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

Friday, January 31, 2014

Illuminatus! feature in Berkeley Barb

Kudos to Adam Gorightly for uncovering a March 1976 feature in the Berkeley Barb about Robert Anton Wilson and the Illuminatus! trilogy. Many of the facts in the piece are ones that I've read elsewhere, but there are some cool nuggets, including a revelation about which part of the book was written first. (Click on the clipping to get a document big enough to read.) The Historia Discordia blog continues to offer interesting documents.

UPDATE: After I wrote the above, I glanced again at the Historia Discordia blog. The header apparently has a rotating collection of absurd Discordian quotes, and today I read a quote with the headline, "Grand Opera." The quote: "Wherefore my bowels shall sound like a harp for Moab, and mine inward parts for Kirharesh." Isaiah 16:11. I thought maybe it was a parody, but I looked it up, and it's Isaiah 16:11, all right. That Adam Gorightly, if you don't watch out, he'll turn you into a Bible scholar.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Jesse Walker on 1970s conspiracy theories

Jesse Walker has a new article up at, the science fiction site, on the "10 Most Essential 1970s Conspiracy Thrillers." He writes about movies such as "All the President's Men," "The Parallax View" and "The Conversation." (The article is illustrated with vintage preview clips.) Interesting in itself, and also a look at the cultural milieux that helped produced Illuminatus!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Celebrating Mozart's birthday

I didn't realize that Monday was Mozart's birthday until Eric Wagner wished me (and the rest of y'all) a "Happy Mozart's birthday" in the comments for the day's post.

I pulled out an MP3 player, hooked it up to the stereo, and listened to two of my favorite pieces: The piano concerto No. 24 (featuring Murray Perahia in the version I picked) and the piano quartet in G Minor (with Peter Serkin and the Yale String Quartet). I did my best to listen to them without "doing" anything. Reading Oz Fritz has helped remind me that's OK.

I doubt that either piece, certainly not the piano quartet, would make it on a "greatest hits" Mozart album. One of the most remarkable facts about Mozart's output is how great much of it was, not just the most familiar and the most played pieces.

This was a point also made by Andrew Ross in his collection of music essays, Listen to This. The chapter on Mozart records how Ross took a 180 CD recording of Mozart's complete works on the Phillips label and transferred it to his iPod (9.77 gigabytes at the "minimum listenable bitrate," which unfortunately Ross doesn't specify) and then listened to all of it from beginning to end. "From the start, the music is astonishingly well made," Ross reports.

I don't have the financial wherewithal to own the complete works (and I don't know how I would find time, anyway, to listen to all of it if I did) but like any other classical music buff, I own a lot of Mozart. (Amazon makes it easy to do this; I own two very cheap, large Mozart collections, the Bach Guild's "Big Mozart Box"  and a set called "Mozart — 100 Supreme Classical Masterpieces," put out by a Swedish music label that has pioneered making big, cheap music collections available on the Internet.)

The other day, I was reading an online biography of Jimi Hendrix, and I focused on the astonishment of many listeners when they heard him perform for the first time. Mozart seems to have had a similar impact upon listeners. (Robert Anton Wilson writes about this in the Historical Illuminatus trilogy,where Mozart appears as a character.) Both men died young, robbing posterity of a great deal of music.  (For Oz Fritz's thoughts on rock's top guitarists — he ranks Hendrix No. 1 — go here.)  Hendrix was only 27 when he died and it's painful to speculate on where his talents would have taken him. Mozart made it to age 35. Many of his best works were composed late in life and his last year was a good one; it's frustrating to wonder what else we'd have if he had a few more years.

I can't give a citation because I can't remember the book where I read it, but I came across a passage years ago about two famous musicians discussing composers. One asked the other who his favorite was, and he replied, Beethoven. The other said, "I thought you were going to say Mozart." "Oh, I thought you meant besides Mozart," replied the first.

Michael Walsh, in his Who's Afraid of Classical Music?, wrote, "Mozart was the greatest composer who ever lived, and who probably will live."

Rankings of the best composer are ultimately a little silly and undoubtedly subjective. If I were pushed, I'd probably go with Beethoven. But the statements about Mozart seem less silly after carefully listening to much of his music.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Supergee, Discordian activist (promoted from the comments)

Although I knew that Arthur Hlavaty, aka Supergee, had been involved with the Golden APA, I did not realize he had been a Discordian activist and produced Discordian business cards until I put up Sunday's blog post about Adam Gorightly's cache of Discordian materials. To my surprise, Arthur responded by putting up a comment: "In case you didn't know, those cards were one of my contributions to OM."

