Stage magician and "magic experience designer" Ferdinando Buscema, who I've previously posted about, was a guest on the always-provocative Expanding Mind podcast with Erik Davis and Maja D'Aoust. The conversation was fantastic and highly illuminating. It resonated with my own interests in magic (and art and science) as a tool to shift our perception/understanding of reality, cultivate a sense of wonder, and induce transformative experiences. Indeed, Ferdinando mentioned that he's been greatly inspired by Timothy Leary and Robert Anton Wilson, both of whom were old friends and patron saints of bOING bOING. Also on the program, Ferdinando spoke highly of a book titled Magic and Meaning by magic philosophers Eugene Burger and Robert E. Neale about the psychological, symbolic, and spiritual roots of theatrical magic. I look forward to soaking that one in. The photo above is from Ferdinando's recent gig at the famed Magic Castle in Los Angeles. Right now, he's organizing a TEDxNavigli in Italy for early March, themed around "the power of love." Listen below or here to Expanding Mind: Magic Experience Design.
This week, Boing Boing is presenting a series of essays about movies that have had a profound effect on our invited essayists. See all the essays in the Mind Blowing Movies series here. -- Mark
Pig (2010), by Rev. Ivan Stang
I don't take mind-blowing lightly, and there are several very different ways in which movies have blown my particular mind, such as it is.
Movies seen by a very young child and therefore making an inappropriately huge impression are one type of blowage. In that respect, more than 50 years later I still vividly remember seeing Mighty Joe Young (1949) on my grandfather's TV when I was about four years old, in 1957. Cowboys in Africa (?!?) capture a giant gorilla who ends up performing on stage -- like Kong, but much more professionally. While, in front of an agog nightclub audience, his beautiful human keeper sings "Beautiful Dreamer" while Mighty Joe effortlessly holds her aloft, along with her grand piano and a solid platform. That sequence stuck with me, and to this day I often feel like a trained giant ape helping a pretty girl (or sometimes just an enlarged and life-imbued piece of clip art) make an impression on a bunch of drunks in a bar just to earn a few bananas. *
Probably the second monster movie I remember seeing was The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), fourth in the Universal classic series. It opens with torch-wielding redneck villagers harassing a poor handicapped man, Igor, who fends off their attacks by hurling huge chunks of the decaying Frankenstein castle wall down on them. Read the rest
A brief look behind Ritual America: Secret Brotherhoods and Their Influence on American Society, a Visual Guide. by Adam Parfrey
One of the most exciting secondhand store moments ever: discovering a beautifully preserved 19th century Masonic uniform with dozens of buttons, embroidered crosses, a skull and bones apron, official belt, and pointy "Chapeau" hat topped with white ostrich feathers.
The store owner told me the costume was from "Knights of Pythias," a 19th century fraternal order that loved its uniforms, and marching around in them. Like a couple other faux-Masonic Orders that referred to themselves as "Knights," the Pythians confused its historical inspiration. Damon and Pythias came from ancient Greek mythology, and the added "Knights" referred to medieval anti-Islam crusaders battling for the crown and Christianity.
Later I came to discover the uniform was in fact from the Knights Templar, a Masonic subset that also loved its uniforms, and marching around in them.
More recently Knights (or Knight) Templar uniforms were worn by the similarly anti-Islamic mass murderer Anders Brevik and a particularly murderous Mexican drug gang.
Anders Brevik in Templar costume:
For years the Turk, a chess-playing automaton, toured Europe and America, delighting audiences and besting Catherine the Great, Napoleon Bonaparte and Benjamin Franklin. But the Turk was a trick: Somewhere inside the cabinet was a human, playing the pieces on the board. No one knew how it worked at the time. Then, in 1854, it was destroyed in a fire and the illusion was lost. The Turk reappeared 130 years later, in Atwater, California, re-created from fragments by John Gaughan, a master magic builder who spent $120,000 of his own money on the duplicitous automaton.
