Friday, July 19, 2019
When I'm not trying to explain to my friend Ted Hand that RAW's libertarianism is a feature not a bug, we often chat on Twitter and elsewhere about RAW-related and cultural matters.
Ted has been offering Tarot readings for $10, using the new Philip K. Dick Tarot cards he helped create. My newspaper has just been sold to a new owner, Ogden Newspapers, so I'm going through a period of transition. In the mood for input and willing to experiment, I paid him for a reading. When I got the results, I realized that I'm currently reading the PKD section of Erik Davis' new High Weirdness book, a mild synchronicity.
Above are the three cards he drew, and here is his reading:
Here's your PKD Tarot reading. Cut off in the corner is the phrase "issues of scale can also be (a matter of) point of view," which is interesting given your situation with the paper being sold.
Indicator card is Joe Chip from Ubik, the quintessential PKD "small protagonist" who gets a sort of gnostic message from graffiti on the bathroom wall. That feels like some kind of a comment on your seeking out a Tarot reading!
Past card is Four of Swords, "The War with the Fnools." On the side of the cards is the I Ching correlation, interesting that it's minor setback. I'd take that as encouraging.
Future card is "The Dark Haired Girl" which is in traditional tarot the High Priestess, representing intuition or divine inspiration.
Joe Chip correlates with Hanged Man, which represents a situation of stuckness and/or self sacrifice. Can indicate something needs changing in your life or your approach.
Four of Swords in traditional Tarot is Truce. Can indicate things having been brought to a resting point. Like once a problem has been solved.
There's some kind of weird allegory about "the changes in the media business" here. I'm also seeing some play on that in Joe Chip's "impossible message." Doing journalism is such a challenging task in this brave new world.
Dominance of Trumps in a reading indicate "forces beyond your control." So I'm seeing a pointer toward the goddess figure within, the Jungian anima. There is an opportunity here to open yourself to some strange new ideas.
I guess my advice would be to keep seeking out ways to engage the "lunar consciousness" of weird intuition. Gaze at the moon, get high, find some spooky music. Dip into the irrational.
Thursday, July 18, 2019
Ted Hand, left, hanging out with me in Sandusky in 2018.
Ted Hand launched a big discussion on Twitter a couple of days ago by arguing that some of RAW's work has not held up well in the current political climate, specifically the interest RAW focused on conspiracy theories. Ted argues that the alt right/racist right have used conspiracy theories as a recruiting tool.
There's a danger I'll misrepresent him if I don't quote everything he said, but here are a couple of representative comments from Ted, and you can go to Twitter and read more:
"Chatting with @mitdasein I realize my attitude about "Fringe research" has changed a lot since my RAW boyhood. I used to think a lot of that stuff had serious intentions but was marginalized. Now I see much of it is racist conspiracy theory. TLDR: Pizzagate ain't Fortean."
And "Lots of RAW has aged poorly, but his methodological agnosticism can be helpful. It's just a bit obsolete, and in practice it's problematic. Look at all the Jordan Peterson fans on RAW boards parroting stuff abut reality tunnels as if they were epistemologically savvy..."
Some of the thread is here, but you'll have to go beyond it.
Some of the folks weighing in include Erik Davis, John Higgs, Cat Vincent, uel aramchek and Semiotic Stochastic. Bobby Campbell, writing at the @RAWilson23 account (a must-follow for RAW fans) writes, "It's strangely cathartic to read such undeniably valid criticisms of ideas I help propagate. Very many thanks for helping to elucidate the dark side of Maybe Logic."
John wrote about similar issues with his "Operation Mindfix" piece in 2017. He comments, "Reading that back, I'm struck by how the notion that the certain and the alt-right are the only people who can never escape from Chapel Perilous stands up well in light of the whole Qanon thing."
Ted also has issues with RAW's alleged "right libertarianism. " I didn't post much on the conspiracy theory stuff, but I did push back against what I think is the exaggerated notion that RAW was right libertarian; I suggested instead that his attitude toward feminism is more problematic. I got some support from Erik Davis on the libertarianism observation and on the feminism comment. (For my money, RAW often but not always combines the best libertarian and left ideas, but Ted complains, "RAW spent a lot of writing hours writing right wing libertarian propaganda that makes perfectly sensible left wing ideas sound ridiculous to bigots." )
Wednesday, July 17, 2019
More British Discordian news: The Liverpool Arts Lab has announced the impending publication, on July 23, of the Toxteth Day of the Dead: Beating the Bounds book, with a foreword by the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu.
"The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu have set out to build The People’s Pyramid. The first brick was laid on its foundation stone on Toxteth Day Of The Dead, Friday 23 November 2018.
"The location of the pyramid had not yet been determined, and so the foundation stone was taken on a procession around part of the the Royal & Ancient Park of Toxteth, searching for its future permanent site ... This book commemorates that event with photos of the procession, stories, poems, games and gifts."
More here. Preorders are sold out.
Tuesday, July 16, 2019
Sometimes I wish I lived in England, with all of the wonderful "find the others" events put on by the English RAW weirdos (this is meant affectionately; I am an American RAW weirdo.) The folks who did Festival 23 and Catch 23 have a new event, Castle Perilous 23, August 30 in a real medieval castle in a secret location. (We don't have many secret medieval castles here in Ohio.) The event is sold out and there's no public Internet site, but watch the Castle Perilous 23 Twitter account for news of returned tickets occasionally becoming available.
Monday, July 15, 2019
"Hilaritas Press Alien Outreach Program." Source.
Pipzi Williams haiku.
Does the Bible need a new "Book of Trump"? It seems that Adam Gorightly isn't on board yet.
Tyler Cowen's productivity tips.
But listening to career advice doesn't always work out.
The most British sexual problem in history?
Sunday, July 14, 2019
A couple of points about Erik Davis' excellent new book, High Weirdness: Drugs, Esoterica and Visionary Experiences in the Seventies, which I am still reading (I haven't finished the RAW section, which is the middle of the book, between Terence McKenna and Philip K. Dick.)
