Today’s random item is a brief review of the Alien Dreamtime VHS video, produced by Ken Adams and Brit Welin as Rose-X Media House (not the audio CD, which was edited by Jonah Sharp, aka Spacetime Continuum for the Astralwerks label–there are some differences between the two aside from the fact that one includes video). This review, by none other than our friend R. U. Sirius (aka Ken Goffman, if you must), appeared in Wired Magazine for its issue of May 1994. [This item is from the digital archives, meaning that there is no physical copy of this magazine yet in the collection. We do have a copy of the Alien Dreamtime VHS, though.]
“Call him unscientific or intellectually lazy, but Terence McKenna’s brand of psychedelic blarney – always more fun to hear live than to read – is so beautifully phrased that it transcends the historic and anthropological bean counters who dis him.”
Sleeping with the Aliens
The Alien Dreamtime video, produced by Rose-X Media House, is Terence McKenna’s “Greatest Hits,” spoken to the rhythm of the rave, live in San Francisco. Call him unscientific or intellectually lazy, but Terence McKenna’s brand of psychedelic blarney – always more fun to hear live than to read – is so beautifully phrased that it transcends the historic and anthropological bean counters who dis him. In this video, Terence gets off the basic themes outlined in his three books: True Hallucinations, Food of the Gods, and The Archaic Revival (updating McLuhan, McKenna claims that postindustrial cyberculture is leading us back into the future toward archaic prepatriarchal modes of living – witness the rise of Modern Primitivism), the oppressiveness of “mono” culture (“monopoly, monogamy, monotony”), and the place of tryptamine hallucinogens in human evolution (“the psilocybin mushroom is the catalyst of human evolution and language”).
Alien Dreamtime is the second video Rose-X has produced with ethnobotanist McKenna. (The first, Experiment at Petaluma, was a 30-minute rap on the possibilities of visual language.) Rose-X’s two-person team – Britt Welin and Ken Adams – cut their special effects teeth on visual effects for San Francisco’s Toon Town Raves. Alien Dreamtime stretches the duo’s psychedelic computer effects to new limits, and Stephen Kent’s didgeridoo adds a note of primitive intensity to the techno-rave soundtrack. The high point of the 60-minute Alien Dreamtime is the entrancing dance and sway of psychedelic love goddess Kim Kyle. The presence of the feminine form in all of its grandeur provides a humanizing touchstone amid the abstract imagery. (In fact, my only complaint about this video is that we should have seen more of her. But that’s a minor quibble.) Fans of a good psychedelic rant must run out and purchase this video right away!
Today’s random item is among those items from the archive that are largely irrelevant. It offers no significant information about Terence McKenna (except a lead to another newspaper article) and no significant insight. However, what it does provide an example of (an admittedly very small datapoint at best), is a localized published response to the awareness of Terence McKenna’s existence. That is, it shows us one set of responses to psychedelic culture and the notion of a psychedelic philosopher. In this case, the response is to dismiss and minimize via humor.
The article, titled ‘Tripping Out With Terence, the Psychonaut of Inner Space”, appeared in The Irish Times on May 23, 1994, and, although the byline is attributed only to Brendan Glacken, it appears to be a dialogue of some sort (perhaps entirely invented by Glacken or, perhaps, with an unnamed interlocutor). The overall tone, as you’ll see, is disapproving and dismissive albeit in a semi-informational and light-hearted vein, but there are some delightful Irish colloquialisms that I’ll leave you to sort out for yourself. This, then, is one of the ways that an Irish audience might have been introduced to Terence McKenna in the mid-90s.
I was reading a British newspaper the other day about a Mr. Terence McKenna (47), described as an ethno-botanist and psychedelic philosopher.
An ethno-botanist and psychedelic philosopher.
We’d say young be thumping the pages of Education Living for mannies the long day before you’d see that come up under “Me and My Job.’
So what’s his game exactly?
Well, once every two months he gets into bed and takes what he describes as “a heroic dose” of psilocybin mushrooms.
…the author makes some bad jokes about culinary mushrooms…
…These mushrooms are hallucinogenic.
