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De Colores Like The Book of Job admittedly on a smaller scale it’s a classic Bad News/Good News story. As was widely reported a few weeks ago, when National Education Agency chairman William J. Ivey was informed \(by a New York Times The Story of Colors, an N.E.A.-supported children’s book, had been authored by Subcomandante Marcos of the Mexican Zapatistas, Ivey immediately cancelled its $7,500 grant. But the outpouring of publicity and support for El Paso’s Cinco Puntos Press \( a $15,000 grant from the California-based Lannan Foundation but a run on the book, now scheduled for a second printing. Field called to ask if the dust had settled. “We’ve got stacks of books we’ve got to get in the mail and U.P.S., and then we wait for the second printing.” Byrd’s phone hasn’t stopped ringing with media inquiries, expressions of support, and new orders from around the country. Meanwhile, various free speech organizations as well as the American Booksellers Association have been protesting Ivey’s decision to the N.E.A. Ivey claimed he was cancelling the grant, approved through the exhaustive N.E.A. awards process, to prevent the possibility of funds going to the Zapatistas. In fact, says Byrd, the Agency had long known the book was translated from the Spanish through an agreement with Colectivo Callejero, a Oaxacan artists’ collective, and that Marcos had previously waived all rights to the material. “Ivey’s argument was that the money might go to the Zapatistas [but] he never even asked the question…. His argument was essentially an argument of fear he just caved in before there was any controversy whatsoever, in response to a fact-checking call from a Times reporter.” The Story of Colors is based on ancient folk tale as set down by Marcos, translated by Anne Bar Din, and illustrated by Guadalajaran artist Domatila Dominguez. Dominguez and her husband Antonio Ramirez organized Colectivo Callejero, which is planning five “Historias” in all. The second is La Historia de los Preguntas \(The Puntos is also considering for U.S. publication. Members of the Oaxacan collective, says Byrd, “have always thought, that in recent history in Mexico and elsewhere, the art that is generated from left-wing ideas or leftist ideology has been really didac tic and polemical, without having a real aesthetic it was for the production of an idea instead of the production of art. So what they are trying to do with these books, and with their own art, is to produce an aesthetic that dovetails with their polit ical feelings or beliefs but for which the main impetus is the production of a beautiful object.” Byrd says the cancellation has been even bigger news in the Mexican press and indigenous communities than it has in this country. “The book is an expression of a folktale from an indigenous community,” says Byrd. “This kind of decision leads toward a homogenization of literature, as opposed to the diversity which the N.E.A. is supposed to promote and nurture.” + t -,op,ary re I= ‘ ‘ , Michael Dellosophy There’s no one better loved in American business lore than the shoestring entrepreneur who ascends to the Fortune 500. One of the cultural services provided by the computer industry \(with the been its updating of this old up-from-nowhere mythos to suit the virtual present, and so it’s no surprise that Michael Dell has at last “written” a book. Dell, of course, is the computer-sales wunderkind whO began by selling computers out of his U.T.Austin dorm room \(and before that, by selling stamps out of his preand unlike Bill Gates, his hero status hasn’t been threatened by some long, shadowy dispute with the government. Best of all, his company, Dell Computer Corporation, isn’t just a part of the information revolution it’s the most revolutionary part of that revolution, according to Direct from Dell: Strategies That Revolutionized an Industry. By selling equipment over the phone and online, Dell Computer has hit upon what author Michael-Dellwith-Catherine-Fredman calls “the right business model for the Internet age”: maximizing “interaction” with con sumers while minimizing physical inventory, and rousing the Delletariat masses with the radical slogan, “liquidity, profitability, and grow/h.” Naturally, an adolescent entrepreneur doesn’t become head of a billion-dollar corporation without a few growing pains along the way, and Direct From Dell reveals how this process works. It turns out that the lessons a young geek must learn in order to become a titan of industry are precisely those learned by the protagonists of family sitcoms, in particular: To thine own self be true. Young Michael, made giddy by fast-rising sales, buys too many memory chips in 1989. Must recommit to company’s philosophy of minimizing inventory. Seek the advice of someone older and wiser. In 1993, with his business expanding in a zillion different directions and, once again, too much inventory, young Michael perceives that his company is about to “hit the wall.” Calls in consultants from Bain & Com Mort introduces Dell to the concept of planning. Learning how to come up with the right plan, writes Dell-with-Fredman, is “an invaluable lesson for any company.” Find out how the little people live. Over time our hero learns that the more information you possess about the customers, the less of that dratted inventory you have to keep around. And if you visit with employees, you learn some things about what’s going on with the company. Dell ventures out onto the factory floor; Dell lurks anonymously in Internet chat rooms where Dell computers are discussed. “Play judo with the competition.” All right, so this precept never made it into an after-school special or anything, but in the behemoth-dominated computer industry, writes Dell-with-Fredman, it’s grow or die. In 1996 Michael Dell, a man now, unsheaths his Excalibur, and penetrates the server market. He scores. He looks fondly ahead to the next century, when the “penetra tion rate for PCs” will rise around the world, and to billions more in sales. “It comes from being willing to challenge conventional wisdom and having the courage to follow our convictions,” he tells us. Polonius would be proud. + APRIL 2, 1999 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 9