Tuesday, November 19, 2019

New UFO book out soon

Jesse Walker blurbs a new book, Intimate Alien: The Hidden Story of the UFO by David Halperin, out in March: "David Halperin doesn't believe in the literal reality of flying saucers, but he understands that they needn't physically exist to teach us lessons about a culture that sees them. Part folklorist and part psychologist, Halperin reads our UFO mythos like an alienist analyzing an extended collective dream."

Read the John Wisniewski interview with Halperin, which I published in July.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Cool 'Illuminatus!' video


Spotted on Twitter (thanks to Bobby Campbell's essential RAW Twitter account) a cool video based on the underwater scenes in Illuminatus! from amoeba, cover artist for the Hilaritas Press reissues of RAW's books. 

Here is where you can buy two EPs, Hagbards lost uhf broadcasts 1 and 2.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

The Widow's Son reading group, Week 13

A romanticized depiction of Charles Stuart ("Bonnie Prince Charlie") addressing Scottish soldiers during the '45.

Week Thirteen (pg. 199-224 Hilaritas edition, Chapter 9&10 Part II all editions)

By Gregory Arnott,
Special guest blogger

Arctic Tern chicks take flight on Dalkey Island: Some recent news. It seems that the arctic tern has a longer migration pattern, from Arctic to Antarctic, than any other creature on Earth. Their migratory behavior also guarantees that they see more daylight than any other creature on Earth. It is appropriate for a species identified by de Selby to avoid toxic black air. 

As Seamus marches from the barracks he ruminates on many of RAW’s favorite demons: double-cross, paranoia, violence and madness. 

Interestingly, my light research indicates that “Croppies Lie Down” wasn’t sang until the Irish Rebellion of 1798. In fact, I was unable to find the verse sang in The Widow’s Son anywhere in the original lyrics and at first only excerpted in a book from 2003 by a historian named William Kelleher: The Troubles in Ballybogoin: Memory and Identity in Northern Ireland.  Eventually I found the same verse in some other books- the oldest one being from 1982. Too Long a Sacrifice is a history of the Troubles in Northern Ireland since 1969; the author, Jack Holland, had a Protestant father and Catholic mother and worked as a news reporter. This leads me to believe that the verse must have been added to the original song sometime during the late twentieth century. The last line before the refrain “And soon the bright Orange put down the Green rag” is particularly aggressive and certainly could have been penned amidst the violence and politics. So it seems that neither the song, or especially this verse, dated back to the Battle of the Boyne. Another trick by Mr. Wilson. 

The Rebellion of 1798 was led by Presbyterians and joined by the Catholics which gives credence to the discussion of how the recension of the Declaration of Independence of Conscience by William of Orange really fucked over anyone who wasn’t an Anglican. The “croppies” of the song were so-called because the revolutionaries cut their hair in the French Jacobin style (not to be confused with the Jacobites).

The Declaration of the Independence of Conscience is more widely known as either the Declaration(s) of Indulgence or the Declaration of the Liberty of Conscience. Of course, James II wasn’t exactly being as beneficent as the text reads and was mostly trying to make his own Catholic faith legal. The founder of Pennsylvania and guy from the Oatmeal tube, William Penn, was a supporter of the Declaration and later quit the party when it was rescinded after the Glorious Revolution. (I’m somewhat certain the guy from the Quaker Oatmeal container isn’t actually William Penn but that’s how I’ve always pictured him.) 

The short reign of James II and the Glorious Revolution is one of the most fascinating parts, in my opinion, of British history. Since studying James II and VII in one of my seminars I have always felt like it was a pity Shakespeare wasn’t around afterwards. The whole debacle could have fit in well with his other Histories as it is replete with scheming nobility and bishops, an ambiguous monarch, and the heavy tread of Fate.This would lead to a series of Jacobite Rebellions and the (perhaps undeserved)  martyrdom of James Stuart, Charles Stuart, and the veterans of the uprising of 1689, the Fifteen, and the Forty-Five from whence “The Skye Boat Song” originated. (Here is a good overview of the Rebellion of ‘45 from the Adam Smith Institute. November 8th was the anniversary of Charles Stuart’s initial invasion.) 

I believe the footnote on pg 204-205 (Hilaritas edition) not only serves to further the de Selby conspiracy sub-narrative but to illustrate the ambiguities of any religious authority. Although we see the Catholic Muadhen mutilated and driven to murderous intent by Protestant oppression, we are reminded that the Catholic machinations in Britain, or elsewhere in the world, were hardly benevolent. 

The conversation between Weishaupt and Cagliostro is supposed to by mysterious but the reader of RAW’s other works is easily able to perceive, read between the lines, or at least think that they can easily perceive the undercurrents and connections in their speech. Phrases such as when the stars are right, Et in Arcadia Ego, and the benediction/response of Ewige Blumenkraft (Eternal Flower Power)/Und Ewige Schlangekraft (and Eternal Serpent Power) should be familiar from Illuminatus! and other writings. The term cowans is still used in Masonic lodges and the footnote provided by RAW links this term to others such as “pashu” (“the unwashed herd”), used by initiates of Tantric cults to refer to the unenlightened. 

That Weishaupt was commonly referred to as “a deep one” is an assertion that RAW repeats elsewhere. Aside from the surface meaning it is easy to see this as another of RAW’s devices tying Weishaupt to Lovecraftian nightmares. (See also the “die wascally wabbit” scene from Illuminatus!.) Weishaupt’s “time-vision” is an example of slipping into the Morgensheutegesternwelf or the yesterday-today-tomorrow-world spoken of in Illuminatus!. RAW, with the benefit of a couple centuries and his expertise is able to make a convincing vision of the future of the Illuminati. On page 213, Hilaritas edition, I see that I made a mistake in my editing and should have inserted a break between Weishaupt’s low opinion of the Knights of Malta and Sir John drinking Guiness and talking about Machiavelli. 

Babcock’s somewhat drunken and perhaps indiscreet joke about Machiavelli, tied with his anxious reflections, makes an interesting triple interpretation of Machiavelli’s political tract as both a religious and sexual allegory. We are also treated to some heavy irony that Babcock is exhausted by a “long hard day in Parliament” when we have read about so many characters in powerless, poverty-stricken situations. The irony is compounded when we find out that Seamus Muadhen, now James Moon, is employed as his servant and waiting outside the tavern. The reader understands how priggish Babcock’s well-intentioned thoughts about the “poor lad” and “the boy” whistling incriminating songs really are as he believes himself to know more about James than he possibly could. 

The thunderstone falls from the sky and interrupts Babcock’s thoughts; is this an inscrutable sign of a Machiavellian God or Author? 

The paragraph from pg 219-220 (Hilaritas) where Moon considers that history is made by the rash those with too much “fooken imagination” are left its passive victims is as good of writing as any in RAW’s work. It is reminiscent of another Hamlet-obsessed, young Irishman’s ruminations on the nature of history. 

The long footnote in the chapter discusses de Selby’s concept of plenumary time which sounds very familiar to the quantum interpretations of Heisenberg and the more recent work of Alan and Steve Moore. I cannot do justice to either Moore’s time/space paradigm here and anyone interested should study Alan’s Jerusalem and then study it some more. 

