Friday, May 30, 2008

Let's Get Lost...

What to do now that LOST has wrapped up it's season till winter NEXT YEAR!? It's hard enought o keep track of what the heck is going I might have to rent all seasons by the time this series ends...meanwhile LOST season finale was last night and now what...?

Well there is another X-Files movie coming out this summer...and the Space network in Canada is playing all of LOST series in coming months or...

Several mini-episodes produced by writers with the LOST cast found here.

Tons of links to LOST related articles

Powells Books has a blogger post about LOST every week. Good source for info about all the literary references on the tv show.

ABC's Lost message boards.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Road-November Release

“The Road” began filming in late February, mostly in and around Pittsburgh, with a later stop in New Orleans and a postproduction visit planned to Mount St. Helens. The producers chose Pennsylvania, one of them, Nick Wechsler, explained, because it’s one of the many states that give tax breaks and rebates to film companies and, not incidentally, because it offered such a pleasing array of post-apocalyptic scenery: deserted coalfields, run-down parts of Pittsburgh, windswept dunes. Chris Kennedy, the production designer, even discovered a burned-down amusement park in Lake Conneaut and an eight-mile stretch of abandoned freeway, complete with tunnel, ideal for filming the scene where the father and son who are the story’s main characters are stalked by a cannibalistic gang traveling by truck.

The director of “The Road” is an Australian, John Hillcoat, best known for “The Proposition,” and many crew members were Aussies as well. In conversation the “Mad Max” movies, the Australian post-apocalyptic thrillers starring Mel Gibson, came up a lot, and not favorably. The team saw those movies, set in a world of futuristic bikers, as a sort of antimodel: a fanciful, imaginary version of the end of the world, not the grim, all-too-convincing one that Mr. McCarthy had depicted.

“What’s moving and shocking about McCarthy’s book is that it’s so believable,” Mr. Hillcoat said. “So what we wanted is a kind of heightened realism, as opposed to the ‘Mad Max’ thing, which is all about high concept and spectacle. We’re trying to avoid the clich├ęs of apocalypse and make this more like a natural disaster.” He imagined the characters less as “Mad Max”-ian freaks outfitted in outlandish biker wear, he added, than as homeless people. They wear scavenged, ill-fitting clothing and layers of plastic bags for insulation.

New York Times article on movie

Monday, May 19, 2008

Manufactured Landscapes- We Are All Connected

Manufactured Landscapes is a remarkably beautiful film and I think so many of my visitors will enjoy it. A movie featuring a Canadian photographer, Edward Burtynsky, who took mining and industrial landscape photos in Canada a few years ago...the film visits a couple of places in the world that are well...they are overwhelming. The first factory is a shot that lasts six one factory, the camera follows workers outside at end of their shift and there are hundreds of other workers leaving dozens of other factories. This is a marvelous must see movie. A little like feeling of Sans Soliel and Koyaanisqatsi.

The Worlds Top Ten Most Pollutled Places, from American Scientific:

1. Sumqayit, Azerbaijan—This area gained the dubious distinction of landing atop the Blacksmith Institute’s list of the world’s most polluted sites. Yet another heir to the toxic legacy of Soviet industry, this city of 275,000 bears heavy metal, oil and chemical contamination from its days as a center of chemical production. As a result, locals suffer cancer rates 22 to 51 percent higher than their countrymen, and their children suffer from a host of genetic defects, ranging from mental retardation to bone disease.

“As much as 120,000 tons of harmful emissions were released on an annual basis, including mercury,” says Richard Fuller, founder of Blacksmith, an environmental health organization based in New York City. “There are huge untreated dumps of industrial sludge.”

2. Chernobyl, Ukraine—The fallout from the world’s worst nuclear power accident continues to accumulate, affecting as many as 5.5 million people and leading to a sharp rise in thyroid cancer. The incident has also blighted the economic prospects of surrounding areas and nations.

