Thursday, August 13, 2009

Endless Translation Fun

In case you're late to the party, here is Translation Party!.

Enter a phrase in English. The phrase is then translated into Japanese, then back to English, then back to Japanese, over and over until the phrase no longer changes from one translation until the next. That is, until equilibrium is found.

I decided to run a well known poem through the matrix. The changes are interesting, but what is more interesting, I find, are the phrases that glide perfectly from one language to the next, with nothing lost in translation.

Anyhow, here is -

W.B. Yeats - The Second Coming

Enlarge vortex
Can not hear the falconer's hawk.
If you, or you can move the distance to the center?
In the world of anarchy, loosed is
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed?
The ceremony of innocence is drowned.
Belief, all the best for the worst.
Are full of passionate intensity.

The revelation of several cars.
It has been revealed.
February 2! , Most of these words
Mundi in the case of multiple ethanol of the code
My first problem: the waste of desert sand;
Body of a lion and the head of the human form,
This is in the sky, flying like a cruel sun
The slow-footed, back to the top of all
Birds of the desert, cross the wind shadow.
Dark again, I know now reduced
Centuries of stony sleep 20
Consider the nightmare of the birthplace of rock
And the rough beast, the final round, the following
What Slouches born in Bethlehem?


Should you shut your ears to anything else I may speak
should you shut your eyes to anything else I may write
if nothing else at the very least
heed these words
let them find a home within you
a safe place to stay until they are needed
when they can be called upon in your time of need

mere words
bind all things earthly or not
within the realm of human imagination
what is love death pain
without one word to hold in all the
understandings and perceptions each carries
they are unknowable
the power of a word manifests itself
making the incomprehensible tangible

mere words
are everything of import
they bind us to courses of thought and action
dictating out lives
oppressing or liberating
used to define the worth of a person
whether they are to be locked in a cage
or to command the loyalty of millions

mere words
Can make your spirit exult
hearing those things which your heart longs for
or reading what appears to be a dream given form
you dance you laugh
your whole world grows
to include anyone within reach of your smile

mere words
can break your heart
leaving your tattered soul soiled
unrecognizable upon the ground and you
struggling to find a way
to begin to stand to try again

mere words
in them lay the very essence of humanity
for what they have the power to do
they also have the power to undo
and I have some words for you

In any of your endeavors in the light of day or dark of night
when that insidious quiet descends upon you
threatening to consume you
taking you away from yourself
I want you to look in that same place
no matter the day or hour
and pull out these words

In a quiet place
where a soft wind blows
rustling leaves and grass
under a tree
you will find me

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Going to the Library

Or will be, soon, for some people.

The Toronto Public Library now allows members to check out books online, as in e-books, audiobooks, music, and movies.

Makes me wish I still had my library card handy. Then again, I'd have to be a tax-paying citizen of Canada to enjoy that privilege, whereas I'm currently a tax-avoiding resident of Dubai.

I could always go to a local library... (wait, now, don't laugh too hard!)

Actually, I am pretty pumped about the opening a new library just down the road from where I live. When it opens, it will be the first Dubai library I will have entered. I know there are a few branches out there, but I haven't had the time to search for them.

Here's hoping the Dubai library system gets on the e-book bandwagon also.


So you say you
shouldn't be so high
on my list of priorities

there's work
there's friends
there's life

So you say you
shouldn't be so high
on my list of priorities

I say you are wrong

For when I wake
there is only ever one item
on that list

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


I'm kind of liking that word right now, seeing as how Chris Anderson already took the other cool variation.

Some interesting news.

Ever heard of The Guild? It is an independently written, and produced webshow about a bunch of geeks who love World of Warcraft.

Season one was givjavascript:void(0)en away free, as will season 2 be. But quality work speaks for itself, and loudly enough that The Guild is now being sponsored by Microsoft and Sprint.

In the new creative economy, I'm thinking that talent, effort, and quality work are going to be the main factor determining success.

