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‘The Beatles Graphic’: Hervé Bourhis’ illustrated history of the Fab Four

Multi-award-winning author and graphic artist, Hervé Bourhis has produced a beautiful illustrated history of the world’s most famous pop group, The Beatles Graphic.

The Beatles’ story maybe as well known as certain Biblical tales, but Bourhis’ approach has made the whole saga - from their births, through early years and successful careers, to the untimely deaths of Lennon and Harrison, and up to present day lives and careers of McCartney and Starr - fresh and compelling. Bourhis has written the text, reviewed all of the discs, and drawn the fabulous illustrations to this delightful, fascinating and heartfelt biography.

Already available in the UK, The Beatles Graphic will be released in the US on November 1st. It’s a must for Beatles’s fans and for anyone interested in the history of modern music.

The Beatles Graphic available form the Omnibus Press.

Bonus pix plus video of French language video of Hervé Bourhis, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Morgan Freeman’ narrates ‘50 Shades’ (NSFW)
10:02 am


Morgan Freeman

Yes, it’s totally ridiculous, but actor and comedian Josh Robert Thompson does a spot-on impression of Morgan Freeman.

There are a lot of F-bombs in this one, so NSFW.

Via High Definite

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
The Godmother: Queen of cocaine Griselda Blanco, shot dead at age 69
06:47 pm


Griselda Blanco

Griselda Blanco
One of the most influential drug lords of all time, Griselda Blanco has been shot dead. Credited as the “innovator” of drive-by shooting on motorcycle, Blanco was eventually felled by her own technique. She was known as much for her ruthlessness as the massive amounts of cocaine she smuggled; her body count included multiple late husbands, and her ex-lover said she killed a 10-year-old after his parents refused to pay his ransom.

Outliving Pablo Escobar and serving her time, Griselda Blanco had some of the bloodiest hands in Colombia. Her life was chronicled in 1990’s gloriously pulpy (and-now-out-of-print-so-be-jealous-I-have-one) The Godmother, as well as the 2006 documentary Cocaine Cowboys 2: Hustlin’ With The Godmother, the sequel to the more comprehensive, Cocaine Cowboys.

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Naomi Wolf Vagina is now on Twitter

In the week Naomi Wolf’s Vagina: A New Biography goes on sale, some wit, or more likely some journalist or PR person, has started a Twitter account for NaomiWolfVagina (sensitive flower). Only 3 tweets so far, but I suspect this will increase towards the date of publication.

Follow NaomiWolfVagina on twitter.

Read the Guardian‘s exclusive extract from Naomi Wolf’s Vagina: A New Biography here, plus interview here and the book is available here.

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Comix of the Clan: Unpublished Wu-Tang Clan Comics
11:36 am


Comic Relief
Wu-Tang Clan

The Wu-Tang comics that never were are now on Animal New York:

Here are some pages ANIMAL exclusively obtained of a short Wu-Tang comic book that was based on the clan’s Wu-Massacre album featuring Method Man, Ghostface Killah and Raekwon. It was never published and never released, until now. The characters were co-created by art director/designer Alex Haldi and comic book illustrator legend Chris Bachalo. There’s one thing missing though, the dialogue, which is unfortunate, but makes for even nicer visuals. Or just add speech bubbles of your own.

See the rest of the comics at ANIMAL.


Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Drugstore cowboy, James Fogle, dead at 75
12:55 pm


James Fogle
Drugstore Cowboy

Of all the great drug movies and novels, none have quite had the romance of Drugstore Cowboy. Gus Van Sant’s 1989 proto-grunge independent film endeared audiences to junkie protagonists who gang up to rob drugstores to support their habit. It was such an engaging story that Van Sant made the movie before author James Fogle even published the book- a literary gem lauded by William S. Burroughs, who appears in the film.

James Fogle wrote 11 novels, all in prison, but Drugstore Cowboy was the only one ever published. Despite the commercial success of the book, Fogle was in and out facilities for theft and drug use most of his life; he actually stole his first car when he was 12. His chances at a successful life in mainstream society always seemed frivolously tossed away in lieu of drugs or (often elaborate) thefts in order to obtain those drugs. In one of the great beautiful ironies of many a beloved junkie artist, he did not die of an overdose, instead passing in prison of a lung cancer related to asbestos. The cancer is believed to have developed as a result of his work pipe-fitting, a trade he was taught in prison so that he might have a skill upon his reform.

