"We were really the first to do that kind of interpretive video to music."

31 JULY 2002: “We
were really the first to do that kind of interpretive video to music.”

from The
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
(August 3, 2000):

Years before MTV, an Atlanta
TV show created its own music videos. It was psychedelic. It was far out.
It was the … ‘Now Explosion’

By Miriam Longino

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Staff Writer

Music video channel VH1 says
Aug. 1, 1981, is a landmark date in rock history. Airing “The 100 Greatest
Rock and Roll Moments on TV” this week, the self-appointed rock historians
noted that it was the day when MTV launched the nation’s first music video
television show.


    (Sound
of needle being ripped across a vinyl 45.)


    Well,
not exactly.


    (Scratch,
pop, hiss. Turn up the spacey, distorted guitar intro of the 1970 Norman
Greenbaum hit, “Spirit in the Sky.”)

    Let’s
set the record straight. The nation’s first music video show didn’t start
in New York in 1981, and it wasn’t MTV. An early chapter in the video revolution
happened right here in Atlanta, over a fleeting, nine-month period in 1970,
when a group of young disc jockeys and film producers (eventually with
the help of Ted Turner) launched a 28-hour weekend block of music videos
called “Now Explosion.”


    Now Explosion
(echo: explosion, explosion, explosion, explosion…).


    Imagine
the psychedelia of Austin Powers blended with the trippy light shows of
Filmore West with a little “Laugh-In” bikini dancing sprinkled into the
mix: Hippies frolicking in Piedmont Park to the Plastic Ono Band’s “Instant
Karma.” Traffic speeding past the Varsity to the sounds of “Vehicle” by
the Ides of March. Bikini clad young girls — surrounded by floating blobs
of paisley — dancing to Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Lookin’ Out My
Back Door” at the Channel 36 studios.


    “I was
16 and thought it was the closest thing to rock ‘n’ roll heaven that I
would ever get,” says 47-year-old Alice Walker of Gay, Ga. “I can still
hear my mother saying, ‘Are you watching that rock music show? Turn it
down!’ I envied the dancers.”


    One was
48-year-old advertising executive Lori Krinsky, who hopped in the car with
a fringed-vested friend one night in 1970, wound up at the Channel 36 studios
and danced on-air to “Spirit in the Sky.”


    “I don’t
remember much,” she says with a laugh. “It was kind of cool. We waited
for hours, then they said, ‘Come on in and dance.’ They did that weird
photography that shows just your shadow and outline in psychedelic colors.
What a riot.”

    The mere
mention of the words “Now Explosion” send Dan Turner, a 47-year-old jazz
pianist from Conyers, into a retro stream of consciousness: “The fog lifts.
… Lazy days sitting around watching TV. … My friend in knee-high moccasin
boots. … Staring at the background stuff on the screen all day in between
runs to the Krystal. … It was way ahead of MTV.”


    Sam Judd,
47, of Douglasville says, “When MTV came along, I tried to explain that
this type of programming had already been tried in Atlanta, and no one
remembered it but me.”


    Just
how did one of the nation’s first music video experiments wind up in a
then-sleepy Southern town? The story, which stretches from March to November
of 1970, goes something like this:


    “Now
Explosion” was the brainchild of a flamboyant Philadelphia businessman
named Bob Whitney. With a background in radio (reportedly as a producer
for Dick Clark), Whitney came up with the idea of broadcasting Top 40 radio
on television — TV you could not just hear but watch. Or as the promotional
brochure said at the time, “TV so turned on you can’t turn it off.”


    After
supposedly bankrolling $25,000 to launch his concept, Whitney tapped two
Atlanta DJs, “Skinny” Bobby Harper and Bob “Todd” Thurgaland, to host the
show and introduce records. The two had been top jocks on WQXI-AM (“Quixie
in Dixie”), Atlanta’s only rock ‘n’ roll station throughout the ’60s, and
were primed for the job.


    “We were
the first video deejays,” says Harper, 61, a communications consultant
for the Georgia Student Finance Commission (HOPE scholarship program).
“We didn’t have videos handed to us; there was no such thing back then.
We had to make them all.”

    Thurgaland,
54, who lives in Ocala, Fla., recalls the days when UHF stations (these
were the high-band channels long before cable) were desperate for programming
to fill their air time, especially on weekends. “We used the studios at
Channel 36 during the middle of the night when the station was dark. It
was a nonunion facility, so we could play with all the equipment.”


    Getting
the music was no problem. “Now Explosion” simply used records of the day
(without notifying any of the licensing agencies, such as BMI. It was the
era of love and peace, after all). But getting visuals to air over the
songs was a challenge.


    The job
of creating the look of “Now Explosion” was handed to a 28-year-old television
producer named R.T. Williams. The brash young broadcaster had begun his
career on a more traditional route, as a producer for Atlanta’s Channel
11. But when Whitney laid out his new concept of a music video program,
Williams took the bait.


    “It was
so incredibly simple, but so different,” he says today, peering over a
pair of glasses under a head of graying hair. “You never know that history
is being made when it’s being made. We were really the first to do that
kind of interpretive video to music.”


    Williams
quit his mainstream job, grabbed a Norelco PCP 90 portable camera and starting
filming. His job: to produce five original videos for each song aired on
the program.


    “When
you look at music videos today, keep in mind that MTV doesn’t produce any
of this stuff. We had to hatch and fry the eggs
that we made.”

    Williams
and crew turned to the psychedelic images of the day, and their own imaginations,
to churn out what amounts to an estimated 1,700 hours of primitive music
videos. Many were filmed on location in Atlanta: street scenes of girls
in jeans and gingham dresses from the “hippie” district between 10th and
14th streets; shots of students in big Afros coming and going at area high
schools; politically themed segments, such as “Bridge Over Troubled Water,”
played over film of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream”
speech; dancers gyrating in front of a blue screen filled with special
effects — girls that Todd says he and Harper “picked up down on Peachtree.”


    “We would
carry an empty, two-inch videotape canister with an ABC-TV sticker on it,
and ask pretty young girls if they wanted to come down to Channel 36 at
midnight and put on skimpy outfits and dance,” Thurgaland says with a laugh.
“And they did.”


