Apparently, I missed some yoga trends in my most recent post. There are others.
For example: beer yoga.
Beer Yoga is yoga…with, yes, beer. German yogis BierYoga are reportedly the major first innovators, offering classes and workshops after seeing it being taught at the Burning Man festival. Since January, the idea’s spread internationally. Here are two recent articles on beer yoga.
I’m delighted that professional photographer Morgan Scott shares his images and ideas. Most of the time he works in London as a Business Development Manager for Bijou Commerce. But photography, as he puts it, has been a long-standing ‘passion.’
In a multicultural city such as London, you will, for sure, encounter a plethora of amazing faces, fashions, cultures and personalities. It’s a candy shop of choice when it comes to portrait photography opportunities. It’s a great place to immortalize elements of the body.
There are two main types of street portrait photography styles. The first is when your subject is unaware of their photo being taken (at first at least) and the photographer is using a hide-and-seek approach. A good example is Vivian Maier, who used a Rolleiflex film camera in the 50s and 60s and which you would shoot from the navel. The subjects were unaware of the camera as it was not held up at eye level. Vivian’s photos gave the subject a very grand feeling as the portrait was taken at an angle looking up at them, even if the subject themselves were not a grand figure in stature or being.
Maier only became famous post mortem, when a lot of film was purchased at auction by John Maloof. Maloof discovered that Maier was arguably one of the most significant street photographers of the twentieth centary and made the fantastic documentary ‘Finding Vivian Maier’, as well as curating her work. Finding Maier’s undeveloped films, hundreds of them, was the photography equivalent of discovering buried treasure.
She did also take portraits where the subject was fully aware a photo was being taken, although many were very natural, unforced forced poses. Perhaps she was lightning quick and somewhat unthreatening as a woman with a camera or perhaps it was simply not the norm to be photographed like in our camera-phone, Instagram world today.
This takes us to the second type of street portrait: the ‘aware’ subject. This is a style I quite enjoy myself. The way I go about this is to wander/wonder about the streets looking for people with interesting styles and faces. I generally go by gut feeling – instinct, I suppose – about whether I want to take a portrait of someone or not. It’s usually based on a fleeting glance. So the first challenge is to find a subject, which is not too hard to do in London. The second challenge is approaching that person and asking permission to take their portrait. It’s all to do with the approach and manner you adopt. Because I seek out slightly ‘alternative’ looking people to take portraits of, they are generally more likely to say yes as there is an element of how they look that they want to be noticed in most cases. Why have purple hair if no one sees it, right?
When I approach the person I do it calmly, with a genuine smile, and say: “Excuse me, I’m doing a personal photography project on London Style (I point to my camera around my neck) and I love your look. If you don’t mind I would love to take your portrait. I’ll give you my website and you can save the photo and use it however you want for free.” The majority of the time a subject will say yes because s/he are flattered. If someone says no, I figure out if it’s just a shy no; some people are a little embarrassed at first and I’ll say ‘Oh go on you look great’, and they will. You can just tell when someone really is not interested and in this case I don’t push it and say ‘Ok no worries, cheers.’ Remember there’s always another opportunity right up the street. I also don’t want to look at a photo with a reluctant pose as it’s a little bit negative – meaning I won’t have the portrait I desire.
I was inspired by the ‘Humans of New York’ series by Brandon Stanton. His photos feature an eclectic bunch of people, and the portraits are aimed at revealing relatable, human stories. These portraits highlight human whole, from head to toe, displaying the subject in all his/her glory and interesting fashions. These are also posed portraits, considering they are also telling their story to Stanton and have been made into a series of books.
For me, taking portraits is a passion. Faces tell a story and the eyes really are a window to the soul. It’s exciting for me to stop strangers, take their portrait and make a friend. Art is literally walking by us everyday, the art of the human, the art of human expression. What we see in the cities of the world is really an expression of the zeitgeist – a particular mindset, politics, and art – and it will never happen again; photography can freeze the essence of present time for future generations to enjoy and say “Look what they used to wear!”
Back in August I wrote about ‘Manly Yoga’ and Bro-Culture. But, having been in the UK for a couple of months now, it seems that yoga for boys is also a thing.
