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Archive for the ‘drugs’ Category

Fandor: “A Fateful Trip, ‘Hofmann’s Potion’ Shows the Discovery of LSD.”


Haven’t you heard? 4/19’s the new 4/20! I wrote about the Canadian documentary Hofmann’s Potion–which traces the pre-60s history of LSD–for the film site Fandor. If you’re not familiar, Fandor is a streaming movie rental service that focuses on independent and hard-to-find older films. If Hofmann’s Potion (or anything else on Fandor) grabs you, you can watch one movie for free on the site by logging in via Facebook.

Today, all the run of the mill stoners are anticipating tomorrow’s designated smoke-up date of “4/20” (The date’s significance is appropriately hazy: some say it’s a police code, others trace it back to a ‘70s in-joke, but either way it’s the hallowed pothead holiday). Mind you, the true drug connoisseurs aren’t pre-gaming by stocking up on potato chips, killer tunes, and fresh hackie-sacks. They’re already glued to their recliner, or wandering the woods, straight tripping balls!

See, April 19th marks the day in 1943 that Swiss scientist Albert Hofmann “discovered” d-lysergic acid diethylamide, a.k.a LSD, while researching a cure for migraine headaches. He accidentally absorbed a small bit through his finger and took note of its well, evidentiary effects. Produced by the National Film Board of Canada, Hoffmann’s Potion revisits the early days of LSD, featuring a cast of now-elderly scientists (most in quite good health) who constitute a secret society privy to this new portal to perception…

Written by Brandon

April 19th, 2011 at 3:48 pm

Posted in Fandor, drugs, film

"Rock Cocaine" and Whitney Houston.

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A far more powerful sense of Whitney Houston’s “recovery” is found on the simple, direct cover of I Look To You than in that rather leading and insincere Oprah interview. On that cover, Houston looks forward, poised, a little worn out, from a certain angle about to cry, and maybe even in possesion of a bit of a receding hairline, but she’s not rail-thin and rambling or anymore.

Couple that album cover image with an actual listen to I Look To You, especially the fucking jam “Nothing But Love”, a slow-burn electro R & B “haters” song that at least feels sincere, and that’s about all the former Mrs. Bobby Brown should have to say about years smoking “rock cocaine”–not crack mind you, rock cocaine. The ravages of drug abuse are there in her voice, especially that weirdly stirring “shutup, shutup” but it works and the positive’s found in the simple fact that she made a new album and it’s pretty good. Therein lies the hope, alright??

But that’s not enough, so there’s this interview in which she brightens every time she tells Oprah about the how’s, why’s, and highs of drugs, all the while refusing to call the crack she mixed with her pot what it’s commonly called. Instead, falling back on the term “rock cocaine” and for who? Maybe it’s some kind of line she had to draw so that her problems seemed fixable or not too shameful, to never call it “crack”–like heroin addicts that refuse to shoot-up or dudes into piss-porn who look down on dudes into scat porn. I don’t know, but it’s unfortunate.

Maybe it’s some concession to Oprah’s primary audience, middle-aged white housewives, who’ve probably done coke–or are at least married to a guy who did coke, probably off a titty, at a bachelor party–but would scoff at “America’s sweetheart” smoking some crack. What should be a somewhat restorative pop tale gets wrapped-up middle-class pandering, depressing self-delusion, and in an oblique way, the draconian crack law or “black law” as it’s often called. Whitney’s playing the overexposure media game of the aughts too well–talking so much you just play yourself.

further reading/viewing:
-Dark Alliance: The CIA, The Contras, & the Crack Cocaine Explosion by Gary Webb
-”The History of Cocaine Rap” by Kris Ex from XXL
-”Cracking Open” by Michael Short from Washington Post
-A Day in the Death of Donny B (1969) directed by Carl Fick

Written by Brandon

September 17th, 2009 at 7:05 am

Pablo Escobar’s Dinosaurs

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Though it’s apparently been open for more than a year now, Hacienda Napoles, a theme park built on and around one of noted “drug lord” Pablo Escobar’s getaways, has been getting a lot of discussion the past few weeks. A kind of hard-edged human interest story meme. In many ways, Pablo Escobar’s sprawling 200-mile weekend retreat turned into a a kind of cocaine Dutch Wonderland is also a story of hip-hop.

Beyond a quick note about Rick Ross or Nas sometimes calling himself “Nas Escobar”, the coke-hero asshole that Escobar was and represents is a significant part of rap mythology. That Escobar’s estate is now a big, tacky amusement park park isn’t distasteful or even absurd, it’s damned pragmatic and contains some of rap’s weird, half-accidental politicism too. No other way to describe that than as something that’s quintessentially “hip-hop”. The weird mix of outrageous opportunism and shamelessness meeting up with some subtle but totally right there truth-exposing.

