Saturday, April 6, 2024

100 Years of Surrealism, A Movement Inspired by Cannabis?

Remedios Varo. Harmony (Self Portrait). 1956

Surrealism, the trippy art and cultural movement that developed in Europe in the aftermath of World War I, traces its roots to the publication of André Breton's essay Manifeste du surréalisme, published in October 1924. 

The movement "aimed to allow the unconscious mind to express itself, often resulting in the depiction of illogical or dreamlike scenes and ideas. Its intention was, according to Breton, to 'resolve the previously contradictory conditions of dream and reality into an absolute reality, a super-reality,' or surreality. It produced works of painting, writing, theatre, filmmaking, photography, and other media as well." [-Wikipedia

Breton's manifesto states that, "hallucinations, illusions, etc., are not a source of trifling pleasure. The best controlled sensuality partakes of it." It continues, "The realistic attitude, inspired by positivism, from Saint Thomas Aquinas to Anatole France, clearly seems to me to be hostile to any intellectual or moral advancement. I loathe it, for it is made up of mediocrity, hate, and dull conceit."

Under the heading, "SECRETS OF THE MAGICAL SURREALIST ART," Breton evokes the hashish-taking poet Charles Baudelaire

"Surrealism does not allow those who devote themselves to it to forsake it whenever they like. There is every reason to believe that it acts on the mind very much as drugs do; like drugs, it creates a certain state of need and can push man to frightful revolts. It also is, if you like, an artificial paradise, and the taste one has for it derives from Baudelaire’s criticism for the same reason as the others. 

"Thus the analysis of the mysterious effects and special pleasures it can produce -- in many respects Surrealism occurs as a new vice which does not necessarily seem to be restricted to the happy few; like hashish, it has the ability to satisfy all manner of tastes -- such an analysis has to be included in the present study. It is true of Surrealist images as it is of opium images that man does not evoke them; rather they 'come to him spontaneously, despotically. He cannot chase them away; for the will is powerless now and no longer controls the faculties.' (Baudelaire.)"

Mayor Breed Lights Up San Francisco's Weed Week

San Francisco Mayor London Breed stopped off before attending the Giants home opener on Friday to welcome participants in the first SF Weed Week, to be held throughout the city on April 13 – 20th.

The kickoff press conference was held in conjunction with a Cannabis Mylar Art Exhibit, showcasing over 1,000 commercial mylar product packages from the legal and illicit market, at the Mirus Gallery & Art Bar at 540 Howard Street throughout April. 

One of the Mylar Art pieces at Mirus
The event was organized by cannabis journalist David Downs and attended by about 100 supporters from the Bay Area and beyond. Downs said he got the idea for a “Weed Week” after hearing about Beer Week in the city, and by Amoeba Records in-store events. “Cannabis growers are rock stars. Strains are celebrities. We’re treating them accordingly,” he said.  SF Week Week events will be held on 7 consecutive nights at 7 different cannabis lounges, showcasing 7 new cannabis strains.

Wearing a Giants jersey and bright orange suit, Breed said she was grateful to be part of, “an opportunity that is so San Francisco.” She added, “When you think about San Francisco, you think about fun, you think about excitement, you think about joy. And the cannabis community, even before it was legalized in California, has been such an important part of that.” 

Mentioning the Beat poets in North Beach and the Summer of Love in the Haight as examples of San Francisco culture that have spread across the world, Breed said today’s efforts would help “transform the conversation and open up opportunities for people to experience joy through cannabis.” She joked that SF Weed Week should be held at the same time as Restaurant Week (because, the munchies).

Cannabis businesses are projected to bring in $789 million to the city in 2024/25 Breed said, mentioning that SF has approved 52 business permits through their equity program, and has given out $11 million in grants for equity programs in cannabis. She said SF Weed Week was an opportunity to “support our dispensaries and small business, and use this as a way to bring tourists and other people back to our city for an experience that only San Francisco can provide.” 

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

On His 100th Birthday: Marlon Brando and Marijuana

 Marlon Brando 

Marlon Brando, born on April 3, 1924, was an actor with an intensity like no other. He made his name after Tokin' Woman Tallulah Bankhead, who turned down the role of Blanche DuBois written for her in A Streetcar Named Desire, suggested "the cad" should play Stanley Kowalski. Brando went on to make motorcycle rebels cool in The Wild One (1953), and won his first Best Actor Oscar for On the Waterfront (1954).

In his book Songs My Mother Taught Me, he wrote, "So many things happened during the sixties and seventies that now a lot of those years are a blur. I was still trying to give my life some meaning and enlisted in almost any campaign I thought would help end poverty, racial discrimination and social injustice. But that wasn't all I did in those years; there was a lot of partying, getting drunk, having fun, jumping into swimming pools, smoking grass, lying on beaches and watching the sun go down. During the sixties in Hollywood, everybody was sleeping with everybody."

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Blanche, The Original Calloway

One more Women's History Month post: 

I was surprised to learn of late that Cab "Reefer Man" Calloway had an older sister Blanche, who was also a musician and a big influence on him. 

