Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Artyfactual nuggets

  • R.E.M. (the tantalizingly mysterious Michael Stipe wears his perm well) plays "Radio Free Europe" on David Letterman in 1983. Here.
  • I have lived in San Francisco and New York; both cities rightfully honor the Brunch. (You know, brunch. It's not quite breakfast, it's not quite lunch, but it comes with a slice of cantaloupe at the end. The meal favored by louche pussies.) Kate's Kitchen, Miss Millie's, Dottie's True Blue, M's Cafe, Prune, Clinton St. Bakery, 9th St. Market, etc. etc. But after extensive research and careful review, I have concluded that the best place for brunch in the world is the Blue Moon Cafe in Baltimore. Aliceann St., one block west of Broadway. I will not sully its perfection with logorrhea. They just need stronger coffee, is all.
  • This is pretty horrible. Drug counterfeiters are not only forging packaging with breathtaking virtuosity, but are including subclinical doses of life-saving medications to minimize the chances that patients will realize they're taking fakes. For example, Chinese manufacturers of fake malaria drugs have included acetaminophen to temporarily lower fever & a little bit of real arteminisin (just enough to foster drug resistance). This is genoslaughter, or something. Reader: what can you do? Strap on an AK-47 and head into China. Go nuts, buddy. Tell 'em CC&P sent you.

Monday, February 26, 2007

I got the flavor

  • I don't really like them, but I think Skittles have umami. You know what I mean?
  • It is weird that oak has a recognizable flavor.
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate's inhibitory effect on sweet-sensing taste buds is the reason orange juice tastes bad after brushing your teeth.
  • The Special Lady (blindfolded) can distinguish between various brands of bottled water. I learned this the hard way. As the loser of our bet a couple of years ago, I had to dress in an adult diaper & pacifier & bow, and strut around Manhattan for several hours. (Prada store, subway, Times Square, Baby Gap, LES, etc.) Did I mention I had to carry around a little boombox playing, on infinite loop, "Who Let The Dogs Out"? There are photographs.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Last bit on Imam Musa

I guess I ran out of narrative steam. I'm not quite sure what happened; I must have been distracted by a shiny bauble-- a colorful little gewgaw-- and I just love gewgaws. Love them! I apologize for losing focus.

Anyhoooo. So Big Hank dealt dope the JC Penney way. Big Hank moved from pot to harder drugs. Big Hank made a killing. At one point, Big Hank looked in the mirror of a nightclub and thought to himself, "Man, I look mean. I look like a drug dealer. I'm sitting there thinking, 'this guy, that guy owes me money.'"

Big Hank kept dealing drugs. Big Hank got involved with "fake Islam"; i.e., the Nation Of Islam. Big Hank started to associate with the Black Panthers. Big Hank fled to Algeria, where he presumably consorted with Eldridge Cleaver and the hanger-on, Timothy Leary. Big Hank changed his mind and turned himself in, eventually doing time in federal prison.

Big Hank had one of those slow-motion epiphanies. There was no one moment, he says. But he converted to Islam (Sunni, though he abhors the exaggerated divisions between Sunnis and Shi'as that prevail these days). Big Hank became Abdul Alim Musa. Abdul Alim Musa became the imam of a major mosque in Washington.

So that's his basic story. I had a wonderfully entertaining conversation with the man; we talked about drugs quite a bit. Although he travels the world to preach the evils of drug use, and exudes a convincing moral opposition to getting high (he is an advocate of legalization, tho), I can't help but suspect that he's a little nostalgic. His stories were just a little too colorful. Anyway, he seemed kind & tolerant & open-minded, despite his apparent reputation as Radical Terrorist Agitator. Now, I can't judge simply based on evidence from a 3-hour Amtrak conversation. But if asked, I will argue that his reputation comes from his rhetoric, and that his rhetoric comes from his formative years in '60s radical Oakland. If you see him on Fox News as a straw man someday, take his rhetoric & his stubborn unwillingness to categorically deny, say, hating America, as the American anti-authoritarianism that it is.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Origami Hank

It's not like I'm a scholar of the Black Power movement or anything. I will force you to admit (through sophistry and karate chops), however, that it is a pretty fascinating topic. I come from a nice, liberal, 1960s-SF-State household in which the Black Panthers etc. were alluded to in tones of nostalgic awe. Huey Newton, H. Rap Brown, Bobby Seale, Eldridge Cleaver... two of these guys are dead, and I'll probably never meet the other two.

