Sunday, June 25, 2006

Tune in, Turn On, Drop Out

Over the past week, I've gotten a crash course in the fascinating history of 60's drug culture and LSD. The first lesson was the great series of documentaries called "The Drug Years," which aired on VH1 and Sundance. The four parts ranged from the birth of the hippie movement, with pot and LSD, through the disco years and cocaine, into the 80's and the urban crack epidemic, the 90's rave culture, and touching briefly on the "crisis" of today's methamphetamine use.

The series paints an alterternately happy and scary portrait of this country's fascination with mind-altering substances. The 60's are portrayed as a(n) (unsustainable) free love "nirvana," on the bright side and Charles Manson nightmare on the dark, which turns purely hedonistic in the 70's after losing its political and philosophical trappings. The rave movement represents somewhat of a return to psychedelic form and the series ends with an admission that mood-altering substances are here to stay, inseperable from the human experience.

Yesterday and today I've read two reviews of a new biography of Timothy Leary, to some the pied piper of LSD (The New Yorker, The New York Times). Leary's life was a colorful thing, but his message turned out to be a hollow one, borne more of hedonism than enlightement. Leary left behind a number of ex-wives, and two highly damaged children. The key to the problem that was Leary's life and message is an uncritical acceptance of his ideas, but who knew? It seems that a whole counterculture was experimenting on itself, and not always with happy results. His life to me seems to encapsulate the high and the comedown of an unsustainable utopian drug experience, but one that might be highly fascinating to read about.

Friends and Non Sequiturs

J and D visited for the evening and the meal at San Chez will rank somewhere close to the top of the best meals list, and even got me to adopt a (more) positive attitude towards my current hometown. I popped my San Chez cherry and it was as good as I could have hoped and worth the wait. Lovely to have some friends in town. Non Sequitur alert. Wilco plays EL on Oct 6 at The Wharton Center. I must attend this show. If you read this, please inform me if you hear about tickets on sale. My Top Rated iTunes list will go against yours anytime.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Jarmusch and Music

I've just finished watching Jim Jarmusch's film "Down By Law" (imdb). I'm a big fan of Jarmusch as a director, and, I suppose, as a thinker and a person. The Criterion DVD release has a nice feature called "Thoughts and Reflections," which is simply Jim waxing eloquent on his filmmaking style, inspiration, music, New Orleans, and lots of other things. He mentions a lot of musical artists I'm not familiar with, so I wanted to note them. In one scene during the movie, Tom Waits' character, an out of work radio DJ, mentions Earl King's song "Trick Bag," which is a fantastic tune. Here's a list of musicians that Jarmusch says he was listening to a lot of as he wrote "Down By Law."

Professor Longhair,
Earl King,
Ernie Cado,
Erma Thomas,
Alan Toussaint,
Bennie Spellman,
The Meters,
Johnny Adams,
Walter Wolfman Washington,
Dr. John,
The Nevilles.

It's also laugh-out-loud hilarious to hear Jarmusch describe the trick that he and the cast played on Roberto Benigni, who knew very little English as the time this movie was made.

The film itself, by the way, is excellent. Jarmusch's sense of "cool" is fully intact here. That means the pacing is slower, the dialogue breathes, and we have plenty of lovely shots were little or nothing is actually said. Jarmusch has said that he is more interested in character than plot, and that makes his style different than any other filmmaker I can recall. Last but not least, the black and white really looks exquisite.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Robin Down

I got out of bed today and put the dogs out as usual. After I started the coffee I went back upstairs to sit for a minute and when I came back down I heard the birds going nuts in the backyard. It was a racket like I had never heard. It sounded like an aviary on fire. Are they teasing the dogs? I took a peak outside, and I saw our yellow lab, Brandy, picking at something on the ground. As I watched, she picked something a lot bigger than a bug in her mouth. I couldn't get her attention away from it, so I went out to get her myself. That's when I saw a poor grounded robin heaving with each breath, lifting its open beak into the air, panicking silently.

