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Thread: Cyclonopedia

  1. #31
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    I'm really enjoying this reading-insane-books-together thing. All the comments above have made me nod vigorously and laugh out loud. That mathematics thing is genius.

    I've been identifying with it as a book; not how it's written or anything cos that's beyond my capabilites - and I like that about it, I like reading things that I can only take my own meaning from; stuff that doesn't have a deliberate singular voice. The footnotes are psychically brilliant.

    I think what's successful about this one is the level of paranoia that comes through while reading it - haven't finished yet. The bunch of tropes they've stuck together - middle east, demonology, interzone - work to dislocate this reader, and I've had some amazing thoughts reading it - don't believe it's written by one person, what a genius thing to do to invent a novel around an internet fictional blogger then write a blog before the novel as advertising, that sort of thing. I think it's successful in the way that I'd say reading D&G or Lacan or whatever is successful, in that the ideas it brings up are more important than the actual text.

    You're way on the money there Pest about suspension of disbelief, it's also a really key point, see also jenks and Rich; I don't think it matters what's real, and in that way it accurately sums up that feeling of being alive now, of being online, being really far removed from everything, even one's own life.

    But then again people have always said to me that I never got the point of philosophy. Like there's a point to it. Or a cure in therapy.

  2. #32
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    Wish I had more time to read this actually. I'm getting in ten minute snatches every now and again but that's not the way to do it. Hopefully on Friday and Saturday I've got to do a couple of longish journeys and that should mean that I get the chance for a good solid read.

  3. #33
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    Must say this thread has intrigued me and I'm very tempted but having read the comments and the chapter titles I'm seriously doubting my ability to get through/understand this book. I may simply be too thick.

  4. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by slim jenkins View Post
    Must say this thread has intrigued me and I'm very tempted but having read the comments and the chapter titles I'm seriously doubting my ability to get through/understand this book. I may simply be too thick.
    NO! PLEASE don't think that! When you find you don't 'get' something, there are generally two possible explanations:

    1) there's something there that you're not getting (but which other people are getting, or could get), or

    2) there's nothing inherently there to be got.

    I'm pretty certain most of the stuff in this book falls into the latter category. But as I said above, I'm choosing to enjoy it on a sort of logo-aesthetic level, without worrying about trying to 'get' something that's essentially nonsense. After all, as Lovecraft was at pains to point out, it's the 'unknowable' that lies at the root of all true horror, and I think that's what Negarestani's getting at here, even if he does so via pages of mindbogglingly turgid pseudo-mathematics.

    I think getting through this book is more a matter of brute determination than having enough 'intelligence' to 'understand' what the fuck he's on about.

    On another note, I like the way he's adapted the 'numogram' on page 25 from a petroglyph in Tassili-n-Ajjer, Algeria, which Erich von Däniken identified as one of his 'ancient astronauts' immortalised by a stone-age artist:

    Last edited by Mr. Tea; 12-10-2008 at 10:06 PM.
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    The concept of an author writing something which appears complex, but in fact has created a meaningless mathematical/theoretical/grammatical puzzle is interesting. Is there 'meaning' in the meaninglessness of it all?

    'mindbogglingly turgid pseudo-mathematics'? You're not selling this book to me. But I'm still curious and will have a look today if I can find it in town. A quick browse should tell me whether I think it's worth my time and effort.

    To some extent, I'm all for literature that challenges my puny intellect - if only to make me feel more content to return to a novel involving guns, heroes who smoke and relatively simple detection.

  6. #36
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    I guess I was also waiting to see what other people say about the book. I haven't finished it yet. I'm a few pages into the war section.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Tea View Post
    NO! PLEASE don't think that! When you find you don't 'get' something, there are generally two possible explanations:
    I'm not sure if it falls in the second category. I don't claim that I understand everything in Cyclonopedia but there are things which I can get and appreciate. IMO, the book's extreme and baffling quality has more to do with an overabundance of sense and details rather than pure nonsense. This strikes me as a Deleuzean approach to text (Logic of Sense). I agree with mistersloane re the structure, it is extremely rhizomatic and this causes a sort of confusion or vertigo because when you follow one idea it suddenly transforms to another completely different idea and you lose the track or find your thoughts destabilized. Another thing is that the concepts are created with tools other than what the reader expects. For example the concept of 'oil as an omnipresent substance' is developed from some kabalistic revelation I think, instead of politics or chemistry. Also, I'm not sure if the numbo jumbo stuff tries to be mathematics or physics. Numbers have had official status outside of mathematics too. For example, Indian cosmosophy and Arabic theology, two cultures which developed numbers, had different usages for numbers than exclusively mathematical. I tend to see the first chapter's numbo jumbo materials as a kind of borderline Kabbalah which is not even purely numerological because the belief produced by them is quickly erased or transformed to fictional or philosophical ideas which require a suspension of belief as other readers noted. The calculations are simple and remain on the level of basic functions, addition and subtraction. Kabbalists approach to numbers doesn't go beyond basic functions, even division and multiplication are avoided. In a nutshell, I don't think there is a striving for mathematical rigor because in this case, what's important is conceptual rigor like in Deleuze and Gauttari's works.

