Monday, August 31, 2015

Where are the peace candidates in the current election?


Hillary Clinton 

Joe Scarry (a good resource on Twitter for anyone who wants antiwar news and commentary) has a blog post up about something that bothers me, too: There's been a real lack so far on antiwar candidates, of candidates for president who will speak about about the United States' policy of endless war. (Rand Paul disappointed many of us when he came out against the Iran treaty. I like his dad better.)

In fact, there's been little discussion so far of foreign policy. I covered a speech by Hillary Clinton in Cleveland last week. She spoke for about half an hour, and I wrote a pretty long article about it for my newspaper. You'll see that there's nothing in there about foreign policy. That's not because I left it out; I was eager to hear something about the Iran treaty, the Mideast. She never mentioned foreign policy at all, except in the tangential sense of comparing Republican candidates for president to "terrorists."

Sunday, August 30, 2015

How do you read? A list of my addictions


Iain M. Banks

It's probably fairly apparent that I read a lot.

And my reading style tends to fall into two categories: (1) Reading, in a rather omnivorous fashion, a wide variety of nonfiction and fiction — really, a little bit of everything, with a marked preference for history and science fiction — and (2) a tendency to read another book by one of my favorite authors.

My tendency, since I was a teenager, has been that I will discover a favorite author, and then want to read as many books as possible by that person. In fact, for quite a few authors, I wound up collecting their books.

If you are curious, here is a list of authors in which I've attempted to read a great deal of their work, although in some cases, I've given up the job. This is NOT a list of the people I consider the best authors; it's a list of the authors I am addicted to (or have been addicted to), which is not exactly the same thing. For most of them, I can offer a pretty informed opinion on what their best books are. The first author on the list is probably kind of obvious, given the existence of this blog:

1. Robert Anton Wilson.
2. Tom Perrotta.
3.  Jane Austen.
4. Lawrence Block.
5. Jack Vance.
6. George Alec Effinger.
7. R.A. Lafferty. *
8. Philip Jose Farmer. *
9. Janice Weber.
10. Iain M. Banks.
11. John Higgs.
12. Kim Stanley Robinson. *
13. Vladimir Nabokov.
14. Richard Powers.
15. Bruce Sterling. *
16.  Richard Blake.
17. Martin Amis. *
18. Elinor Lipman.
19. Percy Bysshe Shelley.
20. Neal Stephenson.
21. Arkady and Boris Strugatsky.
22. Roger Zelazny. *
23.  Samuel R. Delany. *
24. Harlan Ellison. *
25. Gene Wolfe. *
26. Sinclair Lewis.
27. Robert Graves.

A few notes:

Usually I take my time in reading everything by a favorite author, preferring to know that there is a book or two for me to enjoy. This strategy failed with Jane Austen, however. After I read all six canonical novels (my favorites are Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion; Mansfield Park was the only one I didn't like very much), I read Lady Susan, the early epistolary work, and the two unfinished novels, The Watsons and Sanditon. There's nothing left. Similarly, although I've skipped the R.L. Stine book Perrotta ghostwrote, I've covered all of his novels and story collections. I have to wait for his new ones to come out to read another Perrotta.

The authors with an asterisk besides their names are the cases where I have given up trying to read every word they produced. I finished Delany's Dhalgren in college (I had trouble finding anyone else who could say that) but it was a Pyrrhic victory; I lost all desire to keep up with him. Roger Zelazny turned out to be uneven in his work, although I still read Zelazny novels I haven't gotten to yet. (In contrast, I've yet to find a Richard Powers or Tom Perrotta book that isn't worth reading.)

Kim Stanley Robinson has an asterisk because I don't like the direction his work has gone in, although I just read Aurora. For Gene Wolfe and R.A. Lafferty and Philip Jose Farmer, I realized after reading a great deal of their output that I didn't have to read every minor work they've produced and could be satisfied I've read the best ones.

My newest "acquisitions" are Janice Weber and Iain M. Banks and John Higgs and Richard Blake. Three our of four are Brits, but that may be a coincidence. Weber I'm a little bit behind on, but I will read her latest soon. The Richard Blake reading project is a little stalled because I want to read the Aelric books in order, and I can't find a library copy of Sword of Damascus or a Kindle version. Higgs I'm caught up on, except for the new one, which isn't out yet over here in the former colonies. Banks, I've mostly read the science fiction, but I'm almost done with Stonemouth.

I realize I don't have enough women, but the ones I've listed I love -- they're not there for affirmative action purposes. I don't love Sue Grafton, but I've read about half of her Kinsey Millhone books and will probably finish the series. I've read a lot of Connie Willis. I probably need to read another Allegra Goodman to see if I like it as much as The Cookbook Collector.

