Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea. Blog, Internet resources, online reading groups, articles and interviews, Illuminatus! info.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

'A watershed era for Fortean/occult shenanigans'

Tristan Eldritch — no doubt his real name — blogs at a few years in the Absolute Elsewhere.  His latest blog entry, Cosmic Trigger: Le Soleils de l'ile de Paques (The Suns of Easter Island) 1972. offers this observation:

The early to mid-70s is a period I'm particularly fascinated by; it was a watershed era for Fortean/occult shenanigans.  The idea of mental contact with extraterrestrial higher intelligence was very much in the ether during this strange time.  On July 23, 1973, the great Robert Anton Wilson experienced the first of what he then suspected to be transmissions from an extraterrestrial intelligence located somewhere in the vicinity of the dog star Sirius.  Timothy Leary, then doing the persecuted philosopher routine in Folsom prison, was also receiving downloads from a cosmic intelligence - a cosmic intelligence, it should be conceded, whose oracular pronouncements sounded more than a little like Leary himself.  Philip K. Dick was writing the best fiction of his career, and was of course zapped by the motherlode of all cosmic transmissions in the legendary VALIS incident of '2-3-74'.

The post is actually part of a review of an old movie.

Unrelated question: I seem to recall a passage in Illuminatus! about organized crime making a campaign contribution to try to keep marijuana illegal, but I couldn't find it when I went looking. Can anyone help?

Monday, July 29, 2013

Are we losing our freedom?

I have always thought that if we lost our republic, it would not be a dramatic shift to an open dictatorship; rather, it would be a shift from a republic to something that still seemed to have the form of a republic. Rather like the Roman Empire, when Augustus, the first emperor, ruled as the "first citizen" in what was sold as a continuation of the republic, complete with a  Senate that persisted for hundreds of years. Is our government the "real" government, or are all of the decisions for the national security state made behind the scenes, with the president more or less a figurehead? I don't mean to sound paranoid; I am agnostic about this, but I wonder about the scope of the National Security Act of 1947. It doesn't seem that the last couple of elections made much difference from the Bush years. And somehow, there are always enough people who are suborned to make sure that real change never happens, as we saw in last week's NSA vote.

Michael Johnson seems to be thinking along the same lines.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

News of the weird, U.S. edition

From ProPublica, the "Journalism in the public interest" website: The National Security Agency, the agency that's busy spying on every American (and many foreigners), has responded to a Freedom of Information Act request by saying that it cannot search its own emails.

President Obama is "concerned and disappointed" that a Yemeni journalist has been released from prison after a sham trial.

Alleged surveillance camera video of odd Michael Hastings car crash. From Breitbart. Via John Merritt.

Saturday, July 27, 2013


Here is something that fits with RAW's discussions about using different models for reality. Here are a couple of unfamiliar ways at looking at the Earth. (When I post photos here they never seem to be big enough, so I will resort to links.)

Jesse Walker has a feature on his Twitter feed called Your Daily Image, which as far as I can tell consists of anything cool that happens to strike his eye. I always click on it.

I thought these images were some of the best yet. (After you look at the immediate one, scroll down to see the others and take a moment to read the text.)

Friday, July 26, 2013

Another RAW interview

One of our friends over in Albion, Nick Helweg-Larsen, wrote to me to tip me off about a Robert Anton Wilson interview that isn't online.

A book called Inside Angels and Demons, by Dan Burstein and Arne De Keijzer, is a handbook for readers who want to explore what's behind the bestselling Dan Brown novel. It's apparently part of a series; there's a Secrets of Mary Magdalene, and Secrets of Inferno is coming out this September.

Anyway, Inside Angels and Demons has an interview with Robert Anton Wilson, and it's a rather good one. I'm kind of old-fashioned about the copyright thing, so I won't try to reproduce it here, but in the spirit of fair use, here's a brief excerpt to illustration why it's worth hunting up the book.

One of your characters from the Illuminatus! Trilogy begins to see conspirational connections everywhere—in numerology (the law of fives), in history, in literature both high and low, in politics, in folklore, etc. Once you begin to accept the plausibility of a conspiracy, is this sort of free fall inevitable? What can conspiracies tell us about different modes of knowing?

RAW – I suspect a great deal, but believe nothing. After finding the law of fives everywhere, I no longer claim to know anything for certain. This has led me to formulate what I call maybe logic, in which I consider ideas not simply true or false, but in degrees of probabilities. If other conspiracy theorists learned this much, they would sound less like paranoids and people would take them more seriously.
Maybe logic is a combination of general semantics, neurolinguistic programming, and Buddhism—all three as methods of bullshit control, not as dogmas. I joined the Flat Earth Society for a year once, just to challenge myself. I didn’t learn much from that experiment but it was fun. 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 in which Jerry Falwell hollers “Maybe Jesus was the son of God and maybe he hates gay people as violently as I do.” Or every tower in Islam resounds with “There is no God except maybe Allah and maybe Muhammad is his prophet”?

