Introducing the Mondo 2000 History Project



The following is a possible introduction… or possibly one of several introductions or possibly an opening chapter to the Mondo 2000 History Project book. It's my story of particular points in my life that I now see as the run up toward starting High Frontiers magazine which became Reality Hackers and then MONDO 2000. Since I was the sole possessor of the idea to start the initial magazine, I believe there is some justification for this personal narrative being the opening salvo, however I'm not stuck on it and I'm happy to hear all feedback.

Morgan Russell, who is co-editing the book with me, said this text works as an introduction to the book and is "naïve" (in a good sense). I think that's correct. Hopefully, a somewhat more worldly perspective is implicit in my current writing of these memories.

If you like the writing here, please let that be a motivation for continuing to spread the word about this Kickstarter page. We would love to be able to dole out a few dollars beyond the money needed for management of the open source site to pay us and any other super-contributors a little bit for our time; to pay for some transcription of recorded interviews; and to get rights to reuse some already published materials. So keep it coming, please. (And if you don't like the writing here, then you can buy us the time to improve it!)

Besides linking to it, the text below is available to reuse/post elsewhere. I ask only that you give attribution to R.U. Sirius as the author and then link to http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1502076070/mondo-2000-an-open-source-history.


The MONDO 2000 History Project: An (Possible) Introduction

Let the story beginning in the Spring of 1967. I am 14 years old and in 9th grade. It's early evening and the doorbell rings at the suburban house in Binghamton, New York where I live with my mom and dad. It's a group of my friends and they're each carrying a plastic bag and looking mighty pleased. They come in, we shuffle into the guest room (where the record player is kept) and they show off their gatherings — buttons ("Frodo Lives!" "Mary Poppins is a Junkie" "Flower Power"), beads, posters (hallucinatory), incense with a Buddha incense burner, and kazoos. A lonely looking newspaper lays at the bottom of the pile, as though shameful, the only item unremarked.

Without realizing the implications, I happen to throw side one of Between The Buttons on the player. Eventually, the song "Cool Calm and Collected" plays and a kazoo sounds through the speakers. In an instant, newly purchased kazoos are wielded and The Rolling Stones' only-ever kazoo solo is joined by three wailing teenagers, bringing sudden shouts of objection from my famously liberal and tolerant Dad in the living room. It's quickly determined that it's late, Dad's tired, and it's time to send all kazoo-wielding teens packing. As each of the friends moves to retrieve his items, I grab the newspaper to see what it is. There are, I now see, two of them — two editions of something called "The Oracle." It has hallucinatory visuals on the cover and boasts an interview with a member of The Byrds (David Crosby). Vinnie, who had bought it — but who, despite writing poetry — avoids any signifiers of intellectual curiosity as the teen status crushers that they are, feigns disinterest and gives the copies to me.

And that's where it begins, this strange love affair with the periodical, particularly the periodical that has flair and style… where you can almost feel the energy and fun emanating off the pages.

I remember only one thing from the content inside those two Oracles and that's David Crosby denying that he was "some kind of weird freak who fucks ten chicks a day." That stuck in my mind. I didn't know it was possible even to think that, much less print it, much less be in a position to find it necessary to deny being it!

Let the story continue some time in early 1969, I'm 16 and in my junior year at Binghamton Central High School. The student/youth protest movement has fired my imagination — and the more radical the better. The Columbia University takeover with obscenity screaming Mark Rudd! The French Revolution of May '68! The armed black student takeover of the Cornell administration building, just 45 miles away in Ithaca! WoWeeee!

I wanted a piece of it. So I started a high school "underground newspaper" — The Lower Left Corner. Wanting to spring it on the school as a total surprise, I brought in only one co-conspirator (memory fails me, but he was more a collegian liberal type while I hung with the freaks.) Anyway, what we came up with was, I am sure, a completely lame and absurd piece of adolescent indignation. While college students revolted against the war, racism, and authoritarianism in school, we boiled it down to authoritarianism at school. The one thing I remember is that we had a cartoon of a teacher wearing a swastika armband busting a student for smoking in the boys' room. (Eat your hearts out, Brownsville Station!) It was that stupid.

To this day, I consider The Lower Left Corner a great success. Eight pages, Xeroxed front and back and stapled together… we entered the school each armed with a boxful… probably about 80 copies each total, and started handing them out selectively, avoiding the jocks and straights (by the way, straight used to mean "not hip.")

We got to homeroom — official start of the school day. The principle came over the loudspeaker. "Anyone caught with a copy of the paper called The Lower Left Corner will be immediately suspended from school." All eyes on me. Homeroom ends and as the door to the hallway swings open, I step out into my first taste of celebrity. All the jocks that usually threaten to beat me up or cut my hair off are jostling for a copy of the forbidden paper… even thanking me upon receiving. Laughing, I thrust the pieces ‘o' crap into the grasping hands, happy also to get rid of them so that I wouldn't be caught with any copies… and then I waited for the administrative consequences.

None were forthcoming. I had beaten the system… and in two ways. I'd gotten the administration to act out the very authoritarian impulse that we were lamely dithering about in print; and I learned something that served me well through the rest of my career as a high school "sixties radical. " If the authorities think you're political enough to run to the ACLU, they'll leave you alone and bust your intended audience instead!

We created and "printed" one more issue of The Lower Left Corner. As I recall, it was on an antiwar theme and we paid more attention to the quality of the text and design the second time out. This time, we handed them out without any attempted interference. Teachers even used it as a source for classroom discussions. And of course… no one cared.





Let the story continue in Fall of 1971. I'm 19. I meet Tommy Hannifin at a rally against the killings at Attica State. He's shouting the not-so-secret codeword… YIPPIE! We converge and excitedly share our mutual love of the Yippies' funny and fun acid-infused, prankster, wild-in-the-streets take on The Movement as a Youth Culture Revolution. I tell him that I want to create a Binghamton Chapter of the Yippies and start an underground newspaper. And so we did.

I should be clear. I had never thought… even for a moment, about journalism as a craft and/or a career. It didn't even occur to me that I should think about it in those terms. Indeed, to the constant worry of Mom and Dad, I never thought about career at all. I assumed that The Revolution would render those issues moot. I simply reached for the print medium because it seemed like a tool that was accessible. (It was… relatively speaking.) I seem to recall that Tommy, at least, knew something about layout — that you had to get these boards, type out the text, get visuals and paste it all up. And so, we pasted together Lost In Space, Binghamton's little underground newspaper, ripping off a few frames from an underground cartoon titled Nancy Kotex: High School Nurse for the front page. This thievery was utterly naïve. The idea of copyright and intellectual property was unfamiliar to me — like so many things in life that seemed obvious to so many, it hadn't occurred to me. The cartoon just struck us as funny, and when we imagined people getting all upset and offended by it, it became twice as funny. And so I learned about the double scoop of pleasure you get from prankster humor that confounds or freaks people out. You get to laugh at the joke… and then you get to laugh at the over-reaction to the joke.

Like The Lower Left Corner, Lost In Space (changed by issue #2 to Space because movement types told us Lost In Space sent a negative message) was a piece of crap. And unlike the underground papers of the bigger urban centers and hip college towns like Madison Wisconsin and Ann Arbor Michigan, we had no tributes to George Jackson and Ho Chi Minh; we had no quasi-sophisticated neo-Marxian analyses of the movement; no major statements from Robin Morgan about the rise of militant feminism; and probably not much news. Like The Lower Left Corner, Space was locally focused, reflexively against all authority, and juvenile. But it was probably a bit more stylishly written… and it certainly had a puckish sense of humor.

Let the story continue in 1980. I'm 27 years old and a Junior at the State University College at Brockport, New York, near Rochester. (The Revolution having left me stranded.) My friend Brian Cotnoir wants to start an avant-garde art newspaper. He calls it Black Veins — which comes from an interpretation of a line from Lautreamont's epic proto-surrealist misanthropic horror poem Maldoror (Les Chantes de Maldoror) — and he signs me on as co-editor. The paper features dark, perversely angled bits of poetry and fiction, but I bring something else in. Since the mid-1970s, I have been nursing a growing obsession with the neuro-futurisms of Dr. Timothy Leary and Illuminatus author/philosopher Robert Anton Wilson.

For the first issue, I have a written exchange with Wilson, performed by the soon to be archaic means of letters sent by mail. (As best I recall) the exchange essentially involves me wringing my hands that the world is a terrible place and that his optimistic weltanschauung may actually be a dangerous diversion. (I would later get letters like that myself at MONDO 2000 and, generally, respond with dismissive quips intended to communicate my lack of commitment to an optimistic — or any — point of view.) My letter includes a pretentious, portentous quote from a Village Voice review of Hans-Hurgen Syderberg's 6 hour film, Our Hitler.

And then word comes that Dr. Leary himself is coming to Rochester on his "stand up philosophy" tour. Brian, his girlfriend Ellen, myself, and our ex-girlfriend Liz pile in Ellen's car for the 30-minute drive to Rochester for the Sunday afternoon performance. Our goal is to interview the Dr. after the show for the second issue of Black Veins and then to film him. I plan to try and incorporate him into an 8mm movie called Armed Camp I'm making for a film class. (Incidentally, that's camp in the Susan Sontag sense.) The film involves, among other things, some 20-somethings playing poker in pajamas using the Aleister Crowley Thoth Tarot deck and then dancing to The Archies "Sugar Sugar" 45 rpm played at 33 (makes the vocals sound sort of like Jim Morrison). There is a vague narrative structure to this odd little attempt and I have reworked it so that it required Timothy Leary to say a few lines.

My posse — myself excluded — is negative about mind-altering drugs and cynical about Leary, and this makes me anxious. As we take our seats, the end of the Pink Floyd album The Wall blasts out of the loudspeakers and the cover of Leary's book The Intelligence Agents — which shows multiple copies of the same baby attempting to climb over a brick wall which appears to have no end — is projected onto a screen on stage. Then comes Side 2 (The "1984" side) of David Bowie's Diamond Dogs. Given his recent byzantine adventures with prison, exile, revolution, and compromise with the powers of state, it seems as if Leary is trying to tell us something. To the final echoes of Bowie singing "We want you, big brother," Dr. Leary walks on stage. Liz mutters a bit too loudly, "Ohmygod, it's Johnny Carson!"

The performance is not particularly impressive or funny, but Leary agrees to be interviewed. He unleashes that famous laser beam smile on each of us, one at a time, and the vibe immediately changes. Instant intimacy. Timothy Leary is now our special pal and we're his co-conspirators. We move into the restaurant attached to the club, order drinks and peruse the menu. Liz, a slightly moralistic vegetarian, asks Leary if he eats meat. "I'll eat anything!" he says directly to her, smiling. It's something that has been said a million times before by both jackasses and geniuses, but it comes out like a blast of freedom. Everybody feels this.

We all have a roaring great time interviewing Leary about life, drugs; his hatred of followers, his futurist theories, and the 1980 Democratic primaries ("If I'd done a better job, you wouldn't have all these pasty-faced white guys running around New Hampshire.") We're all dazzled, feeling like the host of Planet Earth's party had lifted the velvet rope and let us in. As we finish the conversation, Ellen urges me to ask Tim about appearing in Armed Camp. I'm feeling shy, but I share the script — such as it is — with him and point him at his two-sentence part. "What's it about?" he asks. A bit flustered, I blurt out, "Nothing really." He laughs and looks at my friends. "Thaaat's wonderfullll, isn't it? Nothing. Isn't thaaat wonderful?" Everybody laughs, including me. He won't read the lines but he will let me ask him a question and film his response… which turns out to be useless for my movie, but a treasure (that I will soon lose) nonetheless.

As we wrap up, Tim asks for a ride back to his hotel. He shrewdly picks Brian to dismantle and pack up the photo projector he'd uses to backdrop his talk. As we head to the car, night has fallen. Liz is pawing Dr. Leary, while they both gaze up at the stars. He points and describes a constellation or two. In the car, Liz continues to stroke and flirt, offering to come up to his hotel. Leary tells her she is very beautiful and wonderful, but he's married. As "Sympathy For the Devil" pops up on the mainstream rock radio station, we pull up to a raggedy-ass little hotel that's near the Rochester Airport and the good Dr. takes his leave of us.





Let the story continue in early November 1983. I am 31 years old and have just recently moved into a weirdly straight (see above) shared household in Mill Valley, California, a 'burb of San Francisco. The house is made up mostly of sedate 50-something recent converts to new age philosophies — an oddly pale white man who emanates a bland but likeable passivity seems to be the eminence grise of the household scene. And then there's a Hindu Hippie couple around my age that lives in the back room. They smoke pot (I can smell it) and they pretty much keep to themselves.

I have moved from Brockport, New York to the San Francisco Bay Area (starting off in Berkeley) with a "note to self" in my pocket — the only thing I could write during several months of writer's block, after a briefly successful academic and small town rock and roll career as a writer of fiction… and writer and singer of song lyrics. The note contains my California to-do list: "Start the Neopsychedelic Wave. Start a Neopsychedelic band. Start a Neopsychedelic magazine."

In late 1980, having written two darkly comic short stories to great local academic approval, and even winning a scholastic award (best fiction) for one of them (titled "Glib Little Holocausts"); having written darkly comic lyrics for a punk-tinged rock band (called "Party Dogs") and performed to some approval in both Brockport and Rochester; and looking ahead vaguely to either trying to make a run at a career as a rock and roll eccentric or hiding in obscurity as a writing professor; I came in for an odd reckoning — an interruption, really. It was a really good LSD trip.

Two days after the murder of John Lennon, laying in a room in a small apartment in which the heat pipes played oddly angelic music that had gone heretofore unnoticed, my girlfriend Lisa and I laid face to face, took the clean 250 microgram doses of liquid LSD-25 we had gotten from the colleges' hippyest Deadhead and made off for the cosmos.

Up until then, even my best trips had been fraught with ambiguity. My friends and lovers were weird. My hometown was relatively small… and contained parents who worried, and hostile lawmen and jocks who knew who I was. There was always at least the hint of trouble or shame — the feeling that my neurological nakedness was something to hide and someone lurked around the bend ready to give me a bad — or, at least, a strange time.

Now, there I was, safe and high and with a girlfriend who I actually liked and felt comfortable with, primed by my readings of Leary and Wilson to tap into an elegant symmetry, a generosity, even a sense of frivolity in the heart of all-that-is.

At first, the acid hit strong. It jolted up and down my spine like kundalini lightening, then shooting out the top of my head in a glorious explosive overabundance — an excess of multicolor wow! and then it smoothed over into an endless and sumptuous multidimensional layer cake of pastels filled to the brim with warm congratulations at having arrived. Later, it took me into deep space, and the heat pipes, which had been playing a pleasant kind of Tuvan throat music drone started, instead, to play John Lennon's hit song, "Starting Over" and, well… the message seemed clear. What the Lizard King had said was true: "Everything must be this way."

The aftermath of the trip found me disastrously happy, playful, optimistic, frivolous and energized… and writing about the coming of a Neopsychedelic Wave in lyrics and fiction. In the real (small) world of Brockport, New York, I'd shifted into a master's course in Fiction Writing, and attempts to give expression to my new head in that context weren't working. What came out was the sort of gibberish that has been produced before and aft by so many in the throes of psychedelic wonder — shards of flashy words that tried to convey – no, make that impart the energy of being aliver than thou to the recipient with FLASHY CAPITALIZED WORDS. Finally, after a couple of floundering semesters, I heard the siren call: "California is the place you oughta be!" There was really, after all, only one state from which to start a Neopsychedelic Wave.

So I'm sitting in the living room here in Mill Valley in 1983 just sort of gazing out the window when something bordering on an apparition appears. The Hindu Hippies plus their friend, a tall thin man in white robes — a visitor who occasionally slinks in and out of their room to use the bathroom — are opening a side door, and walking with them into the very back yard that I am gazing upon is a tall, thin, curly haired man, speaking something not quite audible in a familiar, nasally voice.

I recognize the man. I had attended a lecture he gave at a place in Berkeley a few months earlier. It was something about magic mushrooms and UFOs. In a nasally voice that reminded me of Jello Biafra, the man — Terence McKenna — had woven an astounding linguistic spell, rich with references ranging from Learyesque projections of future space architectures and superhuman amplifications to McLuhanistic media meanderings and, to top it all off, erudite descriptions (damn, why couldn't I do that?) of psychedelic experiences… including one that involved something along the lines of forty days and forty nights on mushrooms in the Amazonian Rain Forest during which he "channeled" a message from the logos that was calling us forward through time and using the acceleration of technology and consciousness and social crisis to bring us to some kind of psychedelic singularity in which exteriority and interiority would trade places!

Well… far out! But what the fuck is he doing at my house with the Hindu Hippies!? Here am I, on cosmic assignment from something or other to start the Neopsychedelic Movement and feeling meek and quiet and ill prepared and there's this McKenna guy at my house. They quickly retreat into the back room. It takes me a good half hour to work up my nerve and tap on the door.

What happens next is (like an alien probe) wiped from my memory. Let it be said — and many will attest to this — that Mr. McKenna always brought the powerful fucking weed with him when he came. All I know is that, somehow, at the end of the visit, which probably lasted all of an hour, Mr. McKenna is handing me a baggie with 6 grams of dried psilocybin mushrooms and a joint of his way-too-strong pot and telling me (McKenna familiars… hear the nasel): "Eat these on an empty stomach. An hour later, go into a darkened room and smoke this joint. That will get you where you want to go."

So it's about a week later, and it's Monday, the start of a Thanksgiving weeklong break in my job selling season ticket subscriptions by phone for various Bay Area arts organizations. I have decided that tonight's the night. I will take the 6 grams of mushrooms late that night and lie in the dark in silence in my room and I will make contact with The Others — the alien intelligences that Mr. McKenna says are available on the Psilocybin frequency (when you take enough) — or I won't… and either way, it will be a groovy trip.

I have decided to try a borderline fast — nothing but toast and water (and my morning cup of coffee) all day. It's a big mistake. It's around 5 pm and I'm heading home after strolling into town and I start to pass the McDonalds on the corner when the hunger overwhelms me and the biological robot commandeers my brain. By the time my brain returns to ordinary consciousness, I have downed a bag of Chicken McNuggets and a small bag of fries. Now I'm unhappy with myself and I'm deciding that I've blown the opportunity. No trip tonight.

I get back to the house and, oddly, it's empty. It's a large household, yet no one is home. A thought grips me. If they all stay away for an hour, I have a chance to get off on the mushrooms alone, having the run of the house during those energetic, intensely physical early moments that occur when you first come on to psychedelics. Then, I can hide out in my room with the lights out for the remainder of the trip. The time is nigh. I chew down the biggest batch of ‘shrooms in my life by far and I find myself pacing the house, nervously. Suddenly, after about 20 minutes, it slices through me like a shard of angry glass. A shattering angry splintery energy thing is outside me lacerating me and I am in everything's sights and all-that-is is pissed at me. The house cats start scurrying around yowling, running furiously, scratching at and trying to climb the walls. The suburban Mill Valley street suddenly looms very small and enclosed and conservative, and me… Mistra Inappropriate… not in control of my basic social signals and I'm now being lacerated by demons from a peculiar occult/Rolling Stones mirrorworld for abandoning them back in Binghamton, New York. Multiple car engine noises scrape the insides of my gut (In reality, it's around 6 pm, the time when people in the suburbs get home from working in San Francisco) — each one of them very likely carrying narcotics cops or agents of some hostile control system and, worst of all, I see it like it is now… They're the good guys and I am cast out, having done wrong; having eaten magic mushrooms on a corporate McDonald's stomach… heedlessly. I stare out the front window expecting incoming — hoping merely that the inevitable death is not too tortuous. And then it happens. A car actually stops right in front of the house. This is it. It's over! But wait. The doors open and several clearly preoccupied corporeal and painfully ordinary humans emerge — all my housemates. They are opening doors and the trunk and picking up grocery bags. In an instant, things shift. The immediate danger lessens but does not disappear. I still may be attacked by angry beings, but right now I have another challenge. I have to act normal. I shuffle to the front door and open it, thinking that the best strategy is to wander out and offer to carry grocery bags. I take one step outside. Can't handle it. I go back inside and close the screen door. Now I've given myself away. But the roomies walk in the house, preoccupied with their normal activities and blandly saying hello, to which I manage a normal sounding reply. All, that is, except for the Hindu Hippie guy. He makes a beeline for me and looks me right in the eyes. Quietly, he says, "Oh boy. Come with me" and, with his girlfriend, leads me by the hand into their back room. I start to tell him what I've done but he already knows. "You've taken Terence's mushrooms." The thin man in the white robes is lying on his side on a cot looking calm. He has been sitting in there all along. They say very little at first. They bring me a cup of warm tea; have me lie down on a cot, and the Hindu Hippie girl gives me a shoulder rub. I mutter something about demons from a Rolling Stones mirrorworld and start to explain about the friendship I had with a strange and charismatic guitar player who was fanatically and uncannily tapped into Keith Richards almost to the point where the evidence suggested a mystical connection and how we spent five months together in borderline isolation learning the entire Rolling Stones catalogue, and how he played it better than anybody alive except maybe Keith (better than Ronnie, by far), and how we talked long into the night about the occult dimensions of The Rolling Stones and the gut level pagan authenticity of the sex and drugs and rock and roll left hand path to enlightenment and how this friendship had all the elements of an intense sexual affair but without the sex and he started talking about Rimbaud & Verlaine and how it made me self-conscious and I couldn't handle it and then I gave him my song lyrics to start writing originals and he said he lost them and laughed at me and I left town and never spoke to him again.





And this makes perfect sense to my Hindu Hippie friends. I mean, christ… they were California hippies. They were probably at Altamont as teenagers! Demons sent from a Rolling Stones mirrorworld made perfect sense. And then, as I settled into a state of calm, the thin man in the white robes told me his story. Vijaya was a former leader of the American Hare Krishna cult. He had left the group because they had started to behave — as do pretty much all cults — like gangsters, with all the corruption and violence that implies. He still believed in Hare Krishna's brand of Hinduism, but he was part of a renegade group of psychedelic Hare Krishnas. And the Hare Krishna cultists had tried to kill him… and he was hiding out. So here we were, me hiding out from mirrorworld Stones demons and him hiding out, ostensibly, from Hare Krishna assassins, both of us in the back room of a very bland Mill Valley shared household.

While the LSD trip that had sent me to California was a "good trip" and the trip on McKenna's shrooms was a "bad trip," they both propelled me on. A couple of days after the psilocybin trip, the resolve to go forward with the creation of a psychedelic magazine took hold of me. I contacted Will Nofke, a new age radio host who had done a series of interviews about psychedelics with Albert Hofmann, Timothy Leary, Terence McKenna and Andrew Weil on Berkeley's Pacifica station KPFA, and asked him for the tapes to transcribe and publish the content. He sent me the tapes and granted me the permission. On New Years Eve — as 1983 was becoming 1984 — I stayed home alone. I finished transcribing the last of the tapes — the Leary interview — while watching the avant-garde video artist Nam June Paik host a very special New Years Eve 1984 show titled Good Morning, Mr. Orwell on PBS' Alive From Off Center, featuring many of my culture heroes: Laurie Anderson, John Cage, Allen Ginsberg, and Paik himself. Later I would have my first date with my wife Eve at a Nam June Paik exhibit in San Jose, California and I would co-create a TV show proposal and sample titled "The R.U. Sirius Show" for the consideration of PBS with John Sanborn, the Producer of Alive From Off Center. When the show ended, I channel surfed and found Timothy Leary on a silly, long forgotten entertainment talk show (I have mercifully forgotten the host). It was lame, but still, it was Timmy on network TV. A great signifier for the beginning of a new life. As 1984 dawned, I started reaching out to find compatriots to be part of a magazine that would be called High Frontiers and later Reality Hackers and then finally MONDO 2000.

See Also:
Counterculture and the Tech Revolution
Steve Wozniak v. Stephen Colbert - and Other Pranks
Robert Anton Wilson 1932-2007
Neil Gaiman Has Lost His Clothes
Is The Net Good For Writers?

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Eight Druggiest Rock Star Stories



The following is an excerpt from Everybody Must Get Stoned: Rock Stars on Drugs. The book was inspired by Paul McCartney on Drugs, an article I wrote for 10 Zen Monkeys in January of 2007.

In researching this particular section, I relied heavily upon two great sources: Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk (An Evergreen book) by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain and High Times magazine. Other major sources for the book included Celebrity Stoner and a great book titled Waiting For The Man: The Story of Drugs and Popular Music by Harry Shapiro.






During the latter half of the twentieth century, rock stars were privileged with the opportunity to experience just about every imaginable thrill. They were young, they were aggressive, many of them were wealthy, they were in a culture where thumbing your nose at authority was the rule rather than the exception, and they were treated like sex gods by members of the opposite or desired gender. And, of course, there were plenty of drugs around to get crazy with. These are some of the twisted highlights or low-lights of rock star behavior related to drugs.





1. Blood of the Stooges

In 1969-1970, Iggy Pop and his seminal proto-punk band the Stooges lived together outside Detroit in a house they nicknamed "Fun House." (They also named an album for it.) Besides writing and recording music, they were injecting massive amounts of drugs, mostly heroin. When setting up a hit, the Stooges would squirt the blood out of their syringes and shoot it all over the walls and ceilings. After a while, enough blood had accumulated on the apartment's walls to create a sort-of degraded smack addict's Jackson Pollock mural. Ron Asheton, the only Stooge member who was not a junkie and who lived elsewhere, described it "...a lot of times there would be fresh stuff. Then it would dry on to the table or on the floor.... I wish I was smart enough to take pictures of it because it would have been a masterpiece."

2. Sid Goes to the Toilet

Dee Dee Ramone found himself at a party in London, hanging out for a few moments in the bathroom snorting great quantities of speed. It wasn't the sort of place you'd want to hang out for too long, as Dee Dee quickly noticed that the bathroom was disgusting — sinks, toilets, everything was full of vomit, piss, and shit. Sid Vicious — a key figure in the London punk scene but not yet a member of the Sex Pistols — wandered in and asked Dee Dee if he had anything to get high on, so Dee Dee generously gave Sid some of his crank. Vicious pulled out a syringe, stuck it into a toilet filled with puke and piss, and then loaded it with speed and shot himself up.

3. Brave Ted Nugent, Rock Warrior

The right-wing rocker Ted Nugent is known for being very antidrug and very prowar. The Motor City Madman happily calls out any pussy-ass traitor not ready to grab a gun or a bomb or a nuke and show those towelheads that we mean business. But back during the glory years of the Vietnam war, this most macho chickenhawk in the Republican firmament went to extremes to make sure his own pussy ass didn't end up in Vietnam, and he used drugs to do it.

In a 1970s High Times interview, Nugent related the story of how he avoided the draft. For 30 days prior to his appearance before the draft board, the hairy and bearded Nugent stopped brushing his teeth, bathing, washing himself, or combing his hair. He ate nothing but junk food and high-fat foods and drank nothing but Pepsi and beer.

Then, a week before his physical, Nugent pulled out all the stops. He stopped going to the bathroom. "I did it in my pants. Shit, piss, the whole shot. My pants got crusted up." Then three days before the exam, Nugent started staying up with the help of crystal meth.

When he finally went in for the army physical, Nugent was so sick that he passed out during his blood test. During the urine test, he couldn't pee. And when it came time to give them some excrement, he pulled down his pants and it was all there and ready. In fact, he got it all over his hands and arm. Nugent bragged to High Times, "...in the mail I got this big juicy 4-F. They'd call dead people before they'd call me.... I just wasn't into it. I was too busy doin' my own thing." Didn't Dick Cheney say something like that? (Nugent has recently claimed that he made this story up.)

4. Can You Tell the Difference Between Tripping Out and Nodding Out?

In 1967, rock guitarist and notorious smack addict Michael Bloomfield, who had played with Bob Dylan on his classic mid-sixties albums and as a member of Blues Project, had his own band of fellow musician-junkies. They called themselves the Electric Flag. They were hired by B-movie master Roger Corman to create the soundtrack to Corman's LSD movie The Trip (starring a young, acid-gobbling Jack Nicholson).

The band was invited to the film opening, where they took the front-row seats that had been set aside for them. But the lads had arrived so loaded down on smack that they were nodding off and spacing out throughout the film. In a High Times interview, Bloomfield added that the band was also encouraged to sleep by their positioning in the theater: "We're sitting in the front row, and we're like one inch from the screen — we have to sit at a 90 degree angle just to see the movie..."

When the movie ended, everybody filed out except for Bloomfield and his coterie of stoned musicians, who were glued to their seats, some with eyes closed and the others glassy-eyed. Confronted by members of Corman's crew as to why they were not leaving the theatre, Bloomfield had enough presence of mind to come up with an excuse that would be socially acceptable at that time and within this particular milieu. "We all had a lot of acid," he told them. In 1967 Hollywood, at the screening of The Trip, this had to be respected. Not wanting to bum the fellows out during such a sensitive event, the crew members left the musicians alone in the theater. It took them several hours to pry themselves from their chairs.

5. Waste Not, Want Not

Japan has a reputation for searching rock stars for drugs. Most famously, Paul McCartney spent some time in jail after going through Japanese customers (see also the chapters: "The Beatles on Drugs" and "Big Busts and Big Deals"). So when Guns n' Roses guitarist Izzy Stradlin was warned by his manager to get rid of any drugs he might have before going through customers in Japan, Stradlin put them someplace he knew he wouldn't lose them — in his stomach. He must have had quite a stash, because he wound up in a coma for 96 hours.

6. Jim Morrison's Excellent Adventure

In Please Kill Me, Ronnie Cutrone, an artist and denizen of Andy Warhol's 1960s Factory scene described a typical night out with the Doors' lead vocalist: "Jim would go out, lean up against the bar, order eight screwdrivers, put down six Tuinals on the bar, drink two or three screwdrivers, take two Tuinals, then he'd have to pee, but he couldn't leave the other five screwdrivers, so he'd take his dick out and pee, and some girl would come up and blow his dick, and then he'd finish the other five screwdrivers and then he'd finish the other four Tuinals, and then he'd pee in his pants, and then Eric Emerson and I would take him home."

7. But Why Is Elton "Still Standing?"

In his mid-1970s heyday, Los Angeles declared "Elton John Week." To celebrate, the glam rock pasha invited his relatives out to L.A. to celebrate. Allegedly, Elton took 60 Valiums, jumped into a hotel pool, and shouted, "I'm going to die." His grandmother was heard to comment: "I suppose we're going to have to go home now."


8. When Ozzy Got Some of That Good Government Cocaine

In a 1999 High Times interview, Ozzy talked about the time he had the best coke he'd ever had. He said, "I'm lying by the pool one day and I met this guy and I ask him, 'You want to do some coke?' He goes, 'no no no.' I'm whacking this stuff up my nose, it's a brilliant sunny day, and this guy's sitting there with one of those reflectors under his chin getting a suntan. I say, 'What do you do.' He says, 'I work for the government.' 'Uh... what do you do with the government?' 'I work for the drug squad.' I sez, 'You're fucking joking.' He shows me his badge. I fuckin' flipped...flames were coming out of my fingers, man. He says, 'Oh you're all right. I'm the guy that got you the coke.'"



Buy the book!


See Also:
Paul McCartney on Drugs
Ed Rosenthal: Big Man of Buds
Prescription Ecstasy and Other Pipe Dreams
Willie Nelson's Narcotic Shrooms

The QuestionAuthority Proposal
Bush Administration’s Greatest Hits (To Your Face)
Catching Up With an Aqua Teen Terrorist
Don't Go There: Top 20 Taboo Topics for Presidential Candidates

Steve Wozniak v. Stephen Colbert — and Other Pranks

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Timothy Leary’s New Book On Drugs



I always sort of liked Timothy Leary, but I never took many drugs and never really read any of his work. I've sat through a few videos in which he came off as a good-natured eccentric — spaced out, but with a sharp sense of humor.

This book is a surprise. Published by Re/Search, purveyors of books about pranks, punk rock, and body modification, it may not make you want to become an "enlightened" acidhead, but it should leave you with at least one insight: Timothy Leary was a damn fine writer. Who knew?

I interviewed Leary On Drugs editor, Hassan I Sirius, by email to get the scoop on this new collection of Leary's writing.
Click here for
more information
about the book!

