Saturday, August 27, 2016

John Markoff's computer history



Alan Kay in 2008 (Creative Commons photo by Marcin Wichary)

Recently, intrigued by the journey that Timothy Leary (and many others) made from being interested in psychedelics to be interested in personal computers, I finally got around to reading  What the Dormouse Said by John Markoff, on "How the 60s Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry." 

It was very interesting. The "stars" of the book are Doug Engelbart, whose group invented the computer mouse and made other breakthroughs, and Alan Kay, whose team essentially invented the modern personal computer for Xerox, including an improved mouse and graphical user interface.

Here's is an interesting passage on how Alan Kay dreamed up the idea of a laptop and tablet: 

Kay became a brilliant synthesizer of ideas. Additionally, he was the first person to approach the design of computers from the point of view of an artist rather than that of an engineer. Coupled with an early and profound understanding of the implication of the scaling principle [i.e., the insight the that the rapid growth in the power of processors would make personal computers possible], he also took an important step beyond Engelbart's notion of personal-computer-as-vehicle. He conceived of personal computing as an entire new medium. In thinking about the computer in this way, he remembered reading about the insight of Aldus Manutius, who some forty years after the invention of the printing press established the dimensions of the modern book by understanding that it must be small enough to fit into a saddlebag. The obvious twentieth-century analogy was that a modern computer should be no larger than a notebook. (Pages 229-230). 

It's an interesting book. One irony of my reading decision is that while Markoff documents LSD use in the area and by some of the computer scientists, he doesn't quite convince me that LSD had anything to do with the development of the personal computer in the Stanford area; there were a lot of computer nerds in the area, due to Stanford, the nascent electronics industry in Silicon Valley and defense contractors. In the end, I had the impression that the personal computer developed there because it was where Xerox set up a laboratory, and it was where Doug Engelhart and Alan Kay chose to live and work.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Chad Nelson on anarchism and RAW


Chad Nelson 

Chad Nelson — anarchist, attorney, Robert Anton Wilson scholar, vegan, Pearl Jam fanatic, animal rights activist and senior fellow at the Center for a Stateless Society — is featured in an interview at the Secret Transmissions blog, where Chad holds forth on anarchism.

There are two sections in the interview that mention Robert Anton Wilson; here is one:

What’s the relationship between C4SS and the late Discordian author, Robert Anton Wilson? 

I wish I could find the source, but I remember at one time reading that if RAW were alive today he'd probably most closely align with C4SS politically. I've got to imagine, based on everything I've read from the man, that it's fairly accurate. I think even his non-political thinking contains a lot of overlap with C4SS philosophy. 

I've tried during my time affiliated with C4SS to dial up the amount of RAW exposure. I created a "Robert Anton Wilson Collection" there – which contains "sombunall" of C4SS's references to RAW's work. In almost everything I've written at C4SS, I've given a nod to him, if not outright parroted his ideas, often intentionally. 

I tied RAW to the C4SS in this blog post. 

Chad offers some examples of anarchist principles in action. How about science fiction conventions? They exist as voluntary organizations.

By the way, I'm not an anarchist myself; I self define as "more of a libertarian than anything else." I'm fine voting for Gary Johnson, even if I don't aline perfectly with him. He is "open" to the idea of a basic income and is better on the peace issue than many libertarians give him credit for.


Thursday, August 25, 2016

Currencies that are an alternative to money


Tokyo Ramen. Photo released under GNU Free Documentation License. 

At Reason magazine, Jesse Walker posts an article about a topic that RAW was interested in: Alternative currencies.

After noting a piece by Elizabeth Nolan Brown about ramen noodles catching on as a currency, Walker notes six other alternate currencies that Reason has mentioned in articles: T-shirts, cell phone minutes, cans of fish, opium, cocaine and even urine.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

My interview with Ian 'Cat' Vincent


Ian "Cat" Vincent. (Credit: Photographer Robin LeBlanc, plus Deep Dream.)

