lukegilman.com : High on the Hog Blog
Purveyor of Idle Observation

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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.

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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

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Vassar Miller’s ‘Christmas Mourning’

Vassar Miller‘s “Christmas Mourning”

On Christmas Day I weep
Good Friday to rejoice.
I watch the child asleep.
Does He half dream the choice
The Man must make and keep?

At Christmastime I sigh
For my Good Friday Hope.
Outflung the Child’s arms lie
To span in their brief scope
The death the Man must die.

Come Christmastide I groan
To hear Good Friday’s pealing.
The Man, racked to the bone,
Has made His hurt my healing,
Has made my ache His own.

Slay me, pierced to the core
With Christmas penitence
So I who, new-born, soar
To that Child’s innocence,
May wound the Man no more.

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Remembering Molly

The best tribute I could think of -

“If Texas were a sane place, it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun”

“The first rule of holes: When you’re in one, stop digging”

“Everyone knows the man has no clue, but no one there has the courage to say it. I mean, good gawd, the man is as he always has been: barely adequate”on President Bush

“Good thing we’ve still got politics in Texas — finest form of free entertainment ever invented”

“In Texas, we do not hold high expectations for the (governor’s) office; it’s mostly been occupied by crooks, dorks and the comatose”

From: Molly Ivins, iconic Texas columnist, loses cancer fight at 62

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Reading: Sudhir Ventakesh, Off the Books

Sudhir Ventakesh

With a finite amount of time before Contracts starts, I decided my next read is going to be Sudhir Ventakesh‘s Off the Books: The Underground Economy of the Urban Poor. Ventakesh was a colleague of Steve Levitt‘s (Freakonomics) whom I’ve discussed here and here. Levitt and Dubner discussed Ventakesh’s work with Chicago gangs at length in Freakonomics, comparing the organization of a drug-selling gang to the franchising of McDonald’s. The gist of that research is available in a talk Levitt gave at the Technology Entertainment Design Conference (TED).

In Off the Books Ventakesh delves deeper into the Southside Chicago neighborhood to explore the economics of the everyday lives of its residents, who, often living on the edge of survival, struggle with “their desires to live a just life and their needs to make ends meet as best they can.”

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Su Blackwell, Book Cut Sculptures

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Amazing work. Su Blackwell, Book Cut Images

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New York Review of Books, Allison Lurie on Alice Munro, Jeffrey Sachs on the viability of Economic Aid

Allison Lurie on Alice Munro

The New York Review of Books had two recent articles of interest to me; perhaps to you as well. One of my pet peeves is discovering great writers only after they’ve died. I discovered Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man in 1994 for instance. Same with James Merrill, I’ve finally jumped ahead of the curve with Alice Munro. Hopefully this doesn’t bode ill for her. She’s long been admired by fellow practitioners; she was a favorite assignment of the creative writing profs I had in undergrad. Her literary star is now apparently finding a deservedly wider audience. This is surprising for two reasons. First, her subject matter is neither sexy nor exciting. There is no elevator pitch for Munro’s work. It’s highly unlikely movies will be made. She is, simply and rarely, a fantastic writer. To read Munro is to be in the hands of a skilled butcher, to have the animal aspect of ones nature revealed, quarted, boned and trimmed with the same mix of pragmatic nonchalance and artistry. Secondly, Munro lives almost exclusively in the short form, a more difficult, technical yet infrequently lauded.

Lurie does an admirable job of capturing what’s important to know about Munro for the uninitiated.

One of Alice Munro’s great achievements has been to look with care and concern at her chosen world, and at what some readers would consider uninteresting persons: a sulky little girl, a small-town elementary school teacher, a retired salesman of farm chemicals. Munro takes these people seriously. As she says in the epilogue to Lives of Girls and Women, “People’s lives, in Jubilee as elsewhere, were dull, simple, amazing and unfathomable—deep caves paved with kitchen linoleum.”

Growing up next to Canada, I found this line alone was worth the price of admission:

In the imagination of most Americans, Canada is a blur. It contains a lot of pine trees, moose, and Mounties; its population is relatively small, its politics relatively polite. Canadians are honest and serious but slightly dull. Some of us may pity or scorn them for not having joined the revolution of 1776: in this view, they are like the goody-goody siblings who never rebelled against their parents.

New York Review of Books: The Lamp in the Mausoleum

Jeffrey Sachs on the viability of Economic Aid

In a second article, economist Jeffrey Sachs responds to an earlier article by Nicholas Kristof which cited Sach’s panegyric The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time and William Easterly’s skeptical White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good.

A second reason for the retreat is the widespread belief that aid is simply wasted, money down the rat hole. That has surely been true of some aid, such as the “reconstruction” funding for Iraq and the cold war–era payouts to thugs such as Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire. But these notorious cases obscure the critical fact that development assistance based on proven technologies and directed at measurable and practical needs—increased food production, disease control, safe water and sanitation, schoolrooms and clinics, roads, power grids, Internet connectivity, and the like—has a distinguished record of success.

New York Review of Books: How Aid Can Work, in response to Aid: Can It Work?

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Red-Hot and Filthy Library Smut

BNF-PARIS.jpg

via BoingBoing, I found this glorious post from the Nonist, Red-Hot and Filthy Library Smut. It’s not as dirty as you might suppose, though bibliophiles tend to be a little excessive in the sexual metaphors. I myself am guilty of engaging in Hot Wet Book Love, though these photographs painfully illustrate how destitute my library experiences really are.

The photographs are from the book Libraries by Candida Höfer and Umberto Eco, who writes the introduction. There is of course, no one on earth better suited to write an introduction to a book on libraries. Needless to say, it is now atop of my wish list if anyone is feeling especially beneficent.

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On Language, Learning American

With an eye towards Bill Safire’s eventual retirement from the NY Times, apparently he’s just on vacation, the paper seems to be having try outs for the “On Language” column. Marion McKeone’s Learning American gets my vote if only for the line “an Irishman on a dance floor resembles nothing so much as an epileptic sack of suet.”

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Peep of Day

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peep-of-day-inside.jpg

This is my latest acquisition. Let me read to you a favorite passage.

“How easy would it be to hurt your poor little body.

If it were to fall into the fire, it would be burned up. If hot water were to fall upon it, it would be scalded. If it were to fall into deep water, and not be taken out very soon, it would be drowned. If a great knife were run through your body, the blood would come out. If a great box were to fall on your head, your head would be crushed….

You see that you have a very weak little body. Can you keep your own body from being sick, and from getting hurt?

You should try not to hurt yourself, but God only can keep your body from all harm, from fire and water, from wounds and bruises, and all kinds of sickness. Kneel down and say to God, “Pray keep my poor little body from getting hurt.” God will hear you and go on taking care of you.”

This is from Peep of Day, A series of the Earliest Religious Instruction the infant mind is capable of receiving., by F.L. Mortimer. Ah yes, but the Victorians had a delightful creepy way with children.

I have not yet been able to find a good copy of The Countries of Europe Described, however Little Gray Books has this hilarious mp3 of a live reading (mp3)

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