Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Hey readers, I’ve recently begun wondering if my blog might be too diverse in focus for my readership and I am debating limiting my focus on this blog and starting another one for other posts or possibly something else. As a person who has many focuses in life and does many things I wanted a blog that reflects that, but I worry people might feel spammed with posts that are not relevant to their interests (you are here for DIY but I just keep posting about politics, or vice versa).

Here is your chance and your place to tell me what you come here for and what you’d like to see more of. You can choose up to 3 options on the poll and even add your own options if I missed something.

I am a member of a proud minority group in America, a group who’s numbers aren’t what they used to be. Not the 40-50% who believe in creationism, no I am one of those pesky people who still believes in evolution (roughly 40% of Americans). Let me clarify those statistics and draw attention to a major point, only 40% of Americans still believe in evolution and a majority of Americans now support creationism or evolution guided by a Supreme Being (implied God, but interfaith). I have nothing wrong with creationism or those who believe in it, I also have no qualms with those who feel evolution can be guided by a Supreme Being.
I fully believe that evolution and creationism can be compatible, and while I do not personally believe in the Christian God as normally conceptualized, I do recognize some sort of higher power. My higher power is Serendipity; positive random chance which often leads one to unexpected and unforeseen outcomes beyond conscious reckoning. You can see evidence of Serendipity in quantum entanglement, which can be described as “a physical interconnection among particles, despite spatial separation.” Just like Serendipity can bring two people unexpectedly together to become new friends on a chance meeting, so does entanglement bind disparate particles together coaxing them to move in unison. Entanglement has also been shown to play a role in evolution, bringing us back to the topic of this blog. The whole metaphysics discussion may seem out of place but I feel it is very relevant to any discussion of evolution given the controversy between the two, one that borders on being a blood feud.

Charles Darwin, generally thought of as the founding father of modern evolution theory, was raised and lived as a Christian much of his life. Three years before his death, Darwin is quoted as writing, “agnostic would be the most correct description of my state of mind.” Darwin got a lot of things right, like natural selection and his finches. Somethings he was very wrong about, like whales. You will need a National Geographic account to view that link, they’re free and totally worth it.

“I can see no difficulty in a race of bears being rendered, by natural selection, more and more aquatic in their structure and habits, with larger and larger mouths,” Darwin concluded, “till a creature was produced as monstrous as a whale.”

People thought that idea was ridiculous even in Darwin’s time, and as it turns out it is also completely wrong. In the 1980’s, evidence surfaced showing the real ancestors of modern whales. Ambulocetus was an ambush predator that could weight over half a ton and looked like a furry crocodile, and is one of the missing links in the evolution of whales. Whales were a species who left the water eons ago, came to land and became hippo-like creatures. At this point some stayed on land enough to remain hippo-like and became hippos, others preferred the life aquatic and became whales with legs.

Basilosaurus, terror of the seven seas.

These fossils were coming from a remote valley in Egypt called Wadi Hitan. While fossils had been excavated from this location since the turn of the 20th century it remained remote and overlooked until new technologies in the 80’s made it more accessible. It was  then that the first whales with legs began to be discovered. They include many species and span many millions of years of evolution, from the hippo-like through various incarnations until they were finally whales.

It was recently brought to my attention that science and truth have come under attack again by the forces of misinformation. The time has come to metaphorically strap on my battle armor and prepare to jump into the ring to defend Truth and Science one more time. Articles are floating around the Internet claiming that 98% of the Pacific Ocean’s floor are covered in dead animals, up from 1% the year before the Fukushima  Daiichi nuclear disaster.

Oh Gods no! Save the whales! Save the fishes! Save the shrimp! Or save your panic for things that matter because this is a fake emergency. It is as real as virtual reality; that is, as much as you believe it to be.

This is pretty similar to the last sensational headline I debunked about big butts making you smart and healthy. Just like before a few not-scientists and not-journalists took one very real and reasonable study then blew it out of proportion, twisted the context, and proceeded to run with it so far away no one could find the real story anymore. Too bad for them I am a good runner and better detective, like if Dick Tracy and Usain Bolt had a gayby.

My first thought after reading the original release is where the heck did anyone get those 1% and 98% numbers, that doesn’t seem to be found anywhere. The Monterey Bay Research Institute (MBARI) does a pretty good job debunking the rumors themselves last week, but that hasn’t stopped sensationalized misleading stories. To quote the MBARI researchers, “These stories are false and misleading. In addition, there is absolutely no connection between MBARI’s research findings and radiation from the Fukushima disaster.” Huh, that seems pretty clear, no room for error.

You may be thinking, “but what about that scary looking chart of the radiation spreading across the ocean?” That was the chart of the tsunami’s height, it had nothing to do with radiation. Another example of people taking something factual and twisting it for their own agenda.

Some articles also cite National Geographic as a source to substantiate their outlandish claims. After some digging I came across this blog post, and I found the source of that 1%/98% figure that keeps circling around, it would seem it originated here (not with MBARI’s actual data). This isn’t to say that figure is wrong, just unsubstantiated. The actual data seems to show these algae blooms happen pretty regularly and are needed for deep sea ecosystems to exist. The studies show that if anything man-made is the cause it is climate change, not Fukushima. What the research shows is that, if any recent event is to blame for these blooms, it is the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that happened in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Amusingly, many of the same articles that cite National Geographic and Carrie’s blog as a source (without links) seem to ignore the numerous articles National Geographic has published disproving the hoopla over Fukushima.

