The Annoying Internet Part 1

by John Shirley

When I’m online looking up hotels to stay at, or airlines, it used to be that you got the hotel itself first, the website with the front desk number and reservations number — reservations made within the hotel. Now you get a raft of intermediary businesses trying to get you discounts and they’re all people who can’t answer your questions. They can book you a room maybe at a slight discount but not always. Bunch of goddamn parasites.

Lots of times their URLs are deceptive — like, it’ll say the name of the hotel, Joe’s Hotel say, and then after that the name of the intermediary parasite company. JoesHotelFrontDesk dot com — the company is deceivingly called Front Desk. Wanting to talk to the hotel directly you’ve got to sift through a dozen of these and look carefully to pick out the real hotel website.

It’s deceptive and it’s inefficient and it’s irritating. I should not see these booking companies first ± I should see the hotel. If I want booking companies I can google hotel discounts or something. (When I was a boy, the damn search engines were simple and good!)

And ….try finding correct song lyrics online. When looking for song lyrics online, most of the time you get bullshit — they don’t provide the real lyrics, they provide a spazzy version with many errors. The lyric sites are often put up by people in Europe and Eastern Europe who really don’t understand the lyrics very well, even if they can hear them, and they write down the wrong stuff. Lyric sites (often with obnoxious ads) copy the badly transcribed lyrics at other lyric sites. The result is lots of new bands doing covers full of errors.

On youtube, the videos that offer “the lyrics,”,if not put up by the band or artist directly, are likely to be at least partly wrong, sometimes very wrong. And these people do not get permission from artists to put this up. Nor do the lyric sites get permission.

Some artists, like David Bowie, put up all their lyrics so people’d get it right. Lou Reed put out a really good big book of his lyrics. If you go to RollingStones dot com put LYRICS in their search bar, and you get videos where the official lyrics are available. Try that with bands and artists first before searching online.

Lyrics for Blue Oyster Cult and Iggy Pop online are often partly wrong. Sometimes they leave out passages too. I checked and some of my own lyrics for Blue Oyster Cult are misreported. Many lyric sites not only have super-annoying advertising they’re trying to put malware on your computer.

Google Music (not just the google search engine, but Google Music) seems to make an effort for accurate lyrics.  Artists should sue these other bastards for this misrepresentation.

Morgan Russell Remembering Barlow (w. Lovely Photos)

Barlow asked me about what a panic attack felt like… told him that I felt I was having a heart attack or stroke or seizure and was about to die… he said, “Well, what’s the worst thing that can happen? You REALLY do die.” mulled that one over and laughed with him… he was not afraid of death…

above photo Stefan Z., Amelia Rose, J.P. Barlow, Morgan Russell

text and photos of Morgan Russell

It was approaching January 6th, 1989, John Lilly’s 74th birthday, when Faustin Bray, who traditionally organized and performed at his birthdays in Malibu, handed me five invitations for his party. “Look, no one gets FIVE invitations but I know you’ll know whom to invite.”

Faustin was to me the Good Witch of the West Bay (Mill Valley) while Queen Mu was the Wicked Witch of the East Bay (Berkeley). I gave the first invitation to Barlow who confirmed, next Dan Kottke, next Ted Nelson, next Jas. Morgan (our music editor), keeping one for myself. “Great, I’ll rent a plane and we’ll fly there,”said Dan.

with Count Arnold von Keyserling and Countess Wilhemine “Willy” von Keyserling

He just knew of Barlow and me as passengers given the order of the invitations. Well, we met on the tarmac at the closest airport in Palo Alto and I brought Jas. with me…then Barlow arrives with a 17 year old girlwoman named Bunny and lots of luggage. We all had too much luggage and there were four seats in the Cessna (or whatever make plane) and five of us. Daniel saw no obstacle but we were jammed together… Barlow, as another licensed pilot, in the front with Kottke and Bunny and Jas. and myself in the back… Bunny on my left leg and Jas.’s right leg…we used the entire length of the runway to get off the ground and barely cleared the trees beyond and then circled and circled to gain altitude with our grossly overweight craft. I chatted with Bunny at short range as she was mostly in my lap…”Bunny” was exceedingly cute and “Bunny” was her legal name…she was a second-generation “Bunny,” her mother was Bunny as well… now, one knows that with that name she is unlikely to become a doctor or a lawyer but she was Weir’s girlfriend and she was waiting for him to divorce his wife to live with her… Kottke is meanwhile checking in by radio occasionally… I turned out to be exceptionally glad he was not incapacitated when Barlow told me he had the nickname in Wyoming as “Barf Bag Barlow” for his aeronautical stunts…

Amelia Rose reading Kafka… Kerouac on table..