Harlan Ellison was almost left off the list because I realized early on I was never going to try to read all of the work he wrote in the 1950s, before he reached his stride. That said, I've read an awful lot of Harlan Ellison and still do so, so I decided he belongs on the list. I feel no compulsion to try to read all of Mark Twain, but I've read a lot of him. I've read a fair amount of Charles Dickens while leaving many works out. I've read a lot of Sinclair Lewis, but nothing before Main Street.  He's on the list  because I've steadily chipped away at him and read quite a few of the not-famous novels. (Work of Art is quite good).

Some favorite "genres": Russian science fiction (in translation), science fiction in general, books of history on the "fall of Rome/"Dark Ages"/Byzantium/Late Antiquity, ancient history.



Saturday, August 29, 2015

An Autonomous Agent on Prometheus Rising



A blog called An Autonomous Agent (I found nothing on the site to identify the man or woman who writes it) tackles Prometheus Rising. and references Alan Watts. "Wilson explains how tunnel-realities are formed:

“Whatever the Thinker thinks, the Prover proves”


"And he makes it clear that his book is itself a tunnel-reality written in English to appeal to the third circuit semantic logic of the reader."

I enjoyed exploring the site and its various sections and links; the person who does it has a lot of interests. I had never heard of AudioPhile Linux and there's a lot of beautiful stuff to look at. The image I used to illustrate this posting is from the site.

Hat tip: TimothyLearyFutique on Twitter, i.e. R.U. Sirius, who uncovers a lot of interesting stuff.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Finland considers basic income guarantee


Charles Murray, who wrote a book on his basic income guarantee plan 

While it hasn't been a major issue in the U.S., the idea of replacing the welfare system with a basic income guarantee apparently is being seriously discussed in Europe. As I've written before, Robert Anton Wilson is among those who suggested that it would be a good idea.

In Finland, for example, the various political parties are talking about it, according to this article in the Helsinki Times.  Excerpt:

If some  people have their way, you might soon be receiving a monthly payment from the State of Finland. You won't have to apply for it or prove that you need it. In fact, it doesn't matter if you are destitute or a billionaire. Simply by living in Finland you would be eligible. This is the so-called basic income.

The basic income is designed to be paid to every person, regardless of need. In its pure form it would be enough for anyone to live frugally. With a basic income all other transfer payments would cease. There would be no more child allowances, student stipends, unemployment benefits, housing assistance, disability payments or pensions. All such programmes would be unnecessary, because every person would automatically receive enough to cover basic living expenses.

I also found another article offering background on the Finnish situation.

Meanwhile, Switzerland is apparently going to have a national referendum in 2016 on a basic income guarantee proposal.

Earlier this year, I wrote about Charles Murray's In Our Hands, his book about the basic income guarantee.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

John Higgs talks about his new book


John Higgs

John Higgs' big book, Stranger Than We Can Imagine: Making Sense of the Twentieth Century came out today, and to celebrate, let me point you to a recent interview with Higgs which I think illustrates why many Robert Anton Wilson fans will want to track down a copy. (The interview is illustrated with photos of Aleister Crowley and the Emperor Norton.) Excerpt:

So where did the idea come from?

The idea behind the book is that we're very comfortable with all the innovations and discoveries up until the end of the 19th century; photography, electricity, agriculture, democracy – as a whole, we're fairly happy with these and understand how they work. Then we get to the turn of 20th century and we get relativity, existentialism, modernism, quantum mechanics and all these things that are fairly terrifying for many of us, so we back away from them. Which results in some of us in the 21st century looking at the world through 19th century eyes and not fully making sense of it all. We need to take on board everything we learned from the 20th century and not shy away from it all.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

All along the watchtower, secret masters kept the view


Robert Allen Zimmerman aka Bob Dylan. Who knows what They call him? 

At Reason's Magazine's Hit and Run blog, my favorite source of political insight, Jesse Walker veers from the usual sorts of topics to write about musician Bob Dylan's evangelical phase. (I like Dylan, too, but Jesse is a bit more of a completist than I am.) The occasion is a new book about Dylan, which Walker wrote a blurb for. But when I read Jesse's post, I wasn't expecting this bit: 

It also includes a bonus for any aficionado of strange conspiracy theories: In their interview with one of Dylan's former personal assistants, Dave Kelly, he relates a bizarre tale in which a mysterious man supposedly wormed his way into Dylan's entourage while the singer was playing a series of shows in San Francisco in 1979. According to Kelly, the stranger went out to dinner with Dylan and concert promoter Bill Graham for several nights, with Dylan assuming the man was a friend of Graham's and Graham assuming the man was a friend of Dylan's. The fellow then allegedly explained that he was a representative of "The Fifty-Five Families," an Illuminati-like group that had sent him to keep tabs on the musician.

