A Terrible Blogger is Born!

June 12, 2010

Pabst Blue Ribbon, Man!

Filed under: Drugs,Personal — rmangum @ 11:00 pm

So I’m about two weeks late on this but, whatever, this isn’t a news site. I wanted to add my own little R.I.P. for Dennis Hopper. First, I must admit that  though I’m not immune to its virtues, I’m not that big a fan of Easy Rider. But for Apocalypse Now, Blue Velvet, and River’s Edge, Hopper belongs in the late-20th century Pantheon of iconic actors. Dig Jesse Walker’s Reason retrospective, which reveals that Hopper was already a Republican by 1980.

I should also confess that I had a freaky nightmare a few years back which “starred” Hopper as the leader of a Manson-like killer hippie-cult. Sorry for the typecasting, Mr. Hopper.


January 18, 2010

A Song for Sunday #36

Filed under: A Song for Sunday,Drugs,Music — rmangum @ 5:15 am
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I envy you dear reader, I truly do. I promised to deliver 52 songs this year, which means that when I miss a week, as I did on the Sunday of the 3rd, I have to deliver a double play at a later date. So this week it’s a double-stuffed, high-powered dose of A Song for Sunday! With a theme! Seriously, kids, take this stuff slow, okay? I disavow any responsibility for what might happen to you if you don’t.

In 1983, the pioneering Rap record label Sugar Hill Records released a 12″ entitled White Lines, credited to “Grandmaster and Melle Mel”. It is often mistaken to be a Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five (of “The Message” fame) track, but the group had already split up. The group’s DJ Joseph “Grandmaster Flash” Saddler is not on the record, which is by MC Melvin “Melle Mel” Glover, with backing by the Sugar Hill house band playing a bassline lifted from the song “Cavern”, by the postpunk dance group Liquid Liquid, and some vocal harmonies surely influenced by The Beatles version of “Twist and Shout”. Ostensibly an anti-drug song, one cannot help but feel the thrill of the illicit shot through it- the ambiguity perhaps being intentional. The line about a businessman being “caught with 24 kilos” refers to the unfortunate auto executive John DeLorean. Ah, the eighties!

Now, in the thirties and forties, musicians did not have to even pretend to be anti-drugs (well, maybe on the Grand Old Opry). This song by the folksinger/convicted murderer Huddie Leadbetter, a.k.a LeadbellyTake a Whiff on Me sure doesn’t. Folksingers would often record the same song many different times with different verses, but here are some lyrics:

Take a whiff on me, take a whiff on me
And everybody, take a whiff on me.
Ho, ho, honey take a whiff on me.

Verses:                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Walked up Ellum and I come down Main
Tryin’ to bum a nickle, just to buy cocaine
Ho, ho, honey take a whiff on me.

Went to Mr. Lehman’s on a lope
Sign in the window said: “No more coke”.
Ho, ho, honey take a whiff on me.

Goin’ up State Street, comin’ down Main
Lookin’ for the woman that uses cocaine.
Ho, ho, honey take a whiff on me.

I’se got a nickle, you’se got a dime…
You buy the coke and I’ll buy the wine.
Ho, ho, honey take a whiff on me.

The blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice
Takes a brown-skinned woman, for my particular use.
Ho, ho, honey take a whiff on me.

Cocaine’s for horses and not for men
Doctors say t’will kill you but they don’t say when.
Ho, ho, honey take a whiff on me.

Whiff-a-ree and whiff-a-rye
Gonna keep on a whiffin’ boys, ’till I die.
Ho, ho, honey take a whiff on me.

Of course, few would reckon the itinerant lives of blues singers in general, and Leadbelly in particular, were exemplary. But the romantic part inside us, we respectable bourgeois, needs somebody to live out our dissolute and reckless yearnings.

The reference to “Ellum” refers to the legendary arts district and music hotspot in Dallas, Texas. I can only surmise that the line “cocaine’s for horses” comes from some anachronistic quackery. I tremble just a bit at the thought of horses on cocaine.

