Saturday, December 31, 2011

Books read, 2011

1. The Terror of Constantinople, Richard Blake.
2. The Cookbook Collector, Allegra Goodman (audiobook).
3. The Last Trumpet Project, Kevin MacArdry.
4. The Widow's Son, Robert Anton Wilson. (Re-read).
5. All Things Are Lights, Robert Shea.
6. Death of a Chimney Sweep, M.C. Beaton (audiobook).
7. Still Life, Louise Penny (audiobook).
8. Live Free Or Die, John Ringo.
9. Darkship Thieves, Sarah A. Hoyt.
10. Nature's God, Robert Anton Wilson. (Re-read).
11. Zendegi, Greg Egan.
12. For the Win, Cory Doctorow (audiobook).
13. The Big Sleep,  Raymond Chandler (audiobook).
14. So Shelly, Ty Roth.
15. The Hidden Reality, Brian Greene.
16. The Book of Murder, Guillermo Martinez (audiobook).
17. TSOG: The Thing That Ate the Constitution, Robert Anton Wilson.
18. Battle Cry of Freedom, James McPherson.
19. A Fatal Grace, Louise Penny (audiobook).
20. A Drop of the Hard Stuff, Lawrence Block.
21. Gulliver's Travels, Jonathan Swift. (Re-read).
22. When the Music's Over, Lewis Shiner, editor.
23. Cosmic Trigger 1, Robert Anton Wilson. (Re-read).
24. Cowboy Angels, Paul McAuley.
25. City of Falling Angels, John Berendt.
26. How the Hippies Saved Physics, David Kaiser.
27. Cosmic Trigger 2: Down to Earth, Robert Anton Wilson. (Re-read).
28. Broken, Susan Jane Bigelow.
29. A History of Jazz, 2nd edition, Ted Gioia.
30. The Unincorporated Woman, Dani and Eytan Kollin.
31. The Leftovers, Tom Perrotta (audiobook).
32. Revolution World, Katy Stauber.
33. Trail Magic, Carl McDaniel.
34. Cosmic Trigger 3, Robert Anton Wilson. (Re-read).
35. Phantom, Tremblay and Wallace, editors.
36. Death of a Perfect Wife, M.C. Beaton.
37. The Great Stagnation, Tyler Cowen.
38. Citadel, John Ringo.
39. Reamde, Neal Stephenson.
40. Race Against the Machine, Brynjolfsson and McAdee.
41. Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson (audiobook).
42. Snuff, Terry Pratchett.
43. 11/22/63, Stephen King (audiobook).
44. Reader Player One, Ernest Cline.
45. The Sins of the Fathers, Lawrence Block.
46. State of Wonder, Ann Patchett (audiobook).
47. Shatterday, Harlan Ellison.
48. The Swerve, Stephen Greenblatt (audiobook).

Friday, December 30, 2011

An ebook inventory

My main Christmas gift his year was a Kindle Touch, and as I love to read, it has rapidly become my favorite toy.

Getting it naturally opens the question of whether I should buy Kindle editions of RAW's books, as opposed to buying physical copies. A search for "Robert Anton Wilson" in the Kindle store produces 19 results, but only eight actual RAW titles. There's no Cosmic Trigger 1, 2 or 3, no Prometheus Rising, no The Widow's Son ... you get the idea.

This seems like something that ought to be fixed; considering how many people use ebook readers or tablets these days -- many people just got them for Christmas, like I did -- the estate is missing out a big part of the market. Natural Law, out of print for many years, is an obvious candidate for a Kindle Single.   Chaos and Beyond, out of print for years, is well worth reading. (I like it better than TSOG). All of RAW's fiction, and pretty much all of the nonfiction, ought to be reprinted immediately as electronic books.

Speaking of ebooks, there's a sale through Jan. 2 on eight of Philip K. Dick's electronic books. All are available for $4. I asked Ted Hand (@t3dy on Twitter) which of the eight he particularly recommends. He likes them all, but added, "Now Wait for Last Year is an unsung treasure."