So what does National Geographic actually have to say on the topic? First off, yes there is a leak of contaminated water, and it is very very small. This leak has been known about since 2012 and has never been viewed as a threat to human health anywhere. According to National Geographic, most experts blame “ordinary movement of groundwater” for the continued leak. The radiation is spreading, but it will still take years to reach the West Coast and there is presently no public health risk from Fukushima for Californians (it is a different story for people in Fukushima prefecture). Finally, for those people worried about eating fish, many experts say that is an unnecessary precaution and you’re probably fine to eat fish. I’m the kind of person who advocates for people following their instincts, and if your body is saying no to seafood then you should listen to it. But, if you are not eating fish because you are worried about radiation then you are overreacting and I imagine the type of person who (like me) opts out of airport radiation machines. Even though I opt out I’m still eating fish. The reality of global fishing is that it already is a pretty dirty ocean out there and fish, like tuna, who can live as long as a person (fifty years), tend to accumulate massive amounts of radionuclides and toxins like mercury along the way. That means when you eat tuna you are now eating all that too (I still eat tuna), though last I heard most “tuna” Americans eat really isn’t tuna.

I am a bit concerned by reports that TEPCO and their subcontractors who managed the plant and the clean up may have covered up the extent of radiation exposure to workers. Any corporate or coverup concerns me, especially regarding the environment and human health. For what little RT news is worth, as Russia’s official news is horribly biased, RT news is reporting that radiation levels at the plant are at 8 times the Japanese governments accepted limits. Reading the various RT news stories very few seem to be substantiated by science, and even fewer provide outside links to studies they claim exist. I’m getting some serious red flags here about the truthiness of these articles.

If I see hope in something it is the ingenuity of the Japanese in embracing green technologies to clean up the nuclear spill. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers reports that Fukushima prefecture is creating a “Renewable Energy Village,” a garden of rapeseed underneath solar panels. Rapeseed has been shown to absorb radionuclides into their stalks leaving  the seeds untouched and usable for other purposes.

What Californians should really be concerned about is the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant which is being held up to lax safety standards and is BUILT ON A FAULT LINE. Or perhaps we should worry about the San Onofre Nuclear Plant that had 2/3 of its reactors permanently decommisioned  after a dangerous radiation leak was discovered. Or maybe we should be worried by the historically low rain levels we have had this year leading to California’s major reservoirs being obscenely low on water for mid-winter, expect water rationing come summer. Personally, I am more concerned with the real problems we know are in front of us that are sure to be issues, rather than rip my hair out stressing over fake news reports.

You may now be wondering, if 98% of the ocean floor is covered in ocean, what about that last two percent? Two words, mermaid  colonies. They breed like rabbits, the rabbits of the sea.

This year’s theme for Burning Man has been announced, and it is Caravansary. If you are like me then your first thought was probably, “what the hell is a caravansary?” Quickly followed by the realization that it is a very tricky to pronounce word. A caravansary is a type of walled inn with a large central courtyard that was built along the Silk Road to protect caravans at night from marauders. You can think of a caravansary as a man-made oasis; they offered the same level of protection in their stone walls that an oasis saw from the harsh climate of the desert itself. Caravansaries and the Silk Road were crucial to the flow of information as they served as meeting places for all sorts of people from every corner of the globe, the crossroads.

Now, if you are like me, you probably then realized that this theme doesn’t really add much to the event like previous themes have. Burning Man has had themes for art since 1998, but the art-theme area of the website gives no hint as to the purpose of these themes nor their goal. Perhaps I am off base in assuming the themes are meant to modulate the event to make it somewhat different every year. Sure, Burning Man is always totally different, yet always the same, but the theme offers participants a filter or locus through which to view the event, it points us in a direction and says “go.”

Past themes, like Green Man, Metropolis, Cargo Cult and American Dream have forced us to re-examine our relationships with the environment, our cities, ourselves, and likelihood of realizing the American Dream. While Burning Man is always a leave no trace event, thus environmentally conscious, Green Man took it to new levels with art pieces like Crude Awakening. This was a giant oil derrick which showed humanity’s worship of oil which ultimately erupted into a mushroom cloud of fire when nearly 3,000 pounds of propane and jet fuel were ignited at weeks end. While that might not sound terribly green it is equivalent to “the amount of energy consumed in the Bay Area in one minute” and since the Bay Area was on vacation that week at Burning Man I imagine it balanced out. So while past themes have provided direction to the event in addition to the existing matrix of Burning Man laid out in the Ten Principles, this years theme does not.

Let’s break down this year’s theme. A caravansary is an inn where people from all over the world would get together, drink, swap stories, and perhaps swap more than that in gifts, trade, and lovemaking. By default, in order to be at a caravansary, you were on a pilgrimage of sorts or you worked at the inn. If you have never been to Burning Man let me do a quite comparison for you. If you are at the Burn you are on a pilgrimage of sorts or you work for Burning Man/the Government (“the inn”). Burning Man itself is a caravansary protecting inhabitants from the harsh Black Rock Desert that surrounds, it is our oasis in time and space in a vast sea of dust. Within this grand caravansary there is arranged a smaller assortment of taverns, bars, inns, and lounges, nearly all having some sort of inner courtyard to offer weary travelers repose.

While I am rather underwhelmed by the theme, because it is basically saying “this years theme is Burning Man,” I am similarly impressed. I was forced to learn a new word and I’ve already had my consciousness expanded thanks to my initial opposition to the theme. Sometimes what sounds utterly moronic at first proves to be the best idea imaginable and Burning Man is a great place for testing the bounds of imagination and idiocy. I am also impressed by this year’s Burn because instead of placing the Man ever higher from the desert floor on huge structures, making him ever less ADA accessible, he is returning to the floor of the desert as a MASSIVE effigy.

