Festival 23 — Wonderism, Fake News and the Neo-Discordian Revival

artwork by Chad Essley

 

Chaos as a Ray of Hope in an increasingly dumb world

by Michael Pinchera

The increasingly ugly state of affairs — politically, socially, emotionally, economically, intellectually — may be driving a growing interest in Discordianism, according to Ben Graham, author and co-organizer of the neo-Discordian Festival 23.

“The world just seems crazy and more chaotic than ever, so a pseudo-religion that embraces chaos as a guiding principle, maybe that makes more sense now,” Graham says.

At the very least, Discordianism undoubtedly offers an appealing alternative to the mainstream paths previously constructed by long-dead, desperate deity-seekers.

So, between the publication of his books on Texas psychedelia (A Gathering of Promises and Scatological Alchemy), Graham joined a group of eight to organize Festival 23, a three-day-long, outdoor camping event.

“It’s a Discordian-themed event, very influenced by the writings of Robert Anton Wilson and the Illuminatus! Trilogy and his various books, and also, before that, Principia Discordia by Kerry Wendell Thornley, worshipping Eris, the goddess of chaos,” he says. “And beyond that, just expanding it to a general idea of counterculture. All the stuff that fed into it and also the idea of where is the counterculture now and how can we kind of unite the past with what’s going on now to go forward into the future.”

The origins of what Graham identifies as a neo-Discordian Revival, go back to Daisy Eris Campbell, daughter of Ken Campbell (he put on a theatrical adaptation of Wilson’s Illuminatus! Trilogy in 1976), and her decision to put on a 2014 theatrical adaptation of Cosmic Trigger, Wilson’s nonfiction follow-up to the Illuminatus! Trilogy.

“She did that in Liverpool at sort of a mini-Discordian indoor festival, where all these people in Britain who thought maybe they were the only Discordians in the country came together,” Graham says.

The new relationships created around Daisy’s play led directly to the birth of Festival 23, the inaugural edition (2016) of which was held in a field near Sheffield, England, for approximately 500 Discordians. The theme that year was Festival 23: Convergence of Disco—“putting the disco back in Discordia, emphasizing the playful side of it,” Graham says.

“We had bands, we had talks, we had chaos magic workshops, we had tantric sex workshops, we had comedy poetry, we had a spirit animal fashion show. I hosted a conspiracy slam, which is like a poetry slam but you come up with your best conspiracy theories and there was a tinfoil crown for the wackiest theory,” Graham says excitedly. “Alan Moore didn’t come down in person—he doesn’t like ever leaving Northampton these days—but we had an exclusive, really in-depth interview filmed in his home that we showed in the cinema tent.”

artwork by Chad Essley

Read more “Festival 23 — Wonderism, Fake News and the Neo-Discordian Revival”

The Ghosts of Christmases Past (Virtual MONDO Schwag)

 

by Destiny

I had a dream last night. I’d woken up in the future, but it was a dystopian wasteland filled with hipsters and politicians fighting in a shimmering online battleground. Undead culture warriors shambled menacingly, chattering about rigged algorithms and “the media” to a roomful of monkeys.

And that’s when I started watching vintage Christmas videos on YouTube.

Next Stop: Nostaglia

It’s like a Twilight Zone episode where our bad future gets rolled back into a land of vintage electric trains. While there’s really nothing about Instant Maxwell House Coffee that screams “Christmas,” this nostalgic ad still takes me back to a more innocent time before special effects existed.

I want to believe they couldn’t find live actors, and were forced to improvise using nothing but clothespin dolls and a toy train set. And yet, there’s something oddly calming watching vintage videos, like we’re witnessing the past fading away in real-time.

Let’s see what else we can find…

Christmas Songs with David Cassidy

Just three weeks ago the world lost David Cassidy, who had been the coolest of the cool nearly half a century ago — a TV rock star for suburban kids in the 1970s too sheltered to join in the counterculture. Just one year before his death, he’d turned up on TV again, still singing in his own uniquely smarmy way at the age of 66, but this time the song was “Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town” — an aged former teen star making one last grasp at glory.

Reportedly his last words were “So much wasted time.”


But click on a few links, and he’s young and dreamy again — like a real ghost of Christmas past, reminding you to seize your dreams while ye may — and engaging in some grade-A Hollywood hokum. In a special Christmas episode of The Partridge Family TV show, there’s a flashback imagining the 1870s — in which 21-year-old David Cassidy plays “Sheriff Swell” (dressed in a mod pastel blue), to approving choruses of pre-recorded laughter. So much wasted time indeed.

