Thursday, November 30, 2006

No pictures of Britney's twat here

Why not make it a perfectly mirth-free week?
Check this out and observe Josh Marshall, whose prose usually matches the tone of his banner photo (eyebrows wryly raised & forehead slightly wrinkled, ready to wonk the crap out of Social Security privatization), string together the adjectives "noxious," "risible," and "fetid" with nary a pause for refreshment. And not unfairly so. Not unfairly so.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

marginal dollar

It's rare that such an intense admiration for a writer and such a spittle-inducing frustration with her words coexist in my soft & misshapen head. I know it's just an honest and human yowl, and mostly a frustrated blog post about Iraq.* Plus, everybody wants to give the pious a good cockpunch. But come on. There's plenty of low-hanging fruit for you do-gooders, and none of it involves marching.

This is true even if you're fucking stupid, breathtakingly lazy, and possessed of only the wherewithal to plop your gym-toned asses on your Brno chairs and give money. I'd like to create a site called "Marginal Dollar." It would employ a small team of smartypants economists & epidemiologists & such to identify a weekly Worthy Recipient of one's donations. The choice would be as scientific as possible but ultimately one of arbitrary taste. Usually small programs but not necessarily. Click to donate. Leave the thinkin' to others, who will be wrong much of the time but right some of the time. At the moment, it's hard to go wrong giving money to "orphan disease" mitigation programs like those for childhood helminth infections, expansion of DOTS TB control programs, &c.

I know it may sound like I've sipped the Public Health Kool-Aid. But it's hard to ignore that self-righteous pricks like Jeffrey Sachs are right (in overall message, even if you argue with the details): international health is grossly, obscenely underfunded. Though we may rightly gnash our teeth about Iraq, malnutrition and disease are the biggest evils in the world. That is staggeringly obvious. And it's not only recalcitrant and/or malevolent geopolitical forces that dictate outcomes. A huge part of it is simply money.

It is incredibly pathetic that Bill Gates has revolutionized the scope of public health research through his donations. To repeat myself, it is incredibly pathetic that the payroll of the AL East is half the annual budget for the WHO. It is incredibly pathetic that the CGIAR network loses core funding from country donors every year. It is incredibly pathetic that two days of US military spending in Iraq would be sufficient to meet the annual spending goals set to wipe out TB & thus save 2 million lives a year. The only silver lining is that marginal dollars count. Marginal dollars that you can give, and that might actually do something useful besides making Sally Struthers stop weeping.

Look, I oversimplify, and I am not arguing that we should remove attention from Iraq. But what little I've said is true. Give me that. And give me your money so I can buy some small-batch bourbon instead of this rail "whiskey," which I'm pretty sure is just ethanol.

*State-sponsored violence, and violence in general, arouses more outrage than state-condoned passivity in the face of massive human suffering. Easier to let a man get hit by a train than to push him in front of it. Maybe this makes ethical sense. I dunno.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

I invented four things in my sleep

  • A donut shaped like a sea urchin with spines of crystalline caramel.
  • A baseball preening ritual wherein one ostentatiously places one's Oakley wraparound shades atop home plate for subsequent retrieval following one's 360-foot home run trot.
  • A "lost" Gunter Grass novel about rabbits, along the lines of Watership Down.
  • A new kind of stripey pants.

This is the blogging equivalent of mentioning in conversation that your muscles are sore, or that you actually don't care for Cornish hens. Id est, nobody cares, I think.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Choose Your Own Adventure

You and your brother push aside the rusty grating, and descend into the inky blackness. To the left, you see a faint glowing. To the right, it is pitch black, but you hear a Latin drumbeat that evokes Tito Puente.

If you want to head to the left, turn to page 14.

If you feel the "ritmo" of the right, turn to page 87.

[no subject]

You don't need a blog named "Corn Chips and Pie" to tell you that time passes quickly, more quickly than any of us can understand. But blogs exist to generate superfluous syllables. So.

When I lived in Washington, D.C., I knew a beautiful lady named Cora. She was born in Maryland, on a tobacco farm, during World War I. At the very end of her life, when she had lost almost everything she had ever known, she somehow retained her kindness and social grace.

She had Alzheimer's, and went through periods in which she could remember the dress she wore when she learned her father had died of a heart attack (she was in a cornfield with her sister), but could not remember where she was. She was in a nursing home with flickering fluorescent lights and yellowing linoleum, surrounded by caring but numb Ethiopian nurses.

Thus, when she expressed sincere bewilderment at the disappearance of tobacco farms and the ascendance of strip malls in Maryland and Virginia, it was plain that Alzheimer's was not to blame. "What happened to all the farms?" she asked, wide-eyed. Memory loss? No. She remembered every year of her life up to around the turn of the century. She spent most of her life as the maid for a piano salesman. "A Jewish man. He was always very kind to me. As white people go, I have no complaints with the Jews. Always very kind."

