Friday, July 25, 2008

Mickey Hart Interview

What’s That Up Ahead?: An Interview With Mickey Hart

It was with anticipation and deep honor that I got to interview Mickey Hart. There isn’t much that I can tell you about the man that you don’t already know. I mean what can I say, Mickey is one bad-ass mofo!! I do remember two distinct stories about Mickey that might help you understand my fondness for the guy though.
The place was Nassau Coliseum, Long Island during the early eighties. It was that phase of tour when many, and I mean many, people would go in the hallways during drums. Yes fans, you know it’s true. There was a long stretch you treated drums like you treat Dylan. You split till it’s over. (By the way, Dylan rules!) I worked my way to one of those killer seats right behind the drums that always seemed to be open, but yet was one of the best places to watch the band in the Coliseum. Mickey just finished a drum solo that was godly. Parish placed a towel on Mickey’s shoulders and led him off the stage. I realized that this I had just witnessed the best drum set ever, the most tapped in primal rhythm I had ever seen. Of course for Mickey, it was just another night on the road.
The second story actually shows me to be a crazy man. It involved a later eighties show at the other receptacle of huge shows, Oakland Coliseum. I found myself during drums, in the midst of a gigantic DNA strand that was running in opposite directions into infinity. And inside that cockpit of genetic material was Mickey Hart working his magic and keeping it real. Whew! Lock me up and throw away the key. I am certified.
It’s officially one year I have been writing for you all at Jambands.Com, and I want you to know that I think of you all as my friends and that even though I am supremely opinionated in my head, that in my heart, I’m all about “One Love.” With that disclaimer out of the way, let the opinions begin. The Dead were the most important band of the century. They were a group of musicians who wrote awesome tunes, jammed better than anyone since Smuckers, and were brilliant and interesting each in their own right. They were also more than a band. They were midwives to change, they were cheerleaders for weirdness, they were a tribal syncopation that allowed transcendent splendor. These facts are irrefutable and I will openly debate anyone who disagrees. So, bring it on!
Since Garcia died, I have been reticent to make many comments on how I feel about the scene. Basically, if The Dead were a signpost to new space, then the future awaits us beyond the signs, pointing fingers and remnant parts. On that note, enter this interview with an open mind, as I seek to explore the weirdness of it all with Mickey Hart.

I was testing the equipment to make sure the tape deck worked.
DNA: Mickey I’d just like to say it’s an honor to be talking with you, I’m a big fan, I’ve always been a big fan and I will continue to be a big fan.

“Well I ain’t often right”

My phone rings:
Mickey Hart: DNA this is Mickey are you ready?
DNA: I thought it was at noon.
Mickey: Well what time is it?
DNA: Uhm, 11:30. I was just writing down a bunch of questions
Mickey: Well that’s close enough--do you want me to call you back?
DNA: No, I’m ready, I’m excited how are you doing?
Mickey: Good, let’s rock.
DNA: Briefly, I followed you around from '78 till '92 and saw about 500 dead shows and side projects.
Mickey: Oh my god, holy Jesus.

“But I’ve never been wrong”

DNA: I was dedicated. I ended up getting my Masters from Sonoma State in Transpersonal Psychology.
Mickey: Do you know Stanley Krippner?
DNA: I happen to have a signed copy of Song of the Sirens right here in my hands. So my first question would be about the ESP experiment that the Dead were involved with at the Capitol Theater back in 1971. And I know that shows get a bit fuzzy over the years…..
Mickey: NO, I remember it quite vividly.
DNA: How was it you got involved in that exactly?
Mickey: Well at the time Stanley was the director of the dream laboratory in Brooklyn in New York City. He was conducting studies in dream telepathy and he was using psychedelics in that research. This was before '71 though…
DNA: It started in 1970 with Richie Havens.
Mickey: Richie was one of the sleepers.
DNA: And the Holy Modal Rounders.
Mickey: That’s right. So Stanley was working there using mind expanding drugs, working Kirlian photography and all kinds of stuff. Stanley was a pioneer, a circumnavigator and he was fond of the Grateful Dead. I met him at a party for the great Indian drummer. That is where we met and we became great friends. Eventually Garcia, Stanley and I got into a conversation where Garcia proposed the experiment. A plan got formulated where there would be a group of sleepers at the Dream Lab and we would ask the audience to concentrate on an image that was presented behind us. Our idea was to send that imagery to the sleepers via telepathy. We did the experiment for five or six nights and got like five direct hits. The sleepers accurately described the image that was behind the wall during REM. It was a very powerful night. The images were selected at random by being pulled out of a hat. It was a great moment.
DNA: Did you ever do anything like that again?
Mickey: No, we never repeated that experiment again. I know that other people have done similar events, but you’ll have to research that one.

“Seldom turns out the way it does in the song”

DNA: I did an interview with Uri Geller (Israeli Psychic) yesterday so I’m on an ESP kick right now.
Mickey: Well it is fascinating. Our main focus was the idea of group mind. We saw the Grateful Dead as a group mind and one in which were able to share with the audience. We were able to take an image and project it into the audience and send it to receptive receivers. It proved a lot on a lot of levels.

“In the strangest of places if you look at it right”

DNA: I attended the Ritual and Rapture lecture that featured you, Garcia and Joseph Campbell. I recall a Deadhead asking Garcia about telepathy at Dead shows. His question was something like, “There are times at a show when my friends and I will think of a certain song and you will play it, and we know you know.” Garcia’s response was, “That’s pee-pee.” (anyone out there have a tape of this?)
Mickey: He said what?!
DNA: He said that people who he knew weren’t crazy had told him similar things. But it had never been proven to him beyond satisfactorily. He said it was pee-pee.
Mickey: I happen to agree with Garcia, though I wouldn’t call it pee-pee. I would call it unproven. My hypothesis is that it’s not impossible, it is within the realm of possibility. And certain people that are connected on one level or another can receive messages, synchronicity, entrainment or being in the flow. I believe that when people’s rhythms are locked they have something deep in common it happens. My question is this, “I know it happens, but can you prove it?” There’s just no conclusive proof. All through my life I’ve had people where I’ve called them up and they have picked up the phone without it ringing. I just had an interesting thing happen with Jean Campbell, Joe Campbell's wife. I hadn’t talked to Jeanie for a year and half or two years, and I just called her up a couple of weeks ago. I was like, “Hi, Jean, this is Mickey.” “Mickey, I just dreamed of you last night.” I was like, “Jean, has that happened before,” and she said, “No.” These are the kinds of things that make you wonder. She said, “I had a dream last night that I should call you.” We just kind of hung there for a moment. It just isn’t that unusual for people that are connected.
DNA: That’s a grounding experience, bad science, but a good anchor.
Mickey: Hunter and I once wrote a song once, completely separate. He wrote the words and I wrote the music, but when we put them together they were completely identical. There was absolutely no way that either one of us could have heard the other's composition. He never played it in front of anyone and I never played it front of anyone. He swore that I stole his music, but we looked at it and it would have been impossible to ever have either of us know what the other was thinking. Things like that happen all the time in a world where people are connected.
DNA: Grateful minds think alike.
Mickey: Definitely Synchronous minds.

“Once in a while you get shown the light”

DNA: I interviewed Apollo 12 astronaut Edgar Mitchell. He said he was having lunch with Uri Geller and was telling Uri that he was disappointed that Uri resorted to trickery so much to prove that ESP existed. When all of a sudden there was a plop in his soup and it was a tie clip he had lost ten years before halfway across the country.
Mickey: I mean c’mon, Uri Geller is a real guy, he definitely is a showman, a circus performer but you cannot deny his psychic powers. That psychic stuff has been totally proven. I met him once and he was a bit of a jerk. Though that does not take away from his talent.
DNA: Would you consider Uri a contemporary Shaman? Or, where do we find people in our society that can link up with the spirit world?
Mickey: He has Shamanistic powers, but does he use it for the betterment of the world, I don’t think so. Mostly I see him as a vaudeville performer. I don’t see him making a better world, do you?
DNA: Not unless he reads my mind and mails me a million bucks. That would make my world better.
Mickey: Is he a healer, a medicine man?
DNA: In his new book, he talks about how his castle in England is often filled with kids from a cancer ward of hospital. Apparently he performs healings on them.
Mickey: Well there you go.
DNA: Where is the contemporary of Rolling Thunder? Is there a war on Shamanism?
Mickey: There has always been a war on Shamanism. It is an edge science, and anybody who is on the edge is always suspect. For the individual who is there, it doesn’t always work. It’s living your life by the seat of your pants. Whenever you deal with non-scientific experimentation you’re going to find Shamans. The word connotes “thinker.” It’s part of the lexicon, he doesn’t have to be a healer, he could be a faker.
DNA: Was Rolling Thunder genuine?
Mickey: Rolling Thunder was the real deal. I’ve witnessed it with my own eyes so there is no question about it. Of course he surrounded himself with a lot of Mumbo Jumbo as well, as all Shaman. So much of Shamans is the show, the act. You have to prepare. Belief is such a big part of Shamanism, you have win the persons confidence to heal. Or invade if it’s surgery, or even if it’s a mental healing, you must prepare the person for induction. Typically, rhythm, song or vibration, or magical charms do it. It’s mental and physical and there are many different approaches to doctoring and each one of them has their own tool kit. Rolling Thunder for the most part was herbal based and it worked. I picked herbs with him and he was a genius in that field. Stanley and I were also good friends with Rolling Thunder.
DNA: So where is the contemporary Shaman?
Mickey: Everywhere. Women are taking a big step forward and coming on strong. Musicians and artists or anyone who deals with the spirit world has potential. We haven’t cracked the code of DNA yet. Sorry, I hate to say that word.
DNA: That’s all right, I get a dime anyone says it.
Mickey: Science is starting to weigh in on this topic though. At a recent conference in New York on Music on the Brain, there was work done on what a brain looks like before and after an auditory driving experience and how vibration effects brainwaves. There is a scientific study being done in Santa Cruz called the Heart Math. What they are finding is that the heart isn’t just an organ that pumps blood, but it also pumps emotional content. And when you find pure science starting to study the physics of vibration, it isn’t long before they find the metaphysics.
DNA: So Science is mapping the human body in how it relates to environment, but also in the way it relates to consciousness.
Mickey: Yes, science is reinforcing and codifying the shaman way. It comes down to how do we create trance on a daily basis. What is the rhythm, what’s the rate? We’re trying to tune into the frequency so we can duplicate the experience and do it twice. Again, at the moment we’re doing it by the seat of our pants, but this century will crack that code.
DNA: If technological advances are often co-opted by the government for the purpose of war, do you see trance being used in that way?
Mickey: I don’t think so. It will be a war all right, but it will be a war of the minds and fight for the spirit world. There will be battles fought, but nothing we’re used to. I see the first application being used for medicine and therapy.

