Friday, May 31, 2013

Latest John Higgs news!

Here is the latest news about author and RAW scholar John Higgs, although some of it is particularly applicable for folks in Britain:

(1) For a limited time, his Timothy Leary biography, I Have America Surrounded, is available free for Kindle at Amazon UK.

The American Kindle version has been yanked but a new version will be available soon. (There were issues with the previous publisher.)

(2) He will be speaking about Robert Anton Wilson at the Secret Garden Party Festival in Cambridgshire July 25-28. Details here.  The talk is entitled, "The Great Robert Anton Wilson!" (His book about the KLF is about RAW, the most unusual and interesting rock biography you will ever read, is almost as much as it's about the eccentric band.)

Higgs has bitten the bullet and put up an author page on Facebook (please "like") but he also can still be followed on Twitter.

(3) Now,  the big news, and everyone gets to take part: The First Church on the Moon, a sequel to Higgs' acclaimed novel The Brandy of the Damned, will be released as an ebook in a month or so, and Higgs plans to make it available to everyone for free.

Higgs, hard at work on a big new alternative history of the 20th century to be brought out by a major publisher, explains that giving away a novel for free is surprisingly difficult:

"Yeah it'll be an experiment and probably not a sensible one but I think I'll just release The First Church on the Moon ebook for free worldwide. If I got it published properly it would be 18 months or so before anyone would see it, and that's awful. If I was to to self-pub it myself I know full well I'd fail to do all the hustling and review begging that you need to do to sell copies. But if I stick it out for free then I've got no idea what will happen to it, it might sink like a stone or it might get a word-of-mouth thing going. As books go, this one is full of mischief so it seems fitting.

"But putting books out for free is a difficult issue. There's the problem that people will just assume that it's shit - that their starting position will be that it has no value, and hence a burden on their time. In some ways a free book has to be better than a paid one to get over that hurdle. There's the likelihood that it will reach people on a completely different wavelength to you, who flick through it because its free and then slag it off... but as I say, this book is full of mischief and I suspect part of it wants that.

"And there's the whole 'devaluing literature' thing, and annoying your peers... But whereas my non-fiction stuff, especially the 20th Century book I'm writing now, are the result of a lot of work, research and thought - and hence well worth the cover price in my opinion - The First Church on the Moon was just a sheer joy that fell out with no trouble at all, and it almost seems dishonest to charge for that. It seems more in keeping with spirit of the book to make it a thank-you gift for those who have supported me by buying Brandy of the Damned and The KLF."







Thursday, May 30, 2013

Death of a master

There's lots of cool JMR Higgs news, but I'll post it tomorrow.  I have sad breaking news: science fiction and fantasy master Jack Vance is dead.

I've had to revise my opinion a bit on some of the science fiction writers I liked as a teenager, but I've never wavered from my opinion that Vance is a wonderful writer. When I was in high school, I bought my first science fiction magazine, the July 1972 issue of "Fantasy and Science Fiction," and it had a serial of a Jack Vance novel, The Brave Free Men. When I was still in high school, I wrote him a fan letter. He wrote back.

From 1972 on, I read Vance, and I never really stopped. He put out his last novel, Lurulu, the same year he turned 88. He was done with fiction after that, but put out a charming memoir, This Is Me, Jack Vance! in 2009, which of course I read. He was 96 when he died.

Vance had a distinct style, was witty and was inventive in creating strange customs and culture. He thought little of overbearing institutions and of religion, but liked feasting, wine, jazz (old school) and world travel.

He did write some minor works, but in general was remarkably consistent in his output. He was very good at writing novellas, long short stories, and some of his most famous stories were at that length: "The Dragon Masters" and "The Last Castle" both won Hugos, and "The Moon Moth" was included in SFWA's "Science Fiction Hall of Fame." The Dying Earth, a famous early book, is a collection of related stories. Some of his other best books are story collections, too: Eyes of the Overworld, for example, and its sequel, Cugel's Saga. Emphyrio is a really good novel, and Dan Clore, who runs the RAW Fans group on Facebook, put it on  his list of best libertarian science fiction novels.  I also like the Lyonesse trilogy (World Fantasy Award for the final book of the trilogy, Lyonesse: Madouc, but read the other two), the Cadwal chronicles trilogy and most of the Alastor Cluster novels.

