Saturday, August 17, 2019

Peter Fonda -- the RAW connection

Peter Fonda in 2009. Creative Commons photo by Glenn Francis. 

By now, you have likely heard actor Peter Fonda has died. Read the interesting New York Times obituary. 

On Twitter, Prop Anon provides this anecdote:

I met Peter Fonda once at a Kava Bar in Honolulu
I asked him if he knew Robert Anton Wilson
He said "Fuck Yeah" 
He then told me to pick up Bob Dylan's autobiography
"Dylan's a man chauvinist pig, but he can write"
Is what he said
Rest Well Pete. Rest Well

Prop is still working on his RAW biography.  His Twitter account is routinely interesting.

Friday, August 16, 2019

'The Widow's Son' reading group starts soon

Reminder: The new online reading group for The Widow's Son by Robert Anton Wilson will begin on August 23 with a post by my special guest blogger. Please consider joining us/supporting this effort by getting your hands on a copy of the book.

If you can't wait to get started, consider reading the first 20 pages or so. Gregory will give us the exact assignment next Friday.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Why I moderate comments

Because I moderate comments, it can take awhile for them to be posted. I do try to check them morning, noon and night, but unavoidably, I sleep, work and do other things and cannot monitor the blog 24 hours a day.

If you want to know why I feel it's necessary to moderate, here an an example of a comment which someone tried to put on my blog Wednesday:

My name is Arpita Jain. I run my independent Mumbai Escorts Service. I am an independent Mumbai escort girl. My service charge is low according the current market price. My service is super, because I know very well the personal requirement of my each customer. I am comfortable to provide my Mumbai Escorts Service at your home or in Hotel. [Contact information deleted].

If I didn't moderate, I'd have to constantly allow prostitution services to be advertised on my blog.

I also get a lot of "comments" like this:

Welcome to all post of illuminati cult where all your heart desire are granted and power over all things in the world, this is well know fact that the illuminati church consist of multi billionaires and have power, weath, riches and be a famous person in the world. Join the illuminati cult online today and get instant sum of 300million dollars with a free home anywhere you choose to live in the world and also get 100,000,000 dollars monthly as a salary... If you are interested please kindly fill the following Join the Illuminati cult following information's so that we can commerce on your registration as a full member in the secret order of the Illuminati of the magician Full name.............. Country................ State of origin........ Date of birth......... Sex.................... Address.................... Phone................... Email address.............. photo..................... Attach Scan I'd card,passport or driver license containing your full details 

As you can see, the endless "Join the Illuminati" ads I have to block aren't interesting or funny. They are aimed at taking advantage of idiots, and I don't want to enable such efforts.

It speaks pretty badly of Google, the owner of the Blogger site I use, that I have to block stuff like this. I'm not particularly a fan of Facebook, but I never get any spam in my Facebook timeline, much less escort service ads or Illuminati recruitment pitches. Facebook deserves considerable credit for keeping that stuff out.

Google famously has very smart employees, and I don't get why its programmers can't figure out how to block prostitution ads, or keep out identically-worded "comments" that are posted over and over again, at many different locations. (I get the same automated comments over and over again.) Are Google's programmers not as good as Facebook's, or is this just not a priority for Google?

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Raw sex, Raw math and RAW

The October 1969 issue of Playboy, which featured a letter from one "Arnold K. Ravenhurst." 

Here is an unexpected followup to yesterday's post: Crackpot historian, Hollywood actor and all-around MVP Adam Gorightly has a particularly amusing post up at Historia Discordia, "RAW Math vs. RAW Sex," about the time when Discordian Greg Hill responded to a condemnation of sex education in the public schools from the Christian Crusade with a warning about the dire consequences of math education.  The upshot is that Robert Anton Wilson, writing as "Arnold K. Ravenhurst," planted Hill's warning in the Playboy forum.

Adam Gorightly got an assist with his post from Martin Wagner. More Martin Wagner news soon.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Playboy magazine archive available

On Twitter, @advantardeodus has called my attention to the fact that a Playboy magazine archive is now available, remarking, "All issues of Playboy ever on their website from $8/month and I guess you could mine info from them within one month... ??"

Indeed for a reasonable cost, researchers can research a magazine where Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea once worked, and sometimes planted items that found their way into Illuminatus!

