Robert Anton Wilson
From early 1997 to sometime mid-1999 I had a talkshow called The Infinity Factory that was produced at Pseudo.com, the increasingly legendary “Internet TV Network,” creative madhouse and party central of downtown New York during the high-flying Silicon Alley dotcom years. (Ondi TImoner’s new Sundance Grand Jury Prize-winning documentary, We Live in Public chronicles the rise and fall of Pseudo founder Josh Harris and it’s a fascinating film, a movie well worth going out of your way to catch. Watch my interview with Ondi here).
The Infinity Factory was taped every Sunday evening at 8pm with a few exceptions. It was produced by Vanessa Weinberg who also DJ’d and mixed the show live. Vanessa was extraordinarily in tune with how the conversations were flowing and added an intricate bed of trippy music, samples and sound loops under what were often extremely psychedelic conversations to begin with—like this episode, with Robert Anton Wilson and Genesis P-Orridge. This show dates, I think, from Fall of 1997. When it was originally netcast it was when most people still had 56k modems and the video quality was fairly awful. Don’t get me wrong, it was pretty cool to be able to do something like this back then and there was a real “pirate radio” aspect to it as well that greatly appealed to me, but in truth it looked more like flickery animation than it did actual video. And it was the size of a postage stamp. There were probably well over 100 shows, each of them around 50 minutes, but I really can’t say for sure how many there were. Most of them are probably lost.
Pseudo had several floors, first two then three, in the no-frills building where Jeff Koons and Mark Kostabi still have their art studios, on the corner of Houston and Broadway. One floor had the business people and the producer’s offices and on the floor with the studio—which is where all the parties were—Josh Harris had his own apartment in the back. Each Sunday night, I’d usually I’d see him, cigar in hand, either leaving or returning from a poker game. It was, if memory serves on the 12th floor and this building had the scariest elevator I have, ever, ever used. It was super slow and extremely rickety. If I made it up and down in one piece each week, I breathed a sigh of relief, let me tell you. When someone especially heavy was waiting for the elevator, I’d opt to use the steps, even if it was twelve long flights. Seriously, you took your life into your own hand with this elevator. I don’t know why Jeff Koons puts up with it. (Composer Gershon Kingsley, who was a guest on the show once, told me that taking that elevator and getting off at Pseudo was like entering Dante’s Inferno except that you went up instead of down. I don’t think he was joking)
The studio itself was basically set up like a radio station but with these cheapo cameras that were the size of cigarette packs on pivots that were cut with this jerry-rigged Radio Shack thumb switch with three clunky buttons. The hosts had to do this themselves—cut between cameras—in the beginning. It was really distracting when you were trying to concentrate on what someone was saying (I might be doing it here, but I don think I was). I had some fun guests on the Infinity Factory including a pre-Boing Boing David Pescovitz, Adam Parfrey of Feral House infamy, painter Paul Laffoley, my late and very missed friend Dr. Mario Pazzaglini, R.U. Sirius, Grant Morrison, Joe Coleman and Bob Wilson, who was on a couple of times. Genesis P-Orridge, Douglas Rushkoff, Howard Bloom and conspiracy theory writers Kenn Thomas and Robert Sterling were all frequent guests.
It’s nice to see these shows popping again now, after so many years, as larger HD YouTube files. These shows were taped off Manhattan Cable and probably represent the best versions around. If the master tapes do still exist, they’d be in Josh’s storage space amongst 10,000 hours of other Pseudo programming and I doubt very much they have been cataloged! On television only in New York City (and maybe later in Brooklyn) The Infinity Factory was on a fairly low number on the Time-Warner cable box, so if you were flipping channels at 10:30 on Thursday night and you lived in Manhattan, you were going to see me. This was at the time George Clooney was still on E.R. and it amused me to no end that people watching that show or MTV’s The Real World and channel surfing would—inevitably—find themselves looking at my freaky show.
The morning after it was on the Manhattan Cable for first time I was asked “What do you do for a living? I saw you on TV last night” or some variation on that theme by four people in my apartment building who had never spoken to me before. Overnight I had become as famous as… Robin Byrd or Al Goldstein!