October 31, 2007

"Shadow of the Moon" revisions


TP is the TokyoPop translation. EW is my translation.

Chapter 49

1. TP: The two friends headed up into middle of town. Ugou was even livelier away from the docks. [1] People were out in the streets in great numbers, and shopkeepers called from their storefronts, beckoning customers inside.
      "Quite the difference from Kou, eh?"
      "No kidding."
      "I'd heard meself that En was a rich country, but hearing and seeing are two different things."
      Yoko nodded. The streets here were wider, the scale of everything bigger. Even the wall around the town was thick, perhaps as much as twenty feet wide in places; numerous shops had been carved into the inner side of the wall itself. It reminded Yoko of the restaurants [2] built under the elevated train lines in Tokyo.

EW: "This is one happening town."
      The crowds of people bustling back and forth and proprietors shouting out their wares from the storefronts only added to the lively atmosphere.
      "You're surprised."
      "Yeah."
      "I'd heard that En was a wealthy kingdom, but when I saw Ugou for the first time, even I was taken aback."
      Youko nodded. The streets were wide in the same way that the dimensions of the whole city were big. The castle walls that surrounded the city must be a good ten meters thick. On the city-side of the walls, shop stalls had been hollowed-out of the stone and businesses were thriving there as well. They very much resembled under-girder kiosks in Japan.

1.1. The paragraph begins with Youko reacting aloud.
1.2. The noun here is "shop" or "business."

2. TP: Here and there she saw larger buildings of brick and stone, giving the city a very different feel from the Chinatown-like warrens she had visited in Kou.

EW: Here and there was a huge building made of brick and stone. It all came together to create a curious, pervasive, Chinatown-like atmosphere.

No comparison is made in this sentence to Kou. That comparison comes at the end of the paragraph. A more accurate translation: "A 'Chinatown-like atmosphere' by itself was not enough to describe the strange and curious ambience the place created."

3. TP: There was even a park and a central square. It was Yoko's first time seeing anything of the sort in this world.

EW: There were parks and plazas. None of this had she ever seen in Kou.

The comparison is to Kou alone, but I don't disagree with the singular in TokyoPop's first sentence: "There was a park and a public square."

4. TP: Yoko pointed at a series of high stone walls that were visible above the rooftops: they appeared to form several concentric rings of defense within the outer walls of the town. [1]
      "Oh, those. Actually, the outermost wall is what they call the perimeter wall. Those others inside the town are called the town walls here. Most places in Kou don't have those. They're an added protection against attack. Still, I wonder if those inner walls aren't really just perimeter walls that the town outgrew." [2]
      "Right . . . so they had to build other walls farther out." [3]

EW: Youko pointed out to Rakushun where the high walls could be seen here and there rising above the surrounding houses and stores.
      "Well, technically, a city's outer walls are called the ramparts, and the inner wall protecting the keep is called the bailey. In Kou, cities with baileys are rare. That's the remnant of an old rampart left over from when the city grew bigger and expanded beyond it."
      "Wow."

4.1. The addition is not in the original.
4.2. The addition is not in the original. I would add a qualifier this sentence: "Those are probably the remnants of an old rampart left over from when the city grew bigger and expanded beyond it."
4.3. All Youko says is "Wow."

5. TP: "Is Ugou a provincial capital?"
      "No," replied Rakushun, "a territorial capital."
      "Oh, and a territory was one below a province, right?"
      "Nope. Two below. You got your villages and towns at the bottom, then your townships come next, then districts, prefectures, territories, regions, and finally provinces."
      "And how many regions in a province?"
      "Well, that depends on the province, don't it?"
      "So, if this is just a territorial capital, then the regional and provincial capitals must be even bigger!" Yoko exclaimed. She felt as though she were finally getting the hang of the myriad political divisions in this world, even though her head was spinning.

EW: TP "So, is this a provincial capital?"
      "No, a prefectural seat."
      "The prefecture is one step below a province?"
      "Two steps below. Starting with hamlets of twenty-five households, it goes, from smallest to largest: hamlet, town, township, county, prefecture, district, province."
      "How many districts are in a province?"
      "It depends on the location."
      "If this is a prefectural seat, then district and provincial capitals must be huge."
      According to official designations, a district capital was a city that was home to a district administration, also called a district seat. For administrative purposes, districts were designated as having populations of fifty thousand households, though that didn't necessarily mean that fifty thousand people lived in a single district. Generally speaking, it terms of urbanization, a town was bigger than a hamlet, a district capital bigger than a county seat, the capital of a province bigger than a district capital.