Well, if the Illuminati are keeping an eye on Bob, maybe he can deny he's a member. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

This year's Prometheus Award winner


Daniel Suarez

Yesterday's posting on the Hugo awards reminded me that I had forgotten to post about this year's Prometheus Award, given by the Libertarian Futurist Society. I regret forgetting to do that, because Influx by Daniel Suarez is a really good technological thriller that deserves to get some publicity.

Here's a summary from the official press release:

Influx, the fourth techno-thriller by Daniel Suarez (Dutton Adult, Feb. 20, 2014), dramatizes the evils of totalitarian government control over people’s lives by depicting a government so concerned about politically destabilizing and potentially dangerous innovations that it creates the Bureau of Technology Control to manage the introduction of new technologies. Inventors who don't follow their edicts are sentenced to a high-tech prison with fiendishly oppressive use of new technology. To end the impending new dark age, the prisoners must fight ruthless individuals already living in our future and armed with mind-blowing genetic technology.

I'll just add that if you are looking for a thoroughly entertaining thriller that also has substance, your search ends here.

As a member of the LFS, I'm pleased to give Suarez some recognition, because his previous finalist, Kill Decision, also was a really good book. I need to get around to his other books. (His books are available as audiobooks, the way I consumed them, as well as in print).

The other finalists this year for the Prometheus Award were The Three-Body Problem, by Liu Cixin (TOR Books), Raising Steam, by Terry Pratchett (Knopf Doubleday)  and A Better World, by Marcus Sakey (Amazon, Thomas & Mercer.) All of them are good books, and as I noted yesterday, the Liu Cixin novel just won the Hugo.



Monday, August 24, 2015

Hugo Awards announced



As I have written before over the Hugo Awards controversy (for example here), I thought I should provide an update. The 2015 Hugo Awards have been announced, with "No Award" winning in several categories, the one where the sad/bad/mad/rabid Puppies have bloc voted to get their nominees in. The left/and or people outraged by the block voting organized their own bloc to make sure no one would win.

My thoughts: (1) the best novel winner was The Three Body Problem, Cixin Liu. It's a fine novel. (Read my interview with the translator.) Last year's winner was Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie, also a very good book. (2) I would have preferred that the voters consider each nominee, even in the "contaminated" categories, and vote their conscience, knowing that "No Award" was a possibility, but obviously this was a minority opinion and (3) How will the awards be reformed to take some of the politics and bloc voting out of it? I haven't seen any reports on that yet, but obviously changes need to be made. It would also be nice to address Eric Flint's criticisms, referenced in the link above, that it isn't the 1940s anymore and the fiction categories should be modernized to reflect that.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Book reissue with RAW intro


New Falcon sent out an announcement this weekend that it's reissuing The Illuminati Conspiracy: The Sapiens System by Donald Holmes, M.D.

I know nothing about the book, but Jesse Walker, who also got a copy of the announcement, wrote to me and said, "Wilson's introduction to this book is much more substantial than most of his intros."

From the publisher's page on the book: UFOs, Mafiosos, Presidents and Popes. Conspiracies, secret societies, murder, money, suicide, sex, and scandal. As Robert Anton Wilson says in the Introduction: “As soon as we find evidence of human beings on this planet, we find evidence of secret societies. If there...is one big jumbo conspiracy governing this planet, it must be...of non-human origin.” “One day a noted psychiatrist found himself having an experience which his training and background would either deny, or characterize as pathological. Since he had the presence of mind to write down the information he was receiving from an ‘unknown’ source. The results of this experience are intelligently and brilliantly written. The ideas are startling and may just be the Truth.” Who is In Charge of This Planet? Is it revolving, or going sideways? Who are we and where are we going? Dr. Holmes lets us in on the secret. I am glad someone had the courage to let the cat out of the bag with such a large bang.” —Robert Anton Wilson, Ph.D.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

More discussion on Cosmic Trigger 2


Charles Beard

Tyler Cowen sometimes "reprints" a comment on his blog to make sure people don't miss it, and I do that, too, sometimes. I liked both of the comments on my blog post the other day about Robert Anton Wilson replying to a critic, and so I'm using them in this blog post about Cosmic Trigger Vol. 2, Down to Earth:

Michael Johnson: I love the content, tone, ideas, and the form of CTII.

RAW once said that most readers will not discern anything about form, and if you want them to pay attention you have to tell them. Most of his ideas about form he got from Pound, I think.

RAW said CTII was "a Buddhist book" in an interview in 1994 with James Nye, collected in Email to the Universe, pp.225-226:

Q: In your second volume of autobiography, Cosmic Trigger II, there is a hint of resignation. You say that you would like to be shot into space and listen to Scarlatti. Have you given up on mankind?

