The Drugs That Built a Super Soldier

Two U.S. soldiers in Vietnam exchanging vials of heroin.

“Some historians call Vietnam the ‘last modern war,’ others the ‘first postmodern war.’ Either way, it was irregular: Vietnam was not a conventional war with the frontlines, rears, enemy mobilizing its forces for an attack, or a territory to be conquered and occupied. Instead, it was a formless conflict in which former strategic and tactical principles did not apply. The Vietcong were fighting in an unexpected, surprising, and deceptive way to negate Americans’ strengths and exploit their weaknesses, making the Vietnam War perhaps the best example of asymmetrical warfare of the 20th century. The conflict was distinct in another way, too—over time, it came to be known as the first ‘pharmacological war,’ so called because the level of consumption of psychoactive substances by military personnel was unprecedented in American history. The British philosopher Nick Land aptly described the Vietnam War as ‘a decisive point of intersection between pharmacology and the technology of violence.’ Since World War II, little research had determined whether amphetamine had a positive impact on soldiers’ performance, yet the American military readily supplied its troops in Vietnam with speed. ‘Pep pills’ were usually distributed to men leaving for long-range reconnaissance missions and ambushes. The standard army instruction (20 milligrams of dextroamphetamine for 48 hours of combat readiness) was rarely followed; doses of amphetamine were issued, as one veteran put it, ‘like candies,’ with no attention given to recommended dose or frequency of administration. In 1971, a report by the House Select Committee on Crime revealed that from 1966 to 1969, the armed forces had used 225 million tablets of stimulants, mostly Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine), an amphetamine derivative that is nearly twice as strong as the Benzedrine used in the Second World War. The annual consumption of Dexedrine per person was 21.1 pills in the navy, 17.5 in the air force, and 13.8 in the army. …”
The Atlantic
G.I.s’ Drug Use in Vietnam Soared—With Their Commanders’ Help
YouTube: The Drug Years: Drugs In Vietnam

Weed and War
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Bob Dylan – Drifter’s Escape / John Wesley Harding (1967)

Wikipedia – “‘Drifter’s Escape‘ is a song written by Bob Dylan that he recorded for his 1967 album John Wesley Harding. Columbia Records released it as a single in the US and the UK in 1969 as the B-side to ‘I Threw It All Away‘. The song was recorded in four takes on October 17, 1967. CBS Records International also issued the song paired with ‘John Wesley Harding‘ in some markets. Dylan wrote ‘Drifter’s Escape’ on a train in New York while traveling to the first session for the John Wesley Harding album. The lyrics provide a Kafka-esque narrative in which an outsider is oppressed by society, but not defeated. The protagonist is put on trial without knowing what the charges against him are. The judge is sympathetic, but powerless. The jury finds the protagonist guilty, but he is saved through divine intervention when the courthouse is struck by lightning. The protagonist is able to escape as his persecutors fall to their knees in prayer. Dylan leaves the orientation of the protagonist and the deus ex machina ambiguous. The protagonist could be a prophet freed by God, or he could be a false prophet freed by the devil. Several commentators have pointed to parallels between the song’s story and Dylan’s own experiences around the time he wrote the song. The drifter does not understand the charges against him, just as Dylan did not understand the criticism he received for moving from folk music to rock music. …”
W – John Wesley Harding (song)
Bob Dylan: Drifter’s Escape, John Wesley Harding
whosampled: Drifter’s Escape
DailyMotion: John Wesley Harding

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For All Mankind – Al Reinert

“In the ‘America in the 60’s’ montage that used to play in my head when someone mentioned the era, the moon landing got about five seconds. And you know exactly what five seconds they were; the blurry television feed we’ve all seen of Neil Armstrong dropping the last few feet to the moon’s surface. Altamont got more screen time than Neil, because Gimme Shelter isn’t grainy video footage. But it turns out that the astronauts shot on film, too, and For All Mankind is Al Reinert’s painstaking compilation of that footage. Here, for example, is a still from the movie of Alan Bean taking his first steps on the moon (during the second moon landing). That’s a little bit better looking, even with the lens flare, no? For All Mankind pretty definitively replaced that grainy footage of Armstrong with much stranger, much more haunting imagery. Reinert’s film is not a traditional documentary by any stretch of the imagination. The movie opens with the following titles:

During the four years between December 1968 and November 1972, there were nine manned flights to the Moon.

Twenty-four men made the journey. They were the first human beings to leave the planet Earth for another world.

This is the film they brought back…

…and these are their words.

