Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Steve Pratt talks to Robert Anton Wilson

Here is an interview that I had missed: Steve Pratt (aka Fly Agaric 23) interviews RAW in Palm Springs in 2000. Not the most linear interview ever, but some good bits. Steve does a nice job of describing the scene in his introduction. (Hat tip, PQ).

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Psychedelic Salon RAW podcast, part two

I listened to part two of the Robert Anton Wilson lecture rebroadcast on the Psychedelic Salon podcast (see my previous two posts) and found it worthwhile. The conspiracy stuff mostly covers familiar ground (although I don't remember hearing about the medieval black virgins before) but there are also two interesting question and answer sessions. The rest of the podcast (more than two hours) seems to be about Occupy Wall Street -- interesting, but I didn't have time to finish it.

One of my favorite SF writers, Jack Vance, wrote in his memoir that he gave up giving formal speeches and switched to simply getting up and answering all of the questions that were put to him. If there are any recordings of Wilson doing that, I'd love to hear it.

I should point out that there's also a podcast that apparently uses portions of "The Lost Studio Session" of RAW. I bought that album as soon as it came out, so I guess I don't need the podcast.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Podcast from Psychedelic Salon

I've listened to the first of the two Psychedelic Salon podcasts I mentioned yesterday. (Well, most of it. I got all the way through part one of the Robert Anton Wilson talk that Lorenzo Hagerty reprints on the podcast but my MP3 battery gave out before the rest of the two-hour podcast concluded.  The rest was Lorenzo's updates on Occupy Wall Street.)

I thought part one of RAW's talk was OK, but nonessential -- the topics covered, such as the Priory of Zion, the Merovingians, etc., are nicely covered in books such as Cosmic Trigger III. I'll listen to part two of the talk tonight and share my impressions tomorrow.

Lorenzo Hagerty apparently is an interesting guy; if you check out his podcast, be sure to look at his biography.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Two new Robert Anton Wilson podcasts

Notes from the Psychedelic Salon has released two new podcasts featuring material from a DVD called "The 'I' in the Triangle," which apparently was produced by Joseph Matheny. (Lorenzo Hagerty, the podcaster, used the material with Matheny's permission.) First podcast is here, second is here.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thaddeus Russell is thankful

American historian Thaddeus Russell, author of A Renegade History of the United States, sent out a series of Tweets on Thanksgiving Day which I share below. Jesse Walker's excellent interview with Russell is here.


Thanks to the settlers who danced with Indians.

Thanks to the shiftless slaves who stopped working when the overseers turned their backs.

Thanks to the drunks and slackers who wouldn't labor according to the factory clock.

Thanks to the whores for not being wives or mothers or maids.

Thanks to the fags and dykes for not being proper men and women.

Thanks to the niggers, dagoes, kikes, criminals, junkies, and juvenile delinquents for giving us jazz and rock-and-roll.

Thanks to the draft evaders and deserters for putting themselves above the nation.

Thanks to everyone who's ever been a bad American.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thursday, November 24, 2011

RAW vs. the elite

Apropos of recent events, Ted Hand unearths a quote from Robert Anton Wilson I don't remember running across: "We have much more power than we realize, and the governing elite has started to worry about that." (via Twitter).

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Giordano Bruno resources

Ted Hand has a new blog post up on Giordano Bruno, who also fascinated RAW, pointed to books about Bruno. The first book he lists is Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition by Frances Yates, frequently cited by RAW (for example, in the first Cosmic Trigger book.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

RAW on the possibility of consciousness after death

Edward Babinski wrote to me last year and asked about Robert Anton Wilson, "Did he ever speak about hoping for life after death?  I'm curious."

I wrote back and said that I didn't know.

I noticed yesterday, however, that in the second David Brown interview, RAW was asked about that topic and took the time to give a thoughtful answer.


David: What do you think happens to consciousness after the death of the body?


