Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Brian Aldiss has died

Brian Aldiss in 2005. Creative Commons photo by Szymon Sokół.

Science fiction great Brian Aldiss has died; he was a major figure for decades. R.U. Sirius mentioned his psychedelic novel Barefoot in the Head on Twitter; Jesse Walker liked Frankenstein Unbound. My favorite among his novels is The Malacia Tapestry.  But I actually thought his short fiction was particularly good, and so I enjoyed every short story collection of his that I came across. 
The Science Fiction Encylopedia has a long entry on Aldiss.  Supergee posted a nice appreciation. 

An Aldiss quote purportedly praising Robert Anton Wilson as a "genius with a G" (or words to that effect) appears on some of RAW's books, although I thought Aldiss actually was referring to Ken Campbell's production of Illuminatus!, can anyone clarify?  

Monday, August 21, 2017

Email to the Universe discussion group, Week 15

 Paul Krassner at City Lights bookstore in San Francisco in 2009 (Creative Commons photo by Heidi De Vries).

By Gregory Arnott, guest blogger

Afterword by Paul Krassner

This was first published in 2012 as part of Boing Boing's RAW Week. It is appropriate that an altered version of Krassner's article would appear as the final addendum to RAW's final work; as noted in the essay it was Krassner who published RAW's first article that was composed around the physical dimensions of God's member.

A few months ago Tom discussed Krassner's Confessions of a Raving Unconfined Nut and I chimed in talking about Ed Sander's Fug You. Like RAW's Cosmic Trigger, these are firsthand memoirs that give a special insight into the counterculture of the Sixties and Seventies. Krassner is not as idealistic as Wilson, nor is he anywhere as focused. If his works have a consistent theme it would be freedom of the press which Paul pushed for harder than most Americans. (Well that, the Grateful Dead, and marijuana, which he makes sure to plug in his essay here.) He and Wilson were different in many ways but both were retroactive titans of their time; their books reveal they were as instrumental to the civil/artistic unrest that remade the Western world as Abbie Hoffman (Krassner loved Hoffman, Wilson thought he was a dolt) or LSD (Krassner loved (s) LSD but was influenced more by the freewheeling Kesey whereas RAW loved LSD but was influenced by the visionary Leary). In their unique ways both men/are brash and unafraid- Americans who truly exercise(d) their First Amendment rights.

Krassner recounts how RAW was barred from the Prophet's Conference which Wilson discusses in more detail within TSOG (I think). Both RAW and David Jay Brown questioned the Conference's decision to exclude RAW because of his unmarketable lexicon and were met with baleful resistance. In hindsight I believe the people responsible would agree they made a disastrous mistake by excluding RAW. I believe that one reason why Wilson never reads as queasily as New Age or other professionally optimistic writers is his unassuming diction. The Prophets Conference obviously missed out on this feature. As mentioned in this reading group a few weeks ago: I do not feel that there has been much evidence of acidheads taking over the corporate world. Perhaps it is more that the acidheads who succeed in the corporate world are the milquetoast type who can afford conferences in Hawaii where the speakers make sure to only talk about the polite parts of activating your chi.

I remember reading Wilson's account of the Married Roman Catholic Priest Conference but I can't for the life of me remember where. [You read it in Coincidance: A Head Test, which will be the next title reissued by Hilaritas Press. -- The Mgt.]

Thank you to those who stuck with me through this reading group and I hope that you've enjoyed going over email to the Universe. Thanks especially to Tom Jackson for his generosity of spirit and his openness to our different voices in this space he has created. I don't care what any of you say, I think he's a fine person and I can't bring myself to believe the awful things you've said about him.

This has been fun and I look forward to chiming in when we talk in the future!


[This entry concludes the online discussion of Email to the Universe. Very sincere thanks to Gregory Arnott for stepping forward and leading the discussion with his fine articles. -- The Mgt.]

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Ted Hand comes to town

Ted Hand (right) and I in the Cafe Ah-Roma coffee shop in Berea, Ohio.

I don't live in California, or in Britain, and so I've met very few of the people I've gotten to know on the Internet via this blog. It's a bit like my earlier days in SF fandom, when I would correspond with or read various fannish writers, but often go years before I finally met them at conventions.

But Ted Hand, who lives in the Bay Area and is a blogger and writer and active on Twitter, has been roaming over much of North America, and I found out on Facebook Friday that he was in Cleveland to visit the Buckland Gallery of Witchcraft & Magick, a new museum in Cleveland I hadn't heard of before. So I invited him to meet for coffee Friday.

We met at the Cafe Ah-Roma coffee shop in Berea, the small city/Cleveland suburb where I live next to Cleveland's main airport. Ted Tweeted a selfie of us afterward, writing "Super fun times discussing Robert Anton Wilson, journalism's plight, SF fandom, and how lucky I am to live in California, with @jacksontom"

We also talked about many other topics before I had to go back to work, although somehow we didn't get to our mutual interest in Late Antiquity. I asked Ted about his current projects, and he told me plans to write a book on Philip K. Dick's knowledge of esoterica. He is also working on a set of Philip K. Dick Tarot cards and on an alchemy adult coloring book. Ted also wants to write critical theory about Robert Anton Wilson's interpretation of magick. Ted was easy to talk to and I appreciated him taking the time to meet.


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."