The group spoke of some other things we might do while in LA… someone said the La Brea Tar Pits so I dubbed our journey as “the Magic Tar Pit Ride” which might have set off some humming since that is a highly infectious tune… I took another Valium… when we landed in LA and gathered our bags and were walking on the tarmac, a worker came out of a hut and looked amazed… he pointed his finger from left to right on our group and possessions and exclaimed incredulously, “ALL of you came in THAT?!, pointing to our petite plane…

with Johanna Satek

Anyway, we went to our digs that Barlow arranged with Phil de Guere in the Hollywood Hills. He was a producer whose maybe most recognizable work was Starsky and Hutch. Dan Ackroyd was the neighbor…I had a bedroom about the size of 75 square meters and the bath included a phone next to the toilet with six lines. There was a kitchen equally scaled with a huge coffee bean roaster that Bear (Augustus Owsley Stanley III) had given him… someone must have supplied him with green coffee beans…I have never been to a Starbucks, but this was another galaxy away in authenticity… a cockatoo, the same speakers that Mickey Hart used (I was in a position to confirm that) and Phil discovered that he and Kottke went to the same boarding school — Lawrenceville in NJ… he also had something closely akin to the world’s smallest piece of hash and acted like he was protecting it… ”I just fired a 10 year old girl today,” he bragged…”I just stab them in the front”… He was working on a Tina Turner special for which he would receive enough to buy the ultimate-level Mercedes… Carlos Castaneda had been with him the night before… the one he really wanted to meet was Ruth-Inge Heinze, shamanic trance induction advisor to Mickey Hart… qhen I told him she was a close friend, he was impressed…

 

He drove our crew to the cliffs of Malibu in his Bitter car… ”only 25 existing in the whole USA”…whatever, this is how he was… we met up with Morgana, yoga teacher to Albert Hofmann when he was in town before and Lady Anne Camilla Swadling whom I knew from a previous visit to LA… I used to have a photo with them and Barlow and someone’s iguana with a rhinestone- or diamond-) studded necklace on Barlow’s shoulder… everyone was there… Robert Anton Wilson, Laura Huxley and so on.

Taking a break from the  crowd outside the house, I went indoors into an office where I met Lilly’s brother…t here was a wall-size cork board with one photo…I went closer to see what it was… It was a picture of myself taken at the American Restaurant, a famous Italian place in North Beach…F austin must have taken the photo…but how it got there I don’t know…

So, next day Kottke and I starting walking… yes, walking… in a place with no sidewalks and looking super dorky to Phil’s teenage daughter wearing our Kulu Valley hats… I received mine from Dan K. at my birthday party the month before…all the yards had nicely inviting signs that read “ARMED RESPONSE”…

When we took off the next day in the overloaded yet trusty plane there were no trees to avoid… I asked, “where’s the dope”…” look in the bag behind my seat,” answered Dan…I rolled a fattie and lit it but I thought Daniel might just pass it on but NO… he inhaled deeply… all I can say is that landing in Palo Alto, we touched down, bounced and bounced and bounced our way to the very uttermost end of the tarmac that ended in grass…

note: when I last talked about Bunny with Barlow within the past year he corrected me when I mentioned Weir and said, “Bunny was MY girlfriend.” It would not be the first time that Barlow and Weir were in some competition since when they were 12 years old…

J.P. Barlow Remembers… US? Interview About MONDO 2000 (Reality Hackers, High Frontiers)

Stefan Z., Amelia Rose, J.P. Barlow, Morgan Russell

 

John Perry Barlow was interviewed for an oral history of MONDO 2000 several years ago. That version of a MONDO 2000 book has been displaced by something more essay/idea oriented (albeit with some memory mixed in) — and that leaves us free to use some of the interviews here on the website.

We did not, however, expect to be using the Barlow interview so soon. But now, with everybody remembering Barlow, we’re going with Barlow remembering us.

Some or all the persons and references herein may be unfamiliar but with a modicum of intuition and /or imagination, you should be able to get into the MONDOMania as J.P. Barlow recalls it.

 

Meeting Reality Hackers

I met Morgan Russell either at SIGGRAPH Boston or Macworld Boston (1989). But I didn’t really put it all together, I don’t believe, until I ran across Reality Hackers. R.U. Sirius was at a hackers party at the Exploratorium giving away copies of Reality Hackers and High Frontiers.

I just thought this was marvelous. I thought, this is exactly right because there had been this thing that had been gathering in my head, I thought, somewhat independently, about the relationship between consciousness in computing and psychedelics.