As with a lot of translation, the problem isn't what you call things, but that you call them the same things consistently. A while back, immi and I worked out the geographical equivalents. It proved very useful to keep a chart on hand.

The author does use specific numbers. In fact, I skipped a sentence (because the information is repeated later on): "Starting with hamlets of twenty-five households, it goes, from smallest to largest: hamlet, town, township, county, prefecture, district, province. A district consists of fifty-thousand households." Youko's next question makes more sense in this context.

6. TP: "The Ever-King of En is supposed to be a genius at administration, the best in a long time. He's been in power for a good five hundred years by now. Nothing like our fledging Naze-King, who's ruled for a mere fifty years."

EW: "The Royal En is an unusually enlightened monarch. He is said to have reigned for five hundred years. The Royal Kou has been around for maybe fifty years. He's hardly in the same league."

Again, I quite dislike using these literal translations as names. It might be a little more accurate for the second sentence to read: "The Royal Kou has been around for at most fifty years."

7. TP: "Why, sure. The king is a god, after all. You thought he was human? [1] No, the powers of Heaven only grant a kingdom to one who is worthy of the charge. And the kingdom prospers or falters according to his worth."
      "Wow," Yoko murmured, amazed. [2]

EW: "Of course. Kings are gods, not ordinary human beings. The degree to which Heaven allows a king to govern is commensurate with the caliber of the king. So, the better a king rules, the longer he will reign."
      "Huh."

7.1. Rakushun is making a generic statement.
7.2. The addition is not in the original.

8. TP: "See, when a king's reign ends, there's always trouble with the succession. [1] That's why kingdoms with a wise, enduring king grow fat. The Ever-King, in particular, is said to have a deft hand when it comes to ruling. He's made many important reforms. The Priest-King's [2] got a good reputation too, but the difference is that Sou is known for peace and tranquility, whereas En is known for getting things done."

EW: "A kingdom whose king is deposed will in every case fall into chaos, while a kingdom with a wise king prospers. In particular, the Royal En has proved to be a most shrewd reformer. And speaking of enlightened monarchs, Royal Sou is said to be one as well, who has made the Kingdom of Sou a place of peace and tranquility. En, on the other hand, is, as you say, a 'happening' place."

8.1. Better: "A kingdom undergoing a change of regimes will always fall into chaos, while a kingdom with a wise ruler prospers."
8.2. The Royal Sou, in other words. And we don't necessarily know that the Royal Sou is a "king," unless "king" is being used as a unisex term.

9. TP: On the front was a seal, and the words "By permission of the Offices of Ugou, Suyuo Region, Hak Territory, Khei Province" inked black in tightly spaced characters.

EW: On the front was a red seal and beneath it in black ink, "Conferred in Ugou, Tei Province, Haku District, Shuuyou Prefecture."

Again, I don't understand this system of romanization. The last addition is not in the original.

10. TP: The procedure had been astonishingly painless. Once inside the regional offices, they had been called before a minor official. He had taken Yoko's name and asked here for her address and employment in Japan. To her surprise, he'd even asked for her postal code and area code. When she had answered all his questions, she received the chop.

EW: The official Youko had been brought to asked for her name, her address in Japan, her occupation and other details, including, most surprisingly, her postal code and area code, before handing over the identification card.

10. The addition is not in the original.

11. TP: "Er, Yoko, say, I was wondering . . . " Rakushun's voice sounded at her elbow. [1] "What exactly is a postal code? And an area code?"
      Her companion had asked the official the same question, [2] but the man had apparently not known the answer. He had merely replied that it was standard procedure to ask, that the information was required by the rules laid out in his official policy manual. [3] Yoko had glanced at this book as the man opened it, and discovered that it had been printed on some sort of woodblock press. The official had referred to the manual several times before issuing her identification. [4]

EW: "By the way, Youko, um, what are postal codes and area codes?"
      The official had asked the same question as Rakushun. Apparently he didn't know either. "Just following regulations," he said, opening a volume in a set of books. Sneaking a peek at the Japanese-style bound volume, Youko saw that it contained rows of numbers printed with woodblock characters.

11.1. The addition is not in the original.
11.2. LIT: "Rakushun asked the same question that the official also asked."
11.3. The official answers this question the same way officials do everywhere.
11.4. I left off the last sentence: "Only after referencing one of the volumes did he hand over the card."