I put up comments asking for more information and sent Arthur an email, pointing out that this was cultural history and he couldn't just say, "Oh yeah, I did that" and wander off to the con suite for more bheer*. He obliged with a followup comment: "I read Illuminatus! when it appeared in 1975, and when I was trying to get up the nerve to do a zine of my own. I finally did so on 5/5/77. I started the Illuminatus! Nut Cult shortly thereafter because no one else had done it. Sometime around then, I got the idea for the cards. As is probably obvious they were technologically primitive, done on a typewriter (you remember typewriters), with little star stickers. Later I did a more modern version, designed by that excellent fan artist and underappreciated novelist Alexis Gilliland. If I can find one, I'll send it to you."

Can't wait.

* Fannish spelling of the word "beer." Arthur is a famous fan, so one assumes he doesn't drink mere beer, assuming he drinks at all.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Michael Johnson on the Fifth Circuit

If you are interested in the Eight Circuit Model of Consciousness as conceived by Timothy Leary and developed and popularized by Robert Anton Wilson, have a gander at Michael Johnson's "Improvisations Off Leary and Wilson's 5th Circuit," over at his blog. (Michael modestly calls his piece "improvisations," but everything he posts seems to be based on books by Harvard professors, stacks of articles, out of print books that stuff in the shelves of his personal library, etc.)

See also the comments, where Eric Wagner talks about activating the Fifth Circuit with classical music.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

'And Now Available with NEW & IMPROVED FNORDS!'

Adam Gorightly's latest blog post advertises his Historia Discordia site thusly, "Now Available with NEW & IMPROVED FNORDS!" And indeed, the Fnords section of the site has been enhanced with a number of new brief handwritten documents, including a "Discordian Guerilla Ontology" advertisement for the Illuminatus! trilogy and a handwritten version of a famous Discordian saying. I can't link to Adam's site every time he puts something new on it, but keep an eye on it. It is invariably interesting.

To see how many of these documents were rescued for posterity, go here.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Chasing Eris, around the world

An Australian guy named Brenton Clutterbuck is traveling around the world to meet with Discordians and to document his trip in a book. Bobby Campbell created a picture to support  his effort.

Follow him on Facebook. He also is on Twitter.

I've posted his video from the place where the KLF burned a million pounds.

You can also visit his fundraising page and read this interview with him. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Cosmic Trigger play update!

Daisy Eris Campbell has released a new official update on her efforts to stage Robert Anton Wilson's Cosmic Trigger I: The Final Secret of the Illuminati. Some of the news flashes: There will be an event in Liverpool on Feb. 23 featuring Daisy and John Higgs and others; the official crowd funding campaign launches April 23, but if you donate now, you'll be invited to an exclusive party; volunteers are needed for various tasks. Complete details here, and don't forget to note that you can sign up for Daisy's email list or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Wait, there's more: Daisy is the subject of a nice write-up in Liverpool Confidential. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Is the Mgt. over in England these days?

One of the most memorable characters in Illuminatus! is Markoff Chaney, the midget, who posts puzzling signs designed to sow confusion. He signs that The MGT, which is assumed by many to mean "the management," although in fact the signature means "the midget."

Someone over in England has been leaving clever signs in the London subway. I've posted one of the photos; for more, go here.

Hat tip, Adrian Reynolds. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Will Wilkinson on what's wrong with liberals and libertarians

Libertarians tend to suck on environmental issues (hence this snark about the West Virginia chemical spill).  On the other hand, they often go a great job discussing civil liberties issues, more so than any other identifiable political group.

I don't know that my opinion on those two issues seems terrible insightful. It seems banal or obvious to me, but it's apparently not allowed in the current ideological atmosphere to admit that reality has the kind of complexity that caused Robert Anton Wilson to talk about "model agnosticism." Apparently, you're supposed to stick to the idea that your side "rules" and everyone else's "sucks."

Sean Wilentz thinks libertarians suck, so he's become part of a long line of current writers attacking Glenn Greenwald for sounding too much like a libertarian. (I'm not going to link to his piece, but it's not hard to find.)

