2009年12月26日 星期六



Give gold, not myrrh

Dec 21st 2009
From Economist.com

Ban presents. Give money instead

DECEMBER dismays Joel Waldfogel, an economist at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and the author of a new book called “Scroogenomics”. Mr Waldfogel objects to the ritualised frenzy of shopping for gifts that precedes the enormous meals and awkward family reunions that are the other hallmarks of Christmas in the Western world.

Such complaints are hardly new. Harriet Beecher Stowe, an American abolitionist, grumbled in 1850 about “worlds of money wasted, at this time of year, in getting things that nobody wants and nobody cares for after they are got”. But unlike most criticisms of festive wastefulness, Mr Waldfogel’s objections are based on economic theory rather than morality or taste. When people buy something for themselves, they believe that their purchase is worth at least the price paid. But most gift-givers are only dimly aware of the desires and tastes of the beneficiaries of their largesse. As a result, they often give people presents that are worth far less to the person getting them than the gift-giver paid for them.

 Presents? Humbug!

The result of all these inappropriate presents—ranging from the sweaters that people will never wear to games they will never play—is what Mr Waldfogel calls a “deadweight loss” from Yuletide generosity. This is the difference between the satisfaction a person gets when she spends a dollar on herself and when a well-meaning benefactor spends that dollar on a present for her. Over a period of time, a series of surveys have led him to conclude that the average deadweight loss from gift-giving is around 18%. Given his estimate that Americans spent $66 billion on Christmas presents in 2007, this amounts to a whopping $12 billion of lost value. Where others see generosity, Mr Waldfogel sees an orgy of value destruction.

Of course, not all presents are such bad value for money. What matters is how good people are at anticipating what others want. People who are in close contact with recipients usually do a very good job when it comes to choosing presents. Gifts from siblings, Mr Waldfogel’s research has found, create only a tiny deadweight loss, creating $0.99 in satisfaction for every dollar spent. Partners are excellent gift-givers; parents, reassuringly, do better than average. Unfortunately, aunts and uncles (like others who are only in occasional contact with the beneficiaries of their festive largesse) tend to give gifts that create only about 75-86 cents in satisfaction per dollar spent.

So what should people, especially those obliged to bestow holiday gifts on those whose tastes they do not know well, do? Since the best a gift-giver can do is give the recipient exactly what he wants, economic theory has a simple solution: give cold, hard cash. However, social norms make it a bit awkward to give money to all but a small subset of (usually much younger) relations in most societies.

But there may yet be hope. Gift vouchers are close to cash in that they leave the choice of exactly what to buy in the hands of the recipient, and have increased in popularity in recent years. Unfortunately (except for the retailer), human forgetfulness and the propensity to procrastinate mean that about 10% of such vouchers are never actually redeemed.

So is there no escape from the wanton wastefulness of Christmas spending? Mr Waldfogel offers a proposal of his own—gift vouchers that are designed to expire after a set period of time, with unused balances going to a charity of the giver’s choice. People would give more to charity if they could afford to and it were made easier, he argues. His proposal also chimes well with the spirit of Christmas. Whether Scrooge would have approved of it is less clear.
Op-Ed Columnist

Tidings of Comfort

Published: December 24, 2009

Indulge me while I tell you a story — a near-future version of Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol.” It begins with sad news: young Timothy Cratchit, a k a Tiny Tim, is sick. And his treatment will cost far more than his parents can pay out of pocket.

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Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Paul Krugman


Times Topics: Health Care Reform

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Readers shared their thoughts on this article.

Fortunately, our story is set in 2014, and the Cratchits have health insurance. Not from their employer: Ebenezer Scrooge doesn’t do employee benefits. And just a few years earlier they wouldn’t have been able to buy insurance on their own because Tiny Tim has a pre-existing condition, and, anyway, the premiums would have been out of their reach.

But reform legislation enacted in 2010 banned insurance discrimination on the basis of medical history and also created a system of subsidies to help families pay for coverage. Even so, insurance doesn’t come cheap — but the Cratchits do have it, and they’re grateful. God bless us, everyone.

O.K., that was fiction, but there will be millions of real stories like that in the years to come. Imperfect as it is, the legislation that passed the Senate on Thursday and will probably, in a slightly modified version, soon become law will make America a much better country.

So why are so many people complaining? There are three main groups of critics.

First, there’s the crazy right, the tea party and death panel people — a lunatic fringe that is no longer a fringe but has moved into the heart of the Republican Party. In the past, there was a general understanding, a sort of implicit clause in the rules of American politics, that major parties would at least pretend to distance themselves from irrational extremists. But those rules are no longer operative. No, Virginia, at this point there is no sanity clause.

