Thoughts On The Dead

Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

Author: Thoughts On The Dead (page 1 of 659)

Together Again, Again

“Are you back in the band?”

“Just siting in, Bob.”

“The kid’s working out, but if you want in, then say the word.”

“I got plans this summer. We’re playing the Garden.”

“When?”

“This summer. We’re gonna start playing Memorial Day and end on Labor Day.”

“Wow. Do you wanna borrow Red Metal Stool?”

“I’d rather have a seat that wasn’t sentient.”

“It’s not optimal. He’s a bit of a whiner.”

“You could just buy a normal one, Bob.”

“Not the Grateful Dead way, Troy.”

“Sure. Hey, you wanna play a Lady Gaga song?”

“You bet.”

A Guide To The Sciences

Physics The king of the sciences. (According to physicists.) Throw a watermelon at a traffic cop, crash two stars into each other; same thing. All describable by equation, thereby predictable. Newton invented it. Except it’s not all the same. Physics is relative; size matters. Real big things going real fast doesn’t behave the way Newton predicted; Einstein had to figure it out. And small stuff plays by its own rules; nuclear particles are like renegade cops. (And I’m just talking about the normal small stuff here, electrons and protons and whatnot; let us not delve into muons and gluons and quarks, which make no damn sense.) Here’s the fun part: quantum physics (the small stuff) and classical physics (the big things) don’t reconcile. Physicists have looked for a Grand Unified Theory since the schism became apparent in the middle of the 20th century, but haven’t found it yet. Maybe they should ask Jared Kushner.

Geology Rockfuckers. An entire substrata of the academy who become aroused by boulders.

Chemistry The most deadly and/or lucrative of the sciences. Yes, yes, I know that you could work to benefit the world and in furtherance of knowledge for knowledge’s sake, but if you didn’t have a conscience and were really good at chemistry, you could do some real damage. And, you know, whatever, chemistry is medicine. Literally all medicine is, is chemistry in pill form. But you could also make sarin and meth.

Biology Adenosine triphosphate turns into adenosine diphosphate, photosynthesis, etc.

Volcanology No sympathy at all when these fuckers get eaten by the lava or sucked into a fissure, none. It’s a volcano. Stay away from it. Volcanoes no longer need any study, as I’m about to tell you everything that there is to know about volcanoes: stay away from them. There you are, volcanologists. Stop hiking up Mt. Doom, please.

Oceanography Better than the volcano weirdos, but just. (Although, technically, volcano beats ocean. Hawaii used to be ocean, and then volcanoes said, “Fuck you, this is an archipelago now,” and the ocean was like “What’s an archipelago?” and the volcanoes said, “A chain of islands,” to which the ocean replied, “Well, why didn’t you just say that?’ and the volcanoes were all, “Because the word for ‘a chain of islands’ is an archipelago, you moron,” and then the ocean and the volcanoes had a slap fight. This is the native Hawaiians’ creation myth; it’s quite beautiful.)

(As opposed to the Judeo-Christian creation myth, which comes down to “Everything exists because God said so.” Gimme a giant cosmic chicken giving birth to the sun, or a cow licking the universe out of ice. Old Testament wasn’t even trying.)

Zoology Sometimes people will look at, say, a zebra. “I wonder how that works,” they think. If this sounds like you, then you should be a zoologist.

Botany Sometimes people will look at, say, a lilac. “I wonder how that works,” they think. If this sounds like you, then you should be a botanist.

Psychology Not a science. Get out of here with your personality tests and checklists and take your fMRI machine with you.

Political Science Why are you even at this party, political science? You are not a science. There is nothing scientific about politics, especially lately.

Meteorology¬†Meteorology gets mocked and associated with the goofy weatherman, but it is an underrated science. Hurricanes used to just show up. You would look out your window: boom, tornado. Surprise blizzards that killed hundreds. It’s dangerous to walk outside every once in a while; meteorology gives us all a heads up. Good job, meteorology.

Astronomy Pity the poor astronomer, like Moses on the hill above Israel. All their lives staring at places they can never go. Nowadays there are telescopes so large that they take up entire valleys; mountains hold them up. We have telescopes in space, too, freed from the atmosphere’s distortions and feeding data to supercomputers.

