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Archive for October, 2012|Monthly archive page

It’s a Fruit, Goddamn It! by Barry Sanders

In art, history, society on October 31, 2012 at 19:33

From: It’s a Fruit, Goddamn It! by Barry Sanders, Cabinet Magazine, http://cabinetmagazine.org

He consumed Alka-Seltzer tablets like chickpeas. He swore that every person he ever met—including my mother and brother—was stealing him blind. My mother tried to stay out of his way. I stayed completely out of his way. Little by little, tomatoes started to scare the hell out of me. They reminded me too much of his life, his furious, unpredictable, eruptive, and shadowy life. When I saw The Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, I immediately thought of my old man. I even had a hard time with ketchup, a substance we were forbidden to have in the house because the Heinz Company—obviously German—made their sauce out of the leftovers, the bottom of the barrel, the rotten of the rotten. Absolute crap.

Dig slightly below the level of the mob, and you’ll come face to face with the wholesale fruit and vegetable business. It was its own kind of underworld, designed to be sordid: the life is a fast-paced, all-male, cash-based affair, transacted in the darkest hours of the night. Customers knew better than to ask for a receipt. Truckloads of fruits and vegetables—worth thousands of dollars—got sold with just a handshake or a nod of the head. Skimming cash is a way to beat the odds. Produce men pay off the cops to leave them alone. Hookers—the “hot tomatoes”—strolled by every few minutes. Bookies were on first-name basis with every sales guy. Runners made their way from produce stall to produce stall carrying punch cards. Punch out the right number and win an easy fifty or even a hundred-dollar bill.

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Reposted with permission from: Cabinet Magazine

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Animals and the Human Imagination By Linda Simon

In biology, nature, philosophy, science, social sciences on October 31, 2012 at 18:57

From: Animals and the Human Imagination By Linda Simon, The Montreal Review, http://www.themontrealreview.com

In his introduction, Aaron Gross points to a “danger” in a scholarly study of animals whose contributors come from the humanities and social sciences, rather than the natural sciences: that animals themselves might become “absent referents,” as he puts it; when “animals themselves seem beside the point. . . .when there is no one looking in the horse’s mouth or even in the direction of the horse.” Certainly animals as specific references are not often found in this collection. There are passing mentions of pets, but the only animals given extended discussion are wolves (as they represent wildness), dogs (as they are imagined in children’s stories), hogs (as they are treated by industrial farmers), and, notably, bacteria (as imagined in a science fiction novel). Nevertheless, the essays-erudite, engagingly written, and accessible to general readers-serve admirably to call attention, as Gross puts it, “to how a certain understanding of animality is implicit in our self understanding (and thus our understandings of language, symbol, myth, subjectivity, religion, etc.)” and can possibly “expose the naturalness of the category animal as illusory.” Once the human/animal binary is no longer useful, we will be able to see both terms as “strange” and may move toward new conceptions and definitions.

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Reposted with permission from: The Montreal Review

Great Leap Backward by Steve Tsang

In Asia, books, government, history, politics on October 31, 2012 at 18:44

From: Great Leap Backward by Steve Tsang, Literary Review, http://www.literaryreview.co.uk

The author saw his father starved to death but believed the official version of history and even joined the Party. He only found out the reality three decades later as he started his research for this book. As a senior Xinhua journalist he had privileged access to provincial archives. He cross-checked his findings against survivors’ stories to devastating effect, as he tells how at least 36 million Chinese citizens were persecuted or starved to death as the famine was sustained for over three years.

Yang’s research confirms that the official account, which blames Mother Nature and the Soviet Union, is make-believe. No unusual natural disaster or abnormal weather conditions occurred that could have caused the famine. He also proves that the withdrawal of Soviet aid during the period could not have had anything more than the most tangential impact on the food supply in China.

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Reposted with permission from: Literary Review

Losing Things by Rachel Howard

In art, literature, writers on October 29, 2012 at 22:45

From: Losing Things by Rachel Howard, berfrois, http://www.berfrois.com

My problem is that I don’t care about losing things.

Last month, at a restaurant, I left a rough grey scarf that my husband gave me on a rainy evening shortly after we began sleeping with each other, shortly after we fell in love—the scarf that, even after warm spring days arrived, I’d worn everywhere like a child’s blanket. Oh well, I immediately thought when I realized it was gone. I’ll always remember that scarf.

Last year, departing an artist’s studio, I left a herringbone-striped inky blue kimono that an ex-boyfriend purchased in Japan, a kimono many artists liked to draw me wearing because it draped such an entrancing pattern over the forms otherwise known as my hips, my shoulders, my breasts—a kimono that suited me because I had worn it to so many sessions that it felt as natural as my own hair, my own skin. I realized I’d left it only hours after the painting session ended; I took three months to call the artist about getting it back. By then she’d given it to Goodwill. Oh well, I thought, I’ll always remember that kimono.

