Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea. Blog, Internet resources, online reading groups, articles and interviews, Illuminatus! info.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

RAW was not an anti-vaxxer, his daughter says


[Today's blog post is a "reprint" of a posting by Rasa on Facebook -- The Management.]

I have a weekly meeting with Robert Anton Wilson's daughter, Christina, and today I showed her the meme that uses her dad's quote as anti-vaccine conspiracy propaganda – "The obedient always think of themselves as virtuous rather than cowardly," with a picture of a healthcare worker taking a photo of himself getting the Covid vaccine. She sighed. Her first comment was that RAW was not "against" the medical profession. He was mostly railing against absurd conspiracy theories or pseudo-science, but he had a lot of respect for most of mainstream science, when it was actual science. I mentioned that the focus of The New Inquisition was primarily an attack on scientists who refused to accept or consider new or alternative views. She agreed.

Christina added that he would have loved to have had the polio vaccine, that was developed after he contracted polio, and that because of travel he took in his life, he took many required vaccines without hesitation. Because of the way he generally treated modern medicine throughout his life, she had no doubt that he would be fine with taking the Covid vaccine. A few months ago, she told me that she also thought he would have no problem wearing a mask, and would probably insist on others wearing a mask in his presence. She said he was always very careful with his physical health – one of the few ways he was "conservative" in his life.

RAW was not actually "cured" of polio by the alternative Sister Kenny method, but it did result in him not dying from the disease. He had a limp for his entire life, and in his last 20 years he had progressive pain, and eventually severe muscle failure, from the symptoms of post-polio syndrome. He was happy to take all kinds of patent medicines when needed, although, I have to admit that his favorite "medicines" were cannabis and Jameson Irish whiskey.

A couple months before his death, I took this photo of him and Christina. I didn't want to publish it anywhere, but Christina suggested I do, so I added the WAMM info to make it a meme he would have loved. The last time we talked, about a week before his death, he apologized to me because he didn't like me being inconvenienced by having to strain to understand his garbled speech. The post-polio syndrome made it increasingly difficult for him to talk. That nearly brought me to tears. I really loved that guy.

As I mentioned in another comment about the Covid vaccine meme . . . "the quote stolen for use in this meme was in reference to actual slaves having zero recourse for argument or rebellion. Taken out of context, the meme crassly negates the original intent. That doesn't seem honest to me."

-- Rasa

Saturday, February 27, 2021

New issue of Bodge released

The second issue of Bodge, the Discordian zine put out by the Liverpool Arts Lab, has been released. Go here to download a free PDF or to order a paper copy.

The format is the same as the first issue: Each contributor gets one page. My favorite when I made a first pass through the new issue was by Kate Alderton, the British actress who has been working with dreams. She has a lovely "dream seeding recipe" and I intend to try it. (I keep wondering if she has read either of two wonderful science fiction stories about dreams: The Dream Master by Roger Zelazny, also known as "He Who Shapes," and Brian Aldiss' story "Journey to the Heartland," reprinted in Aldiss' collection Last Orders.) There were other contributions I liked, too. Check it out! 

Friday, February 26, 2021

The FDA, then and now

The FDA building, where dedicated federal bureaucrats work hard to make sure we don't get lifesaving vaccines too quickly. (Public domain government photo.)

The Food and Drug Administration is one of my least favorite federal agencies. It's one of the aspects of the U.S. government which makes me wonder why almost everyone I know who expresses a political preference is a Democrat or Republican, rather than a Libertarian.

Robert Anton Wilson, no fan of the FDA, wrote over and over again about how the agency treated Wilhelm Reich. Here are a few words from the "Taking the Name of the Lord in Pain" chapter of Cosmic Trigger 2: " ... I had read about Dr. Reich, when the Food and Drug Administration invaded his laboratory, smashed his equipment with axes, burned all of his books and threw him in jail."

If you read the rather long entry about Reich on Wikipedia, you can see that while this summary removes a certain amount of nuance (the FDA supposedly only supervised the destruction of Reich's equipment and books, rather than taking part), RAW's summary omits details which makes its actions even worse. Not only Reich but an associate, Dr. Michael Silvert, were sent to prison (Silvert killed himself after being released). And the U.S. Supreme Court -- you know, the tribune of the people, which steps in to protect our constitutional liberties -- declined to hear Reich's appeal.

Only a relatively few people apparently thought any of this was worth making a fuss over. The American Civil Liberties Union (in those days, an organization concerned with civil liberties) did issue a press release criticizing the book burning.

Fast forward to 2020-2021, and with half a million Americans dead from the pandemic, and tens of millions wishing they could get a damn vaccination shot already, the FDA has kept itself busy by trying to impede the testing necessary to track the disease and slow its spread, and by trying to hold up the distribution of vaccines as much as possible.

