inkwell.vue.233 : R.U. Sirius: Counterculture Through the Ages
permalink #0 of 173: topic starter guy (bumbaugh) Wed 15 Dec 04 08:16
Welcome to the Inkwell Ken Goffman, to discuss his new book,
Counterculture Through the Ages!

Ken Goffman, a.k.a. R. U. Sirius, is a writer, editor and speaker.  He
was co-founder and former Editor-in-chief of Mondo 2000, the
iconoclastic magazine that defined the digital culture of the early
nineties.  He is author or editor of eight books, including Mondo 2000:
A User's Guide to the New Edge and Counterculture Through The Ages;
and he co-wrote Timothy Leary's last book, Design for Dying.  He was a
columnist for ARTFORUM International and San Francisco Examiner. He
currently edits the monthly webzine NeoFiles

As a high school student from 1967-1970, Goffman was influenced by the
hippie and new left countercultures while those movements were at
their peak. He formed the Binghamton, New York Chapter of Yippie!
(Youth International Party), 1970-1973. He was vocalist in a punk rock
band in Rochester, New York, 1979-1981. 

Goffman generally dislikes sleeping in tents and eating vegan foods,
and makes an altogether bad hippie.  During his entire time spent in
various branches of “the counterculture,” he never heard anybody even
suggest singing “Kumbaiya.”

He lives in Mill Valley, California with his fiancé Eve and their cat

Facilitating this whole conversation is Inkwell's own Jon Lebkowsky,
CEO of Polycot, an innovative team of Internet technology experts with
broad experience creating and managing information systems for
businesses and nonprofit organizations. An authority on
computer-mediated communications, virtual communities, and online
social networks, he has worked as project manager, systems analyst,
technology director, and online community developer.

He was cofounder and CEO of one of the first virtual corporations,
FringeWare, Inc. He is currently President of EFF-Austin, President of
the Austin Free-Net Board of Directors, a cofounder of the Open Source
Business Alliance, the Austin Wireless City Project, and the national
Social Software Alliance, and advisor for the annual South by Southwest
Interactive conference. He serves on the Advisory Board for the
University of Texas Science, Technology, and Society Program. A
longtime Internet activist, he is co-editing a book  on technology,
democracy, and advocacy, and he contributes to weblogs at,,,,, and

Also joining regularly in the conversation is Dan Joy, a writer,
editor, and inadvertent performance artist from San Francisco

Welcome, gang!
inkwell.vue.233 : R.U. Sirius: Counterculture Through the Ages
permalink #1 of 173: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 15 Dec 04 09:26
Thanks, Bruce!

I thought the counterculture was a sixties phenomenon, with people, 
mostly college students, making love, not war, smoking dope, listening to 
the Beatles, reading Allen Ginsberg and howling at the moon... but you 
take it all the way back to Prometheus and Abraham. How do you define 
counterculture so that it extends "through the ages"?
inkwell.vue.233 : R.U. Sirius: Counterculture Through the Ages
permalink #2 of 173: RUSirius (rusirius) Wed 15 Dec 04 11:06

Dan Joy and I have presented a selection of anti-authoritarian or
non-authoritarian cultural movements or epochs peopled by
non-conformists -- practitioners of deep, philosophic, creative
individualism.  These cultures generally embraced the idea of
transvaluation -- that societies and individuals could change, and they
all were (and are) characterized by a playful, antic spirit.

This spirit, or perhaps several spirits, and this sensibility seems to
show itself all across human history, and can appear in movements
regarded as cultural, artistic, political, or spiritual.  We try to 
show linkages and correspondences, both direct lines of influence and
particular and perhaps peculiar similarities between and among these
various "countercultures".

The book traces the countercultural spirit in historical time back to
the Socratics and the beginnings of Taoism.

If I may, the TOC will tell readers what cultures we covered in the
inkwell.vue.233 : R.U. Sirius: Counterculture Through the Ages
permalink #3 of 173: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 15 Dec 04 11:38
How did the book come about, and what led  you to this approach?
inkwell.vue.233 : R.U. Sirius: Counterculture Through the Ages
permalink #4 of 173: RUSirius (rusirius) Wed 15 Dec 04 14:15
Timothy Leary and Dan Joy were sitting around shooting the breeze and
trying to think of a concept for a book.  Dan actually came up with the
concept, under the influence...  the influence of Tim that is.

