFs, JPGs, TIFs, PNGs and PSDs are in umpty folders on multiple drives, the catalog feature it has puts them all together nicely. They have really hit a home run with the interface this time. It's fast and sensible.

    I'm going to break a rule or two and post a picture of various members of the Nuke. They're just irresistable. I figure if Lileks can get away with it, so can I. By the way, I am absolutely sold on letting the film pile up. I found an independent guy who did the whole deal for me at 7 bucks per roll including photo CD and proof sheets. Yeah that's over 300 bucks but compare that to 12.99 at Rite Aid.

    So beware. The cuteness express is about to roll.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:38 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

    Suburban Samurai

    Posted by mbowen at 12:36 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    November 25, 2004

    Happy (Gumbo) Thanksgiving

    Posted by mbowen at 12:23 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    November 18, 2004

    Yee Haw!

    I just got back from my visit to my new accountant. I'm home free. I'm in control of all my taxes and I've got money left to burn. Happiness has been pursued and captured. It's a wonderful feeling.

    Posted by mbowen at 04:22 PM | TrackBack

    November 14, 2004

    Losing the Flavor

    This morning I have climbed out of the queen size with aching thighs to find bad news to my surprize. ODB is gone, and I hardly knew him. If he did, 'ooh baby I like it raw', then I know one more tiny thing more than his duet with Mariah Carey. But what catches me a bit flatfooted is the reverent nostalgia for the very concept of an Old Dirty Bastard.

    Down here in the Wonderbread Heartland of the Left Coast where everyone wears desginer sandals to the gym showers so as not to catch something requiring Lamisil, we don't know jack about ODB, and couldn't miss him if we wanted. This is the pudding I'm dipped in, and I'm always making a way when I can. So when I read Jimi's ode, I wanted to wipe a tear from my eyes, but the tears didn't come. I no longer have the ghetto heart. I seem to have left that man's heart at Crenshaw and Jefferson about 15 years ago.

    Just like that one nigga in your crew, he wasnt on no bullshit--rapped about life, the life he saw as yall rode around looking for a liquor store. Hed rap about the girl crossing at the light---with the window open, loud enough so everyone on the streets could hear. The girl might give him a finger or give him a number---lines like Girl, Id eat all the shit out yo ass can be seductive---but no matter what, when that nigga hopped in your ride, you made room. Because everyone knew there was adventure afoot. The night might end in a fight or in jail--- or both. It was all par for the course. That nigga was trouble--- he was a trip. And he was priceless. Thats why you kept him around. And thats why we tolerated Ol Dirty.

    I haven't had that nigga in my crew since the days we snuck in to see Bruce Lee movies. I haven't had that crew since the days of waffle-sole Nikes and powder blue sweatsuits. I haven't tolerated men like ODB since before gangsta rap. Like the pit in my stomach feeling watching a man in a white wifebeater, large pink curlers and 18 inch arms swagger in my direction, those feelings just don't happen any more. I know the feeling well, I just don't feel it.

    The ghetto lost all of its flavor to me suddenly. Of course nothing happens all at once, still I can remember the day back in 1994 when I took it upon myself to walk 125th Street in Harlem end to end. For years afterward I would continue to cruise the ghetto streets from city to city. But after that day on, it would be a distant monologue of observation, not an intimate call and response. From Albany Avenue in Hartford, to MLK in Tampa, ghettoes failed to leave me breathless. They became stunningly similar with canned drama. Why? Because I didn't live there and I didn't have to care. But in '94, when I did live there and I wanted to care, I found there was nothing for me there.

    It was rather disappointing for me to find little in Harlem to care about. I had once tutored kids at St. Luke's Church up on the hill. I knew the place well enough to know where to find excellent fish fry ,which blocks not to walk, and familiar faces at the Studio Museum. But hoping for Harlem to be an example of something special was a failed hope. It was just a city with a lot of blackfolks in it, and I imagined that most of them, like me, just wished that Harlem would assist their ambitions rather than challenge them. In the end, it is the quality of deprivation that gives rise to the special hunger of black emergence. Harlem like many other American cities develops that hunger but rarely satisfies it. In that way Harlem like every other ghetto is a good place to be from, but only if you end up somewhere better.

    I've been wearing the metaphorical khakis and loafers for a decade now. It has only been my life as Daddyman that has required me to take money as seriously as I do. In certain moments, especially when hanging with my dog K, I kick myself for not kicking my financial game up a notch when I was still a young player. But at the time, I wanted to be an coder, an artist, and a politico. BAP/Boho days are fondly remembered and those ambitions were mostly satisfied but new priorities emerged and I had to leave all that challenge behind. I headed to the juicy suburbs of Atlanta, the acknowledge First World Black Mecca of my generation, and I never looked back.

    I have a neighborhood where people push strollers, jog at night and can order Thai food for delivery. The Bruce Lee movies are all on DVD at a number of local establishments. As I have expected it to, it has made life pleasant and removed the challenges of ghetto life, and the flavor of ghetto personalities from my daily routine. I have no special desire to relive my past, or immerse myself for the sake of keeping it real or remembering where I came from. I'm not where I am by accident, but as an expression of what I want. I am where I need to be.

    As I watched Chapelle's Show last night on the tele, it was cool to see where I might be if I was single and kept to the old dreams, managing my ambition from the 'hood, with regular forays into the underworld. I can't say with any precision that's where Dave goes, but I know he knows what I would know if I hung more with the homefolks. It takes me a minute to distinguish Lil Kim from Faith whatshername. But on the passing of ODB, the man who inherited king fool from Coolio in my book, I note the passing of a section of my old flavor.

    Pour a drink for what once was but is no more except in vivid memory.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:47 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    November 13, 2004

    A Full Day

    So I went to my Capoeira class today, and now I am sore. That's a good thing.

    I cannot begin to tell you the names of the moves that I was doing. That's because I have no idea how they are spelled, I just know how they hurt. There's a lot of thigh burn involved in Capoeira. But I'm lucky that I have some real practitioners here. They show little tolerance for the jazz-hiphop form that I wasted time in a dozen years ago. Which is a good thing, because even though I knew there was more than a personality conflict going on between myself and the dreadlocked, baggy pants women (excuse me, wimmin) in the Peoples Republic of Cambridge, I was feeling a bit bad about dropping out of that 'class'. It was clearly a vehicle for the shirtless instructor to get over. It takes an Alpha Male to know one. I got off on a bad vibe with everybody in that loft studio.

    Today was different. I learned four moves and combo'd them together. Unfortunately this class goes for 90 minutes, and I should have had some breakfast. I worked myself to the lactose limit several times, but did a pretty good Au.

    Then I headed out to see my boy for some structural advice. He hooked me up with a new attorney and CPA so that I can prepare for the international. This stuff gets complicated quickly. In the meantime he showed me around the shop he's the CFO for. Now I know what an excimer laser looks like on the inside.

    It appears that I am going to have a tangle of corporations and limited partnerships in order to flow the bucks from one continent to another without getting sued. I rue the day I may have to face some asshole in court. People have no idea how ugly this can get in real life. My boy explained briefly about the fortune he lost at the hands of an overseas con-man. One trick to beware of is that one guy can be running a con on multiple of your associates at once. There's no safety in numbers. But from where I stood drawing arrows and circles on my notepad, the future looks bright.

    As the day came to a close and the light that usually reflects on my TV screen has disappeared over the horizon, I sat down to a little bit of Halo. I'm totally accustomed to the new feel and am now tweaking skills. I've learned the maps for the most part, although Lockout always gives me vertigo. I'm developing a style and a combination of tactics. Then I finally landed the bonanza - a full 8 on 8 fracas at Colossus - Team Slayer to 250. The full dynamics of the game emerged in this one, because when you play for that long, you have to communicate a strategy for the game. Our side did, and we dominated. It was a superb battle that all of us will surely remember and try to replicate - like the first game of Cat & Mouse on PGR2- I think the high score Team Slayer match will live on. BTW, Juggernaut is slammin' too.

    The kids baked oatmeal cookies and watched James & the Giant Peach. I burned a couple logs in the fire and we had Smores. My boy won a whiteboard in a pin the nose on Voldemort at his schoolmate's birthday party. I have survived another day without a new spyware infection.

    It has been a good day, but boy do my legs hurt. I'm walking around like Fred Sanford.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:34 PM | TrackBack

    November 12, 2004

    The Long Now

    I am painfully aware that since the middle of August ore thereabouts, the quality of my writing at this site has deteriorated. I in the middle of one of those transitory moments in which I am rather fed up with my ability to look beyond my shortcomings. I have these moments because for most of my life I have arrogantly and studiously ignored most of the people who brought them to mind, and so I have become relatively immune to criticism. It's a flaw, I admit it.

    It would have to be someone like Stephenson who brings this to mind, although it's just as often a Shakespeare play on DVD or an article by Michael Pollan. I get mad at myself for not being able or willing to concentrate on anything of substance as I define substance.

    So I am in a long now, an interminable present, and endless fixation on the topical. In other words I'm not looking deeply at anything. In some ways I want to counter this with my series on abortion, a worthwhile subject if there ever was one, but I'm lacking in the energy and I can't get these comments to work well enough to generate a proper Socratic dialog. What's the last book I read? I haven't finished one all year, I think. Instead, I've been monkeying around with Visual Basic. Bleaugh!

    Maybe I can become sarcastic. That's always good for the comic.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:37 PM | TrackBack

    November 11, 2004

    The End of My Blackness - Part 7

    As of more or less now I am no longer a Black Republican. I'm just a Republican.

    The reason is actually pretty simple. I am what I am, and I'm tired and bored of the novelty. Jumping up and down and saying I'm a black X is fun and interesting for a while, but it really is rather presumptuous. Not that I mind being prosumptuous or even provocative. It's just that in order to do so, you have to make a bunch of assumptions about people who are not like you or who you assume are like you. That's annoying and gauche. So I'm not going to do it any longer.

    I'll still be reppin for the Old School, but depending on how soon I move to Beijing, that may become tired too. Hard to say at this moment.

    Now this in no way affects any of the commitments I have to KIR, The Bear Flag League, VisionCircle, The Conservative Brotherhood or the California Republican Party itself. I'm simply excusing myself from the "I'm a Black Republican, what are you?" game.

    Does that make sense?

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

    November 05, 2004

    The Blind Planet

    Every once in a while I have those kinds of dreams that are so compelling that when I wake up in the middle of the night and go back to sleep, I dream it again in continuity. Last night was such a night.

    In this particular dream, I and another astronaut had come upon in a large plain surrounded by dark mountains a large area enclosed by a very secure looking chain link fence. Actually there were two sets of two fences, each with razor wire on top and a dog track in the middle of the pairs. The groud was a dull rusty reddish brown and we could see strange footprints on the arena sized infield.

    We scaled the fences with no problem. The place was lit with banks of lights not unlike a football stadium, but the size of the enclosure was more like 100 yards wide and a mile long. We walked around the area trying to figure out what kinds of creatures were kept in here by the footprints, especially the deep ones which were perfectly circular, an inch deep into the hard dusty ground and looked like they were made by an elephant - a very large elephant.

    It was dusk and getting darker and soon we couldn't see anything beyond the stadium lights which seemed like they were getting dimmer by the moment. We took off our helmets after a brief atmosphere check. The air was silent and cold. The lights were clearly going out. Somebody, or something, knew we were here. I started walking the long way, my partner, Jones, crossed over to the other side.

    A bright light caught the corner of my eye. Jones had turned up his suitlights to observe something on the ground in the growing dark. I could see him about 75 yards back over my left shoulder. As he did, the stadium lights went out completely, as if in response. Then it happened, I heard an ear-piercing shriek from the corner of the arena behind him. In the narrow beams of my suitlights, I ran toward him only to be intercepted by two kiwi-like creatures. They ran like ostriches but had skin like lizards that was a kind of marbled green pattern. They were about 5 feet tall with thick legs and a short neck. Their heads seemed much too small for their muscular bodies - and they ran fast making shrieking noises as they headed straight for my partner. They ran full speed into him sending him sprawling on his back. As he struggled in his spacesuit like an upended turtle, the creatures started shrieking a different call towards the other end of the arena.

    Whatever made those large footprints was bounding this way in the darkness, following the alarms of the birds. My partner's lights pointed straight into the air making dusty reddish columns in the dust raised by the commotion. The birds kept calling and the thumping got louder. I turned up the intensity of my lights to see clearer and then the birds shutup and headed towards me. Uh oh. I ran towards the fence on my right and started to climb. I was high enough to escape getting bumped. They leaped up and tried to grab at me with their ducklike beaks. They had flat head and large eyes which looked to be 100% iris. I shone the light directly at them again, they blinked and started shrieking again. This time really loudly in a higher pitch.

    The large creature, which I still couldn't see, must have stopped in its tracks and started heading towards the birds and I. The birds slammed their bodies into the fence effectively dropping me to the ground. I turned off my lights and ran along the fence towards the monster in complete darkness. The birds weren't particularly scary but I wanted to get behind whatever that big thing was before it knew what I was. With my lights off, the birds must have circled in confusion and continued their noise at the normal level. I'm sure I passed the big thing, but what was it?

    I looked back towards my partner who was now clearly standing on his own two feet and moving towards where I had been a minute ago. His lights were on and the birds were circling back to him, screeching. I shouted to him to douse his lights, but I'm sure he couldn't hear. I tried the radio. Nothing. The twin squawkers obviously the eyes for this creature which I could now vaguely make out. No, it was more like a shadow - an outline passing through dust. My partner was suddenly lifted by an invisible hand to what must have been 30 feet in the air. Something roared. It was a terrifying sound - like a giant walrus in an echo chamber.

    Jones yelled out to me and was lifted higher by the invisible roaring entity. The lizard birds split up, one following behind the creature and one heading towards my light. The creature had whirled in place and began marching double time back down the center of the field in my general direction. Jones was held aloft like Fay Wray in the grip of King Kong, pounding his fists haplessly at his captor.

    As the bird headed towards me I backpeddaled as fast as I could. I could feel the panic rising. I knew that the creature was blind and I figured that the birds were deaf, and most importantly I knew that we were dinner. But the birds were too fast to evade. I thought about just leaving Jones, but not only was that impractical since my ship needed both of us to takeoff, it was kinda immoral too. So I flipped off my lights and turned upfield in the direction of the stomping monster. I gained on them quickly. Jones looked petrified but unharmed, I was feeling as if I might be able to do something when I ran smack into something I couldn't see.

    The next thing I knew I was aloft moving rapidly towards the end of the stadium. My hips and legs were in a painful vice grip and I could see the entire field and the deeper darkness of the monster's lair at the far end. Then the roar hit me. I was headed in the opposite direction as Jones whom I could hear begin to howl. I could feel the awful creature's heartbeat through my pinned hips. I started to scream, I mean really scream in desparate fear. My mind was racing, sweat was pouring from my forehead, I felt strong as an ox for all the adrenaline pumping through me, but all I could do was scream louder than I ever heard myself. Even my own voice scared me more.

    Seconds after I was wailing like a freakishly large child, the creature reached the end of the field and dropped me into the dust at the edge of his lair. It then sprinted to the middle of the field in a cloud of dust.

    Jones' voice crackled over the radio "Touchdown".

    Posted by mbowen at 08:52 AM | TrackBack

    November 03, 2004

    Thinking of Ways to Gloat, Not.

    Aside from the fact that I am wearing all red today, I'm pretty much at the same level that I was yesterday. No nervousness, no excitement, just happy to be on the same vibe as 51% of America.

    To tell the truth, I'm actually more excited to see Tom Daschle get the boot. That's worth gloating over. Other than that I'm curious to see what superlatives left partisans are hurling. I'd imagine that God's call center has a very long queue today.

    Last night I had my spreadsheet and made my call at 9:15. It went the way I thought. I was surprised that Kerry refused to concede considering that Alaska too was on the Bush column, but we all knew that it came down to Ohio.

    What interests me today is the amount of excuse-making and apathy people whose faith was broken yesterday we are going to have to suffer through. The election is going to 'prove' all kinds of consipiracy theories, and the wierd will just get weirder. Meanwhile, those of us with the political bug will find new things to talk about.

    I don't have any reason to gloat really. I'm hoping that the percentages for Bush were higher in Cali than were expected. I'm fairly confident that the percentages of blacks for Bush were doubled - we'll see and hear spin soon enough.

    We all had a moment, an overly long moment, to come together and squabble about stuff we generally understand and don't directly influence. In this moment, called election season, people get illogical in their logic - thinking everything they think matters and makes a difference. I got fed up with it a while back, and the final straw was Kerry (or was it Edwards) talking about how impressed he was that Cheney loved his daughter. We're all going to take our favorite symbols and suggest that these things we were so convinced we were right about distinguishes us from the fools who went the other way. That's just a continuation of the same delusion. I'm not going there.

    I think the interview Thune gave this morning on NPR was just about right. We took advantage of the way the issues divided us to reach out to a few more people that we can agree with long enough for our election goals to be met. Now it's over, and we can get back to being normal people. We aren't really red and blue people, we just wear the colors for a few weeks, and then we go back to not particularly loving, hating or caring about other Americans we don't even know.

    The process works. Congratulations America, you've shown yourself entirely capable of committing to non-violently turning over the most power in the world. That's always reassuring. Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming. It will be nice to once again be able to make political commentary without all the exclamation points.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:38 PM | TrackBack

    November 01, 2004



    Posted by mbowen at 08:43 AM | TrackBack

    October 31, 2004

    Getting Inside My Boy's Head

    I purchased a new Canon A75 digital camera the other day, and I've taught M10 and F9 how to operate it. It's a great camera by the way, better than the top of the line 3 year old $800 digital Nikon it replaces. My cost? 199 bucks.

    So we ended up at the Fox Hills Mall and I decided on an experiment. I let the boy take any pictures about anything that caught his attention. He took about 30 and it gave me a very good (beginning) idea of what's on his mind these days. I'm going to let this experiment continue for a while. We'll review the pictures together and talk about the world as he sees it.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:09 PM | TrackBack

    Steve Butler, Dispersed

    Yesterday I reconnected with Steve Butler. Steve is one of my oldest friends, one of those men on the periphery of my life who is yet instantly intimate. And then he's gone. The last time I saw him before yesterday was at the 20 year reunion in 1998.

    I first met Steve back in the 7th grade. He was probably the first kid I met who was completely unleashed, but smart, funny and cool. Other kids I knew who did everything they wanted to were just badass knuckleheads - all dead or in jail now I'm sure. But Steve was a good kid, and yet transgressive. He always was a whirlwind of energy capable of busting out the kind of laugh that's immediately magnetic. I've never been the kind of person to look up to anyone but Steve was, well he was Steve. He was the kind of kid who could make teachers look at themselves and really wonder if they should be punishing him.

    The only thing that could stop Steven Butler was himself. But he gave himself a very long rope. We took the entrance exam for Loyola and along with Alfred and Gary we made it. Unfortunately, Patrick and Vincent didn't make the cut, but still our little school, Holy Name, was well-represented. Steve played baseball and ran track, but like most kids from the hood, we were nowhere near good enough to complete against suburban Little Leaguers who never had to borrow other kids gloves to play pickle or pepper. Steve mastered the low hurdles and wore a white letterman's sweater from Albion Mills which was bedecked with medals. Steve had an uncanny ability to make everybody else look bad just by showing up.

    We both applied to and were accepted to USC. Most people believed that Steve was destined to be an attorney who would smooth talk his way to fame and fortune. I, like most people, couldn't predict anything but that he'd make waves. In the short time that I was there, I know he tried to create the first multiracial, coed 'frasority' and that he had managed to become one of the most popular guys in the new Residence West. For some reason I always associate 'West with the Coed Naked Indoor Frisbee. But when I fell out with the bean counters at the California Student Aid Committee, I lost track of most of my collegiate friends.

