Friday, March 10, 2017

Captain Cannabis - Art

The Captain Cannabis online comic ( is a series of 13 webisodes presenting the adventures of Halburt Lighter, a.k.a. Captain Cannabis. Equal parts cynical comedy, life-affirming realism and superheroic fantasy, this mind-altering animated comic book feature delivers an enlightening jolt of THC-infused social commentary.

Verne Andru is the creator and writer of Captain Cannabis. His previous experience includes working on the legendary cult classic Rock & Rule, one of the many heavy metal-infused animated films that were so prevalent during the 70’s and early 80’s. Since then he’s worked with heavyweights such as Hannah-Barbara, Disney and Industrial Lights and Magic.
Andru was able to step away from his magnum opus long enough to share a few words with Culture Magazine about life, the universe, and Captain Cannabis.

How would you describe Captain Cannabis to some of our readers who might not have heard of your art?

This is the story of a down and out roadie named Halburt Lighter. Through a series of misadventures, he and his girlfriend end up in Vancouver, where a spacecraft shows up to help Earth. Okee, the alien on the spacecraft, has a magical plant he calls “herb.” When Hal smokes it, he is able to manifest what he thinks about in real life. I’m eventually going to combine all of the webisodes into a feature film I’m going to call 420.

He reminds me of DC’s “The Green Lantern,” with an emphasis on the green, only he can control reality. Isn’t the alien also a main character?

I wanted Captain Cannabis to look very professional, so I had to split the project into pieces to keep down costs. The next part of the series will deal with Okee’s backstory.

Captain Cannabis has some deep, occult roots. I’ve noticed a lot of references to Buddhism, Hindu religious beliefs, Gnostic philosophy and Tibetan mysticism.

Yes, the point is that we are a spiritual consciousness stuck in a physical body. Right now many people just want things for themselves and don’t care about anyone else. When you get into the higher realms of spiritualism there is a point where you have to ask, “What is the real  truth?” Okee and Hal ask this question.

Okee is meant to illustrate the struggle our consciousness has to rise above the material world. He represents the inherit weakness of man and keeps falling into matter. That’s our struggle.

Halburt Lighter, aka Captain Cannabis, is going through the illumination phase of becoming enlightened. In the first comic he’s just a basic guy who doesn’t think beyond his next joint or beer. He goes through a spiritual awakening by smoking pot.

How does Captain Cannabis reflect your personal beliefs about the subject of medical marijuana and the legalization movement? Why is something so useful still illegal?

One thing people don’t understand is that hemp, the parent plant of marijuana, is the reason that Western culture exits in North America. The first industry in the colonies was building ships, which needed hemp for rope. Because it expanded and became financially viable, this allowed Europeans to come over and invest in America. Back then hemp and marijuana grew everywhere. It actually required a lot of work to eradicate.

Why is it illegal? Money. You can grow cannabis anywhere. Because of that you have a product that is uncontrollable. Well, why do we have laws? To control us. The question is; what jurisdiction does the DEA have? It’s under the control of the IRS, not the FDA. It has nothing to do with food…it’s about money.

That’s a disturbing thought.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Rise of Dave Ross - Comedy

After many hard-working years of sweat, toil and tears, stand-up comedian Dave Ross is finally experiencing cinematic success. Thanks in part to the lucrative popularity of the production Women, an original sketch-comedy show co-written by Ross and presented by the Independent Film Channel, he’s learning how to enjoy the financial rewards of performing in between touring the United States, starring in Comedy Central’s big hit, Drunk History.

“Right now I’m chilling, which is nice,” says Ross. “I’ve been doing stand up full speed without any breaks since I started seven years ago. In the past year I made a little bit of money from it. Now that I have money in the bank, I’m not worried so much.” But for Ross, relaxed doesn’t mean lazy. “I’m still doing stand up and writing comedy,” he says. “I’m also trying to sell a sitcom to Hollywood, so there’s been a lot of meetings.”