JAYDEN DEVEREUX: I was mostly surprised by the quality of Leary's writing and his seriousness of purpose. How did you go about selecting materials for the book?

HASSAN I SIRIUS: My approach was pretty much exactly what you've just implied. Most of the content was selected for the quality of the writing and for the calm lucidity of Leary's thoughts about drugs. With all the recent positive reports about psychedelic research (Time magazine even had a story titled "Was Timothy Leary Right?") — and with the growing awareness of the destructive nature of drug prohibition, it seemed wise to try to make this a fairly serious contribution to our collective knowledge and thinking regarding drugs, particularly of the psychedelic variety.

Leary wrote a lot of material, some of it frivolous, some of it caught up in the battles and in the hype of a particular time period. And some of that material may not stand up to scrutiny. I think I mostly selected materials that stand on their own. You don't have to understand the sixties or the seventies all that well to get something out of these pieces. They really are pretty much focused on drugs – descriptions of experiences and visions, theories, observations and so forth.

JD: The theoretical material is a bit dense. He had a scientific orientation.

HIS: Yeah. Even when he was living in a teepee at the height of the hippie movement, he never cancelled his subscription to Scientific American. And even though he started using all those eastern Hindu metaphors that became so popular then, he was also seeing it all in terms of genetics and DNA, very early on. It was not that long after the discovery of DNA – less than a decade — and this really impacted on his vision of psychedelic experiences from the start in 1960. You can pretty much find him intuiting evolutionary psychology even in his earlier writings. He went on evolutionary trips, experiencing the emergence of life and its evolution toward humanity. He assumed everybody would have that trip, which is one place where he went a bit astray.



JD: I was able to understand most of it. Most of his arguments for psychedelics don't seem particularly wild. But what I really enjoyed was the stories. Some of those are pretty wild and pretty intense. The political section is almost scary. Can you say a bit about that?

HIS: Yeah, well some of the trip stories are pretty intense too. But you're probably referring to the story involving Mary Pinchot, who was one of President Kennedy's lovers. And it seems pretty clear that she involved Leary in a successful conspiracy to turn JFK on to LSD. The material, in this case, is from his autobiography, Flashbacks. But in Flashbacks, this particular narrative was sprinkled throughout the book as you go through his life chronologically. When you actually isolate the sections about Pinchot and then stitch them together as an entry, it makes a stronger impression.

The other thing you may be referring to is the conversation at the end of the book that Leary had with a hardball Swiss political operative with various intelligence connections while he was in exile from the U.S. government in Switzerland. The entry is almost painful in its sophistication and leaves the book on a solemn note — we are still all prisoners of men who lust for power, from Leary's point of view.

JD: What were Leary's favorite drugs?

HIS: I guess they all had their place. He was a social drinker and he was a social guy… so that amounted to a fair amount of drinking. It's sort of funny – he's always celebrating great moments in the psychedelic revolution with a glass of champagne or something along those lines. Mind you, I don't see anything wrong with it. And he always thought LSD was an extraordinarily marvelous invention. In a 1988 article included in the book, he writes about "good old LSD" and marvels that it's still the best. There's a segment on heroin. He wasn't crazy about heroin, even though he found it pleasant when he tried it… and he makes it clear that he wasn't happy about the dominance of coke and crack in the drug culture during the 1980s.

JD: Do you think he would be happy with all of the psychedelic research going on now?

HIS: He was alive to see it begin again and he commented on it favorably. Yeah, he would be thrilled with the positive reports. People forget he started out examining these drugs in a therapeutic context. On the other hand, he denounced control of drugs by the medical profession, particularly later in his life. He took a libertarian view that adults have a human right to do what they want with their brains. But at other points, it's clear that he prefers the medical model to leaving it in the hands of the drug warriors.

JD: So what does Leary have to say to us now?

HIS: Well, read the book. It's not so much reflective of the politics of the moment – although plenty of lessons about that can be found in there — but most of the material is really reflective of a search for meaning, and self-understanding, and peak experiences that people can find valuable no matter what is going on in the world.

In this book, what you get, mostly, is a very thoughtful and sensitive Leary pondering the meaning of it all.

Click here to buy the book!


See Also:
Prescription Ecstasy and Other Pipe Dreams
Hallucinogenic Weapons: The Other Chemical Warfare
Counterculture and the Tech Revolution
Don't Call It a Conspiracy: The Kennedy Brothers

Read More

The Great Wired Drug Non-Controversy




Another pointless brouhaha about drugs has erupted, this time between Wired magazine, the New York Times, and a reporter's blog. And what fueled all the noise was less than 300 words in a tiny chart — and an unexpected admission of past drug use. (Which in no way resembled the "Faces of Meth" public service ad pictured above.)

Reporter Mat Honan is a friend of mine, and he's not a drug addict, a street pusher, or even a very regular blogger. But he created a table of eight drugs which affect your thinking for last month's Wired — seven prescription or over-the-counter drugs, plus methamphetamine. And that's when the tabloid-esque headlines started.

"Is Wired Pushing Illegal Drug Use?" read one headline, linking to a New York Times article by reporter Lia Miller. In the Times' "Media and Advertising" section, she'd asked disingenuously "does Wired magazine really mean to promote drugs?" calling their eight-drug table "somewhat disarming."

"Do the Right Drugs," it recommends, laying out the pros and cons of eight drugs — some legal, some not — that it says can “boost your cognitive output."

Yes, Wired had tried to provoked interest in their table by including a 34-word introduction.
Brains + drugs = fried eggs, right? Not always.

But as the Times had obviously recognized, nearly all of the drugs listed were legal, including nicotine. (Wired noted it neurochemically increases attention and memory formation, while listing as its side effects "addiction, cancer, and social isolation.") And for the commonly-abused drugs, Wired listed side effects which might dampen the enthusiasm of recreational users. For Adderall, a popular black market prescription medication for ADHD, Wired listed as side effects "addiction" and also "heart attack," while for methamphetamine, the side effects included "stroke "and "death." "In the context, no one can seriously conclude that we are suggesting that Wired readers take these substances," Wired's managing editor, Bob Cohn, told the New York Times.



But the Times still insisted they weren't completely placated, arguing that "Given the magazine's cheeky writing style, that may be lost." Wired had apparently failed to be rigorous enough in their anti-drug posturing, even sardonically listing each of the eight drugs with a color code identifying "how to get it."
Order online
Buy from manufacturer
Tap black market
Fake illness to get prescription
Hit drugstore

Rather than a straight-out condemnation, Wired had simply issued a gentle reminder about personal responsibility. "We at Wired aren't doctors. Anyone who takes a bushel of drugs based on our say-so must be high."

"I should probably just let it go," Wired's reporter wrote on his personal blog, but the piece "is just such a hand-wringing piece of bullshit that I have to weigh in."
I don't quite get what the Times' position is, other than "Wired is suggesting you do meth!" Well, no. That wasn't the point at all. Let's look at some of the side effects I listed: "Parkinson's-like symptoms, addiction, stroke, psychosis, prison, death." Oh, hey, and in the "what it does" column, I also note "Prolonged use can also make you stupid and crazy." Does that sound like an endorsement to you?

I'll tell you one thing about Wired that I really appreciate: we don't assume our readers are idiots.



In defending the article, Wired's reporter shared a surprising level of straight talk.
Look, here's the thing: meth can help you focus and accomplish menial and creative tasks—just as is true of other amphetamines. It boosts dopamine output. Plain and simple. Does that mean it's worth doing? No...

Why, this may shock you, but here's the thing: Cocaine is exceptionally fun. LSD? It genuinely alters your perception. I'm not suggesting that you do either of these. Both conspired, unsuccessfully, to kill me and I would no more try either today than I would attempt to put a rattlesnake in my anus. I am older and wiser and recognize that the benefits are not worth the risks... Drugs, especially highly addictive ones like speed or cocaine or heroin or ones with powerful psychological components like LSD, tend to not be worth the price you pay for their use.

Soon Gawker had taken note of the blog post, giving it their own spin with the headline "Wired Drug Writer Has His Own Drug Expertise."

"It was a stupid controversy over a relatively innocuous drug story," Gawker began, saying "The Wired piece didn't deserve criticism for its content," but then adding: "it might have been served by some disclosure." Gawker ultimately supported Honan's position — albeit in a snarky way — though ironically, both Gawker's article and the New York Times' ended up being longer than Honan's original table.

"We'll never solve society's problems if we can't at least speak honestly about them," Honan had written on his blog. But in the end, the Times had simply led its readers through yet-another exercise in knee-jerk denunciations, and there was no discussion about drug policy whatsoever. When the Times article was linked from the Huffington Post, it drew just nine comments — three of which were about the site's pop-up ads.

But at least this time there was some justifiable media criticism online to go along with the faux outrage. One of Gawker's commenters jokingly asked what kind of high they'd get from putting a rattlesnake in their anus. "Is it a jumpy high, like cocaine, or a dancey, laughy high, like shrooms, or is it groovy, like LSD? Does anyone know where I could score a rattlesnake in midtown?"

And maybe the parody of the impressionability is the ultimate point. "I don't think Wired could influence anyone to take meth," Wired's managing editor had told the Times. Instead, one Huffington Post commenter objected only to the "underlying moral self righteousness" of the headline — "Is Wired Pushing Illegal Drug Use?" — as another suggested a strong rebuttal.
Obviously the answer is no.

Why the question??

Slow news day?

The New York Times did not return our request for a comment, meaning that the online community ultimately gets the last word. "[A]s long as we're shaming, maybe the New York Times should be ashamed of itself," Honan wrote on his blog, "for assuming we are a nation of six year olds who can't be spoken to honestly or trusted to make rational decisions."



And then he linked to a video by Bill Hicks, who more than 14 years ago had laid out the case against the media's over-simplified talking points — and maybe implicitly endorsed Wired's more honest tone about the real effects of drugs.

"Wouldn't that be newsworthy? Just once to base your decision on information rather than scare tactics and superstitions and lies? Just once?

"I think it would be newsworthy."

See Also:
Prescription Ecstasy and Other Pipe Dreams
Lost "Horrors" Ending Found on YouTube

Read More

Five Druggiest High School Sitcom Scenes


They put the "high" in high school.

While drugs are a complicated experience, TV shows are not. So when the characters in a show about high school students tackle the issue of illicit substances — the characters are in for some very funky trips.

And so is the audience...

1. Freaks and Tweaks


Judd Apatow captured the existential moment every stoner faces when Lindsay smoked Nick's stash on a very special episode of Freaks and Geeks. A paranoid Lindsay isn't worried about losing high school innocence, but reality itself.

As acoustic guitars play a come-down tune, there's a beautiful speech about having faith, even from the other side of an altered reality. But ironically, after this episode aired, the entire series was cancelled — and Lindsay's whole universe really did cease to exist.

2. That 70s Bust

They'd already smoked pot for over eight years. In their high school yearbook they even wrote "What a long strange trip it's been....in Eric Foreman's basement."

But in one extra groovy episode of That 70s Show, Eric's hard-assed father Red finally catches the whole gang lighting up. And then the four stoned teenagers endure a histrionic lecture in the kitchen as its wallpaper seems to sway with trippy special effects

"Who taught you how do to this?! Was it those damn Beatles?"

"It's like Amsterdam down there!"

3. Saved by the Caffeine Pills

Saved By The Bell was notorious for its feel-good storylines — about personal responsibility, loyalty among friends, and the soul-crushing dangers of caffeine pill addiction.



In another episode, the cast also turned their backs on a pot-smoking TV star and recorded an explicit anti-drug message with NBC President Brandon Tartikoff. Although not all their fans agreed.

By the time that scene hit the internet, it was looking a little different...



It's all right. In the comments at YouTube, one party-pooper points out that the clip has obviously been edited. ("He originally says, Don't do drugs, then they all say, "There's no hope with dope!") If you watch closely, someone's even tampered with the closing credits, which now urge viewers to phone the NBC pot line — to get a free sample.

And a third commenter just says he couldn't stop marvelling at Screech's tripadelic shirt.

4. Welcome Back, Uppers

Epstein and Barbarino act like "we took some of them pills" in an earnest anti-drug episode of Welcome Back, Kotter. Unbeknownst to them, Horshack has already wolfed down a real handful of uppers, and their pretend stupor is complimented by — well, with Horshack, it's kind of hard to tell.


They'll scare Freddie "Boom Boom" Washington into going straight — especially with 25-year-old high school student John Travolta acting like "one of them druggie people. Real dum-like. 'Gimme drugs. Gimmie drugs...'"

Ultimately their six minutes of play-acting prove that it takes more than good intentions to cure drug addicts. It also takes some bad examples.

5. The Brady Bong


As Mr. Brady pulls the station wagon into the driveway, he discovers his son Greg is acting a little "dopier" than usual. But 17-year-old actor Barry Williams wasn't fooling anyone...
Greg: ...far out!!

In real life, Williams was stoned, as later investigations proved, in an episode of The Brady Bunch which was — ironically — titled "Law and Disorder." (Young Bobby Brady is appointed the school's safety monitor, but misses tell-tale signs of obvious reckless behavior...)

This is where the two worlds come together — the fake TV family, and the actors caught in the middle. Ultimately Barry Williams decided that his legendary drug scene represented just another form of play-acting. In his autobiography, he wrote that "Getting stoned instead left me...feeling as phony as the turf in the Brady's backyard.

"Maybe I should've just smoked that."

See Also:
Six Freakiest Children's TV Rock Bands
Paul McCartney on Drugs
Dustin Diamond vs. Sgt. Harvey
The 5 Sexiest Apple Videos
The Simpsons on Drugs: Six Trippiest Scenes

Read More

Ed Rosenthal: Big Man of Buds

The Big Book of Buds

From a certain perspective, Ed Rosenthal may have caught a break when Judge Breyer sentenced him to just one day in prison plus time served when he was convicted for growing hundreds of marijuana plants in Oakland, California. But it would be difficult to argue that his trial was anything short of Kafkaesque. Rosenthal had been deputized by the City of Oakland to grow medical marijuana. But after being busted by the Feds, he was not even allowed to mention his relationship to the lawful government of Oakland nor was he allowed to present witnesses who could talk about it.
So after his conviction, Rosenthal took his case to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and won. His conviction was overturned, but it was overturned on a technicality. Then, in a clear case of vengeful prosecution, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California who prosecuted the case decided to bring up charges again, adding new charges to the original. Again Rosenthal was not allowed to present the obvious defense — his deputization with the City of Oakland — and he was re-convicted.



Before Rosenthal became one of America's best-known martyrs in the "War on Drugs," he was legendary for his work advising pot growers on how to produce the finest gourmet cannabis. His books have included the legendary Marijuana Grower's Handbook and the recent Big Book of Buds, Vol. 3. He wrote the popular "Ask Ed" grower's advice column for High Times during the 1980s and '90s. Rosenthal continues to write "Ask Ed" for the Canadian magazine, Cannabis Culture.

I was joined in conducting this interview for the RU Sirius Show by Steve Robles and Jeff Diehl
To listen the full interview in MP3, click here.

RU SIRIUS: So how long have you been stoned?

ED ROSENTHAL: Well, I only smoke when I'm alone or with people. And I only smoke when I'm awake. I also do food fasts because, you know, life is speeded up. So instead of doing a 24-hour fast, I do, like, 6 hours at a time over a four-day period. It's sort of a fast fast.

RU: Let's talk about your own personal experience with pot. When's the first time that you tried it. How old were you?

ER: Um, I was...

RU: You can't remember!

ER: I was 21.

RU: What year was it?

ER: '65.

RU: It was weak back then, was it not?

ER: Yeah, it was. It was Mexican.

RU: Did you get pretty ripped? Do you remember?

ER: I got stoned enough. I remember thinking, "This is the greatest thing that ever happened in my life." I remember that. I thought that this was going to be a really powerful ally for me. And then, years later, I read the Don Juan books, and there it was.

RU: Did you associate pot in 1965 with beat culture?

ER: Folk music.

RU: And did you think that pot produced insight? Why did you like it?

ER: it was very introspective for me at that time.

RU: So let's talk about the recent wrinkle in you medical marijuana case. Why were you re-convicted, and why didn't you present a defense?

ER: We would've liked to have presented a defense. When you're on trial, you would like to do that. But the judge said he didn't like our defense. For instance, we wanted to talk about the prosecutor's RICO relationship with one of the witnesses. But we weren't allowed to present any of our defenses. One by one, the judge said that we couldn't present witnesses. For instance, we wanted to present Nate Miley, who had been a city councilperson in Oakland. He would've testified that what I was doing was in line with the city of Oakland's regulations, and that I had been deputized as a city officer. I would've brought in Barbara Parker with the city attorney's office, and she would've verified some of those things. And I would've brought end users. You know how prosecutors often bring victims in to court? Well, I would've wanted to bring in the "victims" of my actions. Those "victims" would've been the people who actually received either starter plants themselves, or the marijuana that was grown from the starter plants.

But the judge wouldn't let me do that. He wouldn't let me say to the jury that I was an officer of the city of Oakland. I couldn't testify that I had been deputized to do this and that I had been assured that I was free from prosecution.

RU: You mentioned something about the prosecutor having a RICO relationship with one of the witnesses. What's that about?

ER: Well, a prosecutor is allowed to give a witness immunity for things that they've done. For instance, if somebody's killed somebody or committed a robbery or something, often they'll give one person immunity for ratting on the others. But a prosecutor is not allowed to give a person immunity for things that they will do in the future. They can't say, "Okay, this is a pass for killing one person. You get one free death." They can't do that.

So this fellow — Bob Martin — appeared as a witness for the prosecutors and then he continued his medical pot business. He even opened up a second dispensary. He was never bothered. He had a 100,000 square foot grove that was busted by the DEA, but no charges were ever filed. That happened in 2004.

So this guy has a free pass. Basically, each member of this conspiracy was getting something out of it. My prosecutor, George Beven was getting the information — or so-called information that he wanted. And Martin, who owns two dispensaries here in San Francisco, got a free pass. To me, that's a RICO relationship. And in this case, we don't have to show any paperwork, meetings, assignments or anything like that. We have actions that actually took place. So I'm initiating a civil suit against this action because their illegal enterprise has cost me a lot of money.

You know, I wasn't allowed to present these facts in either case. And the jurors were misled, because a half-truth isn't a truth. A half-truth is a lie. The jury was told that I had distributed this material, but they didn't hear that I had been told that I was free from prosecution.

That's an estoppel issue. Let me explain that. Let's say there's a red light, but a cop waves you through. Another cop, on the other side, can't give you a ticket for crossing the red light because you have been told that what you're doing was legal, right? You're following the cop's orders.

So I was told by the city attorney's office that what I was doing was legal and I was free from prosecution. So even if she was wrong, I should've been able to say to a jury, "Hey, look. I was led to believe that what I was doing was legal by an official." But the judge said, "No. Even though this person is a government official, she can't testify for you."

RU: The jury from the first trial was outraged after your conviction when they found out what was actually going on. That was very unusual. Describe what happened with the jury after the trial.

ER: (Medical marijuana activist) Hillary McQuie actually met with the first jury as they came out from the courtroom after the trial. And she told them that she thought they had made a terrible mistake and that they should look the case up. They did. They found out the truth. They were all dismayed and started calling newspapers. Eight out of the 12 jurors, plus one of the two alternates agreed that an injustice had been done.

RU: I remember when they were in the news, but I can't remember — did they actually petition the court, or did they release a statement? I remember they were active about their unhappiness.

ER: Three of them became activists for a while, and it changed all of their lives. They learned that they couldn't trust the government.


You know, the judge was very upset this time when we said we weren't going to present a defense. But we said, "We have no witnesses left. You've eliminated all our witnesses." He looked down at his list and he realized he'd eliminated everybody except for my wife and myself. So he said, "Well, I'll tell you what. I'll let you say anything you want to the jury. I'll let you talk to the jury, unimpeded. I'm not going to say anything to the jury while you're talking. I'm not going to interrupt you." And I said, "Okay, that sounds pretty good, but I want corroborating witnesses." And he said, "Oh no, I'm not going to allow you to have your corroborating witnesses." I said, "Well, you're going to allow me to give my theory of the case, but your not allowing me to corroborate it. This is insane." And I basically said that I was not going to play the game in his Stalinist show trial. I wouldn't be a part of it. The entire transcript is online at the Green-Aid website.

RU: Do you think you could've swayed the jury if you had testified?

ER: If I had testified and been allowed one witness, that would've been it.

STEVE ROBLES: Without the witnesses, the jury would just think you're some kind of nutter. The jury will be sitting there thinking, "Why didn't I hear a witness? Why couldn't this guy back it up?"

RU: Well, he could explain that. Weren't you really able to give your full story, including your objection to...

ER: No, not at all. And I'm appealing this. And anybody who's listening to this who has $100,000 that they'd like to spend on a court case, just get in touch with Green Aid. It's all tax deductible.

Win or lose, this case has made it apparent that the federal laws have to change, and that we need the Peter McWilliams "Truth in Trials" act. That act would let you use a state medical marijuana law in your defense in a federal case. It also indicates that the State of California has to start protecting the providers, because there are now over 100 providers who have been arrested and charged. Dozens are in jail and there are over 100 under indictment right now. And the only difference between them and me is that I'm a little more notorious or famous, and I have perhaps a little more media savvy than they do. Most of them are going to wind up doing time. And very often they say to the person who runs the medical marijuana operation, "If you don't plead to a long term, we're going to take all your workers and give them each five years."

RU: What is the next stage of your appeal? Where does it go?

ER: We're preparing our appeal to the 9th Circuit.

RU: You already went through the 9th Circuit once, didn't you?

ER: Yeah. We're asking for a new trial, and if not, we're appealing. We have a number of new grounds to appeal. I mean, these colloquies that I had with the judge were very unusual. You wouldn't believe what our conversations were. And they're all on transcript.

SR: It's the same judge again?

ER: It's the same judge. And, you know, people think he's a really nice guy because he only sentenced me to a day. But first, he took away my constitutional rights. And he only gave me a day because it was well publicized and it was looking really bad. But he regularly gives people five years, ten years, seven years, all the time. And he has a reputation for not letting defenses prove their cases.

RU: In going before the 9th Circuit court before, you got the case thrown out but it was basically on a technicality. You didn't really accomplish a mission in terms of having a positive effect on people who grown medical marijuana. Do you have an approach for trying to have an effect the next time you go before the 9th Circuit?

ER: Winning. But win or lose, I think that the policies are going to change, because the state is going to realize that they have to intervene. And also, there's more impetus for the Peter McWilliams "Truth in Trials" act.

RU: Is this something that's before the House of Representatives?

ER: Yes.

RU: How could California be counted on now to confront the U.S. Government? Schwarzenegger, who sort of played at being libertarian on his way into the governorship, has been a drug warrior through and through since he's been in office.

ER: Well, he's been trying to free himself from the power of the Corrections Department bureaucracy and the prison guards union. And he's found out that he can't do it.

RU: Right. That group basically owned Gray Davis.

ER: The Democrats have to get away from that. And there are incremental steps the system can take. For instance, police need to continually get credits for learning new techniques and stuff like that. One of the places where they can get this credit is through the California Narcotics Officers Association. So they pay for these courses where they're miseducated. Right on the homepage of the CNOA website, it says, "We believe medical marijuana is a myth." That's what they teach officers.

RU: These are people who are supposed to be enforcing California law, which approves medical marijuana.

ER: Other things need to change, For instance, in Oakland, the local narcotics officers work out of the DEA office in the Federal Building. They're cross-deputized. They're paid by the city, but they also function as a federal official. So the city needs to keep them separate.

SR: Some activists think that one of the big problems is Proposition 215. People think it's a hastily put-together proposition. It's swiss cheese — full of holes. They think the state needs to pass something a lot more substantive.

ER: I don't really think that's the issue. Look, marijuana is more popular than any politician. It wins by a higher percentage than politicians do. I'll give you an example. Bush won in Montana in 2004. But marijuana won there by a much higher margin than he did.

RU: People are getting stoned and voting for Bush!

ER: So there's a disconnect between the politicians and the voters on this. And the voters consistently say, "We do want these dispensaries. We want easy access." But the politicians are in the hands of the criminal justice system — the cops, the judges, the prosecutors. It’s such a big financial interest that nobody wants to let it go. We now spend more on jails than on higher education. We have a thousand people in California prisons for marijuana.

My suggestion is that we take this on a very local level – at the level of the councilperson. It's got to be city-by-city and they've got to push back the police.


Do you remember when Proposition 36 passed?

RU: Right. The idea was that people shouldn't go to jail for drug possession.

ER: Right — not for the first or second offense. So it passed, but then – first of all, the criminal justice establishment wanted to tighten it up. And if you go online and find all the arguments against it, they're all from people who are part of the criminal justice system.

See — if marijuana was legal and other drugs were treated with a harm reduction strategy, a huge bureaucracy would be eliminated – and a lot of jobs. There are 750,000 arrests a year for marijuana in the U.S. 88% of those are for personal use. That's about 5% of the entire criminal justice arrests throughout the United States. And it's an upward funnel, because when you get to second and third offenses, the sentencing for marijuana is much higher than the sentencing for violent offenses. So you have people spending more time in prison. Also, when they get out, they need social services, another bureaucracy.

RU: But doesn't this all have to be changed through the federal government, since they come in and shut down local medical marijuana and so forth? And if pot is more popular than politicians, why don't people make the politicians take their side?

ER: It's not necessarily a primary issue with most voters. Also, the criminal justice system can provide a potent opposition to politicians. If the Police Benevolent Association and the local police union says the politician is "soft on crime," that can be trouble. So a lot of politicians are cowed.

You wind up with people like Judge Breyer. Breyer knows that pot isn't a harmful substance, but he sentences people to prison for it. He's a war criminal! When you send somebody to prison, it doesn't just affect them. It affects their families. It affects their employers or employees. A whole community of people is affected.

RU: These are acts of destruction that are woven so deeply into the system that people don't even see them as being acts of destruction.

ER: Yeah! I don't know if you heard about some of my antics, but outside the courtroom I would say nasty things to the prosecutor. For instance, I called him a liar, because the judge found that he lied to the grand jury (but said no harm had been done). I called him vindictive. I called him a coward. So he went and complained to the judge about it. And the judge said, "Well, we all should be very civil and polite here." Meanwhile, they're putting one person after another in jail for providing people with marijuana. It's outrageous! How can they say that?

So the judge talked to my lawyer and said, "Can you try and control your client?" And my lawyer said to him, "Well, judge — perhaps it's my fault. I did advise him not to say anything nasty in the courtroom. But I didn't say anything about the hallway." So the judge said, "Oh, well, please speak with Mr. Rosenthal about this." But he also said something like: "This is in a federal building, but we may have First Amendment issues." So after this exchange, I went up to the microphone at the podium, unasked, and I said, "Your honor, I'd like to thank you for protecting my First Amendment right to call this man a coward, a liar, and vindictive. But I left something out. He's also a tattle-tale and a cry baby."

JEFF DIEHL: Does the "three strikes" law relate to these two marijuana convictions?

ER: I now have three non-violent felony strikes. You get into a fight with me; I'm away for life.

RU: All right, so, be gentle with me, man.

SR: Keep away from Terence Hallinan (ed: Rowdy pro-pot former DA of San Francisco.) because that guy's a maniac.

RU: So a lot of people think there are no consequences for you because the judge only sentenced you to one day. But all those felonies – those are big consequences.

On your site, there's a mention that you might be working on a book about pot legalization. What's your favorite method of legal distribution? Do you think it should be any way people want? Or should it be in specialty shops or liquor stores? Or should it be only homegrown? Do you have a favorite procedure for doing it?

ER: I see the tomato model. Let me explain. Home gardeners grow more tomatoes than are grown commercially. But there's also a gigantic commercial market for tomatoes. Some of them are served in restaurants. Some of them are canned, dried, served in different ways. So there are lots of different commercial ways that tomatoes are distributed. I see something like that. I don't think that it's ever going to be restriction-free. I think that there's going to be the same kind of civil regulation that we have with alcohol and tobacco. There are going to be taxes on it. But I think that many more people are going to grow their own than make their own beer or wine or grow their own tobacco. I think people are going to have all of those models. In terms of buying product, I think it'll mainly be through specialty shops.

RU: So, how soon?

ER: Well, in Oakland, we have Prop Z, which says that it should be able to be sold in private clubs.

SR: In California, within 5-7 years.

RU: Before I let you go, tell us about your new book, The Big Book of Buds, Vol. 3. You told us you have some new information in there.

ER: I have a piece in their about terpenes. Terpenes are the odor parts of flowers. Almost all flowers that produce odors have terpenes. It's four simple molecules, but there's a lot going on in the way they're assembled – like with DNA. So the structure of assembly of the terpenes creates all the different odors. So I used to say that the reason why different marijuanas give you different highs is because they have different recipes of cannabinoids – somehow one will have a little more CBD or a little more CBL or other cannabinoids. But it's been shown that most modern marijuana has a big spike of THC and hardly any other cannabinoids. So the question is: what else causes different types of marijuana to give you different highs? It comes down to the terpenes. And it's in the odor qualities of cannabis.

See also:
The Simpsons On Drugs: 6 Trippiest Scenes
Prescription Ecstasy and Other Pipe Dreams
Willie Nelson's Narcotic Shrooms
Paul McCartney On Drugs
Hallucinogenic Weapons

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‘The Simpsons’ On Drugs: 6 Trippiest Scenes

Homer Simpsons Smokin' Weed

It's no secretThe Simpsons has relied as heavily on drug humor as Diff'rent Strokes did on "Whatchoo talkin' about, Willis." Ranging from binge drinking to marijuana use to LSD-like hallucinations, all the members of the Simpson clan — and a great many other residents of Springfield — have enjoyed a wide variety of drug-induced exploits.

Even The Simpson's Movie included at least one instance of Homer craving something psychotropic, saying, "More, please!" to an Indian chief's flaming brew. So let's re-cap some of the "high" points of what is arguably the world's foremost pop culture institution.

6. Guatemalan Insanity Peppers



Drug blog Dosenation.com calls it a highlight of The Simpsons' "nods and winks to the drug-using populace." Exquisitely crafted in theme and form, this segment could be seen as the ultimate tribute to the psychedelic drug experience, complete with self-discovery, adventure and even an animal guide (a coyote with the voice of Johnny Cash).

We imagine The Simpsons writers are especially proud of this 1999 episode. Notice when Homer first swallows the psychotropic pepper, he says, "More, please" — the exact line he's now using in the new movie's trailer. Maybe the writers are sending a secret signal to all Homer's fans in the drug culture:

He's still a druggie after all these years.

5. "Wow, that saxophone would make a great pipe."



Homer gets a prescription for marijuana. Marge is troubled, the kids bemused, but Homer, who indulges as expected, is also conflicted. His remedy: "Do as I say, not as I do."

In other episodes, Homer...
  • Has insomnia and watches a late night TV commercial for "Nappien," which "won't cause foot-fattening or elbow stink."
  • Takes expired medication he finds in a neighbor's trash. When Marge tells him to stop, he says, "But Marge, what if I'm not getting enough ... [glances at label] ... estrogen!"
  • Invents a drink — the Flaming Homer, a.k.a. the Flaming Moe — in which the main ingredient is children's cough syrup.
  • Gets the entire town of Springfield high when he distributes a beverage made from carrots and peyote.
  • Takes another man's medications while visiting his father in the nursing home. Grandpa comments, "The pink ones keep you from screaming."
  • Gets high on cleaning-chemical fumes and hallucinates that he's being attacked by Scrubbing Bubbles, Mr. Clean, and other characters.
  • As he and Ned Flanders drive to Las Vegas, they pass a car driven by a warped and hallucinating Hunter S. Thompson as drawn by Ralph Steadman.
And of course, Homer's fondness for Duff beer is legendary.

4. "What am I smokin'? Oh yeah..."



About as straightforward as possible — even in Spanish — and without any apology. Otto the bus driver is portrayed as smoking pot while driving the kids to school.



In other episodes, Otto...
  • Complains about blatant false advertising as he storms out of a housewares store called "Stoner's Pot Palace."
  • Is told by Mettalica to never listen to their music again, ostensibly for being a druggie.
  • Mistakenly answers this true-or-false question while practicing for his driving test. "Alcohol improves your ability to concentrate."
3. Marge's LSD?

