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Sat, Mar. 27th, 2010, 02:21 pm
Coraline Chapter One (part 1)

Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Dave McKean illustrated
Linh Vu tranlated

I began this story for Holly
I finished it for Maddy

“Fairy tales are better than the truth: not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be defeated.” --G.K. Chesterton

Chapter One

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Sat, Mar. 27th, 2010, 12:30 am
I had a day.

I turned 34 today. On any other date on the calendar, today would have been a nice day. I had a quiet, relaxing morning alone at home with a cup of good coffee. My afternoon classes were canceled for a guest seminar so I got paid for two hours just to sit and watch a seminar for an hour. I didn't have to talk to anyone and no one had to pay attention to me. Then I went to a cafe and had a simple lunch and another cup of coffee by myself. It rained really hard but I had no place to go anyway, so I just sat and relaxed in the cafe. When the rain stopped, I went home and had a delicious home cooked meal that I made by myself. Usually, the one who cooks doesn't have to clean up but I guess my wife forgot about the cleaning, so I went back down to the kitchen and cleaned it up by myself rather than remind her (she had a regular day at work already). I played my electric guitar and listened to it alone on headphones as I played by myself. It was a calm, stress-free day with minimal contact or interaction with anyone. On any other day of the year, that would be a nice break. Today, I really wished someone had gone out of their way to see me. I got some text messages from friends and some Facebook comments, but some people forgot when I was sure they would have remembered. A couple asked if I had any special plans, but no one offered to meet me.

My birthday happens to be a minor holiday in Vietnam so everyone says it's easy to remember. When I asked some people if they remembered what today is, they said "no". When I pointed out that it's the 26th of March which is special for some people, they said "Oh, I almost forgot... it's the Youth Union Day. That used to be special to me because I was in the Youth Union when I was in school but not anymore." I can't blame them for being really busy lately, but I still feel depressed that no one made an effort to do more for my birthday than tap out a "happy birthday" SMS.

Wed, Mar. 17th, 2010, 11:58 pm
Coraline cover blurbs

These are the translated cover blurbs for my Vietnamese copy of Coraline by Neil Gaiman.

Front Cover:
The Magical New York Times Bestseller
Neil Gaiman

"Stand up and warmly cheer, because: Coraline is a real world." --Phillip Pullman, author "His Dark Materials.

Nhã Nam Literature Publisher

Back Cover:
"Creative, thrilling, and full of determination." --Washington Post Book World
"A contemporary ghost story with all the body-shivering details." --The New York Times Book Review
"The most original and extraordinary book I ever read. Maybe comparable to 'Alice in Wonderland'." -- Diana Wynne Jones

When Coraline stepped through the door, she saw a house exactly like her house. Only... everything seemed nicer and more appealing. In that place there was a different (version of her) mother and her father. They wanted her to stay and be their tender, little daughter. They want to change her and keep her by their side forever. But from behind the door, Coraline knew then what she really needed. She longed to return to her authentic life. By all of her cleverness and bravery, Coraline enacted an extraordinary, thrilling, and extremely unexpected journey.

(At the bottom of the back cover, there is the logo for the publisher Nhã Nam and a cute icon of a book being struck by lightning with the warning "Buying fake books kills real books". Pirating books is very common in Vietnam. And a note on the translation: it looks like the adjectives get repetitive, but the Vietnamese version uses different words that happen to mean the same thing in English. For example, "extraordinary": in the Jones quote, the word for "extraordinary" implies that it's strange, while in the description of Coraline's journey it implies that it's not at all usual.)

Inside Front Cover:
Richard Neil Gaiman, born 10th November 1960, is a British author of versatile talent and has been named the "rock star" of the world's children's literature. Not only authoring short stories and novels, he also writes screenplays. Neil Gaiman has won many valued awards and "Coraline" is the famous book of his that has reaped the most success. Recently, "Story of the Graveyard" received the 2009 Newberry Children' Literature medal that is bestowed by the American Library Association. Neil Gaiman has three works that have been made into films and they are: "Magical Starlight"(Stardust), "Coraline", and "Story of the Graveyard" (Graveyard Book). Neil Gaiman currently lives in the state of Minnesota, United States, with his wife and three children.

Inside Back Cover:
Awards and nominations for Coraline:
(A long list of literary awards with English names)

Wed, Mar. 17th, 2010, 12:21 am

Anybody out there ever read "Coraline" by Neil Gaiman? I just picked up a copy of the Vietnamese translation but I've never read the original. I can kind of guess how the original must have been phrased, but it's obvious that a lot is lost in translation. I'm thinking of translating it back and then comparing it to the original as an experiment in seeing just how much gets lost. If one of my readers (assuming I still have readers after the long silence) has a copy of the English version, I might post my translation here a couple pages at a time for you to check.

Wed, Feb. 10th, 2010, 04:41 pm
In Lenin's Shadow

I'm currently sitting in an open air cafe across the street from V.I. Lenin Park in Hanoi, Vietnam. The sun is closing on the horizon and the light is turning soft and golden. Lenin's shadow is reaching across the road for me.

Posted via LiveJournal.app.

Sun, Sep. 20th, 2009, 01:18 am
Gollum attacks teenagers in Chile

I don't know if this story has hit the mainstream English-language media yet. I saw this story on a Vietnamese website for teens (someone pointed it out to me because I don't usually read this site). The article with photos is here: http://kenh14.vn/c44/t11/2009091901222978/con-quai-vat-nhay-nhua-lam-nhom-ban-teen-kinh-hon-tang-dom.chn

For those of you who don't speak Vietnamese (which is probably just about everyone reading this), here's a basic translation of the article:
A slimy "monster" makes group of teens scared out of their wits

Most recently, an extraordinary creature with an image like Gollum (the half-person/half-beast monster in the "Lord of the Rings" films) appeared unexpectedly in Chile. And it was killed on the spot.

