Tag Archive | i’m a stranger here

Translation Telephone

Jin received her copies of the John Shirley book Rapture that she translated. She wrote a blog post about it. It’s in Korean, but there are pictures.

The reaction from the Korean BioShock community has been interesting. Some people are annoyed that the book doesn’t match the fan-made patch (where one thing named INCINERATE got translated as FIREBALL ATTACK!) Other people are a bit confused as to who this John Shirley guy is anyways. Some folks thought Ayn Rand was made up by the creators of BioShock. And other folks are reading the book saying, “Oh. This is actually a fun book. The game has more of a sense of humor than we realized.”

It’s been interesting. Part of it makes me think how translation can be like one massive game of telephone. Another thing it makes me realize how making guesses based on limited information may not be a problem now. But later down the line when your guesses have been codified into being considered “the truth” problems will arise.


Some firsts:

– Had laryngitis. It was exciting and I wished I could stay sounding like the Cookie Monster forever.

– Last week I hurt my foot, but being the American I am I figured going to the doctor would be frivolous and I’d just wait for it to get better and bandage it up and all that. Yeah. That was working well until today and I was expected to play volleyball in my school’s league and I was like, “No, sir. My foot is still yellow and purple from last week. There will be no volleyball for me.” And coach said, “You must go to Hospital.” So I did, and they were super super super nice and took x-rays and put me in this soft cast. All fun stuff, and the whole thing cost me 25USD and I’ll have a cast to hobble around in and keep myself from playing volleyball. Yay.

– My kindle died. It did that screendeath-fuxxored thing. I’m taking this better than I’d expect.

Some stuff:

– Been devouring these interviews over at the Paris Review site. Great stuff.

– Jin’s first translated book is out. It’s a Diablo 3 splat-book thing.

– Her second translated book, John Shirley’s BioShock tie-in novel Rapture, should be out next month. She had a great time working on that one… well… mostly. Sometimes people got their faces cut-off and stuff, but she thought it was a fun book and did a good job on it. However this 17 year old, who runs the “most popular” BioShock blog in the Korean Blogosphere, got hired as her proofreader. Jin’s boss, you know, wanted to get the “community” involved. So this kid made sure all the translations matched the fan-made patch for the videogame, which was a lousy “transliteration”. For example, Jin translates the train, “the Atlantic Express” as “the word for the Atlantic Ocean + the word for express train”, the patch simply transliterated it as “Ata-lan-tic-eh Exs-pre-ss-eh” and that’s the way it’ll likely be in the book. (The editor’s a bit miffed by this, but wants to keep the fan-base pleased.)

– Had another Vaults game over the weekend. I’ll wait for Dennis to write it up. No one died.

– There’s a Chinese restaurant near us that’s so f’n killer. Seriously. They do this spicy chicken that’s amazing.

From Kingdoms of Elfin

“Monks, prisoners, conscripts, have the support of rule: they live as they are ordered to. The exile has nothing but himself to depend on. If he chooses to lie on the ground and yell, he may be a nuisance but he is not an offender. If he he tries to be a model exile, he makes a rope of sand. His conformity is of no account, and is based on guesswork, anyway. Accident may tell him he has guessed wrong, experiment on experiment may lead him to guess right. But that, too, is by accident. He plays a kind of Hunt the Thimble without knowing what a thimble looks like.”

– “The Climate of Exile” by Sylvia Townsend Warner

“Shadows Under Hexmouth Street” at Beneath Ceaseless Skies

“Shadows Under Hexmouth Street” is my Joe Mitchell in Lankhmar story (mixed in with bits from my late aughties day job at an architectural preservation company).

Joe Mitchell was a 1940s New Yorker writer. That’s him over there on the left. He specialized in urban pieces about kooks and weirdos. Lankhmar’s a massive fantasy city created by Fritz Leiber. That’s it in the middle as drawn by Mike Mignola, the Hellboy guy. In the early 1970s Leiber published Our Lady of Darkness, there on the right. It wasn’t set in Lankhmar, but it featured a magic system called polisomancy. Polisomancy’s all about capturing urban elementals born from construction materials and was practiced by kooks and weirdos in cities.

