Friday, April 23, 2021

Twitter notes

Unsplash photo by Claudio Schwartz (@purzlbaum on Twitter)

Using Twitter as a kind of headline service to find out what's going on is one of the best ways to use the service, I think. And one way to use Twitter to keep up with the news is to put together a curated list. If a list is public, you can bookmark it and follow it without having a Twitter account.  But if you have a Twitter account, you can save a list, making it easy to follow. Here are a few Twitter notes, in case anyone else is interested.

My RAW list, a public list I put together,  follows just four accounts: @RAWilson23 by Bobby Campbell, which reports RAW news including postings on this blog; @RAWSemantics which publicizes the RAW Semantics blog; @TheRAWTrust, the official account for the Robert Anton Wilson Trust, and @RAWArchives, for Martin Wagner's RAW Archives site. I don't always have much time for Twitter, but this is the list I check every day.

If I have more time, I also look at my Calm and Insight list, which is where I put many Twitter accounts that, at least in my mind, are related to Robert Anton Wilson. But I also include a few unrelated accounts, simply because I am interested in them. So, for example, I use the list to follow science fiction writer and historian Ada Palmer and Roman Britain News (because I like looking at old Roman buildings, forts, roads etc. in Britain.) 

I also have an Illuminate list meant to be of interest to Robert Anton Wilson fans, but I haven't been updating it; these days, when I notice something of interest, I put it in the Calm and Insight list. There is a lot of overlap between those two lists.

You can browse my other lists, but at the end of the day, they are set up for me. Not everyone cares, for example, how the Cleveland Indians are doing. 

I also look at Toby Philpott's Maybe Art list, which follows many accounts that could interest RAW fans. For some of you, Toby's list will be more interesting than any of mine. 

Thursday, April 22, 2021

John Adams' psychedelic piece

A  scene in Verona, Italy. Unsplash photo by Giuseppe Ruco.

The New York Times runs an interesting article on "Grand Pianola Music," a piece by one of my favorite modern composers, John Adams. 

The article explains that the tone of the piece and its unexpected musical juxtapositions was a contrast to the stern modernism still in vogue at the time, but it was Joshua Barone's description of Adams' inspiration that caught my eye:

"It was 1970, and the composer John Adams was tripping on LSD.

"He was at the Marlboro Music Festival in Vermont, and he wandered into a rehearsal for Beethoven’s 'Choral Fantasy,' with the eminent pianist Rudolf Serkin sitting at a Steinway.

"Adams saw — or thought he saw — the piano begin to stretch into a cartoonishly long limousine. A similarly fanciful vision later came to him in a dream: He imagined driving down a California highway as two Steinway grands sped past him, emitting sounds in the heroic vein of Beethoven’s 'Emperor' Concerto and 'Hammerklavier' Sonata."

The resulting piece got a mixed reaction at the time but has been much recorded; this album, on Hoopla Digital, available to most Americans with a library card, has "Grand Pianola Music" and some of Adams' other better-known pieces. 

Note: John Adams should not be confused with John Luther Adams, another modern composer who gets a fair amount of ink. 

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

St. Olley


If you saw the recent Journey to Nutopia event on Robert Anton Wilson, you will have noticed Michelle Olley was the master of ceremonies/chat show host. 

Bobby Campbell has now depicted her as a Discordian saint. "Added to the slowly but surely growing collection of Discordian Saint Tarot Cards!" Bobby writes.  (Other Discordian saints may be viewed here.)

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Review: Scott Horton's 'Enough Already'

Scott Horton's new book, Enough Already: Time to End the War on Terrorism serves as an excellent guide to America's misadventures and war crimes since the 9/11 attack in 2001, including the endless war in Afghanistan, the wars with Iraq, our constant bullying of Iran, the destruction of Libya and the destructive civil war in Syria, which the U.S. helped create.  The book was published in January and has in my opinion not received the attention it deserves.

Many of the places Horton writes about remain in terrible shape. Libya, attacked during the Obama administration, is still embroiled in a civil war. Yemen remains under a famine that kills children. 

