Monday, May 30, 2011

Grant Morrison's new memoir

When I did my previous posting on Grant Morrison, a comic-book writer influenced by RAW, the folks in the comments argued about whether his The Invisibles was "better than ILLUMINATUS!" or merely "the ILLUMINATUS! of the 90s," so perhaps it might be of interest that he has a new memoir.

Wired reports that the new book, Supergods, is "Subtitled What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human." Wired says "this trippy autobiography-cum-critical essay gathers up deep thoughts and otherworldly hallucinations experienced by the comics writer who became rich and famous after co-creating the Batman best-seller Arkham Asylum."

Sunday, May 29, 2011

RAW, in a British museum

A video clip from the BBC shows China Mieville, the justly-famous British science fiction writer, offering a tour of Out of This World: Science Fiction But Not As You Know, which apparently explores both modern science fiction and its literary precursors. Robert Anton Wilson is not mentioned by name, but Dylan Fogle noticed that toward the end of the video, you can see a copy of ILLUMINATUS! on display. Perhaps one of our British friends can give a report with further information?

More on the exhibit here.


Saturday, May 28, 2011

New Dutch government banning tourists from pot shops

Can the tourism industry in Holland recover from this? The new right winger government there wants to curb so-called "drug tourism" in the country's pot shops.

Friday, May 27, 2011

RAW expert launches new blog

R. Michael Johnson has launched a new blog, Overweening Generalist. . Follow the link to "My Articles at Suite 101" for more writing, including a piece on the ILLUMINATUS! trilogy.

At the top of the page, he explains, "The Overweening Generalist is largely about people who like to read fat, weighty "difficult" books - or thin, profound ones - and how I/They/We stand in relation to the hyper-acceleration of digital social-media-tized culture. It is not a neo-Luddite attack on digital media; it is an attempt to negotiate with it, and make claims for the role of generalist intellectual types in the scheme of things."

There must be something to this digital culture vs. books meme, because so much ink (and so many pixels) are devoted to it, although it doesn't work this way for me -- I still read plenty of books, and my favorite blogs, as a rule, are written by serious readers. No doubt I'll have plenty to think about after I work my way through Michael's blog posts.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

New free anthology features RAW interview

Back on Jan. 21, I wrote about how I had paid $2 to read a Robert Anton Wilson interview in the first issue of bOING bOING magazine.

That interview, and other cool material, is now available free as a bOING bOING anthology, bOING bOING History of the Future, as Mark Frauenfelder explains in this posting on the bOING bOING blog (which he also founded.)

The anthology, in Microsoft Word format, also includes interviews with Bruce Sterling, Rudy Rucker, William Gibson and Kevin Kelly and other good stuff. Read Mark's posting for information on how to read the anthology online, or download a copy of it (in Word format -- Microsoft is sponsoring it.)

Convenient PDF version is here.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Doctorow warns against free speech threat

Cory Doctorow, leading voice against Internet censorship, has put up a blog post denouncing EG8, a Internet summit pushed by France which is attempting to restrict free speech on Net. Doctorow writes, "I was invited to the EG8 and declined. I believe it's a whitewash, an attempt to get people who care about the Internet to lend credibility to regimes that are in all-out war with the free, open net."

More information here and here. Special thanks to Nick Helweg-Larsen for pointing this out to me.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Death of a libertarian

As someone who has been (more or less) a member of the libertarian movement, I'm struck by how many people in what is supposed to be a movement of individualists are intolerant of other opinions, rigidly ideological, pessimistic, grouchy and just plain mean. Robert Anton Wilson was a notable exception, and so, apparently was Alan Bock, who had a spirit of optimism that the movement often lacks. Bock was also a notable warrior against the "war on some drugs," so I figure RAW fans would want to know about him.



Monday, May 23, 2011

New novel sparks RAW comparison

Randall Ravic, reviewing badbadbad by Jesus Angel Garcia, writes, "In the end, badbadbad comes across as the combined literary effort of Joseph Heller, Kurt Vonnegut, and Robert Anton Wilson: subtle word play, bizarre humor, and unorthodox paradoxes, packaged in sizzling verbal pyrotechnics. Which translates to one heck of a good book.