"Before swing-era singer, actor, and bandleader Cab Calloway was a household name, he wasn’t even the biggest name in his household. That distinction went to Blanche Calloway, his vocalist older sister and the first woman to lead an all-male jazz orchestra," begins a 2022 article Harvard Magazine

"Blanche was known to be an incredible, charismatic performer, with a big personality. Her style and flair onstage was a huge inspiration for her younger brother, Cab Calloway, and she paved the way in show business for Cab," says an article in Opera Baltimore about the Baltimore-raised performer.  

Friday, March 1, 2024

Women's Herstory Month: Equity and Inclusion

This year, both Women's History Month and International Women's Day (March 8) have chosen equity, diversity and inclusion as their themes. It's a good time to look at equity in the cannabis industry, and honor those women who are a part of it. 

Kim Cargile of A Therapeutic Alternative in Sacramento, who is a leader in empowering women to run cannabis businesses, recently posted a list on Facebook of, "Women who have gone to great lengths to push this industry forward, who have sacrificed everything while working on the front lines of the War on Cannabis. Women that are often overlooked by the corporate takeover of our industry and we should all know there names and if we know them, thank them."

PHOTO: Larry Utley
Inviting others to add names to the list, Cargile included on her list Elvy Musikka, a Columbian-American who was the first woman in the federal IND medical marijuana program, which sends monthly tins of 300 joints to participants. Musikka stumped for our rights (in both English and Spanish) for over a decade with the Cannabis Action Network, which toured the country raising awareness. 

Another inclusion is Yamileth Bolanos, who hails from Costa Rica and founded the Los Angeles cannabis dispensary Pure Life Alternative Wellness Center. Bolanos was instrumental in the passage of California's law protecting organ transplant patients from discrimination over their use of medical marijuana. 

Saturday, February 3, 2024

A Valentine for Valentina Wasson

Those in the know about the discovery of psilocybin mushrooms by Western civilization are hip to the 1957 Life magazine article written by banking executive and author R. Gordon Wasson about his experience taking mushrooms with curandera Maria Sabina in Mexico. 

What is not commonly known or appreciated is that Gordon's wife Valentina Pavlovna Wasson lead him to become interested in mushrooms, and that she published an account of her own experience with psychedelic mushrooms six days after Gordon's article. Valentina's account of her psychedelic journey appeared on May 19, 1957 in This Week magazine, a nationally syndicated Sunday magazine supplement that was included in American newspapers between 1935 and 1969.

"The walls suddenly receded and I was carried out—out and away—on undulating waves of translucent turquoise green," she wrote. "My mind was floating blissfully. It was as if my very soul had been scooped out and moved to a point in heavenly space, leaving my empty physical husk behind in the mud hut. Yet I was perfectly conscious. I knew now what the shamans meant when they said, 'The mushroom takes you to a place where God is.'" She traveled in her mind to the Caves of Lascaux and to 18th century Versailles, where, "I was struck again by the magnificence and intensity of the colors. Everything was resplendently rich. I had never imagined such beauty."

Monday, January 22, 2024

Anslinger Censors 1946 Canadian Film "Drug Addict"

Having occasion to look up a list of films banned in the US, I noticed that the 1946 Canadian film Drug Addict was banned by then-drug "czar" and head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics Harry Anslinger due to its depiction or drug addiction as a medical problem, and of addicts and traffickers as white people. 

According to a 1998 article published in the Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology, "The Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) attempted to intimidate sociologist Alfred Lindesmith, a long-time advocate of medical treatment of drug addiction, from the late 1930s to the early 1950s. In addition, the US banning of the 1946 Canadian film "Drug Addict" may have been a pivotal event in a pattern of censorship and disinformation carried on by the FBN under the leadership of Harry Anslinger."

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

Mexico’s weed "nuns" aim to take the plant back from the narcos

PHOTO: Raquel Cunha/Reuters 

As reported by Al Jazeera, a group of Mexican women have joined a worldwide movement of activists dressing as nuns to reclaim the holy herb. 

“We want to take the plant back from the narcos,” said one of the "nuns," who uses the moniker “Sister Bernardet” online and asked not to give her name for fear of reprisal. "In a country ravaged by drug war and embedded in Christianity, the image of a marijuana-smoking nun is an act of rebellion," writes Al Jazeera. The nuns argue that "the fight against drugs in Latin America has been a failure, leading to widespread violence and mass incarceration."

The Sisters of the Valley started in 2014 in California's Central Valley, and media attention followed. According to the article, the Sisters "fashion themselves after a lay religious movement, the Beguines, that dates back to the Middle Ages. The group, made up of single women, devoted itself to spirituality, scholarship and charity, but took no formal vows."

Monday, January 1, 2024

Tokin' Women and Others We Lost in 2024

Sadly, this page will be updated throughout 2024. 

Eric Carmen
August 11, 1949 – March 11, 2024

Carmen began his musical education with violin lessons from his aunt Muriel, who played with the Cleveland Orchestra. After hits with The Raspberries like "Go All the Way" (in which it is the woman who makes the suggestion), he had a pair of solo hits—"All By Myself" and "Never Gonna Fall in Love Again"— playing the piano on two borrowed Rachmaninov melodies. 