If you think that's an exaggeration, then I will submit you haven't been following press coverage of the FDA very closely. You can, for example, read a New York Times account of May 15, 2020, relatively early in the pandemic, of how a test backed by Bill Gates was used to learn more about the spread of the virus, until the FDA ordered a halt in testing. 

As for my claim that the FDA is holding up vaccines, feel free to offer your own explanation for why the Oxford AstraZeneca has been authorized by the World Health Organization, the United Kingdom, all of the member nations of the European Union (27 countries such as Germany, France, etc.),  India, Mexico and probably some other countries I have forgotten. But here in the land of the free and the home of the brave, I am not free to take it, even if I am brave enough to take a vaccine that's been in use for weeks around the world.

When the Johnson and Johnson pharmaceutical company applied for an Emergency Use Authorization at the FDA on Feb. 4 to distribute its vaccine, the FDA decided to wait more than three weeks before it convenes a panel to discuss the matter. The meeting, in fact, is being held today. The current seven-day average for COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. is 2,174.  So that's what, 40,000 deaths or so while the FDA considers the matter? The 3,000 deaths from the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack were used as an excuse to turn the U.S. into a police state.

As with all of the Wilhelm Reich stuff, only a relatively small number of apparent oddballs seem to think there is anything wrong with the FDA's actions and lack of actions, libertarians on Twitter and the like. It doesn't seem to bother anyone in the Biden administration or anyone I have heard about in the U.S. Congress. 

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Reasons to be cheerful


In Cosmic Trigger 2, Robert Anton Wilson writes (in the "Barbaric Age Recalled" chapter) about how awful living conditions were as he grew up. (He was born in 1932.)

"When I remember life in Gerritsen Beach in those days, I define it chiefly in negatives," he writes. "Most readers born since 1945 cannot imagine the ignorance and brutality of those days. Many middle-aged women had goiter, a disease causing an ugly lump in the neck, which looked like a cancer. (The cure was found sometime in the 1940s and goiter disappeared from America). People regularly died of tuberculosis, which is now normally cured in its early stages, and children had dozens of diseases now abolished. I myself survives measles, German measles, mumps, flu (still a major killer in those days), rheumatic fever, whooping cough, diphtheria and polio."

The passage has many other details. "The community had no paved roads and nobody had central heating. wall-to-wall carpeting or central bathrooms ... When ecologists like Gary Snyder talk about 'going back to the way things were in the 1920s,' I think they must be a few gallons shy of a full tank. The '20s were even worse for poor people than the '30s ... " 

We all went through a tough year in 2020 because of the pandemic. Most people, regardless of their political persuasion, did not particularly enjoy the U.S. election and other events associated with it, although obviously Democrats preferred the ultimate outcome.

With that noted, perhaps it is useful to point out last year was a good year for technological progress. A couple of recent columns I ran across made that point.

Writing for his column at Bloomberg news, Tyler Cowen wrote in "The Silver Lining of 2020" that the mRNA vaccines for COVID-19, developed in record time, were not the only example of technological advances during the year. 

"Other advances in the biosciences may prove no less stunning. A very promising vaccine candidate against malaria, perhaps the greatest killer in human history, is in the final stages of testing. Advances in vaccine technology have created the real possibility of a universal flu vaccine, and work is proceeding on that front. New CRISPR techniques appear on the verge of vanquishing sickle-cell anemia, and other CRISPR methods have allowed scientists to create a new smartphone-based diagnostic test that would detect viruses and offer diagnoses within half an hour," he wrote.

2020 also saw breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, transportation and green energy, apparently providing a path forward to deal with climate change. The column notes "progress in solar power, which in many settings is as cheap as any relevant alternative. China is opening a new and promising fusion reactor. Despite the absence of a coherent U.S. national energy policy, the notion of a mostly green energy future no longer appears utopian.

"In previous eras, advances in energy and transportation typically have brought further technological advances, by enabling humans to conquer and reshape their physical environments in new and unexpected ways. We can hope that general trend will continue."

David Brooks wrote a column making similar points in the New York Times. Yes, I know the country is largely divided between people who hate Brooks or who hate the Times, but "The Coming Technology Boom" is a good column that mentions many new technologies Cowen did not list. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

My literary synchronicities

George Alec Effinger. I'm having trouble finding a Creative Commons photo of him, so I hope running this is considered fair use. 

When I think about it, it seems odd that although I lived most of my life in Oklahoma, I wound up living in Cleveland. I say this because many of my favorite science fiction writers were from Cleveland. Not all of them; I loved Jack Vance, and he was from California, and I was fond of Philip Jose Farmer, who was from Peoria, Illinois. And I liked Isaac Asimov growing up, and Arthur C. Clarke. 