At the end of the chapter Moon’s moral decision is interrupted by the ancestor of George Dorn, who will also wrestle with the ideas of cowardice versus compassion, with the announcement that Maria, Lady Babcock is in labor. Seamus/James is left behind to uninter the thunderstone. Debate on rocks from the sky and new life awaits.

This week’s selection from Eric Wagner: "This week I have chosen Beethoven’s Cantata on the Death of Emperor Joseph.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjGhUaAp69c .

"The narrator of The Widow’s Son calls this piece “as supreme a work of Masonic ideology set to music as Mozart’s Magic Flute” (pg. 210). (The number 210 plays a central role in Crowley’s notions about sex magick - the two become one become nothing.)" 

Saturday, November 16, 2019

A look back at the Prometheus Award winners

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Prometheus Award, Michael Grossberg, the founder of the Libertarian Futurist Society (the group that gives the award) has been doing a series of appreciations of the winners for the Prometheus Awards blog. 

The books he's covered so far are Wheels Within Wheels by F. Paul Wilson; The Probability Broach, L. Neil Smith; Voyage from Yesteryear, James P. Hogan; The Rainbow Cadenza, J. Neil Schulman; The Cybernetic Samurai, Victor Milan; Marooned in Real Time, Vernor Vinge; The Jehovah Contract, Victor Koman, and Moon of Ice, Brad Linaweaver.

Most of these pieces are written by Michael, but there's also a piece by William Stoddard about 1985, when the LFS went with No Award rather than give an award. As Stoddard notes, the  year actually had "some fairly strong choices." I've read one of them, Lee Correy's Manna, and it's not bad.

With 40 years of awards, there's much more to come.

Friday, November 15, 2019

New 'Insider's Guide' out Dec. 11

Eric Wagner

A new third revised edition of Eric Wagner's An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson will published on Dec. 11.

As I understand it, the second edition did not have changes in the text. The new third revised edition, however, is a substantial revision with many changes and with quite a bit of new material. More about this when we get closer to the publication date.

I have a paperback of the original first edition. I plan to buy a Kindle of the new edition, so that I'll have a searchable text.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

'Journeys to the Edge of Consciousness'

A trailer for a movie that looks interesting. Via Erik Davis, who writes on Twitter. "Journeys to the edge of Consciousness: trailer for a new Aussie semi-animated treatment of the big psychedelic trips of Huxley, Leary, and Watts:  Interesting minimalist animation; includes familiar talking heads."

I can't figure out where to watch it; can anyone help? 

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Wednesday links

Maybe when you buy this you can support  your local  bookstore.

How to pay for an author's books (John Scalzi, via Supergee.) Maybe some of us could order the new Hilaritas Press books via a local bookstore?

Is the equal sign overrated? Via Charles Faris.

How do psychedelic drugs help people? Via Charles, again.

The number of TV shows continues to grow. 

Best of the decade?

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

RAW's romantic Irish nationalism

In many different places, Robert Anton Wilson references the Battle of Clontarf, usually depicted as an important Irish victory over Viking invaders, and that's how RAW always describes it, for example in this bit from The Widow's Son:

This was the symbol of the armies of Brian Kennedy of Borumu, who had driven the Vikings out of Ireland, and it would surely take another man like Brian Boru to drive out the accursed Saxons. Brian had started his war when he was eighteen, one year older than Seamus, in 944, and he had fought for seventy fooken years, not stopping until he was eighty-eight and the last Viking stronghold in Dublin was defeated on April 23, 1014. (From Chapter Six).

I have been recently gotten interested again in learning about the Vikings. I've watched some early episodes of the "Vikings" TV series, I recently listened to an audiobook of Neil Gaiman's Norse Mythology and a couple of days ago I finished The Age of the Vikings by Anders Winroth, a well-regarded 2014 history of the Vikings which is scholarly (it was put out by the Princeton University Press) but also intended for the general reader rather then specialists. Anders Winroth is a history professor at Yale and recipient of a MacArthur "genius" grant.

The treatment in The Age of the Vikings of the Battle of Clontarf was not what I expected after seeing numerous references to the battle from RAW.

Winroth writes that that battle is described in a twelfth-century work, Cogadh Gáedhel re Gallaibh "The War of the Irish Against the Foreigners," as a battle against foreign invaders described in one passage with 27 negative adjectives, such as "poisonous," "murderous," "piratical foreigners" "pagan" and so on.

Sitric, the "bad guy" in the story, the leader of the Vikings, was in fact a Christian who went on a pilgrimage to Rome in 1028 and asked the pope for an archbishop's see in Dublin. (Dublin was founded by Vikings).

Winroth writes that Irish fighters made up part of Sitric's army while Brian Boru's army included Vikings and points out that the Norse account of the battle says that Sitric won.

"What is certain is that the Irish were unable to expel Sitric from Dublin until he was finally driven out in 1036, after almost a half century of rule," Winroth writes.

Winroth also says that Sitric's expulsion "does not mark the end of Scandinavian rule over Dublin, which continued (by, among others, his nephew Ivar) until the invasion of Ireland by the Norman rulers of England in the twelfth century." (The Normans were themselves the descendants of Vikings).

Of course, everyone has their historical myths, and there are certainly revisionist accounts of the American Revolution. I am fairly certain, however, that the British actually lost.

Monday, November 11, 2019

RAW's 'America Phantasmagoria'

Another Martin Wagner rediscovery: "America Phantasmagoria," which is by “Kevin O’Flaherty McCool (mosprobably Robert Anton Wilson)" and was published in 1967; it appears to be written in the cut-up style and has an antiwar theme and also features World War II revisionism. Excerpt:

Admiral Mahan “the theorist of naval imperialism” was the first one to turn Roosevelt’s mind toward war with Japan — Mahan’s famous “inevitable chain” of industry / markets / control / naval bases, was impressed on Roosevelt’s mind toward 1914 — Roosevelt saw that control of the Pacific market was indispensible for the survival of finance capitalism, and that Japan was America’s natural antagonist there — LBJ follows today, in his China policy, the basic thinking of Roosevelt’s Japan policy, China having replaced Japan as our antagonist — His policy of seeking war through continuous provocation, forcing the enemy to fire the first shot, is derived from Roosevelt’s brilliant maneuvers leading up to the Pearl Harbor triumph —

For context, see this bit from part two of the Lewis Shiner interview with RAW:

I'd also like to write a book about Pearl Harbor. The revisionist historians have been thoroughly slandered and are mostly out of print. I wouldn't be adding much original; I think everything worth saying has been said by Charles Beard and Harry Elmer Barnes and James J. Martin and a few others. But their books are out of print or hard to find. My book would be just one more effort against what Barnes called "the historical blackout." One more effort to put the facts on record.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

The Widow's Son reading group, Week Twelve

Week Twelve (pg 187-198 Hilaritas edition, Part II, Chapters 7 & 8 all editions) 

By Gregory Arnott, special guest blogger

Maria’s daybook begins with her musing on the climate of England; both weather-wise and political. While statements such as “...there is still a lurking fear that someone might denounce us all to the Inquisition…” and “yet there is nothing savage about these people; they are all so polite and tactful…” might seem to further illustrate the difference between Southern and Northern Europe during the eighteenth century, her perspective and opinions are undermined by what we have witnessed in the previous chapter. Her observation that her husband has kindly not asked her to convert to Protestantism is mocked by the rabidly anti-Catholic policies being carried out partly in his name across the Irish Sea. We can contrast the observation of Maria’s that she couldn’t imagine an Englishman biting his thumbnail at another or stabbing another person in anger with the fact that some of Seamus Muadhen’s fingernails have been pulled out during his interrogation and his torture has been carried out most methodically. Even her bringing up Jonathan Swift’s  “indecent language” is unhappily hilarious compared to what he was he was critiquing; as has been mentioned, he wrote one of the most effective protests against the English occupation of Ireland of his time. (Interestingly a group skeptical of climate change recently tried to use “A Modest Proposal” as the basis of a “clever” protest which instead displayed their complete lack of reading comprehension skills. I guess that type of person probably doesn’t digest straight-forward information very accurately, let alone a parody that has been explained ad nauseum since its publication.) 

