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

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Jesse Walker on conspiracy theories and Baltimore

Jesse Walker

While conspiracy theories are sometimes thought of as the refuge of people on the margins of power, Jesse Walker, who wrote the book on the subject of conspiracy theories, knows that they can be the tool of the rulers. He has an interesting post up at Reason, explaining that there is a long history of using conspiracy theories to explain away protests against white supremacy. Excerpt:

Now that we're seeing another wave of urban unrest, we're seeing some of the same stories return. Once again, the black underclass is imagined as a threat guided by a hidden hand. The chief difference in Baltimore is that the mayor, the police commissioner, and other voices spreading the stories are black themselves. The social context has changed, but evidently it hasn't changed enough.

Jesse Walker on Gangs and 'Outside Agitators': Baltimore Authorities Pick Their Conspiracy Theories

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

'Cat' Vincent slates new RAW lecture at Treadwell's

Via Twitter, Ian 'Cat' Vincent has announced he will deliver a lecture at 7:30 p.m. August 27 at Treadwell's, a London bookstore specializing on occult and interesting books. More details soon, please keep an eye on the "Events" page of the bookstore's website. Lots of other interesting events to go to until then. (Probably wouldn't hurt to follow Vincent on Twitter, as I do.) Look for "some biography elements from recent UCL talk, mostly focus on his magic technique & models," Vincent says.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Week 62, Illuminatus online reading group

Wolfram von Eschenbach, "another famous German musician," page 670

(This week: Book Five: Grummet, page 655, to page 670, "and you will not be disturbed.") 

With this entry, we begin with the characters trying to make sense of what has just happened in Ingolstadt, and I have to be careful because I can't really ex  ain much of this section without introducing spoilers.

However, by a nice synchronicity, we are about to begin the month of May, which in the Catholic church is the month devoted to the Virgin Mary.  The deaths of the members of the American Medical Association take place in the early morning hours of May 1.

An early Byzantine depiction of the Virgin Mary. 

While May 1 is International Workers Day, it is also a traditional beginning of summer holiday for pagan cultures.  It is apparently a big holiday in Great Britain. 

The text of Illuminatus! associates May not only with Mary, but with Eris and with many other female deities, "Dian, Dan, Tan, Tana, Shakti or even Erzulie," page page 658.

The Cathaginian goddess Tanit, rendered with a lion's head. 

Dian sounds like "Diana," the pagan virgin goddess.  Tana is apparently another name for the moon goddess. Shakti is the "great divine mother" in Hinduism.  Erzulie is a female Haitian African spirit.  The names giving in the passage also are suggestive of the goddess Tanit. 

Some notes:

The Honest Book of Truth, page 657. Discordian document also quoted elsewhere in Illuminatus!.  For more on the article and on Kerry Thornley, see Adam Gorightly's article.  UPDATE: Oops, it's not from the Honest Book of Truth. See Adam's article on this.

In Athens, a certain classical scholar waking in a small cell ...  page 657. Greece was under a military dictatorship from 1967 to 1974.

This was the old gentleman with the white mustache and the unruly forelock who had spoken harshly to George in the lobby the night before last. Page 667. Adolf Hitler, who along with the other Nazis in the hotel suite had hoped to obtain immortality as a result of the mass slaughter of the people at the festival. See Appendix Lamed, page 768.

Page 670, "the Minnesinger Wolfram von Eschenbach." His most famous work, Parzifal, is a story about the search for the Holy Grail.  The depiction of women in the work fits in with the May theme.

(Next week: "Hagbard left at the same time the old waiter did, " page 670, to page 687, "You can always tell the higher members by their sense of humor.")

Sunday, April 26, 2015

RAW sculpture

If you have been waiting for a chance to own a relief sculpture of Robert Anton Wilson, suitable for display in your living room, you're in luck At the suggestion of Chad Nelson, artist Brad Newman has produced a series of sculptures, on a variety of backings, measuring about 8 inches by 7 inches. They are available at Etsy for $125 apiece. 

Mr. Newman creates museum exhibits for a company in St Peterburg, Fla., and does art on the side. Bio here. 

Bradley Newman with Stephanie, a graphic artist. 

About these sculptures, he says,

Hey RAW fans! Thanks for checking out my new artwork! You have Chad Nelson to thank for this. This relief bust came about because of his interest in Wilson coupled with mine to try this new type of sculpt. I absolutely love the way it's turned out and I intend to craft many more this way moving forward. I hope you like it too.

I've crafted as many plaque (backing) variants as possible so you'll be able to find one that will look sharp on your wall.  I hope you can find one that suits your taste. Also, these 15 busts will be the last for quite a while, as the rest of 2015 looks extremely chaotic for me [moving, career change... possible lobotomy...]. With some luck, I may have another set finished early next year...
I'm also nearly done with a similar Hunter S. Thompson relief that I hope to make available this year. And after that, perhaps a George Carlin! Time will tell.

You'll find every RAW bust I have at:

And you can see everything else I do at . Thanks again!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Cosmic Trigger theatrical trailer

I've seen no announcement of why this being released now, but this new theatrical promo for the Cosmic Trigger play is too cool not to be missed.

