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Excerpt from the original unpublished unfinished MONDO 2000 book.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.

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”

After the Technotopian Decade, Comes A Visitor. A Time Traveler

This essay was written for an exhibition by Marion Garrido at Art Centre La Casa Encendida in Madrid designed around the online adventures of “John Titor” — an alleged time traveler who lit up the web and conspiracy radio at the start of the 2000s. Keep in mind that this was written for a Spanish audience and some of the things I say about U.S. culture may seem a little obvious.

R.U. Sirius

On November 2, 2000 an obscure group called Time Travel Institute received a note on their website from someone calling himself TimeTravel_0. The person claimed to be a US military time traveler from 2036. He discussed some of the details of the time machine that had brought him.

This “arrival” remained obscure until January 27, 2001 when this (virtual) person showed up on the bbs of the Art Bell Show under the name John Titor, writing, “Greetings. I am a time traveler from the year 2036.” Titor claimed that he had been sent back in time by the US government to 1975 to grab an ancient IBM 5100 so that a legacy UNIX problem that was causing future trouble could finally be debugged.

 

On his way back to 2036, Titor had stopped off in 2000/2001 to visit with family. The alleged time traveler proceeded to entertain, inform and enrage Art Bell show users with details about the future and the time machine, which he described as “a stationary mass, temporal displacement unit manufactured by General Electric… powered by two top-spin, dual-positive singularities that produce a(n) … off-set Tipler sinusoid.” Titor provided images and descriptive specifications of said time machine.

Additionally, Titor warned of a US civil war in 2004 and a nuclear war in 2015 – with Russia and the US on the same side. He told that he was living in a future that was a mishmash of post-apocalyptic poverty — with people in survivalist mode, growing their own foods and fending for their own survival as individuals and in small groups — and pockets of advanced technology; advanced enough, for example, to build the Tippler time machine.

Titor remained on the Art Bell BBS for about four months, answering any and all questions about his life and his machine. He did not come on like a man with an important message from a more enlightened or chastened future civilization. He was casual. Titor seemed like a regular fellow who was just passing through and felt like chatting.

To understand what was being enacted then, it’s necessary to understand the US had just passed through the 1990s — and it’s necessary to understand that decade through the prism of two occurrences — Art Bell’s popular Coast to Coast late night radio show, and American technoculture in that time. Read more “After the Technotopian Decade, Comes A Visitor. A Time Traveler”

Bastards of Young

 

“Muslim punk rockers” The Kominas

 

by Prop Anon

 

Bastards of Young, a punk rock road documentary, recently released by filmmakers Rakesh Baruah and Marcus Ricci, is 60 minutes of raucous action narrated by the poets of the future. A movie like theirs could not have come at a better time than in today’s angry and confused cultural landscape. For three weeks in August 2009, Baruah and Ricci rolled their cameras nonstop as they followed three unique musical voices on their nationwide US tour. What they captured was all the mayhem and chaos such a cross-country tour manifests. When that tour involves a group of  “Muslim punk rockers,” a Sufi dance rock virtuoso and an Anarchistic Hip-Hop artist the outcome makes this documentary worth watching.

The Kominas were formed in 2005 when Basim Usmani gave his friend Shahjehan Khan a cassette tape that read ‘Punk 101.’ Shaj quickly adapted his guitar playing style from classic rock to the infectious grooves of bands like The Clash, Sex Pistols, The Damned, NOFX, The Misfits, and the two began crafting their own brand of Punk. The Kominas wrote a couple song and threw them up on their myspace account, little did they know that they were about to tap into a cultural Zeitgeist. Why? They were singing about their experience growing up as Pakistani Americans raised by Muslim parents and the struggles they faced in their experience as young Americans. Luckily, they were funny and their highly ironic lyrics followed in the tradition of all the best punk rock has to offer. Based off two myspace songs the band received an absurd amount of media attention, and as they grew as a band they continually faced the criticism that they were handed something they did not yet earn. Most bands spend years in the trenches before receiving any attention, but for the Kominas this was different and they were willing to prove their detractors wrong. Over the next few years they were joined by Imran Malik, on drums, and Arjun Ray on guitar, and they created their first album ‘Wild Nights in Guantanamo Bay;’ released in 2008. By the time of the 2009 tour, The Kominas were ready to prove all detectors wrong and show and prove that they were constantly evolving musicians with a vital perspective needing to be heard. The future of America may just depend upon it.

Bastards of Young reveals the struggles faced while on a D.I.Y. nationwide tour embarked on by musicians hungry to speak their minds. In 2009, I was nearing the completion of my first album Squat the Condos, a Hip-Hop record that was calling attention to the rapidly increasing price of everyday life in cities like New York. My song Luxury Condos epitomized of that message. Sarmust, aka Omar Waqar, played his Sufi dance indie rock with an intensity that made instant fans. His songs addressed topics like partition, hate crimes, and rocking the fuck out.

This film does an excellent job chronicling the mad road driving men ahead when facing the perils of physical injury, malnutrition, and no sleep to reveal the joyful nature at the heart of all great music. Since 2009, the Kominas have evolved their sound and continue to tour to growing audiences. Me, I’m just trying to pay rent, but I won’t give up on the music. Watching this documentary makes me want to hang out with all these guys. Oh snap, I did! Well, I’m real glad I did.

Sufi rocker Sarmust

Bastards of Young documents friendships made under the rubric of punk rock and Hip-Hop. Friendship is one of the themes explored within, and the fun times that can be had when people put friendship before all else within the music industry. Baruah and Ricci are talented filmmakers and their movie adroitly translates the excitement of music and the open road. The statement is clear: counterculture is not locked away in online nihilistic holes spewing venom and crying for an America that never existed. The counterculture is on the road, making friends, having fun and challenging hatred. Bastards of Young demonstrates that America’s hope resides in the people making a place for themselves while making room for others. This is Punk Rock, this is Hip-Hop, this is America, and this is the future.