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
On the late Howard Zinn’s 90th Birthday: A new biography gives insight into his life and activism
12:32 pm

Class War


In the annals of activist history, Howard Zinn is a hallowed name, though without much rally from any cult of personality. The A People’s History of the United States author is known mostly for his seminal work and activism, as he took great pains to keep his private life private. Author Martin Duberman starts A Life on the Left by noting that Zinn actually went out of his way to destroy any personal affects, journals, etc that would reveal anything about his private life, perhaps remembering the good work that has been marred by the personal lives of its participants. However, the book is a compelling chronicle of Zinn’s contribution to US activism and academia, as well as the history of the US Left, itself.

The book only falls short for brief flaws, none of which are unheard of in the canonization of activists. First, while inference into Zinn’s interior life might help us understand him better, the speculations on his affairs and his wife’s insinuated mental health issues don’t actually contextualize him or his work, nor do they appear to give a better understanding of him as a husband or father. While I don’t believe in protecting a man’s legacy (and I’m aware he’s not perfect), frankly, it feels a bit gossipy, and unnecessary. The only other (again, minor) gripe I have is that the author (a historian himself) tends to devolve into polemics in what is otherwise a fairly professional account. It’s probably an excruciating exercise in abstinence for a historian to cover World War 1, Vietnam, Civil Rights, Reagan, etc without inserting their own analysis, but Zinn’s views are still the focus, so it never strays too far.

What it does well is a lot. The book gives a great analysis of his body of work; Zinn was more than just A People’s History. While I expected a strong focus on his most famous work, the book doesn’t skimp on Zinn’s theoretical pieces. Disobedience and Democracy: Nine Fallacies on Law and Order is as much a primer for young activists as Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, providing an analytical basis for protest and dissent in common speak language. Moreover, the earlier works that made waves in academia are often overlooked, and it’s a welcome backstory to learn.

The book is more about Zinn’s activism, organizing, and protest than his writing, however. Ardently averse to the stodgy academic, Zinn was arrested multiple times during direct actions in desegregation and civil rights organizing in the south. His regular arrests and organizing, as well as his subversive teaching style, caused constant clash with both his major tenures, Spelman (a black women’s college in Atlanta), and Boston College. While his later time in Boston was marked by a malicious conservative university president denouncing him at every turn (and once accusing him of trying to set a university building on fire), his clashes during his first position are almost more interesting. While Spelman obviously pushed for improvement in the socioeconomic standing of Southern black communities, the college did not advocate breaking the law. At one point, the president of Spelman accuses Zinn of a sexual relationship with a student, on the basis of giving her a ride. It’s under this sort of scrutiny and fear that Zinn continued to break the law in the name of social justice, and remain an ardent radical in spite of the benefits he would have received from compromising as a fair weather liberal.

Identifying as “something of a Marxist,” and, unlike his colleague and friend Noam Chomsky,  refusing to fully commit to a label of socialist or anarchist, Zinn was motivated by the work to be done, and not by an ideological dogma. With our current struggles in mind, the 60s and 70s feel so prescient, and in reading the book, there’s a hopeful tone when all the progress made in a single lifetime is laid out before us. A Life on the Left is a history book, using the life of a man to reflect the conditions of history; I think Zinn would have approved.

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
The Acrimonious Mobb Deep: Anatomy of a hip hop divorce
07:01 am



I’m a Mobb Deep fan, but would be pretty surprised to discover that I regularly listened to music made by anyone essentially dafter than members Havoc and Prodigy, whose twenty-year alliance is currently in the throes of messy dissolution. The end began a few months back, when usually silent partner Havoc – often rumored to enjoy a drink a little too much – hit Twitter at a suspiciously early hour one Monday morning to accuse Prodigy of being both gay and (wait for it) a pussy! The next day the group attempted to backtrack with a transparent cover story concerning lost phones and hacked accounts, but in recent weeks Havoc has admitted responsibility for the rant and resumed his attack in two [rubbish] new songs. Havoc, by the way, is 38 years old.