A second strand of opposition comes from what I think of as the Bah Humbug caucus: fiscal scolds who routinely issue sententious warnings about rising debt. By rights, this caucus should find much to like in the Senate health bill, which the Congressional Budget Office says would reduce the deficit, and which — in the judgment of leading health economists — does far more to control costs than anyone has attempted in the past.

But, with few exceptions, the fiscal scolds have had nothing good to say about the bill. And in the process they have revealed that their alleged concern about deficits is, well, humbug. As Slate’s Daniel Gross says, what really motivates them is “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, is receiving social insurance.”

Finally, there has been opposition from some progressives who are unhappy with the bill’s limitations. Some would settle for nothing less than a full, Medicare-type, single-payer system. Others had their hearts set on the creation of a public option to compete with private insurers. And there are complaints that the subsidies are inadequate, that many families will still have trouble paying for medical care.

Unlike the tea partiers and the humbuggers, disappointed progressives have valid complaints. But those complaints don’t add up to a reason to reject the bill. Yes, it’s a hackneyed phrase, but politics is the art of the possible.

The truth is that there isn’t a Congressional majority in favor of anything like single-payer. There is a narrow majority in favor of a plan with a moderately strong public option. The House has passed such a plan. But given the way the Senate rules work, it takes 60 votes to do almost anything. And that fact, combined with total Republican opposition, has placed sharp limits on what can be enacted.

If progressives want more, they’ll have to make changing those Senate rules a priority. They’ll also have to work long term on electing a more progressive Congress. But, meanwhile, the bill the Senate has just passed, with a few tweaks — I’d especially like to move the start date up from 2014, if that’s at all possible — is more or less what the Democratic leadership can get.

And for all its flaws and limitations, it’s a great achievement. It will provide real, concrete help to tens of millions of Americans and greater security to everyone. And it establishes the principle — even if it falls somewhat short in practice — that all Americans are entitled to essential health care.

Many people deserve credit for this moment. What really made it possible was the remarkable emergence of universal health care as a core principle during the Democratic primaries of 2007-2008 — an emergence that, in turn, owed a lot to progressive activism. (For what it’s worth, the reform that’s being passed is closer to Hillary Clinton’s plan than to President Obama’s). This made health reform a must-win for the next president. And it’s actually happening.

So progressives shouldn’t stop complaining, but they should congratulate themselves on what is, in the end, a big win for them — and for America.

2009年12月19日 星期六


Word of the Day:


An expression involving a familiar proverb or quotation and its facetious sequel. It usually comprises three parts: statement, speaker, situation.
"Everyone to his own liking," the old woman said when she kissed her cow.
"We'll have to rehearse that," said the undertaker as the coffin fell out of the car.

After Sam Weller and his father, characters known for such utterances in Charles Dickens's novel Pickwick Papers (1837).

"All of the Shavian proverbs and most of the wellerisms have been recorded in a literary context ... Anyhow, 'So far so good,' as the boy said when he had finished the first pot of his mother's jam." — W F H Nicolaisen; The Proverbial Bernard Shaw; Folklore (London, UK); 1998.

再參考 法國中尉的女人

2009年12月3日 星期四


今天獨到 CD 專家大力批評此書本著所謂 SIGNIFICANT FORM 想法批評 CD的 艱難時世 Hard Times 等 特地找出它來 2009



【美】彼得·蓋伊著『歷史小說』劉森堯譯,北京大出版社出版, 2006,定價: 18.00

「狄更斯、福樓拜、湯瑪斯·曼是讀者熟悉現實主義小說但他們真是在"寫實"嗎?在歷史看來,真相遠非如此簡單。美國文化史彼得·蓋伊認為,這幾位 19 世紀偉大作都具有一種共同特性:對他們各自社會憤世嫉俗。狄更斯在作品中所展現與其說是個歷史,倒不如說是個宣傳,在他《荒涼屋》一書中,英國司法以及整體社會改革必要性被嚴重誇大了。在《包法利夫人》中,福樓拜憑藉其令人目眩神移獨特風格,施展了他對當時法國中產階級社會報復。至於湯瑪斯·曼,他在《布登勃洛克一》裡,為讀者勾勒出幾乎就是一幅諷刺漫畫:一個正在式微高傲中產階級文化。」


[ 原書名:SAVAGE REPRISALS : Bleak House, Madame Bovary, Buddenbrooks by Gay, Peter ]

台灣版:彼得‧蓋伊 / 歷史小說》( Savage Reprisals: Bleak House, Ma dame Bovary, Buddenbrooks 2002))劉森堯譯,台北:立緒, 2004

日本版: 小説から歴史へディケンズ、フロベール、トーマス・マン

金子 幸男【訳】,東京:岩波書店 (2004-09-28出版)


台灣版和日本版都未將原書名: SAVAGE REPRISALS翻譯出來,也沒解釋原題目之意思 其實在第一、二、章之內文都舉出各作之「怒」之創作之「報復」意圖。介紹文中談到「細緻之報復」,可是不敢用,所以各取書名之別名。這方面,日本較老實,台灣版花招 ---如果硬要讓 Peter Gay說教,實際五」,因為「序曲」和「結語」都自成一「」。還有未翻譯參考資料來源和索引。

彼得‧蓋伊著作都值得一讀。不過劉森堯先生譯文雖然通順,有問題可能百處以上。(我是在 http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0393325091/002-7097857-0210450?