Mr. Today

I’m Mr. Today
I used to have another name but
that was someone else
I can’t remember him anymore

About myself there isn’t much to
tell but I’ll tell
the little I do know one thing
I am really good at is sticking my
head through an open door seeing
someone inside then entering their life

Some things last have
permanence though I wouldn't
know enough about that to say change
is the only constant I know

How could they give you up?
she said in a soft voice still heavily
breathing in the afterglow I don't
know what to say all I can think
is because they can

Anything goes for me really I'm
not scared of being knocked down
as they say all I have to do is stand up

Falling in love is easy I do it all
the time cats have nine lives and I
have nine hearts but sometimes
I wonder if falling is only a habit

Remember Biz Markie well I
never have been the
just a friend
he is always someone I later meet

Before God I swear I will give every
new her all until she says goodbye

Per ardua surgo and all that I just
hope I made a few smiles laughs
singing illigitimi non carborundum
all that matters really the
categorical imperative

I'm Mr. Today can't remember
yesterday don't know about tomorrow
every new today I am just as
surprised that I am still here so
certain that chances are like
the Littlest Hobo tomorrow
I'll be gone

Monday, August 3, 2009

Dining in Dubai vs. Dining in Toronto

I came home today and saw an interesting new comment on my post on blandness.

The commenter, Ah pois, seemed taken aback by my apparent preference for food in Canada over food in the Middle East. The issue is a little more complicated than that, but overall, I do prefer a great deal of food in Canada to what's available in the Middle East.

Why that is, is simple - variety.

You could be reductive, and hold that Canadian food consists of pemmican, maple syrup, beavertails, and maybe moose meat. But in truth, Canada has a much more varied cuisine than most people know.

In Dubai, I can get Arabic food, great Arabic food, incredible Arabic food. I love it to death, and I will miss it terribly when I am gone. But Arabic food really is not very varied, consisting of a combination of meat (kebabs, chicken legs), hummous, bread (pita bread), yogurt, and salad (fattoush, or tabouleh).

Like I said, the food is good, but you can tire of it quickly. So then what do you eat? Good Italian is hard to find in Dubai for a decent price. Greek food? Sorry, no gyros, since few restaurants use pork. Chinese? Nope, all you can find is either Indian-Chinese or Asian-Fusion. If hakka noodles and chicken lollipops suit your fancy, then power to you, but good luck finding any hot pot, or congee. Caribbean? Forget it. Mexican? Second rate Tex-Mex is all there is. Thai? To date I have found only one or two restaurants that can make a passable pad thai, and forget about masaman beef. Korean? Sorry, but you are not going to find good bibimbap or kimchee around these parts. Japanese? Perhaps. There are a few good sushi joints, but forget about finding decent ramen or gyoza. Vietnamese? Nowhere to be found around here.

Better yet, how about a place that serves roast beef with gravy, roast potatoes, with freshly picked steamed carrots, broccoli, and green beans, with a pile of cobs of peaches and cream corn on the side? Sorry, but you are totally out of luck. How about mashed turnip, butternut squash, or mashed potatoes? What passes for those here is not usually edible.

Dubai is great if you love Arabic food, South Asian food, or fast food, but for anything else, you are generally out of luck. And of those three, Arabic food usually sits in your stomach like a brick, most Indian (and pretty much ALL South Indian) food leaves you looking for the Pepto-Bismol, and fast food? No explanation needed.

Wait, I forgot. You can also get good Filipino food in Dubai, but other than pancit, I don't know many non-Filipinos who got out of their way for that cuisine.

But in Toronto...

Want Bún bò Huế or Banh Mi? Head on down Spadina, and while you are there, pick up some awesome Baozi, or the best freshly made pan fried dumplings you will find anywhere. Feel like a legendary gyro? Pop on over to the Danforth and head to Alexandros. Want Thai? There are countless places with excellent pad thai, and fresh spring rolls. Go over to Bloor and Christie, and take in some honest to god real Korean food. Head on up to Jane and Finch where you find some of the best curry goat and roti or jerk chicken you have ever tasted. In North York and Woodbridge there are numerous excellent Italian restaurants, and if you feel like hot pot or congee, then hurry on over to Markham or Vaughan.

But it doesn't end there. You also have every European cuisine available, in addition to French-Canadian cuisine (Poutine, anyone?, and even a few decent Mexican joints.

