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toastykitten

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toastykitten: (Default)
Words Without Borders is releasing its first anthology. (Link from Laila Lalami.)

Words Without Borders is one of my favorite websites, even though I don't read it often enough. They translate literature from all over the world, and much of it is really beautiful. I love them because I love translated works - I like getting into the heads and lives of people who live life completely differently from the way I do, and I like the way that their languages takes them places that English wouldn't seem to. I find it sad that the American public don't get treated to enough translated works, and this makes up for it a little, when you are sick of reading whatever's on the New York Times bestseller list.

Actually, scratch that. I hardly ever read anything that's on the New York Times bestseller list. I love American literature, but at times I can find it stultifying, deadly dull, and overly self-conscious. Reading literature that's not originally in English can be really inspiring, for me, at least.
toastykitten: (Default)
Because I discover places like the [livejournal.com profile] fanficrants community and it introduces me to people who claim to have "soul-bonded" with a favorite character from a comic book, and then get all indignant when their soul-bonded character shows up in people's slash. And apparently there's a reference in this post to "real Soulbonders"? So there are more people who have "bonded" with fictional characters?

Sometimes reality is better.

Ok, here is the one thought I had while reading this person's rant - of all the characters in the X-Men universe she chose to worship, she chose Cyclops? Scott is the lamest character in that universe, and he's kind of a dick, if I remember correctly. She couldn't have picked Wolverine? Storm? Professor X?

Part of a Paris Review interview with Orhan Pamuk - the most interesting part is where he says:

Like authors in so many poor countries, they wasted their talent on trying to serve their nation. I did not want to be like them, because even in my youth I had enjoyed Faulkner, Virginia Woolf, Proust—I had never aspired to the social-realist model of Steinbeck and Gorky.

I thought his reaction could also apply to modern Chinese literature. Aside from the translation issue, I found it difficult to get into Chinese fiction from right before the Cultural Revolution, because it was mostly about how people's lives were miserable and how they would never get out of it. There's a sort of similar reaction against those tropes with the success of writers like Mian Mian, whose first novel Candy shocked with its frank depictions of sex and drug use. However, in the translation I read, there didn't seem to be much of a point to the novel, other than rebellion. But that was in the early 90s - I don't know what modern Chinese fiction is about today.
toastykitten: (Default)
I found this Chinese poetry site today. It is so amazing - includes all the poetry, in Chinese, both simplified and traditional, and includes a literal English translation of the poems, and a more natural-sounding English one. It also includes a Mandarin pronunciation for the characters, although in my head it's been all in Cantonese.

Can you get homesick for a culture? I'm in this mood right now where all I want to do is listen to sappy Chinese love songs, watch stupid mo-lei-tou Chinese movies, and listen to people talk. I want to be able to speak in Cantonese without an American accent, and I wish my friends who do speak Cantonese were around. Maybe we could play mahjong or something.

Anyone up for a game of mahjong?
Jul. 17th, 2006 08:53 pm

escapism

toastykitten: (Default)
I am deliberately not reading the news, especially not about the Middle East.

Mark is at OLS right now, which is in Ottawa. He tells me the weather there is like it was in New Orleans, all hot and humid, with thunderstorms in the middle of the day. It's really hot here in the Bay Area, too, although thankfully I work right next to the ocean, so it hardly ever gets too hot.

Oh, and I finally got Mark to see and like a Shakespeare movie. We can usually agree on a movie to see in the theater, but that's mostly because I'm willing to see every comic book movie, ever. When picking out rentals, he wants to pick out every Quentin Tarantino movie, or anything with gangsters, Nicholas Cage and other macho stuff. When I want to rent stuff, I want comedies and Hong Kong cinema. He's always objected to Shakespeare because he "can't understand the language".

We rented The Merchant of Venice. Mark agreed to this only because my other pick was Bride and Prejudice (dude, Kumar and Said from Lost!), and Al Pacino plays Shylock, a Jewish moneylender. The Merchant of Venice is one of Shakespeare's most controversial plays, mostly for its anti-Semitism. It's a difficult play to stage, and an even harder film to shoot, because you have to cut down Shakespeare's five-act play to two hours, and make doubly sure that you don't allow the characters to become caricatures.

I really liked the movie. In Roger Ebert's review, he notes that the genius of Shakespeare's writing is that despite the racism, "its venom is undercut by Shakespeare's inability to objectify any of his important characters. He always sees the man inside." Al Pacino is captivating in it, and does a lot with the monologues he's given - "Hath not a Jew eyes?"

At the end of it, Mark turned to me and said, "Wow, and you say *I* like to watch train wrecks. That was half an hour of people just being really cruel." He's right - all the so-called "good" characters - Portia, Bassanio, Lorenzo, all treat Shylock contemptuously, even as they plead with Shylock to "show mercy".

There was one Arab character in here who is not a terrorist, and doesn't die. It's the Prince of Morocco, played by David Harewood - one of Portia's suitors. I guess that makes two.

I wish they had done more with the character of Jessica - Shylock's daughter - she elopes with Lorenzo, stealing her father's fortune and leaving him ruined, AND she converts to Christianity. She's only in the film for a few minutes, and she's shown as a flighty, shallow girl, until she starts feeling guilty towards the end, but she doesn't explain herself, nor are we shown anything of her motivations.

