Saturday, March 31, 2012

Art Therapy

It’s quite a coincidence that today’s Pooch Café has a strip about a dog walker relieving her stress of being with Poncho through art therapy. For the past three months, I’ve been going to art therapy sessions every Monday. (We just finished our term this week) Originally, I wanted to aply for a creative writing course, but since it’s not considered mandatory, I couldn’t get an interpreter present, which would hinder my enjoyment of the class. The art therapy was given to me as an alternative. Initially, I was rather hesitant, since my art skills isn’t exactly my strongest point, and never quite rises above stick figures.

This last project was where we were to give our overall impression of the art therapy, and I did it in the form of a bar graph. If you look closely at the left hand side, you’ll see that the line doubles back several times before venturing out a bit, then gradually becoming more bolder, doing elaborate designs, though there are a few low peaks, and the whole thing starts tapering out near the end with one final flourish in the form of fireworks. Truth be told, I was beginning to grow a little tired of the whole thing, and was kinda relieved it was over.

Part of what worried me at first was that I had no confidence in my drawing ability. Even though I was told that it wasn’t the actual quality of the work that counted, but the intent behind it, I was still too much of a perfectionist to ever want to apply for something I wasn’t good at.

Fortunately, I needn’t have worry - our first assignments were to create a poster out of magazine clippings. My first instinct was to organize these clippings into their various subjects - animals, kinds of animals, technology, people, backgrounds, etc. but there were too many of the dang things, and I had to abandon it for future reference to concentrate on my own project.

This was a consistent occurrence - I had to improvise in order to find suitable art shortcuts in order to show the point I was trying to make. One of our first assignments was to do a portfolio of things that calmed us down. I had great difficulty in finding a picture of a computer or video game monitor that I recalled being buried in the great stack of available photos. (Turns out somebody else had already chosen the very images I intended to use) since I couldn’t find an approximation for a computer, I used a picture of albino circus tigers, hastily added a very badly drawn keyboard, and put the letters LOL on top to represent LOLcats. (I told you I was pressed for time!) In addition to the various TVs on top, I also had a ring surrounded by dollar signs (having money), a stack of comics (next to a private dick), a Ben Kachor picture, and an Anime-influenced handbag connected to a NES controller (even though V-games drive me nuts, they're the only thing that make me feel alive).

The flip side of this assignment was doing one of things that stress me out. This one I entered with great enthusiasm, since there’s nothing I enjoy more than complaining about things that bother me. In order from top to bottom, there’s nature (hence the cows), trying new things (a commercial for a new product. “TRY! This new dishwater! You’ll LOVE it!), wearing a suit & tie, little children, crowds, being poor (flies going in and out of a wallet, not a dung heap), the sun in my eyes, being unable to control my body, dogs (from a bad experience while collecting money on a paper route), not using computers (a compliance line [yes, I know it’s backwards] through an iPod, the closest representation to a computer), fear of death (actually pretty low on my list of fears, since once I’m dead, all my problems will be over, but decided to add it in), beer, coffee and cigarettes (stimulants that wind up riling me up).

I always had a tendency to put more detail in my work than other people's. Yet I was still envious of the select few who could actually draw with a pen and paper. If there is one constant, its that I enjoy putting things in order. Well, other peoples stuff. My own? Not so much. In this project, we were to rub wax on the paper first before putting paints on the page to create a kind of visual aftereffect. I didn’t know what the actual results were supposed to be, so after I found out later, I tried to rub wax on the black part in the middle. However, the result was tearing a hole in my work, so I had to abandon my attempt at creativity.

One of the group’s favorite projects overall was where we were to combine various clipped-out words and sentences, and arrange them into any kind of order we wanted. I do SO enjoy putting together common themes from different elements, as my Garfield remixes can attest to. I entered this with great relish, coming up with not one, not two, but three different sentences, each one focusing on a certain theme.

The first one was a typical statement on the ironic claim that despite company complaints that filesharing their products online via bittorent, customers are stealing their products, yet because of this exposure, customers actually wind up purchasing their material anyways.

The second one was just something I put in together from a few sports metaphors to fill in the space in between. (For further details, the car in the middle is missing its tires)

The third one was a thinly veiled reference to Battle Royale (I'd been reading the Hunger Games), and how Survivor-like shows can force desperate people in need for publicity to drive to ever more escalating stakes in order to get a little attention to themselves in order to fuel their private obsessions.

