image001Ang Lee’s new film TAKING WOODSTOCK is a sweet, fun, recreation of a moment in history as seen through the eyes of someone intimately involved, and yet still outside.

Lee and longtime writing/producing partner James Schamus decided that, after BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN and LUST, CAUTION, they wanted to step away from heavy subject matter and tell a lighter tale. So they turned to Elliot Tiber’s book with Tom Monte, TAKING WOODSTOCK. And light it is. But it’s also fun and charming. There are a few poignant moments, but nothing unexpected. This is not a film filled with surprises, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s a sweet tale, well cast, and it’s a joy to watch.

As anyone who reads my blog knows, I recently re-watched the award-winning documentary WOODSTOCK: 3 DAYS OF PEACE AND MUSIC: THE DIRECTOR’S CUT. I can’t recommend highly enough taking in this doc before TAKING WOODSTOCK. It is in no way crucial to the experience, but it WoodstockBlu-rayheightens it immensely. Many of the names and faces one comes in contact with in WOODSTOCK, fill the background of TAKING WOODSTOCK, as well as being incorporated into leading roles. My personal feeling is that experiencing WOODSTOCK the film allowed me to have a larger sense of what was happening on the periphery of TAKING WOODSTOCK. Together, the two films paint a terrific picture. And while both stand just fine on their own merits, the two compliment one another wonderfully and I can’t recommend highly enough watching the doc first if you either never saw it, or were thinking it’s time to see it again.

Lee’s recreation never contradicts the reality of Woodstock, it simply adds more flavor to the event and paints a loving picture of some of the journeys that may have taken place there. And despite the fact that many of the characters are familiar cliches of the era, they still resonate with the director’s apparent affection for them.

taking_woodstock_stillThe film also contains one of my favorite LSD trips captured on film to date. And what would a film about Woodstock be without an LSD trip or two?

So run out and rent yourself a copy of WOODSTOCK: 3 DAYS OF PEACE AND MUSIC: THE DIRECTOR’S CUT, then take in a matinee of TAKING WOODSTOCK to complete the journey. And remember, this one’s just meant to be charming, fun and entertaining. And at that, it succeeds.


Harry Reasoner’s Hippie Temptation: Jerry Garcia Week Continues

GAP0017-03-FPIn 1967, Harry Reasoner narrated a TV doc titled “The Hippie Temptation.” At the center of that frightened little doc was a band called the Grateful Dead. Footage includes the Dead and friends interviewed at their now famous 710 Ashbury Street apartment, as well as performing a free concert in Golden Gate Park.

The Media Center at Moffitt Library, UC Berkeley Propaganda and Misinformation page describes the doc like this:

Hippie Temptation is a study of the lifestyle of hippies in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district (narrated by Harry Reasoner looking like he’s about to explode!). Explores the reasons why young people become hippies and the great dependence of the hippie culture on drugs, especially their experimentation with LSD. Includes an interview and performance with a young, obscure rock group, the Grateful Dead.

Here’s a terrific snippet from that documentary:

Harry Reasoner’s Hippie Temptation: Jerry Garcia Week Continues

Down The Technological Rabbit Hole: LSD Inventor Hofmann’s Letter To Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

Well, it seems psychedelic drugs and the modern computer age have more in common than one might expect. Apple CEO Steve Jobs once said his experience taking LSD was “one of the two or three most important things I have done in my life.”

According to New York Times technology reporter, John Markoff:

Psychedelic drugs pushed the computer and Internet revolutions forward by showing folks that reality can be profoundly altered through unconventional, highly intuitive thinking.

Douglas Engelbart, who invented the computer mouse, was someone who experimented and explored using psychedelic drugs. Kevin Herbert, who worked for Cisco Systems in the early days, has stated:

“When I’m on LSD and hearing something that’s pure rhythm, it takes me to another world and into anther brain state where I’ve stopped thinking and started knowing.”

Herbert apparently claims to have “solved his toughest technical problems while tripping to drum solos by the Grateful Dead.”

“It must be changing something about the internal communication in my brain. Whatever my inner process is that lets me solve problems, it works differently, or maybe different parts of my brain are used.”

Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the founders of Google, are longtime visitors and participants in Burning Man, an annual gathering in the Nevada desert devoted to communal enlightenment by creating an environment which invites its attendees to use different parts of their brains.

According to John Gilmore, the fifth employee at Sun Microsystems:

“What psychedelics taught me is that life is not rational. IBM was a very rational company.”

To this end, Steve Jobs was once quoted as saying that Bill Gates would “be a broader guy if he had dropped acid once.”

Chemist Kary Mullis once told Gilmore that acid helped him develop his 1993 Nobel prize-winning polymerase chain reaction, a significant and crucial breakthrough for biochemistry.

According to British wire service reporter Alun Reese, Francis Crick who, along with James Watson discovered DNA, had told friends that he first saw the double-helix structure while tripping on LSD.

Albert Hofmann

So back to Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann who, for those who don’t already know, was the inventor of LSD. Hofmann, at the ripe age of 101 (he died at 102), wrote to Steve Jobs asking for his financial support in the study and exploration of both the medical and psychiatric benefits of psychedelic drugs.

Here is that letter in its entirety:

Dear Mr. Steve Jobs,

Hello from Albert Hofmann. I understand from media accounts that you feel LSD helped you creatively in your development of Apple computers and your personal spiritual quest. I’m interested in learning more about how LSD was useful to you.

I’m writing now, shortly after my 101st birthday, to request that you support Swiss psychiatrist Dr. Peter Gasser’s proposed study of LSD-assisted psychotherapy in subjects with anxiety associated with life-threatening illness. This will become the first LSD-assisted psychotherapy study in over 35 years.

I hope you will help in the transformation of my problem child into a wonder child.


A. Hofmann

Down The Technological Rabbit Hole: LSD Inventor Hofmann’s Letter To Steve Jobs