And as always, the ubiquitous selection of Canadian blandness - corn, carrots, peas, beans, cauliflower, potatoes, squash, turnip, beets, roast beef, baked ham, roast turkey, cod fillets, salmon steaks, gravy, yorkshire pudding, butter biscuits, buns, and numrous breads. On the side, you will fine any number of clear broth soups with different fresh ingredients, a plethora of different types of salads. And then there is dessert.

What I wouldn't give to have a freshly baked apple pie made with fresh apples, or peach cobbler, strawberry shortcake, get the idea.

All of it wholesome, savory, sweet, and satisfying.

Sure there are fewer excellent Indian restaurants in Toronto than Dubai, but that doesn't mean they're not there.

Oh, and before I forget, there is the subject of sanitation. Do you know how many people have gotten seriously ill or died here from food poisoning this year? More than a few. In fact, government inspections have found that a surprising number of joints here, especially in Sharjah, have not only been found to be unsanitary, but engage in unsanitary practices, turn the freezers and fridges off at night to save on electricity, change expiration dates, and knowingly sell expired food.

So in all, yes, I do definitely prefer the food situation back in Canada over what I can find here.

After the Bath

I'm finished!
I'm finished!
I'm finished the bath!

Come here!
I'm wearing my slippers,
from the bath.

You have to put on cream
on my tummy,
not my hands,
my tummy.
I don't have a baby in my tummy,
but Mumma has a tummy
Mumma has a brother in her tummy,
or a sister in her tummy,
maybe a brother,
but I don't have a sister,
I have Kathleen,
she's not a sister,
she's Kathleen!

Let's go here!
Look! I have the paper!
I have the paper!
I have the paper that shows the shopping,
it shows how to get to the shopping,
and how to go to the place,
to buy the shopping,
and buy the birthday cake,
the big birthday cake,
for Mackenzie,
for Mackenzie's birthday,
because it's Mackenzie's birthday soon.

Kathleen's birthday is over,
and Mumma's birthday is over,
and Grandma's birthday is over,
and Grandpa's birthday is over,
but Dadda's birthday is,
Dadda's birthday is coming.

You have to take the paper
to get the money from the bank,
it shows how to go to the bank,
and you take the paper,
and it gives you the money,
and you buy the cake,
the big birthday cake,
for Mackenzie,
and then you take the paper,
and Dadda's birthday will come,
it will come,
in two hours,
and then,
and then you have to,
you have to go to the poo-poo.

Okay, Dadda?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Future of Publishing

You know, for an awful long time, the business of publishing has boiled down to taking a book, throwing it on a shelf in a bookstore, and hoping readers will find it, and buy it.

Oh sure, there are also marketing campaigns, book tours, interviews and reviews that help out, but for the most part publishers relied on third parties to get people to buy their books. And the system worked, until it didn't, and instead of changing, most publishers seem to just keep on like nothing has happened.

Well one publisher decided to buck that trend. What's more, when faced with the bleak harshness of the open market after their Arts Council funding was withdrawn, instead of laying down and dying an elegaic death, they performed an epic act of innovation, and have begun to thrive.

As The reports, "Independent poetry publisher Salt has raised enough money to get through the rest of 2009."

Instead of just chucking books on a store shelf, they made direct contact with their past customers. They reached out, got names, emails, and began their "Just One Book" campaign, where they urged people to buy one, just one, book. Not the same book, but just one book by them.

And it worked, by golly. Instead of relying on handouts and bemoaning the disinterest of the modern reader, and waiting for some media panjandrum to raise an approving eyebrow, they put boots up arses, stirred up some interest themselves, and to top it off are now diversifying into other genres.

Amazing, isn't it? What publishers can do when they use their heads?


She weas really offended
by the things he said.

They really hurt her,
and she didn’t know if
she could forgive him.

"Don't worry," he replied.

"I don’t want you to forgive me."

Those words which hurt
so much
only struck hard
with the force of truth

All he wanted her to say was not
"I forgive you."

All he wanted her to say is
"I understand."

