Here Andrew O'Heir discusses Alex Gibney's new documentary, Casino Jack and the United States of Money, premering at the Sundance Film Festival. Gibney is known for his two excellent previous documentaries, Enron:The Samrtest Guys In The Room and Taxi To The Darkside. It sounds like another fascinating subject, ripe for discussion.
This piece in Slate discusses Salinger's influence to the literary short story with his seminal collection Nine Stories.
J.D. Salinger was one of my favorite authors in high school and early college. I think he was one of the authors that got me interested in literature, which I eventually majored in at the University of Washington.
I think I became aware of Howard Zinn in graduate schhol and vowed if I ever taught history at high school at the very least I would make several chapters of A People's History of the United States, a seminal book, required reading. I vastly respect Zinn's achievements and sense of morality.
There's an interesting dispatch series of one of the 9/11 bombers who was an architecture student in Germany at Slate.
I also found this Slate article discussing the use and abuse of genius thought-provoking as well:
I have my own strong feelings about the question of genius in literature. I've always felt that if we look at the past century, Nabokov was a game-changer, as the academic phrase has it. Nabokov showed there is a place you can go, a place that the alchemy of words can transport reader and writer to, that no one had gone before. And Nabokov went there, with ease, inLolita and Pale Fire. So it's hard to call any other writer in the past century a genius of the same order. Which in part accounts for my ambivalence about the decision to publish, against his wishes, an unfinished draft of his last incomplete work, The Original of Laura: No one was more aware than he of when a work of his had reached its zenith of genius. He didn't feel this one had. Perhaps, though, we'll learn some valuable lessons about the degrees of ascent to genius. Is it all or nothing?
Maybe genius must give the feeling of effortlessness as well as utter confidence and transcendence. Ulysses and Gravity's Rainbow both show the palpable sweaty strain to become encyclopedic works of genius: Always screaming across the sky: "This is a work of genius!"
A friend pointed me in the direction of Michael Lewis piece about Shane Battier the "No Stat All-Star" in The NY Times. Another terrific piece from Lewis:
Battier’s game is a weird combination of obvious weaknesses and nearly invisible strengths. When he is on the court, his teammates get better, often a lot better, and his opponents get worse — often a lot worse. He may not grab huge numbers of rebounds, but he has an uncanny ability to improve his teammates’ rebounding. He doesn’t shoot much, but when he does, he takes only the most efficient shots. He also has a knack for getting the ball to teammates who are in a position to do the same, and he commits few turnovers. On defense, although he routinely guards the N.B.A.’s most prolific scorers, he significantly reduces their shooting percentages. At the same time he somehow improves the defensive efficiency of his teammates — probably, Morey surmises, by helping them out in all sorts of subtle ways. “I call him Lego,” Morey says. “When he’s on the court, all the pieces start to fit together. And everything that leads to winning that you can get to through intellect instead of innate ability, Shane excels in. I’ll bet he’s in the hundredth percentile of every category.”
There was a fascinating article by Jonah Lehrer in The New Yorker about self control and how it is a better indicator of success in life than IQ tests:
The initial goal of the experiment was to identify the mental processes that allowed some people to delay gratification while others simply surrendered. After publishing a few papers on the Bing studies in the early seventies, Mischel moved on to other areas of personality research. “There are only so many things you can do with kids trying not to eat marshmallows.”
But occasionally Mischel would ask his three daughters, all of whom attended the Bing, about their friends from nursery school. “It was really just idle dinnertime conversation,” he says. “I’d ask them, ‘How’s Jane? How’s Eric? How are they doing in school?’ ” Mischel began to notice a link between the children’s academic performance as teen-agers and their ability to wait for the second marshmallow. He asked his daughters to assess their friends academically on a scale of zero to five. Comparing these ratings with the original data set, he saw a correlation. “That’s when I realized I had to do this seriously,” he says. Starting in 1981, Mischel sent out a questionnaire to all the reachable parents, teachers, and academic advisers of the six hundred and fifty-three subjects who had participated in the marshmallow task, who were by then in high school. He asked about every trait he could think of, from their capacity to plan and think ahead to their ability to “cope well with problems” and get along with their peers. He also requested their S.A.T. scores.
Once Mischel began analyzing the results, he noticed that low delayers, the children who rang the bell quickly, seemed more likely to have behavioral problems, both in school and at home. They got lower S.A.T. scores. They struggled in stressful situations, often had trouble paying attention, and found it difficult to maintain friendships. The child who could wait fifteen minutes had an S.A.T. score that was, on average, two hundred and ten points higher than that of the kid who could wait only thirty seconds.
Malcolm Gladwell has another interesting article about the tactics of underdogs through the ages in The New Yorker:
David’s victory over Goliath, in the Biblical account, is held to be an anomaly. It was not. Davids win all the time. The political scientist Ivan Arreguín-Toft recently looked at every war fought in the past two hundred years between strong and weak combatants. The Goliaths, he found, won in 71.5 per cent of the cases. That is a remarkable fact. Arreguín-Toft was analyzing conflicts in which one side was at least ten times as powerful—in terms of armed might and population—as its opponent, and even in those lopsided contests the underdog won almost a third of the time.