I have the kind of strong memory that gives you a false sense of indifference towards materiality.

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Reposted with permission from: berfrois

Interstellar Hard Drive by Giles Turnbull

In astronomy, information science, science, technology on October 29, 2012 at 22:28

From: Interstellar Hard Drive by Giles Turnbull, The Morning News, http://www.themorningnews.org

All your precious data, everything you’ve created and every memory you’ve captured and stored, is etched on a hard disk somewhere on Earth. Back it up all you want—it won’t matter if the planet goes. The search for storage beyond the cloud.

The whole concept of putting physical data storage in space is flawed. Why not send the data itself. Pure data. Data is as data does.

“You could try bouncing a laser beam off something large,” muses Lucy. “Maybe Jupiter.”

But Jupiter, orbital conditions permitting, is 32 to 48 light minutes away. At the most, bouncing your data up there and back again would only back it up for just under a couple of hours. There doesn’t seem to be much point.

Surely we can manipulate light to our advantage somehow?

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Reposted with permission from: The Morning News

Philosophy And The Two-Sided Brain by Carol Nicholson

In books, humanities, philosophy, science on October 29, 2012 at 22:15

From: Philosophy And The Two-Sided Brain by Carol Nicholson, Philosophy Now, philosophynow.org

In two New York Times columns, ‘Does Philosophy Matter?’ (1 August 2011) and a week later ‘Does Philosophy Matter? (Part Two)’, Stanley Fish argued that philosophy does not matter to people’s everyday lives. He claimed that most people don’t have philosophical convictions, and for those who do have them, it is what he calls ‘the theory mistake’ to think that their philosophical views have any effect on the way they act outside of the classroom. He writes, “Philosophy is fun; it can be a good mental workout; its formulations sometimes display an aesthetically pleasing elegance. I’m just denying… that its conclusions dictate or generate non-philosophical behavior.” Hundreds of readers posted comments in disagreement with Fish, pointing out examples of ways in which philosophy has influenced the course of history and continues to make a difference to people’s ways of life.

It seems to me that there is truth on both sides of the argument. This is possible because Fish and his critics are operating with different definitions of philosophy. Fish is using a very narrow definition, according to which the function of philosophy is exclusively the analysis of abstract issues, such as whether there are absolute moral truths. In this thinking, the discipline of philosophy is not related to religion, ethics, politics, science, history, literature, art, or any other aspect of human experience. This severely limited view of the role of philosophy was dominant in English-speaking countries during the latter half of the twentieth century, but few philosophers today hold such an extreme position. The medieval view that philosophy is ‘the Queen of the Sciences’ is no longer widely held, but most philosophers think that studying their discipline can make a difference to one’s life outside the seminar room, although they may disagree about exactly what kind of difference. Many would argue against Fish that even if philosophy cannot give access to truths that are somehow more ultimate than scientific or historical facts, it can offer self-knowledge about the most basic assumptions and values that govern our thinking and action, and a clearer understanding of what we are doing that can help us to do it better. This links with a tradition going back to the ancient Greeks and which gives philosophy its name, meaning ‘the love of wisdom’. It’s Plato’s phrase, and he meant by it curiosity about all aspects of knowledge and experience. According to this more expansive definition, philosophy aims to understand ultimate truths about the universe and human nature (metaphysics), the extent and limits of knowledge (epistemology), and the principles that can give guidance in how to live a good life (ethics).

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Reposted with permission from: Philosophy Now

Alice Walker: “Go to the Places That Scare You” by Valerie Schloredt

In books, film, history, human rights, literature, nature, North America, politics, society, war, writers on October 27, 2012 at 20:17

From: Alice Walker: “Go to the Places That Scare You” by Valerie Schloredt, yes! Magazine, http://www.yesmagazine.org

Alice Walker is a poet, essayist, and commentator, but she’s best known for her prodigious accomplishments as a writer of literary fiction. Her novel The Color Purple won the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award in 1983 and quickly became a classic of world literature. Set in an African-American community in the rural South during the decades before World War II, the novel is told in letters written by Celie, a woman who survives oppression and abuse with her spirit not only intact, but transcendent.

Walker’s writing is characterized by an ever-present awareness of injustice and inequality. But whether describing political struggle—as in Meridian, which deals with the civil rights movement—or meditating on the human relationship to nature and animals, as in her latest book, The Chicken Chronicles, her work conveys the possibility of change. In Walker’s vision, grace is available through love and a deep connection to the beauty of the world.

