Tag Archives: the-arts

What is Posthumanism? | The Curator

Posted: June 15, 2016 at 3:25 pm

Perhaps you have had a nightmare in which you fell through the bottom of your known universe into a vortex of mutated children, talking animals, mental illness, freakish art, and clamoring gibberish. There, you were subjected to the gaze of creatures of indeterminate nature and questionable intelligence. Your position as the subject of your own dream was called into question while voices outside your sight commented upon your tenuous identity. When you woke, you were relieved to find that it was only a dream-version of the book you were reading when you fell asleep. Maybe that book was Alice in Wonderland; maybe it was What is Posthumanism?

Now, it is not quite fair to compare Cary Wolfes sober, thoughtful scholarship with either a nightmare or a work of (childrens?) fantasy. It is a profound, thoroughly researched study with far-reaching consequences for public policy, bioethics, education, and the arts. However, it does present a rather odd dramatis personae, including a glow-in-the-dark rabbit, a woman who feels most at ease in a cattle chute, an artist of Jewish descent who implants an ID-chip in his own leg, researchers who count the words in a dogs vocabulary, and horses who exhibit more intelligence than the average human toddler. The settings, too, are often wildly different from those you might expect in an academic work: a manufactured cloud hovering over a lake in Switzerland, a tree park in Canada where landscape and architecture blend and redefine one another, recording studios, photographic laboratories, slaughterhouses, and (most of all) the putative minds of animals and the deconstructed minds of the very humans whose ontological existence it seeks to problematize.

But that is another exaggeration. Wolfes goal is not to undermine the existence or value of human beings. Rather, it is to call into question the universal ethics, assumed rationality, and species-specific self-determination of humanism. That is a mouthful.

Indeed, Wolfes book is a mouthful, and a headful. It is in fact a book by a specialist, for specialists. While Wolfe is an English professor (at Rice University) and identifies himself with literary and cultural studies (p. 100), this is first of all a work of philosophy. Its ideal audience is very small, consisting of English and Philosophy professors who came of age in the 70s, earned their Ph.D.s during the hey-day of Derridean Deconstruction, and have spent the intervening decades keeping up with trends in systems theory, cultural studies, science, bioethics, and information technology. It is rigorous and demanding, especially in its first five chapters, which lay the conceptual groundwork for the specific analyses of the second section.

In these first five chapters, Wolfe describes his perspective and purpose by interaction with many other great minds and influential texts, primarily those of Jacques Derrida. Here, the fundamental meaning and purpose of Posthumanism becomes clear. Wolfe wants his readers to rethink their relationship to animals (what he calls nonhuman animals). His goal is a new and more inclusive form of ethical pluralism (137). That sound innocuous enough, but he is not talking about racial, religious, or other human pluralisms. He is postulating a pluralism that transcends species. In other words, he is promoting the ethical treatment of animals based on a fundamental re-evaluation of what it means to be human, to be able to speak, and even to think. He does this by discussing studies that reveal the language capacities of animals (a dog apparently has about a 200-word vocabulary and can learn new words as quickly as a human three-year-old; pp. 32-33), by recounting the story of a woman whose Aspergers syndrome enables her to empathize with cows and sense the world the way they do (chapter five), and by pointing out the ways in which we value disabled people who do not possess the standard traits that (supposedly) make us human.

But Wolfe goes further than a simple suggestion that we should be nice to animals (and the unspoken plug for universal veganism). He is proposing a radical disruption of liberal humanism and a rigorous interrogation of what he sees as an arrogant complacency about our species. He respects any variety of philosophy that challenges anthropocentrism and speciesism (62)anthropocentrism, of course, means viewing the world as if homo sapiens is the center (or, more accurately, viewing the world from the position of occupying that center) and specisism is the term he uses to replace racism. We used to feel and enact prejudice against people of different ethnic backgrounds, he suggests, but we now know that is morally wrong. The time has come, then, to realize that we are feeling and enacting prejudice against people of different species.

Although Wolfe suggests many epistemological and empirical reasons for rethinking the personhood of animals, he comes to the conclusion that our relationship with them is based on our shared embodiment. Humans and animals have a shared finitude (139); we can both feel pain, suffer, and die. On the basis of our mutual mortality, then, we should have an emphasis on compassion (77). He is not out to denigrate his own species far from it. Indeed, he goes out of his way to spend time discussing infants (who have not yet developed rationality and language), people with disabilities (especially those that prevent them from participating in fully rational thought and/or communication), and the elderly (who may lose some of those rational capacities, especially if racked by such ailments as Alzheimers). Indeed, he claims: It is not by denying the special status of human being[s] but by intensifying it that we can come to think of nonhuman animalsasfellow creatures (77).