But it started with two guys on a hill.

“Look at the red one, Thog.”

“I can’t see it.”

“Just follow my finger. It’s by the bright one.”

“There’s a lot of bright ones, Og.”

“No light pollution.”

“There are some advantages to living in pre-history.”

“Sure. How’s your family?”

“Eaten.”

“Ah. Sorry.”

“It happens.”

“Look at the star I’m pointing at. It’s different. It moves faster. I don’t think it’s a star.”

“Og, the stars are the crusty speckles that remain from where Ankeenrah the bull’s orgasm gave birth to itself, and then shit out the world.”

“Sure, right, yeah.”

“I mean, it’s a fun story.”

“Excellent tale with a lot of lessons.”

“But, you know, it might not have happened.”

“Never know.”

“Dude, did we just invent agnosticism?”

“We totally did.”

HIGH FIVE NOISE

“What the hell did we just do?”

“The thing with the hands?”

“Yeah.”

“I don’t know. It just seemed right.”

“It was great. We should do it a lot.”

“Totally.”

HIGH FIVE NOISE

“I mean, let’s not kill it in the cradle.”

“Sure. Y’know what? I love these flowers we found.”

“Oh, yeah. I was thinking, though: what if we pick them all? Then they’ll be gone. What if there were a way to make the plants do what we wanted them to do? To make more?”

“Are you talking about growing our own?”

“I guess, yeah.”

“Dude, you just invented agriculture.”

“Holy shit, am I on a roll.”

HIGH FIVE NOISE

“Let’s get back to the stars, Thog.”

“Sure.”

“Five of them move irregularly. Everything else goes in slow circles, but not these five. I wrote it all down.”

“Og, dude, tell me you did not invent written language.”

“No, no. I just made crude marks in a rock.”

“That’s the first step towards poetry.”

“Don’t overreact.”

“Representational symbols are a slippery slope, my neanderthal friend–”

“We’re not neanderthals. We ate the neanderthals.”

“–your hash marks will lead inexorably to drawings, then pictographs, ideographs, and finally some dusty asshole in Phoenicia comes up with the alphabet and then it’s game over.”

“Pshaw.”

“Nothing good can come from writing.”

“It’s not writing. It’s marks on a rock.”

“Warning you.”

“Dude, be cool.”

“I’m cool as shit.”

“Okay, look: if you track the sun’s rise and set, it makes an elongated figure eight that lasts for 365 days. And the moon takes 28 days to go from bright to dark to bright again. The other stars, too, move in a regular fashion. But not those five.”

“So what are they?”

“I have no idea.”

And that was the birth of astronomy.

Phils Like The First Time

You know I don’t do the Today in GD History bit too much; in fact, I resent May 8th and that miserable week in August for drawing so much attention to themselves. Some dates need celebrating, I suppose, but not all of them. Certainly not the 38th anniversary of a show in San Jose.

Unless, of course, it’s Brent’s first show. To honor him, I present you with this photo that he’s not in. This would set a tone for the rest of Brent’s tenure in the band.

OR

If you only had this picture, you would think Phil had a head like a Pachycephalosaurus.

Just Here For The Fresh Powder

Louise Mensch just accused Mickey’s hat of being a Russian operative.

OR

Mickey doesn’t ski. Those are “guy who doesn’t ski” clothes, and I can’t even make fun of him because that’s exactly what I wear when it’s cold. (Except for the track pants. I don’t know why Mickey’s wearing Adidas track pants. Maybe his pants are also Russian operatives.)

The Death Penalty: An FAQ

What is the death penalty?

Really? The name gives it away.

Don’t be a dick.

The death penalty is when the government kills you for being bad.

I repeat: don’t be a dick.

The death penalty is state-performed murder, a shameful and vestigial remnant of our savage past, and a pathetic reminder of the mean heart and blind dicksuckery of Americans.

There you go. The death penalty is a grand and ancient tradition, though.

Hell, yeah. The first knot humanity leaned to tie was a noose. In fact, throughout most of history, you would be lucky to get the death penalty.

Explain.

