Sunday, June 17, 2012

Tripumentaries: MAGIC TRIP, DMT: THE SPIRIT MOLECULE, 2012: Mayan Prophecy and Shift of the Ages, and ROBERT THURMAN ON BUDDHISM

As the age of Pisces ends, and June munches through its seed pod servings, and apocalypse-- according to nearly every ancient culture--approaches, now more than ever we must ask: Are we going to go out in style, like Slim Pickens riding his H-Bomb stallion. or like that old married couple who can't stop fighting about which way to turn even as their car goes roaring off a cliff? Pick Pickens, America, and then buckle up for these awesome flashback-inducing documentaries that explore the area where psychedelia, psychopharmacology, quantum entanglement, God and literature all mix.

I've rated them at the end of each description for saliva-thickening aspects, i.e. that aftershock, pre-trip flashback tingle when your mouth feels electric and your saliva slows to an aching crawl and your teeth start to clench, your pupils dilate and the hairs on your neck rise. That flashback saliva thing is sometimes annoying, it brings a lot of emotional baggage (remembering the lost highs and peaks in a deep, painful imprint way it took me decades to get over) which is why I sometimes avoid these sorts of films, even though they are the very foundation of this blog's raison d'etre! 

Today, for example, being back at work, I feel hungover and sad, just from the flashbacks induced by this first film:

Magic Trip
(2011) Dir. Alison Ellwood

In 1964, three years before the summer of love, an era when, as Jimi Hendrix lamented, there was only surf music on the radio, Ken Kesey, famous for his acclaimed Cuckoo's Nest, went on a magic bus trip with an orange juice bottle spiked with LSD, a group of friends and lovers, and speed freak Neal Cassady at the wheel. Did beauty and truth ensue? Perhaps later, but in the beginning their magic bus looks more like it's embarking on one of those early 1960s surfer journeys, as in The Endless Summer, with everyone's all buzz-cut and folkie and wearing big unflattering red and blue striped shirts. He comes across mythic in Kerouac stories but in person, beat relic Neal Cassady seems to be like just some twisted methed-up townie ("he would never shut up" someone notes) and the bus keeps breaking down, and there's endless goofing instead of fixing, and the usual sexism, so the smarter girls, get out at the first train station and head back to their 9-5 jobs. Smart move, ladies! I've often wished I could do that when our band tours would start out badly, but if you do bail, then you're left out of the myth, presuming there is a myth, but how would you know back at the pupae stage? It takes years and you never know who amongst the horde of idiots gibbering in the back is going to turn out to to be the Thomas Wolfe or Kerouac or whomever will immortalize you in decades to come. Anyway, pass that damn orange juice!

Yes, the good acid is finally dispensed at an Arizona watering hole, the color 16mm film is loosed from its can and finally myth takes wing. Highlights include: epiphanies at Yellowstone because of a sign that says "Beware of the Bear" ("it used to be about being aware of the bear, but now it's just beware," Kesey laments); nervous "We're the only white people here" moments at a colored beach in Louisiana; a cold welcome at the Ivy League estate of Tim Leary (office-mate Albert-about-to-be-Ram-Dass is nicer, thankfully); a world's fair that imagines America as an all-white Jetsons tail-fin miracle that's already outdated by the time the pranksters pull in; the growing disenchantment with speed freak Cassady and his friend, the morose drunkard Jack Kerouac (Allen Ginsberg comes off as nicer, thankfully), and so forth. Kesey explains that the drugs were "part of our American personality -- you try go down deeper in the ocean and higher in the sky - these drugs were opening us up to new landscapes." No shit, Sherlock!

I guess you had to be there, and twisted yourself. But that's the deal --you need to be twisted to appreciate the beauty of the Magic Trip, but you'll never be as twisted, apparently, as they were. Because--as they so clearly like to think--they broke the mold. They were doing it to discover America, and then America did it to emulate them, and now we all want to glom onto their speedy Zen kicks because we read Dharma Bums and it moved our assemblage point and opened our third eye. But dig, man, our eye will never be as open as theirs (they think). They took it as far as anyone could, so now you better sober up and just read Tom Wolfe's Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.

That's the sour note being struck here, because--after a trumped-up pot bust got him jailed--Kesey cut a deal to renounce the acid. He was bid play his pipe and lead the rats out of town. He decreed this all had been a test, "the acid test" and he and his pranksters 'graduated' and the hordes of thrill-seekers and runaway dirtbags that descended on the Haight like a plague of locusts did not, the test was over, they failed because they were absent during test time. And now the allotted times is over. Turn in your pencils and go home, o errant wanderers, go back to your parent's Christian basements.

Zane Passes!
But is it really that simple? I'd vote we need to start recognizing the historical importance of today's dirty hedonists as legends in progress! Instead of putting Kesey's magic bus into a museum let's teach the kids to paint their own and go easing down the road. Why should the rantings of Kesey and company be gospel and the rantings of today be 'just' ranting? When Kesey notes "this wasn't literature anymore, this had jumped off the pages... and onto the streets," we can snicker at his cliche'd idealism and believe it at the same time, because the truth often comes caked in soapy crap. "Something is happening that is so new," Kesey says about the establishment's knee-jerk demonization, "they're scared beyond any power of reasoning." Asked whether he regretted taking acid for that Stanhope experiment that started it all, Kesey notes, "I think it's a good experience, every time you see more." Hey man, it's your trip.