1. Here is one arresting paragraph:
"Wilson always played the garage philosopher, packing his conceptual jams with chatty riffs and refrains, corny jokes and outlandish follow-my-wink enthusiasms. This makes his work appealing to late adolescents, but less so to others. Still, he remains an important and serious thinker, albeit an unsystematic and sometimes sloppy one." (page 220).
A couple of points: Wilson was not an academic. In academia it is currently fashionable to focus upon one narrow field of study. E.g., almost nobody is an expert on the later Roman Empire; professors are experts on the later Roman Army, the evolution of Roman cities in the later empire, etc. The professors who bother to write books on the general history of the later Roman Empire perform a valuable service to undergraduates and interested laymen such as me, but few risk doing so and being caught out in mistakes, i.e. being accused of being "sloppy." If you try to transmit current scholarship in your field to a general audience, you are inevitably targeted for carping criticisms.
Wilson was a generalist. He wrote about libertarian political theory, James Joyce, quantum mechanics, Beethoven, Timothy Leary's eight circuit theory of consciousness, Korzybski, magick, and many other topics. Did he probably make mistakes? Yes. But a generalist has his uses. Not by accident, I think, did Michael Johnson name his blog Overweening Generalist.
2. About RAW, Erik writes, "One of the more charming aspects of Wilson as a writer is the fact that, unlike many charming autodidacts, he does not pretend to think in isolation. His texts are unusually generous in acknowledging his sources, his influences and his intellectual heroes...." (page 221.)
Davis also is good about acknowledging his sources. One of the strengths of High Weirdness are the footnotes, where Davis not only lists his sources but makes many interesting comments. I am reading it with two bookmarks, one for the text and one to keep my place in the notes.
Saturday, July 13, 2019
Marianne Williamson (Twitter portrait)
"One day maybe we'll awaken from this simulation and realize that Marianne Williamson's campaign was just a dream," writes Jesse Walker in his article about this year's most interesting and most weird presidential candidate. "But for now, she wants your vote."
Jesse is always interesting, but his piece on Williamson for Reason magazine is particularly good, and ties Williamson to a long tradition of American spirituality which Walker calls New Thought and could also be referred to as New Age, a recent manifestation.
Readers of this blog will be interested in passages such as this:
"That said, there is one rather Hallian passage in Williamson's first political book, 1997's The Healing of America. The Great Seal of the United States—that eye-in-the-pyramid logo on the back of the dollar bill—'illustrates our Founders' sense of America's destiny,' Williamson writes. 'The seal shows the Great Pyramid at Giza, with its missing capstone returned and illuminated. The Eye of Horus, the ancient Egyptian symbol for the consciousness of higher mind, is displayed within the capstone. Beneath the picture are written the words 'Novus Ordo Seclorum'—new order of the ages. This Masonic symbolism reveals democracy's function as a vehicle for the realization of humanity's highest potential'." ["Hallian" as in Manly P. Hall]
I was startled to read Jesse's piece and learn something about Donald Trump I didn't know. Another passage in the piece: "We're used to seeing religious coverage that stresses the left and right wings of Christianity. On some subjects, such as Middle Eastern policy, we hear about the left and right wings of Judaism. Well, here are the left and right wings of New Thought." Joshua Hallenbeck vs. Charles Faris on Twitter!
One of Ms. Williamson's books.
Friday, July 12, 2019
I've been reading the new Erik Davis book, High Weirdness: Drugs, Esoterica and Visionary Weirdness in the Seventies. I like it a lot; everyone who reads this blog would likely find it very interesting. More about it soon.
On page 170, Davis briefly mentions "the independent Berkeley publisher And/Or Press, which also put out books on Gurdjieff, laughing gas and nude Tai Chi." It also put out the McKenna brothers' Psilocybin: Magic Mushroom Grower's Guide: A Handbook for Psilocybin Enthusiasts, which came out under a pseudonym.
I don't have any of those books, but I do have two Robert Anton Wilson books put out by And/Or: The Illuminati Papers and Right Where You Are Sitting Now, two of my favorite RAW books.
I realized I didn't know anything about And/Or Press when I read Davis' passage. I ran a search, and it turns out there's a Wikipedia article about And/Or, and also its successor, Ronin Publisher. Ronin is still around and has a bunch of Timothy Leary titles.
Right Where You Are Sitting Now is listed for sale on Amazon as a paperback. No ebook is listed. The Illuminati Papers, as put out by Ronin Publishing, also is listed, and there's also a Kindle.
These two titles seem to be an anomaly, as all of RAW's other books either are published by Dell (e.g., Illuminatus! and Schroedinger's Cat) or were eventually acquired by New Falcon and then Hilaritas Press, the imprint of the Robert Anton Wilson Trust.
Wednesday, July 10, 2019
Musician and record producer Brian Peter George St John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno, known as "Brian."
Hat tip, Charles Faris."The totally convinced and the totally stupid have too much in common for the resemblance to be accidental." - Robert Anton Wilson #quote— Brian Eno (@dark_shark) July 8, 2019
More on Mr. Eno the RAW fan.
The Wikipedia bio.
I particularly like Eno's work as a producer for Talking Heads, but he also produced recordings for U2 and many other bands, has issued memorable solo recordings, was an early member of Roxy Music, did a fine album with David Byrne called My Life in the Bush of Ghosts and has many other credits.
Tuesday, July 9, 2019
Oz Fritz has a post up on one of my favorite singers (and one of Robert Anton Wilson's least favorite), Bob Dylan. Specifically, the post about the new Martin Scorsese movie on Netflix, Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story. I haven't seen it yet; maybe this weekend. I am old enough that I saw the original movie about the tour, Renaldo and Clara.
If you haven't heard, the new movie mixes real documentary facts with fiction. In other words, it's not a straight documentary of the tour, although it has concert footage and some genuine moments mixed in with the made up incidents and characters. Renaldo and Clara also was pretty weird and not really a conventional documentary; I remember mainly liking the concert sequences.
One paragraph from Oz's piece:
"This misdirection should come as no surprise. The film begins with old footage of a stage illusionist making a woman disappear then bringing her back. It seems part of the film's mission to ontologically shake-up assumptions about exactly what is going on. Editing and using sound and visuals in this way to create new contexts and factual illusions reminds me strongly of Orson Welle's F is for Fake "documentary" that looked at art forgery through using the techniques of film forgery. Robert Anton Wilson wrote an excellent account of the sleight-of-hand in that film that could give some insight into how Scorsese constructed this Bob Dylan story."
