Subversive Book Club Review: The Lives of Abbie Hoffman

Full Title: Run, Run Run: The Lives of Abbie Hoffman
Author(s): Jack Hoffman and Daniel Simon
Year: 1994
Comments: Going into this book I already had a vast knowledge of Abbie Hoffman’s life, at least his life in the spotlight, but after reading this I gained a new perception of a man I have come to greatly admire over the years. Since, the main author is Abbie’s kid brother Jack, we are given an extrmely close, personal perspective of the events, lifestyle, and personality of Abbie Hoffman, the things only a brother could tell you. I have read and seen several works on Abbie (including his own autobiography, Soon to Be a Major Motion Picture– 1979), but this is the deepest and darkest. The first half of the book is a bit more optimistic, we see Abbie go from a fairly typical American boy with a privileged, suburban background to an aspiring, curious psychologist and ultimately to a committed, social activist. Initially, Abbie is involved in the Civil Rights Movement and is a bit more traditional at first, but as the times change Abbie changes and he soon becomes the iconic, inverted american flag wearing Yippie! we have come to love. The biography doesn’t go too far into the details of his specific activism, but mostly how it affects his life and the lives of his family members. For both, it is a dramatic effect, often severing relationships beyond repair. Jack Hoffman details how Abbie’s notoriety destroyed much of his family’s lives, both internally and externally- often ruining business deals and personal relationships. At the same time, he descibes Abbie’s complete devotion to his country and how he inspired millions. It appears that Abbie hit his peak of happiness and inspiration in the late 60s, because the second half of the book starts to chronicle Abbie’s emotional downfall. He is busted for cocaine possession (though it appears this was largely a set up) and soon flees to the underground. While on the run, he remains highly active politically and socially, even starting an entire environmental movement in the form of the Save The St. Lawrene River Movement. Despite, his admirable work, he begins to fall deeper and deeper into depression. Eventually, he is diagnosed with Manic Depression and this truly rips apart Abbie’s soul. Even after he emerges back into the public eye, he still struggeles to find happiness. Through all of these chaotic times, Abbie never quits the political struggle, with as much energy as ever. Alas, I must admit reading the last hundred or so pages of this book was really a drag. Don’t get me wrong, it is well-written, but I never realized how much Abbie (or his family for that matter) suffered. Then in 1989, Abbie committed his worst crime: suicide. Just look at how sad and distant Jack’s words are in his desciption of his brother’s suicide: “Sometime between Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon, Abbie emptied 150 or more 30-milligram phenobarbitals into a glass of Glenlivet single malt Scotch whiskey, gulped that down, and then filled and swallowed four or five glasses of the Scotch as fast he could. It only took a few minutes for the drug to take hold of him, and then he lay down to die” (353). The emotional turmoil of the Lives of Abbie Hoffman is made clearer than ever. And when the story reaches its conclusion we understand why this is the title of the book. Abbie truly led several different lives, some more stable than others, but ultimately in each of those characters was a pillar of responsibility. Responsibilty to the people around you, the people that are suffering around the world, and a responsibility to never give up, even when it seems the rest of the world is against you. Abbie Hoffman showed us that loving your country did not mean sucking Uncle Sam’s dick. Yeah, I think he would have liked that.

Grade: 8/10

Sleep Paralysis, Crazy Shit!

Does anybody else suffer from this? I sure do! It’s unpleasant, annoying, and sometimes downright horrifying. For those that don’t know sleep paralysis is basically when you are in the transition from sleep to fullly awaken; your mind is awake, but your body is still in sleep mode, therefore you cannot move, hence the “parlysis.” Share some experiences if you like in the comment section. Just today I felt like I was in the fetal position, felt like I was suffocated with music blaring in my ear. I could not move whatsoever and it went on longer than usual- about 10-15 minutes, at least it seemed. When I came to, I was sleeping on my back and no one was around, no music was playing. I get sleep paralysis at least a few times a month, often a few times a week. I have a mild version of it, some folks have to deal with a day to day (or night to night) trauma. Check it out.

Classic Film Review: The Devil and Daniel Johnston

Full Title: The Devil and Daniel Johnston
Director: Jeff Feuerzeig
Year: 2005
Comments:
Before I go any further, I must warn you if you are planning on watching this documentary, then you will be possessed by the Devil… Did you hear me?! I said the DEVIL. SAYTUNNN!!! Now, if you think I should be locked up in the looney bin before I harm others and myself, then you are probably right, but this is not about me (The Devil and Chris DeCarlo will hit theaters in years to come) this is about the one and only Daniel Johnston. In this gentle, affectionate, film we see how Dan is an enthusiastic, earnest, artist, in spite or because of his various mental and/or social problems. Initially, he is simply a slacker, eshewing work and school for his art, much to the chagrin of his family; his parents in particular are objects of his animostity. Alas, as he grows older his mental capacity deteriates (hence his obsession with the Devil) and he is diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder causing him to be in and out of mental institutions and a serious threat to himself and those around him. I’ll stop here before I give away anything else, unless of course you know Dan’s bio… What I really like about this documentary is the fact that it stays personal via old home movies, tape recorded interviews, animation (coming straight outta Dan’s drawings, literally!), and of course interviews with his family, friends, and collaborators. The doc never strays off into a Michael Moore performance art sorta thang or a hidden agenda drenched picture. The agenda is clear: Daniel Johnston, love him or hate him, was and still is an incredible, gifted man with more passion in his art than most other artists one cares to name. Overall, this is a rollercoaster of emotions ranging from sad, humorous, fascinating, disturbing, entertaining, and ultimately touching- fans and non-fans unlike should see one of the finest documentaries of the last ten years.

P.S. excuse the “rollercoaster of emotions” cliche, but since Dan worked at an amusement park, I think it fits.

Grade: A-

Subversive Book Club Review: Psych…

Author: Carl Jung (published as C.G. Young)
Full Title: Psychology and Religion
Year: 1938
Comments:

Well, here’s a rather unique addition for our little Subversive Book Joint. The broad topics of Psychology and Religion have barey (if at all) entered the sphere of Book Club reviews and what other better way to kick off this occasion than with Psych’s Spock, Carl Jung! Jung, unlike his mentor, Sigmund Freud, focused less on the role of sex in our psyche and more on shadows, archetypes, and all that jazz. As you can probably guess my knowledge of Psychology is very limited to a couple of general psych courses, so much of this work was a bit too “heady” for me, but I appreciated delving into deep thought with Jung’s musings. Specifically, I dig his theory that it is our thoughts that are actually the most dangerous elements in life and not things like torandos and nuclear bombs. Sit on that for a while…. Overall, I like the way Jung isn’t dogmatic with his approaches, like most others are.

I’m not going to grade this because I do not feel like I am in any position to judge it as a “good” or “bad” book, but I enjoyed doing a little exploring.

Chris