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The last days of Robert Anton Wilson
October 2, 2006 2:27 PM   Subscribe

"But right now, Bob is a human being in a rather painful fleshsuit, who needs our help. I refuse for the history books to say he died alone and destitute, for I want future generations to know we appreciated Robert Anton Wilson while he was alive."
posted by Astro Zombie (103 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Aww, thanks for posting this, I'll send him a few $$$ right away -- he has a soft spot in my heart.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:31 PM on October 2, 2006


fnord.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 2:34 PM on October 2, 2006


Done. Pony up, readers.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:35 PM on October 2, 2006


23 Skidoo
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 2:40 PM on October 2, 2006


.

The Illuminatus! Trilogy changed my life for the better. I guess I never thought of its author as being just as mortal and vulnerable as the rest of us.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 2:45 PM on October 2, 2006


Call me a cynic, but...I just am not sure about this being the best of the web.

And yes, I read Illuminatus! and loved 'em.
posted by dash_slot- at 2:51 PM on October 2, 2006


He's not dead yet, OverlappingElvis. In fact, he seems to be quite active on eBay.
posted by brain_drain at 2:53 PM on October 2, 2006


Any further details on what exactly is wrong with him? I know he's been battling various things over the years, but.....??
posted by Roach at 2:57 PM on October 2, 2006


In particular, he was way ahead of the curve with Operation Mindfuck.
posted by imperium at 2:58 PM on October 2, 2006


not following at all. could one of you sad bastards who knows a thing or two about this bloke expound on why one should care two shits about his rent issues?
posted by docpops at 2:59 PM on October 2, 2006


How did he become destitute? I would've thought he'd have been raking in cash over the years...
posted by Jelreyn at 3:06 PM on October 2, 2006


could one of you sad bastards who knows a thing or two about this bloke expound on why one should care two shits about his rent issues?

why sure ... as soon as you explain why we should give two shits about you and what you think
posted by pyramid termite at 3:07 PM on October 2, 2006


Docpops - Robert Anton Wilson (Wikipedia link) is the author of The Illuminatus Trilogy, one of the great American comic novels of the late twentieth century alongside Confederacy of Dunces and Slaughterhouse Five. He was a bit of a polymath for the Hunter S. Thompson set and a hell of a writer to boot.

He's been battling some serious health problems over the past few years and is currently in hospice care, just like Art.

I loved this guy's work in high school and still do for this matter. I'll be writing a check.
posted by huskerdont at 3:09 PM on October 2, 2006


I was 25 dollars richer until I read this. RAWs a clever chap but retirement planning without a traditional pension and health insurance/illness issues are tough nuts to crack.
posted by damn dirty ape at 3:13 PM on October 2, 2006


Thanks Husker. He's sure got quite a pedigree. I'm surprised, given my debts to all things Vonnegut, Ken Kesey, and the like, that I never came across him. Not ever. I thought maybe it was generational but apparently not. So how come there isn't more info on his health problems, esp. since he's in hospice? Just curious. He sounds a lot like the Anarchists that pop up on the radar from time to time in Eugene.
posted by docpops at 3:16 PM on October 2, 2006


could one of you sad bastards who knows a thing or two about this bloke expound on why one should care two shits about his rent issues?

Click the "Bob" link above. Usually clicking links solves questions.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:18 PM on October 2, 2006


The Illuminatus Trilogy fucked with my head (for the better) during my first semester of college at a small liberal arts school in bible-belt Oklahoma. I'll send him some dough.
posted by mrbill at 3:28 PM on October 2, 2006


I never really got the whole Illuminati thing, but I loved Prometheus Rising. Good luck Bob.
posted by brassafrax at 3:30 PM on October 2, 2006


Click the "Bob" link above. Usually clicking links solves questions.

Yeah, funny that. I [correctly] surmised that the participants here might offer a more cogent rationale as to how he fits into the culture. The website was numbingly esoteric and unenlightening. But good snark is always appreciated.

From Rushkoff's site:

Robert Anton Wilson will one day be remembered alongside such literary philosophers as Aldous Huxley and James Joyce.

Huh? Seriously, does anyone wonder if this guy has a terminal condition?
posted by docpops at 3:34 PM on October 2, 2006


I'm a little nervous about sending money to random people on the Internet. Do we know that this is legit?
posted by Malor at 3:35 PM on October 2, 2006


Um, how do we know the money is going to Wilson? Just asking.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:39 PM on October 2, 2006


Doug Ruskoff (the author of the Bob link above) is a well-known writer whose pieces have appeared in Esquire, the New York Times, Wired and elsewhere. Currently he's writing a comic book series for DC. Incidentally, I've met Doug before and he's a good guy.

Translation: If he says Robert Anton Wilson is in a bad way, I'd be inclined to believe him.
posted by huskerdont at 3:40 PM on October 2, 2006


Thanks, huserdon't. (BTW, loved the Minnesota band with the contradicted name.) I had already sent the bucks on faith.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:44 PM on October 2, 2006


"I just am not sure about this being the best of the web."

