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

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Adam Gorightly on Week Ten of the Illuminatus! reading

Adam Gorightly has weighed in on Week Ten of the Illuminatus! reading. Lots of Discordian information in that section the work for Gorightly to unravel. I particularly liked his explanation of the Masonic signal of distress.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Another cool video and a new Joyce book

3 of 5 : CTB_03// OM from amoeba on Vimeo.

This is the third promotional video for the Cosmic Trigger play. I really like the typography.

While looking through "Details" magazine, I ran across a short item about a new book about James Joyce's Ulysses that sombunall of you may be interested in. The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce's Ulysses is by by Kevin Birmingham. "In this exultant literary history and nonfiction debut, Harvard lecturer Birmingham recounts the remarkable publication saga of Ulysses, often considered the greatest novel of the 20th century," says the review in Publishers Weekly.  Library Journal has an interview with the author. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Illuminatus! discussion group, Week 10

William S. Burroughs in 1977 (Wikipedia Commons photo)

(This week: Page 92 "WE SHALL NOT" to Page 102 "the Angel of Death would pass by their houses. Pat.")

This section of the book has very sudden shifts from one passage to another, so perhaps we should talk about where that comes from.

Artist and writer Brion Gysin is credited with coming up with the cut-up technique for remixing prose. Here is a bit of an interview with writer William S. Burroughs, from the Wikipedia article about Gysin.  Burroughs popularized the technique in his own writings.

INTERVIEWER: How did you become interested in the cut-up technique?

BURROUGHS: A friend, Brion Gysin, an American poet and painter, who has lived in Europe for thirty years, was, as far as I know, the first to create cut-ups. His cut-up poem, Minutes to Go, was broadcast by the BBC and later published in a pamphlet. I was in Paris in the summer of 1960; this was after the publication there of Naked Lunch. I became interested in the possibilities of this technique, and I began experimenting myself. Of course, when you think of it, The Waste Land was the first great cut-up collage, and Tristan Tzara had done a bit along the same lines. Dos Passos used the same idea in 'The Camera Eye' sequences in USA. I felt I had been working toward the same goal; thus it was a major revelation to me when I actually saw it being done.

Robert Anton Wilson, a big admirer of Burroughs' prose, adapted the technique for his own writings, sometimes to an extreme, for example in the piece, "No Waters in the Cherry Valley by the Testicles" in the book Coincidance: A Head Test. 

Burroughs and Wilson both note that an early use of a kind of cut-up technique was made by Dadaist poet Tristan Tzara, who came up with the idea of clipping words out of a newspaper, putting them in a hat, shaking the hat and then pulling out the words to string them together into a poem. (When I was in high school, I read about this in a magazine article about surrealism and experimented with it myself.)

Wilson writes (in Coincidance): "The bourgeosie world naturally regarded this as some morbid joke, or satire, and forgot it; but the surrealists realized the importance of what he had done."

A couple of paragraphs later, Wilson writes:

"Painters explored collage extensively in the 40 years after Tzara's breakthrough, and every motion picture director conducted extensive research in montage, but prose and poetry, with few exceptions (Joyce, Pound, Williams) moved backward like a crab and crawled into the Victorian or pre-Einsteinian murk. The second quantum leap occurred in the late 1950s when William S. Burroughs began experimenting with the cut-up and fold-in techniques and created a prose of incredible accidental beauty and Zen humor.

"I have used various cut-up and other stochastic techniques in all my novels and have noticed one amusing thing about the response to this: hostility is expressed most widely if I admit that I am using "mechanical" techniques of the Burroughs and Tzara variety. If I do not publicize this fact, there is less hostility. It appears that lazy readers are only terrified of the new if they are warned in advance that it actually is novel and experimental. Otherwise they just pass over it as a confusing passage and forget it. I am not interested in lazy readers, however, but in the attentive and awake."

Burroughs also got Wilson interested in the number 23.

A few notes on the text:

"These is a road ..." Page 92. New Lebanon and Brookville actually are west of Dayton. Yellow Springs, where RAW lived and Simon Moon went to school, is east of Dayton.

Miskatonic University  Page 94— Featured in the works of H.P. Lovecraft. A friend of mine in college, Richard Newsome, wore an authentic-looking Miskotonic University college sweatshirt, purchased at a science fiction convention. One of his professors was puzzled that he had never heard of the school. Richard explained that it's a small liberal arts school in Massachusetts.

The Necronomicon  Page 94 — Also part of Lovecraft's "Cthulu Mythos."

Sacred Chao Page 95 — For more, go here.

Tom Dewey  Page 98 — Thomas Dewey was a Manhattan District attorney known for prosecuting mobsters. Later, the governor of New York and the Republican nominee for president.

Legion of Dynamic Discord  Page 100 — A real Discordian group.

Erisian Liberation Front  Page 100 — Another Discordian group.

(Next week: Page 102 "ILLUMINATI PROJECT MEMO #12) to page 114 ("that mysterious bit of 1929 slang, '23 Skidoo ... ' "

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Adam Gorightly's Kerry bio

I have just completed reading Adam Gorightly's The Prankster and the Conspiracy, his biography of Discordian Kerry Thornley. It seems appropriate to share a few impressions.

