Wednesday, September 28, 2011



Whatever else he might be, Julian Assange is a natural controversialist. Everywhere he goes, he creates a turbulence around him. This flawed strange first-draft biography holds some clues as to why that is through its insights into his turbulent nomadic childhood. His purchase of a Commodore computer thrusts him into an alternative reality which he was born to master. We follow his immediate attraction to the hacking underworld and his fast progression into global networking. He is a troubled lad with a mission to reveal secrets. This almost mystical obsession  leads him almost inevitably to the  birth of WikiLeaks through which he plays out his fantasies on a global stage.

This is not the first book on Assange and WikiLeaks and it certainly won’t be the last. Three earlier works are reviewed in this interesting piece by Jonathan Haslam.

The full controversy surroundings this new biography’s publication is covered here in a number of stories published by The Guardian

Daniel Ellsberg on the cover of Time magazine [5th July 1971]

‘Those who have been following the WikiLeaks affair will have noticed the recent prominence of Dan Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971.  Ellsberg, in many respects, was a predecessor to WikiLeaks, and has provided insightful commentary regarding the current situation.’ Source: Unredacted: The National Security Archive

The Pentagon Papers were finally declassified and released in June 2011. Available now on National Archives site

See: Wikipedia for full background story

Saturday, September 17, 2011



As some of you will probably know there is new movie ‘Magic Trip’ about the legendary 1964 coast-to-coast journey by Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters on board a psychedelic bus, driven by the legendary Neal Cassady, immortalised by Kerouac as Dean Moriarty in ‘On The Road.’ The movie is largely composed of 16mm footage shot at the time which has never been seen before. Filmmakers Alex Gibney and Alison Ellwood restored over 100 hours of film and audiotape. The movie is now out in the US from Magnolia Pictures and is expected on these shores before too long. You can read more about this movie in Edward Helmore’s article ‘How Ken Kesey’s LSD-fuelled bus trip created the psychedelic 60s.’



These two books are probably the best accounts around of that original bus trip. First Tom Wolfe’s classic piece of New Journalism ‘The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test’ (my battered and smoke-stained 1969 Bantam paperback edition above). Second ‘On The Bus’ a fully illustrated documentary account by Paul Perry, with Flashbacks from Ken Babbs and Forewords by Hunter S. Thompson, Jerry Garcia and Ken Kesey, published by Thunder’s Mouth Press, New York in 1990.


Ken Kesey

(Sept 17, 1935 – Nov 10, 2001)


This is an account pieced together from The Generalist Archive and the memories of my friend and colleague David May, co-author of ‘The Brotherhood of Eternal Love’ [See Previous Post] of Kesey’s last visits to the UK before his death in 2001.

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Our story begins in August 1998 when Ken Kesey and Ken Babbs appear at The Barbican as part of a GrandFurther Tour. I was working with a small APS camera at the time so the stage shot just gives an impression of the set-up – the two Kens behind separate lecterns on either side of a large screen, dressed in outfits that resembled psychedelic Morris Men.David May, who was working for David Brook at Channel 4 at that time, invited DB and me to the event and afterwards we went backstage, where the rest of the pics were taken. The bottom one shows me shaking hands with Kesey, who then signed my Calder & Boyars 1972 hardback edition of ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.’

David Brook and Simon Jameson suggested there and then that Kesey should bring the bus over to Britain the following summer in the lead up to the Millennium, when there was to be a major solar eclipse.The basic deal was done that night.

David May went with journalist Mick Brown to Oregon to settle further details (Mick wrote a piece for The Telegraph magazine) and they spent July 4th with Kesey and Babbs and all the Merry Prankster’s who had gathered at Babb’s place for the celebration.

David Brook enlisted the support of commissioning editor Alan Hayling and Channel 4 Chief Executive Michael Jackson to create a ‘Summer of Love’ season. See next post.


Note on the bus. This is picture of the original bus – a 1939 International Harvester school bus - still sitting on Kesey’s farm, from the official website run by Kesey’s son Zane

In The Generalist Archive, found an interesting article by Katherine Bishop - ‘Down Electric, Kool-Aid Memory Lane’ – published in the International Herald Tribune Nov 7th 1990.


