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Page history last edited by me 11 years, 4 months ago



So today, I was randomly on Amazon.com, looking up the books that I need for my summer classes.  On the homepage, as always, they their recommended lists for me.  One section was books that I may want to purchase, and, no lie, it said "Latest from the Authors you may like, Including William S. Burroughs".  Seeing as I purchased all 11 Burroughs books required for this class on Amazon, I suppose it's not too crazy for Amazon to assume that Burroughs is one of my favorite authors.  I did find this incredibly amusing though, and immediately thought that I would create a wiki post, recreating this experience.


Until next time (when I hopefully have something of much greater value to write)...




I completely forgot (until right now) that I'm supposed to talk about a project proposal before class tomorrow. That would be all good and fine if I knew what I would like to propose. But I have no idea. So I'm planning on rambling my way through a blog entry and seeing where I end up. Maybe with a kick-ass idea? That's the goal.


So here's where I am. Originally, way back on February 11th, I proposed a project comparing and contrasting Burroughs and Ludlow. I've pretty much thrown this project idea out the window, for a number of reasons. First, I haven't even come close to reading all of (or even much of) Ludlow's piece, and I wouldn't want to rush through reading it when I'm trying to find a deeper meaning. Second, the project sounds boring to me. If I don't want to write it, who is going to want to read it? Third, and most importantly (at least in my mind), I've written SO many papers in my high school and college career, and I know I can write a good paper. But, I've never been able to (and probably never again will be able to) cut up a work and re-piece it together in a random order and call it a project. I may as well take this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to try something new, and do it. So I think I will.


Now I just need to decide what to cut up... I'll give it some thought, and hopefully have an answer for my proposal (does this even count as a proposal? probably not) sometime tonight/before class tomorrow. I want to do something that will have a deeper meaning, yet something that isn't too huge to tackle. Perhaps a book of the Bible? That could be pretty awesome.


For the time being, this is my proposal: A cut up of a book of the Bible. I do not know which one, yet, but a good one. And I hope that the project will turn out as amazing as I am imagining it...


Endnote: I'm finally starting to appreciate the whole writing a blog/wiki/whatever now. Too bad there are only a few weeks left in the semester. Maybe I'll start my own life's blog... I wonder who would read that. :)



4/14 (even later.  see a theme here?  I'm trying to redeem my wiki-ing ability.  give me some credit.)


Last week in class, we also talked about photographs, and how they are innately fake.  This discussion got me thinking (dangerous, I know).  Why do we pose for photographs?  Shouldn't they just all be candid?  The act of posing does make them fake.  There is nothing more fake than being told to smile for a photograph.  In fact, I can recall, right now, numerous instances where I've been upset or with people I really don't like, yet I smile for the camera, because that is what is expected of me.  Why do we do this?


I was in Italy the summer before my junior year of high school (omg, that's nearly 4 years ago!!!), and something I experienced makes me believe that this "posing" for pictures may vary in different parts of the world.  So, again, I was in Italy, and if my memory serves me correctly, I was on a ferry on my way to Venice (yes, the city where the pigeons outnumber the people and the town square is underwater for portions of every day).  So I'm on this boat, talking with some of my fellow classmates, and notice Italians sitting/standing near me.  One pulls out a camera, and yells to another in Italian (a language that I DON'T speak) something to the effect of (maybe) "pose for the camera".  The man had been smiling and enjoying himself on the boat, but scowls for the picture.  Not knowing why he would do this, I assumed the man was making fun of someone, or actually in a bad mood, basically making up excuses for his odd (in my opinion) behavior.  But then another Italian had his picture taken.  Guess what.  He did EXACTLY the same thing.  Sure, maybe it was just a coincidence.  Maybe the person taking the picture actually yelled "SCOWL FOR THE CAMERA".  Maybe I was just being overly nosy.  Regardless, this phenomenon struck me as being odd.  


But now, after discussing the whole photographs being false idea, I'm thinking that maybe it's just a cultural thing.  Maybe Italians try to make pictures more realistic, while we Americans try to make them optimistic.  Or, maybe, I'm just being an ignorant American and forming completely inaccurate conclusions.  I don't know.  But, regardless of my involvement, this phenomenon (of photographs being innately fake) is quite fascinating, and yet another thing that Burroughs has caused me to evaluate.  I'm not sure whether I'll be thankful for this newfound (or, maybe more accurately, heightened) sense of challenging everything I once thought true or to be a given after reading so much Burroughs, but I don't think there is much I can do about it now.  Plus, it's still fascinating. 