No, she remembered everything: the second world war, the postwar boom, the civil rights movement, the sneaky creep of incomprehensible technology. But she could not understand how the landscape of her childhood-- of her adolescence, of her adulthood, for God's sake-- could be so transformed. I myself only have anecdotal evidence of this. Once was a sorghum field, now it's a Linens & Things. You got it; you got it. But just drive west on 66 from DC. Or explore 'round Gaithersburg. Even if you never saw what came before, you will get a feeling in your marrow. An unpleasant feeling.

But the ethics & aesthetics of suburban sprawl are totally irrelevant. Cora was utterly bewildered, scared even, at the changes wrought upon her world. And she died-- Cora died alone, through no fault of her distant relatives who did their part-- alienated and dizzied, but with a subtle, straight-backed defiance. She broke institutional rules by using Scotch 3M double-sided tape to mount prints of fruit-bowl still lifes. She complained about the unruly sycamore trees, left untrimmed outside her 5th-floor window. She clucked and shook her head at coverage of the DC sniper. Muhammad and Malvo were sniping from former irrigation ditches, from outbuildings, from stands of fencerow dogwoods.

Cora never got married, and convinced me that she was happy with the decision. There was one man in particular, a man with whom she'd had a 15-year relationship, but it just was never quite right. He'd died. Her old boss had died. Many of her relatives had died. Time just flew right by, and she never really got a handle on things, and now there was an Outback Steakhouse in her daddy's back 40, and there you go.


I never thought I would say this, but the 49ers lost to an inferior team today.

I have lived in several major metropolitan areas: SF, DC, NY, and now Baltimore. In 3/4 of those cities, it was easy to find natives who didn't give a flying fig about their sports teams. Most sane people would argue that this is a sign of a healthy, vibrant community. Still. It's nice to be in a city where the bars are packed on Sundays with purple #52 jerseys. People love their Ravens, and hate them too. It was 24-0 in the 4th quarter today, and the crusty old guy next to me was bitching about McNair to general approval. He threw me a bone by reciting half the roster of the 1947 San Francisco 49ers-- the team that beat the Colts 14-7 in Kezar Stadium half a century ago.

I am finding that I love Baltimore.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


I am thankful for Rickey. Pay him.

I am thankful for Lindsay. The Altmans are surely smiling through their tears.

I am not thankful for Blogger. Why are my posts invisible sometimes? Why didn't I use Typepad?

Monday, November 20, 2006

Late nite man-nuggets (Ayn Rand, cigar, football, 007)

  • From the Washington Monthly: "The Gingrichites were a bunch of high school kids who got hooked on Ayn Rand and then forgot to grow out of it. They had obsessive personalities but no serious experience of the world, and this toxic combination led to a genuine, sincere, completely delusional belief that Atlas Shrugged wasn't a monomaniacal flight of fancy, but a blueprint for society that could actually be put into practice. They were the guys who rant from soapboxes in Hyde Park, but with nice suits and silk ties."
  • I am smoking a small cigar right now. I cannot tell if I enjoy it.
  • The 49ers are now 5-5, one game out of first place in the NFC West, and all across the country, Niners fans have turned to their friends and said "Hey, they could make the playoffs." All these fans attempted to convey withering irony when uttering this absurdity, but they overdid it a little, and if you looked in their eyes, there was an insane little gleam, and tiny droplets of Anchor Steam were flying out of their mouths. This is a 7-9 team, foax. I swear.
  • I quite enjoyed Casino Royale, but I looked at my ticket stub, and the truncation of the title evoked what might have been an even better movie: "Casino Roy." Starring Alex Karras and Fred Willard.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

'nother note

Just a brief word before I get back to whatever it is that I'm supposed to be doing:
There is a very distinct type of person who is very common in Baltimore. He is very thin, maybe heroin-thin, maybe just morning wine & Utz potato chips thin. He has a long ponytail and a cigarette. He has a black tanktop with dried paint on it, and he has tattoos. He has a baseball cap. He may be a contractor. He has three teeth. He is Caucasian, but his skin is really the color of bloody clay.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


This is a big-tent country for people with unusual obsessions and fantasy lives. For the most part, America condones and even encourages all kinds of stupid single-mindedness among those with disposable incomes. All part of the gorgeous tapestry of life, etc. There's nothing wrong with it, unless you are a Chris Ware character whose life is ravaged by a lifelong devotion to action figures. But I presumptuously offer one suggestion.

If you find yourself Googling "Matt Houston fan fiction", you might stop and consider whether your unhappiness and your hobby have a common causal antecedent. And, hey, maybe you could try to wipe the slate clean. Start over. (There are several of you out there, so take heart.)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Go balloons!

Biggest douchebag. Hmm. There were so many spectacular douchebags in this campaign, it would be unfair to pick a winner. But I am unfair. I pick George Allen. Sweet as it was to see Rick Santorum's retarded children weep onstage Tuesday night, it was even sweeter to watch George Allen concede this afternoon.

And it isn't just his racism that earns him the bag-- it is carrying that fucking football wherever he goes. Hey, there he is, tossing the ol' pigskin around before he votes! Hey, let's have a little catch at Rosa Parks' funeral! And of course, just before his concession speech, he whips out the football & tosses a little girly-armed dying quail to a supporter. What an asshole.

