Saturday, May 27, 2017

Butterfly Language: Why I started the blog


Valerie D'Orazio

If you read the Butterfly Language blog, you can't help but notice what a burst of energy seems to be behind it. For example, there were four blog posts on May 26. Blog writer Valerie D'Orazio has a lot on her mind and has a lot to share.

Val is hugely influenced by Robert Anton Wilson, and if you are curious about her blog and what gave rise to it, you should read her fascinating recent autobiographical piece, Soul Detours, which describes how she changed after suffering a severe blow to the head. One paragraph:

I also began reading a lot of Robert Anton Wilson and Philip K. Dick. I was familiar with them before, but now I was really “diving” into the material. They too were a valuable source of support. I felt like they both had gone through some similar experiences as I had, especially Dick. I felt that Wilson’s skeptical (“agnostic”) approach was going to be the most helpful for me.

I also felt a deep connection to the whole period of time they operated in, especially the decade of the Seventies. I suppose I was feeling a little bit of time-centered dysphoria, as well.

Although it's not as dramatic as Val's feelings, I suffer from a bit of time dysphoria, too: I've wished for years I could have been a teenager in the 1980s, instead of the 1970s. I would love to have been a teen during the rise of personal computers, MTV, bulletin board systems, cyberpunk, etc.

One of Val's transformations was that "My taste in music changed. I suddenly became very interested in jazz and progressive rock, two genres I had only a very limited patience for previously. I now yearned for long, sprawling compositions; anything released in the early-to-mid 1970s was a special favorite, especially on the original vinyl." As a 1970s teenager, I listened to a lot of Yes, Chick Corea, ELP, Jefferson Starship concept albums, Kansas, Genesis, Mahavishnu Orchestra, etc., and saw some of those guys in concert during their salad days. But I'd still swap decades with Val. I got interested in Beethoven, Bach, Stravinsky, etc. as a teenager, but in hindsight I wish I had explored classical music more thoroughly, rather than just treating it as part of the "buffet" that included progressive rock, hard rock, Beatles, Stones, too much Jefferson Airplane, blues, jazz, etc. etc.

Friday, May 26, 2017

A Sapir-Whorf SF novel


The essay "The Celtic Roots of Quantum Theory," included in this week's edition of the Email to the Universe online reading group, includes a reference to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis:

According to the Korzybski-Whorf-Sapir hyptothesis, the language a people speak habitually influences their sense perceptions, their "concepts" and even they way they feel about themselves and the world in general. "A change in language can transform our appreciation of the cosmos," as Whorf stated the case. 

 [boldface in the original]

As it happens, I just finished re-reading my favorite Samuel R. Delany novel, essentially a dramatization of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis in the form of a space opera, Babel-17. The heroine is a poet who is asked to translate the code the enemy uses in an interstellar war. She discovers that it is a language. I don't want to spoil the plot by telling you anything else. I urge you to read it before you read more about it. It's not very long, and it's also available as an audiobook. I have no idea if RAW ever read it, but I'll bet he would have liked it.

I've also read a number of other Delany books, and enjoyed most of them. I like The Einstein Intersection, Nova, Driftglass (a great early story collection) and The Motion of Light in Water, an autobiography. I thought Dhalgren was bloated and hard to read, although I succeeded in finishing it, something many SF fans could not say when it first came out. I liked bits of The Jewel-hinged Jaw, an anthology of criticism.

Here is a nice appreciation, via Supergee, but don't read it until you've read the book. If you read this post because you like science fiction, you should read Supergee's blog.


Thursday, May 25, 2017

A green Eris


Adam Gorightly's latest Eris of the Month (pictured) is a mash-up of Eris and Pepe the Frog; the latter is apparently some kind of symbol of the alt-right.

"I immediately screen-capped this Eris/Pepe mash-up because you know how these things have a tendency to disappear. This turned out to be a wise move because shortly afterwards our Green Skinned Lady of the Golden Apple was deleted for some reason," Adam explains.

If you are confused about Pepe and how he/it kind of relates to Discordianism and Operation Mindfuck techniques, Adams has the full rundown. Also, you get to learn how to write "Hail Eris!" in Russian! 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

New RAW biography nearing completion



Propaganda Anonymous, resting briefly from his labors as a musician and literary biographer. 

