Monday, June 25, 2012

Seminal songs in my life

I wrote this a few months ago. I was watching That Metal Show. I'd never seen it before, but it was interesting to see people from the bands of my past on the show. Metal, Hard rock, all the bands I listened to, I never saw them in interviews. Sometimes, in an interview in text in a rock mag maybe but not live on a talk show. Weird.

But it was fun. And it got me to thinking, and searching. I hit YouTube. I looked some bands up.

First Corey Taylor of Slipnot fame said he wishes some people would just stop making what they call music, just because your dad is somebody doesn't mean you should put out the kind of junk you turn out. That led me to looking up Rebecca Black. From there I checked out Slipnot (I know the band, just wanted to refresh my memory), which lead me to other bands of the type, to other bands of a related time, and so on, until I hit Marilyn Manson, then a song cover called Personal Jesus, by him. I remember when the original came out by Depeche Mode. Then found it by Johnny Cash.

Johnny lead me to stumble upon Gang of Four and a new album. That was refreshing. And it lead me to see a video by Chairlift called Amanaemonesia, which was beautiful and scary, in a weird way.

That led me somehow to the band, Japan with members David Sylvian, keyboardist Richard Barbieri, bassist Mick Karn, Sylvian's brother Steve Jansen as drummer and a later addition to the band with guitarist Rob Dean. Japan started up as a group of friends, who all studied at the same school (apart from Dean). I have Japan's video "Oil on Canvas" which is one of my favorite video concerts of all time.

That made me reflect on other bands from the 80s; then from, whenever. And I started to think, what songs were epic in my mind, what do I remember when I think back? What sticks out? What changed me? What did I listen to so much it burned into my brain?

So, here's my list.

First there were the first songs I knew. Those were from my mother who had some 45RPMs which she played when I was a kid. Every so often she'd pull them out and play them. Over the years I got sick of hearing them. Then, decades later, I found myself somewhat nostalgic about them.
  • Hang down your head, Tom Dooley
  • Cool, Clear Water
  • The Bamboo Shack
  • Hawaiian Wedding Song
  • Cindy's Birthday (by Johnny Crawford from The Rifleman (my sister's name was Cindy))
Then came the songs I later chose.

My first album was Ian Whitcomb, "You Turn Me On" which I got from my older brother's singer, Tom Owens, from their band, The Barons. I had found a High School graduation ring in the dirt and my Grandmother said I should take it to the local corner store (which was in the middle of the block and literally about 200 sq feet. The man said he would hold it for thirty days in case someone asked about it (I found it outside his store). He said if no one claims it, it's mine. Thirty days later no one had claimed it and, it was mine.

My brother later had to change the name of his band to, Cindy and the Barons, when they found there were already two other bands in Tacoma called, The Barons. So they added my older sister, who was fourteen, to play keyboards. She looked good and played well. I thought it was pretty cool, my older brother and sister had a band. My younger brother and I would try to listen to Batman on TV, then other shows on Thursday nights until 10PM. The band practiced in our Dinning room and the entire neighborhood would come out of their houses to hear the band, so they must have been pretty good.

So, "You Turn Me On", was the first song I owned. I was also into classical music and the new synthesizer stuff. I had a Reader's Digest form of Classical music, multiple vinyl discs with many, many composers and pieces of music on it.

There was Walter (later Wendy) Carlos, with at the time, his, "Switched on Bach" album.

Morton Subotnik's "Wild Bull" synth composition was and still is, brilliant. I had also picked up some experimental music which I cannot now find anywhere but it was fascinating stuff.

Then there were the pop songs: Jackson Five (so many songs), The Cowsills (Hair), The Partridge Family (and their show, loved them, hated The Brady Bunch; also, loved Addams Family, AND The Munsters but not as much as Addams which rocked).

Later my older brother traveled and left his record collection with me, so suddenly I had albums in my possession to listen to at any time by: The Rolling Stones, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Frank Zappa, Music from Big Pink (The Band), Simon and Garfunkle, the Beatles, and on and on. So I got a musical education that none of my friends got.