So how is Burning Man a grand caravansary? And if it is what sort of folks go there on pilgrimage to trade ideas and craft a collective narrative?

Well, there are these kinds of people…

Burning Man – Fun for all ages, old and young.

There are there sorts of people too…

Sometimes a dance floor at Burning Man just looks like a forest of fuzzy coats and furry top hats. This can be both wonderful and very disorienting if high on drugs.

And yes, they’re out there too…the infamous sparkleponies.

A wild herd of sparkleponies have appeared. Not always female, know a sparklepony by their sass, ass, and magical ability to vanish whenever it is time to do work.

Burning Man is representative and inclusive of everyone, including the aforementioned stereotypes of sparkleponies, people wearing furry coats, and naked old people; honestly, they make the event what it is, God bless the sparkleponies and shirtcockers. Past the usual stereotypes and tropes, Burning Man has a lot of techies. Hordes. It’s like SF moved to the desert for a week. The Burning Man census reveals this to be true, showing that over a third of participants still come from northern California, mostly the Bay Area. Most participants identify as being white/not a person of color; the question has been asked in different ways in different years yielding different results.

There also are retired army generals, like former NATO Supreme Commander General Wesley Clark, who was hanging out at this last Burn in conversation with John Perry Barlow (an EFF founder and Grateful Dead lyricist) and Larry Harvey (the main co-founder of Burning Man and its informal mayor). It sounds like the start of a joke; a Dead-Head,  a retired General, and the founder of Burning Man all walk into bar to sit down for a drink. It would be funny if it wasn’t real and didn’t have major significance. The usual belief is that Burning Man is only a place for the fuzzy hats and that clean-cut Good-Ol’ Boys would scarcely want to go let alone be accepted there. Only he did want to go there, no one is forced to be there other than the police and Burning Man staff who provide the crucial infrastructure to keep the event functional and safe. Not only did General Clark go to the Burn he also was accepted and given a rather warm welcome.

Everyone knows that world-class DJs are at the Burn every year, such as Junkie XL, Paul Oakenfold, Beats Antique, and The Crystal Method, but many people don’t realize that non-electronic artists also go to Burning Man, they just aren’t performing yet. P Diddy was sighted around this last Burn as well, sporting a stylish pink parasol. Hopefully P Diddy will join the vast legion of performers who gift their crafts to Black Rock City every year. As previously stated there are hordes of techies at Burning Man, this includes the God-child of all techies, Mark Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg is not alone, he is joined by the whole cast of The Social Network, including the identical Winklevoss Twins and Dustin Moshkovitz. Moshkovitz wrote a great piece about why the presence of techies and plug and play camps should be embraced rather than spurned. I still have mixed feelings about plug and play camps, but much of the bad taste has been cleansed from my palate. Some people need a very sterile environment in order to enjoy the Burn, sometimes for valid medical reasons; who is any one person to deny them that experience? I’m not that guy and I don’t care to meet him.

Mostly you find lots of people like me. We dress however the hell we please regardless of where we are; I wore a three piece suit many days this last Burn, then other days I looked like a “steampunk hobo wizard” to quote a friend. People like me do work, often more than our fair share because we recognize that without someone doing work Burning Man doesn’t happen. People like me are kind of artists, maybe writers, often wearing many hats at different times filling many different roles in camps and in life. We’ll gift you things at the Burn unprompted and without any expectation of return, the way any true gift should be given.

The only people who are not welcome are asshats like Krug champagne who either cannot read, can’t be bothered to read the rules, or worse of all read the rules and think they are exempt from them. Burning Man makes it very clear that you are not to exploit the event for marketing or promotional reasons; this isn’t your photo-op to make your brand seem edgy. Krug thought it would be in the Burner ethos to have a huge invite-only champagne party out on the Playa, exclusively to take promotional photos. They then felt it would be neighborly to leave the place trashed; isn’t that one of the Ten Principles? Oh wait no, it’s not “leave it trashed,” it is leave no trace. Way to go asshats. Some Burners did come by to help clean the mess up, but it wasn’t their mess and that really wasn’t fair to them, but then when is life ever really fair? Burning Man often teaches us, sometimes brutally, that life is not fair (see the yearly ticketing melee).

All things said and done, I love Burning Man as much as ever and would love to make it back out there this year, though I worry about the chance of that given massive medical bills. People complain every year about the theme, how it’s not like it used to be, and how it used to be free, etc. Nope, it’s not how it used to be, no one is driving over tents in the night or shooting guns in city limits. Nope, it isn’t free either, but there are bathrooms provided and other services (an awesome medical system with 3 major locations in the city). Burning Man used to embrace anarchy more than it does today, now it is radical self expression that is embraced. I prefer what it is today, a temporary experiment in city building and the world’s largest living art museum/gallery, and I for one love being part of that grand social experiment in the most famed caravansary of our time.

I live in a piece of history, within a piece of history. My house was constructed in the early 1900’s by Peter Leonard, a residential contractor who was very active building homes in what is now known as the Outer Sunset neighborhood of San Francisco. Peter’s son got ownership of the house in 1936, and at some point afterwards it was occupied by none other  than Senator Diane Feinstein, but that is only hearsay I’ve yet to substantiate. This home, one of the earliest real houses built in the wild Outside Lands of SF, when first built stood among a sea of sand dunes and a shanty town of horse-drawn railcars converted into homes. Layers upon layers, history is like an onion. As my house as its own hidden history so does my neighborhood and both are quite fascinating.