Much of what Horton writes about will be known to any American who bothers to pay attention to American to foreign policy, but I suspect that's a minority of Americans. In any event, the details in Horton's book are startling. Did you know, for example, that the Obama administration sided with radical Islamists in the Syrian civil war, supplying them with arms? (We supposedly were arming "moderates," but that's not what took place in practice.) Or that Russia intervened on the side of the Assad regime largely to save Syria's Christian community, which could have been wiped out by the Islamists for all that most Americans care? 

Horton's 2017 book Fool's Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan was heavily footnoted, but Enough Already does not have footnotes. When I asked Scott about this, he explained, "I skipped the footnotes because I decided to err on the side of brevity and timeliness. If I had given it the full Fool's Errand treatment, each chapter would have been its own book and it wouldn't be done for another long while. I really wanted it to be the everyman's guide to it all, rather than another liberal professor book that nobody reads. And the end of an era was fast approaching with the end of the 20-teens and the Trump government."

Still, Horton gives enough information about the source of his assertions that it's easy to find documentation. When I went look for the claim that Putin intervened in Syria partly because of pressure from the Russian Orthodox Church to save Christians, I found articles such as this one. ("One does not have to grant a single noble motive to Russian President Vladimir Putin to grasp that secular and religious leaders in Russia do not want to risk the massacre of ancient Orthodox Christian communities in Syria.")

In his chapter on Pakistan, Horton writes about how President Obama's policies resulted in many civilians being killed in drone strikes and that the civilian population was terrorized by the drone attacks. He cited a 2012 report by Stanford Law School, "Living Under Drones." That report is available on the internet; you can download your own copy. 

The details in the report are appalling. Here is a paragraph about a drone strike that killed 42 people, mostly civilians:

At approximately 10:45 am, as the two groups were engaged in discussion, a missile  fired from a US drone hovering above struck one of the circles of seated men. Ahmed  Jan, who was sitting in one of two circles of roughly 20 men each, told our researchers  that he remembered hearing the hissing sound the missiles made just seconds before  they slammed into the center of his group. The force of the impact threw Jan’s body a  significant distance, knocking him unconscious, and killing everyone else sitting in his  circle. Several additional missiles were fired, at least one of which hit the second  circle. In all, the missiles killed a total of at least 42 people. One of the survivors  from the other circle, Mohammad Nazir Khan, told us that many of the dead appeared  to have been killed by flying pieces of shattered rocks. Another witness, Idris Farid,  recalled that “everything was devastated. There were pieces—body pieces—lying around.  There was lots of flesh and blood.”

The report has pages and pages of similar accounts. Your tax dollars at work!

I am not a big fan of war crimes in general, but at least with some of the things the Allies did in World War II such as the bombing of Dresden, you can argue that there was some military justification, the war wasn't started by the U.S., etc. What is the justification for killing civilians in Pakistan, or destroying Libya, or menacing Christians in Syria? Did any of these countries attack the U.S.?

Scott Horton is the editorial director of  More information here. 

If you've read Robert Anton Wilson's Cosmic Trigger 2 and you wonder what America has done in the area since Wilson's book was written, this will bring you up to speed. 

Monday, April 19, 2021

Prometheus Rising exercise and discussion group, Week 28

I chose this because I couldn't find anything else and instead came up with a random picture of Taurt illustrating a quote about RAW from Tom's favorite author Jesse Walker on Wikiquote.

Chapter Two: Downloaded Souls

By Gregory Arnott
Special guest blogger

Fortuitously, this past week I’ve been reading two books that complement “Hardware & Software.” The first, which I am a few chapters away from finishing, is Joanna Harcourt-Smith’s Tripping the Bardo with Timothy Leary, which would, I imagine, complement the entire book. The second, which I reread and have finished, is specifically appropriate to this chapter: Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash. 

In the past few weeks my class has been working our way through parts of Higgs’ Stranger Than We Can Imagine. Recently we read the chapters on “Id” and “Science Fiction.” During the Id chapter I tried to get the student to experiment with automatic writing, surrealist games and free association to understand the deep structures of their own minds. During the Science Fiction chapter I talked extensively about how science fiction, perhaps more than any other genre, can be shown to have demonstrable success in commenting upon and predicting societal trends. (I realize that this is a bias of mine and could simply be a case of enthusiastic pareidolia.)