You're probably right, but maybe it's ok to interrupt the flow of youtube links and flash games to help a brotha out every now and then.

"Seriously, does anyone wonder if this guy has a terminal condition?"

He's been very sick for a long time and looked pretty frail the last time he made a public appearance, and those who follow him are aware of that.
Have we addressed all of your concerns now? It's ok if it's not your thing, and RAW would probably commend your skepticism.
posted by 2sheets at 4:32 PM on October 2, 2006


according to a comment on HuffPo from June it would appear he suffers from Post-polio syndrome.
posted by docpops at 4:33 PM on October 2, 2006


Robert Anton Wilson will one day be remembered alongside such literary philosophers as Aldous Huxley and James Joyce.

No.
posted by Tube at 4:47 PM on October 2, 2006


Yes.
posted by imperium at 4:52 PM on October 2, 2006


RAW is one of my heros or maybe he isn't.


I'll have to try to scrape up a little bit of something to send.
posted by Divine_Wino at 4:57 PM on October 2, 2006


Was sending $23 too trite?
posted by ztdavis at 5:00 PM on October 2, 2006


I think that reading the Illuminatus can rewire your brain, making you better suited to receive the proper transmissions from Sirius.

It's a damn shame that all those people went out to watch What the Bleep when Maybe Logic tells the possibility so much better.
posted by twjordan at 5:12 PM on October 2, 2006


There were 23 comments here when I loaded the front page.
posted by oraknabo at 5:13 PM on October 2, 2006


And this is 32.
posted by oraknabo at 5:16 PM on October 2, 2006


Well, y'know, hard times and all, and I am a huge Robert Anton Wilson fan, but....

15 years ago we paid a frickin' fortune to bring him to UVic to do a seminar. We booked well in advance, which indicates to me that he made a passel of cash doing seminars. So if he's broke, it has to be down to poor financial management.

This limits the sympathy I have for him, but I'm still going to send him the last ten bucks in my PayPal account.
posted by solid-one-love at 5:28 PM on October 2, 2006


So is he dying or just broke?

Maybe its time fo him to start visualizing thousands of quarters.
posted by oraknabo at 5:33 PM on October 2, 2006


15 years of bad health can break all but the biggest and fullest of banks.
posted by twjordan at 5:36 PM on October 2, 2006


But he made the choice to be underinsured, twjordan.

oraknabo: he's broke and dying of post-polio syndrome.
posted by solid-one-love at 5:40 PM on October 2, 2006


solid-one-love, that statement is completely ignorant. Most self-employed people do not have good insurance options in this country. They just don't. Insurance companies will not sell you good insurance unless you are healthy, and they structure their policies such that if you become unhealthy, the cost of the policy will rapidly become exorbitant beyond imagination... and you can't get another policy anymore, because you're no longer healthy.
posted by Malor at 6:04 PM on October 2, 2006 [1 favorite]


.

Ponied up here. The man changed my life forever (thanks, Prometheus Rising).
posted by moonbird at 6:08 PM on October 2, 2006


oh, and what malor said.
posted by moonbird at 6:09 PM on October 2, 2006


Malor, my statement is based on the concept of personal responsibility, something RAW advocated his whole life. Whether most self-employed people are underinsured is nobody's problem but their own. It's not like anyone forced him or them to live in a country without adequate public health care.

Completely ignorant? Not even remotely ignorant.
posted by solid-one-love at 6:10 PM on October 2, 2006


Thanks for this astro zombie. Even I can come up with something, not much, but something for the man who wrote Cosmic Trigger.
posted by mygothlaundry at 6:13 PM on October 2, 2006


and solid-one-love, the current toxic doctrine of personal responsibility lately preached in this country is a far cry from the original idea, which did not mean the complete abdication of all public and community responsibility. I'd really rather not even imagine a place without any charity towards our fellows at all, let alone those who may have (as RAW did me) affect our thoughts and lives.
posted by mygothlaundry at 6:18 PM on October 2, 2006


solid-one-love, if you have a health condition that is severe enough, health insurance companies can choose to simply not insure you. At that point, unless you're capable of creating your own health insurance company out of thin air you're screwed, personal responsibility or no.
posted by lekvar at 6:20 PM on October 2, 2006


Yeah, and post-polio syndrome is a no-brainer for an HMO. it's not as though they'll let him get coverage for the ridiculous amout of supportive care he'll need, so his lack of finances is pretty predictable. A millionaire would be bankrupted by this disease. He's likely on some sort of Medicaid/Medical arrangement with Hospice filling in the blanks gratis.
posted by docpops at 6:23 PM on October 2, 2006


I just looked up "post polio syndrome" at the NIH website. There is no effective treatment, so I don't see how that could have bankrupted him. It had to have been poor financial planning, at its core. I know he had money. Where it went is really none of my concern, but I don't see that it went to medical costs. It's not like he would have had a number of surgeries and expensive medications: the mitigative treatment is painkillers, antiinflammatories and exercise.

