Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Books read 2019



I'm on Goodreads by the way, as "Tomj."

1. Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein and the Golden Age of Science Fiction, Alec Nevala-Lee.
2. Kingdom of the Wicked Book One: Rules, Helen Dale.
3. Gnomon, Nick Harkaway.
4. Surveyor, James S. Peet.
5. Bandwidth, Eliot Peper.
6. The Million, Karl Schroeder.
7. Kingdom of the Wicked Book Two: Order, Helen Dale.
8. Mission to Methone, Les Johnson.
9. Anger Is a Gift, Mark Oshiro.
10. State Tectonics, Malka Older.
11. Crescendo of Fire, Marc Stiegler.
12. Rhapsody for the Tempest, Marc Stiegler.
13. All Systems Red, Martha Wells.
14. Causes of Separation, Travis Corcoran.
15. Dreaming the Beatles, Rob Sheffield.
16. Beyond Chaos and Beyond, Robert Anton Wilson.
17. The War on Normal People, Andrew Yang.
18. Ah! Sweet Idiocy!, Francis T. Laney.
19. Artificial Condition, Martha Wells.
20. A Mad Love: An Introduction to Opera, Vivien Schweitzer.
21. Come With Me, Helen Schulman.
22. Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know, Jonathan P. Caulkins.
23. The Nick Adams Stories, Ernest Hemingway.
24. Focus Lost, Doug Cooper.
25. Stubborn Attachments, Tyler Cowen.
26. Rogue Protocol, Martha Wells.
27. Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng.
28. No Property in Man, Sean Wilentz.
29. Before She Knew Him, Peter Swanson.
30. Reamde, Neal Stephenson.
31. Delta-V, Daniel Suarez.
32. Trophy Kill, R. J. Norgard.
33. The Earth Will Shake, Robert Anton Wilson.
34. Good Riddance, Elinor Lipman.
35. An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson, Eric Wagner.
36. Big Business, Tyler Cowen.
37. No Greater Ally: The Untold Story of Poland's Forces in World War II, Kenneth Koskodan.
38. High Weirdness, Erik Davis.
39. Exit Strategy, Martha Wells.
40. The New Right, Michael Malice.
41. Grant, Ron Chernow.
42. Fall, or Dodge in Hell, Neal Stephenson.
43. Eggs in Your Nest, Owen Little.
44. The Wealth of Nations, George H. Smith.
45.  The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life, Kevin Simler and Robin Hanson.
46. Somnium, Steve Moore.
47. An Informal History of the Hugos, Jo Walton.
48. The Smallest Minority, Kevin D. Williamson.
49. The Winter of the World, Poul Anderson.
50.  Digital Minimalism, Cal Newport.
51. Selected Stories, Theodore Sturgeon.
52. Blood Relations, Jonathan Moore.
53. Don't Unplug, Chris Dancy.
54. The Uplift War, David Brin.
55. Norse Mythology, Neil Gaiman.
56. The Harlan Ellison Hornbook, Harlan Ellison.
57. The Age of the Vikings, Anders Winroth.
58. Boom Town: The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City, Its Chaotic Founding, Its Apocalyptic Weather, Its Purloined Basketball Team, and the Dream of Becoming a World-class Metropolis, Sam Anderson.
59. Stealing Worlds, Karl Schroeder.
60. The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood.
61. Desk 88: Eight Progressive Senators Who Changed America, Sherrod Brown.
62. What We Talk About When We Talk About Books: The History and Future of Reading, Leah Price.
63. Alliance Rising: C.J. Cherryh and Jane Fancher.
64. Never Enough: The Neuroscience and Experience of Addiction, Judith Grisel.
65. A Season on the Wind: Inside the World of Spring Migration, Kenn Kaufman.
66. New Hampshire, Robert Frost.
67. The Girl with a Clock for a Heart, Peter Swanson.


Monday, December 30, 2019

Five favorite books



Over at EconLog, a libertarian website, there have been a series of postings on "Five favorite books" or simply on favorite books, both in blog postings and in the comments.

You can read Russ Roberts' five favorite books, and a similar list from Scott Sumner. 

And here is David Henderson on "Some of My Top Books."  I plan to hunt up some of his recommendations.

Here is what I posted in the comments for the Russ Roberts posting:

Here are my current top five works of fiction:

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen.
The Gold Bug Variations, Richard Powers.
Cryptonomicon,  Neal Stephenson.
The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe.
The Illuminatus! trilogy, Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson.

I have omitted Lord of the Rings for lack of space. If I could mention another series, it would be the Iain Banks Culture novels.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

The Widow's Son reading group, Week Nineteen


Mary d’Este Desti Dempsey Sturges aka Soror Virakam aka Soror Iliel aka Lisa la Giuffria 

Week Nineteen (p.315-323 Hilaritas edition, Chapter 9&10 Part III all editions)


By Gregory Arnott
Special guest blogger

Chapter nine reminds me of nothing more than a scene from an Armando Iannuci comedy. The scene has that sublime mix of ineptitude, competence and order thwarted at every turn, chaos, and ever-present frustration transformed into howling rage as Lieutenant Sartines is faced with the unyielding chaos of the universe that is reminiscent of similar shitstorms faced by Iannuci’s protagonists. Like Malcolm Tucker or Selina Meyer, Sartines is a character beset by nothing less than their own inability to control everything around them despite their razor sharp wit and uncompromising realism. An arch-cynic such as Sartines can of course realize that they could reject all of the trappings of their “duty” to live a more honest life in pursuit of the truth but won’t because they love legitimacy and order more than their own sanity/integrity. The fatal flaw of civil servitude is beginning to believe in the necessity of your position to stave off some Hobbesian hellscape.

Unsurprisingly, Sartines’ honest viewpoint is almost identical to Signor Duccio’s or whomever might be the true “Spartacus.” Naturally, de Selby is somehow able to pick up on Sartines’ moment of hesitation hundreds of years in the future and record a laterally accurate hazard to who the original author might have been.

Behind all the insurmountable chaos and extrajudicial jailings there is an invisible hand as Cagliostro begins the transition.

Maria’s Daybook immediately lets us know that Lady Babcock’s psychic connection to Sigismundo is still intact; her prayer might do more for Sigismundo than any other effect within the pages of the narrative. Maria is perhaps able to think more kindly of Sigismundo, though she does try to bury the idea of him as quickly as she may, because of the news about Carlo’s virility and marriage. The d’Este family was/is a noble family of northern Italian descent that had/has ties to the house of Hapsburg.

A more interesting d’Este is a d’Este that never was: Mary d’Este, born Mary Dempsey. Dempsey was born in the American Midwest around the turn of the century and gave birth to Preston Sturges, a Hollywood polymath during the 30s and 40s (also producer of one of my all time favorite films, I Married a Witch). Dempsey, perhaps inspired by that New Thought ethos that meshed so well with the American frontier can-do attitude that enabled people to claim things that weren’t actually theirs, decided that her name was actually a mispronunciation of d’Este- she was actually royalty.

Presumably Mary d’Este is the name that she was going by when she met and befriended Isadora Duncan and later became her secretary.She had travelled to Europe and met Duncan in Paris while she was presumably studying theater. It was during this time that she also met Aleister Crowley. She became Crowley’s Scarlet Woman for a time around 1911 and they travelled to a place “beyond Rome” where he began to compose Book IV under the guidance of the disembodied spirit Ab-ul-Diz. Crowley details how d’Este, or Soror Virakam, began to channel Ab-ul-Diz and the precautions he took to make sure that the spirit was an objective being, similar to the measures he took to make sure Rose wasn’t just having a lark back in 1904. He also details how she claimed to know where they would write Book IV as she had seen their villa in a dream.