I’m tempted to go on, to versions of “Cocaine Running Around My Brain” by bluesman Reverend Gary Davis and reggae master Dillinger, but that’s enough for now. Time to crash.

January 6, 2010

Trust the Tale, Not the Teller

Filed under: Drugs,Economics — rmangum @ 10:12 pm
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HBO’s The Wire is hands down my all-time favorite television show. Somewhere in the back of my mind I’ve begun writing an essay on the sociopolitical implications of the show might be in light of libertarian theory, to be called something like “Hegemonic Bonds: The Politics of Obedience in The Wire“. Now, despite the fact that the show’s creators favor the abolition of the drug war, as libertarians do, I recognize that the show’s politics are progressive, not libertarian. But the portrait of political institutions is about as cynical as any libertarian could be. And the problems appear to be structural in nature, so the show is pessimistic about “reform” as well. Creator David Simon has been explicit that the show is a critique of American institutions, saying that The Wire is

really about the American city, and about how we live together. It’s about how institutions have an effect on individuals, and how whether you’re a cop, a longshoreman, a drug dealer, a politician, a judge or a lawyer, you are ultimately compromised and must contend with whatever institution you’ve committed to.

I’ve been watching the commentaries on the DVD lately, and its clear that Simon thinks that the show contains a radical critique of capitalism as well. At one point in the commentary, he states the show’s message as “raw capitalism is not a social policy”, and during a panel discussion, television critic Ken Tucker calls Simon a “Marxist”. Now, let’s set aside the issue of whether capitalism and the free market are the same thing or not. Someone like Kevin Carson would argue that they are not, but it’s clear that Simon means both (probably the question has never occurred to him). As a critique of capitalism in the Kevin Carson sense (what has been called “Political Capitalsim”, the show is right on, but as a critique of capitalism in the Michael Moore sense, the show isn’t even in the ballpark.

First off, the institutions portrayed are all political ones, not just in the usual sense, but in the way that sociologist Franz Oppenheimer distinguished between the “political means” and “economic means” of gaining power, where the former involves the use of force. When local governments tear down housing projects to give away the property to developers, this may in some sense be an act of capitalism, but it is in no way an act of the free market (which would include property rights for those displaced), presumably what Simon means by “raw capitalism” as a social policy. Second, The Wire goes to great pains to make comparisons between inner city drug gangs and the modern corporation. Okay, but the most elementary argument of drug war critics is that the more we try to crack down on the trade, the more violent business becomes. Businessmen who deal in illegal substances deal in an environment where state authorities are trying every day to destroy their livlihood. Is it possible to imagine a more regulated industry?

Another flaw in the show’s politics I’ve become increasingly aware of is that it fails to show how much the surveillence techniques it showcases can be abused. Part of this is just a constraint of its story, since the guys they are chasing are legitimately bad guys. And while the show admirably shows the danger of police brutality, it fails to indicate the police avarice that is ever-present in the war on drugs, in the form of asset seizure.

October 19, 2009

A Song for Sunday #29

Filed under: A Song for Sunday,Drugs,Music — rmangum @ 5:05 am

I was going to do a spooky song every week this month, but I missed last week, so it’ll be a twofer today to make up for it.

Liberty-LunchI don’t think I can say much about Roky Erickson that hasn’t already been said. A singer-songwriter from Texas, a state which specializes in producing singer-songwriters, Erickson joined a special kind of elite in the Rock N’ Roll mythos, the talented but mentally unstable who further blew their brains out on psychedelics in the late 60’s. This includes Brian Wilson, Syd Barrett, and Skip Spence. Erickson has had probably the most tortured history of any, while paradoxically (or not) having the greatest longevity of output.

