Saturday, February 28, 2015

Time to vary your reading diet?



K. Tempest Bradford, asking you not to read a book I really enjoyed. 

Is it time to put a little voluntary "affirmative action" into your reading habits?

A writer named K. Tempest Bradford has suggested that readers accept a challenge: Stop reading white, heterosexual cis male authors for a year. (A "cis" male is one who has ALWAYS been a male, as opposed to a transgendered person who now identifies as male. I suppose most of y'all already knew that, but the term was new to me until recently.)

If readers took up the challenge, the result would be more attention for writers who typically get less attention, Bradford points out. Bradford says there are other ways you could challenge yourself to read neglected authors. You could read only books by women, or only books by people of color. "Or you could choose a different axis to focus on: books by trans men and women, books by people from outside the U.S. or in translation, books by people with disabilities," she writes.

I particularly like the idea of focusing on books by people outside of the U.S.; that would likely be a rich reading experience. Reading only trans authors strikes me as limiting. The only trans author I could think of I've been meaning to try is Deidre McCloskey.

Bradford writes that she adopted her advice and tried to read only stories by women, people of color, gay people and transgendered people, she found that it was less likely she would "rage-quit" the science fiction magazine she was attempting to consume.

Her advice reminded me a bit of the advice once offered by Robert Anton Wilson.  He  told an interviewer, "I also read at least one periodical every month by a political group I dislike -- to keep some sense of balance. The overwhelming stupidity of political movements is caused by the fact that political types never read anything but their own gang's agit-prop." In other words, it reduces your chance of being a cosmic schmuck. 

I can't help noting that in one respect, Bradford's advice turns Wilson's on its head. Whereas Wilson wants you to read outside of your comfort zone, Bradford wants you to go outside of YOUR comfort zone into HER bubble. She's challenging herself less these days while demanding that everyone else challenge themselves more. In any event, the point that writers that are privileged by the system tend to be neglected is (probably) a good one.

I'm not going to take her advice. Two of my favorite writers, John Higgs and Neal Stephenson, are about to come out with new books. I'm not going to shun them just because the authors are white males.

But I will try this: For a few months at least, maybe for a year, for every book I read by a white male Anglo-Saxon (i.e., British or American), I will read a book by someone who isn't in that category. (This is similar to a suggestion John Scalzi made, but I'm not stealing Scalzi's idea -- I came up with a similar idea in a blog comment before I read Scalzi's article.) Will see how that goes. 

One other point: In her article, Bradford lists 18 books that she recommends by women writers, writers of color and books in translation. The four books I've read that are on her list, by Samuel Delany, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Cixin Liu and Umberto Eco, are all quite good, so I'm inclined to try some of her suggestions. 

Addendum: Her credo for reviewing stories seems relevant here: "I’ll also say this plainly: A reviewer who makes the choice to focus exclusively on marginalized voices is making a good choice. There are plenty of places for the privileged to get and gain attention. Making a space for everyone else is not bias, it’s a step towards balance."

UPDATE: Bradford has posted a "clarification," responding to me and others.

Friday, February 27, 2015

More Adam Gorightly Discordian exegesis


This is an alleged self portrait of Bob McElroy. Reprinted from Historia Discordia. 

Leviathan opens with a bit of Discordian prose about playing the game of Sink, which consists of sinking objects in bodies of water. Players are asked to name what they have sunk, as in, "I sank Columbus, Ohio."

Shea and Wilson attribute the passage to one "Ala Hera, E.L., Rayville Apple Panthers," quoted in Principia Discordia by Malaclypse the Younger, K.S.C." Malaclypse the Younger is Gregory Hill.

But Discordian historian Adam Gorightly, K.S.C., digs deeper in his new blog post, revealing in his discussion of Week 53 of the Iluminatus! online reading group that the author of Sink was better known as Dr. Mungojerry Grindlebone and that his "real name" was Bob McElroy.   (Mungo Jerry was a British rock band which took its name from a T.S. Eliot poem.  Confusingly, Mungo is the name of the founder of the Grindlebone Theatre, but this guy's "real name" is Don Elwell. I guess it's just one of those "coincidences.")

Reaching into his cornucopia of Discordian documents, Adam discusses other contributions to Discordian literature by Mr. McElroy and quotes from an advertisement for the Discordian Society which McElroy published in a counterculture newspaper. "The DS is the hottest item to hit the holy market since Islam," the advertisement assures readers.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A fine short film





This is a short film based on the "Parable About a Parable" chapter in Quantum Psychology, 9:43 in length but worth your time. It was uploaded to YouTube until 2006, but it escaped my attention until now. Hat tip, Bobby Campbell. The film opens with a young man portraying the character of Simon Moon.

The Franz Kafka text that much of this is based on can be found here (only about one page.)

The parable was discussed during the Quantum Psychology online discussion; read the comments here. 


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

News from England — a Discordian festival


Anwen Fryer Burrows

On Twitter, Anwen Fryer Burrows has announced plans for "Festival23" in 2016. Naturally, I asked what she was referring to. 

"Coming summer 2016," she explained. "Chaotic & creative fun, music, poetry, song,  in the woods a weekend to submerge in all things #erisian."

She is the owner of the Airy Fairy Shop in Sheffield, kind of New Age shop.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Michael Johnson on performance art


Marina Abramovic

Michael Johnson, who has made a welcome return to blogging of late, has a new one up on "Marina Abramovic's The Artist Is Present (Thoughts on 'Performance Art')" Excerpt:

I meditate, smoke cannabis, read Finnegans Wake, listen to Bach/Stockhausen/Coltrane/Sun Ra/Vilayat Khan/Balinese Monkey Music/Pink Floyd, have sex, do math or logic puzzles, eat very spicy foods, sit in a hot bath in the dark with earplugs and eyeshades on, engage with sophisticated technology, watch films: voila!: non-ordinary states. I think this came with the Instruction Manual for the owner of a Mind. Many seem to have displaced their manual. Personally, I model all of these wonderful gimmicks as sorts of things and of a piece with the practice of magick. Your Mileage May Vary. To me, it's all Drugs. Try to stop me from doing my bathtub routine, DEA!

I really do need to tackle Finnegans Wake. (Right now I'm reading The Most Dangerous Book, about Ulysses. Very interesting so far. ) Related: New blog post by PQ on the winding and reconnecting river that is Finnegans Wake. 



Monday, February 23, 2015

Week 53, Illuminatus! online reading group


The Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, which some believe was deliberately provoked to force the U.S. to enter World War II.

(This week: Beginning of Leviathan, page 565, "The mutation from terrestrial to interstellar life must be made," to page 575, "Joe gasped, 'It's alive!' ")

If the biggest kind of fool is the person who thinks he has it all figured out, and has quit thinking, the characters in Illuminatus!, and the people who are reading it, would seem to have escaped that trap. The characters, and the readers, are trying to figure it all out.