Outside Lands Music Festival takes its name from this rich history that dates back to the Gold Rush. Throughout the 1850s and 1860s these Outside Lands were the subject of many court battles, ultimately becoming part of San Francisco in 1866. Five years later the land that became Golden Gate Park was surveyed and work on the park began, to be completed nearly a decade later in 1880. The park was meant to be a pleasure ground for the people of SF and that has not changed much, and Outside Lands is certainly keeping that history alive. I was a bartender at last year’s Outside Lands and it was easily the most fun gig I have ever worked.

Soon the dunes of the Outside Lands gave way to a Victorian steampunk paradise; a small wild west shanty town transplanted onto the windswept sands of San Francisco. While horse drawn railcars ruled the day during the mid-19th Century, by 1883 all horse lines had been converted to steam, cable, or electric. The tipping point was in 1895, when the Market Street Rail Company ran an ad in the SF Examiner selling railcars for $20 a piece ($10 with the seats removed). So it was that Carville by the Sea came into vogue along with the trend of living in converted railcars, which gave the suburb its name.

Welcome to the rough and tumble rowdy and bawdy suburb, Carville by the Sea.

The prior year, 1894, saw the Midwinter Fair come to Golden Gate Park; this was one of the SF World’s Fairs. This fair gave birth to the world famous Japanese Tea Garden. If you’re interested there is one confirmed Carville house still standing (inside the house). I love the comparisons of early 1900’s hipsters to early 2000’s ones in that last link, as it is totally true; Carville was largely a bohemian artist enclave. While much has changed in SF, some things have never changed (here’s looking at you fixie bikes and repurposed housing).

1894 Midwinter Fair – DeYoung’s Delight

Carville was around for about two decades before the massive 7.8 magnitude quake that devastated SF in 1906. My house had just been completed before the quake hit. I can imagine Peter and his wife, huddled together with their child for safety somewhere in the middle of the very solid house he built. Aerial photos from 1906 show my house still standing strong, just like it is today after another huge quake in 1989.

Carville by the Sea, circa 1906 (the year of the quake).

By 1910 Carville began to lose much of its quirky, esoteric charm as the old car-houses were either ripped down or planked over to hide their roots. At the time this was looking on as improving the community and was celebrated with fireworks, today we’d call it gentrification, followed by another much more rapid round during and after WWII. This finalized the Sunset’s present day reality as a sea of tract houses dotted with islands of apartments and small shoals of Victorian homes, leftovers of a layer of history buried below the sands of time. The fierce Pacific winds still blow non-stop, propelling sand at violent speeds into skin and against stone, threatening to consume the land that humanity has encroached upon. This ever changing yet still quirky and bohemian neighborhood is my home, and I could not ask for a better one.

If you’re still craving some more Carville history check out FoundSF and the excellent book by Woody LaBounty. For some more photos you can head over to Invisible SF.

Note: You may have noticed I took great care not to mention my address or provide any incriminating information enough to out where I live exactly. This is because I believe in practicing locational privacy. Be smart and do not give out personal info like phone numbers or addresses publicly.

I was part of a student group while at San Jose State getting my bachelors in politics called Students for Sensible Drug Policy. Schools not Prisons is their very appropriate slogan. SSDP is an international organization ran by students for the benefits of everyone, though largely focused on campus policies like passing Good Samaritan policies across the US. These Good Samaritan policies have become a central piece of drug policy reform because they make sense and save lives. In areas without a Good Samaritan policy in effect, if a 20 year old ODs on alcohol in their dorm at school there are strong punitive measures in place to punish anyone who would call 911 to save their life. If 911 is called that 21 year old may face being thrown out of school, any dorm-mate over 21 risks jail-time for assisting the corruption of a minor even if they didn’t provide the booze, in fact everyone present can potentially be found guilty of something. This means usually ODs aren’t called in and people die who shouldn’t, these are 100% preventable deaths and Good Samaritan policies are a way to do that.

As awesome as Good Samaritan policies are that isn’t the point of this blog and I don’t mean to belabor that point because SSDP does tons of amazing things. You know how cannabis was legalized in Colorado? That was us, not totally but we sure helped a ton and a former advocacy director for the campaign, Betty Aldworth, is about to be SSDP’s new executive director. The Colorado success built upon SSDP’s experience supporting the Prop 19 campaign in California two years prior, which was a valuable learning process for all involved even though we only got 46% of the vote.

The point of  this blog is one of charity. This great organization, who has tirelessly worked to improve human rights by ending the drug war, needs our help. SSDP depends in part on government funding and a $100,000 grant they rely on did not come through this year leaving a huge hole in their budget. I am already giving to them monthly and about to donate even more. I encourage all of you to join me in giving to this organization with an impressive track record for success.

Please go to their Indiegogo page to donate and consider becoming a monthly donor like myself.

 

For those of you just tuning into this blog I post a lot of things about drugs, mainly medical cannabis but I have and will touch on other drugs as well in time. This is a result of the context of my birth and life. I was born in the Bay Area, the child of an original hippie and the career-driven yet fun-loving college girl he re-married to. Put simply I never had a normal childhood by most people’s standards and it has only gotten stranger with time.

I decided some years back to begin writing down my experiences as a series of short stories which has grown into the skeletal outline of a novel. This novel is the product of my life living on the edge of drug culture, it is a partial autobiography, the autobiography of a facet of myself written by the amalgamated self. The book is currently under the working title of Wasted Nights and Wasted Youth, I am doubtful that will be the final title. I will be periodically posting my stories here, I hope you enjoy it.