While the blockbuster appeal of Women, Drunk History and his own live shows has rewarded him financially, success is even sweeter for Ross since the writer and comedian nearly became homeless. “Last year I hit rock bottom. Totally broke. I was touring heavily and collecting unemployment, but I wasn’t on the road, and that was where my money was coming from. My sketch group and I sold some a show to IFC, but it took a while for them to pay us. I was so sad. If you can’t buy food or pay your rent, you feel like garbage.”

There is an ancient entertainment adage: “Pain plus time equals comedy.” Ross has a style that embodies this with observations such as, “I love being in my thirties, because being in my twenties sucked. You can sum up my twenties in one phrase, Amanda,” he says, whining sarcastically to dramatic applause as, with one word, his audience remembers the love in their life that crushed them. “When you turn thirty, a man in a trench coat knocks on your door. If you let him in he puts all of your movie posters in frames.”

“When I started doing comedy I was just scared that I would be bad,” says Ross. “At some point I stopped being afraid because I just wanted to be a good comedian. Now I’m much more relaxed about it. Last year I did a really big tour that ended with me headlining at The Los Angeles Improv. I performed a few months later at Meltdown Comics. At the Improv I just did jokes, but at Meltdown I just went totally off book and talked about what was on my mind for thirty-five minutes.” The audience laughed as Ross entertained them with personal stories about growing up and being on the road. “I just talked confidently about things and had fun. I went on a first date with a girl I met there that night. It was great showing her everything I believe in and who I was in my act.”

Being the star of Drunk History was an original experience for Ross. “They tell you to drink beforehand and be at least two beers in. I was nervous.” The crew set up the production in his apartment for more than twelve hours. “They gave me a location fee. We all got drunk together. I ended up drinking six dark beers and blacking out. The nurse had to give me oxygen. I told my story before I blacked out and afterwards. I ended up screaming and telling all of them to leave. “

No matter how successful somebody can get in Hollywood, Ross advises that they keep it real. The industry takes a lot of personal time, and that can hurt relationships. “If you get a credit before you are ready for it, you think it was kind of a fluke. Simultaneously, you notice that work is separating you from people. I was four or five years into comedy. It happened to me early.” In a town where crazy is common, Ross has kept his mind on what matters. “Life is about people. I’m going to start focusing on work and friends. I wish I could impart that to more people. You just have to tell yourself that.”

You can find out more about Dave Ross at He is also on Twitter at There’s even more of Dave Ross, and episodes of Women at Don’t forget to enjoy live stand-up comedy and “Good Heroin” with Dave Ross, Matt Ingebretson and Olivia Doud every Saturday night at 8pm over at the Stories Books & CafĂ© ( in Los Angeles, California.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Monster in Stranger Things, Part VI - The Weird

This is Part VI of an exploration into the nature of Demogorgon (or The Monster, as I prefer to call it) in the Netflix sci-fi/horror masterpiece, Stranger Things. You can read Part I here, Part II here, Part III here, Part IV here and Part V over here. Spoiler alerts will follow.


In Tibetan folklore there exists an idea that since all reality is an illusion, it is possible to create a living, real thing that exists in this reality if you think about it hard enough for a long enough time. This concept, known as a tulpa, was first mentioned by the historian Alexandra David-Neel, who studied occult philosophy in Tibet for 14 years during the early 1900’s, in her book, “Magic and Mystery in Tibet.”

The best way to explain a tulpa is this way. Imagine you created a character in a series of books you wrote. You work your ass off writing these books. You stay up all night, writing, thinking, concentrating and hoping it will be worth all that typing. The character is a bald guy with pale skin and round, mirrored eyeglasses that wears a dark business suit, carries a gold pocket watch and practices black magik. Finally, the books start to sell and you make money as tens of thousands of people line up to buy your work.

One day, you bump into a bald guy with pale skin and round, mirrored eyeglasses that wears a dark business suit, carries a gold pocket watch. Maybe he’s a lawyer. Or an accountant. The guy seems to know you, and gives you an odd, nice look before he vanishes from your sight. To an atheist living in a world of science and logic it is just coincidence. To a Tibetan lama, it is a tulpa.