12. TP: "Sorcery! They have things like that in Wa? And anyone can use them? Amazing!" [1] Rakushun stroked his whiskers bemusedly. "But what good does it do that official, asking you 'bout such things?
      "Maybe it's because no one would know what those codes are unless they really were from Wa. Now he knows for certain I'm a kaikyaku. [2] I suppose if the government didn't check up on people who claim they're from my world, you could have a lot of impostors running around." Yoko laughed, holding up her chop.

EW: "To think they have such things in Japan. But why would he ask about it?" Rakushun quivered his whiskers. "Probably because someone who wasn't Japanese wouldn't know such a thing. Makes it easy to tell who is a kaikyaku and who's not. Otherwise, you'd have people pretending to be kaikyaku all over the place."
      Youko laughed and showed him the card. "That must be it."

12.1. The additions are not in the original. After all, this is a world where messages can be instantly communicated across great distances using birds, that can also be employed like organic tape recorders. Rakushun can't be that impressed.
12.2. I'm not even sure what this sentence means. Update: Upon further thought, I think TP meant: "Now they know for certain I'm a kaikyaku," meaning the bureaucracy. And upon even further thought, I believe my dialog attributions are incorrect. The paragraph should read as follows:

      "To think they have such things in Japan. But why would he ask about it?" Rakushun quivered his whiskers.
      "Probably because someone who wasn't Japanese wouldn't know such a thing. Makes it easy to tell who is a kaikyaku and who's not. Otherwise, you'd have people pretending to be kaikyaku all over the place." Youko grinned and showed him her card.
      "Yeah, that must be it."

13. TP: . . . and start a family register, which was a more standard document that made you a citizen of the kingdom.

EW: TP: . . . at which time you would officially register with the census.

This whole paragraph should be in the third person. A better translation might be: " . . . at which time she would settle on a permanent place of residency and be official recorded on the census." Strictly speaking, the author is refering to the family register (koseki) system, but I think "census" is a better generic translation.

14. Better still, she could bring her identification to a place called the kaisheen, which was something like a bank, and they would give her a small allowance to live on.

EW: Not only that, if you took your indentification card to a kind of bank called a trade credit union, you could collect a stipend to cover your living expenses.

If romaji, it should be kaishin.

15. TP: Seeing the Ever-King, too, would pose little difficulty now, [1] Yoko thought. Rakushun assured her that she ought to ask the ruler for aid, though she was not certain what else she could possibly expect to receive. She found that she could breathe easy at last. The fear of persecution was gone. [2]

EW: The Royal En should by no means prove to be an unapproachable individual. Rakushun said she should ask him for help. She still had her doubts about the likelihood of that ever happening. She had her doubts about a lot of things, but felt more confident that she wouldn't be rejected out of hand or summarily punished for making the attempt.

15.1. The author uses a double negative: a "not difficult person" to deal with. My version is a bit more wordy.
15.2. Youko is thinking here in terms of her belief that she won't be rejected out of hand or summarily rejected, not her fears. In the last sentence, the implication "she wouldn't be rejected out of hand [for approaching the Royal En]" is reading a tad more into the original than the text by itself justifies.

The online and offline browser versions have been updated. More corrections here.

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October 26, 2007

When Teaching English Doesn't


After much legal and financial writhing about, NOVA, Japan's largest chain of private English conversation schools, finally filed for bankruptcy today. The news brings back memories of the year I spent teaching English in Osaka at a smaller but similarly ethically-challenged school.

Many of the teachers hadn't graduated from college. A few didn't even speak English as their first language (but looked Caucasian). They lied on their resumes and the school looked the other way, or issued fraudulent visas, or let them work on tourist visas. The school went bankrupt at the end of the 1990s. Good riddance.

The problem is, Japanese students get set up for bad English teaching in private schools thanks to all the bad English teaching going on in the public schools.

The panel above is from the manga Azumanga Daiou! Tanizaki Sensei, the high school English teacher, has been upstaged by a student who spent summer vacation with his family in America. "America!" she exclaims. "Jeez, even I haven't been there! We're studying English 'cause it's on the test, dammit!"

The mean, little fact about Japanese education is that despite years of study and strain, the typical hard-working Japanese student doesn't learn English. If you really want to learn English, especially speak English, so the conventional wisdom goes, you must attend an "English school" and be taught by a "native speaker."

Unfortunately, the equally mean, little irony is, students at these English schools don't learn English, either. Observes Mark McBennett, editor of English Language Teaching News, "[V]ery few students who attend the [five biggest English schools in Japan] have a realistic idea of what it takes to actually master a language."

As a result, says linguist Steven Sternfeld, "There is a strong tendency among [students] learning a second language to choose the more difficult and often counterproductive path of language learning." And in Japan, there is a strong tendency for students to pay through the nose for bogus curricula taught by uncredentialed "teachers."