That's what the birds are going nuts about. I brought the dogs inside, but couldn't bring myself to do anything about the robin. Should I have put it out of it's misery? I went inside and watched from the window, and the other robins had calmed a bit, but were still making a lot of sound. The sat on branches immediately above the downed bird, but I never saw any other birds get any closer than that.

Now it seems that the affair has ended. No bird has come to the rescue of the injured robin. I will have to figure out a way of getting rid of the bird before the dogs go out again. I wonder how it all happened.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Benefits of Hemp

Yesterday I had lunch with Marta Swain, the owner of a store in Grand Rapids called Clothing Matters that specializes in sustainable clothing, especially that made from hemp fibers. She's a clothier, but she is also an educator, and her lesson is pretty compelling stuff.

I first went to her store, then called Hemp Goods, shortly after I arrived here in GR more than two years ago. I had just finished reading Naomi Klein's excellent book No Logo (wiki), and I was at a loss to find guilt-free clothing. I used to shop at the Gap, but after reading her book, that was out of the question. After bellyaching to a co-worker, I found a photocopied print ad for Marta's store on my desk. Now it's basically the only place I go for clothes. It's my new Gap.

The hemp stuff does cost a little bit more, but from my experience, it lasts a lot longer. I appreciate that it requires no pesticides or herbicides to produce, especially compared with the alternative of cotton, which is the most "heavily treated fiber crop in the world." The more I think about it, the further I want to be from that kind of stuff. The first place to start is the stuff I let touch my skin all day long.

I find it really comfortable, and I feel great wearing it, talking about it, and supporting it. Unfortunately, it's illegal to grow hemp in this country. Marta says that's because "In 1936 petroleum and forestry interests sabotaged our society's opportunities to benefit from this plant by claiming hemp to be the same as marijuana and thereby shaping a petrochemical vs. agricultural industrial revolution and culture."

Hemp is good for much more than clothing too. Paper, building materials and body care products can all be made from hemp.

For more information, check out the shop's website:
To find out more about the movement to legalize the production of industrial hemp in this country (getting traction in North Dakota), check out

Al Gore on Charlie Rose

He was fantastic:
"Look at the overall pattern. We are borrowing huge amounts of money from China to buy huge amounts of oil from the most unstable region on the planet, to bring it here and burn it in ways that destroy the habitability of the planet. This is a dysfuntional pattern, every component of which has to be changed, and can be changed only when we look at the overall pattern."
The interview is available to view here. In addition, his movie is fantastic and should be seen by anyone who votes, has children, drives a car, lives near the ocean, eats, sleeps, and/or sh*ts.

Monday, June 19, 2006

I wish I made this.

Whoever approved this project has my gratitude and respect. This is possibly the most pleasantly bizarre commercial ever made for a mainstream foodstuff. I won't drink Folger's coffee as long as I can get my favorite beans, but watching this ad does make me want to get out of bed.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Office Is A Band

They are really great and you can get their album for $7.99 from iTunes and it is a bargain. It's danceable pop of the highest quality.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

We Are The Robots

The latest shots in the classic argument between free will and predeterminism have left free will on the mat gasping for breath.

From todays NYTimes:
A growing understanding of human genetics is prompting fresh consideration of how much control people have over who they are and how they act. The recent discoveries include genes that seem to influence whether an individual is fat, has a gift for dance or will be addicted to cigarettes. Pronouncements about the power of genes seem to be in the news almost daily, and are changing the way some Americans feel about themselves, their flaws and their talents, as well as the decisions they make.

For some people, the idea that they may not be entirely at fault for some of their less desirable qualities is liberating, conferring a scientifically backed reprieve from guilt and self-doubt. Others feel doomed by their own DNA, which seems less changeable than the more traditional culprits for personal failings, like a lack of discipline or bad childhoods. And many find it simply depressing to think that their accomplishments might not be the result of their own efforts.
It's hard to decide exactly how to react to this. It is comforting and unsettling at the same time to think that we may have much less control than we think over how we behave. It also makes it easier to forgive others and yourself for transgressions, but it does not mean that we cannot hold each other responsible.

