Overweening Generalist

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Divergence: Small Talk on Drugs

I told a friend I had a blog.

"Who doesn't?," she said.

Good point.

I said I'd only been doing it since the first week of May. And then I sorta lied about how many hits and followers I had, and how popular Overweening Generalist was. I assume I'm not the first to get creative about the truth regarding one's own blogging...or writing in general.

It was suggested that, if people liked my blather about books and ideas, injecting something about drugs or sex or <ahem> a few other "things" like that couldn't hurt. So what the hell: drugs.

Writers and Performance Enhancing Drugs
I've always thought it somewhat odd that heavy alcohol use is so closely associated with our great writers, which I talked about in the first section of a blogspew here. Because, though I enjoy very hoppy double IPA beer and strong zinfandel, ethyl alcohol is not exactly a smart drug. Let's face it. It's more of a stupid drug. A stupid drug I enjoy. I think its charm is its possibilities for conviviality.

[There's something here that fascinates me, endlessly: the idea that drugs are a part of all of our lives, and that social acceptability of alcohol led to the themes and style and overall mood of the alcoholic writer, and Unistatians and non-Unistatians who read Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Chandler, on and on: there is a faint hovering whiff over these writers...of booze. And so: think marijuana and William Burroughs for Naked Lunch, heroin for...really, a whole bunch of writers and actually when I think about it writers are - almost all of the ones I'm interested in - drunk or stoned on something. And someone should say something about Irvine Welsh here.]

Robert Anton Wilson enjoyed Guinness and Irish whiskey, as an American writer of Irish heritage who identified with Ireland, and even left Unistat for Dublin and environs when Ronald Reagan was elected. But alcohol aside, Wilson's primary drug was cannabis, which he said he wrote with quite often. In an interview Paul Krassner did with Wilson (RAW to his fans, of which I am most definitely one) in High Times magazine, Wilson said he wrote stoned, then edited straight, then wrote stoned, then edited straight...a few iterations more or less. He said that this was in the tradition of the sufis...I must say: I get a "contact high" just reading Wilson, he's so magnificent, so take that with a pinch of salt, or a bong hit if you're so inclined.

Clearly, coffee and other caffeinated drinks tend to go hand in hand with this idea of "smart drugs" for writers: the evidence for coffee and writing is overwhelming. I often wonder if the Industrial Revolution in Europe would have ever even happened were it not for tea and coffee being imported from Magical Far Off Lands. For coffee helps get it done, aye!

Here's a story on writers "juicing."

Legalization of Cannabis in California: Is This Gonna Be "The One"?
Last election here on the West Coast of Unistat, in a state that some economists have measured as the world's fifth largest economy, Proposition 19 lost in November of 2010. It would have effectively legalized marijuana. I really thought it would pass, but I may have been seeing the world through green-colored glasses. It was a close vote. The entire economies of much of the northernmost part of the state might have taken a big hit if it passed, because this is where some of the most potent marijuana in the world is grown. If the state could grow it, sell it, tax it...what would happen to the Emerald Triangle?

Well, admittedly I voted Yes on 19, not so much because I like smoking dope - I do - but the very idea that we are still criminally prosecuting people for growing and selling it is abhorrent to me.

Now the groundswell for legalization may see a "perfect storm" brewing on the horizon: there are very good civil libertarian arguments for it and they're much more openly discussed. The state has been hit hard by the Great Recession, and the taxes brought in from pot sales could only help. Theoretically, the Tea Party would be for legalization, but I am not convinced they really are for civil liberties. (Sombunall?) Furthermore, older people who used to think of pot smoking as something only Young People and "hippies" did: they either are using it themselves to treat a host of ailments, or they know someone who has used it and hail it as a godsend. (Which it is.) So I hate to set myself up for another disappointment, but this next election cycle may see a dream come true for many of us in California.

Here's a recent story on this

LSD As A Military Weapon?
Yep. As our good friends over at Disinformation (follow the leads!) saw, the idea that American tanks could roll into hostile territory, shoot LSD "loony gas" into the environment, then wait until the combatants were tripping, and then taking prisoners would be easy as cake, and casualties would be at a minimum: what a great idea!

To those of us who read books like Martin Lee and Bruce Shlain's marvelous Acid Dreams or Jay Stevens's Storming Heaven: LSD and the American Dream - and read both like Hassidic scholars read the Talmud - we are not surprised at all by this story. But if you are surprised, and you'd like more surprises as crazy or crazier than this one, read the aforementioned books for starters. When/if you read about the CIA's forays into LSD for chemical warfare reasons, you'll get a good sense for why using "loony gas" was a really dumb idea...But probably not as stupid and evil as using Agent Orange.