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Looking ahead to 2012

I'll be posting a list of the books I read during 2011 in a couple of days, but I wanted to note here that I read "All Things Are Lights" by Robert Shea, read "TSOG:The Thing That Ate the Constitution" by Robert Anton Wilson for the first time, and re-read RAW's "The Widow's Son," "Nature's God," "Cosmic Trigger 1," "Cosmic Trigger 2," and "Cosmic Trigger 3."

I have still not read the following RAW books: "The Sex Magicians," "Wilhelm Reich in Hell," "Reality is What You Can Get Away With," "The Walls Came Tumbling Down," "Playboy's Book of Forbidden Words," "Sex, Drugs and Magick," "The New Inquisition," "Neuropolitique," "Ishtar Rising" (I have a copy of "The Book of the Breast"), "Natural Law," "Quantum Psychology" and "Everything is Under Control." Among Shea's books, I have only read "ILLUMINATUS!", "All Things Are Lights" and "Shaman."

I'll be busy in early 2012 reading nominees and possible nominees for the Prometheus Award, but my tentative plans are to re-read "Prometheus Rising" slowly, this time trying the exercises, followed by "Quantum Psychology," and to re-read "Masks of the Illuminati," which I haven't read in years. But what do you think I should read?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Are libertarians opposed to war?

Jim Henley, a lapsed libertarian who now defines himself as on the left, is one of my favorite bloggers. If you read the comments for his posting on Ron Paul, you'll see a debate between Henley and  yours truly on  whether libertarians generally have been opposed to war.

Speaking of antiwar groups, I've added Come Home America  to the "Resources" area.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Another voice on Ron Paul

Libertarian writer Brian Doherty, who wrote at length about Robert Anton Wilson in his book "Radicals for Capitalism," has posted an interesting blog entry at Reason's Hit and Run blog, entitled "Why I Don't Think the Ron Paul Newsletters Are Very Important."

Here's a quote: "I believe it's less important to beat up on and condemn a certain set of powerless and marginalized people who think and believe some nasty things everyone agrees are wrong than it is to beat up on and condemn the set of incredibly powerful people who actually act to commit crimes and rights-violation and damage to life across the globe who everyone thinks are perfectly right to do so. And Ron Paul is the only candidate with any public traction and fans who condemns and would fight to stop such crimes, from the drug war to non-defensive overseas wars to armed assaults on people because they sell raw milk to rampant violations of American's civil liberties and privacy to an organization in charge of our money supply that uses that power to scuttle the entire world economy and bailout its buddies."

More here.

Doherty has a book about Ron Paul coming out in May, so I suppose he has an interest in whether Paul does well, but I don't think that's what he's about. His "Radicals for Capitalism" book (a history of the modern libertarian movement in the U.S.) emphasized the antiwar views of key figures such as Murray Rothbard, and I believe his interest in Paul stems from sincere support for Paul's views on peace and civil liberties.

I wrote Doherty a few weeks ago and asked if "Radicals for Capitalism" will become available as a Kindle book, but I haven't gotten a reply yet.

Addendum: Interesting Tweet from @normative, Julian Sanchez: "Why not just name the newsletter authors? Jim Henley's theory: http://j.mp/sLeiG0 My guess: Rothbard had a hand in some ugly bits."

Monday, December 26, 2011

The menace of the cupcake

One more Christmas posting: The TSA has banned holiday cupcakes as dangerous. You can't make this stuff up. (Via Supergee.)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Quantum poetry from Nick Herbert

For millennia we've played in the shallows
Our sciences mere baby steps
With the advent of quantum reality
Get ready to taste Nature's depths.

For the rest of the poem (on his Quantum Tantra blog) go here.

Friday, December 23, 2011

A post for classical music lovers

Here's a post for the RAW fans who share his love of classical music and Beethoven (as I do). With apologies to Haydn (and to Boom), ""I tell you before God, and as an honest man, this blog is the greatest classical music blog known to me by person and repute, he has taste and what is more the greatest skill in composition." Be sure to look at the Beethoven entries.

My own music blog -- often neglected in favor of this one -- is here.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

RAW and Ron Paul

Believe it or not, Ron Paul is leading in the polls in Iowa. That will change, for all I know, but it's a weird development.

