Monthly Archives for April 2007

Translation and Politics: Follow-Up

Remember this story I blogged about a few days ago ?

Well, 20 Minutes reports that the management of the France 2 TV station was not amused by the translator who took some liberties when translating Nicolas Sarkozy’s speech. An “Inadmissible” incident is what they called it, and it cost the translator his job. But he won’t be voting for Ségolène Royal. He’s an American…

Update : Libération has an article up on the subject now.

30. April 2007 by sknob
Destination: Lost in translation, Surfin' | Leave a comment

Geeks In Love: How are they doing?

I’ve been drawing Geeks In Love since January, putting out a new episode every Sunday.

I’m very happy with the way it has evolved.

You see, for me, it’s mainly about the art. What I hoped would happen happened. As I’ve learned to draw the geeks, the drawing has become looser, freer, occasionally attaining a kind of essential simplicity that delights me.

Take the line that goes from the top of the forehead to the base of the nose in this drawing:

Or the arms and hands (and pelvis) in this one:

Beyond that, when the idea came to me, I thought that Geeks In Love might actually have some wide appeal. After all, Geeks are well represented on the Web, and even non Geeks can theoretically relate to the Love part.

So how is it doing?

Well, I’ve been linked to from prestigious and more confidential sites alike. But even when sites like Micropersuasion (or TechBee) linked to the Geeks, the site saw only a modest and short-lived increase in the number of visits.

In fact, it seems that Geeks In Love is being received like most of my music has. A few people are enthusiastic, but by and large, nobody gives a fuck. (Update: See the comments for an explanation of what I mean by that).

Look at the hits for this week:

Most of those hits are probably due to spambots. Look at the actual visits, according to Google Analytics:

Again, I expect this kind of response to my music. I was hoping for better for the Geeks. In fact, my music is doing much better.

During this time, I’ve obviously been on the lookout for geeky comics on the Web. Some are widely read and universally praised. They all share one thing in common from my perspective. The drawings are truly awful. They are usually drawn on the computer, have horrible colors, and show no artistry whatsoever. At best, the art seems to be an afterthought.

For instance, the (otherwise) great Presurfer site publishes a regular comic called home schooled.

I rest my case.

These types of successful geek comics may be hilariously funny, and/or incredibly smart and intelligent. I don’t know, because I can’t get past the bad art.

As a teenager, I used to be a huge fan of French (and Belgian) bandes dessinées. The art had to appeal to me or I wouldn’t read them. For example, I remember this one series drawn by Alexis (I think it was called Timoléon), in the seventies. Alexis drew wonderful hands. Having read the stories, I would go back, and just look at all the hands, from cover to cover, in wonderment.

I think that a good deal of European bande-dessinée lovers are similarly sensitive to the quality of the art. Gotlib‘s huge appeal is as much about his art as it is about his particular brand of humor.

So the lesson learned with Geeks In Love is that the art doesn’t seem to count for shit.

I know I sound bitter. I don’t think I am. I’m used to my “art” not appealing to the masses. But I am disappointed. I expected a little better (Oh all right. I secretly hoped that the Geeks would make me rich and famous).

So where am I going with this? I’m not sure. What I do know, is that I’ve run through most of the strip ideas I had when I imagined the series. I’m at a point where I have to rack my brains to find new subjects every week. And since my readership seems to barely reach beyond my immediate family, I’m not sure I’ll be all that motivated to publish on a regular basis anymore. Or at all.

27. April 2007 by sknob
Destination: Making Geeks In Love | Leave a comment

Translation and Politics

I’m a translator. It’s actually quite a strange thing to write for me, because this state of fact kind of crept up on me over the last few years. But professionally, that’s what I am now. Officially.

It’s also presidential election time in France. 10 days to the 2nd round. Nicolas Sarkozy the conservative against Ségolène Royal the socialist.

For the first time in last Sunday’s 1st round vote, France experimented with electronic voting machines in some districts. It was a disaster. Most people over 65 couldn’t use them (too complicated, too hard to read). And overall, they turned out to be very inefficient and slower than manual voting, causing huge lines of disgruntled voters (check out this report in English).

There had been controversy about their use. Could they be trusted? Could they be manipulated? Hacked? (Answer: yes).

But as usual, nobody considered translation and basic ergonomics. Most of these machines are American or Dutch, and the software and ergonomics of the US machines turned out to be more than problematic (see this site, in French) :

  • Poor translation and translation-related bugs: translated text that overflows beyond the screen area, literal translations (“Resume” translated by “Résumé” as in “Synopsis”), missing or wrong accented letters (Can you spell Sgolne?), non printing accented characters…
  • Poor ergonomics: Tiny text. The interface mentions a round green button (it’s a diamond). To vote, you have to press on a big RED button at the TOP of the screen, instead on the aforementioned GREEN button at the BOTTOM of the screen. DUH!!!

And how about this: Every day, the evening newscast of the France 2 public TV station is subtitled into English for the US market (???). Yesterday, whoever was doing the translation let his incompetence, subconscious or anti-Sarkozy political opinions appear on screen.

Sarkozy was saying: “I invite all of the people of France (…) to rally around me”.
The translator wrote: “(…) to rally my inflated ego”.

25. April 2007 by sknob
Destination: Lost in translation, Surfin', User Interface Design | Leave a comment

Remote Possibility: Canowindra

Remote Possibility have posted yet another irresistible song, Canowindra. They describe it as “Bouncy, with a bounce.” Trust me, that’s quite an understatement. It’ll have you dancing til you drop!

As fellow fan Matt so aptly put it, “I was amazed to learn about the origins of this song. What a story of human courage and endurance! Hats off to these guys!”

