Saturday, October 31, 2009

Lost Posters

Drawn By Jerry Garcia

An integral part of any music scene is the promotional posters that are created to advertise the shows. All the cool posters you see around Northampton are some of the strongest evidence of what a vibrant music scene there is in this area.

Many people collect music posters, and the ultimate collectibles are the old posters from the 1960's psychedelic scene in San Franciso. The rarest of the rare are the Acid Test posters, those that were used to promote the "happenings" where author Ken Kesey and his house band the Grateful Dead performed at dancehalls where LSD was served to the sometimes unsuspecting audience, as part of Kesey's belief that if a significant perentage of the population had the LSD experience then revolutionary changes would begin to occur in society as a whole.

It had long been believed that Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead, who painted and drew throughout his entire life, had drawn some of the earliest Acid Test flyers, but none were known to have survived. However, last year a mysterious old vinyl Grateful Dead album surfaced at a record swap that had stuffed inside it nine never before seen posters from the earliest years of the Kesey/Dead scene. After extensive research, the posters were identified as the long lost Jerry Garcia Acid Test posters. The collector who discovered the first poster on eBay tells the tale:

Around the time period of April 2008, a very strange, very amateurish-looking Acid Test handbill for the Fillmore on Jan 8, 1966, appeared on E-Bay and was sitting up for several days before I noticed it. I looked at it carefully. Nobody had ever seen one like this before. Every day I scan E-Bay for Acid Test related items and on this day, there was some "energy" about the piece because I was scanning down through the page and it literally jumped out at me as being something interesting.

I contacted the seller and asked if he was interested in selling me the item for $400, and he agreed, removed it and mailed me the item. The next week, I took it in to Dennis King and had it authenticated, and Dennis concluded he believed it was real, and not faked. Dennis said he believed it was printed on Day-Glo green paper which had faded. This gave me a boost of confidence in the item, and likewise, confidence in the seller.

At the same time I contacted the seller to acquire it, I also asked where the item came from, and how he happened upon it. The seller was very nice, and responded that he got it from a record swapmeet where it was inside an old Grateful Dead mono version of the first album.

To read the whole story behind the discovery of these historic handbills drawn by Jerry Garcia click here.

The Poe Down

In case you didn't notice, this is the 200th anniversary year of the birth of Edgar Allen Poe in Boston, Massachusetts. UMass is holding a Halloween weekend symposium in honor of the event.

It's mostly for Poe scholars from around the country, but I strolled past to check out the scene. There were Poe t-shirts for sale.

Also posters were on display from the many cheesey Hollywood movies made from Poe's work.

The father of the modern detective story and a pioneer of fantasy and science-fiction, Edgar Allen Poe is indeed worthy of having his birthday celebrated.

By the way, there's a big party at Sam's in Northampton tonight.

Evil pumpkins haunt a porch in Hamp.

Today's Video

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

False Promise

Can the Government Save Money?

I'm shocked that I continue to hear people say on TV and in the papers that one of the main goals of the so-called health care reform efforts in Congress is to control spending. Huh? When the hell has that ever happened? On the contrary I strain in vain to think of any area in which the government getting involved in providing any service has resulted in cost savings.

If anything, government involvement is an invitation to waste and fraud, as the TV show 60 Minutes so eloquently showed on Sunday. I urge you to watch the video below of that 60 Minutes segment, and then I dare you to talk about government savings in the health care field with a straight face.

If Congress were really interested in controlling costs, they would not model their program, as they have, on what increasingly appears to be the failing model of universal health care here in Massachusetts. Columnist Jacob Sullivan explains:

Since 2006, Michael Cannon notes in a recent Cato Institute paper, health insurance premiums in Massachusetts have risen by 8 percent to 12 percent a year, almost double the national average. During the same period, total medical spending has increased by 28 percent. The cost of subsidizing coverage through the state’s Commonwealth Care program is expected to hit $880 million next year, 20 percent more than originally projected.

