The Good and Bad of Translating Shakespeare

The Winter's TaleAccording to PM Carpenter, The Literary Apocalypse Has Arrived. One of the great pleasures of reading him is experiencing his references — both to literature and history. But he’s also something of a curmudgeon. In this case, he is upset at the news that the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) has announced that “it will commission 36 playwrights to translate all of Shakespeare’s plays into modern English.” Oh, the horror!

Let’s be clear what’s happening here. Even among the vast majority of people who like Shakespeare, appreciation is pretty thin. In fact, at this point in time, it is impossible for someone to just see one of his plays performed and appreciate much more than the basic story line. True: good productions can hammer home the meaning. But appreciation of the words — the puns and meaning — is missing. People don’t get it.

What’s more: the words that Shakespeare wrote didn’t sound at all the way they did in the early 17th century. If Shakespeare were performed today the way he was performed then, modern audiences wouldn’t even be able to make out words. It would be like listening to someone tell a story in Gaelic. Yet there is no outrage about this. Why? Because it has slipped away, inch by inch — the “translation” has occurred so as to be invisible. But does that make it any less important? I certainly don’t think so.

Thus, I don’t see the big deal of translating the plays. I also don’t think it is worth doing except for a handful of plays. The very idea that everything Shakespeare wrote has literary merit is repugnant to me. And I’m not just talking about lesser known monstrosities like Cymbeline. I’m none too fond of Hamlet. It’s a fascinating play, but one that is fatally flawed. The reason it continues to be performed says far more about the needs of actors and directors than the wishes of audiences.

The good thing about these translations is that they will lay bare the uncomfortable truth that many of The Bard’s plays are really not that good. It really isn’t because the language is so difficult that people don’t much care for The Winter’s Tale. At the same time, it will highlight things that work really well like Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream — interestingly, two plays that work surprisingly well with the old words.

The bad thing about these translations is that they are wasting resources that could be better spent elsewhere. Does anyone who might happen to be at the OSF really need a new way to enjoy Romeo and Juliet? That’s especially true when there are really interesting plays in other languages that have never been translated. Lope de Vega wrote literally hundreds of plays. Yet to my knowledge, only one of them has been translated into English, Fuente Ovejuna. Is Lope as good a playwright as Shakespeare? I can only tell you this: not one in a thousand people at the OSF is in a position to say. Similarly, I only know of one of Cervantes’ Ocho Comedias y Ocho Entremeses to have been translated, The Cave of Salamanca. Oh, how American theater could use some time away from the British Isles!

I also question just how successful these translations will be. If the translators approach the plays as the imperfect works they are, it might be fine. But if they approach them as ancient relics that must be studiously honored, it’s going to be a catastrophe. As it is, what’s going to be done? So much of Shakespeare involves saying the same thing over and over again. In the opening of Richard III, Shakespeare uses 18 lines to say, “We were at war and now we are at leisure.” He uses another 14 lines to say, “But I’m angry about this because I’m deformed and no one loves me.” Don’t get me wrong: I like it. But it’s not just the worlds that out of date: it’s the whole approach to drama.

The idea is not a bad one. It doesn’t mean that after the translations are complete, the original versions will be burned. And it doesn’t mean that people will stop performing the old plays. It’s just another way for people to enjoy the plays. That ought to be welcome to Shakespeare lovers. As for me, I think we have far too much Shakespeare in our lives. His plays push many repellent ideas — not least of which the idea of nobility being a question of breeding. But if you are one to say that all the world can be found in the plays of The Bard, then the more the merrier, right?


Image taken from: “Antigonus chased by a bear” by Thomas Bragg (printmaker) – Folger Shakespeare Library Digital Image Collection. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons.

81 thoughts on “The Good and Bad of Translating Shakespeare

  1. I like when your typos make sense but still look silly. Or maybe they are not typos and you really meant exactly what you say about the nobility being all about the bread since they ate manchet unlike the lower classes who ate the heavier darker breads like barley. In which case, I sit in awe of your linguistic abilities.