This is why I was so impressed by my Amtrak seatmate, Imam Abdul Alim Musa (née Clarence Reams, or Big Hank). The setup (curious whitish wiseass meets black revolutionary intellectual) led to an interesting conversational dance. His favorite topics were 1) the US government's conspiracy behind September 11th, 2) general lefty firebrand rhetoric, and 3) the new moon. My favorite topics were 1) his drug-dealing past, 2) the arc of his life, and 3) his sparring with Sean Hannity.

So you can kind of imagine how it went down. It's the sort of situation where you agree with the guy's general stance on everything, and yet agree with none of the particulars. I did a lot of subject-changing during our 3-hour talk. His warm heart + his hatred of authority + the instinct of an impish provocateur = the potential for some serious hot air. This equation also explains why he's a telegenic straw man for right-wing news channels.

I'm busy and it's getting late, so I'll delay the last portion of this serial until tomorrow. But this is what struck me the most: the man has led several different, full lives. He reminds me of this article on origami: the finite square of a life, folded into an inexhaustible series of complex patterns.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Imam Musa

I have some astounding luck when it comes to Amtrak seatmates. Yesterday, on the train from New York to Baltimore, I sat next to a kind-eyed, pleasant fellow who asked me where I was going. Was I born in Baltimore? No. Where was I born? Oakland, I replied. Where? East 33rd and Fruitvale. Ah, he said, I know that neighborhood very well; I'm from East Oakland myself.

Thus began a pretty goddamned fascinating conversation with Abdul Alim Musa, who is the face of radical Islam in America (to Fox News, anyway). He was fresh from an interview-- literally hours ago-- with Sean Hannity, who kept asking him "Do you hate America?"

Mr. Musa is the imam of a major mosque in Washington, D.C., but he began his career as a drug dealer in Oakland known as "Big Hank." Big Hank was fascinated by American entrepreneurs like J.C. Penney, and quickly rose up the Oakland drug ladder through innovation. "I was one of the first-- if not the first-- to make a lot of money (I mean a lot of money) selling smoke." Formerly a small-time drug with a casual economy in Oakland, marijuana got the J.C. Penney treatment from Big Hank.

I have just done some breathtakingly extensive research on J.C. Penney, and discovered a Wikipedia entry on the man. It includes this quotation: "Business is no longer a matter of profits alone. Profits must come through public confidence, and public confidence is given to any merchant in proportion to the service which he gives to the public." That's pretty much how Big Hank approached it. He attained public confidence through a number of familiar measures: branding, attractive and standard packaging, and quality standardization. Random spot-checks and customer follow-up helped ensure the latter. I dunno if he got to the level of Six Sigma, but this is weed we're talking about.

More tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Ice nuggets

Some blogs foster the illusion of intimacy; here, it's no illusion. It really is just you and me. Maybe all those Boswell posts sloughed off the dead skin of the CC&P readership. Leaving only you, dear reader, as the shiny pink skin underneath. Shiiiiny pink skin.

  • What sound do you think it would make if Robert Novak's skull collided with Ari Fleischer's skull at 194 mph? I think it would make a pleasant chime, rather like a glockenspiel.
  • Opal's Early Recordings is one of my favorite albums, and I'd long despaired of finding any further material from that Kendra Smith & David Roback collaboration. But I just found their cover of Syd Barrett's "Jugband Blues" on a compilation; good stuff.
  • Which reminds me-- soon I'll post some mp3s for you and your loved ones.
  • Post hoc, I was just informed that I'd hung out with a guy from OK Go (friend of a friend). I had no idea I was this close to YouTube celebrity. It's as if I'd shared a blintz with LonelyGirl. Or played dominoes with a lonely Asian kid singing along to his video game theme music.
  • 'Twas a Snow Day today in Baltimore. Joyous, feral epidemiology doctoral students celebrated the closing of Johns Hopkins by, uh, studying epidemiology.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Boswell's Gonorrhea: Epilogue

As you can certainly guess, I've long loved that episode from Boswell's diaries. (Please start here if you missed it.) It's got all the ingredients: extravagant self-praise, adolescent classical allusion, and burning upon urination.

The comic pacing is almost too perfect to be nonfiction. Intrigue, fluttering heart, overweening braggadocio, completely insufferability-- and then, at the periphery of his senses, a faint itching and burning...

