Sunday, 23 December 2007

Fear & Loathing in Denver

Denver to me meant Hunter S Thompson, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady. It existed in books alone, as brief home of the Beats, and tantalisingly close to Woody Creek, once the ‘fortified compound’ of Doctor Gonzo. I had no real idea of what Denver would be like, except that temperatures would be well below zero, the air thinner than an anorexic’s waist, and that I was invited to the premiere of Wayne Ewing’s The Outsiders of New Orleans.
So, armed with that knowledge, I rolled into Denver at midnight, with no place to stay, having stumbled off a train after a forty hour journey from San Luis Obispo, having freaked the shit out of many a passenger by telling them the two painful truths of my trip: that I was travelling a thousand miles to catch a movie, and that I had been living in a barn for the last few months… Oh well, some folks just don’t get the luxury of barns, sleeping crooked-necked on Amtraks, and subsisting on a diet of dehydrated cranberries…
Denver was not cold at midnight in the middle of November. Not any colder than Central California had been, anyway, and nothing like a brisk winter chill back home in sunny Scotland. I had gone out in preparation and bought a World War II jacket, as used by the troops training in the Rockies in the dead of winter… And I was wearing it over a t-shirt, a jersey, and another warm jacket. I also had on a hat, a scarf and a pair of gloves. Below freezing? I was fucking roasted alive as I walked past the Coors stadium, a piece of paper with the address of a hostel in my hand.
I knew fine well that hostels closed before midnight across the world, but I still hoped maybe I wouldn’t end up sleeping in the gutter in Denver, getting sodomised by some angry black man. Indeed, I was right to worry, for as in any American city, I seemed to draw an outrageous amount of attention from the black population, who watched me and followed me and talked about me, and so I was constantly driven to keep my head down and walk quickly and purposefully.
Which is not an easy thing to do when all you really know is that you’re looking for a number of a building on a street that stretches for over a mile, and none of the buildings seem to have numbers, so you just keep walking back and forth until it get to about one am and you finally find the place locked… I looked about, seriously considering a night on a park bench or in some soft gutter, but instead just hammered away at the door, afraid of trespassing on someone else’s gutter-spot.
“Where are you from?” a gruff voice boomed down from the second floor window. It emanated from the head of an old man who appeared to be tied into some kind of breathing apparatus. I was surprised even from my vantage point to hear such a loud voice.
“Scotland,” I replied, quietly, as I could see the locals beginning to stare and ponder whether or not they could have their way with me before my predicament was resolved.
“Where are you from?” he asked again, and again and again and again until eventually he gave up not hearing me and buzzed me in.
I pushed the gated metal door open and received a massive electric shock for my efforts. I thought it was some kind of joke, but later found that everything in the hostel had an electric current running wildly through it, and I became used to receiving brutal jolts of blue magic.
I signed into the hostel in the old man’s bedroom, sitting silently with his wife as he wheeled his breathing machine around and wheezed and struggled to talk. I guessed the effort of shouting down had utterly worn him out, for his voice was now no more than a harsh whisper. I gave him the money for one night stay, plus a deposit I would never get back. I knew that then and I didn’t give a fuck, but a dump like this was enough to tide me over and I’d have paid anything for not receiving a street-bumming and losing my laptop to some homie.
I crashed for the night in an electric room, exhausted after my forty hour sitting session and brief stroll through the streets of ‘whores with hearts of cheap gold’.
I woke and realised that the night had been acceptable: I’d slept and that was all I’d wanted. After spending half an hour on the internet, I realised that there was no way out of Denver I could get after attending the premiere, so I had to book another electrifying night in the Melbourne. I ran into town and found an ATM, then ran back in time for the ten am check-out time, and booked another night.
Then I walked back into town, determined to have a good day, and knowing from my online research that I’d be getting the six am bus out of Denver the following morning. It would be a short stay, and I wanted to pack as much in as possible. This was the stomping ground of Kerouac, Cassady and Ginsberg, and Doctor Gonzo had spent more than a few nights in the city, too. I had a list of Beat sites to see, but I never intended on a structured programme of touring. In San Francisco, I’d made firm plans and stuck them, and I’d seen what I’d wanted to see, but suffered brutally for my efforts. That trip had been a bit of a disaster, but Denver would be short and sweet and spontaneous.
I stopped for coffee at Caribou, and then walked down the 16th Street shopping mall, digging it in its morning-quiet state of intrigue. The Christmas decorations were up and the shops were ones I’d mostly never seen before: Colorado chains and tourist traps. I walked to the end of the mall and sat in the park between the Capitol Building and the State and County Building, watching squirrels and hobos bask in the sun, and writing crude poems in my little notebook. The city was stunning from where I sat, and I was more relaxed than I’d ever been in San Fran. And sitting there, I knew I was where Kerouac had watched bats and Ginsberg had contemplated madness.
After a while I stood and walked into town again for lunch in a café next to the big town clock. I used their WiFi to check Google Maps, confirming where I was going next: The Tivoli at Denver University. It didn’t seem to hard to find.
And it wasn’t. I found it, waited around outside, and then watched The Outsiders of New Orleans in a room full of guys in Hunter S Thompson get-up, drinking Bloody Marys and clutching grapefruits. After the film I talked to Wayne Ewing and arranged a tour of Thompson’s home for the next day. I also agreed to go to a directors’ party in the evening.
My purpose for the visit complete, I took a walk back into town, up Larimer and dug Cassady’s street in all its modern nothingness. Now it was somewhere between poverty and affluence, and utterly without character, but back in the hazy Beat street days of Denver delinquency, it was skid-row all the way from top to bottom. It was once nothing but bars, pool halls and pawn shops, and was now bars, but somewhere between classy and faux-classy reminiscence.
I walked back across the city and into the Colorado Natural History Museum, where I conversed with an Iranian security guard after hours about the state of America. I loved it, he loathed it; but we could both agreed that things were rather fucked up. I hesitated to ask him why he had come here if he didn’t like America or Americans, or even why he’d stayed for five years, and why he thought he had the right to complain so aggressively if the country had accommodated him for five long years… But instead I listened as he told about his learning Japanese in order to move to Japan and start a new life in a friendlier country. As I left, he drew me a map of places not to go after dark in Denver, and I bid him farewell.
Somewhere and at sometime during the day, my phone had died. The battery was dead and I was a bit screwed. I needed the phone because it had all my phone numbers stored in its memory, and it also served as an alarm clock, which I needed for getting up at five in the morning. Luckily, I had Wayne Ewing’s business card, so I would able to call him from a phone box in a sketchy little park.
But the phone wouldn’t work, and kept giving me bullshit directions on how to operate it, but my knowledge of US area codes and phone operation was not up to scratch. I decided to walk into town and try another. I needed to call him to get the address of the party. No luck. There are few public phones these days, and the ones that do exist are generally broken and pissed on by a weird and depraved breed of Americans.
I headed back to the hostel, intending to get dinner later, on my way to the party. But when I used the hostel phone, all I got was his answer phone. Shit. I was tired from having walked around the city all day, and starting to think that maybe going to a party was not such a tempting idea. It seemed a waste to have travelled a thousand miles and not go, but tomorrow would be an eventful day…
The problem for tomorrow lay in the fact that it hinged on my contacting Wayne Ewing and arranging to get to Woody Creek. I did a spot of online research and could find no way of getting there on my own, and if I did manage to get there, I could see no place I could stay. I couldn’t risk getting trapped out in the mountains, but if I waited until the light of day to get plans hammered out, then I might be forced to spend another night in Denver. It wasn’t a bad city, but I was done. Next up was Woody Creek or something else.
I could hardly afford the trip, either. The whole thing was mounting in cost with ever passing hour, and one thing I’d learned was that travelling could save money in sleeping, for if done right you could combine the two and avoid paying for accommodation.
I phoned Wayne a few more times and kept getting the answer phone, so I though ‘Fuck it,” and decided to take the first train out of Denver the next day. I wasn’t about to get lost in the middle of nowhere with no money and no phone. So I made up my mind and thought about dinner.
I sat in the kitchen of the Melbourne hostel and debated my options until a pretty Australian girl appeared and made me dinner. She knocked up bacon rolls and green tea and we sat and talked about America and the years it turned out she’d spent in Glasgow. Eventually, the subject came around that she was going to Aspen in three days, but that she wasn’t really sure how to get there. She reckoned she’d probably have to pay for a private ride out, which had certainly seemed to me to be the only realistic way of getting there.
After a few hours she went to bed, and I kept sitting around until a Chinese guy came through and we got thoroughly wasted on a crate of Corona he’d bought. We talked about computers and business, and he told me that he’d come to Denver to work a minimum wage job, even though he had a degree in Computer Programming. Poor bastard, I thought, but good luck to him.
I went to bed and slept in two minute sessions, on and off, until four in the morning. It was ridiculous, trying to use my own body as an alarm clock in the absence of my phone. The bald fuck-head across from me was snoring like an asshole, too, and I kept falling asleep and dreaming of murdering him, and then waking and hearing him and regretting that it was only a dream and that I didn’t have the balls to actually kill the fucker… What would it matter, anyway, as I was fleeing the city in a few sweet hours?
I woke when I woke and went to Caribou for more strong, black coffee, and talked to the black guy behind the counter about life and Christmas. He was a damn fine gent of a man, and I left with a smile on my face, a coffee in my hand, and a newspaper under my should, deciding that I’d go to Arizona and see what the craic was…

