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

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Sacred bowling alley to be saved for future Discordian pilgrims

Building to be preserved in redevelopment effort

Christians have the Holy Land, Moslems have Mecca, but Discordians have the place that historian of Discordianism Adam Gorightly had dubbed the "Brunswick Shrine," the bowling alley that Gorightly has identified as the likely place where Kerry Thornley and Greg Hill created Discordianism. *

The building in question is Friendly Hills Lanes, a bowling alley at 15545 Whittier Blvd. Whittier, California. In June, the bowling alley shut down after 60 years in business.

But it's not the end of the historic building. It's being redeveloped as a commercial building that will hold retail tenants, including an Aldi grocery store and BEVMO! liquor store. And the redevelopment will be done to preserve the building's historic character, including preserving the outside sign.

That's the word from Don Dooley, planning services manager for the city of Whittier. I interviewed Mr. Dooley.

The new developer, Dan Almquist, has been acquiring the building and is turning it into a three unit commercial building. The existing bowling sign outside will be adapted for reuse, said Dooley, who serves as the secretary for the Whittier Historic Resources Commission, the city body charged with preserving Whittier's historic buildings.

Whittier's interest in the Friendly Hills building stems from the fact that it is considered an exemplar of Googie-style building design, a space-age style that originated in southern California, particularly as the style of design applied to bowling alleys, Dooley explained. The bowling alley was designed by Powers, Daly and DeRosa, at the time the big name in southern California bowling alley design.

That has allowed the building to be certified by the Whittier Historic Resources Commission as eligible for being designated as a landmark under the California Environmental Quality Act.

This in turn allows Almquist to enter into an agreement with Whittier to carry out preservationist and historic restoration work as he converts the building into a new use. He is entitled to certain tax advantages and will get a measure of flexibility in complying with building codes as he works to preserve the building, Almquist said.

The Historic Resources Commission has approved Almquist's conceptual plans, and he'll be going before the city's planning commission on Nov. 16 for conditional use permits for adaptive reuse of the building.

The building's alleged role in giving birth to the Discordian religion and movement did not come up when the Historic Resources Commission met.

"This is something I am not even aware of. This is the first I have heard of it," Dooley said. "When you are doing  historic resource, you don’t necessarily find all of the information. It could be significant as it's related to the property.”

When I had phoned the city of Whittier's planning department, I had left a message identifying myself as a newspaper reporter for the Sandusky newspaper in Ohio (which is true), figuring that would be more likely to get a return call than identifying myself as the author of an offbeat blog.

Mr. Dooley was curious why a reporter in Ohio was interested in the fate of a California bowling alley, and I attempted to explain my blog and my interest in Discordianism.

* Adam Gorightly informs me that the term "Brunswick Shrine" actually was used by Thornley and Hill.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Higgs' book becoming available in the U.S.

The new John Higgs book, Stranger Than We Can Imagine: An Alternative History of the 20th Century, out for weeks in the United Kingdom, is becoming available in its various editions in the U.S.

Confusingly, the paperback edition is listed on Amazon as being released on Nov. 10, but the website says it can get it to me by Nov. 2. The Kindle edition will be released on Nov. 1, and I have to wait until Nov. 1 to get it, but the "International edition" for hardcover came out in September. Barnes and Noble says the paperback comes out Nov. 10, but I can get it in a store now, although the website says there are no stores in my area (there is actually one within half an hour of my house.) If I buy the Kindle ebook, I have to pay $1 more than for the Nook ebook. In any event, I'll have a copy in my hands soon.

I'm reading the new Elvis Costello memoir (elevates the rock star memoir genre —it's a really good book so far), but I can't wait to read John's book.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

If you want to try encryption, try Mailvelope

The usual answer that is given to ubiquitous government spying, such as that encouraged in the bill mentioned in yesterday's post, is to use encryption.

The main difficulty in using it is that almost nobody is willing to use it; as with anything, you learn do something by doing it. I only have one regular correspondent who uses encryption. But email encryption can also be difficult to use. Mailpile looked like a promising email client at one point, and for many people it probably still it, but the latest beta completely quit working for me and I had to abandon it. I now use Mailvelope, a browser extension for Chrome and Firefox which has become quite good and quite easy to use. I recommend it if you want to give PGP encryption a try. 

The web-based Proton Mail is an option if you just want to use a web service similar to Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, Gmail, etc. There, the main problem is finding other folks who will use it. If you want to try it, you can write to me at

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

'All your data belong to the government'

Ron Wyden

The latest government surveillance bill in Congress, S. 754,  seems to be well on its way to passage. "Let's tell private businesses in America that they should share consumer data with the federal government to help stop vague cyberthreats, and in exchange immunize them from liability for any possible violations of users' privacy. What could possibly go wrong?" writes Scott Shackford at Reason.

Here's how they voted in the U.S. Senate. 