Bob: I haven’t died yet, so I can’t speak with any assurance about that. My guesses remain guesses. I grant equal respect to the opinions of all men, women and ostriches, but no matter how sure any of  them sound, I still suspect them of  guessing, just like me. I wish they would use that liberating word “maybe” more often in their speculations.
If  I must flounder around in metaphysics, “the great Serbonian bog where armies whole have sunk,” I know of only five possibilities:  (1) heaven, (2) hell, (3) reincarnation, (4) “union with God” or some other entity a lot like “God,” and (5) oblivion. Only (1) heaven, seems frightening to me; an eternity of “bliss” with nobody around but Christians– such messmates as Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and others of that ilk–really sounds awful. There’s even a sinister rumor that the streets “are guarded” (brrrrrr!) by the United States Marines. Fortunately, according to the leading proponents of this model, I can’t get sent there because I don’t believe in Christ. Oh, goody. 
Of course, (2) hell sounds almost as bad, but it has its good points. Everybody  I admire from all history will get sent there, so the conversation should prove lively and stimulating. Besides, I find it impossble to believe that “God” (i.e. the assumed “Mind” behind the universe] suffers from the kind of  sadistic psychosis necessary to delight in eternal torture, and if “He” [or She  or It] does have that kind of nasty streak, well, as a part-time Buddhist, I’ll just have to forgive “Him” (or Her or It). I’ve started practising for this eventuality by forgiving all the people who’ve made this planet a good simulation of hell. 
(3) The reincarnation model  seems cheerier and somewhat less goofy than these morbid notions, so it doesn’t bother me. I even wish I could believe in it. 
(4) “Union with God” seems a great idea to me, if I understand it, like an acid trip that never ends. Now that’s what I’d prefer, if I have any choice in the matter. 
Finally, there’s (5) the oblivion model. I’ve never understood why so many people, like Woody Allen, find oblivion totally dreadful. If you’re oblivious, that implies no experience and, of course, no experiencer either. How can you fear or even resent what you will never experience? It seems to me that only an advanced case of narcissism, or a mangled confusion  of the map with the territory, can explain the bum rap that oblivion gets from most people. We all go there every night, between dreams, and it doesn’t hurt at all.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Another RAW interview posted

David Brown has posted his second interview with Robert Anton Wilson on his blog.

The first interview has long been available, for example on RAwilsonfans.com, but the second interview, posted Saturday,  appears to be newly available, at least on the net.

The new one is kind of a great interview, so go read it.

Excerpt:


Bob: I just preach that we’d all think and act more sanely if we had to use “maybe” a lot more often. Can you imagine a world with Jerry Falwell hollering “Maybe Jesus ‘was’ the son of God and maybe he hates Gay people as much as I do”–or every tower in Islam resounding with “There ‘is’ no God except maybe Allah and maybe Mohammed ‘is’ his prophet”? 


David: Why do you think  politics on this planet is such a huge mess, and human beings are so violent towards one another?


Bob: Because most  people have never heard of maybe logic and live in an either/or  world, which applied to ethics and social policy becomes a good/evil world. Human vanity then determines that all the damned eejit always put themselves in the good position and anybody who disagrees in the evil. Look at any literary/politics journal–any journal of the nonscientific “intelligentsia”–and you’ll see that they all sound as medieval as George W. Bush or Osama bin Laden. Violence comes of self-righteousness and self-righteousness comes of right/wrong logic, without maybes.


Lots of interviews with other interesting people are posted there, too.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Another good economics ebook

Recently I wrote about a short new electronic book by Tyler Cowen, The Great Stagnation, which discussed technology and the economy.

I am now reading another ebook, Race Against the Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity and Irresistibly Transforming Employment and the Economy. The topic is something else RAW wrote about, how technology affects employment.

Tyler includes it in his list of the best economic books of the year ("Second best eBook of the year," presumably behind Tyler's own.)  More here.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

RAW bookplate by Bobby Campbell

Over at Maybe Logic, a friend of us all, Bobby Campbell, has posted the beautiful bookplate he created for the possible project of cataloging Robert Anton Wilson's personal library. Bobby writes, "I don't know if his library ever actually got cataloged, but I was asked to scribble this up way back when (late '06), in anticipation of the project."

