Tuesday, March 17, 2015

How The Irish Invented Slang (for Marijuana)

We all know that the Irish saved civilization (or so says the bestselling book by Thomas Cahill). Now comes the book, How the Irish Invented Slang, by Daniel Cassidy, who postulates that many slang words for which even the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) can't name the origin were in fact based on Gaelic.

After a friend died and left behind his Irish dictionary, Cassidy took his wife's advice and learned a word from it every night, soon noticing how similar the pronunciations were to slang words.

Flipping through the book in a bookstore (yes, they still exist), I came upon the word "Gage," the term by which Louis Armstrong so lovingly referred to marijuana. Cassidy proposed the word comes from the Gaelic word "Gaid," pronounced gad, gadge or gaj, and meaning twisted twigs, rope, or hemp.

That Armstrong would have picked up on this slang fits with Cassidy's matches for jazz terms with Irish ones, including "Jazz" itself, another word the OED has no clue about. Jazz is the phonetic spelling of the Irish and Gaelic word "teas," meaning "heat, passion, excitement, and highest temperature," Cassidy asserts.
Seen at  Linnaea's Café,
San Luis Obispo, CA

Another slang term Cassidy connects to Irish is Hep or Hip, which is thought by some to come from opium smokers who sat on one hip. But its meaning "well-informed, knowledgeable, wise, in-the-know; smart, stylish" could some from a simple contraction of the Irish word "aibi," pronounced h-ab ("mature, quick, clever").

Grouch, which Chico Marx said related to a "grouch bag" in which the Marx Brothers carried marijuana, is also possibly from Irish origin, via the word "Craite" (tormented, troubled, vexed, pained; annoyed).

And finally "Dude," what stoners like to call each other, can be traced to the Irish "Dud" (pronounced "dood") meaning a foolish-looking fellow; a clown. See: How The Irish Invented Dudes. 

Also read about Irish revolutionary Maud Gonne, William Butler Yeats, and hashish. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Kardashian Spouse Enters Iboga Treatment Facility

Scott Disick, who has understandable issues with reality as the Reality-TV spouse of Kourtney Kardashian, has entered rehab of an unusual type, according to TMZ: he's gone to a facility in Costa Rica that uses the psychedelic plant Iboga in its treatment.

I remember when two hippies showed up at a drug policy conference years ago, to talk about their efforts to get Ibogaine (extracted from the Iboga plant) imported as a treatment for heroin addiction. They'd hit upon the idea while sitting around with a bunch of friends, talking about the most intense drug they'd tried in the 60s. "It must have been Ibogaine," one of them said, "because I never went back to heroin after that."As they described it, during the first eight hours of an Ibogaine trip you re-live your past, in the second eight hours you see your present, and in the last eight hours you rewrite your future. Read more about Ibogaine therapy.

Disick's problem seems to be mainly with alcohol. Alcoholics Anonymous founder Bill Wilson was dosed with the hallucinogen belladonna at Towns Hospital in 1933, leading to the revelation that enabled him to quit drinking. In his autobiography Pass It On, Wilson's description of the experience sounds psychedelic: "Suddenly, my room blazed with an indescribably white light. I was seized with an ecstasy beyond description." Wilson tried LSD in the 1950s (when it was still legal) under a doctor's supervision. He enthusiastically explored LSD's clinical use to treat alcoholism, encouraging his wife Lois to also try it. The organization Wilson founded ultimately objected and buried the research, much like the Catholic church left out the sacrament kykeon in its communion ceremonies, leaving only the meaningless vestiges. A new book reveals that today's AA works for less than 10% of its members, and is harmful to the others.

The Joe Rogan show recently featured an Iboga experience. 

Last August, Keeping up with the Kardashians showed Kris's mother M.J., who has cancer, taking some marijuana-laced gummy bears to help her appetite, and talking Kris into trying some for her neck pain. The two ladies are munching out and giggling it up until "Mr. Buzzkill" (Bruce Jenner) shows up.

In 2013, three Karsashians (Kim, Khloe and Kourtney) signed an open letter to President Obama calling for an end to the injustice of the war on drugs, along with 175 fellow entertainers, civil rights leaders, members of the faith community, business leaders and athletes.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Heart's Wilson Sisters Rock (and Roll)

UPDATE 2/20: Ann Wilson recently posted a vintage picture of her with a joint to her Facebook page under the headline, "Here's to Friday." 

Ann and Nancy Wilson, who with the band Heart made songs like "Crazy on You" and "Magic Man" rites of passage for my generation of women (and beyond), are Culture Magazine's latest cool coup interview for their March issue.