    I ran into Steve on several occasions in the years that followed. There was something about his ability to basically do whatever he wanted that made Steve the only person who could stop him. And so he wrecked himself a couple of times. I didn't know the details, but I could see the effects. He bounced in and out of several gigs and finally settled into the financial industry. Steve the stockbroker. That made perfect sense, but then again, so did Steve the used car dealer. Even in a degraded state, Steve had more raw potential than anyone I knew - and perhaps that was the problem.

    In my way of seeing the world, there are several tests that determine whether you are going to beat the American middle class or whether it's going to beat you. The middle aged men who can laugh and joke about getting over these hurdles are the real winners. If you haven't smacked into them, you haven't lived. When I was riding high on the Internet Bubble, I used to say that I had survived a Child Custody Battle and an IRS Audit. All I had to do was beat a Felony Conviction and I'd have the triple crown.

    Like me, Steve grew up scrappy in the 'hood. So I knew that if he got knocked down, he'd get up again. But if you break your legs enough times, you can't walk straight. When I saw him with orange hair back in 89 rollerskating with this silicone chick, I wondered if he'd ever be right again, although even in total debauchery, Steve had style. All doubts were erased yesterday. Now that Steve is chilling in the Marina and obviously plays a lot of golf, I know he has won. Mention taxes and he'll get apoplectic on you. I didn't know that Steve had been a Republican since 1980, but it didn't take me long to figure out. He's also a lot slimmer and healthier than most of the guys around, so he's obviously conquered other demons. He was clearly the Full Steve.

    As we chatted, going back and forward in time, we talked about the Browns including Celeste. Whenever I think about Celeste, I think of the ideal 'Essence Woman'. Back in the days, we thought women like that grew on trees. I have learned the hard way how exceptionally rare gifted blackfolks are and that if you are fortunate enough to have one as a friend, you owe it to them and yourself to be the best friend you can be. You can't tell this to kids in highschool - it's all about competition. But as men, we understand the delicate balance, the preciousness of life.

    I've lived all over the country and am now trying to keep my roots in California. Steve reminds me that I am home. We cannot afford not to stay in touch.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:44 AM | TrackBack

    The Real Quad A

    Derrick Bell proposed, back in the days when he was celebrated, an organization called the Quad A. I forget the particulars, but I remember the flavor, having read about it in his 'Faces At The Bottom of the Well'. The flavor was mighty, and I must confess to have wanted and wished there to be such an institution. There might be.
    In this case my highschool's African American Alumni Association may end up filling the bill. It is basically a who's who of the brothers in LA who did well from our exclusive little prep school. I say it casually, but make no mistake, these men are an impressive bunch. They called a picnic and plenty of people came. I'm expecting good things.

    Now this picture was taken back in 1977 when we first formed the Prospective Black Businessmen's Association. It was the first black organization on the Loyola Campus, and as you might expect, we took a lot of heat for starting it. I don't know how many years have gone by with kids finding that picture in the yearbook, but you can bet that it has been inspirational to another generation, afros and all. There are more PBBA pictures, I'll post them to the new Quad A website after that's set up.

    There aren't many black kids in LA who went to Catholic School, but those of us who did were fairly well networked back in the day. Especially when I talk about the People of the Dons, a list of names comes up on the regular. These folks are two degrees of separation from everything that's happening of consequence in African American history being made today, and that's why a bunch of slightly overweight middled-aged black men eating hamburgers on a Saturday was pretty exciting. So today a few of us are taking the initiative to communicate and do what we ought to be doing for ourselves and the next generation.

    The core of this is that at Loyola, the number of black kids had fallen to something like 18. Now I'm not sure if that was just within one class or the entire school of 1000 students. Probably the former, but that was still unacceptable. Furthermore, all of the weight had been born on the shoulders of a few usual suspects. So those few decided to turn things around. They plowed through a bunch of yearbooks, put together a mailing list and got the ball rolling. It's up to the rest of us to do our share.
    1030_Lihi 035.jpg

    The day was sweet. It was great to see Glenn, Marlon, Steve, Gabriel, Bruce, Craig, Jerome, Darryl and a gang of others show up with their families. I met a lot of old and new friends, we talked about the usual good old days, the prospects for this year's football squad and the state of our businesses and families. The jazz combo was tight and the brats were juicy. The bouncer was full of kids and the sun was shining. Somebody had the videocam and I snapped a few jpgs for posterity and the new website that I couldn't help but volunteer for.

    The agenda is coming. Stay tuned.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:49 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    October 29, 2004

    On the Personal Front

    Things have turned around extraordinarily over the past 9 months. A year ago this time I was thinking about driving a cement truck for a living. These days I am looking forward to making the deal of a lifetime. In fact, there are two of them in the making for me and I couldn't be more pleased.

    I don't want to say too much about either deal, but they both put me deeply into the technology of entertainment. I had some vague idea that I wanted to do this when I left Hyperion, but I didn't think that it would go quite this way. I'm very pleased that it has come around in this direction. Basically one puts me fairly deep into the burgeoning world of digital arts in China, the other is a new innovative type of website stateside. As I move forward in these two ventures, I'll have less time for blogging, and when I'm in China, I probably will have no time at all.

    Thinking about myself working and living in China is having a profound effect on the way I look at myself, the world and America. Interestingly enough, the more I consider all the probabilities of cultural dissonance, the more excited I get about it. Snychronicity becomes all the more sweet in such a context. Since I expect to be bringing some of our homegrown technological sensibilities to our China there are many cultural probabilities as well. I think of the parallels and divergences between the American and Soviet space programs. What we called Space, they called the Cosmos. Comparing philosophies about the role of information technology in the fabric of society will be a fascinating subject to explore. I can hardly wait.

    Crossing this river will definitely put me on the other side of big balling. I've been waiting 4 years for this move. I'm more ready in several ways than I was before, but I can't say I didn't deserve it then. I just hope everything works out as planned. We shall see.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:42 AM | TrackBack

    October 28, 2004

    Blue Moon

    I don't love baseball in particular so much as I love playoff sports in general. During the regular season, I almost never pay attention to any of the major league sports. The only exception is when I'm traveling and I'm stuck in a hotel somewhere. I'll go to bed with ESPN on. The rest of the time, it's always miraculous to me when I tune into the sports radio channels at the end of the season and these men just talk so intelligently about the character of what has transpired. I don't have a clue about what has been going on all year, and in two hours I know everything. I always wished politicians were as forthcoming as sports announcers and coaches.

    The wonder of sports is that when you pay attention, you always know what's going on even though you never know what to expect. There's nothing quite like the spontanaity of a wining play and instantly millions of people know the exact same thing at the exact same time. Of course we all experienced that moment last night under an occluded moon.

    What I like about baseball in particular is its precision and its ability to create drama. It's like no other sport in that regard, as the possibilities narrow, drama increases. Every moment you play the odds. I never understood that as a kid. I didn't play until I was 13 and really didn't understand any of the nuances. I was a football kid. Tactics, speed and power. I was also a basketball kid: style, interconnection, spontenaity. Baseball is strategy, probabilities, execution.

    Now the season's over and I'm going to try and resist buying an $80 Red Sox jersey.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:38 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    October 27, 2004

    Bosox Injection

    I am really enjoying the World Series this year, and I hope the Red Sox sweep. I've had a number of life altering experiences in Boston, one of them being drunk in the bleachers at Fenway Park. OK I wasn't so drunk as the louts around me, but I did hit the beach ball with more enthusiasm than sobriety.

    Go Sox!

    Posted by mbowen at 11:08 AM | TrackBack

    October 18, 2004

    Miramar Air Show: Part Two

    Now it goes without saying that on base, you are likely to find a large number of military personnel. Although I'm sort in the mood for it now, at the time I didn't feel like walking up to any officers and asking them to tell me an Iraq story. As a matter of fact I wasn't in a particularly patriotic or political mood. I was just dad, there to take my niece and my three bad kids to see some kickass jets. But I wasn't so oblivious in Dad Mode to notice that I didn't see one, not one Kerry / Edwards sticker, t-shirt or henna tatoo. I did see a lot of Veterans for Bush stickers and a number of W 2004 caps. And that's about all I'm going to say about that.

    Well, maybe not. Because this year people seemed rather defensive of what generally goes unsaid at these events. Like please rise and remove your hats when the national anthem is sung. It wasn't the usual thing done as a matter of course, it was a kind of don't you realize who the fuck we are, dammit? I know this is the kind of attitude that completely wigs some folks out. It gave me a little bit of the creeps myself, as this particular announcer went on to lecture us about it not being the poet but the soldier who give us the right to free speech, etc - you've heard that before at I don't particularly like my intelligence insulted or my patriotism called into question. Such are the raw wounds of this political season. I'm fairly sure this particular announcer went on to say something about rather being subject to domestic surveillance than reporting to OBL, but I tuned out like most of the people around me. We just wanted to see the jets. Just announce the next flyer and get off the mic.

    I took each of the three brats on their own personal tour of the facilities. In the middle of F9's turn, the mock invasion was in full force. There were three Hueys, a couple Chinooks and a pair of CH-53s circling on station when the booms came. I had previously seen the Howitzer and I know that one goes 4 rounds per minute (although the grunt at the display said their crew could do 9). But these booms were coming a bit faster and they were thumping me in the chest half a click away. So I couldn't figure out what dummy ammo was going off but it was fairly thrilling to get a taste of the psychological fear of being ambushed. Considering what a small force this is (the announcer kept say light armor this and auxiliary that) I could get a feel for shock and awe. Similarly, I can see how badass militias must feel when they get their hands on some elementary mortars. So we hurried back to our spot on the ramp just in time to see the patented 'Wall of Fire', which put a couple hundred yards of 50 foot fireballs in the air. Yes you could feel the heat from way back. I'll have more thoughts about military activity later.

    As the afternoon drew on, the clouds began to break and sunlight was showing through. Just in time too, because now as we sat down after the guys in the tanks and APCs drove by we were just about ready for some real action. So they sent us an F16.

    Finally, this is the moment we've been waiting for, clear skies, fast, loud jets and afterburner action. There was only one, but man did it raise a racket. I don't know, there's just something about the incredible noise and power of these aircraft that puts me in a whole 'nother place. And I was there with the hundreds of others around me. I spent a lot of time poking around the nacelles of the parked vehicles marvelling at the engineering, but there's nothing like the scream and thunder of that bad boy at full throttle - two magnitudes greater than anything we'd heard all day.

    Now I remember the old days when the announcers had no problem saying, this jet pilot is going to execute a nuclear airburst manuever. They would do an inside loop at xhundred feet and then go into a full afterburner climb, twist out at the top and run like hell in the direction from which they came. These days there's a lot more pretty smoke and nice announcments, but an afterburning F-16 is what it is, and awesome fighting machine. And if you could possibly forget that, if you were so dense as to believe that the US military isn't serious business, a two minute demonstration would bring you back to reality, (as my mother would say) quick, fast and in a hurry.

    Next up was the Harrier. I've been a big fan of the Harrier way before it was reality. I used to read the old books about the future of aviation and I really enjoyed the idea of V/STOL the most. I still get annoyed when I hear about problems with the Osprey which I remain convinced is far superior to all these old Chinooks and Sikorskys in every way. But the Harrier did all it needed to in the Faulklands, so why don't we have more of them? Well, it's a ground support aircraft, and we've been chickenshit of ground war for a couple decades. Understandable but shortsighted. Do we have anything to follow on after the Warthog? I'll leave that as an exercise - let me not get too editorial here. The Harrier took off in about 2000 yards for the first demo and then sped away. It's damned fast and pretty loud too, number two on the day after the F16 Fighting Falcon.

    The crowning event, as is customary, is the flight of the Blue Angels. They didn't disappoint. It almost surprised me that they were the only demonstration team that performed the two plane head-on pass that flipped to knife edge at the last second. Then when I saw, it still took my breath away. They've still got the skill. Even so, there was something about the way that military pilot before flew that F-16 that let me know we have some serious skills in reserve. The precision formation flying, whether with four planes or all six, was flawless. Big cheers all around.

    Well, by 4pm I was dog tired and ready to break out and drive about two hours home. But I had to take my niece back to Pasadena, make that 3 hours. I got back to the parking lot and soon discovered why so many people think military intelligence is oxymoronic. It took me sitting in the parking lot for 40 minutes without moving a whole car length for me to get up and start squawking. The grunts had no radios and no idea what was holding up traffic. Fine. I called 911 for the CHP. The dispatch officer informed me that on base, we were essentially prisoners of the MPs. There was nothing that could be done. I ended up forming an adhoc posse of people with walkies to communicate what was going on in the mile of road leading from the base.

    This was one of those situations in which you realize that American freedom is really different from American initiative. If there had been an accident - if somebody had a stroke or needed emergency hospitalization, I know that several people, especially me, would have gotten things moving. But short of that, people honked horns, grumbled in the faces of the grunts and sat in their cars disgusted, but listening to their cd players. In otherwords, did nothing. One guy told me it took 4 hours last year to get out of the lot. The upside was that the sky was clear, the twilight show was on and the Patriots flight team was now more than making up for their earlier pathetic performance.

    We finally got onto the main drag about 2 hours after first trying. I never really got a satisfactory answer, nor did the CHP follow up with me. The only traffic MP who knew anything blamed it on traffic off-base. But since I spent my time trying to solve the problem, I didn't feel like it was a total waste of time.

    It was a very good day, and I'll be going back next time. I'll know to get reserved seats and especially to get preferred parking. On the other hand, if Edwards opens up then I'm definitely going there.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:33 AM | TrackBack

    October 17, 2004

    Multidimensional Punishment

    Last straw. Wit's end. Last nerve.

    My kids have taken me to the brink of sanity, which is the same place as the brink of madness, which is three steps beyond thoughtcrime. It's a good thing Microsoft doesn't sell thought recognition software; Jr G-Men would have had a hell of an Exhibit A this afternoon.

    I tend to forget how cool I am, going way back to high school. I get it from my father's stoicism. But I know how restrained I must be considering the fact that I already had a handful of 10 year old neck I was squeezing. Suffice it to say I finally figured out the tone of voice to express my disgust. I told them in the car on the way home that I would be thinking of ways to punish them for at least an hour. That shut them up.

    I lined them up in the kitchen and explained that they had 4 punishments. And if they did enough right, maybe, just maybe they could work their way out of one. They don't choose.

    Punishment One: Five dollar fine.
    Simple, easy, final, outsized. Considering that most fines are a quarter, I'm pretty sure that hit home.

    Punishment Two: No TV
    Their favorite show is America's Funniest Videos. I'm going to erase it off the Tivo as well. A nice irrevocable one.

    Punishment Three: No BBQ
    I fixed myself a nice juicy steak with fresh mixed veggies. They will be eating Cheerios for dinner. Easy for me, humiliating for them. I think this one is pretty good. Anyone out there have a recipe for gruel?

    Punishment Four: No Desert
    This is the one they can work out of if the house is spotless by 7pm. I bought a cherry pie and a pan of double fudge brownies. So this will be extra sweet either way it turns out.

    I thought of another punishment that I'll have to reserve for later, which is a daddy's dress day. That means that they'll have to wear clothes I pick out for a day at school.

    Man I feel like Cypher in the Matrix, except this New York Strip is real.

    These are all variations on the theme of food, clothing, shelter and privileges, pointing them towards the understanding that if they can't hold up their end of the deal as children, that I could very well be doing something else myself. I think it will help them to see how much above the minimum they are - I just have to stop trying for them to feel the pain. So far, it's working.

    Posted by mbowen at 04:31 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    Miramar Air Show: Part One

    miramar.jpgI'm into day three of running ther house without the spousal unit. It's too bad but she's out in NYC with her sisters having a good time. This weekend I wanted us all to be together. The reason? Air show.

    The Miramar is the last big air show of the year in California. Edwards was cancelled because of Homeland Security concerns, and we completely missed Pt. Mugu. (We were at Cachuma) Vandenberg's show looked relatively pathetic and listed so many security restrictions it didn't seem worth it at all. So Miramar it was.

    If you didn't know, Miramar Marine Corps Air Station is the scene for the actual Top Gun training for American fighter pilots. If memory serves me correctly, most start at Patuxent River in Florida and if they're really good, they come to Miramar. I could be wrong about all that, but I wouldn't be the first. My first ever fishing trip was to Lake Miramar and I really couldn't focus on the bass for all the F14s and A4s flying overhead. The place is fairly huge but not quite as far off the beaten path as one would expect. Just a few miles off the 805 split from the 5 north of San Diego, you quickly get into the bush. On the flightline you can see basically off into infinity to the south-southwest as if there were no such thing as San Diego within a thousand miles.

    If you've never been to an airshow, it's kind of upscale tailgate party complete with corporate tents, military equipment displays, and of course aircraft doing all kinds of crazy things in the sky (and damned close to the ground). I haven't been to one since I was a kid, or so it seems. There were a lot of things I noticed.

    First of all, the crowd was huge. We got there just as the place opened and we had to march a half mile from the parking lot in front of Hanger 6 over to the control tower a couple hangars and ramps east. There were at least a thousand people in front of us and behind us as we finally got down to waiting and talking speed. The kids and I went into our elaborate handgames routine as we do in such situations. We've gotten a little rusty since June at Sea World. But we managed to make enough fun for the 20 minute wait as MPs squeezed everyone through 2 metal detectors.

    We set our folding chairs at the West Ramp freebie area three rows from the very front. Nice. The selection of foodstuffs was surprisingly limited considering that they didn't allow people to bring coolers or backpacks in. In fact, the amount of corporate marketing at this airshow was really rather astounding. Pepsi, Dove Bars and some San Diego radio stations dominated. Wells Fargo and KFC had huge custom shooting stages - you know the kind where they give away something free and you sign your life away for the opportunity to be caught in a 'candid' moment consuming their product. So it wasn't tailgate quality in terms of food.

    The people were all very civil and orderly, as one would expect from a hundred thousand patriotic Americans of all stripes coming to check out the hardware. And boy was their plenty. As soon as you come through the gates, there's a B1-B sitting right in front of you. Then a C-5 Galaxy you could walk through. A B-52 Stratofortress to the left, and then a couple Air Force transport planes, a C-141 and another smaller one all in very cool grey with black insignia. F9 and I climbed into the cockpit of the 141 which was comfy and modern.

    There were a half dozen F14 Tomcats of course, a Predator UAV and a new large stealthy one from Grumann got a lot of attention. A T-32 sat at the end of a row of fighters. Then there were whirlybirds. Probably the most impressive machine to me that sat on the ground, besides the new ATF was this huge ugly Sikorsky CH-53. It truly looks like it's both a huge Rube Goldberg contraption and yet completely designed for function. The rotor assembly is awe inspiring complexity - you keep wondering which parts of it are stressed and how. Well you do if you think like a pseudo-engineer as I often do.

    One of the things that impresses me these days about these aircraft and their technology is how small they appear up close. As I crawled inside the bomb bay of a B-52 I kept thinking to myself - this is it? There doesn't seem to be enough space to unleash any destruction at all. These things are just big busses - the technology action is all in the payload. That the B1 has a bigger payload (if not double) just seems obvious. As much maligned as the B1 was, it's actually a gorgeous machine.

