For a sociology class school project, Krystal Cannon narrated the history of the Beat Generation, while portraying all its important characters. This includes Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg.
In 1985 verwijderde de openbare bibliotheek in Nijmegen het boek “Tales Of Ordinary Madness” van Charles Bukowski van haar planken. Er was een klacht binnengekomen van een bezoeker die het maar een naargeestig, fascistisch en discrimerend boek vond. Journalist Hans van den Broek liet het er niet bij zitten en schreef een brief naar Bukowski waarin hij om zijn mening vroeg. Deze schreef zowaar terug. De brief hangt nu in de Open Dicht Bus, een soort mobiele bibliotheek. En zo ziet het er uit:
Dear Hans van den Broek:
Thank you for your letter telling me of the removal of one of my books from the Nijmegen library. And that it is accused of discrimination against black people, homosexuals and women. And that it is sadism because of the sadism.
The thing that I fear discriminating against is humor and truth.
If I write badly about blacks, homosexuals and women it is because of these who I met were that. There are many “bads”–bad dogs, bad censorship; there are even “bad” white males. Only when you write about “bad” white males they don’t complain about it. And need I say that there are “good” blacks, “good” homosexuals and “good” women?
In my work, as a writer, I only photograph, in words, what I see. If I write of “sadism” it is because it exists, I didn’t invent it, and if some terrible act occurs in my work it is because such things happen in our lives. I am not on the side of evil, if such a thing as evil abounds. In my writing I do not always agree with what occurs, nor do I linger in the mud for the sheer sake of it. Also, it is curious that the people who rail against my work seem to overlook the sections of it which entail joy and love and hope, and there are such sections. My days, my years, my life has seen up and downs, lights and darknesses. If I wrote only and continually of the “light” and never mentioned the other, then as an artist I would be a liar.
Censorship is the tool of those who have the need to hide actualities from themselves and from others. Their fear is only their inability to face what is real, and I can’t vent any anger against them. I only feel this appalling sadness. Somewhere, in their upbringing, they were shielded against the total facts of our existence. They were only taught to look one way when many ways exist.
I am not dismayed that one of my books has been hunted down and dislodged from the shelves of a local library. In a sense, I am honored that I have written something that has awakened these from their non-ponderous depths. But I am hurt, yes, when somebody else’s book is censored, for that book, usually is a great book and there are few of those, and throughout the ages that type of book has often generated into a classic, and what was once thought shocking and immoral is now required reading at many of our universities.
I am not saying that my book is one of those, but I am saying that in our time, at this moment when any moment may be the last for many of us, it’s damned galling and impossibly sad that we still have among us the small, bitter people, the witch-hunters and the declaimers against reality. Yet, these too belong with us, they are part of the whole, and if I haven’t written about them, I should, maybe have here, and that’s enough.
may we all get better together,
De laatste roker is inderdaad een prachtig kort verhaal, waarvan de dystopische premisse helemaal niet zo meer zo ver weg meer is. Het is opgenomen in een bundel met dezelfde titel met korte verhalen van W.F. Hermans, waarvan sommigen echt geniaal zijn. Mijn persoonlijke favoriet daarin, naast De laatste roker, is Magnitogorsk. Enfin, als ik IJslander was zou ik nu gaan inslaan.
Voordat je New Kids had, had je Rembo & Rembo, en voordat je dat had, had je Gerard Reve. Nogal slecht van mij om de Volksschrijver op deze manier aan te kondigen, maar het kan niet ontkend worden dat Reve naast de grootste werken van de twintigste-eeuwse Nederlandse literatuur (De avonden, Op weg naar het einde en Nader tot U), ook een hele hoop kinderachtige, flauwe onzin heeft geproduceerd.
Die kinderachtige flauwe onzin is overigens wel briljant.
Neem nou dit sprookje, ‘Eendje Kwak kookt zijn eigen potje‘. Een korte vertelling over een eendje dat niet wil dat zijn huisje schoon wordt. Onlangs heeft Mascha Halberstad voor de VPRO een fraaie animatie van dit sprookje gemaakt, voor de serie 45 toeren. Helaas is het niet mogelijk om dit filmpje hier te embedden, maar ik zou het zeker hierrr gaan kijken.
