Tuesday, November 29, 2011


The worldwide Occupy movement has generated some wonderful photos and graphics. Here are some of the best I have come across so far:















Monday, November 28, 2011


I have Neil to thank for, out of the blue, arriving at my house and giving me this book. As regular readers will know, I have a deep-seated love for the writers and poets of the Beat Generation, forged in my teen years. I was privileged to meet and interview Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs and to engineer (with my son Al) a live internet link-up with Lawrence Ferlinghetti from San Francisco to the Komedia club in Brighton. The many and varied beat posts on this blog are summarised below. I have a big library of beat literature and have read extensively and religiously much beat and beat-inspired texts, biographies and historical accounts. So…
For my money, this is the single best history of the Beat Generation that I have ever read and I will explain why. The story of the Beats – both the main characters and an extremely large supporting cast – is complex. They were, apart from everything else, almost constantly on the move. They were restless souls and tormented ones – constantly falling in and out of relationships. Many of them were bisexual and slept with each other in between or at the same time as maintaining relationships with women.
Out of this emotional maelstrom, out of their wanderings, missions and adventures not only on the highways of America but also in the jungles of Mexico, the medinas of Morocco,  the Beat Hotel in Paris, the Buddhist monasteries of Japan and the streets of Varanasi, allied with their almost constant experimentation with drugs of varying descriptions and illegality, flowed a body of work that continues to inflame minds and spirits and has great relevance in our own times.
Treasures from the Beat Library of The Generalist Archive: ‘Beatitude Anthology’ [City Lights. 1960]; first issue of the ‘City Lights Journal’ [City Lights.1963]; First edition UK paperback of ‘The Subterraneans’ by Jack Kerouac [Panther. 1982]; First edition of' ‘The Last Words of Dutch Shultz’ by William Burroughs. [Cape Goliard Press. 1970]
This book will rearrange your understanding not only of the Beat movement but also of the times and politics they moved through. One book, Big Sky Mind, argues that the Beats were the transmission apparatus for introducing Buddhism and eastern thinking into America. The beats in their own time were vilified by the mainstream media, arrested and imprisoned, often deported.
Bill Morgan has done a really wonderful job of integrating all this ferment  into a seamless readable narrative, formidably well-informed and beautifully written. He brings out the humanity of these characters as they battled with their demons and is, by and large, non-judgmental. He has given shape and context to the Beat Generation story and communicates it in a way that makes sense to succeeding generations. These were the pioneers of a revolution in poetics, politics, social mores, activism, communal living, backpacking, altered states of consciousness. Their collective work is like a deep well of inspiration that has great resonance in these troubled times.
Bill Morgan is the American author and editor of more than a dozen books about the Beat writers and has worked as an editor and archival consultant for nearly every member of the Beat Generation.
BEATS2008 His UK equivalent is Barry Miles, who was close with both Burroughs and Ginsberg and has written biographies of both them and Kerouac. He has also acted as an archivist  and in 2003, co-edited the revised text edition of Naked Lunch. His latest book ‘In The Seventies’ (following on from his excellent ‘In The Sixties’ a period during which he was close with Paul McCartney, ran the Indica Bookshop and was one of the founders of International Times) adds more to his Beat reminiscences.
Particularly good are his accounts of Ginsberg’s upstate New York commune and adventures on the West Coast plus Burroughs’ early ‘70s sojourn in London (seriously weird). Miles was sound-editing Ginsberg’s tape archive in the Chelsea Hotel and there’s an interesting chapter on another of the Hotel’s residents, the strange and wonderful genius Harry Smith. Also learnt a lot from the chapter on Wilhelm Reich, inventor of the orgone box.
The Typewriter Is Holy by Ted Morgan [Free Press 2010]
In The Seventies by Barry Miles [Serpent’s Tail 2011]
The Sea Is My Brother: The Lost Novel by Jack Kerouac
See IMDB details of the cast and production credits for the ‘On The Road’ movie, directed by Walter Sallis, due for release 2012.
The Beat Library [New additions]

  • W illiam Burroughs & T.S. Eliot Fighting in the Ca...
  • Monday, November 14, 2011