Anyone For Some Modafinil?
Speaking of the military, they've been using Modafinil (AKA: Provigil) for a while now. It allows you to stay awake for much longer periods than you've ever experienced, without getting loopy-tired, or with all the problems of short-term memory deficits and mental and physical errors. And it's not addictive. Or so they say. What blows my mind is that it doesn't make you euphoric like speed or cocaine. You just get bored from staying up for so long.

And it shouldn't surprise any of us that Provigil has made its way into the hands of graduate students and lawyers, and all kinds of people in high-stakes intellectual fields. Write your papers over a three-day period with no sleep and no drowsiness? Think of the ramifications! The author of the article I linked to above under the lines on writers and performance enhancing drugs seems to have missed this one. It'll come around...

Besides soldiers, medical students are a natural for this drug. One of my areas of interest is books on the lives of medical students and the process of medical education, becoming a doctor. I'm always amazed at the long hours under high-stress that third-year med students are forced to undergo.

I have never tried Provigil, but I would if I had a source I could trust. The neurobiologists and pharmaceutical folks are learning more and more about the suprachiasmatic nucleus (see how smart I am?) and other areas linked to sleep-wake cycles. Other animals have demonstrated the ability to stay awake and alert for a week when the stakes are high. Why not us? But the really big money is in curing insomnia: if we understand enough about sleep-wake and the biologically internal "clock" we have, then a targeted drug or drugs that don't mess with your alertness or have big-time drawback side-effects such as memory problems, daytime drowsiness, seizures, addictions, etc: wouldn't this be a boon to humankind?

I think so, but my intuition is that sleep-wake is such a basic thing to us that this will be a much harder nut to crack than the researchers are saying. And I for one would want to wait at least five years after such a thing came on the market, just to see how my fellow sleep-deprived citizens fared, especially with regard to side-effects.

Here's a story from Wired's archives on the high hopes for Provigil and like drugs. It's a tad dated, but hey: you can Bing it, (Or is it "Bang it"?)

I hope this blogspew has not been a soporific for you, Dear Reader. Try some caffeine?


Royal Academy of Reality 1132 said...

Do you think the U. S. Congress will ever give states the right to really legalize the herb?

michael said...

Good Q. I actually made a stab at a study of the history of "State's Rights" in an effort to see trends, what actuates differences in interpretations of the courts in changing an issue to a state's rights thing, or Much Ado About the 10th. I got bogged down in the race stuff.

I've read some really smart pro-legalization people (smart in that they seem to have studied the 10th w/re/to pot) and from what I've seen it seems a tad equivocal.

I wonder if economic pressure of needed revenue by states, a growing distaste for court-clogging and feeding the prison industry in Blue States, and consciousness shift about pot will get it relegated to the States. But then, the Feds seem to not dig the 10th?

Wd a right wing Roberts court throw it upon the 10th? I don't know. It seems whatever is decent for non-rich citizens they vote against.

Scalia and Cheney: there's two real Winners for ya.

I won't be sad to see them leave the Living.

Answer: I don't know.

Jason said...

"Wilson said he wrote stoned, then edited straight, then wrote stoned, then edited straight..."

I remember him also saying somewhere that if you write stoned then you're well-advised to edit straight, whereas if you write straight then edit stoned. Good advice, to my mind.

michael said...

@Jason: Thanks for the comment, and yep: RAW's advice works for me, however lousy or delightful or somewhere-in-between you find this blog.

I often don't get to editing straight until the blog's been up for a couple days.

Here's the thing: I find it unbelievably FUN to edit stoned. So writing straight first works really well for me too.

When RAW was interviewed by Paul Krassner for High Times he said his pieces are written stoned, edited straight, then gone over again stoned, then edited straight, and then at least another round. I interviewed the RAW not long after that and he said he doesn't go through quite as many cycles as he told Krassner, but hey: it was High Times.

Leary too said this was a Sufi writing tradition. Go ahead and read Jalaluddin Rumi stoned and you'll FEEL it: hash is all over that stuff, the best-selling poetry in the world, year after year. Rumi even beats Shakespeare and Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost for sales, if you can believe it. Rumi writes "wine" as a metaphor a lot. I think he means hash...(Or his translators into English gloss "wine.")

For some good writing on writers writing stoned, see Sadie Plant's _Writing Stoned_, and if you can find it, the massive, sprawling _Orgies of the Hemp Eaters_ by Hakim Bey and Abel Zug.

Advice good? Word.