Second, despite stricter penalties, Massachusetts seems to be experiencing adverse selection. Cannon notes that, while the share of residents without insurance has shrunk from about 10 percent to about 5 percent, the proportion of uninsured people in the 18-to-25 age group has increased from 30 percent to 35 percent, indicating that “the young (and presumably more healthy) are less likely to comply with the mandate.”

Third, requiring people to buy insurance entails defining the minimum level of coverage, which necessarily makes insurance more expensive than it would otherwise be. In effect, the government prohibits the cheapest insurance plans, the ones with the highest deductibles and the least generous benefits.

The upshot is a phenomenon we have seen many times before: Instead of protecting us from big business, big government buys it off with our money.

Canadian High

With Grace Slick in poor health the Jefferson Starship is today primarily a Paul Kantner solo band. Currently touring Canada, a review from a Canadian paper yesterday describes the 68 year old Kantner as still overseeing a realm of stoned chaos.

Kantner sang and played mostly rhythm guitar. Here’s one dude who’s still living the dream. He spoke several times on the quality of Vancouver Island drugs, which apparently, pale to his usual toot.

“Some of the stuff I had from your local dispensary is pretty good,” declared Kantner sagely. “But it’s not as good as San Francisco.”

To read the whole concert review click here.

Hadley in the Rain

Today is another one of those gloomy, wet New England fall days. On the bus into Amherst this morning I took some pictures through the rain streaked windows of the farm fields of Hadley. Sometimes I captured a nice effect.

Other times I didn't. Those blurry light and dark blobs on the grass are white ducks and black hens.

This area is so rural you need a sign just to warn you of an approaching sign.

All the farmer's fields are dead, patiently waiting until next spring to be reborn.

Growth, harvest and rebirth, the unchanging cycle of hundreds of years.

Today's Video

Easthampton explores the bizarre.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

President Trips

Did JFK Take LSD?

John F. Kennedy is probably the most popular president to come out of Massachusetts, although politically one would probably have to say that John Adams and Calvin Coolidge were more influential. Perhaps we like Kennedy more because unlike Adams and Coolidge he was alive in the lifetime of most people now living. But was JFK so modern that he once took LSD? Sounds ridiculous, but the book I'm reading at the moment Timothy Leary - A Biography by Robert Greenfield, actually seriously discusses that possibility:

Tim Leary wrote that before he left Cambridge to return to Mexico by way of Los Angeles, a good-looking aristocratic woman from Washington, D.C., had come to his office. Her name was Mary Pinchot Meyer and she wanted Tim to teach her how to run an LSD session so she could turn on a close friend. Because he was a very important man as well as a public figure, her friend could not possibly make this connection for himself. With Tim, Michael Hollingshead, and a woman to whom Flo Ferguson had introduced Tim in New York, Meyer took part in a low dose LSD session. Meyer seemed to know a good deal about the CIA's use of mind-expanding drugs in a series of disastrous mind-control experiments that have since been well documented.

Tim Leary would write about three more meetings with Mary Pinchot Meyer over the next two years. In 1965, Tim discovered to his great horror that she had been murdered on October 12, 1964, as she walked along the canal towpath in Georgetown. Her body was identified by her brother-in-law, Ben Bradlee, executive editor of The Washington Post. Tim also learned for the first time that Meyer was married to CIA division chief Cord Meyer, Tim's nemesis at the American Veterans Committee during his graduate days at Berkeley. When it was revealed that Mary Pinchot Meyer had been one of John F. Kennedy's mistresses, Tim immediately suspected she had been killed for giving LSD to the president and then recording this information in her diary, which was never found.

Despite these intriguing facts, Greenfield says that the information is still too sketchy to say that JFK did indeed take LSD. Greenfield concludes:

While Tim did have contact with Mary Pinchot Meyer during this period and probably did supply her with psychedelics, which she may well have taken with someone in power in Washington, there is no evidence the man was John F. Kennedy.

