FEATURES

A  brief selection of my non-fiction writing appears below:

mind_wars_mainMind Wars (1000 words, Australian Penthouse, July 2008 )

Forget the war on terror: global military has been engaged in a decades-long campaign to find chemicals that can control the mind, and 50 years after their first experiments it seems the battlefield of the brain is once again front and centre, writes Rak Razam…

According to the US Centre for Strategic Command, the US is presently engaged in a campaign of “Full Spectrum Dominance” in all fields of existence – land, water, space, cyberspace, etc. – and now the realm of the mind itself. Yet the military’s interest in psychoactives has been long and sustained. During the height of WWII the OSS, the wartime precursor to the CIA, began the search for a truth serum they could use in intelligence interrogations. In 1945 the US Navy Technical Mission reported that Nazi scientists experimented with mescaline on subjects at the Dachau concentration camp. After the war the U.S. Navy began investigating mescaline itself under the guise of Project Chatter, and for the next three decades they engaged in experiments with mind-altering drugs in an attempt to crack the secrets of the brain.

To read the full story click here

seek_mushy_mainStill Seeking: 50 years of the magic mushroom (3,000 words, Australian Penthouse Dec, 2007)

50 years ago a New York banker’s trailblazing story of participating in a holy, age-old ritual in the mountains of Mexico with Indians who “chew strange growths that produce visions” was published, sparking off the psychedelic revolution of the 60s and a new horizon for neuroscience today

May 13, 1957, during the height of the post-war Eisenhower years, an article written by the influential banker and amateur mycologist R. Gordon Wasson, ‘Seeking the Magic Mushroom’, was published in Life magazine, part of the Time-Life stable. In homes across the nation, everyday Americans weathering the poles of luxury capitalist growth and communist menace were rocked by the strange article, part anthropology and part-adventure narrative, that introduced proof of a hitherto speculative practice by indigenous Mexican Indians, who “chew strange growths that produce visions”. A serpent was set loose in suburbia. The chain of events Wasson’s story unleashed popularised knowledge of altered states of mind and, some say, was the first spark of what was to become the psychedelic revolution. Now, fifty years later, Westerners are still seeking the ‘magic’ mushroom, as the time-honored sacrament of Mesoamericans comes out of the fields and into the medical fold as a valuable tool in the burgeoning field of neuroscience.

For the full story click here

magick_man_mainMagick Man (3000 words, Australian Penthouse magazine, Nov 2007)

As they begin their magick rite, the sky clouds over and darkens. A cold wind sweeps the top of Glastonbury Tor, the legendary British power spot where ley lines converge and primal dragon energy is concentrated. Four altars are set up with wooden poles forming triangular spaces, littered with talismans. Inside the circle between the altars step 12 people, a ragtag collection of pagans, gypsies and travellers that represent the source races of humanity. As a brilliant zig-zag flash of lightning breaks the clouds, Orryelle Defenestrate-Bascule steps into the circle followed closely by two others, their six arms waving like a spider, spinning, measuring and cutting the thread of life. The initiates are pierced through their chest and sewn together with a string web, then anointed as they sing a range of tones to activate their chakras, the energy centres running up their spines. This was the ’13th Tribe’ weaving, a boggling ritual to unite the warring races of humanity and connect to the earth, and you haven’t seen anything yet…

To read the full story click here

99francs_2Altered State (Filmmaker magazine online, Oct 26, 2007)

Rak Razam’s interview with French director Jan Kounen. Razam’s was a fascinating over-the-transom submission that explains what the talented Gallic director has been up to the last few years. Much of Razam’s interview deals with Kounen’s role as a “ayahuasquero” — a user of ayahuasca, the psychoactive drink prescribed by shamans in South America and Mexico — and how this has affected his filmmaking. So, I was happy to get Razam’s piece and learn that he made a new film, 99 Francs, which was released this fall in France, as well a documentary about his work with the South American shamans.

For the full interview click here


dennis_mckenna_interviewTrue Conversations: an interview with Dennis McKenna (High Times magazine Sept 2007, reprinted on Disinfo.com)

Dennis McKenna is one of the leading figures in the global psychedelic and scientific communities investigating plant entheogens and indigenous plant medicines. He was involved with the “Hoasca Project” studying ayahuasca usage by members of the Church de Vegetal and recently issued the manifesto “Ayahuasca and Human Destiny”. Along with his late brother Terence, Dennis co-wrote the book “The Invisible Landscape” which revealed their psychedelically influenced insights into the nature of reality and spacetime they received during “The experiment at La Cholerra” in South America in 1971 (later recounted in Terence’s book “True Hallucinations”). Here, he talks at length about what happened at La Cholerra and how that influenced his later work with ayahuasca.

