Thursday, September 19, 2019

The war on vaping

Photo by Itay Kabalo on Unsplash

Vaping seems to be one of those issues in which Democrats and Republicans are equally bad and libertarians are a lonely voice speaking out against the latest version of the "war on some drugs."

"In an article published last month in Expert Review of Respiratory Medicine, a team of Italian, Canadian, and American scientists surveyed the clinical research into e-cigarettes and reported that 'no studies reported serious adverse events' or 'significant changes in pulmonary functions.”

"Their findings jibed with the conclusions by British medical authorities that nicotine itself is no more harmful than caffeine, and that e-cigarettes are at least 95 percent safer than tobacco cigarettes. While the U.S. public-health establishment has been misleading the public—so that a majority of Americans now mistakenly believe that e-cigarettes are as harmful or even more harmful than cigarettes—the Royal Society for Public Health has been urging smokers to switch to vaping, and British hospitals have been promoting e-cigarettes by allowing vape shops to operate on their premises." Source

And here is Jacob Sullum making similar points.

If you want to keep up with this issue, you could do worse than to follow Sullum on Twitter and Jeffrey A. Singer from the Cato Institute.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Orson Welles, talk show host

From Jesse Walker: "Today I learned that Orson Welles recorded an unaired pilot for a TV talk show. He takes audience questions with Burt Reynolds, interviews the Muppets, does a Russian Roulette routine with Angie Dickinson. It's weird & uneven & I wish there was more."

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Empire Day in San Francisco

The Emperor

Today,  you can celebrate Empire Day in San Francisco.

The Emperor's Bridge Campaign explains:

On 17 September 2015, The Emperor's Bridge Campaign launched a new holiday to celebrate the anniversary of this occasion.

We gathered on Clay Street, in the shadow of the Transamerica Pyramid — and across from the former site of the Bulletin, where Joshua Norton hand-delivered his original Proclamation.

Then, we walked over to the nearby Comstock Saloon to raise a glass to Emperor Norton in the shadow of the sculpture of the Emperor that presides over the main bar.

We called it Empire Day.

There's a full schedule of events. 

Monday, September 16, 2019

The rock stars are going away

Illuminatus! was written when rock music was a dominant form of art. I never saw much evidence that Robert Anton Wilson was particularly interested in pop music, but the novel often references rock, and the concluding section takes place at a rock music festival.

Rock stars from the golden age of rock aren't getting any younger, and we are losing many of them. The latest is Ric Ocasek, found dead in New York over the weekend. Ocasek, and his band The Cars, were particular favorites of mine, and I hunted down his solo albums. (I've posted one of my favorite solo album songs, above.)

Tom Petty, George Harrison, Prince, Eddie Money ... look for lots of bad news the next few years.

Here is the New York Times appreciation for Ocasek. 

Interview in the New York Times.

You might be missing out. Have you been on a water slide?

I’ve never been on a water slide in my life.

They’re fun.

I guess they could be fun, and I guess skydiving could be fun, too. But I would never do it. It would be more fun to sit in a room with William Burroughs and listen to him grumble.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

A request from Rasa

The above was posted on Facebook by Rasa, who also writes (excerpts):

"Removing illegal downloads is an ongoing effort and a time-consuming task that just eats into our small income. As an example, we recently we found Scott Beard offering to give away our books illegally. He has not responded to our request to desist. [Beard now says he has removed it -- The Management.] The RAW Trust, Hilaritas Press and the RAW Trust Advisors have spent countless hours working on keeping RAW's books in print. If they are continually stolen like this, we cannot afford to continue.

"If there are any lawyers willing to help pro bono with our efforts at stopping this kind of theft, please contact us. We are reluctant to take from our tiny profits any funds to fight this kind of illegal activity, but we are forced to do so, or Hilaritas Press will no longer be able to exist. It's a Catch-22: we don't make enough in publishing profits to keep up with people stealing our product.

"We are really sorry to have to make this announcement. Some of you know me personally, and you know that I am working more than full time on RAW projects, and the meager profits we make from book sales provides a poverty level income. I am not rich, and so every time I see someone offering a bootlegged RAW title, I know that someone just made my life much more difficult. RAW's daughter, sharing the responsibilities of running the RAW Trust and Hilaritas Press, is in a similar situation. Most of the hours we spend on RAW work is a labor of love because we cannot afford to pay ourselves a normal salary. We are, however, trying to stay afloat. Please help us out!"

More here.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

A Beatlish tribute to Jack Parsons

I don't follow pop music very closely these days, and I've never paid much attention to Beatle progeny, either. But the new album by the Claypool Lennon Delirium, South of Reality, seems quite good. It's a collaboration of Sean Ono Lennon and Les Claypool (from Primus). It sounds like the Beatles and it's fun to listen to. It reminds me a bit of one of the better Paul McCartney albums, Electric Arguments. For many of you who have a library card, you can listen on  Hoopla. 

But an additional point that my interest some of you reading this blog: There's a song called "Block and Rockets" that's about Jack Parsons that also apparently references Aleister Crowley.

Friday, September 13, 2019

The Widow's Son online reading group, Week Four

Duc d’Orleans sans pox scars.

This week:Hilaritas Press edition pg. 51-62, Chapters 7&8 all editions)

By Gregory Arnott
special guest blogger

This week we are introduced to the enigmatic Duc d’Orleans, still the duc de Chartres at this point in history, Louis Phillipe -- twenty years from this point he’ll rename himself Philippe Égalité during the height of the Revolution. This is a more intimate portrait of the man as we see him privately dining, digesting, and casually abusing his power. (Also it is worth pointing out that at this point Fatima, Sigismundo’s favorite prostitute from Algiers, and three joints of beef have been described as formidable.) We’ll get to know more about d’Orleans and his role in Sigismundo’s fate soonish, most of this is in relation to the Duc’s role in the Grand Orient Lodge of Masonry- after the evens of the novel his son went to Austria leading to his father’s  murder during the Reign of Terror. Although d’Orleans would never sit the French throne the son who caused his untimely demise would. Discussing Proofs of a Conspiracy de Selby makes a Johnsonian kick at Robison.

In Chapter 7 the theme of “merde” still runs strong form Chartres “inexorable chemistry,” to the stinking streets of Paris, to the “tough shit for him” reaction the commissaire has to authoring Sigismundo’s warrant. Born and bred betwixt piss and shit. Jeder, the messenger, hails from Rennes-le-Chateau, epicenter of all this Merovingian/Priory of Sion business.

The chapter also contains some more intimate portraits of three other characters- Louis XV and Sartines through the lens of the narrator and the Chevalier d’Eon through the befuddled mind of Sartines. Louis XV continues to remind me of current people in positions of power and seems like a very stable genius. Sartines begins to resemble one of Wilson’s “bad” cop characters; like Otto Waterhouse his role as enforcer is implied to be born of misplaced resentment. Though I would say that Sartines is a more interesting character than Waterhouse’s caricature.

