Category Archives: art

4/20, a CIA Plot Involving the Grateful Dead

steal_your_pot

It’s 4/20 again, Oh boy! I’m not big on celebrating 4/20 as a holiday. I mean, if somebody hands me a joint, any day of the year, I’ll happily smoke it, but as a holiday, 4/20 comes up a day late and a dollar short, if you ask me.

a day late

April 19th is the day to celebrate. Think about it. The psychedelic revolution was born on April 19 1943. April 19 is “Bicycle Day,” the day Albert Hoffman first discovered the psychoactive properties of LSD, and took his famous bike ride home from the Sandoz lab in Switzerland. Also, the Battle of Lexington and Concord took place on April 19, the first major battle in the American Revolution. April 19th is a day to remember that sometimes revolution is a good thing, and some things are worth fighting for. That’s something to celebrate.

bicycle-day

What happened on April 20th that has anything at all to do with marijuana? Nothing. Nothing at all.

nothing

What did happen on April 20th? What is the most significant thing to happen, in the whole history of civilization, on April 20? Adolf Hitler was born. Remember him? What a guy. He cast his shadow over the entire 20th Century, and remains an iconic symbol of pure evil to this day. That’s not something I want to celebrate.

hitlers birthday cake

Hitler’s birthday should be marked by a somber day to remember the horrible things the Nazis did, and to remember that people did those things. April 20 is a day to remember that at one time, Hitler was a baby, just like millions of other babies, and his mother loved him and took care of him and sent him to school, and he grew up to become Der Fuhrer of the Third Reich, and to instigate the most ghoulish bloodbath of a blood-soaked century. April 20th is a day to remember that any little baby can grow up to become another Hitler someday, and that’s something every perspective parent should think about.

hitlers birthday guidelines

Anyway, the fact that Adolf Hitler was born on on April 20th hangs like a pall over the entire day, making it unfit to celebrate. Unless, of course, you are a fascist. Fascists love to celebrate Hitler’s Birthday. If you ask me, fascists are behind the whole business of celebrating April 20th as some kind of pot holiday. I think the whole 420 phenomena is part of a CIA CoIntelPro disinformation campaign designed to derail the revolutionary elements of the cannabis counter-culture.

CIA cointelpro

The whole 420 back-story seems pretty dubious. Supposedly, some Bay Area high-school kids concocted 420 as a code word for getting high, because it took exactly 4:20 seconds for them to walk to their favorite place to smoke herb. That doesn’t make sense because: A, Some kids are faster than others. B, Who times their walks like that? And C, Kids would compete to see who could get there faster, so 420 would eventually become 418, 415, or even 412. Within a few years, some particularly fast stoners would have whittled it down to 3:58.

fast times

Also, consider this: All over the country, people constantly coin new code-words for marijuana, ranging from “bass strings” to “turf.” all of these terms must enjoy a certain amount of popularity to be effective, but all of them lose their “cool” once you hear them on TV. Code-words, after all, have to be changed once the enemy has broken the code. 420 on the other hand just seems to get more popular the more banal it becomes. Speaking of things that get more popular the more banal they sound…

bland calm

Look at where this story comes from. Apparently, some of these apocryphal 420 kids were friends of Phil Lesh, the bass player for the Grateful Dead. Supposedly, 420, as a code-word for marijuana, arose within the Grateful Dead subculture. That story doesn’t check-out either. If you saw the Dead back in the ’70s, you never heard the term 420, at least I don’t recall hearing it when I saw them back in ’78, when I saw them at Music Hall in Cleveland, a great venue that only seats 3,000 people, and the show didn’t sell out.

gd cleveland nov 20 78-horz

But a few years later, the Grateful Dead sure did. At the height of Reagan’s War on Drugs, suddenly, this washed-up Woodstock era band of drug-addled geezers had a smash hit on MTV. Next thing you know, the Grateful Dead were the biggest tour on the planet, selling-out stadiums and arenas all over the country, and all over the country, millions of drugged-up, hippied-out, middle-class white kids started calling marijuana, 420. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

coincidence-I-think-not

I’ve never trusted the Grateful Dead since then, and I assumed they were a front for the CIA. Here’s why: First, they were the least revolutionary of the psychedelic rock bands. The Grateful Dead didn’t drop LSD in Nixon’s coffee machine, like Grace Slick did,

grace slick

…and they didn’t set things on fire, like Jimi Hendrix did.

jimi hendrix

They just took drugs and played music. That made the Dead safe for consumption, in the eyes of the CIA. That’s why the CIA used the Grateful Dead to derail, demotivate and lobotomize the psychedelic revolution.