My first consciously purchased record was an important album for me, Black Sabbath's self titled, Black Sabbath. Magical. I spent a week listening to it on codeine while I had a bad case of bronchitis and was in bed for a solid week reading, Dune, by Frank Herbert. Amazing week.

After that came High School and music was really a big part of my life, as it is with many young people. Especially when I got a car just before 12th grade started. So I'm going to try to remember what songs, artists and albums really affected my life back then by trying to simply remember what I can remember; being a good indicator as they had burned into my mind.

And so here it comes....
  • Led Zepplin, yes the band, there IS no one song.  (Huge Influence)
  • Deep Purple, Smoke on the Water, Highway Star, so many others, Machine Head album mostly
  • Three Dog Night - many
  • Elton John (his first few albums)
  • Cat Stevens (his first few albums)
  • Gordon Lightfoot (Sundown and later The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald)
  • Jonathan Edwards (Sunshine)
  • Alice Cooper, "I'm 18", and "Dead Babies"
  • Country Joe and the Fish "Give me an F"
  • Heart - many songs
  • Chicago "Saturday in the park"
  • The Tea Set (Ma Belle Amie)
  • Simon and Garfunkle (Huge Influence)
  • Paul Simon
  • Jethro Tull
  • Donovan (everything he did, I had the biggest album collection of his that I ever ran into)  (Huge Influence)
  • King Crimson
  • David Bowie
  • Black Sabbath
  • Pink Floyd (Huge Influence)
So those are the ones that I can remember that affected my life and ended up being included on the journey through my life with me. Some produced songs that were "our song" for relationships I was in, some marked events, some kept me sane, some kept me partying. But all were great songs to me.

I sold all my vinyl albums during a summer while I worked at the old Tacoma Tower Records store. The one that was down by the old Ross store on 38th street, not the newer one also now gone, by the Tacoma Mall entrance intersection. I had thought CDs were going to wipe out the value of vinyl, much like I got stuck with 8 tracks when cassettes arrived. But vinyl wasn't 8 track. Later I also had Laser Video Discs and sold all of them too, but I kept one as a memento.

Now I wish I hadn't sold my albums but I had a great amount of fun with Mikey as we spent the summer being dealers together at the record conventions. Years later I stopped by a record con in Seattle at the Seattle Center and found a dealer that had a bunch of my old Donovan albums. MY exact albums I used to own, not just similar albums. I had to smile and since I had no money at the time, I just moved on. I would liked to have bought them back, though. But I now have them in their digital format, so that's something. Though not quite the same, is it?

So there it is, that's some of my experience. Give it a thought. What songs can you remember without looking any up, that must have affected you, if you can still remember them now?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Marry for Love, or by Design?

I was just thinking about marriage. To be specific, arranged marriage. I've spoken to more than a few people who have lived that life. I know some East Indians who have arranged marriages and they seem very happy. Many of them said they have been married long and without much contention.

When I think of marriages I've known, there always seems to be a lot of contention. I always thought it was because of the Western Attitude. But I've spoken to Asian women who said they would do anything to avoid a man of their culture, saying that they aren't treated that well. I don't know. The Asian women I have dated were very happy with me and said they liked Western men.
The Western marriages I've known have almost all ended in divorce, many after not even that long, five or ten, ten or fifteen years even. But I know those of arranged marriages who say the know many who have been married all their lives, twenty years or longer and that they were happy together.

Well, maybe that is all just selling what your culture does. Or, maybe not.
When you choose to marry for love, well, love can fade; love, usually does fade. If you base your marriage on love, especially the kind of love you have in the beginning of a relationship, you are basing it on something that is eventually going to be much less than it is at the point of marriage.

But if you marry because it was ordained, you enter into that relationship with a different kind of orientation, a different type of expectation. A much lower expectation, I'll warrant, and over the years, because of proximity, perhaps simply politeness, or kindness, you may grow to love them. But not with a hot, short lived infatuation, or perhaps a lustful love. But perhaps a deeper love that grows from familiarity, respect, experience, and time.

I always thought arranged marraiges were bad, evil, horrible things. But in talking to those who have lived it, who have friends and family who have grown up with it, and in having seen a little of the research and statisitcs, I'm not so self-assured any longer.