Will Wilkinson has a nice piece up on what's wrong with liberals and libertarians, focusing on the problem that many "liberals" seem to be abandoning their classical liberal roots as defenders of civil liberties. Here is a good passage excised from a slightly longer sentence:

Too many “liberals” are really conservative apologists for the status quo political order, just as too many “libertarians” are really conservative apologists for the status quo economic order.

Another bit I liked:

That anyone spurred to action against the illiberal security state by the democratic justificatory ethos of mundane liberalism has come to seem a little “libertarian,” and may even therefore confess some personal “libertarian” sympathies, suggests to me a problem with “liberalism” as it is embodied in actual political discourse and practice. It suggests that liberalism is effectively a corrupt form of statist institutional conservatism. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Richard Jackson on RAW's list of his 100 favorite movies

A view from above: The Hollywood Bowl, foreground, Hollywood, and the LA skyline. 

[My son, Richard Jackson, who teaches English in South Korea, is on vacation with me in Hollywood, California. 

Richard have never read anything by Robert Anton Wilson, but he is a big film buff. After I posted the list of RAW's "100 Favorite Movies" (thanks again, Jesse Walker), Richard posted in the comments and then dashed off a series of emails to me. I thought they'd be worth putting together in a blog post. I've added a few comments. -- The Mgt.]

I noticed he didn't have that many science fiction movies on his list: 2001, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, A Clockwork Orange, King Kong are the ones I can see.

It's a good movie, but The Man Who Would Be King may have had special appeal for Wilson since he wrote about conspiracy theories. One of the plot points in the film is that the would be kings are Freemasons and they come across a cult that worships Freemasonry and it selects Sean Connery as its king. It turns out the cult was founded by Alexander the Great, an ancient Freemason.

Going through the list, it seemed Wilson tended to favor films where the protagonist was a loner, iconoclast, anti-hero, or straight up villain. Does that theme play out in his work? [Iconoclast, you bet. A good observation. -- The Mgt.] You'll notice Casablanca and The African Queen are NOT on his list, but Bogart's roles where he played  less sympathetic protagonists are on the list, such as The Maltese Falcon, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and The Big Sleep. [May be relevant that RAW was a big Raymond Chandler fan -- The Mgt.]

Not a lot of happy endings. A lot of the films are cynical and unsentimental. That was the case for Orson Welles, John Huston, Stanley Kubrick, Richard Brooks. He really favors their films.

Because of his choice in taste and directors, many of the films at are quite atmospheric.

He seemed to like films about Hollywood, were both satire and love letters. Like Ed Wood, Barton Fink, Singin in the Rain. 

You may think I'm reaching, but if I had time I could write more about it. A lot of the films involve quests, people who find themselves in a sort of a hell (both lower and upper case "hell"), characters stumbling on secret societies, finding out conspiracies, and ending up in a culture completely different from their own. Do these themes play out in his books? [Pretty good observation, no? -- The Mgt.]

With his choice in film, I'm surprised he didn't have Chinatown (conspiracies, f'ed up characters, hell), Apocalypse Now (the quest, different culture, hell, atmospheric) or Hellboy (2004, before RAW's death) (the works). Hellboy is very Lovecraftian.  I don't know if RAW was unaware of the film, wasn't interested or maybe he did see it and didn't love it. [I suspect that he did like Chinatown, as he referred to it in the Schroedinger's Cat trilogy. In fact, when I took Eric Wagner's course on SC at Maybe Logic Academy a couple of years ago, I watched it for the first time because Eric assigned us to. -- The Mgt.]

The Big Knife is also a satire on Hollywood movie. Surprised he didn't have Sunset Blvd. (1950) or The Last Command (1928). The first is a Billy Wilder movie about a screenwriter who becomes a kept man for a aging screen star. The latter is about a former Tsarist general in Los Angeles who is reduced to working menial jobs and appearing in films as a bit player or extra.  But I guess his list can't be comprehensive.

Furthermore, I notice he didn't put down any films about social conscious issues. I don't know if he viewed those as overly didactic or if the messages in the film clashed with his libertarian beliefs.  He had zero films by directors Stanley Kramer, Elia Kazan, 1 film by Norman Jewison, 2 films by Sidney Lumet.  The Jewison film was And Justice For All, which shows the broken American justice system. That's appealing to most people of all political stripes. The two films by Lumet are Dog Day Afternoon, which dealt with homosexuality and the other is The Verdict, which is another broken American justice film.  [I explained to Richard that RAW was in fact socially conscious and was arrested and jailed once in Ohio for protesting segregation at a barbershop, an incident discussed in Cosmic Trigger 2. -- The Mgt.]

