Friday Fives – the 5 bestest-est of everything edition

If you could only listen to 5 musicians for the rest of your life, who would they be?

Bob Dylan, James Taylor, Grateful Dead, Pearl Jam, Guns & Roses

 If you could only read 5 books for the rest of your life, who would they be?

Alice in Wonderland.  Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, Tropic of Cancer, anything by Hemingway, and Desolation Angels.  Google them.  Buy them.  Love them.

If you could only have 5 childhood memories to recall for the rest of your life, who would they be?

I had nothing but an amazing childhood and the world’s greatest parents.  There isn’t a single regret in the amazing way our parents loved and took care of us.  To pick only 5 moments would denigrate the decades they invested in us.  I am lucky enough to still have my mom around, and she is my favorite person in the whole world.  Don’t tell my wife I said that.

 If you could only eat 5 things for the rest of your life, who would they be?

Pad Thai, Carne Asada, Gyro sammich, sesame chicken, and coffee

If you could only have five words to describe the world what would they be?

Beautiful, selfish, magical, self-destructive

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Kermit found me

*** update Jan 2019 – Kermit’s painting added below

It recently occurred to me that a lot of who I am, I owe to Kermit.  Kermit is a childhood friend, going back a million years.  He is an odd and wonderful man, and he helped me to be the same.  I remember going back to early high school, or maybe middle school.  I was an undeveloped fetus, culturally.  He was a brilliant subversive, and I think he turned me into one, too.  I watched the shows everyone watched.  There was no choice, with 3 channels.  I listened to what everyone listened to… again… you had 3 channels for rock, at best.

Odds are, I was lamenting how much I hated reading.  They gave us the most droll and sanitized shit.  Reading what they fed us was punishment.  Kermit turned me on to everything.  What do I know about comic books?  Still nothing, except barely hetero dudes in tights and sheets.  Kermit found this, and gave it to me.  I still have it in my collection.  It is the story of Gregory, a young boy locked up in an institution and watching his mind go wild.  This was more than a comic book… this was cultural subversion… and I was in!

then, he turned me on to authors.  At this time, I hated reading more than math.  I can not emphasize enough what shitty and boring books they feed kids.  You want me to read Wuthering heights?  Ok, that is like 200 pages of repressed love and emotion in Victorian England?  How the fuck is a 13 year old boy going to connect with that?  All the books were ‘Newbery award winners’.   He turned me on to Hunter Thompson and Henry Miller.  He gave me a copy of ‘Tropic of Cancer’ and it rocked my world.  These were dirty American expats living in France.  They did dick all all day long except sit around drunk and talk about how great they were.  They mooched everything they had, including the women, and just lived as they please.  This book was full of very graphic sex scenes.  It was full of people having fun, and adventures.  Think of it like this – Henry Miller is the x rated version of Ernest Hemingway.

take a look at Henry Miller.  This guy has seen some shit.  Scratch that… this guy has caused some shit!

That book opened the world to me.  There are books about sex?  There are people doing noting all day long but getting drunk in cafes and celebrating their own genius?  How do I get that job?  Of course, the book was banned here… which made it all the more sexy.  Most importantly, the writing was GREAT.  Just beautiful and powerful and visual.  I felt I was there.  These guys defined ‘fake it until you make it’.  Henry Miller basically willed his persona into existence through sheer force of will.  I am reminded of Salvador Dali and Hunter Thompson here… same thing.

Then, he turned me on to ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’, my second favorite book of all time.  I don’t need to tell you my love and obsession with Hunter, I think you know.  Then it struck me… what these guys write about is what every young black person in America is in jail for.  Raping, drugging, and general malaise.  These were NOT good people, but they were GREAT writers.  What is the difference?  Well, they wrote about it.  Oh, and they were white.  That helps.

And then he turned me on the Beatles.  I knew the poppy happy radio stuff, which I still love.  But he turned me on the White Album.  He was like ‘these guys will fuck you up,  they changed everything, man’.  And he was right.  He was the first person I knew to have a CD Walkman, and we’d hang out at break sharing headphones listening to this stuff.  Then, he got me deep into Zeppelin.  What do I mean by ‘deep’?  It means listening to Zeppelin OTHER than Zepp 4.  He played for my Physical Graffiti.  It is a sweeping and galloping masterpiece of rock and roll.  There are not pithy 3 minute hits on that double disc.  No sir.  It is just 2 hours of Jimmy Page and Robert Plant following their muse.

He gave me a light.  Where the future used to look boring and corporate and soulless and inevitable… Kermit made it this wide open adventure. Shortly after this, I would spend a month in Mexico every summer.  I would just backpack around with no plan, often by myself.  I don’t think I would have had the courage or confidence to do something like that were it not for Kermit.