Not sure how I can excuse putting this up on the RAW blog, but I assume that sombunall of you are interested in really good science fiction and fantasy. Dan Clore likes him a lot, and I do, too, and that's from two RAW fans who spend a lot of time promotion RAW on the Internet.

The Guardian ran this excellent appreciation by Christopher Priest. For more Vance links, please see the last day or two of my Twitter account. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Philip K. Dick reading club

I've hosted group reads for Robert Anton Wilson's books, but apparently we're slackers. The Philip K. Dick Reading Club is tackling 45 novels in 90 weeks, i.e. a Dick novel every two weeks.

The reading schedule reveals that the club began on Feb. 9. The books are being read in chronological order. This may be a good time to jump in, because the early June book is the award-winning classic The Man in the High Castle.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Various links

PQ comes across "an old out-of-print obscure illustrated book of Finnegans Wake quotes."

Wonkblog piece on universal basic income. (Hat tip, Dan Clore).

Aleister Crowley documentary on Ubuweb.

Ancient Order flyers from Chicago, also on Ubuweb (hat tip, Jesse Walker).

Illuminati knapsack at Dangerous Minds blog.

List of U.S. military interventions.



Monday, May 27, 2013

Eric Wagner's Beethoven listening project

Author and teacher Eric Wagner, who shares my passion for Ludwig van Beethoven's music,  answered the question I posed at his blog on how he listens to Beethoven, and shared details about his project to intensively listen to Beethoven's 32 piano sonatas.

Here are a couple of (legal) places to  download recordings of Beethoven's music. The Internet Archive has many old recordings, while the Gardner Museum has recent recordings of Beethoven's chamber music. Classic Cat also has recordings to try.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

But Siriusly folks

Jason Pilley, who wrote to me earlier to offer a theory on the cuts in Illuminatus!, wrote to me again to mention an expected discovery:

Thought you might be interested in this - I've never seen RAW mention it before - I'm currently slogging through The Koran and was thrilled to find that in chapter 53:49 we suddenly get, from out of nowhere: "He [Allah] it is Who is the Lord of Sirius."

AIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!

For more on the Sirius Enigma, see RAW's Cosmic Trigger (the first one, highly recommended  anyway if Sirius isn't high on your list of priorities right now) and Robert Temple's The Sirius Mystery.  (Temple's work, unfortunately, seems to be taking a battering. Here is a skeptical take.)



Saturday, May 25, 2013

Editor of Illuminatus! pens book on charitable giving

Fred Lawrence Feldman is the Dell editor who many years ago -- the early 1970s -- did much of the work of editing Illuminatus! and preparing it for publication. I plan to have my interview with Feldman up soon at this blog. (In the meantime, you can read my interview with the other editor who worked on the trilogy, David Harris, "I think I said it would be tossed into the East River.") Feldman recently published a book on charitable giving, How to Save the World on $5 a Day.




Friday, May 24, 2013

Why I'm supporting Antiwar.com

I've become increasing convinced that regular electoral politics is a waste of time, at least in the U.S.

Here is some related material, then I will weigh in. From the Lewis Shiner interview of Robert Anton Wilson:

Shiner: How about politics?

RAW: I've gotten increasingly agnostic and I've gotten older, and increasingly wary of ideologies, including my own. So if you tied me to a lie detector, with a gun to my head, I would have to say, most of the time, I'm somewhere on the libertarian-anarchist continuum. But I distrust myself. I distrust being rigidified and getting dogmatic, so I keep challenging my own assumptions and looking at alternatives. Knowing how dumb I am, I don't want to become another dogmatist. I saw what happened to Ayn Rand and sweet Jesus forbid it should happen to me.

Now my political activity consists of making regular contributions to Amnesty International, which I regard as insurance, not as charity. Amnesty has a very simply policy, namely, "People should not be locked up for their ideas." I'm all for that. I figure anybody in jail for his or her ideas is depriving my brain of nourishment. If they could get out and publish their ideas it might inspire me; it might give me new ideas; it might cause brain growth. As long as one heretic is locked up, part of my brain is locked up and I'm not getting the nourishment I need. So that's the one thing I still contribute to regularly: Amnesty. My wife contributes to the American Friends Service Committee — I don't, because she's already doing it. That's about it. I'm very cynical about politics. I have a wan, nostalgic hope that Jesse Jackson will win, just because a black president would restore a balance. So would a woman president, of course.