Does he mean late '07? I would guess the project was never done, although I would love to be proved wrong.

Lots of interesting stuff to look at at the Maybe Logic site, if you haven't ventured there lately.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Occupy Wall Street library destroyed

Like many of you, I've been following the news about Occupy Wall Street. I'm not an expert on the movement, and I haven't felt it necessary to weigh in. But this caught my eye: Police raiding the Occupy Wall Street camp in New York City recently destroyed a library of about 5,000 books.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Article about Prometheus Rising

The blog A Building Roam ("one of those Sports/Music/Literature blogs") has a new posting that reviews four books, among them Prometheus Rising. PQ became interested in RAW when he stumbled across the Maybe Logic blog. He also writes a lot about Joyce and about sports (he correctly predicted the Cardinals would win in 7).

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Jobs book, zine search

As I mentioned earlier, I've been reading (or rather, listening to on my long commute) Walter Isaacson's new book on Steve Jobs. Lots of background on the computer industry and the counterculture, but I've also never run across a book that had so many good stories.

An unrelated question: The zine review section at the end of No Governor, Issue 2 (posted on the right side of this page) mentions Volume 4, No. 1 of an issue of a zine called "Against the Wall" that has "an article by Robert Anton Wilson on the philosophy of Timothy Leary." (Sounds a little like everything else RAW was writing at the time). Does anyone know if this is available anywhere?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Aleister Crowley, serial murderer?

Aleister Crowley isn't exactly a magnet for good publicity, even in death, but this is still pretty starting: Right Where You Are Sitting Now webzine's head honcho, Ken Eakins, reports that a new book, London's Curse: Murder, Black Magic and and Tutankhamun in the 1920s West End by Mark Beynon, alleges that Crowley was a murder and Jack the Ripper copycat who sought to enforce the "curse" of the pharaoh's tomb after Howard Carter excavated it. Eakins reports that he has ordered a copy of the book, "so I will report back shortly; but it seems very odd to me that only now has an author and ‘historian’ (I can’t find any academic credentials for Mr Beynon) linked this together.

"Could it be that Crowley’s name is once again being used to sell books? We’ll have to see."

The Amazon blurb says the book is a "a blend of meticulous research and educated conjecture."

Monday, November 14, 2011

Mr. Wagner dissents

A recent blog post discussed Michael Johnson's thesis that RAW's writing breaks down into three distinct periods. Wrote Michael, "The middle period writings of RAW (which I consider as 1975-1985, with 1959-1974 the first period and 1986-2005 the third and last, not that anyone had asked) contains an abundance of non-Euclidean political writing, by which he meant that he saw value in left-libertarian and traditionally anarchist thought, and individualist-"right" libertarian ideas."

I endorsed the thesis, noting that I had noticed a similar division. I also suggested that the RAW writings that he'll be remembered for were created almost entirely in the middle period.

Eric Wagner, author of the essential An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson, posted a long dissent in the comments, and I want to reproduce it here and give Eric "equal time" (but see the discussion in the comments in the original post):

I guess I distrust a three fold division. I think of Carl Dahlhaus's criticism of the three fold division of Beethoven's work, pointing out the continuum of evolution evident, especially in the works on the borders of the traditional three phase division. I think the three fold division works better for Beethoven's work than for Bob's.

With Bob's writing, his sixties work shows his highly developed third circuit with emerging right brain intelligence. This becomes more pronounced in Bob's early 70's writing. In 1973 and 74 Bob had some intense experiences, and his developing writing demonstrates this, especially in the rewrite of Illuminatus! and in Cosmic Trigger.

The end of Cosmic Trigger and Schroedinger's Cat has show him processing the greatest tragedy of his life. This period culminates in the mastery displayed in Prometheus Rising. 

I think Bob's writing takes another quantum leap with The Widow's Son, Natural Law and The New Inquisition, all of which show the growing influence of Swift and of living in Ireland, as well as his growing intelligence.