Until next time...



4/14 (a bit later)


I was just rereading some of my earlier posts from the semester, and I noticed that in my first ever wiki post, way back in January, I talked about immortality.  Interestingly enough, the theme of immortality was once again discussed in class today (apparently it's a common Burroughsian* theme).


So, immortality.  Today, we discussed that immortality leads to feelings of control, or maybe the opposite, that people who want control strive to become immortal.  Take Professor's example of the individuals who wish to be frozen after death.  First of all, WHY?!?!  But, moving on from that immediate reaction, these individuals become so obsessed with the ability to be frozen after death that they spend much of their life and their money making this possible.  Some people, afraid that their death would go unnoticed for too long and their body would not be able to be frozen, even installed sensors in their homes to detect movement; if they stopped moving for a given period of time, the EMTs would be called and would rush to the scene to make sure the individual had not died, and if they had, to get them on ice.  I think this is another WTF scenario.  Really now?


The fact of the matter is, though, that these individuals, most likely, are frightened by death, and wish to remain immortal.  Because they aren't completely stupid, they know that they cannot remain brain alive (is that a real phrase?  I mean it as an opposite to brain dead-- work with me here) forever, so they do the next best thing: preserve their bodies.  So, in order to beat nature and control their fate, they spend much of their lifetime planning their death.  In order to remain as immortal as possible, they plan their death to the best of their ability.  Does anyone else see a contradiction? 


Until next time...


* I definitely did a spell check on this post, because I thought I was spelling contradiction wrong (and I was), but "Burroughsian" did not come up as a misspelled word.  Is this actually a word?  Maybe Burroughs has had more impact on the world than I have previously realized.





So I officially fail at keeping a wiki. Yeah. Whoops. Sorry about that. I'll try harder for the next few weeks, I promise.


I've been really interested in the theory of "safety" that we discussed in class last week in relation to Burroughs.  I love, love, love the part of Dead Roads when they Kim is asked if he'd rather be a poisonous snake or a non-poisonous snake.  He responds a poisonous snake, because he would feel safer knowing that he could kill people or other animals, and that a dead human is much less threatening than a living human.


So is this what safety is really all about?  Simply about FEELING safe?  If so, this reevaluates everything that we think about safety, or at least what I've thought about safety in the past.  How can we ever really, truly feel safe if safety isn't real? 


This reminds me of something that Bush started in his presidency, and something that I quote often when discussing how much I dislike Bush and his policies: the terror threat level.  Seriously, WTF???  We are telling terrorists that we feel safe or threatened on any given day, cooresponding to a color (red: oh shit, we aren't safe; green (actually, I don't know what the lowest color is on the scale; hopefully it isn't ever used because that will be the day the U.S. is destroyed) : don't worry about terrorists, we've got them completely under control).  Did anyone (Bush) really think that this is/was a good idea?  It's bull shit.  Telling people they are safe is just giving them a false sense of security.  How can we ever know that we are completely safe?  Oh, yeah, that's right.  We can't.  


Once again, Burroughs is twisting much of what I felt true.  I guess I should cease to be shocked by this.  But I still am.  And probably always will be.


Until next time... (and hopefully soon!!)





So during class today, when we were discussing what Burroughs would think about a multitude of different things, I found myself wondering what Burroughs would think about THON.  After spending over 40 hours at THON this past weekend, and still attempting to recover, THON has been the center of my thoughts for the past few weeks/months, and I'm sorry in advance for my obsession. 


Burroughs spends an entire book (in The Yage Letters Redux), though it is certainly a theme in many of his works, describing the search for the ultimate drug.  That one drug that will complete him, and just be the best thing he can imagine.  While reading his work, I found myself wondering what could possibly motivate an individual like Burroughs to spend so much time searching for a drug that may not be all that great.


But then I realized, during class today, that Penn State students involved in THON are doing something pretty similar.  We spend an entire year planning for THON, raising money for pediatric cancer patients and their families, freezing on street corners and begging for money, writing piece after piece of kids mail, and not sleeping for entire weekends in the hope of finding a cure for cancer.  Sure, there are some apparent differences between, say, myself volunteering for THON and Burroughs searching for the miracle drug.  I'm not personally reaping the benefits of the work I am doing (though seeing the children smile certainly makes every ounce of energy and every minute of skipped sleep worthwhile).  Burroughs quest was more, dare I say it, selfish, certainly, than the work we all do for THON.  Yet, we are both spending so much of our time searching for something that may not exist and may not be the ultimate answer.  Will there ever be a cure for cancer? The inner optomist in me screams "OF COURSE!!!", but we don't know that.  We can't possibly know.  Yet we still spend so much of our time raising money to find this unknown cure.  I suppose that this is where faith steps in.