According to The Telegraph, we’ve seen the launches of Broga, a version of the practice adapted to suit our “macho” sensibilities, and, yes, Dirty Yoga, a US-based programme which claims to appeal to men as it allows them to do it “in the privacy of their own home, without the need for mats or gurus.” Both prioritize “rugged” strength and physicality over spirituality.
Some guys think that yoga makes you less of a man, the truth is it makes you a better one.
Yoga isn’t just for your mom, your sister or your girlfriend anymore
It’s time to smash the stereotype
They call themselves a “crew” and there’s a section of the website titled “Spiritual Gangster.” The guys are tattooed, bearded, and give off a Vice-like vibe. Similar to “surf, skate and snow sport cultures,” the Boys’ argue, “yoga creates a community of the like-minded. The deeper you go, the more it pulls you in.” This language reminds me of The Godfather. The Boys of Yoga are clearly not the Mafia. But they certainly use a marketing campaign that conjures up such images…
The website features profiles of all the various members of the crew.
Take Kyle Gray, from Scotland:
Here’s an excerpt from his bio, where he refers to himself as ANGEL GUY . BOOK SCRIBBLER . CHEEKY BASTARD . YOGI.
Is there anything you preach but don’t practice?Fuck, no. I often say at the end of my yoga classes, “eat lots of chocolate and drink lots of wine” – oops!
We’ve all done a few things we aren’t too proud of, care to share one? I recently lost my shit at a parking attendant who gave me a ticket while I was helping an 80 year old lady into her car. My ego felt bruised that he could do that while I was being of service. I swore lots and lost my mind for a moment. I got into trouble for it but, more, it was a real lesson for me to stop being so self-important. I’ve since written an apology letter.
What was the biggest challenge when you first started practicing? Strength – my arms were like jello – I could barely hold myself up.
Why did you keep coming back? The rejuvenating feeling that swirled around me when it was over. That was a triiiip!
What would make you skip practice? Not waking up in time… I have slept in so many times through morning Ashtanga Mysore class – OOPS!
A few years back Justin Hakuta asked if yoga had lost its mystique. “Gone are the days,” he wrote, “of the loin clothed yogi meditating alone on a mountaintop, unless of course said loin cloth is made of wickable polyester blend, fits your body like a glove and retails for $100 a pop and the yogi in question has worldwide appearances and a DVD series purchasable on Amazon.com. Oh, and don’t forget to check their Twitter feed.”
Pretty cynical. But there’s truth there, too. It’s a roughly $7 billlion dollar business and we’ve now got ample styles, options, and brands to choose from, including Antigravity Aerial Yoga,laughter yoga, chair yoga, acro yoga, partner yoga, hiking yoga, dog yoga, and, yup, Boys of Yoga.
Yoga has achieved, in short, a level of infamous popularity, mainstream accessibility and frantic commercialization in the West.
Is this a negative? Is this selling out? Or, as Justin Hakuta asked, has yoga lost its soul? That’s up to you.
With the Boys of Yoga, well, they seem pretty soulful to me.
Here’s an entirely different crew of soulful Boys:
According to Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Adina Bresge, “a growing global fitness trend has men ditching dumbbells for yoga mats in so-called Broga classes, a macho twist on the thousands-year-old practice that promises the same punishing workout — with a little added bliss.”
In the UK and beyond, broga is described as ‘macho’ yoga classes which prioritize ‘rugged’ strength and physicality over spirituality.
Until recently, some traditions of yoga were exclusively practiced by men, but it has been largely shunned by male fitness buffs in the modern era. No longer! Yoga instructors are now catering to wannabe-buff men with classes that spotlight strength over stretching, and offering everything from craft beer after class to man-only retreats away from the fairer sex.
No doubt, this will be an Olympic sport in the future. Or, if nothing else, it will elevate to the same level of the Crossfit Games.
“Yoga is more than just women contorting themselves into vegan pretzels,” says Michael DeCorte, the Toronto “man-treprenuer” behind Jock Yoga, an athletic mashup that combines the mindfulness of sun salutations with the muscle burn of pumping iron.
