Friday, April 16, 2021

Reading, and writing, under the influence

Farewell Bend Park in Bend, Oregon

The Bulletin, a newspaper based in Bend, Oregon, runs an article,  "Tokin' about books: reading and writing under the influence," by David Jasper that mentions RAW. After interviewing a local reader named Karie Alexander who likes to read while she's stoned, Jasper lists a number of "Stoned Authors," including this one: "Author Robert Anton Wilson began using marijuana around 1950, and in the 1960s tried mescaline eventually becoming a counter-culture favorite with books such as the "Cosmic Trigger" series and his friendship with Timothy Leary."

I should probably clarify that marijuana use and possession in Oregon has been legal since July 1, 2015, thanks to passage of a state question in 2014. About Ms. Alexander, Jasper writes, "Alexander likes to take a toke or two in the morning before heading to a coffee shop near here east Bend home, where she has a bagel and reads for an hour every morning. That's been a tradition for her for 20 years, Alexander said."

Paul Krassner once wrote that Wilson "became a dedicated pot-head in 1955." Krassner also wrote, about Wilson's writing process, that all of Wilson's books were "written with the aid of that good old creative fuel, marijuana. He once told me about his creative process: 'It’s rather obsessive-compulsive, I think. I write the first draft straight, then rewrite stoned, then rewrite straight again, then rewrite stoned again, and so on, until I’m absolutely delighted with every sentence, or irate editors start reminding me about deadlines — whichever comes first'.”

I don't know how to survey this, but I have to assume that some of RAW's readers have been known to consume marijuana before reading his work.

Hat tip, Nick Helweg-Larsen, who can't read the article because something called "General Data Protection Regulation" keeps the minds of the British public from being polluted by articles published in Oregon newspapers.  



Thursday, April 15, 2021

The 23 Enigma goes way back

 


The above was posted on Twitter by Jenna, @joaktree33, who writes, "Robert Anton Wilson & William S. Burroughs are often credited as the originators of the “23 enigma”, but there’s an even earlier reference to the mysterious number in the Sept. 1952 Black Magic comic book by Jack Kirby." And please follow the link for another posted page. 

And in fact, interest in 23 goes back well before the 1950s, as the Illuminatus! trilogy notes. See this interesting Wikipedia piece on the phrase "23 skidoo."  

As the piece notes, a dire 23 dates back to Charles Dickens' classic 1859 novel, A Tale of Two Cities. At the end of the novel, poor Sydney Carton is No. 23 in line to the guillotine, as I verified by looking up the text at Project Gutenberg. (Fun fact: Sydney Carton was once portrayed on radio by Orson Welles.)


Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Science fiction news

The finalists for this year's Hugo Awards have been announced; here are the Best Novel finalists:

Black Sun, Rebecca Roanhorse (Gallery / Saga Press)       

The City We Became, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)

Harrow the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir (Tor.com)

Network Effect, Martha Wells (Tor.com)

Piranesi, Susanna Clarke (Bloomsbury)

The Relentless Moon, Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor Books)

Piranesi and Network Effect are very good, in my opinion; I haven't read the others yet. I read last year's Best Novel ballot and by and large it was quite good; I suspect this year's batch also will turn out to be good.

The Libertarian Futurist Society -- I am a member -- also has announced its slate of finalists, for the Prometheus Award, here they are:

Who Can Own the Stars? by Mackey Chandler

Storm between the Stars, by Karl K. Gallagher 

The War Whisperer, Book 5: The Hook, Barry Longyear

Braintrust: Requiem, by Marc Stiegler

Heaven's River, by Dennis E. Taylor

More information on the finalists and the awards at the two links; my personal favorite among the Prometheus Awards nominees, Situation Normal by Leonard Richardson, did not become a finalist. 



Monday, April 12, 2021

Prometheus Rising exercise and discussion group, Week 27

John Lilly 

By Eric Wagner
Special guest blogger

The role of computers has radically transformed and expanded since Prometheus Rising’s publication in 1983. Coincidentally, I first heard Timothy Leary speak in 1983, and he talked a lot about the importance of computers that night. I first heard of Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs when Tim talked about them that night. Of course, John Lilly had paved the way with his 1968 book Programming and Metaprogramming in the Human Biocomputer. I remember attending the Visiting Nurses Book Sale in Phoenix, a huge annual used book sale, once in the mid-1980’s. The one book I wanted to find in those pre-internet days: Lilly’s Programming and Metaprogramming in the Human Biocomputer. I did find a copy that day. I think it cost ten cents.

In Schroedinger’s Cat a character refers to T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets as “the gospel of my youth.” Books like Prometheus Rising, especially the sections dealing with the semantic dangers of the verb “to be” seem like the gospel of my youth. Of course, I don’t think Bob wanted his books to serve as anyone’s gospel. I have tread a Kinbote-like path too close to that of a disciple of Dr. Wilson’s for decades. Nonetheless, the discussion of the verb “to be” seems very useful in chapter two. Bob doesn’t mention E-Prime, but he outlines its importance.

Wilson’s idea that our brain software exists “anywhere and everywhere” (Prometheus Rising, pg. 17) parallels Proust’s notion that our memory exists outside of us in the world around us. Anything in the exterior world can act as a trigger to stimulate the release of non-voluntary memories, memories we could not consciously recall. The madeleine famously acts as such a trigger in Proust’s novel. The narrator dips a madeleine in tea where it partially dissolves. When he tastes a teaspoon of the mixture, it brings back a flood of memories. 

On page 20 Bob says of the eight circuit model of the brain, “I assume it will be replaced by a better map within 10 or fifteen years.” The revised second edition of Prometheus Rising appeared in 1997. It seems time for a new model.

Exercise 1 for chapter two says, “If you don’t already have a computer, run out and buy one.” Well, in 2021 most of us have multiple computers. I did the chapter two exercises in March, and I didn’t intend to buy a new computer, but my cell phone died that month, and I got a new iPhone. As I write this in April, I once again didn’t intend to buy a new computer, but my wife decided to get a new computer last week. The rhythms of this book and its exercises seem to play a synchronistic role in my life.


Sunday, April 11, 2021

My Bobby Campbell stash


 As I wrote earlier, Bobby Campbell is sending out goodies to subscribers to his Patreon account. Yesterday's mail brought a Discordian god card, a cosmic button and a limited edition Erisian Tarot card. Bobby also threw in an unadvertised bonus for subscribers, pieces of original art, and I was quite excited to get my drawing of Maria Babcock. Bobby's special offer of Weirdoverse packages remains available to new Patreon subscribers through April 21. 

Saturday, April 10, 2021

RAW cites Tacitus

 


A status of Tacitus outside of the building housing the Austrian Parliament. (Public domain photo).

I recently finished re-reading Cosmic Trigger 2: Down to Earth, one of my favorite RAW books. 