But Harlan Ellison, George Alec Effinger and Roger Zelazny were all from Cleveland, although all of them had left by the time I moved to the Cleveland area in 2003 after marrying a Cleveland girl. Effinger was a big sports fan who wrote sports SF stories, including one about a Cleveland Browns running back; when I moved here, I wound up becoming a loyal follower of all of the Cleveland sports teams Effinger used to root for, even after he left Cleveland.

Roger Zelazny wound up in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he became close friends with George R.R. Martin. (It was recently announced that Martin will be the executive producer for an HBO adaptation of Zelazny's novel Roadmarks. Read my article about that.

I am well read in all three of those authors, and I still read them, although I am particularly an Effinger specialist; I even did a fan tribute site about Effinger years ago. Google moved my site to a different location and destroyed the formatting, making it look odd and hard to read; when I get a bit of spare time, I need to reconstitute and update it. So in a sense, the Effinger site prefigures this one. (Effinger is probably the least known of the three, but honestly, he was a wonderful writer; he wrote very good short stories and some really good novels, such as What Entropy Needs to Me, The Wolves of Memory and the Marid Audran series that began with When Gravity Fails. At one point, he was married to Barbara Hambly, also a fine writer.

In any event, I became very interested in Effinger before I wound up coming to Cleveland. 

And as I thought about this, I realized something else -- I have an unlikely geographical connection to Robert Anton Wilson.

As far as I know, RAW lived all of his life in four U.S. states -- New York, Ohio, Illinois and California, except for a stint of living in Mexico. I have lived for all of my life in three states -- California, Oklahoma and Ohio -- so two of my states overlap two of RAW's. OK, maybe not the greatest coincidence ever, but there are 50 states. 

RAW had a couple of different connections to Ohio. He lived for awhile in Yellow Springs, Ohio, the home of Antioch College, which of course was Simon Moon's university in Illuminatus! Yellow Springs also is the hometown of Ohio's current governor, Mike DeWine. 

Timothy Leary, Robert Shea, Patricia Monaghan, Jeff Rosenbaum, Gillie Smythe at an Association for Consciousness Expansion event in Cleveland 

As for Cleveland, RAW came to Cleveland for events organized by the Association for Consciousness Expansion, an organization founded by the late Jeff Rosenbaum, who was RAW's lecture agent for six years during the 1980s. RAW and Robert Shea both came to Cleveland for ACE events, and ACE published recordings of both men. (Unfortunately, I had never gotten around to tracking down Rosenbaum by the time he died in 2014). 

I don't know if RAW read most of my other favorites (he did know Clarke's work), but I was delighted when I found out that RAW and Farmer were fans of each other. 

Monday, February 22, 2021

Prometheus Rising discussion/exercise group, Week Twenty


By Apuleius Charlton
Special guest blogger

Chapter One: NoboBob

It seems significant to me that Wilson chose to end the first chapter summarizing the wild notions that can become reality amidst the machinations of the Thinker and the Prover, specifically “something as remarkable as the notion that there is a gaseous vertebrate of astronomical heft (“GOD”) who will spend all eternity torturing people who do not believe in his religion.” 

While I’ve talked about the specific article in depth in previous reading groups, it is worth mentioning once more that Wilson began his career with a clever bit of juvenile humor asking just how large is God’s willy. Published in Krassner’s Realist, the article was a clever subversion of the logical arguments made by Catholic scholars to prove the existence of God Almighty. Wilson never seemed to cotton to the idea of the Abrahamic God. 

I think one of the reasons I came so readily to Wilson was his intense dislike of Christianity. I can relate; Wilson was born in the suffocating society of Irish Catholics in Brooklyn during the 1930s and I was born in a small town in the Mid-Ohio Valley amongst a contentious and ever expanding number of Protestant churches during what might have well have been the 1930s. Being curious and being raised in a religious society rarely turn out well. (And, if I may be so bold, I think being decently compassionate didn’t help either of us.) I believe Wilson gives us his approximate age when he finally had it with the religion of his parents but I can’t remember it -- he tells us he went on to Atheism, Marxism before eventually stumbling upon Korzybski which seemed to be his original passport into the life of the mind. I was nine when I committed what I would later learn, and relish, was the sin of apostasy. 

I nursed resentment towards Christians as I grew older, fertilized by being told the books I read were “wicked,” that talking about “-isms” was a sign of blasphemous pretension, the stupidity of their obsession with homosexuality, their polemics against premarital sex, the ignorance spat like poison from one sect towards another, arguing over how much of one’s body must be immersed in water to be saved from eternal damnation… It was fucking awful. So today I still have a problem with Christianity and their sonofabitch Gawd. Now, I realize had I been born in a different religious society I would have likely hated it as well, so I try to be honest and say I hate the Orthodox God. I hate belief. My Thinker thinks that any form of dogmatism is the true sin (which simply means “missing the mark”)- presuming to know is anathema, my Prover has been building the case for years to the point where I can’t see above the brick and mortar of perceived experience. I’d rather die than live in a truly Christian nation. 