“Death penalty” implies that it’s the state executing you, which means maybe you had a chance to plead your case somewhere along the way, or get a last meal; most of the time, criminals would be beaten to death in the street by a mob.

Oh.

Or, you know: a guy that the mob mistook for the criminal. Or a woman accused of being a witch.

The past was terrible.

It was, yes. Luckily, we’ve managed to preserve a goodly chunk of it known as capital punishment. Like historical re-enactors with corpses.

Do any other countries still execute criminals?

Sure, tons of them.

Any decent ones?

Nope. All of the shittiest place, and us.

Yay. I’ve noticed you’ve dismissed the death penalty out of hand. Some people are in favor of it.

Fuck ’em; they’re wrong.

Would you like to make an argument or just curse in a folksy manner?

The state should not be given the power of life and death over its citizens. And holy shit should some of the states not be given that power. You know who runs Arkansas? River otters in glasses, and they’re corrupt. The people in charge of this decision should in no way be in charge of this decision, so my vote is to take it from their hands. Shit, the only reason that capital punishment exists at the state level is that dopey Tenth Amendment.

Which one was that?

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Oh.

Which is such a fucking punt. “Whatever we forgot, you guys take care of, ‘kay?” Reminds you that the document we hold so sacred is the compromise between slavers and people who just wanted to do business with slavers.

This is just a pragmatic argument, though.

Those are the best ones.

But not very lofty.

You want righteousness and morality? Sure. On the question of the death penalty, there are two sides: one of them counts among its members a large hooded man with an axe. He is a murderer, and that is the wrong side to be on.

Capital punishment is not murder.

Of course it is. Premeditated and with malice aforethought

Some would disagree with your definition of “malice.”

Why do we execute? To punish? Because the will to punish is malicious. Is it the will to revenge? To obliterate, to make non-existent? Are these not malicious?

But isn’t the desire for revenge natural?

One of the basest and most primal of needs is for revenge. But a government isn’t a person, and it shouldn’t abide by the rules of vendetta.

What about serial killers?

They are so scary.

We shouldn’t execute serial killers, or child rapists, or terrorists?

Listen, I’m not saying that some motherfuckers don’t need to die. I’m saying that the government shouldn’t be the to one do it.

Which method of execution would you choose?

Giant slingshot against a brick wall, and everybody can watch. Put on a show for the people.

You’re a good guy.

I am, yeah.

Once You Pop

This is 6/18/67 at the Monterey Fairgrounds. I don’t know if I’ve listened to it; I will now, though. This show was the Monterey Pop Festival, legendary for its unlegendariness (at least as far as the Dead goes). The Boys were scheduled in between The Who (beginning a long inter-band relationship) and Jimi Hendrix (beginning his and Bobby’s best friendship); both acts put on high-volume shows punctuated by instrument destruction, arson, and explosives. In the face of such showmanship, the Dead countered by standing there and playing Viola Lee for 14 minutes.

They also refused to be filmed for the movie, which gives them a perfect record for avoiding being in iconic Rock Films: Monterey Pop, Woodstock, Gimme Shelter. Dead missed ’em all by thaaaat much.

He’s My Favorite Honky

See that guy behind Fancy Spanglestein? That, Enthusiasts, is Ronnie Tutt; he is a motherfucker. Do not bring your mother around Ronnie Tutt, unless you want her to be fucked. Ronnie Tutt was born in Dallas, Texas, and he might be one of the great American drummers. Ronnie played in Garcia’s best solo band, the short-lived Legion of Mary, and his second-best band, the one with Nicky Hopkins.

Ronnie Tutt also played sessions. You are intimately familiar with him even if this is the first time you’ve heard his name. Piano Man. You’ve heard it once or twice? Ronnie Tutt. He also played for the Carpenters, which breaks my heart because I thought Karen did the drumming. You lied to me, Carpenters. (Although that does make the story about John Bonham flying into a rage when she beat him in some “Best Drummer” poll even funnier.)

And he drummed for Elvis. Ronnie Tutt was in the King’s vast Vegas band from the first show in ’69 to the last tour in ’77, and Elvis keyed in on him throughout the show, and Ronnie Tutt watches Elvis right back so that when the King demonstrates karate, he has a proper soundtrack.