And yet if you watch that episode all the way to its heart-warming conclusion, there’s a surprisingly poignant rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” at the end, in which Cassidy and his lovable TV family poignantly remind us that we all can be together through the years — if the fates allow.

And then they follow it with a mod, up-tempo version of “Winter Wonderland” where David Cassidy is young and cheery — as though the ’70s never ended.

When Pee-Wee Did Christmas

Once upon a time, Saturday morning TV was filled with magical and badly-animated cartoons for children — and even Pee-Wee Herman got a show of his own. It was so popular, he convinced the network to fund a prime time special all his own.

Nearly three decades later, it’s a real treat to discover this rare glimpse of Pee Wee at the peak of his game — shortly before his 1991 arrest, the cancellation of his series, and a long slog to rebuild his career over the decades to come.

“Christmas is that time of year when everybody just acts different,” he says innocently, to an interviewer from Entertainment Tonight.

“People notice more things. They’re a little bit more sensitive and just friendlier around Christmas… More tuned in to, you know, fellow man.”

Spelling with Razors

Sometimes YouTube videos feel like they’re creating an alternate timeline. And some vintage videos are like visiting old friends for the holidays — keeping one last moment of good will and charity for those nearly-forgotten fads of yester-year.

For example, I still can’t see the word “Noel” without remembering that surreal TV ad I saw as a kid with Santa gracefully rides on a three-headed Noelco razor over snowy hills — because, as their announcer explains, “Even our name says Merry Christmas.”

Though I never knew snowmen had such rigid gender roles…

How To Use Boxtops

60 years ago somebody somewhere actually thought it was a good idea to purchase national advertising to broadcast footage of a patronizing white man explaining how to mail in boxtops.

And if you successfully completed the procedure, Ivory Snow would send you some horrifically ugly Christmas ornaments.

Somehow I find the stupidity of this ad to be oddly reassuring. Because it’s an irrefutable reminder of just how very far we’ve come.

And that always gives me a glimmer of hope.

My Favorite Christmas Video

If there’s any way to re-purpose this holiday for our dystopian times, it’s as a reminder to take the long view, and hang on to your hopes like the light of a candle flickering in a stranger’s window. Change happens when you’re not looking — as the years keep on rolling by. As our mediums slowly evolve. As we grapple with who we wanted to be, and with who we’ve become — while yesterday’s broadcast sensations become tomorrow’s troubled former child stars.

Yes we’re now living in a strange new future, where last century’s spectacles are now pirated videos on forgotten corners on YouTube… And just one more thing to share with our copyright-ignoring friends.

In 1958 Walt Disney animated an hour-long Christmas special, and nearly half a century, the whole thing has resurfaced online. So for as long as it lasts — before it melts away like Frosty’s Christmas snow — you can watch the entire thing online, including the special’s grand finale, where all the Disney characters tenderly gather around just to hear Jiminy Cricket singing a special version of “When You Wish Upon a Star.”

I do believe that faith and hope are good things — and in troubled times, that’s when we need them most.

And if it takes a cartoon cricket from the 1950s to remind us of that, then so be it.

White Babbits video (Grace Schtick on Vocals)

But what did the doorknob say?

video by Satori D

 

Video by Satori D
Music by Trevor Boink and Grace Schtick
lyrics by R.U. Sirius based on Grace Slick

One pill makes you smarter
And one pill makes you small
and the ones that mother gives you
ritalin or adderall
And your phallus Needs Viagra after all

and if you go fleecing babbits
cause the banks are gonna fall
tell ’em the hookah smoking anarchist
has got you by the balls
call alice — she’s totally appalled

White men on the radio
Get off on telling you who to hate
and your friend has joined the teabags
And your spending your weekends straight
And your phallus has a Cialis date

When logic and proportion
Have fallen sloppy dead
And the fat cat’s are aging backwards
And your friends are filled with dread
Remember what the lab rat said
Freeze your head
Freeze your head

Making Sense of the Butthole Surfers

artwork by Chad Essley

 

Unlikely Texas music historian Ben Graham talks San Antonio acid, 1960s psychedelic rock and writing Scatological Alchemy, his new book about the Butthole Surfers

By Michael Pinchera

In May 2015, Brighton, England-based author Ben Graham visited Texas for the first time. The impetus for the trip was to see the 13th Floor Elevators’ 50th anniversary reunion show at the Levitation festival in Austin — the first time in decades all living members of the influential Texas psych band would play together—yet it also acted as the U.S. launch of his book, A Gathering of Promises.