To be fair, many--probably most--Japanese attend English schools with few intentions of learning English. I have no argument with students who attend English schools for the same reasons they might join a country club, except that they have picked an expensive way to entertain themselves.

But for those who wish to acquire communicative competence in the English language, I hope they would take a hard look at the misconceptions about language learning they have acquired, and that are being foisted on them. If nothing else, they should be aware of what they are paying for and at least should be getting their money's worth.

(The Daily Yomiuri is tracking the rest of the NOVA story here.)

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October 24, 2007

Yin-Yang weather


After last weekend's cold front, we're back to enjoying perfect fall weather here in Utah. Perfect weather that is directly causing the hellish conditions in California. A dome of high pressure situated over the Great Basin brings us clear, crisp, blue skies. But the clockwise kick delivered by the high arc of the jet stream around this high pressure ridge spins off currents of air south and west toward Southern California. During the summer, hot air rising from the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts effectively stoppers the sink. But in the fall, all this gorgeous high pressure air drains out of the Great Basin and tumbles across the cold deserts, picking up additional energy ("adiabatic heating") as it falls five thousand feet to the ocean, warming and accelerating, and finally turning into the scorching Santa Ana winds.

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October 23, 2007

Viva television


My sister offers a spirited defense of television as a literary medium than need not bow down to other artistic forms. The best-selling writer Orson Scott Card enthusiastically agrees:

Folks, I've said it before, but I'll say it again. This is the golden age of television. As the movies flail about trying to find a way to get good writing and good stories past movie studios interested only in spectacle and stars, television has become not just a writers' medium, but a place where good writing can actually get on the air--not always, not even most of the time, but often enough that you can spend hours a week watching some of the best dramatic art in our culture.

I agree as well with Half Sigma that Netflix raises the television-watching experience (that's television watching, not watching movies on television) from good to much better.

In the comments, my brother Joe posits that "reading is actually quite abnormal." Although some children do uniquely "acquire" literacy without a formal education, it is rare. Literacy is an "unnatural" behavior to the extent that writing systems actually have to be invented and promulgated, and then taught and studied.

Japan has one of the world’s most complex writing systems, a hodgepodge of natively-invented and imported orthographies. I don't think it unrelated that Japan's 99 percent literacy rate is paired with a highly visual popular culture going back centuries, currently expressed in television, anime, manga, as well as the fine arts.

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October 22, 2007

October snow


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October 21, 2007

Chapter 22 (The Shore in Twilight)


呉剛 [ごごう] Gogou (give strength); the gate between the two worlds, that can be opened by kirin and wizards using supernatural powers found in the shadow of the Moon.

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October 18, 2007

Japanese dogs speak English


Okay, Japanese dogs don't speak English. They speak, um, "Dog." But Japanese guide dogs are specifically trained to respond to English commands such as "left," "right," "go," "straight," and "good," as in "Good dog." Yes, at first you think somebody is yanking your chain, until you see it in action, and: "Hey! That guy's talking to his dog in [badly-pronounced] English!"

Many reasons have been offered for this phenomenon. To start with the most cynical, training guide dogs in English means that the dog owners as well must be trained to address the dogs in English. This gives the trainers pretty much total control over the whole process, rent seeking par excellence.

That is obviously not the reason offered by the guide dog trainers. Here are some of the alternatives:

1. Training guide dogs in English avoids problems created by gender and dialectal variations in Japanese.

Except if that were truly the case, then settling on, say, the standard Tokyo dialect (made ubiquitous by mass media) would be easier than teaching dog owners another language (and not all guide dog commands actually follow English grammar). Does a guide dog trained in New York flounder when shipped to Georgia?

2. English commands are shorter.

Sort of. Most words in the guide dog vocabulary do have fewer syllables in English than Japanese. Except the average Japanese is quite incapable of articulating final consonants and consonant clusters (other than /n/) without adding a vowel. So "right" turns into righto and "straight" becomes sutoraighto. (And "McDonald's" turns into Makudonarudo.)

Besides, "right" and "left" are no less phonemically complex than migi and hidari.

3. Using English commands avoids confusion with similar words that might occur in conversational Japanese.

This is my favorite explanation. It's certainly the most logical. It's the same challenge faced by voice-recognition software: discriminating between "text" and "command." For example, if I say "period," do I mean the end of the sentence or thought, or the punctuation mark, or the word "period"?