As I said, I still sent him the last ten bucks in my PayPal account.
posted by solid-one-love at 6:24 PM on October 2, 2006


Maybe Logic condensed.
posted by moonbird at 6:45 PM on October 2, 2006


I just sent some $...not enough...Bob (RAW) has had a fair amount of influence on modern American culture...
posted by rmmcclay at 6:48 PM on October 2, 2006


There is no effective treatment, so I don't see how that could have bankrupted him.

because we all know that the diseases that can be cured quickly and easily are the most expensive ones to treat ...

by the way, writers don't make anywhere as much money as you think they do ... just because you see their books at barnes and noble doesn't mean they're making a living at it

it'll be interesting to see where you wind up when you're 60 or 70 ... some previews of coming attractions -

1) something's going to fuck up on you
2) if it's really bad, you're not as insured as you think you are
3) if you live long enough, you'll be at an age where you can't take personal responsibility
4) on the plus side, if you die with a shitload of medical debt, you won't have to pay it back
posted by pyramid termite at 6:56 PM on October 2, 2006


Termite, if you're going to disagree with me, at least try to, y'know, know what the fuck you're talking about.

because we all know that the diseases that can be cured quickly and easily are the most expensive ones to treat


Post-polio syndrome can't be cured at all. It is typically about about as expensive as arthritis.

by the way, writers don't make anywhere as much money as you think they do


Funny, I thought that the concrete example I gave of his income was based on the personal experience of helping to finance a seminar of his. Not buying his books.

some previews of coming attractions

I'm Canadian. I don't worry about being underinsured.

That's 0 for 3. Wanna try for 4?

How much did you donate, Termite?
posted by solid-one-love at 7:16 PM on October 2, 2006


Ok, S.O.L. you're totally right. He should have had more money or planned better. Regardless, the dude is in bad shape and needs our help and he's a great man.

I think the price of the books and the donation I made are the least I can do. And, furthermore, I hope when I'm like 80 years old and about to die, people aren't wasting their time arguing about how I managed my earnings.
posted by twjordan at 7:26 PM on October 2, 2006


I only wanted to make the point that we need to help him because he fucked up, and not merely because he's had a run of unavoidable bad luck (he had polio as a kid; he had to know that this was prolly gonna happen).

See, I'm just a little sensitive about the increasing number of fringe artists who have come upon hard times recently only to have their friends set up coinkettles to keep them afloat because they're so desperately and unexpectedly in need.

Comic book artist Lea Hernandez was a recent cause celebre after her house partly burned down. Turns out that she had fire insurance, too, so the donations were essentially to replace items that the insurance wouldn't cover. This left me scratching my head: the insurance would cover a TV but not various amounts of uncatalogued art supplies, so why doesn't she forgo the TV and use that money for supplies? Why am I giving her money to buy a new TV when she's insured?

Y'know? This is just the most recent of a number of these stories, and it almost invariably turns out to be kinda greasy. And there's never any kind of oversight or accountability. We can't take a look at the books to see that the money was spent wisely.

And if he only has a couple of months left to live, why aren't those of his friends who can afford to help him covering it themselves? I mean, I like his work, but I don't know him from Adam. Rushkoff, on the other hand, could easily afford two months of RAW's rent. They share a community. I'm not part of that community, so I don't really have the responsibility to provide charity in lieu of his personal responsibility.

So such a request, for the public to chip in, is an extraordinary request. It bears scrutiny and, yes, criticism.
posted by solid-one-love at 7:41 PM on October 2, 2006


I just gave $250 just so I could stop paying attention to the naysayers in the thread.
posted by jscott at 8:16 PM on October 2, 2006


I'll give anything if the assholes will just shut up.

Of course, I feel that pretty much constantly, these days.
posted by scody at 8:26 PM on October 2, 2006


For the record, solid-one-love, I don't see any indication here that RAW has asked for a dime. Rather, it seems a friend has put out the call for him. And I don't see anything wrong with that, nor do I see it as being in conflict with RAW's long-held personal responsibility philosophy. Owning your mistakes, financial failings, etc., does not preclude people who care about you (friends, fans, or whatever) from kicking down if you need help. Any why exactly do you think Rushkoff is talking to *you*? You're not part of that community, so you're right - you have no responsibility here. So why rain on the parade of the many folks who *do* feel part of that community?

Of course, I'm just another fan-boy who had his head disassembled and reconstructed with the help of LSD and Wilson's books. Nothing else has had as big an effect on my life, and I do not exaggerate. Not that I have a dime to give him, but I would if I could. Not because I feel obligated to bail an old man out of a (possibly) self-caused financial crunch, but because it feels like the right thing for me to do.
posted by Banky_Edwards at 8:39 PM on October 2, 2006


For the record, Banky, nobody here has claimed that RAW has asked for a dime.

So why rain on the parade of the many folks who *do* feel part of that community?

I think I explained that more than adequately in my post at 7:41.