One thing they are trying to figure out is who belongs to whom. We have run into John Dillinger before, but as Leviathan opens we learn he is a double agent for the Illuminati and not the loyal ally of Simon Moon and Hagbard Celine that we had been led to believe. Pat Walsh is revealed as a secret Illuminati mole on Joe Malik's staff at Confrontation magazine.

One of the ways that the Illuminatus! trilogy is about paranoia, and perhaps the most convincing way (as the fear of the Illuminati is a little remote for many of us), is the way it dramatizes how the fear of "double agents" is a part of everyday life. That's what drives the TV series "The Americans" — not so much the fear of a KGB couple living next door, but who is the person I am married to, really?

While a "double agent" is technically a spy working for two different governments, in reality double agents are found in all walks of life,  just like Pat Walsh. A little bit of disloyalty is hardly worth remarking on. Even the most stringent employer likely accepts the occasional non-work-related phone call or personal email or website visit. Most spouses would not be surprised by a minor flirtation at work. It's the degree of disloyalty, and whether it is covert. Is the employee giving company secrets to a rival? Is the spouse planning to run off with someone else? A romantic triangle is much more interesting if one of the points is not aware of the other one.

As the classic Alan Jackson country song "Who's Cheating Who?" asks

Who's cheatin' who, who's being true
Who don't even care anymore
It makes you wonder
Who's doing right with someone tonight
And who's car is parked next door

Illuminatus is rife with double agents, as I've broadly defined the term. Can you really trust anyone with the initials "H.C."? Or anyone else?

This is a theme of James Joyce's Ulysses, by the way. Leopold Bloom is worried that his wife, Molly, is cheating on him, even as he secretly corresponds with another woman, using the name "Henry Flower."

A few notes on the text:

"Timothy Leary, Ph.D., and L. Wayne Brenner, Terra II," page 565. I have not read Terra II. L. Wayne Benner (that's his actual name, it is misspelled in Illuminatus!) knew Leary when the two were in a California prison together. Benner wrote a self-published memoir, Seven Shadows, which mentions RAW very briefly and describes Leary. I read it in 2013 and I did not think it was a very good book. (I contacted officials in the California prison system and they did not remember the prison breakout that is claimed in the book, so I believe Benner likely made it up.)

Page 566, 567, the list of band parodies a paragraph of James Joyce's Ulysses (part of the bar scene with "the citizen") :

He wore a long unsleeved garment of recently flayed oxhide reaching
to the knees in a loose kilt and this was bound about his middle by
a girdle of plaited straw and rushes. Beneath this he wore trews of
deerskin, roughly stitched with gut. His nether extremities were encased
in high Balbriggan buskins dyed in lichen purple, the feet being shod
with brogues of salted cowhide laced with the windpipe of the same
beast. From his girdle hung a row of seastones which jangled at every
movement of his portentous frame and on these were graven with rude
yet striking art the tribal images of many Irish heroes and heroines of
antiquity, Cuchulin, Conn of hundred battles, Niall of nine hostages,
Brian of Kincora, the ardri Malachi, Art MacMurragh, Shane O'Neill,
Father John Murphy, Owen Roe, Patrick Sarsfield, Red Hugh O'Donnell,
Red Jim MacDermott, Soggarth Eoghan O'Growney, Michael Dwyer, Francy Higgins, Henry Joy M'Cracken, Goliath, Horace Wheatley, Thomas Conneff,Peg Woffington, the Village Blacksmith, Captain Moonlight, Captain
Boycott, Dante Alighieri, Christopher Columbus, S. Fursa, S. Brendan,
Marshal MacMahon, Charlemagne, Theobald Wolfe Tone, the Mother of the
Maccabees, the Last of the Mohicans, the Rose of Castile, the Man for
Galway, The Man that Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo, The Man in the Gap,
The Woman Who Didn't, Benjamin Franklin, Napoleon Bonaparte, John L.
Sullivan, Cleopatra, Savourneen Deelish, Julius Caesar, Paracelsus, sir
Thomas Lipton, William Tell, Michelangelo Hayes, Muhammad, the Bride of
Lammermoor, Peter the Hermit, Peter the Packer, Dark Rosaleen, Patrick
W. Shakespeare, Brian Confucius, Murtagh Gutenberg, Patricio Velasquez,
Captain Nemo, Tristan and Isolde, the first Prince of Wales, Thomas
Cook and Son, the Bold Soldier Boy, Arrah na Pogue, Dick Turpin, Ludwig
Beethoven, the Colleen Bawn, Waddler Healy, Angus the Culdee, Dolly
Mount, Sidney Parade, Ben Howth, Valentine Greatrakes, Adam and Eve,
Arthur Wellesley, Boss Croker, Herodotus, Jack the Giantkiller, Gautama
Buddha, Lady Godiva, The Lily of Killarney, Balor of the Evil Eye,
the Queen of Sheba, Acky Nagle, Joe Nagle, Alessandro Volta, Jeremiah
O'Donovan Rossa, Don Philip O'Sullivan Beare. A couched spear of
acuminated granite rested by him while at his feet reposed a savage
animal of the canine tribe whose stertorous gasps announced that he was
sunk in uneasy slumber, a supposition confirmed by hoarse growls and
spasmodic movements which his master repressed from time to time
by tranquilising blows of a mighty cudgel rudely fashioned out of
paleolithic stone.

"the Ultra-Violet Hippopotamus," page 567.

Ultraviolet Hippopotamus, the name of a current rock band based in Grand Rapids, Mich. "As they tried to settle on a name for their new group, they stumbled across a story containing a fictional band with the name, Ultraviolet Hippopotamus.  They felt it worked as a pefect represetation of the ridiculousness nature of the band... and so it stuck." (From the "History" section of the band's website.) The band, which has recorded five albums, currently is taking a break from recording and touring but denies it has broken up. So you may have to wait to see them live, but you can watch the video's posted on the band's website.


The American jam rock band Ultraviolet Hippopotamus. 

Page 568, "Nirvana," later the name of a very big American rock band, of course, associated with the Seattle rock scene. Seattle is the U.S. location where the Illuminatus! play was staged in 1978. 

"... when the Pearl Harbor revelations started coming out in the late 1940s," pages 570-571. Robert Anton Wilson's reading of revisionist historians convinced him that FDR maneuvered the Japanese into attacking Pearl Harbor and dragging the U.S. into World War II; see for example this essay. 

(Next week: Leviathan continues, page 575, "JUST LIKE A TREE THAT'S STANDING BY THE WAATER" to page 585, "AND HANK BRUMMER.")

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Watching TV with RAW


Hugh Laurie, star of the TV medical drama House. 

Ted Hand, on Twitter (Ted's father recently died): "After Robert Anton Wilson died his daughter told me he had wanted to find out what happened next on House. My Dad missed 2+1/2 Men finale."

I never watched "House." Does anyone else have intel on RAW's TV habits?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Social Justice Warrior roundup! Contain your excitement!