In hindsight, there is little surprise my mind went to reading Stephenson’s first big novel to help redigest these concepts. Snow Crash not only accurately predicts much of the early twentieth century (at least if you squint your eyes and tilt your head) but also contains long dialogues about the similarities between language and computer programs. Fantastically, the Sumerian language is proposed to have been a vector for a virus (or, as Crowley/Tolkien would have it, a “disease of language”), represented by the pre-Semitic goddess Asherah, that infects and rewires the mind. The novel goes on to propose that the Babel myth is an allegory for the release of a counter-program that differentiated human languages and disallowed access to the original viral language. There’s a lot of allegory about this process and the development of language being easily expressed in coding terms; humorously, one of the participants cannot understand the allegory as they are themselves a piece of software. 

Perhaps it was reading the chapter after reading Snow Crash, or the fact I’ve read Prometheus Rising so many times, but this chapter wasn’t particularly shocking in the way that I believe Wilson intended. However, I suspect it is simply the time that we are living in at the moment. The first exercise of this chapter is hilariously unnecessary in 2021. We are surrounded by computers and I doubt that many people reading this can count many days in the past month where they haven’t utilized one (don’t be pretentious--streaming services, smartphones/watches, GPS etc. all count). We are all so inured to cyber-reality that I doubt this chapter was terribly difficult to grok for any of the readers. I would also wager that many of us already occasionally model our conception of the mind in hardware/software terminology. Perhaps it is because of reading this in the past...much like the three later exercises at the end of Chapter Two, there are multiple answers for why we are where we are. 

Those exercises are based on Crowley’s first task for students: a complete backwards biography. When you begin writing in your magical journal, perhaps the most powerful tool in Crowley’s Scientific Illuminism, you are to write exactly why you are writing in this journal at this moment: why you choose to undertake the study and discipline of magic, why you are are at the geographic location where you are located, the circumstances under which you came into being. I’ve always found this exercise particularly useful and have always endeavored to perform some version of it when I begin a new journal. After a while you find yourself doing it occasionally in the back of your head. Crowley’s Liber ThIShARB consists of elaborate directions for an ultimate undertaking of this task. 

This week we finished the chapter “Nihilism” from Stranger. In the text, Higgs discusses how Roquetin, the poor schmuck at the center of Sartre’s Nausea, first encounters existential dread upon seeing a stone on the beach and thinking of why it is there -- there is no reason, no meaning, only chance. The fourth exercise amended to this chapter could conceivably lead to that, but I would posit that would only be from a lazy or half-assed examination. To repeat myself, Wilson points out that there is a quasi-infinity of questions and answers for why someone or something is where it seems to be. Settling on the random chance answer seems premature and unimaginative. As Higgs points out while discussing nihilism, an excellent inoculation against it or cure is experience of the “flow” state, Colin Wilson’s “peak experience,” or satori. However, Higgs points out that the experience of these states requires intense engagement with the subject. Twenty four hour Samadhi perhaps, fake it until you make it. 

“I could never be an atheist because I wouldn’t know what to say during a blow job. Oh random chance! Oh random chance! doesn’t have much of a ring to it.” -my probably flawed remembrance of a RAW quote 

Sunday, April 18, 2021

What did RAW like to eat? Well, everything

Photo by amirali mirhashemian on Unsplash

So in following up with Rasa about the podcast I wrote about yesterday, I mentioned that he didn't get to finish a statement he began during the recent Nutopia show, and when Rasa said he was probably going to say something about Robert Anton Wilson's diet, we had this exchange:

In fact, I am very interested in food -- what did he like to eat? And I know he liked Chinese food, but did he like the usual American Chinese food, or the authentic stuff in Chinatown?

Rasa: Well, this may have been a topic that I would have mentioned in talking about Bob, the “normal” guy . . .