Leary, during his later years, liked to contextualize his life's work
(or play) in a broad historical context. He felt, for one thing, that
individuals or small groups of non-conformists had long been wrestling
technologies, ideas, "God," political power out of the hands of elites
and priesthoods and giving them  to the individual or to small groups. 
He believed he had done this to some extent with drugs and had played
a role in a culture that has done that with communications media
through the so-called digital revolution. That was a Learyesque
historical analyses. In that context, he would say, for instance, that
Martin Luther took God from the church hierarchy and allowed some
worshippers to create dissident versions of that religion.  The
American Transcendentalists took that even further, giving divinity and
the right to have and interpret cosmological insights -- to have
revelations without the intercession of the Church to each individual. 
Diderot's Encycleopedia took knowledge from experts and secretive
guilds and put it into the hands of literate citizens.  Ad infinitum.  

And then there were all the "apostles of doubt." Leary's penchant for
sloganeering had taken him from Turn On Tune In Drop Out" to "Think For
Yourself and Question Authority."  In that context, he saw himself as
part of a tradition that went at least back to Socrates, whose method
revolved largely around questioning all received values and ideas, and
then questioning the answers.  Endlessly questioning. Socrates never
found a truth he liked, although he believed that truth was possible
(unlike the sophists... or the post-modernists in more recent times). 
Voltaire is another figure in that particular "rogue's gallery" of

Anyway, Dan went ahead and created an outline for the book based
largely on these notions and the characteristics I discussed in answer
to  your first question.  The final criteria for making choices was
that the culture should have caste a bit of a shadow.  It shouldn't be
merely obscure (although that would make a lovely book as well, that's
not the one we chose to write).  So, ironically, we chose "mainstream"
countercultures, movements and moments that are familiar...  at least a
little bit familiar. 

Dan contacted me because I had completed Leary's last book after his
death, Design For Dying.  Dan liked what I'd done and thought I would
be the person to collaborate with on this one.  I'd actually vaguely
heard about this idea somewhere along the "Friends Of Tim" grapevine
and thought it was just a great idea.  I didn't have a moments
hesitation or any sense that I couldn't make the project my own.  
inkwell.vue.233 : R.U. Sirius: Counterculture Through the Ages
permalink #5 of 173: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 15 Dec 04 15:57
So how did the collaboration work? Who did what?
inkwell.vue.233 : R.U. Sirius: Counterculture Through the Ages
permalink #6 of 173: RUSirius (rusirius) Wed 15 Dec 04 17:12

Basically, Dan did a majority of the book proposal, which was very
substantial. I believe it was well over 10,000 words and included a
complete chapter, the one on the Troubadours.  I wrote most of the text
for the rest of the book but strip mined lots of the text that Dan had
put into the proposal for inclusion in the book as a whole.  Dan also
sent me a good chunk of material for the Zen chapter and, at the end,
after the first draft of the book had been completed, he came in with
several vital paragraphs and short bits that no doubt saved me from
looking like an idiot.  

For instance, in the chapter on Prometheus and Abraham, I posited that
there are Promethean and anti-Promethean countercultures.  Prometheans
glory in human achievement -- technology, science, the human quest to
know everything and be able to do anything.  Anti-Promethans see
dangers in those urges and might characterize the urge as an expression
of hubris. The original Greek myth, of course, was intended as a
cautionary tale and Prometheas was, for them, a model of hubris against
the gods.  The character was only taken up as a positive role model
later, particularly by Romantics at the start of the 19th Century.  Dan
beautifully raised points about some "Promethean" characteristics held
by modern counterculturalists who I dubbed "anti-Promethean".  He
helped to enclose a group of anti-authoritarians who question the
aggressive pursuit of scientific and technological development into one
of the major theses of the book.  I had suggested that this could be
done, but then failed to take the trouble to do it.