Copies of the book are available cheap at Amazon. There's a whole section in the book on the Illuminati, with contributions by George Johnson, Michael Barkun, James Wasserman and Alexandra Robbins.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Reading Dubliners

I decided a few months ago to read through James Joyce's major works chronologically. I read Chamber Music first,  and I've just finished Dubliners.

It's a strong collection; the last story, "The Dead," is the longest, the most famous and arguably the best. Some of the allusions were difficult to me, as I don't live in the Ireland of about 100 years ago, but the Wikipedia entries for the individual stories helped a lot.

I didn't think of Dubliners as being very controversial when I first read it in high school, or when I re-read it now, so I was interested to read in the Wikipedia article that Joyce struggled for years to get the book into print.

Of course, when I get to Ulysses, I'm going to re-read PQ's posts on the novel. He just put up a new one.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The gala celebration continues

I didn't mean to milk Robert Anton Wilson Day for another blog post, but over at Supergee the commemoration continues, and there are some good additional favorite quotes in the comments.

Thanks to everyone who joined in the celebration yesterday by contributing a quote in the comments or reTweeting my Tweet on the subject.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Happy Robert Anton Wilson Day!

Today is Robert Anton Wilson Day. Time to celebrate!

What to do? Well, you can read the piece John Higgs published in the Guardian on July 23, 2009, to celebrate Happy Maybe Day. You can read about the origin of Robert Anton Wilson Day here (it was officially proclaimed on July 23, 2003, by the mayor of Santa Cruz, Emily Reilly.)

Or you can celebrate by posting a favorite RAW quote in the comments. Here's one I like:

"The Western World has been brainwashed by Aristotle for the last 2,500 years. The unconscious, not quite articulate, belief of most Occidentals is that there is one map which adequately represents reality. By sheer good luck, every Occidental thinks he or she has the map that fits. Guerrilla ontology, to me, involves shaking up that certainty. I use what in modern physics is called the "multi-model" approach, which is the idea that there is more than one model to cover a given set of facts. As I've said, novel writing involves learning to think like other people. My novels are written so as to force the reader to see things through different reality grids rather than through a single grid. It's important to abolish the unconscious dogmatism that makes people think their way of looking at reality is the only sane way of viewing the world. My goal is to try to get people into a state of generalized agnosticism, not agnosticism about God alone, but agnosticism about everything. If one can only see things according to one's own belief system, one is destined to become virtually deaf, dumb, and blind. It's only possible to see people when one is able to see the world as others see it. That's what guerrilla ontology is — breaking down this one-model view and giving people a multi-model perspective."

(From Wikiquote).

Monday, July 22, 2013

Providence City Council honors Lovecraft

The Associated Press reports that the Providence City Council has voted to name the intersection of Angell and Prospect Streets "H.P. Lovecraft Square" in honor of the writer.

"Lovecraft lived for years on Angell Street near Brown University. The Halsey House mansion on Prospect Street served as the fictional home of the main character in one of his better known works, 'The Case of Charles Dexter Ward'," the AP explains.

For Lovecraft and Illuminatus!, see my previous blog post.  I never got an answer to the question I posed on that entry.

Via Tyler K. McManus in the Robert Anton Wilson Facebook group.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Prometheus Awards announced

The Libertarian Futurist Society, which I'm a member of, have just announced the latest Prometheus  Awards.

The Prometheus Award itself goes to Cory Doctorow's Pirate Cinema. It's a good novel that focuses on a topic I'm very interested in of late, copyright reform.

But I was particularly interested in Saturday's announcement that the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award went to Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon. I nominated the book and I'm very glad it won. The Hall of Fame Award has now gone to two of my all-time favorite works: Cryptonomicon and Illuminatus!

Here is the press release:


   LFS announces 2013 Prometheus Award winners

* The Libertarian Futurist Society has announced the Prometheus Awards winners for Best Novel and Best Classic Fiction (Hall of Fame), to be presented Friday Aug. 30, 2013 at LoneStarCon3, the 71st Annual World Science Fiction Convention in San Antonio, Texas.

* Cory Doctorow won for Best Novel for Pirate Cinema (TOR Books). Doctorow also won the Best Novel award in 2009 for Little Brother.  Doctorow explores themes of artistic freedom, Internet freedom and peaceful social change while shedding light on issues of copyright and government surveillance in Pirate Cinema, an optimistic young-adult novel about a young pirate filmmaker whose Internet activity threatens his family with government reprisals and who learns to fight back against outdated forms of control.

* Cryptonomicon, a 1999 novel by Neal Stephenson, has won the 2013 Prometheus Hall of Fame award for Best Classic Fiction. Set during World War II and during the early 21st century, Stephenson's novel explores the implications for a free society in the development of computation and cryptography.

* At its award ceremony to be held at the WorldCon in San Antonio, the Libertarian Futurist Society will present a plaque and one-ounce gold coin to Cory Doctorow. A smaller gold coin and a plaque will be presented to Neal Stephenson. The specific time and location will be available in the convention program.

