Swim Through the Darkness: the strange story of a mysterious 60s psych songwriter


Swim Through the Darkness: My Search for Craig Smith and the Mystery of Maitreya Kali is the much-anticipated story of one of the more esoteric, fascinating casualties of the flower power generation. As told by Ugly Things magazine creator Mike Stax, the book tracks the odyssey of Craig Smith, a musician who evolved from clean-cut singer songwriter, landing gigs on the Andy Williams show and a Monkees-esque television pilot, to a post-institutionalized street messiah, Maitreya Kali. Smith wrote songs for The Monkees (and was nearly cast in the band) and Glen Campbell, headed the much fabled psych pop band The Penny Arkade, and released two of the most acid-drenched folk records of the early 70s before fading into obscurity. After his initial songwriting success, he used the money he earned to travel the world, only to return as a permanently damaged shell of his former self, complete with a spider tattoo on his forehead.

Until now, Smith’s life has mostly been told by the music he left behind. And even so, his Penny Arkade recordings were only made readily available within the last twenty years, while his psych folk records, self-released under the moniker Maitreya Kali, have only been experienced by extremely lucky record collectors or in varying quality online. Apache and Inca, those latter releases, include an early demo of the Monkees' "Salesman" (from Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones Ltd.) as well as alternative versions of songs recorded by The Penny Arkade. But what the records are really known for is their otherworldly vibe that could only be made by someone whose mind was no longer on Earth. Read the rest

When science intersected with the counterculture, things got wonderfully weird


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:

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.

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Video feedback emulator generates gorgeous glitchy art


Thea video feedback emulator offers a vague memory of fooling with video cameras and a strong flavor of crisp and fractal generative art, The results lurk somewhere between the decades. Click and drag your results for wild (and often brightly-flickering) variations. The creator explains how it works. [via Github]

What we’ve found most interesting about video feedback is: the sheer complexity of the images it produces through such simply-defined and implemented spacemaps that really only have to do with the relative positioning of two rectangles. It’s somewhat intuitive, but always surprising.

This is all just scratching the surface of the mathematics behind the patterns that video feedback is capable of, but hopefully it’s good enough for a start!

P.S. You’ll notice that many of the “interesting” patterns contain regions of diverse sizes. That is, they appear to have a broad range of spatial frequencies. What’s up with that?

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Scorching Caribbean soul covers of Neil Young, Isaac Hayes, and Jimi Hendrix (1975)


In 1975, Suriname's Dutch Rhythm Steel & Show Band released "Soul, Steel & Show," a killer funk-psych-soul LP that included scorching covers of Neil Young's "Down by the River," Isaac Hayes's "Theme from Shaft," Jimi Hendrix's "Hey Joe," Kool & The Gang's "Funky Stuff," and other great jams. Can you dig it? I knew that you could.

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Fantastic psychedelic video for Kraftwerk's Autobahn (1979)

In 1979, Roger Mainwood, just out of the Royal College of Art, created this wonderfully trippy animation for Kraftwerk's "Autobahn." It was a commission from the band's record company but Kraftwerk had no input on the film, and Mainwood says he's unsure if they even saw it. The fan site KraftwerkOnline tracked down Mainwood and interviewed him about the film:

I've never actually had to explain in words exactly what it was all about. There was a lot of what you might call "psychedelic pop" imagery around at the time that to be honest never had a great deal of actual "meaning" to it at all, and I guess I was tapping into that. Thinking back to my thought processes at that time, I remember wanting to specifically not have conventional cars in the film. I wanted a sense of a repetitive journey, and alienation, which I took to be what the music was about,............hence the solitary futuristic figure, protected by large goggles, moving through and trying to connect with the journey he is taking. The automobile "monsters" are deliberately threatening ( I have never been a big fan of cars or motorways ! ) and when our "hero" tries to make human contact (with different coloured clones of himself) he can never do it. In the end he realises he is making the repetitive and circular journey alone but strides forward purposefully at the end as he did in the beginning . All of which sounds rather pretentious..........but I was a young thing in those days !