"On the Read-O-Meter, which ranges from 1 star (ugh) to 5 stars (wowee), badbadbad receives 5 stars for wonderfully bad behavior."

I don't know if it counts as "wonderfully bad" behavior, but Radic himself is an author and a former pastor. He pleaded guilty to "betraying his flock and secretly selling the church and its rectory out from under them. He used the money to buy himself a brand-new black BMW and a laptop — exploits he later chronicled in a cheeky, almost gleeful blog about his double life as a sinner."

Sunday, May 22, 2011

New Douglas Rushkoff interview

LSD magazine has published a new interview with Douglas Rushkoff. Lots of discussion on Internet culture and how it relates to his early immersion into the work of Timothy Leary, Robert Anton Wilson, etc.

Hat tip Michael Johnson, who spotted it and posted at alt.fan.rawilson.

Rushkoff's latest book is the excellent Program or Be Programmed. My interview with Rushkoff is here.



Saturday, May 21, 2011

Quoting RAW to the grads

Who do the college valedictorians quote? Robert Anton Wilson, of course.

Ann Clark, writing for the Santa Rose Press Democrat, pens a tribute to Santa Rose Junior College and looks back fondly at highlights of her student days. One happy moment:

"The highlight, however, was my May 1996 graduation where, as a valedictorian, I stood under a canopy of oaks on a hot May morning, quoting from Robert Anton Wilson's essay 'Ten Reasons to Get Out of Bed in the Morning' and telling my classmates how critically they are needed. I truly felt like a child of the college, wanting to honor my 'parent' by doing her proud."

The essay Clark mentions, one of RAW's more inspirational pieces, is reprinted in The Illuminati Papers.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Cartoonist Chester Brown

The AV Club runs an interview with cartoonist Chester Brown, who is busy promoting his new book, Paying For It. It looks like it could be an interesting book. As I've admitted, I do a poor job of following cartoonists.

Here's the part directly relevant to this blog:

AVC: What’s shaped your politics over time? What made you gravitate towards Libertarianism?
CB: Hmm. [Pause.] I can explain the process, I think. I suppose I’ve always been kind of distrustful of government, y’know, as a leftist in my 20s, and an anarchist in my 30s, and a libertarian in my 40s. Even as a leftist in my 20s, I was still coming at my political beliefs from a kind of distrust of government. Although it’s hard to explain why that would result in my being a leftist. [Laughs.] Do you know the writer Robert Anton Wilson? I suppose I first read about Libertarianism when I started reading him in my late 20s. So even though he didn’t shift me into being a Libertarian, he did have that paranoia about government, or certainly a distrust of government. So that was probably a big early influence on how I thought about politics.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A RAW quote


I love the way aphorisms jump up from Wilson's writing. Here's a quote I enjoyed from TSOG (from "An Interview With a Bulgarian Magazine")

I never find anything boring, even loneliness. Boredom results from insufficient attention.

This point is further developed in one of my favorite Wilson essays, "How to Read/How to Think," reprinted in Coincidance.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wisconsin governor opposes gay partner visitation in hospitals

This is the sort of thing I post because I wonder what RAW would have said about such pointless government cruelty: Wisconsin's governor, Scott Walker, has decided that one of his priorities should be to make it harder for gay couples to exercise legal rights such as "the right to visit each other in hospitals, make end-of-life decisions and inherit each other’s property." (Via Supergee, RAW fan and friend to this blog, whose photo appears in the new issue of the New York Review of Science Fiction that arrived at my house yesterday.)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Supreme Court OKs warrantless searches

The U.S. Supreme Court, voting as usual to weaken Constitutional protections to carry out the all-important War on Drugs, ruled 8-1 Monday that police don't need a warrant to kick down a door and come in if they smell pot, knock, announce themselves and hear that they think is the sound of evidence being destroyed, the New York Times reports. Note that there is no disagreement between the "liberals" on the court and the "conservatives."