Christina half-joked that Bob loved eating nearly anything, and was not so discerning. The example she gave was him dreamy-eyed effusive over a greasy hamburger he once got from a rather normal diner. I know he really liked Italian food. We used to regularly eat out with him and Arlen in their favorite neighborhood Italian restaurant in Capitola. And, indeed, he did love lasagna. Once, Arlen and Bob invited us over for dinner. Arlen was serving her homemade lasagna. Arlen was an energetic person, often animated and verbal as she went through her day. As if from a surrealist novel, while Arlen was serving a piece of lasagna to Bob, a small movement in her hand caused a small piece of lasagna to go flying past Bob and onto the floor. We all paused, and I suspect we were all suppressing grins, and all thinking what no one actually said aloud, “Keep the Lasagna Flying.” I think that was a “given” in that room.

I suspect Bob was not much of a cook himself, but he was a coffee freak, which Christina confirms. He loved to try out new types of coffee and even mix different strains, brew cups for his friends and then ask for impressions. In many areas, like science, literature, music, all of the arts, really, he was a connoisseur of a high order. Maybe it had to do with his humble upbringing, or lack of "disposable" income, but for his entire life, his tastes in food were easily met and never so demanding. Marlis and I would often marvel at that. We were wondering how the guy could be such an astounding maverick in explaining and promoting brain change and conscious evolution, but he didn’t seem to apply that same sophistication to his diet. Maybe I’m just being a vegetarian snob, but honestly, I don’t care if people eat meat, in moderation. But, as all the world follows the American model, as seems to often be the case, gluttony and factory farming are disasters in the making. I don’t recall Bob ever talking about that part of the planet’s environmental challenges. I wouldn’t be surprised if he did somewhere, especially when considering models like Bucky Fuller’s World Game scenarios. I know Arlen steered him towards eating healthy foods, but when he was on his own, on the road, or after Arlen passed, he just seemed to totally appreciate whatever food came his way. 

[It sounds like if Rasa comes to see you in Texas, you don't invite him to the local barbecue ribs joint --but RAW would have gone. Compare with when I interviewed Scott Apel in 2017 and asked about food. (It's a good interview, you should read the whole thing.)]

RAWILLUMINATION.NET: I liked the Red Lobster story. Can you tell me a little more about what Robert Anton Wilson liked to eat? I know he liked Chinese restaurants, but did he like "American Chinese" food, or the sort of Chinese restaurants that mostly attract Chinese diners? Did he particularly like lasagna?

SCOTT APEL: Well, I have to admit, this question made me LOL, and for several reasons. First, in all the years I’ve done interviews and been interviewed, no one has ever asked about food, and I must admit I never thought about asking a question like that. But you can tell so much about people by what they eat and like to eat! It’s a natural question to ask, but no one ever has asked it before in my interviewing experience. Kudos to you for being original!

When it came to food, Bob was never particularly picky. Early in our association, he seemed pleased when we showed up with KFC, for instance. Briggs and I used to say that the old joke about an Irish 7-course meal (a potato and a six-pack) applied to Bob. But this is not to imply that he was without taste — he knew a great meal from junk food, and preferred the former. But I can’t recall ever hearing him complain about food.

I know he loved Guinness and Jameson’s Irish whiskey, although I rarely saw him drink to excess (a couple examples below). And man, did he love coffee! Giant cans of Trader Joe’s French Roast were a constant fixture in his homes.

Bob loved going to restaurants (as do I), and over the years he had several favorites. I mentioned Red Lobster; when he and Arlen were living in Capitola, they were within walking distance of a RL in the Capitola Mall, and he told me they went at least once a week.

There was a time in the early ‘90s when their daughter Alex was spending a lot of time with them, and the four of us went to dinner regularly. I was always very fond of Alex, who had Bob’s brain and Arlen’s boldness (as well as her red hair). Bob once took us to a pricey dinner buffet at Chaminade, a resort and restaurant in the Santa Cruz area. When they started bringing out baking sheets of crushed ice and dozens of oysters on the half shell, I was convinced I’d died and gone to heaven. Bob got quite a kick out of the fact that with all the buffet had to offer, all I went for was one plate of oysters after another — but eventually decided he was going to do exactly that next time they came.