Walker was born in the segregated South, the eighth child in a family who made their living as sharecroppers in Georgia. She came of age during the civil rights movement, and emerged early in her career as a defining voice in feminism and an advocate for African-American women writers. She is a prominent activist who has worked, marched, traveled, and spoken out to support the causes of justice, peace, and the welfare of the earth.

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Reposted with permission from: yes! Magazine

Utopia’s second coming by Antony Funnell with Craig Bremner and Erik Olin Wright

In audio, government, history, philosophy, politics, society, technology, theory on October 27, 2012 at 20:01

From: Utopia’s second coming by Antony Funnell with Craig Bremner and Erik Olin Wright,  ABC Radio National, http://www.abc.net.au

Excerpt from Thomas Moore documentary: In 1535 Thomas Moore is brought to trial. He is an embarrassment to the King, a living opposition to state policies. Henry must make an example of Moore.

Antony Funnell: Poor old Thomas Moore. He was a man of religion, of principle and of literature. But he lost his head, of course, for not doing the King’s bidding. Now, if you ask me, what he should have got the chop for, in my humble opinion, was for giving the world one of its great and enduring frustrations; the idea of Utopia.

Craig Bremner: Utopia is not about an ideal location, it’s about the location of ideas. And what I mean by that is that we’ve become transfixed by the description that Utopia is somewhere and can be, in a sense, attained, missing the point that it is both presented…the very, very first version, the book that Thomas Moore wrote, presented as both an ideal location, but also a location that we don’t necessarily want. And its real function is the ideas that it brings back to the here and now.

Nicole Pohl: What we have seen, certainly after 2008, with the economic collapse and now with the economic crisis, across the Western world at least, people are picking up on the study of Utopia again and are trying to imagine different forms of society’s blueprints that are precisely not either socialism or communism or capitalism.

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Reposted with permission from: ABC Radio National

Encountering the archive by Simon Coleman

In anthropology, history, North America, religion, sexuality, society on October 27, 2012 at 19:49

From: Sex abuse in the Catholic Church: Encountering the archive by Simon Coleman, The Immanent Frame, http://blogs.ssrc.org/tif/

A more historical question relates to the framing and trajectory of the issue in the archive itself and whether, for instance, we can discern a shift away from an exclusively spiritual framing of behavior by church officials towards one where both legal and psychiatric languages are being brought in, if sometimes also conspicuously ignored.

Thinking about the archive in terms of the history of Christianity prompts another question for me. I wonder about the extent to which invoking history suggests both causality and context. In other words, does locating these sexual acts in the context of the history of Christianity or Catholicism either explain them or explain them away? The answer to both of these questions should, I think, be “no,” but we still need to look for patterns and shifts in the trajectories of opinion or activity that we might deem to be significant. In what follows, I use different histories to show how they inflect my readings of the archives, though I do not attempt to connect these four historical fragments in a systematic way.

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Reposted with permission from: The Immanent Frame

Announcement: Thank you!

In Announcements on October 25, 2012 at 01:33

anagnori received more permissions. We would like to say ‘thank you’ to:

Digital Civil Rights in Europe

Ephemera Journal

George Monbiot

Hyperrhiz Journal

The Immanent Frame

International Journal of Žižek Studies

Killing the Buddha

Philosophy Now

Rhizomes Journal

RWE – Ralph Waldo Emerson Institute

University of Oxford Podcasts

The Technological Elimination of Pain by Ben Goertzel

In ethics, medicine, philosophy, psychology, science on October 24, 2012 at 22:42

From: The Technological Elimination of Pain is Both Feasible and Possible by Ben Goertzel, Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies, http://ieet.org

The English word “pain” refers, primarily, to a subjective experience — the experience of something hurting.   But this experience isn’t a simple, indecomposable thing — it’s actually a complex experience with multiple layers.  Understanding the prospect of abolishing pain, involves carefully distinguishing these layers.

To abolish, or drastically reduce, our experience of pain, we will need to deal with pain in terms of its neural and cognitive correlates.  Subjective experiences — qualia — are different from neural or cognitive structures or dynamics.  But there are correlations.   For instance, deep thought correlates with the neocortex — if you remove it, the person doesn’t think deeply anymore.  The feeling of reminiscence correlates with cognitive structures related to emotion and episodic memory, and with neural regions such as the limbic system and the neocortex. And so forth.

What are the neural and cognitive correlates of the experience of pain?