I knew about them and I was interested in them for a good long while before I discovered that they had this house that was kind of an artist collective — an atelier of some sort — that was gathering energy around this whole thing. And I was in fundamental agreement and even felt like part of their auto-conspiracy.

Coming to the MONDO house

I was almost certainly lured by Morgan. I thought that the house was a truly magical place. It was out of a Hermann Hesse novel, filled with these people the likes of which did not exist anywhere else. I felt like I kind of made them up. They were so perfectly aligned with something that I wanted to exist.

They were telling the story of something that was going to be a natural continuity of a thread that I’d been tracking ever since I became a teenage beatnik when I was thirteen.

I had been on that path in some form or fashion through LSD and hanging at Millbrook, and finding out that my official best friend was a member of the house band for the Acid Test and all these kinds of things through college and subsequently.

I was re-engaging with something that I had been out of the loop of. I mean, I’d gone off to Wyoming for seventeen years where I’d been a cattle rancher. And yeah, I’d been writing Grateful Dead songs on the side but I actually didn’t feel myself to be at the core of that movement or any kind of countercultural movement… and I very much felt like I was re-engaging what seemed to be my life’s work that night, meeting those guys and becoming part of whatever it was that you were up to.

Read more “J.P. Barlow Remembers… US? Interview About MONDO 2000 (Reality Hackers, High Frontiers)”

The First Virtual War by J.P. Barlow from MONDO 2000 #5

photo by Bart Nagel

“What I had seen of the war had been a computer generated simulationJ.P. Barlow

by John Perry Barlow, introduction by R.U. Sirius

After the confident declarations of inevitable cyberpunk youth takeover in the first edition of Mondo 2000 and the philosophically trippy and mostly utopian read on Virtual Reality in #2, it was inevitable that affairs in the world would bring us crashing down to earth… at least a little. The third edition revolved largely around the hacker crackdown that was called Operation Sundevil — a situation in which a confused and clueless law enforcement establishment pursued crimes they didn’t understand on a terrain they hadn’t realized existed.

Issues #4 and #5 found us, meanwhile, reacting to Operation Desert Storm — the first full-on return to American Triumphalism since the Vietnam war turned sour in… what?… 1968?  We weren’t watching much TV at the Mondo house/office but I remember CNN being on as a sort of background phenomenon during the run-up to the war.

This was the first time the media’s inevitable participation in the sort of unquestioning jingoist war propaganda that we’re always treated to during the run-up to a major intervention was ginned up by computerized special effects. And prideful current and former military leaders sharing technical details about shiny new weapons systems would bring irresistible frisson to certain types of technophiles —  Smart bombs! —  Wowee! Well, as John Fogerty sang, “It ain’t me.”

President George H.W. Bush even enunciated the idea of a “New World Order” spawning a million new byzantine conspiracy theories that have iterated and turned into ever-weirder and more complex alternative realities since.

As for me, I organized a radio show called “New World Disorder” on KALX fm in Berkeley with Don Joyce from Negativland and wrote an editorial in #4, also titled “New World Disorder.”

In issue #5, John Perry Barlow took up the antiwar banner identifying Desert Storm as the first Virtual War in the layout and text provided below.

Don’t get me wrong.  Mondo wasn’t freakin’ Mother Jones or something. The rest of the edition featured an erotic quantum physics limerick; newer smart drugs; the cyber-surrealism of Mark Leyner in the immediate aftermath of his incomparable Et Tu, Babe; a gigantic section on industrial music; Mark Dery deconstructing machine sex and sex machines; a much criticized spread with lovely ladies with their bare nipples shining through microchips; and speaking of smart bombshells, that cover you see is Dr. Fiorella Terenzi who talked to us about her music of the galaxies.  I was told later that every male in the building — except me — stopped work that afternoon to gather in the art room where the interview took place. Was I noble?  No,  I was shut in my office working on something completely unaware.  I was the editor-in-chief and nobody told me a damn thing.

Oh it might also be worth mentioning that we scrambled the names of two avant-garde guitarists on the cover, leading to embarrassment followed by some theorizing about “Art Damage” in the next edition.

Anyway, here’s “Virtual Nintendo” by John Perry Barlow from issue #5 of Mondo 2000. 

R.U. Sirius

Below the scan of the actual magazine, you will find a purely textual version of the article.