What would Burroughs think of this whole idea? Would he think we are crazy for searching like this? I don't think so. I think he would be pretty impressed that we also spend so much time and energy searching blindly for something that may never be discovered. Is this similar to Burroughs' quest for yage? I think so.  There are definitely some impressive similarities. 


With all of this being said, I must, of course, include in my conclusion that I certainly don't think that Penn State students are wasting their time searching for this possibly unknowable cure.  I love THON more than just about anything else in life, and I think that anything we can do FTK is worth all of the effort, without doubt.  Similarly, though, I don't think Burroughs was wasting his time searching for yage either.  Though I don't understand the use of drugs and cannot imagine myself ever doing something like that, I can certainly see the parallels between my fight against cancer FTK and Burroughs' quest for the miracle drug. 





My project proposal!! Who's excited? I sure as hell am.  So I'm just going to copy and paste from the word document. Any comments/suggestions would be incredibly appreciated. THANKS!!!


For my contribution to the class zine, I would like to compare and contrast Ludlow’s and Burroughs’ use of drugs.  A basic outline for my piece would appear something like this:

    1. Basic background information about Burroughs and Ludlow

    2. Reasons behind initial drug use/commentary about drugs of choice

    3. First time experience with the drug

    4. Social impact of using the drug

    5. Admittance level

    6. Low point on drugs

    7. Level of determination and motivation

    8. Ending point

This piece will incorporate a great deal of information about the lives of both Ludlow and Burroughs, and will point out the differences in their drug addictions that give each his own individual story.  


I would like to start of the piece with basic biographical information to give the audience the ability to understand the time and place in which both Ludlow and Burroughs were living.  I believe that such information will prove beneficial to the reader in order for the reader to understand the circumstances surrounding Ludlow and Burroughs, and the drug problems that ensued in their worlds.  I also believe that it would be beneficial to discuss that both Ludlow and Burroughs were considered contemporaries by writing about their drug problems.  They were some of the first individuals to ever write about their struggles with drug addictions, and in doing so, admitting to using and (in Burroughs’ case) dealing illegal substances.  In the age we are presently living, it is not uncommon to find memoirs of drug addictions and problematic lifestyles, and I believe that it is completely necessary for the reader to be informed of the consequences that both Ludlow and Burroughs faced by writing in their time periods.


The next section of my piece will discuss the reasons that both Ludlow and Burroughs initially began using drugs, and their individual drugs of choice.  Though both Ludlow and Burroughs began using in a social setting, their reasons (outside of curiosity) were very different.  Insight into the initial decisions to start using will be very beneficial to the reader in enabling them to understand more fully Ludlow’s and Burroughs’ decision making processes.


Third, I will detail and discuss both Ludlow’s and Burroughs’ first time using their choice drug.  This section will examine their reactions and feelings about the drugs, along with their confusions and further curiosities.  Because Ludlow and Burroughs had very different first experiences, this section will prove helpful for later discussion of their follow up methods of drug choice and use.


Next, I will examine the social impact of Ludlow’s drug use and Burroughs’ drug use.  In this section, I will particularly analyze Burroughs’ selling of drugs to others, and the financial benefits that Burroughs enjoyed by helping others becoming addicted to drugs.  In contrast, Ludlow used drugs for his own amusement, and did not help others become addicted, though he did bring outsiders along on his intense drug-induced trips.


The following section will depict both Ludlow’s and Burroughs’ admittance to their drug problems.  Though both Ludlow and Burroughs wrote depictions of their drug use, their level of admittance varies greatly, and this section will provide good insight into the inner character of Ludlow and Burroughs.  For example, Burroughs, through much of his early work ( Junky and They Yage Letters Redux ) claims that he could quit drugs at any point and would be done with them for the remainder of his life.  Before writing my essay, I will of course read a number of his other works, and I will be curious and eager to note how this view changes as time passes.


The sixth section will discuss both Ludlow’s and Burroughs’ low points on the drugs.  Both Ludlow and Burroughs admit in their writing that they never know before using whether their drug-induced state will be one of extreme euphoria or one of great depression.  I would like to detail examples of low points in the drug use of Ludlow and Burroughs, and discuss both men’s methods of overcoming these points and their mental decisions to continue using drugs despite the chance of experiencing such depression.