The writers who have most shaped my worldview (Moore, Blake, Crowley and Wilson) all possess decidedly anti-Orthodox, if not downright anti-Christian views. The question that remains is did my Thinker draw me towards them or did my Thinker readjust to better emulate their ideas? I’d prefer to think that rather than simply being drawn towards anti-Christian thinkers that the rebellion against Jehovah/Old Nobodaddy is often the first false reality on-hand to break. In this Jehovah still serves his position in the Gnostic cosmology as the false deity that draws a veil between humanity and the Pleroma. By breaking from the Abrahamic monster-god modern day Gnostics are able to better ascertain the Truth- whatever the hell that might be.  And like the historical Gnostics they find themselves in a hostile world full of the servants of the Demiurge. 

As Hagbard says in Illuminatus!: the only thing every crew member aboard the Leif Erickson believes in what the Man with the Horns said to the Man with the Beard: non serviam. Fuck you Jehovah. 

Why darkness & obscurity
In all thy works & laws,
That none dare eat the fruit but from
Thy wily serpent's jaws?
Or is it because Secrecy
Gains females' loud applause?

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Nuclear war -- still the biggest nightmare?

A Russian Tupolev Tu-160 bomber, in flight over Russia. (Creative Commons photo by Alex Beltyukov)

Via Jesse Walker on Twitter, I ran across a scary article at Slate, "Apocalypse Averted," about how "The world came much closer to nuclear war than we realized in 1983."

The piece by Fred Kaplan relates how in 1983, NATO ran a massive training exercise, Able Archer, which at least some Russian military leaders thought was a prelude to the real thing. Newly-declassified documents show that "the commander of the Soviet 4th Army Air Forces in Eastern Europe ordered all of his units to make 'preparations for the immediate use of nuclear weapons.' As part of that order, crewmen loaded actual nuclear bombs onto several combat planes."

As it happens, I am re-reading Cosmic Trigger 2, as I mentioned earlier, which is dedicated, in part, "AGAINST the makers of war in anathema," consistent with Robert Anton Wilson's lifelong opposition to war.

I don't know about you, but reading that the Russian Air Force was loading nuclear bombs onto planes, makes me nervous. Maybe even more than Donald Trump warning he may have to "totally destroy" North Korea  or the Tweet Trump sent threatening that country, (Admittedly, he was provoked by North Korea's leader.) Still, a bit unnerving for the head of what is arguably the most powerful country on Earth threatening to destroy a small country in Asia:

Before my Republican friends get mad, I will stipulate (as RAW points in CT2) that the main wars the U.S, got involved in during the 20th century were begun by Democratic presidents. I hope Joe Biden will be a peace president, but we'll see. The Biden administration moving forward with the prosecution of Julian Assange does not strike me as a good sign. 

Climate change is the "fashionable" threat to Earth and of course I favor moving toward green energy, dialing back carbon emissions, etc. Still, I wonder if the threat of war still looms as the main threat to civilization.  

Saturday, February 20, 2021

New UFO book by Adam Gorightly

 New book announcement from the Daily Grail: "I’m delighted to announce a new book from Daily Grail Publishing: Saucers, Spooks and Kooks: UFO disinformation in the Age of Aquarius by legendary ‘crackpot historian’  Adam Gorightly!" 

"The book looks into a number of the modern mythologies that have come into being since the advent of the UFO era in the 1940s, such as UFO crashes and underground alien bases, asking how much of these myths is real, versus being the invention of either government agencies or deluded conspiracy theorists. It’s a must read in light of the recent buzz about government releases of UFO videos etc."

It's out now as a paperback on Amazon and an ebook is coming soon. UPDATE: The ebook is out.

More here. 

Friday, February 19, 2021

RAW Semantics on RAW's 'matrist-patrist' analysis

George Lakoff (Creative Commons photo)

RAW Semantics has a new blog post up that discusses Robert Anton Wilson's use of the matrist/patrist -- oral/anal archetype used in three different books (Ishtar Rising, Coincidance and Prometheus Rising), the work by G. Rattray Taylor that RAW drew on, similar discussion by George Lakoff and how these concepts can be applied to offer contrasting views on the state providing welfare benefits. In this case, there is no one "nut graph" I can quote summarizing all this, so I'll just suggest you read it. 

You can also read Michael Johnson's 2016 blog post that inspired Brian, which now has been updated to link back to Brian. If Michael is updating his old blog posts, maybe we can talk him into writing new ones? 

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Is Beethoven's 'greatness' white male propaganda?


Via a related article in the New York Times, I found this article by Black music critic Philip Ewell. "Beethoven Was an Above Average Composer -- Let's Leave It That" says claims about Beethoven's greatness is a plot by the white male patriarchy:

"Beethoven occupies the place he does because he has been propped up by whiteness and maleness for two hundred years, and we have been told by whiteness and maleness that his greatness has nothing to do with whiteness and maleness, in race-neutral and gender-neutral fashion. Thus music theory’s white-male frame obfuscates race and gender, one of its main goals."