The one I’m most proud of is where we were to do a visual representation of the inside of our brain. For this, I used a collaboration of Venn diagrams, each link having their own circle of experience, and making connections with other larger circles in the field. I added the cloth patterns at the side for visual effect. It’s just a shame that the paper wasn’t large enough to contain the missing half of one of the “outer circles”, but I made up for it in my second diagram.

Actually, I wasn’t quite satisfied with my second attempt, because it felt like I was beginning to repeat myself. The looping tangle of knots, the highway of information and various other lines all converging to a singular cerebral point, which was contained within a tiny container. As I often like to say, “I don’t just think outside the box, I AM outside the box.

However, it wasn’t all fun and games. There were several sessions where I was feeling very down and didn’t feel like creating anything. This one was after I arrived late, and was playing catch-up with the warm-up exercise, which was to create three random emotions, and the last one was to represent what we were feeling right now. I didn’t have time for the first three (couldn’t think up one anyways), and only concentrated on the last. At the time, I was feeling constantly restrained, that my activities and lifestyle were under constant scrutiny, and there was no hope of escape. Everything I did was under suspicion or observation, and nothing could escape notice. This feeling of oppression was further compounded with my next project:

This fairly innocuous-looking diagram of wire frames was actually the result of one of my major emotional meltdowns. We were supposed to imagine what would happen if we woke up one day and found ourselves into a world that was utterly to our liking. Upon hearing this mandate, I underwent a severe state of depression, and didn’t feel like continuing for three reasons:

1. I was unable to give an adequate vision of what my perfect would would be like with the available materials.
2. It was a HUGE project, and any attempt to show ALL the necessary details worthy of replicating my ideal vision would fall short in the limited time span I had.
3. It would just further serve to show just how far removed my fantasy life would be from reality. The prospect of creating something perfect that could never be was too depressing for me to comprehend. Besides, if any of us actually woke up in a world where everything went our way, we would be beset by paranoia.

Eventually, I was talked down into limiting the scope of my vision to a specific job I would like, which was to be a writer, overlooking various projects. Hence the conductor in charge of an orchestra of various multicoloured windows, all being controlled by his keys. (Upon further observation, I should’ve used multiple keyboards, as benefiting a church organ)

Overall, it was a unique experience, though I would prefer to concentrate on my writing, and wouldn't object to joining a writing class.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Spring is Here?

Just last week, we experienced an usually warm burst of warm weather. In truth, this winter was milder compared to previous winters in the past, but it was so hot that I needed to wear shorts so I wouldn’t be sweating all over the place. If it’d been seasonably warmer a few days earlier, we could’ve had our first chance of St. Patrick’s day with some actual 3-leaf clovers growing out of the ground. (I know the official symbol is the 4-leaf clover, but 3-leaf clovers are more likely)

And then the temperature started dropping. “No problem”, I stubbornly thought, even though the wind chill factor was gradually going into the negative numbers. I figured that sooner or later, it would go back up to normal levels, and this cold front was nothing more than an anomaly.

Turns out the brief heat wave itself was the anomaly. After a brief taste of summer, it was difficult to transition back to a climate of regular cold again. In addition, I wasn't vindicated for wearing shorts out of season. After having a taste of what we were missing, we wanted our global warming back!

At least I had the good fortitude to not put the coats and boots back in the basement despite all evidence to the contrary. I’ve experienced premature spring weather far too often to allow myself to relax my guard when encountered with natural snow removal. Very often, a sudden melting and clearing is just the early warning signs for another upcoming snowstorm.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Red Ketchup’s Untold Story

Here’s the last story of the first book that I didn’t summarize, because I had no idea of what just happened and why. Thanks to LeChatVert’s translations, I now know better, and can share the results with everyone. However, even though the story is clearer to me now, there are a few scenes that could use some clarity. Below, the curly-haired man, Ludger Risque, wonders why Red Ketchup looks so familiar, even though he’s never seen him before.

Actually, he DID meet Red Ketchup, way back in the second Michel Risque book, when Red was looking for information, and chanced upon the one man who gave him a lead to Raoul Escobar, and we all know how that turned out.

Later on, this same man had through a series of fortunate events, broken off from the cult “Right Way”, and gone into his own lucrative business, before being found out by the cult leader, Colonel White, and is negotiated off-panel to deliver some incriminating photos of rival politician, Robert Marlborough. Below is the scene that wasn’t included, as well as some animal-bonding between Michel Risque and his bull, T-bone.