Cosmic Trigger Theatrical Promo from C S on Vimeo.

Even in the brief snippets, it's pretty easy to figure out who is Timothy Leary, Robert Shea, etc.

About this, Daisy Erie Campbell says only, "Below da-da-daaa is the Cosmic Trigger trailer - hot off the - whatever films come off these days. Hooray.

"Please give a warm Discordian V-sign to the fantabulous Nic Alderton who has snipped and snapped and flicked and twisted  to bring you this glorious three-minute reminder of what you experienced, or what you missed..."

No word on a movie or U.S. production. Note: I've never been told that a movie is planned, but apparently one or more of the performances were filmed, and we Yanks can only hope ....

Also, Cosmic Trigger t-shirts still are available for a "very limited" time. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Mike Gunderloy the Discordian

Adam Gorightly has a new posting up on "Week 59 of Illuminatus! Group Reading: Semaj the Elder (Part 00002)" which mentions a mysterious Discordian Semaj the Elder and Semaj's plans to publish, along with Mike Gunderloy, a document called "Never Whistle While You're Pissing, Part II."

Oh my gosh, Mike Gunderloy! If you are a young weirdo reading this blog post, you may not appreciate how important Factsheet Five was. It was a huge catalog of zines, dating from the time when the zine scene exploded from science fiction fandom into the world at large. I used to send off for some of the zines listed there (and some of the other stuff, such as music tapes), and so did every other weirdo of a certain age.

Read Adam's entry, and please leave a comment if you have any information on Semaj the Elder.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

John Higgs on Discordianism and his big new book

Freelance writer John Wisniewski last contributed to this blog in October, when he interviewed Adam Gorightly.

Mr. Wisniewski now returns with a brand new interview of another one of my favorite writers, John Higgs, author of The KLF: Chaos, Magic and the Band who Burned a Million Pounds, the Timothy Leary biography I Have America Surrounded, and (as JMR Higgs)  the novels The Brandy of the Damned,  and The First Church on the Moon 

He also published a short book on the monarchy, Our Pet Queen: A New Perspective on Monarchy, and  2000 TC: Standing on the Verge of Getting It On, a limited edition book about the rock band TC Lethbridge published in conjunction with last year's production of the Cosmic Trigger play and festival in Liverpool. Only 111 copies of 2000 TC were published, although you can get a small taste of it from this blog posting.

Everyone, though, will be allowed to purchase as many copies as they like of Higgs' big new nonfiction book, Stranger Than We Can Imagine: Making Sense of the Twentieth Century, which will be published later this year in both the U.S. and Great Britain. The new book threatens to give Higgs a bigger audience and take away his status as everyone's favorite cult writer, but you can't have everything.

John Wisniewski is a freelance writer who has written for L.A. Review of Books, Paraphilia magazine, Toronto Review of Books, Urban Graffiti magazine and other publications. He lives in West Babylon NY.

JW: When did you interest in Discordianism begin? Were you also interested in magic/chaos magick?

John Higgs: I was first aware of Discordianism through the Illuminatus! Trilogy, which I bought a copy of in Liverpool in about 1991. I didn't actually get very far with it at the time, I gave up pretty quickly and it sat on my shelf for the next 20 years, slowly contaminating my other books with its presence. But I do recall what I got out of that first attempt to read it. The book gave one explanation for the eye in the triangle symbol, and then a number of pages later gave an entirely different explanation. It sounds daft now, but that made a real impact. It was the first time I was aware that a symbol could have different meanings, that there was not just single explanations for things, and that contradictory statements could be equally valid - or invalid. All that seems self-evident these days, and maybe it says something about the times then or the education that I had had, but it was a real eye-opener.

That was enough for me from that first reading, I put the book away and let it sink in.

Then around 2004 I was researching my book about Timothy Leary, which naturally involved getting a better handle on Robert Anton Wilson, so I started reading him properly — Cosmic Trigger, Prometheus Rising, Quantum Psychology etc., and lots of interviews online, as well as the Principia Discordia. All that helped to flesh out my sketchy understanding of Discordianism.

As for Chaos Magic, I was certainly aware of it during the 90s and over the years, and curious, but I wouldn't say that I was drawn to it. It seemed very Thatcherite, in that it just seemed to be about getting what you want and nothing else. There was something a bit inharmonious about that, the idea that the Universe is your bitch and it has to give you what you want. It also looked isolating. It's possible that the chaos magicians I was aware of were unrepresentative, and I was missing something of value. I can see now that it was absolutely of its time, and a necessary step. But I much prefer the approach of Alan Moore and Steve Moore, in which magic is understood as something that takes place in the immaterial mental world, and which is a tool with which you can produce worthwhile things, in particular creative works.

JW: Are there any important figures in Discordianism that you can tell us about?

John Higgs: According to Discordian lore everyone is a Discordian, even if they don't know it yet, and even if they have no sense of humour and hence can never know it. If chaos is the fundamental universal principle, then everything and everyone in that universe are parts of the chaos whether they like it or not. This was all explained in the original draft of the Principia Discordia (which you can now find in Adam Gorightly's Historia Discordia). Because of this, everyone is an important figure in Discordianism, which explains a lot about contemporary politics.