The page which offers the digital archive has chosen an issue which shows off the magazine in its heyday: January 1965, a "special holiday issue," with writers listed on the cover who include Vladimir Nabokov, Terry Southern, Ray Bradbury, P.G. Wodehouse and Jack Kerouac. Whatever you think of the magazine, at its height it was quite a cultural force.

Monday, August 12, 2019

J. Neil Schulman has died

J. Neil Schulman in 2017 (Creative Commons photo by Arturo Ruggeroli). 

Libertarian science fiction author J. Neil Schulman died Saturday. He was 66.

Schulman won the Prometheus Award for his novel The Rainbow Cadenza and won the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award for another novel, Alongside Night. 

As I noted in a posting last year, Schulman mentioned Robert Anton Wilson in his last novel, The Fractal Man, and was friends with Wilson.

The Libertarian Futurist Society blog has an article about him.  You can also read a nice appreciation from Stephan Kinsella. 

Sunday, August 11, 2019

My Shostakovich listening project

Dmitri Shostakovich in 1950. (Creative Commons photo). 

Do the rest of you have listening projects? One of my favorite Robert Anton Wilson stories, via Eric Wagner, is about the time RAW sat up all night, tripping on LSD and listening to all of Beethoven's nine symphonies, one after the other. I'd like to replicate that someday, although I'd do it earlier in the day and likely use iced coffee as my main "substance." I wonder which performances were RAW's favorite?

My current listening project is to download and listen to all of Shostakovich's 15 symphonies; I started out with 1-4 last week. (I'm listening to the "Shostakovich and Kondrashin: Complete Symphonies" set with the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, available on Freegal, the public library music service.)

It's interesting to compare my own experience with received opinion. I thought the first symphony, written when Shostakovich was still a teen, to be not one of his best, but still pretty good. That seems to be the consensus. Nobody has anything good to say about symphonies 2 and 3 (including the composer); both are patriotic symphonies that conclude with a chorus. On a first pass, I thought the second, "To October," was enjoyably weird, but the third, "1st of May," didn't do much for me.

The fourth, banned for years because it was too "out there" to risk being played when Stalin was alive, is really great, one of my favorite Shostakovich works, and Kondrashin and his players do a fine job with it. I like it much better than the more-famous fifth, which seems a bit pompous to me. The fourth has undergone a big revival in recent  years; there are many different recordings of it to choose from.

The conventional opinion is that Shostakovich's 15 string quartets are more consistent in quality; his symphonies are considered uneven. I concentrated my listening at first on the string quartets, but I realized the other day I still hadn't heard many of the symphonies. It's time to check them out.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

War on some drugs news

Robert Anton Wilson. Photo by Duncan Harvey, story behind photo here. 

The cruelty and stupidity of what Robert Anton Wilson called the "war on some drugs" rolls on and on.

1. Tweet from the great Radley Balko:

"Cops claimed that field tests showed the white powder on the hood of the Georgia Southern QB’s car was cocaine. He said it was bird poop. He was suspended, and widely ridiculed by national media outlets.

"Guess what? It was bird poop."

The quarterback is black, of course.


2. In Sandusky, Ohio, where I'm a newspaper reporter, local pharmacies have figured out how to solve the opioid epidemic -- by denying pain pills to a late stage cancer patient and other chronic pain patients.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Notes on Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan with Allen Ginsberg during the Rolling Thunder tour. (Creative Commons photo by Elsa Dorfman.)

I finally got to see Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story on Netflix, which mixes fact and fiction in depicting Dylan's 1970s tour,  and enjoyed it very much. I recently noted Oz Fritz' article about the movie, and one of Oz' comments is worth quoting again:

"This misdirection should come as no surprise.  The film begins with old footage of a stage illusionist making a woman disappear then bringing her back.  It seems part of the film's mission to ontologically shake-up assumptions about exactly what is going on.  Editing and using sound and visuals in this way to create new contexts and factual illusions reminds me strongly of Orson Welle's F is for Fake 'documentary' that looked at art forgery through using the techniques of film forgery. Robert Anton Wilson wrote an excellent account of the sleight-of-hand in that film that could give some insight into how Scorsese constructed this Bob Dylan story."

Indeed, the mixture of truth and BS in Rolling Thunder Revue recalls what RAW did in Illuminatus! and I venture to guess that perhaps RAW might have liked the movie, despite his notorious loathing for Dylan as an artist. It's a much better movie that Dylan's own movie about the tour, Renaldo and Clara. 