Tweet from PropAnon: "Nearing completion of Chapel Perilous: The Life and Thought Crimes of Robert Anton Wilson I must've written 23 drafts by this point ."

This is the new RAW biography from Gabriel Kennedy, which will be published by TarcherPenguin. It's good to hear that it's coming along.

Here is my blog post on the original book announcement, and here is my interview with Mr. Kennedy.   

Also, I hope you saw the recent post about PropAnon's Grant Morrison interview at Boing Boing. That article says the new RAW bio will be out in 2018.



Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Cosmic Trigger's original artist



Dangerous Minds has a new piece up by Martin Schneider about John Thompson, who did an early cover for Robert Anton Wilson's Cosmic Trigger and many interior illustrations that have been used in many of the editions of the book, including the new Hilaritas Press edition. "As brilliant as he was, even Bob Wilson benefited greatly from having his ideas visualized in such a simpatico manner. John Thompson, a noted figure from the San Francisco comix scene, and someone very interested in mysticism and spirituality, was the ideal person to bring the visionary material to life," Schneider writes.

Hat tip, Michael Johnson.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Email to the Universe Discussion Group, Week 2!

The Santa Cruz shore during the Robert Anton Wilson memorial service; one of the boats is Wilson's family, preparing to scatter RAW's ashes as the same location off the boardwalk as his wife, Arlen. I am told the scene is similar to what RAW could see from his balcony in the scenes mentioned in the haiku. Photo by Branca Tesla. 

By Gregory Arnott, guest blogger 

(Pages 1-37 of the Hilaritas Press edition, up to location 782 of the ebook).

Before saying anything else, I’d like to say that the “note” on page three is perhaps one of the most elegantly succinct statements of Robert Anton Wilson’s philosophy that captures his years of experience and wonderment. “I don’t believe in anything, but I have many suspicions.” Michael asks the reader to ruminate if RAW’s theory of “intelligent design” has any analogs; to my knowledge his proposition is similar in its operation to certain theories that point out that consciousness may be an emergent property of matter and the ponderings of Jacques Vallee and Charles Fort.


Claude Shannon,  mentioned in the "Note."  (Creative Commons photo via Wikipedia).

Michael’s introduction also asks us to consider the meta-models as a type of yoga. While I have very little hands on experience with any of systems that RAW says he is indebted to, I do remember thinking it was curious that he didn’t say anything about Crowley or Leary who had been in so much of his earlier works. Perhaps this acknowledgement is part of a shift away from those men and their influence.

Part One begins with three quotes. One of which is from my favorite television series, The Prisoner.
Considering the footnotes and the subject matter I believe that “The Passion of the Antichrist” was included by RAW in this volume because the threats to our civil liberties haven’t passed but simply changed. Sadly parts of this essay are still all too relevant as we still live in a de facto Christian nation. Anti-Islam rhetoric is at an all-time high in our nation as our Commander-in-Chief, who had called for a national ban on Muslim immigration (which was received with cheers by his supporters), currently on his Armageddon tour of the Middle East.

One part of the essay that isn’t as relative today is that atheism isn’t exactly the daring philosophy that it was for Madalyn Murray in the Fifties. Indeed the virulent rhetoric of typified by the New Atheists mention by Mr. Johnson in the Introduction had made atheists into something of a joke on the internet. Sam Harris is also a well-known bigot who proves that you don’t have to be Christian or Jewish to be prejudiced against Islamic people. If the bullying tactics of the New Atheists can be traced back to Murray does that make her a less sympathetic character? And does her character matter?

Netflix recently released a film based on Murray’s activism and her murder mentioned at the end of the essay. It, like Time and Newsweek, also steals the title “The Most Hated Woman in America.” I watched it this past week and enjoyed it myself. Much of the discussion about Murray centers on her personality and accusation of moral ambivalence. Elsewhere RAW even notes that Murray could be unpleasant and even mocked him on occasion for his beliefs.

But the essay isn’t about atheism or Ms. Murray, is it?


Madalyn Murray O'Hair in 1983. Creative Commons photo by Alan Light. 

After another haiku that ends with the sumptuous image of “buttermilk clouds” RAW introduces the reader to the one law of economics. I couldn’t think of any exceptions -- did anyone else have any luck?

