ACCELER8OR

Nov 02 2012

Your Friday MONDO: Brain Nuggets from Reality Hackers #5 –1988 (MONDO 2000 History Project Entry #37)

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Pull quotes from Reality Hackers #5 (the follow up to High Frontiers #4)

 

…a vast molten core of the phantastical and absurd, an Agartha or never-neverland of the imagination where oxymorons walk hand in glove with palpable metaphors.  R.U. Sirius & Queen Mu

 

…cut the shit. Listen, if there’s a breakthrough in the grey room, you guys are leading the charge.  Letters to the Editor, Art Wand

 

Repeated experiments… have proven that stimulation can actually cause the brain to physically grow  Jay Cornell

Influencing the brain with chemicals is a tricky business… Chemicals are hard to synthesize, hard to control, have unwanted side effects… and are mostly illegal…  Jay Cornell



…in computer-generated artificial realities… their rules of operation — the laws governing change through time… are as mutable as their immediate form.  Timothy Leary & Eric Gullichsen



The yuppies at surrounding tables look on with strained nonchalance as Hitler lubes his distended engine of procreation.  Morgan Russell



…the 1990s is going to be the decade of psychoactive soft drinks. Durk Pearson


The neuropeptide system and the as-yet-inactive genomes that can release new neuropeptides are the key to future evolution.  Charles Musaios



Any kid on a caper could blow up the whole thing. It's too late!  Andrija Puharich


To picture Gödel’s solution, imagine an infinite universe lightly sprinkled with a fog of matter.  Nick Herbert

Sep 28 2012

Your Friday MONDO: William S. Burroughs in High Frontiers 1987 About Mind Technologies (MONDO 2000 History Project Entry #31)

 

In 1987, Faustin Bray conducted an interview with William S. Burroughs by phone, mostly using questions suggested by Terence McKenna and R.U. Sirius.  Below is the opening exchange, about mind technologies.

HIGH FRONTIERS: What do you think is the direction of mind technologies in terms of drugs and surgical implants, external technologies and techniques? 

WILLIAM BURROUGHS: There is no limit to control of thought, feeling and apparent sensory perceptions. Professor Delgado stopped a charging bull. He had an electrode implanted in the bull’s brain, just pressed a little button and the bull stopped. They can do the same thing with people. They can elicit rage, fear, joy, sexual excitement, just pushing buttons.

HF: Could some of these techniques be used positively, to help humanity get to a higher level of functioning and self-government, self-control? 

WB: Humanity is a meaningless abstraction. As Korzybski always says, “Who is doing what, where and when.” Are you talking about Columbians in an earthquake, Ethiopians in a famine, Americans in a country club, ethnic minorities in a ghetto? The punctuationalist theory of evolution seems to point to the fact that changes occur in small isolated groups and the tendency is towards standardization. In any case, take a species, probably only a very small fraction would be involved in evolutionary alterations. Maybe about one in a million and that’s, biologically speaking, very good odds.

Faustin Bray’s Sound Photosynthesis offers audio and video  of  Richard Feynman, John Lilly, Terence McKenna, Robert Anton Wilson and many others here. 

Aug 10 2012

Acceler8or Editor Turns 60! In Shocking Development, Everybody In The World Sends Him A Dime

Half a lifetime ago, I flew from JFK to the Oakland airport with the intention of starting the “Neopsychedelic Wave” — by starting a magazine, a rock band and a political organization of some undetermined nature.  Now that the world is a gassy utopia full of happy starchildren sucking peace -and-love lollipops on space colonies for all eternity, you can thank me.

Ummm…  well, so this is a moment of self indulgence and here are a few of my favorite things by me or about me on the web…

photo by Eve Berni

Introducing the Mondo 2000 History Project

The Tyranny of Hip  (1993)

TechnoSurrealism  (1998)

R.U. Sirius Show: Neil Gaiman Interview (podcast)

Future Mutations: Interviewed by Reality Sandwich

Mondo Vanilli: IOU Babe (album)

 

 

 

Jul 29 2012

From Psychedelic Magazine With A Tech Gloss To Tech Magazine With A Psychedelic Gloss (Mondo 2000 History Project Entry #23)

Another segment from the rough draft of Use Your Hallucinations: Mondo 2000 in the 20th Century Cyberculture.  Note that “the total fucking transmutation of everything” is established as a conceit early in the narrative, thus its use here reflects on a major theme.

…Meanwhile, we made a rash decision.  Despite High Frontiers relatively successful rise within the ‘zine scene (where 15,000 in sales was a pretty big deal), we decided to change the name of the magazine itself to Reality Hackers. 

It was my idea.

We’d been hipped to cyberpunk SF and I’d read Gibson’s Neuromancer and Sterling’s Mirrorshades collection.  His famous introduction for that book, describing what cyberpunk was doing in fiction — seemed to express precisely what a truly contemporary transmutational magazine should be about. Here are some parts of it:

The term, (cyberpunk) captures something crucial to the work of these writers, something crucial to the decade as a whole: a new kind of integration. The overlapping of worlds that were formerly separate: the realm of high tech, and the modern pop underground.

This integration has become our decade’s crucial source of cultural energy. The work of the cyberpunks is paralleled throughout the Eighties pop culture: in rock video; in the hacker underground; in the jarring street tech of hip hop and scratch music; in the synthesizer rock of London and Tokyo. This phenomenon, this dynamic, has a global range; cyberpunk is its literary incarnation… 

An unholy alliance of the technical world and the world of organized dissent — the underground world of pop culture, visionary fluidity, and street-level anarchy… 

For the cyberpunks… technology is visceral. It is not the bottled genie of remote Big Science boffins; it is pervasive, utterly intimate. Not outside us, but next to us. Under our skin; often, inside our minds.

Certain central themes spring up repeatedly in cyberpunk. The theme of body invasion: prosthetic limbs, implanted circuitry, cosmetic surgery, genetic alteration. The even more powerful theme of mind invasion: brain-computer interfaces, artificial intelligence, neurochemistry — techniques radically redefining — the nature of humanity, the nature of the self.

The Eighties are an era of reassessment, of integration, of hybridized influences, of old notions shaken loose and reinterpreted with a new sophistication 

Cyberpunk favors “crammed” loose: rapid, dizzying bursts of novel information, sensory overIoad that submerges the reader in the literary equivalent of the hard-rock “wall of sound.”  

Well, then…

Also, Jaron Lanier was hanging around some, sharing his lofty goals for virtual reality; and Eric Gullichsen, who was teaming up to do some writing with Timothy Leary — with whom he shared a mutual fascination with drugs, extreme technology and Aleister Crowley — was already even a bit deeper in the mix, while dreaming his own VR schemes.  Various hackers like Bill Me Later and John Draper (Captain Crunch) were popping up with increasing frequency.  Hanging in hacker circles, we were also befriended by John Morgenthaler, who was getting very serious about the exploration of smart drugs.  Something was starting to surface.  Several small subcultures were drifting together, and some of these, at times, esoteric groupings included men (yes, men) who were creating the next economy.  Clearly, we were positioned to become the magazine of a slow baking gestalt.

Other factors played into this change.  While a strutting, pop-intellectual, irreverent psychedelic magazine (in other words, High Frontiers) could surely build an audience somewhat larger than 15,000, we probably weren’t all that far from our optimum, unless we wanted to stifle our Gonzo-meets-Camp writerly excesses and dumb ourselves down to something more like a High Times for psychedelic drugs.  Also, acid dealers didn’t advertise.  The number of potential advertisers for a magazine that revolved primarily around psychedelics was limited, particularly in this “just say no” period. Hell, dope friendly humor was even voluntarily eliminated by Saturday Night Live, the once-hip show inspired by a Lorne Michaels mescaline trip.    And then, admittedly, by emphasizing technology, we could, in theory, put a bit of a buffer zone between ourselves and “the man” — throw him off our druggy tracks while sneaking sideways into the center of the oncoming digital establishment, all the better to affect the total fucking transmutation of everything (bwahaha)… or maybe even make a livelihood!

Lastly, it had really been my intention from the start to create a magazine that (to slightly detourne the original subhead of High Frontiers) was balanced between psychedelics, science, technology, outrageousness and postmodern pop culture.  The psychedelic impulse had gloriously taken center stage for the first four years.  Now it was time to push into new territory.

To consolidate my thoughts about the Reality Hackers, I wrote a small manifesto (a list, really) titled:

What Are The Reality Hackers Doing

1: Using high technology for a life beyond limits

2: Expanding the effectiveness and enjoyment of the human brain, mind, nervous system and senses

3: Blurring the distinction between science fiction and reality

4: Making big bureaucracy impossible

5: Entertaining any notion — using what works

6: Infusing new energy into postmodern culture

7: Using hardcore anthropology to understand human evolution

8: Using media to send out mutational memes (thought viruses)

9: Blurring the distinctions between high technology and magic

10: Replacing nerd mythology with sexy, healthy, aesthetic, & artful techno-magicians of both genders.

With this, I was also aligning the magazine ideologically with a transhumanist agenda.  I’d attended meetings of a nanotechnology interest group hosted by Christine Peterson and, sometimes, Eric Drexler.  I started to see the actual dim outlines of a plausible “total fucking transmutation of everything;” with molecular technology giving us total productive control over matter for unlimited wealth; biotechnology giving us the potential for positive mutations in the human organism; and neurotechnology theoretically allowing us to maximize our intelligence — not too mention cleaner, better highs with no downside.

Of course, we were maybe throwing away four years building a brand but, if we were anything, we were impulsive.

Ken Jopp: Reality Hackers was, to me, inelegantly titled. Still, the cyberpunk thing was revving up.  The weekly tabloid in my town ran a cover story on hackers: teenagers who lugged computers into phone booths, and then, when nobody was looking, they made long-distance calls for free! This was subversive stuff. Off the Establishment! I bought the issue of Reality Hackers and adopted it and its kin as a cultural security blanket.  These proto-Mondo publications, arriving during the Dark Ages of President Ronald Wilson Reagan (666), were a source of what later would become hollowed out to form a tinhorn. I mean, Hope and Change?

Lord Nose: I think it kept getting more and more mainstream in hopes of getting on to the newsstand and getting advertisers. It was being slowly made more palatable — or seemingly palatable — for the corporate interests that had no taste. I mean, it was so different. High Frontiers had a very different thrust.

Jeff Mark: Those of us serious about psychedelic exploration continued. Indeed, there was considerable activity, particularly around Tim Leary and Terence McKenna, but the momentum was spent. People started worrying about making a living.  High Frontiers/Reality Hackers had to get their shit together. 

 

Previous MONDO History Entries

Psychedelic Transpersonal Photography, High Frontiers & MONDO 2000: an Interview with Marc Franklin

Gibson & Leary Audio (MONDO 2000 History Project)

Pariahs Made Me Do It: The Leary-Wilson-Warhol-Dali Influence (Mondo 2000 History Project Entry #3)

Robert Anton Wilson Talks To Reality Hackers Forum (1988 — Mondo 2000 History Project Entry #4)

Smart Drugs & Nutrients In 1991 (Mondo 2000 History Project Entry #5)

LSD, The CIA, & The Counterculture Of The 1960s: Martin Lee (1986, Audio. Mondo 2000 History Project Entry #6)

William Burroughs For R.U. Sirius’ New World Disorder (1990, Mondo 2000 History Project Entry # 7)

New Edge & Mondo: A Personal Perspective – Part 1 (Mondo 2000 History Project Entry #8)

New Edge & Mondo: A Personal Perspective – Part 2 (Mondo 2000 History Project Entry #8)

The Glorious Cyberpunk Handbook Tour (Mondo 2000 History Project Entry #9)

Did The CIA Kill JFK Over LSD?, Reproduced Authentic, & Two Heads Talking: David Byrne In Conversation With Timothy Leary (MONDO 2000 History Project Entry #10)

Memory & Identity In Relentlessly Fast Forward & Memetically Crowded Times (MONDO 2000 History Project Entry #11)

The First Virtual War & Other Smart Bombshells (MONDO 2000 History Project Entry #12)

Swashbuckling Around The World With Marvin Minsky In How To Mutate & Take Over The World (MONDO 2000 History Project #13)

FAIL! Debbie Does MONDO (MONDO 2000 History Project Entry #14)

Paradise Is Santa Cruz: First Ecstasy (MONDO 2000 History Project Entry #15)

William Gibson On MONDO 2000 & 90s Cyberculture (MONDO 2000 History Project Entry #16)

Ted Nelson & John Perry Barlow For MONDO 2000 (MONDO 2000 History Project Entry #17)

R.U. A Cyberpunk? Well, Punk? R.U.? (MONDO 2000 History Project Entry # 18

The New Edge At The New Age Convention (MONDO 2000 History Project Entry #19)

The Belladonna Shaman (Mondo 2000 History Project Entry #20)

NeoPsychedelia & High Frontiers: Memes Leading To MONDO 2000 (MONDO 2000 History Project Entry #21)

“I’d Never Met A Libertarian Before” (Mondo 2000 History Project Entry #22)

 

Jun 12 2012

The New Edge At The New Age Convention (MONDO 2000 History Project Entry #19)

 

The origins of the term “New Edge” may be under contestation.  I recall John Perry Barlow claiming the coinage and I’m sure Mondo Publisher Queen Mu has claimed it as well.   I think maybe Morgan Russell has also claimed it.  I have a fairly strong impression that its first usage was in Mondo 2000 promotional rhetoric, which would give the advantage to Mu.  In an interview for the Mondo book, Joichi Ito indicated that the Japanese professor and media philosopher Mitsuhiro Takemura and he coined the term for a Japanese magazine. But when I mentioned the other people who claimed to have coined it, Joi thought maybe they were just the first to spread it in Japan.