This joint focus on the special status of all human beings along with the other living creatures roaming (or swimming, flying, crawling, slithering) the globe has far-reaching consequences for public policy, especially bioethics. Wolfe says that, currently, bioethics is riddled with prejudices: Of these prejudices, none is more symptomatic of the current state of bioethics than prejudice based on species difference, and an incapacity to address the ethical issues raised by dramatic changes over the past thirty years in our knowledge about the lives, communication, emotions, and consciousnesses of a number of nonhuman species (56). One of the goals of his book, then, is to reiterate that knowledge and promote awareness of those issues that he sees as ethical.

If you read Wolfes book, or even parts of it, you will suddenly see posthumanism everywhere. You can trace its influence in the enormously fast-growing pet industry. From the blog Pawsible Marketing: As in recent and past years, there is no doubt that pets continue to become more and more a part of the family, even to the extent of becoming, in some cases, humanized.

You will see it in bring-your-pet-to-work or bring-your-pet-to-school days. You might think it is responsible for the recent introduction of a piece of legislation called H.R. 3501, The Humanity and Pets Partnered Through the Years, know as the HAPPY Act, which proposes a tax deduction for pet owners. You will find it in childrens books about talking animals. You will see it on Animal Planet, the Discovery Channel, and a PBS series entitled Inside the Animal Mind. You will find it in films, such as the brand-new documentary The Cove, which records the brutal slaughter of dolphins for food. And you will see it in works of art.

Following this reasoning, section two of Wolfes book (chapters six through eleven) veers off from the s
trictly philosophical approach into the more traditional terrain of cultural studies: he examines specific works of art in light of the philosophical basis that is now firmly in place. Interestingly, he does not choose all works of art that depict animals, nor those that displace humans. He begins with works that depict animals (Sue Coes paintings of slaughterhouses) and that use animals (Eduardo Kacs creation of genetically engineered animals that glow in the dark), but then moves on to discuss film, architecture, poetry, and music. In each of these examinations, he works to destabilize traditional binaries such as nature/culture, landscape/architecture, viewer/viewed, presence/absence, organic/inorganic, natural/artificial, and, really, human/nonhuman. This second section, then, is a subtle application of the theory of posthumanism itself to the arts, [our] environment, and [our] identity.

What is perhaps most important about What is Posthumanism remains latent in the text. This is its current and (especially) future prevalence. By tracing the history of posthumanism back through systems theory into deconstruction, Wolfe implies a future trajectory, too. I would venture to suggest that he believes posthumanism is the worldview that will soon come to dominate Western thought. And this is important for academics specifically and thinkers in general to realize.

Whether you agree with Cary Wolfe or not, it would be wise to understand posthumanism. It appears that your only choice will be either to align yourself with this perspective or to fight against it. If you agree, you should know with what. If you fight, you should know against what.

What, then, is the central thesis of posthumanism? Wolfes entire project might be summed up in his bold claim that, thanks to his own work and that of the theorists and artists he discusses, the human occupies a new place in the universe, a universe now populated by what I am prepared to call nonhuman subjects (47)such subjects as talking rabbits, six-inch people, and mythical monsters?

Well, maybe not the mythical monsters.

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What is Posthumanism? | The Curator

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about memes – Susan Blackmore

Posted: June 13, 2016 at 12:52 pm

The term meme (it’s pronounced like dream or cream) was coined by Richard Dawkins, Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University, in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene. As examples he suggested tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches.

Memes are habits, skills, songs, stories, or any other kind of information that is copied from person to person. Memes, like genes, are replicators. That is, they are information that is copied with variation and selection. Because only some of the variants survive, memes (and hence human cultures) evolve. Memes are copied by imitation, teaching and other methods, and they compete for space in our memories and for the chance to be copied again. Large groups of memes that are copied and passed on together are called co-adapted meme complexes, or memeplexes.

The word meme has recently been included in the Oxford English Dictionary where it is defined as follows meme (mi:m), n. Biol. (shortened from mimeme … that which is imitated, after GENE n.) An element of a culture that may be considered to be passed on by non-genetic means, esp. imitation.

