Monday, July 25, 2011



This is a really unexpected find of some significance as I shall explain.

For some years in the 1980s I was running Greenpeace International’s publishing operation, during which I co-authored the official history book - ‘The Greenpeace Story’


Greenpeace’s roots lie in Vancouver and an organisation called the Don’t Make A Wave Committee, founded by Jim Bohlen, Paul Cote and Irving Stowe in 1970. Irving and Dorothy Stowe were Quakers who introduced Bohlen and his wife Marie to the faith. A key Quaker concept was “bearing witness” - ‘a sort of passive resistance that involves going to the scene of an objectionable activity and registering opposition to it simply by one’s presence there.’

Stowe, Bohlen and others aimed to stop US plans to detonate a 5-megaton nuclear bomb on the island of Amchitka in the Aleutians – one of the most earthquake-prone regions in the world. The Committee, later renamed Greenpeace,  aimed to find a protest vessel in which to sail to the test zone to ‘bear witness’.


At the time of writing the history, I remember hearing rumours that such an action had been tried before Greenpeace by the Quakers but was not able to find any further information in those pre-internet days.

The chance find of this amazing book confirms that the Quakers did indeed mount such a protest and this is the full account.

In late March 1958, Albert Bigelow and three companions, all Quakers, set out from Los Angeles with plans to sail into the nuclear test zone in the Marshall Islands where the US were planning to stage an atmospheric nuclear test at Eniwetok in April.

The voyage was fraught with problems. Shortly after GOLDEN RULE3946 embarking, the Golden Rule and its crew were caught in a one-in-20 year storm that forced them to return to LA.

Having repaired the boat and restocked their supplies, they set out once more and made it to Hawaii – some 2000 miles. Here their boat was impounded and captain and crew were imprisoned. Much of the book is given up to the circumstances of their incarceration, their various court appearances and the protests organised to try and obtain their freedom.

In the end, unable to make the journey themselves due to their confinement, Bigelow managed to persuade the crew of another boat, the Phoenix, to pick up the mission. They managed to leave Honolulu without rousing the suspicion of the authorities and they actually made it to the test zone where they were arrested.

‘Among those who met the crew members of the Golden Rule in Honolulu and attended their trial for contempt of court were Earle and Barbara Reynolds, a married couple, and their two children.  Travelling around the globe on their hand-built sailboat, the Phoenix, they were heading back to Hiroshima, where Earle Reynolds, an anthropologist, had coordinated research for the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission, established by the U.S. government to gather data on the effects of the atomic bombs.  Greatly impressed by the crew members, as well as convinced that the U.S. government had misreported the deadly effects of radioactive fallout and had no right to restrict travel on the high seas, the Reynolds family decided to complete the voyage of the Golden Rule.  On July 1, 1958, Earle Reynolds went on the radio to announce that the Phoenix was entering the U.S. test zone "as a protest against nuclear testing.  Please inform appropriate authorities."  The U.S. Coast Guard boarded the Phoenix the next day, arrested Reynolds, and returned him to Hawaii for trial.  Here he was convicted and sentenced to two years in prison.’

[This quote is from an excellent article The Long Voyage:  The Golden Rule and Resistance to Nuclear Testing in Asia and the Pacific by Lawrence S. Wittner. He writes thatReynolds also resumed his seaborne activities against nuclear explosions.  As a protest against nuclear testing by the Soviet Union, Reynolds captained two additional voyages, the first by the Phoenix to Nakhodka (on the Pacific Ocean) and the second by the Everyman III to Leningrad (on the Baltic Sea).’]

Both voyages became the focus of a big international campaign to try and put a halt to atmospheric nuclear testing. We also learn from Bigelow’s account that the Quakers had seen direct action before his voyage.

Demonstration in favour of the Golden Rule and against bomb tests, June 1958—photo from the Albert Bigelow Papers

A British Quaker Harold Steele tried to organise a ship and crew to sail to the Christmas Islands to protest against the nuclear tests being carried out there by the British. He and his wife only made it as far as Tokyo but their example inspired Quakers in the US.

In June 1957, says Bigelow, they organised an ad hoc committee – Non Violent Action Against Nuclear Weapons – and on August 6th that year, on the anniversary of Hiroshima, 35 of them assembled at the gateway to the Nevada Test Site and stepped over the line. They were arrested, tried for trespassing and given suspended sentences.

Bigelow reports: ‘After leaving court, we returned to the prayer vigil…We continued to play throughout the night. At dawn we experienced, from a distance of about twenty-five miles, a nuclear explosion. This was proof that our intuition, our feelings and our senses were right.’