As many of you who have read the book must have noticed, it has a strong antiwar theme, not just in the text itself, but in the quotations RAW selects for the chapter headings. The "Intercept & Pavane" chapter, about the first of the two U.S. Gulf wars, has this quote, attributed only to "Calgacus," "To plunder, to slaughter, to steal, these they misname Empire, and where they make a desert, they call it peace."

Robert Anton Wilson sometimes demonstrates that he was quite familiar with the classics of the ancient world, and this is another demonstration of that,  as he is citing a famous quote from one of the more prominent historians of ancient Rome, Cornelius Tacitus, The passage is from Agricola, a book about Tacitus' father-in-law, the Roman general Gnaeus Julius Agricola which focuses on Agricola's time as governor of Britain and commander of the Roman armies in Britain.

The quotation comes from a section of the book about the clash between the Roman army and the Caledonians, a tribe in what would now be called Scotland; Calgacus, a leader of the Caledonians, is giving his army a pep talk shortly before a battle. Here is a bit of it, from the Edward Brooks translation available at Project Gutenberg: 

"We, at the furthest limits both of land and liberty, have been defended to this day by the remoteness of our situation and of our fame. The extremity of Britain is now disclosed; and whatever is unknown becomes an object of magnitude. But there is no nation beyond us; nothing but waves and rocks, and the still more hostile Romans, whose arrogance we cannot escape by obsequiousness and submission. These plunderers of the world, after exhausting the land by their devastations, are rifling the ocean: stimulated by avarice, if their enemy be rich; by ambition, if poor; unsatiated by the East and by the West: the only people who behold wealth and indigence with equal avidity. To ravage, to slaughter, to usurp under false titles, they call empire; and where they make a desert, they call it peace."

The quotation also is referenced in a new science fiction novel, A Desolation Called Peace, by Arkady Martine, a sequel to her Hugo-winning A Memory of Empire. 

The Caledonians, by the way, were defeated in the Battle of Mons Graupius. 

Friday, April 9, 2021

Happy feast of the writing


Here is an interesting literary note: Other people read books, but the Aleister Crowley folks actually celebrate a book. Thursday, today and Saturday are "The Feast for the Three Days of the Writing of the Book of the Law," according to this handy Thelemic Holy Days summary offered by an OTO chapter in North Carolina.

The local equivalent near where I live is the Black Sun Lodge in Cleveland, which is observing the Three Days with a social event Saturday at a local park. So I guess it is generally observed by Thelemic folk.

The Book of the Law is "the central sacred text of Thelema," according to Wikipedia.  The text is available online.  I don't get why Project Gutenberg lacks a copy, as it is out of copyright, but the Internet Archive has it in a variety of formats, including ePub and for Kindle. 

Hat tip: Gregory Arnott.


Thursday, April 8, 2021

Oz Fritz on 'The Starseed Signals'

 


Oz Fritz has an interesting post up that discusses The Starseed Signals. 

Here are a few sentences which I hope will give you the idea:

"The subtitle of this book, Link Between Worlds, ostensibly indicates the link between Timothy Leary and Robert Anton Wilson yet this subtitle covers broad territory.  As a student of Magick, I took great interest in the presentation of Wilson's research into Aleister Crowley and how that connects with the Starseed subject matter.  

"Naturally, The Starseed Signals transmits multiple signals.  One could consider it a frequently modulating carrier wave like a radio or television (tell a vision) station. The root of signals = signs.  Cabala describes a complex lexicon of signs (semiotics) and we know that RAW availed himself of this method.  I agree with Eric Wagner when he states in his Insider's Guide that one can find Cabala in all of RAW's books, this new find doesn't make an exception.  The praxis of Cabala also opens links between worlds." 

Oz also has an interesting observation about the first and last words of the text, something I admit I didn't notice.

 


Wednesday, April 7, 2021

OK, RAW community, what's the citation?


Photo by Todd Quackenbush on Unsplash

  A question posted on Twitter:

I don't know, and other RAW folks on Twitter who have weighed in (such as Steve Pratt) have not come up with an answer. But it sounds like an interesting interview bit -- does anyone know what he is referring to?  

 

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Alex Ross defends Orson Welles

 

Orson Welles in Citizen Kane. (Public domain photo)

The artistic legacy of Orson Welles isn't treated fairly or accurate in the movie Mank, which has ten Oscar nominations, Alex Ross writes in a recent article for the New Yorker.  Ross focuses on the movie's "endorsement of the discredited but somehow indestructible tale that Welles had nothing to do with the writing of Kane" and assembles considerable evidence to back up the claim that Mank gets it wrong. 

Ross also thinks Hollywood in general has not done well by Welles: 

"The deeper problem is that these movies perpetuate dubious biographical clichés about Welles, characterizing him variously as a tyrant, a charlatan, or a drunk. The critic Joseph McBride has analyzed the subgenre in terms of Harold Bloom’s anxiety of influence: directors are 'so intimidated by the influence of Welles that they feel they have to tear him down.' They may also hold an abiding grudge against a filmmaker who never found a place within the Hollywood system and therefore never had to compromise with it."

Hat tip: Eric Wagner. 

UPDATE: Eric has now sent me a link to a Guardian article that calls Mank a "death wish of a movie."

Monday, April 5, 2021

Prometheus Rising exercise and discussion group, Week 26


John Donne painted by Isaac Oliver

In my last post for the Prometheus Rising discussion group, I explained that after reading a couple of authors using "selective attention," I would try to read passages as "magickal texts" piggybacking on a reading exercise that actually was formulated by Eric Wagner.

I am rather handicapped in this exercise by not really knowing very much about Magick. (I am working on this, by the way. I am currently reading S.S.O.T.B.E Revised An Essay on Magic, edited and revised by Ramsey Dukes, and I plan to follow that up by reading The Magic of Psychosynthesis by Will Parfitt.) 

In any case, I asked for suggestions on how to read passages and "magickal texts" and received some ideas.

I decided to try the approaches to a short passage from Robert Anton Wilson, the "Notes" at the beginning of Email to the Universe, and my apologies in advance to the people I took ideas from for my likely instances of getting things wrong, and misunderstanding what I was supposed to do.

1. Oz Fritz suggested (you can read the suggestion at longer length by going back to my post) by looking for "the ultimate expression of one's True Will i.e. what you really wish to do in life."

I see two places where this might apply. In his opening sentences, RAW writes, "This book intends to change your way of perceiving/conceiving the world, without drums or drugs or Voodoo, simply by using words in certain special ways."

While I certainly get "input" to my brain in various ways -- I listen as obsessively and carefully to music as I ever did -- for much of my life I have tried to make sense of the world by reading. I read several dozens books a year and I am also often busy reading newspapers, favorite blogs, Twitter postings, etc. So in one sense, my "True Will" is to use reading to make sense of life and figure out how to improve it.