John Wilkes was as controversial a figure as Maria’s writings indicate; at first he was liberal who in the current year of the narrative pushed for the right of publishers to reproduce Parliamentary debates for public perusal and later supported the cause of the American colonists. However he made a sharp turn in his later years and began supporting conservative policies before retiring from politics. He was a member of the Monks of St. Francis and was the direct instigator of the prank involving an orangutan and the Earl of Sandwich mentioned in the footnote on pg. 189 (Hilaritas edition). Wilkes, aside from his libertine activities, was also known as a remarkably ugly man which lent himself to caricature and parody. In an exchange with the Earl of Sandwich, the Earl wrote that "Sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox," Wilkes is reported to have replied, "That depends, my lord, on whether I embrace your lordship's principles or your mistress." 

Wilkes “Essay on Woman” was an even bigger scandal than Maria’s private writings indicate and was considered to be the biggest misstep of his career. Here is the text of the poem, which was originally meant to be printed side by side with Pope’s “Essay on Man” for easy comparison. And here is a post on the John Wilkes Club blog that provides context and details about the scandal -- therein they detail more blatant hypocrisy on the part of the Earl of Sandwich who was, in the words of Norm MacDonald, “a real jerk.” Babcock’s observation to his wife that Wilkes is “a saucy rascal but has too much honor to become a true scoundrel” is a repetition of Max Beerbohm’s assessment of the character of Aleister Crowley in Masks of the Illuminati. 

The beginning of Chapter Eight, where Pietro receives a letter from Chartres telling him of Sigismundo’s “death,” gives us a privy perspective of Sigismundo’s attempts to free himself from the Bastille. The hopes that he has pinned on his letter to Chartres denouncing Count Cagliostro are futile and the reader understands by the end of the chapter that Sigismundo’s methodical efforts to hang out the window and slowly weave his rope is his best, and only, avenue of escape at this time. 

On pg. 196-197 (Hilaritas edition) Sigmismundo lists the types of novels to be found in the library of the Bastille. My understanding of the novel as a concept and my knowledge of what novels came out in what year indicate that this list is somewhat anachronistic. Many of the epitomic examples of the six novels would not be published until after 1771. For type One, I’d say that The Count of Monte Cristo would be the most immediate example which wouldn’t be published until 1844. For the second type, the novels of Samual Richardson fit the bill and both Pamela and Clarissa were published thirty years before the narrative so it is plausible translations would have been available. Type Three is obviously the picaresque novel- classic examples such as Grimmelhausen’s Simplicius Simplicissimus had been originally published in the seventeenth century, Voltaire’s parody Candide had been published in 1759, and the novels of Henry Fielding, namely Joseph Andrews and Tom Jones were already published making this the strongest possibility of Sigismundo encountering multiple examples of any type of novel on this list in 1771. (At least in an accurate timeline, but I have never prejudiced RAW his anachronistic elements.) Type Four is obviously modelled on the gothic romances of Anne Radcliffe, yet her oeuvre was not published until the 1790s. Type Five is noted to be based on the novels of Lawrence Sterne, namely Tristram Shandy, but could also describe the French novel Jacques the Fatalist by Diderot which would not be published until the 1790s. Type Six recalls Moby Dick, American naturalism, and some of the short Hemingway-style stories that would not be published until decades, or over a century, after the events of the novel. I’m interested to see what examples the community can think of and look forward to reading them in the comments. 

We end with Sigismundo in a well-deserved slumber and will come back next week for more of the trials and tribulations of Seamus Muadhen as he becomes James Moon, in the service of Sir John Babcock. 

From Eric Wagner: “In honor of Maria’s healing hands, I have chosen Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” for this week. I remember Rick Wakeman quoting this in the movie Yessongs. I play his version on piano in class when demonstrating plagal cadences.” 

(Gregory again) Personally, this is my favorite use of the Chorus: 

Saturday, November 9, 2019

RAW on 'The Widow's Son'

While I was researching another blog post that will have to wait a day or two, I looked at part two of Lewis Shiner's interview with Robert Anton Wilson and rediscovered this. It seems relevant to the online reading group for The Widow's Son and to RAW fans interested in Beethoven and Illuminatus!

RAW: My favorite of all my books is The Widow's Son because I think I created uncertainty better there than anywhere else. I don't think there's anybody in the world who can tell how much of that book is real and how much is fiction. Including me. I don't absolutely know how much to trust my sources.

SHINER: --- and how much you made up may have been true.

RAW: I've had that happen, too. In Illuminatus I made Beethoven a member of the Illuminati. That was a parody of the Christian Crusade in Oklahoma — they were claiming the Beatles were Communist agents. I decided to put it back 200 years and make Beethoven an Illuminati agent. And, my God, that was just a joke, but it's true! Beethoven either belonged to the Illuminati or was certainly a fellow traveler. He was very closely associated with them. I had no idea that was true when I wrote it.

It's a very good interview, if you want to start at the beginning and read all of it, here is part one. 

Shiner in the intro: "It was kind of a weird interview. At the time, I felt like Bob was not really listening to me, kind of talking over me and delivering somewhat prefab responses. Yet when I listened back to the tape, it was a really good interview, and he sounded very compassionate and wise.. "

Lewis Shiner is an interesting writer in his own right who deserves more attention.  He was originally associated with the Austin segment of the cyberpunk movement in science fiction, Bruce Sterling and that crowd. Here is a review of his new novel, Outside the Gates of Eden.  I'm guessing the older readers of this blog are more likely to catch the Bob Dylan reference in the title. Shiner won the World Fantasy Award in 1994 for Glimpses, something I should have mentioned when I originally published the interview. There are more good writers and interesting writers out there than the most determined reader can keep up with.

Friday, November 8, 2019

It's not too late to join in!

In  his kind attention to our ongoing The Widow's Son reading group at the Only Maybe blog, Bogus Magus writes, "In the last post I mentioned studying "The Widow's Son" with an online reading group, but did not add a link to it, partly because we have already reached Week 10.  However, the introductory post, and subsequent comments from the group remain a resource for future reference."

At the risk of sounding self serving, may I make the case that there's no time like the present?

The Widow's Son is not a terribly long novel. It's not a short book, but it's no Anna Karenina, either. (When I began reading Anna, my first wife asked, "Has she thrown herself in front of the train yet?")

My Kindle app says that we are currently 35 percent of the way through The Widow's Son.

The New York Times obituary for the late Harold Bloom says, "Professor Bloom called himself 'a monster' of reading; he said he could read, and absorb, a 400-page book in an hour."