We can have our favourite Discordians, though, and mine are Robert Anton Wilson, Alan Moore, Ken Campbell, Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty.

JW: Is there a dark side to Discordianism, John?

John Higgs: Oh yes — there's a dark side to everything, if you find the relevant perspective. Discordianism does not look good if you intend to run for public office.

A lot of Discordian thought centres around what Robert Anton Wilson called Chapel Perilous - that state where all your maps have run out and the models you use to make understand the world are shattered, from which it is only possible to emerge agnostic or paranoid. In the 1970s, when people liked to mix their Discordianism with a lot of LSD, many became deeply paranoid. LSD is a good drug to get you in to Chapel Perilous, but a terrible drug if you want to get out. There were a lot of casualties.

These days, though, I think the good outweighs the bad. Discordianism protects you from anxiety, stress and embarking on damn-fool crusades under the illusion that your perspective is the only one that is valid. Modern Discordianism is only really dangerous if you lose your sense of humour.

JW: Are you interested in the writings of Aleister Crowley or The Necronomicon?

John Higgs: Crowley's hard to avoid, if you have any interest in the immaterial. He also makes an appearance in my next book (Stranger Than We Can Imagine: Making Sense of the Twentieth Century), thanks to his understanding of the individualism that ran through the 20th Century.

I'm not entirely sure exactly what I make of him. When I first heard about him as a teenager, he was spoken of in terms of a dark, terrible thing you must never go near. Then after reading Robert Anton Wilson and Tim Leary, I saw him as someone whose work had real value. Then I read biographies and some of his writing, and saw him as a horrible person, a proto-fascist. Then I learnt more about the early 20th Century, and saw him as very much a product of his times. Currently, I'm going through a period where he strikes me as funny, like a cartoon character - a dirty old man desperately trying to find excuses to legitimise his own personal kinks. Perhaps in a couple of decades I will have seen enough sides of him to form a valid opinion.

He was cremated in near where I live, so there's a local connection. It caused a bit of a tabloid frenzy at the time, after reporters mistook his ceremony for a black mass. The local paper got his usual nickname wrong, and referred to him as 'The Worst Man in the World'. I like to think he would have approved.

I've not read a lot of HP Lovecraft, one day I'll look into him more.

John Higgs

JW: Did you speak with Robert Anton Wilson frequently?

John Higgs: Sadly I didn't speak with Robert Anton Wilson frequently, I only met him once, in Dec 2004.

JW: What role did Discordianism play in history, John?

John Higgs: You can make a case for Discordianism being an important factor in the development of a whole range of different cultural areas, such as conspiracy theory, the counterculture, parody religions, the creative commons movement, and so on. I think that does it a bit of a disservice, I prefer to see it as a spice spread throughout our recent history. Discordianism has a bit too much of the Trickster spirit about it to fit neatly into cause and effect explanations.

JW: Are there any authors or films that you like?

John Higgs: Oh, many. In terms of film, I'm a big fan of Ben Wheatley's stuff, particularly A Field In England and Sightseers, so I'm very much looking forward to his adaptation of J.G. Ballard's High Rise. A Field In England restored my faith in cinema, which had been all but destroyed by that film where Superman knocks down buildings for five hours.

The book that I've loved most recently is The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth. If anyone is considering reading that book but is put off by the pseudo-Old English dialect it is written in, my advice would be to just dive in regardless. If nothing else, you can use The Wake as a training level for the first chapter of Alan Moore's novel The Voice of the Fire.

JW: Will you be writing a book, John?

John Higgs: I will, I expect to be writing a few. My next, Stranger Than We Can Imagine: Making Sense of the Twentieth Century, will be out later in the year. It's an ambitious fucker, if nothing else. Then there's a book called Watling Street, the proposal and sample chapter of which are currently gathering dust in my agent's in tray somewhere. I'm currently writing a spec TV script called None of the Above, which is a long shot but certainly worth a try.

Then there's a novel called The Last Book which is preoccupying me at the moment. I very much want to write it soon but at the same time, to do it justice, you would have to go into it accepting that it would be the last book you would ever write - for reasons that would make a bit more sense if I was to tell you the plot. Which is a horrific thought, but the fact that it is so scary is a reason to do it. I may see how long I can put off starting that one!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Wednesday links

"Why Is This Politician Taken Seriously?" It reminds me of Robert Anton Wilson's remark that people who live in Washington, D.C.,  too long lose touch with ordinary values.

I know the woman targeted by this Tweet. She was a colleague at my newspaper. What women have to put up with on the Internet is unbelievable. Well, I guess men get some of this, too. 

Jesse Walker on Rand Paul. 

What Jeb Bush likes best about Obama. My British friends who fill my Twitter feed complaining about British politics should get a load of this country. Obama's new attorney general loves the NSA, too. 

Norway turning off FM radio. 

Childhood's End miniseries coming. 

UPDATE: Arthur Hlavaty gets the rest of the story about a college incident, decades later.  Forgot to post it. Just look at his blog every day -- the entries are usually short, but there's usually something interesting.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Harlan Ellison wins Prometheus Hall of Fame award

Harlan Ellison

One of my favorite writers, Harlan Ellison, is being awarded the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award for his classic science fiction story, "'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman," the Libertarian Futurist Society has just announced. The actual award presentation will be May 9 at Marcon, a science fiction convention in Columbus, Ohio, which I plan to attend.

