Tuesday, January 31, 2006

But with yellower teeth

Things people say immediately after a movie ends sound 3.8 times dumber than in other circumstances. I don't know if this is attributable to context, or to the types of people who say things loudly in darkened theaters.

After Tristram Shandy the other night: "Whoa. Imagine if this was about us. It would be a comic book... about people writing a comic book... about a comic book."

Monday, January 30, 2006

Brief nuggets

Not that I want this to become Metropolitan Diary. But. Some details you might find diverting.

This weekend I was hanging out with friend AS when we fell into conversation with 3 people. One was an amiable dunce who introduced himself as an "actor-slash-rapper-slash-revolutionary" whose primary vocation it was to "deconstruct gender relations." He refused to freestyle upon request. He is currently making a living touring high schools in an anti-drug public service musical.

The other two were a couple. The actress passed out her business card, which featured her head shot in an expression of unrestrained and possibly alarming delight. The painter later offered to paint my portrait. His chief "influence" is Herge, the creator of Tintin. I am trying to picture myself painted in the manner of Tintin, perhaps being chased by a tiger through Paris. I cannot.

Other details may emerge from this evening; details are hazy. I do recall that someone had participated in the production of a play or movie or something called, I'm pretty sure, "It's Not About The Shawarma." At a cafe, when we got up to leave, our table was taken by two prominent infectious disease epidemiologists from Johns Hopkins, where I may begin a PhD program next year, and where I may in fact work under them. I recognized them and had talked to them previously; this seemed very odd to me at the time. I apologized for being substance-impaired, which in retrospect may not have been so expertly played.

In any case. Last night The Special Lady and I saw the incredibly fantastic Outsider Art Fair, and I became enthralled by A.G. Rizzoli, about whom you will read more in this space, because my short-term plan is to obsessively learn about this fellow.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Take the A Train

Tonight on the A train, on which I spend about 80% of my waking hours:

Three men entered the train (running local) at 23rd Street, sandwiching a girl with dirty fingernails and white tennis shoes who was reading an Orson Scott Card science fiction novel. Two men were sober; one was drunk. They had come from a bar. The two sober men knew their role: console with pats on the back, remain largely neutral but generally supportive, keep their friend from getting out of control. The drunk man had dreadlocks and a graying goatee. He spoke in a booming, deep, slightly raspy voice.

His wife or girlfriend had left him, and had taken their baby. He was angry, sad, despairing. He was crying. He started to rant. A few people moved to the other side of the car. The girl with the dirty fingernails kept her face in the book. A Russian man laughed quietly at the drunk man's pronouncements; the Russian man's wife kept shushing him out of fear that violence would ensue.

"Fuck that fucking bitch."
"People in this country are greedy. The American Dream is just a facade."
"Money don't make you happy. Money make you comfortable. I'd rather be poor and content than rich and miserable."
"Bush is the biggest motherfucking crackhead in the history of this country."
"You won't understand how I feel until you're in your forties and you don't have a child."
"I never laid a hand on her. OJ ruined that for us."

Snickers in the subway car.

"Did you see who won that election? Hamas won that election. Motherfuckers better leave their country alone, straight like that."
"I know I'm crying. I know I'm crying. But it ain't like, 'oh, a man needs to cry to be in touch with his feelings.' No. I need to vent, get this emotion out, otherwise it'll come out in a bad way. I feel bad, man."
"And that Enron scandal. Motherfucker stole 660 million dollars, and when he gets 25 to life, he starts crying... too late now!" [laughter in the car]
"No, I won't lay a hand on her, because I'm a good man. And I value my freedom. I value my freedom, and you usually don't realize that until the click-click."
"That cracker from Enron... yeah, that's right, I said cracker. I respect all men who pay no heed to the color of skin; 'I do not judge a man by the color of his skin but by the content of his character.' But a cracker's a cracker, and a nigger's a nigger."

A man by the door interrupted with a supportive cry: "Keep fighting the power." Lucidity returned to the drunk man's face for a moment. "Wait, what? What do you mean, 'fighting the power'?" The man by the door had not expected a follow-up question. "Fuck tha police," he blurted out. The drunk man largely ignored him. The girl turned a page of her book; she was actually getting some reading done.