Hier moeten we ons dan maar behelpen met de volledige tekst van ‘Eendje Kwak’, alsmede een opname van de warme voorleesstem van Gerard Reve.
Eendje Kwak kookt zijn eigen potje
Een sprookje van Gerard Reve over een vies eendje
Lieve jongens en meisjes, luisteren jullie eens naar een verhaal over een eendje dat Eendje Kwak heette. Eendje Kwak was eigenlijk een heel vies eendje. Hij wilde helemaal niet graag dat alles in zijn kleine huisje schoon was. Nee, hij wilde juist graag dat alles in zijn huisje zo vuil en zo smerig was als het maar kon. Eendje Kwak was wel een vreemd eendje, vinden jullie ook niet? Zo werd in Eendje Kwak zijn huisje van lieverlede alles steeds maar viezer en vuiler. De familie, de kennissen en alle vrienden van Eendje Kwak begonnen er schande van te spreken
Goede raad was duur. Maar op een dag, het was nog vroeg in de morgen, kwamen ze met z’n allen bij Eendje Kwak aan de deur en zeiden ze: “Eendje Kwak, je huisje is zo verschrikkelijk vuil dat het nodig eens moet worden schoongemaakt. Dat zullen wij wel eens even doen.” En ze staken de handen uit de mouwen en begonnen met z’n allen te vegen, te kloppen, te schrobben, te boenen en te dweilen dat het een lieve lust was. En tegen het einde van de middag, toen de zon al laag aan de hemel stond, waren ze klaar en hadden ze het huisje van Eendje Kwak van boven tot onder schoongemaakt. Je kon nu in het kleine huisje van Eendje Kwak bij wijze van spreken wel van de vloer eten. “Ziezo, dat is klaar,” zeiden ze tegen Eendje Kwak. “Je hele huisje is weer schoon.”
“Dank jullie wel,” zei Eendje Kwak. En toen gingen ze allemaal weer weg.
Maar Eendje Kwak was helemaal niet gelukkig dat z’n hele huisje weer helemaal schoon was. Hij vond het helemaal niet prettig. Gelukkig had Eendje Kwak op school een juffrouw gehad die een heks was. Maar het was een goede heks die hem een beetje toveren had geleerd. Daarom ging Eendje Kwak naar zijn kleine keukentje en kakte daar uit zijn kont een grote drol van stront en deed die drol in een aluminium steelpannetje. Nu vulde hij het pannetje met water, zodat de drol erin ronddreef, zette het pannetje op het vuur en sprak er een toverspreuk over uit. Nauwelijks waren de woorden van zijn toverspreuk verklonken of het begon in het pannetje te koken en te schuimen en te bruisen en te borrelen dat het een aard had.
De uitgekakte drol uit Eendje Kwak zijn reet, daar moest wel zege in zitten! Want die kak die kookte steeds maar hoger en hoger. Over de rand van het pannetje, over de aanrecht, over de vloer van de keuken, over de drempel heen de gang in, alle kamers door, hoger en hoger, tot het uit alle ramen van Eendje Kwak zijn huisje naar buiten kookte. Over de straat en van de ene straat van het kleine stadje in de andere.
Het duurde niet lang of alle mensen kwamen zo snel hun voeten hun dragen konden naar Eendje Kwak z’n huisje gelopen en bonsde op de deur en riepen: “Eendje Kwak, laat je vieze potje toch ophouden met koken!”
Maar Eendje Kwak deed niet open en trok zich van al het rumoer niets aan. Nu was hij pas gelukkig. Hij ging middenin de gang helemaal languit in zijn eigen borrelende en bruisende kak liggen. En viel al spoedig tevreden in slaap.
En als niemand de vlam onder het pannetje heeft uitgedaan, dan kookt het nu nog.
Here’s the trailer of a documentary-in-the-making, How To Start A Revolution, about the revolutions of the past decades and the influence on them of Gene Sharp: the “Von Clausewitz of nonviolent warfare“.
Sharp is a professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, who in 1973 published a book about methods of non-violent revolution called The Politics of Nonviolent Action. In the book (which I didn’t read), Sharp presents an analysis of the state as a power complex designed to keep citizens subservient, through a variety of political and administrative institutions (courts, policy, regulatory bodies) and cultural norms (religion, leadership cult, moral norms).