3. DzerzHinsk, Russia—The 300,000 residents of this center of cold war chemical manufacturing have one of the lowest life expectancies in the world thanks to waste injected directly into the ground. “Average life expectancy is roughly 45 years,” says Stephan Robinson, a director at Green Cross Switzerland, an environmental group that collaborated on the report. “Fifteen to 20 years less than the Russian average and about half a Westerner’s.”

4. Kabwe, Zambia—The second largest city in this southern African country was home to one of the world’s largest lead smelters until 1994. As a result of that industry, the entire city is contaminated with the heavy metal, which can cause brain and nerve damage in children and fetuses.

5. La Oroya, Peru—Although this is one of the smallest communities on the list (population 35,000), it is also one of the most heavily polluted because of extensive lead, copper and zinc mining by the U.S.–based Doe Run mining company.

6. Linfen, China—A city in the heart of China’s coal region in Shanxi Province, Linfen is home to three million inhabitants, who choke on dust and air pollution and drink arsenic that leaches from the fossil fuel.

7. Norilsk, Russia—This city above the Arctic Circle contains the world’s largest metal-smelting complex and some of the planet’s worst smog. “There is no living piece of grass or shrub within 30 kilometers of the city,” Fuller says. “Contamination [with heavy metals] has been found as much as 60 kilometers away.”

8. Sukinda, India—Home to one of the world’s biggest chromite mines—chromite makes steel stainless, among other uses—and 2.6 million people. The waters of this valley contain carcinogenic hexavalent chromium compounds courtesy of 30 million tons of waste rock lining the Brahmani River.

9. Tianying, China—The center of Chinese lead production, this town of 160,000 has lead concentrations in its air and soil that are 8.5 to 10 times those of the national health standards. The concentrations of lead dusting the local crops are 24 times too high.

10. Vapi, India—This town at the end of India’s industrial belt in the state of Gujarat houses the dumped remnant waste of more than 1,000 manufacturers, including petrochemicals, pesticides, pharmaceuticals and other chemicals. “The companies treat wastewater and get most of the muck out,” says David Hanrahan, Blacksmith’s London-based director of global operations. “But there’s nowhere to put the muck, so it ends up getting dumped.”

The Blacksmith Institute compiled the above list, which extends to 20 more sites in its “Dirty 30,” by comparing the toxicity of the contamination, the likelihood of it getting into humans and the number of people affected. Places were bumped up in rank if children were impacted. No U.S. or European sites made the list thanks to a mop-up of lingering human health hazards over the past several decades, but that trend does not absolve the developed world of all responsibility. “The nickel we use in our cars or elsewhere is likely to have come from Norilsk,” Fuller notes. “And some of the lead in our car batteries will have come from one of these places.”

Specifier Magazine

This American Life

Recently got turned on to an awesome show that came out of public radio in chicago called This American Life a lot of clips are available at the link...on You Tube...

The above trailer was the first episode I watched and became hooked, the trailer doesn't even come close to how good this segment was...I has trouble finding more of the film, but maybe visitors can manage to download some episodes....the man in the video's blog is here:

Lithium Creations: Mike Phelps' blog. Check out his blog, great musings, awesome taste in music and art I dig this guy so much! MIke Phelps you are a serious badass and you ROCK!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Uh Oh...

A while ago...Stagg said the cutest thing.."It's hard for a guy like me to live with someone who doesn't believe in paper towels."

Oh dear. So we picked him up a couple rolls of paper towels.

I've always eaten unusual food...most everybody I know doesn't eat the same food as me...I even am weird about the cookware used to make my food. I was like this since I was a kid when I became a vegetarian and hardcore organic natural foods devotee. I just try not to bug all the people in my life about it...

It used to be that I was very fussy about restaurant food because they rarely cook organic. I also panic about restaurants that use chemicals in their food or cook with aluminum pots. I also think it's ridiculous to pay 20 bucks for noodles or rice. Oh pardon me..."pasta" or "risotto". I hardly know anyone who is as commited to organic food as me...except poor Stagg who has been converted by osmosis...

