Thursday, March 30, 2006

4 things they don't want you to know

Some nuggets upon which to gnaw as you sit, slack-jawed & drooling in front of the glowing screen. Corn Chips & Pie recognizes that you have a choice, and as you careen headlong toward the grave with nary a moment to spare, we appreciate your patronage.

  • As a San Francisco Giants fan, it's hard to know what to root for this year. I'm holding out hope that, with George Mitchell's involvement, Barry Bonds will agree to stop using steriods in exchange for complete disarmament by Ulster loyalist militias.
  • You'd think a gin, tonic, & grapefruit juice would have a name by now, but apparently not. So, in an act of mild hubris, my friend is trying to name it after himself. Help a brother out. Order a "Schachterle," pronounced "shack-ter-ly." Sigh heavily when the bartender pleads ignorance. That is, if a gin, tonic, & grapefruit juice appeals to you in the slightest.
  • For those of you who aren't particularly xenophobic, but wish to hang your hat upon something less noxious than the refrain, "we need brown people to perform our filthy, low-wage labor," good news: the general consensus is that the current immigration situation is a small net benefit to our economy. (via Drum)
  • But George Borjas, a Harvard economist, argues that there are severe equity considerations, with poor native-born Americans hit hardest through wage suppression. I haven't thought this through, but I'm inclined to think the equity gains in terms of benefits to the immigrants themselves more than outweigh the former concern. Not sure why I should care about a US citizen earning $8000/year losing 7% in wages more than a Mexican citizen earning $500/year gaining 700% in wages. Which is not to argue for unregulated immigration-- there are obviously other potentially more important considerations-- but I'm not entirely convinced by the wage/equity issue.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

They come for the ass jokes, but they stay for the epidemiology

I'm a couple of weeks late on this, but just a few thoughts:

If you happened to read the article on HIV/AIDS drug trials by Celia Farber in this month's Harper's, and if you're only passingly familiar with the world of HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention and/or clinical trials, I could understand if you came away with a dim view of the AIDS "industry" and its nefarious aims. Farber's a decent writer, and she knows how to craft an argument. Unfortunately, the article is shockingly inaccurate, irresponsible, and wrong-headedly ideological. If you're interested, I suggest you check out this rebuttal by the South African Treatment Action Campaign.

It's hard to know what to make of Celia Farber. At best, she seems guilty of a sin she falsely attributes to HIV/AIDS researchers: becoming so heavily invested in an erroneous idea that it clouds her professional judgment. In her case, it's the notion that HIV is not the cause of AIDS. Her campaign to champion nutbag virologist Peter Duesberg has won her notoriety and acclaim from delusional dissident quarters, but it's no exaggeration to say that HIV denialism has cost countless lives where the idea holds sway (e.g., South African policymakers).

But this theme is awkwardly shoehorned into the article (like, lessee... like a capybara into a shot glass). Ostensibly, the article is about flaws in a nevirapine trial for preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV. But toss in a little Duesberg, sprinkle liberally with sweeping falsehoods and inaccuracies, and you've got a new dish. The more I think about what she's actually arguing (she insists that critics are failing to separate the reporter from the subjects of her reporting, to which I say: dude, come on), the more I boggle.

Error-checking aside, Farber's one interesting duck. I mean, required to even minimally support her worldview are a) a total misapprehension of the aims, protocols, and interpretations of randomized controlled trials and epidemiology in general, b) complete ignorance of circumstances prevailing in poor countries, c) a view of "Africa" as a single monolithic dark continent, d) a perhaps initially virtuous skepticism of authority, coupled with tremendous credulity when it comes to "dissident" sources of information, and e) a spectacular ability to suspend disbelief in the face of absolutely overwhelming evidence. I can't believe she's actually an amoral careerist. And I can't believe that Harper's printed this bullshit.