Even though the results at political blackmail are the same, the details are subtly different, such as allowing an extra panel to show Red Ketchup throwing a karate chop that breaks the wall, though we don't get to see him enter the room. (He was guarding the front door in the colourized comic though, and only ran inside once the politician called for help)

If you haven’t noticed by now, Ludger Risque is none other than Michel Risque’s wheeling-dealing uncle. The similarity between last names should’ve tipped you off. This also helps explain some insignificant details, such as why somebody would want to break up a fight between a sleazy photographer and a berserk albino bodyguard, and why the bull attacked Red Ketchup while ignoring everybody else. In the confusion, Michel Risque, his girlfriend Poutine and his uncle escape from Colonel White’s men on bullback. All of this occurs while Red Ketchup is knocked unconscious, and another disaster occurs shortly after.

As before, the whole backstory takes place in the 4th Michel Risque book, where Michel and his friends and family are being hounded by Colonel White and his lunatic "Right Way" cult for the majority of the book. In fact, Colonel White is a bigger threat to Michel Risque than to Red Ketchup. Michel also doesn't find out what actually happens behind the scenes of the Coronation, while the truth is only revealed in the pages of Red Ketchup, with no reaction from the outside world.

In a way, this is a very strange kind of crossover. Two sides of a story are revealed, but are only made relevant with certain details available in one story, and other details that are missing in another. As with other creator-owned comics, this kind of crossover is easier to keep track of if the creative team is responsible for both stories.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Legend of Cirin

Last year, there was an alternate interpretation of the long-running independent comic, Cerebus reimagined as a lone aardvark fighting in a futuristic dystopian world populated by women who wanted to suck away his manliness and pure essence of what makes Cerebus Cerebus. Actually, rather than reboot Cerebus for a new generation, I would be more interested if an ambitious cartoonist decided to go the alternate route, and create a story about a certain neglected other half of the Cerebus Mythos. I'm talking about the female dictator, Cirin.

For those not in the know, Cirin was a major medieval force, who practically took over the city of Iest and its surrounding nations, and was the inspiration for The Hooded One from Jeff Smith's Bone. For comparison, just imagine Briar's sister in a mortal body ramped up to 11, and you'd have a fairly close gauge of the range of Cirin's self-inflicted madness, and the fear she implemented over her soldiers, each of which is capable of taking down a well-armed man. Cirin was also the only one who was a physical match for Cerebus who either curb-stomped every opponent he came across, or was blindsided by his opponent's rambling stupidity. And they fought each other to a bloody standstill, even though she had one hand tied behind her back. (Well, an arm in a cast, but the previous description sounds more impressive)

It would be interesting to see Cirin's backstory in a Wicked vein, showing her ascent to power that was only hinted at in the pages of Cerebus. And there are plenty of references that are alluded to, but never followed up on, such as whatever happened to Lord Julius, the history of the Black Tower Empire, Suenteus Po, Astoria and Jaka's last days, and even Cirin's eventual downfall that's just barely hinted at in the closing pages of the penultimate issue. Surely there must be some obsessive fan out there who's devised an elaborate backstory for the Female Aardvark who, despite being the dominant figure in the "Mothers & Daughters" arc, is NOT Cerebus' mother.

If need be, they could even attempt the same ambitious route, by following Dave Sim's legacy by attempting to do 200 issues to tell her story, in the same vein that the "main" Cerebus story took place, and the last 100 issues were a kind of epilogue. It would give them a certain mindset to determine just how much detail to put in each issue, as well as how long it would take to finish each sequesive arc. This could continue up to the point where Cirin's appearances started showing up in Cerebus, and be filtered out with other little details that weren't expanded on, such as... well, I don't know - chasing Lord Swoon through the dreamscape? Chucking off more library books? More arguments with her staff?? In any case, it would be an interesting experiment.

That, and it would piss Dave Sim off to no end for having his "public domain" character used to "support a feminist viewpoint", even though Cirin is hardly sympathetic herself. What would a strong-willed, big-boned, heavily-garbed woman in a futuristic dystopian society look like, I wonder?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Averse Reaction to Change

In today's Blondie, Dagwood was notably shocked when he saw Blondie’s new hairdo. This is also a typical reaction of the average newspaper reader when they see new radical changes to their beloved characters. Actually, this isn’t just limited to newspaper readers, but pretty much any long-term readers of a popular francise that’s been running for a long time, and has changed hands from the original creator to other successors. Either they carry on the spirit of the original, or they risk alienating their audience.

