The first law of futurism is that there are no facts about the future, only fictions.
"The truth knocks on the door and you say, ‘Go away, I’m looking for the truth,’ and so it goes away. Puzzling." -- Robert M. Pirsig
I was saddened to learn that Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance author Robert M. Pirsig died today at the age of 88.
I read the pop philosophy treatise Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance in college and thought it was the greatest book ever. I read it again 15 years later and didn't get as much out of it the second time around. It's been another 15 years since I re-read it and I no longer remember why I had those opinions (I have a lousy memory when it comes to books and movies). I think I should give it another try and see what my current nervous system thinks of his exploration into the nature of quality.
One thing is for certain, the title of the book is one of the best ever (and has been imitated ever since the book came out in 1974), and the paperback cover design is absolutely iconic. [UPDATE: reader Simenzo corrected me. Zen in the Art of Archery, by Eugen Herrigel, was published in 1948]
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Zen was published in 1974, after being rejected by 121 publishing houses. "The book is brilliant beyond belief," wrote Morrow editor James Landis before publication.
I first encountered Grant Morrison at the Disinfo.com conference of 2000, organized by Disinfo's founder, media magician, Richard Metzger [founder of Dangerous Minds]. As I walked upstairs from the basement hangout zone of NYC's Hammerstein Ballroom, at the beginning of his now legendary lecture, I heard Morrison's bone-chilling scream into the microphone, which reminded me of another Morrison, and thought "Who the fuck is this guy?' He then announced that he was drunk and had just eaten some hash and it was about to kick it in, all with a thick Scottish accent. Such punk rock antics won the rapt attention of the wild crowd, myself included, and over the course of the next hour or so, he voiced all the countercultural excitement of the moment. During that cold February day in New York City, Morrison's message was clear, Magick works, but you should not take his word for it, you have do it yourself to learn how it works.
What originally brought me to this two day conference was the fact that Robert Anton Wilson was the headlining speaker. Throughout the late 90s, and especially 2000, I was completely immersed in the works of three psychedelic philosophers, Timothy Leary, John C. Lilly, and most of all, Robert Anton Wilson. RAW was more than just a psychedelic philosopher, he was the greatest living writer that I'd discovered up to that point.
During his talk, Morrison exuded such optimism and joy that I immediately went out and read as many of his comics I could find. Read the rest
Writer and director William Peter Blatty, creator of The Exorcist, has died at age 89. Batty is best known for writing the story of poor, possessed Regan and her demonic resident Captain Howdy. He won an academy award for writing the screenplay for The Exorcist film in 1973.
Here is Blatty on The Tonight Show, January 17, 1974, talking about the surprisingly polarizing response to his classic novel of occult horror:
Tweet from William Friedkin, director of The Exorcist:
William Peter Blatty, dear friend and brother who created The Exorcist passed away yesterday— William Friedkin (@WilliamFriedkin) January 13, 2017
In a 1958 interview, author, philosopher, and futurist Aldous Huxley (Brave New World, The Doors of Perception) shares his grim predictions that are unfortunately quite relevant today. From Blank on Blank:
"This is Aldous Huxley, a man haunted by a vision of hell on earth. Mr. Huxley wrote a Brave New World, a novel that predicted that some day the entire world would live under a frightful dictatorship. Today Mr. Huxley says that his fictional world of horror is probably just around the corner for all of us." - Mike Wallace
In this remarkable interview, Huxley foretells a future when telegenic presidential hopefuls use television to rise to power, technology takes over, drugs grab hold, and frightful dictatorships rule us all.
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Wrightwood. Cal. 21 October, 1949
Dear Mr. Orwell,
It was very kind of you to tell your publishers to send me a copy of your book. It arrived as I was in the midst of a piece of work that required much reading and consulting of references; and since poor sight makes it necessary for me to ration my reading, I had to wait a long time before being able to embark on Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Agreeing with all that the critics have written of it, I need not tell you, yet once more, how fine and how profoundly important the book is. May I speak instead of the thing with which the book deals --- the ultimate revolution? The first hints of a philosophy of the ultimate revolution --- the revolution which lies beyond politics and economics, and which aims at total subversion of the individual's psychology and physiology --- are to be found in the Marquis de Sade, who regarded himself as the continuator, the consummator, of Robespierre and Babeuf. The philosophy of the ruling minority in Nineteen Eighty-Four is a sadism which has been carried to its logical conclusion by going beyond sex and denying it. Whether in actual fact the policy of the boot-on-the-face can go on indefinitely seems doubtful.