Except that guides dogs across the English-speaking world are not wandering about in a confused daze wondering which is which. And loan words like "straight" have already become part of the Japanese lexicon. Dogs are apparently pretty smart critters when it comes to divining the intentions of their masters.

So the real reason? Well, I think this is an example of what physicist Richard Feynman called "cargo cult science." Back in the mists of time, a practice is introduced that yields certain results. Soon, the specific reasons for the practice are lost, and completely unrelated reasons are concocted in their absence.

The first officially-sanctioned branch in Japan of the International Guide Dog Federation was established only in 1967. The U.S and the U.K. train more guide dogs than the rest of the world combined. Japanese love doing things by the book. The book in this case was surely translated from English and incorporated the original English commands.

Plus, in Japan English still lends anything that extra cachet. Besides, as long it works, who cares what the real reasons are?

I predict that in time the cult will weaken as guide dog trainers and owners figure out that dogs understand Japanese just as well as English. In the meantime, monolingual Americans in Japan can rest assured that if nobody else can understand them, they can always go to the dogs.

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October 16, 2007

"Shadow of the Moon" revisions


TP is the TokyoPop translation. EW is my translation.

Chapter 48

1. TP: Like Agan, the town was built on a slope, leading up to a mountain that rose on the far side of the town walls.

      EW: The city wound leisurely up the side of the facing mountains.

The addition is not in the original.

2. TP: The well-kept harbor here made the one in Agan look like a hovel. The piers were bustling with activity. A small forest of ships' masts crowded the water. Here and there, billowing sail of white and light brown made a pleasant contrast with the blue of the sea.

      EW: The harbor was developed to a degree to which Agan could not compare. The number of ships lying at anchor far outstripped those at Agan. The harbor was alive and bustling. The masts stood together like trees. The furled white and pale red sails accented the gorgeous panorama.

The word here translates as "light reddish-brown." Maybe "faded ruddy brown" would be better.

3. TP: Off the boat, Yoko found herself in the midst of a beehive of activity. Busy-looking men swarmed the docks. Children sped to and fro, running errands. The cries of food vendors lifted above the noise of the crowd, adding a rhythm to the cheerful cacophony. It was like a giant festival. [1]
      Yoko's first thought upon looking at the folk in the crowd was that this would be a wonderful place to live. It was energizing to see the faces of the people so fresh and alive, and she guessed that hers must look the same way.
      She was walking along the pier, absorbed in the bustle of this new land, [2] when she heard a very familiar voice call out behind her. "Yoko?"
      She jumped and whirled around to see a familiar figure, short and sleek in grayish brown fur.

      EW: Descending from the ship, Youko looked out over the throngs. This was a city that left its inhabitants in good spirits. The faces of the people streaming by were full of vitality and life, and her own face was likely the same. Down on the dock, Youko found herself in the midst of bedlam. Men working madly, children running around doing heavens knows what, the voices of people and peddlers, thrumming together in a frenzied rhythm.
      She was standing there on the pier when the voice called out to her.
      "Youko?"
      Her head snapped around at the sound of a voice she could not have possibly expected.

The author uses "decend from" (or "get off of") twice, first in the future tense and then in the progressive tense. The first sentence literally translates: "When Youko will get off the ship, she found herself in the midst of a beehive of activity." Then: "Getting off the ship, Youko looked out over the throngs."

The cumbersome future perfect tense would be required to make this construction grammatical in English. TokyoPop deals with the problem by eliminating the verb and starting with Youko already on the dock. I decided to flip the sentences and use only the progressive. I think either approach is acceptable.

3.1. The addition is not in the original.
3.2. LIT: "Youko having stepped onto the pier, a voice called out to her."

4. TP: Rakushun nodded, then tugged on Yoko's hand. "I waited a while in Agan, but since you didn't show up, I thought maybe you had gone over before me. But then when I got here, I couldn't find you on this side either. So I've been coming to the shore whenever the boats come in. I was just about to give up, to tell the truth," the rat admitted, smiling up at Yoko.

      EW: Rakushun nodded. He tugged on Youko's hand. She was still frozen with surprise.
      "I waited for a while at Agan. When you didn't turn up, I thought maybe you'd gone on ahead of me. But there was neither hide nor hair of you here. So I decided that every time a ship came into port, I'd come down and look for you. I figured you might have gotten delayed, but made it through just the same."
      The rat looked up at Youko and smiled.

The verb here is "delayed," followed by "somehow work it out."

5. TP: "It wasn't easy, leaving you there like that."
      "I'd hope not!"

      "Yes. I'll admit it, I was scared to travel with another person. I-I couldn't trust anyone. I thought everyone was my enemy."

