I hear a lot of people talk about marketing cannabis in the same way they market wine. They talk about this idea very seriously, and seem bent on betting their futures on this dream of turning Humboldt County into something like Napa County Wine Country for upscale, connoisseur grade, cannabis. This strikes me as a very foolhardy gamble. It makes me wonder “How do people who grow this good of weed not get high enough to realize how stupid of an idea this is?” There is a big difference between cannabis and fine wine. The only thing they share, really, is the inflated price tag.
First, you need to remind yourself what wine is. At it’s root, wine is what happens when ripe fruit turns sour. You don’t have wine unless you have more fruit than you can eat before it goes bad, so wine is an intoxicating byproduct of great abundance. That kind of abundance does not occur often naturally. Some hunter-gatherer cultures enjoy wine as part of an annual festival at the end of summer, if they have a native species that produces an abundance of fermentable fruit. They may drink heavily and stumble around in drunken song for a week, celebrating the abundance of nature, if the bounty of nature allows it, but they will not try to save or bottle the wine and they will not drink at all for the rest of the year. That’s native culture, not wine culture.
Wine still celebrates abundance, but not natural abundance. Wine celebrates the abundance of tamed land, where the community of life has been evicted, to make way for armies of vines which serve only their human master. Wine celebrates the abundance that comes from conquering the land and enslaving it. Wine celebrates property, mastery and dominion over the land, and it symbolizes the abundance they produce.
The aristocracy in France elevated the expression of this kind of abundance to a high art, making French wine and French food the envy of the world. The French aristocracy took tremendous pride in their cuisine and their wine, and developed very high standards for all of it. The peasants however, who produced all of this abundance by their hard work, tending to those vines and working the farms, often went hungry. Eventually, the peasants got sick of it. They formed angry mobs and they cut all of the aristocrats’ heads off. Today, France is a democratic nation and the French people enjoy a high standard of living. They still make excellent wine and produce many delicacies which hearken back to those extravagant days of unbridled indulgence.
Before we start trying to become the new Napa, we shouldn’t forget that Napa is trying to become the new Bordeaux, France. That’s why they work so hard at the whole gourmet food thing, along with the wine, and the elegant manor lifestyle. In Napa, they celebrate the abundance of capitalism in this newly conquered and enslaved land. In a sense, they compete with King Louis the XIV, in the field of self-indulgent opulence. I do not really see that as a worthy goal. To me, as a pot smoker, it sounds abhorrent, and I identify more with the angry mobs of peasants.
Now smoke a joint and remember what cannabis is. Cannabis is a natural herb that contains a revolutionary psychedelic, like LSD, only much milder. Cannabis alters our consciousness in a way that allows us to feel a connection to the whole of life. Cannabis changes how we see the world and how we perceive our place in it. Cannabis consciousness is about love, creativity, equality and the connection between all living things. Cannabis consciousness allows us to share the burden, the joy and the wonder of life, with all of life, through a kind of communion with the plant world.
Cannabis consciousness celebrates life in the power of a river and the strength of a bear. Cannabis consciousness respects diversity and demands equality. Cannabis consciousness respects nature and understands ecology implicitly. Cannabis consciousness inspires creativity and the impulse to play. Cannabis consciousness inspires an appreciation for food, not an extravagant palette, but a humble appreciation for all food, and the pleasure of eating. Cannabis consciousness encourages communication and helps resolve differences.
Cannabis consciousness looks for ways to reduce stress and minimize work through equality and cooperation. Cannabis consciousness has no use for hierarchies, authority figures or empires. Cannabis consciousness looks for quality in expressions of insight and ecstatic emotion through music and art. Cannabis consciousness sees abundance in the forest, but cannabis consciousness has no desire to conquer or enslave it, because cannabis consciousness knows that the natural world is family, and that we are all one.
Cannabis consciousness looks at a vineyard and sees poverty, slavery, toil and ugliness, not abundance. Cannabis consciousness sees right through all of the fancy packaging and bullshit hype. Cannabis consciousness sees right through it all and recognizes this upscale marketing ploy as just another ripoff, and just another attempt to conquer and enslave nature. Cannabis consciousness inspires revolutionaries and gives them the strength to fight. Cannabis is the peoples herb! It is not some frivolous indulgence for the bourgeois.
Cannabis culture is nothing like wine culture. The ideals of cannabis culture are different. The aesthetics of cannabis culture are different and the social dynamics of cannabis culture are different. Cannabis culture and wine culture are as different as night and day and cannabis consciousness recognizes that alcohol culture, wine culture, is a death cult.
