Hi everyone, I know most of you are finishing up your projects like I am, but I thought I would point out that Girl Talk will be at The Venue June 21. Good luck with your projects everyone!
I agree it’s incredible how ancient the “Venus” carvings are, and how mysterious. Their age and anonymity make them open to interpretation. The interpretation of “Dr. Parsani” is radically different from that of the two anthropologists.
What does “complicity with anonymous materials” mean? Cyclonopedia spins out wild quasi-historic, mythological, political, religious and psychological commentaries on several “anonymous materials,” especially oil, air, soil, and water. These materials, too, are ancient and open to interpretation.
Coincidentally, while thinking about this topic I received an email promoting Subaru’s "Work Play Love Tour," and I was struck by its slogan: “Air is Therapy. Play Ignites Work. Dirt Cleanses Mind.” This seems in complete opposition to “Dr. Parsani’s” notions of air, soil, inside, outside, and productivity. The campaign encourages consumers to get in their Subaru, a machine made of metal and petroleum that also burns petroleum, and get “outside” to enjoy a presumably therapeutic experience with air and soil. This experience will rejuvenate their “inside” and make them more productive.
The campaign’s website features the goofy photo above, in which one guy looks like he is getting ready for a Middle-East dust storm.
Photo courtesy Subaru of America, Inc.
I love that you posted that pic of the fertility statue! A huge statue like this was up for sale at an auction of ancient things in Hellboy 2. I was going to post such a picture but saw you already had. The age of such statues is amazing! It is about as simple,fundamental, and symbolic as you can…
Yes, that’s what’s frustrating about Cyclonopedia - the lack of frame. I was always looking for a frame, and some kind of context for interpreting the writings of “Dr. Parsani,” because the first few pages of the book seem to go to a good deal of trouble to portray Dr. Parsani as a madman, but then the frame goes away and we are left in direct contact with the madman’s words. In other books and movies that portray a mad character, the narrative will usually work to put that madness into some kind of “safe” context - it will be distanced or repudiated in some way.
For example, while channel surfing a few days ago I came across the movie As Good As It Gets, in which Jack Nicholson plays Melvin, a misanthrope suffering from OCD, who insults everyone he meets in the most repugnant ways possible. Audiences are free to laugh (if uncomfortably) at Melvin’s horrible insults, because the character has a mental illness - he can’t help his behavior. During the course of the film Melvin falls in love with a waitress, Carol (played by Helen Hunt), and he decides to start taking his OCD medication and start behaving better. In one of the movie’s key scenes, Melvin tells Carol, “You make me want to be a better man.”
I kept waiting for a moment like that in Cyclonopedia, a moment when the madness would be turned around, repudiated, put into context or made safe, but that moment didn’t come, at least not as far as I could tell. Did I miss it?
Finally put down Cyclonopedia for the last time. I feel pretty confident in saying that I’m never going to be picking it back up again. I was thinking about all of the past readings we’ve been doing in this class, looking for some kind of frame to put the book in so as to make a good blog post,…
I’ve enjoyed reading Cyclonopedia, in the way one might enjoy a weirdly entertaining horror movie (by the way, thanks to everyone who posted the fun clips from Phantoms), and I do think it’s brilliant at times. This quote from "freelance critic" Jonathan McCalmont sums up what I think is interesting about the book:
"Cyclonopedia …embodies an academic culture where impenetrability, the playful use of data from other disciplines and indifference to objective truth are not hidden secrets but standard operating procedure. However, what is even more enjoyable about this book as a piece of guerrilla methodology is that Negarestani is not chiding the cultural studies for its wayward values… he is positively celebrating them. Cyclonopedia presents Theory as a form of artistic creation where words and images combine in obscure and unexpected manners in order to produce works of obscure but terrifying beauty.”
At times, however, I’ve been arrested by what I view as a strong current of misogyny in Cyclonopedia,in which productivity is equated with contamination, and contamination is specifically embodied as feminine. This complex of associations runs throughout all we’ve read of the book so far, but it’s especially apparent in the sections entitled “The Dead Mother of All Contagions” and “Mistmare.”