“The Celtic Roots of Quantum Theory” is classic RAW that comes from roughly the same period as Cosmic Trigger II and Coincidance which is why its themes and material seem so familiar. I’ve been a fan of Bishop Berkeley ever since reading Borges’ "Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius" and becoming interested in the often mentioned “Berkeleyan idealism” that help explain the fantastical happenings in that story. I can attest that Berkeley helps one lose their grip on consensus reality.

One thing that RAW brings up a few times in the essay is the relationship between New Agers and Quantum physics that has led to so many terrible books and a widely accepted documentary that was actually made by a cult in Seattle that believes a middle aged woman is channeling an ascended master. ("What the Bleep Do We Know!?" –also available on Netflix) As someone who has spent too much time reading about occultism I try to avoid talking about Quantum physics. Everything I know about the subject is due to RAW or Alan Moore and both of them would probably ask me to do a little more reading before opening my mouth. So I’m happy to leave this open to the more scientifically minded among us.

The final quote by Dennis Kucinich (the true Democratic candidate of 2008) is reminiscent of John Higgs Stranger Than We Can Imagine which ends with a discussion of evolution of corporations into personhood and how this dooms all of us. The situation has degraded since 2005.

This post was brought to you by Netflix and pessimism. Let’s try for something more lively next week when we’ll get to discuss Black Magic and Paranoia.

(Next week: Pages 38 to 53 of the Hilaritas Press edition, e.g. to the end of the "Black Magic and Curses" essay.)

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Daisy Campbell appeals for help selling tickets



Cosmic Trigger, the Play is getting many good reviews, but it needs to sell more tickets to break even, Daisy Campbell reports in her latest announcement. 

Perhaps a more positive way of putting it is that tickets are still available for all but the final show, despite all of the good reviews. I cannot afford to hop on a plane and go to Great Britain, but this is a great opportunity for many people.

Daisy says:

Look, I'll come to the point. We're at squeaky bum time. We need to sell 323 more tickets (or near enough) in order to break even.

The show's been a critical success, and audience feedback has been incredible - but we do need to Find The Others to be in the black. 

The final show on Saturday 27th is sold out - please help us to sell out the rest! 

If you know even just one more person who really ought to see this show, then please - march them to the nearest online device, go to www.thecockpit.org.uk/cosmictrigger and book now!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Another British event


John Higgs comments, "Will be part of Chapel Perilous at the Willowman fest in Yorkshire mid-June, should be a wild few days."

Friday, May 19, 2017

The bad news about the Soundgarden singer


Chris Cornell. Creative Commons photo via Wikipedia. 

Yesterday when I woke up and turned on my computer, I saw a report that Chris Cornell, 52, lead singer of Soundgarden, had died. He was only 52. Could it be fake news? I checked credible news sources, and it was true.

I don't own any Soundgarden albums, but I checked out the Down on the Upside album from the Hoopla Digital library service and downloaded it to my cell phone, mainly on the strength of the fact that it has my favorite Soundgarden song, "Blow Up the Outside World," and I listened to the tune as I drove to my first errands. I had never paid much attention to the words, but this time I noticed the opening lyric: "Nothing seems to kill me no matter how hard I try." I usually enjoy synchronicities, but this time, not so much.

 I'm not a Chris Cornell expert and I don't know what his issues/problems were. I always liked Robert Anton Wilson's life-affirming philosophy. I like the quote from this interview: "It is a great privilege to be conscious in this universe. Those who understand, shine like stars."

Here is the Butterfly Language blog on Cornell. 

You can also read Carolyn Contillo's piece, written for this blog, on how reading Quantum Psychology helped her deal with depression.  

Thursday, May 18, 2017

PropAnon and Grant Morrison discuss RAW


Grant Morrison at the 2006 ComiCon (Creative Commons photo via Wikipedia). 

Although I try to keep an eye on Boing Boing, here is something that I am afraid I missed at the time: A long interview of comics heavyweight Grant Morrison (The Invisibles, etc.) by Propaganda Anonymous, e.g, Gabriel Kennedy, who is hard at work on a new biography of Robert Anton Wilson, due out from Tarcher next year. When I finally saw it, I was impressed by how long it was, and how much of it was devoted to RAW. (There's also plenty about what's new with Morrison, including the TV shows he's been writing for TV, such as his adaption of his graphic novel Happy, and his adaptation of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.)