If that doesn’t sound too original (think Foucault and every theorist concerned with despotism and state power since Hobbes), what’s special about Sharp is that he presents a whole list of possible methods of nonviolent resistance. From boycotts to strikes, to using colors, to sit-ins, to empowering women and children, to employing peaceful symbols, Sharp seems to draw on methods and techniques of protest and revolution from Louis Blanqui to Gandhi to the New Left.
Sharp’s work (which includes way more titles, check his bibliography here), in turn, seems to have influenced to some extent the Eastern European revolutions of the late 1980s, the color (almost-)revolutions of Ukraine and Iran, to the Arab Spring in Egypt and Tunisia. Check the trailer to see how that plays out.
Now, I’m a bit hesitant to say that this person was “the brain” behind all those complex revolutions, and have the idea that Sharp’s influence is exaggerated a bit much by Western commentators (like as usual at the NYT). Yet, his ideas have been denounced by dictators ranging from Hugo Chavez to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Sharp’s other important book From Dictatorship to Democracy, moreover, seems to have influenced civic youth movements from Serbia (during the overthrow of Milosevic) to Ukraine to Belarus, who again are said to have taught nonviolent revolutionary skills to each other and to the Arab youth protesters.
So anyway, check the trailer below, interesting stuff!
Gene Sharp is a shy, modest and little-known man. But his work has inspired a generation of people to challenge dictators through non-violent action in a tidal wave of revolutionary spirit and reform that has swept from Eastern Europe, though Asia and to the Middle East and North Africa.
18 months ago we started work on this feature-length documentary. Through the candid and intimate testimony of the people responsible for non-violent revolutions our film seeks to tell the story of how people power can be used topple dictators.
To make this film our director (Ruaridh Arrow pictured above) slept overnight in Tahrir Square in Cairo at the height of the February revolution. He’s met the leaders of the Syrian pro-democracy movement and the people responsible for overthrowing dictators in Serbia and Ukraine. He has spent time with Gene and his colleagues as they spread their message of effective non-violent revolution.
The film reveals how the leaders of an uprising in one country train the participants in the next and how social media now threatens dictators and tyrants around the world in ways that were unimaginable just a decade ago.
Not only is this documentary an important film of record of the civil uprisings that have shaken the world in the last decade but we also hope it will help inspire future pro-democracy movements develop their strategies for non-violent revolution in the face of apparently overwhelming odds.
Wow, this is cool. Everyone who’s read Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test or just knows a little bit about the origins of the 1960s counterculture knows that Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, while on their legendary LSD-fueled road trip from San Francisco to New York, taped the whole thing. In fact, filming it was sorta essential to the experience -- just like rigging the Furthur bus with all kinds of sound equipment was.
Now unfortunately, afterwards nothing was ever done with the film material. Until now. I’m pretty excited about this, because apparently, some people have gotten together and created a documentary about the 1964 Magic Trip based on loads of original raw material never seen before. This means that all those characters -- Kesey himself, Neal Cassady (the driver in On the Road and (!) the bus driver), Babbs, Mountain Girl, Ed McClanahan, Sandy Lehman, etc. -- are in there. And it’s in color too.
Wow. I wonder if the Merry Pranksters’ encounter with the other psychedelic pioneers of that time -- the East Coast based Harvard professor Timothy Leary and his followers -- is in it as well. Apparently, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg are in it too.
Alex Gibney and Alison Ellwood’s MAGIC TRIP is a freewheeling portrait of Ken Kesey and the Merry Prankster’s fabled road trip across America in the legendary Magic Bus. In 1964, Ken Kesey, the famed author of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” set off on a legendary, LSD-fuelled cross-country road trip to the New York World’s Fair. He was joined by “The Merry Band of Pranksters,” a renegade group of counterculture truth-seekers, including Neal Cassady, the American icon immortalized in Kerouac’s “On the Road,” and the driver and painter of the psychedelic Magic Bus. Kesey and the Pranksters intended to make a documentary about their trip, shooting footage on 16MM, but the film was never finished and the footage has remained virtually unseen. With MAGIC TRIP, Gibney and Ellwood were given unprecedented access to this raw footage by the Kesey family. They worked with the Film Foundation, HISTORY and the UCLA Film Archives to restore over 100 hours of film and audiotape, and have shaped an invaluable document of this extraordinary piece of American history.