I am pleased to present an interview with Ian "Cat" Vincent, a British mage, writer and student of Robert Anton Wilson. Here, Cat holds forth of RAW, Festival 23, Brexit and other subjects. And there's news — Festival 23 will return in two years!

Cat sent me his official bio, but a couple of additional notes: If you like this interview, please see the very interesting one with Dubious Monk; I tried to avoid overlap with it. Trivia about Mr. Vincent (from the Internet Movie Database): "Was the basis of the character 'Romanov' in Diana Wynne Jones' novel 'The Merlin Conspiracy' (2003)."

And new we hear from the man himself:

My current bio:

Ian "Cat" Vincent is a lifelong student of the occult, and a former paranormal protection consultant.

In recent years he has turned his attention to Fortean journalism, with a focus on examining the rise of "hyper­rea"' (fiction­-inspired) belief systems and other pop­ culture manifestations of the occult. He was one of the earliest journalists to write in depth on the Slenderman phenomenon.

His writing has appeared in Fortean Times, the American college text Apocalyptic Imaginary, a monthly column at Spiral Nature and the Darklore anthologies, and he is a a contributing editor at The Daily Grail.

He has lectured on subjects including Slenderman, the life and works of Robert Anton Wilson, the fictional roots of modern paganism and the Westernisation of Eastern beliefs at a range of venues including the Senate House Library, the University of Leicester and the Royal College of Art.

His first book, New Gods and Monsters, on the evolution of pop culture belief systems, will be published in 2017 by Daily Grail Publishing.

Ian is a Fellow of The Institute of Atemporal Studies. He blogs at catvincent.com and he can be found on Twitter @catvincent.

A resume of Ian’s writing and lectures to date can be found here: http://www.catvincent.com/?page_id=1309


RAWILLUMINATION: For those of us who couldn't afford to come from the U.S. to Festival 23, can you describe what the highlights were like? How did your own appearance go?

CAT VINCENT: Very hard to describe! (Here’s my latest newsletter where I try to approach summing the event up...).

Quickest possible summary: in a field of at­ peak 500 people, I did not encounter a single arsehole. I got at least three magical upgrades. People I’d never met before became pals; people I already knew became close; people I loved became immortal. The music was varied and excellent, the art fascinating, the spoken­ word and other performances magnetic. The spirits of both Bob Wilson and Ken Campbell were properly venerated. Possibly the best weekend of my life. And ... they’re doing it again in two years time.

My appearances ... well, I was scheduled to do two, ended up doing five. They seemed to be well­received ...  even the bit where I had the temerity to use Alan Moore’s words to impersonate Glycon!


Cat Vincent with his hand puppet at Festival 23. I don't know the identity of the other other gentlemen. 

RAWILLUMINATION: How did you get interested in Robert Anton Wilson? At this stage in your life, is there a book or books by RAW you particularly like?

CAT VINCENT:  I was a weird kid even before I got to reading Bob: something of a prodigy (but not having anything I was especially good at, other than Being Weird and reading a lot), the local library gave me adult tickets once I’d read all the kid’s books ...  then closed shelf access once I’d read all the adult ones. I had access to literally any book I could think of. I was reading Crowley, Tim Leary, De Sade and such by the age of ten. So I was well-primed for finding a second­hand copy of Illuminatus! in the local bookshop ... but it was Cosmic Trigger (back then there was only the one) which did the job. I was around 13 and it was barely in print. Between that and the other Wilson ­ Colin (especially The Occult and A Criminal History of Mankind) I was immediately upgraded, and somewhat prepared for a life of magic. Emphasis on the ‘somewhat.’

I always return to Cosmic Trigger and Quantum Psychology. Of the fiction, Masks of the Illuminati and the Historical Illuminatus Chronicles (especially Nature’s God) stand out.