Here's a bit of the interview:

You previously mentioned to me that Masks of the Illuminati is your favorite Robert Anton Wilson book. Why is that?

The characters are great – and the way he brings them to life with research and details, Joyce and Einstein, each using his special talents to solve this quintessential modernist occult mystery. There's the gripping, twisting plotline that also doubles as a magical initiation. It's operating on so many levels. It's so brilliant, too, I think because it's self-contained, unlike Wilson's epic trilogies. It would make a great film. David Fincher should do it. The other one I really like is The Historical Illuminatus Chronicles - that's when I came back to reading Wilson in a big way but he never finished that series -

Much more here. 


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Is this our guy? Probably not



Martin Wagner, the Austrian RAW fan who has been digging up RAW rarities in much the same fashion as the RAW fans mentioned in yesterday's post, wrote to me recently to tell me that the Jan. 19, 1981, issue of Asimov's SF Magazine had a rare work of short fiction by Robert Anton Wilson, "Island Man," attributed to one R.A. Wilson.

Martin wrote, "Island Man is a very unusual piece of work from RAW. I really would doubt that it's his if it wouldn't be listed at The Internet Speculative Fiction Database  and other sources. I guess that's why he has published it as R. A. Wilson."

Excited by the idea that RAW had published a story in a SF magazine that made the cover, with cover art by well-known SF artist David Mattingly, I immediately bought my own copy off Amazon, and it arrived in the mail Monday. I took the above photo from my kitchen table. But I was disappointed when I opened the package and looked the yellowing pages, once the property of Mr. W.E. Harrison of Dallas, Texas.

My own opinion is that Martin was correct to doubt that it's RAW. It doesn't read like RAW's writing, and the biographical note attached to the story in the magazine attributes it to a writer living in a place where RAW never lived: "The author tells us he's a college graduate of scanty means whose time is mostly absorbed by writing. He has neither potted plants nor pets, although there is a cat who visits occasionally, and lives in a small Indiana town. This story is his first sale."

The issue dates from the earlier days of the magazine, when George Scithers was the editor. Scithers died in 2010.

My own theory is that the story was written by a guy from Indiana who never developed much of a career, and that Scithers carelessly published a byline that too closely resembled one of a better-known writer.

I looked more closely at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database, wondering who to blame, and found this, under "Disclaimer":

"The ISFDB is an online open-content collaborative bibliographic database, that is, a voluntary association of individuals and groups who are developing a common resource of human knowledge. The structure of the project allows anyone with an account, an Internet connection, and World Wide Web browser to alter its content. Please be advised that nothing found here has necessarily been reviewed by professionals with the expertise required to provide you with complete, accurate, or reliable information."

Monday, May 15, 2017

Email to the Universe reading group, Week One





We begin the discussion of Email to the Universe by Robert Anton Wilson with the "Introduction" by R. Michael Johnson, a new item exclusive to the just issued Hilartas Press edition of the book. Please chime in with comments to this post. Greg Arnott takes over in our next episode; for next week, please read pages 1-37 in the Hilaritas Press edition, which in the ebook takes you up to location 782, the "Thoughts to Ponder" from Dennis Kucinich, my former Congressman. 

If you aren't familiar with him, Michael Johnson is a musician (plays guitar), music teacher, writer, blogger and RAW scholar who lives in northern California. He comments on this blog as "Michael," and writes at the Overweening Generalist blog.

Richard Rasa, who is directing the Hilaritas Press reprint series, says that Michael's piece provides the book with the introduction that Rasa believes the book has always needed. And indeed, Michael's introduction serves a dual purpose: It gives the reader the inside scoop, largely unknown even to many RAW fans, of how the anthology of previously-uncollected pieces spanning 45 years came to be assembled, and it also provides an overview to the book. (The book does have quite a bit of material written especially for it, including the valuable "Note" at the beginning which we'll cover next week.)



Michael Johnson with a California writer, in the writer's apartment

Michael created the alt.fan.wilson Usenet group, which was an early place for RAW fans to hang out online. Michael explains, " I’d been online for a few months and discovered Usenet. After a few days I wondered if there was a Wilson group. There wasn’t, but there was an option to start one, and it was apparently so easy to do that even I was able to do it. I posted to myself, feeling a tad absurd, but then someone showed up - I forget who - and wrote, “I can’t believe there’s a newsgroup for RAW, this is cool! I just kept posting little things - miniblogs? - and eventually there was a small but ardent community."