“Rings on her finger and bells on her toes”

DNA: If we presuppose that the Drum is an instrument that elicits trance and can create the environment for time travel, in the sense that it could physically move you to another time, where would you put yourself.
Mickey: I would go back to the Paleolithic. I’m a big fan of first man; I would have liked to have seen what it was like when we first came together as humans. I’ve already experienced the fifties and the sixties; I know what that’s like. Either that or the turn of the century, those are two times that hold great interest for me: The dawn of the Industrial age and the dawn of man. I would also like to go back to Congo Square at the turn of the century. About 1890 New Orleans, that is a fascinating time, for it is the birth of music in our country. Ya know, I would really like to see some Temple caves about 9000 BC as well.
DNA: What I find interesting about Congo Square and your thought about it being the birthplace of our music. Couldn’t’ it be argued that at that time there was great divine intervention and that all our music, Blues, Jazz, Rock and Roll comes from the Spirit World.
Mickey: Absolutely. It was where the Spirit Music of Western Africa came and hit our shore. At the end of the Haitian Revolution at the end of the 1700’s, it ended up in Congo Square, and that was it, baby. That’s where it all started. That’s when the slaves were given back their instruments to play on Sundays. That was the only day they were allowed to go into trance. Where do you think we got Rock and Roll, Big bands and Jazz? It all that came through Haiti and eventually to New Orleans. The birthplace of the cool.
DNA: Is cool more than attitude?
Mickey: Attitude is a big part of it. But they also brought the instruments and the most powerful rhythms on the planet. All of the vodon stuff came with it.
DNA: I find it interesting that if you see divine providence in the thousands of year preceding New Orleans, whether Mohammed, Jesus, Moses or what have you, spirit came in words. But then suddenly it descended through rhythms and it is music that has been the backbone of the last 110 years.
Mickey: Words do not entrance you on a physical level, they can on a mental level. It’s about the vibration.

“The sky was yellow, the sun was blue”

DNA: Well let me ask one final question here.
Mickey: This is the strangest interview I’ve had for while, but it’s nice. I’m OK with it.
DNA: Well I followed you around for so long, this is my shot. Twilight Zone episodes, when are they coming back?
Mickey: Shit, I have no idea.
DNA: I know you pioneered 3D holographic sound for those episodes and now with DVD and home sound systems, the full effects can really be seen.
Mickey: I spent three weeks in a row at the University of Illinois, at Northwestern, trying to make sound move in mono. We had a giant computer that did create sound that had movement in a holographic way. After I did get vertical and horizontal movement, CBS didn’t follow through on the transmission, so it became a mute point. Wow, I had forgotten all about that. I spent three weeks in this little room. Every time I made an update, it took all night for the computers for the main frame computers to crunch it. I had to do it all in little pieces. The theme is actually holophonic. It works great in 5.1.
DNA: When it was first on, I would sit an inch away from the TV set and listen for the sound to move.
Mickey: For a while there we got it to the point where the sound seemed like it wasn’t coming out of the speakers. It was so time consuming and costly back then. It was the first of it’s kind. I really like the episode called Grandma, written by Harlan Ellison. I was the music designer and the set designer on it. I worked on 79 of those episodes. Wow, man thanks for reminding me, we should re-release those suckers.

(all lyrics from Scarlet Begonia. Author Robert Hunter. Copyright Ice Nine Publishing)

DNA is an International Journalist who lives in Northern California with his wife and three cats. He is currently running for Mayor and getting involved in the Green Party.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Joe Firmage Interview: Living Life Out Loud

(Originally published in one of my rags, HUMP Megazine)

Welcome Dear Humpers, welcome. Over the last two years I have attempted to take you into the minds of some of the most creative and influential folks of the 20th century. I feel that we are on the edge of great changes, and my pursuit of new knowledge is an attempt to prepare us all for the upcoming new millenium.

If any of you are fans of Art Bell you might recognize our next guest. Joe Firmage is a highly controversial figure, whose personal life has been as amazing as his recent spiritual revelations. Having been raised a Mormon, Joe left the flock with his father when he was 18. Skilled in science and computers he started a software company out of high school that was acquired by Novell for $24 million dollars. Now in his mid-twenties Joe started US Web, the prestigious server whose clients include Levi-Strauss, Nike and Apple. US Web is currently valued at 2 billion dollars. After choking on that figure, fathom this. Joe was visited by an Alien/Angel in October 1988 who engaged Joe in an in-depth conversation about warp drives and time travel. This experience spurred Joe to write a 600 page on line book that summarizes the entire history of mankind, including our origins and ultimate destiny! Why would a short-haired straight looking former Mormon risk his reputation with such heretical out pouring, why indeed.

I entered into our conversation knowing that we had only 20 minutes to tie it all together. I was hesitant to pursue a line of questioning that would focus on Joe’s visitation by an Alien. I’ve spent too much of my life squandering time talking about aliens and the “what ifs,” of our ancestral heritage and future. I was more interested in if Joe Firmage was (I know this sounds stupid) “a nice guy.” I was impressed by Joe’s sincerity and lack of pompousness and was grateful that the guy even gave me the time of day. So anyhew, here it is in all its glory, my first interview with a billionaire who was visited by ET.


Joe firmage interview

HUMP: Hi Joe, this is DNA in Chico, California.
Joe: Hi. How are you?
HUMP: I’m doing pretty good. How are you?
Joe: Good.
HUMP: You lead a pretty busy life, huh?
Joe: Oh God, yes.
HUMP: Um, and we’ve got a short amount of time, and I’ve been reading your online book, and plowing through it, and, I mean, one of the things I’m amazed at is just the volume of knowledge, and just the level of organization. And the amount of work that went into writing it. And I was curious about how you devoted, I mean, it sounds like you’re doing stuff right now, and that you’re a busy guy, how do you take time out to write a book like this?
Joe: Well, it was an effort. Sleepless nights. First off, it was actually a collaborative effort. About 10 co-authors, whose works I integrated, and added my own integrating text, and glue, if you will, to hold the entire work together. Uh, it was a project that leveraged some of the best thinking of 10 of the best thinkers out there across the planet. Physics, history, spiritual studies and such. And, I think that the ultimate purpose of the online book is to present an evolving picture of this entire domain as it becomes clearer and clearer and clearer over the next few years. So its essentially an online starting point for what I expect to be a perpetual story that will become more and more comprehensive and more and more accurate as time goes on.

