"Designed to be outgrown"

31 Jul 2019

Alexander B. Joy for The Atlantic:

The threat of polio has lessened over time, but Candy Land’s value persists because of what it teaches. This is not to rehash the usual litany of early-childhood skills some Candy Land proponents tout. Yes, the game strengthens pattern recognition. Sure, it can teach children to read and follow instructions. In theory, it shows children how to play together—how to win humbly or lose graciously. But any game can teach these skills.

Candy Land’s lessons are not to be found in the game, but in its results. Now that polio is a distant fear and mobility a power taken for granted, most games of Candy Land disappoint. The rules today are the same as they were in 1949, but something about the proceedings simply does not add up. Eventually, children recognize that they don’t have a hand in winning or losing. The deck chooses for them. An ordained victory is an empty one, without the satisfaction of triumph through skills or smarts.

When children want a more challenging experience, they leave Candy Land behind. And that, in the end, is what makes Candy Land priceless: It is designed to be outgrown. Abbott’s game originally taught children, immobilized and separated from family, to envision a world beyond the polio ward, where opportunities for growth and adventure could still materialize. Today that lesson persists more broadly. The game teaches children that all arrangements have their alternatives. It’s the start of learning how to imagine a better world than the one they inherited. As it has done for generations, Candy Land continues to send young children on the first steps of that journey.

Speaking of Translation...

06 Mar 2019

While I will not pretend to be an expert on Homer’s works, they have long been at the margins of my academic pursuits. I have been meaning to get around to Emily Wilson’s Odyssey translation for quite a while.

Gregory Hays for the New York Times:

Aristotle said that the “Iliad” was a poem in which things happened to people, while the “Odyssey” was a poem of character. And with formulaic language stripped away, it is the characters and their interactions that take center stage. The frustrations of the teenage Telemachus come through clearly. So do the breezy complacency of Menelaus, the innocence of Nausicaa, the gruff decency of the swineherd Eumaeus. Wilson is good too with the poem’s undertones and double meanings.

Sam Anderson for the New York Times:

In her new translation of the “Odyssey,” Emily Wilson allows herself some creative freedom with Homer’s formulaic phrases. “I have used the opportunity offered by the repetitions,” she writes in her introduction, “to explore the multiple different connotations of each epithet.”

Nicholas Bradley for Canadian Literature:

Translations too are works of recollection. In her recent rendition of The Odyssey, Emily Wilson attempts to make the archaic contemporary … Remembering, we realize, must be distinguished from misremembering, from nostalgia. Precision generates the conditions for surprise to flourish.

Edward H. Sisson:

But being such an ancient work, in an ancient version of the Greek language, it is inherently difficult to bring to new generations of students a fresh vision of what the “Odyssey” is to them, and what it was to its original audience. Each translator brings his – and now, with Professor Emily Wilson’s translation, her – own attitudes and interests: how much is the translation to be a reflection of the original text – filled with the rhetorical styles that were fresh and effective to the original audience, but impenetrable to us – and how much is it to respond to the writing and speaking styles of the translator’s times? Do we want the experience to be vivid and personal, or to be a kind of time-machine, carrying us back to the ancient times?

Professor Emily Wilson has decided to make her translation a vivid personal experience for readers today.

Our Kind of Translator

06 Mar 2019

Robert Bethune for Art Times Journal:

There is an old Italian saying: “Traduttore, traditore.” It’s a cynical remark; it assumes that the task of translation is hopeless, that you can’t ever properly transmit a work from one culture to another. It may, in the end, be true; but if there must be treason, it does not have to be committed in the first degree, with malice aforethought.


30 Jan 2019

Dan Brooks for The Outline:

Coming up with insults that do not invoke gender or race or disability is good. The point of an insult is to hurt the person so insulted, not to deride an entire class. For this reason, though, the insult must describe or otherwise connect to its target. The signature feature of the new swears is that they do not carry any target-specific content.

The world may be on fire, but at least we’ve got ourselves some funky new swears to fiddle away at while it burns.

Trump Fu Fighting

17 Jan 2019

Ryan Mach for The Outline:

I am probably the only New Yorker to have ever been arrested for possessing nunchucks ironically (this Washington Post editorial writer doesn’t count, because he was a genuine nunchaku enthusiast, whereas I was just a dumbass), and frankly, it’s all Donald Trump’s fault.

Generation Burnout

07 Jan 2019

Anne Helen Petersen for BuzzFeed News:

We all know what we see on Facebook or Instagram isn’t “real,” but that doesn’t mean we don’t judge ourselves against it. I find that millennials are far less jealous of objects or belongings on social media than the holistic experiences represented there, the sort of thing that prompts people to comment, I want your life.

Rewriting the History of America

29 Dec 2018

Robert Whitaker for Eurogamer:

While Rockstar’s histories capture an accurate sensibility of American history regarding capitalism, intellectualism, and violence, there’s nevertheless a gaping hole in that narrative regarding race and gender. Red Dead Redemption, again, stands out in the worst way in this instance, with women appearing primarily as prostitutes or damsels, Indigenous Americans depicted as violent drunks, Mexicans shown as backstabbing sex-crazed lunatics, and African Americans not appearing at all. I’ve often read that these problems relate more to the source material Rockstar drew from for Red Dead Redemption - namely Spaghetti and Peckinpah Westerns - rather than any innate desire to replicate racism and sexism on the part of Rockstar itself. This excuse didn’t work in 2010 and certainly doesn’t work now.

Magic as Art

28 Dec 2018

David Marchese interviewing Penn Jillette for Vulture:

Magic is hard and David Blaine and David Copperfield are good at what they do. But magic is also a strong intellectual thing that people don’t see as intellectual, and it’s weird that David Copperfield never addresses that. In his act he goes into “let’s talk about dreams; let’s talk about fantasies” as if he had magical powers. David Blaine does the exact opposite. He wants to present everything as though it were real and not a trick. That’s strange to me morally. I don’t agree with wanting people to leave your show believing something that’s not true. But the fact that David Blaine and David Copperfield are both called the same thing — a magician — when they’re doing the opposite work is something you don’t see in other art forms. That’s the funny thing their success says about magic: Copperfield is going this is totally a fantasy and David Blaine is going this is totally real and yet they have the same job.

Standing Reserve

27 Dec 2018

Erin Thompson for Aeon:

Only a true collector would think that art’s power to tie people together could give a helping hand to the Bible.

(Via Hacker News)

Crosley Decimal Classification System

26 Dec 2018

Sloane Crosley for New York Times:

Which is why my library is what I call a “sentimental library.” A sentimental library is characterized by memory and association. It’s the halfway point between alphabetical and aesthetic. And, in my case, each book’s placement corresponds not just to when I read it and how I felt, but to whatever activity takes place beneath it now. They are thus animated in a way they might not be otherwise. Like it or not, I am in constant, real-time conversation with their contents.