for immediate release
contact: Gerry Fialka 310-306-7330 pfsuzy@aol.com http://laughtears.com/

MARSHALL McLUHAN-FINNEGANS WAKE READING CLUB (established in Venice CA on October 2, 1995) celebrates its 22nd year of probing how our inventions shape our behavior on Monday October 3, 2017. Join in.

MARSHALL McLUHAN-FINNEGANS WAKE READING CLUB – Join us first Tuesdays from 6-8pm at Lloyd Taber-Marina Del Rey Library, 4533 Admiralty Way, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292, phone 310-821-3415. Free admission. More info: Gerry Fialka 310-306-7330 pfsuzy@aol.com Visit - http://laughtears.com/

McLuhan wrote "Joyce uses the pun as a way of seeing the paradoxical exuberance of being through language."

This Reading Club (aka McFinn, McLuhanWake, VeniceWake) is probing this "exuberance of being" through community gatherings, and exploring the hidden psychic effects of our inventions.

Please join us (ages range from 22 to 92). We have explored media, Marshall McLuhan and James Joyce since 1995. First Tuesdays: Oct3, Nov8 (Wed), Dec5, 2017 from 6-8pm at Lloyd Taber-Marina Del Rey Library, 4533 Admiralty Way, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292, http://www.colapublib.org/libs/marina/
Phone 310-821-3415. Free admission.   A holiday and/or voting date may push us to an occasional Wednesday.

No previous experience is necessary. A desire to explore what humans have invented is encouraged. One does not have to any previous experience with reading McLuhan or Joyce. For Oct 22, 2017, our two WAKE pages are 527 and 528.

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McLuhan called his probes "applied Joyce" after what Joyce called his work "applied Aquinas." Marshall also said, " Nobody could pretend serious interest in my work who is not completely familiar with all of Joyce."
 
"We shape our tools, then they shape us." – McLuhan "The world of discontinuity came in most vividly with the telegraph and the newspaper. The stories in the newspaper are completely discontinuous because they are simultaneous. They're all under one dateline, but there's no story line to connect them. TV is like that. It's an X-ray, mosaic screen with the light charging through the screen at the viewer. Joyce called it, "the charge of the light barricade." In fact, FINNEGANS WAKE is the greatest guide to the media ever devised on this planet, and is a tremendous study of the action of all media upon the human psyche and sensorium. It's difficult to read, but it's worth it." -McLuhan 
 
In illuminating the night world, private and collective, Joyce in FINNEGANS WAKE has only done what the electric light had done in abolishing the old divisions between night & day, and between inner and outer space, with respect to human work and play. As soon as the complementary dynamics of inner and outer, conscious and unconscious were displayed, it became easy to observe the operation of languages  in shaping human assumptions, both sensuous and psychological. FINNEGANS WAKE is an encyclopedia of lore concerning the origins and effects of words, of writing, of roads and bricks, of telegraph, radio, and television on the changing hues  of the human spectrum." -McLuhan .     

"Artists are engaged in writing a detailed history of the future because they are the only people who live in the present." - Wyndham Lewis  
 
"I am very impressed by Gerry Fialka's energy in bringing together groups of people to think about ideas. That is very much in the McLuhan spirit to create and foster interdisciplinary, living, educational projects in which people can talk about ideas. He creates forums that bring together a plurality of critical perspectives into one multivalent conversation." - Janine Marchessault, author of MARSHAL McLUHAN: COSMIC MEDIA.
 
Recommended Reading: anything by McLuhan, McLUHAN IN SPACE-Cavell, McLUHAN:COSMIC MEDIA-Janine Marchessault, THE VIRTUAL MARSHALL McLUHAN- Theall, THE LEGACY OF McLUHAN-Strate & Wachtel, anything by Frank Zingrone, Visit: https://venicewake.wordpress.com/ & http://www.venicewake.org/ & http://laughtears.com/ & fweet.org & mcluhangalaxy.wordpress.com & Robert Dobbs fivebodied.com.   
 
 "What McLuhan contributed were not ideas, arguments, theories or critiques, but intuitions, perceptions, wandering explorations of unexplored terrain, satiric responses and poetic reactions...His primary game: teasing people into believing his percepts to be theoretical concepts..." -Donald Theall, THE VIRTUAL MARSHALL McLUHAN

"I'm going to prove that Finnegans Wake is an information pool based on computer memory systems that didn't exist until centuries after James Joyce's era; that Joyce was plugged into a cosmic consciousness from which he derived the inspiration for his entire corpus of work." - The Divine Invasion by Philip K. Dick 

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COMMENTS FROM PARTICIPANTS

I love going to 'The Wake' ! It's the only regular event I know that applies the poetic logic of Marshall McLuhan to James "riverrun" Joyce, the hyper-creative, prolific powerhouse of letters. People are encouraged to analyze current events and technologies through a McLuhan looking glass, and end up being impressed with each other's insights.  Early on, Marshall went gaga for Joyce, whose complex labyrinthine yet circular thought was right up his alley, (especially in his masterpiece, Finnegans Wake.) McLuhan had a surplusage of grey cells and needed to do SOMETHING with all those smarts! He passes his enthusiasm for Joyce on to us  and it all goes in this wonderful circle of counter-inspiration. So you have these two very different but equally brilliant men in different generations coloring your mind. It is rather unique, and believe you me, it can stave off Alzheimer's! There may be other great Joyce reading clubs, but this takes the chaos cake...(in a GOOD way!)”-Suzy