To read the full story click here

reefer_maddness_mainReefer Madness (3,000 words, Australian Penthouse  August 2007)

In the classic 1936 propaganda movie ‘Reefer Madness’, a good young man is seduced into the ways of “marihuana… the new drug menace which is destroying the youth of America”, and descends into a nightmare of crime, rape, murder and eventually madness. According to the movie, now a cult classic on the stoner circuit, ‘Marihuana is… [a] drug – a violent narcotic – an unspeakable scourge… ending often in incurable insanity.” Well, at least they got the last bit right. Over seventy years since the first wave of marijuana demonising, the “incurable insanity” has well and truly set in with politicians worldwide, and shows no sign of abating. Around 39 per cent of our population are reported to have tried the devil’s weed, and crop sales are worth an estimated $5-8 billion Australia-wide. With the clash between official rhetoric and the cultural experience as wide as ever, a fresh wave of ‘Reefer Madness’ is sweeping our nation, fuelled by stories of mind-bending ‘hydro’ cannabis and drug war clichés that hide deeper-seated issues.

For the full story click here

rael_world_mainThe Rael World (3,000 words   Australian Penthouse,  June 2007)

So I call up the prophet Raël on Skype, talking to him over the internet in far-off Switzerland, where he’s staying in some chalet or something while he pushes ahead with his mission to preach the word of the aliens to save us from Armageddon – if, like, we live righteously and stuff, and give Raël the money to build an embassy for their arrival.

Raël’s assistant has the sweetest, sexy French voice. Her name is Li-Li. She sounds delectable, and if that’s really her avatar on the Skype dial screen she’s a hot, caramel-skinned honey. If I was dialing up the Pope, or the Dalai Llama, or any other global religious leader it might be wrong to think lewd thoughts about their personal assistants, but this is Raël, man, ALL his personal assistants are gorgeous, and at the core of his religious teachings is a simple recipe of free-love and feelgood vibes. Like, if I was there in the chalet I’m sure he ‘d be offering me Li-Li and a one-way ticket to the mothership, he’s just that kinda guy. So don’t be so hard on him, y’know, I mean all people with just one name are a bit weird – Cher, Madonna, Prince, Raël, it comes with the fame, I guess, or the enlightenment.

For the full story click here

rainbow_mainOver the Rainbow (3,000 words, Australian Penthouse, May 2007)

Friday morning, day one – “Hippies, hippies… they want to save the world but all they do is smoke pot and play frisbee!” – Eric Cartman, South Park

I wake to the sounds of a cluster of Japanese girls camped next door, their voices mixing with Spanish, German and thick Aussie accents. Renegade soundsystems pump out thumping electronic beats that fill the dusty air. The ever-present doof doof doof of the music is so ubiquitous you eventually forget it’s even there. We’ve run out of beer, but it was only a slab between three thirsty blokes and it should have been expected. All around us party crew are camped next to their vans and cars, an endless gypsy village covered in layers of dust. The camps touch upon each other in every direction, a vast, fractal tent city that folds in on itself like architectural origami. It reminds me of the way insects make their homes, of a hive consciousness. North American tipis and flags of all countries are mixed in with ancient symbols and psychedelic images. It looks like civilization after the fall, after the oil peaks and the power shortages kick in.

for the full story click here

jungle1Jungle Fever (3,000 words, Australian Penthouse  November 2006)

We’re 45 kilometres out of Iquitos, deep in the Peruvian Amazon, in the great green web of nature with our native Shaman, Percy Garcia. He has the boyish enthusiasm of a physical education teacher, which is reinforced by his western garb – Nike sneakers, tracky dacks and soccer shirt, but he’s been trained since he was a boy in the world of the spirits, and of the great plant medicine – ayahuasca.

The night is alive with the sounds of insects and animals, like a constant hum of electricity. The maloca – a wall-less jungle hut – is lit by candles and mattresses litter the floor for the gringos to crash on as their bodies surrender to the pull of the medicine, and their spirits soar.

for the full story click here

chernobyl-1CHERNOBYL – DAYDREAMS and NIGHTMARES

(2500 words, EyeOn magazine, August 2006)
On the night of April 26, 1986 at approximately 1:23 am, Reactor 4 at the Chernobyl nuclear power station experienced a disastrous steam explosion that resulted in a nuclear meltdown. Flaws in the plant’s design and a series of operator errors resulted in many safety systems being switched off during a planned test of the reactor’s turbine generator and its ability to (ironically) produce electricity for back-up safety systems.