The Robert Anton Wilson connection, as I've mentioned before, is that the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award is the only literary award (so far as I know) that Wilson received during his lifetime, for Illuminatus!; I've posted Robert Shea's acceptance speech. 

I'm a member of the Libertarian Futurist Society, and in fact, Your Humble Blogger is the person who actually nominated the story, so I bear an extra bit of credit (or blame) for today's announcement. I've always loved Harlan Ellison's stories, so I'm pleased to be able to bring a little more attention to his work.

By the way, the LFS also has announced the finalists for the Prometheus Award, for the best novel published in 2014 which explores themes of liberty; here are the nominees:

The Three-Body Problem, by Liu Cixin (TOR Books)
Raising Steam, by Terry Pratchett (Knopf Doubleday)
A Better World, by Marcus Sakey (Amazon, Thomas & Mercer)
Influx, by Daniel Suarez (Dutton Adult)

As it happens, I nominated the Liu Cixin novel.

Here is most of the official LFS press release on the Harlan Ellison announcement:

The Libertarian Futurist Society has elected Harlan Ellison's story "'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman" to its Hall of Fame.

Originally published in Galaxy in December 1965, "Repent, Harlequin!" portrays one man's surrealist rebellion against a repressive future society obsessed with timeliness. Ellison's rule-breaking narrative structure and style have made the story memorable to generations of readers.

The award ceremony will take place Saturday, May 9, at Marcon, an annual science fiction convention in Columbus, Ohio, as part of the Libertarian Futurist Society's participation in the celebration of Marcon's fiftieth anniversary. The LFS will present a Special Award for Lifetime Achievement to F. Paul Wilson in the same ceremony.

The awards consist of plaques with gold coins mounted on them, a symbol of free minds and free trade.

The Libertarian Futurist Society has presented annual Hall of Fame Awards since 1982. The first awards went to Robert Heinlein's The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress and Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. In 2001 the award was opened to works other than novels. Previously recognized authors of shorter fiction include Poul Anderson, E.M. Forster, Robert Heinlein, and Vernor Vinge.

Prometheus Awards for Best Novel and Hall of Fame commemorate works of science fiction and fantasy with pro-freedom themes. Award winners are selected by a vote of the membership. Special Award winners are proposed by the Board and approved by a vote of the membership. The Prometheus Hall of Fame award for Best Classic Fiction honors novels, novellas, stories, graphic novels, anthologies, films, TV shows/series, plays, poems, music recordings and other works of fiction first published or broadcast more than five years ago.

About the awards
The Prometheus Award, sponsored by the Libertarian Futurist Society (LFS), was established in 1979, making it one of the most enduring awards after the Nebula and Hugo awards, and one of the oldest fan-based awards currently in sf. Presented annually since 1982 at the World Science Fiction Convention, the Prometheus Awards include a gold coin and plaque for the winners.

For more than three decades, the Prometheus Awards have recognized outstanding works of science fiction and fantasy that stress the importance of liberty as the foundation for civilization, peace, prosperity, progress and justice.

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

Monday, April 20, 2015

Week 61, Illuminatus online reading group

Yog Sototh, the H.P. Lovecraft creature who puts in an appearance in this section of the narrative, as rendered by artist Shane Gallagher. 

(This week: Page 637: In Mad Dog, Texas, John Dillinger and Jim Cartwright looked up from the chess board to Page 654, "Ra Ra Ra." More than 10 pages, but as I write last week, I could not find a convenient stopping place.) 

The passage with the climactic ending to the doings at the rock festival in Ingolstadt nicely illustrates Robert Anton Wilson's theories about model agnosticism; the people who are attending the festival do not perceive the events in the same way. Everyone is trying to figure out "whatever the hell is going on," as znore puts it in the blog post I mentioned yesterday, (In one of those synchronicities that always seem to crop up when you take time to notice them, znore's piece is called, "On the Forgotten Art of Turning Into a Tree." On page 652, Joe Malik has turned into a tree, at least in the eyes of British agent Fission Chips. Znore's essay is about how shamanic visions harden into narratives and received truths, and in one sense, this is what this passage of Illuminatus is about).

The models the authors offer for what happens at the end of the rock festival include (1) The book's dominant model, Eris and the Discordians led by Hagbard vs. the Saure version of the Illuminati; (2) Lady Velkor and her Great Mother, Isis, defeating the Illuminati (page 651); (3) Hagbard freaking out a bunch of acidheads, with no supernatural elements (page 652, "a master con man") and (4) "the final battle between Good and Evil, with Horus on both sides" (same paragraph.) It's likely there are models that I have missed, and more models will likely be suggested as the book continues.

Some notes on the text:

"John Dillinger and Jim Cartwright looked up from the chess board," page 637. I've been very confused about the John Dillinger character; apparently there are three of them.

"Being a woman is bad enough, but being a black woman is worse," page 637. In the midst of all of the action, we get an interior monologue from Mary Lou Servix very reminiscent of Molly Bloom's monologue at the end of James Joyce's Ulysses. 