    But none of that compared to the flyby of the B2 stealth bomber. The B2 is by far the most impressive piece of technology you can imagine. As it approached from the east, it looked simply like a thin black line, a crease in the sky. It couldn't be head until it was 3 seconds away and then as it passed it was thunderous - a whole lot louder than I or anyone expected. On the third or so pass, when it was directly above, its profile is simply menacing. This aircraft has a serious psychological effect. It looks almost unreal, like nothing like that should be in the air and now that you're seeing it for real, something very scary is about to happen. Speaking of scary, I should mention momentarily that on the first day of the show, there was a crash of one of the prop pilots. He later died of his injuries. And though there was plenty of dangerous stuff going on Saturday, there were no mishaps. Well one, but I'll talk about that later.

    The sky was overcast with a cieling of about 1500 feet, so when the Patriot flying team sponsored by FRY'S ELECTRONICS came out to perform, it was something of a snoozer. In fact it was downright boring. Everybody has seen barrel rolls done at 300 feet off the deck at 400 knots. BFD. Evidently they had a low altitude show. And these jets weren't even that loud. Plus they blew the second formation flyby. It made Fry's look really stupid. I was beginning to think this whole day was a low-calorie event.

    But then they brought out the MiG-17. Now it's no secret that this machine beat the pants off some of our flyers in Vietnam, but I kept it a secret that I loved this plane more than the F-111 and the Starfighter. Mostly because of what even a kid like me was able to hear about their maneuverability. The MiG flew circles around American planes back in the day, and it did a few circles today. Still under a low cieling it made some awesome turns. Still, I was missing the power climbs...

    Two highlights of the early show were the jet truck and Sean Tucker's Oracle Challenger. Firstly, the jet truck is so typically American, you'd think OK I get it, three jet engines on a truck, big whoop. Then you see these hundred foot flames shooting out the back and huge clouds of steam he creates, then he pops the afterburner and you get this visceral throbbing. The damned thing does better than 350 mph on the ground. Awesome. It's one of those things that just has to be seen, and yes he raced the MiG down the runway.

    I've seen pictures of this red biplane before. My first thought is, 'crass commercialism' - Larry Ellison is at it again. Then Tucker flies the thing, which was apparently built from scratch to be the highest performance biplane ever. Just words, until you see it. OK, I had seen aerobatics before - on many occasions I had watched the legendary Art Scholl do a hammerhead in his Super Chipmunk back in the day, and I never thought I'd see his equal. Sean Tucker is like the Tony Hawk of the sky. He does stuff that just defies the imagination, let alone sensible aerodynamics. 'Pushing the envelope' doesn't describe what he does. He rips the envelope to shreds and burns the pieces with a blowtorch.

    He doesn't do a hammerhead, he does a double hammerhead at the end of an outside loop and then does two full barrel rolls coming out of the stall pointing straight at the ground at something like 900 feet and then pulls 9Gs to avoid splatting on the runway. He has a move that he calls Holy Hellfire which is all but impossible to describe. Suffice it to say that he leaves corkscrew smoke trails and the move includes a flat spin somewhere in the middle. He also has a stunt in which he keeps the plane pointing straight in the air without moving for 5 seconds, then he starts going backwards, straight down. The way he tumbles this plane is astounding. I can see why you probably won't be able to find any videos of it online, not that it would do the performance any justice. It's simply mind boggling.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:53 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    October 15, 2004

    Daddy Duty

    The spousal unit is on vacay. That means I am responsible for the care and feeding of several younguns. Yeah they all belong to me. I'm sorta proud ot them too, except at 7 in the morning when they are walking around like zombies completely out of their senses. Where are your socks? Socks?

    Clearly this is going to affect the quality of my blogging. You have been warned.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:06 AM | TrackBack

    October 10, 2004

    There's Hope For M10 After All

    My boy is a junkie. But I don't despair. There's hope.

    Video game skills and a good poker face online are becoming essential job qualifications in the financial markets, with recruitment drives assessing potential star traders in online gaming exams.

    Geneva Trading recruits need to be quick on the mouse. This is especially true where electronic trading arcades have replaced traditional trading pits.

    On the noisy floor of London's International Petroleum Exchange, boisterous pit traders strike deals for Brent crude futures under the time-honoured "open outcry" system.

    "You've obviously got to be cool under pressure" said one trader, "and mentally alert. But I wouldn't have thought training people on GameBoys would help you down there."

    But those game skills, developed despite parental fears for their offspring's social development, are exactly what is required for a lucrative future on the digital trading floor.


    Posted by mbowen at 04:12 PM | TrackBack

    How Not To Answer A Question

    I think I understand why Stanley Crouch punches people in the mouth. Self-importance can really be a pain in the ass. Having never been copyedited myself, I shudder to think if someone like Mark Twain had an editor, that said editor considered his tweaking a mark of superiority. I find the prospect of suffering such chiggers completely loathesome, especially if they were 'colleagues'.

    When I spoke to Star Parker last night, she mentioned something that sounds a bit familiar. When she writes for Scripps-Howard, her words must be repurposed if they are to be used outside of their control. There's a good chance that I'll never get to write for a nice fancy publishing house, which I could die happy knowing. But what a burden it must be to be the bearer of contemptuous eyes. Vetted though one may be by guardians of formalism, one still suffers the stinging little bites. And such words are to be more powerful than the sword?

    Ahh what the heck. We all relish a little verbal combat, I suppose. But the fact that some have decided to restrict the diversity of their activity as humans strictly to verbal combat ought to recognize, intellects they must be, that unilateral disarmament carries with it certain risks. And in a world where maintaining one's reputation in itty bitty literary circles of New York hangs on words, it must be awfully tempting to quote the Notorious BIG. Touch my chedda feel my Baretta.

    It's a wonder that being well-read in and of itself seems to be a pre-requisite for being considered sufficiently knowledgeable to be held as relatively serious. And yet if there is no universal standard (which I'm sure none would assert) what is the point? A writer writes, and sometimes a writer fights. But what's the point of writing if your audience is to be so steeply stewed in literature that everything merits criticism? Why not just quote the Bible and leave it at that? Well, because experience counts. Writers have to live and then spew, and so what if that spew stinks? Does everything invite comparison? This is a question I needn't have answered, because I don't care. Much.

    What's better? A thick skin, a plastic ego or a quick left? Don't ask me, I make my money in a far less subjective world. Thank God.

    Anyway I suppose all that is an object lesson in why academics and other writers-for-a-living probably stay away from this raucous and wild place known as the blogosphere. It can get ugly, even among the refined.

    It certainly would be a shame if the blogosphere would degenerate into incestuous slapboxing. It's part of the risk of being connected. But it's rather annoying to see that we often opine without being connected - I mean what's the point of having the technology if it's not exploited for what it does best which is transcending time and space while still leaving enough distance to be brutally honest and otherwise transparent? Of course doing so makes people realize how insignificant they are, which can be disconcerting. Enough.

    Speaking of all that, Derrida is dead. Long live Ernest Gaines.

    Posted by mbowen at 01:48 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    October 07, 2004

    Tears of the Sun

    The Tivo served up a selection of Bruce Willis movies based on the preferences I ascribe. Works for me. And so over the past couple nights, I've been allowing my emotions to be manipulated by a heart-wrenching story of a prototypical hardball American Special Forces Lieutenant with a soft creamy center. He goes off mission to rescue two dozen refugees from a village caught in the middle of a savage civil war. It has a happy ending.

    Watching this film goes a long way in describing what I believe about the character of Americans and American soldiers, and the principles behind the story are those I support for our can-do troops.

    There is a tangible tension I am constantly feeling in this film between the priorities of following orders in the context of what keeps soldiers alive and implementing a military strategy, and using those skills to do right in the context of what's in front of your face. It's the most basic of human dilemmas. Can one afford to step out from the safety of society to do a good deed? Surely soldiers must feel as Willis' character did - he hardly knows if what he's doing is good any longer. He simply bears heavy witness to the cruelty of combat and does everything possible to keep his men alive and well.

    No matter what American soldiers are ordered or allowed to do, I think we all understand that they are basically good people doing dangerous and necessary work. Yet that sentiment tends to disappear as rank increases. No character is so routinely villified as the General. The General is a stock villain in just about every movie I can think of since 'Patton'. It's a contradiction which is apparent in our politics, but since we have an even higher figure, the President, behind all of this we have shifted the fault up the chain.

    It was true of the reports about Abu Ghraib. It was true about the 'failure' to secure the Turkish incursion route. It was true about the interpretation of intelligence reports. Americans all want to blame the big guy at the top. I think that's the reason Kerry felt confident that he could suggest that we led a 'Coalition of the Bribed'. Yike.

    But aside from the capture of Saddam himself we have had almost no news whatsoever about the actions of Majors, Lieutenants, Captains or Generals. What are they doing out there? To hear the news, they are standing around misunderstanding and insulting Iraqis or just dying senselessly. I can't say that I've been watching television news which may have captured some of this mid-level action and decision-making, but all the debate these days is centered on Presidents lying and grunts dying. This elementary school picture of war leaves us all at a serious disadvantage.

    For people like me who support the entire theoretical thrust of the PNAC vision of international intervention, I am left with simply that: theory. I have no way of knowing how troops are working in the field, what objectives they are pursuing and how well the execution of those actions are going. I've complained about this before. For people like (oh I don't know whom, stand up and identify yourself), this same absence of coverage requires them to judge the entire context of the war based on the inconsistencies of the promises going in and the bad news coming out. It completely ignores the dynamic of war itself and leaves all of us with no real accurate way of determining whether or not soldiers are actually doing a good job. For all of us it's a slam dunk based upon an outcome we predict - which will never come in time for a realistic political decision.

    In the meantime, things like movies about soldiers substitute for live coverage on the ground that our current class of journalists are completely unprepared for. Please remember that note as well - everyone in all the media outlets will tell you that they are doing the best job humanly possible, but there is a reason that Al Jazeera has made a name for itself in this conflict. It has to do with real American chickenheart reporters who don't have enough first hand material to do much more than use theories like the rest of us.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:57 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

    September 30, 2004

    Fishbone, Monk & Mingus

    Back in the day, while I was still Talented Tenth but not yet through the more radical phases of Black Mental Liberation, I used to wonder what kind of white man I would resemble. In every black man's vocab is found 'cool white boy', although these days on XBox Live I more often hear 'white niggas'. Be that as it may, at one point or another I believe all of us think about trading skins.

    This is different from trading places, it's just the whole what would I look like if I was white and still the same person. Naturally, one would be a 'cool white boy'. So after some time engaging in this fantasy I finally figured out the type I would want to look like, if I had the reverse Watermelon Man power. It turned out to be Eddie Rabbit. I thought about this yesterday upon seeing a picture of Sir Richard Branson because he has that same kind of look, at least to me. The other person who has it is Chuck Norris. Redford has it now but he had always been just too pretty. So there you have it. I would have a kind of redheaded, blue-eyed weatherbeaten cowboy look and very likely to be wearing facial hair.

    Since I haven't thought about this for a long time, over 20 years in fact, it surprised me when I went to the Charlie Hunter & Bad Plus concert to see how the fashion has changed from the 1980 version of Eddie Rabbit. See the house was packed, but there were only 3 black heads in the room - one of them Hunter's drummer. The rest of the young hipsters have a look I now know but not well enough to describe in their own argot. Yet it reminded me of how I often felt way back in the day at Fishbone concerts.

    Fishbone is the black rock & roll band. If you don't know who they are, I would say that your understanding of modern rock is severely crippled, especially if you think the Red Hot Chili Peppers have any talent. Fishbone and the Peppers were the hottest bands in LA back in '84. Both have lasted to this day, one in the sun of popularity the other in shadow. If Fishbone has a flaw it is that they never had a song that girls would like to dance to. Or put another way, back in the days when there was Wendy O Williams and everybody else, there weren't many chicks who'd accompany you to the mosh at a Fishbone concert. A black girl? Perish the thought. There were maybe 5 out of 3000, three were with the band, one didn't know where she was and I married the fifth.

    Where is Fishbone today? I have no idea. Fish was one of the greatest rock drummers ever. But the point is that they were out there in territory that aint mainstream, nor even mainstream black.

    To the extent that one's identity comes from this modern sense of affiliation and fan loyalty, not to mention inspiration, it has always been somewhat disconcerting to me that we black rockers were dipped in the buttermilk. It wasn't that we minded our company, but that we were alienated from our homes and homeboys. Then again, isn't that what much music is all about? Fishbone was all about too much energy for cool. They weren't smooth. They were happy rage.

    Being a part of the Fishbone world put me on the edge, if not the outs with the Talented Tenth. And my love for them, as well as for the angular crankiness of Monk and Mingus is part of the reasons I consider myself on the progressive edge of the previously proud group formerly known as the Talented Tenth.

    Pops is about to put together a seminar on Monk and Mingus. So he asked me to whip him up a DVD full of mp3s. I have just shy of seven hours of recordings. I also have the 'Straight No Chaser' video, and I swear it's still a marvel to watch Monk play 'Just a Gigolo' solo.

    If alienation and rebellion are part and parcel of brilliance, then it means a great deal for the individual. And yet what is a concert but a gathering of individuals who are different from the world in the same way? One cannot help but look around to see who else shares the love. We can all buy the same T-shirt, but then we spread out and disappear into the interstices of modern life.

    No conclusion...

    Posted by mbowen at 08:20 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

    September 29, 2004

    Cool Kids Games

    I've just discovered a blogger out of Iowa who has some pretty cool kids games posted up on his blog. Check them out. I especially like 'Muscle Man'.

    Bring an over-sized sweatshirt for each team. Also bring about 10-15 small balloons for every 4 kids in your group. Have each team choose a guy representative or use leaders, and ask them to put on the sweatshirt. The object is to make a muscle man by blowing up, tying and stuffing as many balloons into the shirt of the guy until he is as muscular as possible. Give them about 2 minutes. Determine the winner by a panel of judges. The first guy to break all his balloons by himself is also declared a winner.

    When I become 'Uncle Mike', my all time winner at birthday parties is the Crusty Crab Race. The key is crabwalking. Get a kid to sit on the floor with their feet in front of them, knees bent, and their palms flat on the floor. Then they lift themselves up leaving their arms straight and pushing their hips up. This is the basic crab position. Now crawl. Try forwards and backwards. Try sideways. If they're really good, try elephant crabbing where one side is in the air at once instead of corners. You can do sprints, laps and relays. Hands get nice and dirty. Kids love it.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:58 AM | TrackBack

    September 28, 2004

    Defiance Deferred

    I've been thinking about what I might do if I were kidnapped and prepared for beheading.

    For the longest time, predating this crisis, I was confident that I would be defiant. I would find some clever way of disguising my voice and dropping hints that I would be glad to be sacrificed for the cause of my captors. In fact, the model of the voice I would use would be that of Robert Townsend's Stepin Fetchit from the film 'Hollywood Shuffle'. Every American would instantly know that I was acting, although my captors would not.

    My presumption was "Never get caught." Of course I would abandon all hope if I did, and my only hope would be that I was wearing a cellphone that could be traced. Bomb this location would be my call. I'd want Americans to take out the bastards who took me out. But no more.

    Now I am so contemptuous that I wouldn't be caught in the same hemisphere as those rogues in their rogue nations. I don't want to sacrifice jack. I believe there are things called 'standoff weapons'. That's what I want to do, stand off to the side and lob shells.

    I find myself, in recognition of the exaggerated cesspool American reporters claim Iraq to be, increasingly irritated at those elements who have demonstrated their ability to wreak havoc. It is part of my growing awareness of our interconnectedness as humans. I was thinking yesterday, in light of some of the fabulous opportunities I have been offered lately, exactly what it is that makes me worth now at the age of 43 that I was lacking 5 years ago. It is that sense of the preciousness of human interrelations. I am loathe to let people get away from me unrecognized. We all need each other, and I do feel this profoundly. Just as profoundly however is the understanding of the social contract which undergirds this basic need. Our disposition to each other is based upon a very loose trust, one which is rarely verified, that we will do each other no harm. Breaking that social contract can be unforgiveable.

    What is astounding is that whole tribes of people can behave so reprehensibly that destruction of the social contract is an everyday occurrance. I am told that kidnapping of Iraqis by Iraqis is so commonplace that they take joy that Europeans and Americans are suffering likewise. I hardly believe half what I am told of Iraq, but it is difficult to explain the continuing chaos could persist and deepen without the moral capitulation of the majority of the nation's men. There is, of course, the important proviso that the Iraqi Army has been scattered to the four winds and perhaps it takes a lot more work to make in the Sunni Triangle what has been maintained in Kurish Mosul. But the capitulation is undeniable.

    I don't want to be anywhere near there. My life is not for sacrifice, although I certainly understand and respect those who soldier in my stead. I am one of those who cannot stomach the destruction of society, I rage at the rip of the social fabric. I would overkill.

    Today I am despondant that our journalists are mostly of my type. And I find it difficult to believe that their organizations are capable of putting them where those of us who take democracy seriously would need them to be. I want a War Channel, all battlefield coverage all the time. I want to see from Iraq what I see on 'Cops' and 'Americas Wildest Police Chases'. I want cameras and eyeballs on the ground watching these 'insurgents' ply their brutal trade. I want a soldier's eye view of what it's like to stand post in New Barbaria. I want to see the Humvee chase of the mad mullahs. But we won't see that, because most American journalists are bourgie like me. Perhaps like me they used to be ready for sacrifice, but how will we ever know? They just talk about car bombings. They're scared to cover them.

    Iraq has been dark for a long time. I always assume that the fog of war is somewhat impenetrable. We know we've won. We know there's chaos. We know our own body counts. What some Americans don't know, or refuse to acknowledge, is how we are showing ourselves to be a great country. How our president has forced some of us to sacrifice for the greater order of Iraq - to give them the opportunity to repair their social fabric. It's going to take a long time for them to organize and muster their courage and beat down their own barbarians. But it will inevitably be worth it. Those of us who hold human interrelations sacred understand that implicitly.

    Posted by mbowen at 06:52 AM | TrackBack

    September 27, 2004


    I have encountered the Blue Screen of Death.

    Please Standby.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:04 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

    September 25, 2004

    That is That and This is This

    Mumbling aloud here.

    The predominating theme is too much work, not enough help, not enough time. I need to meet more people like me who can do the kind of work I get offered but cannot possibly do on my schedule. But that woman on whose finger I put five diamonds told me to forget about all that an have another martini. At least I made one good choice.

    The house is clean; the boy is with his cousin on his way to Raging Waters with Uncle Deet. We dropped the sisters off at Kids Night at the Y and then immediately headed to the bar at Claim Jumper. The new game I'm going to play is see how many olives I can cadge off the bartender. The less I respect them, the more I'll get. Tonight was a seven. Meanwhile the seared ahi was bomb-like and the shrimp was very nice.

    Previously I put together a foundling desk that M10 and the spousal unit rescued from God knows where. A couple L brackets and a nicely bruised thumb later, voila. A desk for the kids' new Dell. As I rant on against the digital divide, I understand that those who are information poor still think they have to purchase from Best Buy, while us penny pinching snots get ours for $145 a pop at Computer Show Dot Com. Nobody needs more thatn 800MHz. Nobody needs more than 6 cylinders. Nobody needs more than 3 bedrooms. Them Joneses is wack, fuck 'em.

    It turns out that things are looking up in the music department. Truth be told, Charlie Hunter was eclipsed by The Bad Plus in real life and his 'Friends Unseen' CD wasn't all that hot either. I guess if you don't see him play, it doesn't seem so incredible, but this was also a piss poor recording, muddy as a swamp. Consequently, only the blues tunes sounded good. But Paco de Lucia is delivering on his two CDs in the recently recieved Amazon pack. Right after I publish this badboy, it's off to James Earl Jones' King Lear. Holy smokes it looks captivating. Oh. By the way Modest Mouse' second single is on MTV. I'm so pleased.