And it made me wonder. Or at least, it made me realize something.

Basing a marriage on love alone, really isn't enough. You need more. In fact, you need all you can get. So, even if you don't want to go the route of arranged marriage, give a little thought to the reasons those types of relationships have worked, and why the Love based on seems to fail so much. And maybe, just perhaps, you can have find your way into a more solid marriage, one that you would want to have.

It's something to think about.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

LSD doesn't kill people. But Ergot fungus can

Ergot fungus, what LSD is made from, has killed people over the centuries. It grows on Rye and it prevalent in very wet, rainy seasons. If it gets into the food supply, typically through bread type food, it can cause hallucinations. It starts with heartburn, stomach cramps and fever chills, move into hallucinations and end in death or severe damage to the intestinal tract.

A few decades ago, I read a Life magazine article about a French town, Pont St. Esprit, that had allegedly and inadvertently eaten the Ergot fungus and had purportedly gotten into the towns bread supply.
Art by Marvin Hayes
It was an interesting tale. It told of one person who didn't feel well and tried to ride his bike home and didn't make it, of a little girl at home who saw blood dripping from the ceiling in her bedroom (not unusual, the blood motif), and others who had what was to them, horrible hallucinations. However, the Life article did not go into the detail I am hearing now. It was more like a lark in the spring, or a scary nightmare. But people died.

Recently however, it has been alleged that it may have been done by the CIA. The Life article said this happens there about once every 50 years, as I remember it. I suspect myself however that it actually was ergot fungus poisoning.

LSD is made from, among other things, Ergot fungus that grows on Rye wheat. It can also be found naturally in things like Morning Glory seeds, and Baby Hawaiian Woodrose seeds. Ergot has been used in migraine headache medicine now for decades.

I could not find the Life Magazine article that I had read in the 1970s and I do not know what year the magazine was from though it looked rather new. However, I did find information on it in a wikipedia article and the new show on Science channel, "Dark Matter: Twisted but True", with actor John Noble as its host. He plays "Walter" the spaced out Brilliant Scientist on "Fringe" who had been involved in every dark project ever done, it would seem, before he was put into an asylum [don't get me wrong, I love that show and I'm sure Anna Torv has nothing to do with it, or her alternate character from the other, "Earth"].

I did however, find an article from Time Magazine from Monday, September 10, 1951. The article said that it started with a few calls about intestinal and fever issues. It grew quickly, within hours the town's homes were being turned into virtual mini hospitals.

At that point, says the article:
"That night the first man died in convulsions. Later, two men who had seemed to be recovering dashed through the narrow streets shouting that enemies were after them. A small boy tried to throttle his mother. Gendarmes went from house to house, collecting pieces of the deadly bread to be sent to Marseille for analysis. Among the stricken, delirium rose: patients thrashed wildly on their beds, screaming that red flowers were blossoming from their bodies, that their heads had turned to molten lead. Pont-Saint-Esprit's hospital reported four attempts at suicide."

Read more:,9171,815355,00.html#ixzz1ZZFVj1tn

That article ends with:

"In the Middle Ages, growing uncontrolled in wet summers, ergot was no such helpful friend. The disease was called "St. Anthony's Fire," and raged periodically through Europe. Monastic chroniclers wrote of agonizing burning sensations, of feet and hands blackened like charcoal, of vomiting, convulsions and death. Whole villages were driven mad. That, in effect, was what had happened to Pont-Saint-Esprit in 1951."

According to the Wikipedia article on it:

"In his 2009 book, A Terrible Mistake, journalist Hank P. Albarelli Jr alleges that the CIA tested the use of LSD on the population of Pont-Saint-Esprit as part of its MKULTRA biological weapons program and that Frank Olson's involvement in and knowledge of the operation is linked to his suspicious death. Albarelli says he has found a top secret report issued in 1949 by the research director of the Edgewood Arsenal, where many US government LSD experiments were carried out, which states that the army should do everything possible to launch "field experiments" using the drug.

