The Indubitable Dweeb
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August 30, 2011

The Only Ones: Foreign Language Editions

Hey gang! Here’s the word on the street—the street being Broadway, where the Random House offices are located. The Only Ones will be coming out in some foreign language editions! Children around the world will soon be able to share in the adventures of Martin (or Maarten, in Brussels), Henry (or Enrique, in Costa Rica), Darla (or Sheila #2, in Australia), and Nigel (or Dragon Warrior with a Tiger, in Japan).

For now, the kind folks at Dogan Egmont in Turkey and at Rai Editora in Brazil have signed on to publish their own editions. I haven’t been told what the titles will be for these versions, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the Turkish one will be called Ben Senin Çeviri Yazılımını Severim and the Brazilian version will carry a title sure to excite the Sao Paulinos, something like 0-0 Draw.

Of course, I’d like to see the book appear in all countries, in all languages, so I’m calling on the following nations to jump on the bandwagon.

Papua New Guinea: Home to over 850 indigenous languages, this nation formerly known for its headhunters (no, not the corporate variety) is an untapped market for publishers. But it’s not just the people. They’re still discovering species out there in the jungle. Who’s to say there isn’t some tree kangaroo with an insatiable appetite for kidlit, but with absolutely nothing to read? Learn their language and let’s turn me into the Rick Riordan for arboreal marsupials.

New Zealand: We were all supposed to be speaking Esperanto by now. Fact is, the world will probably never adopt what was once hoped to be the world’s universal language. However, if Peter Jackson’s new Hobbit films hit even bigger than The Lord of the Rings, then there’s a good chance that most Kiwis will know a bit of Elrond’s tongue. Yes, and that Elvish language craze will spread and be adopted by the meek. And as the old adage goes “The meek shall inherit the earth and try to impress Liv Tyler and Cate Blanchett by invoking Tolkien.” The Only Ones, now in Elvish. Gotta get on that train before it leaves.

The Vatican: It would mean a lot to me if The Only Ones was translated into Latin. I was a member of the Junior Classical League in high school, which is responsible for all my success. The JCL is like the Skull and Bones, but with toga parties and Argonaut dioramas. These days, I translate The Aeneid from the original Latin at least once every two months. However, I would place Pope Benedict in charge of the Latin translation of The Only Ones, so long as he makes it mandatory reading at all Easter masses. We can even add the line agricola est in ager, to encourage the magister to require it in all “Intro to Latin” classes as well. Catholics and preppy kids worldwide are sure to dig it almost as much as First Thessalonians or the Philippicae of Cicero.

That Oil Rig Thing Where the Libertarians are Going to Live: Read about the place here. Tax dodgers who want to live in a lawless Waterworld-esque land will need a lot of paper to burn once all their stocks go belly up. Now, I’m not for burning books per se, but if someone needs 25 face cords of kindling to make it through an Atlantic Ocean winter, I’d rather it be 25 face cords of The Only Ones then, say, Murakami’s Norwegian Wood, which admittedly burns better, due to the title.

Canada: No, I won’t make any jokes about how every sentence will end in “eh.” Or that there will be a button on the cover that you can press, causing all abouts to be pronounced aboot. That’s just cheap Canuck-baiting. I honestly want to be able to stop by a bookstore in Nunavut and see The Only Ones on the shelf next to 101 Things to Do With Walrus Meat Before You Freeze to Death. I would also like it to be adapted into a film starring the original cast of You Can’t Do That On Television. There will of course be some sliming, but I’m more interested in seeing the climactic scenes played out in a hallway full of lockers, with a lot of “Hey Moose!” and “Hey Alasdair!” to add to the third act’s tension. That’s not too much to ask, eh?

July 12, 2010

Taking the Piss Out of the Brits

I always assumed it happened at a town meeting in Pennsylvania circa 1718. They were hammering out a new ordnance, regarding wooden dentures or witches or something, when a young statesman with that distinctly American spirit said, “If I may venture to put forth a proposal, it would be that we cease conversing in this ridiculous British accent? Let’s just talk like normal people talk.” The proposal was followed by silence. Then the slow clap. Then the first occurrence of a crowd chanting, “USA, USA! USA!” a full 58 years before Washington crossed the Delaware. And from then on, not a single person born on this side of the Atlantic would grow up to sound like this guy:

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m a bit of an anglophile. I adore London. I can sit through hours of British television with its washed-out palette and easily attainable heroines. I shrug like a Slim-Jim-fed simpleton and humor any Brixton-born footy fan who informs me that “the rest of the world doesn’t call it soccer, mate, they call it football, you know, like you yanks call the one with the chubby blokes.” I’m charmed by the Brits in the same way I’m charmed by that 35-year-old-guy who still wears his letterman jacket out to bars and gives you tips on how to pick up the ladies. There’s some interesting historical perspective there, but these are the folks that find Benny Hill funny.