 

Mondo2000 Issue 5

 

VIRTUAL NINTENDO

by John Perry Barlow

It is precisely when it appears most truthful that the image is most diabolical.
-Jean Baudrillard

Like most Americans last February, I was hooked on the new CNN sports series War in the Gulf. It didn’t sound strange to me when a friend said he didn’t know whether he wanted to watch the War or the Lakers game that evening. They were fairly indistinguishable. Both commentated by fatuous men well removed from the action. Indeed, in the case of the War, one wondered if there even was any action. The closest one got to that was the occasional footage of people scurrying around in the darkness following a Scud warning, followed by a blurry flash of distant fireworks as the Patriot took out the Scud.

Which was, in a way, a perfect metaphor for the abstraction and bloodlessness of this new form of combat. A missile would emerge without any tangible point of origin, its senders anonymous and devoid of human characteristics. A machine would detect it, another would plot its trajectory, and a third would rush out to kill it. It was like an academic argument. Flesh and bone were miles away from anything that might rend them.

Finally, after weeks of this shadowboxing, it was determined that the map of Kuwait had been sufficiently revised that it was now safe to send in live Americans. Personally, I still had such fear of the Republican Guard that I thought we should soften them some more. What I thought we faced was an army as large as ours, toughened by almost a decade of the nastiest combat since World War I, comprised of Muslim fanatics, each convinced that death in battle was just a quicker trip to Paradise. Certainly more than a match for a bunch of rag-tag American kids who’d joined the military because they couldn’t get a job at the 7-11. Read more “The First Virtual War by J.P. Barlow from MONDO 2000 #5”

John Perry Barlow – MONDO 2000 Contributing Editor RIP

Photos by Bart Nagel

Comment by R.U. Sirius

 

John Perry Barlow by Bart Nagel

 

John Perry Barlow by Bart Nagel

 

 

On rare occasions, a (social) angel appears among us who appears to have unlimited energy and generosity to offer to thousands of friends and collaborators; and who is able to engage authentically with them about their lives and projects long after the rest of us would have curled up into fetal balls from too much peopleness. Barlow was one of those angels. I hope he’s having a unique and trippy out-of-body-and-brain experience and — if there be afterlife rewards — he’s getting back the Good Lovin’ he gave us.

R.U. Sirius

 

Mondoid Memoir The Neopsychedelic Movement

“I noticed that all but one of them did a version of ‘White Rabbit.’  Jeff Mark

by Jeff Mark & R.U. Sirius

While I am currently working on a book about MONDO 2000 that will be primarily about the ideas that drove the magazine, I have a lot of memoir-ish materials collected from my own writings and interviews with — or writings by — various participants in the project. Jeff Mark was the first person I met through ads in local newsweeklies in 1983 looking for project participants… albeit I wasn’t sure what the project was yet. Just that you should dig RA Wilson, Leary and Bill Burroughs to join in.

These notes — a fragment from the original planned book — from myself and Jeff Mark are about a trip to L.A. to cement our friendship with neopsychedelic movement fellow travelers there. At the time, our magazine was called High Frontiers.

R.U. Sirius

 

R.U. The “Neopsychedelic renaissance” continued apace, with major features in High Times, as well as several long forgotten zines, radio interviews and so on — usually with High Frontiers touted as the reigning representation. It seemed that I was blabbing to someone in the media about it at least a couple of times a month. Soon word hit us that people on the L.A. garage psychedelic scene were being drenched in high quality LSD and diggin’ High Frontiers. Greg Shaw’s Bomp Magazine was at the center of that scene and he sent us his back issues (which we were already buying, anyway) and suggested we come for a visit. Jeff Mark and I arranged to go down there

Jeff Mark: Winter Solstice 1985, R.U. and I took a trip to Los Angeles. The “Neopsychedelic Revival” was by then a real phenomenon. Newsweek had even done a feature piece on the L.A. manifestation, focusing on Greg Shaw who was putting together some L.A. neopsychedelic ‘zine. R.U.’s intention was to make contact and build a bridge. We hung out for a while with Greg. I think we did a little sightseeing, and then that night we went to see some bands being promoted by him.

The space the bands would play in, around the corner from Hollywood & Vine… well, you couldn’t call it a club. It was just… a room. The entrance was at the top of an external staircase, from which I could see underneath the building, noting with some trepidation that the second floor was supported by a bunch of those steel jacks that builders use to keep a weak ceiling from collapsing. And this would be holding up a couple of hundred dancing humans.

There were maybe four or five different bands, each doing 30-45 minutes or so, and I noticed that all but one of them did a version of “White Rabbit.” I also noticed was that the bands each seemed to be made up of the same seven or eight people in varying combinations of four or five.