"Using Freedom of Information legislation, he also got hold of another CIA report from 1954. In it a representative from a Swiss chemical company, Sandoz Chemicals, which was close to Pont-Saint-Esprit and produced LSD is reported to have said, "The Pont-Saint-Esprit 'secret' is that it was not the bread at all... It was not grain ergot." According to Albarelli's thesis, the Pont-Saint-Esprit incident was intended as a precursor to a similar experiment scheduled to take place in the New York City subway system. Albarelli states that Sandoz Laboratories was covertly producing LSD for the CIA at the time and that Sandoz scientists falsely pointed the finger at ergot or mercury.

"Steven Kaplan has dismissed Albarelli's claims as conspiracy theory. Kaplan criticized the theory as inconsistent with both the event's timeline and the clinical manifestations of the poisoning, calling media coverage of Albarelli's book ethically dubious. Kaplan claimed that the CIA's interest in the incident was neither a surprise nor a secret, and that Project MKULTRA would have had little interest in conducting uncontrolled experiments.

"Kaplan's critics counter that uncontrolled experiments were the norm under the CIA's MKULTRA program.

"On 23 August 2010, UK's BBC Radio 4 broadcast an investigation by journalist Mike Thompson in which residents of the town, Albarelli, and multiple academics, were all interviewed. Thompson's piece covered the victims' experiences, their treatment at the time, the similarities and differences between ergot and LSD, the feasibility of overseas CIA trials, documentary evidence that 'field trials' had been recommended and that Pont Saint Esprit operative Frank Olson had been mentioned in Whitehouse documents with instructions to "bury" the information. After becoming aware of Albarelli's investigation, an 87 year old resident volunteered information that she and a local doctor believed that ergot could not have been the cause. Their view was based upon the doctor's fingertip-only contact with the contaminant, which allegedly resulted in three days' difficulty in speaking. Since LSD is destroyed at baking temperatures, Albarelli posited that the LSD may have been added to the bread after baking."

When examining the published account of the symptoms in the British Medical Journal from September 15, 1951, it does not sound like LSD at all, but rather Ergot poisoning. Ergot is a kind of fungus, like a mushroom.

LSD does not cause extremities to turn black, does not give you intestinal damage, or kill you. As far as I know, the only recorded incidence of direct death from LSD ingestion was an elephant. As was once typical, they would give an elephant LSD to initiate its procreative tendencies. The individuals performing the procedure miscalculated the amount to give the subject and rather than weigh out an appropriate ratio for the elephant's brain weight, calculated instead its body weight and once it was administered, the subject rolled over and died, its brain effectively "fried".

LSD doesn't directly kill you. But Ergot, can.

I can speak from experience that LSD does not give the kids of effects indicated in the medical journals that these people experienced in that poor affected township in France. However, in ingesting hallucinagenic fungus, you certainly can get a range of those symptoms as described in the medical journals at the time and if it is the wrong kind of fungus (i.e., not a good digestible type), you very well could see intestinal damage, hemorrhaging in pregnant women, or death.

If the CIA did indeed give LSD to this village, then they would have had to include the Ergot fungus, perhaps as a cover. It's been reported that LSD, through the baking process, would destroy it. Then I'm not sure how the Ergot has affected people all these centuries, with other than the physical ailments described. Unless it is by the flour being around the breads that were cooked. Reportedly, in some instances not much bread was ingested for the affects to be seen. At this point, that is rather hard to know.

But in looking at the gross affect, we can deduce that Ergot was definitely involved. Whether the CIA was involved, no one can say. Although, Albarelli has claimed to have found CIA documents indicating as much, as well as an alleged plot to affect subways in New York City.

The CIA's project MKULTRA has been documented as having done some very strange things. But I have my doubts as to whether this incident was one of them. If it was, the experiment was so flawed and defective in its execution that its results would have been far less than useful in any productive way and border only on the criminal and deranged.

Monday, June 11, 2012

How much would you pay to talk to Spock, back in the day?

My cousin Sheryl turned me on to the JRR Tolkiin's, The Hobbit when I was in 10th grade. She went to another school and was a year behind me, separated by three months in our ages. I read it, and not surprisingly, I loved it!