    • Ha! I never copy edit these. I just can’t stand to. So I know there are a lot of typos. But you find ’em, and I’ll fix ’em!

      • I told a colleague of mine about your statement and how it was probably this brilliant comment on how the nobility were the Wonderbread eaters of the Elizabethan times. Or a typo.
        Probably just me showing off my knowledge of bread types.

              • Oh, thank you! I spent most of my formative years learning everything I could about the Tudors as I was named for one of them. So watching the show with me is terrible since I will yell at the historical inaccuracies because they drive me up the wall.

                • This is always a problem. It’s how I know a lot of history: by researching what’s wrong with films.

                  • I just buy a lot of history books about weird subjects these days-like the biography I am reading on Peter Mark Roget.

                    • That would be interesting. I have a book here you recommended. Maybe two: Is That a Fish in Your Ear? and The Invention of Murder. But I’ve been so busy, I haven’t even opened either.

                    • And I keep distracting you. If they are library books, I can always super long lend you my copy of the Murder book. I think someone else (James probably) recommended the Ear Fish.

                      If you ever made the mistake of visiting AZ and stopped by my place, you would probably completely ignore me in favor of reading everything I own. And I would be 100% okay with that. :)

                    • Yeah, my default at parties is to find the books and spend time with them. But I’ll get to them. I’ve just been reading another translation of Don Quixote in bed. As soon as that’s done, they are next in line. Well, almost. I have a couple of pages to finish of One Nation Under God.

                    • I keep forgetting to download that book. I may just splurge and go buy a corporeal book.

                    • I like books. I’m very tactile. I have a Kindle and I’ve read a few books on it. In fact, there are a couple of DQ translations I unfortunately have only on Kindle. So I’m glad to have it. But I prefer corporeal books.

                    • The best thing about corporeal books is that you can get them wet and they still can be read in most situations.
                      The best thing about Kindles is going on long trips with 500 books.

                      Over all though I prefer the dead trees with ink on them, so I tend to buy three versions of the same books by my favorite authors. Kindle, hardback and paperback. But hey, it keeps them making new books!

                    • Yes, you are doing God’s work. And yes, I’ve long wanted to have all my DQs on Kindle. But my Kindle is old and terrible, so it is really hard to get around. On the other hand, I love to be able to search.

                    • Mine was stolen sadly and the tablet I got to replace it sucks. Eventually I will get a new one-they came out with a new one that is $50. So I am sure I can find something that I will want and get it.

                    • I would like to get another one. Are you able to transfer books over? Probably not. Digital books have been designed exactly the way you would expect oligarchs to do so.

                    • I went and got a corporeal version of Don Quixote today after class. So far it has been very interesting and I can see why you love it so much. I went with the Rutherford edition since they only had two versions and I half remembered you mentioning it was a good one.

                    • Excellent! Yes, I’ve been planning to write a defense of it, since I found a Cervantes expert putting it down. Of course, he put down pretty much every translation. I don’t think he understands translation.

                    • It is pretty good translation-it made me smile already at the description of him hitting the guy during his vigil and the reaction of the other people to him at the Inn.

                      I have to watch Silence of the Lambs for a class project tonight otherwise I would probably read a lot more however I have nothing going on tomorrow so I am going to probably spend the day reading.

                    • The translator is a funny writer. That’s why I like it. Cervantes was an incredibly funny guy, and I think Rutherford is the first funny guy to translate him.

                    • That shows having a translator who is of similar personality to the original writer is important.

                    • That’s a good point. The argument against Rutherford is he plays pretty loose with the text and he uses vernacular like “jack of all trade,” when that is not the literal translation. But as I think most people admit now, the best translations of Homer are prose and not poetry. The issue is to translate the reader’s experience, and not the words. At least, that’s what I think at this point.

                    • Even if it is not a direct word for word, there probably is something to be said for using similar concepts. When it comes to in person interpretation, you sometimes have to change how you talk about civil rights to come up with something that the person can understand because while they know what a trial is for their culture, they don’t always know what we consider to be a trial.

