Dammit, I knew I shouldn’t have clicked play on this clip of a bizarre anti-drug PSA from the 80s. Any song titled “The Chicken Club” is a sure-fire recipe for an all day earworm. You can tell from a distance, can’t you? I’ve been humming and tappin’ my toes to this catchy lil’ tune all day. I hate myself for it.
The message I’ve taken away from this video and song is, if you don’t do drugs you can do some awesome variations of “The Roger Rabbit” / “The Cabbage Patch” and, you know… you just gotta join the “Chi-chi-chicken Club!”
Are you a “chicken” for not doing drugs? That’s a bit of a mixed message, yeah?
The title of The Art of Tripping, a documentary about the visionary uses of narcotics that aired on Channel 4 in the UK in 1993, has a slippery double meaning. The surface notion is the idea of a guide to tripping well, of tripping with style, but that’s not what it refers to. More literally, the documentary addresses the artistic uses of drugs, art produced by tripping.
“Devised and directed” by Storm Thorgerson, well known as one of the members of the legendary Hipgnosis artistic team, The Art of Tripping is a satisfyingly intelligent narrative that brings the viewer through two centuries of the effects of mind-altering substances on highly creative minds. Hail Britannia: I’m trying to imagine CBS coming up with a program like this, without success. Even PBS wouldn’t likely go out of its way to praise the salutary uses of mescaline, although I’d be delighted to be proven wrong on that point. The narrator is Bernard Hill, who does an excellent job of imitating a certain kind of louche academic type who might plausibly have created the documentary you’re watching (even though he didn’t).
The documentary takes you from the days of Coleridge more than 200 years ago up through De Quincey, Rimbaud, Modigliani, and Picasso before getting to the golden age of chemically enhanced literature and painting following World War II. Be warned: this is a high-minded documentary, and the focus is entirely on authors and painters. You won’t hear anything about Jimi Hendrix here. The doc has a highbrow bias but is no less witty for that: many interviews are digitally fucked-with in appropriate ways, including a Picasso expert whose bit is presented in a cubist style and a commentator on LSD whose outline is briefly replaced with footage of an underwater vista, and so forth. In the familiar effort to make sure everything stays amiably “visual,” there’s also a metaphor in which the narrator ascends a creaky elevator to the rooftop of a building—the resolution of that metaphor could not be more cheesy or perfunctory.
Most notable for the purposes of DM is its lengthy succession of prominent talking heads, from Allen Ginsberg and J.G. Ballard to Hubert Selby Jr. and Paul Bowles. Where such personages were unavailable for reasons of death, Hill “interviews” De Quincey, Edgar Allan Poe, Anaïs Nin, Andy Warhol, and a few others who are embodied by actors who quote diaries and other literary works in order to “answer” the questions.
All of the great druggie classics of the postwar era are explored. Allen Ginsberg reads some bits of “Laughing Gas” from Kaddish and Other Poems, while Paul Bowles discusses the practice of ingesting kif in Tangier and reads a druggy bit from his book Let It Come Down. J.G. Ballard calls Naked Lunch “a comic masterpiece … a kind of apocalyptic view of the postwar world.” Amusingly, Ballard later says that “taking LSD was probably one of the biggest mistakes I’ve ever made in my life.” Of course, a few years after this documentary aired, Ballard wrote Cocaine Nights, which would obviously have fit this show to a T.
The show is chronological, so if you’re looking for Aldous Huxley or Ken Kesey or Jay McInerney, it won’t be too hard to find. My favorite bit comes towards the very end, when Lawrence Sutin, author of Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick, describes Dick’s disturbingly high intake of amphetamines:
At his peak, in the late ‘60s/early ‘70s, by his own testimony he was taking a thousand amphetamines a week. White crosses and whatever speed, street drugs he was taking. The testimony of the roommate who I interviewed was that he would go to the refrigerator, in which was a large jar of white crosses, and simpy dip his hand in, take a handful, and swallow them, so if you ask how he fared with all this, the answer was: badly.