A couple of different writers take on the "Social Justice Warrior" phenomena on the Internet, the folks who oppose bashing people along the lines of crude categories (unless they are the wrong category of people, of course.)

Thomas L. Knapp, in a discussion a recent libertarian kerfuffle, writes about a woman who criticized Ron Paul,

I understand that she's paid a personal price in terms of being dogged by Paul cultists right up to the point of deleting her social media accounts, etc. I don't like identity politics and such very much. I don't consider myself a "Social Justice Warrior" whatever that is (it's something I see "right libertarians" and conservatives posing as libertarians throw out as snark quite a bit). But even I can't help but notice how much meaner these allegedly "equal opportunity assholes" tend to get when it's a woman they're picking on (perhaps they worry slightly less that a female victim will forsake the non-aggression principle and break someone's nose by way of imparting a much-needed lesson in basic manners).

Supergee (e.g. Arthur D. Hlavaty) also weighs in on the Social Justice Warrior identity thing, in his brand new zine, Nice Distinctions 26:

They tell me that if I say online that I want POC and LGBTQ to feel comfortable in our space or think that offering to rape is not a reasonable form of discourse, I am a "Social Justice Warrior." It seems obvious to me that I do not have the Warrior nature, so I am glad that someone has suggested other character classifications. I have decided that I am a Social Justice Rogue, although I suppose I could fill in as a Social Justice Cleric or Social Justice Bard.

Arthur's zine is available by email; his blog includes contact information. Back issues of the zine are available here. 


Friday, February 20, 2015

Peter Bebergal's 'Season of the Witch'


Peter Bebergal's Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll, manages to perform a bit of magic: It's a book on rock music that's fun to read. I've generally quit reading books about the Beatles and about rock because once you've read a few, you've pretty much read them all. Although my tastes have generally shifted to classical, I still listen to rock and have always enjoyed it. Bebergal's exploration of how the occult has influenced rock musicians offers a fresh take on rock history.

Bebergal offers a broad definition of "the occult" to include not just Satanism or Aleister Crowley style magic but also Eastern religions, Gurdjieff, African religions and pretty much anything that is excluded from conventional Christianity. Bebergal's central thesis, stated various times in the book, is that the occult gave rock music a richness it would otherwise not have had. For example, in the chapter about progressive rock (which doesn't heap the usual scorn on the music of my youth), he writes, in a section about King Crimson, "This was the occult's greatest impact on rock and roll. Over time, by incorporating mystical and magical elements into its music and presentation, rock created a mythos around itself suggesting it was somehow heir to secret wisdom. Sometimes malevolent, sometimes mystical, this special perception of things unseen would drive both its fans and detractors to obsess over possible esoteric meanings."

Although Bebergal does not mention Robert Anton Wilson, his book addresses many topics of interest to RAW fans, including Crowley, Alan Moore, the Kabbalah, the Illuminati (and its alleged influence on rap music), Gurdjieff, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, John Dee, and so on.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Thursday links


I haven't read it -- I just heard of it -- but a book on Aleister Crowley and the Weimar Republic sure sounds like it would be interesting. 

My interview with Byzantine history author Anthony Kaldellis: The Byzantines were Romans. To my (pleasant) surprise, Radley Balko Tweeted it as "Fascinating stuff."

Jesse Walker and Daniel Larison on the premature glee of the Libya hawks. 

Related Nick Gillespie piece. 

Related thoughts from Supergee on Indochina and Iraq. Sorry, lots of antiwar links today.

To shill a Mockingbird. 

New Bobby Campbell comic, The Gift. 

Aleister Crowley: The Beast in Berlin: Art, Sex, and Magick in the Weimar Republic





Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Adam Gorightly on Week 52 of Illuminatus!


Louise Lacey, aka Lady L FAB. Is she only a Discordian, or also a member of the Illuminati? 

Adam Gorightly has very helpfully supported this blog's efforts to discuss Illuminatus! with a series of posts on the Discordian background of the work. Adam has written three books  on Discordianism and on Kerry Thornley and maintains a website on Discordian history and lore.  (All of Adam's posts on Discordianism and Illuminatus! are archived here.)

Adam has weighed in again with a new post explaining the origins of the Hassan i Sabbah X character in the book; he's mentioned in the section being discussed this week. The name first surfaces in an August 7, 1968, letter written by Kerry Thornley to Louise Lacey. Adam's post reproduces the letter and goes into detail about the "Bavarian Illuminati" at Cal Berkeley.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Tuesday's links and art


"Leviathan" mixed media work by North Carolina artist Darren Tayloe (posted on Twitter).


The author of The Spike,  Arnaud de Borchgrave, has died.  Jesse Walker says, "The Spike was arguably the most influential conspiracy novel of the last 40 years."



Surviving social justice.  Haven't looked at this site lately, but it's named for a book by guess who. 

The spoof that fooled the Associated Press.  "He attempted his first official presidential act: the introduction of a bill requiring all visitors to the White House to do the Mexican Hat Dance with his 700-pound sister Rebecca while he, munching on his trademark sack of chocolate donuts, watched." People really thought this was real? 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Week 52, Illuminatus! online reading group


World War II spy Henri Déricourt, a famous double agent. It is apparently still unclear whether the former French Air Force pilot was working for the British or the Nazis in France during the German occupation, or working for both.

(This week, end of The Golden Apple: , the monologue of Tobias Knight (mostly),  "I got into the Illuminati in 1951," page 545, to page 562 "IT'S ALIVE").

The autobiography of Tobias Knight, quintuple agent for the the FBI, the CIA, the A:.A:.,  the Illuminati and Hagbard Celine's Legion of Dynamic Discord (he explains that his work for God's Lightning, being overt rather than covert, doesn't really count.)

Quintuple agents may exist only in fiction; it is difficult enough to find examples of triple agents. For the definition of "triple agent," Wikipedia says, "A triple agent pretends to be a double agent for one side, while he or she is truly a double agent for the other side. Famous triple agents include Kim Philby and Alexander Litvinenko.

"A lesser used definition of triple agent is an agent who works for three intelligence services, but is usually truly loyal to only one of them."

I can't find many examples of the "lesser used" definition of someone working for three agencies, but I can offer one: There was a book released a few  years ago, The Triple Agent by Joby Warrick, about an al Qaida triple agent who also had worked for Jordanian intelligence and the CIA. As a suicide bomber, he killed seven CIA operatives in 2009. Another possible example: Nikolai Skobline, who is "is alleged to have played the role of a triple-agent, working for the Russian white counterrevolutinaries (ROVS), Stalin's secret police (NKVD), and the German Sicherheitsdienst (SD)."

Did you remember that Tobias Knight was the truck driver when four heavy crates of statues from Atlantis obtained from Robert Putney Drake were transferred to an airplane at Kennedy International Airport? Knight also shows up in Fernando Poo, in Las Vegas during attempts to contain the Anthrax-Leprosy-Mu outbreak, and helps Joe Malik plan the bombing of Malik's apartment.