Another place Bob loved was Aragona’s, an employee-owned restaurant in nearby Soquel. (One of the owners was the illegitimate grandson of W.C. Fields, which made the place that more attractive to us both.) We went there frequently in the late ‘90s. There was a bartender named Bear who Bob claimed made the best martini in the world. He’d usually have two and would stagger out to my car ... and when he had three, Cathy and I would nearly have to carry him out to the car, which we all thought was hilarious. We went to Aragona’s so often that one time when we were seated I said, offhand, “Well, I’m gonna have the Chicken Piccata, and Bob, you’re no doubt gonna have a couple martinis and the spaghetti and meatballs.” He just stared at me, wide-eyed, and exclaimed, “My Gawd! Am I that predictable?” (Only at Aragona’s, I assured him.)

In 1999, when Arlen was bedridden and Bob was her main caregiver, Cathy and I would drive from San Jose to Capitola every Friday night (after I got off work) and spend anywhere from 24 to 48 hours with them. Cathy tended to Arlen, giving Bob a much-needed “day off.” On Saturday afternoon I’d take Bob to The Crow’s Nest, a pier-side restaurant in Santa Cruz, for sandwiches and several pints of beer or Guinness. After Arlen passed in May of 1999, Cathy and I continued to visit Bob every Saturday. We’d cook, or bring take out, or go out to dinner. He had a couple favorite restaurants, including the Golden Buddha in Soquel. We all loved their Chinese food, and often ordered takeout to eat at Bob’s place. (It must run in the family—we ran into Christina and Rex there one night, also picking up takeout.)

I brought my homemade spaghetti sauce to his house one time and we got into a (joking) pissing contest about who made the best sauce. The next week, he cooked his spaghetti sauce, and I had to admit, it was quite good. The secret ingredient, he confided, was tiny shrimp. I never knew Bob to cook anything — he could barely make coffee — but he was proud of his spaghetti sauce. (But I can't recall ever seeing him eat lasagna ... )

One thing I know for sure is that Bob loved seafood. I mentioned Red Lobster, for instance. When we were in Seattle, we went to the restaurant at the top of the Space Needle and I watched him consume several buckets of shrimp. And when Cathy and I moved to Santa Cruz from L.A. in 2003— specifically to be near Bob, whose legs and health were failing — we re-instituted our weekly Saturday night dinners, and often went to a place on the pier near the Santa Cruz Boardwalk —Stagnaro Bros. Seafood, I believe. We’d load his collapsible wheelchair in the trunk of my vintage (i.e., old) Jaguar and take him there, where he usually got some sort of fish, or lobster. When he got too frail to take out, we’d bring him oysters from a nearby Mexican restaurant in Capitola, El Toro Bravo. He told me he’d had oysters all around the world, and El Toro Bravo made the best he’d ever tasted. (I believed him, because I knew they made the best enchiladas I’d ever had.)

Sometime around 2002 or ’03, RAW had a lot of dental work, and had all his teeth pulled. He had dentures, but rarely wore them (he said they were uncomfortable). This severely impacted his ability to eat solid foods. He was stoically resigned to a life of soups and puddings when we discovered the miracle of pureeing food. He got a high-powered food processor and we tested most of his favorite foods in it, including steak and, of course, lobster. He was extremely pleased with the result, and even told us that he now preferred his food pureed — he felt it was more flavorful, since there was more surface area exposed to the taste buds.

From that time on, we spent virtually every Saturday night with Bob. Our SOP was to drive from San Mateo to a Red Lobster in San Jose, where we’d pick up dinner for ourselves and 3 or 4 dinners (mostly lobster) for Bob, then head on to Capitola and have our feast and our evening of conversation and laughs. Cathy prep’d several days worth of meals in the food processor, so all Bob had to do was toss ‘em in the microwave and eat.

Finally, the recent passing of Carrie Fisher reminded me of this RAW restaurant anecdote: Bob was fond of telling a story (that must have taken place in the early ‘80s when he lived in L.A.) about when Dr. Leary took him out to dinner with Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford. He said they were all tripping, and at one point he looked across the table and realized, “My Gawd, I’m having dinner with Princess Leia and Han Solo!”