      EW: "It's not that I abandoned you because I had no choice."
      "Really?"
      "Really. The idea of traveling with another person gave me the willies. I didn't think I could trust anybody. I thought I was surrounded by no one but my enemies. That's why."

The TokyoPop version dulls the weight of Youko's confession. The rest of the paragraph arises from Youko's reaction to what she perceives as Rakushun's nonchalance over her confessed betrayal of him. A better translation of the first sentence might be: "It's not like I abandoned you because I had to."

6. TP: "Oh, you might be a little slow in the head, but I don't hate you for that, Yoko," Rakushun said with a smile. [1]
      "I even thought I should go back and finish you off. To keep you from talking." [2]
      Rakushun pulled away his paw [3] and stopped walking. "Er, Yoko "
      She swallowed. "Yes?"

      EW: "I might think you a fool for doing so, but, no, I don't have any particular reason to hate you."
      "I even thought of going back and killing you."
      Rakushun started to walk off, still holding her hand. He stopped in his tracks. "You know, Youko . . . . "
      "Yes."

6.1. The addition is not in the original.
6.2. The addition is not in the original.
6.3. In this context, the verb means "to lead someone by the hand."

7. TP: Yoko nodded slowly. "Rakushun, you're really " [1]
      Rakushun grinned. "Don't mention it."
      "No. I was so quick to give up. I thought I had no friends."
      "Yoko." A small paw tugged on Yoko's arm.
      "It's just, I'm so ashamed " [2]
      "You shouldn't be."

      EW: Youko humbly bowed her head. "Rakushun, I don't deserve your friendship."
      "Hey, hey, what's this all of a sudden?" [3]
      "It's just that I get myself into these snits and convince myself that I have no friends in this world."
      "Youko." Rakushun tugged on her arm with his small hand.
      "I am so totally messed up."
      "No, you're not."

7.1. I'm padding here. Literally, all Youko says is, "Rakushun--you're sugoi--" Which might be better translated as, "Rakushun, you're--awesome!"
7.2. The expression here literally means "to have not arrived" or "incomplete," which is generally translated as "incompetent" or "careless" (as in "short a full deck").
7.3. Pretty much a literal translation.

8. TP: "Wow thanks." Yoko said. [1]
      Until that moment this world had felt like a cage to her; but suddenly, she thought she could hear a rattling of the bars. [2] The door was opening.

      EW: "Rakushun, you're unbelievable."
      For whatever reason, one by one, doors now seemed to be opening up to her.

8.1. Here Youko uses sugoi again.
8.2. The additions are not in the original.

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October 14, 2007

Chapter 21 (The Shore in Twilight)


二声氏 [にせいし] Nisei-shi
丈 [じょう] Jou (stature)
委州 [いしゅう] I Province (entrust)
大卜 [だいぼく] Daiboku of the Ministry of Spring. I'm not certain about this, but I think the homophone daiboku is being used here similarly to youjimbou, or "bodyguard." If you recall the famous Kurosawa film, it can also be a name or title.

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October 12, 2007

The War


I somehow got myself inducted into the PBS Viewer Advisory Group, which means they send me surveys about shows now and then. I once got to preview a PBS program on DVD. This time they asked about The War, the latest documentary by Ken Burns. The Civil War is one of the best documentaries of all time. But his latest effort? Not so much. Here's what I told them:

The framing device is limiting and cloyingly sentimental. The narration is unfocused and often condescending. Important stuff is left out, and some of the material is plain wrong. (Burns apparently didn't watch "Hitler's Sunken Secret" on NOVA.) The thesis of the whole thing seemed to be: the U.S. military is run by idiots. Why not just play 15 hours of Tokyo Rose tapes?

Most of the material is covered more thoroughly on other PBS documentaries, such as "Victory in the Pacific" on The American Experience and "Sinking the Supership" on NOVA. KUED's Utah WWII Stories is ten times better. Failing to mention the Doolittle Raid and the battle of Taffy 3 in a full-length WWII documentary only signals contempt for honest-to-God heroism.

In a revealing fit of psychological projection, baby-boomer Burns simply couldn't hide how he really feels about the "Greatest Generation": "You SOBs don't deserve all that praise and I know it."

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October 10, 2007

Welcome to the DMV


The Department of Motor Vehicles has become the ubiquitous symbol of impersonal government run amok. On The Simpsons, Patty and Selma work at the Springfiled DMV as the chain-smoking driving examiners from Hell. And on Reaper, the DMV actually is a portal to Hell.