In the Biblical story of David and Goliath, David initially put on a coat of mail and a brass helmet and girded himself with a sword: he prepared to wage a conventional battle of swords against Goliath. But then he stopped. “I cannot walk in these, for I am unused to it,” he said (in Robert Alter’s translation), and picked up those five smooth stones. What happened, Arreguín-Toft wondered, when the underdogs likewise acknowledged their weakness and chose an unconventional strategy? He went back and re-analyzed his data. In those cases, David’s winning percentage went from 28.5 to 63.6. When underdogs choose not to play by Goliath’s rules, they win, Arreguín-Toft concluded, “even when everything we think we know about power says they shouldn’t.”
There's a great series of interivews with Ricky Gervais in the NY Times Arts Beat. Part 1, 2, and 3:
Most comedians spend years on the stand-up circuit in hopes of landing their first television role. But as he’s often done in his career, Ricky Gervais took a slightly different approach. After he and his writing partnerStephen Merchant created the BBC sitcom“The Office” (which Mr. Gervais starred in, and which spawned an American remake on NBC) and the HBO series “Extras” (in which they were both featured), Mr. Gervais then decided it was time to spin one-liners in front of live audiences. Lured by the promises of creative freedom and free glasses of water, he starred in the HBO stand-up special“Ricky Gervais: Out of England,” which will have its DVD release on Tuesday.
There's a timely story from Woody Allen in the latest New Yorker:
Two weeks ago, Abe Moscowitz dropped dead of a heart attack and was reincarnated as a lobster. Trapped off the coast of Maine, he was shipped to Manhattan and dumped into a tank at a posh Upper East Side seafood restaurant. In the tank there were several other lobsters, one of whom recognized him. “Abe, is that you?” the creature asked, his antennae perking up.
“Who’s that? Who’s talking to me?” Moscowitz said, still dazed by the mystical slam-bang postmortem that had transmogrified him into a crustacean.
“It’s me, Moe Silverman,” the other lobster said.
“O.M.G.!” Moscowitz piped, recognizing the voice of an old gin-rummy colleague. “What’s going on?”
“We’re reborn,” Moe explained. “As a couple of two-pounders.”
“Lobsters? This is how I wind up after leading a just life? In a tank on Third Avenue?”
There was an interesting article in The Daily Yomiuri about a playwright who translated Mamet's seminal play Glengarry Glen Ross into Japanese. it seems it was a challenging task:
"I was overwhelmed by the amount of dialogue. On the first reading, I could barely understand what was going on. But I could feel the power in the dialogue," Emori said. "Even though I'm not a native English speaker, I got a real sense of the lively, aggressive atmosphere of the story through word choice and alignment."
Glengarry, written in 1982, tells the story of four real estate agents over two desperate days. They need to unload some undesirable properties onto unsuspecting customers. They flatter and lie to their prospective buyers, while swearing, yelling and backstabbing each other in the hope of beating out the others for promotion.
The title comes from two of the developments--Glengarry Highlands and Glen Ross Farms. Better salesmen get better leads, which means better properties and a higher class of customer. One of the agents tries to get good leads through bribery, while the other plots to steal the leads and sell them to a competitor.
The play was performed in London and the United States, and in 1992 was adapted into a film of the same name (Japan title: Matenro o Yumemite), with a cast that included Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alex Baldwin, Ed Harris and Kevin Spacey.
Glengarry is a dialogue and jargon-heavy piece that requires a lot of work and energy from its actors, and, of course, its translator.
Mother-tongue proficiency key
Like most Japanese, Emori studied English until high school. From that point onward, however, he studied on his own. He says he is not a literary man, and has never lived or worked abroad.
Despite his lack of formal education in the field, he chose to take on a play that had never been translated into Japanese before. With little information about the story and the incredible amount of dialogue, he found himself in over his head at first. But after getting a grasp on the atmosphere of the play, he started to understand the desperation the middle-aged men were feeling as they tried to get their piece of the American Dream. After reading the story, he was determined to have it performed before a Japanese audience.
"The most important thing when translating is to be proficient in Japanese," Emori said, adding that a translator needs to have a wealth of linguistic knowledge stored up to know which words or expressions would best fit the nuances of the original.
According to Emori, choice of personal pronouns is one of the most difficult things when it comes to translation.
"When you translate the word 'I,' beyond the gender difference, you must choose between words such as 'boku,' 'ore,' 'uchi' and 'washi,' for example," he said.
"And the other interesting thing about Japanese is [even in the same character], the way they use pronouns changes. For example in English, 'you' will be still 'you,' but the tone of voice used when saying 'you' may differ based on the character's emotional state. In Japanese, on the other hand, the words can be switched from 'anata' to 'anta' as the speaker becomes enraged. These subtle changes can completely influence the feeling of a conversation," he said.
Despite the rough language spoken by the characters, this interviewer found Emori's 135-page Glengarry script elegant and old-fashioned. Images of stylish, aggressive men from a period drama speaking like Emori seem to float from the pages. The dialogue does not have the feeling of a translation, instead reading as if it was written in Japanese, not diligently converted from English.
Emori also discussed the problems raised by the variety of verb endings found in Japanese, as opposed to English, which tends to stick to one easier pattern, the so-called "be verb."
During translation for Glengarry, Emori struggled with the word "lead," a word and concept key to the entire story. He needed to find a short, punchy word for the script, as it is repeated frequently throughout. In his theater company's previous productions, he simply chose to stick with the original, "leads," but in this latest version, he chose to go with the word "tama," an expression that Japanese often use like English speakers would use the expression "good one." The film's translator--the famous Natsuko Toda--however, chose to go with the word "neta," a word reporters, for example, often use when they receive a tip-off or lead.