NOW, 20 YEARS since the catastrophe, the nuclear issue remains as incendiary as ever. The current argument for an increase in nuclear power generation to offset increasing peak oil costs has pushed the issue back into world headlines. But treating the nuclear issue solely on an economic basis ignores deep social and environmental considerations. And the risks of nuclear power are well documented, forever etched into the global memory by disasters like Chernobyl.

Click here to download the full story as a PDF: chernobyl

avian_flu-2

Birds of a Feather (1,500 words, EyeOn magazine, August 2006)

Like the canary in the coal mine, birds have long been gateway indicators of environmental conditions that affect humans. In the 21st century our web of interdependence extends not just through the natural world, but through the man-made culture created around it. And as recent concerns over global ‘bird flu’ have shown us, one of the best indicators of our global health is still the humble bird.

THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION (WHO) says that wild waterfowl are the ‘natural reservoir’ of all influenza A viruses and have most likely carried them for centuries with no apparent harm. It’s only when migratory birds infect domesticated poultry flocks that problems really begin, as low bacteria H5 and H7 viruses can mutate to dangerous and pathogenic forms. Although there are various strains of the virus it is the H5N1 and H7N7 which can be lethal to humans.

Click here to download the full story as a PDF: avian_flu

wall_of_doom

Coming Out of the Woodwork (3,000 words, Undergrowth magazine  August 2006)

Twelve years after forest blockading began, conservation activists and loggers are still at odds amongst East-Gippsland’s old growth forests, says Rak Razam. But the odds are changing.

“Last summer about 1:30 in the morning I was about 50 metres up [a sit in Ferntree forest] on a very big tree. A logger climbed up on top of the machine cabled to the sit and jumped on the cable. It flipped me over like a pinball machine, threw me into the tree and left bruises and stab wounds all up this leg – it was one massive bruise. And there I was hanging upside down with everything I had in the sit gone, and I’m screaming ‘f— offff… help, camera, camera!” Everyone else is 150 metres up the hill and I’m alone without a torch in the pitch dark, half way up a tree – and I’d just attached the safety, I mean, just, seconds…”

‘Hobgoblin’ – all the activists have ‘bunny’ names to protect their true identities – is a thirty something punk rocker with a shaved head and dreadlocks, a bull chain in his nose and fierce, piercing almond eyes. Despite nursing a swollen leg from yet another protest injury yesterday, he looks like the stunt double for Keith from the Prodigy, lost in the bush for a few years and gone feral. He’s been putting his life on the line for over a decade now to stop the logging of old growth forest in East Gippsland. “I’ve been beaten, tortured, pulled out of sits…” he says with a proud smile, but, “like, what choice do you have, really? If you see the lies, how do you walk back out and smile and make out everything’s okay?”

for the full story click here

lsd-problem-child-or-wonderTripping the light fantasmic (The Age, Feb 4, 2006)

Sixty years after it first began running amok, the world’s psychedelic problem child is having a new coming of age, writes Rak Razam.

“LAST FRIDAY, April 16, 1943, I was forced to stop my work in the laboratory in the middle of the afternoon and to go home, as I was seized by a peculiar restlessness associated with a sensation of mild dizziness. On arriving home, I lay down and sank into a kind of drunkenness which was not unpleasant, and which was characterised by extreme activity of imagination.

“As I lay in a dazed condition with my eyes closed, I experienced daylight as specially bright. There surged up from me an uninterrupted stream of fantastic images of extraordinary plasticity and vividness and accompanied by an intense, kaleidoscopic-like play of colours. This condition gradually passed off after about three hours.”

He didn’t know it at the time, but Dr Albert Hofmann, the Swiss chemist known as the “father of LSD”, or d-lysergic acid diethylamide, had just come back from the world’s first acid trip, as recounted in his autobiography My Problem Child. It was an extraordinary moment, a brush with madness and the divine that would leave any ordinary person fearing for their mind. Sixty-three years later, Hoffman’s unique chemical is still trying to shake off its reputation and the whole world has been drawn into his long, strange trip.