So there is no direct evidence linking JFK to LSD use. However, if I were to guess which of the Kennedy brothers might have taken LSD I would choose Teddy. Despite the fact that Kennedy was hard on Leary when he testified before a congressional committee in the early '60's, the youngest Kennedy brother was not entirely averse to the LSD scene, as evidenced by the periods of correspondence he had with psychedelic pioneer Ken Kesey. Overall I find it easier to believe that the hard partying Ted Kennedy dropped acid than the more restrained JFK.

Meanwhile, a famous Pine Pointer and beloved crossing guard sent me this email recently about Leary's Springfield birthplace.

To make a short story long, they were discussing Timothy Leary's house on the Nostalgia Forum and much to my surprise, I found out it's at my crossing guard corner. I didn't believe that was his house, because the Ferris family had lived there for a century or two. Honestly, city records show it was built in 1854, but I believe it's older.

So, I accosted a neighbor and sure enough, Timothy Leary was born in that house. His mother had been Abigail Ferris. My neighbor knew his sister, who had been a teacher at Myrtle Street School. I've been staring at that house for 7 years and had no idea. Anyways, he most likely hung out at the Indian Orchard Library and went to either Myrtle St or Indian Orchard School. I'm not sure when IO was built, but I know it's very old. Next time I'm at the main library, I'll check the city directories.

So there's your less-than-six-degrees of separation. You know me - I know my neighbor - My neighbor knew Helen Leary - And, well, you know. Now, doesn't that just make your day? Anyways, here's a photo of Timothy Leary's house, maybe his ghost is still hanging around. - Marilyn

Shouldn't some attempt me made to preserve this house as a historic shrine?

In Hamp

More evidence that the Springfield mafia is moving into Northampton.

The Dunkin Donuts on King Street, one of the Valley's oldest, is undergoing renovations.

The old sign dumped by the side of the parking lot.

Earth flag in yesterday's rain.

Early This Morning

This morning I went into the wild hills of Haydenville to pick apples.

It's actually past harvest time, but there were still plenty to be picked.

A nice relaxing way to start the day.

We gave away the apples we picked to the Northampton Survival Center, where they will be made into apple pies, although perhaps some would prefer that they be made into hard cider instead!

Today's Video

I like this psychedelic poster that's plastered all over downtown Hamp.

Hurtling from the future into the past, here's some classic footage of Northampton drummer Brian T. Marchese and his teenage punk band back in 1991.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Lessons Unlearned

The Price we Pay

In 1989 millions of people were suddenly freed from socialist oppression when most of the communist world collapsed because of the failure of their socialist economies and the firm military pressure of the United States under the leadership of Ronald Reagan and the first George Bush. Yet virtually no media acknowledgement has been made of the twenty year anniversary of what might arguably be called the most important year in modern history. The only commemoration I've seen locally is a display in the Robert Frost Library at Amherst College.

How did we win the Cold War, and yet seem to have completely forgotten the lessons of that victory? Part of it is due to the domination of our higher education system by leftists, who at the time of the socialist collapse were still preaching about the "historical inevtablity" of socialism. The fall of the Berlin Wall should have been followed by the mass resignations of the heads of the humanities departments of nearly all our leading colleges and universities. Instead, they stayed on and pretended the fall of the socialist world had no significance. Therefore most Americans have never been properly educated about the Cold War, what it meant, and the important lessons to be learned. While the rest of the world is embracing free markets and enjoying the prosperity it brings, ironically the United States is trapped in a leftward drift with fading freedoms and a government crippled economy. Reason magazine helps to explain what went wrong.

November 1989 was the most liberating month of arguably the most liberating year in human history, yet two decades later the country that led the Cold War coalition against communism seems less interested than ever in commemorating, let alone processing the lessons from, the collapse of its longtime foe. At a time that fairly cries out for historical perspective about the follies of central planning, Americans are ignoring the fundamental conflict of the postwar world, and instead leapfrogging back to what Steve Forbes describes as the “Jurassic Park statism” of the 1930s.

