Book Review - Weathercraft


This is a pleasantly (and at times, downright terrifyingly) strange book created by a weird visionary artist and creator by the name of Jim Woodring. I first heard of Jim on the Duncan Trussell Family Hour podcast a couple years ago. Their conversation went to several interesting places—art, vedanta, meditation, and of course Jim's Frank series of graphic novels. Even though I'm not necessarily a devotee of the anime/comic book/manga/graphic novel genre, I knew I had to check out this series because Jim's genuine interest in esoteric topics and Duncan's fantastic description of his artistic style really piqued my curiosity.

So I checked out three Frank books from my local library a few months ago and took them to the beach with me for a two-week vacation. My travel partners and I ended up eating a fairly large dose of psilocybin mushrooms (5 grams) in the middle of our vacation and it was during the come-up of that trip that I pulled this book out and started to enter the Frank universe.

Weathercraft seemed like the best Frank comic to start with compared to the other selections I had (The Portable Frank and Fran) because of the book's description on Goodreads:

For over 20 years now, Jim Woodring has delighted, touched, and puzzled readers around the world with his lush, wordless tales of “Frank.” Weathercraft is Woodring’s first full-length graphic novel set in this world—indeed, Woodring’s first graphic novel, period!—and it features the same hypnotically gorgeous linework and mystical iconography.

Without much knowledge about the Frank series, I thought that the "first full-length graphic novel set in this world" would be a good place to start. And I found out that although the reader can certainly jump into this universe with any of the comics, the main character in Weathercraft is merely an extra in the other books, not the protagonist of the series. This one isn't really about Frank much at all.

Even though Frank has a brief supporting appearance in this book, which actually stars Manhog (a pathetic, brutish everyman who regularly shows up in other stories), I really enjoyed reading it. Especially while I was tripping on magic mushrooms—the psychedelic art and bizarre story mixed quite well with them.

So what happens in this story? Well, after enduring a nearly unbearable amount of unfathomable suffering, Manhog sets off on a transformative journey and attains enlightenment. Along the way, he encounters the cruelest foes imaginable, mind-bending landscapes, and various flavors of truly twisted torment. Weathercraft is horrifyingly magnificent and similar to the psychedelic experience by being frustratingly ineffable. It's all very strange and beautiful and must be experienced firsthand to be understood.

Ultimately, even though I was a bit disappointed when I realized that Weathercraft was not about Frank very much at all, I did find it to be an excellent introduction to this world. If you're looking for a trippy book to spend an afternoon or evening with, you should definitely owe it to yourself to check out a Frank book, and Weathercraft would be an excellent one to start with.

4/5 stars. 104 pages.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy my review of The Portable Frank.

The People Who Survive on Psychedelics Even When They Don’t Want To

Reilly Capps, writing for Rooster Magazine:

About once a month, when Ashley Hattle has to take her powerful and effective headache medicine, she preps for the unwanted side effects.

She clears her schedule for eight hours. She gets out the finger paint. She turns on a Harry Potter movie. Why? “Because it’s magic,” she says. And then she downs 1.5 grams of psilocybin mushrooms.

Side effects include: walls that breathe, trees that shimmy, and clouds that morph in geometric patterns.

“If I was just doing it for fun, I might enjoy it,” she says. “But I resent that I have to do this for my health.”

Her medical problem, cluster headaches, is the most painful thing a human can experience — worse than broken bones, childbirth and gunshot wounds. And story after story and study after study says psychedelics like magic mushrooms are about the best medicine.

But tripping, for Hattle, a 27-year-old advertising writer, is a pain. It’s hard to write or make phone calls. She can’t drive. She doesn’t feel comfortable hanging out with most people. And she has to spend the whole next day recovering, feeling groggy and dull.

What an interesting story. I was definitely aware that people have been using psychedelics to treat cluster headaches for years, but I didn't realize that they had to re-dose so often. I couldn't imagine feeling forced to trip multiple times a week—it sounds pretty terrible.