HUMP: I don’t think that takes away from the validity of, I mean, maybe, correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems to me that the initial skeleton of the story and the vision of the story is singularly your idea.
Joe: That’s my part. My part is the… about half the text is mine.
HUMP: Right.
Joe: And the skeleton, if you will, that organizes it as it is, is my contribution. I’m obviously the principle editor of this, and so, but it’s a project that will continue forever, basically. As long as I’m around. And that is, in view of the fact that the scale of the effort required to tell a story of this magnitude really does extend on for years and years and years and years in the future.
HUMP: Yeah, to tell a story that encompasses everything is going to be hard to put within two covers (laughs).
Joe: Precisely. And besides that, one of the objectives here is to show how this story evolves over time. Those of us who study it believe that sometime in the next perhaps decade of so, something very significant is going to happen.
HUMP: Sure.
Joe: And plotting the trajectory that we take as we hurtle towards that date, is very interesting to write about, right? So that ten years or twenty years from now you can sort of go back and look and see how the story evolved. What we came to understand. What was wrong and what was right. I’m most confident about the overall hypothesis, which is expressed on the first page of the site, or the Table of Contents page, that is. That sort of tells the poetic story.
HUMP: I’m well aware of the more mystic, esoteric, gnostic side of things, but to me, plowing through this online book is like reading a version of our past history that was not taught in school. Like the stories of slavery, or the stories of one civilization conquering another, and the spoils of war, and all that is so fascinating, yet its not really a mystic knowledge, but it is a hidden or gnostic truth.
Joe: That’s exactly right. From my perspective, there is a history of humanity. There is a history. And from my perspective, many of the mythic traditions have been given the title ‘myth’ because we have presumed that they were imagined. I believe that many of our mythic histories have been imagined, and have been essentially constructions of our fantasy. But on the other hand, I also believe, unlike most in the science community, that new discoveries in physics suggest that some of those ancient myths may well in fact have a very important basis in hard reality. A reality that we may just now be coming prepared to grasp. Uh, I mean, the concept of us joining a cosmic civilization, is so sweeping, so staggering and so completely profound in its impact to human civilization, as to be impossible to overstate.
HUMP: Right.
Joe: That’s the type of understanding that it makes all the sense in the world to believe takes millennia to come to. In a stable and well-ordered and comprehensive manner. Imagine, for the sake of discussion, that we discover gravitational propulsion sometime in the next decade. That isn’t the type of discovery that is even meaningful, intellectually, to human beings merely one hundred years earlier. So when you look at the grand march of discoveries in science, I believe they point to a certain path. And it happens to be the same path that many mystical traditions point to. That’s what has me so captivated here. And that’s what has me convinced that there are both scientific and there are spiritual components to the future that we face.
HUMP: I’m not in your shoes, and I can’t imagine what it would be like to be you, but it would seem to me that, with your amazing touch for business, and your first-hand encounter with ‘something’, and also the way that this book is written, that, I mean, how do you escape from, like, a Messiah complex kind of thing? Where, it would seem at times you must feel overwhelming, like, its your mission to spread this word. You have the resources to do it. You know what I mean? Like, how do you maintain, even just in the course of a busy day, how do you maintain staying grounded, to this planet? I mean, does it seem at times like, you know, there’s an urgency to get the message out?
Joe: It’s a very fine line to walk. There’s an enormous weight on my shoulders to make sure that whatever I do, I do right. One of the things I’ve learned, however, is a very profound respect for humility. And the fact that we’re all in this ship together. And we each have a vital role to play. Just different roles. I’ve tried to avoid the sort of messianic overtones of this role. The obvious perception on the part of some is that that’s where the motivation for this all comes from. But the reality is that the circumstance that I find myself in is what it is. I can’t change it. I chose the path that I’ve chosen because I think that its, frankly, the only kind of path that is going to make happen the kind of changes to human civilization that must be made if we’re to survive through the next century. So there are fundamental civilization-shaping things about my mission with ISSO. There’s no question about that. Those are the types of activities that reach to the deepest core of science, to the deepest core of spirituality, and that will have an impact, hopefully, in a very profound and positive way on humanity as a whole. There are a lot of people in human history who have had that kind of impact, so I just want people to understand I’m one of many. I want to be one of many. I want to collaborate with, and frankly, I must collaborate with and have the support of many, many, many people, because despite what is sort of presumed about me, I don’t have the resources to do this by myself. And I probably don’t even have the energy (laughs). I certainly don’t have the energy to do it by myself.
HUMP: I’m not a big fan of psychoanalysis, and I think that those terms are even thrown in to our society to stop people from speaking out. So, I always wonder, why don’t more people who have the resources, speak out? And then you go, “Well, they don’t want to be labeled a radical or a rebel or a nut, or a messiah complex person.” There are people who have no resources saying similar things as you, but no one listens to them because they have no way to get their message out. So I admire the fact that you’re taking a stand, because no matter what happens, it still takes guts to get out and say something. Even if it’s not right.
Joe: That, I agree with. It is frankly one of the great learnings that I’m pretty glad I learned while I’m still young enough to live it, is to try to live life out loud. You know, just take more courageous stands. I mean, really, what is life about? Do you really want to live your life sort of hiding away in the little hole that society has creating for you? Or do you want to try to make a difference, take some risks, sometimes fall flat on your face and sometimes leap beyond even where you thought you might? That’s something that I genuinely hope others will do. I would absolutely love to be joined in this endeavor by other, more brilliant, more capable, more articulate people, who have their own insights to share in this quest.
HUMP: Mm. I mean, I think the alien part of the story, although within the context that it is the beginning point and the end point in a lot of ways, it almost can be removed from the whole text. It kind of kills the point, but in the book there is so much information about history and historical facts, and I think the ultimate questions are, “Where do we come from?” and “Where are we going?”.
Joe: Yeah, I mean, all too often today, we forget to ask these kind of questions. “What exactly is our purpose?”
HUMP: Right.
Joe: “Why is there anything as opposed to nothing?”
HUMP: Right.
Joe: You know, these are the obvious philosophical questions that have remained unanswered for a long, long, long time. Science has not come much closer to answering these ultimate questions. And that fact is something that I’m trying to help rectify.
HUMP: There are a lot of little points in the book that might be glossed over, that I think are so crucial. There’s a quote about, the thing not to worry about is the extremists that are outside, the paranoid nuts who will blow up a building, but the extremists that are inside the political system. They’re the ones who can really do the most damage.
Joe: Oh yeah. I mean, a bad policy decision can have far more deleterious impact on human beings in this country that some nut who blows up a building. When you make, for example, decisions about empowerment zones or race relations, or whatever, you’re essentially making decisions with similar impact. It occurs in slow motion, right, and it occurs without the fanfare because of that, so they’re harder to see, but from my perspective, when, as I say in the book on several occasions, murderers murder whether it occurs at the end of a barrel of a gun or at the end of a ballpoint pen. Where you have decisions that impact people on a policy level, the moral and ethical consequences are the same, regardless of whether it happens in one minute or one year. And it’s that sort of degree of sophistication in our public policy, that I think is long overdue. Now, one of the big issues that sticks in my craw, that is not much a part of the book, but probably will be a part of future writings, is the catastrophic war on drugs. It’s just an absolute catastrophe. It is one of the colossal policy mistakes of the late Twentieth century. And its served to imprison probably half a million young people, for type of relatively innocent exploration and, you know, just basically play, that we all know, most of the politicians engaged in (laughs), or engage in. I find this whole George W. Bush debate humorous. That’s the type of social policy that has real impact. That gets thrown under sound bytes and glitsy marketing campaigns, and rather ill-informed and unscientific moral arguments. So, the real challenge that I face is in integrating a scientific world view with a spiritual world view. And I’m totally convinced that the two are entirely compatible. In fact, they’re so compatible, they’re bedmates. They need each other. Spirituality needs the perfection of truth that scientific methodology affords. Science needs to remember that what it does is measure. It does not, it is not the creative thing. It measures the created thing. Whether you’re talking about physics or chemistry or geology or biology, or psychology, or any of the scientific disciplines. Every one of them share the common, basic fact that what they do is measure phenomena. But the most fantastic and beautiful point is that the phenomena exist. Atoms exist. Stars exist. Galaxies exist. Planets exist. Biological beings exist.
HUMP: During my younger days (laughs), you know, when I had a head full of steam I really lived in more of the mythic world. I think it’s a frightening thing for the establishment to, although we’re a very Christian society and an “In God We Trust” gang, there’s not a whole lot of questioning of religion. If you have a world view that explores world myth, right away you see parallels between Christianity and a thousand other religions. You can draw a line through humanity, showing different symbols of different cultures, explaining how we’re all related spiritually. Spirituality, I feel, follows similar laws of evolution. I think that questioning religion is as frightening to the establishment as aliens landing on the White House lawn. Because it changes everything. It’s a shaking up of the establishment. Everything we know.
Joe: I totally agree with you.
HUMP: Bush wanted to have a ‘One World Order’, so did Reagan. But what we really need is a ‘One World View’. And I think that’s what your book’s trying to establish. And trying to draw parallel lines.
Joe: In fact, it’s basically saying, “When you reach a common world view at a fundamental level, what you get is the worship of diversity.” You transform the view of a difference from me to you, from a source of conflict to a source to treasure. Where your different habits, your different beliefs, your different qualities are something that I seek out in you. As opposed to attempt to eviscerate. And that’s, if I was to describe the ultimate entological perspective, it would be that. Where diversity is the point of unity, rather than the point of difference, or conflict.

Ken Kesey Interview: The Kool Aid Cybertest

(Originally printed in one of my rags, HUMP Megazine)

Here’s a quick summation of how we have gotten to this point in our iconoclastic culture: WW11spawned the Beats, the Beats spawned the Hippies, The Hippies spawned the Yippies, The Yippies spawned the Yuppies and now we’re stuck with Woodstock 99: “Dyed, Tattooed and Ready to Rock,” !

Despite societies incessant desire to crush the sacred, I have always been intrigued by the mystique, the transcendent and the sublime. And in my mind nobody has personified this as clearly in the last couple of generations than Ken Kesey. Best known for being a famous author (One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, Sometimes a Great Notion etc..), Kesey is also the celebrated central character in Tom Wolfes’s Kool Aid Acid Test. While Wolfe’s book strayed from reality into swirling poetic detail, Kesey’s portrayal as a somewhat reluctant leader among his generation seemed accurate.

Kesey’s Acid Tests were a predecessor to today’s Rave scene and an ancestor of the Greek Elusion Mysteries. The Tests were often put on in unannounced locations that could only be accessed through secret phone numbers or by some instinctual homing device. Several of the Acid Tests, such as the Longshoreman’s Ball, were blueprints for larger Raves known as Massive’s, hugely attended (10,000 or more people) events, that were advertised with the most colorful flyers ever seen till that date. Acid Tests were fueled by music, lights, colorful clothing, themes, and an “anything goes, the freakier the better,” atmosphere.

The Acid Tests broke down the barrier between audience and performer and made many of the people who participated, stars. The Tests were psychological and social experiment zones where new thoughts and ways of acting were explored and initiated and in the midst of it all was Kesey.

Kesey’s gang, reveled under the monikor of “Pranksters.” Simply put, Pranksters had an agenda to seek out new experiences and go where no wo/man has gone before. Inner dimensions of the mind were for the taking by the Pranksters, and even now you’ll find, while wandering around the inside of your head, a day-glo tag that says, “Kesey was here.”

True to form, Kesey found that the Acid Tests worked best in non-locational atmoshperes . With earnings from his literary career he bought a school bus, painted it like a cross between Bosch and Dali, loaded it up with friends, had Neal Cassidy (the infamous Dean in Kerouac’s On The Road) drive it, and went on a cross country jaunt that changed the lives of all that came in touch with the aptly named “Furthur” bus.

Recently Kesey loaded up “Furthur” and headed out to European soil in search of the myth’s of Merlin. Continuing the quest for the immortal soul of humanity under the guise of fun, and the pursuit of happiness, Kesey is man who lives by his passion.
This interview was conducted via e-mail. You’ll find that most of the interview is my text, with Kesey tossing in apt answers when the mood struck him. So, get ready to take a flight with this fanboy, as we HUMP with the maestro of mayhem, the curator of chaos, and the pundit of pranksters, Ken Kesey…….

How shall we start?

Best way is just ask a
question over e-mail, get
an answer, ask another and
so on till we get tired of
each other. Takes longer
but the result is shorter.

HUMP-A core belief of yours that I have always admired is the importance
of family. From the Pranksters to the Creamery, the wholeness and value
of family has seemed to be the gel that has held your vision together.
Were you reared by your parents in this way of thinking, or, was it a
way of doing things that grew organically?

KK- (Kesey does not answer, interviewer is alarmed but pushes on)

HUMP- Perhaps I started to far back in my questions, as I originally
mentioned that we could talk about your search for Merlin. But my
excitement at having a chance to pester you with questions led me to go
waaay back in your history. So let me regroup. I did my Master's work in
Transpersonal Psychology, which is a focused study on building a bridge
between Eastern and Western thought. Do you feel that it is a natural
evolution of society to seek out a ruler, or a King, that has some sort
of grace of divinity? If anything, Bill Clintons reign has proven that
the President of the US is, and always will be, human, complete with all
the frailties and imperfections that comes with that form. Perhaps I was
brainwashed by Tom Wolfe, but it seems that the Pranksters had a
reverence for the mystique. Do you feel the emergence of Merlin could
shift our countries infatuation with the profane (i.e. jerry springer,
zippergate) and move it towards the profound?