So many restaurants make a living by taking crap and calling it something else..and then charging a lot of money for it. It's not about the food it's about showing your tribe how cultured and elite you are by paying a fortune for prison food.

Sure..I get that...put some garlic and butter on some wheat and people will fall in love and you can laugh all the way to the bank. I worked in restaurants for decades. Thats the basic game.

Thats why I try to visit conscientious restaurants, see their kitchens (no really, I've looked in kitchens before I order...FREAK!) For much as I like Lahore Tikka, and they do have the best butter chicken...they use awful I don't eat there very often even when I have the chance. And rarely would I order anything I can cook. The trick for me is ordering something can't cook. Like ribs. (but who makes organic grass fed ribs?) Like bechamel sauce on souffle. (but who makes organic bechamel sauce?) Heh heh....

But in the last few years it isn't just about my preference for organics and nutritional food...

My grandmother was an amazing cook. I still think about how good she was at cooking meat. She made all meat taste like buddarh.

The thing is...she was a nightmare to go out to restaurants with...she was almost always disappointed. She could make it better herself and then some.

The thing is...she was right. She really could make most foods better than other people including professional chefs.

But I swore...I was horrified as a teen when she would complain after eating at a restaurant. I mean, the woman sometimes didn't finish her food she would just leave it. I wished she just would fake it pretend to have fun and a good time and keep her criticism to herself.

Oh's happened to me.

I noticed it about five years ago. I wasn't having any luck eating out. Everything tasted bland, was too expensive, was preditable...

I am a terrible terrible food snob. Worse than my grandmother.

A couple weeks ago Stagg and I went out and we accidently ended up in a "family restaurant". I mean my whole life I have spent avoiding such places but this one snuck up on us...bland colourful food with nifty menu descriptions.

And I was was a drag. The atmosphere was touristy and the food...made for filling one up and thats about it and bland so kids could eat it...but it's not just family style restaurants. I am finding even exquisite restaurants have to have major ethics AND wow factor food did this happen!!!! AAARRRGGGGHHH!!!!

I've turned into my grandmother. Except...I am working really hard at not complaining through dinner. Actually, I don't complain...

I just don't feel like eating out very often.

I phoned my sister to confess that I had turned into grandma...this was gonna be embarassing because my sister was like me she wished grandma never said anything about the food...I called my sister and whispered my horror...

She has it too! Nope she too was rarely inspired at restaurant food.

I keep asking people who cook a lot and are sort of intense adventurous eaters...and I find they secretly are disappointed with restaurant food too! It must be somethign to do with being a fairly okay cook and being able to make the stuff onesself...? And maybe evena set of tastebuds that gets fuzzy over time?

I kind of dream of a fantasy restaurant that cooks organic and makes tasty foods I like...and then sometimes I fantasize about opening a restaurant I like the taste of everything...

...oh right, it's called eating at home...

Friday, May 16, 2008

Pre-Raphaelites Were The Punk Rockers Of Their Day

Cartoon dismissing the Pre-Raphelite art rebellion.

The Bourne Meadow by Rosetti, 1828-1882.

I was having dinner with friends one of whom said that an upcoming show in a museum was going to be featuring the Pre-Raphaelites. The focus on Pre-Raphaelite art was kind of dismissed as if it was passe or not interesting enough...not cutting edge. I did not feel that way, I said that the Pre-Raphaelites were the punk rockers of their time. One has to compare the clothing and politics of the period in England to what the artists were doign to really appreciate how radical the movement was at the time.

In the 1960's these painters became very popular among counter-culture folks like hippies and health food nuts. and political activists. The reason for this was because the clothing and attitude of the Pre-Raphaelites harkened back to an idealic image of life before Victorian morals and restrictions....much like young peopel felt in Americas in the radical sixties. Now calendars and posters are mainstream and easy to find for popular consumption. The Pre-Raphelites not compared to their times do seem pacific and pedestrian...but they were radicals of their era.

