Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Real Wonder Woman: Meryl Streep in "Ricki and the Flash" (and everything)


So bored was I trying to watch Wonder Woman in the theatre that I came home and instead rented Ricki and the Flash (2015) starring a true Wonder Woman: Meryl Streep. Who else could, at the age of 65, play the sh@# out of a raunchy rock-and-roll mama so well. She even learned to play guitar for the role, and did all the singing.

The film teams Streep with Kevin Kline as her ex-husband Pete, in their first screen pairing since Sophie's Choice for which he, too, should have won the Oscar. Her other love interest is the impossibly cute and talented Rick Springfield, who everyone my age (including me) has been in love with since "Jesse's Girl" and Dr. Noah Drake. What inspired casting.

Unlike Wonder Woman, this movie is written by a woman, Diablo Cody (Juno) and it shows. It's got heart, and soul, and yes, a revelatory marijuana scene.

Streep's daughter Julie, played by her spittin' image Mamie Gummer, is undergoing a crisis that calls Ricki back to the family she left in the dust of her dreams. Julie bites her absentee mom's head off when she arrives, and tellingly tells her the next morning, "My therapist has had me on Effexor, and I think we need to titrate down a little bit. It's made me volatile." She also says she has, "Ambien shits from my suicide attempt. I had them on hand because I'm an insomniac."

Similar to Jane Fonda's character Grace in Peace, 
Love and Misunderstanding, Ricki asks about the marijuana she found in the fridge just at the moment when the family is about to turn in at 9 PM rather than face each other. Next thing you know, everyone's chill and listening to music, after which Streep and Kline laugh their faces off, munch out, and actually have a conversation about their troubled children. Meanwhile, insomniac Julie snoozes to an old movie on TV with Judy Holliday saying, "you know, it just smells nice." 

The bummer boom comes down the next morning in the form of the stepmom, who wants Ricki and her marijuana out of the house so that they can go back to prescription-medicating her daughter. "It's a plant," Streep scoffs. In the end, she's there when her daughter needs her, like a true shero.

Springfield, who as Greg the Guitarist is sweetly supportive in the film, wrote about getting stoned and listening to Hendrix, or spending all his money on weed and girls, in his memoir Late, Late at Night (which in 2012 was named No. 23 of "The 25 Great Rock Memoirs of All Time" by Rolling Stone). 

But back to Meryl. With the possible exception of Susan Sarandon, Streep has now played more female stoners on screen than any other actress. She portrayed Isak Dinesen in Out of Africa, passed a joint to Cher in Silkwood, sniffed some exotic plant material in Adaptation (pictured) and "poked smot" with Steve Martin in It's Complicated. Reportedly she smoked medicinal pot as a cancer patient in One True Thing.

Streep has the stones (i.e. ovaries) to stand up to the current administration, causing Tweety D. to single her out as an "overrated actress." Which may be the biggest lie he ever told.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Anita Pallenberg: "She was the catalyst"


Actress, artist and muse Anita Pallenberg has died. Pallenberg had a 12-year relationship and two children with Keith Richards, but first she dated Rolling Stone Brian Jones, after famously bringing him hashish backstage after a concert in Munich.

In her memoir Faithfull, Marianne Faithfull wrote,  "How Anita came to be with Brian is really the story of how the Stones became the Stones. She almost single-handedly engineered a cultural revolution in London by bringing together the Stones and the jeunesse dorée."

Jones reportedly mistreated her, and she and Richards were drawn to each other. They hooked up while traveling and checked into a hotel as the Count and Countess of Zigenpuss. "By the time we got to Valencia, it was summer," Richards wrote in his autobiography Life. "I still remember the smell of the orange trees in Valencia. When you get laid by Anita Pallenberg for the first time, you remember things." The next stop was Marrakesh, where band members were hanging out with Very Important Pothead Paul Bowles and Brion Gysin, who contributed the hashish fudge recipe to the Alice B. Toklas cookbook.

Anita ended up in prison overnight a drugs charge in Rome while filming Barbarella. While filming Candy based on the Terry Southern novel, co-star Marlon Brando "kidnapped her one night and read her poetry and, when that failed, tried to seduce Anita and me together," Richards wrote, adding "Later, pal."

As so often happens with power couples, forces conspired to pull them apart. When Anita was cast opposite Mick Jagger in Performance, the tongues wagged about a possible affair with a third Rolling Stone. It was during this time that she says she started using heroin. 

In 1972, Anita was arrested for marijuana in Jamaica, and the Rastas took care of her children while she was in jail. In 1977, she and Richards were arrested and charged with hashish and heroin possession in Toronto. After undergoing a painful withdrawal and facing a long sentence, Richards repented and went into rehab, including electroshock therapy, according to The Sun & The Moon & The Rolling Stones by Rich Cohen.

In his memoir Life, Richards wrote: "Anita came out of an artistic world, and she had quite a bit of talent herself—she was certainly a lover of art and pally with its contemporary practitioners and wrapped up in the pop art world." Her ancestors were painters, and she hung out with "Fellini and all those people" at the age of 16 while on scholarship to a graphic school in Rome. "Anita had a lot of style. She also had an amazing ability to put things together, to connect with people...in New York she'd connected with Warhol, the pop art world and the beat poets....She was the catalyst of so many goings-on in those days."

At one point Anita introduced the band to filmmaker Kennith Anger, who took them down the road to Aleister Crowley and satanic stuff, culminating in "Sympathy for the Devil," and forever attaching the word "witch" to Anita (who did backup vocals on the track). She also inspired the song Angie, among others, and was a fan of Timothy Leary, who visited them in France. 