The Usenet group later morphed into the thriving Robert Anton Wilson Fans group on Facebook. created by Dan Clore at the suggestion of Brian Shields. 

In his intro, Michael explains that Mike Gathers discovered that he could find "lost" articles by RAW by searching on eBay. The two Michaels began spending quite a bit of money, and time, acquiring old men's magazines, old occult publications and other periodicals. They were joined in the hunt by Eric Wagner, Dan Clore, Marc Lutter, Ted Hand and Jesse Walker. Eventually, at Gathers' suggestion, the pieces were digitized and posted at rawilsonfans.com. The site is now rawilsonfans.org, and Gathers is the current site host.

Although Michael doesn't make a point of noting this, Robert Anton Wilson did a pretty bad job of keeping track of keeping track of his past publications, correspondence and other papers. And so, when RAW put together Email to the Universe, he drew on the hard work of the two Michaels and the other people I have just mentioned, using many of the best pieces that had been tracked down and posted to the website. 

Since that time, other work has come to light and been posted at rawilsonfans.org, including pieces that I or some of my correspondents have found. 

I recently posted photos of some of the folks mentioned above, and I should tell you a bit more about them if their names are unfamiliar to you.

I've introduced Michael Johnson to you, and I've tried to make it clear what a vital role Mike Gathers played in the "secret history" of Email to the Universe that Michael  outlines.  Eric Wagner is the author of An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson. Dan Clore runs Robert Anton Wilson Fans on Facebook. Ted Hand lives in the San Francisco area and regularly interacts with RAW fans via his Twitter. Jesse Walker is an author and an editor at Reason magazine. I can't tell you much about Marc Lutter and have never corresponded with him. Lutter is German and was formerly in touch with Michael. 

You can learn a lot about "RAW fandom" by checking out Robert Anton Wilson Fans on Facebook, see also RAWnet at Hilaritas Press or read some of the posts in this blog; there is no one place that can capture the phenomena. 

The back story of Email to the Universe isn't Michael Johnson's only topic. Michael also shows off his unsurpassed understanding of RAW's ideas and recurrent themes. For the most part, I don't want to recapitulate that here; read the piece and post  your comments.

But I did want to draw attention to one sentence I highlighted in my Kindle copy of the book, where Michael writes, "Earlier in his career Wilson wrote about longevity and human immortality; in this work, he writes about death." 

This is a good observation, and it connects to what Oz Fritz has pointed out, that Wilson made no attempt to cryonically preserve his brain, as he did with his daughter Luna's (as described in Cosmic Trigger), but instead more or less accepted his death. See this final post on his blog, shortly before his death, where he wrote:

Various medical authorities swarm in and out of here predicting I have between two days and two months to live. I think they are guessing. I remain cheerful and unimpressed. I look forward without dogmatic optimism but without dread. I love you all and I deeply implore you to keep the lasagna flying.

Please pardon my levity, I don't see how to take death seriously. It seems absurd. 



Art for Michael's blog created by Bobby Campbell. 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

'10 Vital Questions' from Butterfly Language


Butterfly Language blogger (and author and editor) Val D'Orazio (current portrait posted at her blog)

I can't cover every provocative or interesting post from Butterfly Language as Val is a very prolific writer, but "10 Vital Questions For You About The Future" seemed particularly interesting to me.

Any one of these questions would be worth a separate blog post. Here's one that she poses:

IV. Do you think that the great advances “just around the corner” in halting the aging process, cybernetics, genetic engineering, and so on are actually meant for the common people at all?

I may be more optimistic on this than Val is. New technology always begins as a plaything for the rich, and then becomes available to everyone else.

The other questions include ones on sex, work, privacy and politics.

I'm currently reading The Chaos Protocols by Gordon White, which Val reviewed and strongly recommended. 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Review of a play in London



As the rave reviews continue to roll in for the Cosmic Trigger play in London, I thought some of you might enjoy reading a piece about an earlier play in Britain. From the June 1977 issue of Playboy magazine comes this article about the Illuminatus! play,  It's a nice piece, but uncredited. Does anyone know who wrote it? And is it true that Sir John Gielgud did the voice of FUCKUP?