Friday, 14 December 2007

Issue Two

Issue Two of Beatdom Magazine is coming... There is no date yet, but we're gathering the submissions, laying it all out, and hopefully by the end of the year we'll have another issue ready for you all to read.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

The Outsiders of New Orleans: A Review

Wayne Ewing became a personal hero of mine when he made a fantastic trilogy of documentaries about the late, great Dr. Hunter S Thompson. When I discovered he was putting together a documentary about the eccentric publishers of Beatniks and Bukowski, I jumped at the chance to take Beatdom from the cold climes of Scotland to the surprisingly warm weather of Denver, Colorado, where The Outsiders of New Orleans: The Loujon Press was premiering…

“Where are you from?” the disembodied head called from a window above the heavily gated security door at the front of the Melbourne Hostel in Denver.
“Scotland,” I called back.
“Where are you from?”
And thus ended my chase through the streets of angry negroes after dark, in a strange city and entering a strange world of respirator-clad old people with heading problems and a penchant for over-warm rooms… But I guess that’s a sidestory. I was staying in a dank little hostel on 22nd and Welton, not exactly the best of places, but far from being the worst. Nonetheless, it was a tough place to find after a forty-hour train ride across the American West, into a dark new city full of angry blacks and ‘whores with hearts of cheap gold.’
I decided there and then I was not going back out onto the streets that night to traverse the city and find the party that Wayne had suggested I attend. I settled down in my room full of snoring dudes and went to sleep for the night.
The next morning I took advantage of the daylight and explored the city a little, before heading to the university area and the Tivoli, where the 30th Annual Starz Denver Film Festival was being held, an event at which Wayne Ewing has become a regular guest director.
I’m no stranger to university campuses either side of the Atlantic, but I liked this one. The student union was not only home to beer and debauchery, but like so many buildings in Denver, it once was a brewery. Of course, now like so many buildings in any American city there were McDonalds and various other cheap ‘n’ nasty eateries inside.
The atmosphere was the healthy film fest blend of young and old, artists and critics, students and masters… A few hardcore types wandered about with grapefruits and Bloody Marys, a tribute to the late Doc, started during the premieres of Ewing’s documentaries in years gone by… Popcorn, beer and Coca-Cola sated the masses; the promise of photo exhibitions and movie debuts got the rest worked up...
I grabbed a second row seat in the theatre, next to a decent looking chap in Hunter get-up, kitted out with the apparently traditional drink-and-fruit combo. From the way the organisers and personnel spoke with the crowd, I could tell Ewing’s documentaries were a regular and popular festival feature, with a group of familiar fans. This hardly surprised me, having spent time perusing his websites and forums, and seeing the die-hards that hang out and discuss the scenes and ideas throughout Ewing’s work.
It’s not hard to see why. We know from (and I will continue to dwell on the Hunter S Thompson references for the simple reason that I try and crowbar his name into every aspect of my life…) Breakfast With Hunter et al that Ewing can perfectly present an intimate portrait of an eccentric character and a masterful telling of a fantastic literary legacy, and The Outsiders of New Orleans does the same for the Webbs and their Loujon Press.
Gypsy Lou is no normal woman. She’s wonderful and unique, and Ewing allows us to get up close and personal with her, letting her largely narrate the story of her life, that of the Loujon Press, and of the Old New Orleans, telling all in her inimitable style.
It is surely testament to both Ewing’s endearing personality and skill as a filmmaker that we come to see Lou on such a personal level, in a time where the documentary film genre is running rampant with contrasting propaganda and bullshit sensationalist facts.
It was a pleasure, too, watching the crowd watching the picture. Gypsy Lou drew laughs at every turn, telling even the tragic tales from her past with her deliciously warped sense of humour, bring her fearlessness, optimism and warmth into the hearts of a crowd that included her niece and a Beat Book seller with an impressive Loujon Collection.
The film ended with a Q&A for Ewing, Curtis Robinson and Edwin Blair. The crowd seemed unanimously to have been engrossed in the film, and while the documentary left little to question, Blair, who had become well acquainted with Lou, was peppered with questions about the wonderful woman, and about his personal generosity in helping her through elderly years made more difficult by Hurricane Katrina.
Upon leaving the Tivoli, I arranged with Wayne to attend the Late Night Lounge and tour the legendary Woody Creek. I took a walk up Larimar, digging Neal Cassady’s old stomping ground, and visiting the Capitol and the City and County Building, where Kerouac watched bats circle and Ginsberg contemplated madness…
A few stubborn staffers and some fruitless research resulted in my non-entry to the Late Night Lounge and the decision to ditch Woody Creek for a cross-country train ride.
So Denver was soon history. I’d caught a damn fine movie, continued my American Beatnik tour by walking vaguely in the footsteps of Cassady, Kerouac and Ginsberg, and met in person a great filmmaker of our times. I met some interesting people (an Iranian-US govt official who “fucking hate(s) the USA!”) and saw some great sights (breweries as far as the eye can see, friend…) I’d also come within a few hours drive of the home of Hunter S Thompson… But a few hours drive is only that when one has a car… Oh well, Farewell Denver, Farewell Colorado… And it’s off into the sunset on another fucking Amtrak…

Please visit for more info.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Who Is Rodney Munch?

