27 June 2008

Alan's Psychedelic Leftovers

7 Tir - Year 1387

Alright, musos! The new episode of The Kaleidophonic Stroboscope has now been posted (actually, it's been live for about a week now, but I was finishing the Carlin tribute and a few other things--so I didn't get to post here about it). Check it out here. I'm starting on the fourth episode soon--stay tuned and let me know what you think. 'Till next time, space children....

(Thanks to Singing Bear for 'bigging up' the 'Stroboscope at Tiz Yer Tiz this week)

23 June 2008

R.I.P. George Carlin

20 Sivan - Year 5768

I only just found out about an hour ago that one of my all-time favorite American stand-up comedians, George Carlin, has died due to heart-failure. He was 71.

I first heard of him sometime in the early 80s, when browsing through one of those HBO 'what's-on-this-month' guides they used to send out. My aunt & uncle had cable TV, which seemed really 'modern' and advanced back then--definitely an enticement to want to stay over, besides hanging out with my cousins. Carlin was doing another of his umpteen HBO-televised specials (I think he was a pioneer of that format), but since I didn't really know who he was, I wasn't really interested in seeing it. Not that my aunt and uncle would let me anyway, even though they were a bit more liberal than my parents. A few years later...New Year's Eve 1984/'85, I heard my first Carlin album (or cassette, to be exact). It was On The Road, his 1977 record. My oldest cousin decided to have a tiny party over at his folks' place, as my aunt & uncle were going out for the evening. His friend, who was a few years older than me and a lot more 'hip', brought along some booze and some smoke. Not much happened, other than those two drinking quite a bit, my oldest cousin offering me and his younger brothers a cup each of blackberry brandy...and a few minutes of the de-scrambled Playboy channel, before it became static-ed out again. My cousin's friend also brought along some weed and had smoked a joint (or two). I hadn't been initiated yet and was very much against "drugs" at that point in my life. He wanted to hear some music, so he walked into my cousin's room and put Dark Side Of The Moon on the stereo (first time I ever heard that as well...). After a while, he took another cassette out of his pocket, put it down on the stereo and left the room, presumably to get more to drink. I looked at the tape, it was the Carlin album. I remembered his name and was curious about hearing him, so I popped the cassette in the player and listened for a bit. I'd like to say that I "got it" right away and had a comedic epiphany--but really I didn't understand a lot of Carlin's routines, especially the bits about getting high. Still, I liked the sound of his voice and his command of language.

I had received a clock/radio as one of my birthday gifts when I was 13 and I had already started tuning in to the local rock stations. One of them had a comedy program that was broadcast on Sunday nights. I started to listen regularly and started to hear more Carlin routines. One of my favorites was Ice Box Man, from the A Place For My Stuff album. It's a brilliant piece about the state of refridgerators and the foibles based around them. It's observational humor at it's incisive, but unassuming, best--the sort of thing Jerry Seinfeld and many others would base a career around, later in the 80s and early 90s, only not half as witty. I also was able to hear many of his 'classic' routines from the deservedly heralded early 70s records, like FM & AM, Occupation: Foole and Toledo Window Box. That moment on Class Clown, his album released in 1972, where he gets the audience to "pop their cheek" at the same time, is still one of my favorite moments on a record.

Carlin's own story has been told many times...born into one of the "Irish" sections of New York City, Morningside Heights, he started mimicking radio announcers at an early age. He atteneded Catholic school, which would provide him with a lot of material when his stand-up career really took off. He developed an interest in jazz and African-American culture and he would often hang out in Harlem, adopting the hipster slang and dress..and first experimented with marijuana, which would also influence his comedy later on.

He started up a comedy team with Jack Burns, when they both worked at a radio station. Burns and Carlin performed together for a few years in the late 1950s/early 60s and then Carlin struck out on his own. Carlin was able to land a few television appearances and he became quite popular, with some of his routines touching on counter-culture topics that would become the mainstay of his act in the early 1970s. His debut solo album, Take-Offs And Put-Ons, was released in 1967 and Carlin still looked like a "typical" comic of the time..suit & short hair and no facial hair. Around this time, he began to become disillusioned with playing the "whiskey joints" full of "squares". He seemed to embrace the counter-culture whole-heartedly--he grew his hair and a beard, wore tie-dye shirts and faded jeans and talked in a mellow, stoner purr.