Apparently Anita left behind no writings of her own. She made a memorable appearance in 2001 on the British series “Absolutely Fabulous,” playing the Devil in a fantasy sequence, alongside Marianne Faithfull, who played God. In her later years, she retired to "an allotment in Chiswick where she grew strawberries, artichokes, leeks, broad beans and enrolled in botanical drawing classes" according to The Telegraph. 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

What's Wrong with "Wonder Woman"

There can be no doubt that in the very earliest ages of human history the magical force and wonder of the female was no less a marvel than the universe itself; and this gave to woman a prodigious power, which it has been one of the chief concerns of the masculine part of the population to break, control, and employ to its own ends. —Joseph Campbell, 1964

I really wanted to like the new Wonder Woman movie, but I couldn't even sit through half of the 2 1/2 hour epic, driven away by drippy dialogue and lame characterizations.

The film is directed by a woman (Patty Jenkins), but the screenplay is by Allan Heinberg, with a story by Heinberg, Zack Snyder, and Jason Fuchs (three nonwomen). It shows. Men seldom look earlier than the Greek times, and this is in fact when "history" began. But "herstory" started long before that.

Wonder Woman first appeared in comic form in January 1942. She was said to be sculpted from clay by her mother the Amazon Queen Hippolyta, and given life by the Aphrodite, goddess of love. Later comics, and the movie, instead have the male god Zeus giving life to Diana/Wonder Woman and indeed, all of humankind.

This has significance because in the first written story of mankind, The Epic of Gilgamesh (circa 2500 BCE), it is the goddess Belet-ili (also called Aruru) who sculpts men from clay. The men then team up to chop down the cedar forest and denigrate the goddess Ishtar (who opens my book, Tokin' Women). Flash forward to the Greek play The Eumenides, wherein a man is found not guilty of matricide on the grounds that people are not related to their mothers, who merely carry men’s seed. The goddess Athena, who testifies in the play that she sprung whole from the head of Zeus and was not borne by a mother, seals the move from the old god/goddess pantheon to the new, patriarchal one.

Myth matters. As Joseph Campbell said to Bill Moyers, "If you want to change the world, you have to change the metaphor."

As revealed in Jill Lepore's book The Secret History of Wonder Woman, the character was created by the American psychologist and writer William Marston, who was inspired by early feminists, especially his psychologist wife Sadie Holloway and the birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger. Sadie, who attended Mount Hollyoke at a time when women were called Amazons for going to college, once wrote DC comics suggesting instead of "Vulcan's hammer," Wonder Woman should exclaim, "Suffering Sappho!"

In the movie, Wonder Woman sets out to destroy Ares, the god of war, and thereby end WWI. Ending war was a goal of Sanger's as well. She argued in Woman and the New Race that overpopulation is the cause of all human misery, including poverty and war. Birth control, she said, is "the real cure for war" and "love is the greatest force of the universe." Lepore writes, "Women should rule the world, Sanger and Marston and Holloway thought, because love is stronger than force."

After making an appearance as cover girl on the first edition of Ms. Magazine, Wonder Woman was objected to last year when she was named an ambassador to the United Nations. The announcement, which was attended by TV's Wonder Woman Lynda Carter and Gal Gadot of the big screen, came weeks after seven real-life women were rejected as UN Secretary General. Some men objected to a women-only screening of the film, to which New Yorker fact checker Talia Lavin tweeted about the all-male panel that's working to remove birth control options for women in the US healthcare plan.

In the movie, there's a witchy female character who concocts deadly poisons for the modern Ares, who's seen inhaling poppers in much the same way as Hitler took methamphetamine. I'm guessing, after many special effects and pyrotechnics, Wonder Woman kicks his butt (but leaves something open for a sequel).

I will say I had a little more spring in my step as I left the theatre, walking tall like a woman. It was nice that Connie Nielsen got to be a gladiator (Hippolyta) this time, and to see Princess Buttercup (Robin Wright) playing a strong character (Diana's warrior woman aunt Antiope) who isn't underhanded like Claire Underwood. I liked some of the lines like, "How do women fight in these clothes?" and "This is what passes for armor in your country?" when Diana is considering corsets and frills. But on the warrior costumes, why the codpieces?

I see on her Twitter feed that Nielsen is founder of Human Needs Project, and Road To Freedom Scholarships. Those are the kinds of battles where we need our warrior women.


Monday, May 22, 2017

Cannabis and Pregnancy During Legalization

A new review of the literature—Cannabis and pregnancy: Maternal child health implications during a period of drug policy liberalization by Katrina Mark, MD of the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at the University of Maryland and Mishka Terplan, MD MPH from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Psychiatry at Virginia Commonwealth University—has been published in the journal Preventive Medicine.

The researchers state, "There is a theoretical potential for cannabis to interfere with neurodevelopment, however human data have not identified any long-term or long lasting meaningful differences between children exposed in utero to cannabis and those not....Risks should be neither overstated nor minimized....Above all, care for pregnant women who use cannabis should be non-punitive and grounded in respect for patient autonomy."

The researchers note that "the medicinal use of cannabis for ailments of the female reproductive tract has been recorded as early as 2737 BCE and has been used for treatment of migraines, menstrual cramps, labor pains and even induction of labor."

Despite this long herstory, they cite a 2016 study by Julie Holland which found that of the 52% of healthcare providers that provided any medically related counseling to marijuana-using pregnant women, only 26% of the time was the counseling clear and evidence based, and 70% of the time was spent on punitive content such as legal implications and investigations by child protective services. Notably, African American patients were nearly 10 times more likely to receive punitive counseling.

From: Katrina Mark, Mishka Terplan, Cannabis and pregnancy:
Maternal child health implications during a period of
drug policy liberalization, Preventive Medicine (2016)
"There is ample evidence concerning the health effects of cannabis during pregnancy," the authors state, noting that over 800 human studies have been performed yearly on the topic since 2000. Also, four systematic reviews and meta-analyses (English, 1997; Metz, 2015; Gunn, 2016; Jacques, 2014) and four prospective cohorts evaluating the long term outcomes including into young adulthood (Goldschmidt, 2008; Fried, 2003; Marroun, 2016; Dreher, 1994) have been published.