Marge Simpson hallucinates that the walls are melting, and that a roasting turkey is talking to her, after she drinks tainted tap water. (Shown here in an extra-trippy version that was redubbed for foreign markets.)

In other episodes, Marge...
  • Attends the Broadway play Kickin' It, "a musical journey through the Betty Ford Center," with the kids during a trip to New York.
  • Is maliciously portrayed in a political ad as saying "Now it's time to do some coke off the blade of a knife..."
  • Has a false-positive test for crack and PCP after taking a parenting course. Confesses to being high on LSD, "love for my son and daughters."
  • Checks into a rehab clinic herself after excessive drinking with Homer.
2. Naked in the Fermentarium

Lisa has LSD-like hallucinations after drinking the water while on a ride at Duff Gardens. Proclaims, "I can see the music," and "I am the lizard queen!" (Homer had been binging on an enormous sandwich he'd brought home from the company picnic, and sent her to the park with her Aunt Selma.)

In other episodes, Lisa...
  • Becomes addicted to "Trucker's Choice" brand speed, a gift from Bart.
  • Has LSD-like hallucinations featuring The Beatles after receiving nitrous oxide at the dentist's office. Later in the same episode, the entire family gets high when the dentist accidentally leaves the gas on.
  • Comments to Bart that the air at a Hullabalooza music festival "smells like Otto's jacket," a reference to their pot-smoking school bus driver (see below).
  • Comments that the pot smoke emanating from Homer's room "smells like the art teacher's office."
1. "Ow! My Bones Are So Brittle."

Bart Drinks "malk" at school, "now with vitamin R" (a slang term for Ritalin).

In other episodes, Bart...
  • Gets drunk on beer during a St. Patrick's Day parade.
  • Asks Marge to pick up some "Flintstones chewable morphine" when he gets the flu.
And in 1990, federal "drug czar" William Bennett made headlines when he warned patients at a drug treatment center that watching The Simpsons was "not going to help you." (He'd spotted a Bart Simpson poster on the wall that said "Underachiever — and proud of it.") Later when he made a conciliatory offer to sit down and talk to Bart, Matt Groening issued a counter-statement on behalf of Bart.

"If our drug czar thinks he's going to have a conversation with a cartoon character, he must be smoking something."

Do you have a favorite Simpsons drug reference? Tell us which ones we overlooked in the comments.

See also:
The Cartoon Porn Shop Janitor: Carol Burnett vs. Family Guy
Paul McCartney on Drugs
10 Worst Spider-Man Tie-Ins
Hallucinogenic Weapons: The Other Chemical Warfare
The Great Wired Drug Non-Controversy
Pulp Fiction Parodies on YouTube

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Raising Hunter S. Thompson


B. Duke

Hunter S. Thompson lives on. In the play, Gonzo: A Brutal Chrysalis, performer and writer "B. Duke" incarnates the Last Free American Writer as he was during the intense and difficult years 1968-1971.

The play's publicity package tells it like this: "Fresh from his breakthrough success chronicling — and nearly being beaten to death by — the Hells Angels, Thompson embarks on a one- and two-man war on the Death of the American Dream. From Big Oil and the Big Three to the NRA and the Kentucky Derby, Richard Nixon and the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, the usual suspects are strafed and castrated by the Man Who Would Be Raoul.

"What he could not conquer from without, he co-opted from within by becoming the single greatest and most effective danger that anyone before or since has been to the bipolar establishment that is American politics."



I would only add that on November 11, 1971 Rolling Stone published the first installment of Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. And in the following year, they ran his Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72. A generation was thus given an opportunity to learn the truth about America in the only way it could truly be told, through a cracked acidic lens that blurred fiction and fact and came to be called "Gonzo Journalism."

The SF Weekly said about "Gonzo: A Brutal Chrysalis,"
If you're looking for the fun loving and hilariously drug-addled Hunter S. Thompson portrayed on screen by Johnny Depp and Bill Murray you'll be surprised and uncomfortably mystified by this one-man performance about the founder of gonzo journalism. Gonzo is an interesting look at a lesser-seen side of the counterculture icon, but the performance feels like a reckless, all-out verbal assault. The theater's concession stand sells cheap whiskey and balloons filled with nitrous oxide, and the gunshots onstage feel dangerous and deafening. But perhaps, Hollywood sheen aside, this show is a truer look at the man who reinvented modern alternative journalism.

I interviewed "B. Duke" on the RU Sirius Show. Steve Robles joined me in questioning "B." Indeed, the media hook here may be that Robles waxed way obscene about Condie Rice days before Opie and Anthony's moment of infamy. Read on.
To listen the full interview in MP3, click here.

RU SIRIUS (INTRODUCING SHOW & GUEST): We were just starting the R. U. Sirius Show when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like "I feel a little light-headed, maybe Steve Robles should host the show." Then suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us, and the room was full of what looked like huge bats swooping and screeching and diving around the studio and a voice was screaming, "Holy Jesus, they've just eaten Diana Brown!"

"B. Duke" was shot from a cannon August 20, 2005. He landed in my back yard and we raised him on belladonna and chili dogs, and he grew. Today he is a freelance counter-intelligence operative feared throughout the empire and certain precious gem syndicates. After giving notice to friends and family, he dove body, mind and soul into Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. Recent sightings reported in South Dakota, Wyoming, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, read like confessions from some hideous corruption and conversion spree. He prefers LSD to all other drugs and aggressive seduction to passive supplication. (Most of this description is written by "B" himself.)

I don't know if I'm going to do aggressive seduction or passive supplication today, but...

B. DUKE: You seem like a really nice guy, but you're just generally not my type.

RU: Yeah. Well, we'll see what happens. I might change into something entirely otherwise after you finish drinking that water we just served you...

BD: My god, man, what did you do? Are you sure you put enough in?

RU: You might notice I look like a spider. So, describe the genesis of "Gonzo."

BD: My producer, "A. Duke," came to me in July of 2005 and expressed some frustration… wanting to get out of life as a techie. He'd done theatre work before, and he'd seen me do spoken word and other play performances in San Francisco. I did "Dr. Strangelove" and "Night of the Living Dead."

So "A." called me up and said, "I think we should do a play together." And I said, "Well, what did you have in mind?" And he said, "I think we should do a play about Hunter Thompson." I nearly hung up the phone on him. But he's been one of my best friends for over a decade. So instead I said, "I'll have to call you back," and then hung up the phone on him. I called him back in December, and...

RU: Why did you hang up the phone?

BD: I thought it was way too close to Thompson's checkout for us to be diving into something like that. It felt a little bit scavenger-like. Disrespectful. I'm a big "respect for the dead" person. Also, even though he had a pretty good influence on my life from an early time, he wasn't exactly the godhead idol of my universe. So we met in December, and I told him and "C. Duke," our director and executive producer that if they wanted to re-create Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, I was out right then.

RU: Right. Been done.

BD: Everybody had tried to capture that zany madness and that sort of zeitgeist. So I suggested that we use Fear and Loathing in America : The Brutal Odyssey of an Outlaw Journalist. That's a collection of Thompson's letters from '68 - '76. I had read that a few years earlier and I'd become keenly aware that the nuances of a real man were there.

A great little history book called Don't Know Much About History tried to lift the veil of lionized demi-gods by remembering that George Washington once said to Henry "Ox" Knox as he was crossing the river, "Henry, shift your fat ass over, you'll swamp the whole boat." The object of the book was to treat historical figures as real people.

RU: There's a lot of material from Hunter… bitchy letters and notes…

BD: He was ferocious. He would start in on speed, probably somewhere around 11 PM or midnight, and he would go to bed about 8 or 9:00 in the morning – around the time his young son Juan was getting up. He'd get up around 3 in the afternoon.



We secured an original 1968 IBM Selectric Model I typewriter off of eBay for the play. I learned from working with it that you can lie through a computer really easily. You can delete whole swaths of material real easily. On the typewriter, you have to think continuously. Also, we're used to firing out our emails right now. Nobody takes time to think about anything. In these letters, he'd stop and start. They would take hours for him to create. And in between, he was hosting a lot of druggie friends and doing a lot of shooting and some traveling and...

RU: It's interesting to think that he didn't send those letters out impulsively. And yet some of them certainly have an impulsive quality about them.

BD: Well, he starts off 1968 in a pretty bad state. The Hells Angels almost beat him to death out — and that was the Oakland club. He had the incredibly bad sense to harangue a guy named Junkie George, He was considered one of the more uncontrollable guys on that squad. And if you can picture the Hell's Angels having guys on there that even they admit are uncontrollable...

Junkie George had smacked around his wife and kicked his dog across a fireplace. And Thompson quipped at him that only punks did that. And Junkie George laid into him. And once one Hell's Angel is on you, the rest will follow. And he got out of there only through the grace of a man nicknamed Tiny — who was massive. Tiny hauled Thompson out of there.

So he pretty much fled San Francisco and went out to Colorado for his best friend's wedding. And he kind of fell in love with the whole area just outside Aspen. But for Hunter, success immediately involved getting sued by publishers who pretty much wanted a settlement agreement that would chain him to a typewriter for them.

RU: A lot of his anger and a lot of his juice came from being really pissed off as a writer. Pissed off at mainstream publishing. Pissed off about not getting paid. Pissed off when his articles weren't published in full. That sort of thing. He was a warrior for writers.

BD: That's part of it. But at the same time, I think it does a disservice to Thompson to classify him as chronically pissed off. The top of my bong used to read, "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention." And I still firmly believe that.

He hated hippies because they weren't doing anything. There were other radicals around here, like the Diggers and SDS — people who really were fomenting change. But he thought the hippies were just lazy. But the main thing that was driving him in early '68 was that he couldn't come up with a new idea. He didn't know where he was going.

RU: There was a book about Lyndon Johnson, and then that got screwed because Johnson dropped out.

BD: That book was part of a settlement agreement from court cases. He was going to do that, The Rum Diary, and then he had sold the idea for a book called "The Death of the American Dream." And then Lyndon checked out of the race. And that cost Thompson about $10,000, which in today's money would be about $80,000 or $90,000. And he very much needed the money.

So Hunter became obsessed around that time with the death of the American dream. He could see things going just horribly wrong. In writing a piece titled "Presenting the Richard Nixon Doll—Overhauled 1968 Model" — the overhauled 1968 New Nixon model, he pretty much lays out the road map for why the Democrats are going to fail in 1968.

RU: This is before the Chicago convention?

BD: Yeah. That was another galvanizing point for him. That was the big face-off. And we make a big issue of that in the play. One of the first things that came up for me in writing the script was that this was a humungous turning point for him. Because he'd pretty much socked himself into Woody Creek, and wasn't going out much before he went there.

By the way, he read tremendously. His inventory of magazines and publications was twenty or thirty publications long — newspapers, magazines. And he didn't just read one side. It's not as though he just read all the left-wing stuff. He wanted to know what the other side was thinking. He read religiously.

RU: He was a political junkie. In fact, he was a mainstream political junkie. In a way, he followed it the way he followed sports. He loved sports and he loved electoral politics.

BD: He was a pragmatic realist. He very much wanted to see America succeed on the promise of America — hence "The American Dream." He wasn't trying to define that for anyone. He just didn't want to see it get perverted by people who were really just using us and selling us their version of the American Dream. And this becomes a very heavy point with him.

When he went to Chicago, he had originally wanted to go around and see the delegates. He bugged Random House for months to get him credentials to get in the convention. But as it approached, he realized that the convention itself was going to be largely irrelevant, and what was going to happen there was a pretty good-sized battle. And Richard J. Daley was no slouch. This is Chicago we're talking about

RU: Before the Chicago convention, Daley had recently given shoot-to-kill orders in a race riot.

BD: This is the old school Democrats. My grandfather worked for a steel mill, and when they were on strike, the mob would come in and try to break the strikes down. So when you're in a tough industrial production area like Chicago… the Democrats were not, you know, the spineless creatures of today. These were people who lifted bricks, worked steel, built cars, and would do it to it if you tried to screw with them.

RU: Right. They weren't going to put up with a bunch of flower punks.

BD: Well, there was a schism in the Democratic Party at the time. And the tremendous youth movement that came largely from California kind of fanned out from there. And so you had these older liberals there who Thompson would come to absolutely detest for their uselessness. They'd had the baby and built the family business and they were very comfortable and didn't want too much change. So there's this kind of uneasiness between the two parts of the Democratic party — the young people really wanted to turn American away from this travesty and end the war.

RU: Also, many of the Southern Democrats were still segregationists… Please perform a segment from the play.

BD AS HUNTER S. THOMPSON:
The blowback from the mayor's race was pretty catastrophic. I was no longer a fellow among the people. Instead I'd become a dangerous freak among the misfits. "Communist!" "Dope fiend!" "Motherfucker!" I was commonly all three at once. "Thompson, you communist dope fiend motherfucker!"

Certain people who had once called themselves my friends and allies now said openly that Aspen and Woody Creek in general would be far better off if I met with some hideously violent fate that the Hell's Angels would do for free. Those treacherous cocksuckers would have to come up here and get me first. Randomly firing the .44 at the gongs I had mounted on the ridge crest kept any such fuckers from thinking that was a realistic possibility.

Besides, it's not like I'm a journalistic recluse any more. Whereas Playboy and Esquire may have cut me off at the knees, Warren Hinckle has decided to give me a platform from his new magazine, Scanlon's Monthly. Even when he lopped off entire sections of my NRA and Killy pieces, I was still able to take a head-on run at the fat bat bastards who have almost done this entire country in. The money was pretty good — kept things around here relatively fluid… that is, when they actually paid me. You see, Warren's intentions were noble but he has absolutely no idea how to conduct national distribution or spur an expanding subscriber base. I figured the entire thing was going to go down in flames owing me a ton of money in the process.

RU: Is this writing basically you trying to do the voice of Hunter S. Thompson? Are you incorporating his stuff? Is it all him? How does it work?

BD: I had originally intended to take certain passages from Fear and Loathing in America : The Brutal Odyssey of an Outlaw Journalist and kind of knit them together. I quickly abandoned that. I knew it wasn't going to work. Also, we would run afoul of copyright issues with the estate and I don't really care for his widow. She's done several stupid things that I really detest. So I didn't want to pour more gasoline on that fire. And unlike Johnny Depp or Bill Murray, I didn't have the luxury of moving into Thompson's house and getting the Hunter experience.

So I did more research and it was the political stuff that he did that really caught my attention. And at that time, I lived alone. So I had a great luxury of time to myself to do this. And I really kind of absorbed him through his letters, and went back and re-read things that I had read before, in the context of the letters, to get the complete effect. And I really allowed him to take me over. I spent a lot of time with my eyes closed imagining the world as he would see it.

And it's very easy to translate elements of his frustration — the Vietnam war to the Iraq war; spineless, useless Democrats to spineless, useless Democrats; vile Republicans to vile Republicans. Oil companies fucking everybody.

So I realized that I couldn't just try to sound like him. I had to reach in and find that agony. And I knew there was something in there that no one was really getting to because we're all fascinated with the myth of the gonzo maniac. But at the core, even our more outlandish people are real people (with the possible exceptions of Paris Hilton and Barbra Streisand). And as I started to find out more about his personal life, I could see where that pain was coming from. His wife had two miscarriages, one at four months and six months, both in 1968. And in 1969 she delivered a stillborn daughter.

RU: And that plays into your piece...

BD: Oh yes, it does. Yeah. We went for the man not the myth. Everybody knows the myth.

RU: Did you have any trepidation about trying to do this, in terms of a responsibility towards him as a man?

BD: I wouldn't say I had trepidation. I knew what we were going for, and my cohorts in were very patient with me in letting me get this together in a kind of organic way. There was none of this: "must meet milestone A to get to milestone B." We didn't work that way.

But I was really concerned about having to experience all of that pain. And up to the point where I got the Selectric, the process of writing this script was nothing but agony. It hurt all the time. After the stillborn baby, he really lost his mind. If you had given Hunter Thompson a button to blow up the world at that time, he would've pushed it. He was very blackened, and just horrifically torn

RU: Was he doing a lot of the drugs he was famous for during this time?

BD: He was doing a lot of speed at the time. He'd laid off the LSD, but was trying to get mescaline every now and then. The speed actually came from a nuclear lab in New York where his wife Sandy had been a secretary, and those poor scientists were paid so badly, they started producing methamphetamine.



RU: That nuclear crank is the best shit.

BD: Yeah, well... I think that's why he really didn't like the Hell's Angels so much. They were still fucking around on Benzedrine and he's got "Fusion power." Anyway, if you've ever been around someone who takes speed, the emotional roller-coaster ride they go through is pretty extreme.

RU: I've been very close to someone who took speed.

STEVE ROBLES: (Knowingly) Yeah, (Laughs) In fact, you could argue that the ability to have some kind of grip on reality becomes...

BD: ... very strained.

SR: At least as tenuous as while on LSD, I think.

BD: But Hunter slept. A lot of speed freaks will go and go and go and go until they collapse in dehydration, starvation, exhaustion. You know — spun out tweeker. But he slept every night and Sandy took good care of him. And let's not forget that we're talking about Hunter Thompson,

But Thompson rode the ups and downs of this, and he did drink quite a bit. And so that had an impact. And, of course, being sort of sequestered with Sandy there the whole time was a compound misery. And he was from an age where men didn't really talk about their feelings. They kept it locked up. He didn't believe in psychiatry. He took it on alone. So he was trying to grapple with all of this agony in his personal life. Meanwhile, the country's disintegrating around him. He got the shit knocked out of him in Chicago by the police. He started to feel like the whole nation was really slipping into a type of internal Civil War bordering on anarchy.

RU: He really felt it. He was not a cynic.

BD: No, he wasn't. And he'd already covered very heavy things as a journalist. He had been in South America for a time, and had covered riots down there and had done some tough reports in New York City and the Caribbean. He knew true toughness. He was unafraid to go into it. And remember, Thompson was like 6'5" and 185 pounds. He was monstrous.

SR: I think part of his wanting to speak out came out of frustration because there weren't a lot of other strong voices that he agreed with.

RU: Nobody quite put it into the package that he did. I was actually one of the people who would read Rolling Stone back when those articles came out. So I got the initial surprise of reading him… wow! Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was the first one I read.

BD: He and Hinckle and Ralph Steadman hooked up and pretty much made a pact to go ahead and rip these assholes out. I don't mean to say that he was ready to step up and become a John Lennon. But he was keenly aware of his ability to reach people and sway their minds, even one-on-one. And he was an ardent prankster and a total psych-fucker. He really enjoyed that.

RU: There are a bunch of stories about him doing some crazy shit. Do you have any favorites?

BD: Oh yeah. My personal favorite is when his friend was living in New York on the fifth floor of a walk-up in Hell's Kitchen. Thompson went over there to see him one day, and the guy wasn't home and Thompson got bored. And, with all the windows open on the fifth floor, he took a belt off and started smacking this wall with it: Whack! Whack! "Beg for it, bitch!" Whack! Whack! Whack! "Who's your daddy!?" Whack! Whack! Whack! And so the neighbors got really distressed and called the police, and the police stormed the place. So they went up there and found Thompson sitting alone. "Where's the other guy? What's going on there?" "I don't know what you're talking about. Who? What? Huh?"

RU: (Laughs) In writing this, did you feel like you had to adopt his lifestyle at all?

BD: Absolutely. I've been chain-smoking Dunhill reds since October and I don't smoke. My mother and my grandmother and my girlfriend are all very concerned that if the play continues to be a success, I will have to continue smoking.

RU: What about all the other enjoyments? Had any adrenochrome? Did you bring any adrenochrome with you? (Laughter)

BD: My attorney's not as good as his!

SR: You don't have the Samoan?

BD: Hey, he was Mexican, dammit! (Laughter)

SR: How about Wild Turkey?

BD: Absolutely. I've been drinking 101 pretty much rabidly for a while.

SR: Yowch!

BD: (Laughs) Smoking a lot of pot, and taking acid.

RU: It would be really hard to be a Gonzo journalist right now. In terms of mainstream publications, nobody let's you do it! Lester Bangs was sort of the last one to get away with it in the rock press.

BD: Matt Taibbi. Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone is the heir apparent to Hunter Thompson. He is on the mission...

RU: I guess I haven't been reading it lately

BD: I first noticed him about two years ago when he went to Burning Man and proclaimed it for what it is — toothless and wallowing in its own muck and irrelevant to anyone or anything. The next week, he went out to New Orleans with Sean Penn, who was on some insane rescue mission for a single black woman in an underwater parish. Tabbi went into this destruction with Penn and filed an incredible story. He has been in Washington since, ripping every single one of these vile greed-heads that we love to hate. And he names the names. He tells you exactly who they are and what they're doing. He went into a Senate fundraiser for this one Senator from Alaska posing as a Russian oil company investment banker. And the company name he made up translated to "oily fart gas." And he really did kind of go in and invade this scene Thompson-style. But he doesn't do drugs like Hunter did. Or at least if he does, he's very quiet about it.

RU: It's great that it can still happen. I think the magazine industry — the magazine people are much more tight-assed than they were in the late 60s. I'm surprised and pleased to hear that Wenner lets somebody rip. Of course, people can do gonzo on the web. But the other question is, does anybody do it well? What do you think about that? Certainly, lots of people are trying to mix fiction and non-fiction and tell wild drug tales and so forth. But who does it well?

BD: Well, Arianna Huffington, when she finally saw the light and was forced to admit that our government was freely for sale — I sent her a letter. She and my father are friends. I sent her a letter welcoming her to the punk rock club, and recommended that she purchase Dead Kennedys albums and Black Flag and the Circle Jerks and catch up on things. She never wrote back...

RU: She's never written back to me either.

BD: She could go far. She could go far with that dyed red job and just a little shave on the side. She could be hot! Think about it.

SR: Could be?! I would bang the living crap out of her. I'd bang her so hard that her fucking ex-husband would feel it.

JEFF DIEHL: Is that before or after Condoleezza Rice?

SR: I'd do both at once, man. How about that? How about a little salt and pepper in my hotel room.



BD: No no no... listen. Condoleezza Rice needs a devoted line of slave boys under her desk to try to achieve the impossible, and that is an orgasm.

But getting back to what we were saying about being a gonzo journalist in the early 21st century. What it takes is guts, determination and belief. Rolling Stone ran an interesting piece a couple years ago that showed how most journalism schools are turning their graduates towards marketing. And journalism has always been right up there with teaching in terms of poverty. But that's not true any more. Journalists can make it. And then there's the fact that these — as Thompson would've said it — castrated editors and publishers are afraid to rock boats. No one will touch GM or Westinghouse. And then we had the brainwashing from the Bush administration. People were genuinely afraid to step out. This was the most dangerous time since at least the McCarthy era for this country, where the backswing of the administration, in terms of curtailing liberty and intimidating free speech, really did put a clamp down on all of us. We're just now getting out from under that.

But there's no journalist Gary Cooper for this generation. First of all, it has to start in the schools. This is where Thompson's death could really help us out. Thompson is going to become a college course in places like Columbia.

RU: Right. And people are going to wonder: Why can't we do this? I mean, there was a whole narrative around this idea of New Journalism that has kind of disappeared.

BD: Professors need to be willing to take chances, and to do more in the publish-or-perish environment than stroke their own egos. We're at war. Our country really is going to hell. I feel like it's the Roman Empire, circa 425. One more venal or weak leader, and we're done.

RU: Before we let you go — give us another piece of your act.
BD (AS HST): Steadman's still recovering from that debacle in Newport at the America's Cup last year. He really went at it from all angles, including a rock band whose single at the time was "Up Against the Wall, Motherfucker!" Including Ralph on his first hallucinogens, and for his bravery, he was treated to a near hopeless flight from harbor police and private security as we tried to spray-paint "Fuck the Pope" on a large yacht and were undone by steel balls in the spray can. I was using the flare gun to cover our asses for a graceful exit from this. And there's Ralph — barefoot and psychotic, ambling onto a plane for New York. His plan is to get to the Scanlon's offices, and to sort of blend in with the other freaks and get some down time. But he lands there, takes a cab to Scanlon's, and finds out that they are locked up tight. They'd folded the day before. I already knew that. But Ralph's mind was in such a delicate condition at the time that I couldn't tell him. One last thing, and that would've been it. And he was far too valuable for future excursions. So I think I'm going to have to give him a pass on this one. I mean, last time I talked to him, he was still having severely debilitating flashbacks, and hoping for a soon return to a relatively peaceful normalcy as much as Ralph really can.

It's time to dial in the other hardcore pro. Oscar Zeta Costa and I had been working both sides of this wretched street for years. He's the main engine in the Mexican brown power movement down in Los Angeles – an attorney of unflinching gall, hypnotic oratory, and the will to do what the other guy won't every single time. He can shut down large stretches of that vast nightmarish metropolis by calling for a one-day strike among the Latinos. And yet, he's under the delusion that he can build a country where freaks like us are safe from prosecution as he settles into a tweed-and-loafers existence as a UCLA law professor. Oh yeah, we've traded barbs over who's the bigger sell-out — co-opted into a comfortable existence just outside the wires. But being called an infantile anarchist by that Mexican dunce with the moles… That was the last straw. It's time to call that rotten little spic on his shit, haul his ass out of Los Angeles, and to a place where he cannot escape the overwhelming filth that is America. Las Vegas is neutral territory for both of us. Neither one of us has any connections there, or any clout that's going to count for anything other than a quick getaway if we need it.

"Gonzo: A Brutal Chrysalis" will be performed in Seattle in September-October.

September 20-22, 27-29
The Freehold Theater
1525 10th Ave.
Seattle, WA
www.freeholdtheatre.org

October 4-6
Capitol Hill Arts Center
1621 12th Ave.
Seattle, WA
www.capitolhillarts.com

They are also seeking a venue for a planned a September run in Los Angeles and would welcome any information about those venues at: [email protected]


See also:
When Kurt Vonnegut Met Sammy Davis Jr.
Willie Nelson's 'Narcotic' Shrooms
Drugs and Sex and Suzie Bright
Did Bush Spin Like Nixon?
The Chicks Who Tried to Shoot Gerald Ford
David Sedaris Exaggerates For Us All
20 Secrets of an Infamous Dead Spy





Read More

Give Me Immortality Or Give Me Death!

Give Me Immortality or Give Me Death!

According to transhumanist Michael Anissimov, there's an even chance that we're looking at immortality or existential destruction in the next 20-40 years. Anissimov is only 23-years-old but he's already become an important figure in the transhumanist movement. While still in high school, he became founder and director of the Immortality Institute. He's been active with the World Transhumanist Association (WTA), and he is currently Fundraising Director, North America for the Lifeboat Foundation.

Lifeboat Foundation describe themselves as "a nonprofit organization dedicated to encouraging scientific advancements while helping humanity survive existential risks and possible misuse of increasingly powerful technologies, including genetic engineering, nanotechnology, and robotics/AI as we move toward a technological singularity."

Anissimov also blogs regularly at Accelerating Future.

I interviewed him for my NeoFiles Show. Jeff Diehl joined me.

To listen the full interview in MP3, click here.


RU SIRIUS: Let's start off talking about immortality. And let's talk about it personally. Do you want to live forever?

MICHAEL ANISSIMOV: Oh, absolutely! For sure!

RU: Why?

MA: Because I have at least a thousand years of plans already. And in those thousand years, I'll probably make another thousand years of plans, and I don't see any end to that cycle.



RU: Do you see the quality of life improving for yourself and for most human beings?

MA: Yes, I do.

RU: Because I don't know if I want to live forever under Darwinian conditions. It gets tiring.

MA: I agree. It does. We need to take control of our own evolution before this would be a planet really worth living on. I don't think that thousands of years of war would be good for anyone. So things do need to improve.

RU: Yeah. Even having to pay… who can afford a thousand years?

MA: (Laughs) Well, you'll work for a thousand years...

RU: It's very expensive!

MA: Yeah, people are dying to retire. So it would help out if we had the robots doing a little bit more of the work.

JEFF DIEHL: So what's your itinerary for the next thousand years?

MA: I want to go spelunking in every major cave. I want to climb the highest peak on every continent. I want to write, like maybe at least ten nonfiction books and ten fiction books. Mmmm…

RU: Some people have done that in a lifetime.

MA: I know!

JD: Yeah, you're not very ambitious, man — come on!

MA: (Laughs) Think of ten possible lives you could live, and then think that you don't necessarily need to choose between them. You could live them back to back.

RU: On the other hand, you could pop your consciousness into several bodies and have them all living simultaneously for only a hundred years. Would that be the equivalent of living a thousand years?

MA: I don't think so. I think that would just be like having kids. Copying yourself would give rise to multiple independent strains of consciousness.

RU: Maybe there could be some kind of central person who could be taking in all of the experiences.

MA: There could be some information exchange, but...

RU: Aubrey de Grey, of course, is the hacker-biologist who has become very well known for saying that this is quite plausible in the near future. Is there any progress that he's pointed to, or that you can point to, since he really proclaimed the plausibility of immortality some time around the beginning of this century?

MA: Yeah. Recently Peter Thiel, former CEO of Paypal, offered three million dollars in matching funds for projects related to this. And they've started coming up with ways to actually use over a million dollars, I believe. They have the MitoSENS project and the LysoSENS projects.

RU: What are these projects about?

MA: Well, with LysoSENS — lysomal junk is this stuff that builds up between cells. And our natural metabolism doesn't currently have any way of breaking it down. So researchers are trying to exploit the law of microbial infallibility — the notion that no matter what organic material you're talking about, you're going to be able to find a microbe that can eat it. So they're searching for microbes that are capable of breaking down this junk. And they've been looking in places like... next to a Burger King, because people throw burgers on the ground and stuff like that. So there are special bacteria there that learn how to break down these organic compounds. And some of these researchers have even gotten permission to get soil samples from the people that run graveyards because that's where you'd expect to find the bugs. Basically, they're looking for specialized microbes that can dissolve that lysomal junk.

RU: IBM recently announced a naotechnology breakthrough. They said that "the breakthrough marks the first time chips have been made with a self-assembling nano-technology using the same process that forms seashells or snowflakes." This sounds like a really big deal.

MA: Yeah, it is! It's not the same thing though as molecular manufacturing, where you basically have a molecular assembly line that places each atom, one by one. It's not quite as intelligently controlled or productive, but it is a large breakthrough.

RU: Yeah, the word jumps out at me — "self-assembling." That sounds... you're not too excited?

MA: (Skeptically) Ehhh. I mean, it's pretty exciting but people have been playing around with this stuff for a while

RU: OK. Let's move on to your current work — The Lifeboat Foundation This foundation is focused on existential risk, which is a board game, I think: Camus v. Sartre.

MA: (Laughs) Not exactly!

RU: I don't know how you win. It's probably like Waiting for Godot: A Tragicomedy in Two Acts — the board game never arrives.

Anyway, in the discourse currently going around among people who are part of the transhumanist schemata and transhumanist world — there seems to be a turn from optimism towards a dialogue that's sort of apocalyptic. And the Lifeboat website seems to reflect that. Do you think that's true?

MA: I think it is true to a small extent. I think it's actually reflective of the maturing of the transhumanist movement. Because it's easy to say…

RU: "It's gonna be great!"

MA: Particularly when the dotcom boom was happening, everyone was, like, "Oh, the future's gonna be great. No problems." You know... "We're making shitloads of cash. Everything's going to go well."

Now, we've had seven years of George Bush. We've been involved in two wars. We understand that reality isn't always peachy keen and we're going to have to deal with the consequences.

RU: So are people in the transhumanist world as worried as they sound, or is it partly political – trying to be responsible and ease concerns among people who are perhaps more paranoid than technophiles like yourself?

MA: No, it's very genuine. The more you understand about powerful technologies, the more you understand that they really do have the potential to hose us all, in a way that nuclear war can't.

RU: Give me your top two existential risks.

MA: Well, as Dr. Alan Goldstein pointed out on your show a couple of weeks ago, Synthetic Life is a huge risk because life is inherently designed to replicate in the wild. So life based on different chemical reactions could replicate much more rapidly than what we're accustomed to, like some sort of super-fungus. I think that's one of the primary risks. And the second risk would be artificial intelligence — human-surpassing artificial intelligence.