My story’s about that.

You can read it or listen to it here.

Questionable Complaints

A complaint I hear regularly from expats is that X (where X is some Korean thing like beer or gum) tastes like chemicals.

“Korean beer sucks. It tastes like chemicals. Where can I get good gum? Korean gum tastes like chemicals. Anyone know where I can get shampoo online? Korean shampoo tastes like chemicals.”

(Yeah – I don’t know about that last one either.)

But my question is where the hell are these people coming from and what were they eating there to know so well what chemicals taste like?

Assorted Reactions to the Death of Kim Jong-Il

Me: Finally, we’ll have something to talk about in my conversation class.

My conversation class student: I hear the son is worse than the father.

Coworkers at lunch: Not saying much, but hearing his name and South Korea’s president Lee Mynug-Bak’s name thrown around. But certainly there’s no panic in the lunchroom.

My Coteacher after I told her: No way! Where did you hear this? (the BBC – CNN had yet to mention it on their international headlines.)

Some students: Who cares!?! We want to play Halli Galli!!!

Friends on Facebook: Equal parts panic and gallows humor alongside Team America clips and quotes of “Ding dong, the witch is dead”. One or two asked when I would be leaving Korea.

Me (hearing loudspeaker truck drive by making an announcement): Is that important or is that just someone selling bananas?


Kim Jong-Il has died. I made the joke on Facebook that the Atlas Obscura will have to update their list of Communist mummies soon. More seriously though… wow. I have no idea what this means or what will happen next.

This event has the potential to bury the previous two crises I’ve witnessed in the sand. Or not, because when it comes to North Korea I think we’re looking at a heavily armed and militarized inkblot. Who knows what’s happening inside it. I’m sure some people do — but the truth seems to get buried beneath our projections.

Right now South Korea’s on military alert. From past experiences the North has reacted to internal instability with external aggression. For this reason alone going on alert seems justified. But the war didn’t turn hot again in 1994 when Kim Il-Sung died, so it’s not like we haven’t been here before. Whether Kim Jong-Un, Jong-Il’s successor and son, lives out the rest of the month is another matter.

Crazy times ahead… well, crazier.

From Olaf Stapledon’s The Last and First Men

Olaf on Americans:

“In the Far West, the United States of America openly claimed to be custodians of the whole planet. Universally feared and envied, universally respected for their enterprise, yet for their complacency very widely despised, the Americans were rapidly changing the whole character of man’s existence.

What wonder then that America even while she was despised, irresistibly molded the whole human race. This, perhaps, would not have mattered, had America been able to give of her very rare best. But inevitably only her worst could be propagated. Only the most vulgar traits of that potentially great people could get through into the minds of foreigners by means of these crude instruments. And so, by the flood of poisons issuing from this people’s baser members, the whole world, and with it the nobler parts of America herself, were irrevocably corrupted.”

“These best were after all a minority in a huge wilderness of opinionated self-deceivers, in whom surprisingly an outworn religious dogma was championed with the intolerant optimism of youth. For this was essentially a race of bright, but arrested, adolescents.”

The Eye’s a Filter For You to See

Jin and I went to the beach to eat at one of our favorite restaurants. I’ll probably write about the place one day, but if you’re ever in Pohang it’s behind Tilt, the foreigner bar, maybe about a block or so in.

Afterwards we wandered around a nearby neighborhood where I snapped the above picture. Posting it here has started me thinking how the city must look to people only reading about it on this blog. There’s certainly a trend in my pictures that runs counter to the actual. For one thing the city has people in it, and most of it doesn’t look like the weird, dirty, and empty parts I post pictures of.

This coming week I’ll post more mundane pictures. Maybe the quotidian will be as strange.