I never met Robert Anton Wilson, but after reading him closely for years, I like to think I know him pretty well. When I went to college in the 1970s, I encountered Illuminatus!, and it had a greater effect upon me than anything I learned in class. It's impossible to minimize the impact the book had on inspiring a new generation of libertarians, although Wilson was hardly an orthodox libertarian. (He wasn't an orthodox anything). Once, summing up why he didn't vote for the 1980 Libertarian Party candidate, he explained, "I am not that kind of Libertarian, really; I don't hate poor people." The attitude of wonder and skepticism toward what we can know about the world in llluminatus! is at least as important as the politics.
Partly because of regret that I never got around to interviewing him or even meeting him when he was alive, I started my RAWIllumination.net a couple of years ago. Decades of heavy reading in all forms of fiction and nonfiction have convinced me that Wilson is a major American writer who has not received the attention he deserves. This crops up on all sorts of ways. Years before Dan Brown wrote his best seller, The Da Vinci Code, Wilson covered much the same ground in a much better book, The Widow's Son. With help from other Wilson fans, I have used RAWIllumination.net to make available articles by Wilson and interviews with him that were not reprinted in his books.
I did get to meet Illuminatus! Read the rest
My Dr. Martens had that darker sheen around the toes where the water had sunk into the petrol-resistant exterior. The smell of damp and of dusty books filled my nose as I prepared for another day of work at the library. It was 1995 in Seattle. The WTO had just formed, The Oklahoma bombing went down, and Grunge was slowly decaying in an acrid smoke after Kurt Cobain's suicide. It was then, on that day, Robert Anton Wilson entered my life.
I had just got in the building, which looked like a huge Viking ship, designed that way on account of all the Norwegians who took up residence in that particular part of town. I shook the rain off of my formidable, flaming red hair when, suddenly, I was vehemently tugged behind the stacks by my coworker.
He was thirty-ish, pagan, had a long blonde ponytail and a nose ring. We would often chat together about Egypt, witchy-poo stuff, and things like that.
"You should really check this book out, I think you would really like it," he said quietly as he handed me a corpulent tome. I looked down at it and saw a checkerboard cover with dolphins jumping over a pyramid with an eye on it. Oh boy, I thought to myself. Like I'm really going to read this obviously new age tedious thing that probably is filled with cheerful advice of how to align my chakras. Read the rest
As part of his Mondo 2000 History Project, R.U. Sirius uploaded a couple of Robert Anton Wilson recordings from a Reality Hackers Forum from 1988.
Read the rest
I can’t remember if having RAW give a lecture titled “The CIA-Vatican-Cocaine Conspiracy” was his idea or ours. I think it was our idea based on the fact that he’d written about it somewhere and we thought it was interesting.
Although he was no longer really a staff member, Lord Nose was still a pal to us all and he somehow got the assignment to pick Bob up from the airport. Now, Nose didn’t tolerate anyone smoking in his car and Bob was a smoker’s rights militant (a fact that would later cause his column to be dropped from Mondo … not my idea, but that story is for later.) So Bob got into Nose’s car and lit one up and Nose asked him to put it out. I don’t recall how that standoff was resolved, but (like Nose’s lungs) I heard about it secondhand and that Bob was peaved.
But after he visited with some friends, it was a jovial RAW who showed up at Julia Morgan Theater for a talk that was at the top of his game. He didn’t follow the script very closely, but it didn’t matter — it was big mind-stimulating fun for all. Some fragments of the talk — which will be included on the Mondo 2000 History Project Website when it’s made public — are presented below.
Photo of Tiffany Lee Brown by Wiley Wiggins
Robert Anton Wilson was kinda more George Carlin and less Timothy Leary than he sometimes appeared. I didn't know him truly, madly, deeply and we did not eat, pray, and love together. (OK, we did eat together, now that I think of it.) I did get to hang out with him a number of times.
What surprised me most was his practicality. Bob didn't actually strike me as being all that far-out; rather, he seemed a practical guy with a very smart mind and a very wacky sense of humor. Turning on was fun, sure, and led to important and far-reaching discoveries, some directed inward, others outward. Tuning in was essential: homing in on what matters and communicating to the tribe and also, importantly, to the potential tribe, to the yahoos who hadn't gotten all enlightened 'n' shit, the people who might really *need* to have their minds blown.