RU: So you're concerned about the "robot wars" scenario — artificial intelligence that won't care that much for us? Do you have any particular scenarios that you're following?

MA: Well, I'd like to caution people to be careful what they see in the movies. Because this is one of those areas where people have been speculating about it for quite a few decades, and so much fictional material has been built around it...

RU: Actually, I believe everything in .

MA: (Laughs) If you really look through those shows in a critical way, you see that they're full of blatant holes all over the place. Like, they can send a guy through time, but they can't send his clothes with him through time? (Laughs) In reality, I think that artificial intelligence is potentially most dangerous because it might not necessarily need to have a robotic body before it becomes a threat. An artificial intelligence that's made purely out of information could manipulate a wide variety of things on the internet. So it would have more power than we might guess.



RU: You've written a bit about the idea of Friendly AI. (We had
Eliezer Yudkowsky on the show quite a while back, talking about this.) Do you see steps that can be taken to ensure that A.I. is friendly?

MA: Yeah! I'm totally in support of Eliezer and the Singularity Institute. I think that they're one of the few organizations that has a clue. And they're growing. I think that you've got to put a lot of mathematical eggheads working together on the problem. You can't just look at it from an intuitive point of view. You can actually understand intelligence on a mathematical level. It's a lot to ask. I think that friendly A.I. will be a tremendous challenge because there's just a lot of complexity in what constitutes a good person. And there's a lot of complexity in what constitutes what we consider common sense.

RU: Do you think the breakthrough might come through reverse engineering the human brain?

MA: It's possible but probably not.

RU: Good, because I don't think human beings are that friendly. I think the friendly A.I. has to be friendlier than human beings.

MA: It definitely does. And one way we could do that is by creating an A.I. that doesn't have a self-centered goal system. All creatures built by Darwinian evolution inherently have a self-centered goal system. I mean, before we became altruistic, we were extremely selfish. A reptile has eggs, and then the eggs hatch and he just walks off. He doesn't care about his kids. So this altruism thing is relatively recent in the history of evolution, and our psychology is still fundamentally self-centered.

JD: Isn't trying to plan for the nature of these future AI's kind of absurd because of the exponential superiority of their reasoning... if they even have what we would call reasoning? Can we really plan for this? It seems like once you hit a certain threshold, the Singularity, by definition is incomprehensible to us.

MA: I initially had the same issue. It seems impossible. But ask yourself, if you could choose, would you rather have an A.I. modeled after Hitler or would you rather have an A.I. modeled after Mother Teresa?

Regardless of how intelligent the A.I. becomes, it starts off from a distinct initial state. It starts off from a seed. So whatever it becomes will be the consequence of that seed making iterative changes on itself.

JD: But maybe in the first nano-second, it completely expunges anything that resembles human reasoning and logic because that's just a problem to them that doesn't need to be solved any more. And then beyond that — we have no fucking clue what they're going to move onto.

MA: It's true, but whatever it does will be based on the motivations it has.

JD: Maybe. But not if it re-wires itself completely…

MA: But if it rewired itself, then it would do so based on the motivations it originally had. I mean, I'm not saying it's going to stay the same, but I'm saying there is some informational similarity — there's some continuity. Even though it could be a low-level continuity, there's some continuity for an A.I. Also, you could ask the same question of yourself. What happens if a human being gains control over its own mind state.

RU: How we understand our motivations might be distinct from how we would understand our motivations if we had a more advanced intelligence.

MA: That's true.

RU: I'm going to move on to something that was on the Lifeboat web site that confounded me. It's labeled a News Flash. It says, "Robert A. Freitas Jr. has found preliminary evidence that diamond mechanosynthesis may not be reliable enough in ambient temperatures to sustain an existential risk from microscopic ecophagic replicators."

JD: (Joking) I had a feeling that was the case. (Laughter)

RU: What the hell does that mean?!

MA: Robert's a bit of a wordy guy, but maybe I can explain it. You have an STM (Scanning Tunneling Microscope.) It's like a little needle that's able to scan a surface by measuring the quantum difference between the two surfaces. Diamond mechanosynthesis would just be the the ability to have a tiny needle-like robotic arm that places a single or perhaps two carbon atoms onto a pre-programmed place. So, in life, we are all based on proteins. Carbon isn't slotted in like in a covalent sense, which is the way that people that are working on nanotechnology are thinking of working. They're thinking of putting together pieces of carbon, atom by atom, to make a covalently bonding carbon. Robert's saying that it might be that the ambient temperature of the environment is too hot for that needle to work. So you'd need to have it in a vacuum or super-cooled environment for it to work.

RU: You did a good job of explaining that. Moving on, there's some talk on your site of the idea of relinquishment, which is deciding not to develop technologies. Is that even possible?

MA: Instead of relinquishment, I like to talk about selective development. You can't really relinquish technology too easily. But you can develop safeguards before technologies reach their maturity. And you can develop regulations that anticipate future consequences instead of always taking a knee-jerk reaction and saying: "Oh, this disaster happened; therefore we will now regulate."

RU: Of course, it's not really possible to regulate what everybody everywhere on the planet is doing.

MA: No, it's not.

RU: Are you familiar with Max More's Proactionary Principle?


MA: (Skeptically) Mmmm I'm...

RU: Too obvious?

MA: No, I don't fully agree with it. I do think that the Precautionary Principle has a point.

RU: Maybe I should say what it is. Basically, the Precautionary Principle says that with any technology we're developing, we should look ahead and see what the consequences are. And if the consequences look at all dire, then we should relinquish the technology. And Max More argues that we should also look at the possible consequences of not developing the technology. For instance, if we don't develop nanotechnology, everybody dies.

MA: Well, I don't think that would happen.

RU: I mean, eventually… just as they have for millennia.

MA: Oh — everyone will age to death!

RU: Right

MA: No, I agree that the balanced view looks at both sides of the equation. The Precautionary Principle's kind of been tarnished because there are people that are super-paranoid; and people who use it as an excuse to rule out things that they find ethically objectionable like therapeutic cloning.

RU: Well, you could take anything as an example. Look at automobiles. If we had looked ahead at automobiles — we could debate for hours whether they were a good idea. There would probably be less humans on the planet and there would probably be less distribution of medicine and food and all those things. On the other hand, we might not be facing global warming. It might be nice that there are less humans on the planet.

MA: Yeah, but in practice, if some invention is appealing and has large economic returns, then people are going to develop it no matter what.

RU: On the Lifeboat site, you have a list of existential risks. And people can sort of mark which existential risk they want to participate in or work on. I'd like to get your comments on a few of the risks that are listed. But before I go down a few of these things on the list, what do you think is up with the bees?

MA: The bees?

RU: The honeybees are dying off. Einstein said we wouldn't survive if...

JD: … there's some contention about whether he actually said that. I heard that somebody tried to find that quote, and they weren't able to find it.

MA: What does this have to do with the bees?

RU: Einstein said that if all the honeybees died off, we'd all be dead in four years, or something like that.

JD: Yeah, because of the natural cycles that they support. Somebody else debunked that.

RU: Well, he was no Einstein. You better look into the bees because that could be an existential risk.

So here's one of the risks – or the risk aversion possibilities — listed on the site: Asteroid Shield.

MA: Well, someone once said that we're in a cosmic shooting gallery and it's only a matter of time before we get nailed. I wouldn't consider this to be a high priority, but in the interest of comprehensiveness, it would be a good idea if we had a way to deflect asteroids. Serious scientists have been looking at this issue and they decided that knocking it out with a nuclear bomb wasn't really going to work so well. It's too expensive and too unpredictable. So they're talking about attaching small rockets to slowly pull an asteroid off course.



JD: I recently read one idea — collect a lot of space junk and create one big object to alter the gravitational...

MA: Or you can put a little electro-magnetic rail gun on the surface and progressively fire off chunks of the asteroid, which will also alter its course. Even if you altered the trajectory of an incoming asteroid by a tiny amount, it would probably miss because earth is just kind of like a tiny dot in space. But right now, we don't have the capability. So if an asteroid were coming next year, we would be screwed.

RU: Right. And people have started talking about it. I mean, there has been sort of an advance in the level of paranoia about asteroids that come anywhere near us in recent years.

MA: One asteroid came about half of the way between us and the moon a while ago.

JD: Was it big enough to kill us?

MA: No. It was a hundred feet across, though — not bad.

RU: So how much chaos would that cause? I guess that would depend on where it landed.

MA: Measured in megatons, I think it would be about one Hiroshima.

JD: Oh, okay. We can handle that… as long as it doesn't land in San Francisco.

MA: (Laughs) Exactly! So I don't think the asteroids are an immediate concern. But it helps people comprehend the notion of extinction risks.

RU: The former NASA astronaut Rusty Schweickart has become involved in fighting off the asteroids. He used to be part of the L5 Society. I think Ronald Reagan would say it's a way of uniting all the people of earth to fight against an enemy.

MA: Yeah!

RU: I think he talked about that in terms of aliens, not in terms of asteroids.

MA: Well, I think all existential risks, including the more plausible ones, do serve a function in uniting humanity, and I think that's a nice side effect.

RU: The particle accelerator shield — what's that about?

MA: Some people think — as we engage in increasingly high-powered particle accelerator experiments — something bad could happen. One standard idea is a strangelet, which is similar to an atom but much more compact. If a strangelet could absorb conventional matter into itself, and do so continuously, it could absorb the entire planet.

RU: Sort of like a black hole.

MA: Yes, very much like a black hole. It's another one of those situations where we want to instill a sense of caution in the minds of scientists. We don't want them to just dismiss these possibilities out of hand because it potentially threatens their funding. We want them to actually give it a little bit of thought.

RU: OK, what about "seed preserver."

MA: Oh, yeah! Well that's actually being done right now! The Norwegian government built a seed bank on some far north Arctic island. They're shoving some seeds in there, so I guess when the nanobots come, or the nuclear war comes and 99% of humanity is all gone, then we'll be able to go there, withdraw the seeds, and create life anew.

RU: You seem to be a believer in the Singularity. For me – maybe yes, maybe no. But I find it amusing that Vernor Vinge could give a talk titled "What if the Singularity Does NOT Happen", the implication being that the idea that it might not happen is a real stretch. Do you ever feel like you're in a cult — that people who believe in this share a peculiar reality?

MA: The word Singularity has become a briefcase word. People kind of want to put their pet ideas into it, so the actual idea has become kind of unclear in the minds of many people. To me, the Singularity is just the notion of an intelligence that's smarter than us. So if you say that you don't believe in the Singularity, it means that you believe that human beings are the smartest possible intelligence that this universe can hold.

RU: I guess what I don't believe is that it necessarily becomes a complete disjunction in history.

MA: But don't you think that homo sapiens are a quite complete disjunction from, say, homo erectus or chimps? We share 98% of the same DNA. So what if you actually used technology to surpass the human mind? I think you'd have something substantially more different from homo sapiens than homo sapiens was from their predecessors.

RU: Do you think it's more likely that we'll develop machines that are more intelligent than us and keep them exterior to us; or will we find some way of incorporating them into us? It seems to me, if you look at the passion that people have for being on the net, and being able to call up and get and link to all the information and all the intelligence on the planet, people are going to want this inside themselves. They're going to want to be able to have as much information and as much intelligence as everybody else. They'll want to unite with it.

MA: I think that would be a great thing, as long as people don't go using their intelligence for negative ends.

JD: Do you think this would happen gradually. Or do you think there would be this point in time where lots of people make choices like whether or not to merge? And then, maybe, the people who are afraid of that will want to stop people from doing it, and conflict...

MA: I think it could actually be somewhat abrupt, because once you have a superior intelligence, it can create better intelligence enhancement techniques for itself. So it could be somewhat abrupt. But I think that these smart entities could also find a way of keeping humanity on the same page and not making it like: "Oh, you have to choose… If your brother or your sister is not going into the great computer, then..."

RU: I think if it happens soon enough, it will be viewed as just another way of going online. You know, to young people, it will be just… "Yeah, this is how everybody's going online now."

MA: But if you had implants in your brain, it would be permanent.

RU: Do you think chaos is built into life? As the Artificial Life people have been saying, life happens on the boundary between order and chaos. If chaos is an element of life, can machines include chaos?

MA: Well, uh — hmm. I think that people overestimate the power of chaos.

RU: As a Patti Smith fan, I have to disagree.



MA: (Laughs) Well, it's such an appealing idea — chaos. But if you take a look at human blood and compare it to some random bit of muck you find in the ground, you'll see that it's highly regulated, and there are huge complements of homeostatic mechanisms in bodies that are constantly ordering things. Relative to the entropy in the air array outside; inside my body is a very orderly place, Life forms are very well organized pieces of matter.

RU: Right, but if you achieve complete homeostasis, then nothing happens.

MA: That's true. Life does have to be on that boundary so it is challenging

RU: Here's a quote from an interview with you: "The idea of the Singularity is to transcend limitations by reengineering brains or creating new brains from scratch, brains that think faster with more precision, greater capabilities, better insights, ability to communicate and so on." OK. That sounds good, but what about pleasure, play, creativity, eroticism… and whatever it is you get from magic mushrooms? Where does all that go?

MA: (Laughs) I think all that's very important. I think about all those things.

RU: So you think that can be built that into the singularity?

MA: Yeah. Oh, for sure…

RU: David Pierce is the one person who really sort of deals with those ideas.

MA: Well, it's not really too PC to talk about it. But when you take a psychedelic, you've changed your brain chemistry. With mushrooms, you flood your brain with this one psilocybin chemical. With technologies that let you actively change your own mind, it would be less of a shot in the dark. More precision modifications would be possible. And you could turn it on and off like a light switch, too. You could have much more control over it.

RU: Looking forward to it!

See Also:
Create an Alien, Win A-Prize
Why Chicks Don't Dig The Singularity
Death? No, Thank You
Prescription Ecstasy and Other Pipe Dreams

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Prescription Ecstasy and Other Pipe Dreams

Ecstacy pills

Are psychedelic drugs medicinal? Can you picture yourself walking into the neighborhood pharmacy with prescriptions for ecstasy (MDMA) and psilocybin?

If MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies) has its way, the days of prescription psychedelics may not be too far away. For those who know the history of psychedelic research, this eventuality has been a long time coming. But others — who may only be familiar with the intense emotions and activities around the "War On Drugs" over the past several decades — may be surprised to learn how much progress MAPS has made.



Jag Davies is the Director of Communications for MAPS, a non-profit research and education organization that assists scientists to design, obtain approval for, fund, conduct and report on research into the healing and spiritual potentials of psychedelics and marijuana. He joined Steve Robles, Jeff Diehl and myself on The RU Sirius Show.

Let it be said that Mr. Davies has the patience of a saint (and a sense of humor). Despite the fact that we were unable to resist the urge to crack drug jokes throughout, Jag managed to convey vast quantities of important information about psychedelic research.

DRUG I: MARIJUANA

RU SIRIUS: We should all drink a toast! You have some good news about marijuana research. Why don't you share some of that stuff with us?

JAG DAVIES: Sure. We just found out on February 12 that a DEA administrative law judge ruled in favor of MAPS in our lawsuit against the DEA.

MAPS would like to design and fund and do the FDA clinical trials necessary to get marijuana approved as a prescription medicine. It's never been put through the FDA clinical trials to see if it meet the standards for safety and efficacy of any other drug under certain conditions.

The reason that hasn't happened is because the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has a monopoly on the supply of research-grade marijuana. It's the only Schedule 1 controlled substance where the federal government has a monopoly on the production.

So what MAPS has been trying to do for the past six years is start an independent medical marijuana production facility. We're working with professor Lyle Craker, who's the director of the medicinal plant program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He had no history of working with marijuana, but he's a very well rounded botanist. In 2001, we sent NIDA an application, and first they took a year to tell us they had lost it. Their primary strategy is delay. (Laughs) And then they took another three years to reject it. And when they reject an application, there is a formal process where you can request a hearing with a DEA Administrative Law Judge. But the DEA's power is so unchecked that even once the ruling is decided in your favor, they can reject it. So there was this two-year hearing. We were represented by the ACLU and some Washington D.C. law firms. And the case took about two years for the judge to rule on our side. But now the DEA can still decide whether to accept or reject the recommendation. So there's still a lot more work to be done. But it was an 87-page recommendation. The judge rebuked all of the DEA's arguments and explained why NIDA needs to stop obstructing legitimate scientific research. So it's very exciting.

RU: The DEA is famous for ignoring their administrative judges. I remember their Administrative Judge made a strong ruling against making Ecstasy Schedule One in the '80s. And they proceeded to completely ignore it. The DEA is the Politburo of America.

It sounds like you guys are trying to unhook a little Catch 22 there. You can have marijuana experiments, but you can't have the marijuana to do the experiments.

JAG: Yeah. Well, you can't do FDA-approved research without the legal supply, and the only legal supply for research would come from NIDA. So once you get a study approved by the FDA, then you have to go through an entirely separate review process, through NIDA and PHS (Public Health Service),which is part of Health and Human Services. They have three to six months to respond. By contrast, the FDA has thirty days to respond. And there's no formal appeals process. So they basically can arbitrarily decide what they want to do.

JEFF DIEHL: Is it MAPS policy that marijuana should only be available through a prescription?

JAG: Not in the long-term. Our long-term goal is to regulate all drugs for different uses, because we don't think drug prohibition works. It's not sound public policy. But our strategy for the foreseeable future—at least for the next five to ten years—is working only on these medical cases, because that's what the public is most comfortable with. It's really a strategic decision. But we don't think marijuana should be illegal for recreational purposes either.



STEVE ROBLES: But the problem is—going through agencies like NIDA is kind of like being in Germany in 1939 and asking Hitler for Passover off. I mean, they're beyond resistant — they're hostile.

JAG: But Congress does control their funding. So if there was a major political push from Congress… if they felt that there was really going to be a political backlash... In 1989, DEA Administrative Law Judge Francis Young recommended that marijuana be re-scheduled to Schedule 3. And they didn'tdo it. But that would have been much more drastic measure than what we're trying to do. We're just trying to get them to allow for a research supply. What we're asking for is so conservative, really.

JEFF: Are these DEA judges appointed? How do they get in their positions?

JAG:: They're appointed by the Department of Justice. The DEA is part of the Department of Justice.

RU: There doesn't seem to be much percentage in being reasonable about pot for a politician. Even though a lot of people smoke marijuana, there doesn't seem to be a lot of people who feel strongly about it as an issue at the national level.

SR: I always say it needs to be "Datelined" to appeal to the public. Say somebody like Bob Dole is begging for medical marijuana while he's rotting away from cancer.

RU: You guys got support in this recent case from the Senators from Massachusetts—Ted Kennedy and John Kerry. And we all know about John Kerry. (OK, we don't. But I've heard rumors that Kerry still tokes.)

SR: Which explains how he fucked up in the last election. I love pot, but…

JEFF: "Whatever, man. It'll all work itself out." (Laughter)

SR: "I'm not gonna let him kill my buzz." (Laughter)

JAG: We got 38 representatives to sign on to a letter of support before the judge made the ruling. We're headed for a bigger sign-on support letter in the Senate and we've got a few months to formulate a political response. In the '80s when Francis Young made his recommendations, there was hardly any political support. The only organization doing any work was NORML, and they were small and had some issues. There's much more of an infrastructure now behind all of these different drug policy organizations that are going to help us. And there are already 160 congresspeople that voted in favor of the Hinchey Medical Marijuana Amendment. And there's a former conservative Republican representative that is going to be lobbying in support of this case. I can't say who it is. We can't announce it for about a month.

RU: Bob Barr!

JAG: (Laughs) I can't say anything.

RU: Bingo! (Laughter)

JEFF: We got it first! Isn't it the case that everybody is taking all these high-grade mood-altering pharmaceuticals now—all the anti-depressants—stuff that really has a strong effect on your daily functioning. So it seems like it's a little bit more difficult to be against even the study of marijuana as a possible prescription substance.

JAG: Yeah, it's like people are used to the concept.

JEFF:: … of "dosing," basically.

RU: As a culture, we're pretty conscious of chemical mind alteration.

DRUG II: ECSTASY (MDMA)

RU: Let's move on to ecstasy. We're going to do one drug at a time.

JEFF: Should've done that first! It takes too long to kick in, man.



RU: So a while back, MAPS got approval for a study in MDMA-assisted psychotherapy. Where are we at with that?

JAG: It's almost over. They've treated 15 out of 20 patients. It's very slow. There are lots of pre-conditions for the study because it's such a controversial substance. But the results are ridiculous. Their CAPS score—(CAPS is the Clinician Administered PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] Scale) is about five times higher than in treating chronic treatment-resistant patients with Zoloft. It's very likely that we're going to be able to go on to do our next set up studies—Phase III studies. And there are a whole other slew of studies that are sort of copying this one that we're doing in a bunch of other places like Switzerland, and Israel, just to be sure.

JEFF: So does it look like MDMA is going to become something that's used pharmaceutically?

JAG: After careful analysis, we decided that MDMA is probably the most likely of any psychedelic drug to get approved. First of all, it has a very gentle sort of pharmacological profile.

But the other reason is sort of interesting. People ask us, "Why don't you try MDE or MDA, drugs without the same cultural connotation." It would be easier politically. But because it was so demonized by the government in the 1980s and 1990s, there has been hundreds of millions of dollars of research done into its risks. So they've done all the work for us!

RU: You mentioned a comparison to Zoloft, the implication being that MDMA could be an effective anti-depressant.

JAG: The difference is that MDMA is not used on a daily basis. That's why there's not a profit incentive.

RU: But what would the prescription be — once a month? Or ten sessions?

JEFF: They didn't dose them daily in the study?

JAG: No, not at all. They do about 15 regular psychotherapy sessions. And then with two or three of them, depending on the study, there are sessions where the person takes either a placebo or the MDMA. It's very methodologically rigorous. It's double-blind and you don't know if you got the placebo or not.

With something like Ritalin, you have to keep taking it every day or every week or whatever. With MDMA, or a psychedelic drug that you use in conjunction with therapy, which is how we're trying to get it approved, you would only use it maybe five times at the most. So the incentive to make money isn't there.

JEFF: What kind of dosage did they use? Was it comparable to a street hit?

JAG: Actually, it's a bit larger than a street hit. It's 125 milligrams pure. And then we actually got approval about halfway through the study to make a couple of changes. One of them was to take a booster dose, basically, although we call it a "supplemental" dose. They take another 60 milligrams about an hour and half into it.

JEFF: You're not calling it "a bump"? (Laughter)

RU: It's been easier to do studies in Europe for a while, hasn't it? I seem to remember that stuff was happening in one of the Scandinavian countries in the early '90s.

JAG: There's been work in Switzerland, although not with psychotherapy. And we just got a study that's already ongoing in Switzerland with MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for post-traumatic stress disorder. And then there's another study that's about to get approved this year for LSD-assisted psychotherapy for end-of-life anxiety. And that would be the first LSD psychotherapy study, or the first real study looking at LSD's benefits at all, anywhere in the world.

RU: Most of the countries in Europe don't have a drug war at the level of intensity that we have here. There have been some experiments allowed, and there have been various levels of drug decriminalization in a lot of countries. In Amsterdam and London, you can buy mushrooms quasi-legally. So why aren't we hearing about how their societies have been changed by the relative freedom to experiment with psychedelic drugs? Why aren't we hearing, "Wow. Look at what's happening here. Everybody's so enlightened!"

JAG: Well, things are better. At least as far as drug prohibition-related harm goes, it's a lot better. Their prison populations are incredibly lower. But I think more people use marijuana and psychedelics in the U.S. than in those countries. Just because they're legal, that doesn't mean more people are using them.

RU: A few days ago, I saw an item in the newspaper which said that people are now abusing more prescription drugs than illegal drugs in America. That's a result of the war on drugs.

JAG: Yeah, vastly many more people die every year from prescription drugs in America than from illegal drugs, even despite the harm that's caused by all the misinformation about illegal drugs.

SR: I've heard that Spain was doing some Ecstasy research.

JAG: The first MDMA-assisted psychotherapy study in the world was sponsored by MAPS and approved in 2001 in Madrid. It started but was shut down by the Madrid anti-drug authorities after there were positive reports in the press.

RU: There's nothing worse than good news to the medical establishment.

JAG: We've been trying to start a study up there again. In the mean time, we've got studies approved in Charleston, South Carolina, at Harvard, in Switzerland, and in Israel. So we think it's a bit more politically feasible now. Spain might be able to swallow it… so to speak.

RU: I interviewed (MAPS President) Rick Doblin about a decade ago about the relationship between MAPS and the FDA. And there was a loosening up about psychedelic research within the FDA that hadn't occurred since the 1960s. It started actually under Bush I in the '80s and continued under the Clinton administration. Has the relationship with the FDA changed?

JAG: The FDA continues to be very supportive. Since 1990, the FDA has been supportive of our protocols. The problems have really come more from the DEA and NIDA. In order to do any study, you need approval from the DEA to have a schedule 1 license to actually possess the drug for the study. It's usually been the DEA that has held everything up, because the FDA is more based around science, and the DEA is based more around criminal justice and law enforcement.

RU: Very few people know that in the middle of all the drug hysteria, the FDA had started to allow these kinds of experiments to begin. It's kind of amazing.

When I skim the MAPS site, I see all this stuff about approved protocols and activities that are going to lead up to tests, and then maybe an occasional test. But has there been any results?

JAG: Well, yeah, there have been some results. We finished the Phase I MDMA studies. There's three phases to FDA approval. The Phase I studies are the safety studies, and those took quite a long time. The Phase II studies aren't finished yet, though. And we did studies with vaporizers and marijuana. For example, we found that water pipes are worse for your lungs than smoking a joint.



SR: When that news came out I just about cried.

JAG: We've done all sorts of background research too. We did survey studies about LSD and cluster headaches and about what happens when you hook people on Ayahuasca up to EEGs.

The background research sort of assembles the literature needed to get these drugs approved as prescription medicines. That's really our main focus — getting the drugs approved rather than just doing basic science.

DRUG III: PSILOCYBIN

RU: The big news item last year was about results from psilocybin experiments conducted at John Hopkins. A New York Times headline read: "Mushroom Drugs Produce Mystical Experiences." Next they'll be telling us that bears shit in the woods.



SR: "Beans cause gas in humans."

RU: You guys weren't directly involved in this one, right?

JAG: No, we didn't sponsor that study. That study was amazing. This team of researchers has a different approach than MAPS. They kept their entire protocol secret and kept it totally hidden from the media right until the day of publication. This was sort of basic background science research on mystical experiences. And they actually used grant money from NIDA for the study. NIDA disavowed the study afterwards. The former director of NIDA, Bob Schuster, wrote one of the commentaries for it. He said it was great. He loved it, but of course the current director of NIDA couldn't go along with that. So they sort of issued a rebuke saying, "Don't listen to this."

RU: Do you hear about this a lot? Has this changed the culture around moving this work forward? It was all over the media.

JAG: Yeah, I think it definitely helped legitimize psychedelic research.

RU: They were basically doing one of Timothy Leary's studies from the early 1960s over again.

JAG: It was the follow-up on a study that was done in the 1960s called "The Good Friday Experiment" where they gave psilocybin to divinity students at a chapel somewhere in Boston. And they had them fill out all these questionnaires and asked them about whether or not they had any mystical experiences. They found that most of them had the most mystical experience of their lives. So the John Hopkins Study actually sort of repeated that same methodology with a new group of subjects who weren't familiar with the drug.

RU: But they weren't divinity students were they?

JAG: No, I think they were a more general population.

DRUG IV: IBOGAINE

RU: On this show a few weeks ago, we were talking about Ibogaine as a cure for heroin addiction. What data do we have now about Ibogaine?

JAG: We have a study approved that's just starting right now. It has full government approval in Vancouver. Ibogaine is illegal in the U.S., but it's legal in Canada and Mexico. So we're sponsoring an observational case study of patients treated at the Iboga Therapy House in Vancouver. No one's actually done the long-term follow-up research to see whether – six months or two years later — people relapse into using opiates or not, and whether they relapse in a way that's dangerous. All we have at this point are various anecdotal reports. We're doing a similar study at a clinic in Mexico.

It lasts, like, 24 to 36 hours. The last 12 hours people report feeling sort of physically paralyzed. It's a very intense experience so you have to really want to do it to do it.

RU: If you think Ayahuasca is not fun...

JAG: The government hasn't really had to fight it off because it hasn't spread recreationally.

JEFF: I heard a story on "This American Life" about a guy who was administering Ibogaine treatments to junkies that he knew, because he himself had been a junkie. And it was underground. He wasn't a doctor. He didn't have any medical training. He just started a program and tried to develop it but somebody died under his treatment. And he kind of went off the deep end because he felt so guilty about encouraging this guy to take Ibogaine who died.

Is Ibogaine dangerous?

JAG: Compared to other psychedelics, it does interact badly with certain dangerous pre-conditions because it lasts for so long. People with heart problems shouldn't take it — people with really high blood pressure. But there are tons of people like that all around the country – these sort of underground therapists who have been practicing with Ibogaine. A lot of the people support MAPS. They want to be able to use it above ground as part of their practice.

JEFF: Unfortunately, this guy wasn't even a therapist or anything. He was just kind of an ex-junkie who'd gone straight and wanted to…

RU: ...help his friends. How many of those people would have died from heroin overdoses?

DRUG V: KETAMINE

RU: Speaking of dangerous drugs, I was watching cable news one day when one of those screen crawls went by, and it said something like "Research finds low doses of ketamine effective for depression." Do you know anything about this?

JAG: Yeah. A study that was funded by the National Institute on Mental Health showed very promising results for ketamine as an anti-depressant. I think the media portrayal was a bit over-optimistic because Ketamine has its drawbacks – some people see drawbacks in daily dosing because it can cause dependence. But then again, so do the psychiatric drugs that are being approved today. And ketamine was showing much better results than those.

RU: Do you know what the dosage level was on those experiments?

JAG: I know it was very low. They were functioning doses, not K-Hole doses.

DRUG VI: LSD

JAG: Most other psychedelics we study don't have... like, no one's ever died from an LSD overdose.

SR: And believe me.... (Laughs)

JAG: I'm sure some people have tried!

RU: Do you ever watch the TV show "House"? This doctor is always taking all kinds of drugs. He's a vicodin addict for one thing. On one episode, he gives himself a cluster headache and then injects acid to cure it. The show is actually very smart about drugs. Anyway, what's up with LSD and psilocybin as a cure for cluster headaches?

JAG: I'll give you a bit of background. Cluster headaches are a type of migraine that lasts for weeks at a time. They're really difficult to treat. I've read that up to a fifth of people with cluster headaches end up committing suicide because it's so difficult to treat and so painful.

A few years ago, people started noticing that taking threshold doses of psilocybin and LSD at regular intervals would break their cluster headache cycle. And it was the only thing that would do it. So we did a survey study that's finished and now there's a study that's been approved at Harvard. So all these people who wouldn't use psychedelics otherwise have been using the drug to treat their cluster headaches.



JEFF: Do they feel any psychedelic effect?

JAG: Yeah, some people do it in slightly sub-psychedelic doses but it can still have the effect.

RU: Do they start believing in UFOs?

JAG: (Laughs)

See Also:
The Great Wired Drug Non-Controversy
Hallucinogenic Weapons
Paul McCartney On Drugs

Read More

Official Launch: 10ZM.TV

One of the reasons for the "video apology" term in the settlement agreement with Michael Crook is that we were already planning to launch a video property. Having Crook's apology in video seemed an appropriate format, and its wide viewing would help get some visibility for this new effort. We figure he owed us that much. There are a few things we're going to experiment with in the show, called 10ZM.TV, and hosted on the Blip.tv video sharing network. First, we'll be collecting video commentary from web figures on stories and themes we explore on our various other properties, such as this site, The RU Sirius Show, NeoFiles, Destinyland and Pastor Jack. Second, we'll record bits from our own writers and commentators. And finally, we're going to publish hot little bits from the continuous series of mind-blowing interviews conducted by RU Sirius. Rudy Rucker's interview is the first one we videotaped, so you'll see several clips from that in the coming weeks. So stay tuned, subscribe via RSS or iTunes, or watch Rudy Rucker now:
Science fiction writer Rudy Rucker, author of the book, Mathematicians In Love, claims that any natural process can be regarded as a computation, and that computers are not "digital."