Bigelow, who commanded combat vessels in world War II, records the whole saga in punctilious detail and succeeds in capturing the mood and feel of those times. His is a very valuable account of a set of actions that are little known of today. Hopefully this post will help the story find its way into the mainstream historical accounts of the environmental, anti-nuclear and peace movements.

Bigelow (1906-1993) is a fine artist and his meticulous drawings pepper the text.

[This edition is 1st Edition hardback published by Doubleday in 1959. According to the book’s inscription, it was owned by Roger Mabey-Merrall of Yacht “6X”, R.N.S.A. [which I think is the Royal Navy Sailing Association]. One wonders how far this book has travelled.

 The Golden Rule Will Sail Again
by Lawrence Wittner [Huffington Post]. Plans to resurrect the historic boat. Project site is here:

Broken Arrow by Heidi Walters [The Journal, Humboldt County, California]

Albert Bigelow, right, captained the Golden Rule on her mission to disrupt atmospheric nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands. PHOTO FROM THE ALBERT BIGELOW PAPERS held at the Swarthmore College Peace Collection.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


Hats off the The Independent on publishing the excellent piece by Nosheen Iqbal - 'The Long-Form Resurrection' The cliched wisdom is that with the decline of newspapers and the much-trumpeted short attention span syndrome, readers are unwilling, even, ,to read longer-form work.

The opposite appears to be the case. Iqbal writes; '...its the torrent of short-form thinking - the incessant texts, tweets, status updates and simplistic seach-engine optimisation-geared news stories - that seems to have speed up audience desire for lengthier, more meditative pieces.

Here are the five long-read sites that the article recommends:

The Browser:
Arts and Letters Daily:

To this I would add the London Review of Books ( which thanks to Lin I have been enjoying as a Guest Subscriber). A portion of the content of each issue is open to non-subscribers.

Sunday, July 10, 2011



Back in February 2008, The Generalist had the opportunity to sit down with Nick Davies, during a period when he was promoting his book ‘Flat Earth News’ for a long interview.

Check it out on the Audio Generalist site.

Also accompanying Previous Post: NICK DAVIES: FLAT EARTH NEWS

In the light of recent developments the book seems prescient. In the chapter ‘Dark Arts’ he addresses the whole issue of newspapers using private detectives and others to illegally tap phone records and conversations and access police databases. What is clear is that the practice was not limited to the News of the World  but was rife in many other newspapers including the Daily Mail,  the Sunday Times  and The Times.

Nick was one of the pioneers of these investigations and was also the man who hooked up Julian Assange to The Guardian and other papers leading to the widespread publication of Wikileaks material. Hats off

In that regard, See:

Frontline Club Exclusive: Julian Assange in conversation with Slavoj Žižek moderated by Democracy Now's Amy Goodman

For more on Wikileaks and Julian Assange see:



For more on Zizek see:

For more on Democracy Now

READ ALSO; ‘Murdoch: the network defeats the hierarchy’ by Paul Mason

‘As the News of the World scandal gathered momentum it became clear, by midnight on Thursday, that this was not just the latest of a series of institutional crises - the banks, MPs expenses - but the biggest. For this one goes to the heart of the way this country has been run, under both parties, for decades.

‘It is like a nightmare scripted by Noam Chomsky and Slavoj Zizek: key parts of the political machinery of Britain are wavering.’



Leaf Fielding is a natural storyteller – and what a story he has to tell.

Leaf was not one of the kingpins of the LSD production business that was smashed by Operation Julie but he was involved enough to pull down years of hard time.

Beginning as a hired hand, turning crystal acid into tabs, he graduated to handling major distribution drops.

The book begins with his bust, subsequent trial and imprisonment. We learn a lot about about prison life as the book progresses and get an insider’s view of the LSD manufacturing business.

Interwoven with this is the story of Leaf’s early years followed by his extensive adventures around the world – blazing the hippy trail, hanging out on islands in Greece and Indonesia, wheeling and dealing across continents. He almost dies several times – but this is the cat with the nine lives.

Leaf’s consciousness was radically changed and charmed by LSD and his vision of an interconnected universe and the wonders of nature suffuse the book. Just reading some sections will give you a contact high or, at the least, a distant echo of a flashback.

Leaf got into the whole-food business early on and, after serving his time, has returned to his organic roots. He has also set up an orphanage in Malawi.

He captures brilliantly the look, feel, smell and touch of those times when millions of us were all opening the doors of perception, gaining glimpses of profound new visions of ourselves and the changing world around us.

