Thursday, December 05, 2019


THE GENERALIST ARCHIVE has a substantial collection of music books and magazines, clippings, tickets, photos, programmes, posters and vinyl. Happy to add these new titles to the library.

'The Art of the Blues: A Visual Treasury of Black Music's Golden Age' actually came out in 2016 so its only taken me three years to get round to writing about it! Better late than never. Its a stunner. The text is deeply researched and fluently written by Bill Dahl a freelance music journalist, a prolific liner note writer and author of 'Motown: The Golden Years'.

Invaluable knowedge and advice was provided by Chris James, an award-winning recording artist and music historian. His music featured prominently in the Martin Scorsese's PBS doc The Blues'. His collection of blues artwork and ephemera has provided a large chunk of the rare material showcased in the book. Hats off also to Paul Palmer-Edwards of Grade Design who has done a real fine job throughout with classy layouts that show off the material to best advantage.

The book sequentially presents Sheet Music, Prewar Race Records and Record Catalogs, Prewar 78 labels, Music and Movie Posters, Postwar Blues 78 labels, Album Covers, Photograph Gallery and Publications and Promotions material.

In his introduction, Dahl describes the book as a tribute to the visual side of Blues golden age 'when rare and beautiful images abounded that perfectly complemented the epochal music' He writes: 'Although scholars have stringently established boundaries between blues and jazz, there was a time when artificial seperations between African-American musical genres did not exist'  and black music was universally stereotyped under the umbrella of "race music". This gumbo stew hybridised different musical strands and incorporated a wide number of regional styles. The visual presentations of the music similarly passed through different phases which makes this landmark book a valuable historical reference work and educational tool as well as being a stimulating and joyful book to browse.

Also from Chicago UP comes a straight forward entertaining blow-by-blow account of the first 40+ years of what is widely regarded as the numero uno indie blues label in the world. Bruce Iglauer founded the label with his first release by Hound Dog Taylor & The HouseRockers in 1971. In his liner notes to the Alligator Records 45th Anniversary Collection he wrote:

'Alligator was a leap of faith, an underfinanced one-man operation run out of an efficiency apartment. It was launched with an album by a band virtually unknown outside of the South and West Side Chicago neighborhood blues clubs where they played. The band had no national reputation, no booking agent or manager and they were not creating music that sounded much like anything getting played on any form of commercial radio. Yet their unbridled energy, unfettered joy and the raw soulfulness and glorious racket of their music somehow communicated to people all over the world, making them blues legends and making their debut recording a classic that continues to be discovered by legions of new fans.'

'Forty-five years later, Alligator Records, now with a catalog of almost 300 albums, continues to be guided by the same philosophy that led to that first recording—the belief that direct, unvarnished, straight-from-the-soul blues and blues-rooted music, the music we call “Genuine Houserockin’ Music,” speaks to some primal, necessary place in people’s consciousness.'


Writing about music is an art form. These titles illustrate aspects of what is a very broad church. By and large, music critics and music writers are male (with notable exceptions). There's a geekish schoolboy contingent and increasingly an academic diaspora. In my experience, music is best discussed at the bar. We all have some favourite music writers. Many of mine were/are mates from my time at the underground newspaper Frendz and/or the New Musical Express.

'A Hidden Landscape Once A Week' 
The Unruly Curiosity of the UK music press in the 1960s-80s, in the words of those who were there'. 

The Start of It All 

In May 2015 Mark Sinker convened a conference at Birkbeck, University of London, in Bloomsbury. 'Underground-Overground: The Changing Politics of UK Music-Writing 1968-85' brought together writers, editors and readers of the underground and trade music presses of the 1960s-80s with academics and other media commentators, to discuss the emergence and evolution of the countercultural voice in the UK, as inflected through the rock papers and music press in those decades. Funded by a successful Kickstarter in July 2016, this anthology includes edited select transcripts of some of the Birkbeck panels, plus essays and memoirs from and interviews with participants and others, to expand the story and dig further into some of the issues.

'For almost three decades, the UK music press was the forging ground for a new critical culture, where readers could encounter anything from comics and cult films to new musical forms and radical underground politics. It created an off-mainstream collective cultural commons improvised through a networked subculture of rival weeklies, monthlies and fanzines, including such titles as NME, Melody Maker, Sounds, Record Mirror, Black Echoes, Black Music, Let It Rock, Street Life, ZigZag and Smash Hits.

'Edited by Mark Sinker, this anthology of conversations, essays, memories and commentary explores how this hitherto under-charted space first came about, who put it together, what it achieved, and where it went. Along the way, it unearths the many surprising worlds explored by this network of young anarchists, dreamers and agitators, who dared to take pop culture seriously, and considers what remains of their critical legacy. '

There is much to enjoy here and students of popular culture will find info and quotes for a wide variety of theses. As someone who was there at the time, this feels like perhaps a final hurrah. It was a long time ago. Its good that the effect the underground press had on the music press has been recognised. It's a book to dip into and ponder. Music writing now is rarely exciting.

Pick Up The Pieces: Excursions in Seventies Music
According to Wikipedia, John Corbett (b.1963) is an American writer, musician, radio host, teacher, record producer, concert promoter, and gallery owner based in Chicago, Illinois. He is best known among musicians and music fans as a champion of free jazz and free improvisation. A staff writer for Down Beat magazine, he curates live gigs, was artistic director of the Berlin Jazz Festival (2002) produces the Unheard Music Series for Atavistic Records and much more.