If being critical and looking at the issue is being a naysaying asshole, then so be it. I will wear trhat with pride, because at least I'm not a blind idiot sheep who's willing to drop a dime in the bucket and move on without considering the root of the issue. People who donate to causes without examining what exactly the money will be used for and without examinging why the money is needed and what caused the need? Then you're a soft touch. An easy mark. A moron.
posted by solid-one-love at 8:45 PM on October 2, 2006


Robert Anton Wilson is a national treasure. Why he isn't spending his last days in comfort is something I'll never understand.

Saw this on Rushkoff's site this morning and was happy to pony up and sad I couldn't do more. I've got just about all of RAW's works and consult them frequently, like an I Ching oracle for the bizarre fake world we currently inhabit.

The amount of pain and sorrow this man has gone through would be enough to break anyone, yet he maintains a spirit of fun and joy. And few people have presented libertarianism with as much fun.

One of my happiest moments as a writer was in the late '90s for an R.U. Sirius-edited web mag called Getting It, simply because I got to be on the short contributing-editor list with R.A. Wilson.

The paypal thing is great and hopefully will get him over this hump. But introducing people to his books is even better. Buy them from the R.A. Wilson website right here, along with other paraphernalia!
posted by kenlayne at 8:46 PM on October 2, 2006


"There is no effective treatment, so I don't see how that could have bankrupted him."
Perhaps one day you'll find out the hard way.
posted by 2sheets at 8:58 PM on October 2, 2006


Post-polio syndrome can't be cured at all. It is typically about about as expensive as arthritis.

Bullshit. Post-polio syndrome is basically comprehensive systems failure of the body. That's not cheap, in either health care costs or psychological toll.

There are a few experimental drugs available, all of them fairly expensive -- and so are the specialists' appointments to get them, since few are approved for this use. And the recurrent bouts of pneumonia (which lands one in a hospital), the GI-tract-gone-bad that leads to severe consitpation (which lands one in a hospital), the possible surgery to repair or remove atrophied muscle tissue (which...ditto) ain't cheap. Then there's the physical therapy, which can help you maintain or build compensatory muscle strength, at least for a while.

Oh, and then there's the dispair of knowing you have a disease that no one will develop drugs for or really study, since the affected cohort will all be dead within the next 20 years, so there's no market incentive. And then there's the severe shame that some survivors have, the taint of having a crippling disease, something spread by pandemic no less. FDR absolutely wasn't the only one who wouldn't admit to having had it.

It's not a particularly fun end to one's life. But being accused of financial mismanagement by people, on top of the rest of it, must suck pretty hard too.

(he had polio as a kid; he had to know that this was prolly gonna happen).

Not so. If the original infection was mild, the child might have had what seemed to be the flu, and would recover without paralysis in two weeks, without anyone ever realizing that he'd had polio. The severity of the original attack does not fully correlate with the possibility of getting post-polio syndrome in later life.

(I am the granddaughter of someone with post-polio syndrome - my grandfather spent a year of childhood flat on his back encased in an iron lung, still won't talk about it because of the stigma and shame. We don't even know where he went to high school, because he had to do it in Florida where the air was warmer and it was thought it would help him heal. Claims he went to college on the GI bill, which was impossible since he obviously wasn't fit for service - but was ashamed of that, too; wanted to fit in. And now the thing he triumphantly overcame physically, which he tried to deny and hide so well, has come back to kill him. He gets around by wheelchair these days and reads a lot; winds up in the hospital every few months. And thanks to his righteous denial that he has a serious problem - he still drives. Post-polio "about as serious as arthritis"? Not quite, on many levels.
posted by Asparagirl at 9:06 PM on October 2, 2006


I am unfamiliar with his work, but I'll buy a few books tomorrow - and then give a little cash as well.
For a second I confused him with Anton LaVey - founder of the Church of Satan. (I'd probably give him money, too)
posted by bashos_frog at 9:06 PM on October 2, 2006


Termite, if you're going to disagree with me, at least try to, y'know, know what the fuck you're talking about.

get a doctor to look at your sarcasm detector ... i think it's broken

Post-polio syndrome can't be cured at all. It is typically about about as expensive as arthritis.

maybe you should just post his medical files here, seeing as you know all about the case ... what do you think, he's in a hospice because he's healthy?

Funny, I thought that the concrete example I gave of his income was based on the personal experience of helping to finance a seminar of his.

of course! ... why doesn't he just have someone wheel his bed to a university somewhere so he can gasp into a michrophone and make some money?

I'm Canadian. I don't worry about being underinsured.


so you don't even have to worry about being irresponsible in your little socialist paradise, do you?

