Wednesday, March 31, 2021
Tuesday, March 30, 2021
The audiobook of the new John Higgs book on William Blake is being recorded. And other John Higgs news -- sign up for the newsletter.
"My Chaotopia Newsletter coming out in the next few days. Workshops on magick by me and friends, interviews, links to magickal blog posts, podcasts, Discordia, psychedelia, philosophy and of course Tinfoil Hat Watch!"
Deirdre McCloskey, new afterword to Crossing: A Transgender Memoir. Prominent libertarian economist, if you don't recognize the name. "In late 1995, I chose to switch teams."
Monday, March 29, 2021
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Monday, March 22, 2021
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 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."
Saturday, March 20, 2021
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.
Thursday, March 18, 2021
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
Tuesday, March 16, 2021
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
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
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.
Saturday, March 13, 2021
"Caught my cat nuzzling Robert Anton Wilson, and I thought some of my fellow weirdos might appreciate it. #rspm" Source.
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.
Six Principles for Misunderstanding Free Speech and Section 230. The aid to Facebook by "reform" advocates seems particularly wrong.
Friday, March 12, 2021
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
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."
Wednesday, March 10, 2021
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
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
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
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.
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.)
Saturday, March 6, 2021
New documentary about art forgery. (See above video).
Friday, March 5, 2021
The late rapper Christopher George Latore Wallace, known as The Notorious B.I.G. and Biggie Smalls, had managed a very successful rap music career before he died in 1997, a killing that is still officially unsolved.
Thanks to artificial intelligence, his voice has now been used for a rap music performance of the H.P. Lovecraft poem "Nemesis." If you want to consume Lovecraft as an old school reader, the text of the poem is here.
Thursday, March 4, 2021
Ross Douthat (image reproduction permitted under GNU Free Documentation License)
Ross Douthat, the New York Times columnist has a really interesting piece up that offers suggestions on how to think about conspiracy theories, or more specifically, how to evaluate claims that call government claims and official truth into question.
Douthat gives examples of when official reality has fallen short of the truth:
If you tell people not to listen to some prominent crank because that person doesn’t represent the establishment view or the consensus position, you’re setting yourself up to be written off as a dupe or deceiver whenever the consensus position fails or falls apart.
I could multiply examples of how this falling apart happens — I am old enough to remember, for instance, when only cranks doubted that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction — but the last year has given us a thuddingly obvious case study: In January and February of 2020, using a follow-the-consensus method of online reading could have given you a wildly misleading picture of the disease’s risks, how it was transmitted, whether to wear masks and more.
His ideas on how to evaluate conspiracy theories seem reasonable to me. One he offers: "Avoid theories that seem tailored to fit a predetermined conclusion."
After the November election, I spent a fair amount of time arguing with conservatives who were convinced that it had been stolen for Joe Biden, and after a while I noticed that I was often playing Whac-a-Mole: They would raise a fishy-seeming piece of evidence, I would show them something debunking it, and then they would just move on to a different piece of evidence that assumed a different kind of conspiracy — shifting from stuffed ballot boxes in urban districts to computer shenanigans in suburban districts, say — without losing an iota in their certainty.
That kind of shift doesn’t prove the new example false, but it should make you suspect that what’s happening is a search for facts to fit a predetermined narrative, rather than just the observation of a suspicious fact with an open mind about where it leads.
The column was recommended by Charles Faris and Tyler Cowen and Jesse Walker pointed to it, too, so even if you dislike Douthat for ideological reasons, consider giving the piece a look.
Wednesday, March 3, 2021
If you aren't familiar with it, UbuWeb is a website that makes available large amounts of avant-garde art, including films, poetry and music. Many people who read this blog would find something of interest; I personally like the modern classical music and surrealist films there.
I bring up the site because lately I have noticed many new items that might appeal to RAW fans, including:
A documentary, Aleister Crowley - The Wickedest Man in the World: Narrated by Brian Cox.
Tuesday, March 2, 2021
Miles Davis (Creative Commons photo)
A little while ago, I wondered aloud why RAW never talked about modern classical music. And then I realized I was maybe looking at it wrong -- he listened a lot to the modern art music known as jazz.
Not too long ago I read a pretty long interview of the critic Alex Ross by Ethan Iverson (thank you for directing my attention to it, Eric Wagner) and the whole darn thing is worth reading, but I was particularly struck by one passage,
EI: Well, I don’t need to tell you, Alex, that once you’re out here, you realize how little cultural capital the great classical music and the great jazz music holds. All of us trying to celebrate those more esoteric values — especially in America — must feel like we’re almost helplessly trying not to be overrun by the other stuff that has so much more sway.