“I was a little bit embarrassed about that because A Gathering of Promises was all about the 13th Floor Elevators and the 1960s psychedelic scene around the Austin area. And I basically wrote that without ever having been to Texas,” he explains. “I felt a bit like one of those 19th-century explorers who writes entire books on Africa whilst in the comfort of their sort of drawing room at home.”

On paper, this is an incredible setting for a book launch party; in reality, the last-minute arrangements he’d made with Levitation festival organizers basically meant A Gathering of Promises would be available at the event’s merch table before any other outlet in the U.S. But he was given a pass to the three-day, outdoor music festival—covering it for a couple of publications—and was finally able to spend a week in Austin, an almost mythical place about which he’d been immersed on a time-traveling, research-and-interview level.

“The people I met there were super friendly, especially all the older guys who’d been around, all the musicians, just so happy and interested that this younger English guy had written a book about their music and their scene, and they were really happy to share their stories,” he says. “A lot of the people I interviewed or people who were just around in that scene were amazed that I’d captured it so well, certainly without having been there in the 60s, but I hadn’t been to Texas at all.”

Having entirely missed the 1960s, the closest that 40-something Graham had previously been to the Austin area was 1,800 miles away, decades earlier, during a six-month American Studies college program in New York.

“I went [to the Levitation festival] because I’d finished the book and thought I’d never get to see the 13th Floor Elevators live—even though I’d seen Roky Erickson play in the U.K. a couple of times,” he says, summarizing the rationale that started the narrative you’re reading.

13th Floor Elevators reunion

 

Recipe for a memorable Texas trip: Take one music journalist/fanboy, add an essential 1960s psychedelic band that’s reformed for one time only, add a tab of San Antonio acid and levitate. Wait a second…“San Antonio acid?” Since when is that a brand of prestige?

“I think that’s the way I described it to friends when I got home,” Graham says, indicating that in all likelihood, someone from San Antonio simply provided the substance. “You know, I’m an English guy, there’s an exoticism to the phrase that conjured up something a bit Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas to me: ‘Yeah, I had some San Antonio acid!’ I have no idea of the provenance—it may have been made in a lab in London.” Read more “Making Sense of the Butthole Surfers”

High Tech High Life: William Gibson & Timothy Leary in Conversation (1989)

The story of Timothy Leary’s conversation with William Gibson is here.  This is most of the text as it was published in the first edition of MONDO 2000 magazine

TIMOTHY LEARY: If you could put Neuromancer into one sentence, how would you describe it?

WILLIAM GIBSON: What’s most important to me is that it’s about the present. It’s not really about an imagined future. It’s a way of trying to come to terms with the awe and terror inspired in me by the world in which we live. I’m anxious to know what they’ll make of it in Japan.

TRAPPED

WG: Oh, god. I’m starting to feel like Edgar Rice Burroughs or something. I mean, how did Edgar Rice Burroughs finally come to feel about Tarzan in his own heart, you know? He got real tired of it. Wound up living in Tarzana, California.

TL: You’ll end up living in a space colony called Neuromancer.

WG: That would be OK. I don’t think we’re going to have this kind of future. I think this book is so much nicer than what seems to be happening. I mean, this would be a cool place to visit. I wouldn’t mind going there.

TL: Where?

WG: To the Sprawl, to that future.

TL: Go up the well?

WG: Yeah. Go up the well and all of that. A lot of people think this is a bleak book but I think it’s optimistic.

TL: I do, too.

WG: I think it’s actually gonna be more boring. I think some kind of Falwellian future would probably be my idea of the worst thing that could happen.

TL: Yeah. That was a wonderful scene where you have those Christians who were gonna mug those girls in the subway.

WG: It’s not clear whether they’re going to mug them or just try to force some horrible pamphlet on them or something. Personally, I have a real phobia about guys like that coming up to me on the street . . .

TL: That’s a powerful scene! And you describe the girls as like hoofed animals wearing high heels.

WG: Yeah. The office girls of the Sprawl.