"Taken together, the literature supports at best subtle and likely confounded effects," they conclude. "The evidence supports slightly lower birth weight (of unclear clinical significance), increase NICU admissions (may be biased by provider knowledge of maternal behavior), and slight effects on executive function (a finding strongly moderated by the caregiving environment)."

"It is possible if not likely that, as with alcohol, there are trimester dependent and dose dependent differences in perinatal outcomes. Additionally, different routes of consumption may have different fetal effects. With legalization of cannabis, these subtle differences may be able to be more accurately defined....it is possible that while liberalization of cannabis policy may lead to an increase in use during pregnancy, pregnant women may also be more forthcoming thereby improving dialogue and the possibility of counseling during prenatal care."

And finally, someone said it: "Many women who continue to use marijuana throughout pregnancy report that they do so because of nausea (Westfall, 2006) and perhaps this potential benefit can be further explored if its illicit status is reversed. Future research should therefore include investigation of potential benefits of cannabinoids and not simply focus on potential harms."

Sadly though, the authors state, "Although the landscape of cannabis law and policy is changing, that of child welfare has not. The Child Abuse Prevention Treatment Act directs states to assess substance-exposure at birth and provide a “plan of safe care” for infants identified (DHHS, 2010 & 2011). However states differ greatly in terms of policy."

The article cites a 2016 Guttmacher report that says 18 states define substance use, including cannabis, as child abuse. An update from Guttmacher published May 1, 2017  says that 24 states and the District of Columbia consider substance use during pregnancy to be child abuse under civil child-welfare statutes, and 3 (Minnesota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin) consider it grounds for civil commitment. Also, 23 states and the District of Columbia require health care professionals to report suspected prenatal drug use, and 7 states (Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, North Dakota and Rhode Island) require them to test for prenatal drug exposure if they suspect drug use.

On April 28, 2017, a federal court in Wisconsin struck down a state law authorizing the detention, forced treatment, and incarceration of pregnant women as unconstitutional. Wisconsin’s Attorney General Brad Schimel disagrees with the court’s decision and plans to pursue an appeal.

"Above all, care for pregnant women who use cannabis should be non-punitive and grounded in respect for patient autonomy," Drs. Mark and Terplan correctly conclude.

Also see: NIDA on Pregnancy: The Whole Truth? 
Please Let Princess Kate Smoke Pot
NIDA Kills Pregnancy and Pot Follow Up Study

Monday, April 17, 2017

Four and Twenty Tokin' Women for 4/20

In honor of the upcoming' holiday 4/20—and for all of those blackbirds who got "baked" in a pie—here are four and twenty newly discovered Tokin' Women.

Google "marijuana + women" and you'll get a lot of photos of scantily-clad gals hitting the bong. But our true Herstory is much more interesting.

In literature, we claim the Beat poetesses Anne Waldman and Joanne Kyger. Waldman has written eloquently about the drug experience, and Kyger mentioned it in oblique and amusing ways.

Truman Capote's character Holly Golightly tries pot in the 1958 novella "Breakfast at Tiffany's" (although this aspect of her character wasn't depicted in the 1971 movie). Joyce Carol Oates's heroine in her short story "High" feels "expansive? elated? excited?" after toking.

From academia, there is Harriet Martineau, the first female sociologist and ancestor to to Princess Kate Middleton, who took to the nargileh during her Middle Eastern travels. French author Simone de Beauvoir tried marijuana in 1947 during a trip to the US, just before she wrote her seminal work "The Second Sex."

"We marched, wrote polemics, started magazines, took over universities. And in between, we smoked a little pot, made a little love, and changed the world forever," wrote Janis Ian about coming of age in the 1970s. Rita Coolidge wrote of her college years, "We always had a lot of weed, which we’d decided was vital to the creative process," and recounted eating pot brownies with Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson and his wife before going to Disneyland.

Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart came out in favor of marijuana legalization. Halsey sang, "We are the new Americana / high on legal marijuana." Jazz singer June Eckstine was smeared over marijuana in 1947, and again in 1954.

Movies and TV take the most mentions, without even getting the Netflix series "Grace and Frankie." Recently uncovered depictions of cannabis-consuming women on film include Harley Wood as Burma in "Marihuana" (1936), a Reefer Madness-style film with a more poetic ending. Leigh French of the Smothers Brothers' "Share a Little Tea with Goldie" segment shows up in the prophetic "WUSA" (1970) as a hippie pot smoker.

Helen Hunt played a woman who learns to surf and smoke pot in "Ride,"  Elizabeth Moss turned on her boyfriend with trippy consequences in "The One I Love," and Jennifer Aniston's character enlightened up in "Life of Crime." Queen Latifah played blues singer and Tokin' Woman Bessie Smith in an HBO biopic, and Kate Winslet's character in  "The Dressmaker" supplied pot brownies to a neighbor in pain. Tina Fey took her turn at the hookah in "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot" and Pauline Collins (Shirley Valentine) got baked in "Dough."

And finally, a Viking ship dating back to 820 AD was discovered with the remains of two women, aged 50 and 70. The pair, who may have been priestesses, were carrying a leather pouch containing cannabis seeds.

Read more in Tokin' Women: A 4000-Year Herstory.



Monday, April 10, 2017

Joanne Kyger Wakes Up From The Dream

Poet Joanne Kyger, who according to her New York Times obituary, was "one of the few women embraced by the Beat Generation writers’ fraternity," died on March 22 at her home in Bolinas, California.

Her contemporary Anne Waldman wrote to the Times: “She lived within the most interesting alternative communities of our time. She was Buddhist; she was an environmentalist. She lived her ethos daily, modestly, below the radar, and with great attention to the natural world and the magic of the cosmos.” 