The next part of the essay will examine the determination and motivation of both Ludlow and Burroughs to find and experiment with drugs.  Ludlow appears to only use drugs when they are readily available to him (at least at the beginning of his drug use).  On the other hand, Burroughs actively seeks new drugs (The Yage Letters Redux follows Burroughs travels through South America searching for a new drug, yage) and even writes about his ability to identify people who sell drugs or need drugs without talking to anyone.  Clearly, Ludlow and Burroughs contrast greatly in this area, and such an examination will give the reader further information in distinguishing between both authors and addicts.


The final segment of my essay will discuss the ending points of both Ludlow and Burroughs.  I have not yet finished reading Ludlow or Burroughs, and do not yet know how either of them stopped using (by quitting drugs successfully, for example, or by dying of an overdose), but by the time I reach this section of the piece, I will be able to detail both of their endings (which I imagine, at least for Burroughs, will be quite tragic).  


I believe that such an essay would provide an outsider to our class and a stranger to both Ludlow and Burroughs not only basic biographical information, but also insight into the drug use of both men.  The essay will also most likely prove beneficial to students in our class, as it will outline the lives of both men and the eventual consequences of such extreme drug use.  I also think that by writing this essay, I will be able to gain much insight into the lives and works of both Ludlow and Burroughs.  I believe that this work will be a very beneficial section of our class zine.





After class today, I found myself thinking about the imagery of a plant growing from a rock.  What a powerful statement.  It leads me to really contemplate nature as a being, rather than just being the stuff surrounding me in everyday life.  It really gives some perspective on life.  I mean, think about it.  On a nearly daily basis, I don't want to get out of bed, go to class, learn, and, especially, work on homework or study.  Sure, I enjoy classes, but who really wants to wake up in the morning and get out of their cozy bed to trudge across campus in the snow?  Yet, think about the plant growing from a rock.  It has nature against it.  The plant has no soil, little nurture, and little to no sunlight as a seed.  Yet, it overcomes these preliminary problems and grows into a beautiful plant.  If a plant can grow out of a rock, I'm pretty sure that I can do anything.  Or, at least, I can get out of bed in the morning...



1/28/09 (a bit later)


I finished reading The Yage Letters yesterday, and wow! what a fascinating novel.  First, it was so short, yet so full of descriptions.  I am wondering if Burroughs used his "cutting" (is that what it is called?) method for this novel.  I think he must have, simply because of the inclusion of the part about Roosevelt being thrown in there.  Maybe it is just me, but that did not seem to fit in with the rest of the work, primarily, I suppose, because of the formatting (it was not written in a letter format).


I would also like to mention Burrough's clear determination.  I cannot even imagine staggering though a foreign continent to find one specific drug, which I don't believe (but I could be wrong here) Burroughs had ever even used before his journey. WOW! So many things are running through my mind as to things that have gone wrong, or how the drug could have been mythical, or how yage could have been not a worthwhile drug for which to search.  It seemed to me that Burroughs was making out all right before his travels (from reading Junky), or at least as well as a drug addict on the run from the law could be doing.  Why give all of that up to search for a virtually unknown drug.  I suppose that Burroughs was just far more daring and courageous than I am, but with a wife and children (see the post below), it seems to me like a fruitless expedition.  But to each their own, right??





After yesterday's discussion in class, I began to wonder even more about Burrough's relationship with his family.  When reading Junky, I too was shocked that we did not hear about Burrough's wife or children until he was interrogated by the police officer.  At first, when reading that part, I thought that Burroughs was making up this family, in order for the officer to release him or treat him better, or at least show more compassion for Burroughs.  When the wife and children were mentioned again many pages later, I was shocked to discover they were not mythical characters. 


This discovery makes me wonder about who Burroughs considered his "family", or if he considered anyone his family, and how his wife felt in all of these situations.  Did she know that her husband was more attracted to men, and writing down so eloquently and passionately his encounter with these "boys"?  It amazes me that she stayed with him for such a long period of time (she must have if they had children together) if she knew all of this.  How difficult it must be to know that your husband is much more attracted to adolescent boys rather than to you, his wife.  He never acknowledges any act of intimacy with his wife, and I don't believe that we are ever even given her name.  But, in the passage that Nick read in class on Tuesday, we hear details about how Burroughs folded his pants and where he touched his boy partner.  How depressing!?