CIA Psychedelic_Intelligence

By combining pitifully low doses of LSD with excessive amounts of stoned-out bluegrass Americana music, the Grateful Dead turned America’s disaffected youth into mindless party animals incapable of original thought, let alone revolutionary action. The Grateful Dead offer nothing remotely revolutionary, original, or even interesting in their music. Instead, with the CIA’s help, they threw a huge wet blanket of blandness over the imagination of a whole generation.

cia lsd

The whole point of the Grateful Dead was to stop people from experimenting with music and drugs, and instead, make sure that whenever people found drugs, the CIA could drown them in a murky sea of rehashed country-western, bluegrass, folk-rock pap. The Grateful Dead Disneyfied the psychedelic experience, and Jerry Garcia was a stooge who, wittingly or unwittingly, helped the CIA control the minds of America’s youth.

garcia devil

Today, people all over America are celebrating Adolf Hitler’s Birthday by smoking a joint while they listen to dumb redneck music. That’s how effectively the CIA used the Grateful Dead to subdue and incapacitate the psychedelic revolution. You may think this theory sounds like delusional paranoia, but do you have a better explanation?

gd white community

I didn’t think so.

i didnt think so


That’s Entertainment

thats entertainment big

Awhile ago, I agreed to help a friend fix his washing machine. I’ve never fixed a washing machine before, but I was happy to lend a hand. As it turns out, a washing machine is a rather complicated mechanical contraption, and we found ourselves stumped by an inaccessible fastener. As we stood there scratching our heads, trying to solve this problem, my friend had a brilliant idea. “Hey,” he said, “Let’s go smoke a joint and watch a video.”

smoke a joint

That sounded like a great idea to me. As we filled the air with great frothy clouds of sweet cannabis smoke, my friend input the make and model of his washing machine into the search engine at Youtube, looking for a “how-to” video that would show us how to replace the agitator dogs on his Kenmore. That’s how I discovered this:

I don’t blame you for not watching it all the way through, but **SPOILER ALERT** there is no surprise ending. That video is a one-camera, 29 minute close-up of an open washing machine, going through one complete cycle. That’s it. No music. No special effects. No narration. I can’t even imagine what you would say to narrate a video like that: “Will you look at that! Someone has turned the knob on that ’86 Kenmore and water has begun spraying into the agitator drum. Get ready for a great show because it looks like someone is going to do some laundry.”

sportscasters

I would have never imagined that doing laundry could become a spectator sport. I mean, I would rather watch someone do laundry, than do laundry myself, but I’d rather not watch, or do, laundry, unless I had to, because I find it dull and tedious. Until the moment I saw that video, I thought that most people agreed with me about that. Apparently, I have no idea what constitutes entertainment these days, because Youtube tells me that that video has been watched more than 60,000 times.  62,290 views to be precise, at the time of this post.

thanks for 62000 views

I don’t know whether 60,000 people watched this video once, or 10,000 people watched it six times each.  Either way, I find this statistic very disturbing.

Lack_Of_Cats_Disturbing

What kind of drugs do you have to take to stare at an open washing machine for a half-hour? Where can I get some? I’ll try them, whatever they are, because I just don’t get it.

i dont get it at all

I mean, I’ve seen some stupid TV shows, but this makes Duck Dynasty look like Masterpiece Theater by comparison, and it’s not just this one video. I’ve since discovered that this isn’t even the most popular open washing machine video on Youtube.