I'm pretty down on politicians in Congress at the moment, even more than usual (the two most prominent "libertarians," Rand Paul and Justin Amash, both voted for war with Iran by opposing the nuclear inspection accord, and one of my senators, Sherrod Brown, just endorsed Hillary Clinton), but Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon has been good on this issue, so I'm following him on Twitter and posting his photo here. (Brown voted against S. 754, so we have to give him that, and he voted for the Iran treaty. All of his good work on civil liberties and peace will be negated if Clinton is elected, but the Republican nominee likely will actually be worse. How was YOUR week?)

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

znore on Sirius

Image of Sirius from the Hubble telescope

Groupname for Grapejuice had a blog post that I didn't get around to for awhile, which collects much of his research on Sirius, the Dog Star. 

znore also has been appearing on a podcast. 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Saturday, October 24, 2015

A RAW quote

A Robert Anton Wilson quotation, turned into a piece of art. At the Robert Anton Wilson Fans page on Facebook, Andrew Wilkins writes, "Great quote from Robert Anton Wilson. if you dig it feel free to like, share, use and otherwise spread this image and message. Click to see full size. Quote from The Illuminati Papers. (Image design by Maya Mitchell & Andrew Wilkins)."

Mr. Wilkins says on Facebook that he is a writer and filmmaker who lives in Michigan. Ms. Mitchell is a banjo player, songwriter and artist who works with autistic children. She also is from Michigan.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Favorite science fiction books

Doesn't your heart beat faster to see the cover of an Iain Banks Culture novel? Well, mine does. 

Inspired by Michael Dirda's list of ten favorite science fiction books, and by Ann Leckie's interesting list, I decided to do my own "top ten" list.

What I quickly ran into was that many of the best SF books I ever read were not, in fact, novels. But that when I started including story collections, I had to bump too many novels off my list.

So what I've done is compile two lists: One of ten favorite SF novels (that's the list that "competes" with Dirda and Leckie) and one that lists collections. I've made no attempt to pick the "best" books or most influential books or whatever. There are my favorites, and in many cases are books I've read more than once. For Gene Wolfe and Dan Simmons and Philip Jose Farmer, I've picked single titles, but I'm really referring to the series as a whole (The Book of the New Sun, Hyperion-Endymion, Riverworld.)

Ten favorite novels

1. The War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells.
2. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert Heinlein.
3. Tau Zero, Poul Anderson.
4. This Immortal, Roger Zelazny.
5. The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick.
6.  Hyperion, Dan Simmons.
7. To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer.
8. Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson.
9. Islands in the Net, Bruce Sterling.
10. Excession, Iain M. Banks.

Ten favorite SF story collections

1. Dangerous Visions, Harlan Ellison, editor.
2. I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, Harlan Ellison.
3. The Dying Earth, Jack Vance.
4. The Book of Philip Jose Farmer, Philip Jose Farmer.
5. Nine Hundred Grandmothers, R.A. Lafferty.
6. The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury.
7. Mixed Feelings, George Alec Effinger.
8. The Sentinel, Arthur C. Clarke.
9. Gene Wolfe's Book of Days, Gene Wolfe.
10. The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Vol. 1, Robert Silverberg, editor.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

RAW Trust to reprint 19 RAW books

Christina Pearson

The Robert Anton Wilson Trust's new Hilaritas Press has issued its first email newsletter, which you can read here. 

The main news is that the RAW Trust plans to reprint 19 RAW titles, in both paper and ebook editions (making many of them available as ebooks for the first time) under the Hilaritas Press imprint. As you'll recall, the trust terminated New Falcon as RAW's main reprint house earlier this year so that it could take charge of the effort.

The newsletter doesn't give publication dates but says they are close. It also doesn't list the 19, but I asked Richard Rasa for the list, and he shared it with me. Here are the 19, in current order of planned publication:

1 ~ Cosmic Trigger I: The Final Secret of the Illuminati (1977)
2 ~ Prometheus Rising (1983)
3 ~ Quantum Psychology (1990)
4 ~ Email to the Universe (2005)
5 ~ Coincidance: A Head Test (1988)
6 ~ The Earth Will Shake (1982)
7 ~ The Widow’s Son (1985)
8 ~ Nature’s God (1988)
9 ~ Cosmic Trigger II: Down to Earth (1992)
10 ~ Cosmic Trigger III: My Life After Death (1995)
11 ~ Sex, Drugs and Magick: A Journey Beyond Limits (1988)
12 ~ The New Inquisition (1986)
13 ~ Ishtar Rising (1989)
14 ~ Reality Is What You Can Get Away With (1992)
15 ~ Wilhelm Reich in Hell (1987)
16 ~ The Walls Came Tumbling Down (1997)
17 ~ TSOG: The Thing That Ate the Constitution (2002)
18 ~ Natural Law, or Don’t Put a Rubber on Your Willy (1987)
19 ~ Chaos and Beyond (1994)

The dates are when the books first appeared. The last two have never been reprinted.