Collaboration is a wonderful thing.  (I'm sure when Dan gets online he
will tell this story in his own way, and correct me on something or
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permalink #7 of 173: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 15 Dec 04 18:01
Before we get more into the subject matter, I wanted to ask about Ken 
Goffman vs RU Sirius. You've been writing as RU forever. Are you dropping 
the nom de plume permanently? Or just for this book? 
inkwell.vue.233 : R.U. Sirius: Counterculture Through the Ages
permalink #8 of 173: RUSirius (rusirius) Wed 15 Dec 04 20:13

I don't think I'll drop RU Sirius.  I love that cartoon character.  My
sense as I was writing this book was that I wasn't writing it for the
hippest of the hipsters, I was writing it for any reasonably
open-minded reader who might be curious or might be enticed into
reading it.  I think the message that freethinkers, freewheelers, and
other odd characters have always contributed to the human thing through
novel ideas, invention, art, dissent, and so forth, and that the
Enlightenment that is supposed to be at the core of democratic, civil
libertarian life was a counterculture was an important and necessary
message for these times. Of course, I also want to sell books

 I tried to make it an uncharacteristically gentle book.  That was
also, in many ways, a reflection of the fact that so much of it was
written in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.  There was a high level of
sensitivity around at that time, and I was... err... sensitive to it. 

Anyway, I didn't want any potential reader (or buyer for that matter)
to be thrown by "RU Sirius"
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permalink #9 of 173: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 16 Dec 04 05:59
People who know you only through your Sirius persona may be surprised to
find that you've written a book that is closer to academic, though the
"Sirius" spirit pops up here and there throughout. Was it as much fun to
write this kind of book as, say, your earlier _How to Mutate_?
inkwell.vue.233 : R.U. Sirius: Counterculture Through the Ages
permalink #10 of 173: RUSirius (rusirius) Thu 16 Dec 04 09:34

Fun can be a funny thing.  This book was hard work, it required a lot
of discipline. It was basically full time for about 26 months, but I
was learning from it, I was discovering things about myself, like a
pretty strong sense of connection to the spirit of the Tao.  I felt
that I was doing something that was going to be pretty good. So the
process felt good.  And in that sense, it was fun.

Writing Mutate was in many ways painful because I was trying to wring
some inspiration out of feelings of dissipation that I had in the wake
of Mondo 2000 and various disappointing, or maybe just bizarre
relationships.  I was wrestling with my own sense of entitlement that
resulted from various sorts of attention I received when Mondo was
being treated like the hippest, trendiest thing around by a certain
portion of the population.  I wanted to keep being treated that way,
and various projects, like a TV show and a seven-album recording deal
with Nothing/Interscope records came tantalizingly close to becoming
reality only to disappear in a haze of smoke and mirrors.  So I had
those ego investments and had to learn to let them go... well, at least
somewhat.  At the same time, I was trying to write a revolutionary
book in terms of the form ("an exploded post-novel") and, to some
extent, in terms of the content.  

I have no idea what to make of Mutate now myself.  A few very serious
people -- mostly from the post-structuralist academic world, and a
handful of freaks, thought it was the great novel of the decade.  Most
people thought it sucked.  I'm happy to move on from it, either way. 
inkwell.vue.233 : R.U. Sirius: Counterculture Through the Ages
permalink #11 of 173: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 16 Dec 04 12:41
Sounds like you're getting critical distance from the roaring 90s. Any temptation to 
write a memoir?
inkwell.vue.233 : R.U. Sirius: Counterculture Through the Ages
permalink #12 of 173: RUSirius (rusirius) Thu 16 Dec 04 12:59

Sort of. I have an idea on the table that would sort of be a memoir
and sort of be a meditation on the nature of memory and identity in a
society in which most people (like moi) don't remain in one place for
most of their lives, don't maintain a lot of their ties to the past, so
what happens to memory and identity in fragmented, fast-forward,
post-toasty sort of times. Within that context, I would try to have my
memoir be partly based on other people's memories.  In some ways I'm
more interested in my memories from the seventies, in my late teens and
early twenties.  For instance, I had a friend who took over the local
Nixon headquarters in the name of the Zippies (Yippies with an extra
zip) with an unloaded bb gun on Halloween in 1972. It was a scene
straight out of Rebel Without A Cause.  The cops were ready to shoot up
the place when another friend of mine stepped up and coaxed him out of
the building.  That's just one memory.  Some of the people in my
circle of friends in Binghamton, New York were in some ways more
extreme than the people I would end up hanging out with in NYC, in LA
around the Leary cabal, around the MONDO cabal in Berkeley (well, MONDO
may fight that one to a draw).  So what was that about and how do some
of those people remember it, if they have survived? It would be
interesting to spend some time there finding out.
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permalink #13 of 173: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 17 Dec 04 04:06
Digging out one memory that's relevant to this particular book: the 
genesis of the project was in conversations that included Tim Leary. Can 
you say a little more about your and Dan's relationship with Tim and the 
extent to which he was an inspiration for the project?
inkwell.vue.233 : R.U. Sirius: Counterculture Through the Ages
permalink #14 of 173: RUSirius (rusirius) Fri 17 Dec 04 09:59