Maybe the “authenticity” theme is played out in this Tumblr group, but I’m going to add to it anyway, because after we talked about “authentic” Mexican food in class I kept seeing this puzzling ad during a TV show I was watching.
The ad (the one entitled “Men”) for Jose Cuervo’s 1800 (1800 as in the year) tequila talks about a time in the nebulous, authentic past when “real men” drank “real tequila,” and bemoans the present when effeminate men drink “poser” tequila (Patron), but it’s done in such a transparently manipulative way that I wondered if it was supposed to be ironic.
The ad does seem to be picking up on a characteristic of at least a few Patron drinkers - some people like Patron just because it’s expensive and comes in a pretty bottle with a green ribbon. These people probably wouldn’t drink Patron unless their friends know that they’re drinking it and that it’s pricey.
Another 1800 ad, the one entitled “Commercials,” is definitely tongue in cheek, because it acknowledges with a wink that a lot of TV commercials are nonsense and sell the image rather than the product. Jose Cuervo didn’t stick with this approach, though, and the other ads in the series seem like their message (you are not a real man if you drink Patron) can be taken straight or as irony.
This post from the blog “Psychomercials” analyzes the 1800 tequila ads in a little more depth.
I think a more successful series of ads is the "Most Interesting Man in the World" series from Dos Equis. These are entertaining and obviously outrageous.
I have found the Latour reading to be extremely interesting, and to provide useful ways of thinking about processes of boundary formation, group identity and personal identity that seem to figure hugely in most people’s lives. I find Latour’s idea of focusing “the relative share of mediators over intermediaries” (p. 61) in any situation to be a very useful concept. Latour says that “ANT pictures a world made of concantenations of mediatorswhere each point can be said to fully act,” yet he acknowledges there is no communication without intermediation, and that no action can be seen as fully independent.
I could illustrate some of these processes with serious and controversial examples, because it’s extremely dangerous when people rely to much on intermediated, received ideas, and place too much importance on boundary formation. The Trayvon Martin tragedy illustrates some of these dangers, as we discussed in class. People are killed every day because they have violated group boundaries, or because they are seen as hated vehicles for intermediated, received ideas about “others.”
A more lighthearted example is a problem my high school age daughter is having in her choir group at school. She is considering dropping out because she is tired of the outrageous behavior of her classmates, and their obsession with interpersonal drama. She says the situation has gotten much worse during her three years of high school. I wondered if any of the kids were being influenced by the TV show “Glee,” which seems to send the message “Choir kids are quirky!” “Choir kids love drama!”
Admittedly, this is a chicken-and-egg question, because choir kids have had a reputation for diva behavior long before “Glee” was on the air, but the behavior might be reinforced by the show in a weird feedback loop. “Glee” is a show that uses lots of different stereotypes while seeming to promote individual authenticity, in a way that I don’t find all that successful.
I live about 5 miles away from this facility, which Wired asserts is “deep in the Utah desert” (it’s on the cover). Funny, I thought I lived on the Wasatch Front, population more than 2 million. Also, the Big Love, Utah-is-creepy framing of the article is beyond irrelevant. Oh, Wired. Makes me wonder what other details in the article have been exaggerated for effect.
That being said, I think the project itself is has huge implications. 99.9 percent of NSA’s enormous database will be junk, but personal junk, human lives turned into bits and bytes that can be sorted, manipulated and mined, for purposes that will not always be innocent. NSA will need lots of characters who are like the Rabbit in Rainbows End:
"Knowledge is piled metaphorical light-years deep. Given that, the truly golden skill is the one I possess - to bring together the knowledge and abilities that make solutions … I am world class at ‘bringing-together-to-get-answers.’"
One thing I find confusing in the article is that NSA was very involved in the development and implementation of Advanced Encryption Standard, and now they’re spending billions trying to break it. This is difficult for me to wrap my mind around, but I think it relates to class discussions we’ve had about control, the way control seems to escalate, find a balance, and then re-escalate as new breakouts occur.