As you can see, the reprint plans include all titles except for Illuminatus!, Schroedinger's Cat and Masks of the Illuminati, which remain in print as paper and ebook editions from their original publisher. Also omitted are collaborations with Timothy Leary which are apparently controlled by the Leary estate.

The other news is that there is now a RAW Trust website to check out.

The email newsletter is written by Rasa, identified as "metaprogramming director of the RAW Trust," and RAW's eldest daughter and literary executor, Christina Pearson. Christina's portion reveals biographical details about her father not included in Cosmic Trigger II: Down to Earth and is worth quoting:

 ... I am Bob’s daughter via memes, not genes. Yet he was far more my dad than bio-dad ever was! Bob married my mom Arlen when I was between one and two years old, after she left a very unhappy marriage. I have no memories of that time, all I know is I grew up with Bob as my father, in every sense of the word except “blood.” He understood that she was a “package deal,” with two small daughters from her previous marriage, and he took us on willingly and gladly in order to have Arlen as his companion in life.

He taught me to play chess at 5 years old, and then would “fall in amazement” off his seat when I made a good move; he would lie in waiting, pretending to be the troll under the bridge while waiting to pick us up from the school bus; then as we walked over it, he would roar “WHO is walking on MY bridge!” We would laugh hysterically, running away, and he would chase us... and, sometimes he had to write bad checks so us kids could eat.

Being raised in the House of RAW was such a wide and deeply rich spectrum of experiences, ranging from incredibly difficult situations to some of the most joyful, enlightening and spectacular! Someday, I hope to write a bit about it.

I can't wait to read that!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Literary matters

Michael Dirda

If you like books — and I have to assume you do, or why would you be reading this blog? — I invite you to read my interview with Michael Dirda, Pulitzer Prize winning books critic for the Washington Post.

You can also read my feature story about Thomas Wolfe fan Aldo Magi. He's a very serious fan, arguably more serious about Wolfe than I am about Robert Anton Wilson.

Special bonus for readers of this blog: Mr. Dirda has shared his list of his 10 favorite science fiction novels with me (limited to writers in English, one book per writer) and so I pass it on to you:

1. The Time Machine, H.G. Wells.
2. The Purple Cloud, M.P. Shiel.
3. Last and First Men, Olaf Stapledon.
4. The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester.
5. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller Jr.
6. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. LeGuin.
7. The Drowned World, J.G. Ballard.
8. The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick.
9. Dune, Frank Herbert.
10. The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Not an Illuminati membership card

Still mining gems from the Discordian archives, Adam Gorightly posts a non-membership card for the Illuminati, created by Arthur Hlavaty and sent to Greg Hill.

Arthur, I notice, still uses the Pope Guilty I moniker at his blog.  I didn't get the "oval throne" joke at first, but I want to get credit for catching the Heinlein reference in one of his recent blog posts.

Adam also recently unearthed a "lost" short story by Camden Benares. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Cosmic Trigger online discussion group starts early next year

Charles Faris

The next online discussion group (following previous groups for Coincidance, Masks of the Illuminati, Quantum Psychology and Illuminatus! will be an online discussion going through Cosmic Trigger: The Final Secret of the Illuminati! (aka, Cosmic Trigger, Vol. 1. 

The discussion will be led by Charles Faris, who has frequently contributed in the comments and who wrote one of the final entries at the conclusion of the Illuminatus! discussion. I asked Charles for a brief bio, and he obliged:

Charles was born in Alabama, raised in Hawaii, and spent his post-college life bouncing back and forth between Iowa and Bay Area California. He has worked as a dishwasher, busboy, lifeguard, grocer, retail whore, telephone solicitor, political canvasser, waiter, caretaker for the mentally disabled, chimney sweep, writing teacher, massage therapist, yoga teacher, and more. He has written a novel (burned), 2 collections of poetry (lost), 1 collection of short stories (MA thesis), and a variety of random non-fiction (HA!) pieces for a variety of dis-reputable journals. He is currently working on a writing project of which he can say no more. He currently resides in Roslindale MA, a suburb in Boston with long term love Randi, son Rowan, and cat Sabina.

Charles would like to begin in mid-January and is "bubbling with ideas." The idea is to do 10 pages at a time, or so. We are hoping the Robert Anton Wilson Trust's new edition of Cosmic Trigger, featuring the new preface by John Higgs, will be out by then. 

I will let Charles take the lead and make all of the decisions on the discussion, but I will be contributing the comments, along with everyone else who cares to jump in. 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Music and gnosis

The Who, who gave Oz Fritz a lesson in the power of music. "The note is eternal" ... 