According to memetics, our minds and cultures are designed by natural selection acting on memes, just as organisms are designed by natural selection acting on genes. A central question for memetics is therefore why has this meme survived?. Some succeed because they are genuinely useful to us, while others use a variety of tricks to get themselves copied. From the point of view of the selfish memes all that matters is replication, regardless of the effect on either us or our genes.

Some memes are almost entirely exploitative, or viral, in nature, including chain letters and e-mail viruses. These consist of a copy-me instruction backed up with threats and promises. Religions have a similar structure and this is why Dawkins refers to them as viruses of the mind. Many religions threaten hell and damnation, promise heaven or salvation, and insist that their followers pass on their beliefs to others. This ensures the survival of the memeplex. Other viral memes include alternative therapies that dont work, and new age fads and cults. Relatively harmless memes include childrens games, urban legends and popular songs, all of which can spread like infections.

At the other end of the spectrum memes survive because of their value to us. The most valuable of memeplexes include all of the arts and sports, transport and communications systems, political and monetary systems, literature and science.

Memetics has been used to provide new explanations of human evolution, including theories of altruism, the origins of language and consciousness, and the evolution of the large human brain. The Internet can be seen as a vast realm of memes, growing rapidly by the process of memetic evolution and not under human control.

The field of memetics is still a new and controversial science, with many critics, and many difficulties to be resolved.

Examples of memes

Anything that is copied from person to person, or book to person etc.

Scientific theories

Religions

Internet Memes

The Loo Roll meme !

Many other sites provide definitions, FAQs and other basic information on memes. See Links.

For more on definitions see Blackmore,S.J. 1998 Imitation and the definition of a meme. Journal of Memetics – Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission, 2.

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Technology | Define Technology at Dictionary.com

Posted: March 25, 2016 at 12:44 pm

Contemporary Examples

And it finishes second, behind New York, for technology Innovation.

But Shawn and Craig, 47, are accused of being interested in technology as well.

Her reveals the sometimes blind, unsettling way love and technology merge.

Yet equal access to education and technology still remains a challenge.

The second feature is how to translate the technology efficiently: how to harness the power of this device for practical use.

British Dictionary definitions for technology Expand

the application of practical sciences to industry or commerce

the methods, theory, and practices governing such application: a highly developed technology

the total knowledge and skills available to any human society for industry, art, science, etc

Derived Forms

technological (tknldkl) adjectivetechnologically, adverbtechnologist, noun

Word Origin

C17: from Greek tekhnologia systematic treatment, from tekhn art, skill

Word Origin and History for technology Expand

1610s, “discourse or treatise on an art or the arts,” from Greek tekhnologia “systematic treatment of an art, craft, or technique,” originally referring to grammar, from tekhno- (see techno-) + -logy. The meaning “science of the mechanical and industrial arts” is first recorded 1859. High technology attested from 1964; short form high-tech is from 1972.

technology in Science Expand

The use of scientific knowledge to solve practical problems, especially in industry and commerce.

The specific methods, materials, and devices used to solve practical problems.

technology in Technology Expand

jargon Marketroid jargon for “software”, “hardware”, “protocol” or something else too technical to name. The most flagrant abuse of this word has to be “Windows NT” (New Technology) – Microsoft’s attempt to make the incorporation of some ancient concepts into their OS sound like real progress. The irony, and even the meaning, of this seems to be utterly lost on Microsoft whose Windows 2000 start-up screen proclaims “Based on NT Technology”, (meaning yet another version of NT, including some Windows 95 features at last). See also: solution. (2001-06-28)

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Natasha Vita-More | Transhuman Art

Posted: January 18, 2016 at 6:40 am

Natashas research concerns the aesthetics of human enhancement and radical life extension, with a focus on sciences and technologies of nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology, and cognitive and neuro sciences (NBIC). Her conceptual future human design Primo Posthuman has been featured in Wired, Harpers Bazaar, Marie Claire, The New York Times, U.S. News & World Report, Net Business, Teleopolis, and Village Voice. She has appeared in over twenty-four televised documentaries on the future and culture, and has exhibited media artworks at National Centre for Contemporary Arts, Brooks Memorial Museum, Institute of Contemporary Art, Women In Video, Telluride Film Festival, and United States Film Festival and recently Evolution Haute Couture: Art and Science in the Post-Biological Age. Natasha has been the recipient of several awards: First Place Award at Brooks Memorial Museum, Special Recognition at Women in Video, and Best Graduate Student Project of 2005 for her Futures Podcast Series: at the University of Houston, Future Studies program.