RAW in the next section of the notes acknowledges his debt to figures such as Remy de Gourmont, Alfred Korzybski, Richard Bandler, Buckminster Fuller, Claude Shannon, Norbert Wiener and Ezra Pound. 

In his Introduction to the book, Michael Johnson remarks, "it is my own personal experience, and that of many others with whom I've come into personal contact, that each of these ideas or any one of them can be studied or implemented by the Reader/Writer/Artist for a lifetime, without exhausting them. These meta-models for thinking and acting creatively can be thought of as disciplines in the sense that yoga or learning a musical instrument is a discipline."

It seems to me also that part of my "True Will" is to study the writings of Robert Anton Wilson and to see what I can learn from them. I have done that for much of my lifetime. I have not been able to "exhaust" my study of him. (I'm pretty sure Michael Johnson told me once that he reads RAW every day; I would not make the same claim, although I certainly read RAW often.)

2. Gregory Arnott also offered a suggestion, and the key sentence was "Just imagine that the radical ideas and expositions of the mind you experience while reading them are becoming reality: THC helps."

The opening sentence in the "Notes" talks about trying to "change your way of perceiving/conceiving the world" and certainly the radical ideas I first encountered in reading Illuminatus! in college and subsequent readings of related RAW/Robert Shea works have certainly "become" my "reality" in certain ways. The most radical ideas in the notes seemed to be the bits about intelligent design with "feedback from all parts to all parts" and the ideas about where good writing comes from, so I tried to concentrate on those bits. 

3. BFHN pointed me to the John Higgs interview of Alan Moore, which in turn pointed me to a concrete suggestion, that of using the cut-up technique popularized by William Burroughs. 

OK, let's try to use screen captures of the first sentence of the notes with passages I've attempted to select at random from a couple of my favorite pieces in Email to the Universe, "Left and Right: A Non-Euclidean Perspective" and "Sexual Alchemy," 




Reading these three passages together has a a personal association for me, although I'm not sure I should try to impose that on everyone else. 

***

A note on our progress: This post concludes the attempts by Eric Wagner, Gregory Arnott and myself to come to grips with Chapter One of Prometheus Rising. Discussion of Chapter Two begins with a posting next week. If you have found the pace a little slow, with several months spent on Chapter One, you may want to know that we now pick things up, with each chapter covered in about a month. 

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Notes on 'Nutopia'


Oliver Senton (photo from official website). 

The Nutopia event I posted about yesterday was done to celebrate the publiction of Daisy Campbell's Cosmic Trigger the Play book by Hilartitas Press. The video of the event includes scenes from the play and two musicial numbers from it, so with the video and the color photos in the new book, it's possible to go beyond the script and get an idea of what a performance was like. 

And if you enjoyed Oliver Senton's performances in the video as Robert Anton Wilson, don't forget there are audiobooks of his readings of the first two Cosmic Trigger books. (Information here, and also here. )



Friday, April 2, 2021

'Nutopia' RAW show is a must watch


Clockwise from top left, Michelle Olley, Rasa, Daisy Eris Campbell and Christina Pearson in a globe-spanning show. 

I didn't get to see the Journey to Nutopia "RAW Power" show when it was live last Sunday; when I converted the time to my time zone in the U.S., I realized it would be in the middle of a busy workday, so I reluctantly refrained from buying a ticket. But the Nutopia folks have kindly posted the video (about one hour, 47 minutes) and it's a must watch for RAW fans. 

The broadcast's host is Michelle Olley (it was nice to finally see her). It features Kate Alderton performing the poems of Arlen Riley Wilson, an interview of Rasa by Olley explaining the background of the RAW Trust and how Rasa came to know RAW, Daisy Campbell on her new Cosmic Trigger the Play book, Claudia Bolton as Eris, Tom Baker in performance of a song from the play, Christina Pearson on growing up in RAW's family, and (maybe most exciting of all for us Americans who missed out) performances from the play by Oliver Senton and Kate Alderton. So much good stuff, sorry if I missed anyone. 


Robert Anton Wilson (Oliver Senton) takes a call from Timothy Leary to explain that he's not dead as Arlen Riley Wilson (Kate Alderton) looks on. 

Jesse Walker on the Leary-Liddy debate movie

G. Gordon Liddy on Miami Vice 

In his "Friday AV Club" column for the Reason magazine website, Jesse Walker pens "G. Gordon Liddy: The Hollywood Years," which includes a detailed review of Return Engagement, the movie about the lecture tour the pair went on, debating each other. The film is "weirdly compelling," Jesse says, detailing Leary's libertarian views and the moments when each man seems to show little self awareness.

The review also touches on the Iran Contra scandal (which Robert Anton Wilson wrote about in Cosmic Trigger 2 and probably other places), and Jesse spots something interesting in a Miami Vice episode, in which Liddy plays a CIA man who smuggles heroin: 

"If you think that sounds a lot like Oliver North's covert operations in Central America, you're right. You might even be grinning at the decision to cast a Watergate conspirator in an Iran-contra story, thus uniting the biggest political scandal of the '70s with the biggest political scandal of the '80s. But here's the wild part: 'Stone's War' aired on October 3, 1986. That's exactly one month before the Lebanese news outlet Ash-Shiraa exposed the Iran-contra story. Any old cop show can rip something from the headlines, but how many manage to air their version of the tale first?"




Thursday, April 1, 2021

Brenton Clutterbuck on the Illuminati



Discordian figure Gregory Hill, aka Malaclypse the Younger, aka Mad Malik

Brenton Clutterbuck has been writing a series of posts for Historia Discordia on the Illuminati. His latest, "The Illuminati Files, Part Two: A Truly Modern Conspiracy," takes the Illuminati into modern times and shows how Discordians, Illuminatus! authors Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea and others have kept the Illuminati in public consciousness. He writes,

"The Illuminati perhaps remains so powerful in the public consciousness today because it speaks to the need to fill in the gaps — the dark shadowy gaps — in our knowledge of the world. Every trove of top secret documents that spills out from a Wikileaks page or a pastebin, every release of unclassified documents, every whistle-blower and truth-teller betrays the existence of a murky world of conspiracy that lives beneath the surface of our otherwise normal and logically consistent existence."

Historia Discordia boss Adam Gorightly (who has a new UFO book out I've just bought) has been posting other items to the website, including a March Eris of the Month and a fine photograph of Kerry Thornley and his wife in the 1960s. 



Wednesday, March 31, 2021

G. Gordon Liddy has died


G. Gordon Liddy has died. The New York Times has a full obituary on Liddy, who by turns was intelligent, weird and evil.

While Liddy remains best known for his adventures as a Watergate burglar, he also has a connection to Timothy Leary, as the obituary mentions; as a local prosecutor, he participated in a raid at the estate in Millbrook, N.Y., where Leary operated in the 1960s, And later, Leary and Liddy had a college lecture circuit act in which they debated. The Times says the debates were edited into a film, "Return Engagement." Portions of it seem to be on YouTube, but I haven't found the full movie. I did find a recording of one of the debates. 