Crowley and Virakam travelled to Posillipo, near Naples to pick up “Vikaram’s [sic.] brat- a most godforsaken lout” (as Crowley refers to the young Preston Sturges) for Christmas. While travelling about the countryside Virakam/d’Este/Dempsey shouted that before them was the exact villa she had seen. The villa also fulfilled some requirements that Crowley had come up with using his own methods of magical deduction having to do with “Persian nuts.” (I can’t believe how much of my life I have based on what this guy says.) They rented the villa and began the book.

Soror Virakam is given author’s credit, along with Leia Waddell and Mary Butts, for Book IV which many consider to be Crowley’s master publishing achievement. Predictably, d’Este and Crowley had a falling out. He would paint a rather unflattering portrait of her in his novel Moonchild where she went by the name of Lisa la Giuffria. La Giuffria is portrayed as an indolent faddist who betrays Crowley (Cyril Grey) to the Black Lodge (led by characters based on Samuel Mathers, Arthur Waite, William Westcott, Yeats, and Annie Besant) causing the failure of the Butterfly Net Operation. Of course this is all part of the White Lodge’s, led by Simon Iff (also Crowley), plan.

Around this time d’Este was running a cosmetic company under her regal name which attracted the attention of the actual d’Este family who basically sent her a cease and desist. She did and changed her name to Desti. Desti/d’Este/Virakam/Dempsey/la Giuffria never really got the hang of traditional motherhood. In one incident in 1915 she left Preston on the docks after running after Duncan to join her on a voyage to France. Despite her unconventional lifestyle she seemed to have been remembered fondly by Sturges and the article where I found out much about her non-Crowley related life details how she was obviously an influence for many of his female leads. She certainly lived quite a life.

Mistress Kyte reads the cards for James and reveals the Hanged Man- while she is apologetic in the best theatrical card reader manner, he is comfortable with the shuffle. It is the card of every Irishman. The Hanged Man is probably one of the most romanticized of any of the Trumps, appearing in famous works such as Eliot’s The Wasteland with the familiar phrase “death by water.” The Hanged Man in the Thoth tarot represents the Hebrew mother letter Mem and the element of water- Crowley writes that it represents “the supreme adeptship” of the new Aeon but also warns that water is the element of illusion and in this capacity the card may allow leaks of Old Aeon sacrifice-fetishization through into the New. Crowley roundly castigates this idea and proclaims that the ethos of sacrifice must be done away with as well as the notion of redemption. Redemption implies debt, says Crowley, as stars owe nothing. Alas, in the eighteenth century, James Moon has a while before the Hanged Man means little else aside from drowning and sacrifice.

Maria gets The Star which is chock full of feminine, mystical, and Thelemic imagery which I believe Oz will do a much better job of explaining. Finally Sir John receives the Prince of Wands, Air of Fire, which is notably the card that Crowley identified with the most and of which he writes very poetically in The Book of Thoth.

The discourse on the bear god should be familiar to RAW readers as it is something he dwells on elsewhere. We end with Franklin grappling a maid and marvelling at the revelations brought back from Cook’s journey.

Happy New Year everyone. As John Higgs said in his last newsletter, we’re moving from an ill-defined decade into one that will be much different. A time where time-travellers will want to visit. Good luck to everyone.

From Eric: “In honor of Maria Babcock, I have chosen more Handel this week: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qUhY2Tcwg4 .

Peace and welcome to the Twenties!”




Saturday, December 28, 2019

Jesse Walker's movie list


Poster for "The Wild Bunch," Jesse Walker's favorite movie of 1969. 

Jesse Walker has an annual feature at his blog where he lists his favorite movies of 10 years ago, 20 years ago, etc. He's made it to 1969, so far. Some years, he goes further back in time than others; I like old movies so I hope he makes it to the 1920s this time, but we'll see.

Jesse's blog is structured like an intelligence test; you have to figure out how to access his archives of past years. If you put http://jessewalker.blogspot.com/2018/ in your browser, you can get last year's chronicles; substitute other years for the "2018."

Friday, December 27, 2019

Prometheus Hall of Fame nominations



[A group I belong to, the Libertarian Futurist Society, has announced its finalists for the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award. A pretty strong list of nominees, in my opinion, and I'm pleased to see Robert Silverberg's 1971 classic, A Time of Changes, made the cut. Robert Silverberg is now 84 years old. Illuminatus! won the Hall of Fame Award in 1986. Here is the LFS press release. -- The Management]

The Libertarian Futurist Society has selected five finalists for the 2020 Prometheus Hall of Fame award.
This year's finalists are:

• "Sam Hall," a short story by Poul Anderson (first published 1953 in Astounding Science Fiction): A story set in a security-obsessed United States, where computerized record-keeping enables the creation of a panopticon society. The insertion of a false record into the system leads to unintended consequences. Anderson, the first sf author to be honored with a Special Prometheus Award for Lifetime Achievement, explores political implications of computer technology that now, decades later, are widely recognized.

• "As Easy as A.B.C.," by Rudyard Kipling (first published 1912 in London Magazine), the second of his "airship utopia" stories, envisions a twenty-first century world founded on free travel, the rule of law, and an inherited abhorrence of crowds. Officials of the Aerial Board of Control are summoned to the remote town of Chicago, which is convulsed by a small group's demands for revival of the nearly forgotten institution of democracy.

• "The Trees," a song by Rush (released 1978 on their album Hemispheres), presents a fable of envy, revolution, and coercive egalitarianism among the different kinds of trees that make up a forest.

A Time of Changes, a novel by Robert Silverberg (first published 1971), the autobiography of a rebellious prince on a planet with a repressive human culture where the first-person singular is forbidden and words such as “I” are considered obscenities, composed in hiding while he awaits capture as leader of a revolution that threatens the State. He shares his story of dawning self-awareness, sparked by a new telepathy-inducing drug. This cautionary and romantic fable dramatizes the desire for freedom, individualism, self-determination and liberation from oppressive social norms and laws.

"Lipidleggin'," a story by F. Paul Wilson (first published 1978 in Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine), takes a humorous look at a future United States where saturated fats have become controlled substances.
 
In addition to these nominees, the Hall of Fame Committee considered four other works: The Winter of the World, by Poul Anderson; The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood; "The Pedestrian," by Ray Bradbury; and The Uplift War, by David Brin.

The Prometheus Award, sponsored by the Libertarian Futurist Society (LFS), was established and first presented in 1979, making it one of the most enduring awards after the Nebula and Hugo awards, and one of the oldest fan-based awards currently in sf. Presented annually since 1982 at the World Science Fiction Convention, the Prometheus Awards include gold coins and plaques for the winners for Best Novel, Best Classic Fiction (Hall of Fame), and occasional Special Awards.

The final vote will take place in mid-2020. All Libertarian Futurist Society members are eligible to vote. The award will be presented at a major science fiction convention.

For four decades, the Prometheus Awards have recognized outstanding works of science fiction and fantasy that dramatize the perennial conflict between Liberty and Power, favor private social cooperation over legalized coercion, expose abuses and excesses of obtrusive government, critique or satirize authoritarian ideas, or champion individual rights and freedoms as the mutually respectful foundation for peace, prosperity, progress, justice, tolerance, mutual respect, and civilization itself.