                    • This gets back to the original point of the article. Shakespeare has gotten better than he deserves in terms of editors, directors, and actors. But he’s paid a price in terms a kind of religious dogma that whatever he wrote is perfect. “Shakespeare never fails but is only failed.” If you don’t like a play, it is because you are missing its brilliance, because Shakespeare never makes mistakes. And from a political standpoint, Shakespeare is very problematic. He’s very conservative in his writing. So updating his plots could be very helpful. As it is, productions of his plays savage them to make them acceptable. The Merchant of Venice is antisemitic. But if you remove some lines here and there, it isn’t. The Taming of the Shrew is horribly sexist, but it too is edited to make palatable. The entirety of humanity is most certainly not found in Shakespeare. But if we are going to continue to perform Shakespeare so much, he must be translated — in a much broader sense than the words.

                  • Most of mine are DR free so I am able to transfer. I usually have a thumb drive with them so I can lend them out.

  2. Well, if the OSF is losing audiences — I know nothing about them — why not try translating Shakes to drag more people to Ashland. I don’t even know how the OSF works, if it’s a private or public enterprise. I just know they do Shakes in Ashland and honestly the one time I was there I enjoyed their production of Arthur Miller better.

    I do enjoy the twisted convoluted language of Shakes. And hearing actors from the UK read it is glorious. Ian McKellan, OMG, he’s so amazing doing it. It’s way better than hearing him read Tolkein. Although apparently he likes both about equally if not Tolkein more. Actors, a strange breed, God love ’em.

    You’re right, though. A regional American festival trying for more audiences will not ruin forever UK actors in required freshman acting classes (they do have more professional acting schools than us) learning how to intone Elizabethan poetry beautifully. That’s going to be a UK thing as long as those islands remain above sea level, and they will always be best at it this side of Orson Welles. Our actors are trained in emoting, and are terrific. Theirs are trained in voice modulation, and they’re terrific.

    Maybe we get to the point where perfectly reciting beautiful Shakes lines (and they are beautiful) is a UK tourist draw, like seeing brilliant people at Renaissance Fairs juggling (and I love jugglers.) It won’t go away. It’ll still be on PBS if we still have PBS. But kids won’t be forced to write college-exam entries on the deep meanings of plays they had explained to them by prep-school teachers, thereby proving they aren’t losers who went to underfunded schools.

    • If you really want to hear beautiful spoken word, you should check out Marlowe. It’s a shame that his work isn’t done more often. But there is a great filmed version of Edward II where you can clearly hear the poetry. By Shakespeare, it is getting really hard to hear — especially in the later plays. And then it becomes even more naturalistic with Beaumont and Fletcher.

      I’ve spent a lot of time in Ashland, but I’ve never been to the festival. I’ve known people who have and they’ve spoken very highly of it. I’d be more interested in the non-Shakespeare too.

  3. Totally unrelated thing — but you’ll like it anyhoo.

    So I spent some time today digging around on a Twins story I read. That the subcontractor they pay to employ food service temp workers is totally f**ing those workers over blind. I read the story in a tiny little community newsletter Saturday, and those don’t have much space, and they have zero budget. So the paper couldn’t go into it more.

    I’m curious, though, and I want to know more. Plus this is just the sort of thing I love for sports posts. Who hit more homers when, ZZZZZ. Plug politics into a sports post? Now I like it. And it’s got the right angle. Everybody hates how much food costs at ballparks, so workers getting screwed and customers getting screwed isn’t too far apart. It’s the same company boning us both.

    The more I look into this the more complex the story becomes. I wanted it up by Saturday as the workers had a pretty sizable protest at the stadium recently; it’s a timely thing. But no damn way I can finish it by Saturday, or if I ever will.

    I’ll just share one goodie you’ll love.

    So I know Costco, the food wholesaler, sells hotdogs for $1.50 here. That is NOT what ballparks charge. And Costco is well-known for paying employees better than Wal-Mart. So what kind of profit is the Twins food contractor making?

