31 março 2006
I wish my cats were dead
I have three pet cats and I really hate them all. They used to be called Cinders, Smudge and Marmalade although I've recently re-christened them Scratchy, Sneezy and Stinky in honour of the ailments they inflict on my family and me.
Stinky is the worst. She had a thyroid problem. This means that her metabolism is in constant overdrive resulting in her depositing at least three squashy mounds of the foulest smelling faeces you could possibly imagine in her litter tray in the basement every day.
In a tray in the basement, I hear you say - at least she's dumping in the proper place. Well, that's true. Except when she misses and it runs all down the edge or when the tray is on the full side and she goes on the floor behind the tumble dryer instead and I have to retrieve the soft, mushy, retch-inducing substance using a handful of kitchen towel, crawling into the space on my hands and knees.
Then there's Sneezy. He mostly just loafs around the place until, that is, I'm sitting reading with my children at their bedtime. Then, with clockwork regularity, he appears at my side and claws - literally claws - at my arm for attention. When this is denied, he sneezes all over me and stalks off before returning five minutes later to inflict the same torture again.
Finally, Scratchy. She gets her name due to her allergy to fleas. Every morning, as soon I've settled at my keyboard to resume composing superior popular fiction, she leaps on to my desk, sprawls scabbily underneath the light of my anglepoise lamp and as soon as my fingers go to my pristine Mac mouse, begins nuzzling my hand with a persistence that borders on aggression. Sometimes she gets up and blithely strolls across the keyboard. Entire potentially award-winning paragraphs have been lost to posterity due to this.
[Read on at The Guardian]
I must have been catatonic in me casket. Ooohhhh...
So life is what happens when you're busy, caught unawares, making plans?
Yes, reading books is life to me :)
The book is the life...
WHY the feminine for the title in Spanish? To distinguish from Catalan? To follow the French?
In French it is L'Historienne et Drakula, (Tome I = more than one book?) so it's bound to sell like hotcakes (comme des petits pains)
'The plays are absolutely packed with filth,' said academic Héloïse Sénéchal. 'I've found more than a hundred terms for vagina alone.' That the author of As You Like It would, were he alive today, be writing for Viz magazine is implied by Sénéchal's research for the footnotes of a new Royal Shakespeare Company edition of his complete works which promises to be the most candid ever.She claims that previous editions of Shakespeare have been too prudish, and that by using computer techniques she has uncovered unrecognised double entendres. These were aimed at the working classes who crowded into the Globe in London for their fill of bawdy entertainment. Sénéchal has identified seemingly innocuous words such as carrot, pencil and horn as terms for penis, while she pinpoints pie, fruit dish and 'buggle boe' as references to the vagina.
'We are trying to resist the cultural embarrassment that has permeated footnotes in the past,' she said. 'Shakespeare is now an institution, and there is an assumption, especially in schools, that he was using high rhetoric. But the majority of his audience were labourers, craftsmen, ordinary people being catered for in a popular way. They were as smutty-minded then as we are now.'
An example, according to Sénéchal, is A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act 5, scene 1. Flute, playing Thisbe in the mechanicals' play, laments that a wall separates 'her' from her lover, Pyramus:
Flute: O wall, full often hast thou heard my moans
For parting my fair Pyramus and me.
My cherry lips have often kissed thy stones, [meaning either mortar or testicles]
Thy stones with lime [puns on 'limb', ie penis] and hair [plays on sense of 'pubic hair'] knit up in thee
A few lines later, Thisbe tries to kiss Pyramus, but cries: I kiss the wall's hole [gap/anus], not your lips at all!
Shakespeare has been accused of risqué humour before. Dr Johnson deemed A Midsummer Night's Dream not the sort of play Elizabeth I should have seen. In the 19th century Henrietta and Thomas Bowdler produced an edition that censored expressions 'which cannot with propriety be read aloud in a family'. But the topic has been increasingly fashionable since the publication in 1947 of Shakespeare's Bawdy by Eric Partridge. One essay was entitled 'Bestial Buggery in A Midsummer Night's Dream'. On stage, audiences have enjoyed - or endured - numerous productions with a lewd emphasis. A current production of Measure for Measure at the National Theatre has an aroused Angelo exclaiming, 'What's this?' as he clutches his crotch.
The RSC Shakespeare: Complete Works, to be published by Macmillan next year, wears its frankness on its sleeve. Its general editor, Jonathan Bate, Professor of Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature at Warwick University, said: 'The greatness of Shakespeare comes from his capacity to confront every aspect of human experience and in particular to hold together the great paradoxes of our being - love is one of our highest aspirations, while sex is one of our basic biological instincts, yet the two go intimately together.'
But Professor Stanley Wells, author of Looking for Sex in Shakespeare, said: 'If the best thing you can say about a new edition is that it's filthy, it doesn't say a lot. It's a gimmick, an attempt to grab attention.'
Smut by any other name
Sénéchal found many previously unidentified double entendres in Shakespeare's works. Here are examples from Romeo and Juliet (II, iv)
Mercutio O here's a wit [penis] of cheveril, that stretches from an inch narrow to an ell broad [45in, or a large penis]!
Romeo I stretch it out for that word 'broad'; which added to the goose [whore] proves thee far and wide a broad goose.
Mercutio Why, is not this better now than groaning [sexually] for love? Now art thou sociable, now art thou Romeo; now art thou what thou art, by art as well as by nature: for this drivelling [dripping] love is like a great natural, that runs lolling [with tongue or penis out] up and down to hide his bauble [fool's baton or penis] in a hole [vagina].
Benvolio Stop [cease or stuff it in] there, stop there.
Many elements below mentioned are a given to me, but the reason why PORTUGAL doesn't feature eludes me totally :(
A new European league of IQ scores has ranked the British in eighth place, well above the French, who were 19th. According to Richard Lynn of the University of Ulster, Britons have an average IQ of 100. The French scored 94. But it is not all good news. Top of the table were the Germans, with an IQ of 107. The British were also beaten by the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, Italy, Austria and Switzerland.
Professor Lynn, who caused controversy last year by claiming that men were more intelligent than women by about five IQ points on average, said that populations in the colder, more challenging environments of Northern Europe had developed larger brains than those in warmer climates further south. The average brain size in Northern and Central Europe is 1,320cc and in southeast Europe it is 1,312cc. “The early human beings in northerly areas had to survive during cold winters when there were no plant foods and they were forced to hunt big game,” he said. “The main environmental influence on IQ is diet, and people in southeast Europe would have had less of the proteins, minerals and vitamins provided by meat which are essential for brain development.”[meat? ahhhhh, crap. No, wait, another conspiracy]
He added that differences in intelligence across Britain could be attributed to bright people moving to London over hundreds of years. Adults in England and Wales have an IQ of 100.5, higher than Ireland and Scotland, both with 97. People living in London and the South East average 102. “Once in the capital they have settled and reared children, and these children have inherited their high intelligence and transmitted it to further generations.”