That's 0 for 3. Wanna try for 4?

i bet the number keys on your keyboard are well worn from use with all the scorekeeping you do here

How much did you donate, Termite?

nothing ... you see, i got laid off from work a week and a half ago for medical reasons and am currently waiting for find out when my surgery is going to be scheduled ... also, seeing as i no longer have any income at all, i've had to ask my family for money, otherwise i would be totally destitute, without health insurance and unable to pay my child support by the end of this month ...

you may of course call me a hypocrite and a loser for all of this to help you in your crusade of feeling morally superior to other human beings ... (i mean, it must mean a lot to you ... you've already spent 10 bucks to demonstrate your superiority to RAW and then bragged about it here)

by the way, it's pyramid termite, not Termite, who is another metafilter user

and next time you want to be rude and crass by asking someone what they do with their money, maybe you'll think twice about it

assuming, of course, that you thought once about it this time
posted by pyramid termite at 9:13 PM on October 2, 2006


(And I notice from Wikipedia that my grandfather is only three weeks older than Wilson, and they both grew up in New York City. For all I know, they were both struck by the same wave of the pandemic.)
posted by Asparagirl at 9:16 PM on October 2, 2006


Bullshit. Post-polio syndrome is basically comprehensive systems failure of the body. That's not cheap, in either health care costs or psychological toll.

In severe cases, sure. I said "typically". Not bullshit. Severe arthritis is also basically a comprehensive systems failure of (parts of) the body.

Not so. If the original infection was mild, the child might have had what seemed to be the flu, and would recover without paralysis in two weeks, without anyone ever realizing that he'd had polio.

No, he has written about having had polio.

But being accused of financial mismanagement by people, on top of the rest of it, must suck pretty hard too.

Well, what can I tell ya? I base my conclusions on what I know. What I know is that he once made a decent living and there's no evidence that he spent it all on medical costs.

I am the granddaughter of someone with post-polio syndrome

Hence your emotional bias. I'm a big RAW fan. but I don't let that bias get in the way of examining the story.
posted by solid-one-love at 9:16 PM on October 2, 2006


what do you think, he's in a hospice because he's healthy?

He's in hospice at home, not at a hospice. Just as a lot of late-stage arthritis sufferers. Hospice care need not cost a lot, even in the nightmarish US health care system.

of course! ... why doesn't he just have someone wheel his bed to a university somewhere so he can gasp into a michrophone and make some money?

So...wait. First you imply that I said he made a lot of money as a writer. Then when I point out your lack of reading comprehension and that he made a decent living doing seminars, you make the irrelevant suggestion that he can't do seminars now. Make up your mind.

so you don't even have to worry about being irresponsible in your little socialist paradise, do you?

Are you high? You outlined what I had to look forward to. I have shown you empirically that you're wrong. Suck it up. Live with it.

nothing ... you see, i got laid off from work a week and a half ago for medical reasons

Yeah, I could've seen that coming.

and next time you want to be rude and crass by asking someone what they do with their money, maybe you'll think twice about it

There is nothing rude or crass about wanting to know where a donation is going. It is fucking idiotic to not examine where a donation is going.

assuming, of course, that you thought once about it this time

It's like you live in Bizarro World.
posted by solid-one-love at 9:27 PM on October 2, 2006


i mean, it must mean a lot to you ... you've already spent 10 bucks to demonstrate your superiority to RAW and then bragged about it here

Ohhhh, I missed this.

I donate and you insult me for doing so? You suggest that I think that I am somehow superior to RAW because I made the donation? You think I'm *bragging* about making a donation?

Wow. Just wow. You. Are. Fucked. Up.
posted by solid-one-love at 9:31 PM on October 2, 2006


What scody said. Good luck RAW. My brain will never recover...thankfully.
posted by peacay at 9:41 PM on October 2, 2006


F the haters, much thanks and love to those who care enough to give without pulling out a bunch of weak ethical excuses not to give. How about simply giving out of thanks to those that have given you so much for free? If anyone has given their life to humanity and attempted it's healing -- or at the very least prodded the hell out of it's more disparaging parts 'til they're no longer intimidating endlessly, ceaselessly, and without begging or making a pity-case out of himself -- it's Bob.

If there's any justice in the world, those crying foul towards anyone WANTING TO BE CHARITABLE [for chrissakes!] will get walked all over as they're in desperate need of help... or maybe that's what lead them to these moronic, disingenuous outbursts in the first place.

WWBD.
Fnord.
posted by phylum sinter at 9:44 PM on October 2, 2006


I donate and you insult me for doing so?

why not? ... you've insulted everyone else in this thread with your superiority complex and your self-righteousness

You suggest that I think that I am somehow superior to RAW because I made the donation?

it's obvious

You think I'm *bragging* about making a donation?

how many times have you mentioned it, oh great scorekeeper?

Wow. Just wow. You. Are. Fucked. Up.

the truth hurts, doesn't it? ... it's an ancient motive for charity ... not the only one, by any means, not even for most people ... but to talk about giving one's last 10 paypal bucks and then to deride the person one gives it to as improvident and foolish IS bragging and showing off your moral superiority

if i were RAW and i read this thread, i'd send the money back to you ... you must think his dignity and his self-respect come awfully cheap

ps ... why is it every time i see you post here, you're acting like a complete jerk?

pps ... i'm through with you, good night
posted by pyramid termite at 9:48 PM on October 2, 2006


F the haters

I see no haters here.

much thanks and love to those who care enough to give without pulling out a bunch of weak ethical excuses not to give

I didn't see anyone pull out any weak ethical excuses not to give. The only people who said that they weren't giving claimed that they didn't have the money.