I would be very curious to hear if Burroughs ever mentions this apparent discrepancy, or if his wife ever spoke up about these instances.  What a difficult life to live...





 So I'm not exactly sure where this is going to go, but here goes nothing...


I loved Ludlow's piece.  Sure I didn't even come close to reading all of it, but the first couple of chapters were great.  As an individual who does not do drugs, it certainly gave me some insight.  Despite the whole "subjective experience" thing that we've been discussing, I can definitely imagine that I would do similar things if I were to begin using. 


The most interesting thing that Ludlow said was definitely about his feelings of immortality.  Who knew drugs made you immortal?  Certainly not me.  If anything, I would have thought the opposite.  But I'll take his word for this one.  Anyway, his feels of immortality seemed so intriguing.  I wonder, really, how he felt about his feeling of immortality.  I think that I would be terrified if I ever began to feel this way: there seems to be nothing that would lead to an earlier death than feeling immortal.  However, despite all of this, I admire Ludlow's bravery.  Descending a never ending set of stair sounds like a frightening experience- one no doubt I never want to experience anyway.  But yet he continued on his quest.


I also loved how Ludlow felt that he was traveling the world constantly while he was high.  Unlike Burroughs, who stole things and bummed around while high, Ludlow seemed to really enjoy life and his experiences.  I only wish that world travel was as easy as an impressive imagination.

Finally, I enjoyed Ludlow's friend (in Chapter 4 or so), who pretended to also be high and travel the world with Ludlow.  What a great friend.  Rather than trying to help Ludlow stay sober, the friend encouraged Ludlow's experimentation.  Nonetheless, if one of my friends were stoned and tried to hold my hand and travel around the world, I can say with confidence that I would run as fast as possible in the other direction.  Good for Ludlow's friend, for being so open minded and commited to keeping Ludlow safe.


I hope to read the rest of his account of drugs in the near future, and hopefully I will be able to blog more when I come to a better conclusion as to whether I think ultimately his experiences were permissible or not.  Until then...

Comments (3)

Anonymous said

at 11:36 am on Jan 22, 2009

As a person who may or may not dabble in cannabis and mild hallucinogen use, I find Ludlow's shared experiences very interesting as well in the way that they deviate so strongly from mine. I think perhaps I am doing something wrong. The immortality thing I'm totally feeling, the "uncontrollable terror -- a sense of getting something which I had not bargained for," also. But I have never had experiences of a scope quite so epic as Ludlow. Perhaps it is in his writing that we find a slight embellishment, a use of language so haute and majestic that he can enhance the appearance of experiences I might consider mundane? How much does the rhetoric here influence how the reader and Ludlow himself view a drug-induced experience? If the influence is strong, is this a good or bad thing? Certainly, language weighs in on the subjectivity of the experience, a way of coloring it and making it your own. If everyone were to write about his or her experience in purely "scientific" terms, would this lessen the subjectivity? Of course, the experience is still individual, but then it might be easier to find common strains which are common results of usage of a common drug. Would this be beneficial in any way?

Anonymous said

at 9:34 pm on Jan 24, 2009

I totally disagree. I was actually very happy and relieved to read about his experiences with drugs. It seemed to validate everything that I used to feel. It's interesting, actually, it was that uncontrollable terror, and the paranoia, that made it impossible for me to smoke. It takes a certain kind of person to be happy in a reality that has been altered. If I am feeling something, I want to know for sure that I am feeling it. If I witness something, I want to know for a fact that it happened. When your perception and the behavior of those around you is changed through drugs and alcohol, I think that experiences become less real. And that is a tragedy to me.

If your nights are spent using a mind-altering substance, and therefore the things you feel and enjoy are being altered, do they still count? I almost feel that it is more akin to a lucid dream than a waking reality, as fun as it sometimes is.

In responce to the actual blog, I hope that in the coming weeks (probably more like months) I will have a chance to finish reading it as well! This is one of the most realistic, hilarious, and honest accounts I have read in a long time. I love that he portrays the story truthfully, blemishes and all.

Also, do you guys think he just smoked way too much the first time he got high (really, really high), or do you think it was a case of, you have to smoke a few times before it affects you, for some reason?

Contessa said

at 7:01 pm on Apr 14, 2009

No, it's not just you. When I was in Spain over spring break this year they did the same scowling thing. I don't see why smiling's much better, and like you, typically feel pretty ridiculous when it comes time to say "cheese".

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