LSD: Problem Child and Wonder Drug, an international symposium held in Basel, Switzerland, from January 13 to 15, is the latest chapter to unfold in the lurid history of LSD. As well as discussing the current medical and cultural state of the controversial chemical, the symposium also celebrated Dr Hofmann’s 100th birthday.

for the full story click here

st_hofmann100

The Australian: LSD faces an acid test as a pain killer [February 18, 2006]
PSYCHEDELIA sent a creative tsunami through the rock bands of the 1960s, but government concern over the recreational abuse of drugs such as LSD led to bans that killed off exploration of any legitimate medical uses. But there is something of a resurgence of interest among researchers in the medical uses for LSD, psilocybin and MDMA. Clinical trials have shown promising results for relieving crippling “cluster” and other vascular headaches, as well as pain, suffering and anxiety in terminally-ill cancer patients

for the full story click here

planet_maya_new_webPlanet Maya (3,000 words  Undergrowth magazine Dec 2005)

It may not be a bank holiday or a day off work, but July 25th is the ‘Day Out of Time’ for the newest spiritual movement and it’s push for global calendar reform. It’s called ‘Dreamspell’, a cross between astrology and a new religion that has appropriated the knowledge of the ancient Maya and their 13 moon calendar and packaged it for mainstream consumption.

Calendar classes are popping up like the new pilates as the ‘in’ thing to do, as a ‘sexed up’ Mayan calendar resurgence sweeps the world. Before you know it, Madonna will be casting her glyph and singing about the ‘Blue Crystal Storm’ as the message that  ‘we are now at the end of the Dreamspell of history and at the beginning of the Dreamspell of galactic  culture’ takes off. But what is it about the13 moon calendar that has haunted history? Why is it so important and why does it still resonate with everyday people in this global village of pick and choose ideologies? Underlying it all is a deep sense of something that feels right in an artificial world where even the way we measure time is arbitrary and oppressive. The only problem is, indigenous Mayan Elders aren’t too happy about the way it’s being promoted, and a culture war is brewing as the Dreamspell turns into a nightmare.

For the full story click here

nevilleThe Wizard of Oz: an interview with Richard Neville

(Undergrowth magazine, March 2004)
Richard Neville has been one of Australia’s leading cultural dissidents since his student days in the early 1960’s, when he launched the first incarnation of Oz magazine that helped spawn the underground press in Australia. Oz magazine carried on in the UK as was hailed as `the spirit of it’s time’ by some and as `obscene literature that corrupted the morals of children’ by critics. This lead to an obscenity bust and the infamous trial in the Old Bailey in London that legitimized the merit of alternative media. His book, Playpower, `the first international book on the underground’, charted the social transformations of the 60s global counter culture, and he has been a frequent social commentator in print and tv ever since. His best selling books also include Hippy Hippy Shake, Out of My Mind, Playing Around, The Life and Crimes of Charles Sobhraj, Amerika Psycho and Footprints of the Future. His `Journal of a Futurist’ articles on the current War on Terror and war in Iraq, globalisation, the re-invention of work, the consciousness movement, the new role for business in the 21st century and more provide a liberal dash of realpolitik reality expansion for these times and can be read at http://www.richardneville.com/

RN> UNDERGROWTH’s a great name… it’s good to have the resonance of the underground but to be striking out in a more ecosystemic way… you’re moving from the subway station concept of underground – the London tube, grimy metaphor to a more ecological metaphor…

RR> I think it parallels what youth culture and the whole planet’s going through – resetting itself to an ecological balance and a perspective that will make things sustainable again.

RN> Well you’d better hurry! Time’s running out…

RR> It’s going to take us all to do it! That’s the problem! Now, what we’re hoping for this first issue of UNDERGROWTH is to establish a bridge between people who have done what we’re doing before and to look at the common issues – which seem to be the same, strangely, or not so strangely enough, for each generation. It seems like we’re still tackling them against the establishment…

RN> It’s all become very dramatic now because – and to me it all seems so dramatic and obvious what’s going on… You have not just the militarization of the world since post 9/11, but the accelerated militarization of space, too, now. So this is pretty huge. If you think of the Pentagon as a country or an economy, it’s now even overtaken Australia – it’s in billions. It’s now approaching almost the economy of India. If you add to that the number of bases that have multiplied like a virus, and add to that arms sales… this goes way beyond what we think of as Star Wars. On top of that you’ve got the complete winding down of ecological regulations. Environmental laws are being overturned or quietly corporatised. It’s asbolutely frightening. Lastly you’ve got not just a fall back from Kyoto – which is like this blanket idea, but all the details underpinning that…

For the full story click here

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