RAW: That book was an attempt to present different sides of my personality as they've developed over time, and so you get the past mixed up with the present. The past does not always unfold chronologically. It's the same with ideas - some I held for a long time, some I held for just one afternoon. The book's an attempt to show there is no consistent ego. It's a Buddhist book. So the resignation was just a mood that George Bush {Sr.} put me in around the time of the Gulf War.

Chad Nelson: I think CTII is probably my current fave too. Partly because of my own bias in liking RAW's political commentary. I believe it was in II that he discusses his being introduced to the individualist anarchists and revisionist historians like HE Barnes and Charles Beard.

Tom Jackson: Cosmic Trigger II is a memoir, but it reads like a novel, with several plot strands that eventually come together. While RAW is obviously the main character, you learn a lot more about Arlen, RAW's mother, the nuns at his elementary school and other formative persons in his life. The chapters are very short and the prose is very clear.

I haven't gotten around to reading the revisionist historians that RAW and Chad mention, but I did read Jeff Riggenbach's book about them. So much to read, so little time! And there is also something about RAW's interest in Buddhism.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Christian Greer on the state of scholarship on Discordianism


Christian Greer 

Christian Greer has a very interesting piece, published on Adam Gorightly's Historia Discordia site,  on "The State of the Art of Research on Discordianism." It's worth a few minutes of your time — the article is concise and not terribly long —and even the footnotes are interesting.

Greer's conclusion is that scholarly research into Discordianism has been fairly dismal so far; it has failed to recognize the wide variance among editions of the Principia Discordia, for example, or the fact that Discordians used the Principia in a much different way from the way Christians, Moslems, etc., use their "holy text."

The handy Adam Gorightly video, below, which I've reproduced before and which Christian mentions in one of his footnotes, discusses the various editions of the Principia.


Thursday, August 20, 2015

RAW replies to a critic



A gentleman who reads this blog wrote to me yesterday and shared a couple of links with me (I didn't know if it was OK to give his name.) He shared a couple of links with me, including this piece from Disinfo.com, which referenced criticism from Jay Cornell (in a review of Cosmic Trigger 2: Down to Earth) that Robert Anton Wilson's work is marred by "predictable ’80s pop leftism or nostalgic sentimentalism about the ’60s” and that “his trickster act needs updating.”

I enjoyed Wilson's reply so much, I thought I would share it with you:

“I never respond to that kind of criticism. First, nobody can be objective about his own work, and you make a fool of yourself if you pretend that you can. Second, if perchance my work has anything of lasting value, it will go on, as it has gone on for two decades, getting reprinted continually, and Cornell can’t stop it. On the other hand, if my work has no real lasting value, it will eventually all go out of print, and I can’t persuade people they ought to buy it to make me happy.”

As I've said before, I really like the second Cosmic Trigger book.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Wilson, Leary in Berkeley Barb


A cover from the Berkeley Barb

Via Jesse Walker, I learned that there are searchable digital archives for the Berkeley Barb. , the prominent California underground newspaper.

My search for "Robert Anton Wilson" at the digital archive site yielded 191 hits; 189 for the Barb, and two for a publication called "The Rag." A "Timothy Leary" search provided 271 results. I had trouble getting things to work today; I wonder if the servers have become overloaded because the site has been publicized.

This is kind of a nice illustration, by the way, in the difference between "closed" research materials and open materials. I could obtain digital copies of Robert Shea's fanzines from the University of Michigan and get them posted, both on my site and the official Robert Shea site; and  I can't easily go through the archival materials on Leary at the New York Public Library. I can run searches for RAW in the Berkeley Barb; it will be awhile before I can make it to the Ransom Center's RAW correspondence with Hugh Kenner.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Tuesday links



Musician (and author) Adam Gorightly. 

New York Times review of the new book by Mario Vargas Llosa, Notes on the Death of Culture (about how modern life has ruined everything).  Be sure you make it to the last paragraph.

Article on Donald Trump's immigration positions by Cato analyst Alex Nowrasteh.  "Donald Trump’s newly released position paper on immigration is the precise mix of fantasy and ignorance that one has come to expect from the recently self-described Republican."

"Woman fined for posting photo of police car illegally parked in handicap spot." 

Punishing people who haven't done anything wrong. Via Ted Gioia on Twitter, who remarks, "Every day reality gets closer to to Philip K. Dick novel."

All woman bundle of science fiction books.

Meet Adam Gorightly at ParanoiaCon2015, Oct. 16-18 in Hollywood, Calif.  (Adam is a "special guest musical artist.")

Monday, August 17, 2015

A Joyce tour at the Ransom Center


Annotations in a copy of Finnegans Wake (illustration of this article.)

I recently did a blog post on correspondence by Robert Anton Wilson, to Hugh Kenner, on Ezra Pound, that's available at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas campus in Austin. 