It seems to be that claims that Beethoven wasn't great are refuted by listening to him, although I admit to being a white male.

John McWhorter, a Black writer, apparently also disagrees:

"Above average, for his era, was someone like Carl Stamitz – a typical piece was his Orchestral Quartet in C major. It’s pretty like a tulip, and exemplifies a word often used for his work, 'appealing.' Above average – but there’s a reason you’ve never heard of him unless you’re a music specialist.

"We have to compare something like one of Beethoven’s late string quartets – I’ll go for  the Opus 131 in C# minor. Schubert’s assessment of this one was 'After this, what is left for us to write?' and wanted it played by his deathbed. Robert Schumann placed it 'on the extreme boundary of all that has hitherto been attained by human art and imagination.”'Yes, those two were limited by what they knew and heard as white guys – but I suspect their assessment stands the test of time for all humans today inclined to listen in to the piece."

Possibly related: the feminist college professor who said that Beethoven was a rapist, based on the "evidence" of the Ninth Symphony, a claim RAW wrote about in Cosmic Trigger 3. More on the controversy here. 

Also possibly related: Beethoven's Black friend. 

Via the New York Times and Rob Pugh. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

PQ's horrible year

PQ's dog, Roa

If you missed it, PQ has a blog entry up about 2020 at his A Building Roam blog. 

As in past years, "Life and Death During the Pandemic Era" talks about what Peter  read and wrote during the last year and there's even a section on his dog, although sports talk is notably absent. But the bulk of the piece is a moving description of friends who died last year (not all of the deaths seem to be directly related to the pandemic.)

With all that stuff going on, I lost three friends in the pandemic year, three people I liked and connected with, funny people who made me laugh, three people who, going into 2020, I did not at all consider I might never see again or that they might not live to see 2021. From the shock of those deaths I spent much of the past year in a state of grieving. It's been difficult to process it all, felt like painful debts accumulated because how can we pay due respects to the dead when we can't gather to honor their memories in wakes or funerals?

Monday, February 15, 2021

Prometheus Rising exercise and discussion group, Week Nineteen photo by Jeff Siepman

I recently ran across two excellent examples of "What the thinker thinks, the prover proves."

Example #1: When a 16-year-old girl was found dead in New Jersey in 1972, "rumors spread quickly that the Springfield girl was killed in some sort of satanic rite or witchcraft. Police sources leaked to the press that they had found signs they thought might be related to the occult, including crosses made of sticks and branches arranged in a coffin-like outline around her body."

Newly-released photographs show all of these claims were bogus.

"But crime scene photographs released for the first time this week seem to debunk those claims, showing that DePalma’s body was simply lying in a dense, brushy area in Houdaille Quarry, facedown with an arm draped over a downed tree branch. There are branches lying across one another by her head, but they do not appear to be arranged in a purposeful way.

"Jason Coy, a history professor at the College of Charleston who researches witchcraft and superstition, said he can’t find any sign of the occult or any other symbolism in the jumble of brush and branches. It suggests that investigators, looking for something sinister, saw patterns that weren’t there, or perhaps their initial descriptions of the branches near her body became exaggerated or misconstrued in the retellings of the scene."

Hat tip, Jesse Walker on Twitter. who y'all should follow.

Example #2 comes from reading Tyler Cowen's The Age of the Infovore, which as I wrote last time, I am reading as part of a "selective attention" exercise. 

In Chapter Four, Cowen describes an experiment carried out on wine EXPERTS in France (I am using RAW's customary spelling for "expert" in the passage below, too.)

"Frederic Brouchet, a psychologist at the University of Bourdeaux, ran some experiments to test experienced wine tasters. He invited fifty-four wine EXPERTS to give their sensory impressions of a red wine and a white wine. He was told that the red wine tasted of 'crushed red fruit,' among other traditional descriptive responses. He was told that the white wine tasted of lemon, peaches and honey, all traditional white wine flavors. The EXPERTS then returned for another tasting, but this time the white wine was dyed red with (tasteless) food coloring. The same EXPERTS described the same white wine, only  now it looked red. All of a sudden those experts found flavors in the white that usually they ascribed to the reds. What use to taste like lemon, peaches, and honey now tasted like black currents. These EXPERTS had no reason to lie and in fact their answers subsequently caused them embarrassment. Their blather about the wines was sincere."

As I mentioned above, I am piggybacking on Eric's reading exercise, reading works by Robert Anton Wilson and Tyler Cowen with "selective attention" for 23 days, then switching to reading them as "magickal texts." Thank you to Oz Fritz and Rarebit Fiend in the comments for their suggestions on how to do the latter, and to BFHN for pointing out that in the John Higgs interview with Alan Moore, Moore talks about magickal readings of literature. I will watch the video soon. 