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Reposted with permission from: IEET

Breaking the Silence by Pratap Bhanu Mehta

In Asia, ethics, government, philosophy, politics, sociology on October 24, 2012 at 22:32

From: Breaking the Silence. Why we don’t talk about inequality—and how to start again By Pratap Bhanu Mehta, The Caravan, http://www.caravanmagazine.in

The Principle of equality is having a revolutionary effect on life in contemporary India.” This was the considered assessment of the eminent American political scientist Myron Weiner, writing for Foreign Affairs in 1962. In a society still marked by egregiously obscene forms of inequality, the term “revolutionary” seems extravagant, even five decades after Weiner pronounced his judgment. But determining what constitutes “revolutionary” social change depends on how that change is measured—and in the second decade after Independence, the distance that India had travelled from its starting point would have indeed seemed immense. Political equality had been enshrined in the Constitution, untouchability had been delegitimised, political representation was widely shared, zamindari had been abolished, a new development paradigm was instituted, and the state defined its goals in terms of common welfare.

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Reposted with permission from: The Caravan

Are you immune to received images?

In culture, media, politics, society on October 24, 2012 at 22:22

From: Are you immune to received images?, berfrois, www.berfrois.com

Most people, especially if they are well educated, still believe that advertising (or television, for that matter) has no effect on them or on their beliefs. Their intelligence protects them against invasive imposed imagery, even when an image is repeated a hundred times in their heads. People believe in their immunity even though the imagery does not actually communicate through the language of logic or contemplation. Images ride a freeway into your brain and remain there permanently. No thought is involved. Every advertiser knows this. As a viewer, you may sometimes say, “I don’t believe this,” but the image remains anyway.

My late partner in the advertising business, Howard Gossage, spoke frequently to audiences about “the dirty little secret” among advertisers: that their silly superficial meaningless trivial imagery nonetheless goes into your brain and doesn’t come back out. “It doesn’t matter how observant or intelligent you are,” he said. If you are watching television, you will absorb the images. Once the image is embedded, it is permanently embedded. You cannot get rid of it.

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Reposted with permission from: berfrois

“Architecture” by Georges Bataille (1929) by The Mass Ornament

In architecture, culture, society, theory on October 21, 2012 at 00:10

From: From the Golden Age of Media Criticism: “Architecture” by Georges Bataille (1929) by The Mass Ornament, http://themassornament.com

Architecture is the expression of the true nature of societies, as physiognomy is the expression of the nature of individuals. However, this comparison is applicable, above all, to the physiognomy of officials (prelates, magistrates, admirals). In fact, only society’s ideal nature – that of authoritative command and prohibition – expresses itself in actual architectural constructions. Thus great monuments rise up like dams, opposing a logic of majesty and authority to all unquiet elements; it is in the form of cathedrals and palaces that church and state speak to and impose silence upon the crowds. Indeed, monuments obviously inspire good social behaviour and often even genuine fear. The fall of the Bastille is symbolic of this state of things. This mass movement is difficult to explain otherwise than by popular hostility toward monuments, which are their veritable masters.

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Reposted with permission from: The Mass Ornament

What Democratic Europe? by Etienne Balibar

In economics, Europe, government, sociology on October 20, 2012 at 23:58

From: What Democratic Europe? A Response to Jürgen Habermas by Etienne Balibar, Social Europe Journal, http://www.social-europe.eu

Jürgen Habermas expressed a clear position on Europe’s current situation and the decisions that need to be taken: following the Constitution of Europe translated in May, Le Monde published the German philosophers’ latest point of view under the heading ‘More than ever, Europe’. Essentially, Habermas’ argument is that the Euro crisis has nothing to do with the ‘errors’ of the big spender states that would struggle to catch up the more ‘thrifty’ states (in German, Schuld means both error and debt …), but everything to do with the inability of states pitted against one another by speculators to level the market playing field, and to weigh in favour of global financial regulation. That is why there will be no way out of the crisis if Europe does not decide to ‘take the step’ towards political integration that will enable it to simultaneously defend its currency and pursue its social policies and policies aimed at reducing inequality that justify its existence.

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Reposted according to copyright notice from: Social Europe Journal website

 

Call for Action: V-Day Until the Violence Stops

In human rights, video on October 20, 2012 at 23:30

Please visit the V-DAY website or One Billion Rising for more information.

Warning: This video contains scenes of violence and may not be suitable for young audiences.

The Ideology of Color by Fernando Castro

In aesthetics, art, culture, ethnicity, Europe, history of art, politics, religion, sociology, South America, visual arts on October 15, 2012 at 19:07

From: The Ideology of Color by Fernando Castro, Literal Magazine, http://www.literalmagazine.com

Many of the works of The Ideology of Color arose from Texas ́ history class when one of my Mexican students of Native-American descendance asked me when white people first arrived. Any artist who ever painted people knows that white is perhaps the only color not to be used for human skin –unless you are painting dead people. Even the ghostly skin of Giovanna Cenami in Van Eyck’s The Arnolfini Marriage (1414), is conspicuously different from the truly white headpiece she is wear- ing. After this two-second thought I blurted out, “There are no white people.”