Read More

Drugs and Sex and Susie Bright


Susie Bright

It's everybody's favorite topic: Drugs, sex and chicks. As promised a few weeks ago, we now present part two of our interview with "sexpert" Susie Bright.
Read Part 1

To listen the full interview in MP3, click here.

RU SIRIUS: Tell us a bit about your psychedelic sex workshop.

SUSIE BRIGHT: OK. About a year ago. I got invited to this conference in San Jose called "Sacred Elixirs."



I wouldn't have paid any attention to that name because I'm an atheist. When people say sacred, I'm always snoozing... I don't pay attention. But then, I found out that it was a reunion of the heaviest, coolest, smartest people in psychedelics. Oh! That sacred? I'm there! Oh my god, it was so fabulous. There were so many fantastic people there. And Sasha Shulgin delivered a chemistry lesson that made me realize that if I'd had him as a science teacher, everything could have turned out differently. For him, it's like a musician talking about music. It's a language.

RU: Plus he speaks in this rapid high pitch. It's like getting a download of information from some kind of alien.

SB: I just couldn't wait to go home and write about all the things people talked about. But while I was there, some of us women noticed that virtually every presenter was a guy; all the poetry was read by fellows — it was almost quaint. We didn't, like, have a hissy fit about it, it was just sort of dumb. There were so many interesting women there. Every woman I met there, I wanted to spend hours talking to. Everyone was so interesting and intelligent. So some of us started brainstorming about what would be fun to talk about at a woman-oriented conference. And I said, "Well, so many things. I mean: sex. And not just the erotics of sex, the pleasures of sex, but sex in terms of one's sexual life cycle. A lot of us here have our memories of what it was like when we discovered psychedelics as young people. But then, what happens when you become a mother? What happens as you age? How does your relationship to your sexual life cycle and your drug of choice change over time? I don't know. No one talks about this! Wouldn't it be great if we did?"

So we got a group of women together at this crazy sort of "Peacock retreat" in Sonoma run by a woman who's really into Egyptology. She has a lot of gorgeous peacocks wandering around, which kind of added a little atmosphere. It was so much fun. It was like fifty people. You got to know everybody on a first-name basis.

The untold story — which I didn't get until I was there — was the generation gap. We had a lot of good talks about it. There were these young people who were in MAPS and Erowid — they're like these new groups that are trying to decriminalize drugs and raise drug consciousness in a very contemporary fashion.

RU: They're very organized and intelligent and digital.

SB: Yeah. They're very geeky.

STEVE ROBLES: Drug nerds.

SB: They're drug nerds! Thank you. They aren't drug hippies. And they said very politely — we don't want to just sit around listening to how great your acid trip was in 1969. And they were right. They want to hear about stuff that's happening now, and in their future. At one point this amazing young woman who everybody seemed to revere stood up. She looked like the all-American girl. She was like Gidget on acid.

RU: I think Gidget was on acid

SB: She asked, "How many people here are acid babies, or had an acid baby?" And I hadn't heard that expression in a long time — the notion that someone would trip and conceive, or that someone might be the child of such a conception... I just haven't been keeping up! And several people in the room raised their hands and told their story. It was so great to have that kind of honesty. Because the way the media played it — it was all about how you're going to take acid and you're going to screw up your baby's chromosomes. They're going to be wandering around going "Blll bllll bbbb bbbb bbbb" for the rest of their life.

RU: But that "Bbbb bbbb blbbb bbbb bbbb was going to be very cosmically meaningful! (Laughter)

SB: But of course, it was just like real life. Some people were fine — brilliant, went to Harvard, had lovely lives, grew beautiful gardens. Other people...

SR: ...did go "bbbb bbbb bbbb bbbb!"

SB: ...didn't fare so well.

RU: LSD is so non-toxic in the amount that you have to take to get high that it shouldn't really...

SB: Yeah, whether their parents took it had nothing to do with what happened in anyone's future.

And then, a number of the older women started talking about their parents being in hospice or dying. We talked a lot about cancer and what it was like to give your elders a final trip before they die. It was so moving.

I came to my sex workshop with little slips of paper and pencils. And I said, "We're all experts here. I would just like to get some honest reaction to some questions in terms of what you've noticed about your drug experiences. What's your favorite drug? What didn't you like? Why do you use? Why don't you use? What makes sex special?" One of the touchier subjects was about those times when you've had really great, insightful, memorable sex with somebody when you were both tripping; but you knew deep inside that if you weren't tripping, you probably wouldn't have done it with them. And so, should you not have done that? You know, "Am I bad?" or "How embarrassing." It's that notion that without chemistry there would've been no chemistry. But maybe it's like saying you really loved going to Paris with someone, but you don't want to live with them here in San Francisco. I mean, there are certain things you're going to do with certain people within certain boundaries. Outside of those boundaries, it wouldn't work.

RU: Did anybody complain about getting married one week after taking Ecstasy with somebody?

SB: No, not at all!



RU: Were there patterns that emerged? You were talking earlier about people having experiences when they were younger, and then maybe different ones after they were mothers and so forth. Were there discernible patterns or similarities?

SB: Well, I have all these index cards that I compile on my blog. If you go to my blog, you can check this sort of thing out — just find the drug section, or search for women and psychedelics. It was interesting how some old standards really went throughout the whole crowd. Somebody wrote down just one thing on her card: "Pot and caffeine." And everyone said, "Yeah!!"

SR: It's a beautiful, beautiful thing.

SB: It was so simple! It was like somebody holding up a perfect lettuce.

SR: Kind of the reasonable person's version of a speedball. It's not going to send you to the grave.

One topic that's come up on this show a couple of times is where sex positivity and drug culture collide in a bad way. There's one vital element of the sex positivity movement that has this idea that sex and drugs — and sex and alcohol — don't mix because you're capable of bad judgment. This fits with what you were talking about earlier — people who have sex inspired by psychedelics when they may not have had sex without them.

SB: Last week, we were criticizing and laughed about the preacher who enjoyed his sex on meth — you know, he liked speed and sex together. And from a purely drug enthusiast point of view, it's like, well... yes! I mean, if you haven't tried it...

RU: Intense orgasms... very localized.

SB: In terms of sheer sensation, why shouldn't people be able to see, "Well, this is what it feels like?" And another person could say, "Well, Vicodin! Why not some sort of morphine derivative?" Any kind of connection of orgasm to anything seems like a legitimate topic. I remember somebody told me that after they went through menopause, they loved having an orgasm and a hot flash simultaneously. And I said, "Really? I had no idea there was something to look forward to!" That stimulated my imagination.

We all enjoy the notion of sensation. The problem is addiction really, isn't it? You can become dependent and not even get off any more because of your tolerance. And the other thing Steve mentioned — this sense of losing your "safety belt." "Oh, you didn't use the condom. Oh, you jumped off the bridge" — that sense that you couldn't take care of yourself as well as you needed to because that sense of self-protection was gone. And our society really hasn't figured out how to handle this very well. Our only answer to all of that is clamp down, criminalize — lock people up. It's not like I've sat down and figured out how I would run my little SIMS game if I was in charge, but it would involve tremendous education. I started home schooling my daughter, and one reason was that they started doing drug programs in lieu of science in my daughter's elementary school. I hit the roof! I said. "You're not going to go through this." And I combed the bookshelves. I thought — there's got to be a book for young people that talks about drugs as plants, as medicine, as consciousness.

RU: There is Andrew Weil's book, From Chocolate to Morphine: Everything You Need to Know About Mind-Altering Drugs.

SB: See? You and I are on the same wavelength. Andrew Weil's book From Chocolate to Morphine is written more towards a smart high school/early college level, but I got it for my kid a lot earlier. I couldn't find anything else. That's it!

But it's pathetic that there's only one book that tries to address drugs from a wholistic point of view.

RU: And it's dated, also.

SB: There needs to be a lot more. Most of the people at the conference I went to are in families. They have kids, or they're kids living with parents. And I met lots of people who could talk to their family members about this. It's a two-way street.

RU: That's new.

SR: There are two levels of the discussion. One is obviously in the public policy level, which is a complete disaster. I was just reading today in the news that nobody takes abstinence seriously in the generation that is having it thrust down their throat by this administration

RU: Nice metaphor!

SR: At the same time, they don't know what the hell to do because there's a vacuum. They're not teaching safe sex. That's a complete disaster.

RU: It's the worst possible combination.

SR: Exactly! But there's also a simplistic viewpoint within the sex positive community in terms of drugs and in terms of safe sex. There's this real binary thing like: "Well, you always have safe sex, and you never have sex on drugs! Or drunk!" And it's really naive to think that people will resonate with that and always follow it in the actual world. It may be just as simplistic as the Bush thing.

SB: I've been to the Clean and Sober session in the sex community. Fine, I can go with that. But on the other hand, I like to have this bohemian sense of indulging this and indulging that. Anyway, somebody just told me last night that there's this hallucinogen that that just cures you of heroin addiction in one snap. Of course, it's illegal in America.

RU: Ibogaine. Although it's not exactly a snap. I's a very intense, difficult experience. It's quick, though. It's fast.

SR: It's a snap compared to the old-fashioned way of kicking smack, which was just to lock yourself in a goddamn asylum for...

RU: You sit down and have a really intense and unforgiving review of your entire inner psychology for about 24 hours. You might be happier going through withdrawal.

SB: I am impatient.

RU: This Ibogaine could be a tremendous thing. There's a great book about it. The theory in the book is that you don't kick heroin, you kick consumerism.

SB: Wow! Light me up! You mean my shoe problem would go away?

SR: Does it also get rid of chronic gas?

RU: We were talking before about sex positivism. I've thought a lot about the whole 1960s sexual revolution idea that was expressed by Xavier Hollander in The Happy Hooker: My Own Story. She said, "Sex is the nicest thing two people can do for one another." And that was very hippie — "nice, nice, nice." And actually, in the mid-70s people sort of realized that hippies weren't very sexy — and people who are naked all the time aren't very sexy. And everybody started going back to night clubs. And it seems to me that really good sex exists on the boundary between total liberation and taboo. And I think that shows up in a lot of the stories in your own book as well. If there isn't some friction or some tension, then it becomes less interesting.

SB: Well, it certainly becomes less interesting in literature. I tell people in my erotic writing workshops, "You may want to talk about a lovely day at the beach, culminated by a warm cuddle in the missionary position and that may have happened and been great. I believe it. But for literature, you're going to need a conflict or else no one will keep reading it, so get hit by a tidal wave somewhere halfway through your story." But that's different from sexuality. I mean, I confess to you — I'm a hippie. So I like nudity, and I like hippie sex, and I think hot tubs are fun.

RU: I guess I'm like an early 1970s person. I just didn't start getting off until people put their clothes back on.

SB: Do you have to go to either of these extremes?

RU: Well, that's my point. It's somewhere on the boundary between this idea of total liberation and a sense that there's something a little bit naughty or whatever — there's some tension there. Even the act itself, there's a certain tension and release. It could be a guy thing.

SB: No, not at all.

RU: Actually, speaking of gender differences, I want to read from a piece in your book by Daniel Duane. He writes: "For men, the fundamental wrong is an active infringement on the rights of another. By punching me, you violate my right not to be punched. For women, torts have more to do with the failure to fulfill responsibility." On my other show — NeoFiles - we've had some discussion about gender distinctions and the question of to what degree are gender distinctions innate. And here, this guy is putting right up at the front of his story that there are innate gender distinctions. In terms of erotic literature, my idea is that guys like to watch it on TV and women like to read it. Do you find more women in your audience? And what do you think in general about the discussion about gender distinctions in terms of sex?

SB: Well, everyone would love to get to the bottom of that question — is one group of people more visual than another, is another group of people more aroused by writing than another? We don't have any serious study or research.

JEFF DIEHL: There was a government study. It was part of a controversial congressional campaign involving Vernon Robinson. There was an NIH study where they showed women pornography. They connected probes to their genitalia and measured the arousal level as they watched various images like people having sex and animals having sex. I don't know what the results were, but there was a study.

RU: No people having sex with animals, though.

Actually, I think that study showed that women enjoyed looking at pornography.

SB: What a shock.

RU: Stop the presses!



SB: I've noticed from my raw empirical studies that a lot of women respond to visual stimuli. I think it's obvious. Look at how fashion magazines are sold. If women didn't like to watch, they wouldn't be so visually sensitive to the many things they do enjoy. Also, I always have a survey in the back of my book where I ask people what they like and so forth, and I ask about their gender. And it's remained around 50% the whole time. I meet a lot of men who say, "I want a story." Who doesn't like a story? So the sexist description of one being one way and one another... I don't buy it. Women certainly tend to realize their sexual fantasies much later than men. It takes them longer to feel confident about expressing them, searching for them, asking for them, and creating them. I mean, there's not a little boy on earth who doesn't know where his penis is, but a lot of women don't know where their clit is until they're much older. Can you imagine? Just ask a man, "What if you didn't know where your cock was and had no idea how to get off? And then, by some bizarre accident, you found out. And then you were afraid that if anyone knew, you would be expelled from your family and no one would ever want you — that you could never be a spouse or a parent.

RU: (Ironically) That's exactly what happened to me! (Laughter)

SR: And you weren't even Catholic!

SB: I talk to women who say, "You know, I just don't know about erotica. I'd rather not get close to that." And as I start exploring their sensual life, I start to find out that they have lots of things that give them visual pleasure; or they think that romances are really hot. And other women who have come into their own sexually will tell you point-blank: I want Rocco Siffredi. And I want him pulling my hair. And I want it right now. They don't make any bones about it.

A lot of us have been being frank about what we want from sex. It's not just because we're exhibitionists. We want to make it more common for women to speak as if they're sexual, just like any other animal in the kingdom.

See also:
Susie Bright Lets It All Out
World Sex Laws
Why Sarah's Sex Life Matters
Is It Legal Porn or Illegal Porn


Read More

SF Writer Rudy Rucker: Everything Is Computation


Rudy Rucker's novels are fun and funny romps. Rucker leads us through complex, technology-rich, multi-leveled worlds that teach us about how the universe works through the eyes of a mathematician, a scientist, and a humorist. His characters are usually young, hip and unsinkable. But lurking inside all of the playfulness, Rucker's examinations of the characters and characteristics of our time always have satirical bite and a moral center.



Aside from that, he's a great fuckin' guy. I know, because he worked with me on Mondo 2000: A User's Guide to the New Edge. His novels have included The Hacker and the Ants: Version 2.0, Master of Space and Time, and Frek and the Elixir. The most recent of his many non-fiction works was Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul: What Gnarly Computation Taught Me About Ultimate Reality, the Meaning of Life, and How to Be Happy. And then there's his delightful new novel, Mathematicians in Love and his new science fiction webzine, Flurb. We talked about these projects in this two-show conversation for NeoFiles.
To listen to the full interview Part 1 in MP3, click here.

To listen to the full interview Part 2 in MP3 click here.

RU Sirius: Here's an early quote from Mathematicians in Love: "The key new insight is that any given dynamical system can be precisely modeled by a wide range of other dynamical systems." And that seems to be central to the mechanism of your novel.

RUDY RUCKER: Yeah. That's a sort of dream of mathematics that emerges every few years. It's emerged as the idea of catastrophe theory. And then again as chaos theory. And then as dynamic systems theory — complexity theory — Wolfram's A New Kind of Science. Basically, there are only a few possible forms that underlie the things that are happening in the world. And the feeling is that if I can sort of strip something like the weather down to its rawest mathematical form, I can then look at that form and I can find another system that actually shares the same pattern. Because if there's only a few little patterns and yet there's so many diverse things in the world — lots of things are actually going to have the same pattern. So a cup of tea can be a perfectly good model for a hurricane. And then, to predict what the hurricane's going to do, all you have to do is prepare your cup of tea so it's in the same state as the hurricane. Then you watch it for a minute and read out where the hurricane's going to be. So you begin to use nature as a kind of computing system. And that's the key idea in the novel. The characters take this gimmick and they're able to make a device that perfectly predicts the future.

RU: As I understand it, the idea is basically that computation is implicit in everything. And we learn how to use that.

RR: Yeah. A lot of the ideas in my recent novels come from Stephen Wolfram's work. Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul was largely about his work. And the basic idea is that any natural process can be regarded as a computation. We define computation in a fairly broad sense to mean any deterministic system that obeys definite laws. And it doesn't have to be digital.

The digital thing is sort of a red herring. We have this idea that being a computer is about being digital. But computers aren't actually digital, OK? They're made of a bunch of electrons. And the electrons are fuzzy analog wave functions.

So you can look at a brook or an air current and you can say, "That's doing something complex." And if you look at the natural world, there are four kinds of things that you see. Where something is sort of stable — not changing — it's static. Or else it's doing something periodic. Or it's completely fuzzy and like totally skuzzy and screwed up. Or it's in the Interzone — what I call the gnarly zone, between being periodic and being completely skuzzy.

Life is gnarly. Plants are gnarly. Air currents are gnarly. Water currents are gnarly. Fire is gnarly. In Wolfram's view, every one of these actually embodies a universal computation, similar to a universal Turing Machine or a personal computer, and in principle they can compute anything that you want it to. I agree with him.

RU: I've never really been quite able to understand Wolfram's stuff. But I've heard that he shows that there can be types of evolution that differ from Darwinian evolution.

RR: He does talk about evolution a little bit. People will say, "How could a butterfly have evolved that precise pattern on its wings? Or how could we evolve the exact shape of our body." And he makes the point that natural systems are actually fairly robust computations. They like to do things like make spots on butterfly wings or grow limbs from animals. The genetic code doesn't have to be as finely tweaked as people sometimes imagine. You could actually perturb it quite a bit and you would still get plants and animals that look pretty similar to the way we look now. So it's not so much that things evolve to perfection. They just get to a level of functioning well enough. In fact, we aren't tuned to complete optimality.

RU: Functioning "well enough" plays into your novel. There's the development of a technology that makes the lead character mathematician's theory into something that's usable as a prediction machine. And the guy who's marketing this machine — his attitude is good enough is good enough. And he starts putting it out there.

RR: That's right. Computer scientists proved that all sorts of things are impossible to do. And then someone backs off and says, "Well can't I get something working reasonable well?" And it turns out not to be such a difficult problem.

RU: I'd venture to say that this novel is even more playful than your last one, Frek and the Elixir. Both books are satirical and there are recognizable dark forces based on current culture. But with this one, your main characters are pretty much consistently fun and they seem to exist in a somewhat more pleasant universe. Would you agree with that?

RR: Yeah, although the book actually starts in one universe, and then the characters are in a second universe, and then in a final third universe, which is our universe. I've described it as being like different drafts of a novel. If you're a novelist, you think, "Why wouldn't God do successive drafts of the universe?" And once he's finished one version, that draft would still exist and there'd be people living in it.



RU: Like your giant Jellyfish goddess in the novel. This sort-of parallel universe or metaverse is important in the story.

RR: There's sort of control room that's based on Micronesia — it looks a little like Micronesia. It's called La Hampa, which is Spanish for "the underworld." But it's not underworld in the sense of Hades. It's more underworld in the sense of gangland.

And the idea is — if you're going to meet people from all over the galaxy, the one way that you might be able to talk to them would be with math. Mathematicians, at least, like to believe that mathematics would be the same pretty much everywhere. Though if you delve deep enough, you can call it into question.

Anyway, in La Hampa, the cockroaches are oriented towards logic. And there are giant slime creatures that are oriented towards studying infinity. The lizards are into analysis, and there are these cone shell snails. This would dovetail with some of your interests, RU...

RU: Conotoxins! I'm searching around for a source.

RR: The cover of Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul is a picture of a textile cone shell. I did that because of Wolfram's work with cellular automata. There are these interesting, gnarly, irregular patterns that form into textile cone shell. It looks like this space-time track of a one-dimensional cellular automaton. It's a lot of little triangles. So I thought I should have giant cone shell snails as the aliens in my next science fiction book. And then, sometimes you get one of these gifts from the gods that happens when you're writing — something appears that's exactly what you need. So I discovered this article in Scientific American about these innocent-looking sea slug type snails that are actually very vicious. They send out this long snout with this little tiny tooth that's filled with this very potent venom called a conotoxin. And some scientists recently found a way to start using those conotoxins on humans. It's the ultimate painkiller. But it's such a powerful drug that you can't inject it. It has to be dripped directly into your spinal column. If it gets into your bloodstream, you have a heart attack. And as a side effects, people started hallucinating so much they have to be kept in straightjackets. It's not a light recreational drug, by any means.

RU: Although people do ingest some in your story, or they claim to have ingested some.

RR: At least at one point, my main character thinks he might have snorted some. It's going around.

RU: There's been some talk about parallel universes within the context of science and math and so forth. And I'm sure you have some thoughts and can tell us a little bit about how people have thought about this in the actual world.

RR: There are a number of theories. A theory that I've drawn on recently comes from a scientist named Lisa Randall. She wrote an interesting book called Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe's Hidden Dimensions. There's this problem in physics with the fact that gravity is weaker than the other kinds of natural forces. Its basic intensity is dialed down really low. And physicists wonder — why isn't it similar? And she has this explanation. Maybe there's this other brane, as they call it — there's a membrane, and part of reality is over there. And somehow it's siphoning off some of our gravity. I like that idea of parallel universes. It's sort of a specialized physics use of the parallel universe idea. The one that's used in more fiction is the old quantum mechanical model that whenever something could randomly go this way or that way, maybe it goes both ways, and then both the universes exist.

RU: It keeps on splitting off

RR: Yeah. But I've never liked that model. I don't want every possible universe to exist because then nothing matters. You know? It's like you say, "I want a sculpture" and they give you the block of marble and they say, OK, the Venus de Milo's in there. Big fucking deal.

RU: Do you think we're in an infinite universe; or an approximately infinite universe; or a quite finite universe?

RR: I think there's a finite number of parallel universes. I think there are successive drafts of the universe that have been worked on. And they're getting better.

RU: Like the jellyfish.

RR: But is our universe infinite? It's interesting — fifteen years ago it seemed like the physicists had it all wrapped up — you know, we had a big bang, our universe is so-and-so large. It's going to collapse back. It's a hypersphere. End of story. Now, all their theories are going down the toilet. Supposedly 70% of the mass in the universe is dark energy.

RU: I keep hearing 90%.

RR: Well, there's 10% matter, 20% dark matter, and then the rest of it's dark energy. And they don't even know what dark energy is. But supposedly the universe is expanding faster all the time and it will never stop. That also means that it's been infinite all along, oddly enough. That's interesting. And if you have this idea that the universe is physically infinite, you sort of don't need parallel universes. Because if you say there's infinitely many stars, then you can sort of get into a law of probability kind of thing. You say, well look, all we need to do is hit the roulette wheel 10 to the 300th times, and the 10 to the 300th time, I'll get a planet that looks exactly like earth, except me and my social security number will be slightly different.

RU: Sometimes I suspect that other dimensions are leaking into ours and that's where some strange, unexplained experiences come from.

RR: I'm amenable to the idea of there being different levels of reality. I've always liked that idea.

RU: Moving on... let's not forget that this book has sex, drugs, math and rock and roll.

RR: If I'm writing a novel, my hero might as well have more fun than I do. (Laughter) So he's a guitarist in a sort-of punk rock band but in this world they're called dreggers



RU: I love the way the main, young character in your book keeps on getting into more complicated and difficult and weird and life-threatening situations. But he pretty much keeps on grooving. He keeps on grooving on the mathematics of things. It seems sort of like his way out of pain and depression.

RR: Yeah. That's my life story.

RU: Let's talk briefly about the politics of the novel. These guys are mathematicians. They have a powerful concept. And they have to decide, on graduating from college, about getting gigs and dealing with a particular corporation that turns out to be deeply tied into a political organization that is sort of a mirror world for the Bush administration.

RR: That's right. People often said cyberpunk was political, but I've really been putting more politics in my books in the last four years or so, because I feel that it's such a dark time in American politics. We have this completely illegitimate government. Bush didn't even really got elected. And it's doing such harm every day.

In the sixties, when the Vietnam War was raging, we had underground comics to cheer us up. So I want to write science fiction that support people and gives them more hope about the future. So I have an evil President called Joe Doakes who is with the Heritagist party, and a much more evil vice president named Frank Ramirez. And one of the highpoints for me, in writing the book, is when they do this giant punk-metal rock concert at this baseball stadium in San Francisco that has recently been renamed Heritagist Park, because the Heritage Party has bought the naming rights. And they manage to bring down the regime with that concert, which is sort of cool.

RU: Talk a little bit about the role of vlogging in the novel.

RR: Yeah, I myself blog a lot. And I'm interested in the idea of vlogging — video blogging. I put a lot about it into Mathematicians in Love. And this is one of those times where I was a little bit ahead of the future curve because in the year that it took for the book to come out, YouTube got big and vlogging really caught on. I push it a little further in the novel. There are people that are wearing a kind of camera called a vlog ring. You just wear this thing all day long, and it basically uploads everything you're doing, 24/7. And people compete over whose life is the most interesting. It's sort of like an "American Idol" thing.

RU: It's called "One in a Million." (Laughs)

RR: Right. And they're giving the vlog rings away at McDonalds so everybody will join. And, of course the Heritagists are combing through the data and using it.

RU: Right. People are doing the NSA's job for them.

RR: Yeah! The better to manipulate us.

RU: So tell us a bit about your SF webzine FLURB. What motivated you to start a science fiction webzine?

RR: Well, now and then I'll write a short story and I'll think, "Where can I publish this?" There aren't a huge number of short fiction markets in SF. There are two or three mainstream magazines. There's Asimov's Science Fiction magazine. There's Analog Science Fiction and Fact. And in England, there's Interzone. And then there are also some online zines. But most of the online zines don't actually pay you anything. So I thought it would be fun to gather some stories that are to my taste from my old friends and colleagues; and maybe some new people that I can contact and get interested. It's a little zine that comes out maybe three or four times a year. It's not a big deal, but it's another place to put my stories out there.

RU: On John Brockman's webzine Edge, they asked a bunch of famous scientists and thinkers and digerati types a question: "What are you optimistic about and why?" And a lot of people answered that they were optimistic because people were giving up on the idea of God — "the God delusion" as Richard Dawkins says. And your answered popped out at me because it was completely different and very much the opposite of what many people were saying.

RR: At the time I wasn't actually feeling optimistic. But I'm usually optimistic about my science fiction. So these ideas that I'm describing here are things that are going into some novels that I'm working on now. I would actually call this section "Universal Telepathy." But Brockman titled it "Unknowable Gaian Mind."
Read Rudy's brief Edge entry: click here. No, really, to continue the interview, read Rudy's entry.

RU: So I think Richard Dawkins and the Amazing Randi are right now having telepathic communication about how to shut Rudy Rucker up! It's a pretty risky statement to make in a forum that's full of major science heads.

RR: (Laughs) Well, yeah. The thing is — I think of myself as a science fiction writer now. So I no longer feel that I have to be reputable or responsible in what I say. (Laughs) You know? A lot of times, when people are asked to speculate about the future, they'll simply repeat the ideas that are in the air. It's like sheep standing in their stable, and they're urinating on the floor. And then they're lapping up the urine. And they're saying, "Gee, this sure tastes like piss, doesn't it?"

RU: (Laughs) Speaking of colorful images, you have a film in pre-production with Michael Gondry, based on Master of Space and Time. And I heard Dan Clowes was hired to write a script. Is that still happening?

RR: I'm less optimistic about that now. I haven't heard anything from Michael for, oh, almost a year. And I think the option expires next month. And my agent asked him if he wanted to renew it, and they said they didn't want to renew it. So I think they're not going to make the movie. I love Michael's work. He's a brilliant man.

RU: Before I let you go I want to ask you one more question. It's the same question that I asked Cory Doctorow on The R.U. Sirius show a couple of weeks ago. Your thought processes in your material is very science fiction-y. What novels outside of the science fiction genre do you read, and what do you really love?

RR: Well, recently I was re-reading some of the stories by Luis Borges. He's maybe my favorite writer of all. Just this week I'm reading a book by Charles Portis called Gringos. That's a really great book. It came out in the nineties. It's really fun to read. A bunch of hippies go down to Mexico for a harmonic convergence while the world's coming to an end. The saucers are landing. The usual kind of thing. He has this very jaded, dry tone. And, of course, I'm also reading Pynchon's new book, which seems like a drop-off in quality.

RU: Did you read Gravity's Rainbow as soon as it came out?

RR: I did. I read it — I read it for about five years. I kept re-reading it. It had a huge influence on me. I learned a lot about writing from reading Pynchon. He's such a beautiful stylist.

RU: It was very difficult to get started. I started it myself about four or five times before actually reading it all the way through. And I found that I had to make notes to read the entire book.

RR: Yeah. In a way it reproduced the experience of how you find out about things when you're growing up. You get a piece here, a piece there, and it takes a while to fit it all together into the whole narrative.



RU: But you would love puzzle types of novelists.

RR: Up to a point I like puzzles, but I also like a story that keeps you turning the pages. Stories that kick ass. I don't like to get too arty.

See also:
When Cory Doctorow Ruled The World
Neil Gaiman Has Lost His Clothes

Read More

Sex Expert Susie Bright Lets It All Out


Susie Bright

The New York Times called Susie Bright "the avatar of American Erotica." She was co-founder and editor of the first Women's sex magazine, On Our Backs: Entertainment for the Adventurous Lesbian, from 1984-1991. Since then, she's written and edited about a zillion books, and taught many courses on sexuality. Currently, she posts regularly on her own blog. Her audio show, In Bed With Susie Bright, is distributed by Audible.com. She was a sex-scene choreographer and consultant for the Wachowski Brothers' first film, Bound, in which she also had a cameo role.

Susie appeared on two consecutive episodes of The RU Sirius Show, primarily to discuss the anthology, The Best American Erotica 2007, which includes stories by Dennis Cooper and the late Octavia Butler, among many others. (She's been editing the Erotica series since 1993.) We did, of course, digress quite a bit from the main topic.

As with the audio interview, we are running these text edits in two segments, so click here for the second half.

RU Sirius Show co-host Diana Brown joined me in interviewing Susie Bright about her "Ted Haggard Betting Pool," teen sex, and other illicit thoughts.
To listen the full interview in MP3, click here.

RU SIRIUS: The introduction to The Best American Erotica 2007 is quite an intense little piece. Would you please read a segment from it?

SUSIE BRIGHT: Sure. I called it "The Lolita Backlash." Every year, the stories in the book tend to magnetize to a certain theme. And this year, it had to do with a rather vicious generation gap.
When was the moment when our youth become self-aware of their charms, as well as its desperation? It seems younger now, although that could just be my mother talking. But look at our 21st century culture. Every teenager knows the time to launch a career as a porn star is in the weeks following high school graduation. Celebrity journalism shows us that Hercules and Aphrodite will both be toppled in their early 20s without massive intervention. It's no wonder the commodification of good looks and muscles has wrought an erotic backlash.

Virginity. Authenticity. The natural pearl. This is what is idealized today, as well as commercialized beyond all recognition. Fake sex — titillation — is for sale; real sex is elusive and underground.

Take this state of affairs, and couple it with a pox of unprecedented meddling in people's personal lives by the religious right, and we have a toxic brew. Privacy, freedom, and nature are gasping for breath. Hypocrites alone have something to crow about.

In my fifteen years of editing BAE, I have never seen such a yowling, lustful, spitting breach between young and old.

Of course, such observations are taboo. Lower your voice! Young people aren't supposed to have a sexual bone in their bodies, right? And their elders, if they are immune to beauty, and make all the rules, should be able to keep it in their pants. What a squawk.

There is so much guilt and fear about the obvious — that young people do have hormones, and old people aren't altogether blind — that helpful discussion in the public sphere has shriveled. It is left to fiction for the truth to come out.

The truth looks like this: any conflict has the potential to become erotic. That might get complicated, tragic, or unpredictable. Eros is kissing cousins with aggravation. The conscience of our society drives us to protect our young, to provide for them, to cheer and cherish their independence. But we wouldn't need any conscience if it wasn't a challenge, if it didn't demand sacrifice. The temptations include neglect, exploitation, coercion, and dependence.