* Also recognized as Best Novel finalists for the best pro-freedom novel of the past year are Arctic Rising, by Tobias Buckell (TOR Books); The Unincorporated Future, by Dani and Eytan Kollin (TOR Books); Darkship Renegades, by Sarah Hoyt (Baen Books); and Kill Decision, by Daniel Suarez (Dutton - Penguin).

* Also recognized as Hall of Fame finalists: "Sam Hall", by Poul Anderson (a short story, published 1953 in Astounding); Falling Free, by Lois McMaster Bujold (a novel, published 1988); "'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman", by Harlan Ellison (a short story, published 1965 in Galaxy); Courtship Rite, by Donald M. Kingsbury (a novel, published 1982); and "As Easy as A.B.C.", by Rudyard Kipling (a short story, published in London Magazine in 1912).

The Prometheus Award, sponsored by the Libertarian Futurist Society (LFS), was established in 1979, making it one of the most enduring awards after the Nebula and Hugo awards, and one of the oldest fan-based awards currently in SF. Presented annually since 1982 at the World Science Fiction Convention, the Prometheus Awards include a gold coin and plaque for the winners. The Prometheus awards for Best Novel, Best Classic Fiction (Hall of Fame), and (occasional) Special Awards honor outstanding science fiction and fantasy that explores the possibilities of a free future, champions human rights (including personal and economic liberty), dramatizes the perennial conflict between individuals and coercive governments, or critiques the tragic consequences of abuse of power--especially by the State.

The LFS is announcing the winning works so that fans of the works and the writers can begin to make plans for attending the awards ceremonies.   Anyone interested in more information about the awards ceremony or other LFS activities at LoneStarCon3 can send email

For a full list of past Prometheus Award winners in three categories, visit Membership in the Libertarian Futurist Society is open to any science fiction fan interested in how fiction can promote an appreciation of the value of liberty.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Michael Johnson on RAW, natural law and philosophy

Michael Johnson's latest piece, "Are We Living in a Robert Anton Wilson Novel?" seems tailor-made for readers of this blog, so I'll send you over there and invite you to join me in making comments. But I will put in an additional comment. Johnson argues that RAW did what a couple of philosophers he references, Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse, have called for: Bridging the gap between philosophers and intelligent laymen. When I read that, I wondered if Michael had read a charming novel I came across years ago, Sophie's World, a novel that's about the history of philosophy.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Are we living in a RAW world?

I sometimes get Tweets from people asking if he are living in the world that Robert Anton Wilson wrote about. Lately, I seem to see a lot of stories that sound like a scene in Illuminatus! or an extension of RAW's other writings:

The Vatican's bank is rocked by scandal again. (Hat tip, hagbard celine).

The Department of Homeland Security has warned its employees not to read a particular Washington Post article. Roman Tsivkin, my source, thought at first the article was satire.

Virginia's attorney general wants to ban oral sex. (To protect the children, of course. He's the GOP candidate for governor, naturally.)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

'Music Is Medicine'

I have been trying to learn a little bit about music in general, and African music in particular, by reading Oz Fritz's posts. I have always listened to all kinds of music, and I do have a few albums of African music, but I don't known African pop as well as I know classical, jazz, rock, etc. May I suggest taking a moment to read his latest blog post, about a movie he is working on that is apparently a documentary on the music of Mali? There is a clip, about five minutes long, promoting the movie, and you get to see Oz himself at the end.

Anyway, I followed a link from the post to a 2010 Oz Fritz post describing a recording session he took part in during a trip to Mali, recording drummers and other musicians. (Oz really seems to get around. A recent post describes his experiences recording rock music made by indigenous Australians.)

That earlier post, "Music Is Medicine," explored the effects of music on listeners, describing how the music of the recording session affected Oz as he worked to capture it. Oz writes that he believes he was able to record a powerful sound:

But besides that, the ancient traditional rhythms and music they played was incredibly strong, powerful and uplifting. At one point - and this is where it becomes hard to put into words - I distinctly felt part of a much larger group body that was using the sounds and rhythms as a kind of navigational guide for entering into alternate modalities of perception outside the domain of common consensual reality. In more common vernacular, it completely blew my mind! 

Some people call this trance music but I consider this a bit of a misnomer as trance implies a loss of volition. The effect I felt seemed to last, with varying intensity, for quite awhile but it probably was about 20 -30 minutes in common time. Yet, I was always able to keep a part of my attention on the recording itself.

Although it's a different kind of music, I would imagine that Oz is interested in the experiments that Robert Anton Wilson tried in listening to music. Eric Wagner has written about the time RAW sat up all night, taking LSD and listening to all of Beethoven's nine symphonies, one after the other. And as I've noted, RAW has written lyrically about how Beethoven's music communicates "the higher states of awareness achieved by a fully turned-on brain."

I have been known to listen to Beethoven to improve my mood when I was venturing into the unknown. I listened to a Beethoven symphony years ago as I drove from Lawton to Oklahoma City, to meet a woman in a restaurant for what was essentially a blind date; I had met her via an Internet dating site. (She drove up from Tulsa. She was fun to talk to and I had a good time.) When I had hernia surgery a few years ago, I took along a small, cheap MP3 player and listened to Beethoven as they were giving me anesthesia and rendering me unconscious to go under the knife.