Escobar housed hippos–who since Escobar’s murder in 1993, hung around and multiplied–and a bunch of hulking dinosaur replicas and a bunch of smart opportunists cleaned the shits up, piped-in some jungle sounds and atmospherics and called it a theme park that’s charging something around $9 dollars American money to enjoy. That it bizarrely though responsibly, also contains a museum detailing Escobar’s life and exploits, on the place where his big dumb mansion once stood, throws in a important piece of history that’s just a few degrees separated from some heavily controversial shit.

A personal favorite detail about Escobar, comes from Gary Webb’s Dark Alliance in which Escobar is noted as continually referencing a photograph he had of George Bush “posing with Medellin cartel leader Jorge Ochoa”–a photo that Esobar threatened to reveal “at the appropriate time”. Escobar was killed in 1993 and the photo’s never shown up, but whether or not it was real hardly matters. That we’re even discussing the possibility of a photograph (but really, all it’d entail, symbolically and factually) exposes the porous borders between “good guys” and “bad guys” that well, not a lot of amusement parks are really parsing out.

Not sure the extent of the history provided–most articles see this as simply “wacky” or plain distasteful and nothing more–but it seems to be framed around the slightly more complex than “crime doesn’t pay” message of “crime pays…for awhile”, and well, any kind of discussion of Escobar is wonderfully close to things like the C.I.A’s (alleged) involvement in cocaine distribution, the complex web of relationships between America and South America and the drug trade, and fascinating folk heroes like Los Pepes–themselves drug traffickers and sorta kinda do-gooders. Not a bad way to teach your kid about moral complexity…and he still gets to see some big-ass dinosaurs.

Written by Brandon

July 23rd, 2009 at 4:09 am

Posted in Nas, crack rap, drugs

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Rappers Discover Acid (Not Really).
When rock music addresses the use of psychedelic drugs it is generally either the sonic equivalent of a life-changing “I saw God” moment or it’s a psychedelic freak-out; the sonic equivalent of a bad trip. Lil Wayne’s ‘I Feel Like Dying’ and ‘I’m a J Remix’ featuring Lil Jon, D4L’s Fabo, and Gucci Mane are two songs that I’ve been listening to a lot and in my opinion, address certain realities of drug-use much more accurately than your average acid-trip jam.

‘I Feel Like Dying’ is sort of a bad-trip song but we primarily get that feeling from the suicidal chorus, Wayne’s blissed-out flow, and a weird, meandering guitar. The lyrical content of the verses is a counterpoint to the bad trip feeling, giving you excited visions of Willy Wonka land or the Altered State of Druggachusets. While say, Led Zeppelin’s ‘Dazed and Confused’ gets increasingly freaky, reflecting the shift into a bad trip, the reality of drugs is that its pretty much a constant struggle between feeling great and well, feeling like you’re dying. Sometimes both feelings hit you at the same time and then you’re really confused and really feel like dying.

One assumes a great deal of acid rock musicians actually did acid so it is even stranger that their presentations of the drug rely so much on the same cliches (although I guess the same could be said of “gangsta” rappers). As I said before, Lil Wayne is well-versed in played-out Strawberry Alarm Clockisms, but when mixed with the strange production and chorus, it feels wholly original. This is in part because rap, even when it does address tripping, never goes out on a limb this far to be weird but still listenable and even sort of catchy. The song isn’t a total clusterfuck freak-out but it isn’t a normal rap song with conventional lyrics replaced with lyrics about tripping. Also, Wayne knows his stoner clichés are clichés and he delivers them with glee. Particularly strange is his mixing of sports and drugs. I don’t even get what he’s going for at all but of course, that’s why it becomes some genuine stoner shit: “Playing touch football on Marijuana Street/Or in a marijuana field, you are so beneath my cleats”. I just finished reading this and the pretty much perfect soundtrack to it would be ‘I Feel Like Dying’, half-baked glee fighting with like, tangible grossness all filtered through some hit or miss profundity.

On ‘I’m a J Remix’, Lil Jon stumbles upon the little-addressed but undeniable reality that IT TOTALLY SUCKS TO TRIP WITH GIRLS: “then the hoe start trippin’/about to blow my high”. I mean really…I don’t know what it is but girls really do blow your high. They get way too freaked-out or they just talk the whole fucking time; it’s like they stole all of their “I’m high” moves from Pauly Shore in ‘Biodome’…of course, it doesn’t phase Lil Jon because he’ll “just jump up in [his] spaceship and fly”. I really like the “just” in there, as if he really could just do it on a whim…I imagine this like, really trippy ‘California Raisins’ style claymation and he just leaps up in the air like a jackalope and lands in this old-style 50s sci-fi rocket and circles the moon…the same moon Weezy is playing basketball with?????

Now, I know rap and psychedelics aren’t a new thing and I know neither of these songs are chartbusters, but the fact that two successful, well-known rappers are rapping about it is pretty interesting. Even more interesting is the way that both songs address the drug from a fairly realistic perspective, capturing the highs and the lows, often at the same time.

Written by Brandon

August 4th, 2007 at 8:45 am

Posted in Lil Jon, Lil Wayne, drugs