Friday, August 18, 2017

The Week magazine mentions our favorite writer

Erwin Schroedinger 

The Week magazine — apparently there is a British edition, as distinct from the U.S. one that my wife and I subscribe to — has published an article explaining the Schroedinger's cat thought experiment.

That would by itself be of interest, but also this is how the article ends: "The protagonist of Douglas Adams's Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency uses clairvoyance to determine that the cat inside is not alive, or dead, but has grown bored of the experiment and wandered off. And American author Robert Anton Wilson wrote a whole Schrodinger's Cat Trilogy in which each novel discussed a different interpretation of quantum physics."

There's no byline on the article, so I can't give credit where it's due. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

A new biography of Claude Shannon

Claude Shannon 

Robert Anton Wilson more than once mentioned his intellectual debt to Claude Shannon, a mathematician and engineer known as "the father of information theory." For example, Shannon is mentioned three times in Email to the  Universe. In the "Note" at the beginning of the book, RAW mentions many of his influences, including "Claude Shannon and Norbert Wiener for their studies of control and communication between animals and/or machines .... " 
There has, until now, been no full-length biography of Shannon. In July, however, came the publication of A Mind at Play: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age. You can read an interview with the authors, Jimmy Soni and Rob Goodman.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The New York Times' reality tunnel

 Nancy MacLean

The books section of the New York Times ran a review of Nancy MacLean's Democracy in Chains, the expose of secret libertarian conspiracies that's been controversial for weeks because of the author's habit of changing people's quotes to match her thesis. (For background, see my earlier post on the subject.)

To my surprise, the new book review, by one Heather Boushey, executive director of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, does not mention  this controversy, if only to attempt to refute it. Apparently in the "reality tunnel" for Houshey, and for the Times book section, ideologically inconvenient facts don't exist. And she's a Ph.D. economist, too. Instead she writes, without a trace of irony, that "books like MacLean’s continue to shine a light on important truths."

A quote from Robert Anton Wilson, from Cosmic Trigger: 

"My God," the Libertarian said to himself one day in early 1968, when this  had become clear, "the left wing is as robotic as the right wing." (We apologize for our naivete in taking until 1968 to figure that out.)  

I sometimes wonder if one of the reasons for the popularity of sports is that the outcomes and statistics are not subject to political manipulation. My baseball team, the Cleveland Indians, defeated the Minnesota Twins 8-1 Monday. Surprisingly, in the post truth age, the score is the same whether you're a Twins fan or a Indians fan. It apparently doesn't even matter whether the fan is a Democrat or Republican, a liberal or a conservative, a libertarian or a socialist. Nobody is claiming that the Twins won, or that an article saying that the Twins won "shines a light on an important sports score."

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Five books

On Twitter, "Emma," a librarian, writer and blogger, Tweeted, "Quote & RT with your top 5 books of all time. Don't think about it, just follow your heart."

So I quoted the Tweet and offered these five:

1. Illuminatus! Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson.
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen.
3. Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien.
4. The Gold Bug Variations, Richard Powers.
5. Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson.

Of course, the nature of such an exercise is that one has second thoughts. Should I have listed The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe instead? Where is Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov, and Nine Hundred Grandmothers by R.A. Lafferty and Excession by Iain M. Banks?

What are your five?

Monday, August 14, 2017

Email to the Universe discussion group, week 14

By Gregory Arnott, guest blogger 

On My Way Out

both seem far far away


[These two quotes are extracted  from John Higgs’ casual masterpiece The KLF: 

"The interval between the decay of the old and the establishment of the new, constitutes a period of transition which must always necessarily be one of uncertainty, confusion, error, and wild and fierce fanaticism."- John C. Calhoun

"A naked man in a city street—the track of a horse in volcanic mud—the mystery of reindeer's ears—a huge, black form, like a whale, in the sky, and it drips red drops as if attacked by celestial swordfishes—an appalling cherub appears in the sea—Confusions."- Charles Fort/Ken Campbell]

To attempt to answer my own questions from last week and to respond to the opinions of Oz Fritz, Eric Wagner, and Tom Jackson ( the vital repositories of RAW’s spirit in the New World):