There's a lot of debate over whether Dimitri Shostakovich was a great composer, or a crummy one. I don't pretend to be a musicologist. I just know that when I listen to much of Shostakovich's music, I feel happy. I drove to work the other day feeling depressed, but as I listened to a recording of his music, it pulled me out of my bad mood. Oz's latest post talks about the joy of the music that is made in Mali in the midst of poverty that most Americans can't relate to. "Life is hard, music is good," Oz writes. Shostakovich spent much of his life being abused by one of the most loathsome tyrants of the 20th century, Joseph Stalin. He never stopped writing music, although some of it had to be put away for many years before it could be heard. Many critics write about the darkness of Shostakovich's music, but for me, it is full of energy and joy.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Reading through James Joyce

I've been trying to read James Joyce's works, in chronological order. I read Chamber Music a few months ago,  and now I've begun Dubliners. Wikipedia is very useful to reading Dubliners — there are individual entries for each story, so after I've read each I can read the entry. I read Dubliners when I was in high school and can't remember if I've read it since then.

There's a passage of Robert Anton Wilson's in which he talks about Joyce and says that Joyce invented the "New Yorker" story with Dubliners. Can anyone supply me with the citation?

As it happens, there is also a RAW connection to the other book I am reading — Sketches New and Old by Mark Twain. In this interview, when RAW is asked about his favorite works, he mentions "anything by Mark Twain." I picked Sketches Old and New because it had a couple of pieces I remembered well, such as "Journalism in Tennessee."

One advantage of owning a Kindle is that it's very easy to obtain a copy of any public domain book from Project Gutenberg in the Kindle format. My Twain book even includes 19th century illustrations.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Poster for RAW event in London

Bobby Campbell has produced a poster to plug John Higgs' and Daisy Eris Campbell's upcoming RAW event in London. Wish I could be there. I hope a video is posted on YouTube. Bobby's original posting at Maybe Logic Academy is here. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Michael Johnson on Bach

In case you missed it, Michael Johnson reviews The Cello Suites by Eric Siblin.

"If you only read one book on Bach the rest of the year, give this one a try. I missed it when it came out four years ago and serendipitously found it in a library search for something else, checked it out, and couldn't put it down ...

"Subtitled, "J.S. Bach, Pablo Casals, and the Search for a Baroque Masterpiece," The Cello Suites carries off well what's famously difficult to do: write 300-plus pages about music, engagingly, for an intelligent lay audience. "

Bach seems to inspire a lot of interesting writing. One of my all time favorite novels, The Gold Bug Variations by Richard Powers, features a long discussion of Bach's Goldberg Variations.

I notice that at the end of the Wilson and Karl Hess video, the two are asked to name the greatest man of all time, and RAW says Bach.

Bonus music link: Oz Fritz on a new movie about African music.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Time to read Coincidance?

After the group reading of Masks of the Illuminati concluded, a couple of you suggested that it might be fun to read one of Robert Anton Wilson's collections.

I'm going to suggest reading Coincidance, as much of the material in that book is about James Joyce, and many of you who take the time to post for this blog are into Joyce. It's a strong collection with varied subject matter, so perhaps many of you will find something in it you want to talk about. It's in print and it's available from Amazon and I assume could be ordered by your local book outlet.

Coincidance also was one of the offerings for New Falcon's abortive entry into Kindle ebooks at the end of May, price at only $4.99. Alas, the files offered for sale were defective, and all of the New Falcon electronic books have been withdrawn from sale. Despite repeated assurances from both the publisher  and Amazon,  the ebooks  still aren't available. I will let you know when/if they become available, but I'm tired of my plans for another group reading being held hostage.

What do you think would be a reasonable time to allow everyone to get their hands on the book? Would early September make sense? Is everyone on board with Coincidance, or would another book make more sense?

Friday, July 12, 2013

Need more conspiracy theories?

Via a posting on our friend Steve  Pratt's Tsogblogshere, I watched part of a  video entitled "Independence Day 2013, nothing left to lose in USA Inc." The guy in the video turned out to be a fellow named Ted Torbich, who hosts a show called "The Stench of Truth" on the Inception Radio Network that is largely devoted to interviewing various folks about conspiracy theories. ("Ted Torbich of the Stench of Truth Radio Show covers the paranormal , UFO’s, government coverups, secret history of the illuminati, MKUltra, mind control, aliens, dimensions, occult, para-politics, and more. Live Friday Nights 7:00 pm Eastern, 4:00pm Pacific.") I agreed with some of what Torbich had to say, but he seemed a little angry.

Mr. Torbich's show is part of the Inception Radio Network. ("IRN strives to deliver the most riveting live entertainment in UFOlogy, Paranormal, Cryptids, and Conspiracy.")

You can listen online to the various shows, and the Inception Radio Network allows people who have registered at the website to download or stream past episodes of Torbich's show. I asked him which episodes would be appropriate for Robert Anton Wilson fans. "Any of my shows with Adam Gorightly will likely appeal," he said. I've downloaded one of the Gorightly shows and will listen to it during my commute to work next week.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

News from London

Daisy Eris Campbell, the daughter of Ken Campbell, is preparing a stage adaptation of Robert Anton Wilson's Cosmic Trigger.