Here, watch:

When Elvis died, Ronnie Tutt went to work for Neil Diamond and hasn’t left since; from interviews with him, the job seems like a good fit. Ronnie Tutt appreciates professionalism, and one gets a sense that he was completely sick of Garcia’s hippie bullshit within weeks of forming the LoM. (When Ronnie Tutt asked John Kahn when band practice was, John Kahn responded with, “Practice? We’re talking about practice? Not a show. Not a show, but practice?) Neil also lets him sing, which Ronnie Tutt loves to do.

“WE TALKIN’ ‘BOUT HARD-WORKIN’ RONNIE TUTT?”

Oh, good. You’re back.

“AH AM WELCOMED EV’RYWHERE, AN’ SOMETIMES PEOPLE GIMME STUFF.”

Great.

“RONNIE TUTT WAS TH’ MOST POWERFULLEST DRUMMER EVER DONE COME OUTTA TEXAS. HE SOUNDED LIKE A FREIGHT TRAIN WITH A BONER, BOY.”

Lovely simile.

“AH WOULD OFTEN HAVE HIM SET UP HIS DRUMS IN MAH BOO-DWAH AT GRACELAND.”

Why?

“SO HE COULD MUSICALLY ACCOMPANY MAH LOVEMAKIN’. MADE IT SOUND REAL DRAMATIC. LIKE AH WAS SOME SORTA SEX DINOSAUR.”

You just popping in or are you back for a while?

“TH’ FUTURE GONNA DO WHAT TH’ FUTURE GONNA DO.”

True. Elvis, did Ronnie Tutt ever sing backup for you?

“SINGIN’ DRUMMERS? AIN’T GONNA BE NO SINGIN’ DRUMMERS AT TH’ KING’S SHOW, BOY. THERE’S TWO DOZEN SINGERS IN TH’ BAND ALREADY.”

Also true.

Who Has Louise Mensch Accused Of Being A Russian Operative Today?

  • Carter Page.
  • Paul Manafort.
  • Bernie Sanders.
  • Colonel Sanders.
  • Route 610 around Houston.
  • Matt Taibbi.
  • Caspar the Friendly Ghost.
  • Caspar Weinberger the Slightly-Less Friendly Ghost.
  • Grilled cheese sandwiches.
  • RuPaul.
  • The concept of public transportation.
  • Prime numbers.
  • Harriet Tubman.
  • Richard Nixon.

“Excuse me?”

Who is that?

“You know damn well who it is.”

You look upset, Mr. President.

“What is that shit you just said? Who doubts Nixon’s patriotism?”

Woman named Louise Mensch.

“Mensch?”

Yeah.

“Mensch. Mensch, huh?’

Okay, I know what you’re thinking and stop it.

“It’s just that I know a psychiatrist with that name.”

I don’t know whether she’s Jewish. Leave it alone. She’s British.

“Christ, just as bad. The British are actually cheap. The Jews have this reputation for stinginess, but I find it’s not deserved. many of the other stereotypes about them are true, but not that they’re cheap. The Brits? Never saw a dinner check they couldn’t avoid.”

Sure.

“I’ll tell you this, son. This woman, this girl, whatever her name is: she’s a symptom. For a person to make such accusations publicly and yet not be locked in the booby hatch? That’s society’s problem.”

Everyone’s getting a little tense.

“My God. Nixon, a Communist? Nixon jails Communists, bombs them, shoots them. Ran two over the last time I was in Miami.”

You ran over Communists?

“Not me, personally. Bebe Rebozo. This is, uh, one of the things that I admire about the man. He may actually despise Communism more than I do.”

That’s a lot.

“You should reach out to this woman. Warn her off this course.”

She’d only accuse me of working for the Russians.

“Paranoia is a drug. At times, it can aid performance. Give one a boost. Too much, though, and you’re out in the deep water.”

Well said, Mr. President.

“God bless America.”

That, too.