PQ has now done a blog post that everyone reading this blog will want to take a few minutes to read, about the Austin, Texas, Finnegans Wake reading group taking a special tour of James Joyce artifacts at the Ransom Center. The visit was so inspiring, it launched a book project. And there's a bit of audio of Robert Anton Wilson reading from the novel. 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

A RAW antiwar quote


Futurist Alvin Toffler

Chad Nelson shared a good quote from RAW on Twitter Saturday:

"The State Department finds a new Hitler every 2 or 3 years, always in a Third World country whose resources our corporations happen to covet."

I asked Chad for the source. It's from an essay, "Alvin and Heidi Toffler In Praise of Our Kinder, Gentler War Machine," a scathing piece written as a rebuttal to an article by the Tofflers praising the U.S. military in the Gulf War. It's reprinted in Chaos and Beyond, the underrated RAW book I've been mentioning a lot lately.

At one point, Wilson reprints a "Washington Post" graphic which lists "Iraqi losses" in the war as 2,085 tanks, 962 armored vehicles, 1,005 artillery pieces and 103 aircraft. "Either the Post believed nobody got hurt on the Iraqi side, or they don't count Arabs as human beings," Wilson writes, before going to to quote various estimates of Iraqi losses, ranging from 100,000 to 250,000 deaths.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Floating inside the tank


A modern floatation tank, according to Wikipedia. The one I used was much less sleek looking. 

I finally got to try using a floatation tank Friday, something I had wanted to do for a long time. When I had gotten interested in trying one, I had done a little Internet searching and found that there weren't many of these things in Ohio, and they were kind of expensive.

A local "wellness place" in the Cleveland area, Optimal Wellness Center, had put sessions on sale via Amazon, and I bought one.

It turned out that you couldn't just take your voucher and show up; you had to make an appointment in advance, and apparently lots of other people had bought vouchers, and I had to cancel my first appointment.


The floating tank at Optimal Wellness Center. 

So although I bought my voucher in May, I didn't get in finally until August.

Since I was a complete newbie, I had no idea what to bring to the appointment or what to do. My wife found my swim trunks, but when I called ahead, I was told most people just use the tank nude. 

I was late for my appointment by a few minutes (Google Maps directed me to use a street closed for construction) but when I finally got there, the young woman explained that there was time built in between appointments and I would still get my full hour. In fact, I had a 70 minute block, with enough time to shower before I got in and out.

She took me to the room and explained that I should shower and get in the tank. Don't worry, there's plenty of air inside, and you can easily push the door open once you're inside, she said. The water is filtered between visits, she said. Someone will knock on the door when the time is up to tell you to get out.

I showed, put in the earplugs she had sold me,  and got in. The water was warm and heavy with epsom salts. I closed the door behind me.

The tank was longer than six feet and felt perhaps four feet wide, with maybe a foot and a half of water. It was dark, although there was a tiny light on one end. It didn't seem to matter much if I closed my eyes or kept them open.

I hadn't prepared any meditation; Oz Fritz, who has used one for years says, "I've been working with a tank for almost 10 years on a daily basis and I can say unequivocally that the best way to use a floatation tank is to open the door and get in it." 

All of my anxiety at having bungled the trip to the wellness center (I had forgotten my cell phone and left it at home and actually had to get out of the car to ask directions at a florist shop) floated away. At first I put my hands behind my head, but I soon learned to just let my limbs float in the water. It was very soothing. At times, I imagined myself a "star child" floating in the galaxy, "2001" style, but most of the time I just let my mind wander into pleasant thoughts. I enjoyed it, and I was sorry to have to get out when the knock came at the door. Oz says two to four hour floats are very good, but I had only paid for an hour. I would have been happy to stay longer. 

I had lots of epsom salts on my body when I got out and was glad to be able to shower and wash them off. But I felt VERY relaxed. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Jake Shannon announces Fnord University


Jake Shannon, with his Macebell (an exercise device he invented.) 

Jake Shannon, founder of the thriving Discordian Libertarians group on Facebook (1,739 members so far) has a new venture, FnordU, or "Fnord University."

I noticed it pretty quickly after it popped up, and wrote to Jake to ask about it. He wrote back, "We just opened a few days ago actually. It was born from the privacy and censorship policies of FB, I felt that given the sexual and chemical proclivities of many Discordians that perhaps it would be best to take our chats, OMgasms, etc. to a place that will protect privacy and free expression.

"We just opened so I am looking for contributors (want to write something??). My vision is for FU to be both a educational portal for Discordians (to publish articles, blogs) and a Discordian Social/Schism Network."

I remarked that it sounded a little bit like Maybe Logic Academy and the intriguing Ultraculture and he replied, "It is a web portal like Ultraculture but the emphasis will be the forum inside, which will be like the Discordian Libertarians with privacy and uncensored debauchery, lol."