But he didn't think that dropping out was an option. He was solid in the pre-old-school sense. Solidly built in physicality, solidly convinced of the efficacy of his ideas, and despite his curmudgeonly tendencies, solidly committed to making the world a better place -- or at least showing its denizens some potential for doing it themselves. Sometimes, that's exactly what we need. Read the rest
It's not hard to see why Bloomberg Businessweek chose not to run with this remarkable illustration of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The creative director is Richard Turley; the rest of the design crew follows:
Creative Director: Richard Turley Design Director: Cynthia Hoffman Graphic Director: Jennifer Daniel Graphics Editor: Kenton Powell, Evan Applegate Director of Photography: David Carthas Art Director: Robert Vargas Designers: Maayan Pearl, Lee Wilson, Chandra Illick and Shawn Hasto Design Manager: Emily Anton
Compare to NYMag's latest cover, which uses the same theme, but is so crudely, cartoonishly photoshopped that it lacks the Bloomberg image's bloody impact.
I like to think of myself as a believing skeptic, someone who relishes in the ideas, the imagery, the arguments, the theories, and the literature of the occult and the paranormal, but accepts little of it as valid in a phenomenal sense. I love that small publishers such as Ouroboros Press and Fulgar Limited put out beautiful magical texts and that many current underground and avant garde musicians incorporate occult ideas into their work. But beyond its power as a method for art and imaging, I recognize much of the occult as woo. On the other hand, I accept that the human imagination is something magical, and very powerful and that we know little about human consciousness except how malleable it really is. It's a precarious position, however, and I often need to remind myself of smarter, more articulate thinkers who shared these views.
So it is with great respect and admiration that I celebrate the life of Robert Anton Wilson during this memorial week by remembering that he was the great believing skeptic, someone for whom the collection and curating of all that is weird was his life's work, who reminded us always to question everything, while recognizing that we should never stop exploring. I sure wish RAW was alive today, especially at a time when there is something like a real Occult Revival going on, from the psychedelic explorers who see 2012 as a great trans formative event, to the huge increase in the membership of organization like the O.T.O. Read the rest
It seems appropriate that we all should pause this week to remember Robert Anton Wilson on the 5th anniversary of his death. The world is a little less fun without RAW, and his cosmic humor/insights/insanity.
When I wrote something about his departure from this plane, a remembrance more than an obituary in 2007, I naturally called it "23 Skidoo." That's what he'd done, and there was no two ways about it.
I still think that someplace, Bucky Fuller, Timothy Leary, Charles Fort, and Robert Anton Wilson are deciding whether it's time to play supercheckers or Texas hold 'em.
I corresponded with Robert Anton Wilson (RAW as he sometimes was called) from the 1970s through the early 1990s, until his health and his in-and-out self-exiles moved him near-and-far from many people. In the waning years, like many, I kept in touch via friends of friends, as it were. Wilson had a universe of friends, as was shown by Boing Boing's pre-death appeal that snatched Wilson from falling off the cliff of poverty as he was dying. We all loved the guy. But it was the intellectual part of him that really appealed to me. Read the rest
Editor's note: I received so many wonderful essays about Robert Anton Wilson, that I've extended RAW Week for a few more days! -- Mark
Robert Anton Wilson departed from this world on January 11, 2007 at 4:50 am. He will be missed enormously by his many loving friends and devoted fans, and his powerful impact upon the world will continue to catalyze the evolution of the human species for many years to come. Bob was one of the most brilliant and conscious people to ever grace this wayward world, and he was always a man ahead of his time. I predict that his books will be far more popular in years to come than they are today. Future generations will cherish his books with the same reverence that scholars today hold for geniuses like James Joyce and Ezra Pound.
Bob had an uncanny ability to lead his readers, unsuspectingly, into a state of mind where they are playfully tricked into "aha" experiences that cause them to question their most basic assumptions. His books are the literary equivalent of a psychedelic experience and they can be every bit as mind-expanding as a couple a good swigs of Amazonian jungle juice. Many people attribute their initial psychological "awakening" to their reading of his psychoactive books -- myself included. It was Bob's book Cosmic Trigger that not only allowed me to understand the concept of "multiple realities," but also inspired me to become a writer when I was a teenager. It was also where I first discovered many of the fascinating individuals who would later become the subjects of my interview books. Read the rest