Octopus ConspiracyThis book, based on articles published in High Times magazine, covers many different aspects of what is known as the counterculture.

There is a piece about the assassination of John F. Kennedy which does a good job of destroying the Warren Commission findings (as if more destruction is needed). There is a chapter on secret societies and their huge influence in America, including Skull and Bones and the Freemasons.

For anyone who wants to know What Really Happened at Waco in 1993 and just who David Koresh really was, there is a piece in this book that does an excellent job at it. Being High Times magazine, there is a visit to a young man in the Netherlands who has become something of a marijuana entrepreneur, shipping high quality pot seeds all over the world.

There is also a visit to the annual Cannabis Cup competition, held in Amsterdam. Think of it as the Marijuana World Championship. The most interesting parts of this book look at the history of graffiti in 1970s and 1980s New York City. It started with young people writing their name or tag nearly anywhere, then evolved into an art form that attracted big attention from the mainstream art world.

The reader will also read about the birth of rap music, when the DJ was king, spinning records in tiny clubs and basements. Later, the MCs, who were to keep the crowd moving, started rhyming, and eventually took over the show. The book also looks at the birth of CBGB’s, the iconic rock club in the East Village. Punk rock of the 1970s gave birth to glitter rock, new wave and all sorts of offshoots.

All the important people in 1970s and 1980s New York City are here, including Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Africa Bambaataa, Talking Heads, the Sugarhill Gang and the B-52s. The stories are told mostly from the point of view of the everyday New Yorkers who were part of these scenes. No matter what your counterculture interest is, music, art or drugs, it is in this excellent group of articles.

I learned a lot from this book, and even veterans will, too.


— Paul Lappen writes for www.deadtreesreview.com