    Occasionally,
Top 40 acts would drop by the studio to lip sync their hits, such as Kenny
Rogers and the First Edition, who interpreted “Just Dropped In (to See
What Condition My Condition Was In)” for “Now Explosion.” “Oh, yeah, I
remember it,” Rogers says. “I had this long hair, a big bushy beard, rose-colored
glasses and an earring. I actually thought I looked good.”


    But this
was no “American Bandstand.”


    With
no blueprint to go by, the crew literally made up the groovy look of “Now
Explosion” with a series of special effects that Williams still gets excited
about today.


    “There
was the ‘rhythm zoom,’ where the camera
would zoom in and out real fast,” he recalls. “Then we did the ‘quad
split,’
where we’d show the same image in all four corners of
the screen. The ‘reverse chroma key’

was like they do now with weathermen in front of the weather map, where
we would have a negative outline of a dancer.”


    “Now
Explosion” was on the air only a few weeks when trouble erupted. According
to the then-staffers, the company that owned Channel 36 was threatening
to take over the show. Williams remembers that Whitney called a secret
meeting in a room at the Emory Sheraton Hotel on Clifton Road.


    “It was
a raid-planning party,” he says. “We rented some trucks, and went over
to the station [Channel 36] about 3 a.m. It was a driving rainstorm, and
there were still two people working in master control. We went in and started
hauling out all our tapes and loading them into the trucks. Finally, a
guy got wise to us and picked up the phone. Next thing, we saw the lights
and heard the sirens.”


    But the
“Now Explosion” crew somehow avoided the law, and smuggled the tapes to
Florida.


    Days
later, the program premiered on Channel 17, a new UHF station owned by
an entrepreneur named Ted Turner. Turner quickly signed on to air “Now
Explosion” all weekend, and also agreed to dub the videos in his studio
on West Peachtree Street for syndication across the country.


    Eventually,
“Now Explosion” wound up on 111 UHF stations, including stations in Philadelphia
and New York. But like the Woodstock era that spawned it, its life was
short. Mounting bills and an incredible demand for video footage caused
Whitney and crew to throw in the towel in November 1970.

    Williams
went on to manage production for the Channel 17 superstation, WTBS. Harper
worked as a spokesperson for Delta Air Lines for many years, while Thurgaland
and his son started a video production company in Florida. No one knows
what happened to Whitney, who was last seen in San Francisco around 1974.


    As for
the “Now Explosion” tapes, they wound up in a garage in Coral Gables, Fla.,
where they were reportedly destroyed in a flood around 1972. It’s not likely
any of the dubs exists either. Williams says they were shot on expensive
two-inch, quad video tape.


    “A 10-hour
reel cost $20,000,” he says, noting that television stations were likely
to tape over the footage as soon as it was obsolete.


    Thurgaland
still owns a one-hour tape of the show, which he dug out of a box in the
attic to share a snippet with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Williams
once had two reels, but left them in his office at WTBS when he departed
in
1984. “Who knows what happened to them,” he says today.


    Though
just a blip on the pop culture meter, “Now Explosion” left lasting impressions.
In the early ’80s, a funky, kitschy local band, led by Clare Butler, adopted
the name and toured the East Coast. Others who watched the show say it
had lasting effects on them, too.


    “I was
in the seventh grade, and can still see some of the videos,” recalls Leza
Young, 42, of Chamblee. “Bobby Sherman dancing in front of four large studio
panels to ‘Easy Come, Easy Go.’ The clip for ‘Little Green Bag.’ The woman
dancing to Freda Payne’s ‘Band of Gold.’ The poor hitchhiker standing in
the rain in ‘Kentucky Rain.’ So much of my taste in music developed as
a result of that show — I now have a degree in rock radio and was a deejay
for several years.”

    “I think
one reason I got so interested in music and do what I do today came from
sitting around all weekend watching that thing,” says Atlanta concert promoter
Peter Conlon. “They played songs that you couldn’t hear on the radio here,
like ‘Little Green Bag’ and ‘Fire’ by Arthur Brown. It was kind of like
FM before everybody had FM radio.”

THANKS TO A. PIERCE!

ENDING THE SELF-INTEREST MYTH: T. HOBBES, A. SMITH TURNS OVER IN THEIR GRAVES.

30 JULY 2002: ENDING
THE SELF-INTEREST MYTH: T. HOBBES, A. SMITH TURNS OVER IN THEIR GRAVES.

From the July 23, 2002 NEW
YORK TIMES
:

Why We’re So Nice: We’re
Wired to Cooperate


By NATALIE ANGIER

 

What feels as good as chocolate
on the tongue or money in the bank but won’t make you fat or risk a subpoena
from the Securities and Exchange Commission?


    Hard
as it may be to believe in these days of infectious greed and sabers unsheathed,
scientists have discovered that the small, brave act of cooperating with
another person, of choosing trust over cynicism, generosity over selfishness,
makes the brain light up with quiet joy.


    Studying
neural activity in young women who were playing a classic laboratory game
called the Prisoner’s Dilemma, in which participants can select from a
number of greedy or cooperative strategies as they pursue financial gain,
researchers found that when the women chose mutualism over “me-ism,” the
mental circuitry normally associated with reward-seeking behavior swelled
to life.


    And the
longer the women engaged in a cooperative strategy, the more strongly flowed
the blood to the pathways of pleasure.


    The researchers,
performing their work at Emory University in Atlanta, used magnetic resonance
imaging to take what might be called portraits of the brain on hugs.


    “The
results were really surprising to us,” said Dr. Gregory S. Berns, a psychiatrist
and an author on the new report, which appears in the current issue of
the journal Neuron. “We went in expecting the opposite.”

    The researchers
had thought that the biggest response would occur in cases where one person
cooperated and the other defected, when the cooperator might feel that
she was being treated unjustly.


    Instead,
the brightest signals arose in cooperative alliances and in those neighborhoods
of the brain already known to respond to desserts, pictures of pretty faces,
money, cocaine and any number of licit or illicit delights.


    “It’s
reassuring,” Dr. Berns said. “In some ways, it says that we’re wired to
cooperate with each other.”


    The study
is among the first to use M.R.I. technology to examine social interactions
in real time, as opposed to taking brain images while subjects stared at
static pictures or thought-prescribed thoughts.


    It is
also a novel approach to exploring an ancient conundrum, why are humans
so, well, nice? Why are they willing to cooperate with people whom they
barely know and to do good deeds and to play fair a surprisingly high percentage
of the time?


