Are You Happy Yet?

Dear Biden voters, here is a little update on the most recent achievements by your president:

1. He requested the largest Pentagon budget in history.

2. He’s withholding COVID vaccines from Mexico until Mexicans promise not to let Central American migrants near the border.

3. The number of “babies in cages” increased dramatically since he’s been inaugurated.

Are you happy with how things are going? Is this what you voted for?

Just wondering.

P.S. Oh, and Biden is now building the wall Trump neglected to build. It’s truly funny.

More or Less?

In this environment, are you more interested or less interested in the idea of the healthcare system in the US being nationalized (meaning, administered by the government)?

Weird Translations

There is this great article by John McWhorter that is being shared widely on the literary translation of Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Anybody who is interested in language and how translation of words and concepts works will enjoy this brilliant piece.

I want to explain the origins of the phenomenon that McWhorter describes in the article. There is this theory that has dominated translation studies and has held literary translators in the US captive for 30 years. The theory is that when you translate a literary text and make it sound normal and smooth in the target language, you are committing an act of colonialist aggression.

So instead of looking for words and expressions in English that transmit the meaning of the original while not sounding completely weird to a native speaker of English, you should do the opposite. Translate but in a way that just sounds off and slightly bizarre to an Anglo reader. Because that’s the only way you avoid colonially aggressing against the culture of the author you are translating.

Got it? Make the author you are translating sound weird on purpose to avoid colonial aggression. It’s an actual theory, and it has had an enormous impact on the practice of literary translation. Without knowing where it all comes from, the phenomenon that McWhorter so beautifully analyzes is incomprehensible. If you come across such a translation, you will now know why it sounds so quaint.

Cancer of Academia

Here’s a deeply insane story about a student at the UVA’s School of Medicine who disagreed with a faculty member’s belief in “microaggressions” and as a result was dragged off campus by police and declared mentally unstable. He’s now suing.

When I was a student, starting from my very first semester as an undergrad, I was notorious for challenging professors in class on everything they said. I don’t accept anything on faith. If you are a professor and position yourself as a figure of intellectual authority, be prepared to defend your ideas. Sometimes, the professors would get exasperated when I’d demolish a carefully prepared theory but I saw that they loved it. Nobody retaliated in any way or claimed to be wounded because they belonged to a “marginalized group.” Which they were by virtue of being almost invariably Hispanic and/or gay. I was the absolute star of my undergraduate program.

Of course, my professors had real ideas and real knowledge. Nobody ever brought anything like this microaggressions crap to the students.

Today I’m a professor and I live for the students who challenge me. I can’t imagine trying to get a student expelled for trying to think for himself. These people at UVA are a cancer of academia. They are despicable, and I’m ashamed to be in the same profession as they.