He moved back to the US in the late 80's and metaprogrammed himself for success in Hollywood. He didn't find material success, but his intelligence continued to increase and I think his writing improved. E-Prime became an important tool for him.

I think he became even more interesting and funnier in his final years, especially in the conclusion of TSOG and his Thoughts of the Month on rawilson.com, etc.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Are we stagnating?

Yesterday, typing on my Linux laptop, I put up a post celebrating the personal computer. I did that partially because I know that Robert Anton Wilson was a technological optimist who was (for a person his age) someone who had an early interest in personal computers.

Wilson often wrote about that technological acceleration. I believe he referred to it as the Jumping Jesus Phenomena.

Lately, though, some of my favorite thinkers have been writing about hiccups in that march toward technological progress.

Tyler Cowen has authored a short book called The Great Stagnation which argues that the reason the economy has performed so badly in recently isn't because of the liberals, the conservatives, the bankers or whoever your favorite perceived enemy is, but because there has been a slowdown in technological innovation. A few key decades in the 20th century produced the automobile, the airplane, electricity, radio, TV, the refrigerator, and many other innovations that helped drive the economy, Cowen says. He says that the rise of the Internet, however laudatory, hasn't yet had similar results.

Here is a similar article by Peter Thiel.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Popular Electronics January 1975




In a sane world, the above magazine would be more famous than Joe Paterno. It is the magazine that inspired Bill Gates and Paul Allen to found Microsoft by writing software for the first personal computer, the Altair. The same computer also was tested by the Homebrew Computer Club, which had members, such as Steve Wozniak, who went on to build the Apple.

Note that the magazine was Popular Electronics, and not Popular Mechanics (a mistake repeated in the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson that I mentioned yesterday.)

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Steve Jobs biography

I've been listening to an audiobook of the new Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson, and I believe many RAW fans would find the book interesting; it's a biography of an individual, but also a history of how the Silicon Valley tech culture and the counterculture converged to help create personal computers. Jobs was immersed in both communities.

Bonus link: Douglas Rushkoff on the Apple cult, and whether it can outlive Jobs.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A book recommendation

Creation Records founder Alan McGee recommends a book:

"I was up in London earlier in the week and whilst there, I made my now frequent trip to Treadwell's shop and bought myself a copy of Rebels & Devils edited by Christopher J Hyatt. It's a life-changer of a book. It sucked me in from the foreword: 'In all human history, the essence of the human mind has been to think and act according to standards from within, not without. To follow one's own path, not that of the crowd. Inevitably, it follows that anyone with an independent mind must become, as the dictionary says, one who resists or opposes an authority or established convention - a rebel. Usually rebellion is done so quietly no-one notices but, when others recognise the rebel's disobedience, we then have a rebel with a capital 'R'. If enough people come to agree with, and follow the Rebel, we now have a devil. On the other hand, if enough follow the devil, we may then have a leader, a hero, a martyr, an innovator or any number of good things. Rebels and devils create.'

"This book links in Crowley, Austin, Osman, Spare, Peter J Carroll, Timothy Leary, Robert Anton Wilson, Jack Parsons, Israel Regardie and the Marquis de Sade - all rebels and this book just joins the dots."

I notice the book is available in a Kindle edition for about $10. (You can read a Kindle book on any device, using an Amazon app.)

Maybe the best part of the post, though, is about McGee learning that he may have been part of the News of the World phone hacking case.

"Joking aside, if the police confirm that I have indeed been hacked, and even though this will have been years ago, I will still sue. I couldn't abide NOTW, so I won't be losing sleep in suing them. The joke to me is that in the period they are talking about, whoever had the pleasure to get into my voicemail would have just been faced with hour-long Courtney Love rambles from LA about her new songs at 5 am UK time. I hope they enjoyed their hack there (if obviously it happened) and I pity them having to listen to all that madness..."

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Quantum theology?

An interview with Catherine Keller, author of a new book on "quantum theology." (Via Supergee, who headlined the posting, "Maybe.")

