The Treaty of Tianjin was produced and signed by the British and Chinese governments in 1858. The treaty was signed during the second Opium War, fought between Britain and China, and allowed for the establishment of British representation in China’s capitol. To that end, the parties apparently agreed on the banning of two Chinese words—“I” and “yi,” approximately meaning “barbarian” and “alien,” respectively. These words were banned not because of the Chinese meaning of the word, but because of the British interpretation of the Chinese meaning of the word. The treaty was hand-written in Chinese and English on high quality paper, with high quality ink, and was bound in leather covered in velvet, symbolizing the greatness of the two nations binding together. I think the Chinese should have bound the treaty in bologna, because banning a word based on the interpretation of its translation into a different language is preposterous, not to mention incredibly egocentric on the part of the semantically-offended nation.
Monthly Archives: January 2011
Do we have to CGI Cato out of the Pink Panther movies now? Or overdub Clouseau’s affectionate racism with something less off-color? My Twitter feed was deluged with commentary on the sanitizing of Huck Finn for a couple of weeks a while ago. I think there are three major things to consider:
1) The sanctity of an artist’s work: this is the very first thing that popped up for me. Regardless of social correctness, historical accuracy, stereotyping, what have you — how is it even imaginable to think it is ok to commandeer someone else’s work, alter it in ways without consulting with the original artist or garnering his approval, and still offer it as the author’s work? Twain’s stories may be in the public domain now, but they are still his intellectual property, and it’s a travesty to let that be subject to mob rule.
2) The harm caused by stereotypes: This one is trickier, but I think it can be approached in much the same way that hate speech is approached. Surely there are valid and strong arguments for how marginalization/caricatures of any group of people can be harmful to a member of that group’s psyche, but eliminating the symptom doesn’t eliminate the disease. It’s only possible to counter irrational or harmful thinking when it is out in the open for debate, I think. The Miami ACLU advocated for first amendment protection of offensive art, kind of.
On the other hand, P. L. Travers, the author of the Mary Poppins books, later altered her original scenes in a book which depicted people from other countries in stereotypical, offensive ways. That points back to my first point, though — the creator of the book did the alterations herself. She claimed to regret her depictions, but iirc said something about those being the times, which leads me to my third issue:
3) Historical context: some definitions of art cast it as a reflection on society. Huck is nothing less than that, and arguably more. I think it’s incredibly important to know where we’ve been, historically, if for no other reason than that it helps us define where we want to go. We can’t deny what the prevalent thinking was at any historical juncture of our country, so why are we trying to hide it from people who will be the directors of our future?
Art doesn’t exist in a vacuum, either. Reading a book isn’t going to implant the ideas therein into a reader’s brain lock, stock, and barrel. I’m guessing that the majority of American kids who read Huckleberry Finn do so in school as a requirement (I know that’s why I read it) — it creates discussion, analysis, the things we need to be able to do to sort out what is good of a thing and what is not so good. This whole movement is misguided and dangerous, and I think is best countered, as so many things are, with reason and humor. On January 4th, Walter Kirn took the opposite approach via Twitter: “Let’s add offensive words to American novels that don’t have enough of them. Little Women could use a few more ‘shits.'” I think that pretty well demonstrates the absurdity of the situation.
I’ve slept maybe 24 hours in the past two days. Maybe more. I don’t feel super sick or anything, it’s just this crazy extreme fatigue. Maybe a weird flu? Regardless, I keep trying to be adult about it and tell myself it’s time to read the billion pages of astronomy so I can take the first test, which is when I pick up Cherie Priest’s Dreadnought instead. Here’s the important part: I finished it, and it was wonderful, but I think I liked the story of Boneshaker better. No wait, here’s the important part: I have a full load of internet classes this semester, the subjects of which are not things I already know, so cruising on my prior knowledge isn’t going to work this time. So I have that working against me, along with the fact that these are internet classes, which means I have no specific time or particular face to which I must adhere or to whom I must be accountable, respectively. This is a problem, because I’m terrible at self-discipline. I think I was hoping I’d suddenly get serious and be a grown up when it was required of me, but so far, I’ve just been sleeping and reading alternate universe period pieces with zombies and Texians.
So this week, I aim to get serious about the serious stuff. I come back to Chicago on the weekend semi-permanently, so I want to get as much schoolwork out of the way so that I can just be in Chicago for the first week. Go to the boys’ show. See some improv or something. Complain about the bus. You know, Chicagoey things.
- height restrictions on roller coasters
- when Fox and Obel stopped making truffle fries and didn’t notify us in advance and we went there specifically to get them
- no seats available on the CTA
- long waits for bartender at bars on weekend nights
- having to buy new clothes due to weight gained from candy consumption
- being held up at stoplights by the Don’t Walk signal
- when there are only two ATMs available and other people got there first — higher fee if only one ATM is available
I wish I had known about the existence of the inconvenience fee. Unemployment would have been much more lucrative.
Gervais’ entire schtick is based on fremdscham. Telling jokes that aren’t quite funny in order to induce extreme uncomfortability and embarrassment on the part of the audience is exactly what he does best — did no one actually watch the Office or Extras? He totally succeeded with his brand of comedy. He did much the same thing last time he hosted. Hollywood has such a short memory, apparently. I couldn’t believe they hired him again after the last time, knowing what sensitive souls film artists are. But personally, he’s why I couldn’t stop watching, and I was very disappointed when he disappeared for a while and then came back all toned-down.
Another semester begins inauspiciously, which is as it should start, being over a decade tardy in its completion. All internet classes this time, which will infringe less on my burgeoning video gaming superstar development. But, the marvelous writer Wancy Young Cho and I are starting a project, slated to go live February 1st, for which we play critics reviewing, wait for iiiiiiiiiiiiiittttttttttt . . . anything. My lists of subjects includes my landlord, the torta Ahogada at Xoco, the replay value of Fire Emblem, and the film THE HOURS, to name a few. I would also like to review the myriad responses to the most recent national tragedy, but I don’t know how fair it is to review things that were knee-jerk reactions based on little information when I have the benefit of loads of information and a cooled-off head. But I would like to talk about my thoughts, specifically on the “vitriolic rhetoric is to Arizona as Marilyn Manson is to Columbine” comparison at some point. Probably here would be better than on the as-yet-unnamed review site.
So, this coming week: sending out more job applications, doing (stats, astronomy, international relations, sociology) class work, working on at least one review, beating Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, and not eating. It’s seriously time for a diet.