“Everybody thinks somebody else is to blame for all of life’s little problems.”- RAW (pg. 56 Hilaritas edition) “Some people claim that there's a woman to blame/Now I think, hell it could be my fault.”-Jimmy Buffett

I first read about the Chevalier d’Eon in a rather lurid chapbook about the Hellfire Club by a guy named Daniel Mannix. Regrettably my copy is somewhere in my parents’ house so I can’t delve into what I remember to be some great descriptions. d’Eon has proven to be a more popular figure in recent years because anime, I guess?...and because of their appeal to the transgender community. Since I don’t have my sensationalist history on hand, here is a good article about the Chevalier from Atlas Obscura that is worth reading.

An excerpt that gives some context to Sartine’s frustration with Louis’ approach to spycraft and d’Eon’s role:

“This traditional role, however, was just a cover: D’Eon was also tapped for another royal service—le Secret du Roi, or “King’s Secret”. The Secret was a network of spies and diplomatic agents established by Louis XV in the 1740s with the aim of putting his cousin, the Prince de Conti, on the Polish throne and turning the country into a French satellite. The Secret was so secret, it was hidden from and sometimes acted against the official French foreign ministry. D’Eon was charged with fostering good relations with the Russian court of the Empress Elizabeth and getting her behind installing Conti in Poland, as well as promoting France’s interests generally. Though d’Eon was competent, by all accounts hardworking, charming, and clever, the geopolitical reality was grim: That same year, France had entered what would become the Seven Years War with Britain.” (Linda Rodriguez McRobbie)

In Chapter 8 Captain Loup-Garou’s name is of course the French term for “werewolf,” his name and the language describing his six “ogres” make for a nice Gothic flavor. (I might be reaching but is there any chance his middle name “Teppis” is a reference to Vlad Tepes?) Perhaps the true horror of the first scene is Loup-Garou’s blase attitude towards following orders.

While we’re on the subject of Gothic horror I wanted to note last week that Maria thinks about her dark fantasies as something “from a gothic novel by Walpole.” Horace Walpole actually only wrote one Gothic novel, although it was the first, The Castle of Otranto. The novel is a medieval romance that establishes the incestuous themes as well as the sensationalized portrait of Catholicism/Southern Europe that would be found in much of the genre’s later works. Otranto is actually itself in Southern Italy, though on the opposite coast of Napoli. While the novel is turgid at times it is worth checking out. I tried teaching it to my sophomore’s last year at the beginning of our Gothic fiction unit and made a handout of excerpts. I’ve provided a link in case any one wants to dip their toes in.

The sinister Professor Hanfkopt makes another appearance in the footnote on pg. 60-61 having most likely framed a rival professor for terrorist activities in Ireland (no small joke in the 1980s) but the pothead’s English “almost sounded like the Katzenjammer Kids.” I believe his study of de Selby roughly translates as “De Selby’s Stupidity.”

Gabriel Honore de Mirabeau was a real person and as far as I could tell everything Wilson writes about here is historically accurate. I did read in one article that the first lettre de cachet written by Mirabeau’s father might have been to protect him from his debts but the Wikipedia article also linked to multiple sources that indicated the bitter relationship between Mirabeau and his father existing before this incident. Mirabeau would actually die before the tide could turn against him in the aftermath of the Revolution- the wiki article also has a picture of a memorial plate made for Mirabeau. Along with the pendants discussed in Chapter 3, the ones made from fragments of the Bastille, it seems entrepreneurship was alive and well in post-Revolutionary Paris: “Life is hard, but it is harder if you have too many scruples.”

“Let us weep for the loss of Mirebeau.” 

Remembering my World History seminars the lettres de cachet are pointed to as one of the most egregious institutions of the French Royalty that precipitated revolution. A lettre de cachet also plays a large part in Dickens’ Zanoni-inspired A Tale of Two Cities.

I was able to find two books I believe might be Wilson’s The Taking of the Bastille, the first is a historical novel by Alexander Dumas and the second is a history written in 1970 by Jacques Godechot. Which one it is depends on if Wilson was being a smartass or actually had been reading this book at closing time and forgot the author. I couldn’t imagine him truly forgetting Dumas’ name but having read neither book I don’t know which one (perhaps) contains the scene of Chartres tossing coins.

Do be careful today everyone, THEY say that Friday the 13th is bad luck.

From Eric Wagner: “For this week I’ve chosen Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor with Friday the 13th in mind. As a kid I loved this piece. It made me think of Captain Nemo and the Phantom of the Opera.” 

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Latest books read

A few reading notes on books I finished recently:

High Weirdness: Drugs, Esoterica, and Visionary Experiences in the Seventies, Erik Davis. Really good book, see my review. 

Exit Strategy, Martha Wells. Fourth in the "Murderbot" series. Very good series of short science fiction novels -- everyone I know who has read them like them -- but start with the first in the series, All Systems Red. 

The New Right: A Journey to the Fringe of American Politics, Michael Malice. A rather flawed book, but also very interesting and worth reading. I know now more about the "new right" than before, but the book also is about the progressive left, which Malice also criticizes. Many apropos observations, but in the end Malice makes the right wingers sound better and smarter than they actually are. (Are they really all polite and erudite?) Vox Day in particular comes off better than he deserves.

I read this after reading Tyler Cowen's review. 

Grant, Ron Chernow. Very interesting, and I learned a lot about American history and even Ohio history in the course of learning about Grant. A bit wordy, but you'll find out why Grant's reputation is growing, and why Robert E. Lee's has been falling.

Fall, or Dodge in Hell, Neal Stephenson. This book is a sequel of sorts to Reamde, but it is a very different book, a more difficult read than most Stephenson books, a philosophical book more akin to Anathem than Reamde. Maybe Stephenson's most ambitious book. Rewarding, with an ending more satisfying than some Stephenson books.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Eric chooses a soundtrack for us

Gregory Arnott has asked Eric Wagner (author of An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson, new edition out soon, more about that coming up) to suggest pieces to serve as a soundtrack for our ongoing The Widow's Son discussion group, and Eric has agreed to rise to the challenge.

"For this week (chapters 5 & 6), I have selected Haydn’s String Quartet Op. 20 #4 from 1772. Joseph Kerman frequently refers to the fugal finales from the Op. 20 quartets as Haydn demonstrating he had mastered Baroque counterpoint," Eric says.

Many of you with a library card should also be able to borrow from Hoopla, as I have just done.

Monday, September 9, 2019

How the Prometheus Award began

Michael Grossberg in the early 1980s, when he was founding the Libertarian Futurist Society. Photo courtesy Mr. Grossberg. 