The pattern is repeated in other countries, Professor Lynn claimed. In France, IQ scores in Paris were much higher than those in rural areas.
Professor Lynn has spent three decades analysing thousands of test results to scrutinise the role of evolution in IQ. He has published his findings in a new book. Britons excel in another area of Professor Lynn’s research. He found that university students had, at 109, the second-highest undergraduate IQs in the world, beaten only by their US counterparts on 110.
Professor Lynn ascribes the differences between British and French intelligence levels to the results of military conflict. He described it as “a hitherto unrecognised law of history” that “the side with the higher IQ normally wins, unless they are hugely outnumbered, as Germany was after 1942”.
[so Germans were already bright in WWII, adoring Hitler and everything? Of course]
A “normal” IQ ranges from 85 to 115 but exceptionally gifted people have scores starting at 145.
[now, why am I not surprised?]
30 março 2006
29 março 2006
28 março 2006
27 março 2006
Legendary Star Wars creator George Lucas says the United States is a provincial country with a culture that has invaded the world via Hollywood.
Lucas made the comments today as he was honoured with a Global Vision Award by the World Affairs Council in a San Francisco hotel ballroom.
"As long as there has been a talking Hollywood, Hollywood has had a huge impact on the rest of the world," Lucas said as he discussed his films and enhancing education with computer technology.
"It shows all the morality we espouse in this country, good and bad. The French were the first to start yelling cultural imperialism."
Some people in other countries are troubled by what they see as US culture "squashing" local art and cinema, Lucas said.
"I hate to say it, but television is one of the most popular exports," Lucas said.
People see shows such as Dallas, about a wealthy Texas oil family, and decide they want the grand lifestyles portrayed, according to Lucas.
"They say that is what I want to be," Lucas said. "That destabilises a lot of the world.
"There has been a conflict going on for thousands of years between the haves and the have-nots, and now we are in a position for the first time to show the have-nots what they do not have."
Lucas endorsed US students studying abroad to help imbue them with more global perspectives.
"Study abroad is extremely important; just for kids to get outside this country and experience the fact there is a big world out there," Lucas said.
"We are a provincial country. Our president has barely been out of the country."
An onus is on filmmakers to be careful with the messages they send because they speak "with a very loud voice", the famed movie director said.
California congresswoman Nancy Pelosi presented Lucas his council award, likening him to renowned classical music composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
The council crowned Lucas "the father of digital film" with profound insights into the globalisation of culture.
"Like Mozart, George Lucas is no ordinary genius," Pelosi said. "He is a magician. He will be remembered as a legend."SMH.com
26 março 2006
Russell: Gerry, you are a morality-free zone.
From Sliding Doors
25 março 2006
They have some reason for concern with Harvill merging with Secker, with Christopher MacLehose leaving the Secker Harvill superpower . . . but they still have presses like Serpent's Tail, like Arcadia (though I can't really figure out what they're up to), etc. My initial impression was that in the States, the big presses--Random House, Penguin, FSG--don't do as many translations as they do here. And that as a result 3% of all books published in the UK are translations compared to 2% in the U.S. (Let's put aside the qualitative number for a minute--proportions rule perceptions in realms like this.)
But I think I'm wrong. For every Bitter Lemon in the UK there's a Ugly Duckling Press in the States. The big difference may be in the stores and in the reviews. In both places translations aren't treated like that insane aunt you keep in the basement and feed every year at Thanksgiving. Translations are just books. Reviewed for their quality as books. Nor ghettoized, not ignored. On display. In the book pages. (Michael Orthofer should do a study of the Guardian vs. the New York Times in terms of number of reviews of translations over a year.)
I don't think that the U.S. is doing a bad job by any means. It may be the location, the tradition, the multilingual nature of London, but it's like, not a big deal to read, display, talk about a French translation. It's some subtle mind shift that distinguishes U.K. and U.S. reviewers, readers, booksellers. Not that one is "better"--we both feel we do a horrible job re: translations--but in one case it's translation qua translation, the other it's the superiority of international literature to chick-lit.
And there's a hell of a lot of odd books (like chick-lit) advertised here. Like The Rise and Fall of a Yummy Mummy. (Don't buy it. Please. Don't make me regret making fun of things I know little to nothing about.) This can't be a good book. Just look at the cartoon on the cover. And then there's the book that guarantees "as good as Grisham or your money back." (I'm not even going to list the title of this one.)
While I'm digressing, what the hell is up with CCTV here in London? You're on Closed Circuit virtually everywhere in the city. I kid you not, from where I'm sitting in the Easy Internet Cafe (who has much better rates than the computers at the Copthorne Tara--computers, which, via their ISP decided I can no longer access my e-mail because there's something "inappropriate" in my inbox. And we're the conservative, repressed, purtianical country?) I can see myself on CCTV. No matter where you are--inside or out--you're on camera. It's invasive, pervasive, and a normal way of life for Londoners. And scares me, having come from the Midwest. Where the corn keeps your secrets.
But now that I'm going back to Normal (via Edinburgh--more later on that though), I've decided to incorporate a few British phrases into my speech patterns. Like "rubbish." It's so dismissive to declare, "what rubbish you're speaking!" And "scheme" for any plan under the sun (legal or not) is still pretty good. "Cheeky bloke" ain't bad, but I don't think I can cotton to that . . . And LCD for "least common denominator," which isn't British at all, but it's fun to say "yeah, that movie was OK . . but a bit LCD, if you know what I mean."
From the Words Without Borders blog
24 março 2006
22 março 2006
21 março 2006
20 março 2006
In sharp contrast, Camões' lyrics - his sonnets, elegies, songs, rounds, odes and eclogues - are virtually unknown outside Portugal. They exist in English in a milk-and-water selection by Lord Strangford (1803), in the skilful Seventy Sonnets by JJ Aubertin (1881), and in the explorer Richard Burton's eccentric Lyricks of 1884. Burton made it his ambition to write as Camões would have written had he been born English in 1524 - that is, pre-Shakespeare, pre-Spenser, using a language he has to cobble together from such sources as Wyatt and Surrey. The result is magnificently unreadable.