A Short History Of Marihuana

Marihuana was invented in Switzerland on April 20th, 1922, by Albert Hoffman’s older and less motivated brother, Klaus. He was trying to make a dessert topping, but screwed up somewhere in the process and found that the results were a green and leafy substance. When a miniscule amount made contact with Klaus’ hand, it did nothing at all, so Klaus rolled that shit up and blasted some Hawkwind.

Stop lying.

Cannabis is a trick of the Jew to enslave–

Stop it.

–the working man and rouse the passions of the Negro.

Either be normal or stop writing.

If I was normal, I could stop writing.

Good point, yeah. Still, though: stop being foolish.

Oh, fine. The cannabis plant originated in Central Asia and chose a winning survival strategy, which was being useful to humans, and out of all the plants that adopted this method–wheat, rice, barley–cannabis may have them beat: certain cultures eat wheat, others eat rice, but everybody smokes dope. Evidence of human use goes back just about as far as evidence of human existence. It was a religious sacrament, it was medicine, it was a cash crop. Same as now. Plus, the stalk of the cannabis plant can be turned into paper or rope or trousers; this is called hemp.

But how did we meet, marijuana and humanity, not just a casual glance at a bright green leaf with five serrated shoots; I’m talking about getting stoned. They must have thrown it in the fire, right? Smelled good, so why not?

“Thog?”

“Yeah, Og?’

“You feel weird?”

“I feel lovely.”

“Right? Like, super-lovely and good?”

“Have we invented ovens yet?”

“Nowhere near.”

“Okay, cool. Then I won’t say I’m baked.”

“The concept of baking doesn’t exist yet.”

“Did we do something different today? Maybe we invented something without realizing it.”

“We hunted.”

“Sure.”

“Then we gathered.”

“Right.”

“Now we’re sitting by the fire. Same ol’, same ol’.”

“We should travel.”

“Take a trip somewhere.”

“Wait, dude.”

“What’s a ‘dude?'”

“I dunno. I just felt compelled to call you that.”

“It fits.”

“It just sounds right, right?”

“Dude.”

“Duuuuude.”

“I love it. I’m in.”

“The smelly plants.”

“Is that gonna be the name of our band?”

“No, but it should be.”

“Totally.”

“The plants we threw in the fire. Doesn’t the smoke smell all weird?”

“I thought it smelled pretty good, man.”

“Right, but weird.”

“Yeah.”

“Dude, I think we found magic plants.”

“No.”

“Yup. We’re shamans.”

“We’re totally fucking shamans, bro.”

“Y’know who would love this? Moochie.”

“Oh, no, dude: Moochie got eaten by a sabre-toothed duck.”

“Aw, fuck.”

“Yeah.”

“Why are we the only animals without sabres for teeth?”

“Excellent question. Throw some more magic on the fire.”

And so on.

The next morning, Thog and Og went back to the spot where they found the plants, picked more, and began experimenting. (Always keep in mind that the so-called “caveman” was your genetic equal, absolutely identical to a modern-day human and capable of the same mental theatrics. A baby from 20,000 years ago, snatched via Time Sheath, could be raised in 2017 with no problem. Our ancestors weren’t dumb, they just hadn’t invented anything yet.) The boys learned some things. For example, cannabis plants are like mosquitoes: only the females will fuck you up; males contain none of the psychoactive ingredient THC that makes smoking doobies a worthwhile pursuit. Evidence shows that farmers in China and the Middle East were separating their crop by sex long before the birth of the Christ.

The Greeks and the Romans and the ancient Indians enjoyed marijuana–let’s just say all of Asia–and Africa, too. Europeans brought it to the New World, and I think that might be the only fair trade that this hemisphere got in the whole sordid history of Colonialism: potatoes for pot. George Washington grew hemp, although I think stories of his toking up are as apocryphal as the tales of him chopping trees down.

Actual pot smoking started in the early part of the 20th century; there had been cannabis-based medicines available for quite a while, but doobies? We’re talking doobies? 1910 or so. After the Mexican Revolution, there was a flood of immigration our way, but the Mexicans were the best kind of guest in that they brought weed. Smokable cannabis had been brought to Brazil by the Portuguese; they found it useful in keeping their slaves mellow.

Never forget: the past was terrible.