Saturday, August 1, 2009

If Not For the Editing

Back when I studied creative writing at York University, one of my profs, Richard Teleky, told us that he felt Nino Ricci was a good writer, but not necessarily a great writer*. The reason why he felt this was that Ricci's debut novel, "Lives of the Saints" was by far and away better then the next two books in the trilogy, mostly because the first book was the beneficiary of a great deal of sublime editing. Ricci had written the novel while earning an MFA at Concordia, and as happens to any MFA student, their major work in a program is never only a singular effort - each student is surrounded by a number of like-minded, intelligent and perceptive writers and editors who all pitch in with helpful suggestions and critiques.

The point of my old professor's illustration was to drive home the point that it was not a great writer who made a work great, but a great editor, and that without the second part of the equation, even the most talented writer would quickly slip into mediocrity. A case in point being J.K. Rowling (bear with me, here), whose first three Harry Potter novels, all heavily edited, polished and slimmed down volumes, were far better then the latter four. When it came time for "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," Rowling's sales and recognition were already a world-wide phenomenon, and she was able to resist much of the editorial control she had put up with in the beginning. When it came time for the seventh book, you have to wonder if the editors were even allowed in the same room as the manuscript.

As far as Rowling was concerned, that didn't really matter much. She was a popular writer, the bucks were rolling in, and literary merit, "good writing" and "bad writing" all became moot points. If her name was on the front, people bought it, just as the buy Tom Clancy, James Patterson, Stephen King, Danielle Stelle, et al.

But, if you are the sort of writer whose popularity is derived from the literary merit of your work, as opposed to a character, genre, or place, that sort of slide into mediocrity often quickly translates into a one-way ticket back into obscurity. This is why literary writers often take so very long to complete a novel, and why the editing process is often so drawn out. Great literary writers almost always have a great, and usually a specific editor to work with. In Canada, that meant someone like Ellen Seligman, who, as the National Post declared, [I]"has edited more Giller Prize winners than anyone."[/I]

As Patrick Lane put it "Hands-on doesn't even begin to describe what Ellen does. Ellen inhabited my manuscript. That's the only way I can describe it. She entered into the novel in a way that just stunned me. I was not prepared for the way she climbed inside the novel." As Lane described it, he worked with Ellen for three hours every day when editing his first novel, and at times up to nine hours at a stretch.

When you look at a list of who Seligman has edited, it's a veritable who's who of CanLit - Margaret Atwood, Rohinton Mistry, David Bergen, Leonard Cohen, Elizabeth Hay, Jane Urquhart, Michael Ondaatje, and Anne Michaels.

All of which begs the question - if each of these writers is considered to be a "great writer," yet the common element between them all is the same, doesn't that beg the question as to who, truly, brings that touch of greatness to their works? Is it the editor? According to Seligman "[e]ditors, certainly in Canada, we don't change things. Our job is to make recommendations." So, in other words, no. It's not the editor, it is the author. Case closed, end of discussion, next subject please.

Still, you would have to wonder whether such a statement was true, or editorial boilerplate, a way of obfuscating the process the way a magician does their tricks. Ask any editor, and they would probably say the same thing. Admitting to being a co-author of a work, for editors, would be a breach of ethics on par with a psychologist passing around a highlight reel of their sessions with clients. So the question as to how complicit an editor is in the creation of a work is one that will go unanswered. If the author is successful, they're not going to blab, and even if the author bombed and decided to blab, who would listen? Who would care? Sour grapes from a failed writer are about the last item on anyone's to-do list.

One way for the truth to surface, however, is if the story is told from beyond the grave. This, as it turns out, recently happened in regards to Raymond Carver. As the Times of London has shown, Raymond Carver reputation as a master stylist is about as deserved as Bernie Madoff's reputation as a master investor. As time has told, it was all, in the end, a lie.

Which brings me back to my old prof, Richard Teleky, and the sermon he told his class of half asleep poseurs, most of whom, like myself, allowed words like "craft," "editor," and "editing" to splash off of them and dissipate into the air, deflected by the impenetrable shields named "the muse," "my art," and "talent." Maybe trying the be the best writer the world has seen is not the best use of my time. Perhaps I should start looking for a good editor instead.


[I]*Keep in mind that Ricci has won TWO Governor General's Awards and a Trillium Award. Which means that any aspersions should not be taken at face value.[/I]


Curiosity seems
to fill me.

One question
or, at least,

Have I done anything to offend?

If I had,
would you tell me?