“Originally, it was just a gimmick,” says DeCorte. “When I first saw it on a poster, it was almost like an oxymoron … You see yoga and think, ‘spiritual,’ and at jock you think, ‘laid-back, swearing, burping.”‘
DeCorte says men can account for anywhere between 50 to 85 per cent of his classes at the Equinox fitness club in Toronto, a striking level of testosterone in an industry whose audience is 70 per cent women, according to a 2016 Ipsos Public Affairs study.
Classes like Jock Yoga have cropped up all over the country, such as Jo-Ga in Halifax, Yoguy in Vancouver and the all-nude male Mudraforce studio in Montreal.
Have you attended?
WHAT’S A ‘BRO’ ANYWAY?
This video provides a hint.
Other magazines – and even some scholars – have addressed this term in more detail.
For Slate, Bro’s ascendance into the pop cultural pantheon was mostly due to lots of white kids trying to seem cool by emulating black slang.
As Matthew J.X. Malady (great name) put it, though usage of bro as an abbreviation of ‘brother’ can be traced back to at least 1660, conversational uses more similar to what we hear today begin cropping up in the mid- to late 18th century, according to lexicographer and Indiana University English professor Michael Adams.
(In particular, he points to the text of a 1762 burlesque play titled Homer Travestie, which includes the word bro several times. “That suggests maybe it’s low or underworld speech—a type of slang of the period,” Adams says. “Brother would often be shortened to bro in this period, in the same way that many names were radically shortened, so that William would be shortened to Wm. You just skip all the letters you didn’t really need to identify the person. So in casual correspondence, that was the way people referred to each other, and it may have migrated into speech.” )
Then, this is where African-American culture comes into the picture.
Again, according to Malady’s research and writing, the use of bro as a simple abbreviation appears to have remained fairly consistent during subsequent centuries. But its slang usage really exploded during the past 100 years or so as it gained popularity in the black community – as a replacement for brother in conversation.
(Use of the term brother in the black church, Adams says, can be definitively dated back to at least the early 20th century, though “that’s partly just the emergence of African-American culture into print, so it’s quite likely that brother associated with the church has a longer history. It just ends up not being recorded anywhere.”)
While the heavy use of brother by those participating in social movements during the 1960s helped propel bro into the realm of casual conversation among activists, its more broad ascendance into the pop cultural pantheon after that was mostly due to lots of white kids trying to seem cool by emulating black slang. As the 20thcentury advanced, first brother and then bro became progressively more common in black speech says Geoffrey Nunberg, a linguistics expert who teaches at Berkeley’s School of Information. “Then,” he adds, “like everything else in black English, it’s appropriated and reinterpreted both deliberately and unwittingly by other speakers.”
As I thought about yoga, health, and masculinity and language, I couldn’t help but think about the metrosexuality vs. lumbersexuality. I have, of course, written about lumbersexuality in the past and present.
And one of the conclusions was that the broader lumbersexual phenomenon was straight culture’s latest attempt to theatricalize masculinity – decades after gays got there first.
Cheech and Chong. Tony Montana. Reefer Madness. Blow. These are some of the characters and films that normally come to mind when you bring up drugs in cinema. But let’s get real, folks. It goes so much deeper.
Drug movies are both fascinating and titillating. Whether it’s the “War on Drugs” or depictions of the counterculture or portrayals of Big Pharma and the business community, all sorts of movies have been made about the illicit drug trade, pill-popping, and even more that simply feature drug use. But what are the best drug movies of the past 50 years? High Times has got some ideas. Buzzfeed has done it. And so has IMDB.
Now it’s time to offer a fresh take on the list.
Before we begin, though, let’s establish a boundary or two. What is a drug movie, one might ask? The best way to think about it has to be through heavy drug use and a focus on the drug trade, organized crime, or medical marketplace. This means that Dazed and Confused, which only has mild drug use, doesn’t make it. Neither does The Program, with James Caan. Or Rocky IV. Or the relatively new Alice in Wonderland. These films feature some drugs use and are trippy to watch, but to make this list drugs have to be absolutely central to the plot. There are other rules, too. First off, alcohol is NOT a drug. (In fact, there’ll be another alcohol list in the future.) Second, power – money, politics, sex, the ability to get others to do what you want – is NOT a drug. Finally (thank fuck), altered perceptions or dream sequences, but which are NOT based on explicit drug use, are thrown out. So, for example, Raising Arizona, The Matrix, or Fight Club have to get bumped from consideration.
