Category: Books

Recontextualized: Set and Setting

Bill Willingham’s Fables is a whimsical comic series about fairytale characters, set in grimy New York City. Ichabod Crane is Mayor, Beauty and the Beast have marital issues, and the Big Bad Wolf is reformed and the Sheriff. There is a hidden farm in upstate New York for Fables characters unable to blend into “normal” society. The now defunct Telltale Tales game company produced an excellent game based on the series called The Wolf Among Us. It is available on iOS and most other platforms. There are impressive female protagonists. You can read many of the comics online here.

Book: Review of the “first textbook on psychedelic research”

David Wilder of Think Wilder reviews an advance copy of the self-published research textbook Medical Psychedelics by Dr. Oliver Rimle Hovmand. Wilder’s video review is posted below and is ~9 minutes long, and his written review is here. If you haven’t heard of David Wilder, he is a sharp and intellectual blogger focusing on psychedelics and self-exploration and he releases a “weekly psychoactive recap” called “This Week in Psychedelics.”

Immersive: Participate in the world

I don’t have much time to post today due to camping trip prep, but I wanted to suggest No Proscenium which bills itself as “the guide to everything immersive”, from dinner theater to escape rooms to site-specific dance.

I’ll write more about this later, but I suggest you sign up for their monthly email list of events across the North America. And immerse.

Episodic: Whale tales

Moby-Dick is the great American novel. But it is also the great unread American novel. Sprawling, magnificent, deliriously digressive, it stands over and above all other works of fiction, since it is barely a work of fiction itself. Rather, it is an explosive exposition of one man’s investigation into the world of the whale, and the way humans have related to it. Yet it is so much more than that. It is a representation of evil incarnate in an animal – and the utter perfidy of that notion. Of a nature transgressed and transgressive – and of one man’s demonic pursuit, a metaphorical crusade that even now is a shorthand for overweening ambition and delusion.

The Arts Institute, University of Plymouth, UK

Two Moby Dick things here: First, the University of Plymouth released all 135 chapters available online for free, each read by a different narrator. They are super well done (with delicious British accents!) and I’ve begun eating my way through this tome, one chapter a night before bed. They are available through a podcast feed, Spotify, Soundcloud, Apple Music, and streaming it through this website.

Thing two: I love when humans are creatively obsessive about anything, when they jump all the way into their passions, often for absurd reasons. In 2009, artist Matt Kish illustrated his experience of the first page of Moby Dick. He kept going for 552 straits days. In 2011 he compiled it into a book fantastic accompaniment to the audio book mentioned above: Moby Dick in Pictures.

Page 402
Page 131
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Acidic: A bio about a garage chemist who helped turn millions on to LSD

I’m obsessed with biographies about the influencers and shakers of the 60s counterculture, the people who actively challenged American culture’s stifling status quo and aimed towards a reality completely different. Primary goals were to live free, to protest war and injustice and to focus on self and community love in a more aware, intentional way. The long-term effects can be observed around us today, including some of the origins of: vegetarianism, yoga, environmentalism, anti-racism, meditation, rave music, ethnic studies and LGBTQ scholastic departments, music festivals, Burning Man, feminism, liberated sexuality, and even the internet.

As for the living out loud piece, Augustus Owsley — also known as “Bear” — did this to a superlative and moshed to his own drum beat. In many ways he was a DaVinci of the movement, a self-learned garage chemist synthesizing (with the help of skillful lovers and friends) millions of hits of high quality LSD, he created the Grateful Dead’s Wall of Sound revolutionary speaker arrangement, he helped design the dancing bear logo, he was responsible for soundboard recordings of the Dead and other Bay-area musicians of the time, he ate only meat for most of his life, he became a jeweler towards the end, he was arrested over and over. His over-confident alpha-style personality frustrated many and caused many conflicts, but he kept moving forward. He eventually met the love of his life and the two retired to Australia on a large tract of rural land.

Bear’s story and impact is mythical, bigger than life and worth reading. Greenfield’s book Bear: The Life and Times of Augustus Owsley Stanley III is worth your while; I listened to the audio and enjoyed the well-told narration of Bear’s wild adventures and foibles.

Owsley’s high octane rocket fuel enabled Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters to put on the Acid Tests. It also powered much of what happened on stage at Monterey Pop. Owsley turned on Pete Townshend of The Who and Jimi Hendrix. The shipment of LSD that Owsley sent John Lennon resulted in The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour album and film.

robert greenfield

Super: Madman, the comic

Mike Aldred’s Madman supported my sanity during my high school years and still feels fresh these days. I’ll let an Amazon review by user Golly Great describe it better than I can:

“Mike Allred’s series Madman is a bizarre pop culture cocktail. Madman pulls influence from superhero comics, B-grade science fiction films from the 50’s and 60’s and metaphysical philosophy. What you’ll find is something delightfully off-the-wall. The main character is Frank Einstein, a sort of modern Frankenstein’s monster with few memories of his previous life. His state as a reanimated human makes him a bit insecure, so he wears the costume of his favorite childhood hero, and pursues the meaning of his existence in this form. In his adventures, he runs across mad scientists, gangsters, mutating clones, government agents, aliens and cosmic beings.”

I recommend starting with Volume 2 as the first one is a bit gory and disjointed.

Introducing Artificial Intelligence: A Graphic Guide

Half a century of research has resulted in machines capable of beating the best human chess players and humanoid robots that can interact. But can machines really think? Is the mind just a complicated computer program? Introducing Artificial Intelligence focuses on the issues behind one of science’s most difficult problems.