I am a mere mortal, not a monster of reading. Yet even though I have a full time job, and usually don't get to sit down and read until fairly late in the evening, I'm pretty sure I can read 35 percent of a normal-sized novel in a week or two.

I doubt I'm exceptional. So if you haven't started The Widow's Son, or if you've gotten a little behind, catch up with us! It's not too late.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Jason Louv and Casey Ray on William Burroughs

The fascinating and repellant figure of writer William S. Burroughs is the subject of a long Ultraculture podcast, "Casey Rae on William S. Burroughs & Storming the Reality Studio," which features host Jason Louv and guest Casey Rae, the author of the book William S. Burroughs and the Cult of Rock and Roll.  Burroughs of course was a big influence on Robert Anton Wilson.

The long podcast (more than an hour and a half long) explores both the positive and negative sides of Burroughs, the way he inspired many other creative people and the baleful influence he had on the lifestyles of many. As Louv sums up at the end of the podcast, Burroughs is "someone who has been influential for the right reasons and the wrong reasons."

Find out more about Louv's offerings at Magick.me.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

A RAW interview from 1976

Martin Wagner uncovers another old RAW interview, "SMI²LE: An Interview with Robert Anton Wilson" by Howard Pearlstein. It's an interview focusing on RAW's techno-utopian predictions, which unfortunately haven't come about as closely as Wilson hoped. Sample:

Life is being extended all the time. The general life span has been rising sharply in the last hundred years, but the real breakthroughs will come when we begin to understand something about genetic engineering in a positive way. And if it’s possible, as many think, that the DNA triggers the death process, that the DNA-RNA dialogue contains certain signals which just turn on the program that begins the decline of the body and death by old age, learning how to reverse that would also necessarily lead immediately into learning how to create rejuvenation. It is quite possible that many people reading this will never die. That’s a really mind-blasting thought, but it’s a safe statement. I don’t say it’s going to happen, but it is possible.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Was Philip K. Dick a bad writer?

Philip K. Dick is perhaps one of the best examples of a genre science fiction writer who broke through and won mainstream acceptance. You can get a three volume boxed set of 13 of  his novels from the Library of America.  Stanislaw Lem once wrote an essay asserting that nearly all American SF was crap, with the exception of Dick's work.  And of course Robert Anton Wilson was a big fan, which is one reason I bring up Dick here (see RAW's writings in for example Chaos and Beyond and in Beyond Chaos and Beyond.

Yet I have noticed recently that the received wisdom isn't accepted by everyone.

I recently read Jo Walton's An Informal History of the Hugos. She says this about Dick: "I have read half a dozen assorted Dick novels and hated all of them. I can see that he's a very good writer, but I can't stand the way his mind works."

Tyler Cowen posted a list of his ten favorite science fiction novels last year (in response to a request for me; it's a rather good list). In the notes below the list, he writes, "Philip K. Dick is 'idea rich,' but basically a bad and overrated writer."

Cowen recently interviewed political scientist Henry Farrell, who is a Dick admirer; after some good discussion of Gene Wolfe the interview moves on to Dick. Farrell's remarks are worth quoting:

So the best of his creations, if you want to think of the best as a novel, I think is The Transmigration of Timothy Archer, which is plausibly the only genuinely good novel that he wrote, and also is the only novel that has a sympathetic and interesting female character in it. But it’s not his most important work. I think it’s good at showing that towards the end, he managed to get some kind of a sense of himself from outside and a perspective on his struggles with mental health, which clearly were both a driving creative force for him and a source of much personal agony and destruction.

I think that the works that are most important are Ubik and Martian Time-Slip. Both of these are the quintessential Dick novels about how it is that reality can break up and what it feels like to be in that kind of world.

I've read none of the three books Farrell mentions. I have myself read about half a dozen Dick novels (about as many as Jo Walton, I guess). My favorite by a considerable margin is The Man In the High Castle. I also liked Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?  I read Now Wait for Last Year about a couple of years ago and it did little for me. I read The Penultimate Truth and maybe 1-2 others a long time ago. I have Valis sitting on my Kindle and hope to get to it soon. 

Incidentally, Cowen's "Conversations with Tyler" podcast is quite good. 

Monday, November 4, 2019

A Pynchon podcast eyes Iluminatus!

The Pynchon in Public podcast says in a Tweet, "With half the podcast having read it, maybe expect next season to be about V and also probably the Illuminatus! trilogy."

John on Twitter (Twitter handle, @PynchoninPublic) quotes Jesse Walker, "Judging from anecdotal evidence, more people have started Gravity's Rainbow than Illuminatus! But far more people have finished Illuminatus! than Gravity's Rainbow." To which the Pynchon podcast replies, "Probably true. But that was before we did a season in the former. We’re sure we’ve helped tip that particular scale."

The podcast also quotes from Illuminatus! and says, "More from the same book. These guys know their Pynchon...or possibly ARE Pynchon." Trying to be funny, or what?

Hat tip, Mr. Walker.

I'm once again having problems with Blogger, so no illustration today.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

The Widow's Son reading group, Week Eleven

Week Eleven (pg. 161-185 Hilaritas edition, Chapters 5&6 (Part II) all editions)

By Gregory Arnott, special guest blogger 

Chapter Five and Chapter Six are hinged together by Father Benoit’s ruminations on indelible marks. In the beginning of Chapter Five it seems as if it is a commentary on the extravagant symbolism of Sir John’s initiation before transforming into a darkly perverse prologue of Seamus’ ordeal. After the stomach churning, ear-ringing horrors of Chapter Six, imprisonment in the Bastille seems quaint.

Citizen Benoit, like Signor Duccio, is given a special position in the novel as we know that they survive much of the French Revolution, are clearly skeptical individuals, and both have intimate knowledge of Sigismundo’s plight which is ostensibly the main thrust of The Widow’s Son. So the reader is given multiple reasons to trust their reminiscences in a way that we cannot trust the ongoing narratives. Celine, Babcock (Lord and Lady), and Muadhen are all “trapped” in their personal heaven/hell/purgatory of 1771 along with most of the secondary and tertiary characters. It follows that the excerpts of their memoirs provides a respite from the action of the novel and a clue to what RAW might be trying to impress upon the reader therein.

Benoit discusses the decline of the Church into vain repetitions and the failure of the sacraments as opposed to the rediscovered purgative of the Peripatetic’s catharsis found within the secrets of Freemasonry; the ability to impress upon the soul an indelible mark. This is an interesting way of examining the diminishing power of religion in the Age of Enlightenment. Instead of seeing the Church as overwhelmed by the scientific and humanistic revolutions of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth centuries, Benoit seems to see the institution as rotting on its own (lack of) merits and the spiritual center shifted to another that is no less spiritual, but spiritual in a different manner. The brief discussion of Aristotle’s Poetics brings to mind the historically accepted principle that what sparked the Renaissance, itself a prelude to the Enlightenment, was the rediscovery of the classical authors by secular scholars and members of the Church who were not as cowed by doctrine as the grim monks of the Middle Ages. The mention of the buried dog in the logbook of the New Hope Lodge on pg. 164, its connection with Gurdjieff and the further connection with Sirius/the Silver Star hints at another cause for the massive spiritual/political/cultural shifts of the late second millennium- the advent of the Aeon of Horus.