That's the word from the Web site of the London Fortean Society, which has announced that at 8 p.m. Oct. 23, it will feature a talk on RAW from Campbell and from John Higgs. Ken Campbell, of course, is the late British writer and director known for mounting a stage production of Illuminatus! Miss Campbell's mother is Prunella Gee, the British actress who is now a counselor. The October event will be held at a place called The Horse Hospital ("Providing space for underground and avante garde media since 1993").

About the appearance by D.E. Campbell, the folks at the Fortean Society say this: "Conceived backstage at her father's production of Illuminatus, Daisy Eris Campbell is now adapting Wilson's Cosmic Trigger for stage. She'll discuss the extraordinary story behind Shea and Wilson's magnum opus."

Meanwhile, John Higgs has announced on Twitter that his new novel, The First Church on the Moon, will be released August 10. The paperback will cost money, but the ebook will be free, Higgs says.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Bobby Campbell releases free comic book!

If you are short of your minimum daily requirement for comic book Zen, Bobby Campbell is here to help. Mr. Campbell, an artist (he has done illustrations for many of Robert Anton Wilson's books) and loyal RAW fan, has released Weird Comix #1, billed as "52 pages guaranteed to discombobulate." I have enjoyed reading my copy. Download link is here. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Two new summer books

There are two new summer books that many readers of this blog likely will be interested in.

Radley Balko

Radley Balko, a consistent and trenchant critic of "the war on some drugs," police misconduct, racist prosecutions, etc., has a book out today, Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces.  I have not had time to hunt down a copy and read it yet, but based on Balko's track record, it is extremely likely to be worth a careful read.

Balko is a hardcore, mainstream libertarian, but he is such a great reporter he often get compliments from leftists who would sooner eat a worm than say anything good about a libertarian:

Jesse Walker

Meanwhile, Jesse Walker's The United States of Paranoia: A Conspiracy Theory will be released on August 20. With this one,  I don't have to resort to predicting that it's likely to be very good. Jesse let me read an advance copy and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in conspiracy theories and/or United States history and/or Robert Anton Wilson and his Discordian friends. The topic of the entire book obviously is of interest to anyone who has read Illuminatus!. Moreover, a chapter entitled "Operation Mindfuck" focuses on Wilson and the ironic approach to conspiracy theories. Readers of this blog will want to note the numerous references to Robert Anton Wilson in the index; note that the index for RAW refers to large chunks of the book, as well as individual page numbers. My interview with Jesse about his new book will appear next month. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

RAW hosts Brion Gysin in Ireland

Brion Gysin invented the cut-up technique for altering prose which later was popularized by William Burroughs and later adopted by Robert Anton Wilson. (I think I've finally gotten that right, after screwing up in an earlier blog entry and attributing the technique to Burroughs.)

An entry on an Irish blog describes how in the early 1980s Gysin left Paris, stayed with Robert Anton Wilson for two weeks and then took a place of his own in rural Ireland. The bemused natives, who may not have been familiar with Gysin, were given a demonstration of his famous literary invention:

"He appears to have lived an idyllic life while there, going for long walks alone, befriending locals and going fishing with them and even spending one day helping them save turf on a nearby bog. He did not hide his more radical ideas from them either as one night in a nearby pub, Gerties in Keshkerrigan, he reportedly mutilated that week’s edition of the Leitrim Observer while demonstrating his cut-up technique at the bar. This incident was remembered with good humour when recounted to me by the owner of the bar who told me that the sentences he created were very humourous."

I found this entry after Nick Helweg-Larsen pointed me to this blog entry, which also concerned RAW and explained how Wilson inspired a writing project. Thanks, Nick!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Radley Balko on America's forgotten Founding Father

This is James Otis, not Radley Balko. Sorry about any confusion.

Radley Balko, arguably America's best journalist, pens a Fourth of July piece on James Otis, the forgotten Founding Father who helped lay the groundwork for the Fourth Amendment. Excerpt:

Mark Twain once wrote, "patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it." Independence Day isn't for celebrating the American government and whoever happens to be currently running it, but for celebrating the principles that make America unique. And in fact, celebrating the principles that animating the American founding often means celebrating the figures who have defended those principles in spite of the government. Today, the American government is hunting down Edward Snowden. My guess is that a generation or two from now, we'll think of him more as a James Otis than a Benedict Arnold.

Here's another nice bit:

Otis lost in court, as he expected he would. But his speech likely changed the course of history. Sitting in the courtroom gallery that afternoon was a 25-year-old attorney named John Adams. He would of course go on to become America's second president. Later in his life, Adam's recalled the enormous and lasting impact Otis' speech had on him. He praised Otis' grasp of history, his fiery defense of the rights of man, and pointed out that, quite ahead of his time, Otis even declared that black men had the same natural rights as white men, including the right to own property.