Anarchist Charles Davis, a guy I follow on Twitter, has some similar thoughts in this piece, "The Limits of Liberalism."  I suggest reading the whole thing (he's an easy read) but here's his advice on "making a difference":

Instead of banking on a politician improving our world, my advice? Improve yourself. Be an example to others. Work not on the behalf of a political party, but your community. Put simply, forget the polling booth and head to the soup kitchen. At least then you won’t be complicit in a bloodied, immoral system.

Well, we got the black president RAW mentioned, and he's even a constitutional law professor and a liberal, and the result is that the FBI is spying on a peaceful antiwar journalism and activism site, Antiwar.com. 

You could argue that FBI spying gives Antiwar.com some street cred, but I was alarmed when I read on the site that the organization has lost money because several important donors don't want to worry about being investigated by the FBI. 

So I made a $25 donation to Antiwar.com yesterday. They do a great job of producing a lot of journalism with a rather small staff. If Antiwar.com isn't quite your cup of tea, I've tried to put up links to other worthwhile peace and civil liberties groups.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Jesse Walker on conspiracy theories

Jesse Walker has an excellent post at Reason's Hit and Run blog poking holes in a New York Times piece on conspiracy theories (written by Maggie Koerth-Baker, Boing Boing's science correspondent.) A taste of Walker's piece:

Virtually everyone who has any political beliefs at all believes in at least one conspiracy theory. Imagining conspiracies is just part of how human beings tend to perceive the world: It's where our drive to find patterns meets our capacity for being suspicious, particularly when we're dealing with other nations, factions, subcultures, or layers of the social hierarchy. This habit manifests itself across the political spectrum, and it always has. And it is intensified by the fact that conspiracies, unlike many of the monsters that haunt us, do sometimes actually exist. 

Walker has a book about all this coming out soon that I can't wait to read.

Skimming through Koerth-Baker's piece, I got the name of a California history professor who writes about conspiracy theories, Kathryn S. Olmsted. When I Googled her, I found this book. a 2009 tome entitled Real Enemies: Conspiracy Theory and American Democracy, World War I to 9/11. Jesse says her book is quite good, and so is her Challenging the Secret Government. 

Bonus link: Jesse Walker reviews the new Dan Brown. Excerpt:

 Brown's been around long enough by now that we should know better than to enter his books expecting graceful language or a reliable guide to the world; we might as well move on to asking if there's anything his new effort gets right. And I have to say that there is. Beneath the Dante-for-dummies lectures and the formulaic plot there's a current of sheer strangeness here: elaborate deceptions; secret clues concealed in ancient objects; science-fiction elements that slowly move to center stage; a bizarre conspiracy that is almost FantĂ´mas-like in its unnecessarily labyrinthine details; the fact that the author clearly sympathizes with the book's nominal villain, marching right up to the edge of endorsing his actions.






Wednesday, May 22, 2013

FBI spying on Antiwar.com

In the Sixties I was very involved in the peace movement, and more and more people in the peace movement started telling me and telling one another that we were infiltrated by government agents.  And after a while, I decided it was true, and we just had to learn to live with it.  There wasn't much we could do about it. No sense in getting hysterical about it.  But it turned out that we were - that was the "call and tell" program.  Then when the war ended, I got involved in the Timothy Leary defense fund, which was raising money to fight Leary's case and get him out of prison.  Everybody in the Leary defense fund eventually suspected everybody else of working for the Drug Enforcement Administration, and we were all suspected of being government agents, we all suspected one another.  People would come around and tell me, "John is a government agent," and the next day John would come around and tell me Jim was a government agent.  I've been living in that kind of environment since the late sixties.  I just got used to it.

                                                                           -- Robert Anton Wilson

While there is an ever-present danger that any given libertarian will launch yet another blog or social media account or think tank, libertarians generally are not associated with terrorism or violent activity. I suppose that someday there will be a bombing carried out by the Murray Rothbard  Liberation Front or the Robert Nozick Revolutionary Brigade,  but fortunately, it hasn't happened yet.