Genesis 14:18, also inscribed in the logbook of the Viennese lodge, reads “And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.” This is of great interest as Abram was blessed by Melchizedek and later the Nazarene described himself as “a priest in the order of Melchizedek.” What makes this all the more interesting that in the Hebrew text Melchizedek blesses Abram not in the name of El, but El Elyon which was not the name of the god of the Hebrews but rather that of the preexisting Canaanite father/sky god.

Later Benoit brings up John 3:2 which reads “The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.” I read this as an allusion to the “miraculous” feats of will allowed by the illuminations transferred by Masonry for Sigismundo and Babcock (who will soon face his own trials in this novel) and the shanachie O’Lachlann to Muadhen. His earlier observation that the compositions of Haydn and Mozart defend the tenets of the Craft more ably than his own writing jives with the views of Alan Moore who often points out that Art is the ablest expression of Magic. (For another, slightly different perspective on this interplay please consult the work of Ramsey Dukes in SSTOMBE which he revisited as Lionel Snell in My Years of Magical Thinking on the “four cultures.”)

Mozart’s endorsement of peace of mind over medicine isn’t helped by the fact he died in his mid-thirties.

I agree with Benoit’s assessment of the power in the phrasing of the Lord’s Prayer. I still occasionally say the Lord’s Prayer throughout my days and nights and observe it whenever I perform the Star Ruby/LBRP/Kabbalistic Cross. In Chapter Six we see a visceral portrayal of how well man has done establishing God’s will on Earth.

Not very well.

This scene is all the more horrific as it is clear that scenes similar to this are taking place all over the world and in our own country today. Perhaps the details are changed, the oppressed and their tormentors look a bit different, but even in our vastly improved and enlightened age despotism, fear, and hatred are alive and well and free to do as they like to the powerless.

Coming to a crescendo on pg 179, and drawn out for the next few pages of the chapter, RAW’s talent for conjuring alternative states of mind with his prose is put on full display as we are tugged along into Seamus’ dark transcendence. Babcock’s sweating over Masonic shadowboxing seems pitiable compared to the very real physical harm being done to Muadhen; both initiations are presided over by Englishmen, although Muadhen is “guided” by a traitorous Irishmen, both end in an indelible mark being left upon the soul. It is appropriate that they should meet soon.

During Seamus’ departure of spacetime we hop into both the Schroedinger’s Cat and Illuminatus! trilogies before coming back to bloody 1771. The de Selby footnote is humorous and humorously out of place in the chapter. 

Edmund Burke’s appearance and failure to defend the Irish with the fervor that their cause required at the end of the chapter is all the more poignant when we remember that those who claim political descent from his philosophy are those most often in favor of or willing to turn a blind eye to corruption, despotism, violence, torture, and inhumanity today. God Bless Trump.

Sasanach ithean cac.

From Eric Wagner: A bit of “The Magic Flute” seems in order this week.


(Contrast Papageno and Papagena’s trilling, matched dialogue with the conversation Seamus has with the fairies/himself as he experiences the bucket.)

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Saturday links

Butterfly Language is closed.

Request for RAW fans.

Jesse Walker on the OTHER 1980s Blade Runner movie. It included William Burroughs material. "I can't say it's for all tastes, but you might get some pleasure out of it if you like hallucinatory dystopian visions. Or if you're a Burroughs completist. Or if you're just curious about what Bill Paxton looked like when he was 19 and naked."

October Eris of the Month.

Thanks for the nod, Toby! 

Friday, November 1, 2019

Brain hack updates

The Widow's Son online reading group will resume Sunday.

At the beginning of last month, I described reading a book called Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport and how I responded by deleting the Facebook and Twitter apps from my smartphone and trying to avoid the two social media services as much as possible. I continued to use them in October when I had to for work-related tasks or to obtain specific bits of information I couldn't find elsewhere, but I quit following feeds or doing personal postings.

As a result, when I pulled out my phone and I needed something to read, I switched to my New York Times app (I have a digital subscription, if you watch for sales you can get it pretty cheaply) and to reading Reason's Hit and Run blog, which I have bookmarked on my phone. Generally speaking, I feel better informed doing that than by spending a lot of time on social media. I will resume doing some social media, but I plan to limit my time on it. I won't put the apps back on my phone right away.

Speaking of brain hacks/lifestyle changes, I recently tossed out the idea of doing a Prometheus Rising online reading group.  I wasn't exactly flooded with a huge number of comments, but Chad N. said he wanted to do it, and Eric Wagner wrote, "I would love to participate in a PR group. I would also like to participate in a Nature's God group and finish off the Historical Illuminatus! Trilogy. I feel like PR deserves a 23 month long reading group. Perhaps we could have a set of four or five facilitators who would take turns."

I was thinking along the same lines as Eric; I want to finish off Historical Illuminatus! and I thought it might be a good idea to have more than one presenter. Maybe start on Prometheus next year after we do Nature's God?

Thursday, October 31, 2019

John Higgs, optimist (and bookseller)

British author John Higgs has been trying to make the case for optimism lately, here is some optimism from  his latest newsletter:

I've just read This Could Be Our Future by Yancey Strickler, the ex-CEO and co-founder of Kickstarter. It's about the flaws in making decisions based on short-term financial maximalisation - the unfortunate default in our culture - and how to avoid thinking like this. Heartily recommended!

It didn't receive much of a fanfare, but it's still worth celebrating: UK non-nuclear renewables have, for the first time, generated more electricity than fossil fuels. There's a lot of reasons for optimism about how quickly renewables are growing at the moment.

Out Of All This Blue, the new single by The Waterboys, seems entirely in sync with this list.

And while we're at it, it's worth noting that optimism is good for the heart, according to a huge meta-analysis of 300,000 people.

For more optimism, and news on Higgs' new online bookstore (you can get signed books) , go here.

Blogger isn't letting me upload images this morning, and I don't have time to deal with Google's nonsense, so no illustration today.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Lots of reading groups

Bobby Campbell's illustration for the Illuminatus! online reading group. 

As we continue with the online reading group for The Widow's Son, I want to point out for anyone who might be new to the blog that we've done a bunch of reading groups at this blog for books by Robert Anton Wilson.

If you read (or re-read) The Earth Will Shake, Email to the Universe, Cosmic Trigger, Coincidance: A Head Test, Illuminatus!, Masks of the Illuminati or Quantum Psychology, there's a reading group that's been devoted to it;  you can read the book and read comments from me and from others. (We've also taken on a couple of books Robert Anton Wilson didn't write) Unfortunately, there's some spam in the comments for some of the older reading groups, but there's a lot of good comments from readers, too. Access the archived reading groups on the right side of this page.

It seems to me we ought to do a Prometheus Rising reading group.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Next year in Columbus?

I am planning to attend the NASFiC in Columbus, Ohio,  in August 2020.

The North American Science Fiction Convention is held in years when the Worldcon is overseas; the 2020 Worldcon will be in New Zealand, so we get another NASFiC, which while not quite a Worldcon is pretty big.

The Columbus NASFiC is August 20-23; details at the official site.  I've already bought a membership.

I hope to help organize some sort of activities for RAW fans, much as I did at Confluence, a SF convention I attended in 2018 in Pittsburgh. All of  this is very preliminary and relevant details haven't been announced by the convention yet, but if you like going to SF conventions and  you are a RAW fan, keep next year's NASFiC in mind.