Update 2: Jesse Walker has posted a link on Twitter to the documentary on YouTube. It starts about 26 seconds in. 


Monday, March 29, 2021

Prometheus Rising discussion and exercise group, Week 25

 

Who Is The Master Who Makes The Grass So Green or The Fool 

Chapter One: No Conclusion 

By Gregory Arnott
Special guest blogger

Last night I rewatched an episode of South Park from the halcyon days of 2016. The episode was the first made after Trump’s election to the presidency, which Parker and Stone had to redo at the last minute as the produced episode involved Hilary Clinton winning the election. Parker and Stone hadn’t imagined Trump could win.

During the episode a part of the season arc concerning Kyle’s  father (Gerald) being an infamous internet troll comes to a head as Secret Service agents come to fetch him from his home. Earlier, Gerald had tried to hide his double life from his wife (Sheila) by explaining to her he has a piss fetish. So, while Gerald is being taken by the agents his wife is defending him by detailing the history of urophilia. Amidst all the confusion a decorative golden apple is seen in the background. I wonder if that was purposeful, I can imagine the creators as having been among the members of Gen X exposed to RAW’s ideas. I also wonder, if the apple was meant to reference the Apple of Discord, if the apple was added during the hectic rush to rewrite and reanimate the original episode. 

I’ve been a regular guest blogger on Rawillumination for almost two years as I led the discussions about the final two books of The Historical Illuminatus! Trilogy and for the past months we’ve explored the introductions as well as the first chapter of Prometheus Rising and my, how the times have changed. It seems that Terrence McKenna’s 2012 prophecy, explained by Wilson as “the Jumping Jesus Phenomenon,” and Alan Moore as “information-doubling,” might have ended up being more on target than some believe. The world seems to be a constant whirlwind of change and crescendo, Yeats centre keeps threatening to not hold but we just find another. Whether it be a lower bar or simply another location, the world holds in its warp and weft as it faces conspiracy, riot, outrage, nihilism, plague and whatever else...granted, the Horsemen have always been riding high but I am tempted to think that the introduction of extraordinary amounts of information is a catalyst, causing change to happen in increasingly bizarre and rapid ways. Hail Eris. 

Wilson asks the reader to reread the chapter after one month of doing the exercises and to try to believe that they might have something new to learn. Happily enough, it seems I have no choice in the matter as I am constantly surprised by the developments in my life and the world over. 

I think often of one of the Ten Secret Joys of the Master that struck me when I read it in a quiet apartment in 2010, prehistory at this point: The Stability of the Universe is Change, the Assurance of thy Truth. 

 



Sunday, March 28, 2021

RAW Semantics on ancient astronauts and modern gurus

Erich Von Däniken (Creative Commons photo)

In his latest post, "RAW vs. the Guru Game," Brian Dean at RAW Semantics describes encountering Erich von Daniken's "ancient astronauts" and the skepticism that greeted von Daniken's ideas:

"As a teenager I watched a BBC documentary on Erich von Däniken (The Case of the Ancient Astronauts, 19771) which stuck in my memory because it seemed such a ruthless, albeit polite (British-style), 'demolition job'. I hadn’t read anything by the prolific Swiss author of Chariots of the Gods, but I was quite interested, as a 15-yr-old, in UFOs, 'strange phenomena', etc…

"That was years before I read The New Inquisition by Robert Anton Wilson, and who knows if the BBC programme really “was” overly harsh or dogmatic – it just seemed that way at the time, as if not just highlighting errors in von Däniken’s thesis, but crushing the whole suggestion of extraterrestrial visitation as synonymous with gullibility and con-artistry."

I remember watching a TV show as a teenager that was sympathetic to van Daniken and I had no trouble recognizing some of Daniken's suggestions as a misuse of much of his supposed evidence, although of course I was interested in the idea of aliens "out there" and recognized that first contact stories were a staple of science fiction. 

This tension, between avoiding UFO gullibility and remaining open to the possibility of first contact (this free NASA ebook, Archaeology, Anthropology, and Interstellar Communication,  is one I can recommend personally) is something that persists to the present day. (At one of my favorite blogs, Marginal Revolution, it's clear that Tyler Cowen takes recent UFO reports seriously, while co-blogger Alex Tabarrok does not). 

There is a parallel tension, too, as Brian's title suggests, between listening closely to smart teachers, such as RAW, and turning the teacher into a guru figure, behavior which degrades both the teacher and the student. 

Not that I'd tell Brian how to spend his time, but his blog post seems like the seed of an entire book. 



Saturday, March 27, 2021

Bodge #3 released


The Liverpool Arts Lab has released issue no. 3 of Bodge, its monthly Discordian zine. Paper copies are available, or you can just download a PDF. 

As with past issues, there is quite a variety of material: Art, poems, an offer to exchange artwork based upon dreams, advice on how to deal with household spirits ("Not all spirits want to be your friends. Some are more like work colleagues, and often it's a one-off engagement"), book reviews, even a mixed drink recipe ("Optional: Two drops liquid LSD.") 


Friday, March 26, 2021

Did an ardent RAW fan create Bitcoin? Maybe, maybe not


Len Sassaman proposes to Meredith L. Patterson, slipping a blue cable-tie ring on her finger. (Creative Commons photo).

For years, people have been trying to figure out the real identity of Satoshi Nakamoto, the creator of Bitcoin. Many candidates have been suggested.  When I went to see one of my favorite writers, Neal Stephenson, in Pittsburgh in 2019, he denied the suggestion in a recent article that claimed he is Nakamoto. 

The latest nomination is that Bitcoin was created by Len Sassaman, a brilliant computer software engineer who helped develop Internet protocols and was active in the cypherpunk movement and cryptography. Sassaman also suffered from depression and was only 31 when he died in 2011 in Belgium, a suicide. 

I followed news about it at the time, because I very slightly knew his wife, Meredith Patterson, in the sense that both of us served on a committee in the Libertarian Futurist Society (the Prometheus Award folks); I was following her on Twitter when her husband died, and I noted at the time in this blog that Robert Anton Wilson was Sassaman's favorite author. 

Now there is a new article by Evan h on Medium, "Len Sassaman and Satoshi: a Cypherpunk History," which assembles quite a bit of evidence to argue that Sassaman was Satoshi Nakamoto. It's a really interesting article if you want to take a little time to read it.  Here is a little bit of it:

"To synthesize and implement the myriad ideas Bitcoin was based on, that person or group of people would have required a unique combination of expertise spanning public key infrastructure, academic cryptography, P2P network design, practical security architecture, and privacy technology. They would likely have been deeply engrained in the Cypherpunk community and adjacent to the figures who proved to be major influences on cryptocurrency. Finally, they would have needed the ideological conviction and hacker ethos to ‘roll up their sleeves’ and anonymously build a real-world version of ideas that had previously been relegated to the realm of theory.