If there’s one book ever that’s suited to be made into a movie, yet failed to see the light of day, it’s On the Road. Although some have tried, it never worked out.
This fall, however, finally an On the Road movie will hit theatres. And it looks promising. Not only is it directed by Walter Salles and Jose Rivera, known from The Motorcycle Diaries; the lead role of Sal Paradise (the autobiographical character of Jack Kerouac) is played by Sam Riley – the guy who played Joy Division’s Ian Curtis in Control! Garrett Hedlund will portray Dean Moriarty/Neal Cassady. Also featuring are Viggo Mortensen and (hm) Kirsten Dunst.
Of course, turning a classic with lots of fans like On the Road into a movie holds the potential for disaster – especially when the style and language in which it is written plays such a crucial role in a book. It must be possible, though, to adequately translate Kerouac’s free-flow stream of consciousness writing into cinematography.
It’s not the first recent movie about the Beat era, by the way – a while ago, Allen Ginsberg’s Howl was made into a biographical movie too, which I still have to see. Prior to shooting, cast and crew of On the Road went on a three-week Beat boot camp to immerse themselves in the time period. Looking forward to this one!
Now, somewhat quietly, “On the Road” has finally been made into a movie. The $25 million production, shot in San Francisco, Montreal and other locales, is scheduled for release this fall.The movie is expected to be of keen interest in San Francisco where the Beats and their old hangouts are a cottage industry. Each year, thousands of people flock to North Beach to visit the City Lights bookstore and the bar Vesuvio or to gawk at Kerouac artifacts in The Beat Museum.
But with so much interest comes anxiety.
Adapting any beloved book for film is perilous and apt to irk fans, especially when it’s a literary classic where the language itself played a starring role — something not easily translated onto the screen. “On the Road” is particularly daunting since the provocative ideas that defined the novel — casual sex and drug use and a rejection of materialism — are unlikely to raise eyebrows with today’s multiplex audience.
The creative team from another counterculture road movie is leading the project: the director Walter Salles and the screenwriter Jose Rivera from the award-winning Che Guevara biopic “The Motorcycle Diaries.”
The cast is peppered with actors with box-office appeal, including Kristen Stewart of “Twilight” fame, Kirsten Dunst, Amy Adams and Viggo Mortensen. The two male leads, characters based on Kerouac and his fellow flâneur Neal Cassady, are played by lesser-known actors, Sam Riley and Garrett Hedlund.
In July, before filming began near the primary sets in Montreal, the cast and crew went through Beat boot camp — three weeks of immersion with Kerouac experts.
One “drill instructor” was Gerald Nicosia, author of “Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac,” considered by many (including William S. Burroughs) to be the definitive Kerouac account.
None of the cast and crew were old enough to remember the Beat era, so Nicosia, of Corte Madera, approached the sessions as if he were teaching ancient history, “like I was bringing them the Holy Grail.”
He said the actors were especially intense, knowing they would upset a lot of people if they didn’t portray the characters accurately.
At the camp, Nicosia played an audio interview that he recorded in 1978 with Lu Anne Henderson, Neal Cassady’s young wife, on whom the book’s character Marylou is based. That conversation is also the basis of “One and Only: The Untold Story of ‘On The Road,’” a new book by Nicosia out this fall.
Concerns remain. Joanna McClure, a Beat poet who was immortalized as a character in Kerouac’s novel “Big Sur,” is curious about the new film, but said: “It was the writing that was so exciting. How do you make that into a movie?”
McClure also wondered whether today’s young movie audience, which she described as obsessed with “trying to get into corporations,” could grasp a story about shunning worldly possessions.
In his new book Soul Dust: The Magic of Consciousness, Nicholas Humphrey, a distinguished evolutionary psychologist and philosopher, claims to have solved two fairly large intellectual conundrums. One is something of a technical matter, about which you may have thought little or not at all, unless you happen to be a philosopher. This is the so-called “hard problem” of consciousness. The problem is how an entity which is apparently immaterial like the human consciousness – it exists, but you can’t locate it, much less measure it – can have arisen from something purely physical, like the arrangement of cells that make up the human body. The second problem Humphrey claims he has solved is a rather more everyday one, about which you may well have puzzled yourself. This is the problem of the soul. Does it exist? What sort of a thing might it be? Does everyone have one, even atheists?