    Scientists
have no trouble explaining the evolution of competitive behavior. But the
depth and breadth of human altruism, the willingness to forgo immediate
personal gain for the long-term common good, far exceeds behaviors seen
even in other large-brained highly social species like chimpanzees and
dolphins, and it has as such been difficult to understand.

    “I’ve
pointed out to my students how impressive it is that you can take a group
of young men and women of prime reproductive age, have them come into a
classroom, sit down and be perfectly comfortable and civil to each other,”
said Dr. Peter J. Richerson, a professor of environmental science and policy
at the University of California at Davis and an influential theorist in
the field of cultural evolution. “If you put 50 male and 50 female chimpanzees
that don’t know each other into a lecture hall, it would be a social explosion.”


    Dr. Ernst
Fehr of the University of Zurich and colleagues recently presented findings
on the importance of punishment in maintaining cooperative behavior among
humans and the willingness of people to punish those who commit crimes
or violate norms, even when the chastisers take risks and gain nothing
themselves while serving as ad hoc police.


    In her
survey of the management of so-called commons in small-scale communities
where villagers have the right, for example, to graze livestock on commonly
held land, Dr. Elinor Ostrom of Indiana University found that all communities
have some form of monitoring to gird against cheating or using more than
a fair share of the resource.


    In laboratory
games that mimic small-scale commons, Dr. Richerson said, 20 to 30 percent
have to be coerced by a threat of punishment to cooperate.


   
Fear alone is not highly likely to inspire cooperative behavior to the
degree observed among humans. If research like Dr. Fehr’s shows the stick
side of the equation, the newest findings present the neural carrot ˜ people
cooperate because it feels good to do it.


    In the
new findings, the researchers studied 36 women from 20 to 60 years old,
many of them students at Emory and inspired to participate by the promise
of monetary rewards. The scientists chose an all-female sample because
so few brain-imaging studies have looked at only women. Most have been
limited to men or to a mixture of men and women.

    But there
is a vast body of non- imaging data that rely on using the Prisoner’s Dilemma.


    “It’s
a simple and elegant model for reciprocity,” said Dr. James K. Rilling,
an author on the Neuron paper who is at Princeton. “It’s been referred
to as the E. coli of social psychology.”


    From
past results, the researchers said, one can assume that neuro- imaging
studies of men playing the game would be similar to their new findings
with women.


    The basic
structure of the trial had two women meet each other briefly ahead of time.
One was placed in the scanner while the other remained outside the scanning
room. The two interacted by computer, playing about 20 rounds of the game.
In every round, each player pressed a button to indicate whether she would
“cooperate” or “defect.” Her answer would be shown on-screen to the other
player.


    The monetary
awards were apportioned after each round. If one player defected and the
other cooperated, the defector earned $3 and the cooperator nothing. If
both chose to cooperate, each earned $2. If both opted to defect, each
earned $1.


    Hence,
mutual cooperation from start to finish was a far more profitable strategy,
at $40 a woman, than complete mutual defection, which gave each $20.

    The risk
that a woman took each time she became greedy for a little bit more was
that the cooperative strategy would fall apart and that both would emerge
the poorer.


    In some
cases, both women were allowed to pursue any strategy that they chose.
In other cases, the non- scanned woman would be a “confederate” with the
researchers, instructed, unbeknown to the scanned subject, to defect after
three consecutive rounds of cooperation, the better to keep things less
rarefied and pretty and more lifelike and gritty.


    In still
other experiments, the woman in the scanner played a computer and knew
that her partner was a machine. In other tests, women played a computer
but thought that it was a human.


    The researchers
found that as a rule the freely strategizing women cooperated. Even occasional
episodes of defection, whether from free strategizers or confederates,
were not necessarily fatal to an alliance.


    “The
social bond could be reattained easily if the defector chose to cooperate
in the next couple of rounds,” another author of the report, Dr. Clinton
D. Kilts, said, “although the one who had originally been `betrayed’ might
be wary from then on.”


    As a
result of the episodic defections, the average per-experiment take for
the participants was in the $30′s. “Some pairs, though, got locked into
mutual defection,” Dr. Rilling said.

    Analyzing
the scans, the researchers found that in rounds of cooperation, two broad
areas of the brain were activated, both rich in neurons able to respond
to dopamine, the brain chemical famed for its role in addictive behaviors.


    One is
the anteroventral striatum in the middle of the brain right above the spinal
cord. Experiments with rats have shown that when electrodes are placed
in the striatum, the animals will repeatedly press a bar to stimulate the
electrodes, apparently receiving such pleasurable feedback that they will
starve to death rather than stop pressing the bar.


    Another
region activated during cooperation was the orbitofrontal cortex in the
region right above the eyes. In addition to being part of the reward-processing
system, Dr. Rilling said, it is also involved in impulse control.


    “Every
round, you’re confronted with the possibility of getting an extra dollar
by defecting,” he said. “The choice to cooperate requires impulse control.”


    Significantly,
the reward circuitry of the women was considerably less responsive when
they knew that they were playing against a computer. The thought of a human
bond, but not mere monetary gain, was the source of contentment on display.


    In concert
with the imaging results, the women, when asked afterward for summaries
of how they felt during the games, often described feeling good when they
cooperated and expressed positive feelings of camaraderie toward their
playing partners.

    Assuming
that the urge to cooperate is to some extent innate among humans and reinforced
by the brain’s feel-good circuitry, the question of why it arose remains
unclear. Anthropologists have speculated that it took teamwork for humanity’s
ancestors to hunt large game or gather difficult plant foods or rear difficult
children. So the capacity to cooperate conferred a survival advantage on
our forebears.


    Yet as
with any other trait, the willingness to abide by the golden rule and to
be a good citizen and not cheat and steal from one’s neighbors is not uniformly
distributed.


    “If we
put some C.E.O.’s in here, I’d like to see how they respond,” Dr. Kilts
said. “Maybe they wouldn’t find a positive social interaction rewarding
at all.”


    A Prisoner’s
Dilemma indeed.

THERE WENT THE NAZZ.

29 JULY 2002: THERE WENT
THE NAZZ.

From the Sunday, July 28,
2002 LATImes
Sunday Book Review
:

Hipster, Flipster and
Finger-Poppin’ Daddy

DIG
INFINITY!: The Life and Art of Lord Buckley


By Oliver Trager

Welcome Rain

406 pp.