 

Extraplanar Travel, Made Easy

Salvia Divinorum, diviner’s sage. Commonly known by only its genus, salvia, the true intrigue lay in the descriptive aspect of its name. Divination is the act of seeing a place far removed from one’s physical body. Seeing the future, astral projection, spirit quests, all of these sorts of spiritual endeavors were the domain of this herb. Salvia has a long history of spiritual use with indigenous peoples around the world. Some users claim to see a woman of light who appears to them to give them spiritual quests.

That is all irrelevant in today’s prohibitionist America, what is relevant is that salvia is legal. It’s also quite relevant that it is perhaps the most intense hallucinogenic experience a person can get crammed into ten minutes without their brain melting out their ears. On acid, you’ll see cool patterns, but you still perceive the real world. With shrooms, you may see some things that aren’t really there, and time is distorted, but it is still the real world. On salvia, you go to a completely different universe.

***

            “Ok guys, I got the salvia, are you ready to go to other worlds?” Patrick was normally a grade-A fuck up, at everything. His brain was fried; the result of a lifetime’s addiction to drugs starting before he could even walk. You couldn’t blame him for his mom, you could, on the other hand, blame him for himself. This time he did right and Roy was right to vouch for him, at least this time.

“Fuck yea man. How strong is it?” Roy was a boxer to his very core, training and a preoccupation with strength, never left his mind.

“60X, it’s pretty fucking strong man, it’s strong enough.” I’ve never understood the numbering system for salvia. It’s nice to know what the multiplier is, but it’s worthless if you don’t know the initial amount being multiplied. And if it is zero? 60X of 0 is still 0.

“Sounds good to me, let’s split it up for the four of us. Jimmy, John, how much of this are you guys going to want?”

“I’ll take a quarter.” I’d done salvia before. I didn’t hallucinate that strongly my first time, but I was told after the fact that I “didn’t do it right.” I wanted to be sure to avoid that this time around. Even though I didn’t see things I felt the high come on, like my body coming to the edge of a great cliff then falling off, plunging into a new world. I’d heard of people meeting “Her,” the woman of light, and I had always hoped it would happen for me, but in over a dozen attempts I never had any luck, perhaps today would be different.

“I’ll try a quarter as well. I’ve smoked pot before, I doubt it will be any different.” John was generally quite cynical, and skeptical of new experiences, it served to limit his world, and options in it, considerably.

Roy pulled out his small, indigo blue bong, speckled with flecks of black, patches of navy blue and wine-stained purple. I was familiar with this piece, Roy brought it everywhere with him, it was his “travel bong.” He had a whole mythology around it; he had dreamed of the bong, then it came to him one day as he was shopping for a new bong, after breaking his old one which “never felt right.” Regardless, it was a very cool piece.

We all took our hit in turn; with salvia you smoke an entire bowl to get high in a short period of time. Patrick insisted he got to go first, as he went out to get the stuff and paid for it. Roy corrected him that he paid for it; Patrick, “hadn’t paid for shit, but ladies go first.” We all got a good laugh at this, expect Patrick, who mumbled “whatever,” and greedily took his hit. Roy went next, as he paid for it, it seemed only fair. I left John go ahead of me, so that I would still be sober to babysit the three of them. It would have been nice if someone had thought of that before it was too late and defaulted to me. Normally I may have cared, but watching someone trip out on salvia is pretty fucking hilarious. After they came back to earth, and had their feet firmly on the ground, I took my turn.

***

            One of the nice things about salvia is that you are not out long. With shrooms you might be gone a few hours, perhaps a little longer if you’re on acid, but with salvia you’re only off in space for about ten minutes. This is enough time for a thoroughly enlightening headtrip, as I had just learned, but we’ll get to that in a second. Salvia also has a halo, which lingers for almost half an hour, where you can get aftershocks from the trip and everything has a slight glow to it. Once we were all firmly on the ground again, the real fun began, sharing our journeys with the others.

Patrick claimed he went to the South Park universe, like from the TV show. He was transported right into Mr. Garrison’s classroom, which was being visited by the schools nagging guidance counselor, Mr. Mackey. Patrick had done something which was “not okay, mmkay,” and receiving the full brunt of Mackey-vellian wrath. Even Cartman and the boys had to chip in that Patrick was being a “douchebag.” This was the point where the trip shifted gears and every person became a key on the grandest of pianos which was reality. Patrick was now the sole host to this bizarre concert in his mind, which continued to judge and reprimand him.

One thing can be said of salvia, and all hallucinogens, your state of mind when setting out on your journey can radically alter your course and ultimate destination. The same can really be said of all journeys in life though. What I saw of this while sober was very different, Patrick was pretty much just rolling around on the floor like he was very drunk and mumbling to himself.

Roy said he went to the Super Mario Brothers universe. It began with the couch in front of his eyes compressing to become the two dimensional backdrop of the video game level, the trees and floating platforms that made up the scenery. Then Roy appeared, as a little Mario jumping through the air, grabbing coins and hopping on koopa troopas. He was now viewing himself from a third person camera angle, in other words from outside his own body; out of body feelings are common with hallucinogens and to be embraced. Roy, as a boxer, rolled with the proverbial punches, and dodged a giant bullet while grabbing a fire power up. He was well on his way to saving Princess Peach from the evil Bowser.

Roy was extremely entertaining to watch. He took on a very 2-D shape, like a man in a running position with one leg straight and one bent, and his arms crooked out to his sides. He then hopped in place a few times; I am assuming this was when “Mario” was jumping. The only audible thing he said was “It’s like this,” then he spun in a circle counterclockwise. I couldn’t tell if he had saved the princess or if she was in another castle. He was pouring sweat, and had turned bright red; for some people salvia is a very physical trip, this is why having a babysitter is a good policy for safety. Roy felt a force pulling him counterclockwise throughout his halo; he actually spun a few more times just to mitigate his urge.

