23 January 2006

A Biography of Gerald Ford, in Portuguese

by Cecily
My newest favorite way to waste time is to read all the archives of Overheard in New York. Seriously I think I have spent about 10 hours over the last week reading that website. It's addictive and I'm obsessive so we're like a match made in heaven.

My other old standby favorite way to waste time was watching Law & Order on television, but as of this morning, we no longer have a television at my house. There was a breakup and a custody battle and the loser (in an extremely superficial sense, unrelated to actual human feelings, since I wasn't one of the breaking up parties) was me. Me and my evenings of watching Law & Order. Adieu, Detective Vincent D'Onofrio! I'll miss you!

Since I couldn't watch any crappy dramedies this evening, instead I started watching Issue # 1 of Wholphin, which is some kind of highbrow arty DVD publication from those guys at McSweeney's. It came free when I bought a copy of the Believer, which is their literary review magazine publication that I LOVE.

Anyway I am sad and disappointed by the DVD, because although it is full of what look like fine performances by people I admire (Miranda July! Spike Jonze! David Byrne!), none of it is captioned. I still watched part of it and I'll probably watch the rest at some point, because the visual element is not to be sneezed at. But there's a bunch of stories and people talking and I'm sure it would all be much more enthralling if I knew what they were saying.

I wasn't really expecting captions, because McSweeney's included a DVD with issue 11 of their quarterly. And on that DVD, there are captions, but mostly they are not in English. And none of them are captions of what is happening on the DVD. The notes in the back of the book say this:

*Subtitles available; drawn from The History of the Goths and Visigoths in German and Portuguese.
**Subtitles available; drawn from A Biography of Gerald Ford, in Portuguese.
U.S.S. Indicates that the author is in the Navy, and thus the reading is audio-only.
***Subtitles available; drawn from Spenser's The Faerie Queene; in Spanish.
+Subtitles available; drawn from the Book of Genesis.

I do see the humor in this, and I am a great appreciator of absurdity and nonsense and hilarious jokes. However, if you are deaf, watching this DVD (which is a "documentary" of the making of the issue of the quarterly literary journal) is tedious and annoying with no subtitles, and it doesn't become any less so if you turn the Portuguese Gerald Ford Biography subtitles on.

The "English Subtitles" option on DVDs is not because the people who make DVDs are stupid, it's because some people can't hear the spoken English.

The McSweeney's DVD may be tedious and annoying even when you can understand it. I'm sure some people, at least, think so. Sadly, I have no way to judge either the documentary or the newer Wholphin issue on its own merits. Which is too bad for the McSweeney's guys, because I really like almost everything those McSweeney's guys come up with. I buy their books and their magazines and their t-shirts and their bookplates. And I would probably like and buy and say nice things to my friends about their DVDs, too, if they hadn't decided that accessibility was too banal to be included.


  1. Ugh. I hate it when I'm confronted with a DVD that has subtitles in every language but English. Almost as much as I hate the fact that the extras are never captioned. Boo. Hiss.

  2. I also hate when the subtitles are in white and 70% of the ground on which they appear is white or yellow. I always end up squinting and having a headache and asking someone to interpret the whole thing. Grrr.

  3. Do you have copy writer for so good articles? If so please give me contacts, because this really rocks! :)