Juli Lynne Charlot 
October 26, 1922 – March 3, 2024

Singer and actress Charlot sang with Xavier Cugat’s orchestra performed with the Marx Brothers in their act at military bases during World War II. But she is best known as the inventor of the poodle skirt, a '50s phenomenon that celebrated the return of prosperity and the availability of lots of fabric. Unable to afford a dress for a Christmas party, Charlot, who refused to learn to sew so that she wasn't a drone like her embroiderer mother, took a large piece of felt and cut a circle in it, adding appliques that soon tended towards poodles, and a phenomenon that twirled at many a sock hop was born. Charlot also designed contemporary renditions of traditional Mexican wedding dresses and died at age 101 at her home in Tepoztlán, Mexico. 

Richard Lewis
June 29, 1947 – February 27, 2024

Lewis, who called himself "The Prince of Pain," made a career being hilariously upfront about his neuroses and his struggles with addictions to alcohol, cocaine, and crystal meth. In his 2000 book, The Other Great Depression, he joked that in college, "I didn't smoke a lot of pot because I was too paranoid to begin with and strong grass made me think I was stalking myself." Of his early days in stand-up comedy when he sipped wine and "occasionally smoked a joint" he wrote, "it was a real pleasure to get a nice buzz... and to be in a head space where I felt so loose and self-confident that I actually might have been legitimately relaxed and happy." His former girlfriend Debra Winger and co-star Jamie Lee Curtis wrote tributes to Lewis on on Instagram, with Curtis adding, "He also is the reason I am sober." (Photo: Bonnie Schiffman, who brilliantly put him in Munch's painting "The Scream.")

Ruth Wolf-Rehfeldt
February 8, 1932 – February 26, 2024

Employed as an office manager, Wolf-Rehfeldt was a self-taught artist working under a regime of strict surveillance in the former German Democratic Republic. She turned herself into a typist—a stereotypical female job—and is known particularly for a period of geometric and poetic typewriter graphics art that she called "typewritings" produced between the 1970s and 1990, mostly as part of Mail Art collaborations, which allowed artists living under totalitarian regimes to communicate and form networks, even as they engaged with conditions of official surveillance. Her work addressed cybernetics, environmental issues and human rights.  Photo: Ruth Wolf-Rehfeldt, Information, 1970s. 

Aaron Bushnell
(1998 - February 25, 2024)
Images of the horrific event weren't able to be shown on TV, but social media broadcasted 25-year-old Bushnell's video wherein he self-immolated in front of the Israeli embassy in Washington, DC to protest the war in Gaza. An active-duty member of the US Air Force, Bushnell grew up in a religious community on Cape Cod called the Community of Jesus, whose former members have come forward alleging abuse and a rigid social structure. He repeatedly yelled, "Free Palestine!" during his protest. Days later, President Biden announced (while eating an ice cream cone with Seth Meyers) that he expected an agreement on a ceasefire within a week.

Nancy Udell
(1973 - February 24, 2024)
Longtime Empire State NORML co-director and treasurer "loved to march in the annual NYC Cannabis Parade and spent many lobby days in Albany prior to legalization," wrote Steve Bloom of Celebstoner. Born in Atlantic Beach, Udell was a graduate of  NYU and the University of Denver and  worked for many years as a paralegal. She was often quoted in stories about marijuana legalization in New York, always arguing for equity, reason and fairness. Photo: Luna Rouge

Alexei Navalny
(June 4, 1976 – February 16, 2024)
Navalny’s death at age 47 has deprived the Russian opposition of its most well-known and inspiring politician less than a month before an election that will give President Vladimir Putin another six years in power. Navalny had been jailed since January 2021, when he returned to Moscow after recuperating in Germany from nerve agent poisoning he blamed on the Kremlin. He was later convicted three times, saying each case was politically motivated, and received a sentence of 19 years for extremism. He died at a remote Arctic penal colony, reportedly two days after he was put in a "punishment cell" there. Over 400 people were detained in Russia while paying tribute to Navalny. The film Navalny won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature in 2023. Souce.  

Bob Moore
(February 15, 1929 – February 10, 2024) 
Moore and his wife Charlee "developed a passion for whole grains that coincided with parenthood," and opened a flour mill in Redding, CA. "The first whole grain loaf of bread that came out of my wife Charlee’s oven on our five-acre farm back in the ‘60s was the most delicious loaf of bread I can ever remember smelling and eating," Bob later recalled. After moving to Milwaukie, Oregon to attend seminary school and read the Bible in its original language, the couple founded Bob’s Red Mill in 1978, and grew it into a leading global food brand offering 200+ products in more than 70 countries. On his 81st birthday, Moore established an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), transferring ownership of the company to its 700 employees, saying, "The Bible says to do unto others are you would have them do unto you." The Moores were named honorary Beavers for their significant donations to Oregon State University, where they helped fund the Moore Family Center for Whole Grain Foods, Nutrition, and Preventive Health. Charlee died in 2018, when Bob retired; he remained a Board Member of the Red Mill until his death at just before his 95th birthday.