Yet Camões' lyrical poetry has a double fascination. First, four decades before Shakespeare was writing lines like "My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun", Camões was "out-Petrarching" Petrarch, creating poems of wonderfully lucid wit and beauty. Second, the lyrics chart his progress towards being the poet who would write The Lusíads, as he left behind the Arcadian nymphs and shepherds of his juvenilia and engaged with the challenge of his experiences in Africa and India. He was the first great European poet to cross the equator and find a style to encompass different people and landscapes.
It happens in the space of a single poem in the elegy, "O Poeta Simonides", describing in part his own voyage to India. As he leaves the Tagus, the nymphs Galateia, Panopeia and Melanto accompany him, surfing in their scallop shells, and he chats with them companionably. But they have to turn back, unable to cope with the Atlantic. Within three tercets, he is in a new hemisphere under constellations he doesn't recognize, as gales tear "the concave sails from the masthead / the rigging whistled in the uproar / the blaspheming of the shocked / mariners curdled the atmosphere". A touch of Ovid here, but more of a maturing poet hunting a new style for unprecedented experiences.
William Baer's bilingual version offers us the first substantial selection of Camões' sonnets for more than a century, and should be welcomed for that reason alone. The range of the sonnets is amply demonstrated, along with an unpretentious introduction, attractive illustrations and useful notes.
But even a labour of love can be laborious, and what's wrong with these versions is visible at 20 paces. Camões' Portuguese, in its wit, lucidity and extreme economy of expression, occupies the left-hand pages. Baer's English - normally the more succinct of the two languages - sprawls over the right hand as diction and prosody are sacrificed in the search for rhymes. Rhyme is an important resource, and no one's entirely happy to see 14 lines of blank verse masquerading as a sonnet. But so too are controlled rhythms, restrained but musical vocabulary, and a sensitive regard to each poem's shape. Aubertin compared it to translating Mozart, and one has with Camões just that sense of fragile but robust perfection. It's not to be caught in English by pursuing one quality at the expense of all the others.
In poem after poem, Baer expands on the original. "Pasmadas" (astonished) becomes "stunned and terrified"; "tears" become "watery tears"; "fresca" becomes "sweet and fresh"; and so on as he provides the various possible translations indicated in the dictionary all too obviously at his elbow.
One of Camões' most haunting sonnets, "Quando o sol encoberto vai mostrando", has him pacing a beach in India, conjuring the vision of the loved one left behind. The Portuguese has "Aqui a vi os cabelos concertando; / ali, co a mão na face, tão fermoso; / aqui, falando alegre, ali cuidosa" and so on, where even a non-speaker can recognize tightly balanced clauses. Baer gives us: "Sometimes, over there, I watched her combing / her hair, and over there, I saw her touch her face. / Sometimes she worried, but mostly she spoke with grace / and charm - sometimes standing, sometimes roaming / the beach; sometimes, sitting right there, she'd gaze / at me, raising her gentle luminescent / eyes - often content, sometimes in pain, / or sadness, although at other times, she'd amaze / me with her laugh ... "
These are not sonnets, rather prose-cribs chopped up, with slack rhythms and conventional diction, crucified on the rhyme scheme. Despite the lavish academic encomiums that accompany this volume, Camões' lyrics await a poet's translation.
Recension from The Guardian
Isto porque mais vale que falem, mesmo que digam mal, o que interessa é fazer publicidade!
19 março 2006
SPIEGEL: Mr. Brooks, almost all the rogues in your film have moustaches. Is that the long shadow of Hitler?
Brooks: You must be joking! Rogues on the screen were already wearing moustaches when Hitler was still running around in short trousers. A cinema villain essentially needs a moustache so he can twiddle with it gleefully as he cooks up his next nasty plan. So Hitler's incomplete moustache would never have been enough for that.
SPIEGEL: Your new comedy "The Producers" is set at the end of the 1950s on Broadway and concerns a Nazi musical that breaks box office records. It shows a dancing and singing Hitler. Isn't that a bit tasteless?
Brooks: Of course. But it's also funny, isn't it? The film revolves around a Broadway producer who, for financial and technical reasons, wants to produce a flop. After he turns down the chance to adapt Kafka's "The Metamorphosis," he comes up with the idea of creating a musical about Hitler, produced by the lousiest director in the city, cast with the worst actors by far -- in the middle of the Jewish metropolis of New York. He's sure it won't work. Yet because the audience considers the piece to be a brilliant parody, his worst fears are realized, it's a hit. "The Producers" therefore deals with the difficulty of having a flop.
SPIEGEL: Which you of course know well yourself. "The Producers" is based on a musical that you produced that ran successfully on Broadway for five years and also on the film "The Producers" that you shot in 1967. How did the audience react to the film back then?
Brooks: The Jews were horrified. I received resentful letters of protest, saying things like: "How can you make jokes about Hitler? The man murdered 6 million Jews." But "The Producers" doesn't concern a concentration camp or the Holocaust.
SPIEGEL: Can you really separate Hitler from the Holocaust?
Brooks: You have to separate it. For example, Roberto Benigni's comedy "Life Is Beautiful" really annoyed me. A crazy film that even attempted to find comedy in a concentration camp. It showed the barracks in which Jews were kept like cattle, and it made jokes about it. The philosophy of the film is: people can get over anything. No, they can't. They can't get over a concentration camp.
SPIEGEL: But the film has deeply moved a lot of people.
Brooks: I always asked myself: Tell me, Roberto, are you nuts? You didn't lose any relatives in the Holocaust, you're not even Jewish. You really don't understand what it's all about. The Americans were incredibly thrilled to discover from him that it wasn't all that bad in the concentration camps after all. And that's why they immediately pressed an Oscar into his hand.
SPIEGEL: So there are limits to humor?
Brooks: Definitely. In 1974, I produced the western parody "Blazing Saddles," in which the word "nigger" was used constantly. But I would never have thought of the idea of showing how a black was lynched. It's only funny when he escapes getting sent to the gallows. You can laugh at Hitler because you can cut him down to normal size.
SPIEGEL: Can you also get your revenge on him by using comedy?
Brooks: Yes, absolutely. Of course it is impossible to take revenge for 6 million murdered Jews. But by using the medium of comedy, we can try to rob Hitler of his posthumous power and myths. In doing so, we should remember that Hitler did have some talents. He was able to fool an entire population into letting him be their leader. However, this role was basically a few numbers too great for him -- but he simply covered over this deficiency.
SPIEGEL: Was he a good actor?
Brooks: Yes, as he convinced many millions of Germans. It's not without good reason that comedies about Hitler often concern actors who should play him. Just think about Charlie Chaplin's "The Great Dictator" (1940) or Ernst Lubitsch's "To Be or not To Be" (1942). There's no doubt about it, Hitler worked in the same branch as we do: he created illusions.