$30 (including CD)

By GROVER SALES

    
The welcome full-scale biography of Lord Buckley may signal the long-overdue
revival of this avant-garde stand-up, nonstop jazz-talking ecstatic visionary
preacher with a three-octave range and febrile surrealist imagination who
loomed decades ahead of his time. His death in 1960 was largely overlooked
by the standard obits, except as an opportunity to dismiss him as a “cult
comic.”

    
Those obits neglected to add that the ever-growing “cult” quoted at length
in Oliver Trager’s exhaustive tribute, “Dig Infinity!,” included Steve
Allen, Ed Sullivan, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Robin Williams, Ken
Kesey, Henry Miller, the Grateful Dead, the Beatles, Studs Terkel, Jonathan
Winters, Frank Sinatra, Laurence Olivier, Frank Zappa, Dick Gregory and
the Nicholas Brothers. Not to forget an early employer, Al Capone, reputed
to have called Buckley “the only man that ever made me laugh.”


    
Those familiar with Lord Richard Buckley only on recordings tended to assume
he was black and were aghast to discover that, in the flesh, he embodied
the Hollywood stereotype of a crusty British Lord, what Eric Hobsbawm,
who writes as a jazz critic under the name of Francis Newton, described
as “a Colonel cashiered from the Indian army in 1930.” His Lordship, a
title self-conferred and lived to the hilt, offstage as much as on, was
noted for recasting Shakespeare, the Bible and the lives of Jesus and Gandhi
into the jazz argot of a black hipster. At 6 feet, 3 inches tall and weighing
185 pounds, his barrel-chested gymnastic physique reflected an early stint
as lumberjack in the environs of Tuolumne, Calif., in the High Sierra,
where he was born in 1906.


    
Teaming up with Red Skelton as emcee in the walkathons, those grueling
marathons of the Great Depression, Buckley reinvented his persona even
more radically than Jay Gatsby did. A charismatic con man and bunco artist,
he lived the flamboyant epicurean lifestyle of an oil-rich potentate, conferring
honorific titles on his “royal court” of idolaters (“Lady Doris, Prince
Valentine”) eager to lavish him with free rent, motorcars and unlimited
credit. Tubby Boots, who joined the Buckley Royal Court at the age of 12,
said, “Buckley should have been born with money because he thought he had
money. He’d go out and tell the butcher, ‘My God, I’m having a party in
your honor. Every Hollywood star is going to be there. I know you’re going
to want to put the meat in the party.’ And before you knew it, Buckley
had all the trimmings for a party. He was always in debt, but people loved
him because he only took advantage of his friends. If he liked you, he’d
con you. If he didn’t like you, he avoided you.”


    
His road manager, Charles Tacot, recalled: “Buckley led sixteen nude people
through the lobby of the Royal Hawaiian where [Frank] Sinatra was performing.
Sinatra had got him the job. When he learned of this caper he phoned Buckley.
‘It’s the funniest thing I ever heard. Just don’t ask me for any more favors.’


    
Trager also quotes the late comic Adam Keefe: “Buckley was working in a
Chicago club, the Suzy Q. He hired an open-backed hearse and was lying
in an open coffin in the back of the hearse. There was a big sign that
said, ‘The Body Comes Alive at the Suzy Q’ and he’s lying there in the
coffin smoking a joint riding around Chicago.”


    
Buckley carefully tailored his act to fit the audience. His frequent gigs
on “The Ed Sullivan Show” stuck to safer material, including his audience
participation Amos ‘n Andy ventriloquist routine and the phantasmagoric
sounds of a Fourth of July picnic replete with brass band and double-talk
political speechifying. Working a hipper crowd, like the one at the Coffee
Gallery in San Francisco’s North Beach during the heyday of the beatnik
invasion of the 1950s, Buckley openly smoked pot on stage while he regaled
the societal dropouts with “The Nazz,” shorthand for “The Nazarene”: “So
The Nazz and his buddies was goofin’ off down the boulevard one day and
they run into a little cat with a bent frame. So The Nazz say, ‘What’s
de mattawid you baby?’ And the little cat say, ‘My frame is bent, Nazz–it’s
been bent from in front.’

    
“So The Nazz put the golden eyes of love on this little kitty and he looked
right down into the window of the little cat’s soul! And he say, STRAIGHT-EN!!!
Ka-zoom! Up went the cat like an arrow and ever-body jumpin’ up and down
say, ‘Would you look what The Nazz put on that boy! You dug Him before–re-dig
Him now!’ “


    
Half a century ago, you might have had only a hazy notion of what he was
talking about, unless you were a new wave comic, actor, writer or a jazz
musician like his protege, Anita O’ Day, who considered him “the forefather
of Professor Irwin Corey, Lenny Bruce, Mike Nichols and Elaine May.”


    
Actor-comic Larry Storch “never saw him write anything down. He was able
to pick four people out of an audience and do a routine with them, but
it would take him fifteen minutes–it was absolutely hypnotic: ‘You! Up
on stage immediately! You don’t want to make me angry!’ And by God, they
would go right up on stage. I saw old people with canes hobble up on stage.
And he’d sit them on stools in front of him, and tap each one on the back
and tell them to move their lips and suddenly here ‘vas un olt Chewish
man’ and Buckley would tap someone else and they’d move their lips and
out would come Louis Armstrong’s voice, and it was absolutely hysterical.”


    
The public notoriety that evaded Buckley in life surfaced immediately after
his death in 1960 at 54, when the Manhattan media led by the Village Voice
discovered that he was another victim of the New York Police’s notorious
“cabaret card” law, which prevented anyone convicted of a felony, no matter
how remote or trivial, from being employed in a venue that served alcohol.
(Buckley had been charged with a minor misdemeanor 15 years earlier.) His
death set loose a firestorm of organized protest among theatrical unions,
show people and journalists, including Nat Hentoff, that resulted in the
abolition of the “cabaret card” insanity.


    
Comic and political activist Dick Gregory provides a clue to the possible
reasons behind a revival of interest today in Buckley’s recordings and
appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and Groucho Marx’s “You Bet Your
Life”: “His use of the African American idiom was brilliant. It wouldn’t
take nothing to do that now, but imagine the guts and integrity it took
for him to do that in his time. Political Correctness notwithstanding,
I think his material would go over big now because America, despite its
many problems, is more mature than it was then.”