I am certain that everyone who reads this blog would find it an interesting and worthwhile read. Some of the material was familiar to me from the Historia Discordia blog and from the heavy use of Adam's book made by others writing about the Discordian movement, but there were many facts, alleged facts and wild stories that were new to me. I did not know, for example, that Margot Adler, in Drawing Down the Moon, credited Thornley as originating the use of the word "pagan" to describe modern nature-based religions.

Adam's account fleshes out many points I only knew a little about, such as Jim Garrison's long investigation of Thornley as a supposed JFK assassination conspirator. (Oddly enough, an early version of the Principia Discordia was photocopied at Garrison's office.)

Photo of Kerry Thornley. Wikipedia says use of the photo is "fair use."

Adam plays fair with the reader, often expressing his opinion on how much credence to put into an assertion. While the book is not heavily footnoted, he lists his sources in the back, so for the most part, it's easy to tell what the source of an assertion is. One of the more incredible claims — that Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" is about actress Grace Zabriskie, a friend of Thornley's, and that "Napoleon in rags" is Thornley, is attributed to "rumor has it," which I took it to mean very possibly is not true but is a little too juicy to leave out completely.

The book has quite a bit of information about other Discordians, such as Greg Hill, Bob Newport and Robert Anton Wilson. Arthur Hlavaty is mentioned in passing. A chapter toward the end, "Discordian Interlude #23," is interesting in itself and also offers the reader a relief from the mostly grim tale of Kerry's final years, dominated by madness. The book is illustrated with a number of photographs and documents.

Adam's new history of the Discordian movement will be out on May 23.

Friday, April 25, 2014

A golden apple and some links

You know what they always say: Always back up your apple of discord animations before deleting them. (Perhaps the apple is sweeter because it is evanescent: I thought it was beautiful, so I'm posting it here.) When I expressed sympathy on Twitter, hagbard celine replied, "it was nae bother expected it, was worth the laughter at the fnordage, happened 1 hr before @johnhiggs popped up ..coincidence ?"

Take 15 seconds to look at this. 

Details on the May 23 crowdfunding launch party for the Cosmic Trigger play. 

Adam Gorightly on Week Nine of the Illuminatus! discussion. Thanks, Adam!

Professor suspended for posting photo of his daughter in a Game of Thrones t-shirt. (Via Radley Balko).

William S. Burroughs Eggs recipe.

From the ever-popular Department of You Can't Make This Up: Angry Marxists assert private property rights over the collected works of Marx and Engels. 

UPDATE: I like this picture, too:

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Arthur Hlavaty (and Jesse Walker) literary news roundup

Arthur Hlavaty reviews the new Barry Miles biography of William Burroughs: "Call Me Burroughs, by Barry Miles, is an excellent and thorough bio. It reinforces my view of the three Beat Generation superstars: Ginsberg was a saint, Kerouac was a turd, and Burroughs was a sicko. We read much about his mental adventures in Scientology and worse.

"And it leaves us with a familiar problem: What do we do about great work by horrible people? I can't even decide whether the craziness is mitigating or exacerbating. At least Ezra Pound never said that the Jews were specially created by evil insects from space."

Arthur also notes that Heinlein biographer William Patterson has died, although fortunately he managed to finish the second and final volume. Editor David Hartwell, who edited several of RAW's books, did a lot of work on both volumes. My Hartwell interview is here (part one) and here (part two).

Arthur (a busy guy) also commented on the 2014 Hugo nominations, which made me feel rather out of touch; I've read none of the books on the "best novel" list, and in fact, I've read only one of the authors listed (Charles Stross, who is quite good.)

Arthur: "I am so old and out of touch that most of the names on the Hugo ballot mean nothing to me, but it's about time Steve Stiles (last of the paper fanzine people) got the Fan Artist award, and I'm rooting for Noah Ward vis-à-vis Opera Vita Aeterna and series almost Aeterna."

I admit that after reading this, I solemnly scanned the ballot for the mysterious author Noah Ward before realizing what Arthur wrote. He's referring to Vox Day, the notorious author mostly known for his racist and sexist comments. Mr. "Day" describes himself as a "hard-core libertarian"; thanks for helping the brand, pal. I'll add that I haven't read any of his fiction yet and will try to keep an open mind until I do. That's always been how I judge fiction.

Meanwhile, Jesse Walker points out that Orson Welles might get a Hugo.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Adam Gorightly news roundup

Adam Gorightly with Robert Anton Wilson.

Adam Gorightly has announced (via Twitter) that his new  history of the Discordian movement, Historia Discordia: The Origins of the Discordian Society, will be released on May 23.

If you have been following Adam's posts on Discordianism in Illuminatus! (archived here for your convenience) or if you've been monitoring his excellent Historia Discordia website, you know how important Discordianism was in the works of Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea. Adam's latest post shows how many Discordian authors had gotten books into print by 1977.