The Prometheus Award is the annual award given by the Libertarian Futurist Society for works of science fiction that are of interest to libertarian science fiction fans. The first award was given out in 1979 as a one-off; it was then institutionalized with the founding of the LFS, and it's been given every year since 1982. It's the only literary award given to Robert Shea and to Robert Anton Wilson, at least that I know of; they got a Prometheus Hall of Fame Award in 1986 for Illuminatus! (in a tie with Cyril Kornbluth's The Syndic. (You can read Shea's acceptance speech and Wilson's thank you letter.)

I have recently completed two long interviews for the Libertarian Futurist Society blog on the two founders of the awards: science fiction writer L. Neil Smith, who gave out the first award in 1979, and writer, critic and  journalist Michael Grossberg, who founded the Libertarian Futurist Society and has been active ever since in keeping the award going. The Smith interview posted June 22; the interview with Grossberg went up Friday. Together, I think the interviews provide a pretty good oral history of how the award began.

I'm active in the Libertarian Futurist Society and serve on the organization's board.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Our new reading group has a logo!

Not too late to join our new reading group for The Widow's Son, and the comments in Week Three are starting to heat up.  And Rasa has  now done a meme for  us! Thanks Rasa! (It seems to me that one of the advantages of RAW fandom is that he inspires some quite good artists, e.g. Bobby Campbell, Rasa, amoeba, all of those folks who do Adam Gorightly's Eris of the Month, etc. etc.)

Saturday, September 7, 2019

RAW reviews 'Junky'

Another interesting find from Martin Wagner: A review by Robert Anton Wilson of William Burroughs' Junky.  Opening sentences: "In 1957, looking at 100 pages of an unpublished book by William S. Burroughs called Naked Lunch, I said, 'This man is the greatest prose stylist since James Joyce.' I believe that my opinions on every other subject in the galaxy have changed in the two decades since I made that judgement, but my opinion of Bill Burroughs hasn’t changed. This man is still the greatest prose stylist since James Joyce.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Widow's Son reading group, Week Three

Antoine de Sartine ("Sardines") Chief of Police

By Gregory Arnott
Special guest blogger

Week Three: (Hilaritas Press edition pg. 35-50, Chapters 5&6 all editions)

Taking in the book at a slower pace it is easier to savor the overt presence of death and birth in nearly every paragraph in The Widow’s Son.

In Chapter 5 we begin with the very pregnant Maria Maldonado troubled over Merovingian nightmares and the distressing misnomer of “morning sickness.” I think her anxiety over what exact time of day she is sick is a good example of the annoying and persistent traps we fall into because of words and labels.  Having never been pregnant, nor ever having to entertain the notion that I might one day become pregnant, I don’t know how much leeway I have to judge this scene; but I would say it is an empathetic portrait of the character and true to my own experiences with physical/spiritual anxiety. (It’s worth noting that our Tom Jackson has always pointed out that Maria is, in his opinion, RAW’s most complete female character.)

I haven’t read Holy Blood, Holy Grail and I think that’s one big blind spot for someone trying to lead this group. (I did read The Da Vinci Code when I was fourteen if that counts, haha.) So if any of you have read the book please fill us in on pertinent information, unscrupulously sourced or not, from the book to the Merovingians in The Widow’s Son. With that said, from the context I could pick up about the scene it probably had more to do with Lovecraft than Baigent, Lincoln, and Leigh. The Merovingians, while perhaps more aesthetically pleasing, are reminiscent of Lovecraft’s daemonic Deep Ones which manage to be alluring in spite of their grotesque and otherworldly appearance. (If you haven’t read “The Shadow Over Innsmouth,” why not?)

Maria’s thoughts also give insights into what I’m beginning to think are two of the most interesting themes of the novel so far: the idea that people usually believe themselves to live in an “enlightened” and advanced time without understanding how primitive their society is and the divide between Catholicism and Protestantism. In light of the first theme in Chapter 5 we have Maria trying to banish her bad dream by thinking “It was 1771 and intelligent people did not believe in old legends like that anymore” and her blind grasps at what might affect her sullen husband. In Chapter 6 we have the facts of Parisian living, a metropolitan lifestyle if there was one according to the standards of the day, soberly related with an emphasis on the pervasive smell of shit hanging everywhere. “The philosophes tell each other how enlightened the world is becoming.” Perhaps we don’t munch on loaves of bread with fecal matter in them everyday but I have a feeling most of us eat more shit than we realize.

The difference between the Catholic mode of reality and the Protestant mode of reality, or at least the eighteenth century thinking person’s remix, is something that is necessarily pervasive throughout this novel. Somehow, like many outdated debates, this seems to be becoming a more relevant issue than it was when I first read this novel. I hope to develop my thoughts on this as we go along.

In Chapter 6 we spend the briefest amount of time with Sigismundo and the rest of the chapter with the characters of Paris and Lieutenant Sartines. While an administrator and chief of police, both secret and exoteric, might not seem like Wilson’s kind of guy I think he expresses a certain amount of respect for Antoine in this chapter, at least implicitly. Having just finished the RAW portion of Erik Davis’ High Weirdness, I was reminded of a small point where Davis points out that RAW occasionally shows sympathy with law-and-order policeman types such as Saul Goodman and Barney Muldoon in Illuminatus!.

Since we do not have a de Selby quote in this week’s reading, here is a selection from The Third Policeman: “in the Layman’s Atlas...he inveighs savagely against ‘the insanitary conditions prevailing everywhere after six o’clock’ and makes the famous gaffe that death is merely ‘the collapse of the heart from the strain of a lifetime of fits and fainting.’” We won’t be truly civilized until we do something about all this goddamned noxious black air.  

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

John Higgs breaking news roundup!

John Higgs goes on the Ezra Klein Show for an hour and a half, and the result is one of the better podcasts you will hear this year. It opens with a sound clip of John talking about reality tunnels, and that sets the tone for a meaty podcast -- John talks about Timothy Leary, Robert Anton Wilson, the cast for pragmatic optimism and other topics. Toward the end, when John is asked to recommend three books, one of them is Cosmic Trigger I. Available here and on the usual podcasting apps. Nice to hear RAW discussed outside of the usual places.

Fun fact: Ezra Klein is a prominent American political journalist (co-founder of Vox etc.) but he also is married to writer Annie Lowrey, who has been mentioned on this blog because last year she published a well-received book on the case for the UBI, Give People Money.

Higgs get hitched. Not to be outdone by Ezra Klein, John decided to get married, too, jumping hastily into matrimony on impulse after being together with Joanne for 26 years and spawning children. A photo of the occasion is reproduced above. Congratulations to one of my favorite British writers.

More Higgs news here, including the book tour to promote the new book about William Blake.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Erik Davis' podcasts

Erik Davis

Can't get enough Erik Davis after reading his excellent new book, High Weirdness?

