Sunday, February 24, 2013

Archaeologists Dig Through Joyce's Garbage Dump

This hardly seems real. In fact, it seems like a funny joke. From the Irish Times:

Archaeologists hope to uncover secrets at James Joyce's house in Fairview

"Archaeologists from the National Museum are excavating an ash pit at the rear of a house in which James Joyce and his family lived between 1900 and 1901."
Currently I'm taking part in an online reading group led by Tom Jackson at in which we're reading Robert Anton Wilson's novel Masks of the Illuminati. In this novel Wilson uses his gifted prose to bring together two of the 20th century's greatest minds, James Joyce and Albert Einstein "as the ultimate space/time detectives" compelled to solve a cosmic conspiracy. I'm only about 100 pages into it but it's a great read thus far, very hard to put down.

One of the striking things about the book (for me, at least) is that Wilson constantly employs writing styles and techniques taken from Ulysses to tell his story. He also frequently embeds parodies, puns and jokes referring to Joyce's life and work. An example of this is his occasional use of newspaper headlines throughout the story, a technique featured throughout the "Aelous" episode of Ulysses which takes place in a busy newspaper office. A headline like this one could easily have featured as an inside joke in RAW's book.

A noted synchronicity evangelist, RAW has been known to create swirling synchronicities in the lives of folks who indulge in reading his work (the same can also be said for Joyce's synchro-heavy work). The hilarious synchronicity evident here in this newspaper article is that Finnegans Wake (Joyce's masterpiece) is largely concerned with an old document, a letter, that has been dug up out of an ancient garbage heap by a pecking hen. There's a whole chapter in the book (Chapter 5 of Book I) devoted to the study and analysis of this letter by archaeologists and other experts. Interestingly enough, the real life archaeologists are finding glass slides displaying images like the one above---in the Wake, when we brush off the "accretions of terricious matter" (p. 114) that had gathered upon our excavated object "whilst loitering in the past", we begin to see a blurry photographic image:
Well, almost any photoist worth his chemicots will tip anyone asking him the teaser that if a negative of a horse happens to melt enough while drying, well, what you do get is, well, a positively grotesquely distorted macromass of all sorts of horsehappy values and masses of meltwhile horse. Tip. Well, this freely is what must have occurred to our missive (there's a sod of a turb for you! please wisp off the grass!) unfilthed from the boucher by the sagacity of a lookmelittle likemelong hen. Heated residence in the heart of the orangeflavoured mudmound had partly obliterated the negative to start with, causing some features palpably nearer your pecker to be swollen up most grossly while the farther back we manage to wiggle the more we need the loan of a lens to see as much as the hen saw. Tip. (FW p. 111-112)
Page 111 also happens to be the page where another funny coincidence concerning RAW occurs. He died on 1/11 (and frequently examined the depth and importance of 111 in the Wake) and when you look at the first words of page 111 you read "peraw raw raw teeraw". I'm sure Joyce and RAW are having a beer somewhere sharing a good laugh about all this today.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Secret Life of Plants

"floweers have ears, heahear!"
 - Finnegans Wake, p. 337

Anyone who's ever read Robert Anton Wilson's classic book Cosmic Trigger would probably recognize the title "The Secret Life of Plants". That's where I'd first heard of it, at least.* Wilson mentions some of the discoveries from the 1973 book by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird in the process of presenting the reader with some fascinating perspectives about modern scientific discoveries and measurements of "spirit" or life energy in vegetation (see pg. 25).

*Actually, the very first time I heard of it (like so many occult things) was in a rap song by Killah Priest, though I had no idea what he was referring to: "The secret private life of plants/ the diligent and militant/ commodity and colonies of ants/ the spiritual and telekinetic mind of children/ all rolled up in rhymes that are chillin."

Recently I was at a friend's house and he had a copy of the book The Secret Life of Plants resting next to a few of his plants. When I brought it up, he strongly suggested I pick up a copy of the book as the ideas contained therein were very powerful. I haven't gotten to pick up the original book yet, but I did come across an entertaining documentary film based on the book which I'd like to share here.

This movie is from 1979 and features lots of motion capture scenes which beautifully display the growth of plants and flowers. The documentary is more than a bit unorthodox compared to contemporary standards, featuring a few fast-forward-worthy drawn out musical montages (with original tunes from Stevie Wonder). But, that's the beauty of our technology---you can skip right through the boring parts. There is plenty of eye-opening stuff here concerning plant sentience that will really leave make an impact on the way one sees the world.

The other important thing I want to point out is a funny synchronicity---as I mentioned, I'd originally heard about The Secret Life of Plants through a passing mention in Robert Anton Wilson's synchronicity-filled book Cosmic Trigger. Another memorable part of that book is RAW's discussion of the Dogon tribe in Africa that possesses an uncanny knowledge of the solar system, the universe, and especially the star Sirius. Long before scientific instruments could even prove it, this isolated primitive tribe knew that Sirius had another star orbiting around it. Not only that, they knew this second star takes exactly 50 years to make a full cycle.

A must-see for Cosmic Trigger fans, this documentary features a segment all about the Dogon tribe. If anything, you should definitely check out that one segment as it's one of the best parts of the film (though they never really adequately explain their connection to plant sentience...). To see the Dogon segment, fast forward to the 1hr 6m mark.

Video after the jump.