Sunday, September 23, 2018

Robert Anton Wilson on Edmund Wilson

Edmund Wilson

Here is a cool find from Jesse Walker: Robert Anton Wilson reviews Edmund Wilson's The Cold War and the Income Tax: A Protest. The review is from The Humanist, Volume 24, No. 1, in 1964.

(Robert Anton) Wilson writes, "The modern world has replaced religious bigotry with political bigotry, priestly authoritarianism with bureaucratic authoritarianism, holy wars with dirty wars, and dogmatic theology and with dogmatic ideology."

As many of you know, Edmund Wilson (1895-1972) was a famous literary critic.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

RAW and the Australia rock scene

Rosa Maria

A couple of Australia rock bands, Rosa Maria and Concrete Lawn, interview each other.

CONCRETE LAWN: How did the name Rosa Maria come about?

ROSA MARIA: There’s a wild sci-fi trilogy called Illuminatus! by Robert Anton Wilson. In the book, Rosa Maria was the codename for a psychoactive drug. Everyone should Google Robert Anton Wilson. He was a bloody genius.

Hat tip, @advantardeodus on Twitter.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Oz Fritz on making a spiritual guide

Gilles Deleuze (French philosopher cited in Oz's essay)

"The purpose of this essay is to show how anyone can create a personal Guide to the nonphenomenal side of the evolving human experience," Oz Fritz writes in the new essay on his blog, "Creating a  Spiritual Guide." 

" In the lingo of Leary's model: creating (or discovering - depending on how you view it) a Guide to the post-terrestrial neurological circuits, circuits 5 - 8.  No indoctrination or adaptation of a specific belief system is required except a general one that allows this possibility.  The method involves learning how to read signs.  How one ascertains and signifies the signs opens a potent path of self-discovery," he writes.

Oz discusses skepticism, the Holy Guardian Angel, True Will, Qabalah, creating a lexicon and synchronicities, citing Robert Anton Wilson, among others. I've bookmarked Oz's post on my phone, so I can easily re-read it. He ends on a hopeful note: "Any interested party can receive insight and guidance into their spiritual evolution, their expansion of consciousness simply by paying attention to what goes on around them, no specific ideological system necessary."

Thursday, September 20, 2018

John Clute on Wilson and Shea

John Clute at the London Worldcon in 2014. (Creative Commons photo)

Once of science fiction's best book critics is John Clute. I'm reading one of his collections of reviews now, Scores.

Clute wrote many of the entries for the wonderful Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. The third edition is online, available for free, and one of the glories of the Internet.

And as Charles Faris recently pointed out to me in an email, the entries on Robert Anton Wilson and on Robert Shea are both written by Clute and are well worth reading.

A couple of sentences from Clute's Wilson piece: "It might be thought that Wilson, like many writers of his generation, would slip into Virtual-Reality venues when attempting to manipulate levels of perception; but ultimately he refused to supply comforts of that ilk, for in his work there is no centre to the labyrinth, no master waiting to reward the heroes of the quest. Most of Wilson's later work was nonfiction, and addresses with a packrat omnivorousness the splendours and miseries of the Western mind, always with the clear intention of fomenting autonomous thoughts in his readers."

The Robert Shea entry doesn't mention All Things Are Light; I wrote an email to Clute pointing that out but got no reply.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Patricia Monaghan's 'Physics and Grief'

Timothy Leary, Robert Shea, Patricia Monaghan, Jeff Rosenbaum, Gillie Smythe at an Association for Consciousness Expansion gathering in Cleveland. 

The late Patricia Monaghan, Robert Shea's widow, wrote a superb essay on how she dealt with her grief after the death of Shea.

I'm not the only one who thought it was pretty good "Physics and Grief," originally published in a magazine called Fourth Genre, was reprinted in a 2005 Pushcard Prize anthology. The anthology is a "best of" from little magazines and small presses.

In the essay, Monaghan describes Shea's harrowing death in 1994 from cancer:

I had been crying for months, ever since Bob had finally died, fighting cancer to the last. The six months before his death were exhausting. For three months I was his sole caregiver; then, during his final hospitalization, I visited him two, three, even four times each day. Economics forced me to continue working, so I had neither physical strength nor emotional resources left when he died. 

You learn quite a bit about Shea from the essay -- Monaghan writes, "One thing I loved about Bob was this: he had more integrity than any person I'd ever met. That integrity remained to the end."

But the main subject of the essay is about how Monaghan found that study physics, particularly quantum mechanics, helped her cope with her grief. (She mentions Nick Herbert, apparently one of the writers she read.) Monaghan describes various theories of quantum mechanics that helped her think about the mystery of Shea's life and death.

