In the late 1960s and 1970s, the mind-expanding modus operandi of the counterculture spread into the realm of science, and shit got wonderfully weird. Neurophysiologist John Lilly tried to talk with dolphins. Physicist Peter Phillips launched a parapsychology lab at Washington University. Princeton physicist Gerard O'Neill became an evangelist for space colonies. Groovy Science: Knowledge, Innovation, and American Counterculture is a new book of essays about this heady time! The book was co-edited by MIT's David Kaiser, who wrote the fantastic 2011 book How the Hippies Saved Physics, and UC Santa Barbara historian W. Patrick McCray. I can't wait to read it!
From an MIT News interview with Kaiser:
Read the rest
We want to address a common stereotype that dates from the time period itself, which is that the American youth movement, the hippies or counterculture, was reacting strongly against science and technology, or even the entire Western intellectual tradition of reason, as a symbol of all that should be overturned. In fact, many of them were enamored of science and technology, some of them were working scientists, and some were patrons of science. This picture of fear and revulsion is wrong.
We also see things that have a surprisingly psychedelic past. This includes certain strains of sustainability, design, and manufacture, notions of socially responsible engineering, and artisanal food. This stuff didn’t start from scratch in 1968 and didn’t end on a dime in 1982...
These folks were rejecting not science itself but what many had come to consider a depersonalized, militarized approach to the control of nature.
Over time hippie-inspired Rainbow Gatherings in the forest have become magnets for a new counterculture: homeless teens and young adults. Alice Stein's new film Dirty Kids explores the culture clash and commonality of the two free-spirited groups. Read the rest
For 45 years, our friends at Last Gasp have kept the counterculture busy with books, publishing wild, weird, wonderful, and subversive works by R Crumb, Robert Wilson, Diane di Prima, Mark Ryden, Timothy Leary, and a slew of other greats; Now they need our help. Last Gasp has launched a Kickstarter to fund the printing of their next season of books, a stellar line-up of projects by the likes of Camille Rose Garcia, Ron English, the Thanatos Archive, and Mike Davis. The awards are fantastic! Read the rest
Hippies can be traced back to a late 19th century German naturmenschen countercultural movement that embraced nudity, paganism, and natural foods. Gordon Kennedy wrote a good photo-filled book about the movement called Children of the Sun. Here's an article he co-wrote with a lot of the same info and photos.
The movement spread to California in the early 1900s, where a few young men grew long hair and beards and lived in primitive cabins in the Palm Springs area. The most famous of them was William Pester, the “Hermit of Palm Springs.” Both photos of Pester shown here were taken in 1917.
Over at Harp Guitars, Gregg Miner has written a lengthy and fascinating article about Pester and his influence on the "California Nature Boys" who lived in Los Angeles in the 1940s.
Read the rest
Over at Dangerous Minds, Richard points us to this fantastic 1967 short documentary "It's So Far Out It's Straight Down" from Granada Television. Allen Ginsberg, Pink Floyd, the staff of the International Times underground paper, and Paul McCartney all make the scene.
"The straights should welcome the underground because it stands for freedom," Sir Paul says. "It’s not strange it’s just new, it’s not weird, it’s just what’s going on around." Read the rest
Dirt Road To Psychedelia is a documentary about the underground culture and music scene in Austin, Texas during the 1960s. Above is the trailer.
"With a folk-singing Janis Joplin, the 13th Floor Elevators, peyote, LSD and the first psychedelic music venue in Texas, Austin was a fertile ground for the emerging counterculture of the 1960s," says director Scott Conn.
If you're lucky enough to be in Waxahachie, Texas this Sunday (3/23), check it out live at the wunderkammer that is the Webb Gallery as part of their "Big Hair & Sparkly Pants" Texas-themed group art show. You can also buy the DVD on Amazon. Read the rest
Above, video evidence of my short presentation "Just Say Know: A Cyberdelic History of the Future" at the recent Lift Conference 2014 in Geneva, Switzerland. Albert Hoffman first synthesized LSD in 1938 in Switzerland so this felt like the right set and setting to share stories about the intersection of psychedelic culture and computer technology from the 1960s to the present and beyond! Read the rest
A number of friendly, charity-minded social clubs have sprung up in Disney fandom. They dress in disnefied versions of biker wear, gather together in Disneyland, help people out, and keep each other company. I encountered the Neverlanders several times last year when I had a residency at Disney Imagineering, and I loved the way they blended counterculture and fandom. A long, smart piece about the clubs in OC Weekly traces their history and growth -- fuelled by Instagram -- and the way they encountered mainstream Disney fandom through message-boards and in the parks.
As the article notes, there's a long history of counterculture at Disney parks, from the Yippie invasion to the goth takeover of Tomorrowland prior to the New Tomorrowland renovation. This sort of thing was my direct inspiration for proposing a fan takeover of Disney in Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, and the goth redesign of Fantasyland in Makers.
The presence of counterculture/bohemians in Disneyland shows how appropriation runs in two directions, and also points to a new direction in fraternal organizations. The activities of Disneyland's social clubs -- Neverlanders, Pix Pak, Black Death Crew, Main Street Elite -- would be recognizable to my grandparents, who were active in groups like Kiwanis and B'nai Brith, and who unwound with their friends through bowling and card-games and multi-family picnics.
Read the rest
Ben Marks of CollectorsWeekly says,
The first time I met Rick Synchef, I was anxious to see his legendary stash of political ephemera and protest posters from the 1960s, which eventually formed the basis of an article for CollectorsWeekly. Synchef had been collecting political paper and ephemera since he was a student in Madison, Wisconsin, which was a hotbed of political activism in the late ’60s. So when I arrived at his home, I was unprepared for the depth and breadth of his other collection of books and periodicals showcasing the work of Beat poets and authors of the 1950s and ’60s, from Charles Bukowski to Gary Snyder.
Now more than 200 pieces from Synchef's collection—including a 1958 first-edition paperback of On the Road that's been signed by Neal Cassady and inscribed to Kerouac, as well as a first-edition hardcover of Tom Wolfe's 1968 The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test that's been signed by the author and 45 other members of the 1960s counterculture—is up for auction at PBA Galleries in San Francisco. Viewing days are October 8-10, with the auction itself on the 10th.
Don't miss the methadone bottle that was prescribed to William Burroughs and is now filled with rocks and dirt from his grave, as well as a .45-caliber shell from his shotgun.
Extraordinary Collection of Counterculture Literature Up for Auction Read the rest
Timothy Leary in 1961. (NYPL Manuscripts and Archives Division)
At Wired, Greg Miller writes about Timothy Leary's journey from scientist to "psychedelic celebrity", revealed in new detail by the release of his archives.
Read the rest
Leary may be best known for his role in the psychedelic movement of the ’60s, but in his later years, at the dawn of the internet age he became fascinated by the potential of technology to transform human communication (see the related gallery on video games and other software from Leary’s archives). He also became interested in life extension and space migration, which he discussed in an exchange of letters with astronomer Carl Sagan.
Leary’s main message – and another one of his famous slogans – was to get people to think for themselves and question authority, said Denis Berry, a trustee of his estate. It’s a message that’s still relevant today, Berry said. “Let’s get out of the rut we’re unconsciously following, and start thinking for ourselves and living the life we want to live.”
A previously unknown connection between Czech dissident Vaclav Havel and American psychologist Timothy Leary is revealed by an inscribed copy of Leary's 1977 Neuropolitics.
A 1969 TV series about a group of college students whose plane crashed on a small island.