I would suggest listening to his "Expanding Mind" podcasts, which explore some of the same territory as his books. The podcast is on summer hiatus right now, but there are  dozens of episodes to explore. I listened to the Silicon Valley Fever episode as I drove to work this morning

Monday, September 2, 2019

Tune in to Radio 23

Didn't make it to Castle Perilous 23?  An online radio station with programs recorded from it is being set up at Radio 23. The website says,

"Radio23 is a new online station, following on from Pilgrim Radio, which was part of the CERN pilgrimage in April 2019.

"Due to lack of wifi we may not be able to broadcast from Castle Perilous, but will do our best. A full programme of radio shows will be made available from early September 2019."

"There will also be a permanent, ongoing broadcast of discordian content after the festival," James Burt tells me on Twitter.

Possibly related bonus bit: Mr. Burt has started an online forum to discuss The Invisibles, everyone is welcome.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Brad LInaweaver has died

Brad Linaweaver. Creative Commons photo.

Science fiction writer Brad Linaweaver has died. Best known for Moon of Ice, Linaweaver was a two-time winner of the Prometheus Award; Mike Glyer has posted a well-done obituary at File 770. 

Friday, August 30, 2019

The Widow's Son online reading group, Week Two

King Louis XVI

By Gregory Arnott
Special guest blogger

This week: Pages 21 to 33 of the Hilaritas Press edition, chapters Three and Four of all editions) 

This week we get to read Signor Duccio’s beginning of an account of the Upheaval of ‘89 and after the irascible yet clear-minded stonecutter runs through the usual factions blamed for the Revolution- King Louis XVI, the Duc de Orleans, and the ever-present Illuminati- provides a rudimentary lesson in sociological analysis. (Note Duccio’s profession and rank in conjunction with the faux-quote from The Gospel of Mary and Masonry.) Duccio seems to me to be another Wilson alter-ego whose cynicism is borne from seeing beyond the conventions of his time and presenting a very Wilsonian idea of technological advancement as freedom from poverty.

On page 27 (Hilaritas edition) there is a footnote mentioning the Gordon Riots- obviously we are meant to consider the property damage of the Riots comparatively with the French Revolution in a negative light. One person in his young twenties had fond memories of the Riots who I think bears mentioning: William Blake. The young Blake stood with the crowd and happily watched Newgate Prison burn to the ground, set ablaze by King Mob. I can’t really bring myself to shed a tear for the unfortunate land-owners of London myself.

Finally Chapter 3 ends with the second direct mention of Sigismundo by name, this time not being sized up for murder but instead in the same breath of conflicted Robespierre. Something to think about.

The next chapter is a short missive from the A.’.A.’. which wasn’t formally announced until the dawn of the Twentieth Century- I imagine most of us reading the book are familiar with Crowley, the Golden Dawn, and the A.’.A.’.. (If not, everything in the first footnote to this chapter is absolutely true and it's been around since Atlantis, also real, controlling everything behind the scenes.)  There are a number of fascinating ideas brought up over the course of the three pages that make up Chapter 4- the A.’.A.’.’s original purpose of protecting the Widow and the Widow’s Son, the complete transformation of the human mind, the rejection of dogmatic doubt in favor of uncertainty, another Bible quote, this time from the Gospel of Luke, and cave-dwelling enlightenment. I’m sure someone will have an interesting take on all of this in the comments.

Finally, our de Selby for the week: “The more we know, the less we sense, and the true rationalist would be autistic, narcissistic, and strictly senseless.” (Similar qualities to de Selby’s rationalist are routinely ascribed to my generation.)

Next week I’d like to cover three chapters, please let me know what you all think!

Thursday, August 29, 2019

'Dadtown' coming out soon

Adrian Reynolds reports that his Dadtown comic book will be released soon. (I read the first parts of it and posted about it, for example here.)  He writes,

"We discovered at a comic convention the quickest way to get across Dadtown is with the phrase “Toddlers with shotguns!”. That element of high-octane weird mayhem comes from being exposed to the shock of 2000AD at the right age, just as it was launched. It’s a story about family messed-up to Greek tragedy levels; whether a clone has an identity beyond the person they’ve duplicated; and how the human inhabitants of an alien world can get beyond colonial thinking. Peek closer and you’ll see environmental and mythic themes too – it all comes together on the subject of monsters... "

A limited edition print that will launch Oct. 19 is for sale (UK only, for now). Details here.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Castle Perilous 23 starts soon

I can't show you a picture of the secret castle for Castle Perilous 23, but here is Trifels Castle in Germany. Maybe it looks a little bit like the secret Discordian castle in England. 

An update on Castle Perilous 23 (which begins Friday at a secret castle in England): Apparently a few tickets might still be available, check the Twitter account for updates.

A document has been published listing some of the programming, including "Daisy Campbell My Full Confession" and "Pop Culture Magic Workshop With Cat Vincent." I don't know what an "Amatory Artist" is (Sarah Kershaw), nor can I tell you much about "Discordian Resistance Training" or the "Naked Grace Missionaries," but it sounds interesting.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

New Widow's Son link list

Donatello's "The Penitent Mary Magdalen"

I've created a new links list at the top right to archive posts for the new Widow's Son reading group; if you miss the first couple of weeks, it should be easy to get caught up. The quality of the discussion so far is pretty good, so jump in. 

Monday, August 26, 2019

Adam Gorightly on the 'Lone Gunman' podcast

Adam Gorightly (left) with Robert Anton Wilson. 

“Deep diving back into the New Orleans underbelly with noted author and crackpot historian, Adam Gorightly! We discuss his multipart article on the antics and associations of the shotgun toting Pastor himself.”

The podcast covers the Rev. Raymond Broshears business.

Link here.  Adam also links to all of his Broshears material.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

'Lost' Orson Welles play to be published

Orson Welles at work on 'The Magnificent Ambersons,' 1942 (public domain photo). 

Marching Song, a play about the militant abolitionist John Brown co-written by Orson Welles, has just been published as a new book.  It was never produced on Broadway, never published before, but did get a performance in Woodstock, N.Y.

You can read an article about it. The article is on wellesnet, "the Orson Welles web resource."

Saturday, August 24, 2019

RAW interviews P. L. Travers

P.L. Travers in 1924 (as Titania in "A Midsummer's Night Dream")

Robert Anton Wilson interviews P.L. Travers (author of the Mary Poppins books) and it's a remarkable dialogue, covering myth, Irish writing and Zen, among other topics. Another fine discovery from Martin Wagner. A couple of bits to give you the idea:

Wilson: Why are myths so important?
Travers: Because they are always being reenacted in the ordinary diurnal world. The whole terrible Patricia Hearst story, for instance, is a reenactment of the Persephone myth, the maiden who disappears into the underworld. Mrs. Thatcher is another goddess figure—a very stern one.


Wilson: In the film of Mary Poppins, something got lost. There is a stern or forbidding side to Mary that just was not in the film. She was a less interesting character.
Travers: The film was not true to her at all. It was very glamorous and colorful entertainment but it wasn’t Mary Poppins.

Wilson: Why is that element of sternness or authoritarianism necessary?
Travers: That’s her ordinariness.