The young lady on the cover is Patti McGuire, who married tennis great Jimmy Connors.

Thanks to Martin Wagner for sending this to me.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Touring show in Britain focuses on the Illuminati


Scene from MK Ultra. Photography from Brian Slater. 

It turns out that the ongoing Cosmic Trigger, the Play show in London isn't the only live event that will interest RAW fans in Britain.

The production from the Rosie Kay Dance Company is winding up its tour of Britain, details here. 

The Rosie Kay website says,

"Enter the hypnotic world of MK ULTRA. Rosie Kay’s new work is a high energy, supercharged mash-up of thrilling dance, music and imagery. It is inspired by the bizarre realm of pop culture mind control conspiracies.

"Rosie Kay is one of the UK’s leading female choreographers. She is renowned for her athletic movement, rigorous research and intelligent theatricality. Choreographer to the hit film Sunshine on Leith, Kay is best known for the five star award-winning 5 SOLDIERS.

"MK ULTRA is a CIA code word for a real LSD fuelled brainwashing technique developed by the US military. Popular conspiracy theory believes that MK ULTRA is still active and programmes certain pop stars as puppets of the ‘Illuminati’, a shadowy elite intent on creating a New World Order of authoritarian world government."

Hat tip, Adam Gorighty's Historia Discordia. 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Why was 'Email' one of the first Hilaritas Press books?



In light of the fact that our Email to the Universe online discussion group begins Monday (with a discussion of R. Michael Johnson's introduction), I thought I'd take a moment to point out that Hilaritas Press, the publishing imprint of the Robert Anton Wilson trust, made Email one of the first books it has put out.

Hilaritas Press is putting out definitive editions of 19 RAW works. (Certain works, such as Illuminatus!, will continue to be published by large publishing companies.)  

Here are the 19, in planned order of publication. I've boldfaced the books that have actually been published so far, in paper and ebook editions.

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

So, why did the RAW Trust decide to make Email the fourth book that it put out? I put that question to Richard Rasa, metaprogramming director for the RAW Trust. He replied:

"We basically looked at Amazon rankings for all of Bob’s books, and then looked at our list of 19 and gave some thought to why some books were more popular than others (we thought of a number of factors, including the slim availability of some titles bringing their ranking down). Even though most of the list follows the Amazon rankings (which seemed to make sense for a number of reasons), we both had some minor preferences for changes near the end of the list. Email to the Universe always seemed like an obvious choice for top of the list, even if it wasn’t ranked #4. I love the idea of Bob going through decades of his writings, finding gems, editing, and putting it all together as an impressively entertaining retrospective. In recently editing the book for our republication, I kept copying out choice excerpts that I knew would be useful to post somewhere, or just to have handy for when I needed to be reminded of a bit of RAW wisdom or humor. It’s one of those books that can easily get mauled if you are fond of underlining meaningful passages. Some passages are frighteningly prescient:"

A monopoly on the means of communication may define a ruling elite more precisely than the celebrated Marxian formula of "monopoly in the means of production." Since humans extend their nervous systems though channels of communication like the written word, the telephone, radio, TV, Internet, etc., whoever controls these media controls part of the nervous system of every member of society. The contents of these media become part of the contents of every individual’s brain. 
- “Damnation by Definition” chapter in - Robert Anton Wilson’s Email to the Universe

Note: If you want to join us next week, please get your hands on a copy of Email to the Universe and read Michael's introduction.


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Rare RAW interview



The Robert Anton Wilson Fans website has a great deal of material, but there are some items that aren't posted there, at least yet.

Austrian RAW fan Martin Wagner has been doing some serious digging, and he recently sent me a 1990 interview with RAW by Antero Alli, published in Mezlim Magazine. He sent me a PDF; I have uploaded it to a storage site, and you can read it here. 

Monday, May 8, 2017

Heroes of 'Email to the Universe'






Photos by Branka Krsul

The Email to the Universe discussion group begins in one week. I'll take the first posting, and then we'll turn things over to Greg Arnott.

With that in mind, I thought I'd share some historic photos of RAW fandom that Eric Wagner recently sent to me. As you'll learn when we read R. Michael Johnson's introduction to Email to the Universe, some of these folks helped assemble the material that later became Email to the Universe.

