Saturday, May 27, 2017

Butterfly Language: Why I started the blog

Valerie D'Orazio

If you read the Butterfly Language blog, you can't help but notice what a burst of energy seems to be behind it. For example, there were four blog posts on May 26. Blog writer Valerie D'Orazio has a lot on her mind and has a lot to share.

Val is hugely influenced by Robert Anton Wilson, and if you are curious about her blog and what gave rise to it, you should read her fascinating recent autobiographical piece, Soul Detours, which describes how she changed after suffering a severe blow to the head. One paragraph:

I also began reading a lot of Robert Anton Wilson and Philip K. Dick. I was familiar with them before, but now I was really “diving” into the material. They too were a valuable source of support. I felt like they both had gone through some similar experiences as I had, especially Dick. I felt that Wilson’s skeptical (“agnostic”) approach was going to be the most helpful for me.

I also felt a deep connection to the whole period of time they operated in, especially the decade of the Seventies. I suppose I was feeling a little bit of time-centered dysphoria, as well.

Although it's not as dramatic as Val's feelings, I suffer from a bit of time dysphoria, too: I've wished for years I could have been a teenager in the 1980s, instead of the 1970s. I would love to have been a teen during the rise of personal computers, MTV, bulletin board systems, cyberpunk, etc.

One of Val's transformations was that "My taste in music changed. I suddenly became very interested in jazz and progressive rock, two genres I had only a very limited patience for previously. I now yearned for long, sprawling compositions; anything released in the early-to-mid 1970s was a special favorite, especially on the original vinyl." As a 1970s teenager, I listened to a lot of Yes, Chick Corea, ELP, Jefferson Starship concept albums, Kansas, Genesis, Mahavishnu Orchestra, etc., and saw some of those guys in concert during their salad days. But I'd still swap decades with Val. I got interested in Beethoven, Bach, Stravinsky, etc. as a teenager, but in hindsight I wish I had explored classical music more thoroughly, rather than just treating it as part of the "buffet" that included progressive rock, hard rock, Beatles, Stones, too much Jefferson Airplane, blues, jazz, etc. etc.

Friday, May 26, 2017

A Sapir-Whorf SF novel

The essay "The Celtic Roots of Quantum Theory," included in this week's edition of the Email to the Universe online reading group, includes a reference to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis:

According to the Korzybski-Whorf-Sapir hyptothesis, the language a people speak habitually influences their sense perceptions, their "concepts" and even they way they feel about themselves and the world in general. "A change in language can transform our appreciation of the cosmos," as Whorf stated the case. 

 [boldface in the original]

As it happens, I just finished re-reading my favorite Samuel R. Delany novel, essentially a dramatization of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis in the form of a space opera, Babel-17. The heroine is a poet who is asked to translate the code the enemy uses in an interstellar war. She discovers that it is a language. I don't want to spoil the plot by telling you anything else. I urge you to read it before you read more about it. It's not very long, and it's also available as an audiobook. I have no idea if RAW ever read it, but I'll bet he would have liked it.

I've also read a number of other Delany books, and enjoyed most of them. I like The Einstein Intersection, Nova, Driftglass (a great early story collection) and The Motion of Light in Water, an autobiography. I thought Dhalgren was bloated and hard to read, although I succeeded in finishing it, something many SF fans could not say when it first came out. I liked bits of The Jewel-hinged Jaw, an anthology of criticism.

Here is a nice appreciation, via Supergee, but don't read it until you've read the book. If you read this post because you like science fiction, you should read Supergee's blog.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

A green Eris

Adam Gorightly's latest Eris of the Month (pictured) is a mash-up of Eris and Pepe the Frog; the latter is apparently some kind of symbol of the alt-right.

"I immediately screen-capped this Eris/Pepe mash-up because you know how these things have a tendency to disappear. This turned out to be a wise move because shortly afterwards our Green Skinned Lady of the Golden Apple was deleted for some reason," Adam explains.

If you are confused about Pepe and how he/it kind of relates to Discordianism and Operation Mindfuck techniques, Adams has the full rundown. Also, you get to learn how to write "Hail Eris!" in Russian! 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

New RAW biography nearing completion

Propaganda Anonymous, resting briefly from his labors as a musician and literary biographer. 

Tweet from PropAnon: "Nearing completion of Chapel Perilous: The Life and Thought Crimes of Robert Anton Wilson I must've written 23 drafts by this point ."

This is the new RAW biography from Gabriel Kennedy, which will be published by TarcherPenguin. It's good to hear that it's coming along.

Here is my blog post on the original book announcement, and here is my interview with Mr. Kennedy.   

Also, I hope you saw the recent post about PropAnon's Grant Morrison interview at Boing Boing. That article says the new RAW bio will be out in 2018.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Cosmic Trigger's original artist

Dangerous Minds has a new piece up by Martin Schneider about John Thompson, who did an early cover for Robert Anton Wilson's Cosmic Trigger and many interior illustrations that have been used in many of the editions of the book, including the new Hilaritas Press edition. "As brilliant as he was, even Bob Wilson benefited greatly from having his ideas visualized in such a simpatico manner. John Thompson, a noted figure from the San Francisco comix scene, and someone very interested in mysticism and spirituality, was the ideal person to bring the visionary material to life," Schneider writes.

Hat tip, Michael Johnson.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Email to the Universe Discussion Group, Week 2!