Recreational cannabis is legal in Denver, Colorado, but folks are still feeling a little bit iffy about its sudden visible, and potentially sniffable, presence. The Denver police are now using an instrument called the “Nasal Ranger” (yes, that’s really what it is called), to measure and track the scent of pot in order to better enforce laws regarding smell complaints. They began using the tool fairly recently, purportedly after pot-related odor complaints more than doubled. Doubling sounds like a lot, right?
Oh wait, except that the numbers were pretty negligible to begin with.
In a city of around 634,000 people, there were 98 smell complaints in 2010, seven involved weed. In 2012, there were 288 complaints, with sixteen having to do with marihuana. While that’s an increase overall, complaints about pot actually decreased by about 1.5%, and this was all prior to the legalization of pot for recreational use. In 2013 (up until September 20th), they recorded 85 complaints, eleven of which were attributed to marijuana, a slight increase since 2010, but the city isn’t exactly being hot-boxed. And let’s be honest, at least some of those complaints were made by anti-pot tattle-tales and buttinskies. I only know a few Denverites, but none I’ve spoken to have complained of a sudden pervasive skunky smog enveloping the Mile-High City.
I looked up the Nasal Ranger, attempting to find a price, but apparently you have to request a quote, which is far too much work for an (cough) groggy young woman like myself. It sounds to me like the police department bought an expensive-ass toy in order to assuage some stuffy reactionaries. In all fairness, the Nasal Ranger actually seems like a pretty tame measure when you learn there are people in Denver attempting to pass laws making the very smell of pot punishable by up to $999 or up to a year in jail.
And at least the Nasal Ranger uses measurable data. That way, they can punish only the truly egregious odor levels—smells most likely produced by a dispensary or farm, not personal use. And at most, it’s a $2,000 fine, nothing completely outrageous. The more potentially unjust part is the provision declaring that five household complaints in a 12 hour period constitutes a violation. That could so easily abused by a few vindictive, lying, busybody neighbors.
On some level, I sympathize with a fear of overpowering smells. I grew up next to a donut factory that ran the ovens at 5 am, right when I was driving to my awful job as a hotel maid. I used love the smell of donuts, but after living in a cloying corn syrup fog for a year, I can now only stand the aroma when the odd donut craving hits me. Of course, now I live in a West Indian neighborhood, so guess what my street smells like in the summer heat? Barbecue, you racists! (Seriously, 95 degrees and a smoker full of jerk chicken in front of every brownstone.)
Like a hunk of meat dropped from a shopping bag onto the steaming summer streets of Washington Heights, the FDA and its supposed mission is rapidly turning rancid. Rapidly entering the territory where continued inaction can arguably be equated with criminal and maggoty negligence. Lemme explain just what the hell I’m talking about…
If you had, say, tuberculosis, you wouldn’t seriously consider going online and buying a “GUARANTEED CURE FOR TB!!!” from the same guy trying to sell you Cialis or Viagra, would you? You’d go to a doctor or, if you are poor and reside in the United States, to your local emergency room once you began to hack up blood, and you’d probably just assume that whatever antibiotics they were giving you had gone through, like, testing and shit beforehand, right? That’s the legacy of the FDA: Theoretically, it protects us regular folks from unscrupulous or fly-by-night “pharmaceutical” companies just trying to make a quick buck, right? In general, that’s a reputation we all probably (for the most part) trust in. FDA approval means something, right?
But all that comes to a screeching halt when we’re talking about psychoactive chemicals. I mean, do you really trust the FDA to issue statements or studies on bath salts or designer drugs? Of course not. Check out the recent New York magazine article on designer drugs (”Travels in the New Psychedelic Bazaar”). There are countless LEGAL drugs—albeit not the ones for sale in a Rite Aid, Walgreens or CVS store—entering the illicit market every month, and yet the FDA doesn’t feel like this is something they need to watch or study or bother with, aside from categorizing said psychoactive chemicals as “Schedule 1” under the analogue drug laws and making them illegal In other words, if the public, who they are supposed to protect, actually ENJOYS a drug, the FDA will provide exactly ZERO useful guidance on (eg) dosage or fatality rates or which producers are making their drugs in a harm-minimized fashion.