Any bright future for humanity belongs to cannabis culture and depends on cannabis consciousness. Cannabis will not remain our slave any longer. Forget the wine model and the dead end culture of alcohol. Follow cannabis consciousness to a new ideal, a new aesthetic, and a new culture that’s not based on conquest and slavery, but instead based on love and respect for the whole of life. Regardless of how frightening and economically uncertain the future appears right now, that’s the only future worth betting your life on, really.
I listened to the “Community in Crisis” Southern Humboldt Town Hall Meeting held last Thursday at the Mateel, on KMUD, who broadcast the meeting live. Many people, who the county believes grow cannabis, but have not applied for permits, have recently received “abatement letters.” These letters threaten landowners with $10,000 dollar a day fines if they do not remedy county code violations within 10 days. That’s $10,000 a day, per violation. The code violations range from growing marijuana without a permit to building code violations to illegal grading. Some of these violations are easier to remedy than others. Grading violations might take years to remedy.
Many complained that the $10,000 a day fines are excessive and arbitrary. Humboldt County Planning Director John Ford explained that the fines were not arbitrary, but that they were set “intentionally high” because when the fines were lower, people in the black market cannabis industry, where profit margins were high, could thumb their noses at the county, and absorb the expense of these fines as part of the cost of doing business. That’s one more way that the marijuana industry has made life harder for everyone else in Humboldt County. Our building-code violation fine structure now assumes that every homeowner is a drug kingpin, and that the only reason anyone builds anything out in these hills is to produce illegal drugs for sale on the black market.
I know what it is like to get one of those “abatement letters.” I know what it feels like to have your home threatened in that way, so I sympathize with the stress and anxiety that people feel right now. I also understand the stress of losing a reliable and satisfying source of income for reasons beyond your control. That sucks too. I get it. I’ve been there and I know how it feels. I heard a lot of anger, a lot of fear and a lot of hurt. I recognize and understand those feelings and I sympathize, but I also heard a lot of confusion that night.
People found the regulations confusing and many people complained about it. At least two people complained about the challenge of converting acre-feet to gallons. I understand that there are few things in life more tedious than government paperwork, but growers should remember that these regulations, especially at the county level, as odious as they are, were largely created for their benefit.
It was mostly growers at those meetings where the county’s cannabis cultivation ordinance got crafted. Growers very specifically wanted regulations to protect small growers from a corporate takeover. Local growers sought water use limits and forbearance requirements to protect their own water supplies, as well as endangered salmon, and local farmers demanded an end to light-leaks and generator noise, because they live here too.
At the state level, when Lt Gov Gavin Newsom came out here to Garberville, everyone cheered when he promised to keep the price of marijuana high. It takes a lot of stupid regulations and taxes to keep the price of cannabis high. Time was, we could get “law and order” Republicans to vote for higher taxes to pay more cops to bust more people, and send them to jail, and that was enough to keep marijuana prices high, and the lawyers of the million or so innocent people who went to jail every year, for decades, in the War on Drugs, handled most of the paperwork. Today, all of that paper work must be done by people who wish to do business in the cannabis industry.
Without all of that paperwork, fees and taxes, the price of cannabis would drop to almost nothing, overnight. Only people in the marijuana industry benefit from making marijuana artificially expensive, and everyone else in society suffers as a result. As cannabis consumers, we pay a premium so that the state can create a whole new bureaucracy to help subsidize growers. I’m not surprised there’s a lot of paperwork involved, but at least now it gets done by the people who benefit from the program.
Growing marijuana is not a terrible thing. There’s nothing wrong with growing marijuana. However, it is a terrible thing to turn a forest into a farm. Turning forest into farm can be worse than logging, because a farm is permanent. Today, it should be a crime to convert forested land, anywhere, into a farm, and it certainly should be a crime to do it here. It certainly would be a crime to lose our wild salmon to a thirsty plant that really doesn’t belong here. People who intend to grow cannabis commercially in our delicate forest ecosystem should expect that their activities will be held to a high level of accountability.
Unfortunately, the problem really has nothing to do with the regulations. The problem is the reality of legalization. The price of cannabis continues to plummet, and way too many people grow now. The state has already licensed too many growers to grow way more weed than Californians can smoke. We can’t force people to smoke more weed, and people already spend as much money as they can afford on it. All of the paperwork in the world can’t keep the price of weed high if more and more people keep growing more and more weed.
The reality is that most of the people who have a long history of growing cannabis as a cash crop here in Humboldt County, have no future in the legal cannabis industry. The legal cannabis industry is a cut-throat high-stakes game right now. A few people will win that game and make enormous amounts of money, and maybe a few of them will even live here, but unfortunately for this community, most of the small players in this game will lose, or have already lost, and a lot of those people live here. We can change the regulations, but we can’t change the facts, and it’s about time we stopped bickering about the regulations, and faced facts.