We are all increasingly grizzled veterans serving a perpetual tour on the front lines of the Culture War. The sophisticated disguises that communication has adopted during the course of human evolution have caused in increase of psycho-seismic activity. Our society is transforming rapidly and all sorts of cancers metastasize across our screens in the course of weeks, days, or hours. In 2005 there is no way anyone would have believed Donald Trump would be POTUS- I don’t think even RAW could have predicted this outcome. As comedians pointed out in January as fond reminiscences of the Bush years  cropped up in op-eds; Trump is so horrifying we are looking back upon a CIA-trained cokehead who committed genocide (GeeDubs) with fondness. RAW hated Bush and his disdain is clear throughout this book- today we yearn for those years of “sanity.” As the blood in Charlottesville attests, the situation today is beyond appalling.

And that’s why we desperately need the transformative techniques that RAW cheerfully spins into our souls as humorous yarns or passionate polemics. Wilson was a monkey who couldn’t get the stars out of his eyes and died seeing things wrapped up in an infinite net of diamonds. This is what we should aim for in our holy discourse, the brilliance  coded into every sentence; as Branka Tesla pointed out- RAW impregnates every line in this sainted text. This is a cyclical in the school of Perennial Wisdom, composed and preserved by one of our most incomparable philosophers;  Robert Anton Wilson conquered the world in a way that is comparable to Socrates or Blake. This is his goodbye and his greeting- an invitation to travel along so many avenues of thought and a boutique of expertly developed exotic blooms that one cannot help but stop and shudder in admiration.

I remember being fifteen, before I had read RAW, and telling my classmates if my choice was heaven with them or hell with people I admired, I’d prefer the latter.

Higgs, in his more recent opus Stranger Than We Can Imagine, proposes that, after we are faced with the stark reality of improbability and astounding happenstance of the twentieth century, our best choice of mental states is model agnosticism. He never acknowledges RAW by name, which bothered me, but this is clearly the same conclusion our wild-eyed Brooklynite drew early in his life and pursued like a hound nipping at the heals of God.

These are the times that test the soul of man. I am an atheist, thank god, but I still revere the saints who, whilst living, did miraculous things and transformed the garden into which we are all born, to something more beautiful.

Next week: Paul Krassner's afterword, new to the Hilaritas Press edition. 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Sunday links

Chris Kalis on Twitter says, "It's come to the moment when Robert Anton Wilson takes up an entire shelf. #fnord @RAWilson23 "

Are we living in a Philip K. Dick novel?

Ada Palmer has won the John Campbell Award, for best new writer in science fiction. Best novel for the Hugo Awards is The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin. Full Hugo list. Women obviously have a strong presence in science fiction these days. I haven't read Jemisin yet, but I have The Fifth Season, last year's Hugo winner, on my Kindle. It's so hard to keep up!

Free speech vs. the First Amendment. 

Cover of a punk rock album. 

Variation on "Here kitty kitty"?

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The musician Ott on his favorite RAW books


Austrian RAW scholar Martin Wagner recently called my attention to Ott, the British record producer and musician, who is a big RAW fan. Official page here. Thanks, Martin!

Here is Ott, answering a fan question:

FAN: Just began reading my first Robert Anton Wilson book and it seems I run into one of your song titles every 50 pages or so :) but my question though is which of his books would be your top 3 favorites? 

Ott responded on 01/13/2012
OTT: It's hard to put them into order of preference because a lot of his books feel like the same thread of writing spread over several volumes.

The one which had the most profound effect on me was 'Prometheus Rising' but that is because it was the one I read first. It introduced me to the concept of 'tunnel reality' and the power of semantics and I vividly recall the sensation of consciousness expansion that occurred two chapters in. It was as life-changing as any of my other psychedelic experiences, and possibly more than most.

'The Illuminatus' is important as a demonstration of the concepts outlined in his non-fiction works and I make a point of re-reading it every couple of years. It reminds me not to take any of 'this' too seriously.

Equal third place goes to 'Schrodinger's Cat', 'Cosmic Trigger' and 'Right Where You Are Sitting Now' for coming along exactly when I needed them.