Kyger was married to fellow poet Gary Snyder and wrote about traveling with him in Japan and India in Strange Big Moon: Japan and India Journals, 1960-1964. The couple divorced in 1965, "after she had tired of playing wife and hostess to other Beat guests." She taught at Mills College in and the New School in California, the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institute in Colorado, and in the hippie haven of Bolinas. 

There she met her friend and admirer Steve Heilig, who once asked her during an interview about the women Beats. She told a story about a woman writer  who would burst into tears when criticized. "I wasn't about to let that happen to me," she said. I asked Heilig if Kyger was a "Tokin' Woman," and he replied that although "she certainly wouldn't define herself in that manner," one could find references in her work.

She read this one aloud to the great amusement of the audience:

When I came back from a trip to Europe and New York in the late ‘60s 
I found the Summer of Love 
and the Bay Area awash with psychedelic participants 

I went to visit Albert who was living in Mill Valley…. 

And then I asked him, How can I understand this new hippie culture? 
Albert said, Well, when you wake up in the morning, get stoned. 
And I mean really really stoned. 
If you do this every day 
you can eventually change your consciousness. 

About 15 years later when I saw him next 
I asked, Did you ever say 
when we were supposed to stop?

Yet she published nearly 30 collections of her poetry in her lifetime. Her poem Destruction was another crowd favorite and demonstrates her unique way of breaking a line:

First of all do you remember the way a bear goes through
a cabin when nobody is home? He goes through
the front door. I mean he really goes through it. Then
he takes the cupboard off the wall and eats a can of lard.

He eats all the apples, limes, dates, bottled decaffeinated
coffee, and 35 pounds of granola. The asparagus soup cans
fall to the floor. Yum! He chomps up Norwegian crackers
stashed for the winter. And the bouillon, salt, pepper,
paprika, garlic, onions, potatoes....

He goes down stairs and out the back wall. He keeps on going
for a long way and finds a good cave to sleep it all off.
Luckily he ate the whole medicine cabinet, including stash
of LSD, Peyote, Psilocybin, Amanita, Benzedrine, Valium
and aspirin.

“Joanne Kyger was a trailblazer, fearless and full of insight,” City Lights Publisher Elaine Katzenberger told the San Francisco Chronicle. “Her poetry has influenced generations of younger poets, and there are many in the Bay Area and beyond who will be missing her fierce humor and generous mentorship.”

“When you die,” Kyger wrote in the poem “Night Palace,” “you wake up from the dream.”

Saturday, April 1, 2017

What "The Dressmaker" Made in the Kitchen

I was so engrossed with the tale of
"The Dressmaker," a "black comedy of revenge and haute couture" now on Amazon Prime that
I nearly missed the pot plot.

Based on the book by Australian actress and author Rosalie Ham, the movie stars Kate Winslet as Tillie Dunnage, a young woman who comes home to her outback Australian hometown and transforms the place with her tenacity, courage and dressmaking skills.

One of the many colorful characters in the town is the druggist Mr. Almanac (Barry Otto of Strictly Ballroom), who refuses to treat his wife Irma's painful arthritis with drugs. "Addictive," he says. "All that's needed is God's forgiveness, a clean mind and a wholesome diet." So Tilly brings Irma some special cakes she's baked with herbs from her garden. "Unusual aroma," says Irma, who is astonished to find her pain is gone after eating them. The secret herb is later revealed in the book when Tilly adds hemp to hot honey to treat her mother Molly, played by Judy Davis.

Molly gets into the act when she brings some extra-strength cakes to Irma. "Go easy on them cakes, I made them a bit stronger than she [Tilly] would have," Molly warns her. "She's young; she doesn't understand pain like we do."

Elsewhere in town, Marigold Pettyman is drugged by her husband Evan with something called Browne's Elixir. Marigold escapes from her domestic nightmare when she puts down the elixir and instead visits Tillie to order a really great dress.

The film, which features Liam Hemsworth as Tillie's love interest Teddy, adds a delightful ending to the cannabis cake episode involving the local police Sergeant, played by Hugo Weaving.

It's almost a modern The Count of Monte Cristo,  another tale of revenge that includes a stylish stranger, and hashish. As in the Spanish TV series The Time Between Seams (aka The Time In Between, now on Netflix), it's nice to watch women reclaiming their power using their traditional skills of sewing – and cooking.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Else Lasker-Schüler: Orientalist Poet

Lasker-Schüler in 1875
Once called “a bohemian princess who lived in the belief that she was the prince of Thebes [Egypt],” the German-Jewish author Else Lasker-Schüler was dubbed “The Black Swan of Israel,” by the poet Hille, who nurtured her career. Widely regarded as one of the most important German lyric poets, one rhapsodic fan proclaimed, “To know Else Lasker-Schüler was the nearest to God that a mortal can hope to reach” (quoted in Else Lasker-Schüler: Inside this Deathly Solitude, by Ruth Schwertfeger).

As a child Else was diagnosed with either epilepsy or St. Vitus dance, “for which there is no factual record, but which played a central role in the feeling life and imagination of the poet—one that was undiminished over the years" (Else Lasker-Schüler: A Life by Betty Falkenberg).*

Believing that she was “a misunderstood, mystical visionary,” (Jewish-German Identity in the Orientalist Literature of Else Lasker-Schüler, Friedrich Wolf, and Franz Werfel, by Donna K. Heizer), she left her first husband, a bourgeois doctor, and had a child out of wedlock to an unknown father.

In 1903, at the age of 34, she took up with 25-year-old George Levin, who she renamed Herwarth Walden. In 1910 the pair, already foundering as a couple but remaining devoted to each others’ work, co-founded the influential literary magazine Der Sturn (The Storm) in Berlin. Lasker-Schuler meanwhile was having success as a poetess, both in ink and in performance.

One of her expressive poems reads:


BUT YOUR EYEBROWS ARE STORMS 

At night I hover restlessly in the sky, 
undarkened by sleep. 