This is much more immediately harmful than promoting a "debate" over intelligent design. This resurrects a heap of fatal lies under the auspices of open debate, and Harper's should immediately retract the article, or-- more realistically-- publish a lengthy rebuttal. Even the latter is unlikely to happen, so, taking a cue from this email, CC&P asks you to consider sending an email to Harper's (,, asking them to print the TAC rebuttal.

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Observatory

Those of you who attended Burning Man a couple of years ago may recall an exhibit called "The Observatory." A single-file line stretched out the door into the desert night. One waited for ages as the line inched forward, eventually carrying patrons into the central dome of the observatory. The line circled around a central platform and led to the top, where people (one at a time) could peer into a scope mounted upon the platform.

The sequence of events was repeated with little variation: the viewer, a bit giddy with anticipation, entirely ignorant of the delights waiting through the lens, would squint into the scope, furrow his/her brow for a moment or two, and then burst out laughing. Then the viewer would be escorted into a back room.

Here was the Observatory's secret: the scope was linked to a hidden camera on the floor that offered a spectacular view of the viewer's ass-- and, if the viewer lacked undergarments, of the viewer's pubes. In the back room, a crowd of new initiates gathered below a big screen that featured a live view from the hidden camera. There were jeers, cheers, and howls. Does this sound as if it could get old quickly? It really didn't get old for me.

Were I feeling particularly clever at the moment, I would draw a devastating parallel between this exhibit and our current geopolitical situation. Or an aspect of contemporary literary criticism. Or Ray Liotta. I mean, this is a tailor-made bit of cultural crit right here. A layup. But my palsied, skinny arms can only send the ball clanging off the front of the rim. Time to retreat to a bubble bath with my pint of Ben & Jerry's and a fifth of Jameson. I need to treat myself. I deserve it.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Nyquil musings

During childhood, everyone witnesses a generation fading away along with its cultural moment. We don't know it at the time, of course. We regard older people-- here I'm thinking of teenagers-- as a static class with unchanging hairstyles, unchanging preferences in recreational drugs, unchanging facial hair configurations.

My generation's earliest memories are of the 1970s' final gasp as it graded into the 1980s. To a tiny kid, teenagers were the menacing guys working on their Trans Ams in the driveway, smoking pot, drinking Olympia, listening to Sabbath, and throwing dirt clods at you. We would all become them someday, we believed and feared. And they looked like Adam Morrison. So I felt a primal twinge of satisfaction watching him weep at midcourt the other day. Take that, teenager.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Pick 'em

Busy today, so I'll just point you to a variety of goings-on elsewhere.

  • Josh Marshall is more pointed than usual in his justifiable takedown of Iraq's Coalition Provisional Authority hack Dan Senor: "Working with experts on post-war reconstuction was no more than pissing away time and expense on a tribe of effete paper-pushers. He's unperturbed and oblivious to the fact that the product of his cocky assuredness has descended into blood and fire." More here.
  • The world's oldest tortoise has died, at age 250. They're carbon-dating his shell.
  • Once, as a child, I walked outside following a last-second loss by the 49ers. Normally reliable, spectacularly mustachioed placekicker Ray Wersching had been wide right. Mr. Ray across the street was washing his car and said to me, under the correct assumption that I'd seen the game, "Never trust a kicker, son." Only now do I realize how right he was.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Also, homosexuals no longer must wear blue hat

Sometimes you just wonder if it's worth it. A $2 million Coke ad during the Super Bowl. A teaser ad for a Tim Allen movie in the 145th St. stop. An ad for the New York Stock Exchange. That marginal dollar might not be pulling its weight.

But the king of all squandered ad dollars must be the verbose, glossy "advertising supplements" you often see in magazines, taken out by the Government of Singapore ("Now With Less Caning"), Sao Tome & Principe ("Petro Dollars = Fantastic Hookers"), or some other developing country. They're all the same: a long description of industrial accomplishments, natural resources, the favorable investing climate, happy smiling people, and sound financial infrastructure. Who, you wonder, is gonna drop a couple million on a garment factory in Uruguay based on a fucking magazine ad?