His solution to both these problems is the same, because for him the strange properties of consciousness, the fact that for those of us that have it the world of dull matter is suffused with meaning, beauty, relevance and awe – means that it makes sense to think that we are permanent inhabitants of a “soul-niche” or “soul-world”. As the jacket blurb of his book has it, “consciousness paves the way for spirituality”, by creating a “self-made show” that “lights up the world for us, making us feel special and transcendent.” Consciousness and the soul are one and the same.
If this all sounds a little bit metaphysical or New Agey, too much like one of those tiresome attempts to bring religion and science into cosy alignment, hold fast. For what, on the face of it, looks like an attempt to validate spirituality using the language of science turns out to be a way to expand the domain of science by accounting for spirituality, and the soul, alongside consciousness in a fully materialist account. Soul Dust is nothing less than Humphrey’s attempt to sketch out a materialist theory of consciousness, and write a “natural history” of the soul.
With this I highly agree though:
The second half – less technical, more poetic and, as Humphrey admits, pretty speculative – is devoted to the question of why? What is it about consciousness, this “magical” ability to perceive and exult in beauty, meaning and a sense of awe, that confers an evolutionary advantage? His answer is simply that this magical show in our own heads which enchants the world is what makes life worth living: “For a phenomenally conscious creature, simply being there is a cause for celebration.” Consciousness infuses us with the belief that we are more than mere flesh, that we matter, that we might have a life after death, that we have a “soul”. All of these are illusions – the magic of his title – but they have real effects, by making us want to live. As for religion? In his book he argues, “Long before religion could begin to get a foothold in human culture human beings must already have been living in soul land.” “Yes,” he tells me, “I suggest that organised religion is parasitic on spirituality, and in fact acts as a restraint on it.”
While the book received a lot of positive reviews, some negative ones have also appeared. Here’s one from The Guardian, for example.
My Parents Were Awesome is a new book edited by Eliot Glazer, based on his popular Tumblr blog My Parents Were Awesome. It’s a pretty cool idea: collecting photos of your parents before they got you. I don’t know whether my parents were as cool as the people depicted on some of these photographs (lots of them seem to have gotten the best out of the 1960s and 1970s), but still. I know some people who supposedly had parents who were that cool.
NEWSFLASH: Your mom and dad weren’t always parents. They used to be people—and they were awesome
They bathed you. They fed you. They raised you to become the person you are today. Your parents are an integral part of your story. But guess what? They have a story too—one that started long before you entered the picture. Before embarrassing fanny packs and Lite FM, there was a time when Mom and Dad were young and carefree—just like you. They were also fun and flirty, full of hope and desire and effortlessly cool.
Based on the wildly popular website, My Parents Were Awesome shares heartwarming and hilarious essays by sons and daughters—including Jamie Deen, Christian Lander, Dave Itzkoff, Katherine Center, Laurie Notaro, and Holly Peterson—who’ tell tales of their folks before babies, mortgages, and receding hairlines: the mom and dad who traveled by VW bus to see Led Zeppelin for $1, the grandmother whose halter top and shorts belied her perfect demeanor, the father whose wanderlust passed down to his equally nomadic daughter. Accompanied by treasured vintage photographs, these stories will make you laugh, melt your heart, and spark your own reflections of Mom and Dad.
An extremely detailed map of the entire history of the science fiction genre… from its origins in the Enlightenment to Wall-E, and everything, books and movies, in between. What a piece. Drawn by Ward Shelley for a contest, rightfully won the first prize. Click for enlargement.
If there is one story, ever (aside from maybe the Bible), that is morally unequivocal to the extreme, it is J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Not a tiny shade of doubt about who the bad and the good guys are in that narrative. No uncertainty, conflicting interpretations or complicated morals possible here. The elves and the hobbits are as upright and angelic as they get, while Sauron, the Lord of the evil hordes of the black land of Mordor, is a bad guy if there ever was one.
Salon has an interesting piece, though, on a recent Russian novel that turns this narrative around, and imagines the story from the point of view of Mordor. Entitled The Last Ringbearer, it depicts Mordor as a land of scientific rationality, technology and progress, and the peoples of the West as backwards, feudal and hostile. The illiterate hordes from the woods and plains with their ancient magic attack Barad-dur as the only civilization that wants to employ philosophy and science for the benefit of mankind. Pretty brilliant, if you ask me.