Tim Leary was a friend and a mentor... (or tormentor) to both of us. 
He was an editor for Mondo 2000, contributing material for free.  He
was someone you could go stay with in Los Angeles and he was generally
right there for whoever was around... very social, very into long, late
night conversations although he usually wanted to talk about anything
other than the theories he had presented in his various books.  

As I said, something of the Leary way of looking at the world informed
what we were doing with this book.  
inkwell.vue.233 : R.U. Sirius: Counterculture Through the Ages
permalink #15 of 173: Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Fri 17 Dec 04 10:31
Binghamton is my home town as well (somewhat later) and I always
thought of it as a rather conservative place.  It would be cool to hear
more about what was happening back then.
inkwell.vue.233 : R.U. Sirius: Counterculture Through the Ages
permalink #16 of 173: RUSirius (rusirius) Fri 17 Dec 04 11:59

Binghamton is, no doubt, a conservative place.  Back then, it was
working class, Slavic conservatism, there was a pretty strong
conservative Christian influence around.  Several of my teachers used
to spend entire classes advocating John Birchite views.  That was
pretty common.

Binghamton also had a University that was very hip and radical
throughout the 60s and 70s, so some of that influence was felt.  But
the Binghamton counterculture -- the "heads" and the "hairs"...  nobody
liked the word hippie... was quite visible and substantially large by
the infamous summer of '67, without a lot of influence from the
University types.  I don't know why it happened there, but their were a
lot of garage rock bands (early punks really) who identified with the
Rolling Stones and The Troggs and Standells and those bands started
sending out some sort of slightly wicked countercultural vibe, so that
was probably an influence.  A guy named John Goughery moved back to his
home town... I think he'd been part of the Haight scene, and he opened
up a very cool headshop with lots of underground newspapers and worthy
books and so forth.  So something just sort of started happening. 

I was just starting high school.  My young friends were rockers... 
they were the ratty sorts of kids who liked the Stones better than the
Beatles...  Anyway, we were quite taken when we heard about what was
going on in the Haight and the East Village.  I don't know what made us
receptive, but we were.  So we got into it in our own quirky ways.  My
father also was a left-liberal and an athiest and an amateur writer of
an existentialist sort of fiction living in the suburbs and my mom was
a liberal who liked Herman Hesse and told me about the beats even
before the hippies arrived on the scene.  So I had a kind of
intellectual interest that lead me toward "the movement."  So I was
reading Marxist newspapers and black militant biographies by Malcolm X,
H. Rap Brown, and Eldridge Cleaver at the same time that I was trying
to understand Alan Watts and Leary and Huxley and all that.

Anyway, the politics started really heating up towards the end of the
sixties. The college students organized the antiwar movement but
increasingly local "Bingies" participated.  There was this shift at my
high school around 1969.  I remember noting that one kid who had wanted
to kill us for having long hair now had long hair and was wearing a
Che Guevara T-Shirt.  So there was some kind of cultural shift that
happened among young people that even got to Binghamton New York. 
There was a general hipster ambiance among young people there pretty
much throughout the 70s.  Most of it was presumably just people going
along with the trends and they returned to more conservative attitudes
when the moment passed.

None of this explains the gang of lunatics that we accumulated around
the Binghamton Yippies.  I mean, we just had some highly imaginative,
psychologically weird people.  I would say our conversations were
pretty expansive and interesting though.  The nature of reality was
being questioned while we were also fantasizing about how we were going
to build a laser ray to take out the Pentagon on July 4, 1976.  You
see, the revolution was inevitable....
inkwell.vue.233 : R.U. Sirius: Counterculture Through the Ages
permalink #17 of 173: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 17 Dec 04 15:13
Ah, memories... "Question Reality," the bumpersticker read. (The Austin 
version was "I brake for hallucinations.") I was reading Ramparts and 
Evergreen Review - ER's blurb said "Join the underground," and I did... 
difference was, I was in a small town in West Texas at the time. Weird 