I secretly think I came up with it (yes, irony noted). Not that it matters much.  Changing Age to Edge is not exactly an accomplishment on par with feeding the poor and hungry or writing Crime and Punishment or “The Special Theory of Relativity.”

But what are — or were — the implications of the “New Edge.”   Was it the “new age” plus techno?  Was it the avant garde of the ‘90s?  Was it some Mondo hype that we only intended to feed to potential advertisers before deciding — what the hell — it’d be a good title for the book.  Or was it, as noted by Wikipedia, “a styling theme used by Ford Motor Company for many of its passenger vehicles in the late 1990s and early 2000s.”

The audio file below contains a brief talk I gave in 1990 at a Whole Life Expo titled “The New Edge” and gives my take on it at that time.  I opened with an audio collage that was organized by Don Joyce of Negativland, although I don’t remember exactly how that happened.   Those of you who saw the film Cyberpunk will recognize that much of it is appropriated from that blockbuster.  It’s included in the file and is pretty cool and fun.

 

Listen to the audio now:

 
May 01 2012

Did The CIA Kill JFK Over LSD?, Reproduced Authentic, & Two Heads Talking: David Byrne In Conversation With Timothy Leary (MONDO 2000 History Project Entry #10

What you’ll be looking at is a scan of part of MONDO 2000 Issue #6, including an interview/article inside in which Timothy Leary interviews David Byrne and also writes an art essay titled “Reproduced Authentic.”

First, the cover.   It’s my favorite. Behold and contemplate.  It hailed an inside article titled “America’s First Psychedelic President?” by Nancy Druid.  Or as Bart Nagel put it, “Did the CIA kill JFK over LSD?”  As a matter of fact, there’s a new book out that follows this story titled Mary’s Mosaic: The CIA Conspiracy to Murder John F. Kennedy, Mary Pinchot Meyer, and Their Vision of World Peace and yes, MONDO’s man in L.A., Timothy Leary is involved in this one too.   

Whether one finds these implications plausible or absurd, the image still, I dare say with meager exaggeration, speaks to America’s late 20th Century like no other — capturing a moment of rupture that defined the times, psychedelia spilling from the splattering brain included.

The image was dreamed up and created by one Eric White, who did a bunch of amazing artworks for Mondo before he became a famous painter who you’ve probably never heard of… but doesn’t that just tell ya something about ruptured times and splattered brains?

Inside you’ll gaze upon pages 64 – 69 of the issue involving Byrne and Leary.   Leary’s intro to the interview is on page 64.  A groovy pic of David Byrne is on page 65.  (photos of Byrne and Leary were taken by Yvette Roman.) On page 67 on the right side of the page is a fragment of the Top 10 Conspiracy Theories that are sprinkled throughout the issue… most or all of those (I forget) were written by Gracie and Zarkov. It’s reproduced here in the name of authenticity.

Page 68 is a bit of art theory that Leary wrote in response to a book that David Byrne showed Tim before the interview titled Reproduced Authentic written for a Gallery Show of the same name featuring Byrne, among other, that captured Leary’s imagination.

In the text provided below, I’m running the art essay “Reproduced Authentic” first, followed by the intro/interview and then the little nibble of the top 10 Conspiracy Theories.  I do this because I like the art theory essay as much as the rest of it and you know what they say about short attention spans.

Here it all is… fully reproduced and authenticated.

R.U. Sirius

Thanks to Zach Leary for scans and to Ian Monroe for text scans.

(A full text transcript follows the PDF)

Mondo 2000_issue 6

Reproduced Authentic

Timothy Leary, pg 68. MONDO 2000 #6

Reproduced Authentic is a magnificently bound art book containing five paintings by David Byrne and four other artists which were converted to 8 1/2″ x 11″ images transmitted from New York to Tokyo via telephone line by facsimile. They were exhibited at GALERIE VIA EIGHT, a show curated by Joseph Kusuth.

I consider this apparent oxymoron — “Reproduced Authentic” — to be the most fascinating-controversial-liberating issue confronting us as we move from the solid, possessive materialism of the feudal-industrial societies to the relativity/recreativity of the electronic stage.

Now that Newton’s Laws have become local ordinances, the clunky, static art treasures of wood, marble, canvas, steel become crumbling curiosities, their value insanely inflated by well-marketed “rarity.” These archaeological antiques are huckstered at Sotheby auctions, guarded by armed guards in vault-like galleries or in the mansions of wealthy collectors.

Thus the wretched caste-class possessiveness of feudal and industrial culture which prized “rarity.” Thus the $50 million market for canvases which the unauthentic painter Van Gogh could not “transmit” for a five franc meal at the local bistro. To the feudal aristocrat as well as the Manhattan art critic “authentic” means a “rare original,” a commodity traded by gallery merchants and monopolized by owners. The politics of solid-state aesthetics are authoritarian and one-way — owner-producers on one side and passive gawkers on the other.

Transmissibility replaces rarity. According to German philosopher, Walter Benjamin, “The authenticity of a thing is the essence of all that is transmissible from its beginning ranging from its substantive duration … to the history which it has experienced.” Rarity “now is a… mask of art’s potential for meaning and no longer constitutes the criterion of authenticity. Art’s meaning then becomes socially (and politically) formed by the living.” Reanimated.

These liberating, egalitarian, thrilling notions of “reproduced authentic” and transmissibility are the application of quantum field dynamics and Einsteinian relativity to humanist electronic communication. The implications are profound and timely. The politics are interactive. The passive consumers become active agents.

You receive electronic patterns on your screens, disks, FAX machines, and you transform and transmit.

What is “authentic” is not the possessed object but the ever-changing network — the entangled field of electronic interactions through which the essence-icon is continually recreated.

Recreating the Mona Lisa. The 12 year-old inner city kid can slide the Mona Lisa onto her Mac screen, color the eyes green, modem it to her pal in Paris who adds purple lipstick and runs it through a laser copier which is then faxed to Joseph Kusuth for the next GALERIE VIA EIGHT show in Tokyo.

It is this transmissibility, this re-animation, this global interactivity that David Byrne authenticates so gracefully.

 

Two Heads Talking: David Byrne In Conversation with Timothy Leary, pg. 64 – 69, MONDO 2000 issue #6

Reproduced Authentic

Reproduce: To generate offspring by sexual or asexual union; to produce again or renew; to re-create; to reanimate.

Authenticate: entitled to acceptance because of agreement with known fact or experience, reliable, trustworthy. Example: an authentic portrayal of the past present or future. 

It has been my pleasure during the last 30 years to have hung out with and been re-created by some of the most innovative minds of these high times.

I speak of those who have contributed their talents to our recent renaissance — the humanist, individualistic upheavals of the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s.  Artists; poets; writers; musicians; scientists; filmmakers; entertainers.

These superstars illuminate, energize, disseminate, squirt out memes. They fertilize our minds.  But let’s be frank.  Supernovas don’t conceive.

My life has been guided by a smaller group of illuminati who perform the less visible, but, perhaps more important role of navigating our future.  Multimedia wizards who experiment with new forms of reproducing and transmitting.  People who perform philosophy, if you will.

For bibliographic references I site you William Burroughs, Marshall McLuhan, Aldous Huxley, Thomas Pynchon, Chris Blackwell, Laurie Anderson, Todd Rundgren, Allen Ginsberg.

And speaking of renaissance authenticators, consider David Byrne.

For starters, David helps found the Talking Heads, arguably one of the ten most important rock bands of all time.

He directs two innovative films — True Stories and Ile Aiye, a haunting documentary about Brazilian religious festivals.

He wins an Oscar for scoring The Last Emperor.

His publishing house, Luaka Bop, transmits global sound.  His new album Uh Oh fuses the best of Byrne — biting rock beat, pulsing Latin drive, 21st Century flare, and Talking Heads sass.

And, oh yeah… there’s a symphony.

On November 23, I went to the Seattle Opera House. Sold out. In the lobby you could feel that special expectant buzz.  The Seattle symphony played standard concert stuff for the first half of the program. The second half was devoted to Byrne’s full length piece, The Forest.  Ten movements, no less.

At the end of the symphony the hall boomed with applause.  The conductor waved for David to move to the podium. Standing ovation. What a moment for a rock ‘n’ roller from the Rhode Island School of Design! An authentic moment.

For me, David Byrne transmits the message of the New Breed, the MONDO 2000 spirit.  Human, funny, global, passionate, laid back, friendly, ironic, wise…

And, oh yeah…

Reproduced; re-creational, authentic

 

CORDLESS COSMOPOLITANS

TIMOTHY LEARY: I mention you in every lecture I give, because you represent the 21st century concept of international/global coming together through electronics. How did you get into that?

DAVID BYRNE: With television and movies and records being disseminated all over the globe, you have instant access to almost anything, anywhere. But it’s out of context — free-floating. People in other parts of the world — India, South America, Russia —have access to whatever we’re doing. They can play around with it, misinterpret it or reinterpret it. And we’re free to do the same. It’s a part of the age we live in.

There’s that kind of communication — even though it’s not always direct.

TL: The young Japanese particularly. Read those Tokyo youth magazines! They pick up on everything. Rolling Stone is like a little village publication compared to Japanese mags.

DB: They’re very catholic in that sense.

TL: What’s your image in the Global New Breed culture? How are you seen in Brazil, for instance?

DB: I’m seen as a musician whom some people have heard of — not a lot — who has an appreciation of what Brazilians are doing. Sometimes it’s confusing for them, because some of the things I like are not always what their critics like.

For instance, some of the records on Luaka Bop — like music from the Northeast, and even some of the Samba stuff — are considered by the middle and upper class and intelligentsia to be lower class music. Like listening to Country & Western or Rap here. They’re surprised that this “sophisticated” guy from New York likes lower class music instead of their fine art music.

But sometimes it makes them look again at their own culture and appreciate what they’d ignored. Much in the same way that the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton made young Americans look at Muddy Waters and Howling Wolf. I’m not doing it intentionally, but it has that effect.

TL: What music do you listen to? Who are your favorite musicians now?

DB: The last Public Enemy record was just amazing — a dense collage with a lot of real philosophy. I listened to the last Neil Young record. I have some records from Japanese groups, and Brazilian and Cuban stuff — all the stuff we’ve been putting out on the label.

TL: Tell us about Luaka Bop.

DB: I put together a compilation of songs by important Brazilian artists a couple of years ago, and afterwards I thought it could be an ongoing thing. I figured that I might as well have an umbrella mechanism so that people might see the label and check it out. It was a practical thing in that way.

We’re now slowly getting into a greater range of things. In the future we’re going to release soundtracks for Indian movies, an Okinawan pop group and a duo from England. That will be one of our few releases in English.

INDUSTRIAL SYMPHONY #2

TL: Marshall McLuhan would be very happy with that — globalization.

What about your symphony, The Forest?

DB: It was originally done for a Robert Wilson piece. The idea was that we’d take the same story — the Gilgamesh legend. He’d interpret it for stage and I’d do it as a film. We’d use my music. The hope was that we’d present them in the same city at the same time. So you could see two vastly different interpretations of a reinterpreted ancient legend. I found it’s the oldest story we know. We updated it to the industrial revolution in Europe.

TL: Cosmology and immortality.

DB: It was written in the first cities ever built. Oddly enough, it deals with the same questions that came up during the industrial revolution and persist today — when cities and industry expand at a phenomenal rate. It deals with what it means to be civilized versus natural. So it has a current resonance, although it’s as old as you can get.

TL: The older I get, the more I see everything in stages. I start with the tribe and move through the feudal, Gilgamesh, the industrial… But what’s impressed me about your music is that regardless of the setting, there’s always the African body beat.

DB: It’s part of our culture now. It’s something we’ve been inundated with. The Africans who were forcibly brought here have colonized us with their music, with their sensibility and rhythm. They’ve colonized their oppressors.

TL: Michael Ventura, who explains how Voudoun came from Africa, says the same thing. I wrote an article about Southern vegetables — we colonials going into Southern cultures and grabbing their sugar, coffee and bananas. The industrial people arrive, build factories, and then they become counter-colonized by the music, the food and the psychoactive vegetables. It happened to the British in India.

DB: In a subtle way it changes people’s ways of thinking; it increases the possibilities for what they could think and feel. And they’re not always aware of what’s happening to them.

THE TAO OF TURTLE WAX

TL: I see the industrial age as a stage — a very tacky, messy, awkward stage of human evolution. We had to have the smoky factories, and we must mature beyond them. I was very touched by your comments about The Forest. You were trying to acknowledge the romance and the grandeur of the factory civilization even though it was fucking everything up.

DB: My instinctual reaction is that this stuff sucks. It’s created the mess that we’re in. But you’re not going to find your way out of the mess unless you can somehow, like the Samurai, identify with your enemy. Become one with your enemy, understand it, or you won’t be able to find your way out of the maze.