Kermit, I don’t know where you are.  I don’t even know if you are alive, but I love you and I miss you and I thank you!

Because of Kermit, I went from hating reading to getting a literature degree.  And… you will not find 1 goddamn Newbery award winner in my stacks.

Did I mention this painting he gave to me?  It is AMAZING.  It is an entirely original oil painting he must have given me 30 years ago.  Behold.  Better yet, come over and see it in person.  It is stunning.

These photos don’t do it justice.  Clearly I had a flash on.  I need to take a pic in the day, with no flash.

 

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – a perfect review > and epitath for Hunter S Thompson

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I love this movie, the Johnny Depp one.  The film is perfect.  I think it captures Hunter and that era of his life perfectly.  Johnny Depp goes so deep into Hunter’s persona it’s a wonder he ever made it out.  I can tell you how I think he did it, too.  Not just the craft of acting, he lived with Hunter.  That is no small feat.  Even Bill Murray didn’t actually move in with Hunter.  Hunter and Depp became close friends during this process, and remained life long friends.  The connection was deeper than love of drugs and nonsense and art and great writing and blowing shit up.  They are both from Kentucky.  I own the 2 disc ‘Criterion Collection’ set, which I highly recommend.  It is FULL of hours of featurettes and old Hunter movies.  It’s where we learned about Hunter’s absurd funerary request, which Johnny Depp handsomely and famously paid 5 million dollars to make happen.

You know… the one about shooting his ashes out of a Gonzo fist cannon into space after he commits suicide.  The footage is from when Hunter is in his 30’s, but 30 years later… he up and went and killed himself… almost as promised.

Let’s talk about the movie for a second.  Being a lit grad, and a HUGE fan of Hunter’s writing.  I should tell you the movie does the book no justice.  Wrong.  I mean, you absolutely must read the book… but the movie is fantastic.  I think it’s perfect, and could not have done better.  Heck, even Hunter himself does a cameo.  Probably not as an artistic endorsement so much as to score the per diem, and to keep an eye on the process.  Legend goes, he was kicked off his own set for being a wasted pain in the ass.  Pretty easy to believe, so I shall.

But this isn’t about that.  This is about the movie, and the synopsis I read about it on Rotten Tomatoes.  Of course, the movie was slammed by critics.  Who cares what the critics think of a movie?  Honestly, I NEVER look at that.  I want to know what people thought about it.  Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas has an epic discrepancy between the two, perhaps one of the biggest on all of Rotten Tomatoes.  Critics gave it at 49%, where fans gave it an 89%.  I would argue few people know Hunter’s writing and social impact like me.  Hunter is a BIG part of why I moved to Denver, CO… to be closer to him.  But this isn’t about that.  No sir, this is a quick hit on the review the ‘critics’ left of the movie.

Critics Consensus: Visually creative, but also aimless, repetitive, and devoid of character development.

This is almost too perfect. Those words above are meant to be a slam. There is no character development.  It’s a long movie… and our protagonist never grows?  He never learns?  He never changes his way?  No sir, he does not.  Hunter Thompson defined… nay… deified… that critique.  He never grew up.  He never sold out.  He never played ball.  He continued to live his life like a rich petulant 22 year old who got kicked out of the Air Force in a pretty damn funny story.  Kicked out for what, you ask?  Well… for behaving like a petulant 12 year old who got kicked out of school for savaging a mailbox in a pretty damn funny story.  Like… for behaving like a petulant 27 year old who got fired by Time magazine  for savagely attacking a candy machine (… in a pretty damn funny story).

No.  Hunter never grew up, and certainly never learned from his lessons.  He was, by all accounts, a terrible person.  As an artist and a writer and hipster deity… the man was a genius.  Take that review, and put it no on his movie.  No sir, take that review and put it on his headstone.

RIP Hunter, you twisted bastard!

HST good grave

Friday Fives – Bob Dylan’s nobel prize edition

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Do you think Bob Dylan deserves the Nobel Prize?

Yes.  I am a very, very big fan.  His writing has had as much impact in my life as any other single human.

Why a Pulitzer prize in writing for a musician?   Here is why… what author do you listen to every day?  Or even once a year?  No matter how great a book is, you read it and it’s over.  when music is great, you listen often… over and over?  you can have sex listening to music, you can’t do it on a book.  I listen to Dylan almost daily, and I can’t even say that about Alice in Wonderland!

Do you have a favorite  Bob Dylan song?

This would change annually, but of late it has been ‘Positively 4th St’.  This came from such an amazingly fruitful time (’68) that it wasn’t even put on an album.  Here is how much I love Bob – I have 6 Cds and 9 box sets and 4 dvd collections ALL that just cover his first 6 years.

