If someone were to stop me on the street (or some other such location where I’d be removed from easy access to my braintrust, the internet) and ask me how a Canadian bill becomes a law, I’d have no idea. I know we have a legislative branch, and that there are votes and dissent and people that thump their hands against table-tops. But the details of the process? No clue. And I work for the government.
But before you condemn me as one of the drooling ignorant, in my defense there has never been a catchy song written about how Parliament does its thing.
As a kid, there were scant few options for television programming, so when something animated was on we watched. And despite our base desire for pure entertainment, the educational stuff would seep in through the cracks.
On Sesame Street the learning was fairly obvious. Mr. Rogers was teaching us all sorts of valuable lessons, but we didn’t care because we liked his sweaters and puppets. But perhaps the catchiest and most fun show from my youth was the delightful School House Rock: 3-minute animated classroom lectures, set to music.
Oh, we also had the Log-Driver’s Waltz too. Got to give props to true Canadian learning.
My American friends are saying, “Huh?” while my Canadian friends triumphantly cry, “Yeah, bitch!”
Around the dawn of the 1970’s, David McCall was a huge name in advertising. He was half of the successful Madison Avenue firm McCaffrey & McCall, which pulled in over $40 million in billings every year. One day David noticed that his son was having trouble remembering his multiplication tables. The kid could spout off the lyrics to the entire Beatles’ White Album and remember inane pop music ramblings like “there ain’t no one for to give you no pain,” but when it came to math he was lost. Read more…
Mention The War Of The Worlds to someone, and they’ll have one of four distinct reactions:
- They’ll recall images of that creepy Tom Cruise movie.
- They’ll remember stories of massive public hysteria surrounding an old radio broadcast.
- They’ll have no idea what you’re talking about because they are either too young or too culturally obtuse.
- They’ll ask you to stop pestering them, as they’re simply trying to select a second ice cream choice since the supermarket is out of Chunky Monkey, and you’re invading their personal space.
For the purposes of today’s cultural investigation, I’m most intrigued by the second one. Was the world in 1938 so naïve, so dependent on the radio as a source of factual information that they could have been nudged into an outright panic by something like this? Was Orson Welles, the producer, director and star of the show, this much of a genius? And how does a supermarket run out of Chunky Monkey? How hard is it to place a damn order with the Ben & Jerry’s people?
The Tom Cruise movie I’ll write about if I decide to stretch this project to 1200 days. (spoiler: I won’t.)
First, a bit of background: War of the Worlds is an 1898 H.G. Wells novel about aliens invading Earth. Orson Welles (no relation), who had yet to redefine the visual and narrative aesthetic potential of film with Citizen Kane, was an actor and radio performer with a penchant for creating original material. Howard Koch and Anne Froelick were pivotal cogs in Orson’s Mercury Theatre On The Air radio drama series, and together they adapted the novel, importing the story from England to New Jersey, and modernizing it into a radio-age newscast, reporting on the horrors of the invasion. Read more…
When we last left our heroes (our heroes being those plucky little cannabis plants that were allegedly tugging at the tablecloth upon which the fine china of our fragile society was laid), things weren’t looking good. It was 1937, and the American government had come up with a complicated taxation-punishment strategy that didn’t technically make marijuana illegal, but came close enough.
Where once the plant had been offered up by the medical world for various therapeutic uses, now it was contraband, the stuff of pure evil. It lured young people into a Satanic spiral, driving them to unprovoked violent acts, inspiring unrestrained jazz-orgies and turning upstanding citizens into paranoid, sex-crazed rape-o-trons.
..with great pointy hair.
Along with the demonized wicked weed, the legitimate hemp industry was also kicked in the legislative nads by the Marihuana Tax Act. Back then, no one knew about THC, the ingredient in marijuana that makes jam bands sound better than they actually are. All we knew was that cannabis was a drug, and since hemp and cannabis share the same fingerprints, it was all deemed to be bad.
People like to shoo away conspiracy theories, but there was no question that William Randolph Hearst was pumping as much bogus fear-mongering as he could fit into his empire of news-rags. Whether it was because he feared the newly-invented decorticator would make hemp-based paper cheap to manufacture and thus threaten his massive timber investments (which it totally would have), or whether he was truly afraid of the drug’s effects on society, that’s up to you to decide. Read more…
Children, pull up a spot o’ rug and pass the old man his USS Enterprise-shaped bong. I’d like to tell you a tale of corruption and weirdness, of cruel and unusual punishment and a nation that has only recently begun to peel back the charred scab of failed policy and misdirected prosecution.
Most committed connoisseurs of the cannabinical arts (you probably know them as ‘potheads’) will tell you that marijuana is illegal due to a conspiracy. Some will blame the alcohol industry, others point their finger at William Randolph Hearst. No doubt some will ascribe some sort of otherworldly shenanigans that extend as far up the ladder as FDR’s personal toenail buffer. The reality is more complex, but well worthy of your suspicion.
So let’s see if we can’t untangle this murky monkey’s fist and come up with some semblance of the truth, hopefully before I get distracted by that bag of Cheetos over there. The beginning of this tale takes us back to colonial times, back before the D.E.A., before the F.B.N., even before Willie Nelson.
King James I – you know, the guy whose stamp of A-OK approval is all over that Bible in your hotel room drawer – decreed via the Virginia Company that every colonist in the New World was to grow 100 hemp plants specifically for export to England. Hemp was used extensively for rope, blankets and Phish t-shirts all over the world at that time, but it was a savvy young Irishman named William Brooke O’Shaughnessy – whose research would eventually lead to the invention of intravenous therapy – who first came up with the idea to use cannabis sativa for medicinal purposes. Read more…