If there's any justice in the world, those crying foul towards anyone WANTING TO BE CHARITABLE [for chrissakes!]

Maybe I'm missing it, but I'm not seeing anyone say that, either. Did we read the same thread?
posted by solid-one-love at 9:50 PM on October 2, 2006


PT, I made the mistake of rising to your personal attacks and flamebait and that of others, and I'm not going to keep biting. You and others here don't like what I have to say, but this isn't about me, no matter how much y'all want it to be.

I am speaking uncomfortable truths. To suggest that RAW is a victim of his own poor planning is not an attack on RAW in any way. To suggest that people examine where their donations go is not cruel or inconsiderate.

If it wouldn't preclude me from ever setting foot in the USA again, I'd send him a big bag of BC Bud, because I know he partakes and I know that a lot of post-polio syndrome patients use it medically. I wish him well.
posted by solid-one-love at 9:58 PM on October 2, 2006


Jesus, even a nice post about a great American author who is suffering some hard times becomes another Metafilter cunt fight. No wonder I avoid looking at this site.
posted by kenlayne at 9:58 PM on October 2, 2006


Oh solid-one-love, so ironically named, may Harvey the Pooka bless you and keep you all of your pain free and blameless days.

Cheers everyone, the rest of this thread does my heart good.
posted by Divine_Wino at 10:19 PM on October 2, 2006


Asparagirl said: Oh, and then there's the dispair of knowing you have a disease that no one will develop drugs for or really study, since the affected cohort will all be dead within the next 20 years, so there's no market incentive.

I think there will be more than twenty years of post-polio cases. I have a friend in his mid-fifties who was hospitalized for several years as a tiny tot, and could have another four decades in him. Mind, he has no signs of post-polio, but kids were still being infected in the 1950s.

And I hope the gifts of cash buy some peace of mind and good wine for RAW.
posted by Scram at 10:30 PM on October 2, 2006


What I know is that he once made a decent living and there's no evidence that he spent it all on medical costs.

There's no evidence that he didn't. But you're right; I'm sure he spent it all on a solid gold house and a rocket car.
posted by dirigibleman at 10:33 PM on October 2, 2006


Well we know he spent some of it on cryogenically freezing his daughter's head, so you're not that far off.

Oddly, I think I'm sadder than he's not going to be able to join her in the deep freeze than I am that he's at risk for eviction.
posted by solid-one-love at 10:58 PM on October 2, 2006


Jeebus. Metafilter just explodes with compassion.

S'ok. I'll donate for the rest of you who won't.
posted by tkchrist at 12:24 AM on October 3, 2006


There is no friend
posted by Joeforking at 3:50 AM on October 3, 2006


solid-one-love, I think you've made many good points, but you made them in an odd place. What you did is sort of like going into a Church, during a service, and asking everyone why they believe in God even though there's no evidence that He exists.

And then being surprised when the churchgoers get upset.

A thread like this is bound to be full of RAW fans, and they're going to be upset about his current condition and not terribly open to debates about his financial planning. They want to celebrate, mourn and help.

I'm NOT saying their opionions are more important or valid than yours. I hear what you're saying. You're saying that one can be a compassionate person and not blindly throw money at any cause without questioning it or researching it. And you're saying that we often act that people are victems of fate when, in fact, they are the cause of their own undoing. I can't argue with any of that. It's all true.

But it's not the wavelength of most of the people in this thread.

To me, it's OBVIOUS that it's not the wavelength of most of the people in this thread. It's it's hard to understand how you couldn't have known that, too. (Though I don't want to assume anything, because I can be really dense sometimes.)

So it SEEMS like you came in here and said inflamitort things KNOWING how people would react -- and then got upset at how they reacted. This may not be true. But it seems that way.

I've been in your situation many times. It sucks to have a point to make and feel like if you make it, people will jump all over you. Silence yourself or get attacked. But you're basically dealing with a Force of Nature. You don't try to reason with a lion or a tornado, right? Similarly, you don't -- or shouldn't -- try to reason with people who are in mourning or some similar state. They won't be receptive. And it seems like you should KNOW they won't be receptive.

Which makes you come across as passive-aggressive. "I'm just trying to make a point (but secretly I know my point will piss people off)." AGAIN, I'm not accusing you or playing armchair psychologist. I'm just reporting what your actions SEEM to suggest.

[I've never read any RAW, but he's been in my periferal vision for years. I will definitely buy some of his books and read them. What's a good one to start with?]