Natasha is a proponent human rights and ethical means for human enhancement, and is published in Artifact, Technoetic Arts, Nanotechnology Perceptions, Annual Workshop on Geoethical Nanotechnology, Death And Anti- Death. She has a bi-monthly column in Nanotechnology Now, is a Guest Editor of The Global Spiral academic journal and on the Editorial Board of International Journal of Green Nanotechnology. Natasha authored Create / Recreate: the 3rd Millennial Culture on the emerging cybernetic culture and the future of humanism and the arts and sciences. She co-authored One on One Fitness, a guide to nutrition and aerobic and anaerobic exercise for women. Her new book The Transhumanist Reader: Classical and Contemporary Look at Philosophy and Technology is scheduled for publishing in 2012 through Wiley-Blackwell.

Natasha is Chair of Humanity+, international non-profit 501c3 organization and was the former president of Extropy Institute, networking organization Natasha continues to work with academic institutions, non-profit organizations and business about human futures. She is a track advisor at the Singularity University, on the Scientific Board of Lifeboat Foundation, a Fellow of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, Visiting Scholar at 21st Century Medicine, and advises non-profit organizations including Adaptive A.I. and Alcor Life Extension Foundation. She has been a consultant to IBM on the future of human performance.

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Natasha Vita-More | Transhuman Art

Posted: January 4, 2016 at 5:42 pm

Natashas research concerns the aesthetics of human enhancement and radical life extension, with a focus on sciences and technologies of nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology, and cognitive and neuro sciences (NBIC). Her conceptual future human design Primo Posthuman has been featured in Wired, Harpers Bazaar, Marie Claire, The New York Times, U.S. News & World Report, Net Business, Teleopolis, and Village Voice. She has appeared in over twenty-four televised documentaries on the future and culture, and has exhibited media artworks at National Centre for Contemporary Arts, Brooks Memorial Museum, Institute of Contemporary Art, Women In Video, Telluride Film Festival, and United States Film Festival and recently Evolution Haute Couture: Art and Science in the Post-Biological Age. Natasha has been the recipient of several awards: First Place Award at Brooks Memorial Museum, Special Recognition at Women in Video, and Best Graduate Student Project of 2005 for her Futures Podcast Series: at the University of Houston, Future Studies program.

Natasha is a proponent human rights and ethical means for human enhancement, and is published in Artifact, Technoetic Arts, Nanotechnology Perceptions, Annual Workshop on Geoethical Nanotechnology, Death And Anti- Death. She has a bi-monthly column in Nanotechnology Now, is a Guest Editor of The Global Spiral academic journal and on the Editorial Board of International Journal of Green Nanotechnology. Natasha authored Create / Recreate: the 3rd Millennial Culture on the emerging cybernetic culture and the future of humanism and the arts and sciences. She co-authored One on One Fitness, a guide to nutrition and aerobic and anaerobic exercise for women. Her new book The Transhumanist Reader: Classical and Contemporary Look at Philosophy and Technology is scheduled for publishing in 2012 through Wiley-Blackwell.

Natasha is Chair of Humanity+, international non-profit 501c3 organization and was the former president of Extropy Institute, networking organization Natasha continues to work with academic institutions, non-profit organizations and business about human futures. She is a track advisor at the Singularity University, on the Scientific Board of Lifeboat Foundation, a Fellow of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, Visiting Scholar at 21st Century Medicine, and advises non-profit organizations including Adaptive A.I. and Alcor Life Extension Foundation. She has been a consultant to IBM on the future of human performance.

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Definitions of Censorship – PBS

Posted: October 26, 2015 at 9:42 am

The term “censorship” comes from The Latin, censere “to give as one’s opinion, to assess.” The Roman censors were magistrates who took the census count and served as assessors and inspectors of morals and conduct.

In contrast to that straightforward definition from Roman times, contemporary usage offers no agreed-upon definition of the term or when to use it. Indeed, even whether the word itself applies to a given controversy in the arts is often vigorously contested.

Here are excerpts of definitions of “censorship” from U.S. organizations and publications with varying views. They are not intended as any composite mega-definition of the term, only as indications of the variety of approaches to this concept.