Anyway, the building didn’t collapse, and we retired after to some other location lost to history for a party. Everyone was high on MDMA, of course. As the evening progressed, I engaged in conversation with several very nice people, and by way of introducing each other, the usual “so what do you do?” kinds of questions arose. Now, I had a straight job at the time; civil service, thoroughly boring. But the people I spoke with described themselves as “make-up artists” or “costumers” or writers or artists of one flavor or another. I began to realize that vocationally, each of these people depended on all the others, networking (another not-yet-coined-term) to get to work on someone’s project about something; their livelihood depended on their social contacts.

Now, when you think about it, this was Hollywood; that’s how Hollywood works, that’s how creative communities, particularly those in collaborative crafts, operate. That’s how they produce. Obvious to many, but news to me. The pattern-recognition subsystems of my mind began to assemble what I would come to call my “Theory of Scenes”.

A few months later, we returned with (High Frontiers Art Director) Lord Nose to participate in an event that featured a couple of local bands, and somebody wheeling out Sky Saxon  from the Seeds (“Pushing Too Hard”). And it struck me that the 200 or so people at that event, which included almost everyone we’d met in December, comprised the whole of the “neopsychedelic scene” in L.A. That was it. 250 people tops; and they were getting all this media attention. And I realized that’s how it probably was in ’65 as well. There was the Whiskey á Go-Go scene; one or two other places; a dozen or so bands with some duplication among their personnel, various friends and hangers on. In the Haight, the same thing. There was the Fillmore and the Matrix, the Diggers, the Oracle, and it was all the same… what, 300 people? It applies elsewhere also. There’s the NYC comedy scene (which in the 70s gave us SNL, and is now focused around The Daily Show), the Boston Harvard/National Lampoon scene, the L.A. Conception Corporation scene (whence came Spinal Tap). All of these basically, at least in the beginning, were not much more than groups of friends. Even in politics. One of my disappointments as I’ve gotten more sophisticated about politics is the realization that so much of what happens in a place like Washington D.C. takes place in what appears to be a social environment, which is why it reminds us so much of high school. And this was, largely, how MONDO functioned within the context of the Berkeley “scene.” Read more “Mondoid Memoir The Neopsychedelic Movement”

Reality Hackers Soapbox 1989 Information is True Capital

by Jas. Morgan and Accomplices (intro by R.U. Sirius)

This piece, written and published in 1989, ran in Reality Hackers, the forerunner of MONDO 2000. It rather states a premise of the digital revolution that was one of the guiding lights of the MONDOid experience, particularly in its early days. Now I am writing a book that discusses many of the memes and assumptions that undergirded both MONDO and the digital idealism of those times.

Do these ideas still hold up? Please share your thoughts.

R.U. Sirius

Information is true capital. Grain rots, you can’t eat gold, you might not need medicines. All of these commodities, capital, have been used for centuries as barter. But what makes doctors, genetic engineers and, for that matter, plumbers, wealthy? Knowledge, information, data. You can learn to grow crops, mine gold, practice alchemy. Proudhon stated the crux of the matter in three simple koans: “Property is theft. Property is freedom. Property is impossible.” Information equals property.

Property is theft. All that we know, we have learned. All that we have discovered has been extrapolated. We have simply stolen and built upon the ideas of those who have gone before us, from language to the lever, from agriculture to the atom bomb.

Property is freedom. No one can steal your ideas. While others may utilize your concepts for their own gain, you can still profit from them as well. Einstein articulated the concept of General Relativity and atomic theory, which much to his chagrin was used to develop nuclear weaponry. Nobody owns ideas and nobody can control them.

Property is impossible. Information is free. In fact, information is taken for granted, as we daily communicate with symbols and concepts developed by people other than ourselves. We build the tools to build the tools to build the tools. The Zen meditation on Proudhon’s concepts is left to the reader.

The personal computer revolution has vastly empowered the individual. Yet it is a fragile and vulnerable system. Individuals have at their command the means to capriciously misuse the technology. Those who hoard, damage, or destroy signals are committing a crime against Species Intelligence. The hackers are true Prometheans and the guardian of personal liberties. Yet the hackers must forge a new ethic to guide them or they’re in danger of being scapegoated for what is mostly intercorporate sabotage. The communication of ideas is the very essence of this magazine. We promote and endorse maximum neural fluxibility. A continuous stream of data allows you to integrate new models into your self-created reality, and discard outmoded ones. There are those who cling tenaciously to the security of their present belief systems. And there are the intellectual faddists who will exchange their current model in favor of any new model. Reality Hackers believes the best model is what works — more importantly, what works for you.. But be aware. We attempt to widen the bandwidth and present as many and varied ideas as possible. We are willing to entertain nearly any notion provided that it’s resonant and interesting. So don’t believe everything you read. Think for yourself.

by Jas. Morgan and accomplices

 

From Anonymous To Pursuance — Barrett Brown in Conversation with Steve Phillips

Conversation with Steve Phillips, lead developer and Project Manager of The Pursuance Project edited by The Doctor. Also, thanks to Barrett Brown for reviewing the transcript for errors and to Lisa Rein for final proofs.