Then I read LOR, Lord of the Rings. I didn’t so much love it as I had expected Bilbo, not this jerk nephew of his, Frodo. Also, the writing was different. It was harsher, more grown up; it wasn’t a cute kids tale anymore. People died! Important people.

It was hard starting The Hobbit, too. I should admit that. It was too much like a little kids tale. But it grows on you. But by the end of the first book I was a fan of the trilogy. In fact, I because a Tolkien-phile. I read everything of his I could get my hands on. I looked him up. To this day I have a collector's edition of the Trilogy with a hand written page in them indicating all of Tolkein's awards and academic achievements.

But what does this have to do with Spock?

For years, I thought trilogy was pronounced triology. The only other mistake of that magnitued I made back then was that I thought Leonard Nimoy's name was Nimory. What a mental midget.

A few years before I read the Trilogy, my little brother by five years, Kim, and I got to talk to Nimoy when he and Shatner were in Seattle for the Jerry Lewis Telethon in the late 60s. We wanted to talk to Capt. Kirk. He was after all, "The Man" (or "The Captain" if you prefer). And so we waited on the phone for forty minutes! It was long distance and my brother and I, both breathless, and our mom, all waited on different phone extensions.

Finally the phone guy who answered the phone at the Telethon said, "You know, Mr. Shatner is just too much in demand. It's going to be hard to get him online. Everyone wants to talk to him. Would you like to talk to  Leonard Nimoy, Spock", instead?"

Our mom, knowing this was costing us maybe as much as the little she was going to pledge, convinced us to talk to Nimoy. We were a bit crushed. We said okay, but we were a bit disappointed. Then we realized, were going to get to talk to Spock!

So he gets on the phone and says, "Hello boys, how are you doing?"

I'll never forget it. That Nimoy/Spock voice. Amazing. We were on the phone with Spock! Hearing his voice locked up our own voice/brain/life and no one said a word. Finally our Mom said, "I think the boys are in shock. Say something boys. Mr. Nimoy is busy. Talk to him."

Nimoy just chuckled. I'm sure he was used to it by now. So he just stated talking, getting us finally to and tentatively speak to him. We talked to him for a few minutes and then he thanked us for our pledge and mom talked to him for a second; and then... it was over.

Later, when we got the phone bill, our mom almost had a heart attack. She said maybe there is a way around this. So she called the phone company and complained at there being a forty minute long-distance bill to the Telethon.

She called the phone company and reasoned with them, "Why in the world would we call and talk for forty minutes when all we were doing was to  call to make a quick pledge"

That sounded rational to the operator. So they removed the charge from the bill and we got a free forty minute phone call to Seattle to talk to Spock, for free. She thought that was cooler than our getting to talk to Leonard Nimoy and would mention it from time to time. She had gotten one over on "Ma Bell"!

Later we were pretty proud of ourselves too, as by the end of the series, Spock had somehow become the hero and we wanted to see him in every scene. Kirk was still cool too, though. But from what he has said, Spock becoming so popular annoyed him too. As he put it, he was hired to be the star, not Nimoy! But Kirk would always be my screen dad. I had a few of those back then. But where Kirk was a surrogate father figure, as he was for the entire crew of the Enterprise, Spock was my surrogate. I wanted to be Spock, to be like him. Emotionless, analytical.

It was some years later when my mom, annoyed with something I said, as I was being cool, detached and calculating, and probably accurate, she said: "You think like a machine. It's like talking to, to... Spock, or something."

I was so proud.

In later years however, after the military, while I was getting a degree in Psychology, I realized being emotionless wasn't all it was cracked up to be. "Bones", Dr. McCoy on Star Trek, had a point, as did Kirk in their arguments with Spock. And it was something that Spock noticed on screen, too. Human emotions, when handled properly, went a long way toward making good decisions, in addition to being strickly analytical.

And so I came up with my belief that I needed to follow my mind, but allow that to be governed by my heart. To follow only one, or the other, has landed me in problems time and time again. But a proper consideration by both, always seemed to give me the best answer to my problems.

Well, to wrap this all up, I will end this article with this, also from 1968, Leonard Nimoy doing:

"The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins".