Noticing the skeptical expression on my student’s face I took out a piece of white paper and added, “There is nobody this color.” In order to show my young students how white people would look like if they existed, I decided to make photographs of truly white people. I went through my negatives to see which ones I could use for what would become the White People series. Back in 1988 I had taken pictures of people and their dogs in a canine competition in Peru. These images were fitting because some of the ideas behind the motivation of many people to call themselves “white” are connected to the project of selectively breeding dogs to obtain Dobermans, French Poodles, etc. I painted the skin in the black-and- white negatives with an opaque medium so that they printed totally white.

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Reposted with permission from: Literal Magazine

Death by Degrees by n + 1 Magazine

In academia, education, government, history, North America, society, universities on October 15, 2012 at 18:33

From: Death by Degrees by n + 1 Magazine, http://nplusonemag.com

In 605 CE, a year after murdering his father and seizing the throne, the Chinese emperor Yang Guang established the world’s first meritocracy. Weary of making bureaucratic appointments solely on the basis of letters of recommendation, Yang set aside a number of posts for applicants who performed well on a new system of imperial examinations. In theory, any peasant who took the trouble to memorize 400,000 characters — which is to say, anyone who conducted six years of study with an expensive tutor — could join the country’s political elite.

Jean Baudrillard once suggested an important correction to classical Marxism: exchange value is not, as Marx had it, a distortion of a commodity’s underlying use value; use value, instead, is a fiction created by exchange value. In the same way, systems of accreditation do not assess merit; merit is a fiction created by systems of accreditation. Like the market for skin care products, the market for credentials is inexhaustible: as the bachelor’s degree becomes democratized, the master’s degree becomes mandatory for advancement. Our elaborate, expensive system of higher education is first and foremost a system of stratification, and only secondly — and very dimly — a system for imparting knowledge.

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Reposted with permission from: N + 1 Magazine

The Raw and the Cooked by Justin E. H. Smith and Cătălin Avramescu

In books, civilisation, Europe, government, humanities, interview, philosophy, science, sociology, theory on October 15, 2012 at 03:16

From: The Raw and the Cooked: An Interview with Cătălin Avramescu by Justin E. H. Smith and Cătălin Avramescu, CABINET Magazine, http://cabinetmagazine.org

The beginning of the modern age is heralded by the discovery of the New World, whose human inhabitants were principally noteworthy for their custom, real or imagined, of eating other humans. Scarcely had Columbus returned from his first encounter with the Arawaks of Hispaniola when this point of apparent cultural difference became for European moralists the centerpiece of their search for the ultimate grounds of morality and for the causes of the diversity of moral systems. The figure of the cannibal, in this sense, plays a leading role in the emergence of early modern moral and political philosophy.

The Romanian philosopher and political scientist Cătălin Avramescu is the first scholar to notice the importance of the cannibal in modern European thought, and to attempt to write a comprehensive intellectual history of anthropophagy. His book first appeared in Romanian in 2003 under the title Filozoful crud (“the cruel philosopher” or “the raw philosopher,” depending on context), and in 2009 was published by Princeton University Press as An Intellectual History of Cannibalism. In June 2010, Justin E. H. Smith spoke with Avramescu in Bucharest about, among other things, the difficulty of intellectualizing such a bloody topic as this. This interview was subsequently fleshed out in a series of e-mail exchanges.

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Reposted with permission from: CABINET Magazine

Choose Your Choice by Claude S. Fischer

In culture, government, North America, politics, psychology, sociology on October 14, 2012 at 16:25

From: Choose Your Choice: The Great American Obsession by Claude S. Fischer Boston Review,  http://www.bostonreview.net

Choice has vastly expanded over American history, and not just in the material realm—the thousands of items in the supermarket, the world of travel destinations, and so on—but also in terms of social opportunities. Through changes in access, custom, and law, Americans have obtained freedom to choose their life paths and companions. Marrying across religious and racial lines, for example, has become increasingly common and acceptable. Gay marriage is coming, too, and already here in some places. Chacun à son goût, say the French, but it’s the Americans who really mean it.

Not only are there now more choices to make, but, over time, more kinds of Americans have gained the power to choose. The ideology of the eighteenth century held that only people who were truly independent—white men of property—were competent to choose wisely. The vote was, sensibly, then, restricted to such men. The next couple of centuries brought the working class, racial minorities, women, and young adults greater rights to choose and also more realistic choices. When women, for instance, could own their own property, earn their own income in respectable professions, and be heard in court, marriage became more equitable and more a matter of equal choice.

