The Indubitable Dweeb
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» Posts in World Cultures

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?

September 17, 2010

The Noses from Nuremberg

Let’s talk about Germans, why don’t we? We haven’t in a while. It’s time.

Fun fact about Germans: They have an uncanny ability to find dead bodies in hotel room mattresses!

Check out the provided Snopes link. It’s a fascinating, if macabre, discussion of an urban legend. As the story goes, a couple checks into a hotel room, settles in for the night, only to find the room has a funky smell to it. They pay it no mind, and hit the hay. The next morning, the smell is worse. A call to the front desk, and up comes an amply nostrilled bellhop. He sniffs around for a bit and decides the bed is the culprit. Flips the mattress. Viola! Corpse.

Thing is, this isn’t an urban legend. It’s happened a number of times in the U.S. of A. What’s curious, however, is that in three of the incidents, it was German tourists who discovered the bodies. Marathon Man fans are bound to raise an inquisitive finger and clench their molars, but I don’t think there’s a conspiracy afoot here. I just think Germans have a natural ability for sniffing this stuff out. I mean these are the people who brought us Scorpions, after all. They can always find something that stinks. Zing!

All kidding aside, I beleive we need to test the theory out. I’ll send the idea to Mythbusters post-haste. It should be simple enough. The mustachioed Mythbuster can murder the red-headed one, stuff his body under a Serta Perfect Sleeper, then send someone as American-as-Isalmaphobia into the room. Ron Howard should do. Start the stopwatch and see how long it takes Howard to find the body. Then repeat the experiment, swapping in Werner Herzog for Howard. If Howard finds it quicker, then the myth is officially busted. If Herzog wins, well, then I’m dispatching someone pasty and lederhosened into every Comfort Inn before I let them swipe my MasterCard. Compare me to the Princess and the Pea if you like, but a fellow expects certain things from a hotel mattress:

  1. Cleanliness
  2. Firmness
  3. Clearly marked headstones
July 14, 2010

Some Things That I Hate…

I’ve written before on this blog that I don’t have many pet peeves. It’s true. I really don’t. Perhaps I should qualify what I mean though. For there are some things that I hate with the passion of a lambada dancer. But that’s different than having peeves. Peeves are annoyances. Hate is at once emotional and, in my case, completely rational. It’s about seeing something that’s throwing the world off its axis and knowing you must condemn it for the travesty that it is. I will list some things that I hate here:

Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberg: Look at this smug son-of-a-farmer. He lands a plane in the Hudson River and they book him on Oprah and 60 Minutes. Next thing you know, they’ll be knighting Toonces the Driving Cat for swerving off a friggin cliff. That’s right. Sully ain’t no better than Toonces. I mean, from where I stand, any pilot who can’t land his plane on a runway is a fascist, socialist, French food-eating, soccer-loving kamikaze! You can, and you should, quote me on that. Want a hero? Try John Travolta. Not only was he the yin to Kirstie Alley’s yang in all those Look Who’s Talking movies, but he also never lands his planes on rivers. Case in point.

Sustainable Agriculture: Cucumbers are like albino rhinos. When I buy a one, I’d like to know that there ain’t any others like it. It’s the last of its line. So, I would hope that after my cucumber has been plucked from its cucumber bush, the entire plant is drenched in kerosene, and some overalls-clad hillbilly is tossing his corncob pipe down and banjo plucking the inferno into the night. An extreme view? Not if you’ve ever suffered the humiliation of showing up at The International Cucumber Festival in Suzdal only to find that some woman also has a kirby shaped like a duck.

Orphans: I’m not talking the Dickens variety or those Slumdog Millionaire tots, though I’m certainly not big fans of their pickpocketing, gameshow-winning ways. What I’m talking about are the ones who are always hanging out at the hotspots with Sandra Bullock and Madonna and Angelina Jolie. Clearly all they want to do is wink and shoot finger-guns at the paparazzi, then parlay the TMZ coverage into a book deal and a perfume line. I’ve had a hard enough time getting department stores to even sniff Dusky, A Fragrance by Aaron Starmer, now I got some 4-year-old Javanese celebutante to compete with for shelf space! It’s enough to make a man cancel his subscription to OK! Magazine.