The Wake is an invigorating mental work out. Kind of like yoga--one has to press against the limits of dichotomy in order to grasp the broad universe that McLuhan explores in a single object and once the mind is tuned to think beyond binary judgements it becomes easy to let the Wake to move through you like a prana high.”-Nathan

"The long-running Marshall McLuhan/Finnegans Wake Reading Club is unique among many groups meeting on a regular basis to take up the challenge of analyzing one of the most complex and deliberately obscure works of literature ever written. The difference lies in approaching James Joyce’s masterpiece by viewing it through the lens of the work of media analyst and scholar Marshall McLuhan, who himself continually drew insight and inspiration from his ongoing study of the Wake. Beginning each session with a McLuhan tetrad, a four-step exploration of some current cultural artifact or manifestation, the group readings move on not to the academic 'translation' that tends to befuddle many readers and obscure rather than elucidate the text, but rather to a process of sharing impressions among an eclectic gathering of curious and sympathetic 'auditors'.  Joyce himself said that the Wake could best be understood (or at least enjoyed) by having it read out loud by a dedicated group of people who would bring to it a diversity of viewpoints, perspectives, and individual disciplines. Such readings often delineate contradictory interpretations, unresolved paradoxes that reveal, in a manner very similar to McLuhan’s aphoristic style, sudden glimpses of the conflict between the eye and the ear, and between the cultures and technologies which address them. McLuhan found in Joyce the first Modernist artist to acknowledge this media landscape and attempt, most particularly in the Wake, an inventory and reconciliation of the differences recorded in the multilingual tongue he invented to tell his story. This amplification of meaning through extension, elaboration, distortion, and disruption anticipated the chaos and confusion of the Internet-enabled global village which McLuhan’s work predicted and which we now inhabit. Finnegans Wake, as a manuscript illuminated by the observations of McLuhan, maps for us not only Joyce’s 'nightmare of history' but the psychic geography of our present cultural dilemma….Sometimes during our meetings, with everyone headed off in half a dozen different directions, trying to out-shout everyone else, it is exactly what Joyce had in mind, this kind of general hubbub of creative misunderstanding and misrepresentation: at page 6, describing the wake of Finn: 'And the all gianed in with the shoutmost shoviality. Agog and magog and the round of them agrog. To the continuation of that celebration until Hanandhunigan’s extermination!' Except that Joyce’s vision is that all of these voices are aspects of a single unconscious human being, a sleeping giant who contains hundreds of citizens arguing and battling their way across the dream-landscape of Dublin, male and female, husband and wife, brother and sister, saint and sinner. There’s a roiling, lively city going on in Finn’s head throughout the night, and the life of that city courses through the body of the sleeping giant who lies dreaming beside the bloodstream of the Liffey.”-Bruce

"For the linkage between James Joyce and Marshall McLuhan - Trajectory:  Joyce gave the world a book that forces humans to intuit their way through an ever-constant flow of unclassifiable, unconquerable information; McLuhan extended this intuition full force into academia and mainstream media; and our group applies the intuition to the sociopolitical events of today."-Derek

"rock, paper, scissors. The Wake is paper to the rock content we provide. McLuhan scissors.  Like reading my horoscope each day in the paper, I expect our two pages each month to be relevant 
to my personal life and current events. Amazingly, they often are. We find what we are looking for. Reading out loud with our familiar group for years, has become a meaningful ritual. Joyce is not an authoritarian author. McLuhan lets us look forward, and back to the ripples in the wake.”-Eric

"Reading Finnegans Wake with others is doubtless much better than reading it by oneself: the collective intellectual resources of a reading group can shed light on the recondite diction, allusions, references, and musicality of this difficult work in a way that no one person can muster.  One is also able to benefit from the good feeling the group develops as it discovers that it can learn more about the work by reading together than by reading as isolated individuals.What I appreciate is that the group's approach is focused two pages per meeting. We read through the two pages three successive times per meeting: once, where each group member read two lines from the pages out loud; a second time, where the group struggles to make sense of the rhetoric; and a third time where a more experienced reader reads the whole passage out loud.  This approach reinforces understanding of the text for each group member.  The process is also a great way to meet new friends. My understanding of Finnegans Wake continues to evolve.  I've come to see it less as a story than as a kind of literary Rorschach test; and in this respect, I see it as especially relevant to McLuhan's thinking.  McLuhan, I think, was aware that the observer is never isolated from his environment, and that the process of information exchange, whether it be by observing, talking, reading, or through some kind of electronic transmission, inevitably affects both parties involved in the communication, and the communication process itself.  The Wake is perhaps unique in that the reader becomes a character in and an author of the story: the reader creates and discovers meaning through the process of reading, and thus becomes one of the characters in and authors of it.  It thus becomes a kind of model for McLuhan's views on communication.- John

”I'm only a recent attendee, but I love working the tetrad with interesting people. Finnegans Wake is my least favorite part. It's painfully Irish (I can say that, I'm 3/4 Irish). But McLuhan has helped me appreciate it more than ever before. I'm intrigued by the idea of approaching the book as a song, one that must be sung aloud with a group for its 'meaning' to be grokked. However, I still perceive Joyce as an arrogant wanker.”-Joseph

"’McFinn’ or McLuhan-Finnegans Wake meetings are a wonderful release from my astral pinnings. They wake me up into a more detached viewpoint, clearing my mind and revealing a path through the fog of dualities. Our discussions refresh me and for days after I feel a renewed mental clarity and passion to merge forth into more conscious living.”-Penny