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Reposted with permission from: Boston Review

Lonesome No More! Kurt Vonnegut’s Freethinking Heritage by Heather Augustyn

In community, literature, nature, North America, religion, science, writers on October 11, 2012 at 05:57

From: Lonesome No More! Kurt Vonnegut’s Freethinking Heritage by Heather Augustyn, The Humanist, http://thehumanist.org

… It was after the interview was published by In These Times (Vonnegut was honorary editor of the Chicago-based magazine), that I became more interested in what Vonnegut had to say to me about his family heritage of freethought, a topic upon which not only he wrote, but his great grandfather Clemens Vonnegut too, in published essays and in his own eulogy. Freethought was rich in German culture, as well as the cultures of other European immigrants to the United States. In fact, Clemens Vonnegut founded the Freethinkers Society of Indianapolis in 1870 and served as president of the organization for many years. He was also the founder of a freethinker Sunday school and fought against religion in schools as a member of the Indianapolis Public School Board. In those days many freethinkers were involved in educational issues. Today, freethinkers may choose to be called secular humanists, agnostics, or atheists but to Kurt Vonnegut Jr. they were skeptics and they were his kin. Naturally, skepticism and kinship are two themes that run throughout his fiction.

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Reposted with permission from: The Humanist

Casting the Net: The rise of online dating in India By Snigdha Poonam

In Asia, culture, gender, sexuality, society on October 11, 2012 at 05:50

From: Casting the Net: The rise of online dating in India By Snigdha Poonam, The Caravan, http://www.caravanmagazine.in

Shy and soft-spoken with deep and expressive eyes, Aditya spent most of his time writing poetry, none of which he showed anybody. For him, writing was the only relief from the tedium, the only hope for beauty. “I would also write love letters for friends in college. They looked to me to give words to their feelings,” he said in an earthy Hindi. Although a seasoned Cyrano, Aditya didn’t try his luck with any girl: “I liked girls, but I never spoke to any.” Girls and guys in his town would meet from time to time, and on a few occasions even got into relationships—but he refused to take that risk. “Gorakhpur has a small and close-knit society, and I did not want to jeopardise my family’s reputation.”

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Reposted with permission from: The Caravan

The politics of spirituality by Courtney Bender and Omar M. McRoberts

In academia, North America, politics, research on October 11, 2012 at 05:37

From: The politics of spirituality: What does spirituality mean in America today? posted by Courtney Bender and Omar M. McRoberts, The Immanent Frame, http://blogs.ssrc.org

Social scientists frequently juxtapose spirituality to religion and identify the former by way of what it lacks in comparison to the latter. In particular, spirituality would appear to lack institutions, authority structures, community, and even history—all of which are considered integral to religion, such as it is widely understood today. Congregational identity, membership, and attendance are key markers for studies of Americans’ religious convictions, and the congregation, therefore, is taken to be an especially important, if not the definitive, site for the political and social mobilization of religious Americans. Against this backdrop, the rising number of “religious nones” (as well as shifts in congregational styles [see Chaves 2009]) emerge not only as new empirical facts but, insofar as their presence is measured against a norm of voluntary participation, also appear to engender a certain anxiety on the part of the scholars who study them (e.g., Olson 2010; Putnam and Campbell 2010). Though “religious nones” may be believers, they appear to lack the kinds of social connectivity that are recognizable to scholars, and that the latter have deemed essential to voluntary political participation. Insofar as spirituality emerges as a term associated with such individuals—and one that seems to sound the alarms about the problems of individualism—it appears as either the weak cousin or the crazy uncle of the norm that continues (or that should continue) to endure (see, e.g., Bellah et al. 1985), or as the spark of regeneration and the movement toward a “new” social order (e.g., York 1995).