The story starts off like this:

Icepac and Sknoblogger were having the best tour of their professional career together, tearing up venues all across New South Wales. The had knocked audiences dead in Wagga Wagga, Cootamundra, and Gooloogong. They were looking forward to a prestigious gig in the Canowindra Royal Hotel, where they would share the stage with Trio Apoplectic, a group of musicians with which Remote Possibility had long shared mutual respect and admiration.

You can read the rest of the 14-year saga on the song info page.

21. April 2007 by sknob
Destination: Making Music, Songs | Leave a comment

Ingenuity: Hotdoll, the Sex Poodle for…Poodles?

Once again, it’s time to feel that warm, fuzzy feeling inside, thanks to ingenious inventors who rack their brains to make the world a better place. In this case, for horny dogs.

Sure, you could sponsor some boring NGO that battles to bring clean drinking water to starving kids in Africa. Or you could get your humping pooch a Hotdoll.

19. April 2007 by sknob
Destination: Surfin' | Leave a comment

Comment on Geeks In Love

I turned on the commenting feature on Geeks In Love.

That’s all I wanted to inform you about.

But…you might be wondering why the commenting feature wasn’t on to begin with. After all, isn’t commenting a basic feature of blogging packages like WordPress?

If you’re that curious, and since according to some people, I’m somewhat of a geek, I will use this opportunity to explain, and to give you some insight into the design of Geeks In Love’s interface.

It turns out that to get the user-experience I wanted for GIL, I had to subvert the manner in which WordPress functions in a fundamental way. Normally, you get an index page (the main page), that shows a whole bunch of posts, like on sknoblog, and when you go to a single post, you see just that post, followed by the commenting fields.

But I wanted no visible difference between the index page and the individual post pages, because I wanted the reader to be able to flip through the cartoons without a paradigm change.

And I wanted a feature that you normally only get on single post pages to show up on the index page. I wanted the links to the previous/next posts to show the title of these previous or next posts, instead of simply showing “previous” or “next”.

That wasn’t possible without hacking the WordPress index.php template to trick it into thinking it was in single-post mode.

But that broke the commenting feature!

But since those damn comment fields would have marred my interface, and distracted from the drawings, I left it at that.

A pure case of Function Follows Form evil. I know. Bad. Very bad.

But yesterday, I remembered the commenting in WordPress could be done in a pop-up, which would allow me to keep my interface the way it is, if I could get the comments to work. So I mucked around until I found the .php file that contains all the commenting functions, and found the bit of code where that same darn single-post variable was disrupting things, and I commented-it out (appropriately enough).

So now I can have my UI cake and comment on it too.

There you have it. So did your eyes glaze over or did your nipples get hard?

10. April 2007 by sknob
Destination: Geekiness, User Interface Design | Leave a comment

WaPo: Pearls Before Breakfast

Hmm, what do you think would happen if one of the best violinists in the world, played some the greatest compositions for violin in the history of the world, on one of the best violins in the world, incognito, in a crowded Washington DC subway station during rush hour?

Do you think the commuters would notice? Would they stop and listen? Would a crowd gather? How much money would the virtuoso make?

Well wonder no more. It happened recently.

It was 7:51 a.m. on Friday, January 12, the middle of the morning rush hour. In the next 43 minutes, as the violinist performed six classical pieces, 1,097 people passed by. Almost all of them were on the way to work, which meant, for almost all of them, a government job. L’Enfant Plaza is at the nucleus of federal Washington, and these were mostly mid-level bureaucrats with those indeterminate, oddly fungible titles: policy analyst, project manager, budget officer, specialist, facilitator, consultant.

If you’re curious, like I was, read Pearls Before Breakfast from the Washington Post.

I was not surprised with the way it turned out. What about you?

09. April 2007 by sknob
Destination: Surfin' | Leave a comment

Remote Possibility: War Record

Remote Possibility are on a roll!

Hot on the heels of Underwater Groove, here comes War Record!

Put on your cowboy boots, cuz this is the hoedown about the showdown.

From the RP site:

MC Postal was having a beer with Sknoblogger at his favorite bar. He was reminiscing about his old friend Pat Tillman. MC Postal was in the NFL with him, before he started his lucrative career as a cowboy rapper. Postal dug the tip of his hand crafted, rhinestone encrusted cowboy boot into the sawdust on the floor, and said it was a right sorry affair, and he’d like to go over there and put a couple of boots where it don’t get cold at night, but he was just too busy singin and blingin. In a fit of inspiration, he dashed out these lyrics on a cocktail napkin with his rhinestone encrusted pen. Smiling his most ingratiating smile with his rhinestone encrusted teeth just a sparklin, and handed them over to Sknoblogger, who wrote the music, and rushed this song out, because it’s important to put those america-haters in their place right away. So there.

Well said!

04. April 2007 by sknob
Destination: Making Music, Songs | Leave a comment

The Independent – 50 reasons to love the European Union

50 reasons to love the European Union, from a British paper no less (in case you don’t know, because of unanimous voting rules, the UK is pretty much solely responsible for the fact that political and social progress in Europe is a non-starter).

02. April 2007 by sknob
Destination: Surfin' | Leave a comment

Remote Possibility: Underwater Groove

Remote Possibility strikes again!

They have just posted a new, must-hear song: Underwater Groove.

The smartest guy in America says: It has everything going for it. It’s catchy, snappy, quirky, with superb arrangement. Good forceful singing. I love the xylophone and fat, lush bass.

Yes, it’s that good, right up there with Mystery Snack‘s delightful acoustic guitar arpeggios and Shevilla Lobole‘s rousing, multi-layered finale.

And you can read the story behind the song and the lyrics over here.

Can you feel the pull?

01. April 2007 by sknob
Destination: Making Music, Songs | Leave a comment