Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Steve Moore book news

From John Higgs' latest newsletter:


If you read Watling Street, you'll recall the story of the late Steve Moore, moon-worshipping his days away on top of Shooters Hill. You may know that Steve had spent years working on an academic study of the Greek moon goddess Selene, and died just as it was more-or-less finished. I ended up editing this book and am delighted to say it has finally been published by the ever-fascinating Strange Attractor Press. So Steve has fulfilled his commission - as if there was any doubt!

On May 4th I took part in an event to launch the book at Brompton Cemetery, with Alan Moore and Andrew O'Neill (photo by Flavio Pessanha). Thanks to everyone who came - I think we did Steve proud.

Also, Higgs talks about symbols and talks about his new book, The Future Starts Here.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The Quietus on RAW's 'Schroedinger's Cat'

The Quietus runs a good-sized article on RAW, focusing on the Schroedinger's Cat trilogy.

The piece by Sean Kitching, "The Schrödinger’s Cat Trilogy By Robert Anton Wilson At 40," includes a paragraph explaining how Kitching found his way to RAW:

Wilson’s books were extremely important to me when I went through a period of cognitive dissonance myself, during my late teens and early 20s. Having spent much of my school years feeling dissociated from much of the information considered to be of importance by the education curriculum, I finally discovered a sense of connection to the writings of the beats. Kerouac and Burroughs led me, indirectly, to Robert Anton Wilson, who in turn provided a gateway to figures such as Buckminster Fuller, Aleister Crowley, Timothy Leary, Wilhelm Reich, Alan Watts and John Lilly.

Kitching argues that Wilson's prose and techniques can serve as a way to "wake up" from the current consensus reality imposed by social media and political ideologies:

All of these ideas, according to Wilson’s ethos, are intended to be stimulating and useful rather than objectively True, and are offered as a counter-effective remedy against the forces of mass hypnotism that keep the populace asleep and easily controlled. This, in itself, is an idea very much of Wilson’s time, but it is not yet one we have transcended the need for. If anything, in our age of social media and the ubiquitous consequences of so-called ‘Reality TV’, we need such ideas more than ever.

Monday, June 24, 2019

The Earth Will Shake reading group, Week 18

The duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, fought with pistols. 

This week -- the final week -- goes from page 359 ("The light was far, far away at first, but it approached at a dazzling speed.") to the end of the book. Then we take a break for a few weeks until Gregory Arnott begins leading the reading group for The Widow's Son in August.

There's a lot in this final section about the "fourth soul." Dustin had an interesting comment in the last blog entry: "When Sigismundo thinks about the vegetable, animal, and human souls my mind translates it into the first three systems within the eight system model. However, the descriptions of the fourth soul do not seem to align with the social-sexual system to me. Sigismindo describes the fourth soul as I AM. Maybe the fourth soul lumps the higher circuits, oops systems, together?" I am not an expert on the eight circuit model; what say the rest of you?

Dueling was of course still a thing in the eighteenth century, and RAW does a good job of depicting the stupidity and destructiveness of it. Perhaps the most infamous duel in American history was that of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, which killed Hamilton. Hamilton's son, Philip, also died in a duel.

While Sigismundo is studying music theory in Paris in 1770, Mozart, age 14, is touring Italy. It was this year that the incident occurred in which Mozart heard Miserere by Gregorio Allegri in performance at the Vatican and wrote it down from memory.

As this is the last blog entry, I want to thank everyone who took part, either by posting a comment or simply by stopping by to read an entry.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Robert Anton Wilson on the virtues of agnosticism

From the Playboy Forum, November 1973. Martin Wagner says this is "mosprobably Robert Anton Wilson" and I agree. Source. 

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Interview with L. Neil Smith

L. Neil Smith today (in a Colorado karaoke bar)

I have a big new interview up with libertarian science fiction writer L. Neil Smith at the Prometheus Award blog. There's quite a bit of discussion of Robert Anton Wilson, Robert Shea and Robert Heinlein.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Another RAW fan

Tim Heidecker (photo from official website.)