Good work, Martin!

Friday, August 23, 2019

The Widow's Son Reading Group: 1

Mary Magdelene. Painting by Artemisia Gentileschi

Week One: Pages 1-20, Chapter One and Chapter Two

By Gregory Arnott
Special guest blogger

I believe we can begin our conspiracy on the first page. The Gospel of Mary was an early Christian writing that was first rediscovered in the late nineteenth centuries. After reading it I can’t find the quote, although the translations I looked at mentioned that the first pages of the manuscript were missing when it was found. I would recommend reading the Gospel if you have the time and inclination: here is the translation I preferred.

“The stone that the builders rejected” is a phrase that is derived from the 118th Psalm of the Old Testament, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the capstone” (KJV), and is used repeatedly throughout the proper Gospels, Acts, and the first epistle of Peter. It is relatively well known, or as well known as any of these things are, that the phrase is a part of Masonic ritual and symbolism. I can make a crack at what the mysterious phrase might mean but I’d enjoy everyone else’s interpretation more -- please share in the comments! Later this line will be of particular importance to Sir Babcock’s story.

The next page begins with an authenticable quote from one of Robespierre’s letters. One of the more controversial figures in French history, Robespierre did have some pretty good ideas but is mostly, or at least it seems to me to be the case, remembered as an example of bloody demagoguery. The novel begins with an example of the wretchedness of most of the French citizenry in the years preceding the Revolution and in Chapter 3, which we will read next week, the reader is introduced to Luigi Duccio, a former compatriot of Robespierre. The historical ambivalence of Robespierre, and the fatalistic sentiment of this excerpt from his letters, is another piquant flavoring to the novel.

The quote from de Selby, whose works we’ll be visiting, isn’t in any of the studies by Flann O’Brien that I have on hand. Here is a quote from the philosopher that begins O’Brien’s The Third Policeman for comparison:

“Human existence being an hallucination containing in itself the secondary hallucinations of day and night (the latter an insanitary condition of the atmosphere due to accretions of black air) it ill becomes any man of sense to be concerned at the illusory approach of the supreme hallucination known as death.”

This is a novel concerned with the cycles of life and death, great mysteries, and hallucinations --hopefully this quote gives some context to why RAW spends so much time exploring de Selby’s ideas throughout.

The final quote is a sadly benighted sentiment from Professor Hanfkopt’s Werke that suggests man should aspire to be disinterested and objective- anyone familiar with Wilson’s work can go ahead and laugh. On RAWilsonFans an article written by Hanfkopt is available “Art as Black Magick and Moral Subversion” from 1988. Two letter writers who must have been very real wrote back in response and both give some helpful analysis of the Professor’s name:

“By the way, HANFKOPF is a rather unusual German name. HANF is the German expression for the now illegal substance you can use for making paper, cloth or joints. KOPF just means head.”


“My elation felt over the new shape of “Critique” Journal was shortened by finding in it the deplorable article by “Hanfkopf” “Art as Black Magick.” Well, what can you expect from a “Hanf-” (cannabis, hemp, hashish, marijuana) “-kopf (head), an “acid head” plain and simple.”

Another essay at the site, “The Persistence of False Memory,” contains another one of Wilson’s cracks at de Selby, here classified as a thinker of the Pataphysical School of writers, and a brief mention of Professor Hanfkopt and his book The CIA: Pawn of the Interstellar Bankers.

Finally we can read another account of Wilson’s of an ominous meeting he attended with J. R. “Bob” Dobbs, Professor Timothy Finnegan, and de Selby in “The Horror on Howth Hill” from Email to the Universe (pg. 193 Hilaritas Press) where Hanfkopf is identified as a foe of de Selby’s and a particularly rabid member of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, CSICOP, which is now known as CSI or the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. The current name of the organization is truly hilarious since they certainly seem to have no need for skepticism, considering how they’ve figured everything out.

Which brings us to the narrative proper:

Armand, Georges, and Lucien seem like a cheerful lot, don’t they? Wilson analyzes each peasant present in the opening scenes, including the innkeeper, over the first two chapters. It’s a good thing we’ve progressed so far since this time since people are no longer paranoid, hold those in power as unassailable, blame problems on foreigners and women, or live their lives without ever realizing how hard the boot on their neck is pressing down. Our President certainly doesn’t sound like an advanced syphilitic who spouts dangerous nonsense all the time. (As de Selby says in Golden Hours “an idiot who has found people more ignorant than himself and knows how to bewitch them.”)

“But the fuck, you know, everything is scary in this world. Guys like us, we don’t get hanged for one thing, sure as shit we get hanged later for something else, maybe something we didn’t even do, you know?” As the recent history of the death penalty and Texas can indicate, no one from the lower classes is ever killed for crimes they didn’t commit anymore. Nor do we have a class of people desperately clawing their way through an uncaring world. Thank God for our glorious civilization.

On page 17-18 you can see the bane of my copy-editing: the incredibly detailed footnotes. However, this is highly indicative of how O’Brien documents de Selby’s ideas and controversies.

We know less about Pierre who seems to dislike his charges and dogs. As he enters the inn he puts the speculation about the King’s pox and Sartines mouches temporarily to rest with a more urgent complaint about dogshit on his shoe. It reminded me of this passage from Masks of the Illuminati:

“We were talking about socialism when I went to the bar," Einstein remarked, "and now we are flying perilously close to the clouds of solipsism. Jeem, at once now, no cheating: What do you really believe is real?"

"Dog shit in the street," Joyce answered promptly. "It's rich yellowbrown and clings to your boot like an unpaid landlord. No man is a solipsist while he stands at the curb trying to scrape it off." Le bon mot de Canbronne.” (pg. 9 in my 1981 edition) 

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Bobby Campbell's new brand

Bobby Campbell's announcement on Twitter:  "Introducing OMNIBUS 777! Your Passport to the Weirdoverse :)))

Bobby, a frequent illustrator for Robert Anton Wilson's books (including The Widow's Son) and a prolific comics artist, has launched Omnibus 777 as a handy catalog for all of his comics, available in both digital and paper editions. Bobby often simply gives his stuff away; please look at his Patreon account and consider providing some modest support.  See the benefits he lists; it's another way to interact with "the others."

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

New movie invokes RAW

In Bright Axiom - Trailer from Spencer McCall on Vimeo.

Branka Tesla wrote to me to tell me about a new movie, In Bright Axiom, which she told me opens up with a Robert Anton Wilson quote: “You should view the world as a conspiracy run by a very closely-knit group of nearly omnipotent people, and you should think of those people as yourself and your friends.”

Alfred Korzbyski and William Burroughs also are quoted in the movie.

The description on the official website says, "Under a code of ABSOLUTE DISCRETION, guests are invited into the House of the Latitude, a place where truth and fiction are indistinguishable. This docu-fantasy follows participants through the dark mazes, to a place where a powerful spell is cast, and ultimately broken, as we witness the unforeseen consequences of a daring social experiment."

