Sunday, July 26, 2009

Introducing the Gout Thong!

By popular demand, and developed from a concept by activist/flautist Erik Knutzen, DougH on the Go in conjunction with CafePress is proud to present The Gout Thong - a New American Classic. Don't say we never did anything for you.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Speak of the Devil!

Just after finishing the last post, the WEEKLY not only published my review of Feral house's Love Sex Fear Death: The Inside Story of the Process Church of the Final Judgment but bumped it up to 'Featured Story' status, which almost certainly means I'll be getting another check in the mail (joke). I don't know if I'll have time to compare and contrast versions, but I noticed one glitch in the official print & online version, where - in trying to parse one of my rambling convoluted sentences - some one upstairs misidentified the owner of "the point of view of an overworked acolyte" as Robert de Grimston (picture above) rather than author Timothy Wyllie. They also misplaced my hilarious "Process Cheese" title. So you're better off reading the version below, though please continue to patronize the call-girls, laser vaginal rejuvenators and compassionate dispensaries that are the WEEKLY's honored patrons. I know I will.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Lost Chapter on the Process Church

This piece got bumped for space from the WEEKLY book issue, and is supposed to be printed any day in some form - it was online for a day, then vanished mysteriously! So in case it never surfaces, I present:

Process Cheese and How It Spread

Love Sex Fear Death
The Inside Story of The Process Church of the Final Judgment

by Timothy Wyllie
Edited by Adam Parfrey
304 pages • 7 x 10 • many color images • ISBN: 978-1932595376
Price: $24.95

"The Satanic Ritual Abuse (or SRA) conspiracy fad of the 1980s may have torn apart families, destroyed the lives of innumerable innocent people, and set the credibility of clinical psychology back at least 50 years -- but for fans of sleazy, poorly-researched exploitative true-crime books, it was a godsend. While cognoscenti hold a special place in their hearts for such early fabrications as Michelle Remembers and The Satan Seller, the piece de resistance of the genre was Maury Terry’s enthralling 640-page bestseller The Ultimate Evil, which attributed the Manson, Zodiac, and Son of Sam murders to a global satanic underground masterminded by a sinister cult known as The Process Church of the Final Judgment, led by the shadowy and charismatic Robert de Grimston, who had disappeared from public view in the early 70s.

The only problem was that, by the time Terry’s 1987 magnum opus briefly rekindled the flames of the dwindling SRA media frenzy, de Grimston had reverted to his birth name of Robert Moor and was working an office day job in Staten Island, while the Process Church itself – from which he’d long been excommunicated – had morphed into the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, the largest no-kill animal shelter in America. Somewhere between these mundane and sensationalist extremes lay the truth about the Process Church and its role in the cultural upheavals in the 60s, but reliable accounts were fragmentary and scattered.

Enter Adam Parfrey and Genesis P. Orridge. Originally teaming up to issue a facsimile collection of the Process’ strikingly designed apocalyptically-charged magazines (which remain highly sought-after collectors items), the Feral House publisher and Throbbing Gristle/Temple of Psychic Youth founder quickly realized that a number of Process insiders were prepared to go on the record about their years with the controversial sect. The result is Love Sex Fear Death: The Inside Story of the Process Church of the Final Judgment – titled after, and reproducing some pages from the group’s glossy underground zine – but dominated by 120 pages of autobiographical reminiscences by Timothy Wyllie AKA Father Micah AKA Mithra AKA Father Jesse, one of the original inner circle that founded the group in London in the early 60s.

Wyllie was friends with former public-school boy and British Army officer DeGrimston (then Moor) at architecture school but had lost contact for a couple of years when, in 1963, he got a call out of the blue. Robert and his new wife Mary Anne had decided to leave Scientology and develop their own program of psychological and spiritual development, based on the use of an e-meter and self-examination in an intensive interview scenario. In the course of his reminiscences, Wyllie reveals what has been rumored for some time – that Robert DeGrimston was more or less a dummy figurehead for the megalomaniacal schemings of Mary Anne.