The occult and horror-movie obsessed Erickson has produced a multitude of songs which I could use here (“Night of the Vampire” and “I Walked With a Zombie” being two of my favorites), but I’d like to showcase an odd yet representative song, “Burn the Flames”, which I happen to have two versions of: an acoustic version and an electric version.

August 25, 2009

A Psychedelic intro to Finnegan’s Wake

Filed under: Drugs,Literature — rmangum @ 4:37 pm

One of the lesser known but more interesting psychedelic gurus, Terence McKenna (more articulate and less a victim of his own celebrity than Tim Leary), talks about his favorite book, Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce, in “Surfing Finnegan’s Wake”. A hat tip for this goes to the Psychedelic Salon, where you can go to hear part two of this talk, which turns out to be more about Marshall McLuhan (a fascinating subject in his own right) than Joyce.

Here’s me reading from the Wake.

It occurs to me that all of the hallucinogen advocates that came out of the sixties (Leary, McKenna, Robert Anton Wilson) were tempermentally optimistic. What kind of experience would a Schopenhauer or an H.P. Lovecraft get from LSD and Mushrooms?


June 5, 2009

This movie looks pretty sweet*

Filed under: Drugs,Music — rmangum @ 2:43 am
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The boys at Battleship Pretension have been promoting this documentary about cult R&B icon Andre Williams for a while, so I finally looked at a preview. I’m definitely intrigued. I really dig Williams’ dirty, brassy rocker “Jailbait”. Wish I had an Mp3 so I could put it up here.

“Yes I use drugs on occasion.” Good on ya, Andre.

*After writing it, I realized what a Utahn phrase “pretty sweet” it. First of all, all the other superlatives, like “awesome” I feel I overuse (for some reason I’ve never been able to get on board with “rad”), and second, why the hell not embrace the local culture for once? Anyway, the movie looks bittersweet if anything.

March 15, 2009

How I spend my Sundays

Filed under: Drugs — rmangum @ 8:15 pm

I have made an important discovery…that alcohol, taken in sufficient quantities, produces all the effects of intoxication.
-Oscar Wilde

When money’s tight and hard to get
And your horse is also ran,
When all you have is a heap of debt

-Flann O’Brien

Only Irish coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups: alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and fat.
-Alex Levine

March 12, 2009

High on God or, The Jesus Factor

Filed under: Drugs — rmangum @ 1:20 am

What brings people of every race, class, culture, and sexual orientation together? Cocaine! And then Jesus, once everybody gets off the coke and gets high on God! (Thanks to Ean Frick for this 80’s anti-drug video.)

“Like, high voltage.” What’s with that “Everything is Terrible!” non-sequitir at the end?

March 3, 2009

Glenn Beck needs to pull his head out

Filed under: Drugs,Glenn Beck is not a Libertarian,War — rmangum @ 5:08 pm
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Or I will beat him with a bar of soap stuffed in a sock until he stops saying he’s a libertarian. In this segment (thanks LRC), interviewing Rob Kampia of the Marijuana Policy project, he displays his massive ignorance about drugs and the drug war. Kampia speaks nothing but sense, while Beck puffs and guffaws and waxes incomprehensible about legalizing even the most harmless of drugs available, whose use is pervasive yet social impact negligible.

Discussions about drugs tends to produce the same kind of irrational blather from conservatives that discussion about guns produces from liberals. But aside from debates over public health and safety (vastly delusional when it comes to pot anyway), everyone, especially everyone self-applying the “libertarian” handle, needs to know that the War on Drugs is the biggest shuck since Keynesian economics. It is not a war on drugs at all, since the American populace is awash in legal mind and mood-altering substances, from anti-depressants to painkillers to gallon-cans of the latest sugar/caffeine cocktail, and let’s not forget the ubiquitous booze. What it is a war against are property rights, personal liberty, and the growing underclass, waged at the behest of the legal drug lobby, Washington bureaucracy, and a new and fearsome private prison system.

Let’s see if we can’t get Walter Block on this show to school young Glenn on what real Libertarianism is about, huh?

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