Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Translation options

I'm working on my translation of "Sortileges", and came across a little passage that left me with a choice of translations. The scene is a traditional feast day in a remote French village, time not specified, but I suspect it's the early 19th century. In addition to music, dancing and eating, there are some carnival-style attractions, including a "target shooting" event. Now, this is a bit gross, but remember, these are earthy peasants: the event consists of two chickens tethered to the ground, while contestants hurl stones to try to hit them! A skilled marksman can hit a chicken and kill it with one blow, while the less gifted...well, an onlooker refers to it as "un vrai massacre des innocents!" Of course this isn't just sheer cruelty - the winner gets to keep the dead chicken, and naturally would find it a valuable prize, as it would go into the pot for a nice supper. And the winner would be interested in getting a nice clean kill, instead of a mangled heap of feathers!

There's a barker drumming up business, and he chants "Deux pierres, deux coups, deux sous/Visez le coq et le coq est à vous!" and I tried to get as close a translation as possible. I came up with two possibilities:

Two stones, two shots, two sous;
Hit the bird and it belongs to you!


Two sous, two shots, two stones;
Hit the bird and take it home!

Which is the best one?

Technically, the first is the most accurate: it follows the exact word order and is a nearly literal translation. As it also rhymes, it would work fine for a subtitle.

The second one, though, has something the first one lacks; it has the real sound of a barker. "Hit the bird and take it home!" sounds like something a carnival barker would say. You can almost hear it in your head - it sounds like something you might have actually heard. Not a barbaric contest like this, but maybe a wishing well: "Hook the fish and take it home!" "Hit the prize and take it home!" Translation tries to give more than just the bare meaning of words; it tries to reproduce the same effect in the reader or hearer that the original passage produced in its original audience. And the original audience - in the movie and in the theatre - heard a carnival barker trying to draw and excite a crowd. That's why I think the second effort is the better one, event though it adds in some words that aren't in the original.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Writhes of Spring

When you want to impress people with how up-to-date and progressive you are, showcase a fakey synthetic reproduction of primitive fertility superstitions:

Saturday officially marks the first day of spring, being the day of the spring equinox.

Members of Mother Grove Goddess Temple will celebrate at 7 p.m. Saturday with A Breath of Appalachian Spring: A Ritual in Celebration of the Spring Equinox, in the parish hall of the Episcopal Cathedral of All Souls in Biltmore Village.

Saturday's event is open to all faith traditions, said Byron Ballard, wiccan priestess and a member of the temple. Mother Grove “isn't a wiccan group, though some of us are wiccans,” she said.

Well, that's cool, because the Episcopal "Church" isn't a Christian body, though there are some Christians in it.

But considering how close their "mission statements" are, this sounds like a match made in, ummm, Gaia?
“Mother Grove is an outgrowth of the work of several people in the goddess/earth religions community,” Ballard said. “Its goal is to create a permanent sanctuary, where people of all faith traditions may openly and safely celebrate the divine feminine, the goddess.”

At least the local bishop didn't first select a successful, thriving parish, wrench it away from the dirty Christians infesting it, and hand it over to a bunch of pagans. Like Nosferatu, the witches were invited in.
Jill Boyer is a co-founder and priestess with Mother Grove. She says she looks forward to celebrating “with my celebrants and community, having time to celebrate something that is very important to me and the ritual aspects themselves.”

Boyer believes people have an ancient and human need for ritual and celebration in groups, and to acknowledge the changing of the seasons.
Just herding together in groups is important, no matter what the purpose. And the "rituals" are hopefully picturesque and quaint, with colourful props and costumes.

Actually, I've heard that, in the spirit of ecumenism, Mrs. Schori is going to show up for this event, and she's even had a new set of kick-ass vestments designed for the occasion:

(Hat tip: Stand Firm)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The man with no nation

Interesting article by Robin of Berkley, describing Obama as "a stranger in a strange land". This is what you get from feckless, selfish parents, spawning kids that get in the way of their oh-so-important journeys of self discovery. A sluttish mother with her train of exotic bed partners produced a kid with no parental figure to respect or bond to. Dragging him after her like a leashed pet produced a rootless cosmopolitan with no country to call his own. His attempt to construct his own "family" just resulted in a larger pool of misfits like himself. Nor did it work - as we have seen, there is no one that he will not abandon when convenient; his "attachment" has never been real.

Unlike Moses, the original "stranger in a strange land", who was rooted in God and his people, though physically tossed about, Obama reminds me of the character of Lt. Francis Farewell in Shaka Zulu - a chameleon perpetually on the make, who compulsively deceives everyone in his quest for self-advancement. At the end of the story, Farewell finally must face the rejection of Shaka and the devastating summary of his own empty character: "You are a man with no nation." America has now discovered that they were like the monkey in the story, baited with "something shiny" - Hope and Change - they put their hand in the gourd, and are suddenly trapped.