Out of the four of us, John was the only one that definitively had a bad trip. He went to a universe where everything around him was fractured into millions of faces. Even the faces were made of faces, and they were all laughing at him. And he saw himself laughing with them; as I saw him sitting there next to me, laughing like a madman. He described it like, “life had been reduced to being one big joke and I was the punchline.” John tended to be a person riddled with social anxiety and this fully manifested in his hallucination.

My trip was something wholly different, something unlike anything I had ever experienced before. Instead of the usual journey to another universe, existing off somewhere in the murk of the multiverse, I went inside the universe of myself. Normally when a salvia trip comes on for me it feels like I get to the edge of a great precipice then suddenly plummet into a new world. Right now it felt like I was riding on an old wooden roller coaster, the kind that always begin with a steep incline up followed by an anticipatory plunge. While I was still slightly cognizant I heard myself exclaim, “I’m tripping balls!” Though it probably sounded more like, “Yiam Tryppy Blals.”

I found myself in the kitchen of the house I lived in while growing up in my transformative years, elementary through high school; up till my parents’ separation. I was sitting at the kitchen table with Roy, John, and a couple other good friends from that time of my life. We were all drinking coffee, out of identical mugs. I had the distinct impression that the cups were new, and the coffee maker was new; in fact many things in the house were out of place from my memories of the house. Then my dog ran into the room followed by my mom.

“Okay everyone, it’s time,” my mom said. At which point everyone at the table stood up, except me. I was bewildered, I didn’t know what it was time for or what was going on.

I stood up and said, “What’s it time for Mom?” No sooner had the words left my lips when everything in the room, every individual object, split into two people, a man and a woman back to back, wearing hunter green sweaters and khaki pants. The table, the coffee mugs, every spoon, even the dog, bifurcated into two weaselly looking glasses wearing strangers. It didn’t stop there, I looked up at the corner of the kitchen, where two walls met the ceiling, and I saw the walls split apart like a movie sound stage, exposing the vibrant blue screen glow behind.

The weasel people grabbed me and the others, and took us ‘off set’ to a backstage area. In this backstage area there was a sea of red shopping carts, all filled with different colored paint. While paint would normally be pouring out all over through the sides of the cart, this was a drug trip so things like logic and physics need not apply. The weasels plopped us all into empty shopping carts. I looked around me and saw that all the carts were full of people, and they were all people I knew from those transformative years of my life. I saw Roy and John’s parents, my own parents, all my school acquaintances. Stranger still I saw an army of me’s, each one slightly different; clearly these were different manifestations of my own psyche.

The camera angle then panned out to a 3rd person camera angle to show me the full breadth of the shopping cart sea. What I saw was amazing; the carts were layered and formed a giant effigy of me. I had the knowledge that I, my True Self in the trip, was located at the right corner of my mouth. The corner of the mouth is a bridge point; between two types of skin, between two places that distinguish a friendly kiss from an intimate one. I am a man on a bridge, torn between two shores.

I was then back inside my own head, back in the shopping cart. I noticed there was a power cable of some sort behind me and though that it was awkwardly placed so that someone would surely trip on it and hurt themselves. I decided to exit my cart and get the cord in a better position. In the process, I accidentally hooked my foot on the cord and unplugged it.

Roy’s mom looked over at me and said, “Oh god, Jimmy what did you do?”

Then Roy, and John looked over, “Dude…”

And my mom joined the chorus, bellowing in my ears and rattling me to my core “Jimmy, then entire universe was created for this very moment, and you fucked it up!” It would seem that somehow I managed to unplug myself, or my reality, or something like that. What was made glaringly certain to me at this moment in my trip was that there was a greater Jimmy, a Jimmy lurking somewhere above my reality and my entire universe was just his drug trip. I was going to show that bastard a thing or two about destroying my reality for his drug trip.

I felt myself get sucked upwards into a great vortex, a swirling brown whirlpool drawing me up towards the greater Jimmy. The way was fraught with peril, the whole time giant hands would swing out from the walls of the vortex to bat me to the ground, where I would lay, back broken, until another me took up the fight. With each successive go I got further and further, until eventually I fought all the way back to full consciousness and merged myself, becoming the greatest Jimmy.

Or had I? Existential fear wracked my brain. Am I the greatest self? Or am I just a lesser part of a greater organism; am I just a figment of their imagination? I consoled myself that if this was the case then life was a stage and all I could do was put on the best show I could for as long as I could. I also took comfort in the realization that man is a social creature, we are all enmeshed in the greater organism that is humanity, or even more broadly in the global system that is Lifeboat Earth. Even if I die, I live on in that greater self, in the world itself.

I had gone inside my own mind, there was no doubt about that. The shopping cart sea was all of the individuals I met that have made me who I am, including different aspects of myself and archaic versions of me. I still pondered the meaning of why I am specifically the right bridge of my mouth. Another thought crossed my mind, though my mother was not made of light, perhaps I had finally met “her.” The question then is, what is my quest to be? This would take further mediation to fully comprehend.

Continuing where yesterday’s blog leftoff, here are some famous examples of stories, myths, historical and religious figures who conform to the archetype of the Hero’s Journey.

MAJOR SPOILER ALERT: The first 6 are all historical/religious but then I go on to movies/books and I’d hate to ruin a plot for you without warning you first.  Specifically, I discuss Stranger In A Strange Land, The Lord Of The Rings, and Fullmetal Alchemist.