[I'm a published author who has two books at Barnes and Noble, and I speak at many conferences. I rarely see a cent from any of this. I'm not saying it's the same with RAW, who is a much more successful author than me, but I do agree that people have a highly inflated idea of what authors make -- probably based on freak cases like Stephen King.]
posted by grumblebee at 3:50 AM on October 3, 2006


People, people.... how many times must this be said? Don't feed the trolls.
posted by crunchland at 4:08 AM on October 3, 2006


if i were RAW and i read this thread, i'd send the money back to you ... you must think his dignity and his self-respect come awfully cheap

If you were RAW, Solid-One-Love would be your favorite commenter in this thread.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 4:09 AM on October 3, 2006


I've been sticking with feeding the Wilson, myself.
posted by jscott at 4:10 AM on October 3, 2006


What's a good one to start with?

i'd start with the illuminatus trilogy ... i know that's 3 books, but actually i think i've seen an edition that has them all in one book

If you were RAW, Solid-One-Love would be your favorite commenter in this thread

only because sol writes like a RAW character instead of an actual person
posted by pyramid termite at 4:44 AM on October 3, 2006


Hmmm, no that's not what I meant, but that's okay. Meaning is fluid.

And now a bit of doggerel from Aleister Crowley, that I first read in one of Wilson's books:


Chorus:
Blow the tom-tom, bang the flute!
Let us all be merry!
I'm a party with acute
Chronic beri-beri.

I.
Monday I'm a skinny critter
Quite Felicien-Rops-y.
Blow the cymbal, bang the zither!
Tuesday I have dropsy.
Chorus.

II.
Wednesday cardiac symptoms come;
Thursday diabetic,
Blow the fiddle, strum the drum!
Friday I'm paretic.
Chorus.

III.
If on Saturday my foes
Join in legions serried,
Then, on Sunday, I suppose
I'll be beri-beried!
Chorus.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 4:52 AM on October 3, 2006


I see no haters here.

I don't either, except for the people hating on s_o_l.

If you were RAW, Solid-One-Love would be your favorite commenter in this thread.


Exactly. Too bad the acolytes haven't learned the lessons of the master.
posted by languagehat at 5:11 AM on October 3, 2006


*holds fist up in the air and smiles*
posted by pyramid termite at 5:49 AM on October 3, 2006


What's a good one to start with?

For all the praise of Illuminatus here, personally they didn't do much for me. Now, The Cosmic Trigger series (or at least the first one--the second two get into obscure conspiracy theories that I found rather boring), the first book blew my college-aged mind. Really.
posted by zardoz at 5:58 AM on October 3, 2006


the first book blew my college-aged mind

Nothing against the college-aged mind (presumably we all had one when we were in college), but would RAW's books add anything interesting to a 40-year-old mind, especially one who has already read tone of mind-bending, philisophical stuff.

In other words, is RAW fascinating because most people read him when they're really young and haven't yet been exposed to a lot of mind-expanding literature. Or does he have something startling and original to say to readers of any age?
posted by grumblebee at 6:34 AM on October 3, 2006


I wonder the same thing as Grumblebee, I read Illuminatus! in high school, don't remember it that well, and have been slightly hesitent to re-read it in case it's not as mind-blowing as it was the first time.

Was this the book with the midget who would post signs from The Management to fluster people at grocery stores?
posted by sohcahtoa at 7:02 AM on October 3, 2006


i'd say that he's a decent and entertaining collator of other people's interesting ideas, many of which are pretty obscure ... he, to a certain degree, was also very much a product of his time and place, not so much of the 60s, but of the confused and cynical aftermath

checking up on the references and people he mentions can be intriguing and thought provoking, especially since many of them have sneaked into the mainstream since he wrote about them ... and at least in his novels, he does it in a wry and breezy way that can be amusing
posted by pyramid termite at 7:06 AM on October 3, 2006


Do not spit.
posted by flabdablet at 7:12 AM on October 3, 2006


Add me to the list of those whose minds were positively fucked by RAW, and who will donate as a consequence.

What's a good one to start with?

I can see the logic of answering "Illuminatus!", and with those of us who have been following him since that time it's probably hard to look at it differently. But that trilogy (which, someone should mention, was co-written with Robert Shea) is certainly of its time, more about blowing thought patterns apart than re-assembling them.

I would instead recommend the Historical Illuminatus Trilogy, starting with The Earth Will Shake, featuring the ancestors of the characters in Illuminatus! Wilson uses much of the same is-this-true-or-is-this-bullshit technique but actually tells an engaging story, and the historical setting (the founding of the United States, and how deeply the Masonic movement was involved therein) gives him a more disciplined, focused context to work his magic.

Second on my list would be the Schrodingers' Cat series, which convinced me back in the day that I actually understood quantum mechanics, as well as being replete with belly laughs and sex.

Whatever you pick, just buy some of the books. That's the best way to donate to an honest-to-goddess American original.
posted by soyjoy at 7:47 AM on October 3, 2006


I recommend Cosmic Trigger. Its a short-ish readable biography of RAWs early life. I wouldnt recommend the illuminatus books. They're long pieces of fiction full of in-jokes and general wackiness. I imagine a lot of people putting Illuminatus down by page 200 or so unless they really connect with the humor. On the other hand Cosmic Trigger (and the lesser sequels) is much more compelling and interesting. This is of course a biased opinion as I prefer non-fiction over fiction.

I think pyramid termite really nails it. RAWs popularity is more about the people and ideas he popularizes than about himself, although he's an interesting gent in his own right.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:56 AM on October 3, 2006


Maybe he should have been a businessman instead of a writer so he’d have money....oh, wait.