After watching this movie, he told me that a Klingon character in Star Trek liked to quote Shakespeare, and "If you prick us, do we not bleed?" was one of those lines.

In other news:

Japan creates a digital odor recorder: The new device, developed by scientists at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, analyzes smells through 15 sensors, records the odour's recipe in digital format and then reproduces the scent by mixing 96 chemicals and vapourizing the result. This is so awesome.

Reading Versus Watching: Wuxia - This Wet Asphalt article explores why American publishers haven't really tried to translate Chinese wuxia novels - the most popular fantasy novels read all over Asia, especially those written by Jin Rong, the most widely-read twentieth century author alive today. The writer posits that issues of genre-classifying and unfamiliar non-Western styles are to blame, but also points out that Americans picked up on anime and manga fairly quickly and it's one of the largest money-makers for the book industry today.

I think the biggest hurdle, though, is just translating the novels. I've just about given up finding a Chinese novel translated in English that I can read and enjoy. The translations always come off to me as rather stilted, or too literal and I don't know if it's just me, but in the books I've read, I've always ended up hating the protagonist, for either being stupid or selfish. I know Jin Rong's books are not like that - and I know that only because I've watched many of the television serials his books are based on.

Some people have declared it Blog Against Racism Week.

Movie superstar SAMUEL L JACKSON will voice God in a new audio version of the Bible.
I am SO getting this.
toastykitten: (Default)
Japanese TV blog. How awesome is that?

My Dale Carnegie class is almost over. Next week will be our last session, and I've decided to make double-fudge chocolate brownies for everyone. It's been a fun ride, and very useful, but I'm looking forward to having my Wednesday nights back.

My cell phone number is dead. My new cell phone is coming in this week. I decided to sign up with Sprint for their "fair and flexible" plan, because I can get 400 anytime minutes and my nights start at seven instead of nine, which will definitely be a relief. I can call people across the country now! I considered joining Cingular for a few days, because that's what Mark is under, but their plans are ridiculously priced, and don't offer any really good benefits.

I've decided to accept some more responsibilities at work, now that the other person is gone. Man, people are hitting me up for dirt about his departure, but I can't. It would be disrespectful to him anyway. My manager is considering hiring someone for my position (and we'll see what happens to me later).

I finished Selected Fictions by Jorges Luis Borges last week, and started Selected Poems by Jorges Luis Borges this week. I have become so anal retentive about my reading that I'm actually reading the poems in Spanish first, then the English translation. Needless to say, I haven't gotten very far, but I think I get a better sense of the poetry anyway. Since I'm forcing myself to re-read the lines until they make sense in both languages, it slows me down enough to take it in.

I'm the same way with manga. I prefer reading manga in Chinese, not because I'm trying to show off or anything, but because I read English too quickly, and I'll gloss over the pictures in order to get to the next scrap of dialogue. If I'm reading in Chinese, I'll spend my time figuring out the characters and their dialogues from the drawn actions.
toastykitten: (Default)
I watched the finale of Project Runway last night. Yay Chloe! You know what? I actually liked her stuff better once I saw it on the runway. Except for the huge pink couch dress.

I'm still ambivalent about Chloe as a designer, because I don't think there's much originality there. On the other hand, that's perfect for a Banana Republic mentorship, since there's not much originality in Banana Republic anyway. I really like Chloe as a person, and loved her professionalism. I also totally relate to her having a huge family of sisters. I liked that for once, a reality show rewards 1. a minority, 2. a genuinely nice person. On the other hand, I wouldn't call Chloe the "next great designer".

I think the judges were on crack, though, during their questioning. First of all, Debra Messing as judge? What the hell has she got to do with fashion, other than being constantly insulted for not having any boobs on Will and Grace? I hated how their priorities seemed to change and contradict with each designer. They dinged Santino for being too "out there" all season, and then he finally tones it down, and then they bitch about him being "too safe". I don't think the batwing-leather corset dress was exactly playing it safe, but whatever. And I can't believe I just defended Santino, but I liked some of his stuff.

Season 1's clothes were much better.

I really liked Daniel V.'s 13th dress, even though I think that was mostly Nick's work.

Did the fashion industry just realize that dresses could have pockets? That was a trend at the Oscars, too - many of the evening gowns had pockets. If so, WHY DIDN'T THEY THINK OF THIS EARLIER?

Good news for Mark: I think I finally got sucked into Battlestar Galactica with the finale. And now we'll have to wait until October to find out what happens next.

This post from Hanzi Smatter is really funny. Apparently, according to the World Bible School, "the Chinese believed in God and knew about all the stories in the bible. Matters of fact, many Chinese characters, if not all, were derived from actual events and stories in the Holy Bible", which is obviously utter bullshit if you had even the most basic knowledge of Chinese history. But the kicker is the one of the examples they used to highlight this "theory".

I liked this post by Yan of Glutter, about how "Chinese Writers Don't Write For a Western Audience in Mind".

Oh, and it's snowing in San Francisco.
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