How would you describe Dylan to someone who is unfamiliar?

Funny, thoughtful… folky.  In that order

Who else deserves the Nobel Prize in Literature?

The rebels and outsiders – Herman Hesse, Hunter Thompson, Henry Miller, Charles Bukowski, Jack Kerouac.

What performance artist stands a chance of also winning the Nobel  Prize?

What do you mean by performance artist?  Like… an actor or musician?  Like… a non painting artist?  Bill Murray

*** for more of my writing on Bob Dylan, here is a link to some of the pieces I have written on my music site.  Odds are, Bob comes up more than any other artist on that site.

Now, enjoy this.  Richie Havens covering Bob Dylan’s ‘just like a woman’.  Nothing better than this – the best covering the best!

Friday Fives – bookin’ it!

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Can you remember the first book you read?

5 were missing.  It is a kids book about school kids who get kidnapped.  It is a pretty fucked up story, and involves death.  Good job, America, handing this to children.  No wonder why I am so messed up!  It was a very good and compelling story.  The reason I remember it is that it popped into my mind recently, so I bought it and read it as an adult.  It held up pretty well.  Also, I knocked it out in a couple of hours.  This means I have it, somewhere, at home.  Come borrow it. I’ll help you with the big words.

What was the last book (electronic or otherwise) you read?

Currently reading ‘Ruthless’.  It’s a brand new book about Scientology leader David Miscavige.  He is known to be a terrible person.  Everyone who has left Scientology says he is a bully,  a psycho, a misogynist, and a master manipulator.  I say misogynist because he hasn’t let his wife, Shelly, leave the house or be seen in public for so long that concerned friends reported her missing.  TEN YEARS.

I was very excited to read this book.  Bonus, it is written by someone with intimate and legit knowledge of both.  Author is a lifelong Scientologist, and actually raves about Scientology and its positive effects on his life… before the monster took over and ran everything.  Oh, and it’s his dad!  Yeah, David Miscavige’s own father penned it.  I am about halfway through so far.  Very compelling read so far.

Do you read for enjoyment, work or both?

Mostly enjoyment, but I do enjoy reading leadership books.  Well, I did until I read this book.  Hop over to here and go down about four books.  I reviewed it there.

What is your favorite genre of book to read?

Autobiographies, first and foremost.  Under that tier, musicians… obviously.  I am always wanting to know the behind the scenes of life.  The minutia, the decision making, the luck and the failures.  What made them great?  Do they know?  The older I get, the more I am into history.  I couldn’t wrap my head around it when I was very young. It seemed unreal, like fiction.

I think there is a better opportunity for kids like to learn history now.  Growing up, there was just books.  So, the stories were incredibly boring.  Now, with film and special effects… stories can be told in a way that will engage the young mind.  Heck, look at Hamilton.  No one knew more than the story about him dying in a duel until recently, and rap music and dance brought that story to life.  That is bad ass!

If you could visit your younger self, what book would you tell yourself to steer clear of?

Just about everything recommended or popular.  I HATED reading when I was a kid.  Everything they gave us was SO boring and sterile and devoid of life and real life experiences.  It wasn’t until high school when a buddy turned me on to Henry Miller and Hunter Thompson that I learned books can be awesome.  These guys wrote about sex and drugs and violence and boredom too.  But… it was honest, and not coached in bullshit metaphors.

I don’t think I would hand Tropic of Cancer or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas to a ten year old me.  BUT… I would have at least gotten Alice in Wonderland in my hands by then.  To show me literature and reading and history can be awesome… all depending on the storyteller.

 

Excuse me, Mr Steadman, but you are ruining my book

I found this book in the basement. Not sure why it was boxed up with old work stuff, but it was. I was VERY tickled to find this book. It is, in fact, probably my most treasured book, for reasons that will be revealed below.  This book pre-dates my listing of all the books I read.

After Hunter Thompson shot himself in 2005, there was a slew of books that came out, most of them great. All his good friends had a book in them, with their favorite Hunter Stories. His widow, Anita, wrote one. It’s ok. His best friend, though, was the sheriff of Aspen. Read that again. Hunter’s best friend was head cop in all of Aspen. He wrote a really terrific book of his favorite Hunter stories. It’s called ‘the Kitchen Diaries’. So, this book below (The Joke’s Over) was Ralph Steadman’s favorite Hunter stories. Ralph Steadman was Hunter’s artist. All of those amazing and iconic images from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas… that was all Ralph. They worked together for about 25 years.