"When I consider Len’s life, I see many of these same traits and I think there is a real possibility that Len was a direct contributor to Bitcoin."

It certainly is an odd coincidence that Nakamoto apparently disappeared about the time that Sassaman died. And that both had a habit of using British English words such as "flat" and "bloody" and "maths." (Sassaman was an American from Pennsylvania.) 

On Twitter, Meredith Patterson responded, "It's a very well-researched and respectful article, but to the best of my knowledge, Len was not Satoshi. Worth reading for the history and the conclusions about mental health, though." She linked to the article, and also linked to a Hacker News discussion about it. 

BitTorrent creator Bram Cohen, who was close to Sassaman, responded to the piece with an intriguing thread on Twitter. 

The Evan h article also mentions Ryan Lackey, an entrepreneur and computer security professional.  I know Ryan just a little bit, because we both are currently active in the Libertarian Futurist Society, so I asked Ryan if he wanted to comment on the piece. He wrote back, "Len was certainly part of the broader cypherpunk movement which facilitated or inspired the creation of bitcoin, but I don't think there's much chance Len was directly involved.  He was pro privacy (like me) and thus was against the privacy-compromising nature of bitcoin. There were superior alternatives at the time (chaumian blinded tokens, run on separate servers, and market baskets of currencies) which he would probably have supported instead."

Ryan by the way is credited as one of the co-founders of HavenCo, the world's first data haven. One of my favorite novels, Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon, features a data haven. It is the book I asked Stephenson to sign in Pittsburgh, at the event where I saw Stephenson deny he is Satoshi Nakamoto. (When I nominated Cryptonomicon for the Prometheus Hall of Fame award, Meredith Patterson seconded the nomination.) All of this stuff connects somehow, and people like Ryan Lackey and Meredith Patterson are characters in the big cyberpunk novel that is modern life, while the rest of us appear as bit characters or lurk in the margins of the text. 


Thursday, March 25, 2021

Cosmic Trigger the Play book released

 


Hilaritas Press has announced the release of the stage play for Daisy Eris Campbell's Cosmic Trigger play. You can read the official announcement. It's available for sale, $23 in paperback, $9.99 Kindle.  Ben Graham pens the introduction. Cover by Polly Wilkinson. 

Hilartas says it has "dozens" of color photos, giving Americans a chance to get an idea of what the stage production was like, and perhaps offering a souvenir for British people who actually got to see it. 

As in past official communiques from Hilaritas, a high point is a piece from Christina, RAW's daughter. She writes this time about how her family was different from other families she knew and shares other anecdotes, including a hilarious account of what it was like trying to watch TV while visiting London.


The new Hilaritas edition of Sex, Drugs and Magick should also be out very soon. The supplementary material this time is particularly interesting and generous, details soon. (Charles Faris and I did some last minute copyediting, but we have far too much integrity to give away any information. Well, maybe a really good bribe would work.)


Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Daisy Campbell on 'Feeling Bookish'

 

Hilaritas Press image celebrating Daisy Campbell 

The Feeling Bookist podcast is a literary podcast that features Roman Tsivkin and Robert Fay. Tsivkin is a big Robert Anton Wilson fan, and he takes the lead in the lastest episode, which features an interview with Daisy Eris Campbell, the British playwright, director and actor and the daughter of Ken Campbell.

Topics covered include Daisy's Cosmic Trigger play book (just published by Hilaritas Press, with an introduction by Ben Graham), a lot of great stories about Ken Campbell (adapting Macbeth* into Pidgin English?!) and Daisy's optimistic observation that if things can go wrong, if they can go "tits up," then maybe they go "tits down," too.

Daisy shares her philosophy of art: "That's when you don't know what the fuck you're doing, you just proceed as if everything is a sign from the universe.  I've been operating off that principle for about the last four years....you definitely get into some interesting scrapes."  And she and Roman talk about a book I was not familiar with, Flicker by Theodore Roszak, which Ken Campbell had intended to adapt for the stage. (Roman says it's great and we should all read it.)

The podcast is just over an hour long. It's available at Soundcloud but also the usual other podcasting apps. 

Daisy is also the author of Pigspurt's Daughter. 

UPDATE: A formal announcement by Hilaritas on publication of Daisy's new book should be imminent. 

* My wife and I got married at Glenlaurel, a "Scottish Inn and Cottages," located in Ohio as you might guess, and we spent our first night as a married couple in the "MacBeth Croft," which I thought was hilarious. 

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Bobby Campbell's Patreon account rolling out the goodies

 


Activity has been picking up at Bobby Campbell's Weirdoverse Patreon account. As a promo for new and existing subscribers, he is soon shipping out a Discordian God Card, a cosmic button and an Erisian Tarot card. Bobby recently published Omnibus 777 #2, the ongoing collected works of digital comic books by Bobby and his collaborators; the new additions this time are Meet the Others, New Trajectories, Psychonaut Comix #2 and Mulligans Wake, along with a work in progress, Buddhafart #2

But part of the point of the Omnibus is to make sure you get publications you might have missed, so it also includes Weird Comix #0, Rejected, Weird Comix #1, Daze of Future Pastime,  and the Dream@Wake_Sutra sequence, 1. Agnosis! Book One, 2. Buddhafart Book One, 3. Agnosis! Book Two, with two other comics coming soon.

New episodes of the Dream@Wake_Sutra resume on April 4, and Bobby is planning to do weekly posts into the summer and beyond. His membership rates for Patreon are inexpensive. More information here. 

Other Patreon accounts of interest to RAW fans include the new Prop Anon account  and Steve Fly's Patreon account. 

Monday, March 22, 2021

Prometheus Rising exercise and discussion group, Week 24


Kiri Te Kanawa (Creative Commons photo)

By Eric Wagner
Special guest blogger

Why did Bob ask the reader of Prometheus Rising to spend at least six months on the first nine exercises of chapter one? He says on page 8, “With real work, in six months you should be just beginning to realize how little you know about everything.” Well, I can see that. Some have complained that spending six months on these exercises seem painfully slow and boring. Chogyam Trungpa observed that dealing with boredom seems part of the process of meditating. In The Karate Kid Daniel thinks at first that Mr. Miyagi has exploited him in getting him to wax all the old cars. 

I have spent six months on these exercises a few times over the past 36 years. I don’t know the specific point of looking for quarters, etc., but I think I have slowly begun to realize how little I know about everything.

Chapter 1, exercise 10, asks the reader to “Believe it possible that you can float off the ground and fly by merely willing it. See what happens.” I have never had much success with this exercise. In 1984 Rafi Zabor reviewed a record of Kiri Te Kanawa singing Chants D’Auvergne by Canteloube. He called it “music to levitate to”. I had never heard of Te Kanawa or Canteloube, but I went out and bought the album. When I first read this exercise in Prometheus Rising in 1985, I immediately thought of that review and put on that LP. I had no luck with levitation, but I have associated that music with this exercise ever since.