TL: Yeah, and they’re wearing vaginas, and — Oh, God! That’s a powerful scene.

WG: I like the idea of that subway. That’s the state-of- the-art subway. It goes from Atlanta to Boston, real fast. Read more “High Tech High Life: William Gibson & Timothy Leary in Conversation (1989)”

What If A New Technology Forces Everyone to be Honest?

 

“Magnetic interference with the brain can make it impossible to lie, and polygraphs and “truth serums” will soon be obsolete, say Estonian researchers.

Inga Karton and Talis Bachmann worked with 16 volunteers who submitted to transcranial magnetic stimulation, which can stimulate some parts of the brain and not others.”

International Business Times, September 9, 2011

2024 presidential candidate Bob Glitch is preaching to the Republican Party faithful: “With God as my witness, we’re going to bring morality and family values back to America and we’re going to turn back the homosexual agenda…”Anonymous member Bob Dobbometer joins the cheering throng, raising his fist in the air and points his magnetic truth ring right at the candidate.  Glitch continues. “I have nothing against homosexuals. Jesus said we should love every… (Glitch pauses, twitches slightly) “Man, that dude in the muscle shirt is freaking’ hot.  I’d like to meet him in a men’s room and…” The mic goes dead.

Of course, the early truth machine will not come in the form of a handy dandy decoder ring and anyway the assumption is that it will be used only on “criminals”… and by criminals we of course mean poor criminals without connections and armies of attorneys. But what might it be like sometime during the coming years of radical technological evolution, if its use becomes generalized and it becomes really hard to tell a lie?

In a piece for H+, I asked whether enhancement seekers really want to know themselves.  This piece could be seen as asking a similar question: do we really want to know what other people are thinking… about us; about treasured beliefs; about anything?… and do we want them to know what we’re really thinking?

One group that would say yes are the practitioners of “radical honesty.” Focused mainly on total truth telling in interpersonal relationships, the advocates promise to “transform your life.”   I wonder.

 

“How’s my hair?” Jill asks, pointing the truth ring at Jack. “It looks terrible,” Jack replies. Jill is unhappy.  She runs off to the beauty parlor and gets a new look and returns.  “How’s my hair?” she asks, and points the truth ring again.  “I think that’s a trivial dumb question,” Jack replies.  “You should be thinking about the crisis in East Blogostan.” She moves the ring closer. “What do you care about East Blogostan?” she shouts.  “You don’t do a fucking thing about East Blogostan?” Jack twitches slightly.  He sinks deeper into his real thoughts.  “You’re right.  I don’t give a fuck about East Blogostan.  I’m actually unhappy because my dick is only 4”.   He frowns and now he points his ring at Jill.  “So am I!” she screams.

If Jack could have simply said, “Your hair looks beautiful,” Jack and Jill would have each gotten a pleasant little jolt of oxytocin which would have made them both feel good and decreased their stress… and, as you know, stress is a major cause of health problems.  Instead, they bitched at each other for several months until they got a divorce.  Soon thereafter, Jack died of a heart attack and Jill got kicked out of the health club when she tells the owner, a large black man with a gigantic magnetic truth decoder neck chain who had just asked her to dinner: “Black men like you scare me.”

On the other hand, Radical Honesty advocate Brad Blanton has run for Congress in Virginia and that seems like the sort of place where my imagined Magnetic Truth Decoder Ring could be quite useful.  Of course, politicians would resort to headgear   to protect their brains from forced magnetic transparency; or if that proves to be too obvious, they would likely opt for surgically implanted firewalls against forced truth telling .  Early adopters of this surgery would have a huge advantage. They would be able to spew political and personal homilies and everyone would assume it was true.

OK. I’m being playful here, but — as with the other column I referenced earlier in this piece, it poses a serious question.  Is enhancement simply a matter of more?… more years, more muscle, more copies of the self, more brain power — or is it a matter of depth and complexity?  Are we better humans because we have replaceable parts or because we have been transformed in our thoughts and behaviors by technologies that are challenging and perhaps painful to utilize?  I’m not suggesting that the answer is obvious but I do think it’s a worthy area of discourse

Free The Bear — An Excerpt from a Novel Of California Secession

by CD Spensley

What if six months after the 2016 election, California secedes from the union and promptly releases the Jerry Garcia virus on the Pentagon, appropriating the U.S. nuclear arsenal? Oops! Somebody’s been asleep at the wheel for years, because California is now three decades ahead of the Feds technologically on land, sea, air, and even in space.