Recording engineer and magick student Oz Fritz has been doing a series of posts on mixing. While they are aimed at other folks who want to know how to become successful in the music industry, they also have material for people like me who are unlikely to ever step into a recording studio. This seems especially true of the newest installment, "Mixing Part 3: Nietzsche, Crowley and the Will to Power."

Oz makes several points in his piece, including this one: "Music provides the opportunity for gnostic breakthroughs - direct experiences of profound wisdom and understanding that greatly accelerates spiritual intelligence.. A gnostic moment at a Who concert is documented here." (It's documented by Oz, who writes about about his experience.) 

I'll note that Robert Anton Wilson wrote about incorporating Beethoven into his magick experiments in Cosmic Trigger 1, which we'll look more closely at next year. 

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Happy #inktober!

A cartoonist named Winston Conrad (also a writer, lawyer, podcaster, Santa Cruz, Calif. resident and "enfant terrible") has been celebrating #inktober2015 on Twitter with a series of cartoons; for example, see below William Burroughs, Aleister Crowley, Jack Parsons, Robert Anton Wilson and a self-portrait of Mr. Conrad. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Who's out there?

We may or may not all be living inside a science fiction novel. But as we ponder the question, see this article from The Atlantic about a very mysterious star. Hat tip, Daily Grail and lots of folks on Twitter.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Another reason to buy the new edition of Cosmic Trigger 1

John Higgs

A few days ago, I published details on the new edition of Cosmic Trigger: The Final Secret of the Illuminati (also known as the first Cosmic Trigger volume.) It will be out soon from Hilaritas Press, the new imprint of the Robert Anton Wilson Trust.

I can now confirm that the new preface for the book was written by John Higgs, author of the new book Stranger Than We Can Imagine: Making Sense of the 20th Century. I can't wait to see what John wrote and look forward to the new edition more than ever. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

CIA director deceived Warren Commission

The Warren Commission has received a lot of criticism, much of it likely justified, but more than 50 years after the assassination, new evidence had emerged that government deceit hampered the commission's work.

In an article for Politico, Philip Shenon, the author of A Cruel and Shocking Act: The Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination, writes that the CIA director at the time, John McCone,  hid important information.

"The most important information that McCone withheld from the commission in its 1964 investigation, the report found, was the existence, for years, of CIA plots to assassinate Castro, some of which put the CIA in cahoots with the Mafia. Without this information, the commission never even knew to ask the question of whether Oswald had accomplices in Cuba or elsewhere who wanted Kennedy dead in retaliation for the Castro plots," Shenon writes.

He also writes, "The report identifies other tantalizing information that McCone did not reveal to the commission, including evidence that the CIA might somehow have been in communication with Oswald before 1963 and that the spy agency had secretly monitored Oswald’s mail after he attempted to defect to the Soviet Union in 1959. "

Shenon's piece is based upon a now-declassified CIA report, although the public version of the report has 15 different deletions.

Hat tip, John Merritt

Monday, October 12, 2015

[Today's guest post is by Eric Wagner, author of the book AN INSIDER'S GUIDE TO ROBERT ANTON WILSON. The Management.]

I, Wabenzi by Rafi Zabor

Today marks the tenth anniversary of the publication of one of my favorite books, I, Wabenzi by Rafi Zabor. This memoir tells about how he took care of his dying parents and also about his continuing quest for God, both before and after his parents’ deaths. I began reading Rafi’s writings in Musician magazine in 1979, and I loved his novel The Bear Comes Home (my favorite book about jazz as well as a marvelous spiritual epic), but I, Wabenzi has a special place in my heart. Rafi’s earlier writings had revealed his deep spiritual awareness, but I, Wabenzi tells the fascinating story of his spiritual journey. It makes explicit what his earlier work only hinted at. (After reading I, Wabenzi I reread The Bear Comes Home and saw the spiritual odyssey beneath the music voyage I had concentrated on when I first read it.)
I don’t know how to write about his wonderful book. I’d thought of quoting favorite lines, but I think they need their context. Similarly the wonderful characters (especially Rafi’s family) resist compact summaries. I encourage you to read the book. I don’t think it has found its true audience yet. I think fans of Robert Anton Wilson will particularly enjoy it. I used it along with Bob’s Cosmic Trigger for a class at the Maybe Logic Academy called “Chapel Perilous”, and I thought they worked very well together. They both tell of brilliant young men negotiating the wild world of the 1960’s and 70’s and their adventures in consciousness.

— Eric Wagner

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Details on the new Cosmic Trigger I edition

I'll have an announcement on the Cosmic Trigger reading group pretty soon (working on a few details), but in the meantime, Richard Rasa has details on the new edition of Cosmic Trigger: The Final Secret of the Illuminati: "Hilaritas Press will publish Cosmic Trigger I first, and then Prometheus Rising, and then Quantum Psychology.