Jake also introduced FnordU in a Facebook post, writing:

Hey all, pardon my solicitation but if anyone is interested, after 6 months of work FnordU.com is ready to go! Total privacy and no censorship! FnordU.com grew out of this DL group, but people were sick of their images being reported so we now have our own Discordtopia (away from the prying eyes of "the man")...

The disadvantage of FU is that it is $23 yearly but the advantage is that you have both privacy (FB is bad at that) AND no censorship (FB is bad at that too). Also, because people pay to get in you are FAR less likely to find fake accounts.

I wish I could make it free but it takes a bit of time and expense (software costs, server costs, graphic design, etc) to make it available. I think $23 is pretty cheap if you've enjoyed this group at all.

Anyway I hope to make it a Discordian publishing platform so if you're interested in writing articles let me know. I think we can host blogs too if you want to have your own FU blog. Anyway, hope to see you inside.

Hail Eris!

You can read my October 2014 interview with Jake.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Wall Street Journal discovers Emperor Norton



We RAW fans already knew about him, of course, but the Wall Street Journal has discovered Emperor Norton in a page one story today.  Some of the Journal's content is behind a paywall; if the link doesn't work, try Googling.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Wednesday links


Lawrence Lessig

Jesse Walker interviews Lawrence Lessig about his presidential campaign. His top issue is a new campaign finance system:

reason: How would your campaign finance proposal work, and how does it differ from the current Presidential Election Campaign Fund?

Lawrence Lessig: It's totally different from the presidential public funding. Presidential public funding is top-down, government-directed public funding. This is bottom-up. Rebate the first $100 of your taxes in the form of a voucher. Every registered voter gets a voucher. They could give the voucher to any candidate who agrees to limit contributions to vouchers and small contributions. So you would radically increase the number of contributors and steer candidates away from focusing the way they do on the large-dollar funders.

I could support this if it meant to give $100 to the Libertarian candidate, or some other dissenter. Also, Lessig is really good on copyright reform; I read one of his books a couple of years ago.

New Tor browser released. 

Are you a free speech nut?

New "Skeptical About Skeptics" website.  I am skeptical about this site.

Jeff Riggenback on "Why I Am a Left Libertarian."



Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Guns and Dope Party website moves


The Guns and Dope Party website, still maintained by the Robert Anton Wilson estate, lost its former location at gunsanddopeparty.com — somehow it didn't get renewed, and someone else snapped it up and offered to sell it back for $500. Instead, the website has found a new home, at gunsanddopeparty.net.

Richard Rasa, projects coordinator for the estate,  has asked everyone to spread the word.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Ilya Somin on jury nullification [UPDATED]


Ilya Somin

Robert Anton Wilson defended jury nullification as an important tool of liberty in Chaos and Beyond, the book I noted yesterday.

Ilya Somin, a libertarian leaning law professor, has written a good piece of jury nullification for the Volokh Conspiracy which offers qualified support for the practice. Somin notes that the practice historically has some problems (it was used by all-white juries to allow guilty white criminals to escape the consequences of their actions) but argues that nullification as an expression of prejudice has diminished and that nullification allows juries to deal with unfair prosecutions.

P.S. "Ilya" is a Russian name. It appears, however, that Professor Somin has his first hame because his parents were "Russians," as opposed to "Man from U.N.C.L.E fans." I wish my name was Ilya.

UPDATE: Professor Somin's article inspired a rebuttal from Orin Kerr, which Somin has now answered. 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

New book on the child sex abuse moral panic


Martha Coakley

Robert Anton Wilson's Chaos and Beyond, a collection of the best material from his "Trajectories" newsletter, is kind of underrated book. The RAW estate has let it go out of print and it's not a book RAW fans bring up very often, but I really enjoyed it when I tracked down a copy.

The book includes a scathing RAW article, "Sex, Satanism and Sodomized Dogs in Southern California," on the McMartin preschool case, which ruined the lives of several people and shut down a business over ridiculous, false allegations. You'll never feel prouder of RAW than when you read his piece railing about the case. Here he is on the related nonsense of "recovered memories." 

Here is a bit from RAW's follow-on piece:

After I wrote "Sex, Satanism and Sodomized Dogs," the new witch-hysteria continued to escalate all over the country, and in a few foreign countries as well. It finally seemed to reach the point where those of us that the "experts" could not induce to "remember" Satanic molestations and cannibalistic rituals, UFO abductions, or at least run-of-the-mill incest seemed an increasing small part of the population.

Many "experts" explained, lamely, that we few unmolested people simply suffer from a collective amnesia brought on by horrors too awful for the mind to recall. This total forgetting of alleged years of hellish terror even has a "scientific" (or "pseudo-scientific?") name now: "robust repression."