(over 190,000 views)

In fact, you can watch open washing machine videos all day, day after day, and never have to see the same washing machine video twice. The Kenmore Washing Machine Youtube Channel has 23 different videos to watch. The SpeedQueen Channel has 54 videos, and the Whirlpool Channel tops them all with 133 different videos of open washing machines, going through their wash and rinse cycle.

whirlpool channel2

Who watches these things? Autistic children? Nostalgic old ladies in nursing homes? Laundry fetishists? Please tell me. What is the appeal?

laundry fetishist

Look, I’m a musician. I’ve been making music for more than 30 years. I’ve made movies and TV shows, and I currently produce three radio shows, not to mention this blog. I pour my life into my work, because I respect my audience, and I believe in the transformative power of art. Meanwhile, people watch this.

That is a nine-hour video of washing machine noise, that has been watched over 360,000 times!  What does that do to people? Is this brain-washing? It can’t be healthy, but this is what people want. What are you going to do? I don’t know about you, but I’m going out to shoot some long videos of paint drying.


Advice for Adventurous Ears

ear to bell

It’s been a very busy week of radio work for me, so I don’t have much of an essay for you, but I strongly encourage you to listen to my latest radio show featuring a really great band from Arcata called Medicine Baul.

This will be the official debut of my new music-themed public affairs radio show called The Adventurous Ear.   The show will highlight music of exceptional originality, and focus primarily on musicians in our local area and region.  The Adventurous Ear will air on KMUD on Thursday, March 26 at 5pm, and on the fourth Thursday of every other month, alternating in that time-slot with my other public affairs show, which I co-produce with my partner Amy Gustin, called Wildlife Matters.

wildlife matters radio show-kmud

You may recall that I wrote this review of Medicine Baul’s performance at Jambalaya last year.  If you haven’t heard Medicine Baul before, you’ll get a chance to hear their music and listen to them talk about how and why they make it.  Every Medicine Baul performance sounds different because the band composes their music on the spot at each venue.  I recorded their performance at Synapsis in Eureka, CA on Dec. 13 2014, and interviewed them after their performance at Siren’s Song on the previous Nov. 3.

medicine baul 9c

Besides creating amazing music, I found the members of Medicine Baul I talked to,  Willoughby Arevalo, Ishan Vernallis, Vinny DeVaney, and Laura Corsiglia, all to be articulate, interesting and thoughtful people.  From talking to them, it is clear that they each bring a highly evolved sense of intent and purpose to their work, but they don’t compete with each other for control.  Instead, they value each other and honor the moment in a spontaneous collaborative effort.  As a result, the music is bigger than all of them, and encompasses the audience as well.  To fully appreciate their music, you have to be there to share it with them as they create it.

medicine baul 7c

Still, I think you’ll enjoy this episode of The Adventurous Ear.  You’ll hear a range of sounds from Medicine Baul’s 75+ minute set, interspersed with snippets of interview.  In one half-hour show, I offer listeners a pretty good introduction to the band and their approach to music.  I hope you’ll tune in.

medicine baul drummer4


My Record-Breaking New Guitar

record-breakers

I just finished building myself a new guitar. In itself, I don’t think that sets any new records, except perhaps for some personal records for myself. For instance: This new guitar, with four strings, has more strings than any instrument I’ve built so far. I don’t expect that record to last long, because I’ve already begun work on a crude electric harp. This is also the first stringed instrument I’ve built that has a fret-board, although I didn’t set the frets, and it’s the first electric stringed instrument I’ve built that has a built-in amplifier.

personal record

Aside from these personal records, I can’t even claim to have recorded any new records with this guitar. I just finished building it, after all. I’m just getting to know the instrument. I wanted to build an instrument with a unique sound, and I’ve achieved that, but I expect it will take a while before I learn to speak its language fluently enough to compose music for it. Although it has a unique sound, I can’t say it’s uniqueness breaks any records.