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Reposted with permission from: The Immanent Frame

Žižek: silence and the real desert by Rob Weatherill

In Europe, humanities, philosophy, psychology, sociology, theory, writers on October 7, 2012 at 04:14

From: Žižek: silence and the real desert by Rob Weatherill, International Journal of Žižek Studies, http://zizekstudies.org

… For Žižek, opposing the Law via direct action, what he calls ‘the rumspringa of resistance’ only reinforces the System through our robust participation within it. Rumspringa refers to the “running around” of Amish youth, permitted experimentation and transgression for a brief time before they either, re-enter their strict community as evermore committed members, or leave altogether. Žižek is also against humanitarian aid, giving to charities to support orphans in Africa, opposing oil drilling in a wide-life area, presumably buying fair trade coffee, ethical products, or supporting feminists in Muslim countries, and so on. All the things that make well educated middle class people feel that they are doing “their bit” with their little rumspringa, before they revert to their normal lives. He is also against the by now standard response of dis-identifying with the system – I know it’s all a game – while participating fully within it. Or, more radically, going to California or Thailand to meditate, Zen-style, for a week or for a year – maybe the ultimate self-absorption in the guise of pan-spiritual withdrawal. What Žižek wants to explore is a “new space” outside the hegemonic position and its mirroring negation – the Heideggerian sense of a clearing, the opening up of a place, ‘through a gesture which is thoroughly violent in its impassive refusal…to quote Mallarmé – nothing will have taken place but the place itself’ (Ibid: 381). This gesture is no-thing. It is the ‘immanent difference, gap, between this [everyday] reality and its own void; that is to discern the void that separates material reality from itself , that makes it “non-all”’(Ibid: 383).

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Reposted with permission from: International Journal of Žižek Studies

 

The Tyranny of Artistic Modernism by Mark Anthony Signorelli and Nikos A. Salingaros

In aesthetics, architecture, art, civilisation, culture, education, nature, society on October 7, 2012 at 04:01

From: The Tyranny of Artistic Modernism by Mark Anthony Signorelli and Nikos A. Salingaros, New English Review, http://www.newenglishreview.org

We who live in the Western world at the present time continue to suffer under the reign of a great tyranny — the tyranny of artistic modernism. The modernist aesthetic, which dominates our age, takes a variety of forms in the respective arts — in architecture, a lack of scale and ornamentation combined with the overwhelming deployment of materials like glass, steel, and brutalist concrete; in the plastic arts, a rejection of natural forms mixed with an unmistakable tendency towards the repulsive or meretricious; in literature, non-linear narrative, esoteric imagery, and an almost perfect lack of poetic form and diction. Yet common now to the practice of all these arts are certain primal impulses which may be said to form the core of the modernist aesthetic — a hostility and defiance towards all traditional standards of excellence, discovered over millennia of craftsmanship and reflection; a notion of the artist’s freedom as absolute, and entirely divorced from the ends of his art; and, as Roger Scruton has so clearly demonstrated, a refusal to apply the category of beauty to either the creation or the estimation of artwork. Standing behind this aesthetic is an ideology supported by nearly the entire institutional structure of the Western world — the universities, the publishing houses, the galleries, the journals, the prize committees, the zoning boards. Books that evince a fidelity to modernist principles are the ones that get published. Buildings that conform to the brutal codes of modernism and its derivatives are the ones that get built. Whatever creative efforts spring from other sources of inspiration other than modernist aggression are invariably ignored and dismissed as something antiquated or reactionary. This is the great totalitarian system of our times — the dictatorship of modernism.

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Reposted with permission from: New English Review

What keeps societies together by Richard Sennett and Richard David Precht

In anthropology, civilisation, community, philosophy, society on October 7, 2012 at 03:53

From: What keeps societies together by Richard Sennett and Richard David Precht, CafeBabel, cafebabel.com

Last night the anthropologist Richard Sennett talked to philosopher Richard David Precht on the main stage in the Haus der Berliner Festspiele about his new book Together: The Rituals, Pleasures and Politics of Cooperation. The event took place as a part of the International Literature Festival and brought together many people curious to experience the scholars in person and to find out more about the nature of cooperation as a social process and about the exclusively human problems of living together on a daily basis.

The conversation was held in two languages and translated simultaneously. It clearly pointed out to the differences of academic discourses within these two cultural and linguistic environments. Sennett spoke slowly and always made his points very clear using examples from other disciplines and arts. Precht spoke fast, made use of monster compounds and long sentences typical for the German language and drew many references to the history of mankind and philosophical theories. Both of them showed their sense of humor and made it a highly interesting and very inspiring hour and a half.

“If I was to write the book a year later, I would have written about the European crisis” started Richard Sennett when introducing his newly published work. So it would have been about the crisis because it perfectly illustrates the theory that our societies are characterized with lack of social understanding of the Other and of what cooperation is about. One of his main points is that cooperation is founded in natural behavior and that it is not ethical – i.e. we need to cooperate in order to survive. We would not be able to learn anything if we did not cooperate with our teachers. Our skills of cooperation tend however to be very weak if we have to use them towards people who are different than ourselves. It is easy to be nice to people who are like us, claims Sennett but what is a real challenge is to develop a skill to cooperate in order to cross cultural borders. According to him, this very skill is a bridge, a mediator between the natural and the cultural. Cooperation does not equal ethical behavior, nor is it based on altruism (which does not involve an exchange and which is not dialogic) and insofar it is against the principles of protestant ethics.