Heracles with Cerberus.

1. Hercules/Heracles – Hercules is the Roman adaptation of the Greek hero Heracles, son of the god Zeus and a mortal woman, making him a demi-god. Heracles is most known for twelve trials he had to endure, one of which was going to the underworld to capture Hades three headed dog Cerberus. Going to the underworld of Hades is a figurative death Heracles passes through in order to best his labors and recover his sanity while achieving immortality. The purpose was not becoming immortal, that was merely a side perk, the main goal was atoning for slaughtering his children after he was driven mad by Hera.

Baby Achilles takes a bath in the River Styx.

2. Achilles – Another Greek hero, Achilles was also demigod like Hercules. Instead of being immortal like Heracles, Achilles was invulnerable to harm everywhere on his body other than his heel, creating the metaphor Achilles heel. His mother baptized him in the river Styx, the river of the underworld, which granted him immunity to harm everywhere except his heel, where she held him. Ultimately he died in the Trojan War, that grand battle to bring home the beautiful Helen of Troy to her native Sparta. Many warriors fought in this battle, some died; the cunning Odysseus, both Ajax the Great and Ajax the Lesser to name a few of the best known. Of all the many heroes mentioned in Homer’s Iliad and the Odyssey, the only one better known than Achilles is Odysseus himself who is a main character in both books. Achilles has gained eternal glory through his death for himself but more importantly for Greece.

Jesus Christ, Superstar!

3. Jesus – Jesus Christ was potentially a real person who lived in ancient Mesopotamia, born in 1 anno domini (AD). There is much dispute over whether Jesus was real or is myth, and the belief that he is the son of God. I believe he was a real man, likely not a pale Anglo white man. He was a religious philosopher of sorts and also had a stripe for politics, this won him few friends with the Romans who just loved crucifixion. Jesus preached a new way of doing things and shook things up in the social order which annoyed those in power. Jesus is said to be the son of God, the product of a miraculous birth, sent to earth to be killed to man’s sins, only to be reborn and go to Heaven. The story of Jesus is a perfect telling of the major steps in the Hero’s Journey.

Buddha under the Bodhi Tree.

4. Buddha – Buddha was a real flesh and blood man before attaining enlightenment, a prince from the Himalayan foothills named Siddhārtha Gautama. Unlike Jesus, there is no dispute about his existence, merely differences in opinion on the nature of his divinity and enlightenment. Buddha means “enlightened one,” and contrary to the beliefs of some there is not one Buddha but countless. Anyone can become a Buddha, an enlightened one, given the right environmental factors. For Siddhārtha, he needed to meditate under the sacred fig tree, now called a Bodhi tree in honor of the enlightenment achieved beneath its boughs, like a religious Sir Isaac Newton. Buddha does not physically die during his Hero’s Journey, but his ego is allowed to die. The death of the ego is a central to many Buddhist sects and The Buddha was the first to demonstrate how this can be done and why it is desirable. That was The Buddha’s glory.

President John F. Kennedy

5. John F. Kennedy – President John F. Kennedy was America’s youngest President until Obama, our first non-Protestant President, and a brilliant statesman/playboy. He was a real American hero on many levels who did a lot to advance civil rights and was an early advocate for wave-powered electricity, just to same some of his glorious exploits. He was tragically assassinated during his first term.

Reverend Martin Luther King Jr

6. Martin Luther King Jr. – Like JFK, Martin Luther King was assassinated for shaking up the present day politics. MLK and Malcolm X both occupied crucial roles in the civil rights movement, aided in a political capacity from JFK. Martin Luther King was a preacher who was instrumental to the success of the American civil rights movement, most known for his legendary I Have A Dream speech.

Rodin’s “”Caryatid Fallen Under her Stone,” a central piece of the allegory in the book, and an allegory for Mike himself.

7. Michael Valentine Smith – Mike is the main character in Stranger In A Strange Land, perhaps the most famous novel by Robert Heinlein. Mike is about as blatant a Jesus allegory as one can be without the Church coming after them for copyright infringement. A Muslim character even eludes to him being The Prophet reborn. While one can read a Jesus allegory in Stranger there is much more to the story than that. In the end of the book, Mike is martyred, not on a cross but in his own way and that is his death on the Hero’s Journey. But as anyone who has truly grokked the book knows Mike cannot really die, no one ever really dies as long as something has grokked them.

Gandalf, The Grey

8. Gandalf – In the Lord of the Rings there are several heroes who die but the one who best embodies the Hero’s Journey is the wizard Gandalf the Grey. Gandalf fights the Balrog in Morea and in the process is killed only to be reborn as the more powerful Gandalf The White. His death empowers him to further glory along his Hero’s Journey. Other heroes also die along the way, physical deaths, spiritual deaths, and perhaps even some deaths of ego.

Ed and Alphonse Elric.

9. Alphonse Elric/Edward Elric – In the anime Full Metal Alchemist both brothers experience various deaths along their journey, in both series and in the movie as well. Alphonse actually dies before the series even begins but his soul is brought back to the living world at the expense of his brother’s arm which is Ed’s first death, from there it continues until you wonder how either character keeps sane. Before all of that, the death that portends all others is that of their mother, her death is the catalyst that literally makes our heroes into the men they are destined to become.

I hope you all had a good Christmas. While I am not Christian myself I take time off for my mother’s birthday on the 24th and time with my extended family on the 25th. In case you are curious I was raised as a Nichiren Buddhist and my current spirituality is that combined with Tibetan Dzogchen Buddhism, alchemic philosophy, and smatterings of the Abrahamic faiths. Though I do not believe in Jesus as the son of God and that December 25th is his birthday, if you are a Christian, I imagine you will feel a pretty strong affinity for the sentiments in this blog regarding Jesus (this truism applies to him rather strongly).

