Michael David Cobb Bowen was born in Oceanside, California, in 1961. He studied Computer Science and his focus is in building Decision Support Systems. Starting at Xerox Systems Group, Michael has worked and lived all over the US. He first started political and philosophical debates via online interactive technologies in 1984 and hasn't been able to stop yet. He and his wife are outnumbered by their three energetic children, Boy, Scholar and F10 and live in an overpriced California beach community. Michael blogs at Cobb and finds autobiographical statements to be intensely difficult to write.
Why do you blog? > I am a compulsive and inveterate online writer. Blogging is my fourth online medium. I write online because I missed whatever world it is where people talk face to face about such issues as I find compelling. In that, it is my outsider's way in. I am keen to represent my generation and class of Americans of African ancestry for posterity and am fortunate to have people engage me in Socratic dialogue.
What has been your best blogging experience? > They keep getting better. But I'd say being recommended by Den Beste and Sean Paul Kelly. Also getting 21 non-spam trackbacks on a single post.
What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > First and foremost remember that this is a writer's medium, tell the truth and speak in the first person. Write for archaeologists. Beyond that, to quote Richard Nixon: 'Always give your best, never get discouraged, never be petty.'
Who are your intellectual heroes? > Dick Feynman, Martin Amis.
What are you reading at the moment? > The Pentagon's New Map by T.P.M. Barnett, Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters by Meg Meeker, Joseph Ellis's biography of George Washington and Barack Obama's Dreams from my Father.
Who are your cultural heroes? > I confess that I am drawn to spies and, to a lesser extent, priests. They hold in their heads ideas that are worth killing and dying for, and yet unlike writers and intellectuals of other sorts, they are restrained by ethical virtues from gaining any notoriety, wealth or respect from the dissemination of said ideas. Anyone can blurt the beautiful and be blessed, but there is nothing so frighteningly powerful, I think, as an idea whose time may very well never come. They are the reverse of us who clamour for glory and vindication. Other than that, Malcolm X, who proves that nobility can come from where you least expect it.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson.
What is your favourite poem? > 'Father William' by Lewis Carroll.
What is your favourite movie? > Kurosawa's Ran.
What is your favourite song? > Beethoven's 'Moonlight' Sonata.
Who is your favourite composer? > Thelonious Monk.
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > I think that I have completely reversed my thinking on various feminist ethics. I used to distrust patriarchy, and now I am convinced that feminism offers very little to replace it.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > That utopia must be built and new men created; that there are regimes of truth and the next one is going to be it. Let us lead you there.
Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > American Mythologies by Marshall Blonsky helped me to understand how disconnected people can be from the truth of symbols they choose to represent them. It has been the leaven from the belief in simulacra which is the cornerstone of the computing industry. It helped me truly recognize the value of discovery.
Who are your political heroes? > Steve Biko, Teddy Roosevelt, Winston Churchill.
What would you do with the UN? > I would have it periodically select the least favoured nation on the planet. I also favour Barnett's reforms - expand the permanent Security Council membership to the G-20 and remove the veto.
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > The ability for the conditions of other people in the world to be completely and irresponsibly abstracted.
Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > We're just getting started. We need a revolution in communications to enable transparency in economics, language and law.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > Never underestimate the importance of chance.
Do you think you could ever be married to, or in a long-term relationship with, someone with radically different political views from your own? > I'm not sure we have much of a choice if we are truly our brother's keepers.
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > Integrity.
What personal fault do you most dislike? > I'm not sure if there's a word for it, but it is the quality of character which assumes that others will always forgive one's irrational or vicious outbursts. It is a sort of irresponsibility that I find intolerable. Serial temporary insanity.
In what circumstances would you be willing to lie? > I would lie in order not to betray confidences placed in me.
What is your favourite proverb? > 'When there is no hero, you be the hero.' (Rabbi Hillel)
What, if anything, do you worry about? > Orphaning my children.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > A penthouse in the Beresford building on Central Park West.
What talent would you most like to have? > I wish, above all things, that I were a piano virtuoso.
If you could have one (more or less realistic) wish come true, what would you wish for? > You had to say realistic didn't you. Oh well. I wish that I get to see my great grandchildren do well.
How, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money? > I would spend a lot more time having people over for dinner and having long dinners and discussions into the night. I would purchase the Russian Tea Room and make it into the greatest Jazz club ever.
[The normblog profile is a weekly Friday morning feature. A list of all the profiles to date, and the links to them, can be found here.]