That’s all the context For All Mankind gives you; there’s no stentorian narrator or subtitles identifying who or what you’re seeing. Which is still not that strange for a documentary, although it’s rare for a documentary about science, history, or both. In a typical vérité documentary, however, the filmmakers usually go for the appearance of unmediated reality; events in the order they actually happened. Reinert’s movie isn’t like that. …”
The Criterion Contraption
W – For All Mankind
vimeo: For All Mankind blu-ray menu animation
TCM: For All Mankind (1989) — (Movie Clip) One Giant Leap

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Mexico’s Tlatelolco Massacre, and Its Echoes Today

The violent suppression of anti-government protests only 10 days before the start of the Mexico City Olympic Games.

“Elena Poniatowska is the author of more than 50 books that span almost every literary genre. Despite her wide-ranging production, she is best known for the genres she reinvented in Mexico: the chronicle and the testimonial novel. An outstanding example of the former, Massacre in Mexico (first published in English in 1975), is a collective account of the bloody 1968 assault on students by government forces in Mexico City’s Plaza de las Tres Culturas (also known as Tlatelolco Plaza), in which dozens of demonstrators—and perhaps as many as several hundred—were killed. Massacre in Mexico is a collage of desperate voices that are at the same time the work’s content and form. It is also a systematic condemnation of the Mexican government’s brutal response to the emboldened students who wished to take advantage of the international publicity generated by the Olympic Games (hosted for the first time by Mexico) by inviting foreign reporters to witness various acts of civil disobedience, including peaceful marches, demonstrations, and rallies. The students’ demands were judicious and well-defined: They asked for the dissolution or expulsion of the right-wing student groups supported by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which had governed Mexico for over 30 years; indemnification for the families of those killed or wounded in previous skirmishes with the granaderos (riot police); the immediate release of all jailed students; the disbanding of the granaderos and other repressive police units; and the abrogation of Article 145 of Mexico’s penal code, which allowed for imprisonment based on the crime of ‘social dissolution.’ …”
The Nation
Tlatelolco, October 2, 1968: A day of infamy
Are the Rio Protests Echoes of Mexico City?: The 1968 Games’ Bloody Prelude
Oct. 2, 1968: `A brutal massacre’ and U.S. Government’s Role
amazon: Massacre in Mexico
YouTube: A Crash Course in Mexican History #7: Mexico 68 and The Tlatelolco Massacre, Massacre at Tlatelolco

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Mumbo Jumbo – Ishmael Reed (1972)

Mumbo Jumbo is a 1972 novel by African-American author Ishmael Reed. Literary critic Harold Bloom cited the novel as one of the 500 most important books in the Western canon. Mumbo Jumbo has remained in print for 45 years, since its first edition, and has been published in French, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, and British editions, with a Chinese translation currently in production. Set in 1920s New York City, the novel depicts the elderly Harlem houngan PaPa LaBas and his companion Black Herman racing against the Wallflower Order, an international conspiracy dedicated to monotheism and control, as they attempt to root out the cause of and deal with the ‘Jes Grew’ virus, a personification of ragtime, jazz, polytheism, and freedom. The Wallflower Order is said to work in concert with the Knights Templar Order to prevent people from dancing, to end the dance crazes spreading among black people. The virus is spread by certain black artists, referred to in the novel as ‘Jes Grew Carriers’ or ‘J.G.C.s.’ Historical, social, and political events mingle freely with fictional inventions. … Mumbo Jumbo draws freely on conspiracy theory, hoodoo, and voodoo traditions, as well as the Afrocentric theories of Garvey and the occult author Henri Gamache, especially Gamache’s theory that the Biblical prophet Moses was black. The book’s title is explained by a quote from the first edition of the American Heritage Dictionary deriving the phrase from Mandingo mā-mā-gyo-mbō meaning a ‘magician who makes the troubled spirits of ancestors go away.’ The format and typography of Mumbo Jumbo are unique and make allusion to several typographic and stylistic conventions not normally associated with novels. The text begins and ends as if it were a movie script, with credits, a fade-in, and a freeze-frame followed by the publication and title pages which occur after chapter one. This is followed by a closing section that mimics a scholarly book on social history or folk magic by citing a lengthy bibliography. In addition, the tale is illustrated with drawings, photographs, and collages, some of which relate to the text, some of which look like illustrations from a social-studies book on African-American history, and some of which seem to be included as a cryptic protest against the Vietnam War. Mumbo Jumbo both depends on and fosters the disorientation of the reader. …”
W – Ishmael Reed
Guardian – Mumbo Jumbo: a dazzling classic finally gets the recognition it deserves
NY Times (1972)
‘Ishmael Reed’ Category