I got my first CD player for Christmas in 1986, and Te Kanawa became my go-to soprano. In 1987 I also got CD’s of her singing Mahler’s Fourth Symphony and Mozart The Marriage of Figaro. Lots of great music, very little levitation.


Sunday, March 21, 2021

Iain Spence on the 'Psychedelic Prophets'

 


Iain Spence pens an interesting review of Psychedelic Prophets, the correspondence of Aldous Huxley and Humphry Osmond.

The book apparently has lots of interesting bits:

"By the early 1960s, both men were keen to split their own quiet, scholarly approach to psychedelics from Timothy Leary’s work. Gossiping behind Leary’s back, they paint a picture of a psychologist who’s too damned keen to cock a snook at the authorities at Harvard. Of course, at this point, mainstream society had no idea who Timothy Leary was or the remarkable social changes which were just around the corner."

And I was interested in this:

"Other conversations lead them to wonder what is the best classical music to play when under the influence of psychedelics?

"According to Aldous, Bach’s B-minor Suite and the ‘Musical Offering’ were positively overwhelming while other music jarred, such as works of Palestrina and Byrd. Gregorian chanting was reported as grotesque. We are told to avoid highly emotional and tragic music, such as requiems by Verdi, and Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis."

Read the whole review. 

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Joseph Matheny ebook giveaway

 

Joseph Matheny is giving away free ebooks of perhaps his best known title. Ong's Hat: The Beginning (Authorized Version) is available free as a Kindle, starting today and through Wednesday. Matheny says the "Kindle challenged" may download a PDF instead. Matheny previously gave away copies of Liminal and Xen

"I would ask you all one favor. Many have written to express gratitude for the free books and even to tell me how much they are enjoying them. While ratings are not the reason I give books away, I do it because I love sharing books, I ask that if you have a minute, please rate the Kindle books so I can receive better recommendations on the Amazon juggernaut. I write these things to share information and that works better if more people are exposed to it," he says. 

Part Three of the Liminal Cycle will be announced soon. To sign up for Matheny's newsletter, go here.  



Thursday, March 18, 2021

Notes on the Alan Moore interview

One more blog post that mentions the Alan Moore interview by John Higgs (and Daisy Campbell) posted above.

If you are interested in RAW, this interview is pretty much a must-watch; it is very focused on RAW. If you are like me, it's hard to get around to listening to a lot of podcasts and watching a lot of videos; it is much more efficient of my time to read. But I really like this video, about 44 minutes long.

Moore names his favorite RAW books (and also is vary familiar, I noticed, with one of my favorites, Cosmic Trigger 2.) He describes an amazing experience in company with Steve Moore (I don't want to give it away). He reveals that he never actually met RAW. (Does anyone know if RAW ever mentioned reading Alan Moore?) 

He discusses his theory that there is little difference between art and magick, commenting, "By manipulating language, you can manipulate consciousness," and "On a neurological level, you can alter reality." (Compare with RAW in the "Note" at the beginning of Email to the Universe: "This book intends to change your way of perceiving/conceiving  the world, without drugs or drums of Voodoo, simply by using words in certain special ways.")

And at the end, Moore reads a poem he wrote in tribute to RAW. 


Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Rocker Alex Mincolla pens piece for RAW reissue

 


Alex Mincolla (Facebook profile photo)


"I'm excited to announce I recently collaborated with the publishing house of the Robert Anton Wilson Trust and my writing will be featured in the re-release of one RAW's works. Stay tuned for info at http://hilaritaspress.com."

No other information is available; logically, the next title Mincolla could contribute to would be the planned Hilaritas Press edition of Sex, Drugs and Magick: A Journey Beyond Limits, the next title listed for imminent publication by Hilaritas. I expect an announcement about the book very shortly.    

I don't know anything about 3Teeth. These sentences from the Wikipedia article seem interesting:

The band took the name 3teeth from the concepts of Odontomancy, which Mincolla described as an ancient form of divination where "the seer would read prophecies in the teeth like rune stones" as well as the word trident, which comes from Latin for "three teeth." Mincolla said of the trident: "...this divine weapon of God that brings destruction. It's what Marduk killed Tiamat with -- this caught thunderbolt or trident."


Tuesday, March 16, 2021

British Discordian news roundup

Performance of the Eight Circuit song from the Cosmic Trigger play 

The new Mycellium newsletter from Michelle Olley is chock full of news from the British Discordian scene: A reminder of the March 28 event to celebrate the upcoming publication of Daisy Eric Campbell's Cosmic Trigger Play book, more "Get Your Show Written" classes from Daisy, news on the out-soon John Higgs book on William Blake, lots of book news and more, please follow the link. 


 

Monday, March 15, 2021

Prometheus Rising exercise and discussion group, Week 23

 In my Week 17 posting for the Prometheus Rising discussion group, I wrote about my plan to imitate Eric Wagner's plan to do a reading exercise that would contrast "selective attention" against "mind controls everything," his adaptation of one of the exercises in Chapter One of Prometheus Rising. You can follow my link and look back to read Eric's full explanation; here is what I said I would do: "For 23 days, I will read two of my favorite authors, Robert Anton Wilson and Tyler Cowen, on alternate days, using the 'selective attention' model. Then for 23 days, I will read them using them as 'magickal texts.' (I don't really know how to read them as 'magickal texts,' but I figure I know some people who can offer suggestions. Gregory? Cat? Oz? Anyone else?)

"As I deal with my life, I want to focus on how to stay positive and how to deal with information. So for 'selective attention,' I believe it would make sense to focus initially on RAW's Cosmic Trigger 2: Down to Earth and on Cowen's The Age of the Infovore: Succeeding in the Information Economy. "

The selective attention part ends on March 16. I have completed re-reading The Age of the Infovore and I anticipate that I will finish re-reading Cosmic Trigger 2 by the end of the day Tuesday. 

So now it's time to try the reading as magickal texts part of the exercise, which takes me to April 8, if I counted correctly. As I know how to do that as well as I know how to fly a passenger jet airplane (e.g., not at all), you will notice from the passage I quoted that I asked for help.

Oz Fritz responded, " I can't say I have a good answer but I can offer suggestions of how to look for one as I search myself. Magick = the Science and Art of causing change to occur in conformity with Will. Dion Fortune amended, or awomened, or streamlined this definition to include 'causing change in consciousness ...' Initially, beginning magick aims for the 'Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel (HGA)' which I interpret as contact with a specific (but multiple) Higher Intelligence from the territory of C6 (as in Leary's model) or beyond; only one interpretation from a concept that appears a multiplicity. The specificity of this contact has to do with the model that the HGA = the ultimate expression of one's True Will i.e. what you really wish to do in life. So perhaps reading something as a magickal text intends to move that along?