The group's intention was to reform art by rejecting what they considered to be the mechanistic approach first adopted by the Mannerist artists who succeeded Raphael and Michelangelo. They believed that the Classical poses and elegant compositions of Raphael in particular had been a corrupting influence on the academic teaching of art. Hence the name "Pre-Raphaelite". In particular, they objected to the influence of Sir Joshua Reynolds, the founder of the English Royal Academy of Arts. They called him "Sir Sloshua", believing that his broad technique was a sloppy and formulaic form of academic Mannerism. In contrast, they wanted to return to the abundant detail, intense colours, and complex compositions of Quattrocento Italian and Flemish art. (from Wikipedia)

This group of pictures shows what the mainstream fashion was like during the time of then Pre-Raphaelite art movement. The clothes worn by most people were tight confining restrictive and did not flow around the body sensually. Compare the erotic nature of the Pre-Raphelite art below.

Late-Victorian imagery and language returns almost obsessively time and again to the portrayal of woman as devouring, serpentine, and all-powerful, often using the motif of ambiguously embracing yet ensnaring hair to reveal masculine neurosis. In the late nineteenth-century, the iconography of woman's hair increasingly prefigures Freud's famous interpretation of the ancient meaning and power of Medusa. (from here

Sappho by Mengin, 1877.

Persephone by Rosetti 1874.

Testing and defying all conventions of art; for example, if the Royal Academy schools taught art students to compose paintings with (a) pyramidal groupings of figures, (b) one major source of light at one side matched by a lesser one on the opposite, and (c) an emphasis on rich shadow and tone at the expense of color, the PRB with brilliant perversity painted bright-colored, evenly lit pictures that appeared almost flat.

The PRB (Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood) also emphasized precise, almost photographic representation of even humble objects, particularly those in the immediate foreground (which were traditionally left blurred or in shade) --thus violating conventional views of both proper style and subject.

Following Ruskin, they attempted to transform the resultant hard-edge realism (created by 1 and 2) by combining it with typological symbolism. At their most successful, the PRB produced a magic or symbolic realism, often using devices found in the poetry of Tennyson and Browning.

Believing that the arts were closely allied, the PRB encouraged artists and writers to practice each other's art, though only D.G. Rossetti did so with particular success.

Looking for new subjects, they drew upon Shakespeare, Keats, and Tennyson.

Related Links:
more here

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Storytelling, Personal Transformation and Community: A How To

Book Review
By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

The Nature of Generosity
William Kittredge
Alfred A. Knopf 12/00 Hardcover $25.00
ISBN: 0-679-43752-5

"We ride stories like rafts, or lay them out on the table like maps. They always, eventually, fail and have to be reinvented. The world is too complex for our forms ever to encompass for long. Storytelling requires continuous reimagining," writes William Kittredge, author of Hole in the Sky, a memoir; Owning It All, a book of essays; and The Van Gogh Field and We Are Not in This Together, two collections of stories. This bold and daring work is a prime example of questing literature.

Kittredge takes a long multidimensional look at the human capacity for selfishness and generosity, for separation and unity, for blindness and visionary insight. The author ponders his travels to Paris and Venice. He wrestles with the complexities and immorality of consumerism and wealth. He salutes the celebratory insights of Walt Whitman, Rainer Maria Rilke, Federico Garcia Lorca, and Pablo Neruda into the diversity and lure of the human adventure. As he notes at the outset, the book proceeds "more like a dance than an argument." In these postmodern times, it's the only way to go if you're going to deal with "redefining intentions, obligations, and responsibilities, rediscovering home and acknowledging basic allegiances."