Leaf has a lovely way with words and an eye for the telling detail. His book is a stone-cold classic which will bring back memories for old-school ‘heads’ as well as inspiring young bucks to search for adventure. Its a book full of survival skills and contagious insights, stirring adventures, hilarious escapades and dope folk tales. Howard Marks loves it and so will you.

{To Live Outside the Law by Leaf Fielding is published by Serpent’s Tail as an original paperback]



Review of a previous ‘Julie’ book with newspaper clippings and pictures from The Generalist archive.


My original account of the Operation Julie trials, written for the NME in 1978


Lengthy review of a book by Andy Roberts


Review of the classic book by David May & Stewart Tendler on the biggest LSD manufacturing ring in the US and beyond.

Friday, July 08, 2011


There are still two weeks to go until the end of the school year, but for many kids Friday July 8th 2011 will be remembered as symbolising the end of an educational era: the transition from primary to secondary school. This is because, for the tenth year running, parents' group Patina have set up the madcap, exuberant, colourful and extremely noisy 'moving on' parade. As ever, hundreds of kids from primary schools in and around Lewes will parade down the High Street in their imaginative costumes, this year themed, appropriately enough, 'Let's Party'. ‘[]

The Moving On parade comes past my front door on its way to the High Street. Here are a small collection of photos I took to give you a flavour of this wonderful event. Beat boxes in prams pumping out hi-volume disco, rock and funk music. The kids love it. Fantastic colours and energy. And the rain held off for the parade !

LEWES MOVING ON 8Jul2011 050 LEWES MOVING ON 8Jul2011 052 LEWES MOVING ON 8Jul2011 058LEWES MOVING ON 8Jul2011 039 LEWES MOVING ON 8Jul2011 015 LEWES MOVING ON 8Jul2011 025 LEWES MOVING ON 8Jul2011 030 LEWES MOVING ON 8Jul2011 048


whole earth937

The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York recently staged a small exhibition entitled ‘Access to Tools: Publications from the Whole Earth Catalog (1968-1974)’.

Curated by David Senior, this bibliographic tribute to the ‘Whole Earth’ phenomenon – the publication itself, the works by McLuhan, Buckminster Fuller. Norbert Weiner which whole earth2938 influenced the thinking behind it, other notable publications of the time which championed radical thinking in Structures, Communications and other fields, and various spin-off publications that picked up where the Catalog left off.

Fortunately the exhibition is available to view in an on-line form here.

Front and Back cover of ‘The Last Supplement to the Whole Earth Catalog’, with an excellent Robert Crumb original [THE GENERALIST ARCHIVE]

The Generalist is hoping to correspond with the curator as there are factual errors in the piece to do with Friends  magazine.

Copy reads: ‘This Rolling Stone–like rock magazine issued four pages of content biweekly that editors described as the “British Whole Earth Catalogue.” Products listed were sourced from manufacturers and booksellers in the United Kingdom. Readers were instructed to cut these pages from each issue of Friends to compile the whole publication.’

Friends  began life as a British Rolling Stone, with swish offices in London’s West End. After a falling-out, the magazine was set-up under the company name T.F. Much and the magazine was re-launched as Friends, based in offices at 305 Portobello Road

whole earth4940 Issuse 1 was published 22nd Nov 1969. It had two pages on the Whole Earth Catalog. These were written by Colin Moorcraft. A further two pages on the same topic appeared in Issue 2. Subsequently it evolved into a 4pp pull-out or cut out supplement. [Friends was published approx. monthly, not fortnightly)

whole earth3939

[Left: first pull-out supplement I can find. Frendz Issue 6.]

Colin was a lovely, far sighted man, who pioneered the British Whole Earth Catalog. His name and work should be more widely known. Colin took me to see Buckminster Fuller give a talk at the US Embassy in London – an unforgettable experience.

Friends later became Frendz (run by a new company, Echidna Epics), which petered out in 1972. During the last two issues, myself, Mike Marten, Jon Trux and others, revived the concept of the British Whole Earth Catalogue, producing two 4-page supplements.

When Frendz folded, we joined together to form a company to produce such a Catalogue in book form. This project transmuted into An Index of Possibilities.






Thanks to Mike Marten for sending me an article about this exhibition entitled Holistic Browsing’ by D. Graham Burnett [Nature/Vol 474/30 June 2011]

Burnett reports that Steve Jobs ‘suggested in 2005 that this counter-cultural handbook should be properly understood as a forerunner of Google.’