    The reason Twins employees protested is there’s a city council referendum being considered (see, I said this was complex) that would mandate sick pay and all kinds of other good stuff for part-time food-service workers. I won’t go into it. It’s the old story, every restaurant owner says they agree in principle but don’t want to lose business to other restaurants not doing the same thing. AKA that’s why you NEED A LAW. But restaurant margins are pretty low, maybe 4 or 5%. Maybe if we passed decent-wage laws for food workers, that would put small restaurants out of business. I doubt it, and I want to look more into it.

    Back to Costco. We know Costco isn’t operating at 5% profit, and we know sure as hell that baseball food services aren’t. How much money are stadiums making on food service? I started by looking at what Costco pays.

    Turns out, for cashier, shelf stocker, etc, the wages are OK. As in terrible, but not Wal-Mart level. What about food service, though?

    This is almost impossible to find. For those jobs, I had to submit applications to all kinds of sleazy online scam artist sites (I used a fake name) and wait for them to call me. I’m asking people I know who shop there to just ask the food employees what they make, and what company’s name is on their checks.

    Not that I’m after Costco. I’m after the Twins subcontractor. I just want to know how common this is, and the Twins food booths are closed for the offseason, so I can’t ask there. If they’re unique doing it, that’s a story. If every company does it, that’s a story.

    Because here’s my suspicion. I suspect Costco contracts out food services to some dirtbag company just like the Twins do. I can’t prove any of this yet. It’s failing the smell test, though.

    Here’s the part you’ll like.

    So Costco has a rep, not entirely undeserved, for paying a little better. OK. Well, I really want to know if they subcontract food services. Haven’t found out yet. But I did find this SEC filing of some company officials:

    http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/909832/000119312510279341/ddef14a.htm

    Probably most of those names are quite interesting to poke at, I don’t recognize the majority. But two stick out right away, listed as “directors.” Benjamin S. Carson, Jr. M.D., and William H. Gates. Yeah, it’s them.

    Doesn’t surprise you, didn’t surprise me. Interesting little fact I’ll never, no matter what I find out about the Twins thing, be able to put on a sports blog. Gates and Carson, too perfect.

    See why I spend ages on this s**t? It’s addictive. Also damned hard to find anything.

    • I’ve always assumed that CostCo did have someone else do its food service. I also thought that it was a loss leader. And that gets to the baseball hot dog vendor. I don’t doubt that it is terrible. But it probably isn’t just them. The Twins probably charge them a fortune for the concession. In fact, my bet would be that the biggest villain is the Twins. Let’s face it: there ought to be a lot of vendors who are willing to do the job. Yet hog dogs are — What? — $7 a piece? Even at the movie theater I go to they are only $4.

  4. Why would you assume that Costco subcontracts it out? They have a position for it:
    Food Service Assistant
    Prepares and sells food and drinks to customers. Pulls and stocks supplies and ingredients, cleans kitchen area and eating area. Provides prompt and courteous member service.

    I checked to see if they had any openings in my area, they do so it does not look like they subcontract it out. I mean they could be lying to us but it seems kind of weird to do so. The average pay according to Glassdoor.com is $13 an hour.
    That is not great but about what a person makes as a telemarketer here locally.

    • Interesting. I always thought they did because they just seem different. Regardless, I maintain that no money is made from it.

      So what? Since I said that you aren’t going to use the “reply” function at all?!

      • I have no idea why it did not show I replied when I did! I swear! I follow rules like a fiend.

        Well not exactly like a fiend, they tend to not do things like follow rules but you know what I mean.

        From what I could tell, the Costco model has been kind of breaking down a little bit, one place had someone complaining that they are now doing the work of four people as a food assist person. However that person also reported a wage of $32,000 a year which is higher than most. They probably break even or have a small profit from it-lots of people I know love their concession food and it is really cheap.

        • I recently read a book (“The New Prophets of Capital”) about the silliness of the Whole Foods model that businesses will “do the right thing.” They do the right thing when it is convenient. When competition starts cutting into their profits, they act just the same as all other businesses. This is why workers can’t depend upon nice employers; they need to depend upon unions that are able to demand what is fair.