Adam also has three other book projects in the works; see the bottom of this page for information.

I've been reading Adam's Kerry Thornley biography, a remarkable chronicle of weirdness that includes an introduction by Robert Anton Wilson.

All in all, Adam has been working very hard. If he relaxes by going to David Crosby concerts, the rest of us will have to try to understand.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Illuminatus group reading, Week Nine

"The Destruction of Leviathan," an 1865 engraving by Gustave Dore. (Via Wikipedia).

(This week: Page 82, "You go that way," she said, to Page 92, "the funny business that he and Simon had in mind ...")

This is the section that introduces Leviathan, who is at once a real creature and a metaphor.

Leviathan is mentioned in the Bible, in Chapter 41  the Book of Job, as a mighty sea monster. "Can you pull in Leviathan with a fishhook or tie down its tongue with a rope? Can you put a cord through its nose or pierce its jaw with a hook?"

A monster in the deep also helps tie the Illuminatus! trilogy to Lovecraft's Cthulu Mythos. As we will see later on H.P. Lovecraft himself appears as a character in the book.

Leviathan also is the title of a book by Thomas Hobbes that argues for strong government by an absolute sovereign. And here we come to the symbolic important of Leviathan: It is the State, the enemy of the libertarian and anarchist heroes of the trilogy.  Although Leviathan is the book is an actual sea monster that Hagbard Celine battles with his yellow submarine, he also is metaphorically the  opponent of the book's protagonists. 

A few notes on the text:

"The sub's my creation ... " Page 83. Hagbard Celine is the Heinleinian competent man. (Robert Anton Wilson was a great admirer of the work of science fiction writer Robert Anson Heinlein. I suspect that Robert Shea was, too, although I cannot offer a citation.) A Heinlein quote:

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects. (From the novel Time Enough for Love.)

"You trust only the evidence of your eyes and believe what no man tells you." One of Wilson's great themes.

"Kallisti" Page 85. "For the fairest" written on the golden apple tossed out by Eris, the troublemaker.

"If you need a group label for us, we're political non-Eulideans." Page 86.

Atlanta Hope, Page 86. Author of the cult novel, Telemachus Sneezed, discussed elsewhere in the text. A reference to Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, but also a Joyce reference, as Telemachus was the son of Odysseus, aka Ulysses.

Page 87, "A.W." Adam Weishaupt?

Page 90, "The universe is just putting us on." See Michael Johnson on life as a black comedy.

Mordecai Malignatus, or Mordecai the Foul, Page 91, Robert Anton Wilson.

Heisenberg, Page 92, Werner Heisenberg, physicist who made important contributions to quantum mechanics. 

(Next week: Page 92 "WE SHALL NOT" to Page 102 "the Angel of Death would pass by their houses. Pat.")

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Teddy Bear Talks RAW event in Brighton

The Teddy Bear Talks event held on April 6 at the Black Dove in Brighton, featuring Daisy Eris Campbell and John Higgs, has now been posted on YouTube, making it available to everyone who couldn't make it to Brighton.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Synchronicity in Richard Powers' 'Orfeo'

 American composer William Duckworth (1943-2012), who never inserted musical notation into bacteria and probably is not alluded to in the new Richard Powers novel. 

New news news news news news news has a ... has a ... has a kind of mystery

I recently had a unique reading experience. I read a new novel, Orfeo by Richard Powers, and as I went though it, I had the odd feeling that it was written for me. It’s an interesting experience  of synchronicity,  and as RAW fans are interested in synchronicity, I write about it here.

I'm not crazy enough to think that when famed novelist Richard Powers sat down to write his new novel  that he was aiming for a book that would please his longtime fan, Tom Jackson, out in Ohio. But there are interesting coincidences that gave me an eerie feeling.

Start with the fact that only a fairly narrow audience of readers will get many of the references. Orfeo is a literary novel about a modern composer, Peter Els,  that contains a great many allusions to music. People who listen to modern classical music are a small subset of a relatively small group of listeners.

The words quoted at the top of my blog post, for example, are from an aria that Richard Nixon sings from the John Adams opera, "Nixon in China," about Nixon's historic trip. I recognized the words when one of Adams' characters, a character somewhat reminiscent of director Robert Wilson, sang them words to Els.

A cassette tape of "Nixon in China" was one of the first recordings of modern classical music I ever bought. Although it is famous as modern operas go, I would be surprised if as many as 1 in 100 Americans would get the reference without help. Powers inserts the words I’ve quoted into his novel without explanation. There’s also a joke about spectral music, which you’ll get if you recognize the name “Tristan Murail.”
Powers is that kind of novelist. He never explains in the text, either, why he calls the book Orfeo. And that gets us into why I had the odd feeling the book was written for me.

One of my hobbies, aside from letting a blog about Robert Anton Wilson eat up much of my time and attention, is listening to classical music. Aside from the usual suspects every other classical listener pays attention to, I have a particular interest in modern classical music, including some composers who are considered too “way out” for most people.