The Bogus Magus Illuminatus! studies site has a page of information about some of the characters. For Tobias Knight, it says, "Tobias Knight  walrus mustache, pentuple agent: FBI, CIA, A A, Illuminati, LDD (also GL, Naval Intelligence, Pinkertons) Ringo Erigena, Prince of Wands E; prejudiced against Italians

 "Notes:

The so-called “Tobias nights” were the first three after a wedding, and in the 18th century you could have sex then ONLY if you paid your bishop a fee.

Joseph's Night (Tobias Nights) Custom that required a bride and bridegroom to refrain from having sexual intercourse for one or several nights after their marriage in order not to incur the wrath of the gods."

A few notes:

Page 545, "Ringo Erigena," Knight's Illuminati name, and "Scotus Pythagoras," Winifred's Illuminati name. If you combine two of the names you get Scotus Erigena, whose saying, "All things that are, are lights" provided the title for the Robert Shea novel. "All things are lights" was Ezra Pound's translation in Cantos of a saying of Scotus Erigena. This may help provide the Robert Shea connection to Ezra Pound that I previously was looking for. 



Page 547, Militarism: The Unknown Ideal for the New Herecleitean, the title of Atlanta Hope's nonfiction book echoes Ayn Rand's nonfiction books For the New Intellectual and Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. 

Page 548-549, "War is the Health of the State!" Atlanta Hope thinks this is a positive statement. Her slogan, however, is the title of a famous antiwar essay by Randolph Bourne, who opposed American participation in World War I. The slogan "war is the health of the state" is a favorite saying of antiwar libertarians. Antiwar.com, a website run by antiwar libertarians such as Justin Raimondo, Angela Keaton and Eric Garris, is published by the Randolph Bourne Institute.

"Privilege implies," page 553. See Chad Nelson's discussion the comments for this recent post. 

(Next week: Beginning of Leviathan, page 565, "The mutation from terrestrial to interstellar life must be made," to page 575, "Joe gasped, 'It's alive!' ")



Sunday, February 15, 2015

A bit more on Robert Anton Wilson the 'libertarian'




Note: I am told the above illustration is actually a Simpsons caricature of Karl Hess. Kevin Carson uses it as his Twitter avatar.  

About Robert Anton Wilson, the libertarian: There is apparently some confusion that I am attempting to tie RAW to the Libertarian Party, or the Cato Institute, or the Paul family, or to whomever else the next Alternet or Salon hit piece is aimed at. Actually, the libertarian group which seems to be closest to RAW's views would be the Center for a Stateless Society, a "left market anarchist think tank and media center." Members of that group whom I follow on Twitter include Kevin Carson, Jeremy Weiland and Chad Nelson. They follow me, too. Chad is assistant editor at antiwar.com and a friend of this website. Two other libertarians I follow on Twitter who have at least some RAW influence are Jesse Walker and Julian Sanchez.

Those who want to explore RAW's political thought might want to look at his "Left and Right: A Non-Euclidean Perspective," also reprinted in RAW's excellent final book, Email to the Universe. He discusses his interest in "individualist-mutualist anarchism" and (TRIGGER WARNING) also describes himself as a "libertarian," as in "like all libertarians, I oppose victimless crime laws, all drug control laws, and all forms of censorship (whether by outright reactionaries or Revolutionary Committees or Radical Feminists)."


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Saturday links


Nuts, I really wanted to know what Timothy Leary was campaigning for. 

Oz Fritz says you should keep a record of your incidents of synchonicity and your dreams. This morning I dreamed I got an interesting "Timonthy Leary for president" email. I was trying to read the list of the campaign committee members at the top of the email when I woke up. I had planned to share the email with you guys, but when I awakened I realized that would not be possible. Sorry.

Here are some other links:

Nice piece on David Carr. Good quote from Carr, "We all walk this earth feeling we are frauds. The trick is to be grateful and hope the caper doesn’t end any time soon.” Via someone on Twitter I don't know.  Her name is Amanda.

Radio documentary about William Burroughs, narrated by Iggy Pop. 

Download Ruby, a the "first cyberpunk radio drama."  On Twitter, Ian "Cat" Vincent says, "Free download: the first, coolest & Robert Anton Wilson-influenced cyberpunk radio drama, Ruby."

Why my cat is sad. I'M sad because my new Siamese cat keeps trying to bite my arm as I try to type this.




Friday, February 13, 2015

A note on libertarianism and Illuminatus!



Lysander Spooner. For an essay on his thoughts on alternative currencies, and the discussions by other anarchists on the subject, see Appendix Vau in Illuminatus!

fireflye asked an interesting question in the comments in the last Illuminatus! online reading group entry, and while I attempted a short answer in the comments, I want to go on at greater length here.

He asked, Just an honest question for those of you who've read Illuminatus! more times than I have.
Does the word "libertarian" appear anywhere in
the novel(s)? About how many times? Where? How about "anarchy"/"anarchist"/"anarchism"?

I responded, This interesting question is worth an entire blog post (and will get one soon) but briefly: I ran a search in an electronic text and the word "libertarian" appears 13 times, not just in the appendix but in various places in the novels (it was not a well-known term when Illuminatus was written, 1969-1971); "anarchist" or "anarchists" appear 41 times in the text; the folks name-checked in the text include Lysander Spooner, Ayn Rand and Benjamin Tucker.

There is, in fact, a great deal of political discussion in Illuminatus! and I'm confident that I'm not reading something into the text that isn't there.

I've commented on the libertarian aspects of the work in many of my postings, but we can also consider the comments of the authors. Robert Shea, for example, when accepting a Prometheus Hall of Fame Award for Illuminatus!, talked about the work as a political document.   Here is a relevant quote: "I hope and think it is plain that the message of ILLUMINATUS! is an anarchist message. The novel stands as a record of the anarchists we were in the 1960s and 70s." Not a lot of wiggle room there.

Wilson was less prone to labeling himself as a libertarian or an anarchist all of the time -- he only did it part of the time -- but I don't think he was unclear, either, when he talked about the politics of Illuminatus! Here is a quote from the 1976 "New Libertarian Notes" interview with RAW, which naturally is largely about Illuminatus!: "I'm the kind of anarchist whose chief objection to the State is that it kills so many people. Government is the epitome of the deathist philosophy I reject." This is exactly the antiwar and libertarian message in Illuminatus! and it helps explain why so many antiwar libertarians are fond of RAW.

As this article explains, Wilson ran for governor of California in 2003 under the auspices of the Guns and Dope Party, a libertarian party which drew on the ideas of Lysander Spooner, who as I mentioned above is cited by name in Illuminatus! So far as I know, this was the only time Wilson sought elective office. (For more on the Guns and Dope Party, see RAW's last book, Email to the Universe.)