TL: The Soviet Union is a great teacher about the horrors of firepower and machine tech. You see the smog and those grizzled old miners coming out of the deep, sooty mines with their faces black. On the other hand, there was a grandeur to it, and you can’t cut out the industrial side of our nature, because it has brought us to this room where we can use machines to record our conversation. That’s something that I find interesting in Japan, which is the perfect machine society. There’s not much pollution there — you never see any filth on the street.

DB: No, it’s cleaned up pretty quickly. You get scolded for tossing a can out your car window.  I’ve seen people get scolded for not washing their car! It’s a matter of lace.

TL: And nothing is old there. I didn’t see one car that was more than four years old or with a dent in it.

DB: That’s taking LA one step further.

TL: I spent some time today watching your video, “Ilie Ayie.”

DB: It’s about an Afro-Brazilian religion called Candomble. “Ile Ayie” in Yoruba… an African language, roughly translates as the house of life or the realm that we live in.

TL: The Biosphere 1…

DB: Yeah, the dimension that we live in rather than other existing dimensions. It was done in Bahia, in the city of Salvador, on the coast of Northeastern Brazil. It’s about an African religion that’s been there since slavery times. It’s mutated and evolved over the years to the extent that now it could be called an Afro-Brazilian religion — there’s a lot of African elements. The ceremonies, the rituals consist of a lot of drumming, people occasionally go into trance, offerings are made, altars are made… the occasional sacrifice … It’s an ecstatic religion — it feels good.

TL: I’ve never seen so many dignified, happy human beings in any place at any time. For over 90 minutes the screen is filled with these stately older black women…

DB: It’s very joyous and regal. When the drums and dancing kick in it’s like a really hot rock or R&B show. When the music hits that level where I’ve seen everybody tunes into it, it’s the same kind of feeling.

TL: That’s what religion should be. But it’s not all joyous. At times there’s a sternness — a sphinx-like trance to it.

DB: It deals with acknowledging and paying homage to the natural forces. Some of those are deadly, some are joyous, some are dangerous and some are life giving. That’s the flux of nature, and Candomble acknowledges the entire dynamic.

TL: You also said that the aim of these ceremonies is to bring the Orixas — deities who serve as intermediaries between mortals and the supreme force of nature. Tell us about that.

DB: When the vibe is right somebody gets possessed by one of the gods. There’s a pantheon of gods like in ancient Greece or Rome. The god is said to be there in the room, in the body, so you can have a conversation with him, or dance with him. God isn’t up there unreachable, untouchable. It’s something that can come right down into the room with you. You can dance with it or ask direct questions.

TL: The great thing about the Greek gods was that they had human qualities.

DB: These as well. They can be sexy, jealous, vain, loving, whatever — all the attributes of people.

THE MOTHER DOING WHAT?

TL: William Gibson has written about Voudoun. Many of his Voudoun people talk about the human being as a horse, and how the god comes down and rides the human being.

DB: That’s the Haitian metaphor — the horse. It’s the same idea.

TL: The healer, the warrior, the mother bubbling — one after another these archetypes of characters or natural forces — basic human situations, roles…

DB: The nurturing mother or the warrior man or woman, the sexy coquette…

TL: The seductive female warrior — that’s Yarzan. I became confused when that man dressed as a Catholic priest rants about false prophets.

DB: The African religion is periodically being persecuted by the Catholic Church, by the Protestant Church, by the government. They go through waves of being recognized and persecuted and going underground and coming back up again and being recognized and pushed down again.

TL: I know the cycle well.

DB: So that was a scene from a fictional film there dramatizing persecution by orthodox religion.

TL: You wrote it in…

DB: It was something I found in a Brazilian film. It was an example of recent persecution, so l threw it in.

TL: That’s a very powerful moment because it wasn’t orchestrated. It was authentic, as your friend here would say. [Points to a copy of Reproduced Authentic] Would you comment on this book?

DB: An artist named Joseph Kusuth organized it. He’s most well-known for art that looks like your shirt.

TL: [Displays shirt] It’s designed by Anarchic Adjustments. The front reads “Ecstasy,” and on one arm it reads “Egos In, Egos Out.”

DB: Joseph Kusuth would have a definition of a word and just frame that. He invited me to be part of this exhibition in Japan where the idea was to create art with a fax machine. I did something equivalent to the seven deadly sins. It didn’t exist — I collaged it, sandwiched it in the fax machine, and it came out the other end. They took the fax and blew it up to the size of a painting. When it was transmitted, rather than receiving it on paper they received it on acetate. The acetate became a photo negative. They have fax machines that can receive other materials, and then they can blow it up to any size.

FAX MUSEUM

TL: You say you didn’t want to be a scientist because you liked the graffiti in the art department better. If you had been a scientist what would you have been?

DB: At the time I was attracted to pure science — physics — where you could speculate and be creative. It’s equivalent to being an artist. If you get the chance, and the cards fall right, there’s no difference. The intellectual play and spirit are the same.

TL: Nature is that way — it’s basically playful. Murray Gelman, who is one of America’s greatest quantum physicists, used the word “quark” to describe the basic element from a funny line from James Joyce, “three quarks from Muster Mark.”

DB: I had a math teacher in high school who included Lewis Carroll and Alice in Wonderland in his higher math studies. I thought, “This guy knows what he’s doing.”

TL: Dodgson, the fellow who wrote it, knew what he was doing. That metaphor of through the looking glass on the other side of the screen. Talk about your Yoruba gods and goddesses. Talk about Yarzan and Shango. Alice is the Goddess of the Electronic Age. 

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Page 67, right column.  MONDO 2000 Issue #6

Number 5

Propaganda Due (P2)

• Conspiracy for conspiracy’s sake.

• They leave flowers at Giordano Bruno’s statue on the anniversary of hisdeath at the stake (see Catholic Church).

• However many teams there are, they belong to at least N+ 1.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Psychedelic Transpersonal Photography, High Frontiers & MONDO 2000: an Interview with Marc Franklin

Gibson & Leary Audio (MONDO 2000 History Project)

Pariahs Made Me Do It: The Leary-Wilson-Warhol-Dali Influence (Mondo 2000 History Project Entry #3)

Robert Anton Wilson Talks To Reality Hackers Forum (1988 — Mondo 2000 History Project Entry #4)

Smart Drugs & Nutrients In 1991 (Mondo 2000 History Project Entry #5)

LSD, The CIA, & The Counterculture Of The 1960s: Martin Lee (1986, Audio. Mondo 2000 History Project Entry #6)

William Burroughs For R.U. Sirius’ New World Disorder (1990, Mondo 2000 History Project Entry # 7)

New Edge & Mondo: A Personal Perspective – Part 1 (Mondo 2000 History Project Entry #8)

New Edge & Mondo: A Personal Perspective – Part 2 (Mondo 2000 History Project Entry #8)

The Glorious Cyberpunk Handbook Tour (Mondo 2000 History Project Entry #9)

 

 

 

Mar 28 2012

New Edge & Mondo: A Personal Perspective – Part 1 (Mondo 2000 History Project Entry #8)

We talked and tripped. I decided to know God at any price, but when I came down and found some 10 Chaos guys spread around in my living room snoring and shouted, I greeted them as God, but he was with so many! We also discussed the Silicon Brotherhood idea while sitting both in that bathtub.”

As I explore Mondo 2000 History, I find myself unreasonably surprised by my own recollections — particularly by the degree to which “new age” influences flowed through both the scene and the magazine.  My own exploration of this cultural and memetic milieu  is shaping up to be fairly critical, but in this commentary sent to me for use by the Mondo 2000 History Project, Dutch writer, publisher, and entrepreneur Luc Sala eloquently embraces Mondo as “a door to understanding and experiencing the convergence and integration of technology, new age, philosophy and art”… while also noting our distinctions from some of the more formal “spiritual” practitioners.  I’m always happy to have inspired anything… well, just about anything.

Luc sent us a long ramble… a mini-memoir for the project, which he has graciously consented to my publishing here.  I’m going to run it in two parts — today and Friday. I think it provides one of the many flavors of Mondoid reality.

R.U. Sirius

 

Mondo 2000 has been, for me, a door to understanding and experiencing the convergence and integration of technology, new age, philosophy and art. I believe the magazine and the scene were at the root of the development of the late twentieth century cyberculture and have helped bridge the gap between the more traditional new age (fairly conservatively focused on eastern traditions, health and body; somewhat negative and Luddite about technology) and the computer/information wave.

My involvement with the actual magazine was limited, I sponsored with money and was international distributor (paying in advance helped to print the magazine). My involvement with the people of and around Mondo was what was most important for me, those contacts opened a door into the world of cyberspace, cyberart, psychedelic (ontological) philosophy, design and counterculture. The Mondo scene was where one would meet the great alternative thinkers and writers. They were easy with their contacts and networking; opened many, many doors for me and I am very grateful for what I took home — not so much in material things, but in thinking for myself. Mondo inspired me to publish a similar magazine in Dutch, called Ego2000, and has been a source of contacts and new ideas for my activities in the nineties. Apart from writing and publishing. this encompassed my broadcast television station in Amsterdam. This Kleurnet channel (colored net) produced some 8000 television programs between 1995 and 2001, covering a wide range of subjects, many with a similar focus and taste as to what Mondo offered.

Mondo 2000 was a focal point where the counterculture, psychonauts and mind-researchers met, physically in Berkeley, and at various events in SF and elsewhere. They met in person, but also communicated via the then emerging email and budding internet communications of the times such as The Well. It united the greatest out-of-the box thinkers and change agents of the era, but was not a commercial success. Money to pay the printer had to be found every time. Lack of commercial talent and financial savvy hampered its development so that the newer Wired was able to capture the flag of the cyberculture. Wired was more of a hit, but remained more gadget-oriented and lacked the heart and zeal of the Mondo initiative. Funny enough, founding publishers Louis Rosetto and his partner Jane Metcalfe (after their Electric Word venture in Holland) contacted me in early 1990 to ask for funding for a new magazine in the US, which later became Wired (1991 trial, 1993 first issue). Jane was a great networker and organizer and I actually employed her for a while. She set up the seminal September VR-party in my house in Hilversum, near Amsterdam. I always considered Wired as overly commercial and not so ethical and was proven right when Wired tried to go public and failed because their data were not very honest, to say the least. While many contributors wrote for both magazines, the Wired-Mondo dichotomy; the difference in focus taught me a lot about the soul, the root energy of a venture, how the initial thrust kind of shaped its future. Wired in a sense was a cheap market oriented venture, it lacked the quality and integrity of the Mondo format.

In the early Eighties (1982) I started my computer magazine publishing company, after working as a launch editor and roving reporter for Pat McGovern of IDC/IDG, before that being employed by Fasson, Bruynzeel and Philips. As a then new journalist (I never trained as such) I travelled extensively to the USA, as the rise of the home computer (Commodore, MSX, Apple, PC) was partly a European thing with English makers like Sinclair, but obviously the USA was the motherlode for computernews. I went to shows like the NCC, the Comdex and the CES shows, often in Las Vegas, where I hooked up with the Californian crowd of computer journalists, afficionado’s and hobbyists. Those were exciting years, the computer spread from the highbrow DEC/IBM scene to the home, hobbyists became involved, the Commodore 64 opened a new world of low level ICT. I rode that wave with magazines, end-user shows (PC Dumpdag), books and even a retail operation. I was familiar with computers already during my studies (Physics at Delft University and Economics in Rotterdam), in my early career followed trainings in Industrial Engineering and was groomed by Philips for an executive commercial position in telecom in a year-long worldwide training program. When the personal computer emerged, I jumped in with a 16 KB Philips P2000 unit I used for my first books about home-computers, computer games and programming and then gradually developed my publishing and writing activities in telecom, the home computer field and later in more general ICT. I am happy I went through the rigorous mathematical and physics programs at university, because it taught me to think straight and systematic; this being in line with the slight Asperger syndrom behaviour I sometimes display. Apart from that I have always read extensively and my journalistic and media skills were acquired and learned by doing and supported by some guts, I was always in for a new venture.

Homebrew computers

In my travels for the computer press I met people like Lee Felsenstein, Jan Lewis, Mary Eisenhart (Microtimes), and of course Allan Lundell, Amara Angelica, Saint Silicon (Jeffrey Armstrong) Dusty Parks and friends. We were hanging out together; meeting at the computer shows in the press rooms. We joined the insider parties at these events with what then were budding entrepreneurs like Gates and Philippe Kahn (Borland), and opinion leaders like John Dvorak and Jerry Pournelle. I felt part of the new wave of ICT for the masses, but as an insider. I wasn’t only a journalist and writer, but invested a bit, started trading computers and basically used my publications to get in touch with interesting people. This is something I have always done, even my Kleurnet TV station was a kind of front, a mousetrap to catch the inspiring and interesting ones, the change-agents, the mavericks.

However, in those days it was all very straight; computers, ICT, business, the alternative wasn’t on my mind, but I was connected. This all changed in 1989. I got in touch with new age thinking, had some deep and life-changing personal mystical experiences and opened up to the  alternative side of computers, like brain machines, mindware (Bruce Eisner’s focus) and saw the much broader horizon opening with multimedia, pictures, video. There were visits to Xerox Parc, contacts with fringe scientists, hackers, game-developers… I realized that the days of alphanumeric number-crunching were over. Another notion that dawned upon me then was that data and information are not the same; “a bit is only information if it bytes” was the keyphrase I used and use to make that clear.