Around my heart dreams buzz, 
searching for sweetness. 

But my edges are spiked— 
only you drink gold unharmed. 

I am a star 
in the blue cloud of your face. 

When my rays shine in your eyes 
we are one world. 

And would fall blissfully asleep— 
but your eyebrows are storms. 


Readers of this blog know I've connected Europeans' fascination with the Orient in the 1800s with their discovery and use of cannabis, and that I've reported that some think the incense of biblical times, caneh bosom, was cannabis.

In 1906, Ruth St. Denis, who had not yet been to India, created her famous solo dance “The Incense.” Coaching a dancer for this role, Martha Graham told her, “Your arms become the smoke, which is your prayer.”

Else too was an Orientalist, traveling east and penning The Nights of Tino of Baghdad, (1907) and The Prince of Thebes (1912) in the style of the Arabian Nights.  Even her style of dress was avant garde for the time: she chose Oriental-style trousers over dresses. "Lasker-Schüler was fascinated with what she saw as the exotic, the mythical and the mystical in Oriental culture," wrote Heizer. "It was a culture filled, she thought, with visionary artists like herself.

Heizer argues that for Jewish-Germans, whom Germans often saw as Orientals, "writing about what they considered to be Oriental culture enabled them to examine not only the exotic Other but also themselves. Through their Orientalist works they could thus explore their own cultural identities. Coming to terms with their own identities became a pressing concern for Jewish-Germans at this time because of the rise of volkisch ideology, which, with its stress on national uniqueness, asserted that they did not belong in German society."

Lasker-Schüler in Oriental garb
I haven’t yet found a reference to Lasker-Schüler taking hashish, only opium once during an illness. But it's recorded that her crowd indulged. One friend, Hanns Heinz Ewers, took haschich starting in 1895, adding opium and mescaline by 1903.

In 1914, a young Walter Benjamin was drawn over to Lasker-Schüler’s table at Berlin’s Café des Westens, which he called “the headquarters of Bohemia.” Benjamin called Else's poem “David and Jonathan” one of his all-time favorites. He wrote, “the true, creative overcoming of religious illumination does not lie in narcotics. It resides in a profane illumination, a materialistic, anthropological inspiration, to which hashish, opium, or whatever else can give an introductory lesson.” (quoted in Primitive Renaissance: Rethinking German Expressionism by David Pan).

Modigliani (a hasheesh user) was one artist who was shown at Der Sturm Gallery, owned by Walden, who is credited with introducing the term "Expressionism." One of Walden’s “circle of expressionists” was Harald Kreutzberg, who in 1920, while attending art school in Dresden, performed a "hashish dance" at a student carnival party. The dance was so well-received that Kreutzberg enrolled in a dance class and later paired with the exotic-looking dancer Yvonne Georgi for and act that “enjoyed enormous and unprecedented international appeal” from 1928 to 1930. (Empire of Ecstasy: Nudity and Movement in German Body Culture, 1910–1935, Karl Toepfer).

Lasker-Schüler’s lover Ernest Junger, a prolific German novelist and essayist who is “considered among the forerunners of Magic Realism,” used ether, cocaine, and hashish in the early 1920s; thirty years later he turned to mescaline, ololuqui, and LSD. His experiments were recorded comprehensively in Annaherungen (1970)

Else was reportedly abused by the right-wing press and beaten unconscious by Nazi thugs when she won the German Kleist Prize for her body of work in 1932. She fled to Switzerland and then Israel. "She often gave money to people in need, leaving herself in poverty, and she spent her last years that way, dying in Jerusalem." (Notable Women in World History, Lydia G. Adamson.)

*St. Vitus dance, or chorea is an involuntary movement disorder that can have several causes, including drug intoxication (commonly levodopa, anti-convulsants and anti-psychotics). Sources of L-DOPA include Mucuna pruriens (velvet bean), and Vicia faba (broad bean or fava bean). “Like all priests of the Orphic and Eleusinian mysteries who were forbidden from ever touching, mentioning, or looking at Fava beans, Pythagoras forbade his followers from doing the same and some claimed that it was due to his belief that fava beans contained the souls of the dead. …Initiates of the Eleusinian mysteries where studies were done on a ritual that transmogrified participants were said to have a deathlike experience after ingesting the kykeon and would then pass by the home of Kyamites, the Greek demigod of Fava beans." (Wikipedia)

Friday, March 24, 2017

Janis Ian and the Summer of Love

"I was born into the crack that split America."

So begins Society's Child, the autobiography of singer/songwriter Janis Ian. Writing about her side of the generation gap, Ian goes on to say, "We marched, wrote polemics, started magazines, took over universities. And in between, we smoked a little pot, made a little love, and changed the world forever."

Ian published her first song at the age of 14 in the magazine Broadside and earned two standing ovations from the likes of Judy Collins and music industry execs when she first performed them. By 15, she had a hit on her hands with "Society's Child," despite the fact that many radio stations banned the song about an interracial relationship, and she met with hostility when she performed it. One station in Atlanta that played the song was burned down, and people would spit in her food in restaurants. She writes:

I was having a hit record.
I was singing for people who wanted me dead.
I was fifteen years old. 


Ian was no stranger to controversy, or hostility. Her father, a farmer, attended a meeting about the price of eggs and was thereafter followed by the FBI as a suspected communist. The family lost the farm and moved every two years when her father was unable to get tenure at the schools where he was a respected teacher, after the FBI would pay a visit to school administrators. Added to that was abuse Janis suffered from her family's dentist and the early realization that she was attracted to women at a time when homosexuality was not well accepted.