With three books in the hopper including 'Vinyl Freak: Love Letters to a Dying Medium', this new substantial volume is made up of 78 essays of various lengths which document his varied listening highlights through the 1970s and his life experiences, from 7 to 17, attached to them.

Corbett writes: ' a look at the sound of the seventies as I made sense of it at the time, from the sublime to the pathetic, and also as I pieced it together after the fact, from later points in life, when I uncovered compelling music I had missed and parsed things about my music that I'd failed to grasp.'

The approach and concept has the benefit of being fresh and interesting but not all the essays hit the spot. Some tested my patience and appeared to be over-the-line pretentious or too freeform. Others were informative and interesting. There always has been a difference between UK and US music writing, although Lester Bangs was a founding influence on both Corbett and Nick Kent. The writer becomes as important as the music he or she's reviewing. A book like this is hard to pull off as journalism students will discover if they try and emulate his approach.

Lengthy interview/conversation  with John Corbett by the American novelist Rick Moody about this book on the Rumpus website.


In 2003, Bloomsbury Books launched a new series of titles entitled 33 1/3. There are currently 135 titles with more to come according to the series website. They have also published this book by Rick Moody.

According to an essay in Pitchfork by Stephen M. Duesner [29 June 2015), which celebrates the first 100+ titles and chooses what he thinks are the 33 best, he writes:'When the series started assigning one album to one author back in 2003—right around the time the album was rumored to be cooling on a slab in the pop culture morgue, ready to be opened up and autopsied—there was no template for this kind of publication, no prescribed notions to fill. The books could take the shape of an essay, or a work of fiction, or even some odd hybrid of both. But whatever the format, these paperbacks are aggressively accessible: short, pocketsize, easily consumed during a few commutes. Perhaps more crucially, potentially anyone can write a 33 1/3 book: critics, academics, journalists, musicians, poets, assorted armchair commentators.'

'Music From Big Pink' by Scottish novelist John Niven was republished in this series in 2018. Niven was born in 1968 when the album first came out. He cleverly combines fact and fiction through the eyes and ears of the main character Greg Keltner, a musician and drug dealer, who manages to inveigle himself into the Woodstock scene with Dylan and The Band, becoming one of their main suppliers. Music writer Barney Hoskins, whose studied and completed his own non-fiction book on this scene, writes in an intro of his 'mesmerised disbelief that a thirtysomething Scotsman could, with such uncanny accuracy, catch the heady geist of that late 1960s zeit'. The book is a compact 160pp tale that both rings true and captures the magic of those times. A great read.

[This post was inadvertantly deleted after I first published it. Happily the press people at Chicago University Press had copied it out and I am most grateful to them for rescuing it]

Monday, September 30, 2019


In September two years ago THE GENERALIST published four posts under the banner THE FUTURE IS FEMALE, profiling women artists and reviewing a clutch of marvellous books on them. 

   Carolyn Trant's new book 'Voyaging Out' [just published by Thames & Hudson] is an important and welcome addition to the literature. It is also an excellent complement to Whitney Chadwick's 'Women, Art and Society' [also published by T&H/6th Edition] which takes a broader overview in time and space.

This beautiful and important history of  'British Women Artists from the Suffrage to the Sixties' is a remarkable piece of work by an art practitioner (not a critic or an academic) whose work combines art and crafts. In addition, her wide-ranging activities include teaching, creating artist's books, community printmaking and much more.

As this book demonstrates, Carolyn is a fine writer, an extremely thorough researcher and someone who has acquired all this knowledge not by rehashing existing research but by interviewing and intermingling with the living relatives of so many of the women featured in her narratives.

The book consist of  18 chunky chapters that lead us, largely chronologically, through some 50 years and introduces us to what must be 100 or more female artists and craft workers most of which one has not come across before. The many biographical portraits are set in their context and carefully stitched together to provide a broader tapestry of the network of artistic groups and movements. Chapters investigate women as war artists, as political activists, as surrealists, as muses. She investigates artists' partnerships, the plus and minuses of working from studios or domestic settings, women artists as teachers, and women who played the art world successfully and had an influence. In summary, she provides us with a totally alternative view of art history that changes one's perception and enriches one understanding of the period.

The book itself is a fine object, with readable typography set on a cream paper stock which provides a perfect backdrop for the colourful illustrative content which must amount to some 150 paintings, portraits and illustrations - a feast for the eye. 

The cover features a painting called 'Dorset' painted by Evelyn Dunbar, the only salaried woman war artist in the Second World War which 'seems an image of relief after the trauma of war  - the land has survived.' 

There is so much in this book to take on board that repeated readings will be required to fully grasp this new narrative. A banquet of richness best digested slowly. I have no doubt it will be widely and wildly appreciated by female artists of today who will draw fresh inspiration from Carolyn Trant's valuable work.

CAROLYN TRANT is widely respected in Lewes for her creative ideas and the important contribution she has made to stimulating the art heart of the town through decades of determined effort.  My photos below show a recent evening organised and presented by Mark Hewitt in which Carolyn talked about her long and varied artlife in a fascinating manner, illustrated by an impressive slideshow of work.