A pity this clip ends just there. They don't give the answer to the question. Farewell asks, "Go? Where? Where shall I go?" and Shaka answers "Where I have been" - into the howling hell and wilderness of despair.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

You can't stop it

This was on the editorial page of the Ottawa Citizen yesterday:
The Citizen editorial board ran a small test the other day, to see if ordinary laundry (shirts and towels) dries on a clothesline in early March. It does. It took one sunny afternoon, though at this time of year it's helpful to have a little breeze blowing; laundry doesn't dry as fast in still air.
Pffft. Johnny-come-latelies. I've been drying clothes on the clothesline for over two weeks! I started when the back deck was still 4/5 covered with snow, and I can dry TWO loads of towels in one day! This is why I don't think I need lectures on "green living" from politicians or their wives. If I were to visit the White House, would I see Mr. Obama's underwear hanging from a clothesline, waving in the breeze? I thought not.

Other signs of spring are appearing: two Canada Geese flew over the house this morning, though I've yet to see or hear the big Vs of returning flocks. We're in a very pleasant warm spell right now, and the back yard has lost almost 3/4 of its snow cover! By next week, it should be all gone. No big buds on the trees yet, but I see two rhubarb buds poking above the ground, as well as some peony shoots and the first purple bleeding heart fringe coming out. Can't wait to see how that rhubarb I transplanted last year does this spring.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Next, pawn the silverware

St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Paterson, NJ, is considering selling its dozen Tiffany stained-glass windows to keep afloat.
Roughly two dozen church members gathered in the sanctuary of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Saturday morning to discuss the future of the stained-glass panels.

A private collector has offered the church vestry $2 million to purchase the windows, donated by church members and designed by Tiffany Studios sometime between 1890 and 1898, according to the Rev. David B. Wolfe. Church officials are not revealing the collector’s name because he has requested anonymity.

They also would not comment on the church’s finances.

Or demographics. But never mind, reading that "Roughly two dozen church members" turned up to discuss liquidating a genuine treasure like 12 Tiffany glass windows tells us pretty much all we need to know.
On Saturday, parishioners voiced mixed emotions about selling the windows — some supportive of the idea to remedy the church’s financial needs, and others saying the move would snub the church’s benefactors.

A private collector has offered the financially struggling church vestry $2 million for the windows, to mixed feelings. "It betrays the memory of families and people that gave us those windows," said church historian Delores Most, 80, of Paterson.
A pity their "church" didn't think of that when they were busy selling off all the other things those "families and people" gave them, like orthodox Christian belief and discipline.

It may not be the fault of this particular parish; they're in a poor neighbourhood, and for all I know, may be staunch Anglo-Catholics. But it doesn't matter. They're part of a useless organization with nothing to offer the world, and so they're stuck in a starving parish with a leaky roof, crumbling stonework and a decaying hall, and having to pawn their valuables just to survive. No future, like their denomination.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

New pastime

I have a new pastime, which is keeping me busy these days. Back in December, I was invited to join an online group of rare movie collectors. It's because a few years ago, I translated from French to English the title cards for Ivan Mosjoukine's 1926 film, "Michel Strogoff". I'd corresponded with the movie collector who'd sold me the film (he's a great Mosjoukine fan) and since he had only a French-language print of the movie, I offered to translate it for him, so he could add the English as subtitles. A member of the movie group eventually discovered that I'd done the translation, and invited me to join the group, which works on a bitorrent file-sharing basis. They have the most amazing collection of silent movies, but it's not restricted to that; basically, it's ANY rare or important film right up to the present that's added to the collection.

I was thrilled to discover this site, but I'm not that good at file-sharing. With 4 computers in the house all running from a wireless router, there are so many firewalls to get through, it's really difficult to share files with anyone else. I can download for myself, but other people have great difficulty downloading from me. And since you have to maintain a positive ratio (download to upload) to stay in this group, I wasn't sure how long I'd last.

Until I realized that I have one "marketable" skill: translation. There are hundreds of French-only movies on this site, begging to be translated into English so they can reach a wider audience. And it so happens that points are awarded for people who can translate and subtitle movies. So I found a good subtitle program (DivxLand Media Subtitler) and taught myself how to make .srt files, and got started.

It's worked out wonderfully! So far I've translated and subtitled the following movies:

Mauprat (1926) - a silent film by Jean Epstein, based on a novel by George Sand. It's sort of a "Wuthering Heights"-type story, but not nearly as morbid.