Actually, this sudden hairstyle change isn’t that unusual. The previous iteration of this joke by Dean Young and John Marshal was done with another hairstyle by Dean Young and Stan Drake. Obviously enough time passed between artists that the writer felt confident enough to make some slight alternations to the script to have a similar outcome. Personally, I find John Marshal to be rather stiff in his poses compared to previous artists.

But wait! The very same punchline was used for a different comic done by Dean Young and Mike Gersher. Only this time, it was Dagwood who introduced a new element, and Blondie who was reacting to the change. This longer comic also does something that the later variations failed in - giving the reactors time to respond and consider their responses and try to change their behaviour accordingly, and failing in doing so.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Stand and the Liver

You can dress up a meal as fancy as you like, but if you've got an aversion to certain foods, no amount of drowning said meal behind multiple spices and liquids can hide your sense of revulsion. Even though Hagar constantly expressed his distaste for even trying any liver, I never questioned why his wife kept serving it to him. As somebody who was regularly picky with my food, I was constantly prodded to try new things in the faint hope that maybe, just maybe I might like it. One such example was when I'd just finished Green Eggs & Ham for the umpteenth time, and my Dad offered me some sunny side-up eggs, and I refused, because I didn't like how they looked. Apparently I'd completely glossed over the message in the book. If the eggs had been green like in the book, I would have given them a try, and suffered from food poisoning.

When I do try new foods, I get a reaction that's not unlike the foodtasters in Yakitate! Japan. My face twitches, my limbs jerks around, and my body contorts in various ways trying to comprehend the new sensations that I'm not used to. And that's for stuff I like. For food I don't like, my reactions are more severe. My family just looooves to feed me new stuff just to see what acrobatics I'll do next.

I'm strangely lactose intolerant in that I can't eat dairy products unless they're diluted with other foods. I can't stand it if there's too much milk in my cereal, and will pour some of the liquid out if there's too much that's not being absorbed. I'm perfectly fine with pepperoni pizzas, but can't take a bite of cheese pizza without feeling like throwing up. I've constantly tried to eat cheese cake, each time thinking that this time I'll be able to eat it, thinking it'll be different this time, and failing every time. The ONLY time I actually liked drinking milk was when I was recuperating from Kawasaki and suddenly found milk really tasty to drink. Once I recovered, I've never been able to capture that sensation ever again. I have no problem with chocolate ice cream though.

I'm also pretty fussy in that I don't want to eat the same foodstuff for too many days in a row. While leftovers is always a good thing, it's important not to have too much of the same thing for too many days in a row, lest I grow tired of it. The worst times of day is when I'm in the mood for something, but don't want to prepare it, because I either don't have enough time to cook it, or I'm saving it for another day when it'll be put to better use. A box of instant chicken soup will taste better if I have some bread to go with it, and have extra room in the fridge for other stuff there, as well as personal preference for something that I haven't had for a long time.

I'm also excessively paranoid about running out of my favorite foodstuff, and will ration my remaining items well past the expiration date. I make it a point to keep as much non-perishables on hand so that I won't be caught off-guard when something I bought just yesterday turns out to be inedible tomorrow. Buying fruits is always a gamble, because there's no guarantee that the insides will be as tasty as the outside looks. There's all kinds of little tricks to make sure that you get the best quality every time (tapping the exterior, buying them fresh, imports or domestic), but I'm not knowledgeable enough to know what they are.

If I'm excessively stubborn, I'll just hold off eating anything until it's time to eat the stuff I really want to devour. This usually results in me being cranky for the rest of the day, so it's not heavily recommended. While internally I know that eating cereal isn't reserved for the morning, I'm still a devout follower of having meals at certain clock times (lunch at noon, supper at five), with various small snacks at random intervals throughout the day. As long as my stomach feels full, that's enough for me. My Dad who always makes a big production of putting tons of vegetables in his dinner is always annoyed at my slapdash meals that's nothing more than putting stuff in the microwave and heating them up.
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I could make that old complaint about being chopped liver, if I didn't like the stuff either. I'm perfectly content with meals with the basic minimum of nutritional value. When I'm upset, I don't have time to think about anything else other than taking care of my hunger. Once I'm full, then I can start diversifying my palate. Of course by then, I'm no longer thinking about my next meal, and I want to get back to whatever I was doing. This is especially problematic when I'm involved in a personal project for several hours without rest, and only after I finish said project, do I realize how hungry I am. It's a vicious cycle.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Unappreciated Arbitrator