"Live long, and prosper."

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Update: $10,000 from Amazon Studios?

A while back I was considering submitting a screenplay or two, to Amazon Studios. But then I read some very negative things about them and decided not to submit anything to them. Not until they got their act together and became more screenwriter friendly. However as of April of this year, they seem to have made some changes that altered my view on them.

These two articles by Mark Violi helped to clarify things and I thought you might find them useful if you are considering AS. His Part One and Part Two articles on Amazon Studios, gleamed from his own experiences in submitting to them, has given us some insight to AS in both their old and knew format.

So now I am thinking about submitting something. Maybe a couple of somethings. They lock you up for forty-five days if you submit something. I have a couple of screenplays now with, on their site and in their catalog that goes out to studios, producers, etc. I'm not much of one for "pitching" a concept or film to anyone so I'm at a disadvantage to those other extroverts out there who are into it. The concept of having to "pitch" to someone, just annoys the crap out of me. I would much prefer to simply write.

But this has been an issue for some years now. If you want to be a writer, you can't just be a writer anymore. Now you have to become that extrovert. You have to meet the public, pitch to producers, becomes exactly what most writers aren't, public figures. We tend to write in quiet secluded environments where we feel most creative. But then when you have finished a project, you seem to need to be ripped from the womb to be put into the public domain and abuse arena. Yay! Lucky us.

Of course there will always be the exceptions to the rule, but you'd probably better be some kind of idiot savant, or literary genius for people to put up with that kind of reclusive behavior.

I've also over the years, submitted my works to other sites, Ben Afflack and Matt Damon's Project Greenlight, and Kevin Spacey's, where you are being evaluated by your peers in a quid pro quo situation. You review others' screenplays and they do yours. But I spent an entire year rewriting my Ahriman screenplay nine times and finally quit because I realized that I had gotten so far beyond the original mark / concept that I was shooting for, that I needed to go back to the basics. It was such a shock of realization after so much work, that I didn't write much for two years after that. So be careful about peer reviews from peers who aren't already professionals and actively in the biz.

After that, I'm a bit careful about signing up to any of these things. Even though I monitor the free newsletter from it still took me years to publish on them, just to see what happens and not really expecting much more than the experience. For that so far, it's been entertaining.

I've been on for years and have gotten more from their free posting then from any other site. Because of my being listed on their free site, I have gotten two screenplay adaptation gigs (Dark of kNight and Sealed in Lies), and because of that connection I have gotten into two Horror anthologies in 2010 for charity (The Undead Nation Anthology for Cancer Research and Rhonny Reaper's Creature Features for Diabetes Research), ended up getting a few ebooks out (the popular and free on Smashwords, the popular and free ebook Simon's Beautiful Thought, Andrew, a novella that sets the stage for my first real book) and two books of my own published (Anthology of Evil a collection of my short Horror fiction, and my first real book and latest endeavor, Death of Heaven). The paperbacks are also available in ebook formats on Amazon and Smashwords.

So now I should consider submitting something to Amazon Studios. Right? The consideration of a $10,000 option extension payment that those on the Development side get, is worth at least considering. Of course getting that is a far cry from simply posting your screenplay on there. Still, if you are considering it, give Mark's blog a read through and then make up your own mind. But before you do....

[Update June 5, 2012] Before you run off to submit your screenplay to Amazon Studios, check out this blog piece by John August called, "Amazon Studios and the Free Option", that I just ran across from June 1, 2012. He's referring to Chip Street's article where he decides not to take the Amazon deal: "Amazon Studios and the Free Option".

So there we are, back in the morass of digital confusion and possibly obfuscation. If you do decide to submit, well, best of luck to you! For me now, I may find that my procrastination in putting things off may have been a lucky break. Or maybe not. How much do the issues that John and Chip really matter to a new screenwriter? If Amazon even mentions your name in connection with the videos J & C refer to, maybe that makes it worth it to you; if Amazon does, mention your name that is.

The point here isn't that you should submit or that you shouldn't submit. Rather it is that you do or don't with an informed decision, before you act (or don't act). All I can do is offer the information and wish you, the best of luck.[End update]