And I should know. George Allen and I are both effete aristocrats who wield football talk in much the same manner that Ian Faith wielded a cricket bat-- as an affectation. The common folk love the NFL, I'm told, and so I keep it real with a few 49ers* references.

*Who are moving to Santa Clara, home of office parks and guys named Marshall with job titles like Solutions Coxswain.

I didn't mean THAT, but now that you mention it...

Holy Toledo.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Ken Mehlman got beat up a lot as a kid

Share with me, if you will be so kind, a restrained fist-pump. Gently close your eyes, tilt your head slightly downward, ball your fingers into a fist, and slowly tuck your elbow in to your side.

If you are a lawyer, I think that it would be fun for you to head to Virginia or Montana to do pro bono work. It's like sprinting down from your $45 seats at the MCI center, anxious to start scrappin', because your Brendan Haywood is trading surreally long, whip-like swings with an Atlanta Hawk.

Just watch out for Rove; you don't wanna end up like that Pistons fan who thoughtfully provided his fat head as a punching bag for Ron Artest. My suggestion is this: throw beer at Rove and make him charge you, then feign a mental disability.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Nuggety clusters

  • No reason to be optimistic, other than a refusal to let the Republicans sap all hope from this country. Vote early, drink immediately afterward.
  • This whole Borat thing is totally overhyped. I mean, what, exactly, is funny about a naked hairy man with fat-pillows shoving his nutsack into another naked hairy man's face? What's so funny about bringing a small bag of feces down from the bathroom at a formal Southern dinner party? What is so funny about the line, "all other countries have inferior potassium"? Nothing. There is absolutely nothing funny about those things. Best movie ever ever.
  • 49ers: I stand, resolute, at the prow of this 3-5 ship. A stiff wind of derision blows. My hair is flatteringly ruffled. I squint at the horizon, and see the Lions, Rams, Packers, and Cardinals on the schedule. My cruel mouth twists into a slight smirk. 7-9 ho!
  • Not to get too navely gazey (recall, however: this is a blog), but I thought I'd recap last week's structured blogging experiment. Monday: workmanlike and unspectacular. Tuesday: I liked my joke. Wednesday: running on empty, I turned to Jack Evans. Thursday: a really weak finish. Friday: let's just pretend I posted on Friday. Verdict: "structure" and "form" are like barbed wire fences to the gamboling chestnut mare of my creativity.

Let's start your week off right

Great world we live in here. Kudos all around. Nice one.

"In one course, an advanced trauma treatment program he had taken before deploying, he said, the instructors gave each corpsman an anesthetized pig.

“The idea is to work with live tissue,” he said. “You get a pig and you keep it alive. And every time I did something to help him, they would wound him again. So you see what shock does, and what happens when more wounds are received by a wounded creature.”

“My pig?” he said. “They shot him twice in the face with a 9-millimeter pistol, and then six times with an AK-47 and then twice with a 12-gauge shotgun. And then he was set on fire.”

“I kept him alive for 15 hours,” he said. “That was my pig.”"

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Thursday: reading, watching, doing, wanking

Such a fucking lackluster topic. I should have called an audible & done something else, but I just want to be done with it. The schedule-based blogging experiment ends this weekend.

So. I can recommend the following media/consumer experiences, experiences of which I am currently availing myself:
Re-reading is all I can muster while in school. Now re-reading: Joan Didion's Where I Was From, Lloyd Brown's The Story of Maps, Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities. Listening to early Stones-- Aftermath, Out of Our Heads. Also Can, Ted Leo, The Vines. Recent theater movies: The Prestige (good), The Departed (great). Recent Netflix: Duck Soup, Easy Rider, Aliens. Just consumed a nice Barolo with a lorazepam. Also: try to reach your personal ceiling for garlic consumption. 'Sfun.

I also recommend making a pomander ball whilst watching the Warriors lose game 1 of their season. It is very soothing.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Wednesday: Esto es "topical humor"

The blogger's crutch, the easy laff. Everyone does it; it's ok. Sometimes, you know, you just need a cheap & quick post for the ol' Hump Day.* So you take a headline from the paper, add a joke involving hot anal sex, water sports, or an "edgy" racial jab, and your work is done for the day. I'm going to break our blogging appointment today, though, because I am even lazier than that, and because P.W. Botha died, and I wanted to just remind you of this: Ninety years of life are rarely wasted on somebody less deserving. Here's a nice valediction.

*There's this character I occasionally slip into when speaking with my brother and a couple of friends, who respond in kind. His name is Jack Evans. He is a businessman. He speaks loudly on the telephone. He says things like "just shoot me an email" and "I'm gonna bounce a couple of ideas off you" and "I hear that, buddy." When picking up the phone, he says "Jack Evans." He talks about "working for the weekend" and "cracking open a cold one," but when he is working, he is all business. He may be funny only to me & my coterie.