The book is now available, containing the whole horrible sage of art's most devious character, Rodney Munch. Get it here:

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

San Francisco

The weekend past just saw Beatdom visit San Francisco in the footsteps of Jack Kerouac and the Beats. The inspiration was the Booksmith's 50th Anniversary Kerouac Discussion at the All Saints Church, just off Haight and Ashbury.
John Leland, Barry Gifford and Michael McClure discussed Kerouac and had a few laughs with a great crowd.

Beatdom also visited City Lights, Vesuvios, Tosca, the Beat Museum and Allen Ginsberg's house.

More info will be posted at and in the next issue of Beatdom Magazine.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

New Site

This is no longer the home of Beatdom Magazine. You will find Beatdom Magazine located at
This is once again the home of David Wills' and Rodney Munch's rants and ravings and other stuff that's not really worth reading. You dig? Now go away and get on over to, where all the cool cats hang...

Friday, 14 September 2007

The Stevia Conspiracy

Stevia: A Bitter/Sweet Story

By Ms. B. and David S Wills

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Notes from the editors…

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From Ms. B…

What’s this? Yet another example of corporations wielding their unlimited power to ban substances that threaten their wealth. Why you ask? Of course, they are branded ‘unsafe’.

Is this worse than the conspiracy to outlaw cannabis?

Another to add the heap of injustices left to the public, in order for a corporation to maximise profits. Hmm, does anyone else feel this might be wrong? If so, why as usual, is so little heard on the matter?

A good example of out of sight, out of mind; nothing much is heard within the confines of mainstream media because it is not within their interests and they are restricted by their loyalties to supporters. The aim of this, and subsequent articles on similar topics is to raise public awareness, and to encourage people to think about everything they are told, to question why they are being sold certain drugs, food products, clothes, values, and to decide for themselves what is right. Morality and legality seemingly parted ways some time ago. What we are told is wrong is not always the case, but simply corporations using their influence upon ruling bodies to get their own way.

From Mr. Wills…

An aged hippy-poet friend of mine, Mark, and his Anglo-Franco wife, Felicite, invited me to breakfast one day. The three reasons for my visit were: firstly, breakfast, but also to help Felicite get her old laptop online, and to raid Mark’s Ventura-come-library.
I was living on an organic farm in the surprisingly liberal community of San Luis Obispo, Ca., at the time, and had left my entire book collection back home in Scotland, so I was extremely grateful for the opportunity to raid Mark’s books. We sat in the old wagon and rapped poetry back and forth and talked about literature and drugs and life – the usual. I picked out a Blake collection, Danny Sugerman’s Wonderland Avenue, William A. Henry III’s In Defence of Elitism, Wilderness: The Lost Writings of Jim Morrison, Thomas A Harris’ I’m OK – You’re OK and Bruce Eisner’s ecstasy: The MDMA Story.
After borrowing the books, we all sat down to breakfast. It was Sunday, and we were not working until mid-afternoon. Their place consisted of an eight-by-ten foot ‘barn’ and two ancient campervans, all positioned to create a little garden in the middle, shielded from the life of the farm, and wind, and cornered in by bushes, over the top of which we could see Hollister Peak and several other of the Nine Sisters mountain range, in front of which ran an occasional charge of horses.
Felicite was in her mid-seventies, and had recently taken a bad fall and struggled with mobility, but while Mark and I went a found an old picnic table, and brought it into the middle of the sun-drenched garden, she managed to put together a wonderful breakfast of tea, pancakes, butter, strawberries, goat yoghurt, seven-seed mix and syrup.
“Now,” Felicite said in her quiet, yet somehow motherly voice, which had a strong English accent despite her having spent the last few decades living around America and Southern France, “First you put the butter on the cakes. Then you put the syrup on the butter. Then you put the yoghurt on the syrup. Then you put the strawberries on the yoghurt. That’s the only way to do it. Sometimes Mark and I, we talk with our breakfast and forget, and it’s never quite right if you do it any other way.”
Felicite, quiet though she was, and retiring though she was around others, was pretty bossy with Mark, and fairly straight with me by this stage, having known her for a few weeks. She demanded Mark pour the tea. He did.
We were eating the pancakes and sipping the tea, and talking as usual of thrift stores and bargains and the usual ways to make life better and easier, when Mark suddenly jumped up, that flash of inspiration coming to his eyes like I’d seen on a few occasions, and he ran off to the campervan with the kitchen area. He returned momentarily with a small shaker of white powder.
“Stevia,” he said. “You ever heard of it? It’s a sugar substitute.”
“No it’s not!” Felicite cried.
“Babe, like, it is.”
“No. It’s not a substitute.”
“Babe, it is.”
“No, it’s not, it’s real. It’s like sugar, but different, and better for you.”
“David, like, stevia is a naturally occurring plant, man. You dig? It’s, like, way sweeter than sugar, and it tastes better, but it’s illegal. But it’s good for you.”
“It’s got no calories!” Felicite added. “And it doesn’t harm your teeth.”
“See, the government don’t want us to have it. They shut down stores that sell it, and burn plants when people grow it. They even burned books about stevia that some guy had.”

That breakfast with Mark and Felicite was the first time I ever heard of stevia. I tried it with Honeybush Tea, and I liked it. It was exactly as Mark described – similar to sugar, but way stronger and with a slightly different taste. But I never fully believed what he said. Mark is a great guy, and nobody can deny that, but even he will admit he’s “burned his brain out” with drugs. He has become paranoid and eccentric, though not to great extents. He is a little unusual, but it’s more like a slight exaggeration of characteristics than anything too out there.
So when he told me about stevia, I knew there was truth behind what he said, but I assumed it was more like he’d gotten the wrong end of the stick and taken the idea too far. He often railed against many governmental or corporate conspiracies, and I don’t doubt that he’s often right, but I do doubt how right he is.
Yet I was intrigued enough to go straight home and Google stevia. If nothing else, part of me wondered what I had just taken. I know that the US government is fucked up enough to allow dangerous substances to be legal (cigarettes and booze) while banning safe substances (marijuana). So even if Mark had gotten hold of something legal, who knew what effects it would have? And if it was illegal, maybe it wasn’t as safe as Mark’s strange information would have me believe…
So I Googled “stevia” and, unsurprisingly, was presented with the Wikipedia entry, which is what I wanted – an easy lay explanation of a new topic for learning, with links to more in-depth sources elsewhere. It appeared Mark was right.