Sunday, August 18, 2019


Some 20 years ago, journalist Tom O'Neill was commissioned by Premier magazine to write a piece about Manson's effect on Hollywood. Its taken that long to complete 'Chaos', a lengthy and exhaustive investigation into the little-known background of the Manson murders, just published on the 50th anniversary of an event that symbolically marked the end of the '60s, coinciding with the release of the new Tarantino movie. with its own take on the Manson story.. of which more anon.

When O'Neill first started asking questions, nobody in Hollywood wanted to talk about it and he wondered why. Soon enough he got hooked and ended up digging deeper and deeper. Pictures of the inside of his house reveal acres of files and a whiteboard - almost de riguer in police and crime movies today - with a bewildering maze of lines connecting a huge cast of dodgy ne'er do wells.

He soon discovers that there are gaping holes in the official narratives and that the Manson family set-up with drugs, under-age girls and weaponry seemed immune from prosecution, despite repeated arrests, suggesting that some arm of the law enforcement appartus wanted to keep out them and manson in particular on the loose. there.Competing police forces took four months to arrest Manson and his killer brood yet the authorities knew it was Manson much earlier.

The Generalist Archive
                                                                                 The Polanski/Sharon Tate mansion had a reputation for occult and orgy parties but it seems that Manson knew none of the occupants. He was seeking vengeance on Terry Melcher, Doris Day's son, an influential record producer who had lived in the same house for a while.

Manson met Beach Boy drummer Dennis Wilson and through him got Melcher to come to the Farm and listen to his songs. Melcher promised a deal but never came through. Seeking vengeance, Manson sent his killing squad out to slaughter who ever they could find in the house. The years that have gone by have not lessened the shock of their savage gory attacks on  Sharon Tate, pregnant at the time, and six other innocents. Two days later, another another two people were stabbed to death on Manson's orders. It is believed that there were other murders that have still not been investigated.

O'Neill races around uncovering many witnesses and important figures that had never spoken to before. Many die before he can reach them. Archives disappear. Promising leads die out. He's refused access to important police files. Despite the difficulties he perseveres.

Until now the standard narrative of the Manson story has been 'Helter Skelter' by Vincent Bugliosi the prosecuting council in the case, now deceased. O'Neill has successfully put the lie to much of Bugliosi's work inside and outside the courtroom. It's a grand and important piece of investigative work which reveals connections to the secret police black ops operations CHAOS and COINTELPRO which were empowered to disrupt not only students fighting against the Vietnam War but also the Black Panthers. There are also connections with the 125 undercover projects funded by the CIA operation named MK-ULTRA  which was about brainwashing using LSD as part of plan to train assassins.

International Times
The Generalist aArchive

Manson was convicted and died in jail in 2007 but the story of his messianic blood-soaked rampages- enacted by young women out of their heads on LSD - has left a scar in the culture. Manson was much more deeply connected to Hollywood stars and others in the film and music business of the time than was previously believed. O'Neill's delving reveals much that we didn't know but makes it clear that we may never know the full truth. One finishes the book with mixed feelings. 

I like the New York Times reviewer's comment that it's ' less a definitive account of the murders than a kaleidoscope swirl of weird discoveries and mind-bending hypotheticals that reads like Raymond Chandler after a tab of windowpane.'

For more reviews, YouTube author interviews etc see O'Neill's personal site

Saturday, August 03, 2019


We're building an army of young people to make climate change an urgent priority across America, end the corrupting influence of fossil fuel executives on our politics, and elect leaders who stand up for the health and wellbeing of all people.

We are ordinary young people who are scared about what the climate crisis means for the people and places we love. We are gathering in classrooms, living rooms, and worship halls across the country. Everyone has a role to play. Public opinion is already with us - if we unite by the millions we can turn this into political power and reclaim our democracy.

We are not looking to the right or left. We look forward. Together, we will change this country and this world, sure as the sun rises each morning.



We need a Green New Deal to fight the climate crisis at the scale that scientists say is necessary. It’s a plan that would transform our economy and society at the scale needed to stop the climate crisis. It’s our fighting chance to actually stop this crisis - for some of us, the first we’ve seen in our whole lives.
Here is how we win:
  1. Launch the “Road to a Green New Deal Tour” to reach tens of thousands people around the country, and give them to tools to get their politicians signed on.
  2. Turn up the heat on every Presidential and Congressional candidate to back the Green New Deal.
  3. Build our movement in every corner of the country so we can reach the millions of young people who are scared about climate and keep building support for a Green New Deal.
  4. Join with other movements for change to elect a President and a Congress that will stand up to fossil fuel CEOs and pass a Green New Deal to transform our economy within the coming decade and offer a job to every single American who wants one — no matter the color of our skin, where we live or where our parents are from.

Taking action and raising your voice is how we achieve this.

  we pulled off our biggest action yet on Monday December 10th 2018. 1,000-strong, we united in Washington DC to demand House Democratic Leadership sign on to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's resolution for a Select Committee on a Green New Deal. 


Thursday, August 01, 2019


Steve Sawyer was a force to be reckoned with. He was tough, physically very strong, until the last days of his life when an agressive cancer finally stopped him trying to help the world and save the planet. No doubt Kelly, his lifelong partner will continue the battle as she always has. Their son and daughter will also ensure that parent's legacy is honoured. They've all travelled the world extensively and no doubt Steve's spirit is out there now expoloring new dimensions.