The only dissent came from Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, quoted in the Times account.

“The court today arms the police with a way routinely to dishonor the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement in drug cases,” Ginsburg wrote. “In lieu of presenting their evidence to a neutral magistrate, police officers may now knock, listen, then break the door down, never mind that they had ample time to obtain a warrant.”


Monday, May 16, 2011

RAW on U.S. politics

Another passage from the "Hannibal Lecter" essay mentioned yesterday:

According to the corporate media, which allows all shades of opinion from the far right to the middle-of-the-road, America has vicious enemies on all continents (except maybe Antarctica.) These Evildoers, driven by Satan, want to destroy us and take all we own.

Hence, by this analysis, our president must have no compunction about spilling blood; in short, like it or not, he must have the soul -- or soullessness -- of a serial killer.

A rival "leftish" view, banned from the corporate media but widely available on Internet, holds that the world does not consist entirely of endless enemies, but does contain many, many people who want to get out from under the heel of the IMF, the World Bank and the multi-nationals. "Our" government, in this view, actually belongs not to us but to these giant money-cows, who finance the two major parties and ensure that no third party ever gets decent coverage in their media. The government then acts as Company Cop for the rich, suppressing all attempts at rebellion or national liberation, etc. Thus, once again, via a dissenting ideology, we arrive at the conclusion that the president must think, feel and act like a serial killer.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

RAW on his writing

I've been slowly reading TSOG (if I were quickly reading it I'd be done -- it's not a very long book) and although it's not his best book, there are some fine pieces. There's a really good chapter called "Why Hannibal Lecter Would Make a Better President Than George W. Bush." A passage:

I told him that the writers I enjoy most (Swift, Twain, Bierce, Faulkner, Joyce, Pound, Chandler, Higgins) all contained a special flavor of satire that I could not precisely define even though I think it permeates my own books; "acid satire" hardly seems satisfactory.

"I think I have the word you need," Dr. Lecter said genially. "Biting. You write biting satire." And he showed his small white teeth in a gentle smile.

I recognized all of the names except Higgins, but Eric Wagner supplies the context in An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson: "Higgins, George Vincent (1939-1999). One of Bob's favorite writers, author of The Friends of Eddie Coyle, The Friends of Richard Nixon, and a terrific book on the Boston Red Sox, etc. Many of his books have a Boston locale and give a great picture of the politics of the city."

I've said his before: Eric's book is a must-have for the serious RAW fan.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Where's the rest of me?

Blogger apparently had some kind of massive outage earlier this week, and it still hasn't been totally fixed. My posting Thursday has been deleted and it still hasn't been restored.

Addendum: They finally put it back.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Sometimes conspiracy theories are true

I tend to be skeptical of conspiracy theories, and there's obviously a great deal of satire in the way ILLUMINATUS! embraces them, but it's also a fact that some of the things government does is beyond satire, or the normal person's imaginings. Here's an article that's been linked to heavily in the last few days, on five conspiracy theories that turned out to be correct.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Making Wilson part of the canon

When I began reading Philip K. Dick's novels in the 1970s, I was a teenager. The first book I tried, The Man in the High Castle, turned me into a fan. I've read one Dick novel after another since then. I've enjoyed them all, although some are better than others. Many of Dick's novels were published as cheap mass market paperbacks, and when I was a young sf fan it was not readily apparent to me that Dick would become part of "American literature," lauded by critics and reprinted in the Library of America.

As much as I like Dick, when I discovered ILLUMINATUS! and RAW's subsequent works, I became convinced that RAW seemed at least as good and at least as important as Dick. Part of my motivation for putting so much time into this blog is my conviction that Wilson deserves to become better known as a writer, and more widely read. I am guessing that many of you will agree with me, even as you disagree with some of the opinions I have expressed here.

But how can that be accomplished? One idea I want to offer is that it would be cool if an obviously well-read author or critic with broad tastes -- someone like Neil Gaiman, say, or Michael Dirda or Ted Gioia -- could be "converted" into become a Robert Anton Wilson fan. Perhaps such a person could convince others to try Wilson.