For more information or to nominate a classic work for next year, contact Hall of Fame judging committee chair William H. Stoddard (halloffame@lfs.org) at any time. Nominees may be in any narrative or dramatic form, including prose fiction, stage plays, film, television, other video, graphic novels, song lyrics, or epic or narrative verse, within the realm of science fiction and fantasy.

The Libertarian Futurist Society also presents the annual Prometheus Award for Best Novel and welcomes new members who are interested in science fiction and the future of freedom. More information is available at our website, www.lfs.org.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Ram Dass and RAW


Relating to the news I blogged Tuesday about the death of Ram Dass, here is a photo Rasa shared on Facebook of Dass and Robert Anton Wilson. Thanks to Eric Wagner for calling my attention to it. "They had a wonderful energy together," Rasa remarked.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Merry Christmas/happy holidays to everyone


The above photo of Tewkesbury Abbey, an old English church, is in honor of my favorite Christmas album, Christmas Carols from Tewkesbury Abbey. I listen to a lot of Christmas music this time of year, mostly old-fashioned English stuff. It makes me happy. Does the music "program" me to be happy, or do I just like the stuff?


Gif courtesy @EldrichCleaver on Twitter

Link: Kerry Xmas blog item from Adam Gorightly.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Ram Dass has died


From the official website. 

"Baba Ram Dass, who epitomized the 1960s of legend by popularizing psychedelic drugs with Timothy Leary, a fellow Harvard academic, before finding spiritual inspiration in India, died on Sunday at his home on Maui, Hawaii. He was 88." 


If you have trouble with the Times' firewall, the CNN obituary is available. 

Monday, December 23, 2019

The Stringless Yo-Yo Company


From the Harvey Matusow library at the University of Sussex. See blog post. 

From Rasa on Facebook:

In Cosmic Trigger II, RAW writes about Harvey Matusow, and his Stringless Yo-Yo Company. I still haven't found the film RAW mentions, but doing a little research on Matusow's life was interesting. About the International Society for the Abolition of Data Processing Machines, Matusow wrote in the late 60's:

"The computer has a healthy and conservative function in mathematics and other sciences," but "when the uses involve business or government, and the individual is tyrannized, then we make our stand.

Here's the passage from Cosmic Trigger II:
• • •
A fellow named Harvey Matusow made his living for a few years identifying people as Communists he had known while in the Party. Then he suddenly confessed that he had never been in the Communist Party, at all, and had been making everything up out of his rich Slavic fantasy life. Everybody was furious at him — both the Left and the Right — and eventually he went to jail for perjury.

When he got out of prison, Harvey made a documentary film about his adventures, which I saw. A lot of it involved his testimony about the Stringless Yo-Yo Company, which he had claimed was run by the Communist Party. None of the Congressmen who heard this testimony asked him what the hell a stringless yo-yo was.

The film may still be available. It’s called The Stringless Yo-Yo and I heartily recommend it to anyone who wants to understand how politics works. 

 – Robert Anton Wilson, Cosmic Trigger II 
• • •

There's a lot online about this odd character. This is a tantalizing synopsis:


This is a bit of writing from Matusow that I found interesting:

Someone found a copy of The Stringless Yo Yo documentary:

Part One:

Part Two:

Thanks to Jon Swabey for finding this.

I watched it last night. Pretty uneven as film making goes, but altogether really very interesting.



Sunday, December 22, 2019

The Widow's Son reading group, Week Eighteen


John Robison, electricity enthusiast and a bit off his rocker

Week Eighteen (pg. 301-313 Hilaritas edition, Chapter 7&8 Part III all editions)

By Gregory Arnott
Special guest blogger

My elementary investigations point towards the fact that Spawn of the Serpent only exists in our feverish narrative and that MacKenzie is a MacGuffin.

Although they are accounted as rivals in the footnote that begins chapter seven, MacKenzie (1735-1826) seems to be a fictional reflection of John Robison (1739-1805) that is slightly distorted, as in a funhouse mirror. While I could find no connection between Robison and Banks’ Floralegium nor any account of Robison’s musical aptitude, he was a many of many accomplishments.

Robison spent fourteen years serving as a surveyor, navigator, and tutor to the son of Admiral Charles Knowles- during this time he served in Quebec and sailed around the Atlantic. During a period of time ashore in Scotland Robison became the professor of chemistry at the University of Glasgow and helped the aforementioned James Watts with the construction of a steam car. He left Scotland to accompany Admiral Knowles to St. Petersburg. During this sojourn he was initiated into Continental Masonry.

We are told that John MacKenzie involved himself in the disputes concerning the authenticity of James Macpherson’s The Poem of Ossian. The Ossian debate concerned some translations that were purported to have been translated from ancient Scotch Gaelic, Ossian himself was purportedly the son of the legendary Finn McCool; the works were heralded by members of the Scottish intelligentsia and the burgeoning Romantic movement but cracks soon appeared in Macpherson’s story. Historians pointed out incongruities with names and words used in the text with its supposed date of origin: Samuel Johnson, never one to let an opportunity to shit on the Scottish go wasted, also became involved and generously maintained that Macpherson had found snippets of an authentic text and incorporated them into his embellished narrative.

Despite their dubious origins the Poems of Ossian were still valued by poets such as William Blake and the later Romantics for their beauty and imagination- Goethe included fragments of his own translation into his bildungsroman The Sorrows of Young Werter. (Interestingly, Werter would become the focal point of another hoax or faux-hysteria when the book was blamed for a rash of suicides modelled on the end of the titular protagonist. There are no reliable accounts of any such suicide. Thomas Love Peacock, in his hilarious Nightmare Abbey, parodies the concerns by having his fictional stand-in for Percy Byshe Shelley attempt suicide saying “I will make my exit like young Werter.” ) Literary historians today consider Ossian to have been one of the greatest forgeries of all time.

This is all to say that I could find no connection between John Robison and Ossian aside from a couple publication schedules that had the poems being printed at the same time as some works on natural philosophy by Robison. Henry MacKenzie was the name of an investigator who, on behalf of the Highland Society, investigated the provenance of The Poems of Ossian and found it to be less-than-authentic.

Robison would indeed author Proofs of a Conspiracy later in his career after he had settled in Edinburgh and had served as the professor of natural philosophy at its famed University. He also invented the siren somewhere during this time and tried a bunch of shit with electricity. Robison had grown disillusioned with the Enlightenment after the events in France and was perhaps still concerned over discoveries made in his travels with Admiral Knowles. His book was famous enough to cause concern among the ranks of political power during the late 18th century- a copy was sent to George Washington by a minister. In his response to the minister Washington wrote:

“It was not my intention to doubt that, the Doctrines of the Illuminati, and principles of Jacobinism had not spread in the United States. On the contrary, no one is more truly satisfied of this fact than I am. The idea that I meant to convey, was, that I did not believe that the Lodges of Free Masons in this Country had, as Societies, endeavoured to propagate the diabolical tenets of the first, or pernicious principles of the latter (if they are susceptible of separation). That Individuals of them may have done it, or that the founder, or instrument employed to found, the Democratic Societies in the United States, may have had these objects; and actually had a separation of the People from their Government in view, is too evident to be questioned.”

Like MacKenzie in our narrative, Robison drew heavily upon the work of Jesuit priest Abbe Augustin Barruel whose writings on the history of the clergy in France, seemingly first, drew a connection between Enlightenment values, the Revolution, Illuminati conspiracies, paganism, and a plotted overthrow of Christianity and European power centers. It is part of the fun that Robison’s fictional analogue accuses him of being a member of the conspiracy he spent so much energy trying to expose.