And then I saw Sudan's supplement in Sunday's New York Times. Holy shit. If you win that trip with Nicholas Kristof, be prepared to hear about that one for a while. You'll be pulling your mummy bag over your head as he rants. (Also, I hear he's lactose-intolerant, so get a ventilated tent.)

Free speech, slippery slope, editorial principles, etc..... but man, if there's a standard for rejecting an advertisement, those from genocidal states must surely qualify. What an absolute disgrace. Nazi comparisons are almost always a bad idea, but go ahead & let your mind wander.

Beware the fish 'neath the stone

They caught another coyote in Central Park today. Reminds me. There's a tiny little patch of Manhattan, one of those flatiron triangles carved out by either train lines or poor planning, down in the West Village somewhere. This orphaned triangle, shaded by apartment buildings and adjacent to a busy avenue, is a "park"; that is, there are a couple of trees & a bench or two. The gilding on this lily is a pathway of flat limestone with images of trout etched upon it. Why trout? The park's name (cannot recall the name, sorry... it's "---kills," I think) is the Dutch name for the creek that ran through the area before heavy settlement. Apparently the creek was known for the plenitude of trout.

Now, of course, there is no creek. However, a small sign notes that nearby residents in the creek's former path have complained of leaks in the basement from time to time. I like to think of pale trout coursing underneath the buildings, following a hardy trickle of moisture through the soil, winding around basements and subway tunnels.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Riding the Nyquil dragon

wherever it takes me.... more from the Other Side later.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

It's all in the reflexes

  • The #1 complaint by first-time visitors to San Francisco is that Chinatown bears little resemblance to the one pictured in Big Trouble In Little China. Meanwhile, residents of Chinatown bitch about the striking dissimilarities between tourists and Kurt Russell. I think both sides need to compromise a bit.
  • Up The Bracket: I bid my crisp Hamilton goodbye when I realized, too late, that Elvis Stojko wasn't in the tournament at all. I had him in the Final Four, losing to Gorman Thomas in a nailbiter.
  • I recommend the fancy new planetarium show at the NY Museum of Natural History. It's pretty neat, and plus the security guards are ruthless in their ejection of whiny babies.
  • With impending departure from NYC later this year, CC&P is gonna take full advantage of this big city. Rock & roll show tonite, Jewish shrink tomorrow morning, maybe a slap in the face in the afternoon.
  • I used to buy all my food from Trader Joe's when I lived in SF & DC. I greeted news of a NY store with a girlish squeal. Then the Special Lady & I walked by the new store today, and saw a line down the goddamn block... all simply waiting to enter the store & shop. I'll wait a week or so to get my 58 pounds of dried goods, frozen peas, and $2 wine.
  • Collected Insults, V. III, from The Wild Palms: "...a red-faced cold-eyed man of about fifty, with a highwayman's head and the body of a two-hundred-and-twenty-pound college fullback gone to fat, in a suit of expensive tweed which nevertheless looked on him as if he had taken it from a fire sale at the point of a pistol..." This reminds me of pretty much everybody I saw on the streets at 10am in Boston on St. Patrick's Day, swaying from the 11 pints of Harp they'd downed already, with wallets $25 lighter from the cover charge at The Burren or wherever.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

There is no such thing as a coincidence. There are only lying hippies.

In Boston now. Short post, arbitrary memory:

When I was living in DC, I picked up some pots & pans & small furniture from an acquaintance who was moving to Paris. On my way home from her place, I got an excited phone call from my friend DS, who had just caught a foul ball at a Giants game.

Then, exactly one year later, I picked up some small items of furniture from another acquaintance who was moving to Paris. On my way home from her place, I got a phone call from DS, who had just caught his second foul ball at a ballgame.

This phenomenon ended there. Although DS did catch another foul ball, demonstrating irrefutable evidence of a prior pact with Satan, my apartment is not brimming over with French knicknacks.

