Friday, November 16, 2018

Moorish Orthodox Church archive launches

Cover for an issue of the Moorish Science Monitor

Christian Greer has announced he has launched the Moorish Orthodox Church of America archive, devoted to preserving radio broadcasts and other cultural productions of the group.

Greer explains:

This page is designed to provide an archive for the material culture of the The Moorish Orthodox Church of America. This diminutive church emerged in the first half of the 1960s on the Upper West Side of New York City, and before long, its members became embedded in the network of religious fellowships, esoteric sects, and street crews that populated the larger New York City bohemian scene. This psychedelic enclave provided fertile ground for the Moorish Orthodox Church of America (henceforth MOCA), which soon produced its own publications, and radio shows. It also operated its own temple/head-shop (known as The Crypt) on W. 103rd street. In addition to focusing on their own spiritual self-cultivation, members also doubled as "righteous dealers" who dispensed the "sacrament" of LSD to their brothers & sisters. The church worked alongside dozens of other heterodox mystical sects, as well as an army of psychedelic evangelists, to seed wide-spread spiritual illumination, and their combined efforts produced an exuberant culture of religious experimentation that soon spread across America, and points beyond.

More about the church on Wikipedia. 

The archive includes many radio programs featuring Peter Lamborn Wilson (aka Hakim Bey), thought to be lost. You can listen to them on Greer's new site.

One radio program featured Robert Anton Wilson, Greer writes:

Over the course of Robert Anton Wilson and Peter Lamborn Wilson's two-hour on-air exchange, they offered an intimate look at the obscure persons, ideas, and events that characterized psychedelicist radicalism as of 1987. During their conversations, these men traced the genealogy of their own illuminated politics, beginning with early 20th century individualist anarchism, up through the psychedelic era (both had spent time at Millbrook), and far into the future, which they imagined in cyberpunk terms.  It was clear, even then, that their lively conversation represented an invaluable literary document, as it elicited a sizable response from listeners. In fact, the demand for copies of the show prompted WBAI to issue special cassette tape recordings as a premium for its highest-level contributors.

Greer is cleaning up the audio for that show, which will be posted soon. I'll let everyone know here when it's available.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Thursday links

Tyler Cowen (Creative Commons photo). 

Where the secret societies are. (Atlas Obscura, via Supergee).

Six antiwar demonstrations that got little coverage.

Missing Piece of Antikythera Mechanism Found.

Your brain on microdoses of psilocybin.

Fiction sales are dropping. 

Tyler Cowen on marijuana legalization, a May column.   Closer to my own opinion than the Cowen blog post I recently critiqued.  But I suspect actual policy in the U.S. may be closer to Cowen's ideal than he realizes; large sections of eastern Colorado, for example, have no pot stores at all, and residents have to drive a considerable distance to shop legally. I doubt there are any states in the U.S. where a retail marijuana store can open if a town doesn't want it; please correct me if I am wrong

Advice from Tyler Cowen: "You should re-read the best books; you should have hobbies that make you think more, and you should argue for what you think is correct, but also understand it’s likely that you’re wrong." Sounds a bit like RAW to me.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Paul Krassner on Lyndon LaRouche

In Reason magazine, the wonderful Paul Krassner reviews Operation Chaos: The Vietnam Deserters Who Fought the CIA, the Brainwashers, and Themselves, by Matthew Sweet, a book about American deserters from the Vietnam War who wound up in Sweden. Many came under the domination of Lyndon LaRouche. 

LaRouche's crazy beliefs, or more precisely, his ability to get other people to take his crazy ideas seriously, are a striking feature of the American political landscape. Sometimes Donald Trump seems like a LaRouche who can play to the masses.

Apparently the book also shows that the sense of pervasive paranoia during the 1960s and 1970s depicted in Illuminatus! isn't something the authors made up. Krassner, writing about the pressures on the deserters:

"And part of the problem was that the deserters were clearly under surveillance. When many of an organization's members are already damaged people, and when their leader is already subjecting them to psychological abuse, it doesn't do anyone's sanity any favors to have actual good reasons to suspect some of your comrades are spies. As Sweet interviews the men who fled to Stockholm, he finds that several still carry suspicions about one another to this day—and he can't help wondering about some of them himself.

"Sweet never quite solves the mystery of who was or wasn't a government agent, but he paints an engrossing portrait of a place and time where such fears were rampant."

Many people who read this blog likely would enjoy Krassner's Confessions of a Raving Unconfined Nut (see my remarks here, and also here.)

Hat tip, Jesse Walker.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

BBC radio programming notes

Apparently John Higgs (left) likes to pass the time hanging out in London with Stefano Bollani and Terry Gilliam when he's between BBC Radio appearances. (Via Twitter). 