Interestingly, he didn't list any films by Martin Scorsese, George Lucas, Oliver Stone or Francis Ford Coppola.

By decade his favorite films:

Richard  Jackson with a Hollywood star honoring a RAW favorite.

The Blossom Ballroom at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, site of the first Academy Awards.

Monday, January 20, 2014

An effort at astral projection

Oz Fritz has a new blog post up about an effort by several Robert Anton Wilson fans to use astral projection to learn something about the Kennedy assassination and the Library of Alexandria. (I was invited to participate -- probably not because I actually know anything about astral projection -- and I've started reading a book Oz recommends on the subject, The Art and Practice of Astral Projection by Ophiel. It's available for Amazon Kindle.)

Oz is one of the members of the group who knows the most about this sort of thing, but Steve "Fly Agaric" Pratt has weighed in with a new blog post inspired by the effort. Steve asks skeptics to try to keep an open mind:

You may have noticed that i am talking about Astral Projection as if i know for sure that it works, which may bring much contention from armies of skeptics, critics and the ignorant who, as with the argument against full legalization and availability of drugs, would never try, and have never tried, the things they are so certain are so dangerous and threatening to life.

Anybody who has an active imagination and a healthy inquisitive mind can bypass this kind of bigoted ignorance, and recognize it in most authority figures and systems of control. Some may see how the language used to project the authority of knowing, itself, is a mechanism used to distort the picture, frame the information and prevent those trapped in linguistic cells from realizing the infinite flux of being, out there, beyond language...ish

Oz has promised to report on further developments.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Hurray for Hollywood

I'm taking a vacation of a few days in Hollywood and LA for a meetup with my son, Richard. Our hotel is a short walk away from the heart of the Walk of Fame, so I went and took some photos this afternoon. Here is my shot of a star honoring just one of the great performers from the golden age of cinema:

Unfortunately, I got ill with the flu before I came out here. I was so sick Friday that I did not do the normal social networking I'd otherwise have pursued to publicize Friday's post about the upcoming Illuminatus! group discussion. If any of y'all could help me spread the word, I'd be most grateful.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Saturday links

Why physicists are saying consciousness is a state of matter, like a solid, a liquid or a gas. On Facebook, Brian Shields says, "Bob would have had a field day with this."

16 celebrities supposedly in the Illuminati. (Via Dan Clore).

Wall Street Journal launches online book club, lead by various guest authors.

Piece on "Sorcery." ("No, not spoon-bending or horoscopy, not the Golden Dawn or make-believe shamanism, astral projection or the Satanic Mass—if it's mumbo jumbo you want go for the real stuff, banking, politics, social science—not that weak blavatskian crap.") Via Gary Acord.

A Twitter post from Jesse Walker: Rules for joining the Discodian Society.

A long interview with Douglas Rushkoff (actually, it puts two interviews together.)

Friday, January 17, 2014

The group read of Illuminatus!

I was convinced in the comments for this post to follow a pace of 10 pages a week for the group read of Illuminatus! 

How about if we begin on Feb. 24? Everyone is welcome to join us. We'll follow the usual procedure -- I'll post something, and then everyone can post in the comments. If anyone is interested in doing a guest post, taking over for a particular week, I'd be open to that.

Illuminatus! is available in a wide variety of formats — as a trade paperback, as an electronic book and as an audiobook. Gary Acord was able to pick up a very cheap used copy on Amazon that was quite readable, so a late February start date should allow everyone time to rustle up a copy.

I plan to re-read James Joyce's Ulysses by that time.  I am thinking about re-reading Robert Shea's All Things Are Lights, a kind of thematic prequel to Illuminatus! Of course, the Historical Illuminatus! novels by RAW count as a kind of prequel.

If you are looking for supplementary books, I have a couple of suggestions.

An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson by Eric Wagner has a number of sections that are directly useful, including a chapter on the kabbalistic structure of Illuminatus! and an Illuminatus! timeline. A long lexicon explains many references in Illuminatus!