Did you write for the underground press at the time? What was your path 
to Reality Hackers and Mondo, to Queen Mu and St. Jude?
inkwell.vue.233 : R.U. Sirius: Counterculture Through the Ages
permalink #18 of 173: RUSirius (rusirius) Fri 17 Dec 04 15:26

I started a Yippie underground paper in my home town called "Space"
and I did a little bit of work for the Underground Press Syndicate, Tom
Forcade's organization before he created High Times.  In the grand RU
Sirius tradition, Space was too frivolous and journalistically
irresponsible for even the Yippie home office.  We were critiqued in
the national Yippie paper, the Yipster Times for being too frivolous. 
It was about that time -- 1972 -- that I sort of "quit the left."  I
saw political correctness as just another pair of handcuffs... mental
handcuffs.  I searched for heretics and became a big fan of Salvador
Dali and Andy Warhol.  I loved that their vulgar pursuit of attention
pissed people off and at the same time, I thought their works were
attractive and interesting and clever.   

I didn't do much though. I was a mid-seventies slacker.  Then, in
college in Brockport New York, I started a punk rock band, Party Dogs.
I was the lead singer and I worked with a friend on a sort of
surrealist poetry/prose magazine called Black Veins, which I think came
from Maldoror by Lautreamont, but I could be misremembering.  We
interviewed Leary for it when he appeared in Rochester NY doing a
"stand up philosophy" tour.  That's when I met Tim.  

I started High Frontiers, the psychedelic magazine a year or so after
I left upstate New York for the SF Bay area with just that intention. 
High Frontiers was largely about psychedelics and psychedelic ideas but
in the background was a sense of intrigue about things that were
happening in science and technology.  With Reality Hackers in 1988, we
reversed fields... we put the technology and science up front. And
then, we decided we needed a more attractive name so it became Mondo
inkwell.vue.233 : R.U. Sirius: Counterculture Through the Ages
permalink #19 of 173: Dennis Wilen aka (the-voidmstr) Fri 17 Dec 04 15:44
When and why did Ken Goffman become RU Sirius?

And was assuming a counterculture identity an integral part of your
own transformation?

I'm still /0!d to many old friends, although I came out of the pseud
closet a few years back.  Being VOIDMSTR instead of Dennis helped me
escape a lot of baggage, just like moving to LaLa, away from my east
coast roots, helped me break free of others' expectations.

And is this renaming and reinventing of selves based in some
collective memory of the magic in names?
inkwell.vue.233 : R.U. Sirius: Counterculture Through the Ages
permalink #20 of 173: RUSirius (rusirius) Fri 17 Dec 04 18:25

In 1984 when I started High Frontiers I took on the name RU Sirius. 
Largely, I was just being playful.  At the same time, I was into the
magickal idea that you can invoke a sort of mythical character by
taking on that character... by NAMING yourself and really taking it on.
 So I took a name that had a certain jester/trickster vibe to it, and
I think I worked it pretty well.  I became RU Sirius.   I mean, I
mostly forgot about Ken Goffman in my day to day life, although it was
still a name on my bank account and so forth.   Anyway, RU got a bit
carried away. He got increasingly decadent.  I couldn't afford him full
time anymore; physically, emotionally, or financially.  So Ken Goffman
came back in and reoccupied my daily life, as a stabilizing force.

So, how 'bout this book?   -)
inkwell.vue.233 : R.U. Sirius: Counterculture Through the Ages
permalink #21 of 173: Berliner (captward) Sat 18 Dec 04 06:25
Ah, the book. 

A great idea, one I had great hopes for, but, I'm afraid, a great idea
not realized. Believe me when I say I write the following with a heavy

I realize that editors no longer edit at publishing houses, for the
most part, but I do wish someone had caught some of the more blatant
errors I encountered in the sections where I have some knowledge. I was
doing okay with some of it, sort of sceptical about some of it, but
then, about half-way through, I hit some stuff I just couldn't deal

It started on page 228, where there's a quote from Charlie Parker, set
up from what appears to be a book called In Music. What? Bird wrote a
book? First I'd heard of it. But, I thought, maybe you got it from a
book with that title. Strangely, it's not in the bibliography. Then, a
couple of pages later, we get this:

"The new jazz style was called bebop, and it did something previously
unheard of in popular music -- it allowed the musicians *to improvise*.
Until the 1940s, musicians had marched in formation, rendering each
composition more or less as it was intended." 