Monday, July 8, 2019
Delta-v, Daniel Suarez. A thriller about mining an asteroid. Daniel Suarez is a reliably good techo-thriller writer. Four stars on Goodreads.
Trophy Kill, R.J. Norgard. Mystery novel set in Alaska. I read this for work because Norgard is a local author, but it's a quite well done first novel, the start of a series, with lots of Alaska lore and realistic information about the life of a private eye (the author was a private investigator in Alaska.) Four stars.
The Earth Will Shake, Robert Anton Wilson. I'm looking forward to the discussion group on The Widow's Son. Four stars.
Good Riddance, Elinor Lipman. Latest novel by writer who is known as kind of a modern version as Jane Austen. Enjoyed it, but not quite as much as some of her others (I follow her pretty religiously). Three stars.
An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson, Eric Wagner. This one was a re-read. Essential for the serious RAW fan. I particularly admire the essay on The Homing Pigeons and the Illuminatus! timeline. Four stars.
Big Business: A Love Letter to an American Anti-Hero, Tyler Cowen. One of Cowen's most contrarian books and one of his best, although I suspect many people have their minds made up and will refuse to read it. Good defense of the big tech companies. Not as one-sided as the title implies; there are good criticisms of business, too. Four stars.
I'm on Goodreads (as "Tomj"), feel free to friend me.
Sunday, July 7, 2019
The Libertarian Futurist Society (a group I'm active in) have announced the new winners of the Prometheus Award, with Causes of Separation by Travis Corcoran winning the Prometheus, and Kurt Vonnegut's classic short story, "Harrison Bergeron," picking up the Hall of Fame Award. Corcoran has now won for two years in a row.
For more details, including the other finalists, please see our press release. (One of the finalists for the Hall of Fame was Robert Anton Wilson's novel, The Universe Next Door.)
All of the finalists this year are good and worth reading. I particularly like Martha Wells' "Murderbot Diaries" books and Helen Dale's Kingdom of the Wicked. Wells' books are quickly becoming famous and have won other awards, but the Dale work (two novels which posit an alternative future in which the Roman Empire undergoes an industrial revolution) seems a bit overlooked to me. I hope we've drawn a bit of attention to it.
Saturday, July 6, 2019
Mississippi sued over 'veggie burger' ban.
MAD magazine is mostly shutting down (no new content.) (Via Supergee).
David Henderson defends Marianne Williamson. But see also the comments.
John Higgs on the Beatles. He's a little hard on the Rolling Stones.
Ilya Somin defends the American Revolution. I once heard an American comedian remark about spending July 4 in Britain. "It's not a big holiday over there," she said.
Midnight movie inventor Ben Barenholtz dies. The obituaries in the New York Times are fascinating, a great justification for my digital subscription to the Times. I skip most of the political stuff.
Friday, July 5, 2019
David Halperin. Author photo from official website.
UFOs and "flying saucers" have suddenly become a hot topic again, with a flurry of articles in the press and a new book, "A" is for Adamski: The Golden Age of the UFO Contactees by our favorite crackpot historian, Adam Gorightly.
So when John Wisniewski offered to interview UFO author and retired professor of religious studies David Halperin for my blog, I immediately agreed.
Halperin is the author of the novel Journal of a UFO Investigator. About the book, writer Iain Pears wrote, "Journal of a UFO Investigator is a remarkable book. Part science fiction, part novel of growing up, part surrealist voyage into the imagination, it is a disconcerting and satisfying experience." Other people said nice things, too, but since I like Iain Pears, he gets primacy of place. Hey, it's my website. Halperin's next book, Intimate Alien: The Hidden Story of the UFO, is coming in 2020 from Stanford University Press.
To learn more about David Halperin, please visit his official site. You can find him on Facebook, and you can sign up for his monthly email newsletter, which will show up in your inbox every Tuesday.
John Wisniewski is a freelance writer who has written for L.A. Review of Books, Paraphilia magazine, Toronto Review of Books, Urban Graffiti magazine and other publications. He lives in West Babylon NY.
See also Mr. Wisniewski's interview with John Higgs, and his interview with the aforementioned Adam Gorightly, both available on his website.
-- Tom Jackson
JOHN WISNIEWSKI: When did you become interested in UFO sightings, David?
DAVID HALPERIN: I became interested in UFOs in the fall of 1960, when I was twelve going on thirteen. A friend and I were working on an extra-credit science project, which I think was supposed to have been about life on other planets. (Back then, it still seemed remotely possible that Venus or Mars might be inhabited.) We decided to include something about flying saucers, and in our local library I stumbled across Gray Barker’s They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers. I read it, and was first terrified, then inspired to solve the mystery that Albert Bender had (allegedly) solved before he was silenced. I never stopped trying to solve that mystery, although I now understand it far differently from the way I did at age thirteen.
JOHN WISNIEWSKI: If I wished to learn more about UFOs which are the most informed books on the subject?
DAVID HALPERIN: Ideally, I’d suggest you work your way through the two volumes of Jerome Clark’s UFO Encyclopedia, either the 2nd edition (1998), or the 3rd edition (2018). (I personally prefer the 2nd, even though it’s out of date.) But that is a formidable and time-consuming project, and more modest suggestions would be: Brenda Denzler, The Lure of the Edge: Scientific Passions, Religious Beliefs, and the Pursuit of UFOs (University of California Press, 2001) and Thomas E. Bullard, The Myth and Mystery of UFOs (University Press of Kansas, 2010). Both of these are excellent, sober, thoughtful pieces of work.
JOHN WISNIEWSKI: What may have inspired you to write Journal of a UFO Investigator?
DAVID HALPERIN: The inspiration of Journal of a UFO Investigator was memories of dreams and fantasies I had as a teenager. I remember, one brilliantly clear but bitterly cold evening in December, staring into the black sky and imagining a blazing red disk proceeding slowly across it. I knew I wasn’t actually seeing the disk, in the same way that I was seeing the stars—including Sirius, whose blue color I think I then perceived for the first time—but I was absolutely convinced such things were in the skies for me to see, if only I would look up. In writing Journal, I asked myself: what if I did indeed see such a disk? And what if it were to topple on me out of the sky? That was how the first chapter was born.