"I've been following delivery since 1963, and Marshall McLuhan since 1965 when I first read Understanding Media. I like to keep up  with the new studies of McLuhan, who told Timothy Leary to keep smiling with his media coverage. He inspired Tim's jingle 'Turn on, Tune in, Drop out.' It is nice to have a place like the MMFWRC to keep up with discovered epiphanies, and rediscover thoughts and feelings. McLuhan probed the reading of the Wake outloud with others evoking the expanded consciousness of tripping on psychedelics. Yes, be one with the Flow! We interconnect the percepts of McLuhan & Joyce with Gregory Bateson, Moshe Feldenkrais, Bucky Fuller, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and Bruce Clarke, who promotes Gaia Theory as having a possible conscious NooSphere.”-Michael

"I like going to the Marshall McLuhan-Finnegans Wake workshop (MacFinn) because it allows me to talk about James Joyce in a way I could never do while I was growing up in Ireland. I am free to say whatever I want in support of Joyce and to participate in the fearlessly joyful interpretation. It's like being told that the thing you loved most is ok to love. I was 61 years old when I got to my first MacFinn. I remember well during my first few months feeling like I was liberated, free at last to contradict every English teacher I had ever had in Ireland who told me that Joyce's work wasn't worth bothering about. Joyce poked fun at the state known as 'being Irish' and I found that was refreshing. I can trace my roots in Ireland back for a thousand years. My family lost its property to the English, my great great grandmother was forced to watch our house burned by British troops. Yes, it was a serious affair being Irish. And being connected to our holy mother the church was too. But hey, when you're a teenager you need to lighten up a bit, and Joyce provided me with the ammunition to do that. But then I was told that reading Joyce was naughty naughty. (The same people said that Marshall McLuhan was ok and trendy but mysterious). I lived in London for ten years (’81-’91). I met my wife who did not like London foggy weather and insisted I move to California after we got married. I found MacFinn in 2011. I thank my lucky stars for that. It connects Joyce with McLuhan in a way that makes it ok to play games with words, ideas and institutional frameworks. MacFinn brought like-minded people into my life who are now my closest friends and allies - guides as I hitchhike through the galaxy.” -Peter

“How has the Marshall McLuhan-Finnegans Wake Reading Club affected me? Instead of simply enjoying the wild ride of Joyce’s words,like a roller coaster of linguistic surprises, with some unexplained understanding, we share knowledge of McLuhan,at a fast pace! Yikes. We are tireless in our quest to question!  Our dialogue on present major issues ties in with McLuhan’s words,and Joyce’s sense of other’s realities. I have gained new perspectives. I believe from brain science that getting blood flow to different areas in your brain will ward off dementia - use it or lose it… THINK DIFFERENT” –MaryBeth

”Joyce and McLuhan are secular prophets of the 20th century, in a manner of speaking, and MMFWRC tends to their Dada-dings and Tetrad analysis. Somewhere between the full deployment of the weaponized internet and the election of Donald Trump the wheels fell off.  Life in today’s present amounts to one anxiety built upon another, founded upon the incredible insecurity of modern institutions and the rapid fire assault of black swans that shape our emergent history. MMFWRC’s American Zen approach to publicly pondering, one might say ritualizing, the metaphysical pontifications of Marshall McLuhan and leading meditations upon McLuhan’s initiating inspiration, James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, offer us the ideal palliative for these trying times. Through the discipline of media ecology it is possible to reconcile the ambiguous and perplexing natures of such phenomena as fake news, whistleblowing leakers, cyber-social projection, foreign and domestic propaganda, reality television, conspiracy theory, the commercialized web, and so on.  McLuhan’s satirized technological determinism provides an operable taxonomy and human-centric framework that contains all of these things, and enables one to find some coherence in it all, or else, at least, to gain psychological comfort in the navigating. The sheer kaleidoscopic, surreal, and fugue-like nature of life today seems both apocalyptic and psychedelic all at the same time, and no body knows quite what to make of it all, though Joyce did.  And that’s where Finnegans Wake comes in handy, because it is designed to function, like Astrology or Tarot, as an instrument of reflection, rather one geared toward group meditations and public performance, rather than to personal inquiry or divination.  It is something more integrated to the collective unconscious moment, and its language is a unique glossallia, tapping into the Lang Vert, the language of the birds, the Ur-language at the root of the Logos and all human consciousness.  It was designed, both in overall structure and theme, down to the minutest detail, to contain all of history, past and future, between its bindings, to include every fractal-like possible eddy of human archetype and experience, and so to perceive it in its totality as a fully resolved whole.  It provides the ideal therapy for what ales us in these poison’d and unpredictable times, as one epoch comes to its end and another has not yet fully emerged.  In my estimation, if these two prescriptions are followed, any person will be able to survive the psychic tumult that has become contemporary life with the self fully intact, and perhaps even glean a little bit of wisdom in the process.”-Matt

I enjoy attending the McLuhan-Wake meetings in Venice Beach because it allows me to experience how malleable awareness is through studying perception via dialogue and self-analysis. The open-circle discussions demonstrate how conceptual examinations—the identifiable impact of smartphones on the human psyche for instance—can lead to many perceptual insights into the unobservable variables that guide and influence present cognitive-flow. Through this concerted psychic-linguistic endeavor, we as a group subtly input to each other & reflect back to ourselves a multidimensional collective stream of experience that allows us to understand the workings of our brain's individual and collective nature.”-Carlos