          • Exactly. They need someone, usually themselves, to look out for them. But business owners have this weird view that what they do is good only for them, not their employees even when it is literally the same thing.

            At least most of Costco is unionized.

            • Conservatives by and large don’t understand how markets work. I constantly hear them talking about businesses as though they keep prices down out of some sense of fairness. Everyone should be required to work at a flea market for a year before they are allowed to discuss economics.

                • I’ll go further: I don’t think most of the business people who parade around on CNBC understand economics either. If you go to the San Jose Flea Market, you see how free markets work. And since it is all about selling crap, it’s great. That’s what “free” markets should be about: selling unnecessary junk. Leave things like healthcare out of it.

                  • Mainly because business is related to but not quite the same thing as economics.

                    However business people are like Terry Pratchett’s witches, they are instaexperts on everything by virtue of the fact that they run a business. A friend of mine likes to highlight the nonsense this results in by pointing out terrible people who run very profitable businesses on her blog and what happens when those people get involved in politics.

                    • I always go back to the song “If I Were a Rich Man” and the line, “When you’re rich, they think you really know.” My experience with business is that the biggest thing is to be ruthless. That’s why most computer geniuses usually aren’t rich, but Jobs died rich and Gate is rich — even though technologically they are mediocrities.

                    • Which is why CEOs tend to be psychopaths since that requires them to not have empathy and it is really hard to shut it off.

                    • Exactly. If you haven’t read it, Jon Ronson’s The Psychopath Test is very good. (But So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed? is better.)

                    • I loved his book on Psychopaths but I am already depressed about the public shaming we do as a people so I am leery of reading a book on it. I was very much aware of what happened to Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian and the other targets of what became Gamergate as a woman online.
                      Since much of my legal training has to do with treating the subjects fairly, I find it hard to want to bash someone without knowing the facts and it upsets me when others fail to take reasonable care.

                      I probably will read it eventually but for now, just enjoyed Psychopaths.

                    • He starts off the book very keen on public shaming and comes to see it as a contagion. In general, I’ve not much understood the public shaming. I especially don’t understand things like the young woman who said, “Off to Africa, hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding! I’m white!” I think you have to be pretty determined to be outraged to find offense in that. Maybe it’s a little coarse, but it is a joke about stupid Americans and white privilege. Regardless, you have to give people a break. Blame Rush Limbaugh for a lifetime of being a truly vile person — not some private individual who says something impolitic occasionally.

                    • Exactly-at most someone’s stupid statement might be worth an eye roll but not hounding them out of a job. And keep it up to the point the person cannot even find work.

                      Rush Limbaugh deserves it-because he makes a living off of being a horrible person. But some random woman no one has ever heard of? Why would you want to destroy that person? I guess it is one of those things that causes a mini-mass hysteria.

                      Lindy West once called one of the people who tried to hurt her to ask him why he did it and he said he was doing it as a way of externalizing in his pain. Other people have mentioned it and so I think it has a great deal to do with the need to feel superior to another. Why humans need that I have no idea.

                    • I’m sure that’s true. It’s in us all, but I have known a lot of people for whom the feeling of superiority is pathological. It doesn’t speak well of their inner peace. There’s also — online — pure boredom. That’s even worse. And the way it goes, these people are beaten up for a day or two, and then it is over. But the residual stays on the web for the rest of their lives — stopping them from getting jobs and even friends. It’s outrageous. But it isn’t surprising, given this is what we’ve been doing to felons for the last several decades.

                    • I wish the bored people online would do what I just did and read every archived post of some website. In this case, it was all of your tagged social posts.

                      I learned some things but mostly nothing because I am tired and too wound up to sleep (I hate depression sometimes, okay all of the time) so am not absorbing information correctly. Of course after I sleep on it I will wake up knowing most of what you blathered on about. Sorry, blathered is a mean word, expounded voraciously is actually a better way to describe it.

                      I did have to save most of the recipes though, I have someone in mind to spoil with my cooking. How come you don’t have a recipe tag?