A year or two later, I had a dream: I was in a rambling old house in the country, at a meeting of ultra-serious teenagers dedicated to exploring the realms beyond the edges of science. All the boys, myself included, were dressed up in jackets and ties. And there was a beautiful blonde in an evening dress … and then I woke up.
Much of Journal was devoted to answering the question: what would have happened if I hadn’t woken up?
JOHN WISNIEWSKI: Could you tell us who Frank R. Paul was, David?
DAVID HALPERIN: Frank R. Paul was one of the great science-fiction artists. Beyond this, I know nothing beyond what I’ve gleaned from the Internet—especially at www.frankwu.com.
JOHN WISNIEWSKI: Over the years, has there been an increase
In the reporting of UFO sightings?
DAVID HALPERIN: The figures given by Cheryl Costa and Linda Miller Costa, in their UFO Sightings Desk Reference, show a pretty dramatic increase from 2001 (3479 reports) to 2012 (14077), and some falling off after that. The Costa book only goes up through 2015; I have the impression that the decline has continued over the past four years.
The Costas estimate, on the basis anecdotal evidence from the late Stanton Friedman, that only about 10% of UFO sightings are reported.
JOHN WISNIEWSKI: What was the UFO sighting that really introduced UFOs to the public
DAVID HALPERIN: There’s no question: it was the Kenneth Arnold sighting of June 24, 1947, which triggered the wave of sightings in the weeks that followed and introduced “flying saucers” to the American language.
NOT Roswell, which after an initial flurry of interest (on July 8-9, 1947) was quickly forgotten, and didn’t come to light until 1978.
JOHN WISNIEWSKI: What is being covered up about the nature of UFOS, being tied to religion and myth? What does your main character discover in his journey, in Journal of a UFO Investigator?
DAVID HALPERIN: To take the second part of your question first: I think the epiphany in Journal of a UFO Investigator comes when the narrator returns from Israel and discovers his mother is dead.
“Now I know who they are, the three men in black. I knew the moment my father spoke the words Mom is dead and their darkness filled the car, blotting out the headlights and the neon signs and even his face behind the steering wheel. And I knew: they’ve won. Always they will win. In every life theirs is the victory.” (p. 264)
They’re embodiments of death, and the collapsing of his world at his mother’s death is represented as the crashing of the UFO he pilots, and himself taking on the character of an alien.
I wasn’t sure quite what you meant by the first part. I think the cover-up, whatever its roots may be in reality—I do believe that Albert Bender was visited by three men, probably FBI agents who assumed his “International Flying Saucer Bureau” was a Communist front organization and wanted to shut it down—is part of the myth. The Men in Black theme gets its power precisely from that which is unstated in it, its reflection of Gray Barker’s experience as a closeted gay man in 1950s West Virginia.
Thursday, July 4, 2019
The Witches Almanac, the source for RAW's guided meditation.
Last year on this blog, I linked to a guided meditation that RAW wrote that Martin Wagner found and shared on his site.
Robert Anton Wilson advised, "The student should record the following on a tape and play it back several times, while in a relaxed and meditative state. There is no need to employ a yogic asana, unless you are already skilled at yoga and do these postures easily. Otherwise just be relaxed but alert, in an ordinary chair, in a room where you won’t be disturbed and let the tape run several times."
I've now gotten around to recording it, and I thought as a convenience for the rest of you, I would share the recording. Get it here. It runs for six minutes and twenty seconds.
The music in the background is Rasa's band, Starseed; appropriate, I hope, for a guided meditation that sounds as if it were influenced by Timothy Leary, and used with permission from Rasa. The particular tune is "Lakshmi Smiles" from the Live in Mount Shasta album. Starseed's music is available on Spotify.
If anyone else wants to try recording it, I would appreciate a link to share.
UPDATE: Eric Wagner already has weighed in with his own recording, a faster paced 3:26 version. Get it here.
Wednesday, July 3, 2019
Lorenzo Hagerty (Twitter photo).
The latest Psychedelic Salon podcast features a recording of a Robert Anton Wilson lecture, "RAW and the Information Age." Listen here, or at your favorite podcasting app.
This might be a good time for a reminder that the Robert Anton Wilson "Lost Studio Session" album remains available at the Internet Archive.
Tuesday, July 2, 2019
June Eris of the month.
The psychedelics evangelist: A German financier wants to turn magic mushrooms into modern medicine. "Though he still resolutely won’t touch even a drop of alcohol, he has banded together a team of like-minded entrepreneurs — including Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel — to invest in a handful of startups focused on developing psychedelics."
Scott Horton on the future of antiwar.com.
Gravity's Rainbow, Gilles Deleuze and the Occult Part 4. Part of a series, and again, quite a bit about Timothy Leary. And now part five has posted.
BBC program devoted to Finnegans Wake.
Monday, July 1, 2019
Logo of Gwern Branwen
gwern, a "Writer, independent researcher, Internet besserwisser," is generally interesting and not someone who spouts the same old received opinions. To give you an idea, here is his 2018 newsletter.
His compilation of book reviews is fascinating. Four stars for RAW's Schroedinger's Cat Trilogy, four stars for Quantum Psychology, three stars for Prometheus Rising, but no detailed comments, unfortunately. He has read and rated a great deal of Gene Wolfe, and many of the authors he likes are ones that I like (Iain Banks, Neal Stephenson, R.A. Lafferty and many others.)
See also his home page.
Saturday, June 29, 2019
Gregory Arnott will begin our reading group of The Widow's Son on August 23. Everyone is invited to participate. That's on a Friday, so it's a bit of a break from our past schedules.
As with other recent online reading groups, the official text will be the new Hilaritas Press edition, richly illustrated by Bobby Campbell. I had an old mass market paperback, but I recently bought an ebook.
I recently re-read Eric Wagner's excellent An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson, and it states The Widow's Son was RAW's favorite among his books. So I think this is a great opportunity for all RAW fans.
