Conservatives and Porn: Surprise, Surprise.

From New Scientist (makes me wonder what happened to the old scientist): 

“When it comes to adult entertainment, it seems people are more the same than different,” says Benjamin Edelman at Harvard Business School.

However, there are some trends to be seen in the data. Those states that do consume the most porn tend to be more conservative and religious than states with lower levels of consumption, the study finds.

“Some of the people who are most outraged turn out to be consumers of the very things they claimed to be outraged by,” Edelman says.


The biggest consumer, Utah, averaged 5.47 adult content subscriptions per 1000 home broadband users; Montana bought the least with 1.92 per 1000. “The differences here are not so stark,” Edelman says.

Number 10 on the list was West Virginia at 2.94 subscriptions per 1000, while number 41, Michigan, averaged 2.32.

Eight of the top 10 pornography consuming states gave their electoral votes to John McCain in last year’s presidential election – Florida and Hawaii were the exceptions. While six out of the lowest 10 favoured Barack Obama.

The rest of this essay is here.

Suicide Squad

“A tense and peculiar family, the Oedipuses,” a wag once observed. Well, when it comes to dysfunction, the Wittgensteins of Vienna could give the Oedipuses a run for their money. The tyrannical family patriarch was Karl Wittgenstein (1847-1913), a steel, banking and arms magnate. He and his timorous wife, Leopoldine, brought nine children into the world. Of the five boys, three certainly or probably committed suicide and two were plagued by suicidal impulses throughout their lives. Of the three daughters who survived into adulthood, two got married; both husbands ended up insane and one died by his own hand. Even by the morbid standards of late Hapsburg Vienna these are impressive numbers. But tense and peculiar as the Wittgensteins were, the family also had a strain of genius. Of the two sons who didn’t kill themselves, one, Paul (1887-1961), managed to become an internationally celebrated concert pianist despite the loss of his right arm in World War I. The other, Ludwig (1889-1951), was the greatest philosopher of the 20th century. Continue reading

Re-Branding Humanities?

An interesting article from the NY Times:

One idea that elite universities like Yale, sprawling public systems like Wisconsin and smaller private colleges like Lewis and Clark have shared for generations is that a traditional liberal arts education is, by definition, not intended to prepare students for a specific vocation. Rather, the critical thinking, civic and historical knowledge and ethical reasoning that the humanities develop have a different purpose: They are prerequisites for personal growth and participation in a free democracy, regardless of career choice. But in this new era of lengthening unemployment lines and shrinking university endowments, questions about the importance of the humanities in a complex and technologically demanding world have taken on new urgency. Previous economic downturns have often led to decreased enrollment in the disciplines loosely grouped under the term “humanities” — which generally include languages, literature, the arts, history, cultural studies, philosophy and religion. Many in the field worry that in this current crisis those areas will be hit hardest.

Already scholars point to troubling signs. A December survey of 200 higher education institutions by The Chronicle of Higher Education and Moody’s Investors Services found that 5 percent have imposed a total hiring freeze, and an additional 43 percent have imposed a partial freeze. In the last three months at least two dozen colleges have canceled or postponed faculty searches in religion and philosophy, according to a job postings page on The Modern Language Association’s end-of-the-year job listings in English, literature and foreign languages dropped 21 percent for 2008-09 from the previous year, the biggest decline in 34 years. Continue reading

Root Of All Evil II.

Following Michael’s suggestion (or my interpretation of his comment as a suggestion), I am titling this post appropriately. I have no idea what is up with Graham Harman’s late cat fight with yours truly, but it’s easy to see why I can’t stop going there again and again – it’s so easy and so effortless, because it’s clearly driven by some sort of strange logic. I’m very close to feeling guilty about it, it’s like taking candy from children. To drive Harman’s traffic (and boost his ego) even more, I’m linking to the petty brawl here (this is bjk’s comment), here, here and here (and also here). Since Harman’s blog doesn’t really make the comments very easy to find, enjoy this excellent selection! I feel so special now, finally I feel like I truly have a life.

P.S. I hope that it’s all good fun at this point and no one’s taking it too seriously….

Root Of All Evil? (Video)

Richard Dawkins scares us with a cool video (and a soft British accent saying things like “There are people out there trying to kill you and me…”) – the question mark in the title of the program is, of course, a kind of gesturing, since we all know what Dawkins thinks about religion, therefore I dedicate this post to the lost art of gesture: Continue reading

Philosophical Conversions.