Well, horseshit. 

The very thing which set jazz aside from other popular music of the
20th century was that it was improvised, either in ensemble or with
individual solos. The earliest jazz recordings feature bands with each
of the leading voices improvising against each other at the same time.
Listen to King Oliver with a teenaged Louis Armstrong. Armstrong, on
his own, helped initiate the tradition of each voice improvising a solo
while the others backed him. Listen to "West End Blues," with its
astonishing improvised free-jazz Armstrong solo opening. Out there?
I'll say. It's almost un-notatable. Listen to Duke Ellington's great
soloists -- Johnny Hodges, Ben Webster, Harry Carney, and so on -- as
they take flight above his great band. Listen to Coleman Hawkins, in a
variety of situations, develop the saxophone into arguably the leading
vehicle for instrumental improvisation in jazz. Listen to him, in his
revolutionary recording of "Body and Soul," begin to set the soloist
free from the harmonic chains that had bound jazz musicians, an
innovation which presaged the even more inventive harmonic explorations
the beboppers brought to bear. The beboppers were improvising, but
hell, that's what their audience expected them to do. What they did
*not* expect them to do was to do it the way they did, which is what
caused all the controversy, and, in fact, caused that old improvisor
Louis Armstrong to call what they did "Chinese music." A lot of the
cognoscenti were disappointed in him for that. Surely an old pothead
like him could free his mind enough to dig what they were doing!

Skip ahead to page 352. "A simpler but more culturally and
commercially viable stream in cyberdelic counterculture -- the acid
house/rave movement -- emerged in great Britain in the late 1980s. The
music that gave birth to this counterculture had originated among
African-American musicians and disc jockeys from the tough streets of
Chicago. Using digital synthesizers, these club entertainers created a
robotic nightclub dance music called 'house' that was stripped of human
voice and emotion." 

Well, no. 

House music arose in gay clubs in Chicago, true, but if anything it
was hyper-emotional, dependent on the voices of anonymous divas, male
and female. It was a more synthesizer-oriented version of disco, right
down to the beat. What you're referring to in the paragraph I just
excerpted is, in fact, techno, which arose on the tough streets of
*Detroit* among a rather geeky crowd of black kids (and one very
disturbed Vietnam veteran) who were, in fact, looking for a way to
strip dance music of its emotion. It caught on with a mixed hetero and
gay crowd in Detroit who went to clubs dressed in clothes that mocked
the "preppy" culture of the era -- itself a pretty countercultural
move, since few of these Detroit kids had anything like that kind of
background. Okay, let's hold this here while I quote from the next

"Somehow, the acid house music travelled to a
psychedelic-drug-saturated hippie dropout party scene on the island of
Ibiza, where the tripsters found the rhythms conducive to the
production of benevolent communal trance states via a combination of
psychedelic drugs and all-night dancing. This information quickly made
its way back to England, and by the end of the 1980s, acid house had
conquered nightlife in that trend-saturated country." 

Hard to say where to start with this one, but I'll start with the
first word. Ibiza is and has been for some time a cheap destination for
summer vacationers, particularly from Germany and England, and there
have long been discos and other clubs catering to them there. So
there's no "somehow" about it. This has long been an alcohol-fuled
scene -- cheap Spanish wine, of course -- and there has long been a gay
scene there. House (and techno) were both popular in England before
the Ibiza acid house scene started, but what made acid house possible
was the combination of the introduction of Ecstacy and the popularity
of the Roland 404 synthesizer, which had a preset on it that seemed to
make E-stoned folks go nuts. For some reason (but this is
well-documented), Ecstacy, on Ibiza, was called "acid," and the local
Spanish dealers of course pronounced it "ah-ceeed." Thus we have the
scenes where DJs are playing house music, everyone's stoned on E, and
someone in the booth is overlaying the beats with that 404 sound and
everyone on the floor is going "ah-ceeed!" That's what acid house is. I
find it rather remarkable that you didn't follow up the "second Summer
of Love" movement in England that followed "Ibiza summer," and led to
the whole Shamen/JAMMS/Orbital thing on the rock scene and the
concomitant utopian social and political movement that came out of