In this light, I must point out that in the twenty-odd years I've lived in Utah, the Utah County DMV has proved the friendliest and most efficient arm of government I regularly come into contact with. The offices are clean, the clerks cheerful, and registering my car takes about 15 minutes.

I usually stop in late morning or noon. Maybe the lines grow longer toward closing time.

Plus, the whole process hardly dents my wallet. Inexpensive government is even better government. Registering my twelve-year-old Ford--inspection, emissions, tags and taxes--comes to less than $100. Renewing my driver's license every five years costs a whopping $25.

If you want to know why we Americans drive so blasted much: because it's so blasted cheap!

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October 07, 2007

"Shadow of the Moon" revisions


TP is the TokyoPop translation. EW is my translation.

Chapter 47

1. TP: It was breathtaking: the translucent sea, the curve of the peninsula that sheltered the port, the white sails of ships in the harbor. Beyond the peninsula, the perfectly flat line of the horizon divided the distance into sea and sky.

      EW: Within the embrace of the peninsula that encircled the Agan coast, white sails floated on the blue, transparent sea. Beyond the peninsula she could see the unbroken horizon.

The addition is not in the original.

2. TP: "There's a passenger vessel every five days. Three more days until the next."

      EW: "There's one leaving on the fifth. That's three days from today."

I agree with TokyoPop: "A passenger ship leaves every five days. The next one is three days from today."

3. TP: She asked every useful question she could think of, then bowed her head in gratitude.

      EW: She asked about everything she thought she might need to know, and then bowed. "Thank you very much. You've been a great help."

The paragraph does indeed end with a quote.

4. Turning her back on Agan, Yoko spent the rest of that day and the next, in the nearby mountains. The day before the ship's departure, she ventured to the town gates once again.

      EW: She left Agan at once and spent the next two days in the mountains. The ship was scheduled to leave in the morning. The day before she again went to the gates of Agan.

The highlighted sentence is in the original. LIT: "The ship would leave in the morning."

5. TP: How much easier things would have been if only she didn't have the sword! For that reason she had considered leaving it in Kou, but that would leave her defenseless against demon attacks. And it wasn't as though the swords were outlawed here--only kaikyaku.

      EW: If not for the sword, the risk here would be less. She'd given much thought to discarding the sword here in Kou, but even if she could, she had no desire to. As long as she was being pursed by the youma, it was necessary for her survival. It just wasn't a sword the guards were on the lookout for, so she didn't think getting rid of it would by itself improve her situation.

The verb in the last sentence is "on the alert for." Nothing about swords being outlawed.

6. TP: An idea striking her, Yoko went back into the mountains and cut several sheaves of grass, wrapping them around the blade. Then she put the disguised weapon together with her other belongings and wrapped it all in a large bundle, concealing the sword completely.

      EW: She cut some long grass in the mountains and wrapped the sword up in a bundle that, at a glance, would not be taken for a sword.

This is a single sentence in the original. TokyoPop has added a lot of padding.

7. TP: Her nervousness about that aided her performance, as a trickle of cold sweat ran down her forehead.

      EW: The strain was enough to make her break out in a real sweat.

Again, the author only uses a single adverb: "break out in a real/honest/natural sweat."

8. TP: The two kids picked up Yoko's bundle and nodded, the serious cast to their faces showing their concern.

      EW: She handed it to the older boy, who took it with a serious look on his face.

We're both wrong here. The verb should be "handed to" or "was taken by." The noun, though, means "older brother and younger sister": "She handed it to the boy and his younger sister. They took it with a serious looks on their faces."

9. TP: The man smiled.

      EW: The man laughed.

The verb here can be translated both as "laugh" and "smile." There must be a usage rule to tell the difference, but I don't know it. (Same problem with blue/green.)

10. TP: Yoko nodded and began to walk, leaning lightly on the man's shoulder for support; lightly, so he wouldn't think her too gravely ill, yet close enough so passersby might think they had traveled together.

      EW: Youko nodded, clinging gently to the man's shoulder as they walked along. She intended to appear beholding toward the man helping her, while garnering as much sympathy as possible from the people around them.

The verb here--amaeru--is one Blanche DuBois would use: "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers." In this context, it means acting helpless so that people will have sympathy on you. Lit: "--in order to appear that she was beholding to the man who had lent him his shoulder, and in order to appear that she was presuming on the goodwill of the people around her."

11. TP: They neared the gates, where the several guards moved back and forth amid the stream of travelers, checking travel papers at random and observing the crowd. Yoko and the family walked right past them. She felt the eyes of one of the guards rest on her momentarily, but the outcry she feared never came. Carefully keeping right between the young couple, Yoko passed through the gates of Agan.