I could go on, but let me pose and answer a related question that could be addressed to me:

Q. Do you talk too much about libertarianism in your Illuminatus! posts, and not enough about other subjects?

A. The answer is almost certainly "yes."

I don't want to look more like a Cosmic Schmuck than is absolutely necessary, so of course I write more about the subjects that I know something about, and less about the subjects I know nothing about. So I write about libertarianism, history, literary references, and other topics that I'm (relatively) well-informed about. I don't know much about Kabbalah and magick, and thank heavens folks such as Oz Fritz help me out in the comments. Adam Gorightly knows WAY more about Discordianism than I do. So far, he has contributed to the Illuminatus! discussions with 16 separate blog posts discussing the Discordian aspects of the work (and for your convenience, I have linked to all of them.)

I set about doing weekly blog posts about Illuminatus! not because I saw myself as the "expert" (I can easily think of better people to lead the discussion) but because I was willing to make the time commitment, and provide a platform where other people could contribute. The comments and blog postings from people who bring other perspectives have been a necessary part from the beginning. I'm going to guess that if Oz Fritz had chosen to discuss Illuminatus! bit by bit, he would have concentrated on Kabbalah, magick, Aleister Crowley and related topics, and I'd be in the comments talking about libertarianism.

After I thought of that last bit, I went back to the comments for the last online discussion entry, and I see Oz wrote, "Along with fyreflye, the political philosophy in Illuminatus! doesn't appear that obvious to me." Well, who is the master who makes the grass green? The references to Lysander Spooner seem "obvious" to me, but when I first read Illuminatus! I didn't know who Aleister Crowley was and I no doubt missed many references to Crowley's work. All of us bring something to the table.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Upcoming events


Science fiction and fantasy author Eric Flint

Adam Gorightly reports that he will be at PantheaCon 2015 this weekend. ("We are a conference for Pagans, Heathens, Indigenous Non-European and many of diverse beliefs that occurs annually over President’s Day weekend. Well over 2000 people attend more than 200 presentations that range from rituals to workshops and from classes to concerts.") It is being held at the Doubletree San Jose. The hotel lists its address as San Jose, but Adam insists that it's in Santa Clara. In any event, he will speak at 11 p.m. Saturday, and there are many other planned program events. Erik Davis also will be there, speaking on Jack Parsons. You can read the program guide.  Adam also is speaking April 23 at California Arts Academy in Fresno, California Institute of the Arts but apparently it's only for students of the school.

Meanwhile, somewhat to the north and east, in Columbus, Ohio, the "Multiple Alternate Realities Convention," aka Marcon 50, a science fiction convention, is scheduled for May 8-10 at the Hyatt Regency Columbus, which I think is in Columbus, Ohio. Various folks in the Libertarian Futurist Society (i.e., the Prometheus Award folks) are involved in the convention, and so there will be more libertarian science fiction programming than usual. The guests of honor include authors Eric Flint, Vernor Vinge and F. Paul Wilson. I am not familiar with Flint, but he seems to be an interesting guy and I will try some of his fiction.

I look forward to meeting some of the LFS folks I only knew via email. I managed to miss the NASFic in Detroit last year (Supergee was there) and my recent streak of missing worldcons will likely continue (this year in Spokane, Washington), but I expect to make it to Marcon.

This year's Prometheus Hall of Fame Award (given in 1986 to Illuminatus!will be presented at Marcon. Here are the nominees (I was on the nominating committee):

“Sam Hall”, a short story (1953) by Poul Anderson.

“'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman”, a short story (1965) by Harlan Ellison.

Courtship Rite, a novel (1982) by Donald M. Kingsbury

"As Easy as A.B.C.", a short story (1912) by Rudyard Kipling.

A Mirror for Observers, a novel (1954) by Edgar Pangborn.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Robert Anton Wilson's additional books


Edward Snowden — the inspiration for one of the characters in Bride of Illuminatus!

Robert Anton Wilson was certainly familiar with the concept of alternate world novels. The Schroedinger's Cat trilogy was a science fiction work with a series of alternate universes, and even Illuminatus! could be considered a literary about a world both similar and different from ours.

So it's fun to do an alternate world blog post in which RAW gets a chance to complete the books that he started and didn't finish, or maybe didn't start at all, and Michael Johnson has a great deal of fun with that in his new blog post, "Robert Anton Wilson: Missing Books." Many of the books Michael mentions are ones that RAW just didn't get around to writing, although Michael's imagination also is at work (I add three more books in the comments.)

On the topic of unwritten RAW books, see for example this interview.




Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Finnegans Wake link roundup from PQ


A photo of William S. Burroughs from Vagabond Bohemia. 

Over at Finnegans, Wake!, PQ has a nice roundup on new Wake sites, including Vagabond Bohemia, a Tumblr that has "plenty of Joyce material as well as a whole universe of artwork, plus Thomas Pynchon, Marshall McLuhan, Salvador Dali, Robert Anton Wilson, and other great explorers of the frontiers of the mind." Other Wake links are on the right side of PQ's blog. Finnegans Wake is the major Joyce work I have to tackle, but it is next.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Week 51, Illuminatus online reading group


Ayn Rand

(This week: "I finally got around to reading Telemachus Squeezed," page 537, to page 545, "No remission without the blood of our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ.")

Simon Moon reads Telemachus Sneezed and so we get a long satire of Ayn Rand and her Atlas Shrugged, reimagined as a rather more conventional right winger named Atlanta Hope.

Many American libertarians were turned on to the political philosophy either by Ayn Rand or by Illuminatus!,  so in making fun of Rand, Wilson and Shea also are acknowledging their debt to her as an example of someone who used fiction to get across a political philosophy.  See John Higgs' well-known (and very amusing) "Illuminatus! vs. Atlas Shrugged" piece. 

Jesse Walker remarked upon the influence Rand and Illuminatus! when I interviewed him in 2011:

I don't want to make any facile assumptions about your politics, but you seem to lean libertarian on at least some issues. How did you get interested in libertarianism, and did ILLUMINATUS! play any role in shaping your political philosophy?

WALKER: My parents are liberal Democrats, and I adopted their politics as a kid, moving further to the left as I entered my teens. In practice, this meant I was strongly opposed to censorship, to draft registration, to U.S. intervention overseas, to mixing church and state, to bigotry, and to concentrated power -- all positions that I still hold today. Becoming a libertarian was largely a matter of reading free-market economists and getting convinced that their arguments were stronger than the economic views I had absorbed rather haphazardly before then.

But it also helped to read explicitly libertarian books making the case for a consistently anti-statist worldview. And ILLUMINATUS! is one of the first forthrightly libertarian books I read. I've joked that the great invisible divide in the libertarian movement is between the people who were transformed by reading ATLAS SHRUGGED in high school and people who were transformed by reading ILLUMINATUS! I never went through a Rand phase, so you can put me firmly in the ILLUMINATUS! camp.

Like Jesse, I never was a Randian (I've never read any of her novels), but most of my libertarian friends in college were big into Rand AND Illuminatus! and there are many libertarians heavily influenced by both (e.g., libertarian science fiction writer L. Neil Smith, who peppers his novels with references to Illuminatus! and who features a thinly-disguised Rand as a character in at least one of them.)