Every libertarian has to think about how he feels about Ron Paul, as he is by far the most prominent libertarian leader in the country.

Robert Anton Wilson, explaining why he did not vote in 1980 for the Libertarian Party candidate, Ed Clark, explained,  "I am not that kind of Libertarian, really; I don't hate poor people."

I'm guessing that if RAW was alive today, he would say that Ron Paul (the 1988 Libertarian Party nominee) was not his kind of libertarian, either. I'm guessing though, that like nearly all libertarians, he would be pleased with Dr. Paul's foreign policy and civil liberties positions.

Will Wilkinson's excellent essay on Paul explains nicely, I think, why many libertarians have doubts about Paul.

Bonus link: Conor Friedersdorf on Paul's racist newsletters. (He heaps lots of blame on Paul for them, but comparing Paul to the other candidates, writes, "My tentative conclusion: among the candidates who could win, Paul is least complicit in needlessly killing innocents abroad; he is least likely to deprive innocent foreigners of their God given rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; he is most committed to civil liberties and drug legalization at home.")

Addendum bonus links: Nick Gillespie weighs in with a fair minded post at Reason's Hit and Run blog; columnist Debra Saunders writes how she "first met Ron Paul in 1988 at the Beverly Hills home of Dr. Timothy Leary, the onetime "turn on, tune in, drop out" LSD guru. Leary talked to me about how he was going to have his head frozen cryogenically when he died - it happened eight years later - and why he was hosting a fundraiser for Paul."

Gary Johnson, probably the most sane libertarian candidate in politics right now (I'll let you decide how much there is to cheer in that statement) apparently is planning to give up his attempt to win the Republican nomination and will seek the Libertarian Party nomination.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wonkette and RAW

I have read several obituaries that ran after Robert Anton Wilson died, but I did not know until this week that Wonkette, the prominent political blog, had run one. It does a good job of describing what kind of libertarian RAW was, which is a good segue to tomorrow's posting.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Cthulhu Christmas

In honor of RAW's interest in H.P. Lovecraft, and because it's the season, here is a Cthulhu Christmas tree. (Via Ted Hand on Twitter, @t3dy).

Monday, December 19, 2011

No Governor No. 3 posted

I have posted issue #3 of No Governor, Robert Shea's anarchist fanzine. Thanks again to the University of Michigan library for providing it.

I was surprised to see that the issue has no Robert Anton Wilson bylines in it. There is, however, a short piece, "The Secret Teachings of George Washington," attributed to an author named only as "General Strike." It is reminiscent of certain of RAW's writings, so I'll be interested in what the rest of y'all think.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Oz Fritz on the greatest guitarists

Rolling Stone has recently posted a list of the "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time." The list strikes me as not very useful, mixing the obvious (Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn) with the idiotic (Steve  Howe  is excluded, but the alleged guitar virtuosos Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen are included.) But it has inspired two (so far) interesting posts at The Oz Mix. Here's my favorite passage from the first one: "Jimmy Page came in at number 3. I thought he should have reached 2 instead of Clapton but figure that Coincidence Control must have put him at 3 for Crowley/Qabalistic associations. As is well-known, Page is quite experienced with magick and it definitely got channeled through his music. Page had Do what thou wilt inscribed in small letters on the innermost part of every vinyl copy of Led Zeppelin IV. According to Wikipedia, that album has sold over 23,000,000 copies in the U.S. alone making it 23 times certified platinum. With all those spinning discs, Page instigated a Crowleyan flavored Tibetan prayer wheel."

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Quote on the Grail

@Robert_A_Wilson on Twitter (i.e., from Temple Illuminatus) had the following RAW quote the other day: "The Grail is the womb of the beloved." Can anyone tell me where that quote is from?