”The Wake is a handy heuristic for McLuhan's probes.” – Potier

"We start out with a McLuhan tetrad to open the doors of perception and engage our minds. Then we dive into the Wake. I love that we all take turns reading the Wake aloud, injecting our own possible meaning into it, mixing the past, present and future. When we read it aloud once more it all makes perfect sense until we leave the room, then it evaporates and dissolves into our psyche."-Tryg

”I learn a lot from the introductory remarks on media and technology, The tetrads are interesting, The people that come to the Wake are very interesting, I get so much more out of reading the Wake when reading it with other people.”-Tim+++”Our
 reading group has been a wonderful experience in learning about James Joyce & McLuhan. I enjoy the deep discussions which open my eyes to futher studies”-Marcia

”In the WAKE, there's a typo in every word on purpose
." - Michael

"The Wake is like that secret language one creates with your siblings and friends when you are young." – Karin

”Our 
reading club is a cultural history lesson that is very pertinent and alive. It helps me face the times I live in. The media exploration helps me understand myself and others.”-Melinda

"I look at reading & performing the Wake in very much the same way I see running McLuhan’s Tetrad.  In fact, a so-called psychedelic journey whether achieved through the practice of Stan Grof’s Holotropic (Pranayamic) Breathing or via the ingestion of an ancient or more newly fangled psychotropic substance, can be quite similarly helpful as the aforementioned two disciplines in achieving that which I constantly crave; BRIAN CHANGE, a shift out of our rutted neural pathways onto fresh soil, blazing, if not always a sparklingly new trail for ourselves, certainly onto a metaphoric road much less well traveled. Specifically, when I wade through my first pass of a page or two of the Wake as I do most months at McFinn gatherings, so very many words and phrases seem nearly imperceptible to my poor, seemingly insufficient cerebrum.  However by squinting my mind's eye a bit and altering it’s angle of sight to one more novel, entire overlays begin to lift off of the page like some multileveled children's popup book or perhaps more precisely a multidimensional hologram (in fact I’d be much obliged to anyone who would kindly design me some specs, similar to those worn in 3D cinema theaters, that might assist in my Wakian pursuits) Similarly when we take a fresh look at some human-made technology, we normally and initially view it through the framework of our engrained belief systems as in “oh, what a wonderful aid this very thing is to mankind, to our civilization!” or more likely “My god that's the most terrible, horrible thing that has yet been devised in the enormity of our history and it simply must lead to the end of society as we know it!”  How trite.  How simplistic.  How reductionist. Instead if we chance to avail ourselves of the potentialities that can be released via the Tetrad, we can step out of our well-worn didactic impressions and can skew into (somewhat) new, much more fresh viewpoints.  In this way, I believe we are less likely to remain somnambulating through our hackneyed sets of beliefs and might even be lead towards a considerably more creative, authentic life experience! It is only left to us to pick our poisons(sic)." – Michael (see the extended version of this essay below)

”We use McLuhan's Tetrad at the start of our reading group. The Tetrad's origin lie in Menippeann satire, which is based on an idea as opposed to person. As a comedian and director, I reclaimed it for the satirists and use it to deconstruct ideas into bits. In practice the Tetrad is a preparation for reading The Wake.”-Jeff

"
The greatest thing, to me, about the reading club is that it is a hands-on, full bodied example of McLuhan's idea of Hot and Cool mediums- and all due to James Joyce's brilliance......
Joyce proves ( a priori ) McLuhan's ideas on hot/cool, and McLuhan hit the nail on the head about Joyce's greatest achievement.....Joyce was able to take a hot medium ( books/literature)  and force it to flip on itself (the 4th stage of the tetrad) - into a cool medium (speech).   In order to "get" Finnegans Wake - a person has to read it aloud - thus forcing a hot (high definition- well filled in with data) medium to play out as a cool one (low definition - you need to fill it in yourself).  I get so much more out of the Wake when I hear it in that room, than I do if I read it to myself at home.
"A cool medium like hieroglyphic or ideogrammic written characters has very different effects from the hot and explosive medium of the phonetic alphabet."
"Any hot medium allows of less participation than a cool one, as a lecture makes for less participation than a seminar, and a book for less than dialog.  With print, many earlier forms were excluded from life and art, and many were given strange new intensity.  But our own time is crowded with examples of the principal that the hot form excludes, and the cool one includes."
UNDERSTANDING MEDIA - THE EXTENSIONS OF MAN p.31 -32
By envisioning this flip - Joyce was bringing back Myth ("life and art") AND forcing readers to participate in it.  He was returning mankind to the campfire, oral traditions, and the timeless state of wonder." - John

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PLUS:

"I'm going to prove that Finnegans Wake is an information pool based on computer memory systems that didn't exist until centuries after James Joyce's era; that Joyce was plugged into a cosmic consciousness from which he derived the inspiration for his entire corpus of work." -Philip K. Dick

"I am really one of the greatest engineers...the initiating spark for a perpetual motion text machine."-Joyce+++” I am boring through a mountain from 2 sides. The question is, how to meet in the middle."-Joyce

"To define is to kill. To suggest is to create."-Mallarme

"The crux of the biscuit is the apostrophe." -Frank Zappa. 