Saturday, April 17, 2021

A long interview with Rasa

Rasa playing his sitar

One way to find out  a lot about Robert Anton Wilson is to talk to Rasa, who runs the RAW Trust and Hilaritas Press for trustee Christina Pearson (RAW's daughter and the the trustee) and who was close to Wilson and his family in Wilson's last years. 

Rasa is interviewed in a long podcast (about two hours and 45 minutes) in Episode 23 of the F23 podcast, and it deserves a listen if you want to know more about Wilson, how Hilaritas Press operates, the story behind the "lost" book The Starseed Signals, and much more. 

In the first hour, Rasa discusses how he met Wilson and how the two got to know each other. He says how Wilson answered when he was asked what sort of philosopher RAW was. (Rasa forgets to say at first what RAW's answer was, and interviewer Jamie Dodds alertly picks up the thread.)  There's also a lucid explanation of "the universe is non-simultaneously apprehended," one of RAW's favorite sayings.  Rasa also discusses one of RAW's phrases that is commonly misunderstood, and explains how the manuscript of The Starseed Signals was saved (it was Greg Hill's photocopy, and part of the "Discordian Archives" materials that Adam Gorightly has preserved. Rasa's story that it was rescued from a dumpster is an exaggeration; Adam's account is here.

By "press time" for this blog, I had not consumed the whole podcast, but I'll be working on it through the weekend.

Jamie hopes that if this episode catches your attention, you'll explore other episodes of the F23 podcast,  which include familiar figures of the RAW fandom/Discordian scene, such as Brenton Clutterbuck, Daisy Eris Campbell, Oliver Senton, Kate Alderton and others. 

Friday, April 16, 2021

Reading, and writing, under the influence

Farewell Bend Park in Bend, Oregon

The Bulletin, a newspaper based in Bend, Oregon, runs an article,  "Tokin' about books: reading and writing under the influence," by David Jasper that mentions RAW. After interviewing a local reader named Karie Alexander who likes to read while she's stoned, Jasper lists a number of "Stoned Authors," including this one: "Author Robert Anton Wilson began using marijuana around 1950, and in the 1960s tried mescaline eventually becoming a counter-culture favorite with books such as the "Cosmic Trigger" series and his friendship with Timothy Leary."

I should probably clarify that marijuana use and possession in Oregon has been legal since July 1, 2015, thanks to passage of a state question in 2014. About Ms. Alexander, Jasper writes, "Alexander likes to take a toke or two in the morning before heading to a coffee shop near here east Bend home, where she has a bagel and reads for an hour every morning. That's been a tradition for her for 20 years, Alexander said."

Paul Krassner once wrote that Wilson "became a dedicated pot-head in 1955." Krassner also wrote, about Wilson's writing process, that all of Wilson's books were "written with the aid of that good old creative fuel, marijuana. He once told me about his creative process: 'It’s rather obsessive-compulsive, I think. I write the first draft straight, then rewrite stoned, then rewrite straight again, then rewrite stoned again, and so on, until I’m absolutely delighted with every sentence, or irate editors start reminding me about deadlines — whichever comes first'.”

I don't know how to survey this, but I have to assume that some of RAW's readers have been known to consume marijuana before reading his work.

Hat tip, Nick Helweg-Larsen, who can't read the article because something called "General Data Protection Regulation" keeps the minds of the British public from being polluted by articles published in Oregon newspapers.  

Thursday, April 15, 2021

The 23 Enigma goes way back


The above was posted on Twitter by Jenna, @joaktree33, who writes, "Robert Anton Wilson & William S. Burroughs are often credited as the originators of the “23 enigma”, but there’s an even earlier reference to the mysterious number in the Sept. 1952 Black Magic comic book by Jack Kirby." And please follow the link for another posted page. 

And in fact, interest in 23 goes back well before the 1950s, as the Illuminatus! trilogy notes. See this interesting Wikipedia piece on the phrase "23 skidoo."  

As the piece notes, a dire 23 dates back to Charles Dickens' classic 1859 novel, A Tale of Two Cities. At the end of the novel, poor Sydney Carton is No. 23 in line to the guillotine, as I verified by looking up the text at Project Gutenberg. (Fun fact: Sydney Carton was once portrayed on radio by Orson Welles.)