A list of history books

This is the time of year for lists of "best" books, but I thought this list of the best 11 history books, from Brain Pickings, was particularly thoughtful. Reading RAW convinces me I should have read the first book on the list; I intend to read it soon.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Exciting new video site

A new video site, Tubegnosis, seems tailor made for Robert Anton Wilson fans. Aside from Maybe Logic, it has videos featuring Timothy Leary, Aleister Crowley, David Lynch, Christopher Hyatt, William Burroughs, Philip K. Dick and Alan Watts, among others. I am adding a link to the "Resources" section of this web site.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

This year's best science fiction novel

Because of the overlap between RAW fans and science fiction fans, you'll have to forgive me for posting about Ready Player One by Ernest Cline,  the best science fiction novel I have read this year. It's very nerdy, and it's sneaky good the way that Pride and Prejudice is sneaky good. Just as you can read Jane Austen's classic for the love story, without noticing, say, the dramatic ironies, the reader can race through Ready Player One for the plot, without picking up on the mythic resonances. (I'm sure that if RAW read it, he would have picked up on some of the character names.) Can't help wondering whether guru of nerd cool Supergee has read this novel -- I don't see a mention of the book on his blog.

Bonus link: Ernest Cline's top ten favorite science fiction novels.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Michael Johnson on coded texts

At Overweening Generalist, Michael Johnson has written a series of blog posts (five, so far) on "obscure, coded and alchemical texts." He covers all sorts of ground I find personally interesting, including Robert Anton Wilson's thoughts on the subject and the allegedly hidden codes in Shostakovich's music. Be sure to read the comments, full of interesting thoughts by many folks who often weigh in on this blog.

I think Michael has a possible book topic here, although I hate to suggest that, because I want him to finish his RAW book first.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Follow RAW on Twitter

Twitter limits its posts to 140 characters, and Robert Anton Wilson was a writer who came up with many pithy aphorisms to summarize his teaches. These two facts find a happy marriage in @RAWilson23 on Twitter. I'm not sure who writes it, but the Twitter feed does a great job of sending out RAW's thoughts. If you aren't willing to miss with Twitter, you can follow it by going to twitter.com/#!/Rawilson23, or you can follow it with a feed reader such as Google Reader.

Update: It's our friend Bobby Campbell, doing more good work.

Monday, December 12, 2011

RAW article from the 1971 Village Voice

I've posted a link to a newly-rediscovered Robert Anton Wilson article from the Village Voice in 1971, "The WASP as Ubermensch, or I Was Saved by Billy Graham." A pretty lengthy piece with memorable sections. Many thanks to Jesse Walker for sharing the link with me so that I might share it with  you.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

List of book lists

The Largehearted Boy book and music blog has compiled a big list of "Best of 2011" book lists. Fun to browse through, and I'm pleased that he has linked both to Michael Johnson's article on this blog and to the book list on my work blog that I also mentioned here.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

What some libertarians believe

Robert Anton Wilson quite often referred to himself as a "libertarian," and I've often called myself that, even now, even though I am wary of being tied too closely to any ideology. On some occasion, I will get around to arguing that even perfectly intelligent, nondogmatic people can proudly self-identify as libertarians.

Today, though, I want to observe that, unfortunately, the "freedom movement" includes not a few folks who aren't terribly well-informed or respectful of other opinions. Today,when I checked my email, I got a forwarded message asking me to read it carefully.

It was this. (It was attributed to David Kaiser.) (Blogger's note: As Michael points out in the comments, not the same guy who wrote How the Hippies Saved Physics.)

Related to this, here's an observation from RAW, from the "New Libertarian Notes" interview reproduced at this site: "I also read at least one periodical every month by a political group I dislike -- to keep some sense of balance. The overwhelming stupidity of political movements is caused by the fact that political types never read anything but their own gang's agit-prop."

Friday, December 9, 2011

Book picks from 2011

For a blog written for my day job, I posted book picks from a variety of folks, including a number of writers, including Tom Perrotta, Elinor Lipman, Lawrence Block and Geoffrey Landis. When I got to my own recommendations, I was pleased I was able to work on titles by both Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

New book on Pearl Harbor

Yesterday, on Pearl Harbor Day, Brian Doherty on Reason's Hit and Run  blog noted the recent publication of a revisionist Pearl Harbor book, Freedom Betrayed: Herbert Hoover's Secret History of the Second World War and Its Aftermath.  