Curiously, in the case of the best-documented case of the 20th century — the Holocaust — not one recorded victim has suffered from "robust repression." The survivors all remember very well every horrors they saw, and none of them ever needs hypnosis or psychological to help them "remember" (much to the annoyance and inconvenience of Holocaust revisisionits). 

The Wall Street Journal's Saturday book section has a review of a new book on the panic, We Believe the Children by Richard Beck. The review is written by Carol Tavris, a name I plan to remember from now on. I urge you to read the review, and I plan to hunt up a copy of the book.

The illustration for today's blog post is a photo of Martha Coakley, a prominent Massachusetts Democrat who was the state's attorney general and a (losing) Democratic party nominee for senator and governor. Here's a paragraph from Tavris' review:

Finally, here are the prosecutors who gained fame from railroading day-care workers and other targets into prison and keeping them there long after they were exonerated. One is Martha Coakley, the former attorney general of Massachusetts. In 2000, the governor’s parole board voted to commute the sentence of Gerald Amirault (his mother and sister had been released earlier), noting the lack of evidence against the family and the “extraordinary if not bizarre allegations” on which they had been convicted. Ms. Coakley, then the Middlesex County district attorney, nonetheless prevailed on Gov. Jane Swift to keep him in prison. He was finally released in 2004, but Ms. Coakley did her best to make sure that he lives as a registered sex offender. Given “the frequency with which judges and appeals courts attributed the wrongful convictions to clear instances of investigative and prosecutorial overreach,” writes Mr. Beck, “one might have expected more people to lose their jobs.” They didn’t. Most were rewarded with promotions, political office or judgeships.

I'll note that RAW's essay records a McMartin prosecutor who behaved differently. RAW writes, "Fate of the original prosecutor, Glen Stevens: He became convinced of the innocence of both defendants and resigned, now sells real estate." RAW gets the name a little bit wrong — but Glenn Stevens is now a well-regarded real estate attorney in Beverley Hills. 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Lost Orson Welles films to be shown


Orson Welles

It's pretty late in the day to book an early September vacation, but various media outlets are reporting that the Venice International Film Festival will screen two "lost" films by one of Robert Anton Wilson's favorite directors, Orson Welles.  The festival will feature a restored "The Merchant of Venice," which was supposed to be a TV special but was never seen, and "Othello," never seen in its original full-length Italian version, although a shorter English version was released.

The Hollywood Reporter has a writeup, and the film festival's website has a long press release with more details.  


Friday, August 7, 2015

Ron Paul supports the Iran treaty


Ron Paul

You can read about it here.

Whatever you think about Ron Paul on issues such as global warming, the guy is as solid as a rock on peace and civil liberties.

That's probably why Timothy Leary liked him.

Paul  has a new book out that I haven't had time to read yet.


Thursday, August 6, 2015

News on Festival 23

There's a bit of news on Festival 23, the Discordian festival set for July 22-24 2016 in the Midlands in England.

The event has a website, but the full website will be launched on Sept. 23.

I signed up for the email newsletter, here is the main news:

"Festival23 will take place from the 22nd to the 24th July 2016, with big plans for the 23rd and we’ve secured a beautiful outdoor location in the Midlands. We even have a loose itinerary for the weekend, but we’re keeping it loose so there’s plenty of room to throw apples and you’ll be pleased to know the site is being meticulously planned using sacred geometry, ensuring the hodge and podge will be in harmonious balance at all times."

There's a Twitter account to follow, and also a Facebook site. 


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Gorightly debunks claim Kerry Thornley was a CIA agent


Was Kerry Thornley CIA material? Apparently not. 

Joan Mellen's book A Farewell to Justice: JFK's Assassination and the Case that Should Have Changed History apparently is endorsed by Oliver Stone, but I won't be reading it.

The book claims that Discordianism Founding Father Kerry Thornley was a CIA agent. Adam Gorightly has now done a lengthy debunking post, which suggests pretty convincingly that Mellen either deliberately misrepresented or carelessly misread the government document that supposedly proved her case. (Tellingly, perhaps, Mellen refused to supply the document to Gorightly, and he had had to track it down himself.)

Adam has written two books about Thornley; details here. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

RAW writes to Hugh Kenner


Hugh Kenner

Hugh Kenner was a major literary critic who helped boost the reputation of Ezra Pound and who also wrote about James Joyce.

Robert Anton Wilson wrote to Kenner — and that correspondence has been preserved.

On July 23, Jonathan Goodman, associate professor of English at University of Louisiana, Lafayette wrote on Twitter, "Robert Anton Wilson wrote several letters to Hugh Kenner in which he argued that Kenner underestimated importance of Pound's economic ideas. And did not appreciate the importance of cybernetics."

When I asked Professor Goodman where those letters are available, he replied, "Harry Ransom Center."