M's Cafe

There's a place on 9th Avenue in San Francisco's Inner Sunset district that I dream of once in a while. These reveries are usually prompted by a crappy $12 yuppie "brunch special" in the East Village, or by my frequent visits to Cafe Reme (truly a good, solid greasy spoon, with lovely old ladies giving you affectionate smartassery; but the food's a little shitty & the prices are still a little high) in Washington Heights. Actually, hold on. Let's stick on Cafe Reme for a second. How does one pronounce Reme? Nobody seems to know. Ream? Remay? Remeh? The waitresses are befuddled as well. The original Monsignor Reme departed years ago, leaving neither oral history nor a pronunciation guide.

Anyway, M's Cafe is a small, unassuming place promising "Traditional American and Irish breakfasts," advertised by a wooden sign with a crudely painted hamburger. It is owned & operated by an extremely friendly Chinese couple, often with assistance from one of their kids. The thrift-store decor seems arbitrary (but may in fact constitute an elaborate symbology detailing plans for an underground postal system, or a dirty joke, or the human genome): a picture of Pope John Paul II, a photograph of a bowl of fruit, an architectural plan for a house. The plastic flowers have drops of glue on their petals to simulate dew.

And listen: for $3.55, you can get the "M's Special": Two eggs any style. Sausage, ham, or bacon. Home fries. And a cup of coffee. And a glass of orange juice. AND a stack of pancakes or french toast. For $2.75, you can get all of the above minus the home fries. And-- the astonishing thing-- it's all pretty good. If you are so inclined, get a burger: they're big and tasty, and the cheeseburgers are $2.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Long Live Our Friend The Machine-Gun!

You 'fraid of my bullet points? I gots a ferkin machine-gun! Bang bang bang.

  • Pi was a movie about math and conspiracy by someone whose relationship with both concepts was idealized, superficial, laughable. I hated it. Why did I watch Requiem For A Dream? It was Reefer Madness for the emo set. I hated it even more than I hated Pi. Which is a lot.
  • Baltimore has a motto. It is "BELIEVE." I find this creepy.
  • Japan got jobbed by the fucking umps. Damn. I really didn't think I'd get into the World Baseball Classic. But I did. This is great. Gambate!
  • I don't know why, but: I own five Faulkner novels. I have finished none. I have read half of several. I like every one I've begun. I have no explanation for this. I'm sorry.
  • "Monkey" was a hipster word five years ago. Now it's a fratboy word. Alack!
  • There are people today who draw maps, using techniques and visual styles that hew closely to the methods employed by legitimate draftspersons of the vocation, of realms spun entirely from imaginary cloth.
  • Niners just traded Brandon Lloyd. They now plan to run a flying wedge offense.
  • There's kind of an interesting evil twin thing going on in the Bush Admin right now. Knock yerself out.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Sunday Night Web-Logging

Most people have the same basic quantity of suavity, but distribute it differently. I tend to act like an awkward monkey most of the time, punctuated by flashes of absolute smoothness. Friday night, my friend & I got nice & drunk & stoned, and this friend threw a vase of flowers at me in the lobby of the Baltimore Days Inn, but I caught it without looking. Somehow, only one flower fell to the floor. The concierge was impressed. I'm still pretty impressed with myself.

Actually, this concierge was the coolest guy ever minted. We approached him with a long, rambling story about a borrowed car & a flat tire, and asked him where the car was. He said in a low voice and a European accent, "It's taken care of." I looked at him for a few seconds, then asked him, "Are you fucking with us?" He replied, without blinking, "Yes, I am." Then, a few seconds later: "I have no idea what you're talking about." Perhaps the hurled vase led him to take us less seriously than he otherwise might have.