Here’s my Top Ten and watch those other more standard lists go Up in Smoke.
10. Sicario (2015)
French Canadian director Denis Villeneuve crushes it. Again. With Sicario (meaning hitman), he drops us into the grisly world of drug enforcement.
I’ve been an outgoing proponent of Denis since Incendies (2010), and he’s continued to crank out brooding and thought-provoking pictures, including Enemy (2013) and Prisoners (2013). After having worked with Jake Gyllenhaal for both films in 2013, he casts Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, and Benicio Del Toro to headline his take on the War on Drugs’s primary theatre of war – the US/Mexico border.
Emily Blunt is once more playing Ellen Ripley. (Think Edge of Tomorrow – wait, is that what it’s called?). Really, it’s not a bad place to be. She’s steely-eyed and intrepid. And she’s posing moral questions as the focal piece of the film.
The soundtrack is hauntingly grim, the acting is understated, and the cinematography – by the incomparable Roger Deakins – is spartan. Rapid cutting is superseded by long, lingering shots. Movement gives way to stillness. A great example is one of the signature battles of the film, when a traffic jam, not a car chase, ramps up the tension. Deakins, who was burned at the Oscars once more, uses most of the arrows in his quiver to generate one of the most gorgeous films of 2015-2016. By itself, that’s enough to make this list.
9. Good Fellas (1990)
GoodFellas tells the true story of Henry Hill, played by Ray Liotta in a star-making performance and it wasn’t till Blow (2001) and Narc (2002) that he reached such heights once more. Am I fond of Liotta? Somewhat. But not a lot. I like Liotta as much as, say, Al Gore or John Kerry or, I don’t know, porridge. In this, however, Liotta’s compelling. His Henry Hill is chaotic and flawed. He’s shallow and violent, as well as understandable and all human. At times, I find myself cheering him and pitying him simultaneously. When he suggests, “as far back as I can remember I always wanted to be gangster,” I shake my head and, at the same, kind of wonder. Hmm? This is a testament to Liotta’s best and breakout performance.
In 1990, Martin Scorsese wasn’t unique in addressing organized crime. A tipping point, it seems, had been reached, and audiences that year were treated to an abundance of mafia, mob, and crime films, including: Miller’s Crossing, King of New York, The Krays, The Grifters, and, yes, The Godfather Part III. But GoodFellas stands apart and above.
As Henry is initiated into the world of guns and drugs, gambling and prostitution, he is mentored by Robert De Niro’s Jimmy Conway and Joe Pesci’s Tommy Devito. Both actors have been understandably lauded for their vibrant portrayals of tough guys. Eventually, Henry and his wife Karen (played by Lorraine Bracco) discover the sex and violence of organized crime is thoroughly intoxicating, just as much as the cocaine that they inhaling.
This movie – its soundtrack and cinematography, and so much more – is just as addictive.
8. The Constant Gardner (2005)
Big Pharma. Big Bad Pharma. This is the subject of John Le Carre’s novel and ultimately the movie, directed by Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles. The story is disjointed, relies on flashbacks, and, according to Roger Ebert, is a far distance off ‘a logical exercise beginning with mystery and ending at truth…” Instead, we are pulled into a maddeningly elusive conspiracy and a fragmented narrative in which Ralph ‘Rafe’ Fiennes (i.e., Voldemort, The Red Dragon, Hades, and M) plays a widower in search of the truth. Why is his wife dead? Who is responsible?
His answers rest in the multinational pharmaceutical corporations. In particular, a company that is using Kenya’s population for fraudulent testing of a fictitious tuberculosis drug (“dypraxa”). The drug has known harmful side effects, but this is disregarded, as is the health of the African test subjects. Of course, this sort of testing is based in reality and spots like China, Estonia, Romania, Tunisia, as well as other African countries, have served as fertile testing grounds.