RU: So the introduction to your book — and much of the fiction in the book — broaches the highly taboo subject of adolescent sex; and adolescent sex as it relates to adults. We had Tim Cavanaugh on the show — he was the editor of Reason magazine's blog at the time. I asked him if they'd ever dealt with the age of consent. And he admitted they hadn't. It was clear that this is kind of the third rail for some libertarians. Do you worry about Fox News noticing your book? I think this is probably a bigger taboo than murder in America now.



SB: How interesting. When I was in my twenties, I was invited on the Phil Donahue Show. He was sort of Oprah before Oprah.

So I was brought in with a bisexual male friend of mine to represent bisexuality. We were told we'd talk about what we noticed sexually about the differences between sleeping with men and sleeping with women. And they made it sound like it was not pejorative or prejudiced or trying to start a fire — just, you know, "What do you notice?" And we thought that would be a lot of fun. So we got picked up in one of those big limos and taken to the studio. And inside the limo was this very pink, perspiring couple from Florida. And I said, "You're going to be on the show too?" And they said, "Yes. We're from Exodus." Now Exodus, at the time, was the premier gay conversion group. So it was one of those "gotcha" shows.

RU: (Mockingly) Woo-hoo! Gay conversion — it's coming back!

SB: It's coming back stronger than ever. They've got it down to three weeks now — a three week spa.

DIANA BROWN: Does it come with a French manicure?

SB: So on Donahue's show, he basically tried to get the bible couple to freak out on us — about how we're heathens — and vice versa. It was so humiliating. We didn't talk about anything that I had planned to talk about. And at one point, I just opened my big mouth and said, "I came of age in the seventies, and I lost my virginity shortly before my 16th birthday with an unemployed soap opera actor."

DB: Like you were supposed to in America in the seventies!

SB: Yes! It's a banal story. Exactly. Everybody did that.

RU: ...Since the seventies.

DB: I think it's in the handbook!

SB: So, all of the sudden Phil turns. He's thrilled. And he says, "So you were a victim of child abuse!"

DB: Did he cut to a commercial at that moment?

SB: I just thought, "You son of a bitch." What a gratuitous dig. And, you know, neither I nor anybody in my family feels any regrets or fears. It's not like, "Gee, Susie was in an awful lot of trouble or panic or danger." I wasn't.

Of course, this is a tricky subject and there has to be sensitivity to the psychological and physical development of young people. And some people are such old souls so young. And other people are just crawling out of their egg at age twenty-five. You also have quite a noticeable difference in terms of adolescent girls and boys. I see my daughter and her friends, and some kind of look ten and some kind of look twenty-something — and they're all around sixteen. They are so different. The ones who suffer the most are the ones who look ten, but emotionally and mentally they want to do everything. And then you'll hear about a girl who had breasts when she was ten, and everyone was sexualizing her. And she just wanted to climb a tree and be left alone. There are so many misunderstandings. And adults are constantly projecting their notions of what they want on them. In my case — and in a lot of cases, I was the one who was interested and curious and seeking sex.

RU: You hear that story all the time.

DB: Yeah.

SB: Problems come from older people who don't have empathy and compassion and respect. You get someone who decides; "Yeah! Girls want me!" (Laughter) "That teenaged girl over there? She digs me." That kind of narcissism is the problem.

We don't even talk about whether the sex in these scenarios is consensual. Is there coercion involved? What is the power relationship between these people? We fixate on stereotypes and miss the big picture. And another thing that doesn't get brought up is that, overwhelmingly, sexual abuse and that type of violence happens within families. If you could stop that, it would really be remarkable.

We have this idea, fostered by J. Edgar Hoover, that there are these monsters out there — strangers are going to come up and offer your child a lollipop. We're seeing that replayed now around the internet. There's a wonderful social scientist, Michael Males, who just had an opinion article in the New York Times. He's proved that your kid is safer alone on MySpace than in any shopping mall in America. I just loved reading his facts and figures, because it all makes sense to me.

RU: It seems so obvious, if you think about it.

SB: Yeah, it sure does. And of course, the guy who was running the predator arrest campaign for Homeland Security was exposing himself to 16-year-old girls at the mall. I'm not making this shit up! With all the fuss about Scooter Libby and Cheney, other things have been glossed over.

RU: Were they caught together?

SB: (Laughs) It fascinated me how it came out that officials who are supposedly in charge of protecting children turn out to be really creepy, totally non-consensual predators.

RU: Well, they're the ones who are attracted to that. I mean, just like a certain percentage of criminal sadists are attracted to law enforcement.

DB: The mice are guarding the cheese.



SB: That's a good way of putting it. So when people ask me about public policy, I think about the big picture. If this country had more active democracy; if we had decent health care and universal sex education, things would be better for young people. Anything you can do to give them power is going to work out. Anything you can do to foster good family relationships and support education is going to help. None of this is on the agenda for the United States right now.

DB: Well, you're doing something for young people on your web site — the Ted Haggard Betting Pool. And it's not just a snarky little jab at this fool Ted Haggard, who is all over the media. Proceeds of this Betting Pool are going to benefit a San Francisco youth group called LYRIC.

SB: Yes. LYRIC is a youth group. They do community support and activism for young people who realize that they're sexually different, whatever that might mean to them. And nobody makes you fill out a form to explain yourself. If you know that you're sexually different and you want a place where you don't have to be alone — and where you don't have to be stigmatized and shamed — you can go to them. And you might get support in terms of work and family that you won't get elsewhere. They're role models for young people getting together and doing it for themselves, while having adult advocates who have a lot of integrity. So I love them.

And when this whole mess with Reverend Ted Haggard happened... I mean, there you have the evangelical minister to end all evangelical ministers — the guy who could tell George Bush what to do — and he gets caught sucking cock on a regular basis.

RU: On crank.

SB: On crank.

RU: It's the only way to do it.

SB: No one wants to do it without meth anymore, apparently.

DB: "Cock on crank." I like the alliteration of it.

SB: And instead of copping to it, he said, "Hey. I was always heterosexual. It was just stress" — or whatever it was. And his church gave him a huge check, since they're hemorrhaging money. He signed a confidentiality agreement and was given a plane ticket to get out of town. And, of course, now the headlines are "Ted Haggard says he's 100% heterosexual."

DB: Didn't he go to a three-week spa?

SB: He went to a three-week spa to get over his homosexuality (which he wasn't really anyway.) I mean, the contradictions are endless.

RU: I love that. I mean, who's going into rehab today? It's become a daily thing now.

SB: So everyone I know was saying, "When do you think he'll slip?" So I said, "Let's do a betting pool." So some of us have started a site called "Bet on Ted." You just pick your date. We're going to give it a year. Any time this year. And to win, something has to happen with Ted that gets into the news or into the courts. We've come up with a list of things — all of them involve Ted cracking, and it hitting a news report. If you have the lucky date, then you win half the pot and the other half goes to our worthy cause: LYRIC. If nobody gets the right date — or Ted sneaks by all year and nothing comes out — then the whole pot will go to LYRIC too. So bet on Ted! I'm hoping we get somewhere with it.

One of my friends who wanted to bet said, "Can we send in a ringer?" And I said, "Yeah! Make it happen!"

DB: A hooker with a heart of gold that will bring him across.

SB: Exactly!

RU: I bet a lot of people are trying to reel him in, at this point. It's his lucky year, now!

DB: We're Ted fishing, now!

RU: Ted's going to get a lot of action this year... thanks to Susie Bright.

DB: (Makes a fly-casting sound.) What are we using for bait?

SB: One thing that's interesting: remember I told you about those founders of Exodus that I met at the "Donahue Show." The founders of Exodus finally did do the right thing. They fled Exodus, so to speak. They exited Exodus and said, "We are gay, God damn it! We're sorry we just did this to everybody." Virtually all the founders of all these horrible conversion therapies have recanted after a certain amount of time.

RU: It seems, in the thesis and antithesis of sexual revolution and then backlash; we've ended up in an incredibly tangled state of how we — as a culture — think about sexuality. We almost embrace the most intense kinds of sexual sophistication, and there's all this pornography around, and then there's the most intense kinds of Puritanism. And it's like it's all converged into one confused human being.

SB: Well, a lot of that porn is really about titillation and guilt. There's this, "Taste me! Taste me!" factor where you never really get to taste me. You know? "Come closer! I'll give you this little bit." But then once you get there, you're going to need to get a little bit more... and a little bit more. And you're always going to have to shell out. That's how they sell it. And it's also how they inspire political fear. It's a come-on! It's a con job. What you don't get is sexual honesty and real candor, where you really come through.

RU: They're creating people who behave that way! The relationship between the stripper and the paying customer — a lot of people relate to each other that way.

SB: I suppose so, except with real strippers, real love lives — it doesn't work like that. Even if you try to live in a fake persona, you can't maintain it all the time. It's impossible.

RU: There is a lovely story towards the end of the book — "The Wish Girls" — that gets underneath the emptiness behind those images.

SB: Yeah, that was a great story by a new author — Matthew Addison. His character is about thirty. When he was a teenager, he had an "I Dream of Jeannie" moment where he wished there were two hot, bouncy, magazine-y babes who would appear and be his love slaves. And he got his wish! They're the wish girls! Now, they've been around for fifteen years, and they do the same exact positions. And he was naive when he ordered them. And now he thinks, "Why did I make them identical except for their hair color? I wish one was 5'2" and one was 5'9"!" It drives him nuts that they're so limited. He yearns for more, but on the other hand — they bend over and get in position #19 and position #32 just like clockwork. And he feels guilty for his boredom and ennui with them. So what's in store for him next? Read the story.

RU: On the other hand, there's another story in there involving some porn stars and they're having a pretty interesting time, and their sex is pretty hot and so forth. Do you feel like there's a clear dividing line? Can you say, "This is bad porn; and this is good porn?" I'm suspicious of people judging what gets other people off.

SB: Well, I never walk into a room and say "(gasp) What!? That turns you on? You're gross." I mean, that would be the infantile...

RU: "Ewwwww."

SB: When it comes to "good porn" and "bad porn," you'll frequently see something that has obviously been made with the sloppiest intentions: "Fuck it. Let's get this done and get a quick buck." But as you watch it, there will be one 10-minute scene where the people in front of the camera actually had a moment. And it's caught there, because that's what the camera lens does. Other times, you'll be watching something that has been made with such high ideals, and you'll be, like: "I can't even keep my eyes open."

RU: There is this kind of a superior attitude of people who are sort of into underground sexuality...

DB: "More kinkier than thou."

SB: Yeah, but you have the same kind of conversations in every part of the art world — in music and painting and everything else. You have your little factions. You have auteurs. You have people who put a signature on the work they do and the moment you see it, you can tell it's one of their films.

I'll tell you an interesting story about this: one of the most important pornographers in history died recently — Gary Graver. He worked on some of the most influential films, including Bound. He inspired my choreography of the sex scenes for Bound. And his obit was in the New York Times, Variety, and every place else. But they didn't mention that he was a pornographer! His porn name was Robert McCallum. So they focused largely on the fact that he was Orson Welles' cameraman for thirty years. And he helped fund a lot of Orson's projects when Orson didn't have a dime coming in. It was the porn that let him do that! So I wrote a bunch of letters... "Why are you not saying... I mean, you talked about all of his exploitation work, his horror flicks, his slasher films. None of those are going to get any rave reviews."

It's laughable. He shot Steven Spielberg's first movie — he worked with everybody. His family certainly knows what he was doing. So why didn't they include that? And I got responses that showed the double standard that rules the land. It was like, "Well, we wouldn't do that. Why would we besmirch him?" Besmirch? They're the New York Times! If somebody murdered someone, but later discovered the cure for cancer, they would still mention that they served time for that murder. I mean, they dig up dirt! It's not all: "He had a wonderful life, and everything went swell!"

RU: Like Larry King interviewing Adolf Hilter... "You were a vegetarian, right?"

SB: Exactly! So why would they report on people's immorality, gambling, criminality, lawsuits — but they wouldn't mention that Gary Gravers did some of the most significant porn films of all time — films that are still for sale and have sold in every format.

RU: Before we wrap up, has it been a good life, being a "sexpert" for thirty years? Is it a big responsibility? Is it a lot of fun? Do you wish you were a fucking fishermen — like John Lennon used to say about being in The Beatles?

SB: On a personal level, sometimes I wish to be unknown. Having some celebrity around my sexuality can be weird. When it comes to sexual and personal attention, you're always afraid of people's agendas. I locked myself in the bathroom of the last sex party I went to, because somebody who I thought was interested in me really wanted me to read their manuscript.

RU: Well, that's scary for anybody — when somebody approaches you with a manuscript!

SB: It's like: "I don't want to see a manuscript, I want to fuck!" But in terms of having social influence — and I bet John Lennon would have said the same thing — you never get sick of influencing a conversation.

RU: Do you ever think it would've been cool to become famous as a writer about a different topic, like television or quantum physics or something like that?

SB: I do write about all kinds of subjects. And I have a few readers who know that part of me. I wrote for political publications for many years before my writing about sex started becoming commercially successful.

RU: Do you go off on many topics on your audio show?

SB: I certainly do. In fact...

RU: ...You get complaints? People like their narrowcasting!

SB: Sometimes I get complaints. I've got this one Republican listener. He writes me over and over again. He wants to discuss his marital situation at length. I keep quoting my favorite dominatrix to him: "We're not spanking Republicans any more. We're not servicing you with sex tips until you realize that this stuff that you're doing in bed, and your voting/political behavior are at odds. You're hurting people." Ow!



RU: We can't spank Ann Coulter?

SB: God, no! I wouldn't touch her with a 10-foot pole!

RU: Michelle Malkin? I do have my fantasies.

Click here for Part II

See Also:
Drugs and Sex and Susie Bright
Why Sarah's Sex Life Matters
World Sex Laws
Violet Blue SHOCKER: "I'd Do Bruce Campbell"
The Perversions of Perverted Justice

Read More

Why Chicks Don’t Dig The Singularity


Joe Quirk may be the world's first evolutionary psychology (or sociobiology) comic. That's not a big audience share yet, but his entertaining book, Sperm Are from Men, Eggs Are from Women: The Real Reason Men And Women Are Different, has been well received. By focusing on sex and relationships, Quirk is broadening the audience for the study of the genetic roots of human behaviors.

Quirk recently spoke at the Future Salon about the relationship between "The Singularity" and "sociobiology."

A few days before his talk, he joined me on my NeoFiles podcast to talk about this very same subject. Jeff Diehl joined me in asking Mr. Quirk some questions.
To listen the full interview in MP3, click here.

RU SIRIUS: How did you get interested in The Singularity?

JOE QUIRK: One of my friends, Steve Potter, a neuro-engineer used to tell me about this one guy, John Smart — about how he was a visionary, and he organized "Accelerated Change" conferences.

So about five years after hearing about him, I'm at Burning Man, and I'm riding my bike around. And at Burning Man, there are so many things competing for your attention — wonderful visual art and explosions and so forth — but it's sort of a non-verbal place. There isn't much intellectual stuff going on. And as I'm riding my bike around, and all these things are competing for my attention, over my left shoulder I hear the word "gene;" I hear the word "memes," and I stop. And there's this very unassuming white tent with a bunch of people sitting around on chairs as if they were at a lecture hall. And there's this good-looking guy in a woman's nightie. And I'm thinking, "How full of crap is this guy going to be? I know about this kind of stuff." So I stopped my bike to listen.

RU: How were his legs?

JQ: Very sexy. Maybe I'm revealing too much here. People do things at Burning Man that are not supposed to get out!



So I listened to this guy, and I knew just enough about what he was talking about to realize that he wasn't completely insane. And he was the one, at that time, drawing exponential curves [ed: see Ray Kurzweil's explanation of The Singularity] and describing the exponential nature of change. It was the first time I'd heard about that. So I listened to the lecture and thought, "That's a fascinating guy!" It turned out he was doing a lecture every day, so I kept coming back. The third time I came back, I was on a hallucinogen. I think that did influence me.

RU: He became more impressive? Kind of like the Grateful Dead?

JQ: Yeah, he became even more impressive and he had three heads. Anyway, I came back to talk to him, and we started talking about the different books we'd both read and eventually I found out he was the guy Steve Potter had told me about.

RU: So you just recently gave a lecture yourself at the "Future Forum" in Palo Alto titled "Why The Singularity Won't Work Without Sociobiology." So, why not?

JQ: All these ideas are founded on some assumptions about human nature. And I think some of the assumptions about human nature that we make in the futurist community are wrong. For instance, I've noticed chicks don't dig the singularity. For instance, I went to a recent Accelerated Change conference, and I actually counted up the people, and I found that less than a fifth of the presenters were women, and less than a sixth of the attendees were women.

RU:That sounds like a high count of women compared to some geek stuff that I've been to!

JQ:Yeah, when there's actual machinery, it's like 1% women. But I knew a lot of the women who were there, and they were there because it was their guy's primary interest. So Ray Kurzweil got up there and Moira Gunn was interviewing him, and everybody got to submit a question. And Moira would pick her three favorite questions. So there were all these technical questions about how will the singularity do this, how will the singularity do that. And my question was, "How will the Singularity get laid... err help me get laid?" So she picked my question as an extra one as a way of dismissing it. She said, "Somebody put a joke question in here, and can you believe that there are people here who would write something like this? It's 'how will the Singularity help me get laid?'" And then she throws it aside and tries to move on to another question. But Kurzweil says, "Hang on. Hang on. I want to answer that." And then he goes into this long technical description...

JEFF DIEHL: ...and then he got out his slide rule, and straightened out his bow tie. [Laughter]

JQ: Exactly! It was stuff like, "You can wear body suits." He was talking about tactile things and about how people can caress each other from far away. And it was so funny. It's too bad this wasn't filmed, because Moira Gunn's face was getting more and more skeptical, the more he kept talking. She kept saying things like, "Well, what about intimacy? You know, what about actual interacting with a real human being?" And Kurzweil wasn't picking up on what she was talking about. You could tell he enjoys the subject, but he gave a long-winded technical explanation for how to get off. And she was talking about sex as a medium for connecting to another person's soul. So right there, you're seeing this divergence between men's priorities and women's priorities. My wife doesn't care about the Singularity. When I talk about it, it doesn't resonate for her. It doesn't sound exciting to be able to put a machine inside your brain or something like that.

JD: What about the real prospect of an indefinite life span? I think that appeals to women!

JQ: I think it does, but I don't know anyone outside the futurist community...

RU: You look young for a much longer period of time. Women are early adopters of youth technology in terms of looks.



JQ: My wife is actually in the business of making women young and beautiful. She's what's called an aesthetician. She makes people beautiful. So if I could convince her that people can live forever and be young as long as they want, she might be into it. But my explanation ends up being sort of technical and attenuated. There are so many other things you need to know that it tends to become like religion — the rapture for geeks.

JD: There's not a big female fan base for science fiction, right?

JQ: Right. So guy geeks are always talking about how you can connect to more people and form more networks with people you never met. And my research tells me women's brains are just more interested in face reading and voice reading and reading all the messages you get beneath the words. Guys tend to concentrate more on the abstract ideas behind the words. So email is unfulfilling for most women. They want to get together at lunch with their friends and make eye contact and stand way too close to each other.

RU: I like to see that, too.

But I'm still not quite getting the Sociobiology/Singularity hook-up here. You had an interesting Freudian slip earlier. You said, "How will The Singularity get laid?" It could be like that, couldn't it? Couldn't it be more like sex with the singularity as opposed to sex within the singularity? Couldn't the singularity be this great, singular mechanistic Borg-like entity, and it's going to need something to have sex with?

JQ: Right! And I think that's sort of Kurzweil's vision — that we'll be able to make our fantasies real. Why would you actually need another human being?

JD: From my reading of Kurzweil's book, The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, I suspect, on some level, he's OK with the prospect of evolving beyond sexuality altogether in order to achieve immortality. And I imagine those two probably go hand in hand. If you remove the mortal aspect of existence, you're kind of eliminating the evolutionary reason for having sex. You know as a living being you're going to die, and that drives you to reproduce — and that's where all that sex stuff happens. Right?

JQ: Yeah, but I'm convinced that we inherit this suite of desires, and whether we die or not, we're going to keep them, unless we find some hormonal way to change it.

JD: But that's part of it, right? Kurzweil is changing himself hormonally with all of his nutritional stuff. He already claims to have reprogrammed his own biochemistry.

JQ: Right. He keeps saying his biological age hasn't changed. You know, I saw a picture of him from twenty years ago, and he did look younger.

RU: I'm still trying to get at the connection between the Singularity and sociobiology.

JQ: I think male geeks in the futurist community assume that human nature is the same as the nature of male geeks in the futurist community. And it's kind of become a little religion; we have our own Rapture and our own eschatology and all that sort of stuff. But I think the idea of merging with machine intelligence is not appealing to lots of different kinds of people. And so when we talk about it, we talk as if this tiny sector of human experience — and the kinds of enhancements male geeks want — is all that there is. But when you describe these kinds of things to most people, they're not necessarily enthused. They're more often afraid. So I think we need a clearer idea of what is universal in human needs to be able to explain The Singularity.
Reader Martine comments: The Singularity is the best thing to happen to sex since some final stages of primate-homonid pelvic evolution enabled face-to-face intercourse among hominids (without losing the ability for rear access).

RU: I always wonder — can an artificial intelligence understand what it feels like to dance to James Brown? You know? Maybe it can, eventually. I don't know.



JD: There's also this question of individuality versus networked intelligence. It seems like we're heading towards a networked intelligence that might not have a need for — or a concept of individuality. And individuality certainly encapsulates most current impulses and needs and desires that we think make us human. But once we're post-human, all that goes out the window. So how do you even talk about discreet entities and individuals and desires and stuff like that? Certainly Kurzweil wants us to think that we can carry that humanness with us, but it might all just go away! And something else will be there, and it won't be what we are now. So there's kind of a good reason to be afraid of it, because you don't know what the hell that means.

JQ: Yeah. It's hard to distinguish some descriptions of The Singularity from Armageddon. And I think the pretense; the assumption of the hardcore pro-Kurzweil futurists is that all these things — dancing to James Brown — are reducible to computation.

RU: It's the "good" aspect of it that I wonder about. Is "feel good" reducible?

JQ: Singularitarians are assuming that it is, but it's a deep mystery — sentience! I can understand why there would be all the complexity of animal life interacting, competing, and behaving exactly the way it behaves. But I don't think anything in science so far has answered the question, "Why is it like something to be alive?" When I poke myself with a pin, I don't just react like a robot; I have an external experience that I also experience inside. This causes us to be natural dualists. It doesn't seem to be a real dualism — I'm a materialist — but I feel like, once a machine passes the Turing test, we don't really know whether it has sentience or not. Of course, I don't know if you have sentience. I assume you have sentience because you act like I act.

RU: Well, I'm a solipsist, so I don't even think you're here. [Laughter]

JQ: So even if my enjoyment of James Brown is reducible to some kind of binary computation, it's not clear to me that that's going to give rise to the epi-phenomenon or the emergent property of self-aware consciousness sentience.

RU: Assuming we are headed towards the Singularity, or at least towards some kind of post-human future, it sounds like you're trying to keep some of the human relation alive within it, and some of the sexuality alive within it. That's a project — making sure that this future does contain these things that we value. Is that part of what you're trying to do?

JQ: When we talk about the Singularity, it should be grounded on universal things about human nature. Everyone should look at Donald Brown's list of human universals. And I think when we talk about it now; we talk about it as California computer nerds — which represents a narrow range of human experience.

RU: So as California computer nerds, we don't have all of the qualities on Mr. Brown's list of natural human universals?

JQ: It's the qualities that all tribes in every culture everywhere share. And one of them is a belief in spiritual beings that care very much about how we behave.

RU: Of course there were attempts to eliminate that in China and other places, but it continued.

JQ: I don't think you can eliminate something like spiritual belief, in a top-down way. But certainly most people in the Scandinavian countries are atheists. There's a lot of atheism in the world now. But still, there are no cultures that don't have some people who believe that there are invisible beings who care passionately about how they behave.

RU: You're using the word sociobiology, and currently the trendy term is "evolutionary psychology." And actually, some people make a distinction between the two of them and say sociobiology was more completely enthralled by genes, whereas evolutionary psychology sort of combines genes with environment and other factors. Talk a little about your interest in sociobiology, which is the older term that came from Edward O. Wilson's amazing book.

JQ: I'm trying to steal back the word sociobiology, because sociobiology, strictly defined, is the biology of behavior of all animals. It got in trouble, back in the early 70s, because human beings were included among the animals. E. O. Wilson's one of my heroes. The last 1/30th of his book, Sociobiology, deals with human nature.

RU: And then he put out On Human Nature. And a leftist feminist threw a pie at him, even though he was a liberal environmentalist, basically for looking at human behavior as having certain predispositions, just like all other animals do.

JQ: Someone dumped a bucket of water over his head while he was coming for a lecture. And so the word sociobiology got demonized. I know a lot of academics at Berkeley, and they're so pre-inoculated against any biological illumination of human behavior that they can't even talk about it. It's so emotional.

RU: Oddly, just as sort of a weird side note, Huey Newton from the Black Panther Party was into sociobiology in the 1970s and studied it. For whatever odd reason, he found it interesting.

JQ: That is an interesting side note! And that term became so demonized that the people who continued to research it sort of quietly started calling it evolutionary psychology. Interestingly, evolutionary psychology is specifically about the biology of human behavior. Sociobiology is a more general term about the biological roots of all animal behavior. You know, it's like when the creationist movement switched to "Intelligent Design" — they were being defensive. And when we switched from sociobiology to evolutionary psychology, we were being defensive.

RU: But a lot of the same people still hate it, basically for the same reasons.

JQ:Yeah. And I strongly recommend Steve Pinker's book, The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature. He pretty much devastates all the good-hearted but misguided arguments against sociobiology. To put it in simple terms, if I'm speaking to a social academic about my biological beliefs that I think illuminate human nature and answer a lot of deep questions about human nature, they invariably bring up Hitler or the eugenics movement.

RU: And certainly all this stuff can be exploited by people.

JQ: But then again, on the other side — among the people who say that the human mind is ultimately malleable by culture and has no genetically controlled tendencies at all — you have Mao and the Khmer Rogue. Both sides have their holocausts. Pol Pot... all those guys believed that you take the baby, you take it away from its mother, and...

RU: It's a blank slate.

JQ: Right. You can create humans that only care about serving the state.

RU: If you acknowledge that every other living animal group has certain inherent forms of social organization, it's fundamentally absurd to say, "Well no, human beings don't." And certain people on the left remind me of fundamentalist Christians. It's kind of a denial of evolution. They're not denying Darwin, but they're denying something that is a logical extension of Darwin.

JQ: Right. And the sort-of social science academics on the left are the only ones who have a problem with this stuff. When I speak in front of most women, they're trying to understand their husband and they're all over it. They want to understand why does he do the things he does; why does he communicate the way he does? People on the street assume that there's something fundamentally different about men and women.

RU: What happens with people in the process of a sex change — like a guy who's taking a lot of estrogen and that sort of thing? Have you looked into that?

JQ: Sure, I'm fascinated with that stuff. If a woman gets a sex change operation, and she starts taking injections of testosterone, different genes that are suppressed are turned on in her, and she finds herself feeling more aggressive; she finds it harder to cry; she finds it easier to get angry; and she can't get sex out of her mind. I talked to one woman who was in the midst of this process, and she said, "God, I suddenly understand how guys feel."

RU: So let's distribute some of this.

JQ: Yeah. [Laughs.] Slip it into drinks?

JD: Except that all of a sudden, she's got facial hair.



RU: You can get over that.

JQ: I remember she was describing her experience to me. She was like: "I'm on the BART, and I'm looking at shapely women, and I just wanted to get into their bodies. I mean, it's like it's all about that body." To her that was a foreign experience. She's like, "Wow. So this is how men see the world." Especially young men.

RU: I wonder when people start to alter people at the genetic level — germ line engineering.

JQ: Yeah. That's a thorny issue.

RU: I wonder how that will affect all these kinds of relations. I wonder if that might change some of this.

JQ: It's hard to pull off, because it's very rare that you get a gene corresponding to one particular trait. Genes all interact with each other, so if you choose a certain gene to give your kid a mathematical ability, that gene cascades through all the different traits in the person and has other unpredictable effects.

RU: But some people think that, in not too much time, even with all the complexity, we'll be able to do this kind of manipulation.

JQ: I think we will be able to do this kind of manipulation, but we'll start having the kinds of problems we have with our domesticated dogs. We can take a dog and we can breed it for a particular quality — like, I want my dog to be a pug, so I'm just going to concentrate on breeding it for a big face and big strong shoulders. By the time I've created my perfect dog, it has cataracts; it has heart problems; it has breathing problems. Out in nature, all these genes are interacting with the environment at once.

RU: The theory is that we wouldn't start doing it until we could be pretty sure of the effects. Although I don't necessarily believe that.

JQ: It's so hard to control because genes only turn on in an environment that triggers them to turn on. So if you're an identical twin, and you're gay, there's only a 50% chance that you're identical twin is going to be gay.

RU: But if he is, you can have an awful lot of fun together!

JQ: I'm sure — they even shared a womb together. So if you can't even predict something like your sexuality based on what genes you have, and you also have to sort of control an environment that's going to trigger certain things to turn on...

RU: [Frivolously] Yeah, but Kurzweil's super-intelligent machines will figure out how to perfect this technology for us in 2035, right?

JQ: Well, that's the prediction, but, uh...

RU: So what do you really think? Are you fundamentally a believer in "The Singularity" or are you a skeptic?

JQ: I'm a scared skeptic and a hopeful skeptic. Most people who hear about it think it's whacko, so I find myself defending it more often than criticizing it. And I think Kurzweil's actual arguments in his two most important books are more compelling than the counter-argument from Incredulity, which is just a knee-jerk reaction — "C'mon, this is Rapture for the geeks." Every group makes up some kind of mythos, and this is a mythos for the geeks. I keep thinking of other examples of Singularities. I've never heard anyone talk about the Singularity that's already happened. Let's see if you guys can point it out.

RU: Language?

JQ: That's one, but I've never heard anyone talk about the Singularity of techneme — the singularity of tools. Imagine a Homo habilis playing with his stone axe, and his buddy says to him, "Grok! These stone axes are not going to change for millions of years, because we're on the flat part of an exponential curve. But this has an abstract design within it, which means it contains information that can be passed down through the generations. And in another 3 million years, we're going to have a feedback loop of information, and pretty soon our tools are going to cover the world; they're going to be on our bodies; and we're going to go from a few thousand of us to a few billion of us. Everything we touch will be a tool. Our tool designs are going to inhabit matter and build our dreams around us. Everything we look at is going to be a manifestation, an embodiment of an idea."

RU: Right, and all that would be unrecognizable to that person. So in that sense we've been through at least one Singularity. It's kind of like the Arthur C. Clarke idea that advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

JQ: And if you think about this, there's almost nothing I touch in my day that isn't created by humans. Even the food is bred by humans.

Steve Potter says, "Maybe The Singularity already happened." Why would we know about it? Does bacteria know that they're on a giant naked ape?

RU: Kurzweil is a believer in the soft singularity — a process where we might not even recognize that we've slipped into a different kind of reality when it happens. All I know is that friends of mine are still dying at this point from diseases related to aging. That would be one change that would be interesting.

See Also:
Girls Are Geeks, Too
Death? No, Thank You
Sex for Memes' Sake
Counterculture and the Tech Revolution
California Cults 2006

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Robert Anton Wilson 1932-2007


Robert Anton Wilson

Robert Anton Wilson enjoyed his first death so much; he decided to try it again. As Wilson himself wrote in his 1995 book, Cosmic Trigger III: My Life After Death:
According to reliable sources, I died on February 22, 1994 — George Washington's birthday. I felt nothing special or shocking at the time, and believed that I still sat at my word processor working on a novel called Bride of Illuminatus. At lunch-time, however, when I checked my voice mail, I found that Tim Leary and a dozen other friends had already called to ask to speak to me, or — if they still believed in Reliable Sources — to offer support and condolences to my grieving family. I quickly gathered that news of my tragic end had appeared on the Internet in the form of an obituary from the Los Angeles Times: "Noted science-fiction author Robert Anton Wilson was found dead in his home yesterday, apparently the victim of a heart attack. Mr. Wilson, 63, was discovered by his wife, Arlen.