Correct. But Mr. McKenna explains: “My mind-brain system is a laboratory where I explore the great mystery of life. The boundaries that define the waking world are dissolved. I become a psychonaut of inner-space, entering complex experiences beyond language, bizarre yet beautiful landscapes never seen before.”
The Lord save us. What does he think about dreams?
That each night we are trying to rediscover something we find and lose every 24 hours; that when we dream we are plunged into some primordial pool of imagery.
some reminiscences by the author about his own fairly xenophobic dreams of a “big black fellow standing over us with a sharp spear”….
He’s out at wild sex and drug orgies every night of the week I suppose?
On the contrary, he claims to be very reclusive and unsociable.
Does he take ajar?… If a man doesn’t take ajar, and there’s no medical condition involved, it’s a good bet he’s done mad on drugs, that’s our opinion.
His idea of a great evening is, and I quote, a “200-year-old book and a snifter of brandy.”
Fair play to him. Brandy is an expensive poison, where exactly does all his money come from?
Books, lectures, records and CDs dealing with his dreams and hallucinations.
We’re in the wrong line of business is all we can say.
I am familiar with the feeling.
More interesting are the comments by Susan De Muth whose interview with Terence is the basis of The Irish Times piece:
He was the fastest-talking person I have ever met and – unlike Timothy Leary – did not appear to have suffered any mental degeneration as a result of his massive ingestion of drugs.
Later, I saw him guru-like on stage in a night club, surrounded by fans sitting cross-legged and listening intently to his psychedelic message.
He was very generous and gave me lots of collaborative CDs he’d made with various bands and individual musicians.
On six very special nights a year I unplug the telephone, lock the front door, turn off the lights, get into bed and, alone in silent darkness, take a huge amount – an heroic dose – of psilocybin mushrooms.
For me this is not an hedonic activity.
After about four hours I get up, exhausted, and make myself something to eat. Then I fall into a deep sleep, way beyond normal dreaming, and wake with memories and data that will keep me inspired for weeks.
Normal dreams are not a disappointment to me. I’m fascinated by all kinds of mental activity, including those day- residue dreams where you’ve forgotten to buy the milk . . . and nightmares, too.
I often dream of places I haven’t been: a futuristic city I call Hong-Kong-Morocco-Tasmania. There are also hundreds of strangers in my dreams to whom I relate as if I know them. This is very much like my life: I meet so many people since I’ve become some kind of minor icon on the underground scene that I’m often in situations where I vaguely recognise someone but have no idea who they are.
I don’t have any trouble sleeping, which is a shame because I’m thrilled by the prospect of insomnia. I once went for nine days and nights without sleep in the Amazonian jungle and found it an ecstatic experience. At night I’d walk deep into the jungle or sit somewhere and just contemplate: I found I could follow four or five trains of thought simultaneously and never lose the thread.
When we were children my mother used to put us to bed and say, ‘now you’re going into the friendly darkness’
I don’t envisage giving up drugs at any point. The older I get, the more like a psychedelic waking dream everyday life appears to me.
Well, the random number generator seems to have a thing for ‘Alien Dreamtime’, so here we are again….another review of the 1993 album/video/event, this time in none other than the iconic Billboard Magazine in their issue of January 22, 1994. This certainly would have carried Terence’s name to a pretty wide audience, though the impression people would have received is less than complimentary. The short and negative review was written by Catherine Applefeld.
The fragile realm of the psychedelic experience and the suffocating threat of exposure to those who are just plain living form the thesis of this performance video, which was filmed before an audience in San Francisco. Leading viewers on the so-called magical mystery tour is a sniveling little man who throws out empty sound bites as quickly and seamlessly as he changes inflection. Here are some favorites: “The three evils of society are hegemony, monogamy, and monotony,”
and “Going through life without having a psychedelic experience to going to the grave without having sex.” Maybe so, but this guy’s delivery is enough to scare Timothy Leary straight. Those going on a trip are advised to leave this pretentious piece of work behind.”
Again, as with Harley Barnhart’s characterization of Terence as “rancorous and contumacious,” not everyone cares for Terence, his prose, or his rhetorical style.