    I cannot recommend highly enough that you arrive slightly toasted to see 'Shaun of the Dead'. You'll enjoy it that much more, not that you wouldn't but instead of it being merely hilarious, you'll throw up laughing. Maybe it's just me, but everything seems so much funnier if you feel you must stifle vomit. Think '28 Days Later' played completely for laughs. It seems that the Brits have all the wit these days, and yes it's subtly funny. Put it on the level of 'Clerks'.

    Did I mention how difficult it is to unzip your jeans after you've slammed your thumb with a hammer? You could piss your pants if you're not careful. You realize of course I'm going to be completely nuts this weekend. I still have friggen work to do. Poorman gets included in a college seminar and I'm wasting time being serious? Ha. From now on, weekends are made for Michelob.

    Anyway, I hear King Lear ends bad, but I want to see it anyway. Later.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:36 PM | TrackBack

    September 24, 2004

    The Impluse

    "When the world gets too much to carry
    And when life becomes to bizarre
    And all my friends seem ordinary
    As compared to the Rastafar"

    -- Bobby Caldwell

    You don't understand. I'm a writer. I do other things for fun, but I am most happy when I am turning a phrase.

    Before online, I was the guy sitting in the coffee shop or the cafe ignoring everybody around him and scribbling notes on a quadrille pad. When I wasn't writing, I was reading. And I'd be sitting in the middle of a crowd and asking myself what the chances were that speaking to that woman would be more fruitful than reading another stanza of Borges. Like Borges I dreamed a world and lived in that dreamworld.

    Nobody wants to sit and listen to me talk. The impulse to share what's on my mind with the person next to me has been completely sublimated and transformed to a complex and subtle level of impenetrable socialization. Furthermore, I'm not interested in what you have to say because you'll be entirely incapable of saying it in a way that would magnetize readers to the page. I'll hear your story out and then make it connect in my nearly infinite reperatoire.

    Furthermore, I am an outcast writer. It would be more accurate to say that I am beneath contempt of writers because like the curly blondes that escape the bikini lines of Baywatch babes, I spit this stuff out naturally with an effort which is asymptotic to digestion. Every attention I get from not working hard is a spike in the palms of those who write to be paid. If I never get paid for this verbiage, I will not have failed. I'm not anxious. I'm oblivious to literary criticism; I've only bothered to capitalize in the past two years.

    I am reconciled to this. I expect almost nothing. I am satisfied to have the entire blog, the entire online set of works just to remind me of what I've already said. Maybe one day I'll rate an anthropologist, but I don't hope for it. I am a pack rat of ideas. I am a transcriber of transient impressions. I am an archivist of syllogisms. I am a time traveler with earlier and later selves and writing is my time machine.

    I'll only have 4 or 5 brilliant ideas in my life. People will get sick of listening to me in due time. But I still think that I'm better than Ethel Mertz.

    When life becomes too bizarre, when people are focused on the ridiculous and I don't feel like grabbing their attention on this plane - on the Cobbian, upper middle class doohicky voice - then maybe I'll go back to creative writing. So I was thinking about, and actually jumped into that voice for a hot minute this afternoon before you asked me to discover the joys of cooking. I'm not going to finish it today because my hands are sweaty. I just found out that my two new Dells are on the FedEx truck, plus I have a date at the Whale and Ale tonight. Still, there's novels in there to be written when I get sick of SQL and Perl.

    You wanna see some?

    When I was a young brainy idiot who had boxes of college recruitment bulk mail in my bedroom, but had already dropped out of college, I started talking the vernacular. I had to in order to fit in, but I already did fit in. These people were, after all, the people I had grown up with. What was different was now I was spending all day with them instead of just playtime hours after school. I was working a place called Fedco - something special in the annals of black LA which nobody seems to be capturing except for me, Wanda Coleman and John Singleton. But I ain't loving them hoes.

    The hardest thing about being a brother with a Jheri curl only happened when you opened your mouth and started to speak, that is if you speak out of character for a brother with a Jheri curl. There was a joke about that, that you could hear in the fake British accents of funk stars. Maybe you remember Rockwell. Maybe showers remind him of Psycho too much. He was 5 years late on the joke - we all knew Rick James could speak proper. Shit, he could mack like Teddy Pendergrass if he wanted. Like most black men in 1979, it was easier for me to surf the social waves in silence than to speak and rip perpendicular to the tides of expectations. In fact, I particularly liked the noise my motorcycle made for me when I removed the baffle from the aftermarket exhaust pipe. I was safer in the envelope of rowdy noise; people unable to handle my speed and maneuverability could at least hear me coming, curse and get out of the way.

    "May I have this dance?" That's the way it was supposed to be done whether you were at a house party in Gardena or at a Cotillion at the Marina City Club. But the look I got at the Oakwood Gardens in Mid Wilshire, several blocks north of McArthur Park around the joints where who knows what white kids with money and clout started saying something deep about Ice-T back in the days when he was just another anonymous light-skinned nigga with a perm, that was the shit that did it. It made me realize that I couldn't keep wearing this Jheri Curl and roller discoing with the homegirls forever. Time was going to come when the skinny ghetto nigga look such as I was presenting wasn't hitting on shit. Sooner or later I had to be able to afford membership to Jack LaLannes in West LA because there ain't no college gym nearby. If you were going to get play, it had to be with the ghetto girls. There are sophisticated reasons for that, but it's fair enough to state flatly for now that the college freshmen babes were playing ghetto rules for the last time. That look in her eyes said all that, and she was pissed at me for making her think about which motherfucker I was going to be tonight. I reminded her of both places, neither a buff thug, nor a smooth Kappa with a shag haircut. Next time I'd know better, just grab the girl's arm and start slowdancing; make her pull away physically instead of waiting for a spoken reply.

    Since it was still summer and there was still a Democrat in the White House, there was still big hipped girls from Eastern colleges, schoolboy glasses like Bernard and short afros and throaty voices taking CETA money. One of them just like that brought it to the Virginia Road playground. I don't know how I ended up there. Maybe I was sitting out a game while Suitcase and Boo and the rest of my boys were running the court. But I was there staring her down, her and her white friends who weren't saying anything at all. They were waiting for Act One. Right now was the prelude - the time the black woman gets to speak in front of a pile of children she pretends that she was once like. But none of us are like her but me, because I'm the only one who already knows what 'The Tempest' is all about in the inner-city playground production. She's going to talk all that yang about why black kids need to understand what Shakespeare knows about class and alienation and all that bullshit. I could be Caliban and jump in her face in front of her white friends. What would she say then? Fuck it. I'm going back to play some more basketball.

    Let me throw in the final connection which gets back to the contempt of the pros I assume I am worthy of. I've dissed Kevin Powell so hard somewhere back in the archive that it must still hurt. But there are all these black writers who were supposed to be in New York when I was there looking for them. Except they were all trying to get their poetry published in the New Yorker. And then I read the B-Boys book complete with the misspellings, and I knew shit was fucked up. And then I went to the Upper East Side and listened to Shay Youngblood who was the only one out of her cohort with any talent. And then I watched my girl struggle with a third of a million dollars of debt birthing a magazine that would not be, and all the gang-sign thowing illiterates at the Source and Vibe were another third of the reason. I could tell you about the voice of the woman who wrote for the Lower East Side something rag who never returned my call on an answering machine which must have had audiophile quality tape recording features. There's no excuse. I could tell you about Sekou Sundiata sitting in the shadow of Five Guys Named Moe, but all that would reveal too much about a the broken heart of a broken writer looking for existential partners in the City that Never Weeps.

    I read Drylongso and was released. Don't nobody need it bad enough. I could go out and get shot in the temple and see never a holy word drip through my lips, not a mumbling word. And babies will still be born with no further assistance from my typewritten serenades. Don't nobody need a 'voice'. Maybe they will because people will forget Wole Soyinka, and they'll need somebody to think about while in tomorrows Abu Ghraib. But I shouldn't presume to take God's job. I write and it's fine to be ignored, because people are still capable of making up reasons. Nobody pays enough attention to people's idiotic reasons. Only writers get that much attention, now ain't that a bitch?

    Stop writing. I don't need to. I don't particularly want to. If I couldn't go dead off on the page, I'd pace the walls of my gilded cage and fly upside down like Woodstock. I've been unleashed too long and I'm known to break up fights. What would I do walking the streets and looking at humanity and expecting to interact with them directly based upon what they're doing? I'd have to be a soldier, a double-agent, a psychopath and a televangelist all wrapped up in a pimp suit to do in action what I would in writing. And that's just on Thursdays.

    It's 5pm and I smell hotdogs. See ya.

    Posted by mbowen at 03:47 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    DJ Six0Seven

    I'm thinking about doing something else as a hobby in the mid-term. That may be going back to the basics and playing an instrument, or it may be just mastering the electronics. I'm not really sure.

    What I do know is there's a kind of music that I would like to hear a bit more of - or perhaps I should say that it's something I never tire of. It has a lot to do with Charlie Hunter, but I'll get back to him later. Basically when Sade does a tune with a hiphop beat, that's what I'm talking about - a funked up Cafe Del Mar, or a Laswell that doesn't trip entirely too hard. That's where Sixoseven music is, carrying weight for the cool of the future. Funk, ambient, hiphop and torchy blues.

    It turns out that there are two layers of hope. The first is that Turntablism is ramping up. I'm hopefull that I have the fingers for it and I'm pretty sure that I have the theory. I found a couple of interesting docs. This is the TTM. I don't know how widely adopted it is, but it seems pretty cool. Now I jumped all over hiphop for not getting out of the street, but it looks like some of that is happening for real. The creation of a language that allows turntablism to be transcribed, that's what I'm talking about.

    The second inno is that digital turntables are serious business now. I got to get one of those puppies.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:52 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    September 21, 2004

    Rant Time

    I have had no time whatsoever and I am neglecting all kinds of things and people. I spent 2 hours in traffic heading West home from work today with a huge ball of Sun in my eyeballs - completely unable to see traffic signals and stop signs. Every idiot was aiming to dent up my Chevrolet and I was getting sick of the same songs on the CDs I bother to burn.

    Pops was supposed to be here for dinner so everybody cleaned up the house and suddenly he has a Vestry meeting he forgot. So I'm rushing home (and making no progress) for nothing. There are weevils in the flour so the spousal unit is going to make me fetch some more for the fried chicken- but I was supposed to be BBQing steaks.

    I still haven't gotten paid for more than two of my 16 weeks of work for the second job (of four) that I'm currently working. I know this is like Trump complaining that he's losing money in Jersey, while he's making money in NY but if I didn't complain during the good times, how could I respect myself as a competitor? I've still got bronchitis and I'm sick of coughing like a goddamned geezer. It really makes me angry. Every time I breathe deeply I feel like I'm going to hurl.

    There's a chick who sits across from my fourth desk on the job who is totally distracting to me. I am not, repeat not, accustomed to having incredibly hot babes around me at work. I can't fricking function. And she doesn't have the decency to have a name plate at her desk so I can't figure out her email address. I have to say something to piss her off so that I can get her out of my mind, but I absolutely can't figure out how to do it.

    I have to meet with my accountant and my Quickbooks are two months out of joint. I have to complete my assessment for the new project. My boy wrote a retarded essay about how the native Americans wore shorts and T-shirts after the end of the Ice Age. F9 is complaining that fourth grade is too hard. Some spammer named Bob is driving me up the wall. I am sick of talking about politics and it is interfering with my ability to write decent music reviews. I haven't been online with my gaming clan in over a week and I have completely dropped the ball on the Black Hole thing.

    I need to buy a new linux box, a new latptop, a new for port KVM, a new Hollywood suit and a new car. A guy from Deloitte literally walked up to me and said he could get me a job and I sent him an old lame resume like an ass. My Beijing connection called me and asked me what's up and I stuttered like a damned fool.

    I don't have enough frigging time.

    I tried to eat a fruit salad from McDonald's today. It was just apples, grapes and yogurt and I paid 3 bucks. Fortunately the Chicken McNuggets were on point. I'm still 20 pounds overweight. I pay 67 bucks for a family membership to the Y and none of us have been in 2 months. I'm sitting up here at my desk and a bag of Chips Ahoy is staring me down.

    I'm sure that I have 40 posts in 'Draft' mode on the blog, but I can't get the words out. So I make them into cartoons instead. My fingernails are dirty and I can't find the clippers. Speaking of which, I need to buy a new blade for my electric clippers. They snagged on my head the other day and I had to shave too many millimeters of hair with a razor. That Olivier version of Henry V was a complete waste of $25 and Groove is not synching with my old tired laptop.

    I'll tell you what else is getting on my nerves today. I'm starting to like the really weird Modest Mouse songs on their latest album, and I realized that I have absolutely no Shostakovich. Burnout 3 is sold out everywhere and I still haven't preordered Halo2. eMule is incredibly slow.

    Well, at least Ambra pinged me three times tonight, and Chip and Kim won. Tomorrow is another day. I'm out.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:49 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    Chip & Kim Win!

    OK I admit it. The spousal unit and I have been watching the Amazing Race for the past three weeks and on and off before that. Our team won.

    I don't think I saw anything in the couples that nobody else could see, and I didn't really feel strange about them being black, although I get embarrassed for anyone who stresses out and calls out to Jesus for help. I didn't really start pulling for Chip & Kim until they put the time-out on the Models. Then they were fumbling with the Jeepney parts and barely got out of Manila. So when Brandon got behind the bull and lost his mind, I was jumping for joy.

    Still, I could relate to Chip. He's got big daddy written all over him. He's a big teddy bear, and I know we could hang out. I liked the Bowling Moms too. Being 43, I know I've got a backhand reserved for childless couples, so what can I say? There's definitely an existential thing going on. But I'm really happy for them, and since they're down here in Southern Cal maybe I'll bump into them.

    But wait. He did say that being from Cali, he wasn't ready for the cold. Dang! How can he represent Orange County and be a non-snow bird? What's up with that? Anyway. It's all good. Congrats to Chip and Kim. Good winners. Good people.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:22 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

    The Bad Plus at the Knitting Factory

    I'm clearly not going to be able to transcribe my experience last week at the Knitting Factory. I'd be drafting this post forever. I'll just put it out there. In a word, phenomenal.

    The Bad Plus is an acoustic jazz trio that performs like a rock band. They have, between the three of them, as much dynamic range as an orchestra. The amount of noise, control and wit they display is mind-boggling. At once you want to close your eyes and absorb it all, then you want to shout for them to play a favorite song, and then you want to stare with your mouth open. Then you look at the crowd and see if all the dudes are bopping their heads at the same rhythm that you're feeling. Yep.

    I spent the better part of an hour mesmerized by drummer David King's acrobatics. Using everything from walkie-talkie feedback to tinkle toys, he extracts a pile of clinks, bumps and grinds from his kit that bring to mind the raving staccato of cups against bars in an asylum. His arms seem to be doing the rubber pencil trick. I've never seen cymbals go from full roar to silence in a fraction of a second and then back again in the next. He stands and slams the outside of the cymbals and a half second later he is seated at the hihat with all of the gongs silent, a half second later he's rubbing a stainless steel mixing bowl over the ribs of the kettle drum. What you hear in the end is extraordinary punctuation bracketing playful silences in the midst of Bad Plus music.

    Ethan Iverson, the pianist, suited up, is playing as if he had an entire symphony behind him. He is at once completely in his own world of intricate melodies and in eerie synch with the band. He has a perfect sense of oblivion to the antics of his sidemen, and when watching the trio from behind him, stage left, you get a completely different sense of the band. He runs with his right hand and doesn't play left like a jazz pianist at all not that you'd hear much considering the prodigious work of the bassman, Reid Anderson who manages to hold all this wild energy together. As the writer of most of the material played, Reid knows what works and has an impressive sense of what these three can do.

    I didn't hear my favorite of their tunes from their most recent albums 'Vistas' and "Give' which is called 'Dirty Blonde', but I recognized enough of what they did play to realize that what sounds unleahsed is actually very precise. In fact, when you really get to know the complications of their rhythmic interpretations you find that they are suggestive and playful almost to the point of silliness. They stretch everything beyond breaking with an almost cartoon physics, and yet without quite swinging, they rock. They literally rock.

    It is in this that they are a phenomenon in the making. Their cover of 'We Are The Champions' is subtle, witty, melodic and punctuated with just the right reconstructions of their deconstructions. More of this will make them big stars.

    Posted by mbowen at 06:51 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    September 19, 2004


    This time it was me. You know, the slightly harried bald middle aged guy yelling "Hey Kids", on the verge of losing patience. Fortunately, I have the Master Sargeant voice and the ear piercing whistle, and yes I did make Chris get down and give me 5 pushups. But on the whole, my kids, my brother's kids and my other brother's kids, and my sister's kid were all pretty good this weekend camping at Cachuma Lake.

    There's not much to say. A car and a truck packed to the gills with gear. 3 adults, 9 kids under 12, 5 tents, 3 days and two nights, (not to mention 100 wasps and a hungry raccoon.) We managed to get the six girls in one tent - the giggles could be heard clear across the lake.

    We swam. We hiked. We ate. We sang. We chanted. We watched birds, told stories, and did Indian dances around the campfire. One of us even had a White Russian in a hammock between two massive oak trees and finished off a few crossword puzzled between naps.

    There's about an inch of crud on all of us and I hope we don't have to call the plumber after tonights showers. Maybe things will be back to normal tomorrow.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:27 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    September 17, 2004

    Charlie Hunter + The Bad Plus

    I went to the concert last night. My head is still reeling. I'm digging into my pack of superlatives and will try to deliver my review before I head off to the hills to go camping this weekend.

    Awesome. Phenomenal.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:51 AM | TrackBack

    September 12, 2004

    On The Passing of Aaron Hawkins

    I didn't know AHawk very well. He was one of my blogfathers though. When I started up way back when, it was he, George and Mister JT who passed me most of my traffic. He held up his end of the bargain we blackfolks have with each other and sometimes honor. Crack the door, wave the next brother or sister in. Introduce around, give a pound.

    Since I thought it was done on the regular, I put a buck in his tip jar. I got back much more. Recognition which is the currency out here. Every once in a while I hooked into his Friday blogging memes. He called me Tuvok. I liked that.

    I heard AHawk took his own life. I know something about that. My youngest brother did that. So I've been through the throes and the therapy. If you are family or friend here's something that might help.

    i recall the phone calls coming in after the sudden death of my brother robert. he was only twenty something. it doesn't seem right fixing the number or the date. it simply wasn't his time to die. and yet it was, and so the phone calls kept coming. people were offering their every heartfelt condolence and placing themselves at our beck and call. it occured to me that i didn't know what my beck was, i never had a need to define it. death gave me a reason to think about what people mean to each other at defining moments. it wasn't a gift i was interested in receiving. who wants to be taught by a crisis? who wants to be anything but unconfused when all you can ask is why? why? why?

    you know what you think you are supposed to be as you step in and out of uncontrollable moments but what are you? the round robin of emotional devastation and superhuman generosity and courage whipsaws you until you are exhausted. you don't know who you are any longer, you're just tired of being dominated by these thoughts and feelings. but you cannot help it, and somehow you know you shouldn't. and then you stare at the ceiling one day in bed wondering if it really makes any sense at all to bear your burden, your inexplicable burden to carry forward the meaning of a lost one's life in a world determined to move on, obliviously. you go to the park and stare at children in swings. you sit in the bakery and watch people chew donuts. you stare in the mirror and wonder if he really knew how much you loved him. you pick up litter in other people's yards. you hear simple lyrics in simpleminded songs suddenly send deep and poignant shudders rumbling through your soul and you collapse into a shameless heap realizing you were once part of the oblivious world.

    once you held loved ones in your arms. and now they are gone. your arms don't only feel empty, they feel useless. what good are arms anymore? life eventually teaches them new things after death has squeezed all the meaning out of them.

