Link of the Day

What Georges Simenon was really like.

And I absolutely agree with the article: Maigret is literature. I’m curious to see these new Penguin translations. We had some pretty great Russian ones but I’ve never read him in English. It’s definitely the kind of literature that’s all about the translation.

Cultural Experiences

I have a friend at church, she’s 69, and has serious health issues. Today, she was barely managing to sit upright. But then I got her to complain about her Ukrainian mother-in-law (who’s been dead since 1986), and my friend came alive. In no time, she was laughing thunderously and talking more animatedly than I’d ever seen her.

“Finally, finally somebody understands what I went through!” she kept exclaiming. Nobody else at the church knows anybody from Ukraine, so the poor woman always felt that people suspected her of exaggerating the mother-in-law’s intrusiveness and imperiousness. And here I was, practically finishing her stories for her because I know exactly what it’s like.


People have started to think I detest Brazil and Portugal but it’s not true. The reason I leave the room whenever anybody mentions them is that I’m a specialist in 21-century Peninsular Spanish literature.

Then I had to start teaching Golden Age because we don’t have a specialist.

Then 19th century because ditto.

Then Medieval because ditto.

Then Latin American because ditto.

So now when people go, “so by the way, do you have any interest in Luso-Brazilian…?”, I scream “NO!!!!” and slam the door in their face.

Empty Carcasses

So if we are not the product of tech companies, what is? What is it that they strip us of, leaving us as empty carcasses, and sell?

It’s the capacity to make our own decisions.

Here’s an example. A huge banking conglomerate in China calculates credit scores based on many different factors, most of which aren’t financial. For instance, the algorithm adjusts your credit rating based on who your friends are. Every time you dump a friend with a lower score, your score improves. Soon, people automatically factor this in as they make their friendship choices.

Yes, social considerations in the choice of friends always existed. But social considerations exist and can be negotiated among people who surround you in your actual life. This is very different than an automated process that pushes you, in a way you not only can’t negotiate or control but can’t even fully know about, to pare down your circle of friends.

If a machine decides – and predicts long in advance, pushing you to confirm its prediction – who your friends will be, then how are you human? How are you anything? This is the main concern of Zuboff’s book, and I honestly think it should be ours. We don’t see any politicians even remotely interested in reigning in this insanity and preventing us from becoming what China is with its social ratings.

Have you wondered why?

Latin American Personalities

If you had to make a list of important Latin American personalities, who’d you choose?

I have Inca Garcilaso, Micaela Bastidas, Sor Juana, la Avellaneda, Nicolás Guillén, Juan Rulfo, and Castellanos Moya. The only reason behind the choices is that I dig them.

Who else would you choose? I don’t want any of the same-old hyped-up people like Bolívar and Che Guevara. I’m actually not into the independence leaders at all. And not José Martí because I already have two Cubans.

It’s for the university-wide Latino Heritage month, and I’m completely responsible for all the content.