On the evening of November 26, the BBC Radio 4 program "A Good Read," apparently a show in which guests discuss their favorite books, will rebroadcast a 2007 episode that features Ken Campbell talking about Illuminatus! Then on Nov. 27, "Comedian GrĂ¡inne Maguire and alternative history author John Higgs talk to presenter Harriett Gilbert about the books they love and want to share."

More details here (for the Ken Campbell) and here (for the John Higgs.)

I can't tune in BBC radio from Ohio, but apparently once the programs air, I can download them as podcasts.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Beethoven/Kerman reading group, Week 14

Beethoven hard at work on one of Eric Wagner's favorite pieces, the Missa Solemnis

By Eric Wagner, guest blogger

This week please read sections 4 - 6 of chapter 8 (pg. 242 - 268) and listen to Op. 132 repeatedly. Please comment on this week’s reading/listening and continue to comment on previous weeks’ readings/quartets.

I hope all goes well. Tom suggested we all name our favorite Beethoven pieces. I would choose the Ninth Symphony, the Missa Solemnis, the last four piano sonatas (op. 106, 109, 110, and 111), and the late quartets.

This week’s quartet features the famous Heiliger Dankesang. Beethoven wrote this in the Lydian mode. Almost all music composed during Beethoven’s lifetime fell into either a major or minor key. This proved true of almost all music during the Common Practice Period, the period in classical music from the early seventeenth century until the late nineteenth century. In the late nineteenth century composers after Wagner such as Mahler, Debussy, Strauss, and Scriabin started pushing tonality to the breaking point. Before the Common Practice Period composers often used other modes besides the major and minor.

If you play all the white notes from C to C on a piano, you get a major scale. If you play all the white notes from A to A, you get a natural minor scale. If you play all the white notes from D to D, you get the Dorian mode, from E to E the Phrygian, from F to F the Lydian, and from G to G the Mixolydian. Medieval and Renaissance music used those latter four modes. Beethoven decided to go back to the day before yesterday to compose the third movement of Op. 132 and used the Lydian mode. (Miles Davis and Gil Evans used these modes in jazz in the 1950’s).

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Emperor Norton plaque restored

The restored Emperor Norton plaque. 

A formerly blackened plaque honoring the Emperor Norton (of Illuminatus! fame) has been restored in San Francisco. The plaque has (mostly) not been on public view for the last eight years, but apparently will be mounted soon at a train station. Here are the details. 

Saturday, November 10, 2018

'The Invisibles' coming to TV

Grant Morrison at Comic-Con 

Grant Morrison's comic book series, The Invisibles, is coming to TV.

"Morrison’s newest project with UCP will be developing and writing his long-running comic series 'The Invisibles' for television. Set in 2020, the series follows an elite international cell of occult freedom fighters dedicated to the creation of a better world for everyone by any means necessary."

For a refresher on how Illuminatus! influenced the series, see this excellent Prop Anon interview. 

Friday, November 9, 2018

War on some drugs news

Photo by Rick Proctor on Unsplash

The legalization of marijuana was on the ballot Tuesday in two states; it passed in Michigan with 56 percent voting in favor, but failed in conservative North Dakota, with only about 40 percent in favor. So it seems likely that the legalization movement will continue to advance in liberal or moderate states, but may not move forward in socially conservative states. Libertarian law professor Ilya Somin believes change on the federal level is at least possible. 

Michigan is the first midwestern state to legalize marijuana. The Detroit Free Press has an explainer on what passage means: Possession will become legal by early December, but retail sales are not likely until 2020.

One interesting feature of Michigan is that there is a provision to license small businesses.

"Microbusinesses – similar to microbreweries or microdistilleries – are licensed to cultivate up to 150 marijuana plants and process, package, and sell directly to consumers. They help ensure opportunities for small businesses."

Thursday, November 8, 2018

The space migration dream remains alive

Jeff Bezos (Wikimedia Commons photo) 

The dream of space migration promoted by the likes of Timothy Leary and Robert Anton Wilson remains alive; Elon Musk is perhaps the best known exponent, but Jeff Bezos is further along with his own rocket company than I realized, according to this fascinating Wired magazine piece by Steven Levy.  (The Oct. 15 piece identifies the main leaders of startup space ventures as Musk, Bezos, Paul Allen and Richard Branson. Of course, Allen has just died, so who knows what happens to Allen's effort).