"In illuminating the night world, private and collective, Joyce in Finnegans Wake has only done what the electric light had done in abolishing the old divisions between night& day, and between inner and outer space, with respect to human work and play. As soon as the complementary dynamics of inner and outer, conscious and unconscious were displayed, it became easy to observe the operation of languages  in shaping human assumptions, both sensuous and psychological. Finnegans Wake is an encyclopedia of lore concerning the origins and effects of words, of writing, of roads and bricks, of telegraph, radio, and television on the changing hues  of the human spectrum." -McLuhan. 

"Artists are engaged in writing a detailed history of the future because they are the only people who live in the present." - Wyndham Lewis.  

"What McLuhan contributed were not ideas, arguments, theories or critiques, but intuitions, perceptions, wandering explorations of unexplored terrain, satiric responses and poetic reactions...His primary game: teasing people into believing his percepts to be theoretical concepts..." -Donald Theall

"The world of discontinuity came in most vividly with the telegraph and the newspaper. The stories in the newspaper are completely discontinuous because they are simultaneous. They're all under one dateline, but there's no story line to connect them. TV is like that. It's an X-ray, mosaic screen with the light charging through the screen at the viewer. Joyce called it, "the charge of the light barricade." In fact, Finnegans Wake is the greatest guide to the media ever devised on this planet, and is a tremendous study of the action of all media upon the human psyche and sensorium. It's difficult to read, but it's worth it."  and  "Joyce uses the pun as a way of seeing the paradoxical exuberance of being through language."- McLuhan

”As W. B. Yeats wrote of this reversal, ‘The visible world is no longer a reality and the unseen world is no longer a dream.’ Associated with this transformation of the real world into science fiction is the reversal now proceeding apace, by which the Western world is going Eastern, even as the East goes Western. Joyce encoded this reciprocal reverse in his cryptic phrase: ‘The West shall shake the East awake. While ya have the night for morn’...The title of his Finnegans Wake is a set of multi-leveled puns on the reversal by which Western man enters his tribal, or Finn, cycle once more, following the track of the old Finn, but wide awake this time as we re-enter the tribal night. It is like our contemporary consciousness of the Unconscious.”- McLuhan (aka Meereschal MacMuhun-pg 254 in the Wake)

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Some of the percepts that we probe:


medium is the message/massage into use is content
global village into global theater
suspended judgement, no point of view
breakdowns into break-throughs, rejection into redirection
effects precede causes
sense ratio shifting
Menippean satire
the "gap" - resonant interval
extensions
numbness
needling somnambulism
all crew, no passengers
mosaic writing
culture is our business
complex clairvoyance
all-at-onceness
technological determinism
form - content, figure - ground
narcissus as narcosis
and lots more...

Tetrad: 1) What does it enhance or intensify? 2) What does it render obsolete or replace? 3) What does it bring back that was previously obsolesced? 4) What does it become when pressed to an extreme, what does it flip into? 

MARSHALL McLUHAN-FINNEGANS WAKE READING CLUB – Join us first Tuesdays from 6-8pm at Lloyd Taber-Marina Del Rey Library, 4533 Admiralty Way, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292, phone 310-821-3415. Free admission. More info: Gerry Fialka 310-306-7330 pfsuzy@aol.com Visit - http://laughtears.com/

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Gerry Fialka's writings and workshops and interviewshttp://laughtears.com/

Joyce scholar John Bishop interview by Fialka https://archive.org/details/gf_johnbishop

Artist as Trickster http://www.othercinema.com/otherzine/may-attract-other-coyotes-or-putting-on-put-ons-the-artist-as-trickster/

McLuhan's City As Classroom Flips Into All-At-Onceness As Classroom

DREAM AWAKE - James Joyce & Experimental Film Screening/Workshop MOREREVIEWS & FOLLOW-UP


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Dr. Strangewords:  Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Wake                                  
(with apologies to Monsieurs Terry Southern and Stanley Kubrick)

“The mome rath hasn’t been born that can outgrabe me.”  
-James Thurber, The Thurber Carnival

As with any student seated in a halfway decent high school English Lit class, anywhere in the English Speaking world, I’d been taught from the outset that Mr. James Joyce was a formidable talent to be reckoned with.  I’d already heard in fact, while knowing not from direct experience, that his tome Ulysseswas considered by many, probably most literary scholars, according to a great number of lists, to be the slickest (read ‘finest’) work in the English language of the 20th century, if not since the Immortal Bard his own bad self put quill to vellum.  So it was armed with this informational preface that I, an even younger man, began to read Joyce’s first published novel, (though not his first published work) A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.  One cannot easily make up one’s own mind about the strength of talent of a writer’s output given such a heady setup (Artist being number 3, on the Modern Library List of best 100 novels in the 1900’s, just south of Fitzgerald’s Gatsby).  Many youngsters who first attempt to read Shakespeare and other literary masters are bound by the same dilemma.  So I scanned the slim work, which I decided was approachable, but deemed it unremarkable.  Given the chance to take a sidelong glance back through the rear view mirror of time, I’m quite aware that it was I, not Joyce who at the time severely lacked ‘remark’.  But for a time, it was my sole brush with the Jocyean canon.  