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Stevia: The History

For centuries the Guarani Indians of Paraguay guarded the secret of the plant they called kaa he-he. They used it in medicine, in the drink ‘mate, and for chewing and eating to enjoy the sweet taste. They guarded it for they cherished it and believed it to be of some mystical significance. They documented its existence and popularity in writing that still exists today in the Paraguayan National Archive, in Asuncion.
However, like so many Western stories, the credit for the discovery of kaa he-he lies with a European – the Italian botanist, Dr. Moises Santiago Bertoni. He is said to have heard of the legendary but elusive plant in 1887, twelve years before he actually saw the dried leaves, presented to him in an envelop.
Finally, after searching for the plants in many of the wrong places, over many years, Bertoni was sent a live plant in 1903, by a priest from the village of San Pedro. He studied it intensively, and came to rename it after himself and the scientist that managed to extract its sweetness, a man named Rebaudi. It became known as Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni, and in 1905 Bertoni completed and published his study.
Following Bertoni’s studies, the cultivation of stevia spread, and it came to be grown as a crop, rather than simply harvested in the wild. By 1908, one ton of stevia was harvested from cultivated crops, and soon after the questions of export and commercial feasibility were raised.
In 1918, stevia was brought to the attention of the US government by botanists, and three years later, it was brought before the USDA by George S. Brady, who described the plant as safe and non-toxic. He also said that stevia was liable to find a market, and that he wished to see US companies capitalise on its appeal.
However, as early as 1913, German sugar-producers were raising concerns over the impact of stevia upon their own industry. They recognised the superiority of this new product, and sought to stem its use.
In 1931, French scientists managed to isolate steviocide and rebaudiocide, the sweetest natural products yet discovered. They were shown to be between 150 and 300 times sweeter than sucrose, as well as heat and pH stable, and non-fermentable. However, although scientifically significant, doubts were already raised regarding the value of steviocides in day-to-day life. In the US, a government researcher, Dr. Hewitt G. Fletcher, deemed steviocides useless, despite admitting their overwhelming sweetness.
It was during the 1960s that Japan came to ban or impose strict regulations upon the use of chemicals in their food. As a result, they did extensive research into the safety and viability of stevia as a natural sweetener, and found it to be of no danger to humans.
Therefore, in 1970, when stevia was introduced to the Japanese food market by a consortium of investors, it quickly entered everyday use as an additive and tabletop sweetener. By 1990, Japan accounted for forty percent of the global consumption of stevia, with not one single complaint or health concern raised. And in 1988, stevia represented forty-one percent of the Japanese sweetner market.
But use was not only restricted to Japan. Across South America, stevia has always remained popular, and in other parts of Asia, too.
Like marijuana, the use of stevia dates back over hundreds of years, with no documentaed negative effects on human health. Even in massive quantities it has been conclusively proven to be non-toxic, and offers not only a healthier alternative to a market dominated by dangerous products, but actually provides some significant health benefits.
Yet, like marijuana, the US government, and other governments around the world, also dominated and controlled by large corporations with no interest in the welfare of the general public, have banned and restricted the use of stevia. Using massively and embarassingly flawed data and ‘evidence’, the governments of Western nations have outlawed the use of stevia, and then, under pressure from campaigners and organisations acting in the public interest, have revoked their decisions to an extent, choosing to instead block the use of stevia in any capacity perceived to be of threat to profits of the sweetener and sugar industries (including the mighty Coca-Cola and NutraSweet companies).

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Stevia: The Controversy

There is no reason to ban or restrict the use of stevia. That’s it. That’s all that need be said to an intelligent freethinker. But let’s face it, this is a world dominated by profit-hungry greedheads with no concern for decent folks, and the average human is just ignorant enough to go with the flow and believe the shit. So to change anything, one must be armed with knowledge and a drive to fight injustice. So, with that in mind, let’s continue exploring exactly why this miracle plant is vilified by fucking halfwits…

In 1991, the United States Food and Drug Administration received a complaint from an allegedly anonymous source, concerning the safety of stevia. The source is widely accepted to have been the manufactures of NutraSweet, the aspartame based sweetener. The motivation for the complaint is believed to be stopping the encroachment of stevia upon the sweetener industry. Congressman John Kyl is one of many believers that the FDA acted only as a response to pressure from the sweetener industry. However, despite the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act, the FDA has refused to formally announce the origin of the source.
Following the complaint, the FDA labelled stevia an ‘unsafe food additive’ and placed restrictions upon its import into the United States. The reason given for the ban was that no solid evidence could be provided to show stevia was safe, which contravenes FDA regulations stipulating that a substance used since or before 1958 with no history of known ill effects should be ‘Generally Regarded As Safe’ (GRAS).
FDA guidelines also require a product to be proven unsafe through testing in order to be given the label ‘unsafe’, and no testing has been able to conclusively prove any negative health issues arising from the use of stevia.
However, despite these overlooked technicalities, stevia was an entirely banned substance in the United States until the passing of the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, which forced the FDA to allow stevia to be sold as a dietary supplement, but not as a food additive or commercial sweetener. This shows the FDA labelling stevia as safe and unsafe, depending upon its use, publicly contradicting themselves for the purpose of securing the marketplace for known harmful sweeteners produced by big-pocketed industry bully-boys.
NutraSweet, also known as aspartame, is has been shown to cause migraines, seizures and blindness. It has been the subject of several thousand complaints to the FDA, even FDA testing has linked its usage to brain tumours. However, the overruling of the commissioner of the Administration made sure that nothing so trivial as serious health problems was worth troubling such a major corporation over… And let’s not forget that in hundreds of years of use in South America, and thirty-odd years of use in Japan, not one concern has been raised over the safety of stevia, whereas aspartame alone makes up seventy-five percent of all food additive related complaints in the United States each and every year!
But hell, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the so-called ‘food police’, also went easy on aspartame and MSG. They knew of the dangers, even labelling aspartame: ‘caution, try to avoid’. But that didn’t stop them from serving aspartame containing yoghurts to their own employees in their staff cafeteria… No, money is more important than public health when you’re a crooked organisation with the power to dictate the fate of an entire species.
And perhaps that’s why the FDA and the CSPI have embarrassed themselves constantly since first they thought it wise to bend over and obey the wishes of the mighty NutraSweet-dominated sweetener industry. Surely by trying to blind the public to the truth regarding this ancient plant, whose safety had been known for decades, they were as ignorant as Bertoni when he believed he was the first person to discover stevia growing in the mountains of Paraguay.
These powerful bodies hold themselves to be guardians of American health, yet will go to the lengths of burning books, seizing imported shipments, confiscating stevia-containing products, fabricating evidence, and other CIA-inspired covert ops, just to protect the producers of substances they themselves deem unsafe.
That’s right, in May 1998 the FDA ordered the burning of books on the history, growing and cooking of stevia by a Texas-based distributor, resorting to threatening letters before the condemnation of the public, the media and ACLU resulted in a forced change of heart.
And the CSPI, desperate to back-up their co-conspirators, twisted the statements of two pro-stevia proponents and relied upon discredited, irrelevant and outdated ‘evidence’ in order to put together a ‘case’ against stevia, while ignoring a massive and persuasive body of work that supports the safety of stevia.
The problem with the CSPI’s ‘Stevia: Not Ready For Prime Time’, written by David Schardt, which is nothing more than a piece of childish propaganda, is that firstly it’s based on entirely the wrong substance. The article is based on studies of steviol, a derivative of stevia which cannot be produced within the human body, and which regardless of the impossibility of producing through digestion, is not even proven to be harmful. It is merely a suggestion that steviol may pose some risk, hence repeated use of unclear and speculative language… Vague words, Schardt.
Schardt also references Douglas Kinghorn and Ryan Huxtable, two pro-stevia scientists. He quotes vague and hypothetical statements made by the scientists that show possible counterpoints to their own studies, but which Schardt purports to be evidence of their anti-stevia views.
Kinghorn, a professor or pharmacognosy, is quoted by Schardt as saying ‘The Japanese don’t consume large amounts of stevia,’ and other such racial generalisations. His argument here is supposedly that Americans will take consumption further than the Asians, and therefore are more inclined to encounter new health problems. Perhaps this is an easy thing to believe in these days of rampant anti-Americanism, but it is absurd to suggest that Americans are all stupid enough and fat enough to eat enough stevia to cause greater, and as yet untold, health problems that would be of any significance in comparison with the masses of McDonalds and Coca-Cola related deaths and morbid obesity recorded every year.
And what health problems is stevia meant to cause? It’s a non-calorific, hunger-relieving, diabetes-beating, digestion-aiding, pancreas-nourishing, tooth-friendly fucking plant! Fuck off! Go suck a dick if you believe the propaganda. Americans already eat massive quantities of sugar and sweeteners and other shit that rots their teeth and guts and makes them fat. Yet studies have shown that stevia is harmless even in massive quantities. It even reverses plaque development on teeth, which is all too often caused by eating sugar! Surely it would be better to have some fat bastard eat a plate of stevia-laced ice-cream rather than the same with sugar or aspartame on top… But no, stevia is a natural plant, like marijuana, that could be grown and used by the common man, and so would infringe upon the corporate and government agendas that have resulted in the current health crisis. It’d be harder to tax stevia than sugar, and easier to produce ones own stevia leaves for a cup of tea than to engineer a bowl of aspartame…
But no, there’s hope for stevia yet! We still may see it legal, but only on corporate terms, of course. Rebiana is the name of a sweetener in development by the Coca-Cola Company, whose name and finances will no doubt be enough to push the legality of stevia past the FDA. No need to worry about its infringement upon the sweetener industry now, folks! Just buy a can of Coke-Rebiana and everything’ll be ok. So long as a big ole American company owns the rights to a little Paraguayan plant, you can consume it. That’s all that fucking matters, isn’t it?
But back to science, from which we’ve become distracted… And whereas Kinghorn is quoted by our friends, the CSPI, as arguing against the Japanese experience as proof of stevia’s safety, he is more commonly found arguing in favour of stevia and of the Japanese and their intensive research into stevia…

