All posts for December 2017

Radio Silence, 2017 Edition

Be back soon, but don't know when.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2017/12/15 13:25

There will be a pause as I deal with some real life matters. I may be back before the new year; I may not be.

Tags: real life 

Speaking In Tongues (And Writing In Them, Too)

"Translators are people who read books for us."

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2017/12/10 08:00

Gained in Translation | by Tim Parks | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books

Translators are people who read books for us. Tolstoy wrote in Russian, so someone must read him for us and then write down that reading in our language. Since the book will be fuller and richer the more experience a reader brings to it, we would want our translator, as he or she reads, to be aware of as much as possible, aware of cultural references, aware of lexical patterns, aware of geographical setting and historical moment. Aware, too, of our own language and its many resources. Far from being “just subjective,” these differences will be a function of the different experiences these readers bring to the book, since none of us accumulates the same experience. Even then, of course, two expert translators will very likely produce two quite different versions. But if what we want is a translation of Tolstoy, rather than just something that sounds good enough sentence by sentence, it would seem preferable to have our reading done for us by people who can bring more, rather than less, to the work.

When I read Donald Keene's English translation of Osamu Dazai's No Longer Human, which was created in 1959, I was not aware of how many passages in the book had been condensed or rewritten.

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Tags: Donald Keene  Osamu Dazai  translation  writing 

Beyond Good And Evil, And All That

In re: "Trying to find absolute rights and wrongs is a trick we play on ourselves to feel comfortable."

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2017/12/09 08:00

Somewhere in my readings of Buddhism — possibly Pema Chödrön, but don't quote me on that — I read something that went like this: As long as people think they have something they can retreat into, it doesn't matter how damaging the act of retreat is.

[brief pause, flipping of pages]

... Okay, I took the time to do some research, and I think that is in fact something I came up with myself in response to an actual quote by Chödrön: "Trying to find absolute rights and wrongs is a trick we play on ourselves to feel comfortable." (The Pocket Pema Chödrön, p.80.)

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Tags: Buddhism  Zen  morality  spirituality 

TV Or Not TV

More on the de-boob-tubing of my life.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2017/12/08 08:00

I don't remember exactly when I stopped watching TV, but I suspect a big part of it was never really getting into the habit. By "not watching TV", I don't mean never watching anything at all, but rather not engaging in the habit of just parking myself in front of the tube after dinner and going from channel to channel, cold looking for that hero.

But by the ... late Nineties, I think? ... I was very conscious of how even a little bit of that a day was something like two hours out of my evening that I wanted back for myself. And given that I wanted to create things, those two hours would make all the difference for me.

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Tags: entertainment  technology  television 

Don't Techno For An Answer

"The computer has almost since its beginning been a solution looking for a problem."

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2017/12/07 08:00

Weizenbaum examines computers and society - The Tech

There is something about the computer — the computer has almost since its beginning been basically a solution looking for a problem.

People come to MIT and to other places, people from all sorts of establishments — the medical establishment, the legal establishment, the education establishment, and in effect they say, "You have there a very wonderful instrument which solves a lot of problems. Surely there must be problems in my establishment — in this case, the educational establishment, for which your wonderful instrument is a solution. Please tell me for what problems your wonderful instrument is a solution."

The questioning should start the other way — it should perhaps start with the question of what education is supposed to accomplish in the first place. Then perhaps [one should] state some priorities — it should accomplish this, it should do that, it should do the other thing. Then one might ask, in terms of what it's supposed to do, what are the priorities? What are the most urgent problems? And once one has identified the urgent problems, then one can perhaps say, "Here is a problem for which the computer seems to be well-suited." I think that's the way it has to begin.

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This was published in 1985, back when home computers were still relatively new and publications like Creative Computing were still on the stands.

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Tags: Creative Computing  computers  education  society  sociology  technology 

Artifact And Artifiction

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2017/12/04 08:00

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I have been reading the writings of Gerhard Richter, a painter whose view of his work is a good deal more interesting to me than much of the work itself. He was, like John Cage, not interested in creating things that were an expression of his personality; he wanted some larger aspect of things to manifest itself through him. In fact, Cage is explicitly credited as an influence, and in one of the photos in the book, Cage is seen smiling in front of one of Richter's paintings.

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Tags: Gerhard Richter  John Cage  art  artists 

The Monster Mash

" can a mash lot of orcs and unicorns and intergalactic wars together without actually imagining anything."

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2017/12/03 08:00

When Ursula talks, listen:

Writing Nameless Things: An Interview with Ursula K. Le Guin - Los Angeles Review of Books

... you can a mash lot of orcs and unicorns and intergalactic wars together without actually imagining anything. One of the troubles with our culture is we do not respect and train the imagination. It needs exercise. It needs practice. You can’t tell a story unless you’ve listened to a lot of stories and then learned how to do it.

To which I'd add: a lot of different stories. That being part of the process of respecting and training the imagination. The world won't do it for us; we have to do it for ourselves.

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Tags: creativity  imagination  science fiction 

Emotional Rescue

The greatest stories make us emotional standard-bearers, not just emotional recipients.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2017/12/02 08:00

Several Kinds of Fantasy – Yonatan Zunger – Medium

A few years ago, I came across an interesting theory of how to divide up stories implied in a talk by Lois McMaster Bujold: that stories are most usefully divided not by their structural elements, or their set dressing, but by the type of emotional experience they try to create. Romances, in this model, are fantasies of love; mysteries may be fantasies of justice or of understanding, and the latter category is shared with spy thrillers and Lovecraftian horror. Literary fiction about painful divorces may have more in common with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre than with Agatha Christie.

This goes back into what I've just been talking about — the ultimate emotional impact of a story being a chief determinant for how it's put together, and especially how it's ended.

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Tags: science fiction  storytelling 

Arrested Development

Comics and video games are low-hanging fruit that anyone can use for cheap shots about maturity.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2017/12/01 08:00

I'm part of a generation that grew up with the idea that certain kinds of "kid stuff" are things you do want to preserve past your childhood. The ability to play video games together, for instance, or even play video games alone. The ability to enjoy colorful flights of fancy of varying degrees of artistic competence and demographic intent. The ability to tell stupid jokes and laugh at them, too.

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Tags: adulthood  psychology  sociology 

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