Then one day…

…when, as a snotnosed, ‘sure he knows-it-all’ freshman at Berkeley I was introduced to the writings of another writer, a self proclaimed Joycean scholar, by a hipster-ish high school mate of mine.   My pal suggested a work that would almost immediately come to have a powerful impact on my young mind, written by, as far as I could tell, one of the Secret Chiefs, Robert Anton Wilson, or RAW.  The book I was handed, both fascinating and funny, Cosmic Trigger: The Final Secret of the Illuminati, a supposed non-fiction follow up to Wilson’s supposed fictive trilogy co-authored with Bob Shea entitled Illuminatus!  The reading of the former blew my still forming fucking mind.  In a good way.  I poured through it, becoming deeply invested in many of the suggested phenomenological subjects, not the least of which was one that set me out on a daily search through all things for the magical numerals, ’23’.  At first as illusive is the fabled, snark, ultimately I would view them very nearly everywhere.  Forty Years hence, I still do.

Much later, in fact a couple of years after the passing of RAW’s dear friend and mine, Timothy Leary, I ran into Bob again.  It was at one of Rosemary Leary’s and Denis Berry’s annual “Timothy Leary Memorial Potlucks” (shortened by the brilliant comedy writer, performer and standup, the late great Tom Davis as The Leary Mem-Pot,)   They all took place and I believe there were seven in all, all of which I attended, in a redwood treed cottage on the curiously named Trout Gulch Road in Aptos California.  So lovely was the spot that Rosemary chose to stay there even though the dark and somewhat moldy space often wrecked havoc on her emphysema-d lungs.  A condition that would ultimately take her life.  She, never having moved from that magical spot.  

In fact the final gathering on Trout Gulch would be for the memorial for the remarkably brilliant, beautiful, completely wonderful Rosemary, Tim’s third wife.  The one who arranged Tim’s escape from prison with the Weather Underground, wrote with him, dressed him in the clothes that would be adopted by tens of thousands as de rigueur for the 1960’s counter culture; the ones who came by it honestly as well as other I sup-poseurs.  In any case Ro, like so many of the women of the time, was never given anything close to her due.  And if I have anything to say about it…  But back to the Mem-Pot.

While escorting, assisting really, Robert Wilson to a car being driven by a young friend of his at the tail end of the gathering (you see Bob had had polio as a child and was in his latter years suffering from post polio syndrome) I mentioned to him how much the 23 phenomenon meant to me in my younger days and that I still kept an eye out for them probably too often.  He smiled that sparkly, goateed smile of his and said, “You know who told me about the magic of the number 23?”  He had to stop speaking as I carefully helped him into the back seat of the car, a somewhat painful undertaking for him.  I shut the door behind him.  But before he could answer his own query, the designated driving friend turned on the car and spun off, crunching the gravel drive as he sped away, leaving me slack jawed and bereft of an answer. 

That is until exactly one year later at the very next Mem/Pot at Rosemary’s and Denis’s shared home (Denis replaced Ro as the co-Trustee of Timothy’s Futique Trust along with wonderful Donna Scott, the wife of the late, hugely talented and truly warm Tony Scott.)  I happened to be walking out of the house onto the gravel drive just as a Santa Cruzian, bumper-sticker festooned car pulled up.  I could see Bob in the backseat again.  It stopped right in front of me and grinning, I reversed the procedure from the previous year, this time helping him out of the car into a wheelchair, his post polio syndrome having progressed.  It must be said that as far as I could tell, it never seemed to too negatively impact his irascible and magical life view.  I mentioned the previous dangling conversation and he answered simply, “William Burroughs.”  It was a seamless conversation separated in the middle by a year of days. Seems Bob had proclaimed upon reading the as yet unpublished Naked Lunch in 1956, that Burroughs was, “the greatest prose stylist since James Joyce.”  Though it took another 10 years for the two men to meet.  Bill told Bob the following story, excerpted from Cosmic Trigger.  “In the early ’60’s in Tangier, Burroughs know a certain Captain Clark who ran a ferry from Tangier to Spain… that he’d been running… (for) 23 years without an accident.  That very day the ferry sank killing Clark and everybody aboard.  

In the evening, Burroughs was thinking about this when he turned on the radio.  The first newscast told about the crash of an Eastern Airlines plane on the New York-Miami route.  The pilot was another Captain Clark and the flight was listed as Flight 23.”

“Burroughs began keeping records of odd coincidences.  To his astonishment, 23’s appeared in a lot of them.”  Bob then began keeping his own records with the same result.

Bob then lists a number of impactful instances when 23 would pop up in his life along with various theories as to why this might be happening, running from pure coincidence augmented by focus of attention to the “non-local trans-time theory of causality.  Or Jung’s theory of synchronicity.  He had a million of ‘em…  And suggested that you allow each one their space.

In another similar experiment he asks you to visualize a quarter. to focus on it very clearly in your mind’s eye.  In the next couple of days, he asks that you keep an eye peeled for a quarter on the ground as you move through life.  After finding one, he suggests that you decide that it was just a coincidence and that your fixed attention had noticed what you had decided to look for.  Then you are to try it again, but on finding the next quarter, decide that the mind controls everything and actually manifested the quarter!  I think the idea, in part anyway, is to try your damnedest  never to be certain that you know everything about anything.   That there is only one explanation and you possess it.  That instead you remain open to a wide variety of explanations.  And that the opposite of that is called ‘Fundamentalism’ the mind being so fixed, it isn’t allowed to change even when presented with new information.  That all evidence becomes shoved into the very same tiny box, no matter what your senses might be telling you from one moment to the other.  Another term for this might be “Trumpism” as practiced by his legions of followers.  The infamous roughly low ended 32 percent of the populous which is of course 23 backwards.