‘Stevia extracts and/or stevioside (a concentrated extract) have been widely used as sweetening agents in Japan over the last 15 years; . . . no adverse reactions have appeared in the scientific or medical literature during this period, and it may be concluded . . . that these materials do not present a potential toxicity risk to humans.’

‘I don't think it's that big a question mark because of the Japanese experience. They've been taking it (stevia and stevia extracts) for 20 years now and they've had multigenerations of humans using it. (To produce steviol) requires metabolic activation which may or may not happen.’

‘We do have the evidence from the Japanese that stevioside is not carcinogenic. It hasn't been resolved whether steviol is produced in animals, let alone in humans.’

Huxtable, too, is normally a proponent of the pro-stevia scientific community, although is a little more reserved in his arguments, saying: ‘there seems little scientific reason for the FDA not to approve the use of stevia extracts in the U.S,’ and ‘There are no studies on humans that show it presents a hazard.’
Of course, both scientists are right. And more than that, these are not necessarily the scientists one would normally list in a study of stevia, as far more qualified scientists have come to value stevia as a healthy footstuff. Rather, they are worth mentioning because they, like most of the scientific community, are in favour of the full legalisation of stevia, but were quoted by the CSPI in their ludicrous drive to validate the outlawing of a harmless plant. This is just another example of major league idiocy marring the attempts of the authorities to ban stevia.
Here’s some more:

- The FDA using a thirty-two year old fertility study, which was wholly dismissed by its own author.
- A Brazilian study of mice, which only the FDA considers of any scientific merit, translated by an FDA employee with only a basic understanding of Portuguese.
- Ignoring a massive body of scientific evidence and historical use that supports the claim that stevia is harmless.
- The FDA threatening to burn stevia reference books of Sunrider International, and then informing their Director of Operations that ‘if we wanted to make carrots (be) against the law, we could do it.’

These diabolical assholes are even prepared to ignore the studies of the World Health Organisation, who, in 2006 concluded their research into the safety of stevia, by finding that stevia and its derivatives are non-toxic and not carcinogenic. Also, that stevia could prove useful in helping patients suffering from type II diabetes and hypertension, because of its blood-sugar stabilising qualities. These facts were largely known for hundreds of years in Paraguayan culture, and obviously why stevia had been used in medicines across South America. So if the WHO know the truth, and ancient Indian cultures knew the truth, and the scientific community knows the truth, and the common man, through recent media coverage, knows the truth, and indisputable evidence has been provided by Asian experience and testing, to reveal the truth that stevia is utterly harmless… Then what chance is there of the legalisation of yet another innocent victim in the ongoing rampage of corporate dominance over government and public-interest organisations?
Well, two petitions submitted to the FDA, seeking Generally Regarded As Safe status for stevia, were submitted in 1992 and 1995. These petitions included and summarised a huge body of work, detailing the impressive array of health boosting qualities held by stevia, as well as hard evidence of the safety of the plant.

‘Stevia leaf is a natural product that has been used for at least 400 years as a food product, principally as a sweetener or other flavoring agent. None of this common usage in foods has indicated any evidence of a safety problem. There are no reports of any government agency in any of the above countries indicating any public health concern whatsoever in connection with the use of stevia in foods.’
Gras affirmation petition submitted on behalf of the American Herbal Products Association, April 23, 1992

‘The petition cites over 120 articles about stevia written before 1958, and over 900 articles published to date. In this well-chronicled history of stevia, no author has ever reported any adverse human health consequences associated with consumption of stevia leaf.’
Supplement to GRAS affirmation petition no. 4G0406, submitted by the Thomas J. Lipton Company February 3, 1995

It hardly seems necessary to summarise this article. The facts speak for themselves, and are almost too numerous to print. Stevia is quite simply a botanical and culinary miracle. In fact, the process of eliminating facts supporting the safety and benefits of stevia took as much time as any part of preparing this article. The sheer volume of work is testament to the injustice of the ban imposed against stevia by governments worldwide at the asking of the sweetener and sugar industries. And it is proof that morality and legality have little connection anymore, and that the governments of this world operate not in the interests of the people, or even themselves, but of those that wield the power to dictate the future of the world – the money-grabbing, immoral, half-wit, greedhead swine that are the heads of their industries. These pigs bring out the evil and ignorance of governments forced to move their hands against their people, and then to look foolish when the media and the intelligent few see what’s going on and call the forces to order. We are lied to and persecuted for nothing more than freedom of thought and expression, and an appreciation of the natural world, simply because what we do contravenes the wishes of those that would sell us dangerous commodities and rob our lands and indoctrinate our minds… Don’t let them get away with it, EAT STEVIA!

Further Reading

For a list of websites on stevia, from cooking to growing to the conspiracy against this miracle plant, just Google the word ‘stevia’. There are hundreds of sites available, but Beatdom reckons is the best.

As for books,
Take a look at The Stevia Story: A Tale of Incredible Sweetness & Intrigue, by Linda and Bill Bonvie and Donna Gates.

Monday, 10 September 2007


Zeitgeist is quite simply the most important movie of all time. If every person were to watch it, the planet would easily be saved. Forget these environmental awareness flicks, because the planet won’t kill us off for years. But within a year or two we will all be thoroughly screwed over by martial law and implanted ID chips.
The movie begins with a debunking of Christianity, which is simply an elegant way of putting that which all but mental defectives know: religion is a form of social control and nothing more. It’s a load of shit and if you don’t get that, you’re ignorant and in denial.
Then it moves on to 9/11 and conclusively proves that it was an inside job set up to rob the American citizens of their constitutional rights, and to rob the Middle East of its oil. If it weren’t for the constant footage of innocent people jumping to their deaths while government planted bombs go off around them, and you can here them scream and cry, you’d actually laugh at the fact anyone could doubt the government brought down the towers, and that no plane ever crashed into either the Pentagon or Shanksville.
Part III focuses on the Federal Reserve Bank and how it controls America. In 1907, the Federal Reserve Bank was founded by private corporations, and through bribery, came to be the central bank of America. Ever since, these wealthy bastards have been funding the American government and taxing the people. And what’s better for business than war? Nothing.
And what does the future hold? By next May all Americans will be made to carry ID cards. Many people already have chips in their bodies with ID data monitored from space. And Bush has signed an agreement with Canada and Mexico to create the North American Union, one country. No more America. No more dollar. The world will be changed beyond recognition. Next up? A world government, as envisioned by the men behind the bank behind the government.