)讀和用字 search-inside--尤其「序曲」和「結語」問題可能特別多,因為它們牽涉到「歷史 - -……」等問。台北立緒出版社翻譯品質很不穩定,因人而異。



1章 怒れるアナーキスト『荒涼館』におけるチャールズ・ディケンズ
2章 恐怖症に挑む解剖学者 『ボヴァリー夫人』におけるギュスターヴ・フロベール
3章 反抗な名門市民 『ブッデンブロークの人 』におけるトーマス・マン


用「」翻譯「 in」是錯誤,因為原文為Charles Dickens in Bleak House 等等。

雖然改成類似『巴金在巴黎』『狄更斯在《荒涼屋》』有點奇,但是習慣就好,因為大作們作品多,其時間之跨度長,投入每部作品「心」「力」都可能不同 ….



「從柏拉圖時代以至十九世紀初瑞士教育改革者斐 …….時代」其中educators 漏掉,意思差多(p.13

"... the Victorians; it had been no news to the ancient Greeks and to educators in the centuries from Plato to Pestalozzi. A hundred years before Freud made a theory of it, Wordsworth had famously proclaimed that the Child is father of ..."


34頁:「這其中最精彩莫過於對於柯魯克突然暴斃描寫,這是一個畏瑣而卑鄙專收破爛小商人,有一天他突然倒斃在他那堆破爛當中,這個特別死亡方式未必能夠贏得讀者一掬同情之淚 ……」( . But none of these can rival the sudden exit of Krook, the coarse, mean- spirited owner of a wretched junkshop, who shuffles off his mortal coil by collapsing into dust. This particular death did not play on the reading public's love of a good cry but on its credulousness. Krook's end, Dickens expected his vast readership to believe, was."

我自己了英文: shuffles off his mortal coil 典出『哈姆雷特』,表示一命嗚呼。

對於將 coarse, mean- spirited owner of a wretched junkshop翻譯成「一個畏瑣而卑鄙專收破爛小商人」不滿意。 Junkshop日文解釋「(安物の)古物商」,不知道是否真為「破爛東西」,其修飾詞 wretched翻譯成什麼? Krook 是否真死在破爛中(這是原文沒)?
對於coarse mean-spirited 翻譯也不解?




許多名詞完全直譯、不加注,可能讓讀者不知所云。譬如說,第 36heart of hold Newgate novel(「新門小說」)【案:我印象中這是監獄之所在】。


以下關於 paradigm shifts之句有數處錯:翻譯成「圖例變動理論曾被相對論者評為不適」( p.207

Even Thomas Kuhn, probably the twentieth century's most influential historian and philosopher of science, whose brave talk of paradigm shifts has been misappropriated by relativists, maintained that the external world is real, neither constructed nor invented.

其他哲術語如什麼「理想主義」(案:通常稱為「唯心觀」? p.205


They have nothing in common except their severity with the devotees of Clio. The first holds that novelists and poets reach higher-which is to say deeper-truths, truths that historians, pedestrian, document- ridden fact grubbers that they are, can never even approach.

翻譯:「這兩個方法除了一樣對史詩與歷史女神克萊歐特別熱衷之外,並無共同之處 ……….」【p.206

「史詩」不之來自何處?「特別熱衷」應為「特別熱衷者(們)」( devotees);原文 severities with (嚴厲待之)漏譯…….


漏譯: multiplep.210

The delightful stories a historian can tell, in Simon Schama's words, "dissolve the certainty of events into the multiple possibilities of alternative narrations." Such cheerfulness runs counter to the ..."

誤會:不知道為什麼 "Objectivity is not neutrality." 翻譯為「客關性並不等於公正性」( p.215

The American his- torian Thomas L. Haskell has put it trenchantly: "Objectivity is not neutrality." In fact, in the right hands, a certain way of look- ing ..."

翻譯成:「一般人會發生對於一場戰役錯誤觀念」( p.217

Fabrice erring about the battlefield of Waterloo in Stendhal's La Chartreuse de Parme unfolds a confusing, almost incomprehensible scene of battle, typical of most battles; but it is through Fabrice's consciousness that ..."