If you don't know who Radley Balko is, check this out. Wikipedia has a good article on Otis.

(Via Arthur Hlavaty.)

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Finnegans Wake reading on Twitter

Roman Tsivkin is leading a reading of Finnegans Wake on Twitter, at a rate of about 10 pages a day. I probably can't keep up, but I'm passing this on for folks who might want to try. Sample Tweets:

Friday, July 5, 2013

News from Italy

All of the stuff that Robert Anton Wilson wrote about Italian conspiracies and weirdness seems repeated in the news these days.

On Twitter, hagbard celine (@amoebadesign) pointed me to this article, noting, "It really doesn't get any better than this headline." (The headline is, Paedophile Priest Exposes 'Satanic Vatican Rent-Boy Sex-Ring.' Also, don't miss the other headline in the piece, Gay Lobby Exists in the Vatican, Admits Pope Francis.

And here is an article about the director of the Vatican bank resigning amid a massive money laundering scandal.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Orson Welles, genius and asshole

Orson Welles,  as this New Yorker article explains, had a series of lunches with director Henry Jaglom that were recorded for posterity. Transcripts of those lunch discussions have now been released as a book.

Robert Anton Wilson loved Welles work, particularly "F Is For Fake." Excerpt from the New Yorker article, Welles talking about "F Is For Fake":

The tragedy of my life is that I can’t get the Americans to like it…. Anyway, I think, “F for Fake” is the only really original movie I’ve made since “Kane.” You see, everything else is only carrying movies a little further along the same path. I believe that the movies—I’ll say a terrible thing—have never gone beyond “Kane.” That doesn’t mean that there haven’t been good movies, or great movies. But everything has been done now in movies, to the point of fatigue. You can do it better, but it’s always gonna be the same grammar, you know? Every artistic form—the blank-verse drama, the Greek plays, the novel—has only so many possibilities and only so long a life. And I have a feeling that in movies, until we break completely, we are only increasing the library of good works. I know that as a director of movie actors in front of the camera, I have nowhere to move forward. I can only make another good work.

And here is a transcript of one of the conversations. Very gossipy. Excerpt:

Richard Burton comes to the table.

Richard Burton: Orson, how good to see you. It’s been too long. You’re looking fine. Elizabeth is with me. She so much wants to meet you. Can I bring her over to your table?

O.W.: No. As you can see, I’m in the middle of my lunch. I’ll stop by on my way out.

Burton exits.

H.J.: Orson, you’re behaving like an asshole. That was so rude.

I also liked the conspiracy theory Welles offered about Carole Lombard's plane being shot down by Nazi agents.

(Hat tip: Eric Wagner, first article, and Jesse Walker, I think, second).

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

More links!

Toward the end of his life, friends of Ernest Hemingway shook their heads as the increasingly paranoid, mentally ill great writer complained about being spied on by the FBI. Well, guess what?

The co-author of Weaponized, subject of yesterday's blog post, is David Guggenheim. He  is a big fan of "70s paranoia movies."

Chart of Obama conspiracy theories. (Via Supergee).

"Hippie physicist" Nick Herbert marks his fifth anniversary as a blogger.

Andrew Crawshaw is now on Twitter.

Rapper who tried to sacrifice friend to the Illuminati heading to prison. (Via Dan Clore at his RAW area on Facebook.)

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Thriller novelist Nick Mennuti on the NSA and RAW

The official video for the free They Might Be Giants NSA ringtone. I found the video at Nick Mennuti's Twitter site.

A few weeks ago, I got an email from Theresa Giacopasi, a playwright and a publicist for the Little, Brown and Company publishing company in New York. Ms. Giacopasi told me that author Nicholas Mennuti is a big fan of RAWIllumination and that he's about to come out with a new thriller at the end of July, Weaponized, that's reminiscent of the ongoing Edward Snowden affair. Mennuti has an op-ed up a Huffington Post, she wrote.

I checked out Mennuti's piece, and then agreed to interview Mennuti.

Weaponized, cowritten with screenwriter David Guggenheim, has a hero who is hiding out in Cambodia after being falsely accused of leaking secret American documents. A "Publisher's Weekly" starred review says, ""[An] excellent first novel . . . The authors have their fingers on the pulse of contemporary life . . . The rare suspense novel that will genuinely surprise jaded genre readers." Weaponized comes out on July 30.

Your new novel, Weaponized, features a private contractor who is accused of leaking secret documents. While I'm sure your main purpose is to entertain, do you hope it will help readers think through issues raised by the Edward Snowden case?

Absolutely. Although in “Weaponized”, my main character, Kyle West, is actually an inversion of Snowden. He’s the guy forced to run because someone like Snowden leaked documents with Kyle’s name all over them.

The best way I can sum it up is this:

If in Snowden’s leaks, one name came up over and over again as the biggest reason the NSA was able to achieve such omnipotence – that would be Kyle. He’s basically accused of helping to enable a techno-fascist state to take root, so obviously with that kind of press, you run away.

