“Reality is an illusion, albeit a persistent one”*

« Once there was a fellow and his name was Buzz
He was just a rookie cop, just a baby Fuzz
He patrolled the Sunset Strip
in the land of the free
and the home of the hip
He protected you and me
until he met a girl called Alice D

Alice was the girl that all the hippies dread
And they called her Sweet Alice the Head
Alice it was plain to see was full of pot and STD
She’d attract a great big crowd
because her inner peace was much too loud »
Biff Rose, “Buzz the Fuzz” (1968)

This day in history: On April 16, 1943, the hallucinogenic effects of LSD were discovered.

Here’s an account of the event, from the folks at History.com:

In Basel, Switzerland, Albert Hofmann, a Swiss chemist working at the Sandoz pharmaceutical research laboratory, accidentally consumes LSD-25, a synthetic drug he had created in 1938 as part of his research into the medicinal value of lysergic acid compounds. After taking the drug, formally known as lysergic acid diethylamide, Dr. Hofmann was disturbed by unusual sensations and hallucinations. In his notes, he related the experience:

« Last Friday, April 16, 1943, I was forced to interrupt my work in the laboratory in the middle of the afternoon and proceed home, being affected by a remarkable restlessness, combined with a slight dizziness. At home I lay down and sank into a not unpleasant, intoxicated-like condition characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination. In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed (I found the daylight to be unpleasantly glaring), I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colours. After some two hours this condition faded away. »

After intentionally taking the drug again to confirm that it had caused this strange physical and mental state, Dr. Hofmann published a report announcing his discovery, and so LSD made its entry into the world as a hallucinogenic drug. Widespread use of the so-called « mind-expanding » drug did not begin until the 1960s, when counterculture figures such as Albert M. Hubbard, Timothy Leary and Ken Kesey publicly expounded on the benefits of using LSD as a recreational drug. The manufacture, sale, possession, and use of LSD, known to cause negative reactions in some of those who take it, were made illegal in the United States in 1965.

The genial Dr. Hofmann.

As a little digestif for the history lesson, here’s a poisoned bonbon from Thomas Ott (b. 1966, Zurich… a mere 76 km from Basel!), a proven meister of both comics storytelling and of the singularly exacting technique of scratchboard. This is Ott’s highly condensed and updated version of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, “Alice”, from 1992. I wouldn’t advise its use in preparing a book report.


Just this once, inquisitive English-speakers won’t be left out in the cold or reaching for their translation dictionaries, as Ott’s work is mostly mute, the only text appearing incidentally on newspapers, signs and assorted objects, and in English at that.

Ott’s chosen milieu is the perpetual nighttime of American film noir (which in turn comes from the French roman noir, a term first used in the 1700s to describe British gothics, becoming synonymous, in the 20th century, with bleak crime novels), so the headlines and billboards are in Inglés. In addition to the classic noir recipe, the Swiss artisan injects a discreet but usually lethal dose of his quite sardonic wit.

– RG

*another fine quip from Albert Einstein.

One thought on ““Reality is an illusion, albeit a persistent one”*

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