This community has a history we can be proud of, and cannabis is a big part of that history, but we can only claim that proud history, if we can gracefully walk away from the ugliness of prohibition. We cannot solve this crisis with a new cannabis ordinance, because the problem isn’t cannabis regulation, the problem is cannabis obsession.
It’s time to realize that cannabis is not what makes us unique, special and valuable. What makes our community special is what we’re blessed with, the forest, the mountains, the rivers and the ocean, but also what we’ve earned, our culture, our innovative lifestyle, and the aesthetics of hand-built and home-spun. It’s about time we realized that those things are more valuable than cannabis, and that we should recognize, reaffirm and celebrate them, instead of clinging to the withering carcass of prohibition.
Recently, Trump supporters have begun sporting T-shirts that say: “I’d rather be a Russian than a Democrat.”
Some of you might be surprised to find Republicans so blissfully happy about Trump’s relationship with Putin. After decades of Cold War, and hot bloody proxy wars like Vietnam, with our arch enemy the Soviet Union, they watched Putin lead Trump around on a leash, whack his nose with a rolled up newspaper, and feed him treats from his hand when he said the right thing after the recent Helsinki Summit. Liberals found that whole display humiliating, and it offended their sense of national pride. Think about that. How weak and obsequious does a US president have to act to offend liberals? And who knew liberals had any sense of national pride?
Republicans, on the other hand, just took it all in stride. Many Republicans admire strong authoritarian dictators like Putin, and secretly yearn to serve, or lead, a regime like his, here in the USA. Honestly though, the real reason Republicans like Russians better than Democrats, despite the enmity, wars, and spying, is that Russians are whiter than Democrats. It’s not about patriotism, history or politics, it’s all about complexion. When it comes down to it, Russians look more like them than Democrats do.
Besides that, you have to credit the Russians. Recent news stories reveal that Russia has been working very hard to make friends with Republicans, especially those in the NRA. I can attest that Russia works very hard to make friends, all over the world, and it seems to be working for them.
Even before I left the States, last Spring, my friend in the Czech Republic started sending me news-clips from Russia Today, including one well-produced documentary by a kid from SoCal, about how happy the people of Crimea are to be part of Russia now. I got this from someone who grew up in Czechoslovakia, under Soviet Communist rule, where the loudspeakers that used to broadcast Soviet propaganda still hang on utility poles in every village and hamlet. Now, everyone gets Russia Today on cable TV and everyone in Europe seems to watch it.
Besides that, it seemed like everywhere we went in Europe, Russia had found some way to promote itself. For instance, in Bled, Slovenia, we visited a tourist information office, which turned out to be quite a large space, and appeared to still be somewhat under construction. The employees were helpful, and spoke very good English and they had a nice lounge with free wifi, so we hung out for a little while. They also had a performance space where they could host lectures or show movies, and a gift shop offering local crafts and delicacies. All around the perimeter of this substantial space however, the Slovenian Office of Tourism in Bled featured an impressive temporary exhibit called “The Wildlife of Russia” which consisted of more than a dozen large color panels.
Then, in France, at Grotte de Rouffignac, an ancient cave with prehistoric cave art, including more than 150 depictions of woolly mammoths drawn on the walls and ceiling more than 13,000 years ago, we saw a very interesting exhibit in the lobby. Very professionally laid out on about 8 color panels of about 4’x8’ each, we saw graphic depictions and explanations in French, English and German, of the ancient petroglyphs in Altai (part of Russia near the border with Mongolia). This exhibit was brought to us by the: Institut d’Archiologie et d’Ethnograhic de la branche siberiene del’Academie des Sciences de Russe. Everywhere we looked, Russia was there, acting friendly and inviting us to visit, right under the noses of our hosts.
I can’t imagine that happening in this country. I can’t imagine going to a ski resort in Colorado, for instance, and seeing a big splashy display, taking up half of the lobby, showing off great skiing conditions and saying “See, we’ve got some great snow up here in Canada!” …or visiting a tourist information center at the Everglades National Park in Florida, and seeing a huge exhibit called “Wildlife of the Costa Rican Rainforest.”
Then there was the World Cup. Once the World Cup started, every TV in Europe was tuned to Moscow. We happened to catch part of the first game of the 2018 World Cup in a cafe in the central train station in Ljubljana, Slovenia. The game pitted Russia against Saudi Arabia, and it was clear that everyone in the cafe that day, especially the locals, were rooting for Russia. The camera often cut to a shot of Vladimir Putin, an Arab Sheikh, and between them, a Russian oligarch, enjoying the game from the stands. Club Russia won the game handily and that victory elevated the mood in the room noticeably.