One of my favorite composers is William Duckworth, who died of cancer a couple of years ago. I own all three available commercial recordings of “The Time Curve Preludes,” his best-known work. It's a great piece. I own most of his other work that is available on the market. I even knew Duckworth,  in the sense of “knowing” someone you’ve only met on the Internet. I blogged about him, and he sent me an autographed copy of one of his books. Another time, he sent me an unreleased CD of music by his world music/avante garde band. Once he wrote to suggest a blog post, and so on. I was quite upset when he died. His New York Times obit is here.

Anyway, Duckworth, like Peter Els, taught at a Pennsylvania college and lived in a small Pennsylvania city. Like Duckworth, Peter Els was influenced by John Cage, and some of his pieces are very conceptual.

But the clincher in the possible connection of the two is the word Orfeo.

Orteo is Italian for Orpheus, the character in Greek mythology whose music was so powerful he could charm all living things and even rocks with his music. When Els gets into trouble with the federal government for breeding bacteria in his apartment (in a concept that even Duckworth never thought of, Els wants to insert musical notation into the DNA of bacteria, so his music will last for millennia) he goes on a journey, analogous to Orpheus' famous descent into the underground, to recover his own lost loves.

But Orfeo also has a specific meaning for classical music buffs. The opera L’Orfeo  by Monteverdi is one of the earlier operas, and is certainly the first opera still remembered and performed today.

Duckworth also composed a version of the Orpheus story. As Wikipedia explains, “The iPod Opera 2.0: The Myth of Orpheus, the Chronicler and Eurydice, [was] podcast in 26 episodes as MP3 and QuickTime video files. The video episodes may be downloaded and played on many different kinds of computer systems, including Apple OS, Windows and Linux computers, while the MP3 files may be downloaded and burned as an audio disk. The completion of the podcast in February 2007 was timed to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the first performance of Monteverdi's L'Orfeo.” I’ll add that the first number of the Duckworth piece is a rewrite of the overture to Monteverdi’s opera.

The Powers novel has Tweets from Els interspersed throughout the text. Duckworth was active on Twitter, as @Timecurve.

My wife says that a smart guy like Richard Powers probably knows who Duckworth is. My own guess is that I’m outlining coincidences here, and the novel is not, in fact, a long dog whistle to William Duckworth fans.

But I’ll try to write to Powers and ask. If I get past the “email from nuts” filter and obtain a reply, I’ll let you know.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Joey Ramone sings the Finnegans Wake songbook

Okay, despite my title, it's only one song,.

But Joey Ramone did record a tune called "The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs" with the text adapted from Finnegans Wake and the music written by composer John Cage. The excellent Open Culture website has a blog post that allows you to listen to the song. As Josh Jones notes, "Ramone’s interpretation of the piece is enthralling simply as a piece of recorded music.  But it’s also a fascinating piece of cultural history, representing a confluence of the foremost figures in early twentieth century modernist literature, mid-century avant-garde music, and late century punk rock."

The song is from a "various artists" album, Cage/Uncaged  — A Rock/Experimental Homage to John Cage, available on Ubuweb. 

Hat tip, John Merritt.

For a choral piece based on a text from Finnegans Wake, by composer Robert Erickson, go here. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Cosmic Trigger play update

Our favorite Englishwoman, Daisy Eris Campbell, has released a new communiqué on her efforts to mount a stage production of Robert Anton Wilson's first "Cosmic Trigger" book.

Some of the big news:

• An excellent new official website has launched. It has real news on the production (much of the cast is locked in) and is a good resource for RAW fans. Go look at it. Also, please note that you can sign up on the site to receive news by email about what's going on.

• The launch of the crowd funding effort has been moved to May 23, but this appears to be a firm date. Lots of cool perks will be listed for donors.

• If you are in England, or plan to be in England in the near future, be aware that a fab launch party for the crowd funding effort will be held in London on May 23.

Here is the full dispatch:

All Hail Discordians,

You're rather overdue an update on the whole Cosmic Trigger caper, I felt.  

A quick catch-up for the as-yet uninitiated:  

Plan is to stage an adaptation of Cosmic Trigger by Robert Anton Wilson, with scenes from Illuminatus! woven through, as well as a dramatised peek backstage at the original Liverpool production (directed by my dad, Ken Campbell). To be funded by crowd, staged by enthusiasts and encircled within a whole Bob-related Cosmic festival.  

And oh boy, it's all happening...  

First exciting thing to tell you is how well the Liverpool "Time to Pull the Cosmic Trigger?" event went on February 23rd. John Higgs explained the true meaning of pulling your cosmic trigger (the releasing of a tsunami of personal meaning, sending you on a journey through Chapel Perilous in order to piece yourself back together); I rainbow-knickered the bust of Jung, invoking cosmic protection for Discordians worldwide; and we staged 'Bob's first acid trip' at the beautiful Kazimier venue.

Suffice to say the resounding response to the question posed in the title, was, "Hell, yeah!" Here's Cat Vincent's write-up as featured on BoingBoing and DailyGrail.