But yesterday, the same day that I put up a blog posting about a video featuring Robert Anton Wilson and Karl Hess, in which Wilson talks about being spied on while part of the peace movement in Chicago (in  terms similar to the interview citation referenced above), I read that Antiwar.com, the libertarian peace site, has sued the FBI in an attempt to learn more about the FBI's surveillance of the website and its editors. Apparently the government has nothing better to do than monitor an opinion website. (I've linked to Antiwar.com at this blog for a long time.)

The best article I've read about the lawsuit is this one by Kelley Vlahos published by Antiwar.com.




Tuesday, May 21, 2013

New RAW audio and video

The other day, I covered an appearance at an Ohio library of best selling historical novelist Tracy Chevalier. During the question and answer session, she did something marvelous. Every time someone asked a question, she repeated it aloud so that everyone could hear it  and know what she was answering.

I wish Robert Anton Wilson had learned to do this, because it would make the discovery of two new videos (also available as MP3 audio downloads) even better -- some of the answers would be better if I could hear what the original question was.

Still,  this is pretty good: A joint appearance with Karl Hess (about two and half hours) and a solo performance (about an hour and a half ). Both videos were made at the Libertarian Party's 1987 nominating convention and are made available on Libertarianism.org. It works pretty well as MP3 files (the only way I had time to take them in -- I have a long commute) but you'll have to watch at least the first part of the Wilson-Hess video to figure out why you keep hearing those mysterious cigarette lighter noises.

This videos are useful for learning what Wilson called himself in 1987 (instead of "libertarian"), for  learning what women want and for finding out who Wilson named as the "greatest man who ever lived" (not the person I was expecting.)

Monday, May 20, 2013

Oz checks in again in 'Masks' discussion

If you missed it, Oz Fritz has posted two more comments in Part 10 of the Masks of the Illuminati discussion (hat tip, Gary Acord for prompting Oz and pointing it out to me.)

Which prompts me to point out that it's never too late to participate and post new comments in the Masks of the Illuminati or Quantum Psychology discussions. I plan to re-read Quantum Psychology later this year and post more comments.




Sunday, May 19, 2013

From the "Rancid Honeytrap FAQ"

Here is a bit I liked from a document called the "Rancid Honeytrap FAQ"


If You’re Not a Libertarian, How Come You are Always Defending Them?

As I’ve said elsewhere, I do not rule out any tactical alliance. At the moment, it seems that people identifying themselves as libertarians are among the most genuinely principled in opposition to police brutality, the security state, mass incarceration and the Wars on Drugs and Terror. Those are all issues of huge importance and I don’t think an effective politics can rule out a tactical alliance with any faction that is principled on these points, regardless of what else this faction might stand for.

Furthermore, I believe that anti-libertarian fear-mongering is increasingly being deployed as a stratagem of liberals and other statist lefts, in an effort to immunize the Democratic Party from any genuinely leveraged opposition from anti-imperialists and civil libertarians. In other words, the primary aim of stigmatizing libertarians is the fortification of state violence, as well as fortification of the primacy of the state itself. Its leading proponents are careerist idiots acting in the worst possible faith.  Hence I reject it with the most extreme contempt. 

The fellow who wrote that is a "bilious, sex-obsessed, herbivorous, queer semi-anarchist" and I follow him on Twitter.


This guy obviously is not my clone (I'm not always bilious or sex-obsessed, I'm only part time herbivorous, I'm not queer and I identify as a moderate libertarian who supports a guaranteed income) but I'm totally behind his priorities, and I think most people with a clear political vision (Jesse Walker, Cory Doctorow, etc.) are too. That's why I include peace and civil liberties links under "Resources" and "Sangha."

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Various links

Audiobook of J.G. Ballard's The Drowned World (free download at Ubuweb).

 RAW predicts Bitcoin (from the new Reddit group).

Wonkblog article on universal basic income, a proposal endorsed by RAW, Milton Friedman and other heretics (via Dan Clore at Robert Anton Wilson Fans on Facebook).

A Building Roam on Room 237.

Will robots take all the jobs? (From Boing Boing, another issue RAW wrote about, Cory's take is close to RAW's.)

Friday, May 17, 2013

An interesting RAW interview



John Higgs recently journeyed from Brighton to London (on the M23 highway, naturally), met up with actress Prunella Gee and returned home with a 1970s interview with Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea. He offered on Twitter to scan it and share it with readers of this blog.