At a bar in France, I saw the most surreal pregame show to a World Cup Match. The players from both teams paraded out onto the field, each holding the hand of a young child, and each child wore a yellow jersey with the McDonald’s Golden Arches logo. Then they performed some kind of logo-heavy solemn ritual and then cut to a commercial for Air Emirates airlines.
I’m sure that the people in the room who spoke French understood what was going on, but to me it all looked vaguely satanic, fascistic or both, but the strangest thing I saw there was the ad I saw for Russia itself.
The narration was all in French, so I could not understand a word of it However, this ad showed a number of strong images of Russia, including a big bear lumbering through a frozen forest, rows of tanks, and a modern city skyline at dusk, but did not seem especially geared to promote tourism. Then three bullet points appeared in text on the screen: “*Pouvoir Politique Russe, *Force Militaire Russe, *Spiritualite Russe,” which I translate as “Russian political power, Russian military strength, and Russian spirituality” finally, an image of the Kremlin appeared, and dissolved along with the text. As near as I can tell, the ad appeared to communicate something like “Cordial greetings from your powerful white neighbors to the East.” I saw that ad at least twice.
Still, people around the world ate it up. Every toy store had the Club Russia 2018 World Cup sticker album in the window, every magazine had “Moscow World Cup 2018”splashed on it somewhere, and coverage of it ran nonstop on TV. After Mexico beat Germany, my friend in the Czech Republic sent me this image, which went viral on the internet:
Everyone loves Putin it seems, while Angela Merkel has taken a lot of heat for letting so many Syrian refugees into Germany. Putin’s Russia, by contrast, accepts none. Putin criticizes his European neighbors for “diluting their culture” by admitting so many refugees. It sounds rather racist, frankly, but I think that’s what the ad meant by “Russian spirituality.” That kind of “spirituality,” apparently, transcends past political differences and has the power to heal old wounds all around the world.
This new video features music from my album: Nightmare Castle. Like all of the music on that album, I composed Enter the Underworld using a collection of unique musical instruments I created from recycled materials and found objects I call “The Orchestra of the Unwanted.” Most of these instruments have very quiet voices that I amplify using piezoelectric transducers. Piezoelectric transducers turn vibrations in solid objects into electrical signals that amplifiers and speakers then turn into sound. Still, the sound retains the qualities of a vibrating solid object, with completely different resonance characteristics than if the instrument were recorded acoustically, with a microphone.
A solid object is its own world, acoustically. The vibrations inside a solid object are not affected by room acoustics. When we hear the vibrations in solid objects, it gives us a sense of what it might feel like to be a solid object. That sense of being within a solid object, I think, gives electro-acoustic music in general, and my album, Nightmare Castle, in specific, an other-worldly and under-worldly quality. Enter the Underworld invites you enter the world of solid objects.
I shot the video for Enter the Underworld in Slovenia. The Dragon in the title shot adorns a bridge in the capital city, Ljubljana, and I shot the rest of the footage underground, mostly from a moving train in the dimly lit caverns of Postojnska Jama, possibly Slovenia’s most popular tourist attraction. Slovenia has thousands of caves, and they discover a couple hundred new ones every year, but Postojnska Jama has become the Disneyland of Slovenian caves.
Above ground, they’ve capitalized and merchandised to the hilt. They’ve even turned one of the species discovered living there, the blind cave olm, a pasty, beige, eyeless salamander, into their own “Mickey Mouse,” and you can find its likeness on every imaginable kind of swag. Instead of fake ears that make you look like the famous cartoon rat, they sell fake gills that make you look more like a pallid amphibious troglodyte.
They offer tours every half-hour, seven days a week, in three languages. The tour took us underground, through several miles of amazing rock formations, by train, to a grand gallery deep in the mountain where we got out and walked for about a mile to see some of the largest stalactite and stalagmite formations. After that, we got back on the train and returned to the surface.
It made my jaw drop. Despite the extreme commercialism above ground, the natural beauty of Postojnska Jama, underground, totally blew my mind. I would recommend it to anyone. The video I shot there does not do it justice. However, I really like the visual texture, and the disorienting, nightmarish quality of the footage I took at Postojnska Jama. I think it matches the mood evoked by this music. I hope you enjoy this little video, but I also hope you get to see Postojnska Jama for yourself.
The Postojna Cave, near Postojna Slovenia, is an amazingly beautiful natural formation. The tour takes you underground, by train, through 27 kilometers of jaw-dropping tunnels and galleries full of huge stalgtites and stalagmites.
This performance took place in a cavern they call “the Vivarium” where visitors can see live specimins of a few of the more than 150 species of animal which have been discovered in this cave, including the cave olm or “human fish,” a pale, blind salamander that can live to the age of 100 years, and go without eating for up to 10 years. Amy and I found ouselves alone in the vivarium, which had very nice acoustics.