19 April 2018
Acid or Actuality?
Take a trip with us.
By Neil Tidmarsh
How often do you open a newspaper and start reading and think “Crazy! Unreal! They’re making it up! They’re pulling my leg! Is it April 1st? No! So perhaps someone’s slipped something into my tea and I’m actually tripping out in some surreal world of hallucinogenic fantasy. Better lie down somewhere dark and quiet, and hope that reality will resume shortly…”
That’s every time these days, I’d say. You too? So it isn’t just me, then? No, I didn’t think so. Crazy world, crazy times.
Last Monday was the 75th anniversary of the accidental discovery of LSD by the Swiss chemist Albert Hoffman on April 16, 1943. So here’s a little quiz to mark the occasion, a puzzle in honour of Dr Hoffman (not that I’ve ever sampled Bert’s weird gift to the world – honest! – I’ve always found reality to be far too slippery and my imagination to be far too monstrous as it is, even without any chemical encouragement, thank you very much).
Below is a selection of stories which have all been in the news this week. Or have they? See if you can spot which one is a fantasy, a myth, a made-up nonsense, a surreal hallucination, a psychedelic deception:
Feeling unwell? Don’t bother with a doctor – see a vet instead. Economic collapse in Venezuela means that doctors and pharmacists can’t get hold of prescription drugs and other medicines – which are all imported through government-regulated channels, and the government has no money to pay for them. So when ordinary people are ill, they have to go to vets or pet-shops for painkillers and antibiotics which are meant for cats or dogs instead.
Spotty? Potty. A Russian businessman was arrested and imprisoned for using leopard spots on upholstery designs – he was charged with stealing the leopards’ intellectual property. He was acquitted after a year in prison and the loss of hundreds of thousands of pounds. It’s believed that he was a victim of “nightmaring” – the practice whereby corrupt policemen detain wealthy individuals on trumped-up charges in order to extort massive ransoms for their release.
Fancy trashing your body and your mind? Try yoga. Did you think yoga was good for the body and the soul? Think again. It seems that yoga is just the thing if you want to indulge your ego and end up in hospital. Researchers at an Australian university have recorded an 80% increase in yoga-related injuries needing hospital treatment (as opposed to a mere 5.5% increase in people taking up yoga) in recent years. They suspect that vanity is to blame – people are going for challenging but dangerous poses, hoping to put impressive pictures of themselves on social media. No wonder the French for ‘selfie’ is le egoportrait.
No room for the living. As people in China are living longer and becoming wealthier, the widespread creation of ‘living tombs’ – ostentatious mausoleums built for people and their children and grandchildren while they are alive, ready for their deaths – is becoming a problem. They’re taking up so much space that the authorities are worried that there’ll soon be no room left for the houses, roads, hospitals, schools etc for the living, and have ordered the demolition of hundreds of thousands of them.
Who will guard the guards? The European Institute for Gender Equality has been rocked by claims of sexual harassment among its staff since it was set up in Vilnius five years ago. Men accused of sexual harassment, stalking and psychological harassment have counter-attacked by claiming that their accusers are militant feminists guilty of gender-based violence and of mocking male heterosexuality.
There are no oligarchs in Russia. When a Kremlin spokesman was asked to comment on CNN’s report that US special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators had questioned two Russian oligarchs, he replied “There are no oligarchs in Russia”. Ten years ago, the then-President Ahmadinejad of Iran told staff and students at Columbia University that there were no homosexuals in Iran; the declaration was greeted by jeers and laughter.
The roads are alive with the sound of music. In the Netherlands, the Friesland regional government has spent €80,000 on a novel scheme to encourage drivers to stick to the speed limit: “rumble strips”, installed across the N357 road near Leeuwarden, played the Frisian national anthem De Alde Friezen (the Old Frisians) whenever a vehicle drove over them at the right speed (under 60km/h, 37mph). “Frysk bloed tsjoch op! Wol noris brûze en siede,/ En bûnzje troch ús ieren om!” (“Frisian blood, thicken up! Rise now, foam and seethe,/ and pound on through our veins!”). Nearby residents, however, complained of ‘mental torture’ (“The national anthem is all very well” said one of them, “but not 24 hours a day. I’m going nuts.”), and last weekend the musical rumble strips were removed and the road was silenced.
Well? Did you spot which one is the fantasy? Now, here’s the groovy, way-out thing – none of them is! None of them is made-up – they are all genuine stories which appeared in the newspapers last week. Out of sight, huh? And I haven’t even mentioned the ex-Speaker of the US House of Representatives who has just announced that he’s joining the advisory board of a big new marijuana company after a political life-time passionately opposing the legalisation of cannabis… or the suicide pod unveiled at a funeral fair in Amsterdam… or the Roman Catholic priests eager to offer their exorcism services to Muslims… What’s more, I’ve deliberately avoided the even-crazier front-page stories for fear of inducing full-blown psychosis.
At last, after seventy-five years, the world has finally caught up with Albert Hoffman and rendered his invention obsolete. What could be more surreal or hallucinogenic or psychedelic than today’s headlines? Why pop a tab to get your regular dose of cosmic mind-expanding craziness when you can simply open a newspaper (or, even better, read Shaw Sheet) instead? So come on, take a trip with us every week. After all, it’s completely legal, entirely free, and unadulterated with impurities (no fake news here). Can you handle it? Of course you can!