unique2

You could see my new guitar as a kind of phoenix, rising from the ashes of an older, if not unique, at least unusual guitar. My new guitar began with an listing on the SoHum Buy-Sell-Trade Facebook page where I let people know that I was looking for junk guitar parts, especially tuning machines. Felix Omai responded to my ad by generously offering to give me the remains of an old Harmony brand arch-top, four-string, tenor guitar. I was delighted to receive it.

pheonix

The guitar was in pretty sad shape. It’s arch had fallen, the back of the body had come off, the front of the body detached from the sides, and the fret-board fell off of the neck. One of the tuning pegs turned to dust between my fingers as I tried, for obviously the first time in many years, to turn it.

crumbled tuning peg1

I googled the guitar online, and found a nice picture of what it must have looked like in its heyday, and I have to admit that it was a pretty sharp-looking guitar, considering that it retailed for $79.00 in the Sears and Roebuck Catalog. Even in 1962, that was a pretty cheap guitar.

harmony_tenor_guitar

The online reviews, however, all panned the guitar’s sound as “muddy,” “undefined,” and “bottom-heavy,” so I didn’t feel bad about salvaging the parts I could use to make a new and unique instrument. After I reattached the fret-board to the neck, and replaced the broken tuning peg with a little slab of deer antler, I salvaged the whole neck assembly, as well as the tailpiece and part of the rosewood bridge.

headstock tuner-horz

I replaced the body with a crude rectangle of wood I salvaged from a shipping pallet.  I built an electric pickup of my own design using an upcycled mint tin, a piezoelectric disc I salvaged from an electronic toy, some compression springs I got at Scrap Humboldt, and the rosewood string saddles from the bridge of the old Harmony. This unique acoustic-electric bridge pickup, with built-in spring reverb gives the guitar its unique sound, at least partially.

mint tin pickup

My new guitar’s other secret weapon is its on-board amplifier, with a speaker mounted directly beneath the strings. I built the amplifier around an LM386 8-pin amplifier chip, and powered it with a 9-volt battery.

lm 386 amplifier

The amplifier has an on-off switch, input volume, and gain control, which allows me to play it as an “acoustic’ instrument, that is, without plugging it into an external amplifiers, and to overdrive the amplifier producing distortion and feedback, whether it is plugged into an external amplifier or not.

DSC_0005

Still, I did have to break two records to build this guitar, and no one will ever listen to this copy of Iron Butterfly’s 1960’s rock anthem, Inna-Gadda-Da-Vida,

inna gadda da vida

or Billy Crystal’s hit single You Look Marvelous again.

you look marvelous

Instead, you can listen to to me play them like this:


Star Trek Predicted, Mr. Spock Inspired

StarTrekCast

We all mourn the passing of actor, photographer, and singer, Leonard Nimoy. But let’s face it. Were it not for a single role he played, on a short lived TV show from the ’60s, most of us wouldn’t give a rats ass about Leonard Nimoy.

leonard nimoy piano

Mr. Spock, however, the eminently logical, half-alien, science officer of the Starship Enterprise became a role model for a whole generation of emotionally distant men, and Star Trek’s vision of a bright, high-tech future captured our imagination and defined our aspirations as a culture.

spock live long and prosper

Star trek provided us with a vision of the future that we could look forward to. We had solved all of our Earthly problems, managed to have friendly, cooperative relations with thousands of other civilized high-tech cultures from far-flung galaxies. We had plenty of resources, and the technology, to send 5,000 young people into deep space on a giant spacecraft capable of traveling several times the speed of light, just to see what kind of trouble they could get into.

star trek USS_Enterprise_(NCC-1701)

Star Trek showed us that we could go anywhere in the galaxy, at any time of year, and we didn’t even need to bring a sweater.

star trek landing party

Star Trek taught us that the universe was full of intelligent alien species who were, inexplicably, sexually compatible with humans, and spoke English, and Star Trek demonstrated how hairspray had become ubiquitous throughout the cosmos.

star trek alien women-tile

It’s an attractive fantasy, but a fantasy nonetheless. Today, in honor of the, by all accounts, warm, loving, and emotionally secure Leonard Nimoy, who, through his timeless portrayal of Mr. Spock, inspired so many naïve young men to become lonely sociopaths, we look back at Star Trek to see just how well it predicted the future. For instance:

spock generation of sociopaths

Star Trek correctly predicted that we would have wireless communication devices that fit in the palm of our hands. They had these devices in Star Trek, yet somehow, they did not play with them all day.