"I'm a good man. I just feel bad right now."

The man continued ranting and crying, his friends continued to steady him, and the girl kept reading until 125th Street, by which time the three men had missed their stop. As the drunk man departed with his friends, a studious-looking fellow approached him and said, "I just wanted to shake your hand. I've been listening to everything you were saying..." as they walked together out of the car and out of earshot.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Honey Don't

Like an exquisite marble statue, Corn Chips & Pie is best defined by what it is not. Despite my general mopery and fascination with the San Francisco 49ers, there are many varieties of loss about which I will not write. For your edification, I list several below.

I will not write elegies to my childhood in a former aristocracy, a childhood characterized by wet nurses and afternoon tea on silver salvers, by French lessons and amateur wrestling, by philatelism and sexual initiations from blushing maids. I will not discuss the way the light fell upon our manicured hedges in the last days of European affectation in my country. I will not discuss those easy humid summers characterized by the illusion of inevitability. I will not discuss our midnight flight, the last goodbyes to my beloved Palomino, the stashing of silverware in burlap sacks, the way my translation of Thucydides (a gift from a Bulgarian countess) consoled me during those first dark days in exile. No talkie talk about the stupid brutality of the new regime with its disingenuous appeal to the folk history of my people, the peasants in unconsciously parodic arabesques, the futuristic fonts, the show trials.

I will not discuss the Golden State Warriors.

I will not speak of the days of paper millionaires, of renovated Victorians on Hayes St. and poor business models. I will not use the word "heady" with 75% irony. I will not speak of scooters at work, of believing that we really could revolutionize the way we blanked, of the tragic return to investment banking.

I will not mention the loss of control by the subway operator when he spoke in an angry crescendo, "Please allow everyone to completely leave the train before boarding," ending in an actually deranged shriek, despite the fact that the cars were nearly empty. I will not mention this unless I can find a labored way to insert it into a themed post.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


I had thought myself above the Affectation of the Specialty Purveyor. There is an astrolabe shop in Denver in a league of its own. I only buy my arugula from a Burmese importer on East 55th Street. There's just something about the hexagonality of hexagonal wrenches at Cole Valley Hardware.

But I do like coffee, and I do have preferences. Being from the Bay Area, I have an affinity for Peet's. Increasingly, though, I find myself going to McNulty's Tea & Coffee Company on Christopher Street. To quote from their website: "A visit to our store is like a journey into another age. Located in the heart of New York's Greenwich Village, the aura of a century long gone is timelessly preserved."

Well, whatever. But I do like watching the nice Chinese fellow pick out the appropriate rubber stamp with which to imprint upon my bag "Java Mountain Supreme," then search for the stamp bearing the modifier "French Roast." I like the way the black beans glisten on the 95-year-old scale. The oil from millions of beans has kept the scale's brass polished, even if it is beginning to wear entirely through in one place.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Grizzly Bear Man

Pretty funny. Link via Lindsayism.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

A little from Column A, a little from Column B

First, the immediate: I am happy to see the Seattle Seahawks go to the Super Bowl. One reason is that Lofa Tatupu always reminds me of the Bill O'Reilly sexual harassment suit.

I attended my first baby shower today. The men in attendance were lured with beer and the promise of no gift-opening session. Both promises were fulfilled, gloriously. At one point, several of us discussed a proposition that would ensure high ratings for the Olympics: having an Average Joe or Jane compete in every event. This would a) provide an automatic rooting interest, but more importantly, would b) demonstrate a baseline level of skill that would allow viewers to more fully appreciate the competition. Hurdles would be enjoyable to watch. So would the shot put, or the pole vault, or the luge. The biggest gain from such a plan would be in the low-prestige sports like curling or table tennis: the folks at home would go from saying "Hey, that takes no athletic ability; I could do that" to saying "My sweet Lord, that Bambang Suboko is a demigod with the shuttlecock." So of course we spent over an hour going through every sport we could think of, imagining out loud how we ourselves would do; this sounds tedious and annoying, but please recall that we were at a baby shower. Nearly drowning in the butterfly relay, laboriously climbing over each hurdle, having my time halved in the 100m dash; all these images seemed disproportionately funny to me at the time.