SPIEGEL: In a documentary film about the downfall of the German battleship the Bismarck, US director James Cameron referred to Hitler as the "greatest pop star of his time."
Brooks: There's something in that. Hitler must have had a magnetic attractive force, like a rock star he used his voice to spellbind umpteen thousands of listeners. So it's only fitting when comic actors make him the limelight hog of world history. We take away from him the holy seriousness that always surrounded him and protected him like a cordon.
SPIEGEL: You yourself fought against the Nazis in Europe in 1945 and came to Berlin just after the end of the war and stayed there for eight months. Could you still feel much of a Hitler reverence?
Brooks: Everywhere you went you could sense a great relief that the war was finally over. I myself was shaken by the extent of the destruction. When we were transporting away a few prisoners of war in a train, I discovered an old man who looked like my grandfather. He suddenly leaped out of the carriage. I took my rifle and aimed at him. He called (Brooks says in German): "Don't shoot, I have to shit". Most of the Germans who survived the war were just poor simple people. Was National Socialism ever taught in German schools?
SPIEGEL: Yes, and in great detail.
Brooks: That is comforting to know. When you come to Germany as a Jew you have an uneasy feeling, but I've always felt okay in Berlin. It was there that I saw Brecht and Weill's "Three Penny Opera" and was totally crazy about this kind of musical theater.
SPIEGEL: Have you seen Oliver Hirschbiegels's film "Downfall"?
Brooks: Yes, and I thought it was excellent. It shows us Hitler's self destruction. While Goebbels was idolizing Hitler as the new Christ, like the salvation in the flesh, he was decaying before our very eyes -- and all that was needed to illustrate this was a shot of his trembling hand.
SPIEGEL: Don't you think the film humanizes Hitler too much?
Brooks: No, it doesn't arouse the slightest bit of sympathy for Hitler. It shows a man who went mad. Let's face it; he too started off as a small, innocent baby. His monstrous grimace comes across all the more startling when you can sense the paltry remains of his human nature.
SPIEGEL: Was Hitler funny? Would you have been able to make him laugh?
Brooks: I have no delusions of grandeur. Hitler would definitely not have smacked himself on the thigh and cried out (Brooks says in German): "What fantastic fun." If he had found something funny you'd probably see at the most a flinch in the corner of his mouth.
SPIEGEL: You yourself played Hitler in 1983 in your remake of the film "To Be or not To Be"...
Brooks: ... and I also gave him my voice in a song in "The Producers".
SPIEGEL: How does it feel for a Jew to slip into the skin of his greatest enemy?
Brooks: It is an inverted seizure of power. For many years Hitler was the most powerful man in the world and almost destroyed us. To posses this power and turn it against him -- it is simply alluring.
"The fact is that innovation was a little different in the 20th century. It's not easy (now) to come up with greater and different things," Donofrio said.
"If you're looking for the next big thing, stop looking. There's no such thing as the next big thing," he added.
That is not to say that the 21st century does not also require invention, creation and discovery, he said. But these days, people are looking for value that arises from a creation and not just looking at technology for its sake, he explained.
When it comes to innovation, there is a need to think collaboratively and in a multifaceted manner, as this determines who wins and who loses, he said.
Donofrio added that innovation today is more about services, process, business models or cultural innovation than just product innovation.
"People all around the world are telling us the same thing," Donofrio said. "IBM did a survey of 750 (chief information officers), and all of them listed innovation as a top priority. This is what I spend my time on, what I worry about."
Room to think
To foster a culture of innovation in the company, IBM set up ThinkPlace, an online community for its employees, nine months ago. At ThinkPlace, participants are encouraged to put up ideas, which are evaluated and then rewarded or redirected accordingly.
"In the late 1980s, IBM got into trouble and did away with suggestions," Donofrio said, referring to the corporate turmoil that IBM underwent as it headed into the 1990s. The company reported a $4.97 billion loss in 1992 which, at that time, was the largest single-year corporate loss in the history of the United States. After Lou Gerstner was named CEO in 1993, he helped turn IBM around.
According to Donofrio, IBM employees have contributed close to 5,000 ideas to date, and about 100 of those are being evaluated. The ideas cover products, processes and services.
IBM seeks to cultivate the spirit of innovation outside the company too, Donofrio pointed out. There is even a group at the company "looking hard at collaborating with other people" on future technology. A key example is IBM's alliance with Sony and Toshiba on the Cell chip.
In addition, IBM organized the Global Innovation Outlook. The GIO series of discussions, which took place in 2004 and 2005, brought together IBM workers and thought leaders, and participants from academia and industry around the world.
For GIO 2.0 last year, more than 180 IBM ecosystem partners from around the world participated in 15 daylong sessions held in China, India, Brazil, Switzerland and the United States, discussing the future of the enterprise, transportation and the environment.
And in April of last year, IBM launched the Genographic Project together with the National Geographic Society. The project is a five-year research partnership that aims to map how the Earth was populated using sophisticated laboratory and computer analysis of human DNA, contributed by hundreds of thousands of people.
Just this week, IBM announced that it will give qualified partners access to its renowned research organization.
IBM Research is celebrating 60 years of breakthroughs in computer science, physics and semiconductor design on Tuesday, as it steps up its efforts to scientifically study how organizations operate.
Originally housed in a renovated fraternity house at Columbia University, the then-named Watson Scientific Computing Laboratory has become one of the pre-eminent technological research centers in the world--and it has given IBM an edge over competitors in many fields.
Five IBM employees have won Nobel Prizes for, among other achievements, the discovery of electron tunneling and the invention of a microscope that captures images of individual atoms. Add to that seven National Medals of Technology, five National Medals of Science and four A.M. Turing Awards.
IBM inventions and discoveries include the programming language Fortran (1957), magnetic storage (1955), the relational database (1970), DRAM (dynamic random access memory) cells (1962), the RISC (reduced instruction set computer) chip architecture (1980), fractals (1967), superconductivity (1987) and the Data Encryption Standard (1974). In the last 12 years, IBM has received 29,021 patents--more than any other company or individual in the world.
And, unlike like the storied Bell Labs or Xerox PARC, IBM has striven to ensure that its research adds to the bottom line through enhanced products, services and intellectual property licensing.
"While we do exploratory stuff, we count on the research to help grow the parent," Paul Horn, senior vice president of research at IBM, said in an interview. "While Bell Labs spent a lot of money, they never really had a strong model on how research impacted the company."
The practical streak goes back to the beginning, Horn added. Although the group was started in 1945, the company didn't form it as a response to World War II or postwar reconstruction. "Thomas J. Watson Jr. felt there would be really hard problems that computers could solve," Horn said.