Come on home, girl
He said with a smile
You don't have to love me yet
Let's get high awhile
But try to understand
Try to understand
Try, try, try to understand
He's a magic man

Asked if the Seattle-based sisters were advocates for medical marijuana like fellow Culture Cover Girls Lily Tomlin, Melissa Etheridge, Margaret Cho, and Roseanne Barr, Ann replied:

"We think it should be legal in every state in the country! It’s obviously less dangerous and harmful than alcohol, and it has many good uses for people, especially people who are very ill, but also for people who suffer from anxiety, insomnia, or pain of different types. It’s just strange to me that we’re still even talking about it."

Along with 20 million others, you've probably seen the video of the Wilsons' performance of "Stairway To Heaven" accompanied by full choir and orchestra at the 2012 Kennedy Center Honors. Sing it, sistas.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Goddess Magu, the Hemp Maiden

UPDATE 10/15: Magu is included in the new book Tokin' Women: A 4000-Year Herstory.

Deep researcher Steven Hager posted an interesting Wikipedia page this morning regarding Magu (Chinese: 麻姑), a Taoist xian ("inspired sage," "ecstatic") whose name means Hemp Maiden or Goddess.

Magu’s name combines the Chinese character MA – which derives from a Zhou Dynasty ideograph showing plants drying in a shed – with GU, a kinship term for a woman also used in religious titles like Priestess. It’s been proposed that the name is related to the Old Persian word “magus” (magician, magi).

Ma Gu is often depicted flying on a crane, riding a deer or holding peaches or wine (symbols of longevity). She is associated with the elixir of life and is the protector of females. Before becoming immortal she freed slaves who were working for her evil father. She is often pictured on birthday cards in China, where cannabis has been continuously cultivated since Neolithic times, and the saying, "When you see a deer you know Ma Gu is near," is common. Magu Wine is made in Jianchang and Linchuan. Her harvest festival, when cannabis is traditionally gathered, celebrates the time “when the world was green.”

Magu is called Mago in Korea and Mako in Japan, where a saying “Magu scratches the itch” harkens to her long, crane-like fingernails. Several early folktales from Sichuan province associate Magu with caves, and one describes a shaman who invoked her. She is said to have ascended to immortality at Magu Shan ("Magu Mountain") in Nancheng. A second Magu Mountain is located in Jianchang county.

Magu was also goddess of Shandong's sacred Mount Tai, where cannabis "was supposed to be gathered on the seventh day of the seventh month," wrote Joseph Needham in Science and Civilization in China (1959). Needham wrote, “there is much reason for thinking that the ancient Taoists experimented systematically with hallucinogenic smokes…at all events the incense-burner remained the centre of changes and transformations….” The (ca. 570 CE) Daoist encyclopedia records that cannabis was added into ritual censers. 

A modern Taoist sect called the Way of Infinite Harmony worships Magu and advocates for the religious use of cannabis (but its Wiki page was just deleted).

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Celebrating Disease at The Oscars, Instead of Combating It (with Cannabis)

When Julianne Moore (pictured) or Eddie Redmayne make their expected Oscar acceptance speeches on Sunday night, they ought to call for more research into the use of cannabis for the diseases that resulted in their award-worthy roles.

Redmayne and Moore both took the Golden Globe acting prize, him for playing the ALS-afflicted Stephen Hawking in "The Theory of Everything" and her for portraying an Alzheimer's victim in "Still Alice."

Apart from offering meaty roles to actors, these diseases have nothing to recommend them. But cannabis has shown promise against both.

As documented in NORML's yearly booklet "Emerging Clinical Applications for Cannabis and Cannabinoids: A Review of the Recent Scientific Literature," over 4.5 million Americans are afflicted with Alzheimers, and an estimated 30,000 are living with ALS (aka Lou Gehrig's disease).

No approved treatments or medications are available to stop the progression of Alzheimers Disease (AD), and few pharmaceuticals have been FDA-approved to treat symptoms of the disease. A review of the recent scientific literature indicates that cannabinoid therapy may provide symptomatic relief to patients afflicted with AD while also moderating the progression of the disease.

Some experts believe that cannabinoids' neuroprotective properties could also play a role in moderating AD. Writing in the September 2007 issue of the British Journal of Pharmacology, investigators at Ireland's Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience concluded, "[C]annabinoids offer a multi‐faceted approach for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease by providing neuroprotection and reducing neuroinflammation, whilst simultaneously supporting the brain's intrinsic repair mechanisms by augmenting neurotrophin expression and enhancing neurogenesis. ... Manipulation of the cannabinoid pathway offers a pharmacological approach for the treatment of AD that may be efficacious than current treatment regimens."