Steve was a grand sailor they tell me. I avoid stepping on boats if at all possible. I used to advise people not to play basketball with him. His speed, strength and attitude were overwhelming. My son and I played the blues with him in the cellar of the family house in Amsterdam. He could really play that guitar, generally with the VOLUME TURNED UP to max.. He was good with technology too. If I was going on any sort of expedition, which is unlikely but not impossible, I would want to be in Steve's tent. Hurricane or bear attack, you had the best chance of surviving if you were on his team. 

Steve was doggone damned determined and that's what made him a great head of Greenpeace International [ he did 30 years at the mast in total] and then the 10-year s as top man at the global wind association, speaking about global warming early and doing something about it. Wind energy is rapidly expanding thanks to China. Steve deserves credit for making a huge contribution  in both those organisations.There were others who did a lot and they too should be celebrated.

Steve: I have combed the worldwide internet for pictures of you. There are a few. You didn't seek the limelight. Happily I know you are captured plenty in the family snapshot archive.

As is usual in these situations, I wonder why I didn't keep in touch Steve. I thought of you often and often thought of contacting you. I followed your movemnts in the world of wind admiringly.

I expect you'll meet up with David McTaggart sometime soon. Those two in one room could be thermonuclear or joyous or both.

I wanted to pay tribute to you in some way and I hope you will approve. It is the article I wrote for Time Out magazine that they published in early October 1985. That was the first time met. You were still jangled by it all. I remember it being intense. That was your birthday party on the Rainbow Warrior that night in July and you might all have died when the bombs went off except you'd all taken the party elsewhere, They killed photographer Fernando Pereira. Now we know it was the French state. The last act in the battle to stop atmospheric nuclear testing in the Pacific. They stopped.

I may think of more things to add.  I''ll put some links in. I certainly didn't expect to write this note in the way it's come out. Best not to speculate about the future. I'm missing you already but I know you're out there somewhere, That's you in the picture. As the Beach Boys sing it: Sail On, Sail On Sailor. I'm listerning to it now.



Greenpeace's Steve Sawyer was in Auckland when the French bombed the Rainbow Warrior. John May talks to him about the fateful events of the night of July 10 and Greenpeace's current plans to confront the French navy off Mururoa. 

Rainbow Warrior had arrived in Auckland three days before the bombing to an enthusiastic reception from friends and well-wishers in a flotilla of small craft. The first days in port were packed with social engage-ments and the boat was crowded with politicians, campaigners and the crews of the other peace vessels. They were given a civic reception complete with an official Maori welcome. Wednesday, July 10 was the first day anyone had to get any proper work done. 

Time Out spoke to Steve Sawyer, co-ordinator of Greenpeace's Mururoa campaign, about the events of that night and the following days. It had become a familiar story to him, but this didn't make it any easier for him to tell it. The strain, the tension and the tired-ness have not relented since. His voice was flat and tight-lipped. 

'Wednesday evening I went out with representatives from our other national organisations in the West who were there for a regional meeting scheduled to start the next day.

 'Eight o'clock I arrived back at the ship for our so-called skipper's meeting. It was my birthday so they had a cake and ice cream and all that business. Which is when we noticed this French character. 

'He gave his name as Francois Verlon. He arrived on the boar the night of the bombing about 7 o'clock and left about 8.30. A crewperson was with him the entire time. 

'Basically he was on our side, or so he professed. My only contact with him was that he wished me "Happy birthday" and then said "Good luck on the campaign" as he walked out the door.

 'He was young, slender. I thought he was a student. Short. Very light blonde hair. Very clean shaven or else he didn't have a beard yet.

 'He had left his name with people and told them he was going to Tahiti that night on an airplane. So when the police asked us, about four or five in the morning, if we had seen anything suspicious, everybody's eyes lit up and we said, "Oh my God, this French guy was on board!" 

'So we gave them all the information we had. They supposedly tracked him down through Interpol and got the police in Tahiti to question him. It was reported that he had expressed shock and horror at what had happened, had agreed to come back to New Zealand if he could be of any help and all the rest of it. At which point people lost interest in him. 

'My understanding from second-hand reports is that subsequently the New Zealand police were interested in re-establishing contact with him but he had disappeared.' 

Verlon hasn't been seen since. 

Sawyer returned to his account of the evening of July 10: 'Shortly before eleven we came back up above and then myself and the other political pe-ple in the organisation left to go to another meeting on the other side of the isthmus. We got over there just around the time the bomb went off.' 

The double detonations, less than 500 metres from Auckland's main thoroughfare, Queen Street, rocked nearby buildings and were heard several kilometres away. 

MV Explorer, a gulf cruiser moored next to Rainbow Warrior, was lifted against the wharf piles by the force of the blast. Its captain, Warren Sinclair, sent a radio mayday call and dashed over to the Warrior only to hear the second explosion. Several people on board were flung or jumped into the harbour as the 40-metre vessel keeled over. Sinclair said: 'It was just utter chaos —some people swimming, some climbing the wharf.' It was later discovered that at least 20 kilograms of explosives were used. 

Sawyer said: 'We got a phone call at one o'clock, at which point we hopped in the car and zoomed back. The crew were in the police station across the road from the dock, the boat was on the bottom and Fernando (Pereira) was missing.' 