Some notes: 

"Illuminati's pet paperhanger," page 537, pejorative term for Adolf Hitler. 

"Lothar" "Diet of Worms," page 537, references to Martin Luther, founder of the Protestantism that is the backbone of much of U.S. conservatism. Republican politicians from the South and their supporters are often Southern Baptists, Assembly of God, etc.

"Edison Yerby's seventieth or eightieth novel," page 538, Simon Moon is perhaps misremembering the name of popular black historical novelist Frank Yerby.

"Taffy Rhinestone," page 538, e.g. Dagny Taggart in Atlas Shrugged?

"with names ending in -stein or -farb or -berger," page 539. From Rand's Wikipedia bio: "Rand was born Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum (Russian: Али́са Зиновьевна Розенбаум) on February 2, 1905, to a Russian Jewish bourgeois family living in Saint Petersburg." Rand memorably denounced racism as “the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism.”

Taffy's rapes, page 539. I'm told that in Atlas Shrugged, Dagny Taggart submits to forced sex. The Randians I knew in college seemed to worry a lot about those scenes (described here.)

"Discussing Heracleitus," Greek philosopher. Rand claimed to have derived her philosophy from Aristotle. Perhaps the satire is the difficulty in deriving an ideology from a rather difficult and dark philosopher.




From the library of John Merritt. He says "The title page of volume 1 of a 2 volume, 879 page Hegelian socialist commentary on Heraclitus. "The Philosophie of Heraklitos, the dark/obscure one of Ephesus, according to a new collection of his fragments and evidence of the Ancients."
Wikipedia article on the author. For the morbidly curious, volume 1, volume 2. The things you find at academic garage sales." 



Heraclitus by Johannes Moreelse, shown as the "weeping philosopher."

"His name is Captain Clark," page 541. As I mentioned in an earlier entry to this chronicle, the "Captain Clark" supposedly mentioned by William Burroughs is rather difficult to locate. 

"Heathcliffe up front there weathering heights," page 541, e.g. Wuthering Heights. 

"Howard Cork," page 542, playing on Rand's Howard Roark, protagonist of The Fountainhead, but also on Hagbard Celine and never trusting anyone with the initials "H. C." 

"Gateless Gate," page 543, translation (or mistranslation) of seminal Zen Buddhist work.

"twenty-four real men and women were dead," page 545. Celine originally had planned never to kill another human being, page 506. 

(Next week, the monolog of Tobias Knight,  "I got into the Illuminati in 1951," page 545, to page 562 "IT'S ALIVE"). 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

'The Crusades and me' by Barack Obama and Robert Shea



If you follow U.S. politics (I would sympathize if you don't), you may have heard that President Barack Obama held forth on the crimes of Christians at the National Prayer Breakfast the other day (the president's timing may seem odd, but he was trying to make a point about labeling Muslims as inherently evil.) 

Apparently the most controversial point, or one of them, was the criticism of the Crusades. In part the president said, "Lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ." Most people apparently are willing to give him the Inquisition, but not everyone is on board with the criticism of the Crusades.

A couple of points, one literary and one dealing with history.

This provides a handy excuse to recommend Robert Shea's excellent historical novel, All Things Are Lights, which I've recommended before and can be acquired very cheaply used book from the usual Internet outlets and which is also available as a free ebook or at a reasonable price from Amazon. I've recommended the book before and referred to it as a "thematic prequel" to Illuminatus! (although in structure it's a very straightforward historical romance, easy for everyone to read.)

But what I wanted to remark upon here was that although Shea was an American and thus a western writer, the book doesn't take the kind of "rah rah" tone toward the Crusades that many readers might expect. The hero, Roland, is drawn against his will into the "crusade" against the Cathars in France and later into the Seventh Crusade.  Roland believes these expeditions are crimes rather than anything to celebrate, and he also believes that all religions basically have the same amount of truth and falsehood (an opinion that he of course is wise enough to keep to himself). I have a lot of books to read, but I might re-read this one sometime this year.

As for the Crusades, I must confess that I've never been able to understand why they are singled out as a particular example of violence by Christian nations. After all, all of the lands that were targeted by the Crusades, including what is now Israel, Syria, Turkey, and Egypt, were once firmly Christian, had become Christian largely though not entirely through peaceful means, and became Muslim lands through Muslim crusades (or jihad.) The Muslim attacks were pure examples of conquest for the sake of taking other people's land and advancing a religious ideology.

The Crusades can reasonably be described as acts of self defense against Muslim aggression. The First Crusade, for example, was launched after an appeal for help from the emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire, who was hard-pressed by the Turks. Muslim attempts to conquer Europe lasted for hundreds of years, with the last major campaign the Siege of Vienna in 1683. 

Yes, there were many atrocities committed by the Crusaders and many Crusades seem like pointless acts of military aggression (the Seventh Crusade is a case in point.) Still, it's as if a critic of U.S. foreign policy chose to write an essay about the  United States as an imperialistic military aggressor, and as an example selected the invasion of Normandy, France in 1944. Your thesis might be largely correct, but your choice of an example would be odd, as it would have to ignore everything that had happened in Europe from about 1936 onward.

I am also wary of how convenient it is to condemn actions that took place hundreds of years ago. The Crusades were arguably acts of self defense, and the earlier ones, at least, may have delayed the advance of Muslim armies into southeast Europe. What reasonable self-defense argument can be advanced for all of the deaths the U.S. caused in Vietnam, or in Iraq? Or, for that matter, the deaths that are the result of Barack Obama's current bombing campaign in Syria and Iraq?



Saturday, February 7, 2015

Charles Murray's 'In Our Hands'


Charles Murray


I've been interested for awhile in the idea of a basic income guarantee, and I just finished a book on the subject that I want to recommend to everyone: In Our Hands by Charles Murray. It advocates for such a system from a libertarian perspective.

In the 2006 book, Murray suggests abolishing all income transfer programs (by which he means not just Social Security, TANF, food stamps, and so on, but also transfers of money to politically-favored groups, such as the agriculture subsidies given to farmers) and replacing it with an annual cash grant of $10,000, deposited in monthly checks into the bank accounts of all American citizens after they turn 21. Murray would require $3,000 of that to be used for basic health coverage and would strongly encourage, but not require, part of the money to invested for retirement. He refers to his scheme as The Plan.

Murray argues that such a program would be particularly useful to people in what he calls "involuntary poverty," i.e., they play by the rules and take whatever work they can get, but they just don't have enough money. (Many such people, by the way, currently constitute those in America who don't have health insurance, although I don't believe Murray mentions that.) It's one of the main arguments behind Obama Care.

The various possible objections to a basic income guarantee are dealt with, such as the possibility that the scheme would discourage people from looking for work.