We can also announce that Alan Moore has lent his support to the project and will be voicing the world's most intelligent computer, FUCKUP, originally voiced by John Gielgud. You can watch Alan Moore talking here about the influence Robert Anton Wilson and Illuminatus had on him.

And the marvellous Apple Core can also announce the launch of the swishy new website. You can view more videos, photos and write-ups on the site. 

Finally, we have moved the launch of the crowd-fund to May 23rd (23/5), to fulfil the sacred law of fives (and cos we needed a bit more time to sort out your fabulous perks).

There will be a crowd-fund launch party in London: The Meeting of the Mindfuck Operatives, at which you will receive instruction on how to pull your own cosmic trigger from Eris herself, along with cabaret, live bands and all manner of mayhem. Details to be announced soon... save the date 23/05/14.

If you're in Brighton for the festival I'll be talking at the Speigeltent on May 14th and if you are Nottingham way, I'll be part of a Cosmic Cabaret on May 17th.

That'll do you for now.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

RAW event in Nottingham, England

One of our English correspondents, Adrian Reynolds, writes to tell me about the gala "Pulling Your Cosmic Trigger" event scheduled for 5 p.m. Saturday, May 17, in Nottingham. See above. Donations are being accepted to aid "Sister Daisy's outreach work," e.g. her upcoming dramatic production of RAW's Cosmic Trigger.

The all-star show will feature Daisy Eris Campbell, author John Higgs, Adrian Reynolds, storyteller and performance coach Anna Reynolds and Nottingham improv comedy outfit Missimp. (I had guessed that the Reynoldses were a couple. In one of those coincidences that RAW enjoyed, Mr. Reynolds in fact has never met Ms. Reynolds, except online. Be sure to check out Anna's bio at the link. "My earliest memory is bouncing up and down in a cot in hospital, vomiting, then bouncing some more. And motivating the other kids around me to bounce.")

Adrian Reynolds is a scriptwriter and  a coach for other creative folks. "Recent projects include Making Sparks, a supernatural thriller serial about to launch as an app.

"Dragon Run Saga, a fantasy adventure audio serial again in app form.

"White Lily, a short film about love, memory, and comets.

"Coming up are two collaborations with an Emmy-nominated American filmmaker."

I asked Adrian a few questions:

Can you tell me a little bit about this event, and what you will be talking about in your talk?

The event is a celebration of Robert Anton Wilson in various forms, from Daisy Eris Campbell discussing the impact of his work in her life and which has taken her to staging Cosmic Trigger later in the year, through to a comedy impro group who are familiar with Illuminatus and have who knows what in store for us.

I'll be discussing a variety of incidents connected by being off the map that mainstream media encourages, from experiences of what seems to be telepathy to adventures in the mental health system, and how they might be connected with what is considered acceptable or verboten within medical and scientific discourse as it's popularly — and poorly — presented. It's not anti-scientific, just looking to present those fields as what they are — human endeavours as flawed and politicised as any other.

Did you put this together to support Daisy's efforts?

Very much so. I was massively inspired by the Liverpool show that Daisy put together in February, and wanted to offer a sequel of sorts in Nottingham, where I've lived for a long time. And I was aided in this by the wonderful Robert Howie Smith, who does an amazing job turning underused buildings in the city over to community and creative groups, and who had started on that path partly through arranging a cinema and theatre space for Ken and Daisy Campbell in London some years ago.

I was also very taken with John Higgs, more so since when I was reading his KLF book on a tram, I'd just finished the Dr Who section and looked up from the page to see a vehicle with TARDIS written on it as I approached my stop. Clearly, John's mojo is working.

The idea for the show was hatched outside what will be the venue for Pulling Your Cosmic Trigger, where I ran into Rob who was more than keen to do something. And as I wandered away I realised I'd be doing my first spoken word performance as part of it. Clearly, we were in the right place and time for the right thing to occur.

Anyway, the event will be happening a week before Daisy's Kickstarter goes live, and the funds raised will go towards that, minus money spent on printing flyers and keeping us suitably caffeinated on the day.

Did you have to get a permit from the sheriff of Nottingham to put this event on? Is Sherwood Forest nearby?

The Sheriff isn't the force he once was in town. Other areas of the country are starting to lay claim to Robin Hood for reasons not unrelated to tourism, and he doesn't seem to have done much about that, which is pretty poor given their mutual antagonism: you'd think he'd be against a proliferation of Robins.

Sherwood Forest isn't too far away, and at this point in time is the only one of that name. A few years ago, I was in town with friends and offered a job as Little John by a man dressed as Friar Tuck, but I had other plans. I still wonder what would have happened if I'd taken him up on it, but I'm very glad that the path I'm on has taken me to bringing Pulling Your Cosmic Trigger to Nottingham.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tuesday links

"If You're Bored, Don't Read This" From the seldom bored (or boring) Michael Johnson.

John Clute and David Langford on the Science Fiction Encyclopedia. It's online now, and has entries on Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea. It's a great resource, check it out. Hat tip, Arthur Hlavaty.

Original version of Greg Hill's article for Shea's "No Governor."

Short film about Jack Parsons' second wife.  Robert Anton Wilson wrote the introduction for this book about Parsons. 