This ambitious and ethically driven book dances its way through an abundance of rich and thought-provoking illustrative material on the loss of 25,000 to 30,000 species a year, the vast potential of the human brain, the wayward trek of modern homo sapiens, the deadly consequences of contemporary xenophobia, the growing gap between the rich and the poor, the corporate control of more than 25 percent of the planet's productive assets, the insulation of the wealthy from the rest of society, and the soul sickness of consumerism. Kittredge concludes: "We are presently evolving, certainly, into a culture based on distance. First World societies evolve in the direction of electronic chat rooms. Defining ourselves in purely economic terms, we ignore the necessary role of generosity in our lives. Economic anxiety is killing the mantle of life on earth, and we find ourselves in a double bind, in which consumption promotes peace of mind, which in turn leads us to destroy the basis for our very survival. We despise ourselves for our involvement. Acting out this scenario, we suffer a pervasive sense of powerlessness and alienation from ourselves and thus our societies. . . . We are like those increasingly featureless statues standing in the acid rain outside cathedrals all over Europe, dissolving."

Instead of hostility and distrust of strangers, we can exhibit hospitality. Instead of constricting our hearts and tightening our fists, we can open our souls and reach out to others in mutuality and compassion. Kittredge finds a succinct model of this spiritual practice in the following words by Walt Whitman: "This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, and give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God."

The author concludes with a dance of his own ideas and ideals about a transformed world based on diversity; the reimagination of desire and home; and a delight in a pluriverse of meanings. Kittredge ends with: "We must relearn the arts of generosity. We cannot, in any long run, survive by bucking against natural forces, and it is our moral duty to defend all life. It's time to give something back to the systems of order that have supported us: care and tenderness."

William Kittredge's stunning memoir is at once autobiography, a family chronicle, and a Westerner's settling of accounts with the land he grew up in. This is the story of a grandfather whose single-minded hunger for property won him a ranch the size of Delaware but estranged him from his family; of a father who farmed with tractors and drainage ditches but consorted with movie stars; and of Kittredge himself, who was raised by cowboys and saw them become obsolete, who floundered through three marriages, hard drinking, and madness before becoming a writer. Host hauntingly, Hole in the Sky is an honest reckoning of the American myth that drove generations of Americans westward -- and what became of their dream after they reached the edge.

The Nature of Generosity is at once a natural sequel to the acclaimed memoir Hole in the Sky and an entirely unique masterwork from one of the finest writers of the American West.

Taking as his topic the "ordinary yearning to take physical and emotional care," William Kittredge embarks upon a literary and philosophical grand tour that explores the very core of who we are. Whether he's recalling a childhood in Oregon, touring Europe, or studying photographs of Japanese gardens in a bookstore in New York City, Kittredge's connections are as unexpected as they are inspiring. Shattering the myth that survival of the fittest means "survival of the violent, or the cruelest, or the selfish," Kittredge imagines a world in which altruism dominates--and offers ample evidence that this is not an unreachable utopian ideal. (from Random House) (and Wikipedia)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Who and Why? Or, Candy Writes a Classic Blog Rant

Tuesday found very specific grafitti at a memorial for fallen fire fighters. The vandalism seemed so specific to me...I found myself wondering who would do such a thing...what would be their motives?

Although I am not a fan of Ontario Liberal Premier McGuinty, I believe some actions he has taken have been positive and ironically may be the source of this harsh strange violation. Firefighters are almost untouchable as heroes in our who would violate a memorial of firefighters who have died in the line of duty?

One I wondered if it was a gender issue...I mean who says "firemen"? A throw-back. Grampa maybe.

Did a family blame some kind of new finacial deal with firefighters as causing a death? Was there a slow rescue? Is this a 911 complaint?

McGuinty has taken a lot of heat recently in fact he often has shown up for public events surrounded by nurses and firefighters as an expression of his support for the working person in Toronto. McGuinty's government has given a fairly generous raise to firefighters...a raise I believe they deserve.

I also believe that the TTC workers deserve a safe, well paid and productive work environment. As do nurses, garbage workers and teachers.

I believe that taxes should be raised to support the wages of these services. Especially the taxes on carbon consumption and higher family incomes.