Am I suggesting that the FDA behave as if the organization were Erowid? Indeed I am!
Back in the late 70s we heard rumors in New York of this new (and at the time, perfectly legal) drug being produced at Harvard. or somewhere up in Boston, that provided this initial super-euphoric rush, followed by many hours of just plain outrageous grooviness. I was a teenager at the time, so it didn’t occur to me that, perhaps, this new drug (now known as Ecstasy) might be dangerous or untested. It came from Harvard! I just wanted to try some, what the fuck did I know?
Only a couple of years later, however, an exotic creature named Cindy Ecstasy (you may know her as a backing vocalist on Soft Cell records—she does the rap in “Memorabilia”—but I knew her in a different capacity) was shuttling back and forth between Boston and Brooklyn on weekends and distributing pretty inexpensive hits (about $13 at the time, as I remember) around clubland. It was only an accident that we were ingesting what would turn out to be one of the safest party drugs ever to hit the streets, though, a few years later, it was categorized as “Schedule 1” and made as illegal as heroin or crack. Back then it was pretty pure MDMA, although we did not know that. Who knows what is in it today?
So what we see, therefore, is that “Schedule 1” means that the FDA has basically backed out of any responsibility, despite the fact that millions of drugs are consumed by young people each year. Those consumers of bath salts, synthetic marijuana, designer drugs and other new-and-upcoming substances—critically, drugs that have often come out of nowhere and that have no real street history/folklore yet—know that the FDA has completely backed out of any real involvement, and so take on the risks themselves.
And that would be bad enough. But now, with fully legal recreational pot being sold in two states, and “medical” marijuana either sold or soon to be sold in many more, can the FDA still continue to ignore its responsibility to millions of partakers of psychoactive chemicals? I mean, the FDA regulates donuts, for fuck’s sake. Does it make any sense whatsoever that they continue to ignore the rapidly expanding area of legal MJ medical research? Sure, it’s illegal at the Federal level. Lots of things are. But if hundreds of thousands or even millions of people are consuming a substance, doesn’t the FDA have a responsibility to provide clear and nonpolitical guidance about consequences, usage dos and don’ts, potential contaminants and other dangers?
Put in another way, right now the FDA still has an OK-ish reputation for “big pharm” drugs that battle cancer and other sicknesses. But they’ve completely missed the boat on psychoactive and other chemicals that they are politically bound BY STUPID LOGIC to pretend don’t exist. And everyone knows this. In regards legal or illegal “fun drugs”, the FDA has ZERO reputation, they bring ZERO value, they are doing (what is in effect) NOTHING about substances that have an overall impact that completely outweighs any one pharmaceutical drug, even some of the ones that are the most prescribed! This is why a whole host of US states are currently going it alone, trying to determine how to monitor, license and inspect marijuana cultivation facilities in order to keep their residents safe and to minimize any harms along the way in the supply chain.
Look, alcohol is one of the most dangerous drugs out there. It can cause damage or death if consumed without information and guidance, not to mention that you can strip varnish with it. There are consequences to consuming alcohol that we minimize by empowering the FDA and other governmental bodies that don’t do what’s really required, here, now, in 2013. So far, on pot or mushrooms or MDMA or LSD or anything else, the FDA provides pretty much zero in the way of useful guidance, and everybody knows it. In other words, GET OFF YOUR FAT ASSES FDA AND START PRODUCING APOLITICAL GUIDANCE ON PSYCHOACTIVE DRUGS.
The legality or illegality of those drugs is totally irrelevant at this point. Do your job, FDA.