I can't really summarize the argument without violating copyright by quoting large chunks of the essay, but here is one bit: After Monaghan explains one theory, that the universe is a "great thought," she writes,

Whatever part of that great thought once appeared as Bob Shea still exists, I believe, somewhere in the network of this universe. He has only "departed from this strange world a little ahead of me."

If you've read Robert Anton Wilson's Cosmic Trigger, you probably remember the bit about Aldous Huxley's attempt to communicate with his widow after he died. There's a similar thread in Monaghan's essay, in which she calls about Shea to help her find a set of keys that she lost. I won't give away the ending.

Monaghan herself died in 2012, also after a long battle with cancer, so her essay is both part of her literary legacy and a way to come to terms with her death.

If you want to read Monaghan's essay, you can hunt up and read a copy of the 29th edition of the Pushcart Prize anthology, which reprints the best of small presses and journals. It was edited by Bill Henderson and has a copyright of 2005. The ISBN for the hardcover is 1-888889-40-3. A competent librarian using interlibrary loan should be able to get a copy of the book in your hands.

The essay originally was published in Fourth Genre, a nonfiction journal published by Michigan State University. You can purchase a paper copy or a secure PDF by going here. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

H.P. Lovecraft, the Houdini connection

Harry Houdini in handcuffs in 1918.

If you are reading this blog, you  probably know that H.P Lovecraft influenced Robert Anton Wilson. You may not know that there was a connection between Lovecraft and escape artist Harry Houdini. I certainly didn't.

From the Guardian: "A long-lost manuscript by HP Lovecraft, an investigation of superstition through the ages that the author was commissioned to write by Harry Houdini, has been found in a collection of magic memorabilia.

"The Cancer of Superstition was previously known only in outline and through its first chapter. Houdini had asked Lovecraft in 1926 to ghostwrite the treatise exploring superstition, but the magician’s death later that year halted the project, as his wife did not wish to pursue it."

H.P. Lovecraft in 1934

The Guardian article says that Lovecraft and Houdini shared a common interest in combating that they saw as superstitious beliefs. Read more of the Guardian's article.

Hat tip, Ted Hand.

Ted remarks, "Houdini deserves a lot more attention as a central Bob Wilson concern. Bob is following in his footsteps and using magic as a metaphor for the manipulation of reality."

"Houdini is a big deal in the Schrodinger's cat trilogy," he notes. Ted sent me a passage to illustrate and remarked, "Breaking out of the trap of (dogmatism) being one of the central RAW concerns."

Monday, September 17, 2018

Beethoven/Kerman reading group, Week Six

La Malincolia

Kerman Week 6 – Op. 18, No. 6 – The Last Third of Chapter 3

By Eric Wagner, special guest blogger

This week please read sections four and five of chapter 3 (pg. 71 - 86) and listen to Op. 18, No. 6 over and over again. Please comment on this week’s reading/quartet and continue to comment on previous weeks’ readings/quartets.

I hope all goes well. We have reached the end of the Op. 18 quartets. When I first read this book in 1991, this section blew me away. I photocopied the music for “La Malinconia” and put in over my desk at Scottsdale Memorial Hospital where I worked at the time.

I do find myself going back to the table of contents over and over again because I do not remember the keys of the Op. 18 quartets. When Kerman refers to the F-major quartet, I go back to the table of contents to see, oh yes, Op. 18, No. 1.

I love the comment Kerman makes on page 76 before he begins his close analysis of “La Malinconia”, “(And about time, the analytical-minded read may grimly exclaim.)” The rest of the Op. 18 quartets blur together in my mind, but “La Malinconia” continues to fascinate me. Alas right now, it seems a perfect mirror for my psychological state in trying to stay caught up on my paperwork at work.

Tom asked me about my 11:32 Beethoven piano sonata project from six years ago, so I’ve attached an old blog:


The Seer of Cleveland asks, "Can you explain again why you are listening to each sonata 11 times? I know you explained that before, but I can't find the answer."

I find it fascinating how much access we have to music in 2012 C.E.  For most of human existence, to hear music one had to hear live people (or birds, dolphins, waterfalls, etc.).  During my lifetime I've mostly heard recorded music.  Now, I love recorded music, but I think in a McLuhanesque sense our whole relationship with music has changed over the past 150 years.  (I love Paul Schrader's essay on the film canon which deals tangentially with this issue -  .)  I remember reading an article about a guy who said his father had a life goal of hearing all nine Beethoven symphonies.  The father traveled all over Germany to accomplish this goal.  Now with recordings one can easily listen to all nine in one afternoon.