I suspect that the vandalism may be related to the recent TTC strike where workers were sent back to work and the idea of the public transit becoming an "essential service" may have threatened unions and workers sense of freedom and self protection through striking.

The thing is...I support unions and striking...but becoming an essential service is actually a good thing for sectors of our usually comes with a huge pay raise.

The only reason there is any question about the TTC being an essential service is due to peoples addiction to driving cars.

Maybe we need to declare the public transit an essential service and implement many more buses and routes along with more frequent service. When people start to walk to work and walk or take public transit, their cities and neighbourhoods become more connected and rich layers come to the surface. Toronto is a city with all kinds of wild animals, gorgeous wildld flowers, amazing coffee shops, museums and people...driving a car prevents one from enjoying a particular pace of a vast richness of CITY LIFE.

And for goodness sake, riding public transit and walking accepts that we have long used up the "good gas" reserves on the earth. Stop flogging a dead dinosaur.

Don't blame the firefighters for the rotten politics of our city, blame the drivers.

Disclaimer: I by no means am saying that someone from a union or TTC, or union politics is responsible for the vandalism at the Firefighters memorial...merely speculating and wondering in the search for a great urban dynamic.

Losing the right to strike means settling contract disputes through arbitration, a process that has coincided with generous wage settlements.

A March, 2001, decision by arbitrator Martin Teplitsky established the principle of wage parity with Toronto police. In June, 2007, council approved a contract giving the firefighters a raise of almost 10 per cent over three years, raising the pay of a first-class firefighter to $78,741 in 2009. The mayor defended the deal, saying that if the city forced the union into an arbitration process, it would have ended with a similar increase.

In 2005 the Police Services Board had offered the union a four-year contract with a 12.75-per-cent wage increase, but police association president Dave Wilson said, "We would never agree to a four-year contract." The board's claim that it wanted to submit the dispute to binding arbitration was refused by the union. In November, 2005, the two sides agreed to a three-year contract raising wages by almost 10 per cent. This contract expired Dec. 31, 2007, and the union says it won't limit itself to the wage increases given to firefighters.

In June, 2001, the Ontario Legislature passed legislation making paramedics an essential service. When municipal employees went on strike a year later, paramedics and ambulances were required to keep staffing levels at no less than 75 per cent.
(from here)

Lake Erie and The Garden of the Great Spirit

Took a trip to Lake Erie this week and saw an area of Ontario I had no idea existed. In this photo of my friend George dressed kind of like Lee Majors...we walked with a friend of his who has a beautiful house in an unusual enclave of mansions owned mostly by rich Americans. Above on the cliffs where George is standing are these massive un-winterised houses, HUGE. In the acres behind the beach in the woods are to be found many pleasant walking areas...and tennis courts. These rich folks really love their tennis. I enjoyed seeing this very different snack bracket. We went out for dinner in the town of Port Colbourne...actually above you can see a picture of the Welland Canal and we sat on the side of the canal and could see tankers going from one inland lake to another. When I was a kid I was completely fascinated by the canal system that allows huge deliveries and exports of goods between the Great Lakes of America and Canada and the St. Lawrence Seaway.

A rare red triliium in the forest above the beach. Lake Erie is shallow and a fantastic place for swimming and beach visits.

Trillium grandiflorum has been studied extensively by ecologists due to a number of unique features it possess. It is a representative example of a plant whose seeds are spread through myrmecochory, or ant-mediated dispersal, which is effective in increasing the plant's ability to outcross, but ineffective in bringing the plant very far. This has led ecologists to question how it and similar plants were able to survive glaciation events during the ice ages. The height of the species has also been shown to be an effective index of how intense foraging by deer is in a particular area.