Here’s a story of potential interest from the recent Wired magazine:
Rather than Bibles, prophets, and worshippers, this temple will be filled with servers, computer intelligence experts, and armed guards. And instead of listening for words flowing down from heaven, these newcomers will be secretly capturing, storing, and analyzing vast quantities of words and images hurtling through the world’s telecommunications networks. In the little town of Bluffdale, Big Love and Big Brother have become uneasy neighbors…..
I wondered how many of you saw this 60 Minutes segment about Khan Academy, the free online education system we’ve talked about a couple of times in class. I’m very excited about these kinds of developments in education, fusing customized online and classroom learning, with the teacher as mentor and coach, rather than knowledge deliverer. If you are or intend to be an educator it’s worth your time to take a look.
I’ve also thought about food bloggers as an example of a relatively new kind of network that borrows many of its protocols from older networks. Over the past year I’ve become involved with a group of food writers and food bloggers who get together to have lunch once a month. I’m not a food blogger, but I sometimes write restaurant reviews as a part of my job, so I’ve found it interesting to “meet” these ladies both online and in person.
Everyone in the group “met” through Twitter, but they have become offline friends as well. They interact online, but they also get together to cook and eat. In addition, they throw baby showers, sympathize with each other’s losses, help each through sickness, and do a lot of the things “regular” girlfriends would do. Their friendships help promote their blogs, because there are a few people in the group who can help get the food bloggers into the local newspapers and onto local TV shows.
I agree that the photos are a huge part of the attraction with these food blogs. In my blog, I’m restricted to an old-fashioned format that’s required by my employer. I don’t have the freedom to use tons of gorgeous photos like, for example, the Pioneer Woman, who for her most recent recipe post used 30 large photos! I’m not a huge fan of the Pioneer Woman’s over-the-top use of photos or her country girl online persona, but it’s working for her. She’s become a celebrity, and her blog brings in more that $1 million per year in ad revenues.
One of my hobbies is cooking. It relaxes me at the end of the day and also gives me a sense of accomplishment — hey, I created something that others can enjoy! I get many of my recipes from cooking blogs, many of which I discovered through Pinterest. However, cooking blogs are a completely…
I can’t be the only one who thought of this scene from The Matrix during our discussion of Jane Bennett and the power of things. Bennett’s emphasis on the force of things, placing things on a level playing field with human subjects, in fact asserting that human subjects are themselves things, is the opposite of what Neo finds in the Matrix, where the subject is all and things are illusions. I admire Bennett and her project, and I appreciate her rhetorical stance, which combines the courage to make bold statements with a lack of pretense toward originality and a willingness to be a little goofy.
Philosophical and literary discussions surrounding the limits of subjectivity and representation, the gap between subjects and objects, between words and things, go back at least as far as the myth of Adam and Eve (when Adam and Eve gain knowledge and self-awareness, they lose contact with God or the absolute), continuing through Greek philosophy and into the present. Bennett points out that the increasing connectedness and networked nature of people and things changes the tone of these discussions in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
In various ways, people have sought to escape the limits of the subject and experience oneness with the absolute (through spiritual practices, meditation or psychedelic drugs), or to experience subjectivity as mastery (mind over matter, The Secret, the Matrix). In Western thought, however, the subject is usually given primacy over things; things are represented as both unreal and inert. Plato’s allegory of the cave, for example, paradoxically insists that material experience is an illusion and idealized Forms, which live in the mind and in representation, are ultimately real.
I think the history of the 20th century has illustrated the extreme danger of making things, and human being as things, subservient to Ideals, Forms, and Big Ideas. it’s time for more practical, and more networked, ways of thinking. As Bennett states, “A newfound attentiveness to matter and its powers will not solve the problem of human exploitation or oppression, but it can inspire a greater sense of the extent to which all bodies are kin in the sense of inextricably enmeshed in a dense network of relations. And in a knotted world of vibrant matter, to harm one section of the web may very well be to harm oneself.”