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Review: Prison Writing of Latin America by Joey Whitfield

joey whitfield

Joey is a teacher of mine at MLANG in Cardiff University. This is his first book. It explores prison writing in Latin America and looks at abolitionism of the penal system and draws on some really rather delicate themes that expose the dark brutality of prisons in a developing continent where sometimes human rights can be totally thrown out of the window. There is a schism in the penal code between political prisoners and criminals and Joey looks at how these two groups affect each other’s progress through the system. Often it is the poorest and racially discriminated against that suffer the worst fates in the prison system. Poor, indigenous women victims of Reagan’s War on Drugs when Latin American governments need to satisfy captivity quotas in order to get their dollar funding are the ones which are locked away as they are easy targets for a corrupt police force. The first chapter looks at political writing within the prison system. I was totally blown away by the imprisoned Costa Rican author José León Sánchez. This man was a true victim of the system and was wrongly given a life imprisonment term on the barren prison island colony of San Lucas, condemned to carrying a ball and chain around with him whilst manacled all day. In the face of adversity, Sánchez became literate and his work ‘La isla de los hombres solos’ catapulted him into national and international fame, his original work confounding all the critics. Chapter 2 of Whitfield is very dark and difficult to read. It explores homosexual love in the prison system, from rape through to desperate displays of machisimo. The men turn to each other in a way of confronting the system. This chapter looks mainly at imprisoned Cubans. Chapter 3 is brutal in the way it describes the prison massacres of Senderoso Luminosa captives who fight wars with the Peruvian authorities from behind the door, all in defence of their leftist communist ideologies. Some of the worst prison massacres in history occurred in Peru during the 1980s at the peak of the Senedero resistance guerrilla war with the state. Chapter 4 is about the War on Drugs where the Reagan administration turns its Southern hemisphere politics away from leftist insurgents and criminalises the narcotics industry, creating a new criminal class. Comando Vermelho (Red Command) is Brasil are a drug-trafficking criminal gang that originate in prisons…

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Landlocked – Mental Health in the UK and the Prevention of International Travel, Translation and Foreign Language Education

air new zealand

On the Second of April 1997, at the point of my first contact with the Mental Health Act, I had my life’s dreams shattered. On that day, my parents had been persuaded to take me to see a psychiatrist at the local mental hospital, St Cadoc’s in Caerleon. I hadn’t wanted to attend the meeting at all as I didn’t have any health issues. However, I was forced by my family to go. I spoke with a psychiatrist, a social worker and a GP and they told me that I couldn’t leave the hospital and that I had been placed under Section 2 of the Mental Health Act 1983, a piece of UK government legislation that I had never heard of at all and that I knew nothing about. I was given a bit of paper which told me ‘my rights’ all of which are lies. I had to stay in the hospital for 28 days. I said I can’t do that as I am a university student at University College London (UCL) and also have several business commitments in the Music Industry for my DJing where I have a night at the Ministry of Sound arranged. They said that it was necessary for me to be treated (against my consent) and that afterwards I would be free to get on with my life.   (above is the MOS Flyers for the event which went ahead anyway, just without me there. It was apparently a delusion of grandeur and therefore a symptom of the diagnosed schizophrenia. The shrinks like using this terminology of grandiose delusions for beating you in court appeals etc. Difficult to prove to a shrink anything that you say as they always seem to know better…. [Interestingly my Ltd company was regarded as a Delusion of Grandeur much later in 2002 but I’ll save that story for a future End of Terror article.  ])   I won’t go into the details of what happened to me medically during this time as that is not the subject of this article but eventually I spent between 2 and 3 months locked in Isca Ward, St Cadoc’s, before I was released into the community. The misdiagnosed condition (schizophrenia) which I knew from the start that I didn’t have at all has led to a pursuance by this mental health system of me as an individual for over 22 years. I…