Now I couldn’t help noticing that in every outburst Havoc always mentioned Prodigy’s memoir, last year’s My Infamous Life. I’d been meaning to take a look at this for some time: as well as having once been a truly great emcee, its author is incapable of getting a glass of water without embarrassing himself (it promised to be funny). Havoc’s indignation tipped the scales. I chewed through it the other day – finding many likely sources of the intragroup bitterness, and plenty of general ridiculousness besides…

Take Prodigy’s portrait of Havoc’s late brother, “Killer Black,” whose 1996 suicide resulted in his practical canonization in subsequent Mobb recordings. In the book, Prodigy relates how Killer staggered home drunk sometime in the early nineties, carrying a revolver and a pair of Walkman speakers – he had, he said, just killed someone for them! In later years, Black would reveal to Prodigy that he had been “having conversations with the Egyptian King Tut,” a bombshell that is apparently received at face value.

“I listened real close because even though he did some wild shit, Killer wasn’t crazy at all, he was very intelligent. The only time he shot someone for no reason was when he shot that guy for his Walkman speakers, and he was extra drunk that night.”

When Killer does get around to blowing his own brains out – tormented, perchance, by guilt – Prodigy is flummoxed. “This was totally out of character,” he insists. “Killer wasn’t mentally crazy or suicidal.” Which is debatable, but then My Infamous Life raises plenty of questions about Prodigy’s own mental health. There is the incident, for example, when some strange lights outside their bedroom window wake him and his wife up.

“I knew what it was. A UFO was hovering over our crib, shining light beams into our bedroom. Holy shit. After three or four minutes, the night sky turned black again (…) I got the shotgun from the closet, woke the kids up, and brought them to our room.”

A memorable moment in any childhood: Your drug-addled, rap-star dad, shotgun in fist, shepherding you out of bed because the house is under attack by UFOs.

My Infamous Life enters especially amusing territory around 2005, when, just as Mobb Deep were getting stuck into what looked exactly like a terminal commercial and creative decline, long-term fan 50 Cent – then busily frittering away his freshly minted millions on a number of harebrained schemes – snapped them up to his G-Unit Records, handing over in excess of a million dollar advance and a pair of top-notch Porsches in exchange for what would amount to a single ropey album, Blood Money.

Prodigy quickly developed the world’s biggest man crush on his new boss – and the rest of his book reads like one protracted love letter to 50 Cent. Or better yet a longwinded attempt to flatter him into not dropping Mobb Deep from G-Unit Records, which he did anyway last year, citing Prodigy’s needless three-year conviction on a gun charge around 2008…  Mind you, Prodigy had already been verifiably “dick-riding” 50 Cent for some time prior to the writing of My Infamous Life. During a 50 Cent tour Mobb Deep tagged along with as support, Prodigy even had the on-tour tattooist (don’t ask me) tattoo “G-Unit” across his hand, a gesture of debatable maturity for the then-31-year-old, but one that was to result in his memoir’s sentimental apogee.

“Later that night after the show, I was wandering around the hotel looking for everybody but they were all ‘busy’ in their rooms. I took a walk to the studio truck but only the engineer was there. So I walked over to a tour bus with a light shining through the windows and climbed inside and what I saw shocked the hell out of me.”

50 Cent fellating an alien? Unfortunately not – he was, instead, getting a tat’ too: the Mobb Deep logo, on his wrist. I know. Prodigy, lost for words, returns to the hotel.

“As I lay in bed trying to drift off, I thought about how glad I was that I got the G-Unit tattoo first without telling anyone. The next day, Havoc got a G-Unit tattoo when I told him that 50 got Mobb Deep.”

Dry your eyes and note that last sentence. The book’s full of spiteful Havoc-asides, and their bitterness and regularity intensify during its interminable coverage of Mobb Deep’s 50 Cent tours, where the man Prodigy would like to be wedded to – 50 Cent – provides a brutal contrast with the man he is – Havoc – depicted as “swimming in liquor like a tequila worm.”