"This model includes the notion that Higher Intelligence ranges freely and can communicate through any medium. You might see a billboard that communicates something about your work when expanded out from the context of the advertisement; a young child might randomly say something that has relevance to your spiritual goals; your cat might cause spillage leading to hidden treasure, etc. So perhaps the psychokinesis model, applied to reading books, allows for the possibility that your HGA entered the consciousness of the author(s) causing them to write something personally useful to you years later. I sincerely hopes this helps and doesn't muddle things further."

So, if I'm reading this correctly, I should read passages looking for "the ultimate expression of one's True Will i.e. what you really wish to do in life."

Gregory Arnott wrote, "My answer would be: Wilson's books are some of the most powerful magical texts in my library. I've learned more about the sapient secrets of the cosmos and the darkness that lies in the heart of man from his works than most honest-to-Cthulhu grimoires. If you look at the article I wrote for Bobby Campbell's project, I have more there. Just imagine that the radical ideas and expositions of the mind you experience while reading them are becoming reality: THC helps. I'm pretty sure RAW is still alive in some manner and speaks through his texts. The grand old man, follow the threads. I don't know Tyler Cowen very well, so I can't give much advice there. Do the same thing, I guess?"

Gregory is referring to his piece for New Trajectories, "Ewige Schlangenkraft." I'll re-read it, but it seems to me the key sentence is "Just imagine that the radical ideas and expositions of the mind you experience while reading them are becoming reality: THC helps."

BFHN also pointed out in the comments that in the John Higgs interview of Alan Moore, above, about RAW, Moore talks about magickal readings of literature. (For your convenience, the interview is posted above.) There's a lot of discussion in the interview about how art and magick are largely the same thing, and Moore seems to have literature more in mind than anything else, but I think BFHN may be referring specifically to the point in the interview, that when you use the cut-up technique popularized by William Burroughs on texts, "glimpses of the future leak through."

I've bought a bunch of the RAW Hilaritas Press books as ebooks, so thought one way to do the cutup technique might be to do screenshots of passages selected a random on my laptop (using the Amazon Reader app) then do screenshots on my Chromebook, here's what I came up with in the first experiment:


 

So, for the magickal texts effort, I'll alternate from concentrating on Oz's suggestion, Gregory suggestion and doing cutups. 

Sunday, March 14, 2021

'Australia is a Real Country. FALSE'


The Discordian zine "Intermittens" has been revived, and you can download your copy in various formats. It is issue No. 11, and the title has returned after a 10-year absence.

My headline references the zine article "Five  True Facts" by Elwood P. Dobbs and Pip, and one of the "true facts" is that Australia does not really exist: "If Australia existed, it would be on the bottom of the planet and all the Aussies would fall off. Which wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing."

Hey, I would miss Brenton Clutterbuck. 

Hat tip: Fuckup Solutions, LLC, PPOE, DDD, KLF, LMNOP on Twitter. 

 


Saturday, March 13, 2021

Saturday links


 "Caught my cat nuzzling Robert Anton Wilson, and I thought some of my fellow weirdos might appreciate it. #rspm" Source.

George Washington's Masonic apron. 

SWAT team destroys innocent woman's house.   Everyone should keep in eye on the Reason blog, which reports a lot of stories I don't see anywhere else. 

H.P. Lovecraft sings "Never Going to Give You Up." 

Six Principles for Misunderstanding Free Speech and Section 230.  The aid to Facebook by "reform" advocates seems particularly wrong. 

The new Adam Gorightly UFO book is reasonably priced on Kindle. 

Friday, March 12, 2021

Erik Davis has a Substack newsletter


 Erik Davis (Twitter portrait)

You probably have heard about Substack and all of the Substack newsletters that are going out these days. I have paid subscriptions to the Mark Frauenfelder and Matt Taibbi ones, and I am signed up for the free issues of several others.

One Substack that sombunall of you would be interested in is The Burning Shore, the Substack newsletter of Erik Davis, author of the excellent book High Weirdness (about Terence McKenna, Robert Anton Wilson and Philip K. Dick). As with other such newsletters, many issues are free, but if you want to get the full experience and support Davis' writing, you have to pay a fee. The Burning Shore is $5 a month and $50 a year. 

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Hilaritas to publish Daisy Campbell's Cosmic Trigger Play book

Daisy Eris Campbell 

Hilaritas Press is going to publish Robert Anton Wilson’s Cosmic Trigger Play by Daisy Eris Campbell.

This is big news for those of us who, for reasons of geography, never got to see Daisy's play. Hilaritas previously published Daisy's excellent Pigspurt's Daughter, based on her one-woman touring show. (See my review.)

The news about the new book comes from an announcement of a March 28 book launch event, available via Zoom from The Cockpit in London. The event will star Rasa from Hilaritas Press and Daisy, and will feature "Music/readings/performances from the play, including original cast members Oliver Senton, Kate Alderton and Tom Baker" as well as "Poetry from Arlene Wilson, read by Kate Alderton." 

More information here.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

'Finnegans Wake Made Easy'

Emma MacKenzie as Anna Livia; Photo: Debra Weiss

[I have to work tomorrow, but some of you may be able to catch this. Announcement from the Consulate General of Ireland in Boston. Registration here.  Online performance  3 p.m. Thursday, March 11, U.S. Eastern Time. The Management.]

Join The Here Comes Everybody Players for an hour of humor, wordplay, mythology and history laced with music and some of the stories and themes of James Joyce’s most ambitious novel, including:

- The pirate queen, Grace O’Malley (aka The Prankquean) and her adventures at Howth Castle

- Anna Livia Plurabelle, the great feminine power and personification of Dublin’s River Liffey

- St. Patrick’s conflict with the Druids of Ireland - as we approach his feast day

- two of the famous 100-letter “thunderwords”

… and much more!

Some of the mysteries of the book will be introduced by Finnegans Wake scholar, Katherine O’Callaghan of U. Mass, Amherst. For those who have some familiarity with Finnegans Wake, the fun will be to hear some great sections in full voice. For those who've never been exposed to Joyce’s most radical and complex work, it should prove enjoyable and revelatory.

Directed by Cathal Stephens

Arranged and adapted by Donal O’Sullivan and Cathal Stephens, with literary advice from Katherine O’Callaghan

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Science fiction recommendations

Eleven novels have been nominated for the Prometheus Award this year and I have been reading them. I am on the nominating committee for the award; a list of five or so finalists will be announced in the next few weeks. 

I  can't discuss the nominating committee's deliberations, but many of this year's titles would be of general interest to science fiction fans, so I want to point you to a few titles.

I particularly liked Leonard Richardson's offbeat space opera, Situation Normal, about humans and aliens who are caught up in a war between two opposing powers. Richardson has not penned the usual good vs. evil space opera war novel, but instead concentrates on showing that war is evil, and that it's not likely that either side in a war will be blameless. (The title comes from the phrase "Situation Normal, All Fucked Up" also referenced in Illuminatus! When the characters in Richardson's book are in a particularly bad place, they say they are in a situation normal.) 