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Landlocked – Mental Health in the UK and the Prevention of International Travel, Translation and Foreign Language Education

air new zealand

On the Second of April 1997, at the point of my first contact with the Mental Health Act, I had my life’s dreams shattered. On that day, my parents had been persuaded to take me to see a psychiatrist at the local mental hospital, St Cadoc’s in Caerleon. I hadn’t wanted to attend the meeting at all as I didn’t have any health issues. However, I was forced by my family to go. I spoke with a psychiatrist, a social worker and a GP and they told me that I couldn’t leave the hospital and that I had been placed under Section 2 of the Mental Health Act 1983, a piece of UK government legislation that I had never heard of at all and that I knew nothing about. I was given a bit of paper which told me ‘my rights’ all of which are lies. I had to stay in the hospital for 28 days. I said I can’t do that as I am a university student at University College London (UCL) and also have several business commitments in the Music Industry for my DJing where I have a night at the Ministry of Sound arranged. They said that it was necessary for me to be treated (against my consent) and that afterwards I would be free to get on with my life.   I won’t go into the details of what happened to me medically during this time as that is not the subject of this article but eventually I spent between 2 and 3 months locked in Isca Ward, St Cadoc’s, before I was released into the community. The misdiagnosed condition (schizophrenia) which I knew from the start that I didn’t have at all has led to a pursuance by this mental health system of me as an individual for over 22 years. I never got to complete my UCL studies and had my music career as a DJ (Wez G) seriously ruined. The End Of Terror website is a solution that I devised to fight my corner in what is in essence a war between myself and elements of the British State.   At the point of realising on 02.04.97, that I wasn’t going to be able to get away from this hospital I had a serious think of the impact it would have on my life. The immediate work and study could be dealt with…

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Review: Narcocorrido: A Journey into the Music of Drugs, Guns, and Guerrillas – by Elijah Wald

narcocorrido

Whilst planning to do a university translation dissertation on some aspect of narcoculture I was drawn to this work (in English – also simultaneously released bilingually with a Spanish version) by American author and folk musician, Elijah Wald. Having been introduced and hooked on the sounds of Los Tigres Del Norte for years, the Narcocorrido is a music form that particularly interests me. The Spanish word ‘Correr’ = to run, gives way to the Corrido form of music, a Mexican musical ballad, originally historically done as the spoken word, but more recently with Mexican folk music of accordions, guitars and harps added. It is a form of Norteño / Ranchera / Mariachi music, very spicy in rhythm, with neatly rhyming lyrics, telling a popular story. A lively, popular music artform, where masculinity and hyper-masculinity can flourish. The traditional Corrido has been superseded by the Narcocorrido, which tells the stories of Mexican and Latin American drug lords and their conquests – their crossborder trafficking, their grisly assassinations, their lovelife, their organisations. The Corrido is an alternative form of news and corridistas may cover any political event, with some controversial writers documenting political scandals and guerrilla uprisings. Elijah Wald takes us on an interesting personal journey as he hitchhikes and buses across every conceivable region in Mexico and also dips into the Corrido communities of North America. We meet the stars of the genre, the well known celebrity figures, from Los Tigres Del Norte themselves and their most famous writers such as Jefe del Jefes, Teodoro Bello. The issues of assassinated star Chalino Sánchez were particularly interesting and displayed the true dangerous nature of these musicians and their controversial cultural work. We head from the Sinaloan narcocorrido heartland, up to Texas and onto rural Michoacan. Not only do we learn more of the drug trafficking inspirations and the gruesome Mexican drug war, but also we learn of other areas of Mexican culture, history and politics. Wald is a man of the people and the rural campesinos are never far from his heart. He is equally at home listening to corridista buskers on the bus aswell as being able to snort cocaine whilst partying with the stars. For me, the translations done by the author about the often unknown corridos are a true revelation and, being an apprentice translator, I particularly found this aspect of the book exciting. The book is a real…