Some forms of the species have pink instead of white petals, while others with extra petals, also called "double" forms, are naturally quite common in the species, and these are especially popular with Trillium gardeners. In fact, the species is the most popular of its genus in cultivation, which has led to conservation concerns due to the majority of commercially available plants being collected from the wild. A few regional governments in Canada and the United States have declared the plant vulnerable as a result. As the plant is attractive and well known, it serves as the provincial emblem of Ontario, the state wild flower of Ohio, and it is often used in heraldry in Canada. from Wikipedia

The St. Lawrence River is the world's longest deep-draft inland waterway.
Just east of Massena, NY, the St.Lawrence River leaves the U.S. border and becomes solely a Canadian river.
The upper St. Lawrence and the Thousand Islands was once called "The Garden of the Great Spirit" by Native Americans.
The St. Lawrence Seaway took 15,000 people and 4 years to build, beginning in 1955.
The St. Lawrence River has the largest discharge of any river in North America.
Only the polar ice caps contain more fresh water than the Great Lakes.

Although I find the construction and engineering still an acheivement and such...and I do like the idea of sharing goods I don't have the innocence of childhood and don't believe in moving rivers or irrgating many ways I see these canals and the St.Lawrence as scars on Canada's it still The Garden of the Great Spirit"...I'd like to see the land and water given back to the garden of the Great Spirit...

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Odd Couple

I am so crazy about the new Gnarls Barkley The Odd Couple they really got a new run on retro sounds...and beautiful styling...I think this is a "must own" album...

Flowers and Deer In Toronto cell phone does not provide a lot of detail but on our walk on the Don River a couple of days ago...we saw two deer. They were just grazing away....honest...there are two deer in each of these wooded photos...we also saw tons of wild flowers a rabbit, lots of birds, warblers, hawks...a great walk. It really makes a difference when you take your time and look at the city and country...instead of rushing everywhere like most city folks...

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

What I am Listening To

When Bruce Springsteen hear Arcade Fire he asked them to tour with him. Here is a SPIN Magazine interview.

This video is is made by a fan..."My Body Is A Cage"...

16 Horsepower "Clogger" from the album Secret South
and "Hutterite Mile"

Previous post and videos with Arcade Fire

Monday, May 05, 2008

Albert Hofman, R.I.P.

"I think that in human evolution it has never been as necessary to have this substance LSD. It is just a tool to turn us into what we are supposed to be." Albert Hofman

Hofmann was disappointed when his discovery was removed from commercial distribution. He remained convinced that the drug had the potential to counter the psychological problems induced by "materialism, alienation from nature through industrialisation and increasing urbanisation, lack of satisfaction in professional employment in a mechanised, lifeless working world, ennui and purposelessness in wealthy, saturated society, and lack of a religious, nurturing, and meaningful philosophical foundation of life".

Albert Hofman died last week at the age of 102. Albert Hofman was a Swiss scientist best known for having been the first to synthesize, ingest and learn of the psychedelic effects of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and became the first person in the world to experience a full-blown "acid trip" – that was on April 19 1943, which became known among aficionados as "Bicycle Day" as it was while cycling home from his laboratory that he experienced the most intense symptoms.

By 1965 more than 2,000 papers had been published offering hope for a range of conditions from drug and alcohol addiction to mental illnesses of various kinds. But the fact that the chemical was cheap and easy to make left it open to abuse, and from the late 1950s onwards, promoted by Dr Timothy Leary and others, LSD became the recreational drug of choice for western youth.

An outbreak of moral panic, combined with a number of accidents involving people jumping to their deaths off high buildings in the belief that they could fly, led governments around the world to ban LSD. Research also showed that the drug, taken in high doses and in inappropriate settings, often caused panic reactions. For certain individuals, a bad trip could be the trigger for full-blown psychosis.

Hofmann was disappointed when his discovery was removed from commercial distribution.
Hofmann laid some of the blame at the door of Dr Timothy Leary. In his autobiography he described meeting Leary in 1971 in the snack bar at Lausanne railway station. Hofmann began by voicing his regret that Leary's experiments had effectively killed off academic research into LSD and took Leary to task for encouraging its recreational use among young people.

