Thursday, October 30, 2014

Jack Parsons miniseries announced

Jack Parsons

Boing Boing, citing another source, says that a new miniseries on rocket scientist and occultist Jack Parsons will appear on AMC. It will be based on the biography Strange Angel by George Pendle. 

Robert Anton Wilson wrote the introduction for another biography of Parsons, Sex and Rockets: The Occult World of Jack Parsons by John Carter.  Video of Wilson on Parsons is here. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Jeet Heer's observation

Jeet Heer

Canadian journalist Jeet Heer on Twitter:

Next he'll be saying that about this website :)

The Tweet is a nice witticism that captures RAW's influence on the modern libertarian movement, not to mention Reason contributors such as Jesse Walker and Brian Doherty.

When I did a little exploring, I discovered that Mr. Heer sometimes writes pieces on comics and science fiction writers, including an old article on Philip K. Dick ("The laureate of radical postmodernism was, it turns out, a stool pigeon.") and this new one, on Robert Heinlein ("While America became increasingly liberal, he became increasingly right wing, and it hobbled his once-formidable imagination. His career, as a new biography inadvertently proves, is a case study in the literary perils of political extremism.")

His Heinlein piece is witty and makes some good points, but his main thesis could use  little polishing. Heer claims the political rot set in by 1957 — "The turning point came in 1957. After that year, Heinlein's books were no longer progressive explorations of the future but hectoring diatribes lamenting the decadence of modernity" — so how come two of the best novels came later? Stranger in a Strange Land came out in 1961, while The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress was published in 1966. Both won Hugo awards and are very popular, so it's not just me who likes them.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Week 36, Illuminatus! online reading group

Bobby Campbell's artwork for these weekly postings. Thanks again, Bobby!

(This week: "But three hours after Drake's death," page 359, to "It would be interesting to get into mathematics, really deep," page 368.)

This section is all over the place, and it's beyond the abilities of your humble blogger to write a blog post that ties all of it together. But let's look at some of the pieces.

"The fear of death is the beginning of slavery," page 363. Because it is the source of religion? Because it inhibits clear thinking?

In any event, as Jesse Walker pointed out in this blog posting back in 2007 when RAW died, RAW's last written words, on his blog, did not show a fear of death. The last entry reads,

Various medical authorities swarm in and out of here predicting I have between two days and two months to live. I think they are guessing. I remain cheerful and unimpressed. I look forward without dogmatic optimism but without dread. I love you all and I deeply implore you to keep the lasagna flying.

Please pardon my levity, I don't see how to take death seriously. It seems absurd.

Jesse's blog post cites an article about the Marquis de Sade, although I don't know if de Sade's works is where RAW got the quotation.

"He didn't recall TV newscasters being that obnoxious," page 362. And this was before Fox News and MSNBC.

Sexuality, Magic and Perversion by Francis King, page 364. Not only a real book, but it's back in print -- you can even get an ebook.

"AUM, the drug that promised to turn neophobes into neophiles," page 364. In a sense, the Illuminatus! trilogy is a literary form of AUM.

"a tall redhead," page 366. Was Arlen Wilson tall, or is this a reference to somebody else?

"A series of odd questions," page 367. Pages 367-368 are both very funny and very serious. For me, it's one of the best parts of the work. The "odd questions" about U.S. national security policy are in fact a series of very reasonable questions, but ones that seldom get asked. In fact, everything from "What would you think of a man?" to "paranoid schizophrenic" in the long paragraph on page 367 would work fine as the text of a leaflet in a peace demonstration, assuming that any bystanders could be persuaded to read in and to "wake up."

"What is this man not only is feuding with the people on  his blog but involves himself in the quarrels of others in distance parts of the city and even in the suburbs?" page 367. Thank heavens this is merely amusing satire and no longer has any relevance to U.S. foreign policy.

(Next week: "Harold Canvera had not bothered to fill out a questionnaire," page 368, to page 384, "Rebecca. Rebecca. Rebecca.")

Sunday, October 26, 2014

John Gray on H.P. Lovecraft

Anyone who is interested in H.P. Lovecraft will want to read British philosopher John Gray's new article, "H.P. Lovecraft Invented a Horrific World to Escape a Nihilistic Universe." It explores the philosophy behind Lovecraft's writing. It's full of insights and zingers such as this one:

Far from disappearing from view as he expected, Lovecraft has been repeatedly resurrected by successive generations. No one would now write of him as the critic Edmund Wilson did, in the New Yorker in 1945: “The only real horror in most of these fictions is the horror of bad taste and bad art.” The true horror was in fact that of judging Lovecraft by the standards of a defunct literary culture.