    New developments on magnetic cows which you may not be aware of.
    Three years ago, Sabine Begall and colleagues at the University of Duisberg-Essen in Germany published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences which suggested that cows have a statistically significant preference for aligning themselves in a north-south direction, oriented to the magnetic north rather than the geographical pole. They found a similar preference in deer. They concluded that the animals must be sensing the Earth’s magnetic field.
    Begall’s team used Google Earth to analyse the orientation of 8,510 cattle at 308 sites around the globe. For the deer they conducted field work in the Czech Republic, observing 2,974 grazing fallow and roe deer in 241 locations as well as checking body prints left by deer resting in the snow.
    For more details, including a lively and interesting set of comments on the subject see this Nature article:  ‘Magnetic cows’ are visible from space.’
    In 2009 they published a follow-up paper 
    Here, we show that extremely low-frequency magnetic fields (ELFMFs) generated by high-voltage power lines disrupt alignment of the bodies of these animals with the geomagnetic field. Body orientation of cattle and roe deer was random on pastures under or near power lines. Moreover, cattle exposed to various magnetic fields directly beneath or in the vicinity of power lines trending in various magnetic directions exhibited distinct patterns of alignment. The disturbing effect of the ELFMFs on body alignment diminished with the distance from conductors. These findings constitute evidence for magnetic sensation in large mammals as well as evidence of an overt behavioural reaction to weak ELFMFs in vertebrates. The demonstrated reaction to weak ELFMFs implies effects at the cellular and molecular levels.
    Earlier this year, Lukas Jelinek and other researchers at the Czech Technical University in Prague reported that they had been unable to replicate these results using different Google Earth images.
    This paper presents a study of the body orientation of domestic cattle on free pastures in several European states, based on the Google satellite photographs. In sum, 232 herds with 3,412 individuals were evaluated. Two independent groups participated in our study and came to the same conclusion that in contradiction to the recent findings of other researchers, no alignment of the animals and of their herds along geomagnetic field lines could be found.
    Burda and colleagues reanalysed the replication attempt and, according to this account in Nature,  they concluded that half of their data should be excluded ‘because some of the pastures are on slopes or near high-voltage power lines, for example, or because the images are too poor to make out cattle, or appear to contain hay bales or sheep instead.’
    Looking forward to further developments.
    ’Animal Attraction’: Like compass needles, cows point north-south /The Economist

    Cow Magnet Diagram
      A footnote to this story which is also interesting is whether cow magnets have anything to do with this phenomenon. The following information from magnetsource.com who sell them.
      Cow magnets are popular with dairy farmers and veterinarians to help prevent Hardware Disease in cattle. While grazing, cows eat everything from grass and dirt to nails, staples and bits of bailing wire (referred to as tramp iron). Tramp iron tends to lodge in the honeycombed walls of the reticulum, threatening the surrounding vital organs and causing irritation and inflammation, known as Hardware Disease. The cow loses her appetite and decreases milk output (dairy cows), or her ability to gain weight (feeder stock). Cow magnets help prevent this disease by attracting stray metal from the folds and crevices of the rumen and reticulum. One magnet works for the life of the cow!
      Ru-Master 5 Cow Magnet
      Ru-Master 5 Cow Magnet
      The Ultimate Heavy-Duty Cow Magnet!
      Patent No. 5128644
      Measures 3/4” dia. x 3-3/8” long

      Burda responded to this suggestion as follows:
      ‘Regarding cow magnets and the idea that they would align in the cow’s stomach Note that this practice is not common (mostly also unknown) in most countries where we made recordings. For sure, none of the deer we observed had it in its stomach. Do the people really think that a small piece of magnet (which does not freely align on a table) would freely align like a magnetic needle in a full stomach? And if so would the cow perceive its movements?’
      See Steve Spangler’s science video on Cow Magnets on You Tube




      Sunday, November 13, 2011



      Portrait: Montalbetti & Campbell


      THE GENERALIST has a taste for great journalism and fine writing as my regular readers will know. But there has been one name missing from my pantheon until now, a man whose work I have circled round for years without quite connecting with his full mastery – namely the dark lord known as Nick Tosches.

      TOSCHES2999 He is, in so many ways, the greatest – a judgement I’ve come to after spending a helluva time working through this chunky hair-raising book ‘The Nick Tosches Reader’ which I have no hesitation in recommending except for those readers of a nervous disposition or those easily offended.

      What makes him such a great writer and journalist. This man goes in deep. He combines obsessive research with a unique stylistic ability and a love for the dark side. He has an deep love for early American music and an intense interest in organised crime and corruption. His books include full-length biographies of Jerry Lee Lewis, Sonny Liston and Dean Martin (the latter to be filmed by Martin Scorsese (natch). Talking of which, Johnny Depp has bought the film rights to Tosches’ novel ‘In The Hand of Dante’ which is another helluva strange book.

      This Reader is definitely a fabulous way of getting to know the man. If you start at the beginning, do not be put off by the early works which are crude, violent, visceral pieces in the baddest of taste. On the other hand, they may whet you appetite. The bo0ok runs chronologically and includes letters, diary entries, poems, extracts from his books, complete pieces of unpublished journalism. Astonishing stuff.