    I tell you what I'm going to do, which is what I do whenever somebody I know dies. I pick up a piece of their life and I carry it in the direction they were going. So I'm going to find out the closest thing AHawk and I vibed on, and I'll continue on that vibe. So that little part lives on.

    Cry now. Cry as hard as you can. Cry it all out now until you dehydrate your eyes. Cry until it hurts, until you can't cry any longer. Until you feel stupid crying. Then pick up that piece and start walking. Strong.

    Posted by mbowen at 06:59 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    Like Nine Cans of Shaving Powder

    Keywords: Greatest Funk of All Time

    Last week, NPR interviewed Xeni about her iPod. Now that's news. Xeni is one of the oxygen suckers on the LA scene. I'd have to be a transvestite sky-diver with a pierced eyeball to get more attention than she, but that's almost besides the point. The end of her piece with Noah Adams proved that he had no clue whatsoever whe the Gap Band is. Now that's really sad.

    But it brings to mind a number of sticky problems. The first problem is easily resolved because of a fairly large number of P2P networks out there. The problem is that I only have 4 Gap Band tracks in my collection (Outstanding, Yearning for Your Love, Early in the Morning & Burn Rubber). The second problem is more tricky, which is to decide who occupies Grand Funker Number Two.

    You can't get anywhere without saying that George Clinton is the undisputed center of the funk universe. But who is number two is a damned hard decision. Some people would say Bootsy, but I don't think so. It ain't James Brown either - he's soul. Now it's true that JB musically invented funk, but he came nowhere close to taking it to its limits, some of which are still being explored. So I'm just going to start the controversy here and now with some hellafied bands and songs that must be considered.

    I think that if you consider the quality and number of funky ass songs that have that ineffable quality, there are four contenders for number two, and several others that are right there.

    Ultimate Funk:
    Ohio Players
    Roger Troutman & Zapp
    Steve Arrington & Slave

    There is so much that can be said about those bands that I could spend 500 words on each of them. But I won't. I just want you to get your head around the size of this task by complicating it with some more artists who must be considered.

    Superstar Funk:
    Bar Kays
    Rick James & The Stone City Band
    Bootsy's Rubber Band
    Kool & The Gang
    Gap Band
    Tower of Power
    Larry Graham & Graham Central Station
    Brass Construction
    SOS Band
    Brothers Johnson
    Ray Parker
    Frankie Beverly & Maze

    In There
    One Way / Brick / Chuck Brown & The Soul Searchers / Pleasure / Johnnie Guitar Watson / Chocolate Milk / BT Express / Dazz Band / Midnight Star / Fatback / Wild Cherry / Jimmy Castor / Trouble Funk / Mother's Finest / Herbie Hancock / Whodini / Breakwater / Pockets / Ozone / Faze-O / Sun / Mass Production / The Meters

    For Honorable Mention, I 've got to give props to the artists who weren't really funky most of the time but dropped bombs nevertheless, espeically the class of jazz funkers who dropped the most awesome funky cuts ever made.

    George Duke: Reach For It
    Lenny White: Peanut Butter
    Tom Brown: Funkin' For Jamaica
    Michael Henderson: Wide Receiver
    David Sanborn: Wake Me When It's Over

    Then there's there's the late 80s electric funk on the verge of hiphop:
    The Family: Suzanna's Pajamas
    Herb Alpert & Janet Jackson: Diamonds
    Hashim Al-Naafiyish: The Soul (It's Time)
    Africa Bambaataa: Planet Rock

    Even though they can be funky, I don't count James Brown, The Isley Brothers, EWF, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, Sly & The Family Stone, Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield or Michael Jackson. I probably shouldn't count Prince either, but if I had to drop him on one bucket it would be Funk.

    Have at it.

    Posted by mbowen at 04:22 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

    September 11, 2004

    That's What It's All About

    Posted by mbowen at 09:12 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    September 09, 2004

    Southern Strategy & Goldwater Revisited

    A new cat out there in the web copied me into an email discussion about the Republican's Southern Strategy, and I've just learned (damn am I late or what?) that Carl Rove was best pals with none other than Lee Atwater. By coincidence some bot found me and reminded me of some statements I made over at Dean's World on the subjects.

    I'd like to focus on one figure, that of Barry Goldwater:

    I'll name two. Strom Thurmond who broke ranks from the Democratic party to create the 'Dixiecrats' and Barry Goldwater who broke ranks from the Republican Party and President Eisenhower to specifically argue against the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

    In light of this comment written by John Thacker, a dude from Cornell, Goldwater gains relief which might be interesting:

    Cobb, your criticism of Strom are fine (though those racists Ernest "Fritz" "I put the Confederate Battle Flag on the SC State Capitol" and Robert "I don't regret having joined the KKK in my youth/ White niggers" Byrd seemed ok with staying in the Democratic Party), but you're completely wrong about Goldwater.

    Goldwater was a member of the Urban League who had fought against segregation and restrictive housing convenants in Arizona. He completely supported earlier Civil Rights Law. He completely supported the aspects of the 1963 Civil Rights Act that applied to the government. However, given his libertarian beliefs, he opposed the more coercive aspects of the 1963 Act on private businesses.

    He correctly feared that the act, as written, would be interpreted as mandating quotas and Affirmative Action. (Hubert H. Humphrey notably vowed to eat the entire text of the Act if it were ever taken as requiring such a thing.) He attempted to amend it, but to no avail.

    Yes, Goldwater's position, honorably and consistently taken, gained him support for racists who saw him as better than the alternative. But slandering him as racist is NO BETTER and NO MORE ACCURATE than slandering honest pacifists as terrorist sympathizers.

    When we hear today through the fog of advocacy about the Southern Strategy it is almost inconcievable to hear Goldwater portrayed as anything but a blind screaming racist dedicated to make the Republicans the party of racists. But considering that he lost to Nixon but won the Southern vote, who was actually more racist and which strategy prevailed?

    I don't have an answer to this question yet, and I am being Socratic as usual, but it appears that there is a reasonable possibility that some principle stands from the tree of Goldwater which is pro-Civil Rights and anti-Affirmative Action and that's about as 'racist' as it gets. Whatever qualms Goldwater may have had about Affirmative Action having a retarding effect on business profitability has certainly been disproved. And I don't believe he could have countered Loury's astute observations on the persistence of racism via economics. But it stands to reason that if today's Republicans are Goldwater Republicans as contrasted to Nixonian Republicans is their reputation as racists actually earned over the matter of Affirmative Action? After all, it was Nixon who signed the executive order and launched 1000 economic ships. Goldwater's objection, if Mr. Thacker is to be believed, was strictly Libertarian and made for a convenient excuse for Segregationists to side with him against the Act of 64, but not for the same reasons.

    This distinction is very important as far as I'm concerned. I'll be looking for further confirmation of it as items float by me.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:20 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

    September 06, 2004

    The Return of GDZ

    I hung out with C4 yesterday.

    It has been about 7 years since I've seen him. I'm sure we crossed paths one way or two, who knows. Except one Thai dinner when he was feeling out of sorts, there hadn't been much communication between us in a very long time. But that didn't really count because JB wasn't there since '98 when we had just gotten back to LA from the East Coast or 96 when we had the Easter Party in Carson. But yesterday was a righteous reunion. I know this is true because he brought out the GDZ flag.

    The last time I saw the flag had to be somewhere back in 89 or 90 when we had our notorious beach parties down in Hermosa. There's not much I can do after all these years to evoke the spirit, and in some ways it's not important that I do. I can just tell you that a very cool network of very cool people wove in and out of our sphere, and it was the place to be.

    After the BBQ was consumed, we reflected back on those days amid huge screaming fits of laughter. It was a very easy afternoon and it did a lot to remind me of how uptight I used to be. Very. The best thing about having friends is that they can see through you, and you know it. I enjoy being translucent around these guys, and I haven't felt that way in a while.

    I discovered more long lost links to my young adulthood and childhood hanging out there. I remember that JB's folks and my folks grew up together in New Haven, many of them going to Hillhouse or working for Winchester. It turns out that one of JB's best college buds and I knew each other since we were babies - our dads were frat brothers. Still I haven't seen him since highschool; he's in San Diego now. We marvelled at the people we knew in common, but then again it shouldn't be a surprise. We were the People of the Dons. In fact, that's where C4's new pad is: 90043, yet another Geographically Desireable Zipcode. C4, his wife and baby are definitely Money and Brains, although most of the joint is American Dreams in that neck of the zip.

    I'm coming back into the circle and it feels like home. Even though we stop and look at our guts and our kids running around in momentary disbelief, it's still us and we're here. We survived and did OK for ourselves. So I'm doing some serious recovery on this as well. Maybe I'll put together a private portal, because what gets us perturbed is how we 'fall off the map'. Even with C4's prodigious memory for all kinds of stories about us, we lose touch. I know it's been too long for me.

    Posted by mbowen at 01:12 PM | TrackBack

    September 03, 2004

    GMail Monopoly

    Everybody I know online already has GMail. And I've already heard from 4 of them complaining that GMail is telling us all to tell 6 friends. We travel in small circles.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:56 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    September 01, 2004

    Outward Bound

    This week, I am listening to a lot of other people besides myself. That's because right about now I am full of myself. I'm here to tell you that everything is running on all 8 cylinders. The business is growing and the money is flowing. The kids are all getting the right teachers this year (and my first grade daughter is reading at a seventh grade level - yay F7!) and I'm getting up at 6:30 am from now on, even on days when I work from home.

    It's at times like these that I circle back and figure out what I'm doing wrong, and it's true that I still have to buy a new KVM for my next (linux) box, sign an NDA and review some code from Latvia, talk to the solar energy guy, continue my market research on the Alameda Corridor, get right with CCR, install more ProClarity, firm up my role in the October deal, finish recovering the files I deleted, find a camping space, rent a minivan, send those training materials, and update the business website, and recalculate my second quarter taxes, BUT
    there's so much interesting news going on out there I can't ignore.

    This is my curse. Curiosity.

    I actually feel guilty for not having been reading Abiola and Drezner until recently. I feel guilty for not writing code to yank econometric data from the web and compiling it for display on my own website. I feel guilty for not having watched Michael Steele speak, even though the stuff at C-Span doesn't work. So for a few days, I'm going to let people tell me what to do. I'm going to relent and be submissive.

    I'm going to watch television. I'm going to continue to try Mozilla & Firefox (so far I really see no advantage whatsoever). I'm going to ask harder questions about Wn2k3, which works perfectly, just like XP without the patch. I'm going to do all kinds of things I don't want to do because I didn't think of them first and I'm going to do them grudgingly because I'm usually right anyway. But this is how I learn. I manipulate people into attacking me and I let them win. I give them all the credit and then I integrate the lesson. Either way, my ego is maintained and that's the point isn't it? Go ahead and say no. OK you win. See how it works? Gotcha.

    I didn't win the lottery this weekend. But I'm glad I played because it gave me a new reason to like somebody new. And suddenly I came up with a new theory - yesterday at lunchtime to be precise. Since it was Duc who sold me the office pool ticket, I speak to him more often (and he was the reason I made another set of business cards, one type each for my 5 public faces {Dad, Metro, Cobb, Vision, Value}). I found out that his sister is an Oakley manager's dentist and that he can get me Oakley stuff real cheap. And I realized that this is the third Vietnamese guy who has done me some good or potential good in the past 3 months. So I says to myself, 'I like Vietnamese', ever thinking of Tre who introduced me to nukmom 15 years ago. So my theory is that America's pluralism and ethnic diversity gives us constant new reasons to be optimistic about humanity. There's always some people whom you don't know who can surprise you pleasantly and show you something you never knew before.

    And as I walked past the Benzos and Bimmers in the 90 degree heat to my Chevy, I wondered what I would drive if I had won the lotto. I absolutely know: A silver BMW M5 with Centerlines, a black Yukon Denali XL with tinted windows and fat mud tires, a black Jaguar XJR with spoke wheels, and a custom black and yellow Ducati Monster. I don't care where in the world I live, as long as the schools are excellent and the broadband is cheap. I have no desire whatsoever to outperform the market, so I'd be happy to live off tax-free strips, just like Greenspan.

    OK. That's enough blabber. I have to get onsite and reconcile these transaction counts...

    Posted by mbowen at 08:03 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    August 30, 2004


    There's a new bee in my bonnet. It's Oakley. For a long time I probably regarded them the same way as everyone else. Too much testosterone. Today I'm a believer.

    This infatuation was a long time coming. Several years ago, I had a few hundred left in my flexible vision account and splurged at Linden Optometry in Pasadena. The Oakleys were fabulous. I still have them, and they are and have been among my favorite material possessions. But I never fell in for their overpriced, overengineered watches. Back then, that was all they had, so that was all the thought I gave it.

    Then two years ago January I found went shopping for casual shoes for the first time in a long while. I was shocked by how shoe technology had changed. People talk a lot of smack about what poor Asians are doing in shoe factories but I think the overwhelming majority of us would be absolutely stumped by the design and manufacturing process. Nothing said that like the Oakley Flesh Shoe, a kind of sneaker / loafer with no laces but a snug fit. Oakley makes shoes? They sure do and boy are they comfortable. I threw away an old pair of Timberlands for those, and that's saying plenty.

    So I was looking to replace the Flesh and I had a pair of Nikes in mind, but I decided to check out the Oakley site to see if they had updated their shoe. Whoa! Immediately, I saw this thing called the Stick. It was exceptionally cool, and sold out. So I began a journey to the local authorized dealers to see if they had any in stock. Foot Locker? No. Foot Action? No. They didn't carry them - nobody buys Oakleys. Of course I'm told this by 19 year old kids who have to shout over the noise coming from the hiphop videos. So I try another mall. Same story, same noise, same moonshoe looking Nikes fill the walls. By this time I'm starting to appreciate that I don't want to wear anything but Oakleys. The harder I search, Spyder Surf Shop? No - the more I want them.

    I end up at Sports Chalet in Torrance. There I meet Glen. Glen tells me that he's been on a tour of the Oakley factory in Orange County. Suddenly, the old stories from Wired Magazine started percolating through my head, how this guy Oakley was a fanatic talking about thermonuclear protection and sunglasses in the same sentence. Glen waxes poetic when he starts talking about Oakley products; he's so helpful I wished I had more money to shut him up and buy half the store. He tells me about his manager who's an Oakaholic and wears everything Oakley from head to toe.

    But what really gets me are the boots. Not just ordinary boots, but tactical special forces extreme ultra boots. I even feel weird talking about them. Check out the cover:

    The United States military teamed with Oakley to invent an assault boot specifically for the U.S. Elite Special Forces. Available now for civilian use, this military hardware exceeds the combat performance profile for durability, comfort and protection. Engineered with a lightweight athletic design, the Elite Special Forces Standard-Issue Assault Boot is braced by an over-the-ankle boot shaft and shielded by abrasion resistant panels on soft top-grain leather. Comprehensive moisture control maximizes comfort. Advanced polymer EVA and premium urethane offer resilient shock absorption. High-NBS vulcanized rubber maintains traction over a full range of terrain.

    Glen tells me that not only do they last forever, but they weigh about 6 ounces each. The main difference between the one they sell to us civilians is the absence of Kevlar. Still, I can't stop salivating. He doesn't have any but I can always go to their store in Irvine. I consider it for a moment, then I realize that I would need tactical boots and a G3A3 if my spousal unit discovered that I spent 225 bucks on some shoes that make me look like a wannabee Neo. I finally manage to get out of Glen's sales perimeter and I can hear myself think again. Wouldn't you know, Sports Chalet doesn't have the Stick either.

    I relent and order another pair of black swede shoes called ThirteenTwenty from the online store. A few days later they arrive via UPS. Ack! They're pointy toed and they don't fit. These look like shoes for a tightrope walker and I sure the hell don't want to look like Philippe Petit. There is no way to tell from the camera angle how flaming these shoes look on a man's foot.

    So I pretty much am resolved to head down to Irvine and give these Oakley metrosexuals a piece of my mind, and I discover they have a store in Hollywood. OK, save myself a half an hour on the freeway. I get into the Oakley store and I feel like I've died and gone to gearhead heaven. You know I'm a gearhead, right?

    First of all let me say this. Oakley golf shoes are so incredibly cool that they make me want to use exclamation points. Next, Oakley ski wear is actually manly with just the right touch of grunge. I stayed away from their denim because I was determined not to spend any money, but I have a feeling that my Gap days are over. Unfortunately they're not on it when it comes to head gear, although they're very close. The problem is that their ski caps are not watch caps, and I may have complained when I watched I Robot, but Will Smith had the right kind. Oakley's don't let you fold it up - the logo wouldn't work. I hate those pointy tops, they make people look like Jay, Silent Bob's drug dealing sidekick.

    I found the perfect shoe at the Oakley store. It's called 'Teeth'. Yeah I know. It looks a great deal more outrageous online than in 3D. They must be the most comfortable shoe I've ever worn, and that's no exaggeration. I don't know how they've done it, but they feel revolutionary. They are perfectly snug and yet you can yank them off your feet without untying them. They've even done tricks with the tongue, laces and eyelets so that they feel different when you tie them. When you pull on the laces, they tighten all the way from the first set of eyelets. It's better than velcro. Yeah I got some Oakley socks too, and I remember them from when all they used to make were dirtbike handgrips.

    I'm going to say that Oakley has probably got me as a customer for life. There are only three other brands that smack me with this level of extraordinary tech and gearhead style: TVR, Ducati and Breitling. Now you know what to get me for my birthday. That or a Dell Rack.

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

    August 26, 2004

    Net Sports

    Last night I watched my first Olympics broadcast of the Athens Games. I can't tell you how much it makes me yearn for Australian broadcasts. The Outdoor Life Network got it right when they broadcast the Tour de France. Stick to the action, don't put commentators on camera, switch cameras to different parts of the race, let color give historical context, not personal drama stories. NBC is so schmaltzy it's disgusting. I do not, repeat, do not want to have the camera zoomed in on an empty pair of wrestling shoes.

    Since my family was at the previous two games, Athens is a letdown in every dimension. I haven't even paid much attention. So it was something of a pleasure to hear the Olympic theme and actually perk up. There was only one good aspect of the coverage last night, and that was Men's Volleyball. (As soon as I saw Marion Jones' baby drooling, I shut the tube off and cranked up the XBox.)

    The sport has truly advanced since I last watched. What really shows up is how much more they use the spaces outside of which a normal volleyball game might be played. If there is one metric one could use besides the obvious speed involved, it's how far back players are to serve. The same goes for table tennis. Something that's also interesting is to see how players get wide of the playing fields up close to the net.

    It took me a while to get used to the rally scoring, but it kept the action nice. Interestingly, recieving a serve was a better scoring position. But Lloy Ball proved that there's still a place for service aces. Sweet. I'll follow these guys on the court. That was pure drama.

    Posted by mbowen at 01:41 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Earth, Wind & Gangsta

    The first record I ever bought was 'Getaway' by Earth Wind and Fire. It was a 45 that I bought from Crenshaw Records. I played it over and over on my record player until I memorized the lyrics.

    This morning, like every morning, I woke up with a song on my mind. Unlike most mornings, I was unable to immediately crank up the iTunes and find it. And so I started this day shocked to my foundations that I don't have "Let's Groove" somewhere on my hard drive. In fact, I didn' have Arrested Development nor did I have any Red Hot Chili Peppers or Bill Withers. Something is out of joint here. So I am on a mission to correct these deficits as we speak.