    
Trager’s obvious labor of obsessive passion covers Buckley’s obscure origins,
with expansive interviews with nearly everyone who had contact with His
Lordship, including his beauteous, supportive and infinitely patient wife,
“Lady” Elizabeth Buckley. The CD included with Trager’s book contains some
of his most memorable live routines to suggest why Buckley was embraced
with messianic fervor by leading writers, comics, actors and opinion makers
of our time, many of whom can still recite “The Nazz,” “The Bad-Rapping
of the Marquis De Sade” and “Willie the Shake” from memory. Perhaps His
Lordship’s time has finally come.

Grover Sales Is the Author
of “Jazz: America’s Classical Music” and Teaches Jazz Studies at Stanford
University. In the early 1960s he handled Publicity for Lord Buckley in
the San Francisco Bay Area.

[SIGH]

28 JULY 2002: [SIGH]

From The
New York Times
:


 

I.R.S. Loophole Allows Wealthy to Avoid
Taxes


By DAVID CAY JOHNSTON

In recent months some of
the wealthiest older Americans have been buying huge life insurance policies
on themselves. Curiously, these people have shopped not for the cheapest
rates but for the highest rates they can find. In some cases, they delightedly
pay 10 times the lowest rates for that insurance.

    Why would
anyone willingly pay so much?


    Taxes.

    Through
a technique invented by a lawyer in New York and a chemical engineer in
California, each dollar spent on this insurance can typically eliminate
$9 in taxes. Spend $10 million on this insurance, avoid $90 million or
more in income, gift, generation-skipping and estate taxes.


    “I’m
not saying this is the best thing since sliced bread, but it’s really good
for pushing wealth forward tax free,” said Jonathan G. Blattmachr, the
New York lawyer who heads the estate tax department at Milbank, Tweed,
Hadley & McCloy and who explained the plan in a half-dozen interviews.


    The technique
is legal, blessed by the I.R.S. in 1996. But some leading estate tax lawyers,
as well as some accountants and insurance agents, say it shouldn’t be.
They say it effectively disguises a gift to one’s heirs that should be
taxed like any other gift involving millions in wealth. They also say it
is but one example of how a tax exemption on life insurance that was approved
by Congress in 1913 to help widows and orphans has been stretched to benefit
the very richest Americans.

    Several
thousand of these jumbo policies have been sold, according to agents who
sell them, all under confidentiality agreements with the buyers and their
advisors. One member of the Rockefeller family took out a policy, according
to people who have seen documents in the deal.


    The several
billion dollars of this insurance already sold, much of it in the last
18 months, means that tens of billions of taxes will not flow into federal
and state government coffers in the coming decade or so.


    In recent
months, policies with first-year premiums alone of $4.4 million, $10 million,
$15 million, $25 million, $32 million and $40 million have been sold by
New York Life Insurance, Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance and other
underwriters, according to insurance agents, accountants and tax lawyers
who have worked on these deals.


    The agents
selling the policies find them hard to resist ˜ they can earn millions
of dollars for selling just one such policy. One of them said that his
small firm’s commissions this year have already reached $20 million.


    The technique
works this way. An older person ˜ typically someone who does not expect
to live long and who has at least $10 million and usually much more ˜ wants
to avoid estate taxes, which are 50 percent with such fortunes.


    Under
tax law, money from a life insurance policy goes at death to heirs tax
free.

    The premium
paid on that life insurance is considered a gift to those heirs. Any annual
premium that exceeds $11,000 is therefore subject to the gift tax of 50
percent. Only the wealthiest Americans pay such large premiums and are
subject to this tax.


    The new
technique sidesteps the gift tax in a two-step process. First, the person
who is buying the policy reports on his tax return only a small portion
of what he really paid in premiums.


    Wouldn’t
the I.R.S. say that is cheating? No. It’s perfectly legal. The reason is
that insurance companies offer many different rates for the same policy.
And the buyer is allowed to declare on his tax return the insurance company’s
lowest premium for that amount of insurance, even if that person could
never qualify for that rate because of his age and health, and even if
no one has actually ever been sold a policy at that rate.


    A low
premium means a low gift tax. But in fact the buyer has really paid the
very highest premium offered by that insurer for that amount of insurance.
The insurer then invests the difference between the highest premium and
the lowest premium. That investment grows tax free, paying for future premiums
on the policy. At death, the entire face value of the policy is paid tax
free to heirs.


    In an
example cited by one agent, a customer paid a $550,000 premium for the
first year alone, the highest price offered by the insurance company, for
a policy that was also offered at $50,000, the lowest price. So $550,000
can be passed on to heirs tax free. Yet the gift tax is only $25,000 ˜
50 percent of the lowest premium, instead of $275,000, which is 50 percent
of the highest premium.


    The I.R.S.
would not comment officially. But an I.R.S. official who specializes in
insurance matters said he had not heard that so many people were exploiting
this loophole. He could not say whether the issue would be re-examined.

    The deal
gets better because of a second step. Under this technique, even that $25,000
tax can be avoided by shifting the gift-tax obligation to the spouse through
a trust. In 1982, Congress made transfers between spouses tax free, so
the gift tax disappears.


    If the
policy holder continues to pay huge premiums year after year, he can pass
along much or all of his fortune tax free if he lives long enough. In fact,
Michael D. Brown of Spectrum Consulting in Irvine, Calif., said, many clients
in their 50′s and 60′s, working with other agents, are now trying to do
just that.


    By far
the biggest insurance deals have been made by two insurance agents who
work together, Mr. Brown, a former chemical engineer, and Louis P. Kreisberg
of the Executive Compensation Group in Manhattan.


    The technique
was devised in 1995 by Mr. Blattmachr and Mr. Brown. Mr. Blattmachr has
since expanded his idea and other estate tax lawyers have copied his methods.


    “In 1995
I was told that this was the stupidest idea ever by a guy who is now collecting
millions in commissions from selling” such insurance, Mr. Blattmachr said.


    Among
his peers Mr. Blattmachr is renowned for his creativity in finding ways
to pass down fortunes without paying taxes and without breaking the law.