Carlin's main notoriety derived from the infamous Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television sketch that appeared on the "Class Clown" record. Carlin was arrested in Milwaukee in 1972 for performing the bit at a show. WBAI, a radio station in New York, was fined by the FCC for playing Filthy Words, a routine from the follow-up to "Class Clown", "Occupation: Foole". He continued to perform and release albums throughout the 70s and early 1980s, and started his run of cable TV appearances. As the 1980s wore on and a new generation of comics took over the spotlight, Carlin's popularity declined a bit. His albums, like Playin' With Your Head and What Am I Doing In New Jersey, were largely ignored. Carlin concentrated on an acting career and his appearance in Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure, in 1989, sparked a bit of a revival in interest in Carlin.

He appeared in a few more films in the early 1990s and threw himself vigourously back into stand-up with even more HBO specials, like Jammin' In New York and Back In Town. It seems that the conservative counter-revolution in the 80s had a big impact on Carlin. He lost his 1970s hippie-dippy demeanor and derided human foibles with a cynical sneer. I must admit that while I still thought he was spot-on with most of his attacks, I missed the gentle way that Carlin would poke fun of his chosen targets. He seemed far too angry and prone to ranting and it seemed to distill some of the essence from his comedy. I was still glad he was around and making his sharp observations. Now he's gone--another of the humans I most admired has left the planet. Rest in Peace, Pope George...say "Hello" to RAW, Albert Hofmann, Tim Leary, Terence McKenna and all the others.

Original Falcons For Old Family Rifts

23 Pepper - Year 41 p.r.S.P.

I received an e-mail from Nick Tharcher last week - detailing the formation of Original Falcon Press. It seems that shortly after Dr. C.S. Hyatt's passing--Michael Miller, Hyatt's biological (and possibly estranged) son was allegedly able to get Hyatt to sign some papers stating that Miller would then control New Falcon Publications, Hyatt's book imprint, founded in 1979.

New Falcon (when began as "Falcon Press") was an outlet for books on magick, occult philosophy and other esoteric topics that more than likely wouldn't receive a "mainstream" publication. Over the years it featured titles by Robert Anton Wilson, Timothy Leary and Antero Alli, to name just a few of New Falcon's more well-known authors. Nick Tharcher was a good friend of Hyatt's and acted as a buisness partner in N.F. According to Tharcher, after Hyatt's death, he was effectively locked out of N.F. interests. In the meantime, Miller appears to be attempting to destroy N.F.'s reputation as a quality publisher.

I've visited New Falcon's website right after receiving Tharcher's e-mail and it does seem to lack the quality of the former site. The inflated prices for some of the items seem to belie a bit of a 'quick-cash' grab-in, to me. That and the request for a $1,000 donation for a Hyatt Memorial Library...hmmm...I won't go into those poor excuses for book-cover scans. I only hope that R.A.W.'s estate can rescue his books from New Falcon's clutches at some point.

I'll leave the reader to make their own decision about all of this cloak-and-dagger/family business stuff - but I know where I'll be shopping for any more of Hyatt's material.

16 June 2008

Sicko/Blows Against The TSOG

Boomtime, Confusion 21, Year of Our Lady of Discord 3174

I watched Michael Moore's latest film, Sicko, last weekend. It's Moore's follow-up to Farenheit 9/11 and this time he's taking on the 'health-care industry' in the U.S. The film starts with a man suturing a large wound on his own knee, then shows another man who had suffered a radial saw accident. He had cut the tops off of two of his fingers and was given the choice of which of the two to have re-attached. He couldn't afford to have both operated on.

Moore piles on the horror stories, involving "regular Joes" and their insurance woes. He then steers the film into the topic of socialized medicine. Old propaganda films from the 1950s and early 60s are shown, spotlighting the American trepidation toward socialization, which might lead the U.S. into..gasp..Communism! Hilary Clinton's campaign for health-care reform in the early 1990s is pored over--she is depicted as a near-saintly presence, defeated in her quest by the vast conspiracy of greed-heads. To be fair, Moore does show that later on, Hilary was just as much in the pocket of the HMOs as any Republican candidate.

He wonders aloud about socialized medicine - then a travelogue takes place: Canada, England and France. He interviews in-patients in hospital waiting rooms, doctors and even American ex-pats (in London and Paris). Moore tags along with a doctor who makes house calls in Paris, visits a splendidly clean NHS-run hospital in London and talks with a splendidly clean doctor who makes quite a bit of money keeping his patients healthy. He then interviews Tony Benn, a dyed-in-the-wool Labour MP, about the National Health Service and what it means to the British people.