Sunday, February 14, 2021

RAW and jazz


Charles Parker, one of the jazz greats Robert Anton Wilson enjoyed listening to (public domain photo). 

In a recent blog post, I mentioned that I was a little puzzled that Robert Anton Wilson seldom mentioned contemporary classical music in his writings. 

Part of the answer might be that we all live in such a vast culture, it's impossible to pay attention to everything. I like to look at modern art in museums, for example, but I know very little about contemporary art and artists.

But there's also a possibly better explanation, that RAW preferred jazz as his main form of contemporary art music.

I've been re-reading Cosmic Trigger 2 and the other day I noticed this sentence in the "Crime and Punishment" chapter (about RAW getting himself arrested trying to integrate a barber shop in Yellow Springs, Ohio): "... the fact was that I actively hated segregation, which I considered genocide in slow motion. I had had an affair with a Black woman once (just before I met Arlen in fact.) Some of my favorite writers and virtually all my favorite living musicians were Black." (Emphasis added). And in fact, references to jazz and jazz musicians pepper RAW's writings. And while of course there are good jazz musicians of all races, most of the main developments of jazz were created by Black musicians such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Charles Parker, John Contrane and so on. 

So then, it could be that RAW's preferred form of modern music was jazz, an art form created largely by Blacks that blends influences from Africa, Europe and Latin America and which is arguably more "modern" and more antiracist than classical music. 

Saturday, February 13, 2021

War on some drugs news [UPDATED]

Amanda Chase

While the news on the "war on some drugs," as Robert Anton Wilson called it, has generally been positive in recent years (i.e., legalizing marijuana has generally moved forward), I keep seeing a lot of bad news, too. Some examples:

A Republican politician running for governor in Virginia opposes plans to legalize marijuana in that state because "Democrats want more marijuana deaths." Really, that's what she said. The Twitter account for Amanda Chase also calls her the "governor-elect" which is a lie, as the election hasn't been held yet. UPDATE: This is described as a "fan account," so the statement may not in fact be true. See the comments.

As mentioned in the previous paragraph, legalization is moving forward in Virginia, but in South Dakota, a legalization measure approved by the voters has been overturned by a court decision; an appeal is planned. Details here, and if you like to keep up with marijuana news, I suggest signing up for NORML's "News of the Week" email bulletin (at the same link). (The Virginia news is here.)

The Biden administration apparently wants to make it harder to get a particular form of medically-assisted treatment for Opioid Use Disorder.  The treatment is noteworthy for reducing overdoses .Drug overdose deaths have soared during the pandemic. Joe Biden (whom I voted for, reluctantly, considering who he was running against) and Kamala Harris are longtime War on Drugs fans. 

Friday, February 12, 2021

RIP jazz great Chick Corea


Given Robert Anton Wilson's love of jazz, it seems appropriate to note the death of jazz giant Chick Corea, who RAW surely would have known about; Corea was known both as a sideman for Miles Davis and others and as a major recording artist and jazz composer in his own right, recording acoustic and electric jazz under his own name and the name of his jazz fusion band, Return to Forever. The Wikipedia biography notes his "23 Grammy Awards," one indication of the impact he had. Over the decades, I've bought many of his albums. 

The New York Times lost little time posting an obituary. 

I don't have time to do a long blog post and hardly know where to begin in recommendations from his extensive recording career, but among the albums I can recommend is Like Minds, recorded as part of a jazz supergroup. It features one of Corea's better-known tunes. Many other fans would cite Crystal Silence, the ECM album recorded with Gary Burton.  The Tweets sent out by noted critic Ted Gioia included one simply showing a photo of a feather floating in the air; Gioia knew many of his followers would recognize the cover of another classic album, Light As a Feather. 

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Thursday links

 One of my favorites, too. 

Noah Smith's recommendations for science fiction novels. Based on the books I know, this is a very good list, although I'm not as excited by Bujold and he missed Iain Banks and Ada Palmer. Still, maybe the best list of this sort I've run across for science fiction. 

Texas doctor prosecuted for "crime" of not wasting vaccine. One of those stories that makes me wonder why there aren't more libertarians. 

Sorry, but the Zoom cat lawyer is a total asshole. 

Where are the pro-vaccine protests? 

Sadly, Ted Cruz was right and Andrea Mitchell (who has a degree in English literarure) was wrong. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Adam and Adam in a new series

Adam Curtis (Creative Commons photo)

A few days ago, in a blog post "Adam Gorightly in the New Yorker," I mentioned a magazine piece about the filmmaker Adam Curtis that briefly mentioned Curtis running across a book by Adam Gorightly. The article didn't imply that Curtis and Gorightly know each other, but I thought it was cool to see Adam's (Gorightly's) name pop up in the famous magazine. 

