Monday, February 05, 2007

Watching the Super Bowl in Spanish

Dear Friends,

On Super Bowl Sunday I watched los Potros de Indianapolis trounce los Osos de Chicago on ESPN in Espanol. In about 210 minutes of an NFL broadcast, there is only about 20 minutes of actual action, so I flipped over during breaks to watch “American Splendor” on HBO, the biopic about Harvey Pekar, the comic book author from Cleveland, Shaker Heights High class of 1957. (Photo shows Paul Giamatti as Pekar and Hope Davis as his wife, Joyce Brabner.)
One of the scenes takes place in Elmwood Home Bakery, where I used to buy maple cinnamon doughnuts on the way to elementary school. Another takes place outside the Detroit Theater where we used to take in Saturday matinees for 25 cents. To see those familiar images and hear a couple of authentic Cleveland accents here in Bolivia was at first an emotional shock followed by waves of nostalgia. It was a pretty good movie (subtitled in Spanish). A little too sweet, probably, for the real Harvey.

Get Shorty, and the poetry of profanity

A couple of weeks ago, HBO showed the 1995 movie “Get Shorty,” a great comedy based on an Elmore Leonard novel. I hear and speak Spanish all day, so to hear authentic American accents from a variety of familiar types had me grinning.
Gene Hackman does a wonderful job playing a slimy movie director named Harry Zimm, and Dennis Farina does a perfect rendition of a foul-mouthed Miami loan shark named Ray Bones Barboni. Farina makes profanity sound like poetry. He has the rhythms perfect. It doesn’t translate well into Spanish subtitles. John Travolta might not ever be as good in a movie. I just died laughing. Could be homesickness. (Photo shows Gene Hackman as the movie hack and Danny Devito as the insufferable movie star, Martin Weir.)

Shakespeare enamorado

Could be a pattern here…..”Shakespeare in Love” was on cable the other night, and again it was the sound of the words so beautifully and truly spoken that carried me away. Tom Stoppard, one of the best playwrights alive, did the script, which is filled with delightful inside baseball for both Shakespeare fans and modern theatergoers (jokes at the expense of directors and producers).
In an odd way, these doses of English at its best have a way of making Spanish come easier. For the first two months here, all I read was in Spanish – novels, history, newspapers, magazines. And I went to lots of Spanish-language movies. But dipping into great writers of English lately has been very refreshing. It seems to make the Spanish easier. (Photo is of Joseph Fiennes as the young Shakespeare.)

James Bond's botched subtitles

The pirated DVD of Casino Royale that I bought here for $1 had laughably bad subtitles in Spanish. The pirates evidently hired someone who couldn't make heads or tails of one character in the movie who had a German accent. "What did you do with the bodies," he asks Bond at one point. The subtitlist rendered that as, "What did you do about Boris?" There's no Boris in the picture. The subtitle writer also had trouble with the code name Ellipsis, which enters into the plot several times. He confused "ellipsis" with "lips" and used the Spanish word for lips (labios) in several baffling subtitles. The Spanish subtitles in the legitimate version of Casino Royale are, by contrast, quite well done.

The El Nino effect

This is the rainy season, but the El Nino effect has made it worse this year. The city where I live, Santa Cruz, had rain on 27 of the 31 days of January, and the entire eastern half of the country is suffering from flooding. Paved roads are few here, and many of them have been washed away by high water. Many communities are isolated. (The photo is from El Deber.) There are 15,600 families that have been rendered homeless by the flooding, according to El Deber. The Spanish word for victims of natural disasters is "damnificados," which pretty much describes their situation. I wondered how the number of families displaced compares with New Orleans.

Here in the city, the rain is more of an inconvenience than a disaster.
It translates into a lot of mud, big puddles and enormous potholes. People don't dress for it. Only about half the people use umbrellas. They walk through light rain unfazed, and if it's heavy, they wait until it stops. What's the hurry?


My media class

Sunday morning I spoke with Cindy for 90 minutes as a
way of celebrating the completion of final grades for my 25 students in
the course on how to start and run your own newspaper,
magazine, TV or radio program, etc. They had to do a
business plan and marketing plan. The photo shows the dean of Bolivian television sports, Papi Nurnberg, addressing my class. He was one of four guest lecturers I invited, all of whom started their own media companies.

There are lots of
talented people who just shouldn´t be in college, including a couple of my students.
They´re bored out of their minds and want to get their
hands on something real. They should be working as
what used to be called apprentices, now interns.

A tribunal of two other profs
and I listened to 10-minute presentations of the students' projects. We were
supposed to be potential investors or funders who they
were trying to persuade to lend or contribute money.
One kid who is bright and talented
came in with his proposal for a film production
company. He didn´t have any required samples of any
work. I told him, “This is the first time that this
group of movie investors has ever been handed a
proposal by an unkown without being offered a single
film clip or or sample script.” He was shameless and unfazed.

Today, I gave the third of a series of seminars at a weekly business newspaper
here. They asked me for help in meeting deadlines. We were always pretty good at it.
The problem with the paper here is that they basically have one deadline, Friday night. Last week, the paper went out the door at 3 a.m. I gave them a couple of tips. We'll see how they do.

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