He pieced together his colleagues' accounts of what had happened. 'On board the boat there had been about nine people sitting in the mess room, drinking beer, listening to music and hanging out. The skipper was asleep in his cabin. A relief cook was in her berth down below. The radio operator was asleep in his cabin on the bridge deck. 

'When the first bomb went off, all the lights went out. The people in the mess jumped up, of course. The chief engineer made it to the engine room door in what he estimated to be eight seconds and opened it. He saw the water coming up the steps already in that time — the engine room is 15,000 cubic feet and, from what he said, it was considerably more than half full in eight seconds! 

'So he slammed the door, at which point the skipper came out of his cabin and the order to abandon ship was given. Meanwhile three people from the mess had gone down to the lower accommodation. The first one was a ship's doctor, Andy Biederman. He hauled Margaret, the relief cook, out of her berth and dragged her upstairs and off the boat. 

'Secondly Martin Gotje, first mate, went down to check in the starboard aft cabin for one of the engineers, Hanne Sorenson. She wasn't there so he got back up. Fernando Pereira had followed him down and we'll never know whether he went to check for his cameras or whether he went to check for another fellow who would have been sleeping in that cabin.

 'Martin was most of the way up the steps when the second explosion went off and the aft accommodation crumbled. He was bunged out the side there and the boat was functionally sunk. 

'Of course I was worried sick that it was something we had done, a mistake on our part which had caused the boat to blow up. I sat down with the chief engineer and skipper and discussed it. Basically there was absolutely no way there could have been anything that could have caused explosions like that on board. Diesel fuel does not blow up like that. 

'We were very careful not to speculate in the press until we had some evidence and our first concern, of course, was Fernando. They found his body about 4.30am and Peter Wilcox, the skipper, had to go down and identify him but there wasn't much chance of a mistake at that stage.

 'So we all got kicked out of the police station about six, went back to the office and started a 72-hour period I would prefer to repeat never again. The whole universe was trying to call the Greenpeace office. I mean we were all blown away by it. The crew was an absolute fucking wreck. They were just shattered emotionally, 'cept Wilcox held it together pretty good.

 'For 72 hours I didn't sleep, I was on the phone constantly. TV crews were all over the place, pushing their way into the office, wanting to get pictures of people crying. So I had the onerous job of telling them to fuck off. I was not in a very good state emotionally but I personally didn't have time to deal with grief and shit like that cos I had to deal with the situation.' 

The story has not ended; in fact we are at the opening of a new act. Pete Wilcox is now skippering the Vega heading for Mururoa where she will rendevous with the new mother ship, the Greenpeace (formerly Gondwanaland one and a half times the size of the Warrior), and a trio of smaller peace boats — the Breeze, Alliance and Varangian — which are now underway.

 A month ago a French defence writer was predicting confrontation between the French navy and Greenpeace and said there was talk of ramming the Vega or even opening fire on it. He said the French navy had a special kind of shell which can stop ships but cause a minimum amount of damage. They were used in 1984 against a Spanish fishing boat, and in the process took a leg off one of the crewmen. 

Pete Wilcox told the press he was concerned about what the French press is calling 'the new war in the Pacific' and about 'the very violent talk coming from Paris'.

 Time Out asked Steve Sawyer whether sending another boat down there so soon was not a direct confrontational move. 

'Confrontational move? Hum. Well, confrontational in the sense that we're not going to be cowed by the fact that they blew up the boat and killed one of our people. If we all of a sudden said, "OK, we're not going to do anything," then on some level, whoever gave the order to blow up the boat would have achieved what they set out to do. And we can't let them do that. We can't let them have that satisfaction or that feeling that they can beat us by violence.

 'We've had violence offered before. We've never had anybody get killed or our boat blown up and sunk but we've been rammed and beaten up. 'If you let that deter you then that certainly calls into question the value of non-violent direct action and the value of non-violent protest.' 

Saturday, July 06, 2019


Land available for forest restoration (excluding deserts, agricultural and urban areas; current forestland not shown). (Image: Crowther Lab / ETH Zurich)

Tree planting 'has mind-blowing potential' to tackle climate crisis

Research shows a trillion trees could be planted to capture huge amount of carbon dioxide
This remarkable report, first published in the journal Science,  offers what appears to be our best single hope of tackling the climate emergency.

A worldwide effort to restore trees would be the single biggest and cheapest way to pull carbon out of the atmosphere. Researchers have found that there is 1.7 billion hectares of treeless land on which 1.2 trillion trees could grow without sacrificing crop land or urban areas. In 50–100 years, those trees would remove 200 billion tonnes of carbon — two-thirds of all emissions from human activities so far. But every year, we are pumping out tens of millions of tonnes more carbon, so new trees are just part of a solution that must also include slashing greenhouse-gas emissions (and protecting the trees we’ve already got).

Earth has more trees than it did 35 years ago - but there’s a huge catch

Sunday, June 30, 2019


THE GENERALIST has found over the years that books arrive in clusters, either by chance or by following a chain of connections. These titles all seem important in their own way, mirroring the zeitgeist of our times.

Micah White's 'the end of protest' is about new beginnings. MW was the co-creator of the #occupy meme. Hatched in Canada in the offices of 'Adbusters' magazine, the idea spread to 100 countries.
His book is partly a thought-provoking history of protest and revolutions examining their philosophies and forms of action and partly a set of new ideas on how we should run such matters in future. He looks back on Occupy Wall Street as a "constructive failure", something to learn from. He urges us not to use tactics that have already been discredited - like mass marches.  
Published in 2016, he might need to reassess this view in the light of Extinction Rebellion, whose carefully staged theatrical protests in London successfully catapulted concern about climate change into the mainstream media and conventional politics.