    He is
a busy man. Recently he set off to counsel clients in eight cities over
three days ˜ a trip made possible by a client who provided him with a private
jet. Afterward he spent the weekend fishing with his brother, Douglas,
whose company, Alaska Trust, helps wealthy Americans set up perpetual trusts,
some of them using Mr. Blattmachr’s insurance plan.


    One buyer
of an insurance plan like Mr. Blattmachr’s paid $32 million in the first
year for a policy that will pay $127 million tax free to the grandchildren,
according to a lawyer who worked on the deal and spoke on condition of
not being identified. No gift taxes were paid.


    Sales
of such insurance soared after the Internal Revenue Service announced 18
months ago that it was considering restrictions on similar techniques,
which are known as equity split-dollar plans.


    In Alaska,
premiums for such insurance totaled just $1.1 million in 1999, but ballooned
to more than $80 million last year, state tax records show.


    This
month, when the I.R.S. issued its proposed restrictions, it did nothing
to stop Mr. Blattmachr’s plan.


    Indeed,
the proposed I.R.S. regulations can be read as strengthening the validity
of his plan, Mr. Blattmachr and some other estate tax lawyers say.

    Mr. Brown
said that in some cases, when the policy holder dies quickly, both the
government and the heirs come out winners, at the expense of the insurance
company.


    “This
is a good deal because both the government and the heirs get 90 percent
of what they could have gotten,” he said.


    He added:
“We think it is good policy to allow this because it discourages games
like renouncing your citizenship or investing offshore.”


    But many
estate tax lawyers and insurance experts think that because Mr. Blattmachr’s
plan is similar to the plans the I.R.S. moved to stop on July 3, it should
be ended as well.


    While
the I.R.S. in 1996 approved the outlines of the Blattmachr plan, these
opponents argue that the plan as sold by agents like Mr. Brown and Mr.
Kreisberg stretches that ruling so far that it no longer provides protection
in an I.R.S. audit.


    Some
of them say it is the huge fees for everyone involved that are blinding
their competitors to aspects of the Blattmachr plan that make it vulnerable
to being banned as an abusive tax shelter.

    Commissions
for the insurance agents run between 70 percent and 200 percent of the
first-year premium when it is $1 million or so, while on the jumbo policies
commissions are typically 9 percent to 11 percent, or up to $4.4 million
on a policy with a $40 million first-year premium, Mr. Kreisberg said.


    He acknowledged
that many peers in the estate tax world say that he earned $100 million
in gross commissions last year, but said, “I wish it were half that.” Mr.
Kreisberg did not dispute a statement by someone with knowledge of payment
records that his small firm’s commissions this year have already reached
$20 million.


    Lawyers
who opine on the validity of the deals can also earn big fees. Mr. Blattmachr
gets $100,000 for his basic opinion letter and reportedly has charged as
much as $250,000.


    Sanford
J. Schlesinger of the law firm Kaye Scholer said he passed up a chance
to collect a six-figure fee for advising on one of these deals because
he thinks the deals should not pass muster with the I.R.S. “My mother taught
me that if something seems too good to be true, it isn’t true,” he said.


    Other
leading estate tax lawyers, as well as some accountants and insurance agents,
say Mr. Blattmachr’s insurance technique should fail because it is wholly
outside the intent of Congress in giving tax breaks for life insurance,
the I.R.S. ruling on the plan notwithstanding.


    “If the
I.R.S. understood this they would say that it relies on a disguised gift
˜ and if you have to pay gift taxes, then Jonathan’s insurance deal does
not work,” said an estate partner at a tax firm in New York, who like others,
said they could not be identified because they have signed confidentiality
agreements that are part of all such insurance deals.

    Another
legal expert said paying 10 times too much for insurance in a plan like
this reminds him of a matriarch selling the family business to her granddaughter
for $10 million when it was actually worth 10 times that amount. “The I.R.S.
wouldn’t let a family get away with selling the business for a dime on
the dollar,” this lawyer said, “and they should not allow it to work in
reverse through insurance.”

BANARAS

27 JULY 2002: BANARAS

From The
Crossing Project
:

“The city of Banaras, like
Jerusalem and Mecca, is one of the world’s most celebrated pilgrimage sites,
and has been acknowledged as a center of learning for over 2000 years.
As a physical place, Banaras lies on the banks of the river Ganges. As
a psychical place, the city derives its sacredness from the intimate association
with Lord Shiva(one of the main deities of the Hindu trinity). It is believed


that Shiva lives in Banaras
through his invisible form to liberate humankind from ignorance.


    Banaras
has over 2000 temples, big and small, dedicated to Lord Shiva and to other
deities. The skyline along the riverbank is market by high spires of temples.
According to a myth, Lord Shiva performed severe austerities to sanctify
Banaras, and considers Banaras his earthly home.

    In the
imagination of the people of Banaras, Shiva is visualised as an ash-smeared
yogi who is meditating in the cremation grounds and eternally bestowing
grace and liberation on his devotees.


    The interface
between the city and the river are the long flights of stone steps called
Ghats. There are over a hundred ghats in the city, and the ghats hum with
ritual and festive activity all year round.


    From
dawn to dusk, thousands of worshippers come down to the river to perform
ablutions, and through ritual and prayer, invoke the healing powers of
the Ganges. The rituals invoke all the sense perceptions -sight, sound,
touch, smell and taste – and invoke all the elements. People propitiate
the Ganges river, the river of healing, by floating lamps and offerings.


    Some
of the most important rituals to the dying ad the dead. The ghats provide
the places of cremation. The burning embers of the cremation pyers alongside
the riverbank provide people with a powerful symbol of the integral relation
between life and death. Death in the Indian imagination is considered as
a crossing over from one state into another; and the fear of death is considered
to be an irrational fear. Once the body disintegrates, the ashes are immersed
into the Ganges. The final immersion into the womb of the Ganges symbolises
a new creation out of the waters of life.


    For 2000
years, Banaras flourished as a living center for learning. The Buddha,
Adi Sankara, (founder of the philosophy of Neo-dulaism), and Mahavira(founer
of Jainism), pondered life’s fundamental questions.


    Atop
the ghats, in the pavilions, gurus continue to transmit to students the
living experience of self-realization. Besides the religious significance,
Banaras is the home of classical music, dance and textile traditions. Banaras
artists have developed distinctive genres of artistic expression. The sounds
of the drummers and dancer’s bells provide an aural backdrop to Banaras.