While the novel, written by paleontologist Kirill Yeskov, was published to acclaim in Russia in 1999, an English translation hasn’t come out until recently, out of fear of the Tolkien heirs, who are quick to go to court over copyrights. Now, however, a translation by one Yisroel Markov, in cooperation with the original author, is available as a free download. It actually seems to have been written very well, and at least morally a lot more interesting and less straightforward than the original Lord of the Rings.
As bad lots go, you can’t get much worse than the hordes of Mordor from J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings.” Led by an utterly evil disembodied entity who manifests himself as a gigantic, flaming, pitiless eye, and composed of loathsome orcs (or goblins), trolls and foreigners, Mordor’s armies are ultimately defeated and wiped out by the virtuous and noble elves, dwarfs, ents and human beings — aka the “free peoples” — of Middle-earth. No one sheds a tear over Mordor’s downfall, although the hobbit Sam Gamgee does spare a moment to wonder if a dead enemy soldier is truly evil or has simply been misguided or coerced into serving the dark lord Sauron.
Well, there’s two sides to every story, or to quote a less banal maxim, history is written by the winners. That’s the philosophy behind “The Last Ringbearer,” a novel set during and after the end of the War of the Ring (the climactic battle at the end of “The Lord of the Rings”) and told from the point of view of the losers. The novel was written by Kirill Yeskov, a Russian paleontologist, and published to acclaim in his homeland in 1999. Translations of the book have also appeared in other European nations, but fear of the vigilant and litigious Tolkien estate has heretofore prevented its publication in English.
The novel still has some rough edges — most notably, a confused switching back and forth between past and present tense in the early chapters — and some readers may be put off by Yeskov’s (classically Russian) habit of dropping info-dumps of military and political history into the narrative here and there. For the most part, though, “The Last Ringbearer” is a well-written, energetic adventure yarn that offers an intriguing gloss on what some critics have described as the overly simplistic morality of Tolkien’s masterpiece.
In Yeskov’s retelling, the wizard Gandalf is a war-monger intent on crushing the scientific and technological initiative of Mordor and its southern allies because science “destroys the harmony of the world and dries up the souls of men!” He’s in cahoots with the elves, who aim to become “masters of the world,” and turn Middle-earth into a “bad copy” of their magical homeland across the sea. Barad-dur, also known as the Dark Tower and Sauron’s citadel, is, by contrast, described as “that amazing city of alchemists and poets, mechanics and astronomers, philosophers and physicians, the heart of the only civilization in Middle-earth to bet on rational knowledge and bravely pitch its barely adolescent technology against ancient magic.”
Because Gandalf refers to Mordor as the “Evil Empire” and is accused of crafting a “Final Solution to the Mordorian problem” by rival wizard Saruman, he obviously serves as an avatar for Russia’s 20th-century foes. But the juxtaposition of the willfully feudal and backward “West,” happy with “picking lice in its log ‘castles’” while Mordor cultivates learning and embraces change, also recalls the clash between Europe in the early Middle Ages and the more sophisticated and learned Muslim empires to the east and south. Sauron passes a “universal literacy law,” while the shield maiden Eowyn has been raised illiterate, “like most of Rohan’s elite” — good guys Tolkien based on his beloved Anglo-Saxons.
This letter from Jack Kerouac to Marlon Brando, from the late 1950s, about a possible movie adaptation of On the Road was auctioned by Christie’s for $33,600 a couple of years ago. In it, Kerouac asks Brando to produce the movie and play the role of Dean Moriarty, while he himself would play Sal Paradise. The letter contains some pretty cool stuff, such as an invitation by Kerouac to Brando to visit Neal Cassady, the legendary figure upon whom the character of Dean Moriarty was based.