Steven Hawking with Eddie Redmayne,
who plays him in "The Theory of Everything"
Recent preclinical findings indicate that cannabinoids can delay ALS progression. Writing in the March 2004 issue of the journal Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis & Other Motor Neuron Disorders, investigators at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco reported that the administration of THC both before and after the onset of ALS symptoms staved disease progression and prolonged survival in animals compared to untreated controls.

Experts are calling for clinical trials to assess cannabinoids for the treatment of ALS. Writing in the American Journal of Hospice & Palliative Medicine in 2010, a team of investigators reported, "Based on the currently available scientific data, it is reasonable to think that cannabis might significantly slow the progression of ALS, potentially extending life expectancy and substantially reducing the overall burden of the disease."

Cannabis has also been shown to be helpful for chronic pain, which Jennifer Aniston's character suffers in "Cake." (She was nominated for other awards but snubbed by the Academy.) But even some veterans are being told they must choose between cannabis and prescription meds these days.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Tiffany's...or a Toke? Holly Chose Shopping Therapy Over Marijuana

"I've had a little go at marijuana. It's not half so destructive as brandy. Cheaper, too. Unfortunately, I prefer brandy."

This is what Miss Holly Golightly said to the press after being arrested for carrying messages from imprisoned mobster Sally Tomato in the 1958 Truman Capote novella "Breakfast at Tiffany's."

The 1961 film starring Audrey Hepburn (pictured) erased this, and all marijuana references, while retaining the plot that implicated Holly in a drug-dealing ring. After her arrest she loses her Brazilian boyfriend (with whom, in the book, she is pregnant; she miscarries while in jail). Still she refuses to narc on her friend Sally, saying, "Testify against a friend I will not. Not even if they can prove he doped Sister Kenny."

Unlike in the movie, the book contains no happy ending for Holly, who Capote said was based on a real 17-year-old girl he knew (absent the Sally Tomato connection).

"I always knew she was a hop-hop head with no more morals than a hound-bitch in heat. She belongs in prison," stammered Holly's so-called friend who married her former beau Rusty Trawler when called for help. Ironically, marijuana is first introduced in the book when Holly describes in a conversation with the book's narrator (Paul in the movie) her fondness for Tiffany's as an antidote to the "mean reds":

"You're afraid and you sweat like hell, but you don't know what you're afraid of. Except something bad is going to happen, only you don't know what it is. You've had that feeling?"

"Quite often. Some people call it angst."

"All right. Angst. But what do you do about it?"

"Well, a drink helps."

“I’ve tried that. I’ve tried aspirin, too. Rusty thinks I should smoke marijuana, and I did for a while, but it only makes me giggle. What I’ve found does the most good is just to get into a taxi and go to Tiffany’s. It calms me down right away..."

The film was fine with depicting Hepburn as a bit of a prostitute, and Paul as a kept man (unlike the unnamed narrator in the novella, a working man who faced the draft when he lost his job). Marijuana wasn't completely taboo for movies at that time: it appears in Sweet Bird of Youth the following year (as a means by which Paul Newman's character tries to bribe the aging actress Alexandra del Lago) and it was similarly smeared in 1957's Sweet Smell of Success.

A Broadway play more true to Capote's book was mounted in 2012. London's Royal Albert Hall just announced on Valentine's Day it would host a "live" screening of the film, complete with orchestra, in June. They called Holly, with "gargantuan cigarette holder in hand – one of the most recognisable and arresting images in cinema." (She smoked strong Picayune cigarettes in the book.)

In the film, Holly mischievously waters a marijuana-like plant with a drink while standing in front of a mirror (shown). Later, just after the cat is entranced by Holly's twirling cigarette holder, a party guest is depicted laughing hysterically, then crying, at a mirror. A nod to marijuana's effects?

Capote said of marijuana, "Pot makes the most stupid people sound amusing—that's the best thing about it. They never turn mean, they laugh at everything, and they turn charming even if they are dull."  He reminisced about "smoking up a storm" at the movies during his adolescence, saying, "I remember smoking all the way through a Bette Davis movie, laughing louder and louder as she got cloudier and cloudier." The author tried LSD twice, given to him by a doctor while it was still legal. Hepburn was a heavy tobacco smoker who suffered from asthma and died of cancer at only 63.

Rather than being romantically involved with Holly as in the movie, in the book and life, Paul/Truman was her gay friend. Capote wouldn't speculate about Holly being a lesbian, but pointed out that 80% prostitutes are. Philip Seymour Hoffman won an Oscar portraying Capote in 2005 and Robert Morse won a Tony for playing him on Broadway in 1990.