Censorship: The use of the state and other legal or official means to restrict speech. –Culture Wars, Documents from the Recent Controversies in the Arts, edited by Richard Boltons

In general, censorship of books is a supervision of the press in order to prevent any abuse of it. In this sense, every lawful authority, whose duty it is to protect its subjects from the ravages of a pernicious press, has the right of exercising censorship of books. –The Catholic Encyclopedia (a publication of the Catholic Church)

What Is Censorship? Censorship is the suppression of ideas and information that certain persons — individuals, groups or government officials — find objectionable or dangerous. It is no more complicated than someone saying, “Don’t let anyone read this book, or buy that magazine, or view that film, because I object to it!” Censors try to use the power of the state to impose their view of what is truthful and appropriate, or offensive and objectionable, on everyone else. Censors pressure public institutions, like libraries, to suppress and remove from public access information they judge inappropriate or dangerous, so that no one else has the chance to read or view the material and make up their own minds about it. The censor wants to prejudge materials for everyone.

For the ALA, technically censorship means the “The Removal of material from open access by government authority.” The ALA also distinguishes various levels of incidents in respect to materials in a library which may or may not lead to censorship: Inquiry, Expression of Concern, Complaint, Attack, and Censorship. –The American Library Association

The word “censorship” means “prior restraint” of First Amendment rights by government. –Morality in Media (Morality in Media is “a national, not-for-profit, interfaith organization established in 1962 to combat obscenity and uphold decency standards in the media.”)

Censorship 1. The denial of freedom of speech or freedom of the press. 2. The review of books, movies, etc., to prohibit publication and distribution, usually for reasons of morality or state security. –Oran’s Dictionary of Law

Censorship: official restriction of any expression believed to threaten the political, social, or moral order. –Encyclopedia.Com

Censorship – the prevention of publication, transmission, or exhibition of material considered undesirable for the general public to possess or be exposed to. –Fast Times’ Political Dictionary (Fast Times is “a nonpartisan publication on contemporary world affairs & media with no political, ideological, or religious affiliation of any kind.”)

Censorship: the cyclical suppression, banning, expurgation, or editing by an individual, institution, group or government that enforce or influence its decision against members of the public — of any written or pictorial materials which that individual, institution, group or government deems obscene and “utterly” without redeeming social value,” as determined by “contemporary community standards.” –Chuck Stone, Professor of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of North Carolina

Censorship is a word of many meanings. In its broadest sense it refers to suppression of information, ideas, or artistic expression by anyone, whether government officials, church authorities, private pressure groups, or speakers, writers, and artists themselves. It may take place at any point in time, whether before an utterance occurs, prior to its widespread circulation, or by punishment of communicators after dissemination of their messages, so as to deter others from like expression. In its narrower, more legalistic sense, censorship means only the prevention by official government action of the circulation of messages already produced. Thus writers who “censor” themselves before putting words on paper, for fear of failing to sell their work, are not engaging in censorship in this narrower sense, nor are those who boycott sponsors of disliked television shows. –Academic American Encyclopedia

Censorship: supervision and control of the information and ideas circulated within a society. In modern times, censorship refers to the examination of media including books, periodicals, plays, motion pictures, and television and radio programs for the purpose of altering or suppressing parts thought to be offensive. The offensive material may be considered immoral or obscene, heretical or blasphemous, seditious or treasonable, or injurious to the national security. –Encarta Encyclopedia

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The touching tribute to Leonard Nimoy from space

Posted: March 1, 2015 at 8:44 am

Leonard Nimoys death on Friday has inspired countless actors, politicians and ordinary people to pay tribute tothe man behind Spock on Star Trek.

Then, on Saturday, American astronaut Terry Virts tweeted this photo while aboard the International Space Station:

The simple Vulcan salute, flashed back at earth from so many miles away, speaks to theimpact that Nimoy and Star Trek had on American space exploration.

Leonard Nimoy was an inspiration to multiple generations of engineers, scientists, astronauts, and other space explorers, NASA Administrator Charles Boldensaid in a statement. As Mr. Spock, he made science and technology important to the story, while never failing to show, by example, that it is the people around us who matter most. NASA was fortunate to have him as a friend and a colleague.