The actual excerpt from MacKenzie’s Spawn of the Serpent doesn’t offer the reader much new information but instead serves as an atmospheric touch to heighten the sense of continent-spanning paranoia. After a time of great upheavals the people of Europe are at a loss to explain what has happened; not everyone has as shrewd a mind as Signor Duccio or the agnostic vantage point of Henri Benoit and we are left with the raving reconnaissance of someone on the other side of the veil.

Professor Norman Cohn’s The Pursuit of the Millenium served as an inspiration for much of the shadow history contained in The Illuminatus! Trilogy.

Chapter eight consists mostly of an interrogation between Sartines and Sigismundo. I believe that through Sartines characterization as professional, competent, and imminently practical, RAW betrays some affection for the character. Sartines certainly doesn’t share the sinister, odd, or wretched characteristics that make other characters uncomfortable to the reader but instead seems to serve as a reminder that there is someone with a decent amount of composure, even humility, in the narrative. Their conversation, not to mention the footnotes, is concerned with genealogical matters having to do with Holy Blood, Holy Grail which Alias or Oz will do a much better job elucidating upon in the comments than I could do here. I will say that in Alan Moore’s Voice of the Fire, what the Templars found is implied to be the physical remains of Jesus Christ- this is a theory I have heard elsewhere and seems to be the most chilling for the faithful.

For a moment the reader seems to be led into having a faint hope that Sigismundo has found an ally who can help him escape his interminable and confusing fate before it is taken away by an interruption. Sartines is no hero and the dread and resignation that Sigismundo must feel as the police inspector gives his men orders to transport him back to the Bastille and refuses to meet his eyes seeps slightly off the page.

And the tension is broken with the crack of a gunshot.

A very Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Solstice, Yule or whatever makes you happy during the darkest days of the year! I’m glad to have this forum and time with all of you and look forward to one more post before the new decade. While I’m not always as active as I’d like to be with my responses, I hope you all know that reading what you have to say has been one of the great joys of life for the past few months.

From Eric Wagner: “With Sigismundo’s love of Bach and Bob Wilson’s love of the Modern Jazz Quartet, I thought this might work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ADHny8ZDmbI .”

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Living in a RAW world?


I have written before about the odd fact that, in a sense, I seem to be living in a Robert Anton Wilson novel, working in a city heavily influenced by the Freemason movement.

Here's what I wrote in a blog post last year: "Above is the original plat for the city of Sandusky, Ohio, which is celebrating its 200th anniversary this year. A Freemason named Hector Kilbourne laid out the city streets to reproduce the mason's compass and square design. Masons in Sandusky, where I work for the local newspaper, say Sandusky is the only city in the U.S. with a masonic street design."

When I drive to work, I routinely go through an oddball intersection of five streets, as a result of the design.

Recently I participated in an annual Christmas candlelight home tour in Sandusky, and one of the stops was a place that's not a home: the Masonic Temple, built in 1889. I asked for permission to take photos, and they said sure, so here are a few to share with you.


The lodge room, as seen from the balcony. Note the picture of George Washington, Freemason, on the left. 


View of lodge room from the interior.


Artwork of George Washington, Freemason. 


The locker room, where I am told the Knights Templars put on their uniforms. 


The library, with lots of rather old looking books. 

The Washington Square you see in the above original plat of the city is now Washington Park, which dominates downtown Sandusky. Of course, it's not unusual for an American city to reference the first president, but looking at the Washington picture in the Masonic Temple, I wonder if that also is an illustration of the Freemason influence on Sandusky.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Friday links


Psilocybe mexicana (Creative Commons photo)

Conspiracy theory joke.

Top ten moral panics of the 2010s. Spoiler: Bees won't disappear off the face of the Earth after all, and apparently Taylor Swift is not, in fact, a Nazi.

British study shows psilocybin useful for treating depression. 

The world we live in. "In our new age of social media, that article, accurate down to the last detail, wasn’t the article that became widely shared online. Instead, the subsequent firestorm was fed by ideology-driven websites, with authors posting articles loosely based on Fourth Estate’s original piece but filling in the blanks of the short, accurate article with their own vitriol and blue-sky speculation … In the days after these ideology-driven websites wrote about my talk, I discovered a torrent of hate polluting both my email inbox and my Twitter account."

Which rock and roll band had the most bitter breakup?

The most British story ever?

Reason profiles Tulsi Gabbard as the "anti-war candidate."

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

A word from John Higgs


John Higgs

John Higgs is one of my favorite writers, and one of his best titles is Stranger Than We Can Imagine: Making Sense of the Twentieth Century. 

Many of the book's topics obviously are inspired by his interest in Robert Anton Wilson, but Wilson is not mentioned in the text. I recently worked up the courage to ask him about my pet theory about why RAW isn't mentioned. Apparently I was wrong, so I won't burden you with my brilliant idea, but here is what John wrote in reply:

"Yes, it was a surprise to me that RAW wasn't in that book. He was in early drafts (it was a difficult book to write, as I'm sure you can imagine, and finding that particular path through the 20th Century woods took five drafts.) During the editing, however, it became clear that the stuff in there about RAW was just repeating things that had already been looked at, in the sections about Joyce or quantum mechanics etc. Because it was in chronological order, much of what he talks about had already come up before we got to the 1970s. There was a later chapter in which Leary figured heavily that was dumped entirely because it interrupted the overall shape of the book. It is harsh, and it is a shame when you have a personal fondness for these things, but that's the editing process for you. If you're not being harsh, you're not doing it right.

"It helps that I've written a lot about him elsewhere, though, as overall I like to think I've helped shine light on his legacy."

John's official website (newsletter, shopping, etc.) is here. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Big Hilaritas Press announcements coming soon


Hilaritas Press has not made a any book announcements lately, but as many as six books could be coming in in the near future, Rasa reports, so watch this space for news.

Two of the new three RAW reissues,  Ishtar Rising and The New Inquisition, are "very close to ready," Rasa reports, and Sex, Drugs & Magick also is close.

"AND, we have three top secret surprise books that are in various stages of production. One of them may pop into existence even before Ishtar Rising and The New Inquisition!" Rasa said.

Some juicy details:

"As for new books from Hilaritas Press, yes, we are ever so close to publishing two RAW titles – there are just a few details that have been hard to pin down. One issue was resurrecting Ishtar Rising. We figured out that New Falcon didn’t really take a lot of care in helping Bob turn Playboy’s The Book of the Breast into Ishtar Rising. We think that because they didn’t go to the trouble or expense of using the photos that Playboy used, photos that illustrated specific parts of the text, a lot of the original intent and form got lost. We decided to go to the trouble and expense of getting as many of the original photos as possible (or using better ones in many cases), and using the captions that Bob originally wrote. All the editing and proofreads for the book are finished, so getting the final photos together is the last task. Christina gets some kind of special award in RAW World for her heroic efforts in doing the research to find all the photos. I think at the moment we are still waiting to hear about the last photo we need. Just this past week Christina finalized the purchase of the photo that turned out to be the hardest to find. The Book of the Breast had a wonderful photo of Linda Lovelace that we found impossible to locate (we needed an original photo file and permission), but Christina managed to track down an equally great Lovelace photo from famed photographer Milton H. Greene. We’re both excited about this new edition because of the “photo effort,” but both of us are also very excited about the surprise guest writer who provided a new foreword for the book. It’s going to be a very cool Ishtar Rising, and the theme of the book, the rise of Ishtar, the struggle between the Matrist and the Patrist, could not be more apropos for the rather insane times within which our current lasagna flies.