"I can tell you that for Cosmic Trigger there will be a new preface, a new cover, many corrections of typos and, when it was possible, the improvement of interior graphics. All we are waiting on now is the cover. As for when Cosmic Trigger I will come out, I’m hoping for an upcoming 23rd. I was hoping for October, but we are waiting on the cover, so it’s a little bit out of our hands at the moment. But that’s not entirely true. We are being picky about the cover, and I’m sure that’s adding to the time.

"Sometime in the next few days we'll be sending out the Trust's first newsletter."

You can sign up for the Hilartas Press newsletter at the official website.  Or you can just watch this space, as I'll be reporting on any news.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Daily Grail on the Wold Newton Universe

Philip José Farmer

At the Daily Grail, John Rappion has a piece called "The Wold Newton Meteorite: from Outer Space into Fiction," which explains how a large meteorite that fell in 1795 helped inspired an alternative universe of the science fiction writer Philip José Farmer, and also is mentioned in other works of fiction. About Farmer, Rappion explains:

In Tarzan Alive: A Definitive Biography of Lord Greystoke (1972) Philip Jose Farmer presented the life story of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan as if he were a real person. In the book it was revealed that two carriages, travelling along the road at the time, were within 20 feet (6 metres) of the Wold Newton Meteorite when it landed. The people travelling within were exposed to a burst of ionizing radiation from the stone which caused mutations within themselves and consequentially their future offspring. Ancestors of Lord Greystoke (Tarzan), Solomon Kane, Captain Blood, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Harry Flashman, Sherlock Holmes, Professor Moriarty (AKA Captain Nemo), Phileas Fogg, The Time Traveler from The Time Machine; Allan Quatermain, A.J. Raffles, Professor Challenger, Richard Hannay, Bulldog Drummond Fu Manchu, Sir Denis Nayland Smith, The Shadow, Sam Spade, Doc Savage, his cousin Pat Savage, Monk Mayfair, The Spider, Nero Wolfe, Mr. Moto, The Avenger, Philip Marlowe, James Bond, Lew Archer, and Travis McGee, were among those present. According to Farmer then, the strength, intelligence, and general superhuman qualities of all these pulp heroes and villains are the result of the impact in that muddy Yorkshire field in 1797. The connected roster of characters has become known as The Wold Newton Family.

Robert Anton Wilson may have alluded to Farmer's Wold Newton universe in Masks of the Illuminati, as I mentioned in a previous blog post:

"The boy's mother was Lady Catherine (Greystoke) Babcock" and subsequent sentences, Page 27. This sounds like a nod to Philip Jose Farmer's Wold Newton family, which ties various characters in fiction (such as the Greystokes, e.g. Tarzan's family) into one family. Farmer and Wilson were fans of each other's work.

Wilson was certainly familiar with Farmer's work. For Wilson on Farmer, and Farmer on Wilson, go  here. 

I used to read a lot of Philip Jose Farmer, and I re-read the World of Tiers series a few years ago. The Riverworld books that Wilson writes about are good, the World of Tiers books are good and "Riders of the Purple Sage"Wage" is maybe my all-time favorite science fiction novella.

Addendum: As John Merritt points out in the comments, I had a typo and meant "Riders of the Purple Wage." It  explicitly refers to Finnegans Wake and is reprinted in Farmer's The Purple Book and the Riders of the Purple Wage collections.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Jerry Brown's veto message

Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr., aka "Jerry Brown"

In Robert Anton Wilson's The Illuminati Papers, the essay "Celine's Laws" includes Hagbard Celine's third law: An honest politician is a national calamity.

The essay explains that an honest politician is sincerely committed to bettering the nation, but that in practice this means passing lots of laws, which have the effect of creating more and more criminals. "An honest politician, who keeps his nose to the grindstone and enacts several hundred laws in the course of his career, thereby produces as many as several million new criminals."

The book was published in 1980, 35 years ago, so let's fast forward to 2015 and a recent veto message by Gov. Jerry Brown of California.

I was a fan of Gov. Brown in his original incarnation as "Governor Moonbeam" (1975 to 1983) and supported him as a volunteer in his 1992 campaign for president (his platform included getting rid of the distortions and corruption in the federal income tax and replacing it with a flat tax.)

I haven't followed his current career very much, but via Twitter read about his Oct. 3 veto message, vetoing nine bills.

After listing the bills Brown wrote,

"Each of these bills creates a new crime -- usually by finding a novel way to characterize and criminalize conduct that is already proscribed. This multiplication and particularization of criminal behavior creates increasing complexity without commensurate benefit.

"Over the last several decades, California's criminal code has grown to more than 5,000 separate provisions, covering every conceivable form of human misbehavior. During the same period, our jail and prison populations have exploded.

"Before we keep going down this road, I think we should pause and reflect how our system of criminal justice could be made more human, more just and more cost-effective."

Link to PDF of entire document.