My buddy Gerry Fialka, founder of the Venice Marshall McLuhan / Finnegans Wake Group of which I am a proud member, recently pointed out to me what must have been the first but certainly not the last posthumous RAW / 23 phenomenon.  The day that the Jim Carry movie 23 first came out in theaters, was the very day dear Robert Anton Wilson passed.

To me, the monthly gathering to indulge in Mr. McLuhan’s tetrad and the glorious Finnegans Wake serves the very same purpose, of shaking off the cobwebs that seem to build up too easily in my thought processes.  It’s kind of a monthly mind cleaning.  And one that makes me and my compatriots, belly laugh out loud with absolute and predictable regularity.

About Ulysses, Bob notes that the entire book takes place on one day in the year 1904, now referred to as Bloomsday.  1904.  Nineteen plus four equaling, well, you get the idea.  

There were as I recall a handful of references to Joyce in Cosmic Trigger, since Bob, as I would later get to call him was a scholar unparalleled of many forms, in many arenas, which he had the uncanny ability to link up in some sort of literate unified field theory of the universe.  He was able to conjoin everything from Alchemy, Madam Blavatsky, Gurdjieff and Crowlian Magick, as written in the guides to Ordo Templi Orientis, inscribed and practiced in The Book of Lies by the despised and / or devoted-to Great Beast Aleister Crowley (pronounced according to Bob like ‘slowly’), to Orson Wells’s F for Fake, the works of doctors Timothy Leary and John C. Lilly, the latest (at the time) cutting edge theories of Quantum Physics and yes, of the giant, James Augustine Aloysius Joyce (1882 - 1941).  By pulling examples from these and dozens of other models of the Universe, from the common place to highly esoteric, he would exemplify the same point in a number of different ways, giving one the feeling that there just might be actually some rhyme or reason to the oft seeming overwhelming chaos of life.  Ditto the Wake.

But Wilson was not only considered a scholar of Ulysses, a foreboding novel that has set by my bedside barely cracked until recently for over a decade, but of another book who’s name I had only heard whispered, Joyce’s final novel, 17 years in the writing and by all accounts, including my own, the completely unreadable Finnegan's Wake; cue lightening strike.  A book that has terrified students of literature since first published in 1939, only two years before Joyce succumbed to the post surgical effects of a perforated ulcer.  In fact, Joyce’s own flesh and blood, his brother Stanislaus told many that he considered it the greatest literary prank ever played on the gullibility of the reading public.  Joyce himself told friends that he hoped to keep collage professors busy for the next 200 years.

It should be noted that in addition to Bob Wilson, it was my godfather, one of my closest lifelong friends, the beyond extraordinary, genius Timothy Leary who first served to introduce me to the thinkings of Mr. McLuhan, he and Tim being great ol’ buddies.  In fact it was McLuhan who told Tim, following Tim’s testimony in front of Teddy Kennedy and a U.S. Senate subcommittee (which by the way should go down in history as arguably the greatest testimony ever given in front of that august body.  Look it up), that Tim was wasting his time with those people.  That he was involved in an ad campaign to capture the imaginations of the youth of America.  That he needed an ad campaign, a slogan, a pitch.  I offer you “Turn on, Tune in and Drop Out” your honor.

Timothy, a philosopher, free thinker, futurist, psychologist, cybernaut and so much more, who almost single handedly changed the course of the 20th Century, was also a great lover and scholar of Joyce and the Wake.  Though my own true interest in the Wake didn’t begin in earnest until after he passed.  As with so many things, wish we had him around still to explore his big brain on the topic.  It’s also my humble opinion that in his heart of hearts, he just might rather have been Joyce, considered mostly for his writings, than anything else.  And I cannot recommend his books, every single one, any more highly, if one is truly interested in delving into various methods of ‘Brain Change’.  Just reading any one of ‘em will alone take you a goodly distance in that direction.   

Bob Wilson writes that when he first met Timothy he mentioned that there were several  references to “Leary” and to “LSD” in the Wake.  Tim told him that of course there were, that Leary was a common Irish name and that LSD stood for English currency.  Tim always had a logical explanation for everything.  Still…

So I never considered picking up the damn book, that Finnegans Wake until around 1983 or thereabouts when I very fortunately and much to my enthrallment, was invited by Timothy, to not only meet Mr. Wilson, but to attend, along with Tim’s wife Barbara, my then girlfriend, the lovely and unusual Martha Clark, and my parents Gil and Joanne Segel to hear Bob expound on the Wake for three uninterrupted hours, with green board and chalk in hand, at a Santa Monica based Masonic Temple.  The absolutely perfect venue to catch Bob’s ‘act’.  He largely spent the time dissecting one single paragraph from the great book.  And while I found his picking apart of each word and sentence at times somewhat confusing, oft times thoroughly perplexing, I became hooked by the lines, but far from sinking, I levitated, in a manner of sinking, uh, speaking.  And we then all went out to a wonderful meal at a small bistro in Santa Monica, with bon mots flying by as fast as one could grok ‘em!

But what to do with this new found inspiration?  I wouldn’t know until another dozen years had passed.  My father was inspired to buy two copies of the book the day following Bob’s talk, one for me, and one for himself.  And while I tried on occasion to leap in, I was always left with an expression that I’ve seen often since then on the faces of friends when I suggest that they accompany me to the Venice Marshall McLuhan / Finnegans Wake Group; one of fear, trepidation and emblematic of the conviction that they are in no way clever enough nor do they possess the necessary skills to penetrate this seeming impenetrable novel, no matter how many times I assure them that everything they need to know, to take on the two pages a month that we attack, they already possess within the confines of their own brimming cranium.  I firmly believe that to absolutely be the case.