The only thing that truly annoys me about our friends across the pond is their occasionally ridiculous pronunciation of words. I’m not talking about
usage of words. I’m fine with crisps and lifts and biscuits and lorries and all that. It’s the zany sounds that get me. Any waver of the Union Jack will say that British English is the purest form of the language and that it contains nothing but correct pronunciation. But I submit this. Ever since the fore-mentioned monumental town meeting of nearly 300 years ago, they’ve had it out for us. And Sir Robert Walpole or some 18th-century statesman decided that they should spite us by making their version of the language even more ridiculous. He went to Parliament, all wigged up and drunk on Pimms, and proclaimed, “We shall show those uppity colonists. From henceforth, Glacier is pronounced Glassier, like…Classier. And urinal is pronounced Your-Eye-Nal, like…well, good heavens, I haven’t a clue. But what the heck, it’s bound to rankle the noblemen of New Jersey.”

Seriously. Glacier. Urinal.

If you’re friends with Peter O’Toole, ask him to say those words. Gasp in horror and do what any red-bloodied American should do. Remind him he starred in Supergirl.

April 27, 2010

Twitter, or the Ubiquitous Soul of Henny Youngman

I’ve been away. Waxing a boat in Long Beach Island, digging up stones in Syracuse, taking an all-expenses paid culinary tour of Toronto. No joke. This is the kind of thing I do when I’m not…blogging or tweeting. I still hesitate with words like “blogging” and “tweeting.” Just ten years ago, I’m sure such terms would have sent a ripple of blushes through a bathhouse. Now they’re acceptable ways to spend the day.

I’ve taken to the blogging. I enjoy it enough that I know I’ll keep at it. Twitter is another story. It’s not that I think Twitter is slumming it. Heck, Margaret Atwood tweets her Canadian ass off and I’m sure Toronto likes her even more than they like me. No, Twitter is intimidating. Twitter is humbling. And I suspect it strikes fear in the hearts of all stand-up comedians. Let me explain.

The purpose of Twitter is to sell things, be it products or people. And there are three different ways to go about it.

Some folks broadcast their every thought. It caters to their inner three-year-old. I tend to stay away from this type of tweeting, because honestly I don’t think people want to know that I had peanut butter and crackers for a snack or that I like puppy dogs better than kitty cats or that I really gotta pee. If I were Levar Burton, over one and half million folks would dig hearing that sort of stuff, but as it stands, there are only 50 or so kind souls who follow me and they know I don’t have that Burton swagger.

Others use Twitter to sling the latest news. The New York Times has better foreign offices than I do, so I don’t try to beat them at that game. Next time Maoist eunuchs overthrow Djibouti, you probably won’t hear it here first.

The only other reason to use Twitter is to crack jokes. And that’s primarily what I try to do (other than trick people into checking out my blog). Usually I see a headline or a wacky bit of news. I come up with a one-liner, sometimes provide a link. And I hope that one or two of you crack a smile. The wheel of karma turns back my way. Until, of course, I go out and tease some local orphans and have to repent with another smile-inducing tweet.

It’s all very exhausting, and the problem with what I do on Twitter is that everyone else is doing it too. Many are doing it much better. Look at today’s news. Etiquette expert Elizabeth Post died. Randy Quaid and his wife were sent to jail for a bizarre litany of crimes. Joe Boxer bought Charlie Brown. Surely quick witted tweeters have already ribbed these subjects thousands of times in any number of clever ways. Even if I did have a good joke on deck (which I don’t), I’m not a fast enough typist to get a digital copyright on it.

If she were alive today, Ms. Post would surely tell you that if someone else has already cracked a similar joke about Mr. Quaid on Twitter, then you should defer to that humorist, even retweet them as a sign of respect. As you might guess, not everyone follows this etiquette, and Twitter is full of plagiarists who steal jokes word for word and pass them off as their own. Stand-up comedians are livid!

But it’s comedians who will end up the defendants in any copyright cases. When IrishStallone36 or HappyKelly! have already done a Charlie Brown in boxer shorts joke, a similar joke ain’t gonna work as well for Patton Oswalt a week later at the Kansas City Giggle Factory. And if it does, then HappyKelly! is going to be ranting on her blog about how Ratatouille stole her thunder. With thousands of people joining Twitter every day, the next generation of comedians will have to go completely obscure or absurd if they have any hope of surviving in our tweet-happy brave new world.

And me? I’ll just have to give up entirely. There’s always boat waxing to fall back on.