In the world of Manga, the diversity of genre is wide enough that there can be a subject about anything, no matter how obscure. As long as there are people interested in a certain hobby, there’s bound to be a devoted audience who’ll follow the adventures of Mr. Bland, as long as he’s doing what he loves. This also extends to Sports Manga which can also be about anything, and I mean anything.
The most well-known popular sport that’s constantly portrayed are Baseball Manga. I don’t know the exact figure outside of the most popular titles, but I’d estimate that there’s at least one Baseball Manga for every American S-hero comic. That’s a lot of comics. This can be further divided into subcategories, not limited to the players themselves, but for coaches, retirees, teachers, students, vendors, cheerleaders, sponsors, stylists, commentors and anybody having a passing influence on the sport.

However, there’s a certain authority figure that I’ve never seen a story about, even though they’re pretty much implemental in pretty much any sport. I’m talking about that role of referee.

Being a referee means that you have to remain impartial to the audience’s opinions, and keep your personal preferences in check to make sure that both sides abide by the rules. Not to mention being in shape enough to keep up with the contestants. Chances are that pretty much everybody will grow to loath any decisions you make, especially if they’re enforced. It’s not unusual for umpires to receive death threats while on the job. This raises up all kinds of untapped potential stories. How do they feel about ruling against a team they appreciate? Is their home life just as unrestful? Do they suffer from the agony of regretting their decisions? How do they cope against popular players who verbally assault them? What are the lives of corrupt officials who accept kickbacks like?

The only time referees seem to get any appreciation is when they admit that they were wrong. (As opposed to all the other times when they were right) There’s a certain sort of satisfaction in convincing insufferable know-it-alls to revise the truth of their convictions. Though that might not always be their fault. For years, umpires were argued against upon the claim that they must’ve been blind to miss such a perfectly good catch or run. Turns out all that protective padding can interfere with their vision, making their judgements less than accurate, unless they’re actually out there in the field, and not watching the action from behind.

The closest we’ve ever actually come to having a referee for a protagonist was in Yakitate! Japan where Pierrot, the Mary Sue judge started stealing the show from the protagonists. There was almost nothing he couldn’t do, and his one weakness was “fixed” in the Anime to save screen time. In the end, he became Royalty, and was beloved by all. Under normal conditions, anybody who followed such an outrageous rise in popularity would be loathed by the fanbase, but Yakitate was already an over-the-top Manga, so his presence didn’t seem that unusual when he was first introduced. The fact that the Manga started going downhill when he no longer showed up speaks volumes.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Daylight Wasting Time

Today marks that annual event that plagues us every year - changing the clocks just so our work time will concide with matching up with the changes in the Earth's circumference.

Generally, I don't like it, because it means that by pushing the clocks an hour ahead, it gets brighter in the morning, just when I'm growing accustomed to waking up in near-total darkness. I don't like bright lights, and recoil in the face of any reflections that somehow always manages to strike me in the eye.

Even though I don't like changing the time, I actually find doing the time changes easier during the spring rather than in the fall when we move the clocks back, because we only have to go ahead an hour, instead of ahead 23 hours just to match the times. In those cases, I generally wait until midnight (or 1:00 the night before), unplug my clock and then replug it, so it'll be easier to move it to the current "correct" time from the flashing 12:00 position. Fortunately, modern-day computers have this programmed in their software, which prevents having to do the changes ourselves. (Though that would be problematic in other countries that don't bother following this ritual) I still have a VCR that allows me to change the time forwards and backwards, which is why I still keep it. Would that more of today's digital appliances adopt that long-abandoned practice - it could save some of us a lot of frustration from having to go around the same 24-hour period from rapidly clicking the buttons too fast.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Proofreading Four Miss Steaks

Dave Egger's lesser-known title of
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
First off, I’d like to apologize for the quality of my recent posts. Some of them have been almost scant in length and writing detail compared to some of my past entries.

I've been enjoying reading English scanlations of European BDs that I've only just been able to understand by following the pictures alone. However, my enjoyment is greatly diminished by the great amount of misspellings, sentence structures, and wonky dialogue that don't exactly ring true. Lately, some of the recent scanlated releases I've seen have become almost unreadable, since it looked like they were purged through Babelfish without a second look.