The last section of the film shows Moore rounding up a group of September 11th volunteer rescue workers who are now suffering ill effects from their exposure to the conditions at Ground Zero. The films' funniest bit shows the medical facilities at Guantanamo Bay. They are state-of-the-art--presumably to keep the prisoners alive after all that torture (oop..did I just type that?). He hires a few boats, has the rescue workers climb aboard and prepares to take them to 'Gitmo' to receive proper medical treatment. Naturally, they are turned away before they can even get close. They all end up in Cuba, where they receive first-class medical check-ups...and for free! That seemed like the film's most staged moment..and Moore doesn't waste any effort to tug on the sympathies of the viewer. Still, I did find it heart-warming to see those people in states of disbelief over getting good medical care.

As with anything Moore presents, it seems necessary to take what you are watching with a large grain of salt. He'll sweep any viewpoints or some facts aside if they don't happen to fit with his reality-tunnel. I can't really speak about Canada or France--but I've seen stories in the UK about NHS hospitals where the morale seems pretty low and there are long long waits for treatment. There are also all those stories of patients dying due to unclean wards and that "superbug", MRSA. Moore didn't really touch on those topics while touring that spiffy hospital in London. He also didn't seem to want to dwell on Cuba's appalling human rights abuses--Fidel Castro may have kicked out the Yankee exploiters, but he then seemed to embrace a very Stalin-esque form of Communism, but hey, they've got free health care.

If all this makes you think that I'm completely tearing Michael Moore down, then you have an Aristotlean 'either/or' present in your mind. I essentially agree with Moore's basic point--that affordable health care (or hey, even free) should be available to all, regardless of salary or background. The big lug may paint in very very broad swathes--but I agree that the privatized system in the U.S. seems a far worse model than the socialized ones in the UK, France, etc. Are they perfect? Of course not, and nothing seems to be. Still, the NHS services I've used have been efficient and the doctors friendly and attentive. For all of it's faults--I think it still does what it set out to do, all those years ago, immediately after World War II. The U.S. health care system wasn't all that great in the 80s and 90s and since the TSOG came to power, it seems to have only got worse. One more reason to chuck the bastards out.

Speaking of the TSOG, it seems that Dennis Kucinich has called for the impeachment of "C+ Augustus" himself. Will it happen? Probably not. Kucinich's attempt to have "Slick" Dick Cheney impeached last year ended with a stonewall action in Congress and a non-investigation. Ah well, even if Bush doesn't do any time - I think he'll still be remembered as one of the worst leaders ever, in any nation. He arrived in Britain on his 'farewell tour' of Europe and was greeted by protests. For all that, though, he managed to convince Gordon 'Clown' Brown to commit even more UK troops to the Afghan quagmire. Do not adjust your mind, you're still living on The Planet Of The Apes.

04 June 2008

The Kaleidophonic Stroboscope Switches On - Part 2

15 Khordad - Year 1387

I found some time after returning from the holiday to finish the second episode of the podcast! This episode covers what was originally the 'second hour' of my written radio show proposal. You can listen to it here.

The track-listing for the episode is:

Orbital - Tootled (from "The Altogether" album)
Pere Ubu - Non-Alignment Pact (from "The Modern Dance")
Quicksilver Messenger Service - Pride Of Man (from the s/t debut album)
Siouxsie & The Banshees - Green Fingers (from the "A Kiss In The Dreamhouse" album)
Le Orme - Felona (from the "Felona E Sorona" album)
Brian Eno - The Big Ship (from the "Another Green World" album)
Aphrodite's Child - The Lamb (from the "666" double-album)
The Firesign Theatre - Temporarily Humboldt County (excerpt) (from the "Waiting For The Electrician Or Someone Like Him" album)
Herbie Hancock - Watermelon Man (from the "Headhunters" album)
David Bedford w/Mike Oldfield - Stars End - Part 1 (closing section) (from the "Stars End" album)
Porcupine Tree - Space Transmission (from the "On The Sunday Of Life" album)
The Bonzo Dog Band - Jollity Farm (from the "Gorilla" album)

...I talk a bit more between some of the tracks as well. The third episode will be around in a bit. Enjoy!