"The other book that is very close to ready is The New Inquisition, another RAW title relevant to the times. I haven’t seen amoeba's new cover yet, but the book is edited and proofed. We are expecting the cover soon, but that release is going to be delayed a bit longer because just this week we got the tentative “yes” from a “celebrity” friend of RAW’s who both Christina and I thought would be ideal for writing a new introduction to The New Inquisition."

As you can see, Rasa is working hard to make the new editions worthwhile when they come out.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

The Widow's Son online reading group, Week 17


The statue of the Archangel Michael atop the Northampton Guildhall. His views on time expressed in “Clouds Unfold” of Alan Moore’s Jerusalem have much in common with de Selby’s apprehension of plenumary time. 

Week Seventeen (pg 275-299 Hilaritas edition, Chapter 5&6 Part III all editions) 


By Gregory Arnott
Special guest blogger


Before we begin, I must admit that I was wrong last week when I assumed that the stonecutter that met Sigismundo was Signor Duccio. Thankfully, other readers picked up on what RAW actually intended in the scene.

The narrative of chapter five takes place in the fevered mind of Sigismundo as he fights off two assailants in what is revealed to be Signor Duccio’s backyard. The pitch of battle is humorously broken up by the footnotes detailing controversies surrounding de Selby; for example the footnote extending from 278-280 begins right after the intimate glance between Sigismundo and the second assassin in the yard of angels. It thoroughly takes us away from the main narrative as we are informed about more schemes perpetuated by the shadowy Professor Hanfkopf, the assertions of another nefarious German- Hamburger, Bell’s Theorem and how it relates to de Selby’s concept of plenumary time, and a hilarious attempt at discrediting Ferguson by crudely pasting his face over a picture of Harry Reems and Georgina Spelvin going at it (presumably from the classic porn film The Devil in Miss Walker), the Professor’s subsequent breakdown over the scandal and his conversion to Shinran Buddhism. We are then dropped immediately back into Sigismundo’s plight with the jarring line “[t]hen the assassin fell.” We are travelling at different speeds through time and space. (RAW writes often about Shinran Buddhism and was married in a Shinran Buddhist temple.)

RAW does an excellent job of making violence as ugly and gross as it must be in real life. His use of descriptors like “bloody pulp” and the sensory details such as Sigismundo hearing his own blood squish in his boots take away any possibility of celebrating the fighting as courageous or romantic. It is a nasty, brutish, and short affair.

Perhaps because of his heightened sense(s) of focus Sigismundo is able to cue into the conversation of a trio of dogs that are nearby. Most likely what is happening is that Sigismundo has stumbled into a clear connection with the second circuit, the anal-territorial circuit, through his martial exertions and is able to understand the territorial squabbles and first-circuit complaints (hunger) of animals who are in a similar headspace.

Also on pg 280, I just want to point out the brilliant simile that Sigismundo was “wary as a hunted otter.” I do know that otters can be as vicious as any other mammal (wasn’t there a study about some otters raping baby dolphins that found its way out of the journals and into the internet?) but haven’t had the experience necessary to make the comparison anything more than humorous. I have been angrily chattered at by a beaver who didn’t like how close my kayak was to  her/him.  Luckily I escaped without further conflict- unlike President Carter who was attacked by a swimming rabbit. (Personally I’m convinced the rabbit is still after him and is responsible for the President’s recent falls.)

Another footnote discusses de Selby’s proposed conversations with dogs and goats and some guesses towards discerning his “real” identity. Perhaps the most disappointing possibility is that de Selby is a pen name for Prince Charles- I guess in between trying to get the British to eat mutton again and waiting for mother to abdicate or die he would have some free time. It is also proposed that de Selby is another pen name for the group of mathematicians behind Nicolas Bourbaki or the result of another cabal consisting of the unlikely alliance of Schrodinger, Borges, Velikovsky, Churchill, and Groucho Marx. It would be very much in the mold of Borges to create a precocious, reality-threatening philosopher as he subverts the line between fiction and nonfiction in works such as Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius, The Man Who Wrote Don Quixote, and The Zohar/The Aleph. Borges also admired the Irish imagination and his few comments on Joyce have shaped my own perceptions of that master. Recently a collaboration between the Marx Brothers and Salvador Dali has been published- Giraffes on Horseback Salad which was edited by the comedian Tim Heidecker. Jacoby, the scholar who proposed the unlikely collaboration, evidently proposed a solution to the loud hammering involved in de Selby’s experiments that was fit for a surrealist manifesto.

Sigismundo stumbles into the house of Signor Duccio, who has not arrived home yet, and helps himself to bread and beer. I guess he didn’t know that alcohol thins the blood and isn’t what one should be drinking while hoping a wound will stop bleeding. I was unable to find the original person who said “necessity knows no law” and instead most places seemed to consider it an English proverb. We end with Sigismundo failing to menace the homeowner and fainting with the familiar closing line “back to the Bastille.”

And yet, that isn’t the case, at least not until the end of the chapter. Duccio has of course been searching for Sigismundo and he and his compatriot have a plan to smuggle him out of Paris. While Sigismundo recovers he learns about the political theories of his would-be saviors, debates theology with the atheistic Duccio who is working on an 8AM buzz, and undergoes the culture shock of meeting a representative of the Third Estate. (I guess his experiences with servants and non-noble members of the craft doesn’t count.)

I am curious as to the identity of the P communicating with Chartres- it doesn’t seem to be Pierre at this point but perhaps Sigismundo’s location under his feet in the carriage was the author being coy. Pierre is still hung up on dogs(hit). Sigismundo and the reader are further educated on the hearts of ruffians as he listens to two of them argue in favor of letting their children have pets and hears about the kindness of the late Jules.

And Sigismundo is caught. Back to the Bastille.

From Eric: ”In this week’s reading Sigismundo remembers how he wanted to become a greater composer than Scarlatti, so I chose some more Scarlatti played by Horowitz: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-5yWDliZZw 

Friday, December 13, 2019

About the TV series announcement


Robert Anton Wilson. (From the "lost photos.") 

A couple of thoughts on Wednesday's big announcement about the planned Illuminatus! TV series. (As a rule, I do one posting a day here, but decided to do Thursday's announcement early, on Wednesday night to get the news out.)

1. The announcement is apparently the result of years of patient work; see this Tweet, from @amoebadesign, e.g Scott McPherson who does the Hilaritas Press covers, "We've had to keep this secret for 5 years, but stage one is now complete. Illuminatus! Trilogy TV."

I know little about Kallisti beyond what's in the press release referenced above, but see this previous post.  Good for Kallisti.

2. Can RAW fans claim a little credit for the announcement?

Robert Anton Wilson has been dead for more than 10 years. He never had a bestseller. He never figured out how to get on TV very often (one national TV appearance that I know of, pinch hitting fot Timothy Leary on the "Politically Incorrect" TV show). He never got much support from the literary establishment, i.e. book review publications, book sections of newspapers such as the "New York Times," attention from English professors, and so on.

What he HAS had going for him, even posthumously, was a grassroots network of fans and admirers keeping his name out there. It's a pretty good story, even if it's been ignored so far by the New York Times and National Public Radio, and perhaps that support was useful in getting the project off the ground.



Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Illuminatus! TV series announced



A TV and movie production company with an excellent track record has announced plans to produce a TV series of Illuminatus!