That's a repository of papers and art at the University of Texas in Austin. I've actually been there. Years ago, I visited it and looked at the correspondence of Charles Henri Ford, a Surrealist poet I've been interested in for years. If I recall correctly, I was only allowed to make notes in pencil.

Anyway, the correspondence is there in Austin, if somebody wants to take a look. I doubt I can access it without being there in person.

Monday, August 3, 2015

A political split among RAW fans?


Scene from a typical Libertarian Party convention, according to The Onion. 

John Higgs, in his "Cosmic Trigger Festival Talk."

When you gather together new-age heads and materialist rationalists, American libertarians and British socialists, the focused and the vague, the serious and the silly, the human and whatever it was that accosted me earlier, it does not sound like a recipe for getting things done. The only thing we all have in common is that we have at some point read Robert Anton Wilson and recognised and valued the impact that he has had on us.

I've boldfaced the bit that I want to talk about for a moment.

It seems to me that, generally speaking, John has put his finger on a difference between American RAW fans and British RAW fans. Many of the American RAW fans do seem to be libertarians. Meanwhile, my Twitter feed fills up with British RAW fans railing against the Tories, complaining that Labour politicians aren't left wing enough, etc.

Now, this is a generalization. Ted Hand, the American RAW fan, is a leftist, and Sean Gabb, the British RAW fan, is a libertarian. But as a general rule, is there lots of American RAW fans who are libertarians, and lots of British RAW fans who are socialists? Or is my sample size too small?




Sunday, August 2, 2015

Australian composer Larry Sitsky has interesting influences


Illustration for Larry Sitsky's "Wind Harp" fantasia. 

The relationship between music and expanded consciousness is one of the themes of Oz Fritz's blog, and I usually have nothing useful to add.

However, I recently discovered an apparently interesting Australian composer named Larry Sitsky. He is arguably Australia's best-known resident composer, but I never heard of him until this weekend. I wouldn't claim to be an expert, but I know the names of most of the world's best-known composers.

Sitsky has written for any different forms. His "key works," according to a biography at National Library of Australia, include The Golem, an opera that has a structure based on the Kabbalah. Another "key work" is the Concerto No. 2 for Violin & Small Orchestra, Gurdjieff, written for violinist Jan Sedivka. "In Brisbane Sedivka set up a study group for the Greek-Armenian philosopher and mystic George Gurdjieff (1877-1949)," the website says. A third key work, The Way of the Seeker, is inspired by a work from a Sufi poet, Hakin Sanai.

Some of the inspirations for other works include the Egyptian Book of the Dead,  the Tibetan Book of the Dead and the Buddhist concept of Samsara.

Of course, none of this will matter very much if Sitsky's music isn't very good, but I listen to a lot of modern classical music and I'm game to give him a fair listen.  Two albums of Sitsky's music are available on Freegal,  the public library music downloading service: A collection of his violin concertos, including the Gurdjieff concerto, and a recording of his "Golem" opera. I'll be downloading them and checking them out over about the next couple of weeks.

I suppose I ought to explain how I ran across Sitsky's name. While I listen to a wide range of classical music, I am particularly interested in avant-garde Russian composers of the period 1900-1935, both those who stayed in Russia and were expatriates. I like Stravinsky, Prokofiev and Shostakovich, names many of you will recognize, but I also like Leo Ornstein, Nikolai Miaskovsky, very early Gavriil Popov, Nikovai Roslavets and Alexander Mosolov (I've been hunting down every recording I can find of music by the latter two.) Sitsky's book, Music of the Repressed Russian Avant-Garde, 1900-1929, is apparently the standard text on all this, and I'm waiting to read it after discovering that the local library system has a copy. Sitsky, who apparently is now 80, was born in China, of Russian Jewish emigre parents.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

'Manhattan Melodrama'


Publicity photo for Myrna Loy, who appears in Manhattan Melodrama. 

I finally got to see Manhattan Melodrama, the movie mentioned in Illuminatus!, and enjoyed it. I generally like old movies. My wife did think it was a bit over the top, and I see it Jesse Walker leaves it out of his "Top Films of 1934" list.  In any event, it's not hard to track down a copy if you are curious about the movie, as I was.  Thomas E. Jackson, a longtime character actor who has my first and last name and middle initial, although not my middle name, has a role in the film. Robert Anton Wilson has mentioned that a 1923 Surrealist art show included a sign that said, "Dada is not dead. Watch your overcoat." Manhattan Melodrama has a plot twist in which two of the main characters learn to watch their overcoats.

The General Slocum disaster is vividly depicted at the beginning of the movie; the tragedy took place June 15, 1904, one day before Bloomsday, and is mentioned in Ulysses. The movie is noteworthy for including an early version of the song "Blue Moon," which I know best from the lovely cover by the Cowboy Junkies.