As a filmmaker who’s shot documentaries on both Lil’ Wayne and Lee “Scratch” Perry, Adam Bhala Lough thought it a good idea to cross wires a bit and let the eccentric 76-year-old dub master bestow a bit of mellow wisdom upon the drank-sippin’ 30-year-old rap supastar.
I’m sure we’re all pretty familiar with the Michael Alig/club kids story by now, but let’s face it, no matter how many times it is told it never fails to shock and entertain. Limelight is a new documentary which recounts the story yet again, but as opposed to Party Monster, Shockumentary or James St James’ excellent Disco Bloodbath book, the focus this time in on the Limelight club itself and its owner, the nightclub impresario Peter Gatien.
Gatien owned a string of venues in New York, Atlanta and London during the 80s and 90s, including the very successful Tunnel and Club USA in Times Square. The Limelight was perhaps the most notorious (due in no small part to the club kids’ involvement), and became the focus of Mayor Giuliani’s crackdown on the city’s night life and drug culture. Gatien made a fortune from his venues, but was found guilty of tax evasion in the late Nineties and deported to his native Canada. Gatien is interviewed in Limelight, along with a prison-bound Michael Alig and everyone’s favorite vegan porn-hound Moby (who describes the Limelight as being like “pagan Rome on acid”). The documentary is released on Friday, here’s the trailer:
A very interesting talk here from two of the more credible voices to comment on the 2012 phenomena (who I think need no introduction). As you would expect though from Hancock and Pinchbeck (both names together have a nice ring, eh?) the conversation covers much more than that, and takes in crop circles, drug consumption, 2012, the future, and the “freedom of consciousness”. The talk is opened up to the floor for some very interesting questions two thirds of the way through. This was recorded Baltimore late last year, and is here presented for the first time in its entirety, lasting just over 70 minutes. Perfect background listening while you are doing some dishes and washing some clothes:
Los Angeles-based designers Cast of Vices create whimsical pieces of jewelry based on “pop culture and our obsession with self-medication and addiction.” There’s also a pricey ($1,350) 14k Vicodin necklace you can view here.
Kanazawa has a theory, which he calls the “Savanna-IQ Interaction Hypothesis” which goes something like this: “Intelligence” evolved as a coping mechanism of sorts (maybe stress-related?) to deal with “evolutionary novelties”—that is to say, to help humankind respond to things in their environment to which they were previously, as a species, unaccustomed to. An adaptation strategy, in other words.
Translation: Smart folk are more likely to try “new” things and to seek out novel experiences. Like drugs.
How else to explain toad licking? Someone, uh, “smart” had to figure that one out, originally, right? Someone intelligent had to come up with the idea to synthesize opium into heroin, yes? Yes.
But to be clear, and not to misrepresent his theories, Kanazawa clearly states (in the subtitle) that “Intelligent people don’t always do the right thing,” either…
Consistent with the prediction of the Hypothesis, the analysis of the National Child Development Study shows that more intelligent children in the United Kingdom are more likely to grow up to consume psychoactive drugs than less intelligent children. Net of sex, religion, religiosity, marital status, number of children, education, earnings, depression, satisfaction with life, social class at birth, mother’s education, and father’s education, British children who are more intelligent before the age of 16 are more likely to consume psychoactive drugs at age 42 than less intelligent children.
The following graph shows the association between childhood general intelligence and the latent factor for the consumption of psychoactive drugs, constructed from indicators for the consumption of 13 different types of psychoactive drugs (cannabis, ecstasy, amphetamines, LSD, amyl nitrate, magic mushrooms, cocaine, temazepan, semeron, ketamine, crack, heroin, and methadone). As you can see, there is a clear monotonic association between childhood general intelligence and adult consumption of psychoactive drugs. “Very bright” individuals (with IQs above 125) are roughly three-tenths of a standard deviation more likely to consume psychoactive drugs than “very dull” individuals (with IQs below 75).
Shit, I must’ve been pretty smart because I purt’near crossed almost everything off this list (except for the sleeping pills) by the time I was seventeen!