Ralph is a wonderful man. When Hunter died, he paid off the Owl Farm property in Aspen for his widow (Anita).  This book is Ralph’s stories of his time with Hunter. He was in Denver doing a book tour and speaking engagement. Everybody who does Hunter Thompson related work comes to Denver. We are the closest metropolis to Aspen.  Over a few years, I went to many Hunter related events: books signings, films, speaking engagements, etc. Ralph’s event was super cool. There was a pre event at a local private club/bar/ tavern. Then, there was a bigger event at the Denver Post building downtown. For some reason, there was virtually no one at the pre-event. There was about ten people, all drinking. Hunter’s widow, Anita, was there, as was Hunter’s son, Juan.

I was just hanging out and chatting and drinking with all of them. It was amazing. I had brought my copy of the new Steadman book. It is a first edition hard back. If you were a book nerd like me, you would know how important that is. So, we are standing in a small circle while Ralph (Mr Steadman, to you) holds court. We are chatting and laughing like old pals – at least in my mind. After I had a few drinks in me, I sheepishly asked if he would sign my book. He smiled and took my book and opened it up to the title page, which is where books are always signed. The picture below is the two of them.  Hunter on the left and Ralph on the right.

Then… I watched him go all Ralph Steadman on it. He just started doodling in his super characteristic way. Then, he handed it back and started explaining it to me. He said that is wine and grapes. The creepy figure is Hunter, as detailed by his iconic cigarette holder. He was so nice and engaging. Can you believe this? I have a first edition hardback signed copy with original crazed art by the man himself. You ruined my book, Mr Steadman. God bless you, sir.

Allow me to explain what you are seeing.  The original page just had the title.  Not even the author’s name.  Everything else you see is Ralph’s ink drawing.

Ralph Steadman sketch 2007

Friday Fives – strange days indeed

1.  What’s a physical feature you wish you had?

being taller
2.  Who would be the absolute worst celebrity to be elected president?

Charlie Sheen.  You think he would be great because he is so forthright, and politics could use a straight shooter, right?  Wrong!  You are forgetting the guy is batshit crazy.  He has a huge stable of ex wives and children and still spends every free moment banging hookers and doing blow.  Nice way to live, if you are an 80’s comedy.

3.  If you were a Crayon, what would your name be?

flesh colored, you racist

4.  What are the craziest theory you have heard/come up with about dinosaurs going extinct?

that trex couldn’t masturbate because of his tiny, tiny hands.

5.  Who is the strangest person you’ve ever met?

ooh, that’s a doozy.  I wish I could tell you a great rock star story here, but I can’t.  I have met a LOT of rock stars, and they have all been exceedingly nice and approachable.

Ok, I let this sit for about 24 hours so I could answer this better.  The top was all filled out.  I have an answer for #5.  It is, of course, a Hunter Thompson story.  Years ago, we went to see Hunter speak in Boulder.  He sat on stage and drank whiskey and fielded questions from the audience, myself included.  About half way through the show, a student brought him ether.  it was a flask of some sort.  You pour a little bit of the liquid into a rag… and then put the rag up to your mouth and huff.  At least, that is what Hunter did.

Let’s pause here for a moment and talk about ether and what it does to you.  Even better, let’s use Hunter’s own words (from Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas)

“The only thing that really worried me was the ether. There is nothing in the world more helpless and irresponsible and depraved than a man in the depths of an ether binge. And I knew we’d get into that rotten stuff pretty soon. Probably at the next gas station.”

 

So, he would take a huff about every ten minutes, and then let out this bizarre scream of joy and pain.  i swear, it was like a movie.  Oh, and this isn’t the strange part, yet.  Towards the end of the evening, when everyone was well liquored (myself included) there were some gals who asked some questions Hunter didn’t like.  They were asking why Hunter didn’t have ANY female lead characters in any of his books.  It’s a very valid, and accurate, question that had never occurred to me.

Well, Hunter didn’t like these questions at all.  He didn’t like having his integrity and ability questioned by 19 year olds… even though it was a very thoughtful question.  So, he stood up and then threw his microphone down on the ground as hard as he could.  He kept doing this until it shattered.  He would then wait until the girl sat down, and then had someone bring out a new mike.  At this time, he continued on with the Q&A as if none of this had happened.

Well, the girls weren’t done.  God bless, they were a few deep.  So, the next girl asked if Hunter was a misogynist, or is that just a character in his writing.  Again, a very thoughtful question.  Again, Hunter no likey.  Exact same thing happened again – 3 times in total.  At that point the poor moderator had to ask the crowd to refrain from asking feminist questions.  “Not because we want to censor you, but because we are out of microphones”.

So, yeah… that was an experience.  I have to say, it was pretty much everything you might expect in a Hunter Thompson experience… including the fact that he was a few hours late.

In closing, Hunter got arrested that night, but not for huffing ether.  He got arrested for attacking someone with a fire extinguisher.