Bezos' Blue Origin rocket company is connected to one of my favorite writers besides you-know-who: 

After Princeton, Bezos put his energies toward finance, working at a hedge fund. He left it to move to Seattle and start Amazon. Not long after, he was seated at a dinner party with science fiction writer Neal Stephenson. Their conversation quickly left the bounds of Earth. “There’s sort of a matching game that goes on where you climb a ladder, figuring out the level of someone’s fanaticism about space by how many details they know,” Stephenson says. “He was incredibly high on that ladder.” The two began spending weekend afternoons shooting off model rockets.

In 1999, Stephenson and Bezos went to see the movie October Sky, about a boy obsessed with rocketry, and stopped for coffee afterward. Bezos said he’d been thinking for a long time about starting a space company. Why not start it today?” Stephenson asked. The next year, Bezos incorporated a company called Blue Operations LLC. Stephenson secured space in a former envelope factory in a funky industrial area in south Seattle.

When Bezos talks about space migration, he sounds not unlike Leary or Wilson:

The solution, as Bezos sees it, is to get off the planet to better exploit solar power, so that the sun’s abundant photons can support the fruitful existence of countless people. (We’d also grow real fruit in space.) “Wouldn’t your grandchildren’s grandchildren’s lives be so much more exciting if there were a trillion humans in the solar system who used more of that output to do amazing things?”

Incidentally, the Washington Post seems to be doing well under Bezos' ownership. 

Thank you Charles Faris for sharing this with me. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Robert Anton Wilson on UFOs

Martin Wagner has uncovered another "lost" Robert Anton Wilson article: "Has Contact Already Been Made? A Synergetic Theory of UFO’s," published back in 1978.

A few days ago, I noted John Higgs' observation that UFO reports had suddenly fallen off in the era of the cell phone, when everyone always has a camera with them. Wilson's emphasis on the subjective nature of UFO reports, as opposed to the assumption that they are literally spaceships from other planets, seems prescient.

Bravo to Martin for another great find.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

A business book by RAW fans?

The Deviant's Advantage: How Fringe Ideas Create Mass Markets by Ryan Mathews and Watts Wacker came out in 2002. The book apparently is a business book that describes how fringe ideas or practices can become mainstream, and both authors are described as futurists. Mr. Wacker died last year.  Both have written other books.

Our English friend Nick Helweg-Larsen emailed me about the book after noticing that Robert Anton Wilson is mentioned in the footnotes, which have a citation from Quantum Psychology on page 128. The cited quotation is from Nick Herbert, quoted as saying, "Reality? We don't got to show you no steeeenking reality."

I don't have time to read the book right now, but when I looked through the footnotes I found citations from a variety of people in RAW's circle or who knew RAW, including Jesse Walker, R.U. Sirius and Douglas Rushkoff, and references to people RAW was interested in, such as Clifford Irving, Rupert Sheldrake and Joseph Campbell.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Beethoven/Kerman readng group, Week Thirteen

The Grateful Dead in 1980. (Creative Commons photo by Chris Stone). 

Kerman Week 13 – Op. 127

By Eric Wagner, guest blogger

This week please read sections 1 – 3 of chapter 8 (pg. 223 - 242) and Op. 127 over and over again. Please comment on this week’s reading/listening and continue to comment on previous weeks’ readings/quartets.

I hope all goes well. Thank you for the terrific comments. On page 239 Kerman talks about “the extraordinary sense of coherence created by the sequence of movements in Beethoven’s greatest compositions.” (Note that he considers the quartets Op. 127, 132 and 131 Beethoven’s greatest compositions. Bob Wilson would likely prefer the Ninth Symphony and the Hammerklavier Sonata.) I enjoyed Jan Swafford’s biography of Beethoven, but I disagreed with how much he stressed thematic unity as the key to the coherence between movements in Beethoven’s music, especially in his early music. I find Kerman’s more nuanced approach, emphasizing harmony and form as well as melody, much more convincing.

On page 242 Kerman says, “The exquisitely calculated journey leads to a castle in the clouds.” This reminds me of a comment in The Deadhead’s Taping Compendium, Volume I, calling “Dark Star”, “St. Stephen”, “The Eleven”, “China Cat Sunflower”, and “Clementine” “psychedelic castle music” for their Medieval elements.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Cosmic Trigger II coming soon!

An old cover for Cosmic Trigger II. I am looking forward to seeing the new Hilaritas Press cover. 

I have no official news for Cosmic Trigger, Vol. 2, Down to Earth, but I do know it is next in line to be published in a new edition by Hilaritas Press and that Rasa and his allies are hard at work. It is one of my favorite RAW books, and I look forward to an excuse to read it again.

Rasa recently shared a great quote from the book:

Some evenings I applauded a particularly gorgeous sunset and shouted, “Author! Author!” All of us Infidels have our own moments of piety and forget the real Identity of the artist who makes this world so weirdly lovely.