Leary was unabashed. "He maintained that I was unjustified in reproaching him for the seduction of immature persons to drug consumption," Hofmann recalled. Leary further insisted that American teenagers "with regard to information and life experience, were comparable to adult Europeans" and were able to make up their own minds.

Canada and LSD:

Shortly after World War II, English psychiatrist Humphrey Osmond began studying the potential use of psychedelic drugs in psychiatry. He found that these drugs antagonized adrenaline receptors, inducing a temporary psychosis, perhaps even a model psychosis. According to Dyck, Osmond was amazed at the drugs’ ability to “suspend his sense of logic and comfort” by altering his perception of reality. If we accept schizophrenia as a distortion of perception, then experiencing drug-induced psychosis could allow psychiatrists great insight into mental illness.

“A doctor often wishes he could enter the illness and see with the madman’s eyes, hear with his ears, and feel with his skin,” explained Osmond at the time. “This may seem an unlikely privilege but it is available to anyone who is prepared to take a…minute amount of…lysergic acid.”

Meanwhile, on another continent, a psychiatrist in Saskatchewan, Abram Hoffer, was examining LSD’s biochemical effects. He discovered that the LSD molecule contains nicotinic acid.

“[Nicotinic acid] blocks the metabolism of certain enzymes…appearing to cause changes in perception, changes in effect, and changes in thinking,” Hoffer explained at the time.

By controlling the levels of this blocking agent, Hoffer controlled these psychosis-like symptoms. These studies eventually lead him to propose treating schizophrenic patients with nicotinic acid, commonly known as niacin or vitamin B3.

An interesting medicinal use for LSD

More than 4 decades after the original studies, Dr. Erika Dyck has exposed some surprising facts about studies conducted with LSD as a treatment for alcoholism.
Dr Erika Dyck of the University of Alberta has recently published her research on LSD treatment for alcoholism studies, performed in Saskatchewan during the 1950’s and 1960’s by Humphry Osmond, Abram Hoffer, Colin Smith, and Sven Jensen. This incredible paper brings to light some fascinating studies, and generates even more questions for those brave enough to ask.
Dr Dyck provides a substantial background on psychiatrist Humphry Osmond, whom she credits with being a pioneer in the acceptance of alcoholism as a disease based on biochemical causes. After moving from England to Weyburn, Saskatchewan, Osmond met Abram Hoffer, who became a close associate in his research efforts with d-lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and other hallucinogens like mescaline.
The professor continues on to explain how the researchers came to the idea of treating alcoholism with this drug, based on the similarities between the effects of LSD and alcohol withdrawal delirium tremors (commonly known as the “dt’s”). As trials progressed with alcoholic patients, the researchers realized that there was another aspect to the experience other than physical that they had not considered – that of a personal and sometimes spiritual awakening that was reported during the patient’s LSD session. Follow-up to treatment confirmed that this had a lasting, positive effect on the subjects. The relatively informal first group of studies by Osmond and Hoffer resulted in a roughly 50/50 success rate of abstinence for a follow up period of six months.
The study’s close work with the organization Alcoholics Anonymous is also discussed in Dr. Dyck’s work. In an attempt to follow up with patients and utilize as much feedback as possible, Hoffer and Osmond found local groups helpful and even quite supportive of clinical trials. It is also noted that co-founder Bill Wilson was a proponent of the treatment, especially in regard to its implications regarding the spiritual experience.
Dr. Dyck cites two additional researchers that entered the scene after additional pressure was placed to provide more empirical evidence in favor of the treatment method. The first of these was conducted by psychiatrist Colin Smith in 1955, on two dozen patients. The results of this concluded that half remained about the same, a quarter were improved, and the other quarter had shown significant improvement, classified as exhibiting “complete abstinence from alcohol for the duration of the follow-up period…with changes in lifestyle, including more stable personal relationships and regular employment.”

Obituary in Telegraph.

A couple other of my posts related to this subject:

Farms, Drugs and Mental Health
Lyle Thurston
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