PROP ANON is the author of the upcoming Chapel Perilous: The Life and Thought Crimes of Robert Anton Wilson, the first official biography of the late counterculture philosopher. Prop Anon started his career as a Hip-Hop artist whose 2010 album Squat the Condos presaged the Occupy movement. In 2014, Prop switched musical gears and released a Stoner Rock album called HAIL ERIS! with his band, HAIL ERIS!  

(Excerpt) Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars From 4Chan And Tumblr To Trump And The Alt-Right

by Angela Nagle, Selections by R.U. Sirius

 

Weighing in at only 129 short pages, Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars From 4Chan and Tumblr to Trump And The Alt-Right  (KAL) is the book to read this year. Everyone who — like most MONDO enthusiasts — have been steeped in counterculture values and attitudes needs to wrestle with its complicating vision. While it’s not a pretty picture, it’s a peculiarly fun read — excessive behaviors do tend to keep us fascinated.

While the so-called “alt-right” is the main target of this books’ critique/expose, the excesses of the culture-obsessed left are also sharply assessed. KAL spreads its blame around for the ugliness currently extant online as it spills with increasing vigor into the physical political realm.

Most interestingly, for MONDO readers, KAL takes on transgression, libertinism and other tropes of hip culture and, more or less, concludes that we are not doing the right thing.

Here I present the parts of the book I underlined. They may be a little out of context, but most of you will get the point.

Thanks to Zero Books and Angela Nagle for allowing us to run these excerpts. The subheads are ours.

The Technotopian Connection

The culture of 4chan, Anonymous etc., in the pre-gamergate days of Occupy and Anonymous could have gone another way. Long before this ‘geeks vs feminists’ battle, the libertarian left had its own pro-hacker, pro-computer geek, Internet-centric political tradition, which some in the early Anonymous milieu obviously drew influence from. Hakim Bey’s idea of the temporary autonomous zone was based on what he called ‘pirate utopias’ and he argued that the attempt to form a permanent culture or politics inevitably deteriorates into a structured system that stifles individual creativity. His language and ideas influenced anarchism and later, online cultures that advocated illegal downloading, anonymity, hacking and experiments like bitcoin. Echoes of John Perry Barlow’s manifesto ‘A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace’ can be seen in this earlier period of Anon culture and in analyses that reflect a more radical horizontalist politics, like Gabriella Coleman’s work. Barlow was one of the founders of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, anarchist hackers and defenders of an Internet free of state intervention, capitalist control and monopolizing of the online world. In a similar style to the rhetoric of 4chan and Anonymous (‘we are legion’), it warned: Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the home of Mind. On behalf of the future I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.

******************

Just a few years ago the left-cyberutopians claimed that ‘the disgust had become a network’ and that establishment old media could no longer control politics, that the new public sphere was going to be based on leaderless user-generated social media. This network has indeed arrived, but it has helped to take the right, not the left, to power. Those on the left who fetishized the spontaneous leaderless Internet-centric network, declaring all other forms of doing politics old hat, failed to realize that the leaderless form actually told us little about the philosophical, moral or conceptual content of the movements involved. Into the vacuum of ‘leaderlessness’ almost anything could appear. Read more “(Excerpt) Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars From 4Chan And Tumblr To Trump And The Alt-Right”

Steal This Singularity – The Yippies Started The Digital Revolution

 Steal This Singularity 1: The notion that the current and future extreme technological society should not be dominated by Big Capital, Authoritarian States or the combination thereof. Also related, a play on the title of a book by 1960s counterculture radical Abbie Hoffman. 2: The notion that in our robotized future, human beings shouldn’t behave robotically. The well-rounded posthuman — if any — should be able to wail like a banshee, dance like James Brown, party like Dionysus, revolt like Joan of Arc and illuminate the irrational like Salvador Dali. 3: The title for a website in which R.U. Sirius says and does as he pleases.

Addendum: Steal This Singularity has almost nothing to do with the notion that we will develop Artificial Intelligences that are smarter than us or that if such a thing were to happen it would be a “singularity.” I just like the name.

In 1971, a revolutionary prankster/celebrity named Abbie Hoffman, who had started the radical group the Yippies (Youth International Party) released Steal This Book, a manual for living on the fringes of a wealthy society by grabbing up some free shit from corporate powers while committing some Blows Against the Empire.

See, 1971 was the last year that the vanguard of the counterculture thought that they were going to make a total cultural and political psychedelic/anarchistic/left wing revolution before realizing… fuck it. Let’s campaign for McGovern.

But more to my point here and the milieu it attempts to speak to… true story… the Yippies started the phreakin’ “digital revolution!” To wit: The hacker culture started as the phone phreak culture. The phone phreak culture came out of the Steal This Book attitude about getting free shit from the detritus of corporate culture, in this case, the phone company. The first legendary phone phreak, John Draper aka Captain Crunch, who built the blue boxes, used to hang out at 9 Bleeker Street, NYC, Yippie headquarters. The first magazine that focused primarily on phone phreaking was YIPL (Youth International Party Line), which was started by Hoffman and “Al Bell.” In 1973, it transmorgified into TAP, which is more broadly remembered as the initiatory phone phreak periodical.

Phone phreaks were computer hackers. Draper famously noted that the phone system “is a computer.” From this milieu, the personal computer arose. Famously, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak funded the birth of the Apple by selling Blue Boxes So, you see, I stand on solid-if-hallucinatory historical ground today as I sound a Hoffmanesque note towards The Singularity Or Something Like It.

See Also Did It! From Yippie To Yuppie: Jerry Rubin, An American Revolutionary (Excerpt)