I love how he saved face by bullying the poor pseudonymous Louisa (Anna Lewis). As Dr. D.W. Purdie describes*, she "could honestly assure him that she was free of all signs of infection yet conceal, unknown to herself, gonococci... Boswell was unlucky." I wouldn't go that far. The guy screwed prostitutes all over London and, eventually, the continent. He usually didn't use the sheepgut "armour" of the time. And he died ridden with probably about 55,273 different sexually transmitted infections.

It would have been great to drink with Boswell. I really like the guy. It's probably not an accident that one of my favorite novels is Pale Fire; that book begins with an epigraph from Boswell's Life:

"This reminds me of the ludicrous account which he gave Mr. Langton, of the despicable state of a young Gentleman of good family. ‘Sir, when I heard of him last, he was running about town shooting cats.’ And then in a sort of kindly reverie, he bethought himself of his own favorite cat, and said, ‘But Hodge shan’t be shot; no, no, Hodge shall not be shot.’"

I never really understood why Nabokov chose that particular epigraph. Boswell, sure; our honest narrator Kinbote is similar to Boswell in some of the obvious ways, but dissimilar in that I wouldn't want to drink with the guy. As much. Although I do like the line, "I laconically suggested that he 'try the pork.'"

*A pretty fascinating article, as far as articles in medical journals go.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Lost VU acetate

You may already know about this, but I didn't. On the WFMU website, you can download every track from the Velvet Underground's lost "Scepter Studio sessions," which features alternate takes and alternate mixes of the songs on the Andy Warhol LP.

It's fantastic. The story of how the acetate came to be found is fairly interesting too, so it's worth a read.

[Via Detailed Twang.]

European Son (alternate take)
Black Angel's Death Song (alternate mix)
All Tomorrow's Parties (alternate mix)
I'll Be Your Mirror (alternate mix)
Heroin (alternate take)
Femme Fatale (alternate mix)
Venus In Furs (alternate take)
I'm Waiting For The Man (alternate take)
Run Run Run (alternate mix)

All tracks are complete with hissy crackly record pops.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

It's the last one percent that's the toughie

The Reverend Ted Haggard is now 100% heterosexual. He was merely "acting out" when he had repeated sex with his male prostitute & meth buddy.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Boswell Discharges His Frustrations: Part III of III

January 20, 1763

I then went to Louisa. With excellent address did I carry on this interview, as the following scene, I trust, will make appear.

LOUISA: My dear sir! I hope you are well today.
BOSWELL: Excessively well, I thank you. I hope I find you so.
L: No, really, Sir. I am distressed with a thousand things. (Cunning jade, her circumstances!) I really don't know what to do.
B: Do you know that I have been very unhappy since I saw you?
L: How so, Sir?
B: Why, I am afraid that you don't love me so well, nor have not such a regard for me, as I thought you had.
L: Nay, dear Sir! (Seeming unconcerned.)
B: Pray, Madam, have I no reason?
L: No, indeed, Sir, you have not.
B: Have I no reason, Madam? Pray think.
L: Sir!
B: Pray, Madam, in what state of health have you been in for some time?
L: Sir, you amaze me.
B: I have but too strong, too plain reason to doubt of your regard. I have for some days observed the symptoms of disease, but was unwilling to believe you so very ungenerous. But now, Madam, I am thoroughly convinced.
L: Sir, you have terrified me. I protest I know nothing of the matter.
B: Madam, I have had no connection with any woman but you these two months. I was with my surgeon this morning, who declared I had got a strong infection, and that she from whom I had it could not be ignorant of it. Madam, such a thing in this case is worse than from a woman of the town, as from her you may expect it. You have used me very ill. I did not deserve it...
L: Sir, I will confess to you that about three years ago I was very bad. But for these fifteen months I have been quite well. I appeal to G-D Almighty that I am speaking true; and for these six months I have had to do with no man but yourself.
B: But by G-D, Madam, I have been with none but you, and here I am very bad.
L: Well, Sir, by the same solemn oath I protest that I was ignorant of it.
B: Madam, I wish much to believe you. But I own I cannot upon this occasion believe a miracle.
L: Sir, I cannot say more to you. But you will leave me in the greatest misery. I shall lose your esteem. I shall be hurt in the opinion of everybody, and in my circumstances.
B (to himself): What the devil does the confounded jilt mean by being hurt in her circumstances? This is the grossest cunning. But I won't take notice of that at all. -- Madam, as to the opinion of everybody, you need not be afraid. I was going to joke and say that I never boast of a lady's favours. But I give you my word of honour that you shall not be discovered.
L: Sir, this is being more generous than I could expect.
B: I hope, Madam, you will own that since I have been with you I have always behaved like a man of honour.
L: You have indeed, Sir.
B (rising): Madam, your most obedient servant.