So watch Zeitgeist. It is the only thing that will seriously change this little world of ours. People are so fucking ignorant that they seriously believe in religion and conservativism and democracy. The only way to change is to be intelligent and aware and to call to account those we place in charge when they fuck up.

Thursday, 6 September 2007

On the Road

The Fiftieth Anniversary of Jack Kerouac's legendary On the Road is this week, and to celebrate, the original scroll version of the text has been released as a hardback book.
To find out more, grab yourself a copy of Beatdom, or wait until the release of the special edition of Paul Maher Jr.'s The Kerouac Quarterly.

Monday, 27 August 2007

We're On Sale!

At last, Beatdom has hit the presses. Get it here and now:

Or visit the website: Beatdom

Friday, 24 August 2007

Front Cover

Yesterday we had a graphic designer come in a begin to overhaul the magazine. It's looking good, I must say...

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Pete Doherty: Modern Beat

Allen Ginsberg called the group most frequently considered Beats – himself, Kerouac, Burroughs, Cassady - ‘the libertine circle’. He wrote this after the murder of David Kammerer by Lucian Carr, the first major scandal to rock the Beats.
The Beats were frequently tied to scandal. They were famous literary types who indulged in hedonistic and alternative lifestyles, consuming drink and drugs, having sex and listening to dangerous music. They were the libertines of their time, in the public eye and painfully misunderstood by their contemporaries.

Pete Doherty needs no introduction on this side of the Atlantic. The poor bastard is notorious in a time when notoriety means front page pics for no damn reason at all. If he smokes a cigarette, it’s called a joint, and some oh-so-witty headline is plastered in red across the top of the page. Every time he’s with a girl, it’s a date; when he’s tired, he’s on crack; when he’s on holiday, it’s rehab; when he move house, he’s been kicked out. And very little attention is given to his obvious genius, save for the constant, over-the-top swooning coverage given to him by NME, desperate to cotton on to any new trend. Forget his music, forget his poetry… He’s taking crack! He’s painting with blood!
He is the new Jack Kerouac. History’s full of bright young men with too much talent. They see the world too clearly to live a normal life. They see the crap most people just don’t notice, and consequently they’re forced to live different lives to the rest of the rabble, and are ostracised and admired in a shocking concoction of media vulturism and general hysteria.
They’re self-destructive rebels with nothing to lose. No scandal will ever bring them down to the level of ignorance occupied by their fans and detractors, and only death will gain them the respect and understanding they may or may not desire.
They do what they want because they are smarter than those that make the rules in the first place, and because they can see through the crap that the rest are fed by those in charge. They take drugs to numb the pain caused by seeing reality to clearly; to experiment with mind expansion and to shun daft rules; on principals because it should be a basic and fundamental right; because they know fine well that all there is in life that’s worth doing is having fun; because they are addicted, being only human in spite of their intelligence; to feel a sense of longing in a society that cares not for their true talents…
They break the law because they no better than to take shit from fools in uniforms, upholding the nonsensical and outdated gibberish we call the law. No, society should be a hierarchy of intelligence, not of wealth and power and tradition…
They draw jealousy from society because they are talented and wild and hedonistic, doing things most can’t or won’t do, and then writing, painting or singing about it. So the world loves to read ‘Kate Dumps Potty Pete!’ in The Sun over their buttered toast and tea, and talk ignorantly about him to their retarded friends in broken English and hideous dialects, in scummy houses, before going to their crappy jobs…
And it wasn’t much different with Kerouac or Byron or Burns or any other the other talented misfits who have brightened the world in death. There’s nothing that soothes the soul like taking some ill-founded moral high-ground and spitting down on your superiors…

But enough of the rebel side of our modern Beat. Enough ranting and madness and chastising ignorant fools. Who wants the respect of these greasy fuckers anyway?
Doherty is a learned man and an anti-academic. He knows literature, film and music. But his are the modern classics and the same sort of thing that drove the Beats wild. His poets are the Romantics, his music the rebellious sound of youth, and his films the dangerous tales of contemporary society.
Who cannot see in the punk, post-punk and Brit-pop eras a similarity in attitude to the jazz era that lifted the Beats? And the influence of Blake is obvious in both Ginsberg and Doherty. Were their earlier works not separated by almost half a century, surely the list would go on and on and on. But through literary chains we can see the influences upon influences upon influences that inspire generation after generation, resulting in what we have now, whether the focus of that is writing or music. And even if the don’t share the same influences exactly, the certainly share the same sort.
And apart from the general chastisement of the awful ignorant public, radical libertine wordsmiths have brought poetry to the disaffected youths of the world and inspired creativity. Remember, ‘three people do not a generation make.’ The Beats were heroes to mad young men and women searching for something outwith the norm. All through history we see dedicated fans seeking solace in their anguished idols. And Doherty has certainly brought poetry back to the sort of people to whom it has been lost for a long time. The delicious irony is that it’s the loathing and condemnation of society that drives their young into the hazy embrace of these mad rebels.
When Doherty was a 16 yr old fledgling poet, he read at places like the Foundry bar, and still posts his poems on his website, and does the occasional poetry festival between touring, binging and jail. He still reads alongside poets he started out with, often accompanied by music, and with whom he got drunk in Moscow on an earlier, council-sponsored, poetry reading… The comparisons with the café readings, friend circles and Six Gallery legends are obvious.
Pete Doherty is Beaten man, through and through.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Barry Gifford

I just interviewed Barry Gifford today for the first issue of Beatdom. Despite the best efforts of Virgin Media, I managed to get the interview done.
Virgin Media claims we have not paid a bill that we can prove we have paid, but they cut our internet and phone so we couldn't complain, and have added on other fictional charges. They are cheap, cheating scum and fuck them all to death.
Anyway, despite their best attempts, we got the interview. Barry Gifford is another big name and a massive boost for the magazine's sales. He's a Beat fan and a great writer in his own right.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007


Beatdom will be available at the end of August, via
There will be three editions of the first issue:
- One... The full, uncut, glossy, photography infused, graphically awesome, original edition, priced at around nine pounds sterling.
- Two... The black and white, text based, chapbook edition, at a reduced price.
- Three... A downloadable pdf version of the original edition, costing only one pound.

No money will be made by the magazine from sales from the print editions, but after three months, the money garnered through sales of the downloadable edition will be used to reduce the cost of Edition One, which will be available, signed, through the editors.