The 2021 Worldcon will be in Washington, D.C.; I hope to make it there, too.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Cat Vincent news update

Ian "Cat" Vincent

Ian "Cat" Vincent reports that his blog has made a comeback and he'll do a magical working on Halloween:

"My next major magical action is HEXIT on Halloween night.

Details at the link, but "On October 31st 2019, the United Kingdom is due to leave the European Union under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

"To mark this event, Radio23, in association with the Indelicates and cunning-man Cat Vincent, will broadcast a distributed magical working designed to strike at the spirit of Brexit. This will be completed shortly after 23:00 GMT, the time when Britain is due to leave the UK."

So you can listen if you can't be there.

Main Radio23 site. "The regular programming includes We pilgrim mixes from the Librarian, the Pillock and the Phonomancer - more content to follow. Tech provided by The Walker."

To obtain Mr. Vincent's email newsletter, Caterwauling ("Thoughts on Fortean journalism, magic, religion, High Weirdness, kink, genre media and the oddness of living in a Yorkshire hippy town") sign up here.

To reach him, contact him on Twitter: @catvincent.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

A Harlan Ellison synchronicity

Harlan Ellison in 1986. (Creative Commons photo by Pip R. Lagenta)

After I posted yesterday's blog entry, about Harlan Ellison on a blog devoted to a writer named Wilson who had various esoteric interests, I read more of The Harlan Ellison Hornbook and came across this passage:

Wilson looked like a Martian to me ....He was, to me, a weird and fascinating man. He was into the Fortean Society and all its unexplained phenomena, Korzybskian General Semantics, heavyweight physical sciences, occultism ...

It's actually about a guy named Al Wilson in Cleveland, where Ellison grew up, but I enjoyed the synchronicity.

If you want to try a collection of Ellison stories, I suggest I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream. It's not a very long book, but the selection of stories seems particularly good to me.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Harlan Ellison bleg

I've been reading The Harlan Ellison Hornbook, a collection of Ellison pieces originally written in the 1970s for the Los Angeles Free Press. Yes, I know he could be an asshole, but I like his writing. If you read his writing,  you get the best thing about him.

There's a discussion in one chapter of what Ellison read as a kid:"  .... I was already reading the classics and An Introduction to General Semantics (introduction by S.I. Hayakawa) while the rest of my classmates were heavy into Lad: A Dog and Star Third Baseman by John R. Tunis .... " (from "Installment 23," i.e. chapter 23 of the book.

Apparently it wasn't just Heinlein and Robert Anton Wilson; a lot of writers from a certain generation read Korzybski.

If your vices include reading Harlan Ellison and using ebooks, watch for sales; often one of his  books goes on sale for about $2. As I write this, The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the World: Stories is on sale.

Another Harlan Ellison blog post. 

Friday, October 25, 2019

The Widow's Son reading group, Week Ten

Portrait of a Woman, or The Music, by Neapolitan painter Giuseppe Bonito c. 1750-1765

Week Ten (pg. 139-160 Hilaritas edition Part Two, Chapters 3 & 4 all editions) 

By Gregory Arnott
Special guest blogger

I believe the letter to Mother Ursula from Maria shows why Tom Jackson considers her to be the roundest female character in RAW’s oeuvre; despite the not-so-great-time-to-be-a-woman she still sparkles and demonstrates that she has her attention on the events that would become history. She’s intelligent enough that she is able to surprise Benjamin Franklin with her acumen, overcoming his prejudice towards southern Europeans; her meeting with Franklin and the corresponding footnote that brings up de Selby’s allegedly freehanded nature with women in interesting to read in the years after #metoo and the continuing cultural dialogue. 

I’d have to say that I have found myself becoming fond of Jean Jacques Jeder. RAW uses Jeder’s appearance to inject some bitter irony into his internal celebration over finding such a “nice” job. Like Armand, we can see that Jeder did not choose to be a ruffian and dreads the occupation. The idea that someone would celebrate a 14 hour job increases the sense of how maladapted Jeder is through no fault of his own, as many people at different points in history assuredly are. Today I think of the rather draconian views that society has towards the homeless and ex-convicts with no consideration of how hard it is to become, and remain, socio-economically stable. 

In The Earth Will Shake Sigismundo often appears as a damned fool whereas in this novel he appears increasingly capable; his Masonic training has given him emotional discipline that readers should envy. 

Chapter 4 is another initiation pageant that combines accurate depictions of “mainstream” Masonry with more esoteric flavor added in as well as RAW’s own confabulations. For the record, the only true degrees of Masonry, at least according to the US Grand Lodge, are the first three. The remaining thirty are found in Scotch Rite Masonry which is considered a concordant rite. The other popular concordant rite is the York Rite, where the Rosicrucian degree is found. Babcock’s initiation goes all in on the recurring symbol of the cornerstone that the builders rejected and shows, once again, that occultists are much better at displaying the richness of Biblical texts than any orthodox Christian. 

The final part of Sir John’s initiation as a Mark Mason is a direct parallel to Sigismundo’s attitude as he dangles from a window in the Bastille: a Mason, or illuminated person, should not give in to despair. Fear is Failure and the Forerunner of Failure. 

The De Selby footnotes have incorporated what must have been one of RAW’s favorite conspiracies, the P2 scandal that he wrote extensively about since the details were published in the early eighties. 

From Eric Wagner: “Reading about sexism in Maria ’s world, I thought something by Francesca LeBrun might work this week.”

Thursday, October 24, 2019

'Most connected human' cites RAW

Chris Dancy in Stockholm in 2016 (Via official website)

There is apparently a current genre of nonfiction I had not been quite aware of before, self-help books that focus on our relationship with technology, more specifically our relationship with cell phones. Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport, mentioned in an earlier blog post, is one such book.

Another is Don't Unplug - How Technology Saved My Life and Can Save Yours Too by Chris Dancy, which I recently finished. Dancy is billed as a "mindful cyborg" and "the most connected human on Earth" and advocates a number of strategies, including obsessively monitoring your life and use of technology. One of his more interesting suggestions is "iPhone palmistry," looking at a person's smartphone and the apps on his/her/their home page to learn about the person. Notice, Dancy says, whether it's an Apple phone or Android, whether it has a case, if it is new or old, battered or in good shape, and what apps the person keeps handy on the home page and how they are organized.

Anyway, the acknowledgements section caught my eye; after thanking various other folks, Dancy writes, "Last, I'm often asked, who do you read, study, etc. I'm never quite sure how to answer this question as I go out of my way not to be biased or influenced by any particular school of thought, until I have formed my opinion.  To that end, there are a few historical figures who I have taken time to study, read and re-read.  Douglas Rushkoff, Alan Watts, Terence McKenna, Søren Kierkegaard, Andy Warhol, Antoni Gaudi, Carl Jung, Robert Anton Wilson, Alvin Toffler, Winston Churchill and Victor Frankl."

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Does RAW's work disappear from libraries?

Toby Philpott (from official site.)

My recent post on "Keeping RAW's work alive" didn't get much of a response, but Alias Bogus (aka Toby Philpott) posted a comment recently suggesting that Robert Anton Wilson's work is not much evident in libraries because it tends to get stolen. The library in question is, I believe, in Wales; does this apply to the United States? Here is his comment:

I love libraries, and after a long career as a self-employed performer I got my first steady job as the computer whisperer for my local library, and did that job for about 17 years.