"He's using what I call the Pentecost gimmick," page 639. Isn't it a novelist's dream to be able to speak to all people in a way they understand, in their own language?

Bible exegete Malaclypse the Elder is referring to a passage of thnb m    , which describes in incident similar to what's happening in Illuminatus! (this is the New International Bible translation of Acts 2 1-13)

2 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them.

5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,[b] 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”

13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”

When I was in high school, I read a modern English translation of the New Testament all the way through (I hadn't been much exposed to it in church, having been raised as a Unitarian) and was impressed with its power. There's a great section of The Earth Will Shake which reinterprets passages of the Bible; I'll have to write about it sometime. Perhaps it would make sense, some time after these weekly chronicles end, to tackle the Historical Illuminatus books?

Eris, from a sixth century B.C. Greek plate. 

"If whites and blacks and Indians were turning colors all the time, there wouldn't be any hate in the world, because nobody would know which people to hate." Page 646. In my favorite Bruce Sterling novel, Islands in the Net, a substance is invented which allows white people to darken their skin and become "colored people."

"It is possible," he said, "to achieve transcendental illumination," page 646. There's more about this in the appendix, as we will see.

"You shall not have those lives, Yog Sothoth. Page 649. Speaking of "model agnoticism," as I did a few paragraphs ago, is it difficult to come up with the right genre definition to describe Illuminatus! Is it a postmodern literary novel? A science fiction novel? An occult detective novel? A fantasy novel? Or is it, as this (and many other passages) suggest, a particularly long and unusual Cthulhu Mythos novel? And for that matter, is Illuminatus! a "trilogy," or a long novel originally published as three separate books for commercial publishing reasons?

"Very well," said Joe. "My Lord, my enemy."  Page 653. Is this passage, among other things, a theory that Jesus allowed himself to be killed in an effort to avoid becoming a guru, only to become the biggest "guru" of all time? Notice how earlier in the book, Hagbard steps down as a "guru," handing the responsibility off to Miss Portinari.

(Next week: Book Five: Grummet, page 655, to page 670, "and you will not be disturbed.") 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

znore continues to impress on his blog

Roberto Calasso

When I read znore's Groupname for Grapejuice blog, I often learn about books that I want to read. When I read his latest piece about a month ago, I wound up downloading a free copy of Jessie Laidlay From Ritual to Romance for my Kindle (I haven't had time to read it yet.) When I read his recent "On the Forgotten Art of Turning into a Tree," he convinced me to read The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony by Roberto Calasso. 

In any event, znore has been a busy guy — two new blog posts in the last few weeks. "On the Forgotten Art of Turning into a Tree," about how unusual experiences harden into religion, may perhaps particularly interest fans of RAW's first Cosmic Trigger book. The new one, "Generic Theography as a Slab of Text," also goes into the history of belief. I liked both pieces.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

San Francisco, on this day in 1993

A flyer for a San Francisco event in 1993, featuring Robert Anton Wilson:

Via Ted Hand.

Also: Flyer for a May 21 "The Lost Worlds of Albion" event that I wish I could attend, in Brighton, featuring John Higgs and others:

The event's related podcast has two episodes featuring Mr. Higgs, so it appears I have some listening to do.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

More leftists vs. Sad Puppies

George R.R. Martin

The Hugo Awards controversy I wrote about a few days ago continues, and while I stand by my opinion that the vote stacking is unfortunate and has damaged the awards, there are people on both sides who manage to look bad. There's a lot of smearing and loose talk going around.

The leftist meme that everyone involved in the Sad Puppies effort is a white male Nazi apparently is not faring well. Entertainment Weekly was forced to run this incredible correction:

“CORRECTION: After misinterpreting reports in other news publications, EW published an unfair and inaccurate depiction of the Sad Puppies voting slate, which does, in fact, include many women and writers of color. As Sad Puppies’ Brad Torgerson explained to EW, the slate includes both women and non-caucasian writers, including Rajnar Vajra, Larry Correia, Annie Bellet, Kary English, Toni Weisskopf, Ann Sowards, Megan Gray, Sheila Gilbert, Jennifer Brozek, Cedar Sanderson, and Amanda Green. This story has been updated to more accurately reflect this. EW regrets the error.”—Entertainment Weekly, April 6

Writing from the right, Robert Tracinski writes about "How to fight back in the culture war," and makes a point that's illustrated by the Entertainment Weekly correction: "By now, we know the basic ingredients of a typical skirmish in Culture War 4.0. It goes something like this: a) a leftist claque starts loudly pushing the 'correct' Culture War position onto b) a field previously considered fun, innocuous, apolitical, purely personal, or recreational, and c) accusing anyone who opposes them of being a racist, sexist, bigot who relies on oppressive 'privilege' to push everyone else down, while these claims are d) backed up by a biased press that swallows the line of attack uncritically and repeats it."

But on the other hand, the left has plenty of ammunition when it sticks to the truth.  It is apparently impossible to exaggerate just  how odious Vox Day is, and what an embarrassment he is to the "Sad Pupplies" movement. Yesterday, I noticed a Tweet by Roz Kaveney: "Theodore Beale (Vox Day) has stated that Anders Brevik will one day be regarded as a hero."