                    • I fear for your sanity. “Social” was originally meant for cooking and entertaining. Then it between the place I put things that didn’t fit anywhere else. Over the last year, it’s gotten better because WordPress allows multiple categories on a post. But I really need to fix social.

                    • Except for the quizzes that apparently have me as a major depressed dysthemic, schizophrenic, obsessive compulsive, borderline, schizotypalic, paranoid, delusional, etc individual…I am totally normal!

                      It did seem uneven in the types but for the most part, still enjoyable.

                    • Did you come upon some of my “online testing” articles? I love tests. They don’t tell me things I don’t already know, but its good to have a multiple choice test to clarify that your impression of your place in the world is more or less correct. Are you dysthymic?! Schizophrenic?! You can’t be both. Well, I suppose you could be. I think FC appeals more to the dysthymics than the schizophrenics.

                    • Based on the descriptions of the illnesses, I am probably ADHD with dysthemia. After I found out that ADHD expresses itself in women the way it does I was like “THAT’S ME!”

                      It also cemented why taking Welbutrin worked so well for me and my concentration.

                    • A woman feels super anxious all the time, like she never does anything right. She is scared to death that she will screw up and feel like a failure even when she is a raging success. She is frequently disorganized, often forgetful (I don’t have that problem, I scare people with my memory although it is usually limited to facts about people. Like I remember more that you like your mother’s cream of potato soup more than the actual recipe itself and after experimenting, you figured out how to convert it into a recipe for others to follow.) Introverted, shy, very worried about pleasing others, quick to blame self over problems even when clearly not the fault of the woman (I once had a meltdown over some guy cutting me off in traffic and the constant feeling was “he would not have done that if I was a better driver.”) Also have very low self esteem.

                      http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/04/adhd-is-different-for-women/381158/

                      “It’s this sense of not being able to hold everything together.” Basically that sums it up. Even when I was in office and presumably should feel like a success, I considered myself to be subpar in everything except my memory and intelligence (although I am not that smart, certainly not on your level.)

                    • At Frankly Curious we call that normal. I’ll have to read that article. People claim I have ADHD, but I don’t believe them. Also: I’m not a woman. But manic-depressive and anxiety prone. But if you like, I can offer the standard helpful advice that I get: don’t do that! When Henny Youngman used that line, it was funny. But somehow people offer that advice seriously, “Don’t be depressed!” Or, “Don’t be anxious!” They are trying to be helpful. But literally nothing helps. I just try to remember that these dysfunctions are what make us unique. Which also doesn’t help.

                    • Recently the only thing that helped was a friend having his own meltdown and I was there to help him deal with his own depression after his divorce. Something that gives me a distraction helps a great deal. But I never tell anyone to not be depressed-not be anxious maybe indirectly by saying “you got this. Here are all of the uselessly logical reasons why.”
                      I also don’t leave when someone is depressed. I may go to a different room but if you are that sad, having someone who says “I will be here, no matter how many times you scream at me to go away.” Then backs it up by staying seems to be helpful among my depressed friends. Of course my low self worth says “you are just being an annoying egotistical jerk. Leave them alone.”

                      Ah, our minds, sometimes our own worst enemies.

                    • I watched it a few years ago and wondered why there is no one to just wander around chatting people up in a way that is non-threatening like an old man or woman who just says “I see you.”

                      And why all the loathing for MY part of our home state? SoCal is awesome!

                    • The only reason I hate on southern California is because I’ve had numerous opportunities to visit. :-) No, it’s nice enough. But it really is different from northern California, Oregon, and Washington. Regardless, it is a birthright of all northern Californians to rag on southern California!

                    • You are just mad because we have all the hot celebrities to gaze at. And the San Diego Zoo.

                      I don’t really mind, I am used to everyone being envious of my beautiful home state area.

                    • My brother-in-law is a Emmy-winning sound engineer down there. But it continues to amaze me that people in Hollywood believe the myth even more than others do. He was telling me about some work he was doing with Jason Bateman recently and what a decent guy he is. I like Bateman. As I put it, I am more likely to enjoy a film if he is in it. But I don’t actually care who he is beyond that. So even on that score I have an attitude.