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

New Philip K. Dick book

If you are a Philip K. Dick fan, you may have noticed the new book, The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick, a new collection of unpublished writing.

Ted Hand has a blog post on the "Top Ten things I've been looking forward to Discovering in the Exegesis."

I am linking to the post not just because RAW and PKD liked each other's writings, and their fans tend to like both authors, but because some of Dick's specific interests were RAW's  interests. For example, Hand writes that he wants to know more about what Dick's interest in Giordano Bruno. "I suspect that Dick got a large chunk of his idea of Bruno and the "Hermetic Alchemists" from Frances Yates," Hand writes, referring to a historian often cited by Robert Anton Wilson.

According to Hand, Dick also were interested in Kabbalah and weird physics, two big interests of RAW.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Stewart Brand recommendations

I thought some of you might be interested in this New York Times piece on what Stewart Brand, publisher of the Whole Earth Catalog, is reading, listening to, following on the Internet, etc.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A censorship hassle at Google

Following up on Friday's posting: Michael Johnson has put up a new post on his Google Problem, which is apparently causing him more angst than his Noam Chomsky problem. Please speak up and spread the word; Michael is taking on a lot of heavy topics and deserves support for his blog. Needless to say,  we all know where RAW would have been on this.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Why don't liberals and libertarians get along?

One of my favorite pundits Will Wilkinson, has a piece up on why progressives and libertarians don't mix well, and why conservatives and libertarians tend to group together politically.

In other words, why there are so few RAW-style libertarians who can make common cause with the left on issues such as peace and civil liberties?

Wilkinson argues that it's because libertarians and conservatives has similar attitudes on personal responsibility. As he memorably puts it, "As long as they stick to complaining about handouts for poor people sitting on their asses and praising rich people working hard to make civilization possible, libertarians and conservatives get along fine."

This makes sense to me, but Reason magazine editor Matt Welch dissents.

Addendum: Tyler Cowen explains why one of Matt's points is wrong.

Friday, November 4, 2011


Here's an excerpt from the Lewis Shiner interview with Robert Anton Wilson: 

What's your opinion on pornography?

I agree with Magnus Magnusson. He's the host of an English quiz show called Mastermind, that's a very--not intellectual, but erudite quiz show. The contestants are all experts in some rare field of knowledge, like German history from 1872 to 1886, or Irish poetry of the 7th and 8th centuries--things like that. The winner is the person who can answer the most questions in one minute.

Anyway, Magnus Magnusson was on an Irish television show and somehow the subject of pornography came up and he said, "I'm absolutely against all censorship." And the host said, "That's on the usual Libertarian grounds?" And Magnusson said, "Of course. But I also like pornography." And I thought, my god, that's the first time I ever I heard that. Everybody else who defends it, they argue on these abstract things, the First Amendment or whatever--in England they quote John Stewart Mill. Magnusson was the first person honest enough to say, "I like it, you know." I like a lot of it. I'm not only against censorship, but I feel the damn people who want to ban it are interfering with my right to enjoy myself.

Here are some thoughts on the topic, some of them not unrelated, from Michael Johnson.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

A defense of jury nullification

Robert Anton Wilson defended jury nullification as an important freedom (particularly in Chaos and Beyond, a good book that remains out of print), but it's not a popular opinion among mainstream pundits. So I thought it was interesting to see this article at the Atlantic's Web site. The book referenced in the post, William Stuntz' The Collapse of American Criminal Justice, sounded interesting when it was reviewed recently in the Wall Street Journal. (Hat tip, Jesse Walker on Twitter).

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Conspiracies -- hackers versus drug cartel

Here is an article about an apparent war between dueling conspiracy groups -- a violent Mexican drug cartel and the Anonymous hacker group. Interesting, but it could also be a very grim duel, as the cartels are prone to extreme violence.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

William Burroughs letters

From Granta: Letters from William Burroughs. Most of them describe ill-fated encounters with Timothy Leary and magic mushrooms.