As it turns out, there was no need. The wonderful Robert Anton Wilson fans Web site has the interview. It's a good look at RAW's thinking during the 1970s (he explains what "Osiris is a black god" means). The only disappointment is that Shea kind of disappears for much of the interview. I would have liked more of him, too.

Prunella Gee is a lovely blonde British actress with a long list of credits, but RAW fans will remember her as the actress who portrayed Eris and Mavis in the British stage production of Illuminatus! (She was formerly married to Ken Campbell and they had a daughter, Daisy Eris.) I believe she is now retired from stage, screen and British TV and is a counselor in London.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

More on the new Leary bio

The new Timothy Leary bio by R.U. Sirius I mentioned earlier (which as I said has quite a bit about Robert Anton Wilson) is drawing good notices. I09 calls it "The first great biography of Timothy Leary," which seems like a slight stretch, as I rather like the JMR Higgs bio. Nick Gillespie has endorsed it over at Reason.  Higgs himself endorsed it on Twitter and said it looks really good. Free download of ebook is here.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Are libertarians ideological conformists?

In this blog post, a guy named Freddie DeBoer writes, "Now, I fight with conservatives, liberals, libertarians, my fellow leftists, and assorted fringe groups constantly. No group is more taken to groupthink and the expression of their ideological boilerplate than libertarians. None. In fact, it's not close."

This naturally inspires some dissent, and the comments are very lively. (Many of them are from folks I follow on Twitter.)

DeBoer writes, " I look at the inter-libertarian squabbles between my Facebook friends, and it's remarkable how quickly apostasy is punished and how quickly libertarians move to get into lockstep with Hayek or von Mises or Rand. If someone suggests that, say, the federal free lunch program isn't a matter of creeping authoritarianism, they are swiftly dispatched. It's like clockwork."

It's pretty easy to get dismissed as a "statist" in libertarian circles, even if you support 80 percent of the standard platform. (See this great post from Michael Munger at Duke University).

But it's also not difficult to find folks who dissent from the standard "line," aside from the folks currently piling on Mr. DeBoer,  and those are the folks I mostly read. (Such as Munger, who favors a single payer health insurance system, and Tyler Cowen, and Will Wilkinson, and Robert Anton Wilson for basically his entire career.) I've noticed that Julian Sanchez doesn't always follow the "company line" either, although it's usually not noticeable because he usually writes about civil liberties, a topic almost all libertarians agree upon.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

'Here am I floating in my tin can'

Um, speaking of some of the higher circuits in the Eight Circuit model ....

Just watch:




Some other music links, while I am on the subject.

Here is a place where you can download a free jazz album that Jesse Walker recommends. (Thurston Moore recommends it.Here you can download an album of chamber music of Stravinsky that I like (FLAC files, from the Avante Garde Project.) Oz Fritz writes about two bands that matter.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Chatting with Eric about Beethoven

A few weeks ago, I decided to listen to the Big Beethoven Box from the Bach Guild  from beginning to end, and I wondered what the latest Beethoven listening project was for another Beethoven fan, RAW scholar Eric Wagner. (When I took Eric's class at Maybe Logic Academy on the Schroedinger's Cat trilogy, he assigned us to listen to Beethoven's No. 29 piano sonata, aka "Hammerklavier," at least once a week for the duration of the course.)

I meant to write to Eric about this, but to my surprise, he wrote to me first, and we had an exchange of emails about Beethoven, as follows:


Dear Tom,

I hope all goes well.  How goes your Beethoven listening?  I listened to a lot of jazz this month, but now I've returned to the Beethoven quartets.  I had stopped rereading Kerman's The Beethoven Quartets with the Op. 59 quartets.  I picked it up again yesterday and started reading about the Harp Quartet.  I plan to work my way through the rest of the book and the rest of the quartets.

Live long and prosper,

Eric


Dear Eric,

It's funny you should write, because I've been thinking about you and Beethoven recently. I have been listening to the Bach Guild's "Big Beethoven Box" (that I wrote about recently on the blog) and I decided a few days ago to listen to it from start to finish, so that I would hear each work at least once and figure out what I want to listen to again. I listened to the complete Egmont incidental music last night before I went to sleep.

