May 28, 2007

Well, Thank Heavens It's Official!

Category: Current Events — Cranky @

On the front page of today’s Edmonton Journal is a wonderful headline. It reads, “LRT on track to expansion, official says”.

I could write about rail transit technology, about the wonderful new technologies in use around the world when it comes to magnetic levitation (or maglev), or about the poor choices Edmonton originally made concerning their light rail transit system… but the first thing that comes to my mind concerns the Journal itself.

What idiot approves words like “official says” for an article on the front page (or any page for that matter)? I should be able to take it for granted that the person who told the paper that the project is on schedule was an “official”. I didn’t think they asked the nearest homeless dude how the LRT expansion was doing.

Should I be concerned about any headline that isn’t accompanied by an “official says” addendum? If they specified it this time, maybe the rest of their news is put together by just asking anybody within range. Perhaps Sister Mary is running the gangsta hip-hop trends desk. Maybe all of the city news is dictated by an illiterate deaf-mute who shouts random nonsensical syllables. How do I know any different? The articles with verified sources are clearly marked as such in the heading.

Sometimes stupidity needs to be rooted out, and sometimes it just slaps you in the face and says, “Howdy!”


May 22, 2007

Eisntein's BAC's

Category: History — Cranky @

One of the “accepted facts” about Albert Einstein was that the man was dyslexic. You can find hundreds of sites that make this claim – perhaps thousands. So naturally that must be true, right?

The first time I heard this claim I immediately thought, “What a load of crap.” This type of belief is representative of a deep need on the part of many people, one that transcends common sense. They need to feel that the great thinkers of history, the best of the best, are somehow just like them. After all, if Einstein could come up with relativity theory while being dyslexic, why then so could I!

I never believed it. Not for a single second. Online dyslexia resources and related sites are either lying intentionally, or they are simply repeating a lie they were told. Indeed, none of the links that I could find actually led to proof of any kind. Those that linked anywhere linked back to sites that weren’t definitive in any way. It was a circular lie, the type of lie that is prevalent online. When enough people keep saying the same thing it is assumed to be the truth.

I read the Cambridge University Press biography “Subtle is the Lord – The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein”, by Abraham Pais, who had access to tremendous amounts of information. No dyslexia. This weekend I read “Einstein, His Life and Universe”, by Walter Isaacson. He had access to even more information, and again, no mention of dyslexia. There is no basis for that claim. It’s simply unsubstantiated rumour.

Einstein did not even do poorly in school – that’s another complete fabrication. I wonder what drives the need to posthumously diagnose brilliant people with handicaps that they did not possess? A look at online lists of “famous dyslexics” tells me that Einstein isn’t alone in this regard. The lists are unbelievable, and by that I mean you can safely disbelieve most of them.


May 17, 2007

Readin's fer werk, not fer fun!

Category: Entertainment — Cranky @

This week I purchased the film “Pan’s Labyrinth”. It’s a beautiful film, full of warmth and cruelty, and I loved it. I wanted to know if there were plans for a high definition release, so I went off to the forums at PictureHouse, the distributor.

What I found there are a bunch of posts from people who feel betrayed that the film is subtitled. I can’t believe they actually expected it to be dubbed. The film won “Best Foreign language Film” this year at the oscars. It’s not a hidden fact that the film is in Spanish. And yet there are posts like “this is bs.if i wanted to read pans’v got the book!”

Now certainly that person probably has good reason for fearing subtitles. He doesn’t really have much command over the English language. But other, clearer posters said things like, “I read books, I have no wish to read films.”

What kind of screwed up culture connects reading with work? The dialog is not complex. It doesn’t flash by too quickly, and it reads very well. I would find the wholesale gutting of the beautiful voices in this film much more distracting.

I can’t stand dubbed movies. They have to mistranslate dialog in order to keep sentences the same length, and it sounds like the terrible, ham-handed spackling of audio that it is. With subtitles you get the real intention, and a clearer translation. You hear the acting in their voices, even if you have to translate with text, and it’s a far, far better experience.

Those people who fear subtitles should make damn sure they watch movies “Made in ‘Murica”, by golly. They should avoid the foreign film aisle, lest they be exposed to the world outside their own. Butchering the art and beauty of the audio itself just so a bunch of xenophic yokels don’t have to read is a bad idea.