I wonder if someone already wrote a book about it, but it would be nice to collect all the stories of philosophical conversions into one nice reference guide. I am thinking about examples like Rousseau’s realization that arts and sciences corrupt morals that came to him on the way to Vincennes in 1749 while he was on the way to visit jailed Diderot – since that resulted in 1751 treatise on arts and sciences, Rousseau’s first work, in a sense, Rousseau’s philosophical life begins at that conversion. Any examples for a future anthology?

“I Must Break You” (Updated)

[I promise, this is the last one on the matter, but I can’t resist, simply can’t – sorry it’s a bit long, but not as long as the original exchange.]

There’s rarely so much obvious hesistation followed by a resolution as in Alexei’s “What the hell, I’ll add my two cents here too” – but who am I to talk here? I would have probably done the same thing in view of so many “uncharitable” readings of Kant, hold on to this word, we’ll see it in a second. Since we know already why Levi hates Kant so much – I think his initial hesitation in that post was justified, it’s honest to admit it, but still unwise vis-a-vis an ongoing debate – it’s easier to process the following exchange. Before we dive into it, I’d like to say that I’ve really enjoyed reading it, even though in most cases siding with Alexei, I did agree with Levi on some points, even if he was coming very close to a really serious critique of Kant’s argument and never really quite got there.

So after an ininital back and forth following the fateful “What the hell” we get this affected remark from Levi: Continue reading

Internalize My Law!

I have been reading Terry Eagleton’s Holy Terror in the last couple of days, and I think I’m enjoying it, despite having a bit of an ambiguous initial encounter with Eagleton’s work earlier in life. It is full of great literary references and it makes for an enjoyable read when you recognize and understand the allusions, having been brought up on mostly Russian and Soviet literature, and Eagleton’s allusions coming primarily from Western tradition, it makes for a good self-esteem boosting exercise. The first couple of chapters deal with Dionysus, Greek tragedy, law, sublime, order, chaose and all kinds of other cool subjects, it’s quite a feast. However, when reading about law I kept remembering Zizek’s favorite example that, in some or other variation, sounds something like that: Imagine a father asking a young child to go see grandma, the child refuses (hates grandma) and father forces him to go anyway. Father is the law in this scenarios, the child is the constituents in a state of law, their refusal is overcome with enforcement yet they retain a sort of internal rebellious attitude toward the law because they realize that they are forced to obey. In Zizek’s scenario then a second variant has a different twist: a father, upon hearing of the child’s refusal to go, leaves the final decision up to the child- “Well, if you don’t want to go, it’s ok, it’s up to you.” Zizek’s comment is usually something like this: “Look at this permissive parent, he thinks he’s leaving the decision up to the child, but in fact he is pressing for an internalization of the law, now any decision of the child will be supposedly his/her decision, he will most likely agree to go, but the enforcement will come from within, and therefore with it will come the guilt.” Lately Zizek’s been adding another example from a movie where a girlfriend is yelling at the boyfriend: “I don’t want you to do the dishes, I want you to want to do the dishes.” Continue reading

Interesting New Book: Seeing Witness

Seeing Witness

Visuality and the Ethics of Testimony

Jane Blocker

Table of Contents

Seeing Witness

$25.00 paper
ISBN: 978-0-8166-5477-2

$75.00 cloth
ISBN: 978-0-8166-5476-5

Unearthing the meaning of witnessing in contemporary art and politics

The act of bearing witness can reveal much, but what about the figure of the witness itself? As contemporary culture is increasingly dominated by surveillance, the witness—whether artist, historian, scientist, government official, or ordinary citizen—has become empowered in realms from art to politics.

In Seeing Witness, Jane Blocker challenges the implicit authority of witnessing through the examination of a series of contemporary artworks, all of which make the act of witnessing visible, open to inspection and critique. Considering such artists as Marina Abramovi?, James Luna, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Eduardo Kac, and Ann Hamilton, Blocker investigates the artists and spectators who look, the technologies they look with, and the forms of power and moral authority that permit their viewing.

Going beyond particular traumatic or sensational events, Blocker contemplates the politics of witnessing and argues that the witness represents a morally unique—and even problematic—position of privilege. Separating Seeing Witness from previous literature on the subject, she finds that the visual is inherent in witnessing and asserts that contemporary art is integral to questioning and understanding how witnessing is mobilized in culture today.

Jane Blocker is associate professor of art history at the University of Minnesota Press and the author of What the Body Cost: Desire, History, and Performance (Minnesota, 2004) and Where is Ana Mendieta? Identity, Performativity and Exile.

192 pages | 30 b&w photos | 7 x 10 | 2009

Continue reading