Have you completed your listening project to listen to all of the piano sonatas? (I can't remember how many times you were going to listen to each one.) The Beethoven box has many of the late string quartets on it, and I downloaded the three Op. 59 quartets a few weeks ago and listened to them.

I have not read the Kerman book yet that you recommended. Roman Tsivkin recommended a book called "Beethoven His Spiritual Development" by a writer named Sullivan; I have that on my Kindle, but I haven't gotten to it, either.

                                                   Hail Eris,

                                                       Tom


Dear Tom,

I hope all goes well.  Rafi just sent me a link to Jazz Day live in Istanbul - http://live.jazzday.com/ , so I have that on right now.

I listened to each of the 32 Beethoven piano sonatas eleven times to go along with Joyce's 11:32.  (I associate the sixteen string quartets with the sixteen flowerpots in Wodehouse's Leave It to Psmith.  I've read too much Crowley and Wilson, I guess.)  I found that 11:32 experience illuminating, and it led nicely into listening to the Hammerklavier a number of times for the Maybe Logic class.

A priest friend of mine lent me the Sullivan book to me about ten years ago, and I enjoyed it.  Kerman mentions it frequently.  The book didn't totally click with me.  I might enjoy it more if I reread it.

Live long and prosper,

Eric


Eric,

What did you think of the movie "Immortal Beloved"? I rather enjoyed it.

OK for me to post our Beethoven correspondence to the blog?

        Tom


Dear Tom,

I hope all goes well.  I did enjoy Immortal Beloved, especially the visuals during the "Ode to Joy."  I don't agree with the identity it gives to the "Immortal Beloved" however.

Yes, you may post our correspondence to your terrific blog.  I hope you enjoy the Sullivan book.  I continue to listen to the Harp Quartet.  You might listen to Rafi's radio show this week - lotsa Beethoven.  http://taintradio.org/author/rafizabor/ , 5 - 7 PM Friday, California time, and repeated 9 - 11 AM Tuesday.

Live long and prosper,

Eric


Eric,

I'll listen if I can.

I wanted to toss another thought out there.

Some of Beethoven's music was quite radical for his time. I'm thinking for example of the story about how some musicians did not understand some of his string quartets, and he replied dismissively that it was for a future age.

http://library.thinkquest.org/27110/noframes/repertoire/beethovenop59no1.html

Part of the reason I am interested in modern classical music is because it is challenging; if we want to listen to music in the spirit of Beethoven's original listeners encountering his music, we have to be challenged a little bit, I think. Beethoven's tonal music is profound but it does not, in AD 2013, have the shock of the new.

                                                                                                                Cheers,
                                                                                                                    Tom


Dear Tom,

Thanks for the Beethoven link.  I hope all goes well.  Joseph Kerman makes a point similar to yours about the Harp Quartet:  It's use of pizzicato seemed unusual to its original listeners, but modern listeners familiar with the Bartok quartets find it rather tame.

I don't follow contemporary music as closely as I used to.  In college some of my friends played in the New Music Ensemble.  I remember we had a particular fascination with the music of Elliot Schwartz.  I even heard his in fiftieth birthday concert in New York a few years later.

About ten years ago I listened to a lot of jam bands who occasionally afforded me "the shock of the new."

Live long and prosper,

Eric







Sunday, May 12, 2013

Robert Anton Wilson and Philip K. Dick

Ted Hand has updated his blog post on RAW and PKD which summarizes everything he knows abou what RAW wrote about PKD and what PKD wrote about RAW. There are new bits, such as the fact that RAW is named-checked in Valis. Mr. Hand would like to know if he's missed anything.


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Are Americans just plain ignorant?

Here's a theory about why Americans find it easy to accept whatever Rush Limbaugh or Barack Obama tells them: They just don't know very much.

The other day, I noticed this Tweet from Jesse Walker:


So I clicked on the link and took the science quiz from Pew, which turned out to be 13 rather easy multiple choice science questions. I got all of them right. I probably wouldn't have beaten myself up too much if I'd missed a couple; I'm kind of a history and lit guy. You won't find stacks of back issues of "Scientific American" at my house.

But these are easy questions. If most Americans struggle with them, they know rather little about the world they live in.