This is not Calexit. This is Free the Bear! In this first installment of speculative fiction meets literary fiction, utopian ideas lead, artificial intelligence advises, and human foibles continue to mess things up. The story plays out against a backdrop of U.S. treachery and current world events. An ingenious chaos theorist and his team of Silicon Valley scientists withhold key discoveries from the Feds, aided by an ally that nobody saw coming. What? An AI that meditates? The fledgling nation wages a bloodless secession, while a million gamers direct roving, benevolent telefactors (aka drones) to keep the Feds at bay. Quirky “Happy Camps” delight captured U.S. soldiers with a taste of California life. (“Please don’t send me back to the Feds!”) Utopia? Dystopia? You decide. This science fiction tale will have even the most cynical U.S. citizens waving their Free the Bear flag!

Read more “Free The Bear — An Excerpt from a Novel Of California Secession”

Robert Anton Wilson Lives! (video) (sometime in 2006)

This lovely video by Satori D adds some great visuals to an interview I conducted with Lance Bauscher, director of the great film Maybe Logic and Eric Wagner, author of An insider’s guide to Robert Anton Wilson shortly before his passing. Enjoy!

samples from rusirius revolting 1 by evibrain & I Hope You Didn’t Dose The Pudding extended remix by Pizza T for R.U. Sirius & Phriendz

R.U. Sirius

 

 

ONLINE AD FUNGUS SPREADS TO YOUR BRAIN opinion by john shirley

by John Shirley

I have said that the internet is a wilderness, where predators roam. Sure, sex predators, spammers and scammers, but there are sites that are mostly quite reputable — and yet they host con artists. This kind of thing is “very internet.” There is a hothouse atmosphere of haste and desperation, that sizzles around finding ways to monetize websites. CNN dot com, even MSNBC online, BBC news — they’ll monetize by putting up sponsored “stories” and flatout ads, without checking the companies (or “companies”) out. In fact, cable channels do the same thing — ads for fly by night, often outright fraudulent products they should know perfectly well are bullshit…but the online links, if you accidentally click on them or are seduced to do so, are worse, because they’ve more fully drawn you into the world of their bogus ad. The initial “headline” makes it seem like an actual news or “scientific discovery” link… they’re often with a group of other links and I have three times clicked on one when trying to click on a legit link, just a slip of the finger. In one case I found myself in a website that seems to advertise something and then turned out to be a delivery system for actual ransomware/malware. I was able to defeat said ransomware, but it made me furious that it was caused by a link these ransomware scumbags had paid for at a reputable site. But that’s rarer, I think. Mostly what you end up at is fraudulent product sales, often taking advantage of the dotty elderly or poorly educated people.

 

Fake Ad

 

This happens because CNN or CBS, whomever, has a separate sub sub sub dept that sells ads, and gets to put them up wherever, to make the website profitable, without any oversight. No one seems to vet the ads and it’s crazy irresponsible. I just ran into one that sent me to an ad for a fake substance (a fake herb, which does not appear in any legit place if you google it, I checked when I reported it to the FTC) for losing bellyfat and there was an “endorsement” by Oprah Winfrey — only, she never endorsed it. It’s really common for these online con men to have a made-up, utterly fallacious endorsement — one was for a brain enhancement pill “endorsed by Stephen Hawking”! Oh yeah, Hawking “takes it every day!” they told us. The celebs being used this way — Neil Degrasse Tyson was another — should work to take these guys down.

There is no address given for the “company” selling these goods. Just an online ordering system. By allowing scumbags to sell via their site, CNN and others — even the Raw Story — are in effect lending credibility to these con artists…One common “story” repeated with variations is about how “veterans don’t know about special twenty thousand dollar payment due them” — if you follow it, as I did once to confirm my suspicion, it’s a come-on for a company that says it’ll help you get the money, if you pay a fee. But they don’t actually exist, except as an entity taking your fee. So they’re screwing over veterans. And CNN and pals are blindly, stupidly, helping them do that. The internet’s hothouse of monetization desperation has grown some strange fungi. It has allowed in predators, or, if you like, invasive species of scammers who could be easily weeded out. But somehow the whole “anything goes on the internet” myth allows otherwise decent websites to shrug off responsibility..