star trek kirk communicator

Star Trek correctly predicted that we would talk to our computers. However, on Star Trek, the computer understands what they say, and responds. We mostly just curse at our machines when they crash.

spocks computer

Star Trek correctly predicted that we would all wear ugly polyester uniforms.

star trek shore-leave

Star Trek could not have predicted how we look in them.

fat person in polyester

Star Trek correctly predicted that we’d always be at work. You never see anyone wearing civies on the Enterprise. They’re always in uniform, and they’re always on duty. Get used to it America.

overworked employee

Star Trek correctly predicted that, women would have to wear mini skirts to work, and take orders from an asshole like William Shatner, if they want to earn a living. Who would have imagined?

star trek kirk uhura

Star Trek correctly predicted that doctors would have better things to do than see patients. Look, doctors are the only people who can afford to do what they want in this society. If you could afford to do whatever you wanted to do, would you choose to preside over an endless parade of sick people complaining about their illnesses. Fuck no! You’d be like, “Gimme a phaser, Jim, and let’s go check out the local action.”

star trek spock mccoy guns

Star Trek correctly predicted that everyone would be single. I believe that Mr. Spock’s parents were the only married couple ever depicted on the show. Other than that, everyone in the show was single. Today, for the first time ever, more American adults are single, than in a committed relationship, yet oddly….

star trek spocks parents

Star Trek correctly predicted that no one would have sex. In Star Trek, it’s like everyone is so impressed with their own intelligence and sense of purpose that they’ve lost all connection with their genitalia. Maybe “getting fixed” is a prerequisite for admission to Starfleet Acadamy, but a crewman on the USS Enterprise is at least 20 times more likely to be killed by hostile aliens than get laid. I’m afraid that’s true of most of my friends as well.

Star-Trek crew

Star Trek correctly predicted that in the future no one would cook. On Star Trek you never see a kitchen. Instead, they take a lump of inedible inorganic material, put it on a plate, and place it inside of a high-tech box for a few seconds.

star trek food synthesizer

Miraculously it comes out looking something like food. Yes, Star Trek predicted Hot Pockets.

star trek hot pockets

As you can plainly see, a lot of things that looked cool on Star Trek, kinda suck in real life. If you think about it, a cheesy sci-fi TV show is a pretty stupid thing to build a cultural mythology around, but its a pretty stupid culture, or as Mr. Spock would say, “Highly illogical.”

spock highly illogical


Garberville’s Visionary Artist Ron Machado

visionary artist The-Witness-By-Adam-Scott-MIller

Surrounded by lush forests in rugged mountainous terrain, in the southern quarter of Humboldt County, lies the sad little town of Garberville, CA.

Garberville welcome to buy

Infamous as a global drug trafficking hub, Garberville has become Mecca for drug dealers, and drug addicts alike who flock here in droves to pursue their lifelong ambition to make money and get high. The huge sums of money associated with the illegal drug trade, draws other unsavory characters to this little burg as well.

Unsavory-Characters

Real-estate agents, bankers, and greedy businessmen eager to hitch their wagon to the prohibition gravy train, line Garberville’s main drag offering overpriced mediocrity served with heartless indifference. In recent years, Garbervile’s pathos has become even more famous than its pot, and with good reason. After all, you can grow good pot anywhere, but watching the stagnating black-market economy turn this self-selecting community of callous, greedy, small-minded people into a cauldron of seething resentment, open hostility, and violence evokes that special blend of pity and disgust like no place I’ve ever been before.