Of course, you never know about this sort of announcement, but what makes this big news is Hivemind has completed many projects including The Expanse, a Hugo Award winning science fiction series. The Illuminatus! series is a collaboration between Hivemind and Kallisti, a suggestively-named company associated with amoeba.

Rasa reports Kallisti had been secretly working on the project for some time. The RAW Trust got the first inquiry from Hunter Gorinson of Hivemind just over a year ago.

"That seemed like perfect timing as Kallisti was just nearing that point in their development where they could use Hunter’s expertise. The Expanse from Hivemind is one of my favorite sci-fi dramas in recent years. I immediately gave Christina my thumbs up on that connection," Rasa said.

"RAW saw several unsuccessful attempts to get Illuminatus! to the screen. This latest effort seems like it has genuine traction!" Rasa said.

                                                                                                      -- Tom

Here is the complete official press release:

Hivemind & Brian Taylor Conspire to Bring THE ILLUMINATUS! TRILOGY to Television
Subversive and Influential Sci-Fi Franchise Coming to TV from Showrunner of HAPPY! and Producers of Sony’s BLOODSHOT and Netflix’s THE WITCHER

LOS ANGELES, CA–  December 11, 2019 – Hivemind today announced that it has partnered with writer/director Brian Taylor (HAPPY!, CRANK) and European production company Kallisti for a new television series based on THE ILLUMINATUS! TRILOGY – the hugely influential science-fiction franchise created by authors Robert Anton Wilson & Robert Shea that first introduced the concept of "the Illuminati" into the popular consciousness, while simultaneously fueling, deconstructing, and skewering America's modern-day obsession with conspiracy theories.

When the offices of a Manhattan news publisher are bombed, anti-authority reporter George Dorn begins to suspect that the disturbing conspiracy his editor has spent months investigating is not only real, it might be the key to unlocking all of history’s greatest unanswered mysteries. As George sets out to find his mentor and uncover the truth about an all-seeing secret society that seems to unify every insane, inane, and outlandish conspiracy theory ever told – from the JFK assassination, celebrity cabals and lost continents to UFOs, ancient gods and the truth about the New World Order – he finds himself drawn deeper into a war between two shadowy groups. On one side stand the Discordians, a clandestine band of chaos-loving guerrilla fighters led by the enigmatic modern-day pirate Hagbard Celine; and on the other, the Illuminati – elite authoritarians who secretly manipulate world events, ever expanding their wealth, influence, and physical power in a plot to escape the limitations of human existence.

ILLUMINATUS! will be executive produced by Dinesh Shamdasani and Hunter Gorinson for Hivemind, and Iris McPherson and Kirstin Winkler for Kallisti. Taylor will serve as executive producer and showrunner.

“ILLUMINATUS! is a kind of mind-blowing literary miracle…  It manages to be completely seminal while as relevant today – if not more so – than the day it was published,” said Taylor. “Wilson and Shea have created a fractal-like world of conspiracy inside conspiracy that completely anticipates today’s internet-fueled, Post-Truth culture.”

A globetrotting science-fiction/conspiracy thriller laced with subversive humor, ILLUMINATUS! was first published in 1975 at the height of post-Watergate paranoia and has remained in print ever since.  Often ranked alongside Frank Herbert's DUNE, Douglas Adams' HITCHHIKERS’ GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, and William Gibson's NEUROMANCER as one of the most influential and obsessively followed pieces of cult science fiction ever produced, references and allusions to the series have turned up everywhere from John Carpenter's THEY LIVE to ABC's LOST with high-profile creators such as Philip K. Dick, Alan Moore, George Carlin, Damon Lindelof, Grant Morrison, and more citing the series as an inspiration and influence.

Celebrated as a “mind-twisting science fiction…classic for more than 30 years” by the New York Times, “the ultimate conspiracy book” by the Village Voice, and the “New Testament” of the American counterculture underground by Vice, ILLUMINATUS! has spawned nearly a dozen sequels and spin-offs, along with comic books, stage plays, radio productions, role-playing games, and more based on the original trilogy. In recent years, Kallisti has also developed an immersive ILLUMINATUS! VR experience, exploring series’ many iconic characters and settings, that has exhibited at numerous arts and technology events in the United States and Europe.

“Since acquiring the rights to this wild and unique series, we have been working on an immersive experience around THE ILLUMINATUS! TRILOGY and are thrilled to bring this beloved story to television. We couldn’t think of more ideal partners than Brian Taylor and Hivemind. The themes of this cult classic are more current than ever today, and we cannot wait to bring it to life,” said Kallisti partners Iris McPherson and Kirstin Winkler.

"The series' staggering influence has only continued to grow with each passing year not just because it explores and indulges the most compelling depths of America's conspiratorial imagination, but because it also gives us the tools and knowledge to understand it. If there was ever a series primed for 21st century television, it's ILLUMINATUS!” said Hunter Gorinson, Hivemind’s VP of Brand & Content Strategy.

ILLUMINATUS! will mark Taylor’s next television project following HAPPY!, based on the Image Comics series and starring Christopher Meloni and Patton Oswalt, alongside left-field guest appearances by Jeff Goldblum, Ann-Margret, and musicians “Weird” Al Yankovic and Amanda Palmer. The series recently concluded its acclaimed run on Syfy with an 88% Rotten Tomatoes score for its final season. Taylor and Grant Morrison’s reimagining of Aldous Huxley’s BRAVE NEW WORLD is currently shooting for USA Network in London.

To be produced in collaboration with Kallisti, ILLUMINATUS! marks a major new addition to Hivemind’s rapidly expanding roster of high-profile film and television projects, which also includes Amazon's acclaimed science-fiction series THE EXPANSE, which was recently renewed for a fifth season in advance of the fourth's December 13th debut; Netflix's much-anticipated adaptation of THE WITCHER starring Henry Cavill, debuting December 20th; and Sony Pictures’ feature film BLOODSHOT, starring Vin Diesel and Guy Pearce, in theaters February 21st, 2020.

Taylor is represented by Verve Talent & Literary Agency. Hivemind is represented by UTA.

###

ABOUT HIVEMIND

Founded in 2018, Hivemind is dedicated to partnering with high-level creative talent and globally recognized intellectual properties from the worlds of science fiction, fantasy, horror, comic books, video games, anime, and more. The company's current projects include the acclaimed science-fiction series THE EXPANSE, now in its fourth season, for Amazon and Netflix’s upcoming adaptation of THE WITCHER starring Henry Cavill for Netflix, as well as this summer’s SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK feature film from CBS Films and next year’s BLOODSHOT feature film, starring Vin Diesel, from Sony Pictures. Hivemind has a first-look deal with Amazon Studios for event television, and its leadership team includes former Universal Pictures president Sean Daniel, his producing partner Jason Brown, Bad Robot veteran Kathy Lingg, and former Valiant Entertainment CEO & Chief Creative Officer Dinesh Shamdasani. Visit them online at HivemindEnt.com.

ABOUT KALLISTI

Kallisti is an independent creative content studio that specializes in traditional, interactive and immersive storytelling. Since acquiring the film, television and interactive rights to THE ILLUMINATUS! TRILOGY, Kallisti has been working on an interactive VR experience with creative direction from UK design studio amoeba. A demo VR experience based on these seminal works received rave reviews at the Rotterdam Film Festival’s Cinemart and at New Orleans Game Fete. Kallisti partners Iris McPherson, whose UK film-marketing company Filmtiki was involved in the marketing campaigns of tentpole movies such as THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, BATTLE LA and ANONYMOUS and Kirstin Winkler, an LA-based producer and former EVP of Centropolis Entertainment (10,000 BC, 2012, ANONYMOUS) will be overseeing the creative process for the studio.