New Age bullshit generator.

10 Questions Libertarians Can't Answer, and Hope You Won't Ask!  This is a humorous parody of the Alternet and Salon articles I mentioned Friday, but many libertarians did not get the joke and are bitterly complaining in the comments that Jason Brennan's piece ("Which Koch brother has more authority over you?") misrepresents libertarianism.

Pulitzer winners include the Guardian and the Washington Post, for their NSA stories. Also a composer I like, one I once exchanged emails with.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Illuminatus reading group, Week Eight

This week: Page 73 ("Suddenly tired and discouraged") to Page 82 ("Mavis pointed to a door that looked like an entrance to an elevator.")

This section might be entitled, "George Dorn meets the libertarians." He also gets to encounter a yellow submarine!

"Sudden tired and discouraged .... " Page 73, James Joyce fans will recognize this paragraph as a kind of parody of the famous scene in the "Nausicaa" section of Ulysses.

"Heroes of fiction ...." Page 73. But of course, Leopold Bloom does. Dorn does not not think of Joyce until a couple of paragraphs later.

"And then the explosion came ..." Page 74. Compare with the explosions Gerty is watching during her "sex scene" with Leopold Bloom: "And then a rocket sprang and bang shot blind blank and O! then the Roman candle burst and it was like a sigh of O! and everyone cried O! O! in raptures and it gushed out of it a stream of rain gold hair threads and they shed and ah! they were all greeny dewy stars falling with golden, O so lovely, O, soft, sweet, soft!"

"Earwicker, Bloom and Craft," parody of Ewige Blumenkraft.

"Schlangenkraft," page 75,  is German for serpent power. For RAW on serpent power, go here. "Hanf" is German for cannabis, so the slogan Dorn is reading is "Yesterday pot, today pot, always pot."

"Yossarian," page 77, hero of Catch 22 by Joseph Heller.

"I believe that government governs best" etc., Page 78. Mavis is a free market anarchist, still the most radical wing of the libertarian movement. The movement encompasses right wing Ayn Rand types (hence Mavis mentions Atlas Shrugged) and left wing types.

George Dorn, by the way, is getting a full dose of what it's like to encounter a libertarian; Wilson and Shea are offering an affectionate, not entirely satirical portrait of a type they knew well. (When I first took Bryan Caplan's "Libertarian purity test," I scored as only a moderate libertarian, but the answer key said, "Your friends probably encourage you to quit talking about your views so much.")

It's worth noting that this section was written in the early days of the Libertarian Party, which fielded its first presidential ticket in 1972.  It holds up rather well as a portrait of the movement today.

"Your kind of capitalist woman was a Nixonette in 1972, and she believes in that half-ass corporate socialist bastard fascist mixed economy Frank Roosevelt blessed these United States with." Page 79. Liberarians hate being associated with big government, corporatist capitalism, hence the vehemence.

" ... material that was gold in color." Page 79. As a hard core libertarian, Mavis embraces the gold standard in an intimate, personal way.

"It was a submarine — a golden submarine ..." Reference to a quintessential Sixties tune; Lennon and McCartney wrote it, but Donovan helped.

Scene from the Libertarian Party's 1996 national convention, as depicted in the Onion.  

For more on the roots of Robert Anton Wilson's libertarianism, see Brian Doherty's excellent Radicals for Capitalism.  For my commentary on the meme among RAW's leftist admirers that Wilson wasn't a libertarian,  see my blog post (and please see the comments, also). 

(Next week: Page 82, "You go that way," she said, to Page 92, "the funny business that he and Simon had in mind ...")

Sunday, April 13, 2014

William Burroughs meets James Patrick Page

Here is the first sentence of the William Burroughs article, from the June 1975 issue of "Crawdaddy," on a rock band you might have heard of: "When I was first asked to write an article on the Led Zeppelin group, to be based on attending a concert and talking with Jimmy Page, I was not sure I could do it, not being sufficiently knowledgeable about music to attempt anything in the way of musical criticism or even evaluation." 

You'd have to do a pretty good job of avoiding rock music to be really unfamiliar with Led Zeppelin, but if William Burroughs was as ignorant as he claimed, he sure did a good job with his article. Oz Fritz (who furnished the link with his roundup on some of his current music projects, plus Steve Fly's project, ) says the article is "some of the most articulate writing on magick and music your correspondent has seen ...  You can consider the entire interview required reading - when time permits - for anyone who claims to be a sound engineering student of mine." I did the homework assignment right away, Oz!

The caption for this photo, on the Jack & the Bear MTV artist page, is "Grammy Award winning producer Oz Fritz (Tom Waits, Primus) working the knobs on a very special project for Jack & the Bear."

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The magic of music, from Mali

Friday was a long, exhausting day. Today when I got out of bed, I looked at my posting for yesterday and noticed that when I put up the links, I had forgotten to put up a link on Oz Fritz's post about his recent trip to Mali, which y'all should go read.