One other Dylan note: My favorite live performance is the one he turned in for the Concert for Bangladesh organized by his friend, George Harrison. Although the album of the concert does not seem to be commercially available, I noticed this posting on the Internet archive and shared it with a few friends. As I think of the people who read this blog as my friends, I'm sharing it with the rest of y'all, too. (The track listing is a bit wrong, "Hard Rain" and "Love Minus Zero" are Dylan performances.)

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

We're pretty decent!

The What Magic Is This? podcast has an episode devoted to Robert Anton Wilson. I have not had time to listen to it but will try to get to it soon; 65 minutes long. I don't know much about "Doug," who does the podcast and in the new one features "Adam," but the Twitter account says, "Magician of 15 Years. Works at a Museum. Podcaster. Currently engaged in a lifelong battle with squirrels."

The link to the show episode has useful "Show Notes," essentially a collection of RAW related links, and I get an endorsement for this blog: "Pretty decent Blog devoted to all things Bob." Thanks for the link!

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Rasa on RAW and Olga

By Rasa
[Reprinted by permission from a Facebook posting -- The Management]

Bob's feathered friend Olga . . .

I first heard about Olga in September of 2003 when Robert Anton Wilson sent an email to his private email group (affectionately called the GroupMind). He was sending a reply in a discussion about how Al Franken had said, "God supports my politics." Bob, ignoring the satirical parody nature of Franken's anti-Bush remark. wrote:

• • •

Franken claims God supports his politics; so do such differing theo-politicians as Osama bin Laden, Jerry Falwell, Rush Limbaugh etc. who all claim God supports their politics. Aside from such self-serving claims, Diderot observed empirically that God always gives victory to the side with the biggest cannons. Napoleon, on hearing this, replied that in his experience God supports the best Intelligence service.

Any other empirical data on God's politics, anyone?

--Damned Old Crank

 • • •

Bob had taken to sometimes signing his emails, "Damned Old Crank." Some friends started referring to him as "DOC."

"Surely Franken was being sarcastic" a friend insisted. Bob wrote back:

• • •

But how can one judge such claims? I don't know who we shd consider Divinely inspired, who merely delusional/schizo, who running a con on the gullible, who making a joke, etc. That's why I want empirical data on who the Ancient Jester really supports……


• • •

"Ancient Jester" – I loved that. Various people offered their ideas on what they thought might be God's politics, and then Bob sent this reply:

• • •

If I announce [as I've considered] that God supports the Guns and Dope Party, how many of you will consider that

1. schizo to delusional

2. genuine Divine intervention

3. a con game

4. a hoax, satire, jape etc

How do you rank the similar claims of Monkey-Boy, Jerry Falwell, Son of Sam, the Tsars of Russia, the Tsars of USA, Osama bin Laden, the popes of Rome etc?

Anyway God has personally endorsed the GUNS AND DOPE PARTY and cursed Tsardom. He told me so, speaking through an ostrich named Olga who co-starred with Orson Welles in a thriller called SOUTHERN STAR. Those other guys are just jealous because the Voices don't speak to them and they have to fake it!

• • •

Bob had different names for President Bush. One of them was "Monkey Boy." About a month later, Bob announced in a GroupMind email that he was running for Governor of California as the Guns and Dope Party candidate. Soon after that Bob started describing some of his interactions with Olga. At one point he wrote:

• • •

Olga wants me to run for president next year, and I can't refuse. She's one persuasive bird, bi god.... Did you ever try arguing with a Trans-Human critter two feet taller than you, with a sharp beak yet????


• • •

A few days later I was working with Bob's webmaster, Patrick Farley, and I had set up an online gift shop for the Guns and Dope Party. In emailing Bob and Patrick I gave them the shop's link and wrote,

"By leave of her majesty Tsaritsa Olga," Bob was unfamiliar with the obscure spelling of Tsarina that I had found and wrote the following:

• • •

I believe correct Rooshian is Tsarina, but Olga has a fey sense of humor and prefers Tsardine. Signori, YOU go and argue with her.