HUMP is here, enjoying
lofty status by the crapper.
(interviewer now wonders, if Kesey has been replaced by an artificial intelligence device used to ward off annoying zine editors)

I'm flattered, one of our slogans is "Breakfast of Champions: HUMP &
You know, besides being a great fan of your novels, I'm entranced by
your mystique. I'm currently reading Paul Krassners autobiography again,
and I can't help but feel that people like Paul and yourself, have
helped define our future. Often times when I speak with Rock Stars, they
seem to be so helplessly caught in the middle of things that they cannot
see their greater effect on society. Do you perceive yourself as
anything but an author trying to tell a good yarn? Don't be modest on my

KK- I try to be a warrior,
like my heros. And writing
is just one blade on my
Swiss Army samuri sword.

I can see that role assignment! That is one thing i find compelling
about your books, is that, for me there is a definite psychodrama going
on while I read your works. There is a movie going on in my head during
the entire reading. It's funny that most folks, if they see a movie of a
book first, then when they read the book, feel as if the book isn't as
good as the movie, and vice versa. But, with Cuckoo's Nest, there was
total acclaim for both projects. With Hollywoods recycling of projects,
have you been approached yet on "re-doing" Cuckoo's Nest? Would you ever
consider "re-doing" Great Notion?

KK- I actually first wrote
it as a screenplay. It
was to have starred Taj
Mahal. Maybe it'll happen...

Is it
important to get immediate reaction from an audience to your works, as
opposed to the solitary work of writing? I've seen you perform and never
before have I seen a happier storyteller. Do you find the oratory to be
as satisfying as the written word?

KK- Storytelling live is

far more gratifying.

I've read everyone of your books , AI agree that
your writing is put one arm of your arsenal. Who is that you would put
in the realm of "heros"? And who in particlicular that is alive and
still flapping their wings would you assign the rank of "hero"?

Neal Young.

My buddy just scored Neil Youngs old 16 track sound board, we're
hoping there's some 'lost tracks' floating around in it. I told another
friend that your reply's have been either a word or two, or a haiku. He
said, "yeah but Kesey probably reads your question, goes out to the
barn, shovels some dung, mixes the compost, comes in and brews a new pot
of tea, smokes a little, finds the coins amongst the debris of the
kitchen table and tosses the I-Ching, mossies back to the computer and
plinks down a precise answer. Either that or he's just Prankstering your
With that in mind, what was it about Neal Cassidy that was most
remarkable? We've all heard stories, legends at this point, about his
being the "fastest man alive," and his hammer twirling, radio playing
and raconteurship.Do you think Cassidy was one of those folks that
Abraham Maslow said was able to reack "peak experiences" as a steady

KK- yep. (interviewer has grave doubts on his choice of profession, considers getting a real job)

Strange how after a carpet bombing of Iraq, an icy chill
sweeps our nation. Hmmm.
OK, I have asked this question several times, several different
ways, and perhaps you have no answer, or perhaps you have not the time
for a seeker of such ideas. In any case.....................When I look
at the Pranksters and the Acid tests, I see a gestalt movement. I'm
reminded of Theodore Sturgeons book MORE THAN HUMAN. There seems to be a
barrel full of monkeys, each trying to push the other over the edge of
what our potenetial of humans is. Can you elaborate on how important
this idea was to those days?


In the sixties MEATBALL
fell. Everything was hit
by MEATBALL. Everthing and
everybody. A lotta people
won't cop to it, but they
were hit, nevertheless.
Grace happens, like shit.
You can't do shit to make
it happen, but you can learn
to recognize it.

Is there a path you have found that makes you more receptive to
recognizing grace? Is there actual lessons to be learned from Capt.
Marvel, or is it more to be found in spiritual scriptures?
As I waited for my Astrovan to be smogged today, a 70 year old
fellow engaged me in discourse as his trembling hands shook the pages
of the Bible which he had firmly planted between his knees. He said,
"Bill Clinton is obviously a victim of spiritual warfare, demons plague
him, causing him to stray from fidelity.
My wife and I accepted Jesus into our lives 27 years ago (I only wish it
happened sooner). Our nation will not be able to reach a level of
transcendence till we have a leader that has Jesus in his heart." $51
later, I was smogged.

I got my orders from De
Lawd decades ago. I have
never questioned those
orders or doubted that
Authority. I march,
tanglefooted and toe
stubby and sometimes
blind as a peeled
potatoe-- but I march.

I'd like to ask a question that might spur some notions. In your
quest for Merlin, did you feel that you were seeking only a part of a
greater sum? Besides a breakdown of our technologically dependent
society, the year 2000 is being billed as the year that yields the
return of past hero's (i.e. Merlin, Jesus, Aliens, etc..). Do you think
that the arrival of a "higher" being would be an invitation for people
to assign their own interperations to the person. Would one mans Merlin,
be another mans Jesus, and be yet another mans Alien and on an on. CS
Lewis had a character in one of his books named "Psyche" who, when
appearing in public, took on the form of each viewers expectations. I
believe that in the book "The Martain Chronicles," the aliens also were
able to become the person that the viewer wanted to see most. So if you
had someone like Merlin, who was close to the Godhead, would they return
as Merlin, or as your long lost brother, to each as was needed?
Also, I was always intrigued by Nikos Kazantzakis Last Temptation of
Christ and the way in which Jesus is portrayed as being so tortured in
his psyche. Dreams haunt him and Judas threatens to kick his ass if in
fact he cannot pull off a semblance of Messiah-hood. Jesus tries
(without success) to not be chosen, to not have voices guide him, to not
have to deliver any meaningful messages to the populace. In our modern
society, anyone that speaks of the possibility of miracles is either
branded a religious nut or a New Ager. And anyone that boasts of being
able to perform miracles is either proclaimed (by the DSM111) as loony,
or locked in the basement of some Government building and forced to do
remote viewing (this is only speculation). It seems that things are set
up so that anyone with Messiah tendencies would have to adopt
Kazantzakis' script just to stay sane. While this is not a direct
question, I have always wondered if you have suspected, as Philip K.
Dick suggested, that the Roman Empire never really fell, but just

Sounds like you're ready
for TWISTER! which is even
more apocalyptic. Check out
Zane's site, HYPERLINK

And so HUMPers, if you can read between the lines of that interview you are a sure candidate for Acid Test Graduation. So until we march in our gowns and throw our caps in the air, this is your faithful servant saying adieu, farewell and happy trails.

Interview with BEAR: Sitting on Top of the World

(Originally published in one of my rags, HUMP Megazine)

For those of you who have never heard of Mr. Augustus Owsley Stanley the Third, I suggest that you start reading about recent history in other places other than Government issued text-books.

Owsley has changed the way humanity thinks about things and has been relentless in the way he advocates certain ideas. True to form I found Owsley to be impossible to nail down, but irrefutable in his ideas. If I had to sum up my two years of working on this interview, the one word that comes to mind when I think of Owsley is “persistent.”

Unrelenting in his tenacity Owsley comes through loud and clear as one of the clearest voices to come through the last 30 years, unchanged and focused. For those of you who still don’t know Owsley, also known in legend and myth as “Bear”, let me say these few choice words. Owsley made more quality LSD than anyone else on the planet. Owsley shaped the sound of the Grateful Dead more than any other man who twiddled their knobs. If you credit Gates and Job as reponsible for the way that we know ourselves and as creators of the future, you better add Owsleys name to that dynamic duo. For it was Owsley, who should be given some noble title for his efforts, who took the psychedelic bull by the horns and branded him with the three letters that all tyrannical governments (including our own) fear the most, LSD. But wait kids, Owsley is not here to say that the sugar cube will save the day, no, Owsley believes wholeheartedly that the Ice Age is upon us. It will start in the Northern Hemisphere during a winter season and will quickly, very quickly end our little sham, we call civilization.

So before we continue into our cyber quest let me say a quick statement to Owsley. “I apologize for any inaccuracies that you feel this interview or introduction might have. My genetic (you might call it lazy) inattention to details is prevalent all through my life and while I am trying to overcome this myopic disadvantage, you were caught in my windmill mind. Thank you for your time and I hope these words find you well and healthy.”

And now, like Poncho Villa at Don Quixote’s side, I sidestep towards the leviathan that awaits us at the end of time. A towering grizzely, jaws agape, hunger unsatiated, and ready to HUMP.

DNA- I heard that it was a lucid dream that provided the seminal nugget for your current overview of the
world. How do you feel that man’s role has facilitated the upcoming Ice Age?

BEAR- Sorry to disappoint you, but the dreams of 1982 were the first and the last examples of anything in
my nighttime pastimes that were in any way unusual. I have never at any other time had a dream more than once.
I am confused as to your query : "man's role in facilitating them", as I thought that I made it quite clear that man has no role in the Ice Age cycle, nor does any of his so-called "pollution" impact on the build up to the cyclone in any manner. No matter how much you would like things to be different, you must, if you choose to survive, leave the Northern Hemisphere.

Got this from a Graham Hancock book: “Albert Einstein investigated the possibility that the weight of the ice-caps, which are not symmetrically distributed around the pole, might cause a displacement. Einstein
wrote : The Earth's rotation acts on the unsymmetrically deposited masses, and produces centrifugal
momentum that is transmitted to the rigid crust of the Earth. The constantly increasing centrifugal momentum produced this way will, when it reaches a certain point, produce a movement of the Earth's
crust over the Earth's body and this will displace the polar regions towards the equator.”

BEAR- Nonsense!