Doherty notes, "There is a rich history of such revisionist arguments about blame and heroism leading up to World War II, and such thinking used to be a significant element of the inchoate libertarian movement in the 1940s and '50s, though little discussed today. Two of my own biggest libertarian influences, novelists Robert Heinlein and Robert Anton Wilson, both found the war revisionist historians influential on their own ideological development, in complicating the heroic narrative usually told about your own government."

RAW fans will recall that he often discussed his interest in revisionist accounts, for example in the Lewis Shiner interview available at this site.

Doherty's history of modern libertarianism, Radicals for Capitalism, has a chapter that discusses RAW.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Illuminati trending on Twitter

Back to books tomorrow, but this morning when I logged on to Twitter, I saw that #Illuminati, mentioned a couple of posts ago, ranked No. 3 among "Trends" in the United States. (Worldwide, it was No. 2!) It wouldn't break my heart if all of this upsurge inspired the purchase of a few more copies of ILLUMINATUS! RAW fan Jesse Walker, with an eye toward his upcoming book, Tweets, "I wake up to see #Illuminati is trending. Could you folks do this again when the book is done? Thanks!"

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

MIchael Johnson's recommended books for 2011

(Starting today I intend to do a series of book-related posts looking back at 2011. First up I have contribution from Michael Johnson, he of the excellent Overweening Generalist blog. Michael's been on a hot streak lately on his blog, with posts about surveillance and privacy on the Internet and a two-parter "On Obscure, Coded and Alchemical Texts." -- The Mgt.)

Books Read This Year: Some of My Favorites

By Michael Johnson


Only two of these actually came out this year. This year I spent a lot of time reading IN some fantastic books while not reading the entire volume. I keep a list of what books I read cover-to-cover (mostly so I can cite them if need be), and this year there's only 38 books on the list; in past years there's been 105, 97, etc. I also find as I get older I tend to spent more time re-re-re-re-reading in some books that I love so much: Ulysses, Montaigne, Vico, Robert Anton Wilson's oeuvre, Korzybski, Popper, Berger and Luckmann's The Social Construction of Reality, Lakoff and Johnsons's Metaphors We Live By, etc.

But this year I really enjoyed reading Happy Accidents: Serendipity in Modern Medical Breakthroughs by Morton A. Meyers, MD, which originally appeared in 2007. This guy knows how to tell a story. He's a radiologist who wanted to image some part of the body, using a radioactive dye, and he ended up accidentally finding out how tumors spread: a pretty cool breakthrough. This book goes a long way in bolstering Nassim Nicholas Taleb's idea that most great things happen after a lot of "tinkering." It also bolsters the anarchist sociologist of science Paul Feyerabend: the classic "scientific method" isn't really how new breakthroughs happen; they happen when people are dinkin' around and have the creativity and wherewithal to NOTICE that they don't have a "failure" but something that might be applied somewhere else. The last chapter in on LSD. The Intro, about "the scientific method" and the nature of serendipity, is worth reading alone for anyone who got the bug for how scientific knowledge progresses from some Kuhn or Popper or Lakatos or even Francis Bacon. (Or Robert Anton Wilson's The New Inquisition?)

From Counterculture to Cyberculture, by Fred Turner first appeared in 2006 but I finally got around to reading it cover-to-cover this year. David Kaiser cited John Markoff's What The Dormouse Said in his How the Hippies Saved Physics; Turner's book is sort of a more academic and longer version of Markoff. It's told with Stewart Brand at the center, but it's really well-researched and a lot of RAW fans would love it: Buckminster Fuller, Tim Leary, John Von Neumann, Norbert Wiener, Berkeley in the Sixties, Gregory Bateson, John Perry Barlow, etc. If the Reader liked Markoff's book they might love this one...