      My favourite pieces are profiles of Patti Smith, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, De Niro, an extraordinary and lengthy piece on George Jones, and an excerpt from ‘Power on Earth’, a book about Michele Sindona, ‘the infamous Sicilian financier who was believed to occupy the throne at the heart of the world's evil, where the secret reaches of international finance, the Mafia, and the Vatican.’

      That’s just for starters. The book comes replete with praise for Tosches’ undeniable genius of which I love Jerry Stahl’s comment the best:

      Nick Tosches stands out as the kind of writer other writers only dream of becoming – amazing at fiction, unparalleled in journalism and biography, and possessed of a stature and genius his lessers can but crouch beneath, gazing up in wonder, awe, and more than a little terror at what this man, in a single, unfinished life, has been able to accomplish on the page.’ Good one, Jerry.


      Here’s some of the best stuff on the web.

      image Nick Tosches official bio on exitwounds.com, the website of his collaboration with Hubert Selby Jr, the writer that Tosches himself most admires. As a teenage reader of ‘Last Exit to Brooklyn’, fresh from its release after the obscenity trial, I share his judgement.

      image Tosches has been a contributing editor to Vanity Fair  since 1996 and several of his pieces are available on-line including his lengthy and wonderful account of his search across continents for a real opium den: 

      Confessions of an Opium Seeker’


      Saint Nick is a great interview by Mike Millard which appeared in the Boston Phoenix.

      ‘For more than 30 years, Tosches has been the nattily dressed scumbag sage of American letters, a cerebral, autodidactic hybrid of Jersey City hood and polymath savant. ("I read a lot," he says of his formative years — despite the fact that they were spent in a town of "few books, many bookies.") His body of work harnesses these two extremes; commingling the sacred and the profane, it is as awash in Seagram’s and semen as it is grounded in the dusky eloquence of Classical epics.’


      Another interesting profile piece, My Lunch With Nick Tosches, the Man in the Leopard-Skin Loafers by Rex Doane, which appeared in Salon.

      Tosches emerged roughly 30 years ago from music magazines like Creem and Fusion where he placed the fringe figures of rock 'n' roll history in proper perspective. Providing a reminder to those at Woodstock that the party started years earlier with R&B giants like Joe Turner. Long before acid there was bootleg liquor. Long before free love there was Hank Ballard who let us know what working with Annie was all about. Along with Lester Bangs, Richard Meltzer and a handful of other noble notables from the era, Tosches elevated rock writing to a new plateau.’



      India’s operational nuclear reactors, those under construction and the proposed new plants, superimposed on a map of earthquake zone/Graphic IBN Source: dianuke. org

      One of the under-reported stories in the Western media is the anti-nuclear protests in India which threaten to derail the country’s ambitious nuclear expansion plans. Even before Fukushima, there was deep concern about the possibility of a nuclear Bhopal. That chemical disaster was the biggest industrial accident in the world, whose effects are still being felt. A nuclear accident would be far worse in a country that has a poor industrial safety record.

      Dow Chemical has consistently refused to accept financial responsibility for cleaning up the Bhopal factory site. Despite this still contentious issue, the Indian government passed the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act in 2010 which capped the economic cost to nuclear plant operators in case of an accident and absolved them of liability. Potential nuclear equipment suppliers think this Act is still too stringent; opponents feel it should be strengthened.


      An Indian woman protests nuclear power and show respect for those who died in the Japan earthquake. (Dibyangshu Sarkar/AFP/Getty Images)

      (Dibyangshu Sarkar/AFP/Getty Images)

      Here is a good summary of the background story by Janjit Devraj of InsideClimate News

      ‘When India's central government passed the long-delayed Indo-U.S. nuclear agreement in 2008 and implemented plans to add 40 gigawatts of nuclear power by 2020—10 times its current capacity—it certainly didn't foresee what would happen next. A rare grassroots uprising led by farmers and fisherman took shape in three major states to block atomic megaprojects that locals say would threaten their traditional livelihoods.

      Nor did national leaders expect India's intelligentsia—led by retired judges, military leaders, scientists, bureaucrats and academics—to get behind the farmers and fishers and build up such a wall of resistance that some fear it could scuttle billion-dollar deals to import reactors and quash several nuclear projects.

      But that's what has happened. Their grievances have now made their way to India's Supreme Court, which is considering a petition to put a stay on nuclear construction until safety reviews of existing plants and those planned along the peninsular coastline are completed.

      If the court sides with petitioners it could drive away crucial foreign investment in the rapidly growing nuclear program, local experts say.

      Currently, the country has 19 nuclear reactors producing about 4,000 megawatts, only about 3 percent of the country's electricity needs. India, which has refused to sign the 189-nation Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, found itself subject to decades of isolation in the international nuclear trade following its 1974 nuclear weapons test. The Indo-U.S. deal reversed a 34-year-old U.S. ban on supplying nuclear fuel and technology to India.

