Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Wednesday links

Interview with Arlen Riley. (Via John Merritt)

(On whether she ever regrets marrying RAW: "I'm happy that I married him. I haven't regretted it, except for the briefest seconds, when he just can't lie. This man just doesn't lie, and flubs when he tries. He can't do it.

"If I ask him to say I'm not in when the phone rings, he can't do it convincingly. He hates to be put in a position where he's supposed to be dishonest. So I guess I've become more truthful since knowing him. I'm not saying he's a saint, or has never lied, but it's so rare. Usually, when he tries to do it, his eyes bug out, his face gets red, and he can not, absolutely can not, dissimulate with cool and calm.")

Does anyone know what happened to the novel she was working on?

Dylan Matthews argues on Vox for a guaranteed income.  Via John Merritt, again. Updated on July 23.

Switching to Duck Duck Go to avoid being tracked when you run Internet searches.

Ulysses to be adapted as a virtual reality video game. Via Scott in Wisconsin, who comments, "I read the book and enjoyed it but I think I am out of the demographic for a video game."

Margot Adler has died. She was an NPR journalist, but also wrote Drawing Down the Moon, a survey of paganism which included information about Discordianism.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

D. Scott Apel, are you out there?

The explosion of electronic books that are put out by small companies or simply self-published by the author has had many positive effects, but there is a big negative: When you buy an ebook that isn't put out by a well-established publisher, you never know if it will be formatted correctly.

I ran into this, again, when I bought Science Fiction: An Oral History by D. Scott Apel. It only cost me 99 cents. It consists of interviews with science fiction authors; the writers in the book are C.L. Moore, Leigh Brackett, Theodore Sturgeon, Philip K. Dick, Fritz Leiber, Roger Zelazny, Norman Spinrad and Robert Anton Wilson. The RAW interview may be one that was not previously available. (It's harder to check that when remains down.) The RAW interview has a lot of discussion about Illuminatus! Roger Zelazny also is one of the my favorite writers.

So what's not to like?

Well, when I opened the book I noticed that the formatting obviously was wrong -- the typeface was not the Amazon standard look and size -- but I decided I could live with that. 

But when I browsed toward the last page of the book -- I was reading Apel's piece explaining why he didn't have interviews with Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein or Ray Bradbury -- I suddenly got an error message and I couldn't go anywhere else. The error message told me to delete the book and download another copy from the cloud. But each time, I got the same error message and couldn't read the book.

A very long tech support chat session with Amazon (more than an hour) apparently fixed the problem, but I'd like Apel to know about it, and also raise a couple of other issues. But he's apparently one of these guys who makes a point of being hard to find -- no official website, no Twitter account, etc. 

So if anybody out there knows this guy, can you please send me his contact information, or tell  him there's apparently something wrong with his book?

I guess this is one of those ebook things. I'd never be able to get a book on paper for 99 cents. But I've never had to get an hour of technical support to read an ordinary book. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Illuminatus online reading group, Week 23

Illustration for RAW's "Serpent Power" article.

(This week: Page 224, "Carlo put the gun on the table between us," to page 234, "six million people had died.")

Apparently it is easier to murder people if you dehumanize them. That applies to armies killing whole groups of people, but also to individuals, as Shea and Wilson show.

When George Dorn, stung by the accusation that he is not a real revolutionary, follows the police officer, intending to kill him, he reminds himself that the officer is not a real human being. "I  followed the cop -- the pig, I corrected myself -- out the cafeteria .... I let the cop -- the pig -- get half a block ahead, and reached in my pocket for the revolver." (page 228.)

But did you remember who the police officer was? Shea and Wilson already have identified him: "and George Dorn, who once wanted to shoot him, is still screaming" (page 13.) And Shea and  Wilson, on the same page, had taken care to humanize him: "His name is James Patrick Hennessy and he's been on the Force for three years. He doesn't come back into this story at all. He had a five-year-old retarded son whom he loved helplessly; you see a thousand faces like his on the street every day and never guess how well they are carrying their tragedies."

Note that the God's Lightning folks in this passage are not capable of seeing the demonstrators as human beings. (They also know nothing about their supposed religion. A more darkly ironic method of killing and injuring people cannot be imagined than using crosses; the incident with the money changers excepted, Jesus is usually described in the New Testament as a pacifist.)