    Quote Originally Posted by mistersloane View Post
    the level of paranoia that comes through while reading it
    I agree with mistersloane again, there is also an immense level of paranoia. Cross of Akht and the number stuff seem to suggest a paranoid concept which ties well into later chapters. For example, in the second chapter about holes and cthulhu, it mentions that the mad archeologist Parsani sees oil in everything. In the first chapter, cross of akht is compared with a sunflower. Does that mean Parsani sees sunflowers as literally and conceptually oily monsters? Imagine a beautiful field of sunflowers and some insane person comes and tells us that they are diagrams of petroleum and clues of something which is buried inside the earth and has something to with the sun and then tries to demonstrate it with numbers. Because people usually believe in numbers and simple calculations. The image of cross of Akht and sunflower also struck me as some sort of love theme which recurs in the book, a flower that grows from the grave of a buried lover, in this case, it's a "buried sun". Oil fountain was another great suggestion.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Tea View Post
    On another note, I like the way he's adapted the 'numerogram' on page 25 from a petroglyph in Tassili-n-Ajjer, Algeria, which Erich von Däniken identified as one of his 'ancient astronauts' immortalised by a stone-age artist:
    LOL! Great discovery Mr. Tea. I had a feeling that the numogram tries to suggest a form of doppelganger between oil and dust (as is discussed in the dust section later in the book) but it looks like it is about ancient astronauts. :-O

    I will write more when I start reading again.
    Last edited by sub-rosa; 09-10-2008 at 12:06 PM.

  7. #37

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    Quote Originally Posted by sub-rosa View Post
    IMO, the book's extreme and baffling quality has more to do with an overabundance of sense and details rather than pure nonsense. This strikes me as a Deleuzean approach to text (Logic of Sense). I agree with mistersloane re the structure, it is extremely rhizomatic and this causes a sort of confusion or vertigo because when you follow one idea it suddenly transforms to another completely different idea and you lose the track or find your thoughts destabilized. Another thing is that the concepts are created with tools other than what the reader expects. For example the concept of 'oil as an omnipresent substance' is developed from some kabalistic revelation I think, instead of politics or chemistry. Also, I'm not sure if the numbo jumbo stuff tries to be mathematics or physics. Numbers have had official status outside of mathematics too. For example, Indian cosmosophy and Arabic theology, two cultures which developed numbers, had different usages for numbers than exclusively mathematical.
    Yes. Reza writes about magick as much as maths. And it's very Deleuzian.

    Hyperstition: [+] [+] [+]

    Hyperstition's plane of unbelief... requires neither belief nor disbelief. It's strength is to have the ability to sidestep the issue while not ignoring it.

    Hyperstitional practice involves recognizing a fiction's effectiveness, using it and still not believing it.

  8. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by vimothy View Post
    Hyperstitional practice involves recognizing a fiction's effectiveness, using it and still not believing it.
    These links might be helpful too:

    Popular Numeracy

    Democratic numeracy

    If I remember right, there was also an article in Collapse I.

  9. #39
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    Edwin Starr: "War - HUH! - what is it good for?"
    Reza Negarestani: "The perpetual begetting of warmachines for the sole purpose of devouring them as they destroy each other - y'all!"
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  10. #40
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    The impression I've got so far is that a lot of the text sounds like it could be mathematics (mostly either topology, full of Cthulhu-esque 'tendrils' and 'wormholes', or dynamical system theory, with implications of catastrophe theory -> Apocalypticism), or it could be physics (especially ideas about entropy, heat death and so on - again, a definite eschatalogoical vibe), or chemistry, psychology, sociology, politics, history, anthropology, archaeology, metaphysics...but what it actually is, is pure occultism masquerading as all these various disparate topics. It's Abdul Alhazred as an insane 21st-century polymath academic, which I suppose must have been the effect Negarestani was going for all along - and it's superbly done, I have to say.