Monday, 6 August 2007


We are again a beaten generation, suffering amid unrivalled prosperity… Lost in ignorance in a time of education… Confused and controlled and taught too many things… Tamed by a world of passivity and acceptance, obscured by pretensions and the illusion of revolution… We are tired of the benefits wrought by the Beats and the generations and movements they inspired… Ours is a generation looking to the past, like theirs, but lost in the present and uncaring for the future, I suppose, like them…
Beatdom examines the Beat Generation in depth, but looks at the world around us through eyes created by our predecessors, and exploits the talents of people learning from the artists of the past, struggling to survive in a world of apathy…
Beatdom is indulgence and sorrow combined and confused and seeking clarity and union and that sense of community that’s garnered by something as simple as a label…
Beatdom is in good company, downtrodden all, and fighting for the preservation of the past and the highlighting of the failures and injustices of the present, though sceptical of even contemplating the future…
Beatdom is in the later stages of production, open to submissions and criticism, and now more than a dream…

Another Online Presense

Beatdom has yet another online outlet, clawing our way to notoriety, as a MySpace Group at:

So join up and debate and fight and bicker like all petty MySpace junkies.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Trespass Clothing Inc.

Our possible investors, Trespass Clothing Inc., today pulled out of advertising in Beatdom. So we're back to advertising stuff we believe in at no cost... an admirable pursuit, but not one that will finance a magazine.
The guy I spoke to resented my inability to demand an exact monetary value for a double page spread, and my apparent colloqial response. At the risk of sounding childish: Go fuck yourselves, you cheap whorish swine. You're money would have been nice, but I loath your company, your values and your arogance. I resent playing up to it for so long. Fuck you.
Which leads me to the conclusion that money must be sought... Get in touch with me if you're a wealthy idiot that likes throwing his cash around.

Rodney Munch Title

It occurs to me that this blog has become more about Beatdom Magazine and Godless: Fragments of Contemporary Society than about Who Is Rodney Munch? So I've changed the blog title to Beatdom and The World of Rodney Munch.
The reason is basically that editing Beatdom and promoting Godless has pretty much taken over my life, whereas Rodney Munch banter has become a thing of the past. Some day soon I'll finish editing it and publish the book, and then you'll seen some Rodney Munch posts, but until then this blog is more about my work in general.

I used MySpace to promote Godless last night, and have had some success and interest through this, so hopefully that'll inspire me to get on with more Munching about. More maybe it'll throw me further into promoting Godless and getting more sales...

Saturday, 28 July 2007

Zane Kesey Interview

71 pages...
I finished the Zane Kesey interview ages ago, but I've just gotten round to editing it tonight. He said he didn't want to be interviewed because he hated typing, and I can see why. His writing is abysmal, but he's got some great stories. So I spent a good hour editing this mess of e-mail correspondance into a presentable interview, and it looks good. I've just got to write a decent intro to it, and bang, another section done.
I've been working all day every day for a long time now, broken foot and all, and now a pulled stomach muscle, so magazine productivity has dropped substantially, but tonight has been good.
Plus, I've also written that last post, the Harry Potter and the Death of Literature thing, which will be severely edited later on, and stuck in there. I posted that on every forum and group in MySpace, and my god are people stupid! No one could offer me a decent response: it was all 'you're a tool' and 'i like harry potter' and 'so what if she can't write?' Well, I presented an argument, and defended my position in the forums, and the masses didn't. Or couldn't. Ok, so I embarrassed myself with a stupid spelling error, but that doesn't invalidate an argument, fools. Get over your little selves. And what are you doing on MySpace, shouldn't you be reader the latest installment of your precious little series of wizardingly wonderful books?

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Harry Potter and the Death of Literature

J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels have sold in excess of 325 million copies, with the first run of the last book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, having a first print run of 12 million copies in the United States, making Rowling the highest paid writer in literary history. Her novels have turned an illiterate generation into avid readers.
Yet she, and other writers such as Dan Brown, seem to have begun the end of literature. Their poorly written novels appeal to a DVD generation that wants easy, fast reads with little substance. Bookshop windows are full of copies of the most popular novels, alongside guides to said novels, and spin-off books. You get biographies of J.K. Rowling and other celebrities, a few cookbooks, and some travel guides. My local Waterstones has ‘Literature’ section smaller than my own little bookcase, with one copy of each of a small selection of well-known authors’ works, and twice as many of each edition of each Harry Potter book than the whole ‘Literature’ section put together.
But hell, Waterstones and co. are big businesses that need to make profits. They are just doing what they have to do to stay a float. Sadly, if they were to stock a thousand copies of ‘Howl’ I doubted they sell them in a year. You can’t force the population to get good taste, all you can to do is give them what they want.
And if the people like Harry Potter, then so be it. Rowling can’t be held accountable for the damage her books appear to be doing to real literature. She’s created a monster that is unstoppable and subject to the whim of the readers.
Thanks to the widespread love of Harry Potter, every shop wants to be able to sell the latest book in the series. But of course, competition comes into the picture. Shops must sell the book at profit, or else there is no point in selling it, and so they all compete for the buyers. And because of this, the companies with the greatest spending power will usually prevail, at massive cost to those smaller companies who just can’t keep up. It’s sad, but that’s the way the world goes round.
And when it’s not just bookshops that sell books, then there are even bigger problems for smaller shops to face. With Tesco and Asda and the rest selling Potter, customers are more likely to buy there, with better prices and convenience. In fact, the big supermarkets can afford to sell the books at lower prices than they buy them, and absorb the cost through the spending of the customers in other departments.
And so we have Harry Potter and The Da Vinci Code in supermarkets and in the windows of Waterstones, and the little bookshops scrape by with the help of readers of real literature, who are dwindling in numbers are getting little in the way of decent new literature, because every publisher wants the new hit book about wizards and guns. Why should Bloomsbury want a revolutionary new literary style on their books when they could otherwise have to dig through a pile of cash to find ‘the books’?
The champions of mad new literary forms have often been the small time publishers, and the small time bookshops. But these are closing and folding under the pressures of a saturated marketplace.
Who can imagine Six Gallery and City Lights being as influential today as they were so many years ago? It is impossible to see similar organisations having the same beautiful influence in a world where everyone is home watching Big Brother, and who know only of Rowling and Brown in the world of books. There would be little interest in a prophetic poetry reading or cheap little chapbooks that change the readers’ lives.
But no one wants change. They don’t want to read a new style of writing or hear revolutionary ideas. The people want to be cheaply amused with silly little tales and not have to think too much. Generations of big ideas and social change have contented and exhausted people into a mass of lazy rabble with no hopes or aspirations or mad notions.
It’s hard to see a generation of idealist radicals ready to make the world a better place stemming from the cult of Potter. I can’t imagine millions of fans becoming wizards and witches and learning about spells and potions and the dark arts, like Kerouac sent millions ‘on the road’. I can hardly see brilliant writers of the future (if they come to be) remarking upon Rowling’s influence upon their work. And it’s doubtful English PhD students will be writing magnificent glowing studies of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

But Harry Potter has turned kids onto reading… True, and this is great, if the kids understand that there is more to books than the merchandise and movies that accompany them. If the kids go back and read Dahl and Carroll and Kipling and develop wide varieties of interest that spawns new and creative writers, then that’s fine. If the kids themselves continue a wider spectrum of interest that turns them into a generation of experimental and thoughtful writers, then that’s fine.
But it’s all about the cult of celebrity and the cheap pacification and the aisles of lunchboxes and t-shirts and action figures. Harry Potter has become an obsession and created narrow-minded readers with little care for anything beyond ‘does he die at the end?’
Critic Harold Bloom argues against the tide of praise, saying ‘Rowling’s mind is so governed by clichés and dead metaphors that she has no other style of writing.’ However, the series has mostly gathered critical acclaim, except for the usual circle of religious and feminist ‘critics’ who apply the same rhetoric to Harry Potter as to any non-conventional text. Mostly, the criticism from even pro-Potter critics seems to centre on the rigid structures and plot devices Rowling uses: having Harry start ever novel in the same place, have clichéd and poorly drawn characters, and similar situations and character responses throughout each book.
But back to Bloom. His 2003 article for the Boston Globe, ‘Dumbing down American readers’, attacks J.K. Rowling and Stephen King for their awful books, and the literary community of today for rewarding Rowling and King, due only to their commercial success. In savaging her work, Bloom remarks upon Rowling’s use of phrases such as ‘stretch their legs’ being used dozens of times within a few pages.