Mary Anne MacLean had experienced a childhood defined by poverty and neglect in Glasgow before becoming a high-end prostitute in London, supposedly hooking up with Sugar Ray Robinson for a time, before recognizing that her particular talents could be put to more lucrative effect in other areas. As the DeGrimstons’ “Compulsions Analysis” sessions began attracting more and more disaffected proto-hippy types, the group began having remarkable spiritual experiences, and began suspecting that they were not only on the cutting edge of experiential psychological research, but were in fact a chosen spiritual elite ordained to herald the end times.

According to Terry and his ilk, what followed was a rapidly expanding, systematic program of ritual sacrifice and atonal music, designed to precipitate the apocalypse through the summoning of a Celtic death god named Samhain. Wyllie’s account is somewhat more prosaic and farcical, following the Process Church’s random global peregrinations, incoherent channeled theology (which gave equal billing to Satan, Lucifer, Christ and Jehovah) and increasingly totalitarian bureaucratic hierarchy from the point of view of an overworked acolyte who believed he was being guided along a path of spiritual evolution by an incarnate Goddess, or at least a secret Sufi master.

While there are plenty of juicy bits – your flagellation, your sex orgies, your celebrity cameos (yelled at by Klaus Kinski and Miles Davis! Who’da thunk?) – most of the anecdotes in Love Sex Fear Death (abetted by numerous shorter reminiscences and period documents) are sordid in a less titillating sense, as a gradual unraveling of a seemingly sincere moment of collective inspiration into all-too-familiar routines of coercion and greed, charting Wyllie’s inevitable disillusionment with and departure from the New Religion he had helped invent and define. It is a patently un-glamorous saga of indentured panhandling, dumpster-diving, child neglect, public-access proseletysing, and Heathers-level Machiavellianism – detailing the insidious banality of evil more convincingly than Process theology or Maury Terry ever could.

Robert DeGrimston was forced out by Mary Anne in 1974, and after unsuccessfully trying to start a Process revival, gave up and got a real job. Mary Anne kept revising and renaming the group, gradually removing all references to Satan and Lucifer before realizing that it was easier to persuade the rubes to part with their hard-earned jack for the protection of poor little defenseless animals than to facilitate the immanentization of the eschaton. Ultra-ironically, Wyllie recounts a rumor that her death in 2005 was the result of an attack by feral dogs who’d broken out of their “sanctuary.” Who says Jehovah doesn’t have a sense of humor?"

Sunday, July 19, 2009

About the Gout

After regular periodic mentions on this blog, many readers sometimes ask: What is the Gout and what does it look like? I have included the above psychedelic landscape of the joint above my right big toe, taken in the third week of my recent attack (after it migrated from my left knee), and refer you otherwise to the Wikipedia article, which begins:

"Gout is a disease hallmarked by elevated levels of uric acid in the bloodstream. In this condition, crystals of monosodium urate (MSU) or uric acid are deposited on the articular cartilage of joints, tendons, and surrounding tissues. It is marked by transient painful attacks of acute arthritis initiated by crystallization of urates within and about the joints and eventually leads to chronic gouty arthritis and the deposition of masses of urates in joints and other sites, creating tophi. Gout results from a combination of prolonged elevation of uric acid and overall acidity in the bloodstream. In isolation, neither elevated uric acid nor acidity is sufficient to cause gout. Historically, it was known as the "The Disease of Kings" or "Rich man's disease".