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Watch this brief history of LSD, and glimpse of its future

What a long, strange trip it's been, and continues to be. Just say know. (Retro Report)

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Bardo-tripping with Timothy Leary


Our favorite PhD of high weirdness, Dr. Erik Davis, author of Techgnosis, recently gave a compelling cosmic rap at the Morbid Anatomy Museum about Timothy Leary and his appropriation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead! Listen to it here.

"While even most psychedelicists now discount the brazen and now rather dated work he created with Richard Alpert and Ralph Mezner, 1964’s The Psychedelic Experience," Erik writes, "I argue that there was also something deeply canny and even visionary about this mapping, which in some sense just extends possibilities already inherent in the ancient Tibetan concept (which is itself probably as indigenous-shamanic as it is Indian)." Read the rest

Fantastic pins celebrating LSD and The Family Acid


The Family Acid is my favorite Instagram feed. It's a stream of photographer/author/explorer Roger Steffens's vintage snapshots of his psychedelic dynamic, inspiring, and psychedelic life in the counterculture since the early 1960s. Roger's children Kate and Devon are the editors and curators of their dad's hundreds of thousands of slides and negatives.

Kate has just issued these fantastic enamel pins for just $10/each. The "LSD did this to me" design is based on her dad's original pin from 1960s. As Boing Boing patron saint Timothy Leary once said, "You have to go out of your mind to use your head!"

Family Acid pins

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Video premiere: music documentary about incredible late-1960s Swedish psych band


Träd, Gräs och Stenar were a groundbreaking, raw psych jam band from Sweden known for their wild concert/improv happenings where they served organic food they had grown, augmented their droning guitar/bass/drum core with home-brewed instruments, effects, and amps, and encouraged audiences to join their musical fray. Formed in 1968 from the ashes of pioneering groups Persson Sound and International Harvester, Träd, Gräs och Stenar released four proper LPs before disbanding in 1973.

“One of the best heavy-psych-improv-folk-blues-rock bands EVER," says Pavement's Stephen Malkmus about Träd, Gräs och Stenar. "Toss the tired Krautrock and supposed buried treasures of ‘acid folk’ and catch the True Communal Wave!”

Today, the good people at Anthology Recordings are releasing reissues of Träd, Gräs och Stenar's mind-melting recordings, including a limited-edition six LP silkscreened box set of live material, never-before-seen images, reproductions of original flyers, and a digital download with even more tracks. One entire LP in the set comes from unheard tapes that the Anthology folks dug out of founding member Jakob Sjöhol's attic!

To celebrate, we are delighted to premiere Anthology Recordings' short documentary about Träd, Gräs och Stenar, directed by Isak Sjöholm and Jesper Eklöw.

Far fucking out.

Träd, Gräs och Stenar (Anthology Recordings)

Träd, Gräs Och Stenar's cover of "All Along the Watchtower":

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Timothy Leary on youth culture and Japan (c. 1990)


In the early 1990s, BB pal Joi Ito (now director of the MIT Media Lab) hosted bOING bOING patron saint Timothy Leary on a trip to Japan. At the time, Tim was energized by the intersection of youth culture and digital technology to empower the individual. Above, video that Joi and friends shot of Tim in fine form. Man, I miss him, and those cyberdelic days. Bonus shout-out at 8:25 to Anarchic Adjustment, Nick Philip's surreal and inspiring clothing line that evolved into today's Imaginary Foundation!

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Meet the laserist for a 1970s planetarium laser show!

"If your thoughts were in the future, you loved electronics and music, and you had a vivid visual imagination, what profession would you choose?"

A laserist for a psychedelic light show at a planetarium, 'natch!

In this fantastic 1977 video, meet Glenn Thomas, the laserist behind the Laserium "Cosmic Concert" at L.A.'s Griffith Observatory, who performed 12,500 shows over 25 years.