"Mr. Wilson was the author of numerous books... He was noted for his libertarian viewpoints, love of technology and off the wall humor. Mr. Wilson is survived by his wife and two children."

This time around, it appears that Mr. Wilson has actually left corporeality, appropriately on 1/11 (at 4:50 am — you hardcore number freaks can get to work on the meaning of that one... I do see a five in there!).



For this cosmic cub scout, Bob Wilson was the motherload. Books like The Illuminatus! Trilogy, Cosmic Trigger, and Coincidance killed most of what little dogmatism I had left in me, and opened me up to a world of possibilities as large as space travel and as small as quantum physics. He also had a razor sharp wit that he skillfully aimed at those who abuse power and wealth. And he was a delightful story teller, whose love of language was evidenced not only by his own novels, but by his ability to quote virtually everything James Joyce and Ezra Pound ever wrote — backwards, while explaining what evolutionary level of primate behavior the author was elucidating.

I had the great pleasure to know Robert Anton Wilson and our intersections were sometimes strange — his Mondo 2000 check hadn't arrived; or I weirded him out by kneeling down before him like he was the pope and kissing his ring (I thought it was funny.) I also have great memories of sitting with him while he expounded expansively on everything from the rights of the Irish to the genius of Orson Welles. Over the past several years, as his polio returned, and as death started to hover nearby, Wilson sent out funny email messages of the "not dead yet" variety to those of us on his mailing list. There was never a trace of self-pity in any of his messages.

As the result of medical expenses and problems with the IRS, Wilson found himself in a financial squeeze towards the end of his life. Word went out and the internet community responded by sending him $68,000 within the first couple of days (and undoubtedly some more after that). This allowed RAW to die with the comfort, grace and dignity that he deserved. Special props go to Douglas Rushkoff and the folks at Boing Boing (and to all the individuals who contributed) for making that happen.

Robert Anton Wilson taught us all that "the universe contains a maybe." So maybe there is an afterlife, and maybe Bob's consciousness is hovering around all of us who were touched by his words and his presence all these years. And if that's the case, I'm sure he'd like to see you do something strange and irreverent — and yet beautiful — in his honor.

See Also:
A Selection of Obscure Robert Anton Wilson Essays
Robert Anton Wilson Tribute Show
Robert Anton Wilson Website
Is The Net Good For Writers?
Neil Gaiman Has Lost His Clothes

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Hallucinogenic Weapons: The Other Chemical Warfare


Nurses and Subjects

There were many acid tests happening in the 1950s and 1960s. Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters dosed sometimes-unsuspecting proto-hippies. The CIA was dosing unsuspecting mainstreamers. Leary dosed fully cognizant artists, therapists and students. But meanwhile, over at Army Chemical Center at Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland, psychiatrist James S. Ketchum was testing LSD, BZ and other psychedelic and deliriant compounds on fully informed volunteers for the U.S. military.

As an Army psychiatrist just out of residency, Dr. James E. Ketchum was assigned to Edgewoord Arsenal's Medical Research Laboratories, first as a research psychiatrist in 1961. He became Chief of the Psychopharmacology Branch in 1963, and then became Acting Chief of Clinical Research in 1966. After a brief hiatus at Stanford University, he returned as Edgewoods' Chief of Clinical Research in 1968, staying there until 1971. Dr. Ketchum and his team were looking, primarily, for non-lethal incapacitating agents, and he was central to many of the experiments with these compounds that took place during that time.



Now, Dr. Ketchum has released his fascinating self-published memoir, Chemical Warfare: Secrets Almost Forgotten, primarily detailing his times at Edgewood. The book boasts charts, graphs and experimental reports — a veritable goldmine of information for those who are interested in psychedelics, deliriants, or chemical warfare. It's also a funny, observant, and reflective personal memoir, casting a light not only on Ketchum and his work, but on a decade that saw 60s counterculture and the military share an oddly intersecting obsession with mind-altering drugs.

Dr. Ketchum himself has remained intrigued by these chemicals, as reflected in his ongoing friendship with Dr. Alexander (Sasha) Shulgin, who wrote a foreword for this book.

I recently interviewed him for The RU Sirius Show. Steve Robles joined me.
To listen the full interview in MP3, click here.

RU SIRIUS: Tell us about the research you did at Edgewood Arsenal with various substances as weapons. What was the political environment?

JAMES KETCHUM: It was during the Cold War and there was great concern about what the Soviet Union might be plotting. It was known that they were investing a lot of money in chemical warfare research — about ten times as much as we were. And at the same time, there was an interest in the U.S. in developing weapons that might be called more "humane" as opposed to "conventional" weapons. In 1955, Congress was entertained by Major General Creasy, who described what LSD could do. At the time, that was the latest drug of interest. And as he described it to Congress, they became very enthusiastic, and voted in favor of doing research into LSD as a possible incapacitating agent that would be life-sparing. Congress passed a resolution with only one vote against it, which is perhaps indicative of the philosophy of the times.

So money was allocated to build a project at Edgewood Arsenal, the army chemical center. And over the next few years the budgeting increased, supported by John F. Kennedy, among others. I was given the opportunity to go there after my residency in psychiatry in 1961, and I thought it would be interesting. I ended up spending about ten years there. When I arrived, the program was just in its nascency. There had been some work done by others there with LSD, but they had never had a psychiatrist. And they'd run into a few problems that made them think they ought to have one. So I was given pretty much a free hand over the next few years to develop a program that would be safe and also provide the information that was being sought, not only about LSD but about drugs like BZ, and others.

RU: So you actually ended up having a long strange trip of your own. You had some very interesting experiences with it.

JK: I enjoyed it very much. Unfortunately at the time, classification of that research was so great that very little of the information we found was leaked out to the public or allowed to be spread among the public. And as is the custom in the army — or was the custom — classified papers usually remained classified for 12 years before they'd be downgraded and made available. By that time, most people had gone separate ways. The program itself had been pretty much terminated. No one really wrote the history of that decade. I thought, later, that was a serious omission. And that's what led me to write this book.

STEVE ROBLES: Did you find any evidence that the Soviets might have taken this tack in their own chemical warfare research?

JK: There was information indicating that, around 1960, the Soviet Union was importing vast quantities of contaminated rye from the satellite countries. This was interpreted as being indicative of their interest in producing LSD, since there's not much use for contaminated rye except that it contains ergot, which is a form of contamination [ed: ergot is used to prepare lysergic acid, the raw material for LSD]. That made us think maybe they were having a big LSD development program of their own.

SR: So there was a different kind of space race going on at the same time.

JK: That's right. Inner space.

RU: The meat of this book, and the fun part, is descriptions of people undergoing the experiments. I wonder if any moments in particular pop into your head showing the way that human beings behave under the influence.

The Volunteers

JK: I watched a number of people — actually, more than a hundred — going through the experience of having BZ, which is a long-acting atropine type compound. It produces delirium if given in a sufficient dose. Half-a-milligram is sufficient in the case of BZ, as compared with about 10 milligrams of atropine. To describe the tripping in detail would take some time. In the book, I've documented an entire BZ trip over a hundred-hour period, including everything that was said and done.

RU: You had a man watching an entire football game on his fingernail or something?

JK: It was a tiny baseball game on the padded floor. The hallucinations were "real" hallucinations. I'd like to make a distinction between BZ hallucinations and LSD so-called hallucinations, which are really not hallucinations — they're more illusions. People generally know that they're not real, but produced by the drug. Whereas with BZ, the individual becomes delirious, and in that state is unable to distinguish fantasy from reality, and may see, for instance, strips of bacon along the edge of the floor.

RU: Belladonna would probably be the most common deliriant among drug experimenters.

JK: Right. Loco weed. Belladonna, in the form of Asmador, for example, was used for asthma and contains atropine. People were getting high on this in the 60s. My brother described one young man trying to crawl across a street in New York City and grabbing onto the pants leg of a police officer. People don't know what they're doing when they're under the influence. They mistake people for objects and objects for people. They'll salute the water fountain or bump into a nurse and say, "Excuse me, sir," and the like.



RU: Were you guys doing a lot of chuckling while this was going on? You're trying to maintain a certain degree of decorum, but...

JK: Yes. I would tell the technicians that it wasn't nice to laugh at these things, even though the subject probably wouldn't remember it later. It was sometimes hard to suppress it. Like when one individual asked another, in the same padded room, if he could have a cigarette. And then, when the other individual held out an empty hand that looked like it was holding a pack, he said, "Oh, I don't want to take your last one." So it was fully "out there" on a fantastic scale.

RU: I had a friend who took belladonna at a rock concert. And about halfway into it, he thought he was back in his own room and that the music on the radio really sucked, and he was going to turn it off. That basically involved twisting this girl's kneecap until he got kicked out. Fortunately, it was just the kneecap.

JK: One young man tried to straighten out my arm, as if it were a pipe of some sort! He tugged on it, and pulled it, and didn't seem at all aware that I might be discomforted by that.

RU: So this book, which is about a very serious subject, is actually quite an amusing read.

JK: Yeah, I tried to keep it from being too heavy, and included a number of anecdotes about people who weren't delirious that were equally funny.

RU: Some of the inter-office activity was amusing too. Describe what happens when soldiers try to deal with mock-up battle conditions under the influence of BZ.

JK: Well of course, commanders wanted to know what would happen if this stuff were ever used in the field. So at first we set up an indoor type of situation, a sort of simulated command post with four soldiers in it. One of them was given a full dose of BZ while the others were given either small doses or none at all, in order to have some possibility of maintaining order. So this one individual would continually go to the door and try to get out. He'd turn around and say, "I'll see you later," but it was locked, and he finally concluded that he was trapped. When the cameras, which were behind these sliding plywood doors, were opened, he came over to one and looked into it as if it were the eye of a Martian. And then he tried to climb out through the medicine cabinet. Then he went over to the water bag and yelled, "Hey, this broad just committed suicide." It took quite a bit of help from his teammates to keep him from hurting himself. But fortunately, nothing serious happened.

RU: You write that nobody was really injured or permanently damaged by these experiments, and you make a distinction between the work that you did at the arsenal and work done by the Central Intelligence Agency.

JK: I tried to dissect out the work done by the army from the work done by the CIA. The CIA, of course, was the first to undertake studies of LSD. They did it without any real scientific structure; and they took liberties that they shouldn't have taken, giving it covertly to American citizens and the like. This was the MK-ULTRA program. Unfortunately, Edgewood Arsenal acquired a reputation for being somehow involved in the MK-ULTRA program — being somehow underwritten by the CIA. And this was not true. There were a couple of individuals who had a secret connection to the CIA, but the program itself was transparent, at least within the military, and there was none of the hijinx that the CIA carried out in San Francisco and other places. [ed: they gave LSD to customers in a house used for prostitution and watched them through a two-way mirror.]

RU: You recently gave testimony about the CIA program. Tell us a little bit about that.

JK: I testified on behalf of Wayne Ritchie, a deputy U.S. Marshall who had been an ideal officer — four years in the Marines, a year at Alcatraz as a guard. He was regarded as perfectly stable — normal. After a Christmas party, where people from the CIA office next door were present, he came back to his office and began to believe that everyone was against him. And then he went out on the street and walked home for the first time without his car, and was convinced that his girlfriend was against him; and the bartender was against him. So he decided to hold up a bar and get enough money for his girlfriend to fly to New York, and then he'd be arrested and they would kick him out of the US Marshal Service and everyone would be happy. So this is what he did, and this is what happened. And when he came to and realized what he'd done, he felt terrible. He wanted to commit suicide. He asked for a bullet to save the state some money, and he submitted a letter of resignation.

From that point on, he was regarded as a pariah and he spent the rest of his life believing he had committed a serious crime for which he'd never be forgiven. Then Sidney Gottleib — who was the head of the MK-ULTRA program — died. And in his obituary, it mentioned that he was supervising the administration of LSD to unwitting American citizens. [ed: The CIA also dosed unsuspecting attendants at office parties, as documented in Acid Dreams and elsewhere.] And so the light went on in his head at that point, and Wayne realized, or believed, that that's probably what happened to him. So a case was eventually brought to court, and I was asked to testify on behalf of Wayne. I spent two-and-a-half days on the witness stand, mostly answering questions from CIA lawyers. Ultimately the outcome was not favorable, unfortunately. The judge didn't feel convinced, and neither did the Appeals court. The judge said, in effect, "If you can explain this man's criminal behavior with LSD, then I suppose you could blame anyone's criminal behavior on LSD." And this really wasn't very logical and didn't fit the facts, but that's how it ended up. It was a rather unhappy ending to an unhappy story.

The Ward

RU: A number of your volunteers in the LSD experiments expressed feelings of having had a profound experience. More frequently than not, they expressed a sort of regret in coming down and having the experience end.

JK: Yes. We were primarily interested in measuring performance on a systematic basis. But, of course, clinically it was pretty hard to ignore the differences in the responses to LSD that we observed. Some individuals would become very frolicsome and laugh a great deal. Some would become depressed and withdrawn; some became paranoid. Seeing the spectrum of responses in otherwise normal young men was quite interesting. One individual in particular, I believe, actually had a therapeutic experience. He was in a group of four, and we held a televised discussion after the test, and he admitted finally under pressure from his buddies that he had had some unacceptable erotic thoughts about the nurses that he was reluctant to reveal. And they told him that was all right, there's nothing wrong with that. And when he went back to his unit, I heard indirectly that his personality was different. He became more sociable and outgoing. I have to give LSD some of the credit in that case.

RU: Also a frequent response from some of the volunteers was to find the tests just silly and absurd and to just laugh at the things they were asked to do.

JK: Yeah, under LSD, they perceived the absurdity of being asked to solve as many arithmetic problems as they could in three minutes. Sometimes they refused to do it all together. But in other cases they did their best, but couldn't do as well as they did before the drug. I took it once and I had precisely the same difficulty solving arithmetic problems, but I didn't have any of the wonderful visions and fantasies. I guess because I was thinking of the psychopharmacology of the LSD going through my raphe nucleus and so forth.

RU: You took 80 micrograms. It's a little bit shy of a trip.

JK: Yeah. But it was chemically pure, U.S. Army-grade, 99.9 percent...

RU: Got any of that stuff left?

JK: Well, there was 40 pounds left in my office one day in a big black barrel...

RU: Oh yes! Do tell the story of the canister.

JK: I was chief of the department at that point. When I came into work one day, I noticed that there was a big, black, sort of oil barrel-type drum in the corner of the room. And no one said anything, or told me anything about it. So after a couple of days, my curiosity overcame me. After everyone had gone home, I opened it up and pulled out a jar. And I looked and saw that it was about 3.41623 kilograms of LSD. And so were the rest of the jars.

RU: Drop that baby on Iran and see what happens.

JK: But after another couple of days, the barrel was gone! I never heard anything; I never got a receipt for it. The LSD there was probably worth about a billion dollars on the street. And it just stayed there for a few days and went away.

SR: Speaking of getting onto the street, I've never heard of BZ, I guess it didn't penetrate the black market?

RU: That's really not the sort of thing people tend to want to take.

JK: Well, as I say, it's similar to atropine or belladonna, which some people have taken for trips, and it's been used through the ages for ceremonial purposes, for various purposes.

RU: I remember Durk Pearson saying it was interesting.

JK: It lasts about 72 hours in a dose that is just sufficient to incapacitate someone. It can last longer if you take more, but we kept the doses as low as we could. Delirium is not something that anyone particularly wants to go through. It's more of a shipment than a trip, I would say.

RU: You don't remember much. It's probably more fun to watch other people take it.

JK: Right. Not too much intelligent insight emerges under its effects.

RU: Let's get back to the purpose of this research. What you were hoping for?



JK: I felt I was working on a noble cause because the purpose of this research was to find something that would be an alternative to bombs and bullets. It could also be helpful in reducing civilian casualties, which have increased ever since the Civil War from almost zero percent to the eighty percent now or maybe higher — 90 percent perhaps in Iraq, because you can't really avoid "collateral damage" if the enemy is going to hide among the civilians. Perhaps it's a good time to rethink our use of incapacitating agents as a humane alternative.

The Russians did very well with this. When the Chechnyan terrorists took over an auditorium filled with attendees at a Moscow concert and held them captive for three days, the Russians brought in an incapacitating agent. It happened to be a morphine derivative of high potency, and they pumped it in through the ceiling and the floor, waited for a while, and then rushed in. And those terrorists did not detonate the bombs they had strapped to their bodies; they did not fire their weapons; they were all down on the floor unconscious, as was most of the audience. They were able to save about 80% of the audience.

RU: Do you feel that maybe they could've used a better incapacitating agent that would've allowed them to save everybody or nearly everybody?

JK: No, I don't think there was anything better they could've used. This was a quick-acting drug, which is what it had to be. If they'd used BZ or some drug like that, the effects would have come on too gradually. The terrorists would have had time to figure out what was going on. So this was a knockout effect, and it worked very well. And I credit the Russians for doing this, although they seem to be embarrassed about giving out the details, because in the United States and the rest of the world in general, chemical warfare in any form is a no-no.

RU: It's illegal internationally, isn't it?

JK: A number of treaties were drawn up, the last of which was the chemical warfare convention. And it's now illegal to use any drug that can either cause death or seriously disturbed behavior. And I think it's unfortunate that we went in and agreed to this treaty because we're now in a different kind of war from anything we've been in previously.

SR: I wonder what effect of LSD would have in either dislodging — or maybe even reinforcing — the beliefs of real serious believers, like fanatical Islamists, for example.

JK: Well, LSD was discarded pretty early on as an incapacitating agent when it was realized that it produced highly unpredictable effects and that people could still retain the ability to fire a rifle or push a button on a bomb-release mechanism. So I'm pretty sure LSD would not be used. It would have to be something in the opiate category, like what was used in Moscow; or perhaps one of the rapid-acting belladonna-like drugs. Incidentally, although BZ was adopted briefly and even packed into munitions, as far as I know, it was never used, despite rumors to the contrary. And later on we found rapid-acting compounds in the same category — short-acting, rapid-acting compounds that would've worked much better. But by this time, the whole notion of militarizing incapacitating agents had lost its window of opportunity. That's one reason that all this research was kind of left in file cabinets.

RU: We've talked about psychedelics, and we've talked about deliriants. But what about disassociatives like ketamine and PCP? Do those hold any potential in your opinion, and do you know if they were looked into at all?

JK: A little work was done with PCP before my arrival. They had a complication. One individual became psychotic and required hospitalization. And this kind of scared them. In fact, that's one reason I was asked to go there. So PCP would probably be an unacceptable drug.

SR: That's not an uncommon reaction to PCP, right? Violence...

JK: It definitely can produce aggressive and resistant behavior that's very hard to overcome.

RU: The 1970s was a time of great revelation of government crimes, and Edgewood Arsenal and your work got roped into the general attitude in the media towards the establishment, towards the military and so forth. Talk a little bit about how you feel the media misinterpreted your work.

JK: It grew out of the Congressional hearings, the most famous of which was the Kennedy hearings. The CIA was investigated. Congress attempted to find out just what they did with LSD in the early 50s. The CIA had destroyed all their records and the people who were still around claimed they couldn't remember anything. But as a result of that, the army was asked to look at its work with similar agents. The Inspector General held a very comprehensive review, the National Academy of Sciences was asked to do a review of the work with BZ, and although they produced follow-ups finding no harm, somehow in the public mind, the CIA work and the U.S. Army work became interwoven. I believe that's an unfortunate thing.

Another mistake was that the media characterized BZ as a super-hallucinogen, which really is not a good way to describe it. It's a deliriant, basically — pure and simple.

RU: You've indicated the effects of some of today's potential chemical weapons have been exaggerated in the media. You've spoken about the potency of VX, for example

JK: That's right. This is in relation to nerve agents. I wasn't an expert on that — that work was going on next door. But people have been told that a couple of drops of VX on the floor of Macy's would wipe out the entire customer population. And things of that nature have been represented in programs like 24. (It's a great series but...). People have a morbid fear of anything chemical, which has been encouraged by the media. Many inaccuracies have been brought out. As a matter of fact, ironically, nerve agents are a good antidote for drugs like BZ, and vice versa. Atropine's used to treat nerve agent poisoning, and nerve agents can be used to treat atropine or BZ poisoning. We found this out in the lab. Of course anyone who heard that they were going to be treated with a nerve agent for their atropine or BZ poisoning would probably be very unhappy and nervous. But it works very well!

RU: So tell people how they can get a hold of this book. It's an independent publication, with a unique design. It's almost like a coffee table book.

SR: I thought you were going to say, "Tell people how they can get a hold of that black barrel!"

RU: Yeah. Where did you hide that black barrel?

JK: Here.

See Also:
Excerpts from Chemical Warfare: Secrets Almost Forgotten
Prescription Ecstasy and Other Pipe Dreams
The Great Wired Drug Non-Controversy

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Paul McCartney On Drugs


McCartney On LSD

The Beatles titan recently claimed, allegedly during a talk with friend and self-proclaimed "king of bitter divorces" Alec Baldwin a few days ago, that he has grown physically sick from the latest charges by his estranged wife in their divorce proceedings. (Her latest claim is that he stole paintings by Picasso and Renoir from their once-shared lodge.) But, let us revisit for a moment one of the more interesting charges leveled by Heather against Paul, shall we? Let us return to the drugs.

In college in the late 1970s, I had a girlfriend from The Hamptons who had been the baby sitter for Paul and Linda McCartney. (Paul and Linda and their children lived in that elegant Long Island suburb through most of the 1970s). Lizzie hated babysitting for the McCartneys because they were slobs (messy house) and because there were "drugs all over the place," right out in the open where theoretically one or all of their four young children could get at them. When I questioned Liz more closely about the drugs, she mentioned white powders, mushrooms and (no surprise) marijuana.

Lizzie detested drugs back then, because she was worshiping a poet named Robert Bly, and Robert Bly hated drugs. But I must admit, for me, this tidbit added substantially to Beatle Paul's always questionable hipster cred.

In the recent divorce case between Paul and his anti-landmine activist soon-to-be ex-wife Heather Mills McCartney, Heather filed a court statement, according to the British tabloid press, stating that McCartney had attacked her with a broken wine glass, and that he used illegal drugs and drank to excess.

I'm in no position to comment on any propensity Sir Paul may have towards violence, although a biography written by the tabloidesque rock writer Christopher Sandford promises, in a synopsis on Amazon.com, that "McCartney is a tale of self-destruction, violence and epic excess." (Imagine that. Paul McCartney: the Great Beast.) And McCartney himself has made clear that he drinks heavily when he's depressed (after the breakup of the Beatles in 1970, after the death of his first wife Linda, and while he toured for his hardest rocking solo album, "Run Devil Run" in 1999).



But when it comes to Macca and drugs, there is quite a bit more to talk about.

Join me then on a magical mystery tour:

Paul McCartney and Drugs: A Timeline

Early 1960s

The Beatles play frequent late night shows in seedy clubs in Hamburg, Germany, popping stimulants — mostly Benzedrine — to stay awake.

August, 1964

Bob Dylan turns The Beatles on to marijuana. He is shocked to discover that they're pot virgins.

April 1965

John Lennon and George Harrison are slipped LSD at a dinner party thrown for them by their dentist. McCartney is elsewhere.

1966

McCartney becomes the last Beatle to try LSD

1967

McCartney is turned on to cocaine by Robert Fraser, an art dealer and a central figure in the London counterculture, who was art director for the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover (the image itself was done by Peter Blake). He uses cocaine a bit during his work on Sgt. Peppers, although he apparently doesn't share it around with his mates. Cocaine is very obscure in 1967 and doesn't become second nature to rock stars ’til around 1969.

Spring, 1967

McCartney is the first Beatle and the first major figure in rock to admit that he and the other Beatles had taken LSD. While this would seem to have been obvious to anybody who had been listening to their recent recordings, the great majority of people were way more clueless than they even are now and so the admission stirs up quite a bit of controversy. Lennon is miffed that McCartney came out of the closet as an acid head first.

June, 1967

In Life magazine, McCartney describes himself as "deeply committed to the possibilities of LSD as a universal cure-all."

July 24, 1967

All four Beatles sign a petition published in The Times of London calling for decriminalization of Marijuana. Sir Francis Crick and Francis Huxley also sign the petition. The Beatles also pay for the ad.

1972

Paul and Linda McCartney are busted for smuggling hashish into Sweden. He pays a $2,000 fine.

1973

McCartney is busted for growing marijuana on his farm in Scotland. He is fined the equivalent of $240.

McCartney visits John Lennon and Harry Nilsson, who are living together in L.A. while Lennon produces Nilsson's album, "Pussy Cats." A bleary-eyed Nilsson offers McCartney some PCP. Paul asks, "Is it fun?" "No," Nilsson replied. So McCartney passes on the PCP.

1974

According to a book written by May Pang called Loving John: The Untold Story about the time she spent as John Lennon's girlfriend, John Lennon and Paul McCartney drop acid together one day in New York City in 1974 and decide to go visit David Bowie.

Bowie has just received the final mix of his latest album, Young Americans which includes two songs that John Lennon worked on. One was a reworking of The Beatles song, "Across the Universe," and the other was to become Bowie's first number one hit, "Fame," co-written with Lennon. Bowie proudly plays the new album for his two Beatles heroes and they're impressed. And so he plays it again. And again. And again. Eventually, McCartney excuses himself and bolts out the door, Lennon following quickly behind. Bowie's drug of choice in the mid-1970s might explain his obsessiveness that day: mountains of cocaine.

An interesting side note: In The Beatles version of "Across The Universe", the line "nothing's gonna change my world" comes across as a sort of cosmic meditation on the divine perfection of the eternal now. In Bowie's version, the same line becomes an expression of terrified desperation. This might be interpreted as the difference between psychedelics and coke, as well as the difference between the 60s and the 70s.

1975

Linda McCartney is busted for possession of marijuana in Los Angeles, but charges are dropped.

Sometime around 1976-77

I can't find the source so this is from memory, but at some point the McCartneys hosted a party for the original cast of Saturday Night Live. Mescaline was on the menu, according to one of the many SNL histories.

Late 70s

John Lennon, Paul McCartney and wives are sitting around Lennon and Ono's apartment one Saturday night getting stoned on weed and watching SNL, when Lorne Michaels does one of his occasional routines offering The Beatles a ridiculously small amount of cash ($3,200) to reunite. They briefly consider heading down to the show as a lark to claim half of the money, but they're too stoned to deal with it.

January 16, 1980

McCartney famously busted in Japan at the start of a planned tour with Wings with approximately half-a-pound of marijuana in his suitcase. He spends ten days in prison in Japan before being released and deported. After his release, he promises to quit but also argues that it is less harmful than Valium or alcohol. He also later comments that he just couldn't leave the pot behind because "it was such good stuff."

1984

Paul and Linda McCartney busted in Barbados for possession of marijuana. Several days later, Linda is busted again flying into Heathrow Airport in London with marijuana.



1997

McCartney, now a Knight of the British Empire, tells Musician magazine, "I support decriminalization. People are smoking pot anyway and to make them criminal is wrong."

September 22, 1999

At an after-party for a celebration/performance for McCartney's new album, Run Devil Run, held at Hammerstein Ballroom in New York, McCartney is observed smoking vast quantities of weed with Woody Harrelson and Laurence Fishburne. McCartney's publicist gives a photo of the red-eyed trio to High Times magazine and encourages them to publish it. High Times published the photo under the heading, "The Three Stoners."

June 22, 2000

McCartney delivers a keynote speech in England on "Drug Awareness Day" about "heightening parental awareness to drug misuse, and to outline Government activity in this area." Rank hypocrisy? In fairness to Sir Paul, the talk repeatedly uses the term "misuse" and singles out heroin and cocaine as "the drugs that cause the greatest harm."

2004

In a prime example of the media's tendency to recycle old news as though it were fresh news, the British press goes wild with headlines like "Sir Paul Admits He Used Drugs!" The articles quote from an interview McCartney gives to "Uncut" magazine. He disclosed that he once smoked heroin, but didn't get high. He says that "Got to Get You Into My Life," off of the Revolver album was about pot and that the hit single, "Day Tripper" was about acid. He also admits the obvious, that "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" was about LSD, something the song's main author, John Lennon, always denied. While he tells the magazine that he's grown out of using drugs, he also tells them he "was flattered when he was recently invited by a group of Los Angeles teenagers to share their marijuana." McCartney was quoted as saying, "To me, it's a huge compliment that a bunch of kids think I might be up to smoke a bit of dope with them."

Other McCartney Fun Facts

  • McCartney was always uptight that everyone considered Lennon, not to mention Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, a lot hipper than him. Thus, he was known to brag, particularly on the pages of Rolling Stone, about being first to try this and that. It was on the pages of Rolling Stone that he first let it be known that he was the first Beatle to try cocaine, and that he came close to cashing it in on unspecified drugs on a few occasions. "I've seen my soul get up and walk across the floor a couple of times." He also claimed in the mag that he gave Mick Jagger his first taste of marijuana. Sir Jagger vociferously denied the claim, saying that the Stones smoked weed long before The Beatles did (nyah nyah!).

  • Continuing on the Paul-is-hipper-than-you-think theme, McCartney was the Beatle who befriended ultra-hipster hero William S. Burroughs when he settled in London during the late 1960s. McCartney supplied Burroughs with tape equipment to experiment with his cutup method.

  • McCartney was also a lifelong friend with Beat/counterculture poet Allen Ginsberg. He performed, along with Philip Glass, on Allen Ginsberg's 1996 CD release, "Ballad of the Skeletons."

  • Paul and Linda McCartney were financial supporters of the 25th and 30th anniversary celebrations of "The Summer of Love." The celebration of psychedelic counterculture was organized by their long-time friend Chet Helms and took place in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.

  • In Blackbird: The Life and Times of Paul McCartney by Geoffrey Giuliano and ex-Wings member Denny Laine, Laine claims that, in the mid-1970s Paul and Linda were heavily into the occult and Aleister Crowley. The 1975 album, Venus and Mars seems to have a bit of an occultist vibe.

    Drugs In Song

    However much McCartney may like his altered states, particularly those derived from cannabis consumption, direct drug references are rare and allusions are subject to debate and interpretation. Nevertheless, aside from the songs mentioned earlier, "Got To Get You Into My Life" and "Day Tripper," I present a few McCartney lyrics that reference drugs, or seem like they probably reference drugs.

    I'm Looking Through You
    1965, Rubber Soul
    Ripped on weed, McCartney sees deeply into his then girlfriend, model Jane Asher, and decides she's a phony. This story has been told by McCartney himself.

    Yellow Submarine
    1966, Revolver
    On the surface, a child's rhyme; but the song was taken as a winking assertion of hippie, psychedelic, drop out escape from the dreary mainstream culture into the upcoming party utopia. It was even adapted by some new left activists as a theme song for those seeking an alternative culture.

    With A Little Help From My Friends
    1967, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
    He gets high with a little help from his friends. What does he see when he turns out the lights?

    Fixing A Hole
    1967, Sgt. Peppers
    Taken by some to be a heroin song (fixing being a term used for shooting up], but also works as a contemplative pothead song or, for that matter, a plain old contemplative person's song. Another song lyric with a drop out vibe.

    Lovely Rita
    1967, Sgt. Peppers
    "When are you free to take some tea with me?" George Harrison has commented that The Beatles frequently used tea as a pseudonym for pot. On the other hand, they were Limeys, so maybe tea is just tea.

    A Day In The Life
    1967, Sgt Peppers
    "Found my way upstairs and had a smoke and somebody spoke and I went into a dream." Probably not a ciggie, but you never know.

    Magical Mystery Tour
    1968, Magical Mystery Tour
    "Roll up!" "A mystery trip." And the whole album/movie concept was taken from Ken Kesey and The Merry Pranksters.

    Penny Lane
    1968, Magical Mystery Tour
    "The pretty nurse is selling poppies from a tray." Hey, wouldn't a florist be selling poppies from a tray? In England, heroin was medicalized and made available to addicts, who were given injections by nurses. Also, "Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes." George Harrison grew up in a suburb near this street, Penny Lane. I recall a story about how George went back there on acid to grok it in all its weirdness. This may have inspired Paul's song.