Le Mystère de la Chambre Jaune (1930): The Mystery of the Yellow Room, based on the novel by Gaston Leroux (who also wrote 'The Phantom of the Opera). This was a classic "locked-room" murder mystery, and it's been very popular in France - they've made several film adaptations of it. The sound was difficult to hear, as it was an early talkie, and there's a fair bit of humour in it, which is very fast and hard to translation (I swear, one actor, Léon Bellières, was adlibbing his dialogue half the time!)

Le Parfum de la dame en noir (1931): The Scent of the Lady in Black, sequel to "Chambre Jaune", with the same cast and director (Marcel L'Herbier). This one had even worse sound, but the most stunning Art Deco sets. I read the novels both these movies were based on - this one departed a fair bit from the original story, but actually improved it. Leroux's plots were nothing if not far-fetched.

La mille et deuxième nuit (1933): The Thousand and Second Night. A Mosjoukine film! One of his few talkies, because his heavy Russian accent ruined his career in French film once movies went to sound. This is a rather frivolous Arabian Nights-style movie, where Mosjoukine plays the good prince who fights against the evil Sultan, and loves the beautiful blond Sultana. Sound was atrocious, and the film itself has deteriorated badly, maybe even too much to restore. But with English subtitles, fans of Mosjoukine can at least follow the story.

Le Drame de Shanghai (1938): Shanghai Drama, by G.W. Pabst. Pabst was a German director (best known for the silent "Pandora's Box), but he went to France during the '30s, as so many German film people did. (Oddly enough, he eventually went BACK to Germany before the war!) This is an espionage story, set in Shanghai as China and Japan were edging into war. It has the great Louis Jouvet in it, playing a Russian assassin working for the Japanese. He's hard to translate, because he has his own way of speaking French - very fast, and his inflexion goes up and down, sort of like a sewing machine changing speeds, or a boat bobbing up and down on the waves. Very unique, but with a resonant baritone voice that makes it very hypnotic.

Now I'm working on Sortilèges (1945): The Bellman, a very weird movie about a bellringer in a remote mountain village who turns to murder and robbery, with a fair amount of black magic thrown in. The photography is deliciously sinister.

I'm very happy to have discovered this work, because I was actually trained as a French-English translator in university, but never worked in the field. In Canada, the demand is really for English-French, and the main employer is the government, so I was out of luck. If I'd ever thought of translating movies, I'd never have wanted to do anything else! But it's only now, because of computers, that this sort of thing is now available to people outside formal studios. Now anyone with a computer can do it at home; 25 years ago, it would have all been done in a film production company. Just like the internet, with blogs and Twitter, have blown up the old-fashioned news and opinion distribution industry, it's moved another industry from tightly-controlled professionals to amateurs.

The way I work is probably not the most efficient, but it works for me: after I've watched the movie on TV a few times, I do a rough first draft straight from the TV, while the dvd plays. Then I make a .wav file of the soundtrack, and go back over my rough draft, carefully listening to and altering the sound to pick up the parts I missed the first time. I slow down the tempo, change the pitch, remove background noise - anything to clarify the spoken dialogue. Then I type it all up in a regular .doc file, and set about turning the translation into subtitles.

Special rules govern subtitles: they can be no more than 2 lines on the screen at a time, and each line much be 40 characters or less. So often I have to compress the translation to match it to the spoken words - a viewer has to be able to watch the movie, and not just read text non-stop. So there's a fair amount of pruning and editing to eliminate the extraneous, but still leave the meaning and create the same effect in English that was in the original French. Oh, and the subtitle should not be on the the screen more than 6 seconds - 8 at the absolute outside, because any more and the viewer starts to feel uncomfortable.

When that's done, I open DivxLand Subtitler, plug in the .doc file, open the .avi file, and the fun begins: I play the movie while slotting in each subtitle so it matches the spoken dialogue. This is where having watched the movie over and over helps - you don't want to anticipate the spoken words (especially in a mystery movie!), but you also don't want to have words on the screen when the actor has finished speaking if you can possibly help it. So timing is essential. It's a bit like conducting a symphony, only with words.

So this has been keeping me quite busy. In return for this work, I've downloaded a number of very interesting old movies, and I've also become acquainted with more French film than I'd ever seen before. My interest was chiefly in German silent movies, but the French were very good filmmakers, and that's quite apart from Mosjoukine. Right now, I'm using my ratio to acquire all the seasons of MST3K, as they are all on the tracker. I'm being disciplined, though; so far I've got seasons 9 and 8, and I will go on down the list as I can afford them. One day, I will have them all, but who knows how many translations it will take to pay for them?