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Spaghetti Western

Spaghetti Western, also known as Italian Western or Macaroni Western (primarily in Japan), is a broad subgenre of Western films that emerged in the mid-1960s in the wake of Sergio Leone‘s film-making style and international box-office success. The term was used by American critics and other countries because most of these Westerns were produced and directed by Italians. According to veteran Spaghetti Western actor Aldo Sambrell, the phrase ‘Spaghetti Western’ was coined by Spanish journalist Alfonso Sánchez. The denomination for these films in Italy is western all’italiana (Italian-style Western). Italo-Western is also used, especially in Germany. … These movies were originally released in Italian, but as most of the films featured multilingual casts and sound was post-synched, most ‘western all’italiana’ do not have an official dominant language. The typical Spaghetti Western team was made up of an Italian director, Italo-Spanish technical staff, and a cast of Italian, Spanish, German, and American actors, sometimes a fading Hollywood star and sometimes a rising one like the young Clint Eastwood in three of Sergio Leone’s films. Over six hundred European Westerns were made between 1960 and 1978. The best-known Spaghetti Westerns were directed by Sergio Leone and scored by Ennio Morricone, notably the three films of the Dollars Trilogy (starring Clint Eastwood as the main character)—A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965) and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)—as well as Once Upon a Time in the West (1968, starring Charles Bronson). These are consistently listed among the best Westerns of any variety. Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars established the Spaghetti Western as a novel kind of Western. In this seminal film, the hero enters a town that is ruled by two outlaw gangs, and ordinary social relations are non-existent. He betrays and plays the gangs against one another in order to make money. Then he uses his cunning and exceptional weapons skill to assist a family threatened by both gangs. His treachery is exposed and he is severely beaten, but in the end he defeats the remaining gang. The interaction in this story between cunning and irony (the tricks, deceits, unexpected actions and sarcasms of the hero) on the one hand, and pathos (terror and brutality against defenseless people and against the hero after his double play has been revealed) on the other, was aspired to and sometimes attained by the imitations that soon flooded the cinemas. …”
W – Dollars Trilogy
Slate: The Original Tarantino
Essential Top 20 Films
amazon: Ennio Morricone
YouTube: Why is Spaghetti Western Music So Cool? | Reverb Learn To Play

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How ‘Summer in the City’ Became the Soundtrack for Every City Summer

Little did members of Lovin’ Spoonful know that a few months after this photo was taken, their song would be a huge hit and that they — and New York — would be at the center of a brief pop rock moment.

“During the summer of 1966, a heat wave boiled New York City at the most brutal temperatures recorded since 1869, the year weather data began to be consistently collected. For 34 days it was 90 degrees or higher. The conflict in Vietnam was also heating up, with 382,010 men drafted into service that year, 151,019 more than the previous year. Opposition to the war as well as to chronic discrimination against blacks, women and gays was gathering steam in the city. Clashes broke out elsewhere, with race riots that summer in Chicago and Lansing, Mich. ‘America was convulsing in a way, a time of huge unrest, incredible violence,’ said Jon Savage, author of ‘1966: The Year the Decade Exploded.’ On Aug. 1, in Austin, Tex., a lone gunman introduced America to mass murder. Charles Whitman killed his mother and wife and then more than a dozen people, sniper-style, from the University of Texas’s clock tower, wounding more than 30 others. Meanwhile, ‘Summer in the City,’ a propulsive, apolitical rock song by the New York-based the Lovin’ Spoonful, was climbing the charts to No. 1, reassuring listeners that ‘despite the heat it’ll be all right.’ Sung and co-written by John Sebastian, the band’s frontman, the song was conceived by his younger brother, Mark Sebastian, when he was just 14. Steve Boone, the bass player, contributed the memorable instrumental interlude. The three shared writing credit and continue to reap royalties: The song has endured as an anthem for every heat wave since and has been covered by Quincy Jones, Joe Cocker and Isaac Hayes, among others. (It will most likely figure prominently at a concert, ‘Music and Revolution: Greenwich Village in the 1960s,’ on Aug. 12 at Central Park’s SummerStage, where Sebastian is part of a lineup that includes José Feliciano and Maria Muldaur.) [John Schaefer, the host of ‘New Sounds’ on WNYC, shares his 12 favorite songs about New York in the heat.] In addition to Sebastian and Boone, the original band members (Mark was too young) were Zal Yanovsky on guitar and Joe Butler on drums. Their producer, Erik Jacobsen, helped shape their 1965 debut album, ‘Do You Believe in Magic,’ and their 1966 follow-up album, ‘Daydream.’ …”
NY Times
10 best Lovin’ Spoonful songs (Video)

The Night Owl Cafe, circa 1965.
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