From Twitter, hat tip Gregory Arnott. Tim Heidecker is a comedian and actor with about half a million followers on Twitter. Official website. 

Thursday, June 20, 2019

New Twitter account

There's a new Twitter account you should follow if you are on Twitter: The Robert Anton Wilson Trust. It's been sharing memes from Rasa, such as the above.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Timothy Leary miniseries planned

Woody Harrelson

Some news (via Mondo 2000 on Twitter): "Woody Harrelson To Play Timothy Leary In Luke Davies-Scripted Limited Series ‘The Most Dangerous Man In America’

"Woody Harrelson and Luke Davies are teaming on The Most Dangerous Man in America, a limited series package mounted by Wiip and Star Thrower Entertainment. Harrelson is attached to be executive producer and star as Timothy Leary; Davies, who is coming off the Hulu limited series Catch-22, will adapt and be exec producer. Star Thower’s Tim White, Trevor White and Allan Mandelbaum will be exec producers alongside Harrelson and Davies.

"Based on the critically acclaimed book The Most Dangerous Man by Bill Minutaglio and Steven L. Davis, the series follows Leary’s daring prison escape and run from the law in 1970."

Article by Mike Fleming Jr. at More here.  The article may be an update on this news. 

I thought the book was really good, although it's not where you would go to dig deep into Leary's philosophy.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Neal Stephenson in Pittsburgh

Neal Stephenson autographing books for fans in Pittsburgh on June 17. 

I've never had a chance to meet or listen to Neal Stephenson, one of my favorite writers. So when I discovered he was speaking at the Carnegie Library Lecture Hall in Pittsburgh on June 17, I bought a ticket and made the drive, a little more than two hours.

Stephenson apparently does not like to correspond with fans or give lots of interviews, but when one of his book is released, he dutifully does a publicity tour. He never comes to Cleveland for these, so the Pittsburgh gig was my one chance. (He's promoting his new novel Fall, Or Dodge in Hell. A presigned copy of the book was included in the price of my ticket.)

The lecture hall was about half full when Stephenson was introduced and took the stage. Dressed in a suit, Stephenson read two excerpts from the new book for about half an hour, briefly describing the context, and then took questions for about half an hour.

I was determined to get my one question in, so I kept raising my hand until I got possession of the wireless microphone, and I coaxed one of Stephenson's longest answers.

When it was my turn, I noted that I was a big fan of Cryptonomicon, and that I had noticed that the novels he wrote next, the Baroque Cycle, had characters who were the ancestors of the Cryptonomicon characters. I asked how it came about that he had done this, and if he had been inspired by any other writers.

Of course, I had an agenda. Perhaps in the universe next door, he would have answered that he was inspired by Robert Anton Wilson's Historical Illuminatus novels, which have characters who are the ancestors of the characters in the Illuminatus! trilogy.

But Stephenson said he did not have any antecedents, at least consciously. He explained that when he was writing Cryptonomicon, which is largely about money and computers, he got an email from one friend mentioning that Isaac Newton had been in charge of the British mint, and an email from another friend about how Leibniz had conceived of certain concepts related to cybernetics. And the two hated each other. So Stephenson decided to write fiction that had the two historical characters, and planted items in the final drafts of Cryptonomicon that reached back to the planned Baroque Cycle novels

One of his answers had a synchronicity for me. As I drove from Cleveland to Pittsburgh, I listened to an audiobook for the latest Daniel Suarez novel, Delta-v.

A woman in the audience wanted to know what science fiction and fantasy Stephenson had read lately that he recommends, and the first book Stephenson mentioned was Delta-v. He also recommended  Crooked by Austin Grossman (an alternate future in which Richard Nixon battles Lovecraftian occult forces) and author Matt Ruff.