The space agency capitalized on thepublicity generated by the popular series, and Nimoy and other actors in the series became involved with NASA and other scientific organizations. ActressNichelle Nichols, for instance, became a recruiter for the agency, which was seeking more women and minority astronauts. Nichols has said Bolden was inspired to apply for NASA because of her campaign, and Sally Ride heard about the space program first through the Star Trek-linked publicity.

In 1976, NASA unveiled the space shuttle Enterprise, named after the craft on the show. It was initially supposed to be calledConstitution, but the name was changed after Star Trek viewers started a write-in campaign urging the White House to select the name Enterprise, according to NASA.

Many scientists have said that Nimoy inspired them.Don Lincoln, a senior physicist at Fermilab, told the Associated Press that Nimoys 1970s show In Search of influenced him to get into the field.

Despite the fact he worked in fiction, anyone who can inspire that many people to look into the sky and wonder has done something really important for mankind, Lincoln told the Associated Press. The fact is that Spock was a cool geek.Scientists are not always portrayed as being very strong. Usually, theyre the guy with the tape on their glasses and their pants too high. He was clearly a person who had desirable components beyond just being smart.

Nimoy and his wife donated $1 million to theGriffith Park observatory complex. Thetheater there bears his name tohonor Leonard Nimoys expansive and inclusive approach to public astronomy and artful inspiration,a statement from theobservatory reads. Mr. Nimoy was committed to people, community, and the enlarged perspective conferred by science, the arts, and the places where they meet.

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Censorship, delays, and more made for a rough 2014

Posted: December 31, 2014 at 2:42 pm

As one does this time of year, we in the arts department of the Charleston City Paper have become somewhat reflective. As the year draws to its inevitable champagne-fueled close, we look back to remember the biggest moments of 2014’s arts year and you know what? No offense, Charleston, but most of them were bummers.

Let us hasten to add that this is not to disparage the excellent work our local visual arts galleries, theaters, and other arts groups did this year. To see how busy and impressive they were, all you have to do is flip through the Arts section of any given issue.

That being said, here follows our list of the top developments in 2014 and here’s hoping that 2015 turns out to be sunnier.

The Flowertown Players, the College of Charleston, and USC Upstate nearly lose funding due to attempts at censorship

This July, Summerville Town Councilman Terry Jenkins tried to withhold $3,000 of accommodation tax funding from Summerville’s Flowertown Players because he thought that RENT was too “raunchy” for a community theater to produce. Although the proposal to remove the funding ultimately failed, Flowertown’s artistic director JC Conway was asked to attend a council finance meeting to explain his choice of production.

It was the third attempt at censorship of the arts in South Carolina in just a few months’ time. This March, the S.C. state legislature moved to strip USC Upstate and the College of Charleston of funding for presenting a play and a book, respectively, that represent LGBT characters and lifestyles. (The play in question was How to Be a Lesbian in 10 Days or Less, and the book was MacArthur “Genius” award-winning Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home.) The measure was eventually defeated, but now we’re left with the knowledge that members of our legislature and town and city councils are even more backward than we thought.

The Gaillard Auditorium is delayed beyond Spoleto Festival USA 2015

On Nov. 12, the city announced that the Gaillard, which is in the midst of extensive renovation it’s basically being completely rebuilt would not be open for next year’s Spoleto Festival, as planned. This resulted in a whole lot of shuffling by festival staff as they scrambled to find new venues for all the shows that they’d planned to host in the shiny new performing arts center. But they handled it with grace. Spoleto’s director of marketing and PR, Jennifer Scott, told us the day after the announcement that “Ultimately, we’re pleased that the city took the time to stop and say, ‘Wait a minute, let’s have a look at what’s happening.’ We’re just pleased that they’re making the commitment to building the best hall they can.”

Let’s hope that the auditorium really blows us all away when it does open.

On a similar topic, Spoleto was lackluster

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Iranian writers' group denounces continued censorship

Posted: December 4, 2014 at 8:43 pm

Source: Radio Zamaneh

On the occasion of the Day of Action against Censorship, Iran’s Writers’ Association announced that the Islamic Republic government continues to impose censorship in various and complex ways.

In a statement, the association writes that in the past year, despite President Rohani’s election promises, censorship has continued to affect book publishing, the arts, the press and the internet, impeding freedom of speech.

They report that publishers are kept waiting for publishing permits, internet users are subjected to arrest and questioning, and many internet sites continue to be blocked.