Lastly: being as I am in the midst of a Joan Didion mini-marathon (more like a 10k), I am beginning to regard everyone, including myself, as unconscious exemplars of worldviews that are deeply strange, unexamined, troubling, moving. Because I do not wish to wear these glasses all the time, you may imagine my relief upon discovering that viewing televised sports whilst drinking beer acts as a strong counterweight to critical observation and introspection.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Here's something we can all agree on

"It's absolutely a revolution," said Phil Olsen, the self-appointed captain of Beard Team U.S.A., which competes in the biannual World Beard and Moustache Championships.

Also from the same article:

"The faces of the quarterbacks have drawn critiques from mainstream newspaper columns to online Web logs, including those geared toward football fans, gay men and teenage girls."

Which, of course, perfectly describes the readership of Corn Chips & Pie.

Gramps, you have no faith in medicine

My grandfather, a good and decent man, is also a fatalist. Having only known him during the latter third of his 89 years, I don't know if he was a fatalist at age sixteen or if this is just a more florid manifestation of old-man crankiness. I can only go on the hearsay of my other relatives, who are sneaky and untrustworthy.

Because I have a bunch of his grizzly Lutheran genes, of course it's easy to ascribe my own fatalistic streak to heredity. But the strains may be different. Since we were earlier speaking of Didion, let's read this quote from her psychiatric report (from The White Album): "...she feels deeply that all human effort is foredoomed to failure... she lives in a world of people moved by strange, conflicted, poorly comprehended, and, above all, devious motivations which commit them inevitably to conflict and failure..."

My grandfather's fatalism has less of the paranoid about it; he was, after all, in middle age during the 1960s. His is more pragmatic: things are cocked-up and getting worse. The outer manifestations of his worldview are so utterly grumpy that it's tempting to write them off as trivial and commonplace. Indeed, he's not wallowing in misery all the time. But everything, everything, down to the bamboo intruding into his garden, is symptomatic of decay and a herald of impending suffering that one would be a fool to ignore. This is a tough way to live. I didn't really see this clearly until last week in California.

I had driven an hour up to his place to pick him up for a doctor's appointment (he'd recently had successful surgery for colon cancer, and we were all concerned that he'd want to drive on his own). He'd agreed to at least have me accompany him; we hadn't yet negotiated who would drive. I arrived, walked up to the front door, and knocked. "Hey," I heard from behind me. There he was, sitting in the front seat of his 1988 Honda Civic, hands on the wheel, seatbelt fastened. "Let's go." I laughed; there would be no negotiation.

We drove down to the hospital, 45 mph on Highway 101, safely as can be. Just before Christmas, he'd been given a new lease on life: the doctor gave him about a 50% chance of surviving surgery itself, and cautioned that the cancer may well have spread. He did, and it hadn't. Now, it's obvious that being old hurts. A lot. But he bitched this way ten years ago, twenty even, and perhaps even eighty. "All the new thinking is about loss / In this it resembles all the old thinking," wrote Robert Hass in Meditation at Lagunitas. On this particular ride, Gramps bitched about the yuppification of Healdsburg, dead deer in the road, development in Santa Rosa, the declining quality of medical care, etc., clinging to his automotive autonomy with all the tenacity of one who will imminently lose this too.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Many men wish a pleasant day upon me

My bicoastal jet-set lifestyle flipped the switch this weekend, going from hippie daisychains to doing blow off Jeremy Shockey's chest in Joan Didion's apartment on Saturday night. It was ca-rayzee.

By the way: Dan Dierdorf needs to shut up.

Thursday, January 12, 2006


I like maps, and my favorite these days is a dog-eared copy of the Olmstead & Bros. Map Co.'s Rambler's Guide to the Trails of Mt. Tamalpais. Most importantly, it's a great map, but it's also annotated with endless but useless historical footnotes in a tiny font. Some excerpts below, sans joax:

Throckmorton Trail: ...the famed cellist, Pablo Casals, nearly ended his musical career by injuries from a fall on this trail.