Einstein would not have said anything of the sort. The mass of the normal polar ice caps is neither unevenly distributed around the poles, nor is it a significant size in reference to the mass of the continental masses. Besides, the continents don't move according to centripetal forces, although 600 million years ago the movement was indeed started by centrifugal forces from the single large continental mass in the south pole, they move by magma welling up in the mid ocean ridges. The continents are approaching the North Pole, not receding from it. Only during the ice age glaciation is the ice mass not evenly arranged around the pole. Even so, we are speaking of masses which are only around a ten-millionth of the mass of the planet, and no way would it affect the rotation.

DNA- Hancock talks about 'flash-frozen' mammoths as well as 90-ft. tall fruit trees locked in the permafrost inside the Arctic Circle. Hancock mentions Professor Charles Hapgoods theory that the landmass of Antartica was 2000 miles further north before the last ice age and was moved to its current
position due to a massive displacement of the earth's crust. Hapgood says that the layer of earth known as
the lithosphere- the thin but rigid outer crust of the planet-could at times be displaced moving as one piece.

BEAR- More nonsense.

Read my essay. The mammoths frozen by a mist of liquid air is an important proof of my storm
mechanism. Their location, which is in Siberia, not Anticarctica, has nothing to do with any shift of poles or ice caps. Antarctica has always contained the South Pole, and the Pole has not moved more than 300
miles in millions of years from where it is now. This is also bogus information you are handing me. Let's call him Hapless rather than Hapgood, if you ask me. Or rather:Clueless.

Excerpt from essay-
I have for the last 17 years been working out the causative mechanism for the initiation of the
glacial advance and retreat which has occurred for the last ~2 million years. I have shared some of
the theoretical musings with George Kukla of Columbia's Lamont-Doherty lab. He believes that
my concept of the causation lying with an atmospheric (meteorological) event is the only currently
believable one. All attempts to model theoretical climatic scenarios such as the Milankovitch have
failed to present any glaciation.

I believe the causation of the glacial masses (which, as we know were not distributed around the
North Pole in a symmetrical fashion, but were entirely confined to North America and Western
Europe--Siberia was essentially ice free, although quite a bit closer to the pole), came about
through a meteorological event, a storm of hemispheric proportions and cataclysmic intensity. I
must warn you: the extreme and unusual weather being experienced everywhere in the world at
this time is part of the build-up which leads into this "storm", which will result in the next period
of ice.

DNA- Well, we've been having our own ice age here in Northern California. We had temperatures 40 degrees colder than ever recorded this past winter. The spring had winter conditions when it's usually over a 100 degrees at that time. We've become the Seattle of California. According to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, "The energy is going from the Earth into the atmosphere. The earth is slowing down." Blame it on El Nino. The heads here are having El Greenio parties.

The bit about the atmosphere changing the Earth's rotational speed is a bunch of hooey. The total mass of
the atmosphere, including the water in the oceans is so small compared with the entire rocky mass of the planet, that no such effects would be possible. Think about it, the entire atmosphere and oceans combined depth is only about 6 miles, and the rock is 8000 miles in diameter, and more than 3 times as dense as water, with a massive metallic core. Somebody is stretching a point pretty far in my estimation. There have long been recognized irregularities in the rotation, but usually they are attributed to the sun and moon's gravitation effects.

DNA- Do you know much about ice caps in Antartica melting? I've read that the Larsens Ice Ledge and
the Pine Island Glacier melting could cause sea levels to raise 20 feet.

BEAR- Of course the polar ice is melting, just as I predicted.

No, there is not going to be any noticeable rise- like 20 feet, the Ice Age Storm will come first.

The floods and "heat waves" you have read about recently are the result of the heat moving to the poles.
The reason there is no global warming (the pan-global satellite readings show a decline in the average
global temp of 0.1C since 1979), is that this heat is melting the ice caps.

The time is growing short...

DNA- Any theories on the Moon harboring life?

BEAR- The Moon is the granite mantle of the Earth's crust, except for the bits left behind, which form the
continents. The amount represented by the ocean basins is identical to the volume of the Moon, and the
Moon has the specific gravity of granite, with no core. The Moon's present rate of regression in orbit, if
calculated back to the point of origin at the Earth's surface, calculates the date at 600 million years ago, at the end of the PreCambrian.

DNA- That was a very pragmatic answer.

BEAR- Is there something wrong with pragmatism?

DNA- The films "Armageddon" and "Deep Impact" both deal with asteroids hitting earth. I have a
headline from the NY Times that talks about a Giant Asteroid coming towards earth in 2028. It was the
front-page headline! I recently read Fingerprints of the Gods by Graham Hancock, in which he talks about
previous civilizations on Earth being destroyed by cataclysm. Seems we're all heading for a REAL cliffhanger...........


The Headline was the result of a miscalculation. I would not worry about rocks from space, the real story
is in my essay on the Ice Age. Cataclysms have always occurred, but we are still here. TV is
destroying out society, culture and civilization, it is going to be total, and it is happening without any rocks
from space. I outline this in my essay on "Children's TV".

Excerpt from Essay-

There are "windows" of time in which certain skills must be learned by children, and if these windows close, then the child will never learn those skills. So it is that we have all those kids out there who behave as though they were incapable of understanding how to live. They don't, and the scary thing is, it may not be possible now for them to learn. Most people don't understand this. The nearest thing to a description of the effect would be found amongst Marshall MacLuhan's works. So most think I am some sort of ratbag for being against children's TV. They have become dependent upon it to support their lifestyle, like an addictive drug. I have given the whole matter a great deal of thought.

I was a TV broadcast engineer for many years, and still hold the highest class of license the US gov't issues. I am old enough so that I first had a TV in my home when I was 13. NO kids in those days had what is now referred to as "dyslexia". Everybody could read. Of course some were much faster and better readers than others, But... EVERYONE could read. Nowadays they claim up to 40% of kids in the US and 50+% in Australia are extremely deficient in reading skills and a significant number can't read at all.

The Countess Montessori, who developed a complete structure for teaching based on careful observations of babies and small children, first noted the time slots, or windows, for learning different skills, and incorporated them into her system of schooling. The whole picture is sort of MacLuhanesque, in that it is the activity (or lack thereof), rather than the content which is at the core of the problem. Most people are too taken in by content and so don't understand the effect of the media itself, which as MacLuhan pointed out, is totally independent of content (cf. "Gutenberg Galaxy" and "The Medium is the Message").

I am increasingly sure that my ideas expressed in the children's TV essay are the correct reasons for the
obvious and widespread breakdown in society. Mothers neglecting or even torturing their kids, kids
shooting their classmates, various types of mindless vandalism. Basically these people are acting just like
animals, which of course we all are. We are supposed to have a culture laid on over that animal nature
which prescribes our behaviour. There seems to be an ever increasing lack of this acculturation, and I for
one am most concerned. What other causation can there be?

DNA-Since TV is out, are there any books that you find yourself returning to as touchstones?

BEAR- What is wrong with your TV?

DNA- I am pouring over all your essays again and agree that TV neutralizes children into passive
passengers on the bus. Having been weaned on the boob tube, I find myself often returning to its bright
colors for security and a way to kill an hour or two. Chris Carters shows (X-file[s] and Millenium) seem to
make the hour of viewing eventful, but, although not a child, I still feel that crucial social networking is
often wasted for the sake of a "good" show. The only thing "wrong" with my set is that I only get two
channels. I've broken down and ordered Cable and fear that many late nights may now be spent watching
Senate Sub-committee meetings.

BEAR- I guess my essay on kid's TV s is not clear enough. The tube doesn't make them "passive". Quite
the reverse, it seems to make them more active when not in front of the tube, but not in a way which is acceptable to our society (don't fidget, Junior). TV watching itself is indeed passive. It does not teach the very young, it steals the time in each of the child's learning windows from the things which must be learned in that time. This is not inducing passivity, rather it creates an unease, and that leads to increased activity, but without proper purpose. The "toolbox" which makes us human is not full of the tools of culture as the child matures, and the animal which we all have within is not suppressed, hence the vandalism and killings (noticeably without remorse).

Gangs etc. are also the result of increased lack of cultural restraints on behavior. This gang thing has
always been with us to some extent, but was minimal and transitional before the advent of children’s TV.
The TV's content and the violence of video games does not have the same effects on a person who is
completely acculturated. In that situation the violent actions is seen as a fiction (often humorous as in
Schwartzenegger films), and is not taken as a blueprint of a real solution, but as a play with actors. In the
unacculturated, the content and the activity of the games is accepted as viable alternative behavior. When I grew up (before TV), kids gathered in age-related groups and had games specific to that age. Now the only thing which gives a sense of belonging to the TV-damaged kids, who no longer know how to play the ancient children's games, is the gangs.

DNA- By the way, I found a site about politicians who were born or died on May 21st. In it is your
grandfather. They say that he was Governor of Kentucky, while other books that talk about your life only
mention your granddad as a Senator.

BEAR- My grandfather was one of the remarkable men of his generation. Perhaps the last of the true
statesmen, he had one of the most dramatic and accurate memories I have ever known. His knowledge of
the law was awesome. Called by many the "Last of the golden-throated orators of the South", his speeches
were legendary. Elected a member of Congress, he prosecuted the anti-trust case against Andrew Carnegie
of US Steel. Later, in the Senate, while serving on a Senate anti-trust committee, he wrote a new anti-trust act (called the Clayton Act, after the committee chairman). He was also Governor of Kentucky, a family tradition-- his maternal grandfather was Governor Owsley, after whom a county in the state was named.

Although a Democrat (he belonged to the now-defunct conservative "Southern Democrats" absorbed into the REpublicans now), he was appointed by Herbert Hoover in '31 to a prestigious international committee
for border resources between the US and Canada, the International Joint Committee, and was the "father"
of the St. Lawrence Seaway. He retired in 1953 at the age of 86 and lived to 91. He was at the time the most knowledgeable man on the life and philosophy of Thomas Jefferson. His books and papers are archived at the University of Kentucky. I went into court in '67 to remove the A and III from my name to quench the adverse media publicity which claimed I was trading (due to my name), on my grandad's reputation. I was quite fond of my grandfather, but there was no way that I was using him or his name to further my life.

DNA- During the recent election in the States, and here in Chico, certain politicians have chose to cling
to the bible tighter than to the Constitution. Any thoughts?