Friday, June 28, 2019
"There is no place in the libertarian movement for the War Party and its minions." -- Justin Raimondo. (Public domain photo taken in 2007).
This was originally going to be a "No war with Iran" posting (given Robert Anton Wilson's antiwar views, I don't see that as off topic) but Thursday night I learned that Justin Raimondo, a co-founder of Antiwar.com, had died after a long battle with cancer.
You can read the antiwar.com obituary. Scott Horton already had done a podcast.
Jesse Walker comments, and this witty Tweet from Angela Keaton is so true.
With Justin gone the rest of us have to raise our game, and the looming possible war with Iran seems like a good time to do so. You can read a good piece by David Stockman on antiwar.com. I also recently read a good Andrew Bacevich piece.
Thursday, June 27, 2019
Photo posted on Twitter by Graham Hancock. Caption: "The marriage of heaven and earth at Serpent Mound, Ohio, summer solstice sunset 2017. Drone photography by my wife Santha Faiia. We had such a magical and unforgettable time and the enchantment of this very special place is renewed with each passing year."
Background on Oakland decriminalizing psychedelic plants. (Hat tip, John Merritt).
Ted Gioia on Finnegans Wake.
Neil Gaiman on Gene Wolfe.
Good for Ann Coulter. (Words I don't often write.)
Public domain classics. (Greek and Roman translations).
Illinois now the 11th state to legalize marijuana.
Wednesday, June 26, 2019
From John Higgs' latest newsletter:
If you read Watling Street, you'll recall the story of the late Steve Moore, moon-worshipping his days away on top of Shooters Hill. You may know that Steve had spent years working on an academic study of the Greek moon goddess Selene, and died just as it was more-or-less finished. I ended up editing this book and am delighted to say it has finally been published by the ever-fascinating Strange Attractor Press. So Steve has fulfilled his commission - as if there was any doubt!
On May 4th I took part in an event to launch the book at Brompton Cemetery, with Alan Moore and Andrew O'Neill (photo by Flavio Pessanha). Thanks to everyone who came - I think we did Steve proud.
Also, Higgs talks about symbols and talks about his new book, The Future Starts Here.
Tuesday, June 25, 2019
The Quietus runs a good-sized article on RAW, focusing on the Schroedinger's Cat trilogy.
The piece by Sean Kitching, "The Schrödinger’s Cat Trilogy By Robert Anton Wilson At 40," includes a paragraph explaining how Kitching found his way to RAW:
Wilson’s books were extremely important to me when I went through a period of cognitive dissonance myself, during my late teens and early 20s. Having spent much of my school years feeling dissociated from much of the information considered to be of importance by the education curriculum, I finally discovered a sense of connection to the writings of the beats. Kerouac and Burroughs led me, indirectly, to Robert Anton Wilson, who in turn provided a gateway to figures such as Buckminster Fuller, Aleister Crowley, Timothy Leary, Wilhelm Reich, Alan Watts and John Lilly.
Kitching argues that Wilson's prose and techniques can serve as a way to "wake up" from the current consensus reality imposed by social media and political ideologies:
All of these ideas, according to Wilson’s ethos, are intended to be stimulating and useful rather than objectively True, and are offered as a counter-effective remedy against the forces of mass hypnotism that keep the populace asleep and easily controlled. This, in itself, is an idea very much of Wilson’s time, but it is not yet one we have transcended the need for. If anything, in our age of social media and the ubiquitous consequences of so-called ‘Reality TV’, we need such ideas more than ever.
Monday, June 24, 2019
The duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, fought with pistols.
This week -- the final week -- goes from page 359 ("The light was far, far away at first, but it approached at a dazzling speed.") to the end of the book. Then we take a break for a few weeks until Gregory Arnott begins leading the reading group for The Widow's Son in August.
There's a lot in this final section about the "fourth soul." Dustin had an interesting comment in the last blog entry: "When Sigismundo thinks about the vegetable, animal, and human souls my mind translates it into the first three systems within the eight system model. However, the descriptions of the fourth soul do not seem to align with the social-sexual system to me. Sigismindo describes the fourth soul as I AM. Maybe the fourth soul lumps the higher circuits, oops systems, together?" I am not an expert on the eight circuit model; what say the rest of you?
Dueling was of course still a thing in the eighteenth century, and RAW does a good job of depicting the stupidity and destructiveness of it. Perhaps the most infamous duel in American history was that of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, which killed Hamilton. Hamilton's son, Philip, also died in a duel.
While Sigismundo is studying music theory in Paris in 1770, Mozart, age 14, is touring Italy. It was this year that the incident occurred in which Mozart heard Miserere by Gregorio Allegri in performance at the Vatican and wrote it down from memory.
As this is the last blog entry, I want to thank everyone who took part, either by posting a comment or simply by stopping by to read an entry.
Sunday, June 23, 2019
Saturday, June 22, 2019
L. Neil Smith today (in a Colorado karaoke bar)
I have a big new interview up with libertarian science fiction writer L. Neil Smith at the Prometheus Award blog. There's quite a bit of discussion of Robert Anton Wilson, Robert Shea and Robert Heinlein.
Friday, June 21, 2019
Tim Heidecker (photo from official website.)
Thank goodness I had Robert Anton Wilson in my 20s and not Joe fuckin Rogan.— Tim Heidecker (@timheidecker) April 7, 2019
From Twitter, hat tip Gregory Arnott. Tim Heidecker is a comedian and actor with about half a million followers on Twitter. Official website.
Thursday, June 20, 2019
Wednesday, June 19, 2019
Some news (via Mondo 2000 on Twitter): "Woody Harrelson To Play Timothy Leary In Luke Davies-Scripted Limited Series ‘The Most Dangerous Man In America’
"Woody Harrelson and Luke Davies are teaming on The Most Dangerous Man in America, a limited series package mounted by Wiip and Star Thrower Entertainment. Harrelson is attached to be executive producer and star as Timothy Leary; Davies, who is coming off the Hulu limited series Catch-22, will adapt and be exec producer. Star Thower’s Tim White, Trevor White and Allan Mandelbaum will be exec producers alongside Harrelson and Davies.