In a modest way, I have begun putting my money where my mouth is. I recently purchased a new copy of ILLUMINATUS! from Amazon and sent it to one of my favorite critics (after asking first if it would be OK). Perhaps he will find time to read it. I'm not naming him because I promised not to pester him about reading it, and I don't want anyone else to pester him, either.

What are your ideas for making Wilson's work better known?



Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The more things change ...

In this essay posted at rawilsonfans.com, Robert Anton Wilson mentions the paranoia that seems to be part and parcel of participating in dissident political activities: "anti-war meetings, anti-segregation meetings, even pot-legalization meetings all had people making nervous jokes about who the government had infiltrated among us to report on our Thoughtcrimes." The essay gloomily concludes that it was difficult for paranoia to keep up with the reality of government snooping.

Technology allows forms of snooping that Wilson did not envision. Here is an article at Wired News about a government trick that was new to me: Planting GPS tracking devices on people's cars, without obtaining a warrant first.

Monday, May 9, 2011

About Grant Morrison

I admit to not following the comics world very closely, so I'm passing on a tip from Chris Tucker, a correspondent in Canada:

"I recently came across a film I think your readers would like. It's Talking With Gods about comic book writer Grant Morrison. In the film Morrison explains how he was influenced by Wilson and Crowley and puts into use the systems of magick they describe to create his art. The film also has some clips of the DisInfo conference that Morrison spoke at along with Bob Wilson and Douglas Rushkoff."

Morrison's The Invisibles, a comic book series that ran from 1994 to 2000, was nominated this year for the Prometheus Award of Hall. It didn't make the final ballot (but then again, neither did one of my nominations, The Universe Next Door by Robert Anton Wilson.)

Here are a couple of sentences from Morrison's Wikipedia biography: "With the three volumes of the creator-owned The Invisibles, Morrison would start his largest and possibly most important work. The Invisibles combined political, pop- and sub-cultural references. Tapping into pre-millennial tension, the work was influenced by the writings of Robert Anton Wilson, Aleister Crowley and William Burroughs and Morrison's practice of chaos magic. At DisinfoCon in 1999, Morrison said that much of the content in The Invisibles was information given to him by aliens that abducted him in Kathmandu, who told him to spread this information to the world via a comic book. He later clarified that the experience he labeled as the "Alien Abduction Experience in Kathmandu" had nothing to do with aliens or abduction, but that there was an experience that he had in Kathmandu that The Invisibles is an attempt to explain. The title was not a huge commercial hit to start with. (Morrison actually asked his readers to participate in a "wankathon" while concentrating on a magical symbol, or sigil, in an effort to boost sales)."


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Devices for reprogramming

In one of the chapters of TSOG, "The 'Correct' Date," RAW writes, "I have used a variety of different calendars over the last 30 years -- partly because I find it amusing to do so, but mostly for reasons of neurolinguistic self-education. (I employ a few dozen other devices of this sort to reprogram myself out of conventional semantic grids: experiments, if you will, on Guinea Pig Bob.)"

Off the top of my head, I can think of two other devices he recommended: Reading a political magazine, once a month, from a group you disagree with, and meditating daily. What are some of the others?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

More on left libertarianism

While it is difficult to pin down Robert Anton Wilson's political philosophy --he was not wedded to any political ideology and warned everyone else not to be -- I have argued here that, most of the time, he was a left libertarian. I've tried to explore that a bit.

Jeremy Weiland, a left libertarian who is a Robert Anton Wilson fan, knows rather more about this than I do, and Tweets as @jeremy6d.

When I asked him for suggestions on resources, he said, "Kevin Carson's work is vital. Check out leftlibertarian.org for lots of good reading. Also all-left.net." He also recommended this article.

I still rather like the Bleeding Heart Libertarians blog.