Well, here's the rest of the story, from Adam Gorightly's Historia Discordia blog:

According to the YouTube interview below, Episodes 1 — 4 will examine, among other things, the unusual and sometimes tortured life of our favorite Discordian hero, Kerry Thornley, based in part on my book The Prankster and the Conspiracy as recently noted in this New Yorker article.

Before embarking upon this, his latest video documentary odyssey, Adam paid me a visit here at my humble abode in the Sierra Nevadas, and we spent a few hours discussing Thornley, Greg Hill, and RAW, interview footage of which may in fact appear in the series.

Curtis is about to release a new video series, Can’t Get You Out Of My Head: An Emotional History of the Modern World.

More here.

Monday, February 8, 2021

Prometheus Rising exercise and discussion group, Week 18

By Eric Wagner
Special guest blogger 

Well, I have begun to look at Joyce’s works with a “mind controls everything” model as previously described. I came across this sentence on pg. 97 of the paperback Finnegans Wake: “Preservative perseverance in the reeducation of his intestines was the rebuttal by whilk he sort of git the big bulge on the whole bunch of spasoakers, dieting against glues and gravies, in that sometime prestreet protown.” (A hardcover edition of Finnegans Wake has a different pagination. I have seen multiple books on the Wake which say that all editions of Finnegans Wake have the same pagination. As Tim Leary used to say “T.F.Y./Q.A. – Think For Yourself and Question Authority.”)

The expression “reeducation of his intestines” struck me. In an earlier entry I mentioned that in November I went to the emergency room for diverticulitis, a disorder of the intestines. Back around 1990 I told Bob Wilson I hoped to write Science and Health with Key to Finnegans Wake, a guide to using Finnegans Wake for healing paralleling Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health with Key to Scriptures. Bob responded that he had always wanted to do a cut-up of Eddy’s book and Korzybski’s Science and Sanity and call it Science and Sanity with Key to Scriptures.

Well, over the past thirty years I’ve tried to use Finnegans Wake for healing in much the same way Christian Scientists uses the Bible, but I have not had a ton of success. Due to Bob’s influence I read Science and Health with Key to Scriptures, and I used its methods back in the 1990’s to try to heal my checkbook without much success.

At the present moment I feel tired and overwhelmed by the world of 2021. I just read the final pages of the fourth chapter of Finnegans Wake three times. Over the past ten years I have started Finnegans Wake four different times with groups of high school students. The first three times we only got about as far as page 80. (One of those groups had a large membership, but most of them started as juniors, and we usually only met for fifteen minutes a week, making it hard to make it through much of the book.) This year’s Finnegans Wake Club started once again at the beginning, and we’ve already reached page 95. We have all freshmen in the club this year, and they seem like they may want to carry on over their high school careers and read the whole book. Our pace seems good. I’ve decided to read the book three more times along with them, finishing the three previous starts I’ve made over the past decade. About ten years ago I had a large Finnegans Wake Club that read the whole book over three years. I remember the joyous day when we reached the final sentence and returned to the beginning of the book, “riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s….”  A number of students who hadn’t participated for a while joined us for that final meeting just before they graduated.

One can’t step in the same river twice, and one can’t read the same book twice. Studying the Wake over Zoom in 2021 differs from any other reading of the book I have done. I will continue to use Joyce’s work to reeducate my intestines.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Did RAW listen to Lou Harrison?

Lou Harrison

I want to post today about a couple of modern classical music composers, as I have been puzzled at not being able to find any evidence that Robert Anton Wilson paid any attention to modern classical music. One of them in particular seems like somebody RAW could have known about.

Arvo Pärt is a serious modern composer who has achieved a remarkable feat: Large numbers of people actually have heard his music. That's something that can be said about only a few modern composers. After he experimented with some of the usual modernist styles, Pärt came up with a spare, minimalist style that he calls tintinnabuli.

There is a telling anecdote about one of my favorite Pärt pieces, a much-recorded two movement work called "Tabula Rasa." The music critic Alex Ross records in his book, The Rest Is Noise, that the piece was played for dying AIDS patients. The patients would ask for the "angel music" to be played again, their term for the second movement of the work, "Silentium." 

Because of his popularity, I wonder if RAW knew of  Pärt, just as I wonder why RAW never mentioned composers such as Philip Glass, Steve Reich and Elliott Carter. 

The other composer I want to mention is Lou Harrison (1917=2003), also a much-recorded composer who wrote music that was unique but also more listener-friendly than many modern compositions. Harrison was much influenced by Asian music and used concepts such as microtones and just intonation.

But this is why I wonder in particular about Lou Harrison: The composer lived for many years in the Santa Cruz area, near where RAW also lived at the end of his life. A professor at UC Santa Cruz, Leta Miller, is one of the world's top experts on Harrison. Harrison's music must have been performed in the area. Harrison worked with and supported Charles Ives and John Cage, two composers RAW must have been familiar with. Did RAW and Harrison ever cross paths? 