AR: Absolutely. If there’s one thing I’ve been trying to do my whole career, it is to push back, as much as I can in my own way, against what feels like this, you know, trash compactor closing in on the people in Star Wars, gradually closing in, the walls getting closer and closer…
This is something I worry about, too. I am usually inviting people on this blog to listen to classical music. Today, I invite you to listen to jazz. I decided to post recommendations of five jazz albums by three RAW fans who have listened to jazz for a long time: Eric Wagner, Steve "Fly" Pratt and myself. I've included links to help you find out more.
Before I post the lists, let me suggest something. When you listen to a jazz album and you like it, maybe pay attention to which player seems especially good. Usually on a jazz album, there is the leader, the guy whose name is listed as the artist. But it's more than likely that the other players on the album are just as good, and perhaps more famous, than the leader, and that can lead you to other recordings. For example, Miles Davis' famous Kind of Blue album features an all-star band, but I noticed I especially liked the piano player. That person turned out to be Bill Evans, and that led me to Evans' most famous album, Sunday at the Village Vanguard, recorded by the Bill Evans Trio.
I can't tell you which specific albums RAW listened to, but in Cosmic Trigger 2 he cites the genius of John Lewis, Miles Davis and Thelonius Monk. (Lewis was in the Modern Jazz Quartet.) Coincidance has haiku about John Coltrane, the Modern Jazz Quartet and Louis Armstrong.
OK, the lists:
Eric Wagner's list
(Eric of course is the author of the newly-revised An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson. Be sure you buy the new edition, Amazon may try to direct you to the old one.)
John Coltrane (Creative Commons photo)
1. People in Sorrow, Art Ensemble of Chicago, 1969.
2. Crescent, John Coltrane, 1964.
3. Monk's Music, Thelonius Monk, 1957.
4. Beauty is a Rare Thing, Ornette Coleman, 1959-1961.
5. Kind of Blue, Miles Davis, 1959.
Steve Pratt's list
2. Kind of Blue, Miles Davis, 1959.
3. Friday Night at the Village Vanguard, Art Pepper, 1977.
Monday, March 1, 2021
By Eric Wagner
Special guest blogger
Well, my Joyce experiment for the chapter one exercise in Prometheus Rising went OK. Reading the list of alternative names of Finnegans Wake on pages 104 through 107, I recalled the first time I met Robert Anton Wilson. I had written to him in 1986, and we began corresponding. In 1987 he planned to fly from his home in Ireland to do a speaking tour of the United States, and he sent me his itinerary, which included Dallas. My friend Jai Jeffryes had moved to Dallas the previous year, so I decided I would kill two birds with one stone. I would visit Jai and meet Dr. Wilson. Bob gave a talk on Friday night and then he had a seminar on Saturday. At one point during the seminar he passed a copy of Finnegans Wake around, and he had each of us read one of the alternative names for the Wake on pages 104 through 107. In the book a hen picks a letter out of a dump. The letter corresponds with the Wake. Joyce calls the hen Belinda after the Belinda in Alexander Pope’s “The Rape of the Lock”.
This week I noticed that few pages later on page 112 Joyce give a nice introduction to Finnegans Wake in this short paragraph:
You is feeling like you was lost in the bush, boy? You says: It is a puling sample jungle of woods. You most shouts out: Bethicket me for a stump of a beech if I have the poultriest notions what the farest he all means. Gee up, girly! The quad gospellers may own the targum but any of the Zingari shoolerim may pick a peck of kindlings yet from the sack of auld hensyne.
Typing this out I notice that Word only underlines nine words in this paragraph with red indicating a misspelling or a “word” unknown to the program. Joyce mostly uses short, ordinary English words in this paragraph. I have certainly felt “lost in the bush” trying to understand Finnegans Wake. It does seem like a simple jungle of words at times. I almost shout out: Bethinket me for a son of a bitch if I have the paltriest notion of what the heck he means. The quad gospellers refers to the authors of the four Gospels in the Bible, who in the Wake correspond to the four old men, the four animals in the Book of Ezekiel, the four bedposts of the sleeper’s bed, four divisions of Ireland, etc. In this paragraph I see the quad gospellers as referring to the professional Joyceans who write learned books and articles on the Wake. I think Joyce means here that anyone (the Zingari schoolerim) can find meaning (pick a peck of kindlings) in the book (the sack of auld hensyne, which combines “Auld Lang Syne” with the letter the hen pulls from the dump). Of course Joyce wanted his readers to devote their whole lives to his works, but as critic Harold Bloom noted, the more one puts into one’s study of Joyce, the more one tends to get out of it.
Note: Shortly after writing the above I unexpectedly got my first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. I don’t say that studying Joyce got me the vaccine magickally; I just note the coincidence.