Soukie's Place

keeping track of random thoughts

Author Archive

Haiku
Beauty in Simplicity

How simple can a literary form be while still managing to say something beautiful and interesting? Very simple. Consider the following two examples:

a frogfish
frozen to the bone
gets all chopped up

after his turn to wash
her sweater tighter
newlyweds

The language is straightforward – everyday even – there are no metaphors or similes in sight, it does not rhyme, the meter is free too, and it’s frighteningly succinct. I borrowed these examples from Shuson KatoTranslation by Minoru Fujita and Richard F. Fleck. and Katharine Hawkinson, two haiku poets.

Continues » 

The Charms of a Pessimistic Workaholic

The top grossing film from Woody Allen ever, Midnight in Paris, is sweet and nice like a Belgian chocolate. It is like a dessert after some of the more substantial films of Allen’s career, even though – judged on its own – it is somewhat unsatisfactory.

That’s what the present is. It’s a little unsatisfying because life is unsatisfying.

The movie is about human feelings – nostalgia, romance and disagreements – but more in the sense of the characters talking about rather than living through them. Contrasted with Allen’s lowest grossing film, September, where the characters also spend a lot of time talking about these issues, in Paris the protagonist and audience are somehow insulated from feeling the pain.

Continues » 

Making Sense of 12th Century Philosophy

More than about philosophy, this article is about the thing I do to set my table: translations. I have avoided this topic because what I have to say is usually close to disclosing confidential facts about the company I work for and its customers.

Instead of talking about software giants of the 21st century and how they go about ‘localizing’ their products, I am going to discuss translations of the famous 12th century Japanese thinker Dōgen. His writing is characterized by elegant structures which often mix Chinese characters and quotations, and is notoriously difficult to translate.
Continues » 

Gray Matter

After eleven years, there is a new adventure game by Jane Jensen who is best known for her Gabriel Knight Mystery series. Once again, the story is grounded in real locations and weaves facts with supernatural occurrences. The protagonists are obviously new – Sam, a street magician, and Dr Styles, a neurobiologist – and the chapters alternate between them just as we saw in Jensen’s two last full games.

A painting from Gray Matter

Sam is after an illusive Deadulus Club for magicians while Dr Styles goes to extremes to prevent his memories from ever fading

Continues » 

PCWorld, ‘Really?'
How Bashing Might Not Win Readers

Windows Phone 7 start screen

Windows Phone 7

If you hold yourself to some standards, it is difficult to reach them when responding to something which does not have any. But I’ll try anyway. I know Vaclav Havel believes “the truth and love will prevail over lies and hatred,” but I figure that the truth might need a little help.

Microsoft has recently launched a new, great smartphone — there are many reviews online if you are interested in the particulars. But often when I did a Google News search to find out more, the top results were pointing to one or another PCWorld article — which one did not really make a difference, as a quick glance at the list of articles will attest.

Continues » 

Of Keyboards and Men
Dvorak vs. Colemak

The computer age made it easy to switch the keyboard layout to Dvorak Simplified Keyboard without any hardware modifications, and also made it possible for anyone to swap a few individual letters or all of them. One such recent creation of a complete keyboard is the Colemak layout, named after its author Shai Coleman who released it in 2006.

Continues » 

Of Keyboards and Men
The Inventors

One thing that children do very well is asking questions. “What is this?” “What is that?” The most difficult and important questions start with ‘Why.’ “Why are the letters on the keyboard arranged like this?”

Glad you asked. There are many detailed accounts of the history of the typewriter and its keyboard layout, and at least as many myths. The typewriter that became wildly used was invented by Christopher Latham Sholes in 1867.

Continues » 

Of Keyboards and Men
Childhood

My Grandma worked in a sugar factory that stood at the end of my village. Part of the year was always filled with the constant noise of tractors hauling beet from the fields to be transformed into refined sugar cubes that would later be served with tea or coffee in nice porcelain cups.

Continues » 

“You Better Run”

I have never been an athletic guy – I lack the talent and the passion – but for a couple of months now I have found myself hooked on running.

A big obstacle in doing something good for ourselves is time. Life is throwing many things at us and this can sometimes build up stress faster than what can be taken away during the little time we spend relaxing. So without reclaiming some of that time, there is not much that can be done.

Continues » 

Home Video Rip-Off

Amadeus movie poster

Can I see the film that won all the awards, please?

I believe there exists an ideal length for a given book, song or movie. That does not mean that the same theme cannot be recreated in a more minimalist or expansive way but then it is a different work. Take Annie Hall as an example of a film which feels just right at an hour and a half.

Successful authors often produce more complex and expansive works as their skills grow. But the success can also inflate the egos, and then the length grows as any output seems suddenly worthy of preservation. The results are Metallica’s St. Anger full of endless yet uninspired songs, the Harry Potter series which even some fans admit does not need to be 40% longerWhen I saw the Order of the Phoenix in a bookstore I thought it was a ‘cumulative’ edition. When I realized the mistake, I decided to wait until Rowling edits the heptalogy to be shorter than War and Peace. than the Bible, and extended versions of movies. The popular culture, and especially Hollywood, is influenced by the dogma that bigger is better.

Continues »