The Age of Faith

Awesome essay by Wretchard over at The Belmont Club. As we have seen in miniature in the Anglican Church, it's Africa and Asia that are the fertile fields for Christianity these days, and there's something more:
In a process largely unnoticed in the West, billions of people in Asia and Africa have swapped out their indigenous faiths for either Christianity or Islam. And to an even greater astonishment of Western intellectuals most have chosen Christianity. Now the equalization of numbers has caused a fault line to appear through the Third World at about the tenth degree of latitude where the two aggregations face each other “at daggers drawn”.

The word “Christian”, associated in the 19th and 20th centuries with the missionary enterprises of Europe, has now come to mean something different in political terms. Today Christianity is a religion of the Third World. Europeans have largely converted to some soft and watered-down variation of the West’s only indigenous creed, Marxism, as represented by John Lennon’s “Imagine” song. Christianity can no longer be associated largely with the West. Ex oriente lux a phrase which once described the belief that all great world religions rose in the East is now truer than ever. With Marxism shrinking to the margins of the Guardian, the monotheisms have reclaimed the field at least in raw numbers.
The feeble remnants of the West are deluded by their own experience into thinking that Islam is a vital, lively, growing religion. Of course it looks stronger than the dried-out husk of Marxist materialism, which is its main alternative in places like Europe. But the "vitality" is that of termites chewing through dry-rotted timbers. Islam has no future. Once it's finished eating up Europe (if there's no Christian renaissance to throw them back), that place will collapse into the same sterile squalor that characterizes Islam wherever it reigns. There will be no "takeover" of Western riches, no return to the age of Muslim glory - just Muslims and the degenerate, deracinated nihilists left behind by the departure of Christianity, sinking together into the same mud.

I read a Theodore Dalrymple essay, years ago, where he stated that Islam is incapable of surviving a real contest with the modern world. It's brittle and ready to snap right now; Islamic terrorism is not the energetic outburst of a new, vital creed leaping into action. It's the jerks and spasms of a paralytic, trying desperately to deny the truth about his own impotence. It's almost like a dare in the face of Allah: "We're doing all this for you - now PROVE that you exist, and that this hasn't all been just a meaningless nightmare!"
Globally, as Jenkins sees it, the existential threat to Islam comes not from the declining number of Europeans indoctrinated in the quasi-Marxist “Imagine” creed, but from the burgeoning millions of the Third World. Whether Muslims are impressed by the secular belief system captured so succinctly in John Lennon’s song is open to debate. But the attractions of Christianity to the populations of the Third World apparently is not. Whatever the appeal of Islam in London might be, it is less so in Africa. “One factor driving Islamic militancy in many nations is the sense that Christianity is growing. Outside of the West, evangelism and conversion are two of the most sensitive issues in the modern world.”

Friday, March 12, 2010

"And then the music gets hopeful..."

If you never saw any of the Academy Award winners for this year, last year, or the last 10 years, then watch this, and you won't ever have to:

The more I watch this little film, the more brilliant it appears. Of course the satire is funny and true, but it strikes me as significant in an entirely different way.

Last year, Mark Steyn wrote a number of articles about the sudden obsolescence of the newspaper industry. Until just 10 years ago, to operate a newspaper required big money - big physical plant, tons of paper in rolls, giant typesetting machinery, big unionized workforce. An individual just couldn't do it, and that's why newspapers became the businesses we grew up with.

The same thing could be said about the movie industry: to make a film that looks like a film, you have to spend millions of dollars on sets, technicians, trained actors, and only a multimillion dollar studio can do it. Well, along come these two guys at Britanick (rhymes with "Titanic") - http://www.britanick.com/index.php, and they produce this hilarious little video spoofing the products of those multimillion dollar studios.

And what gets me is that this little film looks so good! Look at the sets, the lighting, the camera work, the acting. I would easily buy that these "scenes" came out of a real Hollywood movie. This looks real, and yet the guys making it didn't need Warner Brothers' giant superstructure to produce it.

Could this be a harbinger of the end of Hollywood, just as the blogs pushed aside the MSM? For a few years, it's been predicted that people would be able to produce movies on their computer, and Hollywood would become obsolete. I thought, "Well, maybe for animated movies", but I didn't really think it could happen for "real" movies, because I've read about how complicated they are to make. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe you DON'T need a cast of thousands in the background to make a movie. Maybe you can do what these guys did - once you're educated in the techniques (obviously they're not just amateurs with a video camera in their living room), you can buy the equipment and do it yourself, and the results will be convincing.

