I was thinking a lot about translation the other day. I couldn’t think of anything new to write, so I ran the same poem through BabelFish over and over until it had traveled the globe.
I also recently signed up for Google Voice because I had a phone interview coming up, and I thought it may be a more stable option than my shitty cell phone.
One of the main features of Google Voice is that it transcribes your voicemails. This reminded me of a line I had read in Laura Solomon’s The Hermit (which I’m hoping to review soon): "sounds don't need words to have meaning but words need sounds / I mean I love meaning but I hate words I like sounds.” Again, this reminded me of translation (homophonic translation), though there was something more accidental about this. I thought, why not take the game "telephone" to its logical, digital conclusion?
So I called my GoogleSelf and left myself a voicemail. I read three poems from DeWitt Brinson, which were part of an ongoing collaboration between us, got the transcriptions, and sent them to DeWitt who, I think, liked them.
I began getting obsessed. I called my GoogleSelf again and again, leaving messages that were other people’s poems, Karl Popper, and, of course, the DSM IV. Here’s the GoogleVoice “translation” of the DSM entry for Obseessive Compulsive Disorder:
(note: GoogleVoice transcribes in shades of grey, the darkness of the text indicating how confident Google is in its own transcription)
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder,
any other sessions are compulsion
obsession, as defined by at 123 and 4
1. The content persistent thought imposes are images that are experience at sometime during the disturbed as intrusive and inappropriate and I called Mark anxiety or distress.
2. The box imposed under images are possibly excessive worries about real life problems.
3 The person attempts to ignore suppressed such imposes or images hoarded neutralize them, with some other thought, or action.
4. The person recognizes that the up session o'clock imposes are images our product of his or her own mind. Not imposed from without and thought exertion.
compulsion that the fine bought one and two
1 repetitive behaviors. E G handwashing ordering checking or mental. X. E. G. Crane come team. He didn't work so I will let the person feels driven to perform in response to an obsession, or according to the rules that must be applied. Originally
2 behaviors or mental acts are aimed at preventing or reducing stress or preventing some dreaded event 4 situation. However, these behaviors or mental acts either are not connected in a realistically with what they are designed to neutralize the prevent or clearly excessive.
Be at some point during the course of the disorder. The person and recognize that the obsessions are awesome dark festival unreasonable. Note this is not as like the children
C. If sessions are compulsion cause marked distress, our time consuming take more than one hour day significantly interfere with the person's normal routine. Occupational or academic functioning or usual social activities or relationships,
D if another access one disorders present the content of the obsessions a compulsion not restricted to a E G preoccupation with moving the presence of eating disorder hair pulling in the presence trip to Jewel mania. Concerned, with experience in the presence of Bobby this more pics disorder, preoccupation with drugs in the presence of the substance abuse this order, preoccupation with having serious illness in the presence of hi book Andrea, preoccupation with that so urgent or fantasy present air Delia, or guilty woman nations in the presence of major depression whatsoever.
E this is service is not due to the direct physiological festival Austin. E G Drug of Abuse for medication or general medical condition.
After 5 P F With 4 insight gift for the most part of the time during the current episode the person does not recognize that the obsessions an important part got that one reasonable.
The novelty wore off, but I felt like there was still more I could wring (*ring*) out of this experience. This morning, I shut myself in the bathroom, turned on the faucet, and left myself a voicemail recounting certain traumas in my life. I was shocked at how hard it was to speak about things I thought I had pretty much dealt with. It left me shaky, like I drank six cups of coffee on an empty stomach.
I sat in front of the computer, waiting for the transcription to finish. When it did, predictably, the translation bore no resemblance to what I had said. It was a relief in a sense. Like my secret was safe. I had told someone, and when they spoke it back, they got it all wrong. But part of me felt angry. I called myself again and again with the same secret. Each time, I got gibberish in return.