(And now, Cosmic Trigger 1 is back in print, with a new introduction by John Higgs ... and I’m mentioned in it. 13 year old me would be astonished.)



RAWILLUMINATION: Can you please say something about the book you are working on, New Gods and Monsters?

CAT VINCENT: New Gods is in part an expansion of my thoughts on the concept of "hyperreal religion" ­ those belief systems whose adherents freely admit that their source material is entirely fictional ­ as first examined in print by me in my Darklore piece ‘Believing In Fiction.’ It’s also shaping up to be probably the closest thing to autobiography I’ll ever do: my relationship to fiction and magic is, like any spirituality, intensely personal ­ so it’s the only way to both do the subject justice and contextualise it to a possibly skeptical reader.

RAWILLUMINATION: Aren't you interested in science fiction and fantasy? Who are your favorite authors?

CAT VINCENT: Hugely: SF was my first love as a child, even before the occult. (Here’s a piece I
wrote about my early hyperreal love of classic Star Trek a while back.)

Fantasy was, oddly, less so ­ though the appearance of what’s now called Urban Fantasy shifted my viewpoint: I like my fantasy to be almost like my actual life ...  none of that Second World stuff, generally!

Some of my top writers:

Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Warren Ellis, Diana Wynne Jones, Neil Gaiman, Philip K Dick, William Gibson, Fritz Leiber, Iain (M) Banks, Clive Barker, Neal Stephenson, Charles Stross, Kameron Hurley, Kate Griffin (aka Claire North), Richard Kadrey, Ales Kot, J. Michael Straczynski, The Robinsons ­ Kim Stanley and Spider.

A special place for the extraordinary Andrew Vachss: read his bio, then his books.

RAWILLUMINATION: Can you recommend one or two books of magick to provide a solid grounding for those of us who don't know very much about it?

CAT VINCENT: A tricky one, as my education was hundreds of books and thousands of hours of experimentation!

As a primer to modern approaches, you can’t go far wrong with Grant Morrison’s Pop Magic. I also recommend Ramsey Dukes' SSOTBME! as a solid, skeptical intro to chaos magic approaches. The most fascinating new book on magic for me is The Cunning Man’s Handbook by Jim Baker, which is a revolution (and huge!). Best advice on books for the new mage: read widely, doubt heavily, double check your sources, test them personally. There’s a wealth of information out there, especially since the likes of Jake Stratton­-Kent have both transmitted and contextualised many old grimoires.

RAWILLUMINATION: How has RAW influenced your ideas about magick? Which opinion of his on magick do you think is spot on, and what did he say about magick that you disagree with?

CAT VINCENT: In a word: completely.

As a very young mage with no physical peer group, RAW’s multi­model approach was a revelation. By showing me the multi­model approach (around the same time as this idea was being explored with the originators of the Chaos magic movement) it allowed me to combine disparate elements into my slowly evolving praxis, and it’s never failed me yet.

The part I disagree with? His position of total disbelief. Despite my best efforts over some 40 years, there’s still stuff I believe in. I believe in magic: a Something that sometimes allows altering of perceived reality through indirect means ­ maps being used to change the territory. One might see this as an experiment in choosing one’s belief system ... I must therefore note that in 45 years of praxis, it has rarely let me down.

RAWILLUMINATION: You have kind of a unique perspective on Brexit — if I understand correctly, you shut down your combat magick consulting company because you were afraid of running afoul of EU regulations. Do you plan to restart your business in the wake of the Brexit vote?

CAT VINCENT: I truly did not see this question coming.

I voted Remain in the Referendum. I also got one of the oldest pieces of figurative art in England ­ the Uffington White Horse ­ tattooed on my arm right before I voted (23 June!) because whichever way the vote went, I wanted a piece of Old Albion on my skin ... and my Albion is and will ever be (as Eddie Izzard once put it) a Mongrel Nation.  (See also here and here.)