So it was my grand good fortune to meet Gerry Fialka at a performance at the defunct funky Temple Bar, of the Mothers and Grandmothers of Invention (former Zappa musicians all) and be invited to attend my very first once a month meeting of the Venice McLuhan / Wake group in February of the year 2000.  Give or take.  Thus began in earnest, my immersion into the Wake.

By the way, while an appreciator of the talent of, though not a huge Zappa-tista myself, it was nonetheless a grand night.  For not only did I meet Gerry and his brilliant chanteuse of a wife Suzy Williams and hear some good music, but I was able also to meet and thank Matt Groening a huge Zappa fan himself, for his series of cartoons, Life in HellThe Simpsons, and for building one of the only authentic feeling new homes in the Venice Canals where I was living at the time.  

I quite often declare that Gerry is a someone whom I believe to be the most important person in Venice, culturally speaking, since the old man Abbot Kinney himself booked the town's entertainments and Chautauquas at the turn of the 19th into the 20th century, more than a century before the most unpleasant recent changes had taken place.   And yes, I’m talking to you effete Snapchatters!  Had I not met Gerry that night, our paths would still most certainly have crossed, since he and I are as tie-dyed in the wool Venetians as there are.  And we were bound to argue, late into the night, as we later did, on the then still artistic streets of Venice, about whether his friend, McLuhan archivist and spiritual guide of the Venice McFinn Group, Bob Dobbs, had gotten the better of Timothy during some historic recorded conversation.  Tim won by the way Gerry.  But I digress. 

I say involved with the Wake because it is not simply to be read, but instead to be dived into, or as Gerry tells us, to be “performed”, and its meaning is in large part, whatever it inspires within the mind of each individual performer.  Bob Wilson concluded after more than fifty years reading  the Wake(‘emerge or cause to emerge from a state of sleep’ sez the Oxford Dictionary) three distinct points.  One, that it should be read with a group of like minded souls.  Two, that it must be read aloud, and finally that a six pack of Guiness can really help one to decipher the damn thing.  Though in meeting in a public library each month, only his first two suggestions usually came into play.

This is what I’ve taken away after 17 years of attending the Venice Marshall McLuhan / Finnegans Wake group.  That by the way makes me a newbie, since the group itself has met for 22.  To date we are only about three quarters of the way through the book.  No matter, its end loops back to the very beginning, so should we ever finish we will be forced to begin anew.  For as Ulysses takes place in it’s entirety, in that one singular day, June 16th, 1904, commemorating by the way, the day Joyce first dated his beloved Nora and received from her what must certainly be the most literarily inspiring hand job in human history, the Wake alternately takes place, seemingly anyway, in one singular night, as a dream.  Thus, as with all dreams let alone all great works of fiction, it is fully open to interpretation by the dreamer, who, in a sense, by engaging in the book, we all become.  (Here’s an excerpt of what I was asked to write by Gerry Fialka for him to take to this year’s 18th Annual Convention of the Media Ecology Association.)



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


I look at reading / performing Finnegans Wake in very much the same way I see running McLuhan’s Tetrad.  In fact, a so-called psychedelic journey whether achieved through the practice of Stan Grof’s Holotropic (pranayamicly styled) Breathing or via the ingestion of an ancient or more newly fangled psychotropic substance, can be quite similarly helpful as the aforementioned two disciplines in achieving that which I constantly crave; BRIAN CHANGE, a shift out of our rutted neural pathways onto fresh soil, blazing, if not always a sparklingly new trail for ourselves, certainly a move onto a metaphoric road much less well traveled.
Specifically, when I wade through my first pass of a page or two of the Wake as I do most months at Gerry Fialka’s monthly McLuhan / Finnegans Wake (hereto for referred to as “McFinn”) Gathering, so very many words and phrases seem nearly imperceptible to my poor, seemingly insufficient cerebrum.  However by squinting my mind’s eye a bit and altering it’s angle of sight to one more novel, entire overlays begin to lift off of the page like some multidimensional children's popup book or perhaps more precisely a  multileveled hologram (In fact I’d be much obliged to anyone who would kindly design me some specs, similar to those worn in 3D cinema theaters, that might assist in my Wakian pursuits…)
Similarly when Gerry encourages us to take a fresh look at some human-made technology, we normally initially view it through the framework of our engrained belief systems as in “oh, what a wonderful aid this very thing is to mankind, to civilization itself!” or more likely “My god that's the most terrible, horrible thing that has yet been devised in the enormity of our history and it most certainly must lead to the end of society as we know it!”  How trite.  How simplistic.  How reductionist.
Instead if we chance to avail ourselves of the potentialities that can be released via the Tetrad, we can step out of our well-worn didactic impressions and can skew into, at the very least, somewhat fresher viewpoints.  In this way, I believe we are less likely to remain somnambulating through our hackneyed sets of beliefs and might even be lead closer towards a considerably more creative, authentic life experience.  And whom, I ask you, is not desirous of that!
It is only left to us to pick our poisons [sic]. 


Michael David Segel
Person
7/7/17
© Michael David Segel 2017        (not to be reprinted without the express written permission of the author who can be reached at: mdsegel@mac.com )