Virtually everything RAW wrote after the trilogy can be seen as a supplement to his most famous work, but I would point out that The Illuminati Papers includes many pieces credited to Hagbard Celine, Simon Moon and other characters who appear in Illuminatus! 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Robert Anton Wilson event in New York City

Via the Robert Anton Wilson Fans group on Facebook, I learned about "The 8 Circuit Model: An Introduction to Robert Anton Wilson," scheduled for 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 22 in Manhattan. (RSVP for more details, the announcement says). "Brooklyn born writer, psychologist, and stand up comedian Robert Anton Wilson cut a distinguished but overlooked influence across popular and fringe culture. In the course of this Workshop Robert Anton Wilson's life and work will be discussed, followed by an intensive experiential exploration of his most enduring contribution, the 8 Circuit Model of Consciousness."

The one-day course costs $30 in advance, $35 at the door, and is being presented by James Fitzsimmons. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Is the Odyssey a work for RAW fans?

As I mentioned recently, I have been reading the Robert Fitzgerald translation of Homer's Odyssey in preparation for re-reading James Joyce's Ulysses later this month.

If one were to suggest a classical work for a Robert Anton Wilson fan to read, i.e., a book that fits in the Greco-Roman cultural tradition of antiquity, what work would be recommended? It seems to me that a case could be made for the Odyssey. Ulysses references it. In addition, RAW's Schroedinger's Cat trilogy has a plot about a phallic object named Ulysses which travels around the world before returning home at the end of the trilogy. That's a story that references the Joyce work by name but Homer's earlier work in terms of plot.

Odysseus is a Greek hero of the Trojan War and thus can be connected to the Eris legend about the Judgment of Paris at the heart of Discordianism, which is an old Greek legend about the origins of the Trojan War.

I've also attempted to make a case for the historian Procopius as an early advocate of civil liberties and a proto-libertarian. And here is my post alleging that Robert Anton Wilson is a modernist classicist.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Feb. 11 a day of Internet action against mass surveillance

Via Steve "Fly" Agaric and others I learned that a civil liberties coalition is planning an online protest against government surveillance on Feb. 11. The relevant website is here; I plan to participate.

The Washington Post has just published a relevant story. The lead sentence: "An analysis of 225 terrorism cases inside the United States since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has concluded that the bulk collection of phone records by the National Security Agency 'has had no discernible impact on preventing acts of terrorism.' "

Ted Gioia's updated NSA fact sheet. At press time, it was titled "100 Things We've Learned About the NSA."

Monday, January 13, 2014

PQ reviews Finnegans Wake book

I'm currently re-reading the Robert Fitzgerald translation of the Odyssey. That's in preparation for my plan to re-read Ulysses later this month.

So it will be later this year before I can get around to tackling Finnegans Wake. But when I do, PQ will be one of my main guides.

PQ has now written a two-part review of a book about Finnegans Wake that came out about four year ago, [I got that wrong, see PQ's comment]  Joyce's Book of the Dark by John Bishop. Part one is here; part two is here. 

PQ's verdict? "Joyce's Book of the Dark is a masterpiece of literary criticism while at the same time an eye-opening scholarly consideration of sleep. Bishop begins with the provocative premise that Finnegans Wake is, at all times, a record of what goes on inside the body and mind of one sleeping person (that is, not just dreams, but even the extended mysterious dreamless periods) and proceeds to build upon that argument almost ad nauseam, deploying snippets from the text of the Wake relentlessly through twelve progressively groundbreaking chapters concluding with a most brilliant and original theory of what the flowing female character Anna Livia Plurabelle really represents in the book ... Many readers consider Joyce's Book of the Dark to be the finest analysis of Finnegans Wake that's ever been written and I have to agree. "

Robert Anton Wilson on Finnegans Wake. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Adam Gorightly on RAW's last days

Yesterday was the seventh anniversary of Robert Anton Wilson's death Adam Gorightly marked it with a sad piece on RAW's last days that also is inspiring in places. Excerpt:

No one living or dead has had such an effect on me, before or since, and I’m now long enough in the tooth that probably no one else will ever be of such influence again. Oh to be young and happen upon Cosmic Trigger or The Illuminatus! Trilogy and have your mind blown in a particularly positive direction!

Like a lot of my contemporaries, RAW came into our lives at an important imprint juncture, and certainly saved more than a few of us from early ruin. These sentiments have been shared with me—on more than one occasion—by friends who were at a critical turning point when RAW miraculously appeared in their lives in the form of one of his great books, thus re-imprinting their perceptions of the world. Or more precisely, he provided them the tools and impetus to re-imprint and reprogram themselves.