First Ever Trials on the Effects of Microdosing LSD Set to Begin

Sarah Boseley, writing for The Guardian:

[Microdosing is] illegal. So how many people are microdosing is unknown and there is only anecdotal evidence of the effects and any downsides. In a bid to learn more, the Beckley Foundation, which was set up to pioneer research into mind-altering substances, and the unit it funds at Imperial College London, will launch the first ever placebo-controlled trial of microdosing on Monday, 3 September 2018.

This is very exciting news. The first ever microdosing study is going to start in a couple of days. But is it really the first? Psychedelic Press begged to differ in this tweet:

First ever? Not really. We have a little surprise publication coming out very soon dealing with this. Stay tuned #microdosing

Microdosing has been criticized for being difficult to study, and this trial will involve volunteers self-administering their own LSD. So how will the researchers keep the participants from knowing whether they are taking an actual microdose or an empty pill? Simple—the study will get around that problem by employing an innovative technique.

It will be unique, says Balázs Szigeti, the study leader. The cost and the illegality of LSD would make a conventional study prohibitively expensive. So he has hit on a way of running it by inviting those who already microdose to join a “self-blinded” study. They will take either what they usually use in a capsule or an identical dummy capsule instead, without knowing which is which. They will complete questionnaires and tests and play cognitive games online, and only at the end will they learn whether they were happy and focused because of LSD or because they thought they were using LSD.

Even if this isn't the first microdosing study ever conducted, it's the first time I've ever heard of a self-blinded study. What an elegant and creative solution.

Inside the Trump Administration’s Secret War on Weed

Dominic Holden, writing for BuzzFeed News:

The White House has secretly amassed a committee of federal agencies from across the government to combat public support for marijuana and cast state legalization measures in a negative light, while attempting to portray the drug as a national threat, according to interviews with agency staff and documents obtained by BuzzFeed News.

The Marijuana Policy Coordination Committee, as it’s named in White House memos and emails, instructed 14 federal agencies and the Drug Enforcement Administration this month to submit “data demonstrating the most significant negative trends” about marijuana and the “threats” it poses to the country.

In an ironic twist, the committee complained in one memo that the narrative around marijuana is unfairly biased in favor of the drug. But rather than seek objective information, the committee’s records show it is asking officials only to portray marijuana in a negative light, regardless of what the data show.

This article sheds light on one of the Trump administration's latest facepalm moments. You have to work pretty damn hard to come up with a two-page bulleted fact sheet concerning the horrifying dangers of marijuana, but leave it to the government to give it the old college try.

Prison Officials Are Blaming Inmate Letters Soaked in K2 for Making Guards Sick

Tess Owen, writing for VICE News:

All 25 of Pennsylvania’s state prisons are indefinitely on lockdown after nearly 30 employees became ill following exposure to an mysterious narcotic substance in the last month, officials said. [...]
Most of the employees have since been cleared to return to work, and toxicology reports from the state police lab are just now trickling back in. One report from a patient who got sick on Aug. 13 had come into contact with a synthetic cannabinoid, also known as K2 or spice, according to Susan McNaughton, communications director for Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.
But officials say the employees hadn’t actually consumed the drug. “Starting a few weeks ago, we saw an uptick in employees who were feeling sickened after touching inmates' property or escorting inmates,” said McNaughton. [...]
“It’s very unlikely that someone would touch a piece of paper with their hand and absorb any clinically significant amount of synthetic cannabinoid,” said Mark Neavyn, director of the fellowship in medical toxicology at the University of Massachusetts. “Unless the law enforcement officer was sucking on the piece of paper, I highly doubt it.”

I haven't ever heard of anyone getting high by placing synthetic cannabinoids onto their skin, but some psychoactive research chemicals are capable of being absorbed topically. So maybe there's something to this after all.

However, cops have also been claiming recently that they're overdosing (and dying) from accidentally touching fentanyl, which is impossible. It's certainly plausible that these officers in Pennsylvania (and elsewhere) are really just intentionally experimenting with the drugs they confiscate.