[from Boswell's London Journal.]

Temporary break in the Boswell action

This you gotta read.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Boswell Is Puzzled By A Venutian Distemper: part II of III

January 13, 1763
I really conducted this affair with a manliness and prudence that pleased me very much. The whole expense was just eighteen shillings.

January 14, 1763
I strutted up and down, considering myself as a valiant man who could gratify a lady's loving desires five times in a night; and I satisfied my pride by considering that if this and all my other great qualities were known, all the women almost in the room would be making love to me.

January 18, 1763
I this day began to feel an unaccountable alarm of unexpected evil: a little heat in the members of my body sacred to Cupid, very like a symptom of that distemper with which Venus, when cross, takes it into her head to plague her votaries. But then I had run no risks. I had been with no woman but Louisa; and sure she could not have such a thing. Away then with such idle fears, such groundless, uneasy apprehensions!

January 19, 1763
As we went along, I felt the symptoms increase, which was very confounding and very distressing to me... The evening was passed most cheerfully. When I got home, though, then came sorrow. Too, too plain was Signor Gonorrhoea.

January 20, 1763
I rose very disconsolate, having rested very ill by the poisonous infection raging in my veins and anxiety and vexation boiling in my breast. I could scarcely credit my own senses. What! thought I, can this beautiful, this sensible, and this agreeable woman be so sadly defiled? Can corruption lodge beneath so fair a form? Can she who professed delicacy of sentiment and sincere regard for me, use me so very basely and so very cruelly? No, it is impossible... and yet these damned twinges, that scalding heat, and that deep-tinged loathsome matter are the strongest proofs of an infection... And am I then taken in? Am I, who have had safe and elegant intrigues with fine women, become the dupe of a strumpet?

...And then am I prevented from making love to Lady Mirabel, or any other woman of fashion? O dear, O dear! What a cursed thing this is! What a miserable creature am I!

[from Boswell's London Journal. Next: Boswell manfully and benevolently confronts the fair Louisa.]

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Boswell Plunges Into The Fountain Of Love: part I of III

January 2, 1763
"I approached Louisa with a kind of an uneasy tremor. I sat down. I toyed with her. Yet I was not inspired by Venus. I felt rather a delicate sensation of love than a violent amorous inclination for her. I was very miserable. I thought myself feeble as a gallant, although I had experienced the reverse many a time. Louisa knew not my powers. She might imagine me impotent. I sweated almost with anxiety, which made me worse... I told her I was very dull. Said she, 'People cannot always command their spirits'... I fanned the flame by pressing her alabaster breasts and kissing her delicious lips. I then barred the door of her dining-room, led her all fluttering into her bedchamber, and was just making a triumphal entry when we heard her landlady coming up... We were stopped most suddenly and cruelly from the fruition of each other."

January 11, 1763
"This day I had some agreeable conversation with my dear Louisa. All was now agreed upon... my wife was not come to town... her husband proved a harsh, disagreeable creature..."

January 12, 1763
"Louisa and I agreed that at eight at night she would meet me in the Piazzas of Covent Garden. I was quite elevated, and felt myself able and undaunted to engage in the wars of the Paphian Queen... That Ceres and Bacchus might in moderation lend their assistance to Venus, I ordered a genteel supper and some wine."

"Good heavens, what a loose did we give to amorous dalliance! ...Proud of my godlike vigour, I soon resumed the noble game. Sobriety had preserved me from effeminacy and weakness, and my bounding blood beat quick and high alarms. A more voluptuous night I never enjoyed. Five times was I fairly lost in supreme rapture. Louisa was madly fond of me; she declared I was a prodigy, and asked me if this was not extraordinary for human nature. I said twice as much might be, but this was not, although in my own mind I was somewhat proud of my performance."

"I could not help roving in fancy to the embraces of some other ladies which my lively imagination strongly pictured. I don't know if that was altogether fair."