To give one such example, for the prelude Inspector Canardio book, when the mad scientist was ranting, he said that the world would see how "genious" he was, when he should've meant "INgenious".

Likewise, in the fourth book of Alone, when the children were having a chat near the fire about a theory of the universe expanding and reducing, they called it the “Big Crush”, when anybody who'd ever read Bloom County would know it by the proper terminology as "The Big Crunch".

Usually, when I see slight spelling mistakes such as these, I make subtle corrections on my copy so I won't feel too upset when I read them again. However, the amount of mistakes increased far beyond my capacity to bother fixing them in the first place. As much as I enjoyed Alone, the fifth album was almost completely ruined by the numerous amount of silly mistakes and clunky translation. Rather than "In the Eye of the Malestrom", it would read better as, "The Eye of the Storm".

But when a scanlator mentioned that he was going to include Régis Loisel’s Peter Pan as one of their releases, I decided I couldn't sit back anymore and let this attroicity continue. I offered to lend my proofreading expertise to their scanlation efforts so it would be all fixed before I read it in the first place.

I've long believed that if Manga scanlators put in 1% of their efforts into the European comics scene as they did for their Manga faves, we would have a much larger output. One part of a large hurdle that European comic scanlations face is that many of them are of the serious artwork variety rather than the cartoony variety. Just like how Manga didn’t begin to gain a foothold until publishers started aiming material at children, the same should be done for European comics. I’d like to see more scanlations of children’s BDs, even if most of them are rather boring.

Of course, my intentions are less than altruistic, since I just wanted an excuse to read the comics in the first place. At least my selfishness ensures that others will be spared the agony of dealing with clunky sentences.

Proofreading is more than just checking for spelling mistakes and punctuation. Anybody with spellcheck and a Word document could do that - why bother asking for proofreaders in the first place? Feeling dismayed, I offered to give my expertise elsewhere to people who could afford my unvarnished criticism. Only a select handful were brave enough to risk finding out how little command of English they had, and they’re better off for it.

Here are some sobering facts from a scanlator who wished to remain anonymous:
  • The number of European scanlators is around 20 people, if not much less, compared to Manga which has no end of enthusiastic volunteers willing to help out.
  • A typical scanlation can take between 10-40 hours of translation work and research, 10 of which would be used for retexting and proofreading.
  • The above numbers would account for typical 48-62 page albums, which are dense compared to Manga pages, and are closer to translating American comics. Larger projects would take at least 20-60 hours of work, or longer, if the background sound effects are included.
  • A single book can take a week to complete.
  • In addition to all the classic BDs in the past, there are around 1000 new comic albums being released in France a year... and those are conservative numbers, not counting reprints of older material.
  • The devoted few (and there are very few) do this in their spare time with no pay, and also have their jobs and families to deal with too.
That means, even if the fastest scanlator worked daily, the results would be very slipshod without enough re-reading efforts to check for mistakes. Eventually, fatigue would set in, resulting in lower quality for future releases, making whoever read them wonder what all the fuss around these books is about. Otherwise, you wind up with warped text that only barely retains any resemblance to the source material. One of the most famous examples of mangled Engrish is the Chinese translation of the 3rd Star Wars Prequel, better known as The Backstroke of the West.

However, even legitimate publishers of novels aren’t safe from falling prey to this trap, as can be seen from these examples of various alternate titles and phrases for people not familiar with the language. (My personal favorite is #8.) This is why context is important, people!

#8. In the Brazilian edition of Jacquelyn Mitchard’s novel “The Deep End of the Ocean,” the passage “Beth truly wanted to be mad. A few bricks shy of a load. A few ants short of a picnic” was translated as:

a) “Beth felt like a drunk who couldn’t get served a drink.”
b) “Beth felt like an ant who hadn’t been invited to the picnic.”
c) “Beth felt like a brick that had been pulled from a wall.”
d) “Beth felt like a picnic. A big, crazy picnic.”

Even foreign publishers can fall prey to being too faithful to explaining the joke. One such example is the “middle-aged-housewives-obsessed-with-boybands genre”, 110 Per¢ by Tony Consiglio.