                      Now, I’m sure there are scholars at UCLA that I would get very excited about… Although Robert Reich is at Berkeley!

                    • I would not recommend talking to the celebrities. Just looking at them and going “wow, outside of make up they look pretty ordinary.”

                      One of the former governors of this state (we occasionally have sane ones who don’t break the law) is now President of the UofC system. Other than that, I know little of UCs. I just remember going to the beach a lot as a kid and the Zoo/Sea World before everyone realised the latter was evil.

                    • I went to San Diego Zoo when I was a kid. I recall enjoying it, but I don’t remember much. The last time I visited San Diego I had a very good time — I like it more than Los Angeles. But if you are going to claim southern California, you have to take Kern County too!

                  • Not seeing the problem with Bakersfield, I am okay with that. But you are stuck with the Google Executives.

                    I usually go to Balboa Park when I go to San Diego these days or to Sea Port Village. The exception is when the parents drag us to some other place but since Dad had his quintuple bypass surgery, we don’t do that much when visiting.

                    • Isn’t there something like the lamp light district? It’s very upper middle class, but I’m feeling hopeful these days.

                      The problem with Bakersfield: haven’t you ever been? Regardless: Mean Justice.

                    • I have been to Bakersfield once-when a friend of mine from across the pond came out to marry some dude. It seemed like a normal town and that book makes it really normal. As in depressingly normal.

                      I know that San Diego has the Gas Lamp District. I think I have been there a few times but most of the time stick with places like Horton Plaza when downtown. Or 3rd Ave in Chula Vista, my home town.

                    • SD is the one place I could imagine living down there. Of course, given that I rarely go outside, I guess it doesn’t matter where I live!

                    • Probably not. Unless it was the Antarctic. Then you might go a tiny bit stir crazy in the winter months.

                    • Just have not had the right combination of factors that let you go hibernate down south?

    • Good to know, thank you.

      It’s possibly that I’m doing these jobsites wrong. But the ones I looked at — including glassdoor just now — will not, absolutely will not, tell you the salary being offered for these positions until you give them a bunch of personal info and submit a full application with job history, which I didn’t have time to do today. Maybe they’re do where you live. That would indicate the rules for different jobs are different in our home states. Or I’m really doing these jobsites wrong. They tell you what the other Costco positions pay. Just not food service, oddly. Not when I put a local ZIP code in.

      So it could be a Twins being assholes story, or a ton of Minnesota companies being assholes story, and/or temp agencies/website job sites in collusion to hide salaries (first thing you’d see advertised in old newspaper classifieds, although they often lied.) Like I said, I can’t finish it soon, if ever.

      Workers are being stiffed here, my lame web jobsearch abilities aside. That’s the crux of this. But if I’m publishing political stuff on a dumb sports blog — which I try to do whenever I can — I need to get my facts/background story straight. Otherwise it’s “you’re pushing a political agenda,” a completely true accusation I’ve so far managed to avoid by presenting disputed issues (like the Minneapolis city council bill & its effects) as disputed while clearly stating verified facts (which happen to support my argument, I’m a demagogue at heart) as facts. For that to work among baseball nerds, who are crazy about stats & history, I have to make damn straight sure every single thing I say is backed up.

      Do I trust the community paper reporting on workers getting stiffed? I surely do. But I need to prove it for the sports folks.

      (The wage Twins workers get is $9, and they have to show up in lines for possible openings, and if there’s too many applicants that day, they can’t work, but they have to keep that time slot open to be able to work and . . . they’re screwed in a lot of ways, again, I won’t go into it just now.)

      If the Twins are treating people worse than every other company, I want to tell that story. If they’re taking advantage of some loophole that makes it possible for lots of local businesses to treat people bad, I want to tell that story. However it turns out, the Minneapolis Advocate-Reporter doesn’t have a lot of space and I can use a little more. If I get my facts straight.