Fiennes, playing Justin Quayle, confronts Big Bad Pharma and suggests that the pill we take – whether for Tuberculosis or Tachycardia – is more than just an ‘an inanimate fucking object.’
If you like underdog tales, especially ones where caricatured corporations are fucked over by the ‘little guy’ (see Erin Brockovich, The Insider, Michael Clayton, etc.), this movie is for you.
7. Easy Rider (1969)
It’s difficult to begin with Easy Rider, which nearly everyone regards as one of the greatest and most influential drug movies of all time.
Disclosure: I should not have watched Easy Rider at an early age. I found it incredibly jarring. I was in grade 9 and not at all battle-hardened or street-smart. The cruel ending forced me into a funk. It challenged me to think about human nature, the nature of the United States, and served as a bewildering counterpoint to many of the testosterone-fuelled and predictably satisfying action movies (think Arnold, Jean Claude, Sylvester) to which I was exposed in the 1980s.
Wyatt and Billy didn’t deserve that! Who were they bothering? What, there’s not going to be any payback? That’s it?! Jesus Christ. Dammit.
Plot and Characters: Peter Fonda plays Captain America with the old stars and stripes on his back, helmet and bright long-barrelled motorbike. Dennis Hopper plays the sidekick, sporting pioneer trooper buckskins, long mustache and hair. They’re touring around the beautiful USA and shit happens to them: there’s a drug deal, parades, bordellos, Mardi Gras, LSD trips, and unexpected violence.
Easy Rider is a quintessential American road movie.
And the best part of the piece is Jack. This is his breakout. Vincent Canby, writing in the NY Times in 1969, was tepid, even haughty, about the film, but he sure loved Nicholson:
‘Suddenly, however, a strange thing happens. There comes on the scene a very real character and everything that has been accepted earlier as a sort of lyrical sense impression suddenly looks flat and foolish.Wyatt and Billy are in a small Southern town—in jail for having disturbed the peace of a local parade—when they meet fellow-in-mate George Hanson (Jack Nicholson), a handsome, alcoholic young lawyer of good family and genially bad habits, a man whose only defense against life is a cheerful but not abject acceptance of it. As played by Nicholson, George Hanson is a marvelously realized character, who talks in a high, squeaky Southern accent and uses a phrase like “Lord have mercy!” the way another man might use a four-letter word.’
In Jack, we trust.
6. Apocalypse Now (1979)
Francis Ford Coppola had a mental breakdown during shooting, as he wrote the script on the fly and had to negotiate with a hard-partying, spaced-out crew, in addition to the fickle President Marcos of the Philippines. Coppola had to fire the original leading man, Harvey Keitel. Then, Martin Sheen – the replacement – had a heart attack.
Marlon Brando showed up to film his scenes as Colonel Kurtz much like Shaq often did to start the Lakers training camp – in less than ideal shape. Coppola would also have to tread carefully with the mercurial Brando, who hadn’t learned any lines and insisted on being filmed in shadow. And Dennis Hopper. Dennis Hopper being Dennis Hopper, well, he was regularly stoned on marijuana, cocaine, speed and many other drugs. He was manic. Crazed. Demented. A feature of this list a second time, he didn’t have much acting to do in portraying a whacked-out photojournalist drunk on the Colonel’s Cool-aid.
The story, based loosely on Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, follows a booze-fuelled, PTSD-suffering, lone-wolf agent as he journeys up a river to find a rogue soldier, Kurtz, who has slowly gone mad, raised his own army, and established his own territory in Vietnam. As this troubled agent/assassin, Willard (first Keitel, then Sheen), heads up the river, the visuals gets increasingly trippy. The imagery, in short, becomes more hallucinogenic. By the time Kurtz converses with Willard, the audience has gone way down deep into the proverbial rabbit hole.
The film is improvisational and chaotic. It’s intoxicating and brazen. And it’s a masterpiece.