Branka tells me that the movie premiered at the Berkeley City Club June 19, within walking distance of where Wilson used to live. The official website mentions other screenings in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Cincinnati and Butte, Montana.

Here is the IMDB listing.

Thanks Branka!

Monday, August 19, 2019

More news from the RAW Trust

Yesterday's blog post about the latest newsletter from the RAW Trust focused on our upcoming The Widow's Son reading group (starts Friday!)  but there are some other items I need to highlight. If you haven't signed up for the email newsletter yet, you can read the latest one here. 

The newsletter from Rasa recommends two new RAW books, Robert Anton Wilson: Beyond Conspiracy Theory edited by V. Vale, and Beyond Chaos and Beyond, edited by D. Scott Apel. Rasa writes about one of his favorite RAW anecdotes in the Apel book. He's also gotten permission to reprint Andrew Bishop's well-down introduction to the Vale book, and published it as a blog post.  Rasa also links to my review of the Vale book, and I've posted many times about the Apel tome, including this review.

Rasa also writes that Hilaritas "has been simultaneously working on our next four reissues of RAW titles on our list."

According to the Hilaritas website, the next four titles scheduled to be republished are Sex, Drugs and Magick: A Journey Beyond Limits, The New Inquisition, Ishtar Rising and Reality Is What You Can Get Away With. Of course, when these reissues become available, I will be reporting on it here. 

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Eight reasons to join the 'Widow's Son' reading group

The online reading group for The Widow's Son begins Friday. Here are eight reasons to join us!

1. According to Eric Wagner's An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson, The Widow's Son was Robert Anton Wilson's favorite among his novels. So you'll be discussing a particularly good RAW novel.

2. Our Virgil, serving as our guide as we journey through the book, will be Gregory Arnott, who knows a lot about RAW, magick, literature, history and many other topics.

3. One of the reasons we are having the online reading group (and one reason we did The Earth Will Shake) was to encourage people to purchase the official text of the titles, the new Hilaritas Press editions put out by the Robert Anton Wilson Trust. When you purchase one of those books, the royalties go to Robert Anton Wilson's children. * (I have an old paperback of The Widow's Son but recently bought the Hilaritas ebook -- useful for searching the text).

4. Purchases of The Widow's Son also support Hilaritas Press and contribute to keeping RAW's work in print and available for new readers.  And in fact, our reading group has the imprimatur of Hilaritas Press -- see the above meme, which Rasa created for the new Hilaritas Press newsletter! 

5. Although The Widow's Son is part of a trilogy, in my opinion it works also as a stand-alone. You don't have to have already read The Earth Will Shake, although it's likely a RAW fan will want to read all three works in the  Historical Illuminatus series. RAW used to claim that all three Schroedinger's Cat books could be read in any order, and I lean toward the idea this applies to Historical Illuminatus!.

6. Discussing this book will call attention to the excellent new drawings RAW fandom MVP Bobby Campbell did for the new editions. (For more on that, see this and also this.)

7. The Widow's Son draws on the book Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln. Many of you probably have read the mega best seller that also drew on the book, The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. So if you read both, you can contrast the two. (Also, see this blog post).

8. The Widow's Son also is a favorite book of many RAW fans. See, for example, this blog post, quoting Michael Johnson when I asked about his favorite RAW books: "The Widow's Son seems uber-RAW to me because he's working all (mostbunall?) of his favorite late 20th c. ideas into a novel set in the late 18th century. At the same time he's also doing his "historical novel" with a bit of Bildungsroman added in, PLUS he's got that whole other footnote-world counter-narrative, which captures the mad acidhead postmodernist-cum-surrealist Erisian Wilson. I love that book. He did too. He said when he wrote it — circa 1985 — he was "really hot." He wrote that one in Ireland."

* We recognize not everyone can afford to run out and buy a new book. Please check out a library book (don't overlook interlibrary loan) or get your hands on a cheap used book and join us, anyway.

Peter Fonda -- the RAW connection

Peter Fonda in 2009. Creative Commons photo by Glenn Francis. 

By now, you have likely heard actor Peter Fonda has died. Read the interesting New York Times obituary. 

On Twitter, Prop Anon provides this anecdote:

I met Peter Fonda once at a Kava Bar in Honolulu
I asked him if he knew Robert Anton Wilson
He said "Fuck Yeah" 
He then told me to pick up Bob Dylan's autobiography
"Dylan's a man chauvinist pig, but he can write"
Is what he said
Rest Well Pete. Rest Well

Prop is still working on his RAW biography.  His Twitter account is routinely interesting.

Friday, August 16, 2019

'The Widow's Son' reading group starts soon

Reminder: The new online reading group for The Widow's Son by Robert Anton Wilson will begin on August 23 with a post by my special guest blogger. Please consider joining us/supporting this effort by getting your hands on a copy of the book.

If you can't wait to get started, consider reading the first 20 pages or so. Gregory will give us the exact assignment next Friday.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Why I moderate comments

Because I moderate comments, it can take awhile for them to be posted. I do try to check them morning, noon and night, but unavoidably, I sleep, work and do other things and cannot monitor the blog 24 hours a day.

If you want to know why I feel it's necessary to moderate, here an an example of a comment which someone tried to put on my blog Wednesday:

My name is Arpita Jain. I run my independent Mumbai Escorts Service. I am an independent Mumbai escort girl. My service charge is low according the current market price. My service is super, because I know very well the personal requirement of my each customer. I am comfortable to provide my Mumbai Escorts Service at your home or in Hotel. [Contact information deleted].

If I didn't moderate, I'd have to constantly allow prostitution services to be advertised on my blog.

I also get a lot of "comments" like this:

Welcome to all post of illuminati cult where all your heart desire are granted and power over all things in the world, this is well know fact that the illuminati church consist of multi billionaires and have power, weath, riches and be a famous person in the world. Join the illuminati cult online today and get instant sum of 300million dollars with a free home anywhere you choose to live in the world and also get 100,000,000 dollars monthly as a salary... If you are interested please kindly fill the following Join the Illuminati cult following information's so that we can commerce on your registration as a full member in the secret order of the Illuminati of the magician Full name.............. Country................ State of origin........ Date of birth......... Sex.................... Address.................... Phone................... Email address.............. photo..................... Attach Scan I'd card,passport or driver license containing your full details 

As you can see, the endless "Join the Illuminati" ads I have to block aren't interesting or funny. They are aimed at taking advantage of idiots, and I don't want to enable such efforts.

It speaks pretty badly of Google, the owner of the Blogger site I use, that I have to block stuff like this. I'm not particularly a fan of Facebook, but I never get any spam in my Facebook timeline, much less escort service ads or Illuminati recruitment pitches. Facebook deserves considerable credit for keeping that stuff out.