What’s ironic is that Kyle ends up on the same journey Snowden’s on right now, even though they’re each other’s mirrors. He ends up floating between different countries as warrants for his extradition keep piling up. He’s dodging testimony before select committees. He’s branded a traitor. And more and more of his sins keep hitting the news every day – the exact sins I might add – that Snowden is currently accusing the NSA of committing.

I started out wanting Kyle to be two things: A private contractor. And also the accused party and not the leaker. That’s where his character began for me.

I wanted him to be the accused and not the leaker, because you rarely ever get that story, or if you do, it’s because that character has usually been unjustly accused. I like my characters to have a bit of ambiguity, so I wanted Kyle’s relative innocence in regard to what’s contained in the leaked documents to be a bit of a mystery itself.

Someone like Snowden may be fascinating to a journalist, but for a novelist, he’s slightly less compelling as a character, especially, if you’re writing a thriller. Snowden just has too much help right now. He’s got WikiLeaks and their lawyer, plus several countries -- if not actively hostile to the U.S. at least not eager to help us – that are willing to shelter him. So Kyle is more isolated than Snowden and that makes for better drama.

However, that said, if Snowden has to run for over a year, his experience may end up even further mirroring Kyle’s. Because I’m not sure how long Snowden can keep country hopping, and if he can, where he’s going to end up. Let’s hope he doesn’t end up in a shoot-out in Cambodia.

The private contractor aspect of Kyle’s character exists because I wanted to address how a great deal of the NSA has been privatized. We look at it as a government behemoth, but so much of the work being done there is conducted off-site. I think the freelance culture of both systems intelligence and spying in the current age is both dangerous and underreported on. And although no novel comes straight from a polemical desire, my concern about those symptoms definitely fueled the writing.

I don’t think my book will have an iota of the effect of Snowden’s leaks, I do hope one thing does happen: That something actually changes.

Because my greatest worry is that we have all these discussions about Snowden’s leaks and then things just stay the same. That’s exactly what happened in 2006-07 when we had leakers from Verizon and NSA step forward, and everyone screamed at the Bush administration, but we kept the program anyway, and Obama just put it on steroids.

So I hope that we not only discuss Snowden’s leaks – I hope we actually stop and consider the size of our security state, which is completely out of control. And it’s not only out of control from a civil liberties perspective – it’s out of control from any perspective.

What state of siege does a country have to be under to justify sucking up this amount of information on its citizens? I mean we should literally be in a 24-hour total war for this kind of surveillance. And I’m certain someone is going to make the argument we are at 24-hour war between terrorism and cyber-attacks. But even with those two – which don’t get me wrong are real threats – the amount of personal information the government has access to is insane.

On top of all that -- I don’t think NSA is even good at sifting through all the information they collect. I said it in my article and I’ll say it again for your readers – for the security dragnet we have – two brothers in Boston who the Russians warned us about shouldn’t have been able to plant a bomb. I’m willing to grant we can’t prevent every act of terrorism, but if the Russians warn you half a dozen times, and you have this omnipotent security state, there’s no reason for that attack to happen.

I tried to Google you after I got the email from your publicist and couldn't find much information about you. (Good job!) Tell me a little about yourself, what you're willing to share with  my readers and the NSA.

Tom, I swear I wish I could tell you my relative anonymity in cyberspace has been a well-thought out plan. By nature, I’m kind of solitary. I’m a writer and an only child, which means I’m almost genetically pre-disposed to want to be alone. Also, I’ve never been a fan of over-sharing. I just got on Twitter and Good Reads and all these social networking sites for the book, to reach out because I believe in it, but I’d still like to retain some anonymity.

I think a lot of writers today – I shall leave them nameless – have developed their persona to such an extent that it’s what ends up getting reviewed and commented upon instead of the work. I actually suspect this hyper-persona may be directly related to the isolated nature of what writers do. If you don’t have the right temperament, the isolation can be troubling, and can lead you toward spectacle.

In terms of what I’m willing to divulge – and also what might interest your readers – I live in New York. I went to Tisch at NYU to study Dramatic Writing. I began my writing career as a short-story writer and those pieces had more of a literary bent; however, that started to change when the facts of the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping was exposed. I can’t think of any other way to describe it except to say, it really fascinated me from a technology angle and pissed me off as a citizen.

I wrote a short story about it called “Connected” which Sven Birkerts (a great essayist and a greater guy) published in his literary magazine out of Boston University called “Agni”, and my career sort of changed after that. “Agni” was a bigger publication than I had ever appeared in, and the germ of Weaponized sort of all sprang from that short story. The story of Weaponized is different of course from the short story, but the writing style and the content are similar.

Nick Mennuti

I heard from your publicist after you found my blog. Is Robert Anton Wilson's work an influence on your own?

I actually had my publicist get in touch with you because I’ve been a HUGE fan of your blog since I first found it in probably mid-2011. I know it existed before then, but that’s when I first happened upon it. And I thought, judging from your blog, you and your readers were people I’d like to have a dialogue with regarding the issue of state surveillance. On top of which, you’ve been doing a terrific job of covering it.

RAW’s work has been a huge influence on me in a number of ways, some of them more obvious than others.