5. Dallas Buyer’s Club (2013)
In the excellent 2013 movie, Dallas Buyers Club, we are exposed to valiant patient activism during the AIDS crisis in the United States. Based on the true story of AIDS-stricken Ron Woodroof, a cocaine-snorting cowboy and homophobic Texas tradesman, the film shows a shockingly thin Matthew McConaughey battle his sickness, inner demons, and the authorities in Texas Mercy Hospital, the drug industry, and government.
I’ve reviewed the film elsewhere and I’ve used it to try and communicate the complexities of medical marijuana dispensaries, in particular. I remain convinced that the movie provides a harrowing, insider overview of drug regulation and the politics of medicine in modern society.
Woodroof, who’s unhappy with his illegally purchased zidovudine, known as AZT, and on the edge of death, seeks out alternative and experimental drugs from a doctor in Mexico. Then, Ron, being the savvy entrepreneur/hustler that he is, quickly establishes a club (charging a $400 membership fee) to sell his smuggled wares, including vitamins, DDC, and Peptide T. In doing so, he runs afoul of the Food and Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Administration and is essentially forced to confront the existing power structure of drug regulation.
At one point in the film, he storms a town hall meeting of citizens, drug company leaders, and FDA regulators and, while still quite ill and attached to his IV bag, Ron starts finger-pointing. “People are dying. And y’all up there are afraid that we’re gonna find an alternative without you.” Inevitably, bums shift in chairs. Chests are puffed up. And murmurs echo in the room. “You see,” Ron continues, “the pharma companies pay the FDA to push their product. They don’t want to see my research. I don’t have enough cash in my pocket to make it worth their while.”
The film has strong performances, namely McConaughey and Jared Leto, who plays his cross-dressing compadre. Jennifer Garner, on the cover of a recent Vanity Fair and recovering from the newest Batman’s infidelity, offers up some of her best work.
With Dallas Buyer’s Club we see the problems inherent in the relationship between big business, regulators, and interest groups. And while the film didn’t get it all right, it’s still a stimulating film and a significant reminder about the power of Big Pharma, the complicated nature of drug regulation in the 20th century, and the ways in which everyday citizens like Ron Woodroof can influence the system.
SUPER SPECIAL THANKS TO MATT TODD, WHO WAS INSTRUMENTAL IN WORKING THROUGH THIS LIST WITH ME. WE DIDN’T ALWAYS AGREE, BUT SUCH IS LIFE. HE AND I WILL BE RELEASING A MODIFIED (HISTORY-LADEN) VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE IN THE NOT-TOO-DISTANT FUTURE.
Tattoos and the military have a long history. Modern popular culture credits the U.S. Navy with introducing the art of tattooing to the United States in the early 1900s, when sailors returning from distant lands displayed their skin-art. According to Staff Sgt. Stephanie van Geete, while “the times have changed, the military’s love affair with tattoos has not. Today, it seems, you couldn’t throw a rock into an Army formation without hitting a Soldier with at least one tattoo.”
With the release of a new set of guidelines governing tattoos (just this past week), the U.S. Marines have changed the rules. And things are about to change – big time. The U.S. Marine Corps’ new tattoo policy spans 32 pages, complete with a glossary and rules down to the inch, writes Nick Faris.
BY NICK FARIS (an excerpt)
Robert Neller is the commanding general of the United States Marine Corps. He has led American forces into Panama, Somalia and Iraq over his four decades of service.
Last week, he took steps to address the latest scourge facing his troops: Tattoos.
No longer will Marines be allowed to run rampant with body art — not under a 32-page set of regulations authorized by Neller on June 2. The bulletin lays out the Marine Corps’ tattoo policy in exacting detail, banning everything from tattoos above the baseline of the neck to those that run too close to elbows, wrists and knees.
It also comes with a glossary page — defining the elbow, wrist bone, knee and other terms — and a 14-page appendix of photos explaining what is and isn’t OK.
“The American people expect Marines to be disciplined, physically fit, and ready to accomplish any mission,” the first paragraph of the bulletin reads. “They also expect Marines to possess esprit de corps and a squared away and sharp personal appearance.”
In some ways, the updated policy is actually more lenient than past versions. Marines are now allowed to have an “unlimited” amount of tattoos on parts of the body covered by their uniform. Officers, though, are restricted to no more than four tattoos on exposed skin.