"Based on the critically acclaimed book The Most Dangerous Man by Bill Minutaglio and Steven L. Davis, the series follows Leary’s daring prison escape and run from the law in 1970."
Article by Mike Fleming Jr. at Deadline.com. More here. The article may be an update on this news.
I thought the book was really good, although it's not where you would go to dig deep into Leary's philosophy.
Tuesday, June 18, 2019
Neal Stephenson autographing books for fans in Pittsburgh on June 17.
I've never had a chance to meet or listen to Neal Stephenson, one of my favorite writers. So when I discovered he was speaking at the Carnegie Library Lecture Hall in Pittsburgh on June 17, I bought a ticket and made the drive, a little more than two hours.
Stephenson apparently does not like to correspond with fans or give lots of interviews, but when one of his book is released, he dutifully does a publicity tour. He never comes to Cleveland for these, so the Pittsburgh gig was my one chance. (He's promoting his new novel Fall, Or Dodge in Hell. A presigned copy of the book was included in the price of my ticket.)
The lecture hall was about half full when Stephenson was introduced and took the stage. Dressed in a suit, Stephenson read two excerpts from the new book for about half an hour, briefly describing the context, and then took questions for about half an hour.
I was determined to get my one question in, so I kept raising my hand until I got possession of the wireless microphone, and I coaxed one of Stephenson's longest answers.
When it was my turn, I noted that I was a big fan of Cryptonomicon, and that I had noticed that the novels he wrote next, the Baroque Cycle, had characters who were the ancestors of the Cryptonomicon characters. I asked how it came about that he had done this, and if he had been inspired by any other writers.
Of course, I had an agenda. Perhaps in the universe next door, he would have answered that he was inspired by Robert Anton Wilson's Historical Illuminatus novels, which have characters who are the ancestors of the characters in the Illuminatus! trilogy.
But Stephenson said he did not have any antecedents, at least consciously. He explained that when he was writing Cryptonomicon, which is largely about money and computers, he got an email from one friend mentioning that Isaac Newton had been in charge of the British mint, and an email from another friend about how Leibniz had conceived of certain concepts related to cybernetics. And the two hated each other. So Stephenson decided to write fiction that had the two historical characters, and planted items in the final drafts of Cryptonomicon that reached back to the planned Baroque Cycle novels
One of his answers had a synchronicity for me. As I drove from Cleveland to Pittsburgh, I listened to an audiobook for the latest Daniel Suarez novel, Delta-v.
A woman in the audience wanted to know what science fiction and fantasy Stephenson had read lately that he recommends, and the first book Stephenson mentioned was Delta-v. He also recommended Crooked by Austin Grossman (an alternate future in which Richard Nixon battles Lovecraftian occult forces) and author Matt Ruff.
Oh, and he denies that he is Satoshi Nakamoto, the guy who invented Bitcoin, as a mischievous article at Reason magazine recently claimed. Stephenson says he owns one Bitcoin, given to him by a fan.
I was curious what the audience would be like. I recently went to an appearance in Cleveland for novelist Celeste Ng, author of Little Fires Everywhere, and noticed that audience was almost all women. Stephenson's audience had a strong majority of men, many of them the sorts of folks you'd see in a science fiction convention, but there were also women in the crowd.
Stephenson's appearance was timed so that it lasted for an hour, from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. This was apparently done so that all of the Neal Stephenson fanatics (such as me) could line up afterward for a long autographing session.
The way these things work is that while you are standing in line, a person asks who you want your book (or books) autographed for. When you say "Tom," she writes the name down on a post-it note when goes on the title page of Cryptonomicon, or whatever. This speeds things up when you get to the author.
I only had a few seconds to speak to him. I wanted to give him my business card and ask for an interview (I'm a newspaper reporter), but I decided that would likely be unpleasant for him. I also decided not to give him the Discordian Pope card I found when I was rooting around in my wallet. (Here is the "Physical Objects" section of the "Contact" page of his official website: "Do not under any circumstances try to send me physical objects (letters, bookplates, books--anything whatsoever made of atoms) in the mail. It is unlikely that you are sending them to the right address--the Internet is often wrong--and if they do reach me I will throw them away. See "Why I Am a Bad Correspondent" and "Why I Am a Sociomediapath" for background.")
So I simply mentioned that I had driven from Cleveland to see him and told him one of the books was for a friend who had a birthday that day, and he scribbled "Happy Birthday" on one of the books in magic marker and thanked me for coming.
Monday, June 17, 2019
This week, please read from page 334 ("The afternoon was interminable.") to page 359 ("In vast labyrinthine silence.")
This is the next to the last section we are reading; next week, we will finish the book. Gregory Arnott has volunteered to lead the reading group for The Widow's Son. A start date likely will be announced soon, but we have talked about August.
This section seems to be the one that covers love and death, sex and violence.
And also the dangers of alcohol. This section seems to illustrate the dangers of excess pretty vividly. Isn't Sigismundo exactly the sort of person who should simply give up drinking?
"Everybody has the right to be a damned fool for one day, I told myself. But I forgot that the consequences can last for more than one day -- can last for the rest of your life." Page 354.
"Outside the 'damnable books of Romance,' sober men do not get themselves into this kind of mess," Page 354.
Robert Anton Wilson certainly enjoyed drinking, but I also get the impression he wasn't a fan of drunkenness. Perhaps some of the folks who actually knew him can weigh in. Beyond Chaos and Beyond has an anecdote, in D. Scott Apel's "Bob and Me" biographical essay, about Wilson not wanting to have anything to do anymore with Apel's friend Kevin Briggs: "After years of weekly social evenings, Bob was afraid Kevin had become an alcoholic and informed me 'it would be better if you didn't bring him around anymore.' Fortunately Briggs had relocated ... he remained blissfully ignorant of his ostracism."
In any event, here is a nice passage: "Sigismundo was aware of himself breathing slowly and easily, in his bedroom, in the Celine villa, high on a hill in Napoli, on the continent of Europe, on the planet earth, in the system of nine planets circling the Inner Sun, in a vast turning spiral, in the womb, in the pink erotic waters, midway between existence and nonexistence." Page 359.