White's Hill: Lorenzo E. White, an argonaut, arrived in San Francisco in 1849 aboard the bark John Ritson after a voyage of 95 days from Panama. Illness forced him to quit the gold fields so he repaired to the San Geronimo Valley where he raised cattle. The powers that be in Washington have removed the apostrophe from all places named for individuals, but we like it better left in.

Nudist's Nest: A soft, grassy spot in the midst of serpentine on Rocky Ridge. No longer used for the purpose indicated.

Bill Williams Gulch: reputed to have been a Civil War deserter who absconded with gold, Bill Williams had a cabin here.

Colier Trail: ...he was a Scot, an old bachelor, and a man of wealth which he endeavored to conceal. He would come to the door and pretend he was an old tramp seeking a handout. Short, simianesque, and bristly-bearded....

Rifle Camp: ...named after an old rifle dug up by a dog named Schneider...

Steep Ravine Trail: Ebenezer Knowlton, the "hiking professor" (1835-1911), kept this route open...

Swede George Creek: Swede George may have been "the Old Man," an unnamed Swede who worked on the mountain getting out saddlewood and who was living in San Rafael until he died in 1875.

Back to my incredibly edgy life of urban hijinx tomorrow.

For your consideration

If you ranked songs from best to worst on all the albums ever made, the top 4 track numbers just might be as follows: fourth, first, second, last.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Kill all marine mammals before they destroy our oceans

I only have a coupla days left to tromp around the hills & ridges of the Bay Area, which is too bad, because the weather's been really good lately. Then it's back to the Old World of Manhattan; I'll miss the redwoods & oaks & bays & madrones & manzanitas & buckeyes &c.

The rains of last week have left the soggy hills disgorging tons of water, creating cascades & waterfalls in the tiniest topographical furrows. The coho salmon run is heavy again in Lagunitas Creek. Lots of ecological grids overlay the areas of human habitation here: deer in the garden, owls in the tree, giant man-eating worms under our feet, and so on. But I always like it when an intrepid or retarded critter strays beyond its habitat. Examples: the humpback whale that checked out the Sacramento River, or the coyote found in Central Park, or the mountain lions that have terrorized vile yuppies in Palo Alto recently, or the sea lion that made its way to the Central Valley.

But it freaks me out a bit, too. You never know if that first coyote is a harbinger of an implacable wave of coyote immigrants who will invade our land, force us to sign unfavorable treaties, and steal our corn & women. I say: shoot the beast to be safe.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Stand by me


A quote: "His home is within walking distance of his synagogue, but Mr. Pieprz said other members there had never embraced Mr. Abramoff. They considered him abrasive and initially resented his plans to start a Jewish school, now defunct. And he was a Republican at the synagogue when few others were. Eventually, some came to appreciate Mr. Abramoff's Redskins football tickets and his restaurant for its kosher kitchen, Mr. Pieprz said."

Wait 'til they start power ranking the Silver Jews shows

I'm a bit late with this link, but good Lord, man.

Soi Disantra has always been about music and listmaking, and here is enough to satiate your feverish, sweaty needs. Keep scrolling down and you'll hit my personal favorite, a power ranking of other people's top 10 album lists of 2005.

Where is your intensity?

Watching the playoffs this weekend allowed me to realize a lifelong dream: watching Jimmy Johnson's hair set to the O'Jays, a million fucking times, over and over, until I puked.

Don Cheadle reminded us that, in the playoffs, the regular season means nothing. Nothing. And that this is it, the big time, the giant important super thing that means very much, and that we should be appropriately sober and serious-minded. It kinda felt like he was lecturing me. He did so with the same urgent intensity that he used when begging genocidal Hutu militias to spare his family. Which is why we should trust actors.

Speaking of weird emotional equivalencies, I felt about the same pedestrian pleasure watching the Bucs lose to the Redskins that I do when I eat a breakfast sandwich without any cheese on it. You know, any team that lost to the 49ers has absolutely no business in the playoffs.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Celebrity 2005! Remembering July-December

July: who smells Oscar? Alan Thicke does, sniffing all over Oscar's golden little body after a sensitive and powerful turn as Wassily Kandinsky in the biopic "Blue Rider."