He would have made an interesting president.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Robert Shea (and Chad Nelson) on 'Doing Anarchism Yourself'

Robert Shea 

While I  have obviously focused on one half of the Illumnatus! team,  I am also very interested in Robert Shea and have tried to bring attention to him, too. For example, I obtained PDFs of all of the issues of his anarchist fanzine, No Governor. You can access them from this site, and also from the official Robert Shea site maintained by his son, Mike Shea. 

There's quite a bit of material to mine in these zines, including pieces written by Shea and Robert Anton Wilson. I've quoted some of it, and now Chad Nelson has reprinted Shea's essay, "Doing Anarchism Yourself," for the Center for a Stateless Society.

Nelson also wrote an intro for the piece. "Waiting for leadership or group approval of one’s ideas is entirely antithetical to anarchism," Nelson writes. "Shea calls this follower’s mentality a 'hangover from authoritarian thinking' which has been deeply ingrained in human beings from time immemorial."

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Michael Dirda on RAW

Michael Dirda 

I have been reading Browsings, the new book by Michael Dirda, who is a Pulitzer Prize-winning book critic for the Washington Post. Dirda likes all kinds of books and is a big science fiction fan (apparently he goes to 2-3 SF conventions a year, including Readercon.)

I mailed a copy of Illuminatus! to Ted Gioia a couple of years ago, and Gioia eventually actually read it and posted a review. 

I'd been thinking of sending another copy to Dirda, but it looks like I needn't bother; he's familiar with it. Here an excerpt from an online chat:

Lesser Perplexia: Goodbye August, hello September and Mr. Dirda: Can't stand the wretched summers here. Is "Housekeeping" (now) a stealth classic? I don't recall much patter previously, but if her new book strikes fancy she'll be a re-heated topic. Anyway, great is the number of finds from this exchange (thanks, all!) and after last week I raced out and read it. [Sublime] distillation of words said one critic... indeed. I think what she wanted to talk about outweighed the book's structure but, strange, was hopping the rails in fashion for women? And how would you describe transcendence?

Somehow while scramming about Robinson, I fell in a hole about Robert Anton Wilson. Probably not your spot of tea but how could I never have heard of him? Thanks.

Michael Dirda: Nice riff on Robinson. I'll be writing about her new book Gilead later this fall. [They are talking about the acclaimed novelist Marilynne Robinson -- The Management].
Robert Anton Wilson--so you're into the Illuminati, are you? Conspiracy theory, kinky sex and all that? His books are fun to read, but I've never felt that they were worth returning to. I could be wrong.

Well, maybe, Mr. Dirda!

More by me about the new Dirda book and being a book nerd. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Internet brings many of us together

Jonathen Franzen. (Photo credit, David Shankbone). 

The New York Times Book Review Sunday had two lead reviews criticizing digital culture, as Arthur Hlavaty notes. (A review of "Reclaiming Culture" by Sherry Turkle — the review is by novelist  Jonathan Franzen — and Tim Parks' review of "Changing the Subject" by Sven Birkerts. Arthur writes:

The Times Book Review leads off with two books about the evil of on-screen communication, as if people could not dehumanize and bully one another face-to-face. Since I may have saved my life many years ago by discovering a communications medium (fanzines) that enabled me to get to know people without having social skills, I have my doubts. It's a disability issue.

I think it's probably a good idea to turn off the smart phones during meals and engage with the person sitting across from you, and I see nothing wrong with discussing some of the downsides of digital culture. I don't like seeing a car barrel down the road, its driver peering at a phone rather than looking at where he or she is going. Douglas Rushkoff's Program or be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age seems essential to me; one of his commandments is to sometimes disconnect from the Internet.

But I also share Arthur's doubts. It seems to be that the Internet is very valuable in letting marginalized people connect. I don't just mean marginalized people in the Left since (although that's part of it) but simply people who have interests that aren't share by large numbers of people they encounter in "real life." How am I doing to talk about Robert Anton Wilson or avant-garde Russian composers or any of my other interests if I don't take to the Internet?

It's easy for Jonathan Franzen to say that he doesn't need Twitter.  Of course he doesn't need Twitter. He is arguably America's most prominent literary novelist. He sells lots of books, so he makes lots of money. He doesn't need to promote himself on social media because his books get lots of attention from The New York Times, National Public Radio, the Guardian, and on and on and on. And he, personally, probably gets lots of attention when he chooses to leave his homes, one in New York City and one in California. The old model for communications works well for him, and I don't begrudge him that, but it may not work well for everyone.

Arthur mentions social skills. You probably don't need the Internet for dating if you are good looking, rich or famous. That leaves out a considerable portion of the population.  For them, Internet dating is a godsend. And it's a godsend for many other people, who suddenly have a voice and don't have to be content with getting occasional letters to the editor published.

By the way Arthur, happy birthday.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Cosmic Trigger for the next group read?