The organization, however, is becoming a far different place than it was back in the 1970s when IBM devised a way to use regular TV monitors as computer displays (1968) or unfurled the first speech-recognition application for computers (1971).
For one thing, scientific research is no longer as heavily concentrated in the U.S. as it once was. The number of peer-reviewed papers written outside the United States, as well as the number of citations to these papers, is rising rapidly.
"There are contributions of consequence that are occurring across the world," said Chris Murray, manager of nanoscale materials and devices. "I don't think we (the U.S.) are in a position at our current levels of investment in education to control or even have a strong influence on how innovation develops."
The direction of IBM's lab efforts is also changing. Years ago, the company primarily concentrated on pushing the frontiers of hardware. This resulted in such machines as the 1947 IBM 603 Electronic Multiplier, the first electronic calculator put into production, and the Sabre reservation system in 1962.
While IBM remains a major center for nanotechnology research, the company's push toward services and software has prompted it to dedicate more of its laboratories toward solving business process problems: supply chain management, application integration and transactional inefficiencies.
The ultimate question is, "How do people in an existing network operate?" Horn said. "We estimate that business process transactional services could become a half a trillion dollar market in the next couple of years, and the whole IT industry itself is only $1.2 trillion."
Right now, one of the basic challenges is coming up with a framework for studying these issues. "It touches on social sciences. It touches on business. It touches on economics," he said. Software programming and game theory are also crucial applications.
One of the first steps in developing a larger body of knowledge in this area occurred a few years ago when IBM began to set up supply chain management curriculum at various universities. Now, the company is working with North Carolina State to develop curriculum around what it calls SSME--social science and management engineering.
Although "services science" may sound squishy, Horn asserts that every new discipline does.
"A long time ago, people didn't think there was science in computer science. If you were a member of the IBM Academy, you were in hardware. There was no deep intellectual depth in software," he said. "Now people say the same thing about services."
The 60th anniversary celebration will take place at the T.J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown, N.Y. Speakers include Horn, Nick D'Onofrio, executive vice president of innovation and technology, Bob Dennard, inventor of the DRAM cell, and Fred Brooks from the University of North Carolina.
In their long history with Comedy Central, Trey Parker and Matt Stone have never been censored, not even for their infamous "Bloody Mary episode", but Cruise throws his weight around and suddenly the boys have their mouths duct-taped? Following the news that Scientologist Isaac Hayes, who voiced The Chef on the show, quit because he was offended by the Scientology spoof, this story, if it proves to be true, doesn't really serve to make Hollywood Scientologists look like good sports, eh?
If Viacom really did censor South Park over Cruise threatening to pull advertising, shame on them for kowtowing to his demands. Scientologists have a right to practice their religion, sure. And people like Parker and Stone have a right to lampoon Scientology. The South Park folks are equal opportunity offenders; they've targeted Jews, Catholics, Fundamentalist Christians, Mormons, Muslims and starving Ethiopians, just to name a few.
Did Hayes and Cruise get their panties in a twist over any of those episodes? Nope. But when Parker and Stone turn their lens to an examination of the foundations of Scientology and put Tom Cruise and John Travolta in a closet together, Cruise suddenly brings on the threats? The irony is that you can view the funnier parts of the episode on Comedy Central's website anyhow. Parker and Stone are rumored to have been muzzled by the big dogs on the truth around the episode being pulled, but knowing those two, I wouldn't expect them to just take this sitting down. I smell a South Park episode with Cruise as a Scientology terrorist coming around the bend...
14 março 2006
Josef Mengele tinha um sonho: o aperfeiçoamento da espécie humana, melhorada através da ciência, como forma de alcançar o domínio supremo de uma raça superior. Para o capitão médico, responsável pelo campo de concentração nazi de Auschwitz de 1943 a 1945, este era, acima de tudo, um acto de dever para ser levado a cabo com total disciplina. Com um simples aceno de mão ou um movimento seco do bastão, Mengele seleccionava os prisioneiros chegados a Auschwitz: os que deviam trabalhar até à morte, os que seriam imediatamente gaseados ou os que serviriam de cobaias para as suas investigações médicas. Sem qualquer compaixão, Mengele efectuava as mais terríveis experiências com seres humanos, transformados em autênticas cobaias. A sua particular obsessão eram os gémeos. Depois de cinco anos de investigação, com acesso exclusivo e irrestrito a mais de cinco mil páginas de escritos íntimos de Mengele e fotografias inéditas, Gerald L. Posner e John Ware retratam a vida deste homem, do nascimento à morte. Separando os factos das lendas que existem sobre o mais famoso médico nazi, os autores recriam a vida do homem que se tornou na verdadeira personificação do mal; o «Anjo da Morte» de Auschwitz. Apesar de todos os esforços para o capturar, Mengele passou 35 anos da sua vida em fuga. Depois de muitas notícias sobre a sua eventual morte, faleceu aos 68 anos, no Brasil. Sem nunca ter sido julgado pela Justiça e sem nunca ter manifestado quaisquer remorsos pelos seus actos.
13 março 2006
SAINT-GENIS-POUILLY, France -- Late last year, as an international crisis was brewing over Danish cartoons of Muhammad, Muslims raised a furor in this little alpine town over a much older provocateur: Voltaire, the French champion of the 18th-century Enlightenment.
A municipal cultural center here on France's border with Switzerland organized a reading of a 265-year-old play by Voltaire, whose writings helped lay the foundations of modern Europe's commitment to secularism. The play, "Fanaticism, or Mahomet the Prophet," uses the founder of Islam to lampoon all forms of religious frenzy and intolerance.
The production quickly stirred up passions that echoed the cartoon uproar. "This play ... constitutes an insult to the entire Muslim community," said a letter to the mayor of Saint-Genis-Pouilly, signed by Said Akhrouf, a French-born cafe owner of Moroccan descent and three other Islamic activists representing Muslim associations. They demanded the performance be cancelled.
Instead, Mayor Hubert Bertrand called in police reinforcements to protect the theater. On the night of the December reading, a small riot broke out involving several dozen people and youths who set fire to a car and garbage cans. It was "the most excitement we've ever had down here," says the socialist mayor.
The dispute rumbles on, playing into a wider debate over faith and free-speech. Supporters of Europe's secular values have rushed to embrace Voltaire as their standard-bearer. France's national library last week opened an exhibition dedicated to the writer and other Enlightenment thinkers. It features a police file started in 1748 on Voltaire, highlighting efforts by authorities to muzzle him. "Spirit of the Enlightenment, are you there?" asked a headline Saturday in Le Figaro, a French daily newspaper.