The Wikipedia entry also reproduces this excellent 1799 etching by British caricaturist James Gillray who was afflicted by the condition and died in mental hospital after an unsuccessful suicide attempt:

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Over Sideways Down Under Painting

"In Australia in 1971, a 30-year-old white Sydney schoolteacher named Geoff Bardon took a posting in the Aboriginal-relocation community of Papunya in the outback west of Alice Springs, teaching art to the children of the patchwork indigenous community. When he began to encourage them to paint the traditional patterns they habitually traced in the sand — instead of the westernized cowboy-and-Indian scenarios that were expected of them — he inadvertently triggered one of the most remarkable artistic events of the 20th century. The Western Desert Art Movement began as a sudden outpouring of traditional visual material by dirt-poor male Aboriginal elders in this unlikely remote location, and has basically continued unabated, while expanding into a successful multibillion-dollar niche of the international art market and a major source of economic support, cultural pride and political empowerment for the indigenous Australian people."

"Less than two years after arriving in Papunya, having broken under the pressure of racist individuals and institutions that wanted to stick to helping the natives with the tried-and-true strategies of incremental genocide, a.k.a. assimilation (and Johnny-on-the-spot carpetbaggers eager to cheat the artists out of even the relative pittances their canvases fetched in those early days), Bardon fled the settlement in the middle of the night, and unwittingly committed himself into the hands of notorious psychiatrist Harry Bailey, whose MK-ULTRA-style “treatments” consisted of lengthy induced barbiturate comas spiked with massive electroshocks — sometimes on a daily basis and often unauthorized. Twenty-six people died while under his care, and many others — Bardon included — were left permanently disabled. Continual pressure from dissatisfied customers, activists (including Scientology!) and journalists finally got Bailey’s “deep-sleep therapy” clinic shut down, and Bailey killed himself in 1985 in the face of a government investigation."

"This peculiar and tragic story of almost accidental inspiration and martyrdom lies uneasily at the center of the history of contemporary Australian Aboriginal painting, so it’s appropriate that a short documentary on Bardon’s Papunya experience — 2004’s Mr. Patterns, --directed by Catriona McKenzie — runs, like an anomalous apparition from another world, looped on a monitor in the middle of the UCLA Fowler Museum’s two concurrent exhibits of Western Desert Painting. Which is an interesting inversion, since the paintings themselves are, more or less, portals to another dimension."

Read the rest of Outback Renaissance here

Visit the official website for the Icons of the Desert exhibit here.

See Icons of the Desert and Innovations in Western Desert Painting 1972-1999 at the UCLA Fowler Museum through August 2

Images top to bottom: Johnny Warangkula Tjupurrula Water Dreaming at Kalipinypa, Tim Leura Tjapaltjarri Yam Spirit Dreaming, Mick Namararri Tjapaltjarri Big Cave Dreaming with Ceremonial Object, all works 1972, Collection of John and Barbara Wilkerson, Photos by Tony De Camillo

Thursday, July 2, 2009

North, to Victorian Ferndale, and Partway Back

I've been weirdly crippled for the last 2 weeks from what I believe is a new left knee-centric manifestation of The Gout. In spite of this, we succeeded in making the journey north to the Humboldt County Fairgrounds in beautiful Victorian Ferndale for the Lost Coast Kennel Club's annual 2-day show. I managed to get a good deal on an SUV rental with Priceline, but when we got around to looking for shelter, we found ourselves looking at $120 plus $20 per dog (X3!) per night, until I discovered the peculiar world of KOA Kampgrounds -- a family-oriented franchise chain noted for its miniature golf facilities and standardized faux rustic Kamping Kabins. 

A weird thing happened on Thursday as we were driving to Burbank Airport to pick up the rental SUV -- we were stuck in unusually heavy traffic around noon on the I-5, listening to a mix CD I made and the demo version of the Jacksons' "Shake Your Body" came on and I said "Michael Jackson" and M.A. said "Michael Jackson's causing this traffic jam? What did he do?" That got me thinking what a sad weird life he had, then when we got home it turned out he had just died. Mere coincidence?

As we headed north, we kept using dog-travel resource fieldbooks to try to locate dog-friendly facilities where three whippets could cut loose with impunity, but kept getting lost. Finally we gave up, and would just bail off the freeway on the outskirts of Bakersfield or wherever, and within minutes were able to locate an empty fenced-off soccer field or playground. This may just testify to the relative plenitude of public space (particularly the un-padlocked variety) outside of LA, but the whole trip was sort of infused with an improvisational grace.