Sunday, June 16, 2019
"The Imaginary Mongoose," another Martin Wagner rediscovery, is Robert Anton Wilson's article about F Is For Fake and what "is" "real."
Andy Warhol, as is well known, used to keep a pantry full of Campbell soup cans, and if he liked you, he would autograph one and give to you, so you could own “a genuine Warhol original.” Such is the magic of art and the art of magic. The logical next step, as Hugh Kenner once pointed out, would have been for Warhol to sue the Campbell Soup Company for selling cheap imitation Warhols.
I have pondered long and hard, for many years, on the difference between “real” money and counterfeit money, and the best analysis I can offer is that we are supposed to believe the wizards at the Federal Reserve Bank have a magic wand which turns paper into something of value, but the counterfeiters do not own the magic wand. This can hardly be called fakery or imposture (despite the grumblings of some right-wing money cranks) since the Fed’s notes are indeed accepted as something valuable on international money markets.
But why would a dollar become worth several million dollars if it were hung on a museum wall by Warhol as an example of “found art?” And would it make any difference if such “found art” were blessed by the wizards at the Federal Reserve or just printed in a basement by the Mafia?
Maybe humans are creatures who create realities out of the flux of experience by faking (imposing?) meanings and forms. Or is that too Buddhistic a view for most of you reading this?
RAW also writes, "As for me, I’m already wondering if this is a genuine Robert Anton Wilson article or just another fake I dashed off because I was too tired to write the real thing."
Saturday, June 15, 2019
Johann Sebastian Bach
Do you guys ever have "listening projects"? I know that Eric Wagner does, for one; a couple of years ago or so, he listened to every one of Beethoven's piano sonatas, listening to each one several times before moving on to the next. (I can't remember the exact details).
Lately as my latest listening project I have been going through my copy of the Bach Guild's Big Bach Cantatas Box -- 99 cents for more than six hours of Johann Sebastian Bach cantatas I can stream anytime. These vocal works are some the best music ever written by anyone, although the performance of one of my favorites, Cantata No. 140, Wachet auf, is not one of my favorites. (You can get a good performance of it if you get the Bach Guild's Bigger Bach Set. It will set you back $3, but it has more than 14 hours of music.)
When I listened to the instrumental piece that begins Cantata No. 29, a fine composition, I remembered it from hearing the Walter/Wendy Carlos album, Switched on Bach, when I was in college in the 1970s.
Robert Anton Wilson has a nice summary of his feelings toward various composers at the back of Right Where You Are Sitting Now, in "Credo." He writes, "I believe in Bach, the creator of heaven and earth, and in Mozart, his only begotten son, and in Beethoven, the mediator and comforter; and inasmuch as their gods have manifested also in Vivaldi and Ravel and Stravinsky and many another, I believe in the communion of saints, the forgiveness of error, and Mind everlasting."
Friday, June 14, 2019
Years ago, when I happened to be in a business that had a TV set on, I was amazed to see a "celebrity endorsement commercial" that featured Mark Frauenfelder (RAW fan, writer, artist, Boing Boing founder, guru of cool etc.) He was explaining why he switched from a Windows machine to Apple. (I don't know when the commercial was made, but this Slate article, written by a guy who apparently has no idea who Mark is, dates to 2002).
This was a rare example of a celebrity endorsement I would actually be willing to listen to, although when I saw it (I think I may have been in a barbershop) I was already following my habit of buying used/cheap laptops and installing Linux on them. (Lately I do my home computer on a cheap Chromebook).
Anyway, it seems to me we need a high profile "celebrity endorser" for Robert Anton Wilson, or some other way to get his name out to the large majority of people who have never heard of him. RAW wrote somewhere once that he wished he could get on TV to share his ideas. During his lifetime, most people never had the opportunity to hear his ideas or find out about him.
My wife is a librarian; he specialty is cataloging. So by the nature of her job, she knows the names of many book authors. (If you describe a book to her, she can probably tell you from memory what the catalog number is likely to be) She never heard of Robert Anton Wilson until she married a weirdo. Most of the people she works with in the library never heard of RAW.
I even did a blog post last year about a librarian at her library who has read Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Gordon White and H.P. Lovecraft, and he didn't know who RAW was.
So I think there's a potential audience out there for RAW that hasn't been tapped.
Thursday, June 13, 2019
With this week's release of High Weirdness: Drugs, Esoterica, and Visionary Experience in the Seventies (about Robert Anton Wilson, Philip K. Dick and Terence McKenna), Erik Davis is busy giving interviews and promoting the book. You can, for example, read his five question interview with the City Lights bookstore. Here's one of them:
ED: Robert Anton Wilson, William James, Lester Bangs, Bruno Latour, Terence McKenna, Hunter S. Thompson.
Follow Erik on Twitter for announcements of events, appearances on podcasts, etc.
Wednesday, June 12, 2019
Bob Dylan. Wikimedia Commons photo.
Boing Boing has an interesting post, "When William S. Burroughs met Bob Dylan," about a writer who Robert Anton Wilson admired (Burroughs, of course) and a singer-songwriter RAW unfairly dissed.
The blog post is an excerpt from a new book by Casey Rae, William S. Burroughs and the Cult of Rock 'n' Roll. The book claims that Burroughs' cut-up prose technique influenced Dylan's lyrics, and that the "Brother Bill" mentioned in the Dylan song "Tombstone Blues" is a reference to Burroughs.
Note: Netflix has begun airing a new movie, Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese, a fictionalized account of Dylan's 1970s tour airing on Netflix. Allen Ginsberg, a poet much admired by RAW, apparently is featured in the film.
Monday, June 10, 2019
Edmund Burke. "Everybody knows Edmund Burke's wife is a Catholic," page 328.
This week, please read from page 317 ("Sigismundo Celine was blocked; the sonata was just not coming to the right conclusion.") to page 334 ("Sir John and Lady Babcock, he thought: We are now legally one person").
We are coming to the end of our reading group; two more episodes after today, and we will be finished. And then in a few weeks, Gregory Arnott will lead the reading group for The Widow's Son.
Page 319: Sigismundo's attempt to invent the automobile seems like an example of "steam engine time."