The Santa Cruz shore during the Robert Anton Wilson memorial service; one of the boats is Wilson's family, preparing to scatter RAW's ashes as the same location off the boardwalk as his wife, Arlen. I am told the scene is similar to what RAW could see from his balcony in the scenes mentioned in the haiku. Photo by Branca Tesla. 

By Gregory Arnott, guest blogger 

(Pages 1-37 of the Hilaritas Press edition, up to location 782 of the ebook).

Before saying anything else, I’d like to say that the “note” on page three is perhaps one of the most elegantly succinct statements of Robert Anton Wilson’s philosophy that captures his years of experience and wonderment. “I don’t believe in anything, but I have many suspicions.” Michael asks the reader to ruminate if RAW’s theory of “intelligent design” has any analogs; to my knowledge his proposition is similar in its operation to certain theories that point out that consciousness may be an emergent property of matter and the ponderings of Jacques Vallee and Charles Fort.

Claude Shannon,  mentioned in the "Note."  (Creative Commons photo via Wikipedia).

Michael’s introduction also asks us to consider the meta-models as a type of yoga. While I have very little hands on experience with any of systems that RAW says he is indebted to, I do remember thinking it was curious that he didn’t say anything about Crowley or Leary who had been in so much of his earlier works. Perhaps this acknowledgement is part of a shift away from those men and their influence.

Part One begins with three quotes. One of which is from my favorite television series, The Prisoner.
Considering the footnotes and the subject matter I believe that “The Passion of the Antichrist” was included by RAW in this volume because the threats to our civil liberties haven’t passed but simply changed. Sadly parts of this essay are still all too relevant as we still live in a de facto Christian nation. Anti-Islam rhetoric is at an all-time high in our nation as our Commander-in-Chief, who had called for a national ban on Muslim immigration (which was received with cheers by his supporters), currently on his Armageddon tour of the Middle East.

One part of the essay that isn’t as relative today is that atheism isn’t exactly the daring philosophy that it was for Madalyn Murray in the Fifties. Indeed the virulent rhetoric of typified by the New Atheists mention by Mr. Johnson in the Introduction had made atheists into something of a joke on the internet. Sam Harris is also a well-known bigot who proves that you don’t have to be Christian or Jewish to be prejudiced against Islamic people. If the bullying tactics of the New Atheists can be traced back to Murray does that make her a less sympathetic character? And does her character matter?

Netflix recently released a film based on Murray’s activism and her murder mentioned at the end of the essay. It, like Time and Newsweek, also steals the title “The Most Hated Woman in America.” I watched it this past week and enjoyed it myself. Much of the discussion about Murray centers on her personality and accusation of moral ambivalence. Elsewhere RAW even notes that Murray could be unpleasant and even mocked him on occasion for his beliefs.

But the essay isn’t about atheism or Ms. Murray, is it?

Madalyn Murray O'Hair in 1983. Creative Commons photo by Alan Light. 

After another haiku that ends with the sumptuous image of “buttermilk clouds” RAW introduces the reader to the one law of economics. I couldn’t think of any exceptions -- did anyone else have any luck?

“The Celtic Roots of Quantum Theory” is classic RAW that comes from roughly the same period as Cosmic Trigger II and Coincidance which is why its themes and material seem so familiar. I’ve been a fan of Bishop Berkeley ever since reading Borges’ "Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius" and becoming interested in the often mentioned “Berkeleyan idealism” that help explain the fantastical happenings in that story. I can attest that Berkeley helps one lose their grip on consensus reality.

One thing that RAW brings up a few times in the essay is the relationship between New Agers and Quantum physics that has led to so many terrible books and a widely accepted documentary that was actually made by a cult in Seattle that believes a middle aged woman is channeling an ascended master. ("What the Bleep Do We Know!?" –also available on Netflix) As someone who has spent too much time reading about occultism I try to avoid talking about Quantum physics. Everything I know about the subject is due to RAW or Alan Moore and both of them would probably ask me to do a little more reading before opening my mouth. So I’m happy to leave this open to the more scientifically minded among us.

The final quote by Dennis Kucinich (the true Democratic candidate of 2008) is reminiscent of John Higgs Stranger Than We Can Imagine which ends with a discussion of evolution of corporations into personhood and how this dooms all of us. The situation has degraded since 2005.

This post was brought to you by Netflix and pessimism. Let’s try for something more lively next week when we’ll get to discuss Black Magic and Paranoia.

(Next week: Pages 38 to 53 of the Hilaritas Press edition, e.g. to the end of the "Black Magic and Curses" essay.)

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Daisy Campbell appeals for help selling tickets

Cosmic Trigger, the Play is getting many good reviews, but it needs to sell more tickets to break even, Daisy Campbell reports in her latest announcement. 

Perhaps a more positive way of putting it is that tickets are still available for all but the final show, despite all of the good reviews. I cannot afford to hop on a plane and go to Great Britain, but this is a great opportunity for many people.

Daisy says:

Look, I'll come to the point. We're at squeaky bum time. We need to sell 323 more tickets (or near enough) in order to break even.

The show's been a critical success, and audience feedback has been incredible - but we do need to Find The Others to be in the black. 

The final show on Saturday 27th is sold out - please help us to sell out the rest! 

If you know even just one more person who really ought to see this show, then please - march them to the nearest online device, go to and book now!