Saturday, February 6, 2021

More Joseph and Prop Anon news



Part II of Prop Anon's interview of Joseph Matheny has posted and for your convenience I have it embedded here. Much of it is of interest to a Robert Anton Wilson fan, as Matheny tells various stories about RAW, including meeting him in Chicago, spending time within in California, serving as RAW's driver to get to speaking gigs (RAW did not drive), and RAW's friendship with George Carlin and how Carlin and RAW used to exchange material. There's also a nice anecdote about eating donuts in a San Francisco restaurant with RAW and Carlin. The interview also gets into Matheny's current work, which includes a fiction trilogy of which Liminal was the first installment.

Friday, February 5, 2021

New documentary: 'A Glitch in the Matrix'



"A Glitch in the Matrix" is a new documentary apparently about the theory that we are living in a simulation; I became aware of it from a Tweet that quotes RAW, although I don't know if RAW is referenced in the movie. Here is a review. Erik Davis is listed in the cast. 

Thursday, February 4, 2021

John Higgs interviews Alan Moore


Not new, but the fact that it is available on YouTube does appear to be news, and it looks like it's well worth watching (I hope to get to it this weekend).

On Twitter, John Higgs explains, "This is going back a bit - I had no idea it was online. Me and @DaisyEris quizzing Alan Moore about Robert Anton Wilson in  @AlistairFruish's living room."

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

John Higgs on the KLF

"The KLF come out of retirement for 23 minutes to make an appearance as 2K." (Promotional photo via Wikipedia.)

In his latest email newsletter, John Higgs draws from the ideas of William Blake and Robert Anton Wilson to offer a theory on why the KLF have released a new compilation on the various streaming services, given the band's past history, such as deleting its back catalogue.

"The KLF’s abandonment of what they used to stand for can be seen as the dropping of their own mind-forged manacles and a return to the limitless liberation that their music was always about," John suggests.

John also announced he's appearing on Robin Ince's online show and describes his new real estate holdings in Tasmania. 

More here. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Adam Gorightly in the New Yorker

The "New Yorker" magazine runs a longish piece on the British documentary filmmaker Adam Curtis, and a familiar name pops up  in the first paragraph. After a reference to Jim Garrison, Sam Knight writes, 

A few years ago, the British filmmaker Adam Curtis came across Garrison’s memo in The Prankster and the Conspiracy, a book by the zine writer and self-described crackpot historian Adam Gorightly. At the time, Curtis was trying to make sense of the political fracturing and rampant disinformation that accompanied the election of Donald Trump and, in his own country, the Brexit vote. “Normally, I hate conspiracy theories. I find them boring,” Curtis told me recently. “Then I stumbled on ‘Time and Propinquity’ and I just thought, Yes. . . . Fragments. That’s how people think now. They make associations, and there’s no meaning. That’s the world we live in.”

The article also mentions Alan Moore, a friend of Curtis and a fan of Curtis' films. 

Monday, February 1, 2021

My reading exercise for 'Prometheus Rising' (Week 17)

Our current Prometheus Rising series of blog posts is supposed to be about doing the exercises rather than simply reading and discussing the book, so I have decided to do a reading exercise, using what Eric Wagner is doing as my blueprint.

In his last post, Eric described his plan to carry out one of the assigned exercises for Chapter 1 of PR:

Chapter 1, exercise 5, says, “With your own ingenuity, invent similar experiments and each time compare the two theories – ‘selective attention’ (coincidence) vs. ‘mind controls everything’ (psychokinesis).” On January 7 I decided to start with the hypothesis that James Joyce’s work has something to offer me right now. I will spend 23 days beginning using a “selective attention” model and then 23 days using a “mind controls everything” model. During the first few days of using the selective attention model I read Joyce’s short story “After the Race” with some commentary, read a chunk of Ulysses and a bit of Finnegans Wake, and finished rereading a book on Joyce by Sheldon Brivic.

In the comments, Eric cleared up a couple of points. BFHN asked Eric, "I am curious, how are you bringing about selective attention to the reading of some of Joyce works ? Are you looking for something, patterns and whatnots?" And I asked, "Eric, Can you give us an idea of what you are planning for the "mind controls everything" part of the exercise?"

Eric replied:

BFHN, for "selective attention" I just read Joyce (and his commentators) and try to understand. I focus on what will help me with my Finnegans Wake Club as well as with future exercises in Prometheus Rising. Chapter 5 will ask for a character analysis of Leopold Bloom, and chapter seven asks about the reception of Ulysses. Other chapters have Joycean aspects as well.

Tom, for "mind controls everything" I plan to look at Joyce's works as magickal texts. I plan to approach them less rationally.

Eric's exercise intrigues me, so I'm going to try something similar. 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.