I’m praying that you’ll buy ON THE ROAD and make a movie of it. Don’t worry about the structure, I know to compress and re-arrange the plot a bit to give a perfectly acceptable movie-type structure: making it into one all-inclusive trip instead of the several voyages coast-to-coast in the book, one vast round trip from New York to Denver to Frisco to Mexico to New Orleans to New York again. I visualize the beautiful shots could be made with the camera on the front seat of the car showing the road (day and night) unwinding into the windshield, as Sal and Dean yak. I wanted you to play the part because Dean (as you know) is no dopey hotrodder but a real intelligent (in fact Jesuit) Irishman. You play Dean and I’ll play Sal (Warner Bros. mentioned I play Sal) and I’ll show you how Dean acts in real life…we can go visit him in Frisco, or have him come down to L.A. still a real frantic cat. All I want out of this is to able to establish myself and my Mother a trust fund for life, so I can really go around roaming around the world…to write what comes out of my head and free to feed my buddies when they’re hungry. What I wanta do is re-do the theater and the cinema in America, give it a spontaneous dash, remove pre-conceptions of “situation” and let people rave on as they do in real life…The French movies of the 30’s are still far superior to ours because the French really let their actors come on and the writers didn’t quibble with some preconceived notion of how intelligent the movie audience is…American theater & Cinema at present is an outmoded dinosaur that ain’t mutated along with the best in American Literature.
The Google Ngram Viewer is a brilliant device that I should have blogged about a while ago, that allows you to trace the usage of words in 5 million books from the last 500 years (yes, it’s that great). That gives you a broad, but only a broad idea of the proliferation of trends, words and concepts and related social, cultural and political issues over time.
So here’s the search query for the terms “hipster” and “douchebag”. It’s interesting to note that “hipster” has been in decline since 2006. Consider this the opening shot for an upcoming piece on LSD about the Death of the Hipster, and what comes next.
Now that the dust from yesterday’s assault has more or less settled, it’s time for reflection. The NYT has a number of good analyses, although they suffer a bit from attempting to be even-handed in assigning the roots of the vitriol and polarization in American political debate to both sides of the spectrum.
The problem here doesn’t lie with the activists like most of those who populate the Tea Parties, ordinary citizens who are doing what citizens are supposed to do — engaging in a conversation about the direction of the country. Rather, the problem would seem to rest with the political leaders who pander to the margins of the margins, employing whatever words seem likely to win them contributions or TV time, with little regard for the consequences.
Consider the comments of Sharron Angle, the Tea Party favorite who unsuccessfully ran against Harry Reid for the Senate in Nevada last year. She talked about “domestic enemies” in the Congress and said, “I hope we’re not getting to Second Amendment remedies.” Then there’s Rick Barber, a Republican who lost his primary in a Congressional race in Alabama, but not before airing an ad in which someone dressed as George Washington listened to an attack on the Obama agenda and gravely proclaimed, “Gather your armies.”
Currently, it’s unclear whether the gunman, rejected military recruit Jared Lee Loughner (22), was motivated in any way by Tea Party propaganda about government takeover, ‘socialism’ and ‘tyranny’, or by the militant and violent rhetoric of someone like Sarah Palin, with her crosshair map and talk about ‘aiming’ and ‘reloading’.
Looking at Loughner’s ramblings on YouTube, he seems to be more of a ‘general’ paranoid conspiracy theory-believing, anti-government anarchist than either a left-wing or right-wing activist; although it is noticeable that ideas about ‘currency’ (the gold standard) and ‘mind control’ seem to be prominent in his incoherent babble. This may indicate some infatuation with Tea Party topics.
His favorite book list is actually rather good, I must say, featuring Orwell’s Animal Farm, Huxley’s Brave New World, Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, Kesey’s One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Hesse’s Siddharta (as well as Marx’ The Communist Manifesto and Hitler’s Mein Kampf). While these are all masterpieces, they have in common that they deal with the topic of reality perception being controlled by higher powers, as well as the possibility of alternate realities. Loughner in his YouTube videos writes about ‘conscience dreams’, and his MySpace is called ‘fallen asleep’. His talk of grammar being controlled by the government calls to mind Foucault. The inclusion of The Communist Manifesto on this list has been cited by some as proof that Loughner could not be a Tea Party activist, but since the Manifesto deals with the topic of organized revolution more than it does with imposing a state-controlled economy, I find its appearance on the list not so strange.