No one explores the link between music and magick better than Oz; I have just enough African music in my music collection to know that I probably should have more, but Oz is an expert. (I kind of have a little bit of every kind of music, but a lot of classical.) Be sure you take a moment to watch the video trailer for the movie about music in Mali that Oz is working on.

Bonus link for people who like to read: Today only, Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany is $2 for Kindle.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Adam Gorightly on Week Seven of Illuminatus!

Greg --

Has anything unusual happened to you since Illuminatus was published?


(Letter from Kerry Thornley to Greg Hill, reproduced in Adam Gorightly's new blog post for Week Seven of the Illuminatus! group reading, focusing on Thornley.)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

William Burroughs, sneaker pimp

Jesse Walker has a post up at Reason on the Nike commercial that William Burroughs made back in 1994. Walker notes that Thomas Frank attacked the spot at the time, and observes, "Burroughs' fee helped pay his medical bills, which is as good a reason as any to appear in a commercial. When Thomas Frank is 80, he might find himself in a similar situation. I picture him as a pitchman for heartland tourism: 'Looking for a place to spend spring break? Well, what's the matter with Kansas?' "

Perhaps the most interesting bit in Walker's post is the news that he's working on a piece on the new Barry Miles biography and on Burroughs himself. Walker writes, "Quick preview: Burroughs' worldview is more good than bad; it's harder to say that about his life." I'll let you know when the piece is available online.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Tuesday links

John Higgs world tour! Largely in south England, so far.

Nick Herbert's poem on the Brendan Eich controversy.  (If you don't know who Eich is, Google him and find the stories that confirm your ideological slant. I had trouble finding a neutral story to explain it.)

Defense of tit men.

Please do not leak sensitive NSA information. That's the NSA's job!

Why did the Obamas choose a STRAIGHT dog?! I thought Salon just trolled libertarians; apparently the Salon folks troll everyone.

Top ten literary podcasts; I signed up for a couple of them.

Letter from Greg Hill to Timothy Leary.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Illuminatus! reading group, Week Seven

The Illuminati symbol that everyone in the United States takes with them everywhere they go.

The Greek goddess Eris, known to the Romans as Discordia, from a Greek vase. She appears to George Dorn in a dream. 

This week: Page 63 ("Dad was the first to recover") to Page 73 ("he began thinking of alternate plans.")

A section of Illuminatus! rich in wit and in allusions! Let's see if we can tease out a few references:

Page 63 "that grin that always drove the cops crazy ... strange clear blue of his eyes ... " So apparently Simon Moon's father resembled Timothy Leary in some ways.

Page 63, Joe Hill, American labor organizer, tried and executed for a murder he probably didn't commit; famous for writing in his last letter, "Don't waste any time in mourning. Organize... " At the time Illuminatus! came out, many readers would have known the song about Hill that Joan Baez performed at Woodstock (it was on the live album), the song that Simon Moon quotes.

Page 64, Walpurgasnacht, spring festival six months after Halloween. 

Page 64, H.P. Lovecraft, a real band based in Chicago.

Page 64, Padre Pederastia, for an anecdote about the Chicago priest who inspired the character, see "Chimes at Midnight" in Cosmic Trigger Vol. III.

Page 66, "Nobody home," the Buddhist doctrine of "not self" or "no self." The Wikipedia article explains, "In the early texts, the Buddha commonly uses the word in the context of teaching that all things perceived by the senses (including the mental sense) are not really 'I' or 'mine,' and for this reason one should not cling to them."

Page 68, "Hail Eris." Discordian greeting. Eris, the major goddess in Discordianism, was the sister of Ares, the god of war. The Trojan War was her fault. The origin of the war involved a golden apple.

Page 68, "thirteen colossal levels ... One Enormous Eye ... "

Every American carries a picture of this  everywhere they go,  in their wallet or purse, near their photos of their loved ones.

Because,of course, the drawing of the eye in a triangle, atop a thirteen-stepped pyramid, appears on the back of every $1 bill, on the other side from George Washington, with the words "Annuit Coeptis" ("He has favored our undertakings") and "Novus Ordo Seclorum" ("New order of the ages.") The latter slogan, and the eye in the pyramid, etc., often is associated with the Illuminati.

Page 69, "Frank Sullivan," alias of John Dillinger. Citation from the July 23, 1934 issue of the (St. Petersburg, Fla.) "Evening Independent."  July 23 is celebrated as "Robert Anton Wilson Day."

Page 69, Bernard Barker, Watergate burglar.

Page 70, Knights of Christianity United in Faith. Just wanted to enjoy the acronym for a moment; the name parodies the Knights of Columbus. Years ago, some friends of mine recorded a punk rock song, "If You See Kay," perhaps not knowing they were citing James Joyce's Ulysses.

Page 70, "When are we going to get our troops out of Laos?" Thanks to American presidents such as the current Nobel Peace Prize winner, the satire in Illuminatus! remains evergreen.

Page 71, "Lief Erickson," e.g. Leif Ericson.

Page 71, "The Mgt." the Midget, conducting his own bit of OM.

Next week: Page 73 ("Suddenly tired and discouraged") to Page 82 ("Mavis pointed to a door that looked like an entrance to an elevator.")