Gray also reviews and strongly recommends The New Annotated H.P. Lovecraft. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Greil Marcus reviews Illuminatus!

Greil Marcus, legendary Rolling Stone magazine writer and author of tomes such as Lipstrick Traces: A Secret History of the 20th Century and other books I haven't gotten around to reading yet, reviewed Iluminatus! for Rolling Stone back on Feb. 26, 1976. His official website has now posted the review. Here is the text:

With their Illuminatus trilogy (The Eye in the Pyramid, The Golden Apple, and Leviathan, Dell paperbacks, $1.50 apiece), Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson have if nothing else brought off the longest shaggy dog joke in literary history. To briefly summarize the more than 800 closely printed pages: a journalist, a sort of modern-day Candide, sets out to investigate some mysterious doings in Mad Dog, Texas, and innocently trips over one of the many feet of the Illuminati, the greatest conspiracy in history—or, to put it another way, the conspiracy that is history. Taking their cue from Ishmael Reed’s Mumbo Jumbo (“The history of the world is the history of warfare between secret societies”), Shea and Wilson catapult their hero and uncountable other characters through a series of adventures and in transit manage to clear up every conundrum currently bedeviling the Western mind, including the assassination of JFK (brilliantly handled), the death of Marilyn Monroe, the history of Atlantis, dolphin intelligence, the last words of Dutch Schultz (the touchstone of the books), prehistoric cross-continental cultural diffusion, the Loch Ness monster, the fate of Adolph Hitler, the death of John Dillinger, and a lot of other things I’ve forgotten. A hundred pages in I couldn’t figure out why I was wasting my time with this nonsense, after 300 I was having too much fun to quit, and by the end I was eager to believe every word—even if the only conspiracy really at work here is Shea and Wilson’s devilish exploitation of our need to make ordered sense out of everything under the sun; their exploitation, in a world, of the narcissism of rationalism. Anyway, I loved it.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Who REALLY rules? A political scientist answers

Michael Glennon, professor of international law, the Fletcher School, Tufts University. 

The part of the U.S. government that is sometimes referred to as "the national security state" or "the secret government" — the part that I talked about in my recent Illuminatus! online reading entry — usually is the focus of discussion for libertarians, anarchists, hardcore civil libertarians and other soreheads excluded from mainstream political discourse.

Now, however, the topic has drawn the attention of a respected political scientist and academic, Michael Glennon of Tufts University. His new book is called National Security and Double Government. Here is the Cato Institute's summary:

"In National Security and Double Government, Michael Glennon examines the continuity in U.S. national security policy from the Bush administration to the Obama administration. Glennon explains the lack of change by pointing to the enervation of America’s 'Madisonian institutions,' namely, the Congress, the presidency, and the courts. In Glennon’s view, these institutions have been supplanted by a 'Trumanite network' of bureaucrats who make up the permanent national security state. National security policymaking has been removed from public view and largely insulated from law and politics. Glennon warns that leaving security policy in the hands of the Trumanite network threatens Americans’ liberties and the republican form of government."

Most newspapers and media outlets are ignoring the book so far, but the Boston Globe ran a piece. The whole thing is worth a few minutes of  your time, but here is the part where Glennon explains the title of his book:

IDEAS: Where does the term “double government” come from?

GLENNON:It comes from Walter Bagehot’s famous theory, unveiled in the 1860s. Bagehot was the scholar who presided over the birth of the Economist magazine—they still have a column named after him. Bagehot tried to explain in his book “The English Constitution” how the British government worked. He suggested that there are two sets of institutions. There are the “dignified institutions,” the monarchy and the House of Lords, which people erroneously believed ran the government. But he suggested that there was in reality a second set of institutions, which he referred to as the “efficient institutions,” that actually set governmental policy. And those were the House of Commons, the prime minister, and the British cabinet.

The usual suspects have been trying to draw attention to Professor Glennon's book, but getting the attention of the public appears to be a work in progress. After I ran across mentions of the book from the troublemakers I follow on Twitter and read the Globe piece, I decided to check it out of the library. I discovered that it's not available from the CLEVNET library system (not just Cleveland, but much of northern Ohio.) Cuyahoga County's library system (28 branches) didn't have it, either, so I enlisted my wife, a librarian, to get it for me using interlibrary loan. She discovered that no libraries in Ohio have it. When I asked her to consider ordering it for her library, she discovered that Baker & Taylor, the main distributor supplying public libraries, didn't have any copies in stock.

So, you can see that buying a copy raises a public safety issue for any library in Ohio daring to do so; why attract the attention of the Illuminati? *

I can't afford to buy the book, but I'll pursue getting my hands on it and will talk about more when I can.

* Yes, I'm kidding.