At that time Ken Kesey had just published his own account of the original 1964 trip - ‘The Further Inquiry’, published by Viking Press – and to promote it, was staging another coast-to-coast ride in the new bus which, said Kesey, incorporated ‘important portions of the original “Further”…including the driver’s seat from which Neal Cassady…piloted the rolling affront to respectable behaviour on the first trip.’The article reports that, at that time, the Smithsonian was interested in obtaining the original bus and restoring it. For Kesey that was a no-go.The new bus was the one that was to make the trip to Britain.


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[Top] Front and back cover and inside spread of the promotional leaflet for Channel 4’s ‘The Summer of Love’ season, containing the tour schedule for the bus. The channel broadcast 5-minute updates on the progress of the bus each day.

[Below] Pictures of the bus arriving in Brighton On August 8th 1999, various views showing the most excellent paint job, and yours truly in front of the bus.



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‘The 'Acid Test’ at London’s ICA was instigated by me and Channel 4’s Head of Events Claire Sefton along with Kesey and co. We got Jeff Dexter down and put on a light show with The Light Surgeons. Some serious hippies turned up from San Francisco with, they claimed, Owsley acid. A story in the Daily Express claimed that the event was promoting drug use and demanded Channel 4 carry out an inquiry – which was excellent publicity. In fact, Kesey was spiked at a private show in Scotland before the Edinburgh Festival He handled it but hated that it was done to him without his consent.’- Notes from David May


Thursday, September 15, 2011


image The news of the death of the British artist Richard Hamilton came a few short weeks after I had been researching the roots of the Pop Art movement for a forthcoming book project. Its a fascinating story which took me a while to understand and piece together.

It begins with the little-known Independent Group (1952-55) whose history is documented in this excellent website.
‘The Independent Group looked at, discussed, analysed, wrote about, designed, built and assembled a galaxy of highly significant work exploring contemporary culture ‘as found’. Using a range of sources including the pages of science-fiction magazines, Jackson Pollock’s paintings, Hollywood film, helicopter design, the streets of London’s East End and modernist architecture the Independent Group created a radical approach to looking and working with visual culture.’
Their first meeting in 1952,  held at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, focused primarily on the imagery of popular American culture, particularly mass advertising. The co-founder of the group – artist and sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi – presented a lecture featuring a series of collages he had put together in Paris during 1947 and 1949 which he titled Bunk! This included this 1947 collage entitled I was a Rich Man’s Plaything which included the word POP.
According to Wikipedia:
‘Subsequent coinage of the complete term "pop art" was made by John McHale for the ensuing movement in 1954. "Pop art" as a moniker was then used in discussions by IG members in the Second Session of the IG in 1955, and the specific term "pop art" first appeared in published print in an article by IG members Alison and Peter Smithson in Arc, 1956. However, the term is often credited to British art critic/curator, Lawrence Alloway in a 1958 essay titled The Arts and the Mass Media, although the term he uses is "popular mass culture". Nevertheless, Alloway was one of the leading critics to defend the inclusion of the imagery found in mass culture in fine art.’
Paolozzi’s earlier contribution has become overshadowed by this image, Richard Hamilton’s collage Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appealing, created in 1956 for the catalogue of an seminal exhibition entitled ‘This Is Tomorrow’ and used on the exhibition’s poster. The core of the exhibition was put together by the IG Group and was staged at London’s Whitechapel Art Gallery. A detailed analysis of all the elements that make up this collage can be found here. The original work is now in the Kunsthall Tubingen in Germany.
Around that time. Hamilton defined what Pop art meant to him:  "Popular (designed for a mass audience); transient (short-term solution); expendable (easily forgotten); low cost; mass produced; young (aimed at youth); witty; sexy; gimmicky; glamorous; and last but not least, Big Business."
The pioneering work of the  IG Group and of Richard Hamilton in particular laid the seeds for younger artists, principally Peter Blake. The launch of Pop Art in Britain is widely considered to be the January 1961 ‘Young Contemporaries’ Exhibition at the Royal College of Art, which established the reputations of Blake, David Hockney, R.B. Kitaj and their lesser-known contemporaries Peter Phillips, Allen Jones and Derek Boshier.
The term ‘pop music’ originated in Britain in the mid-1950s, referring to rock and roll. The marriage between Pop Music and Pop Art was consummated in 1967 with Peter Blake’s cover for the Beatles’ ‘Sgt Pepper’ album. He would go on to do covers for Paul Weller, Ian Drury and Oasis. The target, a symbol used by many Pop artists, became an iconic Mod symbol, rendered in red, white and blue.
[Above: An original promotional card for a 25-minute film on Richard Hamilton, directed by James Scott and produced for the British Arts Council [Generalist Archive]
Richard Hamilton’s work also crossed over from Pop Art to Pop. Above is one of the iconic images of the 1960s. It shows a young Mick Jagger and the art dealer Robert Fraser handcuffed in the back of a police van during their trial for drug offences in 1967. According to a 1999 article by Jonathon Jones, Hamilton copied one of the photographs and turned it into an artwork ‘by adding real metal for the handcuffs and a replica of the police van’s window frame. The piece is now in the Tate Gallery.
Richard Hamilton, Swingeing London III, 1972
This screenprint was sold by Sotheby’s in March 2006)for £64,800 . Source:
Hamilton later designed the cover for the Beatles’ ‘White Album’.
Left: One of Hamilton's more recent works, Shock and Awe
See Also:
Richard Hamilton ‘great inspiration’ says Bryan Ferry
Artist’s painstaking collage led the way for pop art
Richard Hamilton, the original pop artist, dies at 89