So, the pot starts flowing in 1910 or so. Completely legal, but not for long. 1914 saw El Paso pass a ban; other towns followed. Marihuana is grown, sold, and used all over the West Coast, mostly by Mexican-American communities. Meanwhile, reefer is being shipped into New Orleans, where it catches on with the nascent jazz scene and thus propagates throughout African-American communities. Can you tell how this is going to end?

Right: poorly. Prohibition ends in 1933, but there’s a problem: the failed societal experiment had created two opposing, but intertwining, systems. Prohibition created organized crime, so there were markets and delivery routes already in place. But Prohibition also swelled the number of cops and agencies and law enforcement dedicated to, well, prohibiting things.¬† One of those organizations was called the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (later the Drug Enforcement Agency) and was led by a guy named Harry Anslinger, the pothead’s Voldemort. A bunch of states had outlawed pot, but he got congress to pass the Marihuana Stamp Act in 1937. Instead of an outright ban, which the federal government was not seen as having the power to do, it levied a tax on the sale of pot. Thus, if you were caught holding, you could be thrown in jail for not paying your taxes.

(Those of you noting that the strategy is the same kind of sneaky bullshit the government pulled on Al Capone are correct, and should reward yourself with a treat of your choosing.)

And that was it for a long while.¬† The substance was forbidden from use, sale, or possession and banned from all 50 states. Pot was stupidly illegal; they’d throw you in jail for a decade for one or two jazz cigarettes. Naturally, people kept getting high. Organized crime had something to do, the prohibitors had something to do; everyone was happy except the poor schmuck who just wanted to smoke a joint.

Weed began to go mainstream in the 60’s; by “mainstream,” I mean middle-class white people found out about it. The rock and rollers wrote songs praising the sweet leaf, and the college kids who went to their shows ate that shit up. You could buy a lid of Maui Wowie, or perhaps some Thai Stick. You could also, still, go to jail for a million years.

Then, it got worse. At the federal level, the government ramped up the War on Drugs, which has gone as well as the Wars on Poverty or Terrorism. Maybe we should stop declaring wars on concepts. Mandatory minimum sentencing laws were passed. Millions were spent on scare campaigns; billions for law enforcement.

But it also got a little better, slowly. States began decriminalizing possession of personal-use weights. (“Yes, officer, all ten pounds are for my personal use.”) Then, one by one and also slowly, states started to allow prescriptions of medical marijuana with varying levels of strictness. Some places require patients to have one of a set list of ailments, and limit the number of dispensaries in each county; and then there was California, where the medical marijuana law was blatantly a de facto legalization.

And now, to the subtle and lasting shock of any Enthusiast over a certain age, a couple states have legalized recreational marihuana. You have to pay your tax on it, too, just like Harry Anslinger wanted.

And here’s where it gets stupid. Marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, so the DEA could shut down the whole industry–multi-billion dollar industry, by the way–tomorrow. Plus, the laws vary wildly from state to state. The Four Corners. Where the square states meet? Stand in Colorado with a duffel bag full of the sticky icky, and you’re good. Walk ten feet to the west, and you’re in Utah; they only legalized trousers for women last year, so it might take a while for pot to become hunky-dory in Utah. Oh, and since the laws are so conflicting, banks won’t do business with the dispensaries so you have an entire industry–multi-billion dollar industry–being run on cash. I told you it was stupid.

This leads us to the current situation: in seven states, marijuana is legal for adults to enjoy for no reason other than it being an enjoyable pastime; in 19 others, it is obtainable under certain conditions. In 24 states, marijuana is still the devil’s weed. The federal government’s current view on pot is, to be charitable, uncharitable. Marijuana’s future, as always, is hazy.

Smoke ’em if you got ’em.

Paging Chez Ray, Paging Chez Ray

Where you going?

“Getting that meatloaf sandwich.”

You’re obsessed.

“I’m hungry.”

How did Brent do?

“Who?”

Brent. Your new keyboard player. This is his first show.

“It is? I thought Donna called in sick.”

No.

“How about that? I’m sure he did great. When have we ever hired the wrong keyboardist?”

40% of the time.

“Close enough for rock and roll, right?”

Kinda.

“Now stop bothering me. Sandwich time.”

Okay.

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