I'm not sure how well this will resonate with readers of RAWIllumination, but I really liked a book about heavy metal that came out earlier this year titled Mean Deviation, by Jeff Wagner, a dedicated metalhead, but by far dedicated - a true scholar, really - of "progressive" metal: from Rush to Voivod to Celtic Frost to Dream Theater to Watch Tower to Opeth and literally hundreds of bands in between, Wagner has something to say about how these bands constantly strove to change from album to album. Which is pretty much the opposite of most "pop" music act, who hit it big with some sound then are afraid to alienate their fans by trying anything new. The things these guy did to stay fresh! Get much better on their instruments, for one! But also: long, story-like epic songs with many parts, odd instrumentation, sudden jazz of classical influences, a sudden obsession with odd time signatures. Wagner is so knowledgeable and writes so well about some of these bands - many I'd never heard before - that he made me search out some of the bands and my musical horizons have been expanded due to this book.

Visions and Affiliations vol 1 and 2: A California Literary Timeline, Poets and Poetry 1940-2005, altogether 1200 or so pages, by Jack Foley. Arriving earlier this year, this is an education in itself, and for anyone interested in Wilson's and Leary's theory of "westerning," the locus of money and culture traveling throughout history westward "and mildly northward," as Buckminster Fuller said, might find this of interest. LA/San Francisco seemed to have been where the poetic world zeitgeist fermented in the second half of the 20th century. Foley's assembled research is totally staggering, and even when he's writing about the art/poetry scene in Los Angeles in 1959 or San Francisco in 1990, he writes in present tense. The cabals, the social movements, the gossip, the theories surrounding some new poetry group, who knew who and who they were influenced by and what they did and how they died and how weird they were: it seems that everything is here. This is a compendious, astonishing work of detail and breadth, and even if you're reading this in London of New York of Cleveland you can still find much of interest here. Foley, like Wagner, is so thoroughly steeped in his subject - even knowing personally many of the "famous" personages - that it's infectious, a labor of love that's filled with so many fascinating characters it's hard to put these two massive tomes down. The two volumes look like reference works, but they are immanently readable page-turners.

Similar in massive scope, 2004's Orgies of the Hemp Eaters, edited by Abel Zug and Hakim Bey, is a total feast for fans of the vilified herb. Subtitled "Cuisine, Slang, Literature & Ritual of Cannabis Culture," this book delivers in a way many a dope book doesn't. 694 pages, well-indexed with a tremendous bibliography (I'm a connoisseur of annotated bibliographies and this one's a delight), this is the most underrated pot book as far as I'm concerned. Almost 300 pages cover India and Islam and the history of pot/hash/and the myriad ways it was used, the social effects it had on those cultures, and how it influenced artistic, religious and intellectual culture. My favorite portions are the scientific and literary commentaries and excerpts. There's a history of cooking with cannabis, too, complete with recipes from 1790's "Sweetmeat of Cannabis" to 1995's "Leary Biscuit." It's copiously illustrated and I almost guarantee a contact high from just holding this tome in your hands.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Illuminati, on Twitter!

I am apparently late in discovering that The Illuminati are on Twitter. Using an eye in the pyramid icon,  "they" post various bits of fortune cookie wisdom, such as "The greatest mistake you can make in life is continually fearing that you'll make one." @TheIlluminati has more than 275,000 followers but doesn't follow anyone, which I guess makes sense.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

German Illuminatus! cover

A cover for a German translation of ILLUMINATUS! Vol. 3, written by two of my favorite authors, Robert Shea und Robert A. Wilson. (Via Jeff Gardner on Twitter, @jg_sj.)

Friday, December 2, 2011

RAW at Esalen

After yesterday's post, an anonymous commentator kindly pointed me to a link that connects Robert Anton Wilson to Esalen. The page says, "Robert Anton Wilson, author of The Illuminatus Trilogy, and other well-known science fiction writers have brought their creative input to the community since the 60s. Wilson came to Esalen frequently through the early 90s and led many workshops."

Thursday, December 1, 2011

New movie coming about Esalen

One of my favorite "hippie physicists," Nick Herbert, reports on this blog that a new documentary on Esalen is in the works. (I don't know if Robert Anton Wilson ever taught there, but I know he spent time in a hot tub there.) Herbert links to the trailer, which features Herbert and other names that RAW fans may find familiar.