“We gave him the nickname Mr Minibar because he would drink all the liquor in his room, then come back to my room and scheme on my minibar liquor. At first I’d think, Wow, Hav came to kick it with me. Five minutes later he would discreetly make his way to my minibar, then leave the room. He did that to everyone on the tour, including 50.”

Including 50!? Prodigy’s almost pathological contrasting of the two climaxes during the book’s closing pages, where he describes Havoc and 50’s respective (and respectively solitary) prison visits. 50 arrives, and is supposedly looking forward to Prodigy’s release “so they can start work on the next Mobb Deep album” (“it was a great visit”); Havoc, on the other hand, cuts a sheepish figure, apologizing for not having answered any of Prodigy’s letters (!) and wondering aloud if 50 was going to drop them.

You don’t need x-rap specs to see right through Prodigy’s projection-screen prose and make out the resentful, reluctant Havoc on the other side, exhausted by his partner’s borderline personality, and furious with him for getting himself pointlessly locked up and thereby sabotaging their G-Unit pensions. But, given that Havoc himself is something of a Charisma Bypass, he had obviously decided to suck it up and get on with business…

Then came the My Infamous Life.

Here, though, is the group in happier times, baby-faced and performing two of their precocious hip hop classics, “Shook Ones” and “Hell on Earth.” It’s pretty damn good, despite the ropey sound. M-O-B-B!


Posted by Thomas McGrath | Leave a comment
Karl Marx’s ‘Das Kapital’ in Manga!
07:00 am

Pop Culture

Karl Marx

You would think that it would be difficult to take a daunting 19th century masterpiece of economics, philosophy and history like Karl Marx’s Das Kapital and turn that imposing intellectual colossus (which is well over 1000 pages in length) into a simple, straightforward and easy to follow comic book, but you would be dead wrong.

In 2008, Tokyo-based publishing company East Press published a manga version of Das Kapital by Variety Artworks that flew off the shelves, selling 6000 copies in the first few days and getting discussed in the media the world over. The manga market is huge in Japan, generating billions of dollars, even so, Das Kapital: Manga de Dokuha (“Reading ‘Das Kapital’ through Manga”) was one of the publishing events of that year. Now it’s being published in a new English translation as Capital In Manga! by radical publishing house Red Quill Books.

I loved it. Admittedly, I’m one of those people who is all for recommending to someone who is considering taking on Marx’s thought, to TAKE THE EASIEST ROUTE. Reading Marx in the original is not something that’s easy to do, but trust me, if you want to “get the gist” of Marxian concepts, it’s not really as difficult as you might think. There is no better way to dive in than via popular books like Terry Eagleton’s highly readable Why Marx Was Right or Rius’ masterfully done cartoon primer Marx for Beginners, and now this new Marxist manga.

At first I found myself reading Capital In Manga! skeptically. How are they going to pull something like this off? Like most manga, the characters are simplistic, but in the case of trying to create a fictional bridge from this century back to Marx’s original writings about capital formation and surplus labor, and make that easy to understand, it’s not like it could really be any other way. If you are looking for nuanced character development, you’re not going to find it here.

The simple but effective narrative in Capital In Manga! follows Robin, an earnest young cheese maker who works alongside his widower father. The father and son make the best tasting cheese around and there are long lines at the market for what they produce. For the father, this is enough, but his son has other ambitions and fears poverty.

That’s when Daniel, a shrewd and cynical capitalist investor enters Robin’s life and offers to set him up in business (In a movie version, evil Daniel would be played by a young James Spader.) As the story plays out, the reader sees Robin’s moral dilemma with Daniel’s brutal exploitation of their employees, and we meet Carl, a brave worker at the cheese factory who fights back against the harsh working conditions and resents that he and the factory workers are making someone else wealthy with their labor. (It’s fun to consider how Capital In Manga!—which can be read in 45 minutes or less—is pretty much the Bizarro World polar opposite of Ayn Rand’s dryly unsubtle and overlong polemic novel Atlas Shrugged!)