Oh, and he denies that he is Satoshi Nakamoto, the guy who invented Bitcoin, as a mischievous article at Reason magazine recently claimed. Stephenson says he owns one Bitcoin, given to him by a fan. 

I was curious what the audience would be like. I recently went to an appearance in Cleveland for novelist Celeste Ng, author of Little Fires Everywhere, and noticed that audience was almost all women. Stephenson's audience had a strong majority of men, many of them the sorts of folks you'd see in a science fiction convention, but there were also women in the crowd.

Stephenson's appearance was timed so that it lasted for an hour, from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. This was apparently done so that all of the Neal Stephenson fanatics (such as me) could line up afterward for a long autographing session.

The way these things work is that while you are standing in line, a person asks who you want your book (or books) autographed for. When you say "Tom," she writes the name down on a post-it note when goes on the title page of Cryptonomicon, or whatever. This speeds things up when you get to the author.

I only had a few seconds to speak to him. I wanted to give him my business card and ask for an interview (I'm a newspaper reporter), but I decided that would likely be unpleasant for him. I also decided not to give him the Discordian Pope card I found when I was rooting around in my wallet. (Here is the "Physical Objects" section of the "Contact" page of his official website: "Do not under any circumstances try to send me physical objects (letters, bookplates, books--anything whatsoever made of atoms) in the mail. It is unlikely that you are sending them to the right address--the Internet is often wrong--and if they do reach me I will throw them away. See "Why I Am a Bad Correspondent" and "Why I Am a Sociomediapath" for background.")

So I simply mentioned that I had driven from Cleveland to see him and told him one of the books was for a friend who had a birthday that day, and he scribbled "Happy Birthday" on one of the books in magic marker and thanked me for coming.

Monday, June 17, 2019

The Earth Will Shake reading group, Week Seventeen

Naples Cathedral

This week, please read from page 334 ("The afternoon was interminable.") to page 359 ("In vast labyrinthine silence.")

This is the next to the last section we are reading; next week, we will finish the book. Gregory Arnott has volunteered to lead the reading group for The Widow's Son. A start date likely will be announced soon, but we have talked about August.

This section seems to be the one that covers love and death, sex and violence.

And also the dangers of alcohol. This section seems to illustrate the dangers of excess pretty vividly.  Isn't Sigismundo exactly the sort of person who should simply give up drinking?

"Everybody has the right to be a damned fool for one day, I told myself. But I forgot that the consequences can last for more than one day -- can last for the rest of your life." Page 354.

"Outside the 'damnable books of Romance,' sober men do not get themselves into this kind of mess," Page 354.

Robert Anton Wilson certainly enjoyed drinking, but I also get the impression he wasn't a fan of drunkenness. Perhaps some of the folks who actually knew him can weigh in. Beyond Chaos and Beyond has an anecdote, in D. Scott Apel's "Bob and Me" biographical essay, about Wilson not wanting to have anything to do anymore with Apel's friend Kevin Briggs: "After years of weekly social evenings, Bob was afraid Kevin had become an alcoholic and informed me 'it would be better if you didn't bring him around anymore.' Fortunately Briggs had relocated ... he remained blissfully ignorant of his ostracism."

In any event, here is a nice passage: "Sigismundo was aware of himself breathing slowly and easily, in his bedroom, in the Celine villa, high on a hill in Napoli, on the continent of Europe, on the planet earth, in the system of nine planets circling the Inner Sun, in a vast turning spiral, in the womb, in the pink erotic waters, midway between existence and nonexistence." Page 359.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

RAW on 'fakes' and 'real' things

"The Imaginary Mongoose," another Martin Wagner rediscovery, is Robert Anton Wilson's article about F Is For Fake and what "is" "real."


Andy Warhol, as is well known, used to keep a pantry full of Campbell soup cans, and if he liked you, he would autograph one and give to you, so you could own “a genuine Warhol original.” Such is the magic of art and the art of magic. The logical next step, as Hugh Kenner once pointed out, would have been for Warhol to sue the Campbell Soup Company for selling cheap imitation Warhols.