She found her salvation in music, with the help of teachers and counselors who recognized her intelligence and potential. After she hit the charts, she traveled West and played the Berkeley Folk Festival, where she befriended Janis Joplin, eight years her senior. "We went to a party at Peter Tork's house one night, where everyone was wearing bright silk Indian clothing and crashing on a floor filled with pillows and hashish pipes," she wrote. At the next party, where a heroin dealer went around the room shooting people up, Joplin turned to her and said, "Kid, time for you to go home."

Jimi Hendrix used to call her, "that girl who wrote that song, man, you know." He let her try some of his cocaine, but her reaction was so extreme that she never tried it again. "Lucky for me, because cocaine could easily have come my drug of choice," she wrote. "I'd have loved the extra energy, the sense of power, and I'd have ended up like so many of my friends, strung out or even dead."

When Ian taped the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (below), Bill Cosby saw her sleeping with her head in her chaperone's lap during a break, and proceeded to tell several industry people that she was a lesbian and shouldn't be on national TV. Now that we know about what Cosby's been accused of, one wonders if he was really upset that Ian wouldn't be drinking wine with him.



Ian herself became an object of government surveillance, through the CIA's "Operation CHAOS" program, whose goals were to target war protestors, civil rights activists, and public figures, and:

Show them as scurrilous and depraved. Call attention to their habits and living conditions, explore every possible embarrassment. Send in women and break up marriages. Have members arrested on marijuana charges. Investigate personal conflicts or animosities between them. Send articles to the newspapers showing their depravity. Use narcotics and free sex to entrap. Use misinformation to confuse and disrupt. Get records of their bank accounts. Obtain specimens of handwriting. Provoke target groups into rivalries that may result in death. 

"For us, it was impossible to separate protesting against the war from the civil rights movement, using drugs, and living on music," Ian wrote. "The rest of the country had managed to ignore most of it, until San Francisco's 'Summer of Love' [50 years ago in 1967] got national attention from the press, and large portions of America that still yearned for the simplicity and rigidity of the fifties had their minds blown."

Ian enjoyed smoking pot and listening to a roommate recite Russian poetry and Dostoyevsky. "We confined ourselves to marijuana and hash, although once in a while something else snuck past," she wrote. She and a boyfriend declined an invitation from Stanley Owsley to try his LSD, but did accept some THC pills from him, which they liked to take while flying (on planes), with Ian hiding it in an empty makeup tube.

The day after Martin Luther King was shot, Janis was assaulted on the streets of New York and given a Coke to drink that was laced with too-strong acid; she was prescribed Stelazine to come down from it but still experienced flashbacks later.

After Robert Kennedy was also shot, "Every hero I had was dead," Ian wrote. "The war on drugs dried up the border, and there was next to no marijuana in the five boroughs. The Mafia moved in with heroin, and normal people my age, not in the music business, not on the fringes, started dying. It seemed death was all around me."

Around this time Ian's agent David Geffen arranged for her meet to fellow songwriter Laura Nyro. On their evening out, "We spent most of it in his limousine, riding around downtown and smoking pot." On another occasion, Nyro took a TV to Ian's apartment to watch the premiere of "The Mod Squad" with her friend Peggy Lipton; "So we watched TV through dinner, smoked some dope, and made our good-byes."

Nyro, Ian wrote, would constantly sip Cheracol, a cough syrup with codeine, "her eyes getting duller by the hour." Once during a recording session Nyro pointed to a purple chair and said, "I want it to sound like that." Ian was able to translate that she wanted it legato.

Somewhat abandoned by her now-divorced parents, unhappy with the state of the world, and stressed from the pressures of her career,  the young singer took refuge in marijuana. "Since the world refused to change, I stayed stoned," she wrote, though she never smoked while working. Then a book called The Day on Fire, a fictionalized account of the life of VIP Arthur Rimbaud "turned my world upside down," she wrote. "Overnight, I becomes steeped in the mysteries of being an artist....Just being a person wasn't enough after reading Rimbaud, not by a long shot."

She started seeing a therapist who told her, "You don't trust anyone. You're scared of everyone." Not surprising, considering she was surveilled since she was a child, and overdosed with a drug by a stranger. She overdosed on Seconal, and then stopped eating, her weight dropping to 82 pounds just as she turned 18. Once more music brought her back, and she wrote her hit "Stars" after being inspired by Don MacLean's "Starry, Starry Night."

Ian's songs have been covered by Joan Baez, Nina Simone, Roberta Flack, Bette Midler, Amy Grant, Shirley Bassey, Cher, and Mel Tormé, among others. In 1993, she released the album Breaking Silence and came out as a lesbian; she was interviewed by Tokin' Woman Melissa Etheridge for The Advocate.  

Ian, who will turn 66 on April 7, is now writing for the Huffington Post. Her latest article, Women Under Trumpcare—A Proposal, is well worth a read. Keep up with Janis at JanisIan.com

Friday, February 24, 2017

Maha Shivaratri and Parvati

The Hindu god Shiva with the goddess Parvati,
approx. 600-700 A.D.  India; Bihar state 
My friend Jeannie Herer reminds me that this is Maha Shivarati, the holiday when Nepal relaxes its laws to allow the partaking of the holy ganga.

In some parts of India, rather than just worshipping the Lord Shiva, this day celebrates the day Shiva married the goddess Parvati ("she of the mountain'). By some legends Parvati was as devout as Shiva, but when she saw him she had to marry him, and diligently brought him out of contemplation into the world.

I was told this legend straight from the Himilayas: Shiva was busy frolicking on the mountaintops with various nymphs when Parvati, left alone at home, discovered a cannabis plant growing in her garden. When Shiva returned to her, Parvati put some of the plant into a pipe for him to smoke. He did, and thereafter the two invented tantric yoga and saved their marriage.

Rather like the Adam and Eve story, here it is the woman who discovers the magical plant (which is “forbidden” in the Bible, what Timothy Leary called “the first controlled substance”).