"Future shock is the shattering stress and disorientation that we induce in individuals by subjecting them to too much change in too short a time," according to Alvin Toffler, who died on June 27 at the age of 87. Toffler wrote a massively best selling book of the same called Future Shock, which made him a celebrity.
I saw Alvin Toffler at a Chin Chin Chinese restaurant on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood 20 years ago. I stared at him, slack jawed, until he finally said, "Yes, it's me!" He seemed friendly, so I approached him and we talked for about 20 minutes. I was impressed with his energy level. I told him I was an editor at Wired magazine, and mentioned that we had just backed out of an IPO. "Sometimes, retreat is the smart thing to do," he said.
Some Toffler quotes:
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"You can use all the quantitative data you can get, but you still have to distrust it and use your own intelligence and judgment."
"It is better to err on the side of daring than the side of caution."
"One of the definitions of sanity is the ability to tell real from unreal. Soon we'll need a new definition."
"Anyone nit-picking enough to write a letter of correction to an editor doubtless deserves the error that provoked it."
"Technology feeds on itself. Technology makes more technology possible."
"Science fiction is held in low regard as a branch of literature, and perhaps it deserves this critical contempt.
Authors who self-publish through Amazon’s KDP Select Program will start getting paid based on the number of book pages that are read, as opposed to how many books are borrowed through two different Kindle services. Read the rest
Crime novelist Elmore Leonard, a master of modern noir, died today. He was 87. From his 2001 essay, "Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle,"that appeared in the New York Times:
5. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. If you have the knack of playing with exclaimers the way Tom Wolfe does, you can throw them in by the handful.Elmore Leonard's author page on Amazon
6. Never use the words ''suddenly'' or ''all hell broke loose.'' This rule doesn't require an explanation. I have noticed that writers who use ''suddenly'' tend to exercise less control in the application of exclamation points.
Dust, the final installment of author and indie publishing star Hugh Howey's AMAZING "Silo" series, is out today! Hugh is an American author best known for this popular series which began with "Wool," independently published through Amazon.com's Kindle Direct Publishing system. That book became a sudden success in the Fall of 2011, and Hugh explains what happened next: Read the rest
Since then, I've done a six-week book tour across North Carolina, had a radical hysterectomy, gone on a blog tour and started chemo. Not exactly what I'd expected in what was supposed to be 'my' year.
At first, I didn't want to tell anyone about the disease, but that quickly became unfeasible; people were contacting me to do readings and I had to explain why I couldn't; my editor had been patiently awaiting my revisions to the second novel and I didn't want him to think I was dawdling; and, I figured it was something my agent should know. So, I went public. As I deal with the gritty life of coping with cancer, I've noticed some similarities between the writing life and living with cancer.
Read the rest here: BOOK PREGNANT: What Cancer Has Taught Me About Writing And Living.
(thanks, Lydia Netzer)
The diagnosis An inspirational needlepoint for those with cancer On Cost and Cancer in America When life hands you cancer, make cancer-ade: via lemonade stand ... My Dinner with Marijuana: chemo, cannabis, and haute cuisine ... Read the rest
Last month, I reviewed The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, science journalist Rebecca Skloot's new book about the development of the first immortal cell culture line—and the family caught between pride in the role their mother played in this breakthrough, and anger over the way the medical community had treated her and them.
A lot of you commented on the review and had some really interesting thoughts about the book. If you've still got questions about HeLa, the Lacks family or the medical ethics/legal status of tissue samples, now would be a good time to pull them out. Skloot is taking reader questions—you can email them to her, or leave them in the comments on her blog—and the answers will become the FAQ page of her book's Web site.
I love the interactive approach to this and am looking forward to reading the FAQ that comes out of it! Read the rest