As far as our survival as a species, I think it means that we need to so some evolving pretty quick, and that perhaps is the most disturbing aspect. That is, that the seeds of our downfall may lie in our own DNA. But when you put it that way, it just seems natural, doesn't it?

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Bride of Random Bits

Ran a 5K on Saturday with very little time spent on training, but I still ran a personal best of 21:22. That's an average of 6:53 per mile.

My media is taking over my living space. Too many records, books, CDs, and magazines. And I still buy more.

On first listen, I'm kinda disappointed with the new Herbert record, but I love Herbert and I will give the album plenty on chances. To be honest, I've only listnened distractedly in the car, and that's a terrible way to appreciate art. Hopefully soon I will be able to give it the headphone treatment.

The Waterfront Film Festival was a lot of fun, but based on my experience, it was more festival than film. The first night I had a great movie conversation with a guy who I later found out was the director of the movie that opened the festival. He recommended a director named Jon Jost. On a napkin he wrote "Most commercial film: All the Vermeers in NY" and signed his name. I guess if he ever becomes famouse like a Coppola or a Kubrick I could sell the napkin. The one movie I saw was called The King, starring William Hurt and Gael Garcia Bernal. These are two fine thespians who had my expectations running high, but the film drags. It's not terrrible, but it should have been better.

My Mom is unhappy with the appearance of a fake waterfall she had installed in the backyard of my parents new house.

At work we recieved a promotional copy of a new book called "Burning Rainbow Farm, How a Stoner Utopia Went Up in Smoke," byt Dean Kuipers. I'm just started reading it, even though I'm still not done with American Theocracy, Love in the Time of Cholera, and The Essential John Muir, and I haven't even started reading Everyman.

To complicate matters, I have just rejoined Netflix, on the 1 DVD at a time plan. The first on my list? Kubrick's Barry Lyndon, whcih I have never seen. The Blockbuster near my house has a place set for it, but does not actually carry the film. I have brought this to their attention, but they have not resolved the issue.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The Sanctity of Marriage

My friend Rachel put this up on a MySpace Bulletin, and I just love it. It really seems to hit the nail on the head. I'm getting steamed up the more I think about it, though, so let me just leave you to it:
Ronald Reagan - divorced the mother of two of his children to marry Nancy Reagan, who bore him a daughter only 7 months after the marriage.

Bob Dole - divorced the mother of his child, who had nursed him through the long recovery from his war wounds.

Newt Gingrich - divorced his wife who was dying of cancer.

Dick Armey - House Majority Leader - divorced

Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas - divorced

Gov. John Engler of Michigan - divorced

Gov. Pete Wilson of California - divorced

George Will - divorced

Sen. Lauch Faircloth - divorced

Rush Limbaugh - Rush and his current wife Marta have six marriages and four divorces between them.

Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia - Barr, not yet 50 years old, has been married three times. Barr had the audacity to author and push the "Defense of Marriage Act." The current joke making the rounds on Capitol Hill is "Bob Barr...WHICH marriage are you defending?!?

Sen. Alfonse D'Amato of New York - divorced

Sen. John Warner of Virginia - divorced (once married to Liz Taylor.)

Gov. George Allen of Virginia - divorced

Henry Kissinger - divorced

Rep. Helen Chenoweth of Idaho - divorced

Rep. John Kasich of Ohio - divorced

Rep. Susan Molinari of New York - Republican National Convention Keynote Speaker - divorced

So ... homosexuals are going to destroy the institution of marriage? Wait a minute, it seems the Christian Heterosexual Republicans are doing a fine job without anyone's help!

If you agree, like I do, that hypocrisy and bigotry must end, repost this. Perhaps this will open some eyes!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Indian Beatles

From the Bollywood vaults, the closest anyone has ever come to capturing the essence of my dance style on screen.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Free Office on iTunes

Office is the name of a band of an old friend of mine, and they're great. Their single "Wound Up" is the Single of the Week on iTunes, which means you can get it for free. It's a great tune, so check it out!