After they had walked a little further, Yoko let herself breathe a sigh of relief at last. She glanced back over her shoulder, making sure that the guards at the gates were far enough away they could not possibly recognize her.

      EW: They drew nearer to the gates. The guards flanking the gates were inspecting the stream of people hurrying toward them. She passed through the gates. She felt eyes on her, but no one raised his voice. After putting a bit of distance between her and the gates, Youko finally allowed herself to breathe. When she peeked back over her shoulder, the gates were far enough away that she could not make out the faces of the guards.

The additions are not in the original. The subject of the last sentence is "faces of the guards."

12. TP: Yoko bowed her head. I'm sorry for the deception.
      The couple exchanged looks, then wished her well and went on their way.

      EW: She bowed deeply. She wasn't lying. The words came from the bottom of her heart.
      The man and wife exchanged glances. "Take care," they said.

TokyoPop is right in the first sentence: "She bowed deeply. I apologize for lying to you, she said in her heart." In the second sentence, the addition is not in the original.

13. TP: Like Takkyu, the town of Agan was packed with refugees.
      EW: The city was bustling with refugees.

The addition is not in the original.

14. TP: When a morning finally arrived, she rose stiffly [1] and made her way along the muddy [2] streets, heading toward the harbor. Closer to the water, the streets widened [3]. Yoko stopped when she saw a simple wooden pier with a line of people embarking on a vessel moored at its end. [4] Several of the town guards were overseeing the process, checking all the passengers as they came to board.

For a moment, Yoko's vision dimmed. In a daze, she watched as the guards opened up each passenger's belongings, searching them.

      EW: The welcome morning finally came. Youko followed the city streets to the harbor. The city center faced the water, and where it opened up there was a shabby wharf and a boat tied up at the pier. It looked to Youko's eyes rather small, but it was bigger than all the other ships lying at anchor.

"There it is . . . . " [5]

She approached the wharf, a flood of emotions filling her chest. She stopped herself. Soldiers were inspecting the line of passengers boarding the ship. For a moment everything went dark. They were searching the passengers' luggage as well.

14.1. The addition is not in the original.
14.2. The addition is not in the original.
14.3. I agree with TokyoPop: "The streets opened up as she approached the water, ending at a shabby wharf. A boat was tied up at the pier."
14.4. The addition is not in the original.
14.5. Youko says this out loud.

15. TP: Yoko had an idea what they were looking for, but she didn't want to throw away the sword if she could possibly avoid it.

      EW: She had no desire to get rid of the sword.

The addition is not in the original.

16. TP: Rakushun had said that the Blue Sea was an inland sea.

      EW: She'd heard that the Blue Sea was an inland sea.

The addition is not in the original.

17. TP: The guards were still there, but just standing around, their morning's work done.

      EW: The soldiers were standing idly by.

The additions are not in the original.

18. TP: Yoko nodded, her face turned away to hide her frustration.

      EW: Youko nodded stiffly.

The addition is not in the original.

19. TP: Again, Yoko nodded slowly, wondering if she was wrong to dare trust them.

      EW: Youko nodded as resolutely as she could.

The addition is not in the original.

20. TP: A moment later Yoko found herself clambering up a small ladder lowered from the larger vessel.

      EW: She shimmied up the pole that had been lowered to the boat.

We're both wrong here, but I'm less wrong that TokyoPop. LIT: "She clung to the pole lowered to the boat, and was transferred to the ship." This does paint a slightly different picture, of being leveraged aboard like a see-saw.

21. TP: By the end of the trip, she'd even washed one old crewman's feet for him, and the men on the ship had taken to calling her the silent monk, for she never responded to their jibes and never tool off her hooded kimono. She was grateful they didn't press any further.

      EW: Finally, they even had her massaging the legs of some old salt of a first mate. Whenever anybody asked her about herself, she mumbled a half-hearted reply and they laughed about how she was a reticent little brat but thankfully didn't pry any more into her affairs.

"Silent monk" is an odd literalism. Bouzu can be translated as "monk," but it more commonly means "boy" or "kid" or "sonny." A "bouzu cut" is a short crew-cut or "buzz cut" once favored by boys. When I was first in Japan in the late 1970s, barbershops still posted their bouzu cuts in lengths: 5 mm cut, 10 mm cut, etc. Recall that Youko is often taken for a boy because of the way she dresses. She doesn't need to disguise herself.

The online and offline browser versions have been updated. More corrections here.

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