Existing bans on offensive or prejudicial designs are still enforced, while any tattoo on the head, neck and “in or around the mouth area” is also precluded. Chest and back tattoos are only allowed if they can be hidden by a “properly fitting crew-neck t-shirt.”
In December 1995, my movie-world was rocked to its foundations with the release of Heat, Michael Mann’s L.A.-based crime masterpiece. I had never seen or heard anything like it. The action sequences were thoughtful, gritty, and cacophonous. The story, while not overly complicated, was compelling. I staggered out of the theater (Saskatoon’s now defunct Capitol Four) disoriented and punch-drunk. Heat was immediately one of my favorite films.
Prior to the film’s release, it was surmised that the onscreen meeting of Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro would create a rift in the space-time continuum. (Of course, they had both starred in the Godfather II, but had not shared the screen.)
Michael Mann, fresh off The Last of the Mohicans, chanced a rupture in space and time, and it was clearly worth the risk. He cast Pacino as Lt. Vincent Hanna and DeNiro as Neil McCauley. Both characters were driven, adrenaline-fuelled, Alphas: McCauley the cool career criminal with a code, and Hanna as the unrelenting, hyper-passionate lawman.
Over the course of 170 mins, they play a deadly game of cat-and-mouse throughout the streets of Los Angeles. Hanna seeks out McCauley with singular determination, while McCauley pursues his final big “score.” At one stage, they sit down for a cup of coffee and discuss their situation. This scene, of course, was highly anticipated and, according to Mann, unrehearsed to maintain authenticity.
According to Matt Patches in Esquire, as Hanna and McCauley ruminate on the duality of human instincts the scene is “biblically awesome.” I certainly agree, but it isn’t the best part of the film.
Instead, the heists – that is, the action sequences – remain the most memorable and explosive scenes in the film. The realism of the high-octane robberies left me breathless. As Mann explained it, the shootout scenes were done “using the natural sound of the gunfire recorded on set. And with no visual effects.” According to Vince Mancini, “the action scenes have a way of drowning out the rest in retrospect because they brought an intensity…that I don’t think we’d ever seen up until that point.” Here’s a YouTube link to the armored car robbery.
But what about drugs, you may ask? Right, I nearly forgot.
Al Pacino’s frenetically intense Lt. Hanna is constantly on the edge. He’s thoroughly hardcore in his pursuit of McCauley and he’s always keeping it 100. The original script of the film showcased his addiction to cocaine, a “tool” he used to stay sharp, stay focused. However, the final version – much like Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes – chose not to go down that cocaine road and underline mis/use of the drug.
At the end of 2015, we’re caught in the midst of Star Wars mania. We’re trapped in its unyielding gravitational pull. Yet, twenty years ago this month Heat proved itself a groundbreaking crime drama. In a recent Q&A during the Toronto International Film Festival, Mann answered a question about the line in the film, “time is luck.” He asserted to audience members that he truly believed it — that “Time is luck and that’s why I keep repeating it in all these movies.” If we’re lucky, we’ll be talking about Heat in another twenty years.
In 2015, we are grappling with the addictive properties of The Walking Dead. Based on the best-selling comic book and developed for TV by Frank Darabont, the series has proven to be as enduring and enslaving as many popular drugs.
With only a month left in Season 6, many questions surround the future of Rick, Daryl, and the rest. The zombie hordes have broken through the wall. Ron has set his sights on Carl and the next episode, which is called “Start to Finish,” will likely see the end of a character. But who will it be? Who’s going to lose a body part or two? Tune in…
But zombies don’t only frequent the big and small screen. They don’t simply occupy pages of novels and graphic novels. Quite the opposite. In recent years, drug addicts on bath salts have been portrayed as nightmarish zombies tearing at the flesh of unwitting victims. Let me explain.
Bath salts are examples of new classes of designer drugs, which are sometimes referred to as “legal highs.” These are substances with psychotropic effects that have been or are marketed and distributed for recreational use by exploiting gaps in existing drug legislation. Another popular example is the synthetic cannabinoids (“fake marijuana”) marketed under names such as Spice.