Christian Greer wrote to me recently to ask what the next group read will be on this blog... It's a topic I've been needing to take up.

Since this blog was created, there have been readings of Quantum Psychology, Masks of the Illuminati, Coincidance and, most recently, Illuminatus!

There are obviously many books that can be considered, but here are the arguments for Cosmic Trigger: The Final Secret of the Illuminati: (1) It remains one of Robert Anton Wilson's most popular and influential books; (2) It is timely, given that the estate is planning very shortly to issue a new edition; (3) It is also timely, given the interest, particularly in the UK, in "Chaos Magick" and in magick in general. (4) Daisy Eris staged a dramatic adaption of it in the UK. She plans to revive it there, and bring it over to the United States in 2017.

Other books have of course been suggested.

Eric Wagner has nominated  Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov. (As I understand it, the books use of footnotes influenced the structure of RAW's The Widow's Son.) Christian suggested The Book of the Subgenius. Christian writes, "Its debt to Illuminatus! is immense, e.g. numerous reference to Atlantis myths, Lovecraftian gods, etc. It even mentions Eris (and Discordians) on a number of occasions! Furthermore, it is damn amusing."

I happen to be particularly fond of Cosmic Trigger Vol. 2: Down to Earth, which I think is a bit underrated. And then again, we haven't tackled such major works of fiction as the Schroedinger's Cat trilogy and the "Historical Illuminatus!" books.

I like Nabokov, and I would like to participate in a discussion of Pale Fire someday, but I'm concerned about how many people would take part in a Nabokov discussion on a RAW blog; Eric, myself, and who else? Then again, Nabokov and his legacy need no help from me. His books remain in libraries and bookstores, new books about him come out all the time (there was a long review of a new book in the Wall Street Journal not long ago) and his place seems secure.

I'm more about securing the place of writers who haven't gotten enough recognition. One of my previous Internet efforts was to publicize George Alec Effinger.  If you don't know who he was, well. that's kind of my point. Robert Anton Wilson's place in the literary canon has not been secured yet. As Christian wrote to me, "From where I stand, there is a good deal of significance in being involved in RAW related projects. I'm under the impression that his day has yet to come. Indeed I hope that my dissertation will play some small role in that."

If we do a discussion of Cosmic Trigger, how would early next year sound to most of you? And would anybody be interested in doing some guest posts, or even leading the discussion?

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Going to Bruce Sterling's New Year's Eve party

Science fiction author Bruce Sterling. We were really tight once, except for the fact that he didn't know me, and he once invited me to a New Year's Eve party at his Austin house. 

I recently enjoyed a vacation in northern California. Love it in California, wouldn't mind living there. While I was there, I read a novel I hadn't gotten around to yet by a northern California writer, Philip K. Dick.

We spent most of our time in Mendocino. Roughly speaking, I was in the part of the state that has Adam Gorightly, Oz Fritz, Ted Hand and Michael Johnson; Eric Wagner is farther south, in the LA area.

I wanted to try to meet up with Michael while we were there. As it wound up, we were a bit too far apart for an easy drive, but we wound up talking on the phone for about two hours. It was really interesting, but my wife commented, apparently overhearing part of the conversation, "You're a weirdo!"

Oh, what was your first clue? We've been married for about 14 years. I haven't tried to hide it.

I think I gave Ann a pretty good clue when I took her to a New Year's Eve party, hosted by someone I didn't actually know, about 350 miles from where I live.

Bruce Sterling, if you don't know him, is a science fiction writer and technology pundit. I think Islands in the Net is particularly is a great science fiction novel, but I like many of his other books, too. I think he's kind of a rootless cosmopolitan these days, but for many years he lived in Austin, Texas. On the day I'm writing about, Dec. 31, 2000, he lived in a house with his first wife and two children.

In those days, I was a member of Sterling's Viridian email list. Sterling's response to the problem of global warming was to try to make being "green" fashionable and interesting, and to encourage people to change their lifestyles.

I was on the list, along with many other people. I've exchanged very short email messages with Sterling over the years, but about half the globe can say that; he publicizes his email address, or at least he used to. I'm confident if  you mentioned my name to him, he wouldn't know who I was.

Anyway, in one of his email messages, Sterling mentioned that he was giving  a New Year's Eve Party and he invited everyone who was on the Viridian list to come. Austin is about a five or six hour drive from Lawton, Oklahoma, where I was living at the time, but my then-girlfriend Ann likes to travel and we both knew Austin is kind of a cool city, so we used it as an excuse for a trip. Besides, as Sterling himself said, the 2001 is a big year for science fiction fans. I've always loved SF, but I didn't have an invitation from Arthur C. Clarke, and I loved Sterling's work.