    The ghats
present an incredible “multimedia” theater of activity. Together, the river
Ganges, the temple spire-lined the skyline,


the pavilions of learning,
pilgrims performing rituals, and the fires of the cremation provide a multimedia,
living stage in which the pilgrim experiences transformation. These elements
make the ghats an excellent domain for multimedia applications in learning.


    The pilgrim
is he center of the transformation, and the ghats ad its activities provide
the ” periphery”. Banaras’s ghats and its activities provide the spatial
periphery; the myths and metaphysics of Shiva provide the psychical periphery.


    Together,
the spatial and the psychical settings allow the pilgrim to “cross-over”
into the space of transformation.

THE 156 CURRENT

26 JULY 2002: THE 156
CURRENT

From http://www.kaosbabalon.btinternet.co.uk/

KAOS is an occult magazine,
first published in London in the 1980s. It was the underground zine that
introduced the writings of Hakim Bey to Europe, and published new work
by Lionel Snell, Stephen Sennitt, Mouse (ex Psychic TV), and others. KAOS
influenced the comic-book writer Alan Moore, who now writes in the latest
edition, a 200 page large format book that appears after a 13 year absence.


    In 1988,
in London, Joel Biroco performed a magical operation with Babalon that
has subsequently become known as the “KAOS-BABALON Working”. The object
of the operation was to initiate the “156 current”, essentially the Cult
of “Chaos conjoined with Babalon”, to advance and supersede the now defunct
93 current of Thelema and transform the Chaos current. Initial details
were published in the last KAOS in 1989, just before Biroco disappeared
from the occult scene altogether. The latest KAOS contains further information
about this Working and explores the significance of the KAOS-BABALON 156
current, the impetus of which arose out the skrying of the Enochian Æthyrs
by Aleister Crowley and Victor Neuburg in Algeria in 1909, and prior to
that from the receipt of the Angelic language by Dr John Dee and Edward
Kelly in Cracow, Poland, in 1584. In the aftermath of the KAOS-BABALON
Working in 1989 it seemed that this magick, despite its intensity, had
failed to achieve its objective, but in 2001 it became apparent that all
along it had been a dormant seed awaiting the right conditions for its
growth. There has been a great need to make available all that is known
about the 156 current to provide a background for those seeking initiation
into its mysteries.


    In addition
to this main theme, KAOS continues the documentation of recent underground
occult history that proved immensely popular in the 80s, which gained the
magazine a reputation for being remarkably well-informed about the magick
and personalities of contemporary occultism. KAOS also analyses in depth
Kenneth Grant’s contribution to the occult and discusses the ultimate aim
of the Ordo Templi Orientis. Other topics range from the seven-headed dragon
and the demon Choronzon to Austin Osman Spare, Jack Parsons’ relationship
with Babalon, and “The Black Room, the Chamber of Death, and the Red Room”.
The Moon and Serpent Grand Egyptian Theatre of Marvels, long rumoured to
be an actual occult order set up by the magus Alan Moore, comes out of
silence in this issue. Published as a signed limited edition of 156 copies
in April 2002, KAOS
is now available for free download as a PDF
. Plus a supplement, “The
Black Lodge of Santa Cruz”, a personal memoir by an Enochian magician who
was at the heart of a chaotic magical working in the States in the early
90s that also appears to have been a party to the birth of the 156 current.

About Joel Biroco

After studying chemistry
at University in London, Biroco secluded himself away to write. KAOS began
in 1985 when Joel decided to publish his “attic writings”, typified by
The Exorcist of Revolution (1986) and other juvenilia, interspersed with
comment on the then burgeoning “Chaos current” and “Chaos magick”. But
in 1989 after the KAOS-BABALON Working, a slightly infernal magical operation
with a female erotic entertainer from the Church of Satan in Amsterdam,
Biroco put together what was to be his last KAOS for 13 years and promptly
disappeared from the occult scene.


    In the
90s he still continued to bash out writings on an old typewriter under
various pseudonyms (including Coleman Healy) and to paint pictures. Some
of these writings were published in limited editions at his own Herculaneum
Press. He also attained recognition for his major scholarly work on the
Chinese I Ching oracle. When some of his more political writings were published
in Russian and Romanian translation, he enjoyed notoriety in the anarchist
poetry scene of the Black Sea area. KAOS was a thing of the past.

    Unexpectedly,
in early 2001 Babalon revisited Biroco and told him it was time to go back
on the black pilgrimage. At first Biroco rejected the challenge, wishing
only for the comforts of his “miaunici” in Bucharest. But on a return to
London his presence was demanded at an important meeting of The Moon and
Serpent Grand Egyptian Theatre of Marvels, at which the Exquisite Basilisk
himself would be present, otherwise known as the supreme magus Alan Moore.
After an evening of excellently skinned “Camberwell carrots”, Moore managed
to persuade Biroco to bring back KAOS, and promised him an article or two,
but little did Biroco realise that KAOS would swell to 200 pages and take
over a year to complete.

FLORIDA INDIAN CANAL NETWORK, CIRCA AD 250

25 JULY 2002: FLORIDA
INDIAN CANAL NETWORK, CIRCA AD 250

From the  July
23, 2002  New York Times
:

 (right) Dr. Alison
Elgart-Berry digs at the site of a canal excavated by the Ortona.

Network of Waterways Traced to Ancient
Florida Culture


By MARK DERR

ORTONA, Fla. ˜ The casual
visitor to this small rural community about 15 miles west of Lake Okeechobee
might barely notice the broad indentations that run for seven miles from
a cluster of oak-shaded mounds through scrub pine and palmetto to the Caloosahatchee
River.


    But to
archaeologists they are monuments to prodigious engineering skill and hard
work ˜ canals that enabled Indians to travel between
Lake Okeechobee and the Gulf of Mexico.


    Around
A.D. 250, Indians inhabiting this area began digging the canals by hand,
using wooden and shell tools to create waterways 20 feet wide and 3 to
4 feet deep, said Robert Carr, the Florida archaeologist who directs excavations
at the site.


    Their
goal was not to drain or irrigate land, Mr. Carr said, but to create a
waterway to bring dugout canoes to their village, a mile north of the Caloosahatchee.
The canals also allowed paddlers to bypass rapids roiling the river.