On May 1st, the UK became the first country to officially approve a motion to declare an environment and climate emergency. The BBC reported:
 'This proposal, demonstrates the will of the Commons on the issue but does not legally compel the government to act, [It] was approved without a vote....Dozens of towns and cities across the UK have already declared "a climate emergency".There is no single definition of what that means but many local areas say they want to be carbon-neutral by 2030.'

Mica White was one of the speakers at an OECD conference in Paris this June which was also attended by another speaker Alev Scott who wrote a diary piece for the Financial Times. The theme of the conference was Emotion which, Scott writes, 'is fuelling global politics now more than ever.' 

He discussed with others  'the long-term strategy of the Extinction Rebellion organisers, whose slogan “respectful disruption” signals their ambition not to overstretch the patience of the public.

'Do they represent a new era of canny protesters? Are they leading the way not just for protest movements but for future political parties with their stated agenda of “breaking down hierarchies of power”? The conversation felt immediate and far-fetched all at once.'

You can find out a helluva lot more about Mica White on his website

Extinction Rebellion was established in the United Kingdom in May 2018 with about one hundred academics signing a call to action in support in October 2018 and launched at the end of October by Roger Hallam, Gail Bradbrook, Simon Bramwell, and other activists from the campaign group Rising Up!  See the main website here:


Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals is a 1971 book by community activist and writer Saul D. Alinsky about how to successfully run a movement for change. It was the last book that Alinsky wrote and was published shortly before his death in 1972. His goal for the Rules for Radicals was to create a guide for future community organizers, to use in uniting low-income communities, or "Have-Nots", in order for them to gain social, political, legal, and economic power.Within it, Alinsky compiled the lessons he had learned throughout his experiences of community organizing from 1939–1971 and targeted these lessons at the current, new generation of radicals. [Source: Wikipedia]

Published in 2018, 'Resist' is a punchy primer for would-be-activists. Its author Michael Segalov claims that we're living in an Age of Defiance, a time when taking action has never felt so necessary. It's about turning your ideas into actions - targeting those in power, getting press and social media attention, understanding your legal rights. There's also many activist stories to inspire.

What makes the book zing is the red and black graphic design by Oliver Stafford, the Art Director at Huck magazine


Two absolute gems for anyone interested in Beat Culture. The great poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, owner of the City Lights bookstore in San Francisco, has written a remarkable autobiography at the age of 100. Its a triumph. The first part is the detailed story of his extraordinary real life childhood. He then swings into a huge poetic river of consciousness that roams and rambles and inspires, as if he was channeling Kerouac's monstrous feat of typing 'On The Road, on one log scroll of paper, while sitting in the john on benzedrine. The sweep and majesty of his mind will set your brain whirling. This is seriously deep food for thought and elightenment.

This relatively rare book, originally published in 1959 by Julius Messner in New York and republished by Martino Publishing in 2009, The Holy Barbarians by Lawrence Lipton is a remarkable portrait of the beat scene in Venice Los Angeles in the 1950s. In the preface he writes: 'In the case of the holy barbarians it is not an enemy invasion threatening the gate, it is "a change felt in the rhythm of events". Lipton and the writer Kenneth Rexroth met in Chicago in the late 1920s and they, he says, 'were as beat as any of today's generation...We have had to wait for the world to catch up with us, to reach a turn, a crisis. What that crisis is and why the present generatioin is reacting to it the way it does is the theme of this book.'

'Newer than the North Beach, San Francisco scene or the Greenwich Village scene, Venice has afforded me an opportunity to watch the formation of a community of dissaffilliates from its inception.... It is a deep-going change, a revolution under the ribs.'

This is an intimate picture of a lost world, cool as shit daddyo, stuffed with poets, artists, jazz musicians and pot. Here's a little sniff of the book's general vibe. Lipton brings it to life brilliantly.

The Joint is Jumpin' 
'By the time Chuck Bennison arrived, red-eyed after an all night session at bassist Phil Trattman's pad exploring "other realities" with the help of pot and jazz rhythms, a poetry reading was under way. Angel Dan Davies was holding forth with his latest jazz-inspired "open line," free form pieces, Nettie was in the kitchen again preparing a buffet supper, and the chairs, divans, floor — every square inch of sitting, lounging, squatting and sprawling space in the house — were full up. Beer cans, lemonade glasses, wine glasses, ash trays, sketch pads and notebooks made for precarious footing. The doorbell kept sounding every few minutes as the party got really swinging, for it had gotten around that Les Morgan, the popular Negro trumpet man, might fall in sometime during the evening and maybe bring along a couple of men from his quintet for a jam session of poetry and jazz. I had talked to Lester early in the week and he had eyes to make the scene, but you never could tell about Les and his boys; they didn't know quite what to make of this poetry and jazz thing and besides, they might get hung up at somebody's pad and not show up till around midnight, if at all.' 