Holiday shopping news update, Eric Wagner edition [UPDATE]


Eric Wagner, right, hanging out with composer and jazz musician Anthony Braxton. 

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Although Dec. 11 was the publication date for the new edition as of Tuesday, when this post was written, Eric has been informed by his publisher today that the new edition is still in production. The new version is definitely worth waiting for; I will let you know when it's available. -- The Management. 

The new edition of Eric Wagner's An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson was released today. Eric says it is a revised third edition. 

This is a major update of Eric's guide to RAW's work, with many changes and additions:

• Five new appendices: "Afterwords of a Cosmic Schmuck," "Eight Ways to Listen to Beethoven," "On Robert Anton Wilson and Misunderstanding Finnegans Wake," "Reich...Bruno Leary...Pound" and "Ode to Joy."

• Many updates and corrections in the text, including new entries for Beyond Chaos and Beyond and Robert Anton Wilson: Beyond Conspiracy Theory. 

• New illustrations by Bobby Campbell.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

RAW on UFOs and conspiracy theories



Martin Wagner's latest rediscovery, "The Unconscious Conspiracy," is quite interesting, about the UFO phenomena, conspiracy theories and more. Good for Martin. A bit of it:

Every conspiracy, I feel, regards itself as an affinity group—a gang of men and women who think alike, share common goals, and work together well. If you and I are doing it. it is, by God, just an affinity group. When that gang over there does it, it’s a damnable conspiracy.

True conspiracy does exist, of course, when a group conceals evidence, spreads deliberate misinformation, and coerces or terrorizes witnesses. Any affinity group, however, approaches such behavior to the extent that the members reinforce each other’s prejudices, especially concerning such crucial epistemological issues as what is important enough to notice and discuss as against what is trivial and better ignored. As Nietzsche said in this connection, we are all better artists than we realize—especially when we unite to promote a given viewpoint. How coercive do you have to be before you have actually intimidated a witness? Most people, as numerous experiments have shown, are very easily manipulated into saying what an Authority Figure seems to want to hear.

Monday, December 9, 2019

The Staten Island ferry disaster



The above image shows a sculpture in Manhattan memorializing the Staten Island ferry disaster of Nov. 22, 1963, when an entire ferry full of people was pulled beneath the saves by a creature with giant tentacles. The terrible tragedy is usually blamed on a gigantic octopus, but readers of H.P. Lovecraft or Illuminatus! probably have a more clear idea of what really happened. It's been explained that you've never heard of this because news coverage was overshadowed by the assassination of President Kennedy on the same day. See this "documentary." 

Via the 2019 Advent Calendar of Curiousities, which I found out from RAW fan Mark Frauenfelder in the Recomendo newsletter. 

Sunday, December 8, 2019

The Widow's Son Reading Group, Week Sixteen


A representation of man placed between the Macrocosm and Microcosm from the works of Robert Fludd

Week Fifteen (pg. 261-274 Hilaritas edition, Chapter 3&4, Part Three,  all editions)


By Gregory Arnott
Special guest blogger

Chapter 3 begins with three more disreputable, desperate men discussing the planned assassination of Sigismundo and Pierre. Pierre is still alive! Hooray -- and he seems to have learned his lesson about being directly involved with “wetwork,” even if he hasn’t found a more reputable career. While Henri, who seems to have taken the place of Lucien as the overconfident lieutenant, points out that Sigismundo is bound to be unarmed, hungry, and tired, only Louis is astounded by his feat of making it out of the Bastille. None of them seem to consider that the abilities of one who could do such a thing might still be a match for would-be assassins, even if they happened to be unarmed, hungry, and tired. (Circumstances that might make them all the more dangerous -- and I doubt that the three men here are much more well-fed or well-rested than Sigismundo.)

As in the beginning we are also taken into the confident ponderings of Lt. Sartines who is puzzling over what appears to be a record of memberships in a secret society similar to the one proposed in Holy Blood, Holy Grail. Before going over some of the names on the list I’d like to say that the line “[t]he secret usually turned out to be a Hebrew or Arabic word that meant nothing to anyone but a mystic” made me laugh.

Either the Author or Sartines is mistaken about the parentage of Charles Radclyffe. He was not the illegitimate child of Charles II but rather his mother, Lady Mary Tudor, was a natural child of James and the actress Moll Davis. Radclyffe was raised in the Court-in-Exile of the Stuarts as a companion of James II’s son James Francis Edward, the Old Pretender who led the Fifteen, and participated in Charles Edward’s invasion, the Forty Five. He has been tied to various conspiracies and named as one of the possible Past Masters of the Priory of Sion.

Both Isaac Newton, whose reputation at this point in history (18th Century) would be analogous to the present day reputation of Einstein, and Robert Boyle are claimed as members of whatever Sartines is examining. Newton and Boyle are similar as both are respected a historical founders of modern science yet both were enthusiastic alchemists and theologians. (Always worth pointing out that Science is directly descended from Magic, same as Religion.) Johann Valentin Andrea was a German theologian who is often assumed to be the author (on his own claims) of The Alchemical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz, the third Rosicrucian Manifesto which was radically different than the first two in so far as it was pure allegory. Andrea also wrote the philosophical romance Christianopolis which is a similar work to Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis.

Robert Fludd was an early scientist but one whose famous contributions to Science are limited to his arguments with Kepler. Fludd was much more prolific on the occult end of things and was an active participant in the Rosicrucian conspiracy/brotherhood/joke/hoax. His works are known for their lush illustrations, which are still reproduced in many books on mysticism and alchemy, and his defense of occult traditions. His enthusiasm for Qabalah, astrology, Rosicrucianism, neo-Platonism, and alchemy led to many criticisms from his contemporaries. Kepler accused him of being a theosophist in his letters, an assertion that appears historically accurate. Another commentator claims that Fludd did a lot to free occult philosophy from Aristotalean thinking which is something I would imagine old RAW, no friend of “the Master of Those Who Know,” would appreciate.

Both members of the Gonzaga family of Northern Italy mentioned here have been posited as former Masters of the Priory. Louis, better known by the Latinate form of his name Aloysius de Gonzaga, is also a Saint of the Catholic Church. The rule of the Gonzaga family in Mantua would have come to an end only a half century before the present narrative. Connetable de Bourbon, better known as Charles III Duke of Bourbon and Montpensier, seems to have been mostly interested in soldiery during his lifetime and is naturally named as a Past Master of the Priory in many other documents.

The next name on the list, you guessed it: Frank Stallone.

Sartines goes on to ruminate on Poussin’s troublesome painting which has lately been in the possession of Louis XV.

The next chapter is fast paced as letters fly back and forth discussing Sigismundo’s whereabouts and different schemes are playing out to claim him. Signor Duccio seems like Sigismundo’s best hope of escape from Paris but Sigismundo seems to reward his efforts with a punch in the gut. I believe the “P” sending communiques to the Duc de Chartres is Pierre who seems to still be the coordinating agent for the wetwork crew. Cagliostro seems smug and to be on top of matters, an attitude and circumstance I believe doesn’t change until the end of Nature’s God. We end this week’s reading with Sigismundo in a courtyard of unsold angels, confronted by the assassins from chapter three.