The French version was renamed as follows:

For years, I always thought that I was unable to read the afterwords to the Italian graphic adaptions of literary classics such as Aladdin, Oliver Twist and Journey to the Centre of the Earth, simply because the words were so boring compared to the main story. Now, having had the chance to read them again years later, I now see that the problem was a translation that was too literal in its execution. As informative as it is, the information is almost impossible to make out without doing some “mental editing” of your own. The first sentence should read: “In literary circles, it's traditional that an author's second book be more memorable than his first, especially if it's a novel.

These kind of sentences are why I couldn’t get into Chuck “Fight Club” Palahniuk’s Pygmy, because it was so full of warped idioms through a disorted lens. I deal with enough rough English in my spare time - I shouldn’t have to struggle to enjoy my reading. That’s the very thing I do to help people avoid such situations like these.

I mentioned these concepts last year when I pointed out various aspects of scanlating that could've been improved. I also made a (premature) declaration of a Chninkel project. Even though (embarrassingly enough) it’s been a year since I made that announcement, my efforts at completing said project is still only 2/3rds complete. It’s become something of a Zeno’s paradox for me that the closer I come to completing it, the longer it takes for me to reach that goal.

When proofreading the text, I do my best to make sure that the words not only match up with the action on the page, but also reword the text properly so that it'll fit inside the balloon and sound natural. I work best when I have page samples to work from, so I can see what I'm working on, and can apply the words that'll best fit that page. Even better if I have two alternate translations to work from, so I can pick and choose the best version that works well.

If there are any words or sentences that I’m unsure of in the original context, I write back to the translator and offer my interpretations of that scene for further clarification, and whether my instincts were widely off or on the mark. One such instance was where a nomad made a perplexing statement for thanking a bartender for the turns, which I thought might’ve been beer or something.

Turns out my guess was pretty close, since turn is a straight Polish translation for the word rounds. Since the translator was juggling 3 languages at once, some leniency can be forgiven there. The annoying part is when just after I’ve sent in my submissions for corrections, I immediately think of other ways a text could’ve been improved on. One such instance was where the characters kept shouting out "Devil!" every time something went wrong. I suggested using "Lucifer!" instead to give the swears more resonance.

After being involved with several proofreadings, I’ve determined several factors for why there’s so many mistakes. The people familiar with these comics are from other countries where English isn't their first language. In many cases, the copies they’re working from are translations of a translation, and so we’re left with a less than faithful to the material product. Very often, their first instinct is to use the first word that matches in their French/English dictionary, instead of looking for another word that would work better, and as a result, we’re often given archaic terms that no one understands or knows. While this can be educational for descriptive passages, it plays havoc when used in casual conversation by people who wouldn’t know such words in the first place.

Sometimes there can be a conflict of interest in wanting to express a word a certain way, since it runs counter to the translator's ingrained learnings. In those instances, I have to give a very rationalized reason for why a sentence would work better with slang, and why the previous unchanged version wouldn't. After some back and forth dialogue, we agree on a statement that we're both comfortable with.

In addition, when using online translation sites, many subtleties such as feminine or masculine terms can be left out, and the translation makes them sound disassociative or dismissive. As a result, gender-neutral text can have people calling each other “it” all the time, instead of “he” or “she”. In other instances, there are sentences that lead into what Daffy Duck called “Pronoun trouble”. Some people have some difficulty knowing when to use prepositions at the right time. Telling the difference between “of”, “is”, “to” and “and” can be the difference between life or death. These silly little mistakes always drive me up the wall.

The ironic thing is, while I'm an excellent editor for correcting words that look wrong because they're spelled phonetically, I have a tendency to mispronounce words because I don't know how they sound. I say Cuu-ba instead of Kyuu-ba. Breeth-less instead of breah-thless. Plays-bo instead of Plas-bo. Spir-ral instead of spy-ral. Hoh-ston instead of Hyou-son. Since these words rarely ever come up in casual conversation, I hardly ever get blank stares from people who have no idea what I’m talking about. Only friends and family who know that I say words the way I think they sound have any idea of my true meaning, and will point out my mistakes wherever appropriate.

On the one hand, I hope for a day where my services will no longer be required, once the translators begin to understand their mistakes; and on the other hand, I secretly hope that they won’t learn too quickly, lest I won’t have as much reading material to help them out with. EDIT - here's a handy-dandy guide for avoiding many commonly made English mistakes. Especially the dangling participle (#15) where a sentence is structured in a confusing way. It may sound clear the first time around, but upon closer inspection, doesn't make much sense.

Manga has won the PR war. Now it’s the 9th art’s turn.