Thursday, September 08, 2011




Hallucinating Foucault by Patricia Duncker, which I finished at 3 o’clock in the morning, is a wonderful, wonderful novel which I urge you to read. It concerns a young student doing her degree at Cambridge on a glamorous and scandalous French novelist named Paul Michel. Little does the protagonist and the reader know where this will lead and I intend to reveal little more than that as the book is full of genuine surprises. It touched me deeply.

The Life of an Unknown Man  by Andrei Makine is of similar rank. This story begins in Paris with a Russian writer in exile whose girlfriend has just left him. In some despair, he decides to return to St Petersburg only to discover both the New Russia and the dark secrets of the past. This is very strong meat indeed, once again full of unexpected developments. It will bring you to tears. Makine is a wonderful novelist with a whole body of work worth exploring.

Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov is a grand example of that strand of Russian literature which combines the dark and the absurd. How is this for a set-up. Once again we have a lonely writer whose girlfriend has left him. The zoo was giving hungry animals away to anyone able to feed them so Viktor adopted a king penguin he names Misha, to keep him company. From such strange beginnings, Kurkov creates a tale of humour which becomes overshadowed by menace and tragedy. Not a happy read but an intriguing one.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011


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More remarkable reads and great discoveries.

‘The Asiatics’ by Frederic Prokosch is described on the cover by Andre Gide as ‘An astonishing feat of the imagination’, by Thomas Mann as ‘A most brilliant and original achievement’ and is also lauded by Albert Camus. High Praise indeed.

First published in 1935, this is that rare thing, a ‘travel novel’, about a young American who hitch-hikes across Asia, from Lebanon to the southern frontiers of China. According to the blurb, ‘he experiences drug smuggling in Trebizond, imprisonment in Khorasan, the perils of the Persian salt marshes, Baluchi bandits’ and many other remarkable adventures. A strange and wonderful adventure, hugely enjoyable. This Faber edition, published in 1983, ahs a cover designed by Pentagram and illustrated by Paul Leith.

image Prokosch (1906-1929) is an extraordinary and interesting figure who wrote a long list of novels, memoirs, poems and books of criticism. He was a mysterious character, obsessed by tennis, squash and lepidoptery, who was involved at least twice in forgeries for profit.

See the interesting Wikipedia entry. the essay entitled ‘Collecting Fredric Prokosch, A Writer and a Minor Literary Scoundrel’ on the blog ‘The Books In My Life’, and his obituary in the New York Times.

imageThe Trap’ by Dan Billany must be one of the most remarkable novels written about World War 2. Its power came as complete surprise. The early part of the book is set in Cornwall,  and concerns  a working class family whose daughter falls in love with a young man who is called up and sent to fight in the desert against Rommel’s army. Much of the book echoes Billany’s own wartime experiences; he was killed in mysterious circumstances in 1944. There is a great site and bio about him: ‘Dan Billany: Hull’s Lost Hero.

image A Dream of Wessex by Christopher Priest is a wonderful piece of British sci-fi by an author perhaps best known for his novel The Prestige, which was made into a great film by Christopher Nolan. Lauded within the sci-fi world, his string of 11 remarkable novels are worth investigating. His work, steeped in the grand tradition of H.G. Wells and other British sci-fi masters, is genuinely original. This book concerns the Ridpath project, in which volunteers are transported into a strange alternative world. Priest is still very active as a novelist and journalist and you can find all about him on his website

While England Sleeps by David Leavitt, set in England in the 1930s, concerns a gay relationship between Brian Botsford, a young upper-class writer and Edward Phelan, an idealistic Communist Party member who works on the London Underground. It brings to life the feeling of that time leading up to the Spanish civil war and explores in graphic detail their sexual relationship. Its a moving and haunting story that touches the heart.