It also seems that Loughner had came in contact with (campus) police a couple of times, so a picture more or less emerges of a troubled adolescent, who reads stuff that’s maybe a few levels too complex for him. But these are exactly the people that you shouldn’t expose to the sort of militant, violent political rhetoric that since Obama’s presidency has been employed by the Tea Party and the Republican right. Because let’s face it: the whole imagery of the Tea Party, and of those politicians who’ve embraced them, is about violent revolution, 18th-century style. They wave around with banners from the Revolutionary War, saying ‘Don’t tread on me’, they bring guns to town hall meetings (and vigorously defend their Second Amendment right to do so), and they talk about ‘tyranny’ and ‘socialism’, about ‘taking their country back’. Sarah Palin talks about electoral battles in terms of ‘aiming’ and ‘reloading’, and continuously revels in the use of guns. Above the crosshair map Palin wrote ‘We’ve diagnosed the problem… Help us prescribe the solution’ – a dimly veiled threat. All because of political disagreement with Democrats! All because of a healthcare law that aims to provide uninsured people with basic necessities.
The problem with the American hard right these days is that they paint political differences in terms of doomsday’s and Armageddons. They don’t debate their political opponents; they deny them the right to exist. For Tea Partiers a Democratic presidency is something that’s inherently illegitimate, and not the outcome of a democratic process. That is why they cast their political language in terms that hark back to the foundation of the American polity: the Revolutionary War. But by doing so, they damage what was the result of this struggle: a democratic republic in which political differences are solved through peaceful procedure. And, in addition, they vindicate twisted individuals like Jared Lee Loughner, who lives in his own reality, in which ‘conscience’ is but a dream, to take matters into their own hand, and start using guns.
That is why it is not at all far-fetched, or an attempt at politicization, to cross-connect Tea Party and Republican right political rhetoric, and yesterday’s gunman act. Even if it turns out that Loughner had nothing to do with the Tea Party or their discourse (which I doubt, particularly the latter), it must still be admitted that with the very rhetoric they use, they enable people who have trouble taking rhetoric for just text to start taking things literally, and start their own little one-man violent revolution.
- Edit: I’d also like to say that one of these days, someone is going to point at Loughner’s marihuana use, and find the cause for everything in that. This will then be used as another argument in hysteric anti-drug arguments. Of course this will completely ignore the bigger causes and context of Loughner’s act, but it will happen.
- Edit 2: See How A Political Assault Becomes The Subject Of Culture Wars for a follow-up to this post.
The Beyond Within is a two-part BBC documentary from 1986 about the history of lsd. It’s pretty even-handed and impartial, and features such luminaries as Albert Hoffmann – the Swiss inventor of lsd -, Aldous Huxley -, writer of The Doors of Perception -, Ken Kesey – author of One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest and founder of the Merry Pranksters, the original West Coast hippies – and a British politician named Christopher Mayhew.
The main question the documentary asks is whether the experiences of lsd users can make claim to being spiritual in nature, or whether this is ‘just’ psychedelic delusion. It then documents the history of lsd, from the CIA experiments in the 1950s, to the psychedelic experiments by Timothy Leary at Harvard University and its experimentalist use by Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters in the early 1960s, to its more widespread use as a recreational drug in the age of the hippie counterculture.
Very interesting is the footage of Christopher Mayhew, a British upper class aristocrat politician, who in the early 1960s took mescaline as an experiment to be documented by the BBC:
The footage of his experience is extraordinary, as this eloquent upper-class Mr. Cholmondley-Warner-style aristocrat describes what he is experiencing under the influence of the drug, his eyes wide as saucers. Indeed, the footage proved too controversial for the BBC at the time, and was not shown until this Everyman documentary broadcast it in the 1980′s. Interestingly, Mayhew, who in 1986 was a member of the House of Lords, watches the footage, 30 years later, and stands by his description of the experience. “I had an experience in time” he says, and his conviction is apparent.
But, the documentary also explores bad trips. Albert Hoffmann has the last words, ending on the note that while he didn’t believe his lsd experiences to be spiritual, he did believe that they represented ‘another dimension to reality’.
So here it is. Enjoy!
- Edit: If you’re interested in this stuff and want to read more about it, we can recommend you a couple of titles. Jay Steven’s Storming Heaven. LSD and the American Dream (1998) is a good one. Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, about Kesey and the Pranksters, is one of Adriejan’s favorite books. For the Netherlands’ story of lsd, Maartenp recommends Peter ten Hoopen’s underrated King Acid - which is very hard to come by in paper, but is now available on Kindle.