This article and its sequels constitute a somewhat edited and condensed transcript of a discussion between Barrett Brown and Steve Phillips at the San Francisco Aaron Swartz Day Hackathon in 2017.  We’ve tried to trade off informality for clarity, and refer the curious reader to the original source material in the spirit of transparency.  Any emphasis and hyperlink references are ours.

In 2012, Barrett Brown was arrested for his role in the Anonymous hack of Stratfor, a global intelligence company that serves corporate and government interests around the world. The hack revealed an apparent insider trading relationship between the company and Goldman Sachs, among other dubious business activities.  Brown won the National Magazine Award for his work while in solitary confinement.  While in prison, Barrett had some ideas for a software project, the democracy-building project called Pursuance.

From the Pursuance homepage

“Pursuance exists to amplify the efforts of activists, journalists, and non-profits by (1) creating open source collaboration software and (2) building a powerful network of talented, reasonable individuals around it…

“Our free, open source, and secure Pursuance System software enables participants to: create action-oriented groups called “pursuances”, discuss how best to achieve their mission, rapidly record exciting strategies and ideas in an actionable form… receive social recognition for their contributions, and to delegate tasks to other pursuances in this ecosystem in order to harness its collective intelligence, passion, and expertise.”

Read the full statement

 

Steve Phillips

STEVE PHILLIPS: I read a Wired Magazine article that said that Barrett Brown was out of jail and doing awesome stuff again, an encrypted environment where you can collaborate with other activists and journalists and people who are trying to change the world, and I thought that sounded ultra-compelling. So, I immediately reached out to him in several different ways — snail mail and Twitter and email, like all in parallel, and got through, and then I jumped on a plane and flew to Texas to meet Barrett.

[Barrett Brown], let’s talk a little bit about your background. You won a National Magazine Award, but let’s go back to 2010. You had the sense that we should be using the Internet for activist-type things. Even if it’s just a small percentage of people who really care about issues, there are billions of people online so that could be quite the force. Take me back to some of your thinking around that time, right before you started doing work with Anonymous.

Read more “From Anonymous To Pursuance — Barrett Brown in Conversation with Steve Phillips”

Zach Leary Remembers Timothy Leary’s Final Years

Interview by R.U. Sirius

Zach Leary is the host of both the “It’s All Happening with Zach Leary” podcast and “The MAPS Podcast.” They have helped to cement him as one of the most thought provoking podcasters in the cultural philosophy genre of podcasting. He’s also a blogger/writer, a futurist, spiritualist, a technology consultant and sociocultural theorist.

Raised from a young age by Timothy Leary and his mother Barbara Leary, Zach had the ultimate front row seat to Dr. Tim’s later years. I’m excited to have him share some of his memories and thoughts with us about Dr. Leary’s final years as he was dying from prostate cancer.

R.U. Sirius: Was there any sign of illness that you were aware of before your stepdad got his diagnosis of prostate cancer? Anything you can tell us about this?

Zach Leary: Looking back on it, it becomes much easier to connect the dots and to make sense of what went on with his sickness and physical deterioration. Before the actual cancer diagnosis occurred, he expressed to me many times how he was brokenhearted and dejected that Barbara (Zach’s mother, Tim’s wife) had left him. I remember one night less than six months after she left where he confessed that he felt a sense of completion and a loss of a will to live. He simply had so many personal heartbreaks in his life that eventually caught up to him. I suspect from that point forward, he let his personal state of mind effect his physical one. He started to get old fast, so by the time the actual diagnosis happened, it didn’t feel terribly out of place. To me it felt like it might have even been what he wanted.

The fascinating part that makes him so different than most people is that he didn’t let it affect his work and prolific output. During the last 3-4 years of the downward life spiral he still found time to produce some of his most compelling work and inspire everyone around him. He had a stiff upper lip and marched forward.

RUS: How did you learn of Timothy’s cancer? How/when did he talk to you about it?