Along with violence in this 10-page section of the novel, there is also sex, or rather sex  magick, the Illuminati secret that RAW discusses in Cosmic Trigger I. "And the real symbolism of the pyramid is alchemical of course," Simon says on page 226, explaining the matter to Joe Malik. The passage refers to "eternal serpent power." For more on serpent power, see this PDF of RAW's article for Chicago Seed.  (I am still very pleased that I tracked that down back in 2011 and bought a digital copy to share with you; it's one of RAW's better articles.) For more on the symbolism of the eye in the triangle, see page 778 in the appendix.

A few notes:

"Don't you read your  Mao, George? Enemy attacks, we retreat." (Page 228). Mao Tse Tung's famous description of how to fight guerilla warfare: "The enemy advances, we retreat; the enemy camps, we harass; the enemy tires, we attack; the enemy retreats, we pursue."

"I pull the trigger and fall, with the explosion, into blackness." (Page 229.) Reminiscent of RAW's attempted suicide on the Brooklyn Bridge, described in Cosmic Trigger II, in which he is saved by a different fluke -- he pauses to read an incription and realizes the mistake he is making.

"An author, Ben  Hecht, then placed an ad." page 233. He actually did a series of ads; more  here.

(Next week: "That's what we call a Bavarian fire drill," page 234, to "We'll show you how to pilot the second stage," page 242.) 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Rushkoff, 28 others call for NSA reform

This is the photo of Douglas Rushkoff I posted with my 2011 interview of him. 

Douglas Rushkoff and more than two dozen other writers and artists have signed an open letter asking the Senate to move forward on NSA reform. (The House has passed reform measures, but so far the Senate has done nothing.) Some of the 28 other letter signers are more famous than Rushkoff, but obviously none of them is cooler.

The letter has good suggestions on what reform would consist of. Here's the text of the letter:

Dear Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.); Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Ranking Member Charles Grassley (R-Iowa); and Select Committee on Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.);

As writers and artists, we join PEN American Center in urging Congress to act to end mass surveillance.  We recognize the need for strong protections for U.S. national security, and acknowledge that such measures will sometimes entail difficult tradeoffs. However, the NSA’s shockingly broad and indiscriminate surveillance programs threaten our most cherished democratic ideals and violate our constitutional and international human rights to free expression and privacy. The Washington Post’s recent report that nine out of 10 individuals whose communications are being intercepted are not the intended targets of investigation underscores the total lack of proportionality of NSA mass surveillance, and the need for reform. 

It has been more than a year since the public first learned of the vast scope of the NSA’s surveillance regime. Immediate reform is necessary to restore our historic and treasured balance between government protections and individual freedom. 
Mass surveillance invades our private thoughts and lives, chilling speech and spreading fear and mistrust throughout a society. Mass surveillance is censorship: An October 2013 survey of U.S. PEN members, the majority of them writers, indicated that one in six are self-censoring—refraining from writing or speaking on particular topics—due to concerns over NSA surveillance. As over 500 of our fellow writers noted in an open letter published in the Guardian in December 2013, “In their thoughts and in their personal environments and communications, all humans have the right to remain unobserved and unmolested.” Writers and all citizens need privacy to explore controversial ideas, conceive challenges to conventional wisdom, and to enter into open dialogue with counterparts around the globe who may enlighten our worldview through their very different beliefs.

NSA mass surveillance poses a grave threat to the United States’ proud tradition as a champion of free expression. Congress must act now to protect our freedom to speak, think, write, and create freely—and in private.

Congress’ failure to enact meaningful surveillance reform this year will risk enshrining the NSA’s unchecked and overreaching programs as a permanent fixture that will jeopardize the free society we all treasure.  We urge Congress to begin the process of reforming the NSA’s dragnet surveillance programs by enacting reform, through the USA FREEDOM Act or another legislative vehicle, that achieves the following four essential goals:

·       Clearly and definitively ends bulk collection of all communications metadata; 

·       Creates an independent special advocate for the FISA Court to press for the protection of civil liberties during the Court’s proceedings;

·       Ends dragnet collection of international communications, and respects the privacy rights of non-U.S. citizens; and

·       Strengthens transparency provisions allowing private companies to disclose information about government orders received.  

There is much more to be done, but enacting strong legislation on these four points would send a clear message that Congress recognizes the need for reform and is committed to ending mass surveillance. We call upon Congress to take immediate action to protect the rights of all to privacy and free expression.