I also note that a pro­immigration seated member of Parliament was assassinated  by a white supremacist just before the vote ... and the Leave side won. I do not think it’s a huge step to say that was a blood sacrifice on behalf of some very bad magic.

I’m hardly a fan of the EU generally, or politics at all. But I am a xenophile, and I treasure what other cultures have brought to my land. (I am old enough to remember what British food was like before the influx of Ugandan Asians to our shores in the 1970s... *shudder*.) And not only are there no justifiable political or economic reasons for Brexit outside of a nostalgia for a non­existent Imperial golden age, the degree of racial and xenophobic brutality since the Referendum horrifies and disgusts me.

That said ...  no, I won’t be restarting Athanor Consulting. Mostly because, as Danny Glover once said, I’m too old for this shit.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Cosmic Trigger online reading group, Week 20!


Welcome to week 20 of the RAWIllumination.net Cosmic Trigger Reading Group. This week we are covering a couple of pivotal chapters — Mystery Babalon and Leary emerges from darkness and Sirius rises again, located beginning on page 161 Hilaritas. Many thanks to Adam Gorightly for going above and beyond the call of duty last week offering us a deeper look into the slow mental unravelling that can happen whilst wandering about in Chapel Perilous. The contrast between Kerry Thornley and RAW is invaluable for anyone considering a study of magick, the occult, the Illuminati, etc.

Before diving into this weeks reading, I want to replay a few choice quotes from Ishtar’s Walk, which can serve as a time-lapse of our Author hitting bottom and then emerging from the depths.

“Pity assaulted me; I wept.”
“Pity tour at me with claws.”
“Pity and horror.”
“It is an easy step from pity to self-pity.”
“At sunset, The fool got up and went out on the porch and watched the song sinking in the west, doing the Sufi heart chakra exercise, forcing myself to love all beings. I came back to life.”
“I reached a depths of despair and deliberately decided to love the world instead of pitying myself; and, afterwards, I was no longer afraid of anything.”
“Sufism had vindicated that self: the heart chakra exercise works. Perfect love cast out fear. I was beginning to emerge on the other side of chapel perilous.”

And now for our regularly scheduled broadcast.

Mystery Babalon finds our Author on October 12, 1974, hosting a Crowleymas party involving “weird and eldritch festivities” as well as nearly 100 local wizards and mystics. That must have been quite a scene. Our intrepid Author and erstwhile Shaman gets things started pretty quickly, invoking the notion of paranoia, and then flexing his new-found “emerging from chapel perilous” muscles, first by spending 20 minutes on the phone helping one Dr. H (not his real initial!) turn around a bad acid trip, and then spending 3 hours “practicing psychotherapy without a license” while helping another alias (Tom) grok that “he was the programmer of his own computer, and that it had only been a hallucination that made him think the computer was starting to program him.”


 Jacques Vallee

“And then Jacques Vallee arrived.” Bob immediately kidnaps him into “a room which the other party-goers were not informed about,” accompanied by Grady and Phyllis McMurtry, a couple of young magicians from Los Angeles, and Alias Tom. There ensues a conversation regarding alien intelligences, UFO’s, and extraterrestrials which brings to mind the Sufi tale of “The Elephant in a Dark Room.”

“Jacques said that the evidence emerging suggested to him that the UFO’s weren't extraterrestrial at all,” and that they “always strive to give the impression that they are something the society they are visiting can understand."


Grady McMurtry

Bob asks Grady McMurtry about the extraterrestrial nature of alien intelligences—"Some of the things Aleister said to me," Grady replied carefully, "could be interpreted as hints pointing that way,” although he himself thought the theory of higher dimensions made more sense to him than the theory of actual extraterrestrials.

Bob himself states that he “was inclined to believe the Higher Intelligences were extraterrestrial.”

Alias Tom, a witch as well as a computer programmer (note how Bob used the computer analogy to talk him out of his earlier crisis) said that the Higher Intelligences are “imbedded in our language and numbers.”