    The two-square-mile
village at the center of this watery network was a planner’s dream, with
sculptured earthworks (one of them resembling a crescent moon holding a
star) and mounds, ponds and geometric causeways. Eventually, the people,
known today as the Ortona, added a 450-foot-long pond, shaped like a ceremonial
baton and surrounded by a beach they made with white sand.

    “In adapting
to their wetland world, the people of South Florida achieved a level of
cultural sophistication and social organization much earlier than previously
believed,” said Mr. Carr, executive director of Archaeological and Historical
Conservancy in Davie, Fla.


    And the
dates place the Ortona people squarely within an American Indian tradition,
that of the Hopewell people, whose center was far to the north, in the
Ohio River Valley. Archaeologists have long theorized such a connection,
primarily because of the design of mounds and artifacts. But they lacked
hard evidence.


    “Now,
with these dates, Bob Carr has provided the smoking gun for placing peninsular
Florida within the Hopewell culture,” said Dr. James A. Brown, a professor
of anthropology at Northwestern University, who was not involved in Mr.
Carr’s excavations.


    Humans
apparently occupied Ortona around 700 B.C. and lived there at least 1,500
years, Mr. Carr said. But the Ortona people’s
greatest cultural achievements occurred from A.D. 200 to 700,
radiocarbon
dates from recent excavations indicate. Similar bursts of construction
appeared about the same time in other parts of South Florida. On one site,
at the mouth of the Miami River, Indians carved a circle 38 feet in diameter
into limestone, said Mr. Carr, co-discoverer of that site in 1998.


    With
a population of 200 to 300, the Ortona village was a major center for the
exchange of goods and religious and cultural ideas from other parts of
the country, Mr. Carr said.

    In their
dugout canoes, traders plied the rivers flowing to and from Lake Okeechobee
like spokes on a wheel. They also paddled up and down the Gulf and Atlantic
Coasts of Florida, and even beyond.


    Archaeologists
have long reasoned that a major trade route ran from Lake Okeechobee down
the Caloosahatchee to the Gulf of Mexico and up the Gulf Coast to the Apalachicola
River in the Florida Panhandle. From there it followed the Chatahoochee
River north and ultimately crossed the Allegheny Mountains at Cumberland
Gap to reach the Ohio River Valley.


    Alligator
and shark teeth and skins, feathers from Everglades birds and shells were
carried north, Dr. Brown said; flint, copper, beads and possibly effigy
pipes moved south. And travelers carried a host of ideas about the cosmos,
marriage and burial rituals and shamanistic rites.


    These
ideas and many of the goods were related to the Hopewell culture, which
originated in the Ohio Valley around 100 B.C. At its height, from A.D.
200 to 400, the Hopewell people built mounds, enclosures and causeways
in the Midwest and much of the Mississippi River Valley, and even more
extensive trade routes, Dr. Brown said.


   
But in a significant departure from the Hopewell tradition, Mr. Carr said,
the Ortona people and their neighbors in South Florida built mounds for
their homes, as well as for burials and ceremonies. “Placing structures
on mounds was a special South Florida adaptation to the wet environment,”
he added.


    The Indians
of South Florida traveled chiefly by dugout canoe, going deep into reaches
of the Everglades that many white settlers later considered impenetrable.
It is not surprising, then, Mr. Carr said, that the Ortona people built
canals to speed their travel. “The Ortona canals are the earliest we have
found devoted to transportation,” he said.

    The Ortona
canals formed a triangle, with the Caloosahatchee River as the base and
the village as the apex. A western canal ran about four miles; an eastern
canal, about three.


    Mr. Carr’s
team established the age of the canals with carbon 14 dating. The researchers
˜ Mr. Carr, Jorge Zamanillo of the Historical Museum of Southern Florida
and Jim Pepe of Janus Research ˜ published their report in the March issue
of Florida Anthropologist.


    The Ortona
canals appear to be part of a more extensive network of canals and dugout
canoe trails that crisscrossed the Everglades and ran along the coasts,
said Dr. Ryan J. Wheeler, senior archaeologist with Panamerican Consultants,
who has studied the waterways.


    Little
is known about the Ortona people, but Mr. Carr speculated that they might
have built some or all of the 20 other groups of mounds and circles around
Lake Okeechobee. He added that they were probably ancestors of the powerful
Calusa, who occupied southwest Florida and controlled tribes around Lake
Okeechobee, and the Mayami, who lived south of the big lake. Those tribes
flourished from around 1200 until Spanish settlement in the early 16th
century.


    By the
time Spain ceded Florida to England in 1763, virtually all of Florida’s
indigenous people had vanished, victims of warfare and disease, particularly
smallpox. Their cultures and histories were lost with them. When American
surveyors discovered the Ortona earthworks in the early 19th century, they
thought they were Spanish fortifications, Mr. Carr said.


    Seminole
and Miccosukee Indians were driven into the Everglades region during the
Seminole Wars of the 19th century.

    The landscape
and earthworks of the earlier Floridians have changed drastically as well.
Hamilton Disston, a toolmaker from Philadelphia, destroyed the rapids of
the Caloosahatchee River in the early 1880′s, during the first concentrated
effort to drain the Everglades.


    A century
of drainage and development have further altered the environment and carved
up the Ortona earthworks. The vegetation-covered dry indentations that
were the canals, best seen now from the air, lie mostly on private land,
their preservation dependent on the owners.


    The Baton
Pond, built before 700, according to a recent, unpublished analysis, is
also mostly obscured, although the owners of the site are working with
Mr. Carr to preserve it.


    Some
of the 25 Ortona earthworks are protected in Ortona State Park, but others,
including a 60-foot causeway, are unprotected. Sand mining and development
have taken a toll on many, including a 20-foot-high burial mound ˜ the
highest point in Glades County. The burial mound was largely destroyed
by road building in the 1940′s and 50′s, Mr. Carr said.


    Over
the years countless Florida archaeological sites have suffered the same
fate, usually before anyone could investigate them, he added.


    “The
prehistoric settlement pattern across South Florida is still largely unknown,”
Mr. Carr said. “Lake Okeechobee was the hub, and it is one of the least
protected areas in the state. We have to help preserve what’s left, or
it will be gone in the next 20 years.”