The statement also refers to journalists being arrested, which make it a highly hazardous occupation for Iranians.

Read related statement by the Association of Iranian Journalists (in Persian)

The Writers’ Association cites the jamming of satellite programming as a serious form of government censorship imposed because it both violates the right of the public to access these programs and compromises their health.

Iran’s Department of the Environment has called for an end to the use of interference waves to jam satellite programming, confirming that they can be linked to cancer.

… Payvand News – 12/03/14 … —

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Fantastically Wrong: The Murderous, Sometimes Sexy History of the Mermaid

Posted: October 15, 2014 at 9:41 am

Hans Christian Andersens The Little Mermaid is a heartwarming tale of a mermaid falling in love, battling evil to be with her love, and living happily ever after as a human. Just kidding. Thats the Disney version. In Andersens, the young mermaid has her tongue cut out, gets burned hard by the prince when he chooses another woman, and eventually dissolves into sea foam instead of saving her own life by ritualistically stabbing said prince through the heart and bathing in his blood. Seriously.

More Fantastically Wrong Science

It was for this reason that Starbucks adopted the mermaid as its logo. (No it isnt, thats libel. Is it still libel if I admit its libelous? I guess well find out.) Regardless, it took mermaids millennia of mythology to land on those coffee cups. But relations werent always so good between our two speciesmermaids have largely been thought of as hell-bent on seducing sailors into the depths, or just smashing boats with storms if theyre not really feeling like putting the effort into being charming.

So why the mixed reviews? Where did the legend of the mermaid come from in the first place? From ancient deities to corporate lackeys, thehistory of our aquatic cousins is certainly a strange one.

According to Terry Breverton in his book Phantasmagoria: A Compendium of Monsters, Myths, and Legends, before there were mermaids, some 4,000 years ago there was a merman: Ea, the Babylonian god of the sea. He had the lower body of a fish and upper body of a human, and was one of those handy all-purpose deities, bringing humankind the arts and sciences while also finding the time to battle evil. And because he was associated with water, he was the patron god ofno jokecleaners because, well, someone needed to be. Ea would later be co-opted by the Greeks as Poseidon and the Romans as Neptune.

The earliest mermaid-like figure was likely the ancient Syrian goddess Atargatis, who watched over the fertility of her people, as well as their general well-being. She, too, was human above the waist and fish below it, and was accordingly associated with water. The Syrians bestowed Atargatis with the biggest, most resplendent temple they could muster, which came complete with a pond of sacred fish that you probably werent allowed to throw coins into for a good luck.

Never one to be left out of disseminating misinformation, the great Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder, whose Natural History would serve as scientific gospel for centuries to follow, wrote of the nereids. These were nymphs wed recognize as half-human half-fish mermaids, though the portion of the body that resembles the human figure is still rough all over with scales. He notes that Legatus of Gaul once wrote to Emperor Augustus claiming he found a considerable number of them dead upon the sea-shore. Pliny also mentions sea-men, who when night falls climb up into ships; upon which the side of the vessel where he seated himself would instantly sink downward, and if he remained there any considerable time, even go under water.

Such maliciousness is echoed in the sirens of Greek mythology, which variously were presented as beautiful women, half-bird half-women, and as mermaids. These fiends would lure men to their deaths with some sexy singing, as Odysseus well knew. He had his men strap him to the ships mast to avoid falling victim as they passed the island of the sirens, while his men plugged their ears with wax.

And so mermaids entered European mythology with conflicting personalities: Sometimes they were portrayed as beautiful, seductive maidensalmost goddesses like Atargatisgreatly desired by lonely sailors, while also being cast as siren-esque beasts that dragged men into the inky-black depths. But whatever the portrayal, mermaids wound their way deep into the nautical lore of the Middle Ages onward.

Really, it was best to avoid mermaids and mermen, just to be sure. Olaus Magnus, the 16th century writer and cartographer whose seminal map Carta Marina obsessively cataloged the many monsters of the seas around Scandinavia, noted that fishermen maintain that if you reel in a mermaid or merman, and do not presently let them go, such a cruel tempest will arise, and such a horrid lamentation of that sort of men comes with it, and of some other monsters joining with them, that you would think the sky should fall. Sea-people, it was widely held, were terribly bad luck to see or snag.

Originally posted here:
Fantastically Wrong: The Murderous, Sometimes Sexy History of the Mermaid

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