ZL: Honestly, I don’t remember the specific moment. I do remember him letting me know, but I can’t recall it being a formal “sit down.” The more severe talk/disclosure occurred after his one and only chemo treatment. He went to one chemo session and said “FUCK THIS. I’m not going to do it. From here on out, I’m calling my cancer Mademoiselle Cancer and we’re going to make friends with it!”

He did gauge my feedback by having a talk with me that he wasn’t going to get any treatment — which, in turn, meant he was going to let it kill him. I was young and didn’t know what to do with that information. He seemed to be at peace with it so I played along. That said, it took me awhile to really make peace with it. I was just starting to be an adult and the thought of not having his paternal wisdom in my adult life freaked me out. He certainly was very open and vulnerable to anyone wanting to talk about it, that’s for sure. He didn’t hide one bit!

RU:  Was there a slow or immediate transition to “the mother of all parties” — his public celebration of the dying process? Do you remember any complications around that… practically or emotionally?

ZL: As far as I recall, the transition to what you’re calling “the mother of all parties” was immediate. He instantly recognized the juggernaut potential of making the death and dying process into the final act of his life’s work. That’s how I remember it anyway.

Once he decided that he wasn’t going to get any treatment for the cancer there was a short and very much unsustained grieving process. He somehow charmed us into making his dying into a celebration. Had I been older and more mature, I certainly would have handled that differently. His death, while of course profound and inspiring, hit me after the fact in a very challenging way. I was a lost young man with no identity of my own and part of that was due to me never really having much time to feel the loss and process. We had some really sweet father and son moments towards the end that contained some very necessary tears. But overall I think Timmy’s ability to barnstorm through emotionally difficult milestones was ultimately a downfall of his.

I’m glad the whole “designer dying” idea of his found such strong footing and uncovered so many important topics for our culture, but I do wish there was a more sensitive way to offset the public celebration with some compassion for those close to him. Immediately after he died, my life fell apart very quickly — when that happens it’s no ones fault, but I was by no means prepared for life without him.

Read more “Zach Leary Remembers Timothy Leary’s Final Years”

Pariahs Made Me Do It — Of Dali, Warhol & Leary

Excerpt from the original unpublished unfinished MONDO 2000 book. A new one is in the works for Zero Books! Whoo hoo!

R.U. Sirius

As you already have surmised, I came up through the New Left Revolution years. From 1968 – 1971 — during and just after high school, I knew that the revolution had come. Some as yet inchoate mix of left anarchist radicalism and newly psychedelicized youth mutation was simply taking over the world by storm. As Hunter Thompson famously rhapsodized, “There was madness in any direction, at any hour… You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning.… Our energy would simply prevail…We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave.” Right (or left) or wrong, it was exciting and energizing to be a part of it.

But by the mid-70s, people on the left radical countercultural scene had become — at best, mopey and quarrelsome — and, at worst, either criminally insane or very tightly wound politically correct environmentalist/feminist/health-food scolds. People were either bitchy; or they were in retreat smoking pot and listening to the mellow sounds of James Taylor and Carole King.

I didn’t know it consciously at the time, but I needed to create a space within my psyche that liberated me from the constancy of moral judgment and eco-apocalypse mongering — and one that also didn’t represent a retreat into the mediocrity of middle class liberalism.

Thus, I was attracted to flamboyant “hip pariahs” who were very un-left, politically incorrect… even, in some cases, right wing.

There was the glam rock rebellion against blue denim hippie populism. These performers insulted egalitarianism by dressing and performing in ways that set them apart from their generation’s rock audiences . (Naturally, good old Mick Jagger was the major rock god who didn’t need to change to be a part of it.) David Bowie, Alice Cooper, Lou Reed all nipped — in interviews and lyrics and musical styles — at assumed countercultural values while also mocking, at least, cultural conservatism by their very androgynous existences.

I gobbled up materials on, or by, Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali — each, in their way, pariah outcasts from political decency — particularly Dali.

By being an unsane solipsistic monarchist, loving money, supporting the fascist Francisco Franco, Dali seemed to me to be the purest of surrealists, running with his subconscious atavistic impulses against the earlier sympathies of the surrealists with the left and developing an utterly inexcusable (sometimes when I say that aspects of my story and my mind are inexcusable, I’m not just using colorful language. I mean it literally.) but original persona. His autobiographical and philosophic texts defied logic in ways that seemed to me to be more genuinely playful and funny than his former fellow travels in 20th Century Surrealism who had long since denounced him.