Sterling turned out to be an amiable host, although it was a little weird attending a party where I didn't really know anyone except for my date. I remember that early on, a couple of different people said, "So, where do you know Bruce from?" — because apparently they were attending the party because they lived in Austin, Texas, and actually knew Bruce Sterling — and I had to try to explain. It's too bad it was a party instead of a science fiction convention, though, because if people had been wearing name badges I likely would have recognized some of the names.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Spanish language Illuminatus! discussion

Over at the blog La Manzana Dorada, (e.g., "The Golden Apple,") written by Mazzu Stardust in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the newest entries report on a new reading group, which is going through Illuminatus! ten pages at a time, after the fashion of Illuminatus! If I understand correctly, this is a reading group that actually physically meets together, but Mazzu is posting his notes, and anyone who likes can post comments. This is a good opportunity for Spanish-language Illuminatus! fans.

Salve Eris! O Salve Discordia! Mazzu taught me how to write that in Spanish.

By the way, Friday gave me all sorts of lessons on how Robert Anton Wilson draws interest all over the world, and not just here in the United States, where Wilson lived and where I live.

Friday morning, I got up at my home in the Cleveland, Ohio, area and noticed a Tweet from John Higgs (who lives in Brighton, England) who mentioned a Turner Prize exhibit in the U.K.; the Tweet resulted in yesterday's blog post. And I got an email yesterday from Christian Greer, the Dutch graduate student who studies Discordianism. (Update: Sorry, Christian is from Miami).

After I finished my workday I took some books over to a local used book shop and noticed a display of copies of Illuminatus! with an unfamiliar cover; they turned out to be copies of the British edition. When I returned home, I got a message from Facebook from Fausto Marcon, who is Italian but currently lives in Barcelona, Spain. Fausto told me about Mazzu's new Illuminatus! blog entries. I looked for Mazzu on Facebook, found him (he's on as "Sirius Mazzu,") friended him and started exchanging messages. Which explains why I got a friendly message this morning, from a guy in Argentina, that included "Viva!"

Salve Eris!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Robert Anton Wilson up for Turner Prize! Well, sort of .....

A Tweeter named blurry man Tweeted today, "A lot of stuff to interest the likes of @johnhiggs here. #TurnerPrize." He posted two photos, one of them the above, and I saw the Tweet after John mentioned it on Twitter. John wrote, "History suggests that Turner Prize and Discordianism don't mix well, so this will be interesting /cc @jacksontom."

The Turner prize is a big deal United Kingdom arts prize. Even for modern art, it is an oddball and controversial prize (and I like modern art.) The Wikipedia article on the prize, under the section for the 1993 prize, supplies some useful context for John's remarks on Twitter:

Rachel Whiteread was the winner for House, a concrete cast of a house on the corner of Grove Road and Roman Road, London E3. Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond of the K Foundation received media coverage for the award of the "Anti-Turner Prize", £40,000 to be given to the "worst artist in Britain", voted from the real Turner Prize's short-list. Rachel Whiteread was awarded their prize. She refused to accept the money at first, but changed her mind when she heard the cash was to be burned instead, and gave £30,000 of it to artists in financial need and the other £10,000 to the housing charity, Shelter. The K Foundation went on to make a film in which they burned £1 million of their own money (Watch the K Foundation Burn a Million Quid). Other nominees included painter Sean Scully, Laotian-born Vong Phaophanit and printer Hannah Collins.

But I still didn't quite get the connection with the RAW book, so I Tweeted to John, "Can't quite make this out ... was 'The New Inquisition' nominated for the cover art?"

He replied, "No, Bonnie Camplin's is a finalist for her "Patterns" installation, which includes copies of New Inquisition and Illuminatus! The books are part of the art, basically."

A Reuters dispatch from Glasgow explains, "Bonnie Camplin's video installation challenges viewers to think about seemingly outrageous accounts by people who say they were brainwashed by aliens, turned into a cyborg in a special government program or survived an attempted crucifixion by a blood cult on the Orkney Islands."

The winner of the award will be announced on Dec. 7, a date that will amuse Americans who believe that modern art lives in infamy. Thanks, John, for helping me understand what's going on.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Guns and Dope Party issues a statement

In the light of recent reports that at least one candidate is running for president as a member of the Guns and Dope Party, the party has issued a statement to clarify that it does not endorse any candidate. Here is the statement:

The GADP does not endorse any candidate claiming to run as the official GADP candidate. There is no official GADP candidate, except perhaps occasionally when Olga inexplicably decides to campaign for President of Multiverse. Despite the impressive detailed descriptions of plausible interstellar propulsion systems and the outrageous uniforms, we suspect she is not serious, but no one has actually asked.

The statement has been posted on the Guns and Dope Party website. That website is maintained by the Robert Anton Wilson Trust, along with the official RAW website and the Hilaritas Press, the trust's new publishing arm. I am told that the first three RAW reprints to be issued by Hilaritas will be out soon, but no date has been announced yet.