This man looked like a paunchy Lenin.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

I think in bullet points because I have a developmental disorder

  • I was reading the Dust Congress, which is pretty much my only source of fancypants culture these days (to my discredit, I have no patience for poetry unless it's polished, buffed, placed on a blog, and festooned with contemporary art), and I got all excited because there was a line from Opal's Early Recordings quoted. Ah but no: I remembered that "Hear The Wind Blow" had been covered on Dean Wareham & Britta Phillips' L'Avventura. Anyway, both are worth a listen.
  • I cannot stop listening to Union's "Strike" from the Product Placement cuts.
  • Canada beat the US in the World Baseball Classic, crushing the national pride of 3 staffers for, and prompting high-fives & beef jerky among two plumbers in Manitoba. I truly wished I had a television set for the Cuba-Panama game today, though.
  • Those of you with firsthand knowledge of Baltimore are urged to contact our ombudsman, as Corn Chips & Pie world headquarters might relocate to the home of Lady Day and Kyle Boller. I fear and resent this. I don't like crab all that much, nor do I like crabs all that much, both of which are apparently abundant there.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Non-preachy bullshit returns tomorrow

There's this quaint perception that public health is grossly underfunded. Jeffrey Sachs, former Harvard economist and current head of the UN Millenium Project, would have you believe that we should be spending way more money on fighting tuberculosis, HIV, and malaria. He's always harping on a) how little is spent currently, and b) how little would be required to save 10 million lives per year (one-tenth of 1% of the GDP of developed countries).

Frankly, this is getting tiresome. Surely he, as an economist, understands the concept of non-fungibility. Sure, sure, the payroll of the AL East is half the entire budget for the World Health Organization. And yeah, two days of US military spending in Iraq would be sufficient to meet the annual spending goals set to wipe out global tuberculosis & save 2 million lives a year. But these Harper's-Index-style factoids are specious & misleading.

Upon closer inspection, the argument falls apart. If the Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles, Blue Jays, and Devil Rays donated even 75% of their payrolls to the WHO, the resulting talent deficit would shake the baseball world. Middle relief would be the first to suffer. Closer-by-committee would suddenly become popular again in Boston. Triple-A rosters would be shot up to the bigs without adequate coaching, resulting in a lot of avoidable arm injuries. Aging free agents with bum knees? Well, they'd better hope the AL Central or West teams have free DH spots. The salary ripples would spread: teams would have much better leverage in arbitration, resulting in union dissatisfaction and possibly another strike. Mike & The Mad Dog would cut their intern staff. The A's might finally get past the first round.

And the whole military thing: look, even if I were to concede that there are more cost-effective ways to completely fuck up the world order, it's a close call. Besides, the government can't just shift resources from one purpose to another. If we wanted to spend a few billion on public health, that would require popular will, Congressional action, and various bits of paperwork that are far too tedious to even begin thinking about. I'm bored already. So let's think twice before making ridiculous pronouncements about how we're "not spending enough" on fighting disease. This is the best of all possible worlds, little Candide.

Monday, March 06, 2006

I give you... nuggets

You are women and men of action. You have no time for dilly-dallying. You despise bloated prose, frippery, serifs, stopping at the roadside stand for cherry cider. There is simply no room for the slightest inefficiency. A to fucking B, you get me? This is why, for your convenience, today's post will be in a special format. Bullet points. You deserve it. You really do.

  • Elementary schools should incorporate into sex education A.G. Rizzoli's incredibly baroque illustration & schematic of the female orgasm ("The Bluesea House"). Here we have a visual feast of graphs, charts, illustrations, and nonsensical annotation in varying fonts. This is the female orgasm portrayed as only a lonely, gentle, insane man with tremendous skills of draftsmanship (and no sexual experience) could portray it. Which is to say, it is bizarre and kind of funny. I keep saying this, but I will write more about this guy in coming posts. In the meantime, read here about his life.
  • Friend AW is a doctor unconstrained by borders. Regarding a man receiving emergency surgery in the sticks of El Salvador, she notes that "If I was the dude I wouldn't have let a group of doctors stick a tube in my chest when they are reading the directions off the box, translated by someone (me) who keeps saying 'I don't know what this word means.' He is still alive."
  • Some overzealous Yankees ticket salesman got a slap on the wrist for bitching about the World Baseball Classic. I can maybe see some 47-year old with khakis, a braided belt, a tucked-in golf shirt, & a miserable 11-year-old son getting pissed because he bought a two-week vacation package to Florida and Jeter's not in camp. Big fucking deal. I love the idea of a global baseball tournament. Selig's on the right side of this one, even if it's for the wrong reasons. And did you see that Korea upset Japan? I like Japan's team, but that's pretty cool, especially given the not-uncommon racism with which Japan is blessed.
  • I really couldn't care less about the Oscars, except that I'm gonna win some money. Although I did not see Crash, I know that I would despise it nearly as much as I despised Garden State, which is saying quite a bit, quite a bit.