      What I shared here was a long-winded way of saying Ben Carson & Bill Gates were on the same board, which I thought was amusing!

      • Nooooo, you are right they are getting stiffed for the work they do. Delaware North Companies provides the food service and their last published financials had them at $2.6 billion with about 60,000 employees worldwide. That was in 2012.

        I would have to log into the PACER system to see if I could pull up the two labor lawsuits they have had filed against them in New York and Missouri. That of course does not give us access to the disclosure statements if the plaintiff’s survive the initial Motion to Dismiss. Those would have the actual amounts. Of course it would be illuminating to see what the lawsuits are for-if it is bad working conditions or for lack of pay. If it is lack of pay, there may be some local lawsuits you could find in your own local legal system.

        Perhaps I am just tackling this from a different angle to get to the same information. Different people, different views, different methods etc.

        • That’s excellent, much better than anything I came up with. I’m terrible at research, haven’t a clue what I’m doing.

          If I could prove DNC is substantially worse than other food-service subcontractors here, I could probably get a few people riled up about it. Everyone hates the $7 hotdog. It smells good, we know teams charge as much as they can get away with, so we fork over the $7 and shrug. But can’t teams still make money and treat workers a little less abysmally?

          I’ll probably just poke around a little more and give up. Maybe write some silliness and mention the outrageous DNC behavior (which is probably the team’s fault for not giving a damn) in a hyperlink nobody will click on. It’s how I usually admit failure. “This is serious, it’s beyond my talents to uncover properly, so I linked to a thing!”

          • Well it may require doing things that I know I hate-calling someone up and asking “is there a spreadsheet somewhere with the number of hot dogs you sell per game?”

            According to Delish.com, they sell about 21 million hot dogs nationwide. And the Indy Star’s reporter found out that their local stadium sold 120,000. So going with that, it is $840,000 before expenses. If they hire 15 people at $9 an hour for six hours for fifty games, it comes out to $40,500. I think anyway, I am awful at math. Pretty sure it is more than that though but at $9 an hour, the employees are not being compensated adequately.

              • As long as it does not involve talking to humans, I am good. But I am happy to talk to any dogs or cats or hissing iguanas.

                • OK, because I’m avoiding going to work —

                  Iguanas are great! There’s a local store with iguanas, snakes, you name it, all things that enjoy sitting quietly and staring blankly at you. They have a big room devoted to two giant turtles. The sign on the door reads, “THEY WILL OUTLIVE YOU.” I doubt the store owners ever want to sell them.

                  It does have a shedded-skin smell, which is fine but a little strong. I rented a room a guy had previously lived in with his iguana. It’s a strong smell. I got used to it.

                  Oh, man, am I avoiding stuff . . .

  5. Hey, BTW, Elizabeth —

    So I didn’t give up completely on that ballpark worker story, just on the whole angle of comparing their pay to Costco. Turns out there were some updates since last I looked. The workers got some concessions from Delaware North! Not more pay (hiss, boo) but some of the worst other aspects of their employment.

    Turns out the workers were really getting screwed because they are temps hired through temp agencies (the regular ballpark workers are unionized and make more money.) And in some things the temp agencies were violating state law; those are supposedly going to be fixed.

    The temps should be unionized, too, but at least by complaining all together they got some improvements. Solidarity forever!

    • Also — funny that you post a lot when depressed. I do too, and am now. Strange how different people react to it. Others back off from Internet stuff. For me it’s a brain distraction. If I’m thinking and typing about how to respond to someone on the Internet, I’m shutting off temporarily the part of my brain that’s feeling hopeless about how to respond to challenges in real life.

      But there’s also degrees of depression. There’s “typing things for strangers will help me out of my feeling stuck.” There’s “any distraction will make me forget I’m quite so miserable.” And of course the dreaded “no point in trying anything, nothing will help.” #1 causes over-posting, #2 causes over-watching YouTube, and #3 is a serious bastard anyone with more brains than God gave cauliflower has to muddle through on occasion.

    • I miss being in CWA. That was nice. The contract even paid for college in advance instead of reimbursement.

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