|Druids and Ferries
This piece ran in the May 2005 edition of the cool freak rag Arthur. It is an expanded version of a chapter from my forthcoming book The Visionary State (Chronicle Books, 2006), and concerns a hidden pocket of freakdom in Marin County, where Alan Watts once resided. "Too anarchic and happenstance to count as a commune, Druid Heights became what Gidlow jokingly called 'an unintentional community:' a vortex of social and artistic energy that bloomed out of nowhere, did its wild and sometimes destructive thing, and, for the most part, moved on."
Alan Watts on Disc
A review of some Alan Watts recordings, including the amazing This is IT, an album which must be heard to be believed."On the surface level, the recording resembles an improvised bongo jam between beatniks with exotica leanings, with moaning mantras, shaman rattles, faux gagaku, and dribbling Afro-Carribean beats. But just when you think things are just going groovey, some little nonsense ditty or stoner chant suddenly bristles into something ancient and enormous."
Hammer of the Goddess
A review of the new postmetal Isis album, Panopticon. "While the band's riffs are sludgerific, their greatness now turns as much on the softer stuff: layered, pensive, and sometimes downright pretty passages whose mellowness is not, in that tried-and-true metal formula, simply a palette cleanser for monster chords."
The Alchemy of Trash
A piece on collage and juxtaposition in postwar California spirituality and art, including discussions of Jess, Wallace Berman, Bruce Conner, Robert Dunan, and Watts Towers. Slated for the forthcoming issue of Yeti. "On the one hand, Jess was an appropriation artist celebrating the possibilities that arise when art world hierarchies are inverted and fragments torn from the passing surfaces of modern life are slammed together. At the same time, these possibilities also suggest the old romantic heresies of magic and transcendence: faced with a jumble of resonant and juxtaposed images, our minds inevitably start playing the game of analogies and correspondences."
Mars Gone Wild
What follows the face on Mars? A crisp overview of the current crop of Martian anomalies, for Wired magazine. "Any time you interpret curious shapes, whether of sedimentary rock or ancient hominid bones, you confront the same faces-in-clouds problem: Is it there or am I imagining it? The difference with Martian anomalies is that hundreds of millions of people can directly point their Web browsers at the same cloud."
Erowid.Org: Don't Get High Without It
An LA Weekly piece on Erowid.Org, an online encyclopedia devoted to psychoactive drugs that has single-handedly transformed the politics of drug information. Includes a profile of Earth and Fire, the two elusive neo-hippy data geeks who run the site. "Earth and Fire don't take up guns in the drug war; they blanket the battleground with leaflets."
A deep, scholarly remix of an old travelogue on the Goan trance scene, this time published in Graham St. John's worthwhile collection Rave Ascension. "Goa has become the site, both mythical and historical, for a sort of tantric hand-off between an earlier generation of Western trance dancers and today's psychedelic ravers. Whether or not Goa is the core source of rave spirituality, the freak colony has grown into a spiritual origin, a source."