From Eric: “I thought of Bach’s Goldberg Variations this week, and then I thought, no, it doesn’t seem operatic enough for all this action. Then I thought of the use of the Goldberg Variations in Silence of the Lambs.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jgza7PwUr6k

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Two Oz Fritz interviews


Oz Fritz working with the band Achilles Wheel. Photo by John Taber.

Grammy Award winning sound engineer Oz Fritz, who frequently comments on this site, is featured in two recent podcasts, Oz announced on his blog.

The first is an appearance on the Jai Dev show. "The content of the interview weaves biographical information alongside a discussion of music and mysticism put into practical use and expression.  This gives a rare look into the mystical side of my  musical journey."

You can follow a streaming link from Oz' post, but it's also available as an Apple Podcast, including from Android apps that can access the Apple store; I've downloaded it to my Android phone using my Podkicker app, and I'll listen to it Monday, when I have a long commute to work. About an hour and a half long.

The other interview is for the Thursday with Xaxx show, and it's a video interview by life coach Paula Galindo, Mr. Fritz' girlfriend. "This interview largely concerns my approaches and uses to some of the spiritual technologies unleashed by E. J. Gold with a touch of  Crowley and Gurdjieff thrown in for good measure." Follow the link from Oz' post or go here; the interview starts at about 5:20.

Here is an Oz Fritz bio and interview from my blog.




Friday, December 6, 2019

The war on chronic pain patients


Kate Nicholson

[With permission from my boss, here is a recent story from my day job as a reporter for the Sandusky Register. I think the problems of chronic pain patients as a result of the "war on some drugs" is an underreported story in this country. See also this related story on the problems of chronic pain patients in the Sandusky, Ohio, area. For background, see Jeffrey Singer at the Cato Institute here and here.  Dr. Singer and Ms. Nicholson are both on Twitter. -- The Management]

SANDUSKY -- Day after day, emails from desperate chronic pain patients fill up the inbox of Colorado civil rights attorney Kate Nicholson.

“I’ve gotten 10 this morning,” Nicholson said during an October speech at a Washington, D.C., think tank.

She then gave examples of the kinds of emails she receives.

“I am a pain patient who can no longer get treatment for my pain caused by a spinal cord injury,” wrote one. “I do not want to (end) my life. I want to live. I want to see and hold my grandson. If I cannot get help from someone, somewhere, I will not be here next week.”

“My brother passed away,” another person wrote. “Over the last year, his doctors began to significantly cut down his pain medication. He was truly at the end of his rope.”


Nicholson gets many emails from chronic pain patients and their relatives after her own experiences turned her into a national spokeswoman on their behalf. In a telephone interview with the Register, she said she probably gets a half-dozen emails or phone calls every day.

She said the emails she quoted in her talk, given at the Cato Institute, are typical.

“They are complete strangers. They are all desperate,” Nicholson said.

“Sometimes it’s family members who have lost someone to suicide,” she said. “I’ve been getting these emails for the last two years.”

Nicholson is particularly known for her TED talk, “What We Lose When We Undertreat Pain,” an 11-minute speech available on YouTube that she gave in October 2017.

The Register contacted Nicholson because the cases she describes resemble many local cases the newspaper has covered.

The Register has interviewed many pain patients using opioid prescriptions who were former patients of Dr. William Bauer. They have said they turned to Bauer after other local doctors turned their backs and would not treat them.

Bauer was forced to give up his Sandusky practice after the U.S. attorney’s office indicted him this year on 270 federal charges, claiming he improperly prescribed pain medication. His case is pending in federal court. The prosecutor who brought the charges, Northern Ohio U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman, has ignored interview requests from the Register.

Herdman’s office has refused to provide any information about what sparked the investigation of Bauer, what basis was used for determining prescription levels were unlawful and other information about how the investigation was conducted.

In her TED talk, Nicholson describes how she was a successful civil rights attorney when she suddenly began suffering intense pain, which was the result of botched spine surgery. The pain was so bad it threatened to destroy her career, but she resisted taking opioid pain pills until all other treatments failed.

“Out of options, I surrendered and swallowed the pills. And then something remarkable happened. I improved. I felt relief. I wasn’t foggy. Space opened in my mind, and I could work again. And so I worked as a federal prosecutor, for more than 20 years,” she told her Boulder, Colorado, audience.

Nicholson said although she still struggled to sit or stand or walk, she was able to work with the help of the pain pills and negotiated groundbreaking settlements against the San Francisco Giants and 49ers sports teams and the Walt Disney Co. She won important court cases arguing from a folding law chair.

Eventually, after being in severe pain for about 20 years, Nicholson found a mix of treatments that relieved her pain enough to allow her to stop using high-powered pain medications. In her recent taped talks, she appears able to stand and move around normally.

But she remains sympathetic to chronic pain patients who say they need opioid medications.

“Opioids were essential,” she said.

And under current federal government rules, she’d be classified as an abuser, Nicholson said.

“You’re looking at someone who for years was an ‘overutilizer’ for most of my career,” she said.

Nicholson said she cannot comment on Sandusky doctor William Bauer’s case, as it is an ongoing legal matter and she doesn’t know the evidence.

But she said such prosecutions have an impact on doctors, who become fearful of treating patients, and on chronic pain patients looking for treatment.

In her TED talk, she described the chilling effect on doctors in Boulder who were afraid to prescribe opioids after a well-respected local physician prescribed to an undercover agent posing as a pain patient. Her doctor suddenly announced one day that she would no longer prescribe opioids. Nicholson was forced to fly back to Washington, D.C., to get treatment.

It was inconvenient, but she could afford it, she related.

“What happens to people who can’t?” she asked.

In her Cato talk, Nicholson quoted a doctor from a Human Rights Watch report who explained why he wouldn’t care for patients who needed treatment.

“I turn away new patients. These are folks whose records checked out, they are good citizens,” the doctor said. “But I can’t afford to burn down my life and lose my license.”

Nathan Sanger, a chronic pain patient in Norwalk, described in an August interview with the Register what happened when the government shut down Bauer’s practice, forcing Sanger to go to his family doctor for help.

The doctor turned Sanger away. Sanger said the doctor, worried about being targeted by prosecutors, told Sanger he’d like to help, “but I don’t want to lose my license. I want to practice for at least 15 years.”

She told her audience at the Cato seminar that patients denied legal medication may feel forced to turn to illegal drugs, putting them in danger of the drug overdoses that federal prosecutions purportedly are trying to prevent.

“I’ve heard from people who turned to the illegal market,” she told the Register.

Nicholson spends much of her time as a spokesman and advocate for chronic pain patients.

“I’ve really been working at trying to get some relief for patients,” she said.

Note: Kate Nicholson’s TED talk is available on YouTube. Her presentation before the Cato Institute on the effect on patients and doctors of prescription drug monitoring programs is available at www.cato.org/events/patients-privacy-and-pdmps; Nicholson, the second presenter at the conference, begins talking about 22 minutes into the video. She’s on Twitter: @speakingabtpain.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Thursday links


Ramez Naam, optimist and clean energy promoter. 

Free advice from shrinks. (Via Supergee).

Tweet thread on the John Higgs book about the KLF and Robert Anton Wilson. 

How to help with climate change. I'm a Ramez Naam fan for all kinds of reasons.

Ted Gioia's list of the 100 best recordings of 2019 (wide range of genres, lots of fairly obscure, indy stuff.)

Reason's 2019 gift guide.  Featuring Jesse Walker and other interesting folks.