    Something else that's struck me about the book is its 'meaningful meaninglessness' (edit: oops, pre-empted there by slim!) in that it's a bit like listening to someone sing a song in a language you have just the barest grasp of - most of it seems to be meaningless, but by the overall tone of the song you can tell it's a song of love, loss, revenge, celebration or whatever, which is backed up by the occasional sentence or phrase you can decipher. Or maybe it's more like someone who speaks English but is rapping incredibly quickly and segues immediately from one track into the next without pausing for breath, heh.
    Last edited by Mr. Tea; 13-10-2008 at 01:10 AM.
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  11. #41
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    Yeah, I'd basically agree with most of what you said there Mr Tea. Strangely enough I bought a record by Morricone off ebay called Pazuza today and then got stuck into the book on the bus journey here to read loads of banging on about the same deity.

  12. #42
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    Re numbers and the archeologist: I also noticed a mention of Wronski in the first chapter which is interesting. He is one of those crazy polymath figures who had a very unconventional use for mathemathics. In Difference and Repetition, Deleuze mentions him as one of the founders of differential calculus. The guy had come up with a system for synthesizing ideas from all fields of knowledge through calculus (+). He had made a machine for predicting the future and devised mathematical formulations for winning an election, etc. Deleuze follows Wronski in his book by showing that the synthesis of different or even mismatched ideas through a similar method as differential calculus can produce an esoteric or barbaric metaphysics of the universe. Deleuze claims that this metaphysics has huge ethical and political outcomes. As far as I know Wronski believed that a differential synthesis between ideas from different fields of knowledge has an esoteric effect which is stronger than occult. Interestingly, once he lost his position among mathematicians of his time, he found an avid follower, the French occultist Eliphas Levi. Deleuze followed Wronski's interpretation of calculus and numbers in Difference and Repetition and A Thousand Plateaus. The latter work shows how differential or rhizomatic synthesis between ideas create overtly occult fictions and systems (werewolves, vampires, demons, alchemy, or capitalism, nomad, oedipus, etc.) In any case, I agree with the Abdul Alhazred point, that was brilliant!

    Here is what I meant by doppelganger




    By the way, has anyone noticed the weird things going on in the footnotes, I mean strange coincidences between the manuscript and the preface?

  13. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by sub-rosa View Post
    By the way, has anyone noticed the weird things going on in the footnotes, I mean strange coincidences between the manuscript and the preface?
    Not that much of a coincidence - I mean, they were written by the same guy. (edit: or were they? Mistersloane thinks maybe not...is there any way to find out? Does it actually matter? Questions, questions...)

    Ahem - anyway. That's an interesting image, sub-rosa, is it meant to be a sort of combined Christ/Antichrist? His face is as spooky, in its own way, as my ancient spaceman, don't you think?

    Things I'm enjoying so far:

    - The concept that there's something inherently diabolical or horrifying about very old objects or places. This is pure Lovecraft, he's always banging on about things being "detestably ancient" - this comes through especially strongly in Imprisoned With The Pharoahs, set in Egypt (natch), arguably the most (in)famously ancient land of all. I expect a lot of it's pretty dusty, too - and of course it's the interaction of dust with liquid (the Nile) that creates the fertility around which the civilisation grew up.

    - The concept that a country or region can be inherently demonic, cursed, malevolent or diseased, independently of the people living there - Bill Boroughs had the same idea about the Americas:
    Illinois and Missouri, miasma of mound-building peoples, groveling worship of the Food Source, cruel and ugly festivals, dead-end horror of the Centipede God reaches from Moundville to the lunar deserts of coastal Peru. America is not a young land: it is old and dirty and evil before the settlers, before the Indians. The evil is there waiting.
    - The 'Wheel Of Pestilence' on p93 that looks for all the world like a biohazard symbol.

    - The fact that the reflective deserting American colonel is named West. (Shades of Colonel Kurtz, anyone? If any land is an insane and diseased as Negarestani's Middle East, surely it's Coppola's Vietnam or Konrad's Congo...)

    - The fact that little things like this are left to you to spot yourself, thus allowing you to give yourself little clever-points as you notice them.

    - The notion of a unique 'desert theology' - including the neat proposition that, to the Wahhabist mind, any vertical structure (WTC, the Bamiyan Buddhas...) is to be abominated since it is a potential idol and therefore blasphemous, hence the sacredness of the flat desert - which reminds me in parts of Dune, particularly with regard to jihad. Although the emphasis here is more on outright Apocalypticism than the redemptionist warrior-messiah cult of the Fremen.

    - The general feeling of the book as a whole, which is that it's an unfathomably tangled nexus of lines radiating off in all directions and dimensions to connect with a huge assortment of disparate subjects, ideas and manias, like a spider lurking in the centre of an enormous web.

    I really wasn't sure my 10 had been well spent when I started this book, but I'm really getting into it now (as you can probably tell ).