Far fucking out.

(Thanks, UPSO!)

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Are you a spiritual leader? Take shrooms for science


Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine seeks religious and spiritual leaders to participate in a research study on psilocybin and mystical experience.

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Zebra is a minimalist maze game that will mess up your mind

Bennett Foddy, of QWOP and Sportsfriends fame, has already destroyed your brain with Zebra. Though a very simple implementation of the classic "3D maze" genre, it renders the walls as alternating angles of zebra pattern, ensuring you'll have a skullcrushing headache within seconds. Good luck! Read the rest

How LSD became a brain hemorrhage patient's lifesaver

In GQ, Eric Perry writes about how a brain hemorrhage left him "depressed, stuck in a rut, and strangely fearful of death." Then he learned of new medical research on the benefits of psychedelic therapy to treat anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. So Perry signed up for his own acid test with others who were seeking solace via psychedelic experiences. From GQ:

My guide for the evening had accepted my 400 dollars, the price for my journey, in tie-dyed pants. It was my own fault I wasn’t tripping very hard—I’d told her, out of nervousness, I didn’t want to travel to other planets—though I suspected she knew less about the “sacraments” she was prescribing to us than she purported to. (“Do you know that Peruvians drip ayahuasca into the eyes of their newborns?” she’d told me earlier. “All Peruvians?” I’d asked, and she’d blushed.) Still, I liked her, partly because there was something in her eyes that made me think of the Wordsworth line from “Elegiac Stanzas”: “A deep distress hath humanized my soul.” I sensed there’d been some suffering in her past. Many of the participants, I noticed, had the same benignly haunted look. An ex-physician told us that ten years ago she’d been diagnosed with advanced-stage cancer; she’d recovered, but couldn’t shake the feeling that it would return any second to finish her off. To allay her lingering fear of death, she’d enrolled in a psilocybin trial, and her “whole reality changed.” She divorced her husband and began to juggle motherhood and what full-time psychonauts call “The Work,” traveling the world to partake in aya ceremonies.

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Sarah Palin on drugs

Erowid Sarah Palin is a Twitter bot that melds Sarah Palin speeches with psychedelic trip reports posted to the excellent Erowid drug information clearinghouse.

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OZ: page designs from the most beautiful psychedelic 'zine ever


Dig these covers and spreads from OZ, the psychedelic magazine launched in Australia in 1963 and reborn in the UK in 1967 under the visionary editorship of Richard Neville, Martin Sharp, and Richard Walsh. Far fucking out. From Wikipedia:

The original Australian OZ took the form of a satirical magazine published between 1963 and 1969, while the British incarnation was a "psychedelic hippy" magazine which appeared from 1967 to 1973. Strongly identified as part of the underground press, it was the subject of two celebrated obscenity trials, one in Australia in 1964 and the other in the United Kingdom in 1971. On both occasions the magazine's editors were acquitted on appeal after initially being found guilty and sentenced to harsh jail terms. An earlier, 1963 obscenity charge was dealt with expeditiously when, upon the advice of a solicitor, the three editors pleaded guilty...

Several editions of Oz included dazzling psychedelic wrap-around or pull-out posters by Sharp, London design duo Hapshash and the Coloured Coat and others; these instantly became sought-after collectors' items and now command high prices. Another innovation was the cover of Oz No.11, which included a collection of detachable adhesive labels, printed in either red, yellow or green. The all-graphic "Magic Theatre" edition (OZ No.16, November 1968), overseen by Sharp and (filmmaker Philippe) Mora, has been described by British author Jonathon Green as "arguably the greatest achievement of the entire British underground press."

More at Stoned Immaculate Vintage: "Return To Oz" (via Jux)

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Watch this psychedelic dreamscape: The Colors of Feelings


French artist Thomas Blanchard mixed paint, oil, milk, honey and cinnamon to create these hypnotic swirlings of color and shape. The film is set to Lost in Space by Max Richter. Read the rest

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