Friday, May 6, 2011

RAW and Scandinavia

Sue Howard, one of the regular posters at alt.fan.rawilson, had an interesting post there the other day in which she talked about RAW's interest in the Scandinavian countries. Can anyone help on her question about whether RAW wrote at length about the Scandinavian political/economic systems? Her post:

I remember RAW mentioning a few times (in various places - books?
audio?) that of all the socio-economic systems he'd experienced, he
favoured the "Scandinavian" kind. I think he described it as a mix of
capitalism and socialism.

I've heard others saying similar things - eg that Sweden, for decades,
combined economic success (in the conventional sense) with good scores
on the "social indicator" scales (eg the kind of thing Prof Chomsky
would focus on, including green environmental measures).

Given that these countries (Sweden, etc) didn't have widespread
nationalisation of industry (characteristic of "socialism"), perhaps
it makes sense to see them as "capitalist", at least in large part.

And yet, some of my left-leaning friends seem quick to dismiss
anything "capitalist" as "inherently" (or "structurally",
"systemically", whatever) biocidal, genocidal, psychopathic, corrupt,
etc. And, of course, all talk of European variants "is" just a
smokescreen hiding the evil core of capitalism (as legally encoded,
etc, etc).

No doubt a fine example of confusing map with territory. Decades of
*relatively* successful social-economic functioning (affecting
millions of humans) gets dismissed under the bogey label.

Comments welcome (and did RAW talk about this at length anywhere, or
just brief allusions)...

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Turkish prosecutors investigate William S. Burroughs

The Istanbul Prosecutor's Office has opened an investigation into William S. Burroughs' novel, The Soft Machine. Burroughs was a friend of Robert Anton Wilson. Wilson used Burroughs' cut-up prose technique in ILLUMINATUS! and other works.

The Prime Ministry's Council for Protecting Minors from Explicit Publications has levied a number of accusations against The Soft Machine. My favorites are the claims that the book "lacks narrative unity" and has a "fragmented narrative style." The publisher of the book is maintaining that lack of narrative unity is not a crime under Turkish law.

Via @tedgioia on Twitter.



Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The government changes its story

Whatever you think of the killing of Osama bin Laden, the latest details seem to justify RAW's cynicism about whether it is the instinct of government officials to tell the truth. The Obama administration has now admitted that its initial account of what happened contained a number of fibs, as the Washington Post reports.

As Glenn Greenwald commented on his Twitter feed, "2nd day truth never erases 1st day unchallenged government propaganda."

If you agree with RAW's ideas on peace and civil liberties, Grennwald is well worth following on Twitter (@ggreenwald -- he's a liberal, by the way, not a libertarian). I'm on Twitter, too (@jacksontom.)


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The death of bin Laden

Some of the best commentary on the killing of Osama bin Laden is coming from the movement that RAW more or less belonged to, the libertarian movement.

In "Osama Won," Radley Balko, who is moving over to Huffington Post, argues that the U.S. reaction to 9/11 has been a disaster for civil liberties.

And Tim Cavanaugh posts some questions, including these:

Is any U.S. citizen not paid directly by the federal government going to review the video and audio records of the attack on the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan? (I ask this as a realistic request – that some mainstream media trustee or other reliable person be allowed to view the footage under DoD supervision. In my America the unedited video would already be up at dod.gov, but we don’t live in my America.)

If not, what are the reasons for continuing to keep this material classified, given that so many specifics (down to the claim that the special forces can say with confidence that bin Laden's wife was being used as a "human shield") have already been released?

Monday, May 2, 2011

RAW's 'agnosticism'

"Death makes me realize how deeply I have internalized the agnosticism I preach in all my books. I consider dogmatic belief and dogmatic denial very childish forms of conceit in a world of infinitely whirling complexity. None of us can see enough from one corner of space-time to know 'all' about the rest of space-time."

-- Robert Anton Wilson

From TSOG: The Thing That Ate the Constitution, "Nothing to Fear"

Sunday, May 1, 2011

RAW video gets new home

Google Video is shutting down. Google has relented on its threat to get rid of all of the videos there (such as RAW appearing on "Politically Incorrect," but just in case, it's been posted on YouTube. Praise Bob, but praise Loki2357 for cross-posting it, too.