[Links to other "monster creature" news stories like some big eels washing up on beaches]

The pathetic creature had a totally bizarre outer appearance. It was slimy, with no hair on its body and a bald head, with a "face" that looked very much like a human face. The "Real Live Gollum" monster crept up from Lake Panama (near the Cerro Azul region, Chile), climbed up the surrounding stones and moved closer to a group of young friends.

[Still photo from Lord of the Rings movie]
Gollum in the movie

At that time, those teens were playing around on the river bank in the lake area. Unexpectedly, the monster emerged from a cave behind a waterfall. The crowd of friends screamed loudly because the creature kept dragging its feet and advancing on them like it was "preparing to attack". In a bout of fear, the friends threw rocks at the "creature" to protect themselves. After they killed the monster, they grabbed it and threw it down to the lake then ran off.

[Picture of the creature's face]
"Gollum" monster killed by teens terrified of it.

After that, the parents of those friends came to investigate and they were incredibly surprised when they saw the body of the "Gollum" curled up in the waves on the shore.

Local people described this creature as being almost like the monster Gollum in the "Lord of the Rings" movies. One friend in those witnesses tells: "Only one time I saw a creature anything close to that--that was in the film of Tolkien's 'Lord of the Rings'."

[Pictures of the creature's body]
Corpse of the monster washed up on the shore.

Mr. Melquiades Ramos, a specialist working at the National Environmental Office, said he will investigate this "creature". And biologist Jacobo Arauz said that it could be a genetically mutated creature. He guesses that it could be a species belonging to the sloth genus.

[Picture of a sloth]
Is it true that the monster is a form of sloth?

Thu, Jul. 30th, 2009, 10:40 pm
Bikes of Burden

Tonight on my way home, I passed a motorbike being driven by a man with his wife on the back. She was holding a stainless steel double-basin sink in the air over their heads. A kitchen sink. I have now officially seen everything being transported by motorbike.

Mon, Jul. 6th, 2009, 01:10 am

I went to the hospital near my house a couple days ago to get a health check. The school that I'm working for wants to have a health certificate that says I'm qualified to work in Vietnam before they give me another contract. I've done these tests twice before at another hospital so I wasn't too worried about passing. It's pretty easy.

One of my Vietnamese friends, one of my former teaching assistants named Han (pronounced like it's short for "honey"), met me at the hospital on Friday morning to make sure I found my way to all the right rooms for all the tests. She told me that this hospital is very professional so we shouldn't have to wait too long. The health check procedure for foreigners is pretty much a joke and the doctors at this hospital seem to be aware of it so they went through the motions much more quickly than the previous times I did this.

The ear exam consisted of sitting on a stool in front of a doctor who asked if I spoke Vietnamese. I answered that I could speak a little bit. She asked if I had any problems with my ears. I said no. She shined a light in the general direction of my ear canals and marked "10/10" on my paperwork. The eye exam was pretty much the same. "Look at the chart. Can you read the row of letters next to the red arrow?" "Yes." "All of them?" "Yes." "Good." My vision is 10/10. In previous health exams, there was a "nervous examination" where they poked and prodded me, looked at my hands to see how steady they were, and asked me to squeeze their hands to check if my grip was firm. This time the doctor just asked "How are you? How about your hands? Everything normal? Good." There's a chest X-ray to check for TB, but I didn't even have to take my shirt off for this one (but they did ask me to take the pen and iPod earphones out of the pocket). I hope there are no shirt buttons on my x-ray. I spent more time waiting for tests than taking them. The heart and pulse exam took less time than it did for me to unbutton my shirt so the doctor to stick the stethoscope on my chest. I was at the hospital for about two and a half hours but the tests took about 15 minutes total.

They spelled my name horribly wrong on the paperwork. They split my middle name into two words and made a typo for my first name. They didn't even put my last name on it. The test results will all have the name "Briaw Chris Topher" on them. When we noticed and asked them to fix it, they just said that I could sign any name I want when I pick up the results. Next time I have to do one of these "health checks", I'm just going to ask if I can write all the "10/10" scores myself and get the results right away instead of wasting time sitting in the hospital or wandering from one exam room to another.

Mon, Jun. 29th, 2009, 04:34 pm

I just finished reading "Murder on the Orient Express". It was very interesting. I normally don't like mysteries much but this one really drew me in. I can see why it's so famous but I had the same problems with it that I have with so many other mysteries: the detective is made to seem brilliant by keeping details hidden from the audience but not from him.

I think part of the appeal of reading a mystery is in trying to solve the mystery. I hate it when the detective is made to look smart by giving him information that the audience isn't told. For just one example, when one character in the book is covering for another, she describes a fictional person that she names Mrs. Freebody. Hercule Poirot reveals later that he knew she was actually thinking of Miss Debenham and describing someone quite the opposite in appearance to cover for her. How did he know? Because there's a shop in London called Debenham & Freebody and she said the first name to come to mind when pressed. The audience could have figured that out too if we had been told that was a popular shop. I prefer a mystery where the audience is privy to the same information as the detective so I can try to piece it together myself.

Posted via LiveJournal.app.

Sun, Jun. 14th, 2009, 11:27 am

I love this commercial. It cracks me up every time I see it on t.v. I think it's funny that the guy doesn't just drink the energy drink and fly into a flurry of XTREME action: he does some warm-up exercises first. The tag line at the end is "Add energy in order to fight". (That's "fight" in the sense of "struggling to win" like the way you fight a battle, not "hitting each other" the way you fight a person.)


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