Tragic Pathos

Rising like a lotus from this cesspool, one artist dares to defy the vortex of darkness with his singular creative vision.

lotus

Ron Machado challenges this small town’s image of itself with assemblages of found objects which spring defiantly from the oppressive landscape of commercial exploitation. Like Banksy, the famous, albeit anonymous London street artist, Machado eschews the rarified atmosphere of galleries and museums, preferring instead to transform the stifling homogeneity and crass utility of the small Northern California town he has called home for more than two decades.

ron machado3

Machado’s artworks often appear overnight, in unexpected, but very public places, usually in Garberville’s business district, where he carefully reveals the madness concealed within the mundane. Machado’s angular, assertive and unapologetic artworks occupy parking spaces, take over vacant lots, and sometimes even appear in the middle of major thoroughfares. They look almost functional, but overflow with playful frivolity, physical non-sequiters and mind-bending juxtaposition.

ron machado crop

Like many artists of exceptional vision, Ron Machado is mocked, misunderstood, and unappreciated in his hometown, where he is more often described as a homeless, mentally-ill, pain-in-the-ass, than as an artist. Local townspeople have repeatedly removed and destroyed Machado’s artworks, and this past week, an unknown assailant attacked Ron Machado physically.

assault

The assailant sprayed Ron’s face, and his belongings with flammable liquid, and attempted to set both on fire. Fortunately Ron escaped serious injury, but the ensuing blaze engulfed Ron’s belongings, filling Garberville with the acrid stench of burning plastic for most of the afternoon.

burning tent

While Ron has been arrested numerous times, and is well known to police for making public art, the arsonist who attempted to murder Ron remains at large, blending into the community, who appear to be protecting his identity. Undaunted, Ron has returned to his work, and continues to create art in Garberville with the reckless passion of a true visionary.

ron machado2 bright crop

I encourage all art enthusiasts to make a trip to Garberville to see Machado’s latest work. To view Machado’s work before local townspeople dismantle it, it pays to arrive early in the morning. It is hard to know where a Machado original will pop up next, but in a town mostly devoid of interesting art, Machado’s installations stand out conspicuously against the dull backdrop of repressive commercialism.

capitalism boring

Pack a lunch, because the restaurants in Garberville mostly suck, and don’t bother shopping, because the prices are ridiculous, but Machado’s creations make the trip worth while. While you’re up this way, be sure to visit Eureka, one of America’s great small art towns, only 65 miles or so to the North. With lots of public art, many fine galleries, and a vibrant local art scene, not to mention better restaurants and lower prices, Eureka is a great place to spend the rest of the day, and your money, after a Machado morning in Garberville.

Eureka_artsalive-tile

Arts Alive, held on the first Saturday of every month in Eureka

 


Wildlife Matters #5 Debuts Today, Thursday, Feb 26 @5pm PST

Sea otters

Today, Thursday, February 26 at 5pm, KMUD Redwood Community Radio will air the latest installment of Wildlife Matters.  On this month’s show Amy Gustin and I will talk about Sea Otters, and the crucial role they play in maintaining healthy coastal ecosystems.

sea otter hurray

We’ll hear from sea otter biologist Dr. Jane Watson

dr jane watson

…and noted ecologist Dr. James Estes.

dr james estes

They talk about sea otters’ peculiar adaptations which allow them to flourish in the chilly waters of the North Pacific.  they’ll teach us about “trophic cascades,” a fancy word to describe the consequences of eating habits on ecosystems, which explains how sea otters can turn a barren sea floor inhabited by nothing but sea urchins, into a lush kelp forest teeming with biodiversity.

sea otter eats urchins

Wildlife Matters airs on the fourth Thursday of the month on KMUD, and is available to all Pacifica Affiliates through audioport.org.  In the future, wildlife Matters will alternate the fourth Thursday at 5pm time-slot with my other new radio show called The Adventurous Ear.

ear to bell

Next month, The Adventurous Ear, a radio show highlighting music of exceptional originality, will bring you the music of Arcata based improvisational ensemble Medicine Baul.  I hope you’ll tune in today at 5pm for Wildlife Matters, and March 26 at 5pm for some wild music on The Adventurous Ear.  Just remember the fourth Thursday at 5pm as the time for something wild on KMUD Redwood Community Radio, or listen online at http://www.kmud.org

kmud-logo


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