      For American reactor builders like GE and Westinghouse, and foreign investors generally, the pact opened a market for nuclear equipment estimated at $175 billion. For India, the third-largest economy in Asia, it meant the promise of a vast new electricity supply needed for economic growth.

      But both sides' expansive ambitions are running up against Indian political realities.’


      HARJIPUR: The Chief Minister of West Bengal told the central government in August that the state is scrapping plans to allow this Russian-built 6,000 MGW facility to go ahead in the face of mounting resistance.


      Hunger strike protest/dianuke.org

      Several hundreds of people led by the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) and belonging to the coastal villages around the KKNPP are staging a relay fast, demanding the project’s closure. It began on October 13th and is ongoing.

      Kudankulam plant

      KOODANKULAM: The Chief Minister of Tamil Nadhu is urging the central government to put plans on hold for adding six new reactors to the existing plant – two reactors constructed but not yet operational – until local concerns are addressed. If it goes ahead, this facility will be double the size of the Fukushima complex. The People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy have been campaigning against the plant since it was initiated in 1988. A total blockade of the plant by local people has been in operation since October 13th

      More stories here on IBN  Live

      Commissioning of India Kudankulam nuclear plant delayed/BBC News Asia/10th Nov 2011

      Citizens protest the Jaitapur Nuclear Power ProjectCitizens protest the proposed Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project/ Credit: Greenpeace


      JAITAPUR: Opposition is growing against the 9,900-megawatt Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project in the state of Maharashtra on the western coast, to be built by French power developer Areva SA. The plant will cost upwards of $12 billion.


      Source: Nuclear Power Daily

      Local villagers have been opposing the plant for three years. Clashes between protesters and police in April killed one person and injured at least 20 near the plant site. Protestors are planning a relay hunger fast in mid- November.


      Daunting Road ahead for Nuclear Power by M. Somasekhar. The Hindu Business Line

      Friday, November 04, 2011

      LEWES: NOV 4th

      4th November 005 In the middle of the road, blocking the road, outside the Elephant and Castle, in full cry, this wonderful band from our twinned town Waldshut-Tiengen in Germany,play their socks off. Remarkable and moving.

      The big day is, of course, tomorrow, This was a very special moment. I was there with my camera.

      4th November 012 4th November 0164th November 0184th November 029 4th November 032




      Pick up the 2nd edition of ‘The Occupied Times’, originally published with a print run of 2000 copies on Nov 2nd. Since then, fears of violent eviction no longer an immediate worry.


      Thursday, November 03, 2011




      Here a chart of Europe in the black economy as a percentage of GDP (Gross Domestic Product), estimated for 2010/ EUPEDIA

      Thanks to John Trux for turning me on to this essay, by Robert Neuwirth, writer and investigative reporter, which is excerpted and adapted from his new book: Stealth of Nations: The Global Rise of the Informal Economy. Highlights below, full article here.

      The Shadow Superpower

      Forget China: the $10 trillion global black market is the world’s fastest growing economy – and its future.

      ‘Systeme D’ is a slang phrase pirated from French-speaking Africa and the Caribbean …This essentially translates as the ingenuity economy, the economy of improvisation and self-reliance, the do-it-yourself, or DIY, economy.

      Today, System D is the economy of aspiration. It is where the jobs are. In 2009, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a think tank sponsored by the governments of 30 of the most powerful capitalist countries and dedicated to promoting free-market institutions, concluded that half the workers of the world -- close to 1.8 billion people -- were working in System D: off the books, in jobs that were neither registered nor regulated, getting paid in cash, and, most often, avoiding income taxes.

      In many countries -- particularly in the developing world -- System D is growing faster than any other part of the economy, and it is an increasing force in world trade. But even in developed countries, after the financial crisis of 2008-09, System D was revealed to be an important financial coping mechanism. A 2009 study by Deutsche Bank, the huge German commercial lender, suggested that people in the European countries with the largest portions of their economies that were unlicensed and unregulated -- in other words, citizens of the countries with the most robust System D -- fared better in the economic meltdown of 2008 than folks living in centrally planned and tightly regulated nations. Studies of countries throughout Latin America have shown that desperate people turned to System D to survive during the most recent financial crisis.

      Malioboro, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, originally uploaded by Mini Anna {Munandar}. Source: Indonesia Urban Studies


      For more on Robert Neuwirth and his previous book ‘Shadow Cities’ see Vernacular Architecture

      SEE ALSO:

      In Praise of the Shadow Economy. Interview with Robert Neuwirth by Andrew Leonard/Salon