GHC

Then around the first big Hacker Conference august 1989 in Amsterdam (Hack-Tic/Paradiso),  I was approached by my friend Allan Lundell (his book Virus was just out… and the famous Captain Crunch — John Draper — was there too) who proposed to me that I support a new magazine which was to be called Mondo 2000 and showed me a mockup. It looked fantastic, desktop publishing really applied to creative publishing, in color, with visual effects that were, at that time, revolution in action. At the closing day of this conference (The Galactic Hacker Conference/ICATA) we had a party at my house in Hilversum (25 km from Amsterdam), where many showed up. The hacker folks, the Chaos Club people with Wau Holland, the local hack and Digitale Stad luminaries like Rop Gonggrijp and Caroline Nevejan came. It was a nice party, that cemented many connections made at the hacker conference, which was in itself a major networking node in the pre-internet times (we had some email, but no web then). Allan and I dropped acid, sitting in the bathtub of my house. We talked and tripped. I decided to know God at any price, but when I came down and found some 10 Chaos guys spread around in my living room snoring and shouted, I greeted them as God, but he was with so many! We also discussed the Silicon Brotherhood idea while sitting both in that bathtub. Allan has some video from that party.

Locally this GHC stemmed from Hack-Tic and resulted in what later became XS4all and De Digitale Stad, but I personally had little empathy for what then was labeled as technoanarchistic hacking and focused myself on the USA and international side of things. However, this GHP brought together ‘the crucial network’ as Caroline Nevejan describes this and certainly influenced the cyberculture and cyber-counterculture. She, in a way, sees this as a consciously staged and orchestrated process, bridging the incommensurability (see 1962 Thomas Kuhn ‘The Structure of Scientific Revolutions’) between participants. I tend to see it more as an autoconspiracy (again a notion Barlow inspired), an energetic exchange that fits the times and the place, and kind of inevitable happens. Maybe this is because I always more liked less staged parties and the mixing of people, ideas and disciplines that can then happen, more the be-in philosophy (Michael Bowen 1967). We come together because we had to, and for an outsider this might look like a conspiracy, but it is more a play. There usually is a spielmeister or facilitator, who sets the stage, but does not know or plan the outcome. This all of course has to do with my understanding of time, future and energy and how things come to pass,. The malleability of reality and the laws of nature is a major issue in my further work and development.

These events, like the GHP and the 1990 Linz Ars Electronica were pivotal events. The people that mattered in what later was coined the new edge movement met and started to make it happen.

Mondo

As a result of meeting the Mondo people in Amsterdam and my promise to help them out financially, somewhat later in 1989 I went to the USA, partly because of my regular visits to computer shows and Silicon valley as a journalist/entrepreneur, but also to renew contact with Lundell and the Mondo crowd. That late summer many things happened in my life. I discovered spirituality and had some amazing mystical experiences, got in touch with the Esalen new age crowd and began to see computers in a much wider and more spiritual context. Before, I was already interested in what computers could do for psychology, like with brainmachines and even started a small shop called Egosoft. There I was selling all kind of mind-enhancing devices, the early smart drugs, and all kinds of brain-tools, hypnotic audio, isolation tanks, even some magic mushrooms — stuff that was totally legal then. But in the late summer of 1989, there came the interest in the more esoteric, even the mystical aspects, like in techno-paganistic work of Marc Pesce (the VRML guy) and how information is a dimension in itself, related to consciousness. These thoughts and notions have kept me busy ’til today, with Infotheism and the legality of Cyberspace still on my mind. Information in that sense is a path, the Silicon path, as in the Silicon Brotherhood Creed from 1989 (see adendum).

In the USofA

In the USA that autumn I got more in touch with the Mondo house and the Mondo crowd, even stayed there for some time. I wasn’t so much working on the magazine but just being helpful, paying for the first Apple Postscript laserprinter, for food and many things — as cash was rather scarce in those days.  R.U. Sirius did have the most amazing collection of weird psychedelics.

It was an old house, above a creek and fairly complex of structure, with offices and rooms tucked away here and there. Alison Kennedy aka Queen Mu and Ken aka R.U. Sirius were living there. Jas Morgan was running around and the whole house was full of rubble, books, stuff, ideas, notes and half-worked articles. Mu and R.U. then were in a strange quasi-relationship. There were lovers and would-be lovers (a guy kind of lived in a van outside); many guests and some people working on the magazine. One of them was Linda Murman, then with Allan Lundell, who did some admin and money chasing. I had a great time there, not doing much apart from sending editorial articles back to my magazine staff. I remember that as the place was messy, even filthy, with rubble everywhere, I tried to clean here and there.

One day I decided to clean out the big fridge in the kitchen, and kind of put aside or in the bin the weird little packages there that I thought were just old pieces of meat or something. This caused a panic, as there wasn’t only a bear’s penis, but also spider venom and a few other outlandish ingredients, related to Queen Mu’s work/hobby. Anyway, I met amazing people there, among them John Perry Barlow, whom I liked and had many and deep conversations with. He had an apartment on Potrero hill in SF, but his family was living in Wyoming. One day he went to visit them. I hitched a ride across the bay, and then our conversation was so animated, that I stayed with him (I could always take a train back was the idea) for the whole trip, some 15 hours through snow and ice, to his family house in Wyoming. I flew back after a nice meeting with his wife and kids. On my 40th birthday, the Mondo people, always in for a party, especially as I was paying for the food and drinks, threw a great birthday dinner for me. Timothy Leary, Barlow, Claudio Naranjo and his wife (Enneagram); the weird professor of Asian religions that Queen Mu was more or less married to (a great dinner entertainer), R.U. Sirius , Linda and some more.

There was a catch, however, as Mu, in her role as grand witch, had secretly decide to match/couple me to Linda. As I was not very experienced with psychedelics at that time, the kind of concoction they half-jokingly slipped me caught me by surprise. Before that summer I had never taken anything, only one toke of a marihuana cigarette when I was 16 or so.

Her recipe in a way worked, I ended up with Linda in bed and for the next few months that was it. She had a house in Boulder Creek, full with Allan’s stuff and took me there. As I had no car, I was kind of stranded for the week out there. I remember how I sifted through Lundell’s gear. He was a writer for electronic and AV magazines, not a great organizer, but assembled the most extensive collection of video gear one could imagine, most lying around in the Boulder Creek house on the hill or stashed in a shed outside. I cleaned out a lot of rubble, read, and watched video’s (no web then!). Sometime in the spring of 1990 I decided to go back to Holland and pick up my activities as publisher. My company kind of ran itself, while away, I just wrote articles and editorials and emailed (complicated procedure in those days with modems and 12kbps connections) them, for the computer magazines we produced, In those days there were magazines for specific machines like Commodore, Atari, PC-DOS, MSX and one about general computer news.

I was (at that time and still) an outspoken and somewhat obnoxious journalist, publisher and entrepreneur and I made money in ICT, and therefore I was a bit the “enemy” of the alternativo’s in the Dutch hacker scene. When the hackers sold out for big money a few years later (Xs4all), I felt they had betrayed their original creed. I however always believed their stance was worth protecting, and the Silicon Brotherhood Creed at the end of my Virtual Reality book (written in 1990, but this creed evolved in and from meeting with Lundell in 1989) acknowledged the importance of the deviant, the alternative, independent hacker).

Barlow was, in those days, a good friend and inspiration. He spent quite some time in SF. We travelled and tripped together, he got me backstage at the Grateful Dead new years concert, we visited trade shows and discussed the world, copyrights, God and psychedelics. His thinking inspired me a lot. I had used so many of his ideas and visions in my VR book, that I decided to put his name on the cover too. We differed in opinion in some ways. I never sided with his belief that copyrights don’t matter, that information should be free. His Cyberspace Independence Declaration/Manifesto was, in the context of his EFF work, a great statement and has been very influential; one of the few articles that really address the need for clear cyberspace rights and laws. It was, at the same time, somewhat naive, expressing a belief in the power of information and freedom that didn’t reckon with the traditions and forces concerning copyrights and the fear of institutions and governments for total freedom. I think Barlow was also inspired by Leary’s Declaration of Evolution (1968). The whole subject of cyberspace rights, legislature and freedom has been the subject of many articles I wrote in Dutch, also in the context of Infotheism and my personal notion of evolution as “a remembrance of the future” and what DNA is (an antenna into the future).

Sacramento 3220

The San Francisco scene in those days had (for me) two poles. One was Henry Dakin’s outfit on Sacramento 3220 (Henry’s Playhouse full with nonprofits and a secret Apple multimedia lab, the SF-Moscow Teleport, Jack Sarfatti and, later, Faustin Bray). The other was the Mondo House, up the hill a bit in Berkeley. Henry was a humble and softspoken millionaire, heir to the Dakin Toys fortune but fascinated by the alternative; be it waterbirth, East-west bridging, dolphins, new physics (Jack Sarfatti), Damanhur or psychedelics. He facilitated so many and was so helpful in organizing, promoting and financing the new, the different, the small and great innovators, I always liked him and his gentle approach. He was easy, slept in the back of my Egosoft new-edge shop in Amsterdam. He was an inspiration for me and many.

The Mondo house, with Queen Mu in charge and at the purse (and the editing!), was a different story. More egocentric, Mondo wasn’t about helping the world. It was an ego-statement by what my kids called catch-up hippies, flippo’s obsessed with the new, the different, who saw the potential of the new technology, as a mind changing and world changing tool. The spirituality that Henry Dakin lived was part of the Mondo culture too, but more as a tool, an experience, as part of the psychedelic awareness, the transcendental in action. Of course the house was full with esoteric art and books. All present were very well read. With people like Claudio Naranjo (enneagram), Barlow and Jaron Lanier around, philosophy and spirituality were part of the daily smorgasboard of discussions and exchanges, but not in a formal way. Although all had some deeper understanding and awareness of the mystical, the transcendental or deep contemplative was not on the agenda. Many had (had) contacts with Alan Watts or John Perry and the beat-generation poets like Ginsberg were not far off, but Mondo was more worldly than that. It made connections with the New Physics crowd via Nick Herbert (and Fred Wolf); dabbled in whatever was new in arts and music, but kind of stayed away from the health scene, the new age body work, Gaia folks and soul searching. But there was enough; the connections from Mondo with what was happening in the Bay area and beyond were fascinating. I really laid the foundation of my network there, which became the basis for my later work (writing, television, esoteric studies) and inspires me till today.

Counterculture

Before Lundell and friends made me aware of Mondo and got me involved, I was familiar with the technological side of things, the ICT industry and its outgrowth into brain machines, mind technology, but was not really hip to the general counterculture of those days. I was more a new age person with an ICT interest. Of course when I got to the Mondo house, I caught up. I have seen and read the earlier publications that R.U. was involved with — High Frontiers and Reality Hackers, but those were more traditional in appearance and layout. It was Mondo (and of course Bart Nagel and Heide Foley who made that jump in layout perspective happen) that really opened up to PostScript and the integrated layout possibilities that so markedly made Mondo 2000 a new wave in publishing.

When the Mondo people asked for support, I donated money to help print the first issue, as did John Perry Barlow and I also subsequently helped out here and there with some funds and became international distributor, not with much success. It came down to preordering and prepaying for some 800 issues (and that helped to get it printed anyway) every run, and having them shipped to some distributors in the Netherland and England. However, I never made money out of Mondo and ended up with serious stacks of Mondo’s, still in my cellars.

As R.U. was not only a keen observer and gifted writer, he also supplied all kinds of things to the Bay area cognoscenti and therefore had a real interesting network. Psychedelics were the not so secret but illicit link between the various subworlds of art, literature, music, new age and technology. Morgan Russell, R.U., Queen Mu, St. Jude (Jude Milhon/Hippie) were all broadly interested, but in different directions, with different networks and it was this convergence that was the hallmark of Mondo. They covered the whole gamut of alternativity, with a distinct “highness” underlying the meetings, events and discussions.

As this was the Bay Area and Silicon Valley was close, the link with the computer industry was easy and logical, There was the money and the excitement, in those days everybody looked at the new possibilities, whether it was in music with synthesizers; in broadcasting with digital media; in entertainment with the emerging computer games — and virtual reality was definitely the magic potion that would free us from the limitations of space and time, the ultimate trip, the electronic drug. Most of the people involved had a sixties background, although there were also the catch-up hippies like myself, who missed out on but were fascinated by the likes of Leary and the Zeitgeist of the sixties.

Part 2 will be published Friday, 3/30

Adendum

The Silicon Br/otherhood :

` We acknowledge the Silicon Path ‘

By Luc Sala and Allan Lundell
Hilversum, August 14, 1989

The computer and information technology, with the word Silicon as its main symbol, is one of the identifiers of the 20th century. This has challenged some to explore its possibilities beyond the mere superficial, utilitarian aspects of it. In arts, media, psychology, Artificial intelligence, consciousness projects, religion and creative crime, new applications are discovered and new interactions mapped. As has happenend in the history mathematics, the quabala, martial arts, building technology etc., such powerful new knowledge is first applied to the relatively mundane fields of economics, warfare and the suppression of people before one acknowlegdes and then explores the transcendental possibilities.