These photos were taken in Santa Cruz, at the RAW "Meme-Orial" in Santa Cruz in late March or early May 2007, after Robert Anton Wilson's death in January 2007.

The fellow on the left in the middle and bottom photos is Michael Johnson. The guy in the purple shirt is Eric Wagner, author of An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson.  The fellow wearing a t-shirt with a platypus on it and tan slacks is Mike Gathers, who suggested what later became the Robert Anton Wilson fans site and in fact is the current host of rawilsonfans.org.

The tall man in black with the video camera is Brian Shields, a prominent RAW fan who died in 2015, see my posting. He documented much of the memorial, and if I understand correctly, much of the video on YouTube is his.

The gentleman in the grey jacket is author, editor and musician R.U. Sirius. 

You'll learn a bit more about some of these folks next week.




Sunday, May 7, 2017

RAW at the library

My son Richard, who is just now obtaining his master's degree in library science from the University of Oklahoma, works for the public library in Tulsa. He also is an intern for the library at Tulsa Community College, and recently found himself putting "science fiction" stickers on the spine of Illuminatus!, among other books:



So students at TCC can read it.

The bad news, though, is that the Tulsa Public Library, which serves a pretty good-sized city, does not have any Robert Anton Wilson books. Patrons of the library, however, do have access to quite a few RAW books through the consortiums that the library belongs to.

I just now checked by running a couple of searches, and the Cuyahoga County Public Library, which has multiple branches and serves much of the Cleveland metropolitan area, does not have any Robert Anton Wilson books. (You can do an additional search to go beyond the library system and borrow RAW books from other libraries.) The Cuyahoga County system also has no Robert Shea.

CLEVNET, a network of dozens of northern Ohio libraries including the Cleveland Public Library, does have many of Robert Anton Wilson's books. Also a couple of Robert Shea, but several are missing, including All Things Are Lights.

Which raises a couple of points: Many libraries allow their patrons to suggest new titles. If you are chummy with your local library, you could ask it to buy the new edition of Cosmic Trigger. Also, if you have a library with RAW titles, check them out! Books that sit on the shelves ignored for years get weeded out of the collection.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Early reviews of Cosmic Trigger play


Illustration courtesy Richard Rasa 

Mersa Auda reviews the Cosmic Trigger play for TheUpcoming and gives it four out of five stars: "The lack of a solid thread binding the whole play together is felt (and longed for) at times, but the spirit of the production is exemplary in that it acts as a reminder of what theatre should always strive to do: innovate, experiment, and instigate thought and feeling." (Hat tip, Michael Johnson).

David James of London City Nights awards five out of five stars: "Perhaps this isn't the most objective of reviews - I went in a fan of Robert Anton Wilson and, let's face it, any play that features Alan Moore as a supercomputer called FUCKUP is going to be hard for me to resist - but this was one of the most enjoyable, uplifting and entertaining plays I've seen in quite some time. The cast are all fantastic, the stagecraft is phenomenal, and the writing is sensitive, witty and (when it needs to be) outright heartbreaking."

David, we won't demand objectivity at this blog!

Free RAW inspired comics available today



Today is Free Comic Book Day. To find a comic book shop near you that will hand you free comics, go here. 

Bobby Campbell is celebrating by offering five of his latest comics for free, largely inspired by his interest in Robert Anton Wilson. Details here. 

Friday, May 5, 2017

New Cosmic Trigger audiobook released as play opens in London


Richard Rasa's illustration of Oliver Senton

The Cosmic Trigger play has opened in London, but there is news on this side of the pond, too: Hilaritas Press has just released a new Cosmic Trigger audiobook, and it's narrated by actor Oliver Senton, who portrays RAW in the play.

I had no idea until a few days ago that an audiobook was in the works, so this is a pleasant surprise.

Senton is a British actor -- check out his official website for photos of him playing various roles in Shakespeare's plays, as well as a wide variety of other work -- so I was surprised when I listened to a sample clip to hear a Brooklyn accent. Yes, he portrays RAW on the book recording, just as he does in the play.