Lots of other interesting stuff lately at Historia Discordia.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

RAW's 100 favorite movies

(I got this list from Jesse Walker, who explains, "From his old email list. Looks like it was originally put together in 1998 after the AFI picked its top 100 American movies; the note at the top about Mystic River was added in 2004, which is when I received this.

A few of the films are attributed to the wrong director. And while the headline says 'American Movies,' there are some foreign pictures in the mix."

In cases where I was able to determine that a movie was in the public domain, I have included a link to a place to view it.  -- The Mgt.)

   RAW's personal and eccentric list of the 100 Best
    American Movies

[I wd now add MYSTIC RIVER to the top 10
and dump out maybe THE PROFESSIONALS

    1. Intolerance (Griffith)

    2. Chimes at Midnight (Welles)

    3. High Plains Drifter (Eastwood)

    4. Fargo (Coen)

    5.  Titanic (Cameron)

    6. Wind (Lilian Gish)

    7. Broken Blossoms (Griffith)

    8. F For Fake (Welles)

    9. 2001 (Kubrick)

    10. Sherlock Jr (Buster Keaton)

    11. Macbeth (Welles)

    12. Silence of the Lambs (Demme)

    13. Touch of Evil (Welles)

    14. The Devil and Daniel Webster (Dieterle)

    15. Cheyenne Autumn (Ford)

    16. Othello (Welles)

    17. Bird (Eastwood)

    18. Kansas City (Altman)

    19. Night of the Hunter (Laughton)

    20. All That Jazz (Fosse)

    21. The Eiger Sanction (Eastwood)

    22. The Trial (Welles)

    23. And Then There Were None (Clair)

    24. Citizen Kane (Welles)

    25. Legends of the Fall (Zwick)

    26. The Circus (Chaplin)

    27. Arsenic and Old Lace (Capra)

    28.  Repo Man (Cox)

    29. The Killing (Kubrick)

    30. Peter's Friends (Branagh)

    31. Charley Varrick (Siegel)

    32. Miller's Crossing (Coen)

    33. Cabaret (Fosse)

    34. Little Big Man (Penn)

    35. Saboteur (Hitchcock)

    36. The Fortune Cookie (Wilder)

    37. The List of Adrian Messenger (Houston)

    38. White Hunter, Black Heart (Eastwood)

    39. And Justice For All (Jewison)

    40. The Bitter Tea of General Yen (Capra)

    41. The Pirate (Minelli)

    42. Frankenstein (Whale)

    43. The Big Chill (Kasdan)

    44. The Happy Ending (Brooks)

    45. The Abyss (Cameron)

    46. Mickey One (Penn)

    47. Dog Day Afternoon (Lumet)

    48. Paths of Glory (Kubrick)

    49. Double Indemnity (Wilder)

    50.  I Walked With a Zombie (Tourneur)

    51. Shadow of a Doubt (Hitchcock)

    52. A Perfect World (Eastwood)

    53. Clockwork Orange (Kubrick)

    54. It Happened Tomorrow (Clair)

    55. Mr Smith Goes to Washington (Capra)

    56. Ed Wood (Burton)

    57. Stardust Memories (Allen)

    58. Honky Tonk Man (Eastwood)

    59. The Old Dark House (Whale)

    60. Philadelphia (Demme)

    61. King Kong (Cooper)

    62. Sid and Nancy (Cox)

    63. Short Cuts (Altman)

    64. Kismet (Dieterle)

    65. House of Strangers (Mankiewitz)

    66. The Lost Weekend (Wilder)

    67. Picture of Dorian Gray (Lewin)

    68. Gunga Din (Stevens)

    69. The Informer (Ford)

    70. Dances With Wolves (Costner)

    71. The Asphalt Jungle (Houston)

    72. Nashville (Altman)

    73. Bedlam (Tourneur)

    74. Blue Thunder (Badham)

    75. Batman (Burton)

    76. The Long Voyage Home (Ford)

    77. The Big Sleep (Hawks)

    78. Giant (Stevens)

    79. Barton Fink (Coen)

    80. The Barefoot Contessa (Mankiewitz)

    81. Singing in the Rain (Minelli)

    82. North by Northwest (Hitchcock)

    83. Some Like It Hot (Wilder)

    84. The Verdict (Lumet)

    85. The Maltese Falcon (Houston)

    86. Grand Canyon (Kasdan)

    87. Jaws (Speilberg)

    88. Treasure of the Sierra Madre (Houston )

    89. The Big Knife (Aldrich)

    90. The Professionals (Brooks)

    91. Targets (Bogdonovitch)

    92. Crimes and Misdemeanors (Allen)

    93. Fever Pitch (Brooks)

    94. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Spielberg)