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Reposted with permission from: CafeBabel

How Your Cell Phone Hurts Your Relationships by Helen Lee Lin

In internet, psychology, research, science, sociology, technology on October 4, 2012 at 06:34

From: How Your Cell Phone Hurts Your Relationships by Helen Lee Lin, Scientific American, http://www.scientificamerican.com

Most of us are no stranger to this scenario:  A group of friends sits down to a meal together, laughing, swapping stories, and catching up on the news – but not necessarily with the people in front of them!  Nowadays, it’s not unusual to have one’s phone handy on the table, easily within reach for looking up movie times, checking e-mails, showing off photos, or taking a call or two.  It’s a rare person who doesn’t give in to a quick glance at the phone every now and then.  Today’s multifunctional phones have become an indispensable lifeline to the rest of the world.

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Reposted with permission from: Scientific American

Armenia: Minority Group Opposes New Marriage Rules by Gayane Mkrtchyan – Caucasus

In anthropology, Asia, community, culture, ethnicity, gender, government on October 4, 2012 at 03:56

From: Armenia: Minority Group Opposes New Marriage Rules by Gayane Mkrtchyan – Caucasus, Institute for War & Peace Reporting, http://iwpr.net

A proposed change to the law in Armenia setting 18 as the minimum age at which women and men can marry has run into opposition from the Yezidi minority.

Until now, women have been able to get married at 17, a year earlier than men. The officials behind the proposed change say they want to ensure gender equality, and also to keep young women in full-time education, in light of a change to the rules which requires everyone to complete 12 years of schooling instead of ten.

“At 17, girls are still studying, so it’s no longer appropriate for them to get married,” Justice Minister Hrayr Tovmasyan said. “There’s also been a ruling by the health minister that early pregnancy can cause health problems later on.”

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Reposted with permission from: IWPR

Forgetful Pleasures by Marta Figlerowicz

In art, books, literature, writers on October 4, 2012 at 01:00

From: Forgetful Pleasures: Michel Houellebecq’s Exciting Tale of Boredom by Marta Figlerowicz Michel Houellebecq’s Exciting Tale of Boredom, Boston Review, http://www.bostonreview.net

It’s become something of a joke: when you reach for a Michel Houellebecq novel, you brace yourself. For what? Shock, goes one pat answer. Boredom, goes the other.

Both are somewhat disingenuous. On the grand scale of literary excesses, Houellebecq’s stylistic and sexual offenses are trifling. He’s no Marquis de Sade, no D. H. Lawrence, no Joseph Conrad, no Robert Musil. Yet, together, these answers get at the heart of what might make you keep turning his pages no matter how much effort it takes.

Houellebecq’s prose shows a heightened self-awareness about excitement. His characters study stimulating pleasures—sex, usually—like a set of impossibly difficult equations. How many sexual acts equal a happy week, a happy year, a happy marriage? How many satisfying ones in sequence do you have stamina for? (The Elementary Particles: “By violently contracting the muscle and inhaling deeply just before orgasm, it was possible to avoid ejaculating. . . . it was a goal, something worth working toward.”)

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Reposted with permission from: Boston Review

Revolution in Hungary by Thomas Ország-Land

In Europe, history, politics, society on October 3, 2012 at 07:00

From: Revolution in Hungary: A Country Still Strangled by Political Corruption by Thomas Ország-Land, New English Review, http://www.newenglishreview.org

FROM REVOLUTION to revolution, I have watched Hungary evolve over the past half-century.

The more dramatic of the two revolutions took place in the autumn of 1956 – just 56 years ago this month (Oct) – when a beaten, starved and humiliated subject people of fewer than 10 million souls managed to stare down the brutal might of the Soviet Union. The more triumphant revolution may be unfolding now that Hungary’s divided democratic opposition forces are learning to collaborate against the vicious remnants of political corruption inherited from the Communist system.

Would the people who marched on parliament all those years ago one heady late-October evening have been prepared to risk everything for the petty power manipulations now being pursued inside that building in their name? Certainly not. Was the revolution worth the sacrifice? Probably, for those among us who have survived unhurt.

Hungary in 1956 was very different from the picture that has been handed down to us in all but the very latest history books. The country had experienced all the horror of the delayed first industrial revolution of the region, concentrated into a few brief years by the merciless pace of Soviet economic planning. Traditionally the breadbasket of Europe, Hungary was starving as a result of the Communists’ ruthless policy of forced agricultural collectivisation.

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Reposted with permission from: New English Review

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