I remarked about this to Richard Rasa, metaprogramming director for the RAW Trust, and he replied, "It was a bit weird for us as well to hear a Brit doing a Brooklyn accent. Oliver made one funny mistake that we fixed in post editing. It came from his interpretation of Brooklynese, and was perhaps a little too Hollywood influenced. Overall, I think he really captured Bob’s spirit, and that’s what convinced us when he first sent some samples."

Hilaritas Press has posted an article about how the project came together, so read on!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

New 'Waywords and Meansigns' released


The new edition of Waywords and Meansigns has been released. That's the project that sets James Joyce's Finnegans Wake to music. Here is the announcement from the project's leader, Derek Pyle:

Dear Friends of the Wake,

It's May 4th! Finnegans Wake turns 78 today, and to celebrate we're releasing the 2017 edition of Waywords and Meansigns, setting Joyce's book to music.

Since beginning this project in 2014, over 300 people have worked to create what is now some 70 hours worth of audio. Today we release 123 tracks spanning 19 hours 23 minutes and created by contributors from 15 different countries. All freely distributed at www.waywordsandmeansigns.com/listen/opendoor-edition/ This year's album art, seen above, is from Heather Ryan Kelley.

The range of weirdness and wonder gathered here is stunning, to say the least. It's like Finnegans Wake bred with an alien bacteria and gave birth to a whole new species of music.

We're also excited to release a chapter which was originally scheduled for our 2016 edition, Mike Watt and Adam Harvey's recording of "Shem the Penman". Raymond Pettibon also provided us with an image to accompany that chapter.

As previously announced, this will be our final group release for Waywords and Meansigns. But we've made this release an "open edition" -- unlike our previous releases which were unabridged, this one is incomplete, meaning YOU are invited to record your own passage, and we will add to the edition on an ongoing basis. Get involved!

We made this stuff to share with you, so please spread the word! and as always, I love to hear from people, so write me back your thoughts and impressions.

The audio is waywordsandmeansigns.com/listen/opendoor-edition/. You can also locate specific recordings on our Artists page.

On a personal level, I must say thanks to all of you for your support these past three years. It has been an incredible adventure, and the best part has been getting to know so many of you. If you're interested I wrote a note on our blog, reflecting on the journey of this project and lessons I've learned along the way.

And if you're curious about what I'm up to next after Waywords and Meansigns, check out my new website www.derekdpyle.com.

That's it for now.

And again. Really and truly. Thank you for supporting this work.

in wake-ness and weird-ness,

Derek Pyle

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Another Penguicon lesson


Rachel Dolezal. Creative Commons photo via Wikipedia. 

When I went to Penguicon, I learned about personal gender pronouns. 

This seems very American to me. I'm thinking of writing a follow-up piece defending Rachel Dolezal. Why not? As a certain writer once said, "Reality is what you can get away with."


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Cosmic Trigger podcast worth a listen




Erik Davis. Creative Commons photo by Michael Rausner. 

British writer Alastair Fruish interviews Erik Davis for a Cosmic Trigger podcast which I thought was quite interesting.

Fruish, whom I had not run across before, is apparently an interesting writer in his own right, and  Davis of course is a fine podcaster, writer and lecturer.

A few thoughts after listening to the 42-minute podcast, produced by Nic Alderton:

1.  Fruish does a good job of posing many of the hard questions. How well does Illuminatus! hold up? Not very, says Davis, who finds it a "tough slog." (For me, it's an essential work of fiction, but I've noticed that opinions vary.) What happened to the hundreds of pages cut out of Illuminatus! ? They're lost, Davis opines. I lean toward the theory that The Illuminati Papers has quite a bit of excised material, possibly rewritten. The title of the book is suggestive, and see the Scott Apel interview. What to think of the eight-circuit model of consciousness? Davis thinks the discussion of the first four circuits holds up best; I agree.

2. Davis' favorite RAW book is Cosmic Trigger, followed by Prometheus Rising. Cosmic Trigger seems to be the favorite of many people. I am surprised more people don't mention RAW's fiction.

3. Davis talks more than once about how much he admires RAW, despite Davis' "quibbles" with RAW. Fruish never follows up, so we don't learn what the quibbles are. Davis' remarks about the last days of RAW and Terence McKenna is one of the best parts of the podcast.

Davis is working on a new book, High Weirdness, which seems sure to be good. A lot of people seem to have enjoyed Fruish's Kiss My ASBO.