I have pondered long and hard, for many years, on the difference between “real” money and counterfeit money, and the best analysis I can offer is that we are supposed to believe the wizards at the Federal Reserve Bank have a magic wand which turns paper into something of value, but the counterfeiters do not own the magic wand. This can hardly be called fakery or imposture (despite the grumblings of some right-wing money cranks) since the Fed’s notes are indeed accepted as something valuable on international money markets.

But why would a dollar become worth several million dollars if it were hung on a museum wall by Warhol as an example of “found art?” And would it make any difference if such “found art” were blessed by the wizards at the Federal Reserve or just printed in a basement by the Mafia?

Maybe humans are creatures who create realities out of the flux of experience by faking (imposing?) meanings and forms. Or is that too Buddhistic a view for most of you reading this?

RAW also writes, "As for me, I’m already wondering if this is a genuine Robert Anton Wilson article or just another fake I dashed off because I was too tired to write the real thing."

Saturday, June 15, 2019

My Bach listening project

Johann Sebastian Bach

Do you guys ever have "listening projects"? I know that Eric Wagner does, for one; a couple of years ago or so, he listened to every one of Beethoven's piano sonatas, listening to each one several times before moving on to the next. (I can't remember the exact details).

Lately as my latest listening project I have been going through my copy of the Bach Guild's Big Bach Cantatas Box -- 99 cents for more than six hours of Johann Sebastian Bach cantatas I can stream anytime. These vocal works are some the best music ever written by anyone, although the performance of one of my favorites, Cantata No. 140, Wachet auf, is not one of my favorites. (You can get a good performance of it if you get the Bach Guild's Bigger Bach Set. It will set you back $3, but it has more than 14 hours of music.)

When I listened to the instrumental piece that begins Cantata No. 29, a fine composition, I remembered it from hearing the Walter/Wendy Carlos album, Switched on Bach, when I was in college in the 1970s.

Robert Anton Wilson has a nice summary of his feelings toward various composers at the back of Right Where You Are Sitting Now, in "Credo."  He writes, "I believe in Bach, the creator of heaven and earth, and in Mozart, his only begotten son, and in Beethoven, the mediator and comforter; and inasmuch as their gods have manifested also in Vivaldi and Ravel and Stravinsky and many another, I believe in the communion of saints, the forgiveness of error, and Mind everlasting."

Friday, June 14, 2019

Celebrity and its uses

Years ago, when I happened to be in a business that had a TV set on, I was amazed to see a "celebrity endorsement commercial" that featured Mark Frauenfelder (RAW fan, writer, artist, Boing Boing founder, guru of cool etc.) He was explaining why he switched from a Windows machine to Apple. (I don't know when the commercial was made, but this Slate article, written by a guy who apparently has no idea who Mark is, dates to 2002).

This was a rare example of a celebrity endorsement I would actually be willing to listen to, although when I saw it (I think I may have been in a barbershop) I was already following my habit of buying used/cheap laptops and installing Linux on them. (Lately I do my home computer on a cheap Chromebook).

Anyway, it seems to me we need a high profile "celebrity endorser" for Robert Anton Wilson, or some other way to get his name out to the large majority of people who have never heard of him. RAW wrote somewhere once that he wished he could get on TV to share his ideas. During his lifetime, most people never had the opportunity to hear his ideas or find out about him.

My wife is a librarian; he specialty is cataloging. So by the nature of her job, she knows the names of many book authors. (If you describe a book to her, she can probably tell you from memory what the catalog number is likely to be) She never heard of Robert Anton Wilson  until she married a weirdo. Most of the people she works with in the library never heard of RAW.

I even did a blog post last year about a librarian at her library who has read Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Gordon White and H.P. Lovecraft, and he didn't know who RAW was.

So I think there's a potential audience out there for RAW that hasn't been tapped.