The other day I was thinking about the phrase “the hero must die,” and how it kind of is a truism. A truism, if you didn’t know is a statement so obviously true that it needs no further explanation, though it has varying degrees of meaning. The term dates back to the early 1700’s, making it an invention of the enlightenment era.

The first truism I’m going to briefly dissect is the timeless phrase known to writers world-round, .” I cannot find an exact date for the first usage of this truism, but it is likely to be rooted in the ancient Greek’s conception of the Hero’s Journey, a story archetype. The archetype can be broken down into 8 stages, one of which is death. Though different people have different interpretations of the stages in the Hero’s Journey the death of the hero is unanimous, though it is not always a physical death. Sometimes death takes the form of other types of loss, a spiritual or economic death for example. The entire Hero’s Journey, all the death and loss, is in pursuit of what the ancient Greeks called kleos, which means glory or fame and also is the name for a song or poem that conveys glory. Kleos is “both the medium and the message of the glory of heroes.” For the ancient Greeks, the concept of glory was a very altruistic concept done for the good of the many not the good of the hero.

Stages Of The Hero’s Journey

  1. Miraculous conception and birth
  2. Initiation of the hero-child
  3. Withdrawal from family or community for preparation
  4. Trial and Quest
  5. Death
  6. Descent into the underworld
  7. Resurrection and rebirth
  8. Ascension, apotheosis, and atonement

This was originally meant to be one post but it had become large enough where I have to make it two posts. Check out the second half which profiles 9 Hero’s Journeys for you, from every age of history and many different cultures.

Elizabeth Warren, the chief watchdog of Wall Street, has warned us that the biggest banks are now even bigger than when they caused the financial collapse of 2008. The four largest have grown 30% larger and the five largest banks represent over half the market. That brings the word antitrust to my mind, but that is about as likely as world peace at this point. No, the current crop of US politicians in both major parties are far too business friendly to go for the ‘nuclear option’ of pursuing an antitrust suit against a major corporate bank. It will take some new blood to pursue new options, Elizabeth Warren being but one example.

If this November’s elections can be read as a sign of anything it is that people are fed up with austerity and they want politicians who will work for the working class. One tangible example being the election of the socialist Kshama Sawant to the Seattle city council, in a state who just legalized recreational cannabis. Washington is definitely moving in the right direction, but we will have to see how things go in a few months to really know how well the cannabis legalization is going. Another major progressive win was  the 73% landslide that road Bill de Blasio to victory as the new mayor of New York, dethroning the former king mayor Bloomberg. While we have more progressives winning in local elections we lack true progressives in the federal government. There is Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, that’s about it. There are also rumors about Elizabeth Warren running for President in 2016, which would probably the only ticket the Democrats can put forward that I’d vote for. Which is still better than the no chance the Republicans have for my vote. This may be the first Presidential race I sit out on due to a lack of interest in all candidates…it is still two years from the election though and two years is a long time.

President Obama may have been progressive in 2004 when he advocated for cannabis decriminalization and a single payer option for health care, but a decade changes a man and he is as much an establishment Democrat as Nancy Pelosi now. This can be seen best in his devolution on the issue of cannabis. Where he was once firmly in support of legalization, even being the leader of a drug gang, his support is now so weak he is willing to call commuting the sentences of drug war 8 prisoners a win for human rights. We’re talking about a man with a secret ‘kill list’, that is not the kind of progress I want our progressive movement to embrace, that is Orwellian at best and Stalinist at worst. I support much of what President Obama has done, but I oppose at least that many of his actions too. Like President George W. Bush before him Obama is a mixed bag; he wins a Nobel peace prize yet keeps a secret kill list, oversees more paramilitary raids of cannabis dispensaries than Bush and gave the go-ahead to a spy game so massive it makes Watergate look like child’s play.

You might now be asking yourself, “what should a progressive movement look like in America?” Here is what I envision it to look like and what I hope its priorities will be. I imagine it will look much like the 73% majority  that rode Bill de Blasio to victory in New York, inclusive of nearly all races, religions, and demographics conceivable. This new progressive movement will not be bound by race or religion like past political movements; it will progress beyond race to be a movement focused on results, such as raising the minimum wage federally improving the lives of millions of all races. That isn’t to say this new progressive movement will be colorblind, if anything it will be more sensitive to the factors that make us up than any former movement and it will fight for our right to be ourselves, whatever that self may be. This new progressive movement will work to progress gender equality and end de jure and de facto discrimination against gender non-conforming people. Tied in with gender equality is equality for all sexual expressions and sexes. Simply put, this new progressive movement should fight to advance the progress of as many people as possible, especially those  who are presently disadvantaged.

This movement is likely to include some uncommon alliances, like one we may now be seeing between the drug policy reform/drug legalization movements and gun rights advocates. There also is a clear synergy between the drug legalization/prison reform movement and the effort to provide more funding to our schools (here is a protest to save public education, here is one for drug policy reform, notice the similarities?). The reason for the natural alliance between education and prison reform is illustrated beautifully by this drawing.

School-to-Prison-Illustration

As schools are robbed of funding the quality of educational environment plummets, leading to more crime down the road when people resort to crime to pay the bills  their abysmal education cannot. This is a self-perpetuating downward spiral that can very easily be reversed with more people flooding into schools instead of prisons. This would also free up billions of dollars a year in federal and state budgets due to less policing of non-crimes like possession of cannabis.