Capital In Manga! renders Marxian concepts about as easy to understand as, well, Who Moved My Cheese? (or any comic book for that matter) and will set off several “light bulbs” over the reader’s head, just as that simple “parable” about business innovation did for the entrepreneurial types who made it a best-seller in the 1990s. Even someone who thinks that they’re hostile to Marxism might unexpectedly find something there for them when it is presented in this broadly drawn, but emotionally satisfying way.

To expect that even one person in 10,000 is going to care to slog through over a thousand pages of a dense 19th century philosophical treatise in 2012, is probably expecting too much, but this doesn’t mean that there aren’t new and novel ways to bring Marxism to a popular audience and it’s wonderful to see this novel Japanese publishing experiment successfully translated for English readers.  Just as this unconventional approach to Marx and manga has helped to spread the message of Marxism in modern day Japan (where nearly a third of the population is unemployed or underemployed and young people are increasingly pessimistic about their futures) this quirky attempt ito create a new kind of 21st century popular socialist meme is a welcome one.

(In case you are wondering what else is out there like this title, East Press has additionally published manga guides for Dante’s Divine Comedy, The Brothers Karamazov, Goethe’s Faust, Hitler’s Mein Kampf, The Metamorphosis by Kafka and Friedrich Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra (I’d love to see that one). In 2011 The Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant was given the manga treatment by Variety Artworks, the same company who are responsible for the original Japanese revisioning of Marx’s treatise.)

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Smoke Signals: The Social History of Marijuana
09:17 am


Michael Backes
Martin Lee

Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana - Medical, Recreational and Scientific is the fascinating just-released chronicle of the chronic by Martin Lee, author of Acid Dreams, the best social history of LSD. 

But Lee is more than a chronicler, he also co-founded Project CBD, which spearheaded the alternative cannabinoid movement in California to make medicinally important varieties of cannabis containing cannabidiol (CBD) more widely available.

Michael Backes, head of R&D for Abatin, caught up with Martin Lee to ask a few questions about cannabis and his new book.

Why was marijuana use criminalized?  Was it the grand conspiracy of Hearst and DuPont, or more mundane?

There could have been a grand conspiracy of Hearst and DuPont, but I haven’t seen any proof. As far as I’m aware, there are no smoking gun docs indicating that Harry Anslinger, chief of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, was acting at the behest of DuPont, the synthetic chemical combine, when he opted to launch his hyperbolic crusade to outlaw the evil weed in the 1930s.

This doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen that way, but I prefer hard evidence and sensible rationales. The notion that the Hearst syndicate – which was always short of paper for newsprint – fulminated against “marihuana” because the yellow press lord wanted to defeat a paper business competitor doesn’t pass muster, in my opinion. If anything, it would have been in Hearst’s interest to grow lots of hemp for paper. His anti-marihuana raving was racist and opportunistic to the core; ditto for Anslinger. That explains a lot.

When it comes to conspiracies – and, yes, they’re everywhere to the point of banality – I look first for the lowest common denominator, the mundane explanation, to see what’s plausible. I think Anslinger had sufficient motive and means to demonize marihuana in order to preserve and expand his bureaucratic fiefdom. He certainly had a key ally in Hearst, who was enamored of fascism and anti-Mexican ethnic cleansing. They were the main engines behind cannabis prohibition, which played out in ways that coincided with the business interests of DuPont, a client of Mellon Bank. Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon was Anslinger’s boss and his uncle by marriage.

All these connections are suggestive and tantalizing, of course. But covert corporate machinations may count for less in this instance than garden-variety racism, endemic cultural bigotry, and mundane bureaucratic self-interest.

There a lot of great minor characters in the book, such as Lowell Eggemeier.  Why doesn’t everybody know this guy?

Lowell Eggemeier, a Haight Ashbury peacenik, was one of the first, if not the first, to publicly protest cannabis prohibition when he walked into a San Francisco police station in 1964, lit a joint, and demanded to be arrested. His lone act of non-violent civil disobedience sparked the formation of a group called Lemar (Legalize Marijuana), which held the first public pro-pot demonstrations in America.

Eggemeier has become a historical footnote, a forgotten character in the cannabis saga. Many people have also forgotten that the pro-marijuana movement began not as a single-issue affair. From the outset, efforts to end pot prohibition were part of a broad movement for peace and social justice that drew inspiration from many sources and encompassed many causes in the 1960s. Therein lay its strength.