A debate on Swiss television last month degenerated into a shouting match when the director of the Saint-Genis-Pouilly performance accused a prominent Muslim of campaigning to censor Voltaire in the past. The two men also have traded insults in the French media.
Meanwhile, the name Voltaire -- and the Enlightenment tradition he embodies -- has frequently been cited by pundits across Europe commenting on the Danish cartoon furor. That controversy has triggered violent clashes in Pakistan, Nigeria, Libya, Syria and elsewhere, leaving scores dead. It has led to the arrest of nearly a dozen Muslim journalists who re-published some of the drawings and has driven the original artists into hiding.
Sunday in the Pakistani city of Karachi, about 50,000 people, many chanting "Hang those who insulted the prophet," rallied to protest the cartoons. The protest, held a day after a visit to the country by President Bush, also featured chants of "Death to America." In a video broadcast Sunday, Osama bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, also denounced the Danish drawings, saying they showed the West has double standards because "no one dares to harm Jews ... nor even to insult homosexuals."
"Help us Voltaire. They've gone mad," read a headline last month in France Soir, a daily newspaper.
Editors in France, Germany and elsewhere have explained their decision to reprint the drawings by pointing to principles enshrined in a statement often attributed to Voltaire: "I disapprove of what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it." Voltaire said something similar, but the phrase was coined in 1906 by a biographer of Voltaire to sum up the French writer's views.
"Fanaticism," the play that stirred the ruckus in Saint-Genis-Pouilly, portrays Muhammad as a ruthless tyrant bent on conquest. Its main theme is the use of religion to promote and mask political ambition.
For Voltaire's Muslim critics, the play reveals a centuries-old Western distortion of Islam. For his fans, it represents a manifesto for liberty and reason and should be read not so much as an attack on Islam but as a coded assault on the religious dogmas that have stained European history with bloody conflict.
When Voltaire wrote the play in 1741, Roman Catholic clergymen denounced it as a thinly veiled anti-Christian tract. Their protests forced the cancellation of a staging in Paris after three performances -- and hardened Voltaire's distaste for religion. Asked on his deathbed by a priest to renounce Satan, he quipped: "This is not the time to be making enemies."
Jean Goldzink, a scholar who edited a French edition of "Fanaticism," sees in today's tumult a repeat of the polemics aroused by Voltaire in his lifetime. "It is the same situation as in the 18th Century," Mr. Goldzink says. "Then it was Catholic priests who were angry. Now it is parts of the Muslim community."
Voltaire, the pen-name of Francois-Marie Arouet, peppered his writing with irreverent barbs that riled the Church. He described God as "a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh," and wrote that "If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him." Mr. Goldzink, the scholar, says Voltaire mocked all religions but had some sympathy for Islam, which Voltaire described as "less impure and more reasonable" than Christianity and Judaism.
Banned from Paris by France's Catholic king, Voltaire moved to Geneva. He quickly irked Swiss authorities, who burned one of his books. He then moved to a chateau a few miles from Saint-Genis-Pouilly and wrote a "Treatise on Tolerance." He later campaigned in vain to reverse a blasphemy conviction against a French noble, who was tortured, beheaded and then incinerated -- along with a copy of Voltaire's "Philosophical Dictionary."
Accusations of blasphemy attract mostly yawns today in mainly secular Europe, though they do sometimes excite the dwindling Christian faithful. Monty Python's 1979 film "Life of Brian" was banned for a time in parts of Europe. More recently, "Jerry Springer: The Opera," which portrays Jesus as a homosexual who dances around in diapers, drew protests from Christian groups. Still, it ran for months in London and was broadcast by British state television.
Some devout Muslims are trying to revive taboos against blasphemy, and there are signs of growing self-censorship on matters even tangentially related to Islam. In January, the Belgian town of Middelkerke cancelled a planned art display that featured a fiberglass model of Saddam Hussein submerged in a fish tank in his underwear. The Czech artist, David Cerny, describes his work "Shark" as "a reflection on dictatorship." Officials say they worried it might upset local Muslims.
Herve Loichemol, a French theater director who produced the recent readings of Voltaire's play in Saint-Genis-Pouilly and Geneva, says he wasn't trying to provoke Muslims but knew from experience his production might anger some. He pushed ahead anyway. Banning blasphemy "admits private beliefs into public space," he says. "This is how catastrophe starts."
In the early 1990s, Mr. Loichemol had proposed staging the play to mark the 300th anniversary of Voltaire's birth in 1694. Islamic activists objected, among them Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss Muslim whose grandfather founded the Muslim Brotherhood fundamentalist movement in Egypt. Mr. Ramadan wrote an open letter in October 1993 warning that performing Voltaire's play would "be another brick in an edifice of hatred and rejection in which Muslims feel they are being enclosed."
After weeks of debate, Geneva authorities dropped the play, citing financial reasons. Mr. Loichemol, who lives near Voltaire's old chateau outside Geneva, denounced the decision as a revival of intolerance. Mr. Ramadan, who has become one of Europe's most influential Muslim intellectuals, has since tried to distance himself from the campaign to censor Voltaire, saying he admires the writer and has taught "Fanaticism" to students. In an interview last year with the French magazine Medias, he said he was in Egypt when the play got canned and "was not even aware of this affair."
Last spring, Mr. Loichemol decided to take another stab at reviving the play and persuaded Saint-Genis-Pouilly to include it in a program of cultural events, along with Flamenco dancers and a lowbrow farce.
Mr. Akhrouf, the cafe owner and activist, says that in early December, he got an agitated phone call from a friend who had just received a leaflet advertising the event. Mr. Akhrouf found a copy of the play on the Internet and started shaking with rage as he read the portrayal of Muhammad as a fanatic.
Shortly afterward, he attended Friday prayers at a big mosque in Geneva and talked about his concerns with Hafid Ouardiri, a mosque official and veteran of the earlier anti-Voltaire campaign. They drafted a letter to the mayor demanding the play be cancelled "in order to preserve peace."
Mr. Ouardiri, an Algerian-born former leftist radical, came to France in the 1960s and says he used to chant the 1968 student slogan, "It is forbidden to forbid." Now a devout Muslim, he says he champions "the need to forbid." Algeria and other Muslim countries, he says, were colonized by Europeans "nourished by Voltaire."
Mayor Bertrand considered dropping the play. But after talking to aides and voters, he decided to stand by Voltaire.