We drove straight through, something like 12 hours. The last part was really David Lynchian, winding through the redwoods with almost no traffic, brights on, sinuous lines of reflector traffic beads pulsing like a Bridget Riley animation, occasional giant trees jutting into the road, or a sudden panoramic array of brightly colored chainsaw-carved cartoon figures emerging from the void, only to be swallowed back again immediately. Good thing I only ate half that brownie! We arrived at the KOA Kampground at 3 or so, found our Kabin and let the dogs romp silently in the standard K-9 Kompound, all of which are equipped with dwarf agility equipment. Here is a detail of the sun-blasted bulletin board adjoining the men's restroom which I discovered in the morning after a few hours shut-eye:

We backtracked a few miles from Eureka to Ferndale and found the Fairgrounds where the dog show was happening. Portfolio did very well on Saturday, winning his first Best of Breed and thereby earning the first point toward his Championship. I got a chance to explore the Fairgrounds and take some pictures, then the whippets practiced their Nosework before they all got their first experience of lure coursing -- a sport where a plastic bag (or something) is dragged around a field in an elaborate pattern very quickly, simulating a bunny running away. Nigel tried a racetrack version a year or so back, and just didn't get it, but he was right on top of the motherfucker this time. Portfolio also did well, and Chloe delivered a breakout performance complete with head-over-heels tumble into the finish line. 

We crashed briefly back at the Kampground, then no-sleep addled, decided to check out the Samoan Peninsula. We didn't have the time to check out their famous Historic Samoa Cookhouse - the last surviving lumber camp-style cookhouse in the West, built in 1893 - but the dog guide lady guided us true in that the place is surrounded by amazing deserted beaches, and the dogs went crazy again. As the sun sank into the Pacific, Chloe posed for her upcoming solo acoustic torch song album cover, and they almost met a seal.

On Sunday Portfolio won 1st in his Class of one, but didn't receive any further accolades, but we had to stick around for the raffle as there was a heavy clear Lucite silhouette of a doberman - a used trophy in fact - up for grabs, and I wanted it for a friend. I didn't win it, but I did come away with a new waterproof overcoat for Chloe. We finally hit the road but realized another 12 hour marathon was out of the question, and since I had had to book the SUV through Monday, the only question was where to stop. We did take a detour to drive thru the Chandelier Drive-Thru Tree in Leggett - Chloe found her passage blocked in the nearby non-drive-thru (but taggable) tree. Also pictured, the sun-blasted KOA Eureka men's restroom bulletin board version of the attraction:

After a doggie break in Santa Rosa I had a brainwave and pulled over into a strip mall Starbucks to try and get online. The Starbucks was closed, but their wi-fi was up and I learned they have a proprietary deal with ATT, and wanted $3.99 to log on. Fuck that. Driving around the parking lot, I picked up another signal, and thanks to I was able to find and book a KOA Kabin in Petaluma, just north of San Francisco. An altogether more gentrified Kampground, where - strangely, for the most wired city in the world - I couldn't get online at all - probably due to all the regular American families managing their facebook accounts, playing WOW and DLing porn in the wilderness LOL.

In the morning we decided to take the #1 highway down past Big Sur - something we've wanted to do for 20 years and never got around to. We stopped by in Santa Cruz for a Falafel at the place by the Casino (!) and I took a picture of the back of this beat camper with some kind of pink petroglyph blankie in the window. Santa Cruz. We wound through the clouds on down the coast, stopping to capture images of the whippets mimicking the pose struck by a Hollywood shiksa seconds earlier (scrreee! Shoot me Daddy! click. VROOM!) Anyway, I realized that the reason I never got around to making the trip before was that I subconsciously realized if I ever did I would immediately want to give it all up and live naked in a treehouse on the grounds of the Esalen Institute. Which is where I am now. Thank god they have wi-fi!