Friday, May 10, 2013

'The House of Rumour' on sale today

The House of Rumour by Jake Arnott (a British novelist who's been getting quite a bit of attention in the press) is one of the "Kindle Daily Deal" sale books today, just $1.99. I bought a copy.

I don't know whether Arnott would claim or admit a Robert Anton Wilson influence, but here is a description of his novel, from the publisher: "Mixing the invented and the real, The House of Rumour explores WWII spy intrigue (featuring Ian Fleming), occultism (Aleister Crowley), the West Coast science-fiction set (Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and Philip K. Dick all appear), and the new wave music scene of the ’80s. The decades-spanning, labyrinthine plot even weaves in The Jonestown Massacre and Rudolf Hess, UFO sightings and B-movies. Told through multiple narrators, what at first appears to be a constellation of random events begins to cohere as the work of a shadow organization—or is it just coincidence?

"Tying the strands together is Larry Zagorski, an early pulp fiction writer turned U.S. fighter pilot turned 'American gnostic,' who looks back on his long and eventful life, searching for connections between the seemingly disparate parts. The teeming network of interlaced secrets he uncovers has personal relevance—as it mirrors a book of 22 interconnected stories he once wrote, inspired by the major arcana cards in the tarot."

Occult rocket scientist Jack Parsons also is a character.


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Robert Anton Wilson on Belief Systems

Here is a good (and short) new video that's been making the rounds on the Internet: Robert Anton Wilson on the danger of fully believing in anyone's belief system. (Hat tip, Brian Shields in the RAW group on Facebook).


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

'I Have America Surrounded' by JMR Higgs

I've just finished I Have America Surrounded by JMR Higgs, a biography of Timothy Leary. It provides a lot of background on one of Robert Anton Wilson's biggest influences.

Higgs obviously spent a lot of time researching the book, trying to separate fact from fiction (including fiction propagated by Leary himself.) I thought Higgs had just the right attitude, giving Leary credit where it's due for his more interesting ideas and for his optimistic approach to life, but also not hesitating to debunk some of Leary's ideas and alleged achievements. (For example, it turns out that Leary did not achieve an amazing rate of success when he used psychedelics as part of a program to keep criminals from returning to crime.)

The connections between Leary and other famous, influential people were pretty amazing. I knew that Leary sang in the background on John Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance." But I didn't know that Aldous Huxley influenced Leary's approach to drugs, or that Leary was in the helicopter with Mick Jagger at Altamount, or that Leary's cell was next to Charles Manson's, allowing the two to communicate.

If you do read the book, be sure to also read the notes at the end, which contain lots of interesting material.

From Higgs' FAQ at the web site for the book:


I have never read any of Leary's books, where should I start?

I'd start with The Politics of Ecstasy. High Priest is also good if you are interested in the effects of psychedelics. If you like a good adventure story, then try to track down a copy of Confessions of a Hope Fiend, it's out of print but you can usually find it on eBay. I'd also recommend Timothy Leary: Outside Looking In, edited by Robert Forte, which gives a good image of the man by those who knew him.



Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Timothy Leary news

I've been following the Timothy Leary Futique Twitter account for about a couple of weeks, but here is some news I've missed: A new short biography of Timothy Leary, Timothy Leary's Trip Through Time by R.U. Sirius, has been released by Futique Trust, Leary's estate. You can purchase a paper copy or download a free ebook (as a PDF) here. (Hat tip, Eric Wagner). I haven't had time to actually read it yet, but there's a lot of stuff about Robert Anton Wilson and it's apparently an "authorized biography" that leans toward putting the blame  for Leary's career as a snitch on his female partner. ("After a couple of months, they split up. Robert Anton Wilson told friends that the main source of conflict was that Leary was unhappy with the extent of Harcourt’s cooperation with the feds." In fairness, Sirius then writes,"In Flashbacks, Leary, less specifically, said only that she’d identified with them too much. Joanna claims that Timothy signed off on everything she did.
I have no reason to disbelieve her... or believe her... and I can say the same of Timothy — which I guess leaves this story in stalemate. ")

I've been reading the JMR Higgs Leary bio, I Have America Surrounded, which has me thinking about reality tunnels (a concept Leary invented before RAW helped popularize it) and about how Leary's women fared after becoming involved with him (generally, not really well, by Higgs' account.) So in the spirit of helping my (generally male) readers enter a different reality tunnel, here's an excellent blog post by Miri M. on "Why You Shouldn't Tell That Random Girl On The Street That She's Hot." (Via Arthur Hlavaty, who invites you to the interesting reality tunnel manifested by  his blog.  Arthur recently noted an anniversary: "On 5/5/77, I finally got up the nerve to print up & mail out my first zine (The Diagonal Relationship). Most of the good things in my life come from that." Today would that be, "to launch my first blog?")