David Leavitt

Leavitt, an American writer, was sued in 1994-5 over this book by the poet Stephen Spender, who claimed that he had plagiarised his book ‘While England Sleeps’ and fictionalised his life. As a result, the first edition of this book was pulped. Leavitt discusses the lawsuit in a special preface in this  revised edition, which was republished by  Houghton Mifflin. He is currently a Professor at the Department of English at the University of Florida, where his cv can be found.

Monday, September 05, 2011

9/11 COUGH


Back in September 2007 The Generalist reported the following:

'The 9/11 Cover-Up: Thousands of New Yorkers were endangered by WTC debris—and government malfeasance', is the title of an article by Michael Mason, in a special issue of Discover magazine on the health effects of 9/11 on the people of the city. Issue also includes interview with Philip Landrigan, the doctor leading the research on this. Extract as follows:

Q: Your department is monitoring the health effects from the collapse of the World Trade Center. When the towers collapsed, two million tons of dust containing cement, asbestos, glass, lead, and carcinogens rained down on lower Manhattan. Yet less than a week later, the EPA said it was safe to go there and breathe the air. Now we know that erroneous assessment may have put thousands of people at risk for serious chronic health problems, and even death.

A: [EPA Director] Christine Todd Whitman's statement that the air in Manhattan was safe to breathe was stupid and ill-considered because she was making a very strong assertion with almost no data. I wondered how she could say this—it's like a doctor telling a patient that the patient is healthy before he's done any tests.'

Now listen to tonight’s ‘Crossing Continents’ on BBC Radio 4

See: Health Effects Arising from the September 11th attacks on Wikipedia

More than 30,000 police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians who toiled in the smoldering wreckage at Ground Zero suffer physical or mental health problems today, health officials say.

- North

HEAR US: Downtown Manhattan residents call on Presidential candidates to pay attention to post-9/11 health effects. Many who work and live south of 14th St. suffer some of the same symptoms as firefighters present at 9/11.

(Christine Lin The Epoch Times 2008)





Source: The Solar Energy Revolution Will Be Televised

"It will take a technology revolution to build the green economy, but this is already under way. Much of the technology necessary to create low-carbon prosperity is available and is being developed – and costs are falling fast. The question is whether Britain will be in the vanguard of developing and using it, reaping the rewards in exports and jobs, or whether, as often in the past, it will stumble along behind more far-seeing economies."

(Image from

Regular readers of The Generalist will be aware that I have been banging on about this topic for a long time. In fact, my epiphany on the subject dates back to 1997 when I first met energy efficiency guru Amory Lovins [See numerous Previous Posts. Search under Earthed].

Since that time, I developed the view that what was unfolding was a new ‘industrial revolution’ which was going to lead us away from the age of oil as a cluster of new technologies converged to transform our world.

I felt certain because I had written an early extensive high-profile article in the Telegraph magazine about the previous such event – the digital revolution -  in 1994. There were such obvious similarities. Silicon Valley thought so too. They had experienced the spreadsheet betting on start-ups that had characterised their world and they were quick to invest in the new green start-ups that were proliferating.


I spoke to many top editors to try and persuade them to produce a special issue of their supplements, if necessary with sponsorship, to draw together the thinking on this topic. I spoke to The Times magazine, to The Telegraph and most recently the Financial Times – with no success.

Now, finally, The Telegraph,  with funding from Shell has, at last produced what I imagined. See: The Age of Energy – The Green Economy. Its full of the usual suspects, of course, who will now race to be seen to be part of this new initiative.

Source: Dowry culture and the green revoluition

Britain is a long way behind many other countries in this global transformation – a radical change that offers real prospects for creating a new sustainable economy, substantial employment and some hope for the future.

The media carry a lot of the blame for this, mired as they are in old-fashioned ‘green lifestyle’ perspectives and arguments, blissfully unaware of the scale and nature of the radical changes that are now being ushered in by the global financial turmoil.

Lets hope they now recognise the paradigm shift in thinking required to embrace the possibilities inherent in this new revolution. It’s time to get with the programme.

image                     Portugal’s Clean, Green, Hi-Tech Energy Revolution