Mother Ursula has engaged in the sort of self-programming Robert Anton Wilson advocated:
"Mother Ursula meant the special kind of focus, the special concentration on God, which brought the healing power into her hands, for instance, and perhaps gave her other qualities that were not so spectacular but were equally unusual -- such as her unfailing good humor and optimism in a world where most people were worried and anxious or full of anger at least half of their waking hours." Pages 321-322.
"Jesus had made a joke about that once, she explained, but theologians could not imagine that He had a sense of humor, so they took Him literally."
Is this a reference to Matthew 5:27 through 5:30? "27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell."
On page 324, Sir John Babcock expresses a tenet of RAW's philosophy:
"I do not know what to believe. I have read too much and traveled too far. Certitude belongs to those who have only lived in a place where everybody believes he same things."
Sunday, June 9, 2019
His suggestion that psilocybin mushrooms were created by aliens is interesting although obviously speculative. But I was particularly struck by this question and answer, which in the epidemic of fentanyl and other terrible synthetic opiates seems prophetic:
Gyrus: As far as that concept of prosthesis goes, you’ve talked about machines and cultural artefacts as an extension of humanity, and you condemn laboratory-manufactured psychedelics to a large extent. Why would they not fall into the…
Terence: Well, I don’t condemn them out of some kind of purist “Plants are good, chemicals are bad”… No, I condemn them for very practical reasons. First of all, a white powder drug. You have no idea what it is. You can be fairly sure it was manufactured in an atmosphere of criminal syndicalism where the major goal was to make money. That’s not a very reassuring statement of drug purity and chemical attention to detail. And the other thing is, the vegetable psychedelics, we have our human data—five thousand years of mushroom use in Mexico, and so forth and so on. With a new drug, since it’s illegal to do research on it, we have no human data. And sometimes it takes a generation or two to see what the consequences of exposure to a compound are. So I don’t have an absolutist position against laboratory drugs, it’s simply that if we’re trying to get to a certain place—which is the dissolution of the ego, and the entry into psychedelic space—at this stage, the vegetable psychedelics are just simply more effective, better track record… they work.
Saturday, June 8, 2019
Erik Davis' new book, High Weirdness: Drugs, Esoterica, and Visionary Experience in the Seventies, about Robert Anton Wilson and other visionary figures in the 1970s, will be released Tuesday.
You can listen to an interview with Davis about the book on the Weird Studies podcast, available here and on the usual podcast apps. Note that episode four of the podcast also features Davis.
Friday, June 7, 2019
About a couple of days ago, I brought up Eric Wagner's idea that we celebrate the Timothy Leary centennial next year by reading one of Leary's books. There have been seven responses so far.
Several seem to think The Game of Life (which also has Robert Anton Wilson contributions) would be fine, although there are also votes for Info-Psychology, What Does Wo-Man Want? and Flashbacks.
So what would you think if we did The Game of Life next year, and then tackled another Leary book if the first reading group went well?
Thursday, June 6, 2019
Oakland decriminalizes magic mushrooms and peyote. Via just about every RAW fan on Twitter. This is a trend I did not see coming.
YouTube censorship goes awry.
Twenty things learned from TV.
Congress races to address nonexistent fentanyl problem.
I've written about the supposed dangers of touching fentanyl, too. Not that actually using it isn't terribly dangerous.
Wednesday, June 5, 2019
My current favorite restaurant in Cleveland
Supergee has a blog post linking to an article in Mother Jones which asserts that calling "ethnic" restaurants "authentic" is racist and is linked to discriminatory behavior (i.e., French restaurants can charge high prices, but Chinese restaurants are supposed to be cheap.)
It's an interesting piece, and it makes me wonder what terms I should use to describe restaurants. My favorite Chinese restaurants are the ones in which the customers are mostly Asian, rather than mostly white. Should I just describe my favorite places that way?
Tuesday, June 4, 2019
Eric Wagner posted a comment for a recent blog entry:
"10/22/2020 marks the Tim Leary centennial. Perhaps we could read something together to celebrate that."
Leary was born Oct. 22, 1920, as Eric remarks; he died in 1996.
Eric's suggestion that we should do a Leary reading next year intrigues me. What should it be? I have a Kindle of The Game of Life, and Robert Anton Wilson contributed to it; would that be the obvious book to read, or is there a better suggestion?
Monday, June 3, 2019
Louis Philippe Joseph d'Orléans (13 April 1747 – 6 November 1793), mentioned in The Earth Will Shake. See Wikipedia bio.
This week, please read from page 293 ("From Sir John Babcock's journal: Back in Paris again ...") to page 317 ("But, damn it, why do I feel I've seen those violet Sicilian eyes somewhere before?")
Lots of zingers in this chapter:
"Our class does have a sense of union, and the lower orders are not allowed to hear about such things when one of us is involved," page 204.
"Everybody said Italians were the best lovers; but nobody, anywhere, in history or in legend, had ever said they made the best husbands," pages 301-302.
Lots of interesting discussions and allusions:
"a very private in-joke for fellow Masons," page 304. Sigismundo Celine's references to Masons anticipates Mozart and Beethoven.
The descriptions of the jokes and abrupt shifts in Celine's music reminds me of Dimitri Shostakovich, a composer I can't remember Wilson ever discussing. But Shostakovich got much of his style from Mahler. I know Wilson liked Mahler.
Page 309, "Tuscany and Parma are not Napoli," Father Ratti said. "I am willing to join in this effort, because only by such repeated attempts will we achieve our goals, but I am not optimistic." The whole discussion is a good description of social change; remember when gay marriage and marijuana legalization seemed hopeless?
I haven't even discussed the history of Freemasonry in this section; I don't know enough to add to what Wilson shares.
Sunday, June 2, 2019
This blog post is later than usual, but I had to work this weekend and I was particularly busy.
New book: The Case for Space: How the Revolution in Spaceflight Opens Up a Future of Limitless Possibility by Robert Zubrin. I intend to read it. Here is a review.
Illinois has legalized marijuana. The governor supports the bill and plans to sign it. This was done by the legislature, notable in that other legalizations have come through passage of state questions. Here is a FAQ.
A Frances Yates conference.
Glenn Greenwald on Assange.