Parvati is the Hindu mother goddess of love, fertility and devotion. Along with Lakshmi (goddess of wealth and prosperity) and Saraswati (goddess of knowledge and learning) she forms the Trinity of Hindu goddesses. "In Hindu temples dedicated to her and Shiva, she is symbolically represented as the argha or yoni. She is found extensively in ancient Indian literature, and her statues and iconography grace Hindu temples all over South Asia and Southeast Asia." [Wikipedia]

In the blackwashing of goddesses as witches, she's come down to us as Kali, the destructor goddess, but her form or incarnation depends on her mood. Sometimes, she is Kamakshi, goddess of love and devotion; at other times Annapurna, the representation of all that is complete (and of food).

Parvati is the mother of Ganesh and is believed to be sister to the Goddess Ganga, the personification of the sacred river Ganges and the term for cannabis leaves and flowers that are smoked. Another interpretation of these ancient myths is that the cannabis plant is another form of Parvati.

Bhang and Ganga are said to reside side by side on Shiva’s head, while he dances on the body of a dwarf who embodies indifference, ignorance and laziness. May we all dance on that dwarf tonight.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Opiate of the Masses Now Officially Opiates (and Booze)

UPDATE: Maher's second show had Eva Longoria bringing up voter suppression, and Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan chiming in that 2 million voters had been purged from the rolls in his state. This prompted Grover Norquist to bring up exactly what Greg Palast has been saying: that Pew found 2.8 million people are registered to vote in more than one state (thus the Crosscheck list). This is the real voter fraud we need to look at, people. Read more

Bill Maher's season opener on HBO's Real Time started with Tokin' Woman Jane Fonda, included his observation that Toby Keith ought to be head of ATF because he writes so often about booze, and ended with startling statistics about the states and counties that voted for Trump and their pain pill or heroin habits.

Maher put up maps demonstrating that the 14 states with the highest number of painkiller prescriptions per person all went for Trump, who won 80% of the states that have the biggest heroin problem.West Virginia, Trump's best state, downs 433 pain pills yearly for every citizen of the state. In Wisconsin, heroin deaths nearly quadrupled between 2008-2014. Even Muskogie, Oklahoma about which Meryl Haggard penned "Oakie from Muskogie" has nine drug treatment centers, Maher noted.

The stats stemmed from the findings of several observers, including journalist Chris Arnade, who has spent the past four years traveling the US to document the opioid crisis, according to Business Insider. "Wherever I saw strong addiction and strong drug use," Arnade said, he saw support for Trump.

Maher also noted that most of the counties in Pennsylvania and Ohio that flipped Republican had higher overdose rates than average. That  correlation was made by Shannon Monnat, a rural sociologist and demographer at Pennsylvania State University. She found that counties that voted more heavily for Trump than expected were closely correlated with counties that experienced high rates of death caused by drugs, alcohol, and suicide.

Historian Kathleen Frydl found that six of the nine Ohio counties that flipped from Democrat to Republican in 2016 had overdose death rates far above the national rate, and 29 of 33 Pennsylvania counties with overdose death rates above 20 per 100,000 conformed to the same pattern and/or flipped from Democrat to Republican entirely. (You can see Frydl's comparison of county vote totals and overdose death rates here.)

Noting the irony of hippies long being called unpatriotic for their drug use, Maher joked, "Kids, don't do heroin. It's the gateway to becoming a Republican," and added, "You're doing the wrong drugs. Stick with the stuff that comes out of the ground. Ninety percent of you are farmers!"


The full quote from Karl Marx translates as: "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people."

"I expected to see [the correlation] because when you think about the underlying factors that lead to overdose or suicide, it's depression, despair, distress, and anxiety," Monnat told Business Insider. "That was the message that Trump was appealing to."

In the 2002 Dutch film Twin Sisters, two young girls are separated from their twin, and grow up in very different ways. One has loving, enlightened parents and is educated and happy; the other is abused and kept ignorant, and ends up marrying a Nazi who promises her something better than her desperate life.

And so the fix is to address the factors that are causing so many Americans to reach for opiates, actual or trumped up.

UPDATE 2/9/2017 - Professor Irwin Corey, the World's Foremost Authority who has died at the age of 102, used to joke about Moses and the burning marijuana bush, and once said, “Marx, Groucho Marx, once said that religion is the opiate of the  people. I say that when religion outlives its usefulness, then opium will be the opiate.” A head ahead of his time.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Good Girls Revolt (with Ganja)

Just as I discovered the excellent series Good Girls Revolt on Amazon Prime, it was announced that it won't be picked up for another season.

The series is based on the 2012 book by former Newsweek staffer Lynn Povich about the 1970 lawsuit filed with the EEOC by 46 women who were denied the chance to write under their own bylines at the magazine as part of a company-wide policy.

The suit was filed by none other than Eleanor Holmes Norton, the former ACLU lawyer who currently serves as the Congressional representative from DC. Eleanor Clift, who rose from "Gal Friday" at the Atlanta bureau to Newsweek's White House correspondent, writes, "I owe my career to the women who put themselves on the line to right wrongs embedded in our collective psyches about the roles of women and men."

Making an appearance as Nora Ephron is Grace Gummer, which is fitting because her mother Meryl Streep was pregnant with her when she filmed Ephron's movie Heartburn. Nora left Newsweek before the suit happened, and went on to a writing career. Also appearing is actor Hunter Parrish, who played Nancy Botwin's older son on "Weeds." Katherine Graham, the publisher of Newsweek at the time, is fictionalized in the series but her line, "Which side am I supposed to be on?" remains.

There isn't any marijuana in the book, apart from a single scene where researcher Kate Coleman, a "proud member of the Berkeley Free Speech movement" who worked on a 1967 cover story about the rise of marijuana use, hosted a male editor and his wife at a pot party. But the lead character Patti Robinson, who's hip to the hippie scene and leaves a joint in her boss's desk for him to try, seems to be based in part on Coleman. Patti admits to turning on to watch the nightly news and is depicted in one scene doing so (shown above). Even the goody two-shoes lead researcher Jane Hollander, played by Anna Camp of The Help, tries pot (shown), declaring it did nothing for her (but letting it change her life anyway, after she encounters sexual harassment and discrimination on the job).

