Month: November 2007

Translation and situation

I’m translating segments of a Japanese TV show right now. It’s very different from my usual work, and not what I consider a strong suit, but the client seems happy with my work right now, so I’ll take it.

This particular show is of the “physical challenge reality TV” variety. It’s sort of like the show Ninja Warrior that’s currently on U.S. cable, but much sillier and with recognizable Japanese TV celebrities as commentators and sometimes as competitors. The commentators are clearly trying to call the proceedings the way a sports announcer would, and as I go along, I’m trying to imagine how it would sound if Bob Costas were calling the games with my translation. But some of this stuff doesn’t translate. It’s not so much that I don’t know the words, or don’t know what the speakers mean by them (although that happens here and there), it’s just that they’re saying things that would never be said in the same situation in an English-speaking contest.

I just ran flat-faced into a perfect example. The game in question has the contestants trying to sit atop a gigantic ball and navigate it through an obstacle course. At one point, one of the contestants gets stuck in a hole and is rocking unsteadily and impotently, trying to get out. The commentator says “まるで現代人の日常の不安定感をビジュアル化したかのようだ,” which I have translated somewhat loosely as “It’s as if the malaise of modern life has been made tangible in his plight.”

And there’s the thing. No American sports announcer, no matter how literate, would ever say anything remotely like that in this situation. I’m content with the translation, but it’s undeniably weird to an American audience. Then again, the rest of the show is kind of weird.

Sacred cows

Submitted for your consideration:

Many religions build up arbitrary dietary rules around them.

Raw-foodism is an arbitrary dietary rule that has built up a religion around it.

A thought on the writer’s strike

As I understand it, the position of the Writer’s Guild of America is that writers should be compensated for online distribution. The studios’ position is that media distributed online has no value.

So when I download a TV show over bittorrent, I’m supporting the studios’ position. They should thank me.

Word annoyance du jour

screenshot of MS Word with two open documents

There are lots of reasons to be annoyed with Word. I’ve just discovered another one.

Look at the screenshot above. It shows two open documents in Word. Which one is the active window? (too small? You can see the full size image.)

Trick question. Neither is active. Even though these are the only two documents open in Word, neither is active. Keystrokes will not be sent to either one. Note how the title bar of the left window makes it appear to be active, while the scroll bar of the right window suggests it is active.

This condition arises erratically when the command-` systemwide shortcut is used to cycle through the windows of the current app. It only seems to happen when windows of other apps are also visible. I’m working on a job where I’m copying timecodes from the left window into the right, and the fact that I can’t use command-` to cycle is slowing me down measurably—almost as much as taking time out to blog about the problem is doing.


Folding cards for Gwen

When Gwen and I bought our current house, we inherited a letterpress, vintage approximately 1920, that the previous owners could not take with them when they moved to Spain. Gwen was interested in learning how to use it, but knowing how the best-laid plans of mice and men can go, we agreed that if she hadn’t done anything with it in nine months, we’d get rid of it.

Well, she did do something—a batch of coasters (using type, ink, and stock that was also left behind). Then she made some postcards. My sister, who received one of these postcards and has her own craft business, told Gwen “if you make more like these, I can sell them.”

That got Gwen thinking. She designed a series of cards, got plates burned, bought paper and ink, and got to work. I watched.

It’s fascinating to contemplate letterpress printing. It’s a very fussy process. These days if we want a hard copy (a phrase that suggests how a paper instantiation of information is secondary to the platonic electronic form), we hit command-P and a few seconds later, a page (or many pages) pops out of the printer, perfectly rendered.

It’s a little different with letterpress printing. Assuming you bypass the laborious process of composing type and have a plate burned, you still need to affix the plate in your chase, estimate the correct amount of packing on your platen, estimate your gauge-pin positions, and print some “make-ready” to home in on the correct packing and pin positioning. Once you’re getting a uniform, square impression—a process that can easily take an hour—you can start printing. The packing (extra sheets of paper underneath your printed piece) determine how hard the plate’s impression is, and a single piece of tissue paper in the packing can make an obvious difference in print quality. And if you’re doing a two- or three-color job, you need to do all this repeatedly—and get your registration straight with the previous print passes. The whole process can go wrong in numerous ways, and our eyes are highly attuned to even subtle errors in printed matter. A piece that’s rotated so that a printed line that goes out of parallel with the edge of the card by just 1/30″ over a length of 5″ is an obvious reject.

And while we generally don’t think of printing as physically dangerous, with a letterpress, it can be. Because the equipment is, at root, a press. And it weighs about 1800 lb, running off a large flywheel carrying a lot of momentum. If your hand happens to get in the way when platen and plate are pressed together, you’re going to have a very flat hand.

In spite of the hard work, the finickiness, and the risk of grievous bodily harm, Gwen has produced a line of cards. They’re being sold at Book People, and will be sold on the East Austin Studio Tour and Cherrywood Art Fair.

Oh, and she has a website of course. Horsemuffin.


I’ve been busy lately.

After a long spell with very little work, October ended with all I could handle. Add to that preparations for the annual Halloween show at the Enchanted Forest, preparations to go to San Francisco for the ATA conference, and other stuff. Now I’ve got plenty of blog-fodder piled up and don’t quite know where to start.

So I’ll start by squeezing this update out.