Google famously has very smart employees, and I don't get why its programmers can't figure out how to block prostitution ads, or keep out identically-worded "comments" that are posted over and over again, at many different locations. (I get the same automated comments over and over again.) Are Google's programmers not as good as Facebook's, or is this just not a priority for Google?

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Raw sex, Raw math and RAW

The October 1969 issue of Playboy, which featured a letter from one "Arnold K. Ravenhurst." 

Here is an unexpected followup to yesterday's post: Crackpot historian, Hollywood actor and all-around MVP Adam Gorightly has a particularly amusing post up at Historia Discordia, "RAW Math vs. RAW Sex," about the time when Discordian Greg Hill responded to a condemnation of sex education in the public schools from the Christian Crusade with a warning about the dire consequences of math education.  The upshot is that Robert Anton Wilson, writing as "Arnold K. Ravenhurst," planted Hill's warning in the Playboy forum.

Adam Gorightly got an assist with his post from Martin Wagner. More Martin Wagner news soon.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Playboy magazine archive available

On Twitter, @advantardeodus has called my attention to the fact that a Playboy magazine archive is now available, remarking, "All issues of Playboy ever on their website from $8/month and I guess you could mine info from them within one month... ??"

Indeed for a reasonable cost, researchers can research a magazine where Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea once worked, and sometimes planted items that found their way into Illuminatus!

The page which offers the digital archive has chosen an issue which shows off the magazine in its heyday: January 1965, a "special holiday issue," with writers listed on the cover who include Vladimir Nabokov, Terry Southern, Ray Bradbury, P.G. Wodehouse and Jack Kerouac. Whatever you think of the magazine, at its height it was quite a cultural force.

Monday, August 12, 2019

J. Neil Schulman has died

J. Neil Schulman in 2017 (Creative Commons photo by Arturo Ruggeroli). 

Libertarian science fiction author J. Neil Schulman died Saturday. He was 66.

Schulman won the Prometheus Award for his novel The Rainbow Cadenza and won the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award for another novel, Alongside Night. 

As I noted in a posting last year, Schulman mentioned Robert Anton Wilson in his last novel, The Fractal Man, and was friends with Wilson.

The Libertarian Futurist Society blog has an article about him.  You can also read a nice appreciation from Stephan Kinsella. 

Sunday, August 11, 2019

My Shostakovich listening project

Dmitri Shostakovich in 1950. (Creative Commons photo). 

Do the rest of you have listening projects? One of my favorite Robert Anton Wilson stories, via Eric Wagner, is about the time RAW sat up all night, tripping on LSD and listening to all of Beethoven's nine symphonies, one after the other. I'd like to replicate that someday, although I'd do it earlier in the day and likely use iced coffee as my main "substance." I wonder which performances were RAW's favorite?

My current listening project is to download and listen to all of Shostakovich's 15 symphonies; I started out with 1-4 last week. (I'm listening to the "Shostakovich and Kondrashin: Complete Symphonies" set with the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, available on Freegal, the public library music service.)

It's interesting to compare my own experience with received opinion. I thought the first symphony, written when Shostakovich was still a teen, to be not one of his best, but still pretty good. That seems to be the consensus. Nobody has anything good to say about symphonies 2 and 3 (including the composer); both are patriotic symphonies that conclude with a chorus. On a first pass, I thought the second, "To October," was enjoyably weird, but the third, "1st of May," didn't do much for me.

The fourth, banned for years because it was too "out there" to risk being played when Stalin was alive, is really great, one of my favorite Shostakovich works, and Kondrashin and his players do a fine job with it. I like it much better than the more-famous fifth, which seems a bit pompous to me. The fourth has undergone a big revival in recent  years; there are many different recordings of it to choose from.

The conventional opinion is that Shostakovich's 15 string quartets are more consistent in quality; his symphonies are considered uneven. I concentrated my listening at first on the string quartets, but I realized the other day I still hadn't heard many of the symphonies. It's time to check them out.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

War on some drugs news

Robert Anton Wilson. Photo by Duncan Harvey, story behind photo here. 

The cruelty and stupidity of what Robert Anton Wilson called the "war on some drugs" rolls on and on.

1. Tweet from the great Radley Balko:

"Cops claimed that field tests showed the white powder on the hood of the Georgia Southern QB’s car was cocaine. He said it was bird poop. He was suspended, and widely ridiculed by national media outlets.

"Guess what? It was bird poop."

The quarterback is black, of course.


2. In Sandusky, Ohio, where I'm a newspaper reporter, local pharmacies have figured out how to solve the opioid epidemic -- by denying pain pills to a late stage cancer patient and other chronic pain patients.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Notes on Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan with Allen Ginsberg during the Rolling Thunder tour. (Creative Commons photo by Elsa Dorfman.)

I finally got to see Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story on Netflix, which mixes fact and fiction in depicting Dylan's 1970s tour,  and enjoyed it very much. I recently noted Oz Fritz' article about the movie, and one of Oz' comments is worth quoting again:

"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."

Indeed, the mixture of truth and BS in Rolling Thunder Revue recalls what RAW did in Illuminatus! and I venture to guess that perhaps RAW might have liked the movie, despite his notorious loathing for Dylan as an artist. It's a much better movie that Dylan's own movie about the tour, Renaldo and Clara. 

One other Dylan note: My favorite live performance is the one he turned in for the Concert for Bangladesh organized by his friend, George Harrison. Although the album of the concert does not seem to be commercially available, I noticed this posting on the Internet archive and shared it with a few friends. As I think of the people who read this blog as my friends, I'm sharing it with the rest of y'all, too. (The track listing is a bit wrong, "Hard Rain" and "Love Minus Zero" are Dylan performances.)

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

We're pretty decent!

The What Magic Is This? podcast has an episode devoted to Robert Anton Wilson. I have not had time to listen to it but will try to get to it soon; 65 minutes long. I don't know much about "Doug," who does the podcast and in the new one features "Adam," but the Twitter account says, "Magician of 15 Years. Works at a Museum. Podcaster. Currently engaged in a lifelong battle with squirrels."

The link to the show episode has useful "Show Notes," essentially a collection of RAW related links, and I get an endorsement for this blog: "Pretty decent Blog devoted to all things Bob." Thanks for the link!

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Rasa on RAW and Olga

By Rasa
[Reprinted by permission from a Facebook posting -- The Management]

Bob's feathered friend Olga . . .

I first heard about Olga in September of 2003 when Robert Anton Wilson sent an email to his private email group (affectionately called the GroupMind). He was sending a reply in a discussion about how Al Franken had said, "God supports my politics." Bob, ignoring the satirical parody nature of Franken's anti-Bush remark. wrote:

• • •

Franken claims God supports his politics; so do such differing theo-politicians as Osama bin Laden, Jerry Falwell, Rush Limbaugh etc. who all claim God supports their politics. Aside from such self-serving claims, Diderot observed empirically that God always gives victory to the side with the biggest cannons. Napoleon, on hearing this, replied that in his experience God supports the best Intelligence service.