In the long fight between Karl Marx and Milton Friedman, even the democratic socialists of Europe had to admit that Friedman won in a landslide. Although media attention was rightly focused on the dramatic economic changes transforming Asia and the former East Bloc, fully half of the world’s privatization in the first dozen years after the Cold War, as measured by revenue, took place in Western Europe. European political and monetary integration, widely derided as statist by the Anglo-American right, has turned out to be one of the biggest engines for economic liberty in modern history. It was no accident that, in the midst of Washington’s illegal and ill-fated bailout of U.S. automakers, Swedish Enterprise Minister Maud Olofsson, when asked about the fate of struggling Saab, tersely announced, “The Swedish state is not prepared to own car factories.”

When Western Europeans are giving lectures to Americans about the dangers of economic intervention, as they have repeatedly since Barack Obama took office, it’s a good time to take stock of how drastically geopolitical arguments have pivoted during the last two decades. The United States, at least as represented by its elected officials and their economic policies, is no longer leading the global fight for democratic capitalism as the most proven path to human liberation. You are more likely to see entitlement reform in Rome than in Washington where, against the global grain, the federal government is trying to extend its role.

Cool Ad

This commerical from Alabama is a masterpiece of reverse psychology.

Amherst Antics

One good way to decorate this abandoned storefront in downtown Amherst is to let kids paint Halloween pictures on it.

The UMass Chess Club holds its meetings in the Blue Wall, the better to attract new members.

I was walking past the headquarters of the UMass Cannabis Club and saw that libertarian activist Terry Franklin was hanging out. I stopped in and took his picture.

Then he took mine.

Across the hall I saw this safe sex bulletin board decorated with drawsings of vaginas. Click photo to enlarge.

Wow, I remember just a few years ago there was a big stink at UMass about a public display of the image of a cock in a condom with a mouth near it. There was even a decency rally. Click photo to enlarge.

Personally I do not find images of genitalia offensive. But why the protest by some over the male anatomy display but not the female? Is there a double standard?

Good News

This coffeshop on King Street in Northampton is very popular.

Walking past it the other night after it was closed I saw this sign in the window that no doubt thrilled some anxious biker.

Today's Video

A beautiful performance by Storm the Ohio in Northampton last week.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Pancake Thursday

My Morning

Every Thursday I cook pancakes for the people at the shelter in Northampton. I was taught in rehab that service to others was the best way to recover from addiction, because you can't focus on your own problems when you are focusing on others. It works. Sometimes I wake up with all these crazy thought loops circling in my head, but when I have to pay attention to what someone else wants than it breaks the cycle and frees my mind to be calm.

The cold last night melted my neighbor's plant into a yellow pile.

But I had no time to rest on my neighbor's bench.

Instead I waved to the pumpkin guarding my neighbor's bike.

It is always very early when I arrive at the shelter.

Outside the shelter I saw this strange message stuck to the curb.

When I left a few hours later I passed the nearby Woodstar Cafe, which has this pile of pumpkins out front.

A warning on a Herrel's Ice Cream delivery van.

While waiting for the bus into Amherst, I saw someone had put this pumpkin with a Grateful Dead lightning bolt carved in it atop the monument in Pulaski Park.

Cutting through UMass on my way to the Amherst Survival Center, it was so sunny and nice out that a professor brought his English class outside.

At the Amherst Survival Center, where I help serve lunch, a farmer dropped off a gigantic squash. Or is it an alien egg? In any case it took both Kelsey and Ben to hold it.

And that was my very nice morning.

City of Crime

Having a less nice day was John Lysak's grandmother had to abandon her car when it broke down in Springfield. This is what she returned to find.

Today's Video

Northampton singer/songwriter Stephen Kellogg and his band The Sixers made this awesome high energy video with the help of the UMass Marching Band. It was filmed entirely at UMass.