Category: The Palatinate

Post-WWII America was a savage battle between the conservative and liberals, each tugging desperately until the whole damn thing shattered like a piñata, showering the sixties in free love and whatever other excuses they had to take drugs back then. Winding and hollering their way through like uncaged beasts, carried by a wave of unbridled love, hatred and LSD-spiked orange juice was the Merry Pranksters. Not old enough to be hippies and too old to be beatnicks.

Led by the esteemed author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey, and with Jack Kerouac’s travelling companion, Neal Cassady, behind the wheel these angel-headed hipsters embarked on a road trip across America. Their carriage was a 1939 International Harvester school bus called ‘Further’, coated to the decks with violent and unimaginable patterns of day-glo paint. Their goal was to shove a firework of truth so far up Conservative America’s arse crack, Congress would be singing stars.

Before now, the remnants of this trip survived in Tom Wolfe’s novel, The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test, and over 100 hours of 16mm reels and audio cassettes, recorded on the trip and passed through the projectors of a select few. That was until Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney (Taxi To The Dark Side) teamed up with Alison Ellwood (Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson) to bring the 40-year-old footage to the silver screen, enterMagic Trip.

The film documents the Prankster’s voyage across America from the West Coast to see New York World’s Fair, ‘The World of Tomorrow’ and a glimpse into the dysotopian future many had predicted. Their travels became embedded into American culture as the first time the little known drug LSD was cast so recklessly into the public eye. The hallucinogen had originally been tested by the CIA to use in interrogations but the Pranksters saw it as a creative potion to warp their mental boundaries. Kesey was never a political anarchist, he simply wanted to batter down the doors of perception and see what came out. In his words, “I’d rather be a lightning rod than a seismograph”.

The result, and something captured so intimately in the film, is a band of teaheads with names like Gretchen Fetchen and Mountain Girl, bombed out of their gourds, babbling their way across America. One pastime, ‘tootling the multitudes’. was to take acid and sit on top of the bus with a flute, capturing onlookers’ reactions with the notes they played. America didn’t know what hit them, one policeman let them go over after he mistook their outfit for a college prank.

After six years of piecing together the footage captured so brilliantly and haphazardly by the Pranksters, this film promises to be the most immersive view of a group that pioneered America’s cultural charge into the sixties. Famous cohorts of the Merry Pranksters included poet Allen Ginsberg, Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson and the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Gang.

Director Alison Ellwood commented after first watching the footage, “I felt like I was a kind of ghost passenger sitting on that crazed painted bus. I could smell the fumes, feel the heat of the desert and sense my heart pounding as I barreled across the roads, my life in the hands of a genius/madman behind the wheel”.


Having splashed out £225 million in a month, the Premier League bellowed a resounding ‘yes’ to Richard Keys’ question on the British transfer record, “did you smash it?”

"Ya Mon!"


In the late hours of January 31 the financial prestige of the English Premier League collapsed after a prolonged bombardment from various offshore bank accounts. There had been evidence of structural deficiencies in previous transfer spending sprees but the decisive blow came in the form of an £85million splurge involving two strikers, Fernando Torres and Andy Carroll. The sheer expense and rashness of the deals marked a fitting end to a month period that has been charachterised by top-flight teams charging around the market with the financial shrewdness of a stag party in Vegas.

With only eleven Premier League goals to his name, 22 year-old Carroll’s £35million transfer to Liverpool earned him the title of most expensive British footballer. Although with a hairstyle better suited to an unemployed addict of World of Warcraft, Liverpool shouldn’t have to pay too much for the 6’3” striker’s image rights. Newcastle’s official statement declared the transfer fee was “reluctantly accepted”, a view owner Mike Ashley is sure to reciprocate once he returns from funding his latest project, a kebab-flavored pint.

Not to be outdone Carroll’s partner in crime, Fernando Torres, commanded a £50million fee, placing him fourth in the globe’s most expensive transfers. Significantly, the fee was £15.8 million higher than the amount Barcelona paid for Torres’ compatriot, David Villa, in 2010. The 29-year-old striker is just three years older than Torres and scored five times in the 2010 World Cup finals, with Torres failing to find the net. There is no doubting Torres’ class, but in the previous two seasons he managed only 46 appearances in the Premier League, raising questions over his susceptibility to injury.