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Alan Moore video released

 In what's billed as a "taste" of a long interview of Alan Moore, Daisy Eris Campbell has released a video of her and John Higgs' interview with Moore. The clip on YouTube is 4 minutes, 42 seconds long; if I understand correctly, folks who donate to help get Daisy's "Cosmic Trigger" play off the ground will get to watch more of it. In the clip, Moore talks about being given a copy of the Illuminatus! trilogy.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Nick Mamatas' 'Love Is the Law'

The LA Review of Books has published a review of a recent novel by Nick Mamatas, Love Is the Law, that appears to be steeped in the work on Aleister Crowley. The well-written and interesting review by Jesse Bullington says it may be Mamatas "most accomplished effort yet."

The review also has passages that hint that Mamatas' work may be influenced by another writer. "Mamatas doesn’t present a single view of anything, instead providing us with a hall of mirrors through which we can glimpse the distorted possibilities that sundry philosophies open for us .... Regardless of your handle on Reaganomics or Indie comics, on Communism or Hardcore music, whether you memorized portions of The Book of the Law back in high school or have never heard of Thelema, Mamatas provides plenty of illumination for the novice and guffaws for the adept. He’s simultaneously treating it seriously and thumbing his nose at the futility of it all, and inviting us in on the joke…because the joke’s kind of on us, isn’t it?"

A previous novel by Mamatas, Bullettime, apparently was filled with references to Discordianism. Burlington writes, in another review, "For a novel brimming with talk of Eris and Discordianism, parallel universes, sex, violence, dark humor, substance abuse, and even the number twenty-three, Bullettime really doesn’t bear much comparison to its most obvious literary relation, the work of Robert Anton Wilson. Mamatas is more interested in engaging with his subjects than using them as plot points, and better at negotiating issues of race and gender than Wilson was, especially considering said elements are filtered through a juvenile mind. There is a similar playfulness, perhaps, and I imagine fans of the one will find a lot to like about the other, but as always, Mamatas is doing his own thing here ... "

In another review of Love is the Law, Bob Freeman writes, "It occurred to me, late last night that, if Elmore Leonard and Robert Anton Wilson were to beget a Moonchild, it would bear a striking resemblance to Love is the Law."

Hat tip, Roman Tsivkin.

Friday, April 4, 2014

A Timothy Leary anecdote

Yesterday, as part of my day job as an Ohio newspaper reporter, in Sandusky, I met for coffee with a local jazz singer and concert promoter, Anna Givens, and her husband, rock musician David Givens, a former member of the band Zephyr. (The band never quite hit the super big time, but one of David's bandmates was Tommy Bolin, who found quite a bit of fame as a guitarist before dying young for the usual reasons.) The band has retained a following; the first album will be re-released this summer. I can't find any live performances on the Internet, but the above YouTube video combines live footage with audio from the band's first album, giving the best-available approximation of the band in its time.

Anyway, I had read that the Colorado-based band had once crossed paths with Timothy Leary, so naturally I asked David about that. He explained that Zephyr had once opened for Timothy Leary, in Boulder.

"There's not a lot of people who can say that," he said.

"Tim and Joanna came out and sat down on the stage and watched us," Givens related. Afterward, Leary told them, "You guys are the best band I've ever seen."

Thursday, April 3, 2014

A 'Wobbly Surrealist'

After I posted Monday about possible links between the original Surrealists in France and anarchists in Chicago, Neil Rest, "Neil in Chicago," pointed out in the comments that Franklin Rosemont actually provides that link, and that Rosemont provided part of the inspiration for the composite character of Simon Moon in Illuminatus!

Rosemont actually met Andre Breton and edited a book of Breton's writings. He wrote a book about labor hero Joe Hill, who is mentioned by Simon Moon. You can read more about him here.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Adam Gorightly on Discordianism in Week Six

Adam Gorightly has written another meaty blog post on the Discordian references in Illuminatus!, this time concentrating on Week Six of the group reading. Here is part of the section in which he explains how the Law of Fives relates to the code number of British agent 00005, the Illuminatus! equivalent of James Bond, 007:

00005 is also an example of the same five digit numbering system Greg Hill devised for the Principia Discordia. Illuminatus! is permeated with such Discordian allusions, which very few people at the time of its publication in 1975 would have been able to pick up on—or had even heard of Discordianism, for that matter. During this period there were only a few hundred copies of Principia Discordia in circulation, and so these Illuminatus!-Discordian allusions (such as this obscure reference to The Law of Fives) were initially inserted into the narrative as nothing more, it would seem, than inside jokes to the few who would understand them: a small cabal of Early Discordians numbering no fewer than five and probably not more than 23. The ultimate design of including all these Discordian winks and nods in Illuminatus! was part of a well thought out (albeit semi-covert) Discordian campaign to bring the Principia Discordia and Discordianism to a larger audience.

If you are following along with the Illuminatus! group discussion, you should follow the link and read the whole thing.

Bonus link: Adam Gorightly, indie rocker.