All through the ages people have concentrated on parts of the reality to gain access to the greater or even ultimate reality in themselves and the perennial wisdom of our species and the earth, our Silicon Mother Goddess.

The computer offers us new, and at the same time, age-old, possibilities of concentration and expansion, of communication and isolation, ego-discovery and letting go, that are largely untapped. Those who are now so deeply involved in the computer are, even unconsciously, part of a new tradition, the Silicon Path.

Now we, the initiators, explorers, guardians and even exploiters of the Silicon awareness revolution are concerned about its uses and abuses, and above all, acknowlegde its potential for growing awareness and human transcedence. We owe today’s hackers and whiz- kids, and ourselves, the opportunity to follow the Silicon Path, becoming the magi(cians) and mystics of our times. If the computer is nothing but another way to get in touch with the ultimate reality (and what else could it be), it needs some `small’ br/others to safeguard that path.

 

 

 

Feb 19 2012

LSD, The CIA, & The Counterculture Of The 1960s: Martin Lee (1986, Audio. Mondo 2000 History Project Entry #6

Some time in 1986, I walked into Cody’s Books in Berkeley and saw a book on prominent display titled Acid  Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, the Sixties, and Beyond by Martin Lee and Bruce Schlain.   Containing an impulse to start dancing around the aisles, I grabbed a copy and bought it.

I think it’s fair to say that nothing fascinates psychedelic aficionados as much as the connection between acid and the US intelligence and military establishments during the 1950s and ’60s.  For those who had profound and important experiences  — and perhaps more to the point — for those who had subversive experiences that made them doubt the very existence of nation states and their borderlines amongst other antiestablishment insights, the notion that not only did the powerful view these substances as tools for war but that we all might be “useful idiots” in some psychologically and spiritually heightened Machiavellian war on consciousness was… yes… frightening, but even more, intriguing.

We were able to catch Martin Lee in San Francisco — who, at that time lived in Washington D.C. — while he was on his book tour.   Jeff Mark aka Severe Tire Damage (“I was the one with the car”) and I had the pleasure of interviewing Marty over dinner.

As Queen Mu and I batted around ideas for an introduction to the q&a, it transpired that she was not wholly satisfied with what we had extracted from Marty about the possible conspiracies with nefarious sorts and we got on the phone with him.

That phone call was — as Mu was inclined to put it — utterly fascinating, and it did turn out that Lee harbored some suspicions that he hadn’t included in the book.  This resulted in an introduction by Mu in which she wrote:

“In a recent telephone conversation, Marty continues to speculate — on the connections between Italian Fascist philosopher Julius Evola with his ‘spiritual warrior elite,’ Rene Guenon (the French Esotericist) and mescaline; on the reported fascination with psychedelics by Sartre, Maurice Merleau Ponti and Henri Michaux. The links are intriguing if difficult to pin down.  Clearly though, by the 1930s, an awareness of hallucinogens had spread through artistic and literary circles in Berlin and other European capitals.

“All this merely contextualizes the real heavy-duty experimentation with psychedelics which Joseph Borkin stumbled on while researching The Crime and Punishment of I.G. Farben. A discovery which Borkin left out of the book was that I.G. Farben maintained, throughout the ’30s, a special secret division devoted to research on psychotomimetic agents. In Acid Dreams, Martin Lee detailed Nazi mind control experiments with mescaline carried out by Nazi doctors in Dachau. Here he raises the interesting point that LSD, first synthesized in 1938, actually fell into the ambit of I.G. Farben when they gobbled up Sandoz that same year. Curiouser and curiouser!”

This is a segment of the very long conversation between Martin Lee, R.U. Sirius and Jeff Mark and it involves a wide range of topics, including:

  • The mystical implications of the LSD experience
  • CIA, LSD and the counterculture in the 1960s
  • Secret societies amongst the ruling elite
  • Using psychoactive drugs as chemical weapons

The recording is a bit rough to hear in spots… but you can make out pretty much everything Marty says, and that’s the important part.

Listen to the audio now:

 

Download Martin Lee discussing LSD, the CIA, and 1960s counterculture.

Feb 14 2012

Cyberpunk SF/Mathematics Legend Rudy Rucker’s “Nested Scrolls”: An Interview

Both the funniest and the most scientific of cyberpunk SF’s fab four, Rudy Rucker’s autobiography Nested Scrolls is a laid back groove, in the best sense. It’s funny, real, a bit off center… yet friendly and so thoroughly engaging that I was sorry that it ended.  Maybe Rudy could live another life so that he could take us along, once again.

Aside from being a legendary SF writer and twice-winner of the Philip K. Dick Award for best paperback SF book of the year, Rucker has authored several seminal books in Mathematics and taught at the SJSU Department of Mathematics and Computer Science.  If that’s not enough, he’s also worked on several software packages.  Rucker books include Software, The Sex Sphere, Master of Space and Time, Postsingular, The Fourth Dimension and The Lifebox, The Seashell, and the Soul. 

He lives with his wonderful wife, Sylvia and has a bunch of really cool kids doing interesting things out in the world at large.  I interviewed him via email and — in a tradition we began at Mondo 2000  — he had to send me his answers twice before I acknowledged receiving them.

R.U. SIRIUS:  So I just read your autobiography, Nested Scrolls.  This is a pretty laid-back life in the grand scheme of things — no big drama — and yet you manage to make it very entertaining. Do you feel lucky (punk)?

RUDY RUCKER: My life has turned out better than I expected.  As a youth I didn’t know if  I’d be able to publish books; to raise a family; to find a good job, or even to live past forty.  I don’t know if luck is the right word, though.  It’s more a matter of me being a certain kind of person and of fate working out the consequences.

Becoming a writer isn’t like buying an instant-win lottery ticket.  You have to obsess over your writing for years.  But, at a meta level, I guess you could say it’s a matter of luck to have the kind of personality that makes you work that hard.  If you can call that luck!

In her journals, Susan Sontag says that, to be a writer, you need to be a nut and a moron — a nut to have the wit and the endurance, and a moron to persist.

The craft of writing is soothing to me.  When I don’t write for awhile, I’ll start wondering if I actually know how — maybe I’ve been kidding myself and lying to my friends?  But then when I get back into the work, I find that I have a well-honed capability, and it feels good to use it.  It’s almost like making something with my hands.

RU:  How is your life similar to cellular automata?

RR: As I mention in Nested Scrolls, seeing cellular automata in 1986 was a trigger that sent me into a metamorphosis — like a full moon that changes a man into a werewolf or a werepig.  I moved to California and became a computer hacker.

I need to explain that cellular automata are a type of self-generating computer graphics video.  You think of the pixels on your screen as cells.  With each tick of the system clock, the cells look at their nearest neighbors and use their tiny programs to decide what to do next.  Incredibly rich patterns arise: tapestries, spacetime diagrams, bubble chamber photos, mandalas—and they flow and warp like the shapes inside a lava lamp, never stopping, perennially surprising.

But you’re asking me how my life is similar to a cellular automata.  Well, I suppose I could say that my life, and my mental processes, divide up into specialized cell-like zones.  And information flows from zone to zone.  I evolve in gnarly and unpredictable ways.

Why unpredictable?  One of the biggest teachings that I’ve taken from my work with computers is that even a system with a simple rule produces unforeseeable outputs if you let it run for a little while.  This is particularly true for systems that operate in parallel and which repeatedly munch on the same material.  Which is exactly what the human mind does.

It’s folly to imagine that you can know exactly what you’ll be doing a year from now.

RU:  What’s Embry up to? Did he like Nested Scrolls?

RR:  You’re talking about my big brother Embry, who I mention numerous times in my autobio.  He’s five years older than me, and we weren’t all that close when we were little, although we did see a lot of each other, living in the same house.  In later years we became good friends.  The most memorable thing that Embry and I ever did together was to take a month-long scuba diving trip to the remote islands of Micronesia.  It was a landmark event, a once in a lifetime thing.

Embry’s back to living in Louisville, the town where we were born.  It’s interesting for me to go revisit the city from time to time. He read Nested Scrolls, and he didn’t exactly say that he liked it, but he’s not nit-picking me or arguing about details, which is a relief.  I’m sure that I remember some things differently than Embry does, and that I choose to emphasize different events than the ones he would prefer.  But I do think I depict him fondly.  And it seems like we’re still friends.  So I guess I got away with it.

Writing an autobio is kind of risky in terms of how your friends and family members are going to take it.  It’s wise to think ahead and to be a gentle when you’re writing, wise to have some empathy.

RU:  So did you take some stuff out, thinking better of it?  Conversely, as a fiction writer, did you make up part of your life?

RR: Sure, Nested Scrolls is a somewhat cleaned-up version of my life story.  This time I wanted to focus more on my intellectual development and on my relations to the people around me.  I did however write an earlier memoir that’s a more in the “my wild times” mode that you’re looking for.  This earlier book is All the Visions  — I wrote it in 1983, when I was thirty-seven.  It’s a memory dump of tales about wild things I did to seek enlightenment as a younger man, usually in the context of drinking or getting high.  I typed it on a single ninety-foot-long piece of paper, fully emulating Jack Kerouac’s legendary composition methods.  All the Visions appeared from a small press and is out of print now, but I plan to republish it as an ebook fairly soon.

Regarding your second question, I wouldn’t want to say that Nested Scrolls is a tissue of lies.  But I’m a storyteller, and I’ve told many of my anecdotes before.  As you tell and re-tell a story, you polish it, work on it, make it funnier, more succinct, more to the point.  You edit your memories like you’re editing a novel.

Revising my memories felt good.  That’s one of the pleasures of writing an autobiography.  You tweak your life so that things fit — and then the whole thing begins to make sense.

RU:  You wrote about becoming part of a literary scene, cyberpunk, and about how this felt like being a Beat writer.  But as we discussed recently in a conversation, you cyberpunks aren’t really close in the way that Ginsberg and Kerouac and Burroughs and Corso were, and you’re probably less extreme in how you’ve lived.  Do you agree?

RR:  Let’s start with some similarities between the Beats and the cyberpunks as groups.  We got publicity in the wider press; we were reviled by an establishment; stuffy critics continue to minimize our abilities; we advocated revolutionary views of our society; and our writings ushered in widespread cultural changes.  The end of the Eisenhower years in the case of the Beats; the coming of the Web in the case of the cyberpunks.

At one point I got interested in pushing the cyberpunk/Beat analogy as hard I could, and I wrote an essay suggesting these correspondences: William Gibson ~ Jack Kerouac, Bruce Sterling ~ Allen Ginsberg, Rudy Rucker ~ William Burroughs, John Shirley ~ Gregory Corso.  Gibson writes like an angel and has best-seller status.  Sterling is deeply interested in politics and in changing the world.  Rucker, the oldest, has a scientific streak and an antic sense of humor.  Shirley speaks and writes without the interference of socially-prescribed mental filters.  All of us have an implacable and unrelenting desire to shatter the limits of consensus reality.

Despite what I said to you in conversation, I do feel fairly close to Sterling, Gibson, and Shirley.  I’ve collaborated on seven short stories with Sterling, two stories with Shirley, and Gibson helped me develop the first chapter of my quintessential cyberpunk novel Wetware.

I see Shirley a couple of times a year, Sterling about once a year, and Gibson every three or four years.   So we are pretty close, but of course it’s hard to match the legends of Jack and Neal’s visit to Bill Burroughs’s farm, or Jack’s stays with Bill in Tangier and in Mexico City, or Bill’s unrequited crush on Allen, and so on.

And it’s also true that my life hasn’t been as romantic as the lives of the Beats.  Being a heroin addict, hitching back and forth across the country, having hundreds of gay lovers, living in destitution—all these adventures were denied to me. In some ways I wish my life had been that exciting.  But then I might not have written anything.

It’s possible that to someone on the outside, maybe my life does seem exciting.  After all, I got to work with R. U. Sirius and Queen Mu at Mondo 2000!  And one night at the Berzerkistan Mondo house in the 1990s, some people associated with your scene got me so high that I thought I’d been snatched by a time machine and transported to a holographic virtual room in the 2010s to be interviewed by some weird… oh wait, that’s actually happening right now, isn’t it?

Rudy w. Mondoids

 

RU:  I’ve always felt the voice of Philip Dick in your work, more than maybe I’ve ever said before.  There’s a certain whimsy in the way you present your characters reacting to strange situations in ways that are more offbeat than panicky.  Does that make sense?  Anyway, say a bit about Dick’s influence.

RR: Yes, I’ve definitely been influenced by Dick’s voice, his language-with-a-flat-tire quality.  I still think A Scanner Darkly is one of the funniest and saddest books I’ve ever read.  Dark oboes playing behind the stoner grins.  I like Phil’s California vibe, and, living in the San Francisco Bay Area for the last twenty-five years, I’ve gotten more and more imbued with his tone.

A few years ago I showed one of my SF novels in manuscript to a younger friend who’s a hot quantum physicist.  I wanted him to check the quality of my pseudoscience, the plausibility of my con.  But he went off on a tangent and started complaining that my characters weren’t surprised enough when weird things happened.  Like a giant cone shell snail would fly in and eat someone, and my characters would be like, “I’m glad the cone shell ate that shithead instead of us,” and then they’d go on with whatever insane task they were busy with.