 I was tipped off to the Lipton book by this other gem 'Dancin' In The Streets', [Charles H. Kerr. 2005] a fantastic history of two mimeographed magazines of the 1960s - The Rebel Worker' edited by Franklin Rosemont in Chicago and 'Heatwave' edited by Charles Radcliffe in the UK. These guys were far left and far out, as interested in comics as they were anarchism. They absorbed surrealism, followed the activities of he Situationists and the Provos and played a big role in revitalising the International Workers of the World (IWW) known affectionately as the Wobblies. Here are two extracts from Rosemont's brilliantly detailed account:

[Generalist Archive]
'It was the Beats, however, who gave us—my high-school friends and me—our first glimmer of poetry as a living, breathing, here-and-now activity. Serious students of the work of Kerouac and his comrades—Gregory Corso, Bob Kaufman, Diane di Prima, Gary Snyder and others—we went on to read the work of authors they admired: Rimbaud, for example, and Baudelaire, and D. T. Suzuki's writings on Zen. Such reading was actively discouraged by our so-called teachers, but we couldn't have cared less. How excited I was when Okakura Kakuzo's Book of Tea (cited in The Dharma Bums) arrived in the mail! For months afterward several of us would get together at odd moments and sit around a circle in the full-lotus position in our own version of the tea ceremony. The spirit of the thing was surely closer to the Marx Brothers than to Buddhism, but that didn't bother us. Breaking out of the repressive machinery of suburbia wasn't easy, and we tried to make use of anything that came our way.
'On the first of these adventures, I lived for several weeks in San Francisco's North Beach. Those who had arrived there a year or two earlier assured me that the "scene" in 1960 was in an advanced state of disintegration. For me, however, and for others my age who had made their way there from points all over the map, North Beach was so much livelier than anything we had known before that we found it hard to imagine how it could have been better. 
The neighborhood was hit hard by the massive publicity the Beat Generation was receiving—almost all of it hostile, some apoplectically so, like Alfred Zugsmith's ugly movie, The Beat Generation, which fostered the ludicrous misapprehension that the Beats were dangerous criminals. Ironically, this disinformation campaign brought square tourists by the thousands, especially on weekends, as well as "hippies," a term then used by Beats to designate the uncreative camp-followers who parasitically attached themselves to the Beat scene. 
Even worse, anti-Beat propaganda gave the police a pretext to escalate their war on all nonconformists. Police persecution, much of it aimed at interracial couples or groups, was an everyday fact of life in North Beach. I spent a large part of every day at two of the main Beat hangouts of those days: the Co-Existence Bagel Shop, a bar/deli at the corner of Grant Avenue and Green Street, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti's City Lights Bookstore a few blocks away, where I was able to relax in an armchair and read hundreds of poems as well as every book they had on surrealism and Zen. 
My San Francisco sojourn retains a special luster in my memory as one of those rare experiences that are truly worthy of one's child-hood dreams. My first sight of the Giant Redwoods, a couple of days climbing in the Sierras, hearing Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane live for the first time: How can one measure the impact of such priv-ileged moments? Intersecting with all the rest was a strong ancestral dimension, for my father's family were San Francisco pioneers...,  
It was a season of lucky breaks; small incidents had a way of adding up to something grand. With two friends—bass-player John R. White and a black street-philosopher from New York, known only as Ike—I went to Monterrey for the Jazz Festival. By mid-afternoon half the population of North Beach was there. John, Ike and I took seats before the tickets went on sale, so we enjoyed the whole program for free. (None of us had the price of admission in any case.) The music that night had all the magic of dreams; I hear its golden echoes to this day. It was there that I first heard Ornette Coleman live. After listening to his rip-roaring oracular sounds we wandered off in the darkness dizzy with joy. 
Brightest of all in my memory of that period is the unparalleled experience of community it provided. Life in North Beach was the closest thing to marvelous anarchy it has ever been my pleasure to enjoy. Despite battles with landlords, harassment by tourists, and mounting police terror, the Beats and their allies—old-time hoboes, jazz musi-cians, oyster pirates, prostitutes, drug-addicts, winos, homosexuals, bums and other outcasts—maintained a vital community based on mutual aid, and in which being different was an asset rather than a liability.'

Charlie Radcliffe produced his own mag Heatwave and wrote for the Rebel Worker. His own two-volume set of memoirs are epic in proportions, a masterpiece of memory, bringing much needed alternative views of the history of youth culture from the 50s onwards: the politics, the music, the drugs, the Peace Movement, the Situationists, LSD. The extraordinary amount of detail in these two volumes is awesome, informative and totally entertaining.