Fight for your right to shoot San Fran

I just got back from San Fran, but if I was still there, I'd go right back and shoot pics of 45 Fremont. I don't know what's there, and I don't care. Some dude has gotten roughed up for shooting there. I hope a thousand people show up there tomorrow with cameras a'clicking. You can see some of the pics I did shoot by clicking "sights" on the list to the right.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

A moment from San Fran

Vacation Update: I'm in San Fran visiting my brother Patrick before he packs up and moves to his new job in LA. San Francisco is a pretty neat place. There are very few SUVs here. Lots of Mini Coopers instead. I've even seen a few Honda Insights (RIP). The weather has been good. I had never been to SF, and it was cooler than I expected. Don't visit without a jacket or "zippy," as my brother calls his outergarment. Elections are in full swing. The primaries are tomorrow. The democratic challenger to The Governator will be decided. Environmental credentials are hotly debated. I lost my cell phone somewhere. Alcohol is a sonofabitch. Golden Gate may truly be the most beautiful bridge ever erected. Muir woods are a sight to behold, and are constantly changing. One of the signature trees (the Kent tree, if I remember correctly) fell down in March 2003. It really is amazing to consider the contrast between the fact that many of the trees have stood there for thousands of years, but the forest is in a state of constant change. I saw Al Gore's movie. You should too. It's amazing to realize how the human population has exploded over the past few hundreds of years after a long period of relatively little growth. Haight & Ashbury is cool, but I'm turned off by people asking me if I want "nuggets" every few feet. I think the hippie thing has kinda gotten passe, though the vibe does pervade the entire city with varying degrees of intensity. I walked into Amoeba Music for 10 seconds and walked right back out with my wallet untouched (my brother was waiting outside with food). Five years ago I would have gone broke in there. Chinatown is trinkets and cameras, cheap souvenir t-shirts (thank you) and restaurants. but worth a stroll anyway. San Francisco did remind me a lot of Barcelona, in geography, style and vibe. Alcatraz is genuinely interesting, despite being a tourist trap. It takes its name from the Indian word for "pelican," a few of which I saw before I learned that fact. I don't know anything much about a criminal nicknamed "The Birdman of Alcatraz," but I'm interested in learning about him. There's a movie out there. Herb Caen has a long street named after him. I was surprised to find out that he was a journalist. He is dead, but his memory is still cherished in this town. I look forward to reading some of his work. Golden Gate Park is a nice place for a run. I used to watch skate videos shot in the downtown plaza known as The Embarcadero, but I didn't see any skating going on there while I was there. The city has placed little metal bars in the steps which make it tough to skate there. Speed bumps for skateboards. I fly out tomorrow, and I'm pooped so tonight I'm staying in. Fat Tire Amber Ale is overrated. Just because you can't get it east of the Mississippi doesn't mean anything. Bells makes a better Amber if you ask me. There's a lot of people exercising out here. Running and biking especially, and on average, everyone in SF looks better than everyone where you are from. My brother and I were out on a run and at the Marina we same across the stageing area for the San Francisco Escape From Alcatraz Triathalon. Never done one because I can hardly swim to save my life. Right near on the edge of the water I saw a retarded boy on a handpowered recombinant bike almost go off the edge of the sidewalk into the rocks 10 feet below. A guy on a bike basically dived off the bike to grab the seat of the the kid's rig at the last second. Scary. Everything you've heard about SF being gay is true, but I swear I saw some straight people even in the Castro. The radio out here is way better than where I'm from, where it's essentially NPR or bust. Smoking isn't allowed in the bars, and that is nice.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Vaca Preps and Internet Radio

I'm doing my last minute packing for San Fran over some Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and some music courtesy of David Byrne. This month: Avant Pop

The grooves here tend to be skittery, the percussion like the sounds of distant cutlery rattling, but the structures are often surprisingly (and comfortably) traditional — clear-cut verses and choruses. Voices lean towards the intimate, breathy, slightly mournful. Whispering strange and very personal messages in our ears. These are folk songs. Folk songs from a culture made of ones and zeros.
On the agenda for my short vaca in S.F., visiting with my brother Patrick, the youngest of the Lynn clan, and getting some camping, running, and hippie history in.

Speaking of running, a new study may explain why I've been in a sour mood this week after not running.