Murray also argues that the current welfare system encourages the growth of the underclass, and that his scheme would help reduce it. Any unmarried woman under 21 who has a baby that she cannot support would get nothing and would immediately be penalized economically -- there would be no food stamps, no WIC, no TANF, no free day care, etc. And a woman who is 20 with a boyfriend, who is about to begin receiving money, would notice that her slightly-older girlfriends would fall into two categories: Women who were spending money on themselves, and women who were spending money on babies. "Her friends with babies are buying diapers and baby food, and probably living with their mothers because they cannot afford a place of their own. Under the Plan, the opportunity costs of having a baby will be obvious and alarming to low-income women in the same way they have always been obvious and alarming to middle-class and affluent young women."

In Our Hands is a slim book, but it packs a lot of ideas and research into a few pages. I was particularly impressed with his chapter on health care. Now, I don't claim to be an expert on health care reform, but I have covered health care issues for many years, and I've sat down and read books on the issue. In just 15 pages, Murray synthesizes the most important ideas from the left and the right into a coherent health reform plan. To be a little more specific, he uses libertarian policy proposals to answer the leftist critique of the U.S. health care system before Obama Care. Many of his ideas borrow from proposals from, for example, the Cato Institute. But Murray does a better job than Cato of addressing (1) the uninsured, (2) people with preexisting conditions and (3) people who face bankruptcy because of a medical catastrophe that is not their fault. His proposal would also allow health providers to keep charity care at a manageable level. It's too bad Murray apparently isn't interested enough in health reform to devote an entire book to it, because such a volume would be well worth reading.

The current revival of interest in basic income guarantee proposals makes In Our Hands a useful contribution to the debate. People who lean libertarian may find it particularly interesting. Murray would himself actually prefer a more libertarian society than he advocates in the book, but believes a basic income guarantee is both a more politically realistic approach and a fair compromise with concerns raised by the left.  (I don't know if Robert Anton Wilson ever saw In Our Hands -- it apparently came out shortly before his death.)  But anyone seriously interested in the topic should check out Murray's arguments.

An interesting left perspective on basic income guarantees is apparently offered by Real Freedom for All by Philippe Van Parijs and I will try to hunt up a copy; hat tip, Michael Johnson.

Murray has a new book coming out in May, By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission, but if any meaningful details about the book have been released yet, I can't find them.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Listening to Donovan



Donovan in 1965

Re-reading Illuminatus! makes some of us think about the psychedelic music of the 1960s. Eric Wagner has mentioned in recent emails that he's been listening to the Grateful Dead. Certainly albums such as American Beauty and Workingman's Dead ought to be rediscovered by a younger generation of listeners, but lately I myself have been listening to Donovan, the Scottish singer and quintessential hippie troubadour. He seems out of place when taken out of his own time, but I think much of his music is really good and deserves to be remembered.

Donovan admittedly is not mentioned by name anywhere in the text of Illuminatus! but I see all kinds of connections between his music and the novel. One, I think, can't be argued with. His haunting tune "Atlantis," released in 1968,  will be recalled by any listener of a certain age who is reading the Atlantis passages in the book, and indeed Donovan's version of the Atlantis story is not dissimilar to the Wilson/Shea version. (Wilson was not a big pop music fan, but the song would have been hard to completely avoid. Shea's tastes in music are completely unknown to me.)

"Atlantis" raises the Beatles connection, as Donovan and the Beatles were friends, and the connection sometimes surfaces on recordings. If you listen carefully to the "way down in the lonely ocean" chorus part of the tune, it's not hard to make out Paul McCartney's voice; Paul sang backup and played tambourine.

If you know anything about 1960s pop music, then you know the Beatles song "Yellow Submarine," which is course suggests the golden submarine that Hagbard Celine built for himself. But did you know that Donovan contributed the "sky of blue and sea of green" bit to the song?

Another excellent Donovan tune, "Season of the Witch,"  featuring guitar by Aleister Crowley fan Jimmy Page, gives its title to a new book, Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll by Peter Bebergal.

"There is a Mountain" by Donovan must be one of the few well-known pop tunes that incorporates Zen Buddhism into a lyric. The tune was later used for a long instrumental jam by the Allman Brothers. You can read a forum of Zen Buddhist teachers who navigate the "mountain/no mountain" paradox.

Donovan's "The Fat Angel" is an interesting psychedelic song. Here is the opening stanza:

He will bring happiness in a pipe
He'll ride away on his silver bike
And apart from that he'll be so kind
In consenting to blow your mind

The next stanza plays off the name of Trans World Airlines, now vanished, but once a big, well known air carrier:

Fly Translove Airways
Gets you there on time
Fly Translove Airways
Gets you there on time


Later in the song, this morphs into a name-check of psychedelic band Jefferson Airplane, before the band became famous. Jefferson Airplane in turn covered the song more than once, notably on the live album Bless Its Pointed Little Head.  (Side note: Jefferson Airplane's best-known song, "Somebody to Love," was written by a guy named Darby Slick, now an interesting old hippie guitarist on Facebook. He was Grace Slick's brother in law!)




Wednesday, February 4, 2015

It looks like Mary Frohman did inspire the Mama Sutra character [UPDATED]

In my Week 49 Illuminatus reading group blog post, I reported on Jesse Walker's article on the American anarchist Mary Frohman , which mentioned the possibility that Frohman had inspired the Mama Sutra character in Illuminatus! Jesse wrote, "Mary, for whatever it's worth, believed she was the basis for the book's fortune-telling character Mama Sutra. Shea, alas, isn't alive to confirm or deny that, and Wilson tells me he doesn't remember Mary; Fish doubts that the story is true. Oh, well." (The passage refers to famous science fiction "filker" Leslie Fish, her lover for many years.

I wrote to Neil Rest, the real life inspiration for Simon Moon, to ask if he had any information, and he said he did not. But Neil wrote to  Fish, who responded, "Yes, Mary was part of the inspiration for Mama Sutra, but not all of it.  After working at Playboy for years, Shea and Wilson knew how to skate around libel charges by creating composite characters.  As Bob Wilson used to quip, 'Steal from one writer and it's plagiarism;  steal from two or more and it's research.'  I believe enough elements of Arlen, me, and even Janet Miller were added into Mama Sutra to keep her from being a sue-able (not that Mary ever would, but survival habits are hard to break) depiction of Mary."

UPDATE: Jesse Walker Tweets a link to this blog post and says, "This isn't what Fish told me 10 years ago. But it may well be true." Well, there's no way to know for sure. The "based on her but also a composite" would follow the Simon Moon pattern.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Robert Anton Wilson Fans will return



I can now report that Robert Anton Wilson Fans, the invaluable website that had a huge collection of RAW documents, will return soon.

The website disappeared months ago, first simply going offline and then morphing into some kind of Japanese cosmetics site.

Mike Gathers, who took the initiative to gather together the documents in the first place (with help from the usual gang of suspects, folks such as Michael Johnson) has reclaimed the site and has been hard at work on it. He is not yet ready to announce the URL and other details, but when the site officially opens I will pass on the news and all of the relevant details.