I have to be honest about my own shortcomings when talking about RAW. When I read his work (starting in college) I was to put it mildly – blown away. However, as I got older, I realized I lacked his speculative gifts. To put it mildly, RAW was a visionary. Plus, I couldn’t spread myself across as many different mediums as he did. I mean calling the man a prolific polymath doesn’t even begin to do him justice. I was a fiction writer (and occasional essayist), but RAW did so much more and somehow all of it well. I think you have to do this with all your literary heroes – you have to be honest with yourself and say – what can I learn from this one. Because you’re never going to be just like them.

And from RAW what I learned was to look beneath the surface – way beneath the surface. To not believe any totalizing theory that’s presented to you as gospel or fact, and in general – just keep your fucking mind open to probabilities because nothing is necessarily true. He made doubt his religion (and I cringe using that word regarding RAW). And I still practice it on a daily basis.

RAW also influenced me in that he had a tremendous sense of humor. I mean even when the man was discussing consciousness or systems theory – heavy fucking topics -- he was funny as hell. Now I don’t think I’m nearly as funny as RAW, but I do true to incorporate some of that humor in my books. I’ve always said to friends who don’t know RAW’s work that -- it’s like what Pynchon would be like, if he was actually funny and without those terrible songs. (I may have just infuriated half your audience).

He also was the first author I came across – and this is something I did steal directly for Weaponized from Masks of the Illumanati – who put real people in lead roles in their books. Obviously, RAW used Crowley (and others of course). Now I didn’t put any real people in lead roles. But large swaths of the Bush and Obama administration have cameos throughout Weaponized. RAW was the master of breaking the literary 4th wall. I try to do it in my own way.

According to an appendix to Illuminatus!, the Illuminati theory of history says that the fourth stage (of the the five stages) is "Bureaucracy," a period associated with the I Ching hexagrams for "oppression or exhaustion, superior men held in restraint by inferior men." In  your piece for Huffington Post, you write, "The current state of our government is neither idealist nor pragmatism -- it's bureaucracy, the obscene underside of pragmatism. It simultaneously keeps growing and yet nothing ever changes." How do we stop bureaucracy from controlling our national security system?

Fascinating question and one that terrifies me – now I have to present actual ideas about improving the system, instead of fulminating against it.

I mean I have some pie in the sky ideas – like rigorous term-limits for Senators and House reps, because I think once they stay in too long they just become shills for whoever paid for the last campaign. I’d love to see lobbyists under greater restriction and scrutiny. But let’s get real…

I think bureaucracy arrives when there’s something mostly unnecessary being preserved just because it’s making people too much money to ever let it stop. The more unnecessary said “project” is, the more people it needs to employ, either to justify its own existence, or to stop people from asking questions about it by putting them on the payroll.

And that’s when you get the kind of bureaucracy we have today. There’s too much money being made and fewer reasons for half these things to exist, but if you were to cut them, you might unleash levels of unemployment that could lead to total anarchy. So not only did we create a bureaucracy, we are slaves to it now.

Now in the particular case of the NSA surveillance program the only remedy I can offer is this.
Can we actually let people who aren’t 60 years old or older discuss the problem? Ninety percent of the people asking the NSA and FBI questions don’t even know what Twitter or Instagram is – let alone what it means to block or monitor it.

I think it would do a world of good if we actually allowed some experts on this issue to voice their support/concerns over the program. I know the government has gotten in touch with hackers before to recruit them for NSA or talk about cyber-attacks. Well let’s bring them before a committee and let them talk -- let them break down what current systems intelligence can actually do.

I think one of the reasons people can’t sustain a level of outrage over the NSA is that at some point – none of the facts being unearthed make any sense to half of them, so they just tune out. Which although I understand -- the technical aspects of the program can be maddeningly complex -- if you do care about privacy, this is stuff you need to know. You can’t tub-thump for privacy and not understand how it’s being stripped from you.

So I don’t know how to subvert the bureaucracy, it’s so entrenched now, all I can do is offer the above as a palliative. It’s like hospice care for the patient. I don’t know how to save it, but maybe a little pain can be prevented.

Monday, July 1, 2013

PQ and Ted Gioia on James Joyce

In a blog post on Ulysses, PQ offers a dissenting thought:

In discussing Ulysses, people often describe it as a normal, mundane day in the life of one Jew in Ireland named Leopold Bloom. I strongly disagree with this description. While, yes, Bloom runs some errands and does everyday things like defecate, urinate, masticate, masturbate, he also attends a funeral (which leads to deep consideration of life and death), suffers the sadness of knowing his wife is cheating on him that very afternoon (haunting his mind all day), visits a woman in the hospital who's been suffering through a terribly painful labor (his appearance coinciding with a successful parturition), and saves a precocious but wayward young man from getting his ass kicked or going to jail or both.

There's a follow-up post here. James Joyce has been written about a great deal, but PQ always manages to come up with something interesting. The latest post is labeled Part One, so I'm hoping we get more.

Ted Gioia on "The Making of Ulysses" is here, with links to his other Joyce pieces.