A meeting two days later to defuse the crisis got nowhere. Mr. Bertrand, flanked by officials from France's security service and other state bodies, quoted a section of France's constitution that guarantees free speech. Mr. Akhrouf and Mr. Ouardiri pleaded with authorities to try to understand Muslim feelings. Mr. Akhrouf broke down in tears. "I was very emotional," he says.
The night of the reading, riot police took up positions outside Saint-Genis-Pouilly's cultural center. An hour into the performance, the mayor got called out of the hall because of street disturbances. The mayor says the mood was "quasi-insurrectional," but damage was minor. Police chased Muslim youths through the streets.
Now that tempers have calmed, Mayor Bertrand says he is proud his town took a stand by refusing to cave in under pressure to call off the reading. Free speech is modern Europe's "foundation stone," he says. "For a long time we have not confirmed our convictions, so lots of people think they can contest them."
He does have one regret: He found the play, five acts in archaic verse, "deeply boring."
12 março 2006
Go see, I'm sure it has much to say to any Latin-based movie-goer, so Happy Internationalisation :)
My Literature and Film professor on the movie:
Se exceptuarmos as ficções algo grotescas de António de Macedo, com "Os Abismos da Meia-Noite" (1984) a dar o tom "kitsch" absoluto, não existe grande tradição no cinema português de lidar com o fantástico e o sobrenatural, talvez até porque escasseiem os meios de produção, a impedirem que tais tentativas soem a falso. "Os Canibais" de Manoel de Oliveira arriscava a adaptação do homónimo conto fantástico oitocentista de Álvaro do Carvalhal, mas fazia-o a coberto de um curioso subterfúgio, o de transformar a acção numa ópera moderna, permitindo sublinhar o artifício e elidindo muitas das complexidades que o "género" exigiria.
Só por isso, este "Coisa Ruim", estreia na longa-metragem da dupla Tiago Guedes e Frederico Serra, que, com algumas interessantes curtas no activo, fizera mão na publicidade, já revelava os seus méritos. Mas não trata apenas de uma mera curiosidade inovadora. O filme parte de um argumento bem pensado (de Rodrigo Guedes de Carvalho) e, como veremos, constrói uma apreciável rede de sentidos, criando personagens credíveis e densas e uma atmosfera de mistério que se relaciona, na perfeição, com o território que explora: o de um Portugal profundo, preso a crendices ancestrais e a catolicismos supersticiosos.
O ponto de partida é muito simples: uma família da cidade muda-se para um casarão assombrado, que o "pater famílias", biólogo de profissão (excelente Adriano Luz, a demonstrar, mais uma vez, que existem entre nós actores de cinema, com a noção da câmara e do "timing" certo), herdou de um tio-avô e confronta-se, por um lado, com a religião popular, empenhada em exorcismos e rezas expiatórias, e, por outro, com as estranhas aparições de três crianças que exercem, sobre os três filhos do casal, maléficas influências.
Em breve nos apercebemos de que as aparições (será por acaso ou em resultado de corrosivo humor que os entes vindos do além se parecem tanto com a imagem icónica dos pastorinhos de Fátima?) resultam de uma maldição, devida aos pecados de um distante antepassado que chacinara toda uma família de camponeses, a fim de lhes ficar com as terras. Nos "flashbacks" dá-se corpo visual a esse acontecimento (com a divertida participação do produtor, Paulo Branco, no "amaldiçoado" latifundiário), com uma economia de meios e uma justeza de tom que se harmoniza, às mil maravilhas, com a história contemporânea, os terrores sonoros e as suspeições adivinhadas por detrás das estranhas reacções dos membros mais jovens da família, sugerindo-se, inclusive, uma perturbante hipótese de incesto. A morte acidental (e sacrificial) do filho mais novo parece aplacar as forças do Mal, forçando o agregado familiar a abandonar o mundo em que se instituía como transgressor.
Toda esta saga, cruzada com uma análise cuidadosa dos terrores quotidianos de uma população condicionada por séculos de convivência com o oculto, oscilando entre o sagrado das missas e o profano de cerimónias secretas, paredes-meias com rituais antigos de feitiçaria, poderia resultar risível, não fora o rigor da câmara a captar os rostos e os ângulos escusos da casa, mais interessada nas texturas da paisagem do que no folclore do medo.
Vem-nos à memória o universo de um realizador como M. Night Shyamalan, no modo como se configura a zona do indizível, filmando, com intenso "realismo", o que se não pode ver, mas perfila-se um olhar original e muito português sobre um mundo de lendas e de premonições, relacionadas com nebulosas serras e perturbadores pesadelos nocturnos.
Existem algumas facilidades representativas, um excesso de desfocados e um certo maneirismo no tratamento da imagem, mas a sobriedade narrativa acaba por triunfar, pela soberba direcção de actores (para além de Adriano Luz, destaca-se a complexa mãe que Manuela Couto constrói com inexcedível contenção) e pela noção da importância dos planos de conjunto: a cerimónia espírita e as refeições ganham, assim, o valor de convocações propiciatórias, desafiando a câmara a abarcar todas as dimensões da acção. Num papel secundário, de velha criada sábia e discreta, que funciona como espécie de síntese e abstracção metonímica de toda a aldeia, surge, em grande esplendor, a força dessa enorme actriz que dá pelo nome de Elisa Lisboa: pela sua bela voz "quebrada" e pelo seu rosto, ao mesmo tempo sereno e transtornado, temos acesso às contradições profundas de um mundo antigo e imutável, oposto à lógica racional das gentes da cidade.
No cômputo geral, uma surpreendente primeira obra, simultaneamente ambiciosa e consciente das suas limitações, revelando uma concepção de cinema já amadurecida e capaz de lidar com zonas complicadas do humano em confronto com o desconhecido.
10 março 2006
Worst Science-Inspired Business Plan
Most Insidious Breach of Scientific Ethics Outside South Korea
Most Irrationally Beautiful Mathematicians
Best Alternative for the Wannabe Space Tourist
Most Acute Case of Gadget Addiction
Most Extraneous Alien City
Offence for offence? Infringement for infringement? Can the negation of Auschwitz be put on a par with the desecration of Muhammad? This is where two philosophies clash. The one says yes, these are equivalent "beliefs" which have been equally scorned. There is no difference between factual truth and professed faith; the conviction that the genocide took place and the certitude that Muhammad was illuminated by Archangel Gabriel are on a par. The others say no, the reality of the death camps is a matter of historical fact, whereas the sacredness of the prophets is a matter of personal belief.
