Tag Archives: @EconArts

It’s Only Partially All Doom & Gloom. Sort of.

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Not surprisingly, @TheEconomist published an interesting article last month titled “A sense of dread.” Ooh ooh ooh! the reader says excitedly, head in hands, lunch about to be expelled through their oral cavity, Another Armageddon scenario where we all perish and the world blows up in one final fiery scene that is caught on camera by a distant NASA satellite called CovfefeMyAss. This will represent the sum total of all we have to bequeath future intelligent life years/centuries/millennia from now. No remnants of our scientific achievements, art, or philosophy left for posterity’s sake. Conspicuously, no remnants of us.

WTF? they’ll say when they come upon the footage in this now-rogue satellite spinning out of control somewhere near Andromeda. Doesn’t this remind you of that scene in Star Wars when the Death Star is blown up? one guy will say to his fellow smarter-than-human-beings colleagues.

Ha ha ha, they’ll all respond. Good one, Red Leader! That was funny.

Ah, doom and gloom. Or is it? Is it in fact a Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, or are we merely repeating, ad nauseam, what our forebears have done for time immemorial, which is to do believe what The Economist declares: “There is nothing new in society being gripped by anxiety about the present and pessimism about the future.”

As my mother likes to remind me on a weekly basis, today’s youth is so much more screwed up than the last, what with their ear thingies in their ears and their handphone thingamajigs in their hands as they walk down the street. And why don’t young people have home rotary phones in their homes anymore!

Ha ha ha. Just kidding, Mom. It’s all good.

To return to Economist-like seriousness, though, the above link reviews a book by Richard Overy, a noted World War II historian, and his latest addition to the literary world, a book that focuses on the years between the two wars (1918-1939). It was a time when “the presentiment of impending disaster was even more deeply felt (and perhaps with better reason) than it is today. Indeed, Mr Overy sets out to show that it was a uniquely gloomy and fearful era, a morbid age that saw the future of civilisation in terms of disease, decay and death.”

Let’s step back in history for a moment, shall we? This should be fun. In that 21-year inter-war period, the world saw, in no particular order, the rise of a virulent strain of communism and Marxism, the brutality of the Spanish Civil War, a surge in polio cases throughout developed nations, the introduction to the world stage of winners like Hitler, Mao, Mussolini, Stalin & Franco, the world’s first carpet-bombing campaign carried out on Geurnica, the average life span in rural communities in the richest countries not surpass the average age of death for a well-to-do Greek person 2,000 years earlier, and, of course, the Great Depression.

The list is obviously longer. However, like cream-colored ponies and crisp apple strudels, these are just a few of my JA-inspired favourite things that popped to mind.

Today, inundated as we are by real-time news stories and a constant barrage of images, soundbites, texts, alerts, online posts, emails, retweets, etc., it might truly feel like we are balancing precariously on The Razor’s Edge.

But are we?

For example, what if the poles were to reverse on themselves as a result of global warming? No big deal, says NASA. It’s happened many times over the millennia, naturally, and we’ve lived to talk about it. But what if global warming leads to another glacial epoch similar to the last Ice Age? Well, Homo sapiens appear to have survived with little more than some sticks and stones last go around, so I’d imagine we 21st-century human beings might be able to weather it, as a species, even if millions did perish in the geological catastrophe.

On the other hand, global warming is destroying our ozone layer, which in turn makes it potentially impossible to walk outside with exposed skin one day, a very real health risk, not to mention the melting of polar ice caps, floods, draughts, extreme weather patterns – you get the picture.

There’s also something unique that we have been living with since the Baby Boomer generation that no other civilization in history has had to contend with: the potential to annihilate ourselves in planetary suicide through the use of manmade weapons of mass destruction.

Contrary to what some believe, though, we are still in the midst of the longest era of global peace the world has known since we invented the means to kill each other in greater – and quicker – numbers. We’ve eradicated more diseases in the last century than all of human history put together. Knowledge, education and the sharing of information has never been this affordable, convenient or readily accessible to the masses. Eat your heart out, Gutenberg.

These are the veritable “Doorbells and sleigh bells, And schnitzel with noodles” we should be trying to focus on as we’re pummeled with streaming videos of captives being beheaded in foreign lands, women and girls raped in the name of “religion,” food banks overrun in the biggest cities throughout the “developed” world,  mental health cases spiking everywhere (although this is probably more just the world waking up to its reality and not denying it any longer), and the world’s most powerful Commander-in-Chief seemingly bent on bringing ruin to the planet as expeditiously (that means “promptly or “quickly,” Donnie T.) and with as little covfefe (………………..) as possible.

Long of the short: As much as we love to talk about the doom and gloom drenching us like a cancer with more cancerous cancerness than the last generation, I think it’s time we realize that things may not be quite as covfefe as we tend to think in our dark hours of Trumpian pessimism. As a famous author once said when writing about subjects like War and Peace, “We imagine that as soon as we are thrown out of our customary ruts all is over, but it is only then that the new and the good begins…There is a great deal, a great deal before us. I say that for you.”

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Woe Be to Today’s Translators

Image result for translation, frustration

If you’re a translator, linguist, polyglot, linguaphile, word nerd, Scrabble freak – but especially if you work in the translation field to earn your keep – then you have to get a hold of the weekly Johnson column from @TheEconomist and published in the arts, books and culture section @EconArts.

Case in point: The Johnson column from May 27, titled “Why translators have the blues,” is so dead-on it’s scary. Not, like, Dracula kind of scary; it’s, like, holy-crapballs-I-can’t-believe-someone-else-in-the-world-feels-my-exact-pain kind of scary.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. To that I say…word. In the case of the above image, the picture may not be worth a thousand words, but it is worth seven letters (and 13 points on its own in Scrabble) and echoes Rodney Dangerfield’s go-to one-liner – “Hey! I don’t get no respect.”

Well, the Johnson column captures one of the biggest problems strangling the translation industry these days. Although translation is one of the few areas of commerce that is (for now) safe from technology – computers may be able to generate beautiful artwork, beat world champion chess players, and have more Cliff Clavin knowledge than Ken Jennings – but as I’ve stated before on this site, technology has a long, long way to go before it can harness mankind’s greatest invention.

That being said, competition among translators, many of whom can be total hacks that might do better training to become astronauts for North Korea’s burgeoning space program, is more intense than ever. Translation fees have become a joke at international agencies (I’ve had clients offer me 5 cents/word when I don’t usually work for less than 20-25 cents/word, or $10/page when I charge between $60-$120/page), so the quality of the finished products being churned out is, by extension, tanking.

But who cares, right? Apparently clients like multibillion dollar corporations are caring less and less, at least in East Asia they seem to be. But Johnson has a potential solution: literary translation. Although the big money still lies with the big company contracts, native English speakers are becoming more and more interested in the opportunity to read books from countries outside Angloburbia.

As good ol’ Johnson mused at the beginning of this week’s column, “Translation can be lonely work, which may well be why most translators choose the career out of interest, not because they crave attention.” So listen up all you cheap dime store hoods who want a quality product at sub-minimum wage rates and with deadlines that defy the space-time continuum. All us lonely inkhorn scribes who move from one language to another for a living want is one thing: respect.

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