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Science fiction news

The finalists for this year's Hugo Awards have been announced; here are the Best Novel finalists:

Black Sun, Rebecca Roanhorse (Gallery / Saga Press)       

The City We Became, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)

Harrow the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir (

Network Effect, Martha Wells (

Piranesi, Susanna Clarke (Bloomsbury)

The Relentless Moon, Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor Books)

Piranesi and Network Effect are very good, in my opinion; I haven't read the others yet. I read last year's Best Novel ballot and by and large it was quite good; I suspect this year's batch also will turn out to be good.

The Libertarian Futurist Society -- I am a member -- also has announced its slate of finalists, for the Prometheus Award, here they are:

Who Can Own the Stars? by Mackey Chandler

Storm between the Stars, by Karl K. Gallagher 

The War Whisperer, Book 5: The Hook, Barry Longyear

Braintrust: Requiem, by Marc Stiegler

Heaven's River, by Dennis E. Taylor

More information on the finalists and the awards at the two links; my personal favorite among the Prometheus Awards nominees, Situation Normal by Leonard Richardson, did not become a finalist. 

Monday, April 12, 2021

Prometheus Rising exercise and discussion group, Week 27

John Lilly 

By Eric Wagner
Special guest blogger

The role of computers has radically transformed and expanded since Prometheus Rising’s publication in 1983. Coincidentally, I first heard Timothy Leary speak in 1983, and he talked a lot about the importance of computers that night. I first heard of Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs when Tim talked about them that night. Of course, John Lilly had paved the way with his 1968 book Programming and Metaprogramming in the Human Biocomputer. I remember attending the Visiting Nurses Book Sale in Phoenix, a huge annual used book sale, once in the mid-1980’s. The one book I wanted to find in those pre-internet days: Lilly’s Programming and Metaprogramming in the Human Biocomputer. I did find a copy that day. I think it cost ten cents.

In Schroedinger’s Cat a character refers to T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets as “the gospel of my youth.” Books like Prometheus Rising, especially the sections dealing with the semantic dangers of the verb “to be” seem like the gospel of my youth. Of course, I don’t think Bob wanted his books to serve as anyone’s gospel. I have tread a Kinbote-like path too close to that of a disciple of Dr. Wilson’s for decades. Nonetheless, the discussion of the verb “to be” seems very useful in chapter two. Bob doesn’t mention E-Prime, but he outlines its importance.

Wilson’s idea that our brain software exists “anywhere and everywhere” (Prometheus Rising, pg. 17) parallels Proust’s notion that our memory exists outside of us in the world around us. Anything in the exterior world can act as a trigger to stimulate the release of non-voluntary memories, memories we could not consciously recall. The madeleine famously acts as such a trigger in Proust’s novel. The narrator dips a madeleine in tea where it partially dissolves. When he tastes a teaspoon of the mixture, it brings back a flood of memories. 

On page 20 Bob says of the eight circuit model of the brain, “I assume it will be replaced by a better map within 10 or fifteen years.” The revised second edition of Prometheus Rising appeared in 1997. It seems time for a new model.

Exercise 1 for chapter two says, “If you don’t already have a computer, run out and buy one.” Well, in 2021 most of us have multiple computers. I did the chapter two exercises in March, and I didn’t intend to buy a new computer, but my cell phone died that month, and I got a new iPhone. As I write this in April, I once again didn’t intend to buy a new computer, but my wife decided to get a new computer last week. The rhythms of this book and its exercises seem to play a synchronistic role in my life.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

My Bobby Campbell stash

 As I wrote earlier, Bobby Campbell is sending out goodies to subscribers to his Patreon account. Yesterday's mail brought a Discordian god card, a cosmic button and a limited edition Erisian Tarot card. Bobby also threw in an unadvertised bonus for subscribers, pieces of original art, and I was quite excited to get my drawing of Maria Babcock. Bobby's special offer of Weirdoverse packages remains available to new Patreon subscribers through April 21.