Monday, May 6, 2013

Michael Johnson on Douglas Rushkoff

I've been too busy to check out the new Douglas Rushkoff book, Present Shock: When Everything is Happening Now.  I'm sure it's interesting, but I just can't get to it now. Michael Johnson, however, has perused the book and has his reaction here.

To learn more, go to Rushkoff's Web site.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

German rock band's Timothy Leary collaboration

Need a soundtrack for your next re-read of Prometheus Rising?

I have been reading the excellent Timothy Leary biography, I Have America Surrounded, by JMR Higgs. Many surprises, including the fact that Leary collaborated with a German "cosmic rock" band, Ash Ra Tempel, on an album, Seven Up, on an album depicting Leary's eight circuits model of consciousness (although at that time, it was seven circuits.) Has anyone heard this?

Higgs' article on the making of the album is here. The article, by the way, lists Leary's favorite music artists -- Billie Holiday, Miles Davis and the Rolling Stones. Leary's list of the "techno-erotic vector bands" is in this blog post. (Although Leary lists many of my favorite artists -- I remain sore that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has not admitted Roxy Music -- the one name I did not recognize when I posted the list was Manuel Göttsching. It turns out that he was the most important element of Ash Ra Tempel).




Saturday, May 4, 2013

Stranger than fiction -- Tammy Wynette and the KLF

Background on the single (a hit in the U.S. and Britain) is here.

Friday, May 3, 2013

RAW social media roundup!

BrentQ has created an area on Reddit for Robert Anton Wilson fans. I have not explored Reddit very much, but I have created a Reddit account and would encourage everyone else to chip in. I've posted a link under "Resources."

Here's a look at some other RAW social media areas on the Internet: Robert Anton Wilson Fans on Facebook currently has 319 members, and there are lots of postings, particularly from the group's founder, Dan Clore. There seems to be rather less going on at the Google Plus community.  Another Google Plus group with a little more activity is here.  The Maybe Logic Academy forum is still active. Old school RAW fans still post on Usenet.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

'Why people believe in conspiracy theories'

Salon magazine's political report, Alex Seitz-Wald, recently put up a post on "Why people believe in conspiracy theories." There's a picture from The X-Files TV show and an interview with an Australian professor.

Perhaps one underappreciated reason is that the national government I'm most familiar with, the U.S. government, is capable of all kinds of crazy things. Here is an article from The New Yorker that mentions weird assassination plots by the CIA. Did you know that a U.S. president formed a secret spy group to destroy his political opposition? People of a a certain age will remember that. Maybe only "conspiracy theorists" remember what the FBI did to Martin Luther King.

Not the American government, but still interesting: Here is an article about discussions in NATO about weaponizing the weather. Here is an article about a London bank rigging the financial system (note the opening sentences.)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Why not work together for peace and liberty?

Here is a blog post from a leftist dude who thinks that because Julian Sanchez is a libertarian and works for the Koch-funded Cato Institute, Sanchez favors MORE government spying.

I wouldn't ordinarily link to a guy who thinks that "libertarian" means "someone who opposes civil liberties," but I've linked to an obvious ignoramus because this points up a larger problem. Progressives favor civil liberties and peace. Libertarians favor civil liberties and peace. (It's right there on the Cato Web site,  John Francis Lee — "The Cato Institute is a public policy research organization — a think tank – dedicated to the principles of individual liberty, limited government, free markets and peace.")

I realize that most libertarians and most leftists are unlikely to get together on, say, the virtues of public employee unions or whether nationalizing the domestic steel industry is a good idea, but isn't it a good idea to form coalitions to fight endless war and the surveillance state? If Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich could work together on peace issues, why not John Francis Lee and Julian Sanchez?

I've put up "ecumenical" peace links on this Web site. I don't think most folks would consider Tom Hayden (e.g. "Peace Exchange Bulletin") a libertarian.