ADDENDUM: I recently found that Capote mentioned “kef” in his introduction to My Sister’s Hand in Mine: the Collected Works of Jane Bowles. “Tangiers is composed of two mismatching parts, one of them a dull modern area stuffed with office buildings and tall gloomy dwellings, and the other a casbah descending through a medieval puzzlement of alleys and alcoves and kef-odored, mint-scented piazzas down to the crawling with sailors, ship horn-hollering port," he wrote. "The Bowles have established themselves in both sectors—have a sterilized, tout comfort apartment in the newer quarter, and also a refuge hidden away in the darker Arab neighborhood: a native house that must be one of the cities tiniest habitations—ceilings so low that one has almost literally to move on hands and knees from room to room; but the rooms themselves are like a charming series of postcard-sized Vuillards—Moorish cushions spilling over Moorish-patterned carpets, all cozy as a raspberry tart and illuminated by intricate lanterns and windows that allow the light of sea skies and views that encompass minarets and ships and the blue-washed rooftops of native tenements receding lie a ghostly staircase to the clamorous shoreline. Or that is how I remember it on the occasion of a single visit made at sunset on an evening, oh, fifteen years ago.” 

When author Jane Bowles arrived in Tanger, her husband Paul wrote, she had a traumatic experience with majoun and never tried it again. Although Paul repeatedly warned against taking too much, due to delayed onset, Jane impatiently gobbled a second helping and overdosed. "Illogically enough, from that day on, she remained an implacable enemy of all forms of cannabis. The fact that her experience had been due solely to an overdose seemed to her beside the point," Bowles wrote.

Jane, who seemed to prefer alcohol, doesn't seem to address cannabis in any of her stories, but in one of them, "Everything Is Nice," a Moslem woman named Zodelia that the narrator meets on the street comments about the dual life that the Bowles lead in the city, spending half their time with Moslem friends, and half with "Nazarenes" at the hotel. The narrator is taken to a tea party, where she eats "dusty" cakes. The story ends, "When she reached the place where she had met Zodelia she went over to the wall and leaned on it. Although the sun had sank behind the houses, the sky was still luminous and the blue of the wall had deepened. She rubbed her fingertips along it: the wash was fresh and a little of the powdery stuff came off. And she remembered how once she had reached out to touch the face of a clown because it had awakened some longing. It had happened at a little circus, but not when she was a child."

In Paul Bowles's semi-autobiographical novel The Sheltering Sky, the characters Port and Kit Moresby were based on him and Jane. Debra Winger played Kit in the film adaptation of the novel.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Madonna Brings Back Baal at the Grammys

Madonna continued her pop culture interpretations of ancient myths last night on the Grammys, cavorting in a bright red bullfighter's costume with a herd of male dancers wearing bull horns on their heads. Some commentators recoiled at the "Santanic" imagery of the piece, and they're not far off.

Throughout the Old Testament, prophet after prophet warns the children of Israel that God will bring misery upon them unless they cease to burn incense to worship the god Baal. Some scholars think that the “burnt offerings” that were made to Baal and/or his consort Ashtoreth were cannabis, mistranslated as “calamus” from caneh bosm (sweet or good cane) in scripture.

Astarte with horns.
The Louvre.
Baal was depicted, in some regions, as a horned god, and his horns were adopted for the Christian concept of the Devil. Ashtoreth was the biblical name for Asherah (or sometimes Athirat) or Astarte/Ishtar, who was also depicted as horned.

In 1875 British General Charles Gordon, sent to suppress a Muslim revolt in the Sudan, wrote, “In the choice between God & Baal, they choose Baal.” He was beheaded by Muslim rebels (as depicted in the 1966 movie Khartoum with Charlton Heston as Gordon and Laurence Olivier as the Mahdi). Today we're obsessed with Balls.

Baal was also called Bel, a descendant of Belili, the Sumerian White Goddess. Jezebel, whose name means "where is Bel?" was a Phoenician princess in the 9th century who married Ahab the prince of Israel, but maintained her loyalty to Bel. To this day “a Jezebel” is a term applied to a fallen woman not to be trusted; it was the name of a Bette Davis movie wherein she betrays her fiancé by wearing a red dress instead of a white one to a ball. But the name's been resurrected as a hip website for women. 

Elsewhere in the Grammys broadcast, Rihanna rocked with VIP Paul McCartney and Kanye West; Eric Church gave the most powerful performance since Neil Young's "Southern Man," and GaGa was good with Tony Bennett (but it shoulda been Amy). Tenacious D took Best Metal Performance and the late Joan Rivers was awarded her first Grammy. Finally, Sam Smith won best new artist and best song for aping Tom Petty's "Won't Back Down."

Excerpted in part from the forthcoming book Tokin Women, A 4000-Year Herstory from Evangelista Sista Press.