I told that my friend that it would be boring to have my characters continually going, “I can’t believe this is happening!  Am I dead, drunk or dreaming?  How can this be real?  Blah, blah, blah.”  To me, being inside an SF novel is like being inside a surrealist painting, and you don’t want to waste time pretending to be shocked by the changes coming down.  You want to savor the weirdness and, where possible, keep kicking it up to higher levels.

You want a hero who’s a snickering nihilist, not a defender of the status quo.  At least to start with.  And then of course you put in some routine about coming to terms with your inner demons, finding your sense of empathy, and growing up at last.  You need that part for the book to be a novel.

One of the interesting things about Phil Dick is that you can never really tell when he’s putting you on.  And he doesn’t know either.  He’s working in that gap, where you just say anything—to see how it feels.  Does that make sense?

RU:  Do you have a lifebox?

RR: Okay, you’re talking about my notion that it’s possible to make a software model of yourself — a notion which goes back to my first published novel, Software of 1982.  And then people can have the illusion of talking with you, even after you’re dead.  I see lifeboxes as becoming a very big consumer technology.  A simple design is to have a lot of your personal online as a data base, and to have an interactive search tool for accessing this data base.

My autobiography is a lifebox in an older sense.  Moving beyond that, I’ve set up a primitive but functional lifebox of myself at the Rudy’s Lifebox website.  In principle my lifebox could be answering the questions in this interview, although the interviewer would need to be doing some edit work on the “answers.”

Many people are already producing a lot of online data on blogs and social networks.  If you follow someone’s posts closely enough you can indeed get a feeling of knowing them.  And as searching across blogs and social networks becomes simpler and more fluid, we’ll effectively be getting lifebox representations of many web users.

What’s the appeal of lifeboxes?  They make a weak form of immortality accessible to a wide range of people.  For most of us writing a book is quite hard. A key difficulty is that you somehow have to flatten the great branching fractal of your thoughts into a long line of words. Writing means converting a hypertext structure into a sequential row  it can be hard even to know where to begin.

If you have an effective search tool as the front end, it’s okay if your “memoir” is a disorderly heap of random personal factoids.  With the search working, the database becomes an interactive whole.  That’s really what a living personality is, come to think of it.  A mass of brain data with a so-called mind .

Dec 04 2011

Psychedelic Transpersonal Photography, High Frontiers & MONDO 2000: an Interview with Marc Franklin

I met Marc Franklin (aka Lord Nose) in 1984, when I was putting together a little magazine called High Frontiers (with our first issue, we declared ourselves “the official psychedelic magazine of the 1984 Summer Olympics” — no one else rose up to challenge us for the title).  High Frontiers would eventually become Mondo 2000 via Reality Hackers.  After seeing the initial edition, edited and designed primarily by myself and Mark Frost (who christened himself Somerset MauMau), Franklin gave us a call, telling us that he loved what we were doing but that we desperately needed some design help.  Which we did.

Cover, High Frontiers #2

Marc ended up designing what — for me — may be my favorite edition of the entire 13 year “Mondo” publishing experience — issue #2 of High Frontiers.  As he tells it himself, each spread in HF #2 is a visual feast — a “poster.”  On the cover of the big hot pink “17” x “11” magazine was the mutated face of Art Linkletter saying “Kids do the darnedest drugs,” along with a three-eared Mickey Mouse holding up a blotter of CIA LSD (along with a few other design elements.). Although we only published 2,000 copies, this edition had both elegance and street cred and put us on the map with alternative periodical distributors and newsstands alike.  It also caused at least a few perturbations within the psychedelic community, but mostly, people were bowled over by the sense of art and fun that emanated from its pages.

Employing a uniquely personal and revealing photographic style, Marc went on to work on an amazing project photographing nearly all of the still-living psychedelic explorers in the 1980s and ‘90s.  Now there is a gallery showing in Los Angeles that includes these photos — some of them blown up into 24’ x 36″ prints — as well as some very unique “nature photos” that add to the aesthetic of the presentation.

If you’re in or near LA, make haste — go right now to SPF:a Gallery where the exhibit will be up until the end of 2011.  You’re in for a consciousness expanding experience.

In the following interview, I do two things. In Part 1, I reminisce with “Mr. Nose” about our experiences with High Frontiers.  Some of this material (and more – we’ll be doing further conversations) will be used in the Mondo 2000 History Project book and website that will tell the story of that historic “psychedelic cyberculture” publishing project through the voices of as many of the contributors as I can rope in.  And in Part 2, I talk with Mr. Franklin about his amazing photography project.

Incidentally, if you follow all the links from this conversation, you can get a full education in the worlds of psychedelic research along with these colorful anecdotes.

PART ONE:  THE “HIGH FRONTIERS/MONDO 2000” STORY

MARC FRANKLIN (LORD NOSE):  I found High Frontiers #1 in a head shop on San Francisco’s Haight Street called Pipe Dreams. I grabbed it immediately and began reading it and then I bought it. I discovered that you had put a little notice in there about people that wanted to help to contact you, so I hurried home and immediately called the number listed. I realized that it was an opportunity for myself to kind of assist a nascent publication that had amazing potential. I thought: this is a hot idea! I love the idea.

You and Somerset MauMau came over.  I was living in a house on Broderick Street close to the bottom of the Panhandle in San Francisco with my wife Betsy that we shared with the owner, Don Emery.  Don had bought a wonderful 1906 Queen Anne that had been completely renovated. It was just totally luxurious.

I remember very vividly you guys arriving.  I’ll never forget what you said to me the very first moment we met. I had opened the door and you said, “We don’t look like what you’d expect.” (laughs). It’s funny also because nine years later someone else said the very same thing when I first met her…

I had designed numerous publications before then in New York. I had been working professionally doing that. I had also worked as a photographer. I had done the photography for the 1974 Mobil Annual Report. Back then, Mobil Oil was the fifth largest corporation in the world. However, photographing a phosphate strip mine operation in Florida really radicalized me. I thought: whoa, that’s the wrong direction. I’m not going in that direction. I’m going as far away from that as possible.  So High Frontiers was the perfect vehicle — the perfect opportunity.

Anyway, after we met, we had agreed to get together and hang out. We wound up going one day out to Tennessee Valley in Mill Valley. It was MauMau, myself, you and Betsy. We had quite an experience with trying out for the first time “ecstasy” (MDMA) and — we sort of all bonded. That is, with the exception of Betsy.

MDMA was a change from every psychoactive I had previously experienced. It was certainly different and, of course, it was not a psychedelic. It was where we dropped the “I/Thou” and suddenly we’re all these big amorphous fingers on one hand. We all felt so damn good. And, then there’s Betsy off alone. Betsy was dealing with the fact that she needed to leave me. And this experience gave her the space she needed to deal with that. So the three of us were tight and Betsy was dealing with her own stuff. And I felt really strange about that, but at the same time, it was perfect.

RU: You were having a good time anyway.

MF: Yeah. I mean, it wasn’t that it was a bad time for her… but it was a difficult time for both of us, generally.

HIGH FRONTIERS CONTENT

MF:  The subject matter was something that was quite dear to me. I had come out to California to continue my study and practice of shamanism. I mean, that was the end-all, be-all for what I was doing. I was really learning about healing modalities, and divination. One of the aspects, of course, was psychedelic shamanism. So it was just like hand-in-glove. It was like here the universe is providing me with an opportunity that I could not pass up. Looking back, at the time, that it was a very good fit.

We all seemed to have that same kind of spark. There was some spirit there that really grabbed me immediately. I thought: this is beyond a job… this is not a job. This is a lifestyle. It was beyond anything one would normally consider. It felt so good. And right.

At the same time, I was undergoing emotional turmoil with the breakup with Betsy.  So it was a pretty interesting sort of rebirth — a death of one aspect of myself and the birth of another. It was quite a challenge to shift — to sort it all out. It was almost like a landlubber suddenly getting onto a ship. You have to get your sea legs. You’re kind of walking along and suddenly you’re thrust out onto a moving vessel in the throes of a storm. It’s either sink or swim. You’re either going to be able to do it or you’re going to fail. And it was not a matter of failure. It wasn’t in the cards. There was some important reason for it all happening.

DESIGNING THE MAGAZINE

MF: At first, I didn’t have an idea of what I would do with the design of this new magazine. I mean, I had some thoughts about it.  I had taken advanced graphic design classes with Milton Glaser and Henry Wolf and Clay Felker from New York Magazine when I was in New York. I was really crazy about publication design.

When it came time to conceptualize the magazine, I decided and told you and MauMau that what I wanted to do was create something where each spread was like a poster.  Each page would be — in and of itself —something really inspired. I said, “When you enter into that non-ordinary reality, it’s not tepid. That is so dramatic.” So I wanted to kind of utilize the knowledge I’d gathered to do something that was really aesthetically grabbing. At that point, psychedelics had such a bad rap… you know… had a lot of baggage because it was all over the map in terms of how people were using them and the results. And I felt it was really important to do something in terms of the neopsychedelic notion.  It had to be strikingly different. To boot, we had no real budget, so I had to rely on my ingenuity. Hitting upon the Xerox copier—like the Punk fliers that were around then — allowed for a cheap workaround. Especially when the sympathetic clerks realized what I was doing. Most times they would not charge me for each copy I had made… usually because I would spend hours on the machine, selecting, resizing, cropping, collaging and experimenting all before them. The creative process is not linear— and I am definitely not a left brained sort… without intuitive spontaneity the results look quite dismally plain. Ordinary. Our magazine required exceptional graphics.

Choreographer and dancer Lucas Hoving in High Frontiers #2

RU SIRIUS:  It really pulled off a new aesthetic that was really hip and really irreverent and appealing to young people.

MF:  At the same time, it was different from the then current design standpoint. None of the stuff I do is ever trendy. Actually, there’s a certain inherent classicism so the project looks as fresh today as it’ll look thirty years forward.

RU: And yet that second issue sort of fit in with the punk vibe that was around.

MF:  Oh, yeah.  Living close to the Haight — and what with all of the punk bands in San Francisco and that graphic look that they had — I wanted to take advantage of that because I liked it. There was a freshness to it. A certain rawness. A haphazard spontaneity. At the same time, the Punk aesthetic was generally pretty rough edged. So I took a pinch of that influence and morphed it into something else. Kind of thesis, antithesis… and then you get your final product — a unique synthesis.

TRIPPIN’ BALLS

MF: Every weekend we went out there to that cove and spent the entire night there.  It was the most extraordinary period of growth, because we were getting to know ourselves from a very different point of view. And we were getting to know each other—plus, we were getting to know other people as well. I could not help but think we were pretty mindful of the fact that we were doing something important with the magazine… without feeling self-important. Carol (High Frontiers attorney) had said to me one day: “You’re dreaming for the rest of us.” She was correct.

RU: Usually it was you, me, and MauMau… and we’d sorta pick out one or two people and bring them out… (laughs)

MF: Yeah… and totally freak them out. (laughs) They were never the same after that.  Reflecting back on it — that was really ballsy. But at the same time, it was done with such a good intention and good-heartedness— and a sense of humor. But mostly, in innocence. I know we were genuinely innocent because we were never trying to impose ourselves on these other people. I’ve had so many weird, peculiar experiences with some of those strange people who had come through the doors — especially those power trippers that came through.

RU: You mean during those times, or at other times?

MF: Yeah, during the High Frontiers period. One day I had an unusual experience with some psychologist that I met through the magazine. We went out there to the Valley together.

This I’ll never forget:  I had driven over from Berkeley. As soon as we had gotten high, suddenly this other entity appeared on the scene. Now, it became abundantly clear I was in danger. Psychic danger. This became a battle. It turned really weeeiiiird… I mean really, really weeeiiird…

Now when I say weird, I’m talking like vampire weird where I knew that there was something extraordinarily wrong with his intention. I recall that we split up during this experience. A bit later, when we met on a trail, he said to me something along the lines of: “thanks for the ride.” It was clear he meant he had somehow… I don’t know what he done to me psychically. I have no idea what happened, except that… it was very, very, very weeeiiird. Suddenly, still out in the ozone, I’m leaving the place alone. How he got back, I have no idea. And I never ever heard from him again. (An analogy today: he downloaded files without permission… a “sneak and peek” rummaging through my mind.)

RU:  (laughs) Yeah, there were some spooky times there.

MF:  There was one time, you and I came back to Mill Valley, and it was the same kind of stuff.  This insanely weird stuff going on. You can’t talk to someone about this because they’ll think you’re absolutely bonkers. Guess we were/are?

RU: Was that the day we came back to Mill Valley and there was a guy in the burrito shop in front of us who was naked?

MF:  No, I don’t remember that.

RU:  (laughs) I think that was you, me and MauMau…  but you had split back to San Francisco already. And it was one of the most intensely strange excursions. We were back in Mill Valley, and we were like: Are we in a Philip K. Dick novel? Is this the same universe we were in before or a parallel universe? And then we walk into the burrito shop and there’s this guy in front of us completely naked. (laughs).  Then I knew we had come down to a different universe.  I went to a phone booth and called Terence McKenna about it.