    Since I can play and rip at the same time, I found myself going back down memory lane to a particular lyric. noting as I do, and have been for a dozen years how lame contemporary music is when it comes to inspired love songs. Be that as it may, the lyric was:

    Shining star for you to see
    What your life could truly be.

    Of course you know that. But did you know that there was once a street gang in LA called the Westside Family? They were originally Family but then got incorporated into the Crips. I know, because I knew a dumbass kid named Dana Andrews, who had the hottest sisters on the planet back in 1973. Dana had a faggy name and he was too lightskinned (with freckles) to get respect. Add to that the fact that he was a Catholic school boy and not very good at football or basketball and you had a formula. Dana did have balls, however and wasn't afraid to fight or shoplift. Typical knucklehead ghetto 7th grader stuff. So I was there at the beginning when Dana and other kids who lived somewhere in the nice looking public housing on Adams just west of Western decided to make something out of the green bomber jackets that they stole from Sears Pico.

    He decided to call them the Gangsta Crips and wanted me to join because I had gone to public school, which added to the rep. Since I had gone to public school and knew how to fuckin' cuss, among other Huckleberry skills, I was very quickly becoming one of the most often swatted kids at Holy Name of Jesus School. Nevertheless, I wasn't interested in getting a big dog and making it bite public school kids who were relentlessly picking on us Catholic school kids. I didn't particularly like Dana although I had a huge crush on his sister Danielle and I wasn't about to steal a green bomber jacket, even though it looked hella cool. Besides, where I lived on Wellington & Jefferson, no bangers trolled. Our blocks already had the cohesion and we were deeply into street sports. Aside from all that, the very notion of following Dana Andrews was a joke.

    Gangstas would go on to clash with Family. And it was this rivalry which brought to mind the constant bastardization of popular songs mouthed off by teenaged boys who thought they were being tough and clever.

    Shining star for you to see
    This is strictly Family

    While I'm on the subject, I may as well mention that the closest we got to a gang was the TrayVerMike. That was myself (as Mike), Tracy Caldwell and Verdis Arnold. Despite the fact that he did some time, I always think of Verdis as a quarterback and a mechanic. Verdis could easily throw a bomb from lightpole to lightpole, and his scratch-built lowriders would have done Mr. Arnold proud, had he lived long enough. Mr. Maurice Arnold was a SeaBee and drove a moving van. He'd be gone for long periods and left Verdis in charge of his other seven kids. When Mr. Maurice came home we'd know. If we didn't hear the truck, we'd hear the ass-whoopin'. Living next door to the Arnolds taught us all how to talk exactly like Ice Cube.

    Tracy Caldwell was possibly smarter than me, and we debated that in the leadership of the short-lived TrayVerMike. But it was clearer that he was the money and living right kid. His mother had a master's degree in something and bought the house down the block. His was the only house that had more rules than mine, which seemed impossible to believe - for example what the proper kind of pillow was and why sleeping in certain positions would hurt your posture. Still, Tracy and I were best friends and used to count the scores of scabs on our bodies, each relating to some adventure in the neighborhood. I never met Mr. Caldwell, who divorced his mother. They had to move out to where Sportsman Park was, under the flight path to LAX and Tracy was more on behavioural lockdown than ever before. Needless to say, when he moved out, that was the end of TrayVerMike.

    We never lived out our promise "TrayVerMike You", but if we had, we would have held down the territory from the 10 south to Exposition and from Crenshaw west to La Brea, except for a few spots on West Boulevard and Harcourt. Considering that TeeDee lived over on Blackwelder and I knew the kids at West Adams Foursquare, we could have extended the turf and challenged up to the Jungle. There were Pirus to the North, and we would have had to make a stand at Mt. Vernon Jr High which would have put us in over our head. And since we weren't under any sort of attack we were satisfied with our reputation as kings of sport.

    Me and my brother Deet held down gymnastics and diving. We could represent on that pretty much citywide. Whether we were at the Colisseum Plunge, at Rancho Cienega, Sportsman's Park or Centinela, we were always in the top 5 flip floppers. I had a full twisting back, that's why. As well I had a very sweet Arabian to a front and could start another roundoff after that. Deet could do 4 gainers in a row. He could also put back layouts into the middle of a tumbling run.

    Deet and Dock were good bballers. I was the most dangerous free safety in street football not coincidently because I could run hella fast, and I just realized this has got to be boring the snot out of most sentient creatures. It's just that old Earth Wind and Fire does that to me...

    BTW. I would like to add that I was also listening to Rick James 'Ebony Eyes' this morning, and I bet you didn't know that.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    August 25, 2004

    Pardon My French

    I like the French. While I don't particularly admire them, I would say without hesitation that they are an admirable bunch. I don't disdain them as is the current American fashion. On the whole I am positive. There are several reasons for this.

    The French Have Balls
    There's no other way to put it. The French are combattive, arrogant and stubborn as hell. They stand up to us, or anyone as if they really don't care what we think. They do, but they make a good show of not being the slightest bit purturbed.

    French Is A Cool Language
    There is something about the way French is spoken when done well that is remarkable. I studied French for three years in highschool and was pretty damned ready for honors in my fourth, except that there were not enough francophiles in my school to justify offering the class. So I had learned enough to start reading books. But the way French sentences and paragraphs are constructed allows for incredibly persuasive arguments. Call me weird but I really dug the French subjunctive.

    The French Have Style
    The last time I was in Paris, which was some time ago, I hung out with my cousin at a fashion show. It was a hiphop fashion show, in fact, and the models looked like they were straight out of a Janet Jackson video. It took me a while, having stared my eyeballs into straining, that these African women were not English speakers. Imagine a room full of girls that look like Sanaa Lathan

    In addition to those things, the French Understand Sex and the French Are Free. They can and will lecture you on those matters. I think America will come back around to giving the French their due props. Wait and see...

    While I'm at it, it being national stereotypes as informed by my limited personal experience, let me add the following.

    Germans talk too much about the littlest things. I don't know how they do it, but they can get into discussions and not leave until they have completely exhausted the subject and taken score about who knows the most. Every time I speak to one of them, I get the feeling that they are counting the syllables in the words I am using. They're fricking relentless on this. On the other hand, they do understand loud music, fast cars and women in fishnet stockings.

    I truly don't understand Italians. I suppose that's because I have never been able to get one of them drunk enough to confess anything. They seem completely uninterested in impressing anyone for any reason, probably because they keep getting insulted all the time. It's probably not fair that I am thinking of the (rich, WestLA) slob who used to date my sister and a lot of stuff that DeLillo wrote, but I do tend to believe that Italian men can be pretty effed up in the head, especially when it comes to women.

    Aussies are the world's friendliest drunks, although they're a bit more bigotted than you would think, especially about people who are not in the room. They can't dance for shit, but that doesn't stop them from trying. Australian food sucks rocks, and what's worse they don't have good foreign restaurants there either. Nevertheless they are great outdoorsy people and have the most intelligent and sophisticated appreciation of sports and wildlife on the planet. They're a bit self-conscious which leavens out their rough edges. In the end, you gotta love 'em.

    Kiwis are the most honest and personable people on the planet. They make us all look bad. You won't realize it until you've seen them compare favorably with happy Aussies. New Zealand is probably the only modern place on the planet that requires little or no cynicism and paranoia, and because of this is the exception Kiwis are completely capable of being legitimate lefties. Most of them are too polite to tell us to get over ourselves - on the other hand since they enjoy pristine land at 5 bucks an acre, maybe they're quiet for a reason. Having danced with Maoris, I will never take a tribal marking lightly - which also means I can't take most tatoos I see seriously. I wonder if I will be able to adjust to NZ realities in my lifetime.

    Russians are the craftiest fucks in the world. I admire their passion and their appreciation for the tragedy of life. Of all the folks I know, they most closely resemble African Americans in their capacity for subversion and love. I think we are equally subject to the temptations of Bling and perserverance under ordinarily cramped circumstances. We are both poetic and practical people. I do love Russians to death, I only wish I knew one I could trust. Well, actually I do, it's just that I can't find him.

    To be continued...

    There's a lot I could say about Brits, but I think I'm more persuaded to admire them for who they've been rather than for who they are. In Britain, I see our future, 300 years from now when Wall Street is a subdivision of the Chinese Borse. I mostly meet Brits online when gaming, and what counts for the average Euro counts nicely for the average Brit, which means above all they value fair play and understand the pain of dissolution. Brits, if they didn't invent it, perfected the art of the social drink, and are thus the cause of global drug culture in non-spiritual populations. What could be a greater tribute? I give Brits the most credit for not being particularly swayed by pretty pictures and the invention of the hedgerow. As you can see, it's complicated.

    Chinese have had my focus for the past 3 years. I was on my way to spend 6 weeks in Asia in 2001 when certain events took over. I was learning Mandarin, both conversationally and pictogrammatically. What I like most about the Chinese is that they do business with friends in defiance of markets, lawyers and the dignity of the common man. It is of course, their great weakness too, if you don't count gambling. You see, to me, the Chinese represent the idea that a human being is empty clay - that it makes no sense to assume anything positive about them, that uneducated or untrained or unloved that they possess nothing, not even a soul. That the Chinese accepts this emptiness and meaninglessness of himself means that of all people he is the most worldly. Chinese represent the absense of transcendence to me, he is the perfect soldier, the perfect businessman, the perfect chef because without his skill, he is nothing.

    It is difficult for me to disentangle my thoughts about the Japanese from what must be common stereotypes by now. Instead, I prefer to think of Japanese Americans who, of all Asians, seem the most American.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:52 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

    August 20, 2004

    LA Riots in Retrospect

    In many ways, my engagement of the public in politics began in the years leading towards the LA Riots. Considering the candidacy of Bernard Parks has taken me back to some of the things I wrote as Boohab in relation to those days.

    Since I see myself more and more as part of a conservative movement in both a public and personal context, I need to review my prior statements and perspectives in order to see what has changed and why. I think the matter of the Riot is specially deserving of review no matter what, but also since I was engaged head to head with David Horowitz I think it can also illustrate the difference and distance between black and white neoconservatives over contemporary issues involving race.

    So I will be posting here some verbatims of me as Boohab, and see how well they stand up.

    I don't think it's beneficial to think about the accuracy of the aim of the looting, torching, shooting ragers. those who riot best, riot. those who lobby best, lobby.

    what is important is to recognize the disposition of political forces in the aftermath. to consign this matter to the police as merely a crime wave is to foreclose the possibility of a transformative politics of the ragers. yet this was the status quo of the racist stereotypes against south central and east los angeles, and this is precisely what horowitz has done. such is the justification for the lapd being one of the most advanced paramilitary police forces in the world. is there any reason to believe horowitz' dismissive majoritarian position might be moderated by intelligent or (heaven forbid) compassionate consideration? well, not if you are preoccupied with maoist history and the love affairs of opera singers.

    so instead of engaging (which would probably have been very easy, considering salon's recent article on maxine) on a level of political negotiation, we witness crude and egregious examples as par for the course.

    this does not bode well for the future expansion of democratic politics in the united states. there are generations and geographies for which adequate political representation has never been achieved. where the practice of voting and speaking out is the experience of defeat after defeat. where human rights issues become 'special interest' issues. where people don't expect suspects to be brought to trial - merely shot in the street. where people are suspects for just being alive.

    my experience tells me that the fire next time will be put out by next wednesday. american society and politics absolutely crushes such political dissent even before it gets the opportunity to become political. and as long as americans can distance themselves, with haughty indifference from the truths of these matters, hiding behind the thin blue line of police force rather than engaging in constructive political engagement, then as malcolm x said "as long as those ingredients, explosive ingredients exist, you are going to have the potential for explosion on your hands".

    I was clearly concerned with the ability of blackfolks to engage successfully in political matters of their utmost concern - of which the death of suspects is clearly a top priority. And while the logic of law and order is always clear, there has been a political disenfranchisement of African Americans. I mean this in the context of the ability for black elected officials to get beyond the rhetoric of dismissal and actually handle business.

    Maxine Waters, because she never took any crap from anyone, is a perfect example of this kind of disenfranchisement. Despite the fact that she is the top dog in South Central and everybody wants to get in their two cents about South Central, few people in the public are prepared to get past her image, so she and more consequently the desires of her constituents are dismissed.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:05 AM | TrackBack

    August 19, 2004

    Mr. White

    The past is often full of pleasant surprises. I just happened across an old section of my website (Boohab's Factotum) and in it was a search string for Google that pointed to the writings of the best ally I ever had as an anti-racist online.

    James A. White (if that was his real name) was a German geneticist associated with the Human Genome Project working in New York. If you ever needed anybody on your side to completely thrash the ambitions of American Neo-Nazis, you couldn't design somebody better than Mr. White. All of the hard racial subjects, IQ, heritability, The Bell Curve.. White handled them with aplomb, authority and attitude. I tended to handle such matters with flavor, facts and ferocity; it was a great balance.

    Anyway, here is the link. Here is an example of one of his exchanges with legendary internet white supremacist troll Matt Nuenke.

    When someone can show that you can take blacks and give them an enriched environment and they will be able to learn and function normally into adulthood then the genetic basis of IQ may begin to be in doubt. Until then, the stupid race hypothesis is the most credible and consistent. Whether one is a left winger or a right winger, good science does not care. Facts is facts.

    What do you do about the "white" groups who do no better than blacks on
    standardized tests? There are obviously many who score no better, in order
    for the white average to be 100. Where are these facts you refer to found?
    In TBC? Those so called facts are very tainted. The Minnesota Twins
    Studies? Again these studies are about as scientific as "The Legend of the
    Seven Cities of Cibola". You continue to look only at tainted studies and
    evidence, why not look at the studies and data which would tend to indicate
    otherwise? In the meantime you are willing to continue the needless
    sacrifice of the lives of millions of people on the altar of a theory of
    racial superiority. The US went through this same thing once before in its
    history. Also before the turn of the century in England there was a theory
    of Social Darwinism which prevailed for a time which essentially said the
    same thing about the English working class. Your attitude is the very
    reason American society keeps going around in the same loops and never
    solving the problem. Politicians get elected in the US by "playing the
    race card", alternating between calling they inferior and calling them
    saints. The temptation is too great and as long as that exists blacks in
    the USA will always be pawns in a game.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:09 AM | TrackBack

    August 18, 2004

    Installing A Divinity In Your Head

    I started out in life as a Black Nationalist. My late baby brother was born with Spinal Meningitis which he survived - this turned my mother, a lapsed Catholic, into a born-again Evangelical and introduced Jesus for the very first time into the household when I was in elementary school. Understand that as a kid, we never said grace or bedtime prayers. There were no praying hands on the mantel, cross or portrait on the wall. So suddenly I had to reorient causality onto this Jesus character.

    It took a couple years, but I finally figured out that Jesus must be in my head and that I didn't have to alter my body position to speak to him. And since he must be God, then I don't have to sit and wait for an answer - either he's going to say something to me immediately or not. If he doesn't answer immediately, then he's saying, in effect, Michael go do what you want. How could he be incapable of hearing my prayer? If he answers prayer, how could he stand to be subordinated to my own will? So my checking in with Jesus worked with the provision 'unless otherwise directed by heavenly command, I'm about to do this'. Jesus never really stopped me from doing anything I wanted to do, but the act of checking in developed into a strong conscience. So strong in fact, that I became convinced that I was doing God's work. That stayed me for a very long time.

    Soon enough it was off to Catholic School, who told me that I was too lowly to speak directly to Jesus and that I better check with Mary first. Hmm. That's a twist. Not only that, but they stopped in the middle of the Lord's Prayer, so the priest could say "Deliver us Lord from every evil and grant us peace in our day." Well the Catholics had it all over the Evangelicals for dignity and demeanor, but what's up with the intercession? I already had my P2P connection with Jesus hooked up, now this new gaggle of saints and clergy are cluttering up the connection and translating it to SNA. I swear if it was in Latin, I would have never given them a second thought.

    Two years later I was off to study with the Jesuits. They deconstructed Genesis, taught me about who this character King James actually was (yike!) and introduced me to the machinations of the Council of Nicea. Well, there's a fine how do you do. These guys have a set of moral power tools which have made a fine mess of all previous constructions, but one thing stuck firm. Be a man for others - be Christlike. And suddenly I was no longer capable of making the ultimate sacrifice for any Black Nationalist cause.

    In the end, I decided with Pops, that straight up Episcopalians were the right combination of tradition, structure and Living Jesus and Good Works. I took my second Catechism, was re-baptized and Confirmed into the Episcopal Church at the age of 16.

    I bring this up because I am proud of having been Confirmed by an Archbishop and of all the discussions I have regarding the sensibility and provenance of my conservatism I never am questioned about my Christian faith. And yet any person with a reasonable amount of certainty about the propriety of their own sect might easily point an accusing finger at my less that singular history. Is this because we simply don't do that in America or that we have accomodated for our religious diversity? In other words, while some folks are dividing us up into Red and Blue states over something we only do once every four years why don't they bother dividing us up into 30 someodd sects based on something we do much more often?

    Well, we don't need religious consensus to function as a nation. People more or less assume (I assume) that a proper religious upbringing is sufficiently moral to not worry about the differences in the forking paths to righteousness. After all, religion is all about righteousness. But this kind of benefit of the doubt is less likely in political circles, even though political ideology is less well defined than religious dogma.

    I don't want to seque too far away from the theme of the title other than to say that installing a Republican in your head is not quite as likely to happen as installing Allah in your head. Is it because politics is not all about righteousness that we are so critical of non-deterministic political philosophies?

    Posted by mbowen at 07:17 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

    August 13, 2004

    The Charlie Levy Story

    Charlie Levy won the President's Award at Xerox 18 or so years ago. He was the software architect who finally figured out how to sell the Xerox workstation. Everybody acknowledged that the machine was a work of genius but nobody could think of an application for it. Besides, it and a printer together cost 12 grand. Charlie called it the Documentor, put together a nice software package and enabled Xerox to sell thousands of them. He got a seven figure bonus and went to retire at a windsurfing commune in Hawaii. True Story.

    I met Charlie in his waning days at Xerox at a rooftop party in Manhattan Beach back in '88. He told me two things that I'll never forget, and up until this moment never really questioned. The first thing he said was: "Brains are a cheap commodity." He meant it. The other thing he said was that all the Computer Science PhDs in Silicon Valley are wasting their time. Microsoft owned their future.

    In those days, rights to UIs like Motif where heavy and contentious multi-miilion dollar licensing issues. Where Motif is today was inconceivable, even by Richard Stallman. In the eyes of men like Charlie, and those of us who idolized him, software was all owned by clumsy, brutal corporations like Xerox.
    In those days, the entire software industry was an appendix to hardware manufacture, just as it was in Xerox. Its economy was directed by people who didn't understand or care about its art. It was as if Shell was a subdivision of Ford. The only exception to the rule was Microsoft, and Microsoft sucked. It made no sense to want to be a software genius because in the end you would only toil for Microsoft.

    Nobody questioned that Charlie was prophetic about Silicon Valley until the Netscape IPO. Suddenly the whole planet realized that scruffy, iracsible software guys with beards and Hawaiian shirts could have million dollar paydays - that there could be entire tribes of Charlie Levys. Charlie could not have forseen such an event. Suddenly software itself could be its own business (and not be Oracle, or Microsoft) He was born too soon.

    I bring up this story because it is illustrative of how circumstances can make capable people quit after a lifetime of effort, only to see their children's success humble them. You can never master what you are incapable of visualizing, and you never know how a great idea will ultimately be manifest.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:31 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    August 05, 2004

    100 Questions

    School is just one month away. If you have kids in elementary school as I do, you know that they are going to have to do book reports and term papers. Yeah, term papers in elementary school, we're the leaders of the free world remember? Anyway, here is a useful guide to help your kids decide what to put into their papers. It worked for us.