    95. The Man Who Would Be King (Houston)

    96. Strangers On A Train (Hitchcock)

    97. On A Clear Day You Can See Forever (Minelli)

    98. War Games (Badham)

    99. Behind the Green Door (Mitchell)

    100. Bringing Up Baby (Hawks)

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Cicada 3301 puzzle

A mysterious group has been putting a series of puzzles on the Internet known as Cicada 3301. The Daily Telegraph, which has been running articles on the phenomenon, explains that they are posted by a person or persons who says, “We are looking for highly intelligent individuals. To find them, we have devised a test…” This naturally leads to questions about who is doing the recruiting.

Liam Harnett wrote to me to point out that aspects of the puzzle might interest Robert Anton Wilson fans.

He remarked, "Why i think it might be of interest to RAW fans is the very first puzzle in the series led to the Book of Law by Aleister Crowley which is used as a cipher

"And in a later round of the puzzle, statements are given along with the following list of allowable evaluations:

*Game Rule
*Strange Loop
*None of the above"

After I read Liam's email, I read the latest Telegraph story, which says that one of the latest puzzles has a series of images "arranged in such a way that some solvers are now debating whether the image is supposed to represent a Thelema star (a hexagram developed by Aleister Crowley) or an image of a Masonic Square."

An earlier story in the  Telegraph says that posting puzzle is a "tried and tested recruitment tactic."

Then there's this bit:

One long, cautionary diatribe, left anonymously on the website Pastebin, claimed to be from an ex-Cicada member – a non-English military officer recruited to the organisation "by a superior”. Cicada, he said, "was a Left-Hand Path religion disguised as a progressive scientific organisation” – comprising of "military officers, diplomats, and academics who were dissatisfied with the direction of the world”. Their plan, the writer claimed, was to transform humanity into the Nietzschen Übermensch.

Obviously, it's the Illuminati!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

New music album explores Leary Eight Circuit model

A new electronica album is out, exploring the Timothy Leary Eight Circuits model for consciousness that Robert Anton Wilson often wrote about (for example, in Prometheus Rising). Overmind by The Kosmik Commando has eight tracks, with names like "Biosurvival," "Neurogenetic" etc. The total time is listed as 15:59, so I guess it's more of an EP than an album. It's only been released as a limited edition vinyl offering, but you can listen to it on Soundcloud.  More information here. 

Via Timothy Leary Futique, worth following if you happen to be on Twitter.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Covers for reprints of Shea novels

Bobby Campbell has released photos of the two covers he has done for the planned reprintings of Robert Shea's first two solo novels, the Shike novels. Here they are:

I asked Bobby when the books will become available. "New print editions should be available very soon, it got sent to the printers last month," he replied.

The official Robert Shea site is here.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Michael Johnson on Nassim Nicholas Taleb and RAW

The Overweening Generalist reflects on two writers who emphasize uncertainty, Nassim Nicholas Taleb and Robert Anton Wilson. He also discusses RAW's attitudes toward religion. Very interesting, and it convinced me I need to read The Black Swan when I can get around to it.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

New Ishmael Reed play

Today's blog post is brought to you by synchronicity.

A few minutes ago, after the power came back on in our house (there's a winter storm moving in), I got a new email from Gary Acord, and he mentioned that he had recently begun reading Ishmael Reed's Mumbo Jumbo. Reed was one of Robert Anton Wilson's favorite writers, and the book is name-checked at the beginning of Illuminatus!, as I mentioned here.

I then clicked on a brand-new email from Nick Helseg-Larsen, and discovered that he had sent me a link to this article, from TheaterMania about a new plan by Reed. Excerpt:

The Final Version, a new play by MacArthur Genius Grant Award winner Ishmael Reed, is currently running at Nuyorican Poets Café through January 19.