This distinction between fact and belief is at the heart of Western thought. Aristotle distinguished between indicative discourse on the one hand, which could be used to reach an affirmation or a negation, and prayer on the other. Prayers are not a matter for discussion, because they do not state: they implore, promise, vow and declare. They do not relate information, they perform an act. When the Islamist fanatic affirms that Europeans practise the "religion of the Shoah" while he practises that of Muhammad, he abolishes the distinction between fact and belief. For him there are only beliefs, and so it follows that Europe will favour its own.
Civilised discourse analyses and defines scientific truths, historic truths and matters of fact relating to knowledge, not to faith. And it does this irrespective of race or confession. We may believe these facts are profane or undignified, yet they remain distinct from religious truths. Our planet is not in the grips of a clash of civilisations or cultures. It is the battleground of a decisive struggle between two ways of thinking. There are those who declare that there are no facts, but only interpretations - so many acts of faith. These either tend toward fanaticism ("I am the truth") or they fall into nihilism ("nothing is true, nothing is false"). Opposing them are those who advocate free discussion with a view to distinguishing between true and false, those for whom political and scientific matters – or simple judgement – can be settled on the basis of worldly facts, independently of arbitrary pre-established opinions.
A totalitarian way of thinking loathes to be gainsaid. It affirms dogmatically, and waves the little red, or black, or green book. It is obscurantist, blending politics and religion. Anti-totalitarian thinking, by contrast, takes facts for what they are and acknowledges even the most hideous of them, those one would prefer to keep hidden out of fear or for the sake of utility. Bringing the gulag to light made it possible to criticise and ultimately reject "actually existing socialism". Confronting the Nazi abominations and opening the extermination camps converted Europe to democracy after 1945. Refusing to face the cruellest historical facts, on the other hand, heralds the return of cruelty. Whether the Islamists - who are far from representing all Muslims – like it or not, there is no common measure between negating known facts and criticising any one of the beliefs which every European has the right to practice or poke fun at.
For centuries, Jupiter and Christ, Jehovah and Allah have had to put up with many a joke. The Jews are past masters at criticising Yaweh – they've even made it a bit of a speciality. That does not prevent the true believers of any confession from believing, or from respecting those of a different faith. That is the price of religious peace. But joking about gas chambers, raped women and disembowelled babies, sanctifying televised beheadings and human bombs all point to an unbearable future.
It is high time that the democrats regained their spirit, and that the constitutional states remembered their principles. With solemnity and solidarity they must recall that one, two or three religions, four or five ideologies may in no way decide what citizens can do or think. What is at stake here is not only the freedom of the press, but also the permission to call a spade a spade and a gas chamber an abomination, regardless of our beliefs. What is at stake is the basis of all morality: here on earth the respect due to each individual starts with the recognition and rejection of the most flagrant examples of inhumanity.
André Glücksmann, philosopher, SignandSight
08 março 2006
But something got lost in the translation.
The incident began happily enough when Sverre Lyngstad opened the magazine's Dec. 26 issue and found a long article on the Norwegian writer Knut Hamsun (1859-1952), the Nobel laureate whose reputation was damaged by his late-life support for the Nazis. Lyngstad has worked mightily to raise Hamsun's profile as a father of modernism. Since 1994, he has published a critical study of Hamsun's work and translated nine of his best works into English, including the novels "Hunger," "Pan," "Mysteries" and, most recently, "Victoria" (Penguin Classics, $13, paper).
Sure enough, The New Yorker quoted liberally from Lyngstad's translations. But it never credited his work. When Lyngstad contacted the magazine, he was told that editors feared that including his name would "clutter" the piece. After much back and forth, The New Yorker finally agreed to print a shortened version of his letter to the editor, in the Feb. 27 issue.
"The article left the impression that the translations had just dropped from the sky or that Hamsun had done them himself," Lyngstad told me in a telephone interview. "You always like to be recognized for your work. The absence of such recognition raises the whole issue of the translator's very function and status, in seeming to suggest that citations from a translated text can be made without any mention of the person who brought it into existence."
Few people would endorse the magazine's oversight. Yet we must also admit that it offered a little wish fulfillment to some readers. Translators play such a central role in our experience of foreign works that we have a natural urge to erase them from the picture.
Picking up "Madame Bovary" or "Crime and Punishment," we seek to surrender ourselves to the towering genius of Flaubert or Dostoevsky. We don't want to be reminded that our ignorance of French or Russian means we can never fully enjoy their works, but only versions of them created by gifted, but obscure, translators.
Almost all first-rate translators convey the story and spirit of the works at hand -- capturing Bovary's yearning or Raskolnikov's torment. But then we remember Flaubert, who famously labored to find le seul mot juste (the one right word). Even a cursory glance of competing translations displays thousands of differing word choices, many of which alter the rhythm, the syntax and, to varying degrees, the meaning of the work.
To take one telling example, here is Lyngstad's translation of the third sentence from Hamsun's novel, "Victoria": "When he grew up he wanted to be a maker of matches." Here's how an earlier translator, Oliver Stallybrass, rendered it: "When he grew up he would work in a match factory."
I cannot say which version is truer, but the differences are plain. Lyngstad gives us an ambitious boy determined to set the world on fire. Stallybrass introduces us to a child whose grim fate seems predetermined.
Translators are like priests who mediate our relationship with the literary gods. We depend on them even as we wish for direct contact.
Though translators often get the short shrift, they are more important than ever in this global age. Literature from foreign lands is one of the best ways to understand and experience distant cultures. Yet it represents only a tiny fraction of the books published in America.
Of the 195,000 new titles printed in English in 2004 (the most recent year for which numbers are available), only 891 were works of adult literature in translation, according to the RR Bowker company, which tracks publishing industry figures.
Nevertheless, thanks to translators' heroic and often poorly paid work, we will be able to enjoy many wonderful works this spring. They include "Suite Francaise," Irene Nemirovsky's novel of life in Nazi-occupied France (Knopf, April, translated from the French by Sandra Smith); "The Possibility of an Island," best-selling French author Michel Houllebecq's futuristic tale of the modern world (Knopf, May, translated by Gavin Bowd); and "Seeing," the latest novel from Portuguese Nobel laureate Jose Saramago, (Harcourt, April, translated by Margaret Jull Costa).
Translators also breathe new life into old works. The Nobel prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney resurrected "Beowulf" in 2000 through a version powerful enough to transform the bane of ninth-grade English into a national best seller. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky's fresh translation of "Anna Karenina" led Oprah Winfrey to make Tolstoy's masterpiece one of her book club picks. And Anthony Briggs is generating new interest in another Tolstoy classic, "War and Peace" (Viking) through his new translation of that sprawling epic.
All of which reminds us of the central paradox of the relationship between readers and translators: We can't live with them, and we can't live without them.
[From the Newsobserver]