Friday, March 03, 2006

He's #1, He's The Turntable King (Slurp Slurp)

We all need gateway albums. Not all of us are born with impeccable musical taste, formed in utero by Pitchfork-engineered developmental genes. Some people discovered the Velvet Underground through Luna; some people arrived at Operation Ivy via Green Day; others bought a Toots & The Maytals record because of The Specials or even No Doubt. And that's ok. Would I have unearthed Huey Lewis & The News without Young Jeezy? Doubtful.

Anyway, one of my favorite albums is DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist's "Brainfreeze," which has endured countless plays. For those of you tragically unfamiliar with the album: it's a practice session for the Future Primitive Soundsession in San Francisco in 1999, consisting almost entirely of hard-to-find soul, funk, and early hip-hop 45s. It was officially released in small quantities, then bootlegged like crazy. And it's fantastic. Equally as good, in my book, is their follow-up album, "Product Placement," featuring the seminal hip-hop track "Rappin' With Gas" by the National Fuel Gas Distribution Corporation.

So I've listened to it over & over, always with the assumption that I'd never be able to track down the original cuts. Then, feeling idly curious one day this week, I used a popular search engine called Google. Oboyoboy. These fine obsessive-compulsives managed to enumerate every original 45 on the album, and even scan in images of the discs themselves. It's truly a great work of scholarship. Then, using the magic of file-sharing, I managed to piece together about 95% of all the tracks. God, it's heaven.

Highlights? I don't even know where to begin. Reuben Bell's "Superjock." The Singing Principal's "Woman's Lib." The Nu-Sound Express' "Ain't It Good Enough." Thunder & Lightning's "Bumpin' Bus Stop." And so on... 57 tracks in all. It's my soul gateway album. One day soon I'll try and podcast them, or post them, or somehow make them available.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Men in dashikis with their leftist weeklies

I'm done with my Didion 10k, but her voice still hangs in my head. It's awfully hard to dislodge. One effective means of shedding a persistent echo is to dunk one's head in a bucket of Sam Smith Taddy Porter. Another is to read a boatload of academic papers, which is the route I've employed, though not by choice.

Alas, I am one of those unfortunate chameleons who (unconsciously, I swear to Jeebus) picks up subtle bits of diction, cadence, & manner from those around him. Which is good and bad, but mostly bad, and I've learned to control the tendency a bit over the years. It's just embarrassing and ridiculous to speak in an Irish lilt when in Galway, or to uncharacteristically drop all "g"s from my gerunds when in the South, or to accidentally don a dashiki when watching an African movie, etc. So I've tried very hard to resist the urge to poorly ape Didion's style lately w/somber & judgmental posts about delusion... if I start writing posts with intros, lit reviews, methods, results, and conclusions, you'll know why.

I Am The Resurrection

It's happening; it's happening; it's happening. Pitchers and catchers have already reported to camp, Barry Bonds has impersonated Paula Abdul and recalibrated my erotic sensibilities, and McCovey Chronicles is dissecting the Randy Winn extension. Spring is in the air, chilluns, even if you don't yet believe it. For what it's worth, I think we can look forward to a great A's-Angels race in the AL West this year, and I have absolutely no idea how the Giants will deal with their prostate problems this year. I am happy to see Edgardo Alfonzo & JT Snow leave. As for the Yankees and Red Sox, well, I don't give a shit. So let's all sit back and enjoy the World Baseball Classic, and let's root for Japan or the Netherlands, just for the hell of it.