: High on the Hog Blog
Purveyor of Idle Observation

Please note: I'm no longer updating this particular blog, but keep it around for archival purposes. Visit me at the current blog at

Perils of Translation

Economist Steve Levitt is an economist and author of Freakonomics, a bestseller in the U.S. and in the process of being published in myriad countries and languages all over the world. From his recent post Levit and Dabner?.

The second thing I noticed is that it was written by Stiven D. Levit and Stiven Dz. Dabner. Isn’t it strange to change the names of the authors? I can see if you are using a different alphabet you might not have a choice, but would it be normal to take the second “t” off my last name, or to turn “Dubner” into “Dabner?”

Seeing this, I wondered what they would do with the popular names listed in the last chapter. In most of the foreign versions, they simply reprint the American names. (I wonder how much the Korean and Chinese readers got out of this chapter?). But not in the Serbian version.

If you were a Serbian reader, you would be left believing that some of the blackest names in America are Sanis and Precis, and some of the whitest are Dzejk and Hanter. And our predictions for the most popular American names in 2015: Vejverli, Kejt, Aser, and Vil.

For more on that subject I highly recommend Douglas Hofstadter’s Le Ton Beau De Marot.

Rest in Peace, Skidboot, Good Boy

It is with great sadness that we learn the remarkable Skidboot has died.

Houston Chronicle: Skidboot, a working ranch dog and celebrity, dies at 14

This American Life, Now with 100% More Visuals

As the NY Times reports, Ira Glass has taken his popular public radio show ‘This American Life,’ fancied it up with some moving pictures and sold it to Show Time, so no one like me will ever see it. :-(

The good ole radio show is available for free online, with archives. My personal favorite, Kevin Kelly’s piece in the very first show back in 1995.

The poet Derek Walcott on NPR

Derek Walcott has been one of my favorite poets for a very long time. This was only confirmed when I saw Walcott speak at the Margaret Brown Root reading series some years ago. His reading of his poems is at once the most elegant and most natural I’ve ever heard. Audio on the NPR website. He’s a fascinating character.

NPR: Derek Walcott: A Life in Poetry

Now with 110% More Twittering

Once again my best laid plans to attend SXSW Interactive festival were foiled, this time by some gaping research holes in my appellate brief for my Legal Research & Writing class. Ah, the joys of lawstudentdom.

I hear Twitter was all the rage, however, and have consoled myself in its willing arms. As updating your status on Facebook or IM is to recreational mary jane, Twitter is to freebasing crack cocaine. I’m not alone in this assessment.

Twitter exists to communicate one thing to the rest of the world – ‘what you are doing?’ It accomplishes this by allowing you to update your status via web, cellphone, and IM. It adds a social element by giving you options on updating your friends with your status and getting their status updates in return. The Twitter Home Page has a running example of the collective nature. I’ll be back with updates if it manages to work its way into my personal technology ecology.

French Beat Box: Joseph de la Nouvelle Star 2007

Insanely good. Tip of the hat to BoingBoing.

Czech Filmmaker Jan Svankmajer Retrospective in Wired Magazine

Jason Silverman has a great article on the great Czech animator and filmmaker Jan Svankmajer in yesterday’s Wired – The Best Auteur You Never Saw. (photos)Is he as unknown as Silverman seems to think? I suppose. When I was there Emerson’s film program had an exchange program in Prague. The connection made Czech filmmakers minor celebrities in that circle. Svankmajer himself was a demigod, a mad genius whose technical virtuosity and arch-symbolism laden with 60′s intellectual fervor was the stuff of film students dreams. Svankmajer’s Collected Short Films is among the most prized in my DVD collection. While the overt communist-era politics of Svankmajer’s earlier work seems a bit dated and his gruff predeliction for disembodied carnality will offend the sensibilities of many if not most, the animations still retain an edginess and vitality the work of most of his contemporaries lost long ago.

Svankmajer has spent much of the past 40 years working in the relative cinematic obscurity of Prague, his hometown, where he has handcrafted 32 wondrously bizarre, funny and deeply disturbing films. Though he remains the most anonymous of the world’s essential filmmakers, Svankmajer’s also one of the more influential: Tim Burton, Terry Gilliam, Jean-Pierre Jeunet and David Cronenberg are all students of what might be called the Svankmajer School of the Grotesque.

Svankmajer’s films, which combine stop-motion animation with live action, are fearless, nightmarish, hilarious and terrifying, sometimes all at once. He’s been compared to Kafka, Lewis Carroll and Disney, and, in a 1994 New Yorker profile, described as “the last great obsessive in cinema — the end of a distinguished line that goes back to Orson Welles, Luis Buñuel and Carl Theodor Dreyer.”

Darkness/Light/Darkness (1989)

Trailer to Lunacy (2006)

New Yorker, Adventures in film narrative past and present

In this upcoming New Yorker, David Denby has an interesting in-depth article on the use of time in film narrative, covering the recent popularity of non-traditional narrative structures and some of the significant events in film history. Very comprehensive and a great read.

The New Yorker: The New Disorder: Adventures in film narrative.