However, the "hippie dropout party scene...where the tripsters found
the rhythms cnonducive to...trance states" *does* describe the scene in
Goa, where Goa trance came from. Trance was a subset of techno, thanks
to the fact that techno, after a brief period as flavor of the month
in England, found its true acceptance in what's probably the only city
in the world as depressing and grotty as Detroit: Berlin. Just about
every one of the original generation of Detroit techno innovators
became major stars in Berlin, and, in fact, a lot of them recorded the
bulk of their stuff here. This led to locals picking the style up and
making their own variants of it. Some, like the minimal, foreboding
stuff from Basic Channel, was just as dark and machine-like as its
inspiration (although I'd argue that some of the original guys, like
Juan Atkins, aren't as dehumanized as they pretend to be). Other Berlin
techno tried for a more mainstream approach, and actually began to
overlay melody on the beats, which remained as brutal as ever. This
became known as trance. Several of the trance artists, most notably
Cosmic Baby in the late '80s and early '90s, and Paul van Dyk in the
early to mid '90s, became international stars, thanks partially to the
late John Peel, who heard a lot of Berlin music because he had a show
here. These records were taken by some of the more hippy-minded young
vacationers to another inexpensive summer destination, Goa, where the
dominant drugs were charas (hashish) and, yes, our old friend LSD. Goa
trance wound up feeding into that "second Summer of Love" soundtrack as
well, and in fact the groups/performers I named earlier probably fit
better into the trance scene than the acid house one. Both trance and
acid house remain integral parts of the electronic dance music scene

I'm astonished that you don't seem to have consulted Simon Reynolds'
book Generation Ecstacy, which may be exasperating in its need to
micro-genre everything, but at least has the chronology right,
especially since you quote his website in the book. But perhaps his
somewhat sneering dismissal of the San Francisco rave scene and his
observation (which I can't comment on, having not been there) that the
nature of its audience ossified it too early in its development for it
to produce anything much of value (a statement he also applies to the
States generally) would have run counter to some of your understandable

These are just two examples, and music-related ones, that I was able
to find immediately by picking up the book again this afternoon. I
began reading faster once I hit that bebop whopper, and yet there are
more errors and omissions (what, no bohemia in Paris before 1900?
Excuse me, but the original bohemians from Bohemia were there in the
1840s!) I could find if I were to go back and look at the book some
more. And I will if others in this discussion would like me to. 

As a cultural historian with an interest in this specific field, I
know that a history of countercultures is something we need, and I'm
not denying that there are some good ideas kicking around here -- the
Promethean versus anti-Promethian dialectic is one of them -- but I
think there's a great deal of suspect analysis and factual error here
that someone, like an editor, should have caught. 

If it makes you feel better, I'm not planning to review this book
anywhere. But I'm sure other people are, and I'm fairly sure I'm not
the only one who'll catch this stuff. 
inkwell.vue.233 : R.U. Sirius: Counterculture Through the Ages
permalink #22 of 173: RUSirius (rusirius) Sat 18 Dec 04 10:25

I think where I get into some trouble, and I did expect this, was by
painting in broad strokes.  I had half-a-dozen books out on jazz and
each one of them identified bebop with busting out the improvisations. 
Were there exceptions before bebop?  As I note in almost every chapter
of the book, there are always exceptions.  

House music:  The closer you get to a current moment, the more
contradictory stories there are. It's like a giant game of telephone.  
My friend Genesis P. Orridge has his own story about discovering acid
house in a Chicago record store... African American dance music...  and
giving it a psychedelic spin.  The description of the qualities of the
music come from Jah Sonic and DJ Paul Oakenfold.  Also, I'm not sure
that I would describe disco as emotional music.   

I remember hearing from people going to both Ibiza and Goa  in the
mid-80s and it's possible that I got the two of them scrambled,
although I don't recall people at that time drawing such a distintion
between the two of them and the sources I checked emphasized the Ibiza
scene.  Again, my information came mostly from the Jah Sonic website
and a few other sources that were recommended to me.   I didn't read
Generation Ecstasy because I didn't have it around and I was into a
chapter with a lot of different parts.  A few people who seem to know
the history of the movement recommended a few websites.
The stories on the web seemed to correspond pretty well so I went with

In the context of the 20th Century, I was covering dozens of
counter/subcultures and honestly, I didn't treat each one as a major
research project.  I did spend quite a bit of time with jazz and with
Paris bohemia.  I never claimed that early 20th Century Paris invented
bohemia.  The scene did cement and spread that sensibility and moved
various types of art and literature several steps on from realism
presenting works that seemed to correspond to modernity and the way
consciousness works...
inkwell.vue.233 : R.U. Sirius: Counterculture Through the Ages
permalink #23 of 173: RUSirius (rusirius) Sat 18 Dec 04 11:10

One more thought.  