On his website, the works are trailered as follows:
Arguably one of the quintessential ‘60s figures Charles Radcliffe sat down with the anti-bomb Committee of 100, edited one of the most influential revolutionary magazines, Heatwave, joined and resigned from the Situationst International, was a hashish dealer, edited an underground magazine, Friends, became an international drug smuggler and served a long prison sentence. A lifelong enthusiasm for blues and friendships with Murray Bookchin, Chris Gray, Eric Clapton, Franklin and Penelope Rosemont are also dealt with in this stunning autobiography.
The book versions are currently out of print but are available in a Kindle edition here. Described on this site as follows:
In his seminal socio history of Punk, “England’s Dreaming”, Jon Savage makes the bald assertion that “Charles Radcliffe laid the foundation for the next twenty years of sub-cultural theory”, referring in particular to his 1966 piece “the Seeds of Social Destruction’ that appeared in the first of two issues of Radcliffe’s co authored, insurrectionary street-zine, ‘Heatwave’ 
Teddy Boys, Ton Up Kids, Mods and Rockers, Beats, Ban the Bombers,The Ravers ( jazz heads) : Radcliffe argued that the bank holiday bust ups, the demos, the riots, the sex drugs n rock n’ roll, these were all part of a “youth revolt… (that ) has left a permanent mark on this society, has challenged assumptions and status, and been prepared to vomit its’ disgust in the streets. The youth revolt has not always been comfortable, valid, to the point or helpful. It has however made its first stumbling political gestures with an immediacy that revolutionaries should not deny, but envy.”
Radcliffe joined the International Situationists within the year, alongside (English founder ) Chris Gray, but by the time 1968 had ended, and youthful revolt had fed into wide pockets of political turmoil globally, Radcliffe had started to drift towards other poles of late 60s’s counterculture. He ended the 60’s in long hair and loon pants, banged up in a Belgian prison on hash smuggling charges.
This epic ( 900 + pages) book follows Radcliffes’ trials and tribulations from public school beginnings, into the 60’s underground and the Mr Nice style large scale hash smuggling years (his friend, Howard Marks, pops up throughout) , on to prison, divorce, remarriage and beyond. It offers up important first hand perspectives on 60’s / 70’s counterculture, and an intimate portrait of a man who seemed to face the slings and arrows that fortune threw at him with a never ending supply of equanimity. And high grade hash.

Thursday, June 20, 2019


THE GENERALIST  was woken this morning by a radio programme on Buckminster Fuller, the visionary thinker who invented the geodesic dome amongst many other visionary things and spent his life travelling the world and talking (at great length) to people about his ideas of Spaceship Earth and how we should be developing ideas and technology that were less harmful to the planet.

A true pioneer and generalist thinker, he inspired millions of people to think differently about creativity and what is possible.

Was fortunate enough to go and see him talk at the American Embassy in London (I think) in the 1970s. It was an extraordinary experuience even if I didn't quite understand a lot of what he was saying. I would be in my early 20s.

Here's links to a couple of radio programmes and a whole lot more.

An Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth                                 Radio 4 Extra: The writer Tom Dyckhoff looks at the life and work of eccentric polymath Richard Buckminster Fuller. From March 2013.

Great Lives: Buckminster Fuller  
Radio 4: John Lloyd selects the maverick American architect, Richard Buckminster Fuller, inventor of the geodesic dome, as his choice of a great life. Matthew Parris hosts, joined by futurist and business strategist, Hardin Tibbs, as they debate the charge that if Buckminster Fuller - who had a molecule named after him, for its resemblance to his geodesic domes - really was the Twentieth Century's answer to Leonardo da Vinci, then why is he so little known about today? A man, John Lloyd argues, who preached environmentalism before the term was coined, so in advance of his times, but yet whose time has come today.

'Bucky' was well know for his quotes and aphorisms. Here's a few of my favourites:
 Integrity is the essence of everything successful. 

You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete

Never forget that you are one of a kind. Never forget that if there weren't any need for you in all your uniqueness to be on this earth, you wouldn't be here in the first place. And never forget, no matter how overwhelming life's challenges and problems seem to be, that one person can make a difference in the world. In fact, it is always because of one person that all the changes that matter in the world come about. So be that one person

We are not going to be able to operate our Spaceship Earth successfully nor for much longer unless we see it as a whole spaceship and our fate as common. It has to be everybody or nobody.


Hailed as "one of the greatest minds of our times," R. Buckminster Fuller was renowned for his comprehensive perspective on the world's problems. For more than five decades, he developed pioneering solutions that reflected his commitment to the potential of innovative design to create technology that does "more with less" and thereby improves human lives

This biographical sketch is a great place to start exploring this great man's life.

HEY SILICON VALLEY—BUCKMINSTER FULLER HAS A LOT TO TEACH YOU              Sarah Fallon /Wired magazine/ 29th March 2016

Eight of Buckminster Fuller's most forward-thinking ideas   Eleanor Gibson | 27 August 2018 De

After reading the manuscript for Bucky's first book in 1936, Albert Einstein told him, "Young man, you amaze me! I cannot conceive anything I have ever done as having the slightest practical application, … but you appear to have found practical applications for it (Einstein’s theories)."

Bucky 'saved and archived every possible aspect of his life, creating his Chronofile and making his life the most documented of any “ordinary, average” (not a public official) person in the history of humankind.Although that experiment has yet to be fully examined, the success of Bucky's life is indisputable. After discovering the natural underlying principles that govern all Universe, Bucky applied them to every aspect of his work where he: 

Was granted 25 U.S. patents.
Wrote 28 published books and thousands of articles.
Received 47 honorary doctorates.
Was presented with hundreds of major awards.
Circled the globe 57 times working on projects and lecturing.
Presented an average of 100 "thinking out loud" sessions per year (often labeled lectures, they would range from two to six or more hours in length), even when he was in his eighties.

Bucky’s campaign on behalf of the success of all humans and life on Spaceship Earth was the focus of the last phase of his life from 1976 until his death on July 1, 1983. During this period, he was continually traveling, making presentations, writing and sharing as much of what he had learned as possible.  It was, in fact, a last ditch effort to make certain that his life was complete and that the had given everything possible in support of his mission to create “a world that works for everyone.”