Thank you for your consideration,

Edward Albee; Anthony Appiah; John Ashbery; Paul Auster; Roz Chast; Don DeLilo; E.L. Doctorow; Ariel Dorfman; Dave Eggers; Jeffrey Eugenides; Nikki Giovanni; Peter Godwin; John Green; Ha Jin; Tony Kushner; Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket); Siri Hustvedt; John Irving; Rachel Kushner; Jonathan Lethem; John Lithgow; Maaza Mengiste; Francine Prose; Douglas Rushkoff; George Saunders; Wallace Shawn; Gary Shteyngart; Andrew Solomon; and Eliot Weinberger

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Searching for RAW archives [Updated]

Timothy Leary archivist Michael Horowitz

Michael Johnson has a blog post up on archives of famous writers and artists, and as usual, his post was interesting.

His topic this time raised once again in my mind something that I've blogged about repeatedly (for example here): where are Robert Anton Wilson's archives? Where are his papers, his unpublished manuscripts? For me, the Holy Grail is the long correspondence he carried out with Robert Shea. In Cosmic Trigger III, he said he hoped it would collected together and published someday. So where is it?

Robert Shea's survivors have answered my emails and told me that he didn't leave much in the way of papers behind, certainly not boxes and boxes of RAW correspondence.

I've had less luck communicating with RAW's people, but Discordian historian Adam Gorightly apparently communicates them and is the maintainer of the Discordian Archive so I thought I'd ask him.  Adam, who had mentioned in an earlier email that RAW was not very good about maintaining his papers, replied to me (April 10 this year), "No idea about Shea RAW correspondence. Like I said it doesn't seem that RAW did a good job of saving a lot of stuff. Greg Hill was unique because he saved not only the letters he received, but also made copies on the letters he sent."

Maybe that ends the matter.

In his post, however, Michael links to an article about the struggle to preserve the Timothy Leary archives,  which at one point had been seized by the federal government. (Michael Horowitz, pictured above, worked hard to save it.) In a comment below his original blog post, Michael then talks about RAW's papers (or lack of them) and suggests that RAW's behavior might have been informed by his close friendship with Leary and knowing what had happened to his friend:

The Leary/Horowitz story I linked to may have made RAW extremely guarded about his archives, to whatever extent they existed: the idea of gvt thugs trumping up some reason to confiscate his personal papers may have been too much, so whatever archives there are were a big secret while he lived; I don't know. I may be projecting here.

There's a lot more to Michael's comments; he notes a mysterious RAW interview which hints of a possible secret RAW archive. So go read his post.

Even if no stockpile of RAW papers ever turns up, I should note that the situation is not hopeless. He published many books, wrote many articles that remain uncollected in his books, gave many published interviews and wrote many letters, more of which will likely turn up and become available. The Discordian Archives contain quite a bit of RAW material (some of it reprinted in Gorightly's new Historia Discordia book.) And there likely is good stuff buried somewhere in the Leary papers, now safely housed at the New York Public Library. It would also be nice if someone could share as much as possible of RAW's email correspondence, and if RAW's online postings for Maybe Logic Academy could be compiled.

[UPDATE: Speaking of archives, when I was researching a blog post on an unrelated matter today, I noticed that the Robert Anton Wilson Fans website was down. I contacted the guy who hosts it, Joseph Matheny, who told me he had noticed it, too, and it should be fixed soon.]

Friday, July 25, 2014

The goddess of the month club

Robert Anton Wilson's former employer, "Playboy" magazine, rather famously features a centerfold model every month, a large photograph that readers can examine, presumably to decide whether she could have competed in the Judgment of Paris in days of yore. It seems to be an enduring idea; "Cat Fancy" magazine features a large cat photo in the center of the magazine every month,

Adam Gorightly has now embraced a variation that is safe for work, unless you worry about your co-workers deciding you are a weirdo. (I've decided to give up worrying about that, but your mileage may vary). Adam has launched the Eris of the Month Club, featuring a different rendition of the goddess of chaos and discord every month. It will be posted on the 23rd of each month, and Adam invites submissions to keep the feature going. "Please obtain permissions and provide credit to the artists featured in your submissions."

With Adam's permission, I have posted the first Eris artwork he featured, by Michelle Witchipoo. A charming photo of Ms. Witchipoo on her way to a Devo concert is here.