There ensues talk of a War in Heaven, Secret Chiefs, and “beings we cannot understand,” which brings to mind the oft-quoted remark by Arthur C. Clarke that “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magick.” Pay no attention to that Secret Chief behind the curtain!

The Author then dives into a story about Dr. H (from earlier in the chapter), auras, and Energy from the Sky resulting in a sort of ecstatic chest-pain and/or asthma, in which he ties together Anton Mesmer, Baron Reichenbach, Alexander Gurvich, and Wilhelm Reich as discoverers of “animal magnetism,” “OD,” “the mitogenic ray,” and “orgone energy,” and details a trail of magickal adepts who developed chest pain and asthma after experiencing this energy and/or the “beings we cannot understand”—including MacGregor Mathers, Alan Bennett, Aleister Crowley, and Israel Regardie, who was cured of his condition after undergoing bio-energetic therapy from Dr. Wilhelm Reich. Whew!

Interestingly enough, just at the time Cosmic Trigger was published, Reiki energy, the most popularized form of “energy work,” was just beginning to spread beyond small groups of practitioners in Japan and Hawaii on its way to becoming as commonplace and many other freaky ideas Bob was talking about way back then—yoga, meditation, etc. The Author then finishes the chapter with a Crowley quote which is a bit too enthusiastic perhaps in its prediction of a scientific understanding (and acceptance) of these energies. The energy work itself, however, is vibrant today…

Leary emerges from the darkness and Sirius rises again


William Grimstad's Six Million Reconsidered 

The Author herein introduces the Reader to Timothy Leary’s SMI2LE scenario, Space Migration, Intelligence Increase, & Life Extension, as “the three obvious steps that a reasonable educated God takes.” He then proceeds to mash-up some recent communications from Leary with a series of communications from one W.N. Grimstad, which included an elaborate theory which Bob describes alternately as “Cabalistic Numerological magick” and “rigamarole.” Interesting to note that the title of the chapter partially derives from a tape created by the aforementioned Mr. Grimstad titled Sirius Rising, and that over the past week, Sirius has indeed been rising, after spending 40 days “behind” our sun. Mr. Grimstad, by the way, is an apparent “Holocaust denier” and potential anti-semite, if Mr. Google is to be trusted, something our Author may or may not have suspected back in those pre-internet days.

The finale of this chapter gives the Reader an awesome example of “meaning” (“in the Jungian sense”), tying together Bob, Tim, Grimstad, the San Francisco Phoenix, the S.L.A., and Patty Hearst. Interestingly enough, the birth of Cosmic Trigger The Play involves another beautiful example of Jungian “meaning,” which John Higgs recounts in the introduction to the Hilaritas Press edition of Cosmic Trigger, and which Cat Vincent wrote about in March 2014.

That’s it for this week—please dive in with your own tales of Higher Intelligences, Jungian “meaning,” elephants in dark rooms, etc. Next week we will be examining The Horus Hawk and Uri Geller, The Motorman Prophesies, and Doggiez from Sirius, beginning on page 172, and finishing up Part I.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Portrait of a writer


This is a portrait of Robert Anton Wilson I found on dribbble.com (extra "b" is not a typo), by artist Michael Walters of Chattanooga, Tenn.

The caption says, "Some more low poly love for an American hero, novelist, essayist, editor, playwright, poet, futurist, psychologist, self-described agnostic mystic, Episkopos, Pope, and saint of Discordianism."

This artwork is available as a canvas print. See also his other products, such as a nice looking "If you can read this, you are a pope" t-shirt or sweatshirt in a variety of styles.  Counting styles and sizes, there are "23 available products" of the pope t-shirt. Check out his other works to see offerings that may interest sombunall of you, such as Aleister Crowley rendered as a cat.

Mr. Walters is the founder and director of Third Floor Labs. "Third Floor Labs is an artistic design and marketing company driven by technology and culture."

Dribbble.com is a "show and tell for designers" site.