MF: I remember one.  I think it was the first time that we had spent an evening with LSD, and fortunately at that time we were able to get some really clean stuff and it was one of those spectacularly diamond clear experiences. And at the end, we had been given some DMT to experiment with… the first time that we did that. And that was… a remarkable revelation. I love DMT.

RU: I think we had actually sort of been debating — (both laugh) — earth vs. space or something like that. And then we sat down and smoked the DMT and that just kinda splattered rational argument into a zillion pieces. None of it mattered.

MF: That was when we began the quest. The quest for using multi-molecule routes.

RU: Synergy.

MF: The synergies.  I told Sasha (Shulgin) that the best combination I’d found was 2cb and DMT. He was amazed…. couldn’t believe it. For me, that was the best one. I liked that combination the most… of all the trials run.

RU: Yeah. They both are highly energetic.

MF: We both really liked the DMT.

RU:  Yeah, that was a real love affair for me.

In the process of designing the second issue, I remember you doing excursions for inspiration almost like for every image. Is my memory false, or…

MF:  (laughs) No. It’s very true. You would bring me an article. And I’d read it and then try to get a handle on it. What was it exactly that had to be brought forth visually to make it worthwhile — because it couldn’t just be a simple illustration. That’s not what it was about. It was more a matter of finding the essence of the story and then bringing that out visually. Like the amazing story we had by Ram Dass gotten from Peter Stafford’s  Magic Grams.” [unpublished book manuscript] It was a terrific piece and I think the illustration really, really worked on numerous levels.

MAKING & MARKETING THE PSYCHEDELIC MAGAZINE

MF:  I’d split with Betsy in July.  I was living in a loft in the Tenderloin. I had no money. You said, come to the San Francisco Symphony with me to sell season tickets. Here I am — tongue-tied, totally introverted… but flat broke. When I began with High Frontiers; I was about as insular as you can be.  My wife had been working in the world.  I very much liked being quiet, being in the wings, and not having to assert myself. And suddenly, I’m thrown out there to the lions. I’m out of money.  I said, “Well, I’ll give it a shot.”

High Frontiers #2 Centerfold

For the first two weeks, I didn’t make one sale. Not one. It was strictly commission. I was determined to succeed. It was important for me to learn how to communicate verbally. As you know, I have this enormous capacity to persevere. Finally, on the 15th day, I made my first sale… and then I started making at least $200 a week! You know, that was not bad considering we only worked four hours a day. Suddenly, I learned how to speak with strangers, how to get them to see my point of view. I realized that I enjoyed it. It was like learning that while all my life I had never played baseball — but when I was forced to play, that I loved the game, and was good at it to boot.

I remember that you and I moved into a house in Berkeley, a duplex.  We were gathering the material for a magazine with lots of people coming around. It was coalescing into quite a scene.

That certainly was fun because at the same time it was during the reign of Ronald Reagan and here we’re doing something so completely opposite to mainstream, conservative America. How could we not just adore what we were doing?

Here we’re working towards a lofty goal — the excitement was really, really palpable. Creating this magazine was worthwhile. There was finally a reason for being…

I had set up a studio in the back bedroom. You were living in the living room. Your mattress was a simple piece of foam rubber that you slept on.  No furniture at all. Then, suddenly, you got together with Alison (Kennedy aka Queen Mu) and began living in the antique-laden lap of luxury up in her place in the Hills.

THE LA TRIP

RU:   Not long before we had the issue printed, we went down to LA.  That was a great trip!

MF:  I remember when we interviewed Timothy Leary — we finished interviewing him and we were talking afterwards. His wife, Barbara, came out and she said she was going to the gym. And he said, “Can I join you?” And she said something along the lines of… “no.” And we realized Barbara ran the show. Tim was just completely shot down. “No, you can’t join me.” I was shocked. Here’s the great Tim Leary and look at the way he’s…

We went to see Tommy Retitg [ed: he was Timmy in the TV show Lassie] That was the fun one. We went to his house — his apartment in Marina Del Rey… He was a nice, kind person. And he turned us on to some guy that had created a little booklet of materials for replenishing your neurochemicals if you use these miraculous molecules. We published some of it.

And then we went to see the publisher Jeremy Tarcher in Beverly Hills. In another wing of the house, his wife Shari Lewis was having singing lesson. We were talking with Jeremy, when Shari comes out and says: “You weren’t here, were you?” She was so embarrassed.

I remember driving down to Manhattan Beach to meet Durk Pearson and Sandy ShawThere was a heavy, low fog. Looking up, one could see the arcs running between the insulator and the wires as we passed Los Angeles Power and Light’s generation plant.  Just like in Blade Runner. It looked like we were entering Hell. Arriving in their neighborhood, in the street, there was Sandy screaming into a two-way radio… announcing our arrival. Apparently she’s deaf.

RU: Wasn’t she dressed in…

MF:  Black leather.

RU: I remember they were in army fatigues… camouflage. Sandy screams into a walkie-talkie: “They’re here!”

MF:  They had this green pallor about them… oh, my God. I have a photograph of them with him opening that refrigerator filled with all those hundreds of nutrients.  What a strange couple they were…

RU: They had, like, the strongest weed I’d ever smoked and then we all sat down and watched some weird Masterpiece Theater spy show that they were really into . (both laugh).

Remember what happened when we returned from LA?

MF: Oh, yeah. We came back and suddenly the house was transformed. I remember that the guys who were living in Marin… MauMau and Amalgam X and so on had brought over all kinds of pillows and coverings. But first they had destroyed the house. It was sort of like destruction and then creation.

RU: MauMau had basically eaten all of the magical molecules that we had in the refrigerator… everything at once.  I think he drank a jug of wine first.

MF: …Then just completely destroyed everything. And then they came back and they fixed everything.

RU:  Things started to split up in various ways pretty quickly even before the publication of that issue.  There were a lot of really different characters involved.

MF: Right. Mau au and X sort of split off and stayed mostly in Marin while we were in Berkeley.  (Amalgam X!  What an amazing character! What a genius for comedy!)

We stayed in Berkeley and they were doing their craziness over there. It was very interesting. From a sociological standpoint, the difference between what was happening in Marin and what was happening in Berkeley was pretty interesting. Berkeley was much more cerebral, more intellectual.

RU: (laughs) Yeah, we were like two tribes. We were all Jews over in Berkeley. (both laugh) We tried to keep it together. (both laugh).

 

……………………………………………………

PART TWO: THE TRANSPERSONAL (PSYCHEDELIC) PHOTOGRAPHY PROJECT

RU:  So you started this almost lifelong project of photographing individuals who were involved in psychedelics in some way. Describe how that came about.

MF:  Well, I bought my first Nikon F, an SLR, in 1961, while a sophomore at Pratt. I worked in a paint store. For 75 cents an hour. So you can imagine how long it took me to make $200 to buy the camera. I scrimped and I saved, but I bought this camera. When I discovered the “camera,” I realized that I no longer wanted to be an industrial designer. No longer was I interested in designing racing cars. Thus began my lifelong love affair with creating two-dimensional images.

In 1988, I spent the entire summer in Europe. I called Albert Hofmannit being the 50 years since the first time that he created LSD-25… I called him and I told him that I wanted to visit him to do a photograph. He said he would welcome that, but he couldn’t do it then.  I think he was having a health issue. I knew he was coming to Santa Rosa that October for the Association of Transpersonal Psychologists annual meeting. (Stan Grof’s group).

I arranged to meet him there.  I photograph him on a Sunday before the event began to catch him fresh. The next day I had the film processed. That evening, I made a print — went back up to Santa Rosa, presented Albert with the portrait, and I explained to him that I plan to photograph all of the living psychedelic pioneers.”

Albert Hoffman, photo by Marc Franklin

At this time, the US government was running a stupid ad campaign, truly asinine propaganda: “This is your brain, this is your brain on drugs.” Showing a fried egg. Preposterous. Lumping psychedelics together with speed, opiates, and all the myriad other drugs of abuse. I thought, “You know, that’s such a load of horseshit. I must do something about that!”

Knowing full well that so many wildly creative, intellectually robust, well-rounded individuals had seriously and irreverently undertaken working with psychedelics as healing agents, for divining the future, for creativity, for re-creation… they weren’t the burn-outs, the walking wounded, riff raff, that the government would have you see — but rather they were society’s most intelligent beings. These were the leaders in every field —  visual art, music, science, literature, religion, human consciousness… the crème de la crème! “I’m going to portray these people how they are. I’m going to dismantle that poisonous propaganda lie visually. That is what I do best.” Thus began this multi year project.

That Monday, I called Richard Evans Schultes at Harvard explaining my plan. He agreed to sit for me. I quickly made arrangements to get to New York. Then I phoned Allen Ginsberg, who I had known from my Yippie days in NYC.

Turned out that Ram Dass just happened to be in New York City, so I called him. From Manhattan I drove up to Cambridge, spending a marvelously insightful day with Schultes at Harvard’s Botanical Museum. That was quite something. All RES did was rail against Michael Dukakis, who was then running for President. I mean, this guy was not a Republican — he was a Tory! [Laughs] What a character.

RU: Your photos have a particular look, a particular sort of framing mechanism that brings out something.  Did you have that in mind right from the start?

MF: Before I even went to photograph Albert Hofmann, I knew immediately that this project was going to be a matter of capturing… delineating the soul. The photographs themselves had to be “psychedelic.” But certainly not like anything heretofore seen, and not obvious. As a point of departure I used the cliché: the eyes are the gateway to the soul. I love clichés. Why? Because that gives me much ammunition to work with. Employing a strong vision with hackneyed, trite, severely overused clichés, but in a new manner — suddenly you’re a genius, you know… because everyone before has attempted to do this before, but failed. So if one can achieve it in a different way—then there is that satisfying “ah ha” moment.

ACCESSIBLE, BUT DENSE

What differentiates my portraiture from the mass of snaps is that I photograph the inner person… not the exterior husk.  I’m able to “grok” people… instantly. That’s what these transpersonal portraits are—a concise distillation if you will. A symbol. More than anything else, without the person’s active participation in perpetuating their ego bound mask.  Suddenly, without their intervention, it’s the most precise liberation of that individual — a distillation of their vital essence, visually. No need for words of explanation, either.

Generally I would just call someone and say, “I want to do a portrait of you for this ongoing project” or simply,  “I want you to come over.” Like, I phoned Wavy Gravy, all right? Wavy and I have known each other for many years. He is familiar with my work. So he came over to San Francisco. The result of this collaboration: I have a portrait of Wavy that is unlike any others taken of him. Curiously, some particular but crucial element of the portrait had escaped my scrutiny. It had eluded me for 23 years! Only when I had these 24 by 36 inch prints made, did I discover that there’s a teardrop running from his eye! Wavy’s particular expression — the quintessential bittersweet clown image, smilingly sad. But with a tear drop. Each one of us has an inherent sadness that is overwhelmingly obvious if one is sufficiently perceptive.  This is the human condition.

About the framing. No, it is not at all arbitrary, but rather the closest I can get to someone’s face with a particular lens that I have chosen to use. It is a 105mm lens — a portrait lens — to avoid facial distortion. Use of a shorter focal length lens in close would make the sitter’s nose become the size of a basketball, their eyes like peas. To emphasize the eyes meant I needed to crop out a portion of the face. Since hair is the least important personal feature, it’s outside of the picture frame in these images. The sitter’s chin is so much more important. But it is the eyes that are of paramount importance.

RU:  Right. Those are real clean pictures.

MF:  Of course. After these many years my technique has become painstakingly perfected.  One would hope so. [Laughs] Also, as one stricken with the curse of perfectionism, I knew that with black and white photography, especially these close-in portraits — that the most important item you have is the photographic negative. Not having had my own darkroom since 1972, I always had to have a pro lab process my film. Always I sought out the best possible lab, paying top dollar to have my film processed. Because I knew that in the future, the only thing I would have to work from is what I had created in the past. I’ve got to have good material. If I’m going to spend the time to do it; it’s got to be done well. Likewise I’ve also always sought out the best equipment. I found the best lab in San Francisco when I was working with the Nuclear Freeze movement in 1983. Not inexpensive, but hang the expense if they do a great job. In the grand scheme of things, film costs and processing expenses are trivial. I was not looking to save money. I was looking to have impeccable negatives to print from.

This summer, I needed to have the negatives drum scanned.  Fortunately, I was introduced to a superb craftsman, Steve Philips. He lives here in Santa Cruz. Steve works with many of the National Geographic photographers, along with the world’s top wildlife photographers represented by Minden Pictures, a stock agency in Watsonville, of all places. Publications require high quality input. Minden uses a high-resolution Heidelberg drum scanner to digitize the film images of their photographers. Steve provided superb scans of my negatives at a very reasonable price. (One reason was the cleanliness and quality of my negatives—a result of having chosen properly years ago.) His work is exceptional… His long term printing expertise was what allowed me to make 24 x 36 inch prints from my 35 mm negatives, with ease. It’s amazing when you consider this: we’re talking about a 35 mm negative that is one inch by one and a half inches. That means it’s a 24 times blow-up. That’s pretty extraordinary when you think about it. Can’t be done readily with analog photography. The image would disintegrate. But these digital images are absolutely sharp edge-to-edge. With judicious editing in Photoshop, they are totally clean of unnecessary artifacts. Dramatic. Majestic.

