Failure To Communicate – Why America Doesn’t Translate

Is it any surprise that Americans have such a narrow sense of other cultures? “About 3% of the fiction and poetry published in the United States in 1999 was translated (approximately 330 out of the total 11,570 fiction and poetry titles published). America compares unfavourably to almost every other country and most unfavourably to western Europe, the region closest to an ideological sibling. There, Germany translates the most works – about six times as many as the US each year. Spain is close behind, while the French publishing industry exceeds the US by four times. Without translations, Americans, who are notoriously monolingual, have access only to the perspectives of those who write and speak in English; thus the ideas of millions are lost to them.”

Serious Art Won’t Hurt You?

Time was, people aspired to consuming high art. Now they apologise for it. Or at least feel like they need to defend it. Peter Plagens says the turnaround is no mystery. “As for high art’s problem, it’s simple, but with complex fallout. High art is elitist. Only a relatively few people have the educated taste for it, the patience to enjoy it and, frankly, the ability to get it. We live, however, in a passionately egalitarian society, most of whose members absolutely resent the idea that Mr. Fairfax Van Richbuckets has, when he goes to the opera, a better esthetic experience than Mr. Harry Twelvepack does when he springs for a couple of Bon Jovi tickets. (Of course, Harry doesn’t have much regard for his kid sister’s taste for Justin Timberlake, and she can’t understand her younger cousin’s jones for that new Hilary Duff movie. Hierarchies are everywhere.) Connoisseurship on any but a micro level (‘Man, that’s a great Clint Black T-shirt—must be six colors in the silkscreen for it) is practically a dirty word these days, and I’d be surprised if the word ‘vulgar’ is uttered pejoratively more than twice a year in the United States outside of a Tipper Gore tea party.”

Cincinnati – The Next Arts Mecca?

Seriously – is there something in the water? From Cincinnati, the city that recently doubled its public spending on the arts, news that the city’s Fine Arts Fund raised $10,003,550 in its 2003 campaign, 7.5 percent more than last year. This while fundraising for the arts in the rest of America has been increasingly difficult

Has Harvard Abandoned The Arts?

“Unlike Yale, Cornell, Columbia and the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard has no independent graduate school of the arts, nor any plans to fund graduate-level work in the practice of art. And ever since spring 2001, when the chair of the Visual and Environmental Studies (VES) department was dismissed and Summers was named president, the University’s commitment to the arts has come under fire. Critics argue that Harvard’s archaic reluctance to recognize and incorporate the arts into its academic mission may discourage talented prospective students from choosing Harvard and threaten its prestige.”

Complaints About BBC Double

The number of complaints to the BBC doubled last year. “A total of 1,596 complaints were looked into in the year to March, compared with 794 in the previous 12 months. The corporation?s director general, Greg Dyke, claimed this was due to viewers now being able to email their views, rather than a rise in broadcasts prompting complaints.”

Everything’s Coming Up Knockoffs

Seems like everything’s a sequel these days. “Studios this year are delivering a record 25 sequels or prequels, the big onslaught starting with pre-summer releases of ‘X2: X-Men United’ and ‘The Matrix Reloaded.’ Sequels used to be hasty carbon copies meant to wring out a few more dollars from an earlier success. Studios today have learned that putting more thought and resources into follow-ups can produce franchises with bigger returns.”

Big Business Kids

In America “children’s theatre is big industry, with budgets for some theatres soaring as high as $9 million per year. The number of children who are served by these theatres is in the millions (4.6 million entertained by the New York-based Theatreworks/USA alone) and the companies that are committed to theatre for children and/or teenagers are booming.” So what’s different about doing theatre for kids?

Seeking Saddam

Auditions have been held in London for a Saddam lookalike for a new play. “The show’s organisers were surprised at the turnout, as 14 actors and amateurs donned military fatigues and berets for the open audition at London’s Riverside Theatre in Hammersmith. As the script, by Feelgood author Alistair Beaton, is still being written, the lookalikes were required to do nothing more than wave to imaginary crowds in the manner of the deposed dictator.”