BEAR - Well, I am not an authority on such things, but you must realize that the Pilgrims (emphasis on
"grim") were the founders of the United States of Prejudice. They were so uptight that they were run out of
England. Anyway, religious bigotry goes back to the early days of Christianity when they burned people
for claiming that Jesus had blue eyes, or some such nonsense. Anyone who hides his or her personal
prejudices under the cloak of religious belief is a terrific coward. So far as I know, any sort of mad
superstition fits in well in the definition of religion, which is mostly about belief in things which the study
of science tells us are falsehoods, so the adherents are immune to any sort of intelligent refutation. I mean, virgin birth? Resurrection? Water into wine? Bodily ascent into "heaven"? if you swallow that stuff, you are ready to add whatever else you like, as none of it has to be provable in any way whatever. It is also a fortress from which to foist your own perversities on others. The best way to deal with people like these is to expose them as pedophiles or some other repugnant aberration. Most of them usually have something to hide, and the quickest way to find out is to hire a private eye to turn it up. One thing heavy Christianity does is twist people up.

DNA- When did you know that the Grateful Dead were to be the monsters of rock we now them as today?

BEAR-When I first heard the Dead, at the Muir Beach Acid Test, I thought: "They're going to be bigger than the Beatles". And they were.

DNA- I am a huge Jorma Kaukonen fan, where do you feel that he exists in the realm of guitar heroes?

BEAR- I am old and close friends with Jorma. I have suggested that he and Jack (why not two bassists? Phil plays
mostly a baritone line anyway) be added to the remaining band members to revive the Dead. In my
estimation he is the best qualified to step into the vacuum left when Jerry died, and is every bit his equal in magic.

DNA- I know you helped design the Steal Your Face logo, but did you design the bear with the third eye?

BEAR- I didn't design the Dancing Bear [or the Three-eyed Bear], Bob Thomas did both as part of the design for the Bear's Choice Album jacket art.

DNA- Do people have garage sales on the weekend in Australia?

BEAR- We have all the same sorts of things like yard (same as garage) sales, but our weekend markets are
unique, a sort of fleamarket and farmer's market combined, which is held in each town in the region on a different weekend. There are more permanent daily ones in the cities.

DNA- How long can one visit in Australia?

BEAR- The longest visitor's visa is six months. I think even if you could get a "backpacker's working visa"
(not the official name), it might be only good for six months, but you would have to ask the Australian
Consulate in LA if you really want to know what sort of visas are on offer at this time. I am a citizen, so I
don't know much anymore about visas. You are not allowed to work on a straight tourist's visa.

DNA- I wasn’t a big fan of the Other One’s.

BEAR-I thought the Shoreline shows were very good, in spite of the poor performance by Kreutzmann.
I personally, I think you missed the whole thing, the show was better, than any with Garcia in it for
at least the last ten years of the Dead. This band is already better than the last years of the Dead, and will
only get better from here on.

Interview with Social Theorist Mark Dery: Ship of Fools

(Originally published in one of my rags, HUMP Megazine)

“Though I could not caution all, I still might warn a few.”
-Robert Hunter

One of the unheralded true gurus, or teachers, of our generation went by the name Krishnamurti. One of his last works was a transcript of a dialogue that he had with renowned physicist David Bohme, in the book “End Of Time.” The nugget of thought that the book revolved around was the idea that “somewhere in the recent past, humanity has taken a wrong turn.” These two spokespersons for Eastern and Western thought then went on to acknowledge that since that pivotal error, we have all been heading down a path with a very uncertain future.
When faced with a terrible calamity, many find solace in the comfort of prosaic ideology. The other day I heard two yahoos in the laundry mat, drooling with anticipation of the upcoming millennium and its supposed relation to biblical prophecy. “ Didja hear about the plague of grasshoppers in Lake Havusa City, Arizona? Millions of those little buggers descended on that town like Moses himself decreed it! You know in the bible how it talks about the plague being a sign that the end times are coming, well it’s happening now! I can’t wait for Armageddon to finally get here.”
And while the mentally disenfranchised flip their pages through revelations, waiting for more signs, the Mensa contingency spur their own researched results through science. According to a majority of the nation’s biologists, a “mass extinction” of plants and animals is occurring. Recent studies show that within thirty years, 1/5 of all living species will be extinct, and that within ten years, 1/8 of all plant species will become extinct. Luckily, there is a giant asteroid due to hit Earth in 2028, so we won’t have to worry too much about our follies.
On the positive side of things, technology is taking part of the worry of extinction away with our new and improved cloning capabilities. While many poo-poo the idea of cloning, others are taking control of the reins of our destiny while still making a buck on the side. Let’s say your favorite cat “Puffy” was mauled by a van full of hippies with petitions to “protect animals from cruelty,” could you ever resurrect dear “Puffy?” Well actually you can. Geneti-Pet in Port Townsend, Washington takes gene samples from your pets for the near future time when cloning will be as easy as making an apple pie. So don’t cry over Old Yeller, the grooming ain’t over till the geneticist says it is.
Nature, on the other hand, seems to have it’s own way of creating new species. A pig named Ditto was recently born in Iowa that has three eyes and two snouts. The entrepreneurial farmer was minutes away from selling Ditto to a traveling “Freak” show when the hand of helping intervened. An animal rescue group called Pigs Without Partners, based in LA, offered the farmer $5000 to keep Ditto away from the life of being a circus oddity. Usually the group then sends wayward pigs to its sanctuary Li’l Orphan Hammies, a 750 acre pig refuge complete with pig condos and swimming pools. But, once again, modern miracles will do its best to help Ditto become “normal.” Pigs Without Partners is looking for a hospital that will perform reconstructive surgery on Ditto to make him fit in the “LA way,” where, apparently, even pets get face-lifts.
So while we humans hurry to our day of dead reckoning, seemingly convinced that the path we’ve chosen is irreconcilable and unavoidable, murmurings of our place in the Universe are leaking into the mainstream media. Astronomers have begun to announce that “entire planetary systems are everywhere in the heavens.” Could it be that our earthcentric consciousness of being the sole heirs of the universe, are nothing more than a vain attempt at superiority? According to the worlds best astronomers there might be planetary systems containing earthlike planets surrounding the “100 billion known stars in the galaxy.”
It only makes sense to me that there are other Earth’s out there, perhaps billions of them, in which the “wrong turn,” that Krishnamurti talked about, never occurred. Basically we’ve been duped all long that our sun was the best and brightest, but as we’re beginning to learn, in the scheme of things, we’re kind of average. As this 1959 educational song points out, “The sun is a mass of incandescent gas, a gigantic nuclear furnace, where hydrogen is built into helium at a temperature of millions of degree’s. Yo ho it’s hot, the sun is not a place where we could live, but here on earth there’d be no life without the life it gives. We need its light, we need its heat, we need its energy, without the sun, without a doubt, there’d be no you and me.” And suns are as common in the universe as grains of sand at the beach.
Speaking of suns, I wonder if the “True Son,” that is supposed to accompany the upcoming biblical apocalypse, is, as its proponents make him out to be, the only “Son of God?” If there were indeed billions of Earth’s, wouldn’t each planet teeming with life have its own Messiah? Well, as much as I’d like to answer that question, I’ll leave it up to you, as I’ve run out of room. In the mean time, let me introduce Mark Dery, cultural critic and author of ESCAPE VELOCITY: Cyberculture at the End of the Century.


Hey Mark, this is DNA. How ya doing?

Mark Dery

Great. You sound like you're coming to me through the Trans-Atlantic cable, though. Hold on just a second; let me get rid of this pesky caller [on call waiting]. Sorry about that, it was a fax machine. There's nothing more melancholy than the pitiable, faraway bleat of a machine, trying to talk to your machine. It's the lonely song of the information age.


I'm already working on a dating service for computers and other appliances. Why should they suffer from our neglect?


Emily White, the editorial intern on Flame Wars, the anthology that I edited for Duke University Press, coined a marvelous phrase, "electronic autism," which was her neologism to describe the Information Age neurosis wherein you prefer to reach peoples' machines rather than them.


I have those moments.


Everyone does. Nothing is more horrific than getting an *actual human being* on the line these days! Studies show that young
Japanese actually prefer to interface with machines rather than human beings. Vending machines, automated tellers, voicemail labyrinths, and automated services of all sorts are seen as vastly preferable to actual protein robots.


Well, that reminds me of the controversy surrounding the Japanese cartoon, Pokemon ["Pocket Monsters"]. Apparently, one particular episode sent thousands of Japanese kids spiraling into seizures.


I only skimmed the New York Times story on it and I haven't really slipped into my Speedos and trolled the net and correlated all the stories about it. So I can't really grind out any profound perception on it, except to say that what's fascinating about this is that it seems to vindicate an age-old perception of television-- -namely, that its most corrosive effects are physiological, rather than psychological. I can't swallow this, personally, but it's the keystone on which Jerry Manders's argument, in Four Arguments for
the Elimination of Television, is built. He talks about how when people watch television they go into a REM state and that television is so soporific it has a hypnagogic effect on people, and he speculates that "the ingestion of artificial light"---the glow of the TV screen---may be carcinogenic. (Kids, don't sit too
close to the tube!) Robert Kubey wrote a marvelous piece in The New York Times a couple of years ago called "A Body at Rest Tends to Remain Glued to the Tube." It adduced all kinds of statistics to
support the notion that brain wave patterns truly are different when we're watching television. Marie Winn typifies this sort of middlebrow-liberal alarmism about the toxic fallout of television. She buttresses her argument, in The Plug-In Drug, with these sorts of pseudo-scientific studies about what television does to the brain. It's still widely believed, as part of paranoid folklore, that sitting too close to the television will irradiate you.

So I find it fascinating that a media event like this comes downs the pike, seemingly showing that television *is*, in fact, like David Cronenberg's Videodrome---that it does grow TV tumors and short-circuit the synapses. Even so, I tend to be deeply wary of such middlebrow polemics, because it seems boneheadedly obvious that television's most erosive effects are ideological and philosophical. I think the *last* thing that we have to worry about is the stroboscopic flashing of television kicking off apoplectic
seizures among millions of kiddie couch potatoes.


