The Baystate Objectivist

The Baystate Objectivist

Friday, July 17, 2009

On Owsley

A Bear of a Man

Today in downtown Amherst, this Grateful Dead bear mandala was waving outdoors.

The uninitiated see those bears and say, "Oh, how colorful and cute." What they don't know is that the bears are the secret symbol of the most famous manufacturer of the drug LSD in history. According to Slog:

As part of their coverage of the 40th anniversary of the Summer of Love, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Joel Selvin tracked down Owsley “Bear” Stanley during a recent visit to the Bay Area. Stanley is the first person to mass produce LSD in the mid-’60s—an estimated 1.25 million hits. He’s notoriously private, Selvin writes, rarely allowing his photo to be taken and spending the last couple decades living in isolation on the tropical coast of Queensland, Australia, waiting out the ecological disaster he believes is impending.

Some of Stanley’s words to take to heart: “What I did was a community service, the way I look at it. I was punished for political reasons. Absolutely meaningless. Was I a criminal? No. I was a good member of society. Only my society and the one making the laws are different.”

Bear was also one of the pioneers of modern concert acoustics.

Less well known are Bear's contributions to rock concert sound. As the original sound mixer for the Grateful Dead, he was responsible for fundamental advances in audio technology, things as basic now as monitor speakers that allow vocalists to hear themselves onstage.

Says the Dead's Bob Weir: "He's good for a different point of view at about any given time. He's brilliant. He knows everything."

He also is famous for his belief that one should eat nothing but meat.

When he was younger, Bear read about the Eskimos eating only fish and meat and became convinced that humans are meant to be exclusively carnivorous. The members of the Grateful Dead remember living with Bear for several months in 1966 in Los Angeles, where the refrigerator contained only bottles of milk and a slab of steak, meat they fried and ate straight out of the pan. His heart attack several years ago had nothing to do with his strict regimen, according to Bear, but more likely the result of some poisonous broccoli his mother made him eat as a youth.

Death Deja Vu

The information coming out about the high drug intake of Michael Jackson, and the role it probably played in his untimely death, is a reminder of a similar accidental drug death by the great actor Heath Ledger. In his case, as it may turn out to be with Jackson, it was not any one drug he took, but rather the synergetic effect of several mixed together, none of which are necessarily dangerous by themselves.

According to RxList the deadly drug cocktail taken by Heath Ledger included:

Oxycodone, also known under brand name OxyContin, a potent painkiller
Hydrocodone, an ingredient in Vicodin, and other painkillers.
Diazepam or Valium, an antianxiety drug prescribed as a muscle relaxant
Alprazolam or Xanax, prescribed for anxiety and panic attacks
Temazepam or Restoril, prescribed for insomnia
Doxylamine, an antihistamine sleep aid sold in the U.S. as Unisom

The death of the 28-year-old Australian-born actor, known for his starring role in Brokeback Mountain and other movies, should serve as a caution for consumers not to mix prescription drugs on their own or change the dose without consulting their doctor, says Maria Fernanda Gomez, MD. Gomez is an associate professor of psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. She is not involved in the investigation but reviewed the drugs noted in the cause-of-death report for WebMD.

The problem is not with the medications, she says, but rather the combinations. "These medications have been used for years." And if they are prescribed appropriately, in proper doses, they are effective and safe, she says.

The problem, according to Gomez, was the cumulative effect. "All these drugs are central nervous system depressants," she says. "There is drug-to-drug interaction. The additive effects of all these medications is what causes a serious problem. If you have two narcotics [the painkillers Ledger was prescribed] and two antianxiety drugs, the risk of overdose is high."

The lesson: Always be careful when taking multiple drugs that you know how they interact when used together.

Liberation Front

I like this funny ad for the this year's Boston Freedom rally.

Celebrity Mailbox

When cutting through Bartlett Hall at UMass the other day I saw that they were throwing away what apparently used to be the faculty mailbox for the journalism department. U.S. Rep. Richard Neal teaches a "course" there, and you can see his name below on the dismantled mailbox.

I'm surprised that he didn't have it addressed simply to "The Congressman."

Pointer Nostalgia

Today's hot weather brought out this brother and sister team of sugar pushers in Amherst.

75 cents? I remember my sister and I had a lemonade stand one hot summer day and sold it for a nickle a glass. Even then, sales were slow until my Uncle Steve came over and threw down a five dollar bill, grabbed our entire pitcher of lemonade and gulped down every drop. Thus being completely sold out of our product, we had no choice but to go immediately to Russell's on Boston Road and have cheeseburgers and butterscotch sundaes.

Young people have been flocking to UMass for student orientation, and this morning on the bus I found a new student coming to Amherst from Pine Point. How do I know he was a Pointer? Because he was proudly wearing his Our Lady of the Sacred Heart t-shirt!

OLSH could never compete with The Thomas M. Balliet Elementary School (nothing could) but it was none the less a fine institution and growing up I had many friends who went there. It is indeed a happy discovery that a Pine Pointer will be a member of the Class of 2013.

Today's Video

Northampton resident Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth was holding auditions in his cellar when the members of Amherst's Dinosaur Jr. suddenly appeared.


LarryK4 said...

Yeah, you would hope by now the Umass Journalism department figured out that electronic mail boxes are the way to go.

And as for Congressman Neal...gotta wonder if he would actually answer questions posed by fellow journalists in the department (especially concerning the mid-to-late 1980's and his reign as Mayor of Springfield.)

freqazoidiac said...

enjoyed your words about owsley.
I pondered the man's strict diet in the past, wondered about the paradox, and realized that the LSD experience has many facets, and does not necessarily make one more impassioned towards nature, as this has been my experience with psychedelics, which doubled my sense of personal intuition to remaina vegetarian to the core. Irony about his heart attack? That's sad to hear, but glad he's still creating and being.