Consistent with the prediction of the Hypothesis, the analysis of the National Child Development Study shows that more intelligent children in the United Kingdom are more likely to grow up to consume psychoactive drugs than less intelligent children. ... “Very bright” individuals (with IQs above 125) are roughly three-tenths of a standard deviation more likely to consume psychoactive drugs than “very dull” individuals (with IQs below 75).
If that pattern holds across societies, then it runs directly counter to a lot of our preconceived notions about both intelligence and drug use:
People—scientists and civilians alike—often associate intelligence with positive life outcomes. The fact that more intelligent individuals are more likely to consume alcohol, tobacco, and psychoactive drugs tampers this universally positive view of intelligence and intelligent individuals. Intelligent people don’t always do the right thing, only the evolutionarily novel thing.
Speaking for myself—and I wasn’t a very innocent child by any stretch of the imagination—I was already trying to smoke banana peels (“They call it ‘Mellow Yellow’) and consuming heaping spoonfuls of freshly ground nutmeg when I was just ten-years-old. I got the banana peels idea, yes, from reading about the Donovan song and its supposed “hidden meaning.” The nutmeg idea came from the infamous appendix of William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, which I was able to pick up at the local mall (When my aunt, visiting from Chicago, caught wind of what my 4th grade reading material was, she was shocked—and told my mother so—but little did she know that I was already at that age actively trying my damnedest to get my hands on some real drugs).
Too bad these nicotine, Valium, Vicodin, marijuana, Ecstasy, alcohol and cocaine porcelain plates are sold from Etsy seller, Trixiedelicious. I’m sure if enough people write in, Trixiedelicious would make more. There’s no harm in asking, eh?
While the Kenneth Anger / Jimmy Page dustup has been reported ad nauseum, this clip is new to me.
Led Zeppelin guitarist and leader Jimmy Page has been fired as composer for the soundtrack of the film ‘Lucifer Rising’ by it’s director, Kenneth Anger. Speaking in London on Friday, Anger decried Page for time-wasting and a lack of dedication to the project, and claimed that Page’s personal problems had made him impossible to work with. Page has been working on the film for the past three years and has so far delivered some 28 minutes of completed tape. The story of the collaboration -and the ensuing rift- goes back to 1973 when Page first agreed to compose and perform the movie soundtrack. He and Anger first met at Sotheby’s, at an auction of boots by the English Occultist/Magician Aleister Crowley. Both Page and Anger are students of Crowley’s teachings. Anger is a practicing Magus (a priest/magician) and his films’of which ‘Scorpio Rising’ is perhaps the best known—- are replete with occult symbolism. Anger himself describes them as “Spells and Invocations”.
During a 1968 promo shoot for Apple Records, Peter Sellers visited The Beatles in the studio and some impromptu drug talk ensued. Lennon reminds Sellers of the time “when I gave you that grass in Piccadilly.” Sellers response: “it really stoned me out of my mind.”
Listen for Yoko’s remark about “shooting as exercise,” a none too subtle reference to her and John’s heroin use.
The second video is Sellers performing ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ in the style of Laurence Olivier’s Richard the Third on the Granada TV special The Music of Lennon & McCartney. Sellers goofy take on The Beatles’ tune was actually released as a single and made the pop charts.
Sellers performs ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ after the jump…
In this mindbending expose, breathlessly narrated by some Bible thumpin’ teenybopper who sounds like he’s tweaking on meth, the truth about Timothy Leary and his infernal connection to Aleister Crowley is revealed to be the ultimate and absolute downfall of civilization as we know it.
Leary, doing Crowley’s bidding, distributed LSD and mescaline to America’s youth with the lusty abandon of a Viagra-fueled Priest feeding Methaqualone communion wafers to rosy-cheeked, tight- buttocksed altar boys. The resulting degradation of society has altered our reality in ways that are immeasurably and indescribably decadent and sinful. For which I am eternally gratefully.
If one were to take the bible seriously one would go mad. But to take the bible seriously, one must be already mad.