    Get Back
    1970, Let It Be
    "Jo Jo left her home in Tuscon Arizona for some California grass." Is the grass just grass? What, she couldn't find any grass in Tucson?

    Three Legs
    1971, Ram
    "When I fly above the clouds, when I fly above the crowds, you could knock me down with a feather."

    Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey
    1971, Ram
    "Hands across the water. Heads across the sky." Ahh, peace and drugs in the early seventies. References to heads in the late sixties and early seventies were pretty much understood to mean psychedelic drug heads.

    C Moon
    1973, Red Rose Speedway
    "I'd never get to heaven if I filled my head with glue. What's it all to you?" A rejection of a bad high, and yet, ain't nobody's business but his own.

    Hi Hi Hi
    1973, Red Rose Speedway
    This one is blatant and should have been titled High High High. He's "gonna get high high high." Mediocre song, though.

    Band On The Run
    1973, Band on the Run
    Not about drugs, but about being busted for drugs and Macca's concerns about being "stuck inside these four walls, sent away for ever.'

    Rock Show
    1975, Venus and Mars
    "The tension mounts you score an ounce ole!"

    Medicine Jar
    1975, Venus and Mars
    McCartney's first anti-hard drug song for Wings. Wings guitarist, Jimmy McCulloch, had an ongoing problem with heavy drugs, and eventually died from a heroin overdose. It's generally thought that McCartney wrote these lyrics trying to challenge and discourage his behavior. "Dead on your feet, you won't get far if you keep on putting your hand in the medicine jar."

    Wino Junko
    1976, At The Speed Of Sound
    Apparently, McCartney continued to preach it to brother McCulloch. "Pill freak spring a leak you can't say no."

    The Song We Were Singing
    1997, Flaming Pie
    Apparently a bit of misty nostalgia for old-fashioned psychedelic philosophizing and The Beatles heyday, which also seems to permeate the entire album. "For a while, we could sit, smoke a pipe. And discuss all the vast intricacies of life... Take a sip, see the world through a glass and speculate about the cosmic solution."

    Flaming Pie
    1997, Flaming Pie
    "I took my brains out and stretched 'em on a rack. Now I'm not so sure I'm ever gonna get 'em back... Go ahead, have a vision."



    Final Thoughts from Sir Paul

    So there you have it. The world's most complete roundup of Paul McCartney's relationship with drugs over the years. Does it matter? What does it mean? Let's give Sir Paul the last word, from his as-told-to 1997 biography Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now, co-written with Barry Miles (Miles has also written bios of Ginsberg, Burroughs, and Charles Bukowski):
    In today's climate, I hate to talk about drugs because it's not the same. You have someone jumping on your head the minute you say anything, so I've taken to not trying to give my point of view unless someone really very much asks for it. Because I think the "just say no" mentality is so crazed. I saw a thing in a women's magazine the other day: "He smokes cannabis, what am I to do. He laughs it off when I try to tell him, he says it's not really harmful..." Of course, you're half hoping the advice will be, "well, you know it's not that harmful; if you love him, if you talk to him about it, tell him maybe he should keep it in the garden shed or something," you know, a reasonable point of view. But of course it was, "No no, all drugs are bad. All drugs are bad. Librium's good, Valium's good, ciggies are good, vodka's good. But cannabis, oooh." I hate that unreasoned attitude. I really can't believe it's thirty years since the sixties. I find it staggering. It's like the future, the sixties, the sixties to me, it hasn't happened. I feel like the sixties are about to arrive. And we're in some sort of time warp and it's still going to happen.

    See also:
    Willie Nelson's Narcotic Shrooms
    Prescription Ecstasy and Other Pipe Dreams
    Hallucinogenic Weapons: The Other Chemical Warfare

    Read More

  • Counterculture and the Tech Revolution


    Back in the day, when people were still asking me to explain "Mondo 2000," I used to tell them that we were doing this psychedelic counterculture magazine called "High Frontiers" in the mid-1980s and we were shocked — just shocked — when we were befriended by the Silicon Valley elite. Suddenly, we found ourselves at parties where some of the major software and hardware designers of those early days were hanging out with NASA scientists, quantum physicists, hippies and lefty radicals, artists, libertarians, and your general motley assortment of smart types.

    I was being a bit disingenuous when I made these comments. "High Frontiers" already had a tech/science bias, largely because we'd been influenced by the "Leary-Wilson paradigm." So we were technologically progressive tripsters. I'd also followed Stewart Brand's work with interest through the years.

    The connection between the creators of the driving engine of the contemporary global economy, and the countercultural attitudes that were popular among young people during the 1960s and 70s was sort of a given within the cultural milieu we ("High Frontiers/Mondo 2000") found ourselves immersed in as the 1980s spilled into the 90s. Everybody was "experienced." Everybody was suspicious of state and corporate authority — even those who owned corporations. People casually recalled hanging out with Leary, or The Grateful Dead, or Ken Kesey, or Abbie Hoffman. You get the picture.



    But these upcoming designers of the future were not prone towards lots of public hand waving about their "sex, drugs and question authority" roots. After all, most of them were seeking venture capital and they were selling their toys and tools to ordinary Reagan-Bush era consumers. There was little or no percentage in trying to tell the public, "Oh, by the way. All this stuff? This is how the counterculture now plans to change the world."

    And while there has been plenty of implicit — and even some explicit — talk throughout the years about these associations, no one really tried to trace the connections until 2005, when John Markoff published What the Dormouse Said: How the 60s Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer.

    Markoff's narrative revolved largely around the figures of Douglas Engelbart and Stewart Brand. His book, according to my May 2005 conversation with him on the NeoFiles podcast, covered "the intersection or convergence of two cultures around the Stanford campus in Palo Alto, California throughout the 1960s. One was a psychedelic counterculture and the other was the anti-war movement; and then you have the beginnings of computer technology intersecting them both." Engelbart, in contrast to the mainstream in computer science back then, started thinking about computers as something that could augment and expand the capacity of the human mind. At the same time, another Palo Alto group was researching LSD as a tool for augmenting and expanding the capacity of the human mind. And then, along came the whole anti-war, anti-establishment movement of the sixties and all these tendencies become increasingly tangled as a "people's" computing culture evolves in and around the San Francisco Bay Area.

    What the Dormouse Said is a marvelous read that gives names and faces to an interesting dynamic that helped give birth to the PC. The story is mostly localized in Palo Alto in Silicon Valley, and it's largely about how connections were made. In this sense, it's a story that is as much based on proximity in physical space and time, as it is a story about the evolution of the cultural ideas that might be associated with that word: "counterculture."

    Fred Turner's From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism digs more deeply into how the seeds of a certain view of how the world works (cybernetics) was planted into the emerging 60s counterculture largely through the person of Stewart Brand, and how that seed has succeeded — and how it has continued to exfoliate in new and unexpected ways. While Markoff's book blew the cultural lid off of a partly-suppressed truth — that computer culture was deeply rooted in psychedelic counterculture — Turner's book takes a broader sweep and raises difficult questions about the ideological assumptions that undergird our counterculturally-inflected technoculture. They're both wonderful reads, but Turner's book is both more difficult and ultimately more rewarding.

    What Turner does in From Counterculture to Cyberculture is trace an arc that starts with the very mainstream American interest in cybernetics (particularly within the military) and shows how that implicit interest in self-regulating systems leads directly into the hippie Bible, the "Whole Earth Catalog" and eventually brings forth a digital culture that distributes computing power to (many of) the people, and which takes on a sort-of mystical significance as an informational "global brain." And then, towards the book's conclusion, he raises some unpleasant memories, as Brand's digital countercultural elite engages in quasi-meaningful socio-political intercourse with Newt Gingrich's Progress and Freedom Foundation and other elements of the mid-90s "Republican Revolution."

    While I welcome Turner's critical vision, I must say honestly that, although I was repulsed by the Gingrich alliance and by much of the corporate rhetoric that emerged, at least in part, out of Brand's digital elitist clan — I think Brand's tactics were essentially correct. Turner implies that valuable social change is more likely to happen through political activism than through the invention and distribution of tools and through the whole systems approach that is implicit in that activity. But I think that the internet has — palpably — been much more successful in changing lives than 40 years of left oppositional activism has been. For one example out of thousands, the only reason the means of communication that shapes our cultural and political zeitgeist isn't COMPLETELY locked down by powerful media corporations is the work that these politically ambiguous freaks have accomplished over the past 40 years. In other words, oppositional activism would be even more occult — more hidden from view — today if not for networks built by hippie types who were not averse to working with DARPA and with big corporations. The world is a complex place.

    In some ways, Turner's critique of cyber-counterculture is similar to Thomas Frank's criticism of urban hipster counterculture in his influential book, The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism. It, in essence, portrays hipsterism as a phenomenon easily transformed into a titillating, attractive, libertine whore for big business. Frank argues that American businesses felt stultified by the conformism of the American 50s and needed a more expansive, experimental, individualistic consumer base that would be motivated by the frequent changes in what's hip and who would desire a wider variety of products. So the hippie culture, despite its implied critique of consumerism that they inherited from the beats, actually energized consumer capitalism and, through advertising and mainstream media, the business world amplified the rebellious message of sixties youth counterculture, encouraging consumers to "join the Dodge rebellion" and "live for today."

    These books by Frank and Turner raise interesting questions and challenge most folks' usual assumptions about the counterculture. But one of the interesting questions that might be raised in response to these critiques is, "So what?" In my own book, Counterculture Through the Ages: From Abraham to Acid House (with Dan Joy), on counterculture as a sort of perennial historical phenomenon, I identify counterculturalism with the continual emergence of individuals and groups who transgress some of the taboos of a particular tribe or religion or era in a way that pushes back boundaries around thoughts and behaviors in ways that lead to greater creativity, greater enjoyment of life, freedom of thought, spiritual heterodoxy, sexual liberties, and so forth. In this context, one might ask if counterculture should necessarily be judged by whether it effectively opposes capitalism or capitalism's excesses. Perhaps, but complex arguments can be made either way, or more to the point, NEITHER way, since any countercultural resistance is unlikely to follow a straight line — it is unlikely to reliably line up on one side or another.

    These reflections may not be directly related to one of Turner's concerns: that an elite group of white guys have decided how to change the world. On the other hand, one might also ask how much direct influence the last decade's digerati still has. The "ruling class" in the digital era is an ever-shifting target; all those kids using Google, YouTube, the social networks, etc., don't know John Brockman from John Barlow, but a good handful of them certainly know Ze Frank from Amanda Congdon. Meanwhile, the corporate digital powers seem to be pleased to have an ally in the new Democratic Speaker of the House. And that may be the coolest thing about the world that Stewart Brand and his cohorts have helped to inspire. In the 21st Century, the more things change, the more things change.



    I interviewed Fred Turner recently on NeoFiles...
    To listen to the full interview in MP3, click here.

    RU SIRIUS: Would you comment on the differences between your book and John Markoff's 2005 book, What the Dormouse Said?

    FRED TURNER: The books have different ambitions. John's book focuses heavily on the late 60s and early 70s and lays out a series of relatively anecdotal connections between the social world of computers around Doug Engelbart's lab and around Menlo Park and the social worlds that Stewart Brand was a part of. It's a neat, fun story.

    I think my book is substantially more ambitious in its size and its scope. It starts in the 1940s and extends all the way until the 1990s, and it makes a different argument. For John, counterculture and LSD are essentially the same thing.

    That's not the case, in my view. I'm proudest of the way this book shows how a particular wing of the counterculture that Brand spoke to grew very directly out of cold war and World War II research culture. It was not entirely a counterculture. I think that's been a historical mistake that I hope the book clears up.

    Also, I think John would argue that the experience of taking LSD shaped the design of the personal computer. I think that's demonstrably false. On the contrary, the design of computing machinery and other kinds of information machinery in the 40s and 50s shaped what we thought minds were good for, and when LSD came on the scene it was read by some in terms that had already been set by 40s and 50s techno-culture, the same techno-culture that ultimately brought us computing machinery. And this counterculture, in my book, doesn't end in the '60s. It fades away and gets reborn in a way that is closely attached to the libertarian movements of the 1990s; movements that are arguably not countercultural at all. I think the book makes an effort to explain how and why that happened.

    RU: LSD in some sense was a tool for understanding the same things that cybernetic theorists were understanding, because both things are, in some sense, about pattern recognition. Thankfully you go into the influence of Norbert Werner's actual work on cybernetics on Stewart Brand, since "cyber" is a much abused prefix.

    FT: Pattern recognition, in the 1940s and '50s, was very literally about saving the world. We tend to forget that, in the '40s and '50s; the arrival of the atom bomb and the experience of World War II made it absolutely imperative that we enhance our consciousness and literally extend our abilities to monitor the world so as to prevent nuclear war.

    If we could spot patterns of invasion, we could literally prevent ourselves from being destroyed. If you look at Brand's diaries in the late 50s, he's terribly afraid that the Soviet Union is going to invade and literally overrun Palo Alto. That fear was very powerful. And I think what he has wanted to do for 30-odd years now is save the world through making patterns very visible. That's a mission that grows very directly out of the cold war.

    Brand found cybernetics in a funny way. He was in the New York art world in the 1960s and he started hanging out with a group of artists called UsCo — the Us Company. This was the avant-garde in New York in the 60s — people around John Cage and Robert Rauschenberg — and all those guys were reading cybernetics. They were reading Norbert Wiener. So Brand picked him up as well. And, as far as I can tell, Brand was the person who brought cybernetics back to much of the Bay Area counterculture and very specifically to the pranksters.

    RU: Brand works his way through Wiener to Buckminster Fuller, another systems thinker.

    FT: Brand has had a series of very powerful intellectual inspirations. Fuller would be one, Kesey would be another. For Brand, Fuller was a model in two senses. He was a model of systems thinking, and he was also a model of an intellectual entrepreneur. Fuller moved from university to university, from setting to setting, knitting communities together. That's what Brand learned to do. He learned to do it partly by watching Fuller.

    RU: Fuller was, in a sense, one of the first cyber-Ronin, the wandering techno-entrepreneur type that is much touted later in the 1990s by people like John Brockman and "Wired" magazine.

    FT: Absolutely. I think of Fuller and Kesey and Brand as P.T. Barnums. They are people who can't ride a trick horse, can't ride an elephant, can't ride a trapeze. And yet they build the rings of the circus; they bring the performers in; and they learn the languages and the styles of the circus. And they speak the circus' meanings to the audience. Brand has very much been the voice of a series of very important circuses.

    RU: So, into the hippie era, Brand is part of the Merry Pranksters for a while; he does the "Whole Earth Catalog," but he's never really a hippie. And most hippies are not, generally, systems thinkers. "Hey man, spare change, I'm going to Woodstock" isn't systems thinking. Brand is very much off on his own distinctive trip. And yet there is this through-line that takes Brand from the avant-garde through the trips festivals to Whole Earth and on to the Global Business Network and then on through the creation of "Wired." Can you describe what those memes or through-lines are?

    FT: There's a misapprehension that has plagued a lot of Americans, including a lot of historians, about the 60s counterculture. We tend to think of the counterculture as a set of anti-war protests; as drug use and partying. But we don't tend to differentiate between two groups that were very importantly differentiated in that time: the New Left, and the group that I've called the New Communalists. Brand speaks to the New Communalists. Though it's mostly forgotten now, between 1966 and 1973 there was the largest wave of communal activity in all of American history.

    Between 1966 and 1973, conservative estimates suggest that 10 million Americans were involved in communes. Brand speaks to that group by promoting the notion that small-scale technologies like LSD, stereos, books, Volkswagens; are tools for building new alternative communities.

    The New Left wanted to change the world by doing politics in order to change politics. They formed SDS (Students for a Democratic Society). They protested. Brand and his group turned his backs on all that. Brand said, what we need to do is go out and build these communities, and my job is to build a catalog of tools through which people can gain access to the technologies that they can build communities around. So the core idea that migrates from the 60s to the 90s is the idea that we can build small-scale technologies and communities of consciousness around those technologies. So we no longer need to do politics per se. That idea kicks in again in the 80s around the rise of the personal computer, the ultimate in small-scale technology. It gives us the idea of virtual community, a distributed community gathered around small-scale technologies. And it ultimately plays very directly into the beliefs of Newt Gingrich in the 1990s.



    RU: OK. You're jumping ahead to the collision of certain cyber-libertarians and the mid-90s Republican right. At the same time, you're sketching a line that leads to open source. Going back to Whole Earth, the idea was access to tools and tools for access. And in some sense Brand nailed the whole platform back then at the end of the sixties for everything that computer culture comes to stand for.

    FT: I think there's a confusion that is plaguing our understanding of the internet right now. We tend to think the internet's arrival changes everything. My own sense is that the internet arrived in a cultural context that had already begun to change things. And the cultural context substantially shapes how we use the internet, and what we use it for. That said; open source has roots both in the New Communalist wing — and to some extent, through Richard Stallman — very much in New Left activism. Wanting to change the regulation of copyright, for example, is a very New Left kind of thing.

    RU: I also think there's a punk influence in this whole thing that gets ignored. Stylistically, Brand couldn't be more different than the punk culture. But there's a direct and important link between Whole Earth and punk culture and that's DIY — Do It Yourself; start your own institutions, anybody can grab a tool and use it.

    FT: Very definitely. And Brand briefly embraced punk in his late-70s magazine, "Co-Evolution Quarterly." And got a lot of hate mail from his audience.

    RU: The new communalist movement failed pretty much entirely. The idea of leaving behind the urban and suburban settings and going off and starting your own world failed. Even in terms of ecological or environmental ideas, the hip idea now is urban density. The attitude about tools survived, but the idea of back-to-the-country was pretty much useless.

    FT: The idea of back-to-the-country didn't work. But I think something deeper didn't work, and it haunts us today, even as it underlies a lot of what we do. The notion that you can build a community around shared style is a deeply bohemian notion. It runs through all sorts of bohemian worlds. The notion that if you just get the right technology you can then build a unified community is a notion that drove a lot of the rural communal efforts. They thought by changing technological regimes; by going to 19th century technologies; by making their own butter; sewing their own clothes — they would be able to build a new kind of community. What they discovered was that if you don't do politics — explicitly, directly, through parties, through organizations — if you don't pay attention to and articulate what's going on with real material power, communities fail.

    So I argue that there's a fantasy that haunts the internet, and it's haunted it for at least a decade. And it's the idea that if we just get the tools right and communicate effectively, we will be able to be intimate with one another and build the kinds of communities that don't exist outside, in the rest of our lives. And I think that's a deep failure and a fantasy.

    RU: I agree with that to some extent, because I don't think it takes into account the effort of human beings like Stewart Brand and like the punks in creating a fecund culture before the internet came around. So that there were generations of people who grew up with the idea, "Yeah, I CAN do it myself. I don't have to wait for Eric Clapton or Timothy Leary to tell me what to do. I'm not just a consumer. I can do my own stuff." I have advocated the idea to a few people that this so-called Long Tail really wouldn't have happened nearly as quickly without the punk counterculture coming before it, creating the attitude that you didn't have to be a professional to have something to say. I generally get dismissed by tech people.

    FT: I think technologists and economists both tend to believe that it all revolves around barriers to entry — people have things they want to do, and if you just lower the barriers to doing them by changing the technology, those things become possible.

    RU: I think eventually that will happen. It happens a lot faster if you create a cultural environment for it.

    FT: You can see that just in the geographical distribution of the kinds of things we're talking about. There's a reason Silicon Valley is in California and not in Montana. Part of it's density, but part of it's also culture.

    RU: It's peculiar that ideas from something called "New Communalism", and that's all about group mind and shared tools, winds up being absorbed not only into the libertarian trip but also by elements of the Republican right.

    FT: And Newt Gingrich always rejected the drug culture. Just loathed it.

    RU: He once wrote that either drug use should be legalized or drug users should get the death penalty.

    FT: (sarcastic) Charming man. I didn't know that. He did loathe drug culture, but he embraced many of the ideals that were circulating in those worlds. Part of what we forget about the communalism of that period is that it wasn't entirely idealistic and selfless. People wanted to build communities around themselves. The art world that Brand was most invested in during the early 60s — the Us Company — had a sign above there door that said "Just Us." It's the idea of a collaborative collective elite. That works very well for people who want to be in charge of their own lives and in charge of sections of the world. One idea that travels through the thirty or forty years covered in the book, from the counterculture to the libertarianism of the 90s, is this idea that we can form collective elites together.

    RU: And that's fine if a group of thirty white guys get together and do a project that creates value in the world. But when that project says, "We're re-making the entire world," other people will stand up and say, "Hey wait a minute."

    FT: Right. And when it provides a kind of guiding logic for people on Wall Street or Republicans in Washington, that's when it really gets scary. When Kevin Kelly, who was a "Whole Earth Review" editor, writes "New Rules for the New Economy," that becomes the bible for the internet bubble, and for people who behave in an extraordinarily rapacious manner, in Washington and New York alike.

    RU: There are attractive aspects to this sort of anarcho-capitalism — "Throw out the rulebooks! Go with the flow!"

    FT: But there's another thing that haunts the anarcho-capitalist world, despite the parts that you and I might like. There's the notion that getting the right friends together is sufficient for politics.

    RU: And you also simply don't think about those who are excluded. But there's been a lot of movement in the direction towards distributing the tools and being concerned with those who have been excluded.

    FT: I think that the notion that distributing tools and granting access is sufficient for making social change is a deeply new communalist notion, but it doesn't work. Because there are cultural and social conditions, social capital, that you require to be successful.

    RU: We're into different types of politics that emerge from the sixties. And one type is oppositional and another is collaborationist. Stewart Brand is one counterculture person who mixes it up with corporations and the military right from the start. He shares info with the Pentagon and brings all kinds of people into these sort of think tank situations — people ranging from hippies and environmentalists to establishment types. And that distinction between his branch of counterculture and a broader, more militant counterculture is still reflected today in the differences between anti-corporate counterculturalists and the more compromised cyber-counterculture.



    I think that Brand is more sophisticated than the pure oppositionalists. But there is also much that is questionable about his approach. For instance, if you question the military policies of the US, then you maybe should question how much you want to help them.

    FT: One of the things that bubbled up in the new communalist movement and haunts a lot of techno-cultural work today is a shift in rhetoric from the language of politics to the language of science. So now we have the language of learning, the language of emergence, the language of self-organization. Brand and his cohorts — groups like the Global Business Network and the Santa Fe Institute — are creating a politically neutral language for gathering together potentially controversial kinds of networks. So suddenly, if I'm a player and I have anti-military leanings, and there's a general in the mix, I think to myself, "Well, he's part of our learning organization. We'll learn together." That substantially neutralizes any opportunity I might have to disagree with him.

    RU: One expression of this is the idea of Bionomics — economics modeled by biology. I have less objection to that idea than I have to its conclusions. I think the "and therefore" is premature. But the idea that our behaviors are deeply rooted in biology...

    FT: Biological models in the social sciences have a horrible history. We tend to forget social Darwinists called for, among other things, the eugenic erasure of people who weren't evolving properly. Bionomics' problem is a different one. I don't necessarily mind the migration of metaphors from biology to other fields, as long as they're recognized as metaphors. What I mind, specifically, in the case of Bionomics is the fusion of two metaphors, one scientific and one market-based.

    RU: But it isn't entirely a metaphor. We can't ignore biology.

    FT: Sure. There are things that work one way or another at the species level that can be shown through science and biology, and that's terrific. But with Bionomics — there's a habit of translating species-level learning, species-level principles, to much smaller social worlds and arguing that those are the principles that drive those worlds. And I think that's a nasty habit.

    RU: It's the habit of abstraction, which political radicals on the left do as well. In Brand's interactions with the corporate elite, how would you say he taught them to look at things?

    FT: That's the wrong way of putting it. Brand has a theory of power that comes out of cybernetics. It says, I can't instruct you to do anything. I can't do that hierarchically. What I can do is build a forum in which you're likely to bump into some kinds of folks, and then I can watch and see what bubbles out of that forum. And I can speak it. Brand gathers people around certain questions and selects the site for activity and he sees what happens.

    RU: He established a connection with Kevin Kelly at "Co-Evolution Quarterly." And that sort of becomes a partnership that runs through their participation in "Wired" and on through the Long Now Foundation.

    FT: Very much so. Kevin Kelly has his own sensibility, it's very much a kind of Whole Earth communalist sensibility, but filtered through a born-again mind. It's very important to remember that Kevin Kelly is an evangelically religious man, and there's a kind of Messianism in his work.

    RU: Wired publisher Louis Rossetto seems like the more messianic one.

    FT: I'm speculating here, but I think that's more a matter of temperament.

    RU: Let's close out with some thoughts on how this river runs from cybernetics through to Wired magazine.

    FT: I think "Wired" is a magazine in which small-scale technologies — digital technologies in that case — are thought to be changing the world by allowing us to finally communicate with one another, and to build communities of consciousness. And those communities of consciousness are going to change the world. That is an idea that emerges first in the research worlds of World War II, and the cold war, gets picked up and culturally legitimated by Stewart Brand by the "Whole Earth" crew in the 1960s and travels with them into the 1980s, onto The Well, into the Global Business Network, onto the pages of Wired, and ultimately into our public life today.


    See Also:
    Steve Wozniak v. Stephen Colbert — and Other Pranks
    Google Heard Me, Now What?
    iPhone Debate: I'm a Mac vs. Bill Gates
    How the iPod Changes Culture

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    Willie Nelson’s ‘Narcotic’ Shrooms

    Psilocybin Shroom
    Willie Nelson and four others were issued misdemeanor citations for possession of narcotic mushrooms and marijuana after a traffic stop Monday morning on a Louisiana highway, state police said. — Associated Press, September 18, 2005

    Webster's Dictionary defines a narcotic as "a drug that produces numbness or stupor; often taken for pleasure or to reduce pain; extensive use can lead to addiction."

    According to Medicine.net, the word narcotic comes from the Greek word "narke" which means "numbness or torpor." A second definition from the same site acknowledges that the word narcotic has slipped into common usage and has come to mean "A drug such as marijuana which is subject to regulatory restrictions comparable to those for addictive narcotics." Wikipedia tells us that, "A narcotic is an addictive drug derived from opium, that reduces pain, induces sleep and may alter mood or behavior. The derivation of the word is from the Greek word narkotikos, meaning 'benumbing or deadening,' and originally referred to a variety of substances that induce sleep (such state is narcosis)." From there, the Wikipedia entry goes on to acknowledge that "Many police in the United States use the word 'narcotic' to refer to any illegal drug or any unlawfully possessed drug." (Actually, nearly all narcotics are legal with a prescription, unlike Willie's shrooms)

    The misuse of the word narcotic by America's legal system began early in the 20th Century.  Legendary psychedelic chemist/researcher Alexander "Sasha" Shulgin told me...

    The original meaning of narcotic was to define something that would cause narcosis — a numbing dopy state where there wasn't much feeling, and pain was lessened and sleep came easily. The Harrison Narcotics Act was passed into law in about 1915 give or take a couple of years, [ed: 1914] and it was basically a law making opium (and morphine) and coca (and cocaine) illegal.These were collectively called narcotics, and the term came to represent those two drugs (and their allies) for years. Illegal drugs were called narcotics, and the people who were employed by the Bureau of Narcotics were called Narks. In 1936 a super ego called Anslinger moved to put marijuana into the law and it was called by all the police, "another narcotic. " This was the status of Federal drug law until the sixties when the hippie movement took off. Clearly LSD and mescaline and STP (DOM) weren't like opium (the focal definition of a narcotic) so the Bureau of Narcotics weren't the right people to go after the users. So a new group was created, associated with the FDA, and called the BNDD or Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.The B of N and the FDA wore difference hats and competed for attention in the anti-drug fight. It all was resolved in about 1970 with the passage of the Controlled Substance Act bill and the creation of the DEA. It is quite a story.


    Among the drug hip, the use of the word narcotic to describe mind-active drugs other than opiates carries with it an implicit irony. (Implicit only because irony, by its nature, can't be explicit.) On the other hand, the mainstream media, even the San Francisco Chronicle, from the drug-sophisticated Bay Area, tends to use law enforcement misnomers for illicit drugs, when reporting news around drugs. For instance, one report called the disassociative hallucinogen Ketamine a "date rape drug." There is, of course, no such thing as a date rape drug. There are drugs that were developed to be used — and are used — for other purposes that are, on rare occasions, used for date rape. And then there's alcohol, which has been the more easily available and frequently used substance of choice for date rapists since time immemorial. Unlike some other US papers, The Chronicle, at least, never reported on an LSD overdose, something that is virtually impossible to achieve, however hard some of us may have tried back in the days of heroic dose experimentation.



    There are probably a dozen or so regular Chronicle culture and opinion writers who are sufficiently (intimately) knowledgeable regarding mind-altering plants and chemicals to inform the news editors about their mistakes, but who cares? No news agency will ever have a Dan Rather crisis for accepting and passing along drug misinformation. Indeed, nobody... nobody demands accuracy from the news media regarding mind-altering drugs or those who enjoy them.

    Meanwhile, back to the concept of "narcotic" shrooms: As far as I've been able to decipher in one day's research, there are no opium-containing mushrooms nor are there any pharmaceutical relaxants or stupefiers that are derived from mushrooms. However, one source, who asked to be nameless, but who is associated with a company that supplies legal highs, told me that the Amanita Mascaria mushroom "can cause a kind of drunken stupor that can last a couple of hours, slowing you down until you pass out." Accoding to Ilsa Jerome, Project Coordinator for MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies), "The depressant compound [in amanita] is almost certainly muscimol, a direct GABA agonist, GABA (gamma-amino-butyric acid) being a major inhibitory transmitter. Other GABA agonists include benzodiazepines, GHB and ethanol." Other compounds in Amanita, however, likely have opposite, excitatory effects, so stupefaction experiences are rare, and most experimenters report mild psychedelic effects, with some disassociative properties. And of course, Psilocybin, the drug that Willie was actually carrying, is a psychedelic (mind-manifesting drug or plant); or as some would have it, an entheogen (drug or plant that causes one to experience the god within); or a hallucinogen (drug or plant that causes one to watch The Dead for five hours without getting bored shitless.)

    I asked Jerome if she was aware of any relationship between the activity of psilocybin in the brain and the activity of actual narcotics (i.e. opiates). She noted that, "There are a few studies that describe the effects of psilocybin in people, but none alongside those of opiates." But she added, "We do know that psilocybin, like LSD, mescaline and a host of obscure related drugs, acts to 'switch on' certain serotonin receptors. All these drugs share activity at 5HT2A and 5HT2C receptors; from there, actions vary, but psilocybin also acts to turn on 5HT1A and probably 5HT1B receptors. Opiates act on at least three opioid receptors, those being represented by the Greek letters 'mu', 'sigma', 'delta' and 'kappa'

    In other words, "they definitely have different pharmacological activities." (Technically, Dr. Shulgin points out, psilocybin doesn't cross the blood/brain barrier and make it into the brain. Only after digestion is Psilocin produced, which does get across the brain-blood barrier to produce the psychedelic effects. Shulgin says, "This accounts for the time delay from the eating to the turning on.")

    Perhaps we should accept the term "narcotic" as a description of any illicit mind-active drug since it is now common usage. But the word still carries more than a whiff of its original connotations. Drug warriors and reductionists do think of all illegal drug effects in terms of stupefaction. Most psychedelic fans would argue that these substances result in the opposite of stupefaction. Indeed, the experience frequently makes trippers painfully hyper-aware. On the other hand, if you're hoping that your buddy who is tripping on a hefty dose of shrooms will help you sort the garbage for tomorrow's recycling pick up, you might consider the slacker — laying on the floor for six hours staring at the back of his eyelids — to be stupified.

    Narcotics or no, Willie Nelson will remain an American institution. Universally loved despite his weird-ass mile-long ponytail, lefty politics, and blatant marijuana advocacy, maybe this Willie Nelson bust will help awaken our countrymen to the absurdity of the drug war and the assumptions that are built into it. Probably not, though. For one thing, people find so much entertainment value in celebrity run-ins with the law that they don't want to mess up the fun by making serious politics out of it. Anyway, most people seem to regard this endless game of cops-and-stoners as an irretrievable fact of life.

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