August: mercurial bridge phenom Tony Takitani is kicked off his team by his aunt. Takitani shocks the media during an impromptu press conference in his driveway, accusing his aunt of storing the remains of Idi Amin in a box of potpourri on the toilet. "Like my boy says, if it looks like a rat and smells like a rat, by golly, it probably is a rat," Takitani proclaims, doing kneebends. Omar Sharif issued a statement calling Takitani "a cancer."

September: Christmas comes early for pop idol Laria, whose fiancee surprises her with a live narwhal during a taping of their reality show. Who can forget the rapture on her face as the glistening beast flopped about on her driveway in the failing light?

October: the Manchester-based quartet The Louchebags, having been crowned the heirs to The Beatles by NME, fail to make a splash in the U.S. with their debut LP, We Are The Louchebags. Frontman Jamie Armitage makes bigger headlines by eating supermodel Naomi Plissken.

November: the movie Pommes Frites opens, provoking a firestorm of self-congratulation in Hollywood. It features a controversial portrayal of a love affair between two Belgians, though the Belgians are played by Icelandic actors. Gunnar Blondal's agent denied that Blondal's subsequent role as Leif Ericson was calculated to distance him from Belgians. "Gunnar has great respect for the Belgian lifestyle, but this role plays to his core competency: being a great, strapping non-Belgian."

December: the septum enhancement craze reaches new heights, as starlet Winnie Culpepper's distinctive look is copied by young women across America. Surgeons work overtime to graft extra inches of ethmoid bone onto millions of faces. The "Winnie look" features a ridge or crest of bone that protrudes through the skin and dominates the face.

Friday, January 06, 2006

The Year In Celebrity

2005 was an absolutely celeb-riffic year; we were up to our keisters in vicarious thrills. Let's go month-by-month and recap the happenings that caused us to hump our pillows in lonely ecstasy, weeping as we stuffed our faces full of Toblerone. First half now, second half later if you're quiet and don't complain.

January: 2005 started off with a bang as funnyman Pete Incaviglia blew up a pumpkin with a cherry bomb during a taping of the Judy Bodine show.

February: speaking of bizarre hijinks, who can forget celebrity chef Tony Delhomme's meltdown during his Food Network show? He crammed an entire copy of Dianetics up his ass, as America wondered if perhaps there might be something to this Scientology after all.

March: a somewhat well-groomed young man with tenuous celebrity associations went on a spree of child molestation and genocide, sending Gawker into paroxysms of delight.

April: noted anorexic ingenue Yvette Weisberg (no longer "Y-Wei," she proclaimed on the Bodine show) shocked the international agricultural development community by developing a new rice cultivar that produces higher yields in upland drought-prone areas.

May: America was riveted by the courtship of Derek Robeson and sleek, honey-thighed minx JoJo McNabb. Us Weekly scored big with its exclusive photos of their first penetration, achieved with innovative use of a fiber-optic camera positioned in Robeson's urethra.

June: Scandal! Washington was rocked as America's sweetheart, Alan Thorpe, the Kennedy-esque deputy assistant secretary of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, was photographed by The New Republic slurping gravy out of a bowl at TGI Friday's. Like a common dog.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Good Riddance, 2005

Hello, good people.
I've been a bit unplugged lately, which is a good thing, but soon this blog will approach maximum velocity. The cobwebs have been parted. The weeds have been doused with Roundup. The barnacles have been scraped off the hull. A loofa has been applied to the nether regions. Fat is hardening into muscle.
You are about to witness the rebirth: Corn Chips & Pie Mark II. A jazz odyssey, if you will.

Monday, January 02, 2006

The Road To 4-12: Mission Accomplished

Remember: when you've pawned all your wife's jewelry, when there's a guy from the collection agency parked in an Aerostar across the street waiting for you to leave the house, when you need to make that last big score, listen to Corn Chips the Greek.