I find it ironic that the Cartoon Network is so hot to get the cartoon to play in the States in the spring---edited, of course.


There's always this tendency to look for labyrinthine, X-Files- style conspiracies behind the manipulative armatures, especially the marketing wing, of our society. I'm a great believer in Roland Barthes's aphorism, "surface is depth." Sometimes, the deepest meaning of these things is written on their surfaces---tattooed on
their skin, so to speak. There's a longstanding love affair, in American pop culture, with the paranoid folklore of "subliminal seduction," as Wilson Brian Keyes called it---the sort of Freudian manipulations or semiotic chicanery mythologized in books like Vance Packard's The Hidden Persuaders. You know, backwards masking in heavy metal music, and this whole notion that underneath the floorboards of normative society scurry dark emissaries of global conspiracies. All of which belies the fact that, again, you
don't need to look any further than the end of your nose to see what advertising is doing all around us. So this notion that death's-heads in ice cubes and nude women hidden in the camel on a cigarette package are the ways in which public relations wind their tendrils around the collective cerebral cortex strikes me as just goofy. It seems that the manufacture of consent is being done in a much more obvious way---namely, through the commodification of our desires, selling sublime visions of the body beautiful and the good
life back to ourselves.


And as a safety net to insure that the masses get the overt/covert message, the hidden message can only be deciphered with Prozac.


There was a marvelous little squib in the magazine _Civilization recently, a brief item on the *actual* use of subliminal seduction in TV advertising. Rather than inserting stroboscopic blipverts, a la Max Headroom, that subliminally bombard your brain with brand names or whatever, the new trend in television ads is to have the spot play and then, at the end, almost as a postscript, a brief
message winks by. You're fully conscious of it having appeared, but within the structural logic of the ad, it's seen as an afterthought, a wry rye aside to the commercial you've just seen. And that's proven to be highly effective, leaving legible traces on people's minds. So it's "subliminal" seduction which,
oxymoronically, is not at all subliminal. The "hidden agenda," in this case, unplugs our critical resistance by being hidden in plain sight, like those "Absolute Subliminal" ads for Absolute Vodka, which
winked at Wilson Bryan Keyes by showing the logo traced in the crevices of the ice cubes. Generation X (a term we're stuck with, I'm afraid, though no one can use it without groaning) flatters itself that its hardened carapace of cynicism renders it immune to the carpet bombing of advertising and public relations. But
advertising does an end run around that cynicism by letting everyone know that they're in on the joke. This is an old critique, of course. It's Mark Crispin Miller's "Hipness Unto Death." I've touched on the notion that advertising eats cynicism for breakfast in essays I've written for Adbusters.


Do you still work with Adbusters?


I don't; I had a falling out with them. It seems a no-brainer to me that commodifying anti-consumerism in the form of Adbusters T-shirts and calendars and all the other merchandise they peddle comports ill with their culture jamming ideology. There's a delicious irony, there. There's also a puritanical censoriousness
to their sensibility that makes unhappy common cause with the Andrea Dworkinite tilt of too much Canadian culture, in my opinion. I mean, this is the country notorious for writing the Dworkin-
MacKinnon argument that pornographic fantasy is inseparable from physical rape into law! That's part of what made me recoil from them. Parody ads about the supreme evils of *coffee* are a little
too abstemious, for my taste (not to mention the fact that they demonize my vice of choice, which is going entirely *too far*!). Adbusters' editorial voice also plugs itself into the tradition,
descended from Frankfurt Marxists like Horkheimer and Adorno and carried on by cultural critics like Neil Postman and James B. Twitchell, of left-wing and liberal critics of mass culture being sneeringly elite about popular pleasure and cheap thrills. I'm thinking specifically of Bertolt Brecht who moves to Los Angeles with other European expatriates and spends all his time in a hothouse environment with fellow European expatriates and never goes down to the Mahogany of his dreams, which is mere blocks away
at the long shoremans' cafes in downtown L.A. Historically, there's a yawning divide between the left wing hipoisie and the ordinary booboisie. I see that kind of firewall being erected in AdBusters, through their growingly puritanical posturing. They seem to miss the point that it's one thing to look at the deleterious effects of, say, cattle culture---the desertification of the Brazilian rainforest and the first-world medical fallout of a beef-heavy diet, as documented in Jeremy Rifkin's Beyond Beef, for instance---but that it's another thing altogether to imply that people should *not be allowed* to smoke. I'm hardly a libertarian
in the Ayn Rand sense of the world, but that way lies the mental gulags of the insufferably PC, not to mention our disastrous War on Drugs, which is predicated on the very notion that the State stands
between us and our central nervous systems, even in the (largely mythical) privacy of our own homes.


Well, that shows what I like about your work. While you can spin cyber-yarns with the best of them as well as critique fringe culture, you manage to stay fairly well rooted in a sentiment that is more humane and less Borg.


Flattering of you to say that. But what do you mean, exactly?


You know, like your critique of what you call the "cyber-rapture" and how we're going to download our minds like they do in the movie _Brainstorm_ into whatever unit will take them. I don't know if this is a kernel of your message or something I gleaned off the top, but it seems to me that you make a point of redirecting awareness to the fact that we are still in our bodies, in corporeal form, and we still have many issues that have never been dealt with. My question is, even if we all do get hardwired, what is
going to be the message that send back and forth? Will it be something like, "What were we thinking, I wish I still had my body?"


On a purely nuts-and-bolts, practical level, these Extropian bedtime stories for would-be cyborgs that are being recounted around our cultural campfire these days---Hans Moravec's fantasy of downloading human consciousness into the glittering matrixes of a massively-parallel super computer fashioned from the infinitely dense matter at the heart of dead stars, and on and on and on---are light years beyond existing technologies. And *even if* you could download human consciousness into robotic explorers, at the far rim of infinity, or massively parallel computers, you're merely exchanging one sort of body for another. There's a marvelous quote from Bruce Sterling that appeared in an old issue of Mondo 2000,

something to the effect of, "the real future of cyborging is going to look like a distraught cyborg staring into the gutter at his prosthetic arm, which has just fallen off and lies there, infested by roaches." It reminds me of the inventor Steve Baer's tart comments on the space colonies imagined in the 1960's by a gang of
libertarian technocrats called the L-5 Association. Baer predicted that the L-5 colonies would look a lot like Mir---grim, grimy space stations with acoustic tiling falling out of the ceiling and old underwear stuffed behind it, the stale smell of halitosis, with an eerie airport hum in the background. A cross between the bridge of the _Enterprise_ and the Greyhound terminal in downtown L.A.

So I think that an important thing to point out is that all these fantasies of exfoliating the body, like so much dead meat, are really a bait-and-switch, trading one body for another. And nothing is more unreliable than hardware. My god, the human body is infinitely superior to the best Detroit robot welder; those things
foul up and break down all the time! There's a marvelous quote from Octavio Paz, where he says that nothing has a more sublime sadness to it than a broken-down machine, rusting among the weeds.
Rust never sleeps. Even as the human body is overtaken by age and decay, so, too, are machines. It's just a matter of exchanging one decrepit body for another.

So, on a practical level you can easily let the air out of the cyborg fantasy. And on a political level, we have to look at these fantasies, as I point out in _Escape Velocity_, as joined at the hip with a whole pernicious tradition of deep-seated body loathing. In Western culture, it's rooted in the Gnosticism that predates Christianity. The Manichean sense of the world as a loathsome mess of matter, and of mind as pure, Neo-Platonic ectoplasm that floats untethered over everything, is alive and well and living in Roman
Catholicism and, arguably, in Protestantism. Certainly, fundamentalist visions of the Rapture are complicit with a contempt for the flesh and a contempt for the mundane, for the material world, for the here and now; they emphasize the there and then, some sort of numinous otherworld that looks a lot like Gibson's
cyberspace, if New Age encounters of near-death experiences are to be believed.

And this sort of body loathing has provided the philosophical justification, throughout Western history, for our rapacious attitude toward women, the natural world, the "primitive" (inevitably darker-skinned) Other, and other "exploitable resources" whose philosophical status as closer to the material world, rather than the imagined realm of pure, bodiless thought, condemns them to the unhappy fate of raw fodder for the engines of domestic domination, capitalist production, and colonial expansion.

So we have to remember that the body, in these giddy rhapsodies about cyborging the flesh or jettisoning it altogether, is a symbol for a whole series of bodies. For example, we have the libertarian technophile, George Gilder, who is a fixture in Wired magazine, seething with contempt for large cities. The city, in architectural discourse, is often referred to metaphorically as a body. So abandoning the "mongrel metropolis" where the urban poor live and cloistering ourselves in the gated communities that are springing
up like asteroid belts around big cities is one more way of leaving the body---in this case, the body politic, the body of social responsibility and civic life---behind. Fantasies of space migration that view the Earth as this hunk of used-up clinker are about scrapping another sort of body---the planetary body ("Gaia,"
in New Age parlance, metaphorically imaged as an ecological immune system of sorts). What I'm suggesting is that this fantasy that we're telling ourselves about jettisoning the body like the third stage of a rocket as we approach millennial warp-out is really a political myth woven by an economic elite---a story about the digerati's desire to leave social responsibility behind, to uncouple itself from the contemptible urban poor and the toiling second wave masses and ascend, into the penthouses of Fritz Lang's
Metropolis or, more appropriately, Blade Runner.


Do you think that Americans have matured in their view of self? I'm thinking of how the average diet is moving away from red meat. Is this reform born of desperation or is it a more conscious choice?


Well, I don't know if it's the benchmark of a more mature America but I'm fascinated by the mounting paranoia about things like diet. I mean, chicken, which was the "healthy" meat until recently, is now seen as some sort of pathogenic soup in which salmonella is cultured! And just yesterday there was a _New York Times_ story about rampant contamination and pesticide residue in fruit and vegetables. So now even the most abstemious Vegan has to step lightly through a gastrointestinal mine field. Of course, this situation arises from automation and globalization, where small family farms no longer exist and everything is brought to you by multinationals like Archer Daniels Midland, "supermarket to the world." There's is a corporatizing of everything. What I find hilarious about Wired (my favorite straw man, because their smiley-face futurism is so fatuous it practically douses itself with gasoline and hands you the match) is the laissez-faire fable that Wired fellow travelers like John Perry Barlow and Kevin Kelly are always spinning, namely this notion that our economic and political landscape is becoming more and more decentralized. And yet, if you dolly back the camera, you see that *centralization* in transnational corporate capitalism proceeds apace all around us--- the centralization of the factory farms we were just talking about, the centralization of Murdochian newsmedia conglomerates, the centralization in book and magazine and newspaper publishing industries. This creeping phobia about mad cow disease and salmonella and pesticides and PCBs seems to be in a large part about the mega-corporatizing of the process of raising and slaughtering and distributing the things that end up on our plates.