It turns out that's not an exaggeration, or taking Day out of context, or any other excuse one can come up with. Here is the actual post from Day's blog, "Breivik sets the political trend," and here's a sample sentence from the post: "As I said not long after the shootings, I will not be in the least bit surprised if Anders Breivik is one day regarded as a national hero in Norway, much like George Washington and William Tell, two men who also offered murderous resistance to their own governments."

Referring to Day, Tracinski writes, "And it also appears that the proprietor of the competing slate, Rabid Puppies, has said a few genuinely objectionable things." If there were a Hugo Award for making the understatement of the year, I'd say Tracinski deserves at least to be a finalist. (Day apparently has made all kinds of terrible statements; it's not like I'm picking on him for having a bad day.)

George R.R. Martin has weighed in to criticize the puppies.

File 770 continues to scrupulously report on all points of view in the controversy and has lots of interesting reading.

When all is said and done, I have to agree with Connie Willis, who has announced she won't be a Hugo presenter this year: “You may have been able to cheat your way onto the ballot. (And don’t talk to me about how this isn’t against the rules–doing anything except nominating the works you personally liked best is cheating in my book.) You may even be able to bully and intimidate people into voting for you. But you can’t make me hand you the Hugo and say 'Congratulations,' just as if you’d actually won it. And you can’t make me appear onstage and tell jokes and act like this year’s Hugo ceremony is business as usual and what you’ve done is okay. I’m not going to help you get away with this. I love the Hugo Awards too much.”

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

How to deal with NSA spying? Two views

In the wake of Edward Snowden's revelations, the NSA continues to spy away, obtaining telephone records for everyone in America and otherwise snooping on people who aren't accused of any crime.

There seems to be two main approaches for dealing with all of this. One option for folks who haven't given up on the system is political action, and there's a new coalition if you want to get involved with that (hat tip, Dan Clemons).

The other main approach is to adopt using encryption; here is a guide from Micah Lee, which apparently will be updated soon. You can also read Julia Angwin's guide.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Week 60, Illuminatus! online reading group

The Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Five-sided for a reason? 

(This week: "This is Danny Pricefixer," Dorus Horus said, page 627, to page 637, "Into the silence, Hagbard said ... ")

Some notes as we head toward the climax of what's happening in Ingolstadt:

Mr. H.C. Winifred of the Department of Justice, page 629. We've run into him before, doing the bidding of the Illuminati. See Toff's character breakdown. 

" .... and was trying to draw a chalk line," page 630, presumably to keep the creature trapped inside the Pentagon. Here again is metaphor for U.S. foreign policy — endless war to feed Pentagon bloodlust. See Michael Johnson's comment to this post on how the Pentagon levitation was supposed to be an "exorcism." (A pentagram in Goethe's Faust prevents Mephistopheles from leaving a room. )

"This is the dawning of the age of Bavaria," page 631. Apparently sung to the tune of "Age of Aquarius" from "Hair."

DRANG NACH OESTEN, page 631-632. The authors mean "Drang nach Osten," yearning for the east, slogan for Nazi expansion into the East. HEUTE DIE WELT, MORGENS DAS SONNENSYSTEM, page 632. "Today the world, tomorrow the solar system." Alleged slogan of the Bavarian Illuminati.

"Then I started to flip," page 632, beginning of Simon Moon's stream of consciousness.

"And then I understood why Hagbard had given us the acid," page 635, beginning of Mary Lou Servix's stream of consciousness.

"because I started to die," page 632. Mary Lou's reaction to acid is reminiscent of John Lennon's, who wrote "She Said" after taking LSD at a party ("She said, I know what it's like to be dead.")

(Next week: Page 637: In Mad Dog, Texas, John Dillinger and Jim Cartwright looked up from the chess board to Page 654, "Ra Ra Ra." More than 10 pages, but I could not find a convenient stopping place.) 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Floatation tanks and silent meditation [UPDATED]

John Lilly, his wife, and a floatation tank.  From "Brief History of the Floatation Tank"

NOTE: Updated with Caroline Contillo's instructions for beginning mindfulness meditation.

Oz Fritz has a new post up on "How to Use a Floatation Tank." Oz writes, "Lately I’ve been asked by a few people the best way to use a floatation tank. This has been my responseso far. I've been working with a tank for almost 10 years on a daily basis and I can say unequivocally that the best way to use a floatation tank is to open the door and get in it." Oz writes about his experiences with tanks and how using them have helped him.

Oz is less enthused about his experiences with silent meditation. He didn't enjoy saving money at the Sivananda Yoga Center. "The rent was very low, but there was an obligation to attend their mediation service held every morning at 6 am. It started with a half hour of seated, silent meditation which I found torturous."

Maybe the instructions he was given weren't very good? I've had better luck with the Theravada silent meditation, i.e. insight meditation.

Caroline Contillo, an insight meditation instructor and a Robert Anton Wilson fan, recently Tweeted: "for those who don't meditate because of the fear of sitting for long periods of time in silence: i have found that consistency rather than duration is the key to developing a practice. meditate at the same time for 3 minutes every day for a week and monitor any transformation in quality of attention." I could not find Caroline's beginning instructions for mindfulness meditation, but here are some from someone else, Chris Walsh. 

