28 01 2010



25 01 2010

Paul B. has done something splendiferous and brain-splitting. It is called, and features placeholder copy from his magic tattoo. As a result, this blog will be discontinued: it will remain up indefinitely, but henceforth all new posts will appear here. This move is a fitting digital analogue, so to speak, to the physical move I just made across the country, in his company, in this:

He has also generously moved all past posts from this site so that they are available for viewing at the new site. We did not have to drive these across the country.

Goodbye! See you at the new place!

When the brilliant twenty-year-old chemist

25 01 2010

Humphry Davy discovered the potency of nitrous oxide, “laughing gas,” at the recently founded Pneumatic Institution in Bristol in April 1799, he inhaled the new mind-altering substance himself, and shared it with his friends. These included Samuel Taylor Coleridge, already, in his mid-twenties, hiding a growing opium addiction, who noted that he felt “more unmingled pleasure than I had ever before experienced.” The poet Robert Southey, a youthful radical who would later become a conservative-minded poet laureate, also experienced “a sensation perfectly new and delightful,” adding that “the atmosphere of the highest of all possible heavens must be composed of this gas.”

~ Jenny Uglow, “Romantic Scientists” (review of The Atmosphere of Heaven: The Unnatural Experiments of Dr. Beddoes and His Sons of Genius by Mike Jay in the NYRB)

The Atmosphere of Heaven: The Unnatural Experiments of Dr. Beddoes and His Sons of Genius

In another passage of his lecture

23 01 2010

bearing on the dialectic of the foreign and the domestic, Schleiermacher argues that the ideal translator is not one who has mastered the foreign language so fully that that he is completely at home in it. Such a translator, he suggests, can produce in the reader an impression of the text that resembles that a native speaker of the language would have—that is, one in which the text seems natural and familiar. But the best translator, Schleiermacher maintains, is one who is never fully at home in the foreign language, and seeks to evoke in the reader an experience like his own, that is, the experience of someone for whom the foreign language is simultaneously legible and alien. Schleiermacher’s ideal translator operates in the space between languages and cultures, between the domestic and the foreign—for only by contrast with the domestic can the foreignness of the foreign be maintained. Like the reader/writer in Roland Barthes’s The Pleasure of the Text, he commutes between the secure pleasures of the familiar and the seductive bliss of its destruction…

…Schleiermacher claimed that there are only two methods of translation: “Either the translator leaves the author in peace, as much as possible, and moves the reader towards him; or he leaves the reader in peace, as much as possible, and moves the author towards him.”

~ Steven Rendall, “Changing Translation” (review of Lawrence Venuti’s The Translator’s Invisibility in Comparative Literature)

I done gone and stuck my nose in other people’s blogs, then opened my big mouth, briefly entertaining a discussion on related themes with fantastical writer Ekaterina Sedia in the comments section to one of her recent posts.

Health is the last

23 01 2010

emergent post-Christian religion. Dr. Bernard Nathanson, the former abortionist who is now a leader of the pro-life movement, remarks that modern man seeks “somatic immortality” instead of God. This obsession with Nautilus machines and herbal tea was anticipated by Nietzsche, who predicted that the further man got from the supernatural, the more preoccupied he would be with health. The more Nietzsche himself turned against God, the more obsessed he became with the smallest details of his diet and physical tone. (“No meals between meals,” we read in Ecce Homo, “no coffee: coffee spreads darkness…”)
~ George Sim Johnston, “Break Glass In Case of Emergency”

Everywhere the surrealists

22 01 2010

left their visiting cards: ‘Parents! Tell your children your dreams.’ The Bureau of Surrealist Inquiries was opened at 15 rue de Grenelle, Paris, in October 1924. ‘The Bureau of Surrealist Inquiries is engaged in collecting, by every appropriate means, communications relevant to the diverse forms which the unconscious activity of the mind is likely to take.’ The general public were invited to the Bureau to confide their rarest dreams, to debate morality, to allow the staff to judge the quality of those striking coincidences that reveal the arbitrary, irrational magical correspondences of life.
~ Angela Carter, “The Alchemy of the Word”

Postapocalyptic Postmen (non-Brin)

22 01 2010

I’m awfully late with this (it’s been live since the year turned, more or less, but I’ve only just gotten ’round to publicizing), but better late than never: a bit of science fiction in translation, an excerpt from the graphic novel Letter to Survivors, a comic by the inimitable Gébé rendered by yours truly, up at Words Without Borders. I did another Gébé piece in WWB last fall, and I’m terrifically fond of the author, his whimsy, wit, and pained humanism.

Adventures of a Postapocalyptic Postman