There's a real disconnect between what dangles on the ends of our forks and how it got there, and a vague sense of unease about our profound ignorance of the dirty details. In George Bataille's Encyclopedia Acephalica, he talks about how the slaughterhouse, even in the Paris of the 1920's, was already becoming a rare sight. Bataille thought it was a bracing corrective to the disengagement of modern life to walk through an abattoir and see how meat animals are *really* slaughtered. Sue Coe rams this point home in her unforgettable book Porkopolis, a blistering excoriation of contemporary slaughterhouses, full of unsavory facts about the hygiene and humaness---or lack thereof---of the slaughterhouses of the '90s.


When I'm president, there will be mandatory field trips for kindergarten classes to slaughterhouses.


That's another example of this dynamic that we were talking about a few minutes ago: the dynamic of disembodiment and disengagement that is the hallmark of our age. There's an unbelievable corporate
membrane of automation and packaging and distribution interposed between you and the naked lunch, as it were, on the end of your fork.

Apropos of nothing, what did Steven Johnson have to say when you interviewed him in your last issue?


Well, his book, Interface Culture, which started off as a Master's thesis on Dickens, became an examination of the world of Hypertext. Steve likened our place in the digital world to the first chapter of a great novel---a novel that will entertain us as it educates us about our place in the industrial and digital world.


I'd like to read the book. Browsing the Web always reminds me of the Situationists, who liked to use the French term *derive*, which Greil Marcus defines, in Lipstick Traces as drifting through the city, "allowing its signs to divert your steps, and then to divert those signs yourself, forcing them to give up routes that never existed before---there would be no end to it." It's felicitous wandering, basically, stumbling on whatever you happen to stumble on and enabling it to further direct you in your wanderings.

There's the notion of the psychogeography of urban space as having a surreal, dream-like quality, the sort of thing you see in the Broadway musicals of the 20's and '30s, like Lullaby of Broadway-

--the sense that the "mongrel metropolis" after dark becomes a sort of consensual hallucination in neon. What's fascinating about this is that, just at the moment where we're able to engage in our own *derives* in the *virtual* reality of cyberspace, our own discursive wanderings around the global cat's-cradle of Web links, public space in *material reality* is disappearing. More and more, you have the theme-parking of urban space, like Faneuil Hall in Boston or City Walk in Los Angeles, a sanitized, mythologized L.A.
street which is actually part of Universal Studios. And of course now Disney has built a planned community in Orlando, Florida, called Celebration. It's a Disneyesque, Main Street, USA-style
resurrection of a small town idyll that never was. People actually live there, in this embalmed, turn-of-the-century town--- controlled, of course, by the Magic Kingdom's minions. Meanwhile, as Mike Davis has exhaustedly chronicled in his book, City of Quartz, the theme-parking and privatizing of public spaces and the sequestering of the upper tier of our increasingly two-tiered society in gated communities is simultaneously robbing us of the experience that the Situationists were writing about. In New York, for example, you have the Disneyfication of Times Square, which used to be this marvelously seedy playground for weirdos like Diane Arbus---and, admittedly, a locus of structural decay, fleshpot
exploitation, and just plain misery---is now becoming a must-see for American families on the Disney World/South Street Seaport circuit.

I think it's very fruitful to examine such phenomena in a Cheng and Eng way, seeing them as conjoined twins in terms of the larger cultural dynamics of the world we live in. For example, Howard Rheingold's book, The Virtual Community, extols the notion of BBS's and MUDs and MOOs and MUSEs as an attempt to return to the lost commons. The notion of the electronic agora is seductive, and I don't want to sneer at it reflexively, but the fact that it happens at a time when teenagers can't find anywhere to hang out
except the local megamall makes me suspicious. These dizzy rhapsodies about the electronic agora as an alternative public space are paving the way, in terms of public acceptance, for the corporatizing of the commons in the material world. So again, I think it's most useful to look at the interlock or the handshake
between a lot of these phenomena.


I run a series of concerts in town and what I find interesting to watch are the migratory packs of people as they move about the park. On nights when the entire Jr. High contingency is out, they flock like bees lured by pheromones. I think that the electronic world, besides lacking an olfactory sense, also misses the boat on
just the sheer uniqueness of airing out your body amongst others. And that spontaneous ballet will never be translated to the party lines of the Web.


Well, as someone who works with kids, what do you make of Gen- Xplotation and the sanguine vision of Gen X as the skeleton key to the coming millennium? People like Douglas Rushkoff are foDNAer
and always bandying about lighter-than-air phrases like "the kids are alright," which seems to imply that youth culture offers a crystal ball through which we can auger cultural change? Does this
ring true to your ear? (Now I'm interviewing you.)


I've found that as tight a pigeonhole as we like to stick people in, labels usually fall off the moment you get to know someone on a deeper level. While the youth might be viewed as punks, Marilyn Mansonites, slackers, nerds, or what have you, oftentimes these poses are nothing more than battle armor to protect them from the world. Personally, I think this Gen-X thing is a load of crap to keep people down. It's disempowering to be thrown into such a large category. Unfortunately, if you're told you're worthless and have no voice in your society, you eventually end up believing it. I've just got to say that I don't see myself as some statesman who greases his podium every night. The only person I represent, somewhat haphazardly, is myself. Like you said about Adbusters becoming ineffective, once Gen-X began to be a parody of itself, the term became useless.


Let be clear about what I said about Adbusters since I was fairly withering in my critique of them. I think what they're doing in terms of attempting to evangelize teeny-somethings and twenty-somethings about the importance of media literacy and critical thinking, about resisting the marketing and advertising armatures of our society, is *tremendously* important. They serve a vital purpose in that regard. But one of the forks in the road where I part company with them is in their unwillingness to drive the nail all the way home. For example, Adbusters editor Kalle Lasn has this knee-jerk, almost red-baiting resistance to the specter of the '60s New Left. He seems to be very sanguine about free-market capitalism and seems to see the New (old) Left vanguard as consigned to the dustbin of history. Unfortunately, he's training his crosshairs on the symptoms of the most corrosive aspects of consumer culture, not the root causes. What brings us the unending acid rain of product placement in movies and corporate-sponsored rock tours and William Burroughs shilling for Nike and now advertisements on fruit, for Bob's sake---as well as the increasing reduction of human beings to clouds of demographic statistics and purchasing patterns---is not advertising *per se*, but multinational capitalism in the post-industrial age. You have to be willing to bore down through the sedimented layers of our culture to get to the roots of things to make a thorough going critique, and Adbusters seems unwilling to call capitalism to account in any profound way. It's confusing the symptomology with the disease. So there's a failure of nerve, there, that weakens the
magazine's critique immeasurably.

But to return to youth culture, I suppose that one of the reasons I was baiting a trap, in my question, is that I'm deeply wary of this Doogie-Howser-in-cyberspace, Jimmy-Olsen-on-whippets punditry that whispers sweet nothings into the ears of corporate culture, massaging the corporate ego by convincing it that consumer culture drips rebel cool---that watching Ren & Stimpy really is the most radical gesture. At the same time, this sort of compromised public intellectualism is selling corporate America visions of Gen-X as a way of enabling marketers and public- relations people to target teeny-somethings and twenty-somethings. There's a rotten philosophical core to Rushkoffian notion that youth culture is ground zero for subcultural resistance, that watching Beavis and Butthead represents some sort of grassroots rebellion.

For one thing, youth culture is a figment of the postwar consumer culture brought to you by mass production, advertising, and TV, among other things. The arrival of the rebel teen, in the '50s, goes hand in glove with the advent of pop culture as we now know it. The seeds of youth culture were sewn in the early part of this century by advertisers who were interested in able bodies for automation and assembly lines. It began to destabilize the patriarchal paterfamilias of the Victorian era that still held sway in America at that time. It replaced it with an inverted social schema in which youth led old age. Stuart Ewen writes marvelously about this whole cultural metamorphosis in his book Captains of Consciousness, which unearths the social roots of the consumer culture.

I'm not saying that youth culture is *not* an enormous source of subversion and vitality and endless inspiration, but it's *also* raw fodder for the engines of manufactured trends. Kids represents an immense source of disposable income and unlike their parents, who presumably have a lot of ingrained prejudices and tend to be wary of the sales pitch, youth culture is traditionally driven by the desire for immediate gratification, peer pressure, microfads and trends du jour. The "kid's culture" pundits like Rushkoff extol
is partly---and I emphasize *partly*---conjured out of the inarticulate yearnings of focus-grouped teens by thirtysomething marketing executives in suits. There's a feedback loop between subcultural subversion and multinational megatrends. In that respect, teenage rebellion is red meat on merchandisers' and advertisers' plates. So before we go extolling the virtues of twenty-somethings as the last, best hope for Western civilization, we ought to think about the way that giddy vision plays right into the hands of the stage managers of public opinion, whose business it is to sell us shrinkwrapped visions of rebel cool, as Tom Frank documents in his book, _The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism_. So this blindly uncritical notion that genuflecting before romantic visions of
adolescent rebellion will somehow save us from the deeply anti- democratic forms of repression proliferating around us---the growing sense that corporate influence in politics has made a mockery of the one-person, one-vote presumption, for example---is surely the limit case in credulity. The passing microfads of adolescent subcultures are the bread and butter of what Benjamin Barber wryly calls the "McWorld" we live in. What we need is real engagement with the gritty political issues of our moment, not a retreat into vanguardist, vidkid fantasies of zapping the forces of domination with our video-game joysticks and our TV remotes.