Caroline Contillo

UPDATE: Caroline, overcoming Internet vicissitudes, has now posted an updated version of her meditation instructions. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Talking Heads had the American Medical Association look

Does anyone besides me think of the Talking Heads when the American Medical Association, a clean-cut band featuring a blonde woman, are described in Illuminatus! ?

"Four owl-eyed faces stared at him. They were dressed in one-piece white suits ... " Above, a white suited performance. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Adam Gorightly on the Pentagon levitation and Illuminatus!

Abbie Hoffman (1936-1989), a central figure in the 1967 attempt to levitate the Pentagon, visiting the University of Oklahoma in 1969. 

One of the most rewarding outcomes of the long Illuminatus! read-along have been the contributions of "crackpot historian" Adam Gorightly, who it turns out is not a crackpot after all but an energetic historian and collector  of all things offbeat.

He has helped the Illuminatus! online reading group with a series of blog posts exploring the Discordian background of many passages, and now has weighed in with "Week 59 of Illuminatus! Group Reading: The Pentagon (Part 00001)," which discusses the counterculture movement's attempt to levitate the Pentagon during an antiwar demonstration and explores the Yippees' use of the eye in the pyramid motif.


On his way out, Abbie [Hoffman] made a formal request for a permit for the proposed Pentagon levitation, which—according to Abbie—would lift the building 300 feet. In response, the military actually granted this surreal permit request with the following stipulations: Abbie and his hairy freaks would only be authorized to elevate the Pentagon a mere three feet off the ground (so as not to damage the foundation!) and that the protesters could not surround the Pentagon, but only gather in front of the building.

Adam's new piece and all of his other contributions to the discussion have been archived here. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Tyler Cowen talks to Peter Thiel

Peter Thiel

I've remarked before about Peter Thiel's interest in making real many of the causes and ideas that Robert Anton Wilson was interested in. As I wrote in 2011,

So if there were a weird rich person who wanted to give away money to advance RAW's causes, it seems to me he would give money to aid space migration, improve human intelligence, extend human lifespans and support libertarian causes, at least in the broad sense of supporting civil liberties, something RAW advocated all his life even as some of his political perspectives shifted.

Believe it or not, there is such a person — venture capitalist Peter Thiel. (If you've seen the movie "The Social Network," he shows up as one of the characters, the first big investor in Facebook.)

Thiel's foundation funds research into combating aging and also funds the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence. Thiel has invested in SpaceX, the most important private space exploration company, and has given money to The Human Rights Foundation and the Committee to Protect Journalists. His foundation site also notes investments in antiviolence causes.

Tyler Cowen recently publicly interviewed Thiel. You can read the transcript or download or watch the podcast.

I liked the bit where Thiel talked about learning to think for himself:

PETER THIEL: I learned that I was incredibly prone to this problem of social convention. If you want to give it a religious terminology, the psychological terminology would be that I had a rolling quarter life crisis in my mid-20s. The religious terminology, I had a quasi-conversion experience where I realized the value system was deeply corrupt and needed to be questioned.

I do think that one of the ways of challenging convention, one way, the Asperger’s way, is just to be vaguely oblivious to it all, and continue apace. Then I think there is another modality where you just become aware of how conventional our conventions really are, and then that becomes sort of an indirect route of trying to start thinking for yourself.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

More Festival 23 news

Artwork for the new Festival 23 Twitter account. 

A date has been set for Festival 23, the planned festival for Chaotic & creative fun, music, poetry, song,  in the woods a weekend to submerge in all things #erisian."

The festival's organizer, Anwen Fryer Burrows, has set up a Twitter account to provide news about the festival, now announced for July 23, 2016 (e.g., Robert Anton Wilson Day). No further details, but she owns a shop in Sheffield, England.

Via the Twitter account, I now have a description of where it will be: "The site a top secret location north of Birmingham and south of Leeds and in a woodland easily accessible between m1 and m6."

UPDATE: They need help with an emblem, page banner and poster. More news soon on the festival. 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Week 59, Illuminatus online reading group

Sheila White as Messalina in the old BBC production of I Claudius

This week "Cars, except for official cars and the vehicles of the performers," page 617, to page 627, "Come over here and get the energies going with me.")

In the "Claudius" series of novels by Robert Graves, there is a memorable scene in which Messalina, the wife of the emperor Claudius, has sex in an orgy with many different men. Messalina is name-checked in Illuminatus! (page 606, "And how's the Miskatonic Messalina?"), so perhaps the scene had a cultic, pagan meaning that I missed at the time when I read it years ago. (But depicting women as promiscuous is a common smear tactic in history.)  In any event, it would seem to be too coincidental that Messalina is mentioned a few pages before the last few pages of this week's selection, which appears to feature a shapeshifting goddess.

A couple of notes:

"First the towers appeared ... " page 619. The design of the rock festival grounds recalls the design of the Nazi concentration camps, as Joe Malik notices on the next page.