The X-Files also explored the concept of the tulpa in their modern remake of the classic 90’s series. An artist creates a strange monster that kills people using his mind. Although the episode didn’t really do much with the idea, at least they introduced the concept. In Stephen King's "The Dark Half," the book's villain, based on a villain within a series of books created by an author created by the protagonist, wreaks havoc on the author's life, killing everyone responsible for its demise after the books series the tulpa appeared in was discontinued. In a way, this entity is probably doing something the author wanted, on a sick, subconscious level.

Eleven’s monster is a tulpa…a monstrous creation of her own subconscious, made into flesh by the force of her own will. You’ll notice the creative influences around her, the lion, her father, a tulip, etc. all seem to meld together, forming The Monster. If it looked like a traditional, Satanic, red devil figure, you’d probably see a poster of it on her wall, or there would be a figurine on the shelf. Instead, The Monster looks like all of visual symbols that make up Eleven’s imaginary world.


Spoiler alert! If you have ever seen the independent psychological horror film The Babbadook you will notice a concept that is very similar to the tulpa. In the film, a mother has a son that was born on the day her husband died. As a result, her resentment against the strange, slightly annoying kid grows and gains power until it incarnates as a mysterious poltergeist that haunts the house mom and the boy dwells in, threatening their sanity and lives.

Careful study of the film reveals that this strange entity is directly tied to the mother’s psychology. It even looks like an odd, nightmarish version of her. Within the film is a book of sorts, drawn by the mother, which features scary illustrations of The Babbadook. At first the spirit seems to be inside the book, although it came from her imagination. Later, the spirit manifests itself in the real world, appearing as the image mom created in her mind and the art within the book.

In Japanese folklore there exists a similar phenomenon known as an ikiryo. When a person in secretly angry at another person, a sort of psychic manifestation can occur where this negative emotion becomes an evil, angry entity, similar in appearance to the person that spawned it, until the entity attacks the other person the first one was angry at. This attack occurs in the form of illness, accidents and even behavior similar to a poltergeist, where objects in a house move around or even hurl themselves at people in a dangerous manner.

The ikiryo is a lesson that anyone who is mad at anyone else should resolve the issue, otherwise the energy won’t just dissipate, but will grow until madness, pain and death follows. The solution to an ikiryo haunting, aside from a visit by a qualified Shinto priest, is to make the original person that created the spirit to face it and realize what is going on. That causes the spirit to vanish. Apparently, the trick to an ikiryo is that it is subconscious. Making it known to the creator causes it to vanish.

Page 123. Look it up.

In The Babbadook, the spirit finally vanishes when the mother confronts the spirit, realizes that the entity originated from her own negative emotional state due to the fact the birth of her child indirectly caused the death of her son, and banishes the spirit to the basement, where it seems to still lurk. The id can be confronted. It can be contained, but you can never get rid of it. Whether to call it a tulpa or an ikiryo, the end result is the same...a subconscious monster, drawn from a person's mind, wreaking havoc on the real world.

Did you notice that Eleven and The Monster never appeared in the same scene at the same time, until the very end, when she literally confronts her own demon? Even her scream sounds like a self-realization that Freud would approve of and Jung would understand.


OK, so where is our id monster? If my theory is correct, and The Duffer Brothers used the Internet as a source for their dark mythology, can we finally see an id monster in one of the many stories that can be found out there? We’re almost there.


Back to conspiracy theories. The Philadelphia Experiment is connected to Stranger Things because of The Montauk Project, so we have to talk about it first. It is very important to remember that it doesn’t matter if this stuff is real or not, or if the people who talk about these conspiracy theories are lying or not. The important point is that The Duffer Brothers used what was on the Internet to come up with the mythology within their series.

There is a lot of information about this conspiracy theory online. There have even been movies regarding the legend, about a destroyer escort that military scientists used extreme electromagnetism on in an effort to make the vessel, including the men onboard, invisible to enemy radar. Without writing several paragraphs about the subject I only have to tell you that according to hardcore conspiracy theorists, they didn’t just make the destroyer escort vanish in a haze of strange mist, it went through time and space into another dimension.