Burnett concludes: ‘Perhaps the Whole Earth Catalog really was the forerunner of the internet and its tools in that it represented a transmutation of a whole cosmos of radical ideas, crazy stuff and possible lives, all returned to us as little more than an alluring opportunity to sit down and browse. We’ve been browsing ever since.’

SEE ALSO: ‘Sea Change’ by Michael Marten, an essay with images about his interesting photographic project, featured on the excellent Camera Obscura site, a blog/magazine dedicated to photography and contemporary art

Wednesday, July 06, 2011


Cover_Fever Dreams_ Its always a good day when I hear from the Egyptian poet Yahia Lababidi. To find out more about him see PREVIOUS POST: Trial By Ink.

His new collection of poems, Fever Dreams is now out and available from Crisis Chronicles Press

What is to Give Light

What is to give light must endure                                                    burning, a man once said
Another man became the matchstick
that set a nation aflame
But fire, and its appetite, cannot be
calculated, like freedom
Injustice and desperation make men
combustible, like dry wood
When words lose their meaning
and an entire people their voice 
so they can neither laugh nor scream  
death and life begin to taste the same
From Tunis, to Egypt, to Libya to Yemen
the light from a burning man proved catching
And those with nothing to lose, or offer, but bodies
fanned the embers of their hopes into a blazing dream.


‘I Burn’, a poem by NSAA (Poet, Graphic artist, Folk Singer, Lyricist)

‘Early on December 17th last year Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old fruit-and-vegetable seller, had doused himself in petrol, flicked a lighter and started a revolution in front of the building.’ –Tunisia: The Burning Man Revolution/ Irish Times

Monk sets fire to himself as Tibet protests spreadBeijing  - A Tibetan Buddhist monk set fire to himself on Friday after Chinese authorities prevented him from observing a traditional prayer festival, the London-based Free Tibet Campaign reported.


Self-Immolation of Buddhist Monk in Vietnam

Jan Palach remembered at UoM (2009)
Jan Palach - Czech student who died for freedom in 1969.

On January 16, 1968 he took the morning train to Prague. At the dormitory he wrote his last letter, intended for publication. One copy he put in a briefcase, and three others he addressed to the Writers' Union, Lubos Holecek - an activist in the student movement, and Ladislav Zizka, a friend from the economics school, to whom he also included his personal greetings.
At around four o'clock that same day he stood at the ramp of the National Museum, at the top of Wenceslas Square, poured gasoline over himself and set himself on fire. He ran burning across the intersection toward a grocery store, and fell by the road.A transport worker threw his coat over him and according to witnesses, Palach was still conscious.He was taken by ambulance to the department for burn victims on Legerova Street. Eighty-five percent of his body was covered with serious burns, the majority of them third-degree. He lived another three days and died on January 19, 1969.His funeral took place on January 25 1969 in Prague. It was a grave and silently expressed universal dissent with the occupation of the country. Jan Palach is buried in Prague at the Olsany Cemeteries.



It was a slow day at the word factory. Hot too. Took care of business and then went wandering round town with no particular purpose. Bought a new capot and then stopped by the Union Store, our local Americana music shop, for a browse when I spotted these two novels.

‘The Motel Life’ came out in 2006, ‘Northline’ in 2008. Vlautin has a band called Richmond Fontaine. The second book comes with a soundtrack, music to listen to while reading the book. I got home and read The Motel Life straight through. I’m a  quarter way into ‘Northline’, taking a break to write these words.

Vlautin is a great storyteller.  He just grabs your attention and never lets go. Both books are set in Reno, Nevada and feature stories from the street with strong believable characters who speak in a real life way. His books mix humour and tragedy. No false notes. Bukowski, Fante, Carver, Kerouac, Dylan come to mind but Vlautin is very much his own man. 

‘The Motel Life’ begins with our hero in bed, so drunk he thinks he’s going to puke when, next moment, a duck crashes through the window and lies dead on the floor. He staggers out of bed, throws the duck out of the window and goes back to sleep after turning his electric blanket to 10.

Vlautin has a third novel out called ‘Lean on Pete’ for which he won the Ken Kesey Award for Fiction which I’m going to hunt down.

Check out his website:


scukpture garden936

Two years work successfully completed. This is a 300pp plus full colour guidebook to the the Garden of Heroes & Villains, commissioned by Felix Dennis. Its a remarkable assemblage of larger-than-life size bronze sculptures. Chuck Berry rubs shoulders with the Trojan Warriors, Stephen Hawkins, King Kong, Leonardo and Emily Dickinson. Not yet for general release. I am the writer, co-producer and one of the principal photographers on this work.