Warhol played an even more important role in liberating my soul and psyche from the depths of resentment and rational piety since his very role in art and culture was to create a space free from judgment. While Andy was nominally a liberal, his deadpan consumerist art and aphorisms had a Zen quality — it could, paradoxically, cause you to embrace the flow of frozen moments and artifice for artifice’s sake by inducing silence in the chattering, protesting, judging brain. To properly experience Warhol was to almost stop thinking… in the best possible way… while still hanging on by a thread to a sense of humorous irony.

And then there was Dr. Timothy Leary. There was the legendary Leary… all that stuff about turning on tuning in dropping in the 1960s. I had read and enjoyed his book High Priest, but actually thought of him as something of an old guy who seemed to be trying too hard to fit into the youth culture. It was the Leary of the ‘70s that fascinated me. During the height of my own romantic infatuation with “The Revolution,” Leary had made a heroic prison escape. He had been spirited away by the guerrilla warriors of the Weather Underground and had shown up in Algeria with Eldridge Cleaver’s exiled Black Panther chapter, pronouncing unity between the psychedelic and leftist and black revolutions and promising to help Cleaver form a revolutionary US government in exile. At that time, all of these people — Weather Underground leader Bernadine Dohrn, Eldridge Cleaver, Timothy Leary, Stew Albert who led a contingent of Yippies over there to cement the alliance — were icons to me, more or less on a par with The Beatles and The Stones (or at least, the Jefferson Airplane and Jimi Hendrix).

Then, after conflicts with Cleaver — and just as the buzz of the revolution was souring, he had disappeared, showing up only in a few gossipy pieces that portrayed him hanging out with fellow exile Keith Richards and issuing bon mots that were more of the flavor of Oscar Wilde than Che Guevara.

Then, he was caught in Afghanistan and shipped back in chains to the USA facing a lifetime in prison. And not long after that, rumors circulated that he was ratting out the radical movement. This was very depressing. But at the same time, occasional interesting signals emerged — usually published in the underground press — from Folsom Prison where he was being held. Strange little quotes about being an intelligence agent for the future; about “offering the only hopeful eschatology around today;” about dna being a seed from outer space; about “going home” to galaxy central and human destiny being in the stars; about how he was writing a “science faction” book. Odd signals not fully formed — nevertheless somehow intriguingly differing from the dour vibe emitted by the rest of those publications at that particular time. I couldn’t help myself. My mutant brain was already starting to find the apostate Leary’s signals refreshing. I was doomed to become a “science faction” mutant.

It was several years later, in 1976, that I came across an edition of Crawdaddy, a very cool rock magazine with regular columns by William Burroughs and Paul Krassner, that contained an article about the recently released Dr. Tim. The writer hung out with Tim as he wandered around NYC rattling off his ideas about SMI2LE — Space Migration Intelligence Increase Life Extension — sending up the first coherent transhumanist flare of the 20th Century. There was a picture of Leary in a business suit standing between the newly built twin towers wearing a smile that laughed out loud and pointing, almost violently, with his right forefinger upward to outer space. This was something new. The picture took its place on my wall in between the cover of the first Ramones album and the picture of Squeeky Fromme being arrested after her attempted assassination of President Gerald Ford.

My final “conversion” to Learyesque transhumanism came in 1977. It was summer and my mother had the intuitive sense to hustle me away from Binghamton, where my friends were becoming junkies, and moved me early to the college town of Brockport New York where I would start school that fall. The town was empty and there was nothing to do. But there was a bookstore. I walked in and there — on prominent display — were two books by Timothy Leary, Exo-Psychology and Neuropolitics. The latter also credited Robert Anton Wilson.

I read those books frontways and back and inside out. And then I read them again. It all resonated. It all made sense to me. It was a way of interpreting the world that respected my psychedelic experiences and my times within the counterculture and gave them a new context — one that hadn’t yet failed! These were now the evolutionary experiences of a premature mutant breaking at least partly free of the programming of an unhappy, repressive civilization so that I could move it towards a bright and expansive future. The expansiveness that had so energized and delighted me during the late 1960s and early ‘70s would now be — at least partially — a science project to literally expand our space and time and minds perhaps unto infinity.

I was excited, but I was also tentative. I paced around my small one room apartment. Was I crazy? Was I wrong? By now, self identifying as a 1977 spikey-haired hipster who liked to put his cheap punk nihilism unapologetically front and center (yes, trendiness haunts all my days), could I tell anybody about my philosophic attraction to the upbeat pariah and possible fink Dr. Leary? Actually, that’s something I still ask myself today, although it is clearly too late.

One final thought. Digging the works of all three of these characters are considered by many to be a display of bad taste. This was perhaps the greatest attraction — not just creating a mental space for from the maddening aging “new left,” but also thumbing my nose at intellectuals and critics.