Theories vary about what happened after that. Some say the soldiers came back insane, melted into the ship, or even claimed to have contacted bug-shaped aliens that tortured them all for fun. What is important is that a portal was created, a tunnel into time, and at that point researchers began exploring the tunnel to see where it went, in order to perform experiments to make more. The vessel reappeared many miles away, burrowing a hole that stayed open for a while. You’ll notice another important detail about the theory: the scientists used a massive amount of electromagnetic energy to open the portal, just like Eleven.


There are a lot of names related to this theory, Preston Nichols, Duncan Cameron and Al Bielek are the most important. Bielek claims to be a survivor of the experiment, which also involved government mind control. Supposedly, these scientists, alleged whistleblowers and investigative reporters all agree that after the big electric bang down in Philly, they just had to keep going into the unknown to find out more about the future. And what military scientist working for the government on the behalf of the U.S.A. wouldn’t?

What follows is a seemingly drunken, LSD-fueled tale told by a madman signifying conspiracy has to be read to be believed, or even understood. Each of the researchers and their cohorts have their own versions to tell, but without taking too long, here it is.

The portal opened by The Philadelphia Experiment stayed open, leading to the future and the Montauk region, in New York. Scientists on both sides went back and forth, but noticed that people who stayed too long outside of their native timelines died, vanished, or went insane. The Montauk Project, located in the Montauk region of northeast America, was created to make gigantic time portals that led to different place in time and space, using the first portal as a cave of sorts to create more wormholes. Sounds fun, right? Your tax dollars at work.

They basically had a warp drive. A time tunnel. Hyperspace. But scientists quickly learned, according to people who claim to have worked on the project, that they needed a human mind to direct the tunnels, otherwise the trips were unstable, creating tunnels leading nowhere. So they used psychics who had been through government mind control programs, and small children with psychic abilities, to direct the portals based on instructions given to them by the scientist.

The psychic would sit inside a giant chair, “The Montauk Chair,” and direct the electromagnetically created portals with their mind. Sometimes people were sent to another time. Sometimes they were sent to gather technology from the future, or even treasure. Aliens got involved. Some people the government supposedly kidnapped and threw into the time tunnels vanished, went insane, or died.

Finally, Duncan Cameron claims that the scientists turned evil and, directed by the aliens (hold on, I know this is nutty, but it is going somewhere), began to request some rather ghastly things, in order to control all humanity on Earth. Cameron was directed to sit in The Montauk Chair, but instead of directing the electromagnetic energy to open a portal to God-knows-where, he decided to fight the power and opened a portal into his own mind and brought out…The Id Monster!

The Id Monster (which the whistleblowers refer to as, “Jr.”) was a giant creature that killed everything around it and rampaged throughout the area, blowing the whole place up. Wow, I want to see that damn movie. As Cameron’s personal mind Godzilla destroyed everything, a few people escaped in the chaos. The project was shut down, the place was sealed up, and that was the end of that.

One odd detail about this story is that the Id Monster is never properly described. Nobody says it looked like a giant, frothing Cameron running around butt-naked eating people, or that it looked like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man (I wonder where the movie got that idea from?). We only know it came from a guy’s mind while he was sitting in a magic chair using his mind to control the electromagnetic energy.

Kind of a stupid plot, huh? You can understand why The Duffer Brothers made the changes they did. How fun was it to see just about anybody sitting in a magic chair, summoning an imaginary monster from the everlasting darkness of their own mind? Eleven's story is much more fascinating. They even bound it all together using common threads, including electromagnetic energy. What is very important to note is that The Duffer Brothers have always spoken openly about how “Stranger Things” was originally supposed to take place in the Montauk region. The series was even supposed to be called, “Montauk.”

So far, so weird, right? Stay tuned for our next big, fun installment, when we explore the darker side of the series, including even more kooky conspiracy theories connected to government mind control, child abuse and even Stanley Kubrick!