One of the reasons you don't find much of RAW's works in libraries arises from the fact that it (sadly) becomes impossible to hold onto copies. Unlike bookshops, we had no 'store detectives' guarding the stock against shop-lifting, and anyway, people can simply borrow things (quite legally) and just never return the items. It seems that many people these days do not understand the principle of "borrowing", and "shared resources".

Part of my work involved assessing stock turnover, using the computer inventory, and certain kinds of items always disappeared and had to get replaced, until (with many restrictions on budget) several departments simply stop buying new copies of those kind of items.

Generally, cult material, or relatively rare imports. RAW, The Invisibles, Mondo 2000, etc. All sorts of occult and conspiratorial stuff. Also, obscure reference material that you might need for more than three weeks (like silversmith's hallmarks).

Sad, but true.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Today's movie star news

Kate Alderton

Ian "Cat" Vincent reports in the latest issue of "Caterwauling," his email newsletter, that starting on Halloween, a new movie, The Armageddon Gospels, will become available on Apple TV.

In his review of the movie at Daily Grail, Vincent writes, "Armageddon Gospels is a true and timely work of magic in every sense: often delightful, firmly anchored in British myth, consciously an act of ritual, and deeply profound." Actress Kate Alderton, who played Arlen Riley (RAW's wife) in Daisy Campbell's play based on Cosmic Trigger, appears in Armageddon Gospels, Vincent notes. (I can't find a website to sign up for Mr. Vincent's dispatches, but contacting him on social media likely will work.)

Alderton is on Twitter. She also follows me. This is a literary blog, so I'm not going to make a big deal out of the fact a beautiful British actress follows me on Twitter. You'll notice I barely mention it.

Adam Gorightly

Meanwhile, Hollywood movie star* (and author of books on Discordianism) Adam Gorightly appears in The Hill and the Hole, based on a Fritz Leiber story. The movie was only recently completed and is being offered to film festivals; I'll let you know when it's available for screening.

* Mr. Gorightly lives in California; I am actually not sure if it's Hollywood or Malibu. See his web site for some of his books. 

Sunday, October 20, 2019

The Widow's Son reading group, Week Nine

Frederick, Elector Palatine and Elizabeth Stuart 

Week Nine (pg. 105-138 Hilaritas edition or Part Two, Chapter 1&2 all editions)

By Gregory Arnott, special guest blogger 

I have to apologize for being late this week- I’ve started a new job that required a lot of planning last week in anticipation for the next. Regrettably these two chapters contain an extraordinary amount of information and this will be a short write up. 

Chapter 1 moves the action to Ireland and introduces us to Simon Moon’s ancestor, Seamus Muadhen. This chapter was presumably written while RAW was living in Ireland and his interest, enthusiasm, and expertise on Irish history is on full display. On the first page alone we are given a vivid slice of history that is mind boggling, especially when one is considering annotation.  Naturally much of the subjects brought up are of interest to Joyce scholars; Howth and Vico Road are both in the famous opening line of Finnegans Wake, the discussion of Hamlet is the subject of one of my favorite parts of Ulysses, “Scylla and Charybdis,” and we are provided with Dedalus’ famous opinion on history via Muadhen’s musings. Dalkey Island, where Seamus is introduced to conspiracy and a different fate than his Plan’s intentions, shares a name with Flann O’Brien’s novel The Dalkey Archive which was the first published appearance of de Selby. I’m sure some of the readers caught more relations than I did and am looking forward to reading about them! 

RAW gives us a handful of the atrocities committed by the English against the Irish as Muadhen boats about the bay but balances these accounts; he makes sure to mention the James II and Edward Charles Stuart weren’t the Romantic figures of Jacobite lore and that the violence between Catholics and Protestants are an ugly cycle. I remember while studying in my Tudor and Stuart History seminar the point made by my professor about the reign of Queen Mary and why exactly the English would never suffer another Catholic to sit the throne. Maybe it’s my affection for John Dee, whom she imprisoned, but Mary has always struck me as an abnormally ugly figure in history and I’ve always hated the revisionist attempts to paint her otherwise in popular history. There are many stories being told in this chapter. 

Interestingly enough, in the long footnote concerning the Rosicrucians in Chapter 2 RAW doesn’t mention that part of Dame Yates’ study of the marriage of Elizabeth of England and Frederick V in the light of the Rosicrucian hoax/heresy/revelations focuses on the implications for the balance of power between Protestantism and Catholicism on the Continent. According to Yates, it was widely hoped that the marriage between Frederick and James Stuart’s daughter would ensure Protestant British support if and when the Elector Palatine challenged the Catholic Habsburg hegemony over some strongly Protestant German/central European states. The joke was on them because James evidently didn’t give a shit and the Winter King was defeated at the Battle of White Mountain which served as an overture to the Thirty Years War. But they sure got those Habsburg ambassadors when they tossed them out the window. 

We are (re)introduced to Wilson’s historically accurate portrait of Washington as a hemp-smoking, taciturn, and all-around-bizarre giant of a man. Aside from Wilson, Thomas Pynchon’s George Washington is also a pot-smoking gentleman whose views on liberty and slavery are drawn into sharp contrast while he meets and discusses all-and-everything with Mason and Dixon in the novel of the same name. Although the scene is improved in Pynchon’s novel by the inclusion of a slave character who is Jewish and much smarter than the other three men, a situation he begins to take advantage of when the grass starts burning. 

In the Bastille Sigismundo is going through all the emotions that one would expect a new prisoner to experience: regret, desperation, sorrow, fear, and the need for a shoulder to cry on. Thankfully he is provided with the council of Father Benoit, a Fellow in the Craft. Sigismundo is again able to find strength in his training and initiations. 

In de Selby news we find out that the Professor Hanfkopf has most likely murdered O’Broichain, La Puta, and Le Monade. If they were ever real in the first place. 

From Eric Wagner: “I thought this week we would use the song Seamus thinks about on page 120.” 

Saturday, October 19, 2019

A bit on Bill Maher (and Kevin Williamson)

Bill Maher (Creative Commons photo)

Thanks to Chad and Oz for posting at my Kevin Williamson interview blog post. 

After I read their comments, I wondered if Williamson had appeared on Bill Maher's current show, and he has. A podcast of the August 23  show is available free (and legally) here on Sticher;  Williamson shows up at 30:15. I agree with Williamson on free speech and with Maher on abortion.

You can read an article about the show from a friendly source,  and also read an attack on Maher and Williamson from a left site. We report, you decide!

The Mediaite piece attacks Maher for given Williamson a national platform, but of course Maher is also the only talk show host I know of who gave Robert Anton Wilson a national platform.  (Check the date!)

Friday, October 18, 2019

Trump appoints Illuminati attorney

The Widow's Son online reading group starring Gregory Arnott and a cast of expert commentators will return soon.

In the meantime, some news, via Jesse Walker: "A Colorado Springs lawyer appointed by President Donald Trump to a federal education board is a prolific author of self-help Illuminati books whose education company has been accused of handing out certificates to undeserving applicants."

The lawyer in question is George Mentz, co-author of The Illuminati Secret Laws of Money - The Wealth Mindset Manifesto: The Life Changing Magic and Habits of Spiritual Mastery (First) and The Illuminati Handbook – The Path of Illumination and Ascension: The Testament of the Mystical Order and The Secret Teachings that Make them Great. (Just to be clear, he also has written self help books that don't mention any secret organizations in the title.)