“Then you're a soft touch. An easy mark. A moron.”
posted by solid-one-love
*donates anyway*

Maybe we should raise some $ for someone we interact with on a regular basis - pyramid termite.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:15 AM on October 3, 2006


Thank you so much for the book suggestions. I'm excited!

A quick note to everyone who is suggesting we should buy RAW's books tio help him with his financial/medical problems. Although I know you are well-meaning, and although all authors love people to buy and read their books, this isn't the most practical way to help -- if your goal is to help RAW solve his immediate crisis.

First of all, authors only get a tiny percentage of each sale. So if you buy a 10.99 book, the author may only get 3%* of that. If he wrote the book for an advance, like I did mine, he won't see any of it until his advance is paid off. I got a sizable advance for one of my book. I wrote it a couple of years ago and have yet to see a cent of royalties, because the advance is not yet paid off. I'm not complaining: I DID get paid (the advance), but if I need chase NOW, I'm not going to get it from book sales. My book will have to continue selling at its current rate for at least two more years before I've paid off my advance.

Even if all money from sales goes directly to RAW, which it definitelty doesn't, he's not going to get it right away. My publisher pays quarterly, which I think is fairly common. So, again, not much help with immediate medical expenses.

Naturally, I'm not telling people not to buy his books (he'd kill me, I'm sure, if he thought I was sending that message). It just depends what goal you're trying to achieve.

*I pulled 3% out of my ass. I forget what my cut is, and I forget what the typical cut is. But I know it's small. My mom once wrote a fairly well-respected book, for which she didn't get an advance, and over the years, she's made a grand total of 37 cents in royalties. She has the check for 37 cents framed on her office wall.
posted by grumblebee at 10:10 AM on October 3, 2006


Maybe we should raise some $ for someone we interact with

thank you, smedleyman, but my family has it covered and i'm not asking anyone else for help ... please don't ... odds are very good i'll be back on my feet by january

there are other people in the world much worse off than i am ... help them instead
posted by pyramid termite at 10:59 AM on October 3, 2006


Reality *is* what you can get away with. For me that lesson was easily worth the $23 I just sent.
posted by J-Garr at 12:21 PM on October 3, 2006


Update from boingboing:

..Anyway, this morning Bob's daughter showed up at his house in tears because she had checked his PayPal account and found money for next month's rent plus more. Bob called me to say that he couldn't believe people would care so much about him and as we talked (which isn't easy for him at this point) he was overcome with emotion more than once. He is so touched and RELIEVED at the possibility of staying in his home. He kept repeating to me his deep felt appreciation and disbelief that people would care so much about him. What a humble and sweet man.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:33 PM on October 3, 2006


^^^^Fucking awesome.
posted by Roach at 7:07 PM on October 3, 2006


grumblebee, you're right, of course - don't just buy the books. Send the other money now, before you read them, then you can be glad later that you did. All I meant was that by buying the books you can insure the propagation of his writing and ideas, which is the most fitting way to honor him.
posted by soyjoy at 7:46 PM on October 3, 2006


“there are other people in the world much worse off than i am ... help them instead” - posted by pyramid termite

I’m on it. But take care of yourself anyway. I know how lousy it can be out there sometimes.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:59 PM on October 4, 2006


Wish I had the 10% Tithe money he's helped me save for the last fifteen years to send. :S
posted by Orb2069 at 9:27 PM on October 4, 2006


I'd heard rumors about his ill health months ago on lashtal.com. I'm so saddened to hear about this development. And I'm shocked that a genius author like him never received his due, while countless inferior authors(*cough* Dan Brown *cough*) have acheived lasting material success.

I can count on my hands the number of writers I know of who are more like magician-prophets capable of rewiring a human being's consciousness using nothing more than words on paper. It's quite the rare talent to be able to pull back the curtains on our self-imposed, immersive delusions about ourselves and the world around us, and show the horrible, beautiful, inescapable, purposeful absurdity of it all.

Reading Illuminatus! changed my life in ways I cannot explain. Schroedinger's Cat, Masks of the Illuminati and Cosmic Trigger were each transformative too.
Especially Masks of the Illuminati, which turned me onto Aleister Crowley--and once you get into him, there's no turning back from the abyss.

Even though I'm in debt and have a million problems, I can manage $100 a month to help out. I feel honored to have the opportunity to repay Bob in some small way for waking me up from reality so long ago.

Thanks Bob for showing me the fnords!
posted by archae at 10:27 PM on October 4, 2006


while countless inferior authors(*cough* Dan Brown *cough*)

Also note that one of the central ideas behind The Da Vinci Code (2003) is what gives RAW's second volume of the Historical Illuminatus Chronicles, The Widow's Son (1985), its name.

No, he didn't come up with the idea, but, I'm just sayin'.
posted by soyjoy at 12:58 PM on October 5, 2006


According to BoingBoing, RAW is now at least $68,000 richer than he was a couple days ago.
posted by crunchland at 7:18 PM on October 5, 2006


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