Two months after the Newsweek complaint was filed, 96 women from Time Inc. filed a similar suit, and in the next few years, women at Reader's Digest, Newsday, the Washington Post, the Detroit News, the Baltimore Sun and the Associated Press did the same, Povich reports. In 1974 six women at the New York Times filed sexual discrimination charges on behalf of 550 women there, and in 1975, sixteen women at NBC initiated a class action lawsuit covering 2600 past and present employees.

Lest we think this kind of thing is ancient history, Povich's book starts with the story of Jessica Bennett, who "grew up in the era of girl power" in the 1980s, and yet found similar obstacles when she started working at Newsweek as an intern in 2006. She watched male interns get hired before her, and when she was finally hired a year later, she had to fight for assignments. Her best friend at the magazine, Jesse Ellinson, experienced similar difficulties, discovering that the man who was hired for her former job made more money than she did, and being told by her boss to take advantage of her looks.

Like the women in the consciousness-raising era of the 60s, Jessica and Jesse eventually realized their problems stemmed from sexism, instead of personal failings. Like most of us, they were unaware of the Good Girls lawsuit until they were given a copy of Susan Brownmiller's book In Our Time: Memoir of a Revolution which has a chapter on the suit.

This was in 2009, when the scandal about David Letterman sleeping with female staffers hit the news (and it was noticed by another Newsweek staffer Sarah Ball that neither Letterman or any other late night show had a single female writer). Jessica, Jesse and Sarah pitched a story on the lawsuit set in modern times to their editor, and found Povich during their research.

Good Girls Revolt ends with the filing of the lawsuit, but so much more happens after that. Executive producer Dana Calvo reported on Instagram that efforts to shop the series to another network had failed: "Good Girls Revolt won't be airing on another network. We made what felt like a 10-hour play, and I will miss the world and the characters that our cast brought to life. Mostly, I will miss hearing from all of you who said it had an impact. Sending love and thanks today for the privilege of being able to tell stories that bring us closer and make us stronger," she wrote.

Brownmiller, BTW, is one of the interviewees in the Netflix documentary "She's Beautiful When She's Angry" along with Kate Millet, Muriel Fox, Rita Mae Brown, Eleanor Holmes Norton, the Our Bodies Ourselves collective and more. Along with Good Girls Revolt, it's a good watch just before the women's marches on January 21.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (and Pot)

I had expected Private Benjamin Goes to Kabul. But no. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (WTF), has heart, and brains. And courage.

Tina Fey stars in the story of a journalist who travels to Afghanistan to cover the war, based on Kim Barker's The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Fey purchased the rights to Barker’s book and created the adaptation, which is why, unlike Mozart in the Jungle—which was written by a woman but turned into an Amazon series starring a man—WTF remains the story of a woman.

Kim doesn't wait for a man to validate her or tell her what to do, like Diane Keaton did in Reds or Little Drummer Boy. She's able to anthropologically speak to the women of the tribe and get the real story about why the well keeps getting blown up, a little like Sigourney Weaver as Dian Fosse in Gorillas in the Mist.  Kim blackmails rather than using sex to get what she wants, saves her love using all the resources she can muster, and makes all of her own choices.

So often when a woman gets a choice role, she's paired with actors who aren't her match, like when Nicole Kidman got to play Tokin' Woman Gertrude Bell and someone cast Robert Pattinson as T. E. Lawrence. But here we are treated to Martin Freeman—who was so endearing as the Shy Guy in the British The Office, Love Actually and Sherlock—in a spot-on performance as a Scottish scamp with surprising depth. He and Fey play one of the funniest love scenes ever, with one of the most honest aftermaths.

WTF even adds Billy Bob Thornton—who's hot even in the Bad Santa movies—as the brassy, brass tacks general Kim needs on her side. Also notable are Alfred Molina (Chocolat) as the clownishly threatening public official she also must tango with, and Josh Charles as the man she leaves behind. The cherry on top is the stupendous Cherry Jones in yet another formidable role.

It even has my money shot: Fey puffing a hookah, with no less than Margot Robbie by her side—a 15 in Kabul or anywhere and winner of the 2016 Tokin' Woman Phattest Fashion Award—who portrays a worthy rival to Fey's character.

This is generally how pot should be depicted, as an adjunct to the story. Not that you smoke it and have idiotic Seth Rogan-style misadventurers. That it's just one of your experiences. The scene in WTF where Fey and her Afghan driver (Christopher Abbott) discuss drugs of all types and the high they produce is one of the best written and acted I have ever seen.

Skip the sappy LaLa Land and see Whiskey Tango Foxtrot instead, now on Amazon.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Hollyweed Makes a Comeback






Once again, someone has altered the iconic Hollywood sign to say "Hollyweed," in honor of California reforming its marijuana laws (this time with Prop. 64, which legalized the adult recreational use). Snoop Dogg, Margaret Cho, and Mindy Kaling are some who tweeted their reaction. 

The sign was altered with fabric, in the same manner that Douglas Finegood originally altered the sign on January 1, 1976 to celebrate the decriminalization of marijuana, the same year Bette Midler famously planned to tape a joint under every seat at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion in LA for her New Year's Eve show.

After altering the sign a few more times, according to the LA Times, Finegood died in 2007. City officials beefed up security around the sign with a fence, alarms and eventually installed a closed-circuit surveillance system. They restored the sign by mid-morning, and have tape of this year's "vandal," who ironically faces a misdemeanor charge if caught. (UPDATE: An artist who goes by "Jesus Hands" and his partner Sarah Fern have taken responsibility for the prank.)

Hempy New Year to all!