This is perhaps not quite as earthshaking as the return of the king in The Lord of the Rings (I have the LoTR on my mind after yesterday's blog post, and this wonderful story, via Supergee), but I have been anxious about this matter since Robert Anton Wilson Fans disappeared, and thought perhaps sombunall of you might also wonder what was going on. So I asked Mike, and got permission to post this update. ("The website that was broken will be forged again.")

Above is a sneak peak at the banner Bobby Campbell designed for the new Robert Anton Wilson Fans site.  I'm still waiting to get my hands on one of the rings of power,  but Bobby is a continuing source of magic.


Monday, February 2, 2015

Week 50, Illuminatus! online reading group



Cover of the 1954 first edition of The Fellowship of the Ring, the first book in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which tells the story mentioned by Mama Sutra: "a great hero named Phroto who battled a monster named Zaurn."

(This week: "I'll give it to you raw," Mama Sutra said quietly, page 523, to "What can I do about it?" page 537.)

In a sense, Danny Pricefixer listening to Mama Sutra's alternate history of the Illuminati retells the big theme of Illuminatus! We are all Trying to Figure It All Out, doing our best to separate fact from fiction. In the fictive "truth" of Illuminatus!, Mama Sutra mostly has it largely wrong, but her discussion of the Illuminati melds well with the more positive view of the Illuminati in Robert Anton Wilson's other books. Her lecture is a reminder that the authors have adapted the Illuminati myth for their own ends because they needed an overarching plot for their book. 

Alternatively, the reader can accept her version of events and reject the one that's presented in most of the book.

" ... but think of them that way for awhile," page 523. A clever way of explaining Lovecraft's otherworldly creatures, and a clear explanation of how the Cthulhu Mythos fits with the plot of the book. There's a lot of discussion of the Cthulhu Mythos among Lovecraft devotees, but I think Illuminatus! is perhaps undervalued. It has a very clever adaptation of Lovecraft's world.

Page 531, Mama Sutra's chronology manages to take in much of the great corpus of fantasy in the 20th century -- The Lord of the Rings ("Phroto" for Frodo and "Zaurn" for Sauron), Robert Howard's Conan and Robert  W. Chambers' The King  in Yellow. 

                                            

Benjamin Franklin

"Jefferson and Franklin," page 533, Illuminati heroes according to Mama  Sutra's scheme, as they both stood for science. Franklin, with his famous experiment with the kite and lightning, demonstrated that lightning is a natural phenomena. 

"Nature and Nature's God," page 534. From the first sentence of the Declaration of Independence: "When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation." In connection with this, I found a paper that describes Jefferson as a "Deist" and "freethinker." Of course, Nature's God is the title of the last novel RAW published in his "Historical Illuminatus" series. 

Yesterday, after I published the obituary notice for Brian Shields, I dutifully read the section of Illuminatus! for today's blog post. I came across, on page 529, "I studied much. I have a Shield. I cannot explain the Shield any more than I can explain my ESP. I only know that it works."

If you haven't seen it already, I wanted to point out that Michael Johnson posted a long tribute to Brian Shields, in the comments, in Sunday's blog post, some hours after the original post. Here is a bit from what Michael wrote: "His propensity to pun was Pavlovian. I'd say he'd average 30 puns per hour of yack. You had already groaned too many times; eventually you quickly point and say ha! and go on with what you were saying. But he had a theory of puns: that they were endless reminders that Things Connect In Mysterious Ways."

Incidentally, I was not trying to be a smart aleck by beginning today's section with "I'll give it to  you raw" on page 523. These discussions are about 10 pages apiece, but I try to break these up into logical segments, so some sections are a little more than 10 pages, and  some a little less. When I looked at the text, it seemed like the natural way to begin this week's discussion, as it was the beginning of a long section of Mama Sutra's version of the Illuminati story. I didn't notice the "raw" pun until this weekend. 

Yesterday, another "things connect," I sent out a link to the Brian Shields obit to my 523 followers on Twitter (as I write this, it is still 523, although of course that will soon change.)

(Next week: "I finally got around to reading Telemachus Squeezed," page 537, to page 545, "No remission without the blood of our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ.")


Sunday, February 1, 2015

Prominent RAW fan Brian Shields has died


Brian Shields, prominent in  two Robert Anton Wilson groups on the Internet. 

Brian Shields has died, age 53. He was a well regarded digital journalist, a heavy metal fan, a presence on the Internet and on Facebook and also, the reason I mention him here, prominent in two Robert Anton Wilson groups on the Internet.

He was heavily involved in an important RAW discussion group on the Internet, alt.fan.rawilson, on Usenet. (If you don't know what Usenet is, you are probably a young person.) I don't know if Brian founded the group, but he was certainly an important presence there.

There's little doubt that he was largely responsible for creating Robert Anton Wilson Fans on Facebook and for maintaining it. As I noted at the time, the idea for creating it in 2012 came from Brian.

Dan Clore created Robert Anton Wilson Fans on Facebook, but the "About" section says, "I (Dan Clore) created this group at the suggestion of Brian Shields, who noted that alt.fan.rawilson had become rather moribund (along with the rest of Usenet)." In addition, a posting from Dan in the group says that Brian took care of most of the ownership duties for the group, such as sorting through membership requests to weed out spam.

Brian was digital manager for KRON 4, a San Francisco TV station. Some excerpts from the obituary posted at the TV station's website: "In his ten years as digital manager and editor at KRON, Shields’ cutting-edge multimedia reporting helped build KRON4.com into one of the most prominent news sites in the Bay Area. He succeeded in producing interactive web stories and breaking news with speed and accuracy. 'He was instrumental in making KRON4.com the great site that it is today,' said Ashley Messina, general manager at KRON."

"Outside of the newsroom, Shields was an ardent fan of the Oakland A’s but an even bigger fan heavy metal music. He had no formal musical training but was well versed in the genre’s techniques and composition."

"He was recently named weekend editor at the Heavy Blog Is Heavy, a blog featuring metal news, reviews, and interviews. His work was widely popular with followers and musicians; he often hosted bands at his home whenever their tour stopped in the Bay Area."

If you like, you can check out Brian's Facebook page.  Here are the two favorite quotes he posted in his Facebook section:

"Think for Yourself, Question Authority" - Timothy Leary

"The Constitution admittedly has its defects and its blemishes but it seems a hell of a lot better than the system we have now." - Robert Anton Wilson

Update: Perhaps he would have been amused I Tweeted the bad news to my 523 followers on Twitter.

Update II: Michael Johnson, who was the founder of the RAW Usenet group (see the comments), sent out an email about his friend Brian. "He was a very sweet, thoughtful, and interesting man," Michael writes.

After talking about hanging out with Brian to listen to music and tour the KRON newsroom, Michael concludes, " Brian was really smart. He was also a gnostic. He rarely ever said anything negative about anyone, except politicians. He'd let fledgling metal bands stay at his pad for free in Sausalito. What a sweet guy."