Any other empirical data on God's politics, anyone?

--Damned Old Crank

 • • •

Bob had taken to sometimes signing his emails, "Damned Old Crank." Some friends started referring to him as "DOC."

"Surely Franken was being sarcastic" a friend insisted. Bob wrote back:

• • •

But how can one judge such claims? I don't know who we shd consider Divinely inspired, who merely delusional/schizo, who running a con on the gullible, who making a joke, etc. That's why I want empirical data on who the Ancient Jester really supports……


• • •

"Ancient Jester" – I loved that. Various people offered their ideas on what they thought might be God's politics, and then Bob sent this reply:

• • •

If I announce [as I've considered] that God supports the Guns and Dope Party, how many of you will consider that

1. schizo to delusional

2. genuine Divine intervention

3. a con game

4. a hoax, satire, jape etc

How do you rank the similar claims of Monkey-Boy, Jerry Falwell, Son of Sam, the Tsars of Russia, the Tsars of USA, Osama bin Laden, the popes of Rome etc?

Anyway God has personally endorsed the GUNS AND DOPE PARTY and cursed Tsardom. He told me so, speaking through an ostrich named Olga who co-starred with Orson Welles in a thriller called SOUTHERN STAR. Those other guys are just jealous because the Voices don't speak to them and they have to fake it!

• • •

Bob had different names for President Bush. One of them was "Monkey Boy." About a month later, Bob announced in a GroupMind email that he was running for Governor of California as the Guns and Dope Party candidate. Soon after that Bob started describing some of his interactions with Olga. At one point he wrote:

• • •

Olga wants me to run for president next year, and I can't refuse. She's one persuasive bird, bi god.... Did you ever try arguing with a Trans-Human critter two feet taller than you, with a sharp beak yet????


• • •

A few days later I was working with Bob's webmaster, Patrick Farley, and I had set up an online gift shop for the Guns and Dope Party. In emailing Bob and Patrick I gave them the shop's link and wrote,

"By leave of her majesty Tsaritsa Olga," Bob was unfamiliar with the obscure spelling of Tsarina that I had found and wrote the following:

• • •

I believe correct Rooshian is Tsarina, but Olga has a fey sense of humor and prefers Tsardine. Signori, YOU go and argue with her.


• • •

It was about that time that Bob changed his email address, again. He changed his email address several times for various reasons over the years. This time, with Olga much on his mind, he changed his email address to: ""

Bob was a prolific emailer, sending out something interesting at least once a day. It was amusing during that period to check my mail and start seeing regular emails from Olga666! Check out Bob's thoughts on Olga from the Party's website.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Review: 'High Weirdness'

Was Philip K. Dick just crazy in early 1974, or did he have information beamed into him by a Vast Active Living Intelligence System?

And what was it about California in the 1970s that made mystical seekers ready to see a UFO after eating psychedelic mushrooms in Colombia,  or to obtain communications from advanced beings from the Sirius star system?

These are some of the questions California “counter-public intellectual” Erik Davis considers in his new book, High Weirdness: Drugs, Esoterica and Visionary Experience in the Seventies, released in the U.S. by the MIT Press.

The book focuses on three people who were, well, highly weird.

Author Terence McKenna journeyed to Colombia to gobble up psilocybin psychedelic mushrooms and wrote a popular handbook (under a pseudonym) with his brother explaining how to grow them at home.  Robert Anton Wilson, author of the Illuminatus! cult novels  and friend of Timothy Leary, experimented with combining occult rituals, drugs, sex and Beethoven and wound up wondering what reality he was living in. Dick already was a prominent science fiction writer with mental health issues and a drug habit when he began to perceive information was being beamed into his brain.

Davis chronicles and tries to make sense of their wild stories, pursuing his avowed goal is to “take them seriously without taking them literally.”

High Weirdness the most absorbing  nonfiction book I’ve read in months, draws parallels among the three men and their similar experiences. Davis also offers similar but briefer accounts of Leary, who thought he was receiving messages from the stars while serving time in a California prison, and dolphin researcher John Lilly, who once blamed a “Borg-like Solid State Intelligence” for shutting down the Los Angeles airport.

Wilson fans will want to know that Davis devotes two chapters to him, one focusing on Illuminatus! and the other on Cosmic Trigger. The discussion of Wilson's libertarianism and esoteric influences are well-handled. Wilson also haunts the Philip K. Dick chapters in the book; Davis often uses Wilsonian terminology to discuss Dick.

The most well-known of Davis’ weird trinity is Dick, who died in 1982 from a stroke but since then only has grown more popular. His fiction has been made into movies and TV shows such as Minority ReportBladerunner and The Man in the High Castle, and reissued in new editions by the Library of America.

Dick has been closely studied by scholars and fans attempting to make sense of his oddball novels and his Exegesis, a nonfiction document more than 2,000 pages long.  Dick scribbled it trying to make sense of a 1974 experience when a reflection from jewelry worn by a woman making a delivery to his home triggered a series of visionary experiences which inspired  his last novels.
Davis helped edit an abridged version of the Exegesis for publication.

He also seems to have read nearly everything written about Dick and remembered many of the best bits. I did not know, for example, that Leary gave a copy of Dick’s The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch to John Lennon, who considered making a movie out of it. And while I knew that Dick took drugs, I did not realize he took dozens of pills every day as a “knowledgeable and compulsive pillhead.” Or that Dick considered himself an Episcopalian.

Dick was only 53 when he died but was married to five different women. Even during his “closest pass at a convention mainstream life” he sometimes hit wife no. 3 and “more than a few plates were  hurled through the open, glass-walled parlor,” Davis writes.

Dick clearly could be a difficult person to be around, but redeemed himself, at least to people who appreciate fascinating and unique novels, by writing works such as The Man in the High Castle, an alternate history novel set in a U.S. occupied by Nazis and Japanese who have won World War II.
Dick came up with the plot twists in High Castle using the I Ching. Davis is adept at detailing the ancient Asian divination system and the other ingredients of the California counterculture.

Davis himself was a friend of McKenna and “teenage Deadhead” who gobbled up paperbacks of Dick’s science fiction novels. But he also took a degree in English literature from Yale and studied religion in a Ph.D. program at Rice.

This gives him the ability to understand the lifestyle of psychedelic weirdos like McKenna and Wilson. But he also has the scholarly chops to trace the influence of the Jesus Freak movement and H.P. Lovecraft on Dick, and to discuss how the experiences of his trio relate to William James The Varieties of Religious Experience.

Referring to his own  “peculiar” and “enchanted,” experiences, Davis writes, “Then and now, I consider my own work and mind to be part of this stream of feral, fringe, psychedelically-inflected thought, though I am equally a creature of media theory, and Zen, and the comparative study of American religion.”