RU:  Let’s talk a little bit again about some of the people you photographed.

MF: Claudia Naranjo was the second person that I photographed. Afterwards, I flew off to New York to see Allen Ginsberg.  From Northport, NY I called him. “Oh yeah, come on over. Of course. Of course, come over.” When I got to New York City, I called him again to arrange a specific time. Allen said, “I can give you five minutes.” I said, what are you talking about, five minutes? When I arrived, he says, “I’ve got five minutes for you.” “Five minutes? It’ll take me more than five minutes to unpack my camera.” An hour and a half later, I was finishing up.

A year later, after I gave him a print, he asked, “Why is it so sharp?” I said, “Allen, I’m a photographer. I know how to focus. And I use Nikon lenses.” “Oh…”

To preclude the sitter’s preconceptions about what was about to happen, rarely, if ever, would I show them a finished portrait from the series. Not until the session was completed. I didn’t want them to know what I was about to do. All I asked of my subjects was to look directly into the lens, to not smile, and most importantly — to continue breathing.

Fast forward to December 1988 and I realize, “Oh, look who’s going to be playing at the end of the year — The Grateful Dead.”  I called upon Dennis McNally, their publicist, to make the needed arrangements. After seeing the portraits I had with me, Dennis remarked, “You can only go in alone. You can’t bring an assistant.” (You can’t do this. You can’t do that.) And I’m saying, “But I typically have been photographing everyone with available light, using daylight.” He says, “You can only photograph them at the concert just before the performance.” Despite the conditions, I got exceptional portraits of Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir. The other band members did not see fit to sit for me. To this day I do not know if Dennis ever mentioned to them that I was doing portraits.

Nearly everyone I contacted agreed to sit. The only exceptions were Mountain Girl and Ken Kesey.  Caroline Garcia (Mountain Girl) did not want me to photograph her, but she brought me to a Dead show as her date…

Seems like Ken Kesey, his wife Faye and I danced for months. For hours on end, I would be on the telephone with them. Eventually I managed to photograph of Ken in SF when he was drunk on sloe gin… but it’s not the same. You know? I didn’t want to show that side of him, the Trickster that he was.

Following a peyote hunt in the Mexican desert along the Tropic of Cancer with the Huicholes, in March of 1989 I went to see Oz (Oscar) Janiger in LA. He said to me, “Make my house your house. Here’s my Rolodex. Consider it yours. Who do you want to meet? I’ll call them for you.” Oz was so generous. He was very excited about the project. He loved the portraits.

During that visit to LA, I went to Nick Bercel’s house. Nick Bercel was the psychiatrist that gave LSD to spiders. He was apparently the first individual on the west coast to take LSD. Actually, not to take LSD, but to administer LSD. This was 1949. Nick told me a really funny story of how he got an unnamed divinity student as his subject, he broke open the Delysid ampoule and he put it into the distilled water. Back then, like nearly every adult, he was a cigarette smoker. Sitting back across his desk from his subject, the man remarked, “Every time you raise your voice, you get larger, and every time you lower your voice, you get smaller.” And he tells the subject that the same thing was happening to him. He said he must’ve spilled some on his hand and that transferred when he was smoking the cigarette. So he said the next day, he took LSD to discover the effects for himself….

Later, I went up to Tim Leary’s house. Arriving early, I waited in the driveway for Tim to come back from the gym where he was going to be with (his wife) Barbara. I dozed off. She honked the horn. I wake up and make my way to the house. She said, “Do you have any photographs to show me?” I made the mistake of showing the portfolio of portraits that I always show afterwards. Barbara then said, “Hold on a minute, please.” About 20 minutes later, Tim comes back freshly shaved, now dressed in a suit jacket and tie… he had been in a Nike running suit.

I asked, “Barbara, will you allow me to photograph you?” She said, “Absolutely not. Your photographs show everything.”

But Tim loved his portrait. He became one of my biggest fans.

Timothy Leary, photo by Marc Franklin

After the session with Tim, I’m leaving to go back up north to my home in San Francisco. Earlier I had made arrangements to drive up to John Lilly’s house in Malibu. It was March, so the sun is going down fairly early. For these portraits I’m using available light… Driving up the coast along the ocean, just as I am about to turn onto the road to get to John’s house, a humpback whale spouts! Greetings from Malibu.

Arriving at John Lily’s house, I spy John standing in his bathrobe, pajamas and slippers. With a weeks’ stubble on his face. He’s got a cigarette dangling from his mouth. John says to me, “Where do you want me?” “John, we better hurry up, because we are fast losing the light. Let’s do it right here.” With that, he opens his mouth, and the cigarette tumbles out. “Oh, this is going to be a very interesting time, very interesting.”

Well, I photographed him in the driveway. My three exposures. Boom it’s done. Afterward, we go into the house. He introduces me to his daughter, Nina, and the others that were there. At a certain point, he looks at me and says, “Now, you’re the psychedelic photographer. Do you have any drugs on you?” I said, “Well, John, as a matter of fact I do. Some liquid peyote that I brought back from Mexico. You’re welcome to have some.” At that point Nina pops up, and she says, “John, you just had a steak. Let it digest.” (laughter)

Back home in San Francisco, I compiled a master list of the individuals all around the country I wanted to include. I mapped out an itinerary, starting with a second trip down south to LA. I decide May was time to begin this major road trip. Seven weeks, eleven thousand miles as it turned out. Oz Janiger assisted me in LA, arranging appointments with all the locals… From LA, then onwards to Tuscaloosa AL (Humphry Osmond) to Tennessee (Stephen & Ina May Gaskin), Maryland (The Spring Grove Hospital crew), NYC (Joan Halifax, Harry Hermone, Howard Lotsoff), Boston (Grinspoon and Bakalar), Toronto (John Beresford),back down to Pittsburg, and out to Lawrence, Kansas to stop and see William Burroughs.

In the process of setting up my itinerary, I called William Burroughs. His secretary, James Grauerholz – we had known each other for years —  said, “You know, we want to see you, but we’re going to be in Switzerland in May. William’s shotgun paintings are going to be on exhibit. But we really want to see you. Instead of coming and seeing us on the beginning of your trip, come and see us at the end. We do want to see you – definitely. Come by. However, you know, William hates having his picture taken. And he hates psychedelics. But we want to see you, so please come by.”

I didn’t think anything much of this conversation… I just marked it down that I had to go see William Burroughs in June. The real trip began when I went to see Humphrey Osmond, who lived in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. I was to go all through the country, eventually driving up to Toronto for John Beresford. It was his insistence and acid that Michael Hollingshead used to turn Tim Leary on to LSD (before that he was sticking with psilocybin). I motored up to Tennessee to The Farm. While I was at the Farm, Ina May Gaskin asked, “Aren’t you tired of photographing only men? This is a project primarily of men.” I said, “You’re right!” “Would you like to photograph midwives?” I agreed, “I’d love it.” So concurrently, I would be photographing midwives. It was a beautiful balance for me.

Enroute to Baltimore, I stopped in North Carolina to photograph Weston LaBarre. In Baltimore, I photographed Rick Yensen and all of the people, except Stan Grof, that were at Spring Grove Hospital… This group of psychiatrists and psychologists had done ground breaking work, legally, with psychedelics at Spring Grove Hospital.

Then I drove to Manhattan. “Joan Halifax wants to see you,” my friend Jeff informed me. “Joan Halifax wants to see me?” Last time I had seen Joan Halifax, it was to interview her for High Frontiers magazine. When Joan had opened the SF hotel room door — she bit my head off. She snarled, ‘You came in here thinking I was an advocate for psychedelics? Well I’m not!'”

At the Open Center, there’s Joan at the back end of the space. She sees me, she pops up, comes running towards me, throws her arms around me and gives me a big wet smooch! “What do you want? What can I do for you?” I said. “Joan, uh… I’m here to photograph you.” She asks, “Where shall we do this?” I said, “Well, we gotta do it outside quickly. Again, the light was fast fading. “Let’s take two chairs outside on Spring Street and we’ll do this.”

Sitting across from Joan, I’m ready to take the first exposure. Now you have to understand, when I photograph, I take two or three snaps. That’s it. I don’t use the shotgun approach. I’m very mindful… four photographs, at the most. I’m selective. Very very judicious. I use the full frame of the camera. So, I’m ready to fire off the first exposure when suddenly someone’s tapping my shoulder. He inquires, “What film are you using?” [Laughs]

I arranged to photograph Lester Grinspoon at Harvard. I said, “Lester, I’m going to be here during this particular weekend. I’m going to get to New York and then I’m going to drive up to see you.” He says, “No problem. I’ll be there.” I drive all the way up to Boston — 200 miles — a four hour drive, right? He’d gone to Portugal! I had to drive back to NYC empty handed. I arranged to return the following week.

On to Toronto where I’m going to see John Beresford, MD. Talk about a character!  He was such a sweetheart. I go up to his office on Young Street into this modern high rise building. He’s dressed in a three-piece suit with a tie. “Where do you want to photograph? I answered, “Well, I’ve been using available light outdoors. Let’s go down to the street.” In the elevator, he starts disrobing! Takes off his jacket, takes off his tie, takes off his vest, takes off his shirt. Takes off his t-shirt! “I want you to see something.” He’s got this ‘happy cross’ hanging around his neck. You know, a Christian cross with a smiley face? He put the smiley face on a cross. John told me, “What’s wrong with the cross is that it’s a symbol of death and destruction. We’ve got to put a smiley face on it to make it happy.”  He gave me one. I have it. Sterling silver. What astounding eyes this guy had. What a heart…

From Ontario, I drove to Pittsburg, Pennsylvania to photograph a midwife there.  Continuing my quest, I headed out to Lawrence Kansas to see Burroughs. 26 hours straight, I was on the highway. I get there at 11:00 am. I bound up the stairs to see James Grauerholz. He’s there. I show him my portfolio. We chat and catch up. “Hold on a minute.” James is on the phone. He looks at me and says, “Would one o’clock be good for you?” “Yes, point me in the direction of a health food store, I’m starving…”

We have a little caravan of cars heading off to William’s house. Me, in the California plated car, I was followed by a local police cruiser. [Laughs]

William’s tiny house is threadbare, literally. He’s got a small wooden table, no carpet… nothing on the walls. No furniture in the house beyond the chairs we were sitting on. It’s 98 degrees with 99% humidity. We were sitting at the table and talking. I show him my portraits, because I knew that I was not going to photograph him. We’re talking about all sorts of wide-ranging, interesting subjects. “Would you like a drink?” he says, as he walked over to his refrigerator. “What are you going to have?” ” A Cuba Libre.” I noticed he had a Dos Equis on his refrigerator door. “I’ll have that Dos Equis.” I knew that I could sip on that for two days if need be… appearing quite social enough. Because if I drank any alcohol to speak of, I would fall over and collapse from the sheer exhaustion of the crazy drive…

William belts back several of these drinks faster than I could blink, right? He takes his bony finger and he points it in my face. “Tell me something. How long do these photographs of yours take?” “Oh, approximately a sixtieth of a second.” “You’re on.”

William S. Burroughs, photo by Marc Franklin

RU: So let’s talk about this show down in LA.

MF: The show is an experimental mix in a non-subtle manner of large-scale transpersonal portraiture and events, countered with portraits of the natural world. All my work is essentially psychedelic portraiture, be it hydrogen-bomb scientists, harbor seals, redwoods or ticker tape parades. All the same. Brute force is required to bust through the din… Today we are swimming in a veritable stew of images, an onslaught overwhelming our visual sense gate, each vying to be seen, to inform us. Beautiful images are healing. Aesthetically uncompromising photographs allow me to speak directly to their “being” introducing to the beholder novel concepts that verbally would never be considered, accepted… let alone understood.

Nature as healer. That remains the guiding concept of mine… A number of years back I began photographing plants and trees seriously as healing images for hospitalized veterans. (Neuropsychoimmunology: images used to heal.) I began with the process of looking carefully—and seeing. Seeing the world, interconnected, interdependent, not as separate “things”—but as process.

When first viewed, the large-scale prints of the exhibit look weird, “unreal” to the uninformed.  Because they’re not as sharply focused throughout as one normally views this consensual reality. To bust through deeply embedded prior preconceptions, shallow focus is employed for emphasis — to delineate particular aspects of a flower. It’s essence. The “isness” of the flower.

The trees flow, they sway, they shudder, convulse, shake, spin. Animated, yet are captured within a “still” frame. This contradiction serves well to help one in questioning “reality” — acknowledging just what we do not know. Disorientation causes one to feel: “Wow, what feelings come up from seeing these images.” Each a little miracle.

The psychedelic pioneers’ portrait series meshes well with the images of nature, because all of my work is that of a portraitist.

People, animals, plants, events. All the same, really.

Employing XYZ, the concept of dominant, subdominant and subordinate, each visual element fits perfectly within the rectangle formed by the camera. This elemental underlying concept, XYZ forms the basis for all works of art: painting, sculpture, graphics, poetry, film, music, literature, photography… 

The Marc Franklin  Beyond: A Transpersonal Photograpy Exhibit  at SPF:a Gallery in Los Angeles until the end of 2011