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Review: Narcocorrido: A Journey into the Music of Drugs, Guns, and Guerrillas – by Elijah Wald

narcocorrido

Whilst planning to do a university translation dissertation on some aspect of narcoculture I was drawn to this work (in English – also simultaneously released bilingually with a Spanish version) by American author and folk musician, Elijah Wald. Having been introduced and hooked on the sounds of Los Tigres Del Norte for years, the Narcocorrido is a music form that particularly interests me. The Spanish word ‘Correr’ = to run, gives way to the Corrido form of music, a Mexican musical ballad, originally historically done as the spoken word, but more recently with Mexican folk music of accordions, guitars and harps added. It is a form of Norteño / Ranchera / Mariachi music, very spicy in rhythm, with neatly rhyming lyrics, telling a popular story. A lively, popular music artform, where masculinity and hyper-masculinity can flourish. The traditional Corrido has been superseded by the Narcocorrido, which tells the stories of Mexican and Latin American drug lords and their conquests – their crossborder trafficking, their grisly assassinations, their lovelife, their organisations. The Corrido is an alternative form of news and corridistas may cover any political event, with some controversial writers documenting political scandals and guerrilla uprisings. Elijah Wald takes us on an interesting personal journey as he hitchhikes and buses across every conceivable region in Mexico and also dips into the Corrido communities of North America. We meet the stars of the genre, the well known celebrity figures, from Los Tigres Del Norte themselves and their most famous writers such as Jefe del Jefes, Teodoro Bello. The issues of assassinated star Chalino Sánchez were particularly interesting and displayed the true dangerous nature of these musicians and their controversial cultural work. We head from the Sinaloan narcocorrido heartland, up to Texas and onto rural Michoacan. Not only do we learn more of the drug trafficking inspirations and the gruesome Mexican drug war, but also we learn of other areas of Mexican culture, history and politics. Wald is a man of the people and the rural campesinos are never far from his heart. He is equally at home listening to corridista buskers on the bus aswell as being able to snort cocaine whilst partying with the stars. For me, the translations done by the author about the often unknown corridos are a true revelation and, being an apprentice translator, I particularly found this aspect of the book exciting. The book is a real…

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Introduction to Statistical Machine Translation, Post-Editing and AdaptiveMT – Presentation at Cardiff University by Valeria Filippello 08.03.17

Valeria Filippello

Valeria Filippello is a Principal Computational Linguist for SDL, a leading translation technology company. This presentation, an Introduction to Statistical Machine Translation, Post-Editing and AdaptiveMT, was an NSS Careers and Networking Event, organised jointly by the School of Modern languages (MLANG), Cardiff University, and ITI Cymru Wales. Valeria has spent 10 years in her role, her primary task being to test and develop machine translation (MT) and also to train translators in the use of MT. She is a trained translator and interpreter. Why the need for MT? Ability to handle content explosion – for example the launch of a new mobile phone is done very quickly and there needs to be quick translations done for any product release Reduced production costs Faster throughput Greater industry acceptance There is also a greater consumer acceptance of MT. An estimated 75% of web users use free MT tools due to the greater accessibility and integration of MT solutions. 93% of these MT users use it to understand English. Over 90% are non-English speakers. Valeria went on to describe the different types of MT technologies… There is RBMT – Rules-based Machine Translation – the Engine consists of a set of rules, each written by a linguist. RBMT is time-consuming and it’s application is limited. There is SMT – Statistical Machine Translation – on the basis of a large set of examples, the engine learns translation rules for itself. Also, there is Hybrid MT which is any combination of SMT and RBMT Technology. SMT involves a large database where ‘the system “learns” how to translate by analysing statistical relationships between source and target data.’ The Pros and Cons of SMT ADVANTAGES Once the learning system is in place, developing new engines is a quick process Translations are relatively fluent and show some context-sensitivity DISADVANTAGES Needs large databases of good quality to be feasible engine cannot be influenced directly little control on terminology SMT provides solutions for Post-Editing (PE). Post-editing is an ‘en vogue’ category of employment for translators these days. PE is more and more accepted by translators. PE needs to be sustainable in the long term You need the right solution and a good PE process There is a challenge in devising SMT solutions for Post-Editing. Train translators to become efficient post-editors Retrain MT engines taking into account post-editors’ feedback Here are some types of SMT solutions BASELINES eg. Google Translate VERTICALS –…

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