Saliva thickening: 6.666

DMT: The Spirit Molecule
2012 -****

Go Rick Strassman go-ooo--ohm! In case you were born in some insane dimension where all the keys to chemically-enhanced enlightenment have been made into felonies for no real sane logical reason you should know Dr. Rick actually got legal clearance to do DMT studies by the big Health Overlords. He recruited dozens of subjects and gave them massive doses of DMT in a safe space, and then recorded their impressions once they cam back to reality. The results? Mind-blowing but inconclusive, raising more questions than offering answers. Luckily this documentary helps us realize the only answer to whether hallucinations are real or vice versa is that real itself is a meaningless phrase. If what you experience in the DMT-verse feels a hundred times more real than your waking, consensual reality, then--as quantum physics and bioverse theorists suggest--it is.

Even so, enough bad trips happened under Strassman's experiments that he now feels a little guilty. Is he a Pandora's box cutter, a modern messiah or an apex predator Albert Hoffman? Other heads talking include Daniel Pinchbeck and the 'other' McKenna...Dennis, and there's lots of groovy Alex Grey art and deep hallucinogen-ready kaleidoscope eyefuls.

Joe Rogan narrates, in black and white to give the illusion you're watching this in fourth grade science class, which you should be. I donated money to help get this film finished!

Saliva thickening content: 10

2012: Mayan Prophecy 
and the Shift of the Ages
 2009 - ***

Dude! I remember this as being good, but man they do show a lot of the same stock footage of natural disasters over and over again, especially some shots of a fire bravely eating away the side of a building. I dig the use of the Terence McKenna timewave study, though, and the idea that 'inner time travel' will one day be the new back, if you get my weird meaning. Because it's made in 2009, they're a little more confident in their doomsaying than some of the more recent Mayan docs, and even so they realize that the future lies within, not without. It may take light years to get to the next galaxy but that's only if you need to lug your body. If you can go with just your mind it takes less than no time at all. In fact, time itself reverses so you get there before you left!

Salvia thickening content - 3.9

Robert Thurman - Buddhism.
2-Part Series - ***1/2

There's big arguments between trippers and 'hardcore' Buddhists about which path is 'correct' -with hardcore Buddhists insisting that drug epiphanies, meditation 'shortcuts,' don't 'count.' But to me that's absurd. Even if, as they say, LSD is the helicopter ride to the roof of the mountain (i.e. we get to look but can't stay long enough to legally change our address), so what? In our ADD age, no one wants to waste their time meditating if it's not going to pay off. So let them go see the mountain and be sure there actually is a destination to work towards. That's what happened with Ram Dass, after all, and his documentary, Fierce Grace, is also on Netflix, if you want to go in that direction. And there's a Wavy Gravy documentary too if you want to go in the other.  I'm still at the crossroads, hanging by my left foot.

Because ultimately if we dabble in psychedelics in search of the truth, and that truth leads us to an ashram, but then we don't go in because we don't want to join a cult and the cult doesn't think we came there honestly anyway, then were we ever really truth-seekers or were we just bored and young and psychedelics and meditation offered a way out of our depression in the time before SSRIs? And are the cult members really humbler than thou or just pissed they didn't dare use your quicker method to get to the same place? And if we shun the ashram with its commitments and robes and many-armed deities, might we instead become addicted to the sound of helicopters, always hoping this next ride up to the top of mountain will be the one where we can get out and stay, skipping in the process all the chapters about self-discipline and humility?

It's the clinging to the skids of expectation, dragging our Apocalypse Now heads through the palm trees, it's the tired feeling when you see your 300th punter waving a glow stick and saying under his breath "OmanI'mtrippin'sohard" and you feel like you're still wading in a sea of melted kindergarten crayons while ever-younger kids ask you for doses. Better to just jump out the window and hope you fly, like Superman. That's what all the hysteric anti-drug crusaders think LSD makes you do anyway...

No worries about any of that, though, or enduring any dogma, grandiosity, judgment or incoherence when listening to Uma Thurman's dad, the great Buddhist scholar Robert Thurman. You would think an old white guy, with a glass eye and a gorgeous movie star daughter, speaking for an hour and a half via a two camera set-up wouldn't be so riveting, but his tongue speaks much wisdom, and since it's sheathed in scholarly wit and humble perspective it goes down smooth as the pangs of truths you feel you forgot rather than never knew. And if you still don't think Buddhism is trippy, just realize that before she married Thurman, Uma's mom was married to... that's right.... Timothy Leary. Tibetan Book of the Dead, thou art connected!

 Through powers of pronoia I've traced the whole Uma lineage back to benevolent Nordic alien ancestors who helped manipulate our DNA so that there could be gorgeous blonde Swedes, who helped the original Buddha clean the land of reptilian demons so modern day humans could get a toehold, and who then opened up the still-developing human mind with the most potent of angelic wand taps, the doctor's delivery room spank of wisdom. I you dare to believe it! Let the music leaf off the page and finally become aware... of the bear.

Saliva thickening - 11.2

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