EWIGE BLUMENKRAFT AND EWIGE SCHLAGENKRAFT, page 620. Wikipedia explains.  The whole entry is worth reading; excerpt: ""Ewige Blumenkraft und ewige Schlangenkraft" is also offered in Illuminatus! as the complete version of this motto. The text translates "Schlangenkraft" as "serpent power"; thus "Ewige Blumenkraft und ewige Schlangenkraft" means "eternal flower power and eternal serpent power" and may allude to the conjoinment of cross and rose within the alchemical furnace."

"Green and Pleasant Publications," page 622, the name Robert Shea gave to his publishing operation, which put out the anarchist fanzine No Governor. (Issues available here.)

"I hear you're good at that," page 625, this scene goes back to the Babalon working, Black Mass scene.

(Next week: "This is Danny Pricefixer," Dorus Horus said, page 627, to page 637, "Into the silence, Hagbard said ... ")

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Hugos have gotten weird

Connie Willis, a good writer, accepts one of her Hugos. But how is she registered to vote?

For years, I've read science fiction without worrying very much about the political orientation of the writers; some of my favorites apparently were conservative, some were liberal or left, some were libertarian and some did not seem to have a political orientation I could identify. It was the quality of the writing that mattered to me, and in many cases, the fiction did not seem heavily political.

Apparently, this attitude was hopelessly old fashioned or naive; it seems that the Hugo Awards have become thoroughly politicized. At i09, Charlie Jane Anders explains.  Via Arthur Hlavaty, a roundup at File 770.  The actual just announced nominations are here.

I suspect that as a reaction to bloc voting, there will be discussion of having at least some nominations come from a jury. Or perhaps juried awards will acquire more prestige.

I used to be very active with the Hugos, for many years, but I quit several years ago to concentrate on the Prometheus Award -- an ostensibly political award which actually has become less political over the years. Many of our recent winners have said publicly that they are not libertarians. Obviously, I can't thrown stones at other folk for bringing politics to awards, but it does seem as if bloc voting has replaced individual nominations, and this seems like a bad development for the Hugos.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Friday, April 3, 2015

Crazy conspiracy theories, Adam Gorightly and Mel Gibson! [UPDATED]

Mel Gibson in Conspiracy Theory. Ripped from the headlines — or ripped off from Adam Gorightly? has an entertaining article on "10 Crazy Literary Conspiracy Theories," featuring mostly crazy and perhaps a few plausible theories about J.R.R. Tolkien, William Shakespeare, J.K. Rowling and so on. Included is the claim that Stephen King shot John Lennon, which supposedly must be true because King never sued the nutball pushing the theory. Or maybe King is smart enough to have heard of the Streisand effect. 

Anyway, Discordian historian Adam Gorightly pops up in theory No. 2 ("Is The Catcher In The Rye A CIA Brainwashing Tool?"). The article's author, Nolan Moore, writes,

We recently talked about Mark David Chapman’s 1980 murder of John Lennon, but just a year later, John Hinckley Jr. tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan. What did these two guys have in common? They were both fans of The Catcher in the Rye. Remember, Chapman was so obsessed with the book that after he killed Lennon, he started reading the novel right there on the street, just a few feet away from the rocker’s body. 

Were these the actions of your everyday assassin? Or were Chapman and Hinckley both brainwashed CIA stooges? Conspiracy theorists suggest that Salinger was a CIA operative, and that his book is a “mechanism of control.” In an article submitted to Paranoia Magazine, Adam Gorightly theorized that the novel is “a triggering device, which sets off a post-hypnotic suggestion, much like the queen of hearts in Richard Condon’s Manchurian Candidate, unleashing within its mind-controlled subjects the command to kill.” So basically, once the sleeper agent pages through Catcher, he’s activated to kill a prearranged target like a musician or a president. So is The Catcher in the Rye a threat to celebrities everywhere, or is the whole theory phony?

Moore's wording is a little funny. Did Adam publish the piece in Paranoia Magazine, or did he just "submit" it? Was it bounced because it wasn't paranoid enough? Mr. Gorighly says the piece did in fact appear in Paranoia Magazine in the early 1990s.

But wait, there's more! Adam thinks that Mel Gibson stole his idea for the movie Conspiracy Theory.  (Despite what the article I linked to implies, Adam never filed a lawsuit in the matter.) By the way, should I watch this movie?

UPDATE: Adams's piece is now available.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

A few words on Ann Leckie

Ann Leckie, getting her Hugo Award

I am a little late singing the praises of Ann Leckie, who won a Hugo Award (and a Nebula, and other awards) for her first novel, Ancillary Justice. I've noticed, however, that she isn't popular or well known yet with general readers. I recently (finally) completed Ancillary Justice, and posted about it at my books blog. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The number 23 — a magic number, or a tiresome exercise in confirmation bias? We report,  you decide! (Source).

Bloomberg News, a presumably sober business news service, issues a breathless report on the magic
number 23. "And so 23 keeps working its weird magic," says the report —on the Chinese stock market.  "The number is 23 -- and it’s one of the most powerful forces in China’s $6.4 trillion equity market today."

Not an April Fool's Day story.

Hat tip, Jesse Walker.

Also, an April 1 announcement of Sean Gabb's new job.  If he cuts off BBC shows for American television, it won't go down well over here.

Don't let it go to your head, Sean.