In 2012, the Americans made bath salts illegal through the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act and then with the Synthetic Cathinones Control Act a year later. At roughly the same time, Canada introduced measures to ban the key ingredient in bath salts, methlyenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV).
The move to schedule and control the drug was surely warranted, yet one can easily detect how the drug was sensationalized as part of this process. Lurid and grotesque stories were reported about bath salts, including the naked zombie attacker who was shot by police in Miami while biting a victim’s face. Rudy Eugene, the face-chewing “zombie,” wasn’t on any bath salts, contrary to a majority of the stories.
Yet, the nation went into full-on moral panic mode. From PBS and Spin to Forbes and GQ magazine, the public was exposed to the new menace in American society. It was the stuff of nightmares. It was a Zombie Bath Salt Apocalypse.
The Big Picture
Cathinones are naturally occurring amphetamine-like substances that come from Khat, a plant found in eastern Africa which has been chewed since at least the tenth century. Synthetic cathinones, not surprisingly, are lab-created derivatives of this compound, dating back to 1928 or so.
By the 1990s, the use/misuse of the synthetic cathinones began to pop up on radar screens and became an issue with law enforcement and government officials.
Before the recent regulation in the past few years, the designer “bath salts” were purchased from dealers, through online distributors, or at book stores, gas stations, and head shops. They got the nickname because they resembled the everyday Epsom salts that bath-lovers pour in their water when they take a soothing soak.
But there are trade names as well: “Ivory Wave,” “Purple Wave,” “Ocean Burst,” “Monkey Dust,” “Sextacy,” “Vanilla Sky,” and “White Lightning” are just some of the varieties one can put in the body rather than the bathtub. Tough to detect, they can be snorted, smoked, or injected.
And the effects of these are similar to MDMA. Users have reported increased energy and empathy, more sociability, and mental and sexual stimulation. The negative side effects of bath salts, on the other hand, have included difficulty breathing, fatigue, insomnia, muscle twitching, nausea, paranoia, violent behavior, and tachychardia.
A Vicious Circle
Compared to traditional psychotropic drugs (cocaine and LSD, for instance), there is relatively scant medical information available. That has not prevented its assignment to the category of Schedule I, meaning it has no known and accepted medical use.
Yet certain researchers raise interesting points. One is that classifying bath salts as schedule I substances without pre-clinical or human research is very problematic.
This move restricts the number of laboratories and institutions with licenses to study the bath salts. As a result, finding an accepted medical use becomes even more difficult, even though there have been suggestions that bath salts could be a viable alternative to amphetamines in dealing with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or severe, treatment-resistant Depression.
This is, in short, a case of the snake eating its tail, and one does not have to look any further than LSD to detect some historical parallels. In the late 1960s, the recreational abuse of LSD as well as the anti-authority, counter-cultural, and outright malevolent images associated with it helped to scuttle research. Now, after over forty years, LSD has begun to make a slow return, and perhaps even a comeback.
Hyperbole and inaccurate information played a role in the scheduling and controlling of LSD, in other words. This was also the case when it was reported that crazed Mexicans who smoked marijuana went on vicious rampages, or when it was reported that Chinese workers were raping white women in opium dens while customers were “Chasing the Dragon.” With bath salts, which are the latest in a long line of drugs used for their euphoric effects, this hyperbole was readily apparent.
No, bath salts will not turn you into a cannibalistic criminal like Rudy Eugene in Miami. And, no, bath salts will not give you super strength. But the media had no problems in pushing such narratives on news consumers.
Should we be surprised about this type of journalism? Or that it dovetailed with the first synthetic cathinone legislation in 2012, which was passed the same month as the attack? Far from. If anything, the history of drug policy demonstrates how predictable this is.
In the future, the best way to avoid cowering in bed (or hiding behind a big wall) in the face of an imminent zombie bath salt apocalypse is with candor. It’s probably best not to cut off avenues of research or focus on gory thoughts about face-chewing.
And, at the very least, it would be prudent to recognize the challenges and dangers of designer drugs like bath salts, even as we place them in a longer history of drugs. This way, like Rick and Daryl, we can create a proactive strategy for evading the zombie hordes.