Posts Tagged ‘translation’

Paper Tiger

22 December 2010

Dear J-

I keep adding sites to Google Reader; based on the items I’ve already fed it, it pops out a list f recommended items, one or two of which I can’t seem t resist passing on or keeping a closer eye on. I realize that there’s little logic there — it crunches the items I’ve seen as interesting in the past along with popularity and linking rates combined with secret Google sauce but for some reason it keeps talking about both Android and CR-48, the Chrome OS-based netbook. Hey, no one ever accused Google of being subtle. I’ve run across Passive Aggressive Notes, where (I think) I saw a replly to a Facebook status (“Oh man I’m so busy lately”) that while over the top, rings true (“Everyone’s busy, get over yourself”). Other sites talk about the idyllic life of parents with calm kids who help out around the house, politely say ma’am and thank you, and pick up after themselves. I’m not sure I’m buying that vision given the whirlwind that is figgy.

She has become expert in reading our emotions and actions; I roar easily and volubly but with no lasting force as part of the changing moods while theVet, steadier in temperament, snaps less frequently but more decisively — if the line has been crossed, then there’s no taking it back. She had scheduled a tea with her sister next week; as figgy adores her cousin, they’d tenatively sketched it in for Monday so that they could go together, the hope being that figgy would see the example and behave the part rather than shock the rest of the tea patrons, theVet and her sister would both get a mutually enjoyable, relaxing tea, and Calcifer, along for the ride, would hopefully sleep (catch him between feedings and he’ll be all right; just before and the inconsolable hunger will surprise you).

Based on yesterday we had to pull the nuclear option and reschedule tea for when figgy’s in daycare; it’s our frustration and fear (no one wants to be those people — the parents of the crying baby in the restaurant/theater/tea) in that figgy is able to read us so well yet act in a way to spin us up further rather than for mutual benefit. I suppose that this is another transition to get over — not only has our attention been divided, I’ve returned to work and am missing a majority of the day. I don’t want to turn this into some place where readers can consistently hear me complain about everything — there’s an Andy Rooney for that already, and it feels like that’s all I’ve done — but the truth is that this is the part where we have to become unpopular with her in order to avoid raising a sociopath. Here’s where no becomes part of our vocabulary and specificity counts (i.e. you can’t just say “be good” — explain why the behavior is wrong, and what the right thing to do is, and be consistent and patient). It sounds good on paper. Let’s see how it translates to life.



Double Ikkoku

4 April 2009

Dear J-

In the more than ten years since my brother got me hooked on manga by sending me first a few volumes of Maison Ikkoku and then a few of GTO, that scene’s changed quite a bit. We had the big boom right around the millennium, when it seemed like (and was true, to some extent) that anything illustrated originating from Japan could and would be licensed and brought over to the States. Of course, the fact that most of those involved what was known as fanservice (panty shots) helped the appeal to teenage boys immensely; the problem was that the market got saturated pretty quickly and all of a sudden, the local shelves were full of chaff that needed a lot of sorting through.


I’m learning that the stories I read are full of interesting people — the situation is a gimmick, but unless I like the characters, it’s difficult to plow through the remainder of the story. On the flip side, if I like them enough, I’ll make it a point to revisit their world once in a while. And then there’s Maison Ikkoku; I would scour bookstores for the latest releases when the novels were coming out and made up a cross-reference list showing the differences between the Japanese original chapters, anime episodes, and the English translations. When I learned that several chapters were missing from the first couple of volumes, but available separately in magazines, I tracked down the magazines.


Recently Viz re-released the manga in a second edition, restoring the excised stories and in a non-flipped format. These are the changes of the last ten years: the assumption is that we are now smart enough to read up on Japanese culture if we’re curious about something like college entrance examinations, instead of scratching our heads and wondering where the giant exploding robots are in our comic books. Further, by keeping the pictures un-flipped, everyone’s turned right-handed again; it’s a little confusing at first, but your brain’s flexible enough to re-wire itself. So I started by getting the first few books — for the episodes I missed — and then … well … either way, it still reads well; it’s just reflective of the changes in America — changes for the better.


Shankar’s Story

1 April 2009

Dear J-

In the novel Q&A (Vikas Swarup), the penultimate 100,000,000 rupees chapter details Ram’s life in Agra, home of the Taj Mahal.  It’s one of the chapters that made the leap from page to screen (Slumdog Millionaire) without too much change, in that he still works as an illegal guide at the Taj and manages to pick up the history through word of mouth.  However, the chapter in the novel concentrates more on the life he has outside his guide work — living, loving, and the words of a fellow orphan, Shankar.

I discovered that his language was not just meaningless gibberish.  Although the words sounded nonsensical to us, for him they held a peculiar internal coherence.

That was enough to prompt me to sit down and translate the Shankar passages — it turns out to be a simple substitution cipher, with the first clues given by the chapter’s title — X Gkrz Opknu translates to A Love Story:

d f g h j k l m n u o p q -> English
a b c d e f g h i j k l m -> Shankar

r s t i v w x y z b a c e -> English
n o p q r s t u v w x y z -> Shankar

a b c d e f g h i j k l m -> English
x w y a z b c d q e f g h -> Shankar

n o p q r s t u v w x y z -> English
i k l m n o p j r s t u v -> Shankar

There are otherwise some pretty significant spoilers that come from knowing Shankar’s language, so those will follow after the break.  After having watched the movie (liked it) and read the novel (also liked it) — these things are not capital-A Art, but they are entertaining and engaging.  The charm of the novel lies partly in seeing what was changed to streamline the story for the film, but mostly in the likeable Ram Mohammad Thomas, whose unlikely story makes for great, compulsive page-turning fun.  Even if you’ve seen the film, the book is worth picking up — it doesn’t take long to get through.



Watchmen Speculation

20 August 2008

Dear J-

There’s been a surfeit of comic book movies lately — growing up when I did, sure you had your occasional Superman movie or Batman, but the great majority of franchises crossed over from film into print, graphic or otherwise.  I have a Blade Runner graphical adaptation sitting around somewhere that reminds me of how it was in the days before home video — and even when VHS tapes ran $80 plus, no one except those crazy Laserdisc folks actually owned movies.  Instead we had still-illustrated large-format storybooks (some prepared well in advance of the final cut, if you ever get a chance, look up the Star Wars storybook, which includes a deleted scene between Biggs and Luke on Tatooine) and novelizations, where now it’s just much simpler to wait for the inevitable DVD in six months or so.

But back to comic book movies; it’s not to say that there aren’t ambiguously good heroes in graphic literature, but the movies that have been chosen draw from source material with reasonable brand recognition — Superman, Batman, Spiderman, the X-Men, Iron Man — with pretty cut-and-dried heroes.  When they come from more obscure sources, the advertising budget suffers (Ghost Rider came and went with hardly a peep, although maybe that was due to the general awfulness of the movie) and it’s not a mainstream viewing.

It’ll be interesting to see how the Watchmen are handled in their big-screen translation.  For what it’s worth, I agree with Alan Moore’s assertion that parts of it are essentially untranslateable from print to film, but comic book fans demand a certain verity and fidelity to the source material — more than most, I would assert — and I don’t doubt that they will be much disappointed.  With that said, I can’t help but believe that the character development must be far shallower, just based on time constraints.  How will that Cold War tale play out?  Only one way to learn.