What do you feel are the most recent interesting developments in the use of cannabis as a medicine?

During the past two decades, scientific research into marijuana’s molecular pathways have opened up whole new vistas of understanding human physiology and biology. Much of this research validates the experience of medical marijuana patients. The discovery of the “endcannabinoid system,” which includes receptors in the brain and throughout the body that respond pharmacologically to marijuana, has revolutionary implications for medical science. Researchers are mining the rich pharmacopeia of the marijuana plant, which includes hundreds of medicinally active compounds, not just THC, the high causer.

Cannabidiol (CBD), for example, is a non-psychoactive component of marijuana that protects the brain against alcohol poisoning, shrinks malignant tumors, stimulates adult stem cell growth, and prevents the onset of diabetes in lab animals — without causing a “high.” CBD also counters the psychoactive effects of THC. What’s more, CBD has no known toxic side effects. CBD, in combination with other cannabis compounds, harbors enormous therapeutic potential.

Your social history of LSD, Acid Dreams has become a classic.  How was writing the story of cannabis different?
I wrote Acid Dreams during the dark days of the Reagan era when legalizing marijuana was off the political radar. I wrote Smoke Signals at a time when the medical marijuana industry was in full bloom and polls showed half the country favored ending prohibition. Acid Dreams cut against the dominant cultural grain when it was published in 1986. Smoke Signals was propelled by a successful social movement and a burgeoning economic sector. That’s the main difference.

There are many similarities between how the books were structured and written. For Acid Dreams, I read through more than 10,000 pages of once-classified government documents, including many CIA documents, while researching the book. For Smoke Signals, I’ve read hundreds of peer-reviewed studies in an effort to understand and report on developments in cannabinoid science. The LSD story and the cannabis story overlap historically. Both are very rich culturally and both have significant esoteric elements (CIA secrets and obscure cannabis science). Both stories are dialectically driven – which is to say, they each entail thematic opposites: LSD was used as a weapon and a sacrament, a mind control drug and a mind expanding compound; and cannabis, by its very nature, is a dialectical plant containing components with opposite pharmacological and social effects.

Do you feel that the medical establishment overstates the harms of cannabis use?

Yes. According to the FDA, the DEA, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana is a dangerous drug with no medical value. That’s the equivalent of saying that the moon is made of green cheese. Over one million people in California and other states are certified medical marijuana patients. Some are deathly ill; many others smoke pot for the same reason that tens of millions of Americans take Big Pharma meds for mild to moderate depression, anxiety, sleep problems, and attention deficit issues. What’s most striking about the grassroots medical marijuana experiment in America is that no deaths and no pattern of health problems are attributable to the use of the herb.

Are there actually powerful vested interests aligned against cannabis?

Yes, primarily law enforcement. The interests of Big Pharma and Big Booze have also been well served by prohibition, but these industries can co-exist with legal marijuana; the law enforcement bureaucracy, such as it is, cannot. Pot prohibition is the economic lifeline for police departments as well as marijuana growers. Seizure and forfeiture laws keep police department units solvent. Law enforcement is addicted to the drug war gravy train.

Care to venture a guess on when cannabis prohibition is going to end?

Hopefully before the polar ice caps melt . . . As Nietzsche said, “What is falling, we must still push.” What are medical marijuana and broader legalization advocates pushing against? Why has the Obama administration unleashed the dogs of the drug war in California and elsewhere? Why is the “Choom Gang” kid attacking the medical marijuana industry with such ferocity? Because it’s politically expedient in terms of shoring up support among cops and narcs at a time when the Obama Justice Department is trying to control the damage of the so-called Fast and Furious scandal involving errant weapons shipments to Mexican drug cartels. Marijuana prohibition will end when it’s no longer a useful vehicle for Machiavellian politicians and greed-heads.

Can Pot Treat Cancer Without The Devastating Effects of Chemotherapy? (an excerpt from Smoke Signals at AlterNet)

Martin will be reading from Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana - Medical, Recreational and Scientific and signing books at Booksmith in San Francisco on August 29.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
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