There's an interview with Robert Anton Wilson in Cosmic Trigger 2 where RAW describes his literary aesthetic, and I was struck how it also describes what is going on in Situation Normal: 

My novels look like melodramas part of the time and then switch over and look like black comedies, but isn't that true of politics also? If you believe somebody's war propaganda, the world is pure melodrama -- the good guys versus the bad guys. If you start doubting all propaganda, the world becomes black comedy -- "a darkling plain/swept by confused alarms of struggle and flight/where ignorant armies clash by night," i.e. a more violent and ugly version of Three Stooges. I can't see things from every possible perspective, but I try to see them from enough kinky new angles that my books never degenerate into war propaganda for any of the ignorant armies that go on clashing by night. 

Situation Normal full of funny and unusual touches; one spaceship, commanded by an alien, is called Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (because spaceships in the human-dominated alliance are named after important documents in human history.)  Another spaceship is variously given different names depending on which character is speaking -- it is variously given a the Sour Candy and and the Sweet and Sour -- because the name is in an alien language, and there are different translations. This is not your usual you've-read-it-before space opera. 

I've been waiting for years for another novel from Richardson, because I liked his Constellation Games so well. 

Here are some other books worth reading, from the list of books nominated for the Prometheus Award this year:

Network Effect: A Murderbot Novel – The Murderbot Diaries Book 5, by Martha Well. It may be book five of a series, but it's the first full-length novel; the others were novellas. A really good book, I'll be quite surprised if it's not a Hugo finalist this year. It's about a machine designed to provide security that becomes a person. I love the whole series.

Attack Surface, by Cory Doctorow. The latest in the series that began with Little Brother, although this one, unlike the other two in the series, is aimed at adults rather than being a young adult work. 

The War Whisperer, Book 5: The Hook,  by Barry B. Longyear. Barry Longyear was a once-famous SF writer; he is self publishing a new series that has gotten little attention. This one is a hardcore libertarian novel, for readers who are libertarians or at least open to exploring the political philosophy. 

Storm between the Stars, by Karl K. Gallagher. Fun, fast moving read that begins a new series 


Monday, March 8, 2021

Prometheus Rising exercise and discussion group, Week 22

Chapter One: How To Win Will O’ the Wisps and Influence Fantasies

By Gregory Arnott
Special guest blogger

There aren’t many parties to go to anymore. I’m too old for the parties I’ve known and too tired to dress and meet new people. The Plague has only exacerbated this routine of self-isolation. So instead of trying to make myself magnetic and wonderful at a party I tried to make the lessons I was teaching in the classroom wonderful, even if they were unconventional.  Last week I began teaching a unit with John Higg’s earthshaking Stranger Than We Can Imagine serving as the vertebrae. 

Last week we welcomed back full classrooms with teachers who aren’t vaccinated (including your humble author) so I decided to go for broke. If I was going to teach in a world that didn’t give a fig for the future, I’d try to do what I could to subvert that trend. 

One of the problems with humanity is one that Wilson points out at various times in his work; we act as if we live in an Aristotelian reality when, in fact, we live in a relativistic reality. Higgs' first chapter begins with a discussion of relativity and the fallacy of believing in an objective omphalos. It is curious that many of us, especially those who haven’t had physics classes, go around knowing who Einstein is and knowing “E=MC2” without knowing what ideas he articulated. We graduate high school without ever being introduced to the one of the most important revelations that the human race has received. So, with Higgs' illustrations and context, I endeavored to teach thirteen year olds about the beginning of the 20th Century and the Special Theory of Relativity. 

We went through the chapter over the course of two days with frequent pauses for illustrations or discussions. By the end of the classes I had one student teasing me about teaching dangerous ideas, another smiling and creating beautiful analogies and most of them understanding that there is no such thing as an undefined fixed point of reference. It went rather swimmingly, if I do say so myself. Combined with a lesson on Paul Robeson earlier in the week, I felt like I was actually teaching usable information. 

I regret that I didn’t write about this over the weekend and instead promptly forgot my duty to the reading group. (I apologize.) Today I accidentally enacted the reverse of Wilson’s experiment and went in to the classroom feeling depressed and irritated with myself and the rest of the world. The kids weren’t too interactive and I was sullen. Hopefully I remember to flip the switch, wake up on the right side of the bed whatever cliche you’d like. No quarters recently, but I’ve had a glut of pennies. I’ve almost collected enough to buy a soda sixty years ago! 


Sunday, March 7, 2021

COVID-19 links [UPDATED AGAIN] and editorial


CDC illustration of COVID-19 virus


EDITORIAL: I thought it would update this post one more time; I visit this link collection nearly every day because of my job, and perhaps some of you will find it useful, too. I have eliminated many links that seemed redundant, but added a couple of vaccination links recently. The CDC COVID-19 link below has improved in particular and offers a one-stop shop to check on cases and how vaccinations are going. A table lets you check numbers for each U.S. state. 

I recently criticized the FDA and (by extension) the Biden administration but in fairness I should observe that that Biden administration has done a good job of ramping up vaccinations, particularly if you compare the U.S. with most other countries. Noah Smith wrote about this on Feb. 15, and his post has dated well; things continue to improve.  For that matter, Operation Warp Speed was almost certainly the main really good thing Donald Trump did in response to the pandemic. There you go, two political opinions; have I offended everyone yet?

I got a Moderna shot Saturday. Vaccinations for people my age opened up in Ohio only Thursday, so I got my shot as quickly as I could. My follow up has been set up in four weeks. (I'll do what they told me to do, although I believe a "first doses first" policy to vaccinate as many people as possible would be a good idea, with second doses postponed a couple of months.)  Among the RAW community, Eric Wagner and Arthur Hlavaty have publicly revealed they've obtained a vaccination. I oppose mandatory vaccination, but in my opinion everyone should try to obtain a vaccination as soon as possible, unless medical reasons suggest not, of course. I have spent many hours reading about the vaccines. All three vaccines seem excellent; here is an article I wrote on the subject. It appears most people will only have to try to stay safe for a few more weeks.

Whether you agree with my opinions or not, I wish everyone well and I hope you will find these links useful. Regular programming will resume tomorrow. 

New York Times COVID-19 coverage. The New York Times has removed the paywall for its COVID-19 coverage. (I hope that's still true; I subscribe, so it's hard to check.)

CDC on proper handwashing (important, see for example this MIT study).

Wearing a mask also is a good idea. 

Johns Hopkins tracking site.

Erie County Health Department (lots of additional resources.)

Scott Gottlieb on Twitter (good way to get the latest trends from a relatively nonpolitical source.)




A little levity from Scott Adams, to cheer you up!