• • •

It was about that time that Bob changed his email address, again. He changed his email address several times for various reasons over the years. This time, with Olga much on his mind, he changed his email address to: ""

Bob was a prolific emailer, sending out something interesting at least once a day. It was amusing during that period to check my mail and start seeing regular emails from Olga666! Check out Bob's thoughts on Olga from the Party's website.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Review: 'High Weirdness'

Was Philip K. Dick just crazy in early 1974, or did he have information beamed into him by a Vast Active Living Intelligence System?

And what was it about California in the 1970s that made mystical seekers ready to see a UFO after eating psychedelic mushrooms in Colombia,  or to obtain communications from advanced beings from the Sirius star system?

These are some of the questions California “counter-public intellectual” Erik Davis considers in his new book, High Weirdness: Drugs, Esoterica and Visionary Experience in the Seventies, released in the U.S. by the MIT Press.

The book focuses on three people who were, well, highly weird.

Author Terence McKenna journeyed to Colombia to gobble up psilocybin psychedelic mushrooms and wrote a popular handbook (under a pseudonym) with his brother explaining how to grow them at home.  Robert Anton Wilson, author of the Illuminatus! cult novels  and friend of Timothy Leary, experimented with combining occult rituals, drugs, sex and Beethoven and wound up wondering what reality he was living in. Dick already was a prominent science fiction writer with mental health issues and a drug habit when he began to perceive information was being beamed into his brain.

Davis chronicles and tries to make sense of their wild stories, pursuing his avowed goal is to “take them seriously without taking them literally.”

High Weirdness the most absorbing  nonfiction book I’ve read in months, draws parallels among the three men and their similar experiences. Davis also offers similar but briefer accounts of Leary, who thought he was receiving messages from the stars while serving time in a California prison, and dolphin researcher John Lilly, who once blamed a “Borg-like Solid State Intelligence” for shutting down the Los Angeles airport.

Wilson fans will want to know that Davis devotes two chapters to him, one focusing on Illuminatus! and the other on Cosmic Trigger. The discussion of Wilson's libertarianism and esoteric influences are well-handled. Wilson also haunts the Philip K. Dick chapters in the book; Davis often uses Wilsonian terminology to discuss Dick.

The most well-known of Davis’ weird trinity is Dick, who died in 1982 from a stroke but since then only has grown more popular. His fiction has been made into movies and TV shows such as Minority ReportBladerunner and The Man in the High Castle, and reissued in new editions by the Library of America.

Dick has been closely studied by scholars and fans attempting to make sense of his oddball novels and his Exegesis, a nonfiction document more than 2,000 pages long.  Dick scribbled it trying to make sense of a 1974 experience when a reflection from jewelry worn by a woman making a delivery to his home triggered a series of visionary experiences which inspired  his last novels.
Davis helped edit an abridged version of the Exegesis for publication.

He also seems to have read nearly everything written about Dick and remembered many of the best bits. I did not know, for example, that Leary gave a copy of Dick’s The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch to John Lennon, who considered making a movie out of it. And while I knew that Dick took drugs, I did not realize he took dozens of pills every day as a “knowledgeable and compulsive pillhead.” Or that Dick considered himself an Episcopalian.

Dick was only 53 when he died but was married to five different women. Even during his “closest pass at a convention mainstream life” he sometimes hit wife no. 3 and “more than a few plates were  hurled through the open, glass-walled parlor,” Davis writes.

Dick clearly could be a difficult person to be around, but redeemed himself, at least to people who appreciate fascinating and unique novels, by writing works such as The Man in the High Castle, an alternate history novel set in a U.S. occupied by Nazis and Japanese who have won World War II.
Dick came up with the plot twists in High Castle using the I Ching. Davis is adept at detailing the ancient Asian divination system and the other ingredients of the California counterculture.

Davis himself was a friend of McKenna and “teenage Deadhead” who gobbled up paperbacks of Dick’s science fiction novels. But he also took a degree in English literature from Yale and studied religion in a Ph.D. program at Rice.

This gives him the ability to understand the lifestyle of psychedelic weirdos like McKenna and Wilson. But he also has the scholarly chops to trace the influence of the Jesus Freak movement and H.P. Lovecraft on Dick, and to discuss how the experiences of his trio relate to William James The Varieties of Religious Experience.

Referring to his own  “peculiar” and “enchanted,” experiences, Davis writes, “Then and now, I consider my own work and mind to be part of this stream of feral, fringe, psychedelically-inflected thought, though I am equally a creature of media theory, and Zen, and the comparative study of American religion.”