The play follows Communist Party-sponsored black writer Lee Ransom, who in 1939 chooses to publish his novel, Let the Red Flags Unfurl, with an uptown publisher under the condition that he cut two of his radical characters. Twenty-six years later, he must decide again whether or not to publish his novel when a publishing company expresses interest in printing the original version.

I was going to post about something else, but how can you argue with the universe?

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Congress' crime against literature (and old movies)

As I would assume that most people who hang around a blog devoted to an American cult writer would be interested in reading, permit me to bring up a pet peeve -- the decision by the U.S. Congress to continually extend the terms of U.S. copyright law, thereby keeping almost everything written after 1922 or so under copyright, and thus making it illegal to freely reproduce the works on the Internet.

The same copyright law applies, of course, to old movies, old music recordings, and so on. Books at least generally have a pretty good shelf life, but there are plenty of old movies that will likely rot into oblivion because they don't have enough commercial appeal to be made into DVDs. Of course, there are many authors who will likely be forgotten who might get some deserved attention if their books became available.

The Center for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke University does a good job of covering these issues. It publishes an annual list of works that would have entered to public domain if U.S. copyright laws that were in effect until 1978 remained in effect. This year's list of well-known books by dead authors includes On the Road by Jack Kerouac, Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss, Day of Infamy by Walter Lord. There's a list of movies, too, and I would think that most of the movies by Orson Welles that influenced RAW would be freely available by now.

One of the Duke professors who is a co-director of the center, James Boyle, has released free electronic versions of his latest book, The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind; you can download PDF or HTML versions here. (The HTML version formats fine on Kindle).

Jesse Walker has a blog post about the Center's lastest list. The latest copyright extension approved by Congress start expiring in five years, Jesse points out. 

I'll just point out that Congress' corruption on this issue -- lawmakers were bought off by corporate interests such as Disney -- particularly hurt the poor, who can less readily afford to buy books, buy old movies etc. Last time, "progressive" members of Congress were just as eager to be bought off as conservatives. Will history repeat itself?

Friday, January 3, 2014

Yes, the Templars were interesting

An article in the Telegraph goes a little bit into Holy Blood, Holy Grail territory, dismissing some of the wildest stories about the Knights Templar but also establishing that some of the weird allegations against them were true. The Templars crop up in RAW's works and also play a major role in Robert Shea's All Things Are Lights, which I've argued is a kind of thematic prequel to Illuminatus!

(Via Greg Taylor, who probably wants me to mention that he has a new book out, Stop Worrying! There Probably Is an Afterlife. His website is worth a few looks, too. )

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Jeff Riggenbach's revisionist history

In the Lewis Shiner interview, Robert Anton Wilson talks about his interest in revisionist, antiwar historians:

I'd also like to write a book about Pearl Harbor. The revisionist historians have been thoroughly slandered and are mostly out of print. I wouldn't be adding much original; I think everything worth saying has been said by Charles Beard and Harry Elmer Barnes and James J. Martin and a few others. But their books are out of print or hard to find. My book would be just one more effort against what Barnes called "the historical blackout." One more effort to put the facts on record.

That's a book that RAW never got around to. But in a sense, Jeff Riggenbach did the job for him by penning a book, Why American History is Not What They Say, which I just finished reading.

It's a book about the revisionist approach to American history, and there is a great deal of information about Beard and Barnes and Martin and about Gore Vidal's historical novels, which fit into that tradition. That's the first and major part of the book. The book has a second section offering a libertarian history of the U.S., which reclaims the term "liberal" for libertarians (who are essentially classical liberals), and there's a final section on rival accounts of U.S. history from Howard Zinn and others.

You can download a free copy of the book from the Von Mises Institute.  I chose to purchase the modestly-priced Kindle version to stave off possible attacks of guilt.

Riggenbach also did a long podcast series on libertarian writers and thinkers. I blogged about the Robert Anton Wilson episode here. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A plaque to honor Ken Campbell

Here's a couple of photos showing a new plaque honoring Ken Campbell, the British theatre great who did so much to popularize Illuminatus! with his mammoth staging of the work. The plaques designating the house as a place where Campbell lived were erected by the Loughton Town Council. As near as I can make out, Loughton is a town in west Essex, in greater London.

Daisy Eris Campbell, who posted the photos on Twitter, comments in the same venue, "My dad got his blue plaque!! So happy!" She added, "I was told I'd have to wait til 20 yrs after his death to get his plaque... Loughton obviously thought they should grab him b4 Walthamstow."