In a transfer window where Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson declared Howard Webb was “not for sale”, Sheikh Mansour’s Manchester City restrained themselves to a £27million flutter on Bosnian striker Edin Dzeko. However the most remarkable aspect of the January spending, which marked a £195 million increase from last year, is that it has occurred in the same year that the governing body of European football, UEFA, are initiating their financial fair-play rules.

Starting with the 2011/12 season, European club’s finances will be checked over the ensuing three years and clubs that are operating at a loss of £40 million or more over the period will face punishments such as being banned from the Champions League. For Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea reaching this target will prove an arduous task, seeing as their January spending on transfers alone accounted for £71 million. This also comes on the back of last season, where Chelsea reported total losses of £70.9 million.

Since 2005 eleven Premier League clubs have been taken over by private owners, including Sheiks, corrupt Prime Ministers and Russian oligarchs. Premiership teams have seemingly become an accessory for the globe’s über-rich, with every big cheese queuing up to dunk their hardly-earned bread into the bubbling fondue of English football. This culture of a billionaire boys club has propelled Premiership spending into a league of its own, made apparent if you compare the spending of the Spanish Primera in January, £23.5 million.

Whilst such financial gallivanting has provided pages of tabloid fodder, it is clearly not sustainable in the eyes of football’s controlling bodies. At the beginning of the season Manchester City’s wage bill, accounting for £133 million, single-handedly surpassed their total revenue by £8 million. Unless teams can wriggle their way around the incoming regulations, the acts of financial decadence indulged in this January may have to be banished in the future to the forlorn speculation of the Sun’s football gossip column.

As Facebook takes its place at the table of business high rollers, users will have to ask how their personal information is treated.

On the back of a successful 2010, including a silver screen debut, the social media goliath welcomed in the new year by accepting a $375 million investment offer from Goldman Sachs. Like sending the two Milliband brothers on a team building exercise in Cumbria, nothing good can come of this.

For one the deal estimates Facebook’s worth at a giddying $50 billion, a potentially inflated sum when you look at the company’s reported revenue of just $1.2 billion over the first three quarters of 2010. But enough with this monetary dandyism, what of the unwashed masses who use the thing? Well, the noticeably gaping numerical chasm between revenue and worth suggests that financial value is being uncovered elsewhere on Facebook. A bounty is slowly collating above the heads of its 600 million usership and more importantly, the keg loads of information Facebook has on them.

Addresses, birthdays, phone numbers. What’s to stop Facebook auctioning its users’ information and details to the highest bidder, flimsy privacy agreements? Goldman Sachs and co. has seen worse. After all, the parents of royal fiancée Kate Middleton were known to derive a sizeable chunk of revenue for their business, ‘Party Pieces’, by selling their clients’ contact details to relevant companies. With more extensive information at their digital fingertips, Facebook could do one better.

After seven years of loyal service; nursing our hangovers, publishing our ethereal musings and inviting us to join groups detailing the post-mortem of a phone lost to the supernatural clutches of a festival bog. Is Facebook preparing to throw us to the corporate lions? Are our witty wall posts destined to be salivated over by a wispy cheeked researcher, hell bent on proving the neo-Nazi tendencies of Generation Y? Not on my watch.

At this crucial juncture I acknowledge this may sound like the ramblings of an apocalyptic prophet, touring the country and living out of a caravan and stockpiles of tinned food. Or even Morpheus incarnate, offering the ‘blue pill’ of online salvation. Unfortunately for any leather suppliers, I am neither. I’m just not keen on the idea of my postcode being bootlegged across the web to any Tom, Dick and Hameed. So when China gets their teeth into global advertising and start sending Viagra discounts to my new address in the Shire, I’ll be Chairman LMAOing.

As a further measure, next time I see a status update saying “just off to the South of France in daddy’s yacht”, I will not be ‘liking’ it. Instead while they are enjoying the sun, I will round up a posse and march on the offender’s home address (conveniently located in the ‘contact information’ section), kick down the door and kidnap the new puppy they put photos up of last week. It’s for the best.

The socially transparent era of tweeting your bowel movements is over, long live privacy!