Monday, 23 July 2007

Hunter S Thompson Festival

My hero, Doctor Hunter S Thompson, will be celebrated next year, around this time (his birthday). His fans are trying to put together a HST Fest to celebrate the late author's work, although a date and location are as yet undecided.
I'll keep you informed as more information comes along, but for now, please check out the following websites for more info/debate:

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Beatdom Update

51 pages and counting...
We now have an interview with Ken Babbs, the legendary Merry Prankster, friend of Ken Kesey, Neal Cassady and The Grateful Dead. He seems enthusiastic about the project.
Zane Kesey, Ken Kesey's son, has also agreed to do an interview, and that will hopefully go ahead during the week.
Diane di Prima, Beat poet, has declined to be interviewed, but has sent the magazine a signed copy of her newest book, and wishes us all the best.
Beat biographer and author of Beat, Chris Falver, has given us his blessings and sent a host of photographs for the magazine.
We now have four poets, two photographers, one artist, two graphic designers, and several writers.
Ms. B. is about to start redesigning the front cover with Photoshop. Our old one, designed be me, is decent enough, but doesn't reflect the fantastic quality of the inner depths of Beatdom.

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Beatdom Update

It's going well...

The original vision of the editors was a collection of historical and literary studies, and essays drawing links between their world and ours.
But here we are, only weeks on, with artists, photographers, interviews, random stuff... But it's all good. There's nothing going to be in the magazine that doesn't deserve to be there.

Right now I have edited together 41 pages, using Adobe Pagemaker. It's basic, and there will be a LOT of improvement in the coming month and a half, but it's not bad. Everything is very simple, and some of the features and articles ain't finished yet... But it's something to work from, and it's pretty promising.
We have a 5,000 word MySpace interview conducted with Steve McAllister, author of The Rucksack Letters, articles on Beat Books, Beat Tales, Bob Kaufman, a feature on Buddhism and the Beats, a guide to Beat figures, photography of Buddhist direction, poetry, a short story, collages, fake advertisement for William S Burroughs' crack...
Oh, I'm pleased about this. I plan on putting together a one hundred page rough draft and whoring it out to investors, then spending a month putting a proper version together for sale.
The reason there is an end of August deadline for going to the presses is because I'm off to California to work on a farm as part of the WWOOF program. For three months I'll toil my heart out, before returning to the UK in December, in time for Christmas, New Year, and the second edition of Beatdom. Hopefully my travels will provide me with some On the Road experience to infuse the next issue with.
Of course, I'll keep you informed of when each issue is available to buy...

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Rodney Munch Is Alive!

Rodney Munch first made his appearance in Duncan of Jordanstone on the 19th May, at the premier of the Dundee Degree Show, and he is still there today!
I visited the art school to use their printers and scanners and Photoshop for Beatdom, but I saw the two paintings and the Rodney Munch name tag proudly hanging outside Fine Art.
:) Oh I'm happy, friends!
Who knows how long Rodney Munch will be on display? We succeeded so royal in our endeavour that nothing can take our legacy away!

Monday, 9 July 2007


I wrote a little book back in the summer of 2005. When I finished it, I printed it and tucked it away in a box so I could forget about it and edit it later with a more objective point of view.
So a little while ago I found the manuscript and began the editing process. It's a strange feeling to read something and not knw what will happen next, only to find out and remember you already knew. It's also weird to see your writing, and know it's your writing, but it's so different to what you write like now... My style was so different back then, but still good. Parts of the book, I feel, are better than what I could write now, but parts are far worse. I decided not to edit the style, because it is different but good enough.
It's not easy getting a book of short stories published, even if the book is more like a novel, so linked are the stories to one another. No first time author really stands a chance with such a manuscript. So I decided I'd try and take the first step myself and publish the book on my own.
Lulu seems to be the way to go these days. I guess there's a lot of crap out there, and it can't be easy to market a self-published book, but all I really want is a few hardback copies for people I care about to read.
So last night I finished editing Godless: Fragments of Contemporary Society and formatted it for Lulu. Within fifteen minutes the damn thing was for sale to the whole world! I tried to order a single copy for myself, but some unknown error stopped this from happening.
Oh well, I'll get one eventually. And in the meantime I'll edit and format and publish Who Is Rodney Munch?

I'm not bothered about marketing, because I don't much care about making money or selling thousands of copies. I want the respect of my peers, not the masses.
But if I do decide to market the book, I know how I'll do it... I bought a copy of The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson a while ago, and inside the cover was a business card advertising a book published through Lulu, that the author believed to be of interest to HST fans. It's guerrilla advertising, friends! Clever and subtle stuff. It won't make you rich, but it'll gain you a few loving fans.

I think I'll indulge in a little guerrilla advertising of my own: leaving poems lying around the city with the address of this website at the bottom of the page and I'll link this page to the Lulu page ( I'll outright copy that clever author and leave my business cards in books like The Rum Diary.

Friday, 6 July 2007


Guerrilla art is done for now. The process of creating art and illegally showcasing it in the University of Dundee Degree Show 2007 is done and dusted. Whether it was a success or not is something you will have to read, if you care to do so, in the book, Who Is Rodney Munch?

And so what is next?

Well, I've just graduated from university after four years, and at the end of August I'm off to be a farmer in California for a few months. The Rodney Munch book is finished, and I'm awaiting the editing committee's comments, judgements and corrections.
Next up, I have to change all the names in the book to avoid prosecution. Then I reckon I'll self-publish it and whore it out to all the participants in the Rodney Munch saga. If that goes well, then maybe I'll let a big name published come near it, but I doubt that right now.
Also, I'm in the process of editing an untitled book I wrote three years ago It's a collection of short stories that explore life lived in the knowledge that there is no god. Reading it again, I realise some of it is amazing, and some of it is downright awful.
But the main literary concern of my life right now is the magazine I co-own and co-edit. It's called Beatdom, and explores the life and works of the Beat Generation. We've managed to sign up some talented writers, have a bundle of good ideas, and a promising investor lined up.
If you want to help out in any way, then get in touch.

Guerrilla Art

Guerrilla art is a concept explored in my forthcoming book, Who Is Rodney Munch? It follows the adventures and misadventures of a group of students with no artistic backgrounds, who challenge Scotland's leading artistic institution by inviting themselves to put their own 'art' in the annual Degree Show.
The Degree Show is the highlight Duncan of Jordanstone's calander, drawing thousands of visitors every year, and showcasing the work of Scotland's best young artists... and Rodney Munch.

The book explores covert operations and guerrilla activities, and the very nature of rebellion. It also holds a mirror to the art world, while opening a range of possibilities to the daring rebels that would shock the world with their ideas - guerrilla poetry, guerrilla gardening, guerrilla music.
Yeah, so maybe they've all been done before, but Rodney Munch draws on Dundee's finest minds to create a unified purpose and philosophy, and pushes guerrilla creativity to its very limits.