Just as blogging demystified the "profession" of reporting, this may be the end of the mystique of acting and directing. Maybe it isn't something that only a rare few professionals can do; maybe with enough practice and perseverence, lots of people can look as good as (Academy Award Winning Actor) and (Academy Award Winning Actress).

(Hat tip to American Digest)

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The Anglican Church of Canada has a master plan

Amid all the talk about "diversity" in the Anglican Church there is one liberal sacred cow that has been a little neglected recently - education. Well, fear not, the ACC is dusting off this oldie but goodie for its grand plan to fix problems in the church. The solution is to improve training of clergy, and the man in charge is none other than the Bishop of Ottawa, John Chapman.

This should be unobjectionable, until you look at just what sort of training clergy will be undergoing, and what tasks they will be enabled to do.
Ottawa Bishop John Chapman, who is leading the initiative, believes a savvier clergy would help bridge the church's current bitter divisions over issues such as gay priests.
Those are serious problems, no doubt about it. How is education going to help? Let's start with a little obligatory spin:
"The genius of the Anglican Church has been its capacity to live in difference," Chapman said in an interview
Yeah, yeah, "living in tension" and "middle way" and all that. In other words, when you look at the burned-out shambles that is the ACC today, don't let your lying eyes fool you; nothing has changed, we've always been this way, it's always worked for the last 400 years, so it will keep working because WE HAVEN'T CHANGED AT ALL, got it? Cranmer would feel right at home if he dropped in on the homosexual couple being "married" at the Church of the Blasted Fig Tree by the rainbow-vested lesbian "priest", and don't let any conservative troublemakers tell you otherwise. (They're all secretly gay, anyway.)

But first, a little journey into the past, to congratulate ourselves on how much better we are than earlier generations:
As much as the church is badly divided these days, at least people care, "and that's not what I remember as a child. I don't remember people working up that kind of energy about anything. It was still the club; it was the social life. You found yourself there every Sunday and you weren't even sure why some times.

"I can't imagine my childhood church getting worked about human sexuality," said Chapman. "These are one of the most exciting times; there is a passion for faith."
Yes, as Jesus said, "Come unto me, all ye who travail and are heavy-laden, and I will give you an exciting, dynamic thrill ride into the fashionable and the up-to-date."

And they didn't get worked up about human sexuality, for some reason! (Nice of him to limit the topic to human sexuality, but isn't that a bit narrow? Oh, well, give him another 10 years or so, and who knows what "exciting times" may bring.) Not like people today. Maybe there was a reason why they weren't worked up about it. I'd say it's the same reason Bishop Chapman isn't "worked up" about the possibility of having human feces for dinner tonight. Because he doesn't consider it within the bounds of sanity or decency. But that just goes to show that he's as narrow and unimaginative as those earlier Anglicans he's so proud to have left behind. If a determined group of coprophragiasts should start loudly demanding that their exotic gastronomic tastes be included during Communion, I think Bishop Chapman would be surprised to find how quickly he'd find himself getting "worked up".

But on to business. How is this turmoil to be eased through education? The answer is unsurprisingly sketchy:
But pastors need new skills in calming congregations at war over sexuality or steering communities through traumatic change like closing a church. "There is quite a variety of need ... that has exploded in last 25 years and we have not, in terms of a common standard ... kept pace with that."
Ah, there we have it. The goal is to "calm" people who are upset - even though he's just finished boasting about how wonderfully exciting all this turmoil is. The clergy have to be taught how to administer the right doses of reassuring lies to keep people from bolting and taking their money with them. And, coincidentally, they also have to be trained as hospice workers for dying parishes. Once again, how to administer sedatives to people in pain so they won't lash out and do something regrettable. I wonder if this is being discussed up front with people entering the clergy: "Your duties will be to supervise the closing of dying parishes." Is that really how divinity students visualize themselves when they first think of going into orders? As bankruptcy managers and liquidators?

Most of Chapman's enthusiasm is for "diversity" training:
"The crux of the problem is to find ways of training people that are culturally appropriate.

"How do we be faithful as Christians in the marketplace ... in the public forum, for example? And that would be different for someone in northern Ontario and someone in Toronto."
Naturally, there is the obligatory reference to "First Nations", as if the Anglican Church is outfitting missionaries for remote outposts where they can convert the natives. In fact, most native Indians are ALREADY Christians; they were converted generations ago, work which modern up-to-date Anglicans like Chapman are pretty much united in deploring and apologizing for. The "culturally appropriate" training is not going to consist of better Bible knowledge - it's more of a marketing tool as the Anglican Church gives up on the outside world and tries instead to merely hang on to their traditional constituency.