    Download file

    Posted by mbowen at 10:10 AM | TrackBack

    Henri Cartier-Bresson

    The master is dead.

    "Henri Cartier-Bresson" were the first French words I ever learned. My father insisted repeatedly that my pronunciation could be improved. He wasn't satisfied until I got it right, and so I learned to respect a man I had never heard of before and have rarely heard about since.

    Cartier-Bresson was a great inspiration to Pops, who began Wellington House Photographics in the 70s. In reviewing the Frenchman's work today at the NYT I can see his influence. I've long had a great fondness for photojournalism and pored over Time Life books as a kid. There can be such truth in a photograph. It is a subtle art which is underappreciated in our country. And yet serious photographers and photography persists. Every once in a while a great photo captures the public imagination such as the one of the Abu Ghraib prisoner.

    As an inspiration, Cartier-Bresson was peerless, and yet somehow I think it was lost on most of us. His portraiture is startlingly honest without being obsessive or perverse like that of Arbus or glossy and artsy like that of Mapplethorpe, or devoid of intellectual challenge like that of Wegman. I think it says a great deal about the way our culture chooses to look at people that defines much of what photography is, and Cartier-Bresson shows us what we are missing.

    His tenderness with subjects and lack of finickiness with the process (unlike Adams) reveal as much about the character behind the camera as the subject in front of the lens. Finally, it is the eye behind the camera we admire for allowing us to see and feel sympathy for those captured on film.

    Merci Henri.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:15 AM | TrackBack

    August 04, 2004

    The Black Manager's Office

    (from the archives - june 1998)

    The black manager's office has an 8x10 phote of five black children
    dressed in denim and brightly colored shirts.

    Who are they, say passers-by.

    One of them is me, says I. The others are my brothers and my sister.

    Oh. They say. Very few can determine which I am.

    How old were you?

    Guess, I say.

    Almost none try. I was 14.

    I am the one on the far right with the beanie and jean jacket. The
    picture was taken at the Pacific Missle Test Center at Pt. Mugu. We
    stand in front of a large blue sign which says "Systems Effectiveness".
    I am gesturing to the sign with a knowing smirk on my face.

    Hmm. They leave.

    I am guilty of entrapment. I confess.

    The black manager recalls other black manager's offices. The corporate
    counsel for the division had red black and green pillows on the credenza
    behind his large wood desk. His Omega Psi Phi shingle hangs besides his
    J.D. his resentment of judge bork was one of his only comments on the
    black internal e-mail list. he was a model of restraint. he said that
    bork lacked restraint and such a radical should not be on the nation's
    highest court.

    the affirmative action manager's office had nothing memorable. but the
    man himself was a bull. he was from army airborne. nobody liked him.
    his reports were systematically ignored and his requirements were
    evaded. he once made an unforgettable comment at a business lunch.
    another personnel manager (about whom it was well know to those privy
    to such information) who made more money and had not
    attended college made some comment to which the aaction officer replied
    'in airborne we used to kill people we didn't like' he pointed to the
    variety of forks, pencils and straws at the table and said 'i could
    kill you with any of these things in a matter of seconds, but i am
    just an affirmative action officer and you can ignore my memos forever'.
    we ate norweigian food in silence for a while, somebody told a joke,

    the corporate technology consultant had papers everywhere. he wore strictly
    polyester suits and drove a red ferrari 308. his afro was at least 4
    inches tall and he almost never combed it. he was partner in a chain of
    computerland stores, peppered his language with obscenities and took
    the job 'for spending cash'. he had done two tours in vietnam, and was
    once one of dec's top salesmen. he called himself a 'nouveau nigger' and
    often liked to stump people in embarrassing ways. i recall him making
    a joke with one of the top manufacturing engineers at the expense of
    a white woman in the strategy department about the ability of non-engineers
    to make business decisions about product development. it was basically
    one of those smart ass questions like derive maxwell's equations from
    the following premise. he did shit like that. he often talked about
    personally financing a college scholarship for leaders of the crips. he
    expressed anxiety about the fact that he might turn 40 without having made
    his first million dollars. he was only 75% there and he had 3 years to go.

    we often forget that the modern american corporation was modeled on
    the command and control principles of military organization. these
    two men in particular reminded me of that. i had much of that in mind
    while watching schindler's list.

    the black personnel officer's office was large and spacious. he was a
    rotund and ingratiating man. he dropped names. the casual way in which
    he spoke about his associations with influential blacks inside and out
    of the corporation was impressive beyond words. connections could have
    been his middle name. he was in line to be a vice president. two years
    later he was under accusation of sexual harassment. all i knew were
    rumors. he was soon back as a consultant part time. nobody visited his
    office any longer. i was instructed not to provide software or hardware
    service for him. i did so after work.

    the black woman who worked as an analyst for artificial intelligence
    products gave me all the software and documentation i asked for. she
    directed the educational software markets program. there was no profit
    in it and students who wrote ai programs were neither often contacted
    nor their applications systematcially reviewed. the ai programming
    environment was widely respected most everywhere but inside the business.
    she left not long after. no budget. her office was a miracle of tidyness.
    she showed me her object oriented spreadsheet and expert shell whenever
    i asked. this was 1986.

    the black woman who was making six figures and had a corner office was
    reputed to have a temper. she understood technology unlike most of
    the busisness folks around her. she was 100% business and everybody
    treated her that way. there was respect. people wished they could deal
    with somebody else but they dealt with her. i made sure she got everything
    she wanted from my department. when she smiled she reminded me of
    somebody comepletely different than who she was when she walked
    swiftly through the halls arguing with some other manager. she was
    a vice-president or practically there. she wore power well.

    the black manager whose office was around the corner from mine told me
    that i was not a team player and i would never succeed in management
    if i wanted to insist on my arrogance about computer technology's role
    in the everyday business of running a business. he told me i must make
    a choice between programming and business management. he could never
    remember his email password. he had studied finance at a prestigious
    university, and i was shocked to find during one of the e-mail discussions
    that he had spent more than 10 years in personnel. he resented the
    attitude of the young upstarts hired in the 80s with their power ties,
    mbas and expectations. but he never got particularly angry about it.
    he had a quiet kind of resolved resignation about such matters. i think
    of the darryl pinckney's grandfather in 'high cotton'. he was a negroin my
    path. he was incorrect and he was right.

    the black manager who had the accident was the captain of the lacrosse
    team at ohio state. he was always very active in e-mail discussions.
    despite the brain damage, he was still highly respected. you could hear
    the fire behind his messages and the passion in his stumbling voice.
    he was, so goes the story, the most promising black manager of the lot.
    by the time i met him, he was mellow in his slower pace. we often drank
    together in the bar downstairs. there was always peace in the man,
    ultimately. i believe i liked him most of all just as he was, although
    i often looked into his good eye and wondered what if...

    Posted by mbowen at 03:35 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    July 28, 2004

    Fairness and Balance

    'Love is the shit that makes life bloom.
    You never know when you might step in it.'

    -- Michael Franti

    Every morning I hit Google News to gather material for the day's thoughts. This morning I noticed that they have different versions. So naturally I accessed the UK version of the page. What a shock.

    The entertainment section alone shows why it is that I listen to the BBCs World Service with increasing frequency these days. It's top three headliners: The Bolshoi Ballet, Laurence Olivier and the fine imposed on an X rated satellite feed. US headliners: Jay-Z, Michael Moore & Courtney Love. Where do I sign up for expatriation?

    I read a story in the NYT the other day about how many feet of fiber optic cable Verizon had laid for the sake of the Democratic Convention in Boston and the Republican gig in NY. I went on to consider why this is a big news story every four years. It's all about a boondoggle for broadcasters as they build their skyboxes. Remember good old days when you could tell how important a speech was by counting the number of microphones at the podium? That's the recurring theme. Even Al Jazeera is getting in on the madness.

    But I don't watch broadcast news. I haven't for about 12 years, and then it was only a steady diet of Charlie Rose. I am hoping that someday there will be a digital subscription service available online so that I can catch the highlights of Charlie Rose as I can with Terry Gross and Brian Lamb. In the meantime, the editor I trust is Google.

    Every once in a while, a story pops up in Slate or Salon that's worth reading, especially if its Hitchens or Saletan (whom I much prefer in print than on Day to Day). And it's true that I am just as likely to read the WSJ and the NYT for my regular diet. Now that I'm solvent again, I have renewed my subscriptions to Wired and the New Yorker, but I tend to read more of the fiction than I ever have in the latter. But that's about it for print. I sorta miss reading The Economist on the regular. I ought to but I don't.

    Instead, my main courses are NPR as I commute two hours a day & eat lunch in my car to hear The World, and the blogosphere. Blogwise, I have travelled in ever narrowing circles. I can't remember the last time I read OxBlog or Volokh. I like Abiola's new format but I don't read enough. Negrophile is still excellent but I only skim. I check out the Conservative Brotherhood mostly, and LA Observed which is annoyingly specific. LA Observed is a perfect blog, it is a fly on the wall that speaks English instead of buzzing self-consciously like most blogflies do. It is local and specific. On the other hand it often smells like the inside of the Beverly Center, full of Westsiders who take the oddest tangents on stories about what is authentic about Los Angeles.

    I'm too informed, and my life is relatively devoid of intimacy. It's a strange thing to desire fairness and balance, because the synthetic intelligence of Google provides it best. Yet we must be anchored in the desparately unique, or at least this is part of the lesson I am taking from three films that are on my mind these days, I Robot, Speilberg's A.I. and Minority Report. That desparation, that small circle, that intimacy is what gives us pain - the inescapable pain of loneliness, the barren empty feeling of being filled up with the idiosyncrasies of a few co-dependent humans. That gotta get outta here urgency of emotional stuffiness and lack of fresh oxygen. That's the crud that makes us biased and subjective. That's flavor, like built up carbonized chicken fat in a rusty iron smoker, we heat up and pass it on to the next raw recruit to be roasted over the coals of life.

    I don't like our shit. I don't like Jay-Z or Michael Moore or Courtney Love. I don't want their flavor in my life. But I know this means I am rejecting humanity, sacrificing intimacy for some supernal plane of thought. As I stepped out of the shower this morning, it suddenly occurred to me that my life was truly altered the first time I saw Visicalc. A spreadsheet changed my life. I love numbers. I love economics. I build financial data warehouses for a living. I made a database yesterday that ranked 500 retail stores by the percentage of returned merchandise. The highest was 11.83%. The lowest was a store in Alaska with 2.71%. The query came back in under 3 seconds.

    I'm going to work now. I'm late. I'll be listening to NPR in my car. I don't want to because they're only going to rehash the naive hope of the millions of Courtney Love, Jay-Z and Michael Moore fans who listened with rapt attention and applause as Barack Obama publically praised everything about John Kerry except the moles on his bung. Who knows what the credentialled bloggers will report? I'll turn to AM for a moment, suffer through commercials about mattresses and calcium supplements done in nasally voices, then I'll turn it off. Or play my same favorite four songs off the Bad Plus CD once again.

    You know it's really too bad I don't know anybody who's 26 and could fuck my brains out. I might be in a better mood. Then again, I've already seen 'Lost In Translation' and I know that's how it goes. I'm too thoughtful, sensitive and responsible for nutbusting abandon, besides it would cause me to make funny faces and strange sounds and you never know who's watching. On the other hand, this kind of mood somehow makes my comic better.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:21 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

    July 25, 2004

    Still Black, Still Republican

    The other day I see somebody checked up on something I wrote last September. What's changed?

    I've voted one time since then. But I've done a great deal of thinking and doing since then. I've helped establish the Conservative Brotherhood and the Keeping It Right Network. I've spoken in defense of Ronald Reagan as a panelist on a radio talkshow and I've been nominated to do grass roots party work for California Republicans. I've even been invited to advertise on this blog for a well-known conservative fundraiser, which I may very well end up doing, despite the fact that I've never done any advertising. In less than a year, I've done more for conservative causes than ever previously, and I'm proud of the work. I feel like I ought to do a lot more, and I'm somewhat ashamed that I don't have the wealth and time to do more.

    In the past week I've even listened to Larry Elder on the radio. Something of a serendipitous occurrance I must admit. I have a lot more plans, but before I get into that I want to stress what i just said. I'm proud of the work I have done in support of the Republican Party, the Old School and conservatism. This is what makes all the difference. It has never been about what Republicans can do for me, it's always been about what my doing, my influence, my work, my people, my ideas can do.

    Ambra, a sister who is consistently insightful brings up this point early in her gripe against various old institutions:

    Growing up, my general understanding of the Republican party was simple: Republicans were evil, white, and to be feared. I'd still say the second and third are mostly true. Listening to family members bad mouth Ronald Reagan and George Bush on a consistent basis didn't give me any motivation to hold them in high regard. Hearing many Republicans referred to as "racist bigots" certainly didn't birth in me any desire to be associated with them in my future adulthood.

    What I hear there is the same kind of fear and ignorance that has radial clerics plotting to bomb the US. For all anyone can know who has never been here, America is home to the devil. The longer you watch with an evil eye, the more likely you are to be rewarded. There was once a line from those kooky foreign films I used to digest with abandon. "Any man who hangs outside the door of the woman's bathroom is bound to be disappointed." Sooner or later you'll smell the stink.

    Sometimes the best way to get the results you demand are to demand them. So what is it we are demanding from the Republican Party? Nothing. We are simply expecting them to be old, white, racist and evil men. Hell that's easy enough. Take this example. A few folks have capitalized on what this 73 year old man said about 'suppressing the Detroit vote'. Such incidents, as if any of us could find Troy MI on a map, give otherwise intelligent people all the excuses they need to verify the stereotype of Republicans. That's not thoughtful and it's not admirable.

    Being as I may become the biggest black Republican Party apparatchik I've ever known or that most people I know have ever known, I would gather that what I have to say might carry a bit more weight. At least that would be my hope. It's a dangerous proposition, this kind of black representation. I both draw to it and recoil from it. But the fact remains that everything I think about blacks and the Republicans are here in plain view and a lot of people don't find me a disagreeable person - liberals and conservatives alike.

    I'm not 73, and everything I've written today on this blog I have been writing listening to Stevie Wonder. At this very moment, the title is 'Have A Talk With God'. So I don't see why it's so difficult for folks to recognize how simple this is.

    Anyway. Little has changed. I find that I have a greater understanding of conservative thought. Savoir has given way to Connaitre. I find that I have a greater understanding of what is transient sniping and partisan bickering. I have grown more patient with conservatives and less forgiving of liberals and greatly more supportive of those in the middle on the verge of dropping out.

    Aluta Continua.

    Posted by mbowen at 01:25 PM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

    July 23, 2004

    Still An Outsider

    Without making any assumptions about the political predilections of the heads mentioned, I noticed that I am still unnoticed by the NYC chatting class as represented by Gawker.

    For some reason, this bothers me.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:57 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    July 20, 2004


    I have been plogged by

    As if I didn't already have enough to read, Amazon has managed to make a new serial. Instead of just 'The Page I Made', now my exploits in online shopping are being blogged by the Amazonbot.

    The Plog Service is a personalized blog. A blog is a straightforward and now widely adopted method of posting a reverse chronological diary on the Internet.

    Then they go on to plug blogs that need no traffic. I wonder how that happened.

    Posted by mbowen at 03:56 PM | TrackBack

    July 17, 2004

    Books for the College Bound Black Man

    Amy Ridenour has recieved a letter. I respond at length.


    I mentor a young black man who is going to go to college next year. I was wondering if you had a list of literature or suggestions for some reading material. He is interested in economics and business. I was hoping for some ethics, philosophy, and history titles as well. I would prefer if the authors were black. He attends a majority white private Catholic school where he is one of the brightest students; I want him to have some black intellectual experience too.

    Thank you for your time.

    [Name Deleted]

    P.S. I heard about your site from Trueblackman, (I don't know his real name) on Free Republic

    It helps to be a voracious reader, no matter what your field of study. It's only with that kind of appetite that you get to the good stuff. There is a deceptively large amount of good stuff out there. I say large because any good 20 books is quite enough reading for a setting one straight permanently. This is deceptive because if the books don't click or you wind up with the wrong picks, you can go for years until you get the book that carries you forward.

    Onto the lists and some personal context. I too attended a white private Catholic highschool, and I'm sure mine was better than his. Oops that slipped, but we Cubbies trip like that sometimes. I read Roots when I was a junior, but it did nothing for me like 'The Man Who Lived Underground'. There is something very important about getting to the right black literature that can change your mind forever - because it's very easy to fall into the trap of ghettoizing black literature based on 3 or 4 popular but weak books. It wasn't until I read (or tried to read) LeRoi Jones' "Blues People" that I even accepted the idea that blacks wrote scholarly books. I had always grown up around so many people who quoted Maya Angelou or Ntozake Shange as if they possessed all the black knowledge there was.

    So I think the most important thing is to handle the Existentials first. You have got to be able to click with somebody who lets you know that you are not as alone as you think you are, being somewhat exceptional and in altogether a different potential direction than Method & Red. What I'm saying is that in the empirical fields, your coursework will be enough to know. Mastery is mastery - either you've got it or you don't. There isn't going to be much new 'what' from a black perspective (outside of Sowell and Williams), but there's a good deal of 'how as a black me' that is answered in black literature, without which you cannot empower yourself to be quite as well adjusted as a human being as such demanding courses require. Sheer brainpower will not triumph. You've got to be smart too.

    The Existentials

    Marcus Mabry - White Bucks & Black Eyed Peas
    I have found a recent photo of Mabry as well as his bio at Newsweek. I am stunned. There seemed in this young man, when read his book a dozen years ago, nothing but a kind of sentimental soft clumsy geekiness - greatly out of context for the man he appears to be. I actually felt sorry for the guy, and then was very harsh, as black poets are likely to be, when I read of his trials and tribulations at Stanford. I have since come to believe that he's Republican and considered re-reading his book. Mabry needs rethinking from me, but I think he provides an excellent example of how that nebulous and aimless feel as an undergraduate inevitably gives way to the kind of conviction and purpose we all eventually acquire.

    Brent Staples - Parallel Time
    I found much to admire in Staples' tale. Here was a man with a goodly amount of cheek and backbone who took on the University of Chicago with gusto. He faced the multiple worlds presented to him admirably and sensitively. I see him as a playful master in his environments, reflective and confident. He embodied a kind of black man's spirit that one might tend to believe does not exist in truly intellectual types. And if I have been harsh with John McWhorter, part of it owes to the context of Brent Staples. If you only know those blacks that are presented as intellectuals through popular media, you miss , and quite frankly if there were only 10,000 of us in this nation, chances are that you won't see or recognize us in public.

    Paul Beatty - The White Boy Shuffle
    People who read this book had to call me on the telephone and tell me that they swore I wrote it under a pseudonym. When I read it, I couldn't believe it myself. Beatty is completely off the chain and led around by his brain bouncing off walls in joy and pain.

    High Cotton - Darryl Pinckney
    Although people who knew me as a youth mostly identified me with Beatty, Pinckney understands who I am inside. This is one book that I think comes closest to my soul. I can't know what it might mean to other folks, but it means a great deal to me.

    Colored People - Skip Gates
    Good book. Nice read. Very Old School.

    The Philosophicals

    Cornel West - The American Evasion of Philsophy
    No matter what is said about Cornel West, he wrote this book. A lot of people mouth off about 'Judeo-Christian Values' but really understand little about what's going on in the core thinking that has made America great. This is an indispensible introduction and survey of the great public thinkers who have led the American school as distinct from the European. If you read nothing else, read this. It ain't easy, but it's worth it.