    Edit: I just showed this book to a couple of my friends - they read the blurb and then laughed in my face. Can't say I entirely blame them, to be honest.

    Edit edit: I've changed my mind, I think most of it does mean something, it's just that the something is utterly, screamingly insane, with just enough of a subliminal ring of truth to it to give you the rather scary feeling that in some roundabout way he may be onto something! In the same way that a nutter who's eloquently expostulating a fantastically complicated and highly personalised conspiracy theory is a lot different from a nutter who's just spewing random gibberish. In fact, given the sense of deranged paranoia the book gives off, that may not be a bad analogy...
    Last edited by Mr. Tea; 11-03-2011 at 02:42 PM.
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  14. #44
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    Quote Originally Posted by IdleRich View Post
    ... called Pazuza today and then got stuck into the book on the bus journey here to read loads of banging on about the same deity.
    I didn't like the pazuzu chapter that much, the demon could be less literal. Never heard of Morricone's Pazuzu, is it good?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Tea View Post
    is it meant to be a sort of combined Christ/Antichrist? His face is as spooky, in its own way, as my ancient spaceman, don't you think?
    Yeah, I guess so. It's a Christ/Antichrist, Conscious/Unconscious, Heavenly/Earthly thing. I prefer your ancient astronaut petroglyph, it has an unearthly simplicity.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Tea View Post
    The concept that there's something inherently diabolical or horrifying about very old objects, places or other things. This is pure Lovecraft, he's always banging on about things being "detestably ancient" - this comes through especially strongly in Imprisoned With The Pharoahs, set in Egypt (natch), arguably the most (in)famously ancient land of all. I expect a lot of it's pretty dusty, too - and of course it's the interaction of dust with liquid (the Nile) that creates the fertility around which the civilisation grew up.
    That's what I like about this work too. The objects and the land are much more demonic than the people. Re the ancient quality: yes it is like Lovecraft in that this horrific ancientness is irreconcilable with tradition or human civilizations. I took the "Inorganic demons" endnote as a hint at Nyarlathotep's relics and tools. Also I like this aspect of the book that the middle east is thoroughly demonic. The air (dust) they breathe, the water they drink (the note that claims the word water in semitic/farsi languages actually means oil), the alphabets they use, the sounds they make (solar rattle), the corrupt governments they have (decay), the cities they build (war as a machine) and so on.

    Also the dry/wet mania reads as some kind of Lovecraft with a new perspective. Middle east is dusty and dry, that means it is opposite to Lovecraft's slimy monsters, Antarctica and undersea cities. But, the dust section argues that dry things attract a unique class of monsters and blobby nightmares like petroleum.

    I tend to read the second chapter on holes as some sort of instruction for reading the book. In the book and in the middle east, visible things don't make sense because they are the result of underground or subsurface activities between hidden connections. So there should be a new way to see these holes and burrowing activities between topics and ideas. Here the concept of ( )hole complex looks more important than the concept of rhizome.

    Re desert theology and the war on idols: what I got from the first chapter was that the numbers and the cross of akht speculated the same idea. At one extreme the desert is a monotheistic utopia, at the other extreme it is a nihilist landscape which comes from the materialist history of the earth. Petroleum pushes/lubricates these two poles toward one another to create middle eastern nightmares.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Tea View Post
    The fact that little things like this are left to you to spot yourself, thus allowing you to give yourself little clever-points as you notice them.
    Very true!!! Even at some point I felt that I am finally ready to take that IQ test.

  15. #45
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    Quote Originally Posted by sub-rosa View Post
    I took the "Inorganic demons" endnote as a hint at Nyarlathotep's relics and tools.
    Heh, I was reminded mainly of Gollum (c.f. 'golem' - more Semetic sorcery...) and his 'precious'.

    Quote Originally Posted by sub-rosa View Post
    I tend to read the second chapter on holes as some sort of instruction for reading the book. In the book and in the middle east, visible things don't make sense because they are the result of underground or subsurface activities between hidden connections. So there should be a new way to see these holes and burrowing activities between topics and ideas. Here the concept of ( )hole complex looks more important than the concept of rhizome.
    Yeah, I'm especially intrigued by the idea that plot holes can occur not just in works of fiction but in actual historical narratives, cultures and economies. I also love the way he ties the purely metaphysical discussion together with the layout of Mesopotamian necropolises, with their antechambers, treasure rooms, fake burial chambers or cenotaphs and the subsurface 'plot holes' (literal holes in an archaeological 'plot', or dig site?) connecting them to the real tomb. Which in turn ties in with the recurring theme of duplicity, treachery or 'radical double-dealing' that permeates the whole book.
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