Ed quotes this:

"Somehow, the acid house music travelled to a
psychedelic-drug-saturated hippie dropout party scene on the island of

and then says
"there's no "somehow" about it."

Using somehow is simply, admittedly a cheap quick way of moving on to
a few points about rave culture as it connects to themes in the book or
to points I wanted to emphasize in the 4.5 pages dedicated to it.   
inkwell.vue.233 : R.U. Sirius: Counterculture Through the Ages
permalink #24 of 173: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Sat 18 Dec 04 11:22
I'm trying to remember whether I knew that you were from
Rochester/Brockport. What influence did being from that part of the
world have on you?
inkwell.vue.233 : R.U. Sirius: Counterculture Through the Ages
permalink #25 of 173: RUSirius (rusirius) Sat 18 Dec 04 13:04

Perhaps the only relevent influence I can think of is... as opposed to
being from a major urban or hipster area. Like Devo used to say about
Akron, Ohio, the weirdos are really forced to lean on each other...
everybody knows everybody else.  There's a certain sense of desparation
that can be condusive for producing weird things (like Devo).  At the
same time, there's very little chance for the "hip community" to "get
its shit together and develop alternative institutions" or anything
like that. which I think means that we spent more time in our heads
developing personal and aesthetic reactions and defenses against a
mainstream culture that was a bit redneck and ubiquitous.  Finally,
once in the Bay Area, when I would hear people (mostly mainstream 
people really) say that nobody is thinking about this stuff beyond SF
and maybe a few other places, I would bristle.  When I got to tour 20
cities for the Mondo 2000 book I found that my most interesting
conversations weren't in SF or LA or NY or even Seattle.  THey were in
Minnesota and Philadelphia and a few other places less associated with
hipsterism.  It didn't surprise me.  I guess it makes you a little bit
more hungry for alternative culture. At the same time, it makes you a
little less success oriented.  We had a damn good band in Rochester New
York but their was one record label that was putting out new wave and
they were going to release one band.  We were #2 in town.  We never
really looked for greater possibilities for having a commercially
successful band, whereas we might have if we'd been in NYC.

I want to say a bit more about Ed's post above.  Naturally, when you
do a book of this sort, you try very hard to get everything right...
even given the broad strokes caveat that I attach to the scope of the
book.   I 'm sure there are a few errors in the book, but I'm not sure
that those pointed out by Ed are they. The editors did a good job of
saving us from a few.  Every one of the errors that they caught, we
were passing on from previously written books, "serious" books, but the
editors were able to convince me that these were mistakes... mostly
because they weren't included in other biographies, books etc.  One
instance, a big substantive history of jazz said that Fats Waller had
been a pimp.  A friend of one of the editors angrily objected that this
was false. In that case, I just dropped it without further question
since it was in no way central to the point I ws making. 

With the earlier chapters, I located experts for each, sent them the
draft and received corrections and suggestions.  I definitely got a few
saves out of that.  Off the top of my head, I was advised by Norman
Giradot, a professor of Taoism at Lehigh, Peter Lamborn Wilson who has
written many books on radical Sufism, and Erik Davis checked over the
chapter on Zen.  At the same time, experts themselves are quirky.  They
disagree with each other.  Their were a few cases in both the chapters
on Taoism and particularly on Sufism where the sources in the
literature seemed like they knew what they were talking about. Rather
than ignoring the expert adviced, I changed the language to allow for
an element of uncertainty.  Wilson, for one, told me that I shouldn't
trust anything from Idries Shah.  But a lot of scholars seemed to use
Shah as a resource.  I cut back on the Shah historical details a bit
but used him to make broad points. 

In the later chapters, where I was dealing with lots of movements and
sub-countercultures in each chapter, I didn't query the experts but
relied on my own intuition and in some cases my memory, that the facts
before me were reliable.   


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