More here from the Denver Post.

Bonus Jesse Walker related link: "The Possibly Pending Death of a Legendary Radio Station
Friday A/V Club: When Timothy Leary, Ayn Rand, and Big Mama Thornton shared a microphone." 

Thursday, October 17, 2019

My Kevin Williamson interview

I recently interviewed the writer Kevin D. Williamson, and you can read the interview here.  It's one of my favorite author interviews for the paper, and Williamson could not have been too unhappy with it, as he did a post pointing to it. 

When I read his new book, The Smallest Minority: Independent Thinking in the Age of Mob Politics, I was surprised that in a couple of places, he sounded like Robert Anton Wilson. This is apparently because they both favor freedom of speech, and both cite James Joyce as an influence, but it was nonetheless kind of surprising. Here are a few sentences from the book to show what I mean:

Those who defended the free speech of Communists in the 1950s were derided as fellow travelers, and those who defend the free speech of neo-Nazis, pedophiles, or other detestable characters today are smeared in the same way. The case for toleration is never more than an inch away from being suffocated by the desire to punish. And those who will not serve the desire to punish are cast out as heretics. The desire to punish comes in many forms -- political, religious, social -- but it is always and everywhere the same in its demand for obedience and service ... "Non serviam," Lucifer said, "I will not serve." These are the words that supposedly led to the brightest angel's expulsion from heaven. (Page 200).

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Footnote on Matthew Manning

Matthew Manning

Part One of Robert Anton Wilson's "Politics of Psi" series, which I posted about Saturday,  included a discussion of one Matthew Manning, who Wilson  says "has demonstrated powers that make him even more astounding than Uri Geller. Some have even said that he’seems to have all the psychic abilities of Geller, of clairvoyant Peter Hurkos and of Edgar Cayce combined — and perhaps, even more."

Jesse Walker points out that the Skeptical Inquirer's Joe Nickell examined some of Manning's alleged powers and was not impressed. Not exactly RAW's favorite publication, as Walker notes, but if Manning had all of the powers that are alleged, it would be hard to suppress knowledge of his talents.

Here is the Wikipedia biography of Manning.   You can also visit his official site. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Reading Theodore Sturgeon

I just finished reading the Selected Stories of Theodore Sturgeon. Oddly, the collection omits "Microcosmic God," one of his most famous stories, but it does collect many of his most famous stories in one volume. My favorites, some of which I had read before, were "Thunder and Roses," "The Sex Opposite," "The [Widget] the [Wadget] and Boff," "The Man Who Lost the Sea" and "Slow Sculpture."

Sturgeon (1918-1985) was best known as a science fiction writer, although he also wrote fantasy, horror and mainstream stories. He is best known for More Than Human, a fixup of three novellas, and generally was better known for his short works than his novels.

Science Fiction: An Oral History by D. Scott Apel, a collection of interviews with science fiction authors from various eras, has a very interesting interview with Sturgeon which reveals he was a big fan of Robert Anton Wilson.  Sturgeon for example calls Cosmic Trigger an "excellent book."

There is also a striking moment in the interview in which Sturgeon mentions a philosophical novel, 2150 AD by Thea Alexander, and Apel tells him it's one of his favorite books. (Apel: "2150 is one of the three books I recommend unequivocally to people who are looking for books on consciousness expansion." Sturgeon wanted Philip K. Dick to read the book: "I feel the philosophical structure is what he's looking for." I never heard of this book, other than the interview.)

Apel's interview with Wilson in Science Fiction: An Oral History (reprinted in Beyond Chaos and Beyond) includes this statement from RAW: "My favorite science fiction writers have long been Stapledon, Heinlein, Clarke and Sturgeon."

Beyond Chaos and Beyond also describes how Apel, after he became friends with Sturgeon, brought him over to meet RAW.

I recently bought an ebook of The Best of Gene Wolfe, and it seems to me there are other writers who would benefit from a "selected stories" or "best of" one volume collection, including Harlan Ellison, Roger Zelazny and Philip Jose Farmer.

All of Sturgeon's stories have been collected into several volumes, which I'll have to get around to reading.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Alias Bogus on 'Laws of Form'

At Only Maybe, Alias Bogus has a new post up that mentions the Widow's Son reading group and remarks, "In the process of looking closely at the text, a fleeting reference came up to 'The Laws of  Form' by G Spencer Brown." He remarks, "It becomes obvious why RAW found him interesting, as the basis of his investigation lies in engineering (logic circuits for transistors), not abstract thinking (formal logic)."

Here is an earlier post on Maybe Logic, and here is earlier discussion of Laws of Form on this blog. 

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Keeping RAW's work alive

On Sept. 15, I posted an item on Rasa asking people not to pirate Robert Anton Wilson's works. You can read it for reference as I offer these thoughts on protecting RAW's copyrighted material, treating his children fairly and preserving his legacy:

1. Copyright lasts too long in the U.S.; works in 1923 only this year entered the public domain (96 years). Yet any reasonable reform of copyright would protect RAW for  years to come; he died only 12 years ago and his children will be around for a long time. It seems to me copyright ought to last 40 to 50 years or so to balance fairness to a writer's family vs. the public interest. Your own ideal term might vary, but it's clearly too early for Wilson's work to enter the public domain.

2. Sales of Hilaritas Press books directly benefit members of RAW's family, as Wilson surely would have intended. Those are the people who benefit when you buy a new edition of Cosmic Trigger or The Widow's Son. And those are the people you harm when you grab a pirated edition instead.

3. Buying a used book of Wilson's works preserves it as an actively read book.

4. For those of you who can't afford to buy all (or even any) of the new Hilaritas editions, there are public libraries, and nearly all libraries have interlibrary loan to help you obtain titles which are not available locally. Checking out a book also helps authors, living and dead. Libraries have a finite amount of shelf space, they are always adding new books, and so they must cull old titles. The books that are not checked out are the ones that are pulled from the shelf and disposed of, by sale or in the landfill. Checking a book out helps keep that work available for other readers to discover.

5. Much more needs to be done, by Hilaritas and other publishers, to make RAW's work available in libraries. When I search for "Robert Anton Wilson" on Hoopla, the premier digital library service, I get only one result: An ebook of The Illuminati Papers. That's good -- if you haven't read it, it's free on Hoopla -- but where is everything else? Wilson also is largely missing from Overdrive, the major library ebook and audiobook service. I also hope there is an ongoing effort to get Hilaritas' paper titles sold to libraries.

6. Wilson's work is kept alive by grassroots efforts of fans in Great Britain, Austria, Argentina, Italy, the Netherlands and other countries, and in the U.S. by active efforts by folks in California, Ohio, West Virginia, New York City, and many other places. These ongoing activities on behalf of an author who died more than a decade ago and never sold a huge number of books is a literary phenomena. It's news and merits news coverage. Maybe some of you are in a position to offer a news tip to the New York Times or some other news organization. I can suggest interview subjects to any inquiring journalist.

7. Everyone can help, by purchasing reissues of Wilson's work, promoting news about Wilson on social media and participating in other activities. You don't have to stage a play based on Wilson's work or write a new biography to be helpful, although such projects certainly have a nice impact.