I have mostly used music as background for the past thirty or so years.  I have it on while driving, reading, working, etc.  I have tried over the past few years to spend more time just listening to music.  In Finnegans Wake the number 1132 shows up over and over.  The fact that the Big B had written 32 piano sonatas nagged at me for years, and I decided to listen to each sonata eleven times.  I find it hard to find time sometimes, but over the past two years I've made it through the first 23 sonatas.  I find it a wonderful legal means of consciousness alteration much like reading great poetry out loud.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

David Yallop has died

David Yallop has died, at age 81.

Yallop's conspiracy theory book about Vatican skullduggery and the possible murder of Pope John Paul I, In God's Name, is mentioned by Robert Anton Wilson in Cosmic Trigger II, The Widow's Son, Coincidance, and possibly other places, too.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

A Dublin Worldcon

The next worldcon is going to be in Dublin (August 15-19, 2019).

Is it just me, or does this sound like the coolest literary vacation ever? You get all of the worldcon stuff, so you get to see cool science fiction authors, but you also are in Dublin, so you get to visit James Joyce's haunts, etc.

I doubt I can afford to go, but if I win the lottery, I'm going to go and take some of you guys with me.

2020 worldcon is New Zealand, which also looks out of reach. 2021 may be Washington, D.C., which looks doable.

Friday, September 14, 2018

War on some drugs notes

I've gotten interested in the marijuana legalization movement (as I mentioned earlier, Michigan has legalization on the ballot this fall), so I thought I'd share some recent articles and sources of information I've run across.

I've started listening to a weekly podcast, Marijuana Today, which covers the movement coast to coast. They are generally quite good, although last week's episode, an interview with Massachusetts pot commissioner Shaleen Title, should have pressed her a bit harder on her state's delays in getting legalization carried out. I've linked to the website, but you should be able to snag it using your favorite podcasting app.

Mike Riggs apparently is Reason magazine's "pot correspondent," and a couple of his articles caught my eye. "I Have a Cannabis Problem. I Still Think It Should Be Legalized" is an interesting opinion piece. "How to Legally Buy Weed In D.C. Without Actually Buying Any Weed at All" explains Washington, D.C.'s oddball marijuana rules, where the substance is legal but can't be legally sold.

Finally, I have just finished listening to an audiobook version of Emily Dufton's recent book, Grass Roots: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Marijuana in America. As the title suggests, it discusses the decriminalization movement in the 1970s, the backlash led by parent groups and Nancy Reagan in the late 1970s and 1980s, and the ongoing legalization wave. Dufton's book is scholarly, lively and evenhanded and I recommend it if you want to know more about the politics of the issue.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Timothy Leary TV series in the works

I recently wrote an article and put up a blog post recommending The Most Dangerous Man in America: Timothy Leary, Richard Nixon and the Hunt for the Fugitive King of LSD  by Bill Minutaglio and Steven L. Davis. I thought it was one of the best nonfiction books I'd read in recent months.

Apparently other people liked it too, because an anonymous person recently sent me a link to this announcement that the book is going to be made into a TV series. 

"EXCLUSIVE: Star Thrower Entertainment has acquired rights to Bill Minutaglio and Steven L Davis’ book The Most Dangerous Man In America. In what I hear was a competitive situation, Tim and Trevor White’s Star Thrower bought the book, originally published in January and subtitled Timothy Leary, Richard Nixon and the Hunt for the Fugitive King of LSD, with plans to develop it into a limited series."

More here.

Thanks, anonymous person!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Status update — comment moderation

Google finally fixed its comment system a few weeks ago, and renewed sending me email notifications of comments that needed to be approved, but that didn't last long. The notifications stopped, and I'm back to having to constantly log on to Blogger to moderate and approve comments.

I am sorry that comment moderation is necessary, but without it, I would have to allow constant posting of very offensive spam, including frequent advertisements for prostitution services in India. As it is, I'm stuck with a lot of bad stuff on old blog posts, which I don't have the time to go through and weed out. At least I can avoid adding to it. I do periodically check for comments that need to be moderate, so if you have posted a comment, please be patient. It will be posted.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

'Cordwainer Smith's' story

Cover of Galaxy, featuring a Cordwainer Smith story.

A profile of Paul Linebarger, who wrote unusual science fiction under the name "Cordwainer Smith." If you have a background in classic science fiction, you may have read "Scanners Live in Vain."


"Scanners Live in Vain" represents just one day in the 14,000 years of the future history Linebarger imagined in his stories, notebooks, and manuscripts—similar in scope to Frank Herbert's Dune. Smith's future history, called The Instrumentality of Mankind, is meticulously arranged so that stories don't simply dovetail with each other but sometimes occur simultaneously. Contemporary Algis Budrys marveled that "what appear to be loose ends or, at best, plants, are in fact integral fragments of other parts which will not take on their intended function until he later lays down the main body of that part." The only thing hindering Smith, Budrys said, was being constrained to "describing infinity in finite time."

Via Supergee.