Bushbabies: I don’t have many occasions in my life when I actually have to deal with bushbabies, but every once in a while I like to pop into the nocturnal primate room at the local zoo and check out an aye-aye or a slow loris or two. Without fail, I always end up coming across one of these bug-eyed nightmare merchants of a bushbaby and my day is shot. I can’t eat. I can’t sleep. I certainly can’t take in some jungle-themed animated film, for fear that it might feature a John Ratzenberger-voiced silver greater galago singing Randy Newman ditties.

Huns: Attila was alright, but the rest of these jokers? According to Wikipedia, “Huns practiced scarification, slashing the faces of their male infants with swords to discourage beard growth.” Jeeze, what a pathetic band of 5th-century metrosexuals. Remind me that next time I take my time-machine back to the pre-Magna Carta days I shouldn’t worry about bringing toenail clippers and Amstel Light. The Huns should be fully stocked. Sissies.

April 29, 2010

World Famous in New Zealand: Das Bieber

I try to keep up with the Bieber-stream media. You see what I did there? Rather than writing “mainstream” or even “lamestream,” I went with “Bieber-stream.” It’s something I do here. Keep folks on their toes. Comment on culture in clever ways. Thank me by buying a book.

In any case, the Justin Bieber-slanting CBS News has asked the kids of New Zealand (The Kiwiettes, if you will) to chill the hell out. Bieber Fever has reached George Romero-like levels, resulting in a frightening mob scene at the Auckland Airport, and Justin’s “mama” has suffered as a result. I want to think the best of our very distant neighbors to the southwest (or southeast should you decide to fly Air Emirates), so I’m a skeptic. I smell a PR person behind this. And if not that, then I smell Germans. Because as anyone who has set their watch to NZST will tell you, if you want meet someone from Munich, go to the Auckland Airport. I swear, it’s like Paris in 1942.

Of course, this is from a tourist’s perspective. I spent 3 months in New Zealand a couple years back. My wife and I bought a cheap car, and filled the trunk with camping equipment and drove down every road and hiked in as many corners of that lovely little country as we could and slept in huts and yards and hostels and on beaches. We met plenty of locals, very few Americans, and a shocking number of Klauses and Ilsas. We ran into one intrepid young Bavarian on two separate occasions: once while doing a jigsaw puzzle in a headlamp-lit hut along the Milford Track; once along the steaming, sulfurous moonscape of the Tongariro Circuit. He (and every other German we met) spoke flawless English and was a perfectly lovely fellow, so I don’t mean to disparage an entire people. I’m just intrigued by the disproportion. The French and Spanish and English and Italian combined didn’t even have half the representation.

I’m sure if I actually lived and worked in New Zealand, I’d shrug this German infiltration off as some backpacker urban legend. But I assure you it’s true, and I think it has resulted in a Bieber bumrush. Germans get a bad rap for their taste in music. So perhaps a band of backpackers were trying to regain some cred. Perhaps they weren’t fans at all, but musical freedom fighters trying to rid the world of a devastating future filled with soulless bubble-gum pop. Perhaps Bieber is lucky to have gotten out with his reputation intact. Have you ever read The Dead Zone?

It seems far-fetched until you watch the following clip. It’s taken from an interview in New Zealand shortly after the airport fiasco. Cunning as ever, Bieber strikes back by denying that the German language even exists. “I don’t know that means. We don’t say that in America,” he quips. It’s a brassy move, and will spark numerous conspiracy theories. I expect Glenn Beck to break it down blackboard-style any day now.

Which brings me to the real point of this post. New Zealand! A strange and wonderful place and so much more than hobbits and Bret and Jemaine. I will be posting frequently about the oddities and peculiarities of New Zealand in upcoming weeks, and hopefully you’ll all learn a little something. Bieber was a just a gateway, the first dose to get you hooked. Stay tuned.