    Charles Johnson
    There's a lot of Charles Johnson to read among which are 'Middle Passage', probably his best work, and 'The Oxherding Tale'. Very logical, very playful and working on many different levels. Lovely bunch of good stuff.

    Ishmael Reed - Japanese By Spring
    Everything you need to know about the fallacies and foibles of multiculturalism wrapped in a wit that will send you whimpering to a corner trying to catch your breath from laughing your ass off. Don't go to college without it.

    Candide - Voltaire
    I read this one too late for it to make a difference. It's quick, it's easy, it's a must.

    Malcolm X Speaks
    Really everything you need to know about Malcolm X is distilled and captured in his speeches. I read this one cover to cover in a short period of time and it completely changed my estimation of the man, his times and his accomplishments. If you ask me, there all there. Michael Eric Dyson makes the treanchant point that for all of his threat and bluster, Malcolm never took his Fruit of Islam down to the South to butt heads with the Klan. Was Malcolm a coward? Who knows. What you can know is how electrifying and thoughtful he was in his response to the challenges of his day. You should also know that many Indians I have met compare him to Subhas Bose. Don't forget that.

    Cane - Jean Toomer
    How does a civilized man live alone in a wilderness of anonymity? How do you keep the engines of intellect running in your head when you are surrounded by people who have no idea of the skills you possess? Toomer's Kabnis spoke to me.

    (more later)

    Posted by mbowen at 11:27 AM | TrackBack

    July 14, 2004

    The Biome Project

    I'm a gnomey little dweeb driving my four door sedan 40 miles each way to my little cubicle. I turn on NPR and halfway through whatever paragraph, I turn it off and start daydreaming in the fast lane. Once upon a time, I wore a suit, overcoat and hat and peeked over my tome at the leggy women on the IRT. Commuting still provides ample time for reverie for the mentally overclocked and socially underutilized. This morning I landed in the 22nd century.

    I had to explain to my new Third at the depot exactly why he had to eat his squid and why everybody scowled at him when he didn't clear his plate. After I put on his glasses and eartrans I explained once again patiently.

    "It's you duty to the Biome", I said.

    "The what?"

    "The Biome, you idiot 3rd." I was more grumpy than I usually am when I pick up Thirds for integration, but his eartrans was set to 'Correct' so the slur didn't get through in whatever language he mumbled back.

    Obviously he didn't understand that the success of the Global Biome Project had changed the way we humans ate in the First. Now that the project was successful, agribusiness had found that the lowest cost food to engineer and grow depended on which biome you were in. So there was plenty of squid for everyone but he didn't really have a choice of whether or not it was squid. I mean everything else would be too expensive. Back in the day, squid was expensive, now it was cheaper than chicken. That's because of the current balance of biomass in our biome. It made it easy to grow, in fact, it practically grew itself, and if he and enough people didn't eat it, we might be back to insects like in 2149.

    How did I know the biomass composition? Well I didn't any more than he knew the stock price of IBM, but you could look it up because people were paid to know. And since much of the world, except for the third of course, had been mapped, the bioeconomists knew exactly which food chains would survive under which conditions. Since we humans are omniverous, it works out. The largest organisms to thrive, we simply picked off the top of those chains and sent them straight to your grocer's freezer. Sustainability was part of the economy, so long as people ate their spinach, as it were. But, Thirds had to have all these ethics explained. At least he was somewhat intelligent, I could tell he was getting it.

    So then he asks me all these highschool science questions about how people figured out biomass composition and balance. Hell I don't know. Ask the gardener. I mean they all have the cheap portable biospectrometers that can tell you exactly what the air chemistry is, what microbes are in your dirt with all the DNA maps. From there it only takes a minute to model what survives best, not that the suburbs ever get out of balance. Sure they use it for dosing your lawn with the appropriate stabilizers to keep certain vectors out of your house, but the theory works for everything living. You figure out what's living, inject a positive vector and maintain balance. Geez. I was starting to sound like a cliche, but that's basically how it works. Anyway, I got sick of smelling his breath and suggested he get balanced himself. We could stop by the Wal on the way home.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:07 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Megaphone Rap Orchestra

    I still have Styx songs in my head. So I'm trying to exterminate them with Queen. This morning on my way to the dreaded project, I'm going through thunderbolts and lightning, and once I'm through that I get to mud on your face, a big disgrace. As I get into the full roar of 'We Will Rock You' an idea hits me like a sledgehammer.

    You are all going to see this commercial with the three rhytmic taps. Even if you don't, sometime this summer you are going to hear the chant U S A - U S A. Put that together with We Will Rock You and what have you got but the rowdiest, hooligan jingo mojo this side of Marine Cadences. So imagine the stands in Athens when the American are taking the sprints and that flags come out. What do you need to coordinate the voices? A drum major. Straight out of Drumline, the most loudmouthed, funky, endzone dancing enthusiast, with dance moves like Turbo and volume like an Arkansas hog caller. Dressed all in white with a top hat like Uncle Sam jumping around the stage with energy like David Lee Roth. Can you see it?

    Who is backing him up? The Megaphone Rap Orchestra. 200 trained voices shouting, rapping, whistling, chanting in unison, in rounds, in cadence. You will never have heard anything like it. A gospel choir of spoken words.

    The possibilities are staggering.

    Posted by mbowen at 02:22 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    July 12, 2004

    And Now A Word From Our Sponsor

    Cobb? I don't know who the hell that is or what he has to do with the deadline Michael Bowen has this week. And you know what, I don't care. Just get it done. Fuck Cobb.

    Actually, that's my internal taskmaster speaking. If posting seems light or repurposed, you understand the reason.

    Posted by mbowen at 02:03 PM | TrackBack

    July 08, 2004

    Right Wing Epiphany

    Over in Orkut, where I tend to be a bit more lower-case and provocative than I am here, I re-engaged the Cosby argument. And as I was engaging in the discussion I think I had a breakthrough. I think can genuinely see exactly what it is that the right wing sees in the left wing. The difference, of course, is that I'm not afraid of the left wing and I don't believe they are a threat. A danger and a menace perhaps, but not a threat.

    The thing that nailed it for me was the quotation of some Z Magazine article written by a political science professor from Ohio. I didn't parse it very closely because it immediately reminded me of something else that got me right to the edge of epiphany. That other something was the NPR segment about Freedom Schools in Kansas City. Basically there was this very uplifting story about those young people that Cosby recently loves to hate, beating the odds by attending a 'Freedom School' during the summer in an super supportive environment. I'm listening to this radio segment saying, man this is so cool but I would never do that work in a million years. That's for my buddy Monroe.

    Now while it's true that I did a very heartfelt stint teaching Saturday School at St. Luke's parish in Harlem several years back and it was that experience that reintroduced me to my own family tradition of Kwanzaa, I have serious problems with the scalability of Ujamaa and a couple of the principles. So my enthusiasm is just for this very organic and grass roots sounding program. The voices of the people convinced me that this was done from the heart and that it was all good.


    The KC program, which included about 7 of these schools was expanded because of the charity of a large [white liberal] foundation. Now the origin of the Freedom Schools was all about education of rural blacks to understand what kinds of things they would be getting that they have always been denied in the deep South. How government derives from the consent of the governed, so black people need to vote kinds of things that the redneck highschool teacher supposedly teaching civics wouldn't cover. But now 50 years later, it's part midnight basketball, drug-free, supplemental education, afrocentric support, summer school. In combination a great point of light for those who get zilch in the ghetto. (Remind me never to say 'inner city' again - I understand that American Apartheid was designed to create ghettoes and keep blacks and browns there - like Jewish ghettoes from where the term originated). I cannot presume to know exactly what Mr. Liberal Daddy Warbucks sees in these poor black ghetto kids, but I have a general idea about the parameters (poor, black, ghetto kids, money for programs).

    At the end of the program, the NPR announce clinches it. Some university is sponsoring a study of these kids. ARGH!

    Can you feel it? Little black kids are lab rats for a university study. The volunteers who dedicated their time in 'giving back to the community' in a modified form of Deep South rural education for poor blacks victimized by poll taxes, will be replaced by professionals. The university study gets read into the Congressional Record, several left organizations line up behind it. Daddy Warbucks elbows a couple of his cronies at a garden party and the whole thing is off to the races.

    Now some of this stuff works. Headstart I would say, and the kind of stuff in California under the heading of the First Five. But that's not a black racialized liberal co-optation of more Civil Rights Era stuff.

    So when this cat started quoting... hm let me find it:

    Bill Cosby's decision to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision by proclaiming that poor black people deserve their fate at the bottom of America's steep socioeconomic pyramid has delighted many white Americans. Large numbers of United States Caucasians are grateful for Cosby's widely reported intra-racial top-down smack-down, which gave politically safe - because nominally "black" - confirmation to their own self-satisfied opinion that poor African-Americans have nothing and nobody but themselves to blame for their difficult circumstances in this great "color-blind" "land of opportunity."

    Paul Street ( is an urban
    social policy researcher in Chicago, Illinois.§ionID=30

    OK it wasn't Ohio. But it suddenly hits me. How does an urban social policy researcher make money? How do they pay their bills? The are professionally engaged in the 'industry' of politics that comes up with plans and politics and basically federal government money that goes to programs. So the Cosby us against them can get rendered into policy and dollars via university studies and policy research and all of that business that goes to direct our tax dollars.

    If you asked me what makes the Freedom School concept work, I think I heard enough with the interview. People saw a need right in front of their faces and did something about it. I could immediate recognize those blackfolks valid concerns - the concerns we are all rightly facing. But it's the ways and means of the institutionalization of this abstracted thing that suddenly make me say whoa. And that's where the epiphany was coming from. I see the wheels cranking, and I see the whole thing growing from the original Freedom Summer (no foundation money, no corporate sponsorship, no tax dollars), to this Freedom School (no corporate sponsorship, no tax dollars) to the next steps. Where is all the money coming from? Non-black hands.

    So at the end of this rainbow I see failure and bitter disappointment. And I think that is exactly how the right sees left tax & spend. Except a lot on the right wing as we know, think the whole effort is of dubious merit. Epiphany.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:28 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    July 07, 2004

    Jimi Izrael

    I think I just figured out why I'm only something of the writer I might have been. It's because I've written to cope but not to survive.

    There have been times when my writing was loopy and impntrbly dense, lower case and reflective of spontaneous energy, when it was clear that I had a great deal of the outside world flowing through the twists in my noggin to land curiously on the page. There was a time when that swirl and flow would move me into a direction of vibing into the subject with fascination and infect my soft creamy middle adding new flavor to the mix I had become. There was a time when I maintained an existential contract with the creative and sought to be more avant than on guard. That was then.

    So encountering Jimi Izrael makes me think first of the Wigs, the Tribe of Gorgik, the cool collective of black New York writers that never came to be. When I had something of a chance to jump in, I realized I didn't have the patience to pay dues. I was too old, too successful, and too unimpressed. Aside from that, my girl had more than a quarter million dollars in debt watching her magazine crumble in the rented loft and I remembered the words of my aunt's boyfriend with the new Nikon. "Show business is just like any other business, except the people are twice as flaky." Do you want to know how much patience I have with flaky people? I don't even have the patience to answer.

    And yet I sat around Nkiru waiting to bump into somebody.
    And yet I sat around Fez waiting to bump into somebody.
    And yet I obsessed over Lisa Jones.
    And yet I obsessed over Greg Tate.
    I knew that the somebodies were out there.

    But for a number of reasons, I moved to Boston instead. I got entangled with people going nowhere or to New York, or back to France, or back to LA. The dalliance was over and my writing went back to the DL - to the internet where everyone is a writer and it doesn't matter how fly you can be in a cafe over drinks, where there are no parties to be invited to, where getting hit on is tabulated...

    I don't want to be that kind of writer any longer. I'm no longer a devotee to the cause of literary hiphop. I don't care if it lives or dies, except for my sympathy for those of talent like Izrael might be sustained by its economy.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:58 AM | TrackBack

    July 05, 2004

    Wilson Park

    I don't think anyone knows how much they love 80s music until it's played live by a band on the Fourth of July. Although for some reason I couldn't manage to break my cool pose (no alcohol in the park), inside my guts were jumping to the band yesterday at Wilson Park in Torrance.

    I hate crowds, but I love examining them in minute detail. I prowl through them like a counter-terrorist agent looking for Ramzi Yousef, (when I'm not sprawled on a picnic blanket reading 'The Man Who Warned America'). Yesterday was no exception. I was wearing the mensch suit - picnic variation. Red bandana, blue muscle shirt, Oakley shades, red long shorts, Sketcher's sandals. When it got cold, I put on the grey hoodie. I have a weird kind of man-thing going that I can't quite explain. But I always find the top dog in a crowded place and acknowledge him but also let him know that I'm there. This counts for airport security and cops at large crowded places. It's a subtle thing. For some reason it seems to be mutual, except that it never works with firefighters - especially those down here in the South Bay who I think are pretty boys.

    So I'm cruising this massive picnic which must have a good hundred thousand in attendance and I swing through all the different spontaneous neighborhoods that have aggregated on the lawns. To the Northwest are the line of mobile homes and the various bellies attached to them. Nobody has managed a decent BBQ, but what can I say? These were the earlybirds with their red white and blue face painted kids, canvas directors chairs, extendable awnings and monsterous coolers. Then there were the campers around the main stage with their large tents and unnecessary mosquito netting. Way back on Southeast end were immigrant families, sportos in their numeric gear, flygirls popping gum, skateboarders, volleyballers, tattooed rockers & ex-cons. In between was everyone in-between few of which were of the blogging classes.

    Vendors hawking silly string and those stupid little things that pop when they hit the sidewalk were making a killing. The air was filled with whooshing, screaming and popping. A little kid who looked like a miniature Dennis Rodman ambushed his friends with a two-fisted spray of blue foaming strings. There were Dippin' Dots and Funnel Cakes, grilled corncobs, Kettle Corn and teriyaki meats on sticks. There was a rubberband gun vendor who had fashioned 20 different types of wooden 'replicas' from Mac 10s to Barettas to Chicago style Tommy guns. There were rug vendors who had Scooby Doo, Sponge Bob, and Confederate Battle Flags. (He seemed overstocked on the Queensized bedspreads, they were on deep discount and not moving). There there were porcelain frogs, $5 massages, sports trading cards, miniature kites, chinese calligraphy, $3 lipsticks and the ever present princess crowns with thier gold plastic stars and flowing multicolored ribbons. The Scientologists set up a booth. There was a prayer booth attended by some non-demonationalists. The Republicans were registering voters and offering a petition to keep the cross on the County Seal (I signed of course - they need 170k by 7/7).

    All over people were staking out there few square feet with blankets or portable cabanas. Kids played pickle at the diamonds. Soccer balls and farting balloons squirted past. Teens played with gameboys or talked conspiratorily into their cellphones. Dads kicked their feet out lazily. The variety was stupendous. The local gymnastics joint had a demonstration; the spousal unit and I considered how much better gym class would be than soccer.

    Men and women stood in line for the portapotties as short old people were weaved patiently through the crowds by their sons and daughters. Strollers of various dimensions with unidentifyable extentions and attachments jutted in an out of traffic. When it was announced that a little two year old girl with a pink top and blue jeans could be found at the information booth, I suddenly realised that I could find two within 90 seconds. The generators purred, the stadium lights came up at dusk and the band played better than anyone could have expected.

    By the time I went back to the bourgiest corner of the park, the tents had come down and the front of the stage was packed. With a rebel yell, the crowd yelled more more more. When the band played 'Lets Go Crazy', all did. Their music stopped the world and we melted together. There was nothing they couldn't play, from Gary Newman to Foreigner to The Ramones. That's what I liked about them. And best of all, they didn't claim to be the Sultans of Swing. Sweet.

    As I returned from returning the gaze of the cops outposted at the lookout point atop the multifunction building, I got in a few more chapters before the lights went down and the rockets went up. I was full of Dippin' Dots, BBQ chicken, honey glazed beans, grilled yams, hot cocoa, Nutter Butters, Canada Dry ginger ale, stawberry topped Funnel Cake, hot links and oreos. I could practically see the colors of my own belches. Unlike the previous year at the pier, these pyrotechnics were most definitely worth the wait. Lots of boom, and the shaped charges actually worked. We got apples and smiley faces! Incredible.

    It took about 25 minutes to get out of the parking lot, and then the first incident of the night had at least 10 patrol cars screeching towards the east down Carson Blvd. We arrived at home completely bushed. I dropped the girls off to bed and found a couple other crunchy sweet ways to destroy my diet and make me look less fierce in a muscle shirt. Hey, but I'm free. Life is easy, kitchy-comfy and danceable.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:43 PM | TrackBack

    July 03, 2004

    Sucking Up the Black Oxygen

    I'm vexed, fumin', I've had it up to here
    My days of payin dues are over, acknowledge me as in there (YEAH)

    -- Phife

    It has been a long time since I met John Mack, but I knew his daughter well. Every time I hear his name, or that of Bill Cosby or Jesse Jackson or Chip Murray I don't know whether to clap or spit. Each of these old black men stands head and shoulders above us mere mortals, but I wonder if they haven't been on the stage too long. Perhaps one day when I see my friend's name in the paper instead of her father's, we'll know that the wheel has turned. In the meantime, they've got me quoting Phife.

    I wonder what it is we have to do in my generation to catch the political baton. At the same time I wonder if there is an ample amount of currency remaining in it, coming from that old blackman direction. Do you hear what I'm saying?

    Again Cos is in the news. This time I'm tired of hearing it. He delivered the wake up call last month. This month we're ready to go mountain climbing and he's still saying 'wake up'. Now is about the right time for Cosby to point in the direction of people who have written their PhD thesis some time during the last three decades, OK? We get the point, now hand off the baton.

    Posted by mbowen at 01:43 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

    June 30, 2004

    San Diego

    San Diego is a pretty cool place to vacation. It worked for the Nuke.

    We started out Sunday morning with a big breakfast at Coco's in Capistrano, halfway there. Then we proceded straight to our first stop, La Jolla for a little sea kayaking.

    This is the first time I can remember F8 being out of her depth. My wife and I tend to extremes in our evaluations of our kids. She worries about them riding bikes down the sidewalk, I'm ready for them to kayak in the Pacific solo. We compromised of course and went double up with the girls, while the boy got his own kayak. 20 yards off shore we get upended in the shorebreak and F8 is under the boat. She comes up snotting and screaming and is terrified. It takes me a good 5 minutes to calm her down as we get past the breaking one-footers. The water is a pleasant 68 but there is no sun; she's shivering and blubbering. I'm still shocked. This is my fearless daughter and now she's crying to go back to shore. Ach! Finally she's OK.

    The other three are coming up behind us but haven't gotten their strokes together yet. Meanwhile, we're drifting North, oblivious to the strength of the current just watching everyone else get through the break. They do fine but then they start paddling toward us. This is a bad thing because nobody thought to tell us about the northbound current. You see the logical way to kayak on the open ocean is to start your trip going against the current. That way, when you are tired and ready to come back onshore, the tide will do half the work. We got it backwards, and took 30 minutes to all rendezvous back at the starting white bouy. Finally, we headed towards the legendary caves of La Jolla.

    Meanwhile I haveto figure out where the buckles are on my backrest. I can't get any leverage and I'm sore and tired already. I finally got my seat adjusted properly in time to get scared to death at the Spousal Unit, F9 and M10 heading towards